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  • 10 Lessons From Top Athletes For Entrepreneurs

    Wednesday, August 10, 2016 by
    Top Athletes

    You may spend a lot of your time behind a desk devoting more of your efforts to exercising your brain than your body, but that doesn’t necessarily mean your work is incredibly dissimilar from that of top athletes. Many of the skills that make entrepreneurs successful have a lot in common with those that enable athletes to get the gold (or silver or bronze).

    You don’t need to get to a gym and start doing hours of physical training every day, but for entrepreneurial success, you should pay attention to these key takeaways from how the top athletes train and win.

     

    1. Set goals.

    Define what you want to achieve. To keep herself and her training on track every day, gold medalist Natalie Coughlin sets both short-term and long-term goals and commits to consistently achieving them.

    Setting goals turns ideas into something tangible and achievable, particularly when you have a mix of high-level, long-term goals that you break down into the smaller goals you need to achieve in order to get there. By sitting down to really work out what you want and what you need to accomplish to get to what you want, you create a clear path to success.

    The path may veer into different directions here and there, but as long as you create clearly defined goals and hold yourself to them, your chances of success greatly increase.

     

    2. Seek out help.

    Like entrepreneurs, superstar athletes are often independent and driven, but the most successful amongst them have the smarts to see that they need others to succeed. No athlete gets to the games entirely on their own.

    [bctt tweet="Just like professional athletes, entrepreneurs need a team for business success." username="hostgator"]

    Olympic swimmer Missy Franklin talks openly about how important her relationship with her coach is to her success. For Olympic runner Bob Schul, one of the most influential factors to his success was his coach and mentor Mihály Iglói.

    Between the coaches, doctors, and the loved ones that all support and encourage athletes, winning a medal even in an individual sport is something of a team effort.

    Running a business is no different. Finding mentors who know more than you and hiring people who specialize in all the things you don’t can make all the difference in going from being someone who just has a good idea to someone who runs a successful business.

     

    3. You have to be all in.

    Nobody makes it onto a professional team that just kind of sort of wants to be there. Everyone who gets picked decided a long time ago that this one thing was his or her number one goal and priority.

    Four-time gold medal winner Jesse Owens has been widely quoted as saying “we all have dreams. But in order to make dreams come into reality, it takes an awful lot of determination, dedication, self-discipline, and effort.”

    [bctt tweet="Want to be an entrepreneur? Don't just fit in your dream around your day job; make it your day job." username="hostgator"]

    If you want to get a business off the ground and keep it successful in the long term, the odds are against you. To beat those odds, you have to make your business a top priority and commit fully to making it work.

     

    4. But also, learn how to pace yourself.

    Olympic training regimens are time consuming and brutal, for sure. What they also are though is carefully crafted to push the limits of what the human body can accomplish without ever going past what’s safe or healthy for the athlete. That’s a delicate balance.

    Too much training counter intuitively leads to a worse performance, if not injuries that take athletes out of the running entirely.

    Just as overtraining can lead to failure for athletes, overworking can cause burnout for entrepreneurs. Stress can have some pretty serious effects on our health. You have to work hard to succeed, but not too hard.

     

    5. Be willing to take risks.

    In response to critics who said he stayed in the ring for too long, Olympic gold medalist Muhammed Ali famously said, "He who is not courageous enough to take risks will accomplish nothing in life."

    Many sports are dangerous and all of them come with the constant risk of losing – and if you get far enough, losing in a very public way. There’s a lot that’s scary about being a professional athlete, but the rewards are great.

    Anyone who’s pursued entrepreneurship knows the same applies. Whether it’s quitting your stable job to see if your business idea will work or taking out a big loan to finance your company, the risks are significant. But the end goal of being a successful business owner makes all those risks worth it.

     

    6. Focus on the long game.

    Olympic hurdler Lolo Jones recently announced that she wouldn’t be heading to Rio for this year’s Olympics due a recent hip injury, but added “See you in 2020 homies.”

    Knowing she couldn’t make her best showing this year without the potential of harming herself further for future competition, she made the smart move to hold off on going for a medal today to increase her chances of getting one later.

    Success in most things comes from playing the long game. Most Olympic athletes train for years in order to make the Olympic team. During that time, the rewards are virtually nonexistent. All the work is going toward a potential, future award (that not all will achieve). But the possibility of that gold medal makes the long years worth it.

    [bctt tweet="Just like pro athletes, entrepreneurs typically undergo years of planning to reach ultimate success." username="hostgator"]

    In most cases, running a business works the same way. Unless you’re abnormally lucky, your first few years will be demanding, difficult, and far more full of risk than reward. But only those who play the long game and stick it out make it to the finish line.

     

    7. Diversify your skill set.

    Every athlete has one sport they focus on. The runners are focused on improving their run times, the swimmers devote most of their training to swimming, and the gymnasts give their attention to perfecting gymnastics.

    Nonetheless, many of them benefit from mixing things up a bit. If you look at the exercise regimens of different Olympic athletes, you’ll see it’s not all one thing all the time. Skier Julia Mancuso does squats and free-diving, as well as keeping up with her ski practice. Luger Erin Hamlin does weight training, pull-ups, and yoga.

    Every Olympian focuses on one thing, but all of them do a mix of exercises in order to excel at their one specialty.

    Entrepreneurs have to wear many hats as well. You can’t just be an idea guy, you have to figure out how to make plans, execute a variety of tasks, hire and manage the right people, and attend to a wide number of other needs that will come up in the course of running your business.

    Be willing to hire and delegate when needed, but also make an effort to learn at least a little bit about most of the skills and knowledge areas needed to keep your business going.

     

    8. Push yourself out of your comfort zone.

    Comfort is nice. We all like being comfortable, but it’s not where the people who find the most success in life live.

    Many athletes train at high altitudes to push their bodies further while doing the same amount of exercise. Since high altitudes have less oxygen, the body compensates with extra red blood cells and the athlete can return to lower altitudes better prepared to take on their sport.

    Many Olympians who compete in outdoor events make a point of training on difficult terrain, so they’re that much more prepared for whatever challenges the Olympics courses throw their way.

    The lesson is clear, there’s a benefit to pushing yourself beyond what’s comfortable. That’s true in business as well. The most obvious, comfortable route is not always the one that will lead to the most reward. Try things that fall outside of your typical wheelhouse and consider routes that wouldn’t be your first choice.

     

    9. Be persistent.

    It’s easy to come up with excuses not to do something. What’s harder is facing down those excuses – even good, persuasive ones – and continuing in your efforts in spite of them.

    Olympic kayaker Carrie Johnson had a great excuse to stop kayaking competitively in 2003 when she learned she had Crohn’s disease. Battling a disease and competing in the Olympics is a lot for one person to deal with. But as you can guess, based on the fact that we’re writing about her here, she not only went on to compete in the 2004 Olympics, but then again in 2008 and 2012.

    Not every athlete deals with a health issue like Crohn’s disease, but almost every athlete will deal with an injury at some point. An injury’s a perfectly good reason to stop training and focus your efforts on something that doesn’t push your body so hard. But at some point, every athlete has faced that easy excuse to stop and made a choice to keep going.

    When you run a business you will face difficulties and challenges. It’s not a question of if, but of when. You can easily turn those challenges into excuses to stop, or you can take the more difficult path and keep going. Persistence is a necessary ingredient in every entrepreneurial success, just as it is for every medal an athlete wins.

    [bctt tweet="Persistence is a necessary ingredient for entrepreneurial success, just as it is for top athlete." username="hostgator"]

     

    10. Take care of yourself.

    Athletic training is hard. Entrepreneurship is hard. Most of the lessons on the list drive that idea home. Success in both arenas takes a lot of work, a lot of risk, and some falls along the way.

    But one of the things most successful athletes and entrepreneurs do that people don’t talk about as much is find little indulgences that help balance out the work.

    Most Olympic athletes have a routine, a particular hobby, or a number of non-sports interests that help them take a break and relax in between bouts of training. Speed skater J.R. Celski takes trips to the sauna after his workouts. Snowboarder Gretchen Bleiler meditates every day. And skeleton racer Katie Uhlaender likes to go fishing.

    Make sure that, somewhere in your to-do list, you make sure to fit in whatever your version of fishing or meditation is. The culture of entrepreneurship is so focused on hard work, there’s a risk of feeling guilty anytime you set aside a night for watching Netflix or take a week off to go on a well-earned vacation, but we all need that time.

    You might be a persistent, risk-taking, hard-working entrepreneur, but you’re still a human being. If Olympic athletes can make room in their schedule to relax, then you can too. 

    A key part of entrepreneurial success is having a great website. Enjoy gold medal web hosting with HostGator!

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  • Happy Friendship Day! 7 Reasons Why Going Into Business With Your Friend Can Be Truly Great

    Tuesday, August 2, 2016 by
    Friendship Day

    Jobs and Wozniak, Hewlett and Packard, Procter and Gamble, Ben & Jerry… there’s a reason these famous business partnerships resonate with us. These companies (and many more) were founded by friends.

    And it makes sense. We hear of the inventor who single-handedly had the bright idea to do x or y and change the world, but when it comes to business, we often hear stories of friends experiencing something together, or waxing philosophically, when one of them says something along the lines of, “Hey, what if we did this?”

    With Friendship Day coming up this Sunday, we at HostGator reached out to entrepreneurs who had started businesses with their friends. We wanted to know: What’s unique about having a friend as a business partner? What are the pros and cons to running a business with your friend?

    Overwhelmingly, the entrepreneurs responded positively, eager to share the advantages that make co-founding a business with your friend an unparalleled experience.

     

    1. Your friendship defines the office culture

    When you’re working with friends, work simply becomes more fun. Shared laughter and inside jokes are invaluable as you’re working on the monumental task of building a business.

    [caption id="attachment_11716" align="alignright" width="240"]Mallory Musante and Anna Osgoodby Mallory Musante and Anna Osgoodby[/caption]

    Mallory Musante, co-founder of Bold & Pop with Anna Osgoodby, says it’s the best of both worlds. “Not only does having a friend/business partner make running a business easier with the support they provide but it also makes it fun! We may get stressed but we’re there to pull each other up and then celebrate with each other later!”

    Granted, there are those who tout the importance of having a work/life balance, but many co-founding friends embrace bringing their life to work.

    “[As] an entrepreneur, it is hard to balance work with a healthy social life as I am constantly trying to promote and develop my business. Having a friend as my business partner helps make the balance much easier,” shares Ravel Charles, who started Game Learners with friend and college classmate Samantha Gignac. “It makes for a fun working environment. The ‘office-culture’ is dictated directly by our friendship.”

     

    2. You have each other’s backs

    It’s not rocket science - of course it’s easier to trust your new business partner when it’s someone you’ve been friends with for years. This foundation of trust allows you to focus on the task at hand of building and growing your business.

    BonAppetour is a startup founded by Rinita Vanjre and Inez Wihardjo, who met at university and came up with their business idea when they were backpacking around Europe and couldn’t find a restaurant that was open. Having that trust established allowed them to move forward towards growing their business, rather than getting bogged down in some of the legal particulars of founding a company.

    “It’s easy to trust each other, and not doubt the other person, especially in the early stages of the business when the most important thing is the growth, rather than things like getting equity papers sorted out, and the shareholding structure… Of course, that is important, but when there is a comfortable friendship already, setting up those structures takes a backseat in the face of growth.”

    [caption id="attachment_11715" align="aligncenter" width="570"]Rinita Vanjre and Inez Wihardjo Rinita Vanjre and Inez Wihardjo[/caption]    

    3. You know each other’s strengths and weaknesses

    Part of what makes friendship great is that we are aware of our friends’ faults, but we love them anyway. Lifelong friends also know what their friends can do better than they can.

    Successful business partnerships often involve founders who complement each other’s strengths and weaknesses. You have this with Walt and Roy Disney. Walt was the unbridled creative, and Roy was the sensible financier.

    Aron Ezra and Keith Michel are childhood friends and have co-founded two businesses together, the most recent of which is OfferCraft, a software startup in the hospitality industry. Having worked together for nearly a decade, they can provide a unique perspective.

    Their advice for new entrepreneurs? Find a co-founder who loves doing the things you hate doing.

    [caption id="attachment_11714" align="alignleft" width="250"]Dan Grech Dan Grech[/caption]

    Dan Grech, VP of Marketing and Public Relations for OfferCraft, says this is why they work so well together. “Aron loves talking about the business to new people, whether it's reporters, sales prospects or recruits; Keith prefers working intensely with members of his team. Aron enjoys coming up with new ideas; Keith loves figuring out ways to turn those ideas into elegant pieces of code. When you are friends, you understand each other -- both your similar values and your different preferences. By understanding your differences, you never step on your co-founders' toes. In fact, Aron and Keith are always incredibly relieved (and a little incredulous) when the second person happily steps up to tackle the tasks that the first person is dreading.”

     

    4. You’re more accountable

    Going into business with a friend has a tendency to raise the stakes.

    When their best friendship turned long-distance, Michael Noker and Jessica Cadena launched the Get Two Fit fitness blog to stay in touch. Michael shared, “The emotional attachment you have to your business doubles, triples, explodes through the roof. It's not just your baby - it's the product of your relationship. The stakes are high because failure could mean fallout. We have to compartmentalize pretty much constantly, because it needs to be clear when we're talking business or friendship, work or play.”

    [caption id="attachment_11713" align="aligncenter" width="700"]Jessica Cadena and Michael Noker Jessica Cadena and Michael Noker[/caption]

    Michael attributes their productivity to their devotion to their friendship. “As an entrepreneur, you're married to your passion. You invest all your time, money, and energy - everything you need for a social life, health, and sanity. When you're going into business with a friend, you're married to your passion and to another person. You have someone to bounce ideas off of. You can cheer each other on. You're accountable to somebody. You each have strengths and weaknesses, so you can split the workload. You can't fail because you don't know what it would mean for the friendship, so you work that much harder. It's scary, it's precarious, and it's not for everybody, but when it works, it works perfectly.”

     

    5. You know how to support each other

    The saccharine phrase “that’s what friends are for” holds true in business, too. Friends can tell when you’re feeling down, and they know how to give you a boost when you need it most.

    [caption id="attachment_11711" align="alignright" width="210"]Dave and Olly Olly Mooney and Dave Hartshorne[/caption]

    Dave Hartshorne and Olly Mooney were friends for over a decade before they started the digital agency Dijitul. “We know when the other one is having a bad day, when to try and cheer them up, and when to stay well clear and let them have their moment! Basically, we know what makes each other tick,” they shared. “This has meant we've managed to work together for over ten years now and stay really good friends despite all the stresses that having a business brings.”

    [caption id="attachment_11712" align="alignleft" width="150"]Yuri Khlystov Yuri Khlystov[/caption]

    Yuri Khlystov, co-founder of Laowai Career job board, says the dynamic between business partners is more like a friendship than people may think. “Businesses run for years and require stable and trustworthy people to work side by side, just like a good friendship. To be an entrepreneur, you have to love what you do. Having a friend through thick and thin who is going through what you are going through provides stability (and is fun!).”

     

    6. You already have experience solving problems together.

    If you’ve been friends for some time, chances are you’ve already solved problems together, whether it’s as simple of a decision as deciding where to go out to eat, or assigning chores as roommates. When Felicia Schneiderhan founded 30SecondstoFly, she recruited her best friend and roommate of nearly five years to lead the marketing team. 

    [caption id="attachment_11710" align="alignright" width="280"]Felicia Schneiderhan Felicia Schneiderhan[/caption]

    “Now we are dividing our time between New York, Bangkok, and Berlin, and are balancing the friendship and roommate situation with a work relationship,” Schneiderhan shares. “I think it is important to consciously work on maintaining a healthy relationship, both in business and personally. In our case, we even entered into a hierarchical asymmetry, which complicates it further. Against all odds, I think this setup works so well for us, because we learned to develop a bulletproof conflict-solving mechanism early on as roommates, even before we started working together. Whenever we face a situation in which we disagree or misunderstand each other, we care a lot about understanding the other’s perspective. We then look for a way to avoid similar conflict in the future.”

     

    7. Your friendship will survive, even if the business doesn’t.

    It’s sad, but true: eighty percent of new businesses fail within the first eighteen months. With the deck seemingly stacked against new businesses, having a friend as a co-owner can help tip the scale a bit back in your favor, as the six points above demonstrate. You know how to work with your co-founder, you trust them, and best yet, you’ve solved problems together before. Unfortunately, though, sometimes businesses just don’t work out.

    The silver lining here is that if your business fails, you’ll have a friend to lean on who knows exactly what you’re going through.

    Ryan RobinsonRyan Robinson has written extensively about starting a business with a friend, having done it himself a few years ago. He now advises entrepreneurs on starting their own side business. Robinson and his best friend experienced rapid growth after starting their business, but eventually the revenue “began to flatten out at a level that would only provide either two people with a mediocre income or one person with the type of lifestyle we both aspired to obtain. Despite experimenting with new growth levers, it was becoming apparent that our business was really best-suited to be ran by one person, which created some tension around whether one of us should continue with the company or if it should be shuttered to avoid damaging our friendship,” Robinson shares.

    After much late-night discussions, he decided to sell his half to his friend. They’ve remained best friends through it all, Robinson notes, but it did take a few months for them to be able to move on and return to being just friends. Based on his experience, Robinson recommends that new entrepreneurs “have very candid conversations about what your course of action will be in the event the business fails, one of you needs to be bought out or in the event of other negative outcomes that you'll want to plan for ahead of time.”

    Are you thinking of starting a business with a friend? We hope these entrepreneurial insights have inspired you!

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  • How Many Emails Should You Be Sending Your Customers?

    Tuesday, August 2, 2016 by

    How Many Emails

    Seven? Maybe only five… or how about… ummm zero? Per week, month, quarter???

    Yeah, it’s confusing.

    Discovering an email cadence that works for your audience is no easy task. Marketing pro’s like Susan Rutgerson, the Director of Digital Campaigns at Endurance International Group, HostGator's parent company, dedicate their careers to knowing how to do this right, and still find it tricky.

    Rutgerson, who’s tasked with managing millions of email sends each month, says the answer isn’t as simple as once a week or twice a month. The answer, it turns out, is more about content and, more specifically, the value of that content.

    She says, “If the content in your email is highly valued by your readers, you might be able to email them every day, but if your content isn’t strong, once a month could be too often.”

    So, it sounds like there’s no hard and fast email marketing rule, but that to be successful, it’s about providing valuable content to customers.

    Is Email Marketing Still Relevant?

    Let’s back up for a moment and understand if email even still matters as a marketing tool.

    With online video and a social media boom that varies from platforms like Pinterest and Snapchat to real-time beacon technology, do customers give email the time of day?

    The research shows this answer to be emphatically “yes.” Worldwide email users are slated to rise to 2.9 billion by 2019, so business owners would be foolish to discount email marketing as a means of reaching their audience.

    [caption id="attachment_11356" align="aligncenter" width="590"]Number of email users worldwide Source: Statista[/caption]

    Customers also tend to trust emails they signed up to receive more than TV ads, branded websites, online video & banner ads. So, even while there’s more competition in the digital marketing space than ever before, email is indeed still thriving and continuing to grow.

    What Value is This Email Bringing My Customer?

    So, we’ve determined that email marketing is still relevant and that it’s a trusted source of information, but this still doesn’t get us to a precise number of emails we should be sending.

    Rutgerson recommends that before you hit send be sure to ask yourself, “What value is this email really bringing to my customer?” She says, “If you don’t have a good answer, you may want to re-think your strategy.”

    This question of value is the one that must be asked. It’s the closest any of us will get to truly understanding the power of email marketing and to landing on a specific number of sends.

    How to Determine Value?

    Value is inherently subjective, so how can we calculate what that means for each customer?

    A lot of determining value depends on time. Rutgerson explains that “Understanding email frequency has a great deal to do with where your reader is in their relationship to you.”

    For example:

    • New customers: Typically want more info on how to do X, Y, or Z plus new product updates or community-building engagement.
    • At-risk customers: May need special offers, bundled pricing, or testimonials that re-engage them.
    • Tenured customers: Expect less frequent communication, but richer content like case studies, white papers, or eBooks.

    Knowing your audience takes time and active research. Consider each email send a test, and carefully review your analytics to make improvements as you go.

    Oh, and never be afraid to simply ask your audience what they want. This could very well be the most valuable question of all.

  • Why Influencer Marketing Makes Sense for Small Business

    Friday, July 29, 2016 by

    Influencer Marketing

    Your advertising is being ignored.

    And customers are frustrated with media ads interrupting their everyday lives. So, they turn a blind eye to your advertisements.

    Consumers would rather listen to a celebrity or even a well-known blogger talk about your products and services.

    This is the rise of influencer marketing. Buyers desire organic conversations from those they admire.

    “Credibility means trust, and a natural way to earn an audience’s trust is to seek influencer advocates to help amplify your content,” says Inc. contributor Ilya Pozin.

    Perhaps it’s time for your small business to try influencer marketing.

    What Is Influencer Marketing?

    Influencer marketing focuses on using industry leaders to drive your brand’s message.

    Instead of marketing directly to your target audience, small businesses hire influencers to spread the word about their products or services.

    This type of marketing isn’t a new trend. Brands have been using this technique for centuries.

    “The idea of using someone else’s celebrity and/or credibility to help boost awareness or trial of products and services has been part of the marketer’s toolkit since at least 1760, when Robert Wedgewood of Wedgewood China began using endorsements from members of the Royal Family to boost pottery sales,” writes Jay Baer, president of Convince & Convert.

    What makes it so unique today is the power of social media. Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat amplify messages from influencers. It also gives the customer a chance to connect directly with the individual.

    Moreover, influencer marketing activates word-of-mouth marketing. According to McKinsey, word-of-mouth is “the primary factor influencing between 20 percent and 50 percent of all purchasing decisions.”

    [bctt tweet="Word-of-mouth influences 20-50% of all purchasing decisions - @McKinsey #InfluencerMarketing" username="hostgator"]

    Customers aren’t impressed with your banner ads or direct mail flyers. They want to receive information from a trusted source.

    Influencers, like local bloggers, subject matter experts, and authors, can talk with your target audience on a deeper level.

    Your 30-second TV commercial might not resonate with the buyer. But a guru in your industry posting a tweet about your services can potentially send leads to your website.

    Here’s an example of Chris Brogan, a popular marketing consultant, tweeting about Staples.

    Influencer marketing isn’t a new business strategy. However, when executed properly, it can produce positive results in this digital economy.

    The Benefits of Influencer Marketing

    Influencer marketing is more than just another tactic in a marketer’s toolbox. It satisfies your customers’ needs, in return adding money to your bottom line. Research shows that influencer marketing is the fastest-growing online customer-acquisition channel. It beats organic search, paid search, and email marketing. For every $1 spent on influencer marketing, businesses earn $6.50. And the top 13% are earning $20 or more. [caption id="attachment_11347" align="aligncenter" width="1458"]Influencer Marketing Agency Source: Tomoson Influencer Marketing Study[/caption] In addition, marketers report that they acquire better customers when implementing influencer marketing. This means buyers possess a genuine interest in their brands and are more willing to make a purchase. When you collaborate with influencers, you’re introduced to a new set of consumers. Some may have no prior knowledge of your brand. “You can reach people your brand might not otherwise be able to reach. Ad blocking and numbness to advertising and marketing are big issues. People trust those they know (experts, peers, and folks they’re connected to on their social networks) more than advertisers, so influencers can play a role there,” writes Michael Stelzner, founder and CEO of Social Media Examiner. Small businesses should take advantage of influencer marketing. It has the potential to reduce costs and increase revenues.

    Selecting Your Influencer

    The people you associate with your small business matters. You don’t want to ruin your brand name. Use business acumen and common sense when selecting a potential influencer. Identify influencers based on how they align with your brand’s mission and values. Do some preliminary research by following them on social media. What are they saying? How do they interact with their fans? When you're comfortable, contact a few influencers. Find their email addresses on Linkedin or with the tool Email Hunter. Be cordial and straightforward in your communications. State your purpose and the value of the potential partnership. “Although influencers are their own business, the majority aren’t businesspeople. Too much corporate talk can scare them away, and it’s best to arrange a face to face meeting/Skype call as soon as you can,” explains SocialChain’s Anna-Marie Odubote. As negotiations begin, consider how to compensate influencers. “When it started out, it was all unpaid, because people viewed it as more PR-focused than media-focused,” said Rustin Banks, co-founder and chief product officer at influencer marketing firm TapInfluence. Now, “each of these influencers is a media channel, and media channels need to be compensated.” [caption id="attachment_11349" align="aligncenter" width="688"]Paying Influencers Source: eMarketer[/caption] While free products may be enough for some influencers, most prefer monetary compensation. Agree to an amount that will satisfy all the parties involved. Take the time to locate a suitable influencer for your company. And agree to a compensation package that works for everyone.

    Campaign Execution Matters

    A market research firm found that “84% of global marketers expected to launch at least one influencer marketing campaign in the coming years.” Stay ahead of your competition by developing an effective campaign. Experiment with different types of collaborations. Here are a few:

    1. Sponsored Posts

    Work with influencers to create a sponsored blog post. The post can explain a current problem facing your customer. And the solution can be your brand’s services told from the influencer's point of view. On the technical side, sponsored blog posts support your SEO strategy. The backlinks will help drive traffic to your site.

    2. Social Media Takeovers

    For a more interactive experience, host an influencer takeover on one of your social media accounts. It’s like a short-term celebrity endorsement. [caption id="attachment_11350" align="aligncenter" width="1458"]Social Media Influencers Source: Outbrain[/caption] For instance, the influencer can share exclusive posts on your Instagram account. The individual will promote your content and direct followers to your landing pages. The timeframe depends on your goals. The takeover can last for two hours or one week.

    3. Brand Ambassador

    Let influencers be an extension of your brand. Your target audience will value the partnership because they respect the influencer’s opinions. The goal is to transfer that built-in influencer credibility to bolster your brand’s image. For example, LuLulemon Athletica uses influential members of the yoga community for their brand ambassador program. Also, consider developing long-term relationship with influencers. It helps build a stronger connection. And reinforces brand recognition amongst your customers. “Working with an influencer more than once ensures that an influencer’s brand mention is authentic and trusted by their network which results in more engagement for the brand...we advocate that brands foster an engaged network of influencers so that they can run campaigns with an pre-existing, happy database of influencers,” says Kristen Matthews, director of all things digital marketing at GroupHigh. [bctt tweet="Three #InfluencerMarketing strategies: sponsored posts, social media takeovers, and brand ambassadors." username="hostgator"] Many small businesses will be diving into influencer marketing. Lead the pack by executing different campaigns.

    Learning by Example

    Influencer marketing centers around engagement. So, the best way to learn is to see real-life examples in action. Check out the brands below. 1. NatureBox teamed up with Rachel Parcell, the blogger behind Pink Peonies, on a sponsored blog post.

    2. Castrol collaborated with top tech YouTuber Austin Evans on their #VirtualDRIFT campaign.

    3. Snapchat influencer Evan Garber did a takeover of the U.S. Open Tennis Championship account.

    Now, it’s your turn. Use these examples as inspiration for your next campaign.

    Initiating Influence

    Drive your brand’s message with influencers. Leverage their influence to bring awareness to your products.

    Select an influencer who exemplifies your brand. Execute a strategy that meets your customer’s expectations. And don’t be afraid to learn from industry leaders.

    Start your marketing campaign. Influence your customer.

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  • What Are Chargebacks and How Can They Kill Your Business?

    Thursday, July 28, 2016 by

    What Are Chargebacks

    Your new business is up and running, your website is generating sales, and life is great, right? Maybe, but stay alert for a hidden threat many new merchants don’t know about until it’s too late – chargebacks. Like shark fins in clear waters, chargebacks are e-commerce hazards that can strike without warning. Protect your business by understanding what chargebacks are, how to prevent them, and what to do when you encounter them.

    What Are Chargebacks?

    A chargeback occurs when a cardholder calls their card issuer to dispute a charge on their account. If one of your customers files a dispute, you’ll get a notice from your acquiring bank that a chargeback is pending. You can either accept it or appeal it – we’ve got more information on that below. If you accept it or if the acquirer or card issuer denies your appeal you’ve got a chargeback. That’s not good.

    Why Do Customers File Chargebacks?

    Visa lists four main reasons for chargebacks in its 94-page Chargeback Management Guidelines document. (It’s not great beach reading, but read it anyway.) The top two reasons come from customers: disputes and fraud attempts. Authorization and processing problems can also cause chargebacks, so we’ll talk about good recordkeeping in a minute.

    Customer dispute chargebacks

    There are many reasons a legitimate customer may file a chargeback request. If their order never arrived, if it was the wrong item, if it was radically different from the product description, or if they were overcharged, they may request a chargeback if your customer service team doesn’t fix the problem.

    Friendly fraud chargebacks

    Criminals posing as customers order goods, pay with a credit card, and then falsely claim they never received their order. This “friendly fraud” is a real problem for online merchants and it’s getting worse. According to retail news outlet WWD, chargeback fraud is rising 20% per year, and more than half of people who successfully file a fake chargeback will do it again within three months. In other words, once there’s blood in the water, the sharks move in.

    [bctt tweet="Over 50% of people who successfully file fake #chargebacks will do it again within 3 months." username="hostgator"]

    How Do Chargebacks Hurt Your Business?

    Chargebacks cause harm in the short run and over the long term. With each completed chargeback, you lose the revenue from the transaction, any merchandise you shipped or services you provided, and you’ll almost always owe a chargeback fee to your acquirer.

    If your chargeback ratio (chargebacks to total transactions) reaches a certain point, you’ll either pay higher processing rates or lose your merchant account entirely, often with much less notice than you’d like. If that happens, you’ll have to find a processor who’s willing to work with “high risk” merchants – at high-risk rates -- to keep your business from sinking.

    How Can Your Business Avoid Chargebacks?

    You can reduce your chargeback risk by following five simple steps to keep your legitimate customers happy and discourage fraudsters from taking a bite out of your business.

    1. Provide clear information to customers

    Your product descriptions and images should be accurate so shoppers aren’t disappointed when the goods arrive. Your shipping and return policies should be visible on every site page so shoppers know what to expect before they buy. Make sure the billing descriptor that appears on customers’ credit card statements is recognizable; use your shop name or another term you’ve told customers to expect to see.

    2. Track your shipments

    Package tracking helps everyone. Customers won’t assume their package is lost if they can track its progress, and fraudsters are out of luck claiming the package never arrived if you have proof it did. (There are plenty of WordPress plugins out there to help you manage shipping - check out our post here.)

    3. Provide great customer service

    Customer service contact information should appear on every page of your site and on the receipt in every package you ship. Round-the-clock help and a customer-friendly attitude can reduce the risk that customers will go straight to their card issuer to solve their problems.

    4. Screen your transactions for fraud

    Your processor, a 3rd-party fraud-prevention service, and/or your own in-house team can watch for red flags like shipping and billing addresses that don’t match, high-value purchases by a new customer, many small purchases from the same IP address in a short period of time, and purchases from locations that are known to have high rates of fraud.

    5. Keep detailed transaction records

    The more information you record for each transaction, the better. Some things are required, like the date, amount, cardholder name, and other basics. Go above and beyond to include what card issuers call “compelling evidence” – delivery signatures, customer service emails that prove receipt of the item, customer IP addresses and phone numbers, and more. Each issuer has its own rules, which you need to study. (See below.)

    What Should You Do If You Get A Chargeback Notice?

    Submit supporting information quickly

    Get your evidence to your acquirer within the time limit they set. If you’re late, you lose out, even if the chargeback would otherwise be unsuccessful. This is where good recordkeeping and organization literally pay off.

    Evaluate the chargeback

    Whether the chargeback is approved or denied, study it to see if there are things you can improve to avoid similar chargeback requests going forward.

    Want to learn more about chargeback prevention?

    Get the details on each card issuer’s chargeback process and fraud-prevention tips:

    Your acquiring bank can be a resource for chargeback prevention, too. Talk to your banker about ways to shore up your fraud controls and head off future attacks.

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