How To Make Your Ecommerce Store Standout In 5 Simple Ways

How To Make Your Ecommerce Store Standout In 5 Simple Ways

Many entrepreneurs see a highly competitive marketplace as a deal breaker for startups, but a saturated market also means there is high demand. People like having choices—this is true for both B2C and B2B SaaS. While a large number of competitors in your marketplace shouldn’t end your startup dreams, entering a competitive market isn’t easy. Many people prefer the convenience of shopping online over braving the stores in person to get what they want. More and more eCommerce websites are popping up because of this. From makeup, to furniture, to basic needs like food and clothes, shoppers can basically get whatever they want online. This means that you are going to have to work extra hard to make sure your website stands out from the rest.

Industries such as technology, medicine and food are getting crowded as more startups emerge. In order to stand out as a startup in an already booming industry, you have to set your business apart from the others. Something about your business has to drive consumers to you instead of your competitors. Mobile ecommerce poses another set of challenges to success which leaves online merchants little choice but to continue adapting. Merchants must be able to leverage the new developments in ecommerce technologies in order to secure an advantage.

Ecommerce startups may find themselves in quite an interesting position. On one hand, they can readily implement cutting edge or mobile-first strategies since they don’t have any legacy issues to deal with. On the other, they also need to enhance their infrastructure with these new technologies. Barebones shopping cart sites and apps just don’t quite cut it anymore. Here are the five ways startups can make their stores stand out:

Personalization

Often when a SaaS startup founder is asked what will differentiate their product from competitors, the answer is “a better product.” This usually refers to creating a product with features or capabilities the competition’s product lacks. While it is true that creating a better product is key, offering unique product features isn’t the only way to stand out in a competitive market. Other ways to differentiate yourself from competitors include – targeting a different audience segment, offering better customer service or support, offering a more seamless experience, providing a signup or purchase flow with less friction than the competitors offer, making the upsell path easy and convenient. You have features that no other solution has. Customers love being flattered and one way to do this is by offering a personalized experience.

You might have a business model, a set of supply chain relationships, a proprietary process or other intellectual property that you and you alone can deliver. This is what you want to capture. Forget boring templates and standardized themes. Don’t limit yourself to a website that looks exactly like ten other websites out there, down to the colors and layout. You owe your brand more than that. The colors of your website are very important. If you have a logo, use a variation of that color scheme. Pick a simple but strong font to go with it, and make sure to use only the best and most striking photos in your online storefront. All these elements come together to create a unique experience for your customer as soon as they get to your landing page. You want an eCommerce website that speaks to the style of your brand so it can speak to your potential customers as well.

Go Mobile

People nowadays are always on the go. Having an eCommerce website that they can access at home is a good start. But you need to step it up even more and make sure your online store is accessible via mobile devices as well. Your website may look great on a laptop screen, but what happens when someone tries to access your site on their phone during a moment of shopping impulse? Nowadays, everyone is purchasing from their mobile devices. If your website looks askew or is hard to read on a phone, you could lose half of your potential customers.   So cater not only to customers accessing from their computers but also to those who are on their phones for most of the day. Make sure to have a mobile friendly website that will look good on all screens. Create a strong, reliable and interactive mobile app for your startup.

Provide access to a mobile-friendly version of your company’s website and unique features providing convenience and value to your consumer base. This can also be a platform to market unique promotions exclusively for mobile app users and attract more consumers. It is important, however, to fully test every function of your mobile app to make sure it is secure, fast and efficient prior to launching it for public download. Much of the world accesses company information, searches for reviews and accesses the Internet on a mobile device. To maintain a successful startup, you have to stay updated and understand trends. Knowing what customers are going to expect in advance helps your new company get off to a stronger start upon official launch.

Connect Better

Offer opportunities for customers to give feedback about areas that may need improvement.  Not only will you remedy an existing problem, it makes your business look customer centric, which is important in the saturated startup marketplace. When you go out of your way to engage with your first customers, you not only get great feedback to improve the product but also can end up creating product champions. Almost every successful SaaS business has customers who vouch for it. They will stick with the company and defend it. They are also the cheerleaders and promoters of the product. It’s not always enough to give customers a great shopping experience.

Even if you’ve set your website up with all the necessary information, there will still be customers who have questions along the way. Include a “Contact Us” form, or have a live chat feature that your visitors can easily access. Set your store apart by giving your customers a chance to easily communicate with you. When current and potential customers know they can reach you for any questions about the products or services you offer, it adds a sense of security, trust, and credibility. A major mistake that startup founders make is not building an online reputation right from the start. Before even launching the startup, start building an online presence and audience. The way that you deliver information about your new company, why it was started and what sets it apart from the competition helps build that reputation. The way that you interact with consumers in transparent and private situations also builds rapport with consumers and the competition.

Great Content

Including a blog on your eCommerce website is a great way to add more depth to your store. You can use this blog to periodically highlight products, post about real life community events your store will be participating in, put a spotlight on customer reviews, write about things that are relevant to your products or services, and so much more. A blog with relevant and optimized content is also a great way to help you rank better on Google Search, which will increase traffic to your online store. You’ve given your business the perfect face online, and having a blog integrated with your website will give it a voice too. This can project a well-rounded brand that will no doubt attract potential customers, and keep current customers interested.

Society likes to read success stories from real people. Overwhelming an audience with falsehoods and mistruths leads a startup to disaster. Provide real, honest information and be transparent in doing so. Share the founder’s story and how he/she chose to quit their day job and achieve their own personal dream. Stories like that are inspiring and attract larger audiences. Consider making philanthropy a part of your startup’s business model. Consumers like companies that give back to local communities and organizations. It shows society that the startup is concerned not only with itself but also its local community. Just as important as having a unique business model is hiring unique staff members. Your company culture has to be dynamic and full of creativity and innovative ideas to help the brand maintain its uniqueness.

Better Analytics

Even with a good catalog of products, ecommerce startups can’t just expect customers to just turn up and buy. Successful ecommerce efforts are always aided by strong marketing efforts. Ecommerce marketing helps to attract and convert customers, upsell and cross-sell, and generate repeat sales. Due to the volume of customers companies have to reach, doing marketing tasks such as sending newsletters and following up on abandoned carts can be a tedious process. Marketing automation can be used to streamline these tasks. Automation services can be configured to send out customized offers or newsletters via email or as push notifications on mobile.

Moreover, effective timing can lead to increased email response times. Reminders can also be triggered if customers leave items in the online shopping carts. Gone are the days when analytics meant simply tracking a website’s daily visits and how long each visit lasted. For ecommerce, advanced analytics offers means to accurately track each customer’s journey. Trackers can now determine traffic sources and gather data on each click made in the store. These data can be compiled and analyzed in order to generate insights on customer behavior and product and site performance. Analytics tools can be configured to sync data from multiple sources and trigger actions such as notifications. These can even be integrated with automated marketing services as part of rule-based campaigns. Analytics could also be used to track internal team’s performance to see how quickly orders get fulfilled.

5 User Engagement Metrics For Ecommerce Growth

5 User Engagement Metrics For Ecommerce Growth

Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) solutions have the inherent advantage that you have all of the application access data and are able to use this data to understand how customers are using your solution. This is a typically untapped source of information that you can use to substantially improve your business. Given that many SaaS providers are not doing this basic level of analysis and follow-up, then more advanced analysis and customer conversations are unlikely to occur. Improving customer engagement has long been a method to improve churn and conversion rates. In addition to the very real profitability improvements that can result from a better understanding of customer usage data, you can also use it to improve the product itself.

Do you know what parts of your application are rarely used? Do you know why? Maybe your software development efforts would be better spent on other improvements, or maybe a better understanding of why customers aren’t using certain features is in order. Although there have been ways in the past to collect and analyze this information such as Google Analytics, recently SaaS solutions have been developed, called customer engagement analytics, which are specifically designed for collecting, analyzing and taking action for SaaS solutions. One of the advantages over Google Analytics is that with customer analytics you can look at the analytics for individual users and specific customers and not look at data just in the aggregate.

Of course, the definition of an engaged customer depends on the application and the user. You can also look at a CRM account that is fully engaged as what percentage of each type of user is fully engaged. The key is understanding, for your application and for each type of user, what excellent customer engagement looks like from an analytics perspective, defining at what level of detail you want to look at this information and defining how to measure trends over time. You can also look at the usage of new features and you can define what a usage pattern for a customer who is ready for a particular product up-sell looks like. This may be the opportunity to have the conversation that talks about the marketing communications and social media monitoring add-on that you just developed.

How do you measure customer engagement? While no single metric alone is going to be a solid indicator of how engaged your community or customers are, there are a few things you can look at that help guide you toward the conversations and interactions to pay attention to for deeper analysis. As always, there is no single perfect KPI for tracking results in digital marketing. Also keep in mind that none of these five metrics alone can paint a complete picture. These metrics are part of a paradigm shift towards hyper-connected consumers in a fast-moving landscape with tons of data. Here are few of the engagement metrics to watch for:

Text Analytics

Time on page” sounds like a much better measure of engagement than “reach.” If someone spends a minute or more on a page, we can safely assume they were reading and absorbing – engaging with our content. Not exactly. We talk a lot about time, but the one thing we definitively know about time is there’s never enough. For a marketer, that means you’re going to have to work hard to get a minute or two from a consumer. You need to earn it, so if your site can garner a high time spent, pat yourself on the back for a job well done. Time spend is not a very actionable metric, it’s more a sign that you’ve done the right thing. When users are browsing a category, they see hundreds of things they’ve never seen before that are very high quality about a specific topic of interest. It’s all about the experience, and a lot of it just holds people’s attention.

Clicks and shares may create the impression that your content marketing stories are generating mass attention – but whether anyone actually reads them is a different story entirely. Extended dwell time correlates with people actually reading and absorbing content – which is exactly what content marketers want. The type of emotion a customer feels about your store is important for relationship building. Emotion is not really a metric, but finding out what topics are trending within reviews is in fact a metric. A text analytics tool can help you understand customer sentiment, which is how a customer feels about your business. So, in other words, text analytics gives you a better idea of where customers are at in their relationship with you.

Response Time

Average page views per visit are an excellent indicator of how compelling and easily navigated your content is.In general, more pageviews per visit is a good sign. To figure out your pageviews per visit, simply divide the total number of pageviews by the total number of visits for a particular time period. Keep in mind that if you get a lot of visitors through social media sites, these viewers tend to get what they came for and leave, so you may not get  lot of pageviews per visit from these visitors. Fortunately there are many things you can do to help increase the number of pageviews per visit to your site. Make your site easy to navigate. Add site search if You Don’t Already Have It. Use Internal Links Within Posts.

Add a List of Related Posts at the End of All Blog Posts. Ensure Pages Load Quickly. Focus on the Audience needs and interests. Open rates – the number of times an email was opened divided by the number of emails sent – remain the KPI for emails. Why? Open rates directly affect Click-through rates (CTR), the number of clicks divided by emails sent. Think of open rates as the community reach in your email funnel. And just like community health and size need attention in social media, the same goes for email communities. If unsubscribe rates are climbing, maybe content is not relevant for customers, or it’s time to aim for the right marketing pressure and communications cadence.

Conversion Rate And Time

The number one way organizations can improve customer retention is…By focusing on the entire experience of their customers. While experts debate whether the marketing funnel is outdated, it’s been proven that managing the entire experience of any age of customer is a better way to keep customers. The conversation cannot stop once the sale is made.. It is critical that companies focus on sending personal communications throughout the lifecycle of the customer. In today’s competitive environment, it is not enough to rely on service or repairs to hold on to customers. Customers are five times more likely to engage with you in the first 90-100 days than at any other point. So, it’s very important that you dialogue with them at the onset not just at the end.

Click-based models fall short of measuring e-commerce performance (a customer looking all across the site but failing to find the right information still generates high click counts, but leaves disgruntled). Are your customers satisfied? Use the Net Promoter Score to find out. To learn more about the loyalty, and how you can categorize your customers, divide the customers who responded into promoters, passives and detractors. Promoters are the customers who are devoted and will support you and are loyal to you. Passives are customers who are happy with your product or service, but they can easily take their business to a competitor. Detractors are customers who are dissatisfied with your business. When you have figured out where your brand stands with customers, create a customer engagement strategy that works.

Customer Loyalty

Clicks and shares may create the impression that your content marketing stories are generating mass attention – but whether anyone actually reads them is a different story entirely. Retention basically means the percentage of users returning to your website in a given period of time. Calculating retention rate over a period of 1, 7 or 30 days helps determine its longevity in the market. Marketers don’t always have customer retention top of mind. Unlike lead generation or customer acquisition, retention campaigns take relatively longer before producing results. When you publish a lead gen form or launch an ad campaign, you can easily see and measure the results. This isn’t always the case in customer retention because it deals more with loyalty, relationships, and engagement, which yield results that are not immediately seen and/or are trickier to measure.

As always, there is no single perfect KPI for tracking results in digital marketing. Also keep in mind that none of these five KPIs alone can paint a complete picture. For instance, a customer may engage with a piece of content for a very short dwell time but still convert into a purchase because the right information was right where it was needed. These KPIs are part of a paradigm shift towards hyper-connected consumers in a fast-moving landscape with tons of data. Shifting your focus towards these KPIs will eliminate a lot of noise and clutter in this bright Big Data advertising age, and help justify those new data-driven marketing budgets for next year.

Traffic

How long does it take for your customer engagement team to respond to a question or issue? According to Buffer, customers expect a company to respond to their questions and problems soon after they send them. In addition to response time, how long does it take for a team member to understand and solve the customer’s issue? Although time should not be an indicator of how well a customer engagement team member solves a problem, it’s an important metric to measure in order to benchmark customer expectations – especially online review responses. Turns out, news of the death of click-based models are somewhat exaggerated.

Web traffic still remains the #1 metric and keeps gaining ground: In August 2010, 47.6% of respondents in the Duke University study primarily tracked hits and page views, while the number surged to 60.7% by August 2014. In Useful Social’s 2014 study, 47.3% of marketing execs also named “web traffic” as their preferred KPI. But in 2015, it’s all about verified users – what with all the robots out there. This calls for an omnichannel engagement platform that can build rich profiles of visitors both known and unknown.

5 Ways How To Optimize Your Ecommerce Campaigns

5 Ways How To Optimize Your Ecommerce Campaigns

When investing money, the goal is to get a higher return than what you invested. If you do not know how to properly optimize your campaigns, then you won’t get the best ROI possible. Knowing how to properly calculate your ROI will, in turn, lead you to making smart decisions on how to invest. If you are in the ecommerce business, here are five ways to help optimize your campaigns. There comes a time in every AdWords advertiser’s life when your attempts to improve an account’s performance begins to stall. Getting an extra set of eyes on your account can be a great way to get out of the slump. We’ve recently performed several of these perspective-rounds at White Shark Media and came up with nine optimizations that you will be able to perform in your AdWords account immediately regardless of skill level.

As with any task, the hardest thing about it is to actually get started. That is why a list has been created, designed to start you off on the right track and get you in the right mindset to for the more difficult areas. PPC strategy for e-tailers can be overwhelming; especially when there are millions of keywords you’re managing within hundreds of thousands of campaigns. And, although revamping campaigns and creative strategy sounds like an attractive way to drive clicks and boost conversions, this is a highly time-consuming task, and will prevent you from implementing the most obvious and simple PPC optimization strategies.

Ecommerce marketing covers a lot of bases, from on-site improvements to testing to search engine marketing and social media. Here are some ways to optimize ecommerce campaigns efficiently :

Analyze Conversions

Analyze Assisted Conversion Analyze and focus on different keywords and ads which are generating assisted conversion to maximize the optimization level. A user may click your ad, visit your website and leave without taking any action. Later on, if the same user comes back to that website and purchases the product then it is counted as an assisted conversion. Assisted conversions are the users who click your ad, go to your website, leave your website, and buy later. For example, you are shopping for a guitar, but then you leave the website to see if another site has a better deal. Then you go back to the website and purchase. This is an assisted conversion.

By analyzing what keywords and ads are giving you the assisted conversions, this will allow you to better optimize the account. By analyzing which ads are generating assisted conversions, you can split test similar ads to generate even more assisted conversions. advertisers tend to use all their products together instead of granulating. Granularity is key to maximise your revenue. Dividing your products in different categories makes them clearer for the users, but also allows you to split your budgets according to relevance and revenue potential. Here’s where custom labels step in: differentiate high from low margin products and allocate your budget accordingly.

Tagging

Tagging is the best strategy to tap the assisted conversions.You can perform a finer analysis by tagging campaigns, sources, mediums, and terms which lead to assisted conversion. Tags allow you to check what exactly the user clicked on, whether that be an ad that redirects to your product page, contact or any other page. Google allows auto- tagging. Tag Everything You Can. Tag everything you can, including campaigns, sources, mediums and terms. By tagging all that you can, you can perform a deeper analysis of what triggers the assisted conversions. Tagging ads adds additional values in the URL but does not change the URL destination.

On Facebook and Bing, these are called UTM parameters. Google uses auto tagging. Tags allow you to see what exactly the user clicked on, whether that be an ad that led to our product page, contact or any other page. It’s easier to engage with a customer who has already made a purchase from you than to reach out to a new contact. Keep your happy customers happy and send them a follow-up email after a purchase. This is your chance to offer them a discount the next time they buy from you or you may ask them for feedback on your service or product. Your main objective is to draw your customers back to your site as well as continue to engage with your email campaigns.

Focus On ROI

Return On Investment Is A Key Factor We have divided the ROI into 2 parts. ROI 1 includes direct sales that mean user clicked on the ad and takes immediate action. ROI 2 includes assisted conversion. Focus more on ROI 2 for better overall performance. Focus on ROI 2 to improve your overall performance, then focus on ROI 1. Most advertisers do not take ROI 1 and 2 into consideration. ROI 1 includes direct sales, meaning the users that click on your ad and buy right away. This does not always happen, so ROI 2 includes assisted conversions. Once you optimize for assisted conversions by split testing ads and keywords, then ROI 1 will be easier to optimize.

ROI 1 is typically negative at first, but with the optimizations, both ROIs should become positive. Do not redirect potential buyers to landing pages that are too specific. People looking for blue shoes, do not necessarily want those blue shoes displayed in the PLA. They expect a page of relevant products, giving them choice. Redirecting users to more generic pages has shown to decrease the bounce rate with 35%, providing a better user experience, a higher conversion volume and a lower CPA.

Return On Ad Expenses

Focus on return on ad spends Everybody expects the best return on investment. Keep track of what is being generated for each dollar of ad spend. In order to get a good result, you have to invest. Make sure your ROAS has a good ratio to your ad spend. Evaluate how much you spend on ads. Determine what is being generated with each dollar of ad spend so that you can optimize and make sure you are getting the best ROAS. You want to make sure that your ROAS has a good ratio to your ad spend. Most of the time, the more you spend, the more you get in return. If your ROAS is very low, then you might want to reevaluate how much you spend on ads. In order to get results, you will need to invest. as mentioned above, granularity is key.

This optimisation can also be applied on extensions. Show relevant extensions for each and every product. Do not use extensions on campaign level, or you will lose the relevance of the sitelink or callout extension. What about mobile? Less is more! Do not try to fill up a smartphone’s screen with sitelinks, callout extensions and a call button. Keeping the ad simple, with a powerful title will make the ad clear enough. Free up to 10% of your budget for testing. Digital marketing is all about innovation and trying new things. Don’t be afraid to test out new strategies or tools.

API And Automation

Focus On API And Automation Users rating and experience is very crucial to know how it impacts on your business. API and Automation allow you to check what’s happening in your campaign in real time. This allows you to compare the overall results versus the last week/month results. Additionally, it helps you to check whether CPA have decreased or increased. API and automation is very important. Try to automate your reports to understand what experience your users are having and how it impacts the bottom line of your business. API and automation reports allow you to see what is happening in your campaigns in real-time. These reports will also allow you to compare the overall results versus the last week or month of results.

This allows you to see if CPAs have increased or decreased, which is very helpful. Start by segmenting your list. Then you’re going to want to create campaigns that are the most relevant possible depending on how you divided up your inactive customers. Maybe some have purchased before and you have a new product that may interest them.  Again, the point is to win them back and send them to your site. This way, you can get them interested and engaged with your product or service again. And last but not least: be culturally relevant. You want people to relate to your brand, therefore you need seamless and authentic storytelling. Consistency is key. Your message can be different from platform to platform, but it has to be consistent and adapted to the platform.

6 Things Every Entrepreneur Should Know Before Starting A Business

6 Things Every Entrepreneur Should Know Before Starting A Business

Running your own business means having to wear all different types of hats. Whether it’s your marketing hat, your sales hat, or your general people skills hat, you’re going to need to know how to court sales, and on the other side of operations, you are also going to need to know how to run a balanced account and continue to grow your wealth. There are many business skills that a successful entrepreneur will have. When you’re getting ready to start a business, you may think all you need is a great idea and the cash to make it happen. This is a good place to start, but there are so many other elements to startup success that entrepreneurs tend to overlook when they’re caught up in the excitement of a launch. Ten successful startup founders and executives shared the best tips they believe every aspiring entrepreneur should know before starting a business.

The one thing that no one can teach you is the two R’s: risk and resilience. In order to become an entrepreneur, you must be willing to take a risk—to throw away the comfort of a regular paycheck—and you must also be a resilient person, to stand firm with your vision in the face of disappointment whether fiscal issues, missed opportunities or challenging personnel issues. So you’ve made the decision to start your own business. Before you get started there are a few important things you need to consider. Here are some of those things every entrepreneur should know before starting a business:

Idea

Many people make the mistake of selecting a franchise based on what the business does, what the person likes or where their passions lie. It’s important to understand if a business is actually structured to be semi-absentee. If your heart is set on having an home improvement business, you’ll find that this type of venture lends itself to the owner-operator business model, requiring full-time commitment from the owner. Keep an open mind when looking for a semi-absentee opportunity. Many people make the mistake of selecting a franchise based on what the business does, what the person likes or where their passions lie. It’s important to understand if a business is actually structured to be semi-absentee.

If your heart is set on having an home improvement business, you’ll find that this type of venture lends itself to the owner-operator business model, requiring full-time commitment from the owner. Keep an open mind when looking for a semi-absentee opportunity. Your role is the ambassador and sometimes the chief bottle-washer of the business, but if you have employees, it means having the backbone to hire the right people—not just people you like or friends—and firing them if they cannot achieve the goals you set for them.

Financial Issues

Before you venture into your new business it’s important to conduct some market research to see if your idea is feasible. You need to find out if there is a need for your product or service and who your competitors are, their strengths and weaknesses and how your business will differ from theirs. Some questions to consider are – what product or service you will provide, is your idea feasible, how will you protect your idea, is there a market for your product or service, what skills do you need, who are your competitors, what difference will you bring to the market, do you have the financial capacity to own a business?

Putting the effort into researching your idea will help you determine whether you can turn your idea into a profitable business. Read our Market research and statistics topic for information on assessing your market and competitors. The real number-one skill is raising money. It is a risky and ill-advised plan to use all your own money and credit on a new venture. Hot on the heels of fundraising is sales skills, particularly the willingness to ask for the order. Without sales skills, personal and business, the venture will go nowhere, and not much capital will be raised, either.

Skills

People management skills are key to successfully operating a semi-absentee business since you will be providing oversight to a manager or managers if you have multiple locations. You need to be comfortable surrendering control and delegating the day-to-day operations of your business to the managers. Taking one bad step can make or break your business, especially when it is still in the early stages of development. Entrepreneurs that are successful with their ventures make a plan and stick to it, thinking out every risk, benefit, and cost of an option available to them. They also make their plans realistic and factor in things such as time and budget in order to make their plans a reality.

A business exists to deliver value for a segment of society while creating returns for its shareholders. The best measure of how well a business does [in achieving] that goal is net income. Ensure the basics, that is, revenue to expenses, will give you healthy profits. Forecast it, measure it, ensure it. Be prepared for your business to take twice as long as you planned. Remain open-minded to facing challenges that you never saw coming, as perseverance is the hallmark of a successful entrepreneur.

Planning And Strategy

Know the laws, industry standards and guidelines, and competitive market in the business that one is opening. Entrepreneurial success demands the same discipline, grit and vision needed to be a world-class athlete. Confidence is the key to all locks. The critical step after that is taking action. Successful athletes and entrepreneurs do not overanalyze, nor do they have time to wait. They take action. Our five steps to success are focus, accountability, persist without exception, exceed results and have a true sense of urgency. The most important thing a person needs to know before starting a business is, ‘If I build it, will anyone buy it?’ In other words, does a market exist — or will exist in the near future — for what you intend to sell? The most common cause of startup death is running out of cash, but this is only [a] symptom. The root cause is you’ve made something no one wants, and as a result, you cannot grow using cash flow or raise funding for your business. The best way to find out if a market exists is to test the waters before committing to a full build. This can be done by polling potential customers, collecting preorders or indications of interest, [or] crowdfunding.

Curiosity

The best business skill has always been a healthy curiosity. This will lead you to look into what your competitors are doing, and it will also allow you to utilize new technologies to the best of your ability to streamline your business and even reach out to new customers. When the only limit you have is what you can imagine and apply, just about anything is possible. For some companies, “growth” means more revenue; for some early stage companies it may be more web traffic or PR exposure. Just be sure to define it, because if you don’t, others will define “growth” for you, and may confuse you. Early stage companies should be focused on building brand and exposure, plus revenue. Mid-stage companies should be focused solely on revenue growth. Mature companies should be focused on maintaining market share and new innovations that will drive more revenue and ensure strength when benchmarked against competitors.

For some companies, it is solely about revenue. For others, it’s about service and reputation, repeat customers, or marketing brand recognition. Know your definition. There are a lot of people who will come out of the woodwork—relatives, old friends, advisors—who want you to build your firm their way. Listen to them, take the “best practices” from each, say thank you…and move on. Always listen to your inner voice and keep focused on the end vision. Ensure that all advice you take is focused on that “big dream”—and take advice that guides you toward that. You might upset people who want you to do it “their way.” So be it.

Audience

Successful entrepreneurs keep a narrow focus–on the customer that is paying their bills. They do not forget that everything that they do is for the customer, since the customer is the one that is allowing them to do anything in the first place. A good business owner will always have time for a customer, whether they have a complaint or praise. Having good customer focus will mean that you see every customer as an opportunity to do better and grow, versus an annoyance or a difficulty. Since you are gainfully employed, it’s important to consider an opportunity that offers you the flexibility to operate your business on the side while maintaining the work-life balance you prefer. If any one of these four important factors is missing, it will be difficult to find a semi-absentee business that fits your criteria.

Also keep in mind that your finances, skills and availability must be what the franchisor is looking for in order for them to award you a franchise. It can be a viable option to grow a business on the side while you keep your day job. It’s a smart way to diversify your investments through owning a business. For some people, a business on the side is their exit strategy from the corporate world. Once the business generates enough income to replace their salary, they are free to leave employment behind. Another common motivation is to generate supplemental income for current expenses, such as private school for children, or to put more money away for retirement. Whether it’s an investment move or an exit strategy, semi-absentee business ownership while you have a job can be a wise and potentially lucrative decision.

5 Tips On How To Successfully Manage Your SEO team

5 Tips On How To Successfully Manage Your SEO team

Whether your search engine optimization team is in-house or at an agency, staying in touch with what they’re working on is critical. A team left to their own devices may eventually flounder based on lack of direction, or worse, go in the wrong direction. This is because in the SEO game you have many different areas that make up the team. And a smooth running and engaged SEO team can really make a huge difference for client’s websites and their revenue opportunities. Staff within an SEO team include SEO Consultants, Account Managers, Project Managers, Account Directors and ROI staff. Then there is also all the support staff such as the Administration team, the SEO content writers, SEO link builders and so forth.

Managing a project that might involve multiple people becomes a vital skill. Managing an SEO team can be challenging. Hell, managing any marketing team is challenging. But you have to admit that leading people that are just as technical as they are creative (aka SEO specialists) is no cake walk. Luckily, with the correct skills and strategies, you can optimize your SEO department the same way they can optimize a web page – smoothly and efficiently. As long as you have these tips in mind when overseeing your SEO department, you will surely be headed towards success. A company is only as good as its employees. In the world of SEO, the landscape is constantly shifting and there will always be a pressing need for quality employees.

In fact, over the past decade, there has been more than a 1900% increase in companies looking for SEO-experienced workers over the past decade. Luckily, SEO is not rocket science. However, it does not mean that anyone can come in off the street and do a top-notch job. SEO is a field that in order to truly understand in the finer details, you need to get down in the trenches and get first-hand experience. If you’ve just brought on some new employees with a basic level of experience in the field, you will need to develop tactics to get them up to speed. Here are some tips to make the process easier:

Select Right People

First things first – in order to properly manage an SEO team, you want to make sure that you have the best people for the job in place. SEO is a complex process with multiple components. As a result, time spent interviewing and prospecting people for specific positions is not time wasted. If you successfully select the right people for the right jobs, build a cohesive team, and align employees with departmental goals, you are already on track for SEO management victory. Before you dive into any projects, it is crucial that everyone on your SEO team is on the same page regarding goals, objectives, and processes. In many ways, search engine optimization is one of the most cross-departmental channels in a company – with inputs and outputs affecting departments like content, social media, paid media, and web development.

With so many people involved, it can be difficult making sure that everyone understands what needs to be done. Holding regular meetings to ensure cohesiveness is key to building a unified approach to SEO strategy. As the lead SEO on a project, you’re accountable for the quality of work being produced. When projects get irksome, motivation to produce awesome may waver. It’s your job keep the level of win and awesome being produced high. This means reviewing work before it goes out and stepping up even in face of push back from clients, developers, and coworkers. No matter what, keep yourself in check on your attitude towards a client’s project. A project manager’s attitude is contagious and can affect the results of everyone involved.

Communication And Transparency

Get as close as you can to your client, because there are few problems that can’t be solved with better communication. You should work hard to build a relationship, even a friendship, with your client. This relationship could even save your ass. By building a relationship with your client, you’re able to better understand and manage your client’s expectations. A weekly recap email can help a lot. Set expectations, eliminate surprises, and get input before it’s too late. Piggy-backing off of the unified approach is the importance of frequent communication among team members. After building your SEO team, it is better having a little “man to man” with all employees to discuss how each team member understands how their colleagues contribute to the overall SEO marketing efforts. SEO is interdependent.

The content marketing department can’t start generating content until the SEO team has discovered the correct keywords to target. The web developers can’t work on a site until SEO has identified existing problem areas and opportunities for on-site optimization. It’s a lot to keep track of, which is why communication is key! The success of any company stems from the ability to effectively communicate both internally and externally. First, you will need to get your team well-versed in proper client communication. Regardless of whether it’s phone calls, emails, text messages, or face-to-face, this is one of the most challenging aspects of agency life. Start by having the team craft some practice emails. Be sure they are familiar with any terms, formats and templates that your organization is used to.

Define And Execute Goals

Every meeting should have a specific purpose, owner, and agenda. Everyone should know why a person is attending and what will be covered so that they come prepared to discuss or make the necessary decisions. Make sure that all the players can attend the meeting that need to have a say, or that they send a proxy in their place. The last thing you need is to waste time having a meeting to talk about that thing you talked about previously. This is an iterative process that allows a project to be adapted to changing demands. It would be nice to walk into a project with a complete and accurate set of requirements for a project, but that rarely ever happens.

That piece of link bait may take longer to develop than anticipated, developers might not have the bandwidth to execute your recommendations in time, and many other internal distractions and agendas may be competing for your client’s time. One management tactic that we at Power Digital have found extremely successful is setting goals around our digital marketing objectives. Not only do we set yearly and monthly goals for each department, but we also highly encourage individual employees to define weekly goals. Setting short-term, attainable goals creates a sense of direction and motives employees to achieve them. What’s more, we also display these goals on public whiteboards in the office. Having them publicly displayed holds each team member responsible and also fosters a sense of teamwork if the entire department executes on all of their goals.

Delegate Efficiently

Always identify a single owner for a task and request. Clear ownership is critical to successful completion. When delegating, do so firmly and clearly, and specify a timeframe. Make sure there is a “Life/Work Balance” policy within your organisation, and the SEO teams know that you really care about their time away from the office too. A balanced environment in and out of the work increases SEO productivity and gets the team away from the screens. As the lead SEO on a project, you’re accountable for the quality of work being produced. When projects get irksome, motivation to produce awesome may waver. It’s your job keep the level of win and awesome being produced high. This means reviewing work before it goes out and stepping up even in face of push back from clients, developers, and coworkers.

This tactic pertains solely to you as a manager. When building, developing, and managing your ideal SEO team, you should always have a master plan for the future of your department. Do you want to hire more employees eventually? Outsource certain duties? Set aside some time at the beginning of each quarter to answer these questions and create a blueprint for what you would like your department to look like in the upcoming months. This will help you prioritize your own goals and ensure that your department is performing SEO services to its full potential. As all search marketers know, SEO is a game of trial and error and success is dependent on adjusting. With new trends and insights popping up seemingly by the hour, your team needs to be up to speed on a daily basis.

Educate The Team

Trust your SEO team to provide realistic timeframes for deliverables and projects. If they need to extend a deadline, consider the reason. If the deadline needs to be extended, update the roadmap, and any other place that a date is mentioned, for consistent communication. Recognizing someone for their efforts is huge! Especially in an SEO company where results usually aren’t apparent for a few months. Everyone loves receiving praise – even if they don’t act like it when you’re giving it to them. Quality content is the backbone for almost all digital marketing ventures. Writing material optimized for SEO isn’t necessarily complicated. However, there are a number of key principles you will need to teach your SEO team.

Most importantly, writing top-notch content depends heavily on the ability to understand people. It’s all about creating value for the viewer while targeting specific keywords and using strong backlinks, and spreading your brand message via a plethora of marketing channels. Doing this successfully results in boosted authority and relevance, which will increase your search rankings. Quality content plays a huge role in Google’s algorithm for determining these standings. Their representatives have repeatedly said so and their webmaster guidelines page has a whole section titled “Quality guidelines” in addition to “General guidelines.”

5 Social Media Marketing Mistakes To Avoid

5 Social Media Marketing Mistakes To Avoid

Consumers expect companies to engage with them across social channels. But for many ecommerce businesses, social media management is often overlooked or relegated behind other tasks. Social media campaigns are everywhere! While they are meant to enhance your brand and rally your audience, too often brands simply launch social campaigns, cross their fingers and hope for the best. If you are looking to launch a social media campaign, be sure to avoid these three common mistakes. Social media marketing is something that everyone is adopting. Be it an established business or a small local business. Everyone wants to jump onto the bandwagon of making their brand presence felt on social networks. The simple reason being – that’s where the crowd is. However, there are some common social media marketing mistakes visibly noticed.

Why are all endeavors not successful? Why are all Facebook and Google Plus pages as popular? Why are your competitors doing better on SMM? What promises are you making and not catering to? There are various such questions that need to be answered. Social media marketing mistakes – no matter how minor – can cancel out whatever your business has been doing right. Give your competition a run for their money, and maximize your ROI by avoiding such common social media mistakes. While it’s great to learn about what you should do, one could argue that it’s just as important to learn about what you shouldn’t do. If you stop and think about it, social media is now a constant in almost every aspect of our lives—work, politics, breaking news, keeping in touch with friends, you name it.

Social media marketing is now a critical strategy for businesses large and small. You might be thinking, “It’s only social media, how hard can it be?” The answer is: for a brand, it can be very hard. While the ever-evolving social landscape gives us new and exciting ways to engage with our audiences, the changes require us to be agile and able to learn quickly, sometimes through trial and error. The good news is with a smart, detailed and succinct strategy, many of the most common social media marketing mistakes can be averted. Here are some of the most common mistakes in social media marketing strategy, that entrepreneurs must avoid:

Lack Of A Strategy

Deciding early on the goals of your social media presence will likely shape your strategy. Are you planning on increasing brand awareness, site traffic, and leads? Or are you looking to use social media as an additional customer support channel? For some businesses, it may be a combination of these, especially as their audience grows. Once you determine your strategy, identify platforms to use. If your company is focused on lifestyle or fashion, consider Instagram and Pinterest. Both frequently roll out new options to increase sales. What to post in your social profiles depends on your organization and its social strategy. For most of the popular channels, the days of posting your own content and hoping for traffic to roll in are long gone. Twitter and Instagram moved away from a chronological feed to one that prioritizes the content of each user. Most companies might have experienced this and you could be one of them.

The story goes like this: you decide to join the social network, make your profiles, load it with info, put great stuff out there to attract attention and then disappear. Within weeks of your ‘super’ launch your page is converted into a barren land with followers wondering what they are doing there and some people seeking answers and getting no replies. Your social media presence soon becomes a flop show! So the first step is to have a social media marketing plan. The plan should be such that it should build on your presence and not let it dwindle. Any plan would require – time investment, strategy and goals and team for interaction. You need to keep your resources in place to have the game progressing. Ensure you have a dedicated resource, such as a social media marketing manager, who can develop a brand voice, drive a strategy that aligns with your business priorities, and maintain customer relationships.

Overuse Of Automation

Automation makes everything easier for you. It allows you to regularly post updates on your social media profiles while you’re busy taking care of other aspects of your business. But too much automation can make your social media accounts feel impersonal. It also prevents you from interacting directly with your audience, which limits your brand’s ability to build genuine bonds with them. It’s okay to schedule your posts for specific times, but make sure you also set aside a couple of hours every day just to monitor the activity on your posts. During this period, you can answer any questions people have, and respond to any issues people have reported. You can also use the time to thank and appreciate loyal fans, which will strengthen their bonds with your company. While these tools can be a huge help for social media users, they can also negatively impact your engagement if overused. Too often, marketers will look to these programs as a one-stop-shop, dumping all of their content into a scheduler and blasting it across as many social media platforms as possible.

While this may be appropriate for some things, only 15-20% of your content should be treated this way. Why? Well if you take a step back, the reasons become pretty obvious. Each platform follows a different format, and therefore, the content should be customized to fit the different houses it’ll live in. Not only that, but you want your audiences to feel that the community they’re engaged with is authentic. Whether they follow you on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or anywhere else. You want the messaging to make sense where they see it. For example, anything over 140 characters needs to be reworded for Twitter or your message will end up getting cut off. Instagram has a video limit of 1 minute – so you’ll probably want to mention where they can see the full version… a message that wouldn’t make sense on Facebook’s platform. These are just a couple of examples of how you want to be careful with automation. It’s a great tool to help handle your accounts, but you don’t want to come off as robotic.

One Way Engagement

Customers and prospects are going to talk about your company whether you are listening or not. So taking a proactive approach can prevent a small mishap from turning into a much larger public-relations issue. There are many social media monitoring tools to get one started, including Hootsuite, Social Mention, and Mention. But listening tools can only do so much. Product and service problems are bound to occur for most companies. Using social media channels to communicate those problems can keep customers informed. This happened a few years ago with Weight Watchers, when its mobile apps did not work due to a site-wide overall. Knowing how and when to respond to a crisis will be unique to your business. In many cases, profiles have updates but no participation in conversation. Lack of conversation with your clients and followers decreases value of your social presence and you don’t build on valuable relationships.

A lot of companies view social media as nothing more than a way to deploy content – where you put your message out there, and then engage/respond to people as they engage/respond to you. While that’s a great first step, a successful social media campaign doesn’t stop there. That means perusing your timeline and liking people’s posts, commenting on pictures, following accounts that make sense for your brand… don’t make the mistake of just sitting back and waiting until someone starts the conversation. Not only will it make your audience feel more connected to your company, but you’ll see a notable boost in your engagement. How many times have you found yourself clicking on profiles that have liked your picture, or commented on your post – to see who they are or what they have to offer? The same concept works in reverse. Talk to your audience and they’re much more likely to talk back.

Inaccurate Target Audience

This is a big mistake – keeping an active page with lot of info but no real followers. This means you don’t really have virtual support and weakens the basis of your social existence. To avoid this, it’s important to build a slow and steady network of real people. And the most important is to know your target audience. Aiming in the dark may seem like you are working very hard, but in the end, results will suffer! Are you creating social media content based on what you assume your fans and followers will like? Or do you check out your competitor’s social channels and just do whatever they’re doing? You know what they say about assumptions, right? Creating social media content based on assumptions or half-assed “competitor analysis” is inefficient and ineffective.

You need to take the time to get to know your own audience. What are they into? What do they care about? How old are they? Where do they live? This time spent reaps big rewards in the long run. Conducting thorough audience research will ensure that all of your social media marketing efforts are as effective as they can be. It will help you discover the best ways to attract and connect with your target audience. It will give you a better understanding of how to create content that will resonate with them, in a tone they’ll find comfortable and approachable. There are many tools and methods for conducting audience research. One of the most direct ways is to use social media monitoring to find out what your audience likes and what they think of your brand. This can help you measure the impact of your social media marketing campaigns, and identify engagement and improvement opportunities.

Unrealistic Expectations

We all want our social media campaigns to “go viral,” but the truth is, there is no secret checklist to follow to make that happen. Blasting your campaign on social networks where you don’t have a dedicated audience doesn’t make much sense. If your brand has a strong social media presence on one or two networks, focus on distributing your campaign there. Additionally, share your campaign with your email list – this is a group that will likely be inclined to participate and encourage their networks to do so as well. Sharing is where the magic happens! Ensure that your campaign is easily shareable by incorporating a campaign hashtag. Include social sharing buttons on your landing page. With a majority of social media users accessing via mobile, it is important to make your landing page mobile-friendly. Also, consider adding an incentive for your participants who share the campaign with their networks.

While this is something brands should do every day on social media, it is particularly important when running a campaign. Engage with those who participate! Not only does this humanize your brand, but it shows participants that you’re paying attention. A simple “thank you for participating” can go a long way. New advancements in paid social and account-based marketing (ABM) have created a unique way for marketers to understand their audiences better than ever before to serve up relevant messages at just the right time. Customization and personalization are becoming the norm, and it’s inevitable that platforms are evolving to allow its users more flexibility in how they want to tailor their content feeds. But what does that mean for social media marketers? Establish your objectives and define how you’ll measure results. Understand who your target audience is and what they want, and then frame your thinking around your audience’s needs and interests, not your own sales pitch. Start with the basics and before you know it, you’ll be well on your way to success.

4 Reasons Why Entrepreneurs Should Engage Employees In The Decision-Making Process

4 Reasons Why Entrepreneurs Should Engage Employees In The Decision-Making Process

Some companies refer to their employees as “employees.” Other organizations refer to their employees as “associates,” “staff members,” or “team members.” There is not much correlation between how a company or department refers to their “employees” and overall employee satisfaction. However, there is a direct correlation between how involved employees are in the decision making in their department or team and their overall morale, motivation, and satisfaction with their jobs. Companies and departments who have a higher level of employee involvement in decision making show higher levels of employee motivation and satisfaction. All managers and supervisors would like everyone to think that they involve employees in the decision making of their department or team.

But when you would actually ask the employees or associates, would you get the same answers? There are many benefits of involving employees in the decision making of your company or department. Decision making is one of the toughest parts of running a business. But, it is the ability to make decisions that makes one feel like the ‘owner’, making it hard to do away with authority. However, experts say that at times it is important and often mandatory to engage employees in the decision making process. Powerful shifts have been taking place in the world around us. More people are demanding a say in the institutions that impact them. Consumers are determining what a company’s brand is – not the other way around. It’s an exciting revolution and many organizations are responding with new ways of working.

The desire to have a say in perhaps our most important institution – the company we work for – has been a fundamental desire of employees for a long time, and the current shift is intensifying this desire. Unfortunately, the divide between the type of involvement employees crave and what they actually have seems to be widening in many organizations. And that is just one of the reasons of the decline in workforce of companies. Leading people successfully in this new world requires a new paradigm – collaborative leadership. This approach works because it is less top-down and it enables real employee involvement in making a business work. Simply put, collaborative leadership makes employees partners in the business management process.

Here are some of the reasons why entrepreneurs should involve their employees in the decision- making process:

They Feel Valued

The associates feel they are a valued part of the team. When associates are involved in the decision making, they feel that people in ownership and management positions value them as a significant contributor to the team’s success. When people feel valued, they will usually raise their level of effort and commitment to ensure the department’s or company’s success. The associates are able to make better day-to-day decisions because they have accurate information regarding the direction of the company or department. Managers and supervisors who do not share information or involve associates in the decision making are usually the same people who complain that associates are unable to make good decisions.

Previously, employees were told what to do and they did it – this approach seemed to work for a long time. Then, smart employers started involving employees by asking for their input on how to improve the way things worked. However, it was still up to managers and executives to decide whether to listen to these suggestions. Often they didn’t, leaving employees disillusioned. Collaborative leadership gives employees a seat at the leadership table and makes them partners in defining the vision and plan for their organization. The benefits of this approach include higher quality options and strategies, greater employee buy-in for new directions and the required action, greater organizational agility in the face of rapid change, and ultimately, better business performance.

They Feel More Responsible

The associates feel a stronger bond of responsibility for making the decision. When you are responsible for making a decision, and the decision turns out to be a bad one, you do whatever you can to correct the decision and make things right. The same is true for everyone. When associates are involved in making the decision, the chances of the decision being a success increase since all members of the team are committed to correcting the parts of the decision that are not in alignment with the department’s or company’s vision and values. The associates will focus more of their energy on future-oriented problem solving rather than blaming their current problems on management. Associates who have not been involved in making the decision have co-authored some great comments such as, “Whose brilliant idea was this?” or “This will never work in a hundred years.”

All of these comments demonstrate two things: First, the employee is not in agreement with the decision and second, when the decision goes wrong, and it will because the associate is not committed to the decision’s success, the employee has someone to blame. Employees will feel more responsible when they have a say in a decision. Collaborative leadership pushes beyond accountability to achieve the natural result of giving employees a seat at the leadership table – ownership. Enabling employee ownership for where the business is going, how it works and the results it’s achieving requires giving team members the knowledge and freedom to engage in problem-solving activities and make decisions collaboratively without oppressive micro-management. Employee ownership accelerates the ease and speed at which a business achieves its goals.

Higher Motivation

Morale and motivation is higher in organizations where associates are involved in the department/company’s decision making. When people are involved in the decision making, they know they make a difference to the department’s or company’s success. When people know they make a difference, they find it easier to be motivated and satisfied with their job. Getting employees involved in decision making is a sure shot way of making them feel important and boosting their morales. Low morale causes disengagement which results in high absenteeism and low productivity levels. Since high morale is influenced from top to down, the higher management has to do something about it, and giving employees a sense of power is a pretty good way to go about it.

Giving your employees a seat at the leadership table won’t make a real difference unless the atmosphere feels right – they just won’t contribute. Collaborative leadership works to create an environment where employees will be bold enough to make the most of this opportunity. It encourages participation by team members, engages them through intriguing questions, listens to their answers, and involves everyone in lively and positive dialogue. It enables and rewards new idea generation and implementation, the seizing of new opportunities, appropriate risk taking, and intelligent failure. When conditions feel safe, employees engage and collaborate enthusiastically.

More Time For Managers

When associates are able to make the decisions that impact their work, it frees up the manager or supervisor to work on more future-oriented issues that will ultimately make the department or company even more successful. For example, a manager will now have the time to look at how the department’s or company’s customers are changing their demands and level of expectations. With this new knowledge, the manager can lead a discussion on what changes will have to occur in the next decade to meet the changing customer demands. In addition, managers will have more time for changing procedures and refining processes.

You will have more time in hand to concentrate on other tasks when you have employees take decisions on your behalf. Decision making can be a tough process. It involves taking care of a lot of things, most importantly your employees’ reaction, especially when a decision concerns them. Conversely, when you have employees taking decisions, you do not have to do the homework or worry about what they would have to say on it. You are getting them involved in the process, and the end result is you have more time to spend on other activities.

6 Myths About Entrepreneurial Success You Must Stop Believing In

6 Myths About Entrepreneurial Success You Must Stop Believing In

There are a number of timeless universal principles that can guide you to success. They usually involve setting goals, being determined and having a clear vision. And then there’s advice that sounds great and seems to make a lot of sense, but backfires when put into practice. It’s important to be aware of these misguided beliefs and bad habits, so you can avoid pitfalls in your journey. There are the some of the biggest myths about achieving success which you need to replace with healthy habits that will help you create a happier life and achieve sustainable success.

How often has this happened to you? You want to do more with your life – get into great shape, pursue a hobby you’re passionate about, start your own business, or work toward a new career, etc. You start building a positive habit that will take you in that direction – exercise, waking up early, writing, meditation, an evening routine, studying, etc. You begin with a lot of determination (for a week maybe). Then something makes you skip your habit for a couple of days: a new project at work, unexpected household events, illness, family coming to visit, and so on. Those “busy” days keep popping up, and so you skip more often. Before long, you abandon your new habit altogether. It’s frustrating isn’t it?  Trying again and again to build positive habits, but not being able to?

Sometimes you feel that you simply don’t have it in you to do anything anymore.  You are just too busy, too old, and just plain exhausted. But what if that’s not true? What if the only things holding you back are a few limiting beliefs? And it is not about negative beliefs. We hold numerous beliefs about what works, about the correct way to do things, and about what we need to do to be successful. And on the surface, many of these beliefs sound quite positive and motivational, and they are in some situations. However, in many other situations, they turn into motivational myths that completely cripple our progress and prevent us from building positive habits.

We all want to be successful. It’s that promise of finally reaching the light at the end of the tunnel that inspires us to keep hustling — even when the going gets tough. Yes, success is always the end goal. But, stop and ask yourself this: Do you really have a clear picture of what success is? Or, are you only operating with what you’ve been told? Are you falling into the trap of believing common myths about success? If so, it’s time for a friendly wake-up call. But, remember, just because they’re often repeated, doesn’t mean they’re true. Here are some biggest success myths you’ve likely heard time and time again – and you must stop believing in:

Follow Your Passion

We’ve all heard it before: if you do what you love, you will naturally advance and become successful. This sounds great, and seems to make a lot of sense. And for some people, it may be true. Doing what you love can increase your motivation and make you more determined to see your goals through. But there are other important factors to keep in mind. If you love doing something, but there is no market for your skills or product, you have a significant hurdle to success. Chances are, if you take stock of your strengths and weaknesses, and consider all possibilities, you will discover that there is more than one path to success. You may find there is something else you like nearly as much, and one with a better market and a higher chance of success. Keep in mind that there is no perfect job. No matter how much you love doing something, there will be elements of your work that you may dislike or even dread.

Instead of focusing solely on doing what you love, make sure that you love what you do. Work should be something you enjoy and gain a sense of fulfillment from. Remember that there may be more than one career option out there for you and that most people go through a variety of careers over a lifetime. Be open to pursuing new paths. Successful people are always focused on the future and working to anticipate problems their companies will surely face. We must all be constantly making to-do lists and working toward our future goals. However, if you are so focused on what’s next, you may be forgetting to live in the present. Constantly looking ahead without taking stock of what you have will make it difficult to connect to the people around you, and you may find yourself locked into an unhappy mindset.

Be A Perfectionist

Being a workaholic is considered an admirable trait among entrepreneurs and business professionals. And being a workaholic usually goes hand in hand with being a perfectionist. If you aren’t willing to work long hours and ensure every detail is absolutely perfect, then you must not want it badly enough. This myth says that you must be willing to sacrifice everything to become wealthy and successful. If you follow this rule, you’ll set the bar so high that it will become nearly impossible to succeed. It will all end up backfiring, because the more we hound ourselves to work harder, the more difficult it is to focus. Our productivity drops, we become frazzled and stressed and it becomes difficult to concentrate on the task at hand. You must take time for yourself. Giving yourself a break and letting your mind wander is important in promoting creativity and ingenuity. Allowing yourself to decompress will actually get you further faster.

Once you finally reach that big milestone — whether it’s a certain salary, a specific position, or a particular accomplishment — you’re convinced that the rest of the pieces of your life will fall into place. All you need is to achieve that objective, and everything will be coming up roses. Unfortunately, this rarely holds true. Sure, maybe that level of success will mean that your career has reached an all-time high. But, if you’re counting on it to be the key to eternal happiness and a flawless life, you’ll likely only be disappointed. Remember, your work is only a portion of your life. So, while achieving a professional goal is always rewarding, it doesn’t mean that suddenly you’ll find nothing to complain about. Ultimately, there’s no such thing as a perfect life — regardless of how much professional success you achieve. So, instead of waiting for that major milestone to create the life you want, focus on your happiness now. Leave adequate time for the things you enjoy and celebrate all of your wins — even the small ones.

Expensive Education Is A Must

For many years, it has been believed that any worthwhile career begins with attaining a four-year degree. The bigger and more renowned the school, the better your chances for success. However, attending a traditional four-year university is simply beyond many people’s budget, and not everyone is cut out for it. Does that mean they are doomed to an unsuccessful life? Absolutely not! Education can come in many forms and be gained in a variety of ways. There’s no longer just one way to do it; an unconventional education can be just as valuable as one gained through an Ivy League school. The key is to absorb knowledge and gain life experiences that will teach you how to apply your wisdom.

Even the most expensive four-year school only gives you the tools to help you learn and grow. It’s up to you to come up with a plan and execute it. It’s easy to fall into the trap of believing that success, happiness and wealth are linked. We often measure our success by how many zeros are behind our annual salary. Believing that money will bring us happiness is perhaps the saddest and most devastating myth of all. If the most important measure of your life’s achievement is based solely on dollars, you are setting yourself up for frustration and disappointment. You are saddling yourself with a materialistic mindset that will impede your ability to enjoy life and see the beauty in the world around you.

Willing To Sacrifice Everything

You’ve heard this story a million times: successful people work for hours without taking breaks, eating, or sleeping. You might have heard how Eric Clapton used to practice the guitar for 18 hours a day, or how Bill Gates sometimes slept on the floor of his office to save the time it would take him to go home, or how Edison worked for days without a break while inventing the light bulb.  The underlying message: you need to sacrifice even your basic physiological needs if you wish to succeed. These stories inspire admiration in today’s corporate-influenced culture. But they make you overlook a critical question: Did these people work at superhuman levels every day?  No! Many people try to find more time for their positive habits and projects by skipping breakfast, sleeping less than even six hours, or hardly taking any breaks at work.

Such drastic measures are scientifically known to be sure-fire ways of reducing your productivity. They diminish your energy, IQ, decision-making ability, willpower and more. Sooner or later, sacrificing adequate food or sleep will become too troublesome to sustain, and you will end up quitting too soon. Rather than try to gain time through over-the-top sacrifices, why not spend less time on things that matter less?  Spend less time on social media, less time watching TV, or fewer evenings at the pub. Instead of focusing only on the things you are good at, work to develop a range of skills. Having other aptitudes and interests will increase your creativity and keep your mind active and nimble. Make time to pursue new areas — you’ll feel excited about new possibilities, and this will keep you from getting into a rut.

Transform Yourself Completely

Game Of Thrones is a piece of fiction – and yet, many of us buy into its theory of ultimate success, believing that scheming and conniving your way to the top is the only way to achieve your objective. The thinking is that if you aren’t looking out for No. 1, then who is? But successful people know better. They aren’t focused entirely on themselves; instead, they are serving others and helping others become the best they can be. They realize the importance of having compassion for others and helping others succeed. This instills loyalty in those around them. It creates a sense of commitment and reciprocity. Everyone is motivated to work hard for their common goal because there is a feeling of “being in it together.” Do you have a future image of yourself as a transformed person?  Someone who is healthier, happier, more confident, incredibly productive, always able to balance work and life, and so on.

Most of us do to a certain extent. Every now and then, we become motivated to do something to become that person. But you know how it usually goes. Resolutions just remain, well, resolutions and wishes for some other time. Your over-enthusiasm is actually the cause of your failure.  When you try to build six new habits at a time, or even two, you will become overwhelmed and most likely fail at every habit. Why?  Because making changes requires willpower. Trying to build two new habits at the same time divides your available willpower between those two pursuits, making it more difficult for you to do either of them. Successful transformation begins with building a single habit, preferably the simplest one first. Don’t begin the second habit until you have been consistently doing the first one for at least a month. Let your first victory pave the way for your second.

All It Takes Is Hard Work And Deadlines

This belief is single-handedly responsible for at least half of all the personal failures people have discussed with me over the years. This might sound ridiculous, but it’s true! After all, everyone agrees that success requires hard work, regardless of whether you want to run a marathon or build a successful business. Simply put, hard work is something you just can’t avoid, even if you work smart. However, you also likely have other job responsibilities, household chores, and family responsibilities. The good news is that hard work is NOT the most important element in success, at least not initially, when you are just beginning to build a habit. The only thing that matters initially is to actually do the habit every day for a very short time. The point is simply to become accustomed to an everyday routine. A habit is something that you do without willpower, something that comes to you naturally. Doing it every day trains a part of your brain.

That’s when you can increase the time by two to five minutes every week. Taking it slow allows you to make gradual adaptations to your everyday routine to accommodate your new habit. Just remember, hard work is important, but that’s the second step toward change. The first step is consistency.  Once you become consistent with a small habit, only then should you begin to work harder at it. You might believe that you can’t get anything done without setting deadlines. First, a deadline will draw your attention toward your goal, the result that you seek. Deadlines also cause people to underestimate the amount of time required to get a job done. If you set deadlines that are not practical, you are building up unrealistic expectations that will soon demotivate you. It’s important to understand that deadlines have a time and a place, but they aren’t universally beneficial. If you need a better approach to stay motivated, focus on your “big why.” Why do you want to build this habit/project/etc.? What rewards will you gain? How will it make you happier and more fulfilled?  Write this down, remember it, and let it be your inspiration!

5 Killer Ways To Make Money From Blogging

5 Killer Ways To Make Money From Blogging

Now that you have your blog set up and traffic is coming your way, you’re ready to start monetizing your blog. You must have seen or heard about people who make a lot of money from blogs. Some people aren’t even afraid to show it off to their readers. List building refers to adding new subscribers to your email list. You can entice readers to subscribe by offering a free gift exclusive to subscribers and, of course, by consistently producing great content that people want to come back to. But how does this help you monetize? It keeps people in-the-know. When you launch your eCourse, start offering consulting services, or publish an eBook, your subscribers are going to be the first ones to care. So, if you want to see quick results after a launch, be sure you have an email list built up to gain access to a pool of interested individuals. That’s not to mention that you can also monetize your email campaigns with banner ads and affiliate links, too.

In some cases, you might even set up a separate paid subscription email list for exclusive tips and offers. If you want to start gathering your visitors you will need a email service. Their service because it isn’t expensive, they have excellent support, and a great autoresponder management system. Making money from your website isn’t a myth. It’s doable by everyone. In fact, turning a part-time, hobby blog into an income generating asset is fairly common with a bit of luck and some hard work. At the very least, you should be able to make enough to cover your basic expenses for a domain and hosting. You might even be able to replace your income. Keep in mind that the strategies listed below range from easy and passive, to ones that require a TON of on-going work, so make sure you pick something that suits your site and lifestyle preferences.

With so much information to consume and strategies to digest, how is that any one person can find the time or the wherewithal to not only grasp the art of blogging itself, but also that of driving significant amounts of traffic? We all know blogging isn’t some altruistic pursuit. People want their words to be seen and shared. They want to gain the respect of the masses and boost their authority in their respective industry or niche. Not only is it difficult to drive traffic to a blog, but it’s also hard to monetize the traffic that you do receive. The problem? Most people ignore the fundamentals of online marketing when attempting to earn any semblance of an income from their blogs. But if you go about it the right way, you’ll certainly profit in the long run.

Here are some of the killer ways to make money from blogging:

Affiliate Marketing

Affiliate marketing is a type of performance-based marketing. As the blogger, you include links to a product or service offered through another business’s affiliate program. If one of your visitors clicks on that link and purchases the good or service, you’ll receive a cut of the cost. If you choose to join an affiliate program, it’s always a good idea to promote products relevant to your niche, promote products you’ve personally used and recommend and including a disclaimer on your site as to not mislead your readers. Affiliate marketing is one of the most popular ways to make money from your website or blog. Start by finding a product you like and would recommend. Then on your website, you endorse the product and promote it to your website visitors and email subscribers.

If the product or service resonates with these people, they’ll click on your affiliate link, purchasing the product, while you get a split of the sale price. One of the most popular methods for monetizing a blog is to leverage affiliate marketing. This is especially useful when you’re just starting out and you don’t have your own products or services to sell. All you have to do is develop content that will ultimately be in harmony with whatever affiliate offers you plan to push out.

Email Marketing

Spend any amount of time reading blog growth tips, and you’re sure to come across people saying “the money’s in the list“. They’re referring to your email list, which comprises your most loyal readers. The objective is to convert as many strangers who visit your site for the first time into passionate followers who want to stay up-to-date on your latest work or content. Admittedly this is a long term strategy (and you definitely won’t get rich overnight). But it’s one of the best, long-term methods to profitably growing your blog into a full-fledged, money making enterprise. Never lose sight of the importance in creating relationships with your followers, however. Offering great information or free help is a perfect way to start. Spamming people with unsolicited offers is one of the fastest ways to abuse reader’s trust and sabotage your long-term goals.

One of the most powerful methods for making money from your blog is directly through email marketing. But to be successful, you need to build your list. Whether you promote blog updates or create a lead magnet, utilize one of the more popular email marketing platforms like ConvertKit, Aweber or InfusionSoft to implement the systems necessary to begin marketing via email. By building a strong bond and a connection with your readers, you can effectively generate a sizable amount of money through the course of marketing both your own products and services along with affiliate offers directly through email.

Selling Digital Products

Creating digital products is a great way to profit from your blog. You can effectively sell any type of digital information product on your blog as long as it’s in harmony with your content. You can build a webinar to market your product and deliver them through a member’s area or through other downloadable means. Digital products can be a combination of videos, downloadable guides, resources, PDFs, software components, SaaS and others. Do your best to create something that helps fill a need or a void. Don’t second guess yourself, as you’d be surprised at just how much money you can make by selling digital products on your blog. Ebooks offer a relatively quick pathway for making money from your blog. Develop an ebook that’s aligned with the content of your blog.

Non-fiction ebooks are relatively simple to create, and if you’re teaching a skill that many people struggle with, it’s likely that the ebook will produce a healthy profit. Creating good products that are well made and polished require a ton of time and additional resources (like design, content, etc.). Selling your own products on your site also bring up problematic issues like payment gateways, shipping and taxes. Writing eBooks is a super popular way to start selling a unique product in your industry, and it’s ideal for pretty much any niche. With so many self-publishing opportunities available, too, it’s easy to get your book published and ready to sell with major retailers like Amazon or directly on your site.

Selling Services

Selling digital online courses is another way you can profit from blogging. Develop intuitive and helpful courses that add a tremendous amount of value and the rest will be smooth sailing. By putting your heart and your soul into these courses, you can simply allow them to sell on autopilot for you, another great avenue for passive income. Courses work great when it comes to technical skills like web development, digital marketing, graphic design and so on. But they also work in formats like finances, stocks, currency investing and accounting. Find what you’re really great at and do the due diligence before building your course. Then make something far better than the other courses out there in the marketplace. Consulting is another popular way to make money through your blog’s traffic. With these services, you charge a fee to give feedback to readers.

While it does seem like coaching services are infiltrating every aspect of the market these days, selling coaching services through your blog can definitely be a lucrative prospect. Whether you set yourself up as a life coach, a career coach or a business development coach, you can earn a significant income through just a handful of clients.  Decide on a number of packages, and do your best to ensure that you address any objections upfront. If you’re already teaching your visitors through your blog, why not create an exclusive learning opportunity by building a paid online course? A common way to sell these courses is by setting up an 8-week course through automated email messages or releasing the full package all at once so students can work at their own pace.

Paid Reviews

One of the common ways to making more money from your website means getting those visitor numbers UP. Once you’ve done the hard work of building steady traffic to your site with an engaged community, there are a few different ways to monetize your hard work. For example, many companies go out of their way to look for blogs that will feature their sponsored content. You can also review the products from a company in an ‘advertorial’ that’s part content, part advertisement. For example, if your website is all about the latest iOS games for iPhones and iPads, the creator of one of those ads would LOVE to have you review and feature their app to your fans. When done right, this can create a win/win scenario. However done poorly, with irrelevant or inauthentic site content, and it can erode all of the reader’s goodwill you’ve worked so hard to create in the first place.

If you’re generating a decent amount of traffic, you might be approached by a business looking to sponsor your site. There are usually two requests you get – Paid reviews or sponsorship posts, Banner ads. Paid reviews are when the business sends you their product and pays you to write a review about it, but you are not obligated to write a positive review. Alternatively, some businesses will sponsor a specific post in exchange for a link back to their site. It is an ethical practice to disclose the sponsorship to your readers. Banner ads are just what they sound like. They’re ads you place in “banner” style, usually in your sidebar. The business sponsoring the ad will often pay you monthly to keep the ad up on your site.

5 Ways How To Be Ahead Of Your Deadlines

5 Ways How To Be Ahead Of Your Deadlines

In business, deadlines can be the difference between success and failure. If you have a deadline to deliver a project to a client or customer and you fail to do so, that piece of business could be jeopardized — even if the client/customer is an understanding one.  Sometimes, there will be times when you will miss a deadline because of circumstances out of your control and that is fine. It happens. But outside of that, you should ensure that you maintain a high level of business efficiency in meeting deadlines and targets. Deadlines – a word that can instantly cause hearts to race, minds to go numb and stress. If you happen to be in a work scenario, deadlines are often like the bosses that hunt down employers. Read more