How to Become an Industry Leader

Tips for Increasing Your Online Exposure

Business Online Presence

It’s hard to get ahead with today’s tough competition. To position yourself as an industry leader, you need a solid online presence to prove that you’re knowledgeable.

Here are some ways to increase your exposure and earn your place as an authority figure in your field.

Get a Well-Rounded Education

If you don’t already have a college degree, consider earning a bachelor’s degree in a field that interests you. If you already have a bachelor’s degree, you might go a step further and work toward a master’s degree. However, don’t worry if a formal education isn’t in the cards. There are many options to further educate yourself using online resources.

For example, you can create accounts with popular websites such as Udemy, Coursera, and Udacity and take courses on almost any subject. Many courses are free, while some charge a fee. Instructors from reputable universities such as Columbia, MIT, and Harvard often teach the courses, lending credibility to your transcript and broadening your knowledge base.

Join an Industry Organization

Professional organizations are great resources for networking, education, and publicity. Membership often provides access to publications, webinars, conferences, and directories. Use the organization to stay on top of best practices, key influencers, business trends, and tools to advance your career.

One key benefit of joining a professional organization is the networking potential.

Local chapters often sponsor social events to unite members who live in the same city. There are usually national events for all chapters to meet and attend workshops. Local and national events are great places to network with other industry leaders and gain useful information on current industry trends.

Start a Professional Blog

Though many skeptics believe blogging is dead, a professional blog is a fantastic marketing tool. Your blog is a forum for you to provide industry insights, suggest tips for making the industry better, recommend products and educational tools to others in your field and offer a unique voice that sets you apart from your competition.

Your blog isn’t just about writing articles, however. If you have any professional accomplishments, such as certifications or publications, list them all on your website and provide corresponding links as proof. Also, add a contact page so interested clients, peers, and other business professionals can easily contact you.

Guest Write for Other Websites

Once you establish your blog, consider branching out and writing for other industry-related websites. You typically won’t get paid as a guest writer, but you usually get a byline at the end of your articles with links pointing to your website.

The byline allows you to leverage other blogger audiences and attract more readers to your site. Plus, you can reference anything you publish on your website’s publication list.

Guest writing is an easy way to get your name out and connect with other leaders.

The more you expose yourself and share your knowledge with the online community, the more you’ll stake your claim as an authority figure and establish yourself as a key influencer within your industry.

Publicize Praise From Your Biggest Fans

As your following grows, you’ll receive comments and emails from loyal followers, fellow employees and aspiring professionals. Make sure the positive feedback you receive is clearly visible on your site. You might include a testimonials page, add a sidebar with client feedback, or insert quote graphics on your biography page. By highlighting these testimonials, you lend credibility to your brand.

If you’re a business owner, be aware of online reviews from employees and clients. They can work to your advantage—or disadvantage—depending on the website’s purpose.

As an example, Fisher Investments reviews from employees can lend insight for possible hiring new candidates. ConsumerAffairs is another type of review site specifically for a corporations and whether they work in their client’s best interest or not. .

Present Yourself Confidently

Above all, hold your head up high and offer a firm handshake whenever you introduce yourself. You are your best marketing tool, and sharing your expertise is a positive when appropriate.

Create a strong online presence and share your industry knowledge on a variety of industry-related websites. Confidently help others in your field, and you’ll soon be viewed as an industry leader and expert.

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On Leadership and Optimistic Fearlessness

How Your Small Business Can Beat the Goliaths

Small Guy vs. Big Guy

If you have an idea for a small business or startup, but feel discouraged because you feel you can’t hope to compete with the big guys, you need not give up on your dreams.

Hamburgers were around before McDonald’s got its start, and the same is true with athletic shoes before the advent of Nike or Reebok. The secret sauce to being competitive in a crowded area or one that has a dominant player is a combination of brand development and customer loyalty.

There have been many stories about smaller companies won out against the larger competitors because they came up with the products, a brand, or even a lifestyle that became iconic.

Offer Something New

You may have a passion for selling anything from women’s clothing to mayonnaise, but the first question to consider is what makes your product different from what’s already on the market. The fact that you have an idea implies that there is something lacking among the available choices, and your product may fill in the gap.

What you offer does not need to be entirely new, since as the saying goes, there is nothing new under the sun, but it can be a fresh spin on a tired concept. Some people have notions of an attitude or feeling their products will convey that sets it apart from the company that makes ordinary widgets.

A good branding strategy is to show that there is an aura or vibe conveyed by your product.

Beat Them at Their Own Game

Don’t be afraid to go directly for the customers of that big box retailer or that winning website. You should also not be shy about directing comments about a competitor.

In addition to just trying to beat them at their own game, you can say outright that you are trying to prevail against the big guys if you offer deep discounts or a truly one-of-a-kind product.

At the same time, you have to create an idea of your own target customer who may be slightly different from the target customer of a huge competitor. Since your operation is smaller, you have the advantage of creating a more specific niche market, since the typical customer of Amazon is just about anybody, and this customer can be harder to pinpoint.

Use Negative Publicity to Your Advantage

Oscar Wilde, the Irish poet and wit once said the only thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about. This is not necessarily true of companies, since an E. coli breakout or a major corporate scandal can send stock prices plunging and customers fleeing.

However, there are ways you can use not only negative publicity to your advantage, but unsavory headlines for publicity.

There are likely to be very few cases where this can be done, but some companies have made their name on what seemed at first blush like negative press. One of a company’s worst nightmares, particularly small a small company, is being hit with a lawsuit from a larger competitor.

Going Against Goliath

Hampton Creek, makers of the Just Mayo product that is free of eggs, was sued by Unilever, the owner of the Hellmann’s mayonnaise brand. Unilever filed a lawsuit because it believed the use of the term “mayo” by Hampton Creek was false advertising, since the product contains no eggs.

Unilever ended up dropping the lawsuit and sales of Just Mayo increased astronomically because of the news the lawsuit, and regular supermarkets stocked the products. People flocked to this brand because the lawsuit the lawsuit made it seem like the more established company was frightened of competition from the new, healthy alternative.

Since many people are interested in healthy eating, they enthusiastically got behind the Just Mayo brand.

Creating the Right Balance

Even if your small business is an area that seems crowded or has a dominant force to contend with, by creating a balance of making it new and beating the competition at his own game, you can achieve success and market share.

Go for the typical customer while zeroing in on your fans.

Also, develop a brand that sets your products apart from other offerings on the shelves or the Internet.

Jump at the opportunity to use publicity about your company or the industry to your advantage. Once you’ve earned attention you can monetize it by marketing directly to potential customers on social media or advertising.

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Leading Your New Venture

3 Key Strategies to Sustain Your Small Business

Customer Services

You Have Customers, Now What?: 3 Key Strategies to Sustain Your Small Business

Once your small business starts picking up speed, you will want to be sure that you have the capacity to handle your growth. So, how do you continue to grow once you have gotten over the initial hurdle of attracting your first customers?

This depends on your specific business model, but it may mean hiring extra team members, outsourcing, or implementing systems that increase your efficiency. At the end of the day, it is difficult to grow and run your business at the same time.

As the head of the company, you will want to keep one hand in the day-to-day operations of your business, but spend most of your time focusing on big picture strategy in order to keep it growing.

Here are three ways that you can ensure smart, sustainable growth for your small business.

Optimize Your Website for Better Customer Service

Customer service is key to success as your small business begins to grow. Having a website that makes it easy to find out information about your products or services and contact you with inquiries will lead to better engagement with customers and more sales.

There is nothing worse than a website which has little useful product information and no way to contact the business owner.

First, the obvious: include a “Contact” section on your website, which includes a phone number, e-mail address, contact form, or any combination of the three. You may also consider including a “Get a Quote” form. This allows you to go ahead and gather useful information from a customer in order to quickly and efficiently get them a price quote.

Another great option is to add a live chat function to your website that allows customers to talk to your company directly from the web.

Outsource Your Customer Service

Once you have optimized your website to provide outstanding customer service, you will want to make sure that you have the manpower to handle the questions and quote requests that come in. Being able to answer every e-mail or phone call in a timely and friendly way is how small businesses set themselves apart from the competition.

Rather than staying up all night answering e-mails and returning phone calls, it may be more efficient to outsource your customer service. Many companies, such as Register.com, now offer what they refer to as call center plus services.

This service, unlike traditional call centers, helps small companies grow their businesses by providing customer service infrastructure for:

  • Answering e-mail
  • Conducting live chats
  • Handling quote requests
  • Handling phone calls

By letting somebody else handle customer inquiries, you will free up time to focus on further company growth.

Hire a Virtual Assistant

Finally, once your business has taken off, you will need to have someone who can take care of basic administrative tasks for you. This includes data entry, basic accounting, scheduling meetings and calls, and so on.

While you may hire someone to come work in your physical office, another great option is to hire a virtual assistant.

This type of employee comes with little to no overhead as he or she will work from a home office on a personal computer or phone. You may provide a small stipend for office supplies, but this is negligible compared to an employee who you need to set up in an office.

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Priority Management for Leaders

Tips and Tricks to Align Team Priorities

Balancing Act

Ever since I was a child, I was told to get my priorities straight if I wanted to be successful. Turns out, that’s a lot easier said than done.

Sometimes it feels like I have a never ending to-do list; what’s more, everything on it feels important, and I can end up feeling as though I’m being pulled in 12 different directions. The pressure of this situation is amplified when you’re not only responsible for managing your own priorities, but those of a team as well.

It takes an extremely high level of organization and decision-making, whether you’re a project manager, small business owner, or a mid-level manager at a huge company.

So, how can we manage priorities to make sure we’re focusing on the right things?

Below, I’ll present you with five techniques that you can use to align team priorities, simplify your workload, and make sure you and your team are working on the right things.

Determine Your #1 Priority

This tip stands in direct contrast to the feeling that “everything is high priority”. Let’s take a second to zoom out and examine how this works.

I work for a company that developed a prioritization and collaboration tool that aims to help teams align their priorities and work together more efficiently. Due to the nature of my company, this is an issue we talk about a lot.

For us, what helps us stay on track is determining our #1 objective, and aligning our goals and action items around that.

For example, our overarching goal at the moment is growing our top funnel. When we consider taking on new initiatives and projects, we ask ourselves “does this contribute to the top funnel?” If the answer is yes, the project is a go.

Now, this isn’t to say we’re all working on the same thing. Our engineering team is still working on product development, our CEO still runs analytics and works on business development, and our customer success team still takes care of our clients.

However, each particular team works on initiatives that are geared toward the top funnel, rather than other steps of the business process.

By determining your #1 priority, you create a roadmap for all other initiatives and projects.

Make a List (of everything)

You may be rolling your eyes at me right now, but you’d be surprised how many people skip this simple step, even though it’s the first step of almost every method of time management you can imagine. 

Whether you go the traditional route and use pen and paper or you download a productivity app, write out everything that needs to be done.

You might feel overwhelmed at the beginning, but just lay it all out on that list.

Take some time to read through it and determine which tasks are the most important. If you’re having difficulty, next to each task, label it with a number from 1-10. A rating of one means that it will not make a difference whether you complete the task within the next day or the next month, or you might be able to delegate the task to somebody else.

On the other side of the spectrum, a rating of 10 means that you need to get moving on this task ASAP. Remember to be honest with yourself; not every task should be rated a one or a ten.

This allows you to see the big picture right in front of you and to determine what you need to focus on the most.

Yeah, I know this sounds basic, but trust me, it works.

Go Non-Linear

If your linear list is too long or overwhelming, try the Eisenhower Method of Time Management. Eisenhower is famously credited with the quote, “what’s urgent is seldom important, and what’s important is seldom urgent”.

This strategy promotes prioritizing by dividing all of your assignments, projects, and tasks based on their level of criticality and urgency.

Here are the four categories:

  1. Critical and Urgent
  2. Critical and Not Urgent
  3. Not Critical, but Urgent
  4. Not Critical and Not Urgent

Below is a picture that sums up this concept:

Eisenhower Method of Time Management

When you divide your tasks or projects in this manner, you single out the items that are both highly urgent and highly important. By focusing on these tasks, you can ensure you are doing high-impact work.

Helpful Tip: Use the ratings from the list you made above to help decide the proper placement of each task.

Be Strategic

Find out exactly what you are already doing right and what you are wasting your time on. A great way to do this is by doing a retroactive project analysis.

Similar to the Eisenhower Method, divide events and actions into the following categories:

  1. Planned and Successful: These are the initiatives that were carried out flawlessly. The time and effort that you put into preparation was well worth it in the end. The events that you would add into this category are those that you want to try to do again or replicate. This is the category where you give yourself a pat on the back and say “Keep up the good work!”
  1. Unplanned and Successful: Unanticipated events that occurred that drove you closer and closer to your end goals. We are not always lucky enough for these types of events to occur; however, closely inspect their causes and try to recreate them.
  1. Planned and Failed: You spent way too many resources on this project to attract more customers and in the long run, it did not do you or your company any good. Stay away from any similar projects that might have the same  devastating results.
  1. Unplanned and Failed: These are the unfortunate things that you did not expect to happen that did not bring you any closer to the finish line. Think about it through this real-life situation (this has happened to me, twice). You finally got your family room redesigned: new carpeting, new furniture, and freshly painted. A terrible thunderstorm takes place and floods the entire room. Try to stop similar events from happening again by working proactively to prevent their causes

When you conduct a retroactive project analysis, you might not feel like you are prioritizing, but you most definitely are. By determining what works and what does not work, you give yourself more time to accomplish what will get you closer to that finish line.

Focus on One Thing at a Time

This is probably the most straightforward tip of them all.

Stop multitasking. Stop trying to do multiple things at once. None of us are superman or superwoman. It is impossible to work on one thing, then be disrupted, and start working on another.

In fact, this is a recipe for being counterproductive.

According to the Zeigarnik effect, when we leave tasks unfinished, they linger in the back of our minds and cause us to feel distracted. This means we aren’t utilizing our full cognitive capacity or working to the best of our ability when we don’t finish what we started.

Use the techniques above to decide which tasks you need to work on first and foremost based on their criticality and urgency.

Then, keep your attention on one task at a time, give that task your all, and move on to the next one. 

Understanding how to align and manage priorities is key in order to complete your massive list of tasks. Managing your priorities efficiently allows you to get ahead.

So think about your goals, determine what you need to do in order to achieve them, and prioritize accordingly. Try out these different approaches and knock all of those items off your to-do list (and maybe even have some time to take a breather).

What are you doing to make sure that you are focusing on the right thing(s)? How can you improve on letting of the things that are holding you back and work on things that produce better results? What else have you done to be more successful with your time and energy that you can share? I would love to hear your thoughts! 

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Kari Beaulieu

Kari Beaulieu is Marketing Manager at Appfluence Inc.
She serves her clients with Marketing, PR, Business Development, and Customer Success
Email | LinkedIn | Twitter | Web

 

Image Sources: acclivityperformance.com

 

EntrepreLeadership: Tips for Self-Leadership in Your Own Startup

3 Important Steps to Launch Your Online Business

Leadership Keyboard

Working in organizations and leading teams certainly has its up and downs; its joys and challenges.

The right organization and the right people in the right places is often very satisfying for everyone involved.

Some of the good things about working in an organization are:

  • Availability to work with others
  • Enjoying personal and professional growth for you and others
  • Being at a place that provides a certain level of resources and a bit of job security

However, leaving the financial security and resources that come with working at an organization to start your own business can be a scary thing to do.

Self-Leadership on Your Own

One way modern entrepreneurs are jumping into the brave new world of self-leadership is to start their own online business. Online businesses often provide relatively low barriers of entry and much more freedom to experiment with different ideas and approaches.

But taking this role requires a massive amount of self-leadership.

So for the brave, industrious, and inspired entrepreneurs who jump into this easy-to-enter world of an online business, self-leadership requires that they do their homework on the very fundamental aspects of launching their new venture.

Getting Up and Running

So if you are ready to go, you will need to follow some good advice and take a realistic few of what to do. This requires an open mind complemented with a healthy dose of discipline.

Think about this advice:

You are probably very anxious to finally get your site up and running so you can start earning some money. It is very understandable that you would feel this way. It is an exciting thing to start a new business.

However, you must remain patient and not get carried away.

Stay calm and do not neglect any essential tasks that you need to complete before the official launch of your site. Important details that you neglect now will most likely come back to haunt you at a later time.

3 Important Steps to Launch Your Online Business

Here are some of the most essential things to do before your site goes live.

1. Decide on a merchant service provider

You will need to sign up with a company that provides merchant services if you are going to be accepting payments on your site. This company will process all of the credit card payments on your site and keep a small percentage of each payment as their payment.

It is very important to shop around and compare the fees being charged by all of the various merchant service providers. You might be surprised by the disparity in the fees they charge. It will not cost you anything to contact all of these companies and see how much you will need to pay for their service.

You should also find out if they will require you to sign a contract. Ideally, you do not want to be involved with any company that will require you to be locked into a contract.

2. Test all facets of the site

Any good web site design company will be testing your site while they are designing it. However, the real test will begin once all of the designing has been completed. You would be wise to spend as much time as possible testing everything on your site to make sure that it works exactly how it is supposed to.

Many business owners who are about to launch a new site will hire people to test out the site and report any problems they find. They will also provide valuable feedback regarding the speed and maneuverability of the site.

The input of these people can be an extremely valuable tool in your quest to design a site that will capture the imagination of the general public. Your site needs to be working flawlessly by the time you go live.

3. Have your budget in place

You will have expenses once your site goes live. You need to be sure that you have enough money to cover them. This is why you need to create a budget for your business.

This will keep you aware of how much everything costs so you can adjust your spending properly. The daily operations of a website can become very costly if you are not careful. This is not even counting the money you will need to spend to promote it. Stick to the budget you have created as best you can.

However, you should always have some spare cash available for emergencies.

So, have you decided that you may want to jump into the world of being an online entrepreneur?  Or have you already gone down this path? What might be some other perspectives that you would add to this list? I would love to hear your thoughts!

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