10 Proven Tips for Evaluating Your Competitors When Starting a Business Ross Kimbarovsky | February 21st, 2017

If you’re working on a start-up or have an established company, there will come a time when you’ll need to evaluate your competitors. There are three components to a good competitive analysis: (1) defining the metrics and identifying the competitors you’re comparing, (2) gathering the data, and (3) the analysis.

How do you begin? What are the relevant factors that you should be comparing? And what conclusions can/should you draw from the data? Here are 10 tips (from my own experience) for evaluating your competitors.

1. Define WHAT metrics are important.

If you pick the wrong metrics, you can still make a competitive analysis – but it will not be particularly meaningful to you.

2. Look at recent trends.

Recent trends are important because they paint a picture of what’s happening now.

3. Evaluate historical trends.

Historical trends are important because they help you to understand not only the speed of growth but also to see if the same events impact both entities equally.

4. Don’t Forget Monthly and Annual Growth.

Rapid monthly growth is meaningful but can be deceptive if the annual rates paint a different picture.

Watch the video for more detail on these four tips, plus six more.

10 Tips to Create a Memorable Tagline for Your Business Ross Kimbarovsky | February 20th, 2017

As I wrote previously in 10 Tips for Naming Your Startup or Small Business, coming up with a great company name for your new small business or startup can be challenging and time-consuming. Coming up with a memorable tagline can present an even greater challenge.

A tagline is supposed to communicate to your customers and potential customers what sets you apart from your competition and also your brand’s focus. If you’d like some additional background on branding, you might want to check out the Branding category of our Small Business Resource Center.

You’ve probably seen and heard some of the most influential taglines of the past 50 years:

Got milk? (California Milk Processor Board) – 1993

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10 Proven Negotiation Strategies and Tactics for Small Business Ross Kimbarovsky | February 17th, 2017

Every small business and startup must negotiate with employees, vendors, customers, and others.

If negotiation sends chills down your spine or you want to become a better negotiator, this video is for you.

I’ve negotiated with thousands of people over the past few decades (for 13 years as an attorney and for the past ten as an entrepreneur and business owner). Here are my 10 proven tactics to help you negotiate better:

1. Know Your Objective. Know what you want BEFORE you negotiate.

2. Prepare. The more you know about the other side – the more options you’ll have during the negotiation.

3. Never Be Intimidated. If you allow yourself to be intimidated, you’ll have difficulty getting your needed concessions during the negotiation.

4. Pay Attention To Perception and Emotion. How the other side perceives your negotiating positions and tactics – and your emotional responses – will strongly influence their participation and responses during the negotiation.

Watch the video for more detail on these four tactics, plus six more:

Fresh from the SPRING: chrommatina Audree | February 16th, 2017

When perusing our galleries here on crowdSPRING, we see some amazing work submitted in the projects. Today, we recognize this gem submitted in this logo project:

The challenge of this project was to create a logo for a company that designs and distributes quality lighting fixtures. Now they have a quality logo to help them shine brighter!

Let us start the slow clap for chrommatina. Check out more great work on chrommatina’s profile page.

Nicely done, chrommatina, nicely done!

6 Simple Habits of Extremely Successful Entrepreneurs Arielle Kimbarovsky | February 16th, 2017

Many entrepreneurs and small business owners look up to and emulate successful entrepreneurs. After all, it makes sense to learn from people who created their own success stories.

Successful people share a number of habits that make them successful. This includes the things they do in living their personal lives, and how they run their businesses.

We’re written about this previously in 7 Habits of Highly Effective and Successful Entrepreneurs.

Today, we’re taking a closer look at some of our role models and their simple habits. Emulating these habits doesn’t guarantee success, but it could be a good place to start.

1. Mark Zuckerberg,
Facebook

One of the most successful entrepreneurs, Mark Zuckerberg, has a daily habit so simple that it seems trivial. He took note from Steve Jobs, former CEO of Apple, who used to wear the same black turtleneck every day to avoid making unnecessary decisions. Zuckerberg puts this theory to the test each day with a gray t-shirt and hoodie.

I really want to clear my life to make it so that I have to make as few decisions as possible about anything except how to best serve this community … I’m in this really lucky position, where I get to wake up every day and help serve more than a billion people. And I feel like I’m not doing my job if I spend any of my energy on things that are silly or frivolous about my life.

There’s a science to it too! According to lots of different studies, “the aggregate total of the decisions we make throughout the day impacts our ability to clearly see the upsides and downsides of some of the decisions we must make”. Read more about decision making in The Science of Bad Decisions and How You Can Avoid Making Them.

 

2. Evan Williams, TwitterBlogger, Medium

Serial entrepreneur Evan Williams makes it a priority to put his health first by establishing a daily workout time. While most entrepreneurs suggest working out first thing in the morning to boost energy levels and make sure it gets done, Williams found that for him, a different time worked better.

My focus is usually great first thing in the morning, so going to the gym first is a trade off of very productive time. Instead, I’ve started going mid-morning or late afternoon (especially on days I work late).

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How to Avoid Legal Issues When Using Typefaces and Fonts in Your Small Business Logo Ross Kimbarovsky | February 14th, 2017

Every business, from startups to small businesses to the largest companies and agencies in the world, must have a strong brand to succeed in today’s noisy marketplace.

It’s true that a brand is more than a logo, but a strong brand starts with a great logo. But when it comes to logos and other written digital and print marketing materials, there’s a lot of confusion about typefaces, fonts, and the law. You can face heavy fines and get into a lot of trouble if you don’t have a license to the fonts and typefaces you use.

crowdSPRING has helped tens of thousands of the world’s best entrepreneurs and small businesses with logo design (and other design and naming services). We know a little bit about fonts, typefaces, logos and the law. Plus, it helps that before starting crowdSPRING, I was an intellectual property attorney (in fact, I’ve had my law degree for the past 22 years).

Whether you’re a business owner or designer: if you want to avoid running into legal problems with your logo, this video is for you. I talk about typefaces, fonts and the law. You won’t be an expert, but you will know enough to ask the right questions.


How to Use Science to Improve Your Marketing Ross Kimbarovsky | February 13th, 2017

Almost all supermarkets share a common layout. Many competitive products (toothpaste, for example), have similar packaging. Do supermarket and toothpaste companies lack imagination?

It’s possible, but a different explanation is more likely.

Smart businesses apply science to marketing. Relying on psychological research, these businesses adapt marketing strategies to maximize revenues and profits. When companies unlock the innermost secrets of how and why people buy things, interesting patterns begin to emerge.

For example, there’s good empirical data showing the best times and days to send marketing emails to maximize opens and click-through rates. However, as people have grown to more heavily use mobile devices, the science of email is gradually evolving. New research suggests, contrary to conventional wisdom, that many brands can benefit from sending email campaigns at night.

How can you apply scientific wisdom to improve marketing for your business? Let’s look at two approaches.

1. Let data drive your decisions.

Many marketers develop campaigns based on intuition. Guerrilla marketing campaigns fit this mold. A marketer believes, based on experience or a “gut” feeling, that a stunt might work, and they invest time and money to execute it.

Similarly, landing pages are often designed based on aesthetic look and feel, not on their ability to optimize user conversions. Paradoxically, the best looking designs are not always best. Sometimes, aesthetically better designs simply don’t convert as well.

In contrast, marketing as a science looks to optimize campaigns and marketing tactics to maximize returns on investment. It has become easier and more practical to apply science to marketing because marketing technology has exploded. For example, smart companies routinely A/B test landing pages in an effort to optimize conversions.

A number of years ago, for example, major publishers were losing print subscribers and wanted to find ways to convert print subscribers into digital subscribers. Many experimented with the decoy effect, also called the asymmetrical dominance effect. The decoy effect occurs when people tend to have a change in preference between two options when a third, asymmetrically dominated option is presented.

One of the best examples of the decoy effect was an old subscription page of The Economist.

The first option at $59 seemed reasonable. The second option at $125 seemed expensive. The third option offered options 1 and 2 (web and print) for the same price.

Dan Ariely, author of Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions, tested this phenomenon with his MIT students. When presented with all three options, zero students chose option 2. Most chose option 3. When the second option was eliminated, most students chose option 1 (online subscription only).

Data can be very useful, as the above example, shows, but can have its own biases, as The Harvard Business Review cautions:

Data and data sets are not objective; they are creations of human design. We give numbers their voice, draw inferences from them, and define their meaning through our interpretations. Hidden biases in both the collection and analysis stages present considerable risks, and are as important to the big-data equation as the numbers themselves.

More importantly, as Albert Einstein famously said, “not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted.”

Tips: To optimize how you use data to help you make decisions, you must ask the right questions and focus on the relevant data. For example, if you’re wondering why or when your customers are leaving your site, consider what data you have that can help you answer those questions. You can look at customer complaints, payment history, the funnel customers follow when browsing your site, poor customer service experience, frequency of usage, etc.

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How to Succeed by Setting Clear Business Goals Ross Kimbarovsky | February 10th, 2017

A small business that doesn’t set clear long-term goals is doomed to fail.

It’s not unusual for small business owners and entrepreneurs to focus on strategies and tactics at the expense of also setting appropriate goals. Often, this happens when you see someone else successfully executing a strategy or tactic – and you try to duplicate their success by doing the same thing.

Learn why it is important to set clear, specific goals for your business, the difference between qualitative and quantitative goal setting, and examples of marketing goals to get you started:

Fresh from the SPRING: 
annasmoke Audree | February 9th, 2017

When perusing our galleries here on crowdSPRING, we see some amazing work submitted in the projects. Today, we noticed this gem submitted in this logo project:

The challenge of this project was to create a modern CSI logo for a sheriff’s department that says “investigating” without screaming “cop” from across the room. We thought this design was a smokin’ hot standout.

Let us start the slow clap for annasmoke. Check out more great work on annasmoke’s profile page.

Nicely done, annasmoke, nicely done!

Why a Strong Brand Is Important for Your Small Business Arielle Kimbarovsky | February 8th, 2017

Image source: Frontline Creative

A strong brand increases the value of your company, creates an identity and motivation for your employees, and makes it easier for you to acquire new customers. A brand represents how people know you (or your business), and how they perceive your reputation or the reputation of your company. In today’s noisy world, a strong brand is more important than it has ever been.

A great brand starts with a strong name and logo, but there’s more to a brand than just the visual elements. Unfortunately, many small businesses don’t prioritize branding early in their company’s history. This is a mistake. Poor branding impacts your business in many negative ways – and can even threaten the survival of your business.

We asked four successful and respected entrepreneurs and brand experts to share their stories about how branding influenced their lives and helped them grow their businesses.

1. Ryan Foland, Influence Tree

Personal branding expert, youth marketer, and speaker Ryan Foland thought back to his first few years of speaking engagements when we asked him to talk about his experience with branding. He started out as a public speaker in training, with a passion for business communication and a desire to share his ideas with larger audiences. As a beginner, Foland only had the skills and the training.

I spent three years of my life going to Toastmasters and mastering the craft of becoming a public speaker. I was winning speech competitions. People said they really liked my speaking style. I had a credible job at the University of California, Irvine and I came up with multiple ideas that I thought would reshape the world of business communication. As I became better and better at speaking, I started to go out into the world to find speaking gigs.

When Foland began to pursue paid public speaking gigs, he found himself lost among the hundreds of other people being paid to do the same thing. He felt stuck and realized that the reason he wasn’t getting gigs wasn’t because he was a bad speaker or had bad ideas. Foland wasn’t getting gigs because nobody knew about him. When people would search for him on the internet after meeting him, he had an underwhelming presence.

I knew that there were lots of professional public speakers getting paid and traveling around the world. I wanted to be one of them. I saw them online. I subscribed to their newsletters. I believed that I could do it, too. However, the more I tried to be like those people, the further away the reality seemed to get.

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