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10 Free Productivity Apps to Make Your Life Easier

Now more than ever, we can all use help keeping ourselves organized and on track.

October 6, 2020 6 min read
Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.
The one thing that we all have in common is the number of hours in the day. As a busy entrepreneur (or aspiring entrepreneur), you likely have to make tough decisions all day long about the most important tasks to spend your time on. With the current global pandemic limiting all of our direct interactions with people, our digital lives have gone into overdrive. I reached out to some other entrepreneurs to get an idea about what apps they believe are boosting their productivity, even during a pandemic. Here’s the top 10 list (in alphabetical order) with commentary from the feedback I received.
Evernote: Rachel Johnson Burns, founder of RLJ Public Relations relies heavily on Evernote. She says “Evernote is my daily lifesaver. Because it syncs on all of my devices: computer, phone and iPad, I can take notes, jot down to-dos, and keep organized with any device. I can even share notebooks with team members and clients. It saves me a ton of time.” 
FollowUpThen: Rick Barrera of RBA Associates uses this free app to make sure he stays on top of reaching back out to people and says “It’s quite simple and I love that I can just bcc (for example) and at 1 pm that day, I’ll get an email reminder to take the appropriate action. I use it for remembering my client’s birthdays, upcoming events that I want to make sure I get tickets for, etc. I can also use it to send my associates reminders. It’s such a time saver and makes me so much more productive.”
Hugo: Christinnah Oyedeji of Calendly shared that for meetings, she has moved off of Evernote where she had lots of stacks and notebooks. Hugo is much simpler because the calendar connection organizes everything for her. Hugo provides one place to collaboratively prepare, take notes, assign tasks and share, and integrates with more than 20+ work apps.
Loom: I personally love this app because it allows me to make quick video or voice recordings to show a teammate or client how to do something, record demonstrations that I can reference later, or even just take notes for myself. Loom also has a handy Chrome extension so you can quickly start recording a video of your screen without additional set up. 
Notion: Matt Bowman of Thrive Agency described why he thinks this app is incredible. “Being the person who spearheads most of the company’s functions, Notion is my go-to free app that keeps my workflow well-organized. What I like about Notion is that it is very collaborative! Anyone can see what others are doing that week at any time. My favorite feature of this app is probably the to-do list; it may be basic for others, but it helps me keep track of what I do for that particular day. As I tick off the tasks that I completed, it makes me feel that the day has been productive.”
Otter: Sam Lessin of Fin says, “ helps me remember things I need to get done. I frequently will just speak rather than type and then share these thoughts with a few friends, partners or colleagues. It used to be that speaking is faster than writing for most people, but listening is much slower than reading. Otter takes excellent notes, but with a hybrid approach of having the text plus the audio to refer to, so it is actually faster for the person generating content and faster for the person receiving the content to get to the key ideas and go and get things done. With remote work and hours spent on web-conference calls, it’s an essential tool to support collaboration and increase productivity.”
PartnerHere: Stephanie Burns of Chic CEO uses Partner Here because she believes, “nothing wastes more time than doing something you’re not good at. I love PartnerHere. It’s a platform for entrepreneurs to connect and create no-cash deals like bartering or equity exchange. It’s super fast to find someone who can swap tasks with me so we can both move our businesses forward by doing what we’re good at.” 
Streak: Chris Kaiser of Click A Tree has saved a ton of time by using this free plug-in with Gmail. Chris says “It’s a CRM built right into G Suite and comes with snippets (reusable templates for phrases or paragraphs you often use) and mail merge to contact many people at once — but each of them with a personalized touch. It has saved me tons of time compared to having a CRM in a different window and a mass mail system in yet another app, then trying to sync all these apps. Streak is a huge time-saver for everyone working with G Suite or Gmail.”
Trello: Michelle Knight of Brandmerry shared one of her favorite productivity apps that has helped her achieve her personal goals. She shared “as a business owner who is RVing around the world with my family, it’s important to maximize my working time so I can stay focused and productive. I’m a lover of all things Trello. It has boards, lists, and cards that allow entrepreneurs to organize and prioritize projects. You can use Trello to organize your content, workflows, weekly schedule and daily tasks. It makes planning and executing blog posts, podcasts, and social media content super easy — especially when you live a life like mine where planning far in advance is a necessity.”
Vibe: Vibe’s co-founder, Zach McMahon shared some background on how the app increases productivity. He said “it helps listeners get into the zone faster by building a custom and personalized playlist for each experience. Our AI learns what music boosts focus and productivity, and what music is distracting and shouldn’t be played. Each person’s experience with music is unique and personal, it’s crazy to think that there are millions of people all listening to the same study playlist!”
Hopefully, these tools help you be more productive during a time when life may seem even more out of control than we could have imagined. Be safe out there, now get back to work!

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3 Trends that Can Boost Your Amazon Business in 2021

January 20, 2021 8 min read
Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.
In the past year many online merchants and retailers have experienced a dramatic uptick in sales as global lockdowns and a surge in remote working kickstarted an online shopping boom. 
According to an October forecast by Smart Insights, global retail had been initially projected to expand by 4.4 percent in 2020, but this estimate was revised to 18.4 percent as the current health crisis sent e-commerce sales soaring. Moreover, e-commerce retail sales now account for almost 30 percent of all retail in the UK and 16 percent of sales in the U.S. — reaching record numbers in 2020.
This growth has been seen across practically all verticals, with the food, home, beauty, and electronics sectors, in particular, seeing striking growth this year. And with the world continuing to embrace digital technology and more than 2 billion people now shopping online, the trend looks set to continue well into the future. Retail e-commerce sales are slated to grow by 20.2 percent CAGR (compound annual growth rate) in some countries between 2020 and 2024. 
Related: E-commerce Is Booming. Here’s How to Take Advantage
For Amazon sellers, this means more customers, more sales and an incredible opportunity for growth — doubly so when capitalizing on the latest trends. As has always been the case, fortune favors the prepared, which in the context of your Amazon business, means leveraging the latest frontiers on online retail to help leapfrog the competition and maximize your success. Here’s a look at how to stay on top of marketing trends for 2021 and beyond. 
1. Get creative when driving traffic
As with all retail, the number of views you get is proportional to the number of sales you will achieve. This is Marketing 101 — drive views to drive sales. 
But the way successful Amazon businesses achieve this is changing. While the vast majority of merchants rely on Amazon’s internal pay-per-click (PPC) advertising solution to drive traffic to their products, more daring merchants are beginning to turn to more unorthodox methods to drive traffic to their listings. 
“If you ask five different people, you’ll probably get five different answers,” says Chase Alley, CEO of Push AMZ, a company that builds and manages automated Amazon stores. “We noticed that paid traffic always performs better once the product has organic traffic, unit sales and reviews,” he says.
Related: How an Amazon Store Can Increase Shopper Engagement
To achieve organic growth, Alley claims to rely on Amazon search engine optimization (SEO) rather than Google or Social Media SEO. “That means researching extensively, setting target keywords and adjusting your product listing content accordingly,” Alley says. “Once you have your goals set, move to optimize your product listing title, your seller name, Amazon backend keywords, your brand field, and product description and bullet points.”
Another rapidly growing sector is micro-influencer marketing. This is essentially the practice of leveraging smaller influencers on popular channels, including YouTube, Twitter, Instagram, and TikTok, to promote your products to their small, albeit loyal following. Two key players in this space are the micro-influencer platforms Cameo and myFanPark (formerly Starsona).
The benefits of micro-influencers over larger, more established influencers are two-fold. For one, they’re far cheaper. You can expect to pay just a fraction of the cost-per-engagement compared to macro-influencers, and you can often score free promotions by simply sending out review products to target influencers. But more than this, there’s a chance to form a brand ambassador relationship with the influencer, securing a more favorable, longer-term arrangement. 
2. Embrace automation
“Automation” is a huge buzzword in e-commerce. According to Ralph Boddicker, a top-ranked Amazon seller and CEO of the Amazon-focused e-learning company Private Label Squad, it’s also a synonym for losing out on profit. “There is a lot of hype around ‘Amazon automation,’ which basically means you have to forfeit a large portion of your profits to let someone else manage your Amazon business,” he says. “People need to understand that Amazon FBA in general is already very much automated. How? Amazon will pick, pack and ship your product to the customer and also handle most customer service issues and returns. This leaves you to manage your advertising and reorder inventory.” 
Related: The 3 Telltale Signs That It’s Time for You to Automate
Besides investing in e-mail-marketing automation software, Boddicker says that most conventional automation applications are not worth your while. Instead, he is looking at a closely related development that is now disrupting the automation niche: artificial intelligence (AI).
Although it is most commonly used as a digital assistant in 2020, an increasing number of online retailers are beginning to leverage the power of AI to boost efficiency, increase performance and gather insights on their target markets. As an Amazon customer, you may have already seen that the online retail giant already uses AI as a first-layer of customer support with its virtual assistant and also uses AI-driven insights for product recommendations. It even uses AI for route planning in its logistics operations. 
But as a seller on Amazon Seller Central, you can also begin to leverage AI and machine learning to your advantage. “A couple things on the horizon that I’m anticipating for Amazon sellers,” Boddicker says, “are AI for inventory management, better retargeting to your customer base, and voice search for product orders and reorders.” The platform’s future AI options could be used for a wide variety of purposes, such as optimizing your pricing strategy based on seasonal changes in demand, handling basic customer support queries, and analyzing the performance of your competitors.
As it stands, the industry surrounding AI-powered tools for Amazon Seller Central is still relatively underdeveloped. This is both good and bad. There are currently few options available commercially, but this also means you benefit from a first-mover advantage and can take action on insights that few others can access. 
Related: Here’s How Customer Experience and AI Are Driving the Next Gen of E-commerce Industry
Splitly is one such firm that offers AI-powered tools for automatically adjusting prices and tracking your ranking on various keywords. Feedvisor offers similar services, allowing you to automatically balance your advertising budget, harvest keywords and more. Both of these options require a somewhat costly subscription plan. 
But if you’re in it for the long-haul, consider commissioning something that better suits your needs — it could pay off in the long run. 
3. Go for sustainability
Sustainability is en vogue. The current health and economic crisis has forced billions of people worldwide to consider their impact on others with movement restrictions, stock shortages and a massive upheaval in the way we go about our daily lives. This has brought about a renewed focus on sustainability over the past year. 
With an increasing number of online shoppers looking to purchase only from environmentally friendly, sustainability-oriented retailers and more customers than ever before placing sustainability over pricing, savvy Amazon business owners can quickly and easily target this rapidly growing demographic with just a few simple changes.
For one, consider the type of packaging you use. If you produce your own products, consider using eco-friendly materials in their construction and packaging—such as recycled plastics (e.g., polyethylene terephthalate) and cardboard, steel, aluminum and glass. If you want to get extra creative, consider using sustainably-sourced alternative materials, such as sunflower husks and bioplastic granules which are either compostable or biodegradable. 
Related: How to Make Sustainability More Than a Buzzword
Research by Accenture Strategy finds that more than half of customers in the UK want companies to take a stand that aligns with their personal values on sustainability, transparency and fair employment practices. Moreover, it found that 62 percent of UK customers prefer to buy from companies that are committed to cutting down on waste.
With that in mind, many online shoppers are savvy and will quickly see through an inauthentic approach designed to simply clickbait or drive views. Instead, focus on making sustainability a core part of your brand story, weaving it into your product information pages and core design ethos. This might include committing to ethical sourcing, implementing a buy-back or recycling program, and building your marketing strategy around sustainability keywords. 
This won’t just help you score more customers, it’s also good for the planet — a real win-win situation. 

The New Architecture Of Tech Innovation Looks Very Much Like This.

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The last year has accelerated the tech innovation cycle unlike anything before it. Over the past eight months, as professionals across the globe transitioned into working from home, technologists and creators capitalized on the extra time to develop new ideas and launch new partnerships, investments and cross-collaborations. 
While the last decade was defined by social media, the phenomenon and the ecosystem in general, I believe the coming years will be defined by deep collaboration and partnerships. You have to look no further than Salesforce’s acquisition of Slack to see this in action. While Salesforce had the enterprise connections, Slack had the water-cooler tech for today. Together, they will change the scope of how enterprise companies operate in a remote/hybrid environment. However, this is just the beginning. Whether as acquisitions or loosely coupled partnerships, this will be the future. 
Let’s take a look at a few more examples.
LivePerson and “Over the Wall”

2020 saw more small businesses launched than ever before, and entrepreneurs across the board find themselves needing guidance to navigate uncertain waters. This guidance can’t come just from siloed motivational drivel. It will require a collaborative approach. “Over The Wall,” a brand new podcast from LivePerson CEO Rob LoCascio, will feature interviews with multi-disciplinary guests, from psychologists to thinkers like Deepak Chopra. On the show, LoCascio shares his own 25-year entrepreneurial journey and invites industry titans to discuss their biggest mistakes and lessons learned. The podcast will look beyond the glamour and glitter of entrepreneurship and focus on the grit LoCascio developed after founding a multibillion-dollar company and more than 20 years running a public organization.
Coca-Cola and OneDine
Coca-Cola recently partnered with Teneo, a global CEO advisory firm, on conducting a survey reviewing how the pandemic has impacted restaurants. The results were eye-opening: only 45 percent of restaurateurs are very confident they will stay in business for the next 12 months. As a result of the survey, Coca-Cola launched their “MarketPlace,” where restaurant owners can access discounted apps and services that create a more contactless dining experience, such as OneDine’s scan-to-order solution. Due to the partnership between Coca-Cola and Teneo, as well as the collaboration between Coca-Cola and OneDine, restaurant owners are more informed about new options to serve their customers.


More Lockdown Support For U.K. Firms—But Many Self-Employed And Small Businesses Miss Out

Europe’s Top Investors Reveal What’s Next For European Tech In 2021

Ten Lessons The Year 2020 Is Desperately Trying To Teach Us

CognitiveScale and RedHat
CognitiveScale, an enterprise AI software company with solutions that help customers win with intelligent, transparent, and trusted AI/ML-powered digital systems, recently partnered with RedHat, a multinational software company providing open-source software products to the enterprise community. Specifically, CognitiveScale’s Cortex Certifai product examines decisions made by AI models and measures the accuracy of those decisions. RedHat Openshift customers can now deploy and manage Cortex Certifai at scale in the cloud. 
ATB Ventures and Radical Ventures
As organizations are pulled into increasingly competitive market demands, tactical acceleration (through acquisitions and venture capital investments) allow for inorganic growth to seed progressive strategies. Technically-focused venture funds, such as Gradient & Radical Ventures allow for investment into the emerging technologies responsible for rewriting innovation architecture. We’ve seen this strategy displayed through the Alberta-based innovation arm of ATB Financial, ATB Ventures, through their strategic investment in Radical Ventures to accelerate ATB’s innovation function within applied AI and machine learning. Radical is an early stage, AI-focused venture capital firm that supports entrepreneurs using artificial intelligence to transform industries. This partnership underpins the recent growth and success of Alberta’s tech and venture capital ecosystem, a region to watch this year.  Through this relationship, ATB Ventures continues to codify its position in the startup ecosystem and the critical nature of data & AI within emerging ventures. Effective partnerships and connections to firms like Radical ensure that ATB and AI-startups continue to grow and compete globally.
Whether joining forces with strategic partners or collaborating with like-minded brands, top-performing companies will continue to leverage alliances in 2021. Business leaders will find that they must proactively seek out and nurture such industry relationships in order to sustain continued growth post-pandemic and beyond.

Entrepreneur Magazine Editor-in-Chief Shares What Owners Can Do Now to Survive

NEW YORK (WCBS 880) — The coronavirus pandemic has accelerated a seismic shift in consumer behavior that has induced stress on business owners.
Jason Feifer, editor-in-chief of Entrepreneur Magazine, told Joe Connolly and Neil A. Carousso that business owners must incorporate technology infrastructure for long-term sustainability and listen to their customers to try to anticipate future needs.
“You need to be in touch with them regularly – surveying them – so that you can start getting data back on what it is that they’re looking for, what’s resonating with them and what’s holding them back on being your best advocate,” he said.

Feifer advises business owners to create an email newsletter to communicate with their customers rather than relying on social media.
“If you think that being in touch with your customer by Facebook is good, it’s not,” he said, explaining, “You’re losing people to the Facebook algorithm and you don’t own that audience.”

The Entrepreneur Magazine chief said customers will point owners in the right direction, and oftentimes, it can be a little change that can make all the difference in surviving the pandemic.
Feifer told Connolly and Carousso it is important that business owners look within themselves.
“Ask the simple question of ‘Is this company doing what it needs to do to survive for the next five years?’ Ask yourself that every single quarter and at some point you’re going to start to say, ‘Oh you know what, actually, I’ve noticed that our consumer is wanting this and this and I don’t know if the thing that we’re doing right now is going to last five years,'” he said, noting that type of honest assessment help owners make the appropriate adjustments.

Feifer is an impassioned entrepreneur, himself, running a production company in which he also hosts three podcasts, serves as a keynote speaker, and has co-authored a novel.
“I stopped watching basketball,” he quipped about how he finds the time for his professional endeavors.
But, it’s that entrepreneurial spirit that has been reignited as millions of Americans work remotely and others are starting businesses as a way to reenter a battered labor market.

Feifer told WCBS 880 many Entrepreneur Magazine subscribers are starting a “side hustle.” Starting any business, especially now, he said, requires a keen focus on one’s business plan and market.
“The number one way that people get stuck is that they have 10 ideas and they can’t decide which one and they start to kind of noodle on them all and they get nowhere,” Feifer said. “You got to just start somewhere.”
Creating a valuable service or product right now can be a win-win for the entrepreneur and their current employer.
See examples, actionable advice and new business ideas on the WCBS Small Business Spotlight video above.