Switchback Entrepreneurial Planning

In case you don’t know what a switchback is, it’s a road that swings sharply in one direction, and then sharply back in the opposite direction. You may be thinking this is going to be yet another lecture about finding one thing and sticking with it and not jumping around switching business models every other week… or day…err… never mind that. Rest assured, this is not another one of those lip service pep-talks. A different analogy is that of the college student, sitting at a large table, diligently switching back and forth between a stack of books, furiously scribbling notes, that would eventually form a paper that was vitally important to their final grade. I didn’t have a curiosity provoking metaphor for that though.

Creating a business plan isn’t a ‘linear process’

Creating a business plan isn’t a ‘linear process.’  

It’s a lot of switching back, cross referencing and editing

Statistically speaking the vast majority of online entrepreneurs not only don’t have a business plan, they don’t believe that it’s needed. The vast majority also fail at sustaining a business and often sacrifice huge amounts of time and money, testing to find some thing that finally makes ‘some money.’ While there are the rare exceptions who manage to make money without a plan, even more rare are those who manage to generate revenue and profits consistently without one. When you turn the tables however, and look at the small percentage of successful ventures that survived, sustained and continued to grow, you find that the majority do have a plan.

The top two reasons that most businesses fail, are a lack of planning and a lack of funding.

Planning and funding form a symbiotic relationship. A proper business plan has within it, a proper financial plan that details the funding requirement of the business from start up, to operational costs, to reinvestment plans with projections for revenue, income and growth. One thing many unprepared entrepreneurs forget to include in the operational costs is a salary for themselves.

A proper business plan calls for research into determining what the business will need for start up costs, as well as it’s ongoing monthly expenses, and most importantly, research that provides a marketing and advertising cost and plan that are most likely to generate enough business to cover the businesses costs.

This where the ‘switchback’ begins.

While doing research on marketing and advertising opportunities and costs, you may find that the costs of your marketing and advertising campaigns will be greater than the amount of sales revenue that they generate. This is often the root of the fear that drives the the entrepreneur to seek the free route. At the most expensive cost there is...time.

The fear of spending money on an paid advertising campaign that might not make sales is what drives the eager, though novice entrepreneur to hold on to the belief in the ‘free methods’, even at the expnese of waiting an unknown amount of time just to make the first sale. However, with a properly researched marketing campaign, budget, and fully developed sales funnel, the fear can be laid to rest. It is simply a matter of analyzing the numbers on projected responses and adjusting the sales funnel and the prices of the products in it, to offset the cost of the advertising for lead acquisition campaign and reach profit.

Guest Blogger

Dani Schaeffer is a multiple business owner with a diverse range of businesses including a real estate investment company, a publishing company and a marketing company. Dani is the author of the DaniSchaeffer.com blog, a publication dedicated to providing fundamental business and marketing principles advice for online business owners.

Heroes and Villains

September 11, 2011 by +Marj Wyatt  
Filed under Marj Wyatt's Musings

As our nation pauses to reflect on the events that occurred a decade ago, we are reminded of the qualities that define us as humans and leaders.   Standing up in bravery during a time of utter chaos is not an uncommon.  The heart of humanity does tend to pull together time and again, so history has proven.

The tragedy of that event will never be forgotten by anyone who was alive that day.  For some, the tragedy was much more personal due to the loss of loved ones and family.  For others across the globe, the act of terrorism was celebrated, to our horror.

On Facebook, my nephew wrote this comment:

“The sadness and outrage inside me is just as much then as now. The question in my mind goes unanswered, why? I’ll never know the answer. If there’s a lesson to be learned from this it might be…don’t take life for granted, don’t just live the day like it’s any other day.”

There are no answers for acts of violence and terrorism.  In and of itself, terrorism is a cowardly act because the perpetrators hide in the shadows and congratulate themselves on a job well done while the innocent suffer the consequences and grief.  When they later take “responsibility” for their actions, it is nothing other than crowing inane justifications for their insanity.  This has been my opinion since long before the historic events of 9-11 and my feelings were galvanized on that day.

Disregarding politics, Mayor Rudy Guilani rose to the top of the list of leaders whom I observed  that day.  His intentions were pure as he motivated his constituents to help each other recover during the crisis.  Apparently, he was among those who impressed talk show host, David Letterman, during that time.

The civilians on United Flight 93, who took fate into their own hands and diverted the plane away from its intended target, acted without regard for their own lives as they protected our nation from further devastation.  We can only imagine how it felt to be forced to make that life or death decision and, God willing, none of us will ever have to confront such a choice.

On this day, and everyday, remember the lessons of 9-11, a nation unites to keep the memories of those who served and protected us by taking a stand for the greater good during a devastating tragedy.

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Skype Outage – December 22, 2010

December 22, 2010 by +Marj Wyatt  
Filed under Marj Wyatt's Musings

Like most online entrepreneurs, Skype is a staple of my business and one of my first logins everyday after having my 2nd cup of coffee.  🙂  Today, I was relieved to learn that the problem is not related to Skype hackers or phishers … a rising trend on Skype.

Major Skype Outage - 12-22-2010After being unable to login through the client interface, I immediately went to the website to assure myself that my account had not been compromised somehow.  I was able to login and verify my account there, although that capability has since gone down.

While I was logged in, a brief visit to the support page revealed that Skype was aware of the problems that people were having with logging in.  I followed recommended steps to remedy the problem, which included shutting down my home network and resetting the routers.  I guess that should be done periodically anyway so, even though it didn’t solve the Skype login problem, it wasn’t a complete waste of time.  🙂

This is probably quite an embarrassment for Skype in the advent of their upcoming IPO.  For the rest of us, we can breathe a sigh of relief that our Skype accounts have not been hijacked by the hackers and phishers who prey on Skype users.

Email Marketing and Your Business

Email marketing came of age after direct marketing practitioners realized that their methods of engaging customers with postal mail could be applied to the Internet.  For those who are unclear about what email marketing is, it is using email to promote offers and/or obtain new customers.  Reports have proven that this is the next best marketing technique after search marketing.

You can rent a list, purchase a list based on demographics for your niche, or set up an opt-in page to gather list members from your target market.  Even though it takes longer, building your own email marketin list from scratch is probably the safest and most reliable method to use.

No matter where you begin with your list building, a well-written email marketing message can gain a prospect’s trust by disclosing relevant information that helps them to make informed purchasing decisions.  Email marketing also has potential to enhance relationships with existing customers if you continue to provide valuable communications that facilitate repeat or referral business.

The major advantages of email marketing is that there are multiple ways to automate your scheduled or broadcasted communications and it is much more cost-efficient than postal mail.  In addition, your offers have potential to “go viral” because members of your lists can easily forward messages to friends and colleagues who they feel might be interested, which increases your opportunities to make sales and add new customers to your email marketing lists.

Get Income BlogWithin a relatively short period of time, a large audience can be identified and targeted.  Autoresponders, like Aweber, allow you to monitor the responsiveness of your list with email open statistics and click through rates on your embedded links.  They can also help you craft a message that won’t be filtered out by built-in spam catchers.

The sales ratios of your email marketing campaigns or inquiries from members of your list may lead you to new ideas for products and services.  Email enables you to engage your customers in dialogue that helps you to scope your new product development by inviting list members to take surveys or provide feedback on ideas that you are forming.  Talk about convenience!

How Much and How Often?

Loose statistics from direct marketing resources indicates that new customers may need to hear about an offer up to 10 times before making a purchasing decision.  Equally important is that your messages must be timed in such a way that your new list members don’t feel overwhelmed.  For example, I’ve enrolled in campaigns and opted out immediately after receiving multiple messages in quick succession or too many notes in a week.

In my opinion, more than one email marketing message a day is too many.  I’m also of the opinion that more than a couple (3 or more) email marketing messages a week is too much volume, particularly prior to conversion.  Setting up your campaigns to send email every 4th day, or so, keeps your offer on the prospect’s mind without seeming overly aggressive.  That is the whole idea, right?

If all of your all of your email marketing messages are pitching something, people will learn to ignore you.  Keep your email marketing messages relevant and brief.  Most folks are dealing with information overload when they peruse their email inbox so your subjects must stand out if you expect your email to get opened.  Using fantastic email marketing titles that compel people to open may work according to some people but it also can make you seem less trustworthy.    To earn and keep the confidence of your list members, stick to actual facts about your offer and try writing messages that DON’T require disclaimers in tiny print at the bottom of the note.  🙂

Email Marketing Can Have a Dark Side

Some companies collect email addresses of people illegally and send irrelevant mails to them, which can be very annoying.  To get past spam filters, these messages will often have many lines of irrelevant text below the offer with “safe” words in them.

Some hackers intentionally design an email that looks like an advertisement but, when the ads are clicked, malicious software is downloaded that creates headaches for an unsuspecting or naive end user.  I will never understand why smart people, like hackers must be, use their creativity and talent to wreak havoc on people!  Even though your email marketing message is not malicious, you need to understand that everyone with a computer and email has heard one or more horror story and this will affect the success of your campaigns … especially if you have purchased or rented a  list.

In my previous post, I discussed the highlights of the CAN-SPAM act of 2003.  Caution is recommended for any list you choose to join but this does not keep you from receiving unsolicited email marketing, just as postal regulations do not restrict sending demographic based mail to your home.

Since the CAN-SPAM act only applies to US businesses, it is legal to initiate an email marketing campaign from a purchased or rented list as long as a physical address and a functional opt-out is included in the message, and email marketers are allowed up to 10 days following the request to remove people, the CAN-SPAM act seems to protects marketers more than consumers.  Sadly, my single voice isn’t loud enough to get these laws changed anytime soon and corporate entities with much more influence than me are working hard to loosen SPAM regulations, not tighten them.

Most email clients and webmail systems have spam filtering capabilities that can help to keep your inbox clean but those algorithms aren’t perfect.  How many times have you found a legitimate messages in your spam folder?  How many legitimate messages have you accidentally deleted?

Email Marketing is Only ONE Marketing Channel

As the saying goes, don’t put all of your eggs in one basket.  This is especially true for marketing and advertising expenses.  Email marketing is a great tool for building your business out there but you should also be testing other marketing methods and you should always be tracking the effectiveness of your campaigns.

Go forth and prosper, and make sure you use this marketing method wisely.

Balancing Your Business with Your Business Growth Goals

April 22, 2010 by +Marj Wyatt  
Filed under Entrepreneur Mindset, Featured

We all set Goals in some form.  At the time we establish them, they feel exciting and new.  Sometimes are goals are set with a purpose of diverging from our ordinary daily lives.  These sorts of ideas enthuse us, no matter what they are related to.

One such goal could be to branch out in your business.  Many pursue the goal of passive income and this doesn’t always entail joining a business opportunity or MLM, thank goodness.  🙂  The difficulty that exists, however, is that you can become swept  away by your primary income-earning activities because you enjoy what you do, have built a reliable reputation and you like the people with whom you are working.

My primary business is project based.  A very high percentage of that business is returning customers with new projects.  If the experience of working with them in the past was mutually beneficial, as well as being fun, I have no qualms about taking on their requests.  On the other hand, there are some clients whose projects I can’t wait to finish and with whom I will not work again.

New projects and cash flow are great to have, and hard to say no to.  But, with only 24-hours in a day, you begin to wonder if you are spreading yourself too tasks to forego are the ones that aren’t producing income for you yet .  It is true that you can outsource some aspects of your business but, when YOU ARE THE COMMODITY that people are seeking, you ultimately must decide if you want to decline new business so you can stick with your business building plans.

This is what I lovingly refer to as a Creative Conundrum.

balance-your-business-with-your-business-growth-goalsThe best strategy that I’ve found for achieving balance between what I have and what I want is to list all of the things that I want to do, as well as the things that I must do, on a schedule of some sort.  Don’t forget to set aside “me” time.

Blocking time is not a new concept but it works.  In fact, this was the basis of Steven Covey’s book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.   Among other things, Covey recommended establishing your task list, prioritizing those tasks and checking them off or updating their status on a daily basis.

A little more tedious, but also helpful, is keeping some sort of log on how your time is being spent.  If you do this for a week or so, you will notice patterns in your days and where you are spending time that takes away from your business building or income generating activities.

Once you have a handle on how your time is being spent, you are in a position to determine what you can spend less time on, or possibly stop doing, so you have more time to pursue your creative goals.   Those are the things that you really wanted to do when you imagined them, right?

Making a Difference Matters

April 14, 2010 by +Marj Wyatt  
Filed under Marj Wyatt's Musings

For those of you who may have missed me, please accept my apologies for having neglected my blog for so long, .  The thrill of operating your own business comes complete with the opportunity cost of having to keep your nose to the grindstone, at times.

There are some clients whose expressions of gratitude almost makes you feel guilty about getting paid for the job.  I have recently had that experience.

Here is a quote from a rave that one of my clients just wrote on their blog, about the service they received from me:

If you are blogger, you know that  your site is not unlike your child.  And when your child is sick, you tend to stop functioning.  You want answers.  You want certainty.  You want experts.  And we got absolutely none of that from our hosting provider Network Solutions.  From Network Solutions we got ticket numbers, escalation promises, and false assurances.  So we panicked and called in the real expert.

Virtually Marj. WordPress developer extraordinaire.

We love Virtually Marj for the following reasons:

  • She knows her stuff
  • She delivers exactly what she promises on time.
  • She is a human being.
  • I swear that I blushed when I read what they wrote.  🙂  If you want to see this post on their site, visit MothersofBrothers.

    making-a-differenceEven though their praise is directed at me, the three things that they noted are essential to anyone’s  success in business so it bears repeating.

    If you don’t pretend to be good at something that you aren’t, are clear about deliverables and time frames, and  remember to  be yourself, you have a recipe for success.

    Who Are You?

    January 8, 2010 by +Marj Wyatt  
    Filed under Marj Wyatt's Musings

    When your life changes in a radical way, what do you rely on to keep yourself moving forward? That’s a good question to have a solid answer to, I believe.

    Many people define themselves by the accumulation of their material belongings, their careers, or their family roles. There is nothing inherently wrong with this, unless it is the primary method you use to define yourself TO yourself.

    Take a young parent who immerses themselves in the very important job of being the best parent they know how to be. This can include a lot of sacrifice, especially in the early years. As children get older and more self-sufficient, that dedicated parent can find themselves feeling directionless if they have not maintained perspective on their personal goals in life.

    Another example would be a career-minded person who has devoted themselves to being a loyal employee, which also can include a lot of sacrifice. In these unpredictable and tumultuous financial times, executives and individual contributors alike are surprised to discover that loyalty means nothing when shareholders are demanding better returns on their investments or a private company owner must cut back on expenses to keep their business viable.

    When one door closes, another opens; but we often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door that we do not see the one which has opened for us.

    ~Alexander Graham Bell, US (Scottish-born) inventor (1847 – 1922)


    one-door-closes-another-opens-postimg

    When One Door Closes, Another Opens...


    We have choices to make at the time of a significant change. If our moorings are based on a self-perception that can withstand exterior influences, we will embrace the changes and use the opportunity to GROW.

    Goals
    Establish some goals for your new life. Make sure these goals are aligned with your personal passions so they are goals you will enjoy pursuing and bringing to life. Once you have selected goals, find a group of people who share similar interests and hopefully people whom you can look up to so you can emulate their successes and learn from their mistakes.

    Reality
    Appreciate the fact that reality, as you previously understood it, has changed. If this causes you to feel dread, you must find a way to adjust your mindset. Perhaps it could be something as simple as finding at least one thing everyday about the difference that you like better than your previous reality.

    Options
    Know all of your options. If you feel limited in any way, introspect about what is the source of that feeling and create a solution where the problem exists. Truly creative often see a problem seeking a solution long before anyone else. Could that be the purpose of the perceived limitation?

    Will
    Especially for entrepreneurs, there are times when sheer force of will is all that propels you forward toward your goals. If you are willing to believe in your own success, that will make all the difference in the world.

    Perhaps the most important thing to investigate each day is your willingness to get out of bed. It is important to know why you are living and working each day. Write these things down and keep your list near the alarm clock. If you find yourself hitting the snooze button, rather than getting up right away, you might need to make a new list or evaluate your priorities. Face it; If your “whys” aren’t compelling enough to get you out of bed, they clearly aren’t important enough.

    The Secret about The Secret

    James Arthur Ray was featured on Nightline this week. It seems that some of the participants of his Spiritual Warrior Retreat, held in Sedona in early October, died in a sweat lodge exercise at the end of a grueling week of motivational activities. The sweat lodge exercise was mandated after the people had spent days in the beautiful canyons of Sedona, without food or adequate rest, to connect with their inner truth … supposedly.

    Human physiology is fragile. It didn’t seem at all odd that some people might have been dehydrated and unfit to go into a sweat lodge for hours on the heels of their Sedona experience. I’ve wandered through the trails of Sedona. The trails to the vortexes are not paved and most of them involve a climb. As I listened to the statements on Nightline, made by survivors of this experience, as well as from family members whose loved ones had died, I pondered the huge industry that has grown around The Law of Attraction and The Secret over the past couple of years. If you are operating in this niche, you are well advised to monitor the progress of this story!

    the-secret-james-arthur-rayDon’t get me wrong, I watched The Secret, in the fall of 2007, and the movie was nothing other than inspirational. The underlying message of this movie, and others like it, is that you have the ability to change your viewpoint, and in so doing, have an opportunity to change your life’s course. If you are under the tutelage of a charismatic leader, like James Arthur Ray must be, it’s probably easy to get swept into a belief system that causes you to want the success he says is so easily attainable. And, to his credit, he has a large following.

    The fact that our mental approach to a problem can either resolve it or lead us further astray isn’t new information. In the United States, this was discovered by a couple of drunks as they commiserated with each other over a cup of coffee, so the story goes. The relief these two men felt led them to start a movement called Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) that has helped millions of people all over the world for nearly a century. AA text suggests “stinking thinking” is the source of emotional problems that lead people to make bad decisions, in this case, drinking. In fact, AA could possibly be the very first Law of Attraction program!

    The big difference between AA and programs like James Arthur Ray’s is that AA doesn’t define its membership by the amount of money they have to spend to join. This is written into their 12 Traditions at article six, which is a spiritual tradition recognizing that money, property and prestige can distract an AA group from its primary purpose … to help people.

    James Arthur Ray’s Spiritual Warrior Retreat was selling for a whopping fee of $9,695! This adventure built on a previous product offering called Practical Mysticism which sold for $5,295. The funny thing about reading Ray’s promotional materials is that they are merely sales letters, no different in psychology than the sales letters that compel one to purchase anything they’ve never heard about before. Personally, I doubt that Ray is any different than any other person who knows the truth about mindset; he’s just used his connection to The Secret to create a multi-million dollar enterprise.

    One person might say this is clever. Another might say it is opportunistic. In the end, only James Arthur Ray knows his motivations and, in light of civil suits already filed against his organization after the Spiritual Warrior debacle, with the strong possibility of forthcoming criminal charges, the law will intervene to make judgment. This judgment could lead to a need to regulate the industry which will wash out a lot of self-help charlatans.

    What disturbs me most about Law of Attraction practitioners-for-profit is the disparity of their words against their self-serving style. Last year, I observed this in a “joint venture” where the time I spent developing technology wasn’t recognized as having value and my “partner” asked me to pay for an EFT session. Without exception, every client that I’ve worked with who practices a “wealth attraction” coaching or information business has seemed to be the most tight-fisted and demanding client on my list for, when it comes to completing a project paying the final bill, they will always manufacture excuse after excuse for not producing a final payment when the terms of our contract have been fulfilled.

    Is this indicative of the industry at large? One can only hope it isn’t…

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    Flash Forward with Business

    Flash forwards are used in movies to interrupt the continuity of the story line through the narration or portrayal of some future episode.  If we liken our mental gymnastics to a movie or play, our daydreams are nothing other than flash forwards.

    Similar to the great new TV series on ABC, some of our imagined scripts are pleasant and some are less so.  Either way, the film director in our minds has set the stage and played out events that are expected, projected or imagined to occur in the future.  The polar opposite of a flash forward is a flashback, which are the stories that have occurred in our pasts that we use to guide our judgments.

    Finding success takes much more than positive thinking and watching training videos.  All that we take in is supposed to be applied.  Measuring our success against another person’s can cause us to stall in our forward progress.  For example, if one of our colleagues has tried out a program and made good income in a minimal amount of time and our attempts do not produce a similar or greater amount as quickly using their same methods, we can easily talk ourselves out of proceeding with our plans.  That doesn’t mean it didn’t work.  It means that those methods used by your colleague do not work for you.

    In the movie Hitch, perseverance is defined as continuing with a course of action without regard to discouragement, opposition, or previous disappointment.  Man!  Does that ever describe the mindset needed to effect change in your business or in your life but let’s stick to business.  Like kissing frogs to find a prince, programs that we try can manifest what we are looking for … or not.  Using the proverbial “cup is half full” viewpoint, we must be adaptable and take things in stride, fully aware that each one has taught us something that we can leverage down the road.  Eventually one will be “the answer” or spark a brand new idea that cannot be quashed by anyone or anything.

    So what if your idea isn’t unique?  If the information or product isn’t readily available for free, you have found something you can monetize.  Pining over worries that your new idea will not be as popular as a similar one you have heard of or tried is a flash forward can keep you from innovating something even better.  Clairfy your thoughts, jot down your idea, conduct your market research and, if the results of your findings reveal a niche market that you can go after and hope to dominate, continue by defining your market strategy and business plan.  Once you know where you’re going and how you will get there, it is full steam ahead!

    Frequently, our ideas are born from personal needs.  As the old adage goes, necessity is the mother of invention.  It is the truth that there were no wheels, once upon a time.  There are literally millions of examples just like that in your everyday life, once you stop to think about them.  Each of those inventors and entrepreneurs may have sounded like lunatics when their ideas were new but they didn’t let that stop them, thank goodness.


    Idea has Potential for Brilliance

    Brilliance is a Birthright


    Brilliance is everyone’s birthright, isn’t it?  Whether or not we made the Dean’s List at school, we all come up with amazing ideas which seem mundane to us and others view as being strokes of genius.  You will know when you have latched onto one of these.  When your light bulb moment consumes your waking thoughts and is exciting enough to keep you from hitting the snooze button in the morning, promote it to a passion.  You know it is right, you know people need it, and you must do what is necessary to bring it to them.

    Your Flash Forward doesn’t have to be a flash in the pan.  You know what you must do.  Quit thinking and talking about it and get to work!

    The Most Successful Entrepreneur

    October 9, 2009 by +Marj Wyatt  
    Filed under Marj Wyatt's Musings

    Yesterday marked the one year anniversary of my new life in the place that I’ve always wanted to live … San Diego, California.  This transition would not have been possible if I had not decided to become an internet entrepreneur and learned what it takes to get income online.

    The year has been personally exciting.  It was delightful to experience a winter without sub-zero temperatures, far too much snow, and long, dark, gray days.  Enjoying bright and sunny 80 degree days for the Holidays, without the temperature being an anomaly, put a smile on my face too.  I haven’t tired of driving through the marvelous mountains while traveling around the area on business and roaming along the shores of the Pacific Ocean whenever I choose to is nothing other than magical.

    From a business perspective, San Diego has opened new doors of opportunity.  For example, I was privileged to attend a local chapter meeting of Glazer-Kennedy’s Insider Circle this evening.  After some power networking and a few business card trades, I gazed around the room to see what sorts of people were also interested in moving their business beyond mediocrity.  Attendees came from all walks of life.  There were lawyers, doctors, building contractors, mechanics, holistic practitioners, artists, and, of course, non-pretentious internet millionaires in baseball caps.  What was most important was one common thread.  Each person in that room was there because they knew that there is always something more to learn.

    Equally interesting to me was one of the motivational posters taped to the wall which read:

    The most successful entrepreneur is the loneliest person in the world

    most-successful-entrepreneurI’ve experienced some entrepreneurial success and I totally  understand that statement from personal experience…

    It isn’t that entrepreneurs are aloof or choose to walk alone but the road we are on is certainly a road less traveled.  When the scent which will lead to success is found, it requires fastidious and incisive intellect to hone in upon the source and follow the trail.

    Sometimes discovery leads to changing strategies or tactics but the rewards are great when things begin to come together.  The path might not be straight forward and seeing around the bend requires occasional leaps of faith, at times.  One of the most important skills you must have is to stay the course and believe in your vision.

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