3 Mistakes to Avoid When Running a Crowdfunding Campaign – Roy Morejon

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When Retro Computers turned to Indiegogo for crowdfunding, it promised $100-level funders a handheld gaming device called the Vega+. With promises from the company that the device would come equipped with more than 1,000 games, the console quickly gained a following, and more than 3,600 people pledged $100 each to receive one.

The successful campaign gained U.K.-based Retro Computers more than half a million dollars.

But when the time came for those backers to receive the handheld devices, Retro Computers wasn’t able to deliver. Legal battles and production issues caused hiccups. The promised September 2016 delivery came and went. Users began getting upset — more and more publicly.

Finally, after unwanted media attention and, just this month, a lawsuit, Indiegogo intervened. The crowdfunding platform announced on June 6 that it was siccing debt collectors on Retro Computers in an effort to reimburse its donors.

Despite that tale of woe, entrepreneurs can’t ignore the potential of crowdfunding. Kickstarter has hosted nearly 150,000 successful projects, raising $3.7 billion since 2009, and Indiegogo has raised more than $1.5 billion since 2008. Done correctly, crowdfunding could provide the perfect building block for your next venture.

The ups and downs of crowdfunding

Crowdfunding’s popularity is not all hype. It can yield benefits beyond financial backing, helping your company build a loyal customer base and establish credibility before you’ve even launched. But you can’t just set up a Kickstarter page and watch the money roll in. The right strategy is essential to reap the rewards.

Pebble shows how it can and should be done. One of Kickstarter’s most successful campaigns of all time, the company raised more than $20 million from 78,000 backers — exceeding its goal by 4,068 percent. Pebble turned that consumer confidence into more than 2 million sales of its smartwatch and was ultimately bought out by Fitbit.

But when it comes to crowdfunding, there’s more to consider than whether your project will meet its fundraising goals. Even a successful campaign without serious forethought and planning can encounter challenges that will sink a business before it gets off the ground.

Coolest Cooler, on the other hand, might be one of the most disastrous campaigns in Kickstarter history. The company raised $13 million, but it wasn’t prepared to operate in the wake of such success. Coolest Cooler couldn’t fulfill rewards for its 62,642 backers.

Remember: It’s not just about hitting the goal. Even in successfully funded projects, 9 percent fail to deliver on promises to backers. That’s a hard hurdle to overcome in the beginning stages of any new business.

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Campaign mistakes to avoid

It’s easy to think of crowdfunding as easy money, but campaigns should be hard work if you’re doing them correctly. If you want to start your project on the right foot, avoid these common mistakes:

1. Kicking off without leads in place. Crowdfunding campaigns have short time lines. What’s more, campaigns rely on a momentum of interest. You’re going to have difficulty hitting your goal if you don’t have leads in place ready to back your campaign on day one. Not gathering enough leads before launching is the problem partially to blame for nearly every failed project.

Set up a landing page ahead of time describing your product and promoting your upcoming project. Include a contest in which people can enter their email address for a chance to win your product. This will give you a list of already interested folks to reach out to the day you launch your campaign.

2. Ignoring Facebook for potential conversions. Platforms such as Kickstarter and Indiegogo have large audiences, but if you rely solely on the backers already there, you probably won’t hit your goal.

So, look elsewhere. Facebook advertising is one of the most cost-effective ways to reach a highly targeted group of people that is likely to convert.

Consider the PEEjamas Kickstarter campaign, which my company mounted. That project hit its $14,000 goal early on, but my company wanted to see how far we could go. Funding increased from around $26,000 when we started the ads, to $227,469 by the time the campaign closed. I highly recommend working with a team of Facebook Ads specialists who can make the most of your ad budget.

3. Failing to consider scale. You might have a goal in mind, but what happens if you exceed it? Is your business model scalable? Are you going to be able to fulfill rewards? Don’t be Retro Computer or Coolest Cooler.

Make sure the price of each of your rewards is sufficient, whether you hit your goal exactly or raise more than you anticipate. Have a plan in place for shipping and fulfillment. Examine your profit margins closely as you set your funding goal, and determine product pricing. Consider factors such as minimum order quantities, manufacturing costs, marketing costs, platform fees, shipping costs and more.

One last thing to consider: Kickstarter and Indiegogo both have a 5 percent use fee and a 3 percent to 5 percent processing fee. Factor this into the goal you initially set.

Platforms such as Kickstarter and Indiegogo have broadened the horizons of startups and consumers alike, but getting the most value out of crowdfunding requires forethought and planning. There are plenty of Cinderella stories out there but also just as many cautionary tales. Avoid their mistakes to make the most of your fundraising endeavor.

If everyone who read the articles and like it, that would be favorable to have your donations – Thank you.

 

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Everything You Need To Know About What Amazon Is Doing In Financial Services – Michael Guta

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Video has become the calling card of today’s digital business ecosystem. And for many small businesses, the DIY route is the way to go because of the cost. Introbrand has created a service which fills a particular niche in this segment. It allows you to make intros, outros and logo animations for your videos.

While the buzz that Amazon will take the plunge into banking seems to get louder each year, it’s important to first understand Amazon’s existing strategy in financial services — what Amazon has launched and built, where the company is investing, and what recent products tell us about Amazon’s future ambitions.

Based on our findings, it’s hard to claim that Amazon is building the next-generation bank. But it’s clear that the company remains very focused on building financial services products that support its core strategic goal: increasing participation in the Amazon ecosystem.

As a result, the company has built and launched tools that aim to:

  1. Increase the number of merchants on Amazon, and enable each merchant to sell more
  2. Increase the number of customers on Amazon, and enable each customer to spend more
  3. Continue to reduce any buying/selling friction

In parallel, Amazon has made several fintech investments, mostly focused on international markets (India and Mexico, among others) where partners can help serve Amazon’s core strategic goal.

In aggregate, these product development and investment decisions reveal that Amazon isn’t building a traditional bank that serves everyone. Instead, Amazon has taken the core components of a modern banking experience and tweaked them to suit Amazon customers (both merchants and consumers).

In a sense, Amazon is building a bank for itself — and that may be an even more compelling development than the company launching a deposit-holding bank.

This report is a collection of everything we know about Amazon’s foray into banking, financial services, and fintech. We will be updating this brief on an ongoing basis as more relevant data, investments, news, and products are released.

Table of contents:

  1. Amazon’s product strategy

2. Market strategy outside the US

3. Rumors: What will Amazon do next?
4. Closing thoughts

Product strategy: Amazon takes on financial services

Amazon is notorious for spreading its bets before going all-in on a new product, and the financial services space is no exception. Through trial and error, the company has set up key financial pillars across payments, cash deposits, and lending. As we’ll dive into below, all are related to Amazon’s broader growth and product strategies.

AMAZON PAYMENTS

Amazon has aggressively invested in payments infrastructure and services over the last few years. That’s unsurprising, given that the payments experience is so close to Amazon’s core e-commerce business. Making payments more cash efficient for Amazon and frictionless for customers is a key priority.

Today, Amazon Pay has evolved to include a digital wallet for customers and a payments network for both online and brick-and-mortar merchants. While Amazon Pay is the company’s latest iteration on payments, Amazon experimented with payments functionality for over a decade. Below is a timeline of some of the major Amazon Pay milestones:

Amazon’s first known payments product — Pay with Amazon — launched in 2007. That same year, the company acquired TextPayMe, a peer-to-peer (P2P) mobile service that was relaunched as Amazon Webpay in 2011.

Webpay failed to gain user traction and was shut down in 2014, unlike up-start Venmo (now a part of rival payments processor PayPal). It’s likely that Amazon was too early to P2P payments.

In 2007, the company also invested in Bill Me Later (fka I4 Commerce). Bill Me Later was one of the earliest fintech payment platforms on the market and gave big retailers the ability to offer flexible financing programs. Although Bill Me Later was quickly scooped up by PayPal in 2008, Amazon has remained focused on reducing payment friction for customers.

Over the last few years, Amazon has used a variety of techniques to strengthen its payments experience, including launching digital wallets through Amazon Pay, acquiring tech talent of failed mobile payments startup GoPago, and building a variety of tech in-house.

Traction/Metrics:

Today’s iteration is Amazon Pay, a digital wallet for customers and a payments network for both online and brick-and-mortar merchants and shoppers.

In addition to serving Amazon’s core customers, payments is an attractive revenue line when thinking about the scope of the payments market. Swipe fees alone are a $90B-a-year business for banks, card networks like Visa, and payment processors like Stripe.

Amazon is finding ways to attract merchants to the Amazon Pay network beyond its experimentation with swipe fees. The company announced it would pass on the special card savings Amazon gets from card networks (because of the volume of purchases they can guarantee) to retailers that adopt Amazon Pay. Leveraging scale and competing on fees is a classic customer acquisition strategy in Amazon’s playbook.

And while the company is famously secretive about reporting customer growth and business metrics, it reported that Amazon Pay had 33M customers in 170 countries in 2016. Payments made with Amazon Pay spiked following service expansion to new geographies — France, Italy, and Spain — and to new verticals, including government payments, travel, insurance, entertainment, and charitable donations.

However, the company has had some missteps with Amazon Pay. Its most famous failure was Amazon Local Register. With the talent acquired from GoPago, Amazon launched Amazon Local Register, a card reader for SMBs in August 2014. At the time, the company charged competitive rates (a full percentage point less than Square). Each reader cost $10, and it seemed like a formidable rival to PayPal and Square’s readers.

But in October 2015, the company announced it would be shut down. Despite charging lower fees, the company failed to gain enough traction with merchants who feared giving Amazon detailed data on their overall business operations.

Eventually, Amazon launched a “Pay with Amazon” button for mobile, and created a team with the goal of expanding payments across the web and on apps.

To lead this team, Amazon hired ex-PayPal employee Patrick Gauthier. In reference to failed payments projects, Gauthier said:

Future Developments:

Amazon Go: Amazon’s secret payments weapon?

Developing product remains an area of strength for Amazon, especially as it iterates on its in-house biometrics payments technology piloted within its Amazon Go grocery store.

The “Just Walk Out” technology uses computer vision, sensor fusion, and advanced machine learning to enable a frictionless payments experience, and is based on technology that the company has patented in the past.

“Just Walk Out” is available through the Amazon App. It grants access to the store and allows customers to grab-and-go without needing to physically check out to pay for products.

Amazon is still only in beta with this technology, but it has plans to launch 6 more stores with this capability in 2018. While the company typically does not make its proprietary technology available commercially, it would not be surprising if Amazon looks to integrate this tech into its Whole Foods stores in the future.

AMAZON CASH

The Amazon Cash program bridges the gap between online commerce, using debit or credit cards as payment, and offline commerce that relies on “cash on delivery” options like cash and gift cards.

Amazon Cash launched in April 2017 to allow customers to deposit cash, without a fee, to a digital account by showing a bar code (either printed physically or digitally) at a partner brick-and-mortar retailer such as CVS, 7-11, and others.

Amazon Cash fits neatly into Amazon’s strategy of appealing to underbanked and unbanked populations — customers do not need a bank account or a phone to open an account, only access to the internet and a printer.

In the US, there are estimated to be 33.5M US households defined as unbanked or underbanked, according to the FDIC’s most recent survey. Prior to Amazon Cash, this was an unaddressed customer base for the online retailer.

Since Amazon Cash’s launch, Amazon has made a few key product developments, demonstrated in the timeline below:

In May 2018, Amazon Cash extended its partnership with Coinstar to allow customers to deposit spare change at Coinstar kiosks and cash out digitally with the Amazon Cash app, instead of in cash or physical gift cards.

The location of kiosks — typically in grocery stores — is a newer cornerstone of Amazon’s business following the acquisition of Whole Foods. They are also found in high traffic areas that Amazon competes with, including rival retailers such as Walmart. This partnership helps Amazon encourage customers to spend more on Amazon.com, and fits Amazon’s core strategic goals of strengthening the Amazon ecosystem and increasing participation.

Coinstar has nearly 20,000 kiosk locations across mass merchants and select financial institutions. The goal is to enable 5,000 kiosks with the new service by year end, and, if successful, Amazon could look to roll out services to more kiosks down the road.

Amazon Allowance: A kid-friendly solution

In addition to targeting the unbanked and underbanked, Amazon is looking to leverage the Amazon Cash feature to tap into the next generation of consumers.

In mid-2015, the company added Amazon Allowance, which is now under the Amazon Cash umbrella. With parental consent, kids can set up their own Amazon accounts and make purchases using their Amazon Allowance. Parents can allocate recurring funds to their child’s account and get the added control of overseeing what their kids purchase.

More recently, Amazon has invested in improving kids’ access to the platform.

In December 2017, Amazon’s Alexa Fund participated in a $16M Series A to Greenlight Financial, an alternative debit card issuer aimed at young consumers. With the card, parents can manage spending limits and allocate funds for their children through a mobile app. In March 2018, Greenlight Financial announced crossing 100,000 customers, growing its customer base 300% since the investment.

Greenlight Financial’s core business is complementary with Amazon’s internal initiative of growing Amazon Cash customers by increasing penetration of younger shoppers.

While no plans have been announced, Amazon Cash could look to integrate Greenlight Financial’s card into the allowance product to expand to locations where kids can use their Amazon Allowance (and ideally include the growing number of offline brick-and-mortar retailers that accept Amazon Cash as payment).

Traction/Metrics:

Amazon hasn’t announced how many customers are using Amazon Cash, but it’s clear the market opportunity is large. As mentioned earlier, the FDIC estimated that 33.5M households remain underbanked or unbanked in the US.

The international opportunity is large too —  for example, 190 million citizens in India are unbanked and just 37% of adults have a bank account in Mexico. Amazon Cash could be an enabler for customer acquisition in markets that have high unbanked populations and entrenched local competitors, supporting Amazon’s goal of increasing the number of customers that transact on the Amazon platform.

Future Developments:

Amazon is no stranger to looking outside their existing channels for growth opportunities.

The company could continue to expand the Amazon Cash program to other partners with high foot traffic (for example malls, colleges, grocers, etc.) or other geographies with highly underbanked populations. Amazon could also leverage Whole Foods to launch more Coinstar kiosks, expanding the reach of the Coinstar partnership in a unique way.

AMAZON LENDING

Jeff Bezos has been more forward about Amazon’s desire to build out its lending arm than other financial service offerings.

In his 2016 annual letter to shareholders, Bezos outlined Amazon’s goal of expanding Amazon Lending: by continuing to work with partner banks to manage the bulk of the credit, the retailer can mitigate credit risk and calm investor nerves.

Today, Amazon’s has expanded lending to US, UK, Japan, and India and and to US consumers in the form of partner cards.

Amazon SMB Lending

Amazon Lending initially launched in 2011 to help small businesses finance and sell more goods on Amazon. In March 2018, CNBC reported that Amazon Lending had partnered with Bank of America Merrill Lynch to issue the loans on an invitation-only basis that could range between $1,000 to $750,000.

From launch in 2011 to June 2017, Amazon reported it issued $3B across 20,000 business in the US, Japan, and the UK. The bulk of growth in the last year has been to businesses in the US, where the company originated $1B in loans in 2017 alone.

Amazon remains focused on growing market share outside of the US. The company is also exploring opportunities to expand alternative lending into India and Mexico through partnerships with local banks, similar to the partnership with Bank of America.

Amazon Consumer Lending

Amazon offers Amazon Prime cards to help serve two broader corporate goals: grow Prime customers and increase marketplace sales. To attract card customers, Amazon has been adding perks exclusive to Prime members. Cardholders are likely to spend more on Amazon than non-cardholders, which also benefits Amazon’s marketplace (and boosts customer loyalty).

On the consumer side, Amazon has been iterating with partner cards for Prime and non-Prime customers which include:

  • Amazon Prime Store Card – Launched in 2015 with partner Synchrony Bank, it was Amazon’s first card exclusively for Prime customers, offering unlimited 5% cash back on Amazon purchases.
  • Amazon Store Card – Offers some of the benefits as the Prime Store Card but for non-Prime customers. It does not offer the 5% cash back perk.
  • Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature Card – Launched in 2017 with Visa, this card gives Prime members 5% cash back at Amazon & Whole Foods, 2% cash back at gas stations, restaurants, and drugstores, and 1% cash back on everything else.
  • Amazon Visa Credit Card – Partner card with Visa for non-Prime customers that offers 3% cash back on Amazon purchases, 2% cash back at gas stations, restaurants, and drugstores, and 1% cash back on everything else.

  • Amazon Reload – A reloadable digital debit card available only to Prime members that offers 2% cash back on Amazon purchases. The card links directly to consumers’ checking accounts and can be reloaded on a recurring or one-time basis.

Amazon is also frequently featured as a destination to spend credit card points including Chase Freedom, Discover Cash Match, and Blue Cash for Amex.

Future Developments:

In May, Amazon extended the 5% cash back reward to purchases at Whole Foods on the Prime Rewards Visa Card. This is one example of how Amazon is adding perks and exclusive benefits for Prime customers, making the cards more competitive and attractive to customers in-store.

More broadly, Amazon’s Visa cards suggest they are pushing beyond limited-use store cards and driving to become more of an everyday card.

AMAZON’S NEXT FINANCIAL PILLAR?

While Amazon is making moves across the payments, cash, and lending spaces, it could also look to further expand across the financial services ecosystem.

Checking Accounts

In March, news leaked that Amazon was in talks with banks including JPMorgan and Capital One to build a product similar to a checking account.

The existing services above show that Amazon is pushing into checking, primarily through Amazon Cash. It has also patented methods for linking bank account information and for prepaid cards as early as 2004. As seen below, these offer supporting insights into what a bank account issued by Amazon could look like.

Though no further developments have been announced, the news sparked fresh debates around whether the e-commerce giant would finally get into banking.

Insurance

Amazon has not formally launched an insurance business but has shown nascent interest across markets and insurance products.

The earliest reported foray was in April 2016 with Amazon Protect, a white-label service in the UK that provides accidental and theft insurance on consumer goods ranging from headphones to kitchen appliances. Claims are underwritten through a partnership with The Warranty Group’s London General Insurance Company. The program has since expanded to other EU countries including Spain, Italy, Germany, and France.

In June 2018, the Warranty Group, which underwrites Amazon Protect in the UK and abroad, was purchased by Assurant for a rumored $2.5B. The acquisition could make it easier to expand the service to new markets that are under Assurant’s umbrella of lifestyle protection products.

Meanwhile, Amazon made an early insurance push in India by leading a $12M investment in Acko in May 2018. Acko offers traditional car and bike insurance policies, but is increasingly focused on “internet economy” deals, which primarily consist of e-commerce, travel, and ride hailing-focused products such as an in-trip insurance program with Ola. On its new investor, CEO Varun Dua says:

Market strategy outside the US

According to Morgan Stanley Research, Amazon’s long-term top line is 2-3X more exposed to emerging markets than rival Alibaba’s. Amazon is aggressively entering emerging markets to expand, but also to pilot and take a deeper role in developing new financial services products.

These markets are attractive because of rapid mobile internet adoption, a lack of legacy infrastructure, and a growing number of the population entering into the middle class. Two of the most notable markets where this is taking place today are India and Mexico.

INDIA

Growing India is core to Amazon’s broader market strategy and the company has verbally committed to investing $7B in the country (up from a $5B commitment it laid out in 2016).

In addition to capital, several initiatives in India map to Amazon’s financial services strategy. This includes making equity investments in fintech and enabling SMEs by offering loans with partner banks, all of which ultimately drive more marketplace sales.

Amazon’s investments and M&A are concentrated in India

Amazon’s fintech investments and acquisitions are light compared to the company’s broader portfolio bets. Globally, Amazon has only participated in 8 fintech equity investments worth $138M and made 2 acquisitions.

Notably, 7 of these transactions have taken place in India, aligned with the company’s strategic desire to expand in the country, enable SMEs, and drive more marketplace sales.

Payments

Similar to its US strategy, Amazon is investing in enabling faster frictionless payments to help boost marketplace sales — always a key focus for the e-commerce giant.

Its first entry point in the market was in payments in October 2014. Getting more aggressive than in the US, Amazon acquired Emvantage Payments in Q1’16, which was quickly integrated into Amazon Pay and relaunched as a digital wallet in December 2016.

June 5, 2018 marked the 5th anniversary of Amazon’s e-marketplace in India. To celebrate, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos wrote a letter to customers offering a cashback of Rs 250 — to be paid into Amazon Pay wallets — for customers who shopped online for goods worth Rs 1,000. The move strategically pushes consumers towards Amazon Pay, which recently reported early losses of Rs 177 crore ($26.6M) on income of Rs 7.4 ($1.11M) crore for FY17

Some of that burn is the result of the fixed operating costs to set up the business, but is also money spent in promotional offers to acquire customers (CAC). Amazon has a firm belief that its customer’s life-time value (LTV) exceeds the CAC, which is why it continue to be competitive on price.

Amazon announced the would inject more capital in their Indian digital payment business, taking the total to nearly Rs 700 crore ($105M) since 2016. In addition to cash, the company is also launching new services and ramping up investments in startups.

In January 2018, Amazon Pay rolled out the Doorstep feature, a cash pickup service that allows customers to load money into their Amazon Pay digital payment wallet. The service allows users to top up their balances using cash for digital services including food delivery, bill payment, and mobile recharges.

In Q3’16, Amazon also invested in prepaid gift card services company Qwikcilver. The gift card system has since been integrated into Amazon Pay and can be used as a form of payment on Amazon’s India marketplace. In Q2’18, Qwikcilver partnered with Xiaomi’s Mi.com to offer electronic gift cards that redirect buyers to Amazon.

In May 2018, Amazon co-invested with Mastercard in an $8M Series B to ToneTag. ToneTag is a contactless payments hardware and software provider that can be integrated at both merchant (mobile, point of sale, card readers) and customer (mobile wallet, mobile banking apps) interaction points.

The ToneTag platform will be integrated into Amazon Pay, which will expand Amazon’s reach to ToneTag’s reported 50M consumers (including merchants, parking garages, and restaurants) and 25,000 Retail Pods (the company’s hardware product that merchants use to accept payments) in India. This partnership will also expand Amazon Pay in India to offline commerce, a milestone that took the company over a decade in the US.

Lending

One of Amazon’s first equity investments in 2018 was a $22M Series C-II investment in Capital Float, a platform that provides working capital finance to SMEs. Following the investment, the company reported it had 80,000 customers across 300 cities, issued $170M in loans, and disbursed 10,000 loans on a monthly basis.

The company has also expanded into point-of-sale financing for retailers, launched an online payments gateway for borrowers to repay loans, and started piloting alternative underwriting models.

This investment complements Amazon’s broader push to support SMEs. Last September, Amazon partnered with the Bank of Baroda to provide loans to thousands of Amazon’s e-sellers to help suppliers expand their operations and finance inventory during seasonal spikes.

In June 2018, Amazon launched a new lending experiment in India, a marketplace for lenders and sellers to obtain a competitive loan. Amazon has already onboarded 5 lenders to the platform including portfolio company Capital Float, Capital First, Bank of Baroda, Aditya Birla Finance, and Yes Bank.

Insurance

Amazon’s latest investment in fintech was the $12M investment to aforementioned insurtech startup Acko.

The company has reportedly covered 10M Ola (ride-hailing) trips. The news also suggested the two may partner to roll out a product insurance program similar to Amazon Protect in the UK, although nothing has been confirmed.

MEXICO

Amazon has quickly learned from expanding financial services in India and is looking to apply what it’s learned to other developing markets, notably in Mexico.

Since March 2017, Amazon has launched Amazon Prime, Amazon Cash, and Amazon Cash debit cards in Mexico. All align with Amazon’s broader strategy of building a low friction payments service to attract customers online and then providing shoppers an alternative to credit and debit cards to build loyalty.

Amazon Cash launched in Mexico in October 2017. Similar to the US model, it allows customers to reload their accounts through deposits (up to 10,000 pesos) at convenience store chains such as 7-Eleven and other merchants pictured below.

In March 2018, the company launched a debit card with partner Grupo Financiero Banorte, a Mexican bank, called Amazon Recargable (Rechargeable). Like Amazon Cash, customers can deposit cash on the debit card at convenience stores across the country.

Amazon’s financial services push is significant for Mexico because many customers are unbanked. This may give customers access to a debit card for the first time. Mexico is largely a cash society and it is the preferred payment method for approximately 90% of all purchases. These hurdles mean Mexico is an untapped opportunity for either Amazon or Walmex (Walmart’s Mexico arm) to convert offline purchases to online commerce.

Rumors: What will Amazon do next?

If there’s anything we’ve learned from Amazon, it’s never say never. After the news broke that Amazon was looking to offer a checking account-like product, mentions of Amazon and banking crossed over 600+ media mentions.

In that spirit, here are some of the rumors in the wild that are noteworthy:

Rumor: Amazon reportedly had discussions about offering home insurance

Source: June 2018, The Information

Why it’s interesting: This rumor is based on one anonymous source that reported Amazon had discussions about offering insurance in conjunction with its connected home devices. However, none of Amazon’s existing investments or products tie to home insurance, at least in the US. While the company has made insurtech investments in India (including Acko) and a partnership in the EU to offer Amazon Protect, acting as more than a distributor of existing home insurance products would seem unlikely.


Rumor: Amazon is getting into mortgages

Source: March 2018, Housing Wire

Why it’s interesting: While Amazon has not made concrete plans, it has been making a series of strategic hires for lending with a focus on mortgage banking. The company hired a head of its newly-formed mortgage lending division. In addition, the firm has a number of home services businesses like Alexa, Prime streaming, and Amazon Fire Stick, and this could be its next move in owning the home.


Rumor: Amazon is getting into health insurance

Source: January 2018, Engadget

Why it’s interesting: In the US, Amazon announced that it would be joining forces with JP Morgan and Berkshire Hathaway on new health insurance programs for their employees. No further updates have surfaced since. However, Amazon has been signaling that it is looking at healthcare seriously. Last summer, the company posted several internal job openings for a new stealth team called the “1492 squad,” relating to the use of medical records. Amazon also invested in cancer startup Grail, participating in the company’s $914M Series B in Q1’17, and hired a healthcare and life sciences director away from Box.


Rumor: Ripple is helping Amazon with cross border payments

Source: May 2018, CryptoDaily

Why it’s interesting: While cryptocurrencies saw a huge spike in interest in 2017, many of the world’s most prominent figures in financial services — including JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon and Berkshire Hathaway CEO Warren Buffett — have outwardly cast it aside as mass speculation. Amazon is known to take unconventional approaches to solve customer pain points, so it would not be surprising if it were to explore applications of blockchain across financial services products.


Rumor: Amazon and PayPal are meeting with bank regulators to expand their financial services

Source: December 2017, American Banker

Why it’s interesting: Amazon and some other FAMGA (Facebook, Amazon, Microsoft, Google, Apple) members have been making headlines with rumors of moving deeper into financial services. Skeptics have punted back that the complexity of the regulatory landscape would inhibit them from entering the market. News that the firms are connecting with financial regulators suggests that regulations are not an inhibitor, but rather just an obstacle, and meeting with the OCC is one way to get the conversation going to overcome it.

Since this meeting, the OCC has been working on a fintech charter for tech firms, including Amazon, that is a centralized application which would give tech firms a limited (but universal) financial license versus having to go state by state for approval.


Rumor: Amazon is buying Capital One

Source: February 2017, American Banker

Why it’s interesting: This rumor was one of the earliest that suggested Amazon would buy a bank. Amazon has a decent amount of cash on its balance sheet and could use that cash to buy a small regional bank. Capital One, in particular, is already operating on AWS’ cloud and is looking to make further inroads into personal finance, so it could be a good combination.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

Amazon’s strategy in financial services has been focused on supporting its core strategic goal: increasing participation (both from buyers and sellers) on its platform.

In practice, Amazon has relied much more heavily on internal product development than partnerships, M&A, or investments to broaden its financial services offerings. Relative to its FAMGA cousins (that have been much more active on the M&A and investment front), that’s a surprising strategic decision. But, what’s not surprising is to see Amazon methodically seed, invest, and nurture a product line with a long time horizon.

Zooming out a bit further, one can see the beginnings of what the Bank of Amazon could look like — a variety of key financial services products that support Amazon participants first and enable them to buy, sell, and transact much easier than any other platform.

And that potential Bank of Amazon should worry the traditional incumbents. If history provides a useful lesson, it’s that Amazon first builds core product pillars for itself, where it is the only and most important customer. This was the case with AWS, which was the result of overhauling its own internal capacity for cloud services that were later repurposed for external clients and third-parties. Only after years of building a product and iterating on features for itself does Amazon launch and expose a key product pillar to other customers.

If everyone who read the articles and like it, that would be favorable to have your donations – Thank you.


If You Want To Be A Great Mentor Do These 5 Things – Carrie Kerpen

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While having a mentor can make a significant difference in your career, being one can also be a valuable experience—that comes with a lot of responsibility. A great mentor doesn’t just provide guidance and answers during career transitions or sticky situations; she also provides motivation and inspiration to help her mentee get to the next level and fulfill her potential.

Want to be a great mentor? Consider these five key skills.

  1. Listen.

“Listen first,” says Whitney Gonzales, marketing manager at Liingo Eyewear. “Think of yourself as a life coach. A good mentor always navigates the mentee to a solution or a next step; they don’t solve it for them. Help to remove roadblocks for your mentee, and alternatively, create bridges for them. Also understand that your mentee is not you, so they will want or need to carve their own professional path. You don’t need to be a perfect, shining example either. Your failures and hardships throughout life and your career are just as valuable to your mentee as are your successes. And realize, sometimes you are just there to listen.”

A good listening tip is to take notes during your mentoring sessions to stay actively engaged. If you can give your mentee some direction, make sure to follow up on that direction the next time you meet: “I remember you were going to ask for the promotion. How did that go?”

  1. Deliver honest feedback.

“I love mentors that keep it real and give honest feedback, including pointed criticism,” says Coral Chung, co-founder of luxury handbag brand Senreve. “While it’s wonderful to get support and be cheered on, it’s also important to hear things that other people are not willing to say. In the early days of Senreve, some of my best mentors were also my harshest critics, but that was okay because it helped me improve, and it showed that they have high expectations from me. Ultimately, their early feedback allowed me to have a very successful launch and first year of the company.”

“A mentor’s job is to provide knowledge, inspiration, and feedback to help light way,” adds Demi Marchese, founder of 12th Tribe. “You have to be comfortable enough to be constructive and not be afraid of critiquing their work. Don’t beat around the bush. Understand who you are speaking to, their needs, their strengths and where they want to go.”

  1. Motivate and inspire.

“The key for me personally is to influence and inspire the next generation to become strong, motivated, confident, and thoughtful leaders,” says Laurel Berman, founder and creative director of Black Halo. “If I’m able to accomplish that, I consider the mentorship a success.”

Adds Marchese, “Part of your role is inspiring your mentee to reach their fullest potential and challenging their comfort zone. Help them achieve the uncomfortable.”

Pro tip: A little goes a long way. Send an article when you see something relevant for your mentee—you’ll see how a small act can have a tremendous impact.

  1. Establish mutual respect.

“The relationship should be based on mutual respect, trust and support,” says Maryann Bruce, former president of Evergreen Investments Services. “The partnership needs to foster acceptance and safety where both parties feel safe enough to communicate openly and take risks without the threat of being judged, ridiculed or condescended to.”

One of the biggest ways to show respect for someone is by valuing their time. When you mentor someone, the truth is, you may be in a position of power and your time may be in fact more valuable—but that’s irrelevant. To you, this may be a quick call, but to your mentee, this may be the most important meeting of the day—so treat it as such.

 Be present and open.

“Show up, engage and participate,” says Berman. “They say that showing up is half the battle, but when you do show up, it’s crucial to be fully present, proactive and take initiative. Be prepared to share your experiences, both positive and negative.”

“Mentors should be open and honest with their mentees,” adds Melissa Musgrove, vice president, head of social media at Regions Financial Corporation. “Be willing to make time to offer advice, but also realize that no two career paths are the same, and the mentee’s decisions and career path are ultimately up to them. Oftentimes, mentors have just as much to learn as mentees. So look not only for what advice you can give, but also use it as an opportunity to learn from someone who has a different perspective and background.”

If everyone who read the articles and like it, that would be favorable to have your donations – Thank you.

 

 

 

How To Find The Perfect Recruiter For Your Job Search (And Get Them To Respond) – Mike Podesto

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Searching for a job is difficult, especially for the more senior level roles. Finding the perfect recruiter for your job search can save you a ton of time and effort. In this article, I will explain what a recruiter is, how to find them and what to do when you finally find them.

A recruiter’s job is to help hiring managers and companies find talent for their open positions. Notice how I didn’t say: A recruiter’s job is to help job seekers find companies that fit their skills. That’s almost never the case. Since recruiters are paid by the companies, it only makes sense for them to cater towards the hiring company’s needs.

Where To Find The Perfect Recruiter

There is no better place to find recruiters than LinkedIn.com. According to a 2016 survey from Jobvite, 87 percent of recruiters find LinkedIn most effective when vetting candidates during the hiring process. During my time as a recruiter, LinkedIn was responsible for nearly 90 percent of the hires that I made.

There is always the possibility that a recruiter will find you, but I would highly recommend being proactive about your job search, rather than waiting for something to come your way. This is especially true for senior-level job seekers. The higher you climb the corporate ladder, the fewer jobs you will find that match your salary and job title. Networking becomes extremely important as a senior level executive because it is no longer as simple as going to a job board and quickly applying to jobs.

How To Find The Perfect Recruiter

After navigating to LinkedIn, click on the search bar at the top of the page. Next, type in the kind of role you are looking for, followed by “recruiter.” In this example, I’ll use the keywords “sales recruiter.” Most recruiter profiles will not state the exact roles that they recruit for but will mention a general area of focus such as “sales, marketing, engineering or finance.” Notice how I did not mention anything related to seniority (Manager, Director, VP).

Once you enter your search, you will notice a huge number of recruiters. I have over 138,000 results for the search “sales recruiter.” To filter this list a bit further, click on the “Locations” tab. You will see a drop-down menu, where you can enter the location(s) where you are looking to work. Click the “Apply” button. By filtering my search to San Francisco alone, my results went from 45,412 to 1,877. This is a significant difference and will save you a lot of time when looking for the perfect recruiter to help with your job search. If you still have a large number of results (over 100), try using additional filters.

Additional LinkedIn Search Filters

Next, use the “Connections” filter. Any sort of warm introduction you can get to your target recruiter will go a long way. Business owners and senior level professionals should excel in this, as they should have a solid amount of connections.

In my experience, a third-degree connection is likely to respond 10 percent of the time, a second-degree connection will respond 25 percent of the time and a first-degree connection will respond 50 percent of the time.

Filter the “Connections” tab to focus specifically on first-degree connections. If you don’t have enough first-degree connections, try second-degree ones and then third. By filtering to first-degree only, I was able to refine my search results from 1,877 to 231. Of course, your search results will vary from mine, but you get the idea.

 With 231 solid results, it’s time to start networking.
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Craft Your Message

Recruiters receive dozens of messages each day. That’s why it is crucial to say something that will set you apart from the low quality, templated messages requesting favors. Try something catchy. The less promotional your message is, the more likely you will receive a response and build a genuine relationship (something you should desperately want with recruiters).

A LinkedIn connection of mine, Kacy Knight, uses the following messages, for example. I encourage you to draw inspiration from them:

“Mike … I love your content and think your company is awesome. While I can’t promise that I’ll provide a ridiculous amount of ‘value,’ I make this promise: If we’re ever working together during a zombie apocalypse, you’ll likely survive as I’m a super slow runner and I’m sure you’ll get away while they eat me.”

“I’ve been following your company and am a huge fan. I’d love to connect. I get it if you’re reluctant. I’ll tell you this, I’m pretty strong. If we connect and start developing a relationship now, it won’t be awkward if you ask me to help move a refrigerator down a couple flights of stairs later. You in?”

Notice how these messages are not asking for favors, advice, handouts, a job, etc. They are solid attempts at building a relationship with the individual you are contacting.

Give it a try yourself. Reach out to someone you admire on LinkedIn and play around with different messages. The more you are willing to try, the faster you will find what works for you. Start building relationships now, before you need to cash out on your kindness. It will pay off tenfold in the future.

If everyone who read the articles and like it, that would be favorable to have your donations – Thank you.

Restaurant POS Lightspeed Announces iOS Integrations – Michael Guta

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Lightspeed has announced it is integrating Intuit QuickBooks Online and Planday so retailers and restaurateurs can efficiently manage their finances and workforce within the iOS ecosystem.

Lightspeed iOS Integration

Intuit is going to bring its payroll solution, while Planday will provide a workforce management platform. Together with Lightspeed’s cloud-based point-of-sale systems, the collaboration will give independent businesses in both industries a fully integrated finance and employee scheduling capability.

All three companies are Apple Mobility Partners, which will ensure a “compatibility issue free” integration. For many independent retailers and restaurant owners, who are in the small business segment, having the technology they choose work out of the box is extremely important. And the relationship between the three companies plays a role in this.

Julian Teixeira, VP of Sales, Lightspeed, explained the significance of the relationship in the press release. He said, “This relationship ushers in a new era of ease and innovation for our customers. With this integration, we are delivering one experience to retail and restaurant customers to help them save time, make more money, and improve data accuracy through automatic syncing of all systems.”

Benefits of the Integration

The applications of all three companies are going to be integrated into the iOS platform to deliver a seamless user experience. According to Lightspeed, this will save businesses time and money while being able to engage with their employees more effectively.

When Lightspeed users get on their iPhone or iPad, they will be able to deliver a better customer experience because they will be able to see a comprehensive picture of their business. Owners will have a centralized location where they can manage and report on their entire inventory.

Anytime there is a sale, the information automatically goes from Lightspeed into the correct ledger in Intuit QuickBooks Online.  And when it comes to scheduling your workforce, Planday lets owners plan shifts based on expected revenue while managing individual or group communications.

While these functions are taking place, the three platforms are communicating with each other. So the information on sales, worker times and attendance will go from Planday and Lightspeed into Intuit QuickBooks Online to run payroll.

What this means for the small business operator is no more wasted time creating reports for each task because they will be consolidated.

Christian Broendum, CEO, Planday, said it best as to how retailers and restauranteurs will benefit from this integration, “Ensuring the right employees are in position and with the right team size during busy or quiet periods is key to success, but this has been a real admin challenge for operators. The combined solution represents a significant step in solving this equation with the minimum of effort.

If everyone who read the articles and like it, that would be favorable to have your donations – Thank you.

25 Sure Fire Ways to Boost Twitter Engagement – Brendan Schneider

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As a school marketer, you already are aware of the opportunity Twitter presents to you as a tool for reaching out to parents and prospective parents. With more than 330 million users on Twitter, it’s easy to see why it is one of the platforms most school marketers say benefits their school.

But here’s the challenge – how do you get the right Twitter users (also known as Tweeps) to engage with your posts and click on your content?

Almost every school marketer has been in the position where they are churning out a mountain of content, and no one ever seems to want to interact with it. It’s easy to get frustrated when the last three tweets linking to your latest genius blog post don’t get noticed.

In this post, I’m going to take a deeper dive into Twitter engagement. We will look at what Twitter engagement is, how to measure it and why it matters. I will also give you 25 strategies you can use to increase your engagement and click-through-rate (CTR) on Twitter.

Types of Twitter Engagement

Twitter engagement is when someone engages with the content that you post in your tweets. To be considered engagement, Twitter users can:

  • Reply to your Tweet
  • Engage with someone who replied to your Tweet
  • Retweet your Tweet
  • Like your Tweet
  • Direct Message you
  • Add you to a List
  • Add your Tweet to a Moment
  • Follow and unfollow you
  • Mention you in a Tweet by using your Twitter Handle
  • Click on your link

Engagement is one of the main purposes of having a Twitter account – to send interested, engaged traffic to your website and/or blog. Just remember that if someone isn’t following you, they can’t see your postings.

What You Should Know About Twitter Engagement

Before we get into the specific Twitter engagement strategies, it’s a good idea to understand the Twitter environment in which you are trying to engage. (Source: 61 Social Media Statistics to Bookmark for 2018)

  1. Twitter users prefer content and engagement

15% of Twitter users will unfollow a brand within three weeks if they are not making an effort to engage them, such as posting relevant content and engaging with them

  1. Active Twitter users are on Twitter every day

Out of all active Twitter users, 81% are active at least once a day, 15% access Twitter more than 10x a day, and 60% tweet at least once a day

  1. Twitter users like to engage with brands

49% of Twitter users are following brands

  1. Twitter users prefer to use Twitter for customer service

19% of active Twitter users seek customer support on Twitter

  1. Twitter users prefer visuals

Visual content (i.e., images, graphics, infographics, and videos) get 150% more engagement on average than text-only tweets

  1. Twitter users prefer to use their mobile devices

82% of active Twitter users accessed it through a mobile device

  1. Millennials are active Twitter users

81% of millennials in the U.S. view their Twitter account on a daily basis

Why Twitter Engagement Matters

Interaction on Twitter offers a great deal of benefits to your school.

Engagement on Twitter (except when it goes really wrong) will enable you to build and foster relationships with parents and potential parents. If they are interacting with your content, they are interested in your school, and may even be sharing it. This is especially true if you’re responding to them and having conversations, even if they are brief.

Once you start getting click-throughs to your website and/or blog, you will be gaining more visitors, inquiries, and enrollments.

Also, when you garner retweets or mentions, you’re expanding your reach – for free.

Twitter engagement can drive results, so it’s worth measuring the results and adjusting your campaigns to improve the performance of your Twitter campaigns.

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How to Increase Twitter Engagement and Link Clicks

Here are 25 strategies you can use to increase Twitter engagement for your school. You will want to test these strategies to determine what will work best for your school.

  1. Build an audience by following others

You want to consistently grow your followers by following others. Find the best followers by using Twitter Advanced Search to laser-focus your search criteria. Just remember to thin out your Followers (I use ManageFlitter to do this) because you want to maintain a balance between the number of people following you and the number of people or brands you follow. One strategy I like to use to build my Twitter audience is to find local influencers and search through their followers to find potential followers.

  1. Engage with other content

Yes, the Golden Rule works on Twitter. If you want others to engage with your content, you need to engage with theirs first. Like, reply to and retweet others content. When you engage with other Twitter users’ content, they will be more likely to pay attention to your content. This can help to build social proof over time, which is valuable on all social channels.

Not only will this increase engagement, but it will also help you build relationships with your followers, expanding your reach both on – and off – Twitter.

  1. Retweet other users’ tweets

Another golden rule and retweets are golden in the Twitterverse (yes, it’s a thing!)  Retweeting is a form of engagement that Twitter users value a great deal – not only are you saying you Like their content, but you value it enough to share it. Reciprocity is an important part of why people choose to follow and engage with your school. By retweeting, you will have a better chance of connecting with them.

  1. Keep your tweets short

Twitter only allows 140 characters in each tweet, to begin with, but the best practice is to keep your tweets really short – like 80 – 110 characters. This is for several reasons. Leaving space for more characters allows users the opportunity to add their own tags and @Mentions, making it easier for others to retweet. Several research studies have found that shorter tweets have a higher level of engagement.

  1. Share a variety of content topics that include links

While it is important, of course, to include links to your most valuable content, you also want to share curated content as well. With social media, you never want to make it all about your brand. No one wants to feel they are being “sold” to all the time.

  1. Respond when someone tweets you

This can be especially challenging for large schools that have a lot of engagement. However, it’s best to respond to users that engage with your school as soon as possible. Sending an actual response tweet is usually the most powerful and effective. If you receive criticism or they seem upset, respond to them quickly and make the conversation private (i.e., Direct Message) as soon as possible.

Responding when someone tweets you increases the chances they will engage with your future posts.

  1. Know the best times to post

There are certain times of the day or days of the week when your active Twitter followers are more likely to be online. You will get more views and engagement if you post during your peak hours.

Most studies have shown that posting between noon and 3 pm Mondays – Fridays is a peak time, while other studies have found that 5 pm Monday – Friday or noon and 6 pm offers the best CTR.

Most social media scheduling tools (I use Buffer and SproutSocial) make it easy to distribute content during the best days and times for your school. It’s always a good idea to test your posting schedule to ensure you are posting during the best times for your social media platforms and audience.

  1. Always provide high-quality content

People don’t want to waste time, especially on a microblogging site like Twitter. Schools should seek to provide value through information, inspiration or entertainment. Providing value, in whatever form you choose, is among the most important factors for success with content marketing. Value will keep potential parents coming back and staying interested, and, best of all, engaging with and clicking on the tweet you’re posting.

  1. Always use hashtags

Hashtags play an important role on Twitter. Just like with Instagram, hashtags are part of the Twitter culture. But they are functional too. Hashtags help people find what they are looking for when they are searching. Hashtags also are used to emphasize core points you want to make.

Tweets with hashtags are retweeted 33% more often than tweets without hashtags. However, less can be more. Tweets with only one hashtag receive 69% more retweets than tweets with two or more hashtags.

For this reason, it is best practice to use only one hashtag per tweet. Also, remember that using a trending hashtag will help increase engagement and impressions.

Want to know how to research the best hashtag for your tweet? Click here to learn more.

  1. Include images

Visuals are important on all social media channels; Twitter is no exception. Images are important on Twitter because you are limited to the number of characters you can use. Case studies have shown that tweets with images receive 313% more engagement.

While you can use up to 4 images per tweet, including at least one image will drive extra engagement.

  1. Post videos

While images can get more attention than plain text tweets, videos will outperform images. Twitter Video allows you to upload an existing video directly from your smartphone. The time is limited to 30 seconds, but you will lose most of your audience after 30 seconds anyway.

Most Twitter users – 82 % – watch videos right from the Twitter platform. Native videos will drive more engagement than videos from third party players.

Video is a great way to share stories about your school, offer a day-in-the-life look, evoke emotion and highlight your Twitter presence. Videos are a dynamic way to boost your engagement.

  1. Ask for retweets

Asking for retweets has been shown to be an effective strategy – as long as you don’t overuse it. When you have something really important you want people to share, say “Please RT” or “Please share” at the end of your tweet. If you use “Please RT” all the time, people will just ignore your request, so use this tactic sparingly.

  1. Don’t over tweet

If you tweet too much – especially if you tweet the same content over and over – you will see your engagement decrease. Most studies show that tweeting 1 to 3 times per day is ideal. Posting more than four times per day will negatively impact your audience.

  1. Space out your tweets

When you’re sending out your 1 – 4 tweets during the day, don’t send them all at once. Be sure to space your tweets out over the day. This will increase the number of people who see it and help to increase your engagement.

  1. Use simple, clear language

You are limited in the number of characters you can use, so don’t try to be clever or speak in riddles. Get right to the point and make it easy for people to grasp what you’re trying to communicate. You do want to pique your audience’s interest, so use language that will make others want to pay attention and take the action you are inviting them to take.

  1. Ask questions

This is a very common tactic for drawing people in. People want to share their opinions and experiences, so ask them! Asking questions will increase engagement and give you valuable insight into the type of content they are interested in and want more of in the future.

  1. Use power words

Using power words and superlatives in your blog will increase engagement. You want to provoke curiosity and evoke an emotional response from your audience. If you’re not sure what power words to use, or you just want some ideas, CoSchedule offers a free download of 500 power word for writing emotional headlines. They also offer a free headline analyzer you can use to evaluate your headline – or tweet.

  1. Talk about important people in your area

When you interact with an influencer in your area (i.e., school board member, mayor, etc.), it can help to get new eyes on you. On Twitter, talking about or tagging an important person can be enough to get more engagement and new followers. Use the @Mention feature whenever it’s appropriate; you might build a stronger relationship with the person you’re mentioning as well as getting more engagement.

  1. Use Twitter Cards

Twitter Cards are a great way to add more content to your tweet. You can use a summary card, photo card or product card. Twitter Cards are larger, which attracts more attention to it, as well as enriching your post. To learn more about how to set up and use Twitter Cards, link here.

  1. Use shortened links

Twitter has such a limited number of characters; you don’t want to waste them on long, ugly links. Most social media schedulers will have a built-in link shortener. Some WordPress themes come with a link shortener, or you can install a plugin like Pretty Links. Many social media managers use Bitly, Tiny URL, Goo.gl or Bit.do.

  1. Recycle your best content

If you posted content and it performed well, you can extend it by using it again. Many schools recycle their best content, making sure to get more eyes on their high-quality tweets, videos, and links. Most content is missed the first time it is posted; and even if people see it more than once, most won’t even notice the replication.

Many social media schedulers allow you to repost content and offer an easy way for you to change up the tweet. Make sure to stagger your postings when you are reusing content. Repost on different days, at different times and put a few weeks in between your posts as well.

Of course, you don’t want to recycle content that relies on timelines like breaking news, holidays, events or certain trending topics.)

  1. Include a call-to-action (CTA)

People want to know what they should do next after reading your post. Use action words to inspire Twitter users to, well, take action. Some examples include:

  • Learn more
  • Download
  • Follow Us
  • Please Help (good for nonprofits)
  • Visit Our Site
  • Place an Inquiry
  • Shop Our Sale

Use the word “free” whenever it’s appropriate is a good idea. Twitter users love giveaways and freebies!

  1. Alternate between “titles” and “text” copy

Switch up your tweet copy between using headlines and regular copy. If you have an attention-grabbing title, you will attract interest, but don’t forget about interesting statistics and data within your content. Often, that type of copy will increase engagement.

  1. Invest in Twitter Ads

Twitter Ads are a good way to increase your engagement, especially if you want to grow your follower-base. Twitter Ads do cost money, and can be more expensive than Facebook Ads. However, most Twitter users that invest in Twitter advertising have found that Twitter’s click-through rate (CTR) is higher than Facebook advertising. Promoted tweets are the best type of advertising for increasing engagement.

Create a Twitter Ad by locating the tab on the same dropdown menu where you find Twitter Analytics, which you can find by clicking on your logo next to the Tweet button in the upper right corner.

  1. Consider using a Twitter Conversational Ad

Conversational Ads are designed to increase engagement and brand influence. They are similar to promoted tweets, but come with the addition of a CTA that encourages users to tweet with hashtags you can customize and choose.

When a Twitter user clicks on the CTA, the tweet will open with a pre-populated message that users can then customize and share, after which they will be automatically thanked.

Twitter Conversational Ads are a great tool to use to grow engagement for your school.

Besides paid advertising, most of these Twitter engagement strategies are free and only require a small amount of extra time in addition to the content you may already be creating for Twitter. There are millions of Twitter users out there – you just have to find the right strategies to get your target audience to engage with your school.

As you continue to drive engagement and increase your CTR on Twitter, you’ll most certainly increase the number of inquiries over time by sending traffic to your website and blog. Twitter engagement will help you build rapport, trust and positive relationships with your potential parents, and ultimately, your school’s enrollment.

What strategies have worked best for your school to increase engagement on Twitter? Please share with other school marketers in the comments below.

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Give Your Employees Kudos on LinkedIn – Michael Guta

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Recognizing your employees for what they do has a bigger impact than most owners or managers may realize. LinkedIn is addressing this very issue with a new feature it calls Kudos so you can show your appreciation to everyone with whom you work.

The simple act of saying thank you goes a long way to making your employees feel valued, and forgetting to say it or to show your appreciation can have the opposite effect. So much so it can cost your company money.

For small businesses, it becomes even more important because retaining employees is that much harder, especially in today’s highly competitive tight labor market. The LinkedIn Kudos application makes it easier and a good practice.

LinkedIn Product Manager, Hermes Alvarez, writing on the LinkedIn Official Blog, explains:

“Saying thank you and recognizing others is also something we see happening frequently on LinkedIn, so we wanted to make it even easier for you to give a shout-out to those that make a difference in your week. With LinkedIn Kudos, you now have a fun and easy way to share your appreciation for people in your professional community.”

Sending Your Appreciation via LinkedIn Kudos

There are 10 different categories you can choose from including Thank You, Going above and beyond, Team Player and more. To use the app, Alvarez says you simply:

  • Open your LinkedIn app on iOS or Android,
  • Tap the ribbon icon in the share box at the top of your feed,
  • Pick one or more connections to whom you want to send kudos,
  • Select one of the 10 kudos categories available, including “Team Player,” “Amazing Mentor,” or “Inspirational Leader,”
  • Then simply post to share your kudos with the person or people you selected,
  • Your team members will receive a notification letting them know about the shout-out and will see it in their feeds.

How Important is Recognizing the People You Work With?

According to the Harvard Business Review, one of the easiest things you can do as a boss is recognizing great work. In a study cited by the publication, 87% of employees at companies with strong recognition practices report a good relationship with their direct manager compared to just 51% at companies lacking these practices.

As it gets much harder to find the best talent in today’s labor market, small business owners must do all they can to ensure their employees stay for as long as possible. Using the LinkedIn Kudos application to show appreciation for a job well done is one of the ways to approach this.

If everyone who read the articles and like it, that would be favorable to have your donations – Thank you.

Why Live Chat Isn’t Just For Customer Service Anymore – Sara Yin

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According to an eConsultancy report, for every $92 spent acquiring prospects only $1 is spent converting them. Sure, that dollar could give you returns in spades, but in reality the odds of that are no better than a craps table in Las Vegas. The average conversion rate for your typical marketing stack – things like forms, paid advertising or mass email – hovers around the 2% mark.

The report is a bit dated, but the underlying thinking persists: companies still spend disproportionately on acquisition and neglect conversion.

To paraphrase Tom Goodwin, isn’t it odd that we’ll spend billions of dollars trying to have a conversation with consumers, and in the rare moment we do, we consider it too expensive?

Perhaps that’s because the value of having these conversations isn’t clear. To establish that value, we analyzed an aggregate dataset of 20 million live chat messages sent through Intercom to demonstrate the potential for live chat as a channel for converting visitors and driving actual revenue for your business.

Here’s what we found (or scroll down for the full, embeddable infographic).

1. Live chat delights your visitors – and your finance team

live chat conversions

Having conversations with your website visitors really does pay off. According to our data, website visitors are 82% more likely to convert to customers if they’ve chatted with you first. What’s more, their accounts are worth 13% more than those where the business didn’t have a conversation before sign up. Leaning into real-time conversations isn’t just a nice-to-have, it’s great for capturing and converting website visitors too.

Key takeaway: Live chat is a powerful (and underrated) channel for converting visitors into valuable customers. When someone visits your site, they’re more receptive to chatting with a salesperson than, say, when they receive an unsolicited LinkedIn message.

2. Even a short conversation can pay off

live chat etiquetteA common misperception about live chat is that effective conversations need to be long and time-consuming. On the contrary, a quick, real-time connection makes a big difference. We’ve found that just one reply in the messenger can increase the likelihood of conversion by 50%; one more reply makes that visitor 100% more likely to convert. A simple conversation with 6 exchanged messages makes a visitor 250% more likely to become a customer.

Key takeaway: Live chatting for business isn’t like chatting with a good friend, but the more you chat, the more likely you’ll convert them.

3. Consider where you really want to chat

live chat on websiteDon’t assume your homepage is the only place to install a messenger. According to our data, visitors are actually 45% more likely to convert on pages other than the homepage.

Key takeaway: Think about the visitor’s motivation for visiting a certain page and where they’re most likely to need a real-time response. Perhaps that’s on your pricing page when they are trying to choose between options, or perhaps it’s on a promotional landing page when they’ve clicked on an ad and are trying to figure out how your product fits their needs.

4. Bots augment your (human) sales team

live chat bots
The best chatbots are like an SDR’s secret personal assistant. They streamline their jobs by taking on repetitive tasks, i.e. booking meetings, collecting lead information and suggesting help articles, so the SDR can focus on higher cognitive tasks. Indeed, our data shows that conversations with bots convert 36% better, likely because a bot can respond faster than humans for most repetitive tasks.But in our opinion they they should never pretend to be humans, nor should they completely replace humans, who are still more efficient at converting leads into customers (amongst other human-y things, like sensing low-level rage 😡).

Key takeaway: Humans and bots make a lean, mean sales machine. But ultimately, humans are still better than bots for qualifying leads and shouldn’t replace them anytime soon.

Bottom line: it pays to chat

live chat on website

Live chat bridges the gap between the personal, timely service that makes us loyal customers in real life with the extensibility of software and the ROI of automation.

You certainly don’t need to use our live chat solution to experience these benefits, but some of our customers have experienced solid results:

  • Tradeshift’s sales team increased sales opportunities by 32% with our live chat.
  • At Salesloft, Intercom drives 40% of sales demos booked, an 8X improvement over their previous live chat tool.
  • After one month with Intercom, Prosperworks achieved 25% more leads and nearly 20 new opportunities.

Thanks to intelligent automations such as conversation routing, CRM integrations and chatbots, live chat is on the cusp of being the most efficient way to capture and convert leads.

If everyone who read the articles and like it, that would be favorable to have your donations – Thank you.

53% of Small Business Owners Worry Over Cost of Healthcare – Michael Guta

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A recent survey of America’s small business owners suggests more than half or 53% count the cost of providing healthcare insurance for their employees as a key concern.

Worried About the Cost of Small Business Health Insurance

Healthcare costs eat up a huge chunk of the small business operation budget. According to the NFIB’s Index of Small Business Optimism, the biggest challenge for small business owners is healthcare. And the eHealth report, Small Business Health Insurance: Costs, Trends and Insights 2017 indicates close to 80% of small business owners worry about the cost.

While in most cases small business owners operate locally, developments outside their region and other macro trends may also have an impact. These issues include everything from higher healthcare costs to taxes and regulations which affect day to day operations.

In the press release announcing the SmallBiz Loans survey, company CEO Evan Singer points out how these trends affect owners. Singer explains, “The survey illustrates that small business owners are aware of macro trends that may impact their business. But their focus is instead on the day-to-day functions of running their company. And the great news is that the new tax plan is helping to drive immediate growth.”

The new tax plan is important to many small business owners too. According to the survey, 52% of respondents gave changes in the new tax law as a key business consideration. The new tax law has been cited by 35% of business owners as a driver for making changes in their operations, with 10% reporting they are making additional investments in new staff and equipment.

But challenges in recruiting talent also rate high. In this time of low unemployment, finding talent is becoming a big problem for businesses of all sizes. In the survey, 49% of business owners reported finding and hiring quality employees is a top concern. And when it comes to hiring new talent, for nine out of 10 of the respondents experience is more of a priority than education.

As it becomes harder to find qualified employees, 31% of respondents to the survey said they are willing to hire candidates with fewer qualifications and train them. At the same time, small businesses are providing more incentives, with 51% of owners offering flexible working arrangements and another 33% higher wages.

Regarding how small business owners feel about the economy, close to 57% of owners said they remain bullish, stating their outlook over the next 12 months was fairly positive or positive. And as some businesses look to grow, they will require funding.

Funding was another key issue touched upon. Securing this funding is getting easier according to 22% of respondents. But getting this capital has become more expensive, with 49% saying they agree or strongly agree the price of credit has gone up.

The survey was carried out from April 9 through April 17, 2018, with the participation of 289 small business owners across the United States. They were questioned on several subjects including financing, growth plans for the year, hiring, talent, and concern for their businesses.

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A Few Thoughts For Entrepreneurs Wrestling With Depression – Chris Myers

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This has been a hard week for those of us who care deeply about depression and the people who wrestle with it.

Both entrepreneur/designer Kate Spade and chef/TV personality Anthony Bourdain took their own lives this week, leaving many to wonder why people who seemed to have it all would go to such lengths.

If I’ve learned anything during my entrepreneurial journey, it’s that people who have ambition, vision, and big dreams tend to suffer from what author Nassir Ghaemi calls “A first-rate madness.” The genius is often offset by battles with personal demons.

That there is a link between creativity and mental illness is known to some extent, details regarding that link are mostly unknown.

Entrepreneurs are, if nothing else, creators. They thrive on the unknown and live to create something out of nothing. With that drive, however, comes an increased risk of depression and mental illness.

While I don’t claim to know precisely what happened in these particular cases, I do know that the stresses of living a high-profile, creative, or entrepreneurial can take their toll on people, both physically and emotionally.

I want to be very clear about one thing. I don’t have all the answers. Like everyone else, I’m just trying to find my way in a complicated and challenging world.

I have, however, learned a few things along my personal entrepreneurial and creative journey that have helped me navigate challenging situations, particularly in regards to stress, anxiety, and depression.

Let’s be honest about the difference between mental illness and circumstance

Perhaps the most important lesson I’ve learned is that there is a stark difference between mental illness and the shared human response to challenging circumstances with which we are forced to deal.

For so long there was a stigma associated with mental illness, and people were afraid to entertain the idea that they might be suffering from its effects. Fortunately, this stigma is starting to give way to a more honest and understanding view of the matter. Whether you’re an entrepreneur or not, you have to ask yourself “Have I suffered from panic, anxiety, or depression my whole life, or is this something new?”

If you find that your feelings and sufferings are part of a larger pattern, please don’t be afraid to talk to a medical professional.

In many cases, anxiety and other symptoms are biological. No matter what you try to do, or how you try to cope, you won’t be able to run away from the underlying biological problem. There are, fortunately, solutions and treatments out there that can help.

If what you’re experiencing is relatively new for you, there’s a reasonable chance that it is mostly circumstantial. This is where I can offer some insight, having dealt with this type of emotional stress firsthand.

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Keep things in perspective

A few years ago, Business Insider published a great article about the depression epidemic in the startup community. According to the article, only 7% of the general population report suffering from depression, but a whopping 30% of founders report dealing with its effects.

That statistic is staggering but entirely believable.

Entrepreneurship is an intensely personal journey, and it’s incredibly difficult to separate your identity from the business that you’re trying to create. Soon, business setbacks (of which there are many) seem like personal setbacks, and depression can quickly take root.

The key is always to strive to keep things in perspective. Life, like business, is a journey full of ups and downs.

When talking to entrepreneurs and other creatives going through tough times, I often encourage them to think back to high school. For most of us, there were moments in our high school lives that seemed to be monumentally crucial that in retrospect seem childish.

At the time, of course, the pain and anxiety that you experienced were real and raw. However, the more distance you gain from the situation, the less painful it becomes.

While the problems that you’re facing right here and right now may seem insurmountable, it’s important to realize these too will pass and fade in time.

Entrepreneurs have to accept the fact that the odds are stacked against their success. Most new business ventures fail, and even those that are eventually successful take a long time to get off the ground.

Setbacks will outnumber successes, and there’s a good chance that most days will be stressful. That’s the game we chose to play and the ability to embrace these realities is what makes us entrepreneurs.

Still, when challenges pile up, it’s easy to feel like the world is ending and that we’re failures. I recently had lunch with a good friend who was in the process of shuttering his third startup in seven years.

During our conversation, I reminded him that in his brief career to date, he’s accomplished more than the vast majority of people do in decades.

His pedigree and experience put him in the top one percent of people in his age group, and, as a result, his opportunities are vast. Sure, the latest venture didn’t work out, but he can and will live to fight another day.

Wherever you’re at this point in your life, there is an excellent chance that your current endeavor will not be your last. In fact, many of the most successful entrepreneurs in the world hit their stride on the second or third attempt.

Consider the case of Mark Cuban. Before he struck it big by selling his business to Yahoo, Cuban had a string of failures.  After failing as a cook, carpenter, and even a waiter he remarked, “I’ve learned that it doesn’t matter how many times you failed. You only have to be right once. I tried to sell powdered milk. I was an idiot lots of times, and I learned from them all.”

The lesson here is that there are second (and third and fourth) acts in life, and it’s important to remember that whenever you encounter failure.

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Don’t be afraid to get help

I’m fortunate in the sense that I have a fantastic support network I can call on when I need help. My family and friends are always there when I need them, whether it’s to listen to my struggles or to lend a hand.

Not everyone is as lucky. Entrepreneurs need to be able to reach out and get help when they need it. This can be difficult in a world where everyone feels the need to be “crushing it” all the time. Asking for help can be seen as a sign of weakness, which leads to people merely keeping their difficulties to themselves.

We in the entrepreneurial and creative communities need to change this mentality. People should feel free to get help without the fear of judgment, and it’s going to take a few strong influencers to initiate the change.

I know a few people in the industry who care about this deeply, including Structure Capital (a team of high-profile venture investors based out of San Francisco), but more are needed. There are good people out there who want to help. It’s just a matter of having the courage to reach out.

There will be bumps, setbacks, and even catastrophic failures on any worthwhile journey, but remember that you’re not alone. Keep your challenges in perspective and live to fight another day.

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