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Small Local Businesses Face Mask Dilemma as Mandates Are Eased

When your state lifts the masking mandate, how should you conduct business?According to a survey by Near Media, the majority of consumers support masking. The consumers also prefer businesses which strictly enforce it.Consumers could respond using one of four choices: More likely to do business with them; Neutral, will not affect my spending; Less likely to do business with them; or I will never shop there again.“Women and older consumers are most supportive,” said Mike Blumenthal, co-founder of Near Media and founder emeritus at GatherUp. “The majority of consumers clearly support strict masking enforcement and prefer businesses that do this.”Blumenthal said strict masking enforcement is the “only logical path for a business.”Local Small Business Should Enforce Face Masks for Customers, Survey Finds“Obviously establishing Covid masking policy is like everything for business,” Blumenthal said. “It is critical that they know their base and are sure to put in place policies and practices that speak that that base.”Blumenthal pointed out that according to survey respondents, women were more likely to support rigorous masking policy than men. Older (65+) populations supported masking more than younger ones. The 25-34 aged cohort was the least supportive of masking.An important note: Although the youngest age groups were least supportive of masking, within those groups there was still a greater than 53% support for businesses which enforce masking policy.Masking and a Broad Customer BaseIf a business’s customer base is not specific – for example, not 80-90% of a certain age/gender category – should a business provide certain hours or certain age groups?For example, the large groceries and grocery/box stores did “senior hours” in the mornings during the pandemic. Could this be an option for small businesses?“Every business needs to understand that support for enforcement of masking was expressed by the vast majority of respondents regardless of age or area of the country,” Blumenthal said. “So that is a minimum standard that each business needs to put in place.”“Each business knows their own customers the best and whether they offer curbside pickup, video Look and See, e-commence or special hours – they should tailor their offering to their customer set,” he added. “However, whatever they choose to do amongst those choices, recognize that you must do it well or you will be held accountable for bad service.”Blumenthal said that small businesses who are thinking of implementing new customer-focused services should focus on services that will provide long term benefits, both to the business and the customers. He said there are two questions a business owner should consider:Will adding some e-commerce and curbside pickup help you improve your experience overall?Will implementing a better SMS based customer focused communication strategy not only make your customers feel safer but allow your business to process new leads better?”Summarizing and Applying the Masking Survey ResultsHow can the information from the survey be turned into a tool for small busineses?Blumenthal mentioned the “meaningful anti-mask minority” which can create a dilemma for local small businesses.“The attitudes of this group remain largely unchanged since last year,” he said. “National reporting tends to focus on anti-masking attitudes, creating the impression that they’re more widespread than they actually are.”The business needs to be ready for blow back and be prepared to deal with it, he advised.What About Regional Differences and Masking?Not surprisingly, consumers in the more urban Northeast most strongly supported masking. Those respondents were most likely to choose “least likely to do business with them” or “will not shop there at all” as choices regarding businesses which didn’t require masking.At the other end of the scale was the more rural Midwest, which had the highest negative attitudes. Yet nearly 54% in the Midwest still favored a stricter business masking policy.Masking as the Small Business World RecoversNow’s not the time to lower your guard, Blumenthal said. He compared the up and down of the pandemic case numbers to mountain climbing.“There is a common wisdom in the mountain climbing world proven out be real world experience that most accidents occur on the way down the mountain not on the more challenging climb up,” Blumenthal said. “Like the mountain climber now is not the time for the small business to let down their guard and to ease up on strict policy enforcement.”Clear Communication about Masking is ImportantBlumenthal said that for small businesses, the most important element of the issue is to clearly communicate these strong masking policies clearly and enforce them consistently.“It may at times put the business at odds with the vocal minority but the business, particularly in states that have removed the masking mandate,” Blumenthal said. “Businesses should be able to make a moral, ethical and business case to both their customers and employees to enforce a consistent masking policy.”How the Masking Survey Was ConductedTwo surveys were conducted in mid-March through Google. One survey had 500 respondents. The second survey had 2,500 respondents.Each study surveyed US adults (18 and older) from all over the country. The respondents were statistically balanced to reflect the age and gender distributions in the US.Image: Depositphotos

3 Keys to Achieving Brand Success on Amazon

May
8, 2019

5 min read

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

The following excerpt is from Timothy P. Seward’s book Ultimate Guide to Amazon Advertising. Buy it now from Amazon | Barnes & Noble | IndieBound or click here to buy it directly from us and SAVE 60% on this book when you use code MARKET2021 through 4/3/21.When considering Amazon’s scope, one critical fact is hidden from the average consumer: Amazon only makes about half their sales as a first-party retailer. As of Q3, 2018, 53 percent of all paid units on the site were sold by third-party marketplace sellers.So Amazon takes half the deck and then splits the other half among roughly 2 million sellers competing in their marketplace. If you want to know how to get a piece of either deck, you should understand how the infrastructure for selling on or to Amazon caters primarily to brand owners.Stacking your deckThe first step toward stacking the revenue growth deck in your favor is to realize that consumers are loyal to brands, not retailers or sellers. Resellers make one-off sales. Brands can create loyal customers. So you’re already one step ahead if your company owns one or more brands.If you are a reseller of products in a specific category, why not begin the journey toward building your own brand?In our hometown of Raleigh, North Carolina, the month of May kicks off the summer concert season. There are so many bands and artists to see. The energy and excitement that comes from hearing your favorite music performed live by the original artist while you’re surrounded by friends and neighbors is almost indescribable.But for every top performer who is hugely successful at what they do (and rich because of it), there are thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands, of musicians who are struggling, pounding the pavement, and working gigs at small clubs hoping to hit it big.The same is true in business generally and brand commerce specifically. For every Apple, Staples, Amazon, and Macy’s, there are thousands more companies that are just doing OK.As you consider how best to build your brand on Amazon, think broadly about your game plan for optimal success. Here are a few key strategies to help you focus your efforts on finding even greater success in commerce — whether you’re celebrating your fifth year in business or your 50th.Related: How To Win in Today’s Amazon WorldKey 1: You understand the mind of the buyer You sell products and services where you keenly understand the mind of the buyer. The more you understand the buyer — their needs or desires, what they’re willing to pay good money for, why they buy — the easier it will be to make great decisions. If you don’t know what they want, then survey them until you do.At ROI Revolution, we’re always asking questions to better serve our clients, and you should do the same. We ask questions like:Would you recommend us to your friends and colleagues?What about your business keeps you awake at night?What was the specific pain you wanted to address just before you hired us?What enabled you to eventually trust us?What other marketing services do you need or want?Think of questions to ask customers or potential customers so you can better address their needs and wants.Key 2: You’re doing something you have intense enthusiasm for Have you ever studied the tour calendar for a major band or artist? Lubbock, Texas; Dallas, Texas; Lafayette, Louisiana; St. Louis, Missouri; Noblesville, Indiana; on and on it goes as they crisscross the country in their tour buses and big rigs. Night after night, it’s the same performance, the same songs, again and again and again.But when your favorite band comes to play, even if it’s the 37th stop of the tour for the artist, for the audience, it’s magic. It’s as if they came to play just for you and your friends. How do they stay fresh?In two words: intense enthusiasm. A talented artist bemoans the end of the tour. Make sure you’re doing or selling something for which you have, or can develop, an intense enthusiasm for. And if you’ve already created success but lose enthusiasm for your work, the success soon leaves you.For your brand, develop and market products you truly believe in and are excited about.Related: Advertising Is Growing Amazon’s Business, So Let Amazon Help Grow Yours TooKey 3: You build and promote your own brand Virtually every artist starts out performing covers of other artists’ songs in small clubs. However, name one major band or artist who makes performing other bands’ popular songs their core repertoire. You can’t. Sure, most artists perform some songs by other bands, but it’s not their whole act.The same rule applies to products. It’s fine if you start off selling other companies’ products, but focus on getting to the point where you’re selling your own trademark-protected products (i.e., under your own brand or label).A well-designed Amazon brand strategy does three things:It controls pricing and product distribution (because if you sell products to dis­tributors, you’ll likely find some or all of them on Amazon, even if you don’t deal with Amazon directly).It enhances product listings so your brand is well-represented and consumers are fully informed of what your brand offers.It accelerates sales (on and off Amazon) with advertising.Did you enjoy your book preview? Click here to grab a copy today—now 60% off when you use code MARKET2021 through 4/3/21.

Learn Vital IT Skills (AWS, Azure, CompTIA) On-Demand with This Award-Winning Tech Platform

Help your company stay ahead of the curve.

Grow Your Business,
Not Your Inbox

Stay informed and join our daily newsletter now!

March
28, 2021

2 min read

Disclosure: Our goal is to feature products and services that we think you’ll find interesting and useful. If you purchase them, Entrepreneur may get a small share of the revenue from the sale from our commerce partners.

One of the primary keys to achieving and maintaining professional success is to be continually learning. After all, the world is constantly changing and, likely, your industry is changing right along with it. No matter what your business does, it’s worth investing in learning resources to ensure that you and your team are always up-to-date on the most cutting-edge trends and technology, especially when it comes to IT. That’s why ITU Online All-Access is such a valuable tool to IT professionals and entrepreneurs.[embedded content]ITU Online Training has provided on-demand IT training content to more than 650,000 students, 200 companies, and 50 public entities since 2012. Their award-winning training focuses on CompTIA, Cisco, Microsoft Servers, ethical hacking, data forensics, Cloud platform deployment, programming, web development, network administration, IT fundamentals, and many other technical skill areas.As the IT field grows and changes with time, it’s more important than ever to have technical skills to help your company grow and stay ahead of the game. With vendor-neutral training in some of today’s most important technologies, you’ll have on-demand access to resources to learn skills you need, when you need them.ITU Online All-Access gives you three years of access to more than 220 full-length courses covering their entire library. Additionally, you’ll get more than 19,000 prep test questions to help you ace IT certification exams, a progress tracker, and more.Always be learning. Normally $399, you can get three-year access to ITU Online All-Access for 50 percent off at just $99.50 with limited time promo code: LEARNIT. Looking to diversify your investments in 2021? Check out DiversyFund to start dipping your toes in private real estate for as low as $500.Prices subject to change.

Give Your Website's Visitors an Easy-to-Navigate Experience by Learning UX and UI

Learning the fundamentals could be a game-changer for your business.

Grow Your Business,
Not Your Inbox

Stay informed and join our daily newsletter now!

March
28, 2021

2 min read

Disclosure: Our goal is to feature products and services that we think you’ll find interesting and useful. If you purchase them, Entrepreneur may get a small share of the revenue from the sale from our commerce partners.

How many times have you loaded a small business’s website only to be completely flummoxed by the user experience? Unable to find a menu, store locations, or how to purchase a product, you probably abandoned your session. It happens more than you might think, despite user experience (UX) being one of the most important (though overlooked) elements of a digital presence. The internet isn’t new anymore, and if your business looks like it’s still stuck in 2004, you’re missing out on potential leads.Rather than pay an arm and a leg on a designer, learn the fundamentals of user experience (UX) and user interface (UI) on your own time with the Introduction to UX/UI Design Bundle.This five-course bundle is taught by the UXcel team. UXcel brings more than 30 years of UX and UI design expertise to their professional-grade courses, all designed to help aspiring designers and creatives to succeed in their goals.In this beginner-friendly track, you’ll get an introduction to UI components, mastering the building blocks of good design, like fully functioning buttons, forms, and menus. From there, you’ll delve into color and typography, design principles, usability heuristics, visual elements, animation theory, and much more. You’ll learn how to arrange visual elements like a trained pro and understand the most common patterns that keep users coming back. You’ll even get comfortable with accessible and inclusive design, giving you a leg up on the competition.Create a digital experience that’s truly user-friendly with help from The Introduction to UX/UI Design Bundle. Right now, it’s on sale for just $29.99. Save an additional 50 percent for a limited time with promo code: LEARNIT.Don’t forget to check out DiversyFund to start investing in private real estate in 2021. You don’t have to be in the 1% to get started. Invest today for as low as $500.Prices subject to change.

9 Ways Content Marketing Generates Leads and Closes Sales

February
12, 2020

6 min read

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

The following excerpt is from Robert W. Bly’s The Content Marketing Handbook. Buy it now from Amazon | Barnes & Noble or click here to buy it directly from us and SAVE 60% on this book when you use code MARKET2021 through 4/3/21.Content marketing performs nine functions that help both B2B and B2C marketers generate more leads and ultimately close more sales. Let’s explore them:1. Sets the specs. Content marketing can edu­cate prospects on what features, functions, and capabilities they should look for when buying a particular type of product or service. If you’ve presented your criteria in a white paper or other medium that looks like useful information and not a sales pitch, readers will absorb and accept your guidelines. They’ll then use the spec­ifications you’ve set.Say you sell motionless mixers, one of the products I helped market at Koch Engineering. In your ads, you offer a booklet called 7 Things to Look for When Specifying Motionless Mixers. Prospects read it and use your criteria when looking to purchase motionless mixers. And whose mixer fits all seven criteria perfectly? Yours.2. Makes the prospect beholden. This is the principle of reciprocity as described by marketing expert Robert Cialdini in his book Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion. When you give somebody something, they feel obligated to give you something in return. Giving a prospect free content doesn’t make them feel obligated to buy your product, but it does make them inclined to give you a little more of their time and attention than they otherwise might.More than half of buyers strongly agree that if brands packaged relevant content together, it would help expedite the research phase of the buying cycle. Content marketing includes delivering person­alized, segmented, relevant content to your existing customers. By keeping your current customers engaged and updated with great content, you’ll improve your long-term customer retention rates.Richie M., one of my newsletter subscribers, told me in an email, “This is just a short note to say that I really enjoy your emails. I can tell when they’re commercials, but don’t mind them, because you generally also give me worthwhile information. I believe that’s why you’re successful. When I receive useful information in free emails, I’m more likely to purchase additional information — and I have.” Richie’s response is what you hope for when writing content.Related: The 7 Rules of Writing Persuasive Technical Content3. Generates more inquiries. A lead-generating promotion with a free content offer can produce more than double the response as the same campaign without the free offer. Good content marketing is that effective. By publishing new and relevant content on your digital channels, and doing so often, you can increase the likelihood of new customers finding out about your business, its services, and the value you can bring them. Plus, prospects are more likely to return to your website when they know you fre­quently add fresh content.4. Gets you new customers. Many marketers acquire new customers through their blogs. Whether your content first caught a prospect’s eye on Google or a white paper they downloaded on your site tipped them over the edge, content marketing plays an important role in the B2B purchase life cycle.Typically, a B2B prospect searching for a product may work through 70 to 90 percent of the product search, research, and eval­uation process before contacting the vendor, according to Forrester Research. B2B vendor research happens online, and one thing that can help move the prospect down the pipeline is publishing valu­able content on your website, email, search, and social channels.For emails sent regularly to your opt-in elist, half or more of the messages should be content, while fewer than half should be sales emails. If you send too many sales pitches and not enough good content, your unsubscribe rate will spike. So will your “mental” unsubscribe rate, meaning that although people won’t ask to be removed from your list, they just stop reading or even opening your emails.5. Establishes you as the expert. Publishing content on your industry, niche, or area of specialization helps position you as a recognized authority in your field, and prospects would rather buy from knowledgeable experts than ordinary salespeople. In a rapidly chang­ing industry, content marketing can help force your team to stay up-to-date on changes and trends, which can become invaluable in your product development efforts.It shouldn’t be solely the marketing team’s job to generate all the material used in your content marketing efforts. Account managers, SMEs, and even long-term clients and site visitors can be engaged to help create great content.6. Educates the market. Content marketing supports your sales efforts, but its first mission is to educate and inform, not make blatant product pitches. Nine out of 10 of the top-performing B2B content marketers put their audience’s informational needs ahead of their company’s sales message, reports the Content Marketing Institute.One marketer of content management software (CMS) was the first to integrate their CMS with analytics, ecommerce, and other applications. But the market didn’t yet understand the benefits of this integration, so the marketer published a white paper explain­ing them, with good results.7. Drives sales. Content can be strategically disseminated at various steps in the buying cycle, helping to accelerate each step and ulti­mately increasing sales. The sales funnel takes most buyers through four stages: getting their attention, gaining their interest, creating desire for the product, and asking for the order. Each stage can use both selling (copy) and education (content).8. Improves search engine ranking and discovery. Search engines love new, relevant, indexed content. When you host content on your website — whether through blog posts, white papers, or web copy — you can improve your search engine ranking and the like­lihood customers will find your website. According to accounting firm Ignite Spot, a blog on your website will lead to 434 percent more indexed pages on Google and 97 percent more inbound links. By increasing your indexed pages and links, you’ll make your site more reputable in a search engine’s eyes. Higher search engine rankings mean interested prospects are more likely to discover your site when they search for relevant keywords.9. Drives web traffic. Search engine discovery combined with social posts that point to your site can increase your web traffic consider­ably. According to HubSpot, if you’ve got 51 to 100 pages on your website (consider each blog post to be a unique page), you’ll gen­erate 48 percent more traffic than if you had under 50. Increased traffic means increased engagement means increased revenue.Did you enjoy your book preview? Click here to grab a copy today—now 60% off when you use code MARKET2021 through 4/3/21.

How To Curate Your Schedule For Optimal Productivity

Scheduling with intentionality is critical for maximizing daily productivity. If you don’t carefully manage your calendar, your calendar ends up managing you—and that’s never good.
The key ingredient to optimizing the way you spend your time is paying closer attention to what makes its way onto your calendar. Five simple tips can help put you back in charge of living and working productively:

Plan Your Schedule One Week in Advance
Some entrepreneurs swear by daily planning as the key to optimizing how they spend their time. Others meticulously plan out an entire business quarter, and some look even further out than that. Go with whatever works best for you while keeping in mind that many of us had plans for 2020 that, in hindsight, seem laughable.
Life happens. There’s a careful balance to be struck between making plans and allowing space for unforeseen events or opportunities. Using a weekly planning regimen establishes a desired framework for the next seven days but also allows for daily tweaks. Make sure you’ve scheduled some downtime each day—more on that below—and you’ll be better prepared to pivot.

For example, an emergency situation on Monday afternoon might require the cancellation of everything from 2 p.m. to the end of the business day. If you already have a framework set up for the rest of your week, you’ll be able to scan quickly and adjust. A weekly plan frees you to accommodate the unexpected without overbooking or missing deadlines.

Give Names and Time Slots to Downtime
Far too many entrepreneurs still think of breaks as “something other people do.” These individuals typically operate out of the mistaken idea that taking a break equals wasting time. However, that assumption is outdated. Regular breaks actually increase productivity.

Don’t set some vague, undocumented goal of taking a 15-minute break every two hours, though. Instead, schedule at least one time slot per day and decide in advance how you want to spend that time—as long as it is not work-related. By giving each break a specific name, such as “Tues. a.m. break: 15 min. walk,” you guard against not using that time purposefully. Looking at your planner first thing Tuesday morning might also remind you to toss your gym shoes in the car.
Be sure to avoid the two equal and opposite errors of (1) taking too much time for a break, and (2) not taking one at all. Put a hard start and stop time on your downtime, and bring the same level of discipline to your daily break that you bring to meetings, phone calls, emails, etc.
Unleash the Hidden Power of Routines
Research suggests that up to 40% of a person’s daily productivity is powered by routine. Everyone has routines, but not all of them have been consciously chosen. There’s a strong possibility that yours may need a tune-up.
The word “routine” has something of a negative connotation, but routines are often very helpful. A morning routine can help put you in the right mindset to begin your day, whereas an evening one helps your body wind down from stress and get a good night’s sleep.
Media mogul Oprah Winfrey is a big fan of routine. She gets up at 7 a.m. every morning to take her dogs for a walk. After that, she does some reading and meditation followed by an hour of exercise. Winfrey’s morning regimen gets both her mind and body active and engaged to take on the day. At the day’s end, she relaxes with a bath to help prepare her for a good night’s rest.
It’s easy to walk around on autopilot thinking the big thoughts, but try taking some time this week to pay more attention to your daily routines. Look for areas where you could be more intentional about what happens in those time slots.
Learn How to Say No
If you feel duty-bound to commit to everything that comes your way, it won’t be long before you’re stretched too thin. There is an art to saying no that allows you to remain friendly and clear without giving offense.
One of the simplest ways to gain mastery over your schedule is to examine your underlying reasons for being too quick to make commitments. Do you fear you’ll be perceived as rude if you refuse? Do you feel obligated to pay forward the help you received earlier in your career? 
After you identify the source of your “yes” reflex, you can begin to short-circuit your auto-response. Try offering everyone a standard reply that will give you time to weigh your options: “I’ll need to consider your request more thoroughly. Could you follow up with me by email?”
Keep Multitasking and Task Switching to a Minimum
There are many self-proclaimed gurus who tout the benefits of multitasking, but advances in brain research are telling a different story. Multitasking is actually bad for productivity. When attention is divided between different tasks, overall efficiency takes a huge hit.
When scheduling your day, keep tasks separated. Focus on one thing at a time.
If you’re still tempted to multitask, try timeboxing. This time management technique divides your day up into boxes of time dedicated to one task. For example, you might label 10 a.m. to 11 a.m. as “content creation” and allow no interruptions during that hour. When 11 o’clock comes around, you stop creating content—no matter where you’re at—and move on to the task occupying the next time box.
Back-and-forth task switching is another trap to avoid. People who habitually bounce around from spreadsheets to email to text messages to social media are often exhausted at the end of each day and at greater risk of burnout.
If you attempt to implement all of these hacks at the same time, you may do more harm than good. Start improving your productivity with small tweaks here and there, then see which changes produce the desired results.

How to Create a Link-Worthy Site

January
2, 2020

5 min read

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

The following excerpt is from the Garrett French and Eric Ward’s book Ultimate Guide to Link Building, 2nd Edition. Buy it now from Amazon | Barnes & Noble | iTunes or click here to buy it directly from us and SAVE 60% on this book when you use code MARKET2021 through 4/3/21.The development of all forms and fashion of linking types has never improved on the original, and no amount of cleverness will ever change one universal truth: The less useful your content, the less likely you are to ever receive a link to it.If we think of the word “useful” as a continuum, then the most useful sites are those that provide rich quality content on a specific subject on which the editor or provider is an authority. Think of the U.S. Government’s National Cancer Institute (what was once known as CancerNet). Located at www.cancer.gov, the site is the ultimate example of content on the right side of the continuum — tens of thousands of pages on every facet of cancer, all free, all generated by experts in the field.In fact, with no online marketing department, the National Cancer Institute’s website has tens of thousands of links pointing to it from other sites around the world. It fits one of my standard sermons: Useful content gets linked. When CancerNet hired me for some link analysis and strategy, there wasn’t a whole lot for me to do. It took me less than a month to augment and improve what was already in place — a great collection of inbound links. My impact was minimal if any.But the reality is, we can’t all have sites like the National Cancer Institute. Most sites simply don’t have the kind of content that engenders tens of thousands of links. So, what do you do? What if you’re simply trying to sell a few widgets and don’t have any reference to quality content?If your site lands on the left side of the useful continuum, you accept that you’re not going to get many links. And those links you do get, you’ll probably have to pay for. And those links you pay for aren’t likely to help your rankings and might even hurt them.If you don’t want to accept this reality and truly want to earn links to your site, you have one (and only one) other option: Make it link-worthy.What is a link-worthy site? Let’s imagine you have an online magic store that caters to professional and amateur magicians. On your site, you sell tricks, supplies, hats, capes, and wands — even the saw-the-person-in-half gag.If your content were nothing more than an online store, why would anyone link to it? You might get a few links on any magic site web guides and link lists. But then what? If you own an online store with nothing but products as your content, then you must look to associate/affiliate programs as a means of generating links. Basically, you’re paying for them. But maybe there’s something more you can do, if you’re willing to roll up your sleeves.What if, along with your products, you create a searchable database of information on magic? What if you had complete biographies of more than 700 magicians? What if you had a section devoted to magical world records, or a glossary of magical terms, or a directory of magicians on the internet?This would then be an excellent example of how a store site can add rich, relevant content, value, interest, and community to its website, as well as sell merchandise. Just about any writer who writes about magic and/or reviews websites would write about this site, and any magic fan with a website and a curated list of handpicked links would be likely to link to it.The above is not just a wide-eyed, hypothetical example: It exists at http://www.MagicTricks.com.I know from experience that it’s difficult to find high-trust online venues and curator/site reviewers willing to link to sales sites. The more a site offers deep information on a certain subject in the form of databases, community, guides, forums, reviews, etc., the more likely editors or curators will feature it in their own content. Whether it’s a business or consumer site, the more content-rich the site is, the better, especially if the site’s mission is sales. A site designed to sell a product is far different from a true reference site with hundreds and hundreds of pages of free information on a particular subject.The National Cancer Institute and MagicTricks.com could not be more different from each other, yet they do have one incredibly important thing in common: Both have topic-specific content written by passionate experts.The best analogy I can think of to explain a sales-focused website is a public library. A library is, first and foremost, about content, although it does sell things. You can buy copies of books, order maps, buy online database search time, or rent study offices or PCs. Some libraries even have video-rental services and snack shops or restaurants. Money definitely changes hands at a library. But nobody would confuse this commerce with a library’s true mission: being content curators and helping patrons find that content. In a like manner, a website also needs to be a library of information on whatever its focus might be. So, add great content to your product site if you want it linked to.Did you enjoy your book preview? Click here to grab a copy today—now 60% off when you use code MARKET2021 through 4/3/21.

3 Lessons Entrepreneurs Can Learn From The Tech Industry

Technology has touched nearly every facet of life. Areas such as communication, architecture, and medicine have seen significant advancements due to tech solutions once thought impossible. But the real innovation behind this industry is the lessons it can offer other industries surrounding how to meet consumer needs through simplicity, productivity, and convenience.Not that apps and software haven’t ushered in more efficient ways of doing things, but if you look beyond the tools, you’ll begin to see the model for the ideal workplace—one that values free-thinking, welcomes creativity, and places employee satisfaction on the same level as profits and revenue.

The processes, procedures, and strategies developed by even the smallest tech company to tackle everyday challenges can offer valuable lessons for companies in any industry. Be it heavy workloads or multiple project streams, the tech industry has myriad practices and qualities that entrepreneurs can adopt in order to improve their business model.
What can entrepreneurs learn from technologists?
No matter what industry you’re in, tech’s trailblazers can provide some helpful cues and tricks that could boost the way you do business. Here are three lessons to take from the tech industry on how to do next-level work:

1. How to truly live your company culture
Traditionally, building a company culture is a top-down effort. Leadership hands the responsibility to HR, which then designs an initiative around the mission, vision, and values of an organization. Free snacks, notes of gratitude, and a couple of happy hours ensue, and then, attention turns to other priorities once the cascades of change have theoretically taken hold.

Although this approach has been a challenge all along, it’s become more problematic as of late. The pandemic hasn’t done culture any favors, and connecting with or guiding a team virtually doesn’t come easy. And with culture now serving as a beacon for both retention and recruitment, it’s quickly emerged as a priority—one that impacts the bottom line and provides a competitive advantage.

In fact, one survey found that 65% of people would take lower pay over working in a bad or toxic environment. What they’re really looking for is a company that allows people to be themselves (47%) and contributes to society in some way (46%). Get culture right, and employees feel valued and become more engaged.
With culture being an important differentiator, many tech companies have already made the move to a new culture-building approach that doesn’t fully abandon top-down directives, but rather incorporates a bottom-up mentality. People throughout the organization share responsibility for shaping and nurturing culture, with some more accountable than others in reinforcing the path paved by the team.
Buffer has long taken this approach through a culture of transparency and autonomy. Although it originally gained attention surrounding its culture by publishing its salaries—a move that brought in 4,000 new applicants within a month—what’s more impressive is the freedom Buffer offers its employees. Even years before the pandemic, it encouraged team members to work wherever they felt most fulfilled. If you’re open and honest with people and establish strong lines of communication, gaps will rarely develop between outcomes and expectations—even at a fully remote company.
Twitter also takes a people-first approach to its culture. For the last two years, the social media network has been testing different virtual meeting processes, creating sign language systems, and fine-tuning other rules for remote work—all in preparation for when much of its workforce will move off campus permanently. The pandemic only accelerated the change: Last May, the company announced its official decision on its work-from-home policy, which included allowing employees to work remotely permanently. All in all, remote work options are quickly becoming the norm among tech companies. However, this level of flexibility could be key for attracting and retaining employees at any organization.
2. How to drive innovation through mission
“Innovation” might be one of the first buzzwords to spring to mind when you think about the tech industry, but why are technologists so great at this in particular? The answer might lie in a company’s mission.
“Improving innovation skills—like improving any skill—requires dedication to the mission,” explains Rebekah Dorworth, president of Kyra Solutions, a government technology service provider. “Caring about the outcome produces perseverance when it comes to pushing through the mundane skills and education enhancement necessary to get you thinking differently.”
So how can a company craft a mission employees are passionate about? You can’t simply institute a bare-bones statement that asks for innovation without any encouragement to follow through. Chances are, it’ll become merely words on a wall. For such an initiative to be successful, you’ll need to clearly communicate your organization’s values within your mission (think the people who benefit from your work, the overarching goal of the work your organization carries out, and the ways in which employees complete that work).
Then, bake it into operations by laying out exactly how you plan to support and promote your mission throughout the organization. This can then serve as a reference point for company leaders as they work with team members, pair projects with people, and so on. By creating a meaningful, values-based mission—complete with a clear plan for how to carry it out—your employees are sure to have more lightbulb moments.
3. How to be flexible (and embrace failure as part of the path toward success)
“Fail fast, learn faster.” Cliché as this might sound, these four words define big tech. As companies in this space push the boundaries of what’s possible, they have limited time to get something right—meaning they won’t cling to ideas that just won’t take flight.
Take YouTube as an example. The site launched as a dating service, and that didn’t go particularly well. The company even took out an ad on Craigslist, offering single women $20 to post videos on the site. Upon co-founder Jawed Karim uploading the platform’s very first video, “Me at the zoo,” users took notice. But instead of using the site to catch the eye of a potential significant other, people began sharing their home videos. The rest, as they say, is history—and the co-founders decided to allow users to define the platform.
Instagram shares a similar origin story. Conceived as a Foursquare-like app for users to check in, make plans, and so on, the platform just wasn’t gaining traction. However, its photo-sharing capabilities were the exception. The co-founders kept what was working, ditched what wasn’t, and relaunched the platform. It took just two years for Facebook to buy Instagram for $1 billion. The lesson here? Even in the early stages of a project, any team should understand that it’s better to change course when something isn’t working and use that experience to inform the next steps to accelerate success.
The tech industry can do more than simply provide tools to make life and business easier. It can also teach entrepreneurs how to craft a clear path forward and build a strong foundation that enables innovation, nurtures accountability, and embraces change. You just need to be willing to learn from its example.

2 Marketing Factors That Will Never Change

April
21, 2020

5 min read

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

The following excerpt is from Dan S. Kennedy and Kim Walsh Phillips’s No B.S. Guide to Direct Response Social Media Marketing, Second Edition. Buy it now from Amazon | Barnes & Noble | IndieBound or click here to buy it directly from us and SAVE 60% on this book when you use code MARKET2021 through 4/3/21.Trying to do social media marketing that actually works grows more difficult by the day. In fact, Facebook is regularly throwing advertisers right out the back door of the castle. To get back in, companies are often required to redo their sites and behavior in ways that neuter effectiveness. Do not underestimate this problem.However, despite the changing marketing landscape, there are still two things that haven’t changed and most likely never well. Let’s take a look.Related: 4 Business-Boosting Strategies While Stuck in One PlaceThe Marketing Success Triangle Has NOT Changed Right markets get the right message by the right media.Simply broadcasting a message to millions via social media accomplishes little for most businesses. Companies like GoPro and Red Bull are great examples of brand-builders using viral videos and social media to rise from obscurity to fame in the marketplace.But your business is probably not akin to theirs. You have to be very careful to model and emulate businesses that have much more in common with your own. Take capital and human resources, for example. If you’re funding your business’s growth from its profits or from money borrowed by mortgaging your home and your grandma’s wheelchair, you’re in an entirely different place than a company into which hundreds of millions of dollars of venture capital and Wall Street money flow.Further, viral explosions aren’t all they’re cracked up to be, as Greg Levitt, co-founder of 33Across.com, a social media sharing platform, admits. From his firm’s research:Consumers are most likely to share articles, news and content related to science, but only 9 percent of person-to-person recipients click on the shared links regarding these topics.Timely news and political items are less widely shared at 2 percent, but the click rates are 86 percent and 77 percent, respectively.Business-related: Only 4 percent share and 24 percent click on the shared links.Health: 3 percent share, 15 percent click.Celebrity and entertainment: 2 percent share, but 40 percent click.Consumer reviews of products, businesses: 1 percent share, 4 percernt click.Personal finance: 1 percent share, 11 percent click.(The above stats were based on surveys of 500 publishers of online content.)Levitt explains the wide disparity between share and click rates as “ego sharing.” That is, senders sharing content they believe will boost their perceived intelligence, informed status, etc. regardless of whether they think recipients will find it interesting or not. The overall average is 3 percent sharing of content and 24 percent of recipients clicking on shared links.To me, this says there are only two useful plays: First, work with a tightly targeted list of thought-leader, market-leader and influential recipients to deliver content of high interest and value that enhances their status if shared — to hit or beat the 3 percent bar, but so that the 24 percent of those recipients who are shared with are ideal for you. Or, second, you need a massive volume outreach so the 3 percent matters.The stats about forwarding/sharing of “reviews” about products and businesses suggest that angst over this — and time and money spent on it — may be overdone.Ironically, and in the face of what I’ve pointed out above, you can make a case that it’s important to include social media as part of your integrated marketing plan. But approach it strategically, with the same direct-response and sound business principles that you would in any other media channel. Related: 4 Things You Can Do Right Now to Generate Leads and Sales OnlineThe Stuff of Bank Deposits Has NOT Changed You can’t go to the bank and deposit likes, views, retweets, viral explosions, social media conversations or brand recognition. Bankers are extremely narrow-minded. They won’t even accept vegetables grown in your backyard garden or bitcoin. They want real money.You must insist on exactly the same thing from all media. Contrary to popular belief, no media is different. No media gets a pass because it’s different. Don’t be fooled. Be open-minded, creative and opportunistic, but always keep a watchful eye on the bottom line.Opportunism and skepticism are not mutually exclusive. They can and should work in concert, like partners, just as Walt Disney, the visionary, and Roy Disney, the money watcher, worked successfully in tandem. Approach social media this way, and you’ll avoid being burnt.Did you enjoy your book preview? Click here to grab a copy today—now 60% off when you use code MARKET2021 through 4/3/21.

ServiceNow Makes A Play For RPA (Robotic Process Automation)

ServiceNow, which is a leading software provider for digital workflows, announced the acquisition of Intellibot, which is a developer of RPA (Robotic Process Automation) applications. The technology helps organizations streamline and automate repetitive and tedious processes.

Keep in mind that the RPA industry is one of the hottest in the tech world. After all, the ROI (Return On Investment) is generally strong and quick.
“We were particularly impressed with Intellibot’s strong experience and know-how in developing RPA,” said Josh Kahn, who is the Senior Vice President of Creator Workflow Products at ServiceNow. “We saw Intellibot’s existing product capabilities, modern UI and technical talent as key benefits that will help us accelerate and enhance our ongoing efforts around RPA to drive improved automation native to ServiceNow’s platform. Intellibot’s capabilities are also strong in IT use cases, which is highly complementary to ServiceNow’s core IT workflows.”
The plan is to integrate Intellibot’s capabilities into the Now Platform, which will make it easier for customers to use both modern and legacy systems.  There will also be a focus on AI (Artificial Intelligence) and ML (Machine Learning). 

Another benefit of the deal will be to help get a bigger footprint in India. The country represents one of the fastest growing segments for ServiceNow. By next year, the company will build two new data centers in the country. 

Consider that the deal for Intellibot is not a one off. ServiceNow has been ramping its dealmaking lately. Some of the other notable acquisitions include Element AI, Loom Systems, Passage AI, and Sweagle. 

 “Today’s announcement of the acquisition of Intellibot by ServiceNow further reinforces the importance that Intelligent Automation and more specifically, RPA plays in Digital and Automation Transformation,” said Jon Theuerkauf, who is the Chief Customer Strategy and Transformation Officer of Blue Prism Software. “We have seen several acquisitions in the last several months of smaller firms by companies like SAP most recently. Consolidations like the announcement today will continue as companies fight for this growing multi-billion dollar market. The winners cannot follow the pack though; differentiation will soon become evident for those that know what to look for.”
Prospects For The Deal
The acquisition for Intellibot does look like a good move. If anything, ServiceNow will be able to leverage its massive distribution footprint to monetize the software. Note that the company has close to 80% of the Fortune 500 as customers and many of them are looking for ways to automate the workflows on their legacy systems. 
“As customers scale with RPA, they are finding that it hasn’t been well integrated into the overall process automation strategy,” said Kahn. “It is often an island of automation and they are looking for ServiceNow to provide a more complete solution. We’re bringing everything into one platform, from the overall orchestration of the workflow to specific points of automation, based on RPA and other automation technology like low code tools, workflow, integrations and AI. Examples of workflow processes where RPA can play an important part include customer account creation and management, customer verification, employee on-boarding and off-boarding, data extraction and migration, and claims and invoice processing, among others. In every one of those use cases, there is a core business process with multiple forms of automation, including RPA.”
The deal for Intellibot may even represent a disruption for the industry. And yes, it could spur more consolidation.
“The biggest impact is the new capability this acquisition creates to move from individual use cases enabled by RPA, often disconnected across the enterprise and hard to scale and sustain over time, towards an enterprise model where this capability will simply be another option for organizations to consider as they move toward broad business change enabled by the ServiceNow Platform,” said Dejan Slokar, who is a Principal within Deloitte Consulting LLP. “Being able to execute on business process automation by leveraging a broad set of digital workflow capabilities will be an attractive value proposition to ServiceNow users. That being said, organizations that already have a large RPA footprint will need to evaluate and decide on what their priorities will be.”
Tom (@ttaulli) is an advisor/board member to startups and the author of Artificial Intelligence Basics: A Non-Technical Introduction, The Robotic Process Automation Handbook: A Guide to Implementing RPA Systems and Implementing AI Systems: Transform Your Business in 6 Steps. He also has developed various online courses, such as for the COBOL and Python programming languages.