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Comments Off on Five Tips for a Profitable 2013

Five Tips for a Profitable 2013

Guest post by Jennifer Vessels,
CEO, Next Step Consulting

Start the year by taking charge of your success. While economic uncertainty continues there is positive growth and momentum in many markets. Minimize your uncertainty by developing a plan for a profitable 2013.

Next Step’s five proven growth tips are:

  1. Evaluate your staff and upgrade employees to “A” players that can take your business to the next level of profitability.
  2. Study your operating processes to find bottlenecks, waste and inefficiencies.
  3. Build incentive plans to drive revenue and profitability.
  4. Reinvent marketing to communicate the unique value you bring to the target market.
  5. Measure your customer experience to improve overall satisfaction and increase revenues with existing and referred customers.

Sign-up for our free upcoming webinar:
Economic and Business Model Changes Needed for Cloud

Growth and change can be challenging. Next Step can help you meet these challenges and achieve your revenue goals for 2013. If you are interested in finding out more about how we can help, click here to read more about the services that we offer.

Our services that lead to growth include:

  • Team Building
  • Sales Productivity
  • Employee Engagement
  • Executing Marketing Programs
  • Customer Satisfaction
  • Strategic Planning

For more information about the author or Next Step Consulting, please visit www.NextStepGrowth.com

Comments Off on 5 Steps To Building A Search Persona

5 Steps To Building A Search Persona

It’s easy for online B2B marketers to become distracted by the search engines and forget the real reason they’re doing SEO in the first place: the customer. Customer demand is the driving force behind search and must be the foundation for your SEO strategy. Whether you’re an SEO newbie or already running a few SEO campaigns, it’s important to take a step back and determine what techniques really align with your customers’ needs.

An effective, simple concept every search marketer should leverage is the process of developing a search persona. Similar to a marketing persona, creating a search persona helps professional B2B marketers to accurately identify their target customer, to understand how users are actually searching for their business online and to ultimately, drive higher conversion. This is not a very time-consuming process, and will have a significant impact on your marketing efforts behind search and must be the foundation for your SEO strategy. Understanding the keywords your prospects use and the places they go to find information is the critical first step in implementing a successful inbound marketing strategy

1. Know Your Target Audience

Identify a target audience that is most likely to turn into customers. Ask yourself: Who’s my perfect buyer? For any businessperson (regardless of SEO), this is something you should be able to answer.

2. Understand Your Audience’s Pain Point(s) & Know How They Search to Solve Them

How would your target customer articulate their need for this in terms of keywords? How do they search? Determine the queries that are used by your target audience, are aligned with your business goals, and appear in significant enough volumes.

3. Provide Real Solutions

Create great content that’s well optimized for the search engines, but also meets the needs of your target customer and provides calls-to-action that encourage users to further explore and engage with your product or service.

4. Be Compelling

Offer a call to action that compels the searcher to dive deeper into your conversion funnel. For example,
this might be a discount code, or an online form. Basically, a feature that allows you to keep in contact with a user and offers them an incentive to stay engaged with your website and product or service.

5. Know Your Data

Make sure you’re regularly tracking performance metrics that help demonstrate the efficacy of these campaigns.

One of the most overlooked aspects of this process is to truly try to understand the target searcher’s agenda. Think of yourself as you search for something. All the pages you bounce off of, because they aren’t relevant, trustworthy, or are too complex for one reason or another. Search persona only works in context with business goals, and content that was designed for them. Doing only one thing out of the overall list above will not bring the desired results. Now that you’ve built your search persona, examine your website’s content and existing SEO campaigns and make any adjustments necessary to align with the criteria you’ve identified in this process. Understanding the keywords your prospects use and the places they go to find information is the critical first step in implementing a successful inbound marketing strategy.

This article is excerpted from a whitepaper by Optify Inbound Marketing Software. Learn more.

Comments Off on A Dozen Free Marketing Tools from Google

A Dozen Free Marketing Tools from Google

List originally appeared on Practical eCommerce

Need better results from your web site, but not ready to shell out large $$ to get SEO done? Before you spend any money on a search-engine-optimization campaign for your website, take advantage of Google’s free tools to optimize your site and increase its PageRank. And if you are just starting out with SEO, check out Google’s Search Engine Optimization Starter Guide PDF.

Here is a list of free Google tools for your website’s SEO campaign. There are keyword and trend tools, website optimization tools, tools to increase your backlinks, and more. All of these tools are free.

Google Analytics

Google Analytics lets you measure sales and conversions, and gives you access to your visitors’ behavior. Understand which parts of your website are performing well, measure the success of your social media programs, and create better-targeted ads. Price: Free for users with less than 5 million page views a month.

Google Webmaster Tools

Google Webmaster Tools show you how Google crawls and indexes your site. Learn about any problems Google is having indexing your site’s URLs. Identify the top search queries that drive traffic to your site, as well as any links to your site. Share information, such as how often your important pages change, to improve your site’s visibility. Price: Free.

Google Insights for Search

Google Insights for Search lets you compare search volume patterns across specific regions, categories, and time frames for any search term or phrase. Track search terms, and find potential customers based on their search volume. Price: Free.

Google AdWords Keyword Tool

Google AdWords Keyword Tool is a great way to get keyword ideas and find the best text for your audience. Identify what words or phrases will drive the most traffic to your site. Determine what keywords are the most profitable if you plan to use Google AdSense. Price: Free.

Google Alerts

Google Alerts are, according to Google, “emails sent to you when Google finds new results — such as web pages, newspaper articles, or blogs — that match your search term.” Enter a keyword or phrase, the type of data you want to retrieve, the volume of results you’d like, and get it all via email. Monitor your competitors or track the latest relevant Google results. Price: Free.

Google Trends

Google Trends give you popular search terms. You can also compare trends for multiple search terms, or get daily unique visitors for multiple sites. Take advantage of trends in your keyword campaigns to get a jump on your competitors. Price: Free.

Google Website Optimizer

Google Website Optimizer is Google’s website testing and optimization tool. Test individual elements or complete page layouts, and identify your most effective site elements. Fix and deploy compelling landing pages. Identify the winning content combinations that drive conversions. Price: Free.

DoubleClick Ad Planner

DoubleClick Ad Planner is a tool to help you plan an effective online advertising campaign. You can also use it to search competitor websites for traffic statistics, such as page views and keywords searched. Use the information to tailor your own successful campaign. Price: Free.

Google Page Speed

Use Google Page Speed to analyze and optimize your website. Identify why your site is too slow, and apply best practices to make it fast. Reducing page load times can reduce bounce rates and increase conversion rates, and encourage the health of your site. Price: Free.

Merchant Center

With Merchant Center, upload your site’s product data so it is available to Google Product Search — soon to be “Google Shopping” — and other Google search services. Allow shoppers to easily find your site using Google Product Search or Google.com. Price: Free.

Google Site Map

Google Site Map is a way to tell Google about the pages on your site. Creating and submitting a site map helps make sure that Google knows about all the pages on your site, including URLs that may not be discoverable by Google’s normal crawling process. Use Site Map to provide Google with site information, such as content metadata or update schedules. Price: Free.

Google+

Google+ is Google’s social media platform to share, collaborate, and create. Starting a Google+ account and developing your brand through Circles helps get high PageRank backlinks to your website. Price: Free.
Read the full article…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Comments Off on 8 Core Beliefs of Extraordinary Bosses

8 Core Beliefs of Extraordinary Bosses

The best managers have a fundamentally different understanding of workplace, company, and team dynamics. See what they get right.

by Geoffrey James, Inc.com

A few years back, I interviewed some of the most successful CEOs in the world in order to discover their management secrets. I learned that the “best of the best” tend to share the following eight core beliefs.

1. Business is an ecosystem, not a battlefield.

Average bosses see business as a conflict between companies, departments and groups. They build huge armies of “troops” to order about, demonize competitors as “enemies,” and treat customers as “territory” to be conquered.

Extraordinary bosses see business as a symbiosis where the most diverse firm is most likely to survive and thrive. They naturally create teams that adapt easily to new markets and can quickly form partnerships with other companies, customers … and even competitors.

2. A company is a community, not a machine.

Average bosses consider their company to be a machine with employees as cogs. They create rigid structures with rigid rules and then try to maintain control by “pulling levers” and “steering the ship.”

Extraordinary bosses see their company as a collection of individual hopes and dreams, all connected to a higher purpose. They inspire employees to dedicate themselves to the success of their peers and therefore to the community–and company–at large.

3. Management is service, not control.

Average bosses want employees to do exactly what they’re told. They’re hyper-aware of anything that smacks of insubordination and create environments where individual initiative is squelched by the “wait and see what the boss says” mentality.

Extraordinary bosses set a general direction and then commit themselves to obtaining the resources that their employees need to get the job done. They push decision making downward, allowing teams form their own rules and intervening only in emergencies.

4. My employees are my peers, not my children.

Average bosses see employees as inferior, immature beings who simply can’t be trusted if not overseen by a patriarchal management. Employees take their cues from this attitude, expend energy on looking busy and covering their behinds.

Extraordinary bosses treat every employee as if he or she were the most important person in the firm. Excellence is expected everywhere, from the loading dock to the boardroom. As a result, employees at all levels take charge of their own destinies.

5. Motivation comes from vision, not from fear.

Average bosses see fear–of getting fired, of ridicule, of loss of privilege–as a crucial way to motivate people.  As a result, employees and managers alike become paralyzed and unable to make risky decisions.

Extraordinary bosses inspire people to see a better future and how they’ll be a part of it.  As a result, employees work harder because they believe in the organization’s goals, truly enjoy what they’re doing and (of course) know they’ll share in the rewards.

Read the full article and see video…

Comments Off on Four Reasons Why You Should Daydream More Often (Really!)

Four Reasons Why You Should Daydream More Often (Really!)

From the A.C. Grace Company Blog
© 2012 Health Realizations, Inc.

“I  was trying to daydream, but my mind kept wandering.”
— Stephen Wright, American actor, writer,  comedian

Daydreaming, long associated with the procrastinator or the lazy student in the back of the classroom, has gotten a bad rap — unfairly it now seems. For a while daydreaming was often looked down on as something to be done only in extreme moderation, and even then only on a rare summer day, preferably in a hammock.

It turns out this pastime may actually be good for you.

“If your mind didn’t wander, then you’d be largely shackled to whatever you are doing right now,” Jonathan Schooler, a psychologist at the University of California, Santa Barbara said in The Boston Globe. “But instead you can engage in mental time travel and other kinds of simulation. During a daydream, your thoughts are really unbounded.”

A daydream, it turns out, is actually your brain’s “default” mode, a fundamental element that allows you to imagine, create and process thoughts. This is great news given that daydreaming may take up a full one-third of our waking lives!

Four Top Reasons to Daydream Intentionally — Starting Today

A daydream is much more than just a silly fantasy to keep you from getting bored at work. Following are some very real benefits that daydreaming has to offer, and if you’re interested in securing some of them for yourself, well, you know what to do.

daydreaming
  1. Activate your brain’s “executive network.” This is the area of your brain associated with high-level, complex problem-solving. According to new research published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the less people were aware their minds were wandering, the more this “executive network,” and also the “default network” associated with easy, routine mental activity, were activated.

What this means is if you’re trying to solve a complicated problem, engaging yourself with a simple task, then letting your mind wander, may help.

  1. Improve your relationships and social interactions. When you daydream, your ability to think abstractly flourishes. And most often, we think abstractly about “what if” scenarios relating to people and social situations in our lives, which may help you to be more empathetic in real life.
  1. Boost your creativity. People who engage in more daydreaming score higher on experimental measures of creativity, according to research by Jonathan Schooler, a psychologist at the University of California, Santa Barbara.
  1. Increase your success. Daydreaming about achieving a particular goal you have, such as winning an upcoming marathon or getting into grad school, can actually help you achieve it. This type of daydreaming, sometimes called visualization, helps you to become more self-aware, and may actually count as “practice” to your brain that helps you during the actual event.

Read the full article with references…

Comments Off on How to be Optimistic, Even if Times are Tough

How to be Optimistic, Even if Times are Tough

 

There are a variety of reasons why you should want to be optimistic. This positive state of mind has been verified as a successful strategy to prevent mental and physical illness, and people who practice optimism regularly do better at work, school and sports, are less depressed and have better personal relationships.

What’s not to like?

Well, if given the option most of us would gladly choose to stay positive all the time. But then this pesky thing called reality keeps getting in the way. The economy is slumping. Jobs are hard to come by and those of us who have one are waiting on-edge for the next round of lay-offs. Some of us are having trouble making basic ends meet, and others are already unable to and are drowning in debt.

To put it lightly, many of us have a lot to complain about. But then again, many of us have a lot to be thankful for too, no? This is the simple difference between someone who is optimistic and someone who is pessimistic; it’s all about mindset.

“Of course, optimists get stressed,” says David Snowdon, a professor of neurology at the University of Kentucky in a Prevention article. “But they automatically turn the response off much more quickly and return to a positive mental and physical state.”

The good news is that you, too, can learn how to turn on that “happy” switch, even when times are tough — and here’s how.

    1. Be grateful for what you have. Your mother may have told you this when you were young, and it’s still a basic rule to live by. Instead of focusing on what you don’t have, focus on what you do have. The simple change in attitude can do wonders for your mental state, and expressing gratitude regularly has been linked to better health, well-being and progress toward your goals. A simple way to get started is to jot down 10 things you love about your life every day.
    2. Do something kind for someone. Studies show that doing five good deeds a day can make you happier, and volunteering has been linked to a heightened sense of well-being. If you need some motivation, watch someone else do something kind. Just witnessing the act has been found to boost your mood and make you more likely to do nice things as well.
    3. Communicate positively. When you speak or write, always phrase things in a positive way. For example, instead of saying to your spouse, “You’d better not be late for dinner,” try, “I’m really looking forward to having dinner with you at 7:00.”
    4. Turn adversity into opportunity. A failure or a hard time is only a bad thing if you let it be. Realize that successful people fail, and have likely failed many times to get where they are. So when you do fail, embrace it. Turn the failure into a positive by figuring out what went wrong, then applying what you learned to your next endeavor.
    5. Read all eight techniques in the full article…

Embrace and Support Your Positive Self with the #1 Most Recommended Relax

There’s no need to worry; do the so-what if’s.

  • See the possibilities of all sides
  • Do a series of “what if’s” “So What” (there is truly nothing worse than manifesting fears, creating stress)
  • Realize that even extremes may not be pleasant, yet not as bad as fears
  • Strength comes from overcoming fears by focusing on the positive

You instinctively know how to relax instantly:

  • Let go: Eliminate Stress Immediately
  • Calm Your Mind
  • Soothe Your Emotions
  • Create a State of Deep Relaxation in Your Body (nose to your toes)
  • Meditate: Gain complete relaxation in a natural, effortless way

Select soothing background Music to help you relax each day.

(© 2012 Health Realizations, Inc.)

 

Comments Off on Why Spotify can never be profitable: The secret demands of record labels

Why Spotify can never be profitable: The secret demands of record labels

Are record labels still around?  I didn’t even know that! If music is your biz, this should interest you…RBG

Michael Robertson, MP3tunes

Imagine a new hot-dog selling venture. Let’s also say there’s only one supplier to purchase hot dogs from. Instead of simply charging a fixed price for hot dogs, that supplier demands the HIGHER of the following: $1 per hot dog sold OR $2 for every customer served OR 50 percent of all revenues for anything sold in the store.In addition, the supplier requires a two-year minimum order of 300 hot dogs per day, payable all in advance. If fewer hot dogs are sold, there is no refund. If more than 300 hot dogs are sold each day, payments to the supplier are generated by calculating $2 per customer or 50 percent of total revenues, so an additional payment is due to the supplier. After the first two years, the supplier can unilaterally adjust any of the pricing terms and the shop can never switch suppliers.

Would this imaginary hot dog establishment be able to generate a profit? Never, because the economics are one-sided. The supplier will always elect the formula that captures the largest amount of money for themselves, completely disregarding the financial viability of the store. If the store miraculously managed to generate a profit, the landlord would simply raise the rates after two years.

Such economic demands may be imaginary for the hot dog business, but they are the stark reality that every digital-music subscription service such as Spotify, Rhapsody, MOG, Rdio, and others must confront. These details aren’t well-known because digital music service deals are always wrapped tightly with strict non-disclosure agreements.

For the first time, people are talking, and these previously secret demands are being made public. The specifics are even more onerous than the hot dog example cited above. Together they doom online audio companies to a life of subjugation to the labels, as you will learn below.

Here are some specific demands that digital music companies are compelled to agree to:

  1. General deal structure: Pay the largest of A) Pro-rata share of minimum of $X per subscriber, B) Per-play costs at $Y per play, C) Z percent of total company revenue, regardless of other business areas. As stated previously, this means labels de facto set retail price (they also regularly negotiate floors on price, giving even less wiggle room), which limits the ability of the music service to develop ancillary revenue streams that aren’t siphoned off by the labels.
  2. Labels receive equity stake. Not only do labels get to set the price on the service, they also get partial ownership of the company.
  3. Up front (and/or minimum) payments. Means large amounts of cash are necessary to even get into the game. In my experience, this further stifles innovation in services and business models.
  4. Detailed reporting, including monthly play counts. This seems rational enough — you would assume this information is necessary to pay artists and make other business decisions. The problem is, the labels each make additional demands, including providing additional reports unrelated to payment, including overall market share of sales in various categories. I doubt that, for example, phone manufacturers demand Best Buy provide the percentage of sales of competitors’ phones. The labels effectively offload their business analysis (and the cost of such analysis) onto the music services. I can’t think of another industry where that is standard practice.
  5. Data normalization. Labels all provide their data and files in different formats. That data is constantly changing as labels make available new material and make unavailable old material. This might seem trivial. It’s not. Without standard naming conventions and canonical methods for referencing artist, tracks and albums (ISRC and UPC don’t cut it), the services are left to try and match artist, track, album names provided by one label with those of another. It’s incredibly inefficient, as each service must undergo this process separately (although there are now companies that provide a service for doing this for the retailers).
  6. Publishing deals. Once you’ve signed deals with the labels, you then need to cut deals with the publishers. Determining ownership is a complete nightmare and there are huge holes in the licensable catalog. The data issues here are worse than with the labels. The long and short of it: Although you may have the rights to stream from labels, you sometime can’t get the rights to stream from the publisher, or worse, even find the publisher.
  7. Most favored nation. This is a deal term demanded by every major label that ensures the best terms provided to another label are available to it as well. This greatly constricts the ability to work out unique contractual terms and further limits business models. It is a form of collusion since each label gets the best terms the other label negotiates. It’s also why it’s easy to get one label (typically EMI) because they’ll provide low-cost terms knowing that others will demand higher rates, which EMI will then garner the benefit from.
  8. Non-disclosure. Every contract has strict language prohibiting the digital music company from revealing what they pay to the labels. If they speak publicly about any of the licensing terms, they jeopardize invalidating their license which would torpedo their business. Since labels license on behalf of the artists any payment to the artist comes from the labels not the digital music company. This is the main reason music services, not the labels, have been getting heat from the artist community. Music services can’t defend against accusations about low artist payments because they pay the labels who don’t disclose what they’re paying to the artists.

With most other businesses, if a supplier makes unreasonable demands, a retailer can turn to other providers. Since copyright law gives record labels and publishers a government-granted monopoly, no such option is possible with music. Digital vendors have only two options: Accept the terms or not include those songs in their offering.

The sale of EMI to other music companies means there will shortly be only three major labels. If a music service rejects terms offered by a label, then that service’s offering will have an enormous hole in their catalog of 25 percent or more of popular songs. In the business world, a monopoly leads to lopsided economics, and the subscription digital music business is a poignant illustration of that.

Read the full article…

Comments Off on What Great Companies Know About Culture

What Great Companies Know About Culture

excerpts from a blog post on Harvard Business Review by Deidre H. Campbell

Life for small businesses may have more in common with the big companies than you may think. In a recent post on the Harvard Business Review, we found a case made for company culture that applies in any organization with more than one person involved. In this article, there is referenced a direct correlation between employee investment and the balance sheet.
–RBG

As Prof. James L. Heskett wrote in his latest book The Culture Cycle, effective culture can account for 20-30 percent of the differential in corporate performance when compared with “culturally unremarkable” competitors.

To better understand the ROI, the author’s company, Burson-Marsteller, teamed up with the Great Place to Work Institute to ask senior executives from top-ranked companies about the value of a positive work environment. The survey garnered responses from 20 of the top 25 companies in the global workplace ranking. Here’s what those companies do in common:

They invest more in their employees. The response came back resoundingly: It’s simply good for business. Rather than cutting back or eliminating programs, 30 percent of top-ranked companies are investing more in work-life programs, such as flex-time, health benefits, and employee perks. The remaining 70 percent have held steady the level of investment.

They’re upgrading. Old-fashioned benefits like health insurance, family leave, and flex time ranked only 15 percent when considering most valued HR offerings. Traditional onsite benefits, such as cafeterias, childcare, massages, and volunteer opportunities ranked a mere 5 percent when determining what benefits provide stability during economic uncertainty. Instead programs that offer the most stability, as reported by 75 percent of respondents, are those that communicate brand mission and provide career development opportunities.

They recognize that culture is critical to talent retention. When asked which elements of workplace commitment most benefit daily operations, companies ranked culture at 80 percent and recruitment/retention at 70 percent. Competitiveness, customer loyalty, innovation, and productivity — while critical to daily operations — trailed behind with each under 20 percent. In a world where competition for talent is global, star performers seek companies with values that mirror their own.

They know their audience. These companies recognize which stakeholders will watch their every move. For this audience, it’s imperative to communicate the company’s commitment to being a great workplace. 70 percent of respondents ranked customers as the most important external audience to understand this crucial point. 35 percent cited investors as the second most important external audience. This means that employees and senior leadership alike should ensure that the brand is understood inside and out by customers and other stakeholders. This blend is special, valuable, and demonstrates the holistic view we have of ‘doing business’ in the world.

Becoming a great workplace is the result of long-term investment in employees. As was shown, this kind of investment will increase productivity, improve recruitment and retention, and save costs — all positively impacting the bottom line. In challenging economic times, we are reminded that companies should not only be a great workplace because it is the right thing to do, but because it is good for business.

Comments Off on How Much Is A Customer Worth?

How Much Is A Customer Worth?

We’ve talked a lot about return on marketing investment in this blog.  It’s critical to business profitability.   But there are gaps in the formula for calculating this that many businesses have simply not closed.  For example, when you giveaway an item as an incentive to close a sale, or gain a subscriber to you email list, there is obviously some cost to you.  If it’s only a downloadable file, that cost is minimal, but still there is some number that needs to be factored in to determine its impact on your profit.

We’re going to list five steps here to help you calculate the lifetime value of a subscriber to your email list.

  1. How many subscribers do you have?
    • When you total your list, do not include those that have previously bounced or unsubscribed
  2. Get an estimate on sales generated in the past year
    • Examine clickthrough direct sales (this is usually the default figure used and likely will be very underestimated)
    • Use promotion codes to track sales not directly generated
    • Overall sales increases, including those from forwarded emails, sharing in social networks, and other less obvious ways
  3. Set Your Time Frame
    • Is your business seasonal, or does it make sense for you to calculate this annually?
  4. Calculate the value of the subscriber (V)
    Here’s an example from one of our online retailer sites:
     

    • Active email subscribers: 4,500 (X)
    • Sales attributed to direct clicks in email over past year: $275,000 (Y)
    • Apply the equation V=Y/X
    • Value of the subscriber = $61 per yearTo estimate the lifetime value of your subscriber, examine the average time between the first and most recent purchases in your database. We’ll assume that 1/3 buy from you just once, another 1/3 buy for two years, and the others for three years.
      • 1,500 subscribers x $61 = $91,500
      • 1,500 subscribers x $122 = $183,000
      • 1,500 subscribers x $183 = $$274,500
      • Total value is $384,300
      • Divide this by the number of subscribers (4500)
      • Estimated value per subscriber is $85.40 per subscriber
  5. Results Analysis
    We have to admit there are a lot of weaknesses to this method. It only calculates direct clicks, not peripheral action sales, it only views three years, etc.  But it does give us a rough idea of the lifetime value of that subscription.  So you can see that a promotion campaign costing $100 per subscriber is too expensive to  make sense, but $10 per subscriber would be much more likely to net a positive result. 

    All online merchants have unique circumstances, with differing characteristics to their databases. This system is meant to serve as a guideline to help you start down the path of ROI analysis and profitability.

Over the life span of your relationship with your customer, you may do many thousands of dollars worth of business.  In a future post we will discuss calculating this lifetime value so that you have a better sense of what you should be willing to spend to attract and keep that customer.