• Keys to a Successful Crowdfunding Campaign

    For entrepreneurs, crowdfunding is more than just raising money.

    Crowdfunding is not only about raising money for entrepreneurs. It is much more than that. Creating a crowdfunding campaign actually allows you to see the interest in your product as well as enables you to get feedback and develop it even more before the actual launch. If your campaign becomes successful, it means that you actually built a customer base too because most probably people who support your campaign would like to purchase your product after the launch. Therefore, it is essential to develop a well-tailored crowdfunding campaign. Keep reading below to find some tips for it.

    1. Choose your platform wisely.

    Do your research and choose the platform that fits your product and your needs at the same time. There are some famous platforms which receive a lot of traffic but at the same time there are hundreds and even thousands of projects in these platforms. Therefore, getting noticed among these platforms may be difficult. For this reason, choosing a smaller but specialized platform can be a better option, especially if your project is in a specialized area.

    2. Have a prototype, not only an idea.

    An idea by itself is not enough because everybody has many great ideas. The important part is to turn that idea into reality. Show everyone that you took the time and energy to invest in your idea. Design, develop and test your product. Finally, have a prototype to show others so they can also invest in your innovation and you can develop it more. It would be beneficial for you, if you also have a launch plan and share these plans in your crowdfunding campaign.

    3. How you present makes the difference.

    Not just upload a PPT presentation or a boring video, include both! Tell your story and keep your message personal. Make a connection with other people and explain others why you are doing this so they can feel themselves part of something bigger and exciting. Try to touch other people’s lives with your story. As a result, they can find a reason to support you.

    4. Update your supporters.

    Interact with your supporters and answer any questions they may have. Also, if they make a positive comment about your project, don’t forget to thank them. After your campaign is over, don’t leave them on dark. Try to engage with them through social media, thank you emails or newsletters to keep them in the loop. Send them updates about how your project is going and plans about your launch. You can create a countdown clock to increase excitement about your launch date.

    Source: entrepreneur.com

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  • The Big Reason Why You Should Hire Highly Educated Employees

    They are more likely to detect patterns and speak up if something seems amiss.

    When you’re looking to hire, you’re thinking about cultural fit and whether a candidate has not only the qualifications to fulfill your company’s needs now, but also the potential to take on more responsibility in the future.

    Despite the debate around whether leaders need college degrees, a recent study out of the University of Georgia found that the educational background of non-executive hires can make a big difference in the long term success of your business — and keep you out of trouble with the law.

    Researchers found that when it comes to handling sensitive financial data, employees who have the most extensive educational backgrounds are best at forecasting trends and dealing with legal matters.

    “We find that when companies are located in a place where the workforce is highly educated, they produce better accounting information,” said study co-author John Campbell, an associate professor of accounting in UGA’s Terry College of Business, in a summary of the findings. “The employees don’t have to be experts in accounting, but if they see something that doesn’t look right, they’re more likely to say something about it and tell their superiors about it.”

    As your business expands, you need to be on top of your books, and non-executive employees often are the first line of defense for finding errors in your accounting. Building off that observation, the researchers also identified a correlation between educated populations and fewer instances of misconduct in both business and politics.

    “There’s a study in political science showing that states that have more educated voter bases have less corruption in their political systems, and we wanted to see if that analogy held in business,” Campbell said. “One of the reasons for that might be whistleblowers. In both instances, the better-educated the population is, the more likely there will be a whistleblower if something bad is going on.”

    Source: entrepreneur.com

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  • The 4 Top Business Investments Right Now

    Green energy and high-tech industries are best bets for savvy entrepreneurs looking to diversify.

    Our world has become the global village. Ideas are being produced rapidly around the world, and most of them have the potential to change life as we know it for future generations. Already, we’ve witnessed amazing ideas and technologies that have sahped the way we think, interact and build businesses.

    You can focus solely on growing your own empire, or you can plan to invest in some of the best business options in 2017. Investments aren’t just about becoming a part of something revolutionary. They can give way to opportunities for success for your business idea as well. If a single idea can promote such a positive change, then a combination of them can do multiple wonders — not only for the business industry but for people around the world.

    Here are some of the top business-investment moves you can make in the next 12 to 18 months.

    1. Virtual reality.

    Entrepreneurship has strong roots in the virtual-reality industry. Despite being around for a few years now, virtual reality gained better momentum in 2016. Experts believe the industry most likely will continue this positive trajectory in the near future — with projected revenue of roughly $4.6 billion in 2017. Virtual reality still is greatly under research, and this provides ample opportunities for new ideas.

    2. Translation and interpretation.

    The United States always has been home to multiple cultures and languages. The Census Bureau reports Americans speak more than 350 languages in their homes. On the other hand, businesses have become global. This highly increases the need for both understanding and awareness of more languages. Giants such as Google and Skype have enhanced and expanded their translation capabilities. This allows them to encompass a target market whose customers want a more personalized service. As companies embrace more languages and cultures, employment in areas supporting this industry are projected to increase by 30 percent by 2024.

    3. Drone technology.

    Drone technology is meeting the diverse needs of multiple industries, including infrastructure, mining and transport. The developing drone market is estimated to be valued at $127 billion. If you decide to invest in this sector, consider choosing a publicly traded company. It’s worth mentioning that big, public drone companies such as Go Pro recently have experienced difficult times on the stock market. Instead of selecting popular manufacturers, weigh the benefits of putting your dollars in drone technology and components. One such example is Ambarella, which specializes in producing the video chip sets used in drone cameras.

    4. Green energy.       

    Civilians and big-business names both are becoming increasingly conscious about their carbon footprints. Businesses have a much larger role to play as they set example for green practices. If trends in environmentally friendly business methods are any indication, this is a good place for investment.

    Wind power, in particular, is gaining momentum. It’s inexpensive, and the amount of electricity generated has increased fourfold since 2000. At present, America is the world’s top wind-energy producer.

    According to Wunder Capital CEO Bryan Birsic, solar also is experiencing strong tailwinds, “with the cost of a solar system down by 50 percent in the last five years and installed solar in the U.S. up a remarkable 95 percent in 2016.” Solar is becoming a significant job engine, too. A Department of Energy report reveals there are twice as many workers building solar as there are employed at coal, oil, and natural gas power plants.

    How to get started in the next 12 to 18 months

    As an entrepreneur, your connections with other idea-generators are among your biggest strengths. Work to reinforce these relationships and learn which kinds of decisions your peers are making in 2017. Choose investments that are geared to not only make a profit in the long run but also increase the value of your personal venture. Investing in certain emerging technologies can give you the opportunity to make your existing platform better. Moreover, it may open up more ideas for the future.

    Experts generally agree that you’ll ultimately benefit from being a bit defensive about your investments for the remainder of this year. The current bull market has been the second longest in history. While it doesn’t indicate falling stocks, some market watchers do expect a correction or recession — but the “when” is unpredictable. Incorporating some defensive investments could help cushion the impact (and certainly won’t harm your portfolio). For example, you might consider an index fund that invests in dividend growth stocks, which are supposed to perform better during recessions.

    Keep your options open when it comes to big-business names. Some of these stock buys will be the best investment decisions you can make in the coming months. Consider Amazon, which rapidly is moving from its major online-retailer function toward cloud computing, video content and artificial intelligence. Stock buys of Medspace, a huge name in the biotech industry, are expected to hit more than $35 over the coming months.

    Finally, banks are expected to perform better in the near future. The 2016 election was a game-changer in the business world, and markets still are fluctuating not yet a full year into President Donald Trump’s administration. Such an environment leaves plenty of unforeseen elements. Financial stocks could be a wise play against this backdrop. Bank of America and JPMorgan Chase fared well under the Trump rally. Rumors of a coming increase in interest rates and paring down of regulations also should make it easier to do business with banks.

    Source: entrepreneur.com

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  • Dustin Mathews’ Top 5 Must-Have Business Books

    See what the co-author of ‘No B.S. Guide to Powerful Presentations’ thinks you should read to succeed in business.

    Entrepreneur Reads is a series designed to bring our readers the best books to motivate you on your entrepreneurial journey. We’ve asked public speaking expert and Entrepreneur Press author Dustin Mathews for his top 5 book recommendations for entrepreneurs like you.

    “My favorite book of all time is experience.” —Noah Kagan, founder of AppSumo

    I couldn’t agree more with Kagan.

    Nothing takes the place of doing in the real world, and there are key books that every entrepreneur should have in their library. Let’s take a look at five must-have business books.

    1. How to Win Friends & Influence People by Dale Carnegie

    How can you go wrong with one of the bestselling self-help books of all time? With over 30 million copies sold, this “oldie but goodie” shows you how to make lasting relationships in business and life.

    In our ever-expanding, high-tech world of gadgetry and automation, this book serves as a great reminder that success in business comes back to relationships — with people. Whether it’s prospects, partners or team members, you’ll need to win them all over at some point in your travels. Look for the six ways to make people like you and the twelve ways to win people to your way of thinking.

    2. Think & Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill

    If Warren Buffet, Bill Gates, Richard Branson and Mark Zuckerberg were all interviewed today about success and we put their answers into a book it would be essentially what Think & Grow Rich was at the time. Napoleon Hill interviewed the titans of business of the day — Henry Ford, Andrew Carnegie and Thomas Edison — to deliver us the entrepreneur’s mental mindset handbook.

    Richard Branson said, “Tough times are inevitable in life and in business. But, how you compose yourself during those times defines your spirit and will define your future.” No doubt, the road of an entrepreneur is long, winding and daunting. It’s Hill that reminds us how to get anything we desire in business with the right mindset. Be sure to look for the “Power of the Mastermind.”

    3. The Ultimate Sales Letter by Dan S. Kennedy

    Every communication in business needs to sell. Whether it’s an email to an employee, conversation with a partner or phone call to prospects, customers and clients, influencing is critical for getting it done.

    The challenge is most people don’t think in these terms. In one of Dan Kennedy’s first works, he lays out the formula for writing a message that sells. Essentially, he’d prefer all business owners be world-class copywriters, however he understands they don’t have the time nor the patience. So, inside the book he’s provided simple, yet proven formulas, case studies, examples and resources for hacking your way to a letter that closes the deal, every time.

    Words matter. Are you making yours count?

    4. Never Eat Alone by Keith Ferrazzi

    It bears repeating: You won’t get far in business if you can’t make solid relationships with others. Keith Ferrazzi shows us that we can get anywhere in life and business by connecting and creating powerful relationships.

    My big takeaway from the book is to keep in check the balance of helping others without expecting to ask for something in return. Of course, this can be tricky if you find yourself in the wrong crowd or in front of a “taker,” but the philosophy is one that resonates today. Look for “Connecting with Connectors,” as this can be an extremely beneficial concept in terms of creating speed and finding the right connections to help you on your path.

    5. The Ultimate Sales Machine by Chet Holmes

    If you need to make it rain, look no further. Really, The Ultimate Sales Machine is a combination of sales, marketing, time management and mindset or, as Chet Holmes, calls it “pig-headed discipline” all packed into one resource.

    One of the more unique (and daring) ideas from the book I’ve put into action for myself is showing up at a tradeshow with a theme. In the book, Holmes discusses working with a client, having them dress up in Hawaiian outfits, theming the booth with a beach backdrop and making it fun for the team and most certainly for attendees.

    Following suit, we decided on a doctors theme, bought lab coats with stethoscopes and put pill bottles in the conference bag. Doing so, we most certainly were the talk of the convention, garnered a lot of attention and generated a good number of sales.  We even noticed non-attendees in the lobby, double taking, as they were curious as to know what we were doing.

    Be sure to look for the Holmes’s classified ad for attracting the right kind of sales people, “superstars.”

     

    Source: entrepreneur.com

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  • ‘Hate Is a Cancer,’ Apple CEO Writes in Email to Employees

    ‘This is not about the left or the right, conservative or liberal,’ Tim Cook wrote in response to the protests and violence in Charlottesville.

    On the evening of Aug. 16, Apple CEO Tim Cook sent an email to all Apple employees addressing the protests and violence in Charlottesville, Va., as well as President Donald Trump’s response to the events.

    In the letter, he denounced the behavior and beliefs of the white supremacist groups who organized in Charlottesville, as well as President Trump’s characterization of their actions and ideals in remarks the president has given throughout the week.

    “I disagree with the president and others who believe that there is a moral equivalence between white supremacists and Nazis, and those who oppose them by standing up for human rights,” Cook wrote. “Equating the two runs counter to our ideals as Americans.”

    Prior to sending this internal memo, Cook expressed similar sentiments via Twitter in the immediate aftermath of the events.

    In addition to these public stances, Cook in February spoke out against the initial travel ban executive order President Trump signed to halt U.S. immigration from Muslim-majority nations. Apple joined 96 other firms in signing an amicus brief opposing the ban. The brief stated that the order “discriminate[d] on the basis of national origin and religion” and was “inflicting substantial harm on U.S. companies.”

    Cook’s letter to employees this week called on Apple employees to stand together as equals in the face of hate, and it announced that the corporation is committmed to donating more than $2 million to civil rights organizations.

    Read the full email below.

    Team,

    Like so many of you, equality is at the core of my beliefs and values. The events of the past several days have been deeply troubling for me, and I’ve heard from many people at Apple who are saddened, outraged or confused.

    What occurred in Charlottesville has no place in our country. Hate is a cancer, and left unchecked it destroys everything in its path. Its scars last generations. History has taught us this time and time again, both in the United States and countries around the world.

    We must not witness or permit such hate and bigotry in our country, and we must be unequivocal about it. This is not about the left or the right, conservative or liberal. It is about human decency and morality. I disagree with the president and others who believe that there is a moral equivalence between white supremacists and Nazis, and those who oppose them by standing up for human rights. Equating the two runs counter to our ideals as Americans.

    Regardless of your political views, we must all stand together on this one point — that we are all equal. As a company, through our actions, our products and our voice, we will always work to ensure that everyone is treated equally and with respect.

    I believe Apple has led by example, and we’re going to keep doing that. We have always welcomed people from every walk of life to our stores around the world and showed them that Apple is inclusive of everyone. We empower people to share their views and express themselves through our products.

    In the wake of the tragic and repulsive events in Charlottesville, we are stepping up to help organizations who work to rid our country of hate. Apple will be making contributions of $1 million each to the Southern Poverty Law Center and the Anti-Defamation League. We will also match two-for-one our employees’ donations to these and several other human rights groups, between now and September 30.

    In the coming days, iTunes will offer users an easy way to join us in directly supporting the work of the SPLC.

    Dr. Martin Luther King said, “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about the things that matter.” So, we will continue to speak up. These have been dark days, but I remain as optimistic as ever that the future is bright. Apple can and will play an important role in bringing about positive change.

    Best,
    Tim

    Source: entrepreneur.com

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  • If You’re Trying to Raise Money, Doing Any of These 9 Things May Scare off Investors

    Avoid these mistakes and funding could be yours.

    Most new and existing businesses can benefit from outside funding. With such funding, they can grow faster, launch new initiatives, gain competitive advantage and make better long-term decisions as they can think beyond short-term issues like making payroll.

    Unfortunately, though, most entrepreneurs and business owners make several mistakes that prevent them from raising capital. These mistakes are detailed below. Avoid them and funding could be yours.

     Making unrealistic market size claims

    Sophisticated investors need to understand how big your relevant market size is and if it’s feasible for you to eventually become a dominant market player.

    The key here is “relevant” and not just “market.” For example, if you create a medical device to cure foot pain, while your “market” is the trillion-dollar healthcare market, that is way too broad a definition.

    Rather, your relevant market can be more narrowly defined as not just the medical devices market but the market for medical devices for foot pain. In narrowing your scope, you can better determine the actual size of your market. For instance, you can determine the number of foot pain sufferers each year seeking medical attention and then multiply that by the price they might pay for your device.

    Failing to respect your competitors

    Oftentimes companies tell investors they have no competitors. This often scares investors as they think if there are no competitors, a market doesn’t really exist.

    Almost every business has either direct or indirect competitors. Direct competitors offer the same product or service to the same customers. Indirect competitors offer a similar product to the same customers, or the same product to different customers.

    For example, if you planned to open an Italian restaurant in a town that previously did not have one, you could correctly say that you don’t have any direct competitors. However, indirect competitors would include every other restaurant in town, supermarkets and other venues to purchase food.

    Likewise, don’t downplay your competitors. Saying that your competitors are universally terrible is rarely true; there’s always something they’re doing right that’s keeping them in business.

    Showing unrealistic financial projections

    Businesses take time to grow. Even companies like Facebook and Google, with amazing amounts of funding at their disposal, took years to grow to their current sizes. It takes time to build a team, improve brand awareness and scale your business. So, don’t expect your company to grow revenues exponentially out of the gate. Likewise, you will incur many expenses while growing your business for which you must account.

    As such, when building your financial projections, be sure to use reasonable revenue and cost assumptions. If not, you will frighten investors, or worse yet, raise funding and then fail since you run out of cash.

    Presenting investors with a novel — or a napkin

    While investors will want to meet you before funding your business, they will also require a business plan that explains your business opportunity and why it will be successful.

    Your business plan should not be a novel; investors don’t have time to wade through 100 pages to learn the keys to your success. Conversely, you can’t adequately answer investors’ key questions on the back of a napkin.

    A 15- to 25-page business plan is the optimum length to convey the required information to investors.

    Not understanding your metrics

    How much does it cost to acquire a customer? What is your expected lifetime customer value?

    While sometimes it’s impossible to understand these metrics when you launch your business, you must determine them as soon as possible.

    Without these metrics, you won’t know how much money to raise. For instance, if you hope to gain 1,000 customers this year, but don’t know the cost to acquire a customer, you won’t know how much money you need for sales and marketing.

    Likewise, understanding your metrics allows you and your team to work more effectively in setting and achieving growth goals.

    Acting like know-it-alls

    While investors want you to be an expert in your market, they don’t expect you to be an expert in everything. More so, most businesses must adapt to changing market conditions over time, and entrepreneurs who feel they know everything generally don’t fare well.

    A good investor has seen many investments fail and others become great successes. Such experiences have made them great advisors. They’ve encountered all types of situations and understand how to navigate them.

    If you’re seeking funding, acknowledge such investors’ experiences. Let them know that while you are an expert in your market, you will seek their ideas and advice in marketing, sales, hiring, product development and/or other areas needed to grow your business.

    Focusing too much on products and product features

    When raising funding, you need to show you’re building a great company and not just a great product or service. While a great product or service is often the cornerstone to a great company, without skills like sales, marketing, human resources, operations and financial management, you cannot thrive.

    Furthermore, if your product has a great feature, be sure to specify how you will create barriers to entry, such as via patent protection, so competitors can’t simply copy it.

    Exaggerating too much

    When you exaggerate to investors who know you’re exaggerating, you lose credibility.

    One key way to exaggerate is with your financial projections as discussed above. There are many other ways to exaggerate. For instance, saying you have the world’s leading authorities on the XYZ market is great, but only if they really are the world’s leading authorities.

    Likewise if you say it would take competitors three years to catch up on your technology, when investors ask others in your industry, they better confirm this time period. If not, your credibility and funding will be lost.

    Lacking focus

    What do investors care about? They care about getting a return on their investment. As such, anything you say that supports that will be welcomed.

    For instance, talk about your great product that has natural barriers to entry. Discuss your management team that is well-qualified to execute on the opportunity. Talk about strategic partners that will help you generate leads and sales faster.

    But, don’t go off on tangents that don’t specifically relate to how you earn investors returns, like the fact that you’re a great tennis player.

    Likewise, conveying too many ideas shows you lack focus. For instance, saying you’re going to launch product one next year, and then quickly launch products two, three and four, will frighten investors. Why? Because they’ll want to see product one be a massive success before you even consider launching something new.

    Investors have two scarce resources: their time and their money. Avoid the above mistakes when you spend time with investors, and hopefully they’ll reward you with their money.

     

    Source: entrepreneur.com

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  • The Many Ways You’re Marketing Even When You Don’t Even Know You Are

    The less your marketing resembles advertising the closer the connection you’ll make with your customers.

    Businesses work hard to create effective marketing campaigns, coming up with strategies carefully crafted to promote their brands both online and off.

    But whether you realize it or not, you can promote brand awareness even when you’re unaware of it. A company’s image starts with its leadership and spreads to its employees and the work they do.

    Here are some effective ways you build and grow brand awareness in ways you may not have considered.

    Merchandise

    If you’ve ever participated in a trade show or conference, you may have designed swag to distribute. Every T-shirt, tote bag, notepad, or pen you hand out goes toward building brand awareness. An old marketing rule states that a customer needs to see a message seven times before making a purchase decision. You don’t have to hand merchandise out to customers, though. You and your team members can wear and use products with your company logo whether you’re at a networking event, conference, or client meeting. Just some of the things that will help expose people to your brand include:

    Water Bottles: This is a product that is used constantly, and is an effective way to remind fans of your products. Brand a long lasting water bottle and you’ll be sure that it will be a good investment.

    T-shirts: Clothe your brand champions and they will promote you. Make t-shirts that people will love to wear and you’ll have walking billboards everywhere.

    Mugs: There’s nothing like fans looking at your logo every morning with their cup of Joe, and welcoming every day with your company.

    Live experiences.

    In person experiences are a fantastic way to engage with consumers – giving memorable time for new customers to learn about and interact with your brand. Companies like AnyRoad offer a powerful Experience Relationship Management platform that can help your brand leverage these live in-person branded experiences and gather data during the process.

    Tours: Tours and in-person experiences have become essential to winning over the hearts and affection of customers. Show them where your products are made, the birthplace of the company, or even the offices where all the magic happens. You’ll be sure to spawn word-of-mouth marketing and social shares, and fans will go home with a memorable story.

    Classes: Many businesses are always looking to learn as they grow. Teaching or sponsoring a class can also offer a beneficial marketing opportunity for business leaders. Whether you teach a class at your office, at a local university or learning annex, or through another source, you’ll be able to get the word out about the business you own as a part of the experience.

    Tastings and Samplings: For businesses that create and distribute consumables, taste testings and product samplings are the best way to win customers. Increasingly, food brands choose to set up a sample stand at local grocery stores or trade shows. Many customers get excited about free food and you can reach a large audience in one place.

    Companies like C.A. Courtesy specialize in setting up in-store samplings for brands of all sizes, putting their expertise to work in helping brands grow. If your brand has a kitchen, factory, or brand home, consider doing a tasting on-site to provide a much more immersive experience. All whiskey companies in the Kentucky Bourbon Trail offer tastings (with their tours) – letting fans sip their way through learning about bourbon.

    Workshops: Instead of committing to teach a regular class, your business can reap some of the same benefits by simply teaching a one-time workshop. Often these happen through industry-specific membership organizations or local networking opportunities. Even before you step up to the podium to kick off your presentation, you’re getting invaluable exposure for your business, since it will feature prominently in any marketing materials promoting the event.

    Events: Events provide solid networking opportunities, giving you the opportunity to interact directly with the very customers you’re trying to win over. Even if they don’t see personal value in the products or services you offer, chances are they’ll tell a friend or associate about it. In addition to local events and industry trade shows, consider hosting an event of your own. During the holiday season, you could have an open house to show appreciation to all your loyal customers. You could also host a day-long learning opportunity, inviting others in your industry to attend and learn more about the work you do.

    Networking: You may not put networking under the marketing category, but every interaction builds your brand. When you meet someone at a Chamber of Commerce luncheon and hand your business card across the table, you add yet one more person to those who know about your business. Over time, those connections lead you to other connections that help you move to the next level. Be aware of the many ways you represent your brand when you’re interacting with others, both personally and professionally, since even the clothing you wear and the things you say send a message about your business.

    As you interact with others and talk about your business, realize the many opportunities you have to get the word out. You’ll eventually discover new opportunities to meet customers and colleagues who can recommend your products or services to others. In the process, you’ll save time and money on marketing efforts, and be at the helm new pow.

     

    Source: entrepreneur.com

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  • The Mistake Every Entrepreneur Makes When Creating Their Product or Service

    Innovation starts with a problem, not a solution.

    Entrepreneurs love to gush about how they identified a problem, created a solution and then disrupted a market.

    In my experience, innovation doesn’t necessarily work like that. Often, creating the solution uncovers the problem. In industries with a long, that’s-the-way-it’s-been-done attitude, this realization can make the difference between innovation flops and multimillion dollar successes.

    People usually recognize a problem retroactively, when an invention makes legacy technology seem insufficient. Horses were fine until Henry Ford made the Model T. Few people realized that CDs and the Walkman were clumsy solutions until iPods. Taxis were good enough until Uber.

    The more that people take something for granted, they less they can verbalize its problems. No one told the guys at YETI, “Hey, could you engineer a $350, bear-proof cooler that keeps ice solid for seven days?” Until YETI made their cooler, no one realized how bad other coolers were.

    Asking people to describe their problems with a product or market rarely works. Instead, you must build narratives of what people currently do. By analyzing those narratives, you can discover patterns of behavior, preference and mindset that signal unmet needs, which are the kernels of great problems.

    Let’s walk through the process.

    1. Observe your customers in a natural setting.

    It’s tempting to believe we can discover everything about customers from our computer screen. Data, we’re told, reveals all. Unfortunately, charts and graphs can’t pick up the information you absorb visually. When you watch people use your product — or a competitor’s product — in their normal environment, you notice meaningful patterns. At Trager Grills, we call this “in-habitat observation.”

    Observations reveal the workarounds people develop to make a deficient product perform better. Last year, when my colleagues visited our customers’ homes to watch them grill, they noticed that many Traeger users had built makeshift extenders to their hopper, the container that holds wood pellets (fuel for their grill). They built those to avoid running out of pellets during eight- to ten-hour smoke sessions. Had we only observed people using our grills at Traeger headquarters, we never would have identified that problem.

    Rather than creating an artificial environment for observations, do it in your customer’s natural habitat. Go to people’s homes, offices and neighborhoods, or wherever they use your product.

    2. Humanize your surveys.

    Thanks to the world’s data obsession, we tend to use survey questions that produce quantifiable answers. The results are clean but misleading. We don’t ask these sorts of questions in real life.

    For instance, how often do you ask your closest friends to rate something on a one to 10 scale? How often do you ask anyone to answer on a scale from “Most Likely” to “Least Likely,” “Very Good” to “Very Poor” or “Most Important” to “Least Important?” Those are unnatural ways to think about the world.

    Instead, ask open-ended questions. One of my favorites is, “When people ask you about your [insert product], what do you brag about?” That’s a powerful question, because the aspects that attract appreciation and disappointment tend to be related. If you love the way your car drives, anything that diminishes the driving experience will be that much more noticeable to you.

    3. Ask people to prioritize.

    It’s hard to rate a single feature or idea independent of alternatives. But, if you ask people to rank a list of features — and do this with multiple consumer segments — you see what customers value.

    Let’s use your smartphone to illustrate how this works. It’s hard to assign a value to screen size independent of other factors. But, how would you rank screen size, camera quality, voice control, speaker quality and data storage in order of importance? The question forces you to consider what you use most often, how it affects your experience with the smartphone and what needs improvement.

    Ranking features bears a strong resemblance to how we differentiate between products. For example, when buying a mountain bike (common here in Utah), you might test and compare three to five bikes. The thicker tires on the Santa Cruz bike are nice. The dropper seat post on this Trek would be useful. The Specialized is more expensive, but comes with lighter components.

    What matters most to me? Alternatives sharpen our ability to distinguish priorities. The more we understand our customers’ priorities, the better we can craft solutions.

    So, conduct in-habitat observations, ask open-ended questions and get some quantifiable data by asking survey respondents to rank options. Your future customers still don’t have a problem, and they won’t until you build their feedback into a new product that provides a solution to all the deficiencies they experience now.

    Some companies mistake refinement for innovation. Others look for a grand problem and never find it. But, if you lead customers to the solution, then they’ll realize they have a problem.

     

    Source: entrepreneur.com

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  • 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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  • 7 Ways To Grow Your Personal Brand in Less Than a Week

    How to get your name out there, starting today.

    If you want to promote your name and your company online, you have to begin by building your personal brand. You have to begin thinking of yourself and your name as a brand. If you start there, everything else is easy.

    How do I know? I’ve spent years building my own brand, and I’m going to show you how to do it.

    1. Do a little preliminary research.

    Before you can build a positive personal profile online for yourself, you need to know what is already out there about you. Did you write a mean op-ed in college that has now made it into Google’s cache? Do you have some unsavory photos floating out there in the world wide web?

    Set up Google alerts using your name. Try to clean up any negative press or posts. You may even want to consider changing your name slightly — such as by using your middle initial or dropping our your nickname to build your new profile. Get your name as clean and professional as possible before you begin building your brand online.

    2. Get a website.

    If you’re going to make a name for your brand online, you need a site where your audience can visit so they can learn more about you. So, get a personal website with an “About me” page. There are lots of tools that you can use and websites you can visit to help you build your own website. Some of them are free. Some are paid, but remember,  you get what you pay for.

    If you want your website to be dynamic and professional-looking, make sure that you allot enough time, effort (and even money) into it. Use high-resolution photos of yourself and keep your copy short and engaging.

    3. Think about your audience.

    Who are you trying to reach? This is called your target audience.

    If I’ve learned anything in my years of marketing, it’s that you need to define your audience early on. Are you trying to direct people to your personal website so they can learn something from you? What do you have to offer them?

    By answering these questions, you’ll be able to get a better picture of your audience, and this will give you direction on how you communicate with them on your website and on social media.

    4. Make friends with influential people online.

    Influencers are some of your best assets as you build your personal brand. Over the years, I’ve made friends with people online who have big audiences in my industry. By building these relationships, my influencers are more willing to share or retweet my social posts to their audiences.

    If you get free exposure to an audience that you are already trying to target, it’s a win-win for both parties. Try out this technique to see if it works for you. If you have the right influencers in your circle, you’ll get more traffic to your website and more engagement in your social posts.

    5. The more people you meet, the better.

    When you are building a personal brand, the people you know can help promote you. You can’t limit these relationships to online. Perhaps you will reach out to some influencers online, and that is perfectly acceptable. I do that all the time, and it is rewarding to see these friendships form. But, you also need to do everything you can to meet influencers in other ways. Go to local events related to your industry. Network at happy hours.

    Tell everyone what you do everywhere you go, from the waiter at your favorite restaurant to the people you sit beside at church. Expand your circles — and your personal brand — simply by being present with others.

    6. Be you and only you.

    I’m offering you this advice because I learned the hard way. When you are building a personal brand, you do want to put your best face forward. But you also don’t want to create an online presence that isn’t true to who you really are. Social users are savvy about honesty — and they can tell when marketers are not being vulnerable and genuine.

    So make sure you are putting forth an honest profile of who you are. When you do this, you’ll effortlessly build trust.

    7. Capture information.

    Once you have started building a relationship with your online audience, it will be time to collect some of their information. This will be useful in building an email list, for example, so you can communicate more directly with your target audience.

    You can test this using creative ways. For example, once you have proven yourself as an established, trusted voice who offers valuable content, you can ask your audience to sign up for your monthly newsletter. You can also create videos to share your brand story. Incentivize this by offering a free giveaway or running a contest to generate excitement around free prizes. Make it fun for your target audience to participate.

    It can feel overwhelming as you get start building your personal brand. But, it takes less than a week to try out these tips. It’s easy to try one new strategy, and it won’t be long before you have a great target audience listening to you and looking to you for advice. That’s what a personal brand is all about.

     

    Source: entrepreneur.com

    Call, text, email, or stop by our Los Angeles HQ today!
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    United States of America

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