Crisis Planning: How to Publicly Respond to Business Problems

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In the past, PR agencies focused on crisis communications, and they were able to specialize in it because the crises were so few and far between. Today, somebody can be upset with a flight, a hotel stay, or a Crock-Pot killing a fictional TV character and take to Twitter, Facebook, or any social network where the issue can become blown out of proportion.

Today, everybody has a megaphone because of social media. Before, if you were upset with somebody or something, you told your neighbor, your friends, and your family, but your message was contained to about 30 people. Today, you can be upset about something and share it with thousands of people.

In this environment, it’s important to identify an issue versus a crisis. You have an issue when somebody is antagonizing you or pushing your buttons, but their comments aren’t going to go anywhere. On social media, issues are common and might be painful for a day or two or maybe even a week. But as long as the comments don’t cause reputation or money loss, it’s an issue, not a crisis.

A crisis has the potential to cause a stock price decline or a loss of customers, revenue, or reputation.

A crisis causes adecrease in customers revenue and reputation. Three downward-trending lines in gray, orange, and green respectively with the words Customers, Revenue, and Reputation.

Issues and crises exist on a spectrum, where a troll creating an issue might be a level 1, and the money or reputation loss is a level 10. You need to think about how you respond to each level in between.

I ask whether the Cambridge Analytica story would be a level 10 crisis for Facebook. Gini says she would categorize that crisis as an 8 or 9 because the whole world is talking about that story, so Facebook has taken a reputational hit. However, after Mark Zuckerberg testified before Congress, stock prices went up. Because Facebook isn’t losing money, the crisis isn’t a 10.

Listen to the show to hear Gini and me discuss how well Facebook handled the Cambridge Analytica crisis.

How to Handle Issues

Gini was recently in a Facebook group conversation with Jay Baer and Mitch Joel about whether to respond to trolls who leave negative, one-star book reviews on Amazon. Mitch Joel suggests not responding because his book won’t be for everybody. However, Jay Baer thinks you should respond to them in order to hug your haters and make them feel warm and fuzzy.

From a crisis perspective, Gini leans more toward Jay Baer’s perspective. Although you’re not necessarily going to change the mind of a troll, a negative reviewer, or the person who’s upset with you, your response can incentivize other people who see your response.

Because people can leave negative things online anywhere at any time, how you respond can mitigate the situation. Gini recommends leaving a professional, non-emotional response one time. If the troll comes back, you can say, “I’d love to have this conversation with you offline. Let’s connect via phone, email, or wherever.” However, don’t continue the conversation via social.

Respond to troll comments with a single professional reply. Illustration shows gray laptop open to screen with dark blue speech bubble that says Troll comment and royal blue speech bubble that says Professional Reply.

If the troll keeps coming back, just ignore them. You’re not going to change that person’s mind, and they may continue to come back. Your one response is for anyone else who reads the negative review. You want them to see that you’ve addressed the comment and tried to be professional about it. Let the rest of the world see that you’re the one who is rational.

Weigh all the possible outcomes of all possible scenarios.I then ask how you predict whether an issue will blow over or escalate. Gini says you do this through your crisis communication planning, which involves looking at every scenario, how many people it will impact, and how you’ll respond. A troll is one person causing an issue; however, involvement of 100 people is a higher-level issue or crisis. Your planning helps you navigate these questions.

I share a story from the early days of Social Media Marketing World when a song we posted on YouTube was picked up by Gawker, which wrote an extremely negative review. Suddenly, the video of this song was trending in the top 10 on YouTube for all the wrong reasons, we were on VH1, and the media was reaching out wanting to talk to the employee who was part of the song.

After a lot of internal communications and talking to Gini, we decided to let the issue ride and not speak about it publicly because it was primarily people making fun of a piece of content that we produced.

Gini remembers how we discussed that this issue wouldn’t hurt our reputation or financial position. The people interested in this issue weren’t potential society members or event attendees, because a customer supports you. The outside world had seized on the issue for no real reason other than to make fun of social media marketers.

After letting the issue ride, it didn’t seem to hurt us at all. That’s an example in which talking about the issue would have helped it continue.

Listen to the show to hear more about how we handled negative reactions to the song.

Employee-Related Problems

Sometimes, an internal company issue like an employee’s behavior or the company’s financial problems become public issues, too. How you handle these issues depends in part on how transparent you are with your organization.

For instance, Buffer is known for opening up its doors and windows and letting everybody see everything. So if Buffer were having internal issues, like serious financial problems, Gini would recommend disclosing those problems because doing so is consistent with the way the company does business.

The Buffer web page for radical company transparency has a dark background with the text We Try Our Best To Live Up To Our Value Of Default To Transparency. Here's An Overview Of Everything We've Made Transparent At Buffer. A blue Learn More button appears below the text.

However, most companies aren’t as transparent as Buffer, and for those companies, the level of transparency they need depends on the situation.

As an example, an employee at Gini’s company was accused of plagiarizing somebody else’s content. After the employee assured Gini the content wasn’t plagiarized and Gini compared the two articles, Gini talked to the accuser and stood up for the employee. However, 2 months later, Gini discovered clear evidence that the employee actually did plagiarize the article.

After discovering this evidence, Gini decided to respond both privately and publicly. Working closely with her attorney to avoid unnecessary liability or other legal issues, Gini apologized to the accuser and let him know the employee had been let go. She also wrote a case study for her company’s blog that explained what happened. After Gini got in front of the problem, it completely went away.

Employees’ public commentary on hot-button issues via their personal platforms can also impact your business. Gini says how you handle an issue like this also depends on the specifics.

When an employee blends business and personal content, the issue becomes kind of blurry.However, if an employee uses a personal page or social profile to discuss the company, the employee has crossed the line from the personal to the professional. You have to be careful with freedom of speech; you can’t fire somebody for a personal post on a social network. However, when the employee blends business and personal content, the issue becomes kind of blurry.

Generally, you start by talking to the employee. Remind them that because they post about the business on their personal profile, they represent the company, especially to customers and clients who are connected with the employee via their social profile. When an employee mixes business and personal content, they need to know their opinions can misrepresent the company.

To avoid confusion, you can insist employees add a note to their personal social bios that explicitly states their posts do not reflect the opinion of the company. When you ask employees to do this, you might also explain that the company avoids certain topics to remain inclusive of customers or clients with different viewpoints. Most people are pretty receptive to this request.

When an employee in a leadership position at the company or a thought leader your company works with makes a public mistake, the things your company does to manage its reputation when it’s not in a crisis help the company overcome these situations. When you consistently work on building and maintaining a good reputation, people are forgiving when you make a mistake. We are all human.

For instance, when Gini publicly stated that she made a gigantic mistake about the plagiarism issue, her company had fierce, engaged, loyal brand ambassadors who came to her defense.

Listen to the show for examples of hot-button issues employees might be discussing via their personal social media profiles.

Leadership and Company Transparency

Because marketers often want leaders of the company to be more transparent, I ask Gini for her thoughts about encouraging transparency. Gini says when she’s encouraging a new client to be more transparent, she starts by suggesting the executive or CEO walk around the business.

An executive can actually walk the manufacturing floor and talk to the people who work there.

To illustrate, at a manufacturing company, the executive would actually walk the manufacturing floor and talk to the people who work there. For a virtual organization, the executive can pop into Zoom or Skype with somebody on your team once a week or once a day. At a retail location, the executive talks to employees who work on the floor.

When the company leader first starts doing that, people are self-conscious. However, this regular interaction allows the company leader to hear what challenges and issues employees are having in the tactical environment. The leader also becomes a much more transparent, approachable boss, and that’s what you want.

Gini adds that convincing a company leader to try this approach isn’t easy for internal employees. Typically, convincing a leader to be more transparent takes an outside counsel. People like experts better than whomever they have on their team, which is dumb but it’s how humans are. If you’re having trouble making this happen, try bringing in an expert from outside the company.

Transparency can ake the form of lunch and learns.For one of Gini’s biggest clients, this transparency takes the form of lunch and learns. Every quarter, employees elect 10 colleagues to have lunch with the CEO. During this lunch, the employees and CEO can talk about anything and everything.

At first, these interactions between the CEO and employees were awkward because people either didn’t want to say anything or weren’t sure the CEO was open to hearing their challenges, issues, or ideas. However, after 5 years of the lunch program, people feel more comfortable. They discuss their ideas and challenges, and the CEO fixes them.

After the company leader starts talking to employees regularly in this way, these interactions foster transparency and authenticity in the company leader’s public communications, too. The idea is that the employee interactions help the leader become more familiar with talking about what’s happening in the company, whether that’s good or bad.

I mention my live video about Facebook algorithm changes on January 11. In this video, I shared my concerns that the changes could be the beginning of the end for exposure in the news feed. Although some critics thought I was fear-mongering, most people appreciated hearing from me because they respected the company.

I never could have done that live video if I hadn’t been practicing and talking publicly about things transparently through our live show. That practice helped me share an opinion that resonated with our audience. And because I was able quickly to go live and talk about my honest feelings about this situation, that video was watched almost 600,000 times and resulted in press opportunities.

Gini says that such transparency is rewarded. Moreover, it makes great content and sets you apart from everyone else because you have something unique to say that not everybody else is saying.

Also, Gini emphasizes that there’s a difference between being transparent and being antagonistic. Transparency is sharing the opinion that the Facebook algorithm changes might actually be a bigger deal than we think. Being antagonistic could be lambasting Facebook and suggesting everyone delete their account.

Listen to the show to hear Gini and me discuss more about encouraging company leaders to be transparent.

Crisis Planning

You can’t develop your crisis plan when you’re in the middle of a crisis. It’s too late because you become emotional in the moment. You’ll respond differently than you would if you had a plan.

A crisis plan is like an insurance policy in two ways. First, as soon as you have a plan, Murphy’s Law says that you won’t have a crisis. More importantly, if you do have a crisis, you avoid paying a crisis firm a gazillion dollars you don’t have to manage the crisis or floundering through the crisis yourself. To create a plan, you develop scenarios, prepare messaging, rehearse and role-play how you’ll handle them, and revisit the plan every quarter.

Brainstorm every single scenario that could possibly happen.Scenarios: To develop your crisis scenarios, involve a handful of people. A smaller business might involve customers, friends, advisors, mentors, and so on. A bigger company needs to involve people from different departments who can bring multiple viewpoints to the process.

For at least 2 hours, ask your group to brainstorm every single scenario that could possibly happen. These scenarios might include trolls who are after your company, public intoxication of the CEO, or extramarital affairs. You can use the experience of other businesses, too. For example, what’s your company’s version of Crock-Pot being accused of killing a fictional TV character?

After you develop your scenarios, organize them into levels from 1 to 10. After you assign each scenario a level, determine what escalates a scenario from level 1 to level 2, and so on. When your group is done with this phase, your team of people can go back to work.

Prepared messaging: Your company’s lead marketer or communicator needs to build an unpublished landing page or microsite that can be published the moment you become aware of a crisis. The messaging would be generic, and you can add details later. The generic messaging includes a note that you’re working on the issue, what you’re doing, and when people can expect an update.

Also, make sure you understand how Facebook Live works, so if you need to have your executives on video talking about things that are happening in a generic way, you can do that immediately.

For both the website and Facebook Live messaging, make sure your legal team preapproves what you’ll say so you don’t have to wait hours for legal approval when you’re in the midst of a crisis.

In case the crisis takes down your website or your main way of interacting with your audience, make sure you have different places where people can get information, based on whatever your crisis is. For instance, how often do people go to Facebook to complain that Twitter is down?

Role-play: Gini believes that role-playing is the most important part of developing your crisis plan. It also helps you manage your reputation and communicate transparently. In a role-play, you actually conduct an interview or pretend an angry mob is coming after you. This practice will truly prepare you for the crisis and take the emotion out of your response.

In other words, you want to identify the key people who’ll publicly respond in a crisis and rehearse what they’ll say in the event that a scenario actually occurs. Then, if the crisis occurs, the spokesperson is responding to the crisis based on the plan, not how they feel at the moment.

Another part of role-playing is learning to handle questions. To illustrate, when Mark Zuckerberg testified before Congress, he knew how to respond to questions he didn’t have an answer to. His messaging was well-prepared, and nothing seemed to faze him.

Review: After you develop the whole plan, you review it once per quarter. The goal isn’t to repeat the entire process but to make sure the messaging is updated. Gini strongly recommends role-playing each quarter, because role-playing media interviews is beneficial even without a crisis. For example, role-play can improve live and recorded videos, speaking engagements, and so on.

Listen to the show to hear Gini and me discuss bringing in a professional to help with crisis management.

Discovery of the Week

Lately offers a cool online scanner that helps you review the consistency of your branding across social media platforms.

The Lately Consistency Scanner page has a green background and two text boxes, one for a website address and another for an email address. Above the text boxes is white text that says How Effective Is Your Marketing? Next to the text boxes is a black button that says Scan My URL For Free.

To use Lately’s Consistency Scanner, enter your website and email into the online tool. It then displays your profile picture, bio, and naming scheme on Twitter, Pinterest, Facebook, Instagram, and so on and gives you a grade on how consistent these elements are. With the report, you can easily see how to adjust your social profiles so they’re more consistent.

If everyone who reads our articles and likes it, helps fund it, our future would be much more secure. For as little as $5, you can donate us – Thank you.

Entrepreneurship 8 Things NOT to do (Video Presentation)

How can you head “upwards and forward” as a business owner? By sticking to some core foundations.

How to Create a great mission and purpose statement?
How to create a company mission statement?
How to focus as a small business?
How to increase small business sales?
How to avoid lawsuits as a small business?
How to build momentum as a small business?
What’s the best advice for small businesses and entrepreneurs?

If everyone who reads our articles and likes it, helps fund it, our future would be much more secure. For as little as $5, you can donate us – Thank you.

6 Signs Your Business Idea Is Ready For Financing – Jared Hecht

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It’s thrilling to hit on a great idea for a business, and envision yourself at the helm of a lucrative new endeavor. Less thrilling, though, is the prospect of securing the necessary financing to get from idea to real-life CEO.

The truth is, finding the money to run a startup requires a lot of preliminary planning, regardless of whether you’re going to pursue outside funding or choose to bootstrap your first few months. Most startups looking elsewhere to kickstart their cash flow will have the best luck securing funding through their personal networks. You can look to an angel investor, a loan from friends or family or even crowdfunding. Alternatively, there’s also the option for a small business startup loan, another route entirely.

Regardless of which financing route you take, your potential investors need to see evidence that your idea is practically viable before they throw their hats into the ring. These six signs indicate that your business idea is ready for financing — and just might provide the evidence your potential investors need to be convinced.

1. Your idea serves a true, identified need

Your business isn’t going to work, let alone make money, if it doesn’t have a customer base. And, what’s more, if they don’t need whatever you’re creating. This may seem obvious, but many aspiring entrepreneurs get so caught up in the excitement of their big ideas that they fail to plan for how that idea will function in the real world.

Before you jump into the financing process, you need to identify your target customer segment and understand their behavior. You should design your product or idea to deliver a solution to a problem that those customers are facing.

While we’re on the subject of product: You need to know what that product or sevice is, how it works and how you’re going to sell it. You’ve identified potential problems that may arise with your product, or barriers you may come up against in the market, and you have a game plan for troubleshooting those snags.

Then, you need to perform due diligence in your industry. Determine exactly how you’ll situate your business within the existing market, understand how your product can shift and grow along with it, and differentiate yourself from competitors. And make sure your customers can afford your product or service.

2. You’ve tested out your product, and it works

Pay attention, especially to that second part. Very few lenders will feel comfortable investing their money into just an idea, no matter how enticing it might be.

Your business idea is ready for financing when you have material evidence to bring to your investors’ table, whether it’s a prototype of a physical product or a beta version of a program or website. Be ready to present any data, reviews or research you’ve acquired after testing out that product, too. And if that data isn’t favorable, you might need to go back to the drawing board.

3. You have a business model and plan

If your business model is the what, your business plan is the why.

Your business model indicates your business’s revenue streams, and your business plan lays out how you’re going to acquire those revenue streams. How is your business’s leadership team organized, and how is your business legally structured? What kind of equipment, staffing and marketing plan do you need to operate your business and generate income?

Both your business model and plan provide proof, both to yourself and to any potential lenders, that your business idea is practical and operable.

4. And you have a financial plan, too

Whether you’re pitching an investor or seeking a small business loan through a lender, your financier will want to see how you plan on using that potential money. You can’t just ask for money as an entrepreneur. You need to know exactly how much money you need, why you need it and how you’ll use it.

That’s especially true if you seek financing through an angel investor. Since these individuals lay their own money on the line to fund your startup, they need to be sure your venture is sustainable, eventually lucrative and that you’ll use their resources wisely.

Poor financial planning, or no financial planning, certainly can’t convince potential lenders of your business acumen. So, draw up a financial road map that projects exactly how you’ll get from point A — where you and your resources are now — to point B, where you hope to be within the next one to five years.

Be sure to include a detailed plan of your projected business expenses, or how much capital it’ll take to get your business idea off the ground, and your operating expenses, or how much it’ll cost to keep that business going.

5. You’ve recruited a qualified team to execute on your vision.

Even if you created your business idea on your own, in reality, every entrepreneur needs help kicking off, then operating, their startups.

Before you seek financing, recruit a capable and qualified management team to run your business, or have a hiring plan in place to do so ASAP. And if you don’t have enough relevant experience in the field yourself, you’ll need to gather a team of partners or mentors to fill the gaps in your knowledge. It’s crucial to acknowledge you can’t do and know everything yourself.

6. You can prove you spend money responsibly

Although you might not have a way to prove you’re responsible with business financing yet, you want to make sure you’re positioning yourself to create a track record so investors and lenders can trust you.

Even if you start with seed money from close friends, or crowdfunding from Kickstarter for your business idea, you may need to seek additional financing through a larger venture round or a small business lender. That’s where the proof becomes necessary. For instance, if you’re working with a lender, they’ll want to know that your business is capable of repaying your debt before extending you a loan. And any other investor will want to know that any money they give you will be spent responsibly, especially if they’re expecting returns.

One of the best ways you can do that is to cultivate a healthy financial profile, and keep a high business credit score. Open a business credit card, and follow best practices to improve your credit score, like paying all your bills in full and on time and regularly checking your credit reports for errors.

Then, the proof will be in the numbers. Alongside a squeaky-clean track record and a strong personal credit score, a great financial history will position you for the financing your growing small business needs, whether that’s new term sheet, or maybe a gold-standard SBA loan.

For aspiring entrepreneurs, sometimes the hardest thing isn’t coming up with innovative ideas, it’s knowing which of those ideas are worthy of financing. Watch out for these six signs to know when you’re ready to seek the financing you need to turn that big idea into a reality.

If everyone who reads our articles and likes it, helps fund it, our future would be much more secure. For as little as $5, you can donate us – Thank you.

How Blockchain Technology Is Helping Remodel the Private Equity Industry – Peter Daisyme

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Private equity investment funds have made many people and institutional investors billions. However, structural issues prevent all parties from experiencing the full benefits of this powerful investment vehicle.

Real estate investment has proven inaccessible to many investors across the marketplace. It has required massive initial buy-ins and/or intimate market knowledge for profitable participation.

Private equity today

Historically, private equity funds have been a reliable and steady source of income for investors and fund managers. Unlike public companies, a limited number of in-the-know partners hold private equity. Shares can’t be bought and sold on the stock market. Now, this is where shareholder governance and reporting are significantly easier. Unlike venture capital, private equity is traditionally used to invest in established businesses seeking to expand or restructure.

Therefore, a growth-oriented private equity fund invests the capital it raises in companies seeking growth capital to facilitate expansion, an acquisition strategy, and/or restructuring.  In addition to providing capital, the fund’s investment team will use its expertise to assist a portfolio company in achieving its growth goal.

After a prescribed amount of time, the fund divests its interests in the portfolio companies. Hence, this provides a return to the fund’s investors.  After divesting its holdings, the fund will be wound down. Then, the private equity firm will start a follow-on fund and repeat the cycle.

Stiff structure

In the past, this investment model has been successful. However, it also has struggled with several inefficiencies.

Private equity fund managers have sought to work with a relatively limited number of investors to minimize shareholder reporting needs. Hence, the amount of cash typically required for participation means only large institutional investors like pensions or wealthy individual investors can buy in. A huge portion of the investing world simply isn’t able to participate in this profitable investment structure.

Furthermore, private equity fund structures have defined liquidation deadlines. These deadlines drive certain behavior that isn’t always in the best interest of maximizing underlying asset value.  After the downturn, many funds liquidated their holdings. And, as a result, suffered tremendous losses. These structural deadline elements oftentimes constrain the investment manager from generating the best returns for their investors.

Blockchain token solutions

Blockchain’s immutable ledger can be used to tie real-world assets to tokens. This strategy combines the benefits of blockchain — its transparency, accessibility and security — with the reliability of real-world investments. Smart contracts and an immutable ledger means ownership of those real investments can be secured within the blockchain itself.

Cryptocurrency has made a few people very rich over the past six months. Yet, many tokens have experienced price drops almost as dramatic as their price increases.

People who need lower-risk investment opportunities have been shut out of the cryptocurrency boom. No one wants to sink a large portion of their kids’ college fund into a cryptocurrency that might be worthless tomorrow. This is where asset-backed blockchain tokens come into the picture.

A secure option for investment: Asset-backed tokens

Founded in 2012, Muirfield Investment Partners is a private equity firm. It will launch a TAO for a new generation of private equity investment. Murfield built MIF, a security asset token. And, a private equity real estate investment portfolio managed by the private equity real estate firm will back the token.

Initially, a limited number of U.S. accredited investors and non-U.S. approved parties will receive tokens. Then, public exchanges buy and sell MIF tokens. This can happen after a lock-out period of 90 days to a year. This groundbreaking model presents several opportunities.

Breaking the rigid structure of private equity investment

Tokenization allows a lower barrier of entry to participation. Anyone who owns just one token is participating in the fund.

Furthermore, tokenization allows liquidity that was previously impossible in private equity fund structuring. As a result, this helps optimize the private equity fund structure. Investors in need of redemptions can sell their tokens in exchanges. Someone else acquires the token.

Fund managers face far lighter redemption burdens under the tokenization model. Plus, the fund doesn’t have a liquidation deadline. Therefore, they can manage the fund far more efficiently and drive greater economic returns for their investors.

In fact, tokenization means no fund liquidation. Instead, managers can focus on maximizing the fund’s long-term net asset value rather than reaching a target exit date.

Now, Muirfield wants to improve the traditional private equity fund world. Tokenization opens this world up to a larger participant pool. As Thomas Zaccagnino, Founder of Muirfield Investment Partners, explained, “We are very excited to bring a new and much improved private equity investment structure to the market.

A structure offering better alignment between the investors and investment manager, improved ability to maximize assets values, and enhanced liquidity allowing investors the ability to control how long they participate in the growth of the underlying real estate portfolio.”

If everyone who reads our articles and likes it, helps fund it, our future would be much more secure. For as little as $5, you can donate us – Thank you.

How to Develop a Positive Relationship With Failure

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Entrepreneurs love few things more than their own ideas. These sparks of inspiration fuel the endless hours entrepreneurs devote to their businesses, and they compel investors to open their wallets in the hopes of making these ideas come to fruition. But even the greatest ideas can’t overcome fundamental flaws.

In 2017 alone, many concept-fueled businesses have shut their doors. Beepi, a used car marketplace, was founded on a great idea but stumbled under bad prioritization. Quixey, a digital app assistant, folded as competition flooded the market. Yik Yak, an anonymous social network whose popularity was underscored by its young user base and a valuation nearing $400 million at its peak, shut down after cyberbullies ran rampant.

The failures of these well-funded companies sent ripples throughout the startup world. But failure itself isn’t the problem — the inability to let go of a beloved idea is. Being an entrepreneur is all about having a healthy relationship with failure.

Failing to fail.

Many entrepreneurs are so fearful of ultimately failing to create a profitable and sustainable company that they overlook the smaller failures that litter the path to success. Failure can also be found in the lackluster marketing campaigns, ill-conceived software updates and rushed hiring decisions that occur while trying to realize an idea.

I’ve fallen in love with a lot of ideas, but I eventually gave up or put on hold the ones whose weaknesses became so noticeable that even I couldn’t deny them. For example, my company, ONTRAPORT, held Implementation Days to provide strategy, copy and design services to support our clients in launching successful marketing campaigns. We knew small business owners would benefit from this additional insight on top of the capabilities our software tools offered.

This concierge service program met with some real success; we had a few deeply happy customers who were thrilled with the above-and-beyond efforts of our staff. A few cried while talking to our employees.

Meanwhile, we had thousands of people waiting. We had let the program veer off course while trying to serve individuals instead of our broader audience. I looked at the numbers and had a hard conversation with myself, concluding that although I loved the program, the business was suffering. These few happy people weren’t covering our costs.

To deliver on our mission, I had to serve thousands and that required putting Implementation Days on the chopping block. I now make a point to cancel programs at the end of each year if they don’t make business sense or don’t result in worthwhile ROI. Determining which ones make the cut, as well as how to rebound from such a loss, isn’t easy, but a few steps can soften the blow.

1. Clarify why an idea must be abandoned.

The financial devastation of throwing good money after bad can’t be overstated. If an idea was once successful but is now struggling, its owner must attach a dollar amount to its current failure. To come up with the full cost, determine how much each stage of the process costs, how much it costs to pay your employees to do that work and how costly it would be to replicate the process in the future.

Then, ask yourself, “If I have $1,000 to spend, what will truly get me closer to my goal?” You may determine that it’s worthwhile to have your designers and writers implement marketing strategies for your customers because the results will outweigh the labor costs. Or you may, like me, come up with an alternative that still supports the goal. In our case, we decided to offer templates with guidance about copy and design strategy, allowing us to provide similar value to our customers, but at scale.

2. Don’t abandon the lessons hidden in the experience.

Failure is hard, which is why most people don’t want to go through it. Even watching other people fail is hard. My 1-year-old nephew is on the verge of walking, but he keeps losing his balance and falling. But he’d never learn to walk if people kept grabbing him before gravity took hold. There’s a payoff to his pain.

Likewise, if you’re going to fail, you might as well make it worth your while. Write down the skills you obtained as a result of your failure. Get competitive with yourself: Compare the current version of yourself to last year’s model. What are you now capable of doing differently to lead your company? What do you know now that makes you more valuable?

I did this at the end of 2015, a challenging year for my business. I found lots of problems, all of which were our own design. I could see exactly why we’d managed to find ourselves in the position we were in. However, we escaped layoffs and grew the company by 3 percent. Looking back, I realized that I hadn’t prioritized data and analytics in my decision-making; I had failed to incorporate the right KPIs and how they were reported.

Today, everyone in the company receives a Daily Stats email first thing in the morning with what we call “cash the plane” KPIs. We then set up better weekly, monthly and quarterly reporting for each of our teams during our weekly leadership meeting.

3. Develop a grateful mindset toward failure.

The idea of thinking of failure with gratitude may feel like salt in the wound. But without the failures of 2015 that forced us to look at what we were doing, our company wouldn’t have uncovered and resolved so many issues that would have prevented us from becoming the scalable business we are now.

I didn’t just get comfortable with the list I’d made of the lessons I’d learned. I sat down with a colleague and put our lists together. There was overlap, but we’d each zoned in on different failures and overlooked others. That meant there was even more learning to be done. We adjusted our perspective and began embracing a new attitude: “How can we be open to that?” There’s no longer a penalty attached to failure.

We also put our work in perspective. In our line of work, unlike that of doctors or firefighters, people’s lives aren’t in danger when we fail. Remembering that makes it easier to absorb the beauty of failure — it’s part of the cost of learning, and it’s why you’ll be paid more down the line. Failing as an entrepreneur is a lot like surviving the grueling rigors of a difficult college program: You pay thousands of dollars, get no breaks and endure lots of pressure. But the “Is it worth it?” question is answered at the end, when you wear that experience like a badge of honor.

Failure resembles grief: The only way out is through. And that makes sense because failure means grieving an idea that didn’t pan out the way you’d hoped. But evaluating the data, embracing the lessons and adjusting your attitude ensures that your failure will pay off with a much stronger company that can take a few blows and remain standing.

If everyone who reads our articles and likes it, helps fund it, our future would be much more secure. For as little as $5, you can donate us –  Thank you.

Hashtagging For Results: The Power Behind That Pound Sign – Courtney Myers

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It’s hard to believe, but the hashtag is now officially more than a decade old. That means there’s an entire generation of youngsters on Twitter who never knew a world without it, though most marketers certainly do. Since its inception in 2007, the hashtag (or pound symbol, for traditionalists) has taken off as a digital marketing mainstay — and for good reason.

It allows users to quickly join or initiate a conversation by tapping into a shared group consensus. Now, you’re no longer just casually grabbing a taco on the second day of the week. You’re out for #brunch on #TacoTuesday, along with thousands of like-minded individuals who share your same interests.

In a world where so many flash-in-the-pan tactics have failed, why has the hashtag remained a constant? It has less to do with the symbol itself and more to do with the sense of community it immediately implies. Take the #MeToo movement for example, and consider how many people were connected across the globe who otherwise wouldn’t have found each other had it not been for that simple tag.

The digital marketing industry as a whole can be a complex and overwhelming sphere to live in, and as such, something as unfussy and straightforward as the hashtag offers a breath of relief, not to mention extreme usability.

Yet, there’s a difference between hashtagging (yes, it’s a verb, too) strategically and over-using the technique. A pointed message can quickly become lost in translation if #every #single #word is underscored with the symbol. When utilized correctly, however, it can make all the difference in an effective social media marketing strategy and one that fails to deliver. Here are a few pointers for how to get it right.

1. Don’t forget to tag locally

Local advertising is one of the most powerful tools in your outreach arsenal. In fact, local advertising revenues bring in more than $145 million annually, with traffic derived from customers right within your own backyard. While it’s true that digital marketing affords us the opportunity to reach a wider geographic audience than ever before, don’t discount the power of selling to your own community. You’ll likely find followers who are passionate about supporting a local business and those types of local supporters are invaluable to growing your brand reputation.

Leverage local hashtags in your tweets, posts, and pins to grow community awareness and add your voice to the conversation. Whenever possible, you can also organically hashtag your location to remind web visitors where you’re located and make it easier for local shoppers to find you.

2. Consider hashtagging in Instagram comments

Especially on Instagram, it can be easy to lose your message amid the thousands of other businesses who are also tagging everything and anyone in their posts. Stand out for all the right reasons by skipping hashtags altogether on occasion and instead, adding them in a comment on your post immediately afterward. You’ll still rank for the hashtags, but your post won’t look the least bit spammy.

Research reveals that Instagram posts with 11 or more hashtags earn around 80% more interactions compared to those with only two. Therefore, don’t eschew tagging altogether on this platform, but be a little more selective and strategic about how you display them.

3. Avoid generic and broad hashtags

Sure, everyone can hashtag #selfie, but there are currently more than 338 million people who had the same idea on Instagram. You may show up in the top of recent posts, but you’ll quickly move down the line as others replace you. Instead, focus on industry niche hashtags that people who are truly interested in your products and services will search for. This strategy works for virtually every industry, from retail to Food and Beverage and myriad sectors in between.

Restaurant owners can tag their individual menu items; financial services providers can use tags to help customers compare rates; small business owners can tag their merchants and vendors when a new shipment comes in. This way, there is less competition and you’ll have a greater chance to showcase your posts. Do a quick audit of what other companies in your sphere are tagging, as well as what your target audience is searching for, and tailor your hashtagging strategy accordingly.

To make sure the hashtags you’re using are relevant, it’s helpful to analyze their performance to see how much traffic they help drive to your site. An effective hashtag isn’t just one that includes you in an industry community. It’s one that draws web visitors in and encourages them to explore your product offering further, eventually leading them down the path to purchase. You could have the most creative and carefully curated tags in the world, but if they aren’t helping you generate a larger following and building your bottom line, it’s time to rethink them.

Hashtag Your Way to Success

In today’s Digital Age, it can be easy to assume that any attention online is good attention. After all, if people are talking about you, that’s good brand buzz, right? Well, yes and no. Standing out and getting noticed should be an aim, but not at the expense of your business integrity and reputation. Hashtagging sporadically or without intention can render your efforts ineffective or even detrimental to your brand. The next time you go to press that pound sign, make sure you’re ready to add that tag to your voice and associate your name with that dialogue. Then, you can press “post” with confidence.

If everyone who reads our articles and like it , help to fund it. Our future would be much more secure if you donate us as little as $1 – and it only takes a minute…THANK YOU

5 Reasons Alibaba Is Just Going to Go Up From Here – Natalie Walters

Alibaba founder Jack Ma celebrate onstage during Alibaba's annual party

Alibaba (NYSE: BABA) has reported over 50% revenue growth in the past eight quarters. The Chinese e-commerce giant just won’t stop growing, and investors are taking notice. Alibaba’s stock has gone up about 122% in the past two years, including a 63% climb in just the past year to a still relatively cheap $196.61.

But despite the run-up, Alibaba still has plenty more room to run. For the upcoming fiscal year, the company is guiding for another impressive year of revenue growth of 60%. And while Alibaba still relies on its e-commerce platforms for the bulk of its revenue, its other projects are showing healthy growth and will contribute more and more in the coming years.

1. Alibaba’s revenue growth is strong

Alibaba’s revenue growth has been the highlight of the past two years, with each of the eight quarters showing over 50% growth.

Its annual revenue gives a better picture of how the company’s growth has really taken off in the past two years. For the past four fiscal years ended in March, Alibaba has reported revenue growth of 45%, 33%, 56%, and 58%, respectively. As you can see in the chart below, that means Alibaba’s revenue has more than doubled since 2015 from $19.5 billion to $40 billion.

 Fiscal Year  BABA Revenue Growth  BABA Revenue
 2015  45%  $19.5 billion
 2016  33%  $15.7 billion
 2017  56%  $23 billion
 2018  58%  $40 billion
 2019 (expected)  60%  TBA

Data source: Quarterly earnings press releases.

And Alibaba is expecting revenue growth to continue this exciting trend with 60% growth for fiscal 2019. If you were to exclude the consolidation of food delivery platform Ele.me and logistics network Cainiao, revenue growth is still expected to be over 50%.

But even 50% growth might be a low estimate, because Alibaba tends to be cautious with forecasts. For the 2018 fiscal year, Alibaba originally guided for 45% to 49% revenue growth before revising it to between 55% and 56% growth and, ultimately, hitting 58% growth. And for the 2017 fiscal year, Alibaba originally guided for 48% growth but ended up hitting 56% growth. So as high as 60% and even 50% revenue growth might seem for 2019, they may actually be low estimates.

2. Alibaba’s New Retail initiatives are taking off

Alibaba executive chairman Jack Ma believes he can help save brick-and-mortar stores by giving them a “New Retail” makeover that combines the best of offline and online shopping. This is important for Alibaba’s growth because e-commerce still only accounts for 20% of shopping in China, while offline accounts for the other 80%, according to eMarketer. So Alibaba needed a way to gain access to those brick-and-mortar sales it had been missing out on.

By helping physical stores move online, Alibaba is attempting to digitize all of China’s retail market, Alibaba executive vice chairman Joe Tsai said on the latest earnings call. If the project continues as planned, Alibaba’s total addressable market (TAM) will one day be all of China’s $5 trillion retail market, according to Tsai. This presents a huge growth opportunity for Alibaba to expand its TAM.

Right now, Alibaba’s main New Retail projects include Hema supermarkets, Intime department stores, and Tmall Import. For the last quarter, Alibaba said its China commerce retail segment’s 56% revenue growth to $6.4 billion was largely a reflection of the growth in its New Retail projects.

3. Alibaba’s international growth is heating up

Another area that holds huge growth potential for Alibaba is international markets. For the past fiscal year ended in March, Alibaba’s international commerce retail revenue shot up 94% year over year to $2.3 billion.

Alibaba is using its Lazada business to aggressively pursue the Southeast Asia e-commerce market. In the past quarter, Alibaba announced that it would invest $2 billion in the business, bringing its total investment into Lazada to about $4 billion. And Alibaba’s other main international business, Tmall Global, is the top cross-border e-commerce platform in China, according to Analysys.

4. Alibaba still has plenty of room to run in China

With a population of 1.4 billion people who are still gradually moving to online shopping, China still holds big potential for Alibaba. Last year, China as a whole saw an increase of 32.3% in online sales to $1.1 billion, according to the China Ministry of Commerce. And Alibaba’s Tmall platform that operates in China already claims 51.3% of all those online sales in China, according to eMarketer.

But with New Retail, Alibaba stands to benefit even more from China’s retail economy. The country’s total retail sales are expected to grow 10% annually to reach $7.2 trillion by 2020, according to the Ministry of Commerce. If Alibaba believes that whole market — both online and offline — can become its TAM, then that’s a lot of growth potential in the near future.

5. Alibaba’s cloud segment is on fire

Alibaba’s cloud segment has shown year-over-year revenue growth of over 100% in 10 of the past 12 quarters. For the year ended this past March, Alibaba Cloud’s revenue was up 101% to $2.1 billion.

Alibaba is currently the IaaS market leader in China, claiming 47.6% market share, but it’s also expanding internationally. This past quarter, Alibaba added a cloud data center in Indonesia, which brought its global cloud-computing presence to a total of 18 countries and regions.

The company has plenty of room to run here as well. Alibaba Cloud is the No. 3 worldwide IaaS provider but has just 3% of the market, compared to Amazon‘s (NASDAQ: AMZN) 44.2% and Microsoft‘s (NASDAQ: MSFT) 7.1%, according to Gartner estimates. But Alibaba Cloud is crushing both companies in revenue growth, which is a good indication that it’s working on taking away market share from these two leaders.

 

If everyone who reads our articles, who likes it, helps fund it, our future would be much more secure. For as little as $5, you can donate us – and it only takes a minute. Thank you.

How To Use Smart Optimizing Squeeze Pages To Grow Customers – Covert Commissions

You can instantly use COVERT COMMISSIONS to start building your own profitable list and earn affiliate commissions on autopilot from day , Even better… you can do all of this without ever writing a single word yourself. Instead of having to create all of the pages, make the download gifts, deliver them all… AND, write all of the emails, create followup promotions and pay for hosting and extra accounts…

Everything is completely done for you. Simply add your affiliate ID’s into your profile and they’re done.I know this probably seems to good to be true… So let’s take a few minutes and have a look at the system and everything you’ll find inside your members area:

Simply select one of our commission systems to get started. They cover almost all niches and product types, from dating to WordPress and everything in between…No matter what you are interested in…we have you covered!

These beautiful, high converting squeeze pages come with a custom report or software gift that will entice people to opt in and help convert them into paying customers. We host the pages and gifts… everything is set up and you are immediately ready to promote the link we give you.

Once people sign up they will go through our tested and proven funnel of thank-you, confirmation and download pages.This is already set up for you and each of these page is highly optimized with integrated ads that will automatically generate affiliate sales for you.

You don’t need to install or configure anything. We host all your pages and run the autoresponder follow up system for you, at no cost.Covert Commissions is entirely cloud based and you’ll find everything you need inside the member’s area, so you can get started immediately.

Inside the member’s area you’ll find
All the promotional tools you need already created and embedded with your information, so you can simply copy and paste

Our full step-by-step training system showing you exactly how to drive traffic using the tools we’ve given you.

We show you exactly how our most successful members are sending traffic to their pages. 

Once you’ve got the hang of that, we’ve got some more experienced methods that you can use to really ramp up your success too, but you can take this at your own pace and best of all,  earn as you learn! 

 

Our Covert Commissions systems still work great without needing a blog – but when you own a blog, you automatically have an extra business asset that’s able to help increase your results even further (especially when adding this plugin too!) 

But what if you don’t have a blog, but always wished you could?  That’s ok too – we’ve got special training that walks you through how to get your first blog set up.  It’s a lot easier than you think… that training will be there for you when you feel you’re ready 🙂 

INSTANT-ACCESS

 

 

New Technologies Allow You to Do Business (and Compete) From Anywhere – Amarillo

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Everyone knows just how much of an impact technology has had on global business, but if there’s one segment that has benefited the most from technological innovation it’s entrepreneurs. With mobile phones, cloud computing, do-it-yourself accounting software and ubiquitous connectivity, business owners can now create successful companies quickly and from anywhere.

However, with so much technology out there, it can be hard to know what programs and tools are essential for getting a company off the ground and growing. There are some must-haves, though, including these five types of tech.

Super-Size Your Storage

In today’s world, most budding businesses need far more storage than their computers can provide. Things like high-resolutions photos, data-heavy PowerPoints and an endless stream of documents will max out CPU storage in no time. Fortunately, cloud-based companies like Dropbox, Box, Apple and Google offer several terabytes of data for a reasonable monthly cost.

These programs also make collaboration easier as you can quickly share files and folders with contractors and employees. Thanks to these storage sites that many small companies can create a global workforce from the start.

Keep Up With Collaboration

Whether you’re in an office or have a remote workforce located in different cities, being able to collaborate and connect with staffers quickly is a must. Over the last few years, sites like Slack, Basecamp, Trello and others have revolutionized the way small business employees interact with one another.

Forget e-mail–you can now send messages to individuals or teams in an instant, you can work together, in real-time, on complex projects, and you can even build camaraderie by creating “channels” dedicated to more social communication. Messages and files are also easily searchable, making it difficult to lose something important.

Crunch The Numbers

As excited you may be about your brilliant idea, you still need to run a business. That means keeping receipts, adding up bills, doing taxes and other more mundane work. While it may still be a good idea to have an accountant nearby, technology can, and should, take care of most of this work.

Quicken, the classic accounting software, is still popular for tax work, but other programs like Wave Accounting, Xero and Zoho Books come with a variety of features like invoicing, payroll, bill payments and other mission critical applications and fall well within the budgets of most small businesses.

Show Your Face

Instant messaging and email only goes so far. In many cases, you still want to see clients or employees face-to-face–maybe you have to walk them through a presentation or just want to catch up. That’s why having a good video program is critical for small businesses today.

You’ll want to find software that allows you hold meetings with multiple participants, share files with people on a call and you may want to be able to record conferences for future viewing. Google Hangouts, Skype for Business, Zoom.us and GoToMeeting are just some of the popular video conferencing sites to choose from. While it may not be quite as good as a face-to-face meeting, it saves a fortune in travel costs and wear and tear.

Set Up A Store

There was once a time when creating a consumer-focused e-commerce website was a painstaking process. Now, though, sites like Shopify and Tictail let even the smallest companies create sleek websites with all the e-commerce fixings. Companies like these have been a boon to entrepreneurs-

They let users create online shops in snap and take a variety of payment options, such as credit card and PayPal, so that every potential customer can buy what you’re selling. It only takes a few hours to get a store up and running and turn your company into a potentially global business.

While there are plenty of other useful technologies out there–security software, customer relationship management programs and so on–incorporate these five tools into your budding business and you could find yourself ahead of the competition in no time.

If everyone who reads our articles, who likes it, helps fund it, our future would be much more secure. For as little as $5 you can donate us – and it only takes a minute. Thank you.

The A-Z of How to Write a Business Proposal

How to Write a Business Proposal

Success for small businesses is about getting new business. That’s what a business proposal is designed to do. These tips help you to organize, put your best business foot forward and close deals when you get a request for proposal (RFP).

How to Write a Business Proposal

Meet with The Client

To understand what a client is really looking for you need to meet with them before you write the proposal up. This is the best way to get some general information about the business, its management and employees.

Brainstorm

Understanding the best approach means brainstorming some options within your small business. Here you’ll need to tackle on some practical items like how much to charge the client to make it worth your while. A good rule of thumb is to multiply the costs by 1.5 to account for any unseen issues.

Your team needs to tackle questions like who will do the work, what needs to be done, how it will be accomplished and what the scheduled milestones are.

Organizing all the information you’ve gathered is easy using digital tools like Evernote.

Start Writing

Once you gone through the previous steps you’re ready to start writing your proposal. Although some of the details might vary, most of these business proposals follow a traditional template.

Create an Introduction for Your Business

Here is where you introduce your company again to the potential client. Include the name of your company, the nature of your business, and a quick industry profile.

Restate the Issue

This is a good place in any business proposal to repeat the problem or issue that prompted your prospect to ask for a proposal in the first place. It’s a good idea to keep in mind that the tone and style make a big difference. Plain language is always better than more colorful words.

Remember the old adage that you don’t need to use a five dollar word when a five cent one will do.

Be Specific About Methods and Goals

Being specific helps when you outline the goals that you hope to accomplish. This is a part of any business proposal that other businesses are listening to closely. Outline the methods you’re going to use here to but remember to be direct and to the point.

Keep in mind you don’t want to leave anything out . It’s very important to go through each and every step in your methods.

Be Clear about Costs and Time to Completion

There’s more meat and potatoes stuff. Transparency is one of the biggest ingredients to landing any deal with a good business proposal. That means you’ll need to be clear about how much time each and every step will take and what it will cost.

Explain Why You’re Qualified

Here’s the part of your business proposal where you sell your company. Again, you want to keep away from flowery language and stick to the facts. Don’t forget to stick with plain English. Keep in mind here that if this is your first business proposal, writing in journalistic simple style might be a challenge.

Hiring a proposal writer can grease the wheels of the whole process so you close the deal quicker. If you’re planning on using graphs and charts, you might want to hire a freelance designer too.

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