• Learn How to Build a Powerful Personal Brand That Will Differentiate You and Allow You To Compete in the Global Marketplace.
  • 5 Reasons Everyone Needs a Personal Website

    Websites aren’t just for businesses, big or small. They can serve as your personal home on the internet, allowing you to make yourself visible. A personal website can become a funnel through which you express yourself, showcase your portfolio, or highlight your expertise regarding your hobbies.

    More than that, people who are considering you for opportunities — speaking engagements, training, freelance gigs, consulting — will expect to see that you’ve established yourself as a go-to person in your field. Your style, tone, and approach can signal to others whether you’d be a good fit. A personal website can let you make your pitch in front of people you might never meet otherwise.

    Here are five specific reasons you should consider building a personal website.

    1. It offers a better employment edge.

    If you’re a prospective employee hunting for a job, a site that showcases who you are can give you an edge, especially in a saturated market. It immediately sets you apart from other candidates and can serve as an extension of your résumé. 

    Although your social handles do a pretty job in that regard, a website portrays you as being passionate about what you do. For the best result, make sure your domain name bears your name alongside a .com extension. If there’s anything you want a prospective employer to see, don’t hesitate to feature it on your website. If you can connect it to a certain industry or need, all the better.

    2. It showcases your talent.

    If you have an incredible ability — graphic design, photography, cooking — you can showcase your expertise using a personal website. It automatically becomes a portfolio that serves as a location where people can meet you doing what you do best. 

    Done well, you might be able to get some mouth-watering gigs that would turn your financial situation around. New opportunities might even be developed that take multiple talents of yours into account — most employers and talent seekers love getting as much bang for their buck as they can without hiring multiple people.

    3. It enables you to build valuable skills.

    By running a website, you’ll find yourself learning lots of different things every day. Technology is fast-advancing, and your site will keep you learning and in front of a computer. Once you start managing your website, you’ll be able to say you can create, manage, and create content for a site. In today’s world, that’s a big deal that can fetch a good amount of money.

    To really stretch your creative and technical muscles, add new sections or features to your site. By adding videos, a chat tool, or a selection of products — whether it’s desktop wallpapers or screenprint T-shirts — you’ll push your skills further. Tutorials on YouTube offer a great place to enhance your presence and the “skill” section of your résumé.

    4. You’re able to build an online presence.

    By maintaining a personal website, you control your overall image on the internet. You can determine what you share about yourself and even debunk some myths. 

    An owned website is a powerful tool you can use to set yourself apart and build reach. Before people are interested in engaging with you, they often do some Googling. If you include relevant keywords, location information, and samples, your site will no doubt pop up as a result. In other words, you’ll have total control of your image.

    5. It can become your Plan B.

    As discussed, when you’re running a website, you’ll find yourself learning some incredible skills like web development. You might even become a recognized expert or coach by sharing your knowledge. 

    There are numerous people today who aren’t actively practicing in their field but are blogging or writing about it via their website. Through this medium, they can make money through Google AdSense, affiliate marketing, or even eBooks. A lot of individuals have been able to make a living through their website without currently having a direct role in an industry they’re well-versed in.

    The advantages of having a personal website are enormous. The gains outweigh the costs, and it’s something you’ll never regret building. All you have to do is choose a reliable web host, register your domain, install WordPress, and share your expertise with the world.

     

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    Posted in Personal Branding

    How Continuous Learning Makes You a Better Leader

    Almost every successful leader has one thing in common — they never tire of learning. Lifelong learning is one of the key factors in growing successful businesses. The reason it makes such a difference is that it gives leaders an edge. If you want to become a better leader, make continuous learning a priority.

    How Continuous Learning Gives You An Edge

    Leaders with a thirst for knowledge are the ones that gain an advantage over their peers and competitors. Here’s why.

    Keeps You Updated With Industry Trends and Technology

    In this fast-paced world, if you’re not keeping up with the latest trends and technology you won’t stay ahead of the curve and your competitors will overtake you. Whether it’s attending conferences or tracking trends on social media, leaders who stay informed are able to be proactive rather than reactive.

    Upgrades Your Skills

    Your team is only as good as your leadership. If you’re upgrading your skills, you pass these on to your team and that helps propel the business forward. Skills development isn’t just about technical skills. It can also be soft skills like interpersonal skills, negotiating skills, and adaptability. Even personal development courses can help you evolve into a well-rounded leader.

    It Helps You Think Outside The Box

    Businesses that are innovative are often strides ahead of the competition. The secret to innovation is lifelong learning. That’s because learning opens your thinking to new ideas that can spark innovation. Rigid leaders stagnate while open-minded and flexible leaders come up with creative solutions. Learning about new technology, methods, and techniques can prompt you to think outside the box.

    It Elevates Your Personal Brand

    Personal branding is about how you market yourself in terms of your skills, experience, and personality. It builds your reputation, something that’s crucial for leaders. People naturally follow a credible leader. Continuous learning is one way to build a strong reputation and elevate your personal brand. Knowledge is convincing and makes you more persuasive. If you know what you’re talking about, people listen and respect your opinion.

    Six Ways To Continue Learning

    Learning isn’t about formal education only. Lifelong learning comes in various forms, and some of it is free. Just having a conversation with a peer or a thought leader can offer valuable insight. Here are six ways to continue learning.

    1. Read books

    Reading books has become a lost art. A 2015 survey by the National Endowment for the Arts showed that only 43% of Americans read literature. Successful leaders are the opposite. Some of the most successful and busiest leaders on the planet, like Warren Buffet and Bill Gates, have an insatiable appetite for reading. They make time to read because they know how important reading is for learning and leadership.

    2. Listen to podcasts

    There is an abundance of podcasts available online. TED Talks, for example, has many excellent talks that are informative and inspiring. If you admire a well-known leader, subscribe to their podcast and you’ll be privy to all their leadership tips. If you feel you weren’t born a leader, Coaching for Leaders with Dave Stachowiak believes leaders aren’t born, they’re made. There’s a ton of content to help develop leadership skills — from a weekly leadership guide, an audio course, and interviews with leadership experts.

    3. Network

    Networking offers the opportunity to meet new people. From these interactions can come plenty of learning opportunities. The broader your network, the more you can learn from others. There’s always someone who has traveled the road before you. You can even learn from those who are at the same point in the journey as you are. Always be open to talking to people. You’ll be surprised at what you can learn.

    4. Connect with a mentor

    Most successful leaders and entrepreneurs believe in mentorship. Mentors are proven to help small business owners achieve success faster. A survey by Kabbage revealed that 92% of the small business owners said that mentorship had a direct impact on the growth of their business. Mentors push you beyond your comfort zone. They also provide objective insight and a different perspective on your leadership and business direction.

    5. Attend seminars, virtual keynotes, and conferences

    Attending seminars, conferences, and following virtual keynote speakers helps you to keep pace with industry trends, upgrade your skills, and grow your network. There are also several great seminars and conferences focused on strengthening leadership skills.

    6. Formal study

    Lastly, don’t overlook the benefits of formal study. If you already have a bachelor’s degree, consider studying for a master’s in your field or in management and leadership. Gaining a master’s degree not only helps you gain new knowledge but can open doors to better jobs in leadership and an increase in salary.

    As a busy leader, you may argue that it’s difficult to find time for continuous learning. If Tony Robbins read 100 books a year for seven years, you too can make time for learning. If you’re serious about becoming a more dynamic leader, then you can’t afford not to.

     

     

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    Posted in management

    4 Best Gifts for High-Value Clients

    Thank you” is a powerful phrase, but it’s just that: a phrase. 

    You thank every customer for their business. When it comes to your most valuable clients, how can you communicate that extra level of appreciation?

    You could offer a discount on future purchases, but it’s easy to see that as a sales tactic. A tour of your facilities might be interesting — but do big-spending clients actually have the time for that? VIP events and team meet-and-greets are beset by that same issue.

    The best way to go the extra mile for your top clients? A gift.

    Go-To Gifts by Personality

    Personalized gifts are commonly used by everyone from casino marketers and other niche industries to general business consultants to create lasting client relationships. Gifting leverages the reciprocity principle, which encourages the recipient to treat the giver well in return. 

    What makes a good client gift? The Business Gift Satisfaction Survey says the right amount to spend is $50-$150 per gift. Choose something meaningful in that range by thinking about each client’s personal tastes. If you’re not sure where to start, consider:

    1. For the Technophile: Noise-Cancelling Bluetooth Headphones
      Although some of the best noise-cancelling Bluetooth headphones of 2019 fall north of that core price range, they all make great gifts for tech-loving clients. On flights, in traffic, and at the office, a solid pair of noise-cancelling headphones turns a loud space into a sanctuary. Whether they’re catching up on work or getting in some R&R, headphones can be a lifesaver.

      One cost-effective option that’s nearly as good as the top players? Anker’s SoundCore Space NC. Temporarily discounted from $99 to $55, SoundCore Space NC is a pair of over-ear headphones that’s surprisingly effective at drowning out noise. When used wirelessly, it offers 21 hours of continuous playtime, but it does include a jack for wired use.

      2. For the Fashionista: Premium Scents and Cosmetics
      If a high-value client always walks in looking and smelling his or her best, a small-box gift might go a long way: Opt for a classy perfume, cologne, or cosmetic set. Happen to know their favorite scent? Even better. 

    For the women on your list, Clinique Fan Favourites is currently available for $49.50 with any Clinique purchase of $29.50 or more. The Fan Favourites set is a $225 value, comprised of best sellers like Dramatically Different Moisturizing Lotion and Moisture Surge Overnight Mask. Also included in the glittery bag are make-up remover, skin repair serum, mascara, lipstick and foaming cleanser. Why not get a full-size product for yourself and give the Fan Favourites set away?

    What about the guys? For your top male customers, provide a confidence boost via Yves Saint Laurent La Nuit de L’Homme. Priced between $58 and $128, depending on size, the fragrance is often described as a sensual, complex mix of cardamom, cedar and coumarin.

    3. For the Foodie: Snack Baskets
    Wow your food-loving customers with a gourmet gift basket full of specialty foods and treats. When shared with others, the baskets are a great excuse for clients to tell family and friends about your service.

    Around the holidays, the Christmas Gift Basket Premium is a smart choice. Available for $89.99, the basket contains kettle corn, chocolate chip cookies, summer sausage, gouda cheese, dark chocolate, and several smaller snacks.

    Want to go the extra mile? Ask for a personalized basket. Gourmet Gift Baskets, which sells the Christmas Gift Basket Premium, lets you add a coffee mug or ribbon emblazoned with the text of your choice. Personalization in any form can go a long way. It shows you know your client well and are truly being thoughtful with your gift.

    4. For the Creative Leader: Smart Journals and Pens
    Not sure what to get the executive or creative client on your list? Leaders have a lot on their plates, and anything to help them stay organized is often appreciated. Plus, it shows them you’re really thinking about what they actually need.

    Moleskine has three smart notebooks that easily transfer hand-written notes and sketches to a digital counterpart. The Dropbox Smart Notebook comes with a three-month subscription to Dropbox and the Moleskine Page Camera app, which allows you to easily digitalize, edit, share and store your freehand notes and drawings. At $29.95 each, a set of two falls into the right price range.

    A quality notebook calls for the right writing utensil: Cross has an Edge pen that is a capless rollerball design for smooth operation. For less mess, it can be converted to a ballpoint pen with the right ink refill. Priced at $20.79, this is another gift that might be best given as a set.

    Gifting is a staple of business for good reason. The right gift shows you know the recipient not just as a client, but as a person. Whenever your client picks up your present, they’ll remember you in a way that “thank you” can’t hold a candle to.

    Posted in Marketing

    10 Tools to Establish and Maintain a Reputable Brand

    Brand building is far from easy, especially if you are establishing your personal brand or profile. Whether you are an entrepreneur looking for partners or clients, or a professional looking to enhance your online résumé, you cannot just rely on creativity. You also need to study your target audience, have a good idea of how to stand out, and how to target your messaging. You need a brand and personality that will attract prospective clients or contacts, and which will foster engagement with them.

    When using online channels such as a website or social platform, you also need to ensure you are accessible and discoverable to your audience.

    Fortunately, there are web-based tools designed to help enhance brand reputation without being an expert at web optimization. These are not specifically marketed as brand-building tools, but these solutions can be highly useful for building successful teams and brands.

    Web Accessibility: AccessiBe

    Web accessibility is often ignored, but it is an important factor to consider when building a brand. Aside from being a legal requirement in a number of major markets like the United States and European Union, web accessibility is also essential in reaching out to potential customers who have difficulty seeing, hearing, or navigating websites on screen or through a device. It does not only expand reach. It also comes with the benefit of being perceived more favorably—as a company that cares about people with disabilities, for example.

    AccessiBe makes it possible to achieve web accessibility without any programming knowledge. With the help of artificial intelligence, the platform scans a website to determine accessibility gaps and remedy them. In a matter of hours, the solution incorporates the accessibility requirements that make a website compliant with global regulations on accessible online content.

    Content Discovery: BuzzSumo

    BuzzSumo is a social data and online content tracking tool used by several major brands. It helps marketers determine which content works and which do not. This tool has four components: content discovery, content research, influencer search, and monitoring. The content discovery feature presents ideas on high-performing content. The content research part of the tool analyzes billions of data points to help enhance marketing strategies. The influencer search part finds influential endorsers to help boost a marketing campaign. Lastly, the monitoring feature oversees comments and trends to facilitate appropriate and rapid response.

    Regarded as one of the better alternatives to the now defunct Klout, BuzzSumo nurtures brand reputation by taking advantage of social media to highlight the positives and address the negatives.

    Competitor Analysis: Sprout Social

    A tool for competitor analysis, Sprout Social makes it easy to gather and analyze data on competitor performance. It generates different kinds of reports to monitor Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter metrics without the tedious manual process involving spreadsheets. It also features an advanced social media listening feature that provides actionable insights to improve brand health. Sprout Social taps into publicly available posts or conversations on social media to learn about the public’s perception of your brand and others within your industry.

    Time Analytics: Calendar

    Time is money so understanding how your team spends their time and interacts with customers is key to a strong brand. This calendar app can help your team with smart scheduling, meeting transcriptions, and time analytics.  The tool can help you identify how your team spends their time and provides features to help them be as efficient as possible with customers. It also can connect across different calendars that Google, Apple, and Microsoft provide so you have a central place for any scheduling that takes place at your company.

    Customer Service: Freshdesk

    A cloud-based customer support platform, Freshdesk is designed for businesses of all sizes, including small businesses and consultancies. It allows any company to provide excellent customer service with its ticketing, analytics, team inbox features, as well as its service level agreements. AI streamlines customer conversations, automates repetitive processes, and makes it easy to collaborate with other teams for faster issue resolution. Productivity is improved with time- and event-triggered automation. Additionally, Freshdesk makes it possible for customers to help themselves through a searchable knowledge base, automatic solution suggestions, forum, and a feedback mechanism.

    Quality Assurance: Inspect2GO

    Designed for small manufacturers, Inspect2GO may not be applicable to all kinds of businesses, but it is an example of an excellent cloud-based quality control software. It helps boost product quality management while lowering manufacturing costs. It works with a native mobile app, which can be used offline for a flexible data collection process. Other features of this web-based quality assurance solution are data analytics, documentation, database hosting, ad hoc reporting, data management, and notifications.

    This app has many use cases, which can apply to small businesses or solo enterprises, as well—such as e-commerce providers. As mentioned, you can’t build a reputable brand if your product or service itself does not meet the expectations of your customers. That’s why it helps to employ a tool that facilitates quality assurance to avoid disappointing customers and setting off negative word of mouth.

    Customer Satisfaction: Survey Monkey

    Many tend to have negative preconceptions about surveys, but they are good tools for collecting data that can help businesses in brand building. One survey platform that is worth considering is Survey Monkey. Designed to simplify the process of collecting customer feedback, Survey Monkey efficiently measures customer satisfaction and helps businesses learn about the areas that need improvements. Survey Monkey features numerous templates, custom logo and branding, data analysis, and advanced branching (for customizing the behavior of a survey).

    Visual Design: Canva

    Canva is a free web-based graphic design tool suitable for beginners and experts alike. Brand building certainly requires visual elements like a logo, Twitter header, or a slideshow. Thus, you need a tool that makes it easy to express your ideas through a simple interface. Canva offers a simple option that does not require users to have design and technical skills. It provides a collection of templates and functions to produce professional-looking images you can use for your branding.

    Scheduling and Payment: Appointment

    Making it extremely easy to schedule and keep appointments is vital to a successful brand. Customers need to have an experience with your people that is organized. One of the big reason for a customer to be upset is if they have to wait on a service provider. Appointment is a scheduling and booking tool that helps you operate from multiple locations, receive secure payments, and keeps your team in order so that customers can count on them being ready at the right times.

    Reputation Management: Google Alerts

    Google Alerts will provide notifications about mentions of your brand or name online. A flattering mention in an article or blog post needs to be given a boost by sharing it on social media or giving it “likes” or “up votes.” A negative post, on the other hand, should be addressed without delay. If it’s a smear campaign, you can respond with clarification or even send takedown notices. If the negative post reflects a real problem, you can use the information to address customer needs and provide a solution.

    These are just some of the many online solutions you can use to establish and sustain a good brand online — whether you are running a small business, or establishing your personal profile. Many of these have free options so there’s no excuse in not being able to use them for branding.

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    Posted in Corporate Branding, Employer Branding

    6 Simple but Critical Cyber Security Measures for Businesses

    For businesses, investing in cybersecurity is a must to maintain a strong brand. Threats are often indiscriminate. Attacks don’t target companies because they are perceived to be successful, and there’s a good hoard to steal. Even new and small companies become the subject of the assaults. Of note, small businesses were the victims of around 4 out of 10 of cyberattacks, according to the Verizon 2019 Data Breach Investigations Report.

    Cross-site scripting, SQL injection, eavesdropping, man-in-the-middle, ransomware, and other attacks are on the rise. Add to these the more aggressive cases of phishing and social engineering. It’s important to be aware of these threats and to be ready with the right prevention tools or systems.

    It would be preferable if you have access to user and entity behavior analytics (UEBA) solutions to make it easy to identify dubious activities and plug the vulnerabilities. However, there are things you can do put up a decent defense against cyber threats. It’s possible to fend off even the latest forms of cyber threats by adopting simple but essential measures discussed below.

    Cybersecurity Training

    Arguably, the most important cybersecurity measure any company must implement is to provide security education and training. Making everyone in the organization well-versed with the threats (and the appropriate solutions to counter them) reduces the chances of falling prey to attacks significantly.

    People are regarded as the biggest security vulnerability in organizations. Unlike software that generally perform as they are configured, humans are prone to trickery. In particular, employees who have no inkling what a cyberattack looks like tend to facilitate the penetration. There are also those who are deceived into turning off precautionary measures. Classic examples of which are gullible employees who click on ads about winning the lottery or software that supposedly addresses the slow performance of their computers. After clicking these ads, they unwittingly end up installing malware into their system.

    Formal or organized cybersecurity training sessions are preferable, but it’s also possible to send out modules or DIY learning kits. What’s important is to inform everyone about the security threats that perpetually hound businesses. A test/evaluation or attack simulation may then be conducted to determine if everybody understands the things they need to know.

    Firewalls

    Many pundits claim that firewalls are no longer necessary as they don’t have meaningful capabilities in stopping attacks. This opinion is limited to traditional firewalls, though. The new generation of firewalls do more than port and socket filtering. They integrate VPN functions as well as the ability to act as HTTPS inspection proxies. They can also block DDoS attacks, execute intrusion detection/prevention, filter URLs, block upper layer attacks, and do inline patching.

    Not all firewalls are the same, so you need to scrutinize your options carefully. Examine the features available and evaluate their reliability. Make sure you are getting a firewall that does more than perimeter-based defense something that has both client-side and network protection. Look for those that provide URL and attachment filtering, patch discovery, and DDoS protection.

    Data and Service Access Limits

    Not everyone in an organization should be allowed access to all data and services. It’s essential to implement restrictions based on clearance levels. This is not to promote distrust but to prevent accidental or unwitting actions that can compromise the security of a business. As mentioned, people are the biggest security weakness in organizations. It’s a reality that is difficult to change even with rigorous training and constant reminders. You can use data tools like ETL Robot to extract data to organize your data so that it’s easier to access large amounts of data.

    Access to critical information and the ability to implement changes in the network and operating systems should be limited to the higher-ups. Designated employees with proven cybersecurity mindfulness may also be granted access for the sake of efficiency. Strict access protocols may be counterproductive, so it’s not a bad idea to have compromises.

    The Use of Strong Passwords and Regular Password Changes

    Passwords are vital in maintaining user accounts and regulating access to privileged data and services. It should be compulsory for everyone to use strong passwords. Nobody should be allowed to use common words, names, or repetitive characters just because they are easy to remember.

    If employees have difficulties remembering passwords, they can come up with a code or mnemonic. For example, for their email account, they can convert the name of the email service into numbers or characters (example: 1 for A, 2 for B, etc.) and append to it an anagram of their favorite word and a string of numbers and symbols they can easily remember.

    Strong passwords are a combination of letters, numbers, and symbols or other characters. They should also be case sensitive and should have at least one uppercase and one lowercase letter. Nobody should be allowed to use passwords that only consist of letters or numbers. As much as possible, the passwords should be generated by the users themselves so they can remember it without the need to store it somewhere. Also, different accounts should have different passwords.

    Moreover, it is advisable to regularly change passwords. Even the strongest passwords can be compromised by carelessness. You may have used the password in a device that had a keylogger in it. Somebody may have managed to sniff your login credentials as you used a public Wi-Fi connection. To be safe, passwords need to be changed periodically and when there are suspicions of a breach.

    Multi-Factor Authentication

    In addition to using strong passwords, it is also recommended to use multi-factor authentication (MFA). For the uninitiated, this means the use of another “factor” before an account login can proceed. For example, after entering the username and password, a login code (sent to the user’s email or phone) may be required. It could also be a fingerprint or facial recognition scan.

    This is one of the most effective ways to prevent unwanted access to accounts. It applies not only to online accounts, but also to internal systems for accessing data and services. It would be extremely difficult for even the most skilled hackers to simulate the additional factor needed in an MFA or 2FA-secured login.

    Software Updates

    Lastly, it’s vital to always update the software used in an organization. Updates are not only for the addition of new features. In most cases, what they provide are security fixes or patches. Software developers release them to address recently discovered security issues or vulnerabilities.

    Operating systems, in particular, must be updated whenever updates are available. The OS determines how everything in a computer operates. If there are exploitable bugs in it, it’s not going to be difficult for cybercriminals to access or infect everything else.

    The Takeaway

    Cybersecurity is not a highly complicated matter. Anyone who knows how to use a computer should be able to implement the critical security measures listed above, especially after receiving some form of training or orientation. Securing a business is not the responsibility of only one or a few people. It is the job of everyone to enable effective cybersecurity. Thus, everybody in an organization must be involved and trained on the best practices to adopt.

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    Posted in Project Management

    5 Ways Smart Entrepreneurs Can Survive the Oncoming Recession

    While your business might be riding high on today’s economy, every entrepreneur needs to be prepared for what might come next. More than 75 percent of economists agree that a recession is coming by next year. Few companies, however, have a strategy in place to deal with the fallout.

    Most companies try to save cash and pad their client list to protect themselves against economic downturns. While more money never hurts a business, short-term fixes only plug the hole temporarily. If you want to survive what comes next, you need a more sustainable plan.

    Even with a recession potentially around the corner, there are plenty of safeguards you can implement. Here are five strategies for thriving during the next bear market: 

    1. Change your procurement strategy.

    One of a business’s biggest expenses is procurement — getting the goods you need to operate. Even if you currently have a solid procurement strategy, the financial strain of a recession could seriously hinder your options when it comes to purchasing.

    While you should constantly be on the lookout for better deals, joining a group purchasing organization is a long-term option for keeping costs low. Group purchasing organizations, or GPOs, leverage the power of their large buying networks to secure the best possible prices for members. Getting involved with a GPO can allow you to create a procurement strategy now that won’t require time-intensive re-evaluation if the market takes a dive. 

    2. Go with consistency over revenue. 

    When scouting for new clients, it can be tempting to shoot for the largest accounts with the highest payoffs. There’s nothing wrong with seeking more revenue. But recession-proofing your business means picking the kinds of clients who will provide your business with a steady income stream. 

    Before taking on a new client, examine the business and its likelihood of long-term success. While it’s now common knowledge that up to 70 percent of tech startups end up shutting their doors, that number can be even higher for other sectors. Ninety-seven percent of consumer hardware startups, for example, fail to become viable businesses. When building your client portfolio, make sure to fill it with businesses that will be able to stick it out, no matter what comes next. 

    3. Disrupt the root of the problem. 

    What do Procter & Gamble, IBM, and GE have in common? In addition to being some of the world’s most valuable companies, they were all founded during an economic slump. Recessions may be serious setbacks for some businesses, but they can represent invaluable opportunities for others. 

    When a recession strikes, look for a way to make the most of it. Wal-Mart stock, for example, hit record highs in 2008 as more consumers turned to the superstore for a cheaper alternative. Brainstorm what products or services your business could provide that might be in particularly high demand during the coming recession — it could pay off big in the long run.

    4. Enter new sectors. 

    When the economy enters a recession, different parts are affected differently. In 2008, for example, home furnishing companies reported a 5.8 percent decline, while nail polish companies actually grew by 5.9 percent. 

    That doesn’t mean your business needs to corner the nail polish market, but it does mean that you need to consider covering your risk by entering more diverse sectors. It’s almost impossible to predict exactly what’s going to be hit in the next recession, so it’s best to expand into several sectors to ensure that at least part of your business remains profitable when times get tough. 

    5. Boost your marketing. 

    In the wake of the 2008 recession, ad spending in the United States dropped by 13 percent, and it’s easy to see why. Even in good times, marketing budgets are often the first to get slashed — but it’s during a recession that marketing deserves the most attention. 

    When the economy turns south, people are desperate for alternatives. By boosting your marketing during the toughest times, you can tap into consumer restlessness by offering an alternative. A recession may tighten your budget, so use that as an opportunity to get creative with your marketing. Focus on user-generated content, word of mouth, or other low-cost campaigns that bring in new customers without breaking the bank.

    A recession is a scary prospect for any business, but it’s always better to face one with a strategy in place. By planning beforehand, you can ensure your company stays afloat — and even makes the most of it along the way.

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    Posted in Corporate Branding

    6 Tips for Content That Converts

    Name a major company, and you can bet it invests in content marketing. Among those with 100 or more employees, 84.5 percent use the tactic to build awareness and generate leads. So why is it that barely half of B2B marketers think it produces “good” ROI?

    The reason is simple: Not all content converts. Content must be aligned with its audience, on brand, compelling, and helpful to actually make a dent. On top of that, it needs to be part of a marketing funnel that drives readers to take the desired action.

    Even if your content is producing some conversions, it could almost certainly create more. To optimize your content marketing:

    1. Personalize, but don’t get carried away.

    Customized content will always outperform generalized material for a simple reason: Consumers want content that’s relevant to them.

    Email is one of the most effective channels for customization, but today’s readers expect more than just a customized greeting. Persona-specific emails can improve click-through rates significantly, and they’re particularly effective for companies that cater to diverse audiences.

    Hook your audience by building meaningful personas based on demographics and psychographics, but know when to stop. B2B agency Renegade’s CEO, Drew Neisser, points out that the law of diminishing returns applies to personas — a lot of brands waste money by over-segmenting. That over-segmentation can lead to a splintered brand message, so Neisser emphasizes cohesive messaging. Don’t let personalization take you too far away from your brand story.

    2. Deliver real value.

    At the end of the day, you want your content to be useful to those who see it. Consumers are smart enough to spot thinly veiled product pitches. To ensure you’re delivering value, Lindsay Kolowich, a team manager at HubSpot, recommends writing to a single person.

    Think back to those demographics and psychographics. What problem is your user trying to solve, or what opportunity might she want to tap? Then, consider how your product or service fits in. You don’t want to pitch it directly, but do steer the content in its direction.

    Say you sell lawn and garden equipment. A homeowner might simply want a faster way to cut the grass, but a professional landscaper may care about beauty above speed. Before writing the first sentence of your post, determine which person’s need you want to address. 

    3. Pick platforms wisely. 

    Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook are just the start. Newer sites like TikTok, Kik, and Houseparty offer additional options for reaching your audience members where they are. Yet many marketers continue to treat social media monolithically, blasting the same content regardless of site.

    Each platform has a different set of rules — written and unwritten — that dictate which posts are successful. Shopify’s content marketing manager, Braveen Kumar, explains that snark, sarcasm, and inside jokes resonate with Redditors. Kumar also emphasizes the importance of choosing the right subreddit and participating in discussions.

    Before posting from a branded account, spend an hour scrolling through top posts. If the community seems like one that would be receptive to your brand, comment on others’ posts. Avoid making too much of a splash until you know how you’ll be received: Posting a few times and then abandoning the platform looks worse on your brand than skipping the site altogether. 

    4. Promote the right way. 

    With different platforms come different promotional tools. When Instagram announced its new promotion mechanism, the photo-sharing site revealed that 68 percent of all users come to the platform to engage with content creators. No wonder branded content ads and influencer marketing are particularly successful on Instagram.

    Other promotion options exist outside social media. Via Google, many content creators invest in paid search, a model in which the advertiser only pays when a user clicks through to the target site. Search engine optimization is a popular alternative: SEO focuses on optimizing the target site and content itself to encourage Google to list it higher in search engine results.

    With any promotional tactic you can name, studies exist showing it’s the most effective. Instead of treating any one as gospel, experiment. On YouTube, for instance, you might invest a little in pre-roll ads, a little in skippable ads, and a little in overlay ads. Scale your investments according to performance.

    5. Default to video. 

    Cisco reports that this year, video will account for 80 to 90 percent of all traffic on the internet. Although that figure might make you worry about your video getting lost in the shuffle, don’t be: One reason video claims so much bandwidth is because consumers love to share it. If your goal is to boost brand awareness, video is the obvious path forward.

    The difficult choice is picking the right type of video. Should you go for a six-second short that makes people laugh or a long-format one that elicits deep engagement? Think back to your goals: If you’re looking for leads, something brief with a call to action at the end is your best bet. For awareness, longer features may be better.

    With either option, skip celebrities and show real people. Lexus’ “Takumi” is a 60,000-hour documentary that honors the Japanese craftsmen behind its cars. Not only would the video be prohibitively expensive if Lexus had hired big-name actors, but it also wouldn’t have had the sense of authenticity Lexus was looking for. 

    6. Be human.

    Speaking of authenticity, the most impactful content is rarely the flashiest. According to SEO expert Kristopher Jones, authenticity boils down to honesty. Authentic content is upfront about its value, casual in style, and unapologetic about its author’s perspective.

    Spend time with your content. Don’t be afraid to throw away the first draft, and don’t worry about whether it makes you sound “smart” enough. Deliver tips plainly, but with ample explanation. Lastly, make sure you byline someone specific. Unless you have reason to believe the content will be a magnet for trolls, allow users to respond and engage with comments.

    In the world of content marketing, conversion is the name of the game. But producing conversions isn’t as simple as posting memes or pumping out product guides. Think about what your readers want to know, address them directly, and don’t be afraid to have some fun with them.

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    Posted in Marketing

    3 Things Employees Need to Make Data-Driven Decisions

    Many companies roll out a new business intelligence strategy with high hopes, only to experience underwhelming employee adoption rates and a low return on investment. This situation understandably leaves leaders scratching their heads wondering, “What happened?”

    To put it simply: Becoming a data-driven organization requires more than simply deploying new business intelligence (BI) software or ordering employees to turn to data more often in their daily decision making.

    Here are three things employees need to make data-driven decisions to fuel positive business outcomes.

    Data-Driven Company Culture

    Employee decisions don’t exist in a vacuum. Rather, employees’ attitudes about data and their willingness to embrace it into their workflows are very much shaped by the overall company culture.

    Here are a few key cultural factors capable of affecting how employees treat data:

    • How leaders use data, talk about data and encourage others to do so
    • The expectations surrounding data usage
    • The degree to which employee decisions are taken seriously, implemented and rewarded

    It’s counterintuitive to expect employees to embrace data and incorporate it into regular decision making if leaders seem to be making little effort to do so publicly. Similarly, if an employee sees a colleague stick their neck out to make a suggestion based on data and it’s received lukewarmly or ignored by the rest of the team, they may feel deterred from doing so in the future — and justifiably so. As CIO writes, “Data without decisions is like burying your money in the ground.”

    Data-driven culture starts with setting clear expectations, leading by example from the top down and demonstrating to employees their data efforts tangibly affect decision-making and performance.

    Accessible Business Intelligence Tools

    Employees will also need access to user friendly business intelligence tools to optimize decision-making. Today platforms like ThoughtSpot offer search-driven data analytics tools — allowing employees to ask specific questions and explore queries— plus artificial intelligence-driven analytics to automatically uncover hidden insights lurking within data.

    This multi-pronged approach gives employees ad hoc answers to all the questions they have in seconds without requiring them to wait for a report. It also helps alert users to patterns and anomalies that could otherwise hide within billions of rows of data forever, just waiting for someone to notice it.

    Modern BI tools offer a few key advantages over their legacy counterparts, including the ability to embed BI throughout existing applications and workflows. Todays’ tools also emphasize user friendliness for non-technical users, which means everyone can access insights without needing in-depth training or constant oversight from IT professionals.

    Data Literacy Training

    BI tools themselves may be accessible to all, but employees can still benefit from having deeper context for data insights they find. This means companies should invest in data literacy training to provide the foundation for interpreting and analyzing data.

    Here’s an example of data literacy in action from Transforming Data with Intelligence: Airbnb found it was not feasible to have a data scientist always present to inform every decision, especially with more than 20 international offices. So, the company launched Data University to provide education to engineers, product managers, designers and everyone else — including how to analyze and visualize data, then incorporate findings into decision making. The result? Employees learned how to handle ad hoc data requests without turning to data specialists, and engagement on its data platform doubled within a year.

    Employees need data literacy training, the right BI tools and a data-driven culture to fully incorporate data insights into decision making.

     

     

    Posted in Skill Development

    Personal Branding Tips For Executives In “Boring” Industries

    Building a personal brand is all about capturing attention. If you work in a “boring” industry, it can be tough to communicate the key benefits that differentiate you from competitors. Especially when you work in an industry that’s not usually the topic of conversation or trending on social media.

    Take the VoIP industry, a very boring industry. It’s hard to make VOIP stand out or make it “sexy”. People don’t usually turn to VoIP companies for engaging content, actionable educational or entertainment. But with the right attitude and the ability to produce quality content, leaders even in the boring Cloud VoIP industry can gain recognition and build an audience. (I’ll show you a real life example in bullet #1 below).

    In this article I’ll show you real examples of how to capture your target market’s attention, convert them into stark raving fans, and build your personal brand even when you’re in a boring industry.

    Ready? Let’s roll!

    1. Be Bold. Be Authentic. 

    Wallflowers and shrinking violets don’t build brands. People who are bold and enthusiastic do. For executives looking to make their mark and build a brand, being a hands-on, in the trenches type of person translates into authentic experience.

    You don’t want to be the kind of exec that takes all the credit and not know how anything works. If your team does the heavy lifting while you get the kudos but you can’t explain how your widget works, then people are not going to respect your opinion.

    Someone who shows they know what they are doing and can express their “Why” is going to be more authentic.

    Don’t be afraid to have an opinion and share it, even if it happens to touch on the politics of the day. If it is earnest, authentic and well-thought-out—not some emotionally charged overreaction—then boldly proclaim it and let the discourse begin. That is what builds engagement, followers, and brands. 

    Those who take a position and confidently support their way of thinking are more likely to stand out 

    People value leaders who are confident and don’t flip-flop on their beliefs just to appease the masses. Sure, some feathers may get ruffled, but how many low-key, wishy-washy executives can you name? Exactly. You can’t name many because they don’t stand out and nobody knows who they are.

    2. Share Actionable Expertise

    Just because your industry isn’t interesting doesn’t mean no one is interested. You can still share your knowledge and expertise to build your brand. Take Ryan Stewman, the sales and marketing expert who runs a sales training called The Hardcore Closer.

    Ryan gained a loyal following talking about lead generation. He has built a multi-million dollar business by taking what has worked for him, sharing it, and monetizing it.

    Ryan was on the cutting edge of using social media and videos to promote himself and connect with people when he started in sales. Because of his success, he started to teach other salespeople how to use social media to connect with people and use tools for lead generation. 

    He built a lead generation software company called Phonesites that helps salespeople create their own sales funnels. He offered free training on Facebook live and produced free content in the form of articles and training videos.

    Sharing his expertise helped grow his personal brand which has allowed him to scale into other successful business ventures. He’s doing it right.

    Chris the founder of SalesMessage is another great example. He has been using SMS texting to communicate with anyone who contacts their business or even subscribes to their webinars, events, or blog. 

    He shares actionable tips, tricks and information while trying to covert some of the leads who contact him and gets a whopping 70% response rate on SMS texts. He recently shared the complete set of sample text messages to send to customers on his blog. He engages his potential customers and build his following.

    But, one of the biggest mistakes you can make in personal branding is to be and act like someone you are not. You will eventually be outed, caught, or exposed. 

    When building a personal brand, don’t pretend to be someone you’re not or have expertise when you don’t.

    Elizabeth Holmes, CEO of the once highly-touted blood-testing startup Theranos, was once the darling of Silicon Valley. She was seen as an influencer and visionary in the same vein as Steve Jobs.

    Theranos WAS Elizabeth Holmes and her personal brand of being a healthcare wunderkind carried the firm. Unfortunately for many people, the whole company and the whole story was a massive fraud. She faked her expertise and knowledge, the company was exposed and now it is no more.

    A personal brand built on lies and half-truths will come back to bite you.

    3. Be the MVP of Value

    If you want to really stand out, you must be useful and add maximum value at all times. Do this by offering free info, training, and content about your industry and share that info while speaking at events and on podcasts.

    We’re talking about sharing real expertise, not just thoughts or opinions, but practical knowledge that comes from actually having done the work.

    Jack Kosakowski kills it here. Jack has been providing actionable social selling advice and content for over 5 years. With his SkillsLab social selling site, he has been helping salespeople to increase their presence through social media and how to correctly connect with—and sell to—their target clients. 

    Value comes from experience. Jack has churned out content on social media, his blog, publications like The Harvard Business Review, and on podcasts—continually sharing what has worked for him, and how it took him from a newbie salesperson to the CEO of the US division of a Global Digital Agency.

    4. Stop Selling and Build Trust Instead

    Look, you don’t need to be Billy Mays or the ShamWow guy, pitching and promoting all day while operators are standing by. Constantly pushing product is exhausting. But talking and engaging with people in your own voice—your true self—and showing them how to succeed with examples and actionable ideas will build trust.

    When you let people see the real you, trust is built and your brand strengthens and attracts new prospects.

    Trust isn’t built by speaking AT people. It’s built by engaging and speaking WITH with your audience.

    People like to do business with people they know, like and trust. And that’s usually not the guy with the bullhorn shouting “Look at me! Look at me!” Differentiate yourself by sharing knowledge from real-world experience in an authentic, engaging way that creates value and trustworthiness. This will build your personal brand.

    When someone needs to seek out info in your industry, you will be top-of-mind because you will be the rockstar of your “boring” industry. They will come to you for the value you provide because you’ve built trust due to engagement, value, and expertise. 

     

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    Posted in Personal Branding

    4 Ways to Increase Customer Renewals

    American companies lose nearly $140 billion annually to avoidable customer churn — that’s a number that would be frightening if it didn’t make so much sense. Businesses lose customers all the time, and it’s not always for good reasons. 

    Regular customer renewal is critical to business. It’s no secret that taking on a new customer costs five times as much as keeping an old one. If you’re hoping to keep revenue up and costs down as time goes on, you need a viable customer retention strategy in place. 

    Keeping customers means meeting their needs and treating them with respect. But what does that look like in a practical context? If you’re hoping to increase customer renewals both now and in the long term, there are some absolute musts to consider. 

    1. Keep it personal.

    Consumers respond to personal attention — the average person is willing to spend 17% more when doing business with companies that provide good service. While highly personal service should always be the goal, businesses rarely have the manpower to make it a reality across the board.

    Automation tools can give your communications a personal edge. Workflow automation from providers like Mixmax can give you the tools to create custom email templates, connect with clients, and automate internal manual processes. Automation helps ease the burden of connecting with all of your customers. 

    2. Make them automatic.

    At the end of the day, most of us are just lazy. If there are two options available and one requires no effort at all, most will choose that option. 

    That’s the logic behind automatic renewals. By letting your customers’ accounts and payments renew automatically, you’ll follow the footsteps of brands like Costco. This process maximizes retention by making the process incredibly easy for customers. 

    That being said, you should never make it difficult to cancel a service. If a customer wants out, it’s in your best interests to part ways quickly and cleanly. Automatic renewals are a good way to make customer retention the norm, but don’t keep any of your customers trapped in the long run.

    3. Streamline the process. 

    Automatic renewals might not be right for you or your business. That doesn’t mean you can ignore the whole process of renewal itself. Companies need to stay as focused as possible on making their onboarding and retention process functional: 48% of consumers have left a product’s website for another simply because the experience was confusing or poorly curated. 

    The fix here is simple: Make renewal a breeze. If you’re not doing automatic, make the steps obvious, clear, and easy. All types of people and businesses are liable to use your company; make sure you have a customer retention format that fits as many different experiences as possible. 

    4. Don’t cut them off.

    Let’s say one of your customers is out. He doesn’t want your product or service anymore, and that’s that. What do you do? Most businesses would immediately suspend service and call it a day. While this might make sense in terms of immediate cost, this can incur other problems down the line. 

    Consider providing your service for some additional amount of time while reminding customers that they can pay to renew at any time. Possibly even offer a “parting gift” of sorts, like a renewal discount for the future. Leaving your customers on good terms is not only a great way to boost your business’s reputation, but it’s also a good way to get departing clients to return. Research from McKinsey & Company shows that satisfied customers are almost universally more likely to upgrade or retain a service than dissatisfied customers.

    No business can really work without return customers. Loyal patrons are what keep every kind of business afloat, from big-box stores to web design firms and everything in between. As critical as customer acquisition is, customer retention makes every new acquisition that much more valuable. 

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