Startup

Do You Need a Crowdfunding Campaign for Your Startup?

Is your startup dying? Raising funds for startups is becoming more and more challenging. If you’re passionate enough about your startup, then you’ll have the courage to go through hardships and overcome all the challenges. The question is how to find investment and grow your business. The amount and the quality of investment can change the future of your startup, so you need to think twice before seeking traditional seed capital, applying for bank loans, or starting crowdfunding campaigns.

Getting rejected by potential investors can be very disappointing, especially at the early stages. This is why you start considering the idea of creating a crowdfunding campaign. But, do you really need it? In this article, you will learn more about what crowdfunding is, how to start a crowdfunding campaign, and what you can expect from it.

What is Crowdfunding?

Crowdfunding gives you an opportunity to raise funds with the help of the general public, or ordinary people who like your idea or business and want to help you develop it. In other words, it’s like a large pool of individuals who are ready to invest small amounts of money in a startup or a business idea. Many campaigns are rewards-based, so the investors receive a gift or something in return for their participation.

For example, Oculus VR raised more than $2 million in 30 days, after which it was bought by Facebook for $2.3 billion. Another successful example is Tile, a Bluetooth tracker which finds keys, wallets, and other everyday things in seconds. They raised $2.6 million, exceeding their target of $200k within 24 hours of launching the campaign.

Crowdfunding seems to be a miracle for startups, an easy way to get investment. But, unfortunately, not all startups succeed. Many crowdfunding campaigns fail. In fact, 70% of campaigns don’t reach their goals. But, even if your campaign fails, you can still have some benefits.

What Can You Get From a Crowdfunding Campaign?

  • First of all, crowdfunding is an alternative opportunity to raise money for your startup.

  • It’s a safe and low-risk solution. With pre-sales, you can reduce the financial risk of your business and generate revenue.

  • With a smart crowdfunding campaign, you can significantly increase your brand awareness and get exposure.

  • Build your audience and get feedback from them to improve your product.

  • Collaboration opportunities and new partners.

The Drawbacks of Crowdfunding

  • The creation of a crowdfunding campaign can be time-consuming and require extra financial resources.

  • You can fail your campaign by not reaching your target and return all the invested money.

  • The failure may damage the reputation of your startup.

  • Someone can steal your idea/project if you’re not protected by a patent or a copyright.

How to Get Started With a Crowdfunding Campaign?

After considering both the benefits and drawbacks of crowdfunding, you need to decide whether you want it or not. If you think that your startup needs a crowdfunding campaign, then pay close attention to the rest of the article, as you will learn how to create a successful crowdfunding campaign.

Follow these 8 steps to launch your campaign:

  1. Define your goal

The success of your campaign depends on how clearly you define your goal. You have an idea or a business and you need to raise money to develop it. Turn your idea into a goal by defining why it is important, how is it different, who will benefit from it, and how much investment you need.

  1. Do a market research and find your target audience

To define an achievable goal, you need to conduct a market research and learn more about your target audience. This will help you to understand the demand for your product and the needs of your potential consumers. If you know your audience, it will be easier for you to reach them and get their support.

  1. Choose a crowdfunding platform

There are several crowdfunding platforms like Indiegogo or Kickstarter where you can launch your campaign. These platforms help you to manage your campaign, share your information, videos, reviews, and all the necessary information about your project. Depending on the provided services and the outcome, they will take up to 10-15% fees.

  1. Prepare a perfect video pitch

What is the best way to present your idea or product? Of course, a unique and informative video. According to Kickstarter, projects with videos were funded at a much higher rate of 50%, compared with the 30% rate of the projects which didn’t have one.

So, how to create a great video for your crowdfunding campaign?

  • Keep it short, up to 2 minutes,

  • Get the attention of your audience right at the beginning,

  • Use visuals to keep them engaged,

  • Tell your story,

  • Choose the right music,

  • Add a call-to-action.

You can also create animated explainer videos, which can be very effective for presenting your product or idea. To save your time and resources, you can use video maker tools which offer ready-made video templates.

  1. Create a landing page to build your email list

Why exactly do you need an email list? Having a list of people interested in your product will make it easier for you to contact them and keep them updated. To collect those emails, you need to have a basic landing page with all the information about your project and what you offer.

Your landing page should have clear headlines and descriptions, high-quality images, and a form. To make it more informative, you can add your video pitch and some customer reviews to it. Then, you need to promote your landing page to drive traffic to it. Once people fill in the form, they will appear in your email list, and you can directly contact them. When you launch your campaign, the first thing you need to do is to send emails to the people from your email list.

  1. Reach out to journalists and influencers

Another effective way to reach your target audience is gaining exposure through journalists and influencers. So, you need to create a list of media contacts who might be interested in sharing your project. Start by finding media outlets or blogs relevant to your business and add them to a list. Then, find the right contacts and influencers to connect with and send your request. Develop your outreach strategy, test it and keep your list up-to-date.

  1. Build your audience on Social Media and keep them engaged

After defining your target audience, you need to develop content which will be interesting to them. Create your pages on different social channels and start sharing engaging content depending on the interests of your audience. Pick the channels where your audience is more active and don’t forget about adding call-to-actions. Plan your social media strategy beforehand, as it takes considerable time and efforts to build an active fan base and to keep them engaged.

  1. Launch your campaign

Are you ready to launch your campaign? After making all the preparations, it’s time to launch your campaign and see the results of your hard work. While you’re waiting for the investments to flow, don’t forget to share the news and updates with your email list.

What makes your audience buy on day 1 of your campaign? Simple. The feeling of urgency and excitement. Always keep your audience excited by creating special offers or rewards. It’s all up to you and your creativity.​

Conclusion

No matter at what stage your startup is, an investment can help you boost it and keep you on track. But, before putting all your efforts on finding investors, stop and think about alternative financing methods. Crowdfunding can be a great solution for your startup. It has both benefits and drawbacks, so you need to decide whether you need it or not. And, in case you decided to start a crowdfunding campaign, follow the steps above to make sure that you do it right.

No comments
Jeremy WebbDo You Need a Crowdfunding Campaign for Your Startup?
read more

How to Hire the Right Marketing Team for Your Startup

One of the biggest challenges that the startup founders face during the initial stage is the lack of a well-proficient, professional marketing team. A well-rounded marketing team can make or break a startup and that’s why it is essential to hire the very best.

“Choose the first 10 employees very carefully, as they determine the next 100.”

– Yevgeniy Brikman, Gruntwork

Hiring the right team for any startup is an art. Either you can outsource the task to recruiting firms as they have the best talent available or you can do it yourself. Of course, it will take time, but after a few years, you will become an expert yourself.

But before choosing either of the two, it is important to understand how you can make the best possible choice.

“A good idea without a great team is likely to negatively affect your start-up’s potential to attract investment”

 GrowthEnabler, Quora.

Almost all businesses are digital and their marketing efforts are completely different from the way traditional marketers used to market. That’s why while crafting the job descriptions of your marketing hires, make sure you add digital elements that the recruits need to have, and on that basis, you can shortlist them for further process.

In order to ease the process, here are a few guidelines that all startup founders need to understand before they start hiring a marketing team for startup.

Identify Your Marketing Channels.

This may sound obvious but it is actually the crux of the whole hiring process. Even in the online world, marketing is of many types: Content, Paid, Performance, Influencer, Social, Community, and Lead Management.

Most recruits are specialized in any one form of these marketing channels. To identify which of these marketing channels you will use for marketing your startup, and then start hiring for that particular channel.

For example, if your startup is an ecommerce store, you will require both performance marketers and content strategists. However, if you are a design agency, your time will be spent hiring business developers and performance marketers for the startup.

Therefore, identify the right marketing channels before you start the hiring process.

Key Points:

  • Select channels that provide the most ROI and shortlist candidates well-versed in them

  • Prepare effective job descriptions based on selected channels to target the right candidates

Create Targets for Next Six Months.

Six months is all it takes to go from zero level to medium level in anything you pursue: whether a broken relationship, a college course, a music class, or even a health or fitness regime. You will see a significant difference in muscle memory in the next six months if you start now.

The same rule applies to hire the startup marketing team. Where your new hires will decide the future tone, your targets for the next six months will decide the future path.

It is better to keep smart, attainable targets so you can easily track and change them when needed. The VP of Crowdriff, Amrita Gurney, focuses on monthly targets while hiring teams and deciding targets for them.

She says, it seems lucrative to just jump to marketing but understanding the customers and finding the right channels to market is the best way to hire a marketing team. Because with this approach you will be able to hire teams that are already well versed with that marketing channel.

And, when you keep monthly targets, you automatically know the progress of each new recruit. For early age startups, this is the best way to measure progress.

Key points:

  • Make smart, attainable, and measurable goals

  • Be flexible and praise for efforts

  • Educate and empower your marketing team

“When 10 percent to 20 percent of salespeople miss goals, the problem might be the salespeople. But when most salespeople miss, the problem is their goals.”

The Harvard Business Review

Understand the Structure of a Modern Marketing Team.

Tons of guides are available on understanding the structure of a modern marketing team. But for a digital startup, we can bring it down to content creation and promotion, performance tracking and lead generation, and lead management and support.

These are the three main sub-departments of a marketing section within a digital startup. So, hiring recruits specific to any one of these departments will be a good starting point.

While recruiting for your startup, find out which type of marketing people have the skills that you require for your marketing.

One thing to keep in mind is that a marketing structure is made of a combination of different structures. So, review your current team structure and look for departments that you can merge together.

Key points:

  • Aim for an integrated marketing team

  • Keep the team agile and flexible to target changes

“Well-organized teams are better positioned to succeed than ones that aren’t.”

Ben Sailer, CoSchedule

What to Look For in the Candidate.

You must have heard of people who have no relevant background to a specific job landing high-level positions in startups just on the basis of their potential and grit.

So, what exactly are startups looking for when hiring candidates?

  • Passion

There are two ways to find out if a person is passionate about your company and the industry it relates to especially if you are looking for junior executives. Find out what type of projects they have worked on, on an individual level. Check if they have started a group, community, or even just a blog. It shows they are interested in working in your industry.

  • Drive

Are they growth-driven? The people you hire need to be interested in your project. They should have a desire to help the company grow while growing themselves. The best way to find this out is to provide the recruits with a problem.

Founder of Staff.com says that once they were hiring a data analyst for their company. During the initial interview, the analyst told them that they had a problem with their analysis. He went home and worked on the analysis himself and provided the solution with a detailed report on the very next day. The founder of Staff hired that candidate on the spot.

  • Humility

Does he own his mistakes?

The problem with all startups is that people will make mistakes. Now, there is no problem in making them, it is the part, where the person who made the mistake doesn’t accept it, becomes the problem. Startup recruits need to be humble and should accept if they are wrong because that is the only way the startup culture can thrive and grow.

  • Dedicated

Startups should also check whether the person is actually dedicated towards their organization or only interested in his own learning.

One startup founder quotes the example of a candidate who was so eager to learn about the work that he continued to show up even after his internship had ended, and that no permanent position was available with the firm. But after a few months, the team was so impressed by his dedication and hard work that they were able to create a permanent position for him.

Importance of Training and Development.

Once you have hired the right people for your startup, train them on a regular basis so they can provide even more value. By training the employees you are upgrading their skill set. Training also increases their eagerness to stay at the company because they will understand that they are at least learning something new. At the same time, when you offer training to employees, more people are going to join your startup because the news spread with the word of mouth of your current employees.

By training, you also help the employees overcome their weaknesses. This increases their satisfaction to stay at the firm.

Key points:

  • Consistent training ensures all employees are at the same level

  • Increases learning the satisfaction of employees as they are learning something new every day

  • Builds their confidence and provides them with the better understanding of the nature of work

All these points directly translate to more value for your startup.

Keep a Long-term Plan in Mind.

Finally, while hiring marketers for your startup, focus on your long-term marketing plan. You need to have a checklist of things you want to achieve before you start the hiring process so that the team can work accordingly. Remember, there is no such thing as a bad hire. In the end, the responsibility lies on your shoulders to take the team forward.

Here are the key takeaways of this article:

  • Sketch out job descriptions of each position you want to be filled

  • Assess recruits through various job-related tests

  • Create SMART targets

  • Provide guidance and training

No comments
Jeremy WebbHow to Hire the Right Marketing Team for Your Startup
read more

When Is The Right Time For A Startup To Move Into A Physical Space

These days, most businesses do not start in offices. Whether it’s an idea cooked up in a dorm room or a crowdfunding campaign conducted from the living room, many startups get their real beginning outside of an official office space. There are many reasons to run your business in a dispersed and primarily digital fashion for a long time; some companies have even been able to run at scale without any kind of centralized work location.

Different executives have different thoughts on when companies need to move into physical spaces, and much of their differences may have to do with their industries. A retail company, for example, will need a physical space with physical offices right off the bat, while a company creating an SaaS product may not need a physical office until it’s approaching big corporations as clients.

Even then, it may only need to have its key staff in the office; marketing, accounting, IT, and support staff can all be housed off premises or dispersed. If these positions remain freelance or contract rather than full employees, this also allows the company to save money on benefits payments.

Companies relocate their entire production processes from state to state to take advantage of cost differentials, but when is the right time for a startup to move into a physical space? That time is going to vary, business to business. Let’s look at some of the factors and challenges.

Local Employees

At first, many companies get by with contracted services. You can use SaaS accounting software, work with a freelancer for your marketing, contract your IT services, and connect with a graphic designer in another country to get your layouts done right. But as you start to look for local staff to hire, you are going to need somewhere for those people to work. An office becomes the right place to train new employees.

Local Customers

Relocating to a new office already comes with its own challenges and the last thing you want is to lose your hard earned customers. If your business is primarily online, you don’t need a physical office to meet your customers. If your business starts to transition into a more local business with a higher number of face to face interactions, having somewhere to meet your customers other than the coffee shop is ideal. At this level, you may still be able to just rent a conference room in another company’s office space, but looking for your own office may be the right idea.

Retail Possibilities

If your company is looking to expand into the retail sphere, having a physical location may become necessary, whether it’s public facing or not. You will usually need to pack and ship goods, keep your customers informed about your moving plans, work with staff – doing all of that out of your living room or even a home office will quickly become complicated.

Ongoing, Continual Collaboration

When your team members need to check in every so often with questions about assignments or how to pieces of a product will interact, working online with chats and video calls is perfect. But for many businesses, there’s comes a point where continuing, ongoing collaboration is key to success. For that to function, you will need to have more, if not most, of your employees at the same location.

This can be a big transition point for a company, and it can force them to choose between their dispersed workforce and their scaling planes. After all, many people work from home because working in a physical location is either impractical or impossible. Their own health, or the health of loved ones, can make it necessary to work from home. If you move your entire company to a physical space, it’s possible to lose crucial employees. Make sure to talk to your workforce and know what the next steps will be before you move forward.

You Can Afford It

This should seem obvious, but one factor in whether or not you relocate your business into a physical space is whether or not you can afford to move your business into a physical space. After all, rent is expensive, and not all offices cover utilities and amenities. Plus, you will need to purchase office furniture, find the right location, and more. You will need to make sure your office space has room to expand, but isn’t more office than you can afford.

Run a solid budget for your business (you should be doing this anyway!) and see if there’s enough left over to cover monthly rent and any utilities a landlord says you’ll be responsible for. Consider equipment rental and purchasing, and factor in maintenance costs. You can also consider potential increases to income, but remember to overestimate costs and underestimate incomes.

If getting your office into a physical location is going to make your company cash tight, it may not be worth it yet. 

You Can’t Afford Not To

For some businesses, there is a point where it becomes clear that they are losing money by not having a physical space. They don’t appear “serious” enough to key customers, or they’re losing out on retail opportunities, or they just can’t quite scale their business to the next level without that extra boost of business.

For those companies, finding a physical location is key, and they often need to do it as quickly as they can without hurting their business.

That said, it’s important to remember that the definition of a physical office has changed from what it was twenty years ago. You don’t necessarily need a desk for every employee. You could rent a certain number of desks in a local shared workspace with a conference room that you could book. Your local employees could work from home and from the office on a rotating schedule, and some portion of your workforce could be dispersed.

When you choose to move your startup into a physical space is going to vary depending on your startup, your industry, and your finances. Carefully consider the pros and cons of the move before you make a decision.

No comments
Jeremy WebbWhen Is The Right Time For A Startup To Move Into A Physical Space
read more

7 Data-Driven Email Marketing Best Practices for Startups

Is email a core part of your marketing strategy? While some business owners still see email as a supplementary or “add-on” tactic, email should be as foundational to your marketing strategy as social media or SEO.

Salesforce Marketing Report

Fortunately, according to the Salesforce 2017 State of Marketing report, businesses are investing more in email marketing. B2C companies especially are favoring email marketing, with a two-year growth of 106 percent, making email marketing the second-fastest growing marketing channel in B2C, outcompeted only by video advertising.

Top 5 Fastest Growing Marketing Channels

Overall, email is still in the top five fastest growing marketing channels, representing 83 percent growth over the past 2 years. The survey collected responses from 3,500 full-time marketing professionals (and not just Salesforce customers) from the U.S., Canada, Brazil, U.K./Ireland, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Japan, and Australia/New Zealand.

The survey also found that “top performers”—the 12 percent of marketers seeing the highest ROI from their strategies—used the highest amount of “heavy coordination” between their channels.

Basically, the best marketers across all industries relied on multiple interconnected channels, rather than zeroing in on any one specific strategy. About 90 percent of high performers used “heavy” coordination or “moderate” coordination, compared to only 61 percent of under-performers.

Why Does Coordination Matter?

Why does that coordination matter to email? Email marketing remains one of the most coordinated channels in the digital marketer’s arsenal, with 29 percent of messages dynamically evolving across channels based on customer actions.

What Is Your Truth?

Do these findings hold true for you? Are you approaching email as a core aspect of your marketing strategy? Are you increasing your investment in email marketing?

This post will examine seven email marketing best practices you should be using, based in part on the most recently available data from Salesforce.

1. Pay attention to the rise of non-traditional forms of email marketing.

In 2017, we saw “email marketing,” a term that has traditionally referred to marketing campaigns sent en masse to opted-in recipients, evolve to include outreach emails sent by sales staff — a tactic that’s becoming more and more popular due to its effectiveness.

This evolution of email marketing, however, necessitates new metrics beyond the traditional ones (such as open rates, click-through rates, and bounce rates) that need to be tracked in order to fully understand resource usage and ROI. Metrics such as average response times, words typed per email, and overall email volume (sent & received) over time are crucial to understanding effectiveness with this form of email marketing.

New Tools

New tools are becoming available to provide these insights, including EmailAnalytics – the only such tool that works for Gmail and Google Suite. If you initiate an email outreach campaign, be sure you have your analytics in place.

2.  Entice visitors back to complete purchases.

If you run an ecommerce site, it’s probably no surprise to you that shopping carts get abandoned more often than they actually result in a sale. In fact, according to the Baymard Institute, a whopping 68% of all online shopping carts get abandoned.

While there are any many reasons why carts can be abandoned, remarketing can be an extremely effective strategy for bringing visitors back to complete their purchase. While only 24% of businesses report using this strategy, 72 percent believe it’s a “very effective/effective” one.

Browse retargeting is another effective strategy to re-engage with website visitors. Through tracking which product pages subscribers have visited, businesses can offer incentives to entice them back.

Some strategies to test out for abandoned carts include:

  • Remind visitors what they left in their cart
  • Offer an incentive to close the sale (discounts and free shipping work well)
  • Give a link straight to the abandoned cart (not the homepage or product page)
  • Show cart expiration (e.g. “Your cart will expire in 48 hours”)
  • Send multiple email reminders: For instance, send a reminder 2 hours after abandonment, and a discount email 24 hours later.

3. Run periodic reengagement campaigns.

Reengagement campaigns allow subscribers to update their current email preferences to receive more relevant and timely emails. While these campaigns weren’t ranked highly in terms of use (only 34 percent of marketers use them), 89 percent of respondents believed they were at least somewhat effective.

When sending reengagement emails, some things to keep in mind include:

  • Determining who you’ll reengage: Subscribers who haven’t opened your recent emails? Those who haven’t converted? Those who haven’t clicked through to your site in a while?
  • Consider a series of reengagement emails rather than just one. One may not be enough to win them back.
  • Giveaways and contests can be a good strategy for increasing opens and clicks, but may not fix the underlying lack of engagement.
  • Give subscribers the option to customize the emails they receive including email frequency, format and topics of interest.

You’ve worked hard to get your subscribers to join your list, and periodic reengagement campaigns can help keep them connected and engaged.

4. Responsive email design is a must.

Based on the most recent data from 2015, 33 percent of marketers said their subscribers read emails on a mobile device at least 50 percent of the time (up from 24 percent in 2014). While this points to an increase in our awareness of the importance of responsive email design, are our actions keeping pace?

According to the same 2015 survey, 48 percent of marketers reported “always” or “often” using responsive design for their emails; this was up from 35 percent in 2014. In addition, 46 percent reported “always” or “often” using responsive landing pages for their email; up from 40 percent in 2014. It seems that marketers are getting the message, and are realizing the important of mobile-friendly email campaigns.

Any good email management services will provide responsive or mobile-friendly email templates. These templates will ensure that:

  • Email width and font sizes adjust to a variety of device sizes.
  • Users can read your emails without having to pinch or zoom.
  • Links and buttons are spaced out so they can be easily tapped by mobile users.
  • Emails are a single column design for easy reading (two-column at the absolute most).

5. Test out sending emails on the weekend.

  If you’re like most business owners, you likely send out your email newsletters and promotional content during peak business hours: on weekdays sometime between the hours of 9 am and 5 pm.

However, according to the Salesforce report, marketers should consider sending out emails on weekends when inboxes are emptier, and subscribers may have more time to read non-essential emails: “Recognize that your work schedule won’t always coincide with your subscribers’ email-reading habits. Explore sending campaigns over the weekend, when subscribers may have more leisure time to peruse their personal email accounts and non-urgent messages.”

While no one can guarantee your open rates or click-throughs will be higher, in certain industries and niches, weekend emails may be just what’s needed to gain a competitive edge.

6. Newsletters are great – but recognize that other types of emails will likely be more effective.

We’ve already touched on two types of emails that tend to be most effective: abandoned cart emails and reengagement emails. While 66 percent of marketers find newsletters “very effective/effective,” the majority of other strategies marketers are using have proven to be even more effective:

  • Mobile opt-in campaigns (76 percent).
  • Birthday/Anniversary emails (75percent/74 percent).
  • Transactional (74 percent).
  • Welcome series (72 percent).
  • Loyalty (72 percent).
  • Promotional content (69 percent).
  • Post-purchase emails (67 percent).
  • Social opt-in (67 percent).

Test out a variety of content types instead of garden-variety email newsletters. Offer coupons and discounts, and spend time perfecting and personalizing your welcome and post-purchase emails. And don’t forget to collect data on important dates like birthdays.

7. Track negative metrics that may indicate suboptimal practices.

We know that metrics like open rates, clicks and conversions are important for tracking the effectiveness of email campaigns. But are there metrics that can do a better job of indicating problems with your current email marketing practices?

According to the most recently available report, while click-through rates, conversions and click-to-open rates are the three most commonly used indicators, there are other important, “negative” metrics that are being regularly tracked by marketers:

  • Unsubscribe rates (23 percent or marketers track these).
  • Bounce rates (17 percent).
  • Inactive user rate (13 percent).

While open rates and conversions are perhaps the most critical metrics you’ll be tracking, don’t neglect other indicators that can signal unhealthy or suboptimal marketing practices. While not mentioned in the report, tracking spam reports and complaints is also important for keeping your list healthy.

Final Thoughts

Marketers can no longer get away with conducting their email marketing as an afterthought. Unlike other forms of marketing, email is a one-to-one communication with your customers – which gives you the ability to customize, personalize and segment based on almost limitless combinations of factors.

If you truly believe that email is a foundational element of your marketing, make sure you’re “walking the walk” by incorporating responsive design, tracking key metrics and testing out a variety of email content with your audience.

What best practices would you add to this list? What strategies are you finding most effective these days? Share in the comments below.

No comments
Jeremy Webb7 Data-Driven Email Marketing Best Practices for Startups
read more

To Outsource or Not To Outsource: That Is The Question For These Startup Departments

The startup world is hectic with numerous decisions to make weekly that could impact the business immensely. One of these decisions that a founder has to make is what parts of the business will be outsourced and what will be kept in-house.

Hiring certain departments can be done years later once the business is more established. Outsourcing can be a great way to reduce stress on current staff as well as can save money as hiring certain positions can be extremely expensive to do domestically.

HR

One thing that can kill cash flow as well as a startup’s reputation is that of a former employee suing for wrongful termination. Younger staff members could become enraged when let go whether for financial reasons or performance reasons. The right processes and documentation have to be filled out when a person is written up.

Proof of lack of performance should also be available so the employee can sign a write up acknowledging that it was brought to their attention. Hiring a human resources firm to handle many of these issues can be a huge stress reliever. These firms also can help with hiring especially if they have worked in your niche. Being able to reduce blame for firing as well as increase the quality of talent in the office is a huge positive for any business.

Digital Marketing

Digital marketing could not be more important for all businesses in today’s world as it is the way brands get noticed in today’s digital age. Small things like social media marketing being done by a professional contractor or digital marketing firm can expand the reach of a company immensely.

SEO is another term that is becoming more common in today’s business landscape. Search engine optimization or SEO factors in a variety of things like links back to your site from related sites as well as things like keywords in content on the site.

Hiring a marketing team can be expensive but hiring a marketing firm can actually save money due to the fact that they work with a myriad of clients that could be related to you company.

Accounting

Accounting is not as difficult as it had been in the past as it is easy to sort expenses, payments, and projections in a variety of platforms. For those larger startups getting a professional accounting department might be further down the road.

For the time being using an accounting firm allows a company to save money as hiring multiple accountants can be quite a drain on the cash flow. Corporate accountants can save a business thousands of dollars come tax time so this could not be more important for a business trying to consistently turn a profit.

QuickBooks is the most well-known way to track finances and can be linked to payment platforms like PayPal which allows it to track whether online invoices have been paid.

Sales

This is one area where a startup should not outsource for any reason. Hiring people to handle sales that do not have a good idea of the products or services being bought can lead to them misleading customers. Pushy salespeople also are not what a startup wants their brand to be associated with.

Building personal relationships with a client from the sales process throughout the business lifecycle is important. These relationships can lead to long term contracts being signed which are the staples for long term profitability and success.

Do not outsource things that will involve dealing directly with prospects or current clients as this is where you want your in-house staff to shine. 

As you can see outsourcing is the answer for many startups as it offers a fix to a problem that otherwise could require copious amounts of money.

No comments
Jeremy WebbTo Outsource or Not To Outsource: That Is The Question For These Startup Departments
read more

Sales Team in a Slump: Ways To Boost Suffering Sales

Sales are incredibly competitive regardless of what industry a company is involved in. In fact, sales jobs are so competitive that many companies will find the competition within the office to close the most sales quite intense. People tend to get more intense when they can control how much income they take home at the end of the month.

Sales slumps are real and can impact an entire department as well as the company. The management of a company has to be proactive about giving the sales department all they need to be successful including market research and quality leads.

Boosting sales can be done by doing the below things to help the sales team recuperate from a less than stellar month or quarter.

Do The Proper Research

Market research can be one of the most tedious things that can be done but it is also one of the most important. Creating an entire marketing campaign which targets the wrong demographic can lead to a few things:

  • Less leads coming in overall.
  • Leads coming in that are not quality or a lead that simply cannot afford a product or service.
  • Impacting the brand negatively as the target demographic feels alienate.
  • Wasting marketing budget and killing the marketing team’s ROI.

Research is not just for targeting the right type of consumers but it also has to do with the competitors of a company. Knowing what competitors are doing will allow a company and salesperson to differentiate the company from another very similar company. Being able to let a customer know what the company does better than their competitors can help close a sale on the spot.

Sales and Marketing Need To Be On The Same Page

Sales and marketing often times have tension if sales numbers or lead numbers are done. Proper communication is important as the sales team can let the marketing team know about the quality of leads they are bringing in. Far too often the teams point fingers at each other when sales take a dip. The marketing team believes a lead is a lead while the sales team knows better.

The marketing team is far more likely to blame the sales team’s tactics and lack of ability to close than their campaign missing the mark. Compromise between these departments needs to be done as sales is not the only goal of the marketing team as they have to maintain and build a brand as well.

Add Extra Incentive

Commission is what drives sales as all of those who have been in sales for years know that an extra sale per week can lead to a nice boost in yearly income. A few extra percent commission on each deal can help incentivize the sales team and won’t impact the bottom line very much if profit margins are healthy.

Capping commission is asking for trouble as well as there is lack of motivation for a sales professional if they have reached their limit for the month. Another thing that can happen is the person holding off deals until the next month to reduce their workload once they have reached the cap. 

These incentives do not always have to be monetary as things like allowing a work from home day or two per week for those salespeople hitting quotas is better than a raise for some employees.

Empower The Salesperson With Discounts

All of the sales team should understand what margins are on a specific product or service. Getting permission from the sales team manager to provide a specific discount to close a deal can empower the entire sales team. Discounts for long term contracts tend to be the most popular for prospects to sign.

The sales professional will know if the only thing holding the prospect back is price, allow them to lower it to a point! Large corporations are not built by almost getting a prospect to sign a deal but rather working with prospects for a mutually beneficial business relationship.

Sales Decks Increase Productivity

When going through a pitch questions in the middle of a slide can throw off the presenter. Emailing the sales deck before a meeting allows a customer to get all of their questions together. Once these questions are written down the customer can cross these out if the presenter answers their question.

Allowing a customer to see the sales deck might just lead them to be interested in a certain service or product being offered. The customer can allow opt out of the meeting if they are not interested in anything mentioned in the deck. Efficiency helps increase productivity and this is exactly what a pitch deck does.

Slumps happen to even the most proficient sales teams but the way they are reacted to will be most important. Proactive approaches to improving sales processes during the slow times of the year can help optimize sales once they pick back up. Don’t settle for mediocre sales during any time of the year and watch the company grow!

No comments
Jeremy WebbSales Team in a Slump: Ways To Boost Suffering Sales
read more

VC Corner: Marlon Nichols, Cross Culture VC

Introduction:

Marlon Nichols is a founding managing partner at Cross Culture Ventures (CCV), where he leads CCV in identifying game-changing entrepreneurs who are creating next-generation companies.Marlon draws from his unique professional background to drive CCV’s focus on using global trends and shifts in consumer behavior to capture high-potential investments.

Prior to co-founding CCV, Marlon was an investment director at Intel Capital where he completed his Kauffman Fellowship. He has worked with several startups, invested in companies like Mayvenn, Gimlet Media, Blavity, Airspace Technologies, Codeverse, and many others

Pitch your startup for a chance to meet with Cross Culture VC

Q&A:

What is your / your fund’s mission?

At Cross Culture Ventures we take a thematic approach to investing that we have coined ‘cultural investing’ – the impact of the convergence of global popular culture and consumer behavior on technology and innovation. As such we observe consumer behavior and make investments in the types of products and services that fit with those emerging trends. As an example, we’ve noted that millennials value flexibility, experience over possession, transparency, and immediate gratification so an investment in a company that allows consumers to take possession of a specific vehicle by completing a short and 100% transparent procurement process via a mobile application and then have the ability to return/exchange that vehicle at any time without penalty, would be lucrative. Thus, we invested in Fair and our thesis has proven correct to this point.

When did you start your current fund? 

We started to invest out of our inaugural fund, Cross Culture Ventures I in April 2015. We held a few closes prior to the final closed in February of 2017. To date, we’ve invested in about 30 companies out of this fund and will add 10 to 15 more.

What is one thing you are excited about right now?

The confluence of technology and healthcare is an area that I’m paying a lot of attention to right now. Healthcare in this country has been broken for a long time and is in desperate need of disruption. I’m attracted to solutions that serve the majority of the population, drive down cost and wait time, and remove inefficiencies. Three companies in our portfolio are addressing this from different angles. (Check out Ready Responders, Firefly Health, and Mahmee.  

Who is one your founders you think we should watch?

That’s a tough one because we have so many terrific founders in our portfolio. Successful repeat founders such as Scott Painter (Fair), Justin Dangel (Ready Responders), Gunnar Lovelace (Thrive Market) and Nick Balcoa (Airspace Technologies). Impressive first-time founders such as Matt Lieber (Gimlet Media), Morgan Debaun (Blavity), Travis Holoway (Solo Funds), Delane Parnell (PlayVS), Charles King (Macro), Leandrew Robinson (Hingeto) and so many more. I honestly believe that you should watch all of them and their companies. If I must highlight one, I’d say pay very close attention to Chris Bennett and his team at Wonderschool. Just last week they announced a $20M Series A that was led by Andreessen Horowitz and was oversubscribed only a year after their series seed, which we led alongside First Round Capital. In a very short time they’ve opened and filled 140+ preschools/daycares on the East and West coasts. Wonderschool is solving a significant problem in childcare/education and is doing it on both sides of the marketplace.

What are 3 top qualities of every great leader?

1. A balance of confidence and humility

2. Empathy

3. Courage and integrity to see your vision through.

I’ll throw in a fourth, which is flexibility-having the ability to adjust and change course as necessary to achieve the end goal.

What was your very first investment? and when?

My first investment at Cross Culture came in April 2015 and was in a company named Mayvenn, a mobile based distribution platform for hairstylists. I was drawn to this company because it was solving a huge problem for diverse stylists – the inability to buy inventory or to earn product revenue. I am very familiar with the challenge because my mother has run her own salon in Mount Vernon, NY since I was a pre-teen. At Cross Culture, we place a great deal of emphasis on the founders of companies that we back. In this case Diishan Imira was the perfect founder based on lived experiences and skill set. He grew up around several hair stylists, which gave him a firsthand and in depth look at the problem. He lived in Asia, first teaching English and ultimately getting into the import/export business. Most hair products are sourced from Asia so this provided Diishan with an incredible advantage. He also knew his strengths and weaknesses and wasn’t afraid to bring on talented people to fill his gaps.  

What is one question you ask yourself before investing in a company?

Do I believe in this founder/team? Are they the right group to build a big business that addresses this challenge/opportunity and wins the market?

What is one thing every founder should ask themselves before walking into a meeting with a potential investor?

Are we the best team to solve for this challenge and is our approach truly novel and differentiated? In other words, why will we win?

What do you think should be in a CEO’s top 3 company priorities?

1. Build a strong and good company culture

2. Maniacal focus on unit economics and growth

3. Maintain a solid understanding of consumer needs/ wants and the competitive landscape

Favorite business book or podcast? *

The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho remains my favorite business book. It reminds me that the journey is often more important than the outcome because of what you learn along the way. It also highlights that goals change and that is also okay.

What is your favorite thing to do when you’re not working? *

Watching movies, I’m a huge binge watcher. I also love to workout and play basketball. Those three activities relax me in different ways.

Who is one leader you admire? *

I admire Barack Obama, he led with grace and kept his composure throughout a very trying presidency. He never made excuses and always owned up to his short-comings. Such a tremendous role model and a successful president. I’m also very impressed with the work that Lebron James is doing off the court. The I Promise School is a tremendous initiative!

What is one piece of advice you’d give every founder? 

BUILD and EXECUTE! Everyone has opinions, including investors, but traction/metrics/numbers are facts. Better to engage in a conversation centered in facts as opposed to opinions.

Last words..

To keep up with the exciting things that Cross Culture Ventures and our portfolio companies are up to, follow us on twitter @crossculturevc or follow myself @marloncnichols

Pitch your startup for a chance to meet with Cross Culture VC

No comments
Jeremy WebbVC Corner: Marlon Nichols, Cross Culture VC
read more

8 Tips To Improve Your Healthy Living Strategy

Healthy living is not a cup of tea that you can warm up and reuse. You need to chart a full diet plan to stay well and strong. But, most of our readers tend to think that this is something very difficult to be done or implemented.

However, if you look at the extensive workout schedule and your working timetable – you might find it impossible. Healthy living strategy comes with a smart plan too, you just need to focus on your pain points. Thus, today, we’ll share what can change and shape your future. But, once again – healthy living strategy is something that we all should focus on. Here are your 8 amazing tips!

Plan, Plan, And Plan

No matter how busy you’re or how tough your timetable is healthy living strategy should be your to-do list at least thrice a week. Think about how will you look ten years from now. Or how you’ll want to stay fit and strong to never be a burden on your kids or future offsprings.

Thus, start making a plan. It doesn’t have to go by the book. You can focus on small things that can help you stay fit. For example, start an early morning walking regime. Put along some strong water intake, make food that can be easily cooked and is high with important vitamins.

Why Should Healthy Living Strategy Be Your Call To Action?

This is most of you’ll wonder. If you haven’t visited the hospital because you weren’t ill, then that’s a plus. But, are you confident about the future?

No, we can’t be so authentic, and take chances. But, if we implement a healthy living strategy, there will be a good possibility that you won’t fall ill. Thus, you have to invest a day or two to get all things into moving.

This will be a better start then getting a medical bill that will not be covered through your salary at all.  So, let us browse through some healthy living strategy we all can afford.

Say No To Sugar!

Avoid sugary food, chocolates, and drinks. Start using sugar substitutes or minus it completely from your life. If you drink tea or coffee daily – start with lessening the sugar amount in it. Choose honey instead. Or better, completely rotate your intake policy.

Like, avoid adding sugar at all. If you can’t, then cut down the number of cups per day. There are many ways, you just have to be consistent with what you do and how you do it.

Divide Your Meal, Multiply The Time. 

Now, this is something we all can do. No hard-and-fast pick here either. Don’t eat like there is no tomorrow. Make a nice portion of your food, divide it into 3 or 4 servings and eat with some gap. You can simply make a habit to divide the eating time from breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

Be creative with what you eat. 4 hours duration is great, while you’ll keep munching here and there, you’ll also not gain weight.

Mix Vegetables And Fruits. 

Adding vegetables and fruits allow you to stay fit and also not gain extra weight. These are the best foods for a healthy living strategy. You can mix raw veggies into your fruits and have a salad every 4 hours. Energy, vitamins, minerals all will go hand-in-hand.

Further, you’ll also not need extra time-off to cook something heavy. We know how the weather will kill the buzz for cooking something healthy. Too hot or too cold days can go with a serving of veggies and fruits. Try your own recipe, and enjoy a healthy living strategy without spending extra bucks.

Don’t Sit Too Much. 

Now, this one is too obvious to be true. We all love to sit, sit and sit. This is the main cause of gaining lower abdominal fat, along with other health-related issues.

Don’t sit too much, if it is what you do. Start having some interval. After every two hours take a ten-minute rotation in your cabin, cubicle or office floor. If that is too much of a task, visit the rest area, and walk ten rounds.

Then come back and sit. But not before that. Too much sitting also causes diseases you haven’t heard about.

H20 Is Life – Drink Plenty.

Water intake should be more than usual. At least 8 glass of water is better, but if you take more – then it is far better. You should be drinking plenty of water. Artificial juices are a NO ENTRY  kind of thing when it comes to liquid diet. Instead, make smoothies, fruit juices etc.

The general rule of thumb is to stay hydrated. The more your intake is strong, the better you can fight-off harmful material within your body. Further, water intake will also keep you strong and fit. As it is a natural flush for flushing out toxic substances from your body.

Your fresh and new healthy living strategy planned out.

With all of the above, we are quite sure that you’ll have a fresh and new healthy living strategy planned out. If you’re still confused, write to us and we can discuss what is better for you. You don’t need to get carried away with a diet chart. Simple and small steps will do the trick. Just ensure to keep a tab on what you eat along with, how well you eat. After All, the healthy you’re, the better things will be for you. It is all about #ahealthychage.

No comments
Jeremy Webb8 Tips To Improve Your Healthy Living Strategy
read more

Top Start-Up Investments That Are More Than Worth It

Start-up owners are certainly familiar with the first few months of activity that seems like an uphill battle. Tight money and the lure of investing in unnecessary “money-holes” sometimes take over many out there.

The burden.

For many start-up owners, it may feel like every small investment, every new system, software product, or basically, any other type of investment, is a burden. However, this may not be the correct mindset — in which many start-up owners are tempted to fall. Below is our top list of investments that are more than worth the dollar amount in many small start-ups’ case.

Excellent design solutions.

Like in many businesses’ case, design sells a lot when it comes to start-ups. All companies that tend to invest bigger figures in their design capabilities, regardless of the support (online or offline) seem to have higher profit margins than those who prefer old, out-of-fashion themes.

Web design isn’t the only design that is needed

From web design services, to promotional products design, logo design, these are all worth more than entrepreneurs are inclined to believe. A clean web design will make your website more relevant.

The correct design will give information in an easier to find way that will put your company in the best light. It’s futile to think that consumers don’t pay attention to such details when, in fact, their entire attention revolves initially around those. This is basic psychology.

BI solutions.

Business intelligence may be a frightening concept for many, especially if they are somehow clueless about its full potential. If you want to empower yourself and your company to grow in an intelligent fashion — such solutions — including Client onboarding solutions capabilities are more than necessary.

Store, process and gather.

A company’s ability to store, process and gather data is an immense help in its development. If you aim at higher horizons, where you can make informed decisions and work smart, not hard, this is the type of investment that you are searching for.

While BI solutions are thought to be more suitable for companies with 100+ employees, recent data has shown that SMEs are more inclined to invest and take advantage of those, due to their incredible potential.

Invest in a strong company culture.

This may seem an odd suggestion for many, but a strong company culture will help your enterprise grow and become valued on the local community and industry.

Yes, attract great talent — but you need a loyal team.

It’s important to attract great talents, but also to keep them loyal to your company and the jobs they have to perform. It’s important to blend in the local community, and while a strong company culture requires plenty of efforts, some investments are also necessary.

Part-time to full-time.

Turn part-time contracts into full-time contracts, to meet your employee’s financial needs. Building relationships is also a great step toward a stronger company culture. And this can only be accomplished by involving your staff in numerous team building activities.

These are some of the investments every start-up owner should consider and plan for, as these have the great potential of turning their small enterprises into strong and profitable ones, even at the beginning of their journey. Money invested in your business is not money thrown out the window, and all business owners should acknowledge this.

No comments
Jeremy WebbTop Start-Up Investments That Are More Than Worth It
read more

Having an App Skill Will Boost Your Business Sales

If you haven’t seen an Amazon Echo commercial where someone calls out “Alexa” in the last year, you are among the few. According to a recent study by NPR and Edison research, one in six Americans, or around 39 million people, have a smart home speaker — and the Amazon Echo leads all of these sales.

Want to build a bridge to your business sales?

Even the simple Alexa app is a skill set. ANY skill that you acquire will make you more savvy in business. Usually apps are talked about so often and in so many ways — that even knowledge of a simple app can boost your sales.

Most apps can be downloaded onto the device of your choice by voice command. This includes the apps on your phone, or the website. With so many people using Alexa — your business might consider adding an app or skill, not just for boosting sales, but for branding and awareness.

Types of skills.

It is claimed that the Amazon Echo is compatible with around 30,000 different skills. A few of Alexa’s most popular skills for business include the conference manager, email assistant, and quick events. These skills are designed to make everyday office tasks more manageable. Alexa can go through your calendar and find the number to dial into your conference calls, look through your inbox to give you details about travel information, and even help you schedule events.

Why build app skills?

Here are some reasons you should build a skill for your business now:

  1. Voice is not only the future — it’s now.
    According to Google, around 20 percent of mobile searches in apps are conducted through the voice command feature. People are more likely to ask Siri or their smart speaker before they pull out their phone and start typing a question online. As voice recognition continues to grow apps will becomes more intelligent, and your team will need to understand how this skill-set fits into business and life.
  2. Get ahead.
    Many times businesses are too scared to lead in new technology because they are afraid to put the time in effort into something that has no guarantee to work and save. We all remember this being the case with having your mobile optimized just a couple of years ago.

    Voice search isn’t going anywhere. It’s better to be on the front end of mobile — or any skillset than be left behind. It will be beneficial to you to get app users loving your app and building their skills before the rest of your competitors figures the benefits out and your app becomes obsolete. 

  3. Currently — many apps are free.
    Many experts assume that as smart speakers become more and more popular, businesses may have to pay more. And what about skillsets? To be sure, learning how to be placed higher than others on the Search Engine Results Page (SERP) there is a lot of speciality knowledge that has to be used.

    Some people predict that the future is for those who keep building their skillsets. You can’t afford not to do this. If someone asks a question pertaining to your skill, apps and devices will always need some skillsets for usability. Your employees and customers may as well be using yours. 

  4. Publicity.
    Getting your name out there is one of the hardest but most beneficial things you can do for your business. People can hear about your app and interact with you and your brand. Marketers agree that word of mouth can be one of the best ways to get traffic to your website or through your doors. Your app that can be used by voice is one way to get people to talk about you — literally.
  5. Authority.
    Having authority and a skillset gives you instant credibility as a brand they can trust. Make your app user friendly and well-established enough that people don’t have to have a degree to learn how to use it.  You must be serious about your business, your brand, and your products or services.

How to build a skill.

Depending on the size of your company, your IT team may be able to build your apps for you to do similar tasks, or you can hire an outside organization to do so.

Building an app takes time and is an investment. Don’t create an app just because it is the trendy thing to do. Instead, make an app that starts with the consumer, the customer and your employee’s needs.

Also consider who is in your company and how your employees will best be served by an app. It’s better not to have an app at all — than to have an app that isn’t functional or an app that is very difficult to use or doesn’t really contribute at all. 

No comments
Jeremy WebbHaving an App Skill Will Boost Your Business Sales
read more