The Easy Way to Handle Your Small Business Internet Marketing

I believe there’s a bit of a myth in the small business marketing world today about what small business owners know and understand about marketing on the internet. I constantly hear from many other marketing consultants that business owners don’t even know they need to market their products and services on the internet for success.

While it’s true that many businesses serving a local market don’t have a website or Facebook page or Google Places listing, it’s not always because they don’t know these things exist or that they need them. I can’t say that I’ve never met a business owner who was oblivious to the internet revolution, but I can count them on one hand!

What I constantly hear from busy entrepreneurs today is:

  • “I don’t have time to…”
  • “I don’t know how to…”
  • “I don’t think I can consistently do this every week…”

What I’m gathering from these statements is that they know they need to be actively marketing their company online, but there are tons of roadblocks to making it work for them. So what options does a small business owner have if they meet these roadblocks?

Hiring a professional marketing consultant is one of the best options available to small business owners. This is a form of outsourcing which is a concept that’s familiar to many companies that rely on contractors for many tasks.

By hiring a marketing consultant to manage your internet marketing, you get a single point of contact for all the internet marketing tasks that you implement. That contact will provide reporting and you’ll have someone to brainstorm marketing strategies with when you need it.

Maybe one of the most important aspects of hiring a marketing consultant is that the work that needs to be done consistently and accurately will be done for you. You won’t have to learn or understand the processes or how they work. You won’t have to figure out who and how to delegate this work to.

Consider making it easy on yourself and growing your business at the same time by hiring a marketing professional to handle your internet marketing campaign. Obviously you have to do the proper research and make sure that the consultant you choose to work with is a fit for you and your business.

This may take some time in research and interviewing, but the reward is worth the price. You’ll end up with more time to run your business and you’ll have a marketing program that will bring in more leads and new business.

Sample Vending Machine Business Plan

The preparation of a vending machine business plan is one of the most important first steps for your new venture. A business plan will be crucial in guiding your business in a successful direction. A business plan sets out what has to happen in order for you to reach your goals, outlines how you will do it and sets out alternative plans in the case that things change further down the line.

It may be necessary to have a plan written in a formal, professional style if your aim is to use it to convince bankers or investors to support your idea and you may need to seek help with this. But even if you don’t have anything to prove to anyone your vending business plan will help to confirm the viability of your idea in your own mind.

Keep a copy of your plan on your PC as well as in files or in a binder in case of emergency. Don’t forget about your business plan once you have opened your doors for business. Refer to it regularly to make sure that you are on track to meet targets and don’t be afraid to make changes to where necessary.

Every entrepreneur or business consultant will have different ideas about how a business plan should be structured. Below we offer a sample vending machine business plan which is a basic outline with sections that you may consider including.

Cover and Contents Page

Start of with a cover page with a heading to let people know what the report is about, who the author is and when it was written. This should be followed immediately by a table of contents so that readers can easily find their way around the report.

Executive Summary

Summarize the other sections of your business plan. Present some detailed information on the opportunities that you see in the market and summarize what it is that you intend to do with your business to capitalize on these opportunities. Try to entice readers into reading the whole report.

Background

Offer the reader some background information on yourself and your reasons for starting a vending business. Provide details of any relevant experience or competitive advantages that you have.

You can also include a vending industry background showing national industry data as well as information about the local industry that you plan on entering.

Mission Statement

A mission statement is usually a phrase or a couple of short sentences that summarises what your business is all about, what it does and how well it does it. It is a good way to remember the basic goals or philosophy of your company. A good mission statement could mention something about the standard of your products and service or how you strive to be better than your competitors.

Goals and Objectives

State the goals that you wish to achieve in the short and medium terms. Goals could include placing a certain number a vending machines or reaching a certain income level per machine.

Startup Requirements

Set out a list of vending machine business startup costs and calculate the total amount of capital that will be needed for the company to get started. Report on some of the funding options that are available to the owners.

In this section of the report you can also mention some of the other things that must happen in order for the business to commence trading legally and professionally. Mention the processes and the fees involved with applying for licenses, permits and other paperwork under the laws of the region where the business will be operating.

Ownership and Management Structure

Note who the founders of the company are and note the particular ownership interest that each has in the business. For those who will be active in the management of the business it is important to outline what role they will play and their responsibilities.

Will the business be registered as a sole proprietorship, a partnership or a corporation?

Business Operations

This section of a business plan should outline the details of how you plan on running your vending business. Include information on where your business will be based, administration, any plans that you have to hire employees and how your business will run on a day to day basis.

Include details on your vending machines, maintenance, products, distributors, route planning and how you will record and manage sales data.

Try to come up with solid reasons why are choosing a certain vending machine, product line or system. Wherever possible include some supporting evidence from research that you have done.

Market Analysis

Using data from your market research you can report on the current state of your target market and identify opportunities. Here you can include demographic data as well as information that you have gathered from surveys and other investigations.

Marketing Plan

Outline a strategy for creating a brand that will meet market needs. Based on the market opportunities that you see, set out a strategy for meeting these needs in terms of locations, vending machines, the product lines that you will stock and your pricing.

Provide details on how you plan on getting new locations, arranging appointments with ‘decision makers’ and selling your services to them. Your marketing could mostly be done by approaching decision makers directly or you could rely on advertising to generate some enquiries.

Also outline your plan for marketing directly to your customers or end users. These could include promotions on the machine front or how you or your staff will build relationships with customers when you visit the premises.

You should also mention how you plan on maintaining vending accounts and customer satisfaction in the long term.

Competitive Analysis

Provide information on the competition in your target area and examine their strengths and weaknesses. Look at ways of delivering products and service that are distinctly different from what competitors are offering. Get ideas from them about what is working well and what isn’t. Look for a competitive edge.

Don’t forget to also mention indirect competitors such as convenience stores, in house cafeterias or food vans.

Financial Planning

Use a spreadsheet program to set out forecasts of cash flows in and out of your vending business over a hypothetical two year time period. If you have done your research you should be able to anticipate monthly income and expenses going forward. You will thus be able to determine future levels of profitability and a break even point.

Run a variety of different scenarios that consider a conservative growth rate, an expected growth rate and an optimistic growth rate. Things don’t always happen like you expect so it is important that you plan for a variety of scenarios.

Appendix

Lastly, you should attach an appendix to the report that includes any reference letters, documents, charts, diagrams or supporting material that have been referred to in the contents of your business plan.

There are many sample vending machine business plans and templates available online for free if you look around.

Building Business Credit – Owning a Successful Business

For many owners, an important part of owning a successful business is being able to borrow money for business needs and expenses such as new equipment, building upgrades, etc. However, just like in personal finance, you can’t just go out and get a business loan without having good credit. While the process is a little different, businesses have credit scores just like people do, and just like people, they require good credit scores to be able to qualify for operating loans, good interest rates on business credit cards, etc. Which means that as a business owner, you need to pay attention to building business credit.

The key to building business credit is separating your business credit from your personal credit, in order for your business to be able to build a good reputation on its own. In order to do this, your business must be a separate entity, which is done either by incorporation, or by forming an LLC. Just like a person, your business will also need an identifying number in order to build credit, although in business this number is a FEIN, or Federal Employer Identification Number. Your business will also need a D-U-N-S number, issued by Dun & Bradstreet to verify the credit history of businesses.

In addition to these thing, your business will also need bank accounts that are separate from your personal accounts, a separate phone line, and it will need to be compliant with all state and local regulations. You’ll also want to apply for a business credit card or line of credit, which will be how your business initially shows up in each credit reporting agency’s files. From there, building business credit is much the same as building good personal credit; paying bills on time, not declaring bankruptcy, not defaulting on loans, etc.

Building a successful business is a lot of work, and can be even harder when your business doesn’t have good credit, or any credit at all for that matter. By doing the things listed above, you can begin building business credit. And by following the rules of building good credit, which apply to both individuals and businesses, you can assure that your business will continue to have good credit as you grow and expand.