Startup

10 Growth Hacks For Your Ecommerce Website

Are you the proud owner of an ecommerce website? Are you seeking ways to boost traffic, grow sales, and move to the top of your niche?

With ecommerce growing 23% year over year, this is a great place to be if you’re looking to scale a business.

Here’s the problem: with so much competition, regardless of industry, it can be difficult to experience the growth you’ve come to expect.

If you’re ready to break down the wall, here are 10 growth hacks for your ecommerce website:

1. Change Up Your Design

It may not be something you think about often, but the design of your store can be the difference between success and failure.

Once you pick the perfect theme or hire a designer to start from scratch, you’ll feel better about the potential for future growth.

2. Use Word of Mouth Marketing within Your Store

Did you know that more than 80% of Americans seek recommendations before making a purchase? 

You can use this to your advantage by making it easy for customers to share reviews. User generated content, regardless of the form, can push others into making a purchase. The key here is to provide high quality products, as this will give customers a reason to say something positive.

3. Harness the Power of the Search Engines

If you believe the myth that SEO is dead, you’re missing out on a big opportunity.

You need to harness the power of the search engines – especially Google – as this gives you the opportunity to drive free, targeted traffic in large numbers.

4. Share Your Knowledge

Are you an expert in your space? If so, share your knowledge with the rest of the world via guest posting.

Maybe you sell exercise equipment via your online store. Guest post on health related blogs as a means of building your authority, boosting your brand, and generating backlinks.

Although it’s a good idea to focus your efforts on growing your own blog, don’t overlook the power of guest blogging.

5. Get Social

With 70% of Americans using social media, you’ll want to become as active as possible on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, and LinkedIn (among others).

This is a great way to share information about your brand, connect with current customers, and attract new buyers.

6. Go Offline

Most people think that growth hacking is all about using technology. This isn’t always the case.

Give some thought to sending out a handwritten thank you card to every person who buys from your store. Yes, it will cost you time and money, but it’s a great way to provide a top of the line customer experience.

If handwritten notes aren’t your thing, there are other ways to personally connect with your customer base, all without having to do any work on your own.

7. A/B Test

It may be something you’ve thought about in the past, but for one reason or the next you continue to put this on the backburner.

A simple A/B test can go a long way in accelerating growth. Don’t ignore this growth hack any longer.

8. Fix Your Shopping Cart Abandonment Problem

With the average documented online shopping cart abandonment rate sitting at approximately 70%, fixing this one problem could be the only thing you need to grow your ecommerce website revenue.

Enough said.

9. Email Marketing

There are many ways to approach this, all of which could have a positive impact on your online store.

For example, experiment with sending a follow up email two to three weeks after a person places an order. Ask them about their first purchase, invite them to make another, and maybe even include a coupon code.

Email marketing opens up a world of opportunity.

10. Offer a Discount (and Make it Known)

Some offers are too good to refuse. If you have one of these to throw around, don’t hide it at the bottom of your ecommerce website.

For instance, maybe you’re offering 15% off of every order and free shipping. This could be just what you need to push more people to make a purchase.

The key here is to offer something of value, and to make it known to everyone who visits your website. Make it big and make it bold!

What do you think about these 10 growth hacks? Could one or more of these help your ecommerce website reach new heights?

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Here Are 7 Smart Things You Can Do to Save Up Enough to Launch Your Startup

Not every entrepreneur has the luxury of getting millions of dollars in funding from venture capitalists. If you’re trying to get a small startup off the ground without the help of an investor, then you’re probably struggling to scrape together the money needed to scale up and be successful. But you don’t have to get a second mortgage on your house or tap into your child’s college fund.

By making some simple, yet important choices and sacrifices, you can save up enough money to get your startup launched.

What Will Your Startup Costs Be?

The very first thing you have to do is come to terms with how much money you’ll need. It’s important that you’re realistic here, because underestimating won’t do you any good in the long run.

If you’re unsure how much it costs to launch a business from scratch, don’t worry. There are a couple of things you can do to get a better idea of where things stand. The first is to study the trends and averages from other entrepreneurs.

Here are some interesting insights as gathered by Column Five and Intuit for this infographic:

  • The vast majority of entrepreneurs (64 percent) get started with less than $10,000. Another 12 percent use between $10,000 and $20,000, while just 24 percent need more money.
  • 75 percent of small business owners say they rely on their own personal savings to get started.
  • 57 percent of small business owners say they require less than $50,000 in annual revenue to feel “confident” about the long-term health of the company.
  • When asked to look back at the first year of their business and rank their biggest regret, 68 percent say they wish they had invested more time in learning about financial management.

Do these numbers surprise you? Today’s entrepreneurs have been brought up in an environment where they’re accustomed to seeing companies attract millions of dollars in funding, so many are surprised when they discover that roughly two out of three new businesses are launched with less than $10,000.

The fact of the matter is that starting out with a small amount of capital actually makes things a lot easier – especially if you’re able to do so without attracting investors. While investors are great in the sense that they provide you with capital that doesn’t have to be paid back dollar for dollar, they also come with baggage.

An investor wants to make his money work for him and often pressures the companies in his portfolio to do certain things. There’s nothing wrong with funding from your personal savings and small bank loans here and there.

The second thing you can do to get a better idea of how much capital you’ll need to get your business up and running is take inventory of the potential costs you’ll face and use these figures to come up with a ballpark estimate.

Here are a few of the different things to take into account:

  • One-time vs. recurring costs. One important concept to understand is the difference between one-time and recurring costs. You have to account for both when starting your business, but the one-time costs obviously go away after the initial startup period. Be sure to differentiate between the two as you calculate.
  • Necessary expenses. Which expenses are absolutely necessary? You need to start with these expenses – which include things like materials, inventory, software, etc. – to get an idea of your baseline financial commitment. Then, once you have the necessary expenses, you can start to play around with what it would look like to include some optional expenses. 
  • Cash flow projections. It’s also important to go ahead and project your cash flow for the first few months. This is really difficult when you don’t have the business up and running yet, but it’s a good exercise and will provide you with some general guidelines. You’d be surprised by how many educated guesses you can make.

By no means is this a comprehensive list of what it’ll take to launch your startup and start producing revenue. However, if you account for these different expenses, you should be able to come up with a reasonable figure that allows you to set a goal and start saving.

From there, it’s just a matter of discipline, determination, and sacrifice.

7 Smart Things You Can Do

Once you know how much money you need to get started, you can turn your attention towards saving. Here are some small, yet smart things you can do.

  1. Develop a Detailed Budget for Personal Spending

The first thing you have to do is get your personal spending under control. Even if you think you’re a savvy shopper and good saver, you’re probably hemorrhaging money in certain areas. The only way to know is to develop a detailed budget where you account for every single dollar that comes in and goes out.

There are lots of different apps and online tools that make budgeting easy, but the Every Dollar app is by far one of the easiest to use. Give it a try and you’ll have a better idea of what your financial picture is like.

  1. Get Rid of Superfluous Expenses

Once you have all of your expenses in front of you in the form of a concise budget, you’ll immediately identify areas where you can cut back.

For example, maybe you’re spending $10 or $15 per day on eating out. By fixing your meals at home, you could easily save $300 to $400 per month. Or maybe you’re spending $175 per month on a cable contract that you don’t really use. Switching to Netflix or a streaming service could save you $150 or more.

Little expenses like these may not seem like a lot, but what if you could save $1,000 per month? In six months, you’d have an additional $6,000 for your startup. Not bad, huh?

  1. Eliminate High Interest Debt

Do you have any personal debt on your books? If so, it’s important that you start eliminating high interest loans as soon as possible.

This includes credit card debt, car loans, and personal loans. (Though you should also be paying down student loans and mortgage debt as much as possible.)

Getting rid of these expenses will save you a tremendous amount of money that can be reallocated to the business.

  1. Secure a Competitive Loan

Sometimes it’s just not possible to make enough room in your budget to totally cash flow your startup expenses – and that’s fine. The key here is to avoid putting yourself in a compromising position that will bite you down the road.

If you want to look into some financing options to complement the contributions from your personal savings, make sure you know where to look for the best business loans. Your local bank isn’t always the best option these days.

There are lots of good online lenders that offer more competitive rates and terms – with the added convenience of a quick application and approval process.

  1. Avoid “Sexy” Expenditures

Remember how we discussed the difference between necessary and optional expenses? When you finally get your business going, it’s easy to fall for the illusion that “sexy” expenditures are necessary. But here’s the thing:

Do you really need to spend thousands of dollars on a logo design, brand new electronic devices, new desks and chairs, etc.?

Try to focus on the bare minimum, even when the optional expenses seem more attractive in the moment.

  1. Keep Your Day Job

There’s something to be said for going all in on your startup and never looking back, but it’s not smart to quit your day job when self-funding your company. Unless you start bring in some revenue very quickly, where will the money come from?

Keep your day job until you’re revenues are covering your expenses. At that point, you can reevaluate. Make sure to keep track of everything on your calendar.

  1. Run the Business From Home

In the vast majority of cases, there’s no reason for a startup to go out and purchase expensive real estate or get locked into a lease right at launch.

Thanks to the array of online tools and automated programs available to you, it’s probably possible for you to run your business out of your house for a few months or years. This will save you tons of money and allow you to pour all of your resources into core tasks like production and sales.

Don’t Buckle Under Pressure

Launching a startup and growing it into a successful business isn’t as simple as it might seem. There will be some fun and excitement, but there will also be plenty of moments where you sink into your bed at the end of a long day and wonder what you’re doing.

The key is to not let the pressure get to you and to keep on pushing. So long as you have a strong financial foundation, things have a way of working out.

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500 Startups Batch 21 Demo Day

500 Startups Batch 21 Demo Day was muted compared to past Demo Days.  Normally it’s a festive themed environment.  However, there was no theme this time. Christine Tsai, 500 Startups CEO, address the elephant in room and spoke about the difficulties following Dave McClure’s resignation after sexual harassment allegations.  

Ms. Tsai affirmed 500 Startups commitment to diversity and to build and support startups.  Despite the turmoil experienced during this time, I found this batch to be excellent. Batch 21 consisted of 31 companies.  Several have already achieved six digit MRRs.  

So, in no particular order, here are some of my favorite startups at Batch 21.

Save the World (and Make Money)

 

Folia Water is my favorite of the batch.  They developed a filter that can be used to make potable water.  The best part is that it only cost pennies to make.  One filter can make enough potable for a family of 4 for a week and only cost a quarter.  Folia Water has the potential to provide cheap clean potable water for third world countries where this is a challenge.


Wow, this is Really Cool

Lumotune has develop a digital display that is transparent. Essentially this enables any window to become marketing vehicle. I can see every major brick and mortar retailer and restaurant adapting their technology.  

Best Display

I waited half an hour (it turns out that investors have a priority over pseudo-journalist) to take a ride in VR Motion’s  virtual reality vehicle simulator. Their current business model is to sell their simulators to police departments. I’m not sure what that market is like but it was a fun ride (I even got dizzy when I took the virtual car off-roading).

My Vote for Unicorn

RealAtom is a market place for commercial real estate loans. I would’ve assumed something like this was already developed. They’ve taken a process the commercial real estate loan process from 40 days and reduced it to two. In the nine months since they’ve launched, they’ve received $450 M in loan requests and booked $600 K in revenue. I wouldn’t be surprised if they join the exclusive unicorn club.

Sign Me Up

As BillTrim was giving their pitch, it reminded me about several AT&T and Comcast bills that looked like I got overcharged but just don’t have the time to argue. Upload your bills to BillTrim and they’ll negotiate a better rate. If they’re able to save you money, they’ll get 25% of the savings.  Signing up with BillTrim is on my to-do list.

There are a lot of Janitors…

Swept is a management tool for the janitorial industry. I really like startups that make niche industries more efficient. Honestly, I don’t know what the market’s like but there are a lot of janitors…

I’d Recommend this to My Clients

I don’t think that I would get what MedStack if I wasn’t an app developer. We’ve done medical related projects that require HIPAA compliance and it’s a messy complex process. MedStack has a turnkey solution that makes the HIPAA compliance process a lot easier

Join 500 Startups

How well the Batch 21 companies do remains to be seen, but 500 Startups does have an excellent track record. Producing 3 Unicorn startups (with a 4th possibly on the way), 37 Centaurs (valued $100-999 M), and over 300 Ponies ($10-99 M), you might be wondering how to get into 500 Startups. Well, first you’ve got to apply!

If you’re interested in joining 500 Startup, good candidates should have:

•        Balanced Team

•        Product Launched

•        Traction with Good Metrics

If your startup is interested in applying for a future batch, you can apply here.

After applying, be sure to ask your local Startup Grind director for a warm referral!

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500 Startups Batch 21 Demo Day

500 Startups Batch 21 Demo Day was muted compared to past Demo Days.  Normally it’s a festive themed environment.  However, there was no theme this time. Christine Tsai, 500 Startups CEO, address the elephant in room and spoke about the difficulties following Dave McClure’s resigination after sexual hassament allegations.  

Christine Tsai affirmed 500 Startups commitment to diversity and to build and support startups.  Despite the turmoil experienced during this time,  I found this batch to be excellent. Batch 21 consisted of 31 companies.  Several have already achieved six digit MRRs.  

So, in no particular order, here are some of my favorite startups at Batch 21.

Save the World (and Make Money)

Folia Water is my favorite of the batch.  They developed a filter that can be used to make potable water.  The best part is that it only cost pennies to make.  One filter can make enough potable for a family of 4 for a week and only cost a quarter.  Folia Water has the potential to provide cheap clean potable water for third world countries where this is a challenge.

Wow, this is Really Cool!

Lumotune has develop a digital display that is transparent.  Essentially this enables any window to become marketing vehicle.    I can see every major brick and mortar retailer and restaurant adapting their technology.   

Best Display

I waited half an hour (it turns out that investors have a priority over pseudo-journalist) to take a ride in VR Motion’s  virtual reality vehicle simulator.  Their current business model is to sell their simulators to police departments.  I’m not sure what that market is like but it was a fun ride (I even got dizzy when I took the virtual car off roading).

My Vote for Unicorn

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10 Ways To Avoid Burnout As A Startup Founder

Are you the proud owner of a startup? Do you get excited about each new day?

Even though you’re always looking forward to the future, it doesn’t mean that burnout will never enter your mind.

Every entrepreneur knows the feeling. You reach a point when you just can’t go on. Your body is telling you to stop, your mind is playing tricks, and you realize that a change is necessary if you’re going to reach all your long term goals.

The best way to treat burnout is to avoid this in the first place.

Here are 10 ways to avoid burnout as a startup founder:

1. Take a Vacation

You may not be the type of person who spends much time out of the office, but there are places you can go to relax.

Even a weekend getaway can go a long way in clearing your mind and giving you a fresh start.

2. Take Breaks

Nobody ever said you have to go, go, go from the moment you wake up.

You want to get a lot of work done, but that doesn’t mean you should neglect your body along the way. Take breaks as necessary, as this has a way of clearing your mind and giving your body time to recover.

3. Get a Good Nap

Did you know that a nap of only 20 minutes can improve your productivity, mood, and alertness?

You may not want to pull yourself away from your work, but there are many benefits of doing so. You don’t have to nap for a couple hours. Twenty to thirty minutes will do the trick.

4. Stay Active

Startup founders often become so busy that they forget to exercise. You don’t want to go down this path, as it can have a negative impact on your health.

You need to stay active at all times, even if it’s cold outside and you want nothing more than to huddle up in your warm office.

5. Eat Right

Entirely too many people, startup founders included, don’t know what it means to eat right.

If you’re skipping breakfast, for instance, you’re in the same boat as more than 30 million other Americans. But this doesn’t make it right.

Implement and stick with a healthy diet that will have you feeling your best at all times.

6. Know Your Limit

There is no denying the fact that pushing yourself out of your comfort zone can help you reach all your goals. At the same time, if you go beyond your limit too often it can negatively impact your health.

You need to know and respect your limit.

7. Get Help

Startup founders are notorious for wanting to have their hands on all the action. It’s okay to take this approach at first, but at some point you’ll need help.

If you don’t want to hire employees, you can always turn to the freelance marketplace. With freelancers making up more than 34 percent of the U.S. workforce, there are plenty of qualified individuals looking for work.

8. Change Your Environment

If you spend 10+ hours a day in the same office, there will come a point when you need a change.

Don’t hesitate to change your environment, even if only for a couple hours. This can do wonders for your mental health, while also boosting your productivity.

9. Find a Hobby

Did you know that most people have made hobby related purchases?

If you don’t have something you enjoy doing outside of work, now is the time to change this.

A hobby will give you something to look forward to when you leave the office. It will also give your mind something else to focus on.

From flying kites to knitting, there are many hobbies to take up.

10. Meditation

With eight percent of U.S. adults using meditation, it’s easy to see that this is popular among millions of people.

Startup founders can benefit from regular meditation sessions, as this gives them time to clear their mind and focus on what’s most important to them.

You can meditate morning, noon, and/or night. Just make sure you find time to do so.

Conclusion

You can take these 10 steps to avoid burnout as a startup founder. By doing so, you’ll find it much easier to stay on track as you pursue your many goals.

Have you ever dealt with burnout as a startup founder? What approach did you take to get back on track? Share your thoughts in the comment section below.

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Should You Further Your Education While Working on Your Startup?

When you start a new business, you can be grinding all day and night for years before you really start to see the fruits of your labor pay off enough to live comfortably again. Unless you just graduated college, you may feel like going back to school could help you further your mission as an entrepreneur.

I’m not here to say that’s not the case, but I’m also not going to tell you that it will definitely help you. Instead, look at the bigger picture to help you decide whether or not it’s worth it. Your decision will come down to a variety of factors such as: time, money, the field of study, and whether or not you can attend courses online or are required to attend in person.

What’s Your Motivation?

Starting a business is difficult enough. It’s undoubtedly strained some of your relationships and forced you to make some tough choices. Why are you thinking about going back to school? Is it to further your business? That’s a good reason to do it. Is it because you think it could help you further your business? Unless you know for sure that a degree will help you, it may not be worth the time and effort it takes. That’s not to say you can’t eventually go back to school, but it may be a good idea to wait until the business is on stable ground first.

From experience, I have an A.S. degree in Interactive Media Design. I always said that I would go back for a Bachelor’s at some point, and because of the trajectory of my career, thought that marketing would be a great way to go.

Has my degree helped me in my freelancing so far? To an extent, yes. I work as a web designer, but my steady gigs come from content production. Content production is a segment of web design, I suppose, but I found more joy in putting words on a page than I have did in creating the pages for the words to go on. Therefore, the degree isn’t paramount to my business.

My business is still in “startup” phase after nine years, mostly because I don’t have a desire to scale it, and enjoy being a one-woman show. Could it help me land better, higher paying gigs? Probably. Do I have time to dedicate to it? Probably. But the additional debt, and the time away from paying work just doesn’t make it worth it to me right now. It may or may not become a priority again someday.

How Much Time Do You Need to Devote to Classes?

Sure, you may decide to only take one class at a time, to make sure you have time to handle all your other responsibilities. But, each college has their own way of figuring out the number of credit hours your course is worth. There’s class time, plus homework, and in some cases, lab time, too.

A good rule of thumb to follow is two to three hours per week per credit hour in study time. Since most classes are in the three to five credit hour range, you’d need anywhere from 6 to 15 hours a week to give a single course the proper attention, without factoring in the time you’re actually spending in class, too.

What About Part-Time or Night Classes?

There are a number of pros and cons to night classes. It means you can take classes at a slower pace, making it easier to accomplish more in the other parts of your life. But it also means you’ve got longer days, because you still need the time to be in class and study. It provides flexibility that you wouldn’t find in a traditional enrollment structure, but still puts you at risk of having too much on your plate. Plus, financial aid becomes more complex when you’re taking classes at less than part-time.

Are There Others Working on Your Startup With You?

If you’re not the only one who’s working in the startup, you’ve already made some progress. But, you have to consider whether or not the rest of the team can make up for what you contribute, should you decrease the time you have available to work. Think about how these other team members, whether employees or contractors, will be paid for their work while you’re focused on school. Can you afford to continue to pay their salary plus your own? Can you afford to take the cut to your own salary and give the other workers more money? Can the workload feasibly be done with the size team you have?

Do You Already Have a Full-Time Job While Working on Your Startup?

If you’re in the early stages of your startup, or haven’t been able to secure investors to scale up faster, chances are you’re working another job to keep cash flow positive while you’re in the trenches. If this is the case, adding a school schedule, no matter how many classes you take at a time could be too much. If you have a family to support, too, add even more chaos to the table.

The fact of the matter is, we all only have 24 hours a day, and we can only do so much with the time, no matter how efficient we are in everything we do. Doing too much at once can lead to extra stress, burn out, and poor lifestyle choices that could reflect negatively on your health.

What Works for You May Not Work for Another

In the end, choosing to go back to school while working on your startup may be the answer for you, while it’s the last thing someone else would want to do it. It’s a highly personal decision, with a number of factors to consider.

You’ll know when or if the time is right.

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The Secret to a Great Website Design? Start with This

There are over a billion websites in existence today, up from about 600 million in 2013. And Google processes over 40,000 search queries every second, which translates to over 3.5 billion searches per day.

The Internet is a crowded place.

To make sure your website stands out, you’ll need more than a trendy design, a fancy logo, and pretty pictures. Capturing the attention of your audience is exceedingly challenging in today’s digital universe, especially when most web users spend less than fifteen seconds or fewer on a web page.

You’ll need great content.

The dirty little secret of web design is that users come for content, not design.

Content is the most important element in web design. And a site with a simple design and quality content performs exponentially better in usability tests than a fancy layout with subpar copy.

But the proliferation of cheap, easy-to-install themes (I’m looking at you, WordPress) has contributed to the myth that content is a secondary consideration.

Indeed, even many experienced designers create their wireframes and mockups with “lorem ipsum” filler text. While this may be more expedient, it often results in an aesthetically pleasing, but practically useless website design where content is treated as a commodity.

Stuffing a Theme

More than a quarter of all websites on the Internet use some form of WordPress. It takes little effort, technical skills — or money — to launch a new WordPress website. Today.

One can find hundreds of pretty themes, many of which have one thing in common: Photos are the main design component.

But what happens to the design when you replace those stock images with your own? In many cases, the theme designer chose images that match the color palette of the design. And in almost all cases, you’ll be letting the design drive the content, not the other way around.

Which often translates into ill-fitting images, awkward white spaces, and the opportunity for filler text to go terribly wrong.

And the chances your content will fit the same space as the placeholders in a theme are slim. In fact, in most cases, design restructuring is necessary to give some semblance of order.

Consider that many of these theme designers have day jobs at web design agencies, they’re likely operating in the same manner with paying clients. Why? Because sales execs and project managers often urge designers to deliver designs, wireframes, and mockups as quickly as possible to show impatient clients. Unfortunately, spending time on content slows down the completion of these deliverables.

Content-First Strategy

In an ideal situation, you should begin by enlisting help from a content development specialist. This doesn’t happen nearly as much as it should, even with many professional web design companies.

Writing for the web, or for that matter, any medium, takes knowledge and experience. Few web designers are writers and relying on them to write your web copy is a scary proposition.

Beyond the standard “About Us” and “Services,” a website is full of interfaces that need proper attention if you expect anyone to use it. If your site requires data input, for example, there are calls-to-action, button text, and labels that if sloppily written, reduce your site’s efficacy.

Begin your content development with a purpose:

What does this site need to do for you? Then create your content around that purpose and goals. Take an inventory of everything that needs to be included to fulfill the site’s purpose, then determine how that content will be structured as pages and how each page relates to each other.

What is your brand promise? How exactly do you want to communicate that promise to your website visitors?

Be mindful that you will update and change your site’s content as it’s being developed and even after its launch. An important aspect of website design that’s lost on so many business owners is that a website is never finished. You’ll keep adding and removing content, making revisions, adding new elements — and that’s okay.

Help People Find your Website

One of the most important factors in your site’s search engine ranking is quality content.

In fact, content is one of Google’s most important ranking factors according to Andrey Lipattsev, a Search Quality Senior Strategist at Google.

Websites with rich, relevant subject information are the type of websites that search engines love. Get your content right and you’ve created a solid foundation from which to build your search engine optimization efforts.

While a lot of importance is given to keyword placement. But remember that writing for your audience, and in the correct tone and language, should be the most important consideration. Your site’s content should focus on your visitors’ interests, address the question of what’s in it for them, and solve their problem.

With that said, if you want your web pages to be found for particular word searches, it’s a good idea to include those words in your copy, headings, and page titles. How much the keywords should be used is a hotly debated topic. The best practice is to write for people, not for search engines. Your visitors will tell the difference.

Paul Boag has been building websites since 1994 and has written numerous articles and books on web design. In one of his pieces on content strategy, he remarked, “After 20 years building websites for clients, I’m still amazed at how completely clients underestimate the work involved in creating content for their website. I’m also gobsmacked every time a client happily pays for design and development, but won’t spend a penny on content creation.

As I’ve said before, it’s fairly simple to build a website in this day and age. But it’s not so easy to build an exceedingly good one that fulfills its purpose and meets business goals.

You can choose to put in the effort required to create great content on the front side and build a website that engages your audience. Or choose to take the seemingly easy path with pre-built themes and poor content. The latter may result in a website, but its efficacy is likely to be questionable.

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Transformation – Building a Team of Entrepreneurs

I joined a company about four months ago as a manager.  After the basic formalities, The Boss gleefully said, “Get ready for the technical presentation with the executive staff next week.” It was, “Ready, Get-Set, Go” from day one.

Global Team.

I inherited a global team across four time zones. Challenges ranged from finding a common time for team meetings to providing support and maintenance, and managing various projects and business expectations. “May the next few months be a period of magnificent transformation.” I told myself.

We began our journey of transformation by answering the question that Simon Sinek has asked in his famous video at TED:

What is your why?  

It was obvious to us that our “why” was to seek success and inspiration for others.  I gradually came to realize that there was more to leadership than pursuing success or making decisions. My training on mindfulness revealed that we needed to be inspired by wisdom, gentleness and authenticity.

We needed to be vulnerable and honest.

We shared our challenges with our business leaders while seeking their guidance and partnership. We started with streamlining operations. We needed to tell the world how we are organized and communicate. We started to leverage tools and systems wisely, be it bug tracking tools, CRM systems, spreadsheets or presentations while cutting down on multiple meetings. We evaluated each team members’ strengths and assigned clear roles and responsibilities.  

Debilitating Backlog

Although early, results were encouraging. Our backlog reduced to an all-time low.  

We are focused on architecting wide, realistic solutions that align with business’ value and goals. We partnered with business and strategized our sales initiatives; exemplifying a true collaboration. It took extreme creativity and organization skills to streamline our support operations.

There is no looking back.

We are experimenting with new ideas- collaboration, agile, transparency, innovation, evangelism and vulnerability. We are empowering sales teams to sell to prospects with meaningful contextual data, build a self-service customer community or mastermind the suite selling. Constant feedback and input from business is helping us grow faster than I could ever imagine.

We are in this journey together.

I am glad that we took this challenge and decided to pioneer the new ways of being. We instinctively want to offer their best to others. We are beginning to recognize that each one of us is capable of leadership.

Instead of being a traditional manger and spitting out orders, we have decided to share the responsibilities. Our small team acts like a start-up with quick decision making without waiting for instructions.

Excitement is contagious and motivating.

The revolution has just started but I believe we are learning, inviting opportunities and inspiring results.

Like all startups, we will do like you do. We will start small and the best is yet to come.

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Jeremy WebbTransformation – Building a Team of Entrepreneurs
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When It Comes to Startup Security, Strategize Like A Chess Master

Protecting your startup from malicious hackers can be similar to protecting your king from the enemy’s attacks in a game of chess. The similarity can begin with the way a chess grandmaster moves nimbly on the board with intent. He or she employs tactics (“short-term calculations to accomplish goals”) and a strategy (a long-term plan) not only to protect the pieces but also to capture the enemy.

If you are a novice founder, include cybersecurity in the list of things you need to establish in your first year. There is no reason to delay dealing with this issue. Avoid making the mistake of ignoring the challenges surrounding it. And make sure you tackle it with the mindset of a top chess player.

Here are 5 ways to help you get started:

Think ahead and plan

A cyberattack can halt your operations not only for days but for good. According to the US National Cyber Security Alliance, 60% of small companies closed within 6 months of a cyber attack.

The demise of Code Spaces, a source code hosting provider, serves now as a classic example. Hackers were able to gain access to its Amazon EC2 control panel and started to ask for a large sum in exchange of recovery.

When Code Spaces did not comply, the attackers deleted most of its data and other resources. The then seven-year-old startup was forced to shut down its services.

So think again. Shopping and setting up the best tools to improve your company’s security do not seem to be as high a priority as UX and product design. But you cannot risk losing your whole business because of a security crisis. Besides, clients today worry about online security as much as they fuss over system lags.

Master the opening, mid, and endgame strategies

Similar to the first, this point is about having a long-term plan regarding your startup security. It is not enough to say, “Okay, let’s try this service and see how it works.” Then you just replace it when it fails. For instance, two computer engineers identified vulnerabilities in 17 Indian startups collectively worth more than $10 billion. They concluded that “almost every startup here has security bugs.” It does not matter if you are one or 6 years old.

So how do you go about this as you are approaching 5, 10, or more years? Even Facebook has established a Bug Bounty Program. Planning to launch a mobile app soon? Set up security parameters early on. Or you will only make yourself more vulnerable than you think.

Be on the offensive and the defensive

In chess as in business, it is important to know who your enemies are. When it comes to cybersecurity, gone are the days when potential enemies would be disorganized and lack sophisticated tools to launch a devastating attack. From the get-go, you should concern yourself with protecting your organization from this kind of threat.

By playing the offensive, you are attempting to understand the plays and approaches of the attackers. You are also setting out to find your own vulnerabilities. Only after being on the offensive will you be able to develop barriers and fight off these malicious hackers.

Concentrate your efforts as an executive

Cybersecurity is a growing area of focus not only for businesses but also for governments. Even international organizations are treating it as a prominent issue. As a startup founder, it is not enough to leave it to the CIO. Take the time to look at online security, its nuances, and the changes surrounding it. Be a driving force, not just a signature on the budget approval form. Give your full support to the tech team members as they constitute an important aspect of your business.

Learn and outgrow yourself

Speaking of support, allocate resources for training your tech team. Encourage your employees to update their knowledge and skills by attending industry conferences and taking crash courses. Your security department should remain solid as hackers also make advances in their attacks. You depend on them as much as you do on the system they are in charge of protecting.

Aside from human resources, invest in infrastructure. Make sure you have the latest tools that will help you beat potential offenders.

Continuity is key in securing your online assets and services.

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Jeremy WebbWhen It Comes to Startup Security, Strategize Like A Chess Master
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Everything You Should Know about Time Management and Productivity

Many of us frequently feel that we don’t waste time at all during office hours or at the workplace. In general, we come across a lot of people who say the same phrase “I was too busy.” But the fact is that we never ever actually count the number of working hours that we spent on those specific tasks.

The reason why I am saying this again and again is because, if we knew how much time we are actually spending on stuff is much less than the time we always thought we spent on those tasks, and there is a hell of a lot of scope for increasing our work productivity in a day to accomplish our targets in a faster and improvised way.

As someone once rightly said, “The first step toward change is awareness.”

If really you are aware how much time you spend on each of your daily duties or tasks, you can strive hard to increase your efficiency and productivity. Calculating tasks such as how much time you spend on completing a specific job or assignment will add up quickly. You need consciously be thinking how you will do this? Well, it’s simple. By deploying some kind of time management software or time tracking.

Time Management Software

Keeping a tab on time spent on the each and every job you did in a day is not building a satellite. All that you need is a good, efficient time tracking application that perfectly calculates the time you spend on each job. If you have a business that  based on employees’ working productivity then a time tracker system not only assists you in increasing productivity but also gives the encouragement to finish the given assignment within the stipulated timeframe.

This software will give you a good effect on your overall work productivity in a day. It keeps well-performing employees encouraged all the time so that they can keep themselves as good performing employees all the time.

In addition, it brings not-so-well performing employees to the organization’s attention. Management can then keep a track on them too. For instance, one of the team members may be finding difficultly with a particular job. You can help train them sufficiently so that they can perform their work better. If self-employed, you can introduce the training and professionalism to yourself to evolve into a developed business.

Track What’s is Essential

There’s no such thing that you cannot track by using this tracking application but also it is important to keep in mind that whether it is worth to track or not. Right from your resting time to your workout, you can track every little thing that you do in a day.

However, what you need to think about is whether tracking such things will help you in increasing your productivity or not? Personally, I am not a bit interested in knowing how much time I spend on some tasks or assignment at my office. So check what’s essential and track those things.

Transparency Matters

If you are a freelance professional and usually your work depends on per hour basis, then clients certainly would want to see how effectively you spend on each assignment or job. This is one of the hard things to not only explain to clients, but also trust issues come in the relationship if you are not utilizing a time tracking app.

Freelancers very frequently don’t get full credit may be because of their working style and sometimes it could be because clients think that they don’t spend enough time working on a particular project. So by deploying a time tracking software, you can send it as proof for how many hours you spent on each of their tasks and assignments.

Here are some of the essential things that may happen if you maintain this level of transparency.

— You don’t have to defend yourself. Your tracking software will speak for you. You shouldn’t have to do this, but you will have the information if you do have to prove it. Many companies have no idea how long some tasks should take. They assume it’s easy because they are not doing it and don’t know. 

Maybe you just want to push yourself and you can use time tracking to motivate yourself to be your best self, be faster—and make more money. And you’ll be able to see it.

— They may offer more business as you are making things easier on them.

— They may likely recommend your services to other businesses because they know how you work.

It Will Let You Grow Globally

Right from the day of inception of your business, you need to keep maintaining strong business processes such as time tracking invoice practices, etc. This is not just productivity wise, but the your entire business enhances efficiency and productivity more than you think. Whether your business is a freelancing type work or a business (Small or medium). In addition, you can utilize your data to make smart steps in your business and your systems to decrease the minimal errors that frequently take place in an administrative work.

Simplifies Your Client Billing Processes

No matter what kind of services you offer, whether it is web design or accountancy services, the number of working hours you generally spend on your clients’ work should actually let you generate revenue for your company.

You may be memorizing or copying the time spent on each assignment from your random notes. This will only make a loss for your business in some or the other way, but it takes copious amounts of time. Because most of the times, you either would be over calculating or under calculating the hours spent — and sometimes you lose the note you wrote on and then you can’t charge your client. A couple of those unfortunate events and you can lose a lot. 

See the Change for Yourself

Once you figure out after several months of time tracking, you can sit and analyze thoroughly those hours and see what can be changed. When I first tracked time of my tasks it was a complete unknown what the results would be. But once I knew what was going wrong, where I could improve and where I was spending more time — I was immediately able to change this for my own personal benefit.

Tracking time is as important as tracking your money. You will know the time all of your activities take. You will get a helpful data that gives you insights on various aspects and whether you really want to spend you valuable time in the ways you have been.

You will immediately see if you are making profit or loss. Find out the toughest projects that are giving you hard time so that you can know how much time ideally you should spend to get the desired results and what kind of niche you should interact with frequently.

I personally believe that the main hurdle that is stopping all of us from achieving a certain goal or dream can be solved in the finding of the correct amount of time to pursue them. As far as tracking time is concerned, it is an effective way to find out where your time is going and in which direction.

Let us know what methods you have used to help yourself in improving your work efficiency. Leave in the comment section below. We would love to hear from you.

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Jeremy WebbEverything You Should Know about Time Management and Productivity
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