July 5, 2002
Table of Contents
Quote of the Week
Featured Resource - FREENETLEADS
Staff Article -
THREE KEYS TO AN EFFECTIVE BUSINESS PLAN
Marketing Tip of the Week
Guest Article -
IMPLEMENTING A SUCCESSFUL P. R. CAMPAIGN
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Quote of the Week
We don't need lists of
rights and wrongs, tables of do's and don'ts: we need books, time, and
- Philip Pullman
We want to wish all of you in
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a few well-deserved days off and spending that time with your family and
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THREE KEYS TO AN EFFECTIVE
by: Cary Christian
So you need a business plan!
And you probably need it fast. It seems like everything in business these
days is required yesterday, if not earlier!
Perhaps you need it to obtain financing from your bank or maybe to help you
attract new investment capital for your business. It's also possible you
have vendor relationships that require one.
Whatever the reason it is needed, there are three key requirements that must
be met if your business plan is to add value to your efforts. Let's take a
quick look at each of these requirements.
IT MUST BE PROFESSIONAL
You've seen advertisements for relatively inexpensive software that you can
use to crank out a business plan fast and, admit it, you've thought more
than once about whipping out the credit card and purchasing one. While you
can produce a business plan with such software, this course of action could
be a terrible mistake!
Before we go any further, there is one major caveat to the above statement:
If the business plan is presented only to satisfy a contractual requirement
that you present one, and no one is going to actually read it, then it may
not matter what you use to prepare the business plan.
This occurs sometimes, for example, when bank covenants require you to
present a business plan annually. If your loan is current, they're not
likely to pay much attention to it. If your loan is not current, or you are
expecting problems, you'd better pay more attention to the plan. It could be
used against you at some point.
Before you blow off a particular business plan as unimportant, make sure you
understand the consequences first.
Getting back to the requirement that a business plan be professional,
remember first and foremost that the plan you present is a reflection of
your business. In some cases, you have no idea who may eventually see that
plan, so you always need to be concerned with what it says about you and
Understand that thousands of small businesses do buy and use software
programs to prepare their business plans. As a result, most bankers and
venture capitalists will have seen the output of those programs hundreds or
thousands of times. If you use such software, your business plan is going to
look just like everyone else's. It will have the same layout, similar
terminology, and will come across like a mass-produced product rather than
something you put a lot of time and effort into.
There are only two ways to get a truly professional quality business plan:
1. Hire a professional to do it for you, or
2. Do it yourself manually after learning how it is done.
IT MUST BE COMPLETE
There are some sections of the business plan that will be very easy for you
to complete. Businesses generally have little difficulty putting together
financial forecasts, descriptions of their businesses, the markets they
compete in and other sections that basically describe how your business is
structured and operates on a day-to-day basis. But this is background. None
of these items represent the "plan."
The business plan presents your financial forecast information and then
EXPLAINS HOW YOU ARE GOING TO GET THERE! This is the part people
struggle with. This is also the part where people rely too much on canned
software and end up describing their marketing environment and specific
marketing tactics using generalizations. Generalizations won't fly! They'll
be spotted a mile a way and cause your business plan to lose credibility.
Don't shortcut these important sections. Give them more effort and work than
any others if you really want your plan to stand out.
IT MUST BE REASONABLE
This is the more obvious requirement of the three. If your business plan
makes wild claims, or presents forecasted financial information that simply
is not supported in any way by your historical results of operations, your
plan will have no credibility. Strive to be conservative. Lay out goals that
you can actually reach and then ACTUALLY USE YOUR BUSINESS PLAN AS A
GUIDE TO GET THERE!
And that's the most important part of the process. You are not simply
creating a business plan to acquire funding. The exercise of creating the
plan gives you an invaluable opportunity to review your business, your
goals, and gain a much better understanding of what is possible and what is
wishful thinking. Create the plan with the idea in mind that it will be a
living, breathing document that represents your game plan for the next few
years. Change it and modify it on a current basis when circumstances require
it so that it can always function as your guide.
Copyright (c) 2002
Tip of the Week
The effectiveness of different marketing
methods gets a lot of debate these days. People are always saying this type
or that type of marketing no longer works and should be ignored. Sometimes
they are right, but in many cases the application of a large dose of
creativity can change a frog into a prince!
This is especially true of free marketing methods. Many times free marketing
programs are rendered obsolete simply because they become too popular. In
other cases, technology makes them obsolete. For example, automatic
submissions to FFA and Classified Ad sites are almost worthless because
everyone is using automated submitters. As a result, no one ever actually
visits the site to read any of the ads posted.
But you should be careful before branding a particular free marketing method
obsolete. If they no longer appear to be useful as they were originally
intended to be used, think about using them to fuel other marketing methods.
For example, everyone knows you're not going to sell anything by advertising
using safelists (maybe a few sales here and there, but certainly not many).
But people who use safelists to give away desirable viral marketing products
or to sign up people to an autoresponder course find themselves creating
quite a bit of excellent traffic using this "dead" source of marketing!
The problem is that people are too accustomed to using marketing to go for
the direct sale. In MOST cases, marketing efforts should be geared
toward creating a RELATIONSHIP that allows you to market to people
MORE THAN ONCE. When you adopt this focus the number of effective free
marketing methods available to you will increase.
Implementing A Successful PR Campaign:
P. R. Does Not Stand For Press Release!
Spread The News Public Relations, Inc.
There's no denying that the
Internet is allowing more and more entrepreneurs to start their own
businesses and effectively market their new products. However, there seems
to be an increasingly common misconception when these businesses try to
generate media attention and publicity for their products. Over the
past several years, I have had more than a few clients come to me seeking "a
PR" to get people interested in their products/businesses. That's right "a
PR". Contrary to what some people think, PR is NOT an acronym for "Press
Release" - it stands for Public Relations. PR is much more than just a press
release and that distinction is very important to understand.
I often cringe when I see articles from well-intentioned "marketing" experts
that say, in effect: "simply write a press releases, pitch it to the media
and just sit back and reap the benefits." Unfortunately, it is far from
being that simple. That statement pre-supposes that the media release is
written well - containing all the right elements and newspegs to catch the
media eye - and that it is pitched and maintained in the correct media
market, which is often the downfall of many amateur PR campaigns. By all
means, a press release is an integral part of a PR campaign. But a press
release alone does not a PR campaign make. A successful PR/publicity
campaign for your business product, website or whatever should include many,
if not all of the following:
· An interesting, quality, newsworthy product that the media (and its
audience) will find merit in;
· A concise, articulate media release or story pitch - not a glorified ad -
detailing the benefits of your product/business/website and what effect it
will have for it's users;
· A supply of media "supportives" - product photos (digital & hard copy),
possible review samples, etc.;
· An extensively researched media list detailing all applicable media
outlets whose editorial profiles match your product/business profile. Here's
an important detail -- the targets of your pitch should be "name-specific"
not just "title-specific" media contacts. By that I mean the media market
research you compile should give you particulars like Sally Jones-Cooking
Editor not just Tribune Newsroom or Managing Editor;
· A solid, trustworthy media contact vehicle that gets your release/media
kit directly into the hands of the appropriate reporter/editor/producer and
allows them to respond easily to your pitch. (As always, beware of press
release distribution services that often times indiscriminately spew your
release to hundreds of untargeted media outlets with little or no results.)
Research to find out the preferred method of receipt of your media targets -
don't just assume an email will suffice. Whether it's by snail mail, email,
fax or phone calls, the media can't run your story if they don't hear about
it. For one reason or another, some media may decide not to include your
product/business in a placement -- but don't let them say they weren't made
aware of it;
· Meticulous media relations to immediately fulfill media requests
(photos/interviews/product samples) and extensive media contact follow-ups
over several months to generate as many placements as possible. Many times,
media outlets can't immediately respond to an initial pitch due to tight
editorial deadlines and the time it takes to wade through a multitude of
similar media pitches. I have found, without question, that the media
interest continues to increase as you re-introduce the pitch and gently
"rattle the media cage" over the course of the next several weeks/months;
· Some sort of media tracking capabilities -- whether it's your own media
follow-ups, Internet research, or a professional broadcast/print clipping
service. Having "hard copies" of the placements generated by your PR
campaign can be invaluable in the further marketing of your
business/product. Media placements are a unique validation of the market
acceptance for your business/product and can help you convince new customers
of that fact.
Think of launching a PR/publicity campaign like flying a kite. The press
release (which aptly details your product/business) is the kite. But if your
kite doesn't have the proper amount of string, a good tail, a strong wind
and the expert manipulation of the kite flier - it has very little chance of
getting off the ground. But if all theses elements are in place - a
PR/publicity campaign can send your business soaring like a kite on a breezy
Todd F. Brabender
Spread The News Public Relations, Inc.
Generating publicity & media exposure for innovative
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