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Article Contributed by Jeanna Marnela Lising 

You are doing well as a first-time entrepreneur. Your current venture is going great, and with the way things are going, it just feels right to ride the hot hand and see where your current winning streak takes you.  After all, you have the capital to expand your business and branch out. You are probably thinking, since what you are currently doing is working, why not take the same business model to another city or state right? What could go wrong?

To answer the question, there are a lot of things that could go wrong. Branching out is not as easy as duplicating what you are doing in your current location and expect it to be successful in another. While some aspects can be retained, there are some factors that you need to consider before actually branching out like:

Laws and regulations

Different cities and states may have different sets of requirements for new businesses that intend to operate in their location. Most states would require a state identification number, your trade name registration, and zoning approval. Then there are other documentary requirements like professional licenses and special operating permits depending on your product or service. You better make sure that you are compliant to whatever laws and regulations apply to your business based on your industry in the new location as well. You are basically starting another business in another location even if it is completely based on your current venture.

Competition

You have to also consider that you will be entering a market where there is already a dominant player. Even if you do well in the first months because of market curiosity, you might see your sales dwindle after as the market goes back to what is familiar to them.

Research the strength of your competitors in the new location. Do you have something of value that can keep you competitive or even give you an edge? Or are you just presenting the market of more of the same? If you are the latter, then you might as well just pack your bags. If you are not presenting the market with anything different, consumers will always go to what they already know and those are the old established businesses in their area.

Current financial status

Do you remember how hard it was to even breakeven during the first months of your business? That’s right, you will be going through that again as you will be spending more than you are getting while you are trying to set your business footing in the new location. After all, you will be spending on capital expenses and you might even end up getting a loan to really get the ball rolling in your new branch.

Review your financial status and make sure that the profit you are currently getting from your first location is enough to get you by while you open your new location. You do not want to live as a pauper while trying to get the new branch running.

 

Manpower or labor

You will also have to consider the labor or manpower aspect of your new branch. Do you get people from your current business and transfer them to the new location? It has the advantage of having people already familiar with your business operations and may result in a more seamless transition. However, these people will be relocating and there should be an incentive for them to move to another city or state. You could also hire people from the area as they are already within the vicinity of your new location. However, you will have to invest more on training and on-boarding to ensure that they know the ins and outs of your business come opening day.

You also have to consider that the standard of pay may be different in each location. If you are paying most of your employees the minimum wage, you might be surprised that each state has different minimum wage rates. Tips are another thing to consider. Some states say that tips given to workers should be added on top of their wages while other states say that tips make up a percentage of the employee’s pay and companies can just pay the difference. These seems trivial, but it can affect your overall payroll.

Technology

The technology you are using in one location may not be feasible on the next location, implementation or cost wise. A good example is your business phone system. When you have only one location, it is perfectly fine to have an on-premise system. However, once you plan to branch out, the same phone system cannot be used on the new location anymore unless you install the same system there. That would, however, be very costly.

A good option is to turn to the cloud. Cloud services are delivered via the internet and can be accessed from anywhere, making it perfect for businesses that run in multiple locations. There are cloud services for different business functions including human resources, accounting, phone systems, and storage. Businesses can just subscribe to the service they need and it can cover all their locations.

Culture

An important factor that most entrepreneurs fail to consider is culture. What people like and appreciate in one place may be a big no-no in another. Just ask Anthony Bourdain. As a New Yorker, he is not a fan of catsup on anything. Then he arrives in Ecuador and he finds that most dishes use ketchup (banana ketchup at that), and it boggled his mind. So before even considering opening a business in another location, you need to know if your product or service will be appreciated. Without research, you might find yourself offending your market’s sensibilities, and that will be the start of your downfall.

This is not to discourage you from expanding your business. Expansion is a good thing; it means growth and is a good sign that your business is doing well. This is just a reminder that previous success does not guarantee success in another location. The same amount of research and hard work when you started your current business will be needed to get your new branch up and running.

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Article Contributed by Mark Palmer

A start-up business can be demanding in terms of time and resources. You have a million and one ideas to get your business up and running, and you need to create time for each thought crossing your mind. It is at this moment when advances in technology become necessary; more especially those that will help in prioritizing and smart spending. Here are some five tech advances that will redefine your startup in future.

Augmented reality

Often referred to as AR this new advance will redefine your startup especially when it comes to brand engagement. We all hate ads popping up on our browser, and in fact, most of us turn them off with ad blockers. It is now possible to use AR to combine physical and digital experiences. If you are in the furniture business, you can make it possible for your customers to virtually redesign their homes with new furniture. There are low-cost options for augmented reality that you can use for your startup.

Big data

Forget about the traditional marketing and business operations. Big data is already applied in several aspects of our lives, and it is helping transform lives. Imagine a world where you do not have to push tens of thousands of ad impressions and hope that few of them will convert. Imagine a world where you send very specific targeted ads that are informed by your customer’s buying habits. It is more effective, less challenging and better paying way of getting to your customers.

Algorithms

Trading in the stock market can be very challenging especially if you are just a beginner. Algorithms are used to execute trades often following pre programmed criteria. Well, the use of algorithms does not stop there; there are other numerous ways that they can be used especially for startup businesses to watch the market trends. Using credit spread strategy, for example, when looking for investors in your business can help to analyze maximum gain and minimum loss from the investment they make in your business. It is a revolutionary technology that will shape how businesses will be done in the future.

Blockchain technology

Well, you must have heard of the new technology that is basically used to process cryptocurrencies payments. The potential that this technology has is immense, and its application not only to financial instruments is inevitable. It has the ability to bring a democratic value system and revolutionize the way users interact in the digital world. If your business is in e-commerce, then you are in luck because this technology is for you. Think about instant payments, decentralized corporations, enhanced communication, efficiency maximization, fraud minimization to mention but a few.

Machine learning

Think about a world where you can automate non-creative tasks with machines that are intelligent and learning the nature you do business. Well, machine learning is a disruptive technology that looks at automating aspects of your business that you never even thought possible. For a startup business, you stand to gain more by getting more done with little resources and personnel. The biggest challenge for most startups is resource allocation and management. With machine learning technology, you can complete tasks that would otherwise take five employees working all day in just a few hours. Accuracy and efficiency are guaranteed.

Conclusion

Advancement in tech is inevitable and whether or not you want to be part of is at your discretion. However, there is much to gain and everything to lose if you do not join the wagon. For startup business owner, you do not have a choice you just have to embrace the changes in technology if you are to remain relevant. Big businesses are already using some of these advancements, and you cannot compete with archaic technology. The good news is there are low-cost tech advancements that will achieve the same results and compete with the big giants. These five tech advances should give you an idea of the direction to take for your business.

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The word “entrepreneur” has become somewhat of a blanket term for anyone that makes an independent foray into the business world. From people who start multi-million dollar companies to people selling products on Etsy to make a few extra bucks every month, if you make money for yourself, you’re considered an entrepreneur.

But if you want to be a serious entrepreneur—aka, one who makes a living out of your entrepreneurial endeavors—then before you begin that business you’ve been dreaming of, consider starting out as a consultant. Why? Here are just a few reasons, from one of the most successful consultants in the business today, Sam Ovens.

It’s Cheap and Easy to Begin

The limiting factor in starting a lot of new businesses is the start-up cost. Getting a loan for a new business is nigh impossible, and most people don’t have the finances to self-fund a new business. But starting a consulting firm is quick and inexpensive. Finding your first client and providing them with the services they need costs you next to nothing. With just a computer and a phone, you can be in business. And because the overhead is virtually nonexistent, you can use the funds from your growing consulting business to begin other entrepreneurial endeavors.

You Learn about Cash Flow

Consulting gives you an opportunity to learn about business cash flow with very minimal risk. Due to those low costs already mentioned, your odds of bankruptcy or serious financial problems in your business are at a minimum. You can learn about managing invoices, setting up payment plans, and monitoring your business’s expenses in a more controlled environment than what other business types provide. Of course, there’s always the potential that your inexperience could cause some serious problems, but that risk is much lower for a small, low-overhead consulting firm.

You Can Master Marketing

In a consulting firm, the product that you’re selling is one you’re very familiar with—you. So you can work on mastering sales and marketing techniques by learning to promote yourself and your skillset. Marketing a consulting firm uses very straightforward and old-fashioned selling techniques, which lets you build on your marketing skills from the ground up. This is invaluable knowledge later on, when you build a more complex marketing team for another business endeavor.

You’ll Learn to Scale Anything

Consulting is a labor-intensive industry, which means that every new client you land is going to require you to put in more time and more work. You can’t mass-produce consulting services on an assembly line, so scaling a consulting firm can be difficult. It will require you to build an extremely organized team with effective leaders, and a strong business model to make it work. But, if you can learn to scale a business like this, then you’ll have no trouble scaling your business endeavors in the future.

It Requires Excellent People Skills

It’s almost impossible to be a successful entrepreneur without good people skills. No matter how fantastic your idea is, if you can’t talk to potential clients or pitch your idea to investors, your business won’t get off the ground. For those that need a little practice with people skills, consulting is a great way to start. You have to work one-on-one with your clients and convince them of your expertise, not to mention the facetime that is required to land a client in the first place. Some people may find it daunting at first, but prolonged exposure as a consultant will make it second nature for you, and your newfound people skills will be a valuable asset in establishing your next business.

Entrepreneurship is not for everyone. But if you’re ready to make your first foray into the business world, consider the advice of Sam Ovens—a multi-millionaire and entrepreneur himself—and start out as a business consultant. It might just be the springboard you need to launch yourself into a remarkably successful career.

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Article Contributed by Brooke Cade

So you’ve been gathering customer feedback and you’ve gotten what you believe to be honest responses from your customers and now you can either pat yourself on your back or make a few tweaks to achieve the next level of customer satisfaction. That’s great! …Isn’t it? Actually, no.

Instead take the customer experience to the next level and actively listen to the voice of your customer with the full intention of implementing real changes they actually want to see.

The Wrong Way of Asking

“Fine.”

That’s the typical response everyone gives when asked “How you are doing?” But replying “fine” doesn’t give any details and doesn’t share any real feelings. The same can apply when you ask your customers about their experiences with your company. Most often, their responses will be a meager “fine.”

The problem? Your question is a) too common, b) too general, and c) too brief.

Traditional long-form customer surveys aren’t much better as they tend to have numerous inherent faults, which can include:

  • Putting your own words in your customer’s mouth.

  • Giving over-simplified answers to multifaceted problems.

  • Catching only a narrow portion of your demographic.

  • Inconveniencing your customer.

  • Waiting too long to survey until after a particular customer experience.

  • Sitting on results without knowing what to do with them.

You’re Not Listening to Me

Have you ever been in a conversation with someone when a disagreement begins to escalate the tone of the conversation from mere annoyance to agitation and anger? When that happens, how often does the phrase, “You’re not listening to me!” come out of someone’s mouth?

The truth is, when someone tells us we aren’t listening, often we actually are listening…but only to their words. What we need to be doing is listening to what they are trying to say but aren’t articulating.

Don’t Get Lost in Translation

Have you ever tried using Auto Translate on a foreign-language website? The results are, at best, mixed. You can decipher the main points but might get a little lost in the details.

Similarly, once you have gathered all your customer’s feedback data, translating it can get a little muddy. A correct interpretation may feel like anyone’s best guess.

For instance, if you are looking to reveal a certain trend, chances are you can find one. If you are hoping for a specific result, the data can be easily manipulated in order to give it to you.

Changes That Make Your Customers Like You

All of these scenarios prove that simply listening to what your customers are telling you isn’t enough. By a long shot.

In order to understand your customer’s true voice, you need to do the following three things:

  1. Ask the right people. Ask the right questions. Ask in the right way.

  2. Listen not only to their words but in between them. What is their tone? What are their emotions? What actions are they taking?

  3. Use undeniable, advanced analytics to diagnose root causes, generate verifiable insights, and apply tactical strategies that pay off.

Once you do these three things, you will be better equipped to make the changes that your customer are afraid to ask for or don’t even necessarily know they want.

Staying ahead of the customer curve is an invaluable tactic in the continually quickening pace of modern business. So find ways to engage with your customers which will allow them to openly share their suggestions, feedback, and their stories with you in a way that will benefit everyone and bring greater ROI.

About the Author: Brooke Cade is a freelance writer who’s committed to helping businesses and sales professionals build stronger connections with their customers. She writes for a variety of publication including InMoment.com.

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At first glance, it may seem easy enough to make a sale to a prospective customer. After all, you have something that they need or want, and you expect them to, therefore, make a purchase. You may think that you simply need to create a marketing campaign that shows off your product’s key features.

However, before you begin marketing for your business, you need to analyze the buying process for your specific target audience in greater detail. When you understand their specific motivation for considering your product and adjust your marketing efforts accordingly, you can expect great results.

The Buying Process

To build an effective marketing campaign, you need to highlight your product’s selling points and features. However, you also need to be aware of the consumer’s needs and desires. There are five stages of the decision-making process that most buyers will go through.

  • Problem Recognition: The consumer determines that he or she has a specific problem that your product could help them with.
  • Information Search: The consumer spends time learning as much as possible about your product to determine if it is an effective solution.
  • Evaluation of Alternatives: Many consumers will not make a hasty buying decision without comparing your product against at least a couple of the alternatives.
  • The Purchase: When the consumer makes a buying decision, he or she will usually act on it rather quickly. However, some will delay this step because they are waiting for a better price or are unsure about specific features or other factors related to your product.
  • Post-Purchase Behavior: Consumers typically will analyze the product after they have used it for at least a short period of time. By doing so, a decision about how effective the product is will be made.

Deciding to Buy

There are two main types of buying decisions: short-term and long-term decisions. Both of these decision-making strategies depend on what you’re selling. Learning more about them and adapting them to the product or service you’re offering can help you attract more customers.

Short-term Decisions

A short-term decision is usually associated with smaller and often cheaper items. These are either impulse purchases or routine purchases.

  • Impulse Purchase: Impulse purchases are usually for cheaper or smaller items, such as buying a candy bar at the checkout stand at the grocery store. Little or no thought is given to the purchase.

Even though impulse purchases mostly take place in store, you can tempt the customers to buy impulsively online, as well. For example, if you sell clothes, you can offer accessories that go well with the chosen outfit. The trick is to create a very straightforward and streamlined shopping experience. After all, if they have to jump through hoops to make the purchase, the urge to impulsively buy may be gone.

  • Routine Purchase: There are many products that consumers buy regularly without thinking about them. These may be essential items, such as toothpaste or toilet paper, or they could be their favorite foods. In many cases, these are products that the consumer has used in the past and has had great experiences with and they stay loyal to the brand.

However, if your product is new, you can’t rely on loyalty: you first need to attract your competition’s customer. In order to do that, you once again need to understand the target audience, so you can approach marketing in different ways. For example, you can ask customers to review your product online and share the positive experiences on your social media profiles. People are more likely to buy something that others have tested and liked. You can also offer coupons or discounts to encourage an initial purchase. Once a customer tries your product, they may decide to continue using it.

Long-Term Decisions

If you offer more expensive products, like electronics or cars, or if you’re in the real estate industry, you shouldn’t expect your customers to make quick decisions. They may spend weeks or even months analyzing the market and exploring alternatives before making a purchase.

Long-term decisions are usually based on products that could potentially impact a person’s budget or lifestyle. Part of the research process includes reading reviews, looking at consumer ratings and even asking friends for recommendations.

Some consumers need a financial incentive to get off the fence and to make a buying decision. For example, they may need a great discount for a new TV. On the other hand, real estate agents will have more success if they research the demographics of their target audience.

For instance, if you want to attract millennials, you should be aware that they may have limited budgets in comparison to older real estate buyers. The millennial generation may also prefer homes that have more modern features or finishes, electronic or automated features and more. Remember that, for them, the visual factor plays a great role in the decision-making process: the house you’re showing needs to be well-decorated, from the inside as well as the outside.

To Conclude…

As you can see, regardless of what you are selling, effective marketing is about more than just highlighting your products’ features and benefits. Consumer behavior should also be a focal point when crafting a new marketing campaign. When you understand consumer behavior, you can more effectively craft an excellent marketing campaign that produces amazing results.

About the Author:

Jasmine Williams covers the good and the bad of today’s business and marketing. She was rummaging through her grandma’s clothes before it was cool and she’s usually hunched over a book or dancing in the kitchen, trying hard to maintain rhythm, but delivering some fine cooking (her family says so). Tweet her @JazzyWilliams88

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