How to Buy a Business During a Recession

Despite an economic downturn, poor sales, extensive unemployment and a banking emergency, this actually may be an excellent time to think about buying a business. The reason is really very simple: it’s currently a buyer’s market, which means the time is perfect for buying a business.Buy business trends are on the upswing, with sellers relaxing their purchase business terms because there are fewer qualified buyers, third-party financing becoming near impossible, and opportunities to negotiate a really good deal for a business for sale aplenty.However, the receptive climate for purchasing a business doesn’t mean that you should advance without having key buy business essentials in place. It’s very easy for enthusiastic, yet inexperienced buyers, to pay too much for a business for sale that has no chance for survival, even in good times.First and foremost, it’s important to know the purchase business climate before even considering whether to own a business. Currently, the buying a business market is being crippled by the economy and there is a lack of small business lending. Consumer confidence that the economy will turn around anytime soon is very low and many businesses are seeing multi-month declines. For these reasons, it’s necessary when considering a business for sale to negotiate a deal that will protect you now and in the future if the economy doesn’t improve in the near-term.Before deciding whether to own a business during these tumultuous times, there are six basic buy business steps to follow. By following smart purchase business philosophies, you will position your new business to succeed regardless of the economic climate.Here is a look at the six important steps to buying a business:1. Request Several Previous 12-Month Profit & Loss Statements. Normally, a seller would provide year-end financial statements, any interim statements and tax returns for buy business inquiries. But considering the current economic conditions, you need to see the business for sale financials from the current date and back to the past 12 months, as well as financials from the prior 12 months and the 12-month period before that. This will give you a better picture of the overall health of the business for sale.2. Be On The Lookout For Hidden Expense Cuts. With a business for sale, many sellers try to make the company look better by making cuts to enhance profits. When reviewing the financials, look at expenses for marketing, advertising and payroll by doing an item-by-item comparison over several periods and comparing the number to sales or income. Furthermore, a review of the balance sheet will show whether inventory has been cut or if shareholders or owners contributed their own money to improve the company’s bottom line.3. Review The Customer Base. When purchasing a business, a thorough understanding of the current customer base is crucial. Although a business may be performing well, sales might show problems. If you decide to buy a business where sales are declining, make sure that you modify the purchase price accordingly and establish a new sales and marketing plan.4. Negotiate Earnouts. These are purchase business terms based on performance. Linked to the purchase price, earnouts are assurances that the business for sale can survive in the current economic climate and grow in the near future. Once you’ve completed a thorough analysis of the books, set an asking price that’s directly related to the present performance of the business and its sustainability for possible future declines. It is critical to negotiate a performance-based deal, especially if the purchase business evaluation indicates a loss or no recent stability or growth. With an earnout structure, the seller receives the balance of the purchase price when certain targets are met in the future. Earnouts can be based on profitability, sales, or retention of customers.5. Insist on Seller Financing. As far as lenders are concerned, this is not a buy business climate. So chances of you receiving financing for buying a business are slim, especially if you have little collateral or no business ownership experience. As such, it’s important that the seller finance the entire purchase business price or a large portion of it.6. Don’t Be Intimidated By Business Brokers. They represent the seller, so it’s their job to present a positive buy business environment. As such, you need to take control of the deal.When buying a business, it is essential to obtain all the key financial and performance data related to the business for sale. This information is your bargaining tool when meeting with the seller. You can own a business and be successful at it if you make well informed purchase business deals with the seller to limit your risk. Despite the present business climate, it’s exhilarating to own a business and there isn’t anything that should get in your way of realizing your dream.

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Entrepreneurs Beware: Brands Are Dying!

It seems strange that a brand consultant such as myself would tell everyone that brands are dying, but I genuinely believe that we are in the middle of a significant cultural change. The brands that miss these changes and don’t adapt accordingly may not be around in a few years. It’s that serious. Get a coffee and a biscuit and read this carefully. It could just be the catalyst that encourages you to relate to your customers in a totally different way.Brands Make Us ScaredThe essence of successful branding is based upon fear. All the advertising, inspirational slogans and celebrity campaigns are all designed to make us feel like something is lacking in our life. We are not quite the person that we’d really like to be because we don’t have that particular product and it’s that fear of inadequacy that drives many of our buying decisions. Of course you can go to TopShop and buy a handbag that look’s like a Birkin, but you’ll never be like Kate Moss if you don’t go to Hermès and buy the genuine £6000 version.I remember chatting to a designer from Ralph Lauren when I was doing some work on Savile Row and during a particularly dull show in London Fashion Week I asked why they went to such great lengths to showcase £20,000 dresses. In my ignorance I couldn’t understand why they would go to all that trouble when you never see anyone wearing such flamboyant creations in real life. In retrospect, the answer was obvious. They didn’t expect to sell more than half a dozen dresses, but what they did expect to happen was that the ‘halo effect’ would come into play.In order words, most people can’t afford Ralph Lauren wardrobes, but they can afford a piece of the brand in the form of a perfume. That’s where the money is. The halo effect is basically the process of organically promoting part of your brand, by showcasing something else that is so aspirational that it is out of reach to most of us. Ford used to promote £200,000 Aston Martins. B&W sell £20,000 speakers. Remy Martin promote bottles of £20,000 Black Pearl Louis XIII brandy in order to sell more of the £50 Remy VSOP. Brands know that we want to be admired and respected by our peers, so they give us countless opportunities to satisfy our fear of inadequacy, by offering us cheaper products with the same logo on them.The Best Brands Guarantee Dis-SatisfactionGreat brands are built on dissatisfaction. After all, if you were satisfied with your Revlon makeup or your Nike sneakers or your iPad, why would you buy another one? Satisfied means done, finished, I don’t need any more. In fact, most great commercial (and non-profit, and political) brands create a cycle of purchase based on ever-greater dissatisfaction with what we’ve got.I have an unhealthy amount of vintage trainers. I have an iPhone 3GS which I love, but it already feels old because all my friends are flaunting iPhones 4′s. There’s nothing wrong with my 3GS. I just feel that I’m being left behind. Am I ever going to use ‘face time’ on an iPhone 4 to video chat with my friends? Probably not. But do I still want one? You betcha. I think it’s probably fair to say that your most unhappy customers are often your greatest source of learning. “Stop trying to make me unhappy!!!”In the midst of last year’s heavy recession, Steve Jobs said,”A lot of companies have chosen to downsize, and maybe that was the right thing for them. We chose a different path. Our belief was that if we kept putting great products In front of our customers, they would continue to open their wallets”.Brands Are Worn OutMichael Eisner of Disney has called the word brand “overused, sterile and unimaginative” and he’s right. When the brand manual grows bigger, heavier each year, you know you’re in trouble. When I was initially asked to do some work for Reebok with my illustrator friend James Walker, we were really excited about being involved with such an iconic brand and letting rip with our creative juices.Sadly, our excitement soon wore off when we saw the length of the brand guidelines. We knew it wasn’t gong to be anywhere near as much fun as we thought, as the job became like a very boring jigsaw, just piecing all the various design components together. Looking back it doesn’t surprise me that Reebok, who once competed head on with Nike and Adidas, are now an also-ran as a sports brand.Brands Are No Longer MysteriousThere is now much more of an anti-brand sentimentality as a result of various consumer movements and books like Naomi Klein’s infamous “No Logo”. When I was growing up in the late 80′s it was all about the label on your shirt. If you wore Sergio Taccini, Fila, Ellesse, Kappa or Cerutti you were the man, but when my (cool) friend Alan Steeple flaunted his logo-less rugby shirt, I began to notice the cultural shift, that it was becoming cool to not wear a logo.”Companies are about their logos like guys are about their… you know. They love talking about them. They love to look at them. They want you to look at them. They think the bigger they are, the more effective they are. And they try to sneak looks at other guy’s logos when they can. But as any woman will tell you, nobody cares!” Luke SulivanThere is more consumer awareness now and more people understand how brands work. More importantly, people understand how brands are supposed to work on them!Brands Can’t Understand The New Breed Of ConsumerConsumer buying habits underwent a huge transformation in the 1960′s with the arrival of TV and the big advertising agencies promoting brands such as Proctor & Gamble, Ford and Kellogg’s, but until a few years ago not much had really changed. But then along came the internet and everything changed – from the way we connect with each other to the way we are entertained. Unfortunately, most brands haven’t changed in line with technology, thinking that a shiny website or multiple social media accounts will do the trick. It won’t.The new customer is better informed, more critical, less loyal and harder to read. The white suburban housewife who for decades seemed to buy all the soap powder no longer exists. She has been joined by a new population of multi-generational, multi-ethnic, multi-national consumers.Brands Hate Good Old-Fashioned CompetitionThe more designer brands and private labels we invent, the less we notice them as individuals. Most people are aware that we see over 4000 advertising messages a day, but on the average 45 minute supermarket shopping trip, you see over 45,000 brand names. How on earth are you ever going to get recognised as a new brand in that kind of market place? When I worked with Unilever, we estimated that in such a tough marketplace, you had on average 1.4 seconds to capture someone’s attention and make them pick your product off the shelf (instead of their usual choice of brand). If you are not number one or two, forget it.More Brands Doesn’t Make It Any EasierThe greater the number of brands, the thinner the resources promoting them. Microsoft has 64 different sub-brands and they struggle to evenly allocate their $10billion marketing budget to each of them effectively. Compare that to Apple who spend the same amount but focus all their marketing efforts at just their core brand, and you can soon see exactly why Apple have overtaken Microsoft in the visibility stakes.Brands Think Science Has The AnswerMost of the books on branding that I’ve read and the may brand workshops I’ve been to, all talk about the science of branding. The definitions, the charts, the diagrams and the SWOT analysis. All that stuff is important, but formulas have no imagination or empathy. The best brands tell stories and use emotion to communicate their messages, but there isn’t a formula that can deal with human emotion.I recently worked with a very big FMCG food brand who’s advertising ideas were based upon analysis, demographics and Neilson ratings. They actually promoted accountants into brand management. No wonder they couldn’t understand why their campaigns weren’t working. Brands need to tell stories that make us feel something. Instead they were drowning in a sea of numbers, while some new start-up was working out of a bedroom somewhere, well on its way to stealing some of their market share.Brands Have Become DullThe story of brands has gone from daring and inspirational to one of caution and risk-aversion. Once the darling of the bold and the brave, brands are relying on the accumulation of past experiences rather than the potential of future ones. Headstones are replacing stepping-stones! If the antics of a middle-aged jumper wearing Richard Branson cause a riot (and they do), how bland and boring does that mean everyone else has become.The Moral Of The Story…?So what is the moral of my story (if any?)… Don’t be another me-too brand. Don’t do things the same way that you’ve always done them. If your advertising isn’t working, or you are unsure what is showing results, stop it immediately. Get out there and start connecting with your customers. And that doesn’t just mean joining Twitter and having a Facebok fan page. The answer isn’t “social media”. If you think about it, allmedia is social. It’s just about connecting with your customers. Saying “hello” to people. Calling them. Everyday. Visiting them (in person). I’m convinced that many of your customers are just dying for you to start a conversation with them. They want to tell you exactly what they want and why they want it.Make a list of five customers you can call now… Right now!

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Inbound Marketing Is A Clever Way Of Growing Your Business

These days, a new technique is revolutionizing how businesses market their products. It is known as Inbound Marketing.Today, let us talk about what Inbound Marketing is, how it is changing the face of traditional or outbound marketing, and why you should be interested about it.Traditional or Outbound MarketingOutbound marketing or traditional marketing is a way in which companies go out and find customers. It is a push strategy. Outbound marketers mainly adopt two strategies:

They put out advertisements in television, billboards, print media, etc. for people to see.

They also actively reach out to people by making cold calls, sending direct mails, etc. These are techniques which are interruptive in nature.
Not everyone likes interruptionRemember how you have received calls from marketers while you were attending that urgent meeting, or that ad that came on TV just before the climax of the movie was about to start? What was your reaction to these interruptions?I remember having blacklisted a financial services company because a sneaky cold caller from its office called me thrice in a single day, and finally got very upset because I couldn’t talk to her as I was on a business tour!Needless to say, only a handful of those who receive these calls or see the ads actually remember the product and buy it. Outbound marketing relies on purchases made by a small percentage of people who see the ads, or receive such calls. This results in wastage of the money spent in reaching out to people who are not interested.Another problem is that, with the advancement of technology users are now able to block these marketing messages easily. Most of the direct mass emails land up in the junk mail folder. There are reports that people have also developed a blindness towards most of the ads that are shown on television. And let’s not forget how people get irritated with cold calls made to them. As you can see, the outbound method of marketing is losing its sheen rapidly.Inbound MarketingInbound Marketing on the other hand, is not an interruptive strategy at all. It adopts a Pull Strategy, wherein instead of reaching out to your customers, you attract them to yourself.Its foundation lies in adding value to the users instead of bombarding them with marketing messages. This value is provided in the form of useful content which helps the users in one or more ways. Many users go online looking for a solution to a problem that they are having. Inbound relies on solving their problems or giving them valuable information first, and building up engagement with them afterwards.When users get benefited by what you have to say, they try to hear from you more often. Over time they start trusting you and would also be interested in using the product or service that you have to offer. When people come to you looking for solutions, it is far easier to delight them, and increase your sales eventually.Thus, unlike in outbound marketing, where the communication with the customer starts with trying to sell something to them, in inbound sales is something that comes later, only after the user has become comfortable, and has started trusting your business.The inbound marketing process

It starts with attracting visitors to your website

Next, you convert these visitors into leads

Close the leads to make them buy your offerings

Thereafter, you engage with them a lot more and continue to delight them. This will keep them loyal to you, and will also become your brand ambassadors by telling others about you. This increases repeat sales and cross sells. Eventually the need for prospecting for new customers will decrease over time.
The techniques used in Inbound MarketingInbound Marketing is a strategy which is created by combining the best of the digital marketing techniques. The exact techniques that are used in this strategy depends on the type of the business, its goals, and the customers that it wants to cater to. The following are the digital marketing techniques that are used to create and Inbound Marketing strategy:

Content marketing: This is the core of inbound. The business needs to create great content which will attract the users. When the users read content that is valuable to them, they would visit the website of the business in search for more information. The business has to continue to give valuable information to customers regularly.

Search Engine Optimization: The website needs to be optimized for visits by the users. Various search engine optimization techniques are applied to make sure that they get the best experience by visiting the website of the business.

Social Media marketing: A strong presence in relevant social media channels has to be built-in order to engage with the users. Apart from the website, the business will provide information through social media also. It also has to listen to what the users are saying, receive feedbacks, and offer solutions to users’ problems. Social Media is also a great way of understanding their needs and expectations of from the business.

Email marketing: The business needs to keep in touch with customers by sending emails to them. Not only is this a great way of building engagement with prospective customers, but it also is a very effective tool for customer retention. Inbound however, depends on permission-based emails which users have consented to receive. Unlike in outbound marketing, Mass Mailers are never sent out to any customers in inbound.
All these strategies are combined to form an effective strategy that completely changes the way the business markets its products. Inbound can also result in significant cost savings when done correctly. However, the results from Inbound Marketing take some time to show up. Businesses have to consistently do it over a period of time before reaping the benefits. However, once the transition is complete, the benefits keep flowing in.

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