Every future business owner will have to decide what type of business structure they want to have. Once the entrepreneur has determined what type of product they wish to market, or what types of goods and services they wish to offer, they will then have to decide how they will go about structuring their business. Entrepreneurs are some of the hardest working people out there, they often times invest many man hours and even large amounts of their personal funds to start a new business. Because so much time and money goes into forming a business, it is essential that the entrepreneur fully understands the tax laws and how to take advantage of them.When starting a business, the entrepreneur will have to choose how their organization will be structured so they can enjoy the greatest benefits. Entrepreneurs are faced with a variety of options including: a sole proprietorship, a limited liability corporation, or a corporation. Each option has its own advantages and disadvantages, and it is the job of the entrepreneur to learn each different structure and how each one works. This way they can choose the structure that will best suit their needs and they will be on their way to reaping the greatest rewards from their business. Although a certain type of legal structure may appear to be the best fit, it is always a sound business decision to consult with a business litigation lawyer before making an ultimate determination.When an entrepreneur is deciding how they will form their business they will need to take several factors into account including: their ultimate goals for their business, how much control they wish to have, the tax implications of different ownership structures, their expected profit and/or loss of the business, if they are going to need to take cash out of the business, the potential vulnerability to lawsuits, and whether or not they will need to re-invest their earnings back into the business.A large percentage of businesses start out as a sole proprietorship. In these types of businesses, the business is formed by one person who runs the daily activities of the business. Sole proprietors reap the rewards of any profits made by the business itself; however, at the same time they are also responsible for any liabilities or debts incurred by their business.In a business partnership, two or more people share ownership over a business. Whenever someone ventures into a partnership, it is essential that they have legal agreements set in place that determine how the decisions will be made, how the profits will be distributed, how debts will be paid, how a partner can be bought out and how issues will be resolved.With a corporation, the entity is separate from the owners. It can be taxed and it can be sued; however, the shareholders have a limited liability for the company’s debts. The owners are referred to as shareholders, and in general they are only held accountable for their investment in stock of the company.A limited liability company is a popular form of incorporation for small business owners. The LLC is structured so that the business owner can benefit from the limited liability features of a corporation along with the tax benefits of a partnership. With an LLC, the business owner can choose between being taxed as a partnership or a corporation, and the owners have a limited liability for business debts even though they were in control or contributed to business decisions.Choosing the right type of structure is extremely important for all future business owners. A business litigation lawyer will be able to provide you with all the information you need to make an informed decision. Whenever you are starting up a business, it is essential that you discuss your plans with a qualified attorney who is well versed in all aspects of business law. If you are forming a business, contact a business litigation lawyer today so you can be put on the right track for your business, and so you can enjoy the benefits of making the right choice.
Conduct a Digital Audit for Your Business
A digital ‘audit’ can seem a daunting task but once broken down into stages the process becomes quickly achievable. This first planning step to take involves reviewing the digital health of your business and analysing your business’ current situation in terms of:• Your business’ ability to handle change• The online market place• Your online and offline market position• The external environment your are operating inThis is an opportunity to spot weaknesses in your business profile and marketing power online, so you can then build a marketing strategy based on your strengths as well as any opportunities to sell.Don’t worry about your research findings. This is a useful business exercise not a personal comment. Better to find ways of improving your marketing situation online than to ignore the need to improve. Try to make a point of taking a bird’s eye view of your business as online audits are very useful if you respond with logic rather than emotion.Remember, if you find holes in your business, you are not alone. Very common business audit discoveries include:• The business hasn’t planned well in the past• Not enough is known about a business’ customer groups (segments).• Pricing is inconsistent with competitors• Cash-flow is a worry and marketing budget isn’t enough to meet objectives.• Brand, website and customer loyalty needs building• Not enough is known about the potential of the internet as a tool for sales• Business team doesn’t have much IT technical knowledgeIt’s worth keeping in mind that if you are in a fast moving industry you will need to review your audit more often.Consider your internal environment (factors you can control)a. Decide what you want to get out of your audit, do you want:• More effective business procedures• Better return on investment (ROI)• Market insights to plan campaigns• Build customer relationshipsb. Consider the success of what information you already have (and how it translates online):• Internal written, digital or word of mouth data about customer service and productivity• Any marketing strategy• Business strategy• Product development, customer service and communications systems• What product / service distribution system and service network do you have currently? how would it have to change online?c. Consider your current assets to help you decide how you will reach digital objectives. These include cash flow, business competencies and internal and external resources such as your:• Management, employees, stakeholders, suppliers, partners, agency workers- their digital skills/ experience/ contacts/ goodwill and support• Current Customers – their digital preferences (what they use in terms of hardware, software, social media, advertising, downloads, webinars, podcasts, games)• Business budget (and partner business budget)• Materials and technology• Review all your marketing materials – what are they, how are they used? Are they cost-effective and what return on investment do you get?• Brand, (including its character, business culture and location)• Processes and systems, speed of operations and delivery to market• Previous business activity, competitor and market research/insight, financial history, campaign results.d. Define your current and target customers – by considering the things your regular customers have in common:Tip1: Create current and target market groupings (segments) based on their buying behaviour and demographics. It can help to define each group as a person. For example, a live music venue may target someone like ‘Johnny’ who is 32, single and likes a pint with his mates at a club where he hears new bands and then uses his iPhone to download the tracks off iTunes. He’s an impulse buyer who responds to what he sees/hears.Tip 2: Learn to use a search marketing tool such as Google Keywords SEOmoz, LongTail Pro or Market Samurai to find out what products, services, and information (relevant to your business) your target customers are they searching for online. There are plenty of tutorials available for each of these on YouTube or their respective websites.e. What are your business’ planned objectives and KPIs? Have any been achieved online or offline? Why did they succeed? Do you have customer feedback? Especially review what plans exist to recruit, convert and retain customers?Consider the marketing environment in which your business is located and your market position (on and offline)a. How does your business brand (personality) and your products/services fit into the wider marketplace and how will it be affected by it? You may want to use a free survey design service such as Survey Monkey to ask current customers and prospects for their views on your business credibility, reputation, products / services and future online growth. This process also helps to remind customers of your brand and intention to trade online.b. Consider your marketplace online and offline:• What does your industry look like online?• Who are your chief competitors? Are they the same offline? How would you describe their online brands, promotional techniques, customers? What’s unique and emotionally appealing about them to their customers? How can your brand be different and more appealing than theirs (without losing money?)d. What market share do you currently have (shows how competitive you are)? You can define this as Value (your market sales revenue divided by the total market sales revenue available) or Volume (your market unit sales volume divided by the total volume of units sold in that market). You can also look at your relative market share against a market leader (your market share volume divided by the market leader’s share volume). Be careful of planning price wars on this basis though as they harm the pricing structure of the industry down.e. What alternative partners and agencies exist in the online marketplace to help you with your supply chain, research, marketing, services, offers, weblinks, advertising etc?g. Asses your business’ digital ‘marketing mix’- this is a combination of marketing factors that collectively represent your business online. They include where you can find your business’ brand online, how you promote your business, your current online pricing mechanisms, your products or services offered online, your representatives and processes online and evidence of your existence (for example, if you offer services do you display testimonials, awards, guarantees, transparent customer service).h. analyse your brand’s market strength online:• How will potential customers come in contact with your brand and what it means to them (logos, products, website, promotions, social network interaction, downloads, employees, email responses, purchase systems, after sales added-value services etc)• How do you value those aspects of brand equity• Are you planning to expand your brand/products/services• Does your brand reinforce your business valuesConsider the external environment (factors beyond your control)a. Marketers use an analysis tool known as PESTEL (shortened to PEST) to consider the external environment within which a business operates and the factors which could impact upon that business’ goals.PESTEL is an acronym that represents the words Political, Economic, Social, Technological, Environmental and Legal. You can create your own PESTEL analysis by setting out these words and then bullet pointing with specifics that affect your business’ ability to achieve the aim of setting up and operating online.A bullet point example under the heading ‘legal’ might be:• UK Data Protection Act 1998This is important as you will need to comply with this law to protect customers’ data you hold as a result of trading online (and offline).You will probably be able to list at least 5 factors under each heading that are important influencers over your online success.PESTEL analyses are useful as they can help you identify potential threats to your business or opportunities if they are considered in light of your strengths and resources.b. Your online Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats can be expressed using an SWOT tool (you may well have carried out this exercise to create your offline marketing plan or business plan). A SWOT helps you take a bird’s eye view of your business, for you to consider how well you can compete, where your business is weak, where it could be threatened and then you can build a strategy for your digital plan.It’s worth taking the time to learn how to do this specifically for your business needs and to avoid the pitfalls. For further guidance on SWOT development see this American site Smes internet marketing.Audit summaryNow in light of your audit findings try to answer the following questions and see how they fit with any current marketing/business plan you have:1. Which of your KPIs and objectives have you achieved already and which ones can you achieve as a result of your audit?2. What does your SWOT/PESTEL analysis tell you about the potential for your business reaching and retaining target customers? What specific opportunities are there which are not inhibited by weaknesses?3. Who can you compete with and what are their weaknesses / strengths /plans? What specifically (within budget) will you offer customers that’s different from your competitors, offering greater value?4. Can you summarise your target markets’ buying behaviour?5. Are you clearer about what you need to produce and how you need to supply your goods/services online?6. Have you got the clues you need to provide good customer service online in a way your current and target customers appreciate?
Why Market Research is the Foundation of a Successful Business Marketing Plan
When creating a marketing plan or building a business for that matter, it is essential that you conduct some type of marketing research before you put too much time and money into your project.Its very easy to blow hundreds, even thousands of dollars on a marketing campaign an get absolutely no results. Marketing research is the one tool you have that will prevent this from happening. Not only will it help you save money, It will also help you dramatically increase your the response and results you get from your marketing.Here are some of the reasons marketing research is the foundation of your marketing plan.Helps Identify Who Marketing research will tell you who your ideal customer is. You will get to know and understand more about the characteristics and demographics of the type of person who is most likely to buy your product or service.Helps Identify What Research also helps you understand more about what your customers want and what products and services they are most likely to buy.Helps you Understand WhereThis information also helps you understand where to find your customers. This helps you pinpoint how to reach your customers with your marketing message.When you build your business marketing plan based on a foundation of solid marketing research, you exponentially increase your chances of success.Using research allows you to cater your business to those who are most likely to use your product or service. By marketing this information to target your market , you will eliminate all of the wasted time, money and effort associated with poor performing marketing campaigns and losing tons of money. This can add up to big bucks as you scale your business or if you are already bringing in serious revenue.Any business owner knows that a winning marketing plan is the difference between a successful business and a business failure.