Thursday, May 27, 2010

Business idea - how to find an idea for your business

You want to start your own business? You want to become an entrepreneur? But you are stilll missing the right idea for your business?

Go through the world with open eyes. Look at what people do and how they do it. Then think about how you could make processes simpler, faster and more efficient. Maybe you will realize what is missing. Then you already have your business idea. Or maybe you had the problem already that something (a product or service) was missing in a particular moment?

A different approach for finding your business idea is to turn what you like (e.g. a hobby) into a company. Do you like knitting? You could develop an Internet platform with information on knitting, where you can also sell your knitting.

Do you have certain skills that you can use to build a business? Perhaps you can offer something that no one else offers - a particular product or a particular service? Through this you could also develop a business idea.

Look out for trends that are just emerging and also for market niches.

A good starting point for developing ideas are your own strengths. Build on your strengths and try to work around your weaknesses. It makes little sense to look for capital-intensive ideas, if there are no prospects for getting money.

In general, business ideas fall into one of three categories:
  • Product for which you buy parts / material and assemble the product itself
  • Product that you buy from a wholesaler, retailer or manufacturer
  • Service you offer

The simplest business ideas are existing products in existing markets. However, here you have the greatest competition.
The most difficult ideas are new products in new markets. Here you have (almost) no competition.

Good methods in order to find ideas are:
  • Brainstorming with your friends and colleagues
  • Asking others for their ideas
  • Reading magazines about the market in which you want to be active

Often, business ideas arise by accident, out of a certain situation or just when you are at the right place during the right time.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Why business cards are important

First of all, ask yourself why you need business cards. Who do you give your business cards and in which situations?

Your business card is a very important advertising medium. With well-designed business cards, you can make a great impression.

You can design your business cards yourself, e.g. with Word, and then send the file to the printer of your choice. Another possibility is to create the business cards online. I would advise you to leave the design to a professional. People will be able to tell by looking at your business cards if they were designed professionally or if you cobbled them together.

You should always have a few of your business cards with you - no matter where you go. You can put business cards in your pocket, purse or your deposit them in your car - this way you always have some at hand. You should keep your business cards in a case, so they won't wrinkle or get stained. Never pass dirty or creased business cards. This is unprofessional. Just throw away your useless business cards.

Place your business cards in letters to your customers. If you send an invoice, you can attach a cover letter and also your business card. There are several possibilities for attaching your business cards: Put your business card in a pre-cut mount, use self-adhesive business card pockets or simply attach the card with a paper clip.

When you go to appointments with customers or events, you should always have your business cards handy. Hand off your business card at the registration when you go to an appointment. This way, your conversation partner also does not confuse your name.

If you get business cards from other people, keep them separate and do not put them into the pile of your own business cards - that could lead to confusion, if you have to pick out your own business cards from the stack.

If you are at a trade show where you hand out many business cards, you should make a note at the make about where you met the person and what you discussed. This prevents confusion and at the end of day you can go through the stack of cards again and figure out who to contact first.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

How to become self-employed and start your own business

You have been thinking about becoming your own employer? Then you should definitely ask yourself the following questions:
  • Are you an entrepreneur?
  • Are you qualified to run your own business?
  • Do you have experience in the industry?
  • Do you have basic commercial/business knowledge?
  • What does your family think about your plans?
  • Will you withstand the stress of being an entrepreneur (psychologically, as well as financially)?
Before you dive right into starting a business, you should visit a seminar for entrepreneurs. Often, the local Chamber of Commerce offers these workshops. Also, check whether the university in your city offers anything for entrepreneurs.

If you really decide to pursue your entrepreneurial zest for action and actually realize your idea, then you will need a business plan.

However, before you get started on it, you need an idea for your business: What do you want to sell – a product or a service? Maybe there is something special, the competition does not offer yet?

Now you can go on to explain your project in a business plan:
  • You should present yourself as a founder and also your co-founder if you have one.
  • It is also important to choose which legal form you want for our new business.
  • Describe your product/service, your customers, your competitors, your location, and your suppliers.
  • Also mention your human resource planning.
  • Briefly explain your pricing strategy.
  • Describe your distribution strategy.
  • Your communication and promotional activities you can mention briefly or you can write a detailed marketing plan.
  • Mention opportunities and risks of your start-up.
  • Clarify the required capital and where it will come from.
Once your business plan is ready, you can start seeking a way of financing. You probably thought about this before. You should now make a detailed calculation on the capital needed. Make a detailed list of all expenses planned.
Do you already have enough money to finance your business? Are there any friends or relatives who would lend you money for your project? What about credit institutions or governmental funding programs?

Remember that starting a business there are many formalities you need to take care of, such as governmental approvals or permits. Also with the tax authorities you will have to arrange. Try to clarify the requirements with the help of the authorities in the location you want to set up your business in advance.

More information on the topic of becoming an entrepreneur, start-ups, self-employment and starting your own business can be found on the following websites:

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

How to create a facebook page for your business or organization

Online marketing is becoming increasingly important for small businesses, organizations and also freelancers. Marketing through social media is becoming more and more interesting. Facebook is the social network, where most users have an account. Therefore, you should also take the opportunity to market your business or organization here. The start is simple – just create a facebook page for your business or organization.
  • In order to create a facebook page for your business or organization you need to register with facebook and then log in with your username.
  • On the left side click „Ads and Pages“, click on „Pages“.
  • Here, you click the button „Create new page“.
  • Depending on who you want to create the page for, you have different options: „Official Page“, „Community Page“ or a group.
  • Official Page is meant for businesses, organizations and artists.
  • Community Page you create when you are looking for people to share a certain topic with, such as „Recycling“.
  • For your business, you should create an official page.
  • Here you can choose from three different options: „Local business“, „Brand, product, or organization“ and „Artist, band, or public figure“. For each option, you also have to choose your industry/kind of business/organization/person.
  • Add the name of your future page and then check the box „I’m the official representative ...“, to facebook’s terms. Click „Create Official Page“.
  • Now you have created your facebook page.
  • Now upload your company logo or a picture of yourself. This picture will be shown as a profile picture next to each of your entries. To upload your picture go over the grey question mark with your mouse, click „Change Picture“ and then „Upload a Picture“. Now you can choose a picture from your hard drive and upload as a profile picture. It is best to choose a picture that is squared, otherwise parts of the pictures will not show.
  • Klick on „Write something about ...“. Now you can type a short text about your business/organization/yourself. A few words are enough here.
  • Up in the tab „Info“ click on „Edit information“. Add all important information on your business/ organization/ person and then click „Save Changes“.
  • In the tab „Photos“ click on „Create a Photo Album“ and upload photos of your business/ organizations/ person. These pictures can be seen by visitors of your facebook page.
  • On the left side click on „Edit Page“ to set who can upload what to your page.
  • Click „Suggest to Friends“ in order to invite your facebook friends to your new page.
  • At the bottom on the left click the button „Share“ to pust your facebook page to your regular facebook profile.
Of course there are many other advertising possibilities for your facebook page. Just try out a few things and also do not forget about your competitors. Every now and then check what the competition is doing facebookwise.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Quote by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

“If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up people to collect wood and don’t assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea.” /Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

When the communication is motivating, more ambitious targets can be reached. This can be the case in companies, associations or clubs.
You can make other people your allies more easily, if you manage to get them on your side.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Guerrilla marketing für NPOs with the help of facebook, youtube and traditional media

The non-profit organization (NPO) Greenpeace is known for guerrilla (marketing) campaigns. The organization recently called on to boycott the company Nestlé. Greenpeace activists infiltrated the Facebook fan page and bombarded Nestlé with calls to stop the use of palm oil in its products.
Background of the Greenpeace action is the use of palm oil in Nestlé's food. According to Greenpeace, for the cultivation of palm oil in Indonesia, valuable rain forest is destroyed. Without the rainforest, threatened species such as the orang-utan use their livelihood. At the annual meeting, Nestlé said to put a stop on the deforestation of the rainforest. However, according to Greenpeace nothing has changed so far.

It is amazing, how easily companies make friends and fans in the social networks (social media). These fans see exactly what the company does - and even voluntary. Fan pages on Facebook can be built within minutes. The company or organization can use these fan pages to publish the latest news, e.g. when a new product is launched. These messages can also be commented on and fans can also upload photos and video.
But this is also a delicate matter, as the sympathy of the followers can quickly turn into the opposite. This can happen, when the company does not do exactly what it promised her fans. Or, as in the case of Nestlé, when another group calls for boycott and undermines the Facebook fan page.

Greenpeace also got attention with the help of a Youtube video about the use of palm oil. This video and also others circulated on Facebook and other social networks as well.

During the annual meeting of Nestlé’s shareholders in Lausanne, Switzerland, in April, Greenpeace activists protested outside the building – in orang-utan costumes. Also posters were put up, in order to get the shareholders’ attention.

Another creative guerrilla campaign by Greenpeace activists was the protest in April infront of the Nestlé headquarters in Frankfurt. Here, Twitter messages from the Greenpeace channel were shown on a big screen – transmitted in real time.

Now, Greenpeace activists brought the matter out in the real world and resorted to a more traditional marketing tool: In several German cities, on to the well known Kitkat chocolate bars from Nestlé, activists put stickers on which a orang-utan calls for help. These actions led to a reaction of local newspapers, which means that even those who did not hear about the protests yet, had been informed. (article in the Halle newspaper, article in the newspaper Donaukurier, article in food-news, article in the newspaper Welt Online)

This shows that guerrilla marketing via new media such as Facebook and Youtube can be combined easily with a rather traditional guerrilla marketing, such as protests in front of corporate buildings and the large-scale distribution of stickers. The connection makes sure that those to whom the social networks on the Internet are still foreign and therefore have not taken notice from the ongoing actions on Facebook and Youtube will also get to know about the problem.

As a company, you should always remember that the Internet does not easily forget and that masses are being addressed through it. In future, companies hopefully will put capable employees in those positions that address marketing, communication and public relations for social media, in order for the company to react more intelligently. For Nestlé it is too late now: Nestlé’s credibility is gone and Greenpeace has probably managed to damage the reputation of the company and the brand Nestlé long term – damage to the image of the company can not be repaired easily.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Your association or club on display

Marketing for your association or club is not as hard as you might think. A great, inexpensive way to reach people in your town and to advertise your small non-profit-organization (NPO) is advertising in shop windows and display cases.

Perhaps there are display cases in your town or city that small NPOs can rent for little money or even no money at all.
You can design your display case again and again with very little effort.
Depending on the kind of display case you use, you can put in posters or even whole exhibits.
Keep your showcase clean and up to date! No one likes to read old, yellowed newspaper clippings with dead mosquitoes around. Set out new information in your display case at regular intervals - this will attract visitors' attention over and over again.

Be mindful with copyrights. If you exhibit photos, the people shown should agree to the publication of their image.

If you do not have a display case, you should check with local stores that have a shop window. Ask these stores whether you can present your club in one corner of the shop window. Maybe there is a local company that has supported you before? Or has one of the club members a shop in a great location with a shop window?
It is also possible to present your association in the shop window of a local store for a few days every months.
Do not hesistate to ask local companies!

It should become clear from your display case or shop window, what your club does. Many people may come by for the first time and not know exactly what your club is for. It is best to mix the latest club news with general information about your club.

Do not put too much text. Rather display lots of photos and graphics. Photos should not be too small, otherwise people will not be able to see them properly through the glass. Print your photos on letter sized photo paper. Make sure to replace the photos before they fade out (that can happen very fast in the sun - a few dayscan make a big difference)!

Always add the address of your website. Anyone who remembers the URL might look at the website at home.
When presenting your club also mention a contact, for example
the chairman of your club, so people know where the information comes from.

Both your display case, and the space in the shop window you can decorate to suit the season. But do not go overboard with decorations. Too much can become corny and therefore deterrent.
You can use decoration to attract people from a distance - for example, with lots of color and unusual things

Monday, May 3, 2010

Your entry on Google maps

On you have the possibility to add your company or organization to the interactive map. This is a free service that Google offers and it is very easy to set up:

  1. Go to Google Places and sign in with your Google account. If you do not have one already, you can create one by clicking on "Sign up now".
  2. Once you are done setting it up, click on "Add listing".
  3. Here you can put in all the necessary information on your company/organization. After you add your address, it is shown on the interactive map.
  4. You can add up to five categories for your business. Click "Next".
  5. Here you can add information about service areas, location settings, hours of operations and also payment options. You should also upload your company logo or picture of the building here. If you already have a video for your organization/business, make sure to upload it here.
  6. At the very bottom you can add additional details, such as information about parking.
  7. Check your address again and also make sure the marker in the map is in the right spot. If it is not, you can move it to the correct position. Click "Submit".
  8. Now you can choose how to validate your listing. You can choose to be called on the phone you added before or you can have Google send you a postcard with the required PIN. Click "Finish".
  9. When you go back to Google places now, you can see your listing and add the PIN to validate it. Here, you can also add more listings.
  10. Make sure to check Google maps a few weeks later to see whether your listing is correct.