lundi 30 septembre 2013

Search Trends Necessitate Mobile Ads

It’s predicted that mobile search queries will overtake desktop queries by 2015. And if consumers are moving toward mobile, so are marketers.

In contrast to the seemingly speed-of-light level adoption of social media and apps on smartphones, search seeped into our lives a little more slowly. It’s as if consumers begin to realize “Oh yeah – I can Google it on my phone!” (Almost similar to the euphoria brought on by the introduction of “football on your phone”). Of course – like all genius revelations, the rest is history.

This year has been a digital turning point – over half of consumers in the U.S. now own smartphones and turn to them with a wide array of intentions. As businesses work to keep up with the various usage trends, many aspects of marketing – like search – are subsequently altering.

About 22% of search budgets will go toward mobile in 2013. According to eMarketer, this number will increase to nearly 60% within four years. It’s vital for marketers to improve all aspects of their mobile strategy as these changes hurtle forward in order to garner those clicks and increase traffic.

Search Trends Necessitate Mobile Ads image mobile search 1

Search advertising will play a large role in that mobile strategy moving forward as well – ads need to reach consumers where they’re searching. Even those with first page rankings can benefit from running mobile ads, as proven by a recent Google AdWords study.

The mobile research study that found 88% of ad clicks from mobile search are incremental to organic clicks. This statistic demonstrates the value of mobile search ads – the majority of users would not click on an organic listing when the ads are paused. Therefore, everyone should be taking advantage of this important ad type. As shown below, the impact remains consistent in different verticals.

Search Trends Necessitate Mobile Ads image mobile search 2

As mobile search usage quickly evolves, marketers need to keep up by way of mobile search advertising. If correctly optimized and implemented, these ads will not only ensure that you aren’t losing clicks, but will increase traffic and sales for your business as well.

via Business 2 Community

Love is in the Air: Six Celebrity Couples We Love Who Love Each Other

Love is in the Air: Six Celebrity Couples We Love Who Love Each Other image ben and jen 225x300

We have a huge obsession with celebrities, especially when they are dating someone that is equally as famous. There is just something comforting seeing two of our idols together in a solid relationship. While most Hollywood relationships do not last long, these are the six celebrity couples that truly love each other and continue to last.

Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie

If you were going to look up news on celebrity relationships , then Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie would probably be the first two that pop up. Their relationship has been highly publicized and criticized, but they have continued to make it last since 2005 . The couple has six children, and they are constantly enjoying family time together while doing humanitarian work.

Kevin Bacon and Kyra Sedgwick

When two of the most likable stars in Hollywood get married early in their careers, everyone is instantly going to root for them. Fans of the two stars do not seem to have to worry because it appears Bacon and Sedgwick make for the perfect couple.

Ben Affleck and Jennifer Garner

Ben Affleck’s career was spiraling out of control when he met Jennifer Garner in 2003. Garner was the perfect fit in his life, and the two have quickly become one of the most popular celebrity couples in the world. They may be huge stars, but they constantly turn down roles to make sure they spend time together with their three children.

Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson

These two have been married since 1988, and they have proven that staying out of the spotlight is the best way to last as a celebrity couple. Tom Hanks is one of the most likable actors in the world, and his immense love for his wife is impossible to miss when they are seen together. The two have four children, and they seem destined to be married forever.

Kurt Russell and Goldie Hawn

While they may not be married, Kurt Russell and Goldie Hawn are still one of the longest lasting couples in Hollywood. The two actors met on the set of “Swing Shift” in 1983 and they have been together ever since. They do not want to get married due to their previous failed marriages, but it does not look like they will be separating any time soon.

Kristen Bell and Dax Shepard

These two quirky comedians may have only started dating in 2008, but it is impossible to not see the chemistry they have together. The two regularly do interviews and films together, and it is clear they make a perfect couple. They may have just married earlier this year, but this is one young Hollywood marriage that is destined to last.

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2013 NFL Week 4 Recap

The San Francisco 49ers, sitting at 1-2 following two lackluster performances, bounced back somewhat with a 35-11 road victory over St. Louis. Frank Gore rushed for 153 yards and a TD, Colin Kaepernick tossed two TD passes and the ‘Niner defense flexed their muscles after giving up 56 points in their previous two games. The Rams (1-3) were held to 188 total yards and Sam Bradford was sacked five times.

In the Battle for Ohio, the suddenly potent Cleveland Browns won their second straight, toppling Cincinnati 17-6 behind Brian Hoyer’s two scoring tosses and a stout defensive effort. Hoyer and the Browns took advantage of a sluggish Bengal squad which appeared to lack focus on both sides of the ball.

Baltimore fell short in Buffalo, a 23-20 loss dropping them to 2-2. Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller combined for 164 yards for the Bills, who intercepted Joe Flacco five times and held the Ravens to 24 yards rushing. The win evens the Bills at 2-2.

Pittsburgh is 0-4 following their 34-27 loss to Minnesota in the NFL’s annual trek to London. Adrian Peterson put on a show, rolling up 140 yards and two TDs, while Matt Cassell tossed two TDs to Greg Jennings. Ben Roethlisberger’s fumble with 19 seconds remaining doomed the Steelers.

The New York Giants are 0-4 after getting steamrolled 31-7 in Kansas City, giving them their worst start since 1987. QB Alex Smith had three TD passes in guiding KC to 4-0 for the first time since 2003. New York has been outscored 69-7 in its last two games.

In an NFC North contest that was expected to provide plenty of points, Detroit and Chicago didn’t disappoint with the Lions taking advantage of a 27-point second quarter and holding off the Bears, 40-32. Reggie Bush ran for 139 yards and the Lions forced four turnovers in improving to 3-1 and handing Jay Cutler and the Bears their first loss of the season. Cutler (317 yards, 2 TDs, 3 INTs) fell short with a furious comeback after trailing 40-16 early in the final quarter.

Seattle ran into a first-half buzzsaw in Houston, but the Seahawks used clutch late-game defense to pull out a 23-20 overtime victory, improving to 4-0 for the first time in franchise history. Richard Sherman’s 58 yard INT return for a TD tied the score at 20 apiece with just under three minutes remaining and the Seahawk defense then asserted itself after being picked apart by Matt Schaub(355 yards 2 TDs, 2 INTs) for most of the game. The loss drops the Texans to 2-2.

Josh Scobee’s 53-yard FG midway through the first quarter gave Jacksonville a 3-0 lead over Indianapolis, but from then on it was all Colts as the Andrew Luck-led offense totally dominated, scoring 37 unanswered points to thrash the Jaguars 37-3 and improve to 3-1. Indy’s defense limited the Jags to 40 yards rushing and 205 total, also recording three INTs.

It was a game of two halves in Tampa, with the host Bucs dominating the first half behind rookie QB Mike Glennon, but Arizona finally awoke late behind Patrick Peterson’s two late interceptions to steal a 13-10 road win and improve to 2-2 while keeping Tampa Bay winless at 0-4. Carson Palmer connected with Larry Fitzgerald with a little over three minutes remaining to tie the score at 10-10. Peterson then recorded his second INT to set up Jay Feely’s game-winning FG with 1:29 left.

Spotting Oakland a 14-0 lead, the Washington Redskins rallied to capture their first victory of 2013 with a 24-14 win on the road at Oakland. Roy Helu’s 14-yard TD scamper with just under seven minutes remaining completed a Redskin comeback and dropped Oakland to 1-3.

Peyton Manning’s 327 yards and 4 TD passes kept the Denver juggernaut rolling in a 52-30 win over the Eagles. Denver (4-0) was never threatened, leading by as much as 42-13. The loss dropped the Eagles to 1-3. Surprisingly, Denver’s 52 points were a franchise record. Manning is on a record-setting pace with his 16 TD passes in four games.

San Diego’s Philip Rivers threw for 401 yards and 3 TDs as the Chargers fought back from a half-time deficit to knock off Dallas, 30-21. Antonio Gates hauled in 10 passes for 136 yards and a score, while the Charger defense stymied the Cowboys offense to improve to 2-2.

The New York Jets looked totally outmanned in losing to Tennessee, 38-13. The loss dropped the Jets to 2-2 and elevated the Titans to 3-1. It was a rough game for QBs with Tennessee’s Jake Locker carted from the field with a hip injury while rookie Geno Smith of the Jets had four turnovers.

Aqib Talib’s defense on Atlanta’s Roddy White in the end zone on fourth-down saved New England in a 30-23 thriller in Atlanta, dropping the battered Falcons to 1-3 and keeps the Pats undefeated at 4-0. Tom Brady and his new cast of receivers continue to develop rapport, which spells trouble for opposing defenses.

via Business 2 Community

Litecoin vs Bitcoin: Who Wins the Crypto-Battle? [Infographic]

Litecoin vs Bitcoin: Who Wins the Crypto Battle? [Infographic] image BitcoinvsLitecoin4

Since we love our cryptocurrencies, today we decided to publish this awesome infographic about two of the biggest and most famous digital coins in the world: Bitcoin and its “relative” Litecoin. While one is better at some things and the other wins in other fields, they are both extremely important to the world of cryptocurrency.

The story of Bitcoin is usually more famous, mainly because of the mysterious figure behind its creation. This virtual coin was born in 2009 thanks to the genius of the anonymous Satoshi Nakamoto, who created a decentralized digital currency and managed to achieve one of the biggest breakthroughs in the world of software and technology in the last years. Or even maybe in the last decades.

Thanks to the amazing protocol created by Nakamoto and to the peer-to-peer technology that operates without a central authority, Bitcoin enables instant payments to anyone, anywhere on the planet. After four years of life, this cryptocurrency keeps thriving and its growth seems unstoppable by now, with several online and physical businesses across the world accepting Bitcoin as a form of payment.

And what about Litecoin? This virtual currency is often seen as a member of the Bitcoin family, like we said before by using the term “relative”. Much like its bigger “cousin”, this cryptocurrency uses is based on a peer-to-peer system and also enables instant payments to anyone and to anywhere. Created in 2011, Litecoin is also different from Bitcoin in some ways, since it can be efficiently mined with less effort and its transactions can be confirmed in less time. The cryptocurrency also uses a scrypt-based mining proof-of-work algorithm that makes the whole system a lot more efficient. As you can see, and for the more distracted people, Bitcoin and Litecoin are very different and yet very similar, so let’s take a look at this infographic and dissolve any doubt you might have.


via Business 2 Community

Bitcoin ATM in Canada [Infographic]

Bitcoin ATM in Canada [Infographic] image Bitcoin infographic

Canada is revolutionizing its Bitcoin exchanging scene with five new simple, and yet so amazing, machines: the Bitcoin ATMs produced by the company Robocoin, based in Las Vegas. The devices will soon arrive in the country thanks to the action of the crypto-store Bitcoiniacs, a physical business located in Vancouver that works like a Bitcoin broker and already conquered dozens of clients. But what will change with the arrival of these machines? Well, we bet that a lot will be different from now on. Just the fact that you can use a simple machine to exchange your fiat currency for Bitcoins, and the other way around, is such an marvelous possibility that we bet something great will happen. Maybe even the generalization of the cryptocurrency’s use.

While the first machine is expected to land in Vancouver in early October, the rest of the devices should arrive in December to other major cities like Toronto, Montreal, Calgary and Ottawa. There are already several reports of local Bitcoiners excited about the news, mainly because, according to them, this makes it easier for people to buy and sell Bitcoins according to the current exchange rates.

Besides being super easy and safe to use one of these machines, you also won’t have to wait several days to verify your transaction, like it usually happens when operating through an online exchange. This makes Bitcoins more accessible to people and still adds that necessary element of legitimacy that will attract several new users, for sure. Robocoin says that the idea is to provide visibility to Bitcoins and add trust to the exchange process. That is why the kiosks will allow customers to quickly make a transaction using cash or a simple receipt with a QR code. To find out more about these amazing machines check out our infographic!


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The Phenomenon That Will Force Central Banks to Buy Gold

The Phenomenon That Will Force Central Banks to Buy Gold image 300913 PC lombardi Gold bullion isn’t getting much respect these days…and that’s perfectly fine with me.

The Goldman Sachs Group, Inc. (NYSE/GS) says the precious metal has a risk of going below $1,000. Bank of America Merrill Lynch cut its forecast for the yellow metal as well. Its forecast says gold bullion prices in 2014 will be around $1,294 an ounce. (Source: Market Watch, September 27, 2013.) Other big banks have similar opinions.

While the big banks were proven right back in April and June when they said gold bullion prices would decline (and much had been written on that “forced” price decline), I don’t think their predictions will come true this time.

At the very core, gold bullion is a store of value, and it protects against uncertainty and currency fluctuation.

As readers of Profit Confidential know, I believe central banks will ultimately be the biggest buyers of gold bullion, and they will ultimately be responsible for higher prices.

Long-term, history has proven when there’s too much money in circulation, the value of paper money goes down and the hard asset prices go up. This economic cycle will be no different.

In fact, at his point in history, central banks in the global economy are printing paper money in overdrive mode, and they presently don’t seem worried about any consequences. Our own central bank is printing, the European Central Bank is printing, and the Swiss National Bank said it will print an unlimited amount of paper money if that’s what’s needed to keep its currency value low.

And while developed nations are printing, money printing in emerging markets is out of control. (In the end, it will be the central banks in the emerging countries that will be the ones desperate for gold bullion.)

Just look at these hard facts:

The basic money supply (paper notes and coins in circulation) has increased 156% since January of 2006. (Source: Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis web site, last accessed September 27, 2013) And the printing continues in India.

The situation is similar in China. The basic money supply there more than doubled from January of 2008 to this June. (Source: Ibid.)

Central banks are wrong in thinking money printing will solve their economic problems (Japan today is proof that money printing doesn’t work). Sure, the longer paper money printing goes on, the better the outlook for gold bullion. But it’s not just about central banks. Actual demand for precious metals by citizens in countries that are increasing their money supply (the U.S., India, China, and others) has been aggressively rising.

For now, I sit back and anxiously wait to see how this will all unfold. I am not worried about the short-term picture for gold bullion, as I believe the long term looks nothing but shiny for the yellow metal.

Michael’s Personal Notes:

The bear dressed as a bull has done a masterful job at luring more and more investors back into key stock indices.

Data from the Investment Company Institute shows that for the week ended September 18, long-term stock mutual funds had inflows of $3.3 billion. For the week prior, inflows were $5.2 billion. (Source: Investment Company Institute, September 25, 2013.)

Those who are buying stocks now cannot see the losses ahead!

The fundamentals behind the rally in key stock indices continue to deteriorate.

Companies in key stock indices are playing tricks to make their corporate earnings per share look better. They are buying back their own shares; and the more they buy, the better their corporate earnings per share look. In the second quarter of this year, the S&P 500 companies in total bought $122.8 billion worth of their own shares. The stock buyback activity in the second quarter was 24.2% higher than the previous quarter! (Source: FactSet, September 23, 2013.)

The troubles for key stock indices don’t just end here. Look at the chart below. It compares consumer sentiment (green line) and the S&P 500 (red line). Pay close attention to their relationship.

The Phenomenon That Will Force Central Banks to Buy Gold image University of Michigan Consumer Sentiment Chart

Chart courtesy of

While consumer confidence has basically been flat, the S&P 500 has risen. The theory behind this is that when consumer sentiment is better or increasing, consumers go out and spend. As a result, companies’ corporate earnings increase. This is not the case right now.

Last but not least, we are hearing companies in key stock indices warning about their corporate earnings going forward. So far, 82% of the S&P 500 companies have issued negative guidance about their corporate earnings for the third quarter. How significant is this? The five-year average of S&P 500 companies providing negative guidance about their corporate earnings is 62%. As a whole, the number of companies proving a negative third-quarter outlook, in numbers, makes up almost 18% of the index—or 88 companies. (Source: FactSet, September 20, 2013.)

From my point of view, the disparity between the underlying fundamentals and stock valuations has increased to an unprecedented level. Be very careful with equities; easy money and tricks can only drive key stock indices higher for so long.

via Business 2 Community

Creating A Social Media Plan Of Action

Creating A Social Media Plan Of Action image shutterstock 150135440 300x200Busy professionals who use social media for personal branding, networking, job search, etc. normally don’t have time to throw away. Yet, most use social media without having any real strategy. Sure, they may get a “hit” on occasion with a business referral or job opening information, but those happenings tend to be a happy surprise. In fact, I addressed an audience last week in Washington D.C., asking participants if they have a documented social media plan. Out of hundreds of people in attendance, only one raised her hand. Creating a plan for your personal brand does not have to be time consuming. These are the three action items I gave the audience.

Three step social media plan

  1. Write down your goals. What do you want to accomplish? Do you want to increase your website views by 25% in thirty days? Do you want to be contacted by two new recruiters with hot job leads each month? It’s important to identify targets before taking action on social networks to ensure that your chosen networks and actions on them are in alignment with your goals. Also, you have no way of knowing if you are successful without understanding your goals.

  2. Write down who you need to connect with to reach your goals. If you want to increase website traffic, who is your target market? Write down demographic, geographic and psychographic descriptions. Do you need to connect with stay-at-home moms, 25-45, living in the United States? Depending on your product/service offerings, Pinterest, a picture-based social network that boasts over 86% female users, may be a good option. Similarly, you likely would not use Google+ to connect with that demographic as it is mostly male. In the recruiter scenario, write down firms known to work with your dream companies. If internal HR reps, write down the titles and industries they work in. Then, use LinkedIn Advanced Search to locate and connect with the firm’s recruiters or type in job titles, industry and location to create a “connection” list consisting of your desired future contacts.

  3. Begin connecting with your desired connections and build “real world” relationships. For some reason, many social media users believe that the rules of engagement online are different than in person. However, you build relationships online just as you would in person, over time. Don’t try to immediately sell your company’s offerings or yourself. Ask questions, offer assistance, and show that you are interested in building a long-term business relationship.


Crystal Washington is a social media marketing strategist, speaker, co-founder of Socialtunities—a social media instruction brand that trains Gen Ys-Boomers on the strategic use of social media, and the author ofThe Social Media WHY: A Busy Professional’s Practical Guide to Using Social Media Including LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Pinterest, Google+ and Blogs for Business. She is hired by corporations and associations around the globe to provide keynotes, workshops, and webinars.

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Olympus OM-D E-M5 Camera Review

Olympus OM D E M5 Camera Review image em5 hero black 300x122

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Why Your Online Marketing Ventures Fail

There is a saying in politics that those who fail to remember history are doomed to repeat it. This philosophy applies to business ventures too, where there are an untold number of pitfalls awaiting even the savviest online marketers. The secret to success isn’t working hard, it’s learning to leverage the resources you have to get what you want. Entrepreneurs engineer their own failures frequently, but the successful ones understand that if you learn from those mistakes you can turn that knowledge into action.

But sticking to your business plan is not the only path to success. You must be willing to test the strategies you devise, make changes to impact conversions and grow your network all at the same time.

You Won’t Launch

The first step toward conducting any business is to actually launch the venture. Forget about launching with a fancy flash video that describes what you do. Instead, try to launch with the bare essentials: a form for customers to fill out, tracking code to track what they do on your page, and a logo or a banner for your website. Without data to build off of, any changes you make before you start getting customers may prove ineffective because you know little about your audience.

The solution is to set a date and stick to it. Get out of the “make it perfect” mindset, and turn it into “make it work.” The results are often not pretty, that’s true, but a product that provides benefit to the user will grow into a better presentation as time goes on.

You Spread Yourself Too Thin

Rich Gorman, a leading online marketing guru, likes to say that you can be a jack of all trades, but you’ll end up as a master of none. Instead, pick one thing you can do at launch and focus on doing that one thing well. As your business grows, you can add features to help entice customers outside of your core audience, but service those people with a half-hearted product and you’ll lose your audience.

Identify what you do best and put yourself in that role. If it’s tech, hire someone to do copywriting. If it’s marketing, hire someone to build your website. The more time you spend trying to do something outside of your core focus, the more room you have to discourage yourself from running the business, and the less chance you have to succeed

You’re too Obsessed with Returns

For those living paycheck to paycheck, it’s hard to get out of the mindset of pulling money out of your business to pay for yourself to live. Take a second job, or find other ways to market your skillset online as a freelancer. Supplement as much of your personal income as possible with side gigs and other work. Use the money that your business earns to grow the business.

Get an accountant and ask about tax breaks, set up a retirement account for yourself and get in the habit of doing some pleasure travel mixed in with a bit of business.

You Spend Too Much Time Planning

A well drafted plan includes competitive research, marketing strategies, sales goals and predictions. Avoid tunnel vision by setting deadlines for yourself and sticking to them. Hurdles will always arise that prevent you from executing perfectly every time, but if you hit most of your goals you’re sure to see some growth.

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Meet Heather Carlson – Consultant, International Studies Grad, and Pinterest Influencer!

Meet Heather Carlson – Consultant, International Studies Grad, and Pinterest Influencer! image Dmg732xt9BL1RWPAcWDvudd6EENZiWeTfrue1DqbsAD5nc2gDA69JR4cniYZ cWoUingl7E0kD8JVe75DdKBNO9NJTqwqWktXGpjH3mmRewEl755lohoQCQ

Heather Carlson is a leasing consultant from Grand Rapids, Michigan, where she was born and raised. She graduated from Taylor University in 2011 with a degree in International Studies. Heather loves Olive Garden and her favorite movie is Lord of the Rings. When she’s not working or on Pinterest, Heather can be found hanging out with friends, reading, playing ultimate frisbee, or traveling! Heather’s amazing style and variety of beautiful travel pins has earned her over 2.2M Pinterest followers!

When did you start using Pinterest and what inspired you to make an account?

Pinterest was still in its somewhat early stages when my sister told me about it and I decided to start an account to see what it was all about. I immediately came to appreciate the features of the site and began to pin photos of places I wanted to travel; it was then that I was first introduced to the lures of Pinterest DIY and started many of my own (occasionally successful) projects! The fact that I could centralize my ideas and inspirations all in one place and personalize each board to myself was very intriguing.

Why do you like Pinterest over other social media platforms?

I enjoy the fact that you share your interests in a subtle, non-intrusive way. It’s more casual than other social media platforms since it does not center around sharing personal details. You’re finding, or even creating, pins that express your interest to share with others. You aren’t merely interacting and pinning from friends you know; you have the opportunity to discover boards from complete strangers whose style you absolutely love.

Meet Heather Carlson – Consultant, International Studies Grad, and Pinterest Influencer! image G6vrZeHAFCmlMBeN6HMBIp DqMu5P7FfeH95YizlOyIWh52lBLkfc4A770Mq9lba89FaC6 zW5jpm7USaB 8Ef QwGa2wppmGbrmsFTiBQyyQPg9AkE0WSc

Riding a Camel in Egypt

You have gained over 2.2M followers! Wow! So what makes your Pinterest unique?

I believe one of the main draws to my Pinterest account is my desire to stay true to my own interests and what excites me, as well as my ability to unearth beautiful things. The various pins that I find or create all represent different forms of beauty and come together to create a unique aesthetic that expresses myself in a way that only pictures can. For my most popular board, Galaxies and Glitz, I try to pin images of the world beyond our own planet. I think that there is an element of wonder and awe that people feel when they see images of our solar system and the galaxies beyond. In a way it makes us feel small, but it also allows us to dream beyond the confines of Earth, reminding us of what is still yet undiscovered and that true beauty is always out there waiting. People are also encouraged to think outside themselves when they see these images of a reality that is so outside anything they have seen in their lives here on earth.

You’re from Michigan — tell us more about it! Have you always lived there?

I was born and raised in Grand Rapids. It has been a great place to grow up, and although I love to explore and travel as much as I can, it is always nice to be able to return home at the end of the day. I think Michigan has a quiet, subtle beauty that a lot of people might miss. You probably don’t think about Michigan as this amazing tourist destination or possessing any amazing sites to see, but the quiet woods, the fresh water lakes, the warm sand dunes, and the friendly people, all make for a wonderful place to live.

Have you traveled much?

I have had the opportunity to travel all around the US and abroad as well; I do have a wanderlust, and I love nothing more than to explore and discover a new culture or country. I even lived abroad in Jerusalem, Israel for a semester was one of the top experiences I have had in my life so far. I am always looking for the next opportunity to travel and learn more about the world.

Meet Heather Carlson – Consultant, International Studies Grad, and Pinterest Influencer! image nrAhq02lJZw09m2bAMH47NvKYduwci6j0JYJjZeMjGyCFoQtvzJ3URbaq28OeD3fKQmHPIGsPk FXdSeVeLcxCXccxq0BqJsBXIx3gb2qHwoaqQNbont0w80

My Twin Sister Kathryn and I at the Rocky Mountains

Tell us more about your Pinterest boards. What are your favorite boards to pin on and why?

I thoroughly enjoy pinning to my Wanderlust board which goes back to my love for travel and also to my major in International Studies. There are countless gorgeous photos of amazing places in the world that I never knew existed. If it were possible, I would love to go to every place I pin, but there would never be enough time for all of those places! I also really love my Adventures board.

Your Galaxies and Glitz board is so cool! Tell us more about how you came up with that idea.

When I was younger, I was always excited to see the planetarium when our school took field trips to the museum. I loved to learn about different planets and galaxies. Nothing can quite compare to the beauty we find in these images and I felt it would be a wonderful idea for a board. When I place these images in juxtaposition with style and fashion, thus the “glitz”, I feel it adds a more unique, mystical feel to the images than one would otherwise find on a board simply devoted to fashion.

Tell us more about your personal style and your Pinterest aesthetic.

I have always been a fairly laid-back person and I always try to appreciate the beauty in life beyond the mundane day-to-day. With that in mind, I want my Pinterest to have a natural, relaxed feel, but I also want it to feel bright, colorful, happy, and full of adventure! Much of my Pinterest is centered on amazing photography that captures the beauty of the world around us: both natural and manmade.

Meet Heather Carlson – Consultant, International Studies Grad, and Pinterest Influencer! image WDQpv8Y8i4NCeR4ErQuh51t gyqCcaM RYmrCRsf6nt2xdf0VHfNlX8GmLaFHaJMW3oneuEnAdafXCAMnFz5h5TxyTgX8DzTptl9A49IHmQ5V1Rp5LPBsmtZ

My Best Friend Stassia and I in the Texas Desert

What are your plans for the future?

One of my main passions is travel and discovering new people, places, and things through that. I would love to be able to incorporate that in my life in the future. I also love to be able to interact with and help people. My desire is to find a way to do both of those together, potentially through missions work abroad. In a way I hope my life emulates my Pinterest; calm and simple, yet full of life, happiness, and discovery!

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How to Take Password Security Out of the Hands of Your Employees

How to Take Password Security Out of the Hands of Your Employees image hands on passwordIn a business of any size, each employee has their designated tasks and responsibilities. An office assistant might be responsible for answering phones and filing. A salesperson might be responsible for generating and following up on new leads. An accountant might be responsible for handling all payroll and tax issues. But in most offices, there’s at least one responsibility that every single employee shares: using password security to protect the best interests of the business.

Most businesses today still use single-factor authentication (SFA) to protect their network and data, meaning their security depends entirely on passwords. One of the biggest risks with password-based SFA is that the security of your entire system (customer data, financial info, internal emails) depends on your employees. One weak link—like an employee who shares his password or uses an easily-hacked password for all his accounts (i.e. “password123”)—and your system could be compromised. This is one reason that many companies are switching to multi-factor authentication (MFA).

Password Security with Multi-Factor Authentication

In authentication security, there are currently three factors used: knowledge (something you know), possession (something you have), and inherence (something you are). Whereas SFA uses only one security factor (usually knowledge, via passwords) to authenticate users before providing them access to a network or application, MFA uses at least two (usually knowledge—a password—and possession, validated through the user entering a one-time code generated by a device that they have, like a secure mobile app on their phone).

Because of the enhanced security MFA provides (it’s nearly impossible for an outsider to attack an MFA-protected network; even if they attain the password, they won’t be able to enter the second needed factor), it also allows for more advanced password security options, like single sign-on (SSO). With good SSO software, users to sign into their SSO system using MFA and are taken to a web portal where they can then be automatically signed into their applications without needing to enter their passwords or credentials again until they are logged out. Using an SSO password management system, administrators can easily see who has what permissions, change and create passwords, and automate password resets and expirations. The headache of password security is eliminated, along with the “weak link” of human error.

Password management systems and SSO also allow employees to focus on what they do best: their jobs. No longer will they need to take valuable time from their workday to enter and re-enter login info and passwords, or ask IT for help with lost or reset passwords. Password security is enhanced, while productivity and morale is improved. It’s a win-win for any business looking to take control of their security and protection.

For more on the capabilities of a strong single sign-on system, download our free guide, “10 Questions You Should Ask your Single Sign-On Vendor.”

via Business 2 Community

What Stock Market Investors Really Face Ahead

The bear dressed as a bull has done a masterful job at luring more and more investors back into key stock indices.

Data from the Investment Company Institute shows that for the week ended September 18, long-term stock mutual funds had inflows of $3.3 billion. For the week prior, inflows were $5.2 billion. (Source: Investment Company Institute, September 25, 2013.)

Those who are buying stocks now cannot see the losses ahead!

The fundamentals behind the rally in key stock indices continue to deteriorate.

Companies in key stock indices are playing tricks to make their corporate earnings per share look better. They are buying back their own shares; and the more they buy, the better their corporate earnings per share look. In the second quarter of this year, the S&P 500 companies in total bought $122.8 billion worth of their own shares. The stock buyback activity in the second quarter was 24.2% higher than the previous quarter! (Source: FactSet, September 23, 2013.)

The troubles for key stock indices don’t just end here. Look at the chart below. It compares consumer sentiment (green line) and the S&P 500 (red line). Pay close attention to their relationship.

What Stock Market Investors Really Face Ahead image University of Michigan Consumer Sentiment Chart1

Chart courtesy of

While consumer confidence has basically been flat, the S&P 500 has risen. The theory behind this is that when consumer sentiment is better or increasing, consumers go out and spend. As a result, companies’ corporate earnings increase. This is not the case right now.

Last but not least, we are hearing companies in key stock indices warning about their corporate earnings going forward. So far, 82% of the S&P 500 companies have issued negative guidance about their corporate earnings for the third quarter. How significant is this? The five-year average of S&P 500 companies providing negative guidance about their corporate earnings is 62%. As a whole, the number of companies proving a negative third-quarter outlook, in numbers, makes up almost 18% of the index—or 88 companies. (Source: FactSet, September 20, 2013.)

From my point of view, the disparity between the underlying fundamentals and stock valuations has increased to an unprecedented level. Be very careful with equities; easy money and tricks can only drive key stock indices higher for so long.

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3 Reasons I’m Not Worried About Google Changes

3 Reasons I’m Not Worried About Google Changes image medium 2568436053Last week, everyone freaked out about the new changes. For me, I’ve been more curious how the changes will affect me. What I have learned from the previous Google changes are the following:

  • Google will continually change its search algorithm | This won’t be the last change.

  • If you play by the rules, you will be fine – Don’t get suckered by some overnight sensational search deal.

  • Focus on learning more about integrating social media and search into your own marketing strategy and you stay ahead of future changes.

Why am I not worried about the Google changes (Hummingbird) ? (3 Reasons)

Reason 1 – Already work with a secured company website

If you have a company site and you have people access data or upload persona data, you really should have a secured site. As I found out early in my online marketing career, Google did not particularly like secured sites. (Example: https:// instead of http:// )

It was for this reason, I relied on a blog site that was outside the current company site.

Reason 2 – Bing and Yahoo are gaining more traction.

People are starting to get a bit tired of all the changes Google is implementing with respect to search and are turning to Bing and Yahoo. Yahoo is starting to come in strong in some areas and is beginning to make a name for itself. Bing is gaining steam and could be an interesting player down the road.

Reason 3 – Google Plus and more social media

I have been on Google Plus since day one and have tried to have a presence in some way on Google Plus. Google Plus has helped push some of my content toward page one. It will be interesting to see what effect Google Plus will have on search. Google Authorship has been a game-changer and continues to bring search traffic to my sites. If you are not using Google Authorship with your Google Plus ID, you are simply missing the boat.


Everyone is looking at ways to maximize social media, online search marketing and overall web traffic. This is true for Google as well as marketers. As long as you know the rules and you understand your own environment, you can find ways that work best for your company.

Right now, a lot of ad companies and markers are pushing different cookie-cutter strategies. Please be aware there isn’t a magic approach or strategy. Each company is different and needs to find ways that work for their own products and services.

One last tip, keep abreast of the changes occurring online and always look for ways to improve your current processes. This really is the key to keeping up with changes like this latest one.

photo credit: mark knol via photopin cc

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One Small Business Secret Weapon

One Small Business Secret Weapon image IfNotNowWhenBusiness growth depends on your ability to leverage time, money, expertise and “human” power. As you have probably discovered, it is virtually impossible to manage every single task, system and project in your business, all by yourself. There just aren’t enough hours in the day to operate at 100% effectiveness, 100% of the time. Even with your action lists and priorities, you only have two hands and one pair of eyes. Your income is limited by your time.

Can you just imagine how freeing it would feel to be able to count on someone else for support? A team partner? Someone who is vested in the success of your business while still saving you money?

The answer for your small business?

Leverage the power of other people’s strengths and time so YOU can get more done: focus on your core genius to scale your business to the next level. Think of all of the everyday mundane tasks that while necessary, do not represent direct in-pocket revenue for you. Why do you use your valuable time for these low payoff activities?

“Within the first 6 months I added a virtual bookkeeper and personal assistant. I went from making about $4,500/month to making over $15,000/month.” Melanie Benson Strick

  1. What tasks do you perform on a daily basis that actually generate income?

  2. What projects or business operations are required, but are not money makers?

  3. Which of the two take up most of your day?

  4. What is on your plate, that shouldn’t be part of your steady diet?

Are you truly cognizant of all of the hours you spend on basic office administration? Project management? Social media? inbound marketing?

This is just a small sampling of what you should be outsourcing so you can focus your time on what you do best. How many of these low payoff activities do you manage every day?

  • Triaging and responding to emails

  • Creating email templates

  • Researching statistics and industry data

  • Content curation

  • Social media best practices

  • Social media automation tips and tools

  • Sending out client birthday/holiday cards

  • Travel planning

  • Editing, proofing blog posts

  • Image search and creation

  • Uploading blog posts and adding SEO

  • Creating systems

  • Tracking deliverables

  • Generating office policy and procedure docs

  • Researching online business tools

  • Managing your database

  • Creating spreadsheets

  • Managing your online newsletter

  • Tracking web statistics

  • Testing new software

  • Interface with team members

  • Blog promotion

  • Cross promoting your content on social media channels

  • Calendar and appointment scheduling

“Exceptional leaders, however, understand the importance of and how to surround themselves with exceptional talent and delegate tasks and responsibility to them.” Peter Gasca

How much more do you think you could accomplish if you outsourced just 5-10 hours per week? I am not suggesting anything new to you or something I don’t do myself. I have a phenomenal virtual assistant and without her tremendous assistance, I would go insane. When you continue to do it all, or attempt to, you become the bottleneck to your growth and expansion. If things are falling through the cracks, you have little time to yourself or you are a slave to your business, it is time to re-evaluate your systems.

What are you willing to give up in order to grow?

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How to Find the Right Investor for Your Startup

How to Find the Right Investor for Your Startup image searching for investors1 300x200A good team of investors can be the foundation of your startup’s success, but a bad one can obliterate even the strongest ideas. Investors can provide your business with more than capital — they can become resources for organizing, marketing, and realizing ideas. Knowing what to look for in an investor and being able to attract the best kind of investors are vital skills for any new entrepreneur.

Attracting Investors

As a newbie with limited experience, how do you convince potential investors you are worth listening to — and get them to buy into your idea? Here are two qualities I strongly believe are key:

Communication: In a time when people are constantly connected online, it’s essential to be good at correspondence in its simplest form. People hate being relegated to your voicemail, and unanswered emails make it appear that you don’t have time or don’t care about responding.

Our investors know they can call me anytime, and I’ll always pick up the phone or get back to them quickly. Respond to phone calls and voicemail messages and make time — not just to read, but also to thoughtfully answer emails every day.

Honesty: Being truthful is obviously non-negotiable. If you misrepresent yourself or your business, you’ll be dead in the water.

It’s natural to think seducing investors with best-case-scenario figures is the most effective way to get funding for a new project. Actually, the opposite is true. Nothing will torpedo an investor’s confidence in you faster than projecting everything through rose-colored lenses.

Making cautious or even negative projections shows investors you’re honest with them and also capable of being realistic about your project’s potential problems. Underpromising and over-delivering is your best bet, and an honest assessment of a project’s strengths and weaknesses is crucial.

Sealing the Deal

Once you’ve established yourself as accessible and trustworthy, you will not have to go out of your way to land the investment. Take these steps in advance to increase your chances of sealing the deal:

  • Prove it works. Once you’ve built a business successfully — even a small one — investors are more likely to believe in you. Get an idea going, and achieve small successes to show you’ve got the drive to see things through. As someone who’s been on both sides of the table, I personally feel more confident investing in ideas that have already proven viable.

  • Build relationships. Every person you meet is a potential investor or a contact who will lead you to one. This has proven true for me dozens of times. I met a guy at Starbucks once who introduced me to a group that invested $250,000 in one of my ideas. We eventually sold that business for seven figures.

  • Be likable. It’s impossible to raise money if investors don’t like you. Engage people and be friendly. Look sharp and exude positivity. An investor once told me that he chose to invest in my company because I was personable. “I know we have a winner here because of you. I like you,” he said.

Finding the Right Investors

Getting the right investors for your project is just as important as being able to attract investors. Here’s what I advise upcoming entrepreneurs look for in their investors:

Diversity: The more well-rounded your investment group is, the better suited they’ll be to address the challenges your company will face. Look for investors with diverse backgrounds and experiences.

Positivity: Supportive people can be the difference between a project’s success and failure. No company can grow without encountering problems. Finding people who remain confident through these times can improve your chances of success.

Investors are vital in far more ways than just providing cash. Depending on the arrangement, the right group can become unofficial consulting firms or even assist in day-to-day operations. My current partner, Ryan Goldschmidt, first invested in a nightlife venue he had neither the experience nor the skills necessary to operate. After an exhaustive search, he found a company willing to invest in the buildout with the skills to operate a large venue and the capital needed to make the necessary improvements.

Of course, some investors prefer to remain at arm’s length. Either way, your team of investors can make or break your startup. Always approach potential investors with honesty and confidence, and don’t forget to be picky when choosing the right people to partner with.

Aaron Pitman and Ryan Goldschmidt are founders of RA Domain Capital, a domain name development firm. Aaron is an angel investor and an entrepreneurial thought leader. He welcomes anyone to reach out to him through Twitter (@aaronpitman) or you can visit him directly at

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Proven Wealth Creator Delivers Again; Earnings, Sales Growth Surge

Proven Wealth Creator Delivers Again; Earnings, Sales Growth Surge image 300913 PC clarkIn a world where genuine revenue and earnings growth is a tough thing to come by, the company with the iconic “swoosh” did so with flying colors. NIKE, Inc. (NKE) is a business that continues to defy its maturity as a brand.

The company posted 2014 fiscal first-quarter earnings that beat Wall Street consensus, with revenue growth coming in at a solid eight percent with no significant impact from currency translation.

The company was able to increase its gross margin substantially and total earnings grew an impressive 33% to $780 million. Diluted earnings per share grew 37% to $0.86 a share on one percent less in weight average diluted shares outstanding.

NIKE purchased 8.4 million shares of its own common stock in its fiscal first quarter for $526 million, and its cash position soared $2.3 billion (after a debt issuance and the sale of Cole Haan and Umbro) to $5.6 billion.

With such strong numbers and such a solid cash position, I’m actually surprised the company didn’t effect an increase to its quarterly dividends. The company raised its dividend at the end of last year, and management may do so in the next quarter; the business can certainly afford it.

NIKE has been able to get away with price increases without affecting demand, and with strong expense control, the extra margin goes right to the bottom line.

The company had a very successful fiscal 2012 fourth quarter, and its operational momentum continues. The stock is at an all-time record high, with a current dividend yield of just over one percent; but like most successful enterprises, the company’s share price is often trading at new highs.

This business is worthy of consideration when it pulls back on the stock market. The position really hasn’t had a major period of consolidation since back around 2000. The company’s latest quarter was a standout.

In the retail landscape, brand power matters and NIKE continues to execute tremendously well. Excluding changes in currencies, the company said that global orders for its NIKE-branded footwear and apparel for delivery from September 2013 through to January 2014 is up eight percent compared to the same quarter last year. It’s therefore reasonable to expect the company to post another solid quarter of revenues and earnings growth. Earnings outlooks from major Wall Street firms are very likely to improve over the coming weeks. (See “What NIKE’s Earnings [To Be Released This Afternoon] Could Reveal About This Proven Wealth Creator.”)

I always follow NIKE for its financial results. I use it as a benchmark stock on consumer retail spending. While the stock is fully priced, it’s earned the right to be, with such impressive growth in a still slow-growth environment.

The only low point in NIKE’s business currently is China. But this was widely expected, as company management already guided accordingly. NIKE is a solid long-term holding to consider for any equity market portfolio.

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Mobile Minute: What You Can Learn From the Best iOS 7 Apps (So Far)

Mobile Minute: What You Can Learn From the Best iOS 7 Apps (So Far) image mm 09 30

MM21 – What You Can Learn From the Best iOS 7 Apps (So Far)

Apple recently released iOS 7, and everyone has an opinion on the design that’s the biggest change since the OS’s inception.

As the dust settles, we’re looking at some of the best apps that were released alongside iOS 7, and how you can look to them to take advantage of iOS 7′s new features.

First off, when Apple releases a new version of iOS, it’s the perfect time to update your app. American Airlines was one major brand that did just that, and its app update features a great use of transparency as well as transitions.

Another update we really like is Hipmunk’s, a travel app for searching for flights and hotels. The app makes nice use of motion; for example, tapping on a hotel makes the photos slide across the screen, letting users know there’s more to see.

The new motion in iOS 7 in general lets users know how to interact with different parts of the screen, building a more intuitive and engaging experience.

Another major brand that’s taken advantage of iOS 7′s new user interface and features is the New York Times. It has even made a bold choice by dropping support for iOS 5 and 6, as Apple now allows users to download previous versions of an app for whatever device they have that supports it.

iOS 7 allows the New York Times to introduce an interface that’s cleaner than ever, featuring a great use of transparency that defers to the content. This is a major principle of iOS 7—let the content come first.

Whether you’re updating an existing app to iOS 7 or building a completely new one, also make sure to consider the use of motion and transition in your app, and how that will help you create a compelling experience for users.

And if you don’t already have an app in the app store, right now is a great time to start.

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What Is Marketing – Part I

What Is Marketing – Part I image iStock 000025504992Medium

Today I want to dive into a pretty BIG question… What Is Marketing?

The reason I want to explore this is because it’s a question I believe people want to ask, but are often afraid to ask when in a group or when talking to a marketing ‘expert’. Heck, it could be embarrassing, right?

There was a time, some years ago, when I didn’t understand or know what marketing was… I confused sales, PR and marketing and really didn’t understand how the different parts fit together, never mind how they fit in my business.

So, for anyone who really wants to know, “What is marketing?” Let’s dig in… we’ll do this in 3 parts. :- )

The first part, which we’ll cover today, is the overall picture of the activity of ‘marketing’.

According to, this is the primary definition of marketing: the activities that are involved in making people aware of a company’s products, making sure that the products are available to be bought, etc.

The secondary definitions add a bit to it, so I’ll include them as well:

1a : the act or process of selling or purchasing in a market

1b : the process or technique of promoting, selling, and distributing a product or service

2: an aggregate of functions involved in moving goods from producer to consumer

What does all this tell us? Basically, marketing is any activity that gets the word out about your product or service or helps people to make a purchase of your goods.

So, by definition, it makes sense that I was once confused (and you might be too) about what fits under the umbrella of marketing. Basically – it’s ALL the activities – which means ‘Marketing’ includes PR, it includes sales, and it includes the typical activities most people label as ‘marketing’ – things like advertising, social media, pamphlets, business cards, networking and much, much more.

Now, I do separate PR, Sales and Marketing into 3 sub-categories for marketing as it makes understanding each area much easier, and it has helped me and my clients figure out what areas to place focus as we grow our businesses.

To me, PR, or public relations, is the process of getting ‘editorial’ style coverage for you, your business, product or service. Meaning, someone else is saying things about you to their audience… often, that makes it a VERY valuable piece of the overall promotion and marketing puzzle. Without a doubt it’s one of the things that needs to go into your marketing plan.

And, to me, sales is the process of helping someone determine if you, your product or service is the right fit for what they want or need. Without the sales process, you could do all the marketing and PR you want and you might not ever have money flow into your business. It’s the final step in the marketing process and deserves a great deal of your attention.

Finally, ‘Marketing’ as I’m defining it here are all the activities you do to make people aware of your business, products and services. As I mentioned – everything from advertising to business cards fits into this category – and in order to have a successful business, you’ll need to have a whole SLEW of marketing strategies in place and working for your business to grow.

In the next post we’ll dig more into the question, “What is marketing,” by looking deeper into all the different marketing strategies you can consider as you build out your marketing plan and your business.

And, if you know you are ready to take the marketing bull by the horns, so to speak, you’ll want to check out my upcoming FREE LIVE webinar. You can register here.

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5 Ways to Take Control of How Your Customers See Your Brand

If you run a mom and pop shop, it’s easy to protect your brand – to monitor exactly how your customers see you and your business. You are the face that they see each day. Your actions are the only ones customers experience. You don’t have to worry that an hourly (or salaried for that matter) employee is somehow representing your brand poorly.5 Ways to Take Control of How Your Customers See Your Brand image lazy worker 300x201

Communication is Key

Of course, it all begins with you and your ability to communicate goals and values to your employees. This requires that you send clear messages about your brand to your employees. Often times CEOs will refer to themselves as “cheerleaders” for their companies. This is an apt analogy because communicating brand goals and values is not a one-time occurrence. You can’t write a memo and expect your employees grasp everything you’re trying to say. It takes repetition, and lots of it!

If you believe you’ve communicated your brand’s goals and values, the next step is to make sure that your employees are doing a good job of representing them to the customer. While there are many ways to do this, and the specifics of your business model will dictate which are applicable to you, here are a few ideas.

Use Your Security Cameras for More Than Security

Security cameras aren’t just to monitor your customers; they can be used to make sure your employees are doing their jobs properly. Are they getting overwhelmed during high volume times and taking the phones off the hook? Are they smiling at each and every customer? Are they closing early or opening late? It may reek of “big brother” but, in the end, it is your business. You have to make sure your employees are doing their job to the standard you expect.

Computer Monitoring is Necessary

If your business uses computers (and which doesn’t these days?), you’re probably worried about how much time your employees are spending on Facebook and other non-work related websites. Many businesses have policies about social media. There are solutions for monitoring computer usage in every price range. At the very least, you’ll want to know what websites your employees are visiting. If your business handles sensitive information, a more complete solution will be necessary.

A Little Espionage aka Mystery Shoppers

Mystery shoppers are a tried and true formula for restaurants, but they can work in many different applications. Do you have a business that involves talking with customers over the phone? A mystery shopper can let you know that your employees are sticking to your script. Did they upsell? Are the polite? With face-to-face businesses, even more information can be learned. How is their hygiene? Do they make eye contact? Do they sound excited and upbeat or do they make the customer feel like they are an annoyance?

Rewards Work

Many people view these monitoring techniques as a way of ferreting out the employees that are doing something wrong. More importantly, I’d argue, is to find the employees that are doing things correctly and reward them. The inclination of many is to think that those that are doing their jobs properly need little more reward than the paycheck they are receiving. While that may be true, by handing out rewards you are communicating to the rest of the employees that good work is valued. That communication will often be much more effective in reducing bad behavior than punishing those that break the rules.

Monitoring your front-line employees to ensure they properly represent your business is just good business sense. Put a plan in place now to make sure your customers experience exactly what you intend for them.

Have you ever ‘accidentally’ discovered an employee who wasn’t carrying out your company’s policies?

Let us know in the comments how you remedied it for the betterment of your business.

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Free Marketing Ideas Part 4 – Start a Press List

Free Marketing Ideas Part 4 – Start a Press List image attraction marketing 1015

Welcome to the latest edition of my new weekly blog series, “Free Marketing Ideas”. Each week I will identify and explain a simple marketing idea that you can employ at low or no cost. Last week’s topic was Create a Twitter Account.

This week’s topic: Start a Press List

As a company, you want to make news. When you make news, you essentially get free marketing. That’s the genius of PR, although PR is something you usually have to pay for.

In this case, we want to do it for free. And to start, you want to create a list of people to reach out to when your company has news to share. This list should include bloggers that cover topics related to your market or your industry, names of writers and editors of industry and trade magazines, local newspapers, and even broadcast news producers.

Start by making a list of all the outlets themselves. Use a simple Excel spreadsheet and just start listing every website, magazine, newspaper, and television station that you can find.

When you’re done, order them by who is most likely to be both reachable, and agreeable to working with you. Start small and work your way up. The next step is to add a contact name, email, and/or phone number for as many as you can. If you can get a physical address, even better. Most websites will have a press contact you can find by searching.

Once you have that information on your spreadsheet, you have the foundations of a press database. You can choose to make contact immediately, introduce yourself and develop a relationship so that by the time you have news to share you already have a foot in the door. Or you can wait until there’s news, then reach out directly with that news. I’ll leave that choice to you.

Share your thoughts on this idea, and other free marketing ideas in the comments section below and keep the conversation going!

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3 Ways to Achieve Superior Travel Spending Performance

Taking away with one hand, then giving back with the other is something I wrote about a few weeks back. Nowhere is this philosophy more prevalent that in travel expenses and according to the findings of a newly published research paper by CFO Research called Improving the Management 3 Ways to Achieve Superior Travel Spending Performance image 275263 h ergb s gl 300x200of Travel Spend, it’s an area where most companies have a middling performance. Now that finding shouldn’t really surprise anyone because if you turn on the pressure on travel expenses too much, employees start to grumble and that can compromise their performance. Do you really want your ace sales team overnighting in a budget motel before pitching a multimillion dollar deal to a potential customer? No, of course you don’t.

Perhaps it’s not surprising that the 173 senior finance executives from North America and Europe interview for the survey had a similar view with 42% of respondents reporting that they are seeking greater visibility into and control over travel spending by gathering more information on employee spending behavior and fine-tuning policies for travel spending –rather than squeezing it dry.

Improving control over the ravel spend is likely to have a greater impact on a company’s financial performance and as only 12% of respondents reported that their employees’ compliance with travel-related spending policies was excellent, it’s clear there is a massive gap to close here that will not only reduce the incidence of exceptions but would also drive down transactions costs by minimizing the administrative burden of travel-expense management.

Trying to improve employees’ compliance with travel policies without using an automated solution is likely to be unsuccessful and will only result in increased administration costs. But survey findings show that simply automating processes is not enough; automation has to be done right. Most companies surveyed relied on some degree of automation in their travel processes, with only 16% saying that processes are primarily manual. However, over half of the respondents (56%) reported that their companies’ employees had to navigate through a variety of dedicated point solutions for booking, reimbursement, and reporting and only 22% of respondents said that the travel systems are tightly integrated with their ERP and general ledger systems.

The survey results lead the authors of the report to suggest three ways for successfully automating travel-expense submissions and reimbursements;

  1. Tightly integrate travel systems with other enterprise systems. At companies that tightly integrate their travel systems with their ERP and general-ledger systems, 49% of respondents say that their travel systems contribute substantially to their ability to meet their travel-expense management goals, compared with only 11% of respondents at companies with only somewhat integrated travel systems.

  2. Consolidate all travel-expense data into a single source. At companies that rely on a unified source of travel-expense data, 84% of respondents say that their management decision makers have access to robust, timely, and comprehensive information on travel expenses, whereas this figure is only 57% at companies that rely on many sources of travel-expense data in many formats.

  3. Make better use of preferred-vendor relationships for travel. While this is an obvious strategy, without an automated solution in place, it is often difficult to achieve and 30% of respondents reported difficulty in consolidating enough purchasing volume with a given vendor to gain negotiating leverage and another 30% reported difficulty in enforcing employee compliance with travel-spending policies.

Success in improving employee compliance only comes when they are provided with a solution that is designed for how they work and travel today. That means automating the entire process from travel planning and approval, travel booking, expense and receipt capture, and expense reimbursement and giving them the mobile access for booking and receipt capture so they can make the maximum use of their time away from the office. That’s exactly what you get with solutions like SAP Travel OnDemand. Only by deploying such solutions can the majority of companies rise above the “merely mediocre” performance in travel-expense management that this report uncovered. And being available on a subscription basis of “pay as you go,” you can gain all the benefits of a solution without a large upfront investment.

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Streamline Your Operations for Scalability

In our last Equipped to Compete blog, we talked about the characteristics of a successful start-up. Clarity of purpose, entrepreneurial spirit, and persistence. But we don’t often hear about how established small and midsized businesses make the crucial jump to Streamline Your Operations for Scalability image analytics 300x2251being sustainable high-growth businesses.

The fact is that lots of ambitious, fast-growing companies expand for a while, but then reach a point where they are held back by operational constraints. Their technology isn’t flexible enough; they can’t recruit the right leadership or get access to the right skills; their distribution network can’t cope with the volume of orders; and more.

Scaling your organization to meet the needs of an uncertain future is a tricky business. But if you get it right, you can deliver even the most ambitious growth strategy. The first step is to put the right operational infrastructure in place, starting with basic elements like drawing up an organizational chart, defining clear reporting lines, and creating simple communication channels.

Are you going to have tight central control or a devolved, flexible structure with a lean executive office? What about a sourcing strategy? Should you outsource back-office functions to stay flexible? Or are certain functions a core part of your business that you need to keep in house, where you can exert close control?

One key aspect of this big shift is that it is usually time for the company’s founders or CEO to empower and delegate. You need to establish ways of working that don’t depend on the boss’s sign-off. It’s time for policies, disciplines, and standard, repeatable processes. For example, if your cash management procedures haven’t evolved from those small business days, you need to rebuild them on sound financial principles. It may feel unnatural at first, but automating everyday procedures frees up people’s time and talents to make sure you stay entrepreneurial in spirit, if not in size.

Of course if your name’s above the door, it may be unsettling to see other people doing things differently. But as long as they stay faithful to your guiding principles, it’s the only way to set your company free to grow into a genuine market force.

Visit our SME Community Experts Web site to read more about how businesses like yours are creating smarter business models to capitalize on business opportunities and scale for growth.

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How to Make $100K as a Freelancer

Let me guess. You’re creative, talented, and, not that long ago, you made the switch to freelance work.

You had a dream to choose your projects, control your hours, and do what you love to do all the time.

It sounds like the perfect life, and that’s why you made the switch. But now that you’re there, it’s not all it was cracked up to be.

Trying to get your timesheets and billing completed — correctly — stresses you out so much that you fret over it for a week; then, you do it at the last minute.

Trying to get new clients and projects makes you feel like a hungry caveman running around with a club in your hand. When you happen to conk something over the head, you chow down for a few days, but sit empty-bellied the following two weeks.

You’re constantly browsing the Web. You’re making money, but it’s not enough to justify the hassle. Even worse, you don’t feel creative anymore.

You don’t want to acknowledge that little voice that suggests it may be time to get a j-o-b.

What Separates the Successful

I have spent the better part of the last five years studying the coaching profession to understand what the most successful coaches do to separate themselves from the rest.

Like freelance writers, illustrators, graphic designers, and developers, life coaches don’t suffer from a lack of skill in their chosen profession. Life coaches know how to coach. Sure, some are better at the skill of coaching than others, but coaches who make $100,000 are not 10 times more skilled than those that make $10,000.

To live the abundant, creative life you dream about, consider how you can apply these habits of the top life coaches to the way you do business:

1. Think Like a Business

A lot of people try building a business as a side project. It’s a good approach unless you have a long runway (i.e., money in the bank to support your growth).

But whether you’re freelancing on the side or you’ve made this your full-time business, you need to approach your work like a professional. The best coaches invest in business cards, a separate phone line, a professional-looking website, a customer relationship management system, some business training, and other setup.

When they get up each day, they have structure. They set aside time for business development, client attraction, and administration. And most of all, they understand that a business requires all of these aspects and smart financial investments to grow.

2. Stop Trying to Help Everyone

When you don’t have many clients, it’s very compelling to cast your net as wide as possible. But by trying to appeal to everyone, you end up appealing to no one.

The market is competitive — especially online. Stop trying to please everyone. Figure out who your ideal client is so when he finds you, he’ll whip out his credit card and hire you on the spot.

3. Understand Your Ideal Customers

The kiss of death in the startup world is to operate in stealth mode, building the next best widget and doing a massive launch under the critical eye of the media. Few companies can successfully pull that off.

In response, the lean startup movement is sweeping across the business world. It urges anyone operating in an environment where there is uncertainty to get feedback and iterate a service offering as soon and as frequently as possible.

Don’t assume you know exactly what your ideal customers want and need. Don’t assume you know how to package and deliver your services. Interact with your ideal customers, find out what their main challenges are, offer them a service that matches their needs, and keep improving. You won’t get it right the first time, so keep working to close the gap between what you do and what your ideal clients really want and need.

4. Offload the Stuff You Suck At

As a freelancer and solopreneur, there are parts of the business that sap you of your creative juices. Maybe you can get them done, but they come at a real price.

When you dread doing certain activities or put them off for weeks, you know you need to hire someone to do them for you. Yes, there’s a cost to hiring other people, but there’s usually a higher opportunity cost. For every hour of crappy admin work you do, you’re losing an hour on high-return, business-building activities.

5. Create 12 Raving Fans

The cheapest way to get more clients is through word-of-mouth referrals. How do you do that? Make your existing customers rave about you.

While you may be expending a lot of energy getting new clients, have you thought about ways you can make your existing customers happy? Maybe you need to put in an extra hour each week producing a report. Perhaps you send a birthday card.

However you do it, show your customers you are constantly there for them and are going the extra mile to build the relationship. They’ll stick their heads out and recommend you to colleagues and friends.

All it takes is 12 raving fans. How many do you have?

6. Be Held Accountable

Few people have the discipline to operate at full capacity on their own with no reporting structure. CEOs report to a board of directors. Vice presidents report to the CEO. Frontline staff report to managers.

Who do you report to? Most likely, the answer is no one, which means you’re probably underperforming. No one sees when you fail or waste an hour on Facebook. You have the capacity to be more successful, creative, and strategic. Sometimes, you need someone else to help you get there. Find a mentor or an accountability partner or start a mastermind group. Find or hire a person who can help you stay on track or even realize a better, more fulfilled life.

Going out on your own can give you the freedom to work on the projects you truly care about, create your own schedule, and rediscover your passion. But if you can’t successfully run and manage your business, your foray into entrepreneurship will become more stifling than any cubicle.

via Business 2 Community