Business

10 Questions to Ask Before Partnering With Somebody

One of the biggest decisions that an entrepreneur will ever make is whether or not to partner with somebody. This seemingly simple decision is fraught with complexity and can make or break your fledgling company.

Factors

There are a number of factors to consider when deciding if you should bring on a partner. Aspects such as religious views, political bents, work ethic, and financial situation all play a part in deciding who you should partner with.

Make no mistake, when you choose to share your company with somebody, you are inviting that whole person into your enterprise. This includes the good, the bad, and yes–the ugly.

Questions

When considering if and who you should partner with, ask a lot of questions and don’t be afraid to ask the hard questions. In some of my companies, I call this process the “getting naked” part of the relationship, where both of us can agree that no question is off limits.

The purpose of “getting naked” with your potential partner is you need to know everything about this person that could affect the business. Here are a handful of questions to start with to know whether you should partner with somebody.

Is anybody suing you right now?

You need to know if your potential partner is immersed in litigation and you should ask this question. The last thing you and your startup need is lawyers taking up your time, money, and partner’s capability to contribute to the company.

This could be a bankruptcy, fraud, or any other litigation. Ask this question, listen intently, and probe if you have to. Remember, part of doing business is getting sued, so this is not necessarily a bad thing. You should know what you are getting into beforehand, though. 

What is your credit score?

This is not the end-all and be-all, but it is a good baseline for you to understand your potential partner. A credit score can tell you if your colleague pays his bills on time, is consistent in repaying obligations, and how serious of a financial person he is. Not only that, this could seriously affect the type of loans your company may qualify for.

On the other hand, any entrepreneur who has gone through the ups and downs of building a company knows that credit scores tank at times. Take this with a grain of salt, but you should know the financial literacy and integrity of the person you are considering doing business with. 

How much money is in your bank account?

You need to know if your partner is self-sufficient, relying on you, or wishing for the moon to “make it big”. If it’s the last one, get rid of this guy immediately.

Bank accounts don’t tell the whole story but it can tell part of the story to help you understand who you might be doing business with. Your potential partner does not need to have $1M in the bank, but if he has a negative balance for the last 3 years, that might be worth asking about.

If nothing else, asking for this transparency shows whether your potential partner is willing to be transparent and share the nitty gritty financial details with you, or if he’ll try to hide something from you in the future. 

What are you ashamed of?

This may sound like a strange question to ask, but there is a lot of value in it. Depending on the answer given, it will tell you a lot about the value system of the person.

For example, if somebody tells you that he is absolutely ashamed of walking out of a job when he was 16 without giving a 2-week notice, that can tell you a lot. It tells you he has a sense of empathy, regret, wisdom, discernment, and the ability to look back on past mistakes and learn from them.

On the contrary, some people are not ashamed of anything and that is a major red flag. We all make mistakes and there are things we’ve all done that are shameful. Being able to own your poor behavior, learn from it, and share it, is a valuable trait to have in a business partner. 

Any outside relationships? 

This could be a major deal-breaker for some business partnerships. What you’re trying to get at here is whether or not there are mistresses or “other” relationships on the side. This may sound edgy, and it is, but it’s absolutely important for you to know the answer.

If you are considering sharing your company with a partner, then you need to know if there is a crazy ex who will come around and start demanding profits by getting attorneys involved or going public with some sort of news.

Again, this isn’t a value-judgment, it’s just covering your risk and knowing what you are getting into by partnering with somebody. We all bring baggage, you need to know what your partner’s baggage is. 

What will you sacrifice?

Without a doubt, you need to know the answer of this question from your potential business partner.

This includes not only material things like money, luxury items such as house or car, but immaterial things like time, relationships, and career opportunity.

Perhaps more importantly, you need to find out if your potential business partner will sacrifice things like integrity, honesty, contractual obligations, and principles of moral character. When you partner with somebody, you partner with that whole person and you need to have somebody who matches your moral fiber, otherwise your business will be in a whole world of pain.

If you were me, what would you want me to know about you?

This is a terrific catch-all question if you feel like there might be something you’re still missing. Potential answers could include nothing at all, all the way to some totally crazy, random thing that you would have never thought to ask about.

When I was 20 years old and living off-campus, I decided to share a nice town-home with a handful of friends. We did the usual preliminary questions about drugs, drinking, expectations, and we thought we were set to go. After signing the lease contract, one of the friends decided to tell us that he was a male stripper and that part of his life would overlap with our time together in the house with his guests and work-hours. This is one of those things we would have never thought to ask, but would have been good to know. Yes, it’s a true story.

Will you be in the news or any reason I need to know about?

Very similar to the question above because there some things you just don’t know to ask but should know before partnering together. This could include big scandals, political events, financial fraud, or allegations.

What you’re trying to discern here is if there are big, public things that would detract from your business or seriously harm it. For example, if your would-be partner is about to be featured in the New York Times as one of the top ten crony financial advisers in New York, you should know about that.

Will you cross the line in gray areas?

This might sound like a complete no-duh answer to you, but many people are willing to cross the line and work in gray areas. At the end of the day, it comes down to your ethics and what you want to work with from other people.

Surprising to me, some candidates for employment or partnership positions will quickly answer, “of course, I’ll do whatever it takes!”. This is exactly the wrong answer.

What you want to hear is somebody who can think through a complex problem, understand the options available and that no option is perfect, and then begin to reason through the options, ultimately landing on the ethical options, even if they are inferior in results to the unethical options.

Why do you want to do this?

This is probably the biggest question to ask and his answer is important. What drives your potential business partner and what is his big end goal?

Is it money? Fame? These are fine, but might not be a good fit if your purpose is to build a company that generates enough wealth so that you can donate millions to nonprofits. 

You and your potential partner need to be in alignment. You don’t have to be perfect together or exactly the same, but both of you need to share a common vision, purpose, and intent for the company.

To partner or not to partner

At the end of the day, you need to determine what the purpose of your company is and why you are considering a business partner. 

I can tell you from personal experience that having the right partner can be one of the most rewarding experiences in life because you get to share the journey together and build something wonderful.

At the same time, picking the wrong partner can be devastating, painful, long, and ultimately end in your company failing. This happens….all the time.

So, be sure to do your due diligence, ask the hard questions, and pick the right partner so that your company can go to the next level.

Jeremy Webb Blog | Startup Grind https://www.startupgrind.com/blog/10-questions-to-ask-before-partnering-with-somebody/

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Better Service at Restaurants — With AI and Deep Learning

Coming soon to a restaurant near you: Artificial Intelligence.

AI is making appearances these days in many industries. 

AI is actively changing healthcare and finance every day. However, AI is still an infant in the foodservice industry. In 2016, food service accounted for 2.1 percent of the U.S. GDP. While that’s not massive, restaurants are the second largest employer in the U.S., and people interact with restaurants nearly every day. That means AI will soon find its way into your eating experience. Here’s how:

AI in Restaurants 

Robots will not be taking your order at the fine dining establishment down the street just yet. AI’s initial inroads in food service are an easy one: online ordering.

Chatbots are already working here, offering assistance as you place an online order for pizza. Chatbots and AI-based online ordering systems may fully automate restaurant takeout and delivery. That means fewer human errors in your food order.

Here’s how else AI will aid food service:

  • Recommendations. 
    — Netflix, Spotify, and Amazon are already telling you what you want. The natural next step is to have AI recognize our food preferences, even allergies or dietary restrictions. Food ordering apps can remind you of that dish you loved last time (or the one you hated) and recommend trying similar items if you’re nervous about something new.
  • Assessing food quality. 
    — Video intelligence can determine the quality of food to make sure things are fresh and have a good appearance.
  • Kiosks
    — Self-ordering kiosks are already appearing in some counter-service and fast food restaurants, including Panera and McDonald’s. These kiosks cut down on errors because people are putting in their own order instead of first telling someone else. Kiosks can save money for management and make the overall customer experience smoother, so you can expect to see more of these popping up in casual dining places.
  • Robots
    — While not appearing en masse, robots are helping in food service. A more common use is with food preparation or with delivery and optimization in warehouses and distribution centers. However, “Flippy” is helping cook burgers at CaliBurger and an actual robot waiter.

    “Pepper” takes your order at the MasterCard cafe and other locations in Asia, including Pizza Hut.

    (One company proposes a robot in consumer kitchens to prepare food and clean, but it may be awhile before you see it in your neighbor’s kitchen!)

AI in Restaurant Management

One of AI’s most valuable uses is data analysis. So far, there’s little mention of companies using AI to predict food orders, revenue, inventory, or customer traffic, but a few companies are starting to offer that data to restaurant groups.

One such program, Ingest.AI, takes volumes of data about food deliveries, shift hours, staffing, reservations, vendors, and bill paying. Most restaurants use a variety of software programs to manage related tasks, but none interact or generate a big picture, resulting in both food waste and wasted time and money.

This AI program “stitches all the data bits together and uses the data amalgam to give the restaurateur a 360-degree view of its operations, increasing the restaurant’s overall efficiency,” according to Wired Magazine.

Data can help restaurants automate scheduling.

 More than just scheduling is the forecast of busy or slow nights. Menus design based on popular items, manage inventory, and track staff who are better at up-selling or those give away too many freebies.

A restaurant might even know your preferences, making it easy for your server to offer your favorite dish and store your credit card on file for a hassle-free experience.

Deep Learning in the Food Industry

Deep learning may have a place in our food intake as well. Deep learning is a subset of AI. Deep learning uses artificial neural networks (ANN), a way of computing that mimics the human brain — except we have billions of neurons, while a large ANN consists of thousands of neurons.

These neurons work in many layers, from which we get the “deep” part of deep learning. Each layer can add and compute new information.

A Deep Learning Project

A group of Harvard students used deep learning in a project for TripAdvisor to help those searching for restaurants. The program took images uploaded by restaurants and visitors and classified them into five categories: food, drinks, interior, exterior, and menu. The results were 87 percent accurate on average. 

Photos

A similar project aims to predict restaurant attributes by analyzing user photos using 200,00 images on Yelp.

The Future of AI and Eating

The costs associated with AI and deep learning are too high for single-owner restaurants to manage. But as AI becomes less expensive and begins to save people money and time, you can bet it’ll be serving you up a plate of food in one way or another very soon.

Jeremy Webb Blog | Startup Grind https://www.startupgrind.com/blog/better-service-at-restaurants-with-ai-and-deep-learning/

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Why Building A Community Before Launching Is Vital (4 Ways To Do It Right)

One of the most essential elements of launching a successful startup is having a built-in community eager to engage with it. How do you do this? By building a powerful community prelaunch.

Your development.

You have developed your product or service, a website design that’s easy to navigate, and you’re probably stretched pretty thin as the launch date nears. However, bringing your vision to life is in many ways more about prelaunch than what happens after you click “publish.”

Basecamp, the cloud-based SaaS startup serves as an excellent example. Before they launched Basecamp, they had up to 50,000 followers via their blog, “Signal vs. Noise.” This built-in community helped make Basecamp’s launch successful. The startup is now valued at around $25 million, according to Forbes.

This is an important case study for all startups to note. Building a community before launching can ease those first few post launch months of growing pains. A built-in community can also help you generate profits from the get go.

Not sure where to start? Here are 4 easy ways to start building your community before launching.

  1. Develop a Detailed Community Building Plan

When should you start planning? As soon as possible, since the larger your built-in community, the more leads you have once your site is launched. Building a community takes time, but there are a few ways to move the process forward in a powerful way.

Plan to build an online community, but also start networking outside the startup office as well. Attending networking events can serve as a catalyst for growing your prelaunch community. This is especially helpful if your startup provides B2B products or services.

Community guidelines are also important. It serves as a roadmap for your community, and it’s an essential way to ensure your community feels safe. Lake of the Ozarks Boat Planet employs this, “Let’s make that behavior the standard of discourse on this website. Healthy debates are ok, but please be respectful. It’s not only a core tenant of our community guidelines, it’s also ensured by our terms of service.”

  1. Give Your Community a Platform

When building your prelaunch community, you’ll need to have a platform where you can share your message, as well as a place for your community to gather, communicate, and engage with your startup and each other.

Social is an obvious one. Building a powerful social media presence is a must for any startup. This can be a social media channel that is brand specific, or you can start building your community on your own social media pages.

Facebook groups, Reddit and subreddits, Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter, and YouTube are all potential social channels to leverage. However, not all social media networks are created equal. For instance, if your startup is geared more toward men, Pinterest may not be the best platform, since over 80 percent of Pinterest users are female.

You’ll also want a place to post information about your startup. Medium is a great prelaunch choice. If your startup is all about blockchain technology, Steemit is a great platform to build a community around your brand. The main aim is to get your community built and interacting with purpose.

  1. Give Your Community Purpose

Does your site, products, and/or services serve a purpose? The answer should be yes, because the most successful startups solve problems a target market has. This gives you a purpose that your community can share.

You want your community to have a shared purpose that brings them all together. “That purpose can vary depending on the online community,” Candace Huntly of Business 2 Community explained. “In your case, you want them to come together to interact with and celebrate your brand and what you stand for.”

One of the best ways to bring your community together is to allow emotions to play a role. For example, if your startup is a solution to a health issue, you can rally a community behind your startup using the emotions connected with the issue your solution betters, or solves.

This makes personalizing your message vital. Users trust recommendations from people they know, rather than brands. Why? Because there is a personal connection, so keep this in mind when building your community. Your startup will have a far more eager audience after launch if you employ emotion and personalization.

  1. Build an Email List

With your startup community growing, it is time to get those coveted email addresses. A robust email list is the bedrock to any successful business in its early stages. Email marketing should be part of every startup marketing strategy.

“With a solid base of emails, you can sell just about anything that comes your way that your audience will be interested in,” Azzam Sheikh of The Huffington Post said. “You can experiment to see if your email list audience would like new types of products and services.”

A Successful Launch is All About Prelaunch

Startups that succeed and grow exponentially have a strong, loyal following. This makes building a community before launching an absolute must. From planning to giving your community purpose to rally behind, your prelaunch efforts are in many ways more important than what comes after launch.

How did you build your community? We want to hear about it.

Jeremy Webb Blog | Startup Grind https://www.startupgrind.com/blog/why-building-a-community-before-launching-is-vital-4-ways-to-do-it-right/

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5 Techniques You Can Use to Attract Millions Your Startup

There’s something you should know about Reddit. The aggregator site that commands millions of users today used to be a small fish in a sea of whales and sharks. During its early years, it was so obscure that its founders resorted to creating fake accounts to make the impression that there are people actively using the site.

Fast Forward

Fast forward to today wherein Reddit is one of the most popular sites in the social media arena. Its influence is so far-reaching that it often determines what goes viral online and what doesn’t.

The obvious question now is how was it done? How did they and others escape obscurity to become one of the most visited websites on the internet today?

Simple Answer

The answer is quite simple. They came up with marketing strategies that directly connected them with their target audiences. They focused all their efforts on creating a service that’s so easy to use and very informative at the same time. This is the formula that turned Reddit into an internet behemoth.

The ultimate lesson here is that growing your startup business from a few clients to a million customers is not rocket science. With the right plan and with the appropriate strategies, you can quickly push your bottom line to any level you want.

If you are confident that you have a product or service that provides real value to your target market, then the sky’s the limit. Although it’s achievable, turning your business into a powerhouse will take some time.

This is a reality that you should always consider when devising your strategies whether such strategies are for product development or for marketing campaigns.

Below is a quick overview of some of the most practical and most effective strategies on how to attract millions of customers to your startup.

1. Create a trusted advisor relationship throughout the sales cycle.

There’s a reason why customers tend to patronize companies with good reputation and trust ratings.

Whether they are purchasing a product or a service, they feel like they are getting their money’s worth. With that said, if you want your customers to be loyal to you, you must create a relationship of trust between you and the customer.

This trusted advisor relationship should be present throughout the sales cycle. What does this mean? In the simplest of terms, you have to provide great service from the moment the customer made his order to the moment the order was delivered.

Everything should be done smoothly without hassles, glitches, or other issues. One of the most famous companies in the world that has perfected how to do this is Microsoft. Whether you are purchasing software or hardware from them, they are always around to help out with whatever problem you have. They have customer support representatives that you can access via phone, email, fax, or even snail mail.

2. Put your customers at the center of everything.

Every strategy, every plan, and every development you pursue should be geared towards providing value to your customers. Your customers should always be your number one priority. Everything else comes second.

A perfect example of this strategy was implemented by the online retail giant Amazon. Did you know that during its first decade, Amazon was operating on a loss? Yes, they were losing millions of dollars every year because the company often priced their products much lower than the competition.

The only reason they drove down the prices of their products is to ensure that their customers get the best value for their money. Jeff Bezos, the long-time CEO of Amazon, was adamant in following the strategy and it worked.  Amazon often has the lowest prices whether you are looking for low-priced books or high-end gadgets.

Of course, this doesn’t necessarily mean that you should also drive down your prices. It’s just an obvious example of how you can attract a ton more customers by giving them exactly what they want. It can be the prices, the quality of the products and services, or both that you should focus your attention on.

3. Create better content to attract the right customers.

This is very important especially if you want your target customers to find you on the web through organic portals like search engines (i.e. Google and Bing). The first thing you should do is create high-quality and SEO friendly content. Search engine optimization is something that you should absolutely spend some time on if you want to maximize the reach of your content.

The idea behind SEO is to ensure that your content is read by your most valuable target customers. This is why you must extensively perform keyword research and organic backlink building. This is especially important if your business belongs to a narrow niche.

Creating SEO friendly content is a very common technique in the travel industry especially among hotel businesses. For instance, a hotel located in Los Angeles should be creating content that aims to rank for the keyword “hotel in Los Angeles.” You can apply this concept on any niche.

4. Streamline your sales processes with integrated tools.

One of the benefits of running an online business is that you can automate almost every aspect of your operations. Your sales process is definitely one of the things you should automate. Automated sales processing means that you can accept orders 24/7.

The first step you should take is find the right sales automation software for your business. There are tons of these software today. They are also often categorized by industry which makes it even easier for you to decide which software to use.

Most online retail sites today like Amazon, eBay, Clickbank, and TeeSpring make use of different versions of sales automation programs. Just find the program that works for you and stick with it.

5. Connect your sales team to customers around the world.

You have to train your sales personnel and instill in them the value of widening their horizons when it comes to attracting customers. Provide them with tools on how to connect, communicate, and network with target customers wherever they are in the world. This may involve instructing them to be active on social media or to start their own blogs.

This is a very common strategy in the beauty industry. Beauty brands often employ sales ambassadors who write blogs or film video tutorials. These techniques connect them to both established and potential customers. To maximize results, you should teach your sales team how to write SEO friendly content which they then publish on their personal blogs.

In a nutshell, you have the power to build a business that attracts millions of customers. You have to work smarter, not harder. You have to come up with your own particular strategies that are inspired by what was discussed above.

As mentioned earlier, with the right plan and corresponding strategies, you have everything you need to take your business to the next level. You have to do it quick and do it now to maximize your chances.

Jeremy Webb Blog | Startup Grind https://www.startupgrind.com/blog/5-techniques-you-can-use-to-attract-millions-your-startup/

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6 Ways to Transform Your "Side Hustle" Into a Full-Time Affair

Have you always dreamed of working for yourself? Do you have a side hustle that you’ve been thinking about taking full time, but haven’t really gone after it?

There are plenty of people in the same position as you. More than 44 million Americans have a side hustle, and the number skews higher among young people.

It’s hard to get from side hustle to full-time, thriving business, but you can do it. Here are six ways you can go from doing something on the side to making it your livelihood.

1) Commit.

John Rampton, a top social influencer and founder of Due.com, had this to say about growing his side business at the start in an interview with Ryan Robinson. “Stop planning, stop thinking about it, just start,” he said. “It doesn’t have to be perfect, it doesn’t need all the bells and whistles.”

Too often, people don’t try to make the leap because they think they need to be better, or they need a more finished product, or any myriad of other reasons. The very hardest part is committing.

Take inventory of your time and figure out what you need to get done to start growing your business. Commit to sacrificing some or all of your leisure activities. Set aside the best hours of your day and use them to work on growing your side hustle.

2) Know what you’re good at.

There’s a famous Greek aphorism that’s been a staple of philosophy since the time of Socrates, repeated everywhere:

“Know thyself.”

It’s incredibly useful when it comes to business. If you’ve been building your side hustle for a little while, you’re probably well aware of where your strengths and weaknesses lie (if you’re willing to be honest with yourself). Try asking people who are close to you whose opinions you trust, too.

Know what you’re good at. Know what you’re bad at. Know where you’re in between. Use that as a template for what you’ll do yourself, what you’ll learn how to do, and what you’ll outsource once you have the resources.

3) Find your competitive advantage.

What makes you different?

When you walked into a general store 200 years ago, you probably weren’t shopping by brand. If you wanted flour, you bought flour. If you wanted a pickax, you bought a pickax.

You didn’t research to find out which one was best, or pull out your iPhone and go to Yelp to see if there was a better general store, or decide that you could get that pickax cheaper from Amazon.

Today’s world is different. Consumers have an incredible amount of choice. If you’re not staking a claim on something that you do best, why will customers choose you?

Find the thing that makes you different and make it the center of your brand, your business strategy, and your marketing.

4) Seek out feedback, positive and negative.

When Joel Gascoigne was building the social media management tool Buffer, he started with an incredibly small initial offering. It was barebones and only worked on Twitter—but Gascoigne realized that the small size allowed him to solicit binary feedback.

Either it worked, or it didn’t. Either it was good, or it wasn’t.

Joel stayed very tapped in to his community as it grew, constantly soliciting feedback. Today Buffer is doing $1.3 million in revenue every month—and it started with nothing.

Get feedback from the people you serve, and people who’ve been there before. Stay plugged in on social. Go get a coffee or drinks or a bite to eat with people whose opinion you respect and network with them.

It’ll make your business better.

5) Get stable.

It’s very hard to build a business while you’re constantly wondering where your next meal is going to come from.

Unless you have independent means outside of your side hustle and your day job, don’t quit till you think you have consistent income lined up—at the very least, enough to live your day-to-day life while you’re building the business.

There’s a reason you don’t go shopping while you’re hungry—an empty belly makes you think short-term, and those cookies (symbolically) start to look really good. It’s hard to think long-term when the rent is late.

6) Build authority.

Hopefully you’ve been doing this already, but building an audience that values what you have to say is a key component of building a business like this. The more people you have on board, the more you can amplify your message. Put out content—a blog, a podcast, a vlog. Stay active on social media channels. Chat with influencers in your field and engage with their content. 

If you’re already known as a voice in your sector, it’s a lot easier to get people into the conversion funnel when you’re trying to ramp up your business.

If you’re applying these six tools, you can start to see dividends very quickly.

You can see your business begin to grow until you can’t keep up with your day job any more. That’s when you’ll know—it’s time to quit the day job, and you’re ready to make your part-time hustle your full-time job.

Jeremy Webb Blog | Startup Grind https://www.startupgrind.com/blog/6-ways-to-transform-your-side-hustle-into-a-full-time-affair/

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How AI Will Become a Priority for Marketers

A marketer’s goal is to find an audience for the product or service. While smart marketing teams work hard to identify people who might be interested, it’s not an easy task. Let’s say your target audience is 35-40-year-old dads who earn at least $60,000 a year.

Now what?

You write content aimed at them. You advertise in places they look, read, and listen. But you don’t always have the right message or the right platform. You may hit home with a small group of those people, but where are the masses beating down your door for your product?

AI will change that. Consider recommendations you receive from Pandora or Netflix. You might be surprised at some of the suggestions, but after watching or listening a while, you realize it was a good pick after all. The program knew what you liked before you did.

According to Google, AI is the future of marketing because it will achieve one of the most essential goals: relevance at scale. 

Let’s think about those two words for a moment: relevance and scale. Many business owners think they want scale. They approach marketing with a “spray and pray” technique — one that’s a waste of money. You might reach thousands of eyeballs with a freeway billboard, but are they the right eyeballs?

A viral video on YouTube might reach millions, but are any of those people actually going to order something from your business?

Relevance is critical.

That’s finding the 37-year-old dad who not only earns enough money to buy your product but sees value in paying for it. And here’s how AI will help.

  • PPC
    Marketers use pay-per-click advertising (PPC) to reach people searching for a specific set of words. You pay only if someone clicks on it, making it an efficient use of ad spend — especially because such ads on Google and Facebook give you a variety of options for segmenting your target audience by location, age, income, and interests.

    AI can help determine which platforms, which words and what message will improve the likelihood that someone will click on those ads. Plus, AI will soon manage those ads and adjust the campaign as needed based on how it’s performing.

  • More personal web experience
    PPC ads typically direct visitors to landing pages. Unlike a company’s main website, a landing page focuses on one specific action. But with AI, we might soon be able to customize a website visitor’s experience on a regular site, serving up different information and content based on that person’s location, device, demographics, and more.

    Google already serves up results using AI (called RankBrain), and it won’t be long before this approach is used elsewhere.

  • Analytics
    Marketers already study Google analytics to determine web traffic and where customers disengage. By examining at which point in the conversion process someone drops off, marketers can make improvements to retain more people. AI can learn these processes and present reports about problems.
  • Content
    Whether it’s emails or blog posts, marketers spend a lot of time on content geared toward a specific group of people. AI will help identify segments and create the best material for them.
  • Engagement
    When a customer’s interest starts to wane, you want to send him or her an email, a discount, a message, something to stay top of mind. AI will observe these changes in behavior and learn when to send what type of message for the optimum engagement.
  • Sales forecasting
    AI analytics can also help sales and management teams by reporting when to expect higher or lower sales volume based on past results, events, the weather, or anything that might affect your service or product.
  • Pricing changes
    Hotels are already relying on AI to manage dynamic pricing. Will other products and services follow suit, altering the prices of things based on supply and demand?

The Bigger Picture

AI will help marketing teams in these small ways, but more than that, it will integrate and combine the information. After all, if each section of your marketing team is using a different program, what good are those results?

They are spread across software platforms, with no one way to view it. Many of those tools are proprietary and offer just one slice of your audience data. AI will be the solution for taking all of that information and sorting it so that marketing executives can get a clear idea of what’s happening and make decisions.

How to advertise in this world of AI.

But as Forbes observes, this may lead to consumer behavior essentially powered by AI. And thus, how does a company advertise in this world? For example, the first time you ask Alexa to order diapers, which brand does it choose? Will paid advertising become a suggestion Alexa makes, as in, “You might want the Huggies brand based on your buying preferences, but Pampers has a sale today for $1 off.”

AI has far more implications for consumers and marketers than we’ve even begun to realize. If you’re ready to start using AI, talk to us about how.

Jeremy Webb Blog | Startup Grind https://www.startupgrind.com/blog/how-ai-will-become-a-priority-for-marketers/

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Creative and Unique Branding Ideas to Send to Your Client Base

Nurturing client relationships is essential to startup success. What your clients say about your products or services makes a big difference. But many startups want to know, “How do you stand out among competitors?” By serving up creative and unique branding ideas.

Branding has taken different forms throughout the digital era.

However, it is time to flip branding on its head to give it that unique edge. We are not just talking about pens and notepads with your startup’s logo.

It is time to get more personal. “People buy from people they like. People buy from companies they like,” Daniel Newman of Forbes explained. “There’s no easy button for this, but it’s not hard. You just need to care enough to want to build relationships.”

Essentially, you should take the same care, time, and effort spent crafting your own startup when crafting those powerful client relationships. Where do you start? Let’s take a page from the B2B salesmen of yesteryear.

Here are a few creative and unique branding ideas your clients will love your startup for, and you’ll love the profits.

Get to Know Your Client Base Better

The first step in creating unique branding ideas for your clients is to get to know them better. This will help you identify “the how” in developing branding ideas. Getting to know your clients better means getting out of your office and into theirs.

“Knowing your customers enables your organization to create more targeted marketing strategies, maintain strong relationships with clients, and increase the lifetime value of clients,” Victoria Vessella of Business 2 Community explained.

Adding that Personal Touch

Let’s say you’re a marketing startup and one of your clients is a restaurant owner. Schedule a time to meet them at their restaurant and connect in a non-formal situation. This will give you the lay of the land.

Do they have branding on their glasses, napkins, or what does their menu look like? Ask your client what they could use to help their business grow. Once you have this ammunition, you can meet with your team and brainstorm a few unique ideas.

For example, if the restaurant has local artisan beer on tap, you can develop an artistic beer tap handle and have their branding literally branded into it. Pair that with branded glasses and coasters, and you have a very unique way to further the B2B relationship.

There are plenty of place your can have a beer-tap handle made online, like AJS Tap Handles. You can use Gearheart Industry for branding in the logo, and Glass with a Twist for custom pint glasses.

When you add a physical element that is creative and unique that your client sees daily, and their customers comment on, they will remember your startup. It is a win-win for everyone.

Throw a Client Event

The old adage, “all work and no play” simply won’t work anymore, especially in the startup culture. Startup team members ditched the 9-to-5 grind for the startup life due to the unsavory “all work” corporate culture.

You can use this to your advantage when brainstorming branding ideas that will take your client base relationships to the next level. One of the best ways is to throw an event for your top client.

Think pharmacy reps at hospitals. They swoop in once a month, cater in the most expensive restaurant, and hand out tons of swag to nurses, doctors, janitors, or anyone working at that moment.

Landing New Client Opportunities

This creative branding idea takes a similar approach. This works very well for marketing agencies, design companies, or any other creative service. The first step is to organize an event with your top client, like a two-hour mixer at or near their office.

Next, put your design team to work creating branding elements for hats, shirts, pens, beer and wine glasses. But this is where it gets unique. Use new branding elements.

For instance, if you know your client has been thinking about rebranding, and you want that contract, bring your idea pitches to life on the event swag. “The personal interaction with a targeted demographic can build brand loyalty or generate new interest, adding to a customer base and building business,” Sara Hottman of Inc. suggested.

Can this be costly for startups? Short-term yes, but it is important to think long-term contracts and profits. There are also a few places to outsource this swag, like Artik for apparel, or Vistaprint for product labeling.

Startups Need to Stay Proactive

One of the most important elements of maintaining a loyal client base is to stay proactive in the relationship. Remember, there are plenty of competitors out there, whether local or online, that your clients can choose from. Continually nurturing the relationship will keep your startup in their minds.

Providing creative and unique branding ideas to send to your clients will make the relationship more personal. At the end of the day, people buy from people, and if they like you, your startup will enjoy the benefits. How will you get more personal with your clients this year?

Jeremy Webb Blog | Startup Grind https://www.startupgrind.com/blog/creative-and-unique-branding-ideas-to-send-to-your-client-base/

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6 Ways to Upgrade Your Business Technology

It’s never been easier to access affordable technology while building a business. But at the same time, it feels like any piece of technology you buy becomes obsolete the second you pay for it. If you’re trying to strengthen your business’s revenue, it’s important to invest your dollars wisely, which means not paying for things you don’t need.

When it comes to tech, though, some things pay off more than others.

Here are six things to put in your budget if you hope to upgrade your technology.

Modernize your website.

As the customer-facing side of your business, your website speaks volumes on your behalf. For that reason, your first priority should be keeping it modern-looking. Even if your site is mobile optimized, you still may be scaring customers away if your design is outdated.

Pay close attention to trends in website design from one year to the next. You can also use a DIY tool like SquareSpace or Weebly, which gives you access to templates that feature the current trends in design.

Simplify.

If you’re working with a potpourri of applications for your small business, you aren’t alone. In fact, many businesses end up assembling a suite of solutions to accomplish their day-to-day goals. But at a certain point, businesses will want to find a way to streamline everything. The sooner you can do that, the better. From the start, try to choose applications that manage multiple tasks through one dashboard, then add on apps that integrate with those solutions.

Update your operating system.

Today, it’s slightly easier to keep your operating system updated on each of your devices. Both Microsoft and Apple push O/S updates to end user devices, as long as they have a machine that can handle the software. Make a point to regularly check each of your devices, including smartphones and tablets, to make sure you’re running the latest version of the operating system.

Even missing a few updates can leave your equipment vulnerable to an attack which, inevitably, puts your entire network at risk. By keeping your software as up-to-date as possible, you may be able to stave off a devastating data breach.

Fax to email.

Yes, you likely occasionally need a fax machine. It may be rarer than in previous decades, but when the request comes through to use a fax — you need to be prepared. Fax-to-email solutions let you receive and send faxes without a dedicated machine taking up valuable space in your office. Not only does this free up space in your own office, but it also lets you send and receive faxes wherever you are.

No more making a special trip to the office to send a fax. You can simply upload a file from your computer and send it, whether you’re working from home or waiting at the airport for your flight.

Lease your copiers.

Instead of buying printers, scanners, and copiers, many businesses opt for all-in-one units. Unfortunately, these can be costly and they quickly become outdated. You can lease an all-in-one and opt to get a new unit every couple of years.

This will keep your biggest piece of office equipment current without having to go shopping every couple of years. This will likely work best once you have multiple employees, though, since you can get an all-in-one desktop printer much more affordably than a corporate-quality copier.

Look into a wireless mesh network.

If your business runs on wireless, you may experience dead spots in certain areas of your office. A wireless mesh network is a way to overcome those issues, giving you more reliable Wi-Fi access at faster speeds than you may get with regular providers. Conduct thorough research into whether this is a better alternative for your own business and call around for the best prices.

You may find that the cost and reliability are better than what you’re already getting. This solution works best for companies that plan to run solely on wireless, rather than relying on a hardwired network.

If you’re interested in improving the tech in your business, there are small things you can do to stay up to date. It’s important to regularly audit your environment and find areas where you might be falling behind. By doing that, you’ll be able to remain competitive and keep both your customers and employees happy.

Jeremy Webb Blog | Startup Grind https://www.startupgrind.com/blog/6-ways-to-upgrade-your-business-technology/

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Digital-Marketing Tips for Bootstrapped Startups

You just launched a startup and need to get your brand in front of as many eyes as possible. The problem is you are not just competing in your industry, you are competing with the millions of other marketing messages that consumers are bombarded with every day.

Not only that, your bootstrapped startup does not have the funds to invest heavily into digital marketing. What’s an entrepreneur to do?

Focus On Your Target Audience

When you initially start the marketing of your business, it’s easy to get overwhelmed and you just want to reach out to every single person all in one time. But, the most important point is to stay focus on reaching your target audience who have the potential to make your business a success and help it grow.

Rather than you try to grab the attention of your potential clients, zero in on a target part that will assist you in reaching your short-term goals. Maybe this target part is made up of initial adopters, who you feel will buy your product instantly – or they might be a target audience you have knowledge of as to how to communicate with them. Whatever the case is, staying focused will assist you in reaching your target audience more efficiently and it is better to make use of whatever restricted resources you have.

Build Planned Partnerships

Build strong brand partnerships, align with an already established brand this will help your startup in gaining popularity along with credibility. Select a business that you like – ideally a setup which offers complimentary services so you can refer them. Or you can also opt for applying a referral fee on both sides so that there is a financial benefit to both the setups that brings in more business.

Connect And Communicate With Your Followers

Social media is one of the best ways to connect with your followers and to engage with them. Your followers are highly important as they are your future customers. Make your followers feel valuable to you and the brand, so they stick around and become loyal members.

Also never be afraid of the social confrontation, if there is any complaint against your brand take a step forward in solving it, use this as an opportunity to show how capable your brand’s customer service is.

Also do not be afraid of social confrontation, approach any complaint as an opportunity to show your brand’s customer-service capabilities.

Lastly, embrace your failures and stop hiding from them, you are a startup and you are bound to face some problems. Use these hurdles strategically as an opportunity to win over the customers with good customer service and display your business long-term mission as much as possible.

Incentivize Individuals To Share

If you want your brand to be the center of attention, there is nothing more like giving them a motivation to do so. Offer them something that will be free if they just tweet about your service or product or ask them to share your post on Facebook. Or in return for liking all your social media profiles, they will get some special perk.

Another way you can engage and incentivize your followers is a contest. Setup a contest for them, pick the winner and give them an incentive or some prize. You can get creative with how to motivate your customers and incentivize them, the only thing you need to make sure is that there is proper value in for them.

Content Is And Will Be The King

This is one of the long-term strategies, but developing branded quality content is one of the best ways to market your newly launched startup.  If you are working with a team that doesn’t consist of a good content creator, then you can wait for a few months to get more established.

Branded content is a fantastic way to partner your company with the themes that are relevant to your industry, and if you have something that is of value to add to the industry, it can instantly get you established as an expert.

An essential thing you must remember is that your content should be not promotional –don’t just go about writing your business offerings or your company’s services, instead write an article about some issues in the industry and write some considerate analysis and commentary related to it. Another great way to create branded content is by conducting surveys in your industry and then publish the results that are pertinent – the more unique your data is the more attention it will earn.

Take Advantage Of Social Media

One of the most common methods of marketing your brand is by making use of the social media platforms. However, it is important that you make use of the right methods of using social media marketing. You want to ensure that you are not only posting on a regular basis but you are also engaging with your users. You just don’t want your Twitter and Facebook profiles to be streaming with your company’s promotional content.

Instead, you should share content that will engage your users. You want to provide content to your users that is valuable, it’s important that you understand your audience well so that you can give them the right amount of information that is helpful and engaging.

If you feel that your users or followers are more into visual content then focus on platforms like Pinterest or Instagram. If you feel the services you offer can be best described through text info, then develop a powerful presence on Facebook by Buying Real Facebook Photo Post Likes from Digi SMM

Apply For Business Awards

Whether you have started a new service that will make the lives of your customers easy, or you are advertising a product that has never been launched in the market before – getting recognition award from a local business will definitely help you in increasing the credibility of your brand. No award is small, as it only means increased recognition for your business. Getting a local business award will only give your newly launched startup more acceptability.

Let us know about, what marketing strategies you have applied for your startup.

Jeremy Webb Blog | Startup Grind https://www.startupgrind.com/blog/digital-marketing-tips-for-bootstrapped-startups/

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Employee Perks From Incredible Company Cultures

With every new hire, a company welcomes to the team the company’s culture increases in complexity. Of course, there are cultural norms within the company that are unlikely to be impacted by a single person but have culminated with the addition of every previous employee.  Overall, the construction of company culture has a linear relationship to the growth of the team.

The modern workplace has become an experiment in work-life balance as many companies offer perks and benefits that would seem unthinkable only a few decades ago. The benefits packages that attracted your parents and grandparents to their careers are now boilerplate in most companies.

If a tech company today offered a prospective employee only medical, dental, and 2-weeks paid-time-off benefits, the candidate would likely seek greener pastures. How has

The Evolution of Company Culture

The rapid evolution of company culture has exploded recently as job candidates become ever more selective about where and how they want to work. The competition between the tech giants to attract top talent has had an unexpected byproduct of inspiring other companies to follow suit and offer similar employee perks.

Google may be the most notable and recognizable for their efforts to create a workplace that is conducive to productivity with restaurant-quality food, laundry services, child care, on-site massage parlor and much more, entirely free.

Although most companies do not have the budget for the perks and benefits available to the average googler, a lot of companies offer free snacks, quality coffee and espresso machines, work from home opportunities, and even a stocked beer fridge for company happy hours.

Epic Employee Perks

Google is not the only company to gain notoriety for their dedication to building a culture around work-life integration, companies like Zappos, Dropbox and Airbnb are also offering envious perks.

Tony Hsieh, founder of Zappos.com, the online shoe retailer that sold to Amazon was a visionary who built a customer-centric company that begins with a dedication to employee satisfaction. Every new employee of Zappos is offered $2,000 to quit, in this way they can eliminate people who are only looking to make a quick buck and not focused on finding a job they love. Every employee from the custodian to the C-Level executives also spends the first two weeks on the customer support phones. This is a great way to inspire a culture of empathy and a customer centricity at every level.

Dropbox is yet another company that has built a company culture that inspires collaboration and team building. One perk at Dropbox is their music room. This fully stocked studio comes complete with instruments for employees to play music which can relieve stress and be a fun way to bond with other people within the company.

A lot of companies offer paid-time-off and support traveling. Airbnb, the largest provider of vacation rentals, provides every employee with a $2,000 budget for vacation travel.

17 Companies with Incredible Employee Benefits

To see more of the amazing perks offered by the companies with the best company cultures, check out this piece from GetVoIP:

Employee Perks from Successful Company Cultures

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