Best of Luck!
Make sure your business doesn’t become another statistic by following these growth tips.
Every new business owner wants to achieve one goal — rapid growth. Successful growth in the early stages of a business can help it avoid these eye-opening SBA stats:
• Half of new businesses do not survive past the five-year mark
• Only a third are still in business by year 10
I first connected with Fabrizio Moreira, founder of VIP Music Records, through the Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC). Now, we communicate multiple times every week though email and text messages — bouncing questions back and forth. We are both constantly in hustle mode, and it doesn’t matter if it’s 8am or 11pm — there is a good chance a reply is minutes away.
VIP Music, Moreira’s latest venture in Latin America, has experienced a lot of growth in a short period of time, signing a recent 5-year deal with The Orchard, a division of Sony Music Entertainment. Moreira got his feet wet in the music industry back in 2014, as a part of Soulja Boy’s booking team. Today, his recording company is booming and he’s a voting member of the Grammy Awards.
The fast growth of Moreira’s recording company is a result of several factors, which we discussed the last time we spoke and which are highlighted below.
1. Identify what sets you apart from your competition.
It’s important to understand your competition inside and out, figure out what specifically sets you apart and then use that as an advantage for growth opportunities. Moreira’s time spent working with recording artist Soulja Boy helped him where he could improve his business.
“I have a background in politics and public relations, and that skill set enabled me to find success early on in the music industry. We are able to provide artists with a complete package and handle all aspects of their career, from recording and distribution to public relations and personal branding. Being that one-stop solution has helped us stand out from the competition,” explains Moreira.
2. Know who your ideal customer is.
Moreira had a keen grasp on the type of artists he wanted to attract from the beginning, explaining, “Understanding the artists is what has enabled us to attract great talent early on, and it’s what was responsible for our long-term deal with Sony Music. If you don’t fully understand your ideal customer, there is no way you can provide the kind of value that’s going to attract them to your business and keep them satisfied. You have to understand their needs and wants, and offer a solution that is a perfect fit. Doing this will help you quickly establish your business as a viable solution.”
This applies to every business — if you don’t know who your ideal customer is, you will be casting a wide net and are more than likely not attracting the right consumers. When you find your ideal customer, you can improve your targeting, advertising, marketing and brand message.
3. Understand your key performance indicators.
To grow, you need to know what is working and what isn’t. Every business is going to have key performance indicators, and if you don’t track, measure and optimize these numbers, you have no idea what to scale to achieve that desirable growth.
“From the beginning, we tracked and split-tested everything, from social media marketing to plays across all music streaming services. We were able to quickly identify what contributed the most to album and singles downloads as well as personal brand growth for each artist. This has essentially reduced the ramp-up time for each new artist we sign, helping us to grow exponentially as a company,” said Moreira.
4. Have a firm grasp of your business financials.
If you don’t know your numbers, your business growth could be cut short unexpectedly. You have to be able to account for every penny that comes in and goes out. Things like bootstrapping as much as possible and being very frugal when it comes to expenses will help you grow much faster.
“As a former member of the Youth Development and Outreach Program, an initiative of the Inter-American Development Bank and a fellow student of the World Bank Institute, I always understood the financial aspect of entrepreneurship. I feel a lot of new startups look for funding and then spend recklessly, assuming there is more money right around the corner. By not carrying debt, you can put yourself in the position to take on a business loan when that growth opportunity is placed in front of you,” suggests Moreira.
5. Invest in the right talent.
A company is only as good as the team behind it, and Moreira’s recording company is no different. “There is no doubt that we wouldn’t have experienced the same early success if we had the wrong team members in place. Your team is directly responsible for your success, and the sooner founders understand this, the sooner they will prioritize creating the best possible organizational team.”
In the early stages of a new business, it’s very rare that you will be able to offer huge salaries, bonuses and perks, but that doesn’t mean you can’t attract the best talent. Create a company culture that has a clear vision and mission — it will help you attract team members who want to be a part of the journey.]]>
Do your marketing right, and your email will rise to the top of the online slush pile. That’s exactly what you want.
What if I told you there’s a way you can get in front of millions of potential customers, drive highly-targeted website traffic, catapult your sales, increase your search-engine rankings and bolster your credibility tenfold . . . for free? Sounds too good to be true, right? Well, it isn’t. I would know: Using this method alone, I took my former hip hop jewelry brand from zero to six-figures in sales in less than a year.
So, what’s this remarkable tactic that led to such explosive growth? Publicity. In fact, one of the first emails I sent as a founder — one which took just 20 minutes to write — led to over $20,000 sales in my first month alone. My cost? Zero. That’s how powerful publicity marketing is.
But, there’s a problem. Publicity marketing isn’t some big secret. Whole industries are dedicated to getting businesses press coverage. Bloggers, writers, editors and journalists are inundated with pitches. I speak from personal experience: I’ve had the unique experience of being both an entrepreneur who did the pitching and a writer who’s received countless pitches.
Thankfully, there’s an upside here: Most so-called “pitches” are terrible. They’re boring, irrelevant and presented poorly. In fact, the publicists who are often paid thousands of dollars a month from founders hoping to secure press coverage, send some of the worst pitches of all.
That might sound like the antithesis of an “upside,” but it is, because using the method I’m about to outline, your message will rise to the top of the pile. You might not get press coverage from every outlet you solicit. But you don’t have to, because all it takes is one feature to change everything.
So, step one: Securing that press coverage starts with asking yourself these five questions:
• Am I targeting the right media outlet?
• Is what I’m suggesting new and fresh?
• Are the newsworthy elements clearly outlined?
• Do I have high-quality visuals to go with it?
• Is all the above put together into a concise message?
This step is the most important. You have to first make sure the media outlet and specific writer or editor at that outlet whom you’re reaching out to, is the absolute best person to contact. Otherwise, the remaining four steps will be for naught. It doesn’t matter if your idea, product or service is the greatest in the world. If it’s presented to the wrong person, it’s worth nothing.
I’ve shared the email templates I’ve used to get press coverage from dozens of top blogs in my ecommerce guide, but here’s a basic overview:
Find the right blogs. You find the right blogs much the way you find a good business idea: You explore what people in your market are talking about via reviews, blogs, comments and threads. When doing this research you should document all the article sites, article categories, article authors and of course, available author-contact information (email and social media) for later use.
Do more research. All of this information can be found just by reading up on competing brands or seeing what the blogs in your niche are covering. Reverse-search your competitor’s strongest backlinks via AHREFS or OpenLinkProfiler. You can also reverse-search their images on Google and see what top links are returned. Once you know whom to contact, it’s time to fill the war chest.
Write your online press release. Write up a press release that highlights the noteworthy bits of your offering. Include high-resolution visuals, plenty of supporting content (walkthroughs, videos, lifestyle images, etc.) and sample social media posts.
Debbie Sterling of GoldieBlox, a successful entrepreneur I met through Shopify, calls this a “playbook for sharing.” In short, you want to make your task as easy as possible for the recipient of your message to publish it, share it or both. This means providing that recipient all the information necessary to piece together a successful story.
Don’t overthink it. If you’re stuck here, the short version of another strategy I use is this: Don’t overthink it. Just take off your entrepreneur hat for a second and envision yourself as the writer, reader or customer. From there, you should be able to discern right away if what you’re about to submit is novel and noteworthy.
Write a (short) email. Last, you’ll want to package everything together into a concise, 100-word email. Why 100 words? LinkedIn says people who send InMails get 50 percent higher response rates when they keep their initial communication to under 100 words. My own research indicates the same, with the shortest emails getting the best response rates (in most cases). There are always unicorns and exceptions to this rule, but it’s best to keep things short at first.
Last word of advice? Remember: Writers and editors are busy people. Not only does a concise pitch demonstrate you have clarity, but it shows respect for the recipient’s time. That alone will help you build a stronger relationship with these people, and that’s something you can’t put a price on.
Brian’s former fashion brand shipped tens of thousands of products to customers in over two dozen of countries, was stocked by a Fortune 500 retailer and featured in countless media outlets all across the world. He now writes for top business publications on all things entrepreneurship.]]>
Mobile marketing currently represents one of the newest forms of digital marketing present on the market. For those who do not know, it provides customers with personalised information, promoting services, goods and ideas. The technique has been regarded as any marketing activity that is conducted through a network that mobile users are constantly connected to.
Some of the main benefits associated with mobile marketing include the possibility to send location and time-sensitive pieces of information, via a wide variety of channels, including push notifications, app-based marketing, QR codes, SMS, MMS, Bluetooth, in-game mobile advertising, voice email and even through automated calls. As we live in the era of smartphones, mobile marketing carried out via push notifications is essential to promoting services, establishing brand loyalty, encouraging people to purchase products or services, but also making sure that existing customers return to buy more.
In this particular infographic compiled by the team behind Website Builder, you will be able to find 104 interesting facts that you don’t know about mobile marketing, including desktop vs. mobile comparisons, niches that work best, great mobile marketing techniques, but also usage, user friendliness, adoption, commerce, search and conversion stats.
A culture where employees don’t feel free to take a vacation has a lot of negative implications — including the company’s very survival.
Shannon Kuykendall used to be the sales team assistant at a company where she supported 10 other people, all of whom put in 60 hours a week. The team, she said, was understaffed and over-worked. Then the company’s sales declined and the team pulled together to bring those sales back up.
“But their efforts were lost because you could see how tired they were,” Kuykendall told me, of her co-workers. “We were all tired, and we all needed a break.
“After my first year, I was due my first one-week vacation,” she said, continuing her story. “I was so ready for it, but I heard stories about others putting in their vacation requests and then being made to feel guilty for taking the much due and deserved time off. One day, I jokingly said, ‘That’s a wrap, it’s vacation time.’ The sales team manager shot me a look and shook his head.”
Subsequently, employees began losing their jobs, and the company shut down completely. “I often wonder if it was because people were burned out,” Kuykendall said.
Today, she’s CEO of her own business, Up Automation, in Cambria, Calif., where she’s made vacation an important part of the company culture. “Every three months, I take a week to myself and digitally detox,” she said. “The first three days are hard; then, after that, it’s smooth sailing. All I know is that when I take care of myself, I can better take care of my clients and my team.”
Kuykendall’s tale of woe from her earlier work situation is hardly unique: According to the 2016 Alamo Family Vacation Survey of 1,500 U.S. adults, 59 percent of millennials and 41 percent of older employees feel a sense of shame when they take time off.
And that’s terrible, of course: A workplace where employees don’t feel that they can take a vacation has a lot of negative implications, especially for the company. In fact, that scenario might actually lead to the company going under,as happened with Kuykendall’s former employer.
Here are some ways vacation-shaming hurts employers more than employees and why it should be avoided:
Poor employee retention
When employees feel constantly burned out, they eventually leave. This puts stress on the company because it has to keep finding and training new employees. That makes it difficult for everyone to be productive.
Gary Beckstrand, vice president of O.C. Tanner Institute, in Salt Lake City, described an acquaintance who worked for a smaller company where long hours and lots of work travel were common. “While she was very passionate about her work — in fact, she says she loved it — after three years and only one very short vacation mixed in, she was completely burned out and she left the company,” Beckstrand told me.
“You lose great experience and talent with employees who leave, and it costs the company money to bring in and train a new person.”
If an employer doesn’t have a competitive vacation-days policy, job candidates will often just drop out of the interview process. This can mean missing out on top talent.
“I worked for an HR tech company that had a strict one-week-per-year vacation policy for your first five years,” Mike Seidle, co-founder of WorkHere, in Indianapolis, told me. “The result was that many of the best software engineers would just say no to us in the interview. Of those that started, many would quit from disputes about taking extra vacation time.”
“I noticed my staff taking a lot of ‘sick’ time even though they didn’t appear to be ill,” Greg Nickolson, managing partner of Technology Solutions in Tucson, Ariz, told me. “Performance was sub-par, meaning efficiency and productivity was noticeably lacking. After some research and discussions with a few staff members, I concluded that they were just burned out.”
Since sick days aren’t planned, maintaining productivity and covering employee workloads becomes difficult. This creates a cycle where employees become even more burned out because they have to carry others’ weight.
Merely offering paid time off as an employee benefit is not enough to reduce burnout. Here are five ways to ensure employees take their vacation time:
1. Give employees financial support.
One reason employees don’t go on vacation is a lack of money. Realizing this, Nickolson launched 401(play), which allows employees to set aside money from each paycheck into a vacation savings account.
“After the first year of introducing 401(play) into our culture at Technology Solutions, I noticed a remarkable difference in the overall attitude and performance of staff members that elected to participate,” he said.
Tip: In addition to allowing employees to withhold money from their paychecks to save for their next vacation, your company might consider an employer contribution. Nothing says commitment to a policy quite like money.
Heather Whaling, founder of Geben Communication in Columbus, Ohio, agrees. She implemented a mandatory vacation policy called “Inspacation.” All employees are required to a take a minimum of one consecutive week out of the office at some point in the year. “As a sign of our commitment to this policy, Geben provides each eligible employee with $250 to use during their Inspacation,” Whaling told me.
Even the smallest bit can help boost morale with employee vacation time. “Last year, one of our team members used their Inspacation spending money to treat her family to a horse[back] ride during their annual beach trip,” she said.
Tip: Once your company has determined an amount and policy, devise a communication plan to roll out the new opportunity to employees. Generate excitement and encourage employees to take advantage of the stipend by sharing the message directly from senior leadership.
2. Make vacation scheduling a group effort.
“Make vacation planning a team exercise,” suggested Ricardo Pellafone, founder of Broadcat in Dallas. “At Broadcat, we do this at the beginning of the quarter, planning when each person will take off a full week. Forcing everyone to commit to a full week each quarter makes sure that people actually take real time off — not just a long weekend here and there.”
Tip: Ask leaders to pull teams together on a quarterly basis to encourage employees to schedule vacation time. Create a calendar of the committed time off for each team member, so everyone has visibility and can help cover the workload when each person is out of the office.
The established vacation selections don’t need to be firmly set in stone, but getting them onto the calendar encourages employees to take the time they need to refresh.
3. Make the request yourself.
“At Lever, every few months, the employee experience team sends each manager a list of the people on their team and the time they’ve taken as PTO,” Leela Srinivasan, chief marketing officer at Lever, in San Francisco, told me. “This is used to flag people who aren’t taking enough vacation, and gently prod them to book more if they haven’t already planned to do so.”
Just such prodding recently happened to an associate marketing manager at Lever, who was both surprised and delighted at the reminder. “It took me by surprise!” the associate told Srivivasan. “I didn’t realize you were paying attention, and I certainly didn’t think you would ever tell me to take more time!”
Tip: Keep track of employee vacation time on a quarterly basis. If the list of employees not taking vacation becomes unmanageable, personally reach out to those not leveraging their PTO. Ask team leaders to convey the message. Employees feel more inclined to take time off when the request comes directly from leadership.
4. Close the office.
When the office is closed for a few days, all employees, whether they go out of town or not, will be forced to take a break from work.
For example, companies like Thrivatize in Park Ridge, Ill., shut down entirely during the week between Christmas and New Year’s.
“When I found out about the policy, part of me was angry that that was a mandated part of my five-week vacation,” Suz O’Donnell, president of Thrivatize, told me. “But once it happened, I realized that it truly forced everyone to take a real vacation. No one was replying to emails, no one was in the office; and actually, you would get in trouble if you were working during this time.”
The results? “People came back in January refreshed and ready to work. There was no sense of guilt in enjoying time with family, friends or vacationing,” she said.
Tip: Whether mandated time off occurs during the winter holidays or some other time of the year, think about shutting down your entire company. Instruct employees to conduct no work during this time. It’s like rebooting a computer; every employee will come back more focused and aligned after taking the time to reset.
5. Lead by example
“The boss sets the tone for how to handle time off,” Christina Kori, marketing manager at BELAY, in Atlanta, told me. “CEOs who refuse to take time to recharge are sending a message that they don’t trust their team to get the job done in their absence.”
Tip: Take all allotted vacation — a full week at a time if possible — and avoid checking in with the team the entire time. Go off the grid so employees know not to reach out. This makes your time off a true vacation, and employees will recognize it.
When employees see executives taking time off for a true vacation, they feel confident in taking time off and being unresponsive during that break, as well. The results? A happier and healthier workforce.
Waldorf, Md.-based Heather R. Huhman is a career expert, experienced hiring manager and president of Come Recommended, a content-marketing and digital-PR consultancy for job-search and human-resources technologies. She is the author of Lies, Damned Lies & Internships and #ENTRYLEVELtweet: Taking Your Career from Classroom to Cubicle.]]>
America cherishes — and deeply depends on — its 28 million small businesses, and the thinkers, doers and dreamers who own and work for them. Producing close to half of our national goods and services, and creating approximately two out of every three new jobs each year, they’re the backbone of our economy and the cornerstones of the American dream.
That’s why, every year since 1963, to honor and uplift entrepreneurs from California to New York, the National Small Business Administration (SBA) declares one week a year National Small Business Week (NSBW). This year, the special week takes place from May 1 through May 6.
To honor, elevate and celebrate the entrepreneurs behind our small businesses, the SBA is hosting many free, inspiring and educational events throughout its 10 regions and 68 districts during NSBW. Several companies and organizations will join the SBA in applauding the entrepreneurial spirit of our nation’s small-business owners, offering free workshops, webinars and other events throughout the week, the theme of which is once again “Dream Big, Start Small.” To spread the word via social media, the hashtag is #DreamSmallBiz.
For all the hard work you do, day in day out, “contributing to our collective American story,” we think you deserve to take a break, kick back and dream big. Here’s a list of free, inspiring events, webinars and more for entrepreneurs to take advantage of during NSBW:
1. Attend an inspiring SBA-hosted NSBW event near you.
SBA Administrator Maria Contreras-Sweet will travel across the country in a week, co-hosting NSBW events in the following cities: Washington D.C., Atlanta, New York, Denver, Phoenix and San Jose, Calif. She’ll be talking with local business leaders, presenting awards and sharing helpful business tips and trends. To attend one of these events, register here.
2. Watch the SBA NSBW action unfold via livestream all week.
If you can’t make it to one of the NSBW events in the above-listed cities, you can still watch the action happen via livestream. Head over to www.sba.gov/nsbw/ starting at 7:30 p.m. E.T. on Sunday, May 1, to tune in. You can also follow Contreras-Sweet at @MCS4Biz on Twitter or Instagram for updates on the fly all week. Follow the SBA’s official Twitter feed here as well.
3. Learn how to grow your business online with Google.
Google is teaming up with small-business-focused organizations in towns and cities across the country to host free workshops on how to grow your company’s reach online. Head over to www.gybo.com and click on the U.S. map to find a Google workshop near you.
Google says attendees will learn how to manage their business information as it appears across Google Search and Google Maps. They’ll also brush up on how to use Google AdWords Express, Google Analytics and Google Apps for Work to better boost online visibility and to optimize internal workflows.
4. Expand your business acumen via a NSBW webinar.
The SBA hosts a series of informative small-business webinars, starting Monday, May 2, and ending Thursday, May 5. Topics to be covered include: demystifying voluntary employee benefits; recent payment technology innovations; cloud, mobile and social apps for growing your business; business-loan-application best practices and how to use Intuit Quickbooks. To see the complete webinar schedule, click here.
5. Attend a Facebook “Boost Your Business” networking event.
In honor of NSBW, Facebook will host four Boost Your Business events in cities throughout Texas next week. If you happen to be in the Lone Star State and want to attend, the networking events will unfold in Corpus Christi on May 2, Houston on May 3, San Antonio on May 5 and College Station on May 6.
Each offers a day of connecting with local community and small-business leaders and fellow entrepreneurs and business owners. Lots of tips on how to use Facebook and Instagram to amplify your business’s reach will be shared. Breakout sessions will hone in on using both popular social platforms for marketing and for sharing video content. For more information on these events, head over here.
6. Get social with Twitter’s “#TweetHour” on scaling your business.
Kicking off on Thursday, May 5 at 7 a.m. E.T., Twitter will put on a #TweetHour focused on tips for scaling your small business. The scheduled host for the hour is Simon Walker, a marketing manager from IFTTT, a San Francisco-based tech startup that automates web services. Walker will also be tweeting about how to save time and money, and how to boost productivity, all things most entrepreneurs and small-business owners can get behind.
To join the hour dedicated to doling out and swapping business growth advice, log on Twitter and search for and use the hashtag #TweetHour.
7. Learn how to access loans and capital through Sam’s Club and Accion’s webinar.
Having a healthy cashflow is key to staying in business. For many small companies and entrepreneurs, business loans and capital are essentially the lifeblood of their operations. To find out more about how to access finance options such as these, tune in to Sam’s Club Giving, Small Business Majority and Accion International’s hour-long webinar on Wed., May 4 at 4 p.m. E.T.
The free online event, titled “Access to Capital and Business Loans: Best Practices,” coincides with Sam’s Club’s announcement of $8.8 million in grants for veteran, women and minority small-business owners. Webinar attendees will learn how to identify the right financial products for their particular business needs. To take part, register here.
Kim Lachance Shandrow is the former West Coast editor at Entrepreneur.com. Previously, she was a commerce columnist at Los Angeles CityBeat, a news producer at MSNBC and KNBC in Los Angeles and a frequent contributor to the Los Angeles Times. She has also written for Government Technology magazine, LA Yoga magazine, the Lowell Sun newspaper, HealthCentral.com, PsychCentral.com and the former U.S. Surgeon General, Dr. C. Everett Coop. Follow her on Twitter at @Lashandrow. You can also follow her on Facebook here.
Marketing a startup is tough. You have a limited budget, and you don’t benefit from brand recognition. Even users who have heard of you may not know what you do, but they know your established competitors and people tend to favor the familiar.
Nevertheless, countless startups break through crowded markets. How do they do it with so few marketing dollars? How can you? How do you slay Goliath when all you have is a tiny slingshot?
Below are four powerful ways to squeeze the most out of every marketing dollar you spend.
Have you ever visited a website and then noticed thereafter that you keep seeing their ads on other websites? That’s retargeting, and you should push as much of your online ad spending as possible to retargeting.
Retargeting is amazingly cost-efficient. Anyone who lands on one of my company’s web pages, landing pages, or other digital properties will see our ads as he or she continues to browse the web. They are high value leads because they’ve gone to the trouble to visit one of our pages, so they are clearly interested in us. And, indeed, click through and conversion rates are markedly higher when this audience sees retargeted ads than when we run any other online ad campaigns.
2. Email marketing
Email is an extremely cost-efficient and effective marketing tool. Yes, most startups are already using it amid their marketing efforts, but consider making it a higher priority because it can be a goldmine. Of course, building your mailing list is the first challenge. Below are some common methods of building a list.
Requesting signups on your site
Providing valuable content pieces (e.g., white papers) to encourage readers to join your mailing list when they download the content
Collecting business cards at events and conferences
Running webinars and collecting emails from participants
I particularly recommend creating valuable content and adding anyone who downloads it to your mailing list. These are typically my company’s most responsive and lucrative leads over time.
Email will be one of your most efficient marketing spends because, well, it costs almost nothing. For instance, MailChimp and Constant Contact are both under $90 per month for up to 10,000 recipients. MailChimp is even free for up to 2,000 recipients.
However, never abuse email marketing! Share content that is useful and relevant. Send special offers, not company updates. Keep your emails brief and use visuals when you can.
3. Public relations
Entrepreneurs always aim high and getting coverage on the biggest news sites is a huge win. But this can take time, and you may need to hire a PR agency or full-time PR person. Even then, you may come up empty.
But if you’re in a hurry to get press coverage and your budget is tight, take a targeted approach. It’s easier to get the attention of niche bloggers or smaller industry sites. Because they are niche in your space, they may be specifically looking for companies like yours.
Remember, press builds on itself; sometimes smaller players get the attention of bigger players. Suddenly, your coverage by a specialist blogger could start working its way up the ladder inside the press echo chamber!
4. A/B testing
For almost every marketing channel you use, A/B testing is the difference between spending your money wisely, and unnecessarily throwing money down the drain.
In one email campaign I ran about customer retention, I wrote two alternate subject lines:
“Someone is about to dump you.”
“Boost customer retention next month.”
Each went to 1,000 of the names on my 10,000 address mailing list. Both had good click rates, but the first was the clear winner (40 percent vs. 30 percent, respectively).
With 8,000 remaining recipients after the test, the better open rate subject line yielded 3,200 opens. The other would have yielded 2,400 opens. This means I got 800 more opens simply because A/B testing revealed the more attractive subject line before I hit my entire list.
This is even more critical for online ads. You can waste a lot of precious cash, if you don’t do A/B testing. Google automatically helps you optimize ads, but you have to set up the test design. That is, you need to test the headline, body, and call to action (to name a few), as well as ad landing pages. Be methodical, and ensure that you’re always optimizing your results.
My mantra for startup marketing is “smaller hammer, sharper nail.” You can cost-efficiently win customers, without the big budget and team to match your competitors, if you’re savvy, opportunistic and focused. If you’re looking for investment in the future, you’ll get a lot of questions about customer acquisition cost. Make sure that while you are trying to get as many new customers as you can, you keep the acquisition cost down and you’ll be a more appealing investment, as well as a more profitable company.
Joseph Pigato is the Managing Director of Sparked, which helps companies retain their customers through sophisticated predictive analytics and engagement tools.]]>
What was once code for some Northern California high school stoners is now global shorthand for celebrating marijuana’s growing acceptance.
How curious it is that April 20 has become a cannabis celebration throughout most of the world. Despite its modest beginnings, celebrations of all things cannabis take place on every continent.
Back in the day
Nothing specific or memorable happened on any past April 20th. In fact, the whole 420 concept was invented by a handful of scholar athletes at San Rafael High School in northern California. The boys gathered daily against a favorite wall to smoke, and that earned them the name “Waldos.”
In the fall of 1971, they came into possession of “a treasure map to a patch of weed on the Point Reyes Peninsula.” The patch belonged to a U.S. Coast Guard member who had gotten paranoid that he would get caught. So, through his brother, he urged the Waldos to help themselves.
After talking it over, the Waldos agreed to meet at the high school’s statue of Louis Pasteur – at twenty minutes past 4 o’clock. They met, got stoned, and drove out to find the weed farm. They never did find it, but they started the 420 code to call meetings to smoke. It did not matter if they met and smoked exactly at 4:20; it was just a signal to get together for a smoke.
According to 420Waldos.com, the original code was “420 Louis,” but they would drop the “Louis” in time. A later family connection with members of the Grateful Dead would put the 420 in the musicians’ minds and mouths, and so it spread around the world. There’s a lot of mythology surrounding the choice of 420, but only the Waldos have “multiple pieces of physical-evidence proof of the very earliest usage of the term ‘420’. In fact, The Waldos are the only ones in the world with any proof at all. The Waldos story/proof of ‘420’ origination has been investigated, and verified, by numerous credible journalistic news organizations.” These include Huffington Post, BBC News and SFGate.
From its humble beginnings, thoroughly believable in the weed world, 420 has spread culture to culture and may be one of the few things uniting people across the globe. The holiday brings a massive influx of culture and revenue to the market.
“April 20 is like Octoberfest and New Year’s Eve rolled into one for those of us in the cannabis industry,” reflects Dr. Stuart Titus, CEO of Medical Marijuana, Inc. The celebration generates more product sales and awareness of the cannabis movement than any other date, Titus explains. “We are ramping up staff to handle incoming calls, orders and handle inquiries. Throughout the country, there will be many cannabis rallies and events to commemorate “National Cannabis Day.’”
At the same time, the culture around 420 has shifted with legalization, 420 has become an opportunity to celebrate the new perception of marijuana culture in America. “It is no longer about smoking in a back alley or a basement – it’s about acceptance,” reflects Mike Liebowitz, Partner, sales and operations at Veritas Cannabis. “It’s about everything from recognizing the many medical benefits of cannabis to the acceptance of having edibles at a dinner party.”
Dinner parties can be expensive, and the same’s true for cannabis ones. According to data from cannabis delivery service and mobile app, Eaze, people stocked up the day before 420 with more traditional forms of marijuana in 2016. Last year, flower sales jumped 71 percent the day before April 20, indicating consumers are taking it old school to celebrate the big day. On the day of April 20 there was a 27 percent increase in edibles and 66 percent increase in pre-roll sales, indicating people are looking for shareable forms of consumption. Vaporizer sales stayed constant throughout that week.
Millennials are the driving force behind last year’s 420 but we’re expecting more participation from all generations.
– Millennials comprised of 68 percent of total deliveries made during 4/16/16 – 4/21/16.
– Gen Z comprised of 15 percent of total deliveries made during 4/16/16 – 4/21/16.
– Gen X comprised of 14 percent of total deliveries made during 4/16/16 – 4/21/16.
– Baby Boomers comprised of 3 percent of total deliveries made during 4/16/16 – 4/21/16.
Top World 420 Events
If you haven’t made travel events, you still have time to plan for next year.
– Able and willing to travel, sooner or later, you must hit Amsterdam 420 Festival. The festival and smoke-out surrounds Amsterdam City Hall and The Sand Beachport & Events Complex. Entertainers and educational speakers teach and entertain, and vendor’s sell everything bud-related, including some hot new strains. As long as Amsterdam remains cannabis central, it deserves the best in 420 celebrations.
– Among the many 420 events in and around Los Angeles, the first Herb N Baked #420 Smokeout will meet at The Overpass in the Silverlake district on April 20. An open bar, live DJ, and surprise guests will entertain an adult 420-friendly crowd.
– Marijuana remains illegal in London, but users hold a picnic in Hyde Park every April 20th. Every year, some arrests mar the activities, but you wouldn’t think so by the size of the 420 smoke cloud. Police insist they are bound to act in the event of criminal activity like selling weed. Still, crowds grow every year to hear speeches on advocacy, cultivation, and medical uses while entertained by a series of bands and the occasional drum circle.
– You’ve missed Barcelona’s fabled Spannabis 2017, so you’ll want to plan for next year. It does not fall on 420, but it is a smoke-out along the strand above the beaches on the Mediterranean. Music, vendors and programming occurs at the Fira Cornella Business Center, but you’re welcome anywhere in the gorgeous city of Barcelona.
– Year after year, tens of thousands meet on Hippie Hill in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park. But, this year they’ll be celebrating legally. Not officially organized, the event is free with only one requirement: pick up your trash when you leave. Folks gather in the morning, but everyone is focused on lighting up at 4:20 PM.
– Denmark hasn’t legalized marijuana, but Copenhagen is a great place to visit each 420. More specifically, you want to check out Christiana, a small section of Copenhagen, a place out of time. It’s a pot smokers dream — welcoming environment with no questions asked and darn good product from trustworthy vendors.
– Marijuana’s not legal in the Czech Republic, but Prague hosted a Million Marihuana March in 2016. They’ll be marching again on May 6, 2017. Its purpose is political, of course, but participants report on the fun and excitement. Like the events on April 20, the march bears a deep unity of purpose in expanding citizen rights to choose marijuana.
– In South Africa, it’s “420 Dagga Day.” Thousands gather for exhibitions, performance artists, tasty treats, great coffee, and, of course, a chance to socialize and smoke. Werner Weber, reporting for NEWS24, remarked on the variety of people who showed, shopped, and smoked: “People who work in banks, people who work as petrol attendants, waiters, leather workers, even that old codger that looks angry at the world, even he stood there smoking his joint and just taking in the happy vibes.” Johannesburg is close to making South Africa the first nation on the continent with legalized marijuana sales and use, so this year should be a celebration.
– Free Cannabis New South Wales hosts a community picnic on April 20 in Sidney at Victoria Park near the University of Sidney. It promotes music, food and friends with a menu of musical acts, munchies vendors and a bong throw. And, there is the expected smoke-off at 4:20.
– Mario Tanaka will host Día Mundial de la Marihuana at Waho’s Bar (The House of Reggae) at Avenue of the Firemen 111 in Barranco, Peru on April 20. Music and festivities from 8:00 PM to 3:00 AM. It doesn’t look like a big event, but it promises a lot of fun.
– Atlanta’s SweetWater 420 Fest starts at Centennial Olympic Park on April 24 with a 5K Race, Lyrics & Laughter Tent, 420 Disco, and much more. SweetWater is a music-centered event with a family atmosphere including a KidZone. So, any use of marijuana requires some prudence, but Georgia hopes to make this a legal option in the future.
– Israel hosts the prestigious Cannatech sponsored event, the world’s most respected gathering of cannabis industry leaders, researchers and advocates. You missed this year’s March event, but you can schedule 2018’s event. It’s not a festival as much as a scholarly event. But, with Israel’s becoming the cannabis research capital of the world, it’s drawing a larger crowd every year.
This list is nowhere near complete, and many events are scheduled the weekends before or after the 20th when it falls during the week. In the U.S. alone, there will large festivals in Denver and Boulder, Colorado; San Bernardino and Long Beach, CA; Portland, OR and Seattle, WA. Smokers will meet in Miami, FL, Washington, D.C., and Boston, MA. They’ll take to parks in London, Amsterdam, Brussels, and Berlin.
When you add the 420 events to marches and festivals earlier and later in the year, your cannabis caper calendar starts to fill up. Enjoy!
Andre Bourque (@SocialMktgFella) is a cannabis industry consultant and freelance journalist covering high-growth industries. Andre has held technology marketing positions in the aerospace industry, at Sun Microsystems, Intel, several startups, and most recently as editor of Technorati.
Best of Luck!
Even if your company isn’t interested in making a mission out of its values, it’s still important to identify which of those values define your brand and resonate with customers. These three corporate values help increase customer acquisition and retention.
Transparency. Increasingly, consumers want to know about the inner workings of the brands they buy from, down to how materials were sourced, how products were made, and how the company came to be. In exchange for this transparency, customers are willing to switch to that brand, pay more, purchase a wider range of that brand’s products and remain loyal to that brand for life.
Honesty. Provide honest representations of the value you can provide to your customers. In product descriptions and marketing materials, only promise what you can actually deliver. Delivering on your promises will enhance trust between your customers and your brand.
Empathy. Practicing empathy in customer service interactions–whether these occur online, in person, or over the phone–helps humanize relationships with customers and assures them the brand is invested in their satisfaction. Solicit customer feedback and act on those insights. This, in turn, will convey that the brand cares about their customers’ experience.]]>
Jeri Ellsworth is launching a consumer-friendly augmented reality platform, castAR, this fall.
While companies such as Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Samsung and HTC have invested billions of dollars into virtual reality, startup castAR co-founder Jeri Ellsworth sees an augmented reality future. Anyone who’s played the 2016 hit mobile game Pokemon Go has had a taste of augmented reality, which blends virtual characters with the real world.
Serial inventor and entrepreneur Ellsworth worked at Valve Software, helping to found and grow the hardware department. The hardware department teams went on to release other products including the HTC Vive and the Steam Box controller, while she focused more on augmented reality.
That augmented reality platform allowed players to wear specially-designed glasses and use a wand to interact with holographic creations that came to life on a flat surface like a tabletop, much like a real-world version of the HoloChess concept introduced in the original Star Wars back in 1977.
In 2013, Ellsworth decided to leave, and since Valve was focused on virtual reality, she asked Valve president and owner Gabe Newell if she and colleague/programmer Rick Johnson could take that still-early prototype technology with them. He agreed, and castAR was born.
“What I learned from working at Valve and some of the amazing people there was that the company is hyper-focused on the customer experience,” Ellsworth said. “Almost every decision that’s made is studied under the microscope of how it impacts the end-user experience.”
Ellsworth has a solid track record of succeeding across multiple male-dominated industries. She dropped out of high school in her small hometown of Dallas, Ore., and decided to build and race cars — with no experience.
“I’ve always been an inventor and tinkerer since I was a kid,” Ellsworth recalled. “I was always dismantling everything in our home and making something different of things. My father was perpetually frustrated that any device he brought into the house was going to be dismantled.”
Ellsworth has spent her career learning from mentors and putting in the work. She found a local machinist in Oregon to teach her how to weld in exchange for her cleaning up the shop. She spent six years designing, building, racing and selling custom racecars. She also spent time dirt track racing with her father and competed in the I5 Challenge.
She went from designing racecars to customizing PCs in the ‘90s, running her own retail store called Computers Made Easy.
“I didn’t know how to run a retail business or coordinate teams, but when I opened up my first store I had an insurance guy who came over at lunch and taught me how to run a business and work with employees and keep customers happy,” Ellsworth said.
Once the profit margins dropped for custom PCs, Ellsworth headed to Silicon Valley and began building semiconductors and tackling system-level engineering challenges at companies like Intersil, Ubicom, Rapport, and Zenverge. She designed complicated toys in the early 2000s like the all-in-one video game joystick C64 Direct-to-TV, which put her on the radar of the video game industry. It was ultimately her in-depth weekly science educational webcast with George Sanger, Fatman and Circuit Girl, which dove into tough engineering problems, that attracted Newell’s attention.
Ellsworth’s success in every industry she’s tackled has drawn the attention of very successful entrepreneurs.
“Coming to Silicon Valley without a traditional education, it was mind-blowing the type of mentors I was able to learn from,” Ellsworth said. “Steve Wozniak and Lee Felstenstein took time to give me advice.”
One of those mentors along her journey was Andy Rubin, who she first met at Danger Inc. When Ellsworth was looking to evolve castAR from a successful million dollar Kickstarter campaign into a mainstream business, she heard Rubin was doing a venture fund incubator program for startups, Playground Global. So she sent him an email, and eventually (following a successful tour of the Silicon Valley VC circuit) he replied, and invested.
“A few weeks into working with Andy and his team, he told us the key to creating a successful product is to leverage the talent of the developers out there,” Ellsworth explained. “If there’s something that’s difficult for them to do, focus on making a tool to make it easier. That same lesson applies to making things easy for the end-user.”
Ellsworth said Rubin will randomly drop by the office in Palo Alto and help the team stretch its thinking.
“He’ll spend a lot of time talking about where I want to go with the company two or three chess moves out,” Ellsworth said.
That blueprint is to launch a rock solid augmented reality experience this fall that anyone, including her father, can reach into and mold virtual clay or play a driving game with the grandkids plowing a tractor through virtual corn fields. By the third generation of the platform, Ellsworth wants to lift the experience off the table and allow them to watch movies in the kitchen on a virtual screen or cook with a virtual recipe book next to the smart stove or use the smart thermostat to see how energy consumption has been over the last month. Within 10 years, the goal is to start to replace today’s smartphones and tablets and some general computing with augmented reality and start to use AR for navigation.
“Andy helps you draw a line through all of these things we want to do and how to take the customer on this journey with you,” Ellsworth said. “We talk about creating graphics on glasses and how we can train them up so by the time they’re off the table and moving around they’re already familiar with and comfortable with the technology.”
Ellsworth also learned the lesson of moving the company forward, even if it means taking a loss to satisfy the past. After the successful Kickstarter campaign, castAR engineers were torn between building and shipping the older version of the platform, which connected to a home PC, and the newer (and final) retail project, which doesn’t require a PC. Rubin and his team sat Ellsworth down and asked what she wanted to do. And she said she wanted castAR customers to wander around the world tetherless and enjoy these experiences.
“Andy told us to refund the Kickstarter backers’ money and focus on the future,” Ellsworth said. “We decided to give back their money and give them a free pair of the fully-integrated glasses when they’re ready. Our CFO had a hard time with us giving away hundreds of thousands of dollars in free AR glasses, but the marketing guys said this was great for marketing the technology.”
While introducing brand new technology to consumers will be a challenge, it’s just another hurdle for Ellsworth to navigate. And she has plenty of experience, and great mentors, to help her on this journey.
John Gaudiosi is the Editorial Director at Shacknews.com.]]>
If there’s one universal truth about productivity, it’s that not everything works for everyone.
Maybe you like to wake up at 5 a.m., go through your entire email inbox, organize your desk and get cracking on your to-do list.
Or, maybe you prefer to wake up at 8 a.m., hit the gym, scan your emails without responding to any and eat a leisurely breakfast while brainstorming before getting started on “real” work.
Below, Business Insider has rounded up a bunch of wrongheaded ideas about productivity — as in, you have to do things this way or else you won’t get anything done. Find out why, when it comes to working effectively, you can pretty much do you.
1. Waking up after the sun
Sure, you’d get bragging rights if you woke up every day at 5 a.m. to hit the gym, meditate and get a head start on the workday. But you might also be really tired — and unproductive.
Chris Bailey learned that the hard way when he spent a year experimenting with different productivity strategies, which he documented in his book, The Productivity Project. Bailey tried waking up every weekday at 5:30 a.m. and going to bed by 9:30 p.m.
But since Bailey’s a self-proclaimed night owl, that meant he often had to stop and get ready for bed right when he had the most energy, focus and creativity.
It all comes down to your chronotype — some people are night owls; some people are early birds; and others are somewhere in between. The point is that not everyone is suited to working or working out at the crack of dawn.
2. Not emptying your email inbox
Everyone approaches their email inbox differently — maybe you’re the kind of person who absolutely must deal with every email the minute it comes in, or maybe you couldn’t care less that you’ve got 1,532 unread messages.
According to Laura Vanderkam, the author of several bestselling books on productivity and time-management, organizing and emptying your inbox isn’t necessarily the best use of your time.
That’s not to say that you shouldn’t send or respond to any emails — that would be almost impossible in today’s workplace. But Vanderkam advises against treating your inbox as a task list, so that other people’s demands are controlling what you work on every day.
In fact, she writes: “Better to realize that anything you haven’t gotten to after a week or so will have either gone away or been thrust back upon you by follow-up messages or calls.”
3. Working shorter hours than your co-workers
Harvard professor Robin Ely co-authored a study that suggests much of the time people spent working isn’t necessarily productive. Instead, it’s more about giving the impression that you’re conscientious.
Ely’s study focused on a global consulting firm. She told Business Insider that, at many consulting firms (not just the one she studied), Ely said, “the belief is that clients need to have consultants available 24/7.”
“There is something almost appealing to being available 24/7,” she added. “Being in demand is a symbol of status. It suggests you’re important and influential.”
I personally experimented with cutting my work hours by 17 percent (from nine hours a day to eight hours) and found that I was just as productive as before. By far the hardest part was the guilt I felt when I left earlier than all my co-workers.
4. Keeping a messy work space
A 2015 study suggests that people can be more productive in disorderly environments.
That’s likely because we’re hardwired to seek order in our lives whenever possible. So when we’re faced with physical chaos, we’re motivated to create a more abstract sense of organization by pursuing clear, well-defined goals.
This isn’t an excuse to keep such a disgusting desk that your co-worker reports you to human resources. But if it helps, keep a few stacks of papers lying around for motivation.
5. Leaving unfinished items on your to-do list
According to productivity company iDoneThis, about 41 percent of items on a to-do list never get completed.
And according to psychologist Art Markman, that’s probably fine.
Writing for Fast Company, Markman said that to-do lists can be helpful even if you never complete everything on them. That’s because simply writing down what you need to do can prompt you to think about all the steps necessary to do it — and to start working on that task.
So, as soon as you put “write project report” on your list, for example, you’ll realize all the tasks that goal actually entails. As a result, maybe you block out more time in your schedule for the report, or at least mentally prepare yourself for a busy day.
6. Feeling stressed
Stress gets a bad rap — it’s seemingly something we should avoid at all costs.
But if you ask health psychologist Kelly McGonigal, she’ll tell you that stress can in fact be good for you. When you’re freaking out about a work project or a family issue, it suggests that you really care about your work or your family.
And if you can internalize that idea — I’m stressed because this thing is important to me — you’ll be better equipped to handle the physiological symptoms of stress.
In some cases, procrastination really can hurt your productivity — like if you’re, say, browsing Facebook while you’re supposed to be writing an article due in an hour.
But in other circumstances, putting things off can lead to your best work.
Business Insider’s Rachel Gillett read Wharton professor Adam Grant’s book Originals and reported that Steve Jobs was a major procrastinator. Obviously, he was wildly successful, too — and Grant argues that there’s a link between the two.
Grant told Business Insider: “The time Steve Jobs was putting things off and noodling on possibilities was time well spent in letting more divergent ideas come to the table, as opposed to diving right in with the most conventional, the most obvious, the most familiar.”
Meanwhile, Stanford professor John Perry told Business Insider about “structured procrastination,” which means you do something else important while you’re avoiding one particular task.
Perry said: “You’re embracing your love of procrastination, but remaining productive.”
Shana Lebowitz is a strategy reporter for Business Insider.]]>