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Sometimes, we throw away a perfectly reasonable idea because we think it's crap. Says cofounder and editor of magazine Annals of Improbable Research, Marc Abrahams, you might just discard an idea that could -- potentially -- heavily improve your profit margin:
There are ideas that people react to badly because the ideas aren't explained clearly or because that particular group on that particular day isn't receptive. So be tenacious. Keep lists of rejected ideas that you find intriguing, and then bring them up again. Often, in our meetings to assess Ig Nobel candidates, some nominee gets a tepid response; then two or three years later someone suggests that candidate again, and everybody decides this is the best thing they've ever seen.
Here's the Moral We usually dismiss other people's ideas because, in our mind, it's outrageous. Yet, in their mind, it's a million-dollar idea. They could as well be right. Be attentive. "Most companies could ban all new ideas and still have enough good -- but abandoned -- ones lying around to keep thriving for years," says Abrahams. "The thing to remember is that almost every breakthrough discovery or invention -- the lightbulb, antibiotics from bread mold (of all things!), the PC -- once seemed foolish."
Posted on April 10

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Remember your first job? Like most of us, you probably weren't given a lot of leeway on how to accomplish your tasks. Though you might've had better method, your boss wanted you to perform your job a certain way, in a structured manner. Too bad. The boss could've gotten more out from you if s/he had given you more control to perform the task. It's the classic, "Give a job, then get the heck out of the way" approach. If you're an entrepreneur with employees, you can't drive creativity and innovation if you don't get out of the way. People have inherent, creative abilities--nurtured from growth. Let them use it to empower your business.
Posted on April 09

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I was inspired to write this mini-post by a comment made from CliniPharma's Andras Both to Harvard Business Review: "Do what comes naturally." In other words, Do what you want! As humans, we're most productive when we're excited about the task at hand. On the contrary, when we're bored, our productivity plummets. When you want to go out for a run, go do it. Want a massage on a Friday morning? By all means: please do. When your body is telling you to relax, listen to it. Trying to force yourself to do one extra project will hurt you in the long-run. What if you're the head honcho managing a team? My off-the-wall suggestion: When you're telling somebody to do something, you're gradually slowing their productivity and your team's; instead, give your team members a choice. If you can't find people who want to do the tasks needed, get somebody who can and wants to do them. You'll save costs, improve productivity, and have a much happier work force. And remember: happy people translates to happy company, translates to a healthy bottom line.
Posted on April 09

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We're seeing over a billion internet users getting on the World Wide Web. With that many users, comes a ridicoulous amount of business-related websites, and subsequently -- lots and lots of business information. But as we get more information, does it make our generation smarter than previous ones? Not quite. Says Laurence Prusak, a Distinguished Scholar-in-Residence at Babson College: you can't replace business information with accumulating business knowledge. "Information is a message, one-dimensional and bounded by its form: a document, an image, a speech, a genome, a recipe, a symphony score....Knowledge results from the assimilation and connecting of information through experience, most often through apprenticeship or mentoring." Business learning is fine; but if you don't do, it's useless.
Posted on April 09

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[...] Building a Web 2.0 company? Start with our blueprint to building your internet startup. Ask a Question. Improve Business. [...]
Posted on April 09

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No, we're not trying to impart a rah-rah mantra here. Usually, motivational speeches like that don't work. What does work takes work on your part--not what we say to you. With that said, if you want to achieve something -- imagine yourself already in possession of it. If you want an expansion in your client base, imagine yourself already having it. If you want happier clients, imagine your business being heralded on the Wall Street Journal for client satisfaction. If you want to build the best practice in the world that serves employees, tack your company on the list of Fortune's Best Companies to work for. What about your customers? Let them imagine already experiencing the benefits of your product. Says Noah Goldstein of Influence at Work, "The implications for your business are clear. Asking potential customers to imagine themselves gaining the benefits of your goods or services can be an effective and ethical persuasion tool. However, this is likely to be the case only when the customers are likely to easily imagine such benefits." When we were kids, our parents told us to imagine the possibilities. We should've listened more closely.
Posted on April 08

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When you're trying to reach a broad base of customers--that is the "mainstream"--it's an impossible task to do so initially. Customers generally do not buy products because of the great features you have. They buy products because of who else is buying. Well, if you're just starting and no one has bought from you--how can you sell your products? Start with the "venturesome innovators." These are people who like to try new things, and will move on to the next new thing once the current product becomes adopted by the mainstream public. For example, Beanie Babies didn't become a success overnight. The brilliant marketers targeted kids from high-class communities first. They did so by selling their products at affluent toy stores. Once these "venturesome innovators" started bringing their toys to schools, it generated a buzz effect. Affluent kids began to affect those around their schools who wanted to be the "in" crowd. So how did the mainstream begin to adopt the product? McDonald's, seeing a great opportunity, decided to offer Beanie Babies as Happy Meal treats. And, as they say, the rest is history. If you want to get to the masses, start with the few.
Posted on April 08

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When we work with our clients to redesign their AdWords campaigns, one problem usually sticks out: unfocused landing pages. The biggest crime among the campaigns? Those that direct to landing pages cluttered with links to other portions of the site. Most often, it's directed to the homepage. So what's the problem with that, and how does it hurt your landing pages? Simple:
  1. "I'm overwhelmed with choices, so I'll hit the back button."
    It's a psychological phenomenon: if you're confronted with too many choices, you tend to stall yourself. You don't know which links to choose. That starts to dampen your confidence, and you'll likely hit the back button.
  2. "I was looking for specific information. This isn't what I had in mind."
    People who use search engines seek specific phrases. It's a big world out there, with a billion links to choose. Your average user is starting to get more web-savvy, and the majority of them aren't typing in key phrases to look for general information. They want specific information, right now, and -- with no clutter attached.
Here's how to write an effective landing page:
  1. Be focused. Focus on one desired action only. Whether you want your user to sign-up for a newsletter, download a pdf, or sell a particular product -- focus your page entirely on one desired, intended, action. It keeps your visitors from going elsewhere -- increasing the chances of you trying to convert your users. Don't clutter your landing pages with a navigational bar, an about us link, or any other links that will dampen your chances of conversion.
  2. Personalize the landing page. Users are usually searching for one specific item. When creating your marketing ad campaigns, aim specific keyword terms to specific landing pages. Suit visitors to the fullest extent possible. You want your visitors to enter the landing page, thinking, "This is just the thing I've been looking for..."
  3. Testimonals! People primarily don't buy products or use services because of what features they have. People buy products because of who else is using them. It's called the "running with the herd" effect, when people don't have enough information to rely upon. Because others have bought your product, it's a good indicator of how good your product really is. Testimonials on your landing pages is an absolute must -- that is, if you can get them from your previous customers.
  4. Be genuine. No superlatives on landing pages. Our product is the BEST in the WORLD! Did that make you want to run away? Most people will hit the back button if it seems you're trying to "sell" the person your product. It's better to be truthful. Once you do that, your visitors will be more open to your pitch.
  5. Provide value. Sure, you probably want to keep your biggest secrets within what you're selling. But, from our experience, it's much better to provide value first. One, it demonstrates your credibility. Two, you're reaching out and building a relationship with your visitor. Third, and importantly, it gives visitors a glimpse of the goodies you have inside.
  6. Test, test, test your landing pages. Here's a great tip. On your Google AdWords campaign, or whatever else you may use, create two landing pages--but using the same ad entrance copy. Which ones are converting more users on a consistent basis? Good. Now, take the top performer, and test it against a new ad copy. Done? It's a continuous, infinite, never-ending process.
  7. Add other offers at the end of your conversion. We sure you'd love to offer other products or services, so we won't disappoint you. The perfect, prime, place to add your additional offers is at the "Thank You" message -- after you've converted your visitor from your landing page.
Posted on April 07

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When you're just starting your business, you most likely lack the fund necessary to attract world-class talent. If building a business then begins with getting the best people on your bus, how then do you build a startup business? Simple: look for potential. That is, look for the "quiet, yet-to-be-discovered stars." One, they won't break your bank account. Two, it's likely you'll get much better bank-for-your-buck. And most importantly, three, you'll find enthusiastic stars who are motivated to show the world what they can contribute. Says Bohdan Associates's Peter Zacharkiw, "I never hired experienced people, and there are very few college graduates here. My vice president of sales was the best curb painter around -- but that's the secret. He'll always be the best at what he does. Personality and common sense are the most important things that people here have." When you're looking to hire hidden stars, get those who seek excellence in everything they do. Once you can fill up as many of these people in your your startup business, you're company will be destined for great potential ahead.
Posted on April 06

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I hear a lot about business culture, but does it really affect your business? According to Heidrick & Struggles's Thomas Kell and Gregory T. Carrott, culture does affect the leadership in your company: "Corporate cultures -- and not just the strong ones -- influence employees' leadership styles more than any other aspect of their jobs, according to our recent analysis of thousands of executive assessments for more than 100 corporations." Say you were born in America but live and work in South America. According to Kell and Carrott, you're more likely to exhibit leadership styles of South American leaders than you would from your birth country. If you're just starting your business, it's important to cultivate the business culture early. If you don't, it will be a monumental task to change that business culture once you grow larger as people will already adopt the culture set in place. (Culture clashes is the main reason why most mergers don't work.)
Posted on April 05

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