What You Can Learn about Marketing Strategy from the Cleveland Browns

Win or lose, the Cleveland Browns have shown commitment in the face of challenge and we can all learn about marketing strategy from this comeback team.

cleveland browns, learn about business strategy
Photo courtesy of the NY Times at www.nytimes.com

So the Cleveland Browns is on a serious winning streak and I’ll be the first to admit that I am utterly amazed and am humbled to learn about marketing strategy from this comeback team.

Even die-hard fans can agree that the season started off pretty rocky. And with the Brandon Weeden (Browns quarterback) injury and Trent Richardson trade, most were ready to throw in the towel on yet another football season.

Then along comes Brian Hoyer, the local kid from St. Ignatius High School with a good arm and some pizzazz. And now the Browns are first in the AFC division. I don’t know the last time I heard “Cleveland Browns” and “first” in the same sentence.

The Browns faced some challenges early on and made some tough decisions that sent sports reporters and fans into a near cardiac arrest – but they are bouncing back, despite Hoyer’s recent injury (a torn ACL).

So what can we learn about marketing strategy from the Cleveland comeback team?

1.       It’s Good to Shake Up the Strategy

Trading running back Richardson seemed like the worst decision in the world. Fans were pissed off, sportscasters were in an uproar and the stadium seemed to have a dark cloud over it … until the next game when the Browns won.

As business owners, everyone may not agree with your decisions and strategies, but you can’t build success without taking risks.

2.       You Can’t Please Everyone

Every single game, Browns management is called everything but the son of God for play calling, quarterback decisions, etc.

Owning a small business is tough and sometimes, you have to make unpopular decisions to stay afloat. Sometimes your choices don’t work out and at times they do. The key is focusing on doing what’s best for your business because you can’t please everyone no matter what you do.

3.       Age Ain’t Nothing but a Number

Why the heck would the Browns trade a young, agile athlete like Richardson for a veteran like Willis McGahee? For the Browns, it wasn’t about age. The organization was in search of a specific skillset and saw McGahee as the guy, despite his age.

It’s easy for prospects and colleagues to judge you for being a young or old school entrepreneur, but at the end of the day, it’s your skill and professionalism that matter most. So whether you’re still “wet behind the ears” or a seasoned veteran, don’t let age get in the way of your dreams.

What’s the word: Marketing plans and strategies aren’t written in stone. It’s okay to tweak your plan until you’ve come up with a winning solution. 

October Is National Women in Business Month

Celebrate National Women in Business Month with us by sharing your wisdom in our upcoming article.

National Women in Business Month, women business owners
Celebrate National Women in Business Month

Happy Women in Small Business Month! We’re celebrating this month with an amazing article packed with success tips from you … women who are doing great things and “working it” in small business.

According to a recent study by American Express, even with more than 8.6 million women business owners in the United States, we still continue to trail our male counterparts. In addition, most women business owners earn less than $100,000 in gross revenue. But stats are just that, stats. You can’t let them define your success.

As women business owners, we juggle being a wife, mother, business owner, therapist, etc. – I’m tired just talking about it. The heavy load most of carry is exactly why it’s so important that we offer assistance to other women in business. And words of wisdom on how we overcame certain obstacles is oftentimes the help most of us need.

Share Your Wisdom

What advice would you give to women business owners? Please answer the question in three sentences or less and provide your full name, title, name of your business and contact info (email, Twitter handle, Facebook page address or Google+).

Send your words of wisdom to info@baab.biz. Thanks for taking the time to help other women business owners reach greatness!

So You Think Writing a Business Plan Is Not Necessary?

If you want to qualify for a small business loan, you’ll need to start with writing a business plan.

qualifying for a small business loan, how to write a business plan
Interview with Emily Sullivan, Relationship Manager (Cleveland, Ohio), ECDI

As promised, we’re continuing our discussion from last Thursday, “What You Need to Know About Qualifying for a Small Business Loan.” We thank Emily Sullivan, Relationship Manager in the Cleveland, Ohio office of the Economic and Community Development Institute (ECDI) for sharing her thoughts on the importance of writing a business plan and what you should include to make them super amazing.

BAAB Writing: What criteria does ECDI consider when evaluating loan applications?

Emily Sullivan (ECDI): What’s unique about ECDI is that we’re different from a typical bank as far as our criteria for applicants. So we do look at the business plan and financials to make sure that’s really thought out, but we really get to know the business and the person. While we do underwriting, we call ourselves a “character-based lender.” So we analyze the “horse and the jockey” where the horse is the business and the business plan and model. The jockey is the business owner.

BAAB Writing: What information does ECDI like for applicants to include in their business plans?

Emily Sullivan (ECDI): Obviously business plans vary based on the type of business and whether it’s a startup or existing business. Overall, we look for an executive summary, information about the product (or service) and the business model. We also look at the industry and market analysis and competition showing that the business owner knows what they’re breaking into and knows the market.

In addition, marketing should definitely be addressed – how they plan to market themselves and what type of marketing they’re already doing, a marketing budget, etc. It’s also important to include general operational elements in the business plan, such as staffing, owner and management information, production, working capital details, etc.

BAAB Writing: We’ve heard that lenders are not looking for applicants to submit a 100-plus page business plan? Do you agree, and if so, what would you say is the ideal length (recognizing that the content is much more important than the page length)?

Emily Sullivan (ECDI): I would say the longer is definitely not the better when it comes to business plans. We’ve received 75-page business plans with copies of research articles, etc. and that’s not really the voice of the business owner. We want to hear the entrepreneur come through in their business plan.

We’ve had five-page business plans that are awesome and we’ve had 20-page business plans that are just as awesome. People try to veer away from personalizing it and we think the personal side of it is great. Show your passion in your business plan … so if that does take 100 pages and it’s truly your passion coming through then we’re definitely not against that.

Bonus Tip: Proofread your business plan or have someone else proofread it for you. As we’re reading your business plan, it’s our first or second impression of you and if it includes grammar and punctuation mistakes, for example, we notice. So definitely have someone else look that over for you.

BAAB Writing: What does ECDI offer small businesses that a bank or other “traditional” lending institution may not?

Emily Sullivan (ECDI): Our niche is helping businesses that can’t qualify for traditional funding. That can mean a variety of things, for example we work with a great deal of startups. We’ll work with specific industries that traditional banks tend to steer away from, such as the food and trucking sectors – industries that are viewed as being a bit more risky for banks to take on.

We’ll also work with people who have credit issues. So if you have a foreclosure or bankruptcy in your past or your credit score is a little iffy, we’re unique in that we’ll work with you because we’re so hands on. We’ll try to help borrowers through these problems by asking for letters of explanation and bring in other resources to assist them. We bring them into our ECDI family of businesses.

What’s the Word: So there you have it folks – everything you need to know about making your business attractive to loan officers and investors. We’d like to thank Emily for taking the time to share this invaluable information with you.

Not sure where to start? Get our super easy guide on writing a business plan.

What You Need to Know About Qualifying for a Small Business Loan: Part 1

Qualifying for a small business loan takes passion and a plan for growth and sustainability.

qualifying for a small business loan, how to write a business plan
Interview with Emily Sullivan, Relationship Manager (Cleveland, Ohio), Economic and Community Development Institute (ECDI)

Having pages of great words and financial summaries in your business plan is pretty useless if you know nothing about qualifying for a small business loan.

Sure, some of us develop business plans … well you guessed it … for planning purposes. But most of us do it in hopes of moving a loan officer or investor to open their wallets in support of our vision.

We’ve helped a significant number of small business owners develop fundable business plans and are committed to always giving the people what they want. So, this time, we set out to get the view from the other side of the table.

Emily Sullivan, Relationship Manager in the Cleveland, Ohio office of the Economic and Community Development Institute (ECDI) shed some light on what entrepreneurs need to know about the small business loan approval process. ECDI is a 501(c)3 non-profit economic development organization that offers financial literacy training, innovative microenterprise development training, capitalization programs and much more.

ECDI Offers Business Loans and Training

BAAB Writing: How many local startups/small businesses has ECDI helped since opening the Cleveland office in July 2012?

Emily Sullivan (ECDI): More than 40 small businesses have received loans from us, but we’ve also provided business training to individuals as well. We work with various training partners throughout the Cleveland area such as Bad Girl Ventures, the Hispanic Center, Explorer, Magnet, COSE and others. We meet with clients to assess their needs and bring in all necessary partner resources to help small businesses get to the point where they can be successful.

What To Do Before Applying for a Small Business Loan

BAAB Writing: What are some steps ECDI typically advises applicants to take prior to applying for a loan?

Emily Sullivan (ECDI): At ECDI, you’ll definitely need a business plan, projected financials broken down by month for the first year and then just three-year general projected financials for a startup. We do need all small businesses that are registered with the state to have an employer identification number (EIN) and a DUNS number. Those are just some of the things we look for to lay the groundwork. Once the basic requirements are met, we work with clients through the loan application and underwriting process.

Top Three Reasons Entrepreneurs Ask for Funding

BAAB Writing: Based on the applicants you’ve seen, what are the top three reasons businesses request funding (e.g. cover the cost of marketing campaigns, staff, etc.)?

Emily Sullivan (ECDI): Definitely a big one is marketing. A lot of people are trying to put up their websites, handle distributing and advertising, so definitely marketing. Another reason is increasing inventory which is typically a focus for retailers and restaurant owners. Lastly, funding is also requested to handle general business expenses such equipment and machinery.

Tune in Next Tuesday for Part 2

Wow, this is getting juicy! Tune in next Tuesday for Pt. 2 of our interview with Emily Sullivan of ECDI. She’ll spill the tea on what information should be included in your business plans and answer the age-old question: “How long should a business plan be?” Trust me … you’re going to want to hear this.

Can’t wait until Tuesday? Sign up for our VIP Club and get the rest of the interview today. For guidance on how to write a business plan, download our Short and Simple Business Plan Guide.

How to Follow Up After Networking Events

Participating in a highly publicized trade show can run you few hundred bucks, but following up after networking events is priceless. follow-up with networking contacts, follow up after networking events

Choose the right words and it’ll be money in the bank. Say the wrong thing and you’ll spend weeks kicking yourself in the butt.

I try to get out and attend conferences when I can. But as a small business owner, time is money, so if you’re going, you must make the most of your time. Coming home with a briefcase full of business cards and brochures is great, but who really needs more paper?

What you really want as a business owner is …

You guessed it … more contacts!

So what happens when the handshakes are over, the stories have been told and all you have left is a stack of business cards? It’s time to shine just as bright in the follow-up message as you did in person.

If you’re already thinking about how to send a follow-up email that will make a good impression, then you’re on the right track. For those of you who have tucked away those business cards – pull them out and get on board.

Find the Right Words for Your Follow-Up Email

It’s important to nurture those brief moments you spent connecting with networking contacts. In the first follow-up email, be sure to:

  • Reference the event and the conversation
  • Mention something specific, especially of mutual interest, that was discussed
  • Suggest a way to keep the conversation going
  • Include a link or attach an article/blog of interest to the other person
  • Close the message with next steps

Here are a few written samples to help you follow up after networking events and make memorable connections.

Dear Derek,

I enjoyed meeting you yesterday at The Global Business Connection conference. Inspired by our conversation about social media marketing, I have attached an article on how B2B companies can benefit from social media.

I would enjoy having coffee or lunch with you the first week of October to learn more about your widgets business and share information about our company.

I will call or email you next week to ask you about scheduling a meeting.

Sincerely,

Charles Smith

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Hi Samantha,

It was great to meet you at The Global Business Connection conference yesterday. I am still laughing at your joke about the triplets named, “Winter, “Autumn” and “Summer.”

You said you were looking for freelance writers in the Cleveland area. I would love to continue our conversation about the possibility of working together. Since you will be traveling next week, would you like to schedule a discussion the first week of October?

I look forward to talking with you again soon. Please let me know a day and time that fits your schedule.

Best wishes,

Autumn Thomas

*****************************************************

Dear Todd,

It was a pleasure talking with you at The Global Business Connection conference earlier this week. I appreciate you taking the time yesterday to share information about your company.

I am very impressed by the work your company is doing, and I would enjoy hearing more about how we can help you reach your goals. As promised, I have attached additional information about the services I feel would best suit your needs.

I will call or email you next week to ask you about scheduling a meeting.

Sincerely,

Tracy White

*****************************************************

Dear Sally,

Thank you so much for taking the time to meet with me during the Matchmaker Forum at The Global Business Connection. I enjoyed hearing more about your organization as well as your love for designer purses. I have attached a link where you can sign up to receive discounts from our favorite store.

I would appreciate learning more about how your company handles its digital marketing. Would you be willing to meet for coffee or lunch? I will call you next week to ask about your schedule.

It was a pleasure to meet you.

Sincerely,

Jackie Hill

Timing Is Everything

When you send your follow-up email is just as important as what you write in the message. Be sure to send your note no more than a week after the networking event.

As business people, we have a lot going on and while I’m sure you’re absolutely amazing, it’s quite easy for us to forget a conversation. Following up within a week will help to ensure the meeting and conversation is still fresh for the other person.

What’s the Word: Following up after networking events is a critical step that will set you apart from others. Do it wisely and you’ll be sure to develop long-lasting business relationships.