Heres My Degree, Wheres My Job? 12 Weeks to Finding the Work of Your Dreams Like an Entrepreneur

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Duh, right?

But keep in mind marketing is not just advertising. Marketing--whether advertising, public relations, promotional literature, etc--is an investment in the growth of your business. Like any other investment you would make, money spent on marketing must generate a return. Otherwise why make the investment? While that return could simply be greater cash flow, good marketing plans result in higher sales and profits.

So don't simply plan to spend money on a variety of advertising efforts. Do your homework and create a smart marketing program. We will not be the low-cost provider for our target market. Our goal is to provide mid- to high-end equipment. However, we will create web-based loyalty programs to incent customers to set up online profiles and reserve and renew equipment rentals online, and provide discounts for those who do.

Over time we will be able to market specifically to those customers. Just like in the Market Opportunity section, you may want to include a few more categories. For example, if your business involves a commission-compensated sales force, describe your Sales Programs and incentives. If you distribute products to other companies or suppliers and those distribution efforts will impact your overall marketing plans, lay out your Distribution Strategy.

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The key is to show you understand your market and you understand how you will reach your market. Marketing and promotions must result in customers--your goal is to thoroughly describe how you will acquire and keep your customers.

A gateway into a larger world

Listening to these each day can ease your mind to let go of old stuff, issues, and problems. Instead, see your plan as a no-cost way to explore the viability of your potential business and avoid costly mistakes. Can you set up public relations activities to help market your business? This was a key part for me. Feeling so much love your new life? Why do I want to take my business to the next level?

Also keep in mind you may want to include examples of marketing materials you have already prepared, like website descriptions, print ads, web-based advertising programs, etc. While you don't need to include samples, taking the time to create actual marketing materials might help you better understand and communicate your marketing plans and objectives. Every business has competition.

Understanding the strengths and weaknesses of your competition--or potential competition--is critical to making sure your business survives and grows. While you don't need to hire a private detective, you do need to thoroughly assess your competition on a regular basis even if you only plan to run a small business. In fact, small businesses can be especially vulnerable to competition, especially when new companies enter a marketplace. Competitive analysis can be incredibly complicated and time-consuming Here is a simple process you can follow to identify, analyze, and determine the strengths and weaknesses of your competition.

First develop a basic profile of each of your current competition. For example, if you plan to open an office supply store you may have three competing stores in your market. Online retailers will also provide competition, but thoroughly analyzing those companies will be less valuable unless you also decide you want to sell office supplies online.

Only you can determine that.

To make the process easier, stick to analyzing companies you will directly compete with. If you plan to set up an accounting firm, you will compete with other accounting firms in your area. If you plan to open a clothing store, you will compete with other clothing retailers in your area. Again, if you run a clothing store you also compete with online retailers, but there is relatively little you can do about that type of competition other than to work hard to compete in other ways: great service, friendly salespeople, convenient hours, truly understanding your customers, etc.

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Once you identify your main competitors, answer these questions about each one. And be objective. It's easy to identify weaknesses in your competition, but less easy and a lot less fun to recognize where they may be able to outperform you:. While these questions may seem like a lot of work to answer, in reality the process should be fairly easy.

You should already have a feel for the competition's strengths and weaknesses Keep in mind competitive analysis does more than help you understand your competition. Learn from competitor strengths, take advantage of competitor's weaknesses, and apply the same analysis to your own business plan.

It can be tough to predict when and where new competitors may pop up. For starters, regularly search for news on your industry, your products, your services, and your target market. But there are other ways to predict when competition may follow you into a market. Other people may see the same opportunity you see. Think about your business and your industry, and if the following conditions exist, you may face competition does the road:.

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In general terms, if serving your market seems easy you can safely assume competitors will enter your market. A good business plan anticipates and accounts for new competitors. Our nearest and only competition is the bike shops in Harrisonburg, VA. Our next closest competitor is located over miles away. The in-town bike shops will be strong competitors. They are established businesses with excellent reputations.

On the other hand, they offer inferior-quality equipment and their location is significantly less convenient.

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We do not plan to sell bicycles for at least the first two years of operation. However, sellers of new equipment do indirectly compete with our business since a customer who buys equipment no longer needs to rent equipment. Later, when we add new equipment sales to our operation, we will face competition from online retailers.

We will compete with new equipment retailers through personalized service and targeted marketing to our existing customer base, especially through online initiatives. And so on A common mistake made by entrepreneurs is assuming they will simply "do it better" than any competition. Experienced businesspeople know you will face stiff competition: showing you understand your competition, understand your strengths and weaknesses relative to that competition, and that you understand you will have to adapt and change based on that competition, is critical.

And, even if you do not ever plan to seek financing or bring in investors, you absolutely must know your competition. Your ops plan should detail strategies for managing, staffing, manufacturing, fulfillment, inventory Fortunately, most entrepreneurs have a better handle on their operations plan than on any other aspect of their business.

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Operations plans should be highly specific to your industry, your market sector, and your customers. Instead of providing an example like I've done with other sections, use the following to determine the key areas your plan should address:. What do you need to do? How will you get it done? Then create an overview of that plan to make sure your milestones and timeline make sense.

Many investors and lenders feel the quality and experience of the management team is one of the most important factors used to evaluate the potential of a new business. But putting work into the Management Team section will not only benefit people who may read your plan.

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Addressing your company's needs during implementation will make a major impact on your chances for success. Joe has over twenty years experience in the cycling business. A complete resume for Mr. Rouleur can be found in the Appendix. Mary was the U. Mountain Biking National Champion. She worked in product development for High Tec frames, creating custom frames and frame modifications for professional cyclists.

She also has extensive customer service and sales experience, having worked for four years as the online manager of Pro Parts Unlimited, an online retailer of high-end cycling equipment and accessories.