All posts tagged: Startup Grind

Startups — 6 Tips To Create B2B Marketing Plan

Marketing is very important and one of the most demanding tasks for the B2B launch. Although each launch has specific challenges in the B2C, and C2C companies — we like to think the B2B startups are special — and they are. 

Let’s Go! B2B.

The zeal to start a B2B move is easy to understand. However, the market launch phase is challenging in today’s competitive economy as B2B marketing services help startups gain insight into the current market.

When you run B2B, you may not be able to see how much traffic and incoming leads. Here I present a flaw in marketing tips and tactics. 

Identify your target customers

Success in market strategies depends on the ability to recognize and communicate with your faithful customers, your desires. In summary, we can say how, when, and why they are important. You need to connect your market to the platforms you use, with good times and always try to add value through educational content.

To identify a target audience, you must first create an ideal customer profile. This profile must have age, gender, sales, and location. Then go to market research that includes surveys, interviews and focus groups. This survey contains enough data to build your initial customer profile.

Set up a blog

You need to create a blog for effective communication with the right audience. The blog is easy to set up. It’s easy to download the correct software configuration and continue with it. WordPress is the ideal blogging platform. Blogging with WordPress is straightforward. Be careful when using a responsive theme, some plugins, and tools. And then you are good.

Make the site real and visible

Creating websites with SEO can be considered as a great example. Your website should be optimized for what your potential customers can search for. I recommend keeping your website minimal and clean. Do it smartly, but give as much information as possible. To achieve this, you should use less text and more graphics.

Now a website is being created; now you need to promote your website. To promote your website, you should at least choose a weekly blog. Therefore, you should hire your team of domain experts and a group of internal authors or freelance writers.

This team can create enough content for an effective website and blog. Once you’ve quality created content, you need to know how to promote it. You can promote and reconfigure them on different social media platforms. “Once you have the base on the website, it’s time to promote.”

Create a partnership

This can be a good decision for your initial job. You have to make sure that you work with the established company. Please note the launch technology conference before agreeing. Attending technology conferences brings you to many potential customers.

You can also increase your network by acting as a guest speaker at such conferences. This can be a big quantum leap for your B2B start.

Engage in business and the community

Each industry domain has a number of drivers who are experts in providing leadership in thought and educational content. Now the buyer likes to read from grown websites and other corporate blogs.

The majority of this employee regularly shares useful content. This content can be of various types, such as tips, tricks, blogs, and articles. All you have to do is to look at a website that has a similar audience to you.

Then share articles and other content to help a publisher’s point of reference for your products, backlinks to your blogs, and websites. The only important thing is how effectively you choose the influence. The efficiency depends on how often the target group gets involved with this platform.

Jeremy Webb Blog | Startup Grind https://www.startupgrind.com/blog/startups-6-tips-to-create-b2b-marketing-plan/

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Prevent Hackers From Turning Your Business Into The Next Big Data Breach

In 2005, the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse reported 136 data breaches. Yet between 2005-2015 – a span of ten years – more than 4,500 data breaches were made public. Since then, the problem has almost become an epidemic — and worse — the consequences have become more severe. This is a problem no business can afford to ignore.

Extensive history.

Data breaches have an extensive history dating back to the 1980s when computer networking started to take off. Since then, regulations like HIPAA and PCI Compliance have been put in place to help companies safeguard sensitive data. However, regulations don’t stop data breaches from occurring — as attacks like the 2017 Equifax breach have proven.

The worst data breach ever.

The “worst-ever” breach was actually worse than it initially looked, smart banking brand Chime explained. The hackers accessed tax ID numbers, credit card information, and driver’s license data. These kinds of attacks can transition from one-time hits  into long-term even forever problems.

Is your head in the clouds or just your data?

A 2012 report by DXC (formerly CSC) predicted that by 2020, over a third of all data will live in or pass through the cloud. The report also noted that 80 percent of data is stored by third-party enterprises. With less control over the storage of their own data, companies are susceptible to attacks due to vulnerabilities beyond their control.

Data breaches can affect everyone.​

No entrepreneur expects a cyber criminal to access their customers’ private data. Yet, small businesses are actually more susceptible to data breaches than big companies. Trustwave research reports that 90 percent of all data breaches affect small businesses. Retail is hit the hardest, with the food and beverage retail companies coming in with a close second.

Your small business is vulnerable, and cyber criminals know it. Data breaches happen on a daily basis, and yes, you’re the prime target. Preventing your company from becoming the victim of the next data breach requires a multi-faceted approach, including establishing stricter policies administered from the top down.

It’s about more than data encryption.

Once you’ve secured your network with a firewall, a VPN, and you are using end-to-end data encryption on your web applications, you need to secure the potential for an internal threat. This requires carefully maintaining the chain of integrity for all of your data from creation to distribution and destruction.

1. Keep a log of who receives login information.

You need to know who has access to your company accounts at all times. If an employee shares their login information with someone who compromises your company data, that employee can be held liable for the damage. But will they? Don’t kid yourself — you will likely still be responsible.

Create an excel spreadsheet with a list of login credentials with the space to document who you’ve given the credentials to and when. It helps to document an expiration date as well. Use this spot as a reminder of the date you need to terminate access for a temporary employees, and also to document the date you actually do revoke access for each employee.

Don’t delete an employee’s credential history when they leave the company. Move the information to another sheet if you have to. You may need it later on to prove that you gave an employee access to a certain account.

This spreadsheet won’t work by itself, though. You’ll need to schedule in time to review it and make sure you haven’t left any former employees with access to company assets.

You probably have an exit process checklist for employees parting ways. Make sure you add deleting their individual login credentials and changing all company passwords to that list.

2. Revoke login access when it’s no longer necessary.

It’s one more thing to add to your busy schedule, but it has to happen. Always make sure you revoke login access when it’s no longer necessary, no matter what.

For instance, if you hire a contractor to update your WordPress website, once they finish the work, delete their login credentials and change all existing user passwords. If you hire a contractor to update your website, delete their FTP account immediately upon delivery of the work.

Harvard Business Review.

Harvard Business Review reports that in 2016, IBM discovered that 60 percent of all cyber attacks were carried out by insiders. Most of these attacks were in the healthcare and financial industries since they collect the most personal data.

When you have to let an employee go, revoking access can be trickier. If they work remotely, they might discover they’ve been locked out before they make it to the office. However, don’t be afraid to revoke access before you’ve informed them of their termination. You can’t take any chances.

One extra precaution is to make sure you force close all current login sessions for their email. There are known security flaws in smartphone apps that allow users to remain logged in despite a password change. If you reset any passwords, they’ll receive confirmation emails and they could use those to sabotage the business.

3. Change passwords frequently.

 Sometimes it’s difficult or impossible to revoke access for individual users. For instance, your entire team might use one login credential. Changing the password will instantly revoke access from those who don’t need it. Then you can give the new password only to those who really need it.

Passwords are a pain to generate and change, but it’s absolutely necessary. Don’t skip this step.

4. Delete old files and shred old documents.

You likely have a mix of electronic and paper documents containing sensitive information. Perhaps you’ve got multiple revisions of your business plan, or several instances of password files. The more you collect these documents without deleting the old ones, the more likely they’ll be used to compromise your company.

Black sharpie and cross-cut shredder.

The two tools you need for physical documents are a fat black sharpie and a cross-cut paper shredder. Use the sharpie to black out important information before you shred the documents, just in case you need to leave your desk for a break. The shredders cost about the same as a good inkjet printer, and it’s the only way to ensure snooping employees don’t discover something they’re not supposed to have access to.

Overwrite deleted files.

For electronic files, get some software to overwrite your deleted files. Windows comes with this software built-in. If you’re using a solid state drive, you don’t have to be as concerned. Data deleted from a solid state drive is immediately and permanently deleted to free up memory. If you’re using an old magnetic hard drive, you will need to overwrite your files.

5. Frequently check secondary account information.

Hopefully it doesn’t happen to you, but sometimes employees add their personal email account or phone number to company accounts with the intention of using it to retrieve a password later on.

Schedule a day out of each month to check your social media, CRM, and email marketing accounts to make sure nobody’s slipped in an unauthorized account recovery email address.

6. Check the list of your company’s email accounts periodically.

One of the ways employees can maintain access to company assets once they’ve left the company is by creating extra email addresses at your company’s domain that forward to their personal email. If this happens, you’d probably never notice.

This is a really sneaky tactic that gives them the ability to retrieve verification codes that will only be sent to an address on your company’s domain. They can request these codes when they’re trying to take control of various online accounts.

If you’re not careful, you can lose control over company accounts holding sensitive customer information like your CRM or email marketing application.

Any employee who has access to your web server can create their own email address. Check your existing email addresses periodically to make sure they’re all legitimate. Also be sure to verify what your “catch-all” email address is. That’s the email that captures all un-routed mail.

If someone takes control of your catch-all email address, two things can happen. One, they can sign up for anything with any email address at your company’s domain, even if the email address doesn’t exist. They can also generate lost password requests for email addresses that no longer exist that used to belong to former employees. Since the email address doesn’t exist, the requested email will go straight to the catch-all email.

7. Create a zero tolerance policy for security violations.

Everybody deserves a second chance, except when they willfully violate security policies. Have a policy in place detailing actions that are grounds for automatic termination and stick to it no matter what.

For example, don’t allow employees to share passwords for any reason. If your Facebook ad manager can’t log in to the company’s Facebook account, it’s tempting for another employee to let them use their credentials so they can get their work done. They just want to help. However, that helpful employee won’t know if you’ve intentionally revoked access because the Facebook ad manager is being terminated.

Creating a policy of zero tolerance for security violations is the only way to get your employees to take the policies seriously. You might still have people who occasionally violate these policies without your knowledge, and that’s why you shouldn’t rely on just one policy to keep your company secure.

You can prevent most vulnerability exploits.

You can’t prevent every possible exploitation, but you can prevent most of them. Since most attacks are exploits and not actually hacks, tight security policies that aren’t meant for anybody specifically, can prevent most insider attacks.

Jeremy Webb Blog | Startup Grind https://www.startupgrind.com/blog/prevent-hackers-from-turning-your-business-into-the-next-big-data-breach/

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Better Service at Restaurants — With AI and Deep Learning

Coming soon to a restaurant near you: Artificial Intelligence.

AI is making appearances these days in many industries. 

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

AI in Restaurants 

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

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

Here’s how else AI will aid food service:

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

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

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

AI in Restaurant Management

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

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

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

Data can help restaurants automate scheduling.

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

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

Deep Learning in the Food Industry

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

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

A Deep Learning Project

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

Photos

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

The Future of AI and Eating

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

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

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How To Perfect the Art of Persuasion & Influence as a Skill

For entrepreneurs and startup founders, being persuasive is much more vital than having a vision. Immediately, this statement might seem to contradict the countless number of articles that have been written surrounding how startups should be figuring out and nailing down mission and vision statements right away. Again, this may sound a little jarring to hear at first, but let me explain further and it will make sense.

Visionaries

The reality is that visionaries, such as Steve Jobs, have not been extremely successful because they thought of something revolutionary or original overnight. Rather, they were talented at constantly convincing or persuading many people to follow them on their journey to something amazing and original.

In order for startup founders to be successful, they need to cultivate persuasion as an actual skill and make it a daily habit. That is the way they are going to get the venture funding, recruit the talent, and gain the necessary momentum to make their finish goal become a reality.

An eight-year veteran software product leader for Google’s Chrome browser team, Tyler Odean, has mastered the persuasion skill and uses it as a tool, to wrangle massive organizations — engineers, designers, and executives — toward product decisions and developments.

He found out how powerful it is, as a software product manager in particular, to have the ability to rally a bunch of his coworkers to his and others’ view points.  As mentioned in the link above, he now gives regular talks on this subject, and how it applies to his new position of directing, relevance, rankings, and search products at Reddit.   

In his talks, he presents the science that has taught his approach, as well as many patterns that developed in his career: how our brains process information, the cognitive biases that shape a person’s reality, and more importantly, how all this information can be used to change other people’s minds.

Read on for persuasive tactics startup founders and entrepreneurs can use to raise money, build great teams and convince the world to love what their products or services build.  

First We Need to Understand How Our Brains Make Decisions  

Analyze 

If we actually analyze what visionaries really succeed at, they instill in us a consistent, confident and coherent plan that makes people feel safe. And we do not necessarily trust them because their vision is perfect, but because there is sense, order, and control wielding it.

They often communicate quite clearly without giving us all of the answers. Elon Musk comes to mind. And what most people think of as a vision is actually persuasion. This feeling that visionaries create can be conveyed by the two-system model for how the brain experiences and receives information in decision making.

System One

System one – is the part of the brain that handles the simplest things: sensory input, automatic, and unimportant decisions (i.e. I’m going to open the door), casual social interactions, and other inbound signals that can be processed rapidly and rather simply.    

System Two 

System two – is the higher order, logical part of the brain. It is the part that thinks at the speed of voice in your head. It brings the processing power to bear on decisions and situations that require much deeper thought.

Now system 1 is involuntary; System 2 is deliberate. System 1 thinks in black and white; System 2 sees many shades of gray.  

If you think about all the things the brain is constantly doing — it’s not just impressive, it’s insane. But people are able to do it because of the part of the brain that they’re aware of. System 2 is constantly outsourcing the bulk of System 1.

You can think of System 2 as a beleaguered, overworked but very smart manager. System 1 is the army of interns that he or she has hired to solve all the easy problems they can delegate — even though they can make mistakes.  

Another way of thinking of System 1 is viewing it as childlike. Just like a six-year-old views everything in terms of cause and effect — and has absolute certainty about the things they know — this part of the brain will either believe something with utmost conviction or not.

There will be nothing in between. System 1 has no time for ideas such as ‘this thing has a 50 percent probability of being true.” That’s reasoning. That’s System 2, and the thing about System 2 is that it is always looking for evidence that something isn’t right or isn’t to be believed. It is a skeptic.  

Now you may be wondering, what does this have to do with making a persuasive argument?  

If you speak to System 2 (i.e. pose or suggest something complex enough that it requires reasoning), you’re asking to be doubted. I am sure that many of us have had a thought while listening to someone ‘I don’t know why you are wrong, but I still do not believe what you are saying.” Well, that is System 2 doing its job.

Persuasion  

To actually persuade someone, you need to speak as much as you can to System 1 — the child, the interns. They want to believe you because, for them, it just makes so much sense: what’s not to trust or love?

The trouble is, most technology people express themselves with complexity, nuance, facts, and figures. That is their default, and it doesn’t appeal to other people’s unconscious processor.

Time and time again, growing up in school and later in professional life, we have learned to build strong, well-reasoned arguments with a lot of evidence. But nobody taught us to talk to System 1 — even though that is what we need to do to actually accomplish things we want to get done.

You Must Harness Biases to Make Your Case    

The next step to becoming a persuasion expert is understanding the biases and shortcuts the human brain automatically makes to cope with the onslaught of information the world throws at us.  Figuring out how to master these shortcuts makes it easier to speak to System 1 more of the time.

There are five cognitive biases that are specifically relevant to the founder’s task of getting customers, investors, and employees on board:

  • Availability

  • Anchoring

  • Representation

  • Coherence

  • Framing.

Let’s dive into how each shows up and how it can be put to use.   

Availability  

Availability bias makes the ideas that come to mind easily seem more true for people. Someone’s brain is first and foremost a threat-detection engine. The more times you see a thing, the more confident you will be that it won’t kill you — because it has not killed you yet, right?

Think of it like this, you are probably okay with the mosquitoes where you live — but go to a foreign country and the insects are scary. We are all more familiar with things we have encountered often in our lives — which includes ideas.   

  • You’re also susceptible to trends.
    As you’re developing your ideas, be aware that you’re probably being influenced to think that familiar, less outlandish concepts are better.

  • Your child will always be beautiful to you.
    (Remember the Seinfeld episode about the breathtaking baby?) You spend more time thinking about your idea and company than anyone else on the planet. So, it’s going to seem like a no-brainer to you — but probably not anyone else without doing some work.   

We all at some point will encounter the smell of BS or nonsense. We must kick or remind ourselves to be suspicious of those situations. This may put you in a predicament where you assume some things or some people are more compliant than they actually are.

One tactic or tool you can use is to find a friend in a totally different industry or milieu that you can call and ask them, “Hey, you don’t spend all day thinking about this. How does it sound to you?” And if they say that it sounds worthless or poorly conceived, don’t immediately assume or jump to a conclusion that they ‘just don’t get it’ (a very common founder fallacy).

You are not going to be successful if people you talk to don’t get it. Don’t stop developing new ways to explain it until they finally they do.

Availability bias   

Now at the same time, you can use availability bias to your advantage by generating as much familiarity with your brand or product as possible. If you make yourself ubiquitous on social media platforms (this could be having influencers share about you, for example), share over email, in the news media, through word of mouth, you’re going to become the no-brainer you want to be.

This does not come without hard work and dedication. It takes a lot of preparation and elbow grease, but creating a sense of familiarity is one of your most effective marketing advantages.   

Anchoring   

When someone is going to make a decision, the first thing a person sees usually becomes a powerful reference point for them. And once it is established, these reference points are difficult to change.

As an example, the first number you throw out when you are talking about pricing your product or the size of your fundraising round will always be the most important number you say. So you better be okay with the direction that number takes you in, think of any Shark Tank episode.  

What is an unknowable value?

This is especially true in seemingly ambiguous scenarios when you are dealing with unknowable values. As an another example, if you are a wine expert aficionado and I tell you that a bottle you are familiar with is worth a million dollars, you will likely respond ‘no, it’s not worth that.’  

But if guessing the valuation of a three-person startup with just a slide deck and an idea in a brand new market, no one has a clue what that’s actually worth at this stage. You have the chance to establish a solid or durable reference point that will give you an edge. Take the time to consider that carefully.  

Comparing values

Anchoring plays an even more significant role when you are comparing values. It can become a limiting factor that you have to acknowledge if you want to move in any given direction. So if you initially throw out a valuation of $10 million, but then you want to move it $15 million, you have to basically convince the potential investor that it’s worth all those values in between individually.

Why is it worth $11 million or $12 million, etc.? The next time you are pitching, make sure you respect your own anchor points when making these arguments.   

Let’s take a simpler and sillier example: there is a good reason why late night hosts (such as Colbert, Fallen, Myers) always start the show with the statement, “We’ve got a really great show tonight!”

Because it makes no difference — you know they are always going to say the same thing, no matter what. As soon as you have thought about whether tonight’s show is great, it’s been anchored in your mind that it is — your outlook on it is already positive, thanks to System 1.  

It doesn’t matter that you know they always say the same thing no matter what. As soon as you’ve contemplated whether tonight’s show is great, it’s been anchored in your mind that it is — your outlook on it is already positive, thanks to System 1.

Representation

After any experience, people develop a representative image or memory of what happened — and they reason off that image. As an example, if a person has an argument with someone, they take away one or a handful of representative images of how that went down. No one gets to choose what sticks, it just happens.  

For startup founders and marketers, this hits on a very important point: people will remember a totally random sample of the information you tell them about what you do. Do not assume that it will be the best sample. It will not be the summary or elevator pitch you wish you could hand them.

It’s often a random set of data. So many entrepreneurs, given the opportunity to get in front of an audience — such as investors or industry reporters — often think they need to say it all.

They think they have to tell a full story about their company or product so it can be well understood in the exact or perfect context you want. People often pack meetings with every selling point they can imagine. But most times, that is actually the worst thing they should do.

The 30-minute session

People are going to remember hardly anything you cram into that hour or 30-minute session. Because they are going to remember random parts, you are going to want to construct a message that — when sampled at any point — will reinforce your argument of pitching and remain persuasive.  

So keep it to the highlight reel and stick to a very short, simple message that you repeat in different ways over and over. When there are fewer things to remember, your audience is more likely to take away and remember what matters.

Another tip is to stick to your strongest points, as well. The way the brain works, even if you have delivered a ton of extremely compelling arguments, one weak one can spoil the whole thing.

For example, let’s think of two hypothetical set of products:

  • The first includes 5 iPhones, one of which is broken.     

  • The second includes 3 iPhones that are in good condition.     

Now, thanks to System 2 of our brains, we all know that the first set is the better choice, and most people will choose it when presented with both options side by side. However, when they are shown one set at a time, they tend to put a higher price on the undamaged set.

Even though they intellectually comprehend the values is the same, they still emotionally respond to the damaged goods. You audience is always creating a representative picture of who you are and what you can do for them. And if you give them an image that involves or contains negative elements — in which anything that is not utterly awesome is negative — that can be more damaging than it should be.

Many startups have the impulse to throw boring or unexciting benefits into their pitches — something like good battery life as a selling point. This can actually distract from what is truly unique and special about your app, product, or service.   

Coherence       

People often want everything to always be the same or consistent. We want smart people to be smart. We want good people to be good. The same goes for ideas. The reason is that humans want predictability and equilibrium so badly in our lives, that we are pretty willing — and eager, even — to believe that things are more consistent than they actually are in reality.

This leads to a few common behavioral concepts:  

  1. Halo effect:
    If you like one part or thing about an idea or object, you will then like other things about it as well. Conversely, if you dislike one thing about it, you will tend to dislike other facets as well. Life is just easier when your feelings on a subject have a consistent valence. Such as a product that was recommended by a friend you love and trust will seem well made. A product that seems well priced will also seem reliable.
      

  2. Confirmation bias:
    Most people would prefer to live in a world in which we are the smart, capable-minded protagonist. It takes effort for us to contemplate or admit our own mistakes or being wrong. We have to burn calories to do it — it’s proven in the lab. As a result, humans always lean towards interpreting new information in a way that confirms or reinforces what they already thought or believed.

Are you wrong — or has new information come to light?

It is much more difficult to persuade someone that they are wrong than to convince them that there is new information that should change their thinking or perspective. So anytime you are trying to convince someone to change their minds, you should always frame it as an opportunity to be right going forward — and not an admission of past error.   

Let’s say you are a product manager or startup founder trying to get a team to ship faster. There is little point in arguing that they should have shipped a product code update last week. You should only talk about when and how they can ship things within a quicker period in the future, based on the information you have today. This is the only conversation worth having to get people to see your point of view.

Framing

People are often incapable of reasoning about the world in the absolutes.

We usually default to the next best thing: comparative reasoning. Framing determines what choice will be seen as normal or default.  An easy way to think about this is imagining you have three cups of water — one cold, one hot, and one that is room temperature.

If you dip your finger in the room temp water after the hot water, it will feel cold. If you do the same after the cold water, it will feel warm.     

To make whatever you are offering appeal to a human being, be aware that any information you put out there will be consumed or viewed through a comparative lens.

And if you do not specifically tell your audience which comparisons to make, they will make them on their own. And these automatic comparisons will probably not be as flattering as the ones you would have chosen for them.    

The Tactics    

Cognitive biases create our reality. The best we can do is accommodate and lean into them — as we will not be able to escape them. This can be good news if you know how to turn them to your advantage, in being convincing or persuasive.

Let us go over 7 actionable tactics for leveraging the inevitable mental shortcuts people make to create messages that speak directly to System 1 — messages that are quite easy to agree with and act on as well.  

Keep it simple.  

This saying may sound incredibly obvious and not very original. Humans vastly underestimate exactly how simple they need to be. It’s quite often one of the biggest areas where mistakes are made. I am not talking about a short paragraph or even single syllable words, nor a question either. The most people can process without consulting System 2 is a very short, declarative phrase using the simplest words possible.   

As an example say you are building a slide pitch deck to convince an audience of something.  Anytime you have included a bulleted list or paragraph of text, or maybe even a graph without a very clear, obvious explanation, you have already lost their attention.

In any of those scenarios, System 2 has switched on and is already doubting the information it’s being given.

It’s better to stick with a few words that viewers can consume and understand before they even make the choice to. By using short declarative sentences on the slides behind you will repeat over and over again in your audience’s mind while they are listening to you talk. ‘We are growing fast, we need more capital to continue scaling. With that money, we will do X’  

Ultimately you want your message to sound and feel like a ‘See Spot Run’ story. The words you pick should feel intuitive, nearing the point of being almost too basic. That’s the level that’s going to speak emotionally to your audience.

It’s very important to keep in mind, you may spend all day steeped in your own business plan.

Understand, however, that the people that you are trying to convince of your plan do not. Try to avoid rapidly shifting between different parts of your story and expect people to always follow you. Too many startup pitches go back and forth between growth and revenue plans. Try to avoid this.

You want your story to build one block at a time. You should focus on repeating whatever it is that you really want to have stick in people’s minds. At the end of a meeting, an audience member’s brain will be randomly sampling recent moments, subconsciously trying to remember what you’ve just shared.

It’s often the very simple, declarative points that will stick out because they encountered them more often and immediately understood and agreed with them in their heads. It’s like the chorus of a song — very few of us remember many the words to verses, but we can usually remember the chorus.    

Make your solution or plan vivid & easy to visualize.    

While startup founders need to keep their own availability bias in check, they also need to factor in and incorporate into others’ availability bias to be persuasive. Just as people are set up to favor things that feel familiar, they also have a strong tendency to favor what they can fully visualize.    

For example, if someone were to offer $100 verbally to be paid immediately or hand you a white envelope containing five brand new $20 dollar bills, the second offer would seem better because you can picture it really completely. People gravitate towards this type of specificity, even when it’s not logical. This is a powerful bias and tool for persuasion.   

A lot people know this example, but it further cements the point. Let’s say I described a woman who loves folk or hippy music and was active in Vietnam or nuclear protest movement decades ago back in college. Then I asked you whether she was more likely to have become a lawyer or a feminist lawyer, most people would probably answer, ‘feminist lawyer’ because it seems most in line with the rest of the story.  

Obviously, there are no feminist lawyers who are not lawyers. By definition, ‘feminist lawyer’ is a narrower category — which makes it less likely that it’s the right answer. 

By adding descriptive detail to a scenario, you make it statistically less likely — but you make the picture clearer so it seems more likely — by making the picture clearer, it seems more likely.   

So, when you are presenting your company or product to key stakeholders, paint a picture.   

Don’t just say have a lot of users. Describe Mike the CTO from a mid-market printing firm in Michigan and how he loves using your product between meetings and because it saves him so much time.

And you could literally show a picture of him smiling as he uses your product. Now for any success, you are seeking to convey, make sure that your description is underscored with a specific image — and not left as an abstract concept.   

Ruin surprises on purpose.

Now System 1 of your brain hates surprises. It freaks out really easily, which it usually summons System 2 to the rescue, which can only say, ‘I’m not freaked out.’ System 2 is never going to have a more positive reaction than System 1 will.  

Every time you surprise someone, you risk making them suspicious. Even when they don’t become suspicious of you, they will still be a bit less comfortable with you and what you are telling them than they were before.

Obviously, when you are first pitching an idea to someone, there is no way around a bit of surprise. But you can try to ease them into it. One thing I recommend that you do, in a presentation or talk when you are going to share something new, say, ‘in the course of this presentation, I plan to show you X’ before actually showing them anything.   

Another way to reduce surprises is to tell your audience that someone or a company they already know and respect — or simply identify with — already use your product, or is client or partner of you.   

Humans so desperately want to seem normal and do what seems normal, so the more you can mainstream an outlandish or brand new product or idea, the better it should be perceived.  

The shopping cart.

When Sylvan Goldman (shopping cart inventor) first introduced the shopping cart to his grocery store in 1937, he paid models to push them around and pretend to shop. People saw this, and even though their first thought may have been, that’s weird. Why would anyone need that when they have baskets?  By using the models for demonstration, they made it look normal — attractive people were willing to try it.

Comparing this product breakthrough to now, it may seem hard to square with a technology-infused world that is all about game-changing innovations and dramatic product unveilings. You must remember, there is a difference between persuasion and generating buzz or excitement.

There is persuasion and there is hype. If you actually want someone to buy into what you are saying or offering — and you do not have the massive credibility of let’s say Apple — then you want to take as much surprise out of it as you can.    

Make it easy to agree.

Trolly problems understood.

Trolley problems’ help us understand the way people make decisions. In the context of one of these problems, there is a runaway trolley and you — as the pretend track switcher — have to decide and ethically rationalize who it should hit, given multiple choices.    

For example, let’s say that a trolley can go in one of two directions, and there is a set of people in its way on each track you could choose. If I tell you the trolley is headed to the left, you will probably let it keep going that way. The same logic could be said if I told you it was headed to the right.      

The thing about this exercise is that most people choose not to take actions because people are very loss averse. It’s natural to want to minimize regret, and we tend to ascribe more regret to acting rather than failing to act. This is because failing to act doesn’t truly or really feel like it was our fault.

Anticipate this instinct.   

If you’re trying to be persuasive, you can anticipate this instinct. If you desire a particular outcome, make sure that your stakeholders need to take action to achieve a different one. “Always, always, always phrase what you want to have occur as the thing that will happen if nobody does anything.”

If you send an email to your team asking, ‘should we ship the new widget?’ you are putting the onus of the action on them. They now have to proactively say yes.  But instead, if you phrase your email to say something like, ‘We are going to ship the new widget. Any objections?’

The default will be to do what you want. The onus of the action is on the employees who want to object or push back and you adjust it to be cognitively harder for them. This may sound like a small thing, but it works almost every time, try it for yourself.     

Setting their reference point.

Most people hate losses much more than they like gains. But people do not always evaluate losses and gains relative to what they have — rather they evaluate them relative to what they feel like they have.

Think of it like this, if you were convinced you were going to get a promotion or bonus, and it falls through, you might experience that as a loss, even though – technically speaking — you didn’t lose anything. You just didn’t gain anything.

Adjust the reference point. 

When you need or want to persuade someone, you can purposefully adjust their reference point — alter what they feel like they already have locked in — to get them to do what you want. If you talk as if something is already true, and you do so simply, continuously, and in a way that is easy to visualize — people will start to feel like it is true.    

Common in sales pitches.

Rather than telling the customer to buy something, the salesperson or advertising campaign tells them that their time is running out to purchase. They, therefore, have the opportunity to buy now in hand, and if they don’t they might lose out if they don’t act.

This is why brands always push or incentivize a person to try clothes on or test drive a car. Because once people start contemplating their ownership and can picture it in action, that is their mental reference point. You are trying to change the framework to: they will suffer a loss if they decide not to buy.      

Another example, imagine talking to a potential job candidate whom you want for your team, who is deciding whether to join your startup. You should start speaking to them as if they have already made the decision to join.

Say something like, ‘you will have this much equity, and this will be your desk, and these people will be on your team. You should start using the collective first person — ‘We have this opportunity ahead of us’ or ‘We can solve this problem together.’

Speaking this way can make it sound like they already have something concrete — and they will have to willingly give up all of those things by turning down your offer. People don’t like to give things up if they can help it.    

Control how you are compared.        

There are many different ways to control how you present information about your company, but the most crucial one is to curate how it’s compared to other options in your industry. You cannot stop your target audience from researching and comparing you to your competition. What you can and should do, though, is to take steps to ensure those comparisons put you in the best light.

Your presentation can control how salient and dominant those comparisons are. As an example, if you put two products or service offerings next to each other in your slide deck, that comparison will be dramatic. If you put one at the beginning and one at the end, that comparison will be much weaker.

If you make a comparison really explicit — you show value A, value B, and the delta — then people will remember that difference. If you know you’re the better option, you might want to make the comparison quite stark. However, if you are nervous about the comparison, you will want to mention the downsides of your competitor separately without putting it right next to your offering for easy comparison.    

Job candidates are always comparison shopping, so this exercise is particularly applicable in this scenario. The most useful comparisons you can make are to something or a company that’s very similar to yours but slightly worse in some aspect.

The similarity makes it easy to draw the comparison, but in a way that flattering to you. Similarly, with their products, many software companies will make competitor comparison ‘X vs Y’  landing pages on their products such as VWO does with Optimizely.  Which they use to bid ads on the competitor’s branded name search to try to get customers to switch.  

Options

Let’s say that someone has three product options — A, B and another version of A that is a little bit inferior. It is then much easier to simplify the choice by immediately discarding the weaker, inferior version of A. At the same time, A starts looking a lot better.

So, now they have swayed their decision between A and B in A’s favor, even though nothing about their A or B changed. It might be useful for you to insert a slightly weaker version of your product or argument into a comparison to push it in your direction.        

Then there is pricing — where comparison becomes a powerful marketing tool. Many tech companies will offer tiered for software: individual, small business and enterprise level packages. And a lot of companies make the mistake of thinking they have to sell each one of these packages. You don’t. Sometimes the purpose of offering a package should be just to force favorable comparison for a more expensive package.

How to change the perception.  

You can make something seem bigger or smaller, or more or less likely, or more or less risky — all based on what you place next to it. So remember, when you want a fact or figure to be more memorable, for example — or to seem more likely — make it easier to visualize. Conversely, for anything you are trying to downplay, make it vaguer and repeat it less often.     

A classic example is that if you want a figure to seem large — use the phrasing: 1 in 5 or 1 in 150. If you want a figure to seem small, use a percentage. When you say, ‘1 in 1,000 people are affected,’ your audience pictures a real person.

When you say, ‘0.1 percent of people are affected,’ the automatic response is to think, ‘Well, that does not sound like a huge number.’ If your mandate is to raise venture capital to fight a disease that impacts people, you would go with the former.       

Coax — don’t demand — people to your viewpoint.

Hollywood movie persuasion is not the same as persuasion in real life! Don’t try to copy what you see on screen in a movie. We have all seen some narrative or version of a hero delivering a relatively long, moving, fluid speech to move the minds and emotions of the people around them.

It often appears as though a single argument shown in a single moment has radical change on how the people feel. It’s like suddenly everyone wants to battle the aliens, or agrees the enemy is not so tough. In real life, this is not how the brain works.    

In fact, if someone tried to do this in real life, you would probably get defensive and close yourself off. You would probably think, ‘Why are giving me this speech? I have got my knife or gun, and I am going to defend myself and fight no matter what you say.’

The grand oratory–humpf–forget it!

So let’s forget about the notions of grand oratory persuading your audience to do what you want. It’s more useful to instead think about how you can work with your team, or board members, or job prospects, to gradually move toward your viewpoint over time.   

When a person attempts to change your mind immediately, you often raise your guard. You feel like they are trying to rob you of your own agency with a clever pitch. You feel like they are telling you that you are wrong. It’s like when a salesperson seems too polished, that it makes us feel suspicious and untrusting of them for this reason.  Your mind says, ‘how dare you try and change the way I feel about something in such a short period of time?’

Now with that being said, there are a few tactics or ways to implement more successful, smoother persuasion. 

If you are planning to use a slide deck to make your pitch, send it to your audience early. Doing this will serve a dual purpose:

  1. It ensures that your slide deck is designed professional enough that it can stand on its own. Keep in mind, this is an important test you will want to pass.

  2. It takes away the element of surprise and keeps you from making an overly dramatic reveal or appeal.

Too many people believe they have to be there in person whenever some reads or looks at their slide deck. They have a vision that their skill or speaking abilities will be so overwhelmingly moving that it will win or change minds on its own — which, if it were true, would probably be disadvantageous. Whatever you managed to push them into believing wouldn’t stick with them the way you need it to — the way it sticks is when they are willing to buy in and make the conscious decision to actually believe you.    

Conclusion and takeaways

The art of persuasion is a multi-faceted endeavor that requires you to think holistically and proactively about how you are crafting and building an argument. Hopefully, the strategies and tools listed above will give you all the levers you need to do just that. You can consider using a checklist whenever you have a pitch, are about to close a funding or seeking a new candidate for a job.  Are you taking all these elements into account?

For extra due diligence, ask yourself these five gut check questions before you launch any new products, do a major rebranding or pitch investors:   

1) Where would my pitch confuse or trip up a child?     

Now obviously I am not suggesting that you should be treating potential investors or new job candidates like children. But the aim or goal is always to appeal to System 1 — the childlike part of the brain. So ask yourself whether there is anything about your main argument and furthermore of how you are conveying it, that an 8-year-old would not understand or believe.  

If there is, then the odds are good that you will awaken your adult audience’s System 2, and you will have to work much harder to alleviate their doubt.   

2) What is the one thing I want my audience to remember?  Is it also the important thing in my argument, message, or pitch?   

Basically, you want everything to be as prominent as it is noteworthy for people to remember. Increase or decrease prominence using repetition (or not), simple and vivid statements (or not). Prominence and importance must align and match.    

3) What words or sentences can I cut from my pitch?      

Sometimes making a point prominently isn’t about more — it can be about less. Try to cut out literally every word you possibly can from every message you send. This can be viewed in the most neurotic, thorough way. No word is too small to cut. Modifiers are not always necessary.  

Give the brain as little as possible to process. Because if the argument you are trying to make is even slightly too dense, System 2 will be called in comprehend it, and System 1 won’t even have a chance to accept what you are saying.

4) Is my preferred outcome the default?

Try to keep in mind that people usually ascribe more regret to acting compared to failing to act. Take advantage of that human quality. Moving a team toward a goal can be as simple as phrasing a question in a way where no action or no response actually helps everyone make progress.

5) Is there anything I can do to increase people’s familiarity with my ideas beforehand?

Although it may not always be possible, you should ask yourself, ‘Who are the people I need to have to agree with me?’ And, ‘Is there a way to meet with them before I need to sell them or pitch them something?’ Perhaps an email can accomplish this, or a chat with someone they know and trust.

You want to be able to speak to your audience’s availability biases. Figure out what they care about, and gradually show them that you are smart, trustworthy, and you value the same things before you ask for something.

Resist the urge to downplay.   

Lastly, try to resist the urge to downplay the impact of cognitive biases. Once you understand they start to feel like common sense. You may be thinking that it is impossible to use relatively simple tricks on extremely intelligent people (such as Silicon Valley VC’s or engineers) you are trying to hire or get them to invest in you. It doesn’t even matter if they know about the biases themselves.      

I cannot explain to a person how an optical illusion works — but they can still see it.   

You must remember that people are not computers, yet.  Even if the person you are trying to convince already understands the ways in which biases can be leveraged to influence them, they are certainly not immune. The most important thing to know about cognitive biases is that they are applicable to everyone — without exception.    

Jeremy Webb Blog | Startup Grind https://www.startupgrind.com/blog/how-to-perfect-the-art-of-persuasion-influence-as-a-skill/

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How to Power Up Your Email Campaign

Statistics reveal that personalization is paramount for any email marketing campaign. Personalized emails have higher open rates, click rates, and customer engagement. Most importantly, it boosts the business revenue.

Even if you’re using an email marketing software, you have to make the receivers feel that the email is made especially for them. An average employee receives more than 121 emails daily. Personalization is your golden key to make your client click and respond to your email.

Email Marketing Personalization Checklist: 

Here are the secret sauces of email personalization that every marketer should implement.

1. Know and understand your target market.

Your segments and emails would be more personalized and crafted well if you collect the following data about your leads first.

Behavioral data:

a.       Where was the lead captured?

b.      What pages did he or she visit?

c.       When did they view your page?

d.      When did they convert?

e.      Did they submit a form?

Demographic data:

a.       Name

b.      Age

c.       Marital Status

d.      Gender

e.      Occupation

f.        Location

From the above behavioral and demographic data, you can better formulate what the problems and pain points of your clients are. Of course, you may not have all of the information above. It would be difficult for you and creepy on your clients’ part. But if they voluntarily handed the information to you, then, by all means, use the data so you can serve them better.

2.       Segment your list

Now that you understand your target market, segment your list into significant groups based on the data you have. Your segments depend on the versatility of your product and scale of your business. Use the following as your guide in creating your segments.

a.       Buyer’s Journey

You have to treat your leads, existing customers, and long-time clients differently so you need to have them on separate segments. This way, it will be easier for you to send appropriate content based on where they are at the sales funnel.

b.      Geography

This is especially important for brick-and-mortar businesses. Build a special segment for those within your locality and another one for nearby cities which may chance up to your store one time. You can also use the segments if you are opening another branch or you’re up for a franchise.

For digital-based businesses, the location of your clients is also important so you can personalize your emails better. You don’t want to be sending winter deals to clients who don’t have wintertime.

c.       Age

Different age groups respond differently to emails and they have different needs. Adjust your wordings and graphics as appropriate to each age group.

Aside from these three, you can also segment according to gender, industry, and buyer behavior. Be careful not to over segment though, in segmentation, quality is more important than quantity.

3.       Individualized landing pages

Apart from personalizing your segments and email content, you will have a better engagement and conversion rate with individualized landing pages.

Here is a checklist of landing page best practices:

a.       Enticing and clear headline

b.      Short and direct copy

c.       Optimized URL, title, and meta-description

d.      It passes the blink test

e.      Responsive layout

4.       Personalized subject line

Subject lines are crucial for your email marketing because 35% of users click on emails because of the subject line alone.  Use your segments, behavioral data, and demographic data to create the perfect subject line for your clients.

The best email subject lines:

a.       Contain the name of the recipient

b.      Spark curiosity

c.       Convey urgency or scarcity

d.      Communicate authority

5.       Customized timing

You can individualize the timing of your emails through an email marketing automation software. Sending your emails at the most optimal time will give a better ROI for your marketing efforts.

The best days to send emails are weekdays, but each individual has a unique timing of opening email. With the help of AI, you can send your emails based on the email opening behavior of a specific client.

Conclusion

Personalization is letting your customers be the front and center of your marketing. It is empathizing with their needs and making your emails easy and useful for them.

To ensure that your email campaigns are hyper-personalized, get to know your clients first before sending the first email. Create segments based on your clients’ preferences and background.

Individualize your landing page, subject line, and even your timing. With these techniques, you raise the odds of your emails getting opened and engaged with.

Jeremy Webb Blog | Startup Grind https://www.startupgrind.com/blog/how-to-power-up-your-email-campaign/

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Prioritize Your Dreams — Not Your Goals

What’s the difference between goals and dreams? Maybe you think that goals are more concrete and achievable, while dreams are more abstract, and therefore not a reliable benchmark. How will you know when you’ve achieved your dreams? It can be hard to tell.

I’m here to tell you that the crucial difference between goals and dreams is probably not what you think.

Goals

Goals may be more specific, but they often lack the compelling emotional component of dreams. Goals give us a sense of accomplishment when completed, but they aren’t always motivating.

Before you can establish a goal, you must want it, and you must know why you want it. You need a degree of emotional intensity, and dreams will give you that intensity. If your goal is simply another thing that you need to accomplish today, you probably won’t feel strongly motivated toward it. If it stems from your dream, you will feel a constant drive pushing you toward it.

This is why I encourage people to understand their dreams before they determine their goals.

Dreams

When your dream connects with something that’s meaningful to you, it creates intrinsic motivation that drives you toward your goals. The trick is to give yourself permission to dream big.

Some people deny themselves this permission. They fear disappointment, so they try not to dream too big. Instead, they stay within the realms of what they believe to be possible. I believe that the size of our dreams determines what we believe we can have, do, and be, so we must dare to dream big. Think about some of the great achievements that have changed the world. They all seemed like crazy ideas at the time.

Monumental feats don’t start with a clear roadmap and game plan of how they can be achieved. Every breakthrough starts as a dream that someone believes in, no matter how big or impossible it seems.

What’s Your Biggest Dream?

Recently, I had a conversation with a young woman about dreaming big. I asked her to tell me her biggest dream. Her answer was very precise. She wanted $237,000. Curious, I asked her why she chose that specific amount.

“I want to help my mother,” she replied. “My mother has $37,000 worth of debt that I want to help pay off. Also, she has always wanted to buy a house but could never afford one. It will be about $200,000 for the down payment and other expenses. If I could get that much money, I would be able to help my mom own a home and live debt free.”

“OK,” I wondered. “What if you could have more?”

After some encouragement, she said, “You know what? I want a million dollars. It makes me uncomfortable to say it, but I think with that much, my mom would be taken care of and I’d have a nice place for myself. I would be able to take care of another family member who’s been struggling. Plus, I could take my family on vacation and even put a good amount in savings.”

“How would you feel if your dreams came true?” I asked.

Her eyes lit up. “It would completely change my life. It would help me take care of my mom, who has done so much for me in my life. It would enable me to support my relatives, who helped me get through school. It would allow me to pursue what I love instead of trading my life for a paycheck doing something I hate.”

The bigger dream of a million dollars had an emotional power that the goal of $237,000 couldn’t match. It enabled this young woman to imagine a different future, one that inspired her and felt exciting. Interestingly, the $237,000 target felt unachievable, but the million-dollar dream instantly sparked numerous business ideas. Her desire was so strong that it overcame her objections, enabling her to come up with goals that matched her dreams.

Dreams Before Goals

This young woman’s story perfectly illustrates the motivating power of dreams. At the end of the day, the number isn’t what matters. The reasons behind that number are what matter. She wanted to help her mother and maybe provide a little bit for herself as well. That’s what motivated and fulfilled her. Once she got excited about that idea, her creativity was unleashed, and she was able to truly dream. She began to see a whole new picture of what was possible.

My dream was to become a change agent who helps many people unlock their potential. Then I took a step back and found a bigger dream. I decided I wanted to help a million people unlock their potential. Then I pushed myself to make the dream even bigger. I finally settled on a goal of reaching a billion people.

What’s your biggest dream? How would your life change if that dream came true? Tap into your own emotional intensity. Allow yourself to feel excited and let that feeling spur you on. Every dream that I’ve documented in my journal seemed far-fetched and unachievable in the beginning.

But each one allowed me to identify what I want and why it’s important to me, so I can feel the excitement I need to get motivated. It unlocks the creativity that helps me make these impossible dreams possible.

It’s important to note that dreaming big doesn’t mean you don’t need to take action. Many books will tell you that if you just imagine your dream coming true, it will magically happen. That’s not what I’m saying. Instead, I’m encouraging you to give yourself permission to dream big.

When you do that, and when you’re very clear about why it’s important to you, you create the motivation you need to take the right actions to make that dream possible. When your goals align with your dreams, you know why they matter, and you’re thrilled to have the opportunity to make them into reality. That’s why you should prioritize your dreams, not your goals.

Jeremy Webb Blog | Startup Grind https://www.startupgrind.com/blog/prioritize-your-dreams-not-your-goals/

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Just Sold My #5 Tech Startup. What Should I do After Going to Disneyland?

I actually didn’t sell the company but we sold the technology to another company. This type of transaction happens frequently because the acquiring party doesn’t want to pick up unforeseen liability. That said, what should I do now? Take the family to Disneyland is a given — but after that. How does a founder plan the next steps?

Exits can be the ultimate blank page.

Any exit — whether selling a tech company or leaving someone’s employ (planned or unplanned) — is an opportunity for growth — and yes, for many, anxiety. The good news is that no matter what the circumstance, it’s a blank page and we each get to decide what will be written on it.

This time, I’m hoping to leverage my entrepreneurial experience perhaps by joining an existing team with exciting prospects.

But after selling 5 startups, how does a guy get a “normal” job?

Of course I did this before — when I sold startup #2. Ahem…that one was an epic failure.

Back then, I contacted a few Venture Capital friends and asked if they had a portfolio company that could use a guy like me. (Yes, you can have VC buddies; especially if you never take their money.) Each seemed excited and so I visited with several companies.

The CEOs of the two companies I found the most interesting worried that I had been sent by their money people to replace them (imagine that). Seriously, one said “you’d make a better CEO [blah blah blah]” and the other asked “should I be worried?”

I guess I’ll interview myself.

So, I went on to found my next company. I interviewed myself and found that I was the right guy for the job!

So, here I was once again. Will things be different?

I don’t know. This time, I decided to send a private message to each of my first-degree connections on LinkedIn. More importantly, I chose not to screen whether I thought a particular connection might know of something for me.

Here’s the sharable message I sent to each:

“Hi [NAME],

[CUSTOM INTRO — (short)].

I recently sold my 5th tech startup. I’m looking to leverage my entrepreneurial experience by joining an existing team with exciting prospects. Could you use a guy like me? 

My experience is vast in technology, strategic marketing, and business development. Having direct experience in many other areas occurring from a life as a serial entrepreneur — I’m willing to help you build your company anywhere and in anyway you need. 

I’m excited to be casting a wide net. Attached is a copy of my resume.

Thanks!

P.S. If I can be of any assistance to you in any other way, please let me know. 

Please watch the 4th installment of my vid on LinkedIn: #NotOnMyResume.

If you merely want to make a YouTube or LinkedIn vid — I’m happy to show you how.

The Results

I sent out approx. 200 customized messages a day for several weeks. These replies fell into three categories:

  1. “Thanks for sharing.”
    This is one of LinkedIn’s automated response buttons… Microsoft AI at its best. I would reply, “Don’t you just love those AI buttons?” and frequently a real conversation would ensue.
  2. We can’t afford someone like you but perhaps you might give us your opinion on something.”
    I do my best here — I’m a big fan of giving back — but limit each appointment to 30 minutes, or it swallows my day.
  3. Impressive resume … we might have something for you.”
    Yay! Then starts the mutual due diligence. Some of these “opportunities” are interesting.

Where one works and what one does is very important to the individual.

Assisting a number of these opportunities is a great way to observe which opportunities bubble to the top that are creative, interesting and challenging. 

Here are some takeaways to consider if you are searching for your own opportunities:

  • #1: Pursue every angle.
    No matter what part of your life, do absolutely everything you can. Only then can the universe kick in and help you. One recent opportunity was the result sending the message above to a PhD student in Texas. Had I pared down my contact list to only those that I felt might know of something — I would have missed that one. Be open.
  • #2: Learn to connect; not just sell.
    If all you do is deliver a product (or service) and take their money… they’ll be your customer. But if you truly connect with people, they’ll be your friend. Which would you rather speak to? Which would be more forgiving? Which would do something without expecting anything in return? Learning to connect is an art form you can learn, if you work for it. Mentoring helps in this area   

Why not do my own thing again?

Yes, that may be for me — I have many ideas. Putting the ideas into a concrete plan and doing the work may be fun again.

Another takeaway as a side note:

Which is more exciting? Assembling a team around a great idea — or assembling a great team of experts and coming together to form a wonderful idea together?

Either way — wouldn’t it be just as satisfying to join a great team that’s properly funded? I think so. But I’ve always believed — being open to anything — moves one in the direction of success. 

Movie Quote: “[Pete] Who elected you leader of this outfit? [Ulysses] Well, Pete, I thought the leader should be the one with the capacity for abstract thought, but if that doesn’t seem to be the case, hell, we’ll put it to a vote. [Pete] Suits me. I’m voting for yours truly. [Ulysses] Well I’m voting for yours truly too. [Delmar] Okay… I’m with you fellas.” —Oh Brother, Where Art Thou? (2000)

Jeremy Webb Blog | Startup Grind https://www.startupgrind.com/blog/just-sold-my-5-tech-startup-what-should-i-do-after-going-to-disneyland/

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Benefits of Business and Life by the Beach

Ah, the ocean; who wouldn’t want to spend time by the beautiful sea?

There’s so many people who live out a fulfilling life by the beach. I’m personally jealous of all of them, as I can think of nothing I’d love more than endless sunrises and sunsets at the beach.

My special connection to the sea.

I’ve always felt a special connection to the ocean, and every time I feel the sand between my toes, I can feel the stress and anxiety draining from my body.

If you are feeling run-down or discontent with your current life, or you want less stress and more happiness, maybe the beach is right for you too. Moving your home, or your business, or even both, to oceanside communities can make a huge difference.

Nature

The ocean covers more than 75 percent of our planet, and it truly is an awe-inspiring part of nature. More than half of the people in the U.S. live along the coast, and I can’t say that I blame them. From the soft sandy shores to the incredibly dark depths in the middle of the ocean, it’s easy to be impressed by the seemingly endless waves and water.

I can still remember the first time I laid eyes on the ocean beach. After growing up surrounded by lakes, I was positively thrilled to finally get the chance to see the ocean that everybody raves about. And it certainly didn’t disappoint.

The waves.

I rushed toward the waves as the sun sunk low in the sky, relishing every sea breeze scent and relaxing sound. Fast forward six years, and my love for the ocean has only grown over time. I cherish any opportunity I get to spend a day soaking in the sun and wading in the waves.

Like many others, I wholeheartedly believe the ocean and its natural, undeniable beauty can work wonders for the wellbeing of everyone. Being surrounded by nature is good for your soul and spirit. Just imagine a leisurely commute along the shore to the store, school, church, or even your workplace. It sure would beat sitting in congested city traffic for hours on end.

Beachside communities.

Most beachside communities enjoy a slower pace of life compared to those in crowded cities and cosmopolitan hotspots. These natural surroundings are tough-to-beat. Whether you want to pursue water activities and hobbies—like jet skiing and fishing—or you’re keen for long strolls on the beach, the natural beauty of the ocean will serve you well and make your wishes come true!

I can think of nothing better than a day spent swimming and suntanning, followed by a lovely walk along the shoreline. Life by the beach is one of the best ways to rekindle your relationship with Mother Nature and our beautiful planet Earth. You’ll feel compelled to spend more time outside and in the fresh air, rather than cooped up inside working or in front of the television.

Bonuses.

Another bonus? You’ll be right next to the ocean, meaning you’ll have plenty of access to fresh seafood restaurants and eateries. Seafood is a very popular industry, with the world’s seafood consumption rate growing by 3.6 perdent a year. Think fresh fish, juicy shrimp, delicate oysters…the possibilities are endless by the sea.

Tourism.

Who wouldn’t want to visit the beach? It seems not many, as millions of people head to the ocean every year. The U.S. Census Bureau estimates that upwards of 58 million Americans visited the beach at least once in 2010. And if you think about any beachside locale, you can surely drum up mental images of crowded bars and beaches with swarms of tourists stopping by for a visit. 

There’s nothing wrong with tourists, and in fact, they help support these oceanside towns. Without visitors, who shell out for accommodations, meals, souvenirs, experiences, excursions, and more, beach towns would make significantly less money.

Out of all my wonderful trips to the beach, every single time I supported at least one small, local business. I may have paid a visit to the local watering hole for a refreshing drink or purchased an adorable t-shirt as a reminder of my travels. When you think of all the others, just like myself, who shop and support these local businesses, it’s truly incredible.

It seems like people will always want to visit the beach. It’s a desire that hasn’t waned over time. This is one of the many reasons why business owners, such as chefs, designers, artisans, and more can make a go of their beachside business.

Where will you spend time on the beach?

There’s always bound to be visitors and patrons at the beach, and many people are taking advantage of the chance to lease sunset beach commercial property. It’s awesome to see how many people find success at opening a business along the seashore; the ocean naturally draws in visitors and paying customers. It’s truly a win-win for any business: a beautiful beachside life and a flourishing business supported by the tourism trade.

Neighbors.

Friendly neighbors and a tight-knit community can make a huge difference in the happiness of a person’s life. I know one of my favorite things about visiting the beach is seeing how warm and welcome everyone is. Whether I stop in for a scoop of ice cream or browse in the gift shop, the locals are always there to greet me and ask about my stay. I find this friendly, sociable way of life to be so endearing, and I wish everywhere was like this.

Do you long for a beachside business?

Whether you’re looking to start a beachside business or thinking about relocating all together, you can look forward to a trustworthy community where people genuinely care about one another. It’s almost like living in a small town, but with the gorgeous ocean backdrop and all the added amenities of life by the sea.

No matter how old you are, most people find it easy to fit in and join an oceanside community where everyone knows everyone and is willing to be friendly and sweet. I can’t think of a better place for a family to bond and make new memories with friends than by the ocean.

Physical fitness.

There is no doubt in my mind that life by the ocean provides mental, physical, and emotional health benefits; I believe this is especially true when it comes to physical fitness. When you work out, you naturally feel good. Sure, you may be sore and tired for a time, but you also feel proud for accomplishing a fitness challenge or striving toward your goal.

Life by the beach awards countless opportunities for fitness and fun. Just think about all the advertised beach rentals, from kayaks and paddle boards to water skis and inflatables. All of these activities offer outdoor fun and a fantastic workout for people of all ages. Just one hour of vigorous swimming can burn up to 650 calories—that’s even more than walking or running.

Any water activity awards similar fitness levels; you can get a fantastic, full-body workout by trying your hand at surfing or snorkeling. That’s not to mention the beachside walks, hikes, and bike rides that so many residents and visitors enjoy. Once you’re at the beach, it’s easy to see how people get their beach body: they spend time exercising outside, in the fresh air and beautiful ocean surroundings.

Budget-Friendly.

Everyone knows that money matters. Whether you live life on a tight budget or you’re looking ahead to spending your hard-earned savings, your wallet and bank accounts would benefit from an affordable life on the beach.

While of course it’s possible to shell out millions for a beachside mansion or a private beach, you don’t have to spend the big bucks to enjoy a gorgeous life by the water. Most oceanside properties and places within walking distance to the water can be quite affordable, especially when compared to high-rise apartments in the largest cities.

Households with every sort of financial background can achieve the beach dream. There are options for everybody; you just have to be realistic about what you want and what you can afford and go from there. Money shouldn’t hold you back from the gorgeous beach life you’ve always wanted.

Find your own paradise.

At the end of the day, you just want to be safe and happy, with healthy family and friends. If you are feeling bogged down by your day-to-day life and you feel like you need a change of pace, the beach may very well be the solution you’re searching for. With so many benefits and positives, it’s likely you’ll feel like a brand-new person once you adopt a more beach-friendly lifestyle. 

Jeremy Webb Blog | Startup Grind https://www.startupgrind.com/blog/benefits-of-business-and-life-by-the-beach/

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

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

Your development.

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

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

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

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

  1. Develop a Detailed Community Building Plan

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

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

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

  1. Give Your Community a Platform

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

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

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

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

  1. Give Your Community Purpose

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

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

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

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

  1. Build an Email List

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

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

A Successful Launch is All About Prelaunch

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

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

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

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VC Corner Q+A with Charles Hudson

Introduction:

Charles Hudson is the Managing Partner at Precursor Ventures, a classic seed stage investment firm based out of San Francisco, CA. Precursor seeks to invest in a company’s first round of institutional investment and focuses on investments in B2B software applications, B2C software and services, and connected hardware.

Prior to launching Precursor, Charles Hudson was a Partner with SoftTech VC, one of the most active seed stage investors in Internet and mobile startups. He focused on identifying investment opportunities in mobile infrastructure, mobile applications, and marketplaces. He was also the Co-Founder and CEO of Bionic Panda Games, an Android-focused mobile games startup.

Prior to joining SoftTech VC and co-founding Bionic Panda Games, Charles Hudson was the VP of Business Development for Serious Business until the company was acquired by Zynga in February 2010. Prior to Serious Business, he was the Sr. Director for Business Development at Gaia Interactive, an online hangout and virtual world for teens. Prior to Gaia, Charles worked in New Business Development at Google and focused on new partnership opportunities for early-stage products in the advertising, mobile, and e-commerce markets. Prior to joining Google, he was a Product Manager for IronPort Systems, a leading provider of anti-spam hardware appliances that was acquired by Cisco Systems for $830 million in 2007.

Charles spent several years working at In-Q-Tel, the strategic venture capital group for the Central Intelligence Agency. While at In-Q-Tel, he focused on identifying investment opportunities that could deliver significant value to the CIA and the commercial market in both the short and long term. He holds an MBA from the Stanford Graduate School of Business and a B.A. in Economics and Spanish from Stanford University.

Q&A:

What is your fund’s mission?

We invest in people over product at the earliest stage of the entrepreneurial journey

What is one thing you are excited about right now?

I’m really excited about how well many of our first-time founders are performing

Who is one founder you think we should watch?

Isa Watson at Envested

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

Is this a prize worth winning?

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

Do I have a clear sense of why an investor should be interested in what I’m building

Favorite business book, blog, podcast?

How I Built This with Guy Raz – check out + subscribe here!

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

I love to read non-fiction

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

It’s your company, you probably know it better than anyone else so trust your own instincts and judgment

When did you close your current fund?

December 2016

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

  1. Recruiting

  2. Fundraising

  3. Reinforcing culture

What and when was your very first investment? What struck you about them?

The very first investment from Precursor Fund I has not yet disclosed that they have taken money, so I can’t say who it is 🙂

Who is one leader you admire?

President Obama

What are the top 3 qualities of every great leader?  

  1. Empathy

  2. Self-awareness

  3. Courage

Jeremy Webb Blog | Startup Grind https://www.startupgrind.com/blog/vc-corner-qa-with-charles-hudson/

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