Business

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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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Yes, Your Logo Still Matters

Your logo is an extremely important aspect of your business. Not only does it visually represent your brand and your products, but it can tell a story and portray a vision as well. There has been a lot of focus on things like content creation, SEO, and other marketing strategies, but your logo is still as important as ever. It represents your drive for innovation and creates a deeper connection with your audience.

Your Logo

When I look at a logo, I don’t just expect to see a company name in nice colors. I expect to understand what that brand does—what their goals are, what their products are for, and how I fit into the whole picture. Sure, that’s a lot to expect from a simple logo, but it can definitely be done.

Some of the tops brands, like Nike, are prime examples. Nike is all about movement and getting out there and working your body. The swish in their logo says movement to me—it represents the purpose of their brand. You don’t have to be a big-name brand like Nike for your logo to make a statement, though. There are a lot of different brands that understand just how much a logo matters, and they’ve used theirs to tell a story and really connect with their audiences.

Today’s Branding

Today, companies have so many touchpoints with customers across screens and social media platforms, that it might be tempting to skimp on effort when it comes to designing a logo that communicates your mission and story, while also working across multiple screen environments. So many brands, startups especially, don’t want to spend all of their seed funding on devising a logo when they know that they’ll have to churn out multiple images and graphics every day.

But a logo (especially a well-designed one) still reigns supreme. And it is possible to create an impactful logo without going broke. Platforms like Deluxe’s logo-maker are built with small business owners in mind, because the program allows users to add customized elements to tried-and-true designs.

If you’re still tempted to bypass the logo process, take a look at some brands who manage to effectively tell their stories and resonate with audiences through their logo designs; in turn, their logos have become the cornerstones of their companies.

Brands Whose Logos Really Work

Young Living Essential Oils

Young Living Essential Oils is a direct sales company producing essential oils and essential oil-based products. The company was established by a couple who started their own herb farming and distillation operation in the 90s in an effort harness the incredible power of essential oils and make them available to others.

Today, it is a multi-million-dollar company with farms all around the world, and they even allow visitors to come and watch the entire “seed to seal” process. Their logo reflects that process and represents their oils’ purity in the form of an essential oil drop falling from a leaf.

San Diego Zoo

The San Diego Zoo is a place where families can go and enjoy an entire vacation without ever having to leave the park. They have numerous exhibits where children can see exotic animals in real life, great restaurants, and shopping options where families can take a break and relax. They even offer experiences, like “Animals in Action,” “Early Morning with Pandas,” hosting children’s birthday parties, and more.

Their logo shows just how important a custom font can be to your overall design. The San Diego Zoo’s playful, hand-drawn font is reminiscent of an animal paw print and showcases the zoo’s “wild” vibe.  

FedEx

Everybody is familiar with FedEx. They deliver thousands of packages every day and make sure that shipments arrive at their destination promptly and safely.

Their logo may not seem like much more than their name, but if you look closely, you’ll notice a right-pointing arrow formed between the E and the X in their logo. Like the San Diego Zoo, there is a lot of nuance to this carefully executed font.

The Guild of Food Writers

The Guild of Food Writers is an association established in the United Kingdom in 1984 and made up of food writers and broadcasters in the area. It now has over 400 authors, broadcasters, journalists, and other communications professionals among its members.

The benefits of joining The Guild of Food Writers include access to the online food forum for lively debate, a listing in the Annual Directory of Members, invitations to captivating food workshops, and much more. Their logo cleverly represents both the food and writing aspects of the organization by portraying an ink pen with a spoon inside.

Goodwill

You’re probably familiar with Goodwill, an incredible organization that has made it possible for people to donate gently used (or unused) items to stores where people in need (or who just want a great deal on thrift store trends) can shop and save. The organization is also a major employer of individuals with disabilities, giving back to the community in a variety of ways.

The logo displays their name and appears to have a smiling face up above it. If you look closely, though, you’ll notice the smiling face is actually the same lowercase “g” in the Goodwill font. This brings a human element to the logo and represents the countless people the organization has served through its 115 years.

In Conclusion

Your logo still matters — even more than you might realize. You don’t have to be a big-name brand for your logo to be important, and you don’t have to have some fancy, complex image to tell a story. Looking at some of the examples in this article, you can see that sometimes the simplest ideas can tell the most important stories.

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Jeremy WebbYes, Your Logo Still Matters
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Why Data is Important for a Startups Sales Cycle

“In today’s age, data is the new currency.” For those working in sales, this quote holds dear. A good leader realizes the significance of data in sales. When any product is sold its sales team properly follows the sales cycle and strategies for the very product that has just been sold.

During all this process, data plays a key role in selecting or dismissing any strategy. Let’s try to understand this idea from the point of view of a startups sales cycle — and the role data plays in it. In this article, we discuss how and why data is crucial for any startups sales cycle, and we also provide few tips to enhance and boost your own sales cycle — using analytics.

1. Data is useful for evaluation.

A sales cycle usually starts with finding a lead and their qualifications — then adding more effort — and finally closing the deal. Data helps in narrowing down this process by reducing the unwanted contacts and lets us focus time and energy on those leads who better qualify for conversion.

Using data we can know who is our actual potential lead and thus spread out the sales funnel accordingly. Knowing your target audience is very vital. Researchers and studies help us figure out the most needed and useful statistics.

Let’s say a survey tells us that a particular age group is more oriented towards your product. Your market campaigns and sales content can then be carefully drafted and directed to resonate with the mindset of that particular group (in whatever this groups’ diversity calls for — be it age, location, a particular sport, etc.).

2. Easy to use and inexpensive.

While there is a buzz around cool features offered by the latest technological tools such as analytics, many consider leaving the data option due to the unfortunate misinformation surrounding it. The misinformation is that the data costs too much. There are numerous options available in the market. There are always selections that can be garnered at a price that is much more reasonable than one might imagine.

There are many free tools available that should be taken advantage of. Watch just how much these analytics and data show you. When considering the prices for startup sales cycle the aim is to keep the cost less in the beginning.

Yes, your money is essential for many processes in your business. Investing in data has proven more rewards than the investment cost itself and they are easy to use. With the correct tools, you can make and identify your more favorable leads by category and give these strong “potentials” more time and attention. You can now consider your sales cycle as a key weapon to your company’s growth-hacking.

3. Cut short the long sales cycle.

Often the sales cycles are long and ultimately the success may depends on the closing ability of your salesperson. The sales may even depend on the mood of a customer. For these reasons, there is a concrete argument that a startup’s sales cycle should be short. A new startup cannot afford to have too long of a sales cycle. These long sales cycle often do not give any scope for deviation.

Only when the sales cycles are narrowed to specific set of people interested in buying the product — and verified by data — can the cycle actually be shortened, still guaranteeing a profit.

Data is needed in all stages of a sales cycle and should not be limited to only the beginning nor relegated to the very end. Data can be used to track the inbound leads. The data will study and analyze the reasons behind the last successful or unsuccessful sale. Data provides a holistic view of users’ choice and purchasing decisions.

You want to know exactly why your leads converted — so that you can replicate the process. If someone didn’t convert — competitors don’t seem to be shying away from the usage and help of data. Every organization whether they are a startup or an established business, should consider how they can immediately take hold of data-driven success in their sales cycles.

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Jeremy WebbWhy Data is Important for a Startups Sales Cycle
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Top 5 Things E-commerce Entrepreneurs Find Most Challenging

At some point or other, all entrepreneurs face a fair share of challenges in their business. And when the initiative is e-commerce, things become even more tricky. The world of e-commerce has its unique set of challenges.

When you consider that up to 80% of e-commerce businesses fail, you realize just how unforgiving this industry can be, to the unknowing and the unprepared.

Fortunately, this is an industry of tremendous promise. Global e-commerce spending has risen to over $2 trillion over recent years. Analysts predict it to reach over $4 trillion by the year 2021.

In this write-up, we highlight some of the prominent obstacles that e-commerce entrepreneurs find the most challenging. If they successfully overcome these, the road ahead is relatively easier.

#1: TECHNOLOGICAL DIFFICULTIES

Sometimes the appeal of e-commerce stems from not having to deal with the tribulations of managing physical business premises. Do not be fooled, as the technical difficulties of an online store can be just agonizing.

a) Basic Issues

E-commerce stores constantly have to deal with day to day tech problems.

  • Website speed
  • Maintaining server and support
  • Database limitations
  • Data privacy, security issues, among many more

Technical difficulties are not just a huge annoyance. The slightest technical problem with your site can see you lose scores of potential long-term customers before they have even given your business a fair chance.

A recent Google study has found that 53% of mobile visitors will abandon a webpage if it takes longer than three seconds to load.

This is why e-commerce entrepreneurs should carefully select and sample their service providers. Hosting service and support has to be first grade. 

Having a secure and solid IT support system from the very start helps to run the show smoothly.

b) Lack of Integration between Operational Systems

E-commerce operations deploy data management systems, spanning across multiple departments. If these systems are not properly integrated, it could be a disaster.

Receiving orders, validating the customer details, followed by the physical side of arranging and packing the products and shipping out on time, it is a huge chain.

Every team and process should be streamlined to work in complete sync. 

#2: ATTRACTING AND RETAINING CUSTOMERS

Mastering the sales funnel for e-commerce sites may require a different approach.

a) Attracting the Customers

Getting the attention of potential customers of an e-commerce store differs tremendously to that of physical stores.

These prospects are not going to stumble upon the store by chance while walking along the street or in a shopping mall.

Bringing them to your online store requires a strong marketing strategy, involving several and ever-evolving digital techniques.

It’s important to remember that starting a business is easier but generating leads and customers is most difficult. That’s why the marketing department always remains on its toes.

b) Converting Site Visitors into Sales and Leads

Getting potential leads to a site is only half the battle, with e-commerce conversion rates ranging from 1% to 3%.

An e-commerce site needs strategic design and optimization to hold the interest of the average online consumer and to close the sale.

c) Retaining Customers

There is no dearth of competition. With customers fleeing at the slightest technical or logistical annoyance, e-commerce entrepreneurs must invest in building customer loyalty.

Addressing voice of every customer is very significant.

#3: SECURITY

Security is a big concern that often disturbs online customers.

But as much as the customers are wary of it, e-commerce businesses to want to provide their customers with a foolproof shopping experience. 

Consumer fraud is on the rise in the e-commerce world, with US retailers alone losing $32 billion in 2014 to consumer fraud.

E-commerce entrepreneurs can remedy this through undertaking fraud education and implementing customer and payment verification measures.

Customers should only be asked for details that are essentially required for completing the purchase. Databases should be made robust using the latest technological tools.

#4 CUSTOMER SERVICE

Knowing that 78% of consumers will abandon a transaction because of poor customer service will make you want to pay special attention in this department.

Especially so, when this reality is combined with that of stiff competition in this industry.

a) Lack of Personal Assistance and Personal Contact

This is where e-commerce businesses may be at a disadvantage. They lack the face-to-face contact on which physical stores thrive.

E-commerce businesses need to establish ongoing, open lines of communication with their customers.

b) Personalization in Client Liaison

E-commerce lives on customer interaction that is purely personalized, such as sending on-going personalized emails, addressing support, sharing special offers and schemes.

This needs a lot of care. Modern day customers are smart. If they don’t get personalized attention, they switch.

#5 LOGISTICS OF INTERNATIONAL OPERATIONS

Tapping the near and off-shore customers is the new potential in the e-commerce market. But catering to global customers isn’t easy and can be highly challenging.

a) The Legalities and Logistics of a Borderless Economy

Selling and shipping items across various countries can make it tricky to deal with:

  • The varying and complex government regulations on items entering cross borders
  • Managing transactions between with numerous international currencies, all subject to ever-fluctuating exchange rates
  • The accounting and tax management of a “stateless income”

b) Localization and Globalization of Products

Shipping products to an international market certainly do expand the customer reach but it also creates the added operational cost of having to localize products to different markets.

E-commerce stores shipping to international destinations have to find the balance, continually, between localizing and globalizing their products to meet the needs of an international customer.

c) Shipping Logistics

Shipping can be a thorn in the side of both e-commerce customer and business. E-commerce loses billions of dollars each year to shipping returns. The US retail economy alone experienced  $351 billion losses to returns in a single year.

Online shopping has significantly higher item return rates of 30-40%, as compared to 10% return rates of physical stores.

Long shipping times and high shipping costs also repel many potential customers. In fact, surveys show that up to 80% of consumers consider free shipping a major factor in their purchasing decisions.

There are many elements of shipping- such as varying shipping costs, varying shipping laws, and delayed shipping times- that are mostly out of the control of e-commerce businesses.

However, business owners can take measures to implement smarter shipping policies, which reduce these costs to a reasonable extent.

d) Staff Management and Collaboration

The lack of effective staff communication and collaboration is a continual struggle for most businesses.

When multiple geographical locations, a lack of face-to-face contact, language barriers and varying time zones enter into the mix, this does not get any easier to manage.

Final Thoughts –

E-commerce certainly yields well because the products and services have a greater reach. But running it effectively can be a daunting task.

E-commerce businesses continually need to invest in terms of organizing processes and resources. From ensuring a smooth website to delivering a product and inviting customer loyalty, all need efforts.

Regardless of brand popularity, the ability to handle on-going bottlenecks determines its long-term, business success.

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Jeremy WebbTop 5 Things E-commerce Entrepreneurs Find Most Challenging
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