How to Successfully Meet the Three Biggest Marketing Challenges

I like to think I’m a pretty good marketer of my professional services.After all, I’ve been at it for 34 years, read hundreds of marketing books, thousands of articles and studied with the very best marketing gurus.But marketing is still challenging for me and the majority of independent professionals. If it weren’t, we’d all have more clients than we could serve, they’d be paying us high fees, and we’d never having to worry where our next clients would come from.And we wouldn’t need the thousands of marketing coaches and consultants like me offering services of all kinds to help you attract more clients.So, why is marketing so challenging?There are many marketing challenges, however, if you look at marketing closely, there are actually only three big challenges that give us the most trouble.Learn how to meet those challenges and your marketing will become more successful, easier, and fun.Here are those three marketing challenges:Challenge #1. Clearly communicating the value of what you are offering. Someone will not buy your services if they don’t see the real value to them. Your message can’t be vague or confusing; it must be clear and beneficial.One way to zero in on the value of your service is to define the top three attributes your service possesses. One or two is not enough; five or six tends to dilute your message.So, for instance, a sales training company might want to emphasize that their training is guaranteed to increase sales, improve sales confidence quickly, and can be delivered virtually in 45-minute online modules.That’s easy to understand and obviously beneficial. That kind of clear and valuable message is likely to generate attention, interest, and response.Seems simple, but not so easy to do. In my experience with thousands of independent professionals, their messages tend to be vague, not specific, and weak in terms of value.And if that value is not clear, prospects won’t respond.Taking the time to work on your message, fine-tune it, and test it until it gets a favorable response is one of the most important things you can possibly do in your business.To succeed at this task you must get inside the heads of your ideal clients and ask what they want the most, what problems they struggle with frequently, what isn’t working for them, and what could make their jobs easier and more productive.Jaynie L. Smith of Smart Advantage consulting says that 90% of companies don’t really know what their clients value the most. No wonder marketing messages are so bad.You can improve your marketing messages by reading and research (ask Google), sending questionnaires to your clients (Survey Monkey), or conducting a virtual focus group (via Zoom Video). Ultimately, you want to find out their biggest challenges and what they value the most.When you have that marketing intelligence, it will be a lot easier to come up with powerful marketing messages.This is challenging because it takes time and deep thinking. But if you realize its importance, you’ll invest your energies to come up with a powerful message that makes your service attractive, interesting, and compelling to your ideal clients.Challenge # 2. Making your business visible with repeated impressions of your message over time. It can take several impressions before someone responds to your marketing message.Just today, I noticed a message that one of my first level connections had sent to me on LinkedIn. When I checked the message, I noticed that he had sent me a total of 13 messages over a one-year period.The messages were actually very good. They had the right tone and great calls-to-action. It’s just that I don’t pay a lot of attention to my LinkedIn messages and had completely missed the first 12!He understood the value of repeat impressions over time and had developed a system within LinkedIn that had enabled him to send a unique, personalized message every month for a year. Pretty impressive.If he had only sent one or two messages, the chances are good that I wouldn’t have seen them.Again, my experience with the majority of self-employed professionals is that their marketing visibility is, at best, random and inconsistent, and at worst, non-existent.As you may know, I’ve sent out an email newsletter to my list pretty much every week for 21 years. That’s visibility. It’s really quite simple, but not so easy.If you want to be effective at your marketing, you must identify marketing strategies that enable you to get your message in front of your prospective clients consistently.And again, this is challenging. What is the best marketing activity for you, your personality and talents? How can you fit something into your schedule and do it consistently, not for a few weeks but for years?The question is not just what marketing strategies to use. Networking, speaking, blogging, email newsletters, webinars, social media, and direct outreach can all work.The more important question is what strategies will work the best for you and how exactly you can implement those strategies without spinning your wheels.You’re looking for proven, step-by-step instructions so you can evaluate if a strategy is right for you and something you can fit into your schedule on a regular basis. Remember, sporadic implementation is a waste of time.Implementing visibility strategies takes commitment and persistence. Is growing and succeeding in your business important enough for you to make that kind of effort? If it is, you’ll succeed at finding the best strategy for you.The final challenge may be the most important of all to overcome.Challenge #3. Maintaining the right marketing attitude and mindset over time, despite setbacks. If you can’t maintain The 3 R’s of success – responsibility, resourcefulness, and resilience, your marketing will never achieve the results you want.These 3Rs are absolutely essential. Responsibility is the stance that the buck stops with you. You are the only one who will find a way to attract clients and you won’t give up until you find that way. You won’t make excuses or blame circumstances, but instead will be accountable for making results happen.Resourcefulness is the skill to utilize your talents, and abilities to quickly find smart ways to overcome difficulties and find solutions. And to be resourceful, you can’t be full of doubts and fears of failure or rejection. A responsible person commits to finding a way; a resourceful person tries every way possible until they discover the best way.Resilience may be the most powerful trait of all. It’s what enables you to bounce back from adversity, setbacks, and even failures. And if you’re working to attract great clients, you’ll inevitably experience all of those many times. People who are not resilient don’t even try, let alone succeed.All of these essential qualities are in short supply. But if you work to grow those qualities persistently, over time, they will help you succeed with the first two challenging things in marketing – messaging and visibility.Despite these three marketing challenges – messaging, visibility, and mindset – there is good news.Improving your skills or abilities – even a little – in any of these three challenge areas will increase your marketing effectiveness.There is no perfect way of tackling all three challenges and you can’t do it in big leaps that get you there overnight. But you can work on all three slowly, with persistence, making small gains every week.When you improve your messages, you’ll start to see a better response in communicating to your prospects. Marketing then becomes like a game that starts with the question, “How can I communicate my value more clearly and powerfully?”When you increase your visibility, you’ll also notice a better response because to some degree, marketing is a numbers game. Your question might be, “How can I get my message in front of more of the right people this month?”And when you enhance your responsibility, resourcefulness, and resilience, you’ll find that playing the game becomes easier and more fun. The 3Rs are the fuel that enables you to persist with the first two challenges.Where do you start?You start by admitting where you are now and then committing to a purpose (your WHY for being in business in the first place), a goal (a specific thing you want to achieve), and to taking action (the actual steps you’ll implement to get there).Yes, marketing is challenging. But meeting those challenges is absolutely worth it.Cheers, Robert

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?

The Importance of Business Analyst Tools and Benefits of Hiring an IT Business Analyst

Do you want to know the importance of Business Analyst Tools? When it comes to workflow management, you need to use all the tools and processes that streamline and optimize the operations of your business. For instance, you need to utilize software systems that enable you to get improved productivity. These systems include content management systems, document management systems and business process management (BPM) tools.Remember the best workflow management systems can be costly and challenging to implement. However, by seeking the services of an IT Business Analyst, your company will benefit from them, which means you will get the best returns on your investments. In this informative article, we’ll look at five benefits of these tools.1. Improved AccountabilityThe best Business Analyst Tools enable your company to experience improved productivity. Keep in mind many employees don’t respond well to micromanagement, which means you need to use the latest tools to check their productivity. By using the best tools and software, you can know which tasks need to be done, the best team member to carry them out and the specific period the work should be completed.When you know which tasks and goals need to be met, you won’t need to intervene now and then, that’s unless it’s necessary. That improves the relations between the staff and management by removing personal opinions and considerations from any issue. Databases can store records of what occurred in the system, which gives the administration the ability to audit behavior if necessary.2. Reduces the Need for Manual LaborThe best business analyst tools provide your team members with the chance to work on non-repetitive tasks. It means they can expand their skills, for example, by working on aspects that require more human input such as in the production process. The best work management tools ensure that work is done faster and without common human errors. Instead of using these tools to replace employees, you should use them to make the workplace more productive and exciting, which improves the firm’s overall morale.3. Better CommunicationThe best business analyst tools eliminate the need for paper chasing and use of telephones. That makes the office more efficient and greener, which in turn reduces the firm’s turnover rates. Among the reasons for quitting jobs is poor or inadequate communication in offices. By using tracking software, you can provide employees with a better way of finding out what needs to be done right now and in the future. For you to ensure smooth day to day running of the business, you need to make sure your communication is honest and clear to employees.4. Streamlines the Business Operation ProcessesWorkflow or business analyst tools enable you to have valuable insight in the day to day running of your business. For example, by using automation software, you can determine which tasks can be done simultaneously instead of being completed sequentially. You can know which steps are unnecessary; which means you will make informed choices and decisions. For example, you will know which employees perform specific tasks at their best, rather than who happens to be free at that particular time.5. Faster Completion of ProjectsThe best business analyst tools enable you to shorten the duration of projects. For example, you can use them to reduce the period between starting a project and having it approved. As the management, you can set these tools to notify team members when the deadline is approaching or if they have missed it. The team leaders can let employees know of any new projects, changes in scheduling and guideline updates. Remember that in the long run, the time taken to determine these issues can prove to be a lot, meaning you need to use the latest tools to move on to new profitable projects.What to DoWhen switching over to using the best Business Analyst Tools, you may encounter several challenges. That means you should evaluate your office or business needs before deciding to make the switch. If you regularly meet your goals or surpass them, you may choose to leave it as it is. However, if you think you need a general overhaul of your operating systems and routines, you should consider moving your company to the next level.Before implementing drastic changes, you should open up and consult with your team members about the impending changes. You should then consider hiring an expert IT Business Analyst to help in the process. Below we look at benefits of hiring them.Benefits of Hiring an IT Business AnalystOne common question on online business forums is; what are the benefits of hiring an Information Technology (IT) Business Analyst? For some businesses, business analysts provide them with many benefits. However, others may not know these benefits, which mean they fail to get the many positive results that analysts bring to companies. In today’s business environment, business analysis can be the glue that holds a company or business together.What’s The Role of a Business Analyst?Breaks Down Work into Manageable and Small BitsThe primary function of an IT Business Analyst is to help make work more manageable by breaking it into smaller pieces. Developing and testing are also made simpler by business analysts. These professionals ensure all projects are on track by documenting their progress. That means the best returns on your investments.Enhances CommunicationIT Business Analysts ensures the communication lines are kept open, that’s by filling any gaps in the case of breakdowns. They eliminate any confusion in the case of requirements, scope and testing by explaining the processes in a way that team members can understand. It means that the workplace efficiency is improved and tasks completed faster.Provides SupportIn the course of carrying out challenging tasks, the project managers may be overwhelmed by budgets, reports, schedules and other issues. Business analysts can step in and help by providing them with professional support to the team members, project managers and sponsors. The result will be improved returns and faster completion of projects.Increases the Business ReturnsProfessional IT Business Analysts know how to increase the company’s potential benefits and returns. For example, they know how to uncover or discover new business needs and ensure that your business priorities are focused on bringing the best value. Remember that they use the best Business Analyst Tools to arrive at their decisions.What 2018 Holds For IT Business AnalystsAs far as the role of Business Analysts is concerned, the year 2018 offers them new predictions. That’s because new Business Analysts Tools provide them with more chances to improve the operating systems of companies.These professionals will be tasked with many projects that include project and testing management. Many will offer their services on a specialist basis, for example, cost-benefit analysis, scoping and other project requirements.For those with business analysis backgrounds, they will continue their migration towards critical and influential positions in different areas of the organization. The result may be a change in their titles, which may result in disagreement or confusion over their exact job description and responsibilities.How to Hire the Best IT Business Analyst• If you’re asking yourself whether you need to hire a Business Analyst or a project manager, you need to consider the value that each of them brings to your organization or project. In some instances, the project manager may have vast expertise.• On the other hand, the business analyst may have experience and knowledge in examining information and other facts, which means they can provide your company with the right questions and carry out thorough research.• The primary factors for hiring an IT Business Analyst is that he or she can be able to break down information into several parts, document and workflows.• You need to ensure the business analyst you’re hiring has the best experience in the IT field which you need. It may seem like an obvious consideration, but you should remember that IT fields are different.• Other qualities you should consider are their industry knowledge, problem-solving skills and effective documenting. They will ensure you get the best results. Remember that any professional should be self-directed and motivated.• The business analyst should also have the best working skills and communication abilities. They will ensure that he or she works with your team to solve problems. Remember that it’s only through effective communication with your team members that the professional will able to bring you the best results.• When hiring them, make sure you have written agreements on how fast you should expect results, the processes involved and how much they will charge you. That will enable you to plan your budget estimates to ensure that no payment disputes occur during the work or after completion of the project. Compare quotes from different professionals before settling on the best one, who should have experience and provide you with competitive rates.ConclusionThe best IT Business Analyst should be able to use the latest Business Analyst Tools to ensure that your business improves its efficiency and profits. Consider hiring those who use the most recent software and have experience in your particular field.