8 Essentials for Developing Mental Fortitude

Mental fortitude is a necessary element of success. Mental fortitude is defined as the ability to focus on and execute solutions when in the face of uncertainty or adversity. If we break under pressure, if we lose patience with the process we’re being challenged with, it can easily drive us to quit prematurely. Having the mental fortitude necessary to succeed requires patience, creativity, exploration and execution. When we develop the mental fortitude necessary to stay strong in the face of adversity, we abate the fears of being in it.

1. Define your win.

Winning should never equal taking the easy way out. Winning is all about competing with the challenge at hand and coming out with the result we want. We have to take on the types of goals which fit well with our beliefs and values. A win is most likely to come when we take a slow but detailed route through the process of exploring the smart solutions to our challenge. To be smart and execute well, we must examine the holes in our plan that our challenge has revealed to us and find the most efficient ways to build a plan that will fill those gaps. A true win in any business is one that is mutually beneficial to all involved.

2. Create efficient procedures.  

When we are in the eye of the storm of any adversity, we must hold our emotional reactions enough to be able to utilize the mental objectivity we need to establish the procedures and strategies necessary to attain our goals. Failure is sometimes the exact thing we need to know what procedures, structures or strategies are missing. The more efficient our foundational procedures are, the easier it is to remain mentally tough, because it is the stability of our procedures that give us something to count on.

3. Set priorities.

It’s hard to possess the mental fortitude necessary to succeed when we lack organization at the base of our business structure. If we don’t prioritize our critical stressors to come first, we act as our own roadblock to success. We can only be accountable and reliable when we tackle our bigger stressors first, and leave the more task-oriented details for later. It is easier to delegate out task-oriented details to others, and it’s wise to do so. This gives us the room to focus on what issues need to be focused on immediately. When fear or failure are present it is too easy to focus on the non-critical details that don’t matter but convince us we’re making progress. Don’t let this be you. Avoiding what is critical because it’s scary will not help you move forward.

4. Self-evaluation.

Mental fortitude means we must operate with honesty and integrity. We must take ownership for what is not working properly, whether that is us or something else in our business model. Mentally tough people are not afraid to look in the mirror every day and examine where they have room to improve. To perform well doesn’t require perfection as much as it requires the humility to know what is and is not achievable in the moment. If we refuse to engage in self-evaluation, it shows we are not interested in gaining the awareness or information we need to know to assess how well we’re performing or the areas in which we need to show improvement.

5. Self-control.

If we want to succeed on any level, we cannot be weak to our more reactive emotions. Mental fortitude is based in skills of emotional intelligence. We must use mindfulness as a way to harness the emotions that control how well we perform. We must learn to manage the degree to which we are always on the edge of losing our mental fortitude to emotions such as fear, anger, frustration or even excitement. When we are effective in managing our emotions, we better prepare ourselves to function at our peak performance levels.

6. Prepare for negotiations.

To have the mental fortitude and stability we need to be successful, it is wise to prepare ourselves to have the answers we need. We should always prepare for upcoming meetings or networking opportunities by rehearsing responses for the five most common challenges we face in our industry. When we create the proper communication scripts, we are more confident in meetings and prepared with the intelligent answers to the top questions we will be asked by potential new opportunities.

7. Mental training.

The mind operates like any other fit muscle or unworked lazy muscle in the body. The more we use our mind, the we stretch and challenge it, the stronger it gets. It is important to set up a daily mental workout as a way to dramatically improve our focus, so we can execute with consistency. It’s one of the most effective methods known for keeping our thoughts new and on the cutting edge of what we’re able to achieve. Journal writing is a great way to keep our mind open, active and well-trained. This is a place where we practice self-examination, goal-setting and problem-solving. Sometimes the solutions we come up with in private are solutions we couldn’t have explored or discovered in any other way.

8. Relentless optimism.

Success is not built upon negative thinking. To have the mental fortitude necessary to achieve on any level, we must work to replace our pessimistic thinking with hopeful thinking. Attitude is everything, and is a direct result of the thoughts we allow to run through our mind. It’s easiest to stay positive when we approach our solutions one step at a time where any step we take, no matter how small, is considered a critical improvement to our given situation. Focusing on problems only creates more problems. When we set our mind to something, we must find a way to get it done no matter what. With a relentlessly positive and open mindset, we are better disciplined to complete the tasks necessary to make our solutions materialize.

Source credit :Sherrie Campbell

 

Five Things to Keep in Mind while Raising Funds through an ICO

Raising funds for a new business has always been a rigorous and tedious task. The long process of regulatory clearance makes most startups look for feasible alternatives. There are three ways in which a startup can raise funding – equity-based funding, debt-based funding or crowdfunding. ICOs are nothing but crowdfunding campaigns in which contribution is in the form of Cryptocurrencies.

Over the last 4-5 years, blockchain based solutions have started to make their presence felt in the business landscape. Through Initial coin offerings or  ICO, these startups offer utility tokens and pre-sell the rights to use the product/service that they are developing to crowdfund their campaign.

ICOs offering security tokens sell fractional ownership in the company. The process can be easily initiated without multilevel regulatory clearance. It also provides high liquidity with minimum transaction cost. Globally, ICOs are changing the way start-up ecosystem operates. Based on the trend and its increasing popularity, below is a guide for other companies that may be looking to raise funds through ICO:

Jurisdiction, regulation and compliance

Even though ICOs allow capital formation by raising funds through cross-border sources, the business still needs to consider the regulations of the country where the ICO has been originated as well as from where it expects to receive funds. Regulators all around the world have been evaluating possible risks regarding ICOs, especially for retail investors.

Some countries like France have already started curating formal guidelines about ICOs. All that a company aiming for an ICO has to do is to keep a tab of the existing regulations and be absolutely compliant with these. In most of the cases, banks do not convert Cryptocurrency into Fiat currency if KYC of contributors has not been done by the company.

Fund requirement and utilization

Just like red-herring prospectus during IPO or an investment pitch to VCs, the business should clearly communicate the requirement of funds and how does it plan to utilize it. This is fundamental to get the investor’s attention and to assure them that the company aims to utilize the funds effectively.

However simple it may sound, the importance of this communication cannot be overstated.

What kind of tokens should be issued?

Tokens issued during an ICO can be divided into three basic categories. These are Security Tokens that mirror the features of a financial security, Utility Tokens, that allow the investors to access the services provided by the company, and lastly, Payment Tokens that are used for payment.

The company should clearly state the type of token, the strategic purpose of the solution, and things that differentiate it from others to receive the desired subscription.

Safety and security

While blockchain is largely considered the safest method for developing smart contracts and making transactions, there have been instances of a security breach in the recent past. Therefore, the company looking for raising funds through ICO should clearly state the safety mechanism, i.e., how the company plans to protect the issued tokens from hackers, scammers and phishers. This could be done in-house or by outsourcing the system security to a third party.

Moreover, the security mechanism cannot be static. It needs to be a step ahead of those looking to make a dent in the system. It is a must to get the ICO Smart Contract audited by a reputed audit company to safeguard Investor funds. Any new Cryptocurrency or payment token should immediately release their source code to allow the community to find any backdoors or malicious code that can be used to siphon off investor funds. The company should also have robust security measures in place to safeguard its social media channels access and an active strategy to protect prospective investors from phishers.

Building and managing the community

An ICO is just the start of the journey. To sustain in the long run and raise follow up funds, the company needs to work on building and managing the community all the time. This community involves the investors, regulators, security experts, analysts and advisors, and other relevant influencers. This is just like any other community management campaign. The key to this campaign is real-time communication that builds trust and respect.

Source credit :Ishmeet Singh

 

Online Marketing Plan: 7 Steps To Create A Truly Effective One

The online marketing plan is one of the most important tools for any company that wants to stand out on the internet. Competing in a world of constant change is very difficult, and here this article plays a very important role, which will help you to set different actions towards achieving your objectives.

Online marketing is crucial for any brand, regardless of its size. It is true that for many, the beginnings can be confusing, and it is normal not to fully understand what must be done to get off to a good start. Today, you will learn how to create an effective online marketing plan.

Attention! A marketing plan is not the same as an online marketing plan. A marketing plan is very general and also includes actions that have a place in the offline environment. The online marketing plan concentrate on getting and maintaining customers exclusively through digital channels. It is a very strategic in nature and involves objectives, facts and numbers. A well-created online marketing plan explains in detail all the tools, tactics and strategies that will be carried out to achieve the targeted goals.
Today, brands are facing a very stiff competition, where a business must differentiate itself in some way and face new objectives. The internet and the continuous technological advance are producing changes that in the end are going to be crucial for the success or failure of a company. You must adapt your business to everything that is happening, thus anticipating all the challenges that may arise. How? With a good online marketing plan.

Here are the essential steps to develop an effective online marketing plan.

1st Step- Analysis of the situation

You have to know where you stand, where you are coming from and know in depth your products and services, your competition and your potential client (market analysis). In this first step, you must define your company and everything you offer, showing how the benefits you are giving differ from the other competitors.

Not only do you have to be able to describe what you offer perfectly, but you must also have a clear understanding of what your competitors sell, to offer an added value that differentiates you from all of them.

It is what is referred to as SWOT analysis, Weaknesses, Threats, Strengths and Opportunities.

Weaknesses: These are the weak points of your company. Here you must write down everything that you think limits you or reduces the evolution capacity of your business.

Threats: All those factors that may impede a strategy or reduce its efficiency, increase risk, and reduce revenues.

Strengths: What are the strengths of your company? Analyze the capabilities and resources you have, as they will serve to exploit them and take advantage of opportunities.

Opportunities: Factors of the environment that can be exploited by your company. Whether they are new market niches, new investors, more staff.

Hire an iPhone app developer that will create apps that will help with SWOT analysis of your company
2nd Step- Discover your target audience

Developing a profile of your potential client is the next step of an online marketing plan. You can describe it according to demographic terms, age, sex, family composition, income, location, lifestyle, etc. There are questions you have to ask yourself at the time of this selection, such as, are my clients conservative or innovative? What are their hobbies? How often do they buy what you offer? What is the age bracket of people that can make use of your product?

Choose your audience based on your type of business, company size, and location. Strictly defining this is crucial, as it will be your future guide when planning campaigns and any communication. Many apps can help businesses discover their targets. You need to hire an expert iPhone app developer that will create sleek apps for your business.

3rd Step- Analyze your goals
What do you want to achieve through this online marketing plan? Write down a list of objectives to make them measurable and know when you have achieved them. It is very important that before moving on to marketing strategies, define the objectives both short and long-term. The objectives must be SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and with specific times).

For example, do you expect a 15% increase in your sales every two months? Do you want to be better positioned? Do you expect your products or services to increase?

The goals depend a lot on the development of the business.

4th Step- Develop the strategies you will use

You are at the center of your online marketing plan. Through the previous steps, you have analyzed your goals and have identified your target audience. Now is the time to detail the ways you will use to reach this audience and achieve your goals.

Identify the best tactics to carry out your online marketing plan. It is vital to have a backup plan in case your initial plan fails. This will enable you to continue with your online marketing campaign without having to start all over again.

5th Step- Action plans

An action plan must contain aspects such as what will be done when it will be done, who are the people responsible for taking it forward, the real costs that it will have, what will be the final measurable result and so on.

Thus you will have detailed strategies so that all the activities that you carry out are well coordinated, and everything is organized.
6th Step- Resources and budget

The effective functioning of an online marketing plan requires three important resources: investment, money, and technology.

Once the design of the strategy is done and you know how we are going to make it, it is essential to budget. You should know the financial investment that you are going to make. Part of the financial investment occurs when brands hire iPhone app developer to help his business with a sleek app.

7th Step- Monitoring

You already have all the actions of our online marketing plan working. Now you must subject them to great control. This is done to detect possible problems and solve them as soon as possible, as well as to change or adjust what is necessary according to the circumstances. You speak of KPI (Key Performance Indicators), indicators that help you quantify all the work. Its sole objective is to improve the productivity of one or more services so that your company works in the best possible way.

In this step, all the figures obtained are evaluated and analyzed, such as clicks, visits to the web, where the traffic comes from, how much time people spend browsing your products or services. You can do this through measurement tools, such as Google Analytics.

Hopefully, these seven steps will make things easier for you when creating your online marketing plan. You have to dedicate a lot of time and effort, but the results are worth it. You need to hire an iPhone app developer that can create amazing apps that have the latest technologies to promote your business.

Source credit :Harnil Oza

 

6 Ways to Show Your Employees You Appreciate Them — Without Paying Them More

When it comes to retaining your best employees, more money isn’t always the answer.

No one objects to a large bonus or an extra week of paid time off, but sometimes employees just want to feel appreciated. Managers who fail to recognize the efforts of their employees not only create tension in their relationships, but also lower the productivity of their teams.

According to a Westminster College poll on employee motivation, 69 percent of people surveyed would work harder if they believed their leaders appreciated their work. If employees don’t feel appreciated, they don’t work as hard — and why should they? From their perspective, no one notices if they beat the average. Their only motivation to do well is to keep their jobs.
Appreciated workers are motivated workers. By instilling recognition as part of the company culture, you can not only improve morale in the office, but also increase productivity while reducing turnover.

Different employees prefer feedback in different ways, though. Some like one-on-one meetings, while others enjoy public praise. Still others would rather receive personalized gifts or attend employee parties. To show your workers that you value their contributions, consider some of the following forms of employee appreciation.

1. Offer career growth opportunities.
Learning experiences might not sound as fun as a pizza party, but some of the most driven employees prefer their rewards in the form of additional knowledge. Give employees new resources to expand their horizons, then provide them opportunities to take on projects outside the scope of their usual duties.

This can be even more beneficial in today’s digital business landscape where team members don’t always work face-to-face in a traditional office. “When your employees are remote or overseas and interactions are limited, it’s essential they not only understand the company vision, but also their place within it. Succession planning helps employees see the next step ahead. Opportunities for advancement, on the other hand, enhance output and delivery but also allow staff a key role in their own long-term success,” says Sarosh Rizvi, Executive Director of Kleos Microfinance Group, a nonprofit organization combating poverty through women’s centered development programs.

One of the best ways to train motivated employees is to implement a learning management system, or LMS. eLearning Industry maintains a list of some of the best LMS options, allowing entrepreneurs and business leaders to compare different systems so they can choose the right one. Employees appreciate the investment in their professional growth, and the company enjoys a more skilled, versatile workforce as a result. Everyone wins.

2. Provide a fun snack experience.
Food is a great source of energy and a nice pick-me-up. Everyone loves a treat. Of course, the complicated relationship between food and happiness is well-documented, but if the right food is provided, it can provide real potential for long-term satisfaction in the workplace. If the office invests in snacks for the break room, employees can gather, feel appreciated and get back to work without ever leaving the premises.

3. Facilitate health and well-being.
Healthy people make healthy employees. And healthy employees utilize sick leave less often and have more energy throughout the day. That’s why 87 percent of employers surveyed by Healthcare Trends Institute in 2015 offered some level of incentive for employees to work out, eat better or lose weight.

Implement a wellness program that rewards employees for healthy activities. People who already work out will be grateful for the bonus, while those who do not will see the program as an opportunity for self-improvement — or at least an indication that the company cares.
Some companies, like Reebok, even provide on-site gyms and fitness classes. Whether you offer a discounted gym membership or a ropes course in the parking lot, employees will appreciate the investment in their well-being.

4. Involve employees in company decisions and outreach efforts.
Demonstrate trust by allowing employees to help decide what the company does with its profits. That doesn’t mean employees should get to vote on potential acquisitions, but employees who feel like their opinions are valued are more likely to work hard for the company’s mission.

Eighty-eight percent of millennials surveyed in the 2016 Cone Communications Millennial Employee Engagement Study see their roles as more fulfilling when they can make positive societal impacts through work. Let employees decide the focus of the company’s charitable outreach efforts. Provide paid volunteer days so employees can dedicate time to important causes without worrying about lost wages.

5. Adopt peer recognition programs.
Research from SHRM and Globoforce discovered that 41 percent of companies surveyed who use peer-to-peer recognition programs see improvements in customer satisfaction. When employees can recognize each other publicly for their good deeds — for instance, assisting with an important project or producing work of exceptional quality — those positive feelings resonate throughout the company.

Tools like 15Five allow employees and managers to give each other virtual high-fives. Hold contests to see not just who receives the most awards, but also to see who gives the most awards. Recognize the recognizers to enhance the strength of the program.

6. Give people better time off.
Time off is kind of like money, but even better — it’s money earned while relaxing on the couch, watching a movie or playing with the kids. Provide ample opportunities for employees to create the work-life balance that fits their needs.

Not all PTO is created equal, however. Parents need flexible daily schedules to pick up kids from school. Workers with wanderlust enjoy extended opportunities to travel abroad, even if they have to do some remote work in the process. Show employees that you respect them as people, not just as worker bees, and you will get their best efforts while they’re on the clock.

If employees can’t think of what to do with time off, give them more options. Gap Inc. provides employees free access to the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. Seek partnerships to expand employees’ horizons, and they will reward the company with their continued effort and loyalty.

Employees are the driving force behind every company’s success, and it’s time they felt appreciated for that. Implement one or more of these recognition programs or use them as a springboard for your own ideas to show employees how much they matter.

Source credit :Chirag Kulkarni

 

3 Ways to Use Credit Card Rewards to Your Advantage

Nearly 70 percent of entrepreneurs fund their companies with external capital, according to a 2017 U.S. Trust Insights on Wealth & Worth survey. Credit card cash advances are among the most common sources of this money — right up there with personal loans. It shouldn’t be surprising, then, that 46 percent of small business owners use their personal cards for company spending, according to the U.S. Small Business Administration.

But entrepreneurs don’t always know how to best utilize these forms of spending and avoid debt — let alone understand how to even make money via their credit cards. Entrepreneurs using credit card rewards programs often fail to align their points with their spending and struggle to choose cards that maximize their potential rewards. Putting $100,000 on a card that offers a point per dollar reward, for example, will rack up 100,000 points. But that’s 200,000 fewer than a card that offers three points — which equates to thousands of dollars in missed opportunities.

By matching those benefits with the areas of highest spending, entrepreneurs can make sure their credit cards are a source of capital — and not a burden — on their overall financial health.

The most rewarding way to use credit cards.
Using credit cards for outside capital isn’t a bad idea, especially for entrepreneurs who have a plan for avoiding any snags. Minimizing credit card debt is easy if you take care to pay the minimum monthly payment on each card and then pour remaining money into the card with the highest interest rate.

But making the most of credit card rewards might take more forethought than paying down debt. As with interest rates, every card offers differing reward values. Those rewards also differ in where they can be applied — which is why an appropriate rewards strategy needs to be more than just comparing numbers. Follow these tips to develop such a strategy and use credit card rewards to your advantage:

1. Choose cards that reward spend.
Strategically maximizing credit card rewards isn’t just a guessing game — it’s a science that has to be supported by data. A savvy entrepreneur knows where the company allocates most of its budget and then chooses cards that offer the most rewards in those categories.

For example, if you travel a lot for work, try getting a card that offers rewards on airfare, lodging and rental cars, as some cards even offer more incentives for travel-related expenses. The same goes for companies that spend a lot on office supplies, business lunches or online advertising.

Make sure to allocate more than just one card to the category with the most spending. Using several cards will yield the highest points per dollar spent. Over the course of a year (or several years), this can make a huge monetary difference.

2. Budget points like cash.
Diversify cards to ensure that your points will be more versatile and that you don’t wind up with a bunch of points that you’ll never use. For example, if 1 million points is more than enough for the year, then switching to a cash-back card after accruing them is a good strategy.

After reaching the threshold of usable points, you can benefit more from racking up cash-back rewards that can be applied anywhere. Some cards offer bonuses of up to $1,000 cash back, which can quickly add up alongside the million or more travel, dining or shopping points reaped from other cards.

However, cash-back rewards often equate to less than the specific points that other cards offer. Therefore, keep one or two cash-back cards in reserve, but be sure to maximize the points earned on the more strategic rewards cards first.

3. Get only transferable points.
Speaking of maximizing points, the best method is to choose cards with transferrable points. Having a whole handful of cards isn’t necessary for earning a lot of points. Maintaining two or three with transferrable points is enough to accrue plenty of rewards.

Transferrable points let you take full advantage of all the airline and hotel partners to that accept those points. When employees travel, they have a range of options when choosing which airline, hotel and rental car company to use. Choice equals flexibility and opportunities to get the lowest prices for any specific route.
To make the most of that flexibility, choose cards with points that can be transferred to several different transfer partners. This will not only give employees more options, but it will also help companies avoid losing out when specific airlines devalue their points.

For small business owners and startup founders, responsibly used credit cards can be a valuable way to fund business expenditures. They’re also a great way to lighten the burden on a company’s highest expenses. With a little strategic planning, entrepreneurs can harness credit card rewards to get their companies off the ground faster without needing to seek more outside capital.

Source credit :Alex Miller

 

Some Industry Experts Think ‘Traditional Marketers Are Screwed.’ Here’s How to Prove Them Wrong.

The Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) recently released a research report that has a lot of traditional marketers feeling anxious. So much so that after speaking with IAB’s president and CEO about the report, Business Insider’s Mike Shields wrote “Traditional marketers are screwed.” A harsh summation attributed to the fact that non-traditional strategies like those used by direct-to-consumer (DTC) upstarts are systematically crippling growth for the world’s biggest businesses.

So, what does that mean for businesses — big and small — that typically rely on traditional marketing tactics to reach consumers on channels like Facebook and Google? Shields says it best when he writes, “It’s the direct consumer relationship, and the use of consumer data, that is completely game-changing for the marketing world.”
Businesses of every size need to foster individual consumer relationships, rather than blast out flashy, broadly distributed ads or pay celebrities to speak on their behalf. And while it certainly doesn’t make sense for every business to blow up its existing model to become a direct-to-consumer (DTC) brand, there are key learnings from the DTC playbook that any business can apply.

Prioritize authenticity.
A 2017 Consumer Content Report revealed that 86 percent of people say authenticity is important when deciding which brands they like and support; more specifically, 90 percent of millennials say brand authenticity is key, reiterating that younger consumers — who possess $200 billion in annual spending power — would rather see “real and organic” content instead of “perfect and packaged.”

This report found the best way to foster authenticity is through user generated content (UGC). Rent the Runway, an online ecommerce website that allows women to rent designer apparel and accessories, uses UGC as a cornerstone of its business model.

Instead of exclusively flooding shoppers with images of picture-perfect models strutting around in their dresses, Rent the Runway prominently features user photos of real customers wearing the dresses alongside their dress reviews, helping users visualize how a dress will look and feel in real life. Users are encouraged to provide feedback on the dresses they order — regardless of whether the reviews are positive or negative — to help others make a decision about whether a dress will be right for them. It underscores the idea that Rent the Runway’s primary goal is to help shoppers find a gown that will truly make them feel their best, not force a sale — which has gone a long way toward Rent the Runway’s success.

Interaction is greater than transaction.
Building brand authenticity means that immediate transactions can’t be the focal point of successful marketing and advertising efforts. Instead brands must look to foster consistent, positive engagement that keeps their brand top of mind when a consumer eventually makes a purchasing decision.
Fast-food giant Wendy’s has done this exceptionally well with its fun, irreverent Twitter account.

Wendy’s most successful and buzzworthy tweets have nothing to do with deals or selling its food; they involve real interactions with engaged consumers — and, at times, competitor brands! The brand has developed a personality that consumers recognize, believe and are drawn to — and those interactions and high levels of engagement can certainly swing favor toward Wendy’s when choosing between its brand and the competition.

Own your data.
A key takeaway from the IAB research report is that “an arms race for first-party data is influencing strategy, investment and marketing strategies among major incumbent brands across all categories.”
Take Stitch Fix, the online subscription and personal stylist, for example. Stitch Fix uses a mix of real stylists and algorithms to select five clothing and accessory items to ship to a customer, either on a subscription basis or as a one-off request. The brand relies on customer data to personalize the experience, serving initial recommendations based on a “Style Profile” the user fills out. An order undergoes five to 10 initial algorithms before it even reaches a human stylist. From there, the brand relies on data to learn what products a user buys or returns from her box, helping personalize the experience for each individual user.

Putting this type of data to work is something that all brands should strive for, and illustrates why ownership of data is so important. Rather than giving all of your customer data to other platforms — like Facebook and Google — make it a priority to capture data from your customers on your own website and digital properties, and use that data to inform decisions being made across the board.

This is a new beginning for marketing.
As IAB’s research report suggests, today marks the dawning of a new era in the marketing and advertising space. Today’s consumers have a waning attention span for traditional interruptive advertising, and brands can no longer simply “buy” audiences as the primary, most effective means to reach consumers. While, yes, this poses near-term hurdles for brands that have relied on traditional marketing tactics in the past, there’s no reason to panic. Instead, brands and businesses should take a page from the direct-to-consumer playbook, and focus their overall strategy on building stronger, individual consumer relationships.

Sound easier said than done? I assure you, it’s not. Weaving proven, new engagement tactics into even the most traditional marketing campaigns will help endear brands to their target consumers on a one-to-one level. Marketers must understand that changes won’t happen overnight. However, should businesses commit to prioritizing authenticity, inspiring interactions rather than transactions and owning (and utilizing) their own data to make decisions and meet the needs of their customers, they will slowly but surely insulate themselves from the major shifts the industry now faces.

Source credit :Katherine Hays

 

Don’t Assume Employees Can’t Handle Tough Decisions

Managers often make tough decisions that affect the careers of their direct reports. It just goes with the territory. Some of those choices involve confidential, financial and legal considerations that just can’t be shared with an employee.

But all too often, with the best of intentions, we default to our assumptions of “what’s best” instead of consulting with the individual in question. It’s scary how often this happens and how many of us are guilty without realizing it.

Case in point: You assume that because a woman has expressed a desire to lead her current department one day, she may not be open to a transfer to a different team. In fact, she might not be, but if she’s earned your consideration, hasn’t she earned the right to weigh in on her own career? What about the ace salesperson whose quickest avenue for advancement means forfeiting a commission-based salary? Shouldn’t he have the chance to calculate the long-term pros and cons himself?

Likewise, I’ve heard managers assume that because an employee’s spouse has a thriving career, they’d be reluctant to take on a job that requires a move. Again: Why is it so hard to ask? Maybe they’d like to move closer to relatives. Maybe they’re ready for a change. Or they can arrange to work remotely. The point is, you don’t know any of that because you didn’t ask.

The next time you’re tempted to go with your own hunch, consider these four principles.

Have the talk for its own sake.

Just having the conversation may be beneficial. High performers often look for opportunities elsewhere; a signal from you could give them a reason to stay, even if the job you are offering isn’t the right one.

People today are conditioned to give input on everything from the courtesy of their Lyft driver to the precise temperature at which they want to sip their coffee. And yet the paternalistic management style that assumes I know best can be blamed for the defections of great talent.

A recent Gallup poll  shows that a majority of employees don’t see a compelling reason to stay with their company. Specifically, 91 percent say that the last time they changed the scope of their job, they had to leave their company to do so.

You never really know another’s motives.

You can’t possibly know what motivates other people, or what their priorities might be. In fact, you probably haven’t considered all the possible combinations of motivators.

The same Gallup research suggests that one of the biggest mistakes we make is to assume that our employees will follow the money and bigger title. In fact, many workers, especially millennials, put an emphasis on finding work that has meaning and purpose — work they are especially good at or that fits their life in some satisfying way.

A recent Deloitte study underscores the importance of the larger employee experience. It is a combination of meaningful work, supportive management, a positive work environment, growth opportunities and trust in leadership.

Consider an employee may offer something you never thought of.

Employees are in a unique position to make smart decisions and offer options or solutions that you didn’t see. They can only contribute when they’re consulted.

You’ve obviously given your employee a position of responsibility because they have the right skills. And over time they’ve probably learned more about the nuances of their account, customers and department than you have. So why not tap into that expertise and collaborate with your employee to find alternative ideas and perhaps a creative solution? It may work, or not, but your employee knows they’re valued. And that’s the job of a good manager.

Get out of your own managerial bubble.

We should already be having these ongoing discussions with our direct reports anyway.

In the age of “radical candor,” as championed in the best-selling Kim Scott book of that name, the modern manager needs to care personally about direct reports — enough so that we directly challenge them to achieve greatness.

Since this is impossible to accomplish without having frequent and candid discussions about people’s level of current performance and their longer-term career goals, we have reason to ask people to weigh in on their career path. Perhaps most importantly, it establishes a basis for mutual trust.

As managers, we must make daily decisions about how to best deploy, motivate and reward employees. That doesn’t make it our right to presume we know best when it comes to personal decisions in their lives. You may be able to empathize with an employee, but you are not a mind reader. Engage the employee in the discussion about a future opportunity and see if something can be worked out. Don’t take it off the table until they say, “No, thank you.”

Relationships are built on trust, and it begins with us. If we don’t trust people enough to ask them to consider decisions that affect their lives, how can we expect them to trust us? Rational people make rational decisions. Don’t presume; ask.

Source credit :Bob Priest-Heck

 

Future Financial Challenges and Opportunities for Small Businesses

While the economy has rebounded from the Great Recession, Biz2Credit found big banks still only approve about a quarter of the small-business-loan applications. Many companies are experiencing increased opportunities and funding. Yet, small businesses aren’t enjoying the same spoils. That may make it seem like the future of finance in small business may be more challenging.

Biz2Credit noted small-business-loan approval rates remain stagnant among institutional lenders. Small businesses can always entertain the possibility of earning funds through traditional banks. However, it’s smart to investigate other financing avenues as part of the future of finance in small business.

Many of these newer avenues to financing are poised to disrupt the industry. This is much like the small businesses they support. As financial outlets develop, they are addressing the challenges facing small businesses. However, there are other issues related to the future of finance in small business.

The challenges with the future of finance in small business
Traditional banks and financial institutions are built to service large businesses. This means their systems and processes are designed to assess risk in terms of big businesses with varied resources.

Some of the problems originate from simple data-gathering issues. The data isn’t consistent because three main credit bureaus are deciphering and delivering information about a candidate’s creditworthiness. Underwriting asks for endless reams of data about a business’s revenue. They also want to know about lines of credit and borrowing history. The time spent reconciling that information can also feel endless.
Worst of all, many lenders will use a small-business owner’s personal credit risk as a symbol of the business’s risk. Because these lenders use scoring models designed for either big businesses or individual consumers, they’re forced to try to apply their template for individuals to a small business. This results in the need for lots of judgment calls and system overrides. The more hoops a business owner has to jump through, the more likely he is to get caught in one of them.

That’s the process a small business endures with just one lender. Multiply that by five if an owner is shopping rates, and they are juggling several lengthy processes. Also, they are unearthing different sets of information for each. Because each asks for unique information, it’s difficult for many business owners to understand how they can improve their chances of accessing credit. Thus, they may find themselves in a loop of credit madness, using the same techniques to generate different outcomes and never knowing why.

The options shaping the future of finance in small business
Traditional lenders could be great options for small businesses. However, they would need to develop systems to evaluate small businesses by standards specific to their size and resources. Updating their scoring models, automating data collection, and streamlining their funding processes would benefit both. This would better indicate the degree of success a business could achieve with a lender’s help. Alternative finance, however, offers a window into what traditional lenders might hope to become.

Online lending
Online lenders offer loans similar to bank loans. Yet, they offer a more streamlined product. These loans typically have less stringent qualifying requirements in terms of revenue, tenure and credit rating. Their processes are built on online platforms that allow for application and funding in the same space. Therefore, they demand fewer reviews and offer enhanced accessibility. These lenders eliminate lengthy wait times for qualification. Additionally, they assess more than credit history. Therefore, small businesses do not have to offer extensive collateral.

Kabbage, an online lender, streamlined its application process. They focus on live data connections to analyze a company’s real-time business performance over credit scores. A candidate must have been in business for a minimum of one year and achieved $50,000 in revenue in the past year or $4,200 per month over the past three months. This allows businesses to access lines of credit up to $250,000 with a free application that only takes 10 minutes.

Kabbage renders its decisions in real time. This means small businesses can use their lines of credit upon approval. It also highlights the benefits for users. Owners can maintain equity and control of their business. They keep their personal finances separate. Also, they avoid alienating those closest to them by accessing funds through a third party instead.

Crowdfunding
Crowdfunding platforms are another alternative financing outlet. This online pitching asks small-business owners to convince others that their companies are worth investing in. Crowdfunding asks people to invest in a given business, product or campaign. But the funds often don’t need to be repaid directly. Small businesses may issue lenders a free version of the item they supported or a percentage of future revenue.

Fundable is a crowdfunding platform dedicated solely to businesses. The site educates users on the fundraising process. They have built guides on crowdfunding, business operations and investing. It prohibits certain types of businesses and charges a monthly rate in lieu of taking a cut of the money earned. Also, Fundable allows users to determine whether they want to give rewards or equity to investors.

Invoice factoring
Invoice factoring is an alternative funding method. It relies on outstanding invoices rather than a business’s credit history. In this model, an invoice factoring company purchases a small business’s unpaid invoices at a discounted rate. This puts the focus on customers’ ability to pay rather than on the small business.

BlueVine is a company offering invoice factoring. It has built a streamlined dashboard that allows small businesses to attach the invoices they want funded. Small-business owners can see the rebates the same day. These are advanced at rates of 85 percent to 90 percent of the invoices selected. BlueVine does not require much paperwork.

Online banking
Online banking also defines the future of finance in small business. It simplifies previous processes while enhancing the services of its brick-and-mortar sisters. Banking apps make it easy for small-business owners to keep tabs on their finances with one click. They can handle everything from transfers to deposits without visiting a branch. Many online banking platforms offer services geared specifically toward small businesses. They integrate with QuickBooks and other SMB financing software. Also, these online banks allow in-platform invoicing and payment collection. All these automated services save small businesses time and streamline the tools used.

Chime is an online bank account built to help users save money. Its Automated Savings program empowers entrepreneurs to automatically set aside money or round up their purchases, putting the “extra” into savings. Chime offers real-time transaction alerts and daily balance updates to keep them on top of their finances. And, they can seamlessly transfer funds between accounts, pay bills and issue checks. Unlike many big banks, it doesn’t charge monthly fees, overdraft fees or transfer fees. Also, users don’t have to maintain a minimum balance.
Small businesses aren’t earning funding attention at the same rate as their bigger competitors. To avoid the roadblocks of trying to compete with big businesses that have vast resources, small businesses should consider alternative financing.

This story originally appeared on Due

7 Ways to Boost Your Small-Business Marketing

Marketing is important to every business’ survival, whether it’s for the local business up the street or the mega-corporation that spreads across all continents. Unfortunately, for the former, marketing is often put on the back burner, as a small-business owner has so many other things to deal with.

1. Learn from your competitors

As a small business, you should start by looking at what your direct competitors are doing in the area. Find out how they are attracting customers and, more importantly, what is and isn’t working for them. It’s time to start or revisit your competitor research. “If you’re opening a location-based business, like a restaurant, that competitor research might involve visiting other venues in-person to judge quality, service, aesthetics and other factors through which you want to differentiate your own business,” Score says. This is also a great time to introduce yourself to other local business owners. On the other hand, if you have an ecommerce business, you will be conducting a lot of the research online.

Make sure to document your findings; you can create a chart to show your strengths and weaknesses alongside your competitors. For instance, you might find that you are the only restaurant in the area who isn’t offering a loyalty program to attract customers, it is time to jump on that bandwagon.

2. Build a strong online presence

An important part of marketing today is developing an online presence. You might think your local restaurant has no benefit of being online, as customers are usually local. To the contrary, you will be able to attract new customers in the area and beyond by being present online. It’s important to remember that one-third of all mobile searches are related to location and 78 percent of local mobile searches result in offline purchases. You want people to find you online when they are looking for a business in the area, whether that’s on Google, Facebook, LinkedIn or Instagram.

From your competitor research (see point #1), you already have an idea of how other businesses in the area are presenting themselves online. Now dig a little deeper, asking questions like: Which businesses show up in Google’s local pack? Which keywords are often targeted? What social media platforms are they using? What type of online content are they sharing? Take inspiration from your competitors and improve upon their efforts in order to stand out.

3. Collect reviews and testimonials

An important piece of your online presence is online reviews. Reviews are crucial when it comes to ranking in local searches and acquiring new customers. Research shows that 72 percent say that positive reviews make them trust a local business more. What’s more, 92 percent of consumers say that they will use a local business if it has at least a 4-star rating.

Having positive reviews to your business name is an incredibly strong tool, so part of your marketing strategy should be directed toward collecting reviews from current clients. Pick one or multiple platforms that you want to direct people to (e.g. Yelp, Google My Business, Tripadvisor, Facebook). It is important to actively ask your customers to leave reviews to these platforms, as people often need a little nudge to share their opinion. You can ask this in-person, through your website or with the help of a mobile app. Prompt customers at the right time, after they have enjoyed their meal or received their order in the mail. Lastly, don’t be discouraged by negative or mediocre reviews; these are valuable insights into what you can do it improve your business.

4. Get press coverage

You don’t have to do all the marketing yourself; in fact, one way to get the word out about your business is with local press coverage. We are not talking about getting covered by Forbes or The New York Times, but starting with the media outlets in your area who are always looking to cover local news.

Share your story with different media outlets. Many small businesses have heartfelt origin stories, so craft up a narrative that shows who you are and what your business’ mission is. You want to be able to supplement this great story with amazing visuals. Professional photos will help you get featured in news stories — you can also repurpose these photos for your social media profiles! Depending on your industry, you can also put yourself in front of reporters by sending out samples of your product. The most important thing is to make a memorable connection with a few writers and journalists to secure your time in the spotlight.

5. Make your customers say “wow”

You don’t need to do all the marketing yourself, turn your best customers into brand advocates who will market for you. In fact, word-of-mouth is 10 times as effective as traditional forms of marketing and advertising. So how do you generate that word-of-mouth marketing? You need to exceed your customers’ expectations!

The Missouri Business Development Program states: “All successful small businesses seem to have an edge. They have found a way to distinguish themselves, to rise above the commercial fray, to put the WOW into their business.” In other words, you need to delight your customers and make them say (or think) WOW. Maybe it is sending them a handwritten postcard or giving them a special gift with purchase. Maybe you have a lifelong warranty or know all your customers by name. Think of the most creative way to surprise your customer and they will not only become loyal customers, they will also spread the word for you.

6. Build an email list

According to eMarketer, 80 percent of SMB retail professionals report that email marketing is the best marketing tactic for driving customer acquisition and retention. Email marketing is a great way to a build lasting relationship with your customers. But in order to get the full benefits of email marketing, you need to build out a substantial email list first.

Start by setting up a lead magnet. “Lead magnets are essentially tempting offers that provide consumers something of value in exchange for their contact information,” says Lyfe Marketing. For local businesses, this might include asking for an email address in to sign up for a VIP loyalty program, or signing up for the email list to receive special discounts.

Once you have an email list, you can create an email marketing strategy. Decide what types of emails you would like to send out, ranging from newsletters and industry-related news to promotions and recommended purchases. The types of emails will depend on the goal you want to achieve, such as improving brand recognition, increasing customer retention or boosting sales.

7. Add an app to your portfolio

An app is not just a mobile application, an app is a complete mobile marketing solution. It is a powerful marketing tool if used the right way. You can use an app to draw new customers in by offering mobile ordering or a loyalty program. You can re-engage existing customers by sending out messages with promotions and news about your business. You can set up a lead capture form within the app to start building out your email list. In addition, an app can also help you collect reviews, as you are able to prompt customers to share their opinion on social media, produce online reviews or send a referral.

If you want to get even more creative, you can pull out all the stops with an app launch party. This will, in turn, trigger word-of-mouth and draw more people to your business.

Wrap up

All the above marketing strategies can help small businesses gain new customers and increase repeat business. Many of them also overlap and work together in order to set your business apart from the crowd: adding a “WOW factor” to your business can trigger positive reviews and, in turn, strengthen your online presence. A new app can help you build an email list, as well as get you local press coverage and so on. These are straightforward and attainable ways to boost your small business marketing.

Source credit : Kimberly de Silva

 

Bored With Your Boardroom? Diversify.

It’s often said that change starts from the top. If that’s true, can someone please tell me why corporate boardrooms seem to be the last bastion of the privileged?

America is composed of diverse  individuals. Individuals of different races, genders, sexual orientations and backgrounds are part of our national fabric, and they should be part of our workplace, including the boardroom. (Full disclosure: I may be another white male in his 60s, but I am also gay and from rural America.) So why aren’t they?

The importance of workplace diversity has been proven many times over. It makes good business sense for companies to recruit , train and retain a workforce that reflects a cross-section of the public. It’s not just politically correct—it’s truly valuable to companies: Diversity expands the talent pool. It ensures a wide array of backgrounds, perspectives, skills and experiences that reflect the way many different people think.

While companies have broadly woken up to the idea that their worker base should roughly mirror the public, translating this trend to the boardroom has been more difficult. Which is unfortunate, because in my opinion, this is where diversity can make the biggest impact. The world’s population does not look like a sea of, say, George Clooneys, and great boards seek out members who lend unique perspectives so they can offer thoughtful, broad-based decisions.

Traditionally, boards were determined by their (mostly male) members and built on country-club relationships. You picked someone you knew and trusted, which generally resulted in — surprise! –the appointment of yet another privileged older man. The decision wasn’t intentionally racist or sexist, but the result was a tendency for boards to lack diversity and exclude voices that represent key constituents — employees, regulators, clients and shareholders.

However, we’re in the midst of a positive, trickle-up trend: Improved corporate governance has helped upset this good ol’ boy network in the 21st century, and shareholder activism, transparency and regulation have become stronger forces. Times are changing, institutions are “woke” and companies don’t want to look archaic or get dinged by ISS.

According to  “The 2017 Spencer Stuart U.S. Board Index,”boards are taking strides to enhance their diversity. For the first time in the report’s history, the firm found that more than half of new board members at S&P 500 companies (56 percent) were women and/or minorities. Female representation among new directors rose to 36 percent in 2017, while 20 percent were male or female African-Americans, Hispanic/Latinos or Asians.

Today, the average S&P 500 company board has 10 members and 99 percent contain at least one woman. That sounds like great news, and it is a huge improvement over a decade ago. However, when you add up all those female board members, they account for only 22 percent of the total board positions. There’s still a lot of room for growth, guys.

The job of a corporate board is to a) advise management and b) represent the company’s shareholders. When you consider those responsibilities, it’s hard to see the benefits of a board whose members can’t relate to the life experiences of half their customers, workers or shareholders. Sure, it’s possible for a straight, middle-aged white man to feel empathy for a woman who has been trapped in a promotion-proof position, but research shows that companies with more-diverse boards excel in everything from employee retention to product migration and customer satisfaction.

There are so many reasons why a diverse board makes good business sense.Aaron A. Dhir , of York University’s Osgoode Hall Law School, concluded having at least three women on a board has significant positive outcomes for a company.  The Harvard Business Review chronicled Dhir’s research, which involved interviews with 23 male and female corporate directors in Norway — a country that requires 40 percent board representation per gender — and identified several positive correlations among those that were balanced. Among them: enhanced dialogue, better decision-making (including more valuable dissent), improved risk mitigation/crisis management, higher-quality management guidance, more orderly work, positive change to the boardroom culture and the behavior of men.

The bottom line: A team of advisors with a range of values and perspectives can best steer a company toward best practices. When your company is reaching out to the public — such as during a product recall, a disaster, a major restructuring or other significant corporate events — you want advice from leaders who are members of the affected community.

So, what do you do when the pool of candidates you identify as leaders consists predominantly of white men? Find ways to look beyond your inner circle. If you put out the effort to reach candidates from different walks of life, you will find qualified people who can offer essential viewpoints. Headhunting firms can help, as can universities and trade organizations. But you have to do the work—go out and talk to people. One reason board members hire their friend, lawyer or former competitor is because it’s easier. But that doesn’t make it right, and it’s possible to overcome these limitations.

One current example is the Parrish Museum of Art on the East End of Long Island, where I am a trustee. Our museum has worked hard over the last several years to improve our reach into the African-American and Hispanic communities, since the region has a large population of the former and is experiencing rapid growth among the latter group. We brainstormed ways for our art programs to become more inclusive so we could serve these audiences more effectively, and decided to recruit board members from these communities. Last year, we successfully added an African-American trustee and we are working diligently to recruit other diverse board members.

Building a diverse board encourages companies to reach out to the best candidates rather than the most trusted, the obvious or who’s convenient. When we are forced to consider a wider range of qualified people outside our sphere of experience, it pushes us to think, to overcome our blind spots.

Diversity just for the sake of checking a box is pointless. Recruiting is about finding a wise person who truly adds something important to the team, not just novelty. An ineffective board member — regardless of his or her uniqueness — can be extremely counterproductive. However, Columbia University’s Katherine W. Phillips and others mentioned in the HBR story on women directors point out that while diverse boards that are not properly managed may “create distrust and dissatisfaction,” homogeneous groups don’t come to any better solutions. They only believe they do.

The best-case scenario is to create a positive, contributing, hardworking team of individuals with varied experiences and backgrounds. Is it possible to do this with a board consisting of all-white males? Sure, just as it is with one made up of any homogenous group. However, there is little doubt in my mind that a board that is diverse — in terms of experience, skills, gender, race, sexual orientation and other factors — is your best possible bet for management and shareholders. In my 30-plus years of experience, it is worth the effort.

Source credit : Chad A. Leat