Leadership Skills: 4 Ways to Achieve the Ultimate Customer-Focused Company


In May 2007, Ranjay Gulati (Michael Ludwig Nemmers Distinguished Professor of Strategy and Organizations at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management), wrote an article for the Harvard Business Review entitled “Silo Busting: How to Execute on the Promise of Customer Focus”.

Galati’s main point is as true today as it was then — that while many companies claim to be focused on their customers, they are unable to deliver on these promises within their current company culture. His basis for this argument is that companies continue to focus on their own needs versus the customer needs.

Gulati identified four values that companies must adopt in order to successfully be customer-focused. These are coordination, cooperation, capability and connection.

Coordination: Most companies are organized around a specific function, product or geographical location. However, customers don’t think that way, and often the solutions they need do not fit within those boundaries. Gulati suggests that companies need to create processes or mechanisms that break these divisions—or silos—so that the customer gets the benefit of the entire company.

Cooperation: Here the focus is two-fold. Separate business units need to cooperate to support each other’s activities to achieve measurable customer satisfaction, and employees who are closest to customers need the authority to make decisions that benefit the customer. This kind of cooperation ensures the customer always comes first.

Capability: According to Gulati, companies need more “generalists.” These are described as employees who “have experience in several products or services and a deep knowledge of customer needs” as well as having the skill and flexibility to cross organizational boundaries. These people see the big picture and resultant are able to produce tailored solutions that meet customer needs.

Connection: Gulati’s research supports aligning with suppliers and partners. The rationale is that it support better solutions for the customer as well as provide cost-cutting opportunities.

Gulati’s four “C’s” make sense, as they provide companies with a process map that focuses on the customer. Interesting to note, everything still focuses on the big “C”—the customer.

Go Agile with a Product Innovation Platform


Disruption is afoot in the manufacturing industry. But you already know that, whether you focus on consumer products or industrial applications. You also know that customer demands are shifting, production tools and techniques are evolving, and products are getting smarter. You know quite a bit, it seems.

But do you know how to stay ahead of all these changes while staying competitive? If you’re thinking that the answer is using cheaper materials, improving process efficiencies, or lowering production costs, you’re not wrong exactly. But you are relegating your offerings to commodity-product status, and any competitive advantage you may enjoy will be short-lived. If you want to aim a little higher—toward producing the bespoke, mass-customized products people want today—one way is through a product innovation platform.

Coined in the past two years, the term “product innovation platform” represents a turning point in the manufacturing industry—a time when a new generation of disruptive technologies, including the Internet of Things (IoT), promises to expand on traditional product life cycle management (PLM) by connecting the entire manufacturing process: design, make, use. It also offers the opportunity to shun waterfall product development in favor of a more agile, iterative process.

Previously, manufacturers of discrete products, from cars to airplanes to industrial equipment, had to acquire lots of disparate software applications with lots of individual licenses. And once they’d amassed those CAD and data-management systems, simulation applications, and CAM programs, they had to piece them together.

Like trying to build a house with workers who don’t speak the same language and use completely different tools, the old process was not seamless. And in manufacturing, that piecemeal approach doesn’t lend itself to an agile product-development process.

But now, product innovation platforms offer the ability to conceive, design, engineer, optimize, manufacture, sell, and connect to a product in the field—all around the same set of common data. It’s a development cycle that allows you to abandon waterfall processes for good and, ultimately, offer better service to your customers.

That cycle starts with design, which is much more involved than it used to be. Whether you make consumer products or industrial machinery, you want to offer products that specifically match customers’ needs, right? The problem is, those needs now require higher levels of complexity and personalization.

Take, for example, a company called Shoes of Prey, which lets you fully design a bespoke pair of shoes—an excellent model for personalized mass customization. You choose the base model, pick the fabric, finalize design tweaks, and then it’s made and shipped to you. It’s 100 percent yours and the only pair of shoes like it in the world.

But in addition to personalization, consumers are demanding increased complexity. Before, products were essentially just boxes that performed functional tasks; now, they’re beautifully designed pieces of engineering that have aesthetic styling and complex control systems that embrace IoT. Designing these products requires expanded teams across disparate disciplines, from industrial design to electrical engineering to software development.

Integrating those collaborations over geographic distances is a problem that a product innovation platform can help solve by connecting teams to a single shared source of information. Having this complete digital product definition allows design teams to build and optimize in a cloud-based environment. Even better, customers can also participate in the design process by tapping into that single source of information and configuring the product to more precisely match their requirements.

Nevertheless, manufacturers don’t get paid for just producing lovely designs—you have to actually finish manufacturing the part or product. A true product innovation platform embraces the manufacturing process by not only including CAD capabilities, but also integrating them as a complete solution so that you can understand the implications of the design. It should also embrace things like additive manufacturing. So if you’ve used generative design to create the best design based on computation and optimization, in production, you need to leverage additive techniques to fabricate these much more complex bespoke definitions.

And if you’re going to deliver product personalization, you can’t use traditional means of mass production to make those products; you have to use mass-customization manufacturing techniques—such as microfactories, composites, multiaxis machining, and robotics—because every product is going to end up being different.

When it comes to the “use” part of the cycle, it’s about connecting products to provide more efficiency. That efficiency could be in your own manufacturing process, but it could also be providing efficiency to your customer through differential aftermarket services like preventative maintenance or energy optimization. In addition, if you can connect to a product, you can understand its use and employ that data to inform the next design iteration. But you can’t get that connected, IoT benefit unless you incorporate IoT capability at the front end of the design process, which is what a true product innovation platform is all about: the interdependency between design, make, and use.

Now, this may sound all well and good, but you may still be wondering if implementing a product innovation platform makes smart business sense—is it an all-or-nothing solution? The answer is no. You don’t have to adopt the entire product innovation platform from one vendor for it to work. Today’s product innovation platforms are not monolithic pieces of software architecture on a single code base, but a series of cloud-based services that can be combined to act together. It’s akin to how Amazon enables its cloud customers to assemble their own solutions by combining pieces from a collection of services for storage, database management, computing, and analytics.

But to truly adopt a product innovation platform means that you’re willing to take the leap from linear, waterfall product development to agile product development—and that means being ready to embrace some process changes in your organization. And you have to be willing to offer different business models to your customer: For example, aftermarket services for preventative maintenance require more than just software implementation; you also need business support in the form of trained salespeople, back-office billing systems, and engineering departments that are more capable of reacting to change.

It sounds like a heavy burden, but you can start the process in manageable ways. Like any successful manufacturer, you likely have a new product line on the horizon. Use that as your product-innovation-platform test case, changing your tools and process for one product line rather than changing the whole business in one leap. Now, if you’re a startup, you may have the motivation to go all in, but if you’re a larger operation, it might make more sense to embrace the change more progressively through individual product lines.

It’s imperative that manufacturers make this business decision now, and you know why: Disruption is already happening in the market. Consider the integration of generative design and additive manufacturing: Forward-thinking organizations using these technologies will design more effectively, iterate more quickly, and get to market faster, putting traditional manufacturers out of business overnight. With a product innovation platform, you can fully embrace the future of making things. And that will give you true, long-lasting competitive separation. If you’re prepared to take this leap, you’re taking the first step to position your business as a next-generation leader within the industry.

Planning Principle: Do Only What You’ll Use


Efficient business in general means avoiding waste, doing only what has value. Therefore the right form for your business plan is the form that best serves your business purpose. Furthermore, for the vast majority of business owners, the business purpose of planning is getting what you want from the business—setting strategy and tactics, executing, reviewing results, and revising as needed. And that purpose is best served with lean business planning that starts with a lean plan and continues with a planning process involving regular review and revision. You keep it lean because that’s easier, better, and really all you’re going to use.

Form follows function

Consider the illustration that follows. I call the central image the lean plan because the lean business plan is about what is supposed to happen, when, who does what, how much it costs, and how much money it generates. It’s a collection of decisions, lists, and forecasts. It doesn’t necessarily exist as a single document somewhere. You use it to track performance against plan, review results, and revise regularly, so the plan is always up to date. I hope it’s gathered into a single place, as if it were a document, but it doesn’t have to be. And it’s only as big as you need for its business function.

Lean Plan image 01

The main output, and therefore the main purpose, of the lean business plan is better business, which means getting what you want from your business. That’s what your lean plan is for and that function determines what’s there. Forget the additional descriptions for outsiders until you need them. Wait for that until you have a business reason for it. But don’t let not having to show a plan keep you from using planning to help your business.

The lean business plan is the bones of other business planning outputs, including a summary, a pitch slide deck, and a full business plan document, if you need one. Do the lean business plan, keep it up to date, and to the rest as the need arises. Maybe you’ll never need to do the formal document. But you’ll always need strategy, tactics, milestones, metrics, and essential business projections.

Know your market, yes; describe, analyze, prove – not necessarily

You have to know your market extremely well to run your business. Know your market like you know the back of your hand. Know your customers, what they need, what they want, how they find you, what messages work for them, what they read, what they do, and all of that.

What you don’t have to do, however, is include any of that in your lean business plan. A lean plan doesn’t need rigorous market analysis. It doesn’t normally include supporting information—at least, not until later, with the business plan event, when it is actually required.

However, your lean plan is about what’s going to happen, what you are going to do. It’s about business strategy, specific milestones, dates, deadlines, and forecasts of sales and expenses and so forth. It’s not a term paper. Yes, you should know your market. But you don’t have to prove it until you’re trying to find outside investors.

Form follows function: The function of the lean business plan is management, not selling something to outsiders.

You don’t need supporting information. It’s still a business plan without it. It still serves its business purposes. You don’t have to do a rigorous market analysis as part of your plan if you know exactly what you’re offering, and to whom. So what about market analysis? Think about the business purpose. Do you need the market analysis to help determine your strategy? Then do it. Are you ready to go with that strategy regardless? Then don’t sweat the market analysis.

This is ultimately your responsibility. You don’t gather all the supporting information and do a rigorous market analysis just because somebody said you should. You do it if you’re actually going to use it to make decisions, or if your business purpose requires proving that there is an attractive market opportunity. You do need to know; but proving your knowledge isn’t necessarily part of the plan.

Stick to your business purpose

Planning is about managing. It’s a tool to set priorities, milestones, metrics; to track results, compare results to expectations, and steer the business.

Still Looking for the Best SMS Marketing Software?


Are you a small business owner looking for SMS Marketing Software? Then this is a must read article because I’m going to share with you SEVEN things to look for in your new SMS marketing software.

These are seven critical components you MUST HAVE…

One of the biggest mistakes you can make is starting off your SMS marketing strategy by picking the wrong software.

If you choose the wrong SMS marketing software, if it doesn’t have these 7 critical components, your life will be miserable. It will rain 24/7/365… you’ll be cold… hungry… wet… and spend the rest of your life wondering “What IF…”

Ok, maybe I over exaggerate your misery a bit.

But, why be miserable when you can pick the best SMS marketing system right off the bat?

Now I know what you’re thinking, “I’ve never done SMS marketing before; how do I know what I need?”

Let me give you a helping hand. I’ve been involved in SMS marketing for years, and I’ve talked to hundreds of business owners about Marketing systems and software. I’ve learned what they like, and don’t like, what’s important, and what’s not!

That’s how I’ve identified these 7 critical components.

Before we jump in, let me disclose a bias up front: I don’t buy software anymore, and neither should you.

You see, years ago you’d buy a piece of software, pull out the CD and drop it into your computer. Then follow an hour long set-up and instillation process. You’d make a bunch of guesstimates on how to adjust the settings—or just use the default setting.

Then you’d pray it was set up right and hope the software works.

If not, you’re stuck in technical support hell for hours.

Then you get the joy of every few months doing a software upgrade, then once a year (or every other year) coughing up more money for the next “Version” of the software.

It was a pain.

But these day’s there’s an easier way: it’s called software as a service.

Instead of buying software and worrying about deployment, set-up, upgrades, changes, versions, you simply sign up and start using the software online.

The company who built the software—they handle the deployment, set-up and all those pesky issues.

You get cutting edge software that worksand it will do what needs to be done. Best of all, you only pay for what you use! With most SMS Marking Software, you’ll pay a tiny monthly fee to use the best in class software.

It’s the best way to use software these days.

So enough about that software garbage. Let’s get to the heart of this article, lets talk SMS Marking Software features!

Seven Critical Parts to SMS Marketing Software

Ok, no more delays, here are the 7 critical SMS Marketing software components you must have.

1) You want SMS marketing software that’s easy to set up and use.

This is a no brainer… if the system isn’t easy to set up and a use, you won’t use it. It’s a huge waste of time and resources when people buy software they don’t use. Check out the company support website, look at their FAQs, review demos. Often times software is so complex… there’s so many “Bells and Whistles”… that you get overwhelmed and just get frustrated! So when looking at software, keep it simple!

2) You want SMS Marketing Software that gives you your own number – Don’t Share Short-codes.

Ok, this gets a bit into the weeds, but here it is. There are two types of Text numbers… Shortcodes (those 5 or 6 digit numbers for texting) and long codes (10 digit phone numbers). What’s the difference? I could discuss them of hours but here it is… Shortcodes are VERY expensive – like thousands of dollars a month expensive. So, if you get one cheap – you are sharing it with other people. And you don’t know who those people are! Look, I’ll do a future article on this topic… but trust me, get a long code… and make sure you are the only one using it!

3) You want software that makes it easy to manage and segment customers.

This one shouldn’t take much thought… but surprisingly some systems make this very complicated. You want to separate VIP customers from prospects… and customers from Employees. You want to segment different lists – and send them different messages – this is basic! Make sure your software does it.

4) You want SMS Marketing Software to personalize your message.

I want you to think about the last few personal text messages you sent. You probably sent off a text message and started it with the person’s name… guess what… when you market to prospects and customers, you want the option to put their name in the text. Not rocket science, it’s common sense. And It’s a feature you must have!

5) You want SMS Marketing Software making it easy to send and schedule messages.

Once again, real world advice. If you do your own marketing, you probably don’t have tons of free time, hours and hours each day to do your marketing. The best marketers schedule their activities days and weeks in advance – and probably have a promotions calendar going out for months! Make sure your system will allow you to schedule your messages.

6) You want SMS Marketing Software that’s optimized for both SMS and MMS messages.

Here we go… more big words. Or should I say small words with confusing meanings. Here’s a shortcut, SMS is text only, MMS is Media (you know pictures, videos, audio). Look the future is texting… but it’s going to change over time, and MMS is one of those changes that’s on the way. Make sure your software has the ability to do it!

7) You want SMS Marketing Software that does more than just texting.

I know what you’re thinking… didn’t you say earlier that the software should keep it simple? YES – simple to use is important… but you but have the ability to implement advance features. For example, Loyalty Rewards are huge in marketing… If you’re not rewarding your best customers, you’re missing out. Some texting systems now offer loyalty rewards add on’s, allowing you to tie a rewards system to a mobile phone number! That’s just one of a dozen ways your texting system can add advanced features… more on that in a future article too!

Alright, I’ve droned on long enough.

Here’s the heart of the message. If you’re looking for SMS marketing software for your business, make sure it has these 7 basic features, you’ll be glad you did!

We wrote a special report on SMS marketing. If you’re thinking of using SMS marketing for your business it’s a must read: “The Ultimate Guide to Mobile Marketing

You can download it with this link: http://text.betwext.us/ebook-mobile-marketing/

Remember SMS Mobile Marketing is a very powerful, and cost effective tool to communicate with your prospects, customers, and employees! Give it a try today.

Consider Hiring International Students to Give Your Business a Global Presence


The thirst for success is the life force of any enterprise, since a stagnant business is as good as obsolete. Many small and medium-scale entrepreneurs are engaged in intense competition, trying to climb up the ladder to make it to the top. And

The changed market scenario

Unlike previous years, small and medium scale enterprises are now in abundance, which means competition is fiercer than ever. This sudden rise of competition is due to a number of reasons, some of which are as follows:

  • Better economic conditions
  • Government incentives and subsidies
  • Increase in demand
  • Cost effective and time saving manufacturing techniques
  • Advancement in technology
  • Reduced dependence on labor force

Although the market conditions are favorable and present ample opportunities for profit maximization, a small-scale business is not all fun and games. Budding entrepreneurs have to work very hard, take massive risks and play smart to make it big in the market. New and innovative business and marketing solutions are the need of the hour.

Novel methods of business expansion

As a budding businessperson you can apply these simple yet effective solutions to expand your business and venture out into the global market:

  • Shift your business to a virtual platform
  • Outsource your work
  • Hire fresh graduates from prestigious universities outside the U.S.
  • Enhances communications skills to build contacts

How can global graduates boost your business?

Going global sounds pretty easy but it requires a lot of planning and time. Better arm yourself with adequate information before venturing out into the unknown. In order to create a good reputation in the international market, you should have all the necessary data from authentic resources, such as customer preference, market demand and competition. This is where your employees come in handy, by hiring foreign graduates of American universities or including managers who are well travelled and would bring some reliable international knowledge onto the table.

If you’re a small-scale entrepreneur operating in the United States, then you’d have very lucrative opportunities in hiring the best of graduates from prestigious universities, as the U.S. offers a wide mix of different nationalities and cultures. Mentioned below are some reasons why recruiting a student graduated out of a foreign institution is also a good idea for your business:

Better managerial skills

Incorporating foreign students into the managerial hierarchy of your organization can be pretty fruitful as they bring with them fresh ideas and unique business solutions that might not have made it to the U.S. Most enterprises usually prefer young graduates from established institutions, for they are well trained and have the necessary skills to become good managers, successfully meeting all your expectations.

Better insights into the local language and culture

Hiring students from different nationalities and cultures also adds a bit of diversity into the workspace. They know about the local languages, cultures and conventions better than any outsider, which comes in handy during brand promotions and advertising. Recruiting students from foreign universities is a good way of building solid relations with the locals.

First-hand knowledge of the customer preferences

Students who have lived in foreign countries know better about the local preferences as well as the social, economic and political conditions. This knowledge is crucial for an enterprise as it helps you formulate policies and business strategies accordingly.

Cost efficient and time saving

No small scale entrepreneur intends to restrict himself to his local country. An entrepreneur always has bigger dreams, wanting to take over the international market.  Business expansion means having different offices and outlets overseas. Recruiting the locals of that nation is considerably cheaper and easier than sending out managers from your country to the foreign office.

Flexibility of operation

Students who have studied in a foreign country find it easier to adjust according to the dynamics of the organization. Mostly these fresh graduates have no problem in overseas business tours and inspection trips. Also most foreign students are bilingual; they are much more flexible and functional in a foreign environment than those who have never left their country.

The Bottom Line

The path-breaking policies of globalization have opened endless possibilities for newbies to expand their business overseas. Going international is the quickest way to increase sales and gain a wider customer base, while adding diversity and innovation to your enterprise.

How to Persuade Like Bill Clinton


Author’s note: Yes, I know this is a presidential election year. And yes, I know Bill Clinton is married to the Democratic nominee. But this post has nothing to do with politics and everything to do with how you can be more effective as a leader. Republicans, Democrats and independents can unite in that.

I got a chance to speak as part of the same program as former President Bill Clinton earlier this year. This has been a bucket list item for me ever since I saw him address a few hundred businesspeople in Chicago 10 years ago.

That event had a rough start. The former president was running late, and the people in the room didn’t like to be kept waiting. Worse, when he arrived, his people requested 30 minutes of private time for POTUS, so by the time he addressed a primarily Republican crowd, they had been marinating for nearly an hour.

And then the magic began.

The former president started by saying something like: “You know, I am never going to forget this hotel. I haven’t been here for many years, but something happened in the lobby the last time I was here that really touched me…”

He went on to tell a story about his mother’s friend who had handed him a note that she received many years earlier from his mom that talked about how proud she was of her son—a young man she knew would grow up to be president.

He used that story as a transition into the importance of community and vision, and the audience was transfixed.

In minutes, the former president turned an irritable partisan crowd into a group of people ready and, more important, eager to hear more from him. He captivated us with a story. Being one of the irritable, impatient, conservative ones, I remember turning to my wife and saying, “This guy is unbelievably good.”

He knew what he was doing.

Most great leaders are great storytellers. They have a way of connecting emotion to logic like great lyrics to melodies. They touch your heart first and your head second. My friend and vice chair of business innovation at GE, Beth Comstock, put it this way: “You can’t sell anything if you can’t tell anything.” Another buddy, social media entrepreneur Dave Kerpen says, “Likeable people have many things in common, but one important asset is being able to tell a story worth listening to.”

When I met the former president after he and I spoke, I used his formula on him, since I wanted to be memorable. I told him that I had a “man crush” on one of his best friends, and then I went on to tell him why and what I’d learned from Roy Spence, the chairman and co-founder of the advertising agency GSD&M and author of It’s Not What You Sell, It’s What You Stand For: Why Every Extraordinary Business Is Driven By Purpose. Mr. Clinton responded with a story of his own about Roy and, as I had hoped, we shared a brief but memorable moment.

Mission accomplished.

The lesson for all leaders is this: When you get up in front of an audience, keep in mind that people don’t remember what you say; they remember how you make them feel. Tell a story, link it to a lesson and walk away.

It’s a downright presidential way of presenting.

3 Top Conversion Rate Optimization Rules from an SEO Perspective


It’s not common for SEO marketers to be hyper-focused on traffic goals and forget about the ultimate end goal: to make money. It’s awesome if someone lands on your website from a search engine result page—but what happens next? Are you giving the user a clear path, or focus point to direct them to take action? Will the user sign-up for more content or make a purchase?

I attended the Unbounce Call-to-Action Conference in Vancouver to learn more ways to incorporate conversion rate optimization (CRO) into my SEO thought process. An international affair, the Unbounce Call-to-Action Conference is a two-day strictly digital binge on textbook marketing—people, persuasion, and presentation. There are many things that our Canadian neighbors do great; of those making the top of the list, (next to poutine gravy flights and hockey fights) is the ability to host a kick-ass marketing conference.

Arriving back from the conference inspired and ready to optimize conversions, I’ve compiled the three main conversion rate optimization rules every marketer should incorporate into their strategies.

The First Rule of CTAs: Have a CTA!

Every landing page should have a conversion opportunity, and every conversion opportunity needs a corresponding call-to-action (CTA) in order to be successful. This is the main principle that guides Oli Gardner’s, the founder of Unbounce, 8 step “Conversion Equation.” “If you’re expecting to make money, I’d highly recommend that action be to convert users (either into a sale, or at least a lead).” – Oli Gardner

While engaging language, relevant content, and hyper-targeted strategies are the best practices we all try to follow, we’re all probably a little guilty of asking too much of our customers.

Fixated on over-optimizing landing pages for search engine rankings, webmasters often fail to consider what we want a customer to do once they arrive onsite. Even if you can cleverly plot the breadcrumbs, we fail our customers by not making it clear and easy for them to reach their ultimate goal. Oli’s advice to make this happen:


One of the best ways to approach this is by directly asking your customers! While pricey software promises to do this for you, Oli recommends just speaking to your customers first-hand. To incorporate this into your own campaigns, you’ll need to request a handful of test subjects and five seconds of your time from your boss.

The Five-Second Test


  • A handful of test subjects (unfamiliar with your brand)
  • A screenshot of your landing page
  • Five seconds


  • Show your test subjects a screenshot of your landing page for a five-second time slot
  • Remove the image
  • Ask your customers to describe what the landing page is about
  • Ask your customers what the main CTA is for the landing page

Expected outcome: A healthy portion of reality that your landing page is designed for search engines, not people.

If you run this test and come to find out that your landing page is not encouraging the actions you were hoping for, Oli recommends clarifying the page intent for your users. He recommends aiming for a design that encourages delight by eliminating distractingly-hyperbolic language, improving readability, and setting expectations with the user up front. Here’s how to start creating better landing pages:

  1. Minimize distraction
    1. What do you want the user to do? Pick one thing and make it clear.
  2. Eliminate hyperbolic language
    1. Are you explicitly illustrating what you actually do, or just saying you’re really good at doing it?
  3. Improve page readability
    1. Are your images and titles supporting your objective?
  4. Set expectations up front
    1. Make your CTA straightforward and concise
    2. “Start Now” versus “Proceed to Billing”

Pro Tip: Use the Dejargonator, a Chrome extension to audit hyperbole/jargon on a webpage.

Oftentimes, we’re all a bit guilty of asking too much of our customers at once. By applying these simple concepts of psychology to our landing page offers, we can map out clear conversion opportunities for our users.

Don’t Try to Be Everything to Everyone

Another common pitfall that SEOs are often susceptible to is trying to target everyone at once with their message. While this has proven successful for search engines, webmasters might also notice that while their traffic is going up, conversion rates may go down. This is a result of bringing in more, but highly unqualified leads.

Optimizely’s Cara Harshman came armed with data to prove how to fix this issue:


Of all the big statements made at the conference, nothing quieted a room quicker than Harshman’s claim that the homepage is “dead.” When you pick up your jaw and digest this statement a bit more, how often do you find that your homepage drives the highest number of leads or the largest social shares? Not often.

According to Harshman, audiences fall onto two axes: behavioral and demographic. Behavior is what they do, and demographic is who they are—both of which are equally important to address in your digital strategy.

Once you identify your target audience, you have to ask yourself what the inputs for personalization might look like. Ask yourself:

  1. Who are your most important customers?
  2. What can I say or do to show them how important they are?
  3. Where is the best place to deliver this message?

From a content marketing perspective, this starts with investing in an inventory of unique, highly personalized content and page structure that helps solve a user’s specific problem. Specifically, for educational content, it is important to figure out how to educate visitors about your product or unique selling point (USP) in the most appropriate format and channel for that audience.

To conquer the stale, stagnant content strategy, marketers should strive to capture quality leads over more leads. How do you start?

  1. Perform an audience analysis
  2. Develop well defined personas
  3. Segment your existing audience into these personas
  4. Design landing pages to be personalized, adding valuable content that is relevant to the user first
  5. Test, measure, repeat

Here’s an example of an end product shared by a visitor of Optimizely and also a Microsoft employee.

Harshman points out that all the elements above can be dynamically swapped to target your specific audience; from imagery to messaging. She also alluded to the five-second test: if your call-to-action doesn’t make an impression in the first five seconds of a visit, you may be missing out on a high volume of qualified leads.

Make Your Brand Authentic

Making an impression on your users means standing out from a crowd; people want to interact with a brand that is thorough, reliable and trustworthy. While “authenticity” isn’t a metric that can be easily measured or manipulated, there are ways to modify your existing content strategy to work in purpose.

Oftentimes, when optimizing content for search engines, we force keywords into a message that tends to sell our story short. This means getting cheated out of a compelling, unique message because you’re looking to optimize a page over delight an audience.

Amy Harrison, copywriter and consultant, equates a disingenuous content strategy to romantic relationships.


Cheating copy means you have content that could be on any old website, not engaging content that users want to remain loyal to. Here’s an example of highly optimized content that cheats a brand from having a succinct, unique selling proposition:

Generic Copy

Image Source Credit: Unbounce, Amy Harrison

Beyond the generalized messaging strategy, the imagery and call-to-action do little to help the user understand exactly what this brand is providing. By digging a bit deeper into the site, you get more specifics around what makes the site great. Conversely, Harrison recommends integrating these features directly into your value proposition:

Authentic Copy

Image Source Credit: Unbounce, Amy Harrison

Instead of confusing your users and making them work for the information, there are several tactical approaches to making your copy fall in love with you all over again:

  • Conduct Customer Surveys
    • Ask customers about their challenges and questions, allowing you to categorize these and address them directly in your content marketing strategy
  • Diagnose Customer Problems
    • Looking at customer “symptoms” of a poor experience gets you closer to understanding their end goal. By acknowledging the problems and providing a solution, you can personalize your features to qualify yourself as a highly qualified source of solutions.
  • Change Your Perspective
    • Content is often written about the customer, without really understanding their pain points. Instead, focus on writing a monologue from your customer’s perspective, highlighting points that directly point out a problem they are looking to solve.

Pro tip: Below is a cheat sheet for how to catch a cheating copy in the act, integrating the elements above to alter your content to be more authentic, and creating a value proposition that is truly “unique.”

Cheating Copy Chart

Image Source Credit: Unbounce, Amy Harrison

If we can rise above the noise and the sales pitches, we might be able to help our customers get something accomplished, and be the brand we want to be.

Is “Servant Leadership” Too Soft for Today’s Workforce?


It’s a term rooted in ancient philosophy. Robert Greenleaf may have been the first to resurrect the concept in his book published in 1970. Not quite as bold as inverting the management triangle, the concept of servant leadership requires that a business manager focus upon his or her people’s highest priority needs first.

The question begged by the headline above is whether this form of leadership is perceived as soft, indecisive, and inappropriate for the fast-moving world of today’s business.

A servant leader uses a participative style of management, as opposed to one that is autocratic or (at the opposite end of the spectrum) laissez-faire. More important, a servant leader involves employees in the process of decision-making, focusing upon the performance and satisfaction of employees.

Doesn’t sound tough or forceful enough for you? You are not alone. It is a very thin line between abdication of responsibility and participative leadership. The world loves bold leadership. Steve Jobs, who was known to be in charge of each detail in design. Elon Musk, who obsesses with metrics and constantly asks for employees to feed him their concerns but makes bold moves on his own.

In technology-based enterprises, the question of leadership vision becomes mixed with leadership style. Can a visionary leader abdicate the execution of that vision by subordinating to those who carry out the execution of that vision? Or must he or she be more like Jobs or Musk and stand in the center of the storm, constantly testing the execution efforts of those around?

There is a place for a leader as servant. But the perception of that leader being soft and lacking in strong leadership traits is the sure result of using this method as the leading style for a CEO. It is fine as a secondary style used in tactical decision-making, when strategic issues are not the focus, and where threats to corporate health or resources are not evident.

But those leaders who will be remembered as having changed the world, even if the world is defined as within the walls of one enterprise, are those who were clear in their ability to communicate urgency, quality and focus upon the customer—not necessarily those who delegated the best or allowed decisions to flow from management concurrence.

What Makes One Franchise Opportunity Better Than Another?


When you look at a franchise directory, it can be overwhelming. Even if you know the category of franchise you’d like to invest in, there can be dozens of options. What makes one franchise opportunity better than another?

In fact, it’s not that one brand is better than another, but more than one is better for your needs than the rest. It’s up to you to determine the criteria that will help you winnow down your options to one perfect match.

First, Look at Reputation

I’m assuming you don’t want to buy a franchise that has a bad rap. Lawsuits and lots of negative online reviews are a few red flags to watch out for. But also: pay attention to the word on the street. Do your friends shop at that franchise? Or do they steer clear of it due to some nasty rumor? It’s important to know what people think of a franchise, because “people” are your customers. If they think the brand is tarnished, you’ll find it hard to fight against that legacy.

On the other hand, a brand that people flock to is a good one to consider. When you think of the top businesses in an industry, does this one come to mind? Does the brand spend a lot on national advertising (something that will give you a leg up if you become a franchisee)?

Next, Decide What You Want to Invest

Realize that you’ll have more than just the franchise fee to cover just to open your doors: if you need to renovate commercial space, that can take quite a chunk out of your budget, as can equipment. And then there are payroll, employee benefits, and inventory to factor in.

So the question is: what’s your budget?  Do you want to finance a few hundred thousand dollars, or would you rather find an affordable franchise under $25,000 to keep your costs down? The answers to these questions can help you eliminate any franchises that don’t fit your financial needs.

What About Franchisor Support?

Here’s one area where all franchises are not created equal, but it’s often hard to know how supportive a franchisor will be until after you’ve signed that franchise agreement. Your best bet it to talk to existing franchisees to find out how much help the franchisor provided in getting started and how readily available it is to answer questions now that the franchise is up and running.

The fact is: choosing a franchise should be a decision you find challenging. It’s a long-term, expensive endeavor, and you need to dedicate the appropriate amount of time to ensure that you choose the franchise brand that suits your goals and lifestyle needs. This will involve some research, so be ready to dig to get the answers you need to make your decision.

Alarmed by Employee Attrition? Here’s Why They Leave


An employee may seem content on the surface, but may actually be actively seeking a new job. This kind of scenario is very common in the workplace, and it often leads to disgruntled managers having to go through the hiring process for a replacement. In this situation, bosses are sometimes left scratching their heads, wondering why a seemingly happy employee chose to leave the company. Read on for a rundown of why employees leave their jobs.

1. Lack of Appreciation and Disrespect

Even if employees love their job, they are unlikely to stay if they feel unwelcome, disrespected, and unappreciated. It is important for employees to feel valued by their company, and this motivates them to work harder. While you may be unable to increase your employees’ salaries, do things to promote recognition in the office. Hold employee appreciation luncheons, or organize team-bonding activities outside of the office. Employees are less likely to leave an environment in which they feel appreciated and respected.

2. No Upward Mobility

It is important for employees to know that their jobs are leading them somewhere down the line. No one wants to feel like he or she is stuck in a dead-end job with very little possibility of promotion or growth. Make sure to create opportunities for your employees to take on new responsibilities and challenge themselves in new ways. You may also consider providing training sessions for employees who want to pick up on new skills.

One mistake many small business owners make is to hire or promote friends and family—people they already know. This often leads to drama for a couple different reasons. First of all, just because someone is a great relative or friend does not necessarily mean he or she will be an excellent employee for your company. Secondly, your other employees who are not related to you could sense nepotism taking place and then leave the company in search of other opportunities. So think twice before giving someone a job simply because he or she is friend or relative.

3. Lack of Delegation

It can be hard to let go of responsibilities in your small business. After all, you worked so hard to build it from the ground up! But employees can begin to feel undervalued if you never trust them with important tasks, or if you try to micromanage everything. If this is the case at your firm, try to remember why you hired employees in the first place. You needed help in growing your company, and you selected applicants you trusted to come along with you on the journey. Give them a chance to prove themselves.

While customer loyalty is something all business owners know is important, employee loyalty is equally important. Help them stick around by keeping in mind the points mentioned above.

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