Start where you are

If you’ve decided to jump into online publishing — putting out an online newsletter, magazine or other content that will interest your business’s customers — you may think that designing your website is your biggest challenge. But that’s the easy part. Much trickier is gathering an audience that will sustain the publication. Here are some tips on building a loyal audience for your site.

Start where you are
The Internet is a surprisingly personal place. A thousand people, each with unique personal interests, can spend the same 60 minutes online together and never come close to crossing paths. It follows that the key to Web publishing success is forging a lasting personal connection with people based on your own skills, interests and contacts. In other words, the best place to start is with the connections you already have online. Then use those connections to build a community of like-minded people and keep expanding from there.

Your own interests and expertise are your strengths as a publisher. Study the information that is already available in your niche, looking for gaps you can fill. Then, fill the gaps with valuable information nobody else provides. An example is www.businessbricks.co.uk a small business advice website in the U.K.

Your goal should be to create unique, valuable information that meets the needs of your targeted audience. On the Internet, there are many ways to provide that information that aren’t available to print publishers — for example, you can offer searchable, interactive databases and encyclopedias.

One online publisher, for example, is creating an online publication about his passion, electric vehicles (EVs). In his spare time (he’s a magazine editor), he’s been using his skills as a journalist to study the EV market, scoping out who the players are, what they have to say and how the industry is developing. He also travels to auto shows to test drive new cars, combs the Internet for information about EVs, and studies the technical literature about EV engineering and design. Now, using all of the connections he has developed and the information he has gathered, he is ready to launch EV World online.

Work Your Niche
Get to know the online habits of your prospective audience. What other sites are they likely to visit? Make a list and try to develop a relationship with each one. There are a variety of ways to do this. Your best options include offering to write articles (informative and not self-serving) for other sites, or posting messages with your Web address on their bulletin boards. Trade links and adverts with other sites in your field, and if you can afford it, buy classified adverts at related sites.

One web publisher doubled her traffic by spending two months (and a small amount of advertising money) working through all the sites in her niche in this way. Another got similar results by hiring and supervising a Net-savvy college student.

Don’t neglect offline ways to publicise your website. Send press releases and emails about interesting features on your site to print as well as online media in your niche. List your Web address wherever you also list yourself — business directories, professional associations, and chambers of commerce. Speak at trade shows or conventions.

Work the search engines
Lots of people will find — or not find — your site by using online search engines such as Google, where they type in the words they’re searching for. You need to do a little work to make sure your site will turn up when a potential reader conducts a search. Here are three good places to go for tips on making your site stand out to search engines.

  • SEARCH ENGINE WATCH
    http://www.searchenginewatch.com) is an online newsletter that offers comprehensive, practical tips about making a site that search engines can find. There are also some good links for Webmasters here.
  • THE WEB MARKETING INFORMATION CENTER
    (http://www.wilsonWeb.com) has several articles including one called A Web Marketing Checklist: 23 Ways to Promote Your Site by Ralph Wilson.
  • THE TRAFFIC TRIBUNE
    (http://www.submit-it.com) is a newsletter covering the search engines and how to make a hit with them.

Use banner exchanges
An organised program of exchanging banner adverts is a way for sites with modest traffic to break into an ad revenue business. Banner exchange programs work like this: You join an advertisers’ group, called an exchange, and trade banners on your site with other exchange members. You can specify where you want to run your banners, and the exchange takes care of all the bookkeeping. Members get detailed reports about when and where their adverts were run so that they can measure their effectiveness. Each member makes available slightly more ad space than they use themselves, with the exchange selling the excess stock for a small fee to other advertisers. That’s how the exchanges make enough money to cover their operating expenses.

Learn more about Internet Marketing 360 at https://360.com.sg If you need parkplacesresidences , then the team of professionals from parkplacesresidences is here to help you.

Personal liability for business debts

What the sole trader needs to know

A sole trader is a business that is owned by one person (and sometimes his or her spouse) and that isn’t registered as a corporation or a limited liability company.

Sole proprietorships are so easy to set up and maintain that you may already own one without knowing it. For instance, if you are a freelance photographer or writer, a craftsperson who takes jobs on a contract basis, a salesperson who receives only commissions or an independent contractor who isn’t on an employer’s regular payroll, you are automatically a sole trader.

However, even though a sole trader is the simplest of business structures, you shouldn’t fall asleep at the wheel. You may have to comply with local registration, license or permit laws to make your business legitimate. And you should look sharp when it comes to tending your business, because you are personally responsible for paying both income taxes and business debts.

Personal liability for business debts
A sole trader can be held personally liable for any business-related obligation. This means that if your business doesn’t pay a supplier, defaults on a debt or loses a lawsuit, the creditor can legally come after your house or other possessions.

By contrast, the law provides owners of corporations and limited liability companies (Ltd’s) with what’s called “limited personal liability” for business obligations. This means that, unlike sole traders and general partners, owners of corporations and limited companies can normally keep their house, investments and other personal property even if their business fails. If you will be engaged in a risky business, you may want to consider forming a corporation or an limited company.

Paying taxes on business income
In the eyes of the law, a sole proprietorship is not legally separate from the person who owns it. The fact that a sole proprietorship and its owner are one and the same means that a sole proprietor simply reports all business income or losses on his individual income tax return.

As a sole trader, you’ll have to take responsibility for withholding and paying all income taxes, which an employer would normally do for you. This means paying a “self-employment” tax, which consists of contributions to National Insurance/ P.R.S.I, and making payments of estimated taxes throughout the year.

And if you do business under a name different from your own, such as Custom Coding, you must register that name — known as a fictitious business name — with Companies House. In practice, lots of businesses are small enough to get away with ignoring these requirements. But if you are caught, you may be subject to back taxes and other penalties.

How to Protect Your Business Ideas

People often ask if they can sell an idea for a new product or service to a company that will implement it. But ideas that can’t be protected are worth relatively little. I don’t mean necessarily legally protected, but at the very least, protected with marketing momentum, image, and awareness.

Relatively few of the well-known successful start-ups depended on the ideas. What matters is doing it, starting it up, getting it done. For example, when Apple Computer started in 1976, thousands of people had the same idea. Altair and MIPS were already producing. Every hobbyist club in the country talked about it in their meetings. Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak, however, did it. They found the resources, contracted people, took the risks, and started it up.

There are plenty of good examples. Was Federal Express patentable? No, but they did it. Look at Amazon.com—it was a good idea, but very copiable. In that case they knew they had to move fast and gain visibility very quickly to pre-empt competition. McDonald’s?

There are companies whose main advantage is the idea. Kodak, Polaroid, and Xerox are examples, but these are exceptions, not the rule.

By the time you’ve had a good idea, so have hundreds or thousands of others.

So how do you approach a large company with a good idea? I say, simply, don’t; not until you have momentum. Sure, some ideas need larger companies to move them forward, but if your idea is that good and not legally protectable, why shouldn’t the big company move on it? Managers are charged with enhancing the value of the company they work for, and you’re saying there’s no patent, so why not? They aren’t bad people, it’s just that you don’t own the idea.

Besides, larger companies move very slowly, and unless you’ve proven the idea and developed the concept, it’s even harder to think they’ll do it better.

My advice is to build some advantage first, develop this idea, bear down, and make it work. After that, then you will have something to sell. Even without patents, you could have trademarks, service marks, and legal protection against people trying to trade on your company’s name and trademarks.

Think of it from the buyer’s point of view, for a while. Which would you rather buy, an idea, or a business? Turn your idea into a business that works, with sales and employees and a market position, and then you have something to sell.

Remember that there are almost always people proposing ideas to large companies, and you’ll have to make sure the contact in the company understands that you might have something that’s very worthwhile. It’s hard for me to think you can do that without building it first, then selling it.

Think about what it is you own that they would need your participation for—perhaps it’s your expertise or name in an industry.

*Disclaimer. NB these articles are for informational purposes only. They are not designed to be used as a substitute for legal advice.

How to Better On Business Plan

The following illustration shows a business plan as part of a process. You can think about the good or bad of a plan as the plan itself, measuring its value by its contents. There are some qualities in a plan that make it more likely to create results, and these are important. However, it is even better to see the plan as part of the whole process of results, because even a great plan is wasted if nobody follows it.

Planning is a process, not just a plan

A business plan will be hard to implement unless it is simple, specific, realistic and complete. Even if it is all these things, a good plan will need someone to follow up and check on it. The plan depends on the human elements around it, particularly the process of commitment and involvement, and the tracking and follow-up that comes afterward.

Successful implementation starts with a good plan. There are elements that will make a plan more likely to be successfully implemented. Some of the clues to implementation include:

  1. Is the plan simple? Is it easy to understand and to act on? Does it communicate its contents easily and practically?
  2. Is the plan specific? Are its objectives concrete and measurable? Does it include specific actions and activities, each with specific dates of completion, specific persons responsible and specific budgets?
  3. Is the plan realistic? Are the sales goals, expense budgets, and milestone dates realistic? Nothing stifles implementation like unrealistic goals.
  4. Is the plan complete? Does it include all the necessary elements? Requirements of a business plan vary, depending on the context. There is no guarantee, however, that the plan will work if it doesn’t cover the main bases.

Preparing a business plan is an organised logical way to look at all of the important aspects of a business. First, decide what you will use the plan for, such as to:

  • Define and fix objectives, and programs to achieve those objectives.
  • Create regular business review and course correction.
  • Define a new business.
  • Support a loan application.
  • Define agreements between partners.
  • Set a value on a business for sale or legal purposes.
  • Evaluate a new product line, promotion, or expansion.

No time to plan? A common misconception
“Not enough time for a plan,” business people say. “I can’t plan. I’m too busy getting things done.” A business plan now can save time and stress later.

Too many businesses make business plans only when they have to. Unless a bank or investors want to look at a business plan, there isn’t likely to be a plan written. The busier you are, the more you need to plan. If you are always putting out fires, you should build fire breaks or a sprinkler system. You can lose the whole forest for too much attention to the individual trees.

Keys to better business plans

  • Use a business plan to set concrete goals, responsibilities, and deadlines to guide your business.
  • A good business plan assigns tasks to people or departments and sets milestones and deadlines for tracking implementation.
  • A practical business plan includes 10 parts implementation for every one part strategy.
  • As part of the implementation of a business plan, it should provide a forum for regular review and course corrections.
  • Good business plans are practical.

Business plan “don’ts”

  • Don’t use a business plan to show how much you know about your business.
  • Nobody reads a long-winded business plan: not bankers, bosses, nor venture capitalists. Years ago, people were favourably impressed by long plans. Today, nobody is interested in a business plan more than 50 pages long.

Products for Starting a New Business

Starting a business is an incredibly exciting time for any entrepreneur; however it can also be stressful with so much to do in so little time. The start-up phase is also characterized by significant expenditures against a backdrop of uncertain income. However, there are a number of products and services that can help you maximize your chances of success while also saving you considerable time and money. This article aims to introduce you to some of the less obvious ones that are available via the Internet. These products and services can help you set your business on the right path from Day One. While these recommendations will not be appropriate for all, those who need to bootstrap and build their business the hard way will benefit the most.

1. Create a website

Regardless of whether you intend to sell online or not, all new start-up businesses should secure a domain name and create a website as soon as they can. Thankfully, the cost of getting a site set up has fallen significantly over time and there are now a host of different packages and providers to choose from.

2. Download a profile of your industry

The factsheets, reports and guides from Scavenger are essential reading material for anyone starting up a business in the UK. The Business Opportunity Profiles are downloadable reports on specific UK industries. With over 800 reports in total, the range includes everything from ‘Children’s Day Nursery’ profiles to ‘Coffee Shop’ profiles to a profile on ‘Wedding Planners’.

Where: www.scavenger.net Cost: Individual reports cost around £5.

3. Set up your company accounts

One of the big challenges start-up companies face is managing cash flow. Insolvency is one of the main causes of failure for entrepreneurs in the UK. However, with some careful and appropriate financial planning, cash crunches can be avoided. While this in itself is an important reason for buying a bookkeeping package, there are countless other reasons ranging from the ability to manage invoices through to managing payroll. The two main recommended introductory packages are QuickBooks® Simple Start from Intuit® and Sage® Instant Accounts. View online demos before you purchase.

Where: www.sage.co.uk and www.quickbooks.co.uk Cost: From £43.97 at www.amazon.co.uk

4. Download business planning software

When you start up it is important to write a business plan to ensure you adequately plan the future of your business. The very process of creating a business plan is beneficial, not least because it forces you to take a holistic view of your company. Business Plan Pro is the best-selling business-planning software available. It is easy to use, saves time, and has over 500 sample plans to get you started. It is also available via download so you can get instant access to it and hence pay no postage and packing.

Where: Business Plan Pro is available from www.paloalto.co.uk Cost: RRP is only £76.99 for the Standard version and £127.99 for Business Plan Pro Premier.

5. Save costs on your phone

Using applications such as Skype together with a headset, it is now possible to make telephone calls from your computer at a very low cost. There is no need to commit to a monthly phone contract with line rental. Instead you can just pay as you go. You can also obtain a Skype number so people can call you back. However it is recommended that all start-up businesses do have at least one fixed line number they can be contacted on. Finally, you should also consider getting a portable number that is easy to transfer if you move offices.
Where: www.skype.co.uk Cost: Free

6. Protect your computer

Once you connect to the Internet, it is important to ensure you have adequate protection in the form of anti-virus software. Many computers these days come with anti-virus software installed already. If not, you should consider downloading Ad-Aware from Lavasoft and AVG anti-virus from GRISOFT. These products are either free or reasonably priced, and are very effective. Finally, it is also recommended that you backup your data to an external hard drive such as those manufactured by Maxtor.

What is a business model

A business model is a description of how your business intends to operate and make money. At the most basic level, it involves a producer making something and selling it directly to customers at a profit (but this simple model has propagated into numerous diverse models in recent years).

Alexander Osterwalder, co-author of the book Business Model Generation, defines a business model as:

‘… a description of the value a company offers to one or several segments of customers and of the architecture of the firm and its network of partners for creating, marketing, and delivering this value and relationship capital, to generate profitable and sustainable revenue streams.’

The development of a business model is essentially a strategic perspective rather than an operational assessment, and focuses on how you capture value i.e. it includes a description of the value proposition. Deciding upon a business model becomes particularly important as a concept when it is not a simple ‘make and sell direct‘ model and you are looking to create value through a non linear route.

The Business Model – An Introduction

In days of old, business was arguably a lot simpler; you produced something and sold it for a profit, building up a good reputation over time so as to ensure ongoing patronage. Before the industrial revolution most sales were essentially local, and you had a much greater steer on competition, demand levels and pricing. You probably sold your products directly to consumers as the butcher, baker or candlestick maker.

Fast forward 200 years and business has changed considerably. A lot more creativity is needed to get noticed in a time-pressed world (not to mention in making a sale). You are probably facing global competitors, and in many instances a widely dispersed audience who are increasingly difficult to reach in a cost effective manner. As a result, numerous alternative strategies have emerged to get your product to market, safely into the hands of the consumer and business model innovation has become increasingly popular.

“Companies that put more emphasis on business model innovation experienced significantly better operating margin growth (over a five-year period) than their peers.”

In many respects the emergence of business model innovation started with Gillette and razor blades. They worked out that if they sold the razor at low cost, consumers would happily pay for the blades. Given the resultant switching costs and customer inertia, the result was often a lifetime of patronage (despite the fact the initial transaction was a loss-making one for the producer). In essence, by providing something at below the market price (the razor); you can create a market for a secondary product (the blade) upon which you make ongoing profits. A second characteristic of the model was that the mark-up on the secondary products were often disproportionate relative to their cost so were highly profitable for the manufacturer. Anyone who has had to buy replacement ink cartridges will bear witness to this!

A trend in recent years has however been the growth of companies (often Web 2.0 ones) with uncertain business models. Take Twitter, for example:

“Twitter has become an influencer in the way information is shared around the world. But while its immediacy, transparency and simplicity offer answers about all things both newsworthy and mundane, one big question about Twitter has gone virtually unanswered: how it plans to turn a profit.”

Source: CNN article (July 9, 2010)

Of course, the big challenge for the likes of Twitter, Facebook and other social media sites is that attempts to monetise come at a number of costs, often the privacy of the user and their ability to use the service without interruptions from third party advertisers. Monetising a free service invariably degrades the experience for the customer and hence companies need to walk a fine line as Facebook found to its cost in recent months.

Thinking about your business model

If you are an entrepreneur starting a new business, it is very important that you consider a number of different business models as it is possible to derive revenues from a range of different sources at various stages of the product’s lifecycle.

Businesses can also operate hybrid business models. For example, newspapers make their money from a mix of advertising revenue and the price they obtain for the newspaper. As we have seen in London, models can change over time as the value of certain portions of the business increase in value; for example, the Evening Standard newspaper is now given away free every evening (hence relying solely on advertising income to sustain itself). As U.S. Cambridge, U.K. -based entrepreneur Doug Richards proclaims:

‘One may start a business with the idea that one will sell a product to customers only to discover that no one will pay for it, but they will accept it when it is provided for free. When that’s the case, advertisers may pay for the production and distribution of the product.’

In essence, business models are essentially dynamic as new opportunities can emerge at various points on the value chain. Sticking to the newspaper industry, the dominant online business model for many years was free online content supported by advertising. However, the commercial viability of such a model is not sustainable (most sites lose money) and this tactic also results in lost sales as some people substitute a free digital copy for a physical paid one. The Times in the U.K. has recently changed its model to a ‘paid for’ access one – whether they can make it a success is debatable, given the fact so many free substitutes are only one click away!