Thursday, September 28, 2006

How to Socialize into Improved Search Engine Rankings (Homebusiness Ideas)

Looking for new ways to get improved search engine placement for your web site? Then maybe you should spend a little more time socializing online! I'm talking about getting more active on social media web sites like :
MySpace ( ),
Flickr ( ),
Digg ( ).
Sure, these sites might be the online hangouts where people like to goof off during their "down time" at work... But they're also extremely popular web sites with high Google PageRank numbers -- and if you can get links on these sites to point to your site, it might get driven to the top of the search engine results page for your keywords! In a recent newsletter ( ), I talked about how creating a keyword-rich article and distributing it on the Web can improve your ranking in the free search engines. It's an easy way to get relevant sites linking back to you, and it doesn't cost you a dime! Well, posting content on the social media sites is another great way to achieve these same goals. It's just that the type of sites -- and the type of content you post on them -- are different.And the best part about this strategy is that it involves hanging out at fun sites you'd probably enjoy spending time at, anyway! But before I show you how to "socialize" your way to improved search engine placement, let's take a closer look at exactly what social media web sites are. ---------
Discover how these popular online hangouts can lead to improved search engine placement! ----

These days, social media sites are HUGE! In fact, they make up five of the top 10 fastest-growing Web brands on the Internet, according to Nielsen/NetRatings. And this explosive growth isn't likely to end anytime soon. So if people are hanging out on these sites in ever-expanding numbers, don't you want to be there too? Just like in the offline world, "location, location, location" is the key to success! Now, there's been a pretty big buzz around the phrase "social media" lately. But what exactly does it mean? Social media sites are simply online gathering places where people share interesting, entertaining, informative, or just plain
*goofy* content with each other. This content can take many different forms. It can be...
* Personal information in the form of blogs
* Useful articles about anything and everything
* Photos or video clips that people might get a kick out of watching
* Collections of bookmarks to favorite online articles or
web sites that people can check out for themselves Members of these communities can comment on each other's contributions, engage in discussions, and find other people who are interested in the same things they are. Hanging out and participating at these sites can be a great way to make new online friends or business contacts. It's also an effective strategy you can use to drive more traffic to your business site -- not only from the social media sites themselves, but also from the improved search engine placement you'll get from having more high-PageRank links pointing to your web site! Social media sites can be organized into a few main categories:
* Social networking sites: These sites are basically online communities that connect people through networks of friends.
MySpace ( )is the Internet’s most- visited social networking community. On their profile pages, MySpace users can describe their interests, upload pictures, post blog-style entries, and list the other MySpace users who have become their friends. They can even post audio and video clips to share with other people! Independent musicians and bands were the first group to take advantage of the interactive nature of MySpace to get their product out there. They found they could attract devoted followings by posting audio clips of their latest songs and updating fans on their concert schedules. This has been a big hit with teenagers and twentysomethings, who come to the site to learn more about the bands who are poised to be the next "big thing."

But MySpace isn't just for the teen scene anymore! Even professionals like financial planners and lawyers have started networking and community-building on MySpace. The fact is, people in pretty much any field can gain more exposure by creating a MySpace page. And the great thing is, it's free! So set up an account for yourself, start networking and adding other people in your industry to your "friends" list, and make your name and web site visible on these wildly popular sites. And don't forget to link to your business site in your profile! If you're interested in exploring other popular social networking sites, some of the top ones include:
Friendster ( ),
Facebook ( ), and
Linkedin ( ).

* Social bookmarking sites: At social bookmarking sites, people save links to their favorite web sites or articles -- just like you do with the "Favorites" or "Bookmarks" function in your own personal web browser (e.g., Internet Explorer or Firefox). When you save your favorite links at a bookmarking site
Like ( ), they become public and can be viewed by other members of the site. You can also "tag" your links with descriptive keywords, so people have a better idea of what kind of content your links are pointing to.
To learn what we mean by tagging, check out the blog :

Tagging your bookmarks is useful in another important way: When people use the site's internal search engine to look for bookmarks on a particular topic, any ones that are tagged with keywords related to that topic will appear in the search results. The more an article or a web site gets bookmarked by members of these sites, the higher it ranks in the search results. So if you include an appropriately tagged link to your own site (or to an article you've written) in your bookmarks list, and a lot of other members add it to their bookmarks as well, your link will be seen by a lot more people searching for your keywords. And if your link becomes really popular, it might even end up on the bookmark site's homepage -- which will generate a TON of traffic and incoming links to your web site! Okay, so that's the "Holy Grail" of using bookmarking sites as a traffic-generating strategy... and the chances of it happening are actually quite slim. But even just ONE link from a top bookmarking site like...
- Digg ( )
- ( )
- Netscape ( )
- Reddit ( )
- Furl ( )
... will boost your site's value in the eyes of the search engines. So why not spend the few minutes it takes to create an account on these sites and give it a shot? After you set up an account, list a few of your favorite sites as bookmarks, making sure to also include links to YOUR web site or articles. And don't forget to make them public, so others can view your favorites as well.
* Media-sharing sites: Have you ever checked out the latest videos at YouTube ( ), or the most popular pictures at Flickr ( )? These web sites have been taking the Internet by storm, with everyone rushing to upload their favorite cat videos, or photos from their vacation, or latest business conference pictures. But you can also find things like real estate "virtual tour" videos being uploaded and viewed. So if you’re a real estate agent, a great way to increase your market visibility would be to get an account, upload a video tour of a listing, and then tag it with appropriate keywords. Anyone who's searching for video info on real estate in your area will probably come across your video tour -- and learn about you in the process! Online video and photo-sharing sites have been growing by leaps and bounds, and they also show no signs of slowing up.
The top video sites include...
- YouTube ( ), and
- Google Video ( ) While the most popular photo-sharing web sites are...
- Flickr ( ), and
- Fotolog ( )
* Wiki sites: A wiki is a type of web site that lets ALL its users update the site’s content. Every visitor to a wiki web site can add to, delete, or edit the site's content, creating a sort of living web page full of fresh perspectives and up-to-the-minute information from multiple users. Take, the Web's biggest and best-known wiki ( ): It's an online encyclopedia that allows users to update its database of entries on everything from historical figures, to technical terms, to world events. So by creating an account at Wikipedia, you can start making changes to existing articles, or add completely new articles related to your industry or area of expertise and grow your reputation as an expert in your field! Plus, you can look for suitable opportunities to include links to your own web site or articles in the entries you edit. For example, at the end of every Wikipedia article is a section called "External links." If you write an entry on a term related to your product or industry, and your web site can help people learn more about this topic, you can include a link back to your site! One thing, though: Since other users can also edit your entry -- as well as the links you've included -- the link to your web site must be relevant, or else it will likely be removed by another member of the community. ----

How to attract the most eyeballs by posting attention- grabbing content on social media sites ---

Take a moment to think about what people do when they're sitting in front of their computer at work and want to take a quick mental break... If they're one of the millions of people who like hanging out at bookmarking sites, maybe they'll pop over to Digg to see what the daily top bookmarks are. Now... which headline do you think they'll be more likely to click on? "Chirac Urges World Powers Not to Refer Iran to Security Council" -- or -- "How to Roast Coffee at Home With a Popcorn Popper" My bet is on the latter, because it sounds like a fun way to waste a couple of minutes and learn an unusual skill -- and besides, what office worker doesn't love coffee? Now imagine if you ran a small coffee-roasting business -- just think about the kind of exposure an article could get you, if it were featured on Digg's homepage. The trick to creating fun social media content that spreads through the Internet like wildfire (going "viral," as it's called) is to write entertaining articles that are short, compelling, and eye-catching. First, write a headline that grabs readers' attention and tells them exactly how your article is going to help or entertain them. Then keep your piece short, easy to scan, and fun to read. In fact, lists are often some of the most popular articles on social bookmarking sites. People who visit these sites are usually looking to waste a few minutes online, and they don't want to read a bunch of heavy text. That's why lists are so great! They're easy to format and quick to read, and don't waste any time getting to the punchline.

Media-sharing sites like Flickr ( )and
YouTube ( ) obviously need different content because they're dealing with video and images. But the same principle of creating short, snappy, and entertaining content still applies. Many of the most popular videos on YouTube, for example, are short compilations of funny video clips -- like you see on the TV show "America's Funniest Home Videos." But content that's entertaining AND solves people's problems can also be effective. "How-to" videos that teach people a specific skill are extremely popular in certain markets. Now I'm sure many of you are thinking, "How am I supposed to create an entertaining article or video when I sell a boring product like widgets?" The truth is, there are thousands of ways to create entertaining content for these sites -- if you use your imagination. Here are some examples and ideas to get you started:

* Compile an entertaining or informative list related to your industry: One of the most popular September stories on the tech-oriented Digg ( ) is titled "112 Windows Run Commands." The article is simply a list of shortcuts that will help Microsoft Windows users save a lot of time -- and people obviously liked the article, because it's already received 2,363 "diggs," or votes, from Digg users! And just think about how many of these people emailed the article to their friends! If you ran a web site that sold computer software, can you imagine what kind of traffic your site would have received if you had created and submitted this article yourself? * Take existing content in your newsletter or blog and repackage it for social media sites: You probably already have valuable content on hand that you've written for your site's newsletter or blog. Simply tweak this existing content to make it short and scannable, and re-use it on the social media sites! Spend some time thinking up a snappy headline, because that's the biggest factor in getting people to click on your article. And don't forget to tag it with popular and appropriate keywords.

* Create a funny compilation video: Let's say you sell a relatively specialized product, like baby shoes. One thing you could do would be to run a contest on your web site where the person who submits the funniest baby video wins a free pair of shoes. After you've chosen a winner, simply string all of the best entries into a single video.
Then upload your video to YouTube ( ) or Google Video ( )with the tags "funny" and "baby" -- and don't forget to include information about your web site. In fact, I just did a search at YouTube for the term "funny babies" and the first video in the search results page has been viewed 67,143 times in the last nine months -- and the clip is only 10 seconds long! If 67,000 people had viewed your baby video in the last nine months -- with the URL to your business site clearly displayed at the end -- I can guarantee you'd be seeing a LOT more traffic. Remember: These don't have to be lengthy professional videos -- something filmed with a digital camera or even a cell phone works great! * Post an interactive product demonstration: Flickr ( ) could be a great place for you to put up an interactive demonstration of your latest product. Just upload some images that show exactly how your product works or what it can be used for -- along with some descriptive text -- and let visitors post comments and questions about your demo. That way, you can use Flickr to promote your product AND receive honest feedback from potential or current users. * Promote offline events you've attended: You could also use Flickr to promote offline events you've attended. Simply putting up pictures of the people you met at the latest industry conference you attended can be a great way to develop a community of like-minded professionals. If you tag these pictures with the name of the event, it will be easy for other attendees to find your shots. You can even tell participants during the event where to go online to see the pictures, once it's all over -- that way, you're sure to get some hits as soon as the pictures are posted! And don't forget to include a link back to your web site or product page at the bottom of every photo you upload, as each of these will count as another incoming link that will help with improved search engine placement.

------The "dos" and "don'ts" of participating at social media sites ------------------------------

WARNING: There's ONE IMPORTANT THING you have to remember when using social media sites to get improved search engine placement for your site! And that's the fact that these are SOCIAL sites -- people don't visit them expecting to be hit with a bunch of marketing messages. So if you want to get links at these sites to point to your own site, you have to do it SUBTLY. Think about it... If you were at a party and somebody started handing out business cards and immediately launched into a sales pitch for his product, you'd try to get away, right? Well it's the same thing on a social web site. That kind of behaviour is considered highly unethical and inappropriate by members of these communities. On Digg ( ), for example, links will often get voted down as spam if they're submitted by the person who owns the site they point to.
And on ( ), if all of your favorite links point ONLY to your web site, you'll lose all your credibility, and no other users will add your links to their own list of bookmarks. So make sure that you're participating honestly and being low-key about your business. Be sure you share other relevant and entertaining links with the community, in addition to your own products and articles. Otherwise all your hard work creating content for these sites will have been a waste of time. Here are the main things you should be doing on social media sites:
* Do create a profile with a link back to your web site
* Do tag your articles with relevant keywords
* Do participate in the discussions to build your credibility
* Do contribute to the growth and value of these sites by creating and submitting content that is entertaining and solves problems
* Do get a good grasp of what's receiving attention on that specific site before submitting content
* Do invite your friends to go online and vote for your links -- within reason, of course!
* Do give your articles intriguing headlines that will get people to read further
* Do be yourself -- these communities don't reward fakers Here are a few things you shouldn't be doing on social mediasites:
* Don't spam sites with links only to your own articles, or bookmarks pointing only to your site * Don't go overboard when encouraging friends to vote for your links -- organized "gangs" of voters often get discovered and "booed off" these sites
* Don't submit boring or irrelevant content -- this will only hurt your reputation
* Don't be there just to promote yourself -- nobody wants to be friends with people who are only out for themselves! By following these rules, you'll become part of the online community, and people will begin to value your opinion and see you as a credible source of information. This will allow you to become more powerful in the community, and your links and articles will carry more weight than the anonymous contributions of a new member. -----------

----------------------Final thoughts---------------------------------------------

The key to getting the most out of these social web sites is to start small. Check out a few of the different sites. Then choose one or two that you enjoy hanging out at, and get a feel for the communities. By spending time at these sites, you'll discover what type of information is popular, get tons of ideas for new articles, and find out exactly what's on the minds of regular Internet users. Eventually, start creating some valuable and interesting content of your own, and submit it to these sites... then sit back and see what happens! By participating honestly and sharing some interesting links, videos, or articles -- as well as providing links to your own web site -- you might find that a lot of other people will start linking to your articles and your business site. The worst that can happen is you'll have some fun, meet some interesting people, and learn a few things. If you do things right, play by the rules, and create some fun and interesting content, you'll be able to grow the number of relevant links pointing to your site -- and that just might lead to your ultimate goal of improved search engine placement! So, have YOU ever posted links on social media sites as a way to increase your traffic or get improved search engine ranking? And if so, was the experience a success for you? Tell us about it – we’d love to hear about YOUR marketing stories!



Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Formula For Success

let me share an old formula for success that dates back to at least the old Greeks. And it's still being used today by most everyone who achieves huge and lasting success.

(1) Find someone who's successful doing what you want to do.
(2) determine what they did to become successful and
(3) duplicate the steps they took and the methods they used

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Why A Business Plan Will Fast-Track Your Profits


If you're serious about the success of your online business, then you need to find ways to give yourself every advantage you can over your competition. One strategy that I can almost GUARANTEE your competitors haven't tried is building customized blueprints that outline exactly how their businesses will succeed. The process of writing a business plan for your company can be a crucial step in getting your profits to where you want them to be.

If you're thinking, "But I'm just a one-person business working part-time out of my home... I don't need a business plan," think again! Unless you want your business to stay small and to keep your day job, you desperately need a business plan. It's one of the best ways to motivate yourself to drive your business to the next level.

And if your business is still just an idea in your head, and you've been wondering for months how to get started, here's your answer: Start planning! Clear your schedule this weekend, print off this article, and get down to business!

What's Your Purpose?

A business plan can serve a couple of main purposes: In the world of banking and venture capital, business plans play a huge role for people who are trying to secure start-up funding from banks or investors. The better the business plan, the better the chances of landing that big initial investment.

For smaller companies, who (luckily) do not need to rely on outside funding to get started, a business plan serves more as a company blueprint. It identifies the company's purpose, products, market, and goals, as well as the steps the company plans to take to reach those goals.

So before you start writing, you'll need to decide what purpose your business plan is going to serve. If you're writing a formal business plan to secure financing, you'll need to be far more concerned about detail and format than if you're just preparing one for your own personal use. No matter which approach you're taking, though, you need to know that there are 7 main sections that should be included in just about every business plan.

Section 1: The Executive Summary

The executive summary is basically your entire business plan condensed down into a page or two (at the most). If and when you show your business plan to others, this is the only part that 75% of them will actually read. For this reason, you need to make this section as clear, concise, and exciting as possible.

Your executive summary should contain a few key items. You'll want to start out with a brief description of exactly what your business does, who your market is, and what opportunity you've identified as the inspiration for your business. Explain what sets your company apart from others in the same field.

You'll also need to discuss financial information such as projected revenues and, if you'll be using this business plan to secure financing, how much money you need and what you will be using it for. Don't go into too much financial detail in this section. You'll just want to include the most important figures.

Also, be sure to mention your company's achievements, including all of the milestones reached to date. Even if all you've done so far is register a domain name, put together a web site, or file a patent application, be sure to include this information in this section of your business plan.

Section 2: Description of Business

This section will contain an in-depth description of your company, including what products or services you sell, who your customers are, what your operating structure is (Are you a wholesaler? A reseller? A manufacturer?), the legal details of your company (Is it a corporation? A partnership? A sole proprietorship?), and your distribution methods.

This is the section of your business plan where you will identify what makes your company unique and where you'll address the following questions:

What are you offering that others aren't?
What sets you apart from your competitors?
Why will people choose to do business with you instead of other players in the same marketplace?
If you've already been in business for awhile, you will also want to use this section to talk about the history of the company. Talk about what inspired you to start the company and how fast it is growing. Address the more concrete details as well, such as how much equipment you own or lease and where your office is located.

Section 3: Market Strategies

Think of this section as your marketing plan. This is where you'll want to go into detail regarding who your target market is and how you intend to sell to them. This section will contain information about how big your audience is, how fast it is growing, and how large you expect your market share to be.

Some great sites where you can start this research are:

CyberAtlas --
Nua Internet Surveys -- --
In this section, you will also talk about how you intend to market your product or service to your target audience. Will you focus on pay-per-click search engine traffic? Banner advertising? E-zine sponsorships? How much do you expect to spend on advertising, and what sort of return do you expect from those advertising dollars?

Be sure to think carefully about which marketing strategies to include here. Don't just list off every single advertising technique you can think of. You need to realistically evaluate all the possibilities, and then focus on the two or three marketing techniques that will produce the biggest return on investment.

If you think this sounds like a lot of work just for a business plan, think again! This is the kind of legwork and research you should be doing anyway! And once you've figured out how much your marketing and advertising is going to cost, you can put together a schedule of how much you can afford to spend on various campaigns each month.

Section 4: Competitive Analysis

The competitive analysis section of your business plan is where you explain, in detail, the strengths and weaknesses of your main competitors. This will allow you to realistically determine where you can position your business in the market in relation to your competition.

Make sure to do an honest appraisal of who your competition is. If your site is selling board games, your main competition is NOT Toys 'R' Us. Instead, your biggest competitors are other niche sites that focus on selling board games. These are the sites that you can realistically expect to compete with for customers interested in buying your products online.

Nevertheless, you should still pay attention to the "major players" in your competitive analysis. Take a look at how they are marketing to board game buyers, and what areas they are lacking in. Based on your research, you should be able to capitalize on the weaknesses of others in your market space and snatch customers away from them by positioning your offer to meet a need that everyone else is neglecting.

A great tool for doing competitive analysis is, which allows you to discover how much traffic your competitors are getting in relation to your site and see who they are linking to. Compare your own traffic ranking to your competitors' traffic rankings in Alexa every month or so. This way, you'll be able to gauge your progress against your competition. Spend some time getting familiar with this site -- it will become an invaluable resource tool for you!

Section 5: Development Plan and/or Operational Strategy

If your company is still in the developmental stage (with no product and/or no revenues), this is the section where you will explain how you are going to bring your company into the marketplace. The best way to do this is to write out a development timeline with the projected completion dates for various milestones your company will need to reach before it can start making sales.

This is the section where you must plan to profit! Failing to do so is one of the most common mistakes made by businesses. All too often, people just set up shop without ever really planning exactly HOW they are going to become profitable!

If your business is already up and running, but is not currently generating a profit (if your revenues are not enough to cover your operating expenses), then this is where you will need to identify how you will make up the shortfall until you become profitable. For many home-based businesses, the difference is drawn from the owner's savings or income from another job.

Regardless of what stage you're at, you should still include a table of projected milestones for your business in this section. Estimate the month and year of the important milestones that you plan to achieve over the next 1 to 2 years. This not only looks great, it also reminds you of your goals every time you refer back to your plan.

Section 6: Management

This section is especially important if you are going to be using your business plan to secure funding. I can guarantee that after a prospective investor reads through your Executive Summary, they will flip directly to your Management section before reading anything else. They'll want to get a clear idea of "who" your company is -- after all, a business idea is only as good as the people behind it!

So this is where you introduce your management team or, if you are the only person involved in your business, explain why you are qualified to be running the company. Focus on your strengths and achievements from your previous ventures or jobs, and explain in detail how those qualities transfer to your business.

Make sure to go into detail about what makes you uniquely qualified to operate this sort of business. What special skills do you bring to the company? How do your areas of expertise give you a distinct advantage over people operating similar companies?

If you have accountants, lawyers, or consultants advising you in an official (paid) capacity, you can mention their names, duties, and qualifications here as well. However, you need to be sure to get their permission before putting their names in your business plan.

Section 7: Financials

If you've had a chance to look through a few business plans before, you'll have noticed that the last half of these documents are filled with balance sheets, earnings projections, capital requirements, depreciation estimates, and dozens of other highly detailed financial statements.

Don't let all these numbers put you off! If you aren't going to be using your business plan to solicit capital from outside sources, you won't need 90% of this stuff. Instead, focus on your monthly income and monthly expenses. The best way to do this is to put together a simple 12-month cash flow forecast.

Here's how to do it:

First, estimate how much your business will earn on a monthly basis. Include all your sales, cash you'll be drawing from your savings, or money your business has been loaned. This is your "Total Cash In."

Next, determine what your monthly expenses will be. This should include things like advertising costs, office expenses like phone bills and stationary, the cost of your inventory, equipment purchases, loan repayments, as well as whatever cash you'll be drawing out of the business for your personal living expenses. This will be your "Total Cash Out."

Now, simply subtract your "Total Cash Out" from your "Total Cash In" to get your monthly "Net Cash Flow." If you see that your Net Cash Flow is a negative number, you're losing money! If that number stays negative for the entire 12 months, you're going to need to re-evaluate your business plan... and figure out a way to increase sales or decrease expenses!

IMPORTANT NOTE: You can see why it is so important to be honest with yourself when writing your business plan! If you exaggerate the sales you think you'll bring in, your whole business model will be damaged when those sales don't materialize. So much for that hefty advertising budget you planned, as well as the generous salary you hoped to pay yourself!

Do-It-Yourself vs. Hiring Out

If you are going to be using your business plan as a tool to attract capital from banks or investors, then your business plan will need to be MUCH more detailed than if you are preparing it for personal use. If you need some extra help preparing a highly detailed plan, you have a few choices. You can:

Hire a professional business plan consultant to work with you,
Hire an accountant to help you prepare the "Financials" section of your business plan, or
Purchase a full-featured business plan software program.
If you do decide to have a professional write your business plan for you, be aware that the costs vary tremendously! A basic 15-page business plan could cost you anywhere between $500 and $5,000, depending on who you hire. (And a detailed business plan, which can often exceed 100 pages, can easily cost as much as $25,000 -- but these are for companies looking for millions of dollars of start-up capital.)

To locate someone to write your business plan for you, just type "business plans" into any search engine -- you'll find tons of companies that specialize in this sort of thing. You can also have professional writers bid on your business plan project at The going rate for a business plan here seems to be between $750 and $1,500.

There are quite a few business plan software programs out there. One of the best seems to be Business Plan Pro 2003, available at for $99.95. Other options are PlanWrite, located at for $129.95 and BizPlan Builder, priced at $99.99, at

If you are running a one- or two-person company out of your home or small office, you probably won't need to hire a professional to work on your business plan. This option is really more for people who will be using their business plans to attract investors or secure bank loans. Most small business owners should be able to write their business plans themselves.

And unless you are going to be trying to land big investors, I really don't recommend hiring a professional to write your business plan for you. You'll learn so much about your business and your competitors doing it yourself that it would be a shame to let someone else go through the process for you!

Business Plan Resources:

I've hand-picked a few of my favorite online business plan resources to share with those readers who might be looking for a little more information:

The United States Small Business Administration has an excellent resource online at They provide an online tutorial to help you write your business plan, and their site also contains all the information you'll need if you plan on trying to get a Small Business Administration loan or grant.
The Yahoo! Small Business Center has a good section about business plans at
The Annual Moot Corp Competition challenges top MBAs from around the world to submit their business plans to be evaluated by a panel of investors. The winning entries from the past few years are online at
Palo Alto Software has developed a program called Business Plan Pro 2003 (priced at $99.95) that will walk you through the creation of your own business plan. But even if you aren't interested in their software, check out their site at for a huge archive of sample business plans that you can read for no charge.
You can also find a wealth of information about business plans at your local library or bookstore. The Business section will have tons of books explaining how to write business plans, as well as books with hundreds of sample business plans for you to look at.

Final Thoughts:

Once you've written your business plan, you'll be amazed at how often you refer to it. It will become your "battle plan," as well as the tool you'll use to measure how close you are to meeting your goals -- or by how much you're surpassing them! You can even show your business plan to prospective joint venture partners, potential employees, or advertisers. Believe me, a professional-looking business plan will give you a TON of credibility simply because most businesses never take the time to prepare one.

If you're thinking about starting a business, but you're not quite sure how, writing out a business plan can be a great way to get things moving. It's also a great way to evaluate how good that idea of yours really is. For many people, the process of writing a business plan shows them that their business can make even more money than they originally thought! Now that's motivation!

If you're already running an online business, the process of writing a business plan can help you decide exactly what aspects of your business are succeeding and which areas could be improved upon. When you do an in-depth analysis of your marketplace, your customers, and your competitors, you'll be amazed by how much you can learn!

And be sure to make your business plan a perpetual "work in progress." Go back and review it every three months, and make changes where necessary. If your sales are twice what you expected, go back and update the figures in your business plan. This ensures that your map to profitability is always right up to date.