Behind the Scenes of a Franchise Startup — Part 1

Having never considered buying a franchise, I suddenly find myself a partner in one. This comes as a bit of a surprise to me. Elsewhere on this website I've endorsed the benefit of buying a franchise as a startup. But I never seriously thought I would take that route myself.

Yet, here I am, neck deep in learning a new business. In a moment I'll explain how this came about. But first, let me tell you how I want to use my little adventure as a learning experience for my readers.

An Invitation to Look Over our Shoulders

Over the next few months, as we get the franchise up and running, I'll use this blog to take you behind the scenes of what were doing. You will be able to look over our shoulders as we build the business. I'll show you the problems that we encounter, the mistakes that we make, and (hopefully) the successes that we achieve.

Many of my readers are seriously considering a franchise for themselves. If you're one of them — of even if you're only toying with the possibility of buying a franchise — you will find this series instructive. It will detail the process of finding, buying, and starting a franchise.

In effect, you will learn the ins and outs of franchising by tagging along with us. At this point I have no idea how often I will be blogging about our endeavor. My goal, however, is to post whenever we pass a new milestone and every time that some notable development occurs, good or bad.

I intend to offer you the unvarnished truth about our experience, except for one thing. I'm not going to share the name of the franchisor, at least not yet. I may do so at the end. But for now I will simply refer to the franchisor as Parent Company, Inc.

Parent Company Inc. has been franchising businesses for decades, with an exceptional success record. They franchise a variety of brand names globally, all of them related to particular services for maintaining homes and automobiles.

My Venture into Becoming a Franchisee

So how did I become connected with Parent Company, Inc.? It began with my nephew and his wife. They developed an interest in one of the company's brands. They spent weeks checking out the franchisor, visited the corporate headquarters at length, and in the end were awarded a franchise.

However, their franchise award was conditioned on them finding a business partner who could bring a stronger personal balance sheet to the business. Because I had helped them finance another business which they own, they turned to me again.

I spent two weeks doing my own due diligence on Parent Company Inc., then spent a day with my nephew at one of the company's orientation sessions. After I found satisfactory answers to my most crucial questions, I agreed to become a partner in the startup.

We're meeting later today to start laying out our business and financing plans. I'll keep you posted on how the planning unfolds. Meanwhile I'll devote some early blogs in this series to the preliminary steps that brought us to this point. That way you can see what the franchising experience is like from the very beginning.

A Disturbing Trend in How Customers Pay Invoices

For over a year I've seen an increasing trend in my business for very large companies to delay their invoice payments much longer than in the past.

While my terms have always been net 15 or net 30 days for the settlement of an invoice, my average settlement time of late is about two months long, sometimes longer.

Some of my clients are explicit in stating that they will settle accounts in 60 days, not 30. They put this language in their contract for services or ask for my signature on a form acknowledging this policy.

And I recently responded to a Request For Proposals which specified that payments under the potential contract would be net 90 days. I had to consent to those terms before being allowed to submit a proposal.

Watch the Fine Print Regarding Invoice Payments

Even agreements which call for settlement in 30 days may include fine print that exempts the company from meeting this deadline. One client, for instance, defines "30 days" as settlement in the month following the one in which the invoice was submitted. Thus, an invoice on March 3 will not be paid until some time in April. And I've noticed that they tend to make their payments at the very end of the month.

Thus, even though they ostensibly have a 30-day policy, that invoice submitted on March 3 may not be paid until April 30, making the turn-around nearly eight weeks long.

I began seeing this trend in the first quarter of 2014. At first it was a client here or there. But through the remainder of the year and into this year, I've seen invoice settlements being stretched out further and further.

An Intentional Policy

Interestingly, this is not a trend that I see with customers who own smaller businesses. It's with large professional firms and major corporations. They are apparently enhancing their own cash flow by imposing delayed payments on small vendors.

These bigger companies seem to believe that small vendors are unlikely to be "pushy" about unsettled invoices for fear of losing the account. I've even had an executive at a very large company (one I don't do business with, incidentally) acknowledge that this is precisely his company's thinking.

Cash Flow Implications for Encore Entrepreneurs

The rise of this practice creates several problems for small startups who invoice after the delivery of products or services. First, of course, it is quite disruptive to their cash flow. It's not unusual for me to run up thousands of dollars in travel expenses in support of certain clients. Going 60-90 days between the time that I incur those expenses and the time that I'm reimbursed for them puts an obvious burden on my company finances.

Second, it is becoming increasingly difficult for me to know when a company is genuinely overdue in paying their invoice. When weeks go by with no payment, I'm not sure whether the invoice was simply never received or processed. Or whether they are stringing out the settlement longer than usual.

Just last week I contacted a customer over an unpaid bill from December. They replied that they had failed to enter the invoice and asked me to resubmit. Two years ago I would have been contacting them by late January to see why the bill had not been settled.

The bottom line is that encore entrepreneurs — or anyone launching a startup, for that matter — needs to be carefully attuned to cash flow. Don't let your cash reserves get perilously low. Even though accounts receivable show that your company can anticipate considerable near-term revenue, in today's market you don't always know when those funds will materialize.

USA Today Chronicles Rise in Encore Entrepreneurialism

Today's print edition of USA Today highlights the growing community of encore entrepreneurs —or what they call "silver entrepreneurs."

The article cites a variety of reasons why last year nearly one-in-four of all business startups were by men and women 55 to 64. That's up from 14% in 1996.

Some of the most common reasons for this growth include the following:

  • Life expectancy has been extended to the point that many who retire in their early or mid-sixties have 20 years of productivity left and are looking for something meaningful to do with those years.
  • The laid-back pace of retirement becomes boring to people whose careers have accustomed them to days filled with challenges and initiatives that are energizing to them.
  • Increasingly people do not want to retire suddenly, but instead to cut back on the hours that they put into their jobs so that they phase in retirement. Those whose careers or employers are not receptive to this type of adjusted work schedule are choosing to have this option by starting a business.
  • And of course, financial necessity always looms large in the decision to start a business later in life. Older workers who find themselves with inadequate retirement assets, or who fear that their assets may not be sufficient to sustain them through any future periods of inflation, choose to start a business to add to their nest egg.

Not mentioned in the article is another reason for becoming an encore entrepreneur, a reason which I encounter quite often among those whom I coach and advise. Namely, they've always dreamed of having their own business. But various considerations forced them to postpone their entrepreneurial ambitions earlier in life.

Commonly they have postponed their first startup to have the security and predictable income of a corporate job until their children were grown and educated. Others have made the same choice out of a need to support aging parents financially.

USA Today points out that encore entrepreneurs have a far-ranging set of options in determining what sort of business to start. One proven strategy is to offer a unique service which blends skills and experience derived from prior career stops and hobbies. The piece offers the example of a woman who loved physical fitness and loved working with dogs, so she created a physical fitness program that allows dogs and their owners to work out together.

Perhaps the most salient advice in the article relates to finance your startup. When launching a business, the temptation always presents itself to tap into retirement assets to fund the new enterprise. In general, this is not a wise direction to choose. The success of a startup is by no means assured. Thus, putting retirement funds at risk is unwise for older entrepreneurs, since they have so few years to rebuild retirement balances that might be lost in a failed business.

Building Your Business with Virtual Assistants

For cash-strapped startups, virtual assistants are often an economical way to have staff support that you could not otherwise afford.

They are called "virtual assistants" because they carry out responsibilities that employees have traditionally fulfilled. But virtual assistants take advantage of technology — particularly online and computing technology — to service your needs from wherever they happen to reside. Hence the word "virtual."

Think of virtual assistants as part-time employees who are paid only for the actual time that they spend producing something you've requested.

It doesn't matter whether you need two hours of help each week or twenty. A virtual assistant costs you nothing unless he or she is working on a specific assignment from you. Thus, because you never pay for idle time, you to have absolute control over your labor costs.

Putting Virtual Assistants to Work

A blog on the website describes 10 Things to Outsource to Virtual Assistants:

  • bookkeeping
  • performing online research
  • making database entries
  • developing data presentations and summaries
  • managing email
  • taking care of social activities (e.g., sending out birthday cards, thank you notes, etc.)
  • researching travel options
  • scheduling appointments
  • exploring new business opportunities
  • doing research on your industry or an industry you service

Not to be outdone, Chris Ducker (perhaps the world's leading authority on using virtual assistants) offers a list of 101 tasks you can outsource to virtual staff to grow your business.

On this same website are several other helpful titles (they're free), including The Ultimate Guide to Virtual Team Building and The Definitive Guide to Training Virtual Staff. Chris also provides a number of guides on how to use virtual assistants for specific tasks such as handling your email, building your online brand, and marketing your blog.

Finding Your Virtual Assistants

But it's one thing to have an interest in using virtual assistants, quite another to know how to go about it. Fortunately, the online world makes it easy to get started.

There are several web platforms which bring together veteran virtual assistants with people like yourself looking for virtual support. These include,, and

Sites like these work in a similar fashion. You register on the site, then post the description of a project or job, lay out the expertise or credentials that a qualified assistant should have, and specify the compensation that you are offering for this service.

You then receive applications from virtual assistants, not only explaining how they meet your criteria, but giving you samples of work that they have done for other clients. If you don't find the right person using this process, you're not obligated to hire any of the people who apply.

Chris Ducker, whose resources I mentioned above, also operates Virtual Staff Finder, a company which matches entrepreneurs with virtual assistants whom Chris and his colleagues have personally vetted. Virtual Staff Finder provides you the names and background for the top three candidates whom they have surfaced for your job. This saves you the time of wading through dozens of applications from people who don't meet your criteria or expectations. Once you register at Virtual Staff Finder, you also receive a link to training videos on how to work with virtual assistants.

Although Elance and Odesk have merged recently, they maintain separate web pages. One of the things that I like at the Odesk site is a page on how having a virtual assistant works. As you scroll down this page, you'll find answers to many questions which are probably already on your mind. Such questions as how much to pay a virtual assistant. And how to be sure that your virtual assistant is actually putting in the hours for which you are being charged.

As an encore entrepreneur, you need to spend every hour possible working on the specific things which you do best to further your business. There's no better way to free up your time for that purpose than to surround yourself with the right virtual assistants.

Related Link: Round Out Your Potential with Virtual Assistants


7 Tips for Choosing a Good Website Name

In setting up a website for a new business, one of the most difficult tasks is finding a good name for the site. Untold millions of people have bought domain names ahead of you. There is a great likelihood, therefore, that your name of choice is not available.

But don't let this deter you from finding a good name for your site. There are still thousands of great names available. You simply must use greater creativity in finding just the right name. Here are some guidelines to help you.

  1. Select a .com name. If the name you want is already taken with a .com extension, resist the temptation to buy that name with an extension like .biz or .us or even .net. General run-of-the-mill computer users think in terms of .com. Therefore, when they type your website name into the browser, they will often add .com instinctively. When they do so, your name just took them to a competing website.
  2. Avoid hyphenated names. I made this mistake myself with one of my earliest websites. People routinely left out the hyphen when typing the name. As a result I found myself continually reminding people that there was a hyphen in the website name and in my email address. Moreover, if you are choosing a hyphenated name, it's probably because the same name without the hyphen is already taken. That's another reason not to choose the hyphenated name. When people omit the hyphen, they will end up on some other website.
  3. Try to find a website name that promotes either your brand or the service you provide. For instance, my leadership development company uses the term LeaderPerfect Solutions as a brand for its services. Consequently, I registered LeaderPerfect as a trademark and named my website My professional speaking website is And a website promoting my book Leadership and the Power of Trust is called Each of these names highlights a brand or a message that I want to convey.
  4. As an alternate to a name that promotes your brand or service, choose a name which contains an industry-related phrase. Intuit has done this with their website. The word Quicken does not tell you much (except perhaps that the company is fast). But the word "loans" lets you know that they are in the business of lending money. Therefore, before starting your quest for a good website name, make a list of terms — key words, as it were — that are associated with your line of business. See if you can incorporate one of these terms into the site name.
  5. Strive for brevity. The longer the name of your website, the more likely people are to mistype it. And it also looks awkward on business cards. Hold the name to no more than seven syllables, and make it five or less, if possible. The name should contain a maximum of three words, and preferably only one or two. Not only do shorter names minimize typing mistakes, brief names are more easily remembered.
  6. Make it easy to type. If you use numbers in the name, put them at the beginning or the end of it. Most people are not great at typing numbers on a keyboard. And numbers in the middle of a string of alphabetic characters only increase the typing challenge. Also avoid non-standard abbreviations. I recently attended an international event hosted by a huge trade organization. Its members include a broad cross-section of the Fortune 100 companies. But their website abbreviates the word "council" as "cncl.". As a result, whenever I type their web name, I have to stop and carefully think through the way it is spelled.
  7. Decide whether you need to buy additional website names that allow for variants on the name that you have chosen. When I opted to call this website StartupsAfter50, I realized that people who heard the name might think that the number 50 was to be spelled out. So I also bought Then, using a service that any internet service provides with your account, I redirected users who typed "startupsafterfifty" to "startupsafter50." (You can make a similar redirection if you purchase both the .com and the .net variant of the same name, which I usually do to prevent someone from starting a .net website that has my preferred site name.)

What Constitutes a Truly Great Hot Button?

We all have strong feelings about certain issues. Whenever these issues come up in conversation, we snap to attention. We tune in more intently. We become fully engaged with what is being said.

Marketers call these emotionally-laden topics "hot button issues." And triggering them is referred to as "pushing a hot button." Well-crafted marketing and advertising messages grab attention by pushing hot buttons at the very outset.

Hot buttons are statements, questions, symbols, or images that immediately bring an emotionally engaging issue to the forefront of someone's attention. In this case, that "someone" is a prospective customer.

Push the Hot Buttons Early!

Whether a marketing message is written or spoken, it should instantly confront prospective customers with a hot button issue.

The opening moments of a marketing message must capture attention by creative use of a hot buttonPlease note that these are the prospective customer’s hot button issues. Not your own. That's why the first step in marketing is to know your prospective customer well.

Once the hot button issue has been triggered, the message then turns to what you offer and how it provides relief or resolution for the issue.

Of necessity, then, the hot buttons that you use must relate directly to the relief or resolution that your are ready to offer.

If you use a powerful hot button to gain attention, but then offer a product or service with no obvious connection to the issue that you have raised, you destroy your credibility. People on the receiving end of your message will feel manipulated or betrayed. And they will certainly hesitate to be your customer.

Two Types of Hot Buttons

Hot buttons come in two varieties. We could call them "away-from" and "toward" hot buttons. As the name suggests, "away-from" hot buttons are tied to things that the prospect does not want. The prospect is looking for a way to get away from them.

So advertisements for pain relief, solutions for financial problems, or repairs for storm damage are likely to fall in this category.

"Toward" hot buttons involve something that prospects would like to have. They are drawn toward it. Advertisements for relaxing vacation destinations, motivational seminars, and real estate investments typically rely on "toward" hot buttons.

It’s possible for a single marketing piece to touch both an "away-from" hot button and a "toward" hot button simultaneously. A trade school might do this by asking whether the prospect is trapped in a boring, low-paying job and would like to gain new skills and a higher-paying career.

You can also use hot-button issues in tandem, so that one reinforces the other. As an example, an advertisement to repair storm damage might also warn against the risk of scam artists who frequently descend on a neighborhoods ravished by severe weather.

Identifying Customer Hot Buttons

In designing any marketing piece — especially those aimed at surfacing qualified leads — your first objective is to identify the hot-button issue (or issues) that your copy will address. Commonly you will come up with several potentially useful hot buttons. So how do you choose among them?

One way is to assess the level of emotional intensity which your prospects are likely to feel when a hot button issue is raised. If this emotional intensity is relatively low, you are dealing with more of a "warm button" issue rather than a hot button issue. To separate "warm button" issues from hot button issues, I use a four-tiered ranking.

I do so by asking this question: When it comes to resolving the underlying issue, which of the following statements is most likely to describe the prospect’s sentiments about my proposed resolution?

  • It would be nice to have it.
  • I would like to have it.
  • I need to have it.
  • I must have it!

Resolutions that are merely "nice to have" or that the prospect would "like to have" are evidence of "warm button" issues. To be a hot button issue, the resolution must at least qualify as something that the prospect recognizes the need to have. And whenever possible, you should offer a resolution that falls in the fourth tier: "I must have it!"

It’s easy to be drawn into marketing to the "need to have it" category almost exclusively. The problem is, people often recognize the need for something (like having a dentist fix a chipped tooth that occasionally hurts). But they may not be sufficiently motivated at present to take action. Once the chipped tooth is throbbing, causing almost disabling pain, resolving this issue clearly falls in the "must have it" category.

Your goal in marketing is to pursue one of two strategies when it comes to hot buttons.

  • You either want to address the "must have it" motivation.
  • Or you must focus on raising a "need to have it" to a "must have it" sense of urgency in the mind of your prospect.

Then and only then are you likely to see amazing results from your marketing.

And what about those "warm button" issues? Do you just discard them in your marketing? Not necessarily. After all, they do have motivational value. The value is simply much lower than is true for hot button issues. So resolving a "warm button" issue can sweeten your offer. Your value-adds, for instance, might be drawn from easy-to-provide "warm button" benefits.

But only use "warm button" benefits as value-adds once your hot button benefits have largely closed the deal. Your leverage is in the hot buttons.

When Are You Too Dependent on One Customer?

I once started a business which exceeded its first year revenue projections by tens of thousands of dollars. How? Largely by securing a high margin account within weeks of startup.

Then, eighteen months into the engagement, the client was forced into massive cost-cutting. He terminated our services without warning. And in short order our total revenue plummeted to a near break-even point.

How do you determine whether you are overly dependent on one or two customers or clients? There's no universal answer to that question, because each industry is different and each customer is unique. But you need to arrive at some answer for yourself.

As for me, I consider my businesses in a precarious position if losing any one customer would cost the business 20% or more of its revenue. Could I survive with that kind of loss? Certainly. Economic downturns have forced me to do so several times.

But I want my business to do more than survive. I want it to thrive. Thus, when I see my dependency on a single client approaching 20%, I'm reminded to redouble my marketing effort. I need more business in the pipeline so that our revenues don't miss a beat, even if this major client goes away.

Set benchmarks to determine when your business is too dependent on a single customer.

In a retail business, of course, you're not likely to have a situation in which any one customer is responsible for 20% of your revenue. But if your business is in fields such as consulting, professional services, and contracting, every customer represents a significant percentage of your revenue.

You therefore need to establish your own metric to determine when your revenue has become too dependent on a single customer or client. Treat this metric as a trip wire. When you reach that level of dependency with any one customer, start taking action to broaden your customer base.

Another thing to consider is whether your revenue is too dependent on customers or clients who generate narrow margins for you. You may not have a single customer on which you depend for 20% of your revenue. But what if you are only realizing half of your target margin with 40% of your customers?

In this case the impact on your top line is not so drastic as the loss of a customer who brings you 20% of your business. But the impact on your bottom line is just as great as losing that 20% customer.

This is why it is important to track your margins on every account. Periodically ask yourself how do these individual margins compare to your target margin? If you answer that the margins are too low with a significant percentage of your customers, it's again to step up your marketing. Keep working for the moment with your lower-margin customers. But be looking for higher-margin customers to replace them.

Good Record-Keeping Can’t Start Too Early

If you asked me to isolate a single compelling reason for business startups to keep good records from the beginning, I would offer the following.

A recent survey by the National Small Business Association confirmed that the IRS is not looking the other way when it comes to small businesses. In fact, the opposite is the case.

One-third of the respondents to the survey indicated that their business had been audited at least once in the past ten years. A similar number reported requests from the IRS for additional documentation to support figures shown on business returns.

The moral? Just because your startup is small, don't presume that it will fly under the IRS radar. There is a conventional wisdom in Washington that small businesses — especially sole proprietorships and single-member LLCs — frequently under-report income and overstate expenses.

So long as this wisdom prevails, and so long as Washington is squeezed for money, you can expect small businesses to be the subject of careful IRS scrutiny.

Small business owners should make a habit of keeping good records from their first day of business.

With the endless distractions and urgent priorities involved in starting a business, it's easy to be lackadaisical about keeping good records. We've all heard the proverbial comment about the small business owner who keeps his or her financial records in a shoe box.

Unfortunately, I know small business owners who've never even bothered to find a shoe box. They jot down notes here and there about expenses and track their income primarily by reviewing deposits to their bank account.

The Tax Man Cometh

Come audit time, IRS does not find this a laughing matter. An auditor will be looking for consistent record-keeping that is well documented with detailed income records and organized receipts for expenses.

And finally, don't be so naive as to believe that if you are ever notified of an audit, you can quickly put together the documentation you need. I can tell you from personal experience, audits tend to occur at times when your schedule is loaded to the hilt with other time-consuming obligations. And auditors are fairly skilled at recognizing records that were hastily put together to pass an audit.

Plus, if the auditor becomes suspicious that you have cobbled together records just for the audit, there's a distinct likelihood that you will find the audit suddenly expanded to the returns for prior years.

So save yourself the headache. Keep your records in good order from the first day of business. It's a habit you will never regret.

Maximize the Value of Your Startup From Day One

A few years ago, while launching a startup, I was struggling to find a good name for the business. When I took my struggle to a respected friend and mentor, he surprised me with his first piece of counsel.

"Choose a name," he said, "that will enhance your brand value should you ever decide to sell the business."

Until that moment I was totally consumed with merely starting the business. Selling it was the farthest thing from my mind. But it was amazing to me what happened when I started thinking about the business in terms of possibly selling it someday.

Positioning a Small Business to Be Bought

As a business leadership coach I had guided a number of business owners through the process of growing their own business and profiling it for sale. I had coached them on how to look at their business through the eyes of a potential buyer. And I had helped them explore ways in which to increase the perceived value of their business.

So I knew the drill for positioning a small business to be bought. But ironically, I wasn't thinking about my own startup in terms of its ultimate marketability.

And candidly, I reacted initially to the mentor's counsel somewhat dismissively. "I'm a long way from selling this baby," I thought.

On further reflection, however, I asked myself, "What harm would there be in approaching this business from day one as though I plan to sell it someday?"

And that one change of perspective had an immediate and telling impact on the decisions that I made about the business.

Gone was any notion of my own name appearing in the business name. Otherwise, an eventual buyer would evaluate the business knowing that it had to be renamed. Had to be rebranded. And rebranding it would cost new ownership the market recognition and the credibility that the business had built up under my tutelage.

As a result, astute buyers would discount the price that they were willing to pay me for the business. So in something even so seemingly mundane as naming the business, maintaining the buyer's perspective helped me make more informed decisions.

Other Scenarios for Selling a Business

And the payoffs kept coming. Not only did I begin thinking about profiling the business so that it could be sold someday, I also started running other scenarios.

  • What if something happened to me, and my wife needed to sell the business?
  • Or what if something tragic happened to both of us, and our children were charged with selling it?

In short, what would outsiders find if they stepped in on short notice to operate the business? Would the documentation, records-keeping, and management systems be clear enough that they could quickly make sense of how the business functioned? Could they immediately identify who our client's were and where we stood in terms of contractual commitments to each of these clients?

I soon realized that the best way to provide for such contingencies was to ask myself continually, "If someone came along today and wanted to buy this business, what would I need to get in place before I could sell it at maximum value?"

That question kept me focused on keeping records up to date, watching my margins and cash flow more carefully, and constantly searching for best practices that would keep me ahead of the game.

All of this made the business itself more efficient and more profitable. And it made the pressures of business ownership far less intense.

So let me repeat the counsel which my mentor offered me: whether you ever intend to sell your business or not, having it "market ready" at a moment's notice will make the entire entrepreneurial experience more rewarding, both financially and personally.

The "Magical Power" of Odd Numbers in Marketing

Have you ever noticed how many successful book titles have a number in them? For instance, 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. The 5 Dysfunctions of a Team. The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership. Concrete, specific numbers always seems to appeal to buyers.

But notice something else about these successful titles. The numbers typically tend to be odd, not even. The same is true with articles that grab your attention in a magazine or on a web site: "5 Simple Weight-Loss Strategies" or "The 7 Secrets of Happily Married Couples" or "3 Ways to Nail Your Next Job Interview."

Marketing experts know that odd numbers in a title create marketing clout

There’s an interesting piece of psychology behind this use of odd numbers. It seems that we can remember the items in a list more easily if there is an odd number of them.

Listen to great professional speakers and how many times they give you three or perhaps five "take-away" points from their presentation. Rarely, if ever, will they give you two points. Or four. Experience has taught them to zero in on an odd-numbered series of points.

So what does this mean for you as a marketer? It means that whenever you are listing the benefits of your product or service, choose an odd number of benefits.

If you are offering a series of bonuses, offer one or three, not two or four. Or if you are promoting a free report or an electronic book to download from your website, build the title of the piece around an odd number. Your report might be "The 3 Most Cost-Effective Ways to Improve the Value of Your Home." Or you might offer an e-book entitled, "The 5 Most Common Mistakes Made in Planning Retirement."

And notice that you do not spell out the number in the title. You use the actual number itself. In a long string of words, numbers jump out and catch people’s eye.

Now admittedly, not every list will form itself naturally around an odd number of items. If your business operates in four locations, your marketing must obviously list your "4 convenient locations," not "3 convenient locations."

But always be looking for opportunities to use odd-numbered lists whenever you are highlighting the benefits, results, techniques, skills, or insights that customers will gain from your product or service. Odd numbers are magical. They make buyers appear whom you would otherwise miss.