Time Management for Entrepreneurs: Stop Killing Time and Start Investing Time

thinkstockphotos-494286264

“The way we measure productivity is flawed. People checking their BlackBerry over dinner is not the measure of productivity.” – Timothy Ferriss

At the end of each day, do you take stock of what you’ve done and feel as though you were constantly busy, but you can’t for the life of you figure out how your time was spent? As days turn into weeks and weeks into months…we often feel exhausted, but with no real accomplishments to show for our efforts.

The problem is, most people see time as an infinite resource. They approach life like they’re driving down the street and miss a Starbucks, but happy in their knowledge that there’s another one a mile down the road. Likewise, we always think “tomorrow is another day” and promise ourselves we’ll keep track of our time and use it wisely then. This mindset is the best way to never accomplish what you want in life.

When we think of money, though, our mindset is a bit different. Our society encourages us to work hard when you’re young and invest your money so that when you retire and no longer make money, you’ll have that nest egg to spend. If you invest in your time, though, really spectacular things can happen.

Understand your productivity cycles.

Ernest Hemingway wrote in the morning because that was his most creative time of the day. Former Prime Minister Winston Churchill, on the other hand, reportedly didn’t get out of bed before 11:00 am, preferring to work late into the night. Having a solid understanding and respect for when you are at your most productive will enable you to reserve your most important work for when you’re at your mental best.

Make a list of the most important things you want to accomplish.

Making a list of the things you need to accomplish can help us overcome what’s called the Zeigarnik Effect. No, it’s not a mosquito-borne virus. You’ve experienced the Zeigarnik Effect on those nights you can’t sleep because you’re endlessly trying to remember everything you need to do and keep it organized in your mind. This happens during the day as well, when you’re trying to concentrate on the task at hand, but your mind is still whirring in the background keeping your list organized. Give your brain a break and write it all down. Take a few minutes to prioritize those items for better efficiency.

Do the most important things first each day.

By doing the most important things first, you can always be assured that something important is done each day. Night owls, fret not, you can still save the most brain-intensive or creativity-intensive items for those 2:00 am writing sessions, just make sure that if something absolutely needs to be done in the morning, it gets done.

Don’t discount small blocks of time.

As a society, we’ve taken to killing time on our phones during those periods of time when standing in line, or commuting on a bus or train. Time is too valuable to kill! Instead of checking Facebook while waiting for your coffee, identify things on your list that take up small amounts of time and get those done while you’re waiting instead.

Finally, schedule in some down time for yourself. Nothing kills productivity more than a burned-out mind. Take a look at how you’re spending your time and see how you can better spend it using these easy tips.

Online Marketing With A Little Friendly Competition

thinkstockphotos-97430242

Sometimes it takes a little friendly competition to get your customers engaged. That’s why it’s so common to see freebies, giveaways, and contests posted online and in retail stores. The trick, of course, is finding a contest that your customers are interested in winning. You know your customers best. Selecting a contest to run can be fun for everyone, especially if you can find a way to get your employees excited, too.

Did You Know?
– New campaigns acquire a 34% audience increase on average
– One-third of contest entrants sign up to receive email updates from brands and partners
– Running a mobile contest increases the number of entrants by eight times
– Statistically, the best duration for a contest campaign is 25-60 days

Contest Ideas

One of the funniest and most entertaining ideas is to host a video contest. People are mad about videos these days, and they love to share them on Facebook and other social media sites. According to Social Media Examiner, one such contest by the snack company Doritos brought an immense return. The contest is called “Crash the Super Bowl” and asks customers to create commercials for their chips. Can you just imagine how much fun customers have creating these commercials? Let’s not even begin to discuss the fun of sharing the commercials on Facebook. So while your company may not be as big or popular as Doritos, you can see how this idea can go viral quickly.

Dunkin’ Donuts uses contests to tell customer stories on Twitter. They asked their customers to post how their coffee fits into their day. As you can imagine, many customers came back with responses to this request. Winners starred in their own Dunkin’ Donuts commercial, and these videos were shared on YouTube and Twitter.

Low-Tech Contests

Not all contests need to include high-tech prizes or competitions such as videos. You can ask your followers to compete in Throw Back Thursday competitions with snapshots of them using your products in a funny way or just sending in ideas for how they use your product or service. The goal is engaging as many current and potential customers in your brand, and just plain having fun. If the contest is easy to participate in and offers a prize that fits your niche audience, then you will get a better return. This method of building an audience and cementing relationships with your customers is a proven success. People just want to have fun, and they are busy and stressed. An excuse to join an engaging contest will get them excited.

Kissmetrics offers several ideas that you can adapt to your company to introduce giveaways and contests to your audience. They offer suggestions on how to set up the contest, and how to optimize it and promote it online. Part of the success of a contest is that it can result in user-generated content that you can use during and after the contest to promote your products and brand. Everyone wins because it is fun, engages your audience, and you can get increased traffic and sales as well as new, original content.

Contests are particularly useful during the stressful holiday season when everyone is shopping and spending money. You can offer free products to customers who win, or gift cards that they can use for holiday gifts.

Anticipation is Your Friend: The Art of Teasing a Product or Service Before a Proper Launch

thinkstockphotos-77740401

All of your print marketing materials should be designed to evoke an emotional response. Most of the time when you’re marketing a product or service, your goal is to convince people to spend money on what it is that you have to offer AFTER the fact. This is time consuming and isn’t always successful, especially in a crowded sea of competitors. But what if there was a way for you to start your print marketing momentum well in advance of the actual product or service’s release? What if there was a way to build so much momentum leading up to that day that all of the hard work from a marketing perspective had already been done for you?

Luckily, there is a way to accomplish all of this and more. By spending your marketing dollars pre-emptively and teasing the launch of your product or service well in advance, you can build the type of hype that will continue to pay dividends for a lifetime.

The Most Efficient Marketing Engine on the Planet – Disney

Perhaps the most powerful marketing machine in existence belongs to The Walt Disney Company – and this isn’t just because they seem to have unlimited financial resources at their disposal. Consider the masterful way that they built anticipation for “Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens.” Starting a full year out from the premiere of the movie, a teaser trailer was released to build anticipation. Since that opening salvo, we were bombarded with a steady stream of marketing content, from tie-in comic books to a toy launch event that was treated as a national holiday, and more. Anticipation for a new “Star Wars” film could not have been higher going into its release, but what did all of that marketing really tell us about the film itself?

The answer is “not much.” People knew what it was called, knew who was in it, knew it had the words “Star Wars” in the title and very little else. So, why was the hype going into the release of the film so massive if people actually knew next to nothing about it, let alone whether or not it would be good? Because of the power of “anticipation” in action.

Little By Little

When building anticipation for a product or service ahead of its release, the key is to understand just how powerful saying very little can actually be. You don’t want a print marketing material to literally say “this is what this does and this is why you want it.” Doing so removes the air of mystery from the proceedings, which is one of the key ingredients when building anticipation. You need to focus on core images or small facts that only hint at a much larger whole. You want people to say to themselves “I NEED to know more about what this is,” because at that point you’ve got their attention. Once you have their attention, the actual product or service itself can help make sure that you never let go.

Focus On the Problem, Not the Solution

Say you had a product or service that made it easier for stay-at-home moms to get the kids off to school in the morning. If you wanted to build anticipation in your print marketing materials, you might focus on that particular problem above all else. The different waves of your campaign would be devoted to essentially confirming what they already know – “kids tend to not be cooperative in the morning, if only you had more hours in a day, it’s difficult to manage your own schedule and theirs at the same time, etc.” Then, you might tease with a bold statement like, “We’re about to change all that. Stay tuned for more information,” and continue to hit them with additional marketing materials in the run-up to the actual launch.

Not only have you appealed to their sentiments and hinted at how you’re about to change their lives in an emotional way, but you’ve also begun to build anticipation at the same time. The great thing about anticipation is that it tends to snowball – if you can get a customer excited today, your focus can then become on KEEPING them excited, which is significantly easier and less time consuming than getting their attention in the first place.

Anticipation is one of the single best assets that you have in your quest to connect with your target audience in new and meaningful ways. If you can play the “anticipation game” in the right way, you won’t have to worry about convincing people to engage with your product or service when it launches. They’ll come directly to you – they practically won’t be able to help themselves.

Why It’s Time To Start Paying Attention To Instagram

thinkstockphotos-509822717

When it comes to social media marketing, there are a lot of people who will tell you that there are only two names that you have to concern yourself with: Facebook and Twitter. While the power of these two services as marketing channels is undeniably important, to say that you should ONLY focus on these two platforms is making a grave mistake – particularly concerning where we’re headed.

Case in point: Instagram may not have as many unique users as Facebook or Twitter, but the impressive growth it has shown in a relatively short period of time proves that it is more than worth your effort.

The Importance of Instagram: By the Numbers

Over the last five years alone, Instagram has quickly proven its worth against its larger brethren. Though the social networking site only had 90 million users in its earliest days, that number has since risen to 300 million monthly active users as of 2016.

What’s more than that, Instagram’s user base is incredibly engaged. Not only are these users responsible for sharing over 30 billion (that’s “billion,” with a “B”) photos to date, but more than 70 million photos are being shared every day.

That statistic alone makes Instagram the third most engaged social networking site on planet Earth today. In terms of using social media for effective marketing, “engagement” is pretty much the name of the game.

Instagram is also hugely beneficial for companies that want to increase brand awareness on a global scale. Studies estimate that as of right now, a full 70% of all Instagram users are located OUTSIDE of the United States. To top it off, there will be about 111.6 million American Instagram users by 2019. This means that not only will it allow you to reach a wider audience than ever before, but it will also still allow you to reach those ever-important local markets, too.

Perhaps the most impressive statistic to concern yourself with, though, has more to do with exactly who Instagram allows you to reach. As of 2016, Instagram is used by more Americans between the ages of 12 and 24 years old than any other social network, including Facebook and Twitter. So not only can you reach a larger audience, but you’re also reaching a younger one – particularly important for creating a loyal army of customers now who will be ready and willing to follow you for years to come.

The Bigger Picture

Statistics like these underline a few different things, all of which are crucial in terms of social media marketing. For starters, always be wary of someone who tells you that you only have to focus your efforts in one direction. “Never put all your eggs in one basket” is a mantra that very much applies in terms of social networking, especially because most businesses use at least two social networks every day, often more.

However, the real takeaway from this is that you should always be looking for the next big thing in terms of how and where you’re communicating with your audience. Imagine the results you would see today if you were able to get in on the Facebook revolution from the ground floor. Well, a similar opportunity is currently presenting itself to businesses everywhere in the form of Instagram. Ignoring it now means leaving a lot of money on the table later on.

What Mountain Biking Can Teach You About Business Strategy

thinkstockphotos-506550504

If you’ve ever been on a mountain bike and felt the exhilaration of barreling down some well-worn single-track, you’ve likely also felt the pain of crashing headfirst into a tree. You might’ve sat there dazed, thinking, “what went wrong?” while you picked the leaves out of your helmet. You were trying so hard to avoid hitting that tree. How could you have hit it? The answer is really kind of crazy.

The most successful mountain bikers stick to these simple words of wisdom – “look where you want to go.” For some strange reason, your brain sees you looking at something and interprets that as, ” I want.” So, your brain does its’ best to give you what you’re paying all that attention to. If you’re cruising down the road staring at a tree chanting, “please don’t hit that” under your breath, chances are, you’re going to look yourself straight into that tree. To avoid the tree, you simply have to look at the road you want to travel.

These same words of wisdom can have many applications in life, especially when it comes to your business strategy. How many times have you heard of businesses failing for one reason or another? Is it possible that the owners’ focus was not on the success of the business, but rather on the fear of failure? Did those owners “look” their businesses off of a cliff because they were so afraid of failing? Probably.

Like those successful mountain bikers, the most successful business owners focus on success and not on failure. They have a clear view of the path they want their business to take. They have a clear view of the customers they want to serve. They have a clear view of what their business is about. How do they get that focus? It’s really a three-step process.

Re-train Your Mind

As human beings, we have a natural fear of the unknown. If you’ve never done this particular business, you have very little idea of the exact plan that will make your business profitable. This is scary, no doubt. But, if you can train your mind to be ok with that unknown, you can focus your energies on the success of your business, rather than sitting in the fear of the unknown. How do you do that? Well, a good way to start is to understand when that fear starts talking to you; when the only thing going on in your head is worry. Understanding that that is fear and saying to yourself, “I don’t know what’s going to happen and I’m ok with that,” can turn off the worry and allow you to focus on success.

Create Your Path

Before you start your business, and periodically after that (think one-year plans), sit down for a few hours and write about your business. What is your product or service about? Who does your product or service appeal to? Where do these people hang out? How can you reach them? Having a clear understanding of these things will help you focus your marketing energies moving forward.

Travel Your Path

Now that you’re looking towards the path of success, you can move forward. You have the time and energy to focus on the discrete marketing strategies that will make your business a success. Whether it’s shooting YouTube videos about what you do, or traveling to meet with the people that you want to serve, you have the right mindset to go about making your business a success.

The Powerful Influence Of Coffee

thinkstockphotos-521696656

Does it ever seem as if you can’t move another step forward without your favorite drink in hand? Coffee fuels many a creative mind in any industry. Whether you are an early morning coffee drinker or need a cup mid-afternoon to reboot your sluggish mind, coffee culture does pair with many of the best developments in business. You might even be the person who has to have a cup of coffee in hand all day long. Here are some coffee thoughts to help you jumpstart your day or keep it going into the wee hours of the morning when you are cramming for a deadline.

 

Quotes about Coffee

“I believe humans get a lot done, not because we’re smart, but because we have thumbs so we can make coffee.” – Flash Rosenberg

“Actually, this seems to be the basic need of the human heart in nearly every great crisis — a good hot cup of coffee.” — Alexander King

“Without my morning coffee, I’m just like a dried up piece of roast goat.” – Johann Sebastian Bach

“I never laugh until I’ve had my coffee.” – Clark Gable

“As soon as coffee is in your stomach, there is a general commotion. Ideas begin to move, similes arise, the paper is covered. Coffee is your ally and writing ceases to be a struggle.” – Honore de Balzac

“I don’t really like coffee, she said, but I don’t really like it when my head hits my desk when I fall asleep either.” – Brian Andreas

“Come on, don’t you ever stop and smell the coffee?” – Justina Chen, North of Beautiful

 

Coffee Influence in Our Culture and Lives

Have you ever sat down and thought about how much coffee has infiltrated our culture and daily lives? Coffee is present at every meeting, event, gathering or celebration. It is a staple in good times and bad and helps stimulate conversation, ease communication, and calm people in the face of the unknown. It is so embedded in our lives that we often take having coffee on hand for granted. Would you ever have a work meeting without coffee for visitors? And don’t you offer every visitor coffee when they arrive?

There is an excellent article on the Scientific American blog (http://bit.ly/2eLnuIQ), “The Culture of Coffee Drinkers,” that discusses the influence of coffee throughout history and in modern times. With the proliferation of Starbucks coffee shops throughout major cities, coffee shops have become meeting places for entrepreneurs, writers, company reps and corporate CEOs who want to meet away from the office. Gourmet coffees have become commonplace.

Using Coffee to Improve Customer and Employee Relationships

It may seem like a “no-brainer,” but coffee can be used as a tool to connect with both employees and customers in your shop or office, and it doesn’t cost much for you to do so. Whether you send your assistant on a coffee run, or have a Keurig in your office for each person to make their own cup, sharing a “cup of joe” will help facilitate discussions about difficult jobs, employee discipline, and new contracts.