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6 Tips To Create A Great Design For Your Startup

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In the last few years, I have seen a host of sites appear that help you with design for your business or personal brand. Seeing as I know nothing about the subject of design, I thought I would interview the founder of the very popular DesignCrowd business, Alec Lynch, to educate us all. Alec started the business because he saw a problem with businesses buying designs from traditional methods. He viewed the process as slow, expensive and even risky. The risk he saw was that it could take a few months and then after all that you could hate what you ended up receiving from the designer.

Talented designers struggled to break into the design industry. In Australia, for example, there are 20,000 designers employed full time but around 60,0000 have graduated from design courses and don’t have employment. The numbers are similar in other developed economies. DesignCrowd attempts to fix the traditional problems of the industry by allowing customers to get designs faster (first designs by the morning), offering better value for money, allowing more creative designs (with over 400,000 designers), allowing designers to compete on creativity as opposed to cost, and allowing more choice with an average of 60-100 designs for your project.

DesignCrowd was launched in January 2008 out of Alec’s mums garage in a design industry that now is now more than $50 billion dollars. The first 2 years of the company were funded my credit cards and loans from Alec’s friends and family, in 2009 they raised $300k AUD in angel investment and grew the business fourteen-fold over the next two years. In 2011, they raised a Series A venture capital round of $3 million with Starfish Ventures.

Since then they have grown the team from three people to thirty-five people. In 2013, they raised a Series A1 again from Starfish Ventures and then in 2015 they raised a Series B led by Airtree Ventures for a further $6 million AUD. Their current revenue run rate is $20 million per year, and more than 75% of their customers are outside of Australia.

“The main thing that separates a wannapreneur from an entrepreneur is action. Don’t get too lost in books and start your business on the side or buy a domain name, but just take action”

Similar to Blue Dot, who we interviewed earlier, Alec and his team approached dozens of venture capital firms before they found the right one. Some of these approaches were relationship building, and others were actual pitches. In order for them to raise a round of funding it typically took 3-12 months to put a deal together. Alec says, “the more firms you approach, the more chance you will have of being successful in funding your startup. If you end up speaking to a large number of firms and you don’t get much interest, it probably means you need to look at your pitch, the product or the even your team.”

Having multiple, interested investors through this process can also assist in creating that magical, competitive tension that works in your favour.

Time Square and Virgin have used the platform, and there have been quirky projects like a tattoo design that says who’s your momma and a snowboard design – the options are limitless. Expect to see DesignCrowd expanding further in the USA and UK as well as other geographies.

 

The secret sauce of online marketplaces

One of the hardest challenges to overcome in any marketplace business is getting both sides of the market onto your platform. DesignCrowd took the logical approach and started by getting the designers first. They did this by running a crowdsourced contest and offering some money to have their own logo designed. This contest was promoted at design colleges and universities to attract designers to the marketplace.

As they acquired customers and projects were put up on the site, more designers came to the site and started telling each other in a very organic way. The other way they have increased both sides of the marketplace is to make some small acquisitions of websites and design communities, which has helped inorganically, grow the bottom line.

Design Crowd Office Sydney

DesignCrowd Office Sydney

Many marketplaces have a natural “viral loop.” When a customer posts a project and requests a design with an offer of money, this creates content. Essentially this is a job listing that Google can now index, and it can be shared with other designers.

As designers respond by uploading designs, once the project completes each of those designs become public on their own page linking to the overall project and the designer who created them. This also creates content for Google and bloggers which helps attract designers and new customers.

 
Below are the six tips that Alec Lynch gave me for creating a great design for your startup.

 

1. Attract a good designer

To attract a good designer to your project you need to write a good brief, that’s not too long and not too short. Really short briefs signal to designers that you don’t really care or you might not be clear what you want. If your brief is too long, it can imply that your work is too difficult and is going to take a designer too long. In a marketplace context, a designer could be more inclined to gravitate towards a project that is easier. If you have lots of ideas about your design, you need to find the essence and the direction you want to go in a simplified way. Prioritise the parts in the design that are most important to you.

 

2. Pay your designer a fair price

You should be offering an amount of money for your design that your startup is comfortable paying and think is good value. Ideally you want to be offering more than the average amount of money in the marketplace, and then you will naturally attract the best designers that are on the site. It’s also worth handpicking designers from the directory that’s available.

On a platform like DesignCrowd, you can offer small participation payments to top designers that come off your budget, to encourage them to work on your project. Designers typically put more effort into these projects and prioritise them over others, which can help you get the best design.

 

3. Consider using the same designer again for future work

Sites like DesignCrowd allow you to work one to one so once you find a designer you like, this can be an easy way to move forward without having to run contests in the future. Around 20% of projects on DesignCrowd are follow-up projects. Even if the designer you used two years ago is not active, there is usually a 95% chance that they are still available on the site, so you can reach out to them again.

This was something that I found very comforting to hear. In the real world, you would normally only have a relationship with one designer that could be risky for your business if they become busy or go full time with another client. With a marketplace, you can go to other designers quite easily and basically have an unlimited design team. All the designs are also submitted to the site with industry-standard source files so that designs can be easily manipulated by other designers if need be.

 

4. Get all the elements of your design right

You want a design that is effective and helps you achieve your business goals. If these goals are related to growing revenue, then your design needs to match those goals. Brand awareness, brand loyalty and brand association are all things that you should aim for. In terms of colors, if you look at the top 100 brands in the world through interbrand, the most popular color is blue and then followed by red. While you don’t have to use these colors, it’s worth knowing what the best use.

If it’s a website your designing, then you want a design that helps convert traffic into sales. Understand the different elements of your website like your calls to action, your design / layout, your colors and your copy and make sure they are all based on converting traffic. All these elements need to be continually tested and improved in order to get the best result.

Collage of designs made on Design Crowd

Collage of designs made on DesignCrowd

David Ogilvy Quote “Never stop testing and your advertising will never stop improving”

 

5. Use all the tools of a marketplace

On DesignCrowd, you have access to a directory of designers where you can go and look at their portfolio. There is a polling tool that allows you to poll your customers, friend’s family and employees about what they think of your design. For those of you who are looking to hide your projects from Google and competitors, there is also a function that allows you to do this. In terms of social media, make sure you use it throughout your design phase to gather opinions on what you’re doing and see if you are on the right track.

 

6. Avoid common design errors

Don’t make your design too complicated or have too much detail. If you’re getting a website design, don’t have too many things on the page and keep it simple for the user. You should try not to make the mistake of having a design that is effective to you or meaningful to you, rather than what will resonate more with your target audience. To uncover what will work, you can try testing your brand or design using Google Adwords to see what get’s the best outcome. You could also look at trying different domain names at the same time.

 

Final Tip

“No matter how good your idea is there is a fairly probable chance that someone else in the world has that idea. It may be the case that no one else has acted on that idea, but there is always a chance that they will if it’s a good idea. That said, you will always have competitors”

Alec Lynch from Design Crowd talks with Tim Denning about great designs

Alec Lynch founder of DesignCrowd

If you are working on a design for your startup check out DesignCrowd for some tools that will help you stand out from the rest.

Tim is best known as a long-time contributor on Addicted2Success. Tim's content has been shared hundreds of thousands of times and he has written multiple viral posts all around success, personal development, motivation, and entrepreneurship. During the day Tim works with the most iconic tech companies in the world, as an adviser, to assist them in expanding into Australia. By night, Tim coaches his students on the principles of personal development and the fundamentals of entrepreneurship. You can connect with Tim through his website www.timdenning.net

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Startups

Why Your Business Should Focus on Effectively Outwitting Competitors

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business competition
Image Credit: Twenty20.com

It shouldn’t be a case of getting out of the kitchen if you can’t stand the heat, it should rather be the case of not venturing into the kitchen. Any brand which was set up with the outlook that there won’t be competitors was started on the wrong premise and will be plummeted into oblivion.

Any road to success is thorny but paved with advantages, which may be fair or unfair. It borders on putting in personal sacrifices which are prone to constant uncertainty, existential threats, and taking a headlong plunge into making terrifying decisions. It’s definitely not a place for the Lilly-minded and nitwits because you are setting out to engage in a fierce competition with the best minds in the business world.

What you should work tenaciously upon is your competitive advantages. Ensure the things you have going for you are brought to the forefront. You will require the right mix of guts, tactics, timing, and the knack for hitting the rod when it’s red hot because opportunities coming your way should be quickly utilized.

Dilly-dallying will be highly disastrous and very devastating. Your brand may not be a pacesetter and you don’t have a carte blanche to do whatever you fancy, yet it behoves on you to gear up to face competition from the onset.

Amazingly, however, you can effectively outwit your competitors in the global market. You just need leveraging on the following steps:

1. Research other winning brands

A lot of people may consider this to be absurd but that is the joker you have. What you do must be entirely different from other brands in the same industry as your brand. When you concentrate on researching your rivals in the same industry, you may only come up with something akin to what they do.

You, however, need to come up with something completely new and stunning, a whole set of nouveau innovations and the only way to get that is by going out of your industry completely. Your ideas must be mind-blowing and eye-opening not minding that you are possibly a newbie in the industry.

It’s of utmost importance that you build with the future in mind, before launching your product into the market. This singular action of yours will quadruple and ironclad your chances of surviving the onslaught in the market.

“Only a fool learns from his own mistakes. The wise man learns from the mistakes of others.” – Otto van Bismark

2. Spin your obvious weakness into your strong point

You definitely will have some weak points and your competitors will seek those out to backstab and whip you silly in the market. You shouldn’t, however, be deterred by this. You can swivel this supposedly bad fortune into a huge arsenal for your brand with the attendant result of leaving your competitors on the turf.

A brand’s weak point could be the price. It’s possible your price is on the high side in comparison with others in the market. This is an opportunity to showcase your ingenuity by adding domestic customer service, home delivery, extended warranty, or any other incentive which you know your competitors will chicken out on.

The initial venture will definitely pummel your finances but by the time your prospective customers come to identify these advantages which were supposedly weak points with you, your ROI will skyrocket sensationally. Your competitors who had set out to tailspin you will be wondering what hit them.

3. Stay glued to your clients

The customer is the king and this must be your brand’s watchword. Your taste may be the best in the world but it’s absolute balderdash if it doesn’t resonate with the customer. You must learn to maximize the values your customers hold high and play down other money-grubbing wastes.

To effect this you must stay glued to your customers. Find out what they have going for your products and how you can enhance them. This effort may be a time suck and you may be required to put in odd hours tracking down your customers but it will pay off handsomely.

John C. Maxwell, aptly described this situation when he said “You will never change your life until you change something you do daily. The secret of your success is found in your daily routine.” Make your customers off-limits to your competitors. You can enhance this by making sure you are constantly in contact with your customers.

“When a customer enters my store, forget me. He is king.” – John Wanamaker

You should be in tune with those things that can make or break your business as well as having the metrics to measure how well you are doing. It’s absolutely necessary that you know your brand’s fundamental metrics like the average customer value (ACV), cost per acquisition (CPA), return on investment (ROI), and break even.

Business is like the art of war and the best form of defence is to attack.

How to you make sure people stay loyal to your brand? Let us know some tips and advice below!

Image courtesy of Twenty20.com

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Startups

Enough With The Word ‘Startup’

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The word ‘startup’ has created a false reality.

When we think of startups we now think of the following:

  • Cool kids wearing their startup t-shirts
  • Co-working spaces
  • Lots of lattes with a picture drawn in the froth
  • San Francisco and how perfect it is (I’ve been there and it’s not perfect:  #HomelessPeopleEverywhere)
  • Unicorns (not the ones you see on kid’s shows)
  • Made up valuations (a GFC fixes this problem nicely)
  • Accelerators (an overload of opinions that are just that)
  • Pitch nights where investors are made to look like Fortune Tellers and experts when the reality is nothing more than this: they’re guessing

 

It’s time to bin the word startup.

The word has no meaning. Day one is the start and then everything after that is just business. By continually using the word startup we’re implying we’re still at the start when we’re not.

“The word startup makes us feel crappy because it puts us in the amateur, early stage, “I’m still learning” category which never expires”

We never know what we’re doing in business completely and that’s a good thing.

Everything is constantly changing and so we’re going to be lifelong learners in the business world whether we like it or acknowledge it.

 

The word ‘Startup” means business so let’s call it that.

Just like a penis, big or small, it’s a fucking penis. Let’s call it what it is.

Maybe you’re a small business with one employee.

Maybe you’re a large corporation with 35,000 employees

Maybe you work one day a week on a side hustle.

Maybe you have two freelancers working for you one day a month.

It’s all just business. Sorry cool kids, the word ‘startup’ doesn’t make business any easier, different, simpler, funkier or any other description you can give.

 

Can everyone really be an entrepreneur?

I’ll give it to you straight amigo: no, they can’t.

“Some of you suck at entrepreneurship even though Instagram sells you on the dream that you can sit on the beach with your laptop, sip a cocktail, take a selfie and do one hour of work a day”

This is all a lie designed to mess with your head and force you to suffer FOMO thus resulting in social media engagement for someone with a landing page that leads to a digital product where there’s a payment wall for you to insert your credit card number and add money to a bank account that’s not yours.

Many of you can’t handle:

  • Risk
  • Stupid amount of stress
  • 12-hour days
  • Managing other people
  • Having to be creative
  • Customers whose demands never stop
  • The game of money
  • Soul crushing failure

The list could go on forever. There are so many components to entrepreneurship.

Only about 1% of people are truly cut out for it. Just like not everyone can be a leader - otherwise there would be no followers - not everyone can be an entrepreneur. And that’s okay.

You’re human - you’ll be okay.

That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try entrepreneurship. Sometimes giving it a shot and doing it is the only way to find out.

Life is not all about startups and entrepreneurship - there’s more to it than that.

 

When does the ‘Startup Phase’ end?

It doesn’t.

Some people say Stripe is a startup even though they do billions in revenue now. Some people call my side-hustle a startup even though it’s just me.

The word ‘startup’ keeps getting used because somehow it puts you in a different league where growth hackers (I call it sales), dev-ops, UX designers and a whole bunch of other words that describe a team that does sales or builds software exists.

 

A startup is not a startup; it’s called a business.

No more buzz words.

No more unicorns.

No more thinking you’re smarter than your competitors.

No more BS valuations.

No more naming and shaming people who don’t want to be a founder of a startup like you.

Not everyone is in love with startups and not all of us want to be founders. Some people want to be stay-at-home dads or stay-at-home moms.

Some people want to raise their kids instead of being on the front of Startup Daily with a bunch of cool kids.

There’s more to life than fucking startups and #StartupLife.

 

Business is business. 

  1. You build a product or service with you or a co-founder.
  2. You attempt to see whether it solves a problem
  3. You continue validating the idea beyond your mom & dad, friends and work colleagues
  4. You make some money - $1, $100, $100k - it doesn’t matter
  5. You continuously improve the product to make your customers happier
  6. You make them happy and the business makes more money
  7. You build out a team so you can grow the business to be bigger
  8. Then you either stop at where you are and be bloody happy, or you raise money in some form - VC, bank, angels, parents, ICO (insert trendy way to borrow more money)
  9. You hi-five everyone, sell the business and sit on a beach or you keep going because it becomes about more than money

THE END.

 

Final Word On Startups. 

If you want to create a business, then do it. If you don’t then that’s fine too.

Find a problem, solve it and be humble as hell about it if you succeed. There’s more to this world than the ridiculous label that is startup.

If you want to increase your productivity and learn some more valuable life hacks, then join my private mailing list on timdenning.net

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Here’s How Facebook Can Shape Your Startup in 2018

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facebook for business

Out of the many things that Facebook can do, it has the impeccable power of shaping your startup and providing a huge platform to reach out to its customers. Startups are constantly using the features of Facebook to engage their customers and implement in their content strategies in the unique ways.

Do you want to use this most popular social media platform as a marketing strategy for your startup or business? Here’s how Facebook can shape your business in 2018:

1. The rising trend of videos

Videos are undeniably the hottest trend of present times. The first thing that you most often come across on the social media platform is videos. There are various reasons why the popularity of videos has grown to strikingly unprecedented levels on social media platforms.

The content around us is evolving more and more with each day and can be credited to the changing preferences of people. The long written blogs and other stories are being converted to short videos and video stories. To understand why people prefer videos more than anything else, ask yourself if you were given a long paragraph to read and a video, what would you choose? Videos are always more engaging than written content.

It has the power to instantly connect with people and touch their emotional self in a more compelling manner. Videos are the relatable and much easier way of grasping things. More and more companies these days are using video as a marketing tool.

So, it doesn’t matter if it is a product launch or a DIY tutorial, or an advertisement, videos are one of the best ways of engaging the customers. Facebook is providing a wonderful platform for videos to flourish and shape businesses in the coming years.

“Activate your fans, don’t just collect them like baseball cards.” – Jay Baer

2. Use the power of live marketing

One of the most advantageous and unique features of Facebook is Live Marketing. Live Marketing has helped businesses and startups attain an upper hand in the market and stand out with their strategies. As intimidating as live marketing on Facebook sounds, it’s equally tricky and challenging to accomplish. If done the right way, it can do wonders for a business and shape their strategies towards unconditional support from their customers.

Facebook’s algorithm uses over 100,000 different signs to decide which posts should be prioritized on the customer’s feeds. So, no matter how great the content you produce is, there is a strong chance that your content will get overshadowed by the unlimited posts from friends and family.

So, if you want your message to be heard, one of the best ways is to go LIVE on Facebook. The live feature from Facebook instantly provides a free pass to the business and enables them by reaching in front of the queue to speak directly to the customer.

As you go live, all those following you receive an instant notification to connect with you. While going live is facilitating Facebook to get more and more customers hooked on to their sites, it is also enabling companies to catch their customer’s attention. You can stream a lot of things live on Facebook. These can be seminars, any discussions, interviews, or events. Think of ways to go Live and embrace this great feature.

3. Get your fans to create wonderful content

Another way that startups are shaping their strategies on Facebook is through their own customers. It’s always a great idea for customers to interact with your business so that you get some buzz in the market. You can ask your happy customers to create content for you. This tactic will help rush the engagement and accelerate more attention towards your business page.

Let people talk about you more and more and letting Facebook know that there is a constant buzz around your brand. Driving engagement with the audience is a successful social media strategy that has a life of its own. One of the most basic examples are the meme pages on Facebook. They let their audience post memes, which is the core content in their case, and circulate them to the rest of the world.

You can come up with contests which require posting photos and videos online. If you are a food brand, you can ask your customers to post pictures of a recipe that they tried at home, or video of a new recipe. This will draw a great engagement to your brand and help you gain your audience’s attention.

“When you say it, it’s marketing. When they say it, it’s social proof.” – Andy Crestodina

4. Paid advertising

Paid advertising is one of the keys to achieve your objectives. It’s important to understand that while paid advertising might not work for everyone, it ultimately comes down to the ROI of your strategy.  

Paid advertising is quite inexpensive, as compared to other advertising channels and platforms in the market. It can help you get a number of potential leads, and most importantly attention among your target customers.

5. Start a Discussion

Facebook allows you to start a discussion to engage people and leave them with something to talk about your brand. There are some ways that you can initiate discussions, such as polls, quizzes, reviews, etc. Through these tactics, Facebook can help your startup get your customer’s attention and understand their personas for forming better marketing strategies.

Customer personas revolve around knowing the habits, likes, dislikes, age, preferences etc. of the customer. Through the discussion, you can get to know your customer and customize your content based on their likes.

How do you use Facebook as a marketing channel for your startup or business? Please share your thoughts in the comment section.

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3 Excuses to Overcome When Starting Your Business

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overcoming excuses

At one point or another, you’ve probably had a great idea. For some, that great idea comes when they’re driving down the road. For others, it comes when they’re singing in the shower. For Tenacious D (Jack Black’s band), it came in a dream. Unfortunately for him, he couldn’t remember what the great idea was, but wound up writing a song with these words, “This isn’t the greatest song in the world, it’s just a tribute to the greatest song in the world.” The fact of the matter is, we all have great ideas. What separates those who are successful from those who aren’t is one little word – action.

I had the privilege to sit down with Alex Nerney, Co-founder of Create & Go, who used a process of sorts to establish two online websites grossing $100k/mo in profits. Alex talked about three things that hinder a business owner from bringing that idea into a reality. He also interjected three solutions to get rid of the yips and succeed. Hang on, your success is on it’s way.

1. There’s Too Much Competition

As quick as the business idea hits you, something else begins to gnaw at your brain – doubt. Doubt is a common emotion when it comes to creating something new. All of a sudden you realize you’re going to need “this” and “that” and “the other thing” to make it work and you begin to have a realization of the fear of failure. Mr. Nerney explains, while a lot of business ideas that pop up every day on the internet do not work out for the idea-owner, it’s not the fault of the idea.

For example, if you feel like you’re an expert in Facebook advertising and you want to create a consulting company to help other businesses succeed in Facebook ads, right from the beginning you’re going to notice there’s a TON of Facebook ad consultants out there.

Solution: Needle the Niche

Alex says to make your idea unique by niching down. In other words, don’t simply consult on the entire spectrum of Facebook advertising, but perhaps you could make it even more fine-tuned by being the expert at Facebook video ads for dress and apparel companies.

Now you have something to work with. Now you are targeting a specific origin of customer and, if your passion is in apparel (or whatever it may be), show your strengths by displaying an example for them. Niching down is a powerful way to help your business idea stand out from the crowd.

“The biggest competition is myself. I am not looking to follow others or pull them down. I’m planning to test my own boundaries.” – Rain

2. I Don’t Know Enough About This

Alex says, “The most dangerous part of saying ‘I don’t know enough about this’ to yourself is how it strings you along and convincing you to wait for the clandestine moment where you’re finally ready.” Inevitably, action will be required on your part if you are truly serious about accomplishing this particular goal in your business.

Without action, you never truly learn anything from your failed tasks. If you can create a positive mindset about your goals and begin to understand failure isn’t a closed door, but simply another opportunity to craft your creation a better way.

Solution: Don’t Ever Quit

After speaking with Alex on this point, I was reminded by a man who was full of failures.

  • He lost two jobs
  • He ran for the state legislature and lost
  • He started a business and failed
  • His high school sweetheart died.
  • Defeated for Speaker of the House
  • Defeated for Congress
  • Rejected for Land Officer
  • Defeated for U.S. Senate
  • Defeated for the nomination of the Vice Presidency
  • Defeated for U.S. Senate AGAIN

This guy was full of failures. But there was one resolve in his attitude and the aspect in which he saw himself and where he was going. He never quit. Finally, in 1860, Abraham Lincoln was elected to be the President of the United States.

Don’t ever stop educating yourself. Don’t ever stop staying informed of the current issues of your potential clients and customers. Read, evaluate, learn, and jump in with both feet. You will eventually start to see progress in your learning curve. What would have happened to history if ol’ Abe had given up after the first few failures? I’m sure it would be a completely different story. If one door closes, another door opens in the pathway to success so keep your eyes open.

3. I Don’t Know Where To Start

With so many avenues of business appearing out of nowhere in the online business world, it can be confusing at times to know exactly what starting point you should attempt. If you continually watch competitors, how big their audience is, or how engaged they are with their customers, it can be intimidating.

Normally when you focus on others, you compare yourself to them and if you have 200 followers on Facebook and your competitor has 200,000, that’s a big wallop to the confidence level. It’s important to focus on what YOU are wanting out of your business idea.

Solution: Make Three Lists

If you’re coming against the “I Don’t Know Where To Start” wall in your business idea, Mr. Nerney suggests you pick a path and give it a try. Of course this needs to be something you’re passionate about or something you can bring value and quality to your customers or audience.

  • List 1 – Sit down and make a list of the talents you can bring to the table to a preferred customer. Do you write well? Are you great at building relationships? Are you a good communicator? Write those traits down.
  • List 2 – Write down what you want your business to accomplish. Will it be the Facebook video ads we discussed above? Whatever your decision make this the point where your customers simply have to have you over your competitor. This is where you can be different from the pack and it’s a great opportunity to stand out.
  • List 3 – Focus on the type of customer your business will be targeting. This is going to help you tremendously when you get started because your target area will be fine-tuned and won’t be straying off the beaten path getting stray customers who have no interest in what you’re trying to do.

“Fail often so you can succeed sooner.” – Tom Kelley

Alex describes this as a business persona. In essence, you are creating a mythical business which will be your ideal client. If you’re not targeting businesses, this will still work with individuals and is called “social personification”.

For instance if your business is going to do Facebook ads for clients who have apparel businesses, you would make a business (or personal) persona that looks something like this:

Business Name: The Company

Ideal Client: Single women ages 24 – 31 who prefer the night-life and fancy dresses

Best Seller: Long sleeve tops

Average Income: $50,000/mo

Desired Social Platform: Facebook

Their Main Problem: having trouble with Facebook video ads to target their customers

You get the idea. Alex mentions you can go very deep and intimate with this description. Eventually you will be targeting a company (or person) who fits this criteria by writing content that suits their needs, etc.

In Conclusion

Do you have a great idea yet? Are you cultivating a business plan as you read this article? Every successful business owner started exactly where you’re at right now. What will make you any different from them? Frankly, nothing can make you different except you.

Every idea has an excuse it battles and you will be able to realize right from the start whether your idea is worth acting on or not. Using the tips Alex Nerney has given you today, you could be on your way to creating one of the strongest businesses this internet has ever seen. Who knows? It could happen.

How do you overcome your own excuses? Let us know in the comments below!

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Life

5 Counterintuitive Ways to Make the Most Out of Your Time

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how to use time effectively
Image Credit: Twenty20.com

Do you think you’ll accomplish everything you want to before you die? Do you sometimes worry you won’t reach your goals? Do you have a plan to get what you want? If you’re like most people, you often have trouble squeezing in everything you want to do during the day, week or month, let alone everything you might want to accomplish in a lifetime. Updates from friends on Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat come in to your phone at all hours of the day and night. Invites to activities, events, festivals, etc. blow up your phone on a regular basis. (more…)

McVal Osborne is the author of Start Up your Life: Why we don’t know what we want, and how to set goals that really matter. McVal writes about motivation, decision making, and strategic thinking. He graduated from UC Santa Barbara in 2011 with a degree in Spanish, and has since worked as a market researcher and business consultant in Washington D.C., New York City and London. You can reach him on Twitter @mcval or on IG @mcvaliant.

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Startups

Why Your Business Should Focus on Effectively Outwitting Competitors

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business competition
Image Credit: Twenty20.com

It shouldn’t be a case of getting out of the kitchen if you can’t stand the heat, it should rather be the case of not venturing into the kitchen. Any brand which was set up with the outlook that there won’t be competitors was started on the wrong premise and will be plummeted into oblivion.

Any road to success is thorny but paved with advantages, which may be fair or unfair. It borders on putting in personal sacrifices which are prone to constant uncertainty, existential threats, and taking a headlong plunge into making terrifying decisions. It’s definitely not a place for the Lilly-minded and nitwits because you are setting out to engage in a fierce competition with the best minds in the business world.

What you should work tenaciously upon is your competitive advantages. Ensure the things you have going for you are brought to the forefront. You will require the right mix of guts, tactics, timing, and the knack for hitting the rod when it’s red hot because opportunities coming your way should be quickly utilized.

Dilly-dallying will be highly disastrous and very devastating. Your brand may not be a pacesetter and you don’t have a carte blanche to do whatever you fancy, yet it behoves on you to gear up to face competition from the onset.

Amazingly, however, you can effectively outwit your competitors in the global market. You just need leveraging on the following steps:

1. Research other winning brands

A lot of people may consider this to be absurd but that is the joker you have. What you do must be entirely different from other brands in the same industry as your brand. When you concentrate on researching your rivals in the same industry, you may only come up with something akin to what they do.

You, however, need to come up with something completely new and stunning, a whole set of nouveau innovations and the only way to get that is by going out of your industry completely. Your ideas must be mind-blowing and eye-opening not minding that you are possibly a newbie in the industry.

It’s of utmost importance that you build with the future in mind, before launching your product into the market. This singular action of yours will quadruple and ironclad your chances of surviving the onslaught in the market.

“Only a fool learns from his own mistakes. The wise man learns from the mistakes of others.” – Otto van Bismark

2. Spin your obvious weakness into your strong point

You definitely will have some weak points and your competitors will seek those out to backstab and whip you silly in the market. You shouldn’t, however, be deterred by this. You can swivel this supposedly bad fortune into a huge arsenal for your brand with the attendant result of leaving your competitors on the turf.

A brand’s weak point could be the price. It’s possible your price is on the high side in comparison with others in the market. This is an opportunity to showcase your ingenuity by adding domestic customer service, home delivery, extended warranty, or any other incentive which you know your competitors will chicken out on.

The initial venture will definitely pummel your finances but by the time your prospective customers come to identify these advantages which were supposedly weak points with you, your ROI will skyrocket sensationally. Your competitors who had set out to tailspin you will be wondering what hit them.

3. Stay glued to your clients

The customer is the king and this must be your brand’s watchword. Your taste may be the best in the world but it’s absolute balderdash if it doesn’t resonate with the customer. You must learn to maximize the values your customers hold high and play down other money-grubbing wastes.

To effect this you must stay glued to your customers. Find out what they have going for your products and how you can enhance them. This effort may be a time suck and you may be required to put in odd hours tracking down your customers but it will pay off handsomely.

John C. Maxwell, aptly described this situation when he said “You will never change your life until you change something you do daily. The secret of your success is found in your daily routine.” Make your customers off-limits to your competitors. You can enhance this by making sure you are constantly in contact with your customers.

“When a customer enters my store, forget me. He is king.” – John Wanamaker

You should be in tune with those things that can make or break your business as well as having the metrics to measure how well you are doing. It’s absolutely necessary that you know your brand’s fundamental metrics like the average customer value (ACV), cost per acquisition (CPA), return on investment (ROI), and break even.

Business is like the art of war and the best form of defence is to attack.

How to you make sure people stay loyal to your brand? Let us know some tips and advice below!

Image courtesy of Twenty20.com

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Startups

Enough With The Word ‘Startup’

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The word ‘startup’ has created a false reality.

When we think of startups we now think of the following:

  • Cool kids wearing their startup t-shirts
  • Co-working spaces
  • Lots of lattes with a picture drawn in the froth
  • San Francisco and how perfect it is (I’ve been there and it’s not perfect:  #HomelessPeopleEverywhere)
  • Unicorns (not the ones you see on kid’s shows)
  • Made up valuations (a GFC fixes this problem nicely)
  • Accelerators (an overload of opinions that are just that)
  • Pitch nights where investors are made to look like Fortune Tellers and experts when the reality is nothing more than this: they’re guessing

 

It’s time to bin the word startup.

The word has no meaning. Day one is the start and then everything after that is just business. By continually using the word startup we’re implying we’re still at the start when we’re not.

“The word startup makes us feel crappy because it puts us in the amateur, early stage, “I’m still learning” category which never expires”

We never know what we’re doing in business completely and that’s a good thing.

Everything is constantly changing and so we’re going to be lifelong learners in the business world whether we like it or acknowledge it.

 

The word ‘Startup” means business so let’s call it that.

Just like a penis, big or small, it’s a fucking penis. Let’s call it what it is.

Maybe you’re a small business with one employee.

Maybe you’re a large corporation with 35,000 employees

Maybe you work one day a week on a side hustle.

Maybe you have two freelancers working for you one day a month.

It’s all just business. Sorry cool kids, the word ‘startup’ doesn’t make business any easier, different, simpler, funkier or any other description you can give.

 

Can everyone really be an entrepreneur?

I’ll give it to you straight amigo: no, they can’t.

“Some of you suck at entrepreneurship even though Instagram sells you on the dream that you can sit on the beach with your laptop, sip a cocktail, take a selfie and do one hour of work a day”

This is all a lie designed to mess with your head and force you to suffer FOMO thus resulting in social media engagement for someone with a landing page that leads to a digital product where there’s a payment wall for you to insert your credit card number and add money to a bank account that’s not yours.

Many of you can’t handle:

  • Risk
  • Stupid amount of stress
  • 12-hour days
  • Managing other people
  • Having to be creative
  • Customers whose demands never stop
  • The game of money
  • Soul crushing failure

The list could go on forever. There are so many components to entrepreneurship.

Only about 1% of people are truly cut out for it. Just like not everyone can be a leader - otherwise there would be no followers - not everyone can be an entrepreneur. And that’s okay.

You’re human - you’ll be okay.

That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try entrepreneurship. Sometimes giving it a shot and doing it is the only way to find out.

Life is not all about startups and entrepreneurship - there’s more to it than that.

 

When does the ‘Startup Phase’ end?

It doesn’t.

Some people say Stripe is a startup even though they do billions in revenue now. Some people call my side-hustle a startup even though it’s just me.

The word ‘startup’ keeps getting used because somehow it puts you in a different league where growth hackers (I call it sales), dev-ops, UX designers and a whole bunch of other words that describe a team that does sales or builds software exists.

 

A startup is not a startup; it’s called a business.

No more buzz words.

No more unicorns.

No more thinking you’re smarter than your competitors.

No more BS valuations.

No more naming and shaming people who don’t want to be a founder of a startup like you.

Not everyone is in love with startups and not all of us want to be founders. Some people want to be stay-at-home dads or stay-at-home moms.

Some people want to raise their kids instead of being on the front of Startup Daily with a bunch of cool kids.

There’s more to life than fucking startups and #StartupLife.

 

Business is business. 

  1. You build a product or service with you or a co-founder.
  2. You attempt to see whether it solves a problem
  3. You continue validating the idea beyond your mom & dad, friends and work colleagues
  4. You make some money - $1, $100, $100k - it doesn’t matter
  5. You continuously improve the product to make your customers happier
  6. You make them happy and the business makes more money
  7. You build out a team so you can grow the business to be bigger
  8. Then you either stop at where you are and be bloody happy, or you raise money in some form - VC, bank, angels, parents, ICO (insert trendy way to borrow more money)
  9. You hi-five everyone, sell the business and sit on a beach or you keep going because it becomes about more than money

THE END.

 

Final Word On Startups. 

If you want to create a business, then do it. If you don’t then that’s fine too.

Find a problem, solve it and be humble as hell about it if you succeed. There’s more to this world than the ridiculous label that is startup.

If you want to increase your productivity and learn some more valuable life hacks, then join my private mailing list on timdenning.net

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Startups

Here’s How Facebook Can Shape Your Startup in 2018

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facebook for business

Out of the many things that Facebook can do, it has the impeccable power of shaping your startup and providing a huge platform to reach out to its customers. Startups are constantly using the features of Facebook to engage their customers and implement in their content strategies in the unique ways.

Do you want to use this most popular social media platform as a marketing strategy for your startup or business? Here’s how Facebook can shape your business in 2018:

1. The rising trend of videos

Videos are undeniably the hottest trend of present times. The first thing that you most often come across on the social media platform is videos. There are various reasons why the popularity of videos has grown to strikingly unprecedented levels on social media platforms.

The content around us is evolving more and more with each day and can be credited to the changing preferences of people. The long written blogs and other stories are being converted to short videos and video stories. To understand why people prefer videos more than anything else, ask yourself if you were given a long paragraph to read and a video, what would you choose? Videos are always more engaging than written content.

It has the power to instantly connect with people and touch their emotional self in a more compelling manner. Videos are the relatable and much easier way of grasping things. More and more companies these days are using video as a marketing tool.

So, it doesn’t matter if it is a product launch or a DIY tutorial, or an advertisement, videos are one of the best ways of engaging the customers. Facebook is providing a wonderful platform for videos to flourish and shape businesses in the coming years.

“Activate your fans, don’t just collect them like baseball cards.” – Jay Baer

2. Use the power of live marketing

One of the most advantageous and unique features of Facebook is Live Marketing. Live Marketing has helped businesses and startups attain an upper hand in the market and stand out with their strategies. As intimidating as live marketing on Facebook sounds, it’s equally tricky and challenging to accomplish. If done the right way, it can do wonders for a business and shape their strategies towards unconditional support from their customers.

Facebook’s algorithm uses over 100,000 different signs to decide which posts should be prioritized on the customer’s feeds. So, no matter how great the content you produce is, there is a strong chance that your content will get overshadowed by the unlimited posts from friends and family.

So, if you want your message to be heard, one of the best ways is to go LIVE on Facebook. The live feature from Facebook instantly provides a free pass to the business and enables them by reaching in front of the queue to speak directly to the customer.

As you go live, all those following you receive an instant notification to connect with you. While going live is facilitating Facebook to get more and more customers hooked on to their sites, it is also enabling companies to catch their customer’s attention. You can stream a lot of things live on Facebook. These can be seminars, any discussions, interviews, or events. Think of ways to go Live and embrace this great feature.

3. Get your fans to create wonderful content

Another way that startups are shaping their strategies on Facebook is through their own customers. It’s always a great idea for customers to interact with your business so that you get some buzz in the market. You can ask your happy customers to create content for you. This tactic will help rush the engagement and accelerate more attention towards your business page.

Let people talk about you more and more and letting Facebook know that there is a constant buzz around your brand. Driving engagement with the audience is a successful social media strategy that has a life of its own. One of the most basic examples are the meme pages on Facebook. They let their audience post memes, which is the core content in their case, and circulate them to the rest of the world.

You can come up with contests which require posting photos and videos online. If you are a food brand, you can ask your customers to post pictures of a recipe that they tried at home, or video of a new recipe. This will draw a great engagement to your brand and help you gain your audience’s attention.

“When you say it, it’s marketing. When they say it, it’s social proof.” – Andy Crestodina

4. Paid advertising

Paid advertising is one of the keys to achieve your objectives. It’s important to understand that while paid advertising might not work for everyone, it ultimately comes down to the ROI of your strategy.  

Paid advertising is quite inexpensive, as compared to other advertising channels and platforms in the market. It can help you get a number of potential leads, and most importantly attention among your target customers.

5. Start a Discussion

Facebook allows you to start a discussion to engage people and leave them with something to talk about your brand. There are some ways that you can initiate discussions, such as polls, quizzes, reviews, etc. Through these tactics, Facebook can help your startup get your customer’s attention and understand their personas for forming better marketing strategies.

Customer personas revolve around knowing the habits, likes, dislikes, age, preferences etc. of the customer. Through the discussion, you can get to know your customer and customize your content based on their likes.

How do you use Facebook as a marketing channel for your startup or business? Please share your thoughts in the comment section.

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Startups

3 Excuses to Overcome When Starting Your Business

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overcoming excuses

At one point or another, you’ve probably had a great idea. For some, that great idea comes when they’re driving down the road. For others, it comes when they’re singing in the shower. For Tenacious D (Jack Black’s band), it came in a dream. Unfortunately for him, he couldn’t remember what the great idea was, but wound up writing a song with these words, “This isn’t the greatest song in the world, it’s just a tribute to the greatest song in the world.” The fact of the matter is, we all have great ideas. What separates those who are successful from those who aren’t is one little word – action.

I had the privilege to sit down with Alex Nerney, Co-founder of Create & Go, who used a process of sorts to establish two online websites grossing $100k/mo in profits. Alex talked about three things that hinder a business owner from bringing that idea into a reality. He also interjected three solutions to get rid of the yips and succeed. Hang on, your success is on it’s way.

1. There’s Too Much Competition

As quick as the business idea hits you, something else begins to gnaw at your brain – doubt. Doubt is a common emotion when it comes to creating something new. All of a sudden you realize you’re going to need “this” and “that” and “the other thing” to make it work and you begin to have a realization of the fear of failure. Mr. Nerney explains, while a lot of business ideas that pop up every day on the internet do not work out for the idea-owner, it’s not the fault of the idea.

For example, if you feel like you’re an expert in Facebook advertising and you want to create a consulting company to help other businesses succeed in Facebook ads, right from the beginning you’re going to notice there’s a TON of Facebook ad consultants out there.

Solution: Needle the Niche

Alex says to make your idea unique by niching down. In other words, don’t simply consult on the entire spectrum of Facebook advertising, but perhaps you could make it even more fine-tuned by being the expert at Facebook video ads for dress and apparel companies.

Now you have something to work with. Now you are targeting a specific origin of customer and, if your passion is in apparel (or whatever it may be), show your strengths by displaying an example for them. Niching down is a powerful way to help your business idea stand out from the crowd.

“The biggest competition is myself. I am not looking to follow others or pull them down. I’m planning to test my own boundaries.” – Rain

2. I Don’t Know Enough About This

Alex says, “The most dangerous part of saying ‘I don’t know enough about this’ to yourself is how it strings you along and convincing you to wait for the clandestine moment where you’re finally ready.” Inevitably, action will be required on your part if you are truly serious about accomplishing this particular goal in your business.

Without action, you never truly learn anything from your failed tasks. If you can create a positive mindset about your goals and begin to understand failure isn’t a closed door, but simply another opportunity to craft your creation a better way.

Solution: Don’t Ever Quit

After speaking with Alex on this point, I was reminded by a man who was full of failures.

  • He lost two jobs
  • He ran for the state legislature and lost
  • He started a business and failed
  • His high school sweetheart died.
  • Defeated for Speaker of the House
  • Defeated for Congress
  • Rejected for Land Officer
  • Defeated for U.S. Senate
  • Defeated for the nomination of the Vice Presidency
  • Defeated for U.S. Senate AGAIN

This guy was full of failures. But there was one resolve in his attitude and the aspect in which he saw himself and where he was going. He never quit. Finally, in 1860, Abraham Lincoln was elected to be the President of the United States.

Don’t ever stop educating yourself. Don’t ever stop staying informed of the current issues of your potential clients and customers. Read, evaluate, learn, and jump in with both feet. You will eventually start to see progress in your learning curve. What would have happened to history if ol’ Abe had given up after the first few failures? I’m sure it would be a completely different story. If one door closes, another door opens in the pathway to success so keep your eyes open.

3. I Don’t Know Where To Start

With so many avenues of business appearing out of nowhere in the online business world, it can be confusing at times to know exactly what starting point you should attempt. If you continually watch competitors, how big their audience is, or how engaged they are with their customers, it can be intimidating.

Normally when you focus on others, you compare yourself to them and if you have 200 followers on Facebook and your competitor has 200,000, that’s a big wallop to the confidence level. It’s important to focus on what YOU are wanting out of your business idea.

Solution: Make Three Lists

If you’re coming against the “I Don’t Know Where To Start” wall in your business idea, Mr. Nerney suggests you pick a path and give it a try. Of course this needs to be something you’re passionate about or something you can bring value and quality to your customers or audience.

  • List 1 – Sit down and make a list of the talents you can bring to the table to a preferred customer. Do you write well? Are you great at building relationships? Are you a good communicator? Write those traits down.
  • List 2 – Write down what you want your business to accomplish. Will it be the Facebook video ads we discussed above? Whatever your decision make this the point where your customers simply have to have you over your competitor. This is where you can be different from the pack and it’s a great opportunity to stand out.
  • List 3 – Focus on the type of customer your business will be targeting. This is going to help you tremendously when you get started because your target area will be fine-tuned and won’t be straying off the beaten path getting stray customers who have no interest in what you’re trying to do.

“Fail often so you can succeed sooner.” – Tom Kelley

Alex describes this as a business persona. In essence, you are creating a mythical business which will be your ideal client. If you’re not targeting businesses, this will still work with individuals and is called “social personification”.

For instance if your business is going to do Facebook ads for clients who have apparel businesses, you would make a business (or personal) persona that looks something like this:

Business Name: The Company

Ideal Client: Single women ages 24 – 31 who prefer the night-life and fancy dresses

Best Seller: Long sleeve tops

Average Income: $50,000/mo

Desired Social Platform: Facebook

Their Main Problem: having trouble with Facebook video ads to target their customers

You get the idea. Alex mentions you can go very deep and intimate with this description. Eventually you will be targeting a company (or person) who fits this criteria by writing content that suits their needs, etc.

In Conclusion

Do you have a great idea yet? Are you cultivating a business plan as you read this article? Every successful business owner started exactly where you’re at right now. What will make you any different from them? Frankly, nothing can make you different except you.

Every idea has an excuse it battles and you will be able to realize right from the start whether your idea is worth acting on or not. Using the tips Alex Nerney has given you today, you could be on your way to creating one of the strongest businesses this internet has ever seen. Who knows? It could happen.

How do you overcome your own excuses? Let us know in the comments below!

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