4 Tactics to Transform Obstacles into Opportunities

“In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity.” ~ Albert Einstein

Entrepreneurs who own businesses also tend to own the obstacles, challenges and problems associated with those businesses as well. Luckily for most of us entrepreneurs, we are problem solvers at heart despite the fact that not all problems are created equally.

While some problems are seemingly insurmountable and won’t be resolved by any individual or organization (e.g. climate change, the current opioid epidemic, sustainable energy generation…etc.) there are a few tactics we can engage to help us identify and understand the opportunities that exist within the difficulties we face, which can drive innovation and positively impact the marketplace.

I worked for an employer that had a disastrous relationship with a unionized employee base that our entrepreneurial leader had to work through when past leaders failed miserably. Here are the tactics he and his leadership team used to transform those obstacles into opportunities.

1. Visualize the end, then reverse-engineer solutions.

The company was a regulated utility that over the years had paid hundreds of thousands of dollars in state-mandated penalties resulting from poor customer service, sub-par performance metrics and delays in service outage restoration. A key reason for this situation was an adversarial relationship between senior management and the leadership of our customer-service technicians’ union that had deteriorated over several years.

Our then new-CEO had an informal closed-door meeting with the leader of the union where they went over the projected future revenue trend and penalty payments. It was grim. If things didn’t change, the company would be insolvent within 10 years. Our corporate boss was able to convince the union leader that their fates were joined as were the economic futures of their respective constituents.

That common ground allowed them to course correct, reverse the catastrophic trajectory they were traveling and entertain the possibility of collaboration going forward.

2. An impasse may require a complete reboot.

Perhaps the most critical outcome of that meeting with the union head was that our CEO was sensitized to some of the managerial personalities on the negotiation team that were obstacles to advancement.

As a result, he completely disbanded the corporate team that had been ineffectively negotiating with the union for years, and he reconstituted the managerial negotiation team with well-respected leaders and former union personnel who had advanced into corporate middle management positions.

This reboot tactic stunned all parties, but it effectively reframed the entire process for all involved.

3. Take a different perspective.

That reset at the negotiation table enabled both sides to see all of the issues they were considering in a new light, from new perspectives. My supervisor at the time was the newly-named lead corporate negotiator. Her refreshing approach to the situation inspired all parties, simply because she came to the situation with fresh eyes and ideas.

It also had a disarming effect that allowed for trust and empathy to spread into a situation that had previously been characterized by antagonism and animosity.

4. Affect what you can control.

Because my supervisor was able to empathize with the rank-and-file and consider the terms from the union’s perspective, she was able to identify more meaningful concessions that would resonate to the base without hurting the broader organization or shareholders.

To be clear, the management negotiation team could only propose a contract to the union negotiation team—it was ultimately up to the rank-and-file to adopt it. However, the aforementioned tactics resulted in a viable union proposal faster than ever in the company’s history as well as a single-ballot passage of the contract by the union membership.

Within the first year of the ratified union contract, all service metrics were surpassed and the company has not paid another service-related penalty in the years since.

While few entrepreneurs or start-ups will have to deal with labor contracts, cantankerous negotiators and disgruntled union members, if these tactics effectively transformed longstanding obstacles into opportunities within that instance—imagine what they might be able to help you achieve.

Original Article:www.entrepreneur.com

10 Offline Marketing Strategies That Still Work Today

Marketing has seen a paradigm shift with the rise of all things online and mobile. Creating a business Facebook page, tweeting about industry news, sending sale push notifications to customers… the channels we use to talk to leads and customers are evolving every day. While these platforms are remarkably effective — hey, we wouldn’t be in business if they weren’t — most successful businesses practice a combination of online and offline marketing strategies to generate leads and boost sales.

Sidewalk ads, branded giveaways (like pens or shirts), and local donations are all examples of offline guerrilla marketing. These simple actions are easy ways to spread the business name in subtle but effective ways. Below we pay tribute to the old-school marketing strategies that still do the job today.

1. Distribute business cards whenever possible.

This is perhaps the easiest and cheapest option, which is why it tops the list. You can pass business cards out to neighbors and businesses, pin them to public bulletin boards, slip them into relevant books or magazines at the doctor’s office, and do just about anything else you want with them. For such a tiny object, business cards hold huge potential.

2. Donate gift certificates or products as contest prizes.

Is the town high school holding a silent auction? Is there a charity event that offers prizes? Donate. This is a simple way to establish a personal connection with the public while participating in a good cause. At the very least, winners will put your product or service to use, and you might even gain referrals and visibility out of them.

3. Speak at events.

Find an event related to your industry, and prepare an educational and meaningful speech. This leaves a lasting impression with peers who share a position in your industry and creates a visual representation of your business. If you don’t feel you have enough industry authority to deliver a speech to peers, it’s still helpful to attend the events. Introduce yourself and network with others. The relationships you build could help move the marketing dial elsewhere.

4. Communicate with local print publications.

Despite the consistent rise in online media, print is still effective. Pitch a press release to a magazine or newspaper that targets your audience. Press releases are a simple way to showcase an important event or milestone for your business, and the right publication could land you valuable attention. Stay active and form as many relationships with the press as possible — they’ll come in handy.

5. Send snail mail.

Even in the age of email, snail mail is still an acceptable marketing method. You’d be surprised how many people prefer physical offers. It’s more costly and you miss out on the data you get from email campaigns, but you’ll stand out amongst your email-only competitors. Send coupons or new product updates, product samples, newsletters, or anything you think might promote your business the best. This is definitely a more personalized approach to marketing.

6. Make cold calls. 

Put together a list of potential customers and call them up. Well, first establish a cold-calling strategy, then call them up. Tailor the conversation to each customer and be mindful of their time and needs. Though it’s typically more of a sales move, cold-calling can help you build collaborative relationships with other businesses and potentially gain some new customers along the way.

7. Participate in trade shows.

Trade shows put you under the same roof as the competition. You can study their pitch, check out their marketing materials and generally gain real insight into their strategy. Of course, trade shows are also awesome opportunities to showcase your product and market your company. Network with other professionals and look for opportunities to grow by working together

8. Revamp your packaging or presentation

Strengthen your brand by reevaluating your presentation. How do you compare to the competition? Looks matter — your branding and store design speak volumes. Maybe it’s time to refresh outdated looks that aren’t sending the right message to potential customers. Take time to revisit and iterate; the slightest change could make a big difference.

9. Celebrate successes. 

Host a party, business gathering, or some form of celebratory event to share your success. Maybe you reached you landed a big partnership or launched a new service. Reach out to the local press to spread the word. Take the opportunity to acknowledge your team and encourage future successes. Your celebrations are bound to catch the attention of your target audience and secure you some future business

10. Sponsor a community event.

If finances allow, this is a phenomenal way to spread your name far and wide. Instead of just tabling at an event, take the lead and sponsor one. Plan a 5K or team up with a non-profit to host a fundraiser. When you’re the host, you can handle the merchandise. Give out branded goods, coupons and pamphlets and discount cards. This builds a positive brand image that people respect.


These tips range widely in cost and effort, but they can each impact your bottom line and mix up your marketing efforts. So welcome new technology and strategies, but don’t forget their offline roots! You can have a bit of fun along the way.

By Patrick Schock

 This story originally appeared on Bizness Apps

How Millennials Can Reach Financial Freedom

The millennial generation gets a bad rap when it comes to the topic of financial responsibility. But is that stereotype true? Or do millennials simply prioritize life and finances a little differently than other generations?

The young workforce of today isn’t working to retire. They don’t think of retirement as a phase of their life nor do they plan to work to afford it. Why wait until 70 years old to enjoy life? But this mentality isn’t necessarily irresponsible when it comes to money and finances. It is just different. Working and saving to achieve financial freedom and flexibility to live a life full of travel and pleasure is becoming the new normal, and the idea is growing as millennials dominate the workforce.

So, just how can the millennials achieve financial freedom so that they are free to live the life they want? According to Diego Corzo, 27-year-old entrepreneur and real estate guru, the answer lies in creating passive income streams.

What is passive income?

Making money while you sleep. Sounds like a dream come true, right? The simplest definition of passive income is that you are able to earn income without being actively involved or at least minimally involved.

After reading the book “Rich Dad Poor Dad” at the age of 21, Corzo became obsessed with the idea of passive income. Now that he has figured it out and successfully earns everything he needs passively, he has turned his attention to helping other millennials do the same thing.

Most of the time, when people need a little extra cash flow, they pursue a part-time job or side hustle. The vast majority of Americans trade their time for money. They get paid by the hour and barely earn enough to get by. But what if you didn’t have to? What if you could pay off your debt and even earn enough to live based off of passive income?

How to create passive income through house hacking.

While there are several different ways to create passive income streams, house hacking is a very tangible and achievable method that millennials can use with little to no upfront money. House hacking simply means that your expenses are paid by other people. You own a house and live with roommates. Your roommates cover the mortgage and bills with their rent, leaving you with extra money to travel or buy the things you want — the millennials’ dream come true.

Most people falsely believe you need 20 percent down to purchase a home, but it simply isn’t true. There are programs and grants available to get you into a starter home with very little money upfront. “I started with zero in the bank after I graduated from college at age 22,” Corzo said. “By age 24, I bought my first home to house hack, and I have been living for free ever since. Two years later, I was able to quit my full-time job and now I own eight properties.”

House hacking is just the beginning.

House hacking, as explained above, is a strategy that can help millennials achieve financial freedom and create a passive income stream, but that is just the start. House hacking is one of the least expensive ways to get started in real estate and create a truly different lifestyle.

“A lot of people don’t pull the trigger to start investing in real estate because they get overwhelmed with the unknown,” Corzo said. “House hacking allows you to get your feet wet because you are buying a property for yourself that just happens to have extra rooms that make you money.”

House hacking drastically decreases your living expenses, allowing you to keep or spend more of your money each month. In a world where the average American spends 30 percent of their income on housing, you could have that 30 percent to spend on creating a lifestyle you love or saving to invest in more passive income streams.

Corzo suggests giving real estate a try by starting with house hacking. If you don’t like it, sell the house or manage just that one property. But if you catch the bug and see the magic of passive income, keep investing. With Diego’s eight properties, he now creates $4-5k per month in passive income which covers all of his living expenses — making him completely financially free.

Financial freedom is within reach.

Even if you are heavily in debt as a millennial graduating from college, you can become financially free. The key that Corzo and many other millennials have uncovered is that you must make your money work for you. Stop trading your time for money and get creative with how you think. Of course becoming financially free also includes improving your credit scores, getting the best loans and creating personal budgets, but it also includes creating passive income streams. While this isn’t a get rich quick scheme, it has the power to change your life. Give it a try, and create the billion-dollar lifestyle millennials dream of.

Original Article:www.entrepreneur.com

Facebook Messenger’s New Tools Are Game-Changing for Marketers

Major moves in the social space are being made this week; Twitter upped its character limit to 280 for all users and Tencent bought 12 percent more of Snap. But, the most interesting move was actually by Facebook, and it spans far beyond social.

On November 7, Facebook announced Customer Chat, a new Messenger plugin that lets businesses have conversations with customers on their own website. This move not only further strengthens Messenger as the top partner for brands to expand and serve their customer base through conversation, it also places Facebook head-to-head against B2B Silicon Valley darlings like Intercom, Drift and Salesforce.

What sets Messenger apart is its pivot from offering a no-frills chat functionality in 2008 into an end-to-end communications platform while acquiring 1.2 billion users along the way. As chatbots continue to become more elegant, personalization is quickly becoming the next main pillar of marketing. This is the perfect time for Facebook to transform Messenger into an immensely lucrative platform for businesses the same way it capitalized on the news feed to become the global leader in the digital advertising industry.

This is only the beginning of what will be a complete overhaul of the way marketers approach their digital strategies. The adoption of what is now both website and mobile integration for Messenger paves the way for Facebook to provide a platform that measures engagement and leads with pinpoint precision — similar to the current Facebook Ads platform that analyses every digital aspect of ad campaigns to maximize effectiveness. Salesforce and competitors should be wary; when it comes to adopting trends for the convenience and support of brands, Facebook leaves no stone unturned.

 The data backing up the transition is there. According to a report by Twilio, 90 percent of people said they prefer messaging directly with a brand. However, for many brands building an audience through paid and earned media is an uphill battle. With the release of Customer Chat, brands can take advantage of their websites and acquire new customers for free.

According to the Harvard Business Review, the single most important factor in customer loyalty is reduction of customer effort. Having an evergreen, automatic chat solution on-site can significantly ease this process. For example, after launching Facebook Messenger for customer care last year, Sprint saw an increase of 31 percent in private messages in only three months time. Simply by being where customers are can increase NPS. The days of collecting email addresses are becoming obsolete; customers prefer to communicate instantly and receive real-time updates and notifications instead of filling out lead-gen forms and be left unclear when they will get a reply.

Most importantly, with Customer Chat, brands can use the Messenger channel as a way to truly personalize marketing, going beyond just a new customer acquisition channel or customer support channel. When a person chats with a brand on Messenger, the brand immediately gets relevant information like their name, photo and location. If the brand builds an intelligent messaging experience from that first Customer Chat (meaning asking questions to better understand users), the brand can re-market to individuals at a future time.

Using AI or a conversational marketing automation engine to segment and engage customers eliminates future one-to-many blasts and tailors conversation. When brands incorporate automated personalization in chat, engagement can reach rates up to 80 percent WoW.

Platforms like iMessage are perfect for launching social messaging applications (will be exciting to see Apple enter the B2B battle with Business Chat in 2018. and Slack is uniquely situated for at-work messaging. But, as the Chat Wars continue, this strategic move from Facebook Messenger continues to position them as a leader in every front.

Original Article:www.entrepreneur.com

Influence: The 4-Step Process for Selling Anything to Anyone

Influence is described as “the capacity to have an effect on the character, development, or behavior of someone or something.” However as subtle as some forms of influence might seem as they appear in both verbal and non-verbal cues, the ability to have influence over someone, especially in the area of sales, can quite literally transform your business and your finances.

As a decades-long student of psychology, I’ve long been fascinated with the areas of human behavior. From subtle gestures of body language, to the usage of a particular color in a call to action, I analyze and I notice the non-conscious drivers of our action. It’s a useful skill to have whether you’re a poker player, an ardent litigator or a savvy entrepreneur looking to negotiate your next deal.

However, my understanding of areas such as neuro-linguistic programming (NLP), a science that helps us understand and shape human behavior to our will, pales in comparison to some of the greatest purveyors of influence of all time. Richard Bandler and John Grinder who gave birth to this science that was championed by the likes of Tony Robbins, have crafted an entire arena of human development and understanding that’s advanced significantly in recent years.

Why is NLP so important? Well at the basis of selling anything to anyone is your ability to influence that person to buy from you. When you have a wholehearted understanding of the proper approach, not only can you sell, but you can likely outsell just about everyone. And if you’re a salesperson or entrepreneur anywhere in the world, then the following information could quite literally revolutionize your business and your ability to exponentiate your income.

How to Influence People to Buy From You

In a recent conversation with influence and persuasion expert Michael Bernoff, I dug deep into the science and strategies behind the ability to get someone to buy something from you. Considering that much of our thoughts and our actions are born from our unconscious mind, your ability to leverage and control that, not only in yourself, but also in others, will dictate your chances for success.

This information is applicable just as much as it is in the real world as it is in the digital world. Bernoff’s understanding and knowledge is also the basis for many of the techniques and strategies taught by some of the greatest online marketers such as Tony RobbinsRussell BrunsonRyan Deiss, Jay AbrahamFrank Kern and others. It all boils down to your ability to get people to make a commitment to you.

For example, ever wonder why, at an event such as a mastermind or a marketing conference, the speakers will get you to somehow agree with them about a certain concept or principle? They’ll either get you to stand up or raise your hand in agreement with whatever it is that they’re saying or asking. The best part? It doesn’t matter how small of a commitment they get from you, as long as they get it, that’s what matters.

They’ll tell you to raise your hand if you agree with some blanket statement that likely invokes a ‘yes’ response from just about everyone in the room. Or, they’ll get you to stand up and raise your hand. While these directives might seem very subtle, they’re setting the stage for something very powerful: the offer.

In webinars, you’ll see this happen all the time as well. Jason Fladlien, arguably the best webinar pitchman on the face of this earth, talks about doing this very same things. The secret to building out a winning webinar? Get people to commit to things. It doesn’t matter how small of a commitment it might be. Just get that commitment.

Tripwires and free-plus-shipping offers work in very much the same way. You get someone to commit to something small, even if it’s $1, you can both easily identify your buyers, but then also get a very small commitment. This forms the basis for most of the mechanics behind online marketing. It leverages our innermost psychology with our tendencies toward certain behavioral patterns.

Sales funnels are founded on these very principles. A funnel automates the process of selling something to someone, but it invokes the underlying principle of getting a solid commitment from the prospect. A prospect commits to you when they provide you with their email address and download or access your lead magnet. They also commit if they order a free book from you and simply pay the shipping-and-handling fee.

However, the best funnels also interweave commitments into things like the email sequences. They train prospects to click on links or respond in some other fashion. All of these are examples of commitments, and their power is most often understated, especially from the outside looking in. However, this one single force is the underlying technique used by the world’s most savvy marketers and salespersons to propel sales into the stratosphere.

4 Steps to Influence Your Prospect

Over the past 15 years, Bernoff has perfected a variety of methods for influence and persuasion that he often teaches around the world. It involves something called micro-commitments. The reasoning? Get people to agree with you on three small details, and the 4th is almost in the proverbial bag.

How powerful is this information? It could quite literally transform your business. There is real power in commitment. For example, when you verbally commit to something, it flips a switch in your mind. You can lucidly envision it. This is incredibly powerful during sales interactions or even things like hashing out contracts and other in-person, real-time negotiations.

It’s also the basis for setting goals and building out habits. For goal setting and habits, when you make not just a verbal commitment, but one that’s written down on paper, studies indicate that you’re far more likely to succeed. With habits, the commitment is invoked when you follow through each time. Every follow-through is one more notch in the commitment belt. String them all together and you can quickly form a good habit or break a bad one.

When it comes to the actual four-step process of getting a prospect to commit to you, Bernoff explains it like this. The reason why this works is because it lowers a person’s resistance and answers the magic question of what happens next. It also makes a prospect feel more comfortable when there’s an actual process in place to follow, making it a straightforward and very powerful selling tool.

Step 1: Get the prospect to commit to the process.

Bernoff explains that the first step is rather simple. It involves expressing a question that you’re almost certain to get a micro-commitment from the prospect. You simply say something along the following lines. “Our company has setup a 4-step process and it’s very simple. The first step is that I want to make sure we get along. If you’re comfortable, we’ll move to step 2.”

Your goal? Simply get them to say yes. Might sound silly to you. But, Bernoff explains that this is part of the overall influence strategy and of harmonizing the prospects unconscious mind with the process. By saying yes, you’ve just received the first in what will likely be a string of four vocal affirmations.

Step 2: Identify the prospect’s problem.

The next step in the process is to help the prospect identify the problem. Once again, you’re looking for a micro-commitment here. Get them to agree to move forward by telling them that you want to find out what they’re looking for. They’ve already agreed to the process, now they’re agreeing to actually move forward, which would give you your second commitment.

In this step, you get them to identify the problem. By identifying the problem, you’re creating the pain point that you’ll then get to solve. All you need to do is ask them “What’s wrong with your current situation?” If you’re selling copywriting services, you ask them what’s wrong with their copywriting situation. If you’re selling online marketing services, you ask them what’s wrong with their online marketing process? Get the picture?

Step 3: Show prospects the solutions.

In the next step, ask the prospects if you can show them your solutions. This is your third commitment. In the laws of persuasion, the saying goes that if you can get people to commit to the first three things, the fourth will automatically be true. Bernoff puts it like this. If you were to give someone three great stock picks in a row, you’d sure bet that they’d most certainly be all over the fourth one.

In this step, you’ll be showing them all the solutions that you have for their problem. If you’re selling coaching services, this is where you lay out the different plans. Show them flow charts and testimonials, and specifically how you’ll address their pain point. Make your pitch relevant and organic to whatever it is that they’re dealing with.

Step 4: Allow them to pick what’s naturally best for them.

In the last and final step in the influence-selling process, all you need to do is allow them to pick the option that’s naturally best for them. Bernoff tells me that the word ‘naturally’ is an influence word, and it should be used in this step when allowing the prospect to select the best choice that’s right for them.

At this point, the prospect has already given you three micro-commitments. You’ve primed their unconscious mind to say yes. They might not realize it, but you’ve just lowered their resistance level and increased the receptivity for your fourth and final step here. No matter what you’re selling, you can use this process to close sale after sale. It works almost religiously when used properly.

Original Article:www.entrepreneur.com

4 Tips for Managing Cash Flow in a Seasonal Business

From tourism to weather to the holiday shopping season, many small businesses encounter some degree of seasonality within their business. In fact, according to a recent Wells Fargo/Gallup survey, almost half of small business owners reported having predictable times of the year that are significantly busier or slower than others. What’s more, 41 percent said that these seasonable differences make it more difficult to manage cash flow throughout the year. Often, when businesses experience large swings in their revenues, cash flow can be at risk of being mismanaged.

Depending on the industry and type of business, there are many strategies that business owners can implement to cope with seasonal downturns and maintain a positive cash flow. While different strategies work for different businesses, there’s one thing that all businesses will benefit from — maintaining a cash flow forecast. A cash flow forecast will keep track of the inflow and outflow of cash so a business can predict how much money they’ll have on hand month-by-month for the next year.

Here are four things to consider as you manage your cash flow forecast:

1. Know your peak season.

If you have a seasonal business, the first step to creating an accurate cash flow forecast is to identify your busy and slow seasons. It’s important to be realistic with your forecasts, so make sure you don’t overestimate peak season revenue or underestimate off-season expenses. If you have an established business, the best place to start is looking at historical sales data and isolating the months with higher revenues and lower expenses, and vice versa. For startup or newer businesses, you may need to rely on competitive research to project your sales.

2. Account for recurring variable expenses.

Fixed expenses, such as rent and utilities, are fairly easy to remember and include in your cash flow forecast, but variable expenses aren’t always top of mind. From quarterly tax payments, to annual insurance premiums and months with three pay periods, there are a handful of important variable expenses that must be incorporated in your forecast. Planning for these costs in advance will only help you in the long-term.

3. Consider a business line of credit.

Despite your best efforts to maintain a detailed cash flow forecast, there may be times when you need to make a large purchase, encounter an unexpected expense or your business simply didn’t bring in as much revenue as anticipated. These unforeseen costs can be particularly challenging for seasonal businesses to shoulder during the slow season. Having a business line of credit in place can help your business bridge the gap in times like these. Through a line of credit you can access capital when you need it, usually at a lower interest rate than a credit card would offer. Work with your banker to determine your financial needs and understand if a line of credit is a good option for your business — before you need it.

4. Proactively refine your forecasts.

To keep your cash flow forecast accurate and on track, create a rolling 12-month spreadsheet plan and commit to updating it at the end of each month. Plan to add a new month to the end every time a month is completed so you’ll always have a complete picture of your business’s financial health. By updating forecasts regularly, business owners can anticipate cash shortages and take advantage of higher revenue periods when there is extra cash on hand.

As we approach the holiday shopping season and move into the new year, it’s a good time to take a step back and make sure your cash flow forecast is up to date. By knowing how much money is coming in and going out of your business each month, you’ll be in a better position to maintain control over your business’s cash flow. It’s one of the most important things you can do for your small business.

Visit WellsFargoWorks.com to read more cash flow management tips so you can make the most of the busy season, and prepare your business for financial success all year long.

Original Article:www.entrepreneur.com

4 B2B Marketing Trends You Can’t Afford to Miss in 2018

The new year is coming fast, and the best way to prepare — and stay ahead of your competitors — is to anticipate upcoming trends in B2B marketing. Just like the previous years, marketers will have to continue to deal with tangible growth and ROI pressures in 2018 as well.

Here are four emerging marketing trends you need to integrate into your 2018 marketing plan.

1. Marketing automation.

Wouldn’t it be great if you could automate your everyday B2B marketing tasks to save time? With marketing automation, not only will you be able to automate repetitive tasks, you can also nurture prospects with highly personalized, useful content along the journey to purchase.

Although the technology is in its early stage of maturity, marketers are pushing themselves to exploit the possibilities to deliver relevant and timely communications to prospects to nurture leads.

 Marketing automation is more about nurturing your prospects than selling to them. It helps you streamline your inbound marketing strategy and enhance the communication by delivering content at the exact time your prospects need it.

2. Content marketing.

For many years, content marketing has been a popular technique to nurture and acquire leads in the B2B industry. As the customer journey becomes longer, businesses will need to deploy plenty of research on different stages of the customer lifecycle. Content marketing is highly effective for B2B marketers to educate potential customers about best practices for their industry.

 Although nearly 90 percent of B2B marketers use content marketing as a core component of their online marketing strategy, only 37 percent of them have a documented content strategy, according to the Content Marketing Institute’s 2017 benchmarks. According to those same benchmarks, lack of strategy is the primary reasons why content initiatives fail.

To make your content initiative effective, aside from having a documented content strategy, it is vital to measure content marketing ROI as well.

Set the goals you want to achieve through content marketing and measure them through KPIs. Although content marketing is cheaper, it’s not certainly free. To measure ROI, you need to calculate the cost of content production and editing. You’ll also need to measure various factors like traffic, brand awareness and customer engagement that you acquired through content marketing along with sales and revenue.

3. Content personalization.

While web content personalization is a well-established marketing tactic among B2C websites, B2B businesses are still slow to adopt it. That’s quite surprising because personalization of emails is a common tactic across all industries.

study by Seismic and Demand Metric looked at the reasons why B2B business were not implementing personalization and found that a lack of resources, technology and data were cited more often than not. They also found that effectiveness of content personalization strategy is resoundingly high for those who have adopted it.

With automation tools like Evergage, real time 1:1 personalization becomes more affordable for small companies. It helps you to supercharge your account-based marketing initiatives and provide personalized experience based on various customer demographics including company name, industry and other data.

It goes without saying, in order to make your content initiative enticing in 2018, you need to provide dynamic content on your website.

4. LinkedIn marketing.

Traditionally, social media was considered as a lead generation channel for B2C marketing, but more and more marketers shift their focus towards social media to educate and communicate with potential prospects.

Just like the previous years, LinkedIn is expected to outperform other social channels for B2B businesses.

After being acquired by Microsoft in 2016, LinkedIn has released tons of features that are geared towards making LinkedIn the most efficient and cost-effective platform for reaching B2B audience. For example, the recently released InMail Analytics features help you get more response and improve your entire team’s performance. B2B marketers are making more data driven decisions with LinkedIn than ever before, and the trend is expected to continue in 2018 as well.

If you haven’t invested in LinkedIn marketing, you’re already falling behind. Social selling is no longer an experimental strategy. It’s the new industry standards for B2B sales.

With technology on the rise, the possibilities for B2B businesses to engage with their potential prospects are endless. If you haven’t incorporated the new trends in your strategic planning for 2018, now is the right time. By getting well-prepared beforehand and embracing changes early, you’ll be the first to reap the benefits of the new trends.

Original Article:www.entrepreneur.com

Who You Are in Tough Times Reveals Your Strengths as Leader

In this series, Open Every DoorEntrepreneur staff writer Nina Zipkin shares her conversations with leaders about understanding what you have to offer, navigating the obstacles that will block your path, identifying opportunity and creating it for yourself and for others.

In her role as CEO of Kidbox, a growing clothing subscription service, Miki Berardelli is on a mission to provide new clothes to to families who need them most. For every kept Kidbox, the company outfits a child in need, and since its launch in 2016, through a partnership with with Delivering Good, the company has donated roughly $1.6 million in clothing.

CEO of a startup is a brand new challenge for Berardelli, who has worked for major brands over the course of her career. Prior to joining Kidbox in 2016, she served as president and chief marketing officer at Chico’s FAS, chief marketing officer at Tory Burch and senior vice president of marketing at Ralph Lauren. She also serves as chairman of the National Retail Federation CMO Council and was a member of the first Google Retail Advisory council.

So why would Berardelli leave behind a career at such storied brands to join an startup? The ability to craft a company culture from the ground up was a thrilling opportunity, she says.

“Culture has to withstand the test of time. Self-awareness is paramount to effective leadership,” Berardelli tells Entrepreneur. “I feel like culture, at its most valuable, is something that creates accountability, self-awareness and glue that binds people together in pursuit of what they are trying to build.”

Berardelli shared her insights about making self-advocacy a part of your muscle memory, how to build confidence and why you can’t value success without failure.

Can you talk about a moment in your career that you had to advocate for yourself? How did you approach it?

At a certain point after becoming an executive, I felt like I hit a point where I needed to become an advocate for myself. I really just approached [negotiating for myself] like it was a business case, as if I was going to a CFO asking for more marketing dollars to fund a marketing initiative. I spelled out the contributions that I made. Then because I laid out the business case on how I was functioning in the organization and the decisions I was a part of, then I was able to negotiate the title and therefore the salary. It didn’t have to become a conversation about money — it became a conversation about contribution, being with that particular organization for a number of years and establishing a solid track record.

But to say that it was easy for me to switch into that gear of self-advocacy was not easy. I was more uncomfortable probably than I’ve ever been in any other business meeting. But once that was accomplished, you have more bravery to do it more often. And after a while it’s expected. Not necessarily self-advocating a new title or a salary but just advocating in general and making sure that your point of view and your voice is heard. And then after a while it becomes muscle memory. And it’s much more comfortable. And you also start noticing how many other people are doing it around you. That’s been my experience.

What was a mistake you made and how did you move forward from it?

I would say almost all of the mistakes that I’ve made in my business career certainly were when there was a lack of speaking up when I felt very strongly that a decision was being made in the wrong direction or a decision was being made that was not in the best interest of our customers. My whole career has been in retail and digital so I’ve always had a very customer-centric perspective. And that lack of speaking up has been a pretty consistent theme. I don’t do it anymore but when I think back to mistakes it was usually what I didn’t do vs. what I did.

How have you grown and changed as a leader throughout your career?

Certainly owning gravitas at the table has become much more comfortable, but it’s been an evolution for sure. Making the switch from a C-level executive — in my case I was chief marketing officer — to a president and CEO. It made it clear that I had to show up a little differently than I had in the past. Being a member of the executive team that supports the CEO is very different than being the CEO. That team that reports into you expects a certain level of confidence and stride in your step. Because that allows them to feel where you’re leading them, they can feel confident in that destination.

It’s a really important skill to learn to shut down conflict in a productive way quickly in the spirit of problem-solving. And I think that’s the gravitas that you have to bring. You have to have a way of explaining why you’re making decisions so that people get on board and they walk out of the room even if they weren’t in agreement. But they walk out of the room and it’s now their decision too.

Over time, how has your view of success and failure changed?

I’m much more open to failure because I think you learn faster. It’s almost like talent development or leadership development. When people come to me and they talk about how they’re not inspired by their manager or their boss, I always say the important thing is to know that you’re going to learn as much if not more from someone you don’t want to emulate than from someone you do. Sometimes that’s an example of failure. I think failure is super important because it’s really hard to celebrate success when you haven’t been on the other side of it.

Is there a piece of advice a mentor gave you that you still take to heart today?

I had an amazing mentor during my years at Ralph Lauren — she still remains a mentor to this day. And when I was leaving to join Tory Burch as chief marketing officer she said there are builders and there are maintainers. She said: “You are a builder. The minute you stop building you’re bored. Know that about yourself and make sure every position that you pursue has a long road of building tied to it, because that’s also where you are in your zone.” And it was really profound advice to me. I like evolution. If things are moving incrementally I’m not excited about my work. I embraced [the advice] right away, but in terms of truly understanding it, that’s been a longer journey.

What do you say to yourself to keep going during tough moments?

I exercise more and I meditate a little more and I try to get more sleep. You have to do things for your health to keep you in that positive state of mind. I’m a big believer in, especially as a CEO, that who you during difficult times resonates much more loudly than who you are during times that are easy. I try to stay very in tune with how I’m showing up and be consistent, whether it’s at a time of great success or a more difficult time. I try not to let my persona change when I’m facing difficult times.

You’ve gone from working in legacy companies to leading a startup. What would you say to people who are about to make a career shift?

I always look at my career as a mosaic that’s not done yet. And so I’ve tried really hard to make sure that every role I take builds upon the last in terms of responsibility and in terms of experience but that also adds a new dimension. If my career is a geometric shape, there’s a new surface created by that experience. Joining a startup has been totally different because the pace is totally different, but I love that pace. Your agility is forced to be different because you don’t have the resources of a larger organization. The opportunity to join a startup at its inception and be a CEO who’s passionate about culture who will build the team from the ground up and define the culture from the very beginning is a really unique opportunity. So I guess the advice would be identify the opportunity in your next pursuit — that’s where the magic is.

Original Article:www.entrepreneur.com


Why You Should Treat Your Marketing Budget Like a Poker Bankroll

Just as the richest players in poker can still lose it all, even brands with the biggest marketing budgets can still lose millions on a bad play.

Pepsi discovered that truth firsthand after running a tone-deaf YouTube ad in April featuring people marching down a city street with generic protest signs. Kendall Jenner suddenly joined in, then stepped out of the crowd to make a stone-faced police officer smile by handing him a can of Pepsi. This left some viewers wondering whether the ad might be a belated (and expensive) April Fools’ Day joke. Harsher criticism led Pepsi to pull it the very next day.

The viral outrage hurt the company’s potential revenue and damaged Pepsi’s brand sentiment, especially on social media. Industry experts estimate the cost of production, Jenner’s fee and the media buy might have run into the hundreds of millions. Although such a huge, global brand could afford to take the hit, it should never have taken such a risk in the first place.

When a small ad can become a big story within hours, every bet is a big bet. Poker players avoid losing too much at once by calculating risks and managing their bankroll. That means a player with $2 million in the bank isn’t sitting down at a table with $2 million in chips, and then going all-in on a bad hand.

Your business should play by the same rules. In marketing, as in poker, disciplined bankroll management and calculated risks are the keys to staying on budget while seizing opportunities that provide high return on investment.

Staying in the game

A great poker player who puts himself in situations he should win 90 percent of the time could still lose 100 times in a row. It’s not guaranteed, but the longer a person plays, the more likely an abnormally long streak of bad luck will occur.

Not every marketing campaign or investment will bear fruit, and sometimes multiple endeavors in a row fall flat. Companies that bet too much on these investments will struggle to survive; those that budget to outlast unlucky streaks will stay on track.

The best approach is to ride the ebb and flow between optimizing for expected ROI and maintaining a position of safety. When limited opportunities start paying immediate dividends, companies that practice bankroll management can double down — while others lack the funds to capitalize on the opportunity.

Betting on the best hands

Marketing budgets are typically created in vacuums with their numbers based on static assumptions and long lists of hypotheticals. If poker players bet on “what ifs” the way most marketers do, they would go broke within a month.

Smart companies look at past performance data and create fluid budgets that leave wiggle room for unexpected turns of events. By leaving some money behind for the best opportunities, marketers can react quicker to recent data and adjust spending based on real-time information.

At Ladder, we budget according to the 80/20 rule. Eighty percent of our marketing budget goes to proven winners, such as our B2B ad campaigns and Facebook lead ad campaigns. The other 20 percent always goes to a new channel, creative construct, audience or copy test. We see opportunities all the time, so rather than spend all our budget on potential big wins (or all on past successes), we spend small amounts to test. When the risk doesn’t pay off, no harm done. When the investment shows promise, we try to scale it.

How to win big without going broke

The 80/20 rule helps us, but it’s not the only way for companies to practice good bankroll management. Just as the best poker players continually adjust their styles, marketers can follow a few basic steps to maximize ROI and weather down periods.

1. Hold enough cash to ante up.

Always hold back enough budget to continue along a successful path and invest more when necessary. We set a target budget each month and never contribute the entire budget to a single campaign because we have learned that big wins can come from small spends.

According to research recently published in the Harvard Business Review, as challenging as it is to evaluate new ideas, running many inexpensive tests at once is the key. Authors Ron Kohavi and Stefan Thomke explored the outcome of a simple A/B test conducted at Microsoft, for example, to see how changing ad headlines in its Bing search engine would affect revenue.

This initiative had been languishing on the back burner until one eager engineer suddenly decided to spearhead a few, cheap online experiments to test a few different possibilities. Incredibly, just hours later, analysis showed that a single variation in one headline had resulted in a 12 percent increase in revenue — in the United States alone, that would amount to more than $100 million annually.

As this story shows, even small marketing plays can turn into massive wins. According to the results of “The CMO Survey” from August 2017, marketing budgets now account for around 11 percent of the average company’s total budget, no matter the size of the company.

With so much at stake, founders must pick their battles wisely.

2. Keep testing and investing.

“The CMO Survey” also discovered companies of all sizes, across all industries, that rely most heavily on analytics in decision-making typically have marketing budgets 70 percent larger than the competition. Are those companies analyzing data to make sounder bets seeing more success, and therefore bigger budgets?

If an analytics department isn’t within your reach, you can still pour a percentage of your resources into new opportunities that demonstrate promise. Limited tests of small investments can provide powerful information.

Our Facebook lead ads might be part of our 80 percent “proven winners” budget today, but for three months, we used our 20 percent exploration budget to test different formats and creative approaches. Once we realized we could replicate the results, we shifted our budget to invest regularly in Facebook ads and began using that 20 percent to test other options.

3. Create a fluid budget.

Keep marketing plans and finances fluid from month to month. New opportunities appear all the time, but they disappear just as quickly. Build wiggle room into the budget to avoid betting too much on a single strategy.

We always double down on what works — such as our Facebook lead ads. Those big wins from small spends are only possible when we build fluid budgets that can accommodate new ideas on a moment’s notice. Just as a poker player wants to have cash on hand when wealthy, inexperienced opponents sit down at the table, marketers need to be ready to adjust their priorities when golden opportunities arise.

The battle between Snapchat and Instagram proves how quickly marketing channels can shift. Instagram users woke up one day to find Instagram Stories — almost a carbon copy of Snapchat’s functionality — on their feeds. Although Snapchat beat Instagram to the punch, Instagram’s Stories feature quickly overtook its rival, currently boasting more than 300 million users, according to TechCrunch.

Poker players and marketers alike strive to not win big once, but to develop a replicable strategy that will lead to more sustainable, scalable successes. Heed these lessons from savvy poker pros to practice perfect bankroll management and be ready when it’s time to go all-in.

Original Article:www.entrepreneur.com

Are You Taking Care of Yourself Financially?

I’m sure there are great entrepreneurs who are good at three or four things in their lives, but in my experience, entrepreneurs tend to be very focused, especially on their businesses. Unfortunately, this means that most entrepreneurs are terrible money managers for themselves. I think they get so tied up in running their businesses on a day-to-day basis that they don’t think about their future financial picture.

One constraint is simply their available time. They just don’t have enough time, especially if they have families. Financial planning and management tends to be a long-term consideration, and most entrepreneurs are just surviving, so they intelligently put their time where it should be — keeping their businesses alive and profitable.

The other pitfall is that entrepreneurs tend to have a lot of their net worth tied up in their businesses. In some ways, this is not a bad thing since it is a tax-free way to build wealth. However, most businesses are not liquid, and they have huge hidden risks over the long run. The probability of a good lawn cutting service that has been in business for 20 years going out of business in the next year might be low. The probability of it going out of business over five, 10 or 20 years is much higher. The longer that you are in business, the higher the chance of failure. As a result, keeping a majority of an owner’s net worth tied up in their businesses is not always sound practice. I’m sure there is substantial data around my claim, but I have personally seen this at least a dozen times from entrepreneurs I know.

There is a prescription for this. Every entrepreneur needs a good certified personal accountant (CPA) who is good at financial planning or even a financial planner with a good track record. I’m always reluctant to give advice to people like me who wouldn’t follow it, but it is probably a good idea to get some good professionals on your side. Pick advisors who are older, who are risk averse and who you may not even like since they are so different from you. If you are like me and don’t especially enjoy going to doctors or other advisors, I recommend that you put away 10 to 15 percent of every dollar of disposable income that you ever earn. Put it somewhere that you don’t touch. I prefer safe investments like real estate and indexed mutual funds or even government vehicles that carry no risk. Since your risk in life is already way higher than it should be, and way higher relative to other normal people in the world, be sure that your investments are super boring and conservative. Stay away from investments in Franklin Mint coins and mint condition baseball cards and oil wells… and IPOs. Your life is chaotic enough, so you don’t need to add to the chaos.

Original Article:www.entrepreneur.com