Growthink Blog

How to Protect Yourself from Bad Press


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Publicity is an extremely powerful form of marketing. If customers say positive things about you, particularly online, many new customers will learn about you and possibly buy your product or service.

Likewise, if the media covers your company, not only will more customers hear about you and possibly purchase your offerings, but it gives your company an implied endorsement and additional credibility.

However, the opposite can be true. That is, having customers and/or the media say negative things about you and your company could lead to its downfall. Below are 3 strategies to protect yourself from such negative publicity.

1. Take care of your customers

This first strategy is pretty obvious, but often overlooked. The challenge is that sometimes entrepreneurs get too focused on maximizing profits that they forget about the needs of their customers.

Customers are the lifeblood of any business, so take care of them. The more satisfied your customers are, the more likely they will be to spread positive messages about your company.

2. Respond to customer complaints


No matter how customer-centric you are and no matter how great your product or service, some customers won’t love it. Sometimes these customers are negative by nature or maybe they simply had a bad experience. For example, I’ve often looked at reviews for restaurants I love and have seen at least some negative reviews.

As an entrepreneur or business owner, you need to respond to customer complaints wherever they appear, from in your inbox to social media sites, etc. Doing so allows you to solve the issue and satisfy the customer, and/or at least let other customers know that you stand by your offering and support your customers.

In many cases, for example, I’ve seen customers complain online with regards to products they wrongfully bought (they purchased the wrong item to suit their needs). By posting that information, in a nice way of course, online, your company explains the negative remark and gains credibility with prospective customers.

3. Create your own media


A final way to protect yourself from bad press, and in fact ensure positive press, is to write articles yourself.

Clearly, if you are the author of articles appearing in the media, they’re not going to say negative things about you. On the contrary, any articles you write give you and your company great credibility.

I’ve been using this strategy for years. Many years ago I started publishing articles on article submission sites like Ezine Articles. As I gained more expertise and a track record, I started contacting editors at bigger news sources requesting they publish my articles. Today, I regularly contribute to Forbes, Entrepreneur and AllBusiness. I also frequently contribute articles to smaller magazines and blogs.

Don’t like to write? Well, these days, that’s not really important. You can simply come up with a topic that customers want to know about, and dictate your expertise on the topic into a microphone or your mobile phone. You can then email your recording to a dictating service or to a freelancer who will transcribe and edit it into a great article.

Once you have the article (and/or beforehand), contact websites, blogs, newspapers, magazines, trade journals, etc. who might be interested in your article to convince them to publish it.

You might have heard the expression that there’s no such thing as bad press. This is true to the extent that it’s always great to have media spread the word about your company so new potential customers hear about you. But clearly, positive press is far superior to negative press, so start using these 3 strategies today to get positive press that yields new customers, more sales and improved profits. For further strategies and step-by-step guidance to getting tons of great publicity for your business, check out my Publicity Playbook course.


7 Habits of Highly Wealthy Entrepreneurs


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In writing his book, "Rich Habits - The Daily Success Habits of Wealthy Individuals," author Thomas C. Corley studied the daily habits of hundreds of wealthy and poor people.

He defined wealthy people as those earning at least $160,000 annually and owning assets of at least $3.2 million. Conversely, he defined poor people as having an annual income below $30,000 and less than $5,000 in assets.

Read below to see the stark differences between the two groups.


1) Maintain a to-do list

  • 81% of wealthy does this
  • 9% of poor does this


Answer for successful entrepreneurs: Maintain a To Do List


2) Wake up 3+ hours before work

  • 44% of wealthy does this
  • 3% of poor does this


Answer for successful entrepreneurs: Most entrepreneurs pretty much work all the time, and clearly work more than the general 9-5 work day. I prefer highly organized work to a ton of work. But either way, you need to put in the hours to succeed as an entrepreneur.


3) Listen to audio books during commute

  • 63% of wealthy does this
  • 5% of poor does this


Answer for successful entrepreneurs: Educate yourself during your commute. EVERY single one of the video training products I offer has an audio download component so you can listen to them during your commute. Yes, I did this on purpose.


4)  Network 5+ hours or more each month

  • 79% of wealthy does this
  • 16% of poor does this


Answer for successful entrepreneurs: Network more. Networking is a great way to meet great people who can become: investors, mentors, advisors, customers, employees, partners, etc. If you need more of any of these things, then network more.


5)  Read 30+ minutes or more each day

  • 88% of wealthy does this
  • 2% of poor does this

Answer for successful entrepreneurs: Read at least 30 minutes each day. Here I’m probably preaching to the choir, since you’re reading this essay of mine - good job!


6) Live a healthy lifestyle

Eat less than 300 junk food calories per day

  • 70% of wealthy does this
  • 3% of poor does this


Exercise aerobically four days a week

  • 76% of wealthy does this
  • 23% of poor does this


Answer for successful entrepreneurs:
Treat your body well. You need the physical and mental energy to succeed.


7) Use television smartly

Watch one hour or less of TV every day

  • 67% of wealthy does this
  • 23% of poor does this


Watch reality TV

  •  6% of wealthy does this
  •  78% of poor does this

Answer for successful entrepreneurs: Don’t watch too much television and when you do, don’t watch garbage.


The final, and most important habit for the world’s wealthiest entrepreneurs is that they have built and sold their companies. Of Americans with a net worth of $5 million or more, an overwhelming 80% of them are entrepreneurs who have sold their businesses.

So, in summary (and feel free to print this out):
   1. Maintain a To Do list
   2. Wake up early/work hard
   3. Listen to audio books during your commute
   4. Network more
   5. Read 30+ minutes each day
   6. Maintain a healthy lifestyle
   7. Don’t watch too much (or garbage) television
   8. Build a sellable business


When you think about it, none of this is really that hard. Yes, YOU can do it!


Exporting Services: Bursting Opportunities for U.S. Startups and SMEs


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Almost completely shrouded in the drumbeat of negativity that passes as business reporting these days has been the bursting growth in U.S. service exports – increasingly from U.S. startups and small businesses.

Contrary to the image of imports and exports being only “stuff” flowing in and out of places like the Port of Long Beach, last week's Census Bureau noted that services accounted for 30%, or $57.4 billion of total U.S. exports in October.  And unlike our huge “hard goods” trade deficit, in the value of U.S. service exports was 51% greater than that of imports. 

Business, professional, and technical services were the fifth largest U.S. export category in 2008, and half of the top 10 major export categories were services.   And with U.S. service companies representing close to 15% of global commercial service exports, the United States is hands-down the world’s dominant service exporter.

Of many, let me flag three main drivers:

1.    Purchasing Power Parity. Purchasing power parity (PPP) posits that with free-flowing markets wages and prices worldwide approach parity.

Protectionist types of course interpret this to mean that “our wages will get pushed down to “their” levels – or more viscerally, “if this keeps up we’ll all soon be making $2 dollars per hour.”

Well, let’s leave for now the huge economic fallacy of this thinking and concentrate on the fact that the narrowing of the relative wealth differential between the U.S. and the rest of the world has allowed for phenomena like a Ukranian manufacturing company hiring U.S. advisors (i.e. Growthink) to help them define strategic growth opportunities in Poland .

Why? Because on a dollar-for-dollar (or better yet, zioty-to-zioty) basis, it was a better value for them to import services like these from the U.S.  The world is changing, isn’t it?

2.    U.S. Services are Increasingly Exportable. The drumbeat always goes on how “we here in the U.S. don’t “make anything.” Well, beyond the fact, that I note in my “Made In China” post that very few Americans dream that their children will grow-up and work in a factory, we here in America “make” the most important stuff that has ever existed we do it better than any society has ever done so.

That stuff? Ideas and Innovations. Strategies.

Or more prosaically, Brands. Websites. Entertainments in all their wondrous forms – Movies, Video Games, Social Networks.

Even our current favorite whipping boy industry – financial services – continues to bring us world-bettering innovations like venture philanthropy (i.e. applying market principles to solve the world’s most pressing humanitarian challenges), super angel funds (overcoming the “outlier” or “Black Swan” conundrum of startup investing) and of course crowdfunding (democratizing fund-raising and investing in ways never before even dreamed possible.)


3.    Global Best Practices. Perhaps my favorite, namely that business best practices worldwide are visible and replicable to and for all.  And the corollary, the really screwed-up and ineffective ways of doing things are also blatantly transparent. 

From lists like the “most business friendly” countries to California now having a portal where parents can see teacher’s ratings to the U.S. Senate studying Chinese technocrats to the simple reality that the Internet and mobile phones make it crystal-clear to all who is winning and losing in the world (see North Korea, Iran, et al.), the modern world has become a rickly competitive market in all its best senses.

The cream rises, and the inefficient, the bureaucratic, the regulatory dead-enders get left on the dustbin of history.

And guess who, when it comes down to doing business right, is the richest cream, the sweetest soup?

It is, of course, American startups and smaller and emerging companies.

And as they, like the U.S. economy as a whole, become almost exclusively services-focused, they will both lead and profit from their exploding opportunities worldwide.


To NDA or not to NDA?


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This blog post was written by Mary Juetten, founder of Traklight.com, a site that provides inventors, creators, and small businesses with integrated software tools to identify and protect intellectual property.

Startups and small businesses are torn when it comes to protecting their ideas. There is a challenging balance between keeping the critical pieces secret and promoting products and services during fundraising – whether with angel investors, venture capitalists (VCs), or crowdfunding platforms.

 The NDA question comes up more than you would think because scrappy entrepreneurs are always looking for collaborators, co-founders, and capital while jealously guarding their ideas.  At least once a week, I hear one side of this debate or field a question on the topic.

 

What is a NDA?

Let me first say I am not an attorney (see the disclaimer at the bottom of this article). That being said, a Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA) is a legal document used to protect ideas, know-how, and other secret sauce under a variety of circumstances.

One standard use of a NDA is protecting one company from another during discussions and negotiations. That means, if I approach Company A to code my software application, I want Company A and all their employees and contractors to keep all discussions about my project confidential.  In the same situation, a mutual NDA means that everything Company A discloses about how they will work with me needs to be kept secret by me and my team. If I have a mutual NDA with Company A, I cannot go to software Company B and spill secrets learned from Company A.

As I said, I am not an attorney however I did go to law school (and yes, I graduated but chose to start my company rather than take the bar).  The answer to almost every question in law school was, “It depends.” And that is the case here.  Requesting and/or insisting upon a NDA depends on the situation. Are you hiring an employee? An independent contractor? Perhaps you are hiring a company for custom work, or are talking to potential co-founders, angel investors, or venture capitalists. Or maybe you are sharing information to collaborate or simply chatting in the grocery line.

 

NDA for Employees and Contractors    

It’s my humble opinion that employees and contractors should be under NDA when you are revealing your know-how during initial discussions. It is purely good business sense to ask for that level of protection. The “I’ll show you mine, if you show me yours” strategy can backfire without a NDA, not to mention these handshake deals are not professional and can lead to messiness (a distraction when trying to start or grow a business).

 Please seek professional advice to ensure that your contracts of employment, consulting, operating agreement, articles of incorporation, etc. have the appropriate non-disclosure provisions for your state.

 

NDAs are questionable for angels; NO for VCs

It is high unlikely the professional investor wishes to steal your idea. The main reason angel investors are reluctant to and venture capitalists (VCs) often refuse to execute a NDA is because they may then be limited in the future from funding similar companies.  Another reason is that your company and products may conflict with their existing ventures.

One path forward is to only reveal enough information to interest potential investors while keeping mission critical secrets secret, especially in the first meeting. 

 

No NDA for public pitch or demo competition    

Trade secrets are no longer secret if revealed to the public. There is no confidentiality in a public setting, so leave your secrets at home. Disclosure of such secrets may impact the ability to patent here in the US and globally, so be careful in any public pitch, tradeshow, or presentation.

All entrepreneurs understand that the tough part is execution, not idea generation. And to be technical, ideas themselves are not intellectual property. So you need to think of the context of your discussion and what you are trying to protect.

Know your audience. If you have the next great software idea and you are not technical enough to code yourself it is likely a good idea to ask potential co-founders or software companies to sign a NDA before you reveal the details of your idea.

Does that mean you carry the NDA in your purse (or briefcase)? You may but it is mostly applicable for the meeting after your initial encounter. When revealing your secret sauce or business process in public, a NDA is critical.

In conclusion, if someone does not wish to sign a NDA, think of the context, timing, and the person before you walk away. That done, if you have that niggling, uncomfortable gut feeling about why the person will not sign the NDA, head in the other direction.

 

 Visit Traklight and use “ID your IP” with Traklight’s compliments until February 28, 2014. Remember, you cannot protect something if you do not know you have it!  Free “ID your IP” Code GROWT13 ($59 value).

 

 Disclaimer: This article is intended to be general information and nothing in this article constitutes legal advice. Please consult with an attorney before making any intellectual property or other legal decisions.

 


 


Entrepreneurs Should Do It Anyway


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The other day, my wife came home from a meditation class with a sheet of paper. On it was a verse written by Mother Teresa. Supposedly, these same words were written on the wall of Mother Teresa’s home for children in Calcutta, India. They were as follows:
 

    Do It Anyway
    By Mother Teresa
     
    People are often unreasonable, illogical, and self-centered.
    Forgive them anyway.
     
    If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives.
    Be kind anyway.
     
    If you are successful, you will win some false friends and some true enemies.
    Succeed anyway.
     
    If you are honest and frank, people may cheat you.
    Be honest and frank anyway.
     
    What you spend years building, someone could destroy overnight.
    Build anyway.
     
    If you find serenity and happiness, others may be jealous.
    Be happy anyway.
     
    The good you do today, people will often forget tomorrow.
    Do good anyway.
     
    Give the world the best you have, and it may never be enough.
    Give the world the best you've got anyway.

    You see, in the final analysis, it is between you and God.
    It was never between you and them anyway.
     

While I believe these words to be true for all people, I find them especially relevant for entrepreneurs.
 
As entrepreneurs, we have elected to take on a challenging life, and a business life that is clearly harder than that of the average worker. We must constantly take risks, and success is never guaranteed.
 
As a result, to succeed as an entrepreneur takes a special mindset and commitment. Thinking and acting like an ordinary individual will get you ordinary results. And ordinary results just don’t cut it as an entrepreneur. Unless you act extraordinary, you can’t possibly achieve the success you desire.
 
This being said, below are my entrepreneurial comments and thoughts to Mother Teresa’s writings.
 
People are often unreasonable, illogical, and self-centered.
Forgive them anyway.
 
These people may be your customers, your employees, your investors and/or your family (who I will hereafter call your “constituents”). Forgive such actions when you come across them. And try to surround yourself with people who don’t do them.

 
If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives.
Be kind anyway.
 
Be kind to your constituents. If not, they will not follow you.

 
If you are successful, you will win some false friends and some true enemies.
Succeed anyway.
 
Some of your current constituents will not want to see you succeed. Succeed anyway. And create a new group of constituents as needed (perhaps a peer group or Board of Advisors) of successful people you want to emulate and who DO want you to succeed.

 
If you are honest and frank, people may cheat you.
Be honest and frank anyway.
 
Be honest in all your dealings with your constituents. Entrepreneurs who cheat never win; it always catches up with them. If someone does cheat you, learn from it and don’t let it happen again (yet still be frank and honest).

 
What you spend years building, someone could destroy overnight.
Build anyway.
 
As an entrepreneur, your job is to build, build, build. Build a great company. But while building, think about ways that others will NOT be able to “destroy” you. For example, a business model in which you have customers on a subscription plan (think mobile phone service providers) is very hard to destroy. Always think about ways in which you can “lock up” customers, employees and other constituents. How can you make it so that they’ll never want to leave you?

 
If you find serenity and happiness, others may be jealous.
Be happy anyway.
 
Yes, when you achieve success as an entrepreneur, many others will be jealous. And many will call you “lucky.” Yes, you’re “lucky” because you have the right attitude and mindset that allowed you to work hard and persevere. And you’re “lucky” because you invested your time reading articles (like this one) and learning the skills you needed to become a successful entrepreneur.

 
The good you do today, people will often forget tomorrow.
Do good anyway.
 
Keep doing good to your constituents. Doing good once is not enough. Continue to astound your customers, employees and others so they follow you to the finish line.
 
Give the world the best you have, and it may never be enough.
Give the world the best you've got anyway.
 
To succeed as an entrepreneur, you need to give 100%, and keep giving it. Never surrender. Never back down. Rather, persevere and make it happen. And if the best you have isn’t enough, then get others (advisors, peers, employees) who can give alongside you so collectively you ARE able to give enough.

 
You see, in the final analysis, it is between you and God.
It was never between you and them anyway.
 
Succeeding as an entrepreneur is more about you succeeding within yourself and less about you beating out a competitor. If you are thinking and acting the right way, you will naturally surpass your competition and achieve great success.

 
Right now is the time for you to “do it anyway” and become the successful entrepreneur you’re capable of becoming!


Who’s Your Daddy? 5 Lessons from GoDaddy


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The technology age has brought with it a long list of business related success stories.  There are plenty of cases where a small startup has managed to grow into a billion-dollar company.
 
While most people will think of companies such as Facebook and Amazon, GoDaddy.com is actually one of the greatest successes in recent history.  What started as a small company has since grown into an easily recognizable brand which owns a significant portion of its own market.
 
GoDaddy was created in 1997 as Jomax Technologies by Bob Parsons who had recently sold his other company, Parsons Technology Inc., to Intuit.
 
At the time, a company called Network Solutions was essentially the only place from which people could register domain names.  That changed in 2001, however, and GoDaddy.com quickly grew.
 
In 2005, GoDaddy.com became the world’s largest ICANN-accredited registrar on the internet.  In addition to being one of the most popular domain registrars in the world, it also offers website hosting and a whole range of business related technology solutions.
 
In 2011, 65% of the company was sold to a group of private equity firms for approximately $2.25 billion.  GoDaddy’s rapid rise to prominence and continued success are due to a few key factors.  Studying what they did right can help business owners of any type discover new ways to grow their own companies.
 
Lesson #1: User Friendly Innovation

 
Innovation has been at the heart of everything GoDaddy has done since its creation.  What it has managed to do is take something which is ordinarily very technical, in this case domain registrations, and make it appeal to a wide range of customers.
 
It was not very long ago that most people were unfamiliar with the Internet.  The idea of marketing domain registration and web hosting to everyday people was unheard of at the time.  This is part of what has made them so successful.  Their effort to bring these services to the average person effectively opened up a vast new market.
 
Lesson #2: Cutting Edge Branding

 
Part of what has made GoDaddy so successful is its ability to create a readily identifiable brand.  Nearly every person on the Internet has heard of GoDaddy and a majority of sites are registered with the company.
 
The power of this brand has come from its extensive advertising.  Buying up expensive advertising space during events like The Super Bowl, GoDaddy made a name for itself with racy and often controversial marketing efforts.  Its commercials, utilizing seductive women and star athletes, brought a sexy and exciting feeling to what could otherwise be a dry and technical company.
 
Lesson #3: Soups-to-Nuts Offering
 

GoDaddy is far from just a domain registrar.  It offers a number of services including website hosting and ecommerce solutions.  This has helped make it successful because it essentially offers everything someone might need when starting a website.
 
The domain can be registered, the site hosted, the platform installed, and upgrades can be added as needed.  When a customer comes to GoDaddy for domain registration they immediately have access to everything else.  This allows the company to offer upsells and products with recurring payment options that are relevant to what customers have already purchased.
 
Lesson #4: Customer Service in Layman’s Terms

 
GoDaddy’s customers may not always be experts at information technology.  There are a number of different problems that a customer might run into.  GoDaddy has made a point of offering outstanding customer service that explains complex technology solutions in layman’s terms.
 
Due to its high level of customer service, in a way customers understand, GoDaddy.com has become one of the most trusted hosts and registrars around.
 
Lesson #5: Upfront, Competitive Pricing

 
Unlike make technology service providers who bury prices in obscure parts of their website or require a call for a quote, GoDaddy publishes its prices very visibly.
 
Furthermore, its pricing is competitive, and it has prepared numerous product bundles to make it easy for customers to find what they need.
 
Rather than demanding money for a number of different services, almost everything is optional and customers can spend as little or as much as they want.  This competitive pricing, coupled with constant discounts and coupons, has made it difficult for other companies to compete.
 
What to Take from This

 
Owners of businesses of any type can learn a lot from the GoDaddy.  Its rapid rise to the top is something which is enviable in any industry and implementing a few of its key strategies can help any business.  While not every company will have a budget as large as GoDaddy, there are still several concepts, discussed below, which can be useful.
 
A. Challenge Accepted Notions
 

At a time when many people were still unfamiliar with the Internet, GoDaddy targeted their advertising towards regular, every day people.  This was a risky move, at the time, but actually showed incredible foresight.
 
Look at your business model – where have you been playing safe?  Are there bolder strategies you can test?
 
B. Invest in Marketing

 
Many of GoDaddy’s biggest critics claim they bought their market dominance through expensive advertising.  While this is not entirely true, marketing has been a major source of success for it.  GoDaddy advertised mainly through inexpensive online banners for years before it was big enough to implement sexy and eye-catching ads during The Super Bowl.
 
Dust off your branding and marketing plan and review it.  Is it relevant in today’s market?  Are you getting the results you want? If not, it may time to go back to the drawing board and perhaps invest in expert guidance.
 
C. Offer Everything You Can Do Well

 
Specialization can often be a good thing in business, but the possibility of branching out into related products and services should never be ignored.  GoDaddy started as a domain registrar but soon included a variety of other services as well.
 
Offering related services can boost profits and avoid losing customers to competitors with a full-service solution.  For example, a car repair shop that doesn’t replace tires can lose their regular oil change customers when those customers need new tires and find a full-service provider.  
 
The caution is to only branch out if you can provide excellent service in all categories.  Adding more services, but doing it poorly, will hurt rather than help you grow.
 
Father Knows Best

 
GoDaddy is a familiar name on the Internet and with good reason.  Growing from a small start up to a multi-billion dollar company, it has proven it is expert at predicting future trends, understanding its intended audience, and delivering on what it promises.
 
Your job is to learn from GoDaddy.  Take the time to review your business model using the concepts in this article.  Outline steps you can take to promote your own growth, then take actions.  Carefully track your results to learn what works best in your market.
 
Over time, you will have a proven recipe for strategies that generate growth for your business.  How long before I write an article about you and your stellar success?


Raising Money in 2014: Resetting the Frame


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As has always been the case, most commercial and neighborhood banks only lend against quickly “liquidatable” assets or at a small multiple of historical cash flow.

Given that most startups and small businesses have neither of these, for them attaining traditional bank financing has such a low probability of success that it is rarely even worth the time to pursue.

So, where should the creative and committed small business owner go for funding when the banks say no?

Here are three places to look:

1. Crowdfunding. Donation - based crowdfunding platforms like Kickstarter allow entrepreneurs to raise capital from one's social and professional networks.  

And Equity-Based Crowdfunding, approved by Congress in April 2012, is very close to being through SEC rule-making.

While investor appetite will take time to develop, as it does the available pool of investable angel and venture capital (currently approximately $50 billion annually) will expand dramatically, and in turn closing the gap between the tens of thousands of companies seeking capital and the investors interested in providing it.  

2. Family and Friends.  Since time immemorial by far the most popular funding source for new and small businesses is to ask those that know you best to stake your entrepreneurial journey.

For sure it is emotionally loaded, as so many of us don't want to mix our personal and professional lives, but it does provide a great “gut check” as to how serious, committed, and “sold” you really are on your business.

Why?

Well, it is one thing to lose the money of strangers, quite another to do so of Uncle Jed who you'll be seeing each holiday season.

A way to “reverse the frame” in these family and friends dialogues is to recognize that while yes, a relative or friend is doing you a big favor by investing in your business, you in turn are returning the favor and more by providing an opportunity for an outsized investment return along with the unique excitement of being a stakeholder in a small business.

3. Sell Services. Especially for technology and consumer product companies, the long pathway of research, product development, and establishing distribution mean that often years can go by in the dreaded “pre-revenue” stage.

So as opposed to relying solely on investment capital to “deficit finance” this gestation period, how about generating some cash through selling consulting services in the interim?

As examples, a company building a new and proprietary mobile application could in parallel build apps for others, a new restaurant could do catering, or a consumer product business could sell research services regarding their market niche.

And, if structured right, in addition to paying the bills, consulting projects like these can also be utilized to iterate one’s product development forward.

Use these three strategies - and do so as with all matters related to starting and growing a business with creativity, determination, and persistence - and soon you will be laughing all the way to the bank.

This blog post is a reprint of an article written by Jay Turo in Vistaprint.com’s Small Business Blog.


How Increased Teen Drug Use Can Help Your Business


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“Social proof” is a critical psychological principle that savvy business owners can use to dramatically increase sales and grow their businesses. The principle simply states that people are more likely to do something when they see others doing it. For example, after entering a new restaurant, customers are more prone to sit down and eat if they see others in the restaurant versus if it was completely empty.
 
Interestingly, there’s one famous example when the power of social proof caused unintended and negative results. The example was Nancy Reagan’s ‘Say No to Drugs’ campaign in the 1980s. While the campaign hoped to decrease drug use, the opposite actually happened. Yes, teen drug use actually increased in the 1980s as the campaign implied that many teens were using drugs. This social proof made other teens think it was ok if they tried drugs too.
 
On the other hand, there are countless examples of using social proof for benefit, such as the following:
 
1.  Social Proof from Other Users/Customers
 

Showing other users and customers is the most common form of social proof. Here are some examples:

  • Showing the number of Facebook Likes you have
  • A bartender placing a few bills in their tip jar at the start of their shift
  • A bouncer at a bar not letting everyone inside (even when there’s room) so a line forms outside
  • Taping pictures of customers on your store’s walls

 Even more powerful is when you get your customers to invite their friends to become customers. Hotmail did this extremely effectively by putting “join Hotmail” advertisements in the footer of all email messages. This prompted Hotmail to grow from 500,000 users at the start of 2007 to over 12 million users by year’s end. Likewise, allowing friends to invite friends to play through Facebook helped Zynga grow over 10 times, from 3 million to 41 million average daily users, in just one year.
 

2. Social Proof from Experts

This form of social proof is when you show approval of your product or service from credible experts.
 
I used this form of social proof when marketing my book, Start at the End. Specifically, I received, and subsequently promoted, reviews from several experts such as: Marshall Goldsmith, Kevin Harrington, John Jantsch and Brad Feld among others.
 
A similar example is Sensodyne toothpaste promoting that “9 out of 10 Dentists Recommend Sensodyne” for sensitive teeth.
 

3.  Social Proof from Celebrities
 

An estimated 25% of television commercials in the US now use celebrities. For example, you’ve probably seen Catherine Zeta-Jones promote T-Mobile over the years. You may have also seen Beyonce promoting milk and William Shatner promoting PriceLine.com.
 
Even if you don’t have the funds to afford to big celebrity, you can use this form of social proof to your advantage. For example, when luxury pillow manufacturer Pillo1 received positive publicity from Oprah on Oprah.com, Pillo1 effectively showed this on their website.
 

4. Social Proof from Research and Past Results

Showing research and past results gives positive social proof to spur new customers to buy your offerings. Here are some examples:

  • Showing customer reviews and testimonials (in print and/or preferably video format)
  • Offering star ratings on your product or service (ideally your ratings are good)
  • Before and after photos from past clients (we see this all the time in weight loss advertisements)
  • Internal research: the following message in a hotel, “Almost 75% of other guests help by using their towels more than once,” had 25% better results than any other message tested.
  • Industry research: for example, promoting “a study by the American Institutes for Cancer Research that eating whole grains can reduce your risk of cancer,” gives positive social proof to customers.

 
5. Social Proof from “Borrowed Trust”

 
A final form of social proof is when you “borrow” trust from other brands. Examples of this include:

  • Using a “buy button” that looks similar to Amazon.com’s famous buy button
  • Being a member of a popular association (e.g., a gun manufacturer promoting that they’re a member of the NRA)
  • Having a seal such as the Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval or Cheerios cereal stating “Certified by the American Heart Association” on its boxes

 As you can see, there are numerous ways to use social proof to influence others to take the actions you want. Use these examples as a starting point in brainstorming ideas to leverage social proof in your business. And then use the other proven marketing tactics to take your business to the next level.


3 Surprising Facts You Didn’t Know About FedEx


Categories:

It was not very long ago that the United States Postal Service was the only means by which to ship physical packages in the US. While this service had been invaluable, its quality had progressively declined over the years. Letters were lost, packages were damaged and customer service was nearly non-existent. This opened the door for private corporations to pick up the slack.
 
FedEx was hardly the first private parcel delivery service but it quickly became the market leader. With regional, national and international services, FedEx has been filling the need for a reliable way to send packages. Over the years it has expanded its reach through acquisition of similar companies as well as adding retail locations.
 
FedEx’s success has been due to the satisfaction of both its customers and employees. When a customer hires FedEx, they know their package will be delivered on time. And the company’s competitive employee benefits and professional work environment have created an army of loyal employees that are fully dedicated to the company’s mission.
 
Combined with an intense focus on the quality of their work and a close relationship with customers, FedEx has become synonymous with quality and dependability.
 
The Big Screen

 
FedEx’s commitment to quality and excellence is typified by the movie Cast Away, starring Tom Hanks. This movie, released in 2000, tells the story of Chuck Nolan, a systems analyst for FedEx. His job of resolving problems and improving service sends him on a trip to Malaysia. During the flight, a storm hits and the plane goes down. Chuck finds himself washed up on the shore of a deserted island with nothing but a few damaged packages.
 
After four years on the island, Chuck resolves to make an escape. Building a raft from material he scavenged from the area, he is rescued by a passing cargo vessel. The only possession he manages to save is an unopened and, as yet, undelivered FedEx package. The final scene of the movie shows Chuck delivering that package, late but still intact.
 
The most surprising aspect of this movie is that FedEx paid absolutely nothing for the product placement. In fact, upon hearing of the plot of the movie, FedEx was reluctant to give its approval. After reading the script, however, the company realized what a great marketing opportunity this movie really was. FedEx had become so well known for its dedication to service and reliability that an entire movie was built around it.
 
Lesson #1: A Culture of Excellence

 
FedEx gained its reputation through a culture of excellence, from top to bottom. While there are multiple aspects to this company, they are all overseen by a main office that focuses on keeping the machine running smoothly.
 
Even the character portrayed by Tom Hanks had the responsibility of analyzing the entire system and improving its functionality. This dedication to excellence is part of why FedEx is as powerful as it is today.
 
FedEx strives to offer the best possible experience to all its constituents. From corporate employees to delivery personnel and even retail location customers, FedEx has become known as a corporation which never settles for mediocrity. This commitment to quality is so pervasive that it has become a part of the entire brand itself.
 
When a customer sees the FedEx logo, they know they are dealing with a company that will do what it promises, no matter what challenges it faces.
 
Lesson #2: Driven to Improvement

 
Here is another little known fact about FedEx: when the fax machine became a standard, FedEx’s business declined by 50%. FedEx had a choice: fold or evolve. It studied the market and made a simple realization – not everything can be faxed.
 
FedEx redesigned its model to focus on documents that required a live signature and packages. Then it catapulted itself to the top of the food chain by making deliveries fast and reliable.
 
FedEx has never stopped trying to improve what it does. Every step of the process is constantly analyzed and there are employees who exist only to refine and improve the way in which people send and receive packages.
 
One reason why FedEx has been so effective in accomplishing this is because it really listens to it customers. The company understands how important customer satisfaction is and strives to give customers exactly what they want. From its inception, FedEx saw a need and filled it, and then it kept working hard to fill that need in a better way.
 
Lesson 3: Checks and Balances
 
All of FedEx’s improvements, however, would do little good if they were not constantly monitored. Before it was rebranded as FedEx, the logistics of the company was overseen by FDX. Over time, it acquired a few more logistics companies and formed FedEx Global Logistics.
 
This portion of the company was created to oversee the vast operations of all the subsidiary organizations. Creating this allowed the company to consolidate the entire command infrastructure to better ensure that constant improvements were implemented correctly.
 
There are redundant processes in place to track even the smallest package. If a package is at risk of being misdirected, alarms go off. Think of your own business. If you were about to miss an appointment, what systems are in place to let you know and allow you to correct the problem?
 
The FedEx Test
 
Every business can learn a lot from FedEx. Nearly every business can be improved in many ways and there are a few simple questions that can help get a smart business owner on the path to FedEx’s level of success.
 
1.  Is work delivered on time? Delivering packages on time is one of the most important elements in the success FedEx has enjoyed. When work is promised on a given deadline, customers and clients are relying on that promise.
 
No matter what it may be, all deadlines need to be followed as strictly as possible. This will help build a reputation for dependability and will create a group of loyal customers.
 
2.  Is the quality consistent? Customers need to know that a company will always produce the same quality of work. It is imperative that quality be a main focus of any business.
 
Fluctuations in quality are the surest way to lose any loyal customers. If clients and customers cannot rely on consistent quality they will turn to a competitor who is more reliable.
 
3.  Is improvement ongoing?
Every business can be improved. Redundancies can be consolidated, procedures can be simplified and processes can be refined.
 
Constantly improving a business is an important aspect of long-term success. Markets will always change and customers will always want more. Improvement is something that should be a part of your daily operations and every employee needs to be engaged.
 
4.  What do the customers think? The best barometer of success and satisfaction is your customers. If a business is not listening to its customers then all improvements are simply theoretical.
 
Offering incentives to encourage customers and clients to fill out surveys and questionnaires is one of the easiest ways to find out how they feel about your business and what they would like to see in the future.
 
Not up to writing a survey? Then pick up the phone and call your last 5 customers. Be friendly and ask them what they thought of your service. Avoid interrupting them. Listen, take notes, and do not argue. If you get a poor review, apologize and make it right.
 
Putting your business to the FedEx test is a great way to find out how to turn a good business into a great one. These simple questions will often reveal weaknesses in your company while offering suggestions for improvement.
 
By following the lessons of FedEx, smart business owners can set themselves up for long-term success based on a reputation for excellence and a solid base of loyal customers.


Brooks, Lengyel, Lombardi, and Wooden


Categories:

This time of year offers many blessings - one of them being the pageantry of New Year’s Day college football.

I am excited to be rising before the sun on Wednesday and traveling to Pasadena with my six and seven-year old sons to their 1st Rose Bowl parade.

In the spirit of the day and of the year soon to be left in our care, here are a few of my favorite sports quotes that apply so well to the challenges and opportunities of life and business.

"Great moments are born from great opportunity…You were born to be hockey players -- every one of you. And you were meant to be here tonight. This is YOUR time.

 - Coach Herb Brooks, 1980 U.S. Olympic Hockey Team Soviet Pre-Game Speech

My comment: this is the time and age of Entrepreneurs! Go for it!

"Funerals End Today”

 - Marshall Coach Jack Lengyel, addressing the remaining members of his football team not long after 75 people, including most of the team and coaching staff - died in a 1970 plane crash.

My comment: Lengyel reminds us that the best to way to honor those that have passed is to live, to strive, to win.

"Leaders aren't born, they are made. And they are made just like anything else, through hard work. And that's the price we'll have to pay to achieve that goal, or any goal."

 - Vince Lombardi

My comment: Hard work is the given, the base. It is a high value in itself and accomplishments of greatness and meaning are impossible without it.

"Don't measure yourself by what you have accomplished, but by what you should have accomplished with your ability.”

 - John Wooden

My comment: To those to whom much is given, much is rightfully expected. We live in a global, golden age of opportunity. Think, dream, and do BIG!

Happy New Year, and may 2014 be the best year of all of our lives!



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