• The Future of Productivity: Teamwork and Collaboration

    Industry experts explain how teamwork and collaboration are changing.

    I recently wrote about the ways AI and machine learning will impact productivity. For this article, I’m focusing on teamwork and collaboration. I reached out to founders, productivity experts and futurists who work in this space every day to ask what their predictions are for the next five and 10 years. Their answers were enlightening.

    The future isn’t just coming for personal productivity; experts also believe that advances in technology will strongly affect teams and organizations. From productivity platforms that seamlessly integrate the tools we depend on, to new ways to collaborate in an ever-more diverse and distributed workforce, here’s how the future will affect team productivity.

    Embrace the power of teams.

    When I asked Dom Price, the head of R&D at Atlassian, he said, “The future of productivity is all about unleashing the potential of your teams.” According to him, “90 percent of organizations claim to be tackling issues so complex they need teams to solve them.” This doesn’t bode well for organizations in which collaboration has not become a priority.

    Price further stated that, “Diversity, distribution, timezones, cultural differences and hierarchical reporting lines all make teamwork hard. We all need to unlearn some old ways of working, and embrace diversity, inclusion and better collaboration to drive team productivity in this new era of work.” I think that as teams become more distributed in the modern workforce, wether its because of politics or the war for talent, collaboration is the number one factor that companies need to implement.

    It started with email.

    Bret Taylor, former CTO of Facebook, inventor of the “Like” button and co-founder of productivity suite Quip, sees a solution to this challenge in the way communication has changed to become less formal in recent years. He believes that “connected, mobile and social — work is about communication. It’s about people sharing work, ideas and opinions.”

    Like many of the experts I spoke to, Taylor sees the future in the form of modern productivity suites that are no longer just “designed to augment email.” “Combining content and communication into a single, seamless experience — word processing, spreadsheets, chat, checklists, live editing and much more. Everything will happen in one place, vastly reducing the need for teams to send long email threads with clunky attachments, or waste time in endless meetings.”

    Visual communication moves up.

    Others see the solution to this challenge in the form of even more casual communication techniques. Wendy Hamilton, CEO of TechSmith, sees the future in video and screencasting.

    “As younger workers progress higher in their careers, they are setting the standard for communication in a workplace and they are leading with a preference for visual communication.”

    She believes that “from corporate training to marketing, video will become ingrained in the fabric of how companies operate, both internally and externally.”

    “Businesses both small and large are using this technique to demonstrate processes, improve communication efficiency and effectiveness, increase productivity and eliminate unnecessary meetings,” she adds.

    Informal communication is on the rise.

    Project management and productivity writer for Gartner and Capterra, Rachel Burger, agrees. “Many workers are already used to collaboration tools like Slack and its alternatives. To them, particularly millennial workers, formal project management software, like Microsoft Project or VersionOne, seem cumbersome and clunky. The millennial workforce simply doesn’t want to work with these tools.”

    Like Hamilton and Taylor, she sees informal communication replacing traditional project management tools in the workplace. However, she cautions that “collaboration software can never fully replace project management.” Citing a Gartner report, she states, “Adopting these systems will require strong change management skills from the lead project manager. In the world of productivity, the transition may lead to an initial disorganization until common collaboration tools can create more effective tracking and filtering systems per project.”

    Teams are embracing technologies.

    I tend to agree. While I don’t believe that visual communication will ever replace all other forms of communication, I do see a strong trend towards visual work as a faster way to productivity. It also allows remote teams to feel more like a part of the organization. Think about how VR could revolutionize the way we work — putting distributed teams in the same virtual room for meetings.

    For now though, the future of team collaboration will definitely be mobile, facilitated almost entirely by the smartphone in the near future. In 10 years’ time though, I see a future that will include augmented processes and machine learning. Information being sent to you from your environment, whether it’s from Alexa in the corner of your living room or a notification sent to your phone via geo-tracking giving information about a person you’re meeting as you arrive. There is no doubt that collaboration will continue to evolve as new technologies become available. Just look how the iPhone changed communication.

     

    Source: entrepreneur.com

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  • Amazon Delivery Drones May Scan Your Home and Suggest Repairs

    A new patent describes how Amazon’s drones will scan your home while delivering packages to see if anything needs fixing.

    Amazon is never one to miss an opportunity for new revenue streams, so while the company continues to develop automated drones for Prime Air order deliveries, it’s also thinking about what else they could do during the flight to your home. A new patent granted to Amazon this week reveals one potentially profitable extra function: assessing your house and seeing if any repairs are needed.

    The patent, entitled “Trigger agents in video streams for drones,” was spotted by Business Insider. It describes the drone being able to scan and capture data about a destination. That data is then received by a remote computer system and analysed to identify its characteristics.

    Why would Amazon want to do that? Because it opens the door to a new type of recommendation system, which in turn means the potential for a new revenue stream. For example, the data the drone captures could highlight a roof repair is needed, or your trees are overgrown or dying and suggest an appropriate fix/service. Maybe your garden looks like it needs some love, so Amazon will start recommending garden tools and accessories.

    Anyone concerned about privacy will be glad to hear Amazon views this as an opt-in service. So you can choose to have your home scanned by the drone, and if you do, expect a review to arrive via email, text message or through an Amazon account notification along with some purchase options.

    Whether this feature ends up being a core part of the drone delivery process is a secondary concern for consumers as well as Amazon. Right now, the focus is on actually getting the drones approved so they are allowed to fly and deliver packages. Only once that’s up and running should we expect additional services to start being offered.

    Source: entrepreneur.com

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  • McDonald’s Puts Mobile Ordering to the Test

    McDonald’s on Wednesday March 15 began testing new mobile ordering and payment functionality at 29 of its restaurants in Monterey and Salinas, California.

    It will expand the pilot to another 51 restaurants in Spokane, Washington, on March 20.

    The company will run multiple pilots to gather customer feedback, work out any issues that arise, and streamline integration with its IT systems before rolling out its updated mobile app to nearly all 14,000 restaurants in the United States — as well as 6,000 others in Canada, the UK, France, Germany, Australia and China — by the end of the year.

    Improving the Customer Experience

    Providing mobile ordering is part of a global growth plan McDonald’s unveiled on March 1, which hinges on improving the customer experience. The updated app will track a customer’s location, allowing customers to place orders anywhere and ensure their food is fresh when they get it.

    “You want to make sure that orders are correct and delivered on time — that stuff that’s supposed to be hot is hot, and stuff that’s supposed to be cold is cold,” Beagle Research Principal Denis Pombriant told CRM Buyer.

    The mobile-ordering functionality likely will contribute positively to the customer experience, remarked Holger Mueller, a principal analyst at Constellation Research, because “when you order fast food, you want to order fast, pay fast and eat fast.”

    The Trend Toward Mobility

    Demand for mobile ordering in the restaurant industry is “experiencing explosive growth,” noted Cindy Zhou, a principal analyst at Constellation Research. For example, Panera Bread, an early adopter of mobile app ordering, has projected its digital sales to hit US$1 billion this year.

    Constellation has found that about 30 percent of U.S. adults aged 65 or older have a smartphone, and “they are moving towards mobile device ordering for the convenience and selection,” Zhou told CRM Buyer.

    Take Starbucks’ mobile ordering app, for instance. It “worked so well that they had a problem filling orders,” Mueller told CRM Buyer. There were long queues at the pickup counter.

    When Being First Isn’t Best

    Other restaurant chains, notably Domino’s and Starbucks, took an early lead in providing mobile ordering capabilities to their customers.

    McDonald’s may have wanted the early adopters to grapple with the new technology first. CEO Steve Easterbrook reportedly has said that it’s better to be right than to be first to market.

    “Starbucks saw a decline in customer satisfaction and their stock dipped about 4 percent last quarter because of issues around long lines and in-store congestion resulting from mobile ordering,” Zhou noted.

    “McDonald’s is what we call a ‘fast follower’ at Constellation,” she remarked. “Not being the first to market gives them an opportunity to gauge consumer demand for the service and ensures they avoid some of the mistakes others have made.”

    Being first to market can provide a competitive advantage, though, depending on the strategy hammered out by management.

    Execution is key. The Panera Bread 2.0 app, which offers rapid pickup and fast lanes, “has led to excellent customer reviews, with over 6,000 4.5-star user ratings on the iTunes App Store,” Zhou pointed out.

    “Service is important, but so is engagement,” Pombriant observed. “If you can find a way to engage better with your customers, they’ll overlook small failings.”

    Improving the Customer Experience

    Providing mobile ordering is part of a global growth plan McDonald’s unveiled on March 1, which hinges on improving the customer experience. The updated app will track a customer’s location, allowing customers to place orders anywhere and ensure their food is fresh when they get it.

    “You want to make sure that orders are correct and delivered on time — that stuff that’s supposed to be hot is hot, and stuff that’s supposed to be cold is cold,” Beagle Research Principal Denis Pombriant told CRM Buyer.

    The mobile-ordering functionality likely will contribute positively to the customer experience, remarked Holger Mueller, a principal analyst at Constellation Research, because “when you order fast food, you want to order fast, pay fast and eat fast.”

    The Trend Toward Mobility

    Demand for mobile ordering in the restaurant industry is “experiencing explosive growth,” noted Cindy Zhou, a principal analyst at Constellation Research. For example, Panera Bread, an early adopter of mobile app ordering, has projected its digital sales to hit US$1 billion this year.

    Constellation has found that about 30 percent of U.S. adults aged 65 or older have a smartphone, and “they are moving towards mobile device ordering for the convenience and selection,” Zhou told CRM Buyer.

    Take Starbucks’ mobile ordering app, for instance. It “worked so well that they had a problem filling orders,” Mueller told CRM Buyer. There were long queues at the pickup counter.

    When Being First Isn’t Best

    Other restaurant chains, notably Domino’s and Starbucks, took an early lead in providing mobile ordering capabilities to their customers.

    McDonald’s may have wanted the early adopters to grapple with the new technology first. CEO Steve Easterbrook reportedly has said that it’s better to be right than to be first to market.

    “Starbucks saw a decline in customer satisfaction and their stock dipped about 4 percent last quarter because of issues around long lines and in-store congestion resulting from mobile ordering,” Zhou noted.

    “McDonald’s is what we call a ‘fast follower’ at Constellation,” she remarked. “Not being the first to market gives them an opportunity to gauge consumer demand for the service and ensures they avoid some of the mistakes others have made.”

    Being first to market can provide a competitive advantage, though, depending on the strategy hammered out by management.

    Execution is key. The Panera Bread 2.0 app, which offers rapid pickup and fast lanes, “has led to excellent customer reviews, with over 6,000 4.5-star user ratings on the iTunes App Store,” Zhou pointed out.

    “Service is important, but so is engagement,” Pombriant observed. “If you can find a way to engage better with your customers, they’ll overlook small failings.”

    Source: technewsworld.com

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  • Earning money in the mobile app era:how apps can help you to save more

    Tech in the digital age is ubiquitous. Everywhere you look, you will find someone holding a smartphone, watching a movie on their tablets, or listening to music via their mobile devices.

    The mobile industry is huge and it can entice people to spend a lot more money than they usually would have. However, that does not have to be the case. In fact, people can now earn money on their spare time with simple tasks, and save money when buying anything.

    Earning money on your free time

    Most people seem to think that every service that promises to make its users money from home is a scam. While it is true that there are many apps that are entirely fake and attempt to simply trick people with fake promises, there are many legitimate ones too.

    In fact, there are countless lists of mobile apps that help you earn money online. These apps all share common features, such as allowing their users to complete as many or as few tasks as they want and earn equivalent cash in the process.

    While such apps rarely pay enough for a full-time income, their purpose is not to completely replace your actual job. Instead, they can be used whenever you have some free time and would like to earn some extra cash.

    For instance, plenty of people have a long commute every day to work. Many will spend that time listening to music, reading the newspaper, or catching up with the latest updates in social media.

    Instead of doing that, they could potentially take some time to work through mobile apps like Swagbucks which will allow them to make some extra money, perhaps enough to pay for the commute or an extra cup of coffee.

    Apps that earn you money are entirely flexible

    The best thing about these apps is that they never force their users to complete more tasks than they would like. In fact, users can simply close the app whenever they get bored and continue later in the day or even later in the week.

    The way most of these services work is that they allow users to accumulate points whenever certain tasks are completed. Completing tasks gives users points which can then be exchanged for actual money.

    That kind of flexibility is hard to come by and is one of the most appealing aspects of doing some extra work from a smartphone or tablet. As long as you are content with spending a limited amount of your time for limited rewards then such apps are the right choice for you.

    The mobile industry can also help you save money

    Earning money via mobile apps is an absolutely fine way to spend a couple of hours every day but it is not for everyone. Some people have a satisfying day job with a high salary and they do not wish to continue working when they get home or during their long commutes.

    Instead, they may wish to scout the web for deals, discounts, and interesting products that they can add to their collection. This is precisely the reason why so many apps concerned with online shopping keep popping up in each app store.

    Wish and Shpock are just two of the many examples of apps dedicated to saving people money, albeit through different avenues. The first allows people to connect with overseas shops which can ship items are highly reduced costs whereas the second one lets users sell their items to anyone in their vicinity, a modern version of the classified ads.

    Apps and the sharing economy

    The sharing economy has come under a lot of fire recently. For example, Airbnb is believed to worsen the renting problems that many major cities face because it allows people to rent their rooms in the short-term only, leading to increase shortages in housing.

    However, the sharing economy is a concept which has been readily embraced by everyday users. Today, many people would prefer to bring up Uber on their phones and order a ride than calling a taxi company and booking a ride from them.

    The sharing economy concept seems to have found a solid home in the mobile industry as more and more apps embrace it in ways that disrupt the market. In China alone, the shared economy industry is estimated at $502 billion, a number that doubled in a single year.

    Soon, major cities in the West will also catch up and ride the sharing wave even further. In the next few years, it will not be uncommon to use apps in order to rent a bike, visit a shop and pay with a mobile coupon, and request a ride via an app on the way back.

    Such concepts seem strange for the uninitiated but users across the world seem ready to adopt them whenever they actually hit the market. With apps available to earn, save, and share money, it is not difficult to believe that the mobile industry will play a vital role in the economy for years to come.

    Source: www.thenextweb.com

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  • How Changes to the Way We Search Will Impact Businesses

    Changes in paths to consume content and experiences have emerged through technologies that offer a glimpse into what search may look like in the not-so-distant future.

    Today’s search engines are one of the primary paths to content experiences on the web. Shopping, research, directions and questions all pass through Google (and to a lesser extent Bing and Yahoo) as the entry point to solutions-seeking. Generally, the experience is the destination, and search engines have done a fine job of channeling users to the precise experience they’re looking for.

    What if, however, the end result could be reached earlier, circumventing today’s path? Changes in paths to consume content and experiences have emerged through technologies that offer a glimpse into what search may look like in the not-so-distant future.

    With Google Answers and Google My Business data dominating in search results, and providing data and answers to the user directly after they search, it eliminates the need for a user to click through to a website. While this might not be a delightful or engaging content experience, a very distinct need is being addressed through answers and data delivery right in the search engine results pages. Consequently, disruptive technology companies (Google being one of them) have plans to delight in other ways — almost certainly changing the search landscape as we know it.

    Human language search

    We’re currently witnessing the rise of voice search on our personal devices. The results are simple answers and data, similar to what we see displayed visually via Answers boxes and Google My Business. An interesting trend that has emerged since Siri and Cortana came on the scene is our “human language search” approach to the way we query. Speaking to our devices in the same way we speak to a barista or store clerk, this behavior has followed us back to our keyboards when we search on desktop and mobile. This suits search engines well, as we tend to be clearer with our intent and context when we search this way versus the old-school Boolean method.

    Anything more detailed than your device returning simple answers or asking for a next step, however, will require better familiarity between the user and the search engine. If we’re to expect the disappearance of the keyboard and rely on voice completely, machine learning and personalization will need to evolve. At the very least, we’ll be tethered to something that forces us to select the next step for the foreseeable future, even if we speak to them like other humans. With Google Lensvisual search, however, all bets may be off.

     

    Digital personal assistants

    Google Home, Amazon Alexa and others have taken search results a step further, neatly bypassing displayable data with answers, weather data and news being read aloud, versus a query, click or scroll. Commands to purchase can also be made through a digital personal assistant. What this means, however, is that chasing ownership of the top three results in search engines will be a thing of the past. When digital personal assistants are fed search results from the top spot, position one will be the only relevant position to own.

    Shopping may be a different story altogether if your device prioritizes results from its own ecosystem over rival search engines. Looking at how Amazon manages its Alexa devices today is just a preview into online shopping’s future.

    Everything in-platform

    As Google has evolved to meet the needs of users by limiting options and providing quick rewards directly in results pages, so have other complementary (and at times competitive) platforms.

    Facebook Instant Articles and Google AMP don’t take users too far away from the originating platform source, enabling them to return to whatever they were doing before something caught their eye. Solutions like Facebook Store integrate products for an in-platform shopping experience, tightening the gap between product discovery and purchase, while directing users away from Google’s fairly limitless shopping mall of possibilities.

    WeChat takes it a few steps further. What began as a messaging platform in China has become a robust social, commerce and payments ecosystem without a U.S. equivalent. Taking a taxi to dinner via WeChat can include hailing a ride, route sharing, messaging a photo from the cab and splitting payments all in a single platform. Meanwhile, the U.S. industry is still too fractured for full social and payments integration, meaning customers have limited social sharing in their ride sharing apps. In Uber’s current state, it just doesn’t seem realistic to pull a menu attached to your restaurant destination like it is in WeChat.

    But, to think that before Uber and Lyft we would have Googled for a local taxi company, visited its website for a phone number and manually dialed to speak to a human is remarkable. And it’s paved the way for introducing something like WeChat in the U.S., or at the very least, for a powerhouse like Facebook to integrate social media, services and payments that limits the necessity for some types of search behavior in the future.

    Hyper-personalization

    If you’re interested in how organic search will be impacted next, look to other digital marketing channels for the blueprint. In paid media, we see search and display ads based on demographics and browsing history. Programmatic display, beacon technology and more advanced targeting gets even creepier. In organic search today, we see results based on location and past purchases we may have made. Google’s search algorithm has brought us what the engines consider the most relevant results, but those results are rarely individualized in any meaningful way.

    Moving past simple targeting, machine learning and platform integration can deliver results to users on an absolute personal level. Imagine data from walled-in ecosystems like Facebook and a news site on the open web feeding data into Google’s organic algorithm to address our queries personally. Marketers are using beacon technology to know we were just at Starbucks and location data to know it’s about to rain in order to serve up the perfect ad creative. It’s only a matter of time before similar collections of intelligence can answer the “what should I do today in New York?” query with a relevant result that won’t have you over-caffeinated and caught in the rain.

    Source: www.entrepreneur.com

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  • Why Personal Branding Must Be Your First Focus

    Consumers won’t buy from your company until they trust you.

    In today’s competitive business environment, it may seem nearly impossible to stand out. But many people have managed to step out of the shadows by opting for a strategy primarily used by businesses themselves — branding.

    Personal branding is the key to giving yourself an advantage both in your current job and when you search for a new one.

    Your personal brand is something that follows you around whether you want it to or not. It’s something that exists even if you don’t bother to cultivate it. From job to job, the way you present yourself professionally matters, and it is instrumental in establishing yourself as a valuable leader.

    What exactly is personal branding?

    Understanding the ins and outs of personal branding is obviously the first step in the right direction. The concept can be simply defined as the method of marketing yourself and your career to improve relationships with managers, colleagues and clients. Turning yourself into a brand helps you manage how you’re viewed and how much trust you can establish in your career. It involves creating a distinct voice, image and ethical standard.

    But, it’s also something that takes consistent work over the course of your career. That is to say, you can’t write a particularly excellent blog post one time and expect that to carry you through the rest of your life. On top of that, just generally having a social media presence is no longer enough to qualify as a personal brand.

    Building trust with those around you.

    Trust isn’t something that flourishes naturally on a wide scale. It’s something you have to cultivate, and the best way to do that is with a unique personal brand. When it comes to who consumers trust the most, it’s almost always individuals. Corporate branding may technically be more visible, but it’s almost universally seen as less trustworthy. In fact, brand messages are shared 24 times more often if the originator of the message is an individual.

    Clearly, you can use your personal brand to build trust as long as that brand reads as authentic and sincere.

    Finding a niche.

    One of the most valuable facets of a personal brand is discovering your niche. It can be difficult to stand out if your area of expertise is simply “marketing.” If you try something more specific, you can magnify yourself and your skills. Although your target demographic may be more narrow, you are more likely to connect with that audience. I have spent most of my career focusing on Wikipedia. May not sound exciting, but it has helped me stand out as a go-to person for those in need of a Wikipedia page.

    Becoming a thought leader.

    While becoming a thought leader might not be at the top of everyone’s to-do list, it can happen if you establish yourself in a niche. Whether you are writing articles or participating in interviews, a portfolio of helpful information and advice will propel you to thought leader status. Again, this is all about building trust with valuable and actionable guidance.

    Conclusion.

    In order to become a respected intellectual in your field, you have to know what you’re talking about, offer genuine counsel and really mean what you say. Done well, personal branding can walk side-by-side with personal development and career success.

    Source: www.entrepreneur.com

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  • To Succeed, You Need to Be the Rock in a Storm

    He lost his passion and almost lost his business — here’s the philosophy that helped this business owner get back on his feet.

    In this ongoing series, we are sharing advice, tips and insights from real entrepreneurs who are out there doing business battle on a daily basis. (Answers have been edited and condensed for clarity.)

    Who are you and what’s your business?

    My name is Claude Florent. Ever since I was young, I told my friends that I wanted to have my own business. I wanted the challenge of creating things that make customers feel good. After working many years with big corporations and trying to buy at least 25 companies, I finally bought Rainguard, which manufactures chemical products for the construction industry. Today, I own five companies that range from coatings to paintballs to a new line of auto care products.

    What was your toughest challenge and how did you overcome it?

    Shortly after buying Rainguard, I got served with divorce papers. This just crushed me and I started to second-guess everything I did. I had friends tell me to pour myself into my business, but the problem was I only did what I did for my family — I was lost. I almost lost my passion for owning a business. I almost lost my business. This was the lowest point in my life. I can’t say that one day I looked up and there was a bright light from the heavens. My turnaround was gradual. What I do know today is I have an overwhelming desire to make the best products, to provide the best shopping experience and to have an environment that is great for the employees that are trading their time to help me accomplish our mission. I owe a debt of gratitude to all these people.

    Claude Florent

    What does the word “entrepreneur” mean to you?

    I belong to the Vistage coaching and advisory group in Orange County, Calif., and the business owners I meet are creative, willing to learn, humble and above all else never give up in serving their customers. This experience has ingrained in me a desire and passion for learning. I’m always searching for what I don’t see.

    What’s the problem you just solved or are attacking now?

    Our biggest challenge has always been to capture value in the markets where we compete. So our strategy had to change and it started this year by sponsoring IndyCar and NASCAR racing events at the Texas Motor Speedway. These are huge undertakings for large companies. But we took on the challenges and risks. Some of my friends thought I was nuts, said the learning curve was too great, the financial burden would overwhelm us, etc.

    What I learned is the art of alignment and the capacity for people to step up and take challenges, one step at a time. I learned to allow others to take this company and make it into something that’s bigger than my dreams. I have learned that as long as everyone understands what needs to be done, I simply have to get out of the way. I no longer wonder if I can keep up with the needs of these companies, I just “paint the target,” which has resulted in business growth like I have never seen prior.

    What trait do you depend on most when making decisions and why is that useful for you? 

    I am a person that loves to collaborate with people. This can involve employees at every level, vendors, customers, friends and other business executives such as my fellow Vistage members. I find that asking others for their thoughts and ideas makes a better outcome. Earlier in my career, I would try to out-think the task. Now, I find it much more enjoyable to see others grow and take ownership.

    Is there a particular quote or saying that you use as personal motivation? 

    In my office, I have a picture of water crashing a rock in the ocean by my home. The water is spraying all over the rock, but the rock does not move. The saying on the frame reads, “Be resolute while the oceans of life challenge you.” While I was going through a difficult period, my mentor simply said, “Claude, be the rock”. Those four simple words changed my life. I hope the readers of Entrepreneur see themselves as the rock in their businesses.

    Source: www.entrepreneur.com

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  • 3 Things You Need to Do to Grow Your Business Naturally

    Stop focusing on growing your company and start improving your offerings.

    Building a successful business requires laser focus. Every entrepreneur wants to grow his or her business, but it’s that focus on growth that ultimately stands in the way of the desired growth.

    Confused?

    The point is that you can focus on growth all you want, but unless you find a way to provide more value, your growth will be slow. Take Amazon for example. They are constantly finding ways to provide more value to their customers — from free same-day shipping to testing 30-minute drone-delivery — and that sets them apart from other e-commerce retail options.

    The same value-focused approach can be applied to any business.

    I’m constantly networking, and since I spend a considerable amount of time in Oklahoma City these days, I have met several local business owners, one being Grover Walker, CEO of SaonMedia, a digital marketing, promotion and distribution company in the music industry.

    While speaking with Walker, we discussed business growth and the importance of providing value. Below are three value components that can grow your business naturally across every industry.

    1. Helping your customers become more successful and happier.

    “Our artists love creating music and performing, and our goal is to help them succeed and ‘make it’ in this extremely competitive industry. With each client comes a different sound and unique personality, which we develop the marketing campaign around. Simply helping our artists do what they love has resulted in countless referrals and further business relationships within the music industry,” explained Walker.

    This approach applies to everything — from business-to-business online marketing tools to consumer health and beauty products.

    An online invoicing and accounting tool helps a business be more efficient, allowing them to dedicate more time and focus on other areas of their business — helping them to become more successful. A consumer product like my teeth-whitening brand grows exponentially simply by making customers happy — in this case, by helping them whiten their teeth.

    2. Being more innovative than your competition.

    SaonMedia’s current focus is digital distribution to major digital and mobile retailers, and in the early years of development, they were limited to just music digital distribution to a select few digital retailers. However, after securing a deal with distribution giant The Orchard, they emerged as a leading distributor in the music industry.

    “It took careful research and hands-on experience to realize that distribution alone was not enough for our artists,” explained Walker. “We realized that content marketing and promotion created valuable engagement between our music artists and their fans. We then developed a platform for artists to market and promote their music in a more efficient manner.”

    Now, SaonMedia offers their marketing platform, consisting of music and video placement, content creation and radio play, to all independent artists. This approach allows music artists to deal with one company rather than several.

    3. Giving your customers something your competitors can’t.

    Walker’s company introduced this new marketing platform for independent music artists, which was something that his competition wasn’t focused on, explaining, “We believe that a direct-to-consumer strategy is an important key to success in the digital marketplace, so we made it a priority to offer this to our artists to help them succeed in a very competitive industry.”

    This point circles back to the beginning, where I used Amazon’s 30-minute drone-delivery service as an example. They were the first to come to market with this, but one would be foolish to think that other e-commerce giants won’t follow behind.

    That doesn’t make Amazon’s efforts any less meaningful — natural growth is about constantly finding new ways to provide extra value that isn’t found elsewhere. “If you are struggling to come up with ideas, poll your customers. Simply asking them how you can deliver more value will often provide you with the feedback required,” advises Marc Anidjar, attorney and co-founder of Anidjar & Levine, P.A.

    Source: www.entrepreneur.com

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  • 5 common mistakes guaranteed to screw up your PR strategy

    Successful people know how to learn from their own mistakes. Really successful people know how to learn from the mistakes of others.

    Here are some of the most common PR blunders that you can learn to avoid in the first place.

    1. Taking the press for granted

    PR requires a concerted effort. It does when your company is a billion-dollar corporate giant, and it especially does when your company isn’t.

    The most fundamental mistake you can make in PR is assuming that, by virtue of being interesting, cutting-edge, groundbreaking or whatever other superlative you like, your company is somehow entitled to press.

    Media coverage isn’t a favor and it isn’t going to come out and find you. News outlets are businesses: businesses that traffic in news. In order to get press, you have to convince the press you have news to offer.

    What qualifies as news? Well, that varies depending on the publication and writer and what exactly your business consists of. But these are a few standard announcements every business should be looking to use as launch platforms for outreach:

    • Product Launches: You’re starting your business or releasing a new product
    • Fundraising: You’ve just raised a Series A
    • Milestones: Your company’s mobile app reaches 100,000 downloads
    • Acquisitions: Your company acquires, or is acquired by, another company

    Do your research and pitch to the right outlet and person.

    2. Gabbing on and on

    mouth open

    Most pitches will fail, regardless of how well you craft them. But one of the best ways to get your email dumped straight into the trash bin is to send journalists what looks like a copy of your latest memoirs.

    According to a recent survey by MuckRack, 59 percent of journalists want pitches to come in at two or three paragraphs, while 36 percent of journalists said two to three sentences.

    Meanwhile, only 5 percent want to receive pitches that are more than 500 words. The survey found length was the second biggest reason pitches were rejected.

    That’s only fair. Entrepreneurs should be familiar enough with the elevator pitch scenario, and for the same reason you wouldn’t expect an investor to want to listen to all the intimate details of your business operation up front, you shouldn’t count on journalists to take that kind of time, either.

    A pitch is just a teaser. Don’t try and write the article for them.

    If there’s some particularly vital piece of information, you can always add it in an attachment, but offering to send it over later is a better call to action.

    Here is an actual email pitch my company sent out that got back very positive feedback from a journalist. It’ll take some experimenting to finesse the art of the pitch, but with practice, you’ll learn what works and what doesn’t.

    Hi [redacted],

    Hope aIl is well. If you are too swamped to reply, no worries. I just wanted to give you a heads up about the $1 million raised by Startup Stock Exchange (SSX), which allows investors to use the security and liquidity of a regulated stock exchange to invest in startups from around the world, particularly Latin America.

    For many companies in Latin America looking to raise funding, there is a limited market of investors (and often times the terms are not fair). SSX enables international start-ups and small businesses to attract qualified global investors on a regulated public stock exchange.

    After reading the articles on your site (I particularly thought the The Periodic Table of Content Marketing was neat), I thought SSX might peak your interest.

    If you may be interested, we are more than happy to arrange an interview. However, we completely understand if you ultimately decide not to publish.

    If this pitch isn’t right for you at the moment, thanks again for your time and energy and I hope you have a good rest of the day.

    Andrew Wright

    Marketing, Publicize

    3. Ignoring the timing

    Journalists are extremely busy people whose professional – and often non-professional – lives are spent chasing one frantic deadline after another. But there are times when they’re less busy than others, and those are the times you probably want to be reaching them.

    According to the MuckRack survey, 27 percent of journalists prefer to be contacted between 6 and 9 AM and another 43 percent between 9 to 11 AM. That is to say, roughly 70 percent of journalists want to be contacted in the morning.

    It’s easy enough to understand why that might be. As the day drags on, work piles on top of unexpected obligations on top of ordinary backlog, and before you know it, it’s time to go home and worry about everything you didn’t get accomplished.

    We’re all familiar with how that goes. Now picture what it’s like in a setting as fast-paced as a newsroom.

    The same principle applies to the work week in general. By the time Friday rolls around, most journalists are just hoping to survive until the weekend.

    It’s hard enough to stand out amid all the other stories competing for a journalist’s attention. Email early in the day and early in the week to ensure your pitch isn’t also vying against accumulated stress and sleep loss.

    4. Coming off cold and impersonal

    71042723

    You can put all the time and care in the world into crafting a personalized email pitch, but if there’s nothing in the text itself to show that, a journalist is going to assume, by default, that she was on the receiving end of a chainmail sent to 50 of her colleagues. And she is going to press delete.

    Over a quarter of journalists surveyed by MuckRack said the main reason they rejected email pitches was a spammy, impersonal feel.

    One main explanation for this aversion is that cold, standardized text makes journalists assume other journalists are also being presented with the same pitch, and the news industry puts a high value on being the first to a story. Even just on the level of interpersonal exchange, though, making an extra effort to tailor a pitch can pay dividends in the future.

    Remember that with PR, the goal isn’t just to get a given pitch picked up, it’s to set a positive tone for a relationship going forward. Gaining someone’s ear is half the battle.

    Here’s some advice to follow:

    Know the journalist you are pitching to: There’s plenty you can do to feign personal interest, but ultimately, nothing will work as well as actually getting to know the journalists you’re hoping to pitch to.

    What do they like to cover? What angles do they go for? How can you cater a pitch to fit their interests? (Including their name in the greeting line rather than a “Dear editor” is a good start.) Staying up to date with the media landscape will help you come pitch time, but it’s also good standard policy for understanding market trends and understanding the news business.

    Connect on social media: Fortunately, the internet has created unprecedented access to journalists and the publications they work for. Stay active on social media. Join discussions. Retweet your favorite writers.

    As silly as it may sound, social media is one of the first places journalists will look to gauge you and your company. Maintaining an engaged professional network and keeping up with the latest is one way to convey seriousness. It also tells a journalist that any story they write on you can count on reaching a certain guaranteed audience.

    Include social proof in email pitch: Even in the digital age, and perhaps especially in the digital age, all the traditional status symbols still carry weight. If you carry a card in any field, play it.

    If your school has a heavy name, drop it. The same goes for awards and the like. Don’t spend half the email buttering yourself up, but don’t worry about coming off as pretentious either. It’s okay to mention your achievements.

    Be polite: This may seem like a no-brainer, but you’d be surprised how far a few kind words will take you and at how many people eschew the common courtesies altogether.

    Thank journalists for their time and attention. And show them you mean it by keeping your requests reasonable and your email concise.

    5. Forgetting to follow up

    Never assume your emails have gotten read and never assume a lack of response means they haven’t. Outreach is the first step in PR, but following up is an implicit part of that.

    If you haven’t received an email back after a day or two, it won’t hurt to send another email checking in on how things are going.

    Delays are common in PR, and as often as not, a journalist who doesn’t respond has either forgotten to or never found the time. Either way, they’ll appreciate a reminder. It’s never good to be pushy, but as long as you’re polite and concise, you don’t have to worry about coming off that way.

    Good PR is about getting a foot in the door. Avoiding these common mistakes won’t get you coverage, but they will keep you from banging your head on the doorframe.

     

    Source: www.thenextweb.com

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  • IoT Fuels Growth of Linux Malware

    Malware targeting Linux systems is growing, largely due to a proliferation of devices created to connect to the Internet of Things.

    That is one of the findings in a report WatchGuard Technologies, a maker of network security appliances, released last week.

    The report, which analyzes data gathered from more than 26,000 appliances worldwide, found three Linux malware programs in the top 10 for the first quarter of the year, compared with only one during the previous period.

    “Linux attacks and malware are on the rise,” wrote WatchGuard CTO Corey Nachreiner and Security Threat Analyst Marc Laliberte, coauthors of the report. “We believe this is because systemic weaknesses in IoT devices, paired with their rapid growth, are steering botnet authors towards the Linux platform.”

    However, “blocking inbound Telnet and SSH, along with using complex administrative passwords, can prevent the vast majority of potential attacks,” they suggested.

    Linux malware began growing at the end of last year with the Mirai botnet, observed Laliberte. Mirai made a splash in September when it was used to attack part of the Internet’s infrastructure and knock millions of users offline.

    “Now, with IoT devices skyrocketing, a whole new avenue is opening up to attackers,” he told LinuxInsider. “It’s our belief that the rise we’re seeing in Linux malware is going hand in hand with that new target on the Internet.”

    Makers of IoT devices haven’t been showing a great deal of concern about security, Laliberte continued. Their goals are to make their devices work, make them cheap, and make them quickly.

    “They really don’t care about security during the development process,” he said.

    Trivial Pursuits

    Most IoT manufacturers use stripped down versions of Linux because the operating system requires minimal system resources to operate, said Paul Fletcher, cybersecurity evangelist at Alert Logic.

    “When you combine that with the large quantity of IoT devices being connected to the Internet, that equals a large volume of Linux systems online and available for attack,” he told LinuxInsider.

    In their desire to make their devices easy to use, manufacturers use protocols that are also user-friendly for hackers.

    “Attackers can gain access to these vulnerable interfaces, then upload and execute the malicious code of their choice,” Fletcher said.

    Manufacturers frequently have poor default settings for their devices, he pointed out.

    “Often, admin accounts have blank passwords or easy-to-guess default passwords, such as ‘password123,'” Fletcher said.

    The security problems often are “nothing Linux-specific per se,” said Johannes B. Ullrich, chief research officer at the SANS Institute.

    “The manufacturer is careless on how they configured the device, so they make it trivial to exploit these devices,” he told LinuxInsider.

    Malware in Top 10

    These Linux malware programs cracked the top 10 in WatchGuard’s tally for the first quarter:

    • Linux/Exploit, which catches several malicious trojans used to scan systems for devices that can be enlisted into a botnet.
    • Linux/Downloader, which catches malevolent Linux shell scripts. Linux runs on many different architectures, such as ARM, MIPS and traditional x86 chipsets. An executable compiled for one architecture will not run on a device running a different one, the report explains. Thus, some Linux attacks exploit dropper shell scripts to download and install the proper malicious components for the architecture they are infecting.
    • Linux/Flooder, which catches Linux distributed-denial-of-service tools, such as Tsunami, used to perform DDoS amplification attacks, as well as DDoS tools used by Linux botnets like Mirai. “As the Mirai botnet showed us, Linux-based IoT devices are a prime target for botnet armies,” the report notes.

    Web Server Battleground

    A shift in how adversaries are attacking the Web has occurred, the WatchGuard report notes.

    At the end of 2016, 73 percent of Web attacks targeted clients — browsers and supporting software, the company found. That radically changed during the first three months of this year, with 82 percent of Web attacks focused on Web servers or Web-based services.

    “We don’t think drive-by download style attacks will go away, but it appears attackers have focused their efforts and tools on trying to exploit Web server attacks,” report coauthors Nachreiner and Laliberte wrote.

    There’s been a decline in the effectiveness of antivirus software since the end of 2016, they also found.

    “For the second quarter in a row, we have seen our legacy AV solution miss a lot of malware that our more advanced solution can catch. In fact, it has gone up from 30 percent to 38 percent,” Nachreiner and Laliberte reported.

     

    Source: www.technewsworld.com

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