Quick Study: Advocacy Trumps Advertising; New Year’s Resolutions In the Office; Business Plan Mistakes to Avoid

*Advocacy vs. Advertising: A consumer survey conducted by Weber Shandwick across the UK, Germany, Italy and Spain demonstrates the increasing importance of brand advocacy, that is, the act of consumers promoting a brand to peers by word of mouth, in influencing brand choice. The results show a strong trend, with brand advocacy ranking by far as the most significant factor influencing consumer brand choice: Brand advocacy is 5.3 times more effective at stimulating brand sales than advertising in Europe. 37.3% of consumers surveyed were recently prompted to purchase by brand advocacy. 55.1% of promoters (people who have advocated a brand) claim that their advocacy led to a purchase. 63.6% of promoters reported actually being active in one of the market categories covered (TV, mobile, PC, Auto, Spirits).   Source: Weber Shandwick *Resolutions to Actually Keep: The three most common personal New Year's resolutions are to get fit, save money and spend more time with family and friends. Barry VanderKelen, executive director of the San Luis Obispo County Community Foundation, explains that these same resolutions can apply to managing a nonprofit organization. Here's how: Get fit: Now is a good time to sort through files and records and clean out things that are no longer needed. First, though, establish a document retention and destruction policy that will guide decisions to keep, recycle or destroy. Save money: Look into ways that your organization reaches its goals by spending less money or negotiating better contracts. Little things like resetting the thermostat for reduced heat or A/C during off-hours and buying office supplies in bulk add up. Spend more time with family and friends: Small staff sizes, increasing expectations for programs and services and tight budgets all add up to mean that nonprofit workers often work extra and uncompensated hours. This year, resolve to use more of your own time for yourself. If more staff is needed, hire more staff.   Source: SanLuisObispo.com *10 Biggest Business Plan Mistakes: Former venture capitalist and angel investor Christine Comaford-Lynch, who has reviewed hundreds of business plans, explains where many entrepreneurs go horribly wrong: 1. Company Overview: This should be a few concise, compelling sentences about your company's goal, but often ends up being vague, commonplace and not compelling. 2. Pain: You always need to make a case for why your product is crucial by identifying the market pain it will relieve. Many make the mistake of simply leaving this topic out. 3. Solution: Don't make the mistake of failing to completely explain your solution to the market pain and precisely how it works. 4. Company Information: List as many key players as possible in this section. You aren't expected to have a full team at this stage, but one-or-two-person teams don't demonstrate your ability to get others on board with your vision. 5. Financial Information: Too many make pie-in-the-sky financial projections. Back any projections up with the specifics of how you expect to get there, including five years of revenue estimates, monthly burn rate, projected cash-flow positive date, etc. 6. Product: Include a short paragraph on the status of your product, even if it's still early. Don't leave the reader wondering how or when you're going to get a full-fledged product. 7. Defensibility: Explain how your intellectual property or market position will be protected from competitors. Patents? Key Risks? Don't fail to demonstrate that you've considered these issues. 8. Competition: Don't claim you have no competitors - you do. Name any present or future competitors and, even better, explain how your solution trumps theirs. 9. Business Model: Don't hold back any thoughts you have on secondary and tertiary revenue streams that could open up in the future. Show exactly how your business will make money and continue to grow. 10. Key Milestones: Don't be vague about what you have accomplished within a time frame, and what exactly will accelerate your company's growth in the future. Be specific about the stage of these achievements. Source: BusinessWeek.com PRN

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