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April Fool’s Day From Your Favorite Internet Businesses

This year saw some interesting April Fool’s pranks pulled by major businesses. With the hype about fake news buzzing around the biggest prank day of the year, many businesses went the very-obviously-a-prank route to avoid confusion. Here are some of the highlights:

Netflix Live

Appearing on the home page a few hours before April 1 started, Netflix Live featured Will Arnett commentating for 48 minutes about normal items like a toaster, pencil sharpener, and an office copier. Some people (like myself) were initially excited – is Netflix finally jumping on the bandwagon of streaming live TV? Further investigation proved no, just a silly prank, resulting in a quality 48 minutes of wasted time.

Netflix Live

 

Amazon’s Petlexa

An Amazon Alexa update that allows your beloved pets to interact with your Alexa home device just like you – but watch out, your cat can now order sushi all on its own.

 

Google Gnome

A spoof on Google Home, this friendly outdoor Smart Gnome promises to help you with your gardening, tell you the weather, turn on outdoor tools, but don’t you dare ask it to complete an “indoor request.”

Zappos Unstealable Boxes

Zappos takes it’s customer service to the next level by announcing their new invisible, unstealable boxes to combat parcel theft. “With one touch of a button, your delivery goes from timely to transparent.”

 

This is a fun way to generate buzz around your business, but it can very easily go wrong, so if you decide to pull an April Fool’s prank on your customers next year, proceed with caution!

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Branding Your Startup

In my previous post, I explored some solid tips for building a marketing strategy for your startup business. One thing I didn’t touch on in that post but is absolutely critical to the long-term success of your startup is branding. For those who are unfamiliar with this term, branding is how you define your business and create its identity. It’s everything from your logo and your color scheme to the photos your use on your website and the tone of voice you write content in. Some of the most successful businesses have risen to success because branding was at the heart of their strategy. It’s more than just how your business looks from the outside, it’s about building a relationship with your customers. Here are some tips to get you started on branding your startup:

Define and Personalize Your Business

This is a fairly straightforward step that you can keep as simple or complicated as you like. It is essential for you to know your business inside and out. As entrepreneurs, this should come easier for us. Our business ideas are often born out of passions and dreams. Having this close emotional connection to our businesses will make it easier to accurately define and personalize the brand. Once your business has been defined in detail (you know your product, your customers, your market, etc.), begin developing its personality. Consider the values of the brand, the type of people that it would attract, how it might interact with someone if it was a physical human being. Relating to your business in this way will give you a clear focus moving forward.

Create the External Image

The logo, color scheme, font choice, etc. are all important elements that will give customers the first impression of your brand. Consider how some popular brands you know of use visual elements to convey their brand’s personality. For example, Coca-Cola’s use of the bright red color in their brand conveys the idea of energy and strength, compared to Pepsi’s use of blue which often is seen as a calming color, might be a contributing factor for why Coca-Cola is ranked as the #4 most valuable brand. The psychology of color as it relates to marketing and branding is actually quite fascinating, and there are plenty of resources out there on the web if you’re interested in learning more.

One thing you want to avoid when creating your logo is copying other successful brands. You’re not going to get any closer to the success of Apple just because your logo looks like Apple’s logo. Go back to your brand personality and sketch out some logo ideas (even if you think you can’t even draw a stick figure, try sketching some logo designs anyway. They will be immensely helpful if you hire a graphic designer). Figure out what differentiates your business from other businesses and work that into your logo design.

Develop Your Brand Guidelines

After you’ve thought through your brand’s personality, how it looks, feels, speaks, and sounds, you’re going to want to compile that into one master document called your brand guidelines. This is what you will refer to as you continue to build your brand in order to maintain consistency. A few things it should include are your fonts, specific colors (hex codes or RGB values), different versions of your logo for different backgrounds and uses, taglines, images, and tone of content. Hubspot has put together a great list of some stellar brand guidelines to reference as you’re creating your own. This may seem like a lot of work at the start, especially if your startup is just a team of three – obviously everyone is on the same page about the brand, so why bother with the document? I’m hoping your obvious response to that situation is to know that at some point, your business will expand, new employees will be hired, and you’re going to need some way of quickly communicating to them your exact expectations when it comes to maintaining your brand. Having a set brand guideline also helps prevent “cheating” on your brand – with everything spelled out, you’ll be held more accountable to maintaining consistency with your brand, and it’s the brand consistency that leads to success.

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The Basics of Marketing Your Startup

As a marketing major, I admit to being biased when I say that the most important thing to consider when launching a new product or business is your marketing strategy. You could develop the best app in the industry, but if you have no definitive way of relaying information about your app to potential customers, you’re going to miss out on some serious growth. This post is by no means a complete step-by-step guide, but it will hopefully get your brain thinking about how to market your new business idea.

Know Your Customers

Before you can start creating your plan, you have to know your target market inside and out. How old are they? What social media sites do they visit the most? What types of jobs do they have? Are they an Apple fan or an Android fan? What are their needs? Their pains? If they could have one problem solved for them, what would it be? Asking these questions and spending time really thinking about the answers will give you a firm foundation moving forward. Creating customer personas will help you take demographic data and give it life, making it easier to think about your customer relationships personally.

Choose Your Channels

Based on your customer information, begin choosing the channels you will use to spread the word about your new business. If your market is young, social media sites like Twitter and Instagram would be appropriate channels. If your market is largely female, Pinterest would be a great place to start. Also consider reaching your customers through more traditional methods, like direct mail and print ads, if you find that it will reach your customers effectively. This is when you will have to do some research and think critically to decide which tactic is the best approach for your business.

Network, Network, Network

Don’t be afraid to talk up your idea. Tell anyone who will listen about it – ask for referrals from friends, colleagues, anyone you know either professionally or casually. Consider offering free trials or a discounted price for first-time users and encourage them to spread the word if they liked it. Don’t be afraid to offer discounts at first – this can be a great technique if used properly and in the right timeframe. Organic referrals can be extremely helpful at boosting traffic, and this is a good way to get those started.

Finally, know that you can’t – and shouldn’t – create a marketing plan in one night. You should think on this for a few weeks or even months – and always be open to altering it if needed. Developing a marketing plan will ensure that you’ve got your feet underneath you as you launch your new business, but be prepared to sidestep a few times throughout the launch process.

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Digital Trends 2017 Overview

Every year, We Are Social and Hootsuite release an annual report covering major trends in internet, social media, and mobile use. This report is massive – they released a deck of over 100 slides with graphs and statistics about the growth or decline of internet usage across hundreds of countries. You could spend a whole day or more digging into the specifics of this report and what it means to internet based businesses, but here are a few snapshots:

We can see a sharp increase of mobile device usage as well as a definite growth in “other devices,” though the total usage for this category remains small. This keeps in line with Google’s recent shift toward valuing mobile-friendly websites over non-responsive sites. As Internet entrepreneurs, we should keep in mind how much people value the ease of accessing the Internet from mobile devices, and build our websites and apps accordingly.

We Are Social’s analysis of what Internet usage means for businesses is spot on. Gone is the day that having a strong Internet presence was just an option. The Internet has become engrained into our very way of life, and should be treated as such from the business side of things. Internet usage and access should be factored in to every business plan and model. Not only do we need to understand how our customers think and what pains them, but we have to know how the behave on the Internet and what the best ways of reaching them digitally would be.

Facebook is absolutely top dog when it comes to social media platforms. It will remain one of the best ways to reach a lot of customers at once and it shows no signs of slowing down. Facebook along with Google dominates the online advertising world. We can expect to see more advertisements being integrated to the Facebook platform and should capitalize on this social media giant by advertising on Facebook as well as other online places such as Google. It is also moving toward a serious social ecommerce platform, which can be a tremendous advantage for Internet-based businesses.

You can view the entire presentation on Digital Trends in 2017 on Slideshare.

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PASS – Professional Photo Sharing Platform

In today’s digital era, the old models for photography businesses just don’t work. Previously, photographers would sell print packages in addition to their session fees. Clients would have to choose from a gallery of images and pick their favorites to be printed. However, now everyone is accustomed to having cameras on their phones and constant access to as many pictures as they can take. The value of photography work is sadly declining, due to everyone’s new ability to be their own photographer. Gone is the day that clients were satisfied with a handful of prints reflecting only a small selection of their photos. People want to see more, and have access to all of their photos. Some photographers meet this need by providing all of their client’s photos on a flash drive or a CD. At some point, someone thought “isn’t there a better, faster way to deliver my client’s photos?” and PASS was born.

PASS is a photo sharing platform designed specifically for professional photographers to share galleries with their clients. The platform was launched in 2013 and quickly built a long waiting list for an “invitation-only” access to the product download. They offer two pricing structures – free with limited features, or $29 a month for unlimited access to galleries, storage, and other features. PASS is available as a mobile app as well as a website on the client’s end, and as a downloadable software for the photographer to create and manage client galleries. The client is able to view their photos, share them to social media (which links directly back to the photographer, giving them credit for their work), download print-quality files for their own personal use, or order professional quality prints right from the app. The photos are stored on the cloud for up to 10 years, freeing up the photographer from hoarding dozens of back-up drives or boxes of client photo discs. It also effectively eliminates the need for the photographer to be involved in the print distribution – something that receives differing opinions, depending on which photographer you ask (many prefer to review the quality of the prints before giving them to clients).

Overall, PASS makes it so much easier to be a photographer in our digitally fueled world.  As a photographer and long-time PASS user myself, I can attest to the usability and function of this platform. Sending client photos is as easy as uploading the images and clicking “send.” The free version is perfect for photographers like me who shoot the occasional session, and for more serious photographers, the $29/month package is a steal. The business model definitely solved a very niche market need. Their partnership with White House Custom Color Prints creates a one-stop shop for photographers and their easy sharing and downloading features make it a client favorite. From all this, PASS has become one of the most used and trusted forms of photo sharing and distribution in the professional photography industry.

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