3 Reasons Why Blogging is Important for your Brand

There is some debate out there as to whether blogging is still relevant in today’s social media marketing environment. Regardless if you are a small business, or a multinational company, blogging is integral to your online content marketing strategy.

Here are my 3 reasons you need to blog:

1. Drive traffic to your website or App
2. Position your brand as an industry leader
3. Develop better customer relationships

Point 1. Drive traffic to your website or App:

Your blog gives you the opportunity to create relevant content for your customers. Use this as a marketing tactic to drive traffic back to your website or APP.  
Example: In my case my App is: SurveyStud found in the App Store.  By having a blog you are able to let people… Know that did not know… Download and Rate: SurveyStud

Make the blog on your website the foundation for all of your social media platforms. Your business might be on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn, or anywhere else. Post links – with relevant visuals – of your blog articles to your social sites. Give your social followers a reason to click through to your website or App. Additionally, post inbound links directly in your blog articles, to drive traffic to specific landing pages of your website.

Point 2. Position your brand as an industry leader:

Well written articles demonstrate your company as an industry leader. By posting topics which resonate with your market and show your knowledge, you are marketing your skills for your business, service or product too.

If you are a retailer, for example, write blog posts about your products. Your customers will get to know you as the knowledge source for the products they want. If you are in B2B, post articulate, well researched articles about your service. Become the hub, or the place to be, for your industry.

You are building trust, too. The more you can show that you are well-versed in your field, the more likely your consumer will trust you to supply what they need. Your customers additionally benefit from the learning you provide them.

Point 3. Develop better customer relationships:

Blogs provide another source to deepen the connection with your customer. By connecting directly on your website, your clients are able to get to know your business or product from the comfort of your online home base.

Again, build trust by being a source of information. Consumers like to be informed, and appreciate that you are the one teaching them.

Additionally, just as on your other social sites, respond to comments and interact with your consumer. If they have questions about a product you are writing about, respond to them directly on your website.

Unlike many social sites, a blog is generally searchable on your site for some time. Your website comments last longer than on a Twitter response or Facebook post. Other people will see your interactions too.

As usual if it seems I plagiarized I probably did.  If you see something that’s yours let me know and I will remove it.  Cool Beans…

Download: #SurveyStud

StartUp Daily Prep

Many people seem to be overwhelmed and struggling to get it all done personally and professionally. Do you often feel that way?
Here are six specific tips and techniques that will help your StartUp be more productive every day:

1. Put goals in writing

Yes, I know you have heard this before. It is critical to have written goals because, lets face it, how can you be productive if you don’t know why?

If you’re productive what is it that you’re trying to produce? You certainly can’t hit a target if you don’t know what it is. If you have goals written down for the year you can then take those and spread them across a quarter, a month, a week and a day. Written goals help you have a tremendous focus on what it is you’re trying to accomplish.

2. Prioritize and “calendar-ize”

As an entrepreneur I often tell people that they should/are encouraged/need to prioritize and “calendar-ize“. Yes, I know one of these is not a word, but I use it to make a point.

To be massively productive you need to decide on your priorities, and they need to be on your calendar. We all know that if they do not go into your calendar and are not likely to happen because we forget about them. When you put them on your calendar, they automatically become a priority.

3. Make agendas for meetings

If you’re going to meet with someone, one way to be remarkably more productive is to have a written agenda that you create and send to the other person in advance.

Agendas help in your preparation and also make sure that your meetings stay on track. When I was a vice president in corporate America, I asked that all the people who reported to me bring an agenda for the meetings so that we could focus on a few specific topics.

I notice that when I meet with people and give them an agenda, they follow it closely and check items off as we cover them. I also believe that having an agenda shows that you’re credible and prepared.

4. Plan your day the night before

If it is Sunday evening and you’re going to work on Monday, you should plan the week before it happens. That way when the sun comes up, you have a track to run on. I highly recommend following this technique throughout the week planning before you leave work for the next day. This way when you arrive at work, there is no delay in getting started. You start knowing what it is you need to achieve, and it is a great feeling.

5. Control interruptions

We live in an Ad world, and it seems as if we are getting interrupted every few minutes. That makes it very hard to focus and concentrate.

Highly productive people spare no effort to control interruptions that happen in person, by phone by instant message and by email.
If someone comes to their office unannounced and ask them if they “have a minute” they ask them to get back at a later time so they can finish.They consistently stay focused all day long on controlling interruptions to the greatest extent that they can.

6. Negotiate on time

When someone asked them to provide something as soon as possible, they negotiate a different time frame to buy more time. Just because someone asks for something does not necessarily mean we have to provide it right away.

So as usual if this seems plagiarized that’s because it probably is–so if you see something that is plagiarized let me know and I will remove it.  Cool Beans…

Feeling Burnt Out

When you are leading, it’s easy to get pulled in a lot of directions — clients want your attention, your team needs your time, vendors and advisors want to see you, and you still have to get your work done (not to mention family demands too!). With all that going on it’s hard to get any rest at all. Yet when we are tired, and especially when we have been tired for a long time, it can zap your passion.

You need a mental health day, a long weekend, or even a vacation to recharge your batteries so you have the energy to have regain your passion.

…its like every task feels harder; becomes almost impossible to make progress, and any progress that is made comes at an increased cost.  

To show support Ive added a couple of things which may help:

1. Remember why you are doing this.

There was a reason you launched your business or enterprise. Working through the daily grind (pounding out emails and returning phone calls) can wear you down and cover up those reasons. If you have your mission, goals or dreams written down pull them out again (If you don’t, this is a good time to write them down). Spend some time thinking again about the difference you are making, and the progress you’ve made toward those goals and dreams.

2. Re-focus, re-prioritize.

Now that you are more rested and have given yourself some time looking back at what you are here to do, it’s time to set some priorities — those things that are most important and limit the number of things that we have to keep track of. Look back at your task list with new eyes. What’s most important and what is most likely to push your progress toward your goals? What things can wait, or not be done at all. Start putting things into categories to get your task list back toward being more manageable.

3. Do, delegate or defer

Now let’s quickly walk through your whole task list. Is there anything on there that you can complete in 2 minutes or less? Bang those things out right away. Just doing that will reduce the number of things you are working with. Next, what can you delegate? What tasks can be done by one of your team members? I know it’s hard to delegate, and they might not do it as well as you will, but you aren’t getting it done so let them take a shot at it. Get those things off your list.

As usual if this seems plagiarized it probably is. So if you see something that’s yours let me know so I can delete/remove it. Cool Beans…

Stress and The StartUp

I have seen many lives made stressful by people underestimating the challenges of starting a product company. Below I’ve addressed some of the finer things about business.

1. You can make (or lose) a whole bunch of money: The pro side of the equation is that starting a company can add up to bigger numbers for you and your business. If you build a successful product, you can sell a business rather than license intellectual property, which can have a much higher value. 

Starting a business has the biggest potential payoff out of all the ways of commercializing your idea but you will need the wherewithal, ability to build a team and passion for your product. Be honest about your level of commitment to a product before you risk too much. 

2. It takes twice as long as you think to get to market. I have launched more than 6 products myself. Products take about twice as long and cost twice as much as people think they will, no matter how well you think you’ve planned.

BUT still go in with your eyes open, ready to smash all the obstacles that will present themselves and stick it out through the long slog to victory. I’ve met many inventors who unwittingly got in way over their heads and could have pursued a much lower risk path to commercialization, like licensing or submitting.

If you’re honest with yourself and still want to start a company, go for it! 

As usual if this seems plagiarized it probably is.  So if you see something that’s yours let me know so I can delete/remove it. Cool Beans…

Read The Fine Print.

…stop skimming over the contracts. 

Not reading is not a defense. The law presumes that parties to contracts have read the contract and understand what they are signing. Failure to understand, or read a contract, is not a defense in the event the terms are unfavorable. A better defense is an offense and in this case, it means taking the time to read and understand the agreement.   

Everything is negotiable. In business, it is often assumed that the parties to the contracts actively negotiated the terms, or at least had the opportunity to negotiate the terms. You cannot get what you do not ask for. You may not get everything that you want, but here are some ways to approach negotiation:

– Be realistic. Relationships matter and taking the wrong approach can kill them quickly.

– Small changes can have big impact to your margins while it may not matter much to the other side

– Consider where the other side is coming from

– Pick your battles. Prioritize and focus on what matters most to your business.

*Put it in Writing. Chances are, in a business deal, the terms laid out verbally as part of a handshake agreement before the contract was signed mean nothing after the contract has been signed. There are certain situations where an agreement, or promise, must be in writing for it to be legally enforceable. Here are a few examples of deals that pretty much always need to be in writing or you risk not being able to enforce it:

– Purchasing land or real property

– Deals worth more than $5,000

– Something that cannot be completed in a year.

– Certain deals across borders (states, countries, etc)

Fine print controls when things go south. Not everything goes as planned. Unfortunately, this is when the fine print matters most. Contracts often include requirements of where, when, and how the dispute can be resolved. In some cases, this can mean a required arbitration or other non-court proceeding in a faraway place. 

These provisions are enforceable and may cost more than a local law suit. Without reading or understanding the contract you sign, you could be waiving your right to traditional litigation.

As usual if this or part of it seems plagiarized it probably is.  So if you find any of your material in here let me know and I will remove it.  Cool Beans…

Freelance Rockstar

In my opinion… referring to yourself as an entrepreneur or an innovator isn’t going to cut it…and it doesn’t automatically make you part of the club. Case-in-point working for yourself, and being an entrepreneur are different. Below, I have listed a few common signs of the fake entrepreneur.

1. You’re A Freelance Rockstar

Oh the millions of freelancers… The creatives who believe working for themselves doing what they love is entrepreneurship. But throughout history, this career path has always been referred to as a “merchant”. A self-employed individual who trades their craft for money.

The goal of a freelancer is to have a steady job with no boss, to do great work, to gradually increase demand so that the hourly wage goes up and the quality of gigs goes up too. You’re a freelance for hire, not an entrepreneur.

2. You’re An Employee At Your Own Company

We see this all the time with restaurant owners, coffee shop owners, hair salon owners and about a hundred other ventures where people have created themselves a job. Michael Gerber in his book “The E-Myth” refers to these fakepreneurs as “technicians”. Those who are so good at their craft are unable to work for someone else but so weak at the required competencies of growing a company, that they end up reverting to employee-based technician mentality.

3. You’re Employable Under The Right Conditions

Now, I’m not saying that you can’t have a successful employee career and become an entrepreneur sometime in the future. Nor am I saying you can’t have a job while launching your new company. But I am saying employment is not an option for your future. People (even if they currently work for themselves) who would even consider a well paid secure job over chasing their dream, are not entrepreneurs.

True entrepreneurs will turn down $150,000 salary and a company car for a $36,000 salary and a 60 hour work week. Surprisingly, it has nothing to do with pride or financial intelligence either, it’s almost solely a drive from purpose, vision, and personal control.

As usual if it seems someone of this is plagiarized that’s because it probably is.  So if you do find something plaged… let me know and I will remove it.  Cool Beans…

Money & Family.

…A huge mistake is raising money from people who cannot afford to lose it.

I’ve raised money from friends and family twice, and want to share what I’ve learned so that you can raise money from your friends and family and still be able to attend your family reunions. I must say raising money from friends and family can be easier and less complicated than raising money from professional investors, but is not without drawbacks.

There are certainly pros and cons to raising money from family and friends hence I would like to share my experiences, and address a few questions I’m often asked about raising money. The 3 main questions people ask me concerning money are:

1.  How am I able to raise money quickly?
2.  How to approach family and friends about investing in a business?
3.  What are some advantages to raising money from friends and family instead of angels?

Please understand my money experience may differ from yours.  So below are a few things I feel are… important benchmarks when it comes to raising money:

1. Be Prepared. I was able to raise money quickly because I wrote a detailed business plan. I used my preparation and research to get my friends and family to believe in me. Before I asked for anything, I wrote a two-page executive summary of my business that included how much money I was trying to raise, my valuation, how much they would need to invest to own one-percent of the company, why I needed the money and what I planned to do with the money when they invested. This exercise helped me really key in on how to explain my idea and plans to my family and friends in clear, non-jargony language. 

2. Seek Accredited Investors. All of my investors had net worth of at least $1m or a yearly salary of over $300k. Accredited investors helped me in two ways. Since they were high net-worth individuals, they could afford to lose their entire investment if I did not succeed, which helped me avoid the mistake of raising money from people who cannot afford to lose it. Having accredited investors meant less paperwork for me and my legal team because of laws that allow people with higher net worth to invest with fewer requirements.

3. Put Your Cards on the Table. I was up front with my potential investors. While I was confident I was going to be successful, I told the investors that the worst case scenario involved the possibility of them losing 100-percent of their investment. I told them that they might not see a return on their investment for five or more years. And my investors were comforted by knowing that I were being honest with them about all of the risks. 

4. Don’t Drink to Much From One Source. In my first company, our biggest chunk from one single investor was $70,000. While we ultimately made him money and he could have afforded to lose his investment, it would have been more comfortable for everyone involved to have gotten a little less from one single source. It’s also not the end of the world if one of your potential investors turns you down. 

*Learn learned: Don’t press for money from someone who is uncertain because they will be the first to complain when things are not going as well as you had hoped.

A family and friends round can also set you up nicely for a second round from an angel or VC if it is necessary down the road. If you can show that your family and friends believe in you, and you’ve hit the milestones you’ve promised, it gives you credibility. You don’t want some angels watching your pitch thinking, “This guy couldn’t even get his Mom to believe in him, so why should I?” 

I encourage you to think about friends and family as a viable way to get your first round of funding.

As usual if you think I plagiarized some of this material more than likely I have and if you see something that’s yours let me know so I can remove it.  Cool Beans

Get In The Game

…A startup isn’t a side project.

There is a period of time in the lifecycle of a startup during which it is fine, even well advised, to keep your job. But that’s before you have a company to actually “run.” We can call this the gestation period. That’s the phase when you’re developing your idea, doing market research, running some initial numbers, and thinking about what connections you need to make or draw on in order to take things to the next level.

By the end of that process, you’ll know whether or not it’s time to take a leap of faith. When you decide your idea is more than just feasible and you can’t possibly do any more thinking about it for risk of analysis paralysis, and when it’s something you’re so passionate about that it keeps you up at night, that’s when you know you need to fully devote your time, money, and efforts to bringing it to life. Once your idea truly becomes a startup—you’re incorporated, you’re a business, you’re starting to market and sell—you should be ready to leave your full-time job. Period.

Because when and if you’re seeking investors and partners for your startup, you’re asking people to take a risk on your idea, and on you as a manager. But if you’re still working full time and actively trying to launch a business, this sends a clear message that you don’t believe in your idea enough to even take a risk on it yourself–thats a huge red flag for investors. 

Example: Imagine a restaurant owner walking into a room full of investors, asking them for large sums of money, and then telling them that s/he won’t be available to run the day-to-day operations of the eatery because of an office job?! 

Entrepreneurs who have total confidence in their ideas and are willing to do everything in their power to make them a reality shouldn’t feel they need to hedge their bets by keeping a full-time job. It puts a cap on their success and sends the wrong message to potential investors.

As always if you feel I plagiarized I probably did. If you find something that’s yours let me know and I will remove it. Cool Beans…

Startup… Strategy

…keep working at it

Think of a company as a machine you design and build. Your ‘machine’ always has certain parts. It sells something to someone, and re-invests some of that to help make more sales in future. What’s left over is profit for the owners.

A good example of this would be McDonalds. McDonalds built a business that works even if they hire almost entirely minimum wage workers. Their process makes it work: every burger is efficient and nearly indistinct, and nothing is left to chance. Their brand is so strong people line up worldwide to eat there. Your business may be radically different, but it should be similarly robust.

As a company grows the rules and your culture change completely. You may even find yourself disliking the company you created (many founders feel conflicted like this, eventually). If you’ve made it this far, you have many options: hire help, sell, or double-down and see where the ride takes you.

Remember no business can grow indefinitely. Most industries are more efficient at different sizes – it’s easy to be a two-man plumbing company, but near impossible to build a 1,000 man plumbing corporation. Know the limits of yours well in advance. Software is an example of an industry that scales exceedingly well, which is why it creates so many young billionaires.

And finally It’s never been easier to start a company. You can create a killer product in your student dorm without even registering any paperwork – that was enough for Facebook. 

I think entrepreneurship is a form of enlightened gambling. Skill and tenacity are big factors, but luck plays a big part. However, as long as you can keep picking yourself up when you get knocked down, try different things and keep learning, the odds are in your favour. You just have to dare to chance them.

As usual if you feel I plagiarized some of this maybe I did, and if you are aware of some plagiarization let me know and I will change or remove it.  Cool Beans…

Throwing Money Away… Learn to Validate

…are you validating your idea before spending money on it.  

I ran a social experiment with members of a Young Entrepreneur Council, where we discussed best practices to validate ideas before spending money. Below are some unique responses:

Use smoke tests.

An easy way to gauge interest in an idea is to run some basic tests. I recommend running a basic Craigslist ad to gauge interest. For example, perhaps you want to start a business around hiring babysitters online. First, place an ad that offers the services. Do people contact you? This is a cheap and effective way to glean feedback on a startup or related ideas.

A good friend of mine says he generally places an idea on a site like LaunchRock, which helps people to quickly set up a “Launching Soon” page. He then invests in Facebook ads and watches click-through rates. If a good number of people sign up, it means there’s real interest, and it’s time to take the next step.

Assess yourself.

Instead of focusing on building products that are simply “cool” or “innovative,” ask yourself if the product is something you would use.  The easiest way to validate an idea, is to first “survey a market of one: yourself.”

Conduct a survey.

Survey Apps like SurveyStud (Yes this is my product (Download from the App Store) can help you gather feedback on your ideas. Create one and share it on your Facebook page, Twitter feed, and LinkedIn profile, or send it out to trusted professionals, friends, former co-workers, students, and family in email blasts. This is another great way to gauge needs, interest, and gaps in specific industries.

Find a mentor or industry advisor.

There are always going to be people who have expertise or experience you lack. Don’t shy away from them–introduce yourself and make a connection. That way, you have a valuable contact in the industry of your choice to determine where the needs are, and how you can address them.

Trust your gut.

It will lead somewhere, maybe it results in a successful product, maybe it won’t. Either way you get a valuable education in what works that will help you later on.

What methods have you used to test your own ideas?

As usual if it seems this or parts of this is plagiarized–it probably is.  Regardless if you find something that’s yours let me know so I can take it down…