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5 pieces of advice for entrepreneurs in 2018, the international PR agency point of view

PR has become indispensable for companies nowadays, evolving from “simple” media relations activities to strategy,consultancy and more and more diverse services. Moreover, it’s obvious that it needs to be part of the whole communication process and in close relationship with marketing and sales, being one of the business’ best driving forces. Raluca EneManaging Director Chapter 4 Romania offers 5 important pieces of advice for entrepreneurs in 2018, to take home about how to tell the world about your entrepreneurial endeavor:

Know your WHY – there is nothing more important for a successful communication effort than being crystal clear not only on what you do and for whom, but why you’re doing it. The single most important thing that would transmit directly to your potential customers is your motivation and drive.

Know your customer inside out, especially where your customer takes his/her information from – build personas, as they should do the trick and reveal the channels your customers use (media, social media, blogs, events etc.). Gather information about the respective channels. Don’t be afraid of words such as virtual reality or artificial intelligence – see what’s there, don’t dismiss anything by default.

Be honest about the resources you are ready to spend on communication – I know, it’s rather annoying to learn something you know is necessary for the growth of your business, but not your cup of tea at all. Nevertheless, if you want to make your business work, you have to be efficient, and that should go first.

If you are just starting up or in the first stage of developing the business, maybe it would be better to consider choosing a seasoned communication consultant, pay a one-time fee for a professional advice and guidance and assume the implementation yourself rather than paying an internal specialist or an agency retainer. Go to marketing & communication events for entrepreneurs, there are quite a few available these days, and some of them are quite good. Once you start having a steady profit, hiring a professional team would definitely free your time to dedicate to your business.

Invest wisely – make your dollar count and choose to invest in the channel with the most exposure to your core target. Take into consideration building your own space for telling your story (e.g. website, blog, YouTube channel) before deciding where to promote it. Specialists might give you different kinds of advice – ask for as many arguments as possible and listen carefully, but make your own decision. Your entrepreneurial guts matter more than you think, listen to it.

You are the best ambassador of your business, use yourself! Even the shiest of entrepreneurs lighten up and become energetic and passionate when it comes to their own creation, therefore put yourself to good use and go out there: talk about your business, go to events, ask questions (especially to more seasoned entrepreneurs that went successfully through the phase you are now), be there. It will pay off, and then some.

No product or service would sell without people finding out about their existence first (and yes, word of mouth is a communication channel as well J), so why not embrace it and make room in your agenda for communication – there are plenty of resources to inspire and help you around.

Best pieces of advice for entrepreneurs in 2018, the worldwide perspective

Each time is the end of a year we make resolutions and look forward to what is to come. We wish for a better year, more accomplishments and higher goals. At the same time we look for inspiration and this is exactly what we want to offer you with this post and some more to come.

How to create an online storytelling campaign for an NGO

“Storytelling is how humans communicate with each other, the way that we make sense of complex information, and how we relay our experiences to others. Nonprofit storytelling can motivate people to pay attention and take action. Emotional, appealing stories can build an online audience for your nonprofit,” wrote TheBalance.

Videos allow you to combine your dynamic story with emotion to create a connection with your audience that words and photos cannot build. Emotion is your main asset to use. Moreover, organizations can convey impact in a way that engages and inspires donors by persistently telling stories.Through storytelling, nonprofit organizations can harness the power of emotion to make a connection with donors that inspires action.

According to thebalance.com, a storytelling campaign has three phases: planning, implementation, and evaluation. In the planning stage, you need to articulate the goal of the storytelling campaign clearly. “Design each campaign for a defined purpose and to accomplish a specific goal. You may need to carry out multiple storytelling campaigns per month to achieve your goal, or perhaps just one per quarter, depending on your resources. Once you define the action that you want people to take, you can determine who is most likely to take that action, and the emotional storytelling hooks to get them to do so.”

The next steps are selecting your audience and making sure that the story is true and it fits the audience’s expectations and realities. There are five main types of stories that nonprofits can collect and develop — value stories, social proof stories, founder stories, resilience/continuous improvement stories, and impact stories. After deciding that you must collect the necessary pieces of information to create the right campaign, choose the right channels to whom to send it and promote it,create it, share it and evaluate it. More details you can find here.

“Because e-mail is a great way to engage supporters who might not regularly visit your website, you can use it to hook supporters into your story and prompt further action, without it feeling like you’re asking for donations at every point of communication. Use e-mail as an opportunity to invite readers to be the hero of your organization’s mission. Layer in visuals: With the average person’s attention span maxing out at 8 seconds, you can’t afford to deliver a novel to people’s inboxes. Instead, think of your story as a short picture book. This email is such a great example because it injects an image after every couple sentences. Break up blocks of text with visuals to keep readers engaged and keep your copy clear, simple and concise,” wrote classy.org.

More ideas and pieces of advice you can find also here.

10 Things you might not know about Robin Sharma

For nearly 20 years, many of the most well-known organizations on the planet, ranging from Nike, GE, Microsoft, FedEx, PwC, HP and Oracle to NASA, Yale University and YPO have chosen Robin Sharma for their most important events, when nothing less than a world-class speaker will do. More about him you can find next. 

1.He believes you really don’t have to make sudden changes or frightening optimizations to raise your game and revolutionize your life. Instead, just master each day, by simply devoting to delivering a few micro-wins that, over time, elevate you to a place called wow. And a league called legendary.

2. He offered 60 tips for a stunning great life that include pieces of advice such as: get serious about gratitude; expect the best and prepare for the worst; plan a schedule for your week; get a mentor; hire a coach; find more heroes and be a hero for someone, etc. More you can find here.

3. Sharma’s books such as The Leader Who Had No Title have topped bestseller lists internationally and his social media posts reach over six hundred million people a year, making him a true global phenomenon for helping people do brilliant work, thrive amid change and realize their highest leadership capacities within the organization so that personal responsibility, productivity, ingenuity and mastery soars.

4.  He has been ranked as one of the Top 5 Leadership Gurus in the World in an independent survey of over 22,000 business people and appears on platforms with other luminaries such as Richard Branson, Bill Clinton, Jack Welch and Shaquille O’Neill.

5. Robin Sharma is one of the world’s premier speakers on Leadership and Personal Mastery. As a presenter, Sharma has the rare ability to electrify an audience yet deliver uncommonly original and useful insights that lead to individuals doing their best work, teams providing superb results and organizations becoming unbeatable.

6. According to him, fear ruins more bright lives than you might imagine. Each of us, by virtue of our very human nature, has the potential to Lead Without Title and achieve great things that elevate everyone around us by our model of possibility. But the chattering voice of fear in our heads stops us from playing big.

7. He loves the word leadership. It makes him think of Mandela and Gandhi. Gates and Edison. Mozart and Beckham. Bono and Bieber. It’s a word that he has been passionately building the past 20 years of his life around, reminding so called ordinary people that they are called to lead. And create. And contribute. And win.

8. According to him, the job of a leader is to grow more leaders. “If you’re not building more leaders, then you’re not leading, you’re following. Your job (regardless of whether or not you have a title) is to help people do work they never dreamed they could do. Your job is to inspire people to own their talents, express their gifts and do the best work of their lives. That’s part of what it truly means to lead”.

9.  One of the quotes that changed his life is: “I learned this, at least, by my experiment: that if one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.” – Henry David Thoreau, Walden: Or, Life in the Woods.

10. Sharma believes that one should make time every day to reconnect to his / hers highest ideals and boldest dreams. Without hope, people perish.

Best Pieces of Advice For Women Entrepreneurs in 2017

According to fastcompany.com, women entrepreneurs are the  fastest-growing segment of business owners in the U.S. But, compared to male-owned businesses, women-owned businesses generally  fail at a higher rateemploy fewer people and generate less revenue. The reasons for the disparity are complicated and varied: difficulty in accessing capital, entrenched social norms, and differences in the industries male- and female-owned businesses tend to cluster are a few of the reasons behind the imbalance.

We are focusing on the positive and are determined to offer you some pieces of advice that we are sure will help you along the way.

Be bold. Be elegant.

One of the many advantages that women have other men in business is their ability to be bold and elegant, at the same time. Of having the courage to say what they think, openly, but beautifully. Their strengths, presented in a very elegant manner, makes them special and powerful. Likewise, loved by their employees.

Build for the high-expectation customer.

Here’s a common trap founders fall into: gain users at any cost. Often, they chase after daily active users, monthly active users and retention numbers. “They believe that appealing to every customer is one way of solving these problems,” says  Julie Supan, who has counseled  AirbnbDropbox and  Thumbtack on branding. That’s the wrong approach, Supan cautions. Instead, focus on the high-expectation customer (HXC). She’s your ideal user, “the most discerning person within your target demographic. It’s someone who will acknowledge — and enjoy — your product or service for its greatest benefit,” Supan says. “If your product exceeds her expectations, it can meet everyone else’s.” The HXC serves as a valuable touchstone to ensure that you’re growing in the right direction and to validate — or invalidate — your action plan.

The deeper the context, the better the advice

Advice givers should always reframe questions to orient around the advice seeker, not their own expertise. And, after offering a spread of data points as context, advice seekers should always ask what they should do next.

Invest in people

Your employees are the best power you have after your own and the gem of your business. They will be the ones helping you achieve the success.

There is benefit to failure

Barbara Corcoran, the famous investor from the hit show Shark Tank once said “My best successes came on the heels of failures.” This is a powerful lesson for any aspiring business owner, as most of today’s most established entrepreneurs have been faced with countless failures. The importance of dealing with failure is that you need to be able to learn from the failure, dust yourself off and move on, even if you deal with consistent failure.

Never be afraid to follow your passion

Debbie Fields, the creator of Mrs. Fields, said “what I wanted was to be allowed to do the thing in the world I did best.” This motivated the entrepreneur to follow her passion for cooking, even when others didn’t believe it could turn into the success it is today.

You have to believe in what you are doing

Estee Lauder, founder of the famed makeup brand said “I have never worked a day in my life without selling. If I believe in something, I sell it, and I sell it hard.” Believing in the product and service that you are selling is the first and most important component of being a successful entrepreneur. Without a firm belief in what you are doing, you will never be able to find the success that you deserve, no matter how hard you work. You must believe in the company you have and work relentlessly to sell that idea to the world, making them believe in it as much as you do.

Big achievements are possible

Entrepreneur and iconic mogul Martha Stewart claimed that “it is within everyone’s grasp to be a CEO.” Years of gender bias have left some women not dreaming big enough with their professional aspirations. Stewart’s quote drives the point home in saying that everyone has the ability to earn this type of title, if they are willing to do the work. Dreaming big and visualizing yourself in a big role is one of the best ways to get started on a journey towards being a successful entrepreneur.

Taking risks is important

Lillian Vernon, founder of Lillian Vernon Corporation, once said: “I don’t look at risk the way other people do. When you’re an entrepreneur, you have to go in feeling like you’re going to be successful.” When Vernon started her company she was married and pregnant, and heard from so many people that starting her corporation was a risk, but it was one she was willing to take. Sometimes, a little risk has to be involved if you want to see the big payoff in the end.

Tell a visual story

Melanie Abrantes, designer, believes that the most important thing about selling your product online is to make sure that the images of your product are able to tell the full story. “Since people won’t be able to see it in person, they have to imagine what the product is going to look like in that setting. When you have professional photography involved, you are able to create a life for that product.”

The means don’t justify the end

The author and icon Gloria Steinem considers that the ends do not always justify the means, in business or in life. “In the end, the who you are is much more important than the what you are. And as beings who need social interaction to survive, the value in who you are while getting to where you’re going is everything. The means will always become the ends,” said Steinem, quoted by billboard.com.

Doubt is your biggest enemy

Trust in yourself and you will do just great. Don’t let anyone plant you doubts when your gusts it’s telling you something. Keep positive people around you that will influence you in a great way.

Celebrate every important step and victory

Make sure you embrace everything good that happens in your business. Don’t sell short your victories and try and enjoy each one of them. Success is not easy to come by and all your efforts and dedication deserve the party.

Keep in mind the big picture

Don’t get frustrated easily or become unhappy just because of some small step backs. Remember the big picture, what you want to accomplish, your main goals. They are the real deal.

More pieces of advice you may find here and here.

 

Gmail versus Outlook: which e-mail provider is better for you? Part II

Last week we started a bigger discussion about the best two free email providers – Gmail and Outlook – and which one might be the best to choose from your business. Now, we continue and elaborate the subject.

5 Advantages of using Gmail

  1. Productivity–  It comes in handy when you are looking to enrich your productivity. Some of its many features is the built-in tasks utility that you can use to send tasks to your Google Calendar.
  2. Easy usage – The provider is very user friendly. Anybody would get used to it pretty fast.
  3. Customization– Gmail allows for a great deal of customization. Not only can you  control the appearance of the Gmail interface using themes, you can choose the way your inbox works by turning features such as tabs off and on. Also, use color coding and markers to customize how various messages appear.
  4. Integration– Gmail integrates with a number of other Google tools. There are also many Plugins that expand the capabilities of Gmail even further.
  5. Community Support– The  Gmail help center is well-organized and addresses many questions. Plus, Google maintains a  Gmail help forum, where users can ask specific questions.

5 Advantages of using Outlook

  1. Ease of Use– com is easy to download and use. It has a clean, modern interface that is intuitive and easy to understand.
  2. Productivity– Outlook has a built-in task tool. You can easily access the calendar from within your inbox by clicking the Calendar icon and without leaving your inbox.
  3. Customization– As with Gmail, you can use themes to change the appearance of your interface. You can make some limited changes to the way that your inbox works, such as choosing where the reading pane appears and choosing to show or hide preview text.
  4. Integration– it integrates with other Microsoft tools. You can use the grid in the upper left of the inbox to open other Microsoft tools. There are also many add-ins that expand your email capabilities. You can add them from within your inbox using the Manage Integrations option.   
  5. Community Support– Outlook for MS Office is widely acknowledged as the standard in many corporations. Outlook.com also has a  user community. Plus, there are many helpful third-party articles and tutorials written that can help you anytime.

Ultimately, choosing your email provider is a very intimate decision and it must be based on your work and personal preferences. A free email service like Gmail or Outlook.com can be a good choice for you or your small business.

Before finalizing your choice of email providers, it’s important to ask yourself what you really need from your email service, address the main important questions regarding your type of business, dimension, usage, security, how many people will be accessing it, etc. The email service you choose depends on how you use your email and what you need from it. If you approach the decision carefully and make an informed choice, the email provider you choose is likely to be the best email service provider for you.

In other words, no matter how many pieces of advice you receive, the decision belongs to you. Because while some consider Outlook to be an upgrade from Gmail, others still see Gmail as the king of the free email providers.

Here is an opinion about why leaving Outlook for Gmail, while here, an opinion in reverse.

Decided? What will you choose?

12 tips on making the customers buy more in online

The e-commerce industry is probably one of the most competitive at this moment, globally. Therefore, having a successful online shop is not an easy task at all, let alone always growing your business and your customers’ base. There are, although, some steps that, if followed, can really help you achieve your goal.

  1. Context MattersYour call to action has to fit in with the rest of the copy you have on the page. In this case, put a shopping-cart-related call to action on a page that talks up the product you’ve created or in an article talking about how your product solves a particular problem. It would not go well in an opinion piece about news within your niche.
  2. Keep it Simple

Your consumer need to find the right information fast. Don’t overcrowd the message by having a heavy environment or many information popping out. It’s important to make the consumer journey as fast and easy as possible. Nothing forced, just flowing. Guide him without letting him feel he is guided. The body of your copy is the place to talk up your products or services. The call to action is what convinces consumers to start shopping.

  1. Product reviews

Sometimes the best advocate for your online shop and product are your customers. Your product descriptions – something we’ll cover late – can only do so much to convince folks to part with their money. Allowing your customers to review products they’ve bought lets them express how they felt about the overall experience and the product itself. Plus it’s the perfect way to get your products validated by a third party. According to Reevoo, quoted by Paymill.com, “reviews produce an average 18% increase in sales, and having 50 or more reviews on a product can increase its conversion by 4.6%”, while MarketingSherpa considers that 58% of consumers prefer sites that offer reviews.

  1. Placement Matters

Most of the time, a call to action works best when placed at the end of your copy or content. If your particular business makes use of the long-form sales page, putting the call to action higher up is a good idea. You can highlight the benefits of your products and encourage people to buy.

  1. Make sure you use quality images

Since the technology has evolved so far and one can take a great quality picture, at a high resolution, even with the smartphone there are no more excuses for not using the best pictures possible for your products. You can not only use images to highlight your product’s qualities, but also show it in use to help visitors visualize how the product can be used everyday.

  1. Great product descriptions

Making it easy for the customers to find the right information and teaching them about the product they are interested in. The writing should be focused on you target and its needs, therefore the tone of voice should be adapted to that. It’s important to focus on the product’s benefits and to keep the language simple, avoiding as much as possible the jargon and write short sentences to help the readability. 

  1. Build Excitement

You need to build up the product or line of products in customers’ minds before asking them to buy. This way, there won’t be any doubt about if they want to take the action you’re calling on them to take. Talk about or show how beneficial what you’re selling can be in the buyer’s life.

  1. Be Active, Not Passive

“It would be nice if you bought my stuff” is not the same as “Click here to start shopping.” Passive implies that you aren’t sure if you want them to do the thing you’re asking them to do. Active voice removes all doubt about your expectations, shows confidence in your products and brands, which it will bring confidence for the customers as well.

9. Try and have pages as clickable as possible

It helps if you make your call to action an actual clickable link — preferably to your shopping cart (which can say something like “Cart empty! Start shopping here”). This saves the viewer the time of searching for the thing that helps them do what you want them to do. As said earlier, making things easier and comfortable for the shopper only helps your business and your sales.

  1. Show related products that would look great next to the product they already have in the cart or that would fit perfectly. For example for a photo camera a memory card or different lenses. People tend to buy more this way. It’s an opportunity to increase revenue because it shows items visitors may not have otherwise been looking for and it takes them to pages they may haven’t been interested in entering.

  1. Easy and safe payment

One of the biggest concerns that people address when it comes to online shopping is the safety of their payment. Make sure you have a trustful provider and that you make the process as easy as possible. Offer them different payment methods, don’t force them to sign up for different offers or newsletters, don’t ask them a bunch of unnecessary information, make sure the checkout page matches the rest of the store. Those would be just some easy, but really important pieces of advice.

  1. Test, Change, Test Again
    Having an online store means constant work of improvement. Even if you have constant growth and awards won, there is always something you can improve. Therefore, test and keep on always testing your website. After all, the final goal is to always keep the costumer happy and wanting to come back and bring more friends along.

Don’t be afraid of the cloud, most of your data is already out there

Afraid of storing your data on the cloud? Don’t. Just think at the fact that any email service you are using (Gmail, Yahoo, Hotmail etc.) is already using the cloud, so your data is backed-up up there. None of those emails you send and receive are actually taking up space on your local hard drive, but they are stored on the email providers’ servers: this is a form of cloud computing.

Actually, cloud storage means minimal downtime and it significantly reduces the possibility of losing data, because rather than storing it in one physical location, information is placed in several servers, in multiple locations. So if one server goes down, the data doesn’t disappear. Cloud storage is convenient, and with the right precautions, it’s about as secure as keeping the data on-site at all times.

According to cloud-lounge.org, many businesses large and small use cloud computing today either directly (e.g. Google or Amazon) or indirectly (e.g. Twitter) instead of traditional on-site alternatives.  And there are a number of reasons why cloud computing is so widely used among businesses today: Reduction of costs (unlike on-site hosting the price of deploying applications in the cloud can be less due to lower hardware costs from more effective use of physical resources), universal access (remotely located employees can access applications and work via the internet), choice of applications (flexibility for cloud users to experiment and choose the best option for their needs), potential to be greener and more economical (the average amount of energy needed for a computational action carried out in the cloud is far less than the average amount for an on-site deployment), flexibility (allows users to switch applications easily and rapidly, using the one that suits their needs best).

Moreover, according to wired.com, the cloud offers better insight, helps collaboration between the members of the teams, drives better engagement (as cloud is often seen as the most effective means of forging a tighter link with the customer), its benefits are measurable and pay for themselves.

But, if after all of these you are still afraid of using it, remember that many cloud services offer additional security options on top of the basic packet and you have at your disposal several measures you can take in order to protect your data.  Tim Maliyil,  CEO and data-security architect for Las Vegas-based AlertBoot, explained some of them for entrepreneur.com:

  • Encrypt everything. Any cloud service a startup uses should implement encryption on the server side. Even if the cloud infrastructure were to be compromised, a hacker would only be able to access encrypted gibberish and no data would be stolen.
  • Have a strong password. While the death of the password as a security linchpin is long overdue, it’s still the easiest point of access for users and hackers. Be sure your passwords are at least 15 characters long and include numbers, letters and special characters if possible. 
  • Start early. The reason major chains such as Home Depot and Target tend to be susceptible to security breaches isn’t simply because they’re high-profile organizations. Larger, more complex companies have a harder time implementing comprehensive security solutions than do smaller, more nimble companies.

Put security protocols in place while the infrastructure is still manageable so security can scale with the company instead of playing catch-up. Additionally, if the company targets regulated industries such as health care, proof of meeting data-security-compliance requirements will be needed for conducting business.

Data breaches don’t so much reflect an inherent insecurity in cloud services as they do a problem with how the available measures are implemented. Cloud services have allowed startups to thrive and scale at a fraction of the cost of companies running their own server farms. Use cloud services to build end-to-end security so as to get back to focusing on the important things: the company’s products and customers.

Part of those piece of advice can be found also on Drew Hendricks of Inc.com’s list, from which we would also mention the following:

  • Backing up sensitive files. While file sharing and syncing are effective ways to back up documents, they should not replace the use of external devices. By backing up files virtually and physically, you can all but guarantee your firm will have access to its data even in the event of system crashes or attacks.
  • Separating personal from corporate data. Whether your business features a “Bring Your Own Device” (BYOD) culture or not, you need to communicate clearly with employees about what information can and cannot be stored on personal devices, as well as what encryption methods are required.
  • Keep sensitive materials out of the cloud. Until cloud providers can offer comparable levels of security to what is available on an internal business server, they may not be worth the risk for some data.

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