Five Actions That Develop the Wealth Mindset

Five Actions That Develop the Wealth Mindset

Probably the biggest difference between wealthy people and poor people is their perspective toward money: the wealthy think about their money and the poor mostly worry about it. The wealthy engage in proactive and constructive thought about how to earn more, keep more, and spend less of it—as opposed to the poor, who generally fear not having enough of it.

To be able to think about it, you’ve first got to know where you stand, financially. Then you can begin to consider how you can spend less, earn more, and keep more of your money.

Here are five steps you can take towards a wealth mindset and actual wealth:

1. Face Your Finances

A 2013 survey by Bankrate.com found that 76% of Americans live paycheck to paycheck. Another survey, by MagnifyMoney.com, reported that 56% of Americans have $1,000 or less in their combined checking and savings accounts.

What this tells you is that most people don’t really look at their money in terms of the future. And frankly, if you don’t know where you stand financially in the present, how can you consider your financial future?

Go get a pencil and sheet of paper. Make two columns on the page and write down your monthly expenses on the left-hand side:

  • Rent/mortgage
  • Car payment
  • Credit card bills (monthly minimum due)
  • Food
  • Utilities (electricity, water, cable, internet)
  • Insurance (car, home, etc.)
  • Fuel

Include any other monthly expenses you have.

On the right side, write down your monthly income from your job and any other sources.

Add up all your expenses and subtract the total from your income. What’s left?

It’s possible that what’s leftover on paper is not what’s leftover in your savings or checking account.

So, what else do you spend your money on? Clothes? Entertainment? Vehicle repairs or maintenance?

Take-away: Wealthy people know how much they spend and how much they have in the bank. Evaluating your finances can be a sobering experience, but you can’t take control of your finances if you don’t know what shape it’s in.

2. Spend Less

Now that you have a firm idea of how much you spend, figure out areas where you could spend less.

You were just getting ready to click away from this article, weren’t you? Yes, this is the part—cutting down your spending—where most people rebel and fall back into their usual habits.

This may seem ridiculously obvious, but the reason you want to spend less is so you can have more money.

At the beginning of this article, you read that the difference between wealthy people and poor ones is that the wealthy think about money, whereas the poor worry about it. Well, here is another difference:

Wealthy people HAVE more money.

It’s not necessarily because they earn more, but it’s definitely because they keep more. According to a 20-year study by Tom Stanley and William Danko (which became the book, The Millionaire Next Door), wealthy people save or invest 20% of their income, compared to the five percent or less average for others. By finding ways to keep more and spend less, you will have more money next month than you did this month. (Put it in a savings account or in the cookie jar.) You will be wealthier.

Make it a game or a challenge. If you eat out a lot, preparing your meals at home can save untold amounts of money every week. Can you pay off any of your credit card balances? See how much you can save on your power bill by making sure no lights or appliances are left on unnecessarily. Are there items you can buy for a lot less at the dollar store than at the supermarket?

Take-away: Many associate wealth with extravagance: diamonds, new Ferraris, and mansions. According to Stanley and Danko, the majority of millionaires drive second-hand GM cars and wear watches that cost less than $100. They don’t have flash, they have money—and they have it because they keep more of what they make.

3. Eliminate Penalties and Fees

Often, people who do not have very good control of their money (see #1 and 2, above) also do not have very good control of their credit card bills. Late payments result in late fees and, sometimes, increased interest rates, both of which eat into your wealth.

One of the best ways to prevent fees and higher interest rates is to automate your bill-paying. Most credit card companies give you the option to create an online account and monthly automatic withdrawal from your checking account to pay bills. If you’re the kind of person who forgets to pay until it’s too late, this is the way to go.

Take-away: Wealthy people don’t waste money and wouldn’t be caught dead with a high-interest credit card, let alone paying a late fee—two of the biggest ways to waste money.

4. Buy for Value

While it’s necessary to reduce expenses, especially when just starting out on your way to wealth, shopping for everything based only on the lowest price can sometimes end up costing you more in the long run.

Rather than shop for the cheapest, look for the best value.

This is easy to see in terms of car shopping: If you finance a vehicle for three years, the payments will be higher than if you finance it for five years, but you will actually spend more in interest on a five-year loan than on a three-year loan. (As of late, some dealerships are offering no-interest financing for three years, which makes that an even better value.)

When shopping for a used car, that $40 or $50 membership to a service like CarFax is extremely cheap compared to the thousands of dollars in future repairs you might have to pay if you buy blindly.

You can apply this to more routine purchases like food and clothing: when a particular food item you like or use often goes on sale, stock up on it and save future dollars. Cheap clothing or shoes wear out faster and need replacement; buying better quality items may cost more up front but is cheaper in the long run.

Take-away: Wealthy people don’t concentrate on “cheapest” but on “best value.” Get into the wealthy habit of buying for value when making a purchase.

5. Earn More

While a considerable part of wealth consists of saving money and eliminating wasteful spending, you can’t ignore the importance of increasing your income.

It’s said that the average millionaire has seven income streams. That may or may not be true, but one thing is certain: it’s better to have multiple income streams than to have only one.

There are many ways to create additional income streams. Here are some:

When you start thinking in terms of bringing in more money, you will seek out and become more aware of ways to do it. Ideally, you want to find some ways that create income without requiring you to work more hours.

Take-away: Wealthy people tend to have multiple sources of income, which may include things like businesses and investment property. Do your research and figure out one new income. Get it solidly established and productive. Then find another and develop that.

Do these five things. They will get you to think like a wealthy person and you will be on your way to attaining greater wealth.

7 Fears You Must Overcome to Succeed in Business

7 Fears You Must Overcome to Succeed in Business

“Everything you want is on the other side of fear”–Jack Canfield

Fear typically rears its ugly head when you finally decide to do something big, like start a business or scale your current one. Statistics about business failures do not help; they just make your fears stronger. According to the Small Business Administration (SBA), there are about 28 million small businesses in the US. Unfortunately, only half of them survive and about one-third make it past their 10th year.

No matter how disheartening these figures are, they should not prevent you from reaching your business goals. If Mark Zuckerberg and Walt Disney let these statistics intimidate them, their lives would be very different, perhaps less favorable. Managing a business is no easy feat and the only way to overcome fear is to approach it head-on. Unless you find a way to fight your fear, you could miss opportunities and hold yourself back from reaching your true potential.

Here are seven of the most common fears that entrepreneurs face and how to break free from their paralyzing effect.

1. Fear of Being Judged

Did you know that Google was once an unprofitable company with no business model? For a while, it struggled to find a stable revenue source. It wasn’t until it decided to focus on selling search technologies and Adwords that it finally found its footing. Apple also had its share of failures.

The company struggled to make profits to the point that they sold digicams, CD players, and TVs. Steve Jobs being fired made matters worse. It wasn’t until 1997 when Steve Jobs returned and made a bold change in the company that Apple was able to bounce back.

Sometimes you’re too consumed with being liked or fitting in that you become afraid to reinvent yourself. People have expectations of your brand, but if what you’re doing is not working, it may be time to make a change. It could be your saving grace. To fight off the fear of being judged or rejected, you have to accept that not everyone will like you. If you fail the first time, reboot. Apply a new strategy and re-engage.

2. Fear of Failure or Losing

The Global Entrepreneurship Monitor report reveals that fear of failure depends on where you are in the world. Around 61.2% of Europeans aged 18-35 think that having a business is a good career option. However, this is low when compared to its peers in Latin America (74.9%), North Africa and the Middle East (75.5%) and Sub-Saharan Africa (76.5%). Areas that are exposed to difficult conditions are more likely to think of failure as a normal phenomenon. As a result, people become less afraid of it, pushing them to innovate and take on risks.

The secret to successful innovations is accepting that loss is an integral part of business growth and development. Polaroid, Kodak, and Motorola are classic examples of big companies failing to keep up with the changing market. They failed to innovate and reinvent, and they are continuing to feel the effects of that.

If you don’t want to experience the same fate, you have to accept that you won’t win every time. Think of what you will do if you fail so you can create a contingency plan that could help you recover quickly.

3. Fear of the First Step

“The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.”–Lao Tzu

Procrastination is becoming one of the most expensive, invisible costs in businesses. A study of 10,000 US employees revealed that procrastination costs companies around $10,396 per employee, per year. Imagine the price you’re going to pay if this happens within your company.

Microsoft would not be the gargantuan tech company it is today if Bill Gates did not pitch his idea to IBM. Starbucks would not be one of the world’s largest coffee companies if Howard Schultz decided not to ask his employer to finance his idea. These success stories should be motivation to push you to take that first step towards a greater, more promising future. Just do it and do it now!

4. Fear of Letting Go

Some business owners want to have everything under control. They fear that if they delegate tasks, things will get chaotic. As a result, they micromanage and lose sight of core business goals because they’re focusing on the little things, like the money in the petty cash register or next week’s coffee supply.

Business owners need project management tools to delegate tasks, monitor performance, quality, and work turnaround. Options include, Trello, Speedcamp, and Asana. They’re free and they let you focus on the things that matter like profitability, innovation, and customer relationships. Hire managers or consultants who have experience and an excellent track record so you can be confident that your company is in great hands.

5. Fear of Offending

If you want to succeed, you have to be audacious with your actions. Be honest and upfront about potential issues. Consider what happened to Nokia: For fear of being offensive to senior management, many employees did not communicate their concerns about the problematic operating system and style of phones, especially compared to the iPhone. The market did not respond well to their product. This move caused their market value to decline by about 90% in just six years.

As a business owner, it is your responsibility to be direct, honest, and professional about potential issues.

6. Fear of Old Age

It’s never too late to do great things.

Henry Ford and Sam Walton are just two entrepreneurs who were successful later in life. Ford was 45 when he made the revolutionary Model T car. Walton was 44 when he founded Walmart. It may sound cliché, but age is really just a number. Do not let it stop you from doing what you love and are passionate about. Your belief in yourself and your happiness are far more important than age. Get out there and start making things happen!

7. Fear of Success

In his article, “Those Wrecked by Success,” Sigmund Freud described the fear of success as a perceived need to fail. He said that this may be connected to the person’s experiences during childhood where parents thought that aiming too high would just result in disappointments and failures. As a result, they don’t push their children to dream big. Children then develop the fear of assertion. Some feel guilty over surpassing a mentor or a hero.

Meanwhile, the Imposter Syndrome is when a person believes that success is a false reality. They fear that others might discover that they are not really good at anything and are just pretending to be successful.

The thought of bigger responsibilities, fame, & the threats associated with success can be overwhelming. This is why some lottery winners say that they were better off before winning. To break free of this fear, do not let success get to your head. Think of it as an accomplishment that you can share with others. Be grounded and self-aware.

Don’t Give In

The business world is a jungle. Only the toughest make it. When you step out of your comfort zone, you may encounter fear in every form. The risks are great, but so are the rewards. Take it all in, learn from every experience, and overcome fear by having the right mindset and attitude. Fear is natural. It is nothing to be ashamed of, but don’t let it paralyze you. Have a clear purpose and faith. What separates successful entrepreneurs from failures is their ability to conquer their fears.

How to Exploit Buying Decisions with Cognitive Bias

How to Exploit Buying Decisions with Cognitive Bias

Have you ever heard stories about movies inserting subliminal ads back in the 1950s? Popcorn and Coca-Cola sales allegedly increased due to single frame messaging inserted into a film that was playing at multiple frames per second. It was too fast for the human eye to notice, but the subconscious could pick it up. Deploying this type of unconscious advertising brought marketing to a whole new level. Corporate pitchmen soon were barred from using subliminal ads in movies in later years, but that didn’t stop them from trying other ways to use persuasion techniques at the cognitive level.

Once advertisers discovered this new route to reach their audience on a deeper, more sensory level, it became a race to see how they could exploit it. They set out to connect to their target market on an emotional level, hoping to create measurable tendencies. Could they establish a cognitive bias in their messaging, and why would that be important to marketers?

What Is Cognitive Bias?

Cognitive bias is the propensity to think in certain ways, often deviating from rational, logical decision-making. Originating from behavioral psychology studies, it’s very much a part of everyday life. Cognitive biases impact communication with friends and strangers, and how businesses interact with customers. Many times people are unaware of their own cognitive biases and how they impact decision-making.

Cognitive bias is important to marketers because every customer is affected by its influence. It affects how your audience experiences your website, and how they feel about your company. These biases can even affect your site’s conversions and how likely your visitors are to share their experiences via word of mouth or social media.

This level of deeper understanding also affects individuals in circumstances that require an unbiased viewpoint. The ability to run rational tests, analyze results, and select a sampling can all be unintentionally swayed by a person’s cognitive bias.

Once you’re aware of the many different cognitive biases, you can start considering their influence on your audience’s thinking as well as your own. Below are some examples that marketers can start including in their planning.

Loss Aversion

One common example of cognitive bias that marketers have found is called loss aversion. This bias causes people to favor the avoidance of loss more strongly than pursuing gains. Provoking your audience to feel this loss will stoke a fear, making them react more strongly than if you provided a positive incentive.

A great example of this cognitive bias is the concept of paying for shipping. Online customers have a strong dislike for paying shipping costs and these facts support that theory.

  1. Online orders with free shipping average around 30 percent higher value.
  2. Unconditional free shipping is a number 1 criterion for making a purchase.
  3. Forty-seven percent of shoppers indicated they would abandon a purchase if they got to checkout and found that free shipping was not included.

Marketers and business owners should consider loss aversion and factor freight costs within the price of their products so that they can offer free shipping instead, taking advantage of this cognitive bias.

Framing

Another way for pitchmen to connect on a more profound level with their devotees is called the framing effect. To frame is to take away choices for how something is perceived until a compromise is reached, even though the option was chosen all along by its marketing creator.

This might be the most favored by marketers since using words creatively can shape how something is presented or defined. Framing the choice as part of a community, representing it as local or part of a niche group, can have a huge effect in loyalty. Check out these statistics that prove the framing effect:

  1. Ninety-three percent of online shoppers like to shop at small or local retailers.
  2. Sixty-one percent of online shoppers say they find unique products unavailable elsewhere by shopping at local online retailers.
  3. Forty percent of consumers shop at small and local retailers to support the local business community.

Most marketers engage in the framing effect everyday and might not even realize it. Understanding its importance can create new opportunities in which to expand its use.

Attentional Bias

The attentional bias is the propensity to pay more attention to emotional stimuli, and to neglect other relevant information when making decisions. So the more something touches people, the more attention they pay to it.

A great example of attentional bias is website design, as well as direct emotional appeals, such as testimonials, all of which have shown cognitive bias in a site’s layout. Below are some reasons that support how effective this bias can be.

  1. Forty-two percent of users base their overall opinion of a site on its design alone.
  2. Adding testimonials to a website increases conversions by 34 percent.
  3. Twenty-nine percent of consumers think testimonials are very important for building credibility.
  4. Placing testimonials on the lead generation page increases conversions by 50 percent.

Website designers should keep attentional bias in mind when designing their sites for a more powerful experience.

Final Thought

As long as there are human beings, cognitive bias will always have an effect. Being aware of your own tendencies can go a long way in helping you stay neutral when it matters. However, if you’re a marketer, take advantage of cognitive bias and exploit your audience’s buying decisions with how you craft your persuasive messaging. Just stop short of being subliminal, as it’s illegal.

Using Giveaways to Promote Your Business and Grow Your Email List

Using Giveaways to Promote Your Business and Grow Your Email List

Nothing works like a good prize, freebie or giveaway to motivate someone to click, subscribe or like your Facebook page. Setting up a contest online is fairly simple to do, and it gives you the opportunity to spread brand awareness, get people interested in your products and cultivate a high-quality email list.

To set up your own giveaway campaign, you’ll need to decide whether to give a cash prize, free product or service discount, then advertise it on your landing page. People can enter the contest by typing in their email addresses so that they can be added to your email subscriber list. A random winner gets the prize, and you can start marketing to your new leads. Win-win!

Motivating Contest Entrants to Share Online

Ideally, you want the people who enter your contest to share it with their friends and followers. This can create a viral factor that ultimately earns you more email addresses than you would generally receive from a posted pay-per-click advertisement or simple organic traffic.

The question is, how can you motivate people to share contest information when it is clearly in their best interests to keep the number of entries low? A common way around this problem is to offer your entrants extra “tickets” in exchange for sharing the contest link. The more interested the entrants are in winning your prize, the more they will share and ask others to enter.

The Downside of One-Size-Fits-All Prizes

Your first instinct may be to offer a prize that almost anyone would want—let’s say an iPad. If your business is to sell iPads or Apple accessories, that’s a pretty great idea. If you are in the business of selling accounting software, pet food, artisan candles or anything non-iPad related, however, it might not work.

Here’s why.

Pretty much everyone wants an iPad, so they will scramble to trade their email addresses for a chance to win one. They’ll tell their friends, and those people will do the same. It might be a very successful contest in terms of entries, but your leads would be of very poor quality.

When you start sending marketing messages to your new email list, a lot of them are going to unsubscribe or ignore the messages completely. Contest entrants are only about 25 percent as likely to actually buy something from you in the future than your normal leads, so you need to filter out those who are just looking for free stuff.

Email marketing has an enormous ROI, which could be as much as 4,300 percent. As an online medium, email is used by over half of the world’s population. Obviously, it’s in your best interest as a business owner to put together a high-quality email list! To ensure that your list has targeted leads, you’ve got to cater to your niche and select contest prizes that your specific audience will be excited about. Consider giving away one of your own products or an industry-related software membership.

Contest Software and Campaign Managers

It’s perfectly fine if you want to set up the contest on your own, but there are plenty of popular software options available. Rafflecopter, Gleam.io, Amazon and many others will take care of the details for you and fairly choose a winner at the end of the contest.

If you’re interested in posting ads for your contest, Twitter is a good place to start. The tailored audiences feature allows you to choose existing Twitter companies that are similar to yours and share your ad with the same type of audience members.

5 Important Tips to Create a Successful Giveaway

1. Be Specific about the Contest Time Frame

Contests can receive up to 40 percent more email subscribers when you name the month in the advertisement. Doing this lets people know the contest information is still valid.

2. Say “Giveaway” Instead of “Sweepstakes”

“Giveaway” has proven to be 27 percent more popular with contest entrants than the term “sweepstakes.” Avoid the latter term in your copy and people will be clearer about the terms of the contest.

3. Avoid the Facebook Widget

Eighty percent more people signed up for contests when simply asked for their email address than when asked to like a Facebook page. The reason for this is easy to understand, since every time Facebook is a part of the sign-up process, you need to open more pages, read more content and click more boxes. It’s time-consuming.

4. Watch Your Page Placement

A contest box placed on the bottom right of your lead page can increase email subscriptions by 125 percent.

5. Include an Image

Testing shows that even low-quality images will increase engagement, with up to 22 percent more conversions than text-only. Of course, the higher quality, the better the results, so choose a relevant photo that has good resolution.

It’s All about the Leads

Giveaways open a lot of opportunities for getting more subscribers and customers. A contest doesn’t have to be expensive, but it does need to be clever and valuable enough for your prospects to convert, either right away or down the line. Focus on attracting highly qualified leads to your contest instead of general audiences, and the additions to your email list will be worth the effort.

The Internet Has Changed Marketing—Is It for Better or?

The Internet Has Changed Marketing—Is It for Better or?

Things used to be done differently in the marketing world. Before, you needed huge budgets and marketing experts to advertise your products and services through traditional media. Now, you can effectively market with as little effort as having a social media account and excellent SEO skills.

This made it very easy for small businesses, who usually don’t have a large marketing budget, to reach out to customers. With the average American spending 4.7 hours of their 15-hour awake time online, and 70 percent of adults having at least one social media account, you can say that the Internet provides a great opportunity for marketing.

Targeted Audience

Social media has taken the guesswork out of marketing. Most traditional media, such as television, radio and billboard are like gambling, where you put out your content and hope your target audience sees it. Moreover, you could only reach an audience in a certain location where the media is published. With social media, you can reach a target audience from all over the world, you know exactly where they are online and can advertise directly to them.

You can even get them together by creating social media pages and groups where they can follow you and keep up with your brand. To keep them interested, update your social media regularly and plan your posts around things relevant to that target audience.

Engagement

This was one of the biggest problems with traditional marketing—no engagement. With social media, you can get your audience involved in conversations and get their feedback. The consumer landscape has also changed; people want to make informed purchase decisions, and social media provides platforms to do that. Also, your in-depth conversations with your customers will help them understand your brand, products and services better.

Due to the growth of customer engagement, content has become a crucial aspect of marketing. According to the Marketing Insider Group, 90 percent of companies primarily use content for marketing. To keep up with the competition, use blogs and social media platforms like LinkedIn publishing to talk about topics your audience is interested with.

This is an opportunity to build a relationship with your audience and show them that you care about their welfare beyond selling a product. Alternating marketing content with general, informative content would also work well to attract your target audience’s attention.

Tracking

It’s important to know if your marketing efforts are working so you could decide which ones to improve and which ones to let go. Traditional media offered very little opportunity to do so. Now, there are very sophisticated programs and software that measure important metrics like traffic, conversion, ROI, etc.

These metrics are essential because they can assist you in making business decisions that will help your business grow and make profits. According to Oracle, 53 percent of top businesses use analytics to drive strategy while 50 percent use them to transform daily operations from which they have seen thrice the improvement on their company’s overall performance.

If you are not utilizing analytics yet, you need to start now and track the progress of your business. This will help make strategic marketing decisions for your business, which will lead to an increase in conversions and profit.

On the Flipside …

There are billions of content and marketing material online. According to The Radicati group, an average person receives about 90 emails per day. Then, there are the hundreds of articles they browse through, plus all the marketing pop-up advertisements, lead capture pages, etc. that they come across on a daily basis.

The Internet has made it easier for your content to get lost fast or, worse, to never even be seen by a single potential client. With traditional media, you know your television advertisement is going to be seen by someone. After you submit it to the agency of your choice, you didn’t need to do much work.

With digital marketing, you have to understand the mechanics of the Internet. You have to learn how to craft your content so that it can get picked up by search engines and appear at the top of the search pages when users type in words related to your product. This is known as search engine optimization (SEO).

SEO has become more complex as search engine algorithms advance. Now search engines like Google will rank content that is “overstuffed” with keywords low, hence your content may still go unseen even after you optimize it for search engines.

Also, people may decide not to interact with your page if it does not appeal to them. Thus, you have to learn to create engaging, informative content that influences your target audience’s buying decision without being pushy.

People also want value online, so if your content is always trying to sell something, people will not want to interact with your page. Content makes up 50 percent of what contributes to sales; you have to get the right mix to make a profit. Make any mistakes and you reduce your chance of getting a sale by 40 percent, according to Marketing Inside Group.

Digital marketing is more complex and demanding than traditional marketing. There are many rules and metrics that marketers have to learn, and you still need to understand them even if you are hiring someone to do it for you. You also need to know the content creation process, upkeep of a website, social media marketing and traffic generation, which could require more work than traditional media.

Verdict?

No one can argue that the Internet has made it much easier for businesses to market themselves. It provides a ready, targeted audience, and you can advertise on a very small budget. Companies can develop relationships with their customers while improving brand loyalty and product understanding.

However, it also made things more complex, which can be very taxing and confusing especially to new marketers. The good news is, all the knowledge and information one needs to build a strong digital marketing campaign is freely available online, so marketing doesn’t have to be such a stressful task.

Why Your World Would End if Marketing Disappeared

Why Your World Would End if Marketing Disappeared

Marketing is the mechanism through which a product or service is rolled out and promoted to prospective customers. The amount of success a business enjoys is derived from the strength of its marketing efforts, which span advertising, sales, promotions and public relations.

It’s vital to your business because, without it, no one would know that your products or services exist, even if you’re the best at what you do.

With so much dependence on marketing, it’s not a stretch to say your world would end if it suddenly disappeared. Here’s a quick reminder of the many ways marketing contributes mightily to your success—and why you’d miss it if it were gone:

Marketing Makes Your Presence Known

For your startup or small business to thrive, it’s essential to promote awareness of your product or service in the marketplace. That means, the community you serve, whether online or offline, needs to hear from you—and the marketing strategies you employ will provide direction to each and every message you send out.

In the absence of effective marketing, prospects and customers may never find out about your offerings. Your business would wither and die.

If you smartly leverage marketing to promote your product, service and brand, your market’s awareness level can be raised to the point where they’re (hopefully) interested, or at least curious, about your offering.

Marketing Helps You Grow Sales

With effective marketing in place, prospects and customers will become aware of your products or services and, therefore, are much more likely to make a purchase. This is an important moment in the marketing cycle because, after buying, your new customers will start telling their friends and family members about their purchases, which triggers additional sales.

If you hadn’t leveraged your marketing to promote your brand and products, these sales would be non-existent, and your business would suffer.

Marketing Establishes Your Reputation

As an entrepreneur, you’ve worked hard to build and maintain a great reputation for yourself because you know it’s critical to fostering trust among colleagues, business partners and prospective customers or clients.

The same applies to your brand. The success of your business rides on its reputation, and good marketing can grow its brand name recognition or product recall. Every time your business meets or exceeds the expectations of your customers, your brand’s reputation gets stronger. As it grows, your company can expand, and sales will increase.

Of course, your brand’s reputation depends on the extent to which you actively engage your community through strategic communication and desirable products or services—and these are made possible through marketing.

Marketing Spawns Competition—and That’s a Good Thing

As Herbert Hoover, the 31st U.S. president, once said: “Competition is not only the basis of protection to the consumer, but is the incentive to progress.”

One of the great side benefits of marketing is that it fosters a spirit of competition in the marketplace. When you market your products and services, word travels fast, and soon competitors sprout up to compete with you on price, quality and style.

While this may not sound like a good thing, it is because it forces your business to keep the pricing competitive so it can win over prospects and customers before your competitor does.

Without marketing—and, by extension, competition—the best-known brands would do all the selling while smaller players and newcomers stood on the sidelines with little chance of ever becoming successful. By fostering healthy competition, marketing enables smaller companies to enter, grow and succeed in the marketplace.

Marketing Costs (And Pays)

You can’t reasonably expect to have success in business without first committing to a marketing strategy. It’s mission-critical for anyone attempting to drive sales. Yes, it can get expensive, but that’s simply the cost of doing business.

For entrepreneurs and small business owners, you should expect to spend roughly half your first year’s sales on various marketing programs.

Beyond that point, your marketing budget will likely hover around 30 percent of annual sales, sometimes a little more. As the saying goes, it takes money to make money. And it’s worth it.

Takeaway

There is no business without marketing. As a business owner, your world would end without it. On the upside, a good marketing program will arm your business with its best chances for success.

To maximize those odds, engage your community with a healthy mix of media, including traditional display ads, direct mail, email, banner ads, live events, webinars, blog posts and more. Never be afraid to experiment or take chances with your marketing, provided the change in direction is consistent with your brand’s voice and your company’s mission and values.

And remember this advice from video game director, designer, programmer, and developer John Romero: “In marketing, I’ve seen only one strategy that can’t miss—and that is to market to your best customers first, your best prospects second and the rest of the world last.”

A/B Testing? Multivariate? Which Should I Use? When?

A/B Testing? Multivariate? Which Should I Use? When?

The concept of testing variations of a web page to increase conversion might seem to be a highly technical and obscure activity. Relax: though it is somewhat scientific, it’s by no means rocket science. It’s actually very easy to understand and do.

Scientific Method

Do you remember the story from middle school science class about Isaac Newton and the apple? History has it that Newton, a renowned late 17th Century English mathematician, observed that an apple, falling from a tree, always fell to earth in a straight line; it never curved or went sideways or upward. Newton, who had been developing theories about gravity and motion, questioned if this force might also exist at greater distances … perhaps as far away as the moon.

Newton tested his question (called a hypothesis) and found he could predict the orbital motion of the moon using a mathematical formula he’d developed to explain gravitational force. Other scientists later used his formula to predict the existence of the planet later named Neptune.

Newton’s discovery was the result of the use of the scientific method, a simplified version of which follows:

  • Observe an action or phenomenon.
  • Pose a hypothesis.
  • Test the hypothesis.

Whether marketers realize it or not, A/B testing is based on the scientific method, which enables you to gather knowledge, test your hunches and potentially predict your marketing outcomes.

How It Applies to Your Marketing

In your marketing, the observation is usually something along the lines of, “Our conversions aren’t high enough.”

Your hypothesis would usually be expressed as, “Maybe I can increase conversions if I change                    on my landing page/sales page.” (Before you can fill in the blank, you need data. This will be covered shortly.)

Then you test your hypothesis and observe again, to see what kinds of results you get. From there, you may form a new hypothesis, test it, etc.

To get a hypothesis about which part of your page to change, review the page analytics. For instance, you might see your page has a high bounce rate. That’s definitely a problem, but that datum alone is not enough with which to form a hypothesis.

Looking at the time on page can give you a clearer picture of how people are interacting with the page: a high bounce rate but low time on page tells you that something near the top of the page is turning people off—perhaps your headline. A high bounce rate and long time on page indicates that the problem is near the bottom of the page—perhaps the call to action.

By reviewing your page analytics, you can get a clear picture of where the problem is and thus have information on which to base your hypothesis.

When analytics don’t provide a clear picture of what’s hurting your conversions, you will need to go directly to your users with a short survey about your page and use their feedback to determine where your page needs improvement.

When you’ve got your hypothesis, there are two basic ways to carry it out: A/B testing and multivariate testing.

A/B Testing

In A/B testing, you’re comparing the results of two versions of a page to see which brings a higher percentage of conversions.

“A” is the current version of the web page, also called your “control.” “B” is a variation of “A” in which you’ve changed only one element. An “element” is defined as a discrete part or section of your page’s copy or design and could be any of the following:

  • Headline or subject line.
  • Body copy.
  • Call to action.
  • Photos or video.
  • Colors.
  • Forms.

That seems like a lot of potential variables, but the review of your analytics (or, alternately, feedback from your users) will help you isolate the general area of the problem so you can make an educated guess about which element to change.

You can vary an element in several ways. For instance, with a headline, you can:

  • Make it shorter or longer.
  • Emphasize a benefit vs. a feature.
  • Add a supplementary headline.
  • Express it positively or negatively (“Save money …” vs. “Stop wasting money…”).

In the case of images, there are also several potential variables:

  • Color or black & white.
  • Show a person or the product.
  • Position of photo.
  • Photo or no photo?

There are three potential outcomes. After changing an element and sending equal amounts of traffic to each page, you will find:

  • A significant increase in conversion. Great! You hit the bullseye.
  • No difference in conversion. Good. You probably didn’t change the right element. Make a new hypothesis and test it.
  • Your “B” version gets a lower response. Okay. You definitely want to stick with “A” for the time being. Review your analytics, make a new hypothesis and test it.

The advantage of A/B testing is speed and simplicity. A single change can be made and tested with as little as 100 visitors. These single changes can create dramatic increases.

Multivariate Testing

Multivariate testing is similar to A/B testing except that rather than changing only a single page element, you change several elements, thus creating multiple versions, which you supply to viewers dynamically. For instance, if you test three different headlines, three different calls to action, and three different photos, a visitor to your page would end up seeing one of 27 different versions.

Because of the larger number of versions in most multivariate testing, you need a much greater amount of traffic to achieve conclusive results.

It’s a fine-tuning step for pages that are already performing well, so you would only use it if you already have large amounts of traffic.

The advantages of multivariate testing are that it’s more comprehensive and it gives you a clearer picture about how the various combinations of elements work together.

Drawbacks of multivariate testing include possible lack of feasibility to make major layout changes to pages and the reduced effectiveness of tracking tools caused by use of dynamic content.

After the Test

If you conduct A/B or multivariate testing for any length of time, you will likely find an optimum page—the one that converts the best (so far).

But the test is not over. Monitor the behavior of your new leads or customers and see if they are indeed the right audience. If you find that they are not, that’s your observation.

It should be followed by the hypothesis that you need to change something in order to attract the correct public, which will likely require an overhaul of your messaging in general.

Keep a Record

What ever method you use, keep a written record of your hypotheses (the page changes you make) and your results (percentage of increase/decrease in conversion … or no change) so that you can go back and see where you succeeded and where you failed.

For each entry in your record, use a descriptive name for the test, such as “Lead page #1, headline #2” or the like, which will still make sense when you look back on it a year from now.

Final Thought

Marketers have done split tests of their marketing material since long before the internet to create new, higher-performing controls. You can maximize your existing list or market and produce remarkable increases in conversion for the comparatively small effort involved in testing.

6 Smart Ways to Win Millennials Using Marketing Strategies

6 Smart Ways to Win Millennials Using Marketing Strategies

There is a reason every marketer today is putting Millennials on top of their lists. Wielding an annual buying power exceeding trillions of dollars, these 18- to 34-year-old consumers who make up 25% of the US population is one lucrative market. Pushy, annoying, disruptive and unsolicited—this is how they see traditional marketing, so if you’re still using this technique, it won’t work on them. Rather than using advertisements and listings that feature products and services, focus your efforts on inbound digital marketing strategies that pulls people to your brand.

What Is Inbound Marketing?

Inbound Marketing is a data-driven approach using blogs, videos, podcasts, e-books, white papers and other forms of content marketing to attract individuals and convert them into lasting customers. A Social Times infographic shows that Millennials spend around 5-10 hours a day (between 8 p.m. and midnight) consuming copious amount of online content. If you are a business wanting to capture the Millennial attention, you should create meaningful, engaging and targeted content to increase their chances of getting found, “liked” and shared.

Fortunately, many companies are already seeing the benefits of inbound strategies that include improved quality of leads, brand visibility and awareness, and increased customer trust and satisfaction. Regarding ROI, HubSpot’s 2015 State of Inbound report reveals that companies using inbound strategies are 3x more likely to see higher ROI than outbound. For these reasons, it’s no longer surprising that 69% of marketers are already allocating a significant portion of their digital marketing fund toward website content, development and performance optimization. Inbound marketers who prove higher ROI were 2x more likely to get higher budgets in the following years to those who couldn’t.

To reap the benefits of inbound marketing, here are some pointers to get you started on the right foot:

1. Invest in Your Web Platform

A website is a company’s profile on the Internet, and as online competition grows, users gain access to more choices, which makes them less tolerant to poor usability and design. Web design impacts lead generation and conversions so build one that is growth-driven, responsive and reliable. An aesthetically appealing website creates a lasting visual impression that improves credibility and trust rating, but an intuitive and seamless experience will make them stay, so have both. To prevent site visitors from bouncing away from your site, consider these tools.

2. Do Content Mapping

Content mapping is the process of aligning content with the customers’ buyer personas and lifecycle stages. Knowing this information is crucial to building the type of content that customers will love and crave. Start by gathering information about your target audience, their behavior, the channels they use online, their preferences, needs and wants, as well as their buying journey—basically, things that influence their “buying” attitude online.

Building customer or prospect data goes hand in hand with in-depth research. Have the best insider information by doing one-on-one interviews, focused group discussions and surveys. Knowing this will enable you to align your content, landing pages and call-to-actions accordingly.

This increases your chance of generating inbound organic traffic that eventually converts potential customers and makes long-term profits.

To help you brainstorm and easily map out content ideas, consider these free content mapping templates from Hubspot, American Marketing Association and Bright Inbound Marketing.

3. Fill Your Blog with Informative and Helpful Content

Millennials are known to have a voracious hunger for news and social or user-generated posts. Satisfy this need by publishing compelling, relatable and regular content that inspire, educate and provide a solution to an industry’s pressing problems.

Take cues from thought leadership sites and marketing gurus, such as Seth Godin, when you publish blogs, e-books, whitepapers and other how-to information. Millennials love video marketing, too—76% of consumers follow brands on Youtube and nearly 80% consider video content in their purchase decisions. Incorporate these into your content strategy and expect to generate valuable leads and traffic.

4. Design a Strategic Landing Page with Catchy Call-to-Actions

Landing pages are focused and customized sales pitches, designed to convince visitors to make an action. Since they are targeted, landing pages can increase ad conversion rates by at least 25%, according to Omniture—a reason 48% of marketers design one for every campaign. With the use of tools like Adsense, Google Analytics and other built-in WordPress plugins, you can easily gauge the effectiveness of your advertising efforts and know more about your demographics.

There are two common types of landing pages: Click-through and Lead Generation. A Click-through landing page is used to persuade a visitor to click through to another page to become a member, claim a reward or complete a purchase. A Lead Generation landing page, on the other hand, is used to capture user data, allowing you to market to the prospect at a subsequent time. By offering a free eBook or a whitepaper, marketers can get visitors to provide their name, email address and other important information about their company or requirements.  

To build your ideal landing page, Bootstrap, Leadpages and Instapage provide free templates that you can download, customize and publish according to your preference. If you want to magnify your campaign’s return on investment, check out Unbounce’s 101 Landing Optimization Tips.

5. Create Relevant and Enticing Materials

Prospects risk giving out their personal information for content that they think is important. Provide key statistics, infographics, case studies or white papers that stand out and can’t be found anywhere else. Like any great content, the material should have interesting takeaways that educate, inspire and initiate discussions or even motivate writers to write based on your material. Nurture your relationship with clients by having a consistent stream of content that they can look forward to.

6. Be Prepared to Engage Directly with Audience via Social Media

Done right, social media marketing generates quality leads and allows you to engage with prospects, current customers and influencers. According to eMarketer, 84% of companies believe that social marketing enhances relationships with existing customers while allowing them to engage with media influencers. And since around 93% of buying decisions are influenced by peers’ recommendations on social media, you need to be visible, accessible and committed to your social media audience. By feeding them with regular information, you stay in the customers’ subconscious. They may not buy now, but eventually, they will, and when that time comes, you’d want to be on top of their list.

Why Explore Inbound Marketing Now

Traditional marketing has worked wonders for big brands in the past, and it still does. However, as customers vary and their buying journey continues to evolve, marketers need to align themselves and their strategies with the needs of the market. Millennials spend an average of 25 hours a week surfing the Internet, which should prompt you to channel efforts into tactics that catch and sustain their undivided online attention.

Inbound marketing strategy is not rocket science and certainly doesn’t require voodoo. Simply give your current customers and prospects what they want and do what makes them happy. When customers are happy with their brand experience, they will come back for more. They will become loyal, and might even promote your product or service for free. Engage with your customers, create a relationship with them and sustain it to generate trust and loyalty. This inbound marketing strategy is the way to win not just the hearts of the Millennials, but also other buyer personas.

Read This before Your Website Gets Hacked

Read This before Your Website Gets Hacked

What comes to mind when you think about security protection for your business website? Judging from the rising statistics for website security breaches, the answer is probably “Nothing.”

Many business owners assume that their business is too small to be of interest to hackers. They don’t conceive the extent of damage that a breach could cause.

Not to cause alarm, but the cyber environment today is such that if you’re in business and have a website, security protection is a necessity for survival.

The Numbers

For cyber security professionals, 2014 is referred to as “The Year of the Breach,” because of the major jump in cyberattacks on business websites—including those belonging to eBay, Home Depot, Sony Pictures and JP Morgan Chase—as well as the total number of data records compromised.

2015 didn’t get a nickname despite it being an even worse year for security failures, with high-profile breaches at the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, Anthem, Ashley Madison, Premera Blue Cross, Experian and the U.S. Internal Revenue Service.

While hacking by external parties is the source of the vast majority of these incidents, it’s not the only cause. Statistics show substantial numbers of incidents due to, among other things, insider disclosures and losses from servers or portable data devices.

An analysis by the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse (PRC) shows that security breaches in general more than doubled in recent years. But while hacking incidents have skyrocketed from 48,805,382 in 2013 to 121,199,741 in 2015, other sources of breaches have dramatically dropped. Insider disclosures, for instance, went from 3,308,885 in 2013 to only 100 in 2015.

According to IBM’s “Cost of Data Breach” study, most breaches involve 10,000 or fewer records. In terms of money, each compromised record was worth an average $154, according to IBM, though for certain industries, the value per record is significantly higher. Healthcare records, for instance, are worth $363 each.

A security breach can cost you in other ways as well, including:

  • Loss of reputation
  • Loss of traffic
  • Loss of customers
  • Loss of standing on Google

It’s easy to see then that even a breach which compromises only a couple hundred records can be quite costly to a small business.

Three Levels of Security

Whether your business is large or small, if you’re online, there are three distinct areas where website security protection can and should be applied:

  • Network: This level applies to your server. This is your gateway to the web and is the point in your system that is most vulnerable to attacks.
  • System: This level refers to your operating system (Microsoft, Apple, etc.) It’s responsible for the correct functioning of applications on your site.
  • Applications: This level is what allows customers to interact, receive service, etc.

Though the network level is considered the most vulnerable point for an outside attack, some sources report that seven of 10 website breaches occur at the application level.

How to Prevent an External Breach

In order to prevent external threats, your site needs something that will monitor and analyze incoming traffic and also alert you to weakness in your system.

That “something” is a web application firewall (WAF). A WAF will not only identify traffic patterns that indicate known cyber threats, but the better ones are designed to also detect patterns indicative of new types of threats.

A WAF will identify areas of your site that are vulnerable to attacks so that you can take further measures to secure those areas. It’s like 24/7 site security that prevents you from becoming a statistic in the kinds of reports we’ve cited.

How to Prevent an Internal Breach

Though internally-caused breaches have declined dramatically, they are still an issue. Granted, not all such breaches are malicious in nature, but may be due to carelessness.

A WAF is still very important in terms in protecting against internal breaches, but there are furthers actions an organization can take:

  • Limit access: Passwords and logins for areas of critical information should be limited to a few trusted employees who are fully trained on the importance of confidentiality.
  • Frequently change passwords: Institute a policy where employees are required to change their passwords and logins every couple of months.
  • Secure areas with locks: Limit the number keys to restricted areas such as server rooms and prohibit their duplication. Ensure that employees leaving the company surrender such keys. Change the locks to secure areas annually.

Final Thought

Writing for Forbes.com, entrepreneur Mike Templeman—whose business’ site was hacked, incurring great losses and requiring full replacement—astutely likened website security protection to a spare tire: “You’ll never understand how bad you need (it) until it’s too late.”

Never assume you’re too small to be a target to someone. Take steps now to secure your website and your business.

How to Track Offline Traffic with Social Media Metrics

How to Track Offline Traffic with Social Media Metrics

Are your brochures, flyers, and television advertisements working for you?

Some customers will see your product advertised and will immediately make a purchase, but the majority of today’s consumers need more information before they invest in a product, hence the importance of having a company website that offers more information to aid in the customers’ purchase decision.

Every marketing effort made should be towards influencing the customer to make the purchase. They should send people to your website to get more information and, ultimately, make a purchase. Many businesses are questioning whether offline media is increasing traffic to their website or if they should focus more on digital marketing efforts.

Without tracking the efficiency of advertising efforts, it is hard to know if it’s working in your favor or a waste of your resources. There is a lot of information on the importance of tracking your marketing campaigns, including manuals on how to do it. Many businesses are already actively investing in this and it is improving their online marketing effort.  But what about offline traffic? How do you know if that highway billboard that cost your business a small fortune is bringing traffic to your website?

Social media metrics, like Google Analytics, are making it easier to track leads generated by offline traffic. The list below looks at the best strategies to determine if your offline marketing efforts are effective.

Quick Response Codes

Quick response (QR) codes are ciphers that consist of a display of black and white squares. They typically store website information readable by smartphone cameras.  QR codes have become extremely popular and are easy to use, so they are a great option to track your offline traffic.

Google Analytics can put tracking codes into your QR codes so whenever customers scan your QR code, you will receive information on the marketing product that generated that lead.

Customer Landing Pages

Another way to track your offline traffic is by creating a unique landing page for each of your offline marketing efforts.

For example, if you have an organic food store that just opened a restaurant, your organic food store’s main website will be ‘www.organicfoodstore.com’. You will then create ‘www.organicfoodstore.resturant’ as a landing page for the restaurant. The landing page will be explicitly focused on the restaurant, instead of the rest of the store. When you pass out flyers or place newspaper advertisements for the restaurant, the QR code and URL’s will lead to the landing page, not the food store’s main website.

To see how well your offline media efforts are performing, have the landing page URL available only on the particular media you want to track for a specific time period.  For example, have your landing page URL only available in the magazine advertisement you are placing for a month. Then check your analyzing metrics to find out how much traffic increased through the landing page that month.

Redirect Domains

You can also set up domains that redirect visitors from custom URLs to a landing page in your main website. These domains are usually catchy and easier to remember. They would then be placed on all your offline media.

For example, if your organic food store sponsors a ‘Get Fit’ marathon, you could use a domain getfitorganicfood.com. This domain would be placed in all offline content marketing used for this campaign: banner, flyers, posters, etc. A redirect will be set so when people type this domain, they will end up in www.organicfoodstore.com/getfit. You can then analyze metrics to see the rise in website visits coming from the redirect domain.

Direct Hits

People are likely to go online and search for your brand if they see an offline advertisement that spikes their interest. This will increase your website’s direct hits. Direct hits represent the people actively searching for your brand name or typing in your URL. To get more accurate statistics on the number of direct hits from offline media, run the campaign exclusively offline for a short time and get a sample to analyze.

The Google Analytics screenshot above shows the increase in traffic during a timeframe of intense marketing promotion for an event. Direct hits (Sessions) increased significantly compared to previous periods and a large number of these direct hits were from new users. This shows that the offline marketing efforts that were implemented during this time reached many people who had not accessed the website before.

direct-traffic

Customized Discount Codes

Discount codes are a popular and simple method that many businesses are using to track their offline marketing efforts. Magazines and other print media carry a lot of discount codes. A newspaper advertisement will have a 10% off discount code to enter when making a purchase on a website. Another method is to print coupons for gifts to be redeemed from the company website. Reports based on the use of these codes will show you how effective they were in driving traffic to your website.

Tracking offline marketing efforts can be overwhelming, but using the right tools and strategies, like those mentioned above, can help you determine its effectiveness and make decisions on where to focus your marketing programs.

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