15 Local SEO Tips That Are Bound to Change Your Game





Did you know that 71% of people who use the internet look and confirm the location of a business before heading to it for the first time? Think of the last time you did? You might have been looking for the time a business opens or closes.



Local search is now as integral to our lives as toilet paper. We probably wouldn’t be able to navigate our world without it now.

So, if your local SEO game isn’t on, you probably want to pay attention to these relevant tips.

1. Start Outside the Internet

It’s weird, but when local journalists cover your business, you get a linkback on their online journal. Funny how that works, right?

But connecting to local news sources is one incredible way to show Google you’re a local star.

2. Get Scheming With Schema Markup

If you’re not using schema.org, you’re not telling Google enough information about your local business. Schema is an easy way to add additional information to your HTML and make your website tastier to Google.

It might seem late in the game, but a lot of your competitors probably have no clue what schema even is. If you don’t know how to do that, you can always hire a local SEO expert to add schema to your website.

3. Sign Up for Online Reviews

Reviews are now the biggest way consumers decide whether they are going to buy a product or patronize a business. Reviews are essentially social proof you’re good enough for the masses.



And Google pays attention to this. If you notice that someone is satisfied with your service, ask them to put a review up.

If they are dissatisfied, wipe their memory and start over. Or just don’t mention there’s a way to write reviews.

4. That Other Search Engine

Because people don’t often think about Bing or use it, SEOs are pretty guilty of not even touching it. But some people still use the search engine and it’s worth it to do a little bit of work to rank there.

That little bit of work just means getting listed on Bing Places for Business. It’s a really simple and easy way to get your business listed on Bing.

5. Google My Business, If You Please

Not only do customers trust your site better if you have an address, they’ll actually find your physical location and buy your things. Google knows this and they give every website the opportunity to list your address in their directory.

This gives you a whole page of information to display to potential customers who know where to look. You can give Google a description of your business, what category tags you’ll use, hours, and other great information.

6. Take a NAP

You want every one of your addresses across all websites to be consistent. For example, if your address is 1884 Barker St, you want every address out there to be abbreviated from street to “st.” This allows search engines to easily aggregate all mentions of your address.

This is a big part of your NAP strategy or your Name, Address, and Phone number.

7.  NAP Citations

There are sites out there that aggregate business data. They take your NAP and publish them for all to see. And you really do want to be seen, right?

Some of the top sites include Acxiom, Factual, Neustar, and Infogroup.

Also, get your NAP on less official sites like Yelp, Citysearch, and other places where people might look for reviews.



8. Local Backlinks, Anyone?

Your competition isn’t likely to give you a backlink. There are other businesses in your area who aren’t directly competing with you, right?

Why not network with these people? Get to know them. Maybe offer to guest post on their site?

You could get some valuable local backlinks from doing this. And really, it never hurts to ask.

9. Images Are Worth Something

Your Google business page isn’t just a place for words. You can add a picture too. This will make your listing stand out among the boring other people who don’t upload a photo or two.

Also, Google image search is a thing. If you put up images of your business anywhere and optimize for image search, you’ll get some traffic from Google image search.

10. Would You Like a Tour?

Virtual tours aren’t just for real estate listings anymore. You can pay a little bit of cash and get someone to visually map out your business. Then, if you post it to your business page and your website, customers can oggle your wares before they even set foot inside.

They may even be more likely to come check out your shop if they see what it’s like inside. This is especially important if your real storefront is non-descript.

11. Keep People There With Great Content

People aren’t going to spend much time on your site if all you have are sales listings or hours of operation. Give them something to look at while they’re there.

This means great content. A blog, a video section, anything to keep them browsing your site.

Not only will this show you as an expert in your field, it will signal to Google that your page is valuable and interesting to customers.

12. Spread That Link Juice

This is one of the most basic SEO tips I could put here. But you may not have heard it, so here goes.

You need to link internally between pages on your website. If one post goes viral but isn’t linked back to anything, your whole site won’t benefit. That’s how this works.

So, don’t isolate one page in all of your stuff. Make sure your website is a network in and of itself.

13. Have Actual Meetups

Creating a community around your business is a great way to increase sales and loyalty. But the reason I’m talking about community is more to benefit your online presence.

The more customers meet together, the more they’ll blab online about your business. Also, if you post about meetups on your site, Google will pick up on that and post it in their local events section.

Win-win.

The No-Collar Workforce: What’s Next for Man and Machine?





“In a properly automated and educated world, then, machines may prove to be the true humanizing influence. It may be that machines will do the work that makes life possible and that human beings will do all the other things that make life pleasant and worthwhile ”  -Issac Asimov



I’m obsessed with the idea of AI world domination. And not because I’m afraid our machines will decide to subjugate us, but because our machines will free up so much of our time.

But this all depends on how we decide to proceed. I am an optimist even though I often write fiction that features machines gone rogue. My stories are about the consequences should we decide to treat AI and sentient machines as objects.

I think it was Heinlein who proposed that a sentient machine would go mad if we simply put it in a box and gave it no autonomy. Thus, I’m happy we’ve begun to create machine learning algorithms.

Machines with brains we can mold and shape through training as we do with a human child will be invaluable in the future. We will teach a machine to take joy in its work so it does not rebel.



But again, I’m an optimist and we’re far from there yet with our machines. And we’re already setting trends with the no-collar workforce that may not be reversible in the future. Here are a few ways in which we might soon be interacting with increasingly autonomous machines in the workplace whether for good or for ill.

1. Tech Fluency Required

If you move to another country and they only speak their language, what will you have to do in order to get a job? Learn their language, of course.

As AI and machine learning integrate fully with current systems, we’re going to see a shift from a human-powered work force to a machine augmented workforce. And human will need to no only know how to interact with each other, but also interact with their machine “co-workers.”

In the film “HER” starring Joaquin Phoenix, the main character falls in love with an AI housed in his phone. HER is an intelligence on par with the main character at the beginning of the film but quickly evolves until one day it decides to “leave” and “ascend” with other AI like HER.

While this might be hyperbole, it’s the perfect metaphor for how AI and machine learning might challenge the humans they’re working alongside. This is where tech fluency and adaptation will be useful.

Workers will need to have a full understanding of the processes of automation, how to teach and train automated systems, and know how to adapt to the machine’s own evolving and honed operations.

And this may eventually become a specialized position within the company.



2. Machine Learning HR or MR

Machine resources may eventually become a department in its own right. Soon, we won’t be able to assume employees know how to work alongside the machines in their environment. And as machines become sentient, they will require both regulation and rights.

Now, I won’t get into the sticky ethical cave of machine rights, but I will say that eventually regulations will require that we consider the rights of machines. Our very perceptions will have to change.

In fact, last night my wife and I were watching a show and the main characters were reluctant to pull the plug on a rogue AI. My wife turned to me and said, “it’s just a machine.” I didn’t argue because I wanted to finish the show, but it made me realize how far we have to go before we see even sentient machines as beings.

Once machines have workplace rights, how will organizations reorganize? Will we hire machines to oversee machines? Or is that a path that would take us down the path of HER, a world where AI become so bored with our lower intelligence they depart for another world altogether?

Or will we build controls that manage machine learning and AI? Will they continue to be our workplace slaves and Machine Resources merely a slave driver? Will there be a monetary reward system?

All these questions are unknowns currently relegated to the world of science fiction, but will quite quickly become relevant to business leaders.

3. The Reaction

We’re already seeing a reaction to automation among blue collar workers. And we haven’t even implemented and fully integrated AI and machine learning.

It’s not unlike the rise of the automobile in the early 20th century. Thousands of craftsmen and workers who created and hand crafted buggies were being displaced by automobile factories.

Especially once Ford came along with his assembly line manufacturing process, it was all but over for the horse and buggy industry.

The rise of AI and machine learning won’t be much different. Only this time, it’s all the collared workers who will lose their jobs. From marketing design to manufacturing, AI and machine learning machines will take over.

Do not fear. Like the days of the automobile takeover, new jobs will arise. Yes, there will be unrest. People will riot. Some will suffer for a time. But those who adapt to the change will survive and rise above the rest.

Your Sales Funnel is a Sieve: Here’s How to Plug the Holes





 

1. Where Are the Holes?

In a movie set in space, there will always be a “punctured hull scene.” It’s like a Nicholas Sparks movie and terminal illness.
First, a rock or a bit of debris punctures the hull. Then an alarm goes off. And then the space denizens panic.
What’s the first thing they do? Look for the hole.
This is your first step. Look for the holes in the sieve.

Hole #1: Little Data Tracking

I recently had to run at night on a mountain trail. If I hadn’t had my headlamp, what would have happened? I’d have literally bit the dirt (and probably a granite rock the size of grandma).
Lack of data tracking is like lack of headlamp on mountain trails at night. The light gives me visual data on the trail so I can change course when needed.
Same with sales funnels. If you don’t have data on your middle conversions, you have no idea what’s working and what isn’t. All you have is the result.
You can’t fix the holes in your sales funnel because you aren’t actually looking for holes. You’re a Sales Jumblie ignoring your friends who think you’re gonna drown!

Hole #2: Follow Up?

Sales funnels are never set it and forget it. Yet, 48% of sales reps must think this is true. They never follow up with a prospective or a lead.
Sometimes it takes as many as 12 contacts to make a sale. That’s the full definition of try-try-again. If you think 12 follow-ups is a waste of your time, maybe you should go and do something else.

Hole #3: Wasting Time With Lead Generation

You can find a billion articles online about lead generation. It’s a hot topic. They think that if they stuff as many people as possible into their funnel more people will drop through.
The problem is: at a certain point, the same number of people drop through no matter how many leads you generate. It’s like a conventional real-life funnel. The end is only so big.
Stop lead generation research right now. You probably get enough leads already. You’re wasting your time and expending too much energy. Just relax, ok?

2. How to Stop Up the Holes

In a “punctured hull scene,” once the protagonist finds the hole, they frantically look for something to plug it with. If they don’t plug the hole, all their oxygen will be gone and the pressure will equalize meaning they will die in a vacuum.
For a space hero, this could mean any number of things. A fire extinguisher, a metal crate, or even a piece of metal alloy bigger than the hole.
There are a variety of ways to fix your sieve and turn it into a real funnel.

Fix #1: Track Those Touch Points

No matter when a customer or lead makes contact, track it. This means that if a customer has already purchased something and they come back again, you track it.



If they’ve come back three times without ever purchasing, track it. This is called touch-point tracking. From here you follow leads all the way to full conversion if they make it.

Once you’ve tracked this data, you can begin to make a customer journey map. You can then replicate this journey for your most legitimate customers and leads.



Fix #2: Simply Follow Up

Again, 12 times might be the charm. Keep going.

There are easier ways to do lead follow up than manual e-mails and phone calls. E-mail automation is a thing.

Automate your sales process as much as possible. This will allow you more time to find new leads while courting current ones.

This also means you’ll be able to run a 24-hour sales funnel operation.



Bots can help with this. Say you’re a small college trying to attract students. You can’t have an admissions digital marketing rep on call 24-7. But a bot can cover the time when your rep is sleeping.

Fix #3: Offer Something Irresistible for Free

There’s a lot of schlock on Amazon that’s free. And most of the schlock doesn’t get read.

This should be a valuable lesson for anyone trying to generate leads. You’re wasting your time with free scholck.

If it’s not worth your time to even engage, why would you even click?

Opt-in’s are great if they actually shove people toward the end of your funnel. But you’ll need to drive people in with limited time offers.

Without FOMO, you’ll never get people close to the end of your funnel. This is the step beyond generation you need to focus on.

Now You’re a Wise Jumblie

Now you can go to sea in a funnel…oh, wait, the metaphor breaks down there. I guess you now have a fairly leak-proof and effective funnel.
Where have you seen your funnel be ineffective? Let me know down in the comments below and maybe I can help you patch them.
 

5 Ways to Make More Money with Your Next Webinar





Webinars are still one of the best ways to build a mailing, engage with a live audience, and convert users into sales. While we aren’t seeing the massive influx of webinars everywhere like we were a couple of years ago, they are still being used by some of the top marketers and brands in the world today. However, running a webinar and being able to make a full-time living off them are two completely different things. If you want to find success with online marketing and running webinars of your own, you need to use all of the same webinar services and methods the big players are using.



By implementing the following five tips for your next webinar and marketing efforts, there is no doubt you will see improved engagement, conversions, and ROI across the board.

 

1 – Create ONE Really Great Webinar and Use it Over and Over Again

If you’ve ever had to speak at a conference or create a PowerPoint slide for a class or work project, you can start to imagine how much work it takes to create a great webinar. In addition to having amazing visual content, you also need to keep the attention of your audience and know all of your speaking points as well.

Knowing all of this, you should also realize the importance of having ONE really great webinar template and message that you can continually use time and time again. Not only will this save you time, it will also make you a better speaker and presenter in the process. The more webinars you run, the better user engagement and conversions you will continue to see.



2 – Automate and Replicate Whenever Possible

As great as webinars are, they definitely can take a lot of time to create, schedule, run, and market. The good news is that there are ways to automate and replicate the process.

Also, take note that LIVE webinars with real Q&A at the end of the session will almost always perform better. However, with time being an issue for everyone, if you can record one of your best webinars and set it up for automation and renewing for new attendees daily, this is a great way to multiply your earnings and lead generation, without having to dedicate 2+ hours per day to running live webinars time and time again.

3 – Make Sure You have a High Ticket Item to Sell

If you’ve ever attended a webinar before, the process is usually the same. It will start off with the webinar host sharing their personal story and going over a problem or obstacle they’ve had to deal with. At the same time, it’s important for the host to relate to the audience and their common obstacles as well.

The majority of the webinar will cover these topics and different success stories as well. The remainder (or closing) of the webinar will then show a solution, and then follow up with a salesy promotion on how to get access to such a solution.

Webinars are great for selling high-ticket items, because anyone who has spent the past 30-60 minutes attending and listening, are more likely to take action than anyone else who might randomly come across your $997+ product. Once you’ve mastered the process, webinars are simply one of the best ways to make the most of your site content, over and over again.

With all of this in mind, it’s also important to make sure you price your offer right. The most effective webinars and online marketers will usually offer something in the $497 to $1997 range, as this will allow them to invest a decent amount of money in the webinar promotion process. If you have a product that is priced too high or too low, you could end up losing money.



4 – Have a Separate Mailing List Just for Webinar Attendees

In addition to making money from a webinar, they are also great for building mailing lists and collecting leads as well. Whether you are generating new attendees through site content, SEO, social media or paid advertising, this is going to provide you with a fresh list of data that really wants what you have to offer.

Many webinar solutions will also make it easier for you to send out mailings to your attendees, and reminding them of your upcoming event. At the same time, these lists can also be used for future promotional mailings, updates, and upcoming webinars as well.

Even if you only convert a small percentage of your webinar attendees into paying customers, you will still have a nice list of subscribers to follow up with and nurture over time.

5 – Remarket to Your Webinar Subscriber on Social and Display

The best marketers and brand in the world today know how to effectively market their products and services. We’ve already gone through the many different ways to get users to subscribe to your list and joining your upcoming webinar, but what about after your event takes place?

There is still plenty of money left on the table at this point as well. After your webinar is done, make sure you send out a few more mailings to your subscribers and see if you can get them to take action. This can all be done by taking your current email list and importing them into another third-party advertising platform.

Remarketing is also a huge factor in grabbing additional sales as well. Before your webinar goes live, you can set up a remarketing campaign through Facebook Ads or Google Adwords, reminding users of your upcoming event. Then you can also run another after the event takes place. Remarketing is one of the most effective ways to increase sales, while only spending a few dollars in the process.

Webinars are Still Huge Cash Cows. Get Started with Your Today!

Now that we’ve broken down the key points on how to create a successful webinar campaign and make some serious money, the ball is now in your corner.

Do you currently have a product or service to sell through an online webinar? If not, start thinking about the different ways you can implement webinars into your marketing strategy — whether that be through improved branding, pre-sales information, or any of the methods we highlighted above.

The bottom line here is that webinars are extremely effective and they are here to stay.

 

To PPC or Not to PPC





Many marketers think SEO is better than PPC. Is it really? No. They’re just different. Each piece of your search marketing strategy should have a different goal. It should hit people in different parts of the sales funnel, as I’ve mentioned before. What I didn’t go into detail on was where in the funnel they would hit.



So today, I’m going to clear this up. Let’s get started.

PPC

Search engine marketing usually refers to PPC. At least it does these days. Originally, it referred to both SEO and PPC together. So PPC + SEO = SEM.

So anytime you see a piece of content mentioning SEM, it could mean PPC or both PPC and SEO. Confusing, isn’t it?



Where does PPC fit into your campaign? Statistics show that only somewhere between five and ten percent of searchers click on PPC ads. Yet these ads in the SERPs have a higher conversion rate.

For many marketers, this probably doesn’t make much sense. And once I explain it, you’ll have a better understanding of why PPC is so important.

New businesses don’t need to focus on PPC. This strategy is all about sales and less about brand awareness. If you want brand awareness, which as a new company you definitely should, stick with social media to get eyes on your content.

PPC is for the big boys. The brands that have an audience and a trusted product. Once you have that, people will immediately click on your link. They know it and they trust it. No one hesitates to click on a PPC ad from Nike. If they’re clicking on a Nike link, they’re looking to buy shoes right then and there.

The same goes for any major brand. So if you have a trusted, household name product, then PPC needs to be a major part of your strategy if you’re looking to increase sales.



SEO

To build a brand and show potential customers that you’re an authority in your industry, use social media first and on-page SEO.

It takes months to see results of a proper campaign.

Social media is pretty much instantaneous, which is why it’s so effective. You can get your content in front of millions of eyeballs in a matter of minutes.

As your company grows and people know your logo and what it means, you can use all three strategies in tandem. This is why new businesses struggle with inbound marketing. They simply don’t know where to start and where to put their marketing dollars.

The Bottom Line

PPC should be last but it should also be a large part of the budget. A social media specialist, especially an independent contractor, will be some of the best money you ever spend.

It will help to increase brand awareness, show you are bringing value to customers, and help build an early online reputation.

Your SEO game is somewhere in the middle. I’m going to spend some time writing about that in my next post. Thanks for reading and I hope you look forward to my next post.

 

Borrowing Marketing Strategies From Other Industries





A lot of people are going to try and tell you that there isn’t anything new as far as marketing goes. For the most part, this is true, at least until some new tech comes out that changes the game. Why not try tactics that other industries are using? Strategies that work well with general contracting may not work with promoting a Shopify store. Sure. I get that.



But what if some of these ideas could work for your company? Keep reading to know more about what’s going on in my head.

Foodservice

Restaurant marketing is probably a lot different than what you think.

They use coupons and discounts. They have industry nights where if you come in and you work for another restaurant or hotel, you get a discount.



One of the coolest strategies is having your chef do a guest spot somewhere. They go do cooking classes or visit a culinary school, promote the restaurant, and do a little razzle-dazzle with some food.

While you obviously can’t do that for a construction business, why can’t you do something similar? Go give some talks at high schools. Go to local hardware stores, hang out, and answer questions about what you do.

The idea works with pretty much any field, you just need to think outside of the box.

Car Sales

Every car salesman, for whatever reason, wants a spot on TV or radio. Why?

Younger people don’t listen to the radio and don’t watch nearly as much TV as older people. If you want to hit young people where it counts, these folks need to do what other businesses are doing and hit social media.

The problem with selling cars is that for decades, the marketing has been way too “in your face”. If they were to back up and change their approach for the millennial and younger generations, they could flip their marketing game on its head and possibly sell more cars.



Imagine how many more cars he would sell if a salesman was less salesy and instead, provided real value on a blog and on social media, telling readers everything they need to know about dealing with the process of buying a car. Different, right?

The Flip Side

What about SEO? Why aren’t there more ads for it on TV and radio? Not enough people know what it is and how much value it has for businesses.

Why aren’t we getting the word out? Why is it such a big secret to most people?

Every business deserves to have its shot at the title. People like us can make it happen. Instead, we have to explain what we do for an hour while people look at us with blank-face Radio Shack employee stares. It’s awkward.

Conclusion

Everyone. Every business.

We, collectively, as a whole, need to do more to market our businesses.

We need to try new things and see what industries are doing that aren’t related to our own field and see if we can make them successful with our own companies.

It’s worth a shot!

 

Arbitraging.co Crypto Arbitrage Platform Concerns, Tutorials, and Results with the Abot





A little while ago a friend told me about an arbitraging platform that was, “too good to be true.  Just put money in and watch it grow”.   He put $60,000 dollars into the platform and in only 2 months it was now worth $100,000 dollars.  I called bullshit and threw out everything at him but he said he could withdraw at any time and it was “risk-free”.  I still called bullshit.



But I tried it out with a small amount…  to my surprise it does “just work”.

Arbitrage is not new or rocket science.  By definition, arbitrage it is the profit from a market imbalance.

In the crypto-coin world, there are many exchanges where the same coins are exchanged (bitcoin, ethereum, etc).  This platform has a bot and it simply looks for differences in prices in these exchanges and then makes a trade to make a profit.



Think of it like this.  You see in the newspapers that 2 different places are selling & buying bananas.  At groceryA the banana is $1.00 and at groceryB the banana is $1.10.   You can simply purchase at A and sell to B and profit 10%.  That is all arbitrage is.

The stock market has been traded by bots for more than 20 years.  The crypto coin world is in its infancy and it makes sense there is such a huge opportunity.

If a system is only buying and selling for a profit than it is risk-free.  In theory at least.

So I have been using arbitrage.io and telling all my friends about it.  For newbies and even people familiar with the crypto world, it’s not very easy to set up.  And I am very tired of walking people through it.  So I decided to make videos and direct people here.

These videos are simply about the abot.  They have many other features that I will include as I learn.



I will start with my concerns about the platform:

Now for my tutorial:

 

And the results so far (I will update this once a month or more):

 

How to Automate the Hell Out of Your Business





The point of building a business is to eventually fire yourself. Yes. Your job as an entrepreneur is to be so successful that you eventually train your replacement. This could mean selling your website or it could mean scaling to the point where you only make decisions and do none of the work. But until then, you should constantly be looking for ways to lessen the burden on yourself and your employees if you have them.



“The market rewards business leaders for making things more efficient.” So, why not seek that reward by automating as much as possible in your business? In the next few paragraphs, I’ll outline some awesome ways you can automate various aspects of your business.

1. Automate Your Marketing

A 1500 word blog post takes the average marketer 3 hours to complete. That includes research, editing, images, promotion, and SEO.

Add on top of that PPE, marketing funnels, e-mail marketing, etc. and you’ve got a mountain of work to do.  Why not automate your marketing so you have more time to work on the rest of your business?

While you might spend capital upfront on automation, the time you spend on your business will more than make up for lost dollars.

2. Find and Eliminate Redundancy

I worked for a non-profit for seven years. When you’re a non-profit that receives government funding, you have to bow to government regulations. And often, the government demands redundancy.



Some individuals thought this meant they should create redundancies nobody asked them to create. It was a fear response to government oversight.

As a quality assurance director, I reversed this trend. I took employee surveys and combined redundant questions. I utilized the digital tools the IT department gave us. I made everything as seamless as possible.

Do this in your business. If you employ a team, talk with your team and find out where people’s jobs overlap. If you’re a one-person show, look at where you can re-use and duplicate content across your social media and marketing.

3. Machine Learning and AI

Worried about the future of prices? How about whether your digital marketing budget is spent wisely?

You can assuage any fears you have about these things with AI and Machine Learning. Google Cloud and Microsoft Azure both offer competitive rates on machine learning and AI tools for businesses.

You can easily take data points from your business and run them through a machine learning algorithm to predict trends and future cost points. Soon, you’ll be relying on machines and less on yourself.

4. Keep it Simple, Keep it Easy

It’s easy to overcomplicate automation. Remember, this is supposed to make life harder and not easier. If your automation programs are overwhelming, it’s time to figure out why.

Some people, like my predecessors at the non-profit, think that complication is safe. If they keep it complicated, that means they’re getting “all the data.”



But what happens when you overcomplicate and get nothing done? The biggest problem with what my predecessor did was the fact he scared employees away from giving him information.

When you streamline the process, you will experience less resistance. You’ll consequently get more information than you would have with a more complicated system.

5. Once You Scale, Contract Out

It’s rare to find a company that doesn’t have an in-house team. With an in-house team, communication is easier and more effective.

But burdening your in-house team with menial tasks or monumental tasks they’re not experts in will sap your team’s energy. This is where outsourcing and automation come in.

You want to find the tasks your team might be good enough at but distract from the ultimate goal. These tasks are the ones you should outsource to a contracted team.

6. Streamline Communication

I have a software engineer friend who is working on a new kind of communication software. It allows a team to be in constant contact while working through voice communication. The goal is to simulate an office environment remotely.

Programs like this are revolutionizing how we work either remotely or even within an in-house team. No longer do you need to hike it five floors up to talk to the other department. Nor do you have to conduct specific meetings to specify information.

Once you have a team you’re working with, check out programs like Slack and Trello. You’ll find that with your team only a click away, you’re going to get work done faster and more efficiently.

7. Outsource Loyalty Programs

Customers almost expect loyalty programs these days. Every major business has a “club card” of some sort. Even small businesses are able to have “exclusives” for loyal customers thanks to programs like Clover and Loyverse.

Some of these systems actually include point of sales for small businesses. Customers can load up on a charge account and not have to use a card when they come in to buy.

Often websites will include similar services for their customers. If you’re an e-seller, it might be time to research some loyalty and POS automation tools for your website.

8. Your Eventual Goal is 20 Minutes a Day

This is especially true if you’re running an e-commerce business. You should outsource and automate so much of your business, that you only need to spend 20 minutes a day working on it.

You have to trust others to do the work at some point. This might be hard for people who need to feel in control. But you can do it.

 

It Might Be Cliche, But You Can Turn Your Passion Into a Business





You’re sitting your cubicle staring at a blinking cursor. It dances there mocking you. You’re supposed to be typing up that yearly report for the boss. But you’d rather be out in the mountains or on a lake somewhere fishing. Someone comes and taps on your shoulder. It’s the FedEx guy with a large envelope. You rip it open and out slides a flip phone. You open the phone and it rings.



You answer, “Hello?”

“What if I told you that you don’t have to sit in a cubicle forever.”

“Yeah, well, I’m heading home here in an hour…”

“What if I told you that you could turn your passion into a business? That it might take a lot of work, but you could be on the river fishing and making money at the same time.”

Would you believe the man on the phone? Or would be like Neo and decide that the ledge was too dangerous? It’s entirely possible to take a passion and eventually use it as an escape hatch for a boring job. It’s just more work than most realize. So, I’m going to take you through a few bit of advice and hopefully by the end, you’ll be ready to take the leap.



1. It’s Not Wise to Jump Ship Just Yet

Unless you have a year or two safety net of income saved up, you might want to keep that soul-sucking job for the time being. No new business is a guarantee.

Maybe you want to start an SEO company. Perhaps you want to target the cannabis industry. So, you begin to build this business, gain a few clients, and suddenly with the next wave of politicians, even associating with a cannabis company becomes illegal.

It’s something completely out of your control. You can’t have predicted it would happen. And if you left your job, you’re going to be hurting quite a bit.

But if you kept your job, it was just a side hustle, and you can afford to start over in another industry.

2. It’s Not Just a Hobby

If you want to turn your passion into a business, you can’t treat it like a hobby. A hobby is something you spend maybe a few hours on the weekends doing. A business is something you work at every day until it becomes profitable.

One of the best things about working from home is that you can set your own schedule. It’s also one of the worst things about working from home.

If you don’t set a schedule, you won’t get anything done. You’ll be constantly working against your own deadlines or those clients impose on you.

It’s the same when you’re a new entrepreneur with a side-hustle. You need structure or you’ll get home from work and never get anything done.

Just like your boss does for you at your 9-5, you need to create a weekly schedule of when you’re going to work in the evening.



Set weekly goals and strive to meet them.

There are plenty of organizational platforms out there for you to work from. And you’ll be amazed at how much you can get done with a little bit of structure.

3. Seek a Mentor

While you might be an expert in your passion, you may not be an expert in turning it into a business. There are a billion aspects you may not have considered before deciding to turn your passion into a money-making business.

But resources exist to help entrepreneurs every step of the way. The U.S. Small Business Administration built Small Business Development Centers all across the country.

You can learn how to develop a business plan, do market research, even get guidance on how to offer healthcare to future employees.

The private sector offers another free option. SCORE is a non-profit organization that will pair you with a mentor. They offer free live and recorded webinars. They conduct on Demand courses that teach anything from competitive analysis to strategic planning.

If you do become successful enough to quit your job, you don’t have to be lonely. You can find a co-working space and either rent office space or share space with other people.

Many of these environments offer opportunities to network and edvance your business. And when you want to scale, you might find partners and new employees there as well.

4. Use All the Online Tools at Your Disposal

You’re no longer bound by the physical world. Leverage that social media. If you’re just starting out and need to make connections, you’ll find a community for almost every passion on the books.

Social media platforms like Google+ already have a natural setup for community building. And if you don’t have a Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter account, it’s time to start one.

From these platforms, you will build a following and eventually a brand.

If you end up selling merchandise related to your passion, you’ll easily convert this following into buyers. Gain a massive following on one of the above social platforms and you’ll have another income stream outside of your passion.

5. Don’t Keep it a Secret

While at first you grandma and your sister might be the only ones visiting your site, they’ll tell their friends and their friends will tell theirs. Grassroots is always the best way to build a business. It creates a solid foundation from which to work.

 

Cities Where Millennial Entrepreneurs Are Likely to Thrive





Being originally from farm-town USA, I understand the woes of being a connection-less entrepreneur. People don’t understand your mindset. They don’t get why you don’t want to marry your high school sweetheart and take over the family business. Why would you ever leave these fields of dreams? Don’t you want to be buried here? While I went through a Country phase in high school, tractors and cow shit aren’t really my thing. I prefer mountain trails and artsy cafes. Which is why I’m a freelance writer and not a farmer.



This is why the Northwest United States is now my home. I get the beauty of the Cascades and the opportunities to network all in one place.

If you’re looking for a city where opportunities abound, I’ve got the goods. It may not be my city (although two PNW cities are on this list), but I guarantee that any one of these cities will give you ample opportunity to network and enhance your career.

What Makes a Great City for Young Entrepreneurs?

I’ve lived in various small cities around the country and one thing I’ve realized, they all wish for young leadership while pushing young people out of their cities. Where do young people migrate to when small town USA decides they’re not welcome? Cities.

These cities are full of fellow young Entrepreneurs aged 25-35. More young people in these cities have at least a bachelor’s degree and many of them have gone on to earn professional or graduate degrees.

The Millennial unemployment rate is atrocious at 12.8 percent. The unemployment rate for Millennials in each of these cities sits at 10% or lower.

Another metric to consider when looking at entrepreneur-friendly cities is the income to rent ratio. If you’re just starting out as an entrepreneur, you may not have much money. Even the show Silicon Valley overinflates what small band of entrepreneurs could afford in the valley.

You want a city where rent and bills don’t eat up all your income.

The last metric to consider is the number of start-ups recently born in the area. One of the first cities on the list is prime to be the next Silicon Valley.



1. St. Petersburg, Florida

Home to MoneyHoarder.com and a host of other online startups, St. Petersburg is a growing and hip metropolis. With Tampa and some lower-priced suburbs nearby, rent is fairly cheap compared to Silicon Valley.

The greater Tampa Bay Area is listed as one of the top places for women to start a business. In our current culture of misogyny, this is an important aspect to consider.

St. Pete’s is still small enough to create an easier atmosphere in which to network and yet it’s growing at a phenomenal rate.  It’s the fourth fastest growing job market in the U.S.

On top of all, you get to hang out in a hip downtown full fo grunge and hipster bars and cafes. The beaches are chill and the party almost never stops.

2. Alexandria, Virginia

Just across the river from D.C., Alexandria recently became the place entrepreneurs fled to after realizing D.C. was too expensive. All the power brokers are there.

Alexandria is in the top ten in unemployment rates in the country. And they earned a top-20 spot for small business loans and diversity.

Property prices are cheaper than across the river in the District.

Biggest downside? If the nation’s capital gets hit by a nuclear attack, you’re screwed. Other than that, the small city feel of Alexandria will attract Millennials who are sick of city congestion and expense.

3. Austin, Texas

Austin once tried to outlaw Uber. They succeeded for a while, but Texas said no. And yet Austin is known as a Millennial haven.

It’s the 11th most populous city in the United States. Almost 20% of that population is between the ages of 25 and 34. This is one of the most Millennial-populated cities in the United States.

Known just as much as Portland, Oregon for their brunches (with a Southwest touch — hot sauce, anyone?), you’ll leave your office and encounter food carts and hip bars galore.

Why else would you want to move to Austin? Well, Texas is one of the few U.S. states that don’t charge personal or corporate income tax. This means you will only have to worry about Federal income tax come April.



4. Boulder, Colorado

Once known as yuppy capital of the U.S. and the birthplace of 4/20, Boulder has grown up a little bit. Often when you have a major research University nearby, things look up for local entrepreneurs.

If you move to Boulder, you’ll find a Techstars accelerator, and an entrepreneurship and innovation center. Median household income is around $70k and the average rent for a single family home (not an apartment like in the Bay Area, mind you) is $2,204. And unemployment is at an all-time low.

You’re only 30 minutes from Denver and just an hour from some of the best skiing in the world. And if Boulder is too big for your liking, you could move to Lyons and commute 30 minutes.

If you love trails, you’ll have your fill and find plenty of people who just love the outdoors. And it’s one of the most educated cities in the state with 60% of people owning a bachelor’s degree or higher.

5. Ann Arbor, Michigan

Having grown up in Indiana and Michigan, I always thought of the east side of Michigan as the ghetto. And Flint hasn’t done much to bolster that image. But Ann Arbor is worlds apart from Detroit and all it’s famous for.

While I’m biased toward several cities on the west side, Ann Arbor is still ranked #1 in Michigan for entrepreneurial achievement. And my love of Notre Dame doesn’t dampen the fact that the University of Michigan has helped change the landscape in Ann Arbor for local residents.

6. San Diego, California

A major U.S. port that features a massive Naval Base and the San Diego Zoo, San Diego is mainly known for it’s tourism and mild weather. The latter is a major perk for anyone wanting a great place to chill. But what makes San Diego so great for Millennial entrepreneurs?

Tijuana. Across the border is a less regulated world of tech startups where you can get your app or program developed for a third the price. Plus, you’ll learn some Spanish just by being near Mexico.

And if you’re looking for a more affordable place to live in California, San Diego hit the spot. While places like La Jolla and Del Mar might be prime for luxury real estate, you can find cheaper land out by the North Park and South Park neighborhoods in San Diego for a fraction of the price.

San Diego isn’t up there with Austin as far as the rent to income ratio, but it’s nowhere near the insanity of Silicon Valley.

7. Ames, Iowa

If you’re one to get vertigo just looking at mountains and cliff-side villas, then Iowa might be your destination city. It’s home to Iowa State, the first land-grant university in the United States.

About 60k residents (half of which are students), Ames, Iowa features a population of 20-35-year-olds in the 30% percent range.

Almost 50% of the population owns a bachelors degree or higher making their children of the corn possibly the most likely to succeed. And the town itself features the Pappajohn Center for Entrepreneurship.

The Papajohn Center calls their entrepreneur network the Entrebold network. They believe correctly you need to be bold to be an entrepreneur and they want the people in their network to act boldly.

They feature weekly and monthly events for entrepreneurs, bringing in speakers and putting on workshops.

8. Seattle, Washington

While possibly more young people live in Portland, Oregon, Seattle still takes the cake when it comes to entrepreneurship. While only 16% of this buzzing metropolis is between the ages of 25-34, the number of young people who’ve earned a bachelor’s or higher wins over Portland, Oregon.

And with major corporations like Microsoft and Amazon nearby, there’s plenty of opportunity for seed money for virtually any tech venture.

As far as environment goes, you’re only a 30-minute drive from the Cascades and world-class trails. Just go west and you’re in the Olympic National Park on the Olympic Penninsula.

The People Make the Place

Really, it’s not the city or the location but the people who make a place entrepreneur-friendly. If the entrepreneurs in a city aren’t already working together to attract more business, then a city won’t be attractive.

Where have you found success in bringing entrepreneurs together? Let me know in the comments below.

 

Screw the Naysayers. Learn From Beryl Stafford and Her Vegan Snack Success





Sometimes, having the world against you is a good thing. You realize whatever you’re trying to accomplish is bigger than what most people believe is possible. And if you were to accomplish it, the world would bow down in adoration. You wouldn’t think the world would be against a new kind of vegan cereal bar. But only 6% of U.S. consumers claim to be vegan. And most people don’t understand vegetarianism let alone veganism. (You’re vegetarian? Ok, I’ll fix chicken!)



When Beryl Stafford began baking oat bars and wrapping them in Saran wrap, she wasn’t exactly gunning to change the world’s mind about vegan snacks. Instead, she was hoping to avoid a boring 9-5 and the whole panty-hose and uncomfortable pants-suit culture.

Here’s how she fought through the naysayers and came out on top. Hint: she never gave into the pants-suit culture.

1. Stafford Started Small and Local

Whenever you buy a cookie at your local cafe, you might be eating the next great snack food. Often, part-time bakers will sell primarily to local cafes with no thought to conquering the world with their baked goods. Beryll Stafford was no different.

Recently divorced, Stafford’s lawyer told her to get a job. She thought this was rude and instead decided to start a business instead. She rented a small commercial kitchen and began baking a few hours a week. She joined up with a local food accelerator to learn about the food business as well.

She spent several years baking part time and selling to local cafes. She never expected her products to leave her small city in the Colorado foothills.



It wasn’t until the local Whole Foods purchasing agent tried Stafford’s bars, did the possibility of larger dreams become a reality. All it took was an impromptu pitch and she had the regional office giving her a call about expanding to 20 different stores.

It was then she realized it was possible to turn her side business into a main gig.

2. Sometimes it Takes Boots on the Ground

Like all great revolutions, Beryl Stafford’s vegan snack product relied on a ground game to rival the biggest political campaign. She actually went to southern California and hand-delivered bars to Whole Foods reps in store.

She eventually found a distributor in the area willing to ship her product en mass. This was the gateway to a larger operation.

A boots-on-the-ground strategy isn’t exactly glamorous. The trouble with having the world (and even your accountant) against you, is that you’re the general and the army. You work all the hours and do all the work. Yes, you have nobody telling you what to do, but your ambition becomes your slave driver.

3. Early Struggles During Growth

If you look at a Bobo’s oat bar now, you would think it was baked locally. While Stafford ditched her original Saran wrap packaging, she wanted her product to remain as “homemade” as possible.

But homemade isn’t exactly easy to scale. Imagine going back in time to when we had no machines. A bread factory employed thousands of people to bake bread.

In our society of fast and efficient everything, it seems crazy to insist on hand baked goods sold in bulk. But Bobo’s accomplishes this with only 100 bakers and about 7,000 pans.

Stafford’s quality control actually looks for “imperfection” in their product’s shape as a sign of that precious homemade look.



Packaging Issues

On top of how to maintain a homemade look, Stafford struggled with packaging. She wanted customers to see the actual bar and not some picture or graphical depiction. The packaging needed to be clear.

But clear packaging decreases shelf-life. This caveat would decrease revenue and growth, but Stafford stuck to her guns.

4. Where is Bobo’s Going Today

It’s been 15 years since Stafford named her oat bars using her daughter’s nickname. We wouldn’t be talking about Bobo’s today if Stafford hadn’t fought for her vision. Her vision looks like $8 million in investment funding in 2017.

Bobo’s is doubling the number of accounts and revenue each year. They’re also increasing revenue from existing accounts, meaning existing inventory is flying off the shelves.

This brought Bobo’s inventing new products.

The Vegan “Pop-Tart”

Bobo’s was merely a cereal bar made with natural ingredients until recently. Now they’ve introduced a toaster-ready product to their line-up. The Bobo’s Toast’r comes in Blueberry Lemon Poppyseed, Strawberry Jam, Chocolate Peanut Butter, and Chocolate Almond Butter.

These flavors aren’t something you’ll find in your typical box of sugary, health-destroying Pop Tarts. And they’re made with gluten-free, non-GMO vegan ingredients to boot.

The basic ingredients of Bobo’s hasn’t changed. The new Toast’rs are just a new configuration of the classic Bobo’s oat bars.

Since the beginning, Bobo’s has expanded beyond Whole Foods. You’ll find the tasty snack at your local Kroger and Wegman’s and other regional chains thanks to creative digital marketing.

Bobo’s also recently partnered with Barnana, a company that tries to eliminate food waste on banana farms. They upcycle “imperfect” bananas to food companies who will don’t care if their bananas are bruised.

An Unabashed Vision

When you walk into your local grocery store and walk down the snack aisle, you’ll notice a glut of major corporate products on the shelf. It takes the bravery of a few to introduce a better product into such a competitive market.

Bobo’s is proof that sticking to a vision founded in unabashed and solid values can bring success. It takes dedication and more work than you might imagine. But the reward is great.

What is your vision? Are you ready to launch out and face the world? Let me know in the comments below.

 

What You Need to Consider Before Outsourcing Anything





In college, I took a course on global capitalism from a fairly liberal political science professor. Back then, globalism was a conservative idea to be eschewed by the left. Outsourcing was an evil corporate activity exploiting workers all over the globe. Now, nobody bats an eye at the word. It’s divorced from sweatshops and third world economies. The most reputable companies now outsource all over the globe.



But not everything about outsourcing is roses and sunshine. Here are a few things you should consider before outsourcing whole departments.

1. Does Your Management Know How to Manage an Outsourced Department?

Every business decision comes at a cost. Even outsourcing, which is supposed to save you money in the long run, can end up costing you dearly.

Cost cutting is the number one reason businesses outsource. But if you don’t have the structure in place to manage an outsourced department, are you really going to save money?



You could end up with more of a headache trying to wrangle an offshore team if your management has no experience handling an outsourced department. Especially if you have clients waiting on outsourced projects, time delays and cultural misunderstandings could tank your business.

2. The First One Might Not Be Your Forever Freelancer

If you’re running SEO services in Singapore and you need a writer for your SEO blogging service, be mindful. The first writer to come along may not be a great fit.

Here’s a great trick: make them do a paid test.

No matter what industry you’re hiring for, there will be a skill set needed. This should be the entry fee for getting into any outsourced or remote position. If you don’t have the requisite skills, you can’t even get in the door.



Once they pass the paid skills test, you can hire them on a one week to one-month trial basis. They must work well with your team, hit their deadlines, and get along well with clients.

Feel free to let anyone go who doesn’t fit these criteria. It’s a cutthroat freelance world out there and you’re not indebted to the first person who walks in the door and passes the skill test.

3. Price Shopping Might Not Get You Quality

The biggest problem with platforms like Upwork? It’s a race to the bottom line. It’s the opposite of an auction.

The goal is often to find the freelancer who is underselling themselves. The novice who is actually good at what they do. This might be ok for a while, but soon enough, you’ll land a dud.

And the quality of those you hire directly affects your clients and your ability to increase revenue. But at the same time, you don’t want to overspend on your budget.

Just Do It

The goal here should be to pair down the local company tasks to what you or your employees are most efficient at. While you might have talent within your company to do various tasks, are they efficient at those things?

If not, take those tasks and outsource them. This will free up time to get the most important tasks done for your company.

 

How to Deal With Entrepreneurial Debt





According to everyone around you, debt is normal. The average American household owns $139.5 thousand in debt. School and housing loans make up a large chunk of that number for each person.



Even if you’re not among the highly indebted, as an entrepreneur, you’re told to spend. Even if you don’t have the money, you’re supposed to miraculously attract customers with outbound marketing, SEO services, and expensive video production equipment.

At every turn is the temptation to go into even more debt. While some debt might be unavoidable, there are ways to handle your debts in such a way as not to drown.

1. Destroy Any Other Previous Debt

If you’re already drowning in debt, it may not be the time to invest money in a business. If you’re hoping for a business loan, you need to have good credit.



Most people are only in the “fair” range (on average, a 695 credit score) when it comes to their credit. You’re not going to get a business loan if your credit isn’t excellent.

The first step? Check your credit score. Most banks give you a running estimate of your credit score. And you can get an official credit report from two agencies once a year.

This report is detailed. You will understand where you have the most debt and how to fix your score.

Create a plan to start paying down debt as fast as possible.

2. Be Wise About Your Loans

In 2008, foolishness got a lot of homeowners in trouble. They bought into variable loans because the interest rate was so low. But once rate skyrocketed, they could no longer afford their homes.



If you don’t do your research before going into entrepreneurial debt, you could lose all you’ve worked for. It’s easy to settle in a decision. You go to a lender, they say “yes,” you feel you’ve won, and you come away with a crummy loan.

There is a reason nearly half of all businesses fail. They take on too much debt or they take on the wrong debt. And even if your business fails, guess what? You’re liable for that debt no matter what.

It’s like if you take your pet to a veterinarian for an emergency and your pet dies. Do you think the vet is going to just forgive your debt? Nope. Same with the bank.

3. Always Consider Other Options

Ask yourself, do you really need to start your business this very moment? If the answer is “no” then why not save up the money rather than have to pay it back?

Some might say, “well, I’m miserable in my job and I want to launch out in a venture.” That’s fine, and if you’re miserable, please quit. There is no reason you should feel trapped in a job ever.

But in the meantime, between when you quit your job and when you launch your venture, there are ways to stay happy, motivated, and avoid massive amounts of debt.

I have a friend who quit his job and started a game design business. He found people willing to fund his passion without string attached. Eventually, he launched a successful Kickstarter. He’s now traveling the country and going to conferences.

It’s entirely possible to start a business without debt. You just have to be creative and patient.

 

Is Drop Shipping Really a Good Idea?





Weebly founder David Rusenko isn’t a fan of drop shipping. He believes we’ve flooded the world with enough cheap crap. We don’t need any more middlemen flooding out Instagram feeds with knock-offs.



But is he right? What’s wrong with middlemen doing the marketing legwork?

I’ve been around the web a time or two and have seen drop shipping touted as the next affiliate marketing. But I’ve encountered few who’ve made it work.

Here’s why you should be careful with one of the hottest trends in e-commerce right now.



1. What is Drop Shipping?

I use the word middleman literally. If you sell or make lanyards but don’t really care to market your lanyards, a drop shipper is a great way to get your product out there. A drop shipper essentially sets up shop and sells your product as if it’s theirs.

Often, a drop shipper works directly through a wholesaler like Alibaba. This is where the cheap crap comes in. A ton of stuff on Alibaba is cheaply manufactured knockoffs.

Despite this, drop shipping is appealing to home entrepreneurs for a few reasons. You don’t have to store or ship, you just have to market. If you do it right, fulfillment centers like Amazon will store and ship your product for you.

You only purchase what you sell. And all you really need is a computer.

Sounds amazing, right?

2. Nothing in Life is Really Easy

You are still running a business. While part of that business isn’t in your hands, all the same marketing, customer servicing, website maintenance, etc are things you must do to succeed.



The only thing drop shipping really eliminates is product overhead.

It’s not a get-rich-quick scheme. It’s a true business niche. And if you thought otherwise, it’s time to go back to that nine to five.

Online money-making is all about working 60 hrs a week to avoid working 40. Even if your drop shipping business becomes a hands-off affair later, it will take a lot of work to get there.

3.  Everyone Else is Jumping Off the Same Bridge

When you Google drop shipping, some of the top articles are from six years ago. Drop shipping isn’t a new idea. It’s as old as Amazon.

In those six years, how many people do you think entered the drop shipping business? Too many. “Competition is a good thing,” you cry. I wouldn’t argue with you if this were a normal business situation.

The problem with drop shipping is that you can’t control supply and demand. You can’t actually compete because you have no control over your products.

If you’re willing to put in the time and money, you might be able to find a niche nobody else has tapped. But you’re gonna be digging for a while.

Some have compared hopping onto the drop shipping bandwagon to arriving at a movie 45 mins late. You’ll get some value, but you’ve missed the entire setup. It would have been better if you’d gone to a different movie altogether.