5 Tips for Building a Strong Brand Identity

What’s in a name? Everything: A vibrant brand is what keeps a prospective customer interested long enough to view your offerings.

“Know thyself.” It’s an old saying, but one more business owners would do well to heed. There are many brand-related mistakes an entrepreneur can make, like overdoing an ad campaign or not being transparent about your products, but perhaps the biggest mistake an entrepreneur can make is having a poorly defined brand identity.  And yet, it happens all the time.

Why is this such a big deal? Think about when you go to a job interview, you will probably dress a certain way, highlight key experience or maybe even modulate your voice to be different than it would be in casual conversation. Essentially, you’ve created a persona that you hope will be favorable to your employability. In this same way, your brand is the persona of a company, and it will be your customer’s first impression.

With that in mind, here are five airtight tips for developing a strong brand identity.

1. You’re selling your brand, not a product.

Product-centric marketing may have been the wisdom before, but now, in our rapid-fire digital age, you’ve got about 20 seconds to make your impression.  And that’s just not long enough for the excellence of your product to shine through. What will keep your leads with you long enough to convert to sales is the impression, or perception, you cultivate, which basically means your brand. It won’t matter how good your product is if your brand doesn’t excite people: They will simply go elsewhere, and quickly.

2. Your brand should reflect who you really are.

Sure, you should think long and hard about what a customer wants to see and experience. That’s key. But it’s also key to think about who you are as a business, and to let that dictate your branding and marketing.

For example, if you are a web page designer who specializes in simple, modern designs, why is all your copy in an old-school serif font? Wouldn’t it make more sense for your stuff to be in something sleeker like Helvetica? These seem like minor decisions, but each informs the consumer’s sense of who you are and what you deliver. This creates a favorable, authentic relationship between your business and your customers, and buys you invaluable time for that relationship to gel before your client clicks away to a competitor.

3. You are only as good as your art and copy.

It’s important to stress the huge role that your art and copy has in making up your brand identity. Let’s say people go to your landing page and find a design relic from the Geocities era, along with copy that promotes your business as “specializing in the cross-platform application of digital solutions”. Not only will they not know what you do, they won’t care.

Related: The Psychology of Color in Marketing and Branding

Your landing page should have descriptive copy that your potential clients can relate to, with design that reflects modern UX best practices. This applies no matter what your business is and how big you are.

4. It’s OK to rebrand.

You may have read this far and noticed some mistakes you’ve made in your own branding. Don’t worry. It’s perfectly okay to rebrand, particularly if you feel like you need to change your company’s perception in the eyes of potential clients. For instance, the venerable Ford is currently undergoing a major rebranding project to compete with modern car service companies like Uber and Lyft. If you rebrand sensibly, you won’t frighten away anybody: on the contrary, your business will grow. And this also applies to smaller companies: in 2013, a middling, security company called SafeMart evaluated its brand strategy and reemerged as LiveWatch. They’ve since won numerous industry awards and government grants.

5. Don’t resort to gimmicks.

One final tip, which is something of a mild warning: don’t substitute gimmicks for hard work and reflection. If your brand identity is not where it should be, no amount of crummy ebooks, webinars, or SEO strategies can save it.

Want to Start Your Own Business? 15 Signs You Were Born to Be an Entrepreneur

Even if if you haven’t started a company. (At least not yet.)

In many ways, entrepreneurs are just like everyone else: they come from all types of backgrounds, a variety of demographics, they possess different levels of education and experience and skill….

Yet when you look closely you’ll see that in some ways, entrepreneurs are very, very different, even if they aren’t officially entrepreneurs — yet.

Here are some of the qualities that Joel Basgall, the co-founder and CEO of Geneca, the custom software development firm and six-time Inc. 5000 honoree, feels that people who start businesses — and people who may not have started a business, but definitely have an entrepreneurial mindset — possess that set them apart:

1. They believe nothing is sacred.

Entrepreneurs don’t say, “Well, that’s just the way it is.”

Entrepreneurs never feel what is must always be. Perspectives can be shifted. Laws of physics can be broken. Conventional wisdom may not be wisdom at all.

Even when something huge stands in their way, entrepreneurs know there’s a way around it–they just need to figure it out. Changing a paradigm makes new things possible.

2. They love solving problems.

Entrepreneurs constantly look for problems to solve: sometimes little, sometimes big, sometimes technical, sometimes business- or team-related. Drop entrepreneurs into a static situation and they’ll create “problems” they can solve.

3. They’re great at self-assessment.

Why? They constantly evaluate what they do, and then work hard to be even better tomorrow than they are today.

Entrepreneurs are honest with themselves.

4. They embrace nontechnical feedback.

Entrepreneurs readily take input from others. And they definitely don’t put up barriers to feedback–feedback, especially critical feedback, is just another problem to solve. Becoming better is more important than their egos.

That’s because entrepreneurs don’t see feedback as threatening–feedback is enlightening. Plus they, like employee-entrepreneurs, know they need a lot more feedback on interpersonal skills and personal growth than on technical skills.

Why? Technical issues are obvious. Because they are constantly self-assessing, entrepreneurs know their technical limitations better than anyone else. But what other issues might be standing in their way?

If you see what they need to improve on and tell them, you become their hero, because now they can solve a problem they weren’t aware of.

5. They hate playing politics.

Entrepreneurs can’t stand playing politics–and to some degree, people who play politics. They don’t care about jockeying for promotions or trying to be “right” in a meeting.

An entrepreneur’s primary focus is on solving difficult problems and accomplishing cool things.

6. They love when others win.

Politically motivated people hate when other people earn praise or recognition; they instinctively feel that diminishes the light from their star.

Entrepreneurs aren’t competitive, at least not in that way. They want to be recognized, but their accomplishments don’t preclude others from doing great things, too.

They want everyone else who does something awesome to get recognized, too.

7. They desperately want to see ideas come to fruition.

Maybe they love to dream up their own ideas. Or maybe they love to help others build out their ideas. Either way, entrepreneurs want to make things happen–new, exciting, crazy, groundbreaking things.

The same is true for employees with an entrepreneurial mindset. Great people are drawn to working at Google because they know their great ideas will be supported. Great people are drawn to Geneca because they want to build new things and see them come to life.

Entrepreneurs don’t want to manage what already exists; they want to create what doesn’t exist–yet.

8. They’re meta-thinkers.

Entrepreneurs spend a lot of time thinking about thinking. They like to think about the best way to think about a goal or challenge or problem. They like to think about how to think differently and develop a different angle or approach or perspective.

Entrepreneurs like to think about thinking, because when they find new ways to think, they find new ways to act.

9. They prefer to make or enhance the rules.

Meta-thinkers instinctively evaluate every rule–and look for ways to improve it.

They prefer to figure things out. They see rules as problems to solve or challenges to overcome.

10. They actively create their future selves.

In general, entrepreneurs realize they are often their own worst enemy. They don’t see themselves as controlled by external forces; they think the barrier between what they are and what they want is almost always them.

So they’re constantly trying to be better tomorrow than they are today–even if the people around them wish they would just give it a rest.

11. They adore taking things off their plates.

Look at pictures of Albert Einstein and you would think, “Dude never changed clothes?”

Nope–but he did have a lot of identical clothing. He didn’t want to waste brain power figuring out what to wear every day.

Entrepreneurs have a similar tendency to systematize, not to be anal but to take small and large decisions off their plate so they don’t have to waste time thinking about them. So they eat similar things, wear similar clothing, and create daily routines. They organize so they don’t have to waste brain share on things that don’t really matter.

But don’t confuse creating routines with being compulsive. Entrepreneurs will change a routine the moment they see a flaw or an opportunity to make an improvement.

There’s method to the apparent madness–you just have to look for it.

12. They’re awesome at leveraging self-reward.

Entrepreneurs almost always do the things they have to do before they tackle the things they want to do. They use what they want to do as a reward.

And that means the more things they have to do, the more they’ll get done.

(But that doesn’t mean they’re great at celebrating success. Because they’re constantly trying to improve, a “big win” isn’t big–it’s simply the outcome of all the things they did to make it come true.)

13. They believe they’re in total control…

Many people feel luck has a lot to do with success or failure: If they succeed, luck played a part; if they fail, the odds just didn’t go their way.

Entrepreneurs feel they have complete control over their success or failure. If they succeed, they caused it. If they fail, they caused it.

14. …So their egos don’t suffer when they fail.

Entrepreneurs don’t see failure as a blow to their ego. Failure can be fixed. A future self will figure it out.

Failure is just another problem to solve.

15. They do everything with intent.

Like Jason Bourne, entrepreneurs don’t do “random.” They always have a reason for what they do, because they’re constantly thinking about why they do what they do.

They’re not afraid. They’re not emotionally attached to ideas or ways of doing things.

They just want to be better and to make the world better.

And best of all, they know they can–and will.

5 Business Strategies That Will Boost Your Sales In 2017

Maybe you have succeeded in turning a great idea into an existing business – that is a step in the right direction – but if people do not get people to purchase your product or service, then you do not really have anything. Sales are what validate a business; it is the reason that every business is established.

So what happens when your business is running low on sales? It could be for any number of reasons: maybe your marketing campaign is focusing on the wrong people, is obsolete or you are employing the wrong strategies, maybe your product/service is not solving a problem the populace needs solved or there is too much competition within your industry.

You should first know that you are not the only one in this boat; there are many other entrepreneurs who cut a frustrated figure throughout 2016 for this same reason. So, here are a few ways you can squeeze out more sales in FY2017-18, ensuring your business’s survival.

1. Word of mouth lead generation

No method of lead generation is as organic as word of mouth referrals by your customers. This is because the people to whom they are talking to about your business are family, friends or colleagues. They already have a trust connection with these people making them more open to listening to what your customer has to tell them and more open to checking out your business.

Ask your customers to refer you; if you do not, you are likely leaving a lot of money on the table. Of course, you have to first ensure that your products or services are worth the trouble of your customers and that you have established a good relationship with them before you ask for referrals from them.

You might get some no’s, but you will find that the results you get from the customers who do refer you to their family and friends will more than compensate for those who did not.

2. Take your business on the road

Even if your word of mouth referrals are bringing in leads, you cannot rest on your laurels because you could be doing better. You do not always have to wait for the business to come to you. Seek out opportunities to show case your business to people and organizations that your customers cannot reach.

Courine’s Cuisine, a company touted for making some of the best naturally prepared sauce recipes, earlier this year travelled all the way to the West Coast for the 2016 Emmy Awards. They went along with a truck full of gift bags of their products to. I am sure you can guess why. An A-list event with attended by celebrities and hundreds of TV and social media stars, is an opportunity for publicity that should never be ignored.

Find out where popular events will take place throughout the year 2017 and start now to apply to showcase your products or give out gift bags of your product offering at these events.

3. Leverage upsells effectively

Always look for ways to offer customers more value for more money. Try to get them to buy other products from you or to buy an upgraded version of the product or service they want to purchase.

How many times have you purchased a drink just because the person at the counter asked you, “Will you like a Coke to go along with that?”You will find that your customers will be willing to spend more than they initially planned if you offer them something complementary to go with their purchase or a discount after their initial purchase. Such customers are viable prospects for repeat business and referrals to generate more leads for your business.

4. Incorporate videos in your social media adverts

If you have been throwing money away on SEO, advertising and other services, it may to be time to consider social media platforms. They are the most cost effective tools for advertising your business and boosting sales.

Come up with engaging and valuable video content for your marketing campaign, post them on social media sites and pages and use them for your social media ads. Video is the highest converting content format due to its unique ability to engage both the visual and audio senses of your audience.

Studies suggest that adding a video to a landing page can increase conversion rate by 80%, while a video in an email increases click-through rate by 200 – 300%. For those who are concerned about the reach of their video marketing content,92% of mobile video consumers share videos with others, 75% of online video viewers have interacted with an online video ad this month and 52% of marketing professionals name video as the type of content with the best return on investment (ROI).

5. Always exceed expectations

Exceeding customer expectation is one trick that never fails. It could be anything from delivering a product to your customer earlier than the stated delivery time, doing small consulting jobs for customers free or connecting them to people who need their business.

These little things will help you to retain your most loyal and high paying customers.Also, your customers may unconsciously begin to develop a feeling of disdain towards your competition – which is a good sign.

Being An Entrepreneur Is The Worst Job Ever, And This Is Why I Wouldn’t Take It Any Other Way

Being an entrepreneur is probably the worst job I’ve ever had: 12+ hours days, six days a week and miserable pay. Unmeasurable doses of stress and responsibility with hardly any recognition. Not exactly the dream job. Except it isn’t. It isn’t a job; it’s a passion. And it’s a dream.

It’s hard to describe the feeling of being an entrepreneur, mostly because it will depend on what time of the day it is and what has just happened. Things move rapidly within a fast-growing company. A single day is often full of moments of pure joy, extreme frustration, a sense of achievement and of disappointment. Being an entrepreneur brings you incredible highs and lows, and for that you have to be driven by passion and a greater sense of mission and dream. It’s the magical feeling of working with amazing people and, together, overcoming barriers, preconceived ideas and problems with solutions that have never been thought of, developed or tested before. It’s problem solving. It’s team work. It’s collaboration. And that’s what makes it so exciting.

Don’t get tied up in the idea that being an entrepreneur is necessarily being a founder. Many at SyndicateRoom enjoy the same benefits Tom and I do as co-founders – long hours, miserable pay, a lot of responsibility and definitely not enough recognition. They also get the excitement of a very steep learning curve, the opportunity to grow in responsibility faster than at any large corporation, and a phenomenal professional and personal development in the most unstructured way – something only an early-stage company could ever offer. Many take part in very high-level strategic discussions or present strategic plans to SyndicateRoom’s board of directors, when in the same time frame at a large corporation they wouldn’t have had the opportunity to so much as exchange two spoken words with their head of department.

People often tell me they’d love to become an entrepreneur because it seems like I’m having so much fun doing it. They fail to recognise that being an entrepreneur is great fun only when you look at the sum of the parts. Surviving the lows, constantly battling against the many barriers along the way, going through walls to build a business that most will tell you is impossible and will never work takes a huge amount of energy. It’s the type of energy that caffeine won’t give you. It takes energy that has to come from your inner self, which is why being an entrepreneur cannot be a job. This inner energy comes from one’s belief that the business will succeed, no matter how many knocks you get along the way – and trust me, I’ve had my fair share. It’s an energy that comes from an immeasurable amount of passion and belief that the world you envision is achievable.

As a passion, however, it’s addictive and intoxicating. The lows make entrepreneurs savour the highs even more. Do you need the lows to be a happy entrepreneur? Certainly not, but I’m yet to hear of an entrepreneur that didn’t run into a few potholes on their path to success their path to success. I candidly asked Jonathan Milner (founder of £1.9bn Abcam success story) if he looked back at the tough moments Abcam went through in the early days with fond memories now that he has become so successful. Without any hesitation Jonathan replied that no, not really. He would have been quite happy to have done without the tough moments. They were pretty tough.

Being an entrepreneur is also a hugely selfish exercise of creating your own environment where you and others can thrive. Some call it ‘office working culture’ but in reality it may as well be ‘founder working culture’. It’s pretty selfish to be honest. The working culture at SyndicateRoom doesn’t circle around management theory classes on the perfect team or working environment. I guarantee you this because I have an MBA and I can’t even remember what the theory was. The working culture at SyndicateRoom is a selfishly designed culture centred around, you guessed it, the way I like to work. As it happens, I love working with people that have the greatest respect for their peers and a can-do attitude, that pro-actively pinpoint solutions I don’t have the skills to come up with. This means we attract exceptional individuals that share my passion for SyndicateRoom, how we work and what we stand for. This hugely selfish approach also means I can get rid of things I don’t tolerate, such as office politics and unfairness.

The reality is that entrepreneurship isn’t for everyone. The pace is as scary for some as it is exciting and inspiring for others. People that can’t keep up will find it tough and eventually their role will become just another job, and when the passion disappears motivation will soon follow. But for those who have passion, who believe in what they are doing even when the going gets tougher, every challenge inspires further effort, ideas, creativity. It’s something you can’t escape even if you want to.

Being passionate about something doesn’t mean it’s going to be easy for you. On the contrary, it will keep you up at night, it will creep into your spare time and consume your experience of the world around you every day – but that’s the fundamental difference between an entrepreneur and an employee. Your job is 9–5; your passion is who you are.

Drastically Increase Your Startup’s Chances for Success by Owning a Niche

You can achieve success without chasing major problems and huge markets.

Unicorns are all the buzz these days. Companies such as Snap and Dropbox inspire an entire generation of entrepreneurs around the world to dream big. But by focusing on major problems, huge markets and billion-dollar exits, many entrepreneurs take the wrong approach to growing their business and miss the chance to create and control a profitable company.

One of the most effective ways to start a company with little or no investment is to establish a niche. Here are five tips to help you find yours.

1. Solve a specific problem.

The key to owning a niche is to be focused. Start by addressing a narrow problem that you can solve within the first couple of months, if not weeks. If you pick a problem that isn’t actually a problem, you can fail quickly and try again. If you pick an actual problem but your solution is not good enough, it is usually pretty easy to test the market and figure out what you need to add or change in order to reach product-market fit.

Start with an extreme focus and only a few clients. You’ll be able to hone your offerings and later attract others.

2. Find one client who will pay you.

A great way to find a specific problem is to find one client who will pay you to solve their specific problem. Not only does this give you early cash flow, it also eliminates the risk of building something no one wants. Furthermore, by working closely with the client you get to know all of the problems that they face and gain direct feedback that often can be invaluable. This strategy is especially effective for B2B companies, but it can also be applied to some customer-facing challenges.

I recently spoke with Chris Walker, a Denver-based SEO expert, who explained how he used the principle of one startup client to build his company. “Once you have developed a great solution for one client, simply start looking for other clients like your first one,” he said. “One of the safest ways to start a company is to start out providing services to clients to fund your operations, and to use the feedback and the client cash flow to build something that can scale.”

3. Focus on an underserved market.

In an underserved market, challenges are not being addressed properly. They are either not sexy enough or not big enough to attract the attention of VCs and other investors. Often, by starting out in such a market, you can reach profitability much quicker and use the profits to expand your niche. For example, you could start out by providing your services at a low cost to tap into a market of customers that otherwise would not have the budget for such a service.

4. Find an industry with a tech disconnect.

Industries that are controlled by old and large companies are often ripe for innovation. If the big players in the space seem complacent, or they don’t have access to or knowledge of the technologies that could disrupt the industry, a young company will have a chance to compete. Because young people are building most of tomorrow’s technology, it is best to stay away from problems that a lot of young people — in particular, college students — face.

5. Don’t go chasing VC money.

Venture capital has become the holy grail of the startup scene. Founders are obsessed with getting funding, but not always for the right reasons. Before seeking investor money, especially from a VC, ask yourself if this is actually the only way for your company to succeed. You should be aware that by accepting venture capital, you will have to give up large chunks of your company throughout the process while putting enormous pressure on your company to grow.

Remind yourself: Not every company is meant to be a unicorn. More often than not, building a profitable company and owning most of it is an admirable goal.

How to Build Buzz and Launch Your Company

Don’t launch with a whisper; launch with a roar. Here’s how.

Don’t launch with a whisper; launch with a roar. Here’s why: When you’re a young company, you don’t have time to sit around and hope your brilliant idea catches on. Either you’ll run out of money or be displaced by a competitor who takes over your market before you can gain a foothold.

Ultimately, then, your company’s success hinges on your ability to build buzz early on. The following strategies will help you do just that.

1. Get influencers on board early.

Admittedly, “launching” isn’t as simple as opening your doors and presenting yourself to the world. It’s more of a multi-step process, which is why you see so many apps going through MVP and beta iterations before presenting their formal marketing launch to the public.

When I was building Mailshake, our formal launch occurred after we’d hosted several dozen beta users and made changes based on their valuable feedback. That way, we were confident that the buzz we’d built wouldn’t oversell what we were actually delivering.

In addition, one unexpected benefit of not launching too soon is that you can bring influencers onboard early on and actually make them a part of the development process. Stuart McKeown of Gleam describes another successful tech brand that did just that:

“Take Product Hunt as [an] example,” McKeown says. “They never really did a big huge launch; instead, they focused on early adopters and influencers to get them sticky on the platform. I personally think that you should be doing your marketing launch once you already know your product is going to be a success [or has traction].”

If you’re building something revolutionary, then (and you should be, if you expect to score any serious buzz), you may see authority figures in your niche jumping at the opportunity to help turn your product into the solution they’ve been seeking. All you have to do is ask, and then treat their eventual contributions with the respect they deserve.

2. Build some mystery.

No, I’m not talking about the Sarah McLachlan song. I’m talking about getting users excited about your upcoming marketing launch, before you roll out the red carpet and invite them in.

Think about how Apple rolls out new products. Consider this appraisal, from the KISSmetrics blog: “What really sets them apart is they get everyone talking months before the product launches, usually before there’s even a demo for anyone to see. No one is talking about what the product does; they’re talking about what it might do.”

Related: Use Breaking News to Build Buzz for Your Business

Certainly, Apple has an advantage. The company is, at this point, a well-oiled launching machine, with everyone from journalists to breathless fanboys out there willign to back them up. But there are still lessons you can learn from Apple’s example:

  • Tell a story. People are naturally driven to complete stories and patterns. When you give them just a hint — especially a hint they’re interested in — they’ll want to learn more in order to satisfy their curiosity. Building mystery into your launch through your pre-launch content and landing pages has the same effect.
  • Put up a “Coming Soon” landing page on your website that teases the value your new product will provide and when it will be available. Make sure you have an opt-in form with a CTA that encourages visitors to subscribe for future notifications.
  • Offer “sneak peeks” that build excitement without giving everything away. Do this through social media messages, YouTube clips or any other medium that supports your brand.

3. Create an “in crowd.”

Take a page out of the high school mean girls playbook. Everyone wants to be a part of the perceived “in crowd,” and you can leverage this in your launch plan by requiring would-be users to get invites from current customers.

Blueleaf, a personal finance startup, took this approach to the extreme back in 2010 by not just requiring that prospective users request invites, but opening invitation periods for limited windows.  In an interview with Business Insider, the founder of Blueleaf, Sachin Agarwal, shared how doing so helped his team sign up more than 10,000 users before launching

“Rather than limit the number of invites someone has,” Agarwal said, “there are an unlimited number of invites; but we’ve limited the time frames to invite a friend.  We turn on the ability to invite a friend for just an hour or two, so that people who want in have to beg everyone they know who’s on to let them in before the window closes.”

Related: Where on Earth Is Buzz? Why Honey Nut Cheerios Nixed Its Busy Bee.

These strategies may or may not work for your specific product; if they don’t, you’ll need to explore others to get your name out there as you build buzz for your growing company.

The Single Biggest Marketing Challenge for Startups

No one cares about your startup

The biggest challenge for marketing a startup?

No one gives a damn.

Seriously, more often than not inexperienced entrepreneurs will sit down with their idea, create a decent website, generate some local press, and say, “if I build it they will come.” It doesn’t happen that way. Nobody knows about you and nobody cares… until you generate proof points

Eventually the social media consistency dies off, the free PR stops running, the website remains static, and your startup is left dead in the water. Did I mention your budget is essentially $0, so paying for industry by-lines, PPC campaigns, or a marketing firm is out of the question?

Did you know less than 1% of all new businesses are funded by Angels and VCs? That means the average founder is using personal savings, bank loans, and family to get off the ground. Silicon Valley is not the norm. There is no budget.

What to do when no one gives a damn?

Get down to the basics. Give people a reason to care.

Who’s the targeted audience – don’t say everyone or you fail

How does your product / service benefit them – you are not the lowest cost provider this position is way too overused

Where is your competitive niche in the market landscape

What is your identity in 10 seconds or less

Then turn this information into a 1 – 2 sentence positioning statement.

“For (customer segment), our product/service is (important benefits – reason to buy), because compared to (primary competition – key differentiators).”

You’ve got to learn how to communicate a brands’ relevance to a targeted market or else you fail. Amplifying that message is a whole nother issue entirely.

How do I amplify?

It’s all on you. Your currency is time and effort.

Content Creation

Create once publish everywhere – blog, slideshare, forums, podcast, syndicated writing, videos, and Quora.

Social Sharing & Bookmarking

Get in on and contribute to LinkedIn groups, Twitter lists, Facebook groups, Quora/Reddit topics, create Youtube videos.

Local Directories – At the very least claim Google Business

Some industries will have niche listings as well. Think AngiesList.

Utilize free PPC offers

Build an industry specific list of publications, blogs, and influencers

Reach out to them with your unique value prop and ask for guest contribution or by-lined opportunities

Bloggers will often write-up reviews in return for a sample product

Network with industry related Meetup Groups

Fix easy on-page SEO website issues

Get on HARO & ProfNet

Distribute a press release on free aggregators

Partner with complimentary businesses – you scratch my back I’ll scratch yours

Build a referral program: ShareaSale is the giant in the market, but there are other smaller options that take a cut on sales instead of upfront fees

Craigslist can be surprisingly helpful for targeting local areas

Offer incentives for customers to post on a specific review site. Reuse the reviews as a social proof point on your website.

Scrape email addresses and create an outbound email campaign. MailChimp has a decent free plan but scraping tools will cost a little bit of $.

I could go on forever here. Ideally, a few of these options will work better for your business than the others. Trial what works and then stick with it. Just remember, always be looking for the next best thing, a startup isn’t a linear project.

4 Secrets to Building Your Own Empire

Thanks to the folks who slugged through their struggles and inspired us to overcome ours, the secrets of true success are already laid out for us. These successful people didn’t get where they are because they were crafty, wicked or born with a trunk load of cash (as the movies often portray); they made it big with their willingness to collaborate, perseverance to slough ahead through crap, calm-yet-ambitious persona and creative solutions.

Here are four amazing (but simple) secrets that hold the key to creating your own empire:

1. Small groups can beat large groups.

Smaller groups don’t just offer multiple, augmenting skillsets: With multiple perspectives often influenced by each other’s personal choices, these viewpoints can often have the team approach the project from different angles.

I recommend encouraging your coworkers to form small groups and break tasks evenly between themselves — remember, two hands are needed to make a sound.

2. Look inward often.

Why are you doing what you do? Why should your clients care? What’s your brand’s story? People may not need your brand or service to survive, but they are still in business with you because they care. They support your story and care for your vision to succeed.

Apple’s Macbook advertisements are the pinnacle of innovative stories. The 2016 Mac’s tagline said, “We set out to do the impossible: engineer a full-size experience into the lightest and most compact Mac notebook ever.”

Why do people prefer Apple? Because they make you feel good. They instill the confidence that you and I can conquer the impossible with the beautiful and easy-to-use products they create. 

3. Learn to walk it out.

Exercise has proven to enhance your decision-making skills by providing clarity, collect your thoughts and come up with innovative solutions. In your workplace, you can always take a quick hike around the floor should you feel the need to. I’d recommend encouraging your employees to get up and stretch their legs — grab a coffee, perhaps? — if they find themselves running into a brick wall.

Or, dive in for a game of poker with your colleagues on the myriad online websites found out there. It might sound unconventional, but it can add much-needed clarity.

4. Transparency is key.

Clothing company Everlane is a good example of the power of transparency. Most companies disclose their manufacturers and other sources to the consumer, but Everlane dives in far deeper, disclosing prices it paid for the components, labor, duties, transportation and the real cost of the item for sale.

By sharing these crucial details, Everlane garners consumer and revenue, as consumers bound to share the company’s story with their friends.

3 Split Tests to Improve Your Direct Mail Results

Of course you want better results from your mailings. The worst thing you can do is to become complacent and think the mailing piece you’ve got is “good enough.” The best thing you can do is to keep making variations to your mailing piece, and then test the results.

A client of trying to “crack the code” on direct mail for his medical clinic sent out a tear-sheet mailing that resulted with marginal results. While my client didn’t lose any money and he also didn’t make any money. Actually, marginal results on your first mailing are not bad.

Months later, we recommended he do a split test, where he divide his list and mail the tear sheet piece to one part, and the new piece to the other part. When mailing a new sales piece I always recommend a split test.

By mailing a tear-sheet again against a new format, we could see if the new format was an improvement or not. By testing a new piece against something you have past results on you can be certain about which piece really works better be­cause you are mailing them at the same time to the same lists. The results will tell you what direc­tion to head in next.

Testing different aspects of your mail campaigns is critical to your marketing success. To get you started, here are three aspects of your direct mail campaign you can test. The results could help you significantly increase your response rate in future mailings.

Test Your Headline

The headline is one of the most important parts of the sales letter. If it doesn’t get your prospects’ atten­tion, they won’t read the rest of the sales letter and won’t respond to your offer. You only have about four seconds to get them to decide to read your letter.

Spend some time thinking of different headlines you can use. Make sure your headline “resonates” with your specific audience (for example, is age-appropriate). Also, consider if your headline is believable. Many people have heard “If it sounds too good to be true, then it is.” If your headline promises too much, it may not be believable.

When you find a headline that you think will be more powerful than your current headline, set up an A/B Split test to compare their results.

Test the Teaser Copy on the Envelope

To get a sales letter opened, some mailers put teaser copy on the outer envelope. Teaser copy consists of words on the envelope that will make the reader want to open it and see what’s inside.

The downside of teaser copy is that it screams “this is advertisement mail,” and so it had better offer something interesting to get the envelope opened, now that it has revealed the letter is advertising.

I’ve tested leaving off the teaser copy totally (having a “blind” envelope), and that usually has worked best for me in mailing to “cold” prospects that don’t know you. But, there are many cases where teaser copy has worked better. I have the most success when I use teaser copy mailing to a house file. You have to test no copy vs. copy to see what will work best for you.

Test a Different Offer

The offer is what the customer will get for respond­ing, and if it involves a purchase (rather than a free trial, for example), the cost of the product or service.Here are some things you can test with the offer:


Bonus or premium

Different payment options

Response options (phone, fax, online, email, text)

Adding an offer end date

There are many more offer options, but these are the main ones that I test. The more you test, the more you will learn, and the better your response rate will be!

The Top 11 Tools Every Business Owner Needs In 2017

Business is hard. The top companies seem to have rocketed to the peak with gliding steps, but most business owners insist that things are not usually this easy. So then, why are some companies able to see such enormous returns on investments, huge efficiency and quick growth?

Max Berry, CEO and Founder of Attract.ly, a leading advertising firm, notes that the biggest problem preventing companies from maximizing their potential is the lack of inspired growth hacking techniques. An early one he found and exploited was Instagram.
“Why more small businesses aren’t actively advertising on Instagram is beyond me. The fact is, for many businesses and brands, their target demographic, 18-35 year olds, spend multiple hours per day on Instagram,” Berry said. “SMB’s need to start getting in front of their market where they spend most of their time or they’re going to miss the mark and the opportunity.”
Growth hacking is the means of streamlining your business functions and focusing on unique tailored interaction with your customers. As you aim to growth hack your business and increase efficiency, these are the top tools for developing rapid, sustainable growth in your venture.

1. Goco.io

GoCo.io is a must-have solution for any business with more than a handful of employees. Their cloud-based platform collects, organizes and manages all your employment documents, records and compliance needs, converting your filing cabinets into a digital breath of fresh air.
Formerly tedious tasks like employee onboarding, paid time off tracking, performance management, and benefits open enrollment are now an automated breeze. Your employees may even shed a tear of joy! This service powers your business with an all-in-one system that streamlines your workflows and effortlessly syncs your existing payroll and benefits systems harmoniously together. GoCo.io distinguishes itself from other players in the HR tech space by delivering an experience others can’t: top technology paired with a local go-to benefits broker to bring businesses the personalized benefits service they deserve.  

2. Telzio

Telzio powers cloud phone systems for companies around the world, and provides an online platform that makes configuration and management of services easy. This eliminates the need for hardware and also empowers users with collaboration tools.

Telzio enables organizations to integrate mobile devices, add features and users on demand, and unify locations under a single system. With Telzio, customers experience enhanced call quality, reliable uptime and fast as well as knowledgeable support.

3. TrendKite

Often times, PR can be a powerful but hard to measure tool. TrendKite has a suite of functionality allowing businesses to directly measure the results from PR in comparison to their competitors. 

Tracking traffic driven to your site, mentions of your company in feature and generic pieces, and giving benchmarks of competitors, TrendKite makes it easy to measure the value of PR. It will give you a sense of whether or not you are performing to the level you need to be to grow effectively. TrendKite makes PR more tangibles and data-driven, thereby making the valuable tool much easier to use for businesses large and small.

4. Leadcrunch

Finding qualified leads is the top problem for over half of B2B companies. But Leadcrunch offers the solution to this annoying dilemma. By comparing your best leads with bad leads, Leadcrunch implements artificial intelligence algorithms to generate a list of decision makers at companies similar to your best leads.

Then nurture them to either marketing or sales-qualified leads using a marketplace of 3rd party marketing services. LeadCrunch customers close 300% more sales because they can focus on closing rather than prospecting. 

5. Google Suite

While the Google Suite has a large range of options and value for businesses, perhaps one of the least acknowledged is its ability to provide businesses with actionable data on their customers. Using both Google Forms and Google Analytics, it is possible for companies to fine-tune marketing techniques with the added benefit of sculpting consumer personas. 

Furthermore, the versatility of the Google Suite and totality of its product offerings allow for the platform to give an enormous range of application as well as simplification through the combining functionality in one suite.

6. Select Card
For many business owners, networking and creating new connections have to sit on the backburner to day to day operations of the business.
Select solves this problem head on by allowing to you join an exclusive club comprised of other successful pioneers in your city. On top of this, Select Members receive discounts at the best restaurants and unbeatable hotel discounts whenever they travel. For the business owner looking to create a solid network in the easiest way possible, there’s no better option than Select.


For many companies, technology automation is not an option due to the high costs of hiring a coder and getting the systems up and running. Typically, these types of automation solutions also take a while to program.

However, Twilio lets you get automated phone centers, customer success modules, and other applications set up easily, so you can cheaply maximize your business. Automation allows small businesses to operate as cohesively and successfully as large corporations, and Twilio is the trick to reaching that point. 

8 Burstorm

All businesses need compute, storage and network cloud services to support their digital needs. However, few businesses have the time and expertise to find the best solution for their specific needs.

Burstorm delivers the most complete analytics platform. It allows you to model, benchmark, buy and deploy any cloud infrastructure solution you might need with the utmost ease. And Burstorm does so by automatically mapping and match your requirements to the 1200+ products set in the Burstorm platform. What could be more efficient than that?

9. Trello

One of the worst problems for small businesses is the overwhelming nature of to-do lists, problems of multi-tasking and coordinating work with teams. 

With color coded boards and an integrated messaging plus commenting platform, Trello makes working as a team and managing multiple projects easy.

10. Tableau
Data harvesting, analysis, and portrayal typically require advancing coding and statistics backgrounds. They can also be time-intensive and daunting tasks. Tableau allows users to easily and effectively gather, understand and present their data and eliminates much of the advanced and time-intensive aspects of the process. 
Using data to drive your business can increase efficiency, drive sales and let you stand out from your customers.


Guestpost grants anyone access to a list of publications accepting guest posts and prolific writers with large followings. This enables you to build your status as a thought leader by sharing your knowledge on a plethora of platforms. You will also discover who you need to reach out to for featuring your company on any number of sites. 

PR and branding are critical for transforming a venture from a small business to a powerful corporation and Guestpost gives you the resources you need to do this with so much convenience to you.

Growing your business can be scary and seem like a game of luck. But with these eleven products you can increase the technological functions of your business, boost efficiency and growth hack your way to success.