Search

russian river pr blog

Nancy Birnbaum-Marketing Maven

[Infographic] Top 10 Typography Trends to Know

I’m sure that I’m not alone when it comes to using the “right” typeface when marketing or designing collateral for a business. In fact, there are so many (43,000 typefaces for the web alone!), that it’s hard to know where to begin.

When you’re tasked with picking a typeface for your brand, it can easily become overwhelming. So here’s a handy Infographic that shows the most popular fonts of 2017 and the trends to watch going forward. You may find some surprising info.

#BetterLettersIn2018 <3!

Infographic by Web-design and marketing agency Branex.

type-faces-infographic

Advertisements

Optimizing for Voice Search: Four Tactics for 2018

With all the talk about the future of marketing, we marketers forget about the changes happening right now, right in front of us. Voice search is one of those phenomena, and it’s affecting search results as you read.

And it’s a trend that marketers can easily capitalize on with the right optimization techniques.

How important is voice search optimization today? Some 40% of adults now use voice search once per day, according to comScore, and Google voice search queries were up 35 fold in 2016 from 2008 levels, according to Mary Meeker’s 2016 Internet Trends report.

In short, it’s time to optimize your website for voice search.

Fortunately, doing so is not rocket science. You can have your website ranking for certain phrases within a few weeks, if you start using the following four strategies today.

1. Questions Over Keywords

Sure, keywords are vital to search engine optimization (SEO). And, yes, that still applies when we talk about voice searches. But voice searches are largely about answering questions, not about focusing on individual keywords.

If you’re trying to optimize a website for a flower shop, you wouldn’t focus on short-tail keywords like “fresh flowers” or “[insert city] flower shops.” Instead, you’d aim to address a consumer’s specific question, such as “how to setup a flower arrangement for a patio area?”

This favoring of long-tail keywords is the prevailing trend in SEO, in general, but it applies most aptly to voice search.

The easiest thing you can do to start addressing those sorts of questions is to add an FAQ page to your site. If you can answer a series of questions with “value,” drawing on your industry expertise, Google’s search bots will recognize these efforts and reward you with a prominent voice search result, as will other search engines. Like so…

Voice-search-courtesy of marketingprofs.com

If you’re having trouble formulating a good set of consumer questions to address, don’t be afraid to perform some outreach. Join forums and message boards, and use Quora to interact with consumers and fellow marketers alike. You can also reach out to your email list to identify which areas your customers need the most help in.

2. Local Search Optimization

Have you ever found yourself visiting a city for the first time and relying on your phone to tell you the best restaurants and places to visit? That is one of the largest applications of voice search today, and it’s a growing trend.

Optimizing for voice search means optimizing for local SEO. Here are the two main areas of overlap between the two:

  • Google My Business listing: Make sure your business address, phone number, and website are listed accurately.
  • Reviews: You want to collect lots of positive Google reviews. When somebody asks Siri for “best Thai restaurants in LA,” they’ll be shown places with the most reviews first. (Study after study comes to the same conclusion: Consumers use positive reviews to inform their purchasing decisions.)

3. Mobile-Responsiveness

It goes without saying that most voice searches are performed on some sort of mobile device. So you’d better make sure that your site is good to go on mobile.

Moreover, Google has announced mobile-first indexing, which means that it doesn’t really matter how responsive your desktop site is; if your mobile site is a dud, your search ranking will be a dud, period.

Creating a positive mobile experience means your content must be digestible to the user. Long paragraphs should be reconsidered in favor of short, 2-3 sentence tidbits.

Think about your own experience reading content on a mobile device. How many times have you given up on an article for no other reason than it was too long and clunky to read?

Content for a mobile site should be succinct and concise, and it should clearly answer the question you’re trying to rank for in voice search. If it’s too roundabout, if it fails to directly address the question, and it’s written like a 500-page novel, don’t expect to be rewarded in voice search results.

4. Video Content Creation

Finally, a great way to sneak into voice search rankings is to post a YouTube video that answers the specific topic you have in mind.

It turns out that YouTube videos do show up in voice search results.

Here’s an example for “how to tie a tie”:

video-content-screenshot-courtesy of marketingprofs.com

We’ve known for a while that YouTube videos can outrank static Web pages in normal SERPs, but this is apparently true for voice search as well.

If you’re camera-shy, fear not. You don’t have to go in front of the camera if you don’t want to. Instead, you can answer a question using graphics and voiceover: in short, explainer videos.

The Main Point

Poring through all the statistics, data, and case studies about voice search can be headache-inducing; so, rather than overthinking your strategy, which can lead you to crash and burn, try to break it down into the basic principle of answering your consumers’ questions.

Of course, figuring out those questions is where the grunt work comes in (keyword research). But once you’ve decided on a set of questions, created content with actionable solutions, and optimized it for voice search and local SEO, you might well be surprised to see how much your hard work pays off!

Article by Michael Peggs. Originally published on MarketingProfs.com

Need help with any of these options? Get in touch!

What Is Participatory Propaganda? And Why Your 2018 PR Campaigns Need it

Public Relations and traditional propaganda have been most effective when publishers control the narratives. Today, however, people—not the publishers—have greater control in the broader Social Media arena. The future of marketing, the key to setting the narrative is the amount of participation, not publication on its own.

Following the 2016 US presidential election, a fake news site held the top search result for “Election Results,” and the article stated (falsely) that Donald Trump had won the popular vote. That article had over 325 backlinks, hundreds of comments, and over 450,000 shares on Facebook; the CNN “Election Results” page, on the other hand, had only 300 backlinks, no comments, and 1/10th of the shares on Facebook.

Proving that participation is more powerful than publication…

Alica Wanless is the queen of “participatory propaganda,” and in her article on La Generalist, she contends that it is the key reason Brexit, Trump, and ISIS have been so successful as of late.

Wanless writes. “Propaganda is changing in a Digital Age. Audiences are no longer passive consumers of persuasive content, but active in its creation and spread, helping to further the agenda of propagandists whose messaging resonates with the target’s world view.

Participatory propaganda moves beyond a one-way form of communication (the propagandist using mass media to persuade a passive target audience), to a “one-to-many-to-many more” form of communication (the propagandist engaging in dialogue with the target audience such that more people are recruited to spread persuasive messaging to others, essentially snowballing the effect). Participatory propaganda offers the ability to truly dominate the information space through volume of messaging, delivered through a mix of real people and automated accounts, effectively making it difficult to discern where fake ends and authenticity begins.

In the Digital Age, this traditional approach is evolving into a participatory propaganda model in which the target audience is no longer mere passively consuming persuasive messaging but also becoming active in producing and distributing such content. The original propaganda message triggers, reinforces, or exacerbates pre-existing sentiments associated with the message in a way that prompts the consumer to actively engage in its propagation through available social networks, both on and off-line. Even if modified through the consumer’s own interpretation, the core message remains intact, and even acquires ‘new life’. At the same time, online monitoring tools enable the original propagandist to follow and assess the spread of his or her messaging, adapting strategies in a constant feedback loop.”

“Participatory propaganda is the deliberate, and systematic attempt to shape perceptions, manipulate cognitions, direct behaviour, co-opting grassroots movements as well as recruiting audience members to actively engage in the spread of persuasive communications, to achieve a response that furthers the desired intent of the propagandist.”

Her article outlines the steps necessary in the application of a Participatory Propaganda model: In reviewing the Donald Trump 2016 presidential election campaign, seven steps emerged that clearly demonstrated this:

  1. Conduct hyper-target audience analysis;
  2. Develop inflammatory content that erodes faith in the opponent and manipulates audience cognitive biases: Fake news; Memes; Data Leaks/Hacks;
  3. Inject this content into echo chambers identified through audience analysis;
  4. Manipulate Feed and Search Algorithms;
  5. Mobilize followers to action;
  6. Win media attention: Be a trend; Stage a Scandal; or Commune with the news; and
  7. Rinse and Repeat.

Click here for an analysis of each of these steps.

PR is about controlling the narrative, and in our modern world collective engagement has proven to be a more powerful at narrative-setting than placement or coverage. The future of PR is participatory.

Do you need help negotiating the slippery slopes of PR? Contact Us for a no-obligation consultation.

WCBD Event Rescheduled: November 21st. Same line-up, same place!

With all the devastation caused by the recent fires across Northern California, it was necessary to postpone our October event. We hope that by mid-November, everyone will have some normalcy back in their lives, and hopefully you can join us as we welcome our special guest speakers…

TONY LINEGAR, AGRICULTURE COMMISSIONER FOR SONOMA COUNTY, WILL BE GIVING US UPDATES ON REGULATION AND POLICY THAT AFFECT US ALL IN ONE WAY OR ANOTHER. PLUS KEVIN JODREY, OWNER – WONDERLAND NURSERY WILL JOIN US.

We’ll take some time to check in and share our stories of how the fires affected our businesses, our communities, our lives. And, we’ll give thanks for what we have.

autumnal-canna-leaves

CANNABIS EDUCATION + POLICY / BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT
SPEAKERS: TONY LINEGAR, AG COMMISSIONER FOR SONOMA COUNTY AND KEVIN JODREY, OWNER – WONDERLAND NURSERY
WHEN: TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 21st, 6-9PM
WHERE: C. DONATIELLO WINERY – 320 CENTER STREET, HEALDSBURG, CA 95448
[ON THE PLAZA IN HEALDSBURG, AT THE CORNER OF CENTER ST. AND PLAZA ST.]

c-donatiello-winery-logoCome and enjoy cheese and charcuterie boards, delicious wine, Canna-community and the lovely town of Healdsburg!

 

ADMISSION

Public $35 (Credit cards accepted at the event)

FOUNDING MEMBERS  FREE (+1 FRIEND FREE) BECOME A FOUNDING MEMBER TODAY! EMAIL US AT WOMENSCBD@GMAIL.COMFOR DETAILS.

INDIVIDUAL MEMBERS  $25 (+1 FRIEND 50% OFF)

Insights into Cannabis Regulation

1)      Permitting requirements now and into the future.
2)      Pesticide use and integrated pest management (IPM)
3)      Water
4)      Endangered Species
5)      Crop loss procedure for tax purposes
6)      Economic advantages of “specialty” size grows
7)      Implications of Industrial hemp

Lecture will be followed by Q&A.
Be sure to bring some cash for a chance to win in our fabulous RAFFLE!raffle-tickets-sm

SPEAKERS:

tony-linegarTony Linegar, Agricultural Commissioner/Sealer of Weights and Measures 

Professional Experience In November 2011, the Board of Supervisors appointed Tony Linegar as the Agricultural Commissioner/Sealer of Weights and Measures. He began his duties on January 3rd, 2012. Tony Linegar started his career in Agriculture/Weights and Measures as an Agricultural Inspector I with the Shasta County Department of Agriculture in 1995. He advanced to an Agricultural Inspector III in Shasta County by 2000. In 2001, he accepted a position with the Mendocino County Department of Agriculture in Ukiah as an Agricultural Inspector III. In 2002, Tony was promoted to the Assistant Agricultural Commissioner, a position he held until January 2009. In January 2009, the Board of Supervisors in Mendocino County appointed Tony as the Agricultural Commissioner/Sealer. Tony served in the role of Agricultural Commissioner/Sealer until January 2012, when he was appointed by the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors.

Education/Licenses Tony graduated from Chico State University in 1993 with a B.S. degree in Biological Science. Tony possesses eight licenses required for Agricultural Biologist and Standards Specialist as well as being licensed by the California Department of Food and Agriculture as a County Agricultural Commissioner and Sealer of Weights and Measures. In addition, Tony possesses accreditation by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) as an Authorized Certification Official (ACO) as required for certification of agricultural exports, as well as being certified by the California Department of Pesticide Regulation as a Qualified Applicator.

Professional Organizations Tony is a member of the California Agricultural Commissioner and Sealers Association (CACASA) as well as serving as Chair of CACASA’s Pesticide Regulatory Affairs Committee. Tony also serves as a Director for coastal counties on the State Board of Directors of Agricultural Commissioners, and was recently appointed to serve on the Secretary of Food and Agriculture’s Climate Change Consortium.

Kevin Jodrey bio picKevin Jodrey, Owner – Wonderland Nursery

Kevin Jodrey is one of the most well known growers in Humboldt County and is an internationally respected cannabis expert, known for improving and forwarding the modern cannabis movement. As a world renowned hunter of ganja genetics, Kev is fascinated by the search for rare, desirable, and marketable traits.

Kevin is the creator of Port Royal, owner of Wonderland Nursery, and co-founder of The Ganjier. He’s been a cannabis cultivator for decades, running his own operations and offering consulting services to the broader community. He’s spoken at universities, judged at the Emerald Cup, and consulted on cannabis related educational shows for National Geographic and A&E.

Featured in the New York Times, a pulitzer prize winning Washington Post article, countless other articles, books, and radio, and tv shows, he is at the epicenter of the Green Rush (and graces the walls of the Oakland Museum to prove it) and is guiding the industry as it transitions to legalization.


SPONSORSHIP OPPORTUNITIES AVAILABLE!
INTERESTED IN SPONSORING OUR NEXT EVENT? PLEASE EMAIL US AT WOMENSCBD@GMAIL.COM TO INQUIRE.

5 things you should be doing now on social media to help your small business thrive

At least 86 percent of Americans are now Internet users, according to a recent Pew Research poll. A national survey of 1,520 adults conducted March 7-April 4, 2016, finds that Facebook continues to be America’s most popular social networking platform by a substantial margin: Nearly eight-in-ten online Americans (79%) now use Facebook. Here’s the current state of the social media landscape in America:

  • 79% of internet users (68% of all U.S. adults) use Facebook
  • 32% of internet users (28% of all U.S. adults) use Instagram
  • 24% of internet users (21% of all U.S. adults) use Twitter
  • 29% of internet users (25% of all U.S. adults) use LinkedIn
  • 31% of internet users (26% of all U.S. adults) use Pinterest

Unsure which social media platform is right for your business?

Check out these 5 tips to make sure your business is using social media effectively. And then Contact Me to find out how to get started!

1) Get on Google and Facebook first

At a bare minimum, you need to make sure that your business has an online presence on the most popular search engine and social media sites. If your business has been around a while, it probably already has a listing on Google, but you need to claim that listing. By claiming your listing on Google, you can get a jumpstart on making sure you come up when some does a Google Search for your type of business. Plus, you can make sure that your business hours and contact information are correct. Claiming the listing also allows you to respond to reviews that your customers or client may write.

2) Diversify your social media presence

Social media is always changing, but there’s a real advantage to having a presence on several different sites. Not every platform is right for every business. For instance, if your business lends itself to a more visually-oriented product, like art for instance, then you would want to be on Instagram and Pinterest. If you want to reach more business people, then LinkedIn is for you.

Your social media profiles on different sites can also help promote the other, and individual sites each have their unique advantages. Creating a YouTube page and posting a few videos is a fantastic and easy way to boost your search ranking.

3) Live broadcast a video

In addition to the wider choice of reactions to a post, last year Facebook added live video feeds. Broadcasting a live video on Facebook is comparable to having a local news crew show up at your business. A live broadcast can be the perfect way to publicize a special event or sale.

It’s best to keep live video feeds short. You’ll be able to see who’s watching in real-time and make comments as well.

4) Schedule your postings

You need to be informed about the best times to post on social media, so that you will be reaching the largest possible audience. The best time to post depends on the type of social media page you’re using.

Facebook and Twitter posts get the widest circulation in the evening, later in the week. LinkedIn, on the other hand, gets the most traffic in the morning in the middle of the workweek.

Facebook has just added the ability to schedule your posts for peak hours, so your business can still have Facebook posts going online while the office is empty. You can also get a free account on Hootsuite where you can schedule social media posts for up to three platforms.

5) Hire a social media professional to help

Managing social media takes time and expertise, especially when your business is just building social networks. Just learning about the different markets takes time, and then it can be a challenge to develop engaging and informative content that promote your brand.

Some businesses delegate the maintenance of social media pages to someone already working in the office, but this tends to result in inconsistent quality. To project a professional image for your brand, you need to enlist the help of a Social Media Professional like Russian River PR & Marketing.

Budgeting for social media also allows you to pay for advertising, which can increase the size of your following. With the right help, planning and attention, social media can make your 2018 a winning year for your small business.

russianriverpr-web

 

Cannabis Education + Policy – July 18, 2017

In keeping with the popular “Permitting” theme, our July Policy & Regulation Education night will continue the trend. We are thrilled to have as our Guest Speaker – Tawnie Logan, who will provide us with “Updates about Sonoma County and Santa Rosa Cannabis Policies.”

We look forward to seeing you on Tuesday, July 18th from 6-9pm at Remy’s Bar and Grill located at 130 Stony Point Rd, Santa Rosa, CA 95401. Come early for their great Happy Hour from 4-7pm, and stay for our event!

tawnie-logan-headshotTawnie has been an outspoken advocate for cannabis farmers, and has recently announced that she has stepped aside from her role as executive director of the Sonoma County Growers Alliance after two years leading the organization through an era of profound change for California’s marijuana industry. She remains the chairwoman of the board for the California Growers Association and has accepted the invitation to be Chair of the Board for SCGA to oversee the organization’s transition into a more robust trade association.

Also on the program, WCBD-Founder, Alexa Garcia (Luma California) will bring us all up-to-date on the Sonoma County “Dirt to Dispensary” Workshops as well as the recent county workshop reviewing the permit application.

The evening will include Q&A with attendees. So bring your appetites, your questions and your good vibes! See you there!

When: July 18, 6-9 pm 
Where: Remy’s Bar and Grill located at 130 Stony Point Rd, Santa Rosa, CA 95401
How: Register online – https://womenscbd.org/events/

register-now-button

Sign up for WCBD’s Monthly Newsletter at: http://eepurl.com/cxbZIv
Sonoma County’s professional women and men are invited to:

heart-shaped-bud-flavicon

BUILD YOUR BUSINESS
ACCESS RESOURCES
CREATE OPPORTUNITIES AND
INSPIRE YOUR BEST SELF

We join together in the common goal of Sonoma County to become a successful and thriving local cannabis economy while bringing social justice to those affected by the drug war and safe access of medicine for those in need.

Tickets still available! Tuesday, May 16 for a Night of Business Development with Women’sCBD!

5-16-17-flyerWCBD presents: A Night of Business Development

Presented by William Wong & Rose Chastain, CSW Business Coaching and Women’s Cannabis Business Development

Join us on May 16th, 6-9pm at Whiskey Tip in Santa Rosa.
Address: 1910 Sebastopol Rd., Santa Rosa, CA 95407

This event is designed to have you be able to produce outrageous results!

You will leave this evening having met new people and crafted a killer “Elevator Pitch” that makes it clear how you are different than every other person in this industry.
– What is special about your edibles?
– What makes your flowers the ones people should buy?
– Why use your delivery service?
– Why invest in your company?
– Why buy land with you?

These are important questions to answer and you have to answer them well.
We will work in groups and support each other in positioning yourself in the best way possible.

Come to the event and get step-by-step solutions and tools to increase your business.
Please bring your own notebook.


Food, Snacks provided and delicious drinks and cocktails available at the bar.

RAFFLE PRIZES! 50% proceeds donated to CA NORML

ADMISSION

Public – Advanced $25 / Door $35

Founding Members – FREE (+1 friend free) – please register to save your spot!

Individual Members – $25 (+1 friend 50% off)

Sponsorship Opportunities Available! Please email us at WomensCBD@gmail.com to inquire.

register-now-button-wkshp


Contact us at WomensCBD@gmail.com

Join the WCBD Facebook group at: https://www.facebook.com/groups/womenscbd/ 

Sign up for WCBD’s Monthly Newsletter at: http://eepurl.com/cxbZIv

Sonoma County’s professional women and men are invited to:

BUILD your business
ACCESS resources
CREATE opportunities and
INSPIRE your best self

We join together in the common goal of Sonoma County to become a successful and thriving local cannabis economy while bringing social justice to those affected by the drug war and safe access of medicine for those in need.

#BadAssLadyBosses Rule!

 

Zen Moment: Zen and the Art of Marketing for Good


These are turbulent times, and it takes an effort to make sense of it all.

In today’s blog I take a look at how the business and marketing community can benefit from a Zen-like approach to relate to today’s fractured and often alienated audiences.

As the Dalai Lama said,

“To remain indifferent to the challenges we face is indefensible. If the goal is noble, whether or not it is realized within our lifetime is largely irrelevant. What we must do therefore is to strive and persevere and never give up.”

― Dalai Lama XIV

Strive and persevere and never give up.

Inspiring words…

Marketing – the Bellweather of business confidence

Businesses are naturally concerned about recent events. And marketers particularly so as marketing spend is often viewed as a Bellweather or indicator of business confidence.

As the volatile stock market demonstrated today, any major surprise (or calamity, depending on where you sit) has the power to either;

A) ignite creativity

or

B) create fear and uncertainty

Zen and the Art of Marketing for Good

The world is shrinking and we’re more globally aware and connected than ever before. We should ideally use the communication channels available to us for good, and look out for ways to improve lives in the process.

“Marketing for Good” is the term I’ve chosen. By which I mean using creative, lateral and inclusive thinking to deliver effective marketing with ethical outcomes.

Education, Sustainability and Fair Trade initiatives have for some time been a way for multinationals such as Kerry Group, Unilever and Coke to demonstrate their social conscience and win favour with consumers, and smaller companies should also consider what part they can play in similar initiatives.

Here’s a quick list of some of the “Marketing for Good” trends of the past decade that spring to mind…

  1. Social corporate responsibility whereby all kinds of companies align with charities (this Huffpost article delves into the CSR topic),
  2. Contextual marketing allows brands and companies to provide real time, location-specific information and experiences (this Púca blog explores the opportunities for marketers)
  3. Exergaming is simply gaming plus exercise. Win-win! It is related to contextual marketing in terms of integrating location based information. Pokémon GO is just the beginning…
  4. Evolved Customer Experience sees public and private organisations using apps and other digital strategies to listen to, inform and empower their customers
  5. Business efficiency apps are reducing reliance on paper-based forms, fuel costs and other environmental impacts
  6. Mobile payment solutions are allowing consumers to quickly channel donations to charities

I’m hoping to see marketers continue to foster “marketing for good” initiatives that benefit the environment, socially disadvantaged and other worthy causes. The brands that do so will deservedly win the affinity and loyalty of their customers.

So what’s my conclusion?

I guess it’s simply that Marketing for Good is all about nurturing our social conscience alongside our sense of creativity, innovation and fun. I feel that as long as marketers stay positive and creative and continue to think digital, then their brands or clients will continue to thrive.

Originally published on The Pulse.

#russianriverpr #marketingzen #corporate-responsibility

 

 

Easy How To: Write a business plan that will get noticed

I found this well-written article on Shopify (the new-ish, easy-to-use way to add commerce to your website). Thanks Jessica!

“Ah, the dreaded business plan. A frightful phrase for many, the very idea of having to write a business plan to apply for bank financing or equity crowdfunding can conjure up feelings of frustration or even dread!

That’s why so many business owners put off their funding applications and procrastinate about completing their business plans, even when they know finishing the task is in their best interests.

But if you need a business bank loan to grow your retail or ecommerce business, then you can’t avoid the business plan. Fortunately, you can use an approach that’s productive, interesting, and even (dare I say it?) fun, to develop a business plan that helps you apply for financing and becomes an important tool for guiding your company’s growth.

The “Ideal Customer” Approach to Business Planning

Gone are the days of the 80-page novella with reams of meaningless hockey stick graphs and business jargon. Your business is new and innovative, and your business plan should reflect that. Start with a simple question:

Who is my Ideal Customer?

Every single other piece of content you write for your business plan should be written with the answer to this question in mind. Once you have defined the one perfect customer for your business—the one you would simply clone thousands of times if you could—then you have a foundation for your market research, your marketing plan, your operations manual, even your financial projections. With a clear understanding of what problem your business solves and who you solve it for, writing a business plan becomes an exercise in how you’re going to make your ideal customers happy.

A business plan should be an exercise in how you will make your ideal customers happy.

[Click to tweet]

Suddenly, a business plan becomes something actionable. Something you can actually use to guide your business and evaluate your progress.

It also becomes something focused, specific, and clear. It’s no 80-page tome. It’s a succinct breakdown of exactly what your business will do and who it will do it for. That’s pretty compelling.

I’ll tell you this: if you write your business plan with this focus, you will be able to excite any lender or investor who reads it.

What to Include in Your Business Plan

Even with this new approach, your business plan should still be laid out the way lenders expect to see it. I recommend starting with this general outline and customizing it to your business.

1. Executive Summary: An overview of your business plan. Summarize all the important points in one page.

2. Business Overview

a. Products & Services: What you sell and who you sell it to

b. Company Ownership/Legal Status: Who owns your company, and what percentage of the business does each owner have? Is the company a sole proprietorship, a partnership, or a corporation? How much money has been invested into the company by the owners to date?

c. Start-up Summary: How much money do you need and how will you spend it?

d. Mission/Vision: What’s your purpose for being in business? This is an important part of the story you want to share with your customers and your lender.

e. Goals & Objectives: Include at least one short-term (within year 1) and one long-term (3+ years) goal for your business, and 2-3 smaller objectives that will help you reach those goals.

3. The Market

a. The Ideal Customer: Who is your customer avatar?

b. Market Size: Discuss your overall market and how big you think it is.

c. Market Segmentation: Your products and services will appeal to a few different kinds of customers. Describe your market segments, and indicate which one your ideal customer falls into.

4. Industry Trends: What are the local and global trends in your industry? This is also a good place to talk about switching costs, suppliers, and the potential for new competitors to emerge.

5. Competition: List your major competitors along with their strengths and weaknesses. Include an explanation of the benefits they offer to buyers.

6. Marketing & Sales Plans

a. Competitive Advantage: What sets you apart from everyone else who sells what you sell?

b. Marketing Plan: What will your initial and ongoing marketing activities look like, and what’s your budget for those? How many new customers should your marketing activities bring you? How many subscribers? How much website traffic?

7. SWOT Analysis: Analyze your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. What are the best things about your company? What are you not so good at? What market or industry shifts can you take advantage of and turn into opportunities? Are there external factors threatening your ability to succeed? Add a paragraph discussing how the business will overcome its weaknesses and threats.

8. Operations

a. General Operations: What are your opening hours? What is the process for bringing on a new customer? How about getting reviews, feedback or referrals? Do you have a clear sales funnel (the path people take to become your customer)? What does a typical day in your business look like?

b. Location: If you have a location, describe it and why you chose it. If you’re choosing to do business online instead, explain why.

c. Distribution: Are all your sales direct to customer, or do you sell wholesale or through affiliate partners?

d. Suppliers: Who are the major suppliers for your business, and how did you choose them?

9. Management & Personnel

a. Management Overview: Describe your management team’s background and explain their roles in the day-to-day operation of the business.

b. Personnel/Staffing: Summarize your personnel needs here, including your hiring schedule, approximate wages, and your organizational chart. Explain what each staff member does on a daily basis. It’s your people who operate your business, so you need to explain what they do to make it tick.

10. Exit Strategy: Do you plan to operate this business forever, or eventually sell, license or franchise it? Lenders need to know how they’re going to get their money back.

11. Financial Projections

a. Assumptions: Everyone skips this part, but it’s the most important part of the financial forecasts. Explain your assumptions about revenue, sales growth, and expenses here.

b. Break Even: Briefly summarize when you expect your company to start breaking even—that is, earn enough revenue to cover all operating costs.

c. Profit & Loss: Highlight your projected net profits and explain whether they are higher or lower than the industry standard, and why.

d. Cash Flow: Explain your credit policies and offer a plan for what you’ll do if your cash balance starts to get low.

e. Balance Sheet: Briefly explain the expected debt (loans or lines of credit) to equity (owner or investment contribution) in your business, and why you chose this balance.

Know When to Stop Writing

It’s so easy to go overboard with market research and analysis. Keep it focused mostly on your ideal customer, with just a short paragraph on each of your other market segments.

In your Personnel section, you don’t need to provide complete job descriptions. In most cases, just a line or two will do. In the competitive analysis, review only your top 3-5 closest competitors; if you have many competitors, as restaurants and retail stores often do, group them into categories instead of analyzing each one individually.

Lenders don’t have time to read really long business plans, so don’t write them. Usually, a lender will review your Executive Summary and Financial Projections first, and if they like what they see, they’ll move on to review the rest of the plan. Make sure your Executive Summary summarizes your ideal customer, your financing request, your estimated loan payback period, your profit potential, and your team’s capability to make it all happen—all in one page.

I repeat—your Executive Summary should only be one page long.

And don’t try to write it until the rest of your business plan is finished. It’s always the last task you should tackle, when the plan is still fresh in your mind and the most important points are easy to recall.

When you’ve done all of this, you’ll have a concise business plan that probably won’t exceed 20 pages.

What to Do With Your Business Plan After You Get Funding

With a business plan focused on your ideal customer, you hold in your hand a powerful tool for keeping your business on track. Assuming you set clear goals and objectives in the plan, you can go back and review these to evaluate whether or not you’ve achieved them.

You can use your financial forecasts to compare to your company’s actual performance, and quickly see if anything needs to shift. And when you’re making decisions about marketing campaigns, you can review your ideal customer profile to make sure your marketing dollars are being spent in places that will resonate with the people you want to sell to.

See? A business plan can be an interesting and useful tool for your business, as well as an essential document for getting a business loan. When you see your plans actually start to manifest, you’ll be very glad you did all of that work and didn’t shove it into a desk drawer when you were done.

Originally published on Shopify Blog

 

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: