4 Best Investments To Make In 2018

It’s the dawning of a new year and you finally have some money to invest. Perhaps you just got a raise. Or, maybe an end-of-year bonus is burning a hole in your pocket. Either way, you need to be smart about investing if you want those extra dollars to count.

The problem is, you have no clue where to invest your cash. While you’re aware of the myriad investing options available, the sheer number of possibilities is overwhelming.

In the investing world, this is called “paralysis by analysis.” You spend so much time analyzing your options that you wind up putting it off and never investing at all. And eventually, the extra cash you set aside gets consumed by bills or unexpected expenses. In other words, life happens.

4 Investments You Should Absolutely Make in 2018

If you want to make sure your extra cash doesn’t disappear, you need to invest it right away. A certain amount of analysis is fine if it helps you find the right investment options for your goals, but you still need to act fast.

With that in mind, I wanted to share what I believe are the four best ways to invest your excess funds in 2018.

#1: The Stock Market

While “invest in the stock market” is some of the most basic advice you’ll ever read, please hear me out on this one. While everyone knows that investing in the stock market has historically paid off, there are far too many people who don’t trust the financial markets and choose to sit on the sidelines altogether.

Then there are people who think the stock market is so overvalued right now that they would be crazy to jump in. But, here’s the thing: Nobody is telling you to pour every extra cent you have into stocks. Instead, I’m suggesting you invest small sums of money over time using a method called “dollar cost averaging.”

Dollar cost averaging requires us to trickle our money into investments over any length of time. It could be 12 months. It would be 18 months. Heck, it could be five years.

Colorado financial advisor David Henderson of Jenkins Wealth goes further to explain how dollar cost averaging works: “When the market is high, you buy fewer shares and when the market is low you buy more shares,” he says. This means that, over time, you will have a lower average share price using this method. Obviously, it’s easy to see why this would be beneficial.

Now that we’ve talked about the importance of investing in the stock market, let’s talk about exactly where to invest your money. What are the best tools and vehicles we can use?

This is yet another situation where the options are overwhelming. Still, I typically suggest people get their feet wet with mutual funds or ETFs.

If you have a financial advisor working on your behalf, they may be able to weed out the well-performing actively managed mutual funds from the ones that aren’t doing so great. Otherwise, you can invest in index funds, which are not actively managed but have a long history of solid returns.

If you have a brokerage account already, then you may want to stick with it. Otherwise, you’ll need to find a new place to help you invest your funds. One company I always suggest is Betterment. With Betterment, your money can be invested in ETFs and they don’t charge a fee for managing these for you. Plus, they actually pick the ETFs you invest in based on your appetite for risk, investing goals, and other factors.

What does that mean? That means that you can invest your hard-earned money, then sit back and enjoy the returns and let them do the hard work.

If you want to have more control on your investments, online brokerage firms like Ally Financial, TD Ameritrade and E-Trade make it easy to stay in charge with low fees and easy-to-use platforms.  Plus, there are a multitude of other “robo-advisors” to choose from.

As a final note, there’s one more simple way to invest in the stock market with even less effort – boosting how much you contribute to your work-sponsored retirement account. Arizona financial planner Charles C. Scott says this may be your best option yet – especially if you’re not contributing enough to get a match from your employer.

“Every dollar you contribute could get a dollar match,” says Scott. “That’s a 100% return on your investment.”

If you’re not making the most of your 401(k) or contributing enough to get a match, then you’re probably best starting there.

#2: Peer-to-Peer Lending

A second place to stash some of your excess cash this year is in peer-to-peer lending platforms like Lending Club and Prosper. With these companies, you’re able to loan money to individuals in small increments as if you were the bank. The best part is, you get to earn a pretty decent rate of return – usually upward of 6% or more.

As an investor in peer-to-peer lending, you’re investing in other people and their goals. It’s comforting knowing you aren’t lending people you don’t know large sums of money. Instead, the money you invest is split up into increments as small as $25 over hundreds or even thousands of loans.

While it may seem strange to hear a financial advisor suggest people invest in peer-to-peer lending, I’m not the only one who sees the value in these platforms. Kansas City Financial Advisor Clint Haynes told me he supports peer-to-peer lending as an alternative to the stock market for a few reasons. First, these companies make it easy to sign up and get started. Second, your rate of return can range from 5 – 7 percent for safer loans and even more for riskier loans. Last but not least, you can typically open a new account with as little as $1,000.

#3: Real Estate

In addition to the stock market and peer-to-peer lending websites, a third investment strategy to consider this year is real estate. The thing is, I’m not suggesting everyone run out and buy an investment property. After all, not everyone is cut out to be a landlord.

I’m certainly not. I tried investing in physical real estate seven years ago and almost lost my shirt. I learned a lot of lessons from my foray into becoming a landlord, the biggest of which was that I don’t need that kind of stress in my life.

Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to invest in real estate without dealing with a physical property. One option to consider is investing in real estate notes. I got started investing into real estate notes because a really good friend of mine was crushing it with real estate and offering his friends the chance to invest.

He would buy a pool of real estate properties, and then investors like myself would invest money into his project. From there, he would manage the properties and pay me a dividend or interest off that money. For me, this has been an attractive way to invest money without having to be a landlord or deal with tenants.

Obviously, there is a ton of risk in a situation like this. You have to have a lot of trust to invest in real estate notes offered by an individual.

The good news is, there are other ways to invest in real estate outside of real estate notes. One option I’m really excited about is a company called Fundrise. Fundrise offers an investing scenario similar to the one above. They buy commercial properties and allow investors to invest small sums of money. Obviously, this is yet another hands-off investment. You may own part of a commercial real estate project, but you don’t even see or deal with the property itself.

Like Lending Club, Fundrise requires an upfront sum of around $1,000 to get started. Once you invest, however, Fundrise mostly lets you “set it and forget it.” Even better, you may receive a pretty hefty rate of return through this platform. On the company website, Fundrise claims its returns have averaged between 8.76% up to 12.42% over the last five years. Not too shabby.

Obviously, there is risk investing in a platform like this one, too. First off, the company is newer so it doesn’t have decades of data to share. Second, you’re letting a third party choose buildings and investments on your behalf, which means you’ve given up all control.

Regardless, I think it’s pretty cool that technology has allowed investors to get access to commercial properties in a way we haven’t been able to in the past.

 

You can read the full article when you follow this link to Forbes- https://www.forbes.com/sites/jrose/2018/01/05/best-investments-to-make/#20fe8734b72b.

 

5 Tactics Leaders With Industry Influence Use To Build Their Brand

Ever been the last kid picked for dodgeball? You know the feeling: You’re standing in line against the wall, and it’s down between you and one other kid. You hope and pray you’ll be picked, but no — the other kid gets chosen instead.

That sense of defeat is universal.

It’s the same feeling I had at one of the first conferences I attended early in my career. I was at a networking session, and I thought that surely, based on my sales and real estate experience, I’d do well connecting with other people.

But that didn’t happen. I kept getting dismissed not by just one or two people — but by literally everyone. I couldn’t connect with people if my life depended on it. Suddenly, I felt the gym wall of my middle school against my back, and the fear of not being acknowledged or accepted hit me like a dodgeball in the gut.

Although I felt alone at the time, I realized I wasn’t at all. In fact, I’m sure that as you were reading this, you were recalling a few times you felt that gym wall against your back, too, when you were overlooked for someone more favorable or influential.

While it’s easy to let that feeling take hold and never let go, you can’t let it. Instead, figure out what you can do differently. Because, as I learned, the success of your company more than likely depends on your ability to do that and build influence with your audience(especially if influencer marketing is a strategy you’re interested in).

The original article was found at the following link- https://www.forbes.com/sites/johnhall/2017/01/29/5-tactics-leaders-with-industry-influence-use-to-build-their-brand/#22b776014cc5

7 Essential Habits of a Healthy Entrepreneur

habits of a healthy entrepreneur

So there I was, exhausted at the end of a long work day, frustrated by a particularly stressful drive home and contemplating pouring a stiff bourbon and withering away on the couch for a couple hours.

Then something happened.

My habits took over.

You see, I had “programmed” the habit of exercising every day at 6 p.m. into my brain.

And once the clock struck six, it was as if a magical pumpkin whisked me into my closet to grab my workout gear and head downstairs to burn off some steam.

Turns out entrepreneurship and taking care of your health are quite synonymous.

A big part of that is because both require habitual actions. And according to Charles Duhigg, author of The Power of Habit, these habits comprise 40 percent or more of the daily decisions we make.

Here are seven things entrepreneurs can do to stay on top of their business AND their health.

1. Learn something new every day. Healthy entrepreneurs are lifelong dreamers. They work hard, play hard and think harder. They love to read, listen to audio books and absorb as much knowledge as they possibly can. Not only do they educate themselves about topics relevant to growing their business, they also seek knowledge about what it takes to be healthy. They know healthy behaviors have a direct impact on their business.

2. Set goals and create systems to achieve your goals. Healthy entrepreneurs These folks also understand that knowledge without application is the quickest path to failure. They go beyond learning — they apply. Because they realize the day-to-day journey and seemingly tiny steps are the only ways to achieve their end goal.

Related: Forget Setting Goals. Focus on This Instead.

3. Spend your “downtime” wisely. The average person spends around 3 hours a daywatching TV. Don’t be that person. To stay healthy, focus on staying busy building your business, taking care of yourself and your family and trying to change the world. One recommendation is to meditate or take time to write down your goals.

4. Make exercise a priority. A healthy body will help cultivate a healthy mind. Yet the CDC says 80 percent of adults don’t get the recommended amount of exercise. The Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans say that adults should get 2.5 hours a week or more of moderate-intensity aerobic activity and two strength training sessions per week. Even if you’re crazy busy, find 10 minutes here and there. It will help with alleviate stress and get those endorphins pumped up to take on startup challenges.

5. Eat less junk food. Think of food as fuel: The higher quality fuel you put in your tank, the better you’ll perform. You don’t need to diet or cut foods out to eat healthy either. Just eat more real food — stuff that comes from nature — instead of processed junk and fast food. By doing so, you could help improve your energy endurance (no sugar crashes) and mood, among other benefits.

Related: A Healthy Work/Life Balance Is No Unicorn

6. Sleep more. All entrepreneurs experience the grind of late nights, early morning meetings and last-minute deadlines. But healthy entrepreneurs know that sleep is vital to their success. Whether you rise early and tackle your important projects first thing in the morning or you’re a night owl, find a consistent sleep routine and stick to it. And never underestimate the power of a good power nap to recharge your brain.

7. Create balance in your life. Healthy entrepreneurs treat health as a lifestyle. You can’t put a Band-Aid on a bad business plan, just like you can’t eat healthy for a week and expect to lose weight. Successful entrepreneurs wholeheartedly embrace healthy living: They work smarter, not harder.

Entrepreneurship and health go hand-in-hand. Each will teach you valuable lessons about the other.

Aside from family, friends, and relationships, there are few things more important in your life than your health and your career. When you passionately pursue both of these things you can experience a longer, more fulfilling life.

You can check out the full article when you follow this link- https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/231607

9 Steps to Jumpstart Your Lead Generation in 2018

I’m a believer in inbound marketing because when executed properly it will generate leads, acquire customers, and turn up customer engagement. Beyond that, it’s a methodology you can tailor, to some extent, to fit your size. You don’t need to spin up a new marketing arm of your company to get started.

But, it’s that whole getting started part that so many companies have a problem with. They don’t know where to start, how to start, and get stuck in any number of spots. They worry if they’re targeting the right audience, promoting on the right social networks, or doing SEO correctly. All valid concerns that can lead to inaction.

If you’re looking to start doing inbound marketing or to jumpstart your lead generation, there are nine key steps you should follow. It’s the same process we following when we start working with new clients, or when we launch a new campaign. We call it an Inbound Growth Plan. In this article I’ll lay out all of the steps, tell you what you can learn, and how to use those insights to jumpstart your lead generation.

1. Website Audit

A website audit is an exhaustive crawl of your site to find anything that might be wrong with it, and to identify potential improvements. Website audits look at the following:

  • Missing pages.
  • Missing meta descriptions.
  • Broken links.
  • Issues with content.
  • Issues with images.
  • Speed and other performance issues.
  • Security of the site.

Pro Tip: We also take a look at keyword usage on the site to inform the keyword research step in this process. We look for which keywords are used and if they’re used consistently in headers, content, and meta descriptions.

Once you’ve audited your website, you’ll have a to-do list of problems to fix and optimizations to try. These might be simple fixes such as adding header text to pages, or more complex performance related issues that require more analysis and optimization. Remember, your website is your public face to the world, so invest the time and effort into fixing any problems! In the end, your site should be clean, uncluttered, and deliver a focused message that will drive visitors to become leads, and leads to become customers.

Pro Tip: Get those fixes done, but, be aware, you’re not done with your website. The other steps in this process may guide additional restructuring and SEO optimizations!

 

Don’t have time to do this yourself? Have use do it for you with an Inbound Growth Plan and get Buyer Personas and a 12-month content plan to supercharge your lead generation!

Get Personas and a 12-Month Content Plan

 

2. Content Audit

A content audit looks at the content published on your site pages, on your blog, and on your social media channels. The goal is to identify topics and categories of content, see how your audience has responded, and to determine how your content is helping you meet business goals. This audit should examine the following:

  • Messaging consistency, about your brand, products, and services.
  • Topics covered in relation to business goals.
  • Keywords and hashtags use and consistency.
  • Social engagement, mentions, and other metrics.
  • Traffic, leads, and customers generated.

You should be seeking to discover what topics you’re audience engages with the most, and which content they consume the most such as blog posts, infographics, or videos. Taking it a step further, you should see what content has generated the most leads and customers.

Pro Tip: This is a great time to locate and fix problems on your social media channels like profiles incompletely or inconsistently filled out, issues with cross-channel promotion of content, and inconsistent keyword use. The data you collect should also tell you which days and times you get the most engagement on each social platform.

3. Keyword Research

Keyword research should focus on two things, discovering the best keywords for your business, and make sure they are properly used on your website, social channels, and in content. While SEO is evolving, keywords still are essential for website and content SEO. Keywords are how people that are searching for companies, products, and services, find yours.

Your keyword research should identify keywords you use now, as well as keywords commonly used in your industry, local area, and by competitors. From this list, you can select the best keywords for you. Keywords that are relevant and widely used, but that illuminate the unique value a business offers. Once you’ve determined the best keywords, you can start using them on your website, social profiles, and content. That, in turn, will help search engines and people and find your business wherever it is online.

Pro Tip: We also look at content organization. SEO has evolved and content clusters designed around pillar pages have become a better way to organize for SEO. An audit is a great time to make changes to how content is organized on your site to optimize for SEO and to make sure the site design works well for inbound marketing.

4. Competitor Research

To be well informed about your market, and how to differentiate yourself, you have to look at what your competitors are doing. You can discover their:

  • Keywords (there are even articles written about how to steal your competitor’s keywords)!
  • Social channels and promotion strategies.
  • Content topics, posting time, and online engagement with their audience.
  • Positioning and messaging.

Looking at how your competitors are positioning their products and services, can help you refine your content strategy. You might choose to target an underserved audience segment, or promote a specific service or value that differentiates your brand.

Pro Tip: You can use tools to discover what promotional channels your competitors are using when they’re posting online, and what engagement they’re getting. This can give you a big advantage when starting, or jumpstarting inbound marketing. You can steal strategies that are working well, avoid strategies that aren’t, and identify potential underserved channels or audiences that may present opportunities.

5. Define Your Goals 

At this point, you’ve got a lot of information and it’s time to put it to use. Take the data you’ve collected and use it to help create marketing goals. Marketing goals should not be getting more likes and follows. Instead, focus your marketing on helping achieve other goals set for your company in the coming year such as growing revenue, increasing sales to a specific market segment, or penetrating a new market segment.

The goals should also be SMART goals. That is to say, they should be:

  • Specific because discrete goals are easier to understand and focus on.
  • Measurable so that you can track key performance indicators (KPIs) to see if you’re on track and adjust course if need be to hit the goals.
  • Attainable so that your team has a realistic chance of hitting the goals.
  • Relevant to those business goals so that your digital marketing efforts are meaningful to your business.
  • Time-bound so that there’s a defined period that you have to achieve the goal.

Making sure the goals you define have these qualities will help ensure the goals are meaningful to your business, will help your team focus on execution, and make tracking performance toward achieving the goal much easier. You can even download a template to make SMART goal setting easier.

Pro Tip: You may think that defining your goals should be the first step, but we’ve found this is the best time to set goals for two reasons:

  • After discovering all of the information from audits and research, your marketing goals may change based on opportunities you discover.
  • Depending on what state your digital marketing is in, you may not have a clear idea as to what is achievable and what is not until the audits and research are completed.

6. Build or Refine Your Buyer Personas

Continuing to put the information you’ve learned to use, now in conjunction with the goals you’ve defined, it’s time to create or refine your buyer personas. Buyer personas are detailed portraits of your ideal customer or customers that can be used by marketing staff to create relevant content for prospects at all stages of their buyer’s journey. Buyer personas can also be used by sales staff to personalize outreach.

We’re not going to cover the fundamentals of creating buyer personas here. Suffice it to say that having buyer persona’s is a must because it gets your marketing and sales teams on the same page, and focuses content, engagement, and outreach so that your messages are reaching and resonating with the people most likely to buy your products and services. All the data you’ve collected during this process, helps you create new or update existing personas based on the current state of your marketing, industry, and goals.

Pro Tip. If you already have buyer personas defined, review them before doing the audits and research. As you do the research, score content topics, and keywords used by you and your competitors to see how well you’ve been engaging your target audience and to find ways to improve. That may also help you identify new or niche segments that might be interested in your products or services.

 

Want to know how to build buyer personas the right way? Get our free ebook: The Essential Guide to Creating Buyer Personas.

Get the Guide to Creating Buyer Personas Ebook

 

7. Develop a Content Plan

Remember that inbound marketing is not about content for the sake of content, inbound marketing is about getting results. Your content should not only drive traffic to your website but should be driving engagement by getting your prospects to download content offers by giving you their contact information.

Your content plan should start by defining great content offers to create ebooks, whitepapers, strategy guides, checklists and so forth. This is your gated content. Content offers should be deep and detailed, going beyond what you’d normally publish on your blog. They should be valuable enough to your target audience that they’re willing to share their contact information to get it.

Once you’ve defined your content offers, plan blog posts and other content with topics related to each offer. To bring visitors in, publish your content to your blog, and surround that content with calls-to-action that lead to landing pages where visitors can opt-in to your content offers.

Pro Tip: To develop content offers and content, think of questions your target audience has, and use your content to answer those questions. Take each different stage of the buyer’s journey into consideration so that your content helps visitors define their problem, consider different solutions, and finally make the decision to buy. We recommend creating two content offers per quarter at a minimum, one larger and detailed such as an ebook or whitepaper, and one smaller like a checklist, or how-to guide. Depending on your target audience, plan to create one or two pieces of content per week for the quarter to drive awareness of the issues related to your content offer.

 

Want to know how to get more conversions from your content offers? Download our free strategy guide: 50 Conversion Optimization Tips.

Get 50 Conversion Optimization Tips

 

8. Define Your Promotion Strategy

The audits and research that informed your personas should give you a good idea where your ideal customers are hanging out online. Those are the social networks, forums, and other online locations where you need to publish and promote your content. You should promote your content across all your channels to make sure you reach your potential customers wherever they may be. More than that, you need to promote each piece of content several times a month.

You need to mix your content with content curated from other sources. That will attract more prospects to your social channels as they will start seeing your company as a thought leader in the industry. At that point, prospects start seeing your channels and your blog as a valuable resource for awareness and education. They’ll keep coming back for more, and begin sharing your content, and content you curate.

Pro Tip: When a piece of content if first published, promote it frequently on all channels for the first few days, then put it into your content mix so that it gets promoted again on each channel a few times a month. Since you’re creating clusters of content around specific topics, find opportunities in the content you create to link to other content you’ve created in a context-appropriate way. For any piece of content of yours that receives a high number of likes or shares, consider using paid promotion on your social channels to increase reach.

9: Create an Editorial Calendar and Stick To It

A content editorial calendar puts your content promotion strategy down on paper (digitally speaking). It documents what content is being created, when it’s due, what channels it will be published on and when. Editorial calendars provide the day-to-day plan for promoting your content and are essential for keeping the content strategy portion of your inbound marketing on track.

Pro Tip: There are lots of fee-based editorial calendars out there from CoSchedule to DivvyHQ (which we use). There are a lot of benefits to these paid editorial calendar tools, but, if you don’t want to pay for one, you don’t have to. A spreadsheet will work to get started, or you can download editorial calendar templates for free.

Don’t Wait – Get Started Now!

If you want to start, want to restart, or improve how your website is generating leads, acquiring customers, and engaging clients using inbound marketing, this nine-step process is where you should begin. This process and the follow-on work take time, so the sooner you begin, the sooner you’ll see results.

 

 

Get an Inbound Growth Plan

 

CarverTC Hubspot partner agency in Portland Oregon. We specialize in lead generation, customer acquisition, client engagement, and competitive advantage for technology companies.  

 

Topics: keyword auditcontent marketingseoInbound Marketinglead generation

The Value of Influencer Marketing

If you read a lot of business books then you have most likely read Influencer Marketing.

Chances are, you’ve even attended a webinar or two that discussed this trend. The focus taken from marketing to influential people within the industry changes the game.

What is it that raises the value of this type of marketing? Does this type of marketing have a real advantage over another type?

This article is going to discuss influencer marketing, what it is, and why it’s invaluable to the marketplace.

What is Influencer Marketing?

Ok.

I get it. This term threw you for a loop. It’s unusual to hear about a trend that focuses on people rather than tactics. It’s actually quite interesting.

Consider that individuals have some influence over potential buyers and their ultimate decision to make a purchase.

This is the true definition of influencer marketing.

It’s all about the focus on influential people that get others to make a decision based upon what they believe to be true.

Can you think of a time when you bought something all because something you saw influenced you to do so?

We see ads and such that influence us every single day. It’s not unusual to make a decision based upon an ad that you saw.

What about a TV commercial?

This is what an influencer does. Something that they wrote, said, or shared with you helped you make a decision.

What about a celebrity that you like, promoting something that you have seen or considered purchasing?

It’s easier if you think the celebrity likes it or uses it. They make it believable. This is what influences people most of the time.

If you were to use an influencer, you could very well use this approach to encourage someone to buy from you.

Right?

This is a combination of old and new marketing tools put together. What one “important” person says can influence another.

If you believe that someone is important, you are more likely to listen to what they tell you.

If someone who has influence tells you that something is good for you, or that you should have it, you’re more likely to purchase it.

Right?

Here are the highlights  of what makes influencer marketing what it is today.

  1. Identify key people that can impact your buying decisions.
  2. Researching the key people or things that attract attention.
  3. Engaging with high-impact people.
  4. Supporting those who have high-impact influence and pull in your field.

Influencer marketing is taking on a new meaning, and it’s taking on a newer shape and way of being promoted.

However, the idea that someone of influence can help you sell more stuff isn’t a new idea.

Right now, it’s all about how you can partner up with someone who has influence, and how effective you can be with them.

It’s not a bad idea.

In fact, it’s a great idea. However, what most folks ask me is how they can get someone of influence to help them.

It isn’t always that easy.

How You Can Implement Influencer Marketing on a Small Scale

There’s no doubt that it takes time to build the level of influence that you are looking for.

Regardless of how well-known you are, you can still become a well-known person in the future.

Starting on a small scale will ultimately get you to stretch your wings. What are you willing to do to become a person of influence?

If you don’t know a celebrity, why not start in your hometown? Who is well-known where you live?

Utilize those opportunities often, if possible. Seek out people, and you’ll realize that you’ll have to speak up.

Success won’t come find you, you’ll have to work for it. Don’t assume that anyone is going to take part in what you are doing just because it’s good.

Find those influential folks around you, within your inner circle or hometown that align with your goals.

Finding those professionals that align with your goals, will aid in a more successful journey inside “influencer marketing”.

 

26 Health and Fitness Products That Our Editors Can’t Live Without

habits of a healthy entrepreneur

Bring on the May flowers! This month, we’re celebrating warmer weather, fresh breezes, and flower blossoms with these Spring essentials that make outdoor workouts, eating healthy, and self-care that much easier.

1

Fitbit Versa

“I love when people ask me, ‘Is that a Fitbit?!’ On top of having an elevated look that rivals the Apple Watch and nearly all of the beloved features of the Fitbit Ionic, the Fitbit Versa ($200) is much more affordable than its competition. I also love the fact that it’s water-resistant and lightweight. Aside from times I have to charge it (every five days or so), I haven’t taken my Versa off since getting it!” — Nicole Yi, assistant editor, Fitness.

2

Calia Bikini

“I was in the market for a sporty two-piece that still looked cute, and I found this bathing suit from Calia. The brand sells pieces separately, so it makes it easier to get the perfect fit. This Solid Ladder Back Swim Top ($45) has a unique strappy design in the back, and I love the racerback style that ensures the shoulder straps stay put. The front has a slight V-neck with flattering gathering to add a feminine touch, but it totally keeps my girls covered. The matching Side Strap Boy Short Swim Bottoms ($40) cover your tush completely, and I love that the waist is slightly high. The fabric feels durable yet stretchy — like a good pair of black leggings. This suit is perfect for both swimming laps and relaxing in the sun.” — Jenny Sugar, staff writer, Fitness.

3

Studio43 Wireless Headphones

“I use these wireless headphones ($139) every single day — both at my desk and at the gym. I love the comfortable pads around my ears, which allows me to wear them for hours without getting a headache. And they hold up really well if I have a particularly sweaty session at the gym!” — Gina Florio, editor, Fitness

Studio43 Wireless Headphones

4

Reebok High-Waisted Mesh Legging

“Say hello to my new favorite leggings! The supersoft Reebok high-waisted mesh legging ($65) is everything I want in a workout pant. They’re stylish, moisture-wicking, and have just enough compression without making me feel like I can’t breathe. What I love most is the high waist — it hits my body at the perfect spot and doesn’t cause any irritation when I am bent over during SoulCycle or upside down in Downward Dog.” — Michele Foley, director, Fitness

5

Robyn Hemp Oil

“To be honest, I never ever thought I would actually be a fan of CBD. This is the only oil I’ve tried, and I love it. Robyn ($100) was created to bring you back to a state of balance no matter what emotional state you’re in. I use it after strenuous workouts, to help focus at work, and before going to bed, and I have no complaints. It’s simply amazing, but I’ll let you try it for yourself.” — Tamara Pridgett, assistant editor, Fitness

6

Madewell the Transport Leather Tote

“I love the Madewell Transport Tote ($168) as a big, everyday tote: it fits all my work essentials and is big enough to hold my laptop when I need to transport it to and from the office. But the biggest perk of this bag is that it holds all my workout clothes, sneakers, makeup, and other post-gym necessities. If I have a workout class after work, I can throw all my gym gear in the tote and easily carry it to work, all without having to lug around my giant gym bag.” — Christina Stiehl, assistant editor, Fitness

NOTE: This article was originally published on www.popsugar.com. You can read the full article at this link-https://www.popsugar.com/fitness/Best-Fitness-Products-May-2018-44791769.

 

5 Steps to Strategically Reboot Your Brand’s Content Marketing

content marketing

Content is a brand’s currency to demonstrate relevance and, with emerging channels and interfaces like chat and voice, it’s bringing brands closer to their customers. But to succeed, company-driven content needs a more strategic approach that rebuilds a brand’s foundational and experiential elements.

Here’s the formula to strategically evolve your brand communication:

1. Rearticulate your brand story

Your brand story is the emotional narrative that expresses the vision and purpose of your organization. Adapted for different stakeholders, this story shapes understanding of your mission and value proposition.

There’s no better place to express it than on your About Us page. More than half of the 100-plus pages we examined were under-leveraging this 24-7 canvas.

The good examples range from the mission-driven Patagonia to the surprisingly unconventional General Motors.

2. Define your verbal strategy

Most marketers know they need a visual strategy, but few apply the same rigor for a verbal strategy, detailing these key components: Some key components you should build:

Messaging themes

The biggest ideas driving the brand are converted into actionable guidance for marketers and communicators. With proof points, copy blocks, and usage considerations, messaging flexes across touchpoints, channels, and content – while equipping you to tell a cohesive story that helps audiences understand who you are and what to expect.

Brand voice

Messaging is what you say, voice is how you say it. Voice also can modulate for different channels and subject matters – e.g., imagine how an insurance company’s voice might shift talking about the loss of a spouse versus talking about routine billing. A consistent voiceshould be applied across touchpoints and experiences from marketing to customer service. And yes, that includes call center scripts.

Naming and nomenclature

Naming companies and offerings to support your value proposition and business strategy is the first step. Next, you need to create naming logic across your portfolio to drive understanding and clarity. Sophisticated marketers also consider web navigation and audience experiences across the business’s offerings.

Portfolio thread

Storytelling is often done in silos at the business unit or market level. In a transparent, digital world, evolved companies can’t isolate its piece. Verbal decisions and cues, along with an integrated story, ensure that all units are valuable parts of a whole.

3. Engage through signature content opportunities

Certain content experiences can have a disproportionately powerful impact for key brand messaging. Here are three of the most effective:

Signature stories

Coined by Prophet’s David Aaker, these brand stories convey strategic messaging through an emotive, narrative form. Whether it’s a founder story like Blake Mycoskie’s at TOMS or customer stories like Skype and AirBnB have done, signature stories have a tension or surprise, characters who connect, and a punchy problem, solution, or outcome.

Thought leadership

This content establishes an authority on a set of thought-provoking topics through research and a deep understanding of your customers, their needs, and the overall market. But it doesn’t need to be just white papers and webinars. Goldman Sachs’ Drones: Reporting for Work has a highly interactive format.

The original article can be found at this link-https://contentmarketinginstitute.com/2018/04/brands-content-marketing/.

Managers Can’t Be Great Coaches All by Themselves

how entrepreneurs should approach daily business

In a utopian corporate world, managers lavish a constant stream of feedback on their direct reports. This is necessary, the thinking goes, because organizations and responsibilities are changing rapidly, requiring employees to constantly upgrade their skills. Indeed, the desire for frequent discussions about development is one reason many companies are moving away from annual performance reviews: A yearly conversation isn’t enough.

OVADIA BENISHU

In the real world, though, constant coaching is rare. Managers face too many demands and too much time pressure, and working with subordinates to develop skills tends to slip to the bottom of the to-do list. One survey of HR leaders found that they expect managers to spend 36% of their time developing subordinates, but a survey of managers showed that the actual amount averages just 9%—and even that may sound unrealistically high to many direct reports.

It turns out that 9% shouldn’t be alarming, however, because when it comes to coaching, more isn’t necessarily better.

To understand how managers can do a better job of providing the coaching and development up-and-coming talent needs, researchers at Gartner surveyed 7,300 employees and managers across a variety of industries; they followed up by interviewing more than 100 HR executives and surveying another 225. Their focus: What are the best managers doing to develop employees in today’s busy work environment?

After coding 90 variables, the researchers identified four distinct coaching profiles:

Teacher Managers coach employees on the basis of their own knowledge and experience, providing advice-oriented feedback and personally directing development. Many have expertise in technical fields and spent years as individual contributors before working their way into managerial roles.

Always-on Managers provide continual coaching, stay on top of employees’ development, and give feedback across a range of skills. Their behaviors closely align with what HR professionals typically idealize. These managers may appear to be the most dedicated of the four types to upgrading their employees’ skills—they treat it as a daily part of their job.

Connector Managers give targeted feedback in their areas of expertise; otherwise, they connect employees with others on the team or elsewhere in the organization who are better suited to the task. They spend more time than the other three types assessing the skills, needs, and interests of their employees, and they recognize that many skills are best taught by people other than themselves.

Cheerleader Managers take a hands-off approach, delivering positive feedback and putting employees in charge of their own development. They are available and supportive, but they aren’t as proactive as the other types of managers when it comes to developing employees’ skills.

The four types are more or less evenly distributed within organizations, regardless of industry. The most common type, Cheerleaders, accounts for 29% of managers, while the least common, Teachers, accounts for 22%. The revelations in the research relate not to the prevalence of the various styles but to the impact each has on employee performance.

The first surprise: Whether a manager spends 36% or 9% of her time on employee development doesn’t seem to matter. “There is very little correlation between time spent coaching and employee performance,” says Jaime Roca, one of Gartner’s practice leaders for human resources. “It’s less about the quantity and more about the quality.”

The second surprise: Those hypervigilant Always-on Managers are doing more harm than good. “We thought that category would perform the best, so this really surprised us,” Roca says. In fact, employees coached by Always-on Managers performed worse than those coached by the other types—and were the only category whose performance diminished as a result of coaching.

The researchers identified three main reasons for Always-on Managers’ negative effect on performance. First, although these managers believe that more coaching is better, the continual stream of feedback they offer can be overwhelming and detrimental. (The Gartner team compares them to so-called helicopter parents, whose close oversight hampers children’s ability to develop independence.) Second, because they spend less time assessing what skills employees need to upgrade, they tend to coach on topics that are less relevant to employees’ real needs. Third, they are so focused on personally coaching their employees that they often fail to recognize the limits of their own expertise, so they may try to teach skills they haven’t sufficiently mastered themselves. “That last one is a killer—the manager doesn’t actually know the solution to whatever the problem is, and he’s essentially winging it and providing misguided information,” Roca says.

When the researchers dove deep into the connection between coaching style and employee performance, they found a clear winner: Connectors. The employees of these managers are three times as likely as subordinates of the other types to be high performers.

To understand how Connectors work, consider this analogy from the world of sports: A professional tennis player’s coach may be the most important voice guiding the player’s development, but she may bring in other experts—for strength training, nutrition, and specialized skills such as serves, lobs, and backhands—instead of trying to teach everything herself. Despite this outsourcing, the coach remains deeply involved, identifying expertise, facilitating introductions, and monitoring progress.

Encouraging managers to adopt Connector behaviors may require a shift in mindset. “Historically, being a manager is about being directive and telling people what to do,” Roca says. “Being a Connector is more about asking the right questions, providing tailored feedback, and helping employees make a connection to a colleague who can help them.” The most difficult part is often self-knowledge and candor: Being a Connector requires a manager to recognize that he’s not qualified to teach a certain skill and to admit that deficiency to a subordinate. “That isn’t something that comes naturally,” Roca says.

To get started, the researchers say, managers should focus less on the frequency of their developmental conversations with employees and more on depth and quality. Do you really understand your employees’ aspirations and the skills needed to develop in that direction? Next, instead of talking about development only one-on-one, open the conversations up to the team. Encourage colleagues to coach one another, and point out people who have specific skills that others could benefit from learning. Then broaden the scope, encouraging subordinates to connect with colleagues across the organization who might help them gain skills they can’t learn from teammates.

For employees, one message from this research is that you’re better off working for a Connector than for one of the other types. So how can you recognize whether someone is in that category—ideally before accepting a position? Roca suggests asking your prospective boss about his coaching style and discreetly talking with his current direct reports about how he works to upgrade subordinates’ skills.

For managers and subordinates, the research should redirect attention from the frequency of developmental conversations to the quality of interactions and the route taken to help employees gain skills. Says Roca: “The big takeaway is that when it comes to coaching employees, being a Connector is how you win.”

About the Research: “Coaching vs. Connecting: What the Best Managers Do to Develop Their Employees Today,” by Gartner (white paper)
A version of this article appeared in the May–June 2018 issue (pp.22–24) of Harvard Business Review.

The 15 Most Profitable Small-Business Industries in 2016

profitable small-businesses

This article originally published March 4, 2016. 

Being talented with numbers can really pay off if you’re looking to start a profitable business.

Accounting and tax services takes the top spot on the list of the most profitable type of small business with a generous 18.4 percent net profit margin followed by real-estate services (15.2 percent), law firms (14.5 percent) and doctor’s offices (13 percent) reports Sageworks, a financial data service that analyzed the net profit margin of more than 16,000 small businesses (that earned less than $10 million) between September 2014 and August 2015. Companies like Due.com are helpful for tracking time and invoicing.

Related: Looking for a New Payment Company? You’re ‘Due’ for Some Good News.

(The average net profit across all industries for this report’s time period was 7.2 percent.)

What makes these industries profitable? For one, they’re driven by human capital.

“Service industries,” says Sageworks analyst Jenna Weaver, “are very common to find on the most profitable small-business list. This is generally due to lower overhead and startup costs. A lot of these industries you can start from your house.”

While profit isn’t the only matter for an entrepreneur to consider — other factors to consider are whether the business matches his or her skills, what sort of licensing or training is required and how the business would fare during a recession — it’s an important place to start.

Related: How to Create a Facebook Messenger Chatbot For Free Without Coding

Here’s the list of the 15 most profitable types of small businesses and their net profit margins.

NOTE: you can read the full article and read the slideshow when you follow this link-https://www.entrepreneur.com/slideshow/269905.

 

6 Entrepreneurs Share the Bad Idea That Led to a Success

Good ideas are the product of bad ideas — the failure leads us to success. So we asked six entrepreneurs: What was a bad idea that led to a great one?

Related: The Simplest Test of Whether Your Business Idea Is Good or Bad

1. Free gifts

“When we launched [job marketplace] Vettery, we sent personalized gifts to everyone who found employment through us. A new job is a big deal, and we wanted to help them celebrate! One guy got placed at a mattress company, so we hand-delivered him a new mattress. We quickly learned this wasn’t scalable, but we still firmly believed in celebrating each candidate placement. This led to the idea of a bonus. Now everyone who finds a job on Vettery receives $500.” — Adam Goldstein, co-founder and CEO,Vettery

2. Company quarters

“When Jopwell was in Y Combinator’s summer 2014 accelerator class, our eight-person team rented a house in San Francisco. In terms of work-life balance — or sanity — living together wasn’t the best. But it taught us how to understand one another. Today our 30-plus employees don’t live together, but we try to foster a culture where we feel like family. We named two conference rooms Divisadero and Hayes as a tribute to the intersection where we lived that summer.” — Ryan Williams, co-founder and president, Jopwell

Related: Need a Business Idea? Here are 55

3. Archived flops

“I keep versions of products that didn’t make the cut around the shop. I have gone back to early iterations and brought a feature into a current model to enhance it. For example, an early version of [engineering toy] Circuit Cubes had holes on the bottom to allow for a connector pin, but I was having problems getting the openings on the circuit board and had to remove them. Four iterations later, I brought back the idea by adjusting the holes to accept a shorter connector pin. Never say never!” — John Schuster, co-founder and chief design officer, Tenka Labs

4. Multiple missteps

“My co-founders and I first came together to create apps for fashion and dating. We didn’t care about fashion, and we were all married. Both failed fast, and we learned how hard it is to scale an app. So next we tried to build an app to help with discovery, to help others scale. But we couldn’t figure out how to scale that, either. It finally led to AppLovin, a marketing platform for developers to monetize apps. Our first three projects failed, but we wouldn’t be here without those stumbles.” — Adam Foroughi, co-founder and CEO, AppLovin 

5. Impossible partners

“When I set out to create a system to help women manage their wardrobes, I thought I needed retailers: a customer would buy something on, say, Net-a-Porter, then be prompted to add those items to their digital wardrobe. The idea wasn’t scalable. I would have had to partner with hundreds of stores. But we could acquire the same purchase history by going straight to the end user and cutting out the retailer. Lack of scale is not a barrier. It’s simply a starting point.” — Whitney Casey, co-founder and CEO, Finery

Related: 18 Ways to Bounce Back from Failure

6. Following the leader

“When we were figuring out pricing at

[video­conferencing startup]

Highfive, Slack was the darlingest of darling companies. It introduced ‘active user’ pricing, so we, like every other company, tried to implement active user pricing. But it didn’t translate to great economics for our product category, and it was tough to sell long-term contracts. We iterated and landed on an unlimited per-room model, easy to understand and unique — one of our best decisions.” — Shan Sinha, founder and CEO,Highfive