Website Checklist: 5 Critical Things Your Small Business Website Should Have

When planning on creating a new website for their business, many small business entrepreneurs feel overwhelmed. Now that is understandable as creating a new website for your business is not something that should be taken lightly.

Your business website is essential to the success of your business in today’s highly digitalized and overly connected world. Before ever committing to building the website you need to think carefully about what your website needs to succeed.

Of course, you can get the services of an expert to help you with this. However, here are some of the essentials to get you started.

Steps to a successful business website

1. A Concise Address

The key to creating a strong web address is not making it more complicated than it has to be. It makes no sense to make the address long and complex. This just makes it more difficult for people to read and remember. Your web address should say something about your brand and what you do. It can be one word, or it can combine your brand name with a word that summarizes the service you provide. But try to keep it simple and on message for the best possible outcomes.

2. A Navigable Layout

A website that is too complicated and difficult to find your way around is always a failure. People have very short attention spans when they’re browsing the internet, so you need to satisfy their needs quickly. If you fail to do that, they will quickly leave your website and find a better one to use. You should take advantage of free web templates if you want to find out how to achieve an easy to navigate layout. This will take a lot of the work and confusion out of the process for you too.

3. Contact Information

Every business should see the importance of making it as easy as possible for potential customers to get in contact with them. If you don’t make it simple for them to ask you a question or contact you via email or phone, you could lose a customer permanently. It doesn’t take much time to include your contact details at the top of the page, so make sure you put them there. It’s also a good idea to create an ‘About’ section on the website, so people can find out more about the business.

4. Obvious Calls to Action

You should tell your visitors exactly what you want them to do when they log onto your website. That doesn’t mean only giving them one option; it means pointing them in the direction you want them to go in. Of course, they’ll make their own decision. But if you don’t make it clear what link they should click, they might not be sure where everyone on the website is. So, make sure you have a bar at the top of the page that makes it all clear. You could also use banner adverts that link to specific parts of your website.

5. A Friendly Design and Style

Making sure your content is simple to read and understand is only possible if you have a design and style that’s user-friendly. This means picking the right colors. They need to be clear and simple. Making them too bold and loud is never a good idea. And making sure the fonts stand out and can be read clearly against the background is also vital. The fonts should also be chosen very carefully for their readability. The simple fonts are always better. Classic, minimal designs are very popular at the moment, so you could consider one of these.

Conclusion

While there are a few other things that your business new website needs to succeed, at the very least, ensure the above is not missing. Your customers will love you for it and your business will be the better for it!

Startup Business Funding: How to Finance Your Startup With Ease!

In our day and time, coming up with business ideas is really not a problem. All around us there are opportunities that make business ideas pop into our minds now and then. However, not many of us take these ideas forward.

The truth really is, coming up with some great idea is not what puts food on the table. An idea will amount to nothing except you package it into something people will be ready pay you for.

Now, you need funds that will help you transform that great idea into a salable product or service. And, this is where many have problems. But you don’t have to give up.

Here are a few tips on how to get that much needed finance for your new startup business.

Startup Business Funding

How to Get Funds to Finance Your New Startup!

1. Draw Up a Plan and Keep Costs Low

Before you start looking for money to finance your startup, you need a solid business plan that outlines the money you’re going to need to get the business off the ground. You need to be realistic about how much money you’ll need but keep your forecasted costs as low as you can.

Remember, you can’t leave anything out when you’re creating your plan. If you do, nobody will take you or your business seriously when it comes to looking for financing. Factor in the cost of creating your products, hiring staff, web design, your premises, insurance and anything else that’s specific to your business.

2. Loans

Some banks are still a little reluctant to take risks and lend to startups. But if you have a good idea and you have a plan to back you up, there’s still a chance of you getting a loan. Credit unions and community banks could be easier to loans from if you’re starting a small business, explore all the options open to you.

Be careful to make sure you can manage the repayments on the loan though. Don’t take out a loan with high-interest rates. Short-term loans are not meant for starting businesses, so don’t be tempted by the offer of quick cash that they provide you with. It’ll only end badly for you.

3. Investors

If your idea is great, you might be able to attract investors. They’ll put money into the business for a share of it in return. There are some downsides to this as it means you have to sacrifice a proportion of your business to someone else, but that’s the tradeoff that you need to weigh up and consider.

So, how do you find an investor? There’s no easy answer to that question. There are some investors that are always on the lookout for new ideas, and you’ll be able to contact them through an agent. But sometimes, the best way to find an investor is to network and make contacts in the industry – it’s the best way to meet influential people.

4. Crowdfunding

Crowdfunding is the new kid on the block in terms of business financing. It’s something that has really exploded over the last 5 years because of new websites. These websites bring together people with business ideas and people who want to see that business succeed, and they can do that by putting their own money into it.

It’s a very democratic way of starting a business because it transfers power into the hands of ordinary people. It’s up to you what you offer people in turn for them putting money forward. You could offer them shares in the business or something simple like a t-shirt of other merchandise products.

Conclusion

Financing your business startup is the first of many hurdles you’ll have to clear as an entrepreneur, but don’t let the scale of the challenge hold you back. Put the above tips to use today and you’ll soon see your ideas fly into life!

Do You Really Need A Business Plan To Succeed In Business?

It’s yet another Monday and as usual it is time for our Community Timeout here on the Web Income Journal!

(Every Mondays we discuss issues that touch our lives as bloggers and web entrepreneurs. If you have any question or issue you want us to discuss, feel free to send your suggestions using this form.)

Today I want us to discuss a very important issue that many of us have come to accept as essential when it comes to succeeding in business – a business plan.

A few years ago, a successful business mogul from my area came up with a Reality TV show, “The Apprentice” aimed at selecting a few budding entrepreneurs to be mentored by this entrepreneur who had succeeded in different business ventures.

The first qualification for anyone to be selected for the program was a well written business plan and of course, the ability to defend this plan and being able to convince the Judges that your business was worth it!

Watching that reality show and observing the young men and women defending their business plans immediately convinced me beyond any doubt that it is NOT really the best business plan that makes any one succeed as an entrepreneur.

Now, my conviction then was not because I had any problems with writing business plans but because I saw many of these people speak with passion about their intended businesses but it was clear that many of them do not have the knowledge of writing great business plans!

Of course, as expected many of these ones lost out while those with good business plans, strategically laid out and detailing every aspect of their intended businesses, were selected and given the opportunity to participate in the program.

Now, this brings us to the topic of the day…

business plan and succeeding in business
As a Recipe to a delicious meal so a Business Plan to business success, right?

 

Business Plans – How Much Do They Really Contribute To Succeeding In A Business?

Do you really need a business plan before you can succeed in your business?

I decided to bring up this topic after reading a blog post on the Harvard Business Review Blog Network titled, “Great Businesses Don’t Start with a Plan!”

In the post, Anthony K. Tjan, the author of the post, categorically stated that from a survey carried out on hundreds of successful entrepreneurs around the globe, aimed at better understanding what it takes to be an entrepreneur and build a really great business, it was discovered that about 70% of those who succeeded in their business and had a successful exit (that is, an IPO or sale to another firm), none of them started with a business plan!

I’m sure you will want to disagree with that since every business book and advice always go something like this,

“To succeed in any type of business, you must have a business plan. Without a business plan you are heading towards failure because if you fail to plan; you are planning to fail!”

On the contrary however, Anthony wrote:

“[These entrepreneur’s] journeys originated in a different place, a place we call the Heart. They were conceived not with a document but with a feeling and doing for an authentic vision. Clarity of purpose and passion ruled the day with less time spent writing about an idea and more time spent just doing it.”

So don’t worry too much about a business plan. But to guide your thinking, improve a pitch to prospective investors, or better align your teams, consider these design points:

1. Identify and clearly articulate your Heart and purpose. Whether you want to call it vision, Heart, purpose or calling, be very clear on the why of a business — the bigger goal at hand.

2. The team is more important than any idea or plan. The top three priorities should be people, followed by people, and then people.

3. Think big, start small, then scale or fail fast. Per Lederhausen’s advice, set the right first “start small” milestone; it will usually involve seeing people’s willingness to buy or at least try your product.

4. Focus on a well-defined market sub-segment or niche. At least to start, think of where you can potentially be the best. This strategy is almost always more successful than being just another player in a massive market.

5. Understand your business model. How you will make money is more important than pages of Excel showing financials that are simply too hard to predict at this early stage anyway. Understand instead the basic way you will make money – is it through transactions, advertising, subscriptions, etc?

Hmm, you may want to call that breaking the rules to succeed in business!

Your turn: The question is, do you think Anthony K. Tjan and his team got it wrong somewhere? Can you say that from your experience a detailed business plan is necessary before you can start a successful business? Or, do you agree with their findings?

Please let’s have your contribution in your comments below. As usual, make your comments useful and valuable.  That way you will be of help to other readers. So the discussion begin!

Image credit: Flickr user – ocean.flynn

4 Simple Blogging Tips That Drive Traffic and Results!

Setting up a blog these days is not a problem. It doesn’t matter whether you’re using a free blogging platform like Blogger.com or a self hosted WordPress blog like the WebIncomeJournal.com. The problem of blogging is how to succeed with your blog once you’ve set it up. If you’re just starting out you need to know what is involved and if you’ve been blogging for some time now you need to what to concentrate on in order succeed as a blogger.

Unfortunately, the ease of starting a blog has made more and more people  jump into the band wagon of making money blogging. Right now the number of blogs in cyber space is so much that the problem faced by bloggers is, how to succeed blogging with all the number of blogs out there. From what is happening right now it does appear maintaining the success of your blog should really take more of your time than anything else.

From my personal experience I’ve come to realize that this is truly a serious question more than what the average blogger would want to consider. Since starting the Web Income Journal, I’ve learnt a few things which are really necessary for a blog to become successful. Some of these things include the subject of the blog, the popularity of the blog and most times the design and layout of the blog.

Tips for driving traffic to your blog

However, beyond all of these, the ability to properly promote and market a blog to reach a large audience of those interested in the blog’s subject matter will to a greater extent impact on the success of the blog. Using this blog as a guinea pig, I’ve in the last few months learnt some profound lessons on creating a successful blog. I’ve tried different things while watching the stats. From these tests I’ve come to understand that if you truly want to create a successful blog you should have a plan to implement the following.

1. Dedicate To a Regular Posting Schedule

I’ve found this to be an important factor to maintaining a successful blog. When you post regularly your dedicated blog visitors are given the incentive to keep returning to the blog. However, when you allow your blog to become stagnant, the motivation to keep coming would be lost. Of course, some blog readers may visit a blog initially just by chance, maybe from the search engines or from another blog, but once they become committed to your blog they need the incentive to keep returning to your blog and this is based, most times, on the content which you provide on a regular basis. If you’re able to set a regular posting schedule and you keep to it, the readers are given the motivation to return to the blog often in anticipation of new postings.

It doesn’t matter if you’re able to post very lengthy and in depth blog post. Personally I spend hours writing my blog posts because I always want something substantial. Because of this, I’ve discovered that my postings are not always regular as I want to.

Though it is something that I do not fancy so much, but I’ve come to learn from some of the blogs I visit that, by simply posting a one or two paragraph blog post asking a question on a regular basis, you’ll be able to garner much responses from the blog readers than posting a 1000+ word article once a week.

This shows that it is not the depth or length of the article but the ability to keep the conversation going that really matters in creating a successful blog. Posting a relatively short blog entry offering only a small amount of information when you’re unable to provide an in depth article can really be enough to keep the blog readers interested. Blog readers are simply looking for a certain degree of sustenance. What they expect is a blog that is regularly updated with new posts.

2. Have a Good Understanding of Your Blog’s Audience

Of course this is related to point #1 above. Many bloggers believe that choosing and focusing on a rather exclusive niche is what brings success as a blogger. Indeed, this has its advantage but most times the subject matter is not the only important aspect. You should be able to understand your target audience and this goes beyond focusing on a niche.

Some of the things you should understand about your target audience are, what type of information do your blog readers want? How do they want it? Do they prefer short and brief posts or do they enjoy it more when you post lengthy articles? How about bullet points in posts, is this more appealing to the blog readers?

Understanding these things will help you tailor your blog posts to your readers’ taste. You should provide the information in a way in which the visitors can process them more easily because this is as important as providing quality information. So ultimately, it is the blog readers that should determine what you should post and how you are to post it!

3. Making and Evaluating Changes to Your Blog

Testing and tracking is something that internet marketers are very good at. The purpose of testing and tracking is to effect changes that will impact on the success of the venture. This is very important also in blogging.

If you want to succeed as a blogger you should learn how to make changes to your blog carefully and then evaluate the effects these changes have on the blog traffic. This is critical because a blog which is already successful can be doomed to failure if the blogger makes a change which is not appreciated by the dedicated visitors and does not address the concerns of the readers. To avoid this potential problem, bloggers should be careful to only make one change at a time and to allow ample time to evaluate the effect the change has on the traffic as well as the comments from readers before deciding whether to reverse the change or make additional changes.

As you are aware of I made some drastic changes on this blog barely a month ago. One of these is the new commenting policy and the discontinuation of the top commentators monthly reward. Since introducing these changes traffic to this blog has not only reduced but also the comments. Now, I anticipated this because I knew that many of those visiting and posting comments here are only doing so because of the dofollow backlinks this blog offer them. In fact, from careful study I discovered that many of the comments are from affiliate marketers promoting affiliate programs whose sole reason for posting comments here is to build backlinks. These people rarely read the blog post. They simply load the page, post their comments and they are off to the next blog. These are also the people who will not link their avatar to their email address. In fact many of them are simply using throw-away email addresses.

This was what motivated me to make it one of the terms in the new commenting policy that every commenter must have a avatar to their email. It will interest you to know that since adding that term, I’ve deleted not less than 50 comments in the last couple of weeks. Of course, this may be too tough a drastic stand to take but I’ve come to know that bloggers who are really interested in networking and building a relationship, which we want here, are much more open to display who they are or their brand image in their gravatar. We don’t want some faceless ‘bloggers’ jumping from one blog to the other.

The point I’m trying to make here is that if you want to increase your blog traffic you can run into problems if you make too many changes and do not evaluate how these changes are affecting the blog’s traffic. A better strategy would be to make small changes one at a time and evaluate the effect of the change carefully before making more changes. Of course the changes I introduced here have affected the traffic drastically but I expected that from the beginning. I only went ahead with these changes because I have a purpose for them. And so as the wise one did say, look before you leap!

4.  Networking and Using Social Media

This is another very important thing to focus on if you desire success with your blog. As it is rightly said, no man is an island to himself. The same goes for a blog – no blog is an island to itself!

I must confess that I’ve not really been too involved in promoting through social media like twitter, facebook and the new entrant Google plus. However, after a careful evaluation of the happenings online, I’ve come to understand that without setting aside some dedicated time to promoting and networking with other bloggers using social media and other forms like email, your blog’s success can be hampered. With this, I’ve decided to be committed to actively networking on twitter. As a first step I’ve changed my twitter from profitmc to @IncomeMC and also changed my twitter avatar from the brand image I was using to my personal picture. I’ve also created a profile on Google+ and I’m working on revamping our facebook fans page!

Let me use this opportunity to invite you to follow me on twitter @IncomeMC and also to ask that you add me to your circles on Google plus. Our facebook fanpage is here. Feel free to like our page if you’ve not done so. For one if you do any of these, I’ll definitely reciprocate by following back!

You cannot rule out social media in your blog success story anymore. With the search engines now using the interactions and activities on your blog as one of the criteria of ranking it on the search engine results pages (SERPs), you definitely cannot ignore it.

Conclusion

You desire success with your blog; there is no dispute about that. But one thing you should know is, your blog is not about you, it is about your blog readers. They are truly the determinants of the blog’s success. If you give them what they want, they will readily give you what you desire. So threat your blog readers with utmost care. They are your customers and as you know, The Customer Is King! And you can help me say it loud and clear, LONG LIVE THE KING! 🙂

 

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