Wednesday, November 26, 2014

EMAIL--Tricks to Get Them Opened and Read

image This article was written by Barry McKinley, SCORE Orange County Business Mentor

The average number of business emails received a day is 121 with estimates that will go to 140 by 2018.Emails continue to be an effective way to communicate with business associates, and potential clients. But because of poor design few get opened, read or acted upon. Developing and sending successful emails is no different than creating an impressive sale pitch. It takes time and some knowledge.

First of all you need to get the reader’s attention (always have a subject), a few attention grabbing examples;

“I’ll be honest with you”

“Let me start with an apology”

“I’ve completed my research for you”

“You’ll think I’m crazy”

“The rumor is true”

“Quick question”

The email needs to be short and sweet. More details can be given in a link or after the entire eye-catching facts have been given. Research has shown that long emails don’t get read.

Don’t’ waste space and the readers time on small talk, i.e.“How is your summer going? You’re certainly having great weather”, etc. 65% of all emails are first opened on a smartphone. So for the mobile viewers, keep your paragraphs short and snappy with lots of white space. Using bullet points or a numbered list is very effective.

Be sure in sending your email you use only the receivers name. Group emails instantly sends the message that they are not important and this is going to everybody. The most effective times and days to send emails are 2-5 P.M., Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday. Mornings, Mondays and Fridays are normally hectic times so the reader has far less time to look at or read your email.

The most effective emails also ask for a response with a deadline, “Let me know by 5:00 tonight”. In sales this is known as the “Call to Action”. Without a deadline it is easy for the reader not to respond, put aside or delete.

Humor can be effective in a business email; the attached example normally gets a response rate of higher than 45%

Subject: Quick Question

Hey Sally-

I haven’t heard back from you and that tells me one of 3 things;

1) You already chose a different company for this, and if that is the case

please let me know so I can stop bothering you

2) You’re still interested but haven’t had the time to get back

to me yet

3) You have fallen and can’t get up – in that case let me know and

I will call 911

Please let me know which one it is because I am starting to worry . . . Thanks in advance

Cheers, Barry

To summarize how to write effective attention getting emails, follow these simple guidelines;

1. Always use attention getting Subject Headings

2. Send on the days and times that are most effective

3. Don’t list multi receivers

4. Keep it short but interesting

5. Be clear what you are asking for

6. Ask for a response

7. Give the reader a deadline to act

8. Write fewer emails

Buying A Home Based Business Part 10: Disaster Planning

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This article was written by Mike Capsuto, SCORE Orange County Business Mentor

“Backup my hard drive! How do you put it in reverse?” Unknown

Owners of newly acquired home businesses spend their time making the business grow at a profitable rate with little thought to potential disasters. Could your business survive if it was down for a day, a week, a month or longer or had a loss of a major supplier or customer? Here are some startling facts:

• According to the National Fire Protection Association, 381,000 residential fires were reported in 2012 causing 9.8 billion dollars in property loss. Sixty percent spread to areas other than the area of origin.

• The FBI estimates that 10% of all laptops purchased in the US will be stolen within the first year of ownership. Of those, only 3% will be recovered. It took businesses an average of 9 days and $49,000 in lost sales, replacement cost etc. to get operational again. In addition, 7 million smart phones were reported lost in 2011. Many were loaded with or had links to critical business data.

• Google reported 1 out of 14 hard drive crashes within 3 years.70 percent of small firms that experience a major data loss go out of business within a year.

• A Microsoft Security Intelligence Report estimated that 16 million new viruses are generated every two years.

• Based on the Council for Disability Awareness risk calculator, a healthy male age 35 has a 21% chance of having a disability lasting over 3 months before reaching the age of 65. The chance is 24% for a female in that same age group. The percentage increases by 14% for both males and females if they are overweight or use tobacco.

• The National Highway Safety Administration estimates that 2.4 million people are injured in automobile accidents each year.

• Over 47,000 business and 1.2 million non-business bankruptcies are filed annually according to the U.S. Courts.

• A study developed by the University of Minnesota found that a business which was put out of commission for as little as four and a half days, experienced up to a 50% loss in its capacity to operate.

What would happen to your livelihood if any of above adverse events were to occur?A disaster can happen the moment you take ownership of the business. Can you get your business back up and running quickly? Disaster threats are inherent part of being in business. They can be managed and their adverse events can be lessened through proper risk management.

Threat Sources

The first step in risk management is identifying the sources of threats. Threats can arise from natural disasters, auto accidents, risky personal activities, tax or regulatory changes, projects the business undertakes, failures in maintaining financial records or quality products, disruptions to operations from fire or power outages and family emergencies. These factors are not dangerous unless there is a corresponding business risk.

Risk Assessment

Next identify the risks that can occur within each source. Risks can include fire, burglary, arrests, data loss, or bankruptcy of a major customer or supplier. Once the risks are identified, assign a probability of occurrence such as high, medium,or low to each one. A high risk is likely to happen. A low risk is unlikely to occur.

Determine the Recovery Window

Key measures of the risk is the severity of the recovery time. The longer the recovery time the greater the impact to business operations. Most home based businesses have great difficulty recovering if the business is down for more than 3 days. Rate the recovery window as low, medium or high. If the business can recover within one day rate the recovery window is low. If it will take more than 3 days rate the recovery window as high.

Preventative Measures

Whether the risk is rated as high, medium or low, each risk requires an evaluation. Low risks with high or low recovery windows has the option of either accepting as is or doing some preventative measures. High risks with high recovery windows requires immediate attention. Others should be taken care of as soon as possible. Methods of reducing the impact of risks include avoiding risky activities, buying insurance against the risk or assigning the corresponding activities to a partner, supplier or creating a separate entity to handle the risk. The following brief scenario outlines the application of the above steps.

RB is a healthy 35 year old male. He weight lifts at the local gym three days a week. He also plays golf once during the week and on Saturday. After each golf game he has a few drinks at the golf club with his golfing partners and drives home. His home is over 20 years old and his office is in a room next to the kitchen.

Identifying the Threat

Risky Personal Activities:

• Weight lifting

◦ Risk assessment: Back injury

◦ Probability of occurrence: Low

◦ Recovery Window: High; > 3 days

◦ Preventative measures: Wear back brace; reduce weights; obtain disability insurance; business continuity insurance.

• Drinking and driving

◦ Risk assessment: Auto accident, DUI arrest, injury, loss of reputation. Legal fees, fines and bail could cost $10,000, more if property damage or personal injury to others are involved. This is money the business could use.

◦ Probability of occurrence: Medium (higher than a non-drinker; could be rated high if there is a history of drinking and driving, traffic violations or auto accidents).

◦ Recovery window: High, > 3 days, longer if convicted of DUI.

◦ Preventative measures: Carpool with a designated driver, stop drinking.

Home Emergencies:

• Proximity to kitchen:

◦ Risk assessment: Fire (most fires start in the kitchen and migrate quickly to other areas).

◦ Probability of occurrence: Low

◦ Recovery Window: High; > 3 days

◦ Preventative measures: purchase fire extinguishers; move office to other remote parts of the house; obtain fire and business continuity insurance;

• House over 20 years old:

◦ Risk assessment: Electrical fires; power outages.

◦ Probability of occurrence: Medium (most older homes are not electrically wired for the power requirements of a home based business and could result in fires or power outages).

◦ Recovery window: Medium < 3days unless there is a resulting fire.

◦ Preventative measure purchase fire extinguishers; rewire the house or office; obtain fire and business continuity insurance, obtain a backup power source.

The danger to home based businesses the business assets and records are normally in one location and the business is focused around one individual – the owner. An adverse event resulting from seemingly harmless activities can severely impact the ability of the business to operate. Sound risk management reduces the chance that a particular event will occur and, if it does, good risk management can reduce its impact and protect the business wealth.

Starting Your Business the Right Way

image This article was written by John Rau, SCORE Orange County Business Mentor

There are dozens of sites on the Web that have checklists that remind you of the many tasks you should perform before you open the doors to your business. The real importance of these checklists is to help you remember a lot of important steps that you might otherwise overlook. For example, the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) has provided a listing of the “10 Steps to Starting a Business” (see http://www.sba.gov/content/follow-these-steps-starting -business) which is summarized as follows:

 

 

Step 1 Write a business plan

Step 2 Get business assistance and training

Step 3 Choose a business location

Step 4 Finance your business

Step 5 Determine the legal structure of your business

Step 6 Register a business name such as “Doing Business As”

Step 7 Get a tax identification number

Step 8 Register for state and local taxes

Step 9 Obtain business licenses and permits

Step 10 Understand employer responsibilities

The above suggested steps by the SBA are only to “get you going”! Before opening your doors and capturing your first sale, there is the “last minute” type of checklist you need to examine to make sure you are “good-to-go”. In general, independent of the type of business you are planning, an illustrative listing (not necessarily all-inclusive) of the types of items you need to make sure you have considered is as follows:

1. Have you prepared a master plan and schedule that shows at least weekly for the next six months and monthly thereafter for the subsequent six months that shows all activities and tasks you need to perform to get your business going? Such activities would include staffing and hiring, marketing and advertising, and attendance at trade shows and industry-related events. You will need the schedule to track your activities and measure your performance. Consider your master plan and schedule an integral part of your time management system which is important when trying to get your new business venture started.

2. Do you have an agreement in place with your key family members where everybody agrees with what you are venturing into and everyone understands the risks and potential family stresses that might occur? You’ve got to have “buy in” so as to not jeopardize marital and other family relationships.

Referring to the SBA Step 4, do you have your business banking account opened and do you have a relationship (such as credit lines, loan agreements, etc. as applicable) with your banker to help you deal with any financial issues that may arise in the course of running your business? Keep in mind that most start-up businesses don’t generally show profits for at least 6-9 months and perhaps even longer. You should have a budget in place to account for this and your banker can provide guidance to you.

3. Have you made a list of all the key functions (such as human relations/personnel, advertising, financial operations, sales and marketing, employee training, etc.) that will need to be performed in the course of running your business and have you made assignments in the sense of who will be responsible for performing these functions? In the beginning, you may be the one that has this initial responsibility, but, as your business grows, you will need to delegate these functional responsibilities to others in your company.

4. Are your record keeping and accounting systems ready to go? Do you have an accountant who can help you with setting up your bookkeeping structure, tax planning strategy and payroll setup?

5. Referring to SBA Step 10, if you plan to hire employees, do you have a plan for preparation of an employee handbook that spells out all business rules and policies that are consistent with applicable labor laws and regulations?

6. Do you have legal service available to you if you need it? It would be prudent to have your attorney review all lease and rental agreements, as well as all other potential liability agreements and contracts, before you sign them.

7. Have you researched and do you understand all applicable laws and regulations that may pertain to the operation of your business? These would include at, a minimum, laws and regulations dealing with environmental issues (such as storage and use of hazardous materials) and workplace health and safety issues.

8. Have you identified all local, state and federal agencies that may have regulatory oversight regarding your business operations? You may have identified these agencies in your business plan (SBA Step 1), but once you commence business operation there may be reporting requirements and forms that you will need to fill out and submit on a periodic basis. Make sure you list these requirements in your master plan and schedule.

9. Have you given consideration to an Advisory Board to help guide you through the operation of your business? Having a “sounding board” of knowledgeable people to consult with as you go down the path of being an entrepreneur will help keep you on track and can give you guidance as to how to deal with important business issues as they arise. It could be a “lonely journey” without friends to talk to!

10. Have you met all of your business insurance requirements? If you are going to run a professional services company, you may need professional liability insurance. If you plan to manufacture and/or distribute products, you will probably need product liability insurance. If you hire employees, you will need Workers Compensation insurance. Depending on the size of your business in terms of number of employees, you may need to provide health insurance. You can expect to need business property insurance (fire and theft) and your landlord will want to be named as an additional insured. The point here is that you should have an insurance agent/advisor who can help you get all required coverage in place before you start your business. Remember, insurance costs need to be budgeted for in operating your business.

11. If you need office equipment (such as furniture, computers, copiers, telephones, etc.) and/or production equipment and related machinery and tools to operate your business, have you made all the necessary arrangements to make sure these essentials are in place when you open your doors?

12. Do you have sales and marketing brochures and literature completed along with scheduled advertising programs identified and ready to be implemented? Your marketing plan should have been presented in your business plan (SBA Step 1). Now is the time to implement it.

13. Have you done your “pricing homework”? If you are starting a services business, do you know what to charge for your services? If you are going to sell and/or distribute products, do you know what to charge for these products? Remember that pricing your products or services is one of the most important business decisions you will make. You must offer your products or services for a price your target market is willing to pay and one that produces a profit for your company; otherwise, you won’t be in business for long. You should have this information in place before you ever talk to a customer.

14. Could your business benefit from the use of social media such as Facebook, Twitter, etc.? If so, do you have a plan for doing so? If applicable, this should be an integral part of your marketing plan that you could probably start early in your start-up activities.

15. Do you plan to have a web site? If so, you will need to not only design it but also select your domain name. These are things you can do before you open your doors.

If your business involves manufacturing and/or distributing products, then there are some additional checklist type items that you need to consider such as:

1. Have you identified your vendors, suppliers and distributors that you will need and do you have agreements in place?

2. If you will need any special equipment and tooling to operate your business, have you placed orders and made arrangements to get these items delivered to you so as to not delay the start of business operations?

3. Do you have a system devised for tracking inventory and determining when to reorder?

4. Do you have quality control procedures and processes defined to be implemented when you start manufacturing and inspection operations? If you are going to be required to have ISO and/or UL type certification for your products, then investigating what is involved before opening your doors would be a prudent thing to do.

5. If you are either importing or exporting goods, do you know what is involved such as applicable U.S. Customs regulations and the use of Customs brokers if necessary? This is an example of the type of homework you could do before starting your business. There may be applications and registration type forms that you could get completed and submitted before opening your doors.

6. If you have any intellectual property such as patentable products, copyrights and trademarks that you would like to protect, than have you taken the necessary steps to do this? Registering copyrights and trademarks can be done in a relatively short period of time, but filing for utility patent protection can take 2-3 years before the patent is issued. Hence, why wait? Start this process as soon as possible.

Admittedly, all of the above checklist type items may not apply to your particular new business venture, but you should at least peruse them to make sure you haven’t forgotten anything. The key is to get as much of a running start as possible. Remember SCORE counselors can not only help you with the preparation of your business plan but also with the steps required to run a successful business.