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Social Media as a Marketing Vehicle

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It’s 2015 and everyone knows we need to be online in order to make the most of our marketing efforts. But many companies struggle to find ways to organically engage with their audience in a meaningful way. Here are a few methods you could use to generate buzz about your brand:

  • Influencers Drive Actions: Companies are seeking out influencers, or individuals with great knowledge and clout on a specific topic within a particular demographic, to adopt their products and let others know that they’re using this product and like it. Using influencers not only improves awareness, it also drives sales.
  • Connect With Your Audience: Take this case study, for example: “On November 15, 2013, Make-A-Wish created one of the largest and most elaborate staged event ever, which included participation from President Barack Obama and other government officials and law enforcement … As a result of its extraordinary word-of-mouth campaign, Make-A-Wish received 1.89 million social impressions, 555,697 #batkid hashtags, significant press coverage including a Buzzfeed article that generated 2.5 million hits within three days, more than 21,683 Instagram and Twitter photos posted by the end of the day, and, of course, increased donations.”
  • Interact With the Community: Engage with local schools by giving their journalism students a chance to write about your product, distribute samples to people that are likely to enjoy it, and host events to give your demographic an opportunity to interact with your brand.

It is always a challenge reaching your demographic, but the true magic of social media lies in its tendency to organically retain the attention of your customers. Ultimately, it is up to you to employ the proper strategies to engage your target audience and have them interact with your product.

Read the full article here in Entrepreneur

How Amazon Stays Ahead of the Game

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Amazon is no stranger to staying ahead in the tech industry, and its web services sector is no different. Amazon Web Services, or AWS, leads the online computing industry offering services at prices that no competitor will be willing to match. How did AWS manage to gain such a competitive advantage whilst keeping long-term sustainability a goal? Here are a few key points in their strategy that have helped them be successful:

  • Be an Opinion Leader: “The idea seems to be to dominate not so much by the traditional “vendor lock-in” of hooking customers on proprietary technology, but by making itself the center of the styles and habits of cloud computing.”
  • Look to the Long Term: Mr. Jassy, head of AWS, said “We’re extremely long-term oriented,” he added. “We’re trying to build a relationship with our customers that will outlast all of us in this room.”
  • Know Your Strengths: Amazon has developed some of its competitive edge by buying technology from smaller firms and applying it to their giant infrastructure.

Knowing which fields your business can improve in will help it develop core competencies that will give your company a competitive edge. AWS has understood this, and with it has built a service with which no competitor can compete. Its intelligent business tactics lend AWS access to the latest technology before it becomes available to their competitors, and securing their position at the top. Applying these tactics to your own company will help you stay ahead of your competition, and stay there.

Read the full article in the New York Times here.

Using the Latest Technology to Increase Productivity

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Part of maintaining a competitive edge in business is making sure you are keeping up to do with the latest technology. The right network and infrastructure can dramatically increase the efficiency of your employees and your company. That said, here are some infrastructure-enhancing technologies that can revolutionize the way your company does business:

  • High Performance Mobile Networks:With over half of all workers using their phones to access work-related content, it is important to have a solid phone and network that will be there when you need it.
  • Social Networking: Interact and target your audience using social media to drive sales and raise awareness for your brand.
  • Cloud Computing: Access your data anywhere with cloud computing technology. Increasing your productivity, data security, and efficiency, you should look into adopting software like Google Drive or Dropbox for your company.

Technology is core to keeping a business up to date. Adopting the technologies above will make for happier employees who are able to effectively do their job by empowering them to effectively manage their data and target your appropriate audience.

Here is the full article on Tech.co

Don Charlton Breeds a ‘Culture of Candor’

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Don Charlton is the CEO of Jazz, a recruiting software firm. Recently interviewed for Adam Bryant’s Corner Office segment, Charlton discusses the challenges of succeeding in business as a black man and how that has shaped the culture of his business. Ranging from asking very direct questions to acknowledging the dog-eat-dog nature of business, his management style is blunt and hands-on. Here are some other key points Charlton had during his interview:

  • Be Self-Aware: “So you want the candidate to recognize the aspects of themselves where they can be confident and the parts they’re going to need for them to be successful in a new company.”
  • Be Prepared for Self-Improvement: “If you failed at this job in your first 90 days, what things wouldn’t you be doing well? And what don’t you know, but know you need to know, in order to be successful at this job?”
  • Ask Others How They Got to Where They Are: “The more you know about those journeys, the more people you talk to — just asking a simple question like “How did you end up getting into this career?” — the more you’ll start to recognize when the ground under your feet is moving you in a particular direction.”
  • Be Direct: “One thing is the culture of candor. After we have a big meeting with all of our employees, I might say, ‘Hey, you know that conversation that you’re going to have over lunch or at the bar where you might say, ‘Why don’t we do such and such?’ Well, that’s the question you should ask right now.'”

This “culture of candor” conditions employees to be ready for the challenges that are brought on by the nature of business. Hammering out weaknesses before they become relevant is key to success, and we believe Charlton’s culture does just that.

Read the full article in the New York Times here.

3 Tips to Keep Your Start-Up Afloat

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Here at Voice of Reason, we are no strangers to start ups and start up culture. We see many of them rise and fall, and we know it takes much more than just hard work to really see success. Proper strategy and business will drive results within your company. Here are a few tips to ensure your business is headed in the right direction:

  • Know Your Target Market: Understand your customer and know what matters to them. Knowing what they want from your product is key to delivering what they need.
  • Have a Sound Business Model: Proper strategy for value creation and capture will ensure sustainability in your business. Dumping money into unnecessary products and services will hurt your bottom line.
  • Make Sound, Rational Decisions: It is important to be passionate and dedicated to your business, but ensure your decision making is based on hard data, and not your emotions. Too often charismatic leaders will bring their company to ruins because of ideas that should have been altered or even terminated completely.

Running your own business is one of the most challenging endeavors anyone could possibly take on, but with proper guidance, rationale, and hard work, your business will prosper. Know your customer, understand the value your business creates, and success will follow.

Click here to read the full article in Stanford Business

Unicorn – Magical, Mythical, and a Billion Dollars? Is There a Better Word?

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“Unicorn” is a term in Silicon Valley to describe a company whose net worth has exceeded one billion dollars. Meant to encompass the mystery and excitement of such an explosive venture, Aileen Lee of Cowboy Ventures developed the term to describe firms like Uber and Airbnb which at one time looked like long shots but are now valued in excess of a billion dollars. But with 117 so-called “Unicorns” in the past decade, those firms may actually not be as rare as perceived.

In a social sphere already filled with so much nonsensical jargon, is Silicon Valley simply making buzz words for fun? Probably. But for those who work with startups, interacting with a unicorn is rare enough to merit the title, as fewer than 1% of venture-backed firms end up with the label. So what do you think – is a company valued at billion dollars worth calling a unicorn or is Silicon Valley just clinging onto yet another buzzword?

Read the full article in the New York Times here.

The Price on Your Privacy

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What lengths would you go to in order to avoid having your information sold to a company? You consent to having your information used by Facebook, Hulu, and other web sites in order for them to optimize your experience. But what if a web site gets sold? Well your information now belongs to that new company and guess what: they can use it however they’d like! Many sites state that they will not sell your information to anyone. For example, Nest, an internet-connected thermostat company purchased by Google for $3.2 Billion currently states that your information is not for sale and does not sell its customer list to third person parties. However, how much can you trust the service once it gets bought?

The information being sold can be extremely valuable in targeting you as it is extremely personal. For example, a Texas-based dating company by the name of Truth.com had information on 42 million of its customers’ names, birth dates, sexual orientation, race, religion, criminal convictions, photos, videos, contact information and more. When the company was sold, the state of Texas had to intervene and stop it from using the data gathered from all of its customers as it had promised to protect customer privacy in the user agreement. Because of cases like this, companies are rushing to weaken the language protecting your privacy, and making it easier to be sold. Does a company selling your information bother you? If so, you should consider reading the Terms and agreements before you decide to give your information away.

Read the full story in The New York Times here.

The Key to Entrepreneurship: Patience and Discipline

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The New York Times’ Adam Bryant sat down with Jim Dolce, CEO of mobile security firm Lookout, to ask him about his experience in leadership, and what has led him to his success. As a seasoned entrepreneur, Dolce attributes his patience and company’s structure to his success. Here are a few key points from the interview:

  • On being patient in a fast paced environment: “It takes discipline … When you’re impatient, you attempt to get something done so that you can then, in serial fashion, go to the next thing. Instead, you have to go wide and work multiple issues at the same time and be patient on each of them.”
  • Accountability in Corporate Culture: “If we’re pushing down responsibility into the organization and empowering people to make decisions, then there has to be accountability. Otherwise, you’re just delivering the empowerment into a black hole.”
  • What He’s Learned From Being a Serial Entrepreneur: “When you’re working in a venture-funded start-up, time is of the essence. Investors get impatient. So the lesson there is that real breakthrough innovation is best achieved a step at a time. Technology is something that can be consumed in small bites. You don’t have to take a big bite all at once. “
  • What Advice Would You Give to Would-Be Entrepreneurs? “Make sure you know what you’re getting yourself into and know that this is going to be hard and there’s going to be a lot of heavy lifting and there’s going to be a lot of disappointment.”

Becoming an entrepreneur involves a lot of hard work, stress, and uncertainty. However, there are fewer things more rewarding in life than having your own business succeed. Through patience and realistic expectations, discipline and accountability, you too can find success with your firm.

For the full article on The New York Times click here.

Gain a Competitive Edge in E-Commerce by Optimizing Your Mobile Site

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With mobile transactions gaining an increasingly large share of the e-commerce pie, small business owners need to start asking themselves: how can I best accommodate mobile shoppers?

Mobile’s global average share of e-commerce is 34% and in countries like Japan and South Korea that share is over 50%. While US conversion rates from mobile shoppers are still around 2.46% compared to Japan’s 9.35%, it is still important to note that one can gain a significant competitive advantage from optimizing their mobile e-commerce suite.

Here are a few common shortcomings of small business and easy solutions:

  • Use Mobile Solutions that Make Sense: Opt for all-in-one desktop and mobile e-commerce solution with write-once-publish-everywhere capabilities that will streamline your online presence into a cohesive entity.
  • Ensure Your Site is Mobile Accessible: Avoid large images or too much information in a single page as most mobile users are still running off of the slower 3G network. 40% of users will abandon a site if doesn’t load within 3 seconds so ensure your site will load quickly to avoid losing potential customers.
  • Use Everything that Mobile Has to Offer: Mobile users give your site a lot of information when they go onto your website. Take advantage of this data by adding elements that personalize the user experience for the customer.

Recently, Google has started to give an overwhelming priority in its search engine rankings to websites that are optimized for mobile. Ensuring your site is mobile-friendly will sharpen your competitive edge and vastly improve your online presence. Don’t let your business fall behind – optimize your e-commerce site today!

Click here for the full article on GetElastic

The Satisfaction of Being Your Own Boss

With the advent of e-commerce and a recovering US economy, startups seem to be popping up everywhere. For those entrepreneurs, success is often measured in money generated or people employed, but which entrepreneurs are the ones happiest with their work? The Wall Street Journal dove in and figured out which factors most impact an entrepreneurs’ happiness:

  • Independence Doesn’t Guarantee Happiness: Just because you work for yourself doesn’t mean that you will find all of your work to be rewarding. One reason may be because your work may feel repetitive. To remedy that, you can break up your work by pursuing similar-yet-different opportunities or adding new tasks to the same job.
  • Higher Education Leads to Higher Expectations: Ivy League entrepreneurs are often less satisfied with work due to the high expectations for themselves. Be it a matter of personal performance or income, Ivy-Leaguers often expect high amounts of both which may lead them to feel disappointed in themselves.
  • Treat Every New Venture as Your First: Often times serial entrepreneurs who have had successful business believe they can repeat what they did for a previous venture and instantly be met with success. This is often not the case as markets are dynamic and as such will always be changing.
  • Why Did You Choose to be an Entrepreneur: Studies show that why you decided to become an entrepreneur will affect your happiness. Regardless of success, entrepreneurs that chose to start a business because they saw an opportunity were much happier than people that started a business out of necessity.

Starting a business can be the most exciting and life changing decision that someone can make. Being happy with your work means being more productive and leading a more fulfilling life. Being an entrepreneur is not for everyone, and is certainly not a fast track for happiness.

Read the full article here on The Wall Street Journal