10 Simple Steps to Online Business Success

So your online business sucks and you’re feeling like a failure… Bet you thought running an online business was easy didn’t you. I bet you said to yourself:”I have this fantastic idea to start an online business and sell what I love and am passionate about and thousands of people are going to come running to buy my products now that I’ve got a website.”That’s it, you’re done and there’s no looking back now! You’ve got your online business and you’re going to make tons of money now aren’t you?! Or, are you?The reality of the situation is, many people start a business online everyday, yet almost all of them fail to execute a few simple steps that would inevitably lead them to success. Nearly all of us at one point in our entrepreneurial career has thought that we had a great idea that everyone wants or needs and they were just as excited about it as you are. The fact of the matter is you are an expert within your particular niche and that is what you are passionate about. But how are you going to share that passion, let alone your products and services with your target audience? Here are a few simple steps you can follow to ensure you succeed with your internet business.Step 1 – Know Your Target AudienceThe idea of knowing your audience goes deeper than identifying who they are, where they hang out and what they want however. Take the time to get to know your target audience. Ask them questions and learn what it is they seek from you. Online surveys are a great way to hear directly from your target audience. Use the free service from SurveyMonkey to create an online survey and ask your target audience as well as your email list subscribers to answer the questions. Their free plan allows you to create 10 question surveys and is very useful.Step 2 – Plan Your BusinessThis is a topic I cover in greater detail in my free 15 day training course. No online business can succeed without a plan. You must create a plan of action to implement for your online business before you can ever hope to succeed. This applies whether your a brick and mortar real world business or strictly operating online, having a plan of action greatly increases your chances of success!Step 3 – Follow the LeaderIdentify who the industry leaders are within your target market or niche and follow them closely. Learn from them to identify what led to their success. Take from them what works best for you and apply the lessons you’ve learned to create a more specific and personalized method to success for your online business.Step 4 – Devise a Marketing StrategyThis is an area where many online business owners fail. If you want your online business to succeed, you need to learn how to market your business. Having a well thought out marketing plan is a major key to your online business success.Step 5 – Pay Attention to OpportunityOpportunity exists everywhere, you just need to learn how to identify it. This is done through practice, practice, practice. The best way to learn how to identify opportunity is to learn how to be a better conversationalist. Opportunities present themselves in the most unlikely of situations usually. Learning to simply have conversations with others almost always leads to some form of opportunity presenting itself to you. Learn this art and your online business will go far!Step 6 – Create Actionable GoalsGoal setting is a key requirement for you to succeed at anything you do. Set actionable goals you need to achieve in order to attain success within your online business. Each goal is a small step toward the success you seek. Make sure to include dates for when you intend to achieve your goals. Including dates gives you something more to shoot for. Also, be specific about what you intend to achieve. For example, to have a goal of “make more money” is not an actionable goal. Instead, apply an amount and date to make the goal more realistic and achievable such as “I intend to make $10,000 a month by December 31st, 2010″.Step 7 – Work Your Business EverydayThis one is a little tricky. When I say to “work your business everyday” I mean within reason. You need to find a balance, especially if you are just starting out. You must work your online business everyday, even if it is for only 30 minutes a day. Each small step you take toward your goals is a part of a larger effort to achieve success.Step 8 – Don’t be a Pencil PusherMan if I had a penny for every time I’ve seen this one! Don’t get stuck in the preparation phase of your online business. To many times I’ve seen aspiring online business owners continue to prepare or organize their online business. You’ll never be 100% prepared so quit straightening your pencils and organizing your desk. You know what your action items are, so take action and just do the things that are going to make you money!Step 9 – Create Content that MattersMake sure to provide your target audience with quality content that meets their expectations and provides value. Your target audience is looking for value and will follow you fiercely if you provide it. Answer their questions and provide for their needs and you’ll find they will help you succeed.Step 10 – Build a Relationship ListNo, no, I don’t mean you create an online dating service… You should be actively building an email subscriber list and communicating with them on a regular basis. Doing so allows you to build a relationship with your subscribers which leads to customer loyalty as well as repeat buyers. An email list is by far the single most important requirement necessary for any online business to succeed.Well I’ve certainly given you a lot to think about, so stop sucking and get’er done!!!To Your Success!
Sean Smith

Alternative Financing Vs. Venture Capital: Which Option Is Best for Boosting Working Capital?

There are several potential financing options available to cash-strapped businesses that need a healthy dose of working capital. A bank loan or line of credit is often the first option that owners think of – and for businesses that qualify, this may be the best option.

In today’s uncertain business, economic and regulatory environment, qualifying for a bank loan can be difficult – especially for start-up companies and those that have experienced any type of financial difficulty. Sometimes, owners of businesses that don’t qualify for a bank loan decide that seeking venture capital or bringing on equity investors are other viable options.

But are they really? While there are some potential benefits to bringing venture capital and so-called “angel” investors into your business, there are drawbacks as well. Unfortunately, owners sometimes don’t think about these drawbacks until the ink has dried on a contract with a venture capitalist or angel investor – and it’s too late to back out of the deal.

Different Types of Financing

One problem with bringing in equity investors to help provide a working capital boost is that working capital and equity are really two different types of financing.

Working capital – or the money that is used to pay business expenses incurred during the time lag until cash from sales (or accounts receivable) is collected – is short-term in nature, so it should be financed via a short-term financing tool. Equity, however, should generally be used to finance rapid growth, business expansion, acquisitions or the purchase of long-term assets, which are defined as assets that are repaid over more than one 12-month business cycle.

But the biggest drawback to bringing equity investors into your business is a potential loss of control. When you sell equity (or shares) in your business to venture capitalists or angels, you are giving up a percentage of ownership in your business, and you may be doing so at an inopportune time. With this dilution of ownership most often comes a loss of control over some or all of the most important business decisions that must be made.

Sometimes, owners are enticed to sell equity by the fact that there is little (if any) out-of-pocket expense. Unlike debt financing, you don’t usually pay interest with equity financing. The equity investor gains its return via the ownership stake gained in your business. But the long-term “cost” of selling equity is always much higher than the short-term cost of debt, in terms of both actual cash cost as well as soft costs like the loss of control and stewardship of your company and the potential future value of the ownership shares that are sold.

Alternative Financing Solutions

But what if your business needs working capital and you don’t qualify for a bank loan or line of credit? Alternative financing solutions are often appropriate for injecting working capital into businesses in this situation. Three of the most common types of alternative financing used by such businesses are:

1. Full-Service Factoring – Businesses sell outstanding accounts receivable on an ongoing basis to a commercial finance (or factoring) company at a discount. The factoring company then manages the receivable until it is paid. Factoring is a well-established and accepted method of temporary alternative finance that is especially well-suited for rapidly growing companies and those with customer concentrations.

2. Accounts Receivable (A/R) Financing – A/R financing is an ideal solution for companies that are not yet bankable but have a stable financial condition and a more diverse customer base. Here, the business provides details on all accounts receivable and pledges those assets as collateral. The proceeds of those receivables are sent to a lockbox while the finance company calculates a borrowing base to determine the amount the company can borrow. When the borrower needs money, it makes an advance request and the finance company advances money using a percentage of the accounts receivable.

3. Asset-Based Lending (ABL) – This is a credit facility secured by all of a company’s assets, which may include A/R, equipment and inventory. Unlike with factoring, the business continues to manage and collect its own receivables and submits collateral reports on an ongoing basis to the finance company, which will review and periodically audit the reports.

In addition to providing working capital and enabling owners to maintain business control, alternative financing may provide other benefits as well:

It’s easy to determine the exact cost of financing and obtain an increase.
Professional collateral management can be included depending on the facility type and the lender.
Real-time, online interactive reporting is often available.
It may provide the business with access to more capital.
It’s flexible – financing ebbs and flows with the business’ needs.
It’s important to note that there are some circumstances in which equity is a viable and attractive financing solution. This is especially true in cases of business expansion and acquisition and new product launches – these are capital needs that are not generally well suited to debt financing. However, equity is not usually the appropriate financing solution to solve a working capital problem or help plug a cash-flow gap.

A Precious Commodity

Remember that business equity is a precious commodity that should only be considered under the right circumstances and at the right time. When equity financing is sought, ideally this should be done at a time when the company has good growth prospects and a significant cash need for this growth. Ideally, majority ownership (and thus, absolute control) should remain with the company founder(s).

Alternative financing solutions like factoring, A/R financing and ABL can provide the working capital boost many cash-strapped businesses that don’t qualify for bank financing need – without diluting ownership and possibly giving up business control at an inopportune time for the owner. If and when these companies become bankable later, it’s often an easy transition to a traditional bank line of credit. Your banker may be able to refer you to a commercial finance company that can offer the right type of alternative financing solution for your particular situation.

Taking the time to understand all the different financing options available to your business, and the pros and cons of each, is the best way to make sure you choose the best option for your business. The use of alternative financing can help your company grow without diluting your ownership. After all, it’s your business – shouldn’t you keep as much of it as possible?

Who Can You Trust to Help Build Your Online Business?

Whether you are experienced with managing traditional brick and mortar companies or if you are entirely new to the online and tech start up industry it is important to look into finding professional guidance to help getting any business model off of the ground. Building an online business with a mentor by your side is a way to move forward with plans you have in place with confidence and excitement.Determine Your NeedsBefore seeking out an expert online mentor it is imperative to consider the needs you have with running your business and what you most require help with during day-to-day management tasks. Understanding the type of assistance you require is a way to scope out mentors who have experience in similar industries and specialize in the areas you need help focusing on more professionally while running your business.Create a Business Plan and OutlineCreate a business plan and outline to review in-depth the overall methods of reaching consumers, the demographics and how you plan to offer your content, products or services to those who are genuinely interested in following your brand and company. Having a business plan ready when seeking out a business mentor that is right for you is a way to ensure you are selecting the right professional to come on board to provide additional guidance throughout your journey.Having a business plan thoroughly complete can help to expedite the process once you begin comparing online mentors who specialize in businesses and assisting entrepreneurs, ultimately allowing you to save time when implementing new strategies.Things to Look for in an Online Business MentorWhen you have made the decision to hire an online mentor that specializes in business it is important to review various things to look for in an online business mentor that is right for you and the future growth of your company.Review the experience any online mentors have that is relevant to the type of industry or market you are currently working in. Finding a business mentor with more experience in your market and industry gives you the competitive edge when developing strategies and continuously building the audience and demographic you are targeting.It is also important to review past experience, education and credentials of the business mentors you are working with online. Reviewing portfolios and past positions gives you more options when you have multiple choices while searching for a business mentor who specializes in building, managing and growing online businesses.Talking to an online mentor who specializes in business is also recommended when you want to work with someone who meshes well with your own personal attitude and approach to managing your business. Although mentors are likely to provide advice and help with decisions it is ideal to work with a professional who shares similar goals and visions for your company to work well with one another.Check Official Websites, Portfolios and Professional Communities Once you have found an online mentor you believe in who understands and want to help your business it is also highly advisable to search for more information about the professional prior to making a decision. Check official websites, portfolios and even professional communities to verify the experience and credibility the mentor claims to have before making a decision.Asking for referrals from those who have worked with the mentor in business online is another way to feel confident and reassured when moving forward in creating new plans, strategies and marketing campaigns for your online company or eCommerce store.Working with the right expert online mentor is a method of gaining insight into how to properly manage and grow your business while also learning about various aspects of handling all decisions for your company in the future. Understanding the benefits of working with an online business mentor is ideal when you are determined to outperform competitors and become a true leader of your own destiny.