No Competition? Not Possible! | Bplans

no competition not possible

Your business idea is brilliant. Nobody else is doing it. You’ve got no competition. It’s sure to be a gold mine, right?


One mistake many new businesses make is thinking that just because nobody else is doing exactly what they’re doing, their business is a sure thing.

Is there a good reason why no one else is doing it?

The smart thing to do is ask yourself,  “Why isn’t anyone else doing it?”

It’s possible that nobody’s selling cod-liver frozen yogurt in your area because there’s simply no market for it. Ask around, talk to people, do your market research. If you determine that you’ve got customers out there, you’re in good shape.

But that still doesn’t mean there’s no competition.

How are customers getting their needs met?

There may not be another cod-liver frozen yogurt shop within 500 miles. But maybe an online distributor sells cod-liver oil to do-it-yourselfers who make their own fro-yo at home. Or maybe your potential customers are eating frozen salmon pops right now.

It doesn’t have to be an exact match to be a competitor

Don’t think of competition as only other businesses who do exactly what you do. Think about what currently exists on the market that your product would displace.

It’s the difference between direct competition and indirect competition. When Henry Ford started successfully mass-producing automobiles in the U.S., he didn’t have other automakers to compete with. His competition was horse-and-buggy makers, bicycles, and railroads.

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Competition can be a good thing

Having competition can actually be a good thing for your business.

For starters, it’s an easy validator—it’s more likely that there are people who might be convinced to pay for your product or service if there are already people buying from your competitor.

Writing the competition section of your business plan

If you’re thinking about competition because you’re writing a business plan, use this guide to help. One of the best things you can do is use a competitive matrix as a tool to make it easy to see how your product or service compares to your competition.

Sometimes you have to think outside of the box when planning your business. Chances are, if you’ve got a product or service that appears to have no competition, you’ve already got a talent for thinking differently. Be sure to put that talent to use.

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Creating LinkedIn Ads That Convert Like Crazy

The following strategies will help you create ads that make prospects want to click and buy.

6 min read

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

The following excerpt is from Ted Prodromou’s book Ultimate Guide to LinkedIn for Business. Buy it now from Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Apple Books | IndieBound

Everyone sees thousands of ads every day, so it’s hard to break through the clutter and grab someone’s attention. You need to interrupt a viewer’s thought pattern without being annoying. If you pique their interest, they’ll click on your ad to learn more. If you don’t grab their attention in a second or two, they move on and can subconsciously block you out in the future. This is why you need to carefully plan your LinkedIn ad campaigns to get the most for your dollar.

The key to writing successful online ads is to put yourself in the shoes of the people who are reading your ad. Imagine how they’re feeling. Find their pain points. Understand why they’re frustrated. Once you get into their heads, you can write ads that will instantly grab their attention and make them comfortable with you and your products.

The headline and the image are the most important factors in your ad. Most online advertising experts say the headline can account for up to 90 percent of your conversion rate. If you don’t grab users’ attention with a compelling headline or an eye-catching image, they’ll never read the rest of your ad, let alone click on it.

There are five key factors that can make your headlines more clickable. Not all of them will result in clicks on ads for your product or service, so you have to test to see which ones convert best for you. They are:

  • Curiosity: If you start your headline with phrases like “How I . . .” or “How do I . . .,” readers will be curious and want to read the entire headline.
  • Benefit: By providing a clear benefit in your headline, you’re implying that people will learn something new that may give them a competitive advantage. They’ll click on your ad to find out more.
  • Emotion: People respond to certain words, especially when they trigger an emotion. The right words will make people click on your ads.
  • Credibility: Most people like tangible ideas because they’re familiar and make sense . When you hear “1 + 1 = 2,” that’s tangible because you know it’s true. When you hear “How large is space?,” you don’t feel comfortable because there’s no definitive answer. Including familiar experts is an easy way to make your headline tangible and credible.
  • Expectation: It’s important to set reasonable expectations in your ad and not over-promise.

Creating Strong Headlines

Top copywriters suggest you sit down with a pad of paper and start writing headlines until you run out of ideas. Just write down everything that comes to mind. Don’t stop until you have at least 30 headlines. Most of them will be terrible, but by doing a complete brain dump, you’ll come up with a few good ones to test.

Another great way to get headline ideas is to go to your nearest bookstore or grocery store and check out the magazines. Your local bookstore will have huge racks filled with hundreds of magazines in every niche—or you can search online. Write down the headlines and article summaries that grab your attention and use similar wording to create compelling headlines for your LinkedIn ads.

All copywriters have what’s known as a swipe file, where they save articles, magazine and newspaper headlines, and direct mail that they use as a source of ideas for their own ads. Those ads you receive in the mail every day are great sources for headlines and ad copy. Create a file folder where you can save headlines and articles that caught your attention. When you’re ready to write new ads, read through the clippings you’ve collected, then try brainstorming—your brain is full of ideas from the swipe file, so you should be able to crank out 30 to 50 headlines in short order.

The Power of Images

Images in advertising are as powerful as your headline. Often the image can be the most important aspect of your ad, depending on what you’re promoting. Selecting the right image for your ad can be up to 70 percent of the reason that someone clicks on it. Your image will make your ad stand out on LinkedIn and interrupt the viewer’s attention. The image you choose must be relevant to your ad and your offer. Deception may get viewers’ attention and get them to click on your ad, but they will quickly become disappointed if your offer doesn’t match the image.

Images of a real person, from the neck up, convert best on LinkedIn. A simple headshot of a professional facing the camera works best. You don’t want to use casual pictures of a person out at the baseball game or making silly faces. You are targeting professional people on a business-oriented website, so choose appropriate photos.

Targeting Your Ads

One of the most powerful features of LinkedIn advertising is your ability to target the audience to whom your ads will be displayed. You can create very specific ads for very specific demographics, so your response rate increases dramatically. A well-planned LinkedIn ad campaign includes tracking your results so you know which ads and targeting demographics work best for you. Many advertisers don’t take advantage of the site’s targeting capabilities, displaying all their ads to all job titles. Creating specific, relevant ads and displaying them to the appropriate target audience will improve your conversion rate significantly while reducing your advertising costs.

You can target your LinkedIn ads based on any or all of the following criteria:

  • Job function
  • Job title
  • Company
  • Company industry
  • Job seniority
  • Company size
  • Location
  • Country

It will take some testing to determine the perfect targeting for your ads, but once you nail the demographic of your ideal customer, your ads will generate consistent leads and sales for your business. Be patient, split test your ad campaigns, and measure your results so you know which campaigns are fully optimized.

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Is Your Marketing Plan Aligned With Your Branding Goals?

branding and marketing goals

When your marketing plan aligns with your branding goals, your company becomes memorable to the masses. Nearly every business owner has goals, but how you define and carry them out often makes the difference between success and failure.

Around 84.5 percent of American companies use some type of digital content marketing. Marketing and branding are two different elements of your business’s image, but they also work together toward building an overall picture of who you are as a company.

Make sure branding and marketing align by following the 11 steps below to sync your business branding goals with your actions.

Step 1: Create your branding goals

If you don’t yet have branding goals for your business, your first step is creating a solid plan. If you already have some goals, take a few minutes to re-evaluate them and make sure they still align with your company plan.

Branding goals are tricky because the brand is how others see you. You can control some aspects of this, but not everything. Goals should include things such as how often your brand is presented to consumers and ideas for how you’d like others to see your business.

If you’re doing digital marketing, you’ve probably already aligned your marketing goals with your company’s sales goals and forecast: in order to achieve X percent growth in sales, you’re using a number of different marketing and sales tactics to increase your revenue.

Branding goals are a little different—think more about the top of your sales funnel. You’re looking to increase potential customers’ awareness that you exist. You’re also looking to increase their positive associations with your business.

Then think about the other end of your sales funnel—retaining your customers. We often talk about that in terms of brand loyalty, or more directly, their lifetime value. What will you do to keep them coming back?

Step 2: Align marketing with branding

Once you’ve solidified your branding goals, it’s time to align them with your marketing plan.

First, write out your branding goals so they are near as you work on your marketing plan. Then, create a roadmap for each quarter of the year, making sure each marketing point correlates to branding.

For example, if your branding goal is reaching 100 new people and making sure they know what your business does, then a marketing goal might tap into ways of finding them, such as adding informational videos on social media, or embarking on a PR campaign, or putting together a targeted content marketing strategy, aimed at bringing people to your website through organic search or SEO. If a marketing tactic doesn’t match your overall branding or sales goal, put it on the back burner for another time.

View our Business Branding Guide today!

Step 3: Map out your customer base

If you’re a brick and mortar business, one way to approach identifying your target market—your key customers—is to map out a list of your competitors and their locations and then look at where it makes sense for you to market.

Are there any underserved areas? One technique is starting near your home base and then expanding until your business growth meets your goals. There is little point in marketing to an area that lacks your target audience. A map shows you where you should concentrate your efforts.

Another way to “map” your customers is to develop a user or buyer persona. This means looking at your ideal customer’s demographics—how old are they, where do they live, what’s their income, and so on. Use those demographics to put together a fictional—but very useful—persona. Thinking of your ideal customer as an individual person can help you target your branding voice, tone, and message, and also your marketing spend.

Step 4: Consider your mission

What does your brand stand for? What’s your business’s mission? If your branding and marketing goals don’t align with who you are as a brand, then customers won’t see you as authentic and trustworthy.

Take a step back and study the history of your company and your vision. Look back at the initial business plan you wrote before starting your business. You’ll find clues about why you started the company in the first place, which will point you to your purpose as a brand.

Once you know your purpose, such as helping single moms with childcare solutions, then you’ll understand how you want others to view your brand as well. You can then ensure your marketing and branding goals align with who you are at the core.

Step 5: Utilize current customers

One of the toughest parts of growing a successful business is building a strong customer base. However, once you have those first clients, you should utilize them for information and help. It’s market research.

Poll your current customers. What about your brand attracted them? What would they like to see improved? Take note of raving fans and ask for testimonials to use in your marketing efforts. Also, ask them to tell others who might be interested in your products or services.

Step 6: Measure return on investment (ROI)

As you begin to implement your marketing plans in service of your branding and sales goals, make sure you track metrics so you can measure the success of each campaign.

Conduct A/B testing to see if your efforts result in new customers or sales. The ROI isn’t always monetary—especially with branding goals. You might really be focusing on increasing awareness—a top of sales funnel goal. You might measure and track metrics associated with increased website visits, or video views, or social media engagement.

If your goal is gaining new leads (a middle of the sales funnel goal), then you’ll measure how many new contacts you gain from a campaign. If your goal is to increase your net promoter score, or the likelihood that a customer would recommend you to a friend (a bottom of the sales funnel goal) you might look at the number of referrals that resulted in a sale, or the number of positive reviews.

Branding, or positive association with your company and your product or service, doesn’t stop with the sale. Make sure you’re attributing sales successes to your branding efforts when it makes sense.

Figuring out what result you want and then tracking numbers shows you which efforts need to be repeated and which ones need to be replaced.

Step 7: Set longer-term goals

When you completed the first two steps of setting branding and marketing goals, you likely looked at the next 12 months. Take time to write out some long-term goals, such as where you’d like your brand to be in five years or even 10 years.

Knowing what kind of company you want to build, and what you want it to look like, well into the future can be really useful. If you don’t set a long term trajectory for your business, you’re leaving a lot to chance.

A useful framework for this type of planning is a Lean Plan—a shorter form version of a business plan. If you’ve heard of a business model canvas, a Lean Plan is a better alternative to that. It’s easy to update, and a great place to map your ideas for the long term. You can download a free Lean Plan template here to help you get started.

You must plan if you want to beat the odds, fixing weak areas along the way and adapting to rapid market shifts.

Step 8: Decide on tone

Your business, no matter what industry you’re in, has a unique personality, tone, and voice. If you sell something fun, your voice might be lighthearted and joyful. On the other hand, if you’re in education or financial services, your tone might be a bit more serious.

Choose a tone that aligns with your brand goals and use it in your marketing efforts across all platforms. Users should recognize your personality immediately, whether interacting on social media, reading an email from you, or talking to your team on the phone.

Step 9: Understand your unique value proposition (UVP)

Marketing is about the promise you make to your audience regarding what you’ll bring to the table. You must first figure out what unique advantage you offer that no one else does, and then communicate your UVP, or your unique value proposition.  through all your marketing efforts.

SnackNation is one company with a strong UVP with a highly targeted audience. The brand provides healthy snacks for homes and offices on a subscription-based service. Each week, SnackNation adds about 1,200 new leads segmented into a marketing list that specifically meets the needs of that particular audience.

When you land on the SnackNation website, you’re asked to choose if you want snacks for the home or office. You are then offered a free sampler box to pick one that’s right for your needs. This is just one example of how to use your UVP to help you build a more personalized customer experience.

Step 10: Evaluate the look of your online marketing

Spend time on each platform you market on and make sure the look matches the overall appearance of your brand’s image.

If your branding goal is to show you have higher-quality products than any other competitor, but your website or Facebook page looks cheap with photos that aren’t very good, you are missing an opportunity. Ideally, you’re continuously testing and optimizing your website and digital marketing campaigns.

Step 11: Improve communication on your team

As your business grows, one challenge you might face is keeping your branding and marketing standards consistent between different areas of your team. Who is in charge of your branding? Do you have a branding guide your whole company can refer to as needed?

As a leader, make sure you’re empowering everyone on your team to be a good, consistent steward of your brand and your sales, marketing, and branding goals. Doing something new? Running tests? Let your team know so they can help and support your efforts.  

Re-evaluate often

Over time, you’ll probably come up with fantastic new ideas for marketing your products, but they may not align with your branding or corporate goals.

Every three to six months, spend a little time looking at plans for branding and marketing and making sure everything still meshes together. Make any adjustments as needed and re-evaluate goals as your company grows.

With a little attention to detail and a lot of communication, your marketing and branding will work together and increase your customer base steadily.

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Lexi Lu
Lexi Lu

Lexie Lu is a designer and UX strategist. She enjoys covering topics related to UX design, web design, social media, and branding. Feel free to subscribe to her design blog, Design Roast, or follow her on Twitter @lexieludesigner.

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Why Soft Skills Make Strong Networks

It is possible to do well, by doing good.

4 min read

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

I’m not much of a “new-age” guy. Yet, I believe in the immense power of the Law of Reciprocity. This concept touches upon the deep-rooted psychological urge to do something nice for someone who did something nice for you.

There is certainly value in soft skills, but if you would like to see some evidence as to why those skills work, I can tell you there’s a lot out there to support the Law of Reciprocity, starting with the Nash equilibrium theory (the acronym of which is, ironically, NET).  

Nash’s equilibrium theory basically states that the best result will come when everyone in the group is doing what is best for both themselves and the group — a form of reciprocity. The optimal outcome of a situation is one where no individual has an incentive to deviate from their chosen strategy after considering the other participant’s choices.

Reciprocal altruism is another form of reciprocity. It involves an equitable balance between collective altruism and personal need. Collective altruism looks at the needs of the group but doesn’t give strong consideration to the needs of the individual. Reciprocal altruism attempts to consider both.

In early writings by Socrates and Alexis de Tocqueville on ethics and government, the concept of enlightened self-Interest was all about reciprocity. Enlightened self-interest is a philosophy which states that people who act to further the interests of others, or interests of the group or groups to which they belong, ultimately serve their own self-interest. In other words, it is possible to do well, by doing good.

Related: What It Takes to Grow a Little Company Founded on a Big Vision

As I grew my company BNI, I incorporated the use of the term, Givers Gain® into the lexicon of our operations from the very beginning. The underlying foundation of this term is predicated on the age-old concept of “what goes around, comes around.”  But it’s more complex than that.

Networking is about relationship building. I have found that the best way to build a relationship with someone quickly is to help them first.  If you can help someone — and I’m not talking about selling them your product or service, I mean genuinely help them — by giving them an introduction, information, article, really anything that serves their need, and you will begin a professional relationship with them.  

Creating a relationship helps build trust. Trust is the cornerstone of effective networking. When you practice Givers Gain often enough, you will be on the road to building a powerful personal network predicated on trust, built through helping to serve someone else.  

This concept, whatever term you choose to use, serves as a bridge between individuals and a community of people for collaboration of all kinds, and it fuels individual and professional growth – not to mention increased referrals and business.

Read this: Networking Like a Pro, 2nd Edition 

Research has shown that social cooperation is rewarding to our brains. Cooperation increases the frequency of dopamine release within the brain. Interestingly, dopamine decreases without social cooperation. Each of the above strategies are about cooperation and collaboration, and each can increase dopamine production.

Some time ago, I received an email from Amruth, a BNI member in India with a great metaphor for this philosophy. He said words to the effect of: imagine that you have two spoons, a small spoon and a large serving spoon. Which one are we using the most? The small spoon serves only us, but the large spoon allows us to serve others. The more that we all use the large spoon, the more we will all have plenty for the small spoon.

A networking group using the large spoon for everyone creates amazing success for all. In the book Go Giver, co-written by my friend, Bob Burg, the authors say, “Your income is determined by how many people you serve and how well you serve them.”  

Call it Nash’s equilibrium, reciprocal altruism, enlightened self-interest, or Givers Gain: I believe that reciprocity is about taking off your bib and putting on your apron. This kind of networking is where individuals enter, and communities emerge.

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3 Effective Strategies to Reach Your Online Target Audience This Year

SEO, social media strategy and back links are all online elements you should be thinking about to meet your target customers online.

5 min read

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

To run a fruitful online business, you first need a solid online target audience to cater to. Without those people, there’s no one to see or care about your products and services, much less purchase them. That’s why expanding your reach and visibility is essential to reach your growth objectives.

Related: 5 Digital Marketing Trends to Keep Your Audience Hooked

How do you achieve this? Let’s assume you already know your target audience. You know their pain points, what problems they need solved and the questions they want answered. You’re determined to get them to trust you as a brand. So, you create quality content you know they’ll eat up. But … there’s a problem: You can’t seem to get enough shares, likes or comments.

If this is your dilemma, it’s likely you need a revamped online strategy to get the results you want.

Here are three essential strategies to put into practice to successfully reach your target audience this year.

1. Optimize for search.

Search engine optimization (SEO) is what webmasters use so that their website can rank higher in search engine result pages, or SERPs. SEO categorizes your content and investigates its value and other elements like engagement and unique visitors and ranks your website accordingly. The more steps you’ve taken to optimize your content, the greater the chance you’ll have of reaching your target market.

Related: 5 Essentials for Connecting With Your Ideal Target Market on Social Media

There are several ways to optimize for SEO:

  • Optimize for mobile. Google prioritizes sites that use mobile-first indexing, meaning that their site is optimized across all devices, especially mobile. Statista found that in 2018, 52 percent of website traffic worldwide was generated through mobile phones. If you aren’t optimizing for mobile, you’re missing out on half of your potential traffic and leads.

Image Source: Backlinko

  • Use relevant keywords. Google processes more than 40,000 search queries every second. The only way your content is going to show up for users is if you conduct keyword research based on what your audience wants and center your content around it.

  • Build quality backlinks. You want authoritative, respected blogs linking to your content because it shows those bloggers trust you as a reliable, credible source of information. One strategy is to guest-post on others’ blogs. When their readers see this, they’ll view you in the same light and gain interest in your brand. This strategy takes effort and time since not just any popular site is going to give you backlinks, but it’s possible to meet that goal, given enough persistence.

2. Engage on social media.

With Statista reporting more than three billion active social media users worldwide, it’d be a waste not to utilize social media to reach your target market. You know they’re there; all you have to do is find them and interact.

Most social mediums let you set up polls, surveys and questionnaires to gather feedback from followers, which is a great way to get their opinion and form a personal connection. It shows that you care what your audience thinks and it encourages them to check you out.

Image source:

You should regularly post updates on your brand and its content through your social channels, using relevant hashtags so that people searching for those keywords can find your posts. Scour these hashtags to find out what questions they have that you can respond to. Add social sharing buttons on your website so your posts can be shared across multiple platforms.

3. Use visual content.

The Harvard Business Review has said that to improve your content marketing, you need to create visual content and avoid heavy blocks of text. Images, videos and other visual content spark and keep the interest of readers because they want skimmable content that’s easy to digest.

A study by Nielsen found that users scan content in different patterns, one of them being a spotted pattern. This means they skip chunks of text and heavily scan the page, searching for something specific like links or keywords.

If you want to catch the attention of your audience, spruce up the content they’re consuming by inserting images, videos and other media elements to make things more appealing and exciting. From there, use the same visual content to post to social media, and entice users to check out your brand.

Take customer stories, experiences and reviews and turn them into videos you can feature on your website and social platforms. Turn your blog posts into videos and infographics that make your content sparkle, and break the monotony. The more users who see this quality content, the more visibility it will attract through shares, likes and engagement.

Related: Is Digital Marketing a Key to Success For Growth of Your Business?

Wrapping up.

The hardest part about starting a business is getting your content into the right hands when there’s so much competition out there. If you have a strategy, however, you’ll be able to get the likes and interactions you want. Take into consideration how your audience could benefit from your brand and integrate those points into your strategy for improved lead generation.

How will you reach your audience in 2019?

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Good Decision Making Requires Good Data

If you begin with bad data, you won’t make the best decision.

6 min read

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Over the years, I have become a “data hound” looking for every morsel of wisdom I can ge to help me make smarter decisions. The good news here: accurate data is king. You can’t effectively manage your business without accurate data. Getting it is not always easy but without it you risk making the wrong business decisions — hurting your business when you thought you were helping it. Allow me to explain.

Managing a sales pipeline.

In B2B businesses with long sales cycle the only way to assess the effectiveness of your sales team and predict future revenue is based on data your sales team enters into your CRM. Watch if a salesperson’s number of accounts is growing, how those leads are working their way through the sales funnel and total dollar value of the pipeline being managed.

But, think about what I just said: you are evaluating the success of your sales team based on the data they are entering (or not entering) in the CRM system. That creates multiple problems. I have seen situations where salespeople enter false information to look more successful to save their jobs. More generally, there is plenty of room for error any time you rely on humans for data.

For example, did the salesperson remember to enter a new lead into the CRM? Did they remember to update the status of a lead (e.g., from active to dead)? Did they update the dollar value of that lead from $20,000 to $10,000 after they learned the client didn’t need as many products as they first thought? Did they update the expected close date from April to June, after they learned the project has been delayed?

You get the point. Most businesses are making mission critical decisions based on future expected revenues from this data. More often than not, the data is not very accurate, updated or reliable.

If your CRM suggests you are working with more than $1,000,000 of potential leads, and your normal conversion rate is 20 percent, you would think there is a reasonable chance to close $200,000 in sales. That’s money you count on to run the business, pay your bills and meet payroll. Bad data could put you in an illiquid position, unless you have a cash reserve cover the $200,000 that didn’t show up as predicted.

You need to scrub the data when managing a sales pipelines. Every week, remind your salespeople to update their data. In your one-on-one meetings with the team, talk through their list, line by line, to ensure what the system data is telling you is reality. Where you can, build automated systems that update data for any actions made (e.g., as new email leads come into business, they automatically get entered in CRM). This includes building in automated tasks and reminders to make sure the leads are moving forward and the salespeople are getting system-triggered actions they need to take for each lead.

Most good CRMs or sales enablement tools can help you here.

Related: 4 Tips to Move Prospects Through Your Sales Pipeline Faster

Managing marketing spend.

The quality of your marketing efforts depends on the quality of the data being managed and studied. Typically, there are two problems. First, is your marketing team managing towards the right data metrics in the first place. Second, is credit being given to the marketing channel that actually drove the lead? In a multi-device world it’s not easy to get proper attribution.

Recently we hired an ad agency to manage our paid search campaign. We told them the key metric to drive was immediate return on ad spend (ROAS), defined as clearly attributed revenues from the campaign divided by marketing cost of campaign. A strange thing started to happen in our business: our low ticket, online ecommerce transactions started to take off, but our desired high ticket, offline B2B transactions were not growing at all. By telling our agency to focus on “immediate” ROAS, the only way they could hit the desired target was by focusing on smaller orders that were immediately ready to book online. That excluded the desired longer sales cycle leads we really wanted to be growing.

So, after six months of these learnings, we switched directions. We told the agency immediate ROAS was no longer the goal. We would be happy waiting until the end of our three-month sales cycle before studying our ROAS. We switched the key metric to immediate B2B leads from the marketing effort. As soon as we made that change our quick, low ticket sales fell back to normal levels but our desired B2B leads rose to record highs. We were thrilled, thinking we had finally “cracked the code” to scaling our business.

But, did we? We did a retroactive cohort analysis of all B2B leads that came into the business over our normal three month booking window. What we learned was concerning: the B2B leads were coming into the business in record numbers, but were converting into sales at levels far lower than our typical conversion rates. After researching this further with our sales team we learned the leads coming in were very price sensitive. They were shopping many websites for the lowest price and often needed last-minute deliveries that were impossible to fulfill in time.

So, now we are back to the drawing board, trying to figure out the right metric to find leads we can actually work with and properly attribute the leads so we are not missing anything important. We also want to be careful not to “throw the baby out with the bath water”. Maybe the marketing agency is actually doing a great job and something operational is getting in the way of sales converting. Time will tell.

Related: 5 Stupid Phone Mistakes Ruining Your Sales Pipeline

These are examples in sales and marketing but I easily could have given you data-driven examples from operations, finance, human resources or technology. You are living in a world where accurate data is king. Be sure your business is driven by the metrics that are the most important and reliable for predicting and driving desired outcomes. The data is only as good as the effort you put into it.


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Get Proficient With Google Analytics and Improve Your Earning Potential

This two-day course will have recruiters banging down your door.

2 min read

Disclosure: Our goal is to feature products and services that we think you’ll find interesting and useful. If you purchase them, Entrepreneur may get a small share of the revenue from the sale from our commerce partners.

If you want customers to find your brand on the web, you’re going to have to put in a little work. Learning the ins and outs of Google Analytics will help you organize all of the data your company collects and put it to work on actionable marketing plans. This Google Analytics Certification course will add a valuable bullet point to your resume — or help you mine solid, helpful insights from your own startup’s website.

This class helps you prep for Google’s Analytics Individual Qualification exam. The two-day course is designed for complete beginners, and the 25 lessons include engaging HD video lessons for visual learners. You’ll gain access to 150 practice questions and answers to get a feel for how your exam will pan out.

The course also presents three different study strategies that are guaranteed to reduce your study time by 50% or more. A detailed overview of the exam and insider tips on how to pass the first time puts these certification lessons head and shoulders above the rest. There are even active discussion forums to help you connect with other newbie data strategists.

Usually, it costs $199.99 to take the Google Analytics Certification course, but right now you can prep for this essential online marketing exam for only $19.99

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3 Lessons in Branding From a Black Hole

We recently got our first look at a black hole. Who knew it had so much to tell us about branding?

5 min read

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

The first-ever photograph of a black hole and its bright halo was recently released, visually confirming a hundred years of scientific speculation. Though the photo itself slightly resembled a glazed donut, it represented unmistakable power and scale.

If you think about it, there are some striking similarities between black holes and brands themselves. The reason isn’t that brands are fathomless voids that obliterate existence (despite what some customers may say). It’s because both entities command our attention and change the universe just a little bit.

One of the many mysterious properties of black holes is their infinite density, which allows them to increase in volume endlessly without ever changing in size. A brand should similarly aspire to expand its customer base without fundamentally changing its character, either by drastically altering its values or nullifying its brand promises.

What can we learn about growth strategies from the black hole? If brands want to reach new consumers as effectively as black holes colonize new corners of the universe, they need to explore new digital marketing strategies. Let’s take Pinterest as an example. The social discovery platform has grown to 265 million users, with 51 million added just in the last year. Just as impressive, 90 percent of weekly Pinterest users rely on it to make purchasing decisions. Online attention and engagement are hot commodities, but Pinterest manages to draw users in like black holes trap light.

Related: How Pinterest, Starbucks and Lyft Grab More User Attention

According to Amy Vener, retail vertical strategy lead at Pinterest, knowing your customer is crucial: “We believe that the key to growth on Pinterest is understanding the full consumer journey, and measuring success through that lens.”

Use the following digital marketing strategies to turn your brand into the Pinterest sort of black hole — an object of attraction that thrills people with possibility.

1. Take a lifetime view of acquisition.

Continual growth is important. However, it’s also important to consider how long you can keep customers around. Ideally, you’ll keep customers for life: Nothing’s coming back from a black hole’s event horizon — don’t you wish your brand had that kind of gravity?

Drew Kossoff, CEO of digital media buying agency Rainmaker Ad Ventures, believes the best brands keep longevity in view. “They intimately understand the lifetime value of a new customer and build their customer acquisition formulas around long-term success, not day-one revenue,” he writes. “That means they’re thrilled to acquire a lead or customer at a small short-term loss in exchange for a big long-term gain.”

In practice, that entails upping your allowable cost per acquisition to put more resources into nurturing leads that add lifetime value. For example, are your email leads statistically stronger (i.e., do they offer more lifetime value) than webinar registration leads? Spend more money where you’ll get the biggest long-term gain.

Related: How to Increase Customer Lifetime Value And Boost Profits

2. Send signals regularly.

Contrary to popular opinion, black holes give and take. Even as they suck star matter toward themselves, they’re hurtling radio waves (in the form of tidal disruption flares) out into the cosmos for reasons we don’t yet understand. As black holes send electromagnetic pulses during the process of expansion, digital marketers should similarly use messaging in their growth strategies.

Mobile messaging is an organic way to integrate a constant communication strategy into your digital marketing efforts. A 2018 eMarketer survey found that, by 2022, more than 36 percent of the global population will communicate primarily through messaging apps like WhatsApp. According to Twilio’s “Bridging the Communication Divide” report, effective digital communications result in 2.6 times the likelihood of revenue growth greater than 15 percent, so it’s important to understand exactly how consumers exchange information.

Beauty brand Sephora was quick to capitalize on the value of mobile messaging. It simplified and personalized in-store makeover bookings using a conversational bot on Facebook Messenger. Bookings rose by 11 percent, precisely because the brand was communicating through the channel its target customers preferred.

3. Create new universes.

Scientists have recently discovered that black holes can generate new universes. Our own universe may even have originated in a black hole — a concept ripe for science fiction but also grounded in astrophysics. The point is that black holes are a force of creation, not just destruction.

Brands can also birth new worlds, if admittedly not on the same scale. Creating brand communities gives consumers a place to discuss products, offer recommendations, ask and answer questions and reciprocate enthusiasm. Brands build these spaces, but users direct them, creating an organic yet branded ecosystem. “In 2019, it will be the brands with the strongest communities that thrive,” writes Kathleen Booth, VP of marketing at digital marketing agency Impact.

Bumble, the dating and networking app, created the Queen Bee Ambassador Program to engage new users through grassroots community efforts. By relying on an eager and authentic community rather than conventional advertising, Bumble grew to 26 million users in three years. Brands will see growth when they give consumers a space to get excited about what they do.

Digital marketers and astrophysicists may have something in common, after all: an obsession with constant growth. The intriguing ways that black holes attract star matter can offer helpful strategy perspectives for marketers, from considering lifetime customer value to building brand communities. There’s your new marketing goal: to turn your brand into a supermassive black hole.

Related: Grow Brand Value While Accelerating Revenue Growth

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Looking for a Business Idea? Think About Common Complaints You Hear in Your Life.

This entrepreneur solved a common problem for women and has since used that solution to build her business.

2 min read

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

The Bra Lab co-founder Gina Crevi noticed how many women complained about the comfort and designs of current bras. As a natural problem solver, she created a new design that makes all pieces of the bra interchangeable, allowing for a more ideal and comfortable fit. She has also used unique material to assure that feel and touch is appropriate for the skin.

Crevi has used social media to reach a wider range of women who are unhappy with their current bras. In doing so, she has quickly increased her target market. With a focus on customer service, Crevi and her co-founder have analyzed data and other forms of client feedback to revamp Bra Lab inventory. Doing so has guaranteed that the company remains strong and innovative without stagnating.

Learn more about Crevi and The Bra Lab in the full video interview below.

Related: How This Entrepreneur Is Improving Women’s Health

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What Entrepreneurs Need to Know about the Google March 2019 Core Update

One survey found that 58 percent of respondents were negatively impacted with a drop in SEO ranking. Here are your options.

5 min read

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Just when you think you’ve got SEO figured out, Google comes out with a new algorithm update. The latest one isn’t as much of an overhaul as the company’s past updates, but it is important to address its new factors — otherwise, you risk a drop in your search engine ranking. Something to note: Primary factors that impacted ranking changes with this rollout were content-specific rather than technical, which makes adjustments easier.

While data is still coming in on the full impact of the core update, a survey conducted by Search Engine Roundtable found that 58 percent of respondents were negatively impacted via a drop in ranking. A portion of these respondents had also been negatively impacted by the prior update, and 44 percent of them have still not recovered from that ranking drop. Whether you were a winner or a loser in the March 2019 core update, there are actions to take to recover or maintain your SEO ranking.

User Signals

User experience is the primary focus of this update. Google continues to refine its search results for queries to ensure that the results meet the searcher’s needs. One of the key SEO measures used by the updated algorithm is bounce rates. Sites that improved their SEO ranking after the update had an average on-site visitor time that was 26 percent higher than those that had lowered SEO rankings. They also had lower bounce rates than sites that had a drop in SEO rankings.

The best way to improve user signals on your site is to directly answer their query. To test your effectiveness on this issue, determine what users mean when they make search queries relevant to your business. Next, review your existing content to determine if it answers a user’s question or deviates from the topic, and adjust or create additional content to fill in gaps or improve clarity. Finally, consider adding sections that concisely answer the query, then direct the searcher to additional internal content for more information on their search.

Trust and Branding

Google now appears to favor websites that have a high level of trust, especially those that deliver information on sensitive “Your Money or Your Life” (YMYL) topics. While these topics have been a focus of special attention by Google, especially regarding queries about health, finance and safety, the new algorithm applies this a bit differently. Now, the preferential treatment is extended to sites with a strong brand profile and broad topical focus.

If your site delivers specific, high-quality and reliable information on a broad range of topics, such as insurance, education, wellness and more, you could benefit from the YMYL boost by using keywords that will drive searches to your site and keep them there.

Best Content

When it comes to SEO, content is still king. Sites with lower-quality content were hit hard by the update, experiencing a significant drop in their ratings. Poor content isn’t just about the quality of the content, but also when it was published. Sites that haven’t been updated or have had sporadic updates in the past are considered lower-quality content as far as the algorithm is concerned. In contrast, sites with an active publishing schedule did well, especially when coupled with quality content that kept visitors on their sites.

This information reinforces that quality is more important than quantity, but it should also serve as a wake-up call that you need consistent, fresh content to maximize your SEO ranking. Many entrepreneurs struggle with providing updated content to their site, but there are a variety of automated tools that can help you schedule and manage this process.

Don’t Forget 

While the new algorithm has targeted user signals branding, trust and best content, don’t ignore other issues that continue to impact your SEO rankings. ClickMatix, a Melbourne-based digital marketing agency, created an infographic detailing additional SEO activities that entrepreneurs should focus on in 2019, including:

  • Linkless Mentions. These are mentions occur when your blog, customer review, product or service is mentioned by name but without the accompanying link back to your site.
  • Voice Search Optimization. The focus on keyword phrases that support audio searches using phones or voice-activated assistants.
  • Natural Link Building. This tried and true method will still be in play, but the links must now be meaningful to the searcher to support SEO rankings.
  • Technical SEO. While the new algorithm was not focused on this issue, Google does notice if there are problems so your coding needs to be up to date.
  • On-Page Optimization. Beyond great content, each page of your site needs to deliver the best user experience possible.
  • Local Optimization. This topic is especially important for entrepreneurs with a local or regional customer base. You can take advantage of tools like Google My Business to drive local SEO rankings.

Bottom Line

The rollout of Google’s March 2019 core update has left many entrepreneurs scrambling to recapture their high SEO rankings. Fortunately, to recover from a lower ranking or ensure continued SEO success, the fixes are fairly straightforward. The key is to blend this new focus with trending SEO-critical tasks to achieve the best results.

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