- My NYPL
New & Notable
Made at NYPL
Tools and Services
- Using the Library
I am a...
- Classes & Events
- Support the Library
Here's how you can get your website found--even if you're not an expert in SEO.
A friend recently asked me to write about the difficulties that start-up owners go through to optimize their website and get found.
Without optimization, your website will be a tiny speck of salt in a vast--and rapidly expanding--cyber universe. Chances are, your market is probably packed with competitors, and any SEO consultant is going to ask for thousands of dollars a month just for the basic package.
Aside from dedicating every waking moment to understanding how SEO works, what new tactics are trending, and what Google really dislikes this year (coming in the form of Penguin and Panda updates), it's going to be quite hard to start receiving significant sales in the first months--or year--after you go live.
Here are a few things you can do to get started:
Optimizing Your Page Titles
Adding meta titles to your pages is the first and simplest thing you will need to do to let search engines know, "Hey, I'm out here, and I'm relevant for this keyword".
Every SEO expert will tell you that prior to beginning, they will need to find what the relevant keywords for your site are. Truth be told, this is something you can also do yourself. If your industry is particular (or specific), you probably know it better than any consultant.
Do some research, and find out what the most relevant keywords for your site are. Look at your competitor's page titles, for example. Aside from this, I would focus on "long-tail" keywords, which involve phrase-like words and are more specific to a particular topic (3 or 4 words). Long tail keywords convert better, and are easier to rank for.
"Natural" Link Building
Everyone that has a website has heard about link building, which essentially entails getting other websites to link back to your site. How to do this, however, has changed dramatically in the past few years, and doing it incorrectly can actually hurt you.
Recently, Google's algorithms were created in a way to detect "unnatural" links like certain paid links, overdone anchor texts, etc. This can get complicated for a freshman SEO strategist, but the bottom line is, links should not be forced. They should happen organically, and the way to solicit them and be successful at getting good links has a lot to do with the content you create.
Great ideas for natural link building involve writing guest posts on interesting blogs, successful social media activity (and building followers), and associating yourself with other bloggers with relative interests. A high-traffic blog is only as good as its content, otherwise readers wouldn't visit it often. If your cause is interesting--and related to a topic fellow bloggers care about--chances are, they will want to talk about you.
Fascinate With Content
Aside from writing content on other blogs, you also need to write interesting content on your website. In the old days, writing content on your website could include a bunch of gibberish and bad grammar. As long as the targeted keywords were jammed in there somehow, you would have good rankings on search engines. Those days are gone. Nowadays, creating fascinating content is the one distinguishing factor that can be unique to you.
From info graphics to video blogs to inspirational stories, you have to put yourself out there. Say something bold. Write about things that people care about. Put out an inspirational image. Make your audience laugh, cry... make your readers identify with your experience. This is my strongest suggestion for any aspiring ecommerce start-up: start with a daily blog, build your followers, and then blend in your ecommerce shopping cart onto your site. If you apply the analogy of the chicken and the egg, content is definitely the egg, which comes first in my book.
Once you get these three points down, you should start seeing an increase in traffic, a deeper interest in your products, and eventually, it should transfer into sales. As soon as your sales start growing, reinvest your earnings on expanding your traffic-building strategies. From PPC campaigns, to affiliate marketing, to an SEO consulting firm, they're all options I recommend--once you have an initial following.
I still look back at the early years of doing business and think that the grassroots strategies we came up with back then--in the guest bedroom of my old condo--were far more brilliant and exciting than what we do now. It's hard, but doable! After all, what that's worth it, isn't?
The co-founder of Gilt Groupe on what it took to launch a luxury brand online when many partners didn't understand the basics of e-commerce.
The co-founder of Gilt Groupe on the evolution of retail and the harsh reality of "showrooming."
The co-founder of Gilt Groupe explains how she learned the hard way how to build a team that would last.
Your company's best advocates may be hiding in the nearest cubicle.
Your company's best advocates are not your PR team (no offense). Well, not just your PR team anyway.
According to the Edelman Trust Barometer, 50 percent of consumers said they trust "regular employees" to give them the low-down on a company's goods and services. Sixty-five percent put their trust in "people like myself" and 64 percent said they trust "technical experts" in a relevant field. In case you were wondering: Only 38 percent said they trusted the company CEO.
Before you wring your hands and perform backflips to win back consumer trust, consider this: Employees now represent more than half of your company's trust equity. Why not use it to your advantage?
Let Loose the Experts
One way to do it is to get your employees on social media--but that doesn't mean simply asking them to say nice things about your brand online. Let them use and broadcast their expertise.
Let them tweet about industry events, answer questions on Facebook, and blog about what they know.
HootSuite, an online platform that helps businesses manage their social media interactions, has this to say on the subject:
"Enterprises strengthen their brands enormously by activating these internal thought leaders on social media. Employee blogs and social media profiles allow workers to build personal brands online and form public records of expertise that also reflect well on their employer," the company wrote in a recent white paper report.
But Can You Trust Them?
Of course, enlisting your employees to speak on behalf of your brand shouldn't be undertaken lightly. Surely you've witnessed good tweets gone bad. (Remember those horrifically timed #Aurora tags? Or the recent live-tweeted lay-offs at the British entertainment retail company HMV?)
Before you encourage your employees to broadcast their inner experts, consider what kind of engagement you see from them on a day-to-day basis. "Don't treat every opinion the same," says Cy Wakeman, founder of the management consulting firm Bulletproof Talent, in a recent editorial. "Listen to what your top performers tell you. They've proved their value and earned their credibility, so go ahead: play favorites."
Allowing employees greater responsibility--then holding them accountable for the results--is the best way to empower your workforce, she says. According to Wakeman, employee empowerment is the new employee engagement--and may lead to greater company productivity and genuine employee investment in a brand or product.
They'll Fight for You--if You Let Them
Empowered employees, when you think about it, might make your best sales people.
"In social media, there is nothing more powerful than someone advocating for your brand," writes Matt Foulger, HootSuite's Enterprise Marketing Coordinator, in a company blog post. "Advocates give their friends, families and colleagues trusted advice that is far more credible than any source of advertising. They defend a business against negative messaging in the countless small interactions that determine a brand’s health. They volunteer ideas for product and service improvements. And they do it all for free."
So go ahead and trust employees to represent your brand. They might surprise you.
The co-founder of Gilt Groupe says the difference between male entrepreneurs and female ones comes down to something men get that women don't.
The co-founder of Gilt Groupe on the value of scarcity and the imperative to keep things fresh.
How Gilt Groupe uses every and all social media platforms to build the Gilt brand.
The co-founder of Gilt Groupe on her greatest lessons, biggest inspirations, and most painful mistakes
The co-founder of Gilt Groupe reflects on the source of her company's freshest and most creative ideas.
The co-founder of Gilt Groupe on the different skills a founder needs at every phase of start-up's growth.
View the video on Inc.com at: http://www.inc.com/scott-gerber/alexis-maybank-the-three-skills-you-need-to-lead-a-growing-company.html
The co-founder of Gilt Groupe reflects on how the company maintains an intimate customer experience even as the company grows.
Abraham Lincoln was an early master of public relations. On the anniversary of his birthday, here's what you can learn.
Although Abraham Lincoln is often remembered as one of our greatest Presidents, few people have taken the time to study his complete mastery of the then-unknown art of what we today call public relations.
As a serious Civil War buff and quasi-PR expert (hey, I run a public relations firm, but I don't claim to have all the answers!), I've listed six sure-fire tips pioneered by Honest Abe that will help enhance the image and reputation of any entrepreneur:
1. Nurture the brand of you.
Abe Lincoln was an absolute master at currying favor with the White House press corps, sharing tips and quotes with many leading, pro-Republican reporters, and actually composing many speeches right in their newsrooms as reporters watched in fascination.
Tip: Establish relationships with the trade and regional press that cover your industry. If you begin sharing the types of tips and trends that Abe did, you'll soon find the media calling you for quotes, columns, and case studies.
2. Share the wealth.
As Doris Kearns Goodwin chronicled in A Team of Rivals, Lincoln populated his Cabinet with the very people he defeated for the presidency. They were the best and brightest thinkers in the land. Lincoln not only sought their counsel but made sure the media knew they were involved in key decisions.
Tip: One of the biggest challenges entrepreneurs face is scaling their business and persuading prospects to trust the owner's managers and employees and not him alone. The sooner you establish a strong team and publicize its abilities and points of view, the sooner you'll stop being perceived as a one-man band.
3. Embrace new technology.
In his superb book, Mr. Lincoln's T-Mails, Tom Wheeler describes our 16th President's complete mastery of an emerging technology called the telegraph. Like Twitter, the telegraph forced a writer to be concise. In one classic exchange with General Grant near the end of the war, Grant telegraphed Lincoln, stating: "If the thing is pressed I think that Lee will surrender." Lincoln's Twitter-like response? "Then, press the thing."
Tip: Take advantage of Twitter, blogging, LinkedIn, and other emerging technologies to heighten your own awareness and thought leadership (while demonstrating to Millennial employees and prospects alike that you're just as conversant with what's new as they are).
4. Use comedy to defuse a crisis.
When Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton rushed into the Oval Office waving a report that the hugely successful General Grant had once again fallen off the wagon and had been drinking heavily, Lincoln leaned back in his chair and said with a sigh, "Tell me what brand of whiskey that Grant drinks. I would like to send a barrel of it to my other generals." Conversely, when bedeviled by weak commanders, Lincoln attempted to use humor to motivate them. Exasperated by General George McClellan's unwillingness to engage in battle with Robert E. Lee, Lincoln sent a telegram that read: "If General McClellan isn't going to use his army, I'd like to borrow it for a time."
Tip: Comedy can be a huge strategic advantage as well as a differentiator for any entrepreneur who, like Lincoln, knows exactly how and when to use it.
5. Allow yourself to be vulnerable.
Lincoln was never afraid to be photographed at times of great despair. Nor was he afraid to share his grief with the nation when his son, Willie, died of tuberculosis in 1862. Lincoln also pardoned so many soldiers for so many crimes they had committed that Attorney General Edward Bates had to intervene and ensure that only the most deserving cases came to Lincoln's attention (otherwise, Bates feared, Lincoln's empathy would undermine the Army's discipline).
Tip: To err is human; to forgive, divine. I'm a big believer in allowing people to fail (as long as they learn from their failures). I'm also the first to share one of my failures with staff. I believe vulnerability is key to any entrepreneur's leadership.
6. Timing is everything.
Lincoln knew that by freeing the slaves, he would elevate the Civil War from a battle between the states to a righteous, moral struggle. But he first needed a major Union victory to reinforce the hopelessness of the Lost Cause. Unfortunately, Confederate Generals Lee, Stonewall Jackson, and James Longstreet consistently beat their Union counterparts throughout 1861 and '62. It wasn't until after the Battle of Antietam, which, although a stalemate, checked Lee's first invasion of the North, that Lincoln felt he had a positive enough outcome to announce the end of slavery. He issued the Emancipation Proclamation a few months later.
Tip: Most entrepreneurs are adrenaline junkies who believe every move they make belongs on the cover of Inc. Let's just face the fact that (most likely!) it doesn't. Lincoln waited for just the right time and circumstances to announce real news, and so should you.
What would you ask the wealthiest man in America? Check out the highlights from the Microsoft founder's Q&A session on Reddit.
"I'm Bill Gates. Ask me anything." The creator of Microsoft and co-founder of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation took to the interwebs Monday to answer the burning questions of tech geeks, humorists, and interested parties everywhere. The social news site Reddit hosted an "Ask Me Anything" chat with the iconic dot-com billionaire.
His answers ranged from the philosophical to the technical to the downright silly. Here are five unexpected things about Bill Gates from his brief sojourn online.
He’s cheap--when it comes to trust funds, that is.
“I definitely think leaving kids massive amounts of money is not a favor to them,” wrote the billionaire in reference to the (comparatively) sparse trust fund of $10 million that he and Mrs. Gates intend to leave their children.
Gates credited Warren Buffett as his inspiration, citing an article in Fortune in 1986 featuring the business magnate’s views on inheritance.
“[That article] made me think about it and decide he was right,” Gates said. “Some people disagree with this, but Melinda and I feel good about it.”
If naysayers of the leave-your-billionaire-kids-less philosophy exist, they certainly weren't present during Reddit's chat Monday. Gates was heaped with "Reddit gold" for this statement (perhaps an unnecessary accolade, several pointed out), as well as his views on wealth and philanthropy.
Though, as one Redittor was quick to point out: “A $10 million head start is nothing to sneeze at.”
He loves Andrew Carnegie.
OK, technically Bill Gates didn’t say that. But his philosophy on philanthropy and the obligation of the wealthy seems eerily similar to the “Gospel of Wealth” written by his industrial-era predecessor.
“This, then, is held to be the duty of the man of wealth,” wrote Carnegie in 1889, “To set an example…to produce the most beneficial results for the community--the man of wealth thus becoming the mere trustee and agent for his poorer brethren, bringing to their service his wisdom, experience, and ability to administer.”
Yeah, it’s a little archaic. But Gates’s words seem to echo the sentiment.
“Philanthropy is mostly about a broad set of people giving, but it helps if the most wealthy set a strong example,” wrote Gates. “I think there is a movement to do more, start sooner, and be smarter about giving.”
Still, he remembered to give a shout-out to the little people, too.
“Most giving is done by the middle class, so it is the backbone of generosity--particularly in the United States. A key thing is to support government aid, which is only 1 percent of the budget but helps poor countries in incredible ways.”
He's a dot-com billionaire and tragically misunderstood.
No, truly. Getting inside the mind of a Silicon Valley wunderkind can be a little difficult--even for the typically tech-savvy Reddit community. In one post, an anonymous Redditor asked Gates, “What one Microsoft program or product that was never fully developed or released do you wish had made it to the market?”
Gates’s response was a little, um, dense.
“We had a rich database as the client/cloud store that was part of a Windows release that was before its time. This is an idea that will reemerge since your cloud store will be rich with schema rather than just a bunch of files and the client will be a partial replica with some rich schema understanding.”
“I understood some of those words,” another Redditor replied.
He believes in the stork.
When asked, “Since becoming wealthy, what’s the cheapest thing that gives you the most pleasure?” Mr. Gates responded in typical (though perhaps accidental) billionaire humor.
“Kids,” he wrote. Followed by: “cheap cheeseburgers.”
The Reddit community was quick to balk, parrying with comments like: “Are you sure you have kids? Since when were they cheap?” and “Where are you acquiring these cheap kids from?”
“The stork,” Gates replied.
Oh. Of course.
He wants to cheat death.
When you are the wealthiest man in America, you are plagued by certain dilemmas that don't seem to affect the 99 percent. What do billionaires want for their birthdays, for example?
“Free software,” Gates quipped. “Just kidding. Books, actually.”
And what's on his bucket list?
Even for an innovator who is used to thinking outside the box, Gates’s answer was a little surprising. At the top of his current list?
It seems the creator of Microsoft isn’t done quite yet. The Reddit community, for its part, took this information in stride.
"If anyone is going to be the first immortal, I guess he's the obvious pick," one commenter concluded.
Most of us don't feel we are using our time well--and we're right. We need to put ourselves on time budgets.
Last month my teen-age daughter was in a nervous frenzy over her first-ever midterms. It would only have provoked her if I’d said I wanted someone to test me. I read a solid three to four hours a day for work--magazines, blogs, new books. I at least glance at every headline in the New York Times: admittedly OCD behavior. I’ve been trying to shake it for nearly 30 years, since the days when I studied journalism and weekly news quizzes accounted for 20 percent of my grade.
Those quizzes were a pain, but at least they provided measurable ROI on all those hours spent staring at pages. What I’d welcome now is a more complex, customized test that assesses how much material I’ve retained, how much I’ve synthesized with other stuff I know, and how much I’ve transformed into something of value for Inc. readers and--by extension--for my employer, Inc. Theoretically all that reading makes me a choicer cut on the human-capital meat market. Still, I find the intangibility of my assets fairly freak-some.
Knowledge workers have trouble weighing the value of their own time. What they produce is background and context and insight and foresight: consequently an almost endless amount of work can go into any one of their deliverables. And since failure is currently considered not only an option but also a virtual mandate--if you don’t fail at least a little you must be too conservative--they can assume that false starts and missteps should be part of the process, drawing it out further.
Knowledge workers need help managing their time, but they don’t get it from leaders, who battle their own temporal demons. For an article in the new issue of McKinsey Quarterly, Aaron De Smet and Frankki Bevins surveyed 1,500 executives and found that just 9 percent were satisfied with how they spend their time. The most satisfied were also the most balanced--they divvied their hours relatively evenly among making operational decisions, setting strategy, and managing employees, stakeholders, and unexpected issues. They also mixed it up in terms of whom they worked with and how they communicated.
The other 91 percent were less thoughtful, or at least less disciplined about where their valuable hours are best spent. “The comparison I make is to capital,” De Smet told me when I called to talk about the study. “Leaders put in so much time and analysis and thought and discussion when deciding where to invest their money, which is a finite resource. Time is also a finite resource. But when deciding where to invest time they just use their guts. My question is, is that good enough?”
One solution is for companies to stop treating time management as a personal-productivity issue and instead treat it as an organizational one. Extending the capital metaphor, De Smet suggests creating a “time budget” that quantifies the number of hours required from leaders and other critical players to “finance” a particular initiative. De Smet also suggests expanding job descriptions to include recommended time expenditures for specific duties. “When people get to a new job they don’t know where to start,” he said. “E-mails come in. They start getting invites. And the pattern of how they spend their time ends up being dictated to a very large extent by external forces that are almost random.”
I like the idea of these time directives because they address the problem of sunk costs. I’m thinking of situations where people working on projects put in so much time they feel they need a result, even if that result will likely be sub-optimal and achieving it will take another 60 hours of labor. A budget lets them tell themselves and their bosses that the opportunity costs of their continued involvement are too great. The project should be abandoned or rethought or passed off to someone whose time is worth less.
Sure, we all waste time reading random stuff online and yukking it up with colleagues. But we waste more time working on things past the point where they return a satisfactory investment on our labor. Jim Collins famously recommends adopting a stop-doing list. A corollary to that is a stop-doing-after-this-point list. Or as De Smet put it, “Focus and finish. Or focus and kill it.”
Today's news of Pope Benedict XVI's resignation holds a message: leadership is defined by action and a capacity to get things done.
One of the many challenges a leader faces is knowing when it is time to move on.
Generally, this is not a problem for failed leaders, or leaders who aren’t held in esteem. They tend to get pushed out, or they get little hints that it’s time to leave.
It is, however, a problem for leaders who are successful, loved, and esteemed. Respected and admired leaders--even as they age and have possible decreased capacity--are rarely encouraged to leave. With no one suggesting that it’s time to go, this type of leader has to rely on his or her own judgment to decide if it is time to wind down.
In academia, many still live in the world of tenure, and are guaranteed their positions for many years. I marvel not at those professors who hang on, but at those academics who appreciate the need to move on--to search for something new, to make room for younger professors, or because of an awareness of their own decreased capacity.
While I have no data, it seems to me that those who move on the quickest are those who have achieved the most. They are the ones who hold themselves to the highest standards, and hold themselves accountable.
Today’s news of Pope Benedict XVI’s resignation holds a message for all leaders, especially those pragmatic leaders who realize that leadership is defined by action and a capacity to get things done. The lesson is simple. As a leader, your responsibility to your organization, to your cause, and to your vision is realistic self-monitoring.
You may have been great in your time--and you still may be great--but ask whether you fit the moment. Is the environment that your organization is operating in now the one that you are most comfortable? Ask yourself the following questions:
Is my knowledge base static? If you find yourself more and more out of sync with changing technologies, changing markets, changing ideas and concepts, then you may have to seriously consider making room for the younger generation who can keep up.
Is my network expanding? Leadership is based on your ability to network, make new connections, and find new linkages. If you find yourself dealing with the same people all the time, then maybe it is time to reconsider your position.
Does the work demand more of you? This is neither a physical nor intellectual question. Emotionally, are you less engaged with the daily activities necessary to sustain forward movement?
Do you think others around you can do a better job? Leaders always recognize talent and exceptional people. Few leaders in their prime feel replaceable. But if you are struck that others around you can do a better job than you can, then maybe you should let them.
The primary lesson that leaders can learn from Pope Benedict XVI is honest self-reflection.
Leaders need to make an honest examination of what they can and are willing to do. Few CEOs, few entrepreneurs, few leaders are more committed to their vision or mission than the Holy Father. If he can recognize the challenges that face the Church and have the awareness that he should make room for others, shouldn’t leaders at least reflect on his example?
This is not to say that everyone needs to copy his behavior, but certainly everyone should have the responsibility to reflect on whether the time has come to move on.
Administrator Karen Mills is out. So what now? Four things that would make the Small Business Administration more relevant.
A bit over a year ago, President Obama was talking about what might have been a great government entrepreneurship mash-up.
He announced a plan to combine the Small Business Administration with four other government bureaucracies, weeding out inefficiencies and creating a giant, cabinet-level super-agency that would oversee how the government helps new ventures.
Thirteen months later, the SBA is still the SBA, and the head of the agency, Karen Mills, has announced she plans to step down.
So, what should the next iteration of the SBA look like? And, who should Pres. Obama pick to lead it? Here are four keys to creating a better SBA, and finding someone great to lead it.
1. Pick an inspiring entrepreneur as boss.
Last week, the president named Sally Jewell his pick to lead the Department of Interior. A lot of avid outdoor adventurers I know were excited. As president and CEO of the sporting goods cooperative REI, Jewell brings an understanding that's a lot different from a politician or a more traditional pick.
Wouldn't it be great to see someone whose nomination would make the same kind of impact at the SBA?
I hesitate to name names, but I'm thinking of the kinds of people who've launched true start-ups, overcome great challenges, and built them into giant, national brands. Granted, these are the kinds of people who have no shortage of opportunities. But as the saying goes, when the president asks you to serve, you have to say yes.
2. Get a better name.
It has survived for six decades. But, the SBA's name represents one of the worst Washington branding decisions since President Nixon's campaign called itself the Committee for the Re-Election of the President ("CREEP," for short).
I've been harping on this one for a while. Sure, the agency's mission is to help smaller businesses, but that's not exactly an inspiring moniker. I've spent a lot of time studying and interviewing entrepreneurs. I've met some amazing people who've worked in just about every field imaginable. The one thing they all have in common is that they don't "think small."
Granted, the "small" in "SBA" is supposed to refer to a business's number of employees or total revenue. But tell me, what inspiring entrepreneur ever talked about how he or she wanted to launch a "small business?" Wouldn't it send a message to rename the entire agency something more inspirational? Back-of-the-envelope, I'd vote for the Office of Entrepreneurial Opportunity. (Got another idea? I'd like to hear it in the comments.)
3. Consolidate and prune.
This one goes for any government agency, but it seems especially relevant to the SBA. Most entrepreneurs are on a never-ending quest for more efficient ways of doing things. You're not going to have two people doing the job of one--at least not for long, if you want to succeed.
Not so in government. In a study two years ago, the Government Accountability Office identified a total of 52 separate overlapping entrepreneurship programs at the SBA and three other government agencies (the U.S. Departments of Commerce, Housing & Urban Development, and Agriculture).
"Many of those offices were small and seemed entirely duplicative," The Washington Post reported at the time. "Twenty-one of the programs, for instance, targeted the same geographic regions."
Okay, so I've never heard of a government official actively working to shrink his or her department. But the more the government can do to shrink and consolidate programs, the more faith people might have in the SBA.
4. Break free of bureaucracy.
A few years back, I interviewed to work in the SBA's communications office in Washington. I took myself out of the running after the interview.
Why? Well, I realized I liked running my own business too much. But I was also struck by how strange it was that the government's effort to help small, dynamic businesses was funneled through a giant, decades-old bureaucracy.
I've known some really dynamic people at the SBA. But often, they commiserated with me about how thick the bureaucracy can be. And with a budget of $569 million and more than 2,100 employees. the SBA is always going to be constricted by all kinds of governmental hiring, firing, and decision-making restrictions.
As the saying goes, it's hard to turn a battleship. But, whatever steps the SBA can take--even symbolic ones--to demonstrate that it's different, and that it "gets" independent businesses, could mean a lot.
Even in fields where wealth is the last thing you'd expect, successful individuals focus on money, says author Lewis Schiff.
Conventional wisdom suggests that "if you do what you love, the money will follow." Unfortunately, when I surveyed the self-made successful, they overhwlemingly disagreed with that notion. Instead, in my survey of the most successful business people in America, I learned that you must always, always look for the opportunity in business.
To see if this was true, I looked at some unusual success stories, including those from people in the arts, where becoming wealthy is the least likely outcome. By examining the most successful fine artist alive, a clown that became a billionaire and a bit-player on the sitcom Seinfeld who went on to create a cottage industry around his character, I learned that following the money is important no matter what field you choose.
Check out these stories drawn from Business Brilliant Principle #1: Do What You Love, But Always Follow the Money. And ask yourself this. Are you really interested in being successful at what you love to do?
This video was shot at Maison 140 in Beverly Hills.
Gathering data is not enough--it's what you do with it that drives profitable growth.
Never underestimate the power of your business's database or customer relationship management (CRM) system. These tools hold valuable information that will help you understand your customers, better meet their needs, improve your service performance, and expand to other, underserved customer segments.
Our work with a large client underscores the importance of mining customer data at a granular level in order to create profitable growth. The client had an abundance of customer and market data but very limited insights into those customers and markets. The management team had a view of performance only at the business-unit level, so it was nearly impossible to identify individual segments that were strong or weak.
We quickly saw a need to shift from this high-level financial view to a more granular view of profitability and growth by customer, market, product, and geography. To do this, we had to clearly define the problem we were solving, the questions we needed to answer to get there, and where to find the underlying data. From there, we needed to develop insights that made sense to business users--and that were actionable.Uncovering Trends
By analyzing the information in our client's database, we were able to identify a number of trends that had been buried in the numbers. After piecing together data from many different systems to get a complete picture of a customer, we noticed that significant pools of profitability were concentrated in just a few key segments, products, and customers. However, our client's resources and incentives were not aligned with these key segments. The sales team was not incentivized to attract and maintain the most profitable customers, management teams were aligned with the wrong segments, and resources were not distributed across the highest-growth geographies.
Additionally, the client had a few large customers that were wildly unprofitable. These customers were valued internally as the highest revenue generators, but what our client didn't know was that it was losing money by serving them each year.
By updating these customers' outdated systems and renegotiating contracts, our client was able to save millions of dollars in costs serving them. Armed with more granular information, our client was able to make better business decisions about its customers, products, and markets.
Gathering a lot of customer data doesn't directly translate into meaningful information. You need to know what business problems your teams are looking to solve and how to use the data to find the solutions to those problems. Many companies make uninformed strategic decisions because they don't have clear visibility into their customers, products, and business segments. It is critical, therefore, to get your arms around the data you have, translate it into meaningful information, and distribute this information across the organization to drive more informed decision making.
Please send us your thoughts at firstname.lastname@example.org
Associate Lindsay Comstock contributed to this article.
Likeable Media co-founder Dave Kerpen explains how Etsy and other businesses are already doing e-commerce on Pinterest.