Category Archives: Marketing

6 Easy Ways to Incorporate Emotional Appeals Into Your Website’s Call to Actions

6 Easy Ways to Incorporate Emotional Appeals Into Your Website's Call to Actions

Co-founder of Picreel
Image credit: Shutterstock

Your website’s calls to action (CTAs) are some of the most vital parts of the entire site. They aren’t just meaningless sentences; they’re the hands that guide traffic to leads, sales or your other ultimate goals. And while you can brand your calls to action and place them in a central location, how can you really make sure they’re irresistible?

A recent study by Hubspot of more than 40,000 websites shows that using plain language like “Submit” or “Download” makes the CTA much less effective than most people realize. Instead, you’ve got to spice it up, and make it appealing.

To do so, a great call to action needs more than just good design and placement — it requires an emotionally charged message. By tapping into an emotional appeal, you’re actually inspiring your reader to take action beyond the logical value of your CTA’s text.

Related: Crafting a Persuasive “Call to Action” on Your Site

Here are six emotion appeal strategies you can use to get results.

1. Fear

There are many different ways you can (tactfully) use fear in your call to action. Just remember, you’re not trying to scare a customer away — you’re trying to remind them of a fear they already have, and how your company help.

It can be fear of failure, being left out or change. Regardless, it must tie directly to what you’re offering. The sample below shows how QuickSprout taps into your fear of failure. Are you doing your SEO wrong? QuickSprout will tell you, and then they’ll help.

 You know that feeling of wanting to be included? Of wanting to be a part of the tribe? To feel united with others over a common goal?

That can be a very powerful feeling to use in your call to action. Your audience may already feel like they’re a part of your special tribe, but you can take things a step further. Below is an example of how Hubspot uses this emotion in a friendly, encouraging call to action to “join your peers.”

3. Anger

It might seem unlikely, but anger can actually be an effective motivator. Sparking anger or irritation in your user can lead them to take action on your CTA.

This example, shared by Copyblogger, shows us that when the CreateDebate website encouraged viewers to “Argue Now,” they experienced a 45 percent boost in account starts.

Related: 5 Elements of an Irresistible Call to Action

If you’re reader is hooked and cares, don’t you want they’d want to join in on the argument?

4. Love

Want to encourage that wonderful feeling of love? Take a look at how eHarmony does it in order to activate the emotion of love its visitors are so desperate to find.

The CTA pictured below is clear and simple — and it gets people ready to register quickly by offering a fill-in-the-blank form. While the images (and entire site) contribute to creating a feeling of love, the specific language used in the call-to-action form contributes to the feeling that, just by signing up, you’re starting your journey to find your next soul mate.

The call to action suggests you can start communication now with your next partner. It is soft and subtle and works well. Using “Let’s go” helps to bring back some sense of adventure and romance into the online-dating world (just as the company itself has done). With this particular CTA, it’s clear that you’re not committing to your next marriage; you’re just starting a fun and lovely journey in the dating world.

5. Freedom

The decision for to use freedom as an emotion is a very clever one, as it would be easy — and perhaps too obvious — to incite a feeling of guilt or sexiness in order to pitch a weight loss product.

If you’re trying to lose weight, chances are you don’t feel sexy — but you don’t want to feel any more guilt either. You’re already carrying around a bag of negative emotions. Instead, you want to feel empowered that you can and will be healthier — that you have the freedom and ability to change. This CTA below makes you feel like you can lose weight with Weight Watchers help.

That’s what makes this CTA successful: It’s capturing that feeling of freedom and self-empowerment. As the website says, you have nothing to lose by looking at its offerings — and getting started is only one click away.

6. Curiosity

The wonderful and lively global brand Virgin has always excelled at creating great content campaigns that feel fun and exciting. It’s simply a core part of who they are as a company.

As a result, it’s no surprise that, when launching the Virgin Hotel brand, used the message below to play off of the emotion of curiosity. The message is simple: You’ve heard about the new hotels. You may have even seen them. Now, why don’t you get a peek inside for yourself and “book now?”

It’s a very intriguing and very simple call to action, but it’s made even more effective by being paired with the value of a 20 percent discount for guests that book now. Don’t you want to see what’s behind the sign too?

Certainly, these are just a few of the different emotional CTAs you could create. I’d love to hear more about how you’re using them in your marketing campaigns.

Related 3 Critical Principles of Effective Calls to Action

The Online Marketing Myth That Hooks Every New Entrepreneur


Founder and CEO, AudienceBloom

Marketing is a practical necessity for all businesses — big, small, new or old. But, unlike other business needs that are fairly cut-and-dried (think accounting), marketing is a bit more qualitative in its approach.

Related: 5 Online Marketing Basics Every Entrepreneur Needs to Know

In fact, there are dozens, if not hundreds, of different strategies to choose from, and conflicting information can sometimes be an issue in trying to make sense of them.

As a result of this somewhat imprecise and less-than-predictable nature of marketing, there are several myths about it that persist in the entrepreneurial community. There are big myths — like the idea that marketing is only a tool to increase sales — and small myths, like the one that says paid advertising is the only way to get seen on social media.

But there’s one myth that stands out among the others, because almost every new entrepreneur falls for it: the myth that somewhere out there, there’s a guaranteed formula for success.

Why the myth hooks so many entrepreneurs

It should be fairly obvious why the myth is appealing. If there’s a guaranteed strategy out there to earn you more visibility and sales, it gives credence to your marketing efforts and reduces any perceived risk of investing in it.

If, sooner or later, you stumble on the “right” marketing strategy, you’ll make money no matter what. The reality, that marketing is often unpredictable and rarely works the same for any two different businesses, is scary and intimidating.

Sources of the myth

There are a few reasons the myth persists today. Part of it is its raw appeal, assuming it were true. If there isn’t a guaranteed method for success, that makes marketing scary and unpredictable, so some entrepreneurs hold on to this myth out of necessity. The myth also persists due to the sheer number of marketing agencies that have peddled their services under the false pretense that they have the “magic formula” for results.

Some agencies guarantee their results; and although this isn’t inherently bad or deceptive, it can be misleading to a new entrepreneur. For example, an agency might use different strategies, adjusted carefully and frequently along the way, to get those promised results for every client.

Related: The 10 Traits of Successful Online Marketers

This is also a dangerous myth to spread by word of mouth. When a new entrepreneur hears from a more experienced entrepreneur about a successful marketing strategy, he or she may assume the strategy works for everyone. Similarly, if a new entrepreneur finds a specific strategy to be successful, he or she may genuinely believe it will be successful for everyone.

Why the ‘myth’ is a myth

So, having established that there is no guaranteed formula for marketing, let’s tap into the reasons why this belief is a myth:

  • Different companies have different needs. You know, for example, that the sales cycles for B2B and B2C businesses are extremely different. Brands, industries, structures, demographics, competitive environments, technologies and geographic locations are just a handful of the factors that can influence which marketing strategies “work” — and those are different for every business.
  • Consumer behavior is unpredictable. First, let me clarify that market research is valuable (and, I would argue, necessary). The more you know about your customers’ demographics, the better you’ll be able to communicate with them. That being said, nothing is set in stone, and consumer behaviors will often defy your expectations: Even a simple change of fonts or colors can have a significant impact on your bottom line.
  • Technology and trends change constantly. Had there been a single marketing strategy that could guarantee success in 2005, there’s no way it would still be relevant today. In the digital age, consumer trends and available technologies change so fast it’s almost impossible to keep up — and that means that the roster of effective marketing strategies is always evolving as well.
  • Experiments are what drive results. Ask any successful marketer how he or she achieved results, and you’ll hear back something about experimentation. All successful marketers are unsure of themselves at first, but they experiment, run tests and make adjustments until they see the results they want.
  • If there really were a magic formula, more people would be using it. It’s a simple statement, but an important one. If there really were a strategy that worked for everyone, the secret wouldn’t be kept for long, and every business in the world would soon be using it.

Key takeaways for new entrepreneurs

If you’re new to the world of entrepreneurship, your biggest takeaway should be obvious: Don’t fall for the myth that there’s a specific marketing strategy (or set of strategies) that works 100 percent correctly in 100 percent of situations. Every business, brand and entrepreneur has different needs. And even if they didn’t, consumer behaviors, trends and technologies would still be too difficult to concretely predict.

The only way to be successful in marketing is to learn from others, take your best shot, then experiment and tinker with your approach until you come up with something that works for you.

Don’t let any false promises of “guaranteed” or “magic” formulas get in the way of that process for you.

Related: 11 Marketing Tools Worth Trying in 2016

How to Hire the Perfect Blog Content Writer

How to Hire the Perfect Blog Content Writer

Content Marketer and Author
Image credit: Apple

Finding a regular blog content writer can be tough, despite the fact that there are thousands of freelancers out there ready and willing to write content for you. Having hired many writers myself, I like to think I’ve perfected the process of locating the talented ones.

1. Know what you need.

The first thing you need to do is determine exactly what you need a writer for. With a blog, you essentially have two options — a regular contributor under their own name, or a ghostwriter selling you content. Finding a ghostwriter is a lot easier and certainly more reliable. Someone who will lend their name to your blog generally needs some name recognition already, which means they likely have their own obligations and might not have the time to work for you as much as you would like.

They also might have a higher price tag than you’re willing or able to pay. Some of the top-tier bloggers out there make a heck of a lot of money contributing to a handful of sites and have to carefully consider the value of working with you.

Given that a ghostwriter is easier to find, cheaper to hire and more beneficial to your own personal branding, I assume most of you out there will want to find one or two of your own before looking for more professional freelance contributors.

Related: How a Ghostwriter Can Breathe Life Into Your Startup’s Content Strategy

2. Locate potential writers.

So, where do you find freelancers to ghostwrite for you?  You have a few options.

  • Put out a casting call on Craigslist, your own website or another classifieds hub.
  • Go to a content mill like Textbroker, Writer Access, Zerys or Constant Content.
  • Go to writer communities or industry forums where potential writers may contribute.

With the first option, you tend to get a lot of low-quality submissions. There are no feedback methods, so it costs a writer nothing to shotgun bland or poorly-written content in the hopes they pass and can make some money. However, I have found some diamonds in the rough here, and several of my past employers have also found great writers through Craigslist.

With the second option, you will get a wide range of content, but writers do tend to have incentives to perform well, as it affects their standing on the site. However, when you find a writer you like, you will have to be circumspect about recruiting them outside of the platform. Some platforms, like Textbroker, will outright censor your communications if you attempt to solicit or give contact information. You will also, of course, have to pay for the content you receive.

The third option is a lot more like a personal connection and will allow you to choose and interview potential writers before taking them on. It’s free, unless the community has a membership fee — but you’re not guaranteed to find a writer you can use.

Related: The 15 Best Freelance Websites to Find Jobs

3. Test and hire.

I recommend using all three methods, with a moderate budget for option two, to get a broad range of submissions. Some of this content will be unusable, of course. You can discard it, or use it as a base to create something better. Some of it will be solid content you could use but might not quite fit your voice. Keep an eye on these writers, and ask them to alter their voice  Once they get it down, they could be a perfect fit.

Essentially, what you’re doing is testing a bunch of writers to see who fits best and who adapts best to your standards. Ideally, you will be able to narrow this list down to a perfect candidate or to a small handful of them you can keep on retainer. I’ve personally worked with several dozen writers before I narrowed down my choice to a new full-time hire.

Once you’ve chosen a writer, you need to establish the terms of a contract. There are some standard ghostwriter contracts available to use, generally with the same terms all around. The writer must be paid on time for their work, they must submit their work by the deadline, you own the rights to any work purchased and paid for, the writer is an independent contractor and both parties have the right to terminate the contract, etc.  A contract is very important, both for peace of mind and for potential dispute resolution.

Once you have a signed contract in hand, you’re good to go. Ideally, your relationship with your chosen writer will blossom and grow, and they will become an indispensable part of your business machine. If for any reason the relationship doesn’t work out, you can always contact your second choice.

Related: How to Stop Writing Yawn-Worthy Content

16-Step Blueprint to Master Your Digital Marketing in 2016

16-Step Blueprint to Master Your Digital Marketing in 2016

CEO of The Media Captain

Join us at Entrepreneur magazine’s Growth Conference, Dec. 15 in Long Beach, Calif. for a day of fresh ideas, business mentoring and networking. Register here for exclusive pricing, available only for a limited time.

“Most people overestimate what they can do in one year and underestimate what they can do in 10 years.”

Entrepreneurs might politely disagree with the aforementioned quote from Bill Gates. There is a heck of a lot that you can accomplish in just 365 days, especially when you are sacrificing your weekend mornings or late evenings at the coffee shop pouring your heart and soul into your business.

What if I told you that you could make the year 2016 wildly successful for your business? I’m talking Taylor Swift successful – according to MSN, she raked in $1 million every day in 2015.

Just as a great novel needs a readership in order to be successful, your business needs a stellar marketing plan.

By implementing the 16-step digital marketing blueprint, your business can flourish this upcoming year.

1. Google AdWords

Have you started to bid on keywords related to the product you are selling or the service you are offering? Google now processes more than 40,000 search queries every second on average, which translates to more than 3.5 billion searches per day.

People are clearly looking up information on the search engine behemoth before making a purchasing decision. Bidding on the proper keywords targeted towards your demographic and region can drive instant new business, if executed properly.

2. Landing-Page Design 

According to Search Engine Land, only 25 percent of advertising accounts average above a 5 percent conversion rate. How do you break through the 10 percent barrier? The answer is custom landing pages.

Using a service like Unbounce, you can build, publish and launch A/B test landing pages without special I.T.

Search Engine Land states that to break into the top 10 percent of landing-page performance, you need to test 10 different landing pages to find one that really sticks. What are you waiting for?

3. Moz 

Are you curious why your competitor outranks you on Google and they are sitting on top of the first page while you are buried on page three?

Moz allows you to compare competitive metrics, such as domain authority.Domain Authority is a score (on a 100-point scale) developed by Moz that predicts how well a website will rank on search engines.

Once you start to learn the reasons why your competition performs well on the major search engines, you can formulate a strategy for your business.

Related: How to Create a Killer Instagram Ad in Under 10 Minutes

4. Help a Reporter Out 

If you are looking for amazing and free publicity for your company, you need to sign up for HARO.

You will receive daily queries from reporters all over the country that are looking for quotes from business owners and entrepreneurs.

In order to be successful with HARO, you need to dedicate at least 20 minutes per day to respond to the queries and offer expertise within your field. If you think you can handle this, get ready for some awesome publicity, which will also be beneficial for your SEO.

5. Outreach

Become an expert within your industry by contributing content on well-known websites. This is a great way to drive referral traffic back to your site from readers, who are interested to learn about your insight.

Create a “dream list” of 10 websites you want to write content for. Make sure to send each of these 10 publications a compelling pitch that conveys what you will bring to the table by sharing your insight on their site.

6. Sidekick

Let’s say you reach out to a prospect through email and a couple of phone calls, but nobody gets back to you. Is it time to throw in the towel? Not so fast.

Sidekick, which is powered by HubSpot, tracks whether or not a recipient opens up your emails and clicks on any links inside.

Is this somewhat stalker-ish? Sure. But the bottom line is if you see a prospect open your proposal 10 times, you know they are interested! Sidekick can be a game changer for your business strategy, and they have a free package.

7. Postable

Another great way to close the door on prospects is to utilize Postable, which offers really nice cards mailed for you all over the Internet. They have a wide assortment of thank you cards that you can customize to reflect your brand image. The best part is each postcard typically costs less than $3.60 to ship and be delivered into your hot prospect’s actual mailbox.

Related: Dominate Facebook With This $5 Marketing Strategy

8. Display Remarketing

Have you ever wondered how the jeans you looked at on Nordstrom’s website magically appeared on your Facebook newsfeed 10 minutes later? This is called display remarketing, and it is a great way for you to follow up with website visitors who do not make a desired action on your website.

Display remarketing builds brand awareness and is a cheap way to get customers to come back to your website to convert. People will think you’re spending a lot of money on your advertising when your advertisement appears on, but little do they know that you’re only paying around $0.30 per click because of an awesome remarketing campaign!

9. Video Content

Online video advertising is on the verge of explosion. It seems that right now, only larger businesses with a substantial advertising budget are investing in video advertising, but this doesn’t have to be the case.

Facebook revealed that the number of videos posted to the platform per person in the U.S. has increased by 94 percent over the last year.

Homepage videos are shown to increase conversion rates by 20 percent or more, according to Adelie Studios.

You can implement video-remarketing ads to tell your brand’s story for you when visitors drop off your site.

All you need to do is schedule a three- to four-hour shoot and strategically script out the video content you are looking for. You can obtain amazing video content that can play a crucial part in your marketing strategy in 2016.

10. $5 Boosted Facebook Post

You can write the greatest novel in the world, but if nobody ends up reading your book, what purpose does it serve?

Rebecca Coleman, a social-marketing guru, conducted a case study on the $5 boosted Facebook post. The results? “Awesome,” Coleman said. “My post reach soared and I got a ton more comments, as well as a few shares. My advice: Every once in a while, it can be completely worth it to give Facebook $5.”

If you want to be seen in 2016 on Facebook, you will need to invest money into promoting your content. Otherwise, you’ll go unnoticed.

11. Instagram Advertising

Schedule a two-hour photo shoot for your business and show off your awesome pictures on Instagram for your target demographic to see.

Facebook (which owns Instagram) now offers advertising to businesses of all sizes, everywhere!

Follow these eight simple stepsto set-up a killer Instagram ad in under 10 minutes.

If you don’t want to spend money on advertising on Instagram and want to grow your following organically, make sure to ask local businesses to follow you and return the favor. You can create a network of local businesses and influencers elevating one another.

Related: How to Compete With a Billion-Dollar Business on Google

12. Email Marketing 

Are you sending out at least two emails per month for your business for marketing purposes?

According to Marketing Sherpa, 60 percen of marketers believe email marketing produces positive ROI.

Make an effort to collect more email addresses in 2016. From obtaining the email addresses from customers on your website to grabbing business cards at trade shows, the larger your email list and the more effort you make in sending out memorable messages, the more business you’ll get for very little cost.

13. Mobile Friendliness 

It’s official: Google says more searches now take place on mobile versus desktop.

Is your website mobile friendly? Do you have an easy way for site visitors to get in contact with your business when they visit your site on mobile? For instance, including your phone number at the very top of your mobile site is crucial for B2B businesses to increase their conversion count.

Are you tracking conversions that take place on mobile versus desktop? Make sure mobile becomes a focal point for your business in 2016.

14. Google Analytics

In 20 steps, you can master Google Analytics to understand the visitors coming to your website and make implementations to your online marketing strategy to convert those visitors better.

Dedicate at least 10 minutes per day to dig into GA to become an expert on the traffic coming to your site.

15. Online Reviews

Create an email template for your business to send out personalized messages to satisfied clients or customers.

Marketing Land says that 90 percent of customers’ buying decisions are influenced by online reviews.

Ensuring that that your Google+ and Yelp pages portray your company in a positive light will help generate more business for your company.

16. A vs. B Testing

You and your coworker could have different ideas on what piece of creative will perform the best for an advertisement that you’ll be running for the holiday season.

Rather than getting into an argument, why not run an A vs. B test to determine the winner?

Approximately 61 percent of companies carry out fewer than five A vs. B tests every month.

Make sure your business is on the forefront of the online frontier by running tests to generate more conversions and lower your cost per acquisition.

Related: How to Implement a Killer Online-Marketing Strategy for $15 a Week

4 Reasons You Should Gather Employee Feedback to Boost Your Marketing

4 Reasons You Should Gather Employee Feedback to Boost Your Marketing

Founder and COO of VoloForce
Image credit: Shutterstock

It’s a sad reality that most employees don’t feel connected to their companies. One Gallup survey found that engaged workers comprise less than one-third of the workforce.

Related: 5 Ways to Strengthen Your Bond With Your Team

And a 2015 survey of nearly 900 employees found that 61 percent of them had considered looking for new jobs in the previous year. Of those, nearly 60 percent felt underappreciated for their efforts at the office.

These are pretty bleak numbers, and they have far-reaching consequences. Your customer-facing employees, after all, are some of your best word-of-mouth marketing machines. If they don’t feel invested in your company, they’ll likely send the wrong message — tanking your brand reputation in the process.

Time and again, you’ve heard that gathering real-time customer feedback is an effective way to keep your customers engaged and your marketing fresh. So why not point that strategy inward? When you create an internal culture built on a foundation of employee feedback, you establish a brand that’s centered on cultivating trust. Customers pay attention to the way employees get treated; and when they see that you invest in communication and transparency, they’ll invest in you.

Here are four reasons you should gather real-time employee feedback:

1. Employees see workplace problems first and firsthand.

Workplace troubles eventually trickle down to your customers if you don’t address them. Fortunately, no one is more aware of these problems than your employees. Not only do they see problems unravel around them, but they often are the ones to pinpoint them before they explode.

Your employees are, in fact, filters and funnels for workplace issues. When you provide them with open lines of feedback, you’ll get the opportunity to address problems before they make their way into your customer shopping and buying processes.

2. All employees want a voice.

When conducting surveys, many employers limit participation to their marketing departments. However, all employees should be invested in marketing your company, and they probably have great ideas you haven’t thought of. Lower-level employees working on the production line or on logistics might have ideas that can help you land a profitable client, but you’ll never know if you don’t invite feedback.

Related: Is Your Team Starting to Look Like ‘The Walking Dead’? 3 Ways to Resurrect Team Morale.

3. Employees understand your products better than anyone else.

If you want to build a better product, start by asking your employees for their feedback. Not only do your employees understand the ins and outs of your products or services, but they also work with vendors, distributors and suppliers — all of whom can help take your business to the next level.

Your employees can provide deep insights that your C-suite is blind to. And when you have their insights documented via surveys and feedback forms, you can create a gold mine for improving your products and your marketing processes.

4. Employees perform better when they feel heard.

Employees who love their jobs perform at their highest levels of productivity, increasing overall profit levels. And when a company has higher levels of profit, it can devote more funds to marketing — increasing customer count and profits even more.

When it comes to stepping up your marketing efforts, start by looking right under your nose. These frontline workers understand customers the best. Their helpful insights can pave the way to new marketing techniques that the marketing department may have never thought of.

If your company is looking to improve its marketing endeavors — and it should be — make sure you’re looking within your company first. Your employees are paid to do what they do, but they’re also an inexhaustible platform for attracting new customers through their feedback.

Related: What Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey Achieved With His $197M Gift to Employees

4 Ways to Ensure Adoption for a New Product or Service

4 Ways to Ensure Adoption for a New Product or Service

Speaker, Thought Leader, Influencer, Radio Host and Author
Image credit: Shutterstock

It’s every entrepreneur’s dream to develop the next killer app, the next game changer — the one innovation that turns an industry on its head. But, while most entrepreneurs fear being late to market, just the opposite can occur, too.

Related: 4 Steps to Innovation Every Leader Needs to Follow

So, what happens when an innovation is actually so good, the market is not ready for it? Examining this phenomenon, Mary Jo Frederich and Peter Andrews wrote in their book Innovation Passport: The IBM First-of-a-Kind (FOAK) Journey From Research to Reality that, “At times, FOAK projects have been shelved because the market just wasn’t ready to test them.”

FOAK brings to mind the challenge automated teller machine makers had when they developed the envelope-free ATM. According to the Wall Street Journal, thefirst ATM in the world was installed at a Chemical Bank branch in Long Island, New York, in 1969. Since that day, U.S. banks have required that ATM customers stuff cash and checks into an envelope, then insert that envelope into the machine. Bankers never really knew if the envelope contained greenbacks or green Monopoly money. And customers never really knew — until they checked their account balance the next day — whether the money would be counted and properly credited.

While ATM makers addressed this pain point as long ago as the early 2000s, the slow-moving U.S. banking industry was not ready for the next phase: the envelope-free ATM that counts cash and checks at the time of deposit (in addition to providing other innovative features such as selling stamps and other products). For more than 10 years, ATM makers were forced to first test and deploy their highly innovative machines in foreign markets.

It was not until several years ago that the U.S. banking market was finally ready, allowing ATM makers to begin cashing in domestically on a decade-old innovation.

Now, consider Kozmo which, unlike ATM makers, never had the luxury of waiting ten years to institute its innovation, and thus never saw its day in the sun. Founded in 1998 in New York City, Kozmo, an online company, offered free delivery of small goods within an hour. While this concept created lots of buzz within the ranks of early adopters, Kozmo did not sufficiently penetrate the general market and lacked the revenue it needed to remain viable. In 2001, Kozmo closed its doors.

Fast-forward to 2007 and the launch of Amazon Fresh, which provides a service similar to Kozmo’s, but with a subscription-based business model (Amazon was actually an investor in Kozmo a decade earlier). This time, the home delivery market was ripe for the innovation of home-delivery service, and the business model generated the revenue necessary to keep things going.

Eventually, Amazon Fresh expanded from a successful single-market beta test to broader deployment in several markets throughout the United States.

My business partner, Randy Fenton, who’s the founder and CEO of Boldface, has touched on this subject of innovation adoption.Talking to an interviewer asked about his innovation in backpack design, Fenton acknowledged that, “I would be lying if I said I was not initially worried about market acceptance of theBoldface backpack. I knew our customizable backpack was a winner. I just did not know if the market was ready for it.”

Fenton was right to worry. His product, which focuses on the $2.7 billion U.S. backpack market, allows consumers to create customized on-demand backpacks with interchangeable faces, and to upload those images to create the backpack “face” or cover, then to change out those images when they tire of the look.

Yet, while the process of creating the customized backpack, and swapping the faces, is simple, Fenton recognized that at its start, the idea was so new it required more education of consumers than he’d envisioned.

Certainly, being first to market can be a competitive advantage. And doing so with a game-changing product or service is the entrepreneur’s Holy Grail. But sometimes FOAK products and services are so innovative that the market is simply not ready. Here are four tips that entrepreneurs can follow if they too want to ensure adoption of a FOAK product or service — and to avoid becoming the next Kozmo.

Related: The 3 Biggest Roadblocks in Product Development

1. Forced innovation. 

Within certain markets, entrepreneurs have the ability to force innovation regardless of the market’s desire or awareness. For example, in 2015 it is difficult to find a new car that does not include Bluetooth functionality as a standard feature. In this case, innovation was forced upon consumers as a safety precaution that promotes hands-free phone conversations.

While not all consumers will make use of the Bluetooth functionality, the technology is still implemented and ready for use. In short, entrepreneurs can ensure success if they can force the market to adopt the innovation. This works best in cases where the innovation addresses a safety, regulatory or legal concern.

2. Find an alternate market.

ATM manufacturers did a great job of enhancing their machines through the implementation of innovative features that solved pain points associated with ATM deposits, including the elimination of paper, the streamlining of the reconciliation of ATM deposits and the creation of new channels of revenue through the sale of other products such as stamps and bus passes.

Despite the advances, the market was not ready for full scale adoption. In an effort to make full use of the new machines, ATM makers focused deployment in more receptive foreign markets while the U.S. market slowly moved towards general market adoption. The alternate markets allowed ATM makers to earn revenue from the new machines while creating buzz in the U.S. and eventually making the move to the domestic market.

3. Seed the market.

In some cases innovation comes in the form of incremental improvement. The innovation may even be so slight that it doesn’t get much notice. This might include changes so intuitive that users don’t notice any difference in the use of the product or service. At other times, however, an innovation is so game-changing that it is unlike anything previously in place.

Boldface’s customized backpacks were so different that the company had to develop a grassroots campaign with schools, nonprofits and local businesses to start in-depth conversations about the product. Once buzz began in the local market, it became easier to develop general market adoption. The buzz was then leveraged to obtain national attention.

4. Educate the market.

The challenge with many innovative products or services is convincing the market why it cannot live without the innovation. I remember a day back in the late 1990s when my employer asked me to begin carrying around a cellphone. My initial response was immediate rejection. I did not understand why I needed to carry a phone when we had a perfectly good voicemail system where messages could be left.

It was not until a few years later that I fully bought into the idea of carrying around a cellphone. At times entrepreneurs must realize that their innovation, while solving major pain points, is not going to immediately resonate with potential users without some hand-holding. Entrepreneurs must recognize the need to identify for users how the product or service makes their lives better and then continuously remind them of that fact.

Related: The World Is Embracing Robots But America Keeps Them at Arms Length

The 4 Elements of a Winning Ecommerce Ad Strategy

The 4 Elements of a Winning Ecommerce Ad Strategy

Co-Founder and CEO of Crite
Image credit: T-Pay

There is no denying it, mobile is the new norm. Two in three American adultsown a smartphone. Tablet users will surpass one billion worldwide this year. The average person spends more time on their phone and laptop than sleeping. With mobile adoption widespread, and people spending more of their time across multiple devices, it’s no surprise that digital advertising spend in the US will total nearly $60 billion this year. Said differently, companies are heavily investing in engaging consumers across laptops, tablets and smartphones to win consumer attention and, ultimately, share of wallet on their path to purchase.

Digital advertising, also known as Internet or online advertising, can be a complicated space. With the numerous devices and channels available today for people to access content, consume information and make purchasing decisions, it can be challenging for a brand to succeed in engaging users and driving sales. But, it has never been as important as it is today. Ensuring the customer journey is seamless across all devices is a must for companies when people are fickle and have more options to browse and purchases than ever before.

Here are the four ecommerce strategies that empower brands to attract consumers and boost sales:

1. No stopping mobile.

At Criteo, we regularly analyze more than 1.4 billion online transactions to understand how consumers are behaving on all devices. Based on our data, we release a quarterly State of Mobile Commerce report, helping companies benchmark their success in ecommerce and make sure they’re planning ahead accordingly. Just released, the Q3 report finds that mobile commerce accounts for 35 percent of all ecommerce transactions, globally.

The number is growing, and alongside it, mobile ad spend. It’s projected that by 2019, mobile will account for 72 percent of US digital ad spend. Why? Because as consumers continue to turn to mobile for their online shopping needs, advertisers are looking to better engage them.

Companies must double down on a mobile first ecommerce strategy. This means having an easy-to-navigate and highly optimized mobile app in place. Mobile users spend 86 percent of their time in apps. Brands must engage consumers and drive conversion through this medium. Since consumers often toggle between devices along their purchasing journey it is equally important to deliver an intuitive and attractive mobile web experience.

Related: How to Pick the Best Online Advertising Channel for Your Business

2. Desktop remains a powerhouse.

While mobile is the newest frontier for digital advertising, desktop remains a powerful tool in reaching consumers and seeing them through to purchase. In 2014, desktop search accounted for 38 percent of overall digital ad spend (that’s $19 billion), and desktop display accounted for 27 percent ($13.5 billion). Closely following was mobile at $12.5 billion.

Desktops (including laptops) now dominate the modern day corporate workplace, so when lunch hour rolls around, many tend to browse and shop for personal reasons while at their desks. While mobile shopping is no doubt on the rise, desktop remains a key device in the consumer’s path to purchase. Also, desktop advertising plays a huge role in driving offline transactions. For example, the auto industry accounts for the second largest share of digital ad dollars in the US behind retail, yet most transactions are completed at a dealership.

Related: The 4 Digital Advertising Trends That Are Reshaping Advertising

3. All devices matter.

The buying journey involves many devices. Cross-device transactions in which consumers use multiple devices before making a purchase account for 40 percent of all ecommerce transactions. Someone may start browsing for a product on their smartphone via an app mid-day, then hop over to a tablet device later in the evening to do some more research through mobile web, but end up making a purchase on their laptop at work. For digital advertisers, consumers jumping from one device to another means each experience delivered needs to be relevant, consistent and non-intrusive.

Even though smartphones account for a majority of mobile transactions, tablets should not be forgotten. That’s especially the case as companies release new innovations in the tablet market, such as Apple’s new iPad Pro. Additionally, let’s not forget about smartwatches. The market is in its infancy, but it’s likely that soon consumers will be able to make purchases using their watches.

4. Attribution means ROI.

Many years ago John Wanamaker, a US department store merchant said, “Half of the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don’t know which half.”

That can’t be said about digital advertising which, unlike traditional advertising, is extremely measurable. Nonetheless, in a world of views, clicks, buys, exchanges and more, it can be tricky to calculate what ads translate into sales, and across which devices.

An experienced in-house team on the brand side working with a reputable partner that is closely aligned on priorities and delivering performance-based results is the key to accurately attributing sales to digital advertising. Looking ahead, attribution is making big strides in understanding how online ads are impacting offline transactions, which is something advertisers also need to be well equipped to measure.

Related: Do Digital Ads Work? Who Knows.

5 Ways to Make Enough Side Money to Eventually Quit Your Job

Real Estate Investor and VP of Growth at

Nearly everyone dreams of quitting his or her day job, whether it’s tomorrow, next year or in the next decade. However, there is a wide chasm between “dreams” and “action” that many people never seem to cross — and it’s usually due to finances.

Obviously, if you want to quit, you need to find another way to make enough income to pay your bills, save for the future and enjoy life. But what’s the best way to do this? How can you make enough “side income” now so you can quit your job in the near future?

Here are five great ways to make side income while still working your day job:

1. Invest in real estate.

My eyes were first open to the idea of “passive income” after reading Rich Dad Poor Dad by Robert Kiyosaki. Although not a real-estate book, it taught me the value of owning assets that produce income, which led me to real estate. Real-estate investing is not always passive, and not always easy, but it can be highly profitable. In addition, there are hundreds of ways to invest in real estate. For example, you could:

  • Flip houses
  • Own rental houses
  • Become a “house hacker
  • Own vacation rentals (AirBnB)
  • Rent out duplexes, triplexes and fourplexes
  • Buy and rent out apartment complexes

Real-estate investing is my favorite way to create side income because it runs like a locomotive. It might take a little time to build up, but once it’s running, it goes a long way with less effort and is hard to stop.

Related: Earn More Cash Through Your Personal Brand With These 3 Avenues

2. Write a book.

Many people have dreams of writing a book, but very few ever do. They think it’s too hard, that they don’t know enough, don’t have enough time, aren’t smart enough or whatever other excuse they can come up with. But the truth is: you can write a book, and that book can help you make additional monthly income.

There are several avenues you can take when writing a book, and there is no “best route.” For example:

  • You could write a series of shorter topic-specific books and publish them on Kindle.
  • You could self-publish through your own website and sell to your existing customers.
  • You could partner with a larger platform and sell to its audience (as I did).
  • You could work to get published through a major publishing company (probably the most difficult path).
  • You could record an audiobook and publish it on Audible.

Writing a book today is not as tough as it once was, as there are so many avenues with which you could publish. The keys are no longer held by elite publishing companies in New York City. The keys are now in your hands.

3. Sell a product on Amazon.

I’m slightly addicted to Amazon Prime, as my local UPS driver can attest to. It seems every day I have a package or two waiting at my doorstep — and it’s usually from people just like you. Most of them probably never touch the product that I’m buying.

That’s right: you no longer need to have a warehouse, inventory or employees to buy wholesale products and sell them at retail. Amazon has leveled the playing field and now anyone can sell products.

A friend of mine, Chris from, decided to sell products on Amazon. He researched best-selling ideas, contacted a manufacturer in China and had the perfect model designed, had the product shipped to Amazon’s fulfillment center in the United States and sells his product on the site, making thousands of dollars a month in profit.

The best part? Chris doesn’t ever touch the product, and it largely runs on autopilot at this point.

Related: 10 High-Paying Jobs You Can Do on the Side

4. Sell your skills.

Chances are you are good at something in the business world. Perhaps it’s accounting, data entry, video production or writing.

Whatever you are good at, there are likely people out there willing to pay you good money to run that part of their business for them. Smart business owners know that they should focus on what they are good at, and hire out the rest. This is where you can come in and make side income doing what you love.

In addition to freelancing, you could also become a consultant. For example, my friend Joshua Long turned his knowledge of Infusionsoft, ClickFunnels and other marketing systems into a full-fledged consulting business, where he helps CEOs identify existing opportunities in their businesses.

So what are you good at? What will other people pay you for?

5. Start a blog.

Finally, a good way to make side income can be with a blog. Although it takes time to build up a following, once you have that following there are numerous ways to monetize the blog.

Jeff Rose, from, uses his blog to build up his authority as a certified financial planner, driving traffic and income to his business. At the same time, his blog allows him to monetize in other more passive methods, such as affiliate marketing, online products and consulting.

To succeed at blogging, it’s important that you:

  • Focus on writing quality content
  • Work hard at getting that content out there to the world
  • Build your email list from day one, so you can market to those people later.

Blogging is definitely not a “sit at home in your underwear and make easy money” kind of activity. It requires diligence, quality and time. However, blogging can be incredibly rewarding.

There is one common theme with all of the above methods for making side income. Do you know what it is? They all take work. That’s right, you’ll never achieve the kind of lifestyle you want if you don’t work for it. So get out there today and start hustling. You’ll be able to quit that job faster than you ever imagined.

Related: 9 Ideas to Make a Side Income While Growing Your Business

The Secret to the Perfect Holiday Email Campaign

The Secret to the Perfect Holiday Email Campaign

Social Media Consultant and Copywriter
Image credit: Atos International

Yes, it’s that time again. Holiday shopping season is on its way. (Although, for some, it’s already started.)

For online retailers, there’s more competition than ever before. Cyber Monday brought in more than $2 billionfor online retailers in 2014, and holiday spending was up 15 percent from the year before, according to a ComScore report.

To be sure they don’t miss out on this incredible time for sales, some merchants already have begun plotting their holiday marketing strategy, which includesemail marketing.

Why email?

Email is one of the most important aspects of a holiday strategy because in 2014, more than one in fouronline orders on Black Friday were placed as a direct result of email marketing. Plus, this medium was cited as the single most effective marketing channel in the United States that same year.

Think about it: While many people have a crowded inbox, an email has much more staying power than a social message that falls victim to algorithms, time passage, and limited reach without paid promotion.

The next question, then, is: “How do I write the perfect holiday email campaign?”

Related: How to Create an Editorial Calendar for Your Blog

Write an Open-Worthy Subject Line

The subject line of your email is essential. After all, it’s what gets your reader to open and discover the marketing message inside. Write a snooze-worthy subject line and your email will sit unopened until it eventually gets pushed down in the queue (and ultimately becomes out of sight, out of mind).

Think about using these tried and tested subject lines:

  1. “You’re Missing Out on X” (create fear of missing out)
  2. “A Special Discount for You, (First Name)” (personalized)
  3. “Want a Free Gift?” (everyone loves free things)

Next, think about your email’s core objective…what should the reader do once they open the message?

Start With One

When crafting your holiday emails, think about the single objective you want your customer to accomplish as a result of opening and reading your message. Eliminate decision fatigue by resisting the temptation to showcase every sale and promotion—just focus on the single-best promotion based on past success or customer feedback.

Once you’ve identified your objective, create a simple call to action button that is centrally located and easy for the scanning reader to find. Your button should have compelling microcopy (that’s the words on or around the call to action button) such as:

  • Get my discount
  • See the sale
  • Get shopping
  • Show me more

These simple phrases tell the reader exactly what they can accomplish by clicking on your button as well as what they can expect to find on the other side.

Related: 4 Apps That Can Make You a Better Writer

Keep It Simple

As for the overall design and messaging of your holiday email, less is more.

Your customers are being bombarded with marketing messages all season long. Don’t add to the noise by sending complex email with bells and whistles. Your email should download quickly and leverage whitespace that lets messages and images breathe.

Also, it must be mobile-friendly. According to Litmus, 53 percent of all emails are opened on a mobile device—so if your content doesn’t display correctly in those environments, your customers probably won’t take the time to pinch and scroll until they can see things clearly.

Get Planning

The final secret to your holiday email campaign: Start writing drafts right now.

Shoppers are starting earlier than ever, so you need to allow for time to refine your message and email campaign design before your competitors start sending their own messages and snapping up customers.

Related: 5 Blog Topics You Need to Stop Writing About

9 Tools to Improve Your Instagram Marketing

9 Tools to Improve Your Instagram Marketing

Founder and CEO of Boom! Social

Instagram can be an incredibly powerful platform for marketers. With nearly 28 percent of the U.S. population now using it, there is no better platform for marketers who want to promote visual content. While the app alone may be enough to get you started, using the right tools can really ramp up your results. For those who want to take their Instagram marketing to the next level, consider the following:

1. Piqora


Ever wonder which images are most effective with your audience or which hashtags you should be using to get the maximum visibility for your images? Piqora lets you know exactly which images get the most likes and comments so you can constantly be improving on your content strategy. Piqora also provides unique hashtag analytics, giving you important insights into which individual users are using certain hashtags, and how influential those users are. This is a great feature for finding and following influencers in your niche.

Related: 5 Ways to Make Your Instagram Photos Stand Out

2. Word Dream


This is another graphic app that’s easier than easy to use. Simply plug in the text you want, and watch as the app creates a stunning graphic you can download and share on social media. If you want to play around with your graphic to add your own style, you can certainly do this too. With options like color and style adjustments, filters, special effects and text layouts, you can customize your graphics to give them a style all their own. Struggling with finding suitable quotes to use in your images? An added bonus is that Word Dream provides you with hundreds of inspiring and motivational quotes you can use for your designs. Word Dream is available free for a limited time on iTunes and Google Play.

3. Repost


Repost lets you easily repost photos on Instagram while giving credit to the original poster. It also lets you see which photos and users are getting the most reposts, as well as allowing you to search for relevant users, tags and contests. Available on both iOS and Android.

4. Tapshop


Owned by Piqora (see above), Tapshop lets you turn your Instagram into an online shopping portal. When users click on a link within your profile, they’ll be taken to a landing page full of your products they’ve liked. They can then buy any product on that page, and the next time they “like” a photo on your feed? They automatically get an email with a link to buy that product.

5. Crowdfire


Have you ever noticed your follower count going down, and wanted to know exactly who has unfollowed you? Crowdfire gives you an easy way to find inactive followers and unfollower, find new users to follow and keep track of how your social media updates impact your follow / unfollower numbers.

Related: 5 Things You Need to Know About Instagram’s New Ad Platform

6. Schedugram


Do you ever have images on your computer that you want to share on Instagram? You have to get them into your phone, then type your description on that tiny little keyword. With Schedugram, you can now post to Instagram from your computer. It lets you easily schedule and manage your Instagram posts via a single or bulk upload so you can plan ahead. Have more than one account? Schedugram also lets you manage and post to multiple accounts all from the same dashboard.

7. Iconosquare


Iconosquare is another fantastic tool for viewing Instagram via the web. It gives you the ability to respond to comments, search for posts by hashtag keywords, plus a new contest feature. The tool also allows you to easily see who your friends are following, and to see what content is currently getting the most likes and comments via the Populars tab. It also gives you access to a whole host of unique analytics, like love rate, talk rate and post distribution.

8. Diptic


Diptic is a photo collage app, however, it isn’t like the most other collage apps. Diptic actually has a couple of features that sets it apart such as animated photo collages and video collaging that you can put to music. Unfortunately, the full range of this app’s functionality is only available for iOS, but they do have an Android app.

9. Tagboard


Tagboard allows you to search and follow hashtags to see content that is being shared. It’s a great way to find popular social media posts you can share with your audience. Plus, it also offers a content aggregation feature for events, websites, etc.

Having the right tools can make a world of difference for your Instagram strategy, but if you are also looking to grow your following then check out my post, 9 Ways To Get More Instagram Followers. My 10 Instagram Marketing Hacks can also help you be more effective.

Which tools would you add to this list? What’s your go-to Instagram tool? Feel free to share below.

Related: How One Woman’s Cosmetic Company ‘Gramed Its Way to Insta-Success