Five Online Business Optimization Strategies

Running an online business gives entrepreneurs an incredible chance to expand and scale their operations. While offline business requires a physical presence — offices, retail outlets, and kiosks in every location — an online business can operate entirely with virtual storefronts and digital real estate. Expanding is simple, and scaling businesses to new heights can be achieved without the need for expensive outlets and physical locations.Still, there are some major errors that newbie online entrepreneurs tend to make when they scale their businesses. From expanding too quickly to moving in all the wrong directions, the road to running a large-scale online business is paved with potential potholes. These five strategies are designed to help you achieve worthwhile business optimization, and take your business to new heights without endless difficulties and setbacks.1. Stick to the 80/20 Principle.
Pareto’s Principle — known as the 80/20 principle — dictates that 80% of your returns — in this case, business profits — will come from just 20% of your actions. Your goal in running an internet business is not to do as much as you can, but to achieve as much as you can. Focus on the ultra-profitable 20% that contributes to your business, and eliminate as much of the fluff as you possibly can.2. Whenever possible, add products to service businesses.
Service businesses are a good short-term model, but as a long-term earning option alone, they are not good. The main issue with service businesses is the lack of scalability and long-term earnings potential. By running a service business, you are essentially tying a value to your time and working to that alone. It is an effective use of your time to create a product, and use your time to amplify its sales. Which leads us into the next strategy.3. Package and sell your information.
Informational products are a major hit, especially in the online world. From guides on mastering online business to simple how-to sets for learning a new skill, informational products make up a huge percentage of online sales. If you have got skills that would otherwise only be valuable in a service business, why not package them into an information product that you can sell online?4. Focus on marketing before you start your business.
The make-or-break component of any online business is that marketing. The internet is crowded, especially for small online businesses, and there is no chance to survive without a large customer or client base that knows how to find you. The world’s most profitable companies invested in marketing before they expanded their businesses, and you should too.5. Set a value for your time, and don’t waste it.
You have set up your online business, invested in some manual and paid marketing presences, and have started to earn over $100 a day. The only problem is that it is taking almost 12 hours to do it. There will be times, especially when running an online business, that you will rack up a reasonably impressive daily earnings total. Ignore it. Daily totals are deceiving and are not an accurate metric for judging online business success.What is much more valuable is the amount of time that goes into that income. Set a minimum value for your time, and create an online business that gives you options on where to spend it. Sometimes services might be worthwhile, other times product-based work might be the best solution. Either way, set a minimum cost for an hour of your time, and design a business that allows you to earn above it.

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?

Market Segmentation And Digital Marketing

Digital marketing is now firmly on the agenda when businesses are developing their go to market strategies, and this is something that seems set to continue in the coming years. Since the internet is able to appeal to large audiences and is able to get the brand identity of an organization communicated easier than before, it is possible to see exceptional business growth due to the rollout of this form of strategy.What some businesses are failing to keep in mind, however, is that the development and subsequent execution of digital marketing strategies is not always so simple and straightforward as portrayed by many. One thing to keep in mind is that of the business fundamental of market segmentation; that appealing to different types of people and different interests and the process of implementing this using the internet. What one segment of the market may like something that another segment may find boring or annoying; this simple point can affect how successful business marketing strategies are when implemented using digital technologies.When looking to develop strategies and generate interest from specific market segments it is important to remember the “message to market match” therefore however an organization appeals to a market segment will by definition depend on the content of the message and ensuring that message reaches its intended target market. As an example a company may be communicating a marketing message via an image or graphics which is in effect the same thing that is being said via a well written article, the image may end up being more successful if the target market segment has more visual people in it. The point being made if that different types of users are going to respond differently depending on the types of marketing strategies deployed, this marketing fundamental must be adhered to during the development and execution of online marketing strategies.Since there are so many different types of end users using the internet daily it means that organizations have to continually refine internet marketing strategies in order to gain a more detailed understanding of that which their target market segment audience[s] prefers. If any company is looking to market to a large audience using digital techniques; then it is going to have to pay attention to marketing to different segments using the internet. To take this further it will be necessary to further subdivide the internet as a marketing channel into sub channels. As an example we could consider…
Social media
Video
Podcasting / audio
Search engine marketing
… as sub channels [and the list could go on an on!] within the digital marketing realm, therefore companies have to use these sub channels in order to communicate its messages to specific market segments.It is critically important to make sure that all digital content is carefully crafted and delivered via the most appropriate sub digital marketing channel in order to generate the desired effect for the company. Consider consistently creating quality, appropriate [remember the "message to market match"?] and detailed [as appropriate] content designed to appeal via a combination of visual, auditory and kinesthetic modes in order to resonate with as many people as possible.As businesses of all sizes bring digital marketing more and more into their strategic mix, the question of market segmentation and making sure that the message of the organization first reaches its target market segment and secondly resonates with it needs to be high on the agenda of company executives. It is true to state that whilst many organizations may not like the extra work that goes into developing strategic digital marketing strategies that takes the marketing segmentation fundamental into consideration, it is necessary if it hopes to appeal to as many market segments as possible that it has identified for the growth of the business.
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