Entrepreneurship and business course

What’s the best entrepreneurship / business course?

A question I answered in Quora forum: “What’s the best entrepreneurship or business course – it can be free or paid”.

The best course of action is to go apprentice yourself to an entrepreneur you respect and learn by working with/for them. I suggest doing this before or at the same time as starting your own business. Experience is worth a load more than book-learning from theoreticians.

I do not recommend paying $$$ for a university course UNLESS it is part time and closely aligned with working on a business you are currently running. Then you get to put into practice what you are being taught immediately.

I teach on a business course here in New Zealand called the Business Leadership Programme – by Love to Grow.

It takes 6 months and is 1 day per month with one-to-one coaching sessions in between formal classroom sessions. I recommend you ask them if you can join it virtually – the next course starts October 2016. It made a gigantic change to my business and taught me a lot about the parts of business entrepreneurship that I didn’t know (and the things I didn’t realise I needed to know!).

Shortcomings of book learning entrepreneurs

I find that any book, magazine or podcast that gives advice is helpful – but only up to a point. The authors never, NEVER talk in full detail about their mistakes, their mis-directions, bad decisions and failures. They may reference them, but you will not get the full picture.

The value is in experiencing these situations and learning from them.

If I were to tell you in public about experiences I’ve had like a bullying client, a supplier who stole from us, a bad person we hired etc you would begin to get more of an idea. But it would be unprofessional to write these things in public and I may get sued. But it is the EXPERIENCE of these situations that helps you to grow as a business person and entrepreneur.

My personal solutions to the need for experience and a fully rounded business education is on-the-job learning (reading / podcasts / business books / mentor advice) supplemented by:

  1. Chief Financial Officer meeting monthly
  2. The Business Leadership Programme educating and honing skills
  3. Mastermind Group of business owners – we meet monthly face to face and share / seek advice in a trusted, confidential roundtable. [We have a vacancy for 2 people to join our Auckland group – please ask]

What is your advice on how to learn entrepreneurship?

How I plan to benefit from a lost pitch

A question from Quora was sent to me to answer. And it demonstrates so neatly why many new business people get discouraged by apparent failures. My answer shows how to play the “advantage” card from a disappointment and position yourself for future success while gaining valuable business experience from the situation.

My business partner’s dad/investors asked for a pitch, to which he said no after a while, but still plans to use some of the ideas. What can I do?

I told her this idea I had for a concept store that she just shared with her Dad who offered to invest/add it to his Group. After talking a few weeks ago, he just sent us a decline letter, but she says he & his partners may still use some of my ideas. I’m lost… and she doesn’t care.. What can I do ?

How to benefit from a failed pitch

Write back to each person, individually, thanking them very much for their time in hearing your pitch. Be sure that they understand how much of the pitch was your concept/idea. Say you’re sorry that they have decided not to progress working with you at this time.

Tell them that if they use your ideas in future you will be keen to

a) work on the project, or
b) receive a commission payment to reflect your intellectual capital investment

Tell them that this is only one of many bright ideas you have to contribute to their businesses and ask for an introduction to two other people who might be keen to work with someone of your talents.

Four days later, follow up with a phone call to each one to check they got your email and to ask for the introductions.

The outcome will be that you will probably not get any money from a) or b). But the introductions you receive will give you entry into a new circle of prospective employers and clients.

Why this works

The psychology of getting them to acknowledge your contribution (which they may use in future without paying) provokes the principle of reciprocity. You gave them something of value and now you are asking for something of value in return (introductions).

The follow-up shows that you are more determined than most (e.g. your business partner) and therefore are “one to watch” for the future who may benefit them again.

Lastly, in future don’t share your ideas with your business partner again without first gaining agreement about how they are to be used and valued.

Google Alerts

How to Use Google Alerts to Drive Business

Google alerts are an extremely useful resource for promoting your business online. First of all, if you aren’t using Google Alerts to track your business, you’re missing a seriously useful hack. They are particularly handy for staying up to date with relevant and timely information regarding your business, so you can react immediately to any publicity or news as soon as it happens.

But that’s not all Google Alerts are good for…

Google Alerts can also be used via RSS as a news aggregator on your website or blog! This is particularly useful for showing your visitors you know what is happening around you as well as demonstrating a position of authority with regards to your particular topic. Displaying the latest, relevant news results provides a great reason for your fans to continue returning to your site. Tailored, niche content is much easier to digest when it is a subject aligned with your own browsing interests. It may even help increase the likelihood of your visitors purchasing from you!

The best part about this is it can be totally automated, so you don’t have to spend time curating material. But make sure you have tested and refined your alert keywords in order to get the best results. Or, be sure to check the results from time to time in order to filter out anything that doesn’t fit with your brand.

We will be putting together a guide explaining how to get Google Alerts displaying as an RSS feed on your website shortly…

The next application for Google Alerts is a little more intricate: With a bit of research and a thorough understanding of your target market, you can even use Google Alerts to find new business!

Example: How to use Google Alerts to Generate Leads

Our client provides storage equipment solutions to the global rowing community. Although they can retro-fit single pieces of equipment inside an existing boathouse, their biggest projects come from clubs and organisations who have or are building brand new facilities. These new facilities obviously require a complete fit out of storage equipment and therefore, are our client’s ideal market. So how do you know when a new facility is built and looking for storage equipment? Timing is everything – if you find them too late, they may have already sourced a supplier and you’ll have missed the boat. Google Alerts provides the answer!

By setting up alerts with keywords such as “new rowing boathouse”, “rowing building new boathouse” and “new rowing club” for example, you get a nice summary of boathouse developments happening around the world.

Of course you have to continue your research beyond the alert itself to determine the lead’s value. Sometimes, results are completely irrelevant, and sometimes they are duplicates of material you have already covered. However, on the whole, they are incredibly useful at identifying future projects, as they are often newsworthy topics in their local area.

google alerts example creative agency secretsgoogle alerts example creative agency secrets

The next step is to track all your leads in a spreadsheet. Information such as who to contact and where they are located is particularly important. Additional research on the lead’s website often provides the necessary information to point you in the right direction.

In our client’s case, we were interested in contacting the architects of the boathouse, so that we could get involved with the club and their design process, as early as possible.

We have experienced great success building up a database of quality leads for our client in recent months. It is then up to our client to continue the dialogue with the prospective club and come to an arrangement. We have had a great deal of success converting these previously unknown prospects into happy customers, and have done so without investing hugely in advertising, outbound mailing campaigns or other conventional outbound marketing activities!

We have been able to minimise the time taken to research new sources of business through alerts and have increased the prevalence of new business, while making it easy to filter out results of no value. And as it updates you each time a new boathouse is being developed, you don’t waste time searching for them manually. A weekly check of your alerts inbox provides you with enough

Regardless of your industry or business, there’s bound to be a positive application to use Google Alerts for. Whether it is direct lead generation, building a database of bloggers and journalists to share content between, or even researching a network of businesses whose interests align neatly with your own, the uses for it go on and on.

Marketing analysis (Business vector designed by Freepik)

Getting insight from your Marketing Analysis

Data is worthless unless it has meaning. Today’s marketer has access to more data than ever.

Finally we stand a chance of overcoming the traditional hostility to marketing as being 50% wasted spend because digital is wholly trackable and spend ROI can be calculated. And yet now, when all this is within our grasp, marketers fail to transition because they don’t understand data. They don’t like data, marketing doesn’t recruit numerate graduates and so the “fluffy” attitude to our discipline continues.

This annoys the hell out of me. It is not difficult and so I make analytics required task for all the interns, graduates and new staffers joining our team.

So what numbers should a business owner and a marketer look for and how to interpret them?

Analytics is free

Google has a comprehensive analytics package called Google Analytics (GA) which is freely available and you should install it on your website. There are more sophisticated packages, but start your pathway to analysis glory with the workhorse of the industry.

One of the best things about GA is that many marketing software applications integrate with it – so if you use marketing automation with Campaign Monitor or MailChimp or InfusionSoft then once it’s set up everything gets tracked with no further effort on your part.

Finding your space online

Google Analytics referralsMost businesses understand how to find and occupy a niche online – the keywords and search phrases which you want to get found for and the competing websites and brands for your business.

And so your content marketing will be resonating with others who share your niche.

The bit of analytics I love most is the incoming referrals data.

I was with a client who sells paleo food products through an online store. They had never, ever looked at their analytics account. Ever. So we took a look and found they had incoming links from powerful bloggers who had the potential to resell their products. Double Whammy – a strong incoming link sending traffic to the site plus a potential new distributor. Two easy actions for them to improve business revenues. And all it took was a look into GA.

Referrals Data Analysis

Google Analytics destination pageSo let’s go on a little journey inside Google Analytics – first looking at the Acquisition tab and then below, the Referrals sub-category. Ooh, I love this part…. look at all the websites where people have followed a link into your website…. but there’s more. Now find the pages they linked to by adding to the data display. Go to the top of the referrals page and look for this button, click on Secondary Dimension and below on the menu that appears expand the menu below “Behaviour” and click on Destination Page. Now you can see all the visitors from different sites sorted by the page they came to.

Does this help?

Oh boy yes. Now I know which content is engaging to readers, which source websites are sending me traffic and in what volumes to which pages…. I can find pages where the content gets visited regularly all the time, I can find blog posts that get very little or a large amount. This allows us to adjust what we write, which keywords, which audiences and where to share the content.

Things that you can do to improve incoming links.

If there are a range of companies sending traffic to your homepage, consider creating a landing page just for them. We have several on our website – take a look at this http://creativeagencysecrets.com/yellow/ Yes we wrote a page just for visitors from our Yellow Pages listing. It contains information that will help shortcut their journey through the site to finding what they want, fast.

You can do this too

Google Analytics queriesOther small tasks worth paying someone to do (if you don’t know how) is integrating Google Search Console with GA so you can see the Queries your website shows up for and how many click-throughs you get and what your average display rank is (page one or page 21?). So helpful.

And if you use Google AdWords – your reporting from the agency who does the work for you should include as a minimum the following data points.

• Number of leads
• Cost per lead
• Top Adverts
• Number of impressions
• Which keywords are sending traffic
• Search query

This last, search query, is really important because it shows what the potential customer typed into the search engine…. and that’s gold as far as on-site SEO goes. Same as the Queries inside GA.

There is core data which as the advertiser you need and as the marketers, we need, in order to focus our efforts appropriately.

So let’s get started as confident analytics users whose marketing delivers return on investment.

Teach yourself, get tutored or go on a course. Doesn’t matter how, just get on and do this one thing.