Friday, June 19, 2009

Start-Up Tip - How Will You Make Money?

In an era when companies like Twitter can raise millions in capital and have no revenues flowing in, you may wonder why your business needs revenue or profits to exist or to raise capital. Twitter is simply in a league by itself. Investors invested in young, smart people with track records. That can happen -- but not very often.

The average Joe or Jill has to be able to demonstrate to investors that their business idea can make money. That means you need to plot out how you're going to do it. I've had all sorts of ideas of how I'd make money, if I were running Twitter, but they are not about to hire me. I'm not young and hip.

Making money is not that mysterious. You make a product or create a service, and you sell it to customers. Of course, Twitter doesn't sell its service. Google doesn't either. But Google does sell pay-for-performance advertising.

So, ask yourself -- What am I selling? What can I charge? With pay-per-click or pay-for-performance advertising, the market determines what you can charge. Demand drives the price and the volume because advertisers bid on the keywords they are buying. This works the same on Bing, Yahoo! and other pay-for-performance search engines and ads.

But what if you sell knives? You have a great design. Where will you sell it? What will you charge? How will you get it to consumers? What will it cost to manufacture? All these calculations go into figuring out how you're going to make money. Even if you don't like to do math, learning to do this kind of math is essential (and fun) because it empowers you to understand your business. Entrepreneurs who understand their businesses can more easily raise money and can have an easier time making money.

Take a look at other products on the market and see what price points they sell at. Find out what the sales volume is. Think about your wholesale price to your customers and how that will compare to the retailers' final price to consumers. Figure out the mark-ups and the profit margins. What is normal in your industry?

And while you're at it, remember the importance of having a brand. It doesn't cost a lot to make Nike sneakers, but Nike charges a lot for them because of their brand name. Can you create a valuable brand like Nike or Google? Even Twitter has become a valuable brand because of all the people using it. It's helping to fuel the revolution in Iran. How powerful is that?
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