LaunchPodium Partners With The Last Mile

LaunchPodium’s EIR program is available for graduates of The Last Mile. The program aims to equip the graduates with the instruction and guidance needed to transform their business plans into real, operating businesses and organizations.

Our goal is to dramatically accelerate entrepreneurs’ sales by utilizing our ‘Minimum Viable Marketing’ loop architecture. In addition, we bring in mentors and tutors to help coach the EIR’s.

By focusing on integration of world class web services, we make the entrepreneurs’ dream a reality. We’re committed to the expansion and sustainability of our EIR program so that we can accelerate more entrepreneurs wanting to bring positive change in their lives and the world.

Meet the entrepreneurs from 2013 class

Tulio Cardozo, Founder, Collaborative Benefit

Caleb Hunter, Founder, CitySparc

Eddie Griffin, Founder, At The Club

James Houston, Founder, Teen Tech Hub

Floyd Hall, Founder, Virtual Legacy

Kenyatta Leal, Founder, CoachPotato

Heracio Harts, Founder, Healthy Hearts Institute (HHI)

Read more about the program here and about The Last Mile here.

Online Marketing : The Four Essential Ingredients

The selection of online marketing tools available to businesses is an ever expanding universe. In fact, if you search Google for “online marketing tools” you’ll find 280,000,000 results for you.

Effective online marketing is imperative for business growth. From content management systems, to email marketing, social media dashboards, ad exchanges to dashboards. Just have a look at the social media tools in the Conversation Prism (see below) by Brian Solis. Just for fun, have a look at the Adverting Landscape by LUMA Partners.

 

JESS3_BrianSolis_ConversationPrism4_WEB_800x600For anyone trying to evaluate the tools for online marketing. The choices are overwhelming and the process is exhausting. So, let’s Stop the crazy!

What online marketing platforms actually matter?

If you break things down and start with what customers are doing, the answer is remarkably simple and compelling. There are two human behavioral insights that have emerged in recent years which point to the online marketing tools that matter.

  1. Social media content and advocacy are the principle drivers in the customer journey to purchase.
    McKinsey & Company published a significant report on the Customer Decision Journey that outlines how customers seek out social content such as reviews, posts and conversation as a key part of the purchase decision.
  2. 90% of customers use three different devices to complete a single task.
    Google’s “The New Multi-screen World” report, studied the multiple devices customer use when performing any sort of task.

When we combine these two insights, we see a world where customers swirl around before making a potential transaction. They move around a series of devices and engage with socially driven content.

Customers only purchase after engaging with  authoritative content on several devices.

Think about it. Let’s use an example of everyday behavior.

  • Let’s say you’re thinking of taking a vacation. You mention it to someone at the water cooler. That person recommends a favorite spot in Hawaii. You grab your smartphone and Google it. Maybe look at some pics. “Mmmmmm, looks nice” you say.
  • Later that day you go to Priceline and find some Hotel and Flight prices for Hawaii. You think “Not bad, we can do five days for $2,000.”
  • At home, that following evening you sit with your partner and look at what your friends have done in Maui. You think “Boy. they certainly had fun!”
  • After sleeping on it, you purchase your flights and hotel on Priceline after you checked the prices on Google. You certainly remember to save the best activities on your trusty Trip Advisor app.

This example simply illustrates a customer journey that we all do! “It sometimes occurs over a week, a month, or longer, but the same behavioral patterns will take place. Customers encircle a specific task or goal. They do not move in a straight line towards the target. They move around it in a continuous loop of content and devices. It’s only when the ‘Triggers’ of authoritative content resonate with them that they are then propelle to the target. 

So, what is this loop all about?

The Minimum Viable Marketing Loop

 

headerimg2If your business aligns itself with the way customers are behaving, you can streamline your tools and get focused on creating valuable content. Here are the four key ingredients to build an audience and drive sales:

  1. Website: this is where your content starts; a responsive website that loads fast on both a PC and a mobile device. Only build a native app if there’s a compelling service need from customers.
  2. Newsletter: a content-rich regular newsletter. Remember, email is old school but crucial as it enables a direct one to one relationship with the customer. Don’t rely on social media only! You do not own your customer in that environment. You’re merely renting your own customers back from companies like Facebook.
  3. Social Media: focus on Facebook, Twitter and Linked. These drive the majority of social value. Create highly useful content in these platforms. Make sure all customer care and support services are active in your social channels.
  4. Advertising: focus on Search, Mobile, Social and Display. Create content that “nudges” the customer forward. Don’t shout at them! Remember, advertising works best when it’s turbocharging great content.

Master each of the four tools and your business will grow. Things will get really good when you understand how they work together to create value for you and your customers. I’ll be writing more in-depth posts about each of these tools. You can register for the newsletter if you want receive a copy of these  via email. If you’d like help with growing your online business, please contact me.

Choose The Right Website Hosting

cms-logo[dropcap]I[/dropcap]t’s not easy to find great hosting for your business website. The marketplace is overloaded with hosting companies. If you’ve ever researched website hosting you’ll find the review sites feel more like coupon sites – rather than offering transparent reviews and advice. Yikes!

Finding website hosting is critical. It’s the founding step towards doing business on the web. With good hosting in place you’ll be in a position to grow your business efficiently and effectively. So here’s a simple step by step guide to finding the best website hosting service for your sites and applications.

Choose Your Content Management System (CMS)

A CMS is the behind-the-scenes tool the enables creating and editing of a web site or mobile application. The top three systems are generally;

  1. WordPress (simple, elegant and very popular)
  2. Drupal (very powerful, complex)
  3. Joomla (good functionality, easy to use)

Each of these systems are built differently. Rackspace has a good comparison of the three services. You’ll find that the best hosting companies tend to have a focus on one particular CMS. If you choose for WordPress – I really like WPEngine. Bluehost is great at WordPress and Drupal. SiteGround, on the other hand, is considered really good for Joomla. Do your research, or get advice, on the best CMS and make a short list of providers with a strong expertise in that technology.

Choose A Hosting Plan

For most businesses I would suggest you start with an affordable shared hosting plan. This means your website will be parked on a server where other websites park. A dedicated server only makes sense when you’re doing a lot of traffic and transactions on your site.

But be careful here! Shared hosting has one downfall. Some shared hosting providers overload their servers with too many sites. This means the server is overloaded and the user experience is slow and administration of the site is buggy.

Your CMS needs adequate allocation of space on servers disk, processor and the network that connects it to the internet. The only real way to test a hosting provider is to actually buy an account for one month and install your CMS. Publish a test version of your site on their ‘live’ servers and run performance tests. You can use gtmetrix.com for site performance evaluation.

Fast setup

On of the best developments over the last decade in web site hosting is ‘one-click install’. For basic and intermediate needs this is fantastic. A site administrator can login into the hosting dashboard, a control panel, and the best web hosting providers will have a one-click install that instantly installs the CMS and a related database.

So make sure your hosting provider offers a ‘one-click install’ that removes the complexity of the install of a CMS and double check that it creates a database too.

Solve Problems Quickly

Content management and hosting is not a perfect world. Sorry. But most issues can get be solved in one quick phone call. I strongly advise that you test the tech support phone line your hosting company offers.

The most important feature of tech support I look for is when the support agent stays on the line and walks through the solution step by step. Be aware of the support that ‘just sends a link to a help page’. This is bad news.

Scale When Ready

Website development projects live in the here and now. You’ve probably heard of business websites that have to be rebuilt! ‘Oh to do that we’d have to rebuild everything!’.

I really like companies like Bluehost who have a seamless transition from shared to dedicated hosting. This means you can start affordable and when things get really serious you can upgrade with very little disruption to the users of your site.

Summary

In short, try out a hosting service for one month. This can help choose the perfect CMS if you’re undecided. Do rigorous testing of the site performance and pick up the phone and really test out their support services. Whilst this will take some time and effort – it’s worth it! With good hosting you’re on the way to doing great business on the web. If you would like help with your website hosting we can help – contact us.

Online Marketing Success: The 3 Crucial Parts

[dropcap]Y[/dropcap]ou see social sites like Facebook driving sales leads and becoming more important to your business. But there’s so many other social networks: Twitter, LinkedIn, Google Plus, etc. How does this work together with your website and advertising? How should we think about online marketing?

Think of everything as Content.

ownpaidearnedmediaYou company is a publisher now. It posts on a blog, sends newsletters, tweets, etc. So your content, your expertise, your service is the media you publish. You create content that helps or entertains your audience. The better your content, the more you engage and grow your audience. And naturally, you drive sales opportunities.

You are no longer just and advertiser.

A New Media Paradigm For Online Marketing

Old media companies have a divide between editorial (that’s the content team) and advertising (that’s the ad guys). Today everything is content. The best advertising is not traditional advertising. It’s content too. So here’s a simple way for you to think about online marketing. All your content must be meaningful and valuable to your audience. Ensure it’s truly providing value to the audience. Will they smile? Will they be able to use it? If yes, it will work across all three media types:

  1. Your website…is your ‘own’ media
  2. Your advertising…is your ‘paid’ media
  3. Your social networks…are you ‘earned media

It all starts with your website. Your ‘own’ media.

Content likes to have a home. So think of your website as the starting line for online marketing. Your content could be a blog post, a video, an ebook, a FAQ, an infographic, etc. By originating from your website, the content will ‘catch’ your audience and transform them into leads. Your advertising will drive new audience and provide a wider forum to create social conversation. So let’s look at what you can do TODAY, to maximize your online makreting:

Website Hosting Tips

  • Make it Fast. A site should load in 2-4 seconds and have a Google Page Speed Score of 90+.
  • Make it Secure. Editors should have limited access and the site should check browser integrity and visitor reputation.
  • Make it Redundant. Every day your content and data should be backed up.

Advertising Tips

  • Set Goals. Be very specific in defining either a number of sales or user registrations.
  • Make it measurable. Ensure analytics are in place to measure multi channel funnel conversion.
  • Define Your ROI. Set clear limits on budget and required returns.

Social Media Tips

  • Start by listening. Track conversations so you can understand sentiment and trends.
  • Publish everywhere. Make sure you’re in the places your current and potential customers live.
  • Always engage. Don’t allow any question to go un-answered and present valuable content.

The Purchase Funnel: How Consumers Have Destroyed It

The purchase funnel of old media and marketing doesn’t work like it used to. You know…TV ads and newspaper classifieds. But old media isn’t dead. Technology and the internet have completely changed the way consumers purchase goods and services. The change has totally re-engineered how companies should market themselves.

consumer-decision-journey_miniThe Numbers Are Big

In 2013 there are over 2.4 Billion internet users. That’s over a whopping 500% increase since 2000. Incredibly, Facebook as already amassed over 1 Billion users in a shorter time period. Right behind, them Twitter and LinkedIn have built user bases of over 150 Million each. If you’d like to dive deeper into some online statistics and insights, I highly recommend Mary Meeker’s Internet Trends for 2012.

Bypassing Traditional Media and Brands

With unfettered access to content and communities, a transfer of control from brands to consumers is in full affect. A change powered by technology from the companies like Apple, Google, Facebook and Amazon. Technologies that allow consumers to bypass traditional media and brands. And talk directly to each other. So profound is the disruption, The McKinsey Quarterly published an important snapshot of the transformation in the ‘Consumer Decision Journey’.

McKinsey found that most consumers now start the purchase process with social and peer content – and not with advertising.

In more recent times, a survey from Roper Public Affairs found eighty percent of decision makers in business prefer to be informed via content and articles than advertising. According to JD Power & Assoc, consumers are far more likely to buy from a company with an effective content and social platform.

Content and Social Media Are Leading

Today content and conversation are the primary drivers of sales and building audiences. Not advertising. Advertising still matters, it’s just a secondary factor in progressive modern day marketing. This new approach has several expressions depending on which chic conference you’re attending:  Inbound MarketingContent MarketingSocial Media Marketing, etc. In the end it’s all online marketing.

A great example is from American Express. Look at OPENForm. On openforum.com they publish several articles, video’s, tweets. It’s one big mix of content and conversation with small business. And with this content-driven approach they’ve generated very positive sentiment and word of mouth. Socialmention shows positive social conversations are happening about OPENforum and AMEX. Additionally, @openforum has generated over 180,000 followers on Twitter. That’s more than five times the followers than MasterCard the company.

So it’s part social, part content and part advertising. Success lays in the mix of these parts. By firmly understanding it starts with a new consumer behavior is step 1.