Small Business and Startups: What Would You do Differently? Mike | June 9th, 2014

Mom told us to learn from our mistakes. The world’s great religions teach us that our transgressions will be forgiven. Redemption is all around us every wherever we look, whether as a plot-line in a movie or in the world of politics. Entrepreneurs make mistakes every single day, many of them completely unforced errors. Sometimes these mistakes have a negligible impact on the business, but other times can be profound. We all work hard to minimize the mistakes and mitigate the effects when they do happen, but what about afterwards? Crises come and crises go and there is often little that can be done to avoid them, but one of the characteristics of a great entrepreneur is in how they handle the aftermath of a mistake. How they analyze what occurred and what they learn from it can be more important that the mistake itself.

Since Ross and I launched crowdSPRING we have made numerous mistakes (just like everyone else) and we try hard to take time to look at the mistakes, consider their ultimate impact, discuss what we might have done differently, and (hopefully) learn enough such that we don’t repeat the mistake again. Here are a few specific tips on steps you might take to help figure out what you’d do differently!

1. Do a post-mortem. Wipe the whiteboard clean, get out the colored markers and start listing what went wrong, when it went wrong, and how it went wrong. The first step in understanding the mistake is to be clear on exactly what it was and how it happened. If the goal is to learn from mistakes and avoid them in the future, you have to look straight at it with eyes wide open and lay it out for yourself and your team.

2. Take it seriously. Sometimes we fall into the habit of simply moving past our mistakes without taking the time to reflect. We justify this by telling ourselves that this was just a little thing. or this was just a one-off. Well the truth is that we can learn from our small mistakes as readily as our large ones. Take your mistakes seriously and take the time to learn from all of them – major or minor, simple or complex. Read the rest of this post »

Twitter Link Roundup #226 – Small Business, Startups, Innovation, Social Media, Design, Marketing and More Ross | June 6th, 2014

Every day on the crowdSPRING Twitter account and on my own Twitter account, I post links to posts or videos I enjoyed reading or viewing. These posts and videos are about logo design, web design, startups, entrepreneurship, small business, leadership, social media, marketing, and more! Here are some of the links that I’ve liked and shared this past week!

The embedded presentation above is filled with valuable data on the state of the Internet and trends in technology around the world. Mary Meeker of Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers presented the data at the recent Code Conference.

smallbusinessblog

Listen Close: 5 Tips for Small Business and Startups – crowdspring.co/1oNwUSD

Content Marketing Will Fail Your Business If You Keep Doing This – crowdspring.co/S2Ivic

How to become a mentor | by @intentionallycrowdspring.co/RVMhdc

How to Outsource without the Headache | by Frank Gruber in Tech Cocktail – crowdspring.co/1hyLg7A

To Negotiate Effectively, First Shake Hands | Francesca Gino |Harvard Business Review – crowdspring.co/1jQOCwN

[Customer] Retention is King (good insights on measurement) – crowdspring.co/1haiyJt

The Best Managers Aren’t Control Freaks | by Frank Gruber – crowdspring.co/1pRN2jq

Need a great name & URL for your new business? 5 Quick Tips for Buyers in Naming Projects – crowdspring.co/ThAKX4

startupsblog

How to Design a Billion Dollar Company – crowdspring.co/RXZyBZ

Content Marketing Will Fail Your Business If You Keep Doing This – crowdspring.co/S2Ivic

What we learned by abandoning the shackles of an office to become a remote company (from Customer.io) – crowdspring.co/SuNgBT

7 Habits of Highly Effective and Successful Entrepreneurs – crowdspring.co/S8CWPs

One-hit wonder – crowdspring.co/RMjYxU

MUST READ post on women & men in tech by @mariakatris on @BuiltInChicago and her experiences – crowdspring.co/1xftfiX

The Best Managers Aren’t Control Freaks – crowdspring.co/1pRN2jq

How Greylock Partners Finds the Next Facebook – crowdspring.co/Ud9VE5

Listen Close: 5 Tips for Small Business and Startups – crowdspring.co/1oNwUSD

The Tech Talent Wars: Homegrown Heroes or Pricey Free Agents? – crowdspring.co/RMhLCw

Does Team Size Impact Code Quality? | Code Climate Blog – crowdspring.co/1nJ3Mwt

“Are there changes happening in your world that will make [your company's] capabilities obsolete or insufficient?” – crowdspring.co/1oDXgXm

The Common Characteristics of Successful Freemium Companies – crowdspring.co/1pNrjcn

The Right Way To Do A Software ROI Analysis | Feld Thoughts – crowdspring.co/1jQOLR4

Need a great name & URL for your new business? 5 Quick Tips for Buyers in Naming Projects – crowdspring.co/ThAKX4

To Negotiate Effectively, First Shake Hands | Francesca Gino – Harvard Business Review – crowdspring.co/1jQOCwN

How to Outsource without the Headache | Tech Cocktail – crowdspring.co/1hyLg7A

[Customer] Retention is King (good insights on measurement) – crowdspring.co/1haiyJt

Jessica Livingston: Why Startups Need to Focus on Sales, Not Marketing | WSJ – crowdspring.co/1h6bKMW

5 Mistakes Every Startup Founder SHOULD Make – crowdspring.co/1pNJ2R1

Avoiding the Unintended Consequences of Casual Feedback – crowdspring.co/1kGHa7C

How to Transform Innovation ROI by Using the Science of Certainty to Accelerate Results – crowdspring.co/1haRQ3n

The Most Important Thing to Do Before Building Your Startup – crowdspring.co/1nLq54G

How to become a mentor – crowdspring.co/RVMhdc

Crowdsourcing for startup success | Guardian – crowdspring.co/1nOxTCy

Why you should care about Price/Market Fit early on (a.k.a. Customer Development 101) – crowdspring.co/1pNIOcD

Walter Isaacson: 5 Traits of True Geniuses – crowdspring.co/T8OYcL

Crowdsourcing Your Way To What Customers Really Want | Fast Company – crowdspring.co/1oNJIZp

Redesigning Mary Meeker’s Ugly Internet Slideshow | Businessweek – crowdspring.co/RY0FBD

Before & After: 6 Lessons From Mary Meeker’s Presentation Makeover – crowdspring.co/1pNIVVI

socialmediablog

Bottom line on Facebook’s explanation for reduced organic reach in news feed: fuck you, pay us! – crowdspring.co/1uncW1c

Content Marketing Will Fail Your Business If You Keep Doing This – crowdspring.co/S2Ivic

[Customer] Retention is King (good insights on measurement) – crowdspring.co/1haiyJt

Jessica Livingston: Why Startups Need to Focus on Sales, Not Marketing | WSJ – crowdspring.co/1h6bKMW

Why you should care about Price/Market Fit early on (a.k.a. Customer Development 101) – crowdspring.co/1pNIOcD

designblog

An Oral History Of Apple Design: 1992–2013 | Co.Design – crowdspring.co/1nJ2Ms0

Some of the world’s top designers critique Google’s car – crowdspring.co/1ovDU38

Read the rest of this post »

5 Quick Tips for Buyers in Naming Projects Audree | June 5th, 2014

Finding the perfect name is a very important step in your business. Once your brief has been written and your project is posted here on crowdSPRING, we have 5 quick tips to get you on the road to success!

1. The Creatives are limited to 10 entries each unless YOU give them a score of 3, 4  or 5 stars.

Want to see more entries from the ones who are on the right track and giving you some great ideas? They will be limited to 10 entries unless you get in there and give them a score of 3 or more stars. We added the limit to prevent “flooding” and to help encourage Creatives to only submit their very best ideas.

Success! limit lifted

2. The best Creatives take time to explain their entries.

If you want to quickly review the entries that have comments, go to the Activity tab of your project and scroll down. You will see all the comments listed here next to their entry  number. If you want to get a quick look at the entry, click on the center of the entry thumbnail.

Screen Shot 2014-06-03 at 2.17.05 PM
Read the rest of this post »

Content Marketing Will Fail Your Business If You Keep Doing This Ross | June 3rd, 2014

Content marketing can be a valuable marketing strategy for just about any type of business. By giving your customers and prospects actionable content through great storytelling, you can help your brand increase trust, credibility and ultimately, sales.

But there’s an important caveat: the moment a brand tries to push a direct sale through its content marketing, customer trust in the content marketing plummets. This was the finding in a recent survey by CMS software company Kentico.

Q3Kentico

Kentico found that 74% of the general public trusts educational content from businesses. But even a simple product pitch at the end of the blog post or newsletter reduces the perceived credibility of the content by nearly half. In fact, as Contently reports:

The risk of falling off the credibility cliff doesn’t end there. Forty-nine percent of consumers will check a brand’s facts with other sources. If they can’t corroborate the content with non-company sources, 46% of consumers start losing trust in the content. Not addressing multiple perspectives, talking down to readers, and not clearly stating that the content is coming from a particular brand also impede consumer trust.

Interestingly, although a majority (60%) of survey respondents believed that a company’s size has no effect on the credibility of its content marketing, nearly a third of respondents believed that educational content from smaller businesses is more trustworthy than that of larger businesses.

Read the rest of this post »

Listen Close: 5 Tips for Small Business and Startups Mike | June 2nd, 2014

People who run businesses tend to talk. A lot. We chair meetings, we advance our opinion, we write memos, we give marching orders, we articulate strategy, and we manage tactics. We are excellent at communicating our thoughts and wishes. What we don’t do quite as well is listen. As important as it is to be able to express our thoughts, it is equally important to be able to listen to those around us.

Managers are, by our very nature, in control. We control the situation, we control events, we control the people who work for us. We control our businesses. And, when we are speaking we are in control, but when we are listening to others that control is necessarily relinquished. For many managers, that yielding of control through the act of listening can be not just difficult, but can seem In conflict with our training.

And there’s the rub. Listening is a letting go of control. It does not come easy, and it requires practice and discipline. In order to understand someone we have to stop controlling and focus on the other half of the communication formula: listening. Listening is about respect; managers must understand that success is not to be attained unless they can seek out and act on information from the talented people around them. Your team needs to understand that their input is valuable, that you respect their ideas, and their contributions are unique.

Here are 5 things you can do to improve your listening skills and create an environment that encourages the healthy flow of fresh ideas and innovation.

Focus. Checking your phone, semi-listening, multi-tasking are all behaviors that constrain your ability to listen when someone else has the floor. You need to be fully present when another person is speaking or you are likely to miss something.

Learn. We have a tendency to focus on things we already know and are biased in particular towards ideas that we already believe in. But by forcing ourselves to listen for new and disconfirming ideas, we can gather information that we might otherwise miss. Be prepared to change your mind – if we listen hard, we can often find ourselves gaining knowledge we would not otherwise have obtained.

Challenge. Listening is an active pursuit and it is important that we not simply accept what is being said, but that we challenge the underlying assumptions at its core.

Ask. Always try to talk less than you listen. If you can apply a version of the 80-20 rule, and work hard to speak 20% of the time while listening 80% you are well on your way. And if you can use your 20% allotment to ask questions instead of offering your own ideas, you will learn more and better encourage others in the room to offer their own ideas.

Position. Body language means a great deal in your ability to listen to others. Maintain eye contact, lean in towards the other person, avoid unintended nonverbal communications such as fidgeting and eye-rolling. By disciplining your own physical interactions you can listen more effectively and communicate to the other person that you care about what they have to say.

Photo: Alexander Torrenegra

Twitter Link Roundup #225 – Small Business, Startups, Innovation, Social Media, Design, Marketing and More Ross | May 30th, 2014

Every day on the crowdSPRING Twitter account and on my own Twitter account, I post links to posts or videos I enjoyed reading or viewing. These posts and videos are about logo design, web design, startups, entrepreneurship, small business, leadership, social media, marketing, and more! Here are some of the links that I’ve liked and shared this past week!

The video above is a TED talk by Hugh Herr. Herr is building the next generation bionic limbs and robotic prosthetics. He was inspired by a personal tragedy – he lost both legs in a climbing accident 30 years ago. It’s a terrific talk and well worth the time to watch.

smallbusinessblog

The 39 Best Pieces of Sales Advice You’ll Hear This Year – crowdspring.co/1ojWm1U

Story about one crowdSPRING customer’s logo design experience on crowdSPRING – | Lovin it! – crowdspring.co/1mq7jdH

On How To Turn Impossible Ideas Into Successful Businesses | Fast Company – crowdspring.co/1k0Nexi

startupsblog

On How To Turn Impossible Ideas Into Successful Businesses | Fast Company – crowdspring.co/1k0Nexi

The 39 Best Pieces of Sales Advice You’ll Hear This Year – crowdspring.co/1ojWm1U

How much do Y Combinator founders earn? | 80,000 Hours – crowdspring.co/1k0NMTU

A tech bubble: What Chicago entrepreneurs think | Blue Sky Innovation – crowdspring.co/1lJaw6B

socialmediablog

Brands are pissing online ad money away – crowdspring.co/1mn7MNz

The 39 Best Pieces of Sales Advice You’ll Hear This Year – crowdspring.co/1ojWm1U

Why is 37 Signals’s Marketing so Captivating? It’s the “Narrative.” | Help Scout – crowdspring.co/1tb5XpC

Some marketers just don’t get it … crowdspring.co/1jOdkm0

There’s too much bad data out there, even when presented by reputable sites – crowdspring.co/1pycqut

10 Conversion Killers and the Hacks to Fix Them | Unbounce – crowdspring.co/1kfEf5N

A/B Testing Results that Surprised the Experts | Visual Website Optimizer Blog – crowdspring.co/1k0Pd4L

Are they serious? A dozen experts need six weeks to publish a corporate tweet? crowdspring.co/TRO4lE

designblog

Useful Mockups Templates For Presenting Print Designs – crowdspring.co/1jB1A7q

A Beautiful Collection Of Vintage Bicycle Ads – crowdspring.co/1jB2HUy

The A to Z of Adobe Photoshop – crowdspring.co/1lDsGGR

Read the rest of this post »

Twitter Link Roundup #224 – Small Business, Startups, Innovation, Social Media, Design, Marketing and More Ross | May 23rd, 2014

tesla

Every day on the crowdSPRING Twitter account and on my own Twitter account, I post links to posts or videos I enjoyed reading or viewing. These posts and videos are about logo design, web design, startups, entrepreneurship, small business, leadership, social media, marketing, and more! Here are some of the links that I’ve liked and shared this past week!

Klyati Trehan, a design student from India created a phenomenally impressive project, combining science and typography to visually represent 26 inventions that have changed the world. Above is her design for the letter T, reflecting the discovery of the rotating magnetic field by Tesla. More examples in the Design section below.

smallbusinessblog

HOT! New edition of Empower Your Small Business, @crowdSPRING‘s SmallBiz newsletter – crowdspring.co/1mY7CyW

5 Things Entrepreneurs Can Learn From Superheroes! – crowdspring.co/1j2mWos

12 indispensable digital tools for startups | Blue Sky Innovation – crowdspring.co/1vm5ncs

Creating Customers for Life: 50 Resources on Loyalty, Churn, and Customer Retention | Help Scout – crowdspring.co/1lD094d

The Most Entertaining Guide to Landing Page Optimization You’ll Ever Read | Moz – crowdspring.co/Sl15mH

startupsblog

To build all-star teams, entrepreneurs should rank/reward team and not individual performance – crowdspring.co/1k9XDFx

5 Things Entrepreneurs Can Learn From Superheroes! – crowdspring.co/1j2mWos

Unifyo: Post Mortem – crowdspring.co/1iXFOF4

Tech Start-Ups: Take the Money and Build | by @tullmancrowdspring.co/1jvoIEu

Helpful insight for bootstrapping entrepreneurs … how we built besnappy for 317000 – crowdspring.co/1o7tpX4

Ruthlessness and Grit in Startups | by @ttunguzcrowdspring.co/1odycDT

The hard thing about inspiring more women entrepreneurs | Fortune – crowdspring.co/Sl1hSW

29 Tips for Entrepreneurs & Women in Tech | Tech Cocktail – crowdspring.co/1oj9QIU

Creating Customers for Life: 50 Resources on Loyalty, Churn, and Customer Retention | Help Scout – crowdspring.co/1lD094d

The Price Is Right: For Early-Stage SaaS Companies, It Needs To Be | TechCrunch – crowdspring.co/1j0ToYh

A Dozen Things I’ve Learned About Marketing, Distribution and Sales | 25iq – crowdspring.co/1lD0q6Y

The Most Entertaining Guide to Landing Page Optimization You’ll Ever Read | Moz – crowdspring.co/Sl15mH

Process Is Being Told What to Do by Someone Who Has Less Information than You – crowdspring.co/SkUrN3

12 indispensable digital tools for startups | Blue Sky Innovation – crowdspring.co/1vm5ncs

Syndicate Funding on AngelList – A Company’s Perspective – crowdspring.co/Sl0HEA

Do Entrepreneurs Get Better With Age? | Re/code – crowdspring.co/1hYEli4

The Single Biggest Reason Most Entrepreneurs Fail in 2014 – crowdspring.co/1jzW3Oy

Product lessons we can learn from Google+ | Inside Intercom – crowdspring.co/1o6ZpYG

socialmediablog

3 Key PPC Metrics Are Lying To You. Find Out How – crowdspring.co/1j0S8nO

False Goals Kill (at the end of the day marketing has to SELL stuff) – crowdspring.co/1lSzVMh

A Dozen Things I’ve Learned About Marketing, Distribution and Sales | 25iq – crowdspring.co/1lD0q6Y

Leaked NY Times Innovation Report applies to ad agencies, too | by Edward Boches – crowdspring.co/1hYEcve

The Most Entertaining Guide to Landing Page Optimization You’ll Ever Read | Moz – crowdspring.co/Sl15mH

Why Products Created By Ad Agencies Fail | Co.Create – crowdspring.co/1lDryD6

6 Branding Lessons from the Pioneers of Weed Design | Co.Design – crowdspring.co/1jkiGR5

designblog

A Designer’s Guide On Workspace Organization – crowdspring.co/1lDrLpR

Let A Client Go: 4 Signs Why You Need to Fire Clients | 1stwebdesigner – crowdspring.co/RHNxkQ

Read the rest of this post »

12 Questions: Meet Jelena Mirkovic Jankovic (Serbia) Audree | May 22nd, 2014

In our 12 Questions blog series, we feature interviews with someone from the crowdSPRING community. For these interviews, we pick people who add value to our community – in the blog, in the forums, in the projects. Plainly – activities that make crowdSPRING a better community. Be professional, treat others with respect, help us build something very special, and we’ll take notice.

We’re very proud to feature Jelena Mirkovic Jankovic (crowdSPRING username: JMJ) today. Jelena lives and works in Belgrade, Serbia.

JMJ

1. Please tell us about yourself.


When I think a bit, my name is mom. Most of the day I respond to IT: Moooom, come to see this!!! 
Moooom, why are turtles bold? 
Mom, will the people on clouds fall down on us one day? 
Mom, why are there no woman pirates? 
…and so on and so forth. 
Seventhousandandeightynine times a day!
And the rest of the day – when I’m not dressed in the magic “mom” costume – I’m simply Jelena. I got Mirkovic from my father and I greedily snatched Jankovic from my husband. And thus we got JMJ (Jelena Mirkovic Jankovic).

Oh, I forgot to tell you. 
I am actually a sculptor. Deeply involved in painting and arts. And again – in momhood.NegativeColorVertical

It all started a long time ago – almost 38 years ago, when everything that could be drawn – was drawn, when all that could be colored – got colored. And that “disease” remained incurable in my case. I was born in Bosanski Petrovac, a small town in Bosnia (ex-Yugoslavia), where I blissfully lived the best and most magnificent childhood on earth.  This was a childhood ample with smells of earth and sky, full of colors, bare feet, animals and freedom. Following my “artistic urge”, which is more powerful than orientation (what I would be when I grew up), I left to attend the High School of Art in Novi Sad (Serbia), where I graduated from the Department for Interior and Industrial Design. I never wondered what I would do later. Nor did I have any compromise. I wanted to study painting. Alas, all the teachers who saw the drawings that I prepared for the entrance exam said – you’re born to be a sculptor. And it took me just few days to make five portraits (plaster cast) and take them, still “hot”, to the exam. This is how I became a graduate sculptor and art professor. In spite of my fingertips being enamored with the tactile world of sculpture, my ontological need for painting, drawing and colors never ceased, it was rather simultaneous. Following this urge, I finalized my Master at the Faculty of Political Sciences in Belgrade, Department for the Theory of Culture, and I defended the thesis entitled Color and Culture (from myth to postmodern culture).

2. How did you become interested in design?
Huh, entirely by chance!
By the end of my studies, I visited a friend and colleague in a marketing agency and their design studio. At that moment, they sought a junior designer, which was not me, of course. I had zero experience. And no designer portfolio whatsoever. The only thing that I always had with me was a bunch of drawings. And yet, almost the same day, I found myself before a Wacom tablet, exploring the world of design from a completely different perspective – a creative one.
Almost 15 years have lapsed since then, and for the past seven years I have been employed as art director in several marketing agencies. I am currently working for an international company as consultant at the position of art director for several projects.

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How Typography Affects Conversions and Sales Ross | May 21st, 2014

typography-is-important

 

Do you give much thought to the typography you use on your website or marketing materials? You should! Typography plays an important role in influencing people’s decisions.

For example, Tahoma is the most legible font at size 10, Courier is the most legible at size 12 and Arial is the most legible at size 14. Since people spend so little time looking at web pages, you should optimize your content to be as legible as possible, at all times.

Typography can be a small detail in an otherwise large site. But sometimes the smallest details have a big impact.

Neil Patel created a helpful infographic (below) that explains good/bad practices when it comes to typography and conversions.

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5 Things Entrepreneurs Can Learn From Superheroes! Mike | May 19th, 2014

To many people out there (investors, business students, politicians) entrepreneurs are heroes of the first degree. They are lionized, studied, imitated, and held up as shining examples of American ingenuity and creativity. But truly, entrepreneurs are heroes of the second degree. Although their creativity can not be denied, their energy borders on legendary, their resourcefulness is unmatched, and their passion boundless, they still have a great deal to learn. And who better to learn from the Superheroes!

When it comes to strength of character and ability to persevere through tough times, no entrepreneur can even start to compare to the likes of Spider-Man, Batman, Wonder Woman, or Captain America! These heroes are the archetypal crime fighters, the justice slamming vigilantes, the saviors of all that is good and valuable in our society. They represent the powerless and strike down the evil! Kinda makes running a small business seem tedious by comparison, no?

This doesn’t mean that we can’t draw lessons from these selfless paragons of virtue. After all, aren’t entrepreneurs also intent on creating businesses for the benefit of humanity? Here are 5 lessons we can draw from our Superheroes!

1. Powers. Superheroes have powers galore: secret powers, supernatural powers. They posses extraordinary powers of strength, agility, and flexibility, not to mention the crazy weird powers to set things on fire, stretch themselves to unheard of lengths, perform gymnastic contortions, and deflect just about any projectile hurled their way. Entrepreneurs powers may pale in comparison, but that don’t mean we ain’t got em; the trick is in understanding your own strengths and weaknesses. Entrepreneurs need a healthy dose of self-awareness in order to know what they are great at, what they need help with, and what they downright suck at. This awareness helps us to build better businesses, create stronger teams, and (when necessary) turn to others to ask for help. Matter of fact, that humble ability to know when they need assistance can be the mark of a true super-entrepreneur.

2. Branding. Seriously. Superheroes rock at their ability to create and sustain a brand image.  The costumes, the logos, the instantly-identifiable masks and capes! One of the hallmarks of a great superhero is their ability to be recognized instantly, whether in person or by something left behind. Who wouldn’t recognize Spider-Man swooping through the urban canyons in a flash of red and blue? Who on this earth would not know that the bat silhouette icon projected on the night skies is not the world-famous logo of the Dark Knight? Entrepreneurs must focus hard on creating brand value for their own companies through creating strong visual iconography that differentiates them from the competition and creates an indelible image in the minds of their customers.

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