Dallas Business Consultant Elijah ClarkDallas Business Consultant Elijah Clark

In getting started with selling and promoting your business, one of the most important items that I consider is monitoring and analyzing my competition. In business marketing this is what is known as a competitive analysis.

When it comes to generating sales or leads, one of the biggest worries is, how do I get new customers, is my product good enough, is my price point good, is my resume good, do the customers know I even exist?

Fortunately, most of these questions can be answered by looking at your competition. If they’re successful, or not successful, you can simply follow or not follow their lead. There is more to it, of course. But, if you really take a look at your competitor with a fine-tooth comb, you can see where their strengths and weaknesses are and use them to your advantage.

However, this all starts with a competitor analysis, which is a strategy where you identify major competitors and research their products, sales, and marketing strategies. By doing this, you can create a business strategy that improves upon your competitor’s.

Have a Great Investor Pitch Deck

Startups frequently prepare a “pitch deck” to present their company to prospective angel or venture capital investors. The pitch deck typically consists of 15-20 slides in a PowerPoint presentation and is intended to showcase the company’s products, technology, and team to the investors.

Raising capital from investors is difficult and time consuming. Therefore, it’s crucial that a startup absolutely nails its investor pitch deck and articulates a compelling and interesting story.

Too many startups make a number of avoidable mistakes when creating their investor pitch decks. Here is a list of general do’s and don’ts to keep in mind:

Pitch Deck Do’s

– Do convince the viewer of why the market opportunity is large.
– Do include visually interesting graphics and images.
– Do plan to have a demo of your product as part of the in-person presentation.
– Do tell a compelling, memorable, and interesting story that shows your passion for the business.
– Do show that you have more than just an idea, and that you have gotten early traction on developing the product, getting customers, or signing up partners.
– Do have a soundbite for investors to remember you by.
– Do use a consistent font size, color, and header title style throughout the slides.

Pitch Deck Don’ts

– Don’t have too many wordy slides.
– Don’t provide excessive financial details, as that can be provided in a follow-up message.
– Don’t try to cover everything in the pitch deck slides. Your in-person presentation will give you an opportunity to add and highlight key information.
– Don’t underestimate or belittle the competition (and never say “we don’t have any competition”).
– Don’t have a poor layout, bad graphics, or a low-quality “look and feel.” Think about hiring a graphic designer to give your pitch desk a more professional look.

For additional advice and a sample pitch deck, see you can purchase my pitch deck template.

Build a Great Website for Your Company
You should devote time and effort to building a great website for your business. Prospective investors, customers, and partners are going to check out your site, and you want to impress them with a professional product. Some tips for building a great company website include:

– Check out competitor sites.
– Start by sketching out a template for your site.
– Be sure the site is search engine optimized (and thus more likely to show up early on Google search results).
– Produce high-quality original content.
– Make sure your site is optimized for mobile devices.
– Make sure the site loads quickly.
– Keep it clean and simple; visual clutter will drive visitors away.
– Make the navigation bars prominent.
– Obtain and use a memorable “.com” domain name.
– Make the site visually interesting.
– Make sure it’s easy for site visitors to contact you or buy your product.

Drive Traffic to Your Website
While entire books have been written on this topic, the key ways to drive traffic to your website are as follows:

– Pay Google, Bing, Yahoo, or other search engines to send you traffic (such as through the Google Adwords program).
– Build a great site with lots of high-quality, original content that is search engine optimized.
– Have a smart social media plan to drive traffic from Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and other free social media sites.
– Get links to your site from high-quality sites.

Come Up With a Great Name for Your Business
Selecting the right name for your startup can have a significant impact on your business success. The wrong name could result in insurmountable legal and business hurdles. Some basic tips on how to name your startup include:

– Avoid hard-to-spell names.
– Don’t pick a name that could be limiting as your business grows.
– Conduct a thorough Internet search on a proposed name.
– Get a “.com” domain name (as opposed to “.net” or another variant).
– Conduct a thorough trademark search.
– Come up with five names you like and test market the name with prospective employees, partners, investors, and potential customers.

Focus on Offering Exceptional Customer Service

Companies such as Zappos and Virgin America became hugely successful because they focused on providing excellent customer service and support. You want your early customers to give referrals and sing your praises to their friends and colleagues. Thank your customers personally by email. Go the extra mile to show your appreciation.

Market Your Business Like Crazy
To succeed in business, you need to continually be attracting, building, and even educating your target market. Make sure your marketing strategy includes the following:

– Learn the fundamentals of SEO (search engine optimization) so that people searching for your products and services online might find you near the top of search results.
– Use social media to promote your business (LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, etc.).
– Engage in content marketing by writing guest articles for relevant websites.
– Issue press releases for any significant events.
– Network continually.

Perfect Your Elevator Pitch
An “elevator” pitch is intended to be a concise, compelling introduction to your business. You should be able to slightly modify your elevator pitch depending on whether you are pitching to prospective investors, customers, employees, or partners. A few tips for developing and delivering a great elevator pitch include:

– Start out strong.
– Be positive and enthusiastic in your delivery.
– Remember that practice makes perfect.
– Keep it to 60 seconds in length.
– Avoid using industry jargon.
– Convey why your business is unique.
– Pitch the problem you are solving.
– And, Invite participation or interruption by the listener—this shows they are interested and engaged.

Make Sure Someone Hasn’t Already Invented Your Great New Idea

Here are the key things to do if you have a great new invention idea:

– Do a Google search on the keywords associated with your invention.
– Do a search online of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office at uspto.gov.
– If nothing comes up and you want to get a patent for your idea, hire a patent lawyer.

But keep refining the concept of the invention, as version 1 of your idea probably can be improved and enhanced through version 2 and version 3.

Focus on Building a Great Product—But Don’t Take Forever to Launch

When starting out, your product or service has to be at least good if not great. It must be differentiated in some meaningful and important way from the offerings of your competition‎. Everything else follows from this key principle. Don’t drag your feet on getting your product out to market, since early customer feedback is one of the best ways to help improve your product. Of course, you want a “minimum viable product” (MVP) to begin with, but even that product should be good and differentiated from the competition. Having a “beta” test product works for many startups as they work the bugs out from user reactions.

It’s crucial to understand your customer base from the outset. To do this, you can gather demographic information to better understand opportunities and limitations for gaining customers to start or grow your business. This could include population data on age, wealth, family, interests, or anything else that’s relevant for your business.

Then answer these questions to get a good sense of your market.

– Demand: Is there a desire for your product or service?
– Market size: How many people would be interested in your offering?
– Market saturation: How many similar options are already available?
– Pricing: What do potential customers pay for these alternatives?

You’ll also want to keep up with the latest small business trends. It’s important to gain a sense of the specific market share that will impact your profits.

You can do market research using existing sources, or you can do the research yourself and go direct to consumers.

Newsletters should be branded if you intend to share company news and not get lost amongst the spam. Temper the marketing tone of your messages by integrating stories about your staff and customers.

Transactional emails are emails that directly promote products, promotions, and include emails sent to confirm an order or new account sign-up. Keep these emails succinct, but write with flair.

Videos are a great way to bring your brand to life. They are the perfect vehicle to introduce your products and services. Be sure to keep them short and snappy, perfect for social media sharing.

Business cards are pocket-sized promotional opportunities. Make sure they include relevant details like your social media handles and links to your website. Loyalty cards are also good for encouraging return visits to your store and should reflect your brand. Postcards are a fun way to raise brand awareness. Whether you choose to mail them, add them to your packaging, or distribute them at local businesses, they must be attractive if you want customers to view and keep them.

Most agencies know how to leverage their own email marketing skills to attract and nurture new business. However, they often overlook email as a communication channel post-sale. Email can be used to entice your customers in a scalable way as it provides the means necessary to continuously deliver added value over the course of your relationship. While many would argue that no one is looking forward to more emails, your emails should be relevant and thoughtfully written to ensure you don’t add to the SPAM issue.

When it comes to accomplishing information technology (IT) task within an organization, there is the option of insourcing, selfsourcing, and outsourcing. Insourcing means to use individuals within the organization to complete the task. Selfsourcing is using system supports by knowledge workers. Outsourcing is when an organization chooses to use third party companies or individuals to complete the task. Organizational IT outsourcing is growing at an exceptional rate. Organizations may seek outsourcing services from individuals throughout the globe. In order to find the best individuals for the task, outsourcing may be an effective solution that could save cost and time by providing resources and capabilities outside of the organizations structure. Outsourced companies or individuals can be used to cut cost, save time, or be used for their extensive background and technical abilities. In addition, outsourcing allows for organizations to potentially acquire leading-edge technology that they would not otherwise have without purchasing and training employees to use the systems. Outsourcing allows for organizations to focus their resources on task that matter most and are their core competencies. Other benefits of outsourcing include, lowering development cost, hiring the best talent for the job, and gaining a higher quality of work.
 
Short cycle time systems development involves creating and completing task quickly for organizations. A benefit of this type of structure is that new products and innovation are brought to the marketplace sooner and can help organizations benefit by having a competitive advantage. Concerns with outsourcing short cycle time systems include privacy, security, and potential loss of in-house resources. In addition, the quick reaction allows the development of new products and services to align with market and environment changes. A disadvantage of producing products or services quickly is that the quality may suffer. Furthermore, using outsourced individuals, could also present legal issues, financial setbacks, and provide limited control over outcomes.
 
To try and mitigate the damages of outsourcing, organizations may use service level agreement (SLA) contracts with the vendors, which ensure with penalties that they receive the desired performance and expectations. Other disadvantages of outsourcing include the cultural differences. Outsourcing is often between organizations with different backgrounds, language, and cultural differences. For organizations to outsource effectively, they should implement corporate policy, which protects privacy and data security of individuals. While cost reduction is a valuable benefit to have, organizations should be aware of outsourced individuals who may have hidden cost associated with the work they provide.

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