What Would Apple Do?

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We started the conversation discussing how to determine the best price point for your product and then went into a wide variety of tools you can use to drive sales online in the first part of this podcast. In this podcast we continue the conversation by looking at one particular company that has done it right… Apple.

There are many ways to look at driving your sales and a plethora of tools to use in doing so. Apple is the prime example of a company who has used many of these tools to develop a unique and profitable brand identity with an almost cult like following. How have they done this? We talk about some of the techniques they use, and we found this great post “What Would Apple Do?”.

Here are several more resources for developing your brand:

First Steps to Developing a Brand Identity

Personal Branding 101

Creating a Brand

Creating the Brand: Halo Effect

Creating a Brand on a Budget

In our next podcast we will put the pieces together for you and walk through the process of developing a unique Brand ID and how to drive sales using this new brand.

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Great Free Start Up Tools

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When starting a new business keeping the costs down is the key to your survival. To help with your quest for success we have compiled a short list of software and services that, even though not all are free, they all will help you save money.

Zoho has a huge list of software and services available, including reporting, a CRM and Invoicing.

Dropbox is a virtual hard drive service.

Mozy we use to save important documents. It is a safe secure online backup service.

Google Docs is another great resource, as are all of the google tools.

Portable Apps allows you can carry your favorite computer programs along with all of your bookmarks, settings, email and more with you. Use them on any Windows computer. All without leaving any personal data behind.

Mail Chimp makes it easy to send email newsletters to your customers, manage your subscriber lists, and track campaign performance. It is a free online email marketing solution.

Fulfillment by Amazon is an innovative service, you send inventory directly to Amazon where it is stored and managed in a secure, climate-controlled facility. When orders are received, Amazon will professionally pick, pack and ship the product directly to your customer.

Skype you should already know about, but if you don’t it a free online phone service and chat application. There is a pay service as well. But primarily we use it to track and record conversations for free.

Business Nation has a library of free and fee based legal forms such as lease and sales agreements. It also has directories of services, opportinities and a business library.

Open Office is the Free and open productivity suite. It has software that mimics all of the Microsoft Office applications.

GIMP according to their website

GIMP is an acronym for GNU Image Manipulation Program. It is a freely distributed program for such tasks as photo retouching, image composition and image authoring. It has many capabilities. It can be used as a simple paint program, an expert quality photo retouching program, an online batch processing system, a mass production image renderer, an image format converter, etc. GIMP is expandable and extensible. It is designed to be augmented with plug-ins and extensions to do just about anything. The advanced scripting interface allows everything from the simplest task to the most complex image manipulation procedures to be easily scripted.

This is by no means a comprehensive list, if you know of a valuable free tool for business users please share it by leaving a comment

Content is King

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Take the time to create value with your content. Optimizing your content to provide the maximum value will have many positive long term effects, and is well worth the effort put forth. Keep readers coming back by giving them a reason to. Post quality over quantity.

It still amazes me how often I find a site, that obviously had some money and time spent on the design. They also took the time to SEO the site and chose relevant keywords. And then they did nothing with it… They wasted all the effort by providing no value in the actual content.

A major mistake many bloggers make is thinking that quality is less important than quantity. It gets compounded by the fact that the search engines see quantity as valuable. it might even increase your traffic to post constantly. However it dos you no good if the traffic you gain simply comes once, never to return. Instead make your site important to the viewer by adding real value.

The Blues Keep Success Away

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Letting the negative things in your life interfere with your potential will stop you from reaching your potential. In other words, stay positive. Let nothing bring you down. It is imperative that you look for the good in all situations.

Easier said than done, right? Well in truth whatever you think is true. If you believe you can accomplish something, then you can, if you believe you will fail then you will. Saying “I can’t” and believing “I will fail” makes it a certainty.

No one who ever achieved success, believed they would fail. In fact, often the team or individual is the only one that has faith in their future success. How many times have you read the story of someone who has overcome seemingly insurmountable odds to achieve greatness? All their family and friends said they could not do it. But they pressed on regardless to all of the negativity from their associates.

Taking Your Idea to Success

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Every great invention or idea has run up against the same first roadblock… fear. The would be entrepreneur fears the unknown, fears to possibility of failure and fears the innate risks involved with a new venture.

So, what separates the entrepreneur from just some person with a good idea? The successful professional knows the steps to define the unknown and by doing so they eliminate fear.

Fear is the Mind Killer

It is the fear of the unknown that stops most people from attaining their dreams. The fear keeps them in their comfortable job. The fear stops them from taking the risks necessary to succeed.

Here are the 5 steps to help you get over your fears, and get the ball rolling on your new venture.

1) Do Your Research

Find out everything there is to know about your idea.  Who will be your competitors? Even if no one has the exact same product or service, there will always be competition, so get to know them. Google is your best friend. Use it to your advantage. Find the keywords your would be competition uses, search blogs, directories and every resource and media outlet.

This is a great time to define what or how you will be better than the competition. Find the answers to these questions: How will you take market share? Who is your target customer? Where are they? How do you get them? What is the MVP (Minimum Viable Product)?

2) Define the Opportunity

Now that you know everything there is to know about the market and competition it is time to define your opportunity. There are a series of questions that are vital to answer: What are acceptable price points? How many customers are there? Is the market local, regional, national or international? What is the exact niche? You will want to know who you are targeting, why you are going after them, where they are at, when you will launch and how you will reach them (Who, What, When, Where, Why and How).

3) Entrepreneur Know thy-self

If you have done the first two steps, it is time to decide if you are the right person for this opportunity. What relationships do you have that could open doors in this market? Do you have the skill set to  fit the concept?  Do you have the tools, software and money to go full out? What essential skills, experience, knowledge or money are you missing?

By understanding how you fit the opportunity you can define the gaps in your own abilities, knowledge and finances. These gaps help you Define a team.

4) Build Your Team

So you have determined the skills, experience, knowledge or money you are missing to make your idea a success. Look around you at your friends, family and colleagues. Do you know people who can fill your gaps? Are they willing to work with you, especially  on speculative work. What are your financing options, do you have the money or do you know potential investors (Friends and family) that might be interested? You will need to be able to sell them on this idea. Often the first person I look for is a great salesperson, because they can help me sell the next person in the idea. The people involved can be contractors or freelance, you don’t have to look for the long term team at this time, in fact it is often best to keep the final team small early on. Find the people and fill the gaps.

5) Build the Prototype

There are a great many cliches to remember at this time, and all are valid. Keep It Simple Stupid. Don’t get overly complex, just make it work. If it is a service this is a great time to do the work cheap or free. What you want is to get a couple of clients that will give you an endorsement and that you can use as a reference. If you properly defined the opportunity then you know what the M.V.P. for your prototype should be, build that.

Always remember that perfection is the enemy of profit. Build the MVP, get it into the hands of a few customers, let them define what more is needed, or how it should change. Your customer will know better than you what they really want, so let them tell you.

Incremental Perfection

Now that the customer has the product in hand and has told you what they really want. Now is the time to incorporate some of these changes. Add a feature, test again. The steps we have outlined here are actually a cycle that you should re-iterate through over and over until you have the final product. Often what you will find is that the initial idea and the final one are radically different.

Don’t be afraid to change direction .

Building a Successful Start-up Team

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The success or failure of most start-ups can be determined even before the company is formed, just by looking at the founding team. So how do you create a team that is likely to be successful?

Young smiling business people isolated on white
First "Know thy self". Without really knowing yourself, your strengths, your weaknesses and what drives you. You cannot hope to build a team that will motivate, encourage and strengthen your short-comings.
There are a great many tools for "defining" personality types such as the Jung Myers Briggs, Kiersey and the EQ. Each of these have their strengths and weaknesses. And they all do a good enough job for what you need.
Determine where you fit and find people that are strong where you are weak.
To use Basketball as an analogy, if you are a great Center, building a team full of other centers will not be as strong as a team made up of a Center, a couple of Guards and a couple of Forwards. And the best team will have great players at all positions.
You cannot be the master of all trades, bu from time to time you might need to be everything from Chief Cook to Bottle Washer. When I build a team I look for well rounded people that can handle multiple jobs but who are expert at one.
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Know Your Faults

I hate to be put into a box. Being categorized, labeled and predefined , not my thing. Which is precisely what every personality profile I have ever taken says.

I thrive on change, and solving problems. I love to look at products and try to make them better, to look at a process and make it more efficient or a challenge and find the solution.

Innovator, Inventor, these are words I like to self ascribe. And most people would agree. Nothing wrong with that, right?

So am I Mr. Wonderful, perfect? NO, in-fact I am far from it.

It is easy for most people to find their strengths. We tend to gravitate towards situations and roles they are best used.  Very few of us search out our failings.

And here is the clincher, to be successful it is possibly more important to know your faults.

Why? For me, knowing that I have trouble staying with a project long term, allowed me to seek out business partners who have this ability as a strength. And knowing that I trust people, has made me use the opinion of those people who I know are great at reading others.

So it allows you to build your team with those that compliment you.

We tend to surround ourselves with people like us. Most of my close friends are too similar to me. It’s why we are friends. It is also why we aren’t business partners.

Great seemingly obvious life lesson, find a weakness, and strengthen it.

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