How To Become a Master at Talking To Strangers

A couple of years ago, I started to talk to strangers. That’s not to say I hadn’t talked to strangers before that, because I had. I’m the son and brother of highly social small-­business owners, and I’m a journalist, so talking to strangers has been both a way of life and a livelihood for me. And yet, a few years ago I noticed I wasn’t doing it much anymore — if at all. Between balancing a demanding job and a really demanding small child, I was often tired, distracted, and overscheduled. The prospect of striking up conversations with random strangers in coffee shops, or bars, or on the bus started to feel daunting. Eventually, I just stopped doing it.

This was a coping strategy, of course. I was overwhelmed, so something had to go. And talking to strangers can, as it turns out, be taxing. Psychologists have found that just making with a stranger can be cognitively demanding, tiring, and even stressful. That makes sense. You don’t know the person, you don’t know where the conversation is going, so you must pay closer attention than you would if you were talking to someone you know well. But psychologists have found that talking to a stranger actually boosts your mental performance — for that same reason: It’s a workout. I was saving myself a bit of effort, but I also noticed that my life was becoming less interesting, less surprising, maybe even a little lonely.

Related: 3 Ways to Make Memorable Small Talk That Gets People Interested In Working With You

After my epiphany, I got to wondering: Why don’t we talk to strangers more, what happens when we do, and how can we get better at it? It turns out, many researchers are asking the same questions. I started flying around the world to meet them: psychologists, evolutionary scientists, historians, urban planners, entrepreneurs, sociologists, and — you guessed it — a ton of fascinating strangers I met along the way. They all taught me that talking to strangers can not only be fun but also enhance our sense of well-being, make us smarter, expand our social and professional networks, and even help us overcome some of our most intractable social problems. (I detail this all in my new book, The Power of Strangers: The Benefits of Connecting in a Suspicious World.)

And as I researched the book, I kept coming back to the implications talking to strangers could have for entrepreneurs. Because I come from a family of small-business owners — and for a while served as executive editor at this magazine — I have seen firsthand how beneficial it is for businesspeople to hone those social skills. I have also spoken to a lot of college professors who lament that their students struggle to make the sorts of serendipitous social connections that will serve them so well once they start their careers. And, like all of us, I’m coming out of a year spent in relative quarantine. I’m rusty on these skills and need to get used to the sorts of fun, fruitful, and, yes, sometimes difficult freewheeling social interactions we were deprived of for more than a year.

All of which is to say, I decided that I needed to become an expert at talking to strangers. How? I signed up for a class unlike anything I’d ever taken before and bought a plane ticket to London.


Our journey begins on a bright day in a small classroom at Regent’s University. I’m sitting on a chair, limp with jet lag, clutching my third cup of coffee. There are four other people there, too. They appear to be functioning at a higher level than I am, thankfully. We have come to this classroom to learn how to talk to strangers.

Our teacher is an energetic 20-something named Georgie Nightingall. She’s the founder of Trigger Conversations, an acclaimed London-based “human connection organization” that hosts social events and immersive workshops aimed at helping people have meaningful interactions with strangers. Since she founded it in 2016, Nightingall has done more than 100 events and many training sessions — with strangers, companies, communities, universities, and conferences, both in London and around the world.

Related: How to Start a Conversation With Strangers at a Networking Event

Nightingall has learned that, for a lot of people, the hardest thing about talking to strangers is initiating the conversation: approaching someone, making them feel safe, and quickly conveying the idea that you don’t have an agenda, that you’re just being friendly or curious. She found that older people are much more likely to initiate a conversation, for instance, whereas younger people require a little more assurance. But she also found that in all her own attempts to speak to strangers, the vast majority of those interactions were substantial, and many went great.

She came to believe, too — and this is important — that making a practice of talking to strangers could offer more than a jolt of good feeling for an individual. There was joy in it, profundity, real communion. If practiced widely enough, she believed it could help repair a fracturing society. “We’re not just talking about a few individualized things,” she says. “We’re talking about a different way to live.”

Nightingall stands before our class, bright, engaging, and articulate, and walks us through what to expect over the coming days. She wants to take us “from unconscious incompetence to conscious incompetence, and from conscious competence to unconscious competence,” she says. In other words, we are currently bad at this and we’re unaware of why or how. We will learn what we are lacking. We will improve on it. And we will, hopefully, become so proficient that it will become second nature to us.

Our first lesson is small talk. A lot of people hate small talk, which is understandable, because a lot of small talk is deadly boring. Nightingall concedes the point. Yes, she says, small talk can be dull. But that’s because most people don’t understand what it’s for. It’s not the conversation. It’s the opener for a better conversation. It’s a way to get comfortable with one another and cast around for something you want to talk about. That, she says, is why it’s important to be aware of your response when someone asks something like “What do you do?” You are failing to understand what that question is really asking, which is this: “What should you and I talk about?”

Nightingall came to this insight via a couple of sources. She had done improve comedy in the past, and in improve, you start a sketch with something familiar to everyone in the audience — something relevant, timely, or present in the room — to bind the room together. Only then can you really take the audience on a ride. That’s small talk. But Nightingall has also followed the work of social anthropologist Kate Fox, who has studied, for instance, the seemingly inexhaustible English desire to discuss weather. While some critics have pointed to this affinity as evidence of a listless and unimaginative people, Fox argued that weather wasn’t the point. Instead, it is a means of social bonding, a greeting ritual. “English weather-speak is a form of code, evolved to help us overcome our natural reserve and actually talk to each other,” Fox writes. The content is not the point — familiarity, connection, and reassurance are. Once those are in place, a real conversation can happen.

When you recognize that small talk is just a door to a better conversation, Nightingall says, then it can be useful, because it’s structured in a way that naturally leads you toward common ground. We have all experienced how these conversations, if given the time, can move in ever-tightening circles until you both zero in on something you have in common and want to talk about. With that in place, you can wander, get a little personal, go deeper. But it’s probably on you to take it there, Nightingall says. “Everyone is interesting, but it’s not up to them to show you — it’s up to you to discover it.”

The best way to discover that interesting stuff, Nightingall says, is by “breaking the script.” That means using the techniques of small talk, but resisting the temptation to go on autopilot. For example, you go into a store and say, “How are you doing?” and the clerk says, “Fine; how are you?” and the conversation contains no information and goes nowhere. That’s a script. We use scripts to make interactions more efficient, particularly in busy, dense, fast-moving places like big cities. But in doing so, we deny ourselves the chance at a better experience and maybe a new contact, and we wall ourselves off from all the benefits that can come from talking to strangers.

Related: 10 Ways to Connect With Absolutely Anyone You Meet

So how do you break those scripts? With specificity and surprise, Nightingall says. For example, when someone says, “How are you?” she doesn’t say, “Fine.” Instead, she says, “I’d say I’m a 7.5 out of 10.” She briefly explains why she’s a 7.5, asks them how they’re doing, and then just waits. This is when mirroring kicks in; it’s a phenomenon where people naturally follow the lead of their conversational partners. If you say something generic, they will say something generic. If you say something specific, they are likely to as well. Thus, because Nightingall gave a number, her partner is likely to give a number themselves. If they say they’re a 6, Nightingall will ask, “What’ll it take to get you to an 8?” This specificity creates a light atmosphere and makes it harder for the other person to maintain the that you’re of a lesser mind, because it instantly demonstrates complexity, feeling, and humor: humanity, in other words. “Straightaway, they’re like, ‘Oh, you’re a human,’ ” Nightingall says. “You have that bond, and then, naturally, things open up.”

Here are other ways Nightingall suggests breaking a script. When a shop clerk asks, “Can I help you?” you can reply, “Can I help you?” Or instead of asking people at a party what they do, ask them what they’d like to do more of, or what they don’t do. Or instead of asking someone how their day went, ask, “Has your day lived up to your expectations?” All these things require a certain measure of confidence to pull off, Nightingall says. But they work. And when they do, they will reveal a little nugget of what it’s like to be that person. That is meaningful, because that nugget is indicative of what is beneath the surface. “How you do anything is how you do everything,” Nightingall says. That nugget tells you where to go next in the conversation.


Once you’ve established a little connection, what do you do? I normally start asking questions. Which makes sense: I’m showing an interest in the other person, and I demonstrate my interest by indulging my curiosity. But one paradox about talking to a stranger, Nightingall explains, is that while curiosity is indispensable, a barrage of questions out of the gate can feel like prying, or an interview. They don’t quite know where you’re coming from yet, and they don’t know if you have some kind of agenda. Even one personal question asked too early can create an uncomfortable dynamic because you’re asking something of someone. You’re making a demand.

Nightingall suggests that statements, not questions, can be a better way to open a conversation. A question compels an answer, whereas a statement leaves it up to the other person to decide whether they want to talk. It’s not a demand; it’s an offer. You notice something about your shared surroundings, offer an observation, and leave it to the other party to respond. If they do, you respond with another statement that builds on what they said.

These observations should ideally not be moronic — “I noticed that the sun came up today!” — but they can be simple. Like weather talk in England, the point is to indicate a shared experience. Nightingall has found that proximity helps, too. If you are at a museum, walking right up to someone looking at a painting and blurting out “What do you think?” is very different from making an observation about a painting after standing next to them for 30 seconds looking at it. That’s because you have been in their proximity. They have adjusted to your being there, and you have demonstrated a measure of self-control. Then you can speak. It feels less like an invasion.

Related: How to Become a Master Communicator by Following This One Rule

One day in class, my fellow students and I pair off to practice our technique. I’m partnered with “Paula,” who tells me that one of her favorite things is making a cup of good coffee for herself on the weekends and just sitting alone. I try to remember Nightingall’s advice about opening with statements, not questions, but now we’re in a groove — so I dig in. After four questions, Paula is talking about how resentful she is at having to work for other people. I’m obviously quite pleased with myself as I trot back to Nightingall with this pheasant in my mouth. But she is less impressed. She delicately explains that while “it’s clear you’re a person who asks questions for a living,” everything about my suggested I was looking for something to pounce on. I asked questions too quickly, she said. I was leaning forward. This wasn’t a conversation; it was an interview. Possibly an interrogation.

Nightingall suggested asking simpler and more open-ended questions. Instead of saying, “Do you think this was because you were a control freak?” just echo, or say, “Why do you think that is?” That is the opposite of what I usually do, but it’s what I must learn to do. In a good conversation, you must relinquish control. Your job is to help your partner arrive at their own conclusion and surprise you, not to ferret out whatever it is, slap a bow on it, and go, Next! There’s a powerful lesson there: If you’re interested only in things you know you’re interested in, you will never be surprised. You’ll never learn anything new, or gain a fresh perspective, or make a new friend or contact. The key to talking to strangers, it turns out, is letting go, letting them lead. Then the world opens itself to you.

Why don’t we talk to strangers? The answer I heard, over and over again from experts, is simply that we don’t talk to strangers. In many places, for many reasons, it has become a social norm, and social norms are really powerful. That is why Nightingall uses what she calls a foolproof method to not just violate the norm — but to openly acknowledge that you are violating the norm.

She asks us to imagine riding mass transit — which, as we know, is the last place anyone ever talks to a stranger. There is someone who strikes us as interesting. We can’t turn to that person and say, “Why do I find you so interesting?” because if you said something like that to a stranger on the subway, they’re going to assume this is the initiation of a chain of events that will ultimately conclude with their becoming crude homemade taxidermy. So Nightingall suggests something called a pre-frame. It’s an idea based in the field of neurolinguistic programming, which coaches people to “reframe” the possible negative thoughts of others — ­­in essence redefining their expectations for the interaction to come. Ordinarily, we might be wary if a stranger just starts talking to us. We don’t know who they are, or what they want, or whether they’re right in the head. What a pre-frame does is reassure them that you know all this.

To do it, you acknowledge out of the gate that this is a violation of a social norm. You say something like “Look, I know we’re not supposed to talk to people on the subway, but…” This demonstrates that you’re in full possession of your faculties. You’re not erratic, disturbed, or otherwise off in some way. It helps alleviate wariness and opens the possibility of a connection. Once that is established, Nightingall says, you follow the pre-frame with your statement — “I really like your sunglasses,” for instance. Then you follow that with a justification: “I just lost mine and I’ve been looking for a new pair.” The justification eases the person’s suspicion that you have some kind of agenda and allows you to talk a little more openly.

Related: What to Do When You Don’t Know Anyone in the Room

That’s when questions become more important, Nightingall says. Questions serve a multitude of functions, which is why, as I learned in my exercise with Paula, they can be so complicated. Yes, questions help you obtain information. And yes, on a deeper level, they help your conversational partner clarify the point they are trying to make. But they also help us emotionally bond with other people. In a series of studies in 2017, psychologist Karen Huang and her colleagues discovered that “people who ask more questions, particularly follow-up questions, are better liked by their conversation partners.” Those who ask more questions, the authors found, are perceived as higher in responsiveness — which is defined as “listening, , validation, and care.” In other words, people like us because we are interested in them.

And yet, the researchers noted, people tend not to ask a lot of questions. Why? Several reasons. “First,” Huang writes, “people may not think to ask questions at all…because people are egocentric — ­focused on expressing their own thoughts, feelings, and beliefs with little or no interest in hearing what another person has to say. Or they may be so distracted by other aspects of the conversation that they do not realize that asking a question is an option.” Even if a question does pop into someone’s head, they may not ask it, because they worry it’ll land badly and be “perceived as rude, inappropriate, intrusive, or incompetent.” In these cases, people will probably just talk about themselves, which studies show they do twice as often as they talk about other matters — ­which, ironically, makes people like them less. (Good work, everybody.)

But what’s a good question to ask? Nightingall has us complete an exercise in which we are given banal statements — the sort commonly offered in small talk—and tasked with coming up with good questions. For instance, one student says she ran along the Thames yesterday. There is almost nothing in the world less interesting to me than running, and usually I’d take this as my cue to begin plotting my escape. But, working from the idea that small talk is the means, not the end, the class brainstorms good questions to ask that might lead to something more personal or interesting: “Do you run every day?” “Is that a passion for you?” “What would you do if you couldn’t run every day?” I suggest, “What are you running from?” which is meant as a joke, but the class seems to go for it.

Then we move on to the flip side of question-asking: It is listening. When people do start talking, you must listen, make eye contact, and generally show you’re engaged. We know this, of course. But we are not always good at showing it. Two effective techniques to signal engagement are paraphrasing what people have just said — “It seems like you’re saying…” — and echoing — which is simply occasionally repeating things your partner just said—both of which are commonly used by therapists and hostage negotiators to foster connection and build trust. For instance, if they say, “I guess at that point I was frustrated,” you say, “You were frustrated.” This seems deeply weird and unnatural, and feels awkward to do, and if you overdo it, your partner is going to think something’s wrong with you. But I am here to attest that, done well, it is extremely effective. It’s like a magic trick. Researchers have concluded as much. According to the French psychologists Nicolas Guéguen and Angélique Martin, “Research has shown that mimicry…leads to greater liking of the mimicker” and helps create rapport during a social interaction.

Nightingall breaks down listening into three levels. There is listening for things you know about. That’s the most superficial level. That’s when someone says something about baseball and you jump on it and start talking about baseball. Then there is listening for information — you show curiosity about someone but your questions are about collecting factual data. That’s also more about you and your interests. And then there’s the deepest level of listening: listening for experiences, feelings, motivations, and values. That kind of listening is more than simply hearing, or self-­affirmation. It’s paying attention and endeavoring to understand. It is demonstrated with eye contact, echoing, and paraphrasing, and it can be deepened by asking clarifying questions —­ Why? How? Who? — that help the person get to the heart of the matter.

In other words, at this level of listening, you are not simply listening for something you want to talk about, or offering advice, or trying to think of something smart to say in response. It’s not about your agenda. It is a level of engagement that is about helping your partner get to what they really want to talk about, and you going along for the ride. You still want to talk about yourself a bit, Nightingall says — to give a little, and not leave the person feeling like you’ve just rummaged around in the bureau of their personal life and made off with a watch. But you want most of the focus to be on them. It is, again, a form of . You are hosting someone. You are surrendering a measure of control. You are giving them space. You are taking a risk. That risk opens you to the potential rewards of talking to a stranger.

During lunch and after class, I try out some of these techniques around London. I ask a 20-something bartender at a pub if the day has met her expectations, and she confesses with very little prompting that yes, it has. She’s about to quit her day job. She feels she’s been sold a bill of goods about the merits of a straight corporate career, and she’s going to empty her savings and travel the world. She hasn’t told anyone this yet, she says. But she will soon.

At lunch at a Lebanese takeout restaurant, I ask the owner what items he’s most proud of — because that’s what I want. He starts taking bits of this and that and dropping them into my bag. I tell him I grew up in a white neighborhood, and when I was a kid, a Lebanese family moved in behind us and used to hand us plates over the fence of what was at that time very exotic food. Since then, Lebanese food has always been among my favorites. Curiously, when I eat it, I think about home. This, as Nightingall instructed, was me opening up the conversation with a statement, not a question. The owner tells me that in Lebanon, that kind of hospitality is a big deal; people always make a lot of food for visitors. While he talks, he keeps dropping more food into my bag. When he’s done, the bag weighs about five pounds and he charges me for maybe a third of it.

Related: Here’s How to Strike Up a Conversation With Almost Anyone

At the end of the final day of class, Nightingall tells us that practice will be everything. Some encounters will go poorly, she says, and some will be great, but in time, we will get more comfortable with doing this as we internalize the techniques we have learned. We will be able to get a little bolder or more playful. Our confidence, tone, and body language will alleviate people’s wariness at the flagrant violation of a social norm of long standing.

Indeed, Nightingall is something of a wizard at this. She once started a conversation with a man on the tube just by pointing at his hat, smiling, and saying, simply, “Hat.” She will randomly high-five people in the street, she says. She smiles at people going the opposite direction down an escalator just to see if they’ll smile back. She doesn’t order an Americano; she orders “the best Americano in the world.” And people respond. During a break one day, I walked into the campus Starbucks to get more coffee. Nightingall was already in there, talking animatedly with a barista she’d never met before. When she and I walked out, she told me he gave her the coffee on the house.

Nightingall’s free coffee, my Lebanese meal — these were not coincidences. As I learned repeatedly while testing techniques of talking to strangers, I’d often be rewarded with free food. There are, of course, far more fruitful, meaningful, and valuable reasons to talk to strangers. But the food stuck with me. Then I realized why: When you start a good conversation with a stranger, it’s like you’re giving them an uncommon gift. And more often than not, they want to give you something in return.

Joe Keohane

By: Joe Keohane / Magazine Contributor

Source: How to Become a Master at Talking to Strangers

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References:

“Micro review: ‘Talking to Strangers’ by Malcolm Gladwell – Times of India”. The Times of India. 5 October 2019. Retrieved 2020-04-07.v

How The Power Of Predictive Analytics Can Transform Business

Tableau analytics visual

With the acceleration of digital transformation in business, most CTOs, CIOs, and even middle management or analysts are now asking, “What’s next with data?” and what ongoing role will technology play in both digital and data transformations. Other questions that keep these individuals up at night include:

  • How can people throughout all organizational levels be more empowered to use data and help others make better decisions?
  • What prevents people from more deeply exploring and using data?
  • In what ways can analytics tools and methods help more people use data in the daily routine of business—asking questions, exploring hypotheses, and testing ideas?

With this in mind, plus observations and discussions with many Tableau customers and partners, it seems that today’s circumstances, behaviors, and needs make it the right time for predictive data analytics to help businesses and their people solve problems effectively.

Current realities and barriers to scale smarter decision-making with AI 

With growing, diverse data sets being collected, the analytics use cases to transform data into valuable insights are growing just as fast. Today, a wide range of tools and focused teams specialize in uncovering data insights to inform decision-making, but where organizations struggle is striking the right balance between activating highly technical data experts and business teams with deep domain experience.

Until now, using artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML), and other statistical methods to solve business problems was mostly the domain of data scientists. Many organizations have small data science teams focused on specific, mission-critical, and highly scalable problems, but those teams usually have a long project list to handle.

At the same time though, there are a large number of business decisions that rely on experience, knowledge, and data—and that would greatly benefit from applying more advanced analysis techniques. People with domain knowledge and proximity to the business data could benefit greatly, if they had access to these techniques.

Instead, there’s currently a back-and-forth process of relying on data scientists and ML practitioners to build and deploy custom models—a cycle that lacks agility and the ability to iterate quickly. By the end, the data that the model was trained on could be stale and the process starts again. But organizations depend on business users to make key decisions daily that don’t rise to the priority level of their central data science team.

The opportunity to solve data science challenges

This is where there’s an opportunity to democratize data science capabilities, minimizing the trade-offs between extreme precision and control versus the time to insight—and the ability to take action on these insights. If we can give people tools or enhanced features to better apply predictive analytics techniques to business problems, data scientists can gain time back to focus on more complex problems. With this approach, business leaders can enable more teams to make data-driven decisions while continuing to keep up with the pace of business. Additional benefits gained from democratizing data science in this way include:

  • Reducing data exploration and prep work
  • Empowering analyst experts to deliver data science outputs at lower costs
  • Increasing the likelihood of producing successful models with more exploration of use cases by domain experts
  • Extending, automating, and accelerating analysis for business groups and domain experts
  • Reducing time and costs spent on deploying and integrating models
  • Promoting responsible use of data and AI with improved transparency and receiving guidance on how to minimize or address bias

Business scenarios that benefit from predictive analytics 

There are several business scenarios where predictive capabilities can be immensely useful.

Sales and marketing departments can apply it to lead scoring, opportunity scoring, predicting time to close, and many other CRM-related cases. Manufacturers and retailers can use it to help with supply chain distribution and optimization, forecasting consumer demand, and exploring adding new products to their mix. Human resources can use it to assess the likelihood of candidates accepting an offer, and how they can adjust salary and benefits to meet a candidate’s values. And companies can use it to explore office space options and costs. These are just a few of the potential scenarios.

A solution to consider: Tableau Business Science

We are only at the beginning of exploring what predictive capabilities in the hands of people closely aligned with the business will unlock. AI and ML will continue to advance. More organizations, in a similar focus as Tableau, will also keep looking for techniques that can help people closest to the business see, understand, and use data in new ways to ask and answer questions, uncover insights, solve problems, and take action.

This spring Tableau introduced a new class of AI-powered analytics that gives predictive capabilities to people who are close to the business. In this next stage of expanded data exploration and use, we hope business leaders embrace data to help others make better decisions, and to provide transparent insight into the factors influencing those decisions.

When people can think with their data—when analysis is more about asking and answering questions than learning complex software or skills—that’s when human potential will be unleashed, leading to amazing outcomes. Learn more about Tableau Business Science, what this technology gives business teams, and the value it delivers to existing workflows.

Olivia Nix is a Senior Manager of Product Marketing at Tableau. She leads a team focused on the use of AI and ML in analytics and engagement, including how to use technology to enable more people in organizations to make data-driven decisions. Olivia has been at Tableau for four years where she has worked closely with development teams on new product launches. Prior to Tableau, Olivia worked as an analyst at the Pew Center on Global Climate Change (now C2ES) and Johnson Controls. She has her MBA from the UCLA Anderson School of Management.

Source: How The Power Of Predictive Analytics Can Transform Business

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Critics:

Predictive analytics encompasses a variety of statistical techniques from data mining, predictive modelling, and machine learning that analyze current and historical facts to make predictions about future or otherwise unknown events.

In business, predictive models exploit patterns found in historical and transactional data to identify risks and opportunities. Models capture relationships among many factors to allow assessment of risk or potential associated with a particular set of conditions, guiding decision-making for candidate transactions.

The defining functional effect of these technical approaches is that predictive analytics provides a predictive score (probability) for each individual (customer, employee, healthcare patient, product SKU, vehicle, component, machine, or other organizational unit) in order to determine, inform, or influence organizational processes that pertain across large numbers of individuals, such as in marketing, credit risk assessment, fraud detection, manufacturing, healthcare, and government operations including law enforcement.

Predictive analytics is used in actuarial science,marketing,business management, sports/fantasy sports, insurance,policing, telecommunications,retail, travel, mobility, healthcare, child protection, pharmaceuticals,capacity planning, social networking and other fields.

One of the best-known applications is credit scoring,[1] which is used throughout business management. Scoring models process a customer’s credit history, loan application, customer data, etc., in order to rank-order individuals by their likelihood of making future credit payments on time.

Predictive analytics is an area of statistics that deals with extracting information from data and using it to predict trends and behavior patterns. The enhancement of predictive web analytics calculates statistical probabilities of future events online. Predictive analytics statistical techniques include data modeling, machine learning, AI, deep learning algorithms and data mining.Often the unknown event of interest is in the future, but predictive analytics can be applied to any type of unknown whether it be in the past, present or future.

For example, identifying suspects after a crime has been committed, or credit card fraud as it occurs.The core of predictive analytics relies on capturing relationships between explanatory variables and the predicted variables from past occurrences, and exploiting them to predict the unknown outcome. It is important to note, however, that the accuracy and usability of results will depend greatly on the level of data analysis and the quality of assumptions.

Predictive analytics is often defined as predicting at a more detailed level of granularity, i.e., generating predictive scores (probabilities) for each individual organizational element. This distinguishes it from forecasting. For example, “Predictive analytics—Technology that learns from experience (data) to predict the future behavior of individuals in order to drive better decisions.”In future industrial systems, the value of predictive analytics will be to predict and prevent potential issues to achieve near-zero break-down and further be integrated into prescriptive analytics for decision optimization.

See also

Wall Street Week Ahead: Investors Look To Utilities To Weather Any Market Rout

NEW YORK: Investors looking for ways to protect themselves from a potential market downturn and rising inflation have been warming to utilities, sometimes seen as bond substitutes, as attractive alternatives.

The S&P 500 utilities index has outperformed the broader market this month, rising 9.3 per cent so far compared with a 4.3 per cent gain in the benchmark index and leading gains among sectors for March.Driving the gains may be a defensive move by investors to position themselves against a potential slide in equities, with worries mounting over higher inflation as seen in the jump in 10-year Treasury yields and over pricey stock valuations, some strategists say.Utilities tend to do better in a downturn because they pay dividends and offer stability. “It’s a little defensive positioning,” said Joseph Quinlan, head of CIO market strategy for Merrill and Bank of America Private Bank in New York.

While the economy is expected to rebound sharply this year from the impact of the coronavirus, that optimism may be dampened by next year if unemployment remains elevated and growth slows more than expected. Some investors say utilities also may be benefiting from hopes that there will be a bigger push toward green energy under the Biden Administration. President Joe Biden is expected to unveil next week a multitrillion-dollar plan to rebuild America’s infrastructure that may also tackle climate change.
“If you get any acceleration of the decarbonization rhetoric, that’s a positive for utilities,” said Shane Hurst, managing director and portfolio manager at ClearBridge Investments. But whether the recent surge in utilities has further room to run is a matter of debate, and many strategists and investors, including Quinlan, still favor cyclicals that benefit from economic growth over defensive-leaning groups such as utilities.

The gains in utilities have come amid a rotation from technology and other growth stocks into so-called value stocks. The Nasdaq Composite has fallen in March after four straight months of gains. Cyclicals, which investors dumped during the early part of the pandemic, have benefited the most from the rotation. An end-of-quarter rebalancing of investment portfolios by institutional investors may be adding to the recent rotation from growth into value.
While utilities still sharply lag gains for the year compared with many cyclical sectors, including energy, they are also considered inexpensive at this point by some investors. After a weak performance in 2020, utilities “are just really, really cheap at the moment,” Hurst said. “And that is an attractive place to be when you’re in a market that’s very much earnings driven.”

The utilities sector is trading at 18.3 times forward earnings compared with a price-to-earnings ratio of 22.1 for the S&P 500 index and 26 for technology, according to Refinitiv’s data. David Bianco, Americas chief investment officer for DWS, which has an overweight rating on utilities, said interest rates are still low, but utilities offer inflation protection because they would be able to raise their prices.

As of Friday, the S&P 500 utilities sector had a dividend yield of 3.3 per cent, the second-highest among S&P sectors after consumer staples, and well above the 1.5 per cent yield for the S&P 500, according to data from S&P Dow Jones Indices.Benchmark 10-year note yields were at 1.660 per cent on Friday after reaching a one-year high of 1.754 per cent the week before. “Utilities is our most preferred bond substitute,” said Bianco.

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Four Years of Digital Transformation In Four Weeks: UK Lockdown Puts Pressure On Brands To Digitally Deliver

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Nearly a third (32%) of consumers would switch providers if a brand’s website is unavailable for more than 24 hours

A study released today reveals the scale of omni-channel pressure brands now faced as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, as consumers flock to apps and websites to as the priority destination to transact with brands.

The UK has experienced a huge leap in use of online services thanks to lockdown, with the public appearing to have less concern for the availability of a brand’s physical location. Research by Sungard Availability Services (Sungard AS) uncovers a “window of availability” that UK businesses now have before consumer loyalty changes:

  • If a brand’s website is down for 24 hours – 32 percent of consumers would switch provider
  • If a brand’s app is down for 24 hours – 28 percent of consumers would switch provider
  • If a physical store is closed for 24 hours – 20 percent of consumers would switch provider

The results by industry paint an interesting picture of the availability timeframes brands are expected to adhere to:

  • For online retailers, excluding grocery retailers – 23 percent of consumers would switch provider if they could not access online services for 12 hours, rising to over a third (34 percent) after 24 hours
  • For financial services and entertainment streaming platforms – 21 percent of consumers would switch provider after 12 hours, rising to 33 percent after 24 hours
  • In the case of online grocery shopping – 20 percent would switch provider after 12 hours, rising to one third 33 percent after 24 hours

The findings also highlight that as digital reliance increases, so will consumer expectations towards availability in the future. Over the coming two years, a third (33 percent) of consumers expect online financial services to always be available, rising to 35 percent for streaming services.

“UK consumers have become reliant on the constant availability of online services, and lockdown has only served to heighten this,” comments Chris Huggett, SVP, EMEA at Sungard AS. “What used to be a choice between physical and digital has now firmly accelerated into digital environments across various industries. As online worlds continue to outpace bricks and mortar as the face of businesses, ensuring constant availability and clear communications on downtime will be key for brands to build trust and loyalty.

Source: Global Banking & Finance

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We Got An Exclusive Look At The Pitch Deck Crossbeam Used To Get $25 Million To Help Companies Collaborate During COVID-19

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Crossbeam, a startup that helps simplify the process of sharing data between companies, recently scored $25 million in Series B funding in a round that included Redpoint Ventures and FirstMark Capital.

Business Insider has obtained an exclusive look at the pitch deck Crossbeam used to convince investors. Crossbeam’s platform takes data from the disparate programs used by companies to track customer information and combines them to create a single, searchable set.

Co-founder Bob Moore said he was inspired to start the company by his past at SaaS companies, where even seemingly simple acts of data-sharing between companies were stymied by mismatched systems.

Business partnerships between companies have always been complicated. Now the physical isolation imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic has made it harder.

“How can you do an effective job of building a partner ecosystem when you can’t high five, can’t slap people on the backs anymore and shake hands?” Bob Moore, co-founder of partnership platform Crossbeam, told Business Insider.

The pandemic helped accelerated interest in Crossbeam’s simplifying platform to the point where investors started approaching Moore less than a year after the company’s previous round. In early August, Redpoint Ventures led a $25 million Series B round for the company, joined by FirstMark Capital, Okta Ventures, Slack Fund, Uncork Capital and Partnership Leaders. You can check out the redacted pitch deck Crossbeam used to bring investors on board below.

“It’s a little bit of a surprisingly rabid funding market right now,” said FirstMark partner Matt Turck, who joined the round after Moore told him he’d been approached by other investors. “Five months ago everybody thought the market was going to slow down considerably. Then lo and behold, fast forward to today, it’s actually more intense than it’s probably ever been.”

Moore said the extra funds would go to expanding the company’s free version of its services to help pull more customers in.

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“We think that’s the smartest way to go about building a really valuable network where people are active and their use will grow over time,” Moore said. “We’re not rushing into trying to extract dollars from them the first two weeks after they sign.”

When companies partner with each other, they frequently need to figure out what customers they may have in common. But the way companies keep track of their customers varies, making it hard to easily and securely compare data to find any overlap. Crossbeam works with programs commonly used to track customer data, like Stripe and Salesforce, to create a common data set both companies in a partnership can search through.

Moore said he was inspired to found Crossbeam by his past at SaaS companies.

“It was shockingly hard to answer what seemed like really simple questions anytime we were collaborating with another company,” Moore said. “So if we had a partner and we just wanted to know ‘how many customers do we have in common?’ or we wanted to know ‘are my sales reps currently selling to any of the same companies that your sales reps are……..

Read More: Business Insider

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How to Boost Sales When Consumers are Spending Less

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Know me before selling me; that’s what Americans expect from sales reps. In a , it’s critical to align with customer preferences to avoid losing sales to rivals. Competition is stiff, as people have less disposable incomes. A 2018 study by the Federal Reserve found that 40 percent of Americans can’t come up with $400 to pay for an emergency. And that’s before 40 million people were out of work virtually overnight.

Here are tips to increase sales, even when the is in flux.

A must do whatever it takes to serve customers well

Buyers are weary. They’ve been locked down, and many have to fight for jobs before unemployment benefits run out. Not to mention 27 million have recently lost employer-based health insurance, according to Kaiser Family Foundation. Post-pandemic consumers, therefore, are thrifty and budget-conscious.

Salesy employees seem indifferent to customer needs. Businesses must encourage reps to truly listen to what customers want, even if they don’t articulate their needs and desires clearly. A helpful salesman should read between the lines and notice what isn’t being said. Moreover, he should act more like a product consultant than a commission-chasing machine.

“Our startup scaled significantly in our third year when we excelled at customizing apparel and giving customers a very personalized service,” says Michael Nemeroff, CEO of Rush Order Tees. The Philadelphia-based ecommerce brand grew from $30,000 a month in sales to $200,000 a month during that transition period.

Nemeroff credits his company’s extreme growth to streamlining of processes, expanding Rush Order Tees’ customer base and catering to orders of all sizes. “The real key was doing whatever it took to deliver any size order with any design for clients on extremely short deadlines,” he adds. “We earned a great reputation, and we have now reached a point where more than 40 percent of revenue is reorder business.”

Think long-term value

Any entrepreneur would pick recurring revenue over one-off transactions. So why should sales mentality be any different? A 2019 survey by Gartner found that millennials are generally skeptical of sales reps.

One sales expert believes that current events can be leveraged to create favorable impressions with prospective buyers. “Design your pitch to take advantage of everything that’s currently going on,” advises Temple Naylor, an influencer in high-ticket sales, in a recent call. “The recession can be utilized to help design the pitch. Do research and create data points that inform your pitch because prospects will be inclined to trust you as an authority.”

Trustworthiness and accurate product information are extremely important in the purchase decision. In other words, prospects are more likely to purchase from a rep with a solid reputation. “Everyone is scrambled in fear because of the downturn,” says Naylor. “So get your facts and data from very credible sources such as new studies from global consulting firms or large universities. It’s hard for prospects to argue with great information.”

Skepticism of a salesperson’s claims reduces a customer’s chance of buying by half, according to a 2020 survey by Gartner. There’s real risk of losing a customer by being inauthentic. They won’t feel special and appreciated, and lack of customer loyalty means they can easily switch over to a competitor.

Therefore agents, shopkeepers and anyone else who rings the cash register must earn trust by helping customers find what they need. Aside from getting word-of-mouth business, influencers may promote your brand on social media after you establish a solid reputation for helping customers. The sales commission should be a byproduct of great service rendered, not the goal in itself.

Be persistent with contacts

Finally, there’s nothing like good old follow-up. Prospects don’t buy at the present time for many reasons, even though they’re interested in a good or service. They may currently be busy, lack time, need a boss’s approval, lack money or have other priorities. However, a good salesperson will reconnect with a prospect when the timing is right and secure the transaction.

Only 2 percent of sales occur at a first meeting, according to Marketing Donut, a sales-resource website. And prospects say “no” four times before buying a product or service. Persistence matters. Many rejections are soft rebuffs — they don’t really mean it. And many are presently unsure of what they want until they see more information. A “no” often brings you one step closer to “yes,” especially for would-be customers who are teetering on the edge of purchasing.

“Have an emotionally intelligent dialogue and not a sales script,” suggests Naylor. “Talk like a normal human. You don’t have to be perfectly polished. Instead, lead people through self-doubt and resistance at the end of an offer.”

To underscore his point, according to HubSpot research, buyers want reps to listen to needs (69 percent); to not be pushy (61 percent); and to provide relevant information (61 percent). Is your staff properly trained and inspired to sell in the new economy?

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Source: https://www.entrepreneur.com

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How to Survive the Crisis: 7 Steps to Turn Your Business into a Social Enterprise

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For the first time in history, all humans are dealing with the same thing: just trying to survive the crisis. Be it physically, financially and/or emotionally.

Personally, I’m also thinking about how entrepreneurs can come out of this thriving and be prepared for the next crisis. Are you?

Experts agree that occurrences such as these will happen again. Whether it’s another pandemic, natural disaster from climate change or destroying entire forests to feed cattle, fact is, this is just the beginning if we don’t change how we live and run our businesses.

To create change, we need the desire, a strategy, time and energy which is why humans are not always willing to change.

But, if we don’t change and stay stuck in survival mode so that we only have enough energy to think about paying our bills or employees next month, our future will remain uncertain.

Building a more sustainable future just makes more sense.

Entrepreneurs who are strategic now will be more likely to survive the crisis and anything else that gets thrown our way in the future.

How to survive the crisis.

If you’re in business to truly help others and not just to earn lots of money, then you have a chance — and a responsibility — to make a difference in this world.

Last year’s Fridays for Future and XR demonstrations, for example, inspired many people to be more conscious about their plastic use and CO2 emissions.

What kind of positive changes are currently happening?

  1. Ethical businesses are popping up like weeds.
  2. Alternative products now being produced are plastic-free, vegan, cruelty-free, organic, waste-free, paraben-free, palm oil-free, etc.
  3. Workers are of age and receive a fair wage.
  4. Big brands are creating new green products lines. Even if some are greenwashing, they’re successfully bringing the idea of creating a more sustainable world to the mass market.
  5. Marketers are now trying to stop destroying our environment by not using manipulation tactics.
  6. Consumers are becoming more conscious about how their products are made and are changing the way they shop. Ethics has as much importance for consumers than quality and they will buycott (support) ethical brands and boycott those they deem ‘unethical’.

What about COVID-19?

Has anything changed since we’ve been on lockdown?

Well, we’re currently learning to slow down, save money, spend more quality time with family, minimize, prep and apparently, use less toilet paper. I’m also learning how to play the guitar.

Not only that, COVID teaches us to be more conscious about how we treat others and (hopefully) how we treat animals.

Pandemics occur when we domesticated animals and have a lack of proper hygiene when handling them.

So, if we treat animals with the respect and care they deserve, we will greatly reduce future zoologically-based pandemics, if not eliminate them altogether.

It certainly sounds simple, but as a vegan social entrepreneur and eco fantasy author who markets, writes and speaks for the animals, curbing animal cruelty IS my purpose, my manifesto and is engrained in most everything I do and say.

What about you? 

Do you also feel a calling to create change? In your own industry or in this world?

Are you willing to invest a good portion of your profits? I don’t just mean donating to a charity. I mean to invest time, energy and money into solving a particular problem in this world.

If so, then please consider turning your enterprise into a social enterprise.

And help create the change you want to see in this world.

Defining social enterprise.

A social enterprise is a business that has a social or environmental purpose.

Be it to help protect nature and animals, support research projects to avoid future pandemics, help solve world hunger, finance schools so that children can learn and not work, help fund farming projects in underdeveloped countries, etc.

That purpose — your cause — is the reason why you’re in business. Not to earn lots of money because your profits will be reinvested to help make a positive impact in the cause you support, not buy yourself a yacht.

That’s what being a social entrepreneur is all about. Not to say that you won’t be able to afford a yacht. I’m just guessing that if you’re in this with your whole heart and soul, it just won’t be as important anymore and you’ll most likely end up spending that money to help others out.

7 Steps to Turn your Enterprise into a Social Enterprise

1. Choose your calling.

Figure out what you’re most passionate about and where you can make the greatest impact in your business.

The United Nations developed 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to help solve the main problems we face as a society. Which goal — or goals — speak to you the most? Where can your business make the biggest difference?

Niching down to only one or a few goals will help you become more focussed and attract those customers who are passionate about the same thing.

2. Consult with your team.

Present your ideas and brainstorm how to most effectively execute them. I almost guarantee your employees will be thrilled.

3. Develop a giving back strategy.

Once you and your team are clear on your purpose, you’re ready to choose your charity partners. With microfunding and microlending organizations such as B1G1 and Kiva, you’re able to fund various projects that help reach your chosen SDGs as well as create giving back stories such as ‘For every newsletter subscriber, we provide a day of vaccinations for street dogs in Nepal.’ Through my B1G1 membership, I funded 591 days in 2019.

Since January, I’m a member of 1% for the Planet so that I can establish a long-term, close relationship inkl. active participation in volunteering projects with a couple of charity partners who are as passionate about nature and animals as I am.

4. Clean up your supply chain (if you’re product-based).

This is the toughest step because it costs time and money. How much? Depends on how complicated your production chain is. Your entire supply chain doesn’t have to be green right away though. It’s actually not advisable because a drastic change in price may scare off our customers.

It’s easier to inspect one link at a time and try to find a more sustainable alternative or supplier if necessary. First try to inspire your valuable suppliers to offer a better alternative.

As long as you make a conscious effort to improve things step by step and are honest about it, your customers will trust you and remain loyal.

5. Optimize your business processes.

Are there internal processes you have that could be ‘greener’? Ask your team to help you with this. From webhosting to video conferencing instead of traveling to healthier snacks in a vending machine that uses less energy to digitilizing your internal processes and using recycled paper for necessary printouts. Here’s a good reference list on how to make your office greener.

6. Communicate your efforts.

Once you’ve made some changes, communicate them. If you’ve only been able to change one thing, you could write that you’re taking your cause very seriously, but can only change one thing at a time and are excited to improve the next thing: and literally name that next thing.

For the love of your business, please avoid using greenwashing tactics as consumers are learning how to identify manipulation.

For example: I’m not using a green webhosting service because my contract’s still in effect for the next two years. Before that runs out, I’ll switch to a green host. I have, however, asked my current provider if they offer green hosting. The call center woman replied with a definite ‘Yes!’ but was unable to tell me any details. After I asked too many questions she didn’t understand, she referred me to their host, my neighbor, in The Netherlands who then referred me back to my host in the US because I got the same response.

Conclusion: My current host doesn’t offer green hosting by any means and has not properly communicated with their support team about it. This kind of dishonesty will only help you lose customers. It never pays to lie.

7. Build strong collaborations.

Collaboration in the new competition. Working together with someone or a company who shares your values — regardless if it’s your competition or not — is an opportunity to make a greater impact faster. I often collaborate with my competition if the trust and integrity are there and our values are in alignment.

What I wish for.

If you think about your business in a more sustainable and strategic way, you’ll be more apt to survive the crisis. And be more prepared to thrive.

That’s what I wish for you.

For the world and all life on Earth, I wish social entrepreneurship becomes the standard and some day, the ONLY way, to run a business.

Power to the people who care.

By

Source: https://www.entrepreneur.com

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Countless reputable financial reporting stations have claimed that the chances of getting into a recession in 2020 have increased by more than 50%. Question is, what can you do about it? In this video, I will share with you 10 tips you can use to prepare and survive the coming 2020 recession. Tip 10: Pay off High-Interest Loans Tip 9: Have an Emergency fund Tip 8: Cut down your cost Tip 7: Invest in yourself and your ability to earn Tip 6: Supplement your income Tip 5: Take advantage of company perks Tip 4: Improve your credit score Tip 3: Prepare your house for emergencies Tip 2: Work on your mindset Tip 1: Keep Investing #2020Recession

CoachZippy – How To Run Your Entire Business Online Easily By Creating Amazing Courses

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CoachZippy is a powerful, all-in-one business platform that allows you to make and sell beautiful courses online. Absolutely NO coding, design or technical skills are required. Your content is protected in beautifully designed, fully customizable members areas for your members to access. Even complete newbies with no design experience can quickly create their own courses online and even charge a recurring fee for their content. Getting recurring customers is the holy grail of any digital / online business, and CoachZippy allows your subscribers to achieve exactly that.

CoachZippy Features

  • Create your online school, record lectures and share your knowledge worldwide. Add video, image, text, quizzes, and PDF files. Easily import content directly from Dropbox, Google Drive, or OneDrive
  • You’ll receive a number of premade templates that will help you make sales day in and day out. Instead of having to build from scratch (you can also do that), we’re going to put you on the fast track to making sales. From landing pages, to sales pages, to checkout pages, and more, you’ll find a template to fit your every need. Best part is that they’re all optimized to get you results.
  • Easily build a beautiful course website, share your knowledge, and be rewarded for it with just a few clicks, you’ll get a fully functioning school with learning management, payment gateways, and sales & marketing tools.
  • When you setup your course, you’ll be given the option of going through CoachZippy’s setup wizard which makes getting started seamless. From there, CoachZippy will automatically generate a sales page for you for your course or product which you can edit and customize to your liking.
  • You’ll be able to build membership sites with total ease. There’s nothing like having a membership that you create once and people pay for over and over again. Everything you need is already included. From templates, to customizing login screens, membership themes, and more

 

You don’t have leads in hand to sell to. But you really need the leads to earn to bear investment and business floating expenses. Every Markerter, Entrepreneur suffer with the fact that they can’t find enough skilled people or they can’t get enough budget. There just aren’t enough of us around that have brains for both technical and marketing.

If you are creating but not promoting then its hard to reap the benefits of your business. You’re going to have to put yourself out there to promote what you believe in but you lack the Know-how or the tools to market and promote your product or service.

If you ignore the analytics, there’s no way to know what works. Once you’ve set your goals, you need modes to measure your success. But you lack the Tools to measure the metrics to review the marketing data or evaluating the product or service itself.

The content is flat out boring. Don’t know what kind of content to create for their business. Content has no special area for target audience. If you’re creating but not promoting, your content marketing will become a flop.

Use Coachzippy to turn all of your knowledge altogether into lectures. Create a teaching marketplace where your customers can buy your lectures and courses with just one click. From landing pages, to sales pages, to checkout pages, and more, you’ll find a template to fit your every need. Best part is that they’re all optimized to get you results.

Make your site just the way you want to make it look. Choose a theme for your site from our library of amazing fully-customizable themes. Coachzippy presents straightforward Product Creation Tools For Your Online Business, create your Website, Courses, Add lectures to your courses, Membership Sites, Quizzes and Surveys and what not.

Source: Coachzippy || Sales Page

B2B eCommerce: Here’s What Every B2B Company Needs to Know

B2B customers need seamless user experiences and top-notch branding just like B2C customers.

B2B eCommerce, when compared to the B2C industry, is projected to be two times bigger than B2C in 2020. In fact, it’s anticipated to be the area of largest eCommerce growth from 2020 to 2025.

That means BIG things for B2B marketing are on the horizon.

Merit claims that 73 percent of B2B buyers today are Millennials, who prefer buying online—this is a large part of why B2B eCommerce growth has occurred at such lightning speed.

According to the latest publication from Meticulous Research, the global e-commerce market is expected to grow at a CAGR of 11.1 percent from 2018 to 2025, reaching $24,265.12 billion by 2025.

This can be attributed to factors including:

  • Rising mobile and internet penetration
  • Technological advances such as big data and cloud-based e-commerce platforms
  • Advanced shipping and payment options
  • Rise in disposable incomes.

The Push for Amazon Businessmazon Business is the B2B marketplace on Amazon, providing business customers with the pricing, selection, and convenience of Amazon, with features and benefits designed for businesses of all sizes.

It’s designed to make purchasing easy and cost-effective by combining Amazon’s familiar one-stop shopping with quantity discounts, price comparisons, approval workflows, and multi-user accounts.

Its competitive annual membership program means that, similar to Prime members, Amazon Business members get perks including free two-day shipping. It also includes business-tailored features, such as multi-user business accounts, approval workflow, payment solutions, tax exemptions, dedicated customer support, and more.

Install WooCommerce

How B2B Brands Build Relationships with Clients and UsersAs retailers become more selective in choosing the brands they want to carry, B2B sites must give brands the platform to not only sell the products they offer but promote the image they’ve built.

So how can you engage the majority of consumers—whether B2B or B2C—with a straightforward marketing strategy? Here are five steps to take which, if implemented over time and with consistency, can help you reach success.

1. Create A Blog About Your Niche

Your eCommerce store is for other business people. They want information that will help them make rational decisions. When you create a blog for your niche, you’re supporting your community while also gaining valuable SEO.

2. High-Quality Backlinks: Reach Out To Develop B2B Connections And Content

Backlinks, or links from other pages leading back to your website, help build your web page’s authority within your domain. They’re also an excellent B2B marketing strategy for eCommerce pages.

3. Establish an E-Commerce SEO Strategy For Your B2B eCommerce Store: Optimize Your URLs

This is a key part of telling both humans and search engines what to expect to find on the page. Good URLs are related to the page they represent, and are essential for good user metrics.

4. Improve Site Speed: B2B Clients Get Impatient Too

People hate to wait for an eCommerce page to load. Whether you’ve got a B2C or B2B page, you need to do everything you can to deliver a speedy experience—otherwise, you’ll be losing business by the second.

5. Set Goals For Your B2B Ecommerce Site And Track With Analytics

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On average, B2B clients do more research than B2B consumers because they are making business decisions. Understand what your clients need and offer them the services that will make finding business opportunities easier for them.

Learn to Support Brands in B2B EcommerceEven in B2B, your brand matters! You’ve got to act like a B2C while operating as a B2B in order to generate demand, build better relationships, and ultimately drive sales. Here are four key branding factors to consider that B2B often forget.

  1. Constant Consumer Communication

Manufacture demand by communicating all the time, not just in high season for your industry or high buying times in the calendar year. This includes utilizing all social media channels and keeping them updated with fresh content.

  1. User Experience

Oftentimes, B2B sites don’t consider their user experience a high priority, which can affect how often retailers frequent and use their portal. Just as consumers prefer websites with engaging content, graphics, and character, online ordering portals can and should offer more than just utilitarian lists of SKUs.

  1. Optimize for Mobile

Millennials are picking up the B2B eCommerce market and want it on the go. B2C sites recognize this and are constantly optimizing their websites across desktop, tablet, and mobile. This should be no different for B2B sites.

  1. Brand Story

Provide the same ability for buyers to learn about brands. Enabling brands to share their stories is a crucial part of the wholesale process, both for selling to new buyers and strengthening relationships with existing buyers.

Top B2B Platforms, Technologies, and FunctionalitiesSelecting a shopping platform is the foundation of any eCommerce business operation. Most of the leading platforms are not industry-specific, and all of them competently provide core shopping cart, payment, shipping, and store management features.

For B2B, choosing the right eCommerce platform is not a decision to be taken lightly.

Some big names are always popping up like Magento, Shopify, Enterprise, and BigCommerce. When looking at the array of options, it is important to ask yourself if they have the following:

  • Mobile Compatibility—More and more B2B decision-makers are using their mobile devices to search for solutions. Not being mobile-friendly can prove costly today.
  • Compliance—The platform should be able to accommodate GDPR, ADA, and other mandatory user privacy and accessibility guidelines that are in effect today.
  • B2B eCommerce Functionality—Your B2B eCommerce platform should ideally have b2b eCommerce functionality features directed at B2B buyers like bulk ordering and pricing, account management, and multiple shipping/payment capabilities.
  • Optimal User Experience—The user should have a customizable marketplace template to choose from to create an intuitive and user-friendly experience.
  • 24/7 Availability—Unlike the traditional method where clients need to wait for your response, eCommerce platforms are always open for business.
  • Marketing functionality—With more and more online searches being made via web and mobile, SEO-optimized eCommerce platforms boost your visibility.
  • Automation and Machine Learning—Humans are error-prone. Automated platforms offer a consistent solution.
  • Customer Communications—Not only does the client get an instant response, but he can also select their desired product/s with just a few clicks.

The predominance of B2B eCommerce means that B2B businesses must improve and simplify their shopping journey, channeling the B2C ordering experience. However, the B2B shopping experience is a lot more complicated than that of a B2C customer.

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Because of the nature of the transaction, B2B buyers usually need to go through various steps, including sales representative interaction, negotiations, and approvals before they can make a successful purchase.

That’s why it’s crucial for B2B eCommerce businesses to provide a more seamless transaction, building in advanced functionality to their sites for quote management, price negotiation, easy ordering, and inventory management.

Consider hiring the right experts to manage your platforms as B2Bs have enough to consider with running their businesses. Custom programming, development, and functionality require consistent and careful planning, strategy, and great execution.

There are even companies that create custom functionality projects for any eCommerce platform such as Volusion, Bigcommerce, Shopify, 3DCart, Americommerce, Magento, Netsuite, Ecwid, Bigcartel, Zencart, Virtuemart, Prestashop, CoreCommerce, WooCommerce, WordPress, OSCommerce, Infusionsoft, Podio and X-Cart.

If you’ve been told that a certain functionality is not possible, it’s worth getting a second opinion. Even for mobile, your eCommerce store needs to in top shape to convert the sale. If you follow these guidelines, you’ll be ready for the next wave of B2B eCommerce growth opportunities.

Follow me on Twitter or LinkedIn. Check out my website or some of my other work here.

Shama Hyder is a visionary strategist for the digital age, a web and TV personality, a bestselling author, and the award-winning CEO of Zen Media – a b2b communications firm. She has been named the “Zen Master of Marketing” by Entrepreneur Magazine and the “Millennial Master of the Universe” by FastCompany.com. Shama has also been honored at both the White House and The United Nations as one of the top 100 young entrepreneurs in the country.

Shama is the bestselling author of The Zen of Social Media Marketing, now in its 4th edition and Momentum: How to Propel Your Marketing and Transform Your Brand in the Digital Age. An acclaimed keynote speaker, Shama has delivered keynotes in over 20 countries and spoken for recognized brands including Movado, Chase, Tupperware and Inc 5000.

As a result of her success, Shama has been the recipient of numerous awards, including the prestigious Technology Titan Emerging Company CEO award. She was named one of the “Top 25 Entrepreneurs under 25” by Business Week in 2009, one of the “Top 30 Under 30” Entrepreneurs in America in 2014 by Inc. Magazine, and to the Forbes “30 Under 30” list of movers and shakers for 2015. LinkedIn has named Hyder one of their “Top Voices” in Marketing & Social Media for four years in a row. Her online videos were awarded the “Hermes Gold award for Educational Programming in Electronic Media” and most recently she was given the “Global Empowerment award for Marketing and Technology” by Anokhi Media.

As the CEO of Zen Media, she and her team help b2b companies succeed in the digital age

Source: B2B eCommerce: Here’s What Every B2B Company Needs to Know

Adding Product

Eurotas comes with several shortcodes which can be used to display your content. To use our shortcodes, you go to page editor and change to Visual Composer canvas. Click on the Add Element button to open Visual Composer elements list and change to Theme-Sky tab.

  1. Adding a product on sale and a deal:
    • With the Simple Product, you select General tab. You add a Sale Price and click the Schedule button to set up date.
    • With the Variable Product, after setting up Product Attributes in the Attributes tab, you can go to the Variations tab and add New Variation. With each Variation Product, you also click the Schedule button next to the Sale Price field. Please note that product only displays the time of first Variation Product.
  2. Adding Additional Information: You go to the Shipping tab. You set value of Weight and Dimensions options. You can change the unit by going to WooCommerce > Settings > Products tab
  3. Enable/Disable Product Review: You go to the Advanced tab. You will see Enable reviews option. Just check/uncheck it.
  4. The WooW works well with Visual Composer, the popular drag and drop page builder plugin with intuitive interface to build your content at ease. If you plan to use Visual Composer Plugin for your site, check out these source.

Business Have Been Practicing Social Responsibility For Decades, But Is That Really A Good Thing?

The jury is out on whether corporate social responsibility (CSR) programs will one day make the world a better place. But this much is pretty clear: They’re already benefiting the companies that have implemented them. And in some unexpected ways.

Specifically, CSR has become the weapon of choice for what is known as, in corporate speak, the three R’s: Investor Relations, Human Resources, and Public Relations.

But before we dive into details, a CSR mini-lesson is in order. First off, CSR isn’t an overnight sensation. Over the past couple of decades, companies have been embracing the idea that they need to do more than just make a profit for shareholders. Do-good efforts slowly evolved from passive and limited corporate philanthropy programs—giving to the United Way, for example—to broader and more active CSR programs. Those would take on major social issues like Goldman Sachs’ 10,000 Women program, which in partnership with the International Finance Corporation (World Bank) has delivered $1.45 billion in loans to women-owned businesses in developing countries.

Now, they have evolved even more. Many companies are now incorporating impact-on-society considerations into core business activities. For example, Starbucks only uses “ethically-sourced coffee.” Programs like these are often focused on “sustainability.” In August, 181 CEOs of the country’s largest corporations signed a Business Roundtable statement committing to managing their companies not just for shareholders, but also for customers, employees, suppliers, and communities.

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Photo Illustration by Ryan Olbrysh for Newsweek; Getty 9; Buzz Courtesy of General Mills, Cesars Courtesy of Caesars Entertainment

The idea behind all of these efforts is the well-worn slogan “doing well by doing good,” which means that being a positive force in the community will enhance a company’s reputation, which in theory will pay off in more sales, lower costs and over the long term, more money for shareholders.

Can you even measure something like this? Stephen Hahn-Griffiths, chief reputation officer of the Reputation Institute in Boston, says you can. He reels off a string of statistics, like “40% of the reputation of a company is related to corporate responsibility” and says his organization’s research proves that reputation is a leading indicator of stock market capitalization, or the total value of a company’s shares. In other words, he adds, “CSR has a multiplier effect” when it comes to a company’s value. But CSR can be risky. And take a little guts.

According to analysts, CVS’s 2014 decision to stop selling tobacco products cost it $2 billion a year in sales and caused the stock price to drop. (Investors took a $1.43 billion hit that year according to Martin Anderson of UNC Greensboro.) In 2010, Campbell Soup announced it was reducing the salt levels in many of its soups, a decision they reversed the following year when sales fell by 32%.

Meanwhile, in 2018, Dick’s Sporting Goods stopped selling assault rifles. On a panel at this year’s Aspen Ideas Festival, CEO Ed Stack said that decision cost them customers and employees. He notes that many of the customers who applauded the decision at the time seem to have forgotten, but those who were in opposition have not. “Love is fleeting,” he says. “But hate is forever.”

But many companies feel the do-gooder dividend outweighs the risks, both in relations with consumers and in day-to-day operations.

Brad McLane, who recruits high-level positions at RSR Partners, says, “Companies aren’t doing it just to say they have it. My clients are incorporating it into how they do business—what ingredients they use, where they source, how they design products.” Megan Kashner, clinical professor at the Kellogg School of Management’s Public-Private Interface agrees. She’s says that we’ve moved from “greenwashing programs that mimic CSR” to an era of “authentic CSR.” Greenwashing is the practice of making misleading claims that make a company appear more environmentally or socially conscious than it is, for example, when BP began touting itself as being environmentally conscious through a $200 million public relations campaign, only to have a string of environmental disasters—some of which, according to a government report, were caused by corporate cost-cutting to boost profits.

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BP is the subject of protests by Greenpeace activists over oil drilling in the North Sea. Christian Charisius/picture alliance/Getty

Simon Lowden, Pepsico chief sustainability officer, says, “It’s woven into how we operate as a business. For instance, we need to maintain our license to operate in water-stressed regions, so we’d better focus on being responsible stewards of water. It’s not only the right thing to do, it’s important to our business.”

CSR is particularly useful in human resources. Rebecca M. Henderson, holds the John and Natty McArthur Chair at Harvard and is finishing a book on this topic, Reimagining Capitalism in a World on Fire. She says: “CSR has a tremendous impact on the morale of employees. Authentic purpose, which may mean occasionally sacrificing profits, accesses a whole range of emotions difficult to get at otherwise, like trust and engagement.”

In other words, it gets through. And that is a good thing. It leads to higher levels of productivity and employee retention.

CSR can also be a big factor in recruiting, particularly for younger employees, says Eric Johnson, executive director of graduate career services at the Kelley School of Business at Indiana University. He says, “Social impact is a big piece of the recruiting process. Probably 50 percent of that initial conversation is about what the company is doing to make the world better.”

“Beer companies used to talk about fun and sports. Now they talk about their programs to save water in the world. Social impact can tip the scales. Is a student going to choose an $85,000-a-year job over a $125,000 job because of social impact? I doubt it. But my observation is that jobs heavy in social impact often pay up to 10 percent less than comparable jobs that don’t.”

Professor Kashner adds, “These newly minted MBAs care and they care about the type of work they’re going to be doing. Maybe previous generations drew a line between work and personal life and values, but those boundaries no longer exist.” Korn Ferry, the giant executive recruiting firm, recently surveyed the professionals in its network. “Company mission and values” was the No. 1 reason (33 percent ) they’d choose to work for one company over another.

CSR is increasingly part of the conversation with individual shareholders and investors, like the world’s largest investment firm, BlackRock, which manages $6.5 trillion dollars for its clients. In his last two annual letters, CEO Larry Fink has called on companies to do more and said that BlackRock will evaluate companies on more than just financial numbers. His 2018 letter said, “As divisions continue to deepen, companies must demonstrate their commitment to the countries, regions, and communities where they operate, particularly on issues central to the world’s future prosperity.” Many investment firms now have someone in charge of building portfolios around companies based on their performance on Environmental, Social and Governance or ESG. (Measuring which companies are woke is an industry in and of itself.)

One aggregator of ESG ratings, CSRhub.com, lists 634 data sources. They range from the very broad (for example, Alex’s Guide to Compassionate Shopping) to the very specific (for example, the Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety).

For public relations, CSR is both an offensive and a defensive weapon. CSR can be used to pre-empt the conversation in areas where companies have been criticized. Procter & Gamble’s “Ambition 2030 program is heavy on recycling and biodegradability.

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A 50-foot cigarette is “snuffed out” by CVS in New York City. Andrew Burton/Getty

But CSR can also be a useful defense. It not only builds up a stock of goodwill with the media and the public, but it generates good news that crowds out the bad. Large corporations are going to get a certain amount of press and awkward questions each day—better that press and those questions be about CSR than, say, worker safety or GMOs. For example, in 2018 when Johnson & Johnson was accused of knowingly selling baby powder with harmful levels of asbestos, Harvard professor Bill George wrote a stirring defense of the company, focusing not on the merits of the claim, but on J&J’s “Our Credo,” a commitment to integrity and customers written in 1943 (and likely the first CSR document ever produced.)

Still, not everyone is convinced. There are many who adhere to the late economist Milton Friedman’s argument that the sole purpose of the corporation is to make more money for shareholders, who can then choose for themselves whether or not they want to save the world.

Judith Samuelson, vice president of Aspen Institute and founder of their Business and Society Program, who’s worked with many of the companies currently leading the way in CSR, says, “The shareholder primacy viewpoint hasn’t gone away. And even if attitudes have changed, measures haven’t. Many executives, including CEO’s, are still paid in stock, and those who manage portfolios for institutional investors are still bonused on the value of those portfolios.”

Samuelson worries that “Companies may think these (current) programs are enough and not make fundamental change.” Kashner is more optimistic. She cites work that says large public companies are increasingly incorporating CSR metrics into executive compensation contracts.

Those who oppose CSR programs argue that trying to do two things at once, like making a profit and serving society, will destroy the effectiveness of companies.

Samuelson scoffs at this. “Of course companies can do more than one thing. Public companies have to manage multiple objectives all the time. No public company in the world would last a week if the only people they cared about were shareholders. What about customers? Employees?”

She believes that CSR really boils down to responsible decision making, doing what it takes for companies to succeed in the long term. Whatever, CSR is here to stay. It’s become part of the fabric of investing, company operations, and business school curricula.

It’s now being tracked and measured, and in business, what gets measured gets done.

By

Source: Business Have Been Practicing Social Responsibility For Decades, But Is That Really A Good Thing?

22M subscribers
Alex Edmans talks about the long-term impacts of social responsibility and challenges the idea that caring for society is at the expense of profit. Alex is a Professor of Finance at London Business School. Alex graduated top of his class from Oxford University and then worked for Morgan Stanley in investment banking (London) and fixed income sales and trading (NYC). After a PhD in Finance from MIT Sloan as a Fulbright Scholar, he joined Wharton, where he was granted tenure and won 14 teaching awards in six years. Alex’s research interests are in corporate finance, behavioural finance, CSR, and practical investment strategies. He has been awarded the Moskowitz Prize for Socially Responsible Investing and the FIR-PRI prize for Finance and Sustainability, and was named a Rising Star of Corporate Governance by Yale University. Alex co-led a session at the 2014 World Economic Forum in Davos, and runs a blog, “Access to Finance” (www.alexedmans.blogspot.com), that aims to make complex finance topics accessible to a general audience. This talk was given at a TEDx event using the TED conference format but independently organized by a local community. Learn more at http://ted.com/tedx
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