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Entrepreneurship

Must-Have Business Tools and Resources to Grow Your Startup Online

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Have a business of your own, or currently working towards starting one of your own? Great work!

Whether you’ve already started or just in the pre-planning process, you will likely have noticed that the world of online and offline business has changed a lot over the years. Not only is it now easier to get started with a business of your own, it’s also more saturated and flooded than ever before — which also mean more competition, headaches, day to day tasks, and overall management of your business to get that upper edge.

In short, if you want to survive and compete against the best, you will need a little help from some of the top tools, services, solutions, and guides on the internet today. To help with this process, today we are going to take a look at some of my favorite tools and resources that I use and recommend for every business owner.

Web Hosting and Site Development

I first started created websites back in the mid-90s, and everything was straight HTML back then. I even had one site that was made up of more than 10,000+ pages of HTML — all done by hand (no programming at all, and also powered by 16 dedicated Dell servers). This would all seem like a nightmare today, as WordPress and shared hosting has made the process of creating a website or blog extremely easy and affordable. There are NO technical skills required to start a website these days — all it takes is a click of a button and walking through a few simple steps. Best of all, WordPress makes it possible to have a great looking site without ever needing to touch a line of code or be a graphic designer.

When it comes to web hosting, you have more than enough to choose from. In short, if you want to go live with your first website or blog and need to grab a domain name, it’s best to go with a shared hosting plan — usually under $5 to $10 per month. I personally recommend Bluehost, as they are one of the largest and most trusted hosting brands in the world today. They are also the #1 hosting solution, as recommended by WordPress.

As a reader of ZacJohnson.com, all new sign-ups to Bluehost through this blog will receive a free domain name, 60% off hosting plans and also have SSL and WordPress set up on their new site for free.

Email Lead Generation, Mailing and Call to Actions

No matter what type of business or brand you are running, email and content marketing are key. If you have a website or blog, it’s crucial to have a website loaded with great content, but also call to actions to get your audience to take action and engage.

At the same time, you also need to make sure your content is working for you 24/ — specifically bu getting new subscribers to your mailing list daily. Here are two of (my favorite and) best ways to implement these strategies into your business right now.

  1. OptinMonster – You’ve likely seen popup subscribe and call to action forms online. They’re also likely to have been created and running through the power of OptinMonster (created by Syed Balkhi). This tool not only provides the best popup and newsletter subscription forms online, they also have full integration with WordPress to create call to actions and split testing throughout all different areas of your site.
  2. AfterOffers – If you are looking for a solution to increase your mailing list, while not having to sign a long-term contract, AfterOffers is probably a great option for you. This platform has a network of hand-selected sites that promote your newsletter list to their audience and provide only 100% opt-in subscribers delivered in realtime right to your list. Check out their site and see how you can start building your mailing list immediately.
  3. Constant Contact – Every business will need to have the ability to manage their email lists, send out to subscribers, and also have the necessary tracking features and tools to scale in the process. That is exactly what you will find with Constant Contact. You can sign up for a free trial at their site and see what email marketing and list management opportunities they have for your business.

Once you have the power of email marketing working for your business, you can scale it virtually forever. For this to work best, you will need to have solid call to actions through your site, a sales funnel, an autoresponder series, and also putting in the time and effort to set up new email campaigns and traffic sources.

Everyday Business Tools and Email Usage

Of all the tools and resources that business owners use daily, email is probably the most common. A lot of people like to spend hours per day on social media, but if you were to track my time, I think I spend most of it within Gmail — and making all of the new business connections and deals happen!

Gmail out of the box is great in itself, but there are many great tools and applications that can be added in as well. For example, I get a TON of emails daily about advertising and guest blogging on various sites. Thanks to the use of ‘Canned Responses‘, I only need to write a response email once, then click a couple of buttons to have that same template email sent in response to each request.

I’m also a huge fan of using custom email signatures. Right now I’m using Wisestamp, which instantly adds my profile photo, contact info, social profiles and site information to all of the emails I send out daily. This easily adds up to thousands of new people getting a better first impression of myself monthly through email, versus just seeing an email with the signature of “Zac Johnson”.

Lastly, Gmail and Google are great for all of the “suite” tools they have to offer such as Google Docs and Sheets. I use both of these applications daily, and best of all, not only are they free, they are also all stored in the cloud and accessible right within your account.

All in One Maintenance Software

As an entrepreneur or site owner, you are likely running many different aspects of your business. Whether it’s emails, invoicing, revenue reports or tracking your latest ad campaign, you likely have a lot of files all over the place and not many ways to connect each of them together. This might not seem like a huge problem now, but over the course of a year it could add up to hundreds of hours of wasted time.

Instead of having to open and create individual files within Excel and Word, sending out emails through Gmail, and then managing and tracking progress through phone calls and writing notes down on paper… it can actually all be done and tracked seamlessly through the power of CMMS. The ultimate dream of bloggers, affiliate marketers, and business owners is to be able to run their business and day to day operations from anywhere. Having access to an application that brings all of your daily tools and applications together is one of the best ways to move towards that goal

With more people using their mobile devices to run their business and check for updates, a mobile-powered CMMS can help anyone get more work done.

The Treasure Chest of an Entrepreneur is Always Growing!

As you can imagine, every entrepreneur and site/business owner likely has their own preferred set of tools and methods for running their own business. Today I’ve listed just a few of my favorite tools and methods for improving your day to day operations. While I’ve only scratched the surface, I’ll keep updating this article and resource as I find more time.

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Entrepreneurship

9 Ways to Lead a Healthier and More Successful Entrepreneur Lifestyle

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You know what I’m tired of hearing? We are always told being an entrepreneur is the toughest to start but the easiest to thrive in.

Guess what? It’s not like that at all. I have gone through hundreds of contents about the lives of successful entrepreneurs and here is what I found:

Becoming successful is easy. All you need is discipline and a strict daily routine.

My advice: Don’t study what made them successful. Study what they do on a daily basis.

Below are a number of tricks and strategies I collected and adapted in my own life from several prosperous people in the world.

  1. Be Authentic

Come to think of it. Nobody wants to be customers or clients to organizations that are entangled in bribery, fraud, false promises and bad delivery. As an entrepreneur, you must ensure that the products, services, and culture you demonstrate to others are as authentic as possible.

Alexi Panos, philanthropist, television presenter, producer, author, actress, and model believes when we expose our true selves to others, they can relate to us more effectively. By sharing your own story, you attract stakeholders towards yourself.

  1. Do What You Love

Let’s ask ourselves this question: why do we want to be successful? Steve Jobs thought it’s for personal fulfillment. Basically, he believed in finding work that drives our passion provides us with excitement and fulfillment.

Before you become an entrepreneur, decide if it’ll give you what you truly want in life. Mark Cuban, whose net worth is US$3.8 billion, says that people must know what they love and what they’re good at to be successful.

  1. Set the Right Goals

I tell you, be very discrete about this. Not all goals are what we want or what we can achieve. You have to be clear about your goals at all times. Create a Vision Board of all the things you would want to accomplish, and place it somewhere noticeable.

Don’t expect immediate satisfaction. Everything takes time to come to be successful. Relax and know that what you visualized will become a reality.

Henry Ford said, “when you don’t believe in yourself, you are believing in excuses”.

It is common for people to lose hope and become frustrated when things don’t go their way. Don’t do that. Believe in your ambitions. Trust life that it will make it happen.

  1. Help Others

This is a great way to promote your brand image. When you help others, others will help you. Also, this will ensure you build meaningful, long-lasting relationships.

Co-founder of LinkedIn, Reid Hoffman notes that you can improve yourself by associating with people who you want to become. Even the people you partner with and employ for your organizations should reflect the best standards.

Promote other organizations and collaborate with them instead of competing, and you will create a harmonious exchange of giving and take.

When you create products or services that help people, they want to be your customers for life. Moreover, when you deliver more than their expectations, they pledge loyalty to you.

  1. Learn from Criticisms

One of the most important lessons is taken from customer feedbacks. You have to tweak your delivery according to your customer’s needs. Unsatisfied customers are the end of an organization.

Don’t be offended by criticisms. Use it as an opportunity to improve yourself. Co-founder of Huffington Post, Arianna Huffington recalls that a critic once wrote to her that ‘The Huffington Post was an unsurvivable failure’.

Failures are not the bricks that we carry on our shoulders, but the steps that we stand on to climb upwards. Sophia Amoruso, a self-made millionaire says that those who rejected her once approved of her later on. So failures are never the end.

  1. Time and Stress Management

What you choose to do within 24 hours is crucial. Be proactive. Don’t ever wait for tomorrow. What needs to be done needs to be done now.

Be creative when it comes to fear and stress management. Practice yoga and meditation. Find natural remedies for anxiety such as herbal tea, relaxing wine, and relaxing herbs.

I say this everywhere and I will say it here too. Switch to an organic diet. Your life will change drastically.  

Be flexible. Adapt to situations as they come. Don’t be a slave to your past beliefs. If you have an opportunity, analyze it. If it’s favorable, take it.

  1. Take Care of Your Health

You cannot multi-task or run an entire company when you are not doing well in the health department. You need a strong body to perform at your best all day, every day.

Wake up early in the morning. Go for a jog or work out. Exercising your muscles and bones lets your body stay active all day long.

It also reduces the chances of abruptly falling ill. Because if you fall sick, who’s going to run your company?

  1. Get Organized

You don’t have to do everything all on your own. Outsource what you can, delegate tasks to your managers and focus on your own tasks.

Don’t follow the crowd. Do your own research and analyze opportunities wisely. Just because others are making money out of it does not mean you will. Ensure what is safe for you.

Never spend unnecessarily. It’s best to construct a personal budget and record everything daily.

  1. Keep Yourself Motivated

This is the key factor in pursuing goals. If you lose the interest to chase, you will also lose the game.

How can you keep yourself motivated? Subscribe to newsletters and blogs that mentor about motivation and success. Hang out with people who are motivating and energetic.

Don’t just subscribe, but also read and practice the habits that will keep you driven to go on and reach your destination.

In essence

Habit is the key. Follow through all of the above tricks and hacks to make the most of your climb to career success.

Be authentic about what you say and do. Know what you want and follow through. Make sure to help others and demonstrate a safe, humanitarian company culture to all your stakeholders.

It is okay to take help from others when you need it. It is okay to be stressed and anxious. Just know what relaxes you and makes you feel better, so that at times when you are not feeling well, you can do something about it.

Keep yourself healthy, fit, motivated and educated. Do this every day because success starts from within first.

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Entrepreneurship

17 Growth Hacks to Help Your Startup Scale Faster

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Startups are everywhere on the internet today. It doesn’t matter if your expertise, service, or focus is on technology, business, social media, content creation or even applications — this space is extremely saturated! Everyone has ideas, but only those who know how to implement them and turn their efforts into actions will see real results. Just like it’s easy for anyone to start a website or blog, it’s not so easy to get real traffic and make money.

The same is true for starting any type of business online. It’s all fun and games in the beginning, as you are likely starting from zero… but how long can this immediate growth last?

Rapid startup growth is a common goal for many business owners, but it’s one that is tricky to achieve. You need the right marketing tactics, customer support and operational infrastructure — and you need the resources to sustain it all until the sales start rolling in. This is where the opportunity of running an internet-based business really comes into play.

So, what’s the secret to scaling up with speed? Members of Young Entrepreneur Council share their best growth hacks for businesses looking to expand quickly. By following any of the growth hacks for businesses below, you should start to see improvement across the board in a matter of a few short weeks.

1. Create Your Brand

Start creating your brand as quickly as possible. Your brand is an important asset for a startup. People need to know what you do and why you do it in order to use your product or service. The faster people know your brand, the faster you will be able to scale up your business.

Samuel Thimothy, OneIMS – Integrated Marketing Solutions

2. Learn How to Delegate

The fastest way to scale is to optimize your time. Start with the things that are taking up the majority of your time and find someone to manage them. Hire, outsource or create daily efficiencies, and scaling will feel easier than it should.

Corey Eulas, Factorial Digital

3. Focus on Your Processes

Experiencing rapid growth can be a good or a bad thing, depending on how prepared you are. We experienced and are experiencing this growth currently, and it helped expose areas of improvement in our processes. If your processes are broken and you grow fast, it will only emphasize those weaknesses. If you focus on shoring up processes first, you’ll be prepared for fast growth.

Joel Mathew, Fortress Consulting Group

4. Draw Attention to Your Brand and Product

Ride on your competition’s research through SEO and advertising. Use Quora as a platform to answer questions related to your product. You will get immediate traffic. Use video marketing on LinkedIn to draw attention and increase followers.

Trish Agarwal, V Synergize Global Solutions LLC

5. Keep Reminding Your Audience About Your Brand

You have to get out there and get your name out. The more people you know who keep seeing what you do, the more they will think of you when they need what you do or know someone who you can help. This is a big reason why people buy from top brands — their marketing is all over the place reminding you.

Jacqueline Marrano, Marrano Solutions, LLC.

6. Grow Your Team

The rate-limiting factor of growth of any organization is leadership. Entrepreneurs need to scale themselves as well as their teams. When the team is more effective and growing, the business will automatically grow to greater and greater scale. Nothing matters more than human capital.

Eric Mathews, Start Co.

7. Don’t Be Afraid to Accept Help

If you insist on rapid growth, you’re going to need help. And once you get that help, you are going to need to trust their abilities. Too many entrepreneurs think they can do it all and they end up exhausting themselves/failing. Let those around you help you.

Adrien Schmidt, OpenBouquet

8. Put the Customer First, No Matter What

The bigger your business, the greater the need for a solid customer support infrastructure. Prioritize customer communication early on. Each interaction is an opportunity to showcase your brand’s voice and values. Cultivating loyalty and customer satisfaction is a result of having the right solutions and experts to guide your customer service strategy.

Eng Tan, Simplr

9. Know Your Sales Funnel

Sustainable, fast growth requires every part of the acquisition funnel to be in top shape. This will look different for every business, but it’s always important to pinpoint exactly what isn’t working, whether that’s acquiring leads, converting them or upselling them.

Jacob Drucker, Supply Clinic

10. Learn How to Get the Right Traffic

You’re great at what you do, your service is wonderful and your prices are well worth the value you provide. The only thing is, nobody knows you and they can’t find you. If you know how to generate foot traffic or web traffic at a good cost, you’ll be able to scale up quickly. Find the right help, or roll up your sleeves and figure out how to do this for your industry.

Jared Weitz, United Capital Source Inc.

11. Build a Strong HR Team

Most entrepreneurs do not pay enough attention to HR. To scale up quickly, you need to rely on people. You can’t do everything yourself and let your department heads rely on you in order to move forward. HR comes into play and lets you hire people that you can rely on.

Michael Hsu, DeepSky

12. Aggressively Network

My advice to startups looking for quick growth is to get the word out about their business or service by any means necessary. Spending a lot of money on marketing and promotion may not be possible in the early stages, but one of the cheapest and most effective methods of doing so is to connect with other professionals. Foster healthy relationships with professional peers.

Bryce Welker, Crush The LSAT

13. Focus on SEO

SEO is still one of the most effective growth strategies, but it’s hard for founders to execute because it requires content development and the ability to build systems and processes effectively. Double down on content and guest blogging to get backlinks. Stick to it for a couple months targeting niche keywords and you’ll see exponential growth. Most give up too early, but it requires time.

Matthew Capala, Alphametic

14. Make Time for Strategic Planning

Every year, I make a vision board of what I want in my life. Then, I break it down to the top three goals that I feel I must accomplish for growth. Furthermore, I break it down into weekly actions and daily activities. Once a week, I outline my priorities for that week. I analyze what last week’s activities were, and if I find that I was off track or started another project, I cut it.

Klyn Elsbury, Landmark Makers

15. Get to Market Quickly With Your MVP

It’s critical you get to market as fast as possible to test your assumptions. The concept of the minimum viable product (MVP) is the fastest way to support rapid scaling. It allows you to quickly test your assumptions, iterate your product and accelerate the never-ending work of building a product that remains a must-have to your target consumers.

Eyal Ronen, Puls

16. Create Value

Nothing ethical and good is done without creating real and meaningful value for another business. Anyone who tells you otherwise is selling you a bottle of Uncle Tom’s magical formula. Focus on value and how to make that something that can be shared and promoted.

Nicole Munoz, Start Ranking Now

17. Proceed With Caution

Scale up based on demand, not just because you want to. If you scale up too quickly, you run the risk of overextending your resources and potentially losing your company. Concentrate on the quality of your product and look long term. If what you provide is really worthy of massive growth right away, the market will dictate that naturally and you won’t have to force it.

Justin Lefkovitch, Mirrored Media

How to Start Your Startup in the Right Direction

Having read through each of the actionable and expert tips above, you likely already have some good ideas for launching or improving your startup. With all of this in mind, it’s important to take advatage of the many benefits the internet has to offer — especially in terms of connections and online tools.

Take some time to run through our list of recommended business tools and resources, and if you are currently having a hard time with raising the necessary funds for your business, this is also a great resource. No matter what direction or method you take, just be sure to take action daily and always progressing in the right direction.

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Entrepreneurship

Logo Design Tips for Digital Marketers, Businesses, and Brands

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Pepsi made headlines in 2008 when it decided to spend over $1 million redesigning its logo. This was a fresh reminder to businesses all over the world just how important a good logo really is.

Strangely, many online businesses don’t seem to have gotten the memo. Many digital marketers don’t have any logo at all. Others hacked something together that doesn’t communicate the core essence of their brand.

Your logo plays a very important role in your brand positioning. It is also one of the most visible parts of your website and other web properties. UX experiments show that 36% of website visitors will click the company logo to visit the homepage, because is the most prominent part of the site.

Why is a logo important for your online business?

Here are some things that you need to understand about logos and digital marketing.

Every online business needs a logo

Yes, every single business needs a logo. Too many online businesses think they are the exception.

Bloggers and affiliate marketers are particularly likely to think that they don’t need a logo. Since they aren’t actively selling their own products and services, they believe that they can get by without it. This is a big mistake.

When you have any type of online business model, your reputation is going to make or break your success. You may not be selling your own products as an affiliate marketer, but you still need to earn the trust of your website visitors before you can convert them by promoting another brand’s. Having a professional logo helps establish trust by showing that you are a serious entrepreneur that intends to stick around for the long term.

When hiring an outside logo design agency, it’s important to make sure you know what type of logo and design work you want to have done. Not only should you have a concept and idea in mind, you should also be aware of the services out there, and the associated costs with each. DesignBro.com recommends the following, and actually provides all of these services and design requirements within each logo job they take on:

  • Up to 10 suggested designs from professional logo designers. Only see the best designs – forget about clutter.
  • A closed competition: Designers cannot see the other designs. This stimulates more unique & creative content while avoiding simple variations and blatant copies.
  • Own your design with full legal copyright.
  • Receive files in relevant formats; suitable for online & print purposes (.ai, pdf, jpg, and png)

No matter if your business or brand is completely online or offline, you should have your logo and design files available in all formats and sizes. You never know when you might want to print out business brochures, business cards, or place your new logo design on your site or within social media.

A strong logo helps create a more seamless marketing funnel

Have you ever clicked an online ad on Facebook, Google or another site, only to be disappointed with the landing page that you saw? The problem is often that the advertiser didn’t provide a consistent funnel. The initial ad needs to set the expectations for visitors before they see your landing page. If you are getting users to subscribe to an email list, your ad and landing page need to make sure that your subscribers know what to expect when they start receiving emails from you.

A perfect example of this can be seen in the ad placements above. While the logos aren’t actually shown on Google, they will be displayed on the landing pages after the ads are clicked. Having a well-known and recognized brand identity only further improves the chances of higher conversions and gaining the trust of your audience. You can see more examples of how this can be done across multiple platforms and social media, in this article.

Keeping your message is consistent is essential. However, explicit, written statements aren’t the only part of the message that you need to pay attention to. Other visual cues can subconsciously convey messages that you may not even be aware of. It is important to make sure that these visual elements are as consistent as possible between every stage of your funnel. Using your logo in your ads, landing pages and email newsletters helps establish that consistency.

A good logo will convey the emotions that you want your brand to resonate

Every brand is unique. Every brand wants to build a different type of emotional connection with its customers. Creating a logo that matches the emotions you want your customers to feel is important part of the process.

Don’t settle on a logo just because it looks nice or would work well for another brand. It must match the connection you want your customers to have with your company.

Developing the perfect logo for your digital brand

As a digital marketer, you can’t afford to use a poor logo for your website, social media profiles or marketing creatives. Offline businesses can often make up for having a poor logo with their charismatic personality, community involvement and recommendations from trusted colleagues. That is a luxury that online marketers simply do not have.

Unfortunately, many potential customers are not going to give you a second chance if you don’t make a good first impression. Many website visitors will click the back button and never return.

This means that you need to use a great logo from the very beginning. Here are some things to keep in mind.

1 – Know who your customers actually are

Digital marketers don’t have the same face-to-face connection with their customers that local businesses do. This means that they don’t know as much about them. They may even make erroneous assumptions about their demographics.

Don’t make uninformed assumptions about your target demographic. Do your research and make sure your logo conforms to their standards.

2 – Don’t use low quality logo design services

I can’t stress this enough – you do not want to hire a low-quality expert to come up with a logo for you. They will usually hack something together that doesn’t look very professional. They may even plagiarize another brand’s logo, which is going to be even worse.

If you don’t have a large budget, you may want to look into using a free browser-based logo creator, which in many cases are free to play around and will give you a good idea on how you might want to map out your professional logo design. You will need to be a little more involved in the design process, but it will definitely be worth it in the long run.

3 – Consider using a focus group to look at your final logo design

You may fall in love with your new logo. That doesn’t mean that your customers are going to like it though.

It is a good idea to have people that match your target demographic take a look at it. You may even want to organize a focus group for them to give their input.

4 – Don’t make your logo too fancy

A lot of marketers try making the fanciest logo they possibly can. They cram as many contours and colors into it as they can. Their goal is to impress their customers, which is usually counterproductive.

Instead, you should try to make your logo as simple as possible. Your goal is to make sure customers remember it easily and understand your core message. Having a slick logo with few design elements is usually the best way to do this.

Your online business begins with your logo

Take a look at each of the logo designs above. What do they have in common?

Besides being well-known and recognized by almost everyone… they also don’t have any words or names on their logos. This is something every brand in the world wishes they could accomplish!

While your brand on business might never reach this level, your logo is the centerpiece of your brand. It quickly communicates the central message behind your entire company. Dedicate the time and resources to develop a logo that aligns with your branding goals. It will be one of the best investments that you ever make.

When looking to create a logo design or identity for your brand, be sure to consider all of the points we mentioned in this article.

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