Five steps to create a social media content plan

Courtesy of Lightful.com

Tereza Litsa  9 min read

It’s really important to be strategic about your social media, otherwise, you may find yourself spending time and resource on managing it but not knowing if it’s actually working. As we explained in our post on social media content planning, there are lots of benefits to creating a content plan. But how do you get started with your social media content plan?

We’re assuming you’ve already set your SMART goals but if not, here’s how to set SMART goals for social media. It’s very important to do this first.

Five steps to create a social media content plan for your organisation:

1. Decide what type of content you’ll create

Start thinking of the type of content that could resonate with your supporters. A good way to make your content stand out is to try different formats:

  • Text
  • Image
  • Video
  • GIFs
  • Infographics

The good news is that you don’t have to have a big team to experiment with new content types as there are many free online tools to help you. To get started, analyse what you have posted before – say over the last 3 to 6 months – to see which content was the most successful and then explore what you can create next.

If you’ve found success in previous posts with image quotes, then this is an indication that you need to try something similar. However, you can also test new ideas by turning stories into short videos, for example.

Pick the right channel

The next step is to decide on the best content for each of your channels.

  • Facebook is ideal for visual content, with images and videos bringing more engagement. Moreover, it may be a good idea to try out Facebook Live. It helps you stay close to your supporters, boosting your engagement while keeping them up-to-date with news, Q&As or events.
  • Twitter also needs images or video to increase engagement. Consider adding relevant and appropriate GIFs to your tweets as a quick and easy way to interact with your supporters.
  • LinkedIn is a great platform for sharing links to news stories, training, conferences or events and professional updates, while Instagram is all about great images and video that tell a story.

Decide on the frequency

How often should you post on each platform? There’s no magic answer to this question, but here’s some best practice guidance.

  • Facebook: Facebook wants you to focus on engagement so every post should be interesting enough for your supporters to like, share, or comment. As a general rule, aim for 2-4 posts per week. It’s about quality, not quantity.
  • Twitter: Twitter is all about real-time interaction. There’s no limit to the number of tweets that you can post daily, provided that you are adding value. Aim for 2-4 tweets a day, or if you have more creative ideas, you can schedule even more. At least a third of those tweets should be replying to people or having conversations.
  • LinkedIn: LinkedIn is a great platform to build your professional network and to keep up to date with peers and colleagues. As a charity, post when you have an important announcement to share, relevant news, top tips or campaigns that are relevant to that audience. Aim for between 1-3 posts per week.
  • Instagram: This platform requires high quality, creative images or video. If you regularly have access to great images or great ideas for video, then you can potentially aim for 1-2 weekly posts.

A good way to find out your ideal posting frequency is to experiment with your weekly schedule. If you start posting more frequently on a platform, but you don’t see an increase in engagement, then this means that you should focus on quality rather than quantity.

2. Get inspired by new ideas

Inspiration is a good thing, especially before planning your content. If you’d like to test new ideas and creatives, then have a look at other social profiles from organisations, influencers and brands outside of the sector. Take a look at the hashtag #CharityTuesday every week to find inspiration. You never know what might lead to a great idea for your own organisation.

Think of your upcoming campaigns, the events you’ll be running or the awareness days that are relevant to your organisation and come up with the content types that you’ll need to get people to stop scrolling and engage with your content.

One way to come up with new content ideas is to create content themes for the periods where you’re not running a specific campaign. For example, there are lots of opportunities throughout the year, from Dry January to International Women’s Day to Pride, that you can be part of.

You may also want to listen to what your supporters are talking about. They can help you plan your next campaign by paying attention to their needs and their concerns. Inspiration can be everywhere!

3. Plan your campaigns

Once you’ve found some inspiration, the next step is to create the actual copy for your posts. This stage is when you start thinking of your tone of voice, your message, the visuals or video and any other resources that you’ll need. This way you’re organised and have time to think strategically about the best channels to reach and engage your supporters.

It’s good to plan in advance as much detail of your campaign as possible, however not everything should be scheduled ahead of time.

Content you can plan in advance

You can organise your campaign’s content a few weeks before it actually goes live. This period gives you the flexibility to free up your time as you approach your campaign. You can either create the drafts to see an overview of what your campaign could look like or you can even go ahead and schedule them to be published.

Your social media profiles need to be kept active, whether you’re running a campaign or not. Promote your existing ‘evergreen’ content – such as information leaflets, stats, facts, case studies etc – to keep your social calendar filled throughout the year.

Content you can create in real time

Whilst it’s a good idea to save time by scheduling your content, there is still the need to engage with your supporters by replying to them or getting involved in real-time discussions. There will also be times when you will need to react and produce content, in real time, to trending topics that are relevant to your cause.

Tell your story

To make a connection between your cause and your supporters, tell authentic stories. Whether it’s the story of how your charity started, stories of the people you help or how you’re making an impact. Storytelling can make it easier for you to reach your goals of raising awareness, engagement, or securing donations.

A good way to make sure you’re using storytelling in social media is to create drafts of your posts so that you can see how they tell a story – from start to finish. You can go beyond a simple spreadsheet by trying our Story Builder in the Lightful Platform. It offers a quick and easy way to see the visual overview of your social posts across all channels for a particular campaign.

You can save them in a draft so that you can still adjust your content if needed when you get closer to your campaign launch. Having them all in one place means that you’ll still be able to see the whole picture of your campaign and how the narrative can develop.

The more organised you are through the pre-planning stage, the higher the chances of launching a successful campaign and reaching your goals.

4. Add the content to your calendar

Once you’ve decided on the content you need, it’s time to start scheduling it. It’s useful to have a bank of content ready for the days that you’ll be busy and have less time to spend on your platforms. That’s when a social content plan becomes handy. You can plan the next day, week, or month by scheduling your posts for each channel.

A good way to keep your social feed filled with content is to set up some time every week to schedule posts in advance. Whether it’s every Monday morning or towards the end of the week, it’s useful to get into the habit of doing this so that your social feeds are never empty.

Involve your colleagues

If you are part of a team running your organisation’s social accounts then you can turn the content creation process into a collaborative effort.

Our Lightful Platform allows you to involve multiple people in social media scheduling, whilst keeping editorial control through an approval process.

Be proactive, but also reactive

Scheduling content can help you feel more organised with your social strategy, but you still need to be prepared to be flexible if an opportunity presents itself. Whether it’s a viral fundraiser that suddenly takes off or a comms crisis, you’ll need to revise your scheduled posts and edit them accordingly.

5. Analyse results

Once you’ve got your new social media plan in place, don’t forget to regularly review the performance of your content. Your metrics will help you discover your most successful posts and your best performing platforms, both in terms of traffic and engagement, so that you can keep on creating the kind of content that people want.

What should you measure?

Start by setting up SMART goals to define your objectives and how you’ll achieve them. These goals should guide you on what you want to measure.

For example, if you want to increase traffic to a specific landing page as part of a campaign, then you want to measure the number of clicks to that page and which channel drove the most traffic.

If you want to increase your organisation’s social presence, then you would focus on growing your number of followers by posting engaging content regularly on social media and by following relevant accounts so that they may follow you back.

You can measure:

  • Best performing channels
  • Best performing posts
  • Best performing content types

The most common metrics rely on:

  • Awareness: reach, impressions, clicks
  • Growth of social accounts: followers
  • Engagement: likes, comments, shares, reactions
  • Fundraising objectives: increase in the number of donation and total donation amount

Once you start measuring the performance of your social posts, it should be easier to prove the value of social media to your colleagues, your manager, or your CEO.

How are you organising your social content? Any other tips you’d like to share with us? Tweet us @Lightful.

Plan, schedule and measure all your social media posts in one place!

Photo by Glen Carrie on Unsplash

An Accountability Partner Makes You Vastly More Likely to Succeed

Courtesy of Entrepreneur.com

Entrepreneurs, when left unbridled by proper governance, often run their businesses right off the rails. Many have done it. They often squander their venture capital funding before building a working prototype, hire too many employees without considering the impact on overhead and take a company in a different direction without first considering the market demand for what they are now pitching.

Despite the challenges, it is possible to increase one’s chances for success to a 95 percent rate. The American Society of Training and Development found that people are 65 percent likely to meet a goal after committing to another person. Their chances of success increase to 95 percent when they build in ongoing meetings with their partners to check in on their progress.

For any entrepreneur who wants to succeed, accountability is crucial. The key to success is to find the type of accountability that speaks to a particular style of communication and personality.

Peer networks.

Peer-to-peer networks focused on entrepreneurs offer two-way communication that enable founders to learn from each other and share their own experiences. These groups bring together entrepreneurs with like-minded perspectives and goals. They often offer tools and resources to help further each other’s ventures.

One large-scale example is EO, a global network for entrepreneurs that fosters peer-to-peer learning and provides connections for its members. EO hosts chapter-led forums and experiential events to further its mission of engaging leading entrepreneurs to learn and grow. It also recognizes that entrepreneurs are busy and therefore offers webinars, virtual courses and podcasts to make it easier for founders on the go to have digital access to the right training materials wherever they are.

Mentors.

Some entrepreneurs prefer to be held accountable on a more personal level, establishing a one-on-one relationship with a person who is experienced in a particular field and has achieved a high level of success. Ninty-three percent of small and mid-sized business owners said mentoring was helpful to their success.

Finding the right mentor can be the most difficult part of developing an accountability partnership. A mentor could be an investor, someone with a strong track record who runs a company similar in scope or a boss from an old job or institution that one admires. These are all people who are well-positioned for a mentor role, and many are flattered to be asked or to be introduced.

Applications.

Some entrepreneurs work best in a competitive setting. Apps create the kind of “leaderboard” experience they’re looking for. An app makes tracking numbers and the ruthless data these entrepreneurs crave easy.

Different accountability apps provide different experiences. Some, like StickK, motivate you by pledging money to a cause you despise if you fail to reach your goal. Coach.me matches you with a leadership coach in an area where you need development. Things has been designed to not only show you what’s on your plate, but to also show you a visual diagram of how close you are to the completion of a goal.

Entrepreneurs can easily lose sight of their goals and take their businesses in a completely different direction than they intended. The right kind of accountability can provide the insight they need to make themselves and their businesses better. Who’s holding you accountable?

Barrett WissmanGUEST WRITER

Photo by Ethan McArthur on Unsplash

The 7 ‘Senses’ of Self-Development

Courtesy of Entrepreneur.com

The most fulfilling path to success and personal fulfillment comes through the pursuit of your own self-development. The radically successful and happy immerse themselves in self-development and a deep interest in life and relationships. Through self-exploration they remain openly curious and passionate about their self-education and improvement. They hold the belief that they can only learn if they are willing to risk themselves personally and professionally.

Through life’s experiences, good and bad, you become able and ready to be proactive in all your efforts, challenges and successes. You choose to no longer wait for success or happiness or success, you go out and make it happen. Making a commitment to your own development is the first step on the path to living your personal legend.

1. Sense of self.

Self-improvement begins with a keen awareness of who you are, your values, beliefs and the larger purpose you wish to pursue. True satisfaction can only manifest from chasing your own dreams. Life, people and business can be hard and insensitive, so remind yourself that you are more than the sum total of other people’s opinions and continue pursuing what is meaningful to you.

The experiences you have in life can only have true meaning when you seek to understand them. To become a pristine student of life is to always remain teachable-ready. Examine how each experience life brings can be used for greater self-knowledge and better decisions going forward. As you gain a more solid sense of who you are you become ready to start planning, designing and pursuing your own identified goals and objectives.

Related: 12 Ways to Stop Undermining Your Self Esteem

2. Sense of curiosity.

To live successfully, be endlessly curious about all the possibilities your future holds. It is important to have an unquenchable thirst for your advancement and for adventure. Curiosity inspires you to push through the unusually painful trials and errors in your lif5e and business, leading. This type of resiliency is an acquired self-discipline which teaches you to cast your fears aside bringing you to the fullest experience of the adventures success can bring.

Curiosity creates a longing to know more and do more. It inspires that energy which makes it possible to see all situations as opportunities for your advancement. When you approach life and business with a sense of adventure, there is no situation, however limiting, physically or economically, which cannot be filled to the brim with the interest and curiosity of how it will all work out.

Without a sense of curiosity it is impossible to grow.

3. Sense of direction.

The more you develop yourself the more pristine you become in achieving what you want. This clarity makes decision-making easier because having a direction improves your ability to prioritize. You know which objectives are important in the short term and which are necessary for your long term.  With a sense of direction you become focused and effective.

There is nothing more organizing to an effort than being focused. Direction provides commitment. It is difficult to commit to something that has no foreseeable future or path. If you are filled with doubt and a lack of clarity there is no way to launch your ideas.  Self-development gives you direction, and thereby, the commitment to achieve your ends.

4. Sense of follow through.

Knowing what you want to achieve makes it easier for you to see the benefits of taking action. Even when the tasks at hand are not enjoyable, seeing the benefit of following through on them, will make it easier to motivate yourself into taking the necessary actions to achieve your set goals. There is much truth in the saying, when there is a will there is a way.

When you are committed to personal development, you always find a way to develop the necessary will. Your idea of success and the vision of what that will look like is where you grab your incentive to always follow through.

5. Sense of urgency.

A sense of urgency drives inspiration. Urgency creates the mindset to work as if your life depends upon it, especially if you have fewer resources than others. When you are the underdog you will dig deep inside yourself for the advances you need in order to thrive.

Urgency causes you activate quickly when making decisions. You get out of your routine and do something different.  It motivates you to get results quickly and efficiently, but it does not eliminate assessment. If want to produce getting results faster you must assess what is and what is not working, then eliminate the efforts which have been identified as wasteful. Keep in mind it is easier to steer a moving object, so if you realize you have made a poor decision, a sense of urgency allows you to adjust. If you wait too long you miss opportunities and chances.

6. Sense of resiliency.

There will be tough times in life and business. When tough times occur, you need the skills and attributes to deal effectively with them. Personal development cannot prevent all bad things from occurring but it helps you deal with obstacles as they surface.

Resiliency teaches you never to view any challenge as the end of the world. Resilience allows you the patience, awareness and fortitude to continue moving forward, even if that means completely changing course.

Self-development deepens your maturity to trust that everything happens for reasons which can only be in line with your best interest.  With this type of mindset, there is no obstacle that will hold you back. You will have greater confidence, pliability, and the personal and interpersonal skills to cope with any obstacle you face in climb up the ladder of success.

7. Sense of connectedness.

Relationships can be double-edged swords. They either lift you up or drag you down. They either bring you closer to your goals or push you further away. When you improve your personal development, you are better able to see which relationships and partnerships are worth investing in and which you need to cut loose. This type of self-awareness gives you the skills to make the best of the relationships which have a positive impact on your life, your business and your overall success.

If you aren’t learning then you aren’t living. Make the commitment to invest in your greatest resource – You. Many people are put off by personal development because it viewed as a weakness or something which shows you do not already possess the skills necessary for success. If you assume you already it all, you will not be happy or successful. The greatest achievers in life and business know the key to success is their ability to manage themselves in a variety of situations. That ability comes through personal development.

Sherrie CampbellCONTRIBUTOR

Photo by Johnson Wang on Unsplash

Isaac Olowolafe of Dream Maker Ventures Inc. and Ryerson launch Black Innovation Fellowship

Courtesy of thestar.com

For more information on the Black Innovation Fellowship, visit dmz.ryerson.ca/BIF.

For philanthropist Isaac Olowolafe Jr. founder of Dream Maker Corp, a diversified asset management company with divisions in real estate, development, property management and insurance and General partner of Dream Maker Ventures Inc. (DMV), breaking barriers, giving back and helping others was part of his upbringing, a virtue instilled in him by his parents.

Over the years Olowolafe has taken the path less traveled and broken many barriers in business: building a mixed-use condo and commercial development across from Yorkdale Mall and a boutique hotel near Toronto Pearson Airport, becoming the Jersey Sponsor of Canada Basketball’s Men’s and Women’s National Teams, and providing a donation to create the Isaac Olowolafe Jr. Digital Media Experience Lab at Ryerson.


The Black Innovation Fellowship (BIF) will be awarded to 10 startups led by Black entrepreneurs, providing access to Ryerson’s DMZ and zone network every year for a minimum of five years.  (ISAAC OLOWOLAFE JR. – PHOTO BY CHRISTINA GAPIC)

Olowolafe’s most recent endeavour is the Black Innovation Fellowship (BIF), created in partnership with Ryerson University. Olowolafe has kicked off a $1 million fundraising effort with his own lead gift to the initiative, and is bringing on funding partners for further support.

The fellowship, applications for which open in March, will be awarded annually to 10 startups led by Black entrepreneurs in Ryerson’s incubator network, such as the Biomedical Zone and the number-one ranked DMZ. Those young entrepreneurs will receive support and mentorship from established professionals who will help to connect them with investors and innovators.

The potential impact of these 50 companies is unprecedented. “If you’re helping 50 companies go through the top incubator in the country, that means they’re getting access to the top mentors, to the top corporations,” Olowolafe explains. “If they each hire an average of 10 employees, that’s 500 people. And if they raise X amount of dollars and generate X amount of revenue and X amount of taxes, that’s a big economic marker that doesn’t exist for the Black community right now, helping to #ChangetheNarrative.”

For Olowolafe, Ryerson was the obvious choice. “Everyone knows that to get into Ryerson’s DMZ and network of incubation zones, you have to be top calibre,” he says. “These are going to be Black-led companies that hit the exact same metrics that any other entering company hits. They just have better access now.”

As Olowolafe explains, access is the key factor determining an entrepreneur’s ability to grow. Olowolafe was born in Nigeria but grew up in Woodbridge, where he still lives. “By being in that community, I was given access to people who were in development, investment and other enterprises, and that type of exposure allowed me to gain more knowledge at an early age,” he says.

As his business continued to flourish, Olowolafe pondered ways he could offer access, opportunities and resources to his community. “Through the Black Innovation Fellowship, there are three things we’re hoping to do,” he says, “Create access, realize excellence and have social and economic impact.” For many up-and-coming entrepreneurs of colour, the fellowship will provide a huge boost.”

“The Black Innovation Fellowship will maximize success for enterprises led by Black entrepreneurs by giving them access to the network of supports built into Ryerson’s innovation ecosystem,” says Mohamed Lachemi, president and vice-chancellor, Ryerson University.

Dream Maker Ventures has also been quietly building a strong portfolio and supporting the Tech ecosystem through investments into notable companies like Hopper, Hubba, Smooth Commerce and Gimme360.

Olowolafe and team are now launching a $75-million DMV Diversity Fund, which will invest in traditionally underrepresented entrepreneurs with a focus on racial minorities and women. “Once companies go through incubation, the biggest problem will be raising capital,” he explains. “If the fit is right, DMV may be available to invest in these and other promising enterprises, and that’s powerful because then they can go to another VC fund and say they have a lead investor who’s taking a chance on them.”

The BIF was developed with Newton Asare, Managing Director of Dream Maker Ventures and Ryerson DMZ alumnus: “The program complements our mission with the Diversity Fund. It will help Black founders access the resources needed to build great companies through a world-class institution like Ryerson.”

Along with the fund, the team has also recently launched DreamSuites, exclusively for the tech ecosystem that will provide access to furnished housing for entrepreneurs across the city.

With these barriers removed, Black entrepreneurs will be much more able to fully participate in the innovation economy. “When you look at Toronto — a very multicultural city — you’d be hard pressed to find a lot of Black developers on the construction side, and Black-led incubator programs or venture funds,” says Olowolafe.

“Isaac’s vision and insight will contribute to the changing face of entrepreneurship in Canada, and we are grateful for his leadership,” says Lachemi.

For more information on the Black Innovation Fellowship, visit dmz.ryerson.ca/BIF.

The Complete, 12-Step Guide to Starting a Business

Matthew McCreary ENTREPRENEUR STAFF

Courtesty of Entrepreneur.com

Allow ACBN to help you through the 12 steps…after reading remember to learn more about membership here

There are no limits on who can become a great entrepreneur. You don’t necessarily need a college degree, a bunch of money in the bank or even business experience to start something that could become the next major success. However, you do need a strong plan and the drive to see it through.

If you’re on Entrepreneur, odds are you already have the drive, but you might not know how to start building your empire. 

That why we are here.

Check out this step-by-step guide to help turn your big idea into a successful business.

1. Evaluate yourself.

Let’s start with the most basic question: Why do you want to start a business? Use this question to guide what kind of business you want to start. If you want extra money, maybe you should start a side hustle. If you want more freedom, maybe it’s time to leave your 9-to-5 job and start something new.

Once you have the reason, start asking yourself even more questions to help you figure out the type of business you should start, and if you have what it takes.

  • What skills do you have?
  • Where does your passion lie?
  • Where is your area of expertise?
  • How much can you afford to spend, knowing that most businesses fail?
  • How much capital do you need?
  • What sort of lifestyle do you want to live?
  • Are you even ready to be an entrepreneur?

Be brutally honest with your answers. This will create a foundation for everything you do moving forward, so it’s better to know the truth now than later.

2. Think of a business idea.

Do you already have a killer business idea? If so, congratulations! You can proceed to the next section. If not, there are a ton of ways to start brainstorming for a good idea. An article on Entrepreneur, “8 Ways to Come Up With a Business Idea,” helps people break down potential business ideas. Here are a few pointers from the article:

  • Ask yourself what’s next. What technology or advancement is coming soon, and how will that change the business landscape as we know it? Can you get ahead of the curve?
  • Fix something that bugs you. People would rather have less of a bad thing than more of a good thing. If your business can fix a problem for your customers, they’ll thank you for it.
  • Apply your skills to an entirely new field. Many businesses and industries do things one way because that’s the way they’ve always been done. In those cases, a fresh set of eyes from a new perspective can make all the difference.
  • Use the better, cheaper, faster approach. Do you have a business idea that isn’t completely new? If so, think about the current offerings and focus on how you can create something better, cheaper or faster.

Also, go out and meet people and ask them questions, seek advice from other entrepreneurs, research ideas online or use whatever method makes the most sense to you.

And, if you’ve exhausted all your options and you’re still stuck, here are 55 great business options you can start.

3. Do market research.

Is anyone else already doing what you want to start doing? If not, is there a good reason why?

Start researching your potential rivals or partners within the market by using this guide. It breaks down the objectives you need to complete with your research and the methods you can use to do just that. For example, you can conduct interviews by telephone or face to face. You can also offer surveys or questionnaires that ask questions like “What factors do you consider when purchasing this product or service?” and “What areas would you suggest for improvement?”

Just as importantly, it explains three of the most common mistakes people make when starting their market research, which are:

  1. Using only secondary research.
  2. Using only online resources.
  3. Surveying only the people you know.

4. Get feedback.

Let people interact with your product or service and see what their take is on it. A fresh set of eyes can help point out a problem you might have missed. Plus, these people will become your first brand advocates, especially if you listen to their input and they like the product.

One of the easiest ways to utilize feedback is to focus on “The Lean Startup” approach (read more about it here), but it involves three basic pillars: prototyping, experimenting and pivoting. By pushing out a product, getting feedback and then adapting before you push out the next product, you can constantly improve and make sure you stay relevant.

Just realize that some of that advice, solicited or not, will be good. Some of it won’t be. That’s why you should have a plan on how to receive feedback.

Here are six steps for handling feedback:

  1. Stop! Your brain will probably be in an excited state when receiving feedback, and it might start racing to bad conclusions. Slow down and take the time to consider carefully what you’ve just heard.
  2. Start by saying ‘thank you.’ People who give you negative feedback won’t expect you to thank them for it, but doing so will probably make them respect you and encourage them to continue be honest in the future.
  3. Look for the grain of truth. If someone doesn’t like one idea, it doesn’t mean they hate everything you’ve just said. Remember that these people are trying to help, and they might just be pointing out a smaller problem or solution that you should look into further.
  4. Seek out the patterns. If you keep hearing the same comments, then it’s time to start sitting up and taking notice.
  5. Listen with curiosity. Be willing to enter a conversation where the customer is in control.
  6. Ask questions. Figure out whysomeone liked or didn’t like something. How could you make it better? What would be a better solution?

Also, one way to help you get through negative feedback is to create a “wall of love,”where you can post all of the positive messages you’ve received.Not only will this wall of love inspire you, but you can use these messages later when you begin selling your product or service. Positive reviews online and word-of-mouth testimonials can help make a big difference.

5. Make it official.

Get all of the legal aspects out of the way early. That way, you don’t have to worry about someone taking your big idea, screwing you over in a partnership or suing you for something you never saw coming. A quick checklist of things to shore up might include:

  1. Business structure (LLC, corporation or a partnership, to name a few.)
  2. Business name
  3. Register your business
  4. Federal tax ID
  5. State tax ID
  6. Permits (more on permits here)
  7. License
  8. Necessary bank account
  9. Trademarkscopyrights or patents

While some things you can do on your own, it’s best to consult with a lawyer when starting out, so you can make sure you’ve covered everything that you need.

Here are some questions you can ask when looking for a small-business lawyer.

6. Write your business plan.

business plan is a written description of how your business will evolve from when it starts to the finish product.

As angel investor and tech-company founder Tim Berry wrote on Entrepreneur, “You can probably cover everything you need to convey in 20 to 30 pages of text plus another 10 pages of appendices for monthly projections, management resumes and other details. If you’ve got a plan that’s more than 40 pages long, you’re probably not summarizing very well.”

Here’s what we suggest should be in your business plan:

  1. Title page. Start with name the name of your business, which is harder than it sounds. This article can help you avoid common mistakes when picking.
  2. Executive summary. This is a high-level summary of what the plan includes, often touching on the company description, the problem the business is solving, the solution and why now. (Here’s what you should include in the summary and how you can make it appeal to investors.)
  3. Business description. What kind of business do you want to start? What does your industry look like? What will it look like in the future?
  4. Market strategies. What is your target market, and how can you best sell to that market?
  5. Competitive analysis. What are the strengths and weakness of your competitors? How will you beat them?
  6. Design and development plan. What is your product or service and how will it develop? Then, create a budget for that product or service.
  7. Operations and management plan. How does the business function on a daily basis?
  8. Finance factors. Where is the money coming from? When? How? What sort of projections should you create and what should you take into consideration?

For each question, you can spend between one to three pages. Keep in mind, the business plan is a living, breathing document and as time goes on and your business matures, you will be updating it.

7. Finance your business.

There are a ton of different ways to get the resources you need to start your business.Angel investor Martin Zwilling, whose business Startup Professionals provides services and products for startups and small businesses, recommends 10 of the most reliable ways to fund your business. Take a look and consider your own resources, circumstances and life state to figure out which one works best for you.

  1. Fund your startup yourself. Bootstrapping your business might take longer, but the good part is that you control your own destiny (and equity).
  2. Pitch your needs to friends and family. It can be hard to separate business from personal relationships, but if you’re considering asking for a loan, here’s a resource you can use to make it as straightforward as possible.
  3. Request a small-business grant. Start by checking out our guide to small-business grants. Then, head over to Grants.gov, which is a searchable, online directory of more than 1,000 federal grant programs. It might be a long process, but it doesn’t cost you any equity.
  4. Start a crowdfunding campaign online. Sometimes power is in numbers, and a bunch of small investments can add up to something major. If you think your business might be a fit for something like Kickstarter or Indiegogo, you should read up on 10 of the best-crowdfunded businesses ever or check out the most popular crowdfunding websites.
  5. Apply to local angel investor groups. Online platforms such as Gust and AngelList and local networking can help you find potential investors who relate to your industry and passion.
  6. Solicit venture capital investors. VCs typically look for big opportunities from proven teams that need a million dollars or more, so you should have some traction before approaching them.
  7. Join a startup incubator or accelerator. These companies are designed to help new or startup businesses get to the next level. Most provide free resources, including office facilities and consulting, along with networking opportunities and pitch events. Some, also provide seed funding as well.
  8. Negotiate an advance from a strategic partner or customer. If someone wants your product or service bad enough to pay for it, there’s a chance they’ll want it bad enough to fund it, too. Variations on this theme include early licensing or white-labeling agreements.
  9. Trade equity or services for startup help. For example, you could support a computer system for office tenants in exchange for free office space. You might not get paid for this, but you won’t have to pay for an office, either, and a penny saved is a penny earned.
  10. Seek a bank loan or line of credit. Here are 10 questions you should ask before applying for a bank loan, including whether you will qualify. If you do meet the requirements, a good place to start for loan opportunities is the Small Business Administration.

8. Develop your product or service.

After all the work you’ve put into starting your business, it’s going to feel awesome to actually see your idea come to life. But keep in mind, it takes a village to create a product. If you want to make an app and you’re not an engineer, you will need to reach out to a technical person. Or if you need to mass-produce an item, you will have to team up with a manufacturer.

Here is a seven-step checklist — including finding a manufacturer and pricing strategies — you can use for your own product development. A major point the article highlights is that when you’re actually crafting the product, you should focus on two things: simplicity and quality. Your best option isn’t necessarily to make the cheapest product, even if it lowers manufacturing cost. Also, you need to make sure the product can grab someone’s attention quickly.

When you are ready to do product development and outsource some of the tasks make sure you:

  1. Retain control of your product and learn constantly. If you leave the development up to someone else or another firm without supervising, you might not get the thing you envisioned.
  2. Implement checks and balances to reduce your risk. If you only hire one freelance engineer, there’s a chance that no one will be able to check their work. If you go the freelance route, use multiple engineers so you don’t have to just take someone at their word.
  3. Hire specialists, not generalists. Get people who are awesome at the exact thing you want, not a jack-of-all-trades type.
  4. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket. Make sure you don’t lose all of your progress if one freelancer leaves or if a contract falls through.
  5. Manage product development to save money. Rates can vary for engineers depending on their specialties, so make sure you’re not paying an overqualified engineer when you could get the same end result for a much lower price.

To help you have peace of mind, start learning as much as you can about the production, so you can improve the process and your hiring decisions as time goes along.

This process will be very different for service-focused entrepreneurs, but no less important. You have several skills that people are willing to pay you for right now, but those skills can be hard to quantify. How can you establish yourself and your abilities? You might consider creating a portfolio of your work — create a website to show your artwork if you’re an artist, writing if you’re a writer or design if you’re a designer.

Also, make sure you have the necessary certificates or educational requirements, so that when someone inquires about your service, you’re ready to jump at a good opportunity.

9. Start building your team.

To scale your business, you are going to need to hand off responsibilities to other people. You need a team.

Whether you need a partner, employee or freelancer, these three tips can help you find a good fit:

  1. State your goals clearly. Make sure everyone understands the vision and their role within that mission at the very start.
  2. Follow hiring protocols. When starting the hiring process you need to take a lot of things into consideration, from screening people to asking the right questions and having the proper forms. Here is a more in-depth guide to help you.
  3. Establish a strong company culture.  What makes a great culture?  What are some of the building blocks? You can see our list of 10 examples of companies with great cultures, but keep in mind that you don’t need to have Google’s crazy office space to instill a positive atmosphere. That’s because a great culture is more about respecting and empowering employees through multiple channels, including training and mentorship, than it is about decor or ping-pong tables. In fact, office perks can turn out to be more like traps than real benefits.

10. Find a location.

This could mean an office or a store. Your priorities will differ depending on need, but here are 10 basic things to consider:

  1. Style of operation. Make sure your location is consistent with your particular style and image.
  2. Demographics. Start by considering who your customers are. How important is their proximity to your location? If you’re a retail store that relies on the local community, this is vital. For other business models, it might not be.
  3. Foot traffic. If you need people to come into your store, make sure that store is easy to find. Remember: even the best retail areas have dead spots.
  4. Accessibility and parking. Is your building accessible? Don’t give customers a reason to go somewhere else because they don’t know where to park.
  5. Competition. Sometimes having competitors nearby is a good thing. Other times, it’s not. You’ve done the market research, so you know which is best for your business.
  6. Proximity to other businesses and services. This is more than just about foot traffic. Look at how nearby businesses can enrich the quality of your business as a workplace, too.
  7. Image and history of the site. What does this address state about your business? Have other businesses failed there? Does the location reflect the image you want to project?
  8. Ordinances. Depending on your business, these could help or hinder you. For example, if you’re starting a daycare center, ordinances that state no one can build a liquor store nearby might add a level of safety for you. Just make sure you’re not the one trying to build the liquor store.
  9. The building’s infrastructure. Especially if you’re looking at an older building or if you’re starting an online business, make sure the space can support your high-tech needs. If you’re getting serious about a building, you might want to hire an engineer to check out the state of the place to get an objective evaluation.
  10. Rent, utilities and other costs. Rent is the biggest facilities expense, but check out the utilities, as well, and whether they’re included in the lease or not. You don’t want to start out with one price and find out it’s going to be more later.

Once you know what to look for and it’s time to start searching for a place that fits all of your qualifications, these four tips can help.

  1. Think on your own timeframe. Landlords are starting to offer shorter-term office rentals. Don’t get stuck in a long-term lease if it doesn’t make sense for your business.
  2. Play the whole field. There are all sorts of places to use — co-working spaces, office business centers, sublets and more. Keep your options open.
  3. Click around town. You might be able to find the perfect place by using online resources.
  4. Do the deal on your terms. Again, you have options. Don’t get roped into something that makes you uncomfortable.

After you have a location, you can focus on the aesthetic. You can check out a few design ideas here.

11. Start getting some sales.

No matter your product or industry, your business’s future is going to depend on revenue and sales. Steve Jobs knew this — it’s why, when he was starting Apple, he spent day after day calling investors from his garage.

There are a ton of different sales strategies and techniques you can employ, but here are four tenets to live by:

  1. Listen. “When you listen to your clients/customers, you find out what they want and need, and how to make that happen,” says investor and entrepreneur John Rampton.
  2. Ask for a commitment, but don’t be pushy about it. You can’t be too shy to ask for a next step or to close a sale, but you also can’t make customers feel as though you’re forcing them into a sale.
  3. Don’t be afraid of hearing “no.” As former door-to-door salesman (and now co-founder of software business Pipedrive) Timo Rein said, “Most people are too polite. They let you make your pitch even if they have no interest in buying. And that’s a problem of its own. Time is your most important resource.”
  4. Make it a priority. As entrepreneurial wizard Gary Vaynerchuk said, “Actually creating revenue, and running a profitable business, is a good strategy for business. Where are we that people think users or visits or time on site is the proxy to a successful business?”

But how do you actually make those sales? Start by identifying targets who want your product or service. Find early adopters of your business, grow your customer base or put out ads to find people who fit your business. Then, figure out the right sales funnelor strategy that can convert these leads into revenue.

12. Grow your business.

There are a million different ways to grow. You could acquire another business, start targeting a new market, expand your offerings and more. But, no growth plan will matter if you don’t have the two key attributes that all growing companies have in common.

First, they have a plan to market themselves. They use social media effectivelythrough organic, influencer or paid campaigns. They have an email list and know how to use it. They understand exactly who they need to target — either online or off — with their marketing campaigns.

Then, once they have a new customer, they understand how to retain them. You’ve probably heard many people state that the easiest customer to sell to is the one you already have. Your existing customers have already signed up for your email list, added their credit card information to your website and tested what you have to offer. In doing so, they’re starting a relationship with you and your brand. Help them feel as good about that relationship as possible.

Start by utilizing these strategies, which include investing in your customer service and getting personal, but realize your work will never be done. You’ll constantly be competing for these customers in the marketplace, and you can never simply rest on your laurels. Keep researching the market, hiring good people and making a superior product and you’ll be on your way to building the empire you always dreamed about.

Allow ACBN to help you through the 12 steps!
Learn more about membership here

The Emotional Roller Coaster of Entrepreneurship

Courtesy of Entrepreneur.com

Kimanzi ConstableVIP CONTRIBUTOR

You’re a human being. You have feelings, emotions and beliefs. How you feel at any given moment has the power to affect what you do next. When you feel good, you focus on what helps grow your business and conquer your to-do list. When you feel don’t feel so good, everything inside of you tells your brain and body to blow off tasks and binge-watch your favorite Netflix series.

Getting control of your emotions is a superpower. It’s the difference between successful days and wasted days. Elite entrepreneurs understand this. They consistently put in the personal development work to better understand themselves. Self-awareness helps them ride the emotional roller coaster without throwing up — so to speak. Building a profitable business requires working on these three skills that help you win the battle of your emotions.

Learn how to operate in peak state. 

Tony Robbins often talks about the power and importance of getting back into peak state when your feelings and emotions start to spiral. The idea is that once something happens that triggers you, acknowledge everything that you’re feeling. Process through the feelings and emotions so that they don’t have time to fester and build roots in your mind.

You then change your state. That can happen through physical movement, music, or talking. Whatever works for you. But, you get back to a strong place in your mind that lets you be in control. All of this happens within a minute. The more you practice this exercise, the better you can become at getting back to your strongest you.

Learning to get back into peak state is a game changer. It allows you to take back control of your feelings and emotions. Think of athletes that operate in peak state and what they accomplish in their sport. It’s the same principle for us as entrepreneurs.

Get clear on your overall life strategy. 

Step one to getting somewhere is knowing where you’re going. Many entrepreneurs get lost in the tactics. They run from task to task feeling like they’re accomplishing something without realizing it doesn’t make sense to the overall picture.

Doing entrepreneurial tasks only makes sense if they fit into your main business strategy. You have to know who your business serves and what problem it solves. You need a clear vision, mission statement and operating guidelines. You should understand your brand strategy. Those main strategy components should dictate what tasks you work on every day. Clarity about your strategy combats imposter syndrome and self-limiting beliefs. Clarity is power. Don’t get lost in the busy work.

Train and optimize your mind.  

Your brain is a muscle that can be trained, so optimize your mind by actively putting in the work every day. Feed your mind strong content that challenges your old-school beliefs and compels you to think. 

Don’t reach for your phone and start filling your mind with the distractions of life right when you wake up. Instead, feed it motivational content through videos, audio or books.Use that time when you wake up to meditate and get centered.

Start your day by training your mind. It’s the first step in winning the emotional battles that the day will bring because your mind will already be in a stronger state. Schedule plenty of time in your life and business to work on training your mind. You can hire coaches, take a course, study how the brain works and so much more.

Getting control is your secret weapon to experiencing explosive growth this year in your business. Don’t let your feelings and emotions make decisions for you. It’s not a great place to be in. Take back your power and do the work daily. 

Remember you do not have to run your business on your own, join the ACBN community today to get support for yourself and your company! Learn more about membership…

CONNECT – BUILD – GROW

Photo by Alex Nemo Hanse on Unsplash

Courtesy of Entrepreneur.com

Should startups care about profitability?

There are certain topics that even some of the smartest people I talk with who aren’t startup oriented can’t fully grok. One of them is whether profitability matters. It’s common cocktail party chatter to hear people confidently pronounce that some well known startup is sure to blow up.

Or you know the other one — the one where Snapchat lost $2 billion in just one quarter. Two-fucking-billion! What a disaster! Except that they didn’t actually lose $2 billion in cash. It was a stock option incentive related “expense” but I bet you didn’t know that because in an era where we only read the headlines — they must be a train wreck losing billions. (They actually lost about $175 million in cash in that quarter, FWIW. See appendix if you want to know more on this.)

“How could they succeed when they’re not even profitable!”

If you hire 6 senior sales reps in January at $120,000 / year salary then you’ve taken on an extra $60,000 per month in costs yet these sales people might not close new business for 6 months. Your profitability will go down for 2 quarters while your growth may increase dramatically in quarters 3–12.
I know this seems obvious but I promise you that even smart people forget this when talking about profitability. 70–80% of the costs of most startups are employee costs so what you’re really talking about when a company is unprofitable is that they are growing their staff ahead of their revenue.

Photo by Jimi Filipovski on Unsplash

What to do if your product isn’t growing

As a founder, product lead at Pinterest and PM for a couple products at Google, as well as a growth partner for Initialized Capital, I’ve seen many product teams struggle to grow. Many products start out with a bang. Some find product-market fit with sustained growth. A few have gone through spurts of hyper-growth. But more often than not, I’ve seen most of them linger then fizzle.

“Founders launch their product, wonder why it isn’t growing like gangbusters and then immediately try to fix their growth problem.”

They turn to growth tactics like optimizing their on-boarding funnel, SEO or push notifications before really understanding what they are building and who they are building for. This may create an initial burst of short-term growth.

But it ultimately leads to high churn of your possible customers, while ignoring problems in the core product.
Before trying different growth tactics like throwing spaghetti at a wall, startups need to take a fresh look at their users, evaluate their product end goals and re-define the journey they want their users to take to get there. Here are some tips that can help define a path which will clarify the different steps needed to unlock product growth.

Photo by LinkedIn Sales Navigator on Unsplash

One thing separates creators from consumers

Enterprise applications are complex — there is an insane amount of information that is to be displayed that contains data from various sources, modules and users. There are complex graphs, usage patterns, and lists of data that need to be skimmed through before one can make sense of what the console is getting at.

“The biggest challenge with designing enterprise applications is the lack of examples of patterns that work or don’t work in specific scenarios.”

Since most enterprise applications contain sensitive data pertaining to the company, there are very few examples out there that talk to some of the common problems faced while designing enterprise apps. There exists pattern libraries that talk in-depth about how each component should work but very little on when to use them. The patterns we see in design libraries are often oversimplified and does not work in real enterprise applications where data and the use-cases are more complex in nature.

What you see below is a typical enterprise application. The working window is dense with information with a crazy number of panels each indicating information that is contextual to any other selection made on the screen.

The Start of Something Special

“The black community has many negative stereotypes and the only way to change them is through building better positive ones to replace them.”

I forget who said that quote to me but it got me thinking about our black business community and all the stereotypes I have heard and what can be done about them.

– Customer Service is Bad and Rude

– Prices are too high

– No one answers the phone

– We do not have a united community

I know I have failed to answer my phone at an acceptable rate and I used to just make excuses for it.  That is until I was told that I have a bad habit and it needs to be worked on if I want to progress as a business owner.  This led me to find solutions to the problem and find an answering service to make sure that no phone calls are missed.

The stereotype that I feel we can tackle is the lack of a united community and we can change that negative to a positive with the Afro Caribbean  Business Network.  We are looking forward to meeting all the business owners that want to grow their company.

Stay tuned for more details…