Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Blogging for billions

Sometime last week, this blog hit another milestone: our 200,000th visitor!

This is exciting because it took us 4.5 years to get to the first 100,000, and just 21 months to double that. And the latest 50,000 came in just 8 months, for an average of more than 6,000 visitors a month, or more than 200 a day.

Pretty good for a blog that never mentions Justin Bieber.

Of course, all this comes against the inevitable background that I've been posting less often on this blog lately. This inspires me to do more, but realistically, you should also follow me on Twitter. That's how business junkies get their news today!

Thank you for your support.

Note to a Young Entrepreneur

A young Canadian entrepreneur starting a video-production company asked me for some advice on finance and "getting the word out."

Here is my response:

"Institutional capital is rare for new service businesses. Friends and family is the usual solution to startup capital in situations like yours.

Your best bet would be to look into the Canada Youth Business Foundation, which offers low-rate loans to entrepreneurs under 35. Better still, each loan comes with a mentor and mentoring process to help guide you along the way.

Marketing yours services is all about measuring the benefit you have created for other people, and communicating that information to more people like them. So it's in two parts:

1. Gather testimonials from all of your satisfied clients - get them to specify how you helped them, how great your service was, how much money you saved them or how you directed them to the best solution, etc. (The more detailed, the better.)

2. Communicate the message of how you help people. Start by identifying your target market and finding the best way to reach them (posters, brochures, ads, e-mail, Google ads, press releases, website?). Then start hammering home the message in a helpful, over-the-top, eyecatching way.

Rinse and Repeat.

Does this help?


What other advice might you offer?

Monday, July 11, 2011

The Market Research Dilemma

Yesterday I got an inquiry from an entrepreneur I'll call Ruth. She is setting out to start an upscale health-services business in Toronto, and was looking for industry-specific market research to help her pick the best locations to target.

Sadly, her request was too specific for me to offer any immediate help. But I tried to steer her in the right direction with some general advice, which I'm happy to share with you, too. Here's what I told her.

Hi, Ruth. I wish you luck in your venture, but I am afraid I am not an expert in market-research sources for specific industries. I would think, however, that any neighborhood in the city with larger, more expensive homes (e.g., Bayview Village, Rosedale, North Toronto, York Mills, the Kingsway, etc.) would fit your target market, and that information is readily available through the press or the Toronto Real Estate Board.

For specific industry stats, you might consult sources like StatsCan or Scott's Directories. My suggestion is that you call a reference librarian at the Toronto Reference Library and tell them what you are looking for; they are very helpful and can probably point you to sources that you and I have never heard of.

Here are some ideas on sources to get you started:

And don't forget the potential of doing your own market research. There are lots of cheap ways to gain market intelligence using personal polltakers or online surveys. You could even look for friends or locals who live in target areas and ask them to hold a focus group for you to pick their friends' brains regarding demand for your business idea. Most entrepreneurs skip this step, even though it could save them so much grief (and money!).

Best of luck! Let me know how things go.


Friday, July 01, 2011

July 1, 2011

Just a note to wish the readers of this blog a Happy Canada Day!

144 years ago, on July 1, 1867, four small, scared, and suspicious British colonies in North America formed a Confederation to provide for more secure trade, defence and economic growth. The fruit of that visionary decision is today’s Canada, a confident, well intentioned nation that stands as a beacon to peace-loving people around the world.

While not as well known or prosperous as our neighbour the United States, Canada shows that national purpose and success can be found by different paths – whether it be violent revolution against a vexatious mother country, or gradual disengagement through diplomacy and good will. Together, Canada and the U.S. are a magnet for goods, ideas and people throughout the globe, and the most successful economic partnership in history.

A salute to all things Canadian. Shut off your Blackberry, bite into a Macintosh apple, enjoy some maple butter, grab a Molson, or finish your painting chores this week with a paint roller – all of them products of Canadian ingenuity and commerce. Have a safe and sunny weekend!

And all best wishes to our U.S. friends and family for a glorious Fourth of July!