How Do You Keep Buyers and Sellers Inside Your Marketplace?

How Do You Keep Buyers and Sellers Inside Your Marketplace?

How Do You Keep Buyers and Sellers Inside Your Marketplace?

access_time Jul/31/2017

Here at the magazine, I’m always getting pitched new companies calling themselves “the Uber of” this or that. The Uber of lawn care, the Uber of bespoke suits. And I have to admit, most of the time I’m skeptical that a company like this will survive. That’s because they’re all going to face a problem called “disintermediation” -- or what I like to call the Handy Problem. Few of them seem to have a solution.

Handy is like the Uber of house cleaners. You sign up, and it’ll send someone to clean your home. My wife and I used the service a few years ago when we had a baby and no longer had time to clean our apartment ourselves. We were pretty happy with the result. A different cleaner would show up every time, and some were better than others, but they all basically got the job done. And then one day, a cleaner came, did a great job, and, before she left, she handed us her business card and said that if we hired her directly rather than through Handy, she’d give us a better price.

Related: 22 Qualities That Make a Great Leader

That’s a good business strategy for her, right? After all, when she’s booked through Handy, the company takes a cut of her fee. If she books directly with us, she doesn’t lose that cut and can give us a part of it and still make more money. It’s less expensive for us, and more money for her. And frankly, because we liked her work, we’d like to build a relationship directly with her. In this equation, neither side was incentivized to keep doing business with Handy. We canceled our membership with the company, and have been using this same cleaning woman for years.

Almost every company calling itself the Uber of something will face this problem. These companies are connectors -- they create a large pool of people who are offering the same service, then attract customers looking for that service, and just put them together. But how do you stay relevant once the connection is made? How do you be the kind of company people keep wanting to use?

Related: Inspiring Quotes to Help You Get Through Your Work Day

Jaron Gilinsky figured it out. He’s the Jaron founder and CEO of Storyhunter, a platform that connects media companies and giant brands to freelance video producers and journalists in 180 countries. How’d he do it? That’s what this episode of Problem Solvers about.

To subscribe on iTunes, click here. Or, click play to listen below.

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Shopify vs. Magento: The Tide is Shifting

Just a few years ago, it was virtually unheard of for an ecommerce site to use anything but Magento for their shopping platform needs. Certainly a platform like Shopify wouldn’t have been in the running for what most considered a “top-tier ecommerce platform.” Slowly but surely, though, these sentiments have begun to change and, in ever increasing numbers, marketers and business owners have begun to look to Shopify instead of Magento. Amazingly, in June of 2016, Shopify overtook Magento in terms of Google trends.

In fact, we here at Group 8A had one of our biggest months ever using Shopify and have been exceedingly satisfied with our choice of platform. Although, the decision did not come easy and we had to look at many different factors to determine which platform would best suit our needs.

Here are a few of the features we took into consideration when making our decision between Shopify and Magento.

Related: The 6 Best Ecommerce Platforms for Small Businesses

Ease of SEO

It might seem counterintuitive when there are so many other aspects to take into consideration, but for a business like ours that exists in an increasingly competitive marketplace, SEO is key (read: king). Furthermore, more than 35 percent of consumers begin their purchase through Google, so it’s no wonder why great SEO integration can make or break a business.

To be fair, both platforms easily allow the imbedding of page URLS, meta-descriptions, page titles, independent links, etc., which will allow your business to tailor your text to help boost the presence of a page or a site and with it your search engine rankings. But only Shopify has Traffic Control, a handy app that allows you to manage redirects so you don’t lose traffic or SEO rankings after migration. An app like this is absolutely imperative if you’re considering changing platforms.

Of course, Magento being open source, the SEO option could be unlimited if you have the technical know-how. If not, you might end up shelling out lots of money finding somebody who does.

Related: The Small Business Owner's Guide to Choosing the Right Ecommerce Platform

Pricing

Pricing should have probably been our first consideration (and for the folks with the money, it probably was) and both Shopify and Magento have their pros and cons.

Magento Community Edition is 100 percent free. Of course, if you want to upgrade to Enterprise Edition, you’ll have to request a quote from the company, which can be a hassle and potentially very expensive (in the $18,000 range).

Shopify has a few different pricing options for businesses.

  • $9/month + 2.9% + 30¢ credit card fees
  • $29/month + 2.9% + 30¢ credit card fees
  • $79/month + 2.6% + 30¢ credit card fees
  • $299/month + 2.4% + 30¢ credit card fees

Just looking at the raw data, it appears as if Magento Community Editon is the better option of the two, and it certainly could be if you’re looking for something a bit more rudimentary and hands on. But if you take into consideration what Shopify offers its users that Magento doesn’t— 24-hour customer service, tools for manual order creation, and fraud analysis features— it’s clearly a very good option.

Likewise, the price of hosting your site is included in your Shopify subscription. If you’re using Magento, you’ll have to sign up with a third party hosting platform, which could cost anywhere from a few bucks to several hundred dollars a month.

Related: Shopping Cart Throw-down: Which Ecommerce Platform Reigns Supreme?

Design

For advanced users, Magento can be the easier of the two to edit files, as it will connect you directly to an FTP client. But for less experienced users, this might be a bit confusing and possibly very difficult. There exists a decent theme marketplace but, unfortunately, many of the themes aren’t quality-controlled so using one could be dicey. Some are free but most of Magento’s themes will cost anywhere between $50 and $300.

Shopify has a good many more varieties of themes overall, which are easy to adapt without any knowledge of code or coding. A casual glance over the look of the builds show an abundance of themes that are sleek, powerful and, most importantly, mobile friendly.

Related: 5 Signs That You Should Upgrade to a New Ecommerce Platform

Support

As a business, we pride ourselves on always being available to our clients, and when we were looking for a platform, we wanted the same customer service made available to us.

To that point, and to vastly oversimplify it, Shopify has support and Magento doesn’t.

To be fair, Magento has a dedicated community support forum full of knowledgeable and helpful developers. But unless you yourself have a background in developing, or have hired someone that does, this may be of no use to you, especially if your site goes down at 3AM Christmas Eve and there’s no one to troubleshoot with.

Shopify’s customer support is unmatched. They provide 24-hour support staff available over live chat, email or phone, a blog -- Ecommerce University -- full of valuable advice, and, yes, even user forums.

Related: How Shopify Became the Go-To Ecommerce Platform for Startups

Group 8A isn’t the only business to have success with the Shopify platform. Others too have seen massive increases in site conversions after migrating to Shopify. Overall, yes, both platforms boast some great features and, in the end, it’s going to come down to which is more ideal for your specific business and will best serve your strengths. 

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Nap-Happy Spain Finally Gets Its First Nap Cafe

Spain is a country known for its long workday -- typically ending at 7 p.m. -- with a two-hour break in the afternoon to make up for it. These siestas are a time for Spaniards to eat a good meal and take a nap.

Increasingly, however, this tradition has been harder to keep for workers in urban centers whose employers don't pull down the shades during siesta.

Image credit: Siesta&Go | Facebook

Cue Maria Estrella Jorro de Inza, a Spanish entrepreneur who took a trip to Japan and was inspired to transplant the idea of a nap cafe to her native homeland, surprisingly for the first time in the nap-happy country.

Related: Staying Up Late and Sleeping In on the Weekends Is Bad for Your Health

"It's funny that we're known for the siesta, but we haven't been professional about it," De Inza told Bloomberg. "We get a lot of men in suits who just want to relax and women wanting to take their heels off. Lunch break is the busiest time."

The aptly named Siesta and Go opened in Madrid in May and features 19 beds and a coffee area. Staff provide about 30 customers daily with fresh sheets, earplugs and slippers.

Image credit: Siesta&Go | Facebook

There's actually a serious debate going on in Spain right now about the future of the siesta. In 2016, the country's prime minister proposed a law to end the workday at 6 p.m., which would effectively kill the afternoon nap. The shorter workday would allow working Spaniards more time to take care of their families in the evening. However, many are attached to the siesta as part of the Spanish way of life.

On a related controversial note, some argue the country has been in the wrong timezone since 1942, when Spain's former dictator, Francisco Franco, pushed the clocks forward in a gesture of allegiance to Adolf Hitler.

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3 Tips for Raising Your Kids to Be Empathetic Entrepreneurs

The recent upheaval at Uber offers a cautionary tale about what happens when founders don't prioritize empathy. The $69 billion company has clearly had success in its market, but its hesitation to address harassment accusations and reports of driver disputes suggested a lack of empathy toward its employees.

That's a shame because empathy lies at the heart of successful companies. Founders, in particular, must cultivate a strong sense of empathy because they’re beholden to so many people.

Employees, shareholders, customers -- everyone depends on them. And because empathy is a muscle one strengthens only over time, parents who want to raise entrepreneurial kids should begin developing that attribute now.

Fortunately, empathy is not a trait some are born with, and some not; everyone can practice -- and become good at -- understanding other people. Stepping into others' shoes begins with simple awareness, and parents are in the perfect position to model that for their kids. 

During these summer months, when your kids are around more than usual, you'll get plenty of opportunities to model good behavior. So, keep in mind: The way you interact with the world shapes your children's habits; if you're attentive to other people, they will be, too.

Related: How to Support Your Entrepreneurial Kids

Here's how to develop empathy among the future entrepreneurs in your family:

1. Make empathy a family habit.

You are your kids’ first teacher: Be mindful of the lessons you impart. When they fight with their siblings or friends, teach them to look at the argument from the other person's perspective. What might their brothers or sisters be feeling when they call them names or won’t share?

Do the same when you have conflicts with your spouse or relatives. If there’s a rift within the extended family, explain it to the kids while acknowledging the other side’s perspective.

In the business world, Costco modeled corporate empathy in an extraordinary way, following the 2008 economic collapse. Most companies were frantically searching for ways to cut costs, but Costco gave its employees a raise.

Rather than add to its workers' economic woes, it looked at the situation from where its employees stood and buoyed them during a difficult time. Today, Costco sees less than 10 percent turnover among its hourly team members.

2. Encourage emotional sharing.

Invite your kids to share not only what they’re feeling, but also why. Doing so builds emotional literacy and enables your children to communicate more effectively. Ever since our kids were young, my wife and I have made it a point to discuss our feelings openly and examine how we plan to act on those emotions.

We saw our children carry that practice into their own lives outside our home. When our son was 12, he stood up for a classmate who was being bullied, asking the young offender why he felt that he needed to act that way. Our son was not an especially outspoken type, but he told me he intervened because he didn't understand and couldn't accept why someone would treat a peer that way.

As kids grow into adults, they likely won't be sharing their deep feelings at work (founder or otherwise), but they will be sharing their ideas. Workers who feel comfortable offering input and pitching ideas to their managers are 54 percent more engaged than those who feel that they can’t approach their bosses, according to a Gallup study. Empathy is crucial for developing a healthy work environment, so the sooner future leaders learn to exercise it, the better.

Related: Dealing With Feelings: How to Be an Emotionally Aware Leader

3. Teach your kids to read others’ body language.

In a 20-year study from Duke and Penn State universities, researchers followed children from kindergarten through age 25 to observe how their interpersonal skills correlated with long-term success.

They concluded that those with strong social habits, such as empathy and conflict resolution, were more likely to finish college and land full-time jobs than their less socially adept peers.

Understanding body language is a core component of healthy interpersonal development, so look for opportunities to explain body cues to your kids. Use TV shows, movies and play-date interactions as teachable moments in this area.

Having company over is also a great time to practice paying attention to what people say through both their words and body language. When we had guests visit our home, my wife and I taught our kids to shake their hands and look them in the eye.

Our kids also paid attention to what a guest might need -- a glass of water or directions to the coat room -- rather than to scurry shyly away. As they grew older, that attentiveness helped them sense when someone’s feelings were going unspoken and to anticipate how to improve the situation.

Related: Here's the Work Help Gen Z Really Needs From Its Parents

Organizational change expert Manfred Kets de Vries wrote, “Empathy enhances our ability to receive and process information and to find solutions.” Nothing could be more important to future entrepreneurs, and parents have the power to instill this skill at a young age.

Teaching children empathy now lays the foundation for a successful, enriching and emotionally rewarding future. The best part? All kids can learn it -- they just need someone to teach them.

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3 Types of Effective Digital Ads You Haven't Yet Tried

It seems like these days everyone is running  Google AdWords and Facebook Ads campaigns. Those networks are great at producing results, but they aren’t the only good digital ad networks available.

Related: 5 Winning Digital Ad Strategies Every Small Business Can Afford

Below are three other types of ads also highly effective for many companies. If you aren’t already using these platforms to increase brand awareness and sales, you might want to change that right away.

1. Reddit ads

Reddit is a conversation platform that allows people with similar interests to find one other.

The site has forums for people who love everything from sports to pets and even adult products. Users share stories, swap tips and link to news. Currently, Reddit contains over 50,000 different communities, meaning that most brands can find their own target audience on the site.

Reddit ads, moreover, are inexpensive. You can start a campaign for just $5 per day and cancel at any time.

Setting up a Reddit ad can be done in minutes and is nearly foolproof. You simply select the interests that you believe your target audience is likely to be interested in, or select specific sub-Reddit forums to place your ads on.

You then set your budget, add your copy and images and start the campaign!

If you decide after a day or two that the ads aren’t generating the results you'd hoped for, you can always stop the campaign and try one of the other options mentioned in this post.

2. Stack Adapt

Have you ever found yourself reading an article on a popular website like CNN, then being presented with recommended articles at the end of the post? Those recommended posts take you to a third-party site where you can read another post related to the headline you clicked on.

These articles get placed through a native advertising exchange like Outbrain or Taboola. A native advertising exchange is a platform that places sponsored content on popular websites. It’s different from a regular ad network because you’re placing blog posts and articles inside of banner or text-only ads.

Related: The 4 Digital Trends That Are Reshaping Advertising

The advantage of native advertising is that to the viewer, the ad doesn’t look or feel like one. It seems to be just another interesting article. Why interesting? Well, you write an article on a topic your target audience is interested in; then the ad exchange shows the article only to people who would be interested in reading it. You can tell the exchange you want to target by gender, location, interest or other factors.

In this category, Taboola's pricing starts at $10 per day, while Outbrain lets you set your own budget.

When using one of these tools, you’ll gain trust and credibility by associating your brand with sites like CNN, Reuters, USA Today, Popular Science and the many other reputable sites the networks can place your sponsored content on.

Additionally you'll reach people in your target audience, offering friendly, helpful content rather than a cold sales pitch. Many people don’t like feeling targeted by ads, but most people do like helpful content.

3. Sponsored blog posts

In addition to creating content that can be shared on ad exchanges, you might also create posts that you pitch to an influential blog or business magazines. For example, the supplement and exercise equipment company Vanna Belt frequently buys sponsored placements on health and fitness blogs.

This allows Vanna Belt to reach her target audience in a natural way. The company showcases the high quality of the products and how easy they fit into anyone’s daily lifestyle. This helps to sell the products without requiring the company to buy pay-per-click ads.

The fee for a sponsored post of this type is usually a flat rate paid to the blogger based on how many visits the site gets per month. Expect to pay between $50 and $5,000 per sponsored post.

If you don’t want to write and pitch content to popular blogs, you could pay them to write about you. In this case you’ll likely pay a higher flat rate fee to the blogger since he or she will have to write, edit and shoot photos for the post.

The primary benefit of this type of sponsored post, despite its higher cost, is that the post comes off as a recommendation from the blogger. Since bloggers are influential with their audiences, this may help you increase the ROI from your sponsorship, since readers will be more likely to trust that your product is good, thanks to the review and recommendation.

Related: 3 Signs It's Time to Get Help With Your Digital Advertising

Getting started

All of the non-traditional ad types listed here can be launched relatively quickly. The only thing holding you back is yourself. So, head on over to Reddit or Outbrain today and get started setting up your first campaign. 

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So, You've Taken the Reins as Owner . . . Now, What?

From startups to Fortune 500 companies, I’ve seen it happen time and time again: new business owners struggling to establish their brand. Whether these owners have been with the business from the get-go or are stepping in to the company with fresh eyes, they often overlook the opportunity new ownership gives to refresh and revitalize the business’s brand.

Related: The 8 Must-Follow Rules for Rebranding Your Company (Infographic)

When I made the exciting jump from employee to owner of GroupBaronet in 2006, I experienced this transition firsthand. I wanted to make GroupBaronet my own, so it was important to do more than just uphold the values that had motivated me to purchase the advertising firm in the first place.

I had to put my personal stamp on the company’s brand. By merging my name (Mason) with the original owner’s (Baronet), I found just the right balance between past and future.

The experience taught me what it takes to successfully implement a new vision into an existing company and, at MasonBaronet, we use those lessons learned to guide our clients through similar situations. Here are my five keys to a successful transition:

Assess the brand.

As the new owner of an existing company, you're not only going to make changes to business operations, but also to the brand itself. Before making modifications, it's important to assess the brand you’ve just acquired. A successful assessment not only ensures your marketing investment will pay off, but also helps in long-term strategy development and prevents any doubt down the road. Think about how your company is viewed by both employees and customers. Ask yourself:

  • What are the current perceptions of your brand?
  • What do people value most about your company?
  • Where are the disconnects and opportunities?
  • Where is there room for improvement?

If you aren’t sure of the answers, do some research with customers and employees to get clarity. As you take a deeper dive, you should gain a better understanding of where the brand has been and where it needs to go. For my company, I found that maintaining its reputation was of utmost importance. However, I also wanted to update the brand look to reflect my personality as the new leader.

Related: 5 Signs It's Time to Rebrand Your Company

Communicate with the team.

Your brand starts with your employees -- they are the ones on the front lines with your customers, after all. For your brand ambassadors to fully live and breathe your new brand, you must educate them more than you think. In a study by Gallup, only 41 percent of employees surveyed said that they knew what their companies stood for and what made their brand different from the rest.

As brand developers, my employees were, and are, key contributors to developing our brand; however, not all companies have this advantage. To help your ambassadors better understand your brand, develop an internal campaign communicating to employees (and other stakeholders) how your vision might impact the brand and the culture.

Tell employees what changes to expect under the new leadership. This could be in the form of a presentation or brand book. To this day, I share the same brand presentation to every new employee we onboard.

This notion of an internal campaign, then, is a culture-builder and rallying cry for employees -- not something that instills fear or worry. When Southwest Airlines announced its new logo and airport experience in 2014, it included its employees as part of the crusade.

Because they were such an important component, those employees became the Southwest's rebrand’s biggest ambassadors and have been major contributors to its success ever since. If your own internal campaign succeeds in educating employees, you will begin to see movement toward the brand you have envisioned almost immediately.

Continue communicating with customers.

It’s important to understand that a brand assessment does not always lead to a rebrand. Perhaps you'll determine that the client-facing components of your brand are right where they need to be. However, if a significant rebrand is needed, be thoughtful about the way you unveil changes to customers. In addition to an integrated marketing campaign, a personal discussion with key customers may be warranted.

Since I was already an employee when I purchased the company, I was able to include Willie Baronet, founder of GroupBaronet, in one-on-one conversations with clients.

While this move may not be appropriate in every circumstance, I found that it made our company's particular transition more seamless than I'd anticipated.

No matter what, your efforts must reinforce that although the brand is moving in a new direction, your customers can continue to rely on you to deliver the services and products they’ve grown to know and love.

The key takeaway from our brand assessment was that clients valued our strategic thinking, distinct creative and smart, professional people. This is still true today. With an estimated $41 billion lost by U.S. companies each year following a bad customer experience, none of us can run the risk of breaking brand loyalty.

Reinforce on all fronts.

Every interaction you have with your target audiences is an opportunity to either advance or deteriorate the impression people have of your brand. Consider every touchpoint: your logo, office environment, the way you dress, attitudes toward employees and clients and every other detail in between; all are opportunities to reinforce your brand.

Also keep in mind that your brand is both visual and experiential. This is important for younger customers:In fact, 60 percent of millennials in one survey said they expected the same experience across all customer touchpoints when dealing with a company, whether they are in-store or online.

Ask yourself:

  • What does our brand say about us?
  • Does my brand make the right impression to my ideal customers?
  • What adjectives would people use to describe us?

Communicating any visual branding changes consistently across all media is also critical. Every change, from the simplest to the most complex, needs to be reinforced at every touchpoint. In addition to updating our company'slogo on marketing materials, we also branded our entire office space. From the new logo on the wall to the color-coordinated furniture and accent walls with large words reinforcing our brand personality, we took the time to make every touchpoint count.

Be relentless.

Even long after changes are made, it's essential that you stay relentless in your brand journey. Almost daily, I find myself reminding even the most tenured employees of the impact they have on the brand.

A successful brand requires time and attention, constant assessment and, most of all, consistency. Even as we onboard new employees and clients, I ask myself if they are the right match for the brand. I can assure you, even the companies that seem to have messaging down pat regularly discuss how to reinforce, and continually support their brand in everything they do.

Think about Target -- a brand that teens and adults alike flock to for all their needs. Even though that brand has been a long-standing icon in the retail world, it continues to evolve to stay relevant in the marketplace. Just this year the brand announced plans to re-imagine stores nationwide. Through consistency and repetition, you too can keep brand momentum going under your steady leadership.

Related: The Ultimate Rebranding Checklist for Entrepreneurs

The truth is, taking ownership of a company is a scary venture, especially when you look at the facts: Only two-thirds of businesses survive two years, half survive five years and one-third survive 10. Amid all the uncertainty, however, there are plenty of rewards to be found. By updating your new company’s brand to reflect your values, vision and purpose, you will establish the foundation for success in the long run.  

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