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Monthly Archives: July 2016

Sell Yourself?, Here Its Tips

The smaller your business, the more you and your business are synonymous. People may not know the name of your business at all; they might just know you and for that reason, you have to know how to sell, “you.” As you grow, your business will hopefully gain an identity outside of you but for now, you’re everything.

You know how it works—some people are really good at talking. They’re the people at the events who have a story for any situation. They’re the ones who bounce from group to group seemingly knowing everybody—or can drop a name that they and the group have in common. They’re smooth—sometimes cheesy and annoying—but somehow, they seem to have an endless pipeline of business. As much as you don’t want to hear it, you might need to become a little more like those people. Don’t worry, we’re not advocating turning you into somebody you’re not but there are some skills to learn when selling yourself.

# Confidence!

Let’s just call it what it is. Those schmoozers are exuding confidence. They may struggle with confidence just as much as the next person but they know that confidence is what gets them in the door. They know that confidence is professionally attractive so they play the part even if they don’t feel the part. “Fake it until you make it” is a big part of selling yourself. Of course, there’s a fine line between confident and cocky.

# Persistence

We’re not done with the clichés’. How about “The squeaky wheel gets the oil.” For every opportunity (unless it’s some equivalent to a root canal) there are loads of people going for it. Every customer you’re trying to land is being courted by others just like you. Your job is to be persistent—even kind of annoying. Keep sending the e-mails; keep sending the texts; let them know when something changes that is valuable to them. Just keep in contact with them. Even if they’re not ready to buy now, they’ll think of you later.

# Don’t Be Boring

For real—even if you’re not great in social situations, you have to find a way to be unique. Be proud of your introvertness—there’s nothing wrong with you but that doesn’t give you license to not stand out. People who don’t stand out can’t sell themselves because they never get noticed. The cheese-machine at the party is getting noticed.

And of course, your product has to be unique too. That’s great that you design websites but what makes you unique? If you’re not unique, you’re boring. Don’t be boring.

# Offer a Solution

Your customers are plenty-smart enough to identify the problems. What they need is for somebody to dig in to the details and offer a solution. Not something that MIGHT work; something that WILL work.

Offer more of a solution than your competition. Create a detailed report, show that you were super thoughtful about their problem, offer some top level advice free of charge. Become part of their solution before selling your product. Talk is cheap. Your customer certainly wants to know about you but they’re more interested in how you will solve the problem.

Avoid These Naming Business Mistakes

A business name that is appealing and memorable can do wonders for a business’s bottom line. On the other hand, no matter how great a business is, an inappropriate or poorly-chosen name can have a negative impact on its success — especially when first starting out.

Some aspects of selecting a business name are subjective and reflect the personal wishes and preferences of the owner.

There are, however, some mistakes that business owners make in naming their establishments that just don’t make good business sense. Avoid these and you’ll be on the road to having a business name that will serve as a real asset and hopefully bring many profitable returns.

# Getting stuck in alphabet soup

A business name that comes at the beginning of the alphabet can be a plus since many business listings are alphabetical; however, some businesses have taken this strategy to absurd levels. Phone book pages produce a staggering number of businesses starting with the letter A, a number of which are somewhat nonsensical: “AAAAA Locksmith” and “AAA Active Appliance.” Other than another word that starts with the letter A, what purpose does the word “Active” serve? Using A, B, or C as the first letter of your business name can help get you an A+ in profits, but be sure the name is something that makes sense and is something you can be proud of.

# Using names that are too long, or difficult to understand, spell or pronounce

The idea is to get people to remember your business name and to be able to understand it, spell it and pronounce it. It should also be short enough to fit on a business card or display on a sign. I doubt the “Floccinaucinihilipilification Company” name would be easy to pass along by word-of-mouth or found readily in a phone book, directory or on the Net. It actually is a word that means “nonexistence” and that’s probably what would happen to any business using it as their name; namely, no longer exist.

# Picking business names that limit business growth

Choose a business name that is wide-ranging enough to give your business growing room.

Geographic business names are popular; i.e., Hidden Springs Housecleaners. But what happens if your business takes off and you’d like to expand the geographic area you cover or even go national? Unless you’re sure you want to stay in one particular location, avoid using geography in your business name. The same goes for naming a business after one product or service: “Al’s Refrigerator Repair Service’s” name would need to change if Al decides to take on air-conditioner repair. Lastly, stay away from names that describe current fads or trends: When the new “Millennium Diner” opened in 1999, it sounded timely — six year later, it sounds dated.

# Letting the grey areas get you discouraged or immobilized

A business name should be one or more of the following: memorable, descriptive, imaginative or distinctive. How to go about this is where the “experts” disagree.

A good way to start is to write down key words that describe what your business is and does, and what you pride yourself on. Use a dictionary and thesaurus to find different words that express these things. Also look for famous expressions that might pertain to your business.

So, let’s say “Mary” has a small business selling her delicious fruit tarts, and she considers herself to be the best at what she does. Mary names her business “Queen of Tarts” because: she loves the play on words, it expresses what her business is and does, and the word “queen” is perfect — she’s female and her thesaurus shows that “queen” also means “person of authority.”

The following techniques of naming businesses are ones that naming pros both love and hate, depending on which pro you speak to. Review the following “bones of contention.” It will be up to you to decide if any of these feel right for you and your business name. Keep in mind your target market, the key elements of your business and mission statement, and — above all — trust that feeling in your gut.

Alliteration: The repetition of the same sounds at the beginning of words

If your name is Cathy, and you’re selling collectibles, you could name your business “Cathy’s Collectibles.”

Coinage: The invention of new words

“Forever Nailz” salon and “ErgoGrip” pens

Descriptive Words: Words in a business name that convey immediately what your business does

“Frank’s Reliable Lawn Care” and “Commercial Cleaning Corp.”

Puns: A play on words

“Hair Force One” and “Shear Artistry” haircutting salons

# Being an island

You’ve thought up 15 business names that are in the final running, and you think they’re all pretty good. Now is the time to get some feedback. Run those names by some close colleagues, family and friends. You might be surprised at the number of things they bring to your attention that you’ve overlooked. A little constructive objectivity goes a long way when choosing a business name.

# Failing to check if your chosen business names belong to another business

Before settling on a final name, you’ll need to ensure that you won’t be violating someone else’s trademark rights to a particular business name. You want to avoid being forced to change your business name in the future and possibly paying money damages.

Here are some ways to avoid using a name that’s identical or confusingly similar to the one you want to use:

  • Type your prospective business name into a few search engines to see if the name comes up.
  • Check with your county clerk’s office to see whether or not your potential name is already on their list of fictitious or assumed business names, also known as d.b.a.’s (doing business as).
  • For corporations, LLC’s, and limited partnerships, type in “Your State Secretary of State” on your favorite search engine to do a business name search on your state’s database.
  • Search the federal trademark database to see if a chosen name has already been registered with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). You can do this through their website, www.uspto.gov. Once there, go to “Trademarks” and then “Search Trademarks.”

For a fee of at least a few hundred dollars, you can also hire a professional search firm to do a trademark search. Just the peace of mind alone that nothing has been overlooked can make this investment worth your while.

As far as naming your business, there are professional naming firms that will come up with a great name for your business, but costs can be prohibitive. David Burd, President of The Naming Company, quoted “$15,000 to $20,000” as a typical fee to have a professional team come up with a business name. For large corporations, Burd said, fees could easily go to “$50,000 to $60,000.”

Avoid These Start Up Business Traps

Getting a business up and running is a project that makes you realize what the term “blood, sweat and tears” is all about. Once you’ve set your goal on becoming your own boss, you spend hours researching your idea, planning the details, and doing a wide variety of tasks to prepare for your launch.  Chances are, you also siphon money out of your bank account and run up higher than normal tabs on your credit cards as you focus on that all important day you’ll “officially” be in business.

But no matter how much time and money you put into starting up, your new business could fall flat on its face if you aren’t aware of and take steps to avoid these common business traps:

# Not writing a business plan

If you’re not seeking outside investors or trying to get a business loan from a bank you may think you don’t need to write up a business plan.  Gathering all the data you need for a business plan will take time away from the other things you want to do to get the business going, and besides, you know what kind of business you want to start, so why bother writing it all down? Right?

Wrong.

A business plan isn’t just a document to be used to raise money for a business. It’s your business roadmap. It helps you focus not only on your goal, but also on what it will take to reach your goal.  Say you want to bring in $100,000 in sales your first year in business. The business plan will make you consider the number of customers you’ll need to acquire, how you’ll acquire them, and what costs will be associated with selling your products or services. Without those details, you have no way of knowing if your sales goal is realistic, or if you’ll make a profit.

# Insufficient cash to run the business

Writing a business plan will help you estimate the amount of cash you’ll need to get the business going, but unless you’ve run a similar business before, you are still likely to run into a few financial surprises and setbacks along the way. Then, too, it may take a lot longer than you predicted to build a steady flow of customers and cash. To minimize your risk of falling into this trap, try to find out how much other similar businesses spent to get started, and look at trade journals or other resources to determine average annual sales for the type of business you plan to start.

# Underestimating the need for marketing

No matter how good the products and services you sell are, they won’t sell if customers don’t know (or forget!) that your business exists. The friends and family members you hope will talk up your business and send customers your way, probably won’t.  The business acquaintances who told you to told you to give them a call once you got started, will be out of the office or in a meeting whenever you try to reach them..  And the social media pages you hope will get you sales or leads? Surprise! You’ll need to market those pages to get them found.

Avoid this trap by developing a carefully thought out, well-rounded marketing plan for your business. The plan should identify your target customers, the various ways you’ll need to reach them and amount of funds you’ll need to do the necessary marketing.  Remember, marketing is an ongoing activity, not a once and done thing.

# Leveraging far more opportunities than are viable

The success of any business hinges on the entrepreneur’s ability to spot great opportunities and take advantage of them in time. However, it is critical to assess the viability of the opportunity and only take it up  if it is aligned with your current business focus and if your business is truly ready to add new products of features. Your business finances, manpower, current operational efficiencies, and customer base all have to be considered thoroughly. Will the new opportunity fit in with business without compromising your current level and quality of operations? If not, shelve the idea, at least temporarily.

Besides stretching your resources, jumping on every idea that comes along could prevent you from being seen as an expert in any of your core business skills.  Clients you target for your management consulting services may wonder how good you really are if you’re also selling web design services or nutritional supplements on the side.

# Being inflexible

In a highly competitive marketplace, your business needs to stay focused, but also stay aware of changing marketplaces and alternate approaches to reach your goal.  Your business plan may call for you to target small local businesses with your product line, but the most profitable market might be corporations that buy in quantity.  The software your developing for desktop computer use may also need to run on smart phones.  While you don’t want to shift gears every time someone suggests an alternate route to you, your business plan and your own attitude should be flexible enough to let you change course when there is sufficient evidence that doing so is in the best interest of the business.

# Not staking your claims online

Like it or not, businesses today need to be found on the Internet, and they need to be found in multiple places on the Internet. Consumers and B2B customers alike turn to the Internet to find products and services providers and to research what they buy and who they buy it from. Even if you typically get most of your business by word-of-mouth, the people who hear about you will most likely look you up on the Internet before they contact you. They’ll search on their smart phone or their computer. They’ll look for your website (and wonder about your professionalism and longevity if you don’t have one). They’ll look at your social media pages and profiles. And they may look for you on YouTube and Slideshare, search review sites for comments about your business, or search the major search engines for terms such as,”Has anyone heard of …”

While you can’t control everything people find in their searches, you need to control what you can. Those things at the very least are having a presentable website, and detailed social media profiles, and local listings on the major search engines if your business caters to local foot traffic.

Although there is no way to guarantee any startup will ultimately be successful, being aware of and avoiding these 6 common business start up traps will help reduce your risk of failure.