Archive for the 'Startups' Category

The Art of Cold Calling

Topic: Helpful Ideas, Startups, Strategies| 2 Comments »

Note: Welcome to Startup Students. If you enjoy this post, don’t forget to Stumble, comment, and subscribe to the RSS feed!

In the web development business, and many other small businesses it’s tough to stand out from the crowd. Designers are a dime a dozen these days, especially with the advent of outsourcing services such as ELance.

Personally, I’ve relied on top notch service and client referrals to maintain a steady income. Things are going quite well, in fact I’ve reached the point where I must turn down work on a regular basis.

Yet recently I have been looking to grow. Hiring another developer does’nt quite yet make sense, because the number of jobs I’ve turned down doesn’t quite justify the expansion. However, I just finished reading a fantastic book on cold calling entitled “Cold Calling Techniques That Really Work”- and by following the techniques I feel I’ll be able to sustain enough business to justify hiring additional developers.

There are five basic elements to the successful cold call:

  1. Get the person’s attention. But not using a cheesy introduction.
  2. Identify yourself and your company
  3. Give the reason for you call
  4. Make a qualifying/questioning statement
  5. Set the appointment

Below, I have included some time tested scripts that can be used when making your calls:

  • Initial Contact
    • Good Morning Mr. Adams, this is Brett from Brett Adams Design LLC. The reason I’m calling you today specifically is so I can stop by and tell you about our latest web site implementation (or service, or product, or program) that increases traffic and click-thru sales (or whatever applies to your business). I’m sure that you, like (name of previous client) are interested in increasing site traffic.
    • Generally, you are given a positive response by the prospect at this point.
    • That’s great Mr. Adams, let’s get together. How’s this Thursday at 2:00?

As I mentioned, lots of my business comes from referrals or third-party endorsements. But the great thing is that there is a script for those scenarios as well.

  • Referral Script
    • Good morning Mr. Adams, this is (insert brief commercial about your business). The reason I’m calling you to today is that Mr. Smith just suggested I give you a call to set up an appointment. I wanted to if Thursday at 2:00 would be okay.

What tends to make these scripts successful is the fact that they generally require a positive response. You aren’t giving them the option to dance around or avoid your request. I’ll be implementing these strategies heavily in the coming weeks and I will keep you updated on the success.

Here are some tips, in no particular order, when cold calling:

  • The object (for me at least) is to set an appointment. I’m not looking to close a sale over the phone, I’d rather sit down face to face and explain the value of choosing my services over those of the competition.
  • No matter how good you are, sales is still a numbers game. 1/3 of your clients will fall into your lap, 1/3 won’t say yes no matter what, and the other 1/3 can potentially be convinced – and that is the portion that matters when it comes to being a successful cold caller.
  • Practice your script, you don’t want to sound as though you are reading off of one, but it’s vital that you do in fact have one.
  • People respond in kind. Think, feel, act, and sound positive and you will elicit positive responses.

Somewhat long post today but I hope you enjoyed the lesson and can utilize these techniques to grow your student startup! Class dismissed.

Mold It, And They Will Come

Topic: Helpful Ideas, Startups, Strategies| Comments Off on Mold It, And They Will Come

 When Virgin Records founder Richard Branson dropped our of school, his headmaster offered these parting words, “Congratulations, Branson.  I predict you will either go to prison or become a millionaire.” So what does that have to do with?  Nothing really, but I thought it was fairly interesting.

At any rate, as an entrepreneur, you will soon find that you simply cannot do it all yourself.  You’ve got to surround youself with the right people – but still maintain to stick to your guns.  Here are some sure-fire keys to success:

  • Hire highly motivated individuals.  But be sure they’re motivated for the right reasons.  Those who are self motivated make the best candidates.
  • As you surround yourself with great people, be sure to help them become even greater.  A little karma goes a long way.
  • Create, maintain, and update as needed your vision and mission.  This creates a sense of clarity outlining your future direction.
  • Create, maintain, and update your company values.  A strong corporate culture from the get-go (and then sticking with it) is often overlooked.
  • Now that you have the right people on the bus, don’t let them get off!  Be sure to offer appropriate merit based rewards.
  • As you grow and expand your business (and your personal knowledge), it would be a great idea to share the wealth.  Offer unique opportunities that allow your employees to garner more experience, but remember to keep your culture strong.  Now that you have highly experienced employees, you surely will want to hang onto them.
  • Offering financial rewards is key, but did you know that offering praise is actually a much better motivator?  Make a point to always celebrate success, even if it’s relatively minor.

Class dismissed.

Family, Friends, and Fools

Topic: Financials, Helpful Ideas, Startups, Strategies| 4 Comments »

It’s been a while. Here is why:

  • Internship (30 hours per week)
  • Brett Adams Design LLC – my company (50 hours last week)
  • Two classes
  • College football season tickets
  • Pro football season tickets
  • My ice hockey league
  • 192,837,490,823,749 other things

It’s been really tough juggling everything, but I will have you know I’m working on a killer post for late this week. It’ll be so big it might not even be navigable.

Today, however, I’m going to take a few minutes and talk to you about the first branch young entrepreneurs generally shake on the money tree. That is, friends and family along with any other fools willing to get on board. An example of a “fool” would be someone not in tune with the market or industry such as your dentist, mechanic, or mailman.

Don’t get me wrong, these individuals are a great way to go and often times make much more sense than aplying for commercial lending or an SBA guranteed loan. However, obtaining money in this manner often leads to strained relationships and in some cases can rip families apart. Personally, I’d like to avoid that and I’m sure you would too. Below are some tips to consider when approaching these individuals for startup cash:

  • Put it in writing. Every last detail about repayment and usage of funds should be included.
  • You are running a business, so make it a business loa – not a personal loan.
  • Things happen – natural disasters, emergencies, etc. Be sure to add provisions that cover these types of things.
  • Have a business plan? Make it required reading for your lenders. If you don’t have a plan then either:
    • Go write one
    • Or B, thouroughly discuss your company’s goals, ambitions, and forecasts.
  • Create a continuous dialog and discuss potential problems, fears, and issues that are taking place on both sides of the field.

Again, sorry for not being around. Don’t hold it against me. Remember, just like you I’m a student entrepreneur, with the keyword there being student. Class dismissed.

Down to Earth Forecasting Strategies

Topic: Analysis, Financials, Startups, Strategies| 1 Comment »

I haven’t talked too much about financials, and I don’t really plan on doing so today.  I would, however, like to wet your taste buds with some tips on forecasting.  Remember, forecasting is in all reality BS.  Projections can only take you so far but they do help you when setting goals for your small business.

  • You are better off selling yourself short than throwing out unrealistic numbers.  Be factual and conservative with your estimates.
  • You arent going to go from making $10,000 to $10 million.  It just isnt going to happen unless something truly astonishing happens in your business or your market.
  • Quantify your projections and dont just pull them out of a hat.  Make clear and concise assumptions.
  • Back those assumptions up with a written list of your reasoning.  Pro forma financials will take your far.
  • Utilize industry specific data and not just general data such as census publications.  Contact your local or university library for assistance in tracking down this type of information.  For those of you in school or who are stupid rich – try IbisWorld.
  • This goes back to the above statements, but it’s important.  Your projections are going to be suspect if your sales or profit margins are higher (or lower) than the industry average.
  • As you progress, compare your forecasts to actual results and determine what went wrong (or right!).

Yes, this was a bit “schoolish” but you are Startup Students!  Class dismissed.

A Pricing Strategy for Everyone

Topic: Helpful Ideas, Startups, Strategies| 4 Comments »

When pricing your product or service, you should put some thought into the strategy you utilize. Are you going to undercut your competitors? Would you rather target the upper echelon? Maybe you just want to price with the market. It really depends on what you are offering, but here are some different strategies you could employ.

  • Penetration Pricing
    • This is when you want to quickly get some traction in your market by offering a lower (and sometime insanely lower) price. Benefits would obviously be the quick market penetration. But be careful, you dont want to undercut yourself out of business!
  • Skimming Strategy
    • This is somewhat opposite of penetration pricing. Do you have a relatively new technology that nobody else is offering? Why not “skim” off the customers who are willing to pay more in the beginning. Once demand from the early adopters falls, you can then lower your prices.
  • Follow The Leader
    • Sometimes it makes since to just follow the crowd and price your product competitively. Obvious products here would include commodities.
  • Variable Pricing
    • Do you sell cars or real estate? Do you own an eBay business? If so, you are already using this strategy. Variable pricing involves negotiation and bargaining between your sales staff and the customer
  • Flexible Pricing
    • This works well for service based companies. Do you have government clientel? Then add a couple zeros to the price tag. Have a scaled down solution for commercial use? Drop the price and gaing some market traction.
  • Price Lining
    • If you’ve ever been to the Dollar General you are familiar with this strategy. All the products are offered at the same price. Obviously, this method is easy to manage, but you might get stuck due to its lack of flexibility. Times might get tough in times of inflation or an unstable market.

Hopefully this will help you grasp the basic ideas and maybe even assist you in finding the right strategy for your small business. Class dismissed.

Top 10: (Don’t) Curb Your Enthusiasm

Topic: Startups, Strategies, Top 10| Comments Off on Top 10: (Don’t) Curb Your Enthusiasm

Let me start by saying I didn’t write this, I saw it on one of the blogs I subscribe to and thought it would be a great addition for my readers.  In it’s entirety, here is the article:

The next couple of weeks will bring many students back to school. This time is bittersweet for many. There is the foreboding of classes and homework balanced with the enthusiasm of a fresh start. What if you could keep that “fresh start” feeling all semester long?

Here are the top 10 ways to keep your enthusiasm high after returning to school:

  1. Get your books early – One of the most hectic times of each college school year is that crazy few days in the college bookstore before the semester starts. Who needs it. Get your books early. If your professors haven’t posted them online, call the bookstore and see if they have a list. If still no luck, give your professor a polite e-mail stating you’d like to get your books early so you can prepare for the class. Ask which books you need to buy.
  2. Skim and review before class starts – Review is one of your best weapons against challenging exams. Since you have your books early, spend a few hours skimming and reviewing each one. Familiarize yourself with the table of contents, summaries, bolded text and sidebars. Get the edge.
  3. Do not change your diet – eating more or less can change your concentration, energy level and ability to stay alert. Presuming you are satisfied with your current mental chemistry, avoid changing your diet. P.S. Studies show 75% of college freshmen put on 7lbs their first semester – keep lean and mean.
  4. Decide your main goal – Do you want straight A’s, B’s ? Before you can get anywhere you have to know where you are going beforehand. Choose before the semester starts what grades you want and write it down. By putting it in writing, you are setting an agreement with yourself – after that, all you need to do is not break that agreement. 😉
  5. Decide why you want to make A’s in your classes – why do you want to be a good student? Write up a list of reasons and then hang them in a prominent location in your living quarters. When the going gets tough and you don’t feel like studying or going to class, review this list. Add to it if you can. Reasons are what keep enthusiasm high.
  6. Keep your exercise program going – Hopefully, since you are reading this blog, you have adopted an exercise program. Going to class is no excuse to stop. Stick with it for increased self-esteem, concentration and enthusiasm for learning.
  7. Sit in the front row – Studies have shown sitting in the front row is an easy way to improve your grades. Why? You hear better, you have more interaction with the professors and there is no possible way to doze if you are in the front row. So choose the front row and win.
  8. Reward yourself after small accomplishments – When you get an assignment or test deadline, right then and there, decide on a reward for completing it successfully. I am not saying you have to get an A. Instead a small reward for simply getting through. Some ideas: A new video game, a toy, tee shirt, DVD. Pick something just for you and do not buy it until you finish your assignment. The fun reward will carry you through to the finish line.
  9. Make a habit of studying at the same time every day – Humans function better at different times. When do you study the best? Early morning, afternoon or evening? Work on finding that out and then make a pact that you’ll study at that time every day. This works because 1 you’ll be in your zone naturally and you will be developing a habit of high quality study at that time of day.
  10. Get enough sleep – Staying up late at night watching TV, goofing off or drinking might be fun at the time, but leads to excessive tiredness during classes. It’s tough to be enthusiastic if you are dead tired. So pick a time your fun and serious side can agree on, then stick to it. Set a reminder on your cellphone or computer if you need to. Just get some sleep you look tired.

Brad Isaac is a lead software programmer and blogger. You can read his motivational strategies every day on his goal setting blog, Achieve-IT!

Again, just to be clear – I didn’t write this one and I encourage you to check out the contributing author’s blog.  Class dismissed.

Traditional Advertising Isn’t Dead

Topic: Helpful Ideas, Market Intelligence, Startups, Strategies| 1 Comment »

I’ve made the assumption that most of my readers are internet entrepreneurs – that is they conduct the majority of their business on the web as opposed to in “real life”.  That’s fine and great, in fact I’m in the same boat (obviously).  But that doesn’t mean you and I should stick to internet based advertising.  I agree 100% that if you work online you need to participate in SEO, PPC, Insert Abbreviation Here, but I feel you are really missing out on a large market segment by ignoring what I would call the more traditional advertising channels.

Below I have put together a list of the traditional media outlets along with some advantages- I hope it helps!

  •  Newspapers
    • These are pretty old school.  You will benefit, however, from the ability to target specific geographic regions.  It’s also nice because you have very short-term commitments and can easily gauge the responses you receive.  And, unlike other print media, you can submit your ad on Monday and have it appear in the paper by Tuesday and Wednesday.
  • Magazines
    • You’ll benefit from full color, professional looking advertisements – but remember that it comes with a hefty price.  What’s really great about magazines is the long shelf life and high chance that it will fall into the hands of many (think doctors office).  My recommendation is to target trade magazines as opposed to general interest publications, that way you minimize the so-called shotgun effect.
  • Radio
    • Radio is accompanied generally by a low cost, immediate result.  It also adds a touch of professionalism in my opinion.  Problem here is your market is not well targeted, but the cool thing is you might start attracting customers you never thought would be interested!
  • Television
    • Diverse audiences like radio, except at a hgher cost.  You’ll benefit from the ability to get creative and leave a lasting impression however.  I found this site called Spot Runner a while back that has prebuilt, entertaining comercials for your use.
  • Outdoor Media
    Again, you’re going to run into some costs here.   I had a buddy who used this method to some success and that’s why it’s on the list.  You’ll benefit from repetive views without any additional costs and you can also place it where you want.

That’s all for today, if you have and questions or comments, please feel free to post.  Class dismissed.

Dealing with Client Concerns

Topic: Competition, Market Intelligence, Startups, Strategies| 4 Comments »

I was rummaging through my old lecture notes, and came across one that I really wanted to share. It’s a great bit of information that will be very useful once the customers start rolling in. Below is a list detailing customer objections along with an appropriate response to keep the gates open. It’s much more difficult to make a sale once you’ve been shot down, but by keeping the dialog going, you’re more likely to come out on top.Calling

Just to note, these can be applied to current customer’s as well as cold calls. And, before we get started, I wanted to point out a great article I stumbled across entitled The Fine Art of Telephone Prospecting over at Freelance Switch.



“I had problems with a similar product before, and I don’t want to go through that again!” “Yes, I understand your attitude, but have you considered…”
“I’m too busy.” “That’s why I’d like to explain how I can save you time [and money] by…”
“The last salesperson I dealt with caused me all kinds of problems.” “That is a regrettable situation. It’s a shame that all members of my profession aren’t honest, but…”
“I like what I’m hearing, but I need to hold off for now.” “Let’s figure out how much you can save by acting now.”
“Your product sounds just like your competitors.” “There are similarities, however we have… and at a better price.”
“I’m not sure if I can risk a changeover to your product.” “Let me tell you how one of your competitor’s successfully made the switch to my product.”

That’s all for today startup students. Remember, tomorrow is Field Trip Friday so be sure to stop by. I’m putting together a great post about my home office. Class Dismissed.

5 Steps To A Rock Solid Promotional Plan

Topic: Analysis, Startups, Strategies, Top 10| 2 Comments »

Good morning Startup Students. While we have not yet explored the core aspects of a bullet proof business plan, I’d like to take today to discuss with you the benefits of your promotional plan. Without marketing and promotion, the idea, management, and financials of a business plan won’t take you anywhere. Here’s a quick list of 5 easy steps to rock solid promotional plan.

  1. You must first determine your sales and marketing objectives. Utilizing a matrix is ideal for this type of analysis. I discussed using a matrix analysis to select your opportunity, but the underlying techniques still apply.
  2. Develop strategies to achieve your goals. Brainstorming and mind mapping are ideal solutions for coming up with these goals.
  3. Create a well defined method for carrying out your strategies. Use your best judgment for now, but we’ll explore this a bit more at a later date.
  4. Determine a budget and then enact a program to assure the success of your promotion.
  5. Continuously evaluate the results of your promotional objectives and adjust your strategy as needed.

A variety of promotional strategies exist, some more mainstream than others. Here’s a few to get your creative juices flowing:

  • Traditional media advertising – Not recommended for startups
  • In store displays – expensive yet effective
  • Creative packaging – High quality, memorable, and fun works best
  • Guarantees – Low cost and effective
  • Trade shows and conventions – Expensive, but professional
  • Direct mailings – Creative, memorable pieces
  • Catalog sales – A dying breed
  • Press releases, news stories, and other “free ink” – Holds more value than ads
  • One on one personal selling – Great for bootstrapping startups
  • Industry specific trade magazines – Every industry has at least one
  • Mailing lists – Utilize your web site or a paid list
  • Networking – Online and in person
  • Top notch customer service – Model after some of your favorite companies
  • Paid search results – Find low cost, effective keywords
  • Top quality web presences – A necessity these days
  • Adwords campaigns – Varying results
  • Stumbleupon campaigns – Highly recommended

If you have any additional suggestions you’d like to share, please comment! That’s all for today students, see you tomorrow.

Field Trip Friday: Free Resources for Young Entrepreneurs

Topic: Analysis, Startups, Strategies| 5 Comments »

With an entire web of information out there, it’s tough to sift through and find the things you need to really get your business off the ground. We’ve talked extensively about ways to hone your idea and gather valuable data to ensure your opportunity’s success. Today it’s time to put those ideas into motion with some top notch FREE resources to take your business from idea to fruition.

  1. University of Central Florida’s Venture Lab: You might call this a plug for the school I attend, but these guys have got some really incredible information and resources available to everyone. My favorite aspect of this site is the vast amount of free templates for the creation of your business plan. From market research tools, to financial pro formas, term sheets, employee documents, and of course business plans. This place is an absolute treasure trove of information for the development of your next great startup!
  2. Google, that’s right Google. But not just the typical search interface – we all know how useful that is. I’m referring to the University Search. Many major Universities offer Entrepreneurial programs and degrees these days, and the resources these colleges offer online is astounding. I recommend starting out with the University of Colorado which is one of the premier Entrepreneurial programs in America.
  3. Already got your business off the ground? I just came across this site yesterday from my friends over at Mind Petals and I’ve already put it to good use by sending out invoices worth over $2,000. Blinksale offers a free subscription if you send less than 3 invoices per month, which is perfect when you are just getting your feet under you.
  4. The Small Business Administration is terrific as well. Most of you are probably familiar with these guys. They specialize in guaranteeing small business loans. In addition to this valuable service, they offer tons of great information such as templates, sample plans, and other startup assistance.
  5. Since many of you are still students, you can gain access and benefit greatly from this cool site. It’s called the Business Plan Archive and it is an extremely valuable resource. They host hundreds of tried and true business plans submitted by companies who wish to help out aspiring Entrepreneurs
  6. Blogs. And lots of them. There are an astounding number of bloggers these days, and many are out there to help young entrepreneurs. Start with a search of the Mind Petals blogger network and start exploring some of their blogrolls. Be careful though, you might spend all day doing this one!

There are a ton more, but since I post every day I will save the rest for next week’s Field Trip Friday – so if you havent done so already, subscribe to the RSS feed and stay tuned!

And now startup students, it’s time for show and tell. First up comes from my brother Blaine. He put together a custom entertainment center for our 52” HDTV. It really turned out pretty awesome.

I’d also like to take a second and introduce you to a buddy of mine’s blog. He’s definitely got the entrepreneurial spirit and works at New York based startup Confabb: The Conference Community so be sure to check it out.

See you on Monday students, have a great weekend!