I have found it can be like a maze where you sometimes think you found the path but it’s just a trick. That short-lived burst of joy that dies quickly.
After 40 years of life, I have personally found that we all are easily led further away from real happiness and are teased more and more with tricks.
I know it’s uncomfortable to admit but it’s a result of how we are told to live our lives. We do things that take us further and further away from who we truly are as a human being.
There is a growing misalignment between our inner and outer world. Like the classic example of working the dreaded 9-5 just to put food on the table. Rationalizing that it’s the right thing to do, maybe even convincing ourselves it’s the only thing we can do.
We tend to yearn for something more meaningful. More raw life.
We have options if we choose to see them and are willing to pursue them. Sometimes we become blind to them and other times we are just too afraid to change because it’s hard.⠀⠀
The truth is that the more you align your true inner desires to your actions the more happiness you will find. But first, you have to lift the veil and allow yourself to see who you really are and what you really desire.⠀⠀⠀⠀
When I started Change Creator it was an extension of who I am, my core beliefs. I’ve never felt such alignment in my life since the day I met my wife.
Most of us are afraid we won’t make money. But, money is all around us and abundant for the taking. Money is not the roadblock, how we think about ourselves and our personal power. ⠀⠀⠀⠀
When you start opening your mind to finding your truth, that alignment between your inner subconscious world and the outer conscious world you will start to feel true happiness. The more our outer world dictates how we live, the less happiness we will feel. ⠀⠀
So, take more time to listen to your inner self. What does it say?
The Infusionsoft vs ActiveCampaign debate has a deep-running history ever since the two small business sales and marketing software companies were founded in 2001 and 2003 respectively. Since then both have combined and curated CRM, email marketing, marketing automation and e-commerce features into powerful platforms for all things automated sales and marketing for small business.
In this Infusionsoft vs ActiveCampaign review, we are only going to focus on the important differences between both offerings, so you can decide which automated marketing/CRM tool is right for your business or clients in advance.
11 Powerful Differences Between Infusionsoft and ActiveCampaign
When comparing between CRMs, you cannot be too choosy. It can be tough to decide which one is best. Before you decide on which one is best between Infusionsoft vs ActiveCampaign, take a few minutes to get to know your own business goals. Do you want to build out landing pages? B2B campaigns? Is email marketing going to drive business? The online sales and marketing funnels you create are going to determine what CRM you should be choosing.
1. ActiveCampaign vs Infusionsoft: Target Audience
Both platforms predominantly market their CRM tools/email marketing/marketing automation to small businesses.
Infusionsoft is on record stating its sales, marketing, and CRM software service is meant for small businesses with less than 100 people. More specifically, they have said before that the effectiveness of their marketing automation software becomes hazy as it packs on more than 25 users.
ActiveCampaign, on the other hand, markets its services to a wider target audience. Whether you are a blogger, email marketing expert with own clients, a small business owner or an enterprise setting, the Infusionsoft alternative is scalable to meet dynamic needs for several reasons—the main being its pricing model, which we look at later on this Infusionsoft vs ActiveCampaign comparison.
2. Differences in Business-Essential Features
The first thing you will easily notice upon signing up and comparing ActiveCampaign and Infusionsoft is how feature-packed the latter is. Infusionsoft runs deep—perhaps too deep for many users to appreciate its depth, and instead get confused and overwhelmed by the ton of things you can do with Infusionsoft beyond the basic stuff.
Here is a comparison screenshot of Infusionsoft vs ActiveCampaign side-by-side; while seemingly fewer on the surface, Infusionsoft features a stack of subcategories and even more analytics under the main category item:
Built-in integrations with over 200 external services
Drag and drop email designer
Multimedia marketing management
Track your contacts onsite and in your apps
Campaign, contact, as well as list reporting
Track your contacts onsite and in your apps
Built-in metadata keywords fields
Campaign, contact, as well as list reportings
Track orders, sales tools, accounts receivables, etc.
Track where your contacts live or travel
Add live e-commerce data and even videos to your emails
Drag and drop to craft and publish landing pages
Easy publishing, landing pages
Free phone, live chat, as well as email support
Email marketing, automated campaigns
CRM and sales automation
Help with finding contacts based on age, gender, and location
Advanced segmentation and targeting
Dynamic (as well as conditional) email content
Referral program management
Social media monitoring as well as reaction automation
Lead scoring and distribution
Free email templates
Quotes and orders
Build custom forms for you landing pages
24/7 customer support
Free one-on-one training
Help center with many support materials to get you started
While it shows here that you’ll only be able to send out SMS marketing messages through only ActiveCampaign, Infusionsoft also does support this feature. But you would need to pile on an additional $0-$120 on top of the base $199 Infusionsoft plan to integrate SMS marketing into your marketing campaign using a third-party app for that.
But neither is ActiveCampaign the holy grail of features here, either. While Infusionsoft includes invoicing, sales forecast reports and unlimited landing pages in the base plan pricing, you would need to pay extra to integrate third-party apps with your ActiveCampaign account so you can utilize similar uses. And that might come off as a hidden charge to some buyers.
3. Accounts Setup and Learning Curve
While Infusionsoft might appeal to you for packing more features, that could be the same reason you find it tough to wrap around your arm and get started with little to no specialized training. Add the fact it is primarily meant for some of the smallest businesses around, and it can easily feel overwhelming to learn and master Infusionsoft in a short time.
That is the opposite with ActiveCampaign. The ease of setup and learning curve makes ActiveCampaign a top Infusionsoft alternative. That is especially the case for small businesses wanting a CRM tool cum capable email marketing software but have neither the time or the tech-savvy to master how Infusionsoft works.
They would likely have to hire an Infusionsoft expert to do the job for them—at an extra cost—after shelling out $200/month.
Now here’s an important observation to keep in mind:
Infusionsoft starts tracking your leads details once they subscribe to your offer(s) or buy from you. ActiveCampaign starts pulling that data immediately you register for an account and link your website. And after you do, ActiveCampaign goes back in time to collect and gather together past actions or triggers a lead interacted with before you could register and add those to your CRM as well.
That kind of data-backtracking can be resourceful to understanding what the lead could have been looking for from the first time they looked into you via your website.
4. Infusionsoft vs ActiveCampaign: Support Options
However, Infusionsoft offers expert training in addition to providing some of the best support channels in the marketing automation/CRM world. On top of live chat, training videos, email, and free phone support, you can request for in-person training at a separate fee.
ActiveCampaign support does not offer phone support, which might be a deal-breaker for some. But many clients and marketers agree ActiveCampaign is pretty fast to grasp and run with due to its intuitive and much less cramped user interface.
5. Organizing Tags
Both Infusionsoft and ActiveCampaign use tags to segment audiences into more targeted leads. However, when using Infusionsoft, you can categorize the tags so you have an organized, well-illustrated way to personalize your marketing messaging and nurture a target audience.
That makes managing hundreds of contacts with Infusionsoft easier compared to using ActiveCampaign.
You can set up a tagging sequence that goes off to let you know of an unpaid or late payment. Since this set up is set up to run through Infusionsoft, it allows you to find payment and invoicing details even though Infusionsoft doesn’t process the payment directly.
This powerful information that ActiveCampaign does not provide.
On the surface of it, both vendors have a ton of integrations to work with in terms of third-party sales and marketing apps available in the market now. However, when you dig in deeper, you’ll find ActiveCampaign natively supports about 150 apps while Infusionsoft supports 65 more apps with 215.
Should that make you vouch for Infusionsoft right away?
The whole story is that ActiveCampaign works with Zapier to help you integrate only the third-party apps you need right from the start out of over 700+ applicable ones. This could be a reason you might prefer ActiveCampaign’s user interface compared to the more “packed” Infusionsoft UI on many pages.
Yet, Infusionsoft also supports Zapier, but you do not get the choice to choose only the apps you need. This means when using Infusionsoft you could be paying for features/app integrations you do not need.
With ActiveCampaign, you pay a separate fee for the custom app integrations on top of the monthly or yearly charge—and while the cost can add up quite with each add-on, you‘ll still find yourself paying less than you would with a similar number of Infusionsoft integrations.
If you decide to kickstart your marketing automation with any CRM/marketing automation software, hoping to later migrate your CRM to an ideally better CRM tool, Infusionsoft does not offer this option. On the other side, ActiveCampaign would allow you to migrate your valuable data to its ecosystem. Something to keep in mind when choosing the best CRM software for your new business.
7. Site Tracking
This is important if you want detailed information to help build your customer personas as well as use the information to inspire more conversions with personalized messages.
So where do the differences between Infusionsoft and ActiveCampaign show up here?
With ActiveCampaign you can track where your contacts travel or live. And that can get you more accurate insight into the lives and styles of the people contacting you—if they and you are okay with that (that is).
Still here, Infusionsoft sends out all emails at the same time. The issue with that is the emails will reach your contacts at different times, especially when your contacts are based in different time zones. But with ActiveCampaign emails automatically reach your contacts at the same time of day despite time zone differences. In short, if you set an email broadcast to reach your contacts at 12 noon, ActiveCampaign would automatically deliver the emails when it is 12 noon in your contacts’ time zone—not yours.
That way you can use reach leads when they are most likely to open, click and convert as opposed to reaching a section of them at odd hours—probably asleep—and missing out on such conversion chances.
8. Adding Customer Contact List to Your CRM
Still, ActiveCampaign beats Infusionsoft here for almost the same reason; true automation.
Now, when using Infusionsoft to add more information about your contact to the CRM, you have to do it manually, which can be time-consuming.
ActiveCampaign, in contrast, has an inbuilt tool that lets the marketing automation tool search online for details such as social media pages related to the name and email address a contact used to reach you. When found, the ActiveCampaign tool then automatically adds that information to your CRM. It does not get better than that.
9. Affiliate Management System
Right out the sign-up page, Infusionsoft includes a powerful affiliate marketing tool to help small businesses roll out robust affiliate marketing programs. This is a tool you will not find on ActiveCampaign—again unless you pay for a third-party app integration such as AffiliateWP.
With the Infusionsoft Affiliate Center, you can easily track affiliates, orders, returns and more right from one dashboard, which is powerful of Infusionsoft. This is especially important for e-commerce customers who are the most likely to find a solid case for an affiliate program management tool.
If Infusionsoft’s user interface was a little cleaner, ActiveCampaign would be completely beat here. The former captures a ton of analytics for your breakdown, digestion and decision making. Infusionsoft will you capture details about what’s triggering your leads’ attention and which autoresponder messages to customize for contacts based on how they interact with your website.
And while Infusionsoft gives a good deal of analytics to analyze, ActiveCampaign allows you to view that data in easy to interpret charts and graphs, unlike Infusionsoft. So some Infusionsoft users may not be sure how to interpret and use the ton of data to boost their marketing campaigns.
11. Infusionsoft vs ActiveCampaign Pricing
This is by large the biggest area of comparison between Infusionsoft vs ActiveCampaign.
First, you’ll find ActiveCampaign allows you to ‘test-drive’ the autoresponder for in a 14-day trial period. Infusionsoft doesn’t.
Second, while Infusionsoft will demand you shell out just under $1,000 as a setup fee, ActiveCampaign does not charge any setup fee. So small businesses that would like to try out a marketing automation tool before committing to a full-on subscription might find ActiveCampaign less hefty to start out with.
Third, when you sign up for Infusionsoft, they offer a ‘Kickstart’ coaching for buyers that find they need help understanding how Infusionsoft works. Here’s how they describe the training and how much it costs:
And how much you invest upfront:
When it comes to actual pricing, both provide buyers with scalability options they can upgrade (or downgrade) to when the need arises. Both ActiveCampaign pricing and Infusionsoft pricing are well detailed on their respective pages, so you can take a look and compare the different plans both marketing automation companies have that is right for your business.
For comparison sakes, here is a shot of both companies’ offers for onboarding 500 contacts:
ActiveCampaign pricing for 500 contacts
Infusionsoft pricing for 500 contacts
Conclusion: Infusionsoft vs ActiveCampaign
While both Infusionsoft and ActiveCampaign market themselves as “all-in-one” solutions for small business marketing automation, email marketing, and CRM tools, there are differences that make either option a good fit for your business—or not.
For example, while some users could use Infusionsoft for its ‘completeness’, others might find it overwhelming to understand, pay up for and use efficiently on a day-to-day basis.
On the other hand, while on the surface ActiveCampaign might seem like a much cheaper option to begin with, as you gain more contacts and choose to integrate more third-party apps with it you’ll find you might have to shell out much more on top of the $9/month base subscription that might have initially attracted you to it in the first place.
Over to you…
What is it about Infusionsoft vs ActiveCampaign differences that can make you switch from either to the other?
Looking for solutions to create the best Shopify landing page on the world’s best e-commerce website platform? Great! I’m here to help! I also recommend 6 powerful landing page apps that can help you get started immediately (no coding required!).
Creating a Shopify landing page is a smart sales funnel move that can increase your online store sales fast. Landing pages are gradually taking over the role of the traditional website or e-commerce homepage. More online visitors now arrive on a dedicated landing page than on a homepage.
The top purpose of a landing page is to encourage a target audience to take a specific action. It provides a specific product’s purchase details and removes buying distractions. That means it can help reduce cart abandonment and increase your conversion rate.
As the most popular e-commerce website builder right now, knowing how to create Shopify landing pages for your e-commerce business is critical.
How do you create custom Shopify landing pages?
How do you create a beautiful custom Shopify landing page that’ll boost your online store conversion rate?
If you are like most people, coding may not be your best skill. Not even with Shopify’s e-commerce store Liquid programming language.
So for your conversion optimization plan, you can use good Shopify landing page templates or create from scratch. Later we’ll talk about some great tools to help make this process easy, such as Shogun.
Shopify Landing Page vs Product Detail Page
If you use a product detail page (PDP) as a landing page, you are not alone.
A 2018 Monetate study found nearly 1 in 4 potential customers landed on a PDP online. The study involved about 2 billion global online shopping sessions.
Here’s what Monetate found about product pages vs other landing pages in 2018:
As far as conversion rate goes, visitors that landed on a different landing page converted at nearly 2X (2.9%) those that landed on a PDP (1.5%)
Landing pages also generate 2X more revenue per session that product pages (3.43% vs 1.72%)
Visitors on other landing pages also view 42% more pages than those that land on PDPs (12.5 pages/session vs 8.8 pages/session)
One more thing:
Visitors than land on a landing page other than the product detail page are less likely to bounce. That means fewer cart abandonment and more e-commerce sales for you.
Search-referred visitors bounced 20% on a different landing page compared to a whopping 52% on a PDP
Visitors landing from social media marketing campaigns are 29% more likely to bounce when they find a product detail page compared to finding a different one.
So, if you are considering starting a paid traffic ad campaign on Facebook. You know the smart, profitable thing to do. Create a dedicated landing page on Shopify.
Don’t waste those hard-won clicks and ad dollars on a regular product page.
3 Easy Ways to Create an Amazing Shopify Landing Page
In this post, we are going to show you three ways to do it fast and easy, so you can get to the most important part—selling your stuff on Shopify.
1 – How to Create Shopify Landing Pages Using Collections
Perhaps the easiest way to build a landing page for your Shopify is to use the Collections feature on Shopify’s platform. You can do that by visiting the Collection page when logged on to your Shopify admin area.
What are Shopify Collections?
Here’s a quick video by Shopify explaining what product collections are on Shopify:
Collections empower you to create product groups that make it easier for your customers to discover your stuff by category.
You can group things like women clothes and women jewelry together. That means if your online store is targeting women when they land from your ad campaign, they can find all these items that go well together on one page.
Doing that is a conversion optimization best practice. You’d be making it super easy for potential customers to find what they want, closely related items such as accessories, and even empower them to explore more purchase items.
You can also create a custom product category on Shopify such as “Gifts for Under $50”, which may even be easier than creating a Shopify page.
In fact, Collections can help you upsell your customers on products related to what they initially came in to purchase—which is a technique Amazon successfully implements likes this:
You can also batch related items together…
Using Shopify Collections to show frequently bought together items such as on Amazon can boost your conversion rate.
So how do you get started with Shopify Collections?
How to Create Shopify Landing Pages Using Product Collections (Step-by-Step Guide)
Whichever Shopify theme you choose, they all support Collections.
Something to note before the step-by-step guide:
You’ll choose between creating a manual or automated Shopify collection.
A manual collection is ideal if you have inconsistent flash sales, a few products, or a specialist collection. It involves curating your items personally. You get to choose the items to add to a collection individually.
For that last reason, it can be too much work if you have multiple products and a constantly changing inventory to update.
With Shopify’s automated collections, you get to set a condition or a set of conditions an item must meet to be automatically added to a collection. Once you select the conditions, up to 60 items will be added.
In the future, items will just need to match the conditions you set for them to be automatically added to your collection, which is massively time-saving as well as ideal for multiple products and rotating inventories.
So how do you actually create a Shopify Collection?
On Menu, click on Products
Choose between adding products automatically or manually
Choose and fill in your page’s title and URL. Match it to your ad copy for SEO, boosting instant recognition, and boosting conversion
There you go.
#Pro Tip: If you want to target pop-ups, web notifications, widgets, and dynamic text to a particular campaign, do make a note of tracking parameters you use for paid ad campaigns.
The good news is all products in the Shopify product collection you create will display together.
The not so good news is using collections can limit how much you can customize your Shopify landing page design and the elements you can use.
Elements such as e-commerce product images, for example, are super crucial to increasing your conversion rate—the more high-quality images you use, the better. People want to know exactly what they are buying by seeing it first.
So consider using a top Shopify add-on such as Pixc to make your product images pop if you feel this method limits you.
Feel like turning product collections into Shopify landing pages is a bit bland or limiting?
Consider using a Shopify landing page app. There are several options in the market today such as Shogun.
2. How to Create Landing Pages for Shopify: Using these 6 Best Shopify Landing Page Apps
New to ecommerce website templates? Or, you just don’t have time or money to hire a Shopify expert to create a custom Shopify landing page with Liquid?
Choose the best Shopify landing page template builder.
You can create landing pages for Shopify stores with dedicated third-party templates like Shogun. These are landing page management tools that integrate directly with the ecommerce website platform.
The best landing page builders for Shopify feature powerful tools such as drag-n-drop functionality, video support, MailChimp compatibility (great for building your ecommerce email list), and use mobile-friendly design.
Here are some of the best Shopify landing page apps to help you create converting e-commerce landing pages hassle-free:
Here’s a simple yet easily the most comprehensive ecommerce landing page app to build, measure, and optimize your Shopify pages. No coding required.
First, Shogun is renowned for its exemplary customer service.
That feels like knowledgeable customer service, doesn’t it?
And then there’s the Shogun Visual Editor PLUS supporting analytics.
Expect an easy-to-use, drag-n-drop landing page builder. You can use it to design coming soon, FAQ, and donations pages as well as contact us forms.
The builder works with any Shopify theme.
You can also import existing pages to edit them in the Shogun editor.
Over 30 landing page templates await, including on the base plan (Build). You can even use the theme editor to customize thank you, collections, and terms & conditions pages, as well as click funnels and to add custom fields.
For SEO optimization, Shogun is mobile responsive and will let you edit meta titles and descriptions to match your keyword strategy like Yoast.
To boost your landing page speed, it comes with an image compressor tool. Plus, you can resize images to offer excellent fits that grab attention.
Have multiple accounts? Shogun allows users to duplicate store elements across multiple accounts.
The Shopify page builder is especially big on conversion optimization tools. They include:
Free shipping bars
Frequently bought together
Add to cart button
Size charts and product image slides
Product video catalog
It also packs over 20 elements. Take the Section elements, for example. Use it to structure any landing page with vertical segments in any format you prefer—media, content, you name it. From testimonials/reviews to benefits content to hero image, you’ll be able to visually segment information as you like.
Shogun also supports most social media platform integrations and offers a 10-day free trial. You can even schedule when new landing pages get to publish.
Shogun offers a lot and if you’re ready to step up your game more they offer functions like A/B testing for your Shopify landing pages, or the ability to collaborate with a team of 6 or more, for example, but you’d need to upgrade to the $149/month Optimize plan.
Want to see Shogun Landing Page Builder for Shopify in action?
GemPages is an affordable, feature-rich, and drag-and-drop landing page builder for Shopify stores. No coding experience required here, either.
Right off the bat, you’ll have a selection of over 50 landing page templates to choose from. More choice can mean you have more design freedom to make your online store truly yours.
Like Shogun, GemPages is also mobile responsive and adapts your online store to your potential customers’ screen sizes.
That way, your customers won’t miss all the important conversion optimization tools such as the buy now button.
And yes, GemPages’ Shopify elements include the crucial add to cart, quantity, image, price, countdown, and related product buttons.
Expect to sync Google Shopping catalog and Facebook Pixel, keep pages even after you uninstall GemPages, and use with any Shopify theme.
It does support MailChimp, Klaviyo, Reviews Importer App, Google Analytics, and Facebook Ad.
See GemPages in action before taking up their 10-day free trial:
This Shopify app looks to outdo GemPages and could be your preferred Shogun alternative for building top-notch Shopify landing pages.
PageFly allows you to use a drag-and-drop landing page builder to create and customize elements of your landing page no matter your niche and viewing devices.
You’ll get at least 30 design elements you can use to customize your landing page—and go on to personalize other Shopify pages such as the homepage and thank you pages, if you wish.
However, you might find your most preferred template is locked to the PageFly PRO version which you get 14 days to try out before you need to purchase the full version to continue enjoying the full-featured app version.
If you are a customization junkie, PageFly could be for you.
Zipify may not be the most affordable of the Shopify landing page builder bunch but it packs a bag of features to back up their pricing. They bring what they have learned from their own successful online store for other Shopify merchants to use.
Some of the best Zipify features you will discover include how well it integrates with the Shopify platform, Zipify’s custom Google Analytics dash, and Facebook pixel.
That means you can easily link your leads to your sales messages from many sources including from email clicks and see how many are landing and converting, so you can take the right steps to further boost conversions.
You can also integrate it with one of the seven most powerful CRM and/or market automation software: Ontraport, ActiveCampaign, Infusionsoft, GetResponse, Klaviyo, MailChimp, and Aweber. You will not need any subdomains or plugins to set up your landing page.
That combination makes Zipify a solid mobile-responsive, templates-loaded, drag-and-drop landing page builder for ecommerce on the Shopify apps marketplace. You can see if it works for you by grabbing the 14-day trial they offer to test it.
Aptly named, Hypervisual is big on making beautiful pages that make your landing page stand out. For example, you can implement different design elements for each page or product you have.
You can even remove your Shopify theme’s header and footer to make fullscreen landing pages to reduce distractions for your visitors—a definite plus in landing page conversion best practices.
To help you add Shopify leads to your email list, Hypervisual integrates with MailChimp and Klaviyo, which is not as resourceful as Zipify but helps.
Like other Shopify landing page builders, you’ll get a responsive design for all device users, Google Analytics and Facebook pixel integrations, and SEO optimization for SERPs visibility.
Also great is their pricing model. After their 14-day trial expires, you have three Hypervisual pricing options to choose from as shown here:
That’s interesting, and you can actually scale up or down depending on your needs.
LeadSlide is also geared towards helping with your marketing automation campaign with the lowest plan support up to 10,000 emails.
Like Zipify, you’ll get ecommerce-optimized features such as fully customizable video and product landing pages, Klaviyo and MailChimp integrations, Giveaways and discounts functions, and a wholly editable countdown timer to ramp up conversions.
If you want to track important analytics such as abandoned carts, repeat customers and run holiday promotions landing pages, LeadSlide will help you with that as well.
Like the others here, LeadSlide also integrates with Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, WordPress, Google Analytics and LinkedIn. You also get a Soundest integration here.
You’ll get a cool 30 days to try out their app before deciding whether to buy their full version or not. And they also include phone support on top of email support if you need their help.
#Landed Shopify app by Lucid used to be a great landing page builder that integrated seamlessly with Shopify. But it is no longer available on the Shopify marketplace for some reason.
3. How to Create Landing Pages on Shopify on Third-Party Websites and Tools
There are other routes to take to create the perfect landing page for your Shopify website.
For instance, Leighton Taylor does a great job of explaining how to set up a landing page for your Shopify site using MailChimp to collect email addresses of your leads and customers.
Considering many people do not buy from you the very first time they land on your product page, the video tutorial is great for helping you set up a Shopify landing page to kickstart your purchase funnel.
You can also use Shopify’s Buy Button feature to easily embed a buy link, shopping cart or collections or a product directly into a third-party website you are using. You will be able to use any tool and create any landing page you want while seamlessly managing your inventory and purchasing funnel directly through Shopify.
The ecommerce store builder offers instructions on how to set this up on WordPress, Squarespace, Tumblr, and Wix.
Still, you can use a third-party landing page builder that integrates with Shopify such as Leadpages or Unbounce.
Let’s take Leadpages, for example:
You can choose from a selection of three Leadpages templates that are optimized for Shopify—works with Shopify carts and Buy Button
Shopify One-Item Landing Page
Shopify Multi-Item Landing Page
Shopify Thank You Page
All three are drag-and-drop landing page builders, so you’ll likely have an easy time setting them up. They explain it all here.
Tips to Increase Your Shopify Landing Page Conversion Rate?
Whichever way you choose to create a landing page on Shopify, here are conversion tips to help you make more ecommerce sales.
Make your landing page design cues appear consistent with your ads or other traffic sources, so potential customers know it’s you
Moreover, ensure your Shopify landing page colors, tone, images, video content, and copy mirror your overall branding. That way, potential customers can recognize and trust the page immediately
Build even more trust by adding customer reviews, partner logos, and security badges. Testimonials provide the proof of value and perception of reduced risk a potential customer needs to complete the purchase—not increase your cart abandonment rate
If you can create video testimonials, even better. Motion pictures not only grab and retain attention on the page but also connect with customers that can relate to the customer’s story emotionally
To further reduce cart abandonment, use Free Delivery, Free Returns, Moneyback Guarantees, and guarantee bars close to the buy button
Use Meta Titles that clearly and concisely state the value you are offering right away
Use only high-quality images and videos in addition to brief text. Avoid fluff, including unnecessary call-to-action buttons and marketing content at this point
Remember to make the landing pages as attractive as possible, with vibrant colors and high-quality images. Blurry images and dull branding reduce customer trust and increase bounce rates.
If you want some inspiration to create a highly-converting Shopify landing page for your e-commerce store, check out some of the best landing page examples.
Feel free to use the modern landing page designs to inspires yours for 2020.
FAQs: Frequently Asked Questions
Can I make a landing page on Shopify?
Yes, you can make a landing page directly on Shopify, but keep in mind there are limitations to what you can do and if you have more than one store or want to scale your online store to a new market, you’ll want to invest in a landing page app or builders, such as Shogun, or Pagefly.
What is a Shopify landing page?
Shopify landing pages are key to the success of your store, they spark interest, let you build know, like, and trust factor and can give you a lot of data on your customers. While most people might come to you to buy your product, the data says that most people will not buy. That’s why having a compelling landing page with a ‘hook’ and your story (with key visuals) is so important to have.
From your Shopify admin, go to Online Store > Pages. Click Add page. You will be taken to a new webpage editor. In the webpage editor, enter a Title and Content in the text boxes provided.
Be descriptive and clear when choosing your webpage title. The webpage title is displayed in the tab or title bar of browsers. It is also used as the title in search engine results. Learn more about website SEO.
In the Visibility field, you can choose whether you want your webpage to be published or not. By default, your new webpage will be visible when you click Save. Select the Hidden option if you want your new webpage to be hidden from your online store, or click Set a specific publish date to control when your webpage is published:
Click Save. Optional: To make a published webpage appear in your online store navigation, add a link to it in a navigation menu.
Of course, if you use a landing page builder app, such as Shogun, switching out landing pages is much easier and you have a range of templates to choose from that Shopify does not have.
Conclusion: What’s the Best Way to Create a Stunning Landing Page for Shopify?
A highly targeted landing page for your Shopify store will help you increase sales and reduce churn. And there are more ways than one to create beautiful, conversion-focused Shopify landing pages right now with premium tools such as Shogun or Pagefly.
You can choose the best method among the three discussed here for your Shopify needs and convenience to boost sales: using the Shopify Collection page, turning to easy-to-use Shopify landing page apps, and using third-party tools that integrate well with Shopify’s Buy Button and Cart features.
From there, you can decide whether using a Shopify designer and Liquid to create custom landing pages on Shopify stores is worth the HTML code it is written on. Or you are just fine using ready-to-use Shopify page builders without learning to code.
Over to you.
Do you have another way to create a landing page on Shopify you’d love to share?
Being an entrepreneur is a tough, lonely life at times. We’re the ones who trade nights out with friends or Netflix binge-watching sessions for strategy meetings and business growth development. We often spend a lot of time on the road, and in our travels, so podcasts can be a great way to learn some new business strategies, get inspired, or hear the best hard-fought success stories out there. That’s why I hand-picked 15 of my best podcasts for entrepreneurs for 2018 here.
I love listening to podcasts. Often when I’m knee-deep in editing and formatting, I put on a podcast or two to inspire me while I catch all those typos and missing hyperlinks. It can be a great way to spend a few hours on the road too. You can often catch me listening to a few of my favorite podcasts on a long flight to a conference. The best podcasts make the time go by so much faster, right?
What makes a great podcast for business leaders?
A great podcast for entrepreneurs is defined by a simple principle — are you going to learn something meaningful that you can implement into your life and business strategy? Great podcasts not only entertain, they inform. They provide insights you can’t get anywhere else. When I become addicted to a podcast, it’s usually because the interviews are fresh. And, when the interviewers are curious, I know I’m going to learn something.
I’ve chosen these top podcasts for entrepreneurs with you all in mind. Not only do business owners need motivational and inspirational, we need strategies that we can actually use.
The Best Podcasts Let You In
The greatest podcasts — full stop — are the ones that aren’t afraid to go there. By ‘there’, I mean to let us into the struggles, the failures, the times in the entrepreneurial journey that aren’t so great. I’ve listened to hundreds of podcasts in my own personal journey as an entrepreneur. These are the best business podcasts that I personally bookmark, go back to, and listen again, and again. Some are geared towards the small business owner, some help you with your inner game, some share practical insights and strategies.
Making this list I was reminded of how vital it is to listen to other’s stories of failure and success. We all can’t get to meet the influencers and leaders of our day in real life, so podcasts are a great way to ‘sit at the table’ with these leaders. I love when I learn a new tidbit, strategy or insight from someone that I thought I knew. Podcasts can do all of that. I encourage all of you to take some time this week and just listen. Hey, you just might learn something!
Without any further ado, here are the best podcasts for entrepreneurs in 2018!
There is no holding back when it comes to the real deal advice, candor, and discussions you get with Gary Vaynerchuk. We’ve been a fan for many years, watching as he continues to grow his media empire.
This podcast is filled with informative strategies and advice from the master of ‘tell it like it is’ entrepreneurial advice. The future is audio, claims Gary Vee and you can tell he puts a lot of time and effort to bring business leaders the information and strategies that we need. You’ll get a mix of relaxed, informative talks as well as the feature where you can ask Gary anything in #AskGaryVee show episodes.
Whether you are already a fan of Joe Rogan or not, this is a great podcast. While some might not consider this a typical entrepreneurial podcast, I say this is one of the best around. With topics such that tackle the future of work and life as we know it, Joe Rogan doesn’t shy away from the controversial topics as well.
He also covers topics such as health, fitness, and is a big supporter of the cannabis movement. While this podcast does feature heavy hitters and celebrities, the discussions are frank, honest, and always entertaining.
Watch Joe Rogan interview author, director, and anthropologist Sebastian Junger. They discuss modern society, namely the cutoff existence we all find ourselves in, which can be lead to nation-wide depression. As the future of work changes, these kinds of discussions are so important:
With over 300 million downloads, best of iTunes accolades, the Tim Ferris Show isn’t going anywhere any time soon. Tim has interviewed thousands of business leaders as well as celebrities in his own style, full of gritty strategies and business truths.
Covering everything from Blockchain, to the inner game of the entrepreneur, Tim keeps the content fresh, inviting and definitely entertaining. If you are looking to up your business goals, this is a great place to visit and have a listen.
With a focus on the inner game of the entrepreneur, hosts Ivy LaClair and Blake Brandes speak with a myriad of leaders, from musicians to business leaders all with the goal to discussing our purpose on this planet.
If you need some insights on how to get your mindset geared towards success, this is a great podcast to spend some time with.
If you want to manifest greatness in your life and in your business, the Growth Now Movement podcast is definitely worth your time. With interviews from Fitness Gurus, business leaders, stand-up comedians, this edgy podcast delivers the hustle and strategies social impact leaders like you need to grow your business. Entertaining and educational, this is a podcast you won’t want to miss.
Seven days a week, host John Lee Dumas releases another entrepreneurial gem, interviewing celebrities, business leaders in this interview-style podcast that has certainly caught fire over the past few years. Interviews with leaders such as Seth Godin, Tony Robbins, Tim Ferris, Barbara Corcoran and more share their strategies for growth, insights into their successes and failures and so much more.
Check out our very own CEO and Founder of Change Creator, Adam Force imparting some truth bombs on the Entrepreneurs on Fire.
Dov is a one-of-a-kind motivational speaker that tells us, not what we want to hear, but what we need to. His frank candor and energy is refreshing and cuts through the noise online. Let’s face it, being a business leader is a tough life and Dov makes nothing sound easy, but what he does do is offer valuable business insights, tough-talking points we need to hear, and motivation in the form of practical tips we all need to implement.
Joel Brown is a superhero in the Change Creator world. Not only is he our Issue #3 cover story, we consider him a dear friend and inspiration around here. With the Addicted to Success podcast, you can feel his immense energy, his natural curiosity, and interest in his subjects at every turn.
Joel interviews startup founders, business leaders, small business leaders, founders, motivational speakers, celebrities and more on his podcast. Joel’s interviews continue to be a leading source of motivation and real actionable business strategies along our own entrepreneurial journies here at Change Creator.
One of the insights he shared with us in our exclusive interview with Change Creator, way back when in Issue #3 was the principle of Time vs Energy. We’re all given the same amount of time in each day, it’s how we spend our energy that really matters and one listen to the Addicted to Success podcast shows how much energy and passion Joel puts into his podcasts.
Two of our favorite Addicted to Success podcasts from 2018:
Garrain Jones is a transformational leader and public speaker who is all about breaking through barriers. Here Joel and Garrain talk about living a courageous life, full of passion discussing the power of telling a great story, how that can expand your network and net worth.
Getting your impact story out there is vital if you want to succeed as a purpose-driven entrepreneur and in today’s world, there’s no better way than to actually get on a podcast! If you want to break through the digital noise and not only secure a spot on the top podcasts, but have a podcast that will truly inspire and breakthrough, then listen to this interview which clearly outlines the simple, effective steps you can take to get interviews.
The passion for social impact shines through in Tony Loyd’s podcast as he interviews some of the world’s greatest social entrepreneurs with wit, humor, and genuine interest. Listen to some of the most provocative, soul-changing business stories from the front lines of social impact in this podcast that is a definite must-have on our best entrepreneurial podcasts for 2018 list!
Tony Loyd also interviewed our fearless leader, Adam Force as well. Listen to his interview as the two fellow, mission-driven entrepreneurs and podcasters swap stories. How do you make a living doing something meaningful? They discuss Adam’s personal story and early businesses before Change Creator and the transformational journey that Adam had leading up to Change Creator. This interview was done just before Issue #4 and is packed with early insights on what motivated Adam to start and grow Change Creator from the beginning.
Here’s where we get to the nitty-gritty of marketing and building your business online. Learn tips from the pros on how to lower your ROI costs, delve successfully into the world of Facebook marketing, get more relevant traffic and more. A must for any business leader that wants to grow their online presence and make more money.
The weekly podcast is produced by Digital Marketer and hosted by Keith Krance, Ralph Burns (Dominate Web Media) and Molly Pittman (Digital Marketer). Not only do they share their personal growth hacking insights, they often interview real business owners and discuss the struggles, challenges, and nightmare scenarios they overcame in the world of digital marketing. Learn the secrets of how to create passive income, gain more followers, get more conversions, and organic traffic from real deal experts and business owners.
You are going to need to have a kick-ass life if you want to be a kick-ass entrepreneur. Andrea Owen isn’t afraid to dig deep into life, her own experiences, and story to share insights on how to live a kick-ass life. Geared toward the busy, hustler generation, Andrea’s thoughts on everything from the mental game, goal setting to technology are fresh and fun. Tips on things such as social blocking and productivity are helpful, I’ve learned a lot about time management and goal setting on this quirky podcast.
Former professional football player Lewis Howes is next on my list with The School of Greatness podcast. Not only does he seem to pull out great stories from all of his guests, this podcast is full of actionable advice that we all need to hear.
A great question-asker, Lewis seems to pull the best stories, insights and truth from his guests and it’s a pleasure to listen too. With interviews from professional athletes, the best business minds in the country, influencers and celebrities, there is something for every business owner, no matter how far or how long you’ve been on this journey.
Humble the Poet — A Lewis Howes Exclusive
Lewis Howes interview with spoken word poet, Humble the Poet is a great example of why I love this podcast so much. With sharp candor and fresh insights, Humble the Poet shares how we control our destiny — it is up to all of us to start our own wave and keep going. That’s what I love about this episode, watch here:
Passive income is a dream. If you can make money in your sleep, you have a business, if not, you’re still just trading time for money. In this podcast, Pat Flynn breaks down the challenges of earning passive income while providing some proven strategies to earn money online. Here you’ll get into the more tactical information too, like how to write sales copy that works, how to earn more media exposure, and how to run a contest to build your email list. If you want to grow your online business, I strongly encourage you to bookmark this podcast and come back often.
Brian Clark, founder of Copyblogger and 7 other companies hosts this podcast where he interviews business leaders and influencers to talk about the challenges and pitfalls of entrepreneurial life. With topics that cover the fundamentals, such as entrepreneurial habits, to insightful interviews from all parts of the business journey, Unemployable is a go-to podcast for any serious business owner. Listen to one of my favorites, about a partnership gone wrong, that worked out so good: Picking Up the Pieces when a Partnership Implodes, with Jordan Harbinger.
This list would not be complete without a shoutout to our very own leader of the Change Creator crew, Adam Force. The Change Creator podcast features the world’s most successful business leaders, marketing and branding professionals, celebrities, and influencers. It’s a great mix of practical insights and storytelling from the front lines.
With interviews and frank discussions from world leaders such as Nobel peace prize winner Muhammad Yunus, marketing guru, Seth Godin, motivational superstar, Jay Shetty, just to name a few, the Change Creator podcast is a fresh take on modern business, with a social impact twist.
In the Change Creator podcast, we get to see the intensely curious Adam Force delve deeper into the lives, challenges, and strategies from the most successful leaders on our planet all with the goal of helping others grow their business and their impact.
How to Use Pop Culture to Tackle Human Rights with Mallika Dutt — This was one of the earlier podcasts but it still holds a special place in my heart as I was introduced to one of the fiercest rabble-rousers out there, Mallika Dutt. As a woman entrepreneur and leader, she shares her strategical approach to rapid growth and starting a movement that saved women’s lives with Breakthrough.
Seth Godin: What it Takes to be a Great Leader That Impacts the World — You would never know that Adam had mere minutes to prepare for this interview with Seth Godin as their candor and discussion is hyper-focused and right on point. We’re still talking about the insights in this podcast around these parts, as Seth breaks down the role of leadership in these changing, exciting times.
Dov Baron: How Do You Find Purpose and Build Your Personal Brand — Sometimes a podcast can come into your life and just knock your socks off! That’s what happened to me when I first listened to this exclusive Dov Baron interview full of passion and kick-me-in-the-face truths all entrepreneurs need to hear (even if we don’t want to).
And finally to round off my top ten:
Interview with Bryan Goldberg and Kate Ward from Bustle: This is always going to be known as the interview that made me want to join Adam as a partner here at Change Creator. For several months, Adam and I talked and strategized about scaling this media company, but I was super hesitant to jump in and really take it on. Then, he shared this interview. The rest, as they say, is history. Bryan and Kate showed me the possibilities in growing a media company and from that moment on, it’s all I’ve wanted to do with my life. That’s the power of a great interview. Thanks guys!
FAQ: Frequently Asked Questions
What podcasts do successful people listen to?
Successful people surround themselves with inspirational people. They love to listen to podcasts for leaders, such as the Dov Baron podcast, or they like to listen to the popular ones such as The Tim Ferris Show, Masters of Scale, but we would also recommend the Rise Project.
What podcasts do CEOS listen to?
If you want to be the CEO of your company, you need to listen to the podcasts that leaders do. We recommend the Leadership and Loyalty Podcast with Dov Baron, Coaching for Leaders with Dave Stachowiak and Dose of Leadership with Richard Rierson.
How do I start a podcast for my business?
Before you start a podcast, think about what your audience is most interested in and go as niche as possible with your topic. Find smart, niche-related people to talk to and map out your first 10 podcast interviews. Invest in a decent microphone and editor. You can get up and running fairly quickly if you have a plan.
My Final Thoughts
And there you have it — 15 killer entrepreneurial podcasts you have to listen to this year and beyond. Listening to podcasts can have a huge effect on your life and on your business. I implore you to take some time and have a listen.
Do you have any awesome entrepreneurial podcasts I haven’t included? Comment below with your top picks and I just might add them to my list.
In today’s comparison, I will take a look at Yahoo! Stores vs. Shopify so you can finally decide which platform is better to grow your online business. They both have their pros, cons, features, so pay attention — this will help you decide!
Main Differences of Yahoo! Stores vs. Shopify
The main differences between Yahoo! Stores vs. Shopify are:
Yahoo! Stores is geared to the new ecommerce shop owner, whereas Shopify helps every business scale quickly (including much larger ecommerce stores)
Yahoo! Stores is one part of an integrated solution for small business owners, whereas Shopify is designed to be a ‘one-stop-fits-all’ solution
Yahoo! Stores does not focus on inventory management, whereas Shopify is known for their inventory management capabilities
Introduction: Background of Yahoo! and Shopify
Yahoo! is one of the oldest websites on the web. Indeed, Yahoo! was one of the pioneers of the Internet, delivering content, news, and listings to homes across the United States and later the world. Yahoo! helped popularize email, online games, and even e-commerce.
Yahoo! Small Business, or Yahoo! Stores, as it is also known, is one of the older e-commerce platforms available. However, much like Yahoo! as a whole, the service has grown less popular over the years. Regardless, Yahoo! Claims that its e-commerce solutions have sold over $70 billion worth of goods, a number that certainly can’t be overlooked.
So why has Yahoo! fallen behind? That’s a matter for debate. Either way, new entrants offering better services, often at a better price emerged, eating up Yahoo’s market share. Yahoo! has lost ground across a range of products and services, including e-commerce.
One such entrant was Shopify, which was founded in 2006. As with many great tech stories, the founders of Shopify, Tobias Lütke, Daniel Wein and Scott Lake didn’t initially set out to develop an e-commerce solution. They actually wanted to launch a snowboard gear retail website Snowdevil. However, they quickly found that there were few good e-commerce solutions. So while building their snowboarding site, they also developed a stand-alone e-commerce solution that other retailers could use. That e-commerce solution became Shopify.
Anyways, let’s look at Yahoo’s e-commerce solutions and Shopify.
Digging Into Yahoo’s E-commerce Solution
First, Yahoo’s e-commerce solutions can be difficult to understand as Yahoo! offers a few similarly branded services and solutions targeted at different audiences. Figuring out which one is right for you can be confusing. For the sake of this review, we’re going to look at both Yahoo! Small Business and Yahoo! Merchant Solutions.
Yahoo! Merchant Solutions is generally targeted at established e-commerce stores that are looking for a new platform and wanting to grow. Yahoo! Small Business (AKA Stores) is targeted more at startups. Both offer sales features and the ability to use Commerce Central apps. Commerce Central, in turn, is Yahoo’s primary cloud-based e-commerce solutions platform.
However, you don’t have to use a Yahoo! service if you wish to use Commerce Central apps. In fact, Commerce Central can even be integrated with Shopify.
Yahoo! Merchant Solutions Pricing & Comparative Features
Yahoo! Merchant Solutions plans start at $10.95 per month. This plan is designed for websites with less than 12K a month in revenues and features:
1.5% transaction fees with credit card and Paypal processing capabilities
access to the Live Insights data platform
A domain name
The standard plan starts at $25.95 a month and is designed for companies with sales between $12k to $80K per month. Besides the above features, it offers:
A lower 1% transaction fee
Ability to integrate payment APIs for more payment options.
Real-time integration with external inventory management systems.
Gift certificate redemptions
Upsell and cross-sell features
UPS Worldship integrations
Yahoo! Small Business: Another great solution
Yahoo! has another e-commerce solution called Yahoo! Small Business. This platform offers a complete suite of commerce tools that you can use to quickly build an e-commerce website. Yahoo’s basic plan costs $20.75.
Yahoo! Small Business’s basic plan provides:
Access to site builders and professional templates, including mobile-optimized sites
As many product listings as you want
No storage space and bandwidth restrictions
10 email accounts (30 for professional, and 1,000 for premier)
A free domain for basic
Paypal and other payment support
Ability to import and export bulk products
Phone, chat, and online support provided 24/7
As we go through Shopify below, you’ll notice that some features, such as advanced product fulfillment tools, are not provided. However, if you upgrade to the professional plan, you can use third-party integrations. You can then integrate advanced features, including inventory and order management, into your platform.
Yahoo! Small Business charges both monthly subscription fees and transaction fees. Those break down as follows:
Basic: $20.75 (billed annually) plus a 1.5% transaction fee
Professional: $48.25 (billed annually) plus a 1% transaction fee
Premier: $149.33 (billed annually) plus a .75% transaction fee
Shopify: An industry leader
Shopify has emerged as one of the most popular e-commerce websites, holding 9.5% percent of market share, good for third place. Their platform is far more common these days than Yahoo’s solutions. For people who want to launch a retail website without doing heavy coding, Shopify is one of the better options available.
Of course, everything comes at a price. Shopify does charge fees for its services. These fees will often add up to more than Yahoo! and some other platforms, although prices are still competitive.
Shopify is among the more well-rounded e-commerce platforms, being packed with various features, benefits, plugins, apps, and add-on services. Yet although Shopify is feature rich, it’s also an intuitive and easy-to-use system. There are a few e-commerce platforms out there that offer more advanced features and customization options. There are also a few that are simpler.
However, it’s arguable that no other platform features such a rounded mix of both usability and features. Shopify’s well-rounded nature has helped it rapidly grow, and the platform is now found on over a half-million websites scattered across 175 countries. During Black Friday in 2017, over a million dollars worth of goods were being sold through Shopify per minute (at peak).
So yeah, Shopify is one of the preeminent e-commerce platforms. It’s generally regarded as being easy to work with, flexible, powerful, modern, and also offering a good value.
A preview of Shopify’s features
Shopify offers a powerful but also an easy-to-use website builder
Customers can also opt to purchase one of the hundreds of different professionally designed themes
It’s easy to integrate and maintain a blog
You’ll get a free SSL certificate
There are a variety of powerful shipping integrations and tools
There are a variety of tools for managing inventory, drop shipping, fulfillment, and various other tasks
Shopify supports over 70 different payment methods, including credit card and Paypal
Sales tax calculators
Gift card tools
A variety of marketing, social media, and SEO tools and integrations
You can opt for a Point-of-Sale (POS) system to integrate brick and mortar sales.
Shopify works great with landing page builders such as Shogun or BigCommerce.
That’s a pretty extensive list, right? There are more features, of course, but you get the gist of it. Shopify is one of the most full-featured e-commerce platforms available. We didn’t list every single one of Yahoo’s features either, but most would agree that Shopify is more feature-packed
Of course, there are some drawbacks weighing against Shopify. Compared to Yahoo’s services, Shopify’s costs tend to be a bit higher.
Shopify is a pricer option
Shopify’s basic plan starts at $29.99, compared to Yahoo! Small Business’s $20.75 plan. Both of these low-cost plans are rather limited, but Yahoo’s more feature-rich standard plan costs just $48.25, compared to Shopify’s $79 monthly fee.
Yahoo’s introductory plan also charges a lower transaction fee, just 1.5% compared to Shopify’s 2%. Both Shopify and Yahoo! drop their transaction fee to 1% with their standard plans. Yahoo’s premier plan, which is designed for big businesses, charges a transaction fee of only .75% while Shopify sticks to .5%. While .25% might not seem like much, it can add up quite quickly if sales are pouring in. Shopify eliminates charges altogether when you use Shopify payments rather than an external processor.
However, Shopify also charges credit card fees (although some regions are exempt). These fees start at 2.9% plus 30 cents. Fees drop to 2.6% for the standard plan and 2.4% for the Advanced Shopify plan. Again, these fees can add up quickly. With Yahoo!, you’ll have to set up a third party payment processor, such as Braintree Direct by Paypal. This service likewise costs 2.9% but 30 cents. Other providers, however, may be more affordable.
However, if you integrate 3rd Party Solutions Into Yahoo!, costs may rise
Shopify comes with more features, such as inventory management, that are built right in. With Yahoo!, you’ll have to rely on third-party providers for many of these more advanced features. Often, you’ll have to pay for these features. When calculating costs, it’s important to consider what 3rd party solutions you’ll need and how much they’ll cost.
Yahoo’s e-commerce solutions are compelling but Shopify is dominant for a reason
Yahoo! has been working hard to modernize its e-commerce solutions. By-and-large, the company is making progress. However, Yahoo! is still trying to catch up with industry leaders, like Shopify.
If you’re on a budget and won’t require some of the advanced options offered by Shopify (i.e. inventory management), Yahoo! may make sense as you’ll save a bit of cash. Likewise, if the lower transaction fee will generate large savings, Yahoo! may make more sense.
However, for most small businesses, Shopify is the safer choice as it offers more features right out of the box. Yes, you’ll have to pay for those features, but there’s a reason so many e-commerce platforms run on Shopify. Quite simply, the costs are worth it.
Finding the right e-commerce tool could be the difference between immense success or no sales! If you want to succeed in the growing, massive online e-commerce markets, then you need to do your research and find the tools that work for you. This is why I give you the full nopCommerce vs Shopify comparison!
Main Differences Between NopCommerce vs Shopify
The main differences between NopCommerce vs Shopify are:
Shopify is a dedicated platform for ecommerce sellers, whereas NopCommerce is an open-sourced platform
NopCommerce does not have as many features for online stores, whereas Shopify has many integrations, features for online sellers
NopCommerce can be used for free (with limitations), whereas Shopify is a paid, dedicated service from the beginning
Online retail is the future. Over the past few years, many brick-and-mortar retailers in the United States have struggled. Shopping malls are becoming ghost towns in some areas, historic brands like Sears have fallen by the wayside, and even once-massive shopping holidays, such as Black Friday, have lost their luster.
Why fight the crowds to save a few bucks?
Of course, consumers have continued consuming. More and more people, however, are shopping online. Since the Internet went mainstream, the Internet has been popular for shopping. In the early days, however, online shopping was limited to certain goods, such as books, gadgets, and the like. Now, however, you can order groceries online, and in some areas, you can have them delivered same day.
The world is changing. Many brick-and-mortar stores have been setting up e-commerce websites. Fortunately, anyone looking to set up a site can skip building one from scratch. When Amazon and other trailblazers launched their websites, they had to build many of the functions and capabilities from scratch.
These days, you can use out-of-the-box tools and platforms to set up e-commerce websites literally overnight. Of course, you’ll still have to market your goods, process payments, and fulfill orders. However, it’s never been easier to get into online retail. There are many different choices and platforms you can use. Today, we’re going to look at two of them, nopCommerce and Shopify.
Shopify vs nopCommerce: The Comparison
When it comes to platforms, Shopify and nopCommerce are foundationally different even if they share many fundamental similarities. Shopify is a multi-billion dollar company with a paid staff that numbers in the thousands. Shopify works hard to stay at the cutting edge of e-commerce technology, using its many billions of dollars in revenues to support those goals.
NopCommerce, on the other hand, is an open source platform, meaning you can download and use the software for free. There are few strings attached. If you’d like to white label the software, you need to pay a fee, but outside of that, you don’t have to pay anything.
Of course, you “get what you pay for.” There are many important differences between Shopify and NopCommerce. Both platforms are worth a look. Which one’s best for you? That largely depends on you. We’ll jump into the differences between these two platforms so you can decide which one’s better for you.
NopCommerce: An Introduction
Russian developer Andrei Mazulnitsyn began developing NopCommerce back in 2008. In 2009, he founded Nop Solutions to oversee the development of the software. NopCommerce is built with ASP.NET MVC 4.0 and upon MS SQL Server 2008 (or higher) database.
Currently, nopCommerce is used by over 9,000 websites worldwide. This is good for a market share of just .32% but suggests that the platform is still relied upon by a number of websites. NopCommerce has also been downloaded over 1.8 million times, so quite a number of people have given the platform a try. We’ll shortly explain why the platform isn’t currently found on nearly so many websites. First, let’s highlight a key benefit.
There’s one huge benefit to NopCommerce that few competitors can offer: it’s 100% free to use. You can download NopCommerce today, build a website, and not have to worry about paying anyone anything. Such is the nature of open source software.
Of course, there is a catch. NopCommerce is significantly more difficult to set up and use than paid out-0f-the-box solutions like Shopify. Generally speaking, you need to have developer level skills if you want to build a NopCommerce website.
NopCommerce isn’t nearly as feature-rich as Shopify and other pay-to-play e-commerce solutions either. This is especially true when it comes to out-of-the-box features. While NopCommerce is highly customizable, you’re going to have to put a lot of sweat into developing those custom features.
NopCommerce Key Features
NopCommerce comes with many of the key features commonly found with paid platforms. Keep in mind, however, that to get many of the functions up and running you might have to write and plug in some code yourself. Features found on nopCommerce include:
Product listing pages and features
Marketing tools, including SEO
Payment integration (although more limited compared to Shopify)
Shipping tools (although more limited compared to Shopify)
Shopify: An Introduction
Shopify is one of the easiest e-commerce software suites available. Even newbies can build their own website. Of course, when it comes to technology, some people will find the learning curve to be quite steep.
Regardless, Shopify makes it very easy to set up an e-commerce website. In fact, Shopify was born when Tobias Lütke, Daniel Weinand, and Scott Lake were trying to set up their own e-commerce website but realized that there were few good e-commerce solutions.
The trio wanted to build Snowdevil, an online snowboarding website. They managed to do so, and along the way, they built their “Shopify” e-commerce solution. The platform has since snowballed (pun intended) into a massive global company, with roughly 2,000 staff members scattered around the globe and generating over $580 million in revenue (2017).
Shopify is a Software-as-a-Service solution. You pay a subscription fee and then the company provides software via the cloud. Updates, new features, and all the rest are handled by the company. You’ll have to build your own sales website. However, Shopify themes can be bought for roughly $150. With a theme, just about anyone who’s PC literate can set up a website in a matter of hours.
Shopify’s Common Features
Few e-commerce platforms are as well rounded as Shopify. The platform is one of the most cutting-edge in the industry. Should you find a feature that it lacks but a competitor has don’t be surprised if Shopify implements it in the near future.
NopCommerce might be an exception of sorts, however. Don’t hold your breath waiting for nopCommerce to become a free platform. It’s almost certainly not going to happen. Anyways, some of the many features found on Shopify:
An advanced and fully-featured shopping cart
An easy website builder + hundreds of professional themes
Simple blogging integration
Mobile commerce ready and optimized
Easy brand implementation and customization
Free SSL certificate
Automated shipping tools, such as rate calculator
Accept credit card payments and payments from over 70 sources
Powerful but easy to use Point-of-Sales (POS) solutions
Instant tax calculation
Customer account management (including profiles)
Shipping tools and order fulfillment (including drop shipping)
Gift card management
Powerful analytics tools
Marketing and SEO tools
Okay, that’s a long list and it’s far from complete (to be fair, nopCommerce has other features as well). It’d simply take too long to list everything out. Shopify is one of the most complete e-commerce solutions available.
Comparing Pricing Between Shopify and NopCommerce
NopCommerce if free but “free” is never free.
The code and software needed to install and run NopCommerce is free. There aren’t any strings attached in this regard. Of course, you’re going to have to pay for web hosting, website development costs, hardware, and all the rest.
Further, if you need advanced assistance, you’ll have to shell out some serious money for support. Three months of support will run you $299.000 while a full year will cost $799. Mind you, this is for support, not development. You’ll still be getting your hands dirty.
Shopify costs money but might be cheaper in the long run
How can a service that costs money be cheaper than a service that’s free? With Shopify, you pay monthly fees both for your subscription and also for transactions. However, in exchange, you get access to an excellent “Software-as-a-Service” platform that simply works.
Building an e-commerce presence with Shopify is quite simple, at least as far as branding goes. Yes, you’ll still need to invest in marketing, staff, inventory, and all that. However, the actual development costs will be minimal and if you’re willing to learn, you could likely set up a website on your own even if you’re not a professional developer.
Conclusion: NopCommerce is right for some but Shopify is right for most
If you’re not a developer, you probably want to skip NopCommerce. The amount of time you’ll spend learning how to develop a NopCommerce website, or conversely, how much you’d have to pay a professional developer, simply won’t be worth it. At a bare minimum, you’ll need to be familiar with .NET, MS SQL, HTML, and CSS.
If you do have some development skills and are familiar with the code and systems that NopCommerce is built upon, it could be a great choice. You’ll still have to sit down and figure out if the time commitment makes sense. Developing a NopCommerce website will take some time but in the long run, the costs might be worth it.
On the other hand, small business owners who aren’t developers or don’t want to spend a lot of time writing code will be better served by out-of-the-box solutions like Shopify. Yes, you’ll have to shell out some money but in exchange, you’ll be able to quickly set up and manage a website.
We also recommend you looking into a landing page builder app before you commit to either Shopify or NopCommerce (you’ll want to have one if you plan on expanding your stores), such as Shogun, which plays well with Shopify, BigCommerce, Magneto.
In 2006, America’s top-earning CEOs were making $240 million a year while a fifth of the world lived on $1.9 a day. It was in the absurdly vast space inside the wealth gap that Blake Mycoskie found out that shoelessness meant more than the comforting warmth of concrete beneath your feet on swimming-pool-days. For the world’s poorest, it meant parasitic infections, frostbite, and sometimes, even death. Blake wanted to fix the problem, but a constant flow of shoes would require a constant flow of money. He would have to hack a pathway to the top of a new kind of mountain, and a for-profit business model seemed a natural solution.
So began a social enterprise called TOMS: the brand that launched a thousand impact businesses. His concept was tidy and potent: to donate a pair of shoes for every pair sold. He hoped to sell a thousand pairs a year. He didn’t. An LA Times feature sparked 1, 200 sales in just a day. Then came Vogue, then Time, People, and Elle. As the 2008 recession crawled nearer, TOMS’ sales figures rose… and rose. Blake covered 10, 000 pairs of bare feet that season, but the brand did more than just change lives. It woke the world’s change creators up to the returns a for-profit model could generate.
Waking Up to Authenticity
The era of TOMS was also the era of the ultimate marketing machine and all the dishonest billions it attracted. Mycoskie was one of the first entrepreneurs to encourage startups to use their story as the thrust of their marketing efforts, but he says countless brands have used his lesson as yet another plastic vehicle for marketing lies. Today’s buyers have a fatal allergy to dishonest tactics. Their skins crawl when they hear sales spin, and they trust their spam blocking APIs and AdBlock more than they do their local charities.
In an internet era, a secret discovered is a secret spread from a grand stage playing to millions. Transparency is no longer optional because, in an increasingly-connected world, your brand’s story will be told with or without your permission. Today’s impact businesses must live in a way that creates a strong digital story. “I don’t think every business has to have a giving component,” he says, “but I do think every business needs to answer the questions, ‘What is your purpose? What harm are you doing? What are you improving in the world?’ “
This is more than a call for startups to wake up to the marketing knowledge of their buyers, though. The authenticity he requests creeps into everything, from your branding and corporate culture to your hiring practices.
The Problem with HR Superstars
As TOMS grew, Mycoskie let his HR director handle much of his head-hunting. They hired C-suite rock stars who’d learned their tricks at other companies. It turns out that you can’t teach an old executives new tricks. They were attached to their bad habits, which were firmly packaged in an unchangeable shell. His corporate culture was borne of magic, and every entrenched C-suite habit absorbed some of that sparkle.
These days, he doesn’t require a “kumbaya” culture of every company; only clarity and intent. If you want to sharpen your Wolf-of-Wall-Street claws and establish a cutthroat culture, celebrate that, but don’t pretend you’re a Sheep of Wall Street. Corporate culture is best served neat, not shaken or stirred. James Bond might be a fair shot, but magic was never his strong suit.
Magic requires new perspectives and a wealth of different data sets, so Blake thinks some of your company’s most important assets are hidden away inside your employees. If he could travel back in time and recreated TOMS from scratch, he would have hired his staff himself, keeping his focus on mindsets instead of corporate experience.
Dealing with Pressure
For the first eight years of TOMS’ life, Mycoskie held his startup on his shoulders alone. He paid for every new shoe design, factory overhead, and employee. “I think that’s a great way to run a business,” he admits because it made him more conscious of how he spent his money, but even the most powerful entrepreneur can bend under daily pressure. “I had no investors so every single dollar was like a personal check.”
The media’s early interest had forced the fledgling company to grow into adulthood overnight. That’s challenging work for any entrepreneur. Being the sole source of funding is a simple form of pressure, but when the world expects greatness of you, you need a shinier brand of mettle. Then there were the people, every one of them growing and changing and needing more.
Once TOMS had grown to $400 million in sales, he brought in a partner, keeping his position as chairman of the board and hiring a CEO to relieve the pressure of solitary leadership. That gave him the space to see a new path forward–one that didn’t require TOMS to represent his whole identity.
Social enterprises have changed enormously in the 12 years since Blake sold his first pair of shoes. The social impact space has been normalized, and globalization has raised rich and poor enterprises onto the same high stage. Any business can grow, whether it’s founded in a dusty shack in Punjab or on a bustling New York City street corner. Marketing has evolved beyond Ogilvyesque tradition, and corporate culture has become a core part of every brand. You can no longer grow a business without considering all the stakeholders. You’re too visible, too connected, too vulnerable to public opinion to operate thoughtlessly.
Blake sees the planet and its people as the biggest stakeholders of any company, and that has knock-on effects that aren’t immediately apparent. Enterprises need to place ethics ahead of every path they choose, but the way you define business must change, too.
The Industrial Revolution ended in the 19th century, yet today’s companies are still focusing on producing to the same scale and in the same way as they did a hundred years ago. Mycoskie isn’t sure the purpose of the human experience is to be productive and to achieve financial success.
His first goal was to simply build a for-profit social impact company. He’s since discovered a passion for sharing lessons instead of products. He hopes to give others the courage to turn their own stories into real-world dreams, so he’s just founded a self-development company called Made For, which takes members on a 10-month journey into the center of their own souls. Two hundred people are already moving through the program.
Some might say this change of pace is his stepping back, but he calls it stepping forward.
“[Stepping forward] is a lot scarier because you’re looking into the abyss and you don’t know what you’ll see. I’ve enjoyed life as an entrepreneur but I don’t know if I’m going to evolve or if I’m going to just keep starting businesses. Because all I’m going to do is prove to myself and the world that I can do it again and again.”
The Power of Mentorship
Mycoskie wasn’t born this woke. He was mentored into his irrevocable success. Richard Branson taught him through the pages of “Losing My Virginity.” Howard Schultz and Yvonne Chouinard’s lessons were also delivered through text. Blake only met his heroes long after they’d showed him how to make his first million. Some of the best lessons are available to anyone with an Amazon account and an appetite for reading, and now, they’re also available through Blake’s burgeoning program, Made For.
A New Definition of Success
Any ordinary social impact business is launched for the change it can create and the viability it can achieve with its products. Blake thinks that misses an important ingredient: the authenticity of the creation process. For him, founding a business is a process of self-development. You can’t prepare a feather-light sponge if you’re not immersed in the baking process, no matter how perfect your recipe is, and the enterprise creation process must be just as meaningful and authentic. A leader must become the business, or the story the world will tell about it will be barren.
“Success is somewhat empty, no matter if you do it in a somewhat honorable way like I did with TOMS or in a Wolf of Wall Street way. The human condition needs far more than what our culture is asking.”
The Industrial machine is dying, and founders must find a new way forward. That way should do more than just spread happiness to others. It must also incite it in every philanthropist. “We’re all designed to be happy,” he says, “and the happiest people I’ve seen are the ones who are able to be in touch with the inevitable truth that all we have is this moment. And this moment is [our] entire existence. That’s how I’m defining success these days.”
Blake is one of a rare few thought leaders who are reinventing society, but his ideas are only new because the enterprise has been a Promethean fire wielded, not for human pursuits, but industrial ones. Yesterday’s thought leaders asked, “How profitable? How huge? How fast?” Blake asks, “How authentic? How challenging? How true?
-1) “If you have a really incredible, authentic story that you can back up at every touch-point in your organization, lead with it. If not, lead with your product and your product attributes.”
-2) Be directly involved in your hiring. Look for shared mindsets in your staff, and not necessarily experience.
-3) Make the most of the fresh perspectives of your staff. They’re important data sets that you might never otherwise explore.
-4) Make sure your philanthropy is designed to be meaningful to your own growth. Your happiness matters and social enterprise should never be used to shift your focus away from your own pain.
-5) Find mentorship through the writing of your heroes.
-6) Don’t let old ideas of success limit you. Think beyond profits and products.
-7) Don’t try to create a brand or corporate culture that’s inconsistent with your authentic intentions. Be true to your intent, or you will lose the trust you might never regain.
Building rapport with anyone is a great skill to use in sales and in life. If you want to learn how to build authentic relationships in business and in life, here are some tips I’ve learned along the way in my life. Let me explain…
Gil was a friend I had the pleasure of working with at a produce distributor during the summer and fall of 2017. He delivered the orders I transcribed from voicemails the night before. I verified the deliveries and we would talk about a girl he was interested in.
It started with him relaying stories of the day’s interaction. I was dissecting the interaction based on what I had learned about what happens in the brain in a relationship and would tell him what to do to generate attraction.
We talked about everything from the value/criteria map to body language and microexpressions. I taught him how to understand this girl he was interested in, and how to express his affection for her in a way she knew was “right”.
It was truly fascinating.
I started using this information everywhere. I started giving people their map back to them, purposely generating attraction. I wasn’t looking for romantic interludes, but I did want to test the application to determine just how broad it would reach. This developmental phase gave birth to my tagline: based in science, works like magic.
Here’s what I learned.
As humans, we have a basic need for love. We need to love and be loved. Because we also have a basic need for security, we seek that love in the safest place – the familiar. This search for familiarity is the prism through which we see the world. In other words, we like people like us.
We all have our own set of values, and we assign our own criteria that tell us when those values are validated. When the criteria are met, the value is validated and the connection with the other person is deepened. It can’t not happen. (We can blame that on oxytocin – the hormone responsible for feelings of bonding between a parent and child.)
Person A is in a relationship with person B. Both people have the value of respect. They both want respect in the relationship.
Person A says, “I know you respect me when you tell me the truth, regardless of how it will make me feel.”
Person B says, “I know you respect me when you tell me things carefully and take how I feel into consideration first.”
Now, what’s going to happen when these two start respecting each other based on their own map?
What about if they respected each other based on their partner’s map?
These two options can produce very different outcomes.
Before the conversation can even begin, there must be enough trust (read the feeling of security) to engage the other person. Again, we search for the familiar. And because we are primarily visual in nature, mirror neurons, microexpressions, and body language all play a huge role in how comfortable we are with the interaction.
Bringing it into business: What does this all mean for sales?
There’s a motto in sales that nearly every professional knows by heart – people buy from those they know, like and trust. Here’s the “dirty little secret”: we know, like and trust those most like ourselves.
In order to change the relationship from prospect to a brand ambassador, your potential customer must feel like you tailored the experience just for them because you share the same values. Here’s your checklist to build the kind of rapport to make that happen:
Step 1. Mindset: Getting to Know Your Customers
I haven’t fully discussed the importance of mindset in this article, however, I will say it is an integral part of the prospective interaction. We must have the end goal of not just understanding the person, but understanding them well enough to create an amazing customer experience. Interacting with your prospective customers with this mindset will dramatically improve your responses.
Think about every person that your business interacts with as your best friend. That’s it. When you think about them as your best friend, it changes the way you feel about them, the way you talk to them and most importantly, the feelings of trust and likeability you generate in them.
Step 2. Physiology: Body Language Matters
Experts say communication is 93% non-verbal. This gives us a critical advantage for rapport building by allowing us to use our physiology to communicate openness long before a “how can I help you” appears.
Every person says “hi” with their eyebrows when they see someone they like. It’s subconscious, happens in a flash and occasionally accompanied by a smile. When we see someone we like and know, that brow raise can turn to a full-on head nod. Because this greeting is more instinctual, seeing it naturally induces feelings of trust. The paleo-cortex says this person is friendly, and friendly is good.
Our body language also reveals how we feel, regardless of what we say. Understanding body language gives a remarkable insight into how a person really feels, but what’s more remarkable is that we can use body language to influence how a person feels.
We can create trust and likeability with an open posture, palms out, genuine Duchenne smiles, and so forth, but the sense of knowing comes from mirroring the prospect’s gestures. Brian Tracy talks about this in his award-winning sales course. Gesture mirroring is exactly what it sounds like – giving the prospect’s mannerisms back to them within one to three seconds after it is displayed. This technique is most effective with smaller expressions, such as head tilts or blinking. Gesture hijacking, however, is used when giving back larger expressions like hand movements, and done some time after the prospect uses the gesture.
I used gesture mirroring while conducting one particular test – meeting a representative for the local chamber of commerce. When I got up to leave after our fifteen-minute conversation, she stood up as well and reached out for a hug.
Gesture mirroring and hijacking is so effective because our gestures are generally expressed unconsciously. They are literal physical expressions of our emotional attachment to the subject of discussion. Because they are expressed unconsciously, they are received unconsciously. Because they are received unconsciously, they create immediate rapport.
Step 3. Effective People Reading
Reading people seems more like a mentalist trick than it does science, however, there’s a great deal of research that goes into effective people reading.
Dr. Paul Ekman pioneered the work on microexpressions – nuanced ticks that indicate emotional response or stress. They relay messages to our subconscious in fractions of a second, under the radar of awareness, and directly impact how we feel about the interaction.
Dr. Ekman studied the facial expressions of people from all over the world to find the common facial indicators of emotion, regardless of age, gender or socioeconomic background. He found seven emotions that trigger universal facial expressions – anger, fear, disgust, contempt, sadness, surprise and joy.
These universal expressions reveal thoughts and emotions that otherwise may go unnoticed.
Dr. Lillian Pearl Bridges teaches face reading in Chinese medicine, and her work has been used by countless professionals, from health practitioners to C-level executives. She’s produced an incredibly revealing chart of where emotions are expressed in the face, the types of emotions that are expressed repeatedly and what those wrinkles reveal about a person’s disposition.
From these two experts, we gain a wealth of information about how to deal with a particular individual. Lines on the chin can reveal fear or anxiety, that person may need reassurance about product performance or service guarantee. Vertical lines in front of the ear indicate hypervigilance, this person may need more specifics about a product. A person with the corners of their mouth turned down has experienced disappointment. They might need you to undersell and over-deliver.
Reading and reciprocating expressions are phenomenally powerful ways of building rapport, and because they are nonverbal, there is no critical factor to dissect the reciprocation. We simply feel this person is like us.
Step 4: Speaking: It Matters How You Say it Too
Both verbal and tonal communication can be used to build rapport. The way a person speaks can be indicative of a thought process, but also show the emotion attached. For example, a higher pitch or faster rate of speech can show emotional stress, whereas a lower pitch and slower rate can reveal a calm demeanor and more analytical or critical thought processes.
Verbiage, however, remains one of the most powerful tools for rapport building. It is through words we express our values and desires, and more importantly, how we know those values are validated.
In the example above, both parties had the value of respect, but their criteria for respect was different. Just like that example above, we seldom meet another’s criteria with our own map. In order for a relationship to be built, we must validate their values and do so by their criteria. Verbiage is the tool to use.
A very popular method of communication called reflective listening came out several years ago, and while it does have some efficacy, a tool developed by David Snyder is far more useful. It’s known as the echo technique and is simply giving a person their own words back in the exact order and sequence they came out. Much like body language, it bypasses critical faculties and speaks directly to the emotional part of the brain.
Likeability is where sales are supercharged and experiences are perfected. When a person describes an expectation, desire or passion, they feel a particular emotion and use very particular words. Those words are the keys to those emotions, and the person cannot hear those words about that expectation, desire or passion and not feel that emotion. What’s more fascinating is whatever or whoever a person is looking at when describing that expectation/desire/passion thing gets the emotion transferred to it like an anchor. Eliciting these emotions builds deep rapport by driving likeability through the roof.
As humans, we tend to overcomplicate the simplest things. Building rapport and business relationships aren’t difficult. People are looking for themselves and their own values reflected back to them. If we can, through the relationships, services, and products we offer gives those values back in a way the customer feels understood and appreciated, we will build trust and the subsequent loyalty that grows our business.
If you want more organic growth, better reviews, more referrals, and more, then build a relationship with your customers. Customer relationships built on deep rapport will flourish because they know you understand, appreciate and value them individually, and you can meet their business needs better than the competition.
For entrepreneurs looking to create a positive influence in the social impact space, finding ways to work with neglected and abandoned sectors of the population is never easy, though certainly a necessity. Brian Hill, the CEO and founder of Edovo, has been working for the past five years in helping to disrupt the prison industry through finding innovative solutions to bring educational content to the over 12 million people who cycle through the prison industry each and every year.
What is wrong with the Prison Industry?
The United States incarceration is rate is easily the highest in the world with 716 people per 100,000 residents incarcerated. For comparison´s sake, the United States holds about 4.4 percent of the world’s population, yet it houses 22 percent of the world’s prisoners. While there are structural problems and underlying issues related to why certain sectors of the population are incarcerated, the prison population suffers a number of challenges once they find themselves within correctional institutions.
According to Edovo, access to education has the ability to decrease recidivism (repeat incarceration) by 43 percent. Unfortunately, shrinking budgets, stricter security controls, and other structural factors mean that most incarcerated individuals simply don’t have access to meaningful educational opportunities and communication with their support network to successfully navigate the path towards successful reinsertion into society.
Furthermore, both private and public prisons suffer from ineffective incentives. In the case of private prisons which represent about 6-8 percent of the total incarcerated population, unhealthy contracts operating in a for-profit model disincentive prisons from taking a proactive approach to helping incarcerated individuals find ways to get their lives back on track. Similarly, public prisons are often an important source of jobs for rural areas leading elected officials to prioritize a steady source of jobs for their constituencies rather than policies and approaches to help incarcerated individuals successfully rehabilitate.
What is Edovo Doing to Disrupt the Prison Industry?
Following from this bleak reality of the prison industry, Edovo´s mission is to help everyone connected to incarceration build better lives. Specifically, they work with prison institutions and facilities to help them provide meaningful rehabilitative programming and affordable communication strategies to the prison population. They have developed a secure tablet technology that is able to deliver free access to educational programming and low-cost communication services. Not only are incarcerated individuals able to find important educational services, vocational training, and cultural content to fill their days and help them plan for a post-incarceration future, but Edovo also provides educational opportunities for cognitive therapy, PTSD issues and other behavioral issues such as anger management.
Their strategy also helps incarcerated individuals to maintain a connection with their support network through improved and more affordable communication services. The benefits of Edovo´s work are multifaceted, including reduced recidivism rates, increased safety in correctional environments, and increased opportunities for rehabilitation.
According to Brian Hill, the prison industry is a significant and large sector of our country´s population, but very few people (and even fewer people in the business world) have been able to tackle the issues that affect millions of people in the prison industry. “There is a reality of having nothing to do that is hard to comprehend,” Brian relates. “There is so much talent and opportunity within the correctional facilities that is untapped.”
When Brian and the Edovo team first began visiting prisons to come up with ideas of how to introduce meaningful educational content, he found the majority of incarcerated individuals spending the majority of their days watching daytime television. “When you see 9,000 guys watching Jerry Springer, you have to ask yourself what we are doing. This doesn’t make sense for anybody.”
Brian believes that “one of the fundamental flaws of the prison system is that we don’t know why we incarcerate people…Is it for safety, punishment or for rehabilitation?” Knowing that answer can help to drive better outcomes. While the prison industry and the reality that incarcerated individuals live through on a daily basis is an extremely complex issue, Brian decided not to settle for simple answers, but to deal with those complexities while navigating the company´s mission to bring meaningful educational opportunities and content to people in the prison industry.
Changing Strategies for Effective Work
When Edovo first began thinking about how to bring educational opportunities to incarcerated individuals, they originally planned on utilizing the existing television sets within prisons and transitioning from low-quality daytime TV to educational programming. The organization quickly learned, however, that incarcerated people would not interact with educational TV programs, but rather needed personalized educational content.
In order to deliver educational content, then, Edovo has had to transform into a multifaceted company. “Today we are an educational content creator and curator, a software developer, we install wireless networks in prisons, develop secure tablets, and we are a communications provider, as well as working as a consultant organization,” Brian mentions. “In order to operate in the prison, we had to do all of that.”
“As an entrepreneur, you need to realize that you´re not right most of the time. You have to expect that you´ll be wrong,” Brian mentions. “It is important to listen to the dynamics of the market and be married to the outcomes.”
Edovo realized that one of the biggest challenges they faced towards their goal of making educational content viable and accessible to prison populations was the ability to allow incarcerated individuals to gain access to technologies where they could find personalized educational content. They worked on developing a minimum viable product that could be sent into jails and focused on developing tablet technology. Once they sold that vision to local sheriff departments, they had to figure out how to make technology conform to prison security protocols.
While they were first laughed out of the room by people who had worked in jails before and understood the challenges, they were optimistic and believed in what they had to offer. “You can’t fake genuine,” Brian says. “We truly believed we could change the dynamic of the market.” Their passion and authenticity not only allowed them to introduce innovative solutions to one of the most difficult to reach populations, but it also played into their funding arrangements. Because almost no investors understand the dynamics of the prison industry, they had to educate investors and create trust. Brian believes that they were able to gain an enormous amount of funding because while “lots of people complain (about the problems in the prison industry), very few people come with solutions that have sustainable and scalable merit.”
Since their first launching of educational tablets into prisons in 2014, they have reached over 100,000 incarcerated people and are currently doubling year by year.
According to Brian, “the problem you have to solve, is not the problem you thought would be there. We wanted to make education available for people incarcerated but the biggest problem was payment and procurement to government agencies.”
He goes on to say that’s “if you would’ve told me that making education possible for jails was through buying a phone company…I wouldn´t have believed you.” Edovo´s experience has taught them prison communications contracts are key for criminal justice reform, and they are intent on proving the merit of that strategy.
Stay married to the outcome: Entrepreneurs should understand that there is tremendous complexity that comes with working in the social impact space. Instead of settling for simple answers to hard questions, it is important to embrace that complexity and think modularly when developing solutions. “Don’t try to solve it all, or you will fail,” Brian mentions. Rather, focus on creating scalable but modular change that’s will allow future actors and impact companies to tackle the next layer of complexity.
Educate Investors: When working with marginalized populations or obscure issues, you may need to educate investors to prove to them the worth of the strategy you are proposing. Showing your genuine passion for the work you are doing is a great way to build trust with funders.
Don´t get stuck on one solution: Rather, be open to finding new problems/issues than the ones you set out to originally “solve”. Flexibility will allow you to respond truthfully to the issues that you encounter.
The road to profits is littered with good objectives. All you need to do to launch a firecracker startup is talk to a focus group and run a few field trials. Business management is easy. Udemy and Inc.com will teach you how in five amazing steps you won’t believe are true…
… until that first fatal setback that shows you why 75% of start-ups fail: there are no maps for unexplored landscapes or demographic data for invented needs. You can read industry forecasts all year and still not hit on a single piece of actionable information for walking on unknown terrain.
That’s why Eric Ries’ Wikipedia page begins with failure.
A Yale education and an intellect sharp enough to cut diamonds with couldn’t save him. Conventional best practices simply didn’t work.
When failure comes to ordinary entrepreneurs, they blame their business plan. They blame their sales teams. They blame everything they can find in their dated textbooks, but Eric Ries decided to develop a new way of thinking instead. That new way is The Lean Startup and millions of white-collar acolytes are filling up convention centers, business pages, and forums to learn more about it. The lean approach is no longer a simple philosophy, but a movement that’s crowded onto every continent in the world.
Uncertainty in an Unpredictable World
Eric Ries is the reason concepts like minimum viable products, pivots, and feedback loops are so pronounced in today’s thinking. His tools help for-profit startups to develop products in high-uncertainty environments by pushing production further down the innovation cycle and drawing learning forward.
Think of the lean approach as the tour guide to your customers’ interests. Instead of giving you a half-considered map and sending you on your way, it stays by your side, helping you adjust to your terrain with every step. It’s transformed for-profit thinking, and now it’s moving into the social impact space, largely thanks to Ann Mei Chang and her book, Lean Impact. Even the private world’s uncertainty cannot compete with that of the social sector, so Chang believes it should stop executing plans as if it knows the answers.
A Dirty Word Called “Funding”
How do you save an endangered species?
We might have a hundred solutions, but the last northern white rhino and shrinking rainforests indicate that they aren’t working. How do you stall global warming?
The 2030 UN deadline for effective change tells us we still don’t have a bold enough plan to save the pale blue dot. How do you close the wealth gap, cure poverty, and mobilize a nation? Every one of these issues has several defined strategies, but few can account for the system that prevents social entrepreneurs from implementing them. Ann wanted to change that, so she spoke to change creators who had already beaten their way through the underbrush.
“The most common [challenge] that came up is the nature of funding. You have to come up with a detailed plan in advance and often plan down to the penny exactly. Some of the saddest stories I’ve heard are of organizations who have come up with these plans, been awarded grants [and then] discovered that what they were doing didn’t work and then kept doing it anyway because they had a contract to do.” The social sector is jerry-rigged to force change creators to map out in five and 10-year milestones with absolute certainty. It’s an impossible ask and, to muddy the pathways even more, demand and impact are intertwined.
Lean impact has cleared the trail. It might not be able to create your map, but it provides the cartography lessons you need to sketch it yourself.
Finding Certainty in High-Risk Biomes
In the business world, demand is easy to understand: you build a product. Your customers either buy it or ignore it. Feedback happens all on its own, but the social impact space doesn’t come with such a measurable response. To stretch the feedback loop even further, change creation comes with its own inbuilt well of compliments. “We’re dedicating our money and our lives to trying to do something to help others,” Ann says, “and somehow that stymies people into asking, ‘Could you do better?’”
While writing Lean Impact, Chang uncovered the story of Summit Public Schools, an emblem of how nonprofits can put the lean approach to work. Founder, Dianne Tavenner, wanted to have 100% of her students graduate, so she launched a few schools and watched her first students graduate with better results than those of their peers. Summit Schools were encouraged to scale prematurely, but Tavenner wanted to push her organization into a shortened feedback loop. “They figured out a way to gather more subjective data through focus groups and teacher evaluations, and then experiment by running variations of their classrooms over a year-long period and look at the results on a week-by-week basis.” In so doing, Summit turned its cause into a minimum viable product. Every tiny change was measured, all the way down to its classroom layouts.
In 2017, 99% of its graduating class was accepted into college, and 300 U.S. schools are replicating their model.
Chang sees that iterative approach as a way to escape the funding/contract mill. “If you’re trying to reduce the incidence of malaria in a region by distributing mosquito nets, it may take years to measure whether the incidence of malaria has gone down, but tomorrow you can test whether people are actually hanging up those nets and sleeping under them, and if they’re not, you can figure out quickly it’s not likely to work.”
The traditional Theory of Change defines a goal, maps its fulfilment, and then looks back to uncover the preconditions required to affect that change. The concept has worked its way into common lexicon, but Ann Mei has found that nonprofits are developing elaborate theories for the sake of obtaining funding, then abandoning their research on a dusty shelf. “Test those early linkages. If you think if you teach kids this way, they’ll learn better, test whether they’ve retained the information better using whatever indicators you can find, and optimize for that.”
Entrepreneurship will swallow you in for-profit thinking before you have a chance to measure your real impact, so shortened feedback loops are not options, but necessities. “We want to identify our riskiest assumptions–the hypotheses that we need to test early on that may cause our solution to fail.
Eric Ries is a passionate advocate of the scientific method for this precise reason. “In engineering-driven organizations, in science-driven organizations, even a lot of finance-driven organizations, the idea of rigorous analysis of day-to-day decision-making is considered essential, and yet that doesn’t get integrated into boardroom conversations. I think in the future people are going to look back on our era and find that really strange.”
Empathy in the For-Profit Impact Space
Social entrepreneurs must serve two audiences to the private sector’s single credit-card-wielding buyer: the consumer and the cause. The latter cannot be left to fail for long enough to gather quantitative feedback.
“Measuring impact is much more difficult than measuring clicks on an e-commerce site,” Chang says, but perhaps the most resounding reason she supports the lean approach is the need for empathy in a socially-driven industry. “When you’re experimenting in situations where you’re working with vulnerable populations, it has to be more thoughtful,” she says. “If you’re seeking social impact, it’s not enough to have people want what you have. You also need to deliver a social benefit.”
Thankfully, a social benefit can be measured qualitatively long before numbers can be crunched.
Drowning in Data
The private sector has begun to emphasize the importance of small data in a big-data-obsessed world — those actionable data footprints consumers leave behind as they navigate your brand. Without small data, businesses would drown in their own numbers–and they often do. Eric Ries expands on that thought process through vanity metrics, his term for the analytics businesses use to lionize unproven success and intimidate their rivals.
“I was once up against a competitor who liked to report the total GDP equivalent of all the user-to-user virtual transactions in their system,” he says. Those metrics are easy to celebrate…all the way to failure. “There’s no way to ever pivot because people will constantly say, ‘We’re almost on the right track. The numbers will turn around any minute,’ and by the time you finally realize that things are a disaster, it’s too late to change.”
Ann says the social sector has taken vanity metrics to an entirely new level. “Almost all [nonprofits] tout the number of people they’ve touched in some way. These numbers are completely meaningless. They largely mean that someone was good at fund-raising; that they wrote a good grant, someone gave them a bunch of money and so they did stuff for a bunch of people. It doesn’t actually say whether they made those people’s lives better.”
Big data disfigures the real and critical things that are getting in the way of your success. You’ll never discover why those youth you found employment for lost their jobs months later. You’ll never notice that one demographic who are not being served as well as the rest. You’ll look at the beautiful sunset from 93 million miles away and never notice that the sun is dying. “When you pay attention to the real data behind the metrics that matter,” says Ann, “you’ll make different decisions about how you deliver your intervention. ‘
Beyond Chang’s study of Summit, her research led her right back to a company belonging to Ries himself: The Long Term Stock Exchange (LTSE). The startup is hoping to overhaul the stock exchange to relieve public companies of the pressures involved in high-frequency trading. The concept is almost too wild to imagine, and yet it’s attracted the encouragement of giants like Tim O’Reilly, Aneesha Chopra, and Marc Andreessen. It is, Ries says, “making it possible to run organizations in a more sustainable, innovative, long-term ethical way.”
“I think that a high percentage of the work that needs to be done in the economy today needs to be done by startup-type teams,” he explains. Startups are nimble. They’re innovative. They can become financially self-sustaining, and few brands characterize those traits as well as LTSE.
There’s a reason Eric has become part of such a seemingly-risky side of entrepreneurial culture: he believes startups have the courage to tackle the world’s problems more aggressively by taking the very risks that reduce risk. “[Risk avoidance is] not actually a low-risk way to go. Corporations get disrupted precisely because they were unwilling to do anything they perceived as risky but that their competitor did not. I think we have to redefine what risk means.“
The problem is often less one of bureaucracy than of simple unwillingness and red tape, and while those tendencies are fizzling away in the sunlight, Chang believes the social impact space’s lack of profit focus is slowing it down. “People are wed to their existing solutions because of pride of ownership, brand identity, or risk aversion, and so the best ideas often don’t get picked up.
Social entrepreneurship is poised to take over the for-profit world, and Ries and Chang are riding the cusp of the wave, using lean startups as their sails. They’ve already changed the global conversation, but if you listen carefully enough, you will change the world.
In the realm of sales and marketing, a lot of things can go wrong. There are so many touchpoints from cold lead, to buyer which leaves room for a lot of missed and lost sales. From shopping basket slowdowns to Facebook marketing pixels, there are a lot of ways your digital marketing could not be working for you. Here are 3 digital marketing mistakes to avoid and fix that you can work on today to start seeing massive results!
If you’ve been struggling with your marketing (which leads to sales), don’t get too discouraged; it’s not easy. The good news: you don’t have to hire expensive marketing agencies to get started online, to build a more authentic brand presence, and to start selling.
If your advertising efforts aren’t converting as much as you would like, you need to start looking at your branding and business strategy with a more holistic approach, instead of focusing on individual tactics. Taking a step back and looking at your customer journey online is a great way to start. Ask yourself these questions:
Where do people find me online?
Can someone easily learn more about my company?
Is it tough to make a purchase?
Starting with these basic questions, you can begin to see ‘holes’ in your efforts, but there’s so much more you can do. If your marketing isn’t as great as it should be, here are three common digital marketing mistakes to avoid with fixes:
Mistake #1: Your brand isn’t consistent.
Gone are the days where you can silo your efforts online. Today’s consumers are savvy, will look you up, and expect your brand to be consistent in every touchpoint they can find you. If you’ve pieced together your digital strategy, without considering each channels’ interconnectivity, your marketing efforts won’t be as effective.
An Omnichannel Approach vs Multichannel Approach
Consumers are now more sophisticated in not only finding you online but investigating your entire digital presence before a purchase. When someone discovers you on Twitter, they will inevitably go to your website, your Facebook page, and investigate your brand many times before they make a purchase.
For many years in the digital marketing space, we assumed that customers had a preferred way to interact with our brands, for example, someone would find you on Facebook, only interact with your Facebook page, maybe join a group. What digital marketers have discovered, is that this is no longer the case — that customers are finding you on Facebook, for example, but quickly Googling you, visiting your website, checking out your Twitter — which is why an omnichannel approach is key.
This omnichannel approach takes on greater significance when it comes to our impact story and brand messages online. Consumers today do not ‘blindly’ purchase, they compare, they research, they read about us pages and online mission statements. They not only want to support you but your impact mission. Make sure your impact and founder story are weaved throughout your marketing to give conscious consumers something to ‘hold onto’ and support.
If your messages, branding, and digital story change from channel to channel, you risk losing trust with your customers. Your brand story must be consistent and clear throughout to build that level of trust and authenticity that modern-day consumers demand.
We might assume that today’s online buyers make quick decisions to buy or not buy, to swipe left, or swipe right but that is only part of the story. If your brand does manage to get someone’s attention, buyers will do a lot more research before making a purchase. Knowing your customer journey’s with your company online is the first step in making sure all of your marketing efforts will pay off.
Are you weaving the same brand messages throughout the many touchpoints they can find you? Is your impact story front and center in all that you do? Do you give people a reason to purchase from your company other than the product (think impact)? If you can do these things effectively, you will be able to break through the digital noise that competes for attention and find more ways to build authentic connections to your customers.
With an omnichannel approach, you are looking at all of your messaging as one entity, vs creating specific content for each channel that may or may not conflict with each other. This includes making sure your visual brand is consistent as well. Use the same brand colors, logo, tagline, description of your company in every digital channel. While your approach to each channel might differ, your brand voice and values should remain the same. This signals to a new customer that you have a trustworthy brand, and consumers want to buy from those brands they trust (and feel like they know).
Mistake #2: You’re spending too much money in the wrong channels.
While Adwords and Facebook marketing has their place, too many companies rely solely on these channels to get buyers when there are more effective ways to get sales.
If you have been sinking money into digital ads and not seeing the results that you would like, it might be time to shift some of those funds to more effective efforts such as SEO and content marketing.
In this Return on Marketing Spend chart, you can see that the most effective way to spend your money is not in Google Adwords, or Facebook marketing but on SEO and content strategy.
Why SEO and content strategy is so effective?
When we are looking to buy something, where is the first place we go? Google, right? We look up a product, get reviews, see real people testimonials. We find alternatives, then maybe we make a buying decision. Today’s SEO efforts are more than just cramming your content with relevant keywords. A smart content strategy thinks about conversion rate optimizations, as well as building content that attracts the right people to your website, and building the right traffic.
If you are spending a lot of money on less effective channels, it might be time to shift some efforts and funding to SEO and content strategy. We’re not just talking about blogging here, but making sure your website is designed and functioning to take advantage of every lead that comes to your site.
Here are some questions you should ask:
Once someone lands on my site, can they easily find my about us page and learn more about my company?
Without using ‘search’ on my site, can users find relevant content easily?
Do I have a clear call to action on every piece of content?
Is my site confusing and tough to navigate through?
Is my visual brand consistent throughout my website and social media channels?
If any of these questions are ‘no’, you are not taking advantage of one of the most powerful parts of your marketing — your website. Before you invest more money into other digital channels, make sure your website is effective for not only finding leads but converting those interested ‘views’ into real buys!
Mistake #3: Your ads are not personalized enough.
Many of us assume that putting out the widest net possible, then seeing what ‘sticks’ is the best way to execute our digital marketing strategies. This may have worked in the digital marketing boom a few years ago, but these tactics are ineffective and costly today.
Knowing who your customer is, their fears, their desires, where they look for information, how they make buying decisions… these are all crucial to your overall marketing strategy. Getting key demographics is a start, but getting to the real motivations of your buyers is even more valuable.
If you haven’t been talking to your customers, now is the time to start. Getting honest feedback will help you personalize and shape those messages that speak directly to their values.
Last month I had the honor of meeting the General Manager of TOMS, Mark Brasier in Toronto, even got to tour the showroom. There, we not only discussed the evolution of the brand but the evolution of their marketing and messaging.
One of the many things we discussed was how to get honest feedback from your customers. It is so important to not only talk to your customers but to get honest feedback from them as well. That’s the only way you are going to improve your business social and economic profit. Knowing how your customers feel about your brand and others in the market is key.
62.26% of customers feel happy and excited to respond to a specially tailored message from the retailer (Source: Smart Insights).
That’s why Mark will sometimes go ‘incognito’ into a store that sells TOMS and ask people about his company. From these conversations, you quickly get a view of the health of your company through the lens of your customers and the public. Most people (when faced with an online survey, for example) are going to tell you how much they love your product, your impact — instead, be like Mark and make sure you find a way to get the entire truth. From there, you can make the changes that work for your marketing messaging and personalize the messages to speak directly to your consumers’ values.
Personalization can take many forms. If your brand is too broad, try niching down to a market to a specific sector of your audience, or brand yourself as a subject matter expert. Today’s online audiences don’t necessarily resonate with larger brands, but with the ones that fit them like a glove.
For example, you are starting up a cat photography business and are looking for some marketing tips. Would you rather sign up for a marketing course from Cat Photographers Marketing Academy, or Acme Noname Marketing Group? The answer is simple. People not only gravitate towards niche campaigns, but they buy from them.
Still struggling with marketing? You’re not alone.
Building an audience and finding the right customers isn’t easy. Whether you are just starting or trying to introduce a new product into the market, smart advertising takes time and effort and many of us don’t get it right on the first try.
Getting back to the basics of marketing is always a good idea. Knowing your customers, creating a consistent brand throughout all your touchpoints, and weaving your niche, personalized brand story in all that you do will amplify your marketing efforts tremendously.
Leave your comments below to tell us what digital marketing mistakes you’ve made! We’d love to hear them!
This article was written by Tobias Roberts for Change Creator Magazine.
We have all heard inspiring stories of how massive corporations got their humble starts in some struggling college student´s garage. Growing from a one-person entrepreneurial idea to a multinational corporation employing thousands of people can be difficult to imagine.
Chrissie Lam, the founder of the “Love is Project”, however, offers an encouraging story of how a novel idea, focused effort, and great intentions can come together to launch a successful and flourishing business model that impacts people from around the world.
We sat down to talk with Chrissie and learn about the story of how the “Love is Project” took off.
How did the Love Is Project Get Started?
Chrissie spent much of her career working in the fashion industry for companies such as American Eagle and Abercrombie & Fitch. According to her LinkedIn page, she has leveraged 12 years of experience in trend forecasting for multi-billion dollar brands to help translate global trends into successful product lines.
At the same time, Chrissie is an avid world traveller who has been to 104 different countries. Her experiences in meeting people and different cultures from around the world helped her to make contacts with inspiring people and organizations doing uplifting work to help people living in marginalized situations of poverty.
According to Chrissie, “what is interesting about (my) travel is that I want to incorporate my travel with my job.” After leaving her corporate job about two and a half years ago, she decided to dedicate more time to her interests in international development and design. While visiting Kenya, she spent time working with different women´s artisan groups of the Maasai people.
The support she offered these groups in product design eventually led to a unique beaded bracelet that could be marketed in order to help these women support their families and feed their children.
While this international development work that she participated in was originally launched as a personal photo project and social media campaign, she realized that there was enormous potential for the bracelets made by the women of the Maasai people to grow into something much more.
About two years ago she created a brand focused on using those bracelets to get people to talk about what love means to them.
Using her contacts from her previous corporate jobs, Chrissie pitched the bracelet idea to American Eagle and received a $250,000 order for the bracelets made by groups of women from Kenya.
The organic grocery store Whole Foods followed up shortly after that with another massive order that helped jumpstart the business. Since that initial starting point, the “Love Is Project” has grown to work with around 1,200 artisans from 9 different countries around the world.
Financially, her business has made 1.2 million dollars in revenue in just over 2 years of operations.
Importance of Staying Focused
Starting up an entrepreneurial endeavor usually comes with an enormous outpouring of energy and enthusiasm. For many small startups, however, there is a tendency to want to branch out in several different directions and try to capture the seemingly endless opportunities for growth that are out there. Chrissie, however, stresses the importance of maintaining a singular focus during the initial startup phase of her company.
“My (current) challenge is that I keep creating more countries and artisan groups (that we work with),” Chrissie mentions. “But I want to make sure that goes well before branching out. It is important to do one thing and do it well….and that is what I’m aiming for. As we grow there will be other opportunities, but capital wise…it’s good to do one thing well to get out of the gate.”
By staying focused and grounded in the bracelet industry and the corresponding media campaigns that they run, Chrissie has been able to maintain 100 percent of the equity in her business and stay completely self-funded. Her team is made up of a group of five freelancers and her mother who is currently helping her with structuring and operations.
Marketing Tips from Chrissie Lam
Chrissie says that the “Love is Project is essentially “a media company that happens to sell bracelets.” She believes wholeheartedly in the importance of good storytelling and offering compelling visuals to help her clients identify and engage with the 1,200 artisans making the bracelets around the world.
“I’m not the first person to put love on a bracelet,” Chrissie says, “but it´s the message behind (that makes the difference). It’s not just a plastic bracelet, but a product that is unique to each country. We use local resources and cultural history to make each bracelet unique.”
In each country where they work, the “Love is Project” has a group of photographers and videographers that help to make the storytelling compelling enough to make the product personal for the clients.
The combination of solid brand assets, great storytelling that highlights the artisans and the impact made, and a high quality, convincing product were important in helping to launch the brand. “People see the depth of our story and our (bracelet) collections and get excited about what we´re about,” Chrissie mentions. “We´re not just creating jobs, but also spreading the message of what is love across social media.”
Chrissie also mentions the importance of taking the time to meet people who could become future clients. She goes to several tradeshows each year and actively seeks to gain press attention for the “Love is Project.” “It is very important to do tradeshows to connect,” Chrissie says. “People want to meet you, hear your story, see the product in person.” She goes on to say that “having press (is) great for awareness.
You have to really be doing everything, and growing your email campaigns just to make sure you´re not leaving money on the table.”
Recently they were featured on the cover of Oprah Magazine while also being highlighted on Good Morning America. This has allowed the “Love is Project” to benefit from several different marketing channels. While they mostly market directly to consumers, they also have wholesale clients such as American Eagle, Whole Foods, Bloomingdales, Macy´s, among others.
By creating a solid proof of concept and focusing on persuasive media campaigns that are authentic (“real people sharing real messages,” according to Chrissie), the “Love is Project was also able to leverage a variety of publicity and marketing channels. Several influencers on social media channels helped spread the message. Celebrities like Anne Hathaway also have worn the bracelets to help create important, organic viral moments for the business. This, of course, led to more shareable content. The project also created a gratitude book, where they share personal “thank you´s” from customers to the artisans in each country.
Pay It Forward Business Model
As business is focused on improving the lives of women artisans from around the world, the “Love is Project” also incorporates a unique and inspiring business model that Chrissie calls the “Pay it Forward” business model.
“The idea is to do something good and someone else will as well,” Chrissie says. “The profits from each country help to fund the project in another country.” Originally started in Kenya, the project then expanded into Indonesia, and Ecuador following Chrissie´s travels around the globe and the organizations and individuals she met. Besides reinvesting the profits to incorporate more global artisan groups, Chrissie also makes it a priority to give back some of the profit to local charities and organizations.
“We are still a startup, so we have to make sure our company is (financially) stable,” Chrissie, says. “As we continue to grow we will be able to do even more. It is good to try and put money back into local communities.”
Entrepreneur Lessons from the Love Is Project
Stay Focused on a Specific Project at the Beginning
It is tempting to want to spread your business in several different directions from the outset. By staying focused on a specific product, market, or strategy from the outset, you will better be able to get your company or brand off the ground.
Learn Every Aspect of Entrepreneurship for Better Management down the road
The “lean business model” requires entrepreneurs to learn every aspect of their business. Even if you don´t actively engage in every aspect of your business, it is important to understand so that you can more effectively manage those areas of your business that you outsource or hire in the future.
Stay Open to Different Types of Markets
Chrissie and the Love is Project got their start selling wholesale to American Eagle and Whole Foods, but now sell direct to consumer. Stay open to different types of marketing schemes to attract different types of clients.
Importance of good photography/videography
You can do simple stuff on your own with your iPhone, but be willing to spend the money for campaigns and important advertising material that will captivate your potential clients.
Listen to the full interview with Chrissie Lam Here
I was a mad scientist, head down in the lab building the brand Change Creator, my second business. But this time around, there was something different.
My first business was a record label—AlterImage Recordings—and I had a co-founder. This time, I was flying solo.
During the first year, I didn’t come out of the “lab” too much using cool tools like Facebook Live. At some point during year two, I created an awkward monologue video that did a quick review of the first year.
A key takeaway I shared was that you have to be a little crazy to pursue a business on your own. But it’s the good kind of crazy. Meaning, you must be obsessed with what you’re doing because it’s meaningful to you. This will keep your motivation up and help you persist through the ups and downs.
There is no sense in going on doing something you hate, just so you can go on doing something you hate.
If I knew what I would have to do in the first year, I would have said, “You’re nuts.”
Now, we have released 26 editions of Change Creator Magazine and have interviewed people like Richard Branson, Seth Godin, Arianna Huffington, Jay Shetty and so many more. Why? Because I was obsessed and a little crazy.
Think you can take an idea and manifest into something real that actually is meaningful and impacts lives around the world?
Can you disrupt the norm and change the status-quo?
We all have the entrepreneurial fire in our belly, but is your fire lit?
Starting your own business is a very big undertaking, but at the same time, if you’re doing something meaningful, it’s exciting and fulfilling on many levels. You can earn good money, change people’s lives, create something from nothing, be your own boss and find true freedom.
Nine Indicators: How many define you?
You have to be willing to put yourself out there in the world and have people look at you like your nuts. When you have a big idea or vision but little to show for it because you’re just starting, many people will think your ideas are a bit out there. Especially if they have never started a company themselves.
But, it’s absolutely essential today to be willing to tell your story if you want to build a sustainable advantage with your impact business.
Being hungry for freedom—the power to do what you want when you want— is a great motivator. Nobody wants to wake up each day doing something they don’t like just to pay the bills. If you’re comfortable doing work as an employee from 9-5pm everyday, five days a week, then that’s okay, but starting a business is not for you.
Do you crave more purpose in your life? Have you ever sat with your thoughts and asked yourself, “What will I be doing in 10 years, and is my current path making me the person I want to be?” What will be your legacy?
Those thoughts are what lit my fire. There was no way I was satisfied working for someone else doing something that gave me no sense of fulfillment until I was 65 years old. I wanted to build a lifestyle where I woke up each day pursuing a mission, not a job. Do you relate to this?
Today, my work is a reflection of who I am because I took a serious self-inventory to start from the inside out. There’s nothing better than waking up each day doing something that aligns with who you are.
When you open up Facebook 10 times a day—you know you do—and cruise the newsfeed, do you ever see news from around the world that frustrated the hell out of you?
For example, I cannot stand the incredible amount of plastic pollution or deforestation taking place in the world. Maybe you have a soft spot for animals and believe in stopping factory farm abuse. Or the fact that over two billion people around the world don’t even have access to a toilet. You get the idea.
That frustration is a huge driving force that empowers entrepreneurs who innovate solutions to problems. When you start to bring a solution to life that helps address a major challenge like those, it’s darn fulfilling.
Comfortable with Risk
This has to be called out even though you’re aware of it already. You might not have a lot of money. You might have major school debt from buying a diploma. No matter what your situation is, you must plan for risk and be comfortable with taking risk. You cannot grow yourself or a business without it. One day, you’ll need to pop your cherry by taking a calculated risk that just completely fails. You will then find out that the sun will still rise the next day, and you will move forward on your mission wiser than before.
For example, Milton Hershey went bankrupt several times trying to make Hershey chocolate work. After the first or even second time, most people would have been shattered and given up. But not Milton. Nobody, banks or family, would give him money again. He didn’t care, he created a new plan, and you all know his chocolate very well today.
During the first year of Change Creator, I made many mistakes and took big risks that cost me thousands of dollars. For example, hiring a public relations team too early and hiring the wrong marketing support. Or doing heavy paid marketing without truly having product market fit yet. Live. Learn. Move on. If your risk is calculated, you won’t lose your shirt.
Willing to Work Very Hard
Don’t fool yourself. It’s a sh@! load of work, especially if you are a solo founder. Speaking from experience on both ends—co-founder and solo founder—I can tell you there is a major difference in the workload.
Being a bootstrapper, I learned graphic design, web development, video development and all the necessary skills to speed up my process—and to avoid hiring as much as possible, at first. If you’re willing to learn new skills, wake up at 4am to work before your day job and spend at least half the weekend working, you might be ready to make the push.
Personally, when my startup was a side-hustle, I would wake up at 4am in the morning to give myself a few hours before I had to catch a train from Philadelphia to New York at 7:24am. I did that for at least five years. Now, with Change Creator as my sole work, I wake up everyday at 5:30am and work until about 3-4pm. On weekends I worked from 7am until about 12pm or 1pm. I still do today. But I spend the second half of those days with family, working out, or hiking. Living the other part of my life.
Remember, the number of hours doing work is not what matters, the type of work and quality of it does.
An important lesson and tip is to schedule your success. Being successful is more than just work. I talk about that in more depth on Influencive right here.
Let’s keep this simple, you don’t have to be rich, but you need to know how to manage your money if you want to survive entrepreneurship. This means being organized and doing regular audits of your spending. Know where your money is going and what you can afford to spend. There is nothing more stressful and destructive than lack of financial management.
Around the first of each month, I review all my finances using a side-by-side view of the previous month and current month to see which revenue streams are growing and which are not. This includes an assessment of all established recurring expenses. You can ask me my total net-worth any time and I know the answer, you should too.
Aside from developing yourself into an authority in your field, you must remember that you are not an employee playing a single role when you start a business. You are playing every role. Passion is important, but having the appropriate skills to manage all the various aspects is important as well.
They can be learned or delegated. When you just start out, you probably don’t want to delegate too much because it costs money. Be realistic about your strengths and weaknesses. You likely have some learning to do.
I’ve had over 18 years of professional experience doing marketing, account management, or managing teams. But I had to take on learning new skills like graphic design, basic web development, and video development. There’s nothing to be afraid of, and Youtube has a video for everything.
If you want to know some of the key tools I recommend for bootstrapping, I share them here.
Do you understand leadership? What makes a good leader and what is required? As CEO, you must have a vision and be capable of strategizing solutions for fulfilling the vision. Why unreasonable leadership? Because if you have a vision that is big, people will tell you you’re crazy. This is what people said about flying to the moon or creating automated chefs and cars. But the leaders were unreasonable and that is why progress happens.
George Brendard Shaw, known for radical rationalism, wrote novels and plays in the late 1800s and was known to use them as an outlet for attacking social hypocrisy. A famous quote by Shaw said,
“The reasonable man adapts himself to the world: the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore, all progress depends on the unreasonable man.”
At some point, you will hire contractors and then full-time employees. They follow your lead, and you need to be ready to be at the helm and intelligently lead the charge. Tactics and strategy will change and pivot, but you must stick to your vision no matter how unreasonable it may seem to others.
Starting a new business could be the most exciting and rewarding experience of your life if your fire is lit and you’re ready to make the leap. There are many fears and factors that hold people back from even starting—said to be the toughest part of all. You just need to be in the right mindset to overcome the fears and be persistent.
In my humble opinion, we can all do it, and if you reviewed the 9 signs I shared above and feel that most or even all describe you, your fire is lit and you’re ready to go.
This article was written by Tobias Roberts and was originallypublished in Change Creator Magazine.
People in business know the importance of branding. Besides setting you apart from competitors, a brand can also promote company recognition and represents the unique promise you bring to your customers. From traditional logos and symbols, to video-based outreach on social media, and even to the unique customer service you provide, branding certainly transcends most aspects of how businesses function.
Mona Amodeo, founder and president of the IDG group, believes that building a brand that matters should go beyond simply improving the profit margins of your company. Instead of employing and promoting your brand for short-term business visions and purposes, Mona believes that successful brand development can positively impact your customers, employees, the community where your business works, and the wider world.
Who is Mona Amodeo?
Mona has a Ph.D. in Organization Development and Change, and works with several companies and organizations promoting Branding from the Core®, a multi-disciplinary approach to strategic brand development. She also is involved in helping businesses to become more engaged with their local communities and develop sustainable business operations while making corporate social responsibility an elemental aspect of business identity.
After working as part of a team at the University of West Florida making documentary films to tell the stories of people around the world, Mona gradually transitioned into finding ways to help businesses tell their stories as well. “I became interested in the power of organizations to be a force in the world in a positive way,” says Mona. She wanted to help organizations matter more to the people who work for them, the communities they are in, and the wider world, and believed that brands had the unique ability to do just that.
The Changing Face of Branding
“Everybody has a different idea of what a brand is,” Mona clarifies. “For me, a brand is simply the associations people make when they hear the name (of a business), and the meaning that people associate with that.” In a sense, then, branding is the intentional process of creating meaning.
A couple decades ago, manufacturing processes all made similar products. The early pioneers in the industry of branding relied on psychology and the need to create an identity to convince customers that their products were different. The history of branding, then, is closely associated with discovering how to tap into that human need to belong and to identify with something.
Over the years, the underlying principles behind the beginnings of the process of branding remain very similar. However, how we use those principles and what people are looking to identify with, is shifting as our society changes.
“I believe that we can use this idea of wanting to belong and of wanting to be a part of something to engage people in a different way of living,” Mona states. She goes on to say that business should utilize the desire for people to belong “to connect people to things that matter to them and to things that will leave the world a little bit better.”
Changing Consumer Demand
Branding is usually seen from a marketing standpoint. We want people to recognize the product or service that our company offers in order to develop a loyal customer base. However, Mona believes that people today are less interested in the sometimes trifling product differentiation and much more eager to attach their loyalties to businesses that tap into their wider sense of identity and purpose.
“With products and services,” Mona admits, “there is such parity…and very little real difference.” Without undermining the importance of product quality, she believes that people want to follow and be a part of things that they identify with and that reflect positively on that identity.
Businesses that promote the ideas of purpose and responsibility (both environmentally and socially) not as an add-on corporate social responsibility gesture, but as foundational to who they are and how they operate, will be able to capture the growing consumer demand for businesses that offer products and services that reinforce who they area.
If 86 percent of Americans will support a brand that advocates for a cause they believe in, companies that don’t actively attempt to tap into their customer´s needs for identity and purpose, might be losing out on business.
Mona says that the first step in building a brand that matters to potential customers is through helping leadership teams at different businesses identify their values and discover what their story is. “Every organization has to answer these questions,” Mona believes. “Who are you and why should I care?” The answers to these questions help consumers discover who you are, what you believe in as a company, and what you can offer that sets your business apart.
From a branding perspective, the most important element is not just how we tell our stories, but what those stories actually are. The difference that we want to make in our communities and in the world is what people want to be a part of in today´s society.
By aligning your business plan with a branding strategy that taps into the need for identification and purpose, businesses can build a loyal customer following.
“Creating a tribe of people who want to be a part of your business because it represents something they believe in is essential,” Mona states. “Branding is the vehicle for building meaning and for connecting people (as your most valuable resource) to create your most valuable asset (your business´s reputation).”
Shifting Business Culture
The process of creating a brand that matters, both to employees, customers, and the wider world, begins with businesses and organizations that are willing to change their company culture. “I like to think of culture as the operating system of a company,” Mona says. “It is what holds everything together. If that operating system is not correct, then there is nothing that will hold the system together.”
Actively changing a business culture begins with what Mona calls an identity narrative, which is what the organization says to itself.
“It is important for leaders to understand that this identity narrative cannot be forced down on people, but is rather created through dialogue.”
Having people in your company critically reflecting on their values, how those values affect their behavior, and what sets them apart from their competitors has to live in the hearts of the people who are a part of the organization. This is what we call Digital Conversations™️ here at Change Creator.
“A brand story is a co-creation,” Mona recognizes. “It is what you say to the world and what the world says about you. You have to be clear about where you want to go…and then translate that story and create a performance culture that reflects that narrative.”
Convincing Versus Connecting
Whereas traditional branding focused on convincing consumers that your product or service was superior to those of your competitors, this new type of branding that Mona talks about is more focused on connecting on a deep level with a customer base that shares vision, purpose, and identity that your brand communicates.
The best way to connect with customers is through the authenticity of the story that you tell to the marketplace. “You create authenticity by engaging people inside your organization with this narrative,” Mona says, “and connecting them to this sense of purpose and why we´re all here.” She goes on to say that collective purpose creates a level of performance that cannot be forged, and this in turn creates genuine motivation for people in your company to be a part of what the brand is attempting to communicate.
“When you tap into the inner sense of people´s desire to do something that matters…to have an impact beyond the moment, that’s a whole different level,” Mona believes. “When you tap into that, when you present people with challenges, innovation arises.”
A Few Important Business Lessons from this New Concept of Branding
Branding has a tremendous power to create connections because it is focused on connecting with people´s innermost sense of self. Through engaging in the process of changing the culture and forging a brand that matters, a business can not only prosper but also make powerful differences in the world. Below are a few key business insights that arise from the challenge of taking your concept of branding beyond a hip company name or a colorful logo.
Consumer demand is changing due to the interconnectedness of our digital world. Now more than ever people are demanding that businesses act ethically, and people are much more willing to show loyalty to a company that shares a purpose and an identity that they can connect with.
Branding is a vehicle to create a reputation. Instead of simply adding corporate social responsibility as an add-on, making it a foundational aspect of your business culture will allow your authenticity to shine through so that customers can connect with who you are and what your business stands for.
Creating a brand that matters and that is authentic begins with fundamentally changing company culture. This cannot be a top-down process, but rather has to be forged from internal dialogues that engage people who belong to the organization.
Creating a brand that matters is more about connecting with people who interact with your business than convincing them to purchase what you have to offer. From an employee standpoint, connections on a deep level allow innovation to arise. From a customer perspective, connections allow them to allow your company to forge a part of their identity.
Are you feeling stuck, constantly comparing yourself to the competition, wondering why they seem to be doing so much better than you?
Are you lying awake at night wondering where your next customer is coming from or how you’re going to survive the market uncertainty the current political climate is creating?
Has the constant pressure to create more content and get more social media engagement left you feeling burnt out?
These might seem like perfectly natural obstacles to overcome in the daily life of an entrepreneur, and many business owners accept these worries and pressures as one of the sacrifices they have to make to live the entrepreneurial life they dream of.
However, with the right marketing strategy driving your impact brand, these concerns can be lifted. you can feel confident about where your next customer is coming from. When you’re marketing strategically, you’re working proactively instead of reactively, so your business growth is consistent and not tied to the number of hours you put in.
When you take a strategic approach you can weather the market storms, stay adaptable and be confident that you’ll survive. Social media and content creation feel like an effective tool for business growth, not another draining chore or obligation.
Most social entrepreneurs know they need a marketing strategy, but get so busy with the tactics that they lose sight of their goals and quickly get overwhelmed. If this picture of the calm, confident and in control business owner feels a million miles away from where you are right now, it might be time to take another look at your strategy.
As a marketing strategist and business mentor, I’ve coached many entrepreneurs through this overwhelm and there are some common mistakes I’ve observed which often hold people back from a strategy that truly serves them:
#1 You’re overwhelmed and distracted by too many different techniques.
There are so many different techniques to raise brand awareness, grow your audience and convert them into customers – from blogging to social media, email marketing, pay-per-click ads and more.
As impact business owners we’re lucky to have the opportunity to connect with collaborators and customers all around the world (often for free!) thanks to the internet. But the pressure to be “always on” across all the platforms can leave us feeling overwhelmed.
There are algorithm changes to keep up with, content to create and new platforms to master. When you’re feeling overwhelmed and getting distracted by all the different things you could be doing, you end up falling into the trap of “churn and burn” marketing – trying (and often ditching) different techniques instead of doubling down, building on what works for you and growing momentum long term.
No technique will work in isolation. Nobody is going to see a post about your product on Instagram and purchase it then and there, unless they already know, like and trust you.
Without a strategically planned customer journey which builds and nurtures that relationship sitting behind the techniques you’re using, your marketing will be less effective.
It’s knowing the right sequence these techniques should be implemented – and how to tackle them with confidence – that allows you to grow your business in a meaningful way.
That’s what a marketing strategy will achieve for you, but too many entrepreneurs confuse their marketing plan (the list of techniques and content to try next) with a strategy, leaving them confused and overwhelmed.
#2 You’re on too many platforms.
You’re feeling the pressure to be on all the different social platforms at once. They all work differently and you don’t fully understand what you’re doing, so growth is slow and you feel guilty for not spending enough time creating content and engaging online – even though you feel like you live on social media!
You know you’d probably get better results if you focused on one platform and learn how to use it properly and invested your time in creating quality content and building your audience there – but you don’t know which one to choose what’s right for your brand and you’re scared of getting it wrong.
The best place to start is with your ideal customer – what problem do you solve for them? What content can you create to help them? Where are they hanging out online and likely to see that content?
Your marketing strategy should include a detailed customer profile to help you make strategic decisions about what content to create and where to post it.
Plus your strategy will save you time by identifying ways you can repurpose content across platforms (when you choose to expand your online presence) to make your social media marketing easier and more impactful.
#3 You’re stuck in the DIY danger zone.
In the past, marketing meant buying expensive advertising space to raise brand awareness. With the rise of the internet, the cost of growing a brand has fallen and it has never been cheaper to market yourself.
Anyone can start an email list, blog or social media account and business owners can learn how to market their own brand – often for free, with the help of online experts sharing their tips in blogs and podcasts.
But with so much advice out there, it can be hard to know who to follow and where to turn, and the accessibility of these platforms means everyone else is doing it too. When you rely purely on free courses, mini training and sporadic information from a range of online experts, you end up piecing together parts from everyone else’s strategies.
In the short term these techniques might work, but without a targeted strategy of your own underpinning what you’re doing, your marketing won’t be as effective as it could be and you’ll struggle to stand out from the crowd.
Hiring an expert and developing your own strategy will give you access to a tailored plan designed with your business goals in mind and created for your ideal customer – making your marketing more effective and increasing your return on investment.
This will actually save you time and it’ll give you a competitive advantage over everyone else who’s doing marketing DIY!
#4 You’ve been given bad advice.
The internet is full of experts and “gurus” dishing out advice in an unregulated space. Anyone can call themselves a marketer or a strategy expert, but there’s still so much confusion about what a strategy really is that often these “experts” are doing more harm than good.
The latest trend seems to be “do as I did” techniques, where someone who has set up a business for themselves gives you the “exact blueprint” so you can replicate their success.
When choosing a marketing strategist to work with, look for someone who has successfully implemented tailored strategies time and again for different brands, products, and services in different niches. Your strategy needs to be as unique as your business – a cookie-cutter approach isn’t going to work.
If you’re following someone who’s track record of success is entirely based on their own business growth, you’re likely to fall for the same mistakes they did at the start because nobody begins with a watertight strategy in place.
Without a background in strategic marketing, it’s hard to foresee the pitfalls of different techniques and remove the trial and error from your approach.
This is the real value a professional strategist can bring, so choose who to work with care and always ask about their track record with products or services in your niche.
Is it time to revisit your marketing strategy?
If one or more of the roadblocks above resonated with you, it might be time to revisit your marketing strategy. Give yourself some time to do this without the daily distractions that come from working in your business, so you can reflect and think long term.
Start by revisiting the problem you solve for your customers, the impact you make and the big vision you want to achieve – this should act as your North Star, and your marketing strategy should become the roadmap for where you want to go.
As people create blogs pages and other websites, their main focus is always to become the leading site in the organic searches. Being in the first three on every search engine gives you an upper hand of being picked by the users. Many users tend to choose from the top just because they believe that no one would ever get to the top without giving a quality answer. These assumptions are correct since organic ranking does not happen until someone shows consistent adherence to the set guidelines.
The best way to climb the ladder of ranking in a relaxed and sure way is through Search Engine Optimization. SEO has analyzed the requirements of search engines such as Google as these engines do not interpret the content as a human being regardless of how intelligent they are. SEO guides one on the different ways to optimize their websites to ensure they correspond to Google’s preferences.
SEO myths from other startups
Without shared knowledge on SEO, a beginner might get lost and assume that SEO is just but a fluff. There are debunking excuses that might mislead you before you even begin. Some of them are;
SEO is very expensive. If you don’t have excess money to use on a professional, avoid SEO like the plague.
My take- if you want to take the smallest of the risks to get the best B2B marketing channels, try SEO. You don’t need to spend money on agencies and other consultant firms on how to optimize your website. All you need to do is have some patience and focus as you execute the process.
It is competitive. This is a place for no commoners; the big fishes have already occupied the top positions.
My take- the main question is; what is not competitive in business? SEO is very competitive. The good news is, you can start any time since search engines don’t offer priorities on who appeared first. Don’t wait too long for your competition to move to the next level. Start as early as now.
You will wait forever to get results. Never invest in SEO because, by the time you get leads, your competitors will be many steps ahead of you.
My take- in every field, there is always a more comfortable escape plan. However, you are already on low budget negotiating on how to spend your last dime on optimization. Do you have to pay channels like PPC to get free leads? In the real sense, these leads do not last as they get forced in your site. Paying channels for startups can be quite expensive as the moment you fail to pay them; the leads disappear to the thin air. If you are patient enough to follow SEO, you will start seeing results after 4 to 6 months.
Steps to SEO Success for a Startup
Before you immense your efforts and focus on SEO, you need to define several things first. These are;
1. Have your desired goals in place.
In this, you need to clarify on ways you want your business to operate and how you wish to get your money. Setting goals are essential as one has something to follow even in situations they feel they don’t have to.
2. Have some measurement strategies.
This depends on the foundation you want to lay. An example has Google analytics, mapping out different metrics, automating reports, and having conversion tracks. Always use keyword ranking tracker to check your website’s rating on SERPs.
3. Crawl your website.
These are tools that crawl your site to check for any technical errors. Since a starter has a small site, this might take a brief period to execute. During this process, one corrects errors such as duplicate content, improper redirects, 404 pages, broken links, load time, and many more.
4. Check SEO On-Page Optimization.
The optimization is all about using the right keywords to make a buyer’s journey quite simple. The remaining checklists are title tags, Meta descriptions, content, URL structure, internal links, and image optimizations.
5. Stay updated on SEO or Google trends.
In case an update happens, you should always have a way to get the news way before it is too late. Nevertheless, you can get updated by different pages such as Search Engine Land, or SEMrush.
You might also want to read our article, Keeping Up with Google that provides some insights on one of the latest major updates to Google and how that can impact you and your organic traffic growth.
SEO is can be overwhelming, especially if one starts with less money. However, never make attempts to pay for cheap services just because you want quick results. The best way is to play low in your league since there is no way in this world you can wake up and play with Goliaths who’ve been in the market way before you. It is all about patience and focus.
If you’re author/activist/environmentalist and entrepreneur Billy Parish, the answer was as crystal clear and refreshing as the invigorating Himalayan air he was breathing at that most unexpected moment of epiphany.
Smart brands have known for some time that investing in organic traffic is the best kind of traffic, but when Google keeps changing the rules, how do you keep up?
It shouldn’t matter how or when Google changes the rules.
If you have a solid business, a solid vision and can communicate that clearly to your customers online, you’ll always be ahead of those who focus on SEO strategies and tactics anyway.
Keeping up with Google…
I have to confess. I am a total SEO nerd.
It wasn’t always like this. I used to be part of the masses that hoped that just writing good content would be enough for Google.
This year (if you don’t know already) Google put out another major update to their algorithm. It was an exciting and scary time for many of my clients.
Most of my clients saw huge shifts in their organic traffic just from this one update. There were not too many sites that were completely immune.
Some saw huge shifts upwards, with a sudden spike up in traffic and a few of my clients saw a sudden drop in traffic too.
Either way, it shook things up.
Google’s mission is clear — they want to provide the highest quality, most authoritative search results for its users and remain the leading search engine provider for many decades.
While SEO nerds like me can really get into the nitty-gritty of tactics and strategies to improve SEO, everything from placement of keywords in titles, to the length of meta descriptions, and schema pro, there’s so much more to know about online organic growth than that.
If you can step away from the tactics and strategies for a moment, and look at Google’s bigger mission and even larger goal for their audiences, you can tap into the most powerful way to grow your own business online.
Google’s Major Shift Towards Authority: What You Need to Know
This year Google had a huge update this summer that was geared towards money, lifestyle, and health websites, but in turn, will soon have an effect on many other genres of websites too (so pay attention).
Why YMYL (Your Money Your Life) Sites First?
In Google’s major shift to giving its users the most authoritative, trustworthy content available online, they decided to start with two major areas of websites to target in this latest major update this summer. We make important consumer and health decisions all the time online and Google wants to provide the most relevant, trusted sites to our inquiries.
Any site that could potentially impact your health, finances or safety of users could be under the YMYL umbrella and would have been impacted by Google’s latest major update.
If you have an e-commerce store for example, that sells health supplements, you would have definitely seen a shift in your organic traffic (good or bad).
Many sites saw a big shift upwards in organic traffic with this update, but what made that happen?
In this discussion on a Google forum, nikant25 provides the best answer to what this update means for the YMYL sites. Let’s discuss these updated requirements of EAT and what Google now looks for on your website.
The new requirements of Google search: Expertise, Authoritativeness, Trustworthiness (EAT)
Expertise: Gone are the times that anyone can publish a bunch of content and call themselves an ‘expert’, especially if they are asking their audience and viewers to buy something, make a health-related decision, or impact an important part of our lives. Expertise seems to be an earned right according to Google with this update, which means, you must have some ‘outsider’ expertise as well. If your only expertise resides within the confines of your website, good luck — you won’t rank as a true web expert and Google will no longer favor you with more traffic.
Authoritativeness: This is almost one step above expertise. Do people and readers view you as an authority on the subject matter of your site? If not, you are going to lose marks in this category.
Trustworthiness: Reputation is now a quality that every business and website owner must have. If your site isn’t giving users a valuable, authentic experience, Google is going to find a way to penalize you. How do you build trust online? If you are selling a product, you must be transparent and clear that you are selling a product, with honest reviews and write-ups. The main author or editor of the site must also have a trustworthy reputation online.
Here are some other things to consider for Google’s new EAT algorithm to work for your website:
Do you have an authoritative and clear ‘about us’ page that tells the reader who you are, why you are an authority in this space, and what your business mission is?
Do every page, blog post, and image serve a clear purpose?
Can you find out information about who you are, what your company does outside of your website?
Is your content high-quality?
Your titles should be descriptive and clearly define what each page, post, topic, or item is for the reader/buyer.
Can your users easily identify and get to know the owner of the website as well as the contributors?
Can you easily find products, product descriptions, and find information on each product in a clear, logical way?
We’re just scratching the surface here but you get the point — Google is working hard to give its users better, higher quality search results.
The Requirements of EAT — Time to Up Our Authenticity
Whether you have an e-commerce website selling ethical clothing, or an affiliate site selling baby products, Google is not going to give anyone traffic unless you are authentic.
The purpose of your website must be clear for the readers and buyers.
Gone are the days of shady SEO tactics, weak backlinks, or publishing reams of weak keyword-stuffed content. (Those days have been gone for a while.)
You don’t have to be an SEO nerd or expert like me to reap the benefits of Google’s new algorithm either. If your business has a clear purpose, is authentic, and its authors continue to build authority and trust, both on the site and outside the website, you are ahead of the game.
What is the Purpose of a Website?
Google has expanded on its definition of the purpose of a website:
“Most pages are created to be helpful for users, thus having a beneficial purpose.”
This purpose has shifted from the previous definition which included, “to entertain” as one of a website’s mandates. With this one shift in terminology, Google is signaling to anyone who has a website that authority online is key. Websites can no longer just ‘be’, they have to have a clear purpose for your audience.
Some of the strategic ways to improve and show Google that your website has a strong purpose is to guide writers through your site logically. Some websites have a ‘start here’ page, but having clear categories, pages, and user flow is key to showing your audience (and Google) your site has a purpose.
The key here is the purpose. How can your website have a clear purpose if your business doesn’t?
In Google’s shift towards EAT, they are forcing businesses and online companies that do not have a clear value proposition or purpose to reevaluate and re-communicate their offerings online. Without clarity and focus, you don’t have a business, and you certainly don’t have an authoritative website.
Before you evaluate your website, first think about your business.
Is your mission clear?
Can you communicate what you do clearly to your customers?
If not, start with that. Your website should be an extension of the authority and mission of your company.
Building Authority Isn’t a One and Done Solution
So now what?
You’re either completely encouraged by this article or you’re saying, ‘oh shit’ that’s why my traffic has dropped lately.
If you find yourself in either camp, I have some advice for you:
Now is not the time to give up.
Authority is an ongoing project for any business. You can’t just pop up some content, put out a few social media posts and call it a day.
Smart businesses use every opportunity to build brand authority and trust.
They tell great stories. They make their customers the heroes of their brand. And they take care of their clients — you know like any business should do, offline or online.
Today’s modern world cannot give up old-fashioned good business sense.
Build a brand, not just a website and you’ll always be ahead of those who don’t.
#LOVEISPROJECT CONNECTS SOCIALLY CONSCIOUS CONSUMERS ACROSS THE WORLD WITH A MESSAGE OF LOVE.
It grew out of a simple desire to find out what love means to people around the world, and how despite circumstance or history, love unites us all.
During founder Chrissie Lam’s extensive travels around the world, she heard the needs of local communities and saw an opportunity to partner with female artisans to create beautiful jewelry while empowering them and their families.
Many artisan groups create beautiful products but are unable to realize the potential size of their market because of a lack of resources, trend-right products, marketing knowledge, industry connections, and lack of funds which hinder artisans’ abilities to successfully scale a business. Having worked in fashion for over a decade, Chrissie understands the need to bring unique products to consumers with an appetite for new and interesting things.
A growing group of socially conscious consumers is looking for brands with social impact and inspiring stories. The #LOVEISPROJECT solves the problem of availability of socially conscious merchandise for consumers by generating creative, inspiring concepts to help create a mass market for beautiful products with high growth potential.
Chrissie found artisans – with local NGOs and social enterprises to manage productions and QC. Each bracelet designed is unique to each country’s culture and resources, while each collection evolves the concept of love.
The narrative continues from country to country, creating an ethical supply chain of economical empowerment while inspiring and connecting people with a message of LOVE.
Looking for a new revenue stream? Here are some ideas to get you thinking about building a 7-figure business with some ways you can start right away. Here’s how to scale through diversification in any business!
Do you ever wonder how all those successful solopreneurs turned their idea into a 7-figure business in just a few years?
You hear about them all the time. You get in your car and turn on your educational podcast du jour. The usual suspects: Entrepreneur on Fire, Online Marketing Made Easy, Perpetual Traffic. Each one packed with more useful content than the next.
And then you hear those words for the hundredth time: “I created a 7-figure business” and the question bounces around in your brain: “But how is that possible?”
Even knowing what you know about creating online courses and online marketing in general, it seems daunting, even impossible, to think that your quasi-successful $20,000 launch could ever turn into a 7-figure business. You must be missing something.
Multiple Revenue Sources
The secret that everyone assumes you know, but nobody actually says out loud is the fact that successful entrepreneurs are not just talking about the sales from their last launch. They are telling you what their income was, over time, from multiple different sources.
Some of these revenue sources are not even available to you as a consumer, so why would they mention it if you are not in their target audience?
To illustrate the possibilities that diversification can open up in your business, let’s take a very common example.
Let’s take a business that creates online courses, and run it through the diversification mill.
Let’s see what we can come up with for other revenue sources:
Income Stream #1: Online Courses
This is your bread and butter. What you are known for and what you are most likely to mention in a podcast interview to get that regular entrepreneur to buy into.
Income Stream #2: Group Coaching as a supplement to the online course
Inevitably, people who take your courses will want more access to you. A great way to do this in a scalable way is to provide personal coaching help to a group through a Facebook Community.
Income Stream #3: 1×1 Coaching
This is a premium service only available to those who can afford it. Is it starting to add up for you yet?
Income Stream #4: Corporate Clients on a project basis
You have expertise that larger companies will want to take advantage of and have no interest in going the DIY route. Your time is very valuable (and scarce), so the markup for corporate clients has got to be worth the time.
Income Stream #5: Podcast sponsorships
Start a podcast to drive traffic to your content, and stay for the sponsorships. Once you reach a certain level of notoriety and popularity, sponsorships can be quite lucrative.
Income Stream #6: Affiliate marketing for other’s products
You have built an audience and a community that others will want to tap into. Turn your community into gold by offering to pitch other people’s products to your audience and get a cut of the sales.
Income Stream #7: Speaking engagements
As an expert, your presence and expertise is valuable at conferences and other audience engagements. Set yourself up as a speaker for hire and monetize your public appearances.
Income Stream #8: Book sales
You have a unique message that publishers would be very interested in propagating, especially if you have proven that your message resonates with large audiences. If you are a writer, this is a great way to generate passive income.
Income Stream #9: Merchandise
Got witty quotes, or catch phrases? Put them on a T-shirt or a baseball hat and sell them on your website.
Income Stream #10: Blog/Video monetization through ads
You are already blogging and/or creating videos as part of your outreach efforts. Turn on those ads and watch the revenue flow in.
And the list goes on.
The truth of the matter is that thinking of a single business model is only the beginning and it can open many doors.
As your business grows and you start to build a team, let them handle the heavy lifting so you can start thinking of your next revenue stream.
Are you ready to make your first 7-figures? Your move.
Fetzer Vineyards is a company with a legacy of firsts.
It was the first California wine company to operate on 100 percent renewable energy, back in 1999, and in 2005 it was the first winery to publicly report and verify its greenhouse gas emissions with The Climate Registry. Nine years later, Fetzer became the first certified zero-waste winery in the world.
And there’s more.
Fetzer was the only U.S. winery to be invited to present at the United Nations’ Paris Climate Talks in 2015, and in 2016 the company became the first winery in the U.S. to be certified Carbon Neutral by Natural Capital Partners.
Josh Prigge, Fetzer’s director of regenerative development, reiterates what his company’s founder, Barney Fetzer, believed — that “Earth-friendly practices yield better grapes.”
At a winery that started making wine with organic grapes in the 1980s and relied on solar energy as early as the 1990s, caring for the environment is bred into the culture.
Today the concept of regeneration is growing more and more important at Fetzer. Regeneration describes the goal of replenishing the Earth’s soil, forests, waters and other resources to rebuild healthy ecosystems that can sustain themselves.
“This is the natural evolution of our company,” Prigge says. “[Regeneration] is the natural next step.”
Regeneration was a new term Prigge brought to the wine company when he was hired two and half years ago but he admits that Fetzer had already been employing regenerative agriculture practices for years. Grazing sheep have been used to help control weeds while chickens devour destructive caterpillars in the vineyards. And literally tons of grape seeds, skins and stems are composted and reintroduced into the vineyard soil every year.
And Fetzer isn’t solely doing this because it’s “the right thing to do” the company knows regenerative agriculture can produce a better wine grape and their energy-reducing, closed-loop practices that sequester carbon help guarantee not just the sustainability of their fields but of their entire business.
Winemaking That Goes Beyond Sustainability
Fetzer is replacing the aeration ponds that have been used to treat the winery’s wastewater with a brand new BioFiltro BIDA® System developed in Chile. The system uses worms to help digest the waste matter. They’ll be the first winery in the U.S. to deploy this technology.
Hundreds of thousands of worms inside a cement box filled with organic filtration elements and beneficial bacteria will eat and digest the contaminants in Fetzer’s wastewater, killing essentially all harmful bacteria and readying the wastewater to be used for irrigation in the company’s organic vineyards.
This new process reduces the energy used in treating 15 million gallons of wastewater by 85 percent. And the worm castings, a nice way of saying worm poop, can actually be added to the winery’s compost piles to improve the quality of the soil throughout Fetzer’s vineyards.
Although it’s already carbon neutral, Fetzer has set a goal to become carbon positive by 2030. Prigge and his team are working with a local university to figure out how much carbon the company puts back into the soil over a given period of time so they can compare that number to their carbon emissions and work toward sequestering more carbon than they emit.
Fetzer has supported a series of offset projects to sequester carbon or cut emissions all over the world, including a landfill-gas project in Colombia and one in New York, and a reforestation project along the Mississippi River in North America.
Carbon Sequestration and Regeneration Enhance the Bottom Line and Could Reverse Climate Change
Prigge points out that practices like reducing energy consumption and reusing wastewater reduce operating costs. “Any time you can use nature as a solution,” Prigge says, “you’re going to save money.”
Fetzer became the first certified zero-waste wine company in the world in 2014 and diverted 99.1 percent of its waste from landfills in 2015 by reusing, recycling or composting its garbage. During the same year, the company was able to save $900,000 in operating costs, just through the zero-waste project.
“I think [regeneration] is completely possible and scalable for companies of all sizes,” Prigge says.
Today, more millennials than boomers are drinking wine in the United States, and, according to a 2015 Neilsen study, almost 75 percent of millennials said they would pay more for products of companies that were committed to environmental responsibility. But it’s not just millennials. The study showed that two-thirds of overall consumers say they are willing to pay more for sustainable brands — an 11 percent increase from the year before. In this environment, companies like Fetzer may have a head start on their competition.
But Fetzer is looking to gain more than a competitive advantage. “If all agricultural lands transitioned to regenerative agricultural practices,” Prigge says, “we could sequester more carbon in our soil than we emit globally, and we could reverse climate change.”
Company culture is one of those vital elements of your business reputation, one that has an impact on what sort of employees you can attract, all the way to defining how the public perceives you – because what happens inside your walls will ultimately reflect on your entire brand presentation. However, as employees as the very lifeblood of your brand, making sure that you carve the optimal company culture for them specifically is the key goal of many growing businesses.
With so many different companies, it’s only natural to have at least as many different methods to create the right culture for each of them. The following tips are considered the golden rules of building a stronger company culture no matter what industry you’re in or how many people work under your wing, so you can implement them and watch as your internal relationships bloom. Rest assured, that alone will be more than enough to skyrocket your success and help you stay relevant in your community and beyond.
1 – Focus on Purpose
If your business doesn’t have a well-defined mission, vision, and goals, you cannot expect your employees to feel as if there is a clear road ahead for them within your company. Younger generations, the ones that are overwhelmingly taking over the workforce today, put an immeasurable emphasis on the importance of purpose. If their job is at a standstill, or if their work has the potential of being that “stuck in a rut” career path, they will walk.
Make sure that your brand exudes purpose. If Apple is all about innovation, and if bright, fresh ideas are appreciated, then all the employees will know that no matter their department or field of work, innovation should be in their core. Help your employees truly understand and love your brand, because that is the only way you’ll ever find and hire talented candidates that will not just be there for the paycheck, but because they believe in your aspirations.
2 – Encourage Transparency
Another crucial segment of a healthy company culture includes how you communicate and what kinds of relationships you encourage within your office walls. If your C-level teams keep to themselves and never exchange ideas with anyone in the “lower” ranks, you will soon experience culture problems. People need to feel as if they belong, and communication is a key piece to that puzzle.
Instead of instilling fear, you should inspire open communication, idea exchanges, regular one-on-one meetings, anonymous surveys, and let your employees know that all of their input matters. When they see that you take their words to heart, they’ll feel even more inclined to find other ways to enhance your productivity and overall effectiveness.
3 – Reward and Incentivize
Remember that we are, after all, humans. We like praise, we enjoy rewards, and we appreciate when others value what we do and how we contribute. Sometimes, all it takes is an email which puts forward specific ways in which you believe an employee makes a difference for your business. Words do matter in your relationships, so even a few words at a corporate gathering couldn’t hurt.
However, financial incentives of various kids can also do some talking instead. Now, instead of an impersonal check or picking out a nightmare gift, you can hand out Christmas gift cards that will express your gratitude for you, loud and clear. They’ll be able to spend the money in a manner they see fit, and you can make sure the gesture is more personal and thought-through on your part. Of course, the occasional extra day off or a weekend spa getaway can also do the trick, although it’s reasonable to expect that only the more prosperous businesses can afford such extravagant gifts.
4 – Foster a Learning Work Environment
In addition to purpose, modern-day employees are eager to advance as people as well as professionals. They will not settle for a dead-end job where not only can they not get a promotion (not even a title), but they also cannot expect to learn anything new and master new skills that will help them in search for a better-suited position elsewhere. Some employees will inevitably outgrow their positions, but the least your company can do is ensure that there is a learning curve to challenge them on a regular basis.
Every single job description you post should emphasize that there will be opportunities to learn and move forward. Whether you choose webinars, office lectures, conference trips, or mentorships within your company structure, every employee should feel that they are more than welcome to expand on their current knowledge. Instead of unhealthy levels of competition, they should perceive their own limitations and boundaries as their greatest challenge to overcome.
5 – Ensure Work-Life Balance
Finally, contemporary businesses struggle with extremely high levels of burnout among their employees. This is a natural consequence of highly competitive work environments, where only those who stay late and deliver results ahead of time are rewarded and praised. Don’t let this become your culture-killer, because sleep-deprived, anxious, depressed, and unhealthy employees can hardly stay at the peak of their performance.
Offer competitive health packages, ones that include regular fitness activities, healthy lunches, and of course, let them know explicitly that staying after hours will not be rewarded, since they need to build their social lives, as well. Let them know their personal lives do come first, and the sheer act of respecting these boundaries will enforce a company culture that is far more trust-based.
It will always be challenging to strike the perfect balance for any company culture and establish leadership as well as guidance as your core principles of running a company. These tips will help you get there, just keep revising your methods and make sure that you always listen to what your employees need.
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Freshwater resources have diminished by 25%, oceanic dead zones have ballooned, and we’ve produced 6 billion tonnes of plastic waste since 2015. We buy a million plastic bottles every minute. The resulting fragments of waste have become suspended just beneath the ocean’s surface, where they’re consumed by marine creatures and, ultimately, people. So goes the lifecycle of toxic waste.
Humanity is perched somewhere between enlightenment and extinction, and we need thousands of eco-heroes to tilt us towards a more hope-filled future. Sarah Kauss is one such warrior, and her efforts to hack away at plastic usage has grown into a $100 million dollar business named S’well. You could call it a bottle production company, but if that were true, The Wall Street Journal and Forbes would be speaking about more interesting things. The truth? S’well is a movement, and the dying world is paying attention to it.
If you think a single trendy product can’t carry a revolution, you haven’t met Sarah Kauss. Her reusable bottle, which keeps drinks cold all day, has become an icon of social advocacy. She’s built her brand on the back of enough ecological causes to make UNICEF blanch. Its revenue brings clean water to the most vulnerable children in the world. It fights alongside cancer research groups, plants thousands of trees each year, and is leading humanity towards an AIDS-free day.
S’well is as famous for its causes as it is for refusing to seek out angel investors when it was still a sparkle in Sarah Kauss’ eye. She pumped $30,000 of her own money into the startup instead, then patiently nudged it towards success.
Her far-sightedness has become an inextricable a part of her brand, which is why S’well products aren’t bottles. They’re hydration accessories. S’well is not a business. It’s a picture of the future. Kauss is not a social entrepreneur. She’s a dreamer, and her goal is to displace 100 million bottles by 2020.
She’s no stranger to hopelessness, and that’s precisely the reason she’s managed to bring hope to a situation that seemed doomed from the start. Humanity’s race towards its own extinction has gathered enough inertia to carry it towards its own horrific end, so it needs leaders who’ve learned how to find light in dark places. “No matter how insurmountable the situation may seem,” says Kauss, “I’ve been there before and always come out okay.” She keeps a five-year diary to remind herself of what she’s managed to accomplish in the past. This leaks into her approach to social entrepreneurship, which must push against humankind’s distress until something breaks through.
The term “social entrepreneurship” was coined in the Eighties. It’s a new approach to societal distress, so every leader must invent their own business model. That many of the world’s most successful social entrepreneurs are potent branders is no coincidence—they must invent needs in a compelling way while simultaneously invigorating causes that have traditionally attracted indifference.
Sarah Kauss is no different.
As a Harvard Business School graduate, she’s refused to squeeze herself into old fashioned business models. “It might be good to say that I had a complex business plan with detailed financial goals, but I didn’t. I had a basic business plan with this amazing ambition to enhance the drinking experience in the hopes of ridding the world of plastic bottles.”
Sounds simple, but you can’t build an empire out of dreams.
The road towards a plastic-free future is a challenging one requiring slow, steady growth.
“I wanted to position S’well as a premium brand and not just a reusable water bottle. I set out to learn everything I could about retail and manufacturing to bring this idea for a new kind of reusable bottle to life. Then I hit the pavement hard, going to 17 trade shows my first year. But I didn’t say yes to every opportunity that came my way and took growth slowly. This was pivotal to creating and maintaining our brand positioning.”
The trendy S’well bottle is a miracle of industrial design, but it’s also every bit as elegant as the brand itself. You want to drink out of this bottle, but maybe its contents are infused with a little hope and a generous sprinkling of spirit.
If you had the entire world’s ear right now, what would you say about our plastic pollution problem?
“Action is our friend and together we can do more by doing less. Here’s what I mean: the problem of plastic can be overwhelming. We’re bombarded with stats and stories that can create paralysis because you just don’t know where to begin or believe that your individual actions can make a difference. But they can. If we can find ways to simplify the challenge and offer easy solutions to act on, we’ll be able to get more people on board. That’s what we’re doing with the Million Bottle Project. We’re trying to educate people on the impact of single-use plastic bottles and the simple steps we all can take to reduce consumption.”
When you started S’well, how did you overcome the fear of losing it all?
“I so believed in the business I was creating and the good that S’well could do that it helped push any fear aside. I [also] had an amazing network of people who were willing to help me learn from their experience. This goodwill only made me that much more determined to be successful.”
What have been your biggest challenges growing S’well?
We had to on-board new people and new systems while trying to maintain quality and deliver an enormous amount of product around the world. We made it through the crises of unexpected growth and took a hard look at the business. We made some tough decisions about certain partnerships, created a few new relationships, further built our infrastructure, and basically recalibrated.”
You never raised funding. Why did you take that approach and how did you make it work?
“Using $30, 000 of my own funds was about being in control—growing the business the way I felt made the most sense for the brand. I wanted to keep the consumer at the forefront and not have to settle in an effort to grow the business quickly. Through patience, I was able to make it work. From the start, I wanted to position S’well as a premium brand and not just a reusable water bottle. It was—and is—a hydration accessory. This new concept took time to take off.”
What can we expect from S’well over the next year?
“We’ll be launching new accessories and some exciting new products, plus a range of fresh designs and collaborations. We’ll also be working with our partners, like UNICEF USA, RED, and Breast Cancer Research Foundation.”
Based on your experience and success as a true change creator, what key lessons would you share with a mentee?
“We all dream of growth, but if you don’t have the right people in place when it comes, it can be daunting. Having the right talent from the start will not only help you grow faster, but give you more agility when you’re punching above your weight.”
Speaking to Sarah Kauss is like getting a fresh injection of entrepreneurial spirituality.
She’s replacing industry analyses with determination, strategic triangles with optimism, and basic logic models with hope. That’s not to say she’s abandoned theoretical frameworks, only that she’s throwing all the optimism she has at them. And it’s working.
Stanford Business Review once called social entrepreneurship “a wave of creative destruction that remakes society.” When you’re dealing in drastic goals like AIDS and cancer, all the branding talent in the world can’t save you from compassion fatigue. Sarah Kauss seemed to understand that right from the start, so her secrets to success include patience and autonomy—and why shouldn’t they?
Entrepreneurship is about far more than just strategy. It is, at heart, a grand attempt at personal greatness, and Sarah Kauss is now one of America’s top female achievers. That means she has, indeed, achieved greatness. That greatness just happens to have pumped many of its profits back into the earth.
S’well’s core beliefs are “Sip well. Serve well. Sleep well.” That’s enough philosophy to turn a droll day into something brighter, and those tiny echoes of change are the figurative butterfly wings that cause hurricanes on the other side of the world.
The wind is already turning into a gale. Kauss’ 1 Million Bottle Project recently took the brand to the Sundance Film Festival, where 6,000 people took a pledge to abandon plastic bottles for a year. The product waltzed onto the pages of O Magazine, through Fashion Week, and into TED gift baskets.
It all began in 2001 when an unknown accountant named Sarah Kauss left for business school. That’s when the first plane hit the Twin Towers and the world became covered in thick, sticky dread.
The next year, Kauss opened her five-year journal and realized how far the world had come since September 11.
She had watched the world dig an impossible hope out of the ashes, which is why she can see beyond today’s smoggy horizon. And if Sarah can see the sun, maybe, just maybe, it’s because it is, indeed, rising.
Check out one of our favorite bottles!
Rapid-fire start-up growth isn’t the only way to broach social entrepreneurship. Sometimes, slow and steady builds the strongest brand.
Build a network of supporters who will fuel your determination during the first years of your business plan.
Simple business plans can build empires if you develop a powerful brand identity.
Sometimes preserving your vision is more important than preserving your bank account.
Premium brands take time to take off.
Prepare for growth by hiring people who can manage your mature business from the start.
Social causes require work, not complexity. People need small, achievable actions if they’re to be motivated to create change.
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Think about how much clothing you buy in just one year. What about the clothing that you throw away?
This is just your personal consumption.
Now imagine an entire throw-away industry–that’s the fashion industry that Rachel Faller wants to change with her zero-waste fashion approach.
When she sat down to talk to us here at Change Creator, we thought we’d learn more about the staggering statistics of waste in the clothing industry, but it didn’t take long for us to learn so much more from this passionate social entrepreneur.
1 – Changing the Culture of Disposability
Our society is too quick to buy and throw things away. The clothing industry has an entire culture of quick and cheap or what insiders coin fast-fashion. For decades, this increased level of consumerism, matched with a wasteful industry, has led to devastating consequences for the environment, on the products, and on people’s lives, Faller would argue.
Nobody is coming up with sustainable fashion solutions to address the magnitude of this problem on a global scale, but thanks, in part to social entrepreneurs like her, things are beginning to shift.
How does Faller ensure consumers buy her brand, not just her mission?
In terms of fashion, she recognizes that the consumer is not going to stand behind your brand based on your mission or values alone; you must have a product that people are going to want to buy. Clothes have to look good, be at a price point that makes sense to consumers, and be accessible.
Faller’s approach to creating her zero-waste fashion is to address all of these industry concerns. She’s not just creating social change; she’s running a fashion business. We asked her what some of the challenges were in expanding her zero-waste fashion business, tonlé, and reaching more consumers, and she explained,
“The biggest challenge with ethical fashion today is that it’s just not as accessible.”
There are not enough ethical brands out there to meet the needs of consumers. “The way the industry is currently,” she says, “if you want to invest in ethical fashion, but have a party on Friday night, you probably won’t be able to find anything.”
Time is another factor that deters consumers from investing in ethical clothing as demands for new clothes increases each season with brands such as H&M, and Zara delivering. “What used to take the fashion industry 16 months to produce, from concept to clothing in the marketplace, now takes some brands one month,” Faller says. Consumers are demanding more options, lower prices, with little to no waiting times for the latest fashions, and the big brands are giving them what they want–at all costs.
“If we can get our clothes into those major retailers, then consumers are more likely to purchase our clothes. We don’t just need to get our clothes out there, we need consumers to demand ethical clothing, and we need to make clothes comparable in style and price” Faller argues.
There needs to be a demand for our clothing, but we also need to create that demand for ethical clothing through awareness or consumer protest. “Ultimately, people buy things because they like them. Once people come to our store or our website, if we don’t have merchandise that people will like, they won’t buy from us,” Faller explains.
2 – It’s Not Just About Awareness
An activist from a young age, Faller was exposed to world poverty issues early in life which implanted that inner motivation to make the world a better place.
“I knew what I wanted to contribute to in the world. In some way, these lessons from my travel stayed with me from a young age.”
However, not every volunteer opportunity is a good one. Looking back, it pains her to consider that some of these volunteer trips to help communities may actually have done more harm than good. Her advice: “Be mindful on how you try to change the world. It’s not just about travelling and volunteering abroad. Do your research before you decide to help other communities abroad.”
If you are taking away jobs from locals, for example, you are doing more harm than good in that community. “When vulnerable children, for example, are exposed to the revolving doors of help and volunteers, this can have damaging effects” Faller explains.
Being an agent for change means working within these communities, creating the right opportunities for people and that begins with education. Faller says it best:
“I know things can be different. I know it’s possible, especially if you immerse yourself in the communities that are doing all the work and collaborate with them.”
3 – Collaborating with Communities: A Change Creator Example: Dr. Gavin Armstrong
When Gavin decided to start marketing and selling his Lucky Iron Fish to help address the iron deficiencies in Cambodia, he knew he’d have to learn about the people in that country and work with them if his product was going to sell.
Some of these lessons came the hard way, as you can read about in Issue #6 of Change Creator Magazine. After so much research, working with community groups in Cambodia, Gavin thought he could simply travel around the country selling his Lucky Iron Fish, but this approach didn’t work. It wasn’t until he partnered with some local NGOs that already built trust and lines of communications with these communities that his sales began growing.
The lesson here: Work within–not just for–the communities you are serving. You are not going to solve a social problem and scale your business by creating a new social problem.
That level of trust needed to work within these communities does not happen overnight. Many so-called volunteer organizations do more harm than good. As Change Creators, we need to do our homework. Our solutions cannot tear apart a local economy, but rather, should work with them, building relationships to grow our companies.
4 – Outside of the Mainstream
Faller began to question her role in the fashion industry in college after a trip to Cambodia in 2007 exposed her to local artisan groups calling themselves fair-trade. She saw that there might be another way to pursue fashion and stay true to the core of her beliefs.
“I was hesitant to pursue a career in fashion because even at a young age, I didn’t want to participate in some of the practices in the industry,” she says. She studied textiles and fiber arts, but with more of a fine arts approach, by doing a lot of community artwork and working with a community art center.
Her passion for social justice did not go away, but neither did her love for making clothes. On her first trip to Cambodia, she learned about the fair-trade movement, especially as it related to textile and fashion.
She quickly got about to applying for the coveted Fulbright Scholarship so she could further study and learn from the fair-trade local artisan groups in Cambodia. It was not her intention at the time to start a clothing business, but as she grew to know the women in this local community and work with them to find suitable employment, it occurred to her: If not me, who?
Her intentions, at first, were to help a group of local women start their own ethical clothing company. But as this progressed, she quickly learned she could assist them more by giving them jobs and running the business herself. So, she did.
After returning from the yearlong year of research, she quickly moved on to starting her business. She was determined to take on two major issues: the wasteful clothing industry, and the lack of decent and safe opportunities for women in Cambodia.
5 – The Wasteful Clothing Industry
We asked Rachel about the environmental challenge she took on with her company, addressing the estimated 1 million tons of textile waste that dumped into landfills around the world each year, not to mention the factories that pollute 70% of China’s water.
As Faller says, “Garment factories waste a lot of fabric: minor imperfections, excess stock, and offcuts are all tossed out in the name of efficiency.”
This excessive waste is a major problem: That’s why tonlé has a zero-waste approach.
6 – Differentiating your brand: What makes Tonlé stand out?
Tonlé salvages scraps of material from offcuts that would otherwise be thrown away and repurposes them creatively to make new clothing: Say, a striped dress. They also use smaller scraps of material to make their own fabric yarn which is then weaved into bags, scarves, or even chunky jewellery.
Even after all this repurposing, there are still tiny scraps of fabric left which tonlé uses to create their own paper–leaving zero waste. This zero-waste approach is at the core of the brand, but it’s not Faller’s only focus.
Watch this video that details the process tonlé goes through to ensure zero waste in their clothing manufacturing:
7 – Giving Local Women Opportunities
Another key to Faller’s success and business model is providing a decent, safe working environment to local Cambodian women.
These women, who may have been working in unsafe situations as construction workers, factory workers, or simply unemployed would not have the livelihoods, fair, above-average pay and safe working conditions if it weren’t for tonlé.
Growing her business is not just about selling zero-waste clothing; it’s about changing the communities within Cambodia, one woman at a time.
As tonlé expands, so do opportunities, and that makes Rachel Faller a Change Creator to support.
Listen to our full interview with Rachel Faller
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Nine years ago, Dale Partridge was just like most entrepreneurs.
He was launching his first business–a software company that helped rock-climbing gyms set their routes–and learning how to grow it into something successful.
As the company grew, he picked up more knowledge about how to create and scale a business and he parlayed that experience into the next one, repeating the pattern as he built multiple companies from the ground up.
Today, he’s a serial entrepreneur with a total of 7 multi-million dollar businesses under his belt and the best-selling author of the book People Over Profit. His company, Sevenly, has raised more than $4,000,000 for charities all over the world.
But that was just the first act for Partridge. After all of his success, he decided to change directions–selling off the majority of his stake in each company and starting something new.
His latest venture, StartupCamp.com, teaches other entrepreneurs how to build the company of their dreams in tandem with living a balanced life. So far, more than 3,000 people have signed up for his online course and he’s hosted a myriad of in-person seminars and events.
In May, he’ll be releasing his second book, Launch Your Dream, A 30-day Plan For Turning Your Passion Into Your Profession.
We had the chance to interview Partridge to learn about his experience building multiple purpose-driven businesses and get his advice for other entrepreneurs hoping to do the same.
Slow march toward success
One of the biggest lessons Partridge has to share is about the importance of consistency over time.
There’s a great fallacy in entrepreneurship that says starting a company is the biggest portion of the battle. Often, we’re enthralled with the chase of building and creating something new. We spend months–or years–on analysis, prototypes, beta launches, and revisions.
Then the day comes to launch the business and it feels like all of the hard work is coming to a close. Unfortunately, this isn’t how it works. Starting a business is tough. But it’s just the beginning.
Although he’s now a well-known entrepreneur with a sizable online audience, Patridge wasn’t always an internet celebrity.
His journey started from the same humble beginnings as anyone else. But what he learned from the climb toward success is that it’s a slow and steady climb up the mountain.
“[When they first start their company], people think it’s the Superbowl,” says Patridge. “It’s really the first game of the season.”
The launch of any business is really a starting point. And what comes next is consistent work that builds the company bit by bit, one day at a time.
For his own brand and each of his businesses, consistency–not rapid pace–was the key to building an audience. “What people want is consistency,” he explains. “Consistency beats frequency any day.”
He cites his own experience over the past few years as a testament to consistent work and dogged attention to detail from the start. When he first launched his podcast in 2015, he had just over 1000 plays even with already having an established audience. Today, that first episode has been played more than 300,000 times.
“Remember that when you’ve built your audience two years from now, people are going to go back and listen to the first episode,” he says, explaining how the numbers grew as his brand and his reach grew over the years.
He encourages other entrepreneurs to find something they can do every day and then do it–every single day–hundreds of days in a row. For him, it has been podcasting and sharing something through his social channels. He’s remained committed to his specific frequency every day for years, and over time that work has paid off. Even his early work that didn’t garner much attention has now been seen by thousands or hundreds of thousands of people.
“That work now? Don’t skimp on it,” he says with emphasis.
Beyond his core businesses, Partridge has built a brand around his personality.
He’s known as an entrepreneur and a businessman, but also a self-styled relationship guru and life coach. A quick look at his Facebook or Instagram pages will show you that he isn’t all business.
“I spend a lot of my time talking about marriage, talking about parenting, talking about healthy families,” he explains. And it’s often not the type of fluffy life advice that you find online. Partridge has posted deep thoughts and insight on topics ranging from personal connections to masculinity, fatherhood, and cell-phone usage.
And people listen because of the trust he’s built with his audience.
That brand-building and trust have also helped propel his businesses forward. Talking about marriage and children helps him sell $1,000 courses about entrepreneurship.
He calls it “irony”, the ability for him to attract an audience based on the things he shares about his personal life who then become fans of his business advice. Since people are used to cut-throat business coaches with growth-at-all-costs mindsets, it makes sense that an entrepreneur as successful as him espousing the need for balance would stand out in a crowded market.
“Someone signs up on my Startupcamp course on how to start a business or buys one of my books because they trust me on my personal side,” he says. “It’s a great way to build trust in a natural way.”
Building that level of trust with our audience–where they’ll buy from you and rally around your brand and your product–doesn’t just come from consistency, though.
Authenticity is the other key component. People have to believe what you’re saying or, more important, believe that you believe what you’re saying in order to trust you. And in a world of “hackers” and “ninjas”, authenticity isn’t always the first thought in an entrepreneur’s mind.
“Genuineness and authenticity are not always as authentic as you hoped,” explains Partridge. He says that many entrepreneurs feign authenticity but it’s obvious when it’s not genuinely motivated by good intentions.
You can’t fake it, says Partridge. Not only will it ring hollow, but you’ll be called out for it. He points out that, “people are getting a pretty good BS meter on the internet.” And anyone who has seen an “expert” crash and burn online knows it’s true.
Authenticity isn’t just important–it’s the price for admission in most cases. The alternative is to be thrown to the wolves that lurk in comment sections and subreddits around the Internet.
Measuring your success
Partridge measures his success a bit differently. Business metrics–altogether–make up only half of the equation. The other half of success is how well you’re managing the rest of life.
“For me, I really try to look at success in a holistic way,” he explains about his personal measurement. “If you’re really successful at business but you’re not successful at home, then you’re not successful in my eyes.”
He offers a few questions to consider: “How are your relationships? How well are you stewarding your finances? How healthy are you? What do your children think about you? How’s your relationship with your spouse?”
This is how he sees his own version of success. But as a business coach through StartupCamp, it’s also how he sizes up other entrepreneurs. He tries to read between the lines to determine their true priorities and their reason for starting a business.
“You can really see that in people,” he says about talking with other entrepreneurs. “What are the priorities? Are their priorities money? Are they something else?”
Many entrepreneurs, he says, turn to business success as a way to mend what he calls “some kind of brokenness.”
“I can sense brokenness pretty quickly,” he says. “[Sometimes], people are trying to earn approval.”
And that’s maybe the greatest lesson to learn from Partridge’s success. It’s that people’s intention matters–that your intentions matter. And doing what’s right isn’t the same thing as doing what’s easy.
The right way is often the hard way
Partridge is quick to admit that adhering to principles of trust and integrity are not easy. This way of running a business is slower and more difficult.
“Integrity, maturity, putting people first–it comes at a cost,” he explains about his dedication to building a mission-driven business. “It’s not free. It’s not fast. It’s not easy. It’s always the harder way. It’s always the slower way. It’s always the more patient way.”
But even still, to him, doing things the right way–the way that emphasizes the value of people and the importance of balance–is worth the extra time, money, and effort. It’s a sacrifice he’s willing to make.
“I think for a long time, I was a knower instead of a learner–I had a sense of pride that came with me,” he explains about what led him to focus on his current business and the other aspects of his life. “I hurt a lot of people.”
This kind of self reflection can be difficult. Especially when it leads you to conclusions that may not be comfortable or convenient. That’s when things get can seem darkest–when you’re forced to choose between what you’ve been doing and what you know you should be doing.
Now, he’s cashed out of most of his businesses and is focused on running StartupCamp. He has more time for family and relationships and often shares his advice through social media on the importance of those ties. That’s the kind of advice he has for entrepreneurs now–it’s to focus on building something great only to the point where you don’t sacrifice the important things to achieve it.
“Spend time cultivating your relationships,” he tweeted in March. “The fruit of your life won’t be things you can keep in a storage unit.”
Although Partridge had accomplished so much by 28 years old, it was stepping away from all of that and making the hard choices about his priorities that led him to his happiest point.
It may not have been easy. But, for him, it was right.
Check out these articles for more helpful insights…
Change Creator sat down with Rick Alexander, the Head of Legal Policy at B Lab who is also an expert in Corporate Governance and Benefit Corporations; Author and Speaker on Governance Topics.
B Lab is a non profit organization dedicated to helping corporations and business owners shift their focus from profits to the impact that they have on their community as well as the planet.
This interview led us through the process of becoming a more socially-conscious business owner and being the change needed to redefine the way that the world conducts business.
For those of you who are interested in learning more about what it takes to make this change, here are the top 10 key takeaways and lessons that we received while speaking with Rick.
1) The Issue for Aspiring Social Entrepreneurs Lies in the Current Business Infrastructure
“We think that the current infrastructure much more encourages companies to put profit above purpose,” Rick told us early on in the interview.
The issue with the current business structure is that there is a heavy emphasis on the financial bottom line for business owners. The legal systems that are currently in place for businesses prioritize profit over societal impacts and also make it difficult for already established corporations to turn their attention over to these areas of focus.
Therefore, in order to change the way that we do business and to make it easier for corporations to focus on social good, we need to change the systems that we have in place.
2) Change Begins With the Legal System and Our Bottom Lines
At the moment, business is almost entirely focused on earning and infinite growth.
Our legal system encourages owners of corporations to set their sights on making more money while not putting equal importance on the ability of a company to make an impact on the world around them.
While capital is certainly an important part of running a business, purpose and impact should be a main focus as well.
How do we change the system so that we focus on all of these aspects? To make this change, we need to implement tools that make it so that the legal systems recognize the importance of focusing on profit, economic impact, and social impact.
3) What a Benefit Corporation Is
Simply put, a benefit corporation is a type of corporate entity that deviates from the normal profit-driven model and instead seeks to benefit all of those working within the company as well as the outside world.
In addition, benefit corporations are also focused on being more transparent and accountable when it comes to their business operations.
4) A Benefit Corporation Is Still a C Corp (With Some Minor Differences)
A C Corp is a term that refers to a tax status given by the U.S. government to corporate entities that are taxed separately from their owners. Although it may seem as though a benefit corporation would differ from this structure, a benefit corporation is still a C Corp. The only difference between the two is that a benefit corporation explicitly states their intent to focus on profit as well as their impact within and outside of their company.
5) It All Starts With a Provision
There are no special types of qualifications that a potential corporation needs to meet in order to become a benefit corporation. A corporation that wants to become a benefit corporation need not change anything about the traditional structure. All a socially conscious business owner needs to do in order to form a benefit corporation is to add a provision that states its intention to be a socially responsible benefit corporation. They are still technically a traditional corporation, however.
6) Not All Lawyers Are Knowledgeable Or Aware About Benefit Corporations
The term “benefit corporation” is a rather new term and is not known amongst all law practitioners. This can make it difficult for entrepreneurs who want to form a benefit corporation if they decide to seek help from a lawyer who is not well-versed in social entrepreneurship. “I think it’s important for these younger entrepreneurs to make sure they’re talking to the right people,” our founder Adam Force advises, “just because someone has a big resume doesn’t mean their knowledgeable in these new, upcoming approaches.”
Rick builds upon this piece advice by telling us that some law firms are skeptical about benefit corporations and will actually advise against forming these structures rather than helping them do it.
7) The Differences Between Running a Socially-Conscious LLC and a Benefit Corporation
For beginning entrepreneurs and for those who are running a small business, an LLC is the way to go according to Rick. LLC’s are much simpler to run and have less tax implications than a corporation.
Once an entrepreneur begins raising capital and expanding, their attention should turn their attention to building a corporation. However, both can be successfully run with a socially conscious structure.
B Lab gives both LLC’s and corporation’s the advice and language necessary to turn their business from one based on profit into one based on both profit and impact.
8) Altering Business Operations Means Altering Our Way of Thinking
If you approach anyone in business and begin talking to them about a business structure that may not make as much money but will make more impact, it is extremely likely that they will not take you seriously. In business, money is often the meter of success, not impact. In order to change the way that people conduct business, we need to alter first the way of thinking.
This is exactly what Rick seeks to achieve through his work at B Lab. Only through a better understanding of how impact can make a difference in business will people be able to choose change over profits.
9) The Impact Assessment Tool
The B Impact Assessment Tool is a tool that entrepreneurs can use to understand what it takes to be a socially responsible company. The tool takes entrepreneurs through an assessment that will determine their current social and environmental impact, gives them a comparison with thousands of other companies to see which areas they are struggling in and which they are excelling in, and helps them determine what they can do to improve their impact.
10) Rick’s Book, Benefit Corporation Law and Governance: Pursuing Profit With Purpose
Rick’s new book, Benefit Corporation Law and Governance: Pursuing Profit With Purpose, serves as a reminder to readers that it is important for business owners to focus on impact in order to improve the world around us and helps walk them through the process of using benefit corporations as a tool for social good. You can learn more about his book here.
Are you interested in forming your own benefit corporation? Are you an LLC owner who is trying to have a bigger impact on the world around you? If so, you can hear the full interview with Rick Alexander here and you can learn more about B Lab and their mission on their website.
The path you are on now is probably not the one you envisioned when you set out on your journey. Life has a way of leading you down unexpected avenues and, sometimes, far off the beaten track. And it is off one such beaten track, in the highlands of Vietnam, that Jake Orak found his calling.
One minute Jake was rubbing shoulders with chemists, thermodynamic experts, and mechanical engineers in the bustling metropolis of Minnesota (USA), and the next he was discussing business terms with the Hmong people up in the northern highlands of Vietnam. It’s not quite a tale of rags to riches, but Jake is on a mission to make the world a better place, one hand-made textile at a time.
Before Ethnotek: Craving Something More?
Jake studied product design at University and, after graduating, seemed destined for a flourishing career in the design industry. He landed a nice paying job at 3M, complete with a handful of perks and benefits. The folks at 3M set Jake to work designing interesting items such as stethoscopes, Iodine Surgical Applicators, and RFID Library Scanners.
Yet Jake was “craving something a bit more ‘lifestyle’,” something a little less corporate and more suitable to his personality. When he found an opportunity to intern with an international bag company, Jake knew he had to take that “leap of faith.” The challenge was that this internship would require him to move to Vietnam, millions of miles away from his life in Minnesota, and also meant giving up his well-paid career.
While Jake’s friends and family were a little surprised by the fact that he would leave his job for a $500 a month design internship in a foreign country, they were supportive none-the-less. Fortunately for Jake, and much to the reassurance of his parents, the internship worked out well. He was quickly promoted and began learning a lot of interesting things about the bag industry; things that piqued his curiosity. He loved it.
The Birth of an Idea
Jake soon discovered that he loved designing bags. After completing his internship and learning as much as he could about the industry, he continued working for that company for three years. It was during this time that Jake discovered another passion. Textiles.
Jake explains that Vietnam has many national holidays throughout the year, and it was on one of those holidays that he decided to go on a 10-day solo motorbike trip through the highlands of Northern Vietnam. It was a life-changing trip because it gave birth to the idea behind Ethnotek. “It came out of just exploring the northern highlands,” says Jake, “and interacting with the indigenous Hmong hill tribes that are still thriving there.”
With a keen understanding of design, Jake became enthralled with the delicate process that the Hmong people went through to create beautiful fabrics and textiles. “To see [the textiles]” Jake explains, “was inspiring.” He immediately thought “it would be so cool to combine these textiles with a technical, functional bag.” Jake was also curious to see if any other, similar cultures around the world could collaborate and create an ethical sourcing model on which he could grow a business. He was right, but it would take him another three years to bring his initial idea to fruition.
Watch artisans in action doing what they do best as Ethnotek travels the world
One common rhetoric in entrepreneurship is “follow your passion”. The reasoning behind this logic is that if you are working on something that you are passionate about, you will continuously be motivated to work on it. In reality, motivation comes from many different sources. For Jake, it was the reward of connecting talented, hardworking people with the rest of the world.
The trip to the Vietnamese highlands made Jake aware of a saddening decrease in the demand for textiles from certain cultures. High costs and long lead times are a major deterrent for businesses in the textiles industry. They want things cheaper and faster.
Jake realized that this trend would eventually diminish the long-standing textile and fabric weaving tradition in these cultures. A problem, which was easily solvable, and one which served as good motivation to start a business. He initially wanted to incorporate the Hmong fabrics into garments but realized that he had no real knowledge of garment design or the fashion industry.
After acknowledging that designing bags was not only his strongest skill but also the field he enjoyed the most, Jake decided to combine his passion for design, his desire to help communities, and his love of handmade fabrics with his knowledge of bags.
While Jake had already become a talented and experienced designer, he knew very little about the variety of aspects required in running a bag business; supply chain, distribution, seasonal inventory, etc. These were things he did his best to figure out himself during the startup stage, but it was through mentorship from other experienced business connections that helped Jake take Ethnotek to the next level.
Most of Jake’s mentorship came from reading stories of other successful social entrepreneurs. Jake discovered “it was important not to be afraid to ask questions..“people all over the world were so eager to help if you just ask them.”
Jake’s business idea drew the attention of one advisor in particular that Jake refers to as a crucial mentorship. This person offered valuable advice and guidance on a weekly basis and asked one small thing in return: the pleasure of being part of such a great business. “He has helped us avoid a lot of potentially big mistakes,” says Jake. A mentor is important in any business.
Marketing: How Sharing the Company Story Led to Success
Paying for advertising is one of the quickest ways for a startup to build brand recognition and begin generating revenue, which is important to consider in the early stages of creating a business. However, Jake chose a different approach for Ethnotek Bags – he decided on good old fashioned word-of-mouth marketing.
“Once you understand what we do, it’s pretty easy to get excited about it.” Jake Orak
Word-of-mouth is the oldest and one of the most effective forms of marketing. But it often takes time. But Jake had a great business and a fantastic story behind it. That is just what Ethnotek is, as Jake says, “Once you understand what we do it’s pretty easy to get excited about it.” Aside from a few recent Facebook boosted posts, the company has not paid for any advertising, instead creating authenticity with the brand, and building strong relationships with customers.
Ethnotek currently sources its products from cultures across three continents. Jake Orak is the proud CEO of a successful company that provides durable, practical and stylish bags. Each sale helps to ensure the revival of a tradition, the preservation of unique cultural identities and the livelihood of global communities.
Jake lives and runs the business from headquarters in Vietnam. Ethnotek’s growth is continuous. The product range now includes laptop bags and accessories such as travel wallets and sling bags. It is a global movement — it’s all about the future of these artisan villages that Jake is so passionate about celebrating and empowering.
In days of yore, April Fool’s Day was about leaving glitter bombs on car seats and planting grass in colleagues’ keyboards. These days, it’s a marketing event glitzy enough to compete with the Super Bowl. Brands across the globe put their senses of humour to work in an attempt to win attention from a target demographic that just isn’t listening.
It’s been 12 years since Google launched its April Fool’s Day campaign, and it continues to gather a wider audience. The world’s favourite browser has reinvented the day, and every year marketing publications from Forbes to The Independent publish piece after piece about what Google pulled out of its hat this time. The brand has become such a ubiquitous part of April 1 that it’s featured on the April Fool’s Day Wikipedia Page. Take that, David Ogilvy. Even history’s most renowned copywriter didn’t manage to earn that much free brand exposure – but you can.
Nonsense and Sensibility: The 2015 Campaign
Google launched the prank ‘slow internet movement’, turned Google Maps into a Pac-Man game, and released yet another hoax app called Chrome Selfie. It merged two potent strategies into one: guerrilla marketing and video-based optimization. If you’re a small business owner with a budget small enough to cry over, it’s this combination that you need to be wielding to put your brand on the map (with or without Pac Man).
Guerrilla marketing works because it’s absurdly cheap and easy to understand. All you need to make a campaign work is an overactive imagination.
It’s effective because today’s consumers have no patience for big budget advertising. In fact, they have no patience for anything that smells even vaguely of advertising.
Your promotions need to have an impact, but you needn’t hire Martin Scorsese to handle your video. Dropbox took itself from zero to 100 million users on the wings of a 2D explainer video and, four years later, its videos and graphics still haven’t deviated from that format. Why change what works? Google isn’t interested in Disney-worthy animation either. Why would it be when consumers aren’t?
How to “Video”
Fifty-two percent of marketers claim that video offers them a higher return on investment than any other medium, and it will account for 55% of all online traffic in 2016, so it pays to understand how to use it.
Subjective video quality has become a field of its own, unveiling the facets that resonate most with audiences.
Studies show that consumers respond well to unusual video elements like:
Dim lighting or night scenes
Bouncing images or handheld cameras
Animation with scrolling text
Ombre color effects
Unusual shapes and moving patterns
High color saturation
Camera pans and zooms
You might have noticed that these elements are not on the list:
Tom Cruise and Charlize Theron
DreamWorks-style special effects
A Pulitzer-worthy script
There’s a reason for that. The internet is the first medium in a century to have been invented for consumers instead of advertisers. This unusual characteristic has created a new era in modern marketing. Consumers are now notoriously distrustful of advertising because the internet is their turf, not that of Saatchi and Saatchi. The second they catch you trying to sell to them, you’ve lost them, so these days, your campaign needs to entertain, inform, and engage. The masses no longer listen to corporations, but customer influencers. For that reason, the only marketing of any value today must be consumed out of choice.
You don’t get sceptical buyers to consume your videos using the kind of direction that belongs on a Hollywood set. It’s stories that achieve that. Google has capitalized on the humble yarn to turn a simple search engine into a way of life. It has woven a giant patchwork quilt of tales across the web in the form of videos for every one of its global demographics. Seth Godin summarises this approach perfectly in his essay, Shouting into the Wind: “If enough people care, often enough, the word spreads, the standards change, the wind dies down. If enough people care, the culture changes.” People spend money only when what they’re buying is worth more than its price, and Google is a lifestyle with a personality all of its own.
Where Google Ends and You Begin: Fighting with Budgets
Small businesses typically solve their cash flow problems through direct response marketing: campaigns that call for a specific action, whether it’s subscribing to a mailing list or placing an order. In a way, there’s a method to their madness: If you try mimicking the big-budget-quality of brand titans like Google and Coca Cola, you will fail. Google and Dropbox have, however, demonstrated how branding can be done on a small business budget. Chrome might have the kind of marketing dollars you can only dream about, but it knows how to make its cents count.
In video marketing’s infancy, the suggested length for an explainer was two minutes, but Chrome has put its money on 15-second ads instead: A baby chews on a laptop, a dog swings on a hammock, and a man films himself shopping. These are not exactly videos worthy of Steven Spielberg’s directing smarts, but they work because they tell the Chrome story and appeal to emotion. There’s plenty of humor there, but primarily, Google has fed old fashioned branding through the modern-day media of digital video and gamification. It’s then repackaged all three and sent them out as a guerrilla campaign. In some cases, it didn’t even film its own visuals: it’s far cheaper to source and buy existing content as long as it serves your campaign.
Doing Video the Google Way
Appeals to emotion are one of the most effective ways to sell, and brands are now focusing as much on 2D animation as they are 3D because storytelling is far more important to today’s viewers than visual impact. This may be responsible for the rise in popularity of 2D—it’s far easier to develop a novel style with it than it is with 3D, and online viewers respond, not to a particular style or genre, but to pure novelty.
Facebook’s Auto-play Generation
Getting your audience to click ‘play’ is no longer the challenge it once was. In September, Facebook rolled out auto-playing videos, which have increased engagement and made storytelling far richer for marketers. Sound and sight are instantly and automatically engaged during browsing, and once the video has been played all the way through, a carousel appears introducing two additional adverts by the same marketer.
During the feature’s test run, KLLM Royal Dutch Airlines’ ad campaign was compared across Facebook and YouTube. Fans engaged with the YouTube version 300,000 times, but 350,000 on Facebook. The auto-play option will introduce a new era of native marketing, and advertisers will no longer have a choice as to whether or not to use this kind of strategy. There is simply no option. Competitive advantage just became harder to secure without video and guerrilla marketing.
Expanding from Concept to Campaign
Video lacks a certain longevity, so guerrilla campaigns benefit enormously from other media online and off. The “Dumb Ways to Die” campaign of a small train company developed a video that exploited two catchy elements: cute 2D characters and catchy music. Its cartoons did as their namesake suggested: demonstrate idiotic ways to die. To make sure their audience retained the information, they gamified the concept, rolled out a range of soft toys, and published a book. Taking guerrilla marketing into the offline world can be expensive, but it’s not always necessary if you expand your concept to mobile, tablet, and social media instead.
How to Run a Guerrilla Campaign in a Few Easy Steps
Assess your demographic. Not all target markets are responsive to guerrilla campaigns. They rarely put forward the corporate culture needed for regulated industries such as banks and insurance companies. Guerrilla campaigns depend on ruffling feathers, so make sure they fit your brand.
Tell your story. What is your brand? Who is your demographic? What culture do you want to portray? Most importantly, what do you have to offer your customers that is more valuable than the money they would need to spend on your product?
If you had to communicate your essence in five seconds, what would you say? This is the core of your message.
Guerrilla campaigns rely on press attention. With that in mind, conceptualise your campaign, making it edgy enough to win the interest of both customers and the media. The insights of a PR manager are useful at this stage.
Make sure your campaign resonates and draws a response. Does it inspire, provoke laughter, or demand thought?
Use a combination of media: games, mobile-based tactics, text-based content… you’re only limited by your imagination.
Create a way to track your results. Constantly reassess and adapt your campaign to push up your return on investment.
Guerrilla campaigns demand devoted customer follow-up. After they’ve made a buy decision, you need to make contact.
Search Engine Optimization
Even a guerrilla campaign needs to catch Google’s attention.
Decide where to host your video. YouTube works well for this kind of campaign because its intent is to entertain. Self-hosting gives you more control over your search engine results, so consider using Wistia and Vimeo Pro. These are paid services, but they link to your website, which may increase your return on investment.
Choose keywords for your video file name, title, and the XML sitemap.
Keep a tight rein on your comments section. It’s a unique opportunity to offer service and develop relationships with your potential clients while you identify your top customer influencers.
Provide a video transcript if possible. This directs Google to your content via a wider array of keywords and keyword densities.
Rich snippets, Schema.org markup language, and Geotagging localize your brand and attract search spiders.
Create a strategy for building links that lead to your videos. Blogs, third-party sites, and Facebook are traditionally used, but if you’re going the guerrilla way, it will pay to think outside the box.
Dr James McQuivey of Forrester Research claims that one minute of video is worth 1.8 million words.
These are not just cat and baby videos.The average internet user sees about 32 videos every month, and 50% of C-suite execs watch business related videos at least once a week. Most click on the marketer’s site afterwards.
According to Forbes, 90% of customers say video helps them make buying decisions and 64% of customers say that seeing a video makes them more likely to buy. Are you rich and successful enough to afford not to have a video campaign?
Many social entrepreneurs often wonder how they can help hundreds of thousands of people, and at the same time build a profitable enterprise so they can turn their venture from a side hustle to a full-time endeavor that multiplies their impact and income.
Gavin Armstrong, CEO and founder of Lucky Iron Fish, has made that happen. He not only created a product that has a global impact, but also successfully commercialized the venture for it to become profitable and sustainable. In this interview with Change Creator, Gavin shared his experience and insights on the evolution of the business.
Iron deficiency impacts over 3.5 billion people around the world! Here’re 5 marketing lessons he’s learned along the way, and how you, too, can apply them to navigate the world of social entrepreneurship:
Understand the Local 1 Community
Lucky Iron Fish was first developed in Cambodia as an effort to help solve iron deficiency. Gavin’s effort to understand the local lifestyle and tap into the Cambodian culture helped him align with the communities and gain traction in the market. He conducted extensive research to understand those he was marketing to.
He spent a few years in the country while launching the product, and paid attention to the psychographic of the market:
He developed a focus group kit to gain insights on how the villagers see and feel about things, which helped inform how he could adapt his message for different communities.
He talked to the women in the villages – end users who cook for the family – to understand the impact of iron deficiency in the country, as well as their cooking habits, so he could better integrate the product into their lifestyle and routine.
He showed them the different shapes under development to find out which one resonates.
He chose the fish design as it’s a symbol of luck in the local culture, making it easy for villagers to accept this new product and use it on a daily basis. When he was conducting research, Gavin didn’t speak the local language. He didn’t completely rely on the translator to get his answers, either. Instead, he paid attention to the facial expressions of the interviewees and the way they physically react to and interact with the product.
To make sure he creates a product that’s compelling to the end users, Gavin didn’t simply ask what they want and take the response at face value. He observed their interactions with the product at a tactile and physical level. The research and interactions with the local communities gave him valuable input to quickly iterate the design through a process of rapid prototyping and refine the product such that it’s widely accepted by the local market.
This level of attentiveness helped Gavin build trust with the community – an essential component to the success of the product. After all, he was asking the villagers to put the product into their cooking pot to make food for their families. Gavin’s deep understanding of the culture and the market also informed the development of the brand’s image and color palette. Like many social entrepreneurs operating in a foreign culture, he had to learn from mistakes and quickly adapt. For example, when they tried to cut cost with black and white package design, they found that this didn’t work because these colors are equated with death in Cambodia.
The final packaging is done in red and blue and white – the Cambodian flag color – to evoke national pride. Every element of the brand – from the shape of the product to the color palette – is carefully considered so the product can be easily accepted into the households of the targeted end users. Gavin also innovated the product to meet the needs of rural Cambodia. The principal feature of the Lucky Iron Fish is that it lasts for about five years, providing a practical and sustainable solution to the iron deficiency problem in the area.
Embrace The Origin
Gavin wanted the brand to have a global impact and implication, at the same time recognize the history of its origin. For that to happen, the brand needed to appeal to a wide global audience while staying true to its original mission. They use storytelling techniques that connect consumers with the brand on an emotional level to help build a loyal following. The design of Lucky Iron Fish’s logo and website pay tribute to the root of the brand by using the color palette of the original packaging – red, white and blue – as well as images of villagers from rural Cambodia.
Gavin shared the story of Lucky Iron Fish’s origin and local involvement, connecting consumers with the product at an emotional level. While embracing the origin, Gavin didn’t lose sight of the global market. The company leveraged the simple 3-color design of the original packaging and translated it into a template that can be adapted to different markets. The simple and customizable template allows the use of color combinations that speak to local markets while keeping a consistent image for the brand.
Develop Local Partnerships
One major blunder in Lucky Iron Fish’s early days happened in sales and product distribution. Initially, Gavin developed the idea of a “traveling road show” – he’d travel to villages and stop for a couple of days, present the product then move on. He made the incorrect assumption that because the value proposition of the product was so clear that he could just go from village to village and sell it.
The biggest disconnect occurred when he failed to establish trust within the local communities. He didn’t stick around long enough to answer questions, engage in dialogues, and give villagers the opportunity to try the product before making their purchase. To remedy the less-than-desirable results, Gavin switched gears. He partnered up with NGOs that have already established trust and a line of communication with the communities.
Local representatives of these organizations are available to answer questions and assist villagers to make sure they’re getting results from the product. Partnering with local NGOs also helps the company reduce costs. Although they still go to villages to offer talks and workshops, they can now increase efficiency by covering more ground in less time.
Leverage Media Opportunity
Lucky Iron Fish has a “Buy-One-Give- One” program – for every fish purchased on their website, they donate one to those in need.
The initial volume of sales (and the number of fish donated) worked fine for partnerships with small- and medium-sized NGOs. However, Gavin had challenges getting in the door with larger organizations.
The big break came when the company was featured in a BBC article. Their sales went from 100 in a month to 100 in an hour. Besides immediate revenue for the company, it also meant they now have tens of thousands of fish to give away. Offering free product is a great way to enter the NGO space. Almost overnight, Gavin had the volume to approach large NGOs and establish partnerships.
This media opportunity not only helped the company increase revenue by turning their online business from a secondary component to being front and center, thereby reaching a global market, but also gave them the traction to gain the much-needed foothold through larger NGOs in local communities they wanted to help.
Introduce Product to Developed Countries
Gavin saw an opportunity when he realized that iron deficiency is also a problem in the developed world. In fact, it’s a serious health concern in the US and Canada. He also recognized the gap in the market – there’s an increasing number of health and socially conscious women looking for a more natural solution that’s healthier than popping a pill every day.
The company started offering the product to this demographic – women who manage the household looking for ways to raise a healthy family – attracting them with not only the innovative feature but also the “buy- one-donate-one” program.
At the time of our interview with Gavin, the product was available in 66 countries, and as of January 2019, they have given away over 45,000 Lucky Iron Fish, helping 200,000 people.
The commercial success of the product, in turn, fuels the social impact that inspired Gavin to start the venture in the first place. There are many marketing lessons we can learn from the success of Lucky Iron Fish. Even though the specifics may vary depending on context, it’s always important to listen to your market, pivot and adapt quickly, and not be shy about introducing your product to developed countries so you can leverage the success to fuel your venture.
The greatest social movements in this world not only bring us together, they focus on what we can do as individuals to change something intrinsically wrong with the world. In short, they give us the power and authority — as individuals — to make our world a better place.
When a radical movement can harness each of us to dig deep into our power, it becomes a compelling, sustainable force of good in this world. The activist spirit must go beyond ourselves if we want to make any sort of an impact in this world.
That is why it is so vital to celebrate “The Body Is Not an Apology” — a thriving, global multimedia platform bringing millions of people together, changing the global narrative on body activism, all spearheaded by the incomparable Sonya Renee Taylor.
Investing in Every Body
Last October, the Change Creator team went to the world’s largest social impact funding conference, known as SOCAP conference, in San Francisco, California. As you can imagine, it was an eclectic mix of people from around the world, all there so we could discuss impact + money.
Many themes emerged from that conference — much more than a pure definition of what social impact investing is, what it could be, or how we measure impact. Themes of diversity in investment — or rather, the lack of diversity in investment — was a theme that kept popping up its head throughout the week.
At one of the mini-sessions that I attended, named Money Divas, the panel discussed the lack of support and funding for women-led companies. When the panel opened up questions to the audience, I got to meet the remarkable Sonya, whose commentary on the lack of female funding was:
“If we can accomplish so much with so little, imagine what we could do if someone truly invested in us and our ideas.”
At that moment, I knew I had to get to know this force of nature. At that time, I had yet to get the full backstory but I knew I wanted to invest in that kind of presence, that kind of commitment. The simple idea that we should amplify each other’s success really struck a chord with me.
I have thought about that idea of what impact investing really means. It’s not just enough to say we’re funding ideas that change the world if we are not funding all kinds of people changing the world — women, minorities, indigenous, disabled, trans. All people deserve investment.
(Sonya’s speech at SOCAP.)
A Formula Towards Radical Leadership
I think Sonya would be the first person to tell you that everything that has led her to where she is now is by accident. The formula for her immense success — there is none. Every choice she made, every new endeavor came to her because she was examining what it meant to be human because she was intensely curious, but also because she was also intensely outspoken.
Sonya’s journey to become the radical leader she is today started with a conversation. On tour, with her poetry troupe doing the National Poetry Slam Championship in Tennessee, Sonya first uttered the words that would change the trajectory of her life. She describes this intimate conversation in her book, “The Body Is Not An Apology”:
“We were complicated and honest with each other, and this is how I wound up in a conversation with my teammate Natasha, an early-thirtysomething living with cerebral palsy and fearful she might be pregnant. Natasha told me how her potential pregnancy was most assuredly by a guy who was just an occasional fling. All of life was up in the air for Natasha, but she was abundantly clear that she had no desire to have a baby and not by this person.”
As Sonya will tell you, her nosiness and openness made it easy for her to probe into the details of how her friend got pregnant in the first place.
“Instinctually, I asked Natasha why she had chosen not to use a condom with this casual sexual partner with whom she had no interest in procreating. Neither Natasha nor I knew that my honest question and her honest answer would be the catalyst for a movement. Natasha told me her truth: “My disability makes sex hard already, with positioning and stuff. I just didn’t feel like it was okay to make a big deal about using condoms.”
That is when Sonya, in a way to comfort her distraught friend uttered these words: “Natasha, your body is not an apology. It is not something you give to someone to say, ‘Sorry for my disability.’” Sometimes all you need to do to start something is to speak it into existence. When Sonya heard herself utter those words, something quite special stuck.
“Language has the power to create. As we speak a thing, we are literally allowing it to exist in this world.”
The truth that Sonya comforted her friend with would soon become the mantra by which she lived her life. Those words would stick with Sonya for quite some time. They would not only become a poem, but a Facebook page, then a thriving movement, then a company.
In the early days, Sonya might not have imagined where those words would lead her life, but she could sense she was on to something much larger than herself, which she alludes to in this early performance of the poem as she tells the audience of the Facebook Group they must like and support. “This is the poem that spawned the Facebook page that will spawn the movement. I’m claiming it.”
And, claim it she did.
Watch Sonya perform the poem that started it all in an early performance.
Radical Self Love as the Ultimate Activism
Let’s face it. From the moment we wake up, we are inundated with messages that tell us our bodies are not good enough. These messages are hard to quiet, even if you are Sonya, on the road, touring, performing “The Body Is Not An Apology” to a new audience every night.
Yes, she knew that she had to live in her own truth of radical body love, but that outside voice telling her that she was not good enough was still there. One day, Sonya came across some an Instagram account of a plus-sized model who had just booked a substantial lingerie client. Here was this beautiful woman, unabashedly flaunting her “juicy thighs” for all to see and admire. Plus, as Sonya recalls, “someone was paying her a lot of money, too.”
That one act of defying the system led Sonya to post her own picture on Facebook, as she encouraged others to share photos where they felt beautiful, too (no matter what the outside world says).
This one act of radical self-love would lead others to do the same. The next morning, Sonya woke up to 30 other brave souls sharing their photos, as the movement was quickly picking up steam. That’s the thing about radical self-love — it can be just as contagious as self-hate. It’s up to us to choose what lane we want to live in.
What does radical self-love have to do with social change, anyway?
So many messages in our world tell us that our bodies are not good enough. That we need constant improvement, that we should be more healthy, more thin, more white — the barrage of negative talk is fast and furious, and consistent. Persistently telling us that we are not the norm so we, therefore, are not worthy.
We live in a system of body-shame indoctrination. Every act of body terrorism has been designed to support the agenda and systems of greed and power in our world. Once you realize that all those messages of not good enough are actually supporting the social constructs of society that keep us pushed down and less than, you start to get a little pissed off (at least you should).
One of the first steps in any successful activist movement is to realize when you are being conditioned, how you are being conditioned, and to get pissed off about the damaging social constructs you have been sold all your life.
If you want to dismantle the systems of the world, you have to understand how they were first constructed. That’s what activism is. This kind of thinking is what should drive your social good business first. It’s not about profit, the right business model, or even finding that unique sales proposition that will make your company unlike any other. It’s about deconstructing the systems in this world of greed and power. That starts with you.
You. Taking back the messages that we are being sold every day and replacing these outside voices with our own inner voice that radically loves us is the first step in transforming the world.
We, as activists, as Change Creators must ask ourselves: Whose agenda is your self-hate? That criticism that you have of yourself — who is benefitting from it? It is not in our best interest to support those agendas.
“Radical self-love is contagious; just as body shame is contagious. We get to decide what it is that we want to spread. If we can radically love ourselves, we can radically love the world.”
Activism by Dismantling the Social Constructs
Sonya wants us to imagine the social constructs we can eliminate if only we radically loved our bodies. Take, for example, the history of racism, as Sonya explains:
“Race as a construct was created as a way to validate the exchange of human bodies as slaves. First, the system wanted to exploit people and get cheap labor. So, the system created a structure that said we could rationalize cheap labor, thus they needed to say that these people were sub-human, which rationalized this horrific structure.”
How quickly the construct of racism is dismantled when we don’t allow others to see any human being as less than. As Sonya’s Facebook group grew, she quickly realized how powerful this idea was. She started a national conversation, not about self-acceptance, or loving your size 16 self, or celebrating your red hair — no, it was always a much larger, much broader conversation. It had to be. As she explains:
“We have internalized those messages of hate, all those messages we’ve received about what bodies are bad and this conversation about radical self-love has to be more than just about accepting our bodies, it has to be a conversation about race. It has to be a conversation about disabilities. It has to be a conversation about fatness. It has to be a conversation about queerness. It has to be a conversation about transnesss. And all of the other ways our bodies exist on this planet.”
As the conversation grew larger, so did the role of TBINAA in the world. Change is a thinking, doing, being process. We have to be in touch with our thoughts intentionally as we create that shift in consciousness. Activism has to start from within.
“We can’t create outside in the world what we have not figured out how to access inside of us first.”
5 Steps to Building a Mission-Driven Company
The steps Sonya took to grow her company were just like the rest of her journey. Yes, she quickly saw that this thing she was doing had merit, had some legs, and could grow, but in a way she could never have imagined it would become what it is today.
Here are the steps that Sonya took to build her business:
Step 1: Build an Authentic Community
If you want to build a lasting movement, you quickly have to realize that you are going to have to get people on board. In the early days of TBINAA, Sonya just shared ideas on the Facebook group. She would curate content every single day that supported that radical self-love that she was out there preaching.
After so many months of connecting with others online and on tour, Sonya had to take another look at her own actions, her own insecurities and fears and do something radical herself.
Yes, sometimes building that authentic community starts with you.
Creating the 30-Day RUHCUS Project
Sometimes, building a movement means doing something completely terrifying and uncomfortable. Eventually, we all have to face what’s really holding us back from living our authentic truth. As leaders of a movement, you have to be willing to be vulnerable at times and to always access yourself — are you out there living what you are encouraging others to do?
When Sonya realized that she still hung onto some body shame about her hair, she decided to take her own radical step. Developing traction alopecia early in life, Sonya had relied on her wigs for over a decade. The scariest thing she thought she could do was be bald in this world because she had been conditioned to believe that she would no longer be beautiful without hair.
In typical Sonya fashion, she didn’t take this step alone. No, she created the first major project of TBINAA — called it a RUHCUS (Radically Unapologetic Healing Challenge for Us). Before she was done her own 30 days, she realized how many people had taken her up and started their own RUHCUS projects.
Sonya lived her work.
She kept touring the country, building her community and soon realized that she would need to find the right people to help keep this thing growing.
Step 2: Find the Right People
When the TBINAA Facebook group reached over 20,000 people, Sonya realized she’d have to start building a team of people to keep it going. She quickly got an intern on board to manage the daily posts, curate the content, and push the vision further. She also found early adapters and volunteers who wanted to help, brought ideas to the table, and could get on board building this out alongside her.
They would ask, “I really love these ideas, can I write something? I want to support this idea; can I start a support group?” For that, Sonya would answer with a resounding “yes.” The business was building itself with the support of its members. She gave people not only the “yes” they needed to get on board and help, but the permission to bring ideas to the table and follow through with them.
As she grew the company, she knew she’d only hire the people that stood alongside her. As she’ll tell you, “It’s easier to teach skills than it is to teach values.”
Step 3: Formalize the Structure and Protect Your Brand Equity
It became apparently clear early on that Sonya would have to formalize the movement to protect the integrity of TBINAA. She did not want to see other brands exploiting this idea of body activism and radical love to sell diet aids or t-shirts. Could you imagine?
Not only did she have to get the right team of writers, supporters, and business developers on board early, she needed money to invest and formalize this growing movement. Yet, as we already touched on early in this article, finding investment as a black woman wasn’t going to be as easy as a trip to Silicon Valley.
Step 4: Monetize the Movement Early
Knowing that she had already built a solid, authentic audience, she thought it would be a radically good idea to get funding through a crowdfunding campaign. Today, looking back, she might do things differently.
The amount of work to raise that first bit of capital — a little over $40,000 — was outrageously difficult, but that was the seed fund she needed to start www.thebodyisnotanapology.com.
That was the first step to monetizing her business and making this movement an established, structured thing.
She had to take ownership of this thing early on. If you don’t own it, somebody else will. It became clear that she needed to create some concrete organizational structure around this movement if she wanted to hold on to it and watch it grow.
Step 5: Grow the Vision of the Company (and Keep Making Money)
After trademarking her company and establishing her ownership of the company, it was time to create some deliberate growth and that takes vision.
At this point, TBINAA had a team, some initial startup funds, and a trademarked idea. Figuring out that monetization model would not be easy. It would take some tweaking to find that sweet spot and to explore ways to support the organic growth that was happening.
Today, their model is a subscription-supported model that provides their supporters (on all levels) to monetarily back the vision and growth of the company. Building out webinars, workshops and products is also an integral part of the business plan as value increases. They also have millions of visitors to their website each year and continue to grow as they continue to build out authentic, relevant content that people cling to.
Building a strong monetization model is so vital when growing your movement if you want to build long-lasting social change. Don’t be afraid to make money early. Money can continue to be the fuel that spreads your message and grows your community — it’s not only okay, but it’s vital to monetize as soon as you can!
How You Can Find Your Inner Activist
As we have seen from Sonya’s success, all great activism starts with the inner journey. All social change begins with radical self-love. Loving ourselves, not just accepting ourselves, can deconstruct the social systems that build oppression.
It sounds simple enough, doesn’t it?
If you want to change the world, start with yourself. But, as we have seen, that journey from the social constructs we’ve grown up with to that fiercely powerful, radical self-love is not linear. There will be times when we doubt our greatness, when we transfer that doubt to others, and when we fall flat on our faces.
Recognize that radical self-love is the first step. Do the hard work of looking at your own social constructs. What do you believe? What are your core values? Do the inner work first, before you begin to change the world.
Remember, you can begin today to speak into existence that which you hope to change.
Be your own Sonya. Live in your truth. Align your business to your values from the get-go; it’s the only way to build lasting results.
Get early supporters on board to help build your vision. Give them the authority to make decisions, bring ideas to the table, and make it their mission, too.
Monetize your movement if you want to build a sustainable solution. Figure out the business stuff, too; don’t wait to start making money.
Listen to our exclusive interview with Sonya Renee Taylor
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This might sound like a trick question, but it’s a question that Gabriella Geffen has to deal with every day. “Gabi” is a business development expert at the Maharishi Institute and is also a member of the National Task Team responsible for developing Entrepreneurship and Social Entrepreneurship in South Africa.
The world has changed dramatically over the course of the past few decades, and many people are coming face-to-face with a harsh truth: humans will never be better at being robots than robots themselves.
This has dramatically changed the global employment market, and in places like South Africa, it has contributed to massive, systemic unemployment. Some 27 percent of South Africans are unemployed. Youth, meanwhile, face an unemployment rate in excess of 50 percent.
Gabi notes that so many are unemployed even as over a million jobs in South Africa remain unfilled.
Employers want employees and South Africans want jobs.
However, there is a disconnect between the skills and education that employers need, and the skills and education that many South African youth possess. Even those bright South African students that succeed in the face of abject poverty and failing public education systems often find the doors shut when it comes time to acquire an advanced degree.
Many South African public universities have acceptance rates on par with Ivy League universities. Meanwhile, yearly tuition comes in at about $2,000, an insurmountable sum for many of South Africa’s impoverished.
Maharishi Institute founder Taddy Blecher, featured in issue 12 of Change Creator Magazine, realized this after helping impoverished high school students learn meditation techniques that helped them perform better in school. Many students deserving of an opportunity to attend college were simply denied the chance.
How do you break the cycle of poverty?
In a world that is increasingly dependent on college education and people skills, a lack of access to higher education can all but ensure the perpetuity of poverty. So how does one break that cycle?
How do you provide students with an education that will equip them with the skills they need to succeed in the modern world? How do you ensure accessibility, especially for those who are impoverished and disadvantaged?
Gabi and the other staff at the Maharishi Institute grapple with this challenge every day. And the solutions they have come up with may ultimately revolutionize the modern higher education system, both helping teach people to be people in a modern world, and ensuring access for all.
Finding Sustainability to Increase Accessibility
The Maharishi Institute started out with the same ambitions as many other university programs targeting impoverished communities: simply be free. However, as Blecher and other early-day Institute employees found out, there’s no such thing as free. The money always has to come from somewhere. Donations are great, but they are hard to sustain.
The Maharishi Institute shifted towards a pay-it-forward model.
Students would pay fees, but these fees are more affordable than the public universities in South Africa and students are given access to loans. The Institute started with a no-fee model but found itself too dependent on the whims of the donors. However, by having students contribute, the university can better sustain itself. All tuition fees paid go towards ensuring opportunities for future students.
Another challenge would help the Maharishi Institute become even more sustainable, and could pave the way for a tuition-free future. Institute leaders soon learned that many employers didn’t want just a degree, they also wanted experience. Students in South Africa faced the same conundrum students in other countries have to deal with: Employers demand experience but students can’t acquire that experience because no one will hire them.
The Maharishi Institute provides business education to thousands of students. These students have business skills, so why not use them? The Maharishi Institute has been building out businesses, essentially hiring its own students and then paying them.
Currently, the Institute is focused on building up Invincible Outsourcing, which aims to become a first-rate outsourcing and call centre business in South Africa. Enrolled students can not only pay for their tuition but also earn a stipend to pay for daily living. This makes education not only affordable but sustainable for poor students.
For impoverished students, the ability to work through school and to be paid for that work also helps lower the often overlooked opportunity costs. When your family is barely scraping by, heading off to college to increase your future wages can seem almost selfish. After all, your family members have to eat today, not tomorrow. Shouldn’t you be out trying to earn an income now rather than in the future?
For many impoverished South African youth, this is the reality they face. The Maharishi Institute is providing a solution. Attend university and help the Institute build up businesses along the way. These business aspirations help students pay for their life in the moment. On-the-job training and work experience, meanwhile, helps students further build up their resumes, establish networks, and prove their mettle.
Some students also go on to work at partner companies, such as Accenture. The Maharishi Institute’s leadership has found that while many companies want to invest in education, few know how to actually do so, and often the results are, at best, scattershot. For companies, rather than funding a school or classroom, hiring students, paying them a wage, and then providing on-the-job training can be an effective way to contribute to the student’s success while pursuing their own business aims along the way.
Regardless of where they work, students are given an invaluable opportunity to break the cycle of no experience. With actual job experience in hand, Maharishi graduates are among the most competitive in the market. Indeed, nearly every graduate has secured a skilled job, and collectively, Maharishi’s 17,000 graduates earn over 1 billion rand per year! To put that into perspective, the Institute itself runs on just 24 million rand per year, highlighting the tremendous return on investment.
If Our Deepest Drives Shape the World – How do we Reshape it? | Gabriella Geffen | TEDxCapeTown
Meditation Is Another Key Ingredient to Success
You might be wondering what Maharishi means. This term actually refers to Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, a meditation guru who founded Transcendental Meditation, which in turn is another key element of the Institute’s success. Early on, Blecher and other staff members realized that many students were coming from backgrounds that were so traumatic, that they struggled to focus in class. In fact, many students were suffering from various forms of post-traumatic stress disorder.
Despite his doctorate and sterling academic resume, Blecher himself was far from a model student when he began is actuary studies. In fact, he struggled in many classes and was at risk of failing. Then he discovered Transcendental Meditation, a scientifically proven form of meditation to greatly enhance concentration, clarity, creativity and learning and retention rates. For Blecher, Transcendental Meditation would be life-changing, and so it was incorporated directly into the Maharishi Institute’s curriculum.
Of course, just because meditation worked for Blecher, that doesn’t guarantee that it will work for other students. A renowned public university in Johannesburg decided to test the effectiveness of meditation in reducing stress among college students. The University took its own first-year students and the Institute’s first-year students and then measured their stress levels. Unsurprisingly, many students from both organizations were suffering from high levels of stress.
At the end of the year, an independent psychological study measured stress levels once again. The results? Students at the university reported increased stress levels. This should come as no surprise. After all, the burdens and expectations of a university can be overwhelming. However, when the University remeasured students at the Maharishi Institute, they found that stress levels had dropped substantially. In fact, many students were asymptomatic, seemingly cured of their PTSD symptoms and high-stress levels.
For the Maharishi Institute, meditation is as important an element for teaching humans to be human as formal education. While the Institute’s bread and butter is online, remote education, Gabi stresses that providing students with an opportunity to make professional connections is vital for helping them further their career.
Digital Delivery, Human Focus
Technology is at the heart of the Maharishi Institute’s long-term aims. Yes, many of the students are taught technology-related skills, but it goes much deeper than that. The Institute’s long-term aim is to continue to reduce costs. While most Universities around the world are constantly increasing fees, the Institute is constantly searching for ways to reduce them. With technology and the increased success of its business-side operations, the Institute hopes to eventually charge students only $500 per year in tuition.
Yet as Gabi points out, Universities aren’t just about imparting academic knowledge but also teaching human skills and encouraging the growth of human networks. What makes Harvard Harvard and Oxford Oxford isn’t just the world-class faculty. It’s also the networking opportunities and chances to build lasting relationships. The Maharishi Institute combines distance learning with site learning and on-the-job training. By doing so, Maharishi students can build up human networks and relationships in a way that many online students can’t.
Ultimately, the proof is in the pudding. While many South African universities have a throughput rate of about 25 percent, meaning only a quarter of students finish their degrees, the Institute’s throughput rate weighs in at 80 percent. This, even as up to 70 percent of students arrive unequipped for a university. A combination of meditation training and foundational education allows the Institute to get students up to speed quickly. Roughly 17,000 students have already been educated, and combined they earn over 1 billion rand per year.
Now, the Maharishi Institute is looking to take the lessons learned and to offer opportunities not just in every province in South Africa, but across the world. The University aims to be on the ground in at least 15 countries in the next five or so years. Besides other African nations, India and non-African countries are being targeted. Currently, the Maharishi Institute is aiming to train 100,000 business leaders who will generate over 1 trillion rand in lifetime earnings.
Along the way, the Maharishi Institute is providing valuable lessons to other social entrepreneurs looking to shake up the education sector. It’s not enough to impart knowledge, you have to teach people to be people. In the modern world, humans can’t compete with robots, but by focusing on human skills, universities can still help students launch successful careers.
For those coming from traumatic backgrounds, that could mean teaching meditation or other methods to increase focus. Further, while technology is a useful tool, educators need to remain conscious of the need to teach people skills and to build social networks.
Maharishi Institute moved beyond free tuition and relying entirely on donors by asking students to pay it forward with tuition fees. By doing so, they built a more sustainable model that will provide more opportunities to future students.
The Maharishi Institute leverages online learning. However, they use site-based learning as well to impart people skills and to help students cultivate personal networks.
Founder Taddy Blecher recognized that students who were coming from such underprivileged backgrounds struggled to focus. Transcendental meditation training, however, has been proven to alleviate stress-related conditions.
Listen to our full exclusive interview with Gabriella Geffen
You know the money is in the (email) list. And you’re looking for a great email marketing software which will help you make that list, grow that list, and make money from that list.
Well, you’re in the right place.
In this article, I’m going to talk about two of the most awesome email marketing tools ever: ConvertKit vs. AWeber.
Which of these two tools are right for you?
That’s what you and I will try to figure out in this article. And I say ‘try’ because ultimately, there is no definite, single answer. Maybe ConvertKit’s automation features will woo your heart or maybe you’ll fall for AWeber’s better email editor.
Right now, I don’t know – and neither do you. So let’s find out…
ConvertKit & AWeber: What Kind of People Are These Tools Made For?
Creators who have just bought hosting for the first time. Budding entrepreneurs who are still figuring out how Shopify Works. Bloggers who’ve just installed WordPress.
That – and anyone who isn’t a multi-million dollar company and is just getting their online business off the ground- that’s the kind of people for whom both these tools are made for.
Why do I say that?
Because of three main reasons:
They have affordable pricing that starts at a price you can actually afford.
You don’t have to deal with unnecessary features that aren’t related to email marketing.
It doesn’t take a thousand years to learn how both these tools work.
In short, the highlight of both these email marketing tools is that they do one job: Build, grow and monetize your email list. And they do that job really well.
In the next section, we’ll show you the exact features these tools have – and what makes them different.
ConvertKit vs. AWeber: What You Need To Know About Their Features
But before we get started, here’s one thing you should know.
Both ConvertKit and AWeber are really similar tools. This is because they serve the same audience, and hence, have many similar features.
What actually makes ConvertKit and AWeber different is the unique ways these features work in both their environments.
For example, both ConvertKit and AWeber provide you with a system to organize your subscribers using tags and segments. But the way this system works in both tools is drastically different than you’d think.
That’s why, to help you properly understand the difference between both these email marketing tools (so you can choose the best email marketing tool for your business), we’re going to systematically look at the feature they provide – and then compare the different ways each feature works in each tool.
Before we get to my comparisons, check out my full ConvertKit review here to learn more!
Let’s get started…
ConvertKit Vs. AWeber: Feature List + Comparison
In email marketing, you need to do these three things:
Managing Your Subscribers: The first thing you every email list needs are subscribers. Both ConvertKit and AWeber have their own way of letting you capture new subscribers, adding them to list(s) and segmenting them which we’ll discuss in this section.
Writing Your Emails: The second thing you need to do is write emails for your broadcasts, autoresponders and automated campaigns.
Automating Your Email Marketing Process: The last thing you need to put together is the automations of your emails. This is what lies at the heart of every email marketing software. We’ll discuss in-depth in this section how both ConvertKit and AWeber approach automation.
You can think of these things as ‘steps’ you need to accomplish to fully create your automated email marketing campaigns.
That’s why, I’ve divided this section into the above three steps – and listed (and compared) each feature of both the tools under each step so you can easily understand how ConvertKit and AWeber are different.
Step 1: Managing Your Subscribers
To start your using your email marketing software, you’re going to need to add some subscribers into it first.
There are two ways you can do that:
If you’re starting from scratch and don’t have any subscribers, you’ll want to create opt-in forms to put on your website or on a domain.
If you already have a subscriber list, you’ll want to import it as a CSV file into your email marketing software.
This brings us to discussing…
Feature # 1: Forms
In ConvertKit, you can build an opt-in form or a landing page to collect emails of your new subscribers. But in AWeber, you can only create an opt-in form.
However, in AWeber, you get 70+ templates for your opt-in forms, each designed for a different purpose. But in ConvertKit, you get three kinds of forms which aren’t even templates, just different versions (full, minimal and stripped) of the same design.
But it’s important to note that you can also create a landing page on ConvertKit and in this case, the template selection is much more diverse. In AWeber, landing pages are pretty much nonexistent.
Now, moving on to the similarities, in both these tools, you can customize pretty much everything about your form. You can change the colors, the images, the text, the location of the elements and even add your own custom CSS.
And the best part?
If you don’t have a website, both ConvertKit and AWeber can host the forms (and landing pages too in ConvertKit) which you create in each respective tool for you. No domain required!
Once you’ve started getting subscribers, you’ll need an intelligent way of sorting them based on their interests.
This brings us to…
Feature # 2: Segmentation
Once you start gathering subscribers, you’ll want to segment them based on how their interactions with your emails.
For example, let’s say you have a photography course. One evening, you decide to send an email to all of your 500 email subscribers promoting it. Next morning, you’re delighted to see 5 people have bought your course.
The smart thing to do would be to send them emails showing how they can make the best of your course – and even send them advanced tips.
To do that, you’ll want to segment the 5 people who’ve bought your course so only they receive your emails.
Both ConvertKit and AWeber approach segmentation in different ways. Let’s discuss how:
In ConvertKit, you can only create one list of subscribers. That list can then be categorized using tags.
For example, for those customers who bought your photography course, you can tag them as ‘photography_course_buyers’. If someone clicked on the link to your course but didn’t buy it, you can tag them as ‘photography_course_interested’.
Once you create the tags you want, you can organize your tags further into ‘segments’.
For example, suppose you have three courses: photography, photoshop, and web design. You want to divide your list depending on what subject your subscribers are interested in.
In this case, you’ll want to add the tags ‘photography_course_buyers’ and ‘photography_course_interested’ into a segment – and repeat the process for your other two courses as well.
And in this way, you can manage your subscribers in ConvertKit.
AWeber’s segmentation is more robust, mainly due to one feature: You can create multiple lists – with each list having its own subscribers, tags and segments.
The rest of the process i.e. adding tags and segments – works in a similar fashion to ConvertKit. You add the tags you want to a subscriber and add those tags to a segment to organize your subscriber list.
But since AWeber lets you create multiple lists, you can manage different businesses and websites within one account without having to pay for another.
Step 2: Writing Your Emails
Ok. Once you’ve added your subscribers and now know how to segment them, we can move on to writing emails for them.
As a Broadcast: Broadcasts are one-off emails you can send to all your subscribers.
As an Email Sequence: An email sequence is a sequence of emails which are sent over a period of time to a subscriber. For example, if you want to send a 5-part email course, you can send that automatically using an email sequence.
As an Automation: An automation is when you create tie in your email sequences – and the actions your subscribers take when they interact with them – with specific triggers which leads to a fully automated email marketing campaign.
This isn’t anything new. Every email marketing tool lets you do this. The difference is when it comes to actually creating emails. Which of the two tools is best for that?
AWeber’s email editor is far superior that ConvertKit’s basic text editor.
First of all, you can create both simple text-based emails and fancy template-based emails. Your choice (as it should be). And you get many templates to choose from (over 700+!) for your emails.
In addition, AWeber has a really awesome ‘elements’ panel on the left side of the editor which allows you to drag and drop any ‘element’ you need in your email.
This means you can easily add images, a text box, social media share icons, and even coupon codes to your emails in an instant. All you need to do is edit the elements. No need to spend time messing with the arrangement of the elements on the email.
But you’re still not finished.
Once you create your emails, one final thing which still remains is…
Step 3: Automating Your Email Marketing Process
The importance of this step cannot be underestimated.
Automating your email marketing process is directly tied with the activities you did in step 1 and 2.
In fact, it isn’t an understatement when I say that the success of your whole email marketing depends upon how well you automate your email marketing process.
That’s because, without effective automation, you won’t be able to:
Categorize your email subscribers into relevant tags and segments when they interact with your emails.
Which means you won’t be able to engage them with the relevant content your email subscribers deserve.
This will lead to bad conversion rates, failed campaigns and ultimately, low sales.
Automations stop this from happening.
In our example in the first step, we mentioned how you can tag the people who bought your photography course with ‘photography_course_buyers’ tag.
Well, with automations, you don’t have to do that. The moment a subscriber of yours buys your course, your email marketing software can tag them based on that ‘trigger’ i.e. a subscriber purchasing.
In AWeber, creating automation is a simple process.
You simply select which subscribers, tags, and segments you want to put in an email campaign. Then, you send them the relevant emails – and assign additional tags at the end of each email to trigger the next email.
And whenever you want, you can add the subscribers you tagged from previous automation to a new email marketing campaign by simply creating new automation.
But there’s the main problem with AWeber:
Every single automation is created separately in a new window. This means whenever you want to create a new automated email marketing campaign, you’ll have to do that in a new window.
And because of that, you won’t be able to see how your different automations ‘connect’ with each other.
In the automation game, without any doubt, ConvertKit wins.
When compared to AWeber, ConvertKit offers a much more visual, coherent and better automation system.
You get a visual graph in which you can easily start with an email, tag it with a specific action your subscribers take when reading it and then follow up with other emails and campaigns.
Unlike AWeber, ConvertKit lets you connect email campaigns within automation. And since it’s all visual, you can see exactly in which campaigns your subscribers will go based on the actions they take.
In my opinion, this feature alone single-handedly makes ConvertKit a more powerful email marketing tool than AWeber – just because it is so much better at automation.
The Final Verdict: Which is Best for YOU?
As with all things, pricing often plays a bigger influence on our decision – simply because of many of us have tight budgets (more than we’d like).
Well, the good news here is both ConvertKit and AWeber offer similar pricing, with AWeber’s pricing getting better the bigger the plans get. But the difference isn’t that much that AWeber should sway your decision based on pricing alone. And thankfully, both give you access to all their features regardless of which plan you get.
Here’s a screenshot of both their plans you can check out:
AWeber lets you build separate lists and has a better way of segmenting your subscribers. If you have multiple businesses, you’ll save a lot of money because, with ConvertKit, you’ll have to create another account to get another list.
ConvertKit gives you a better automation tool than AWeber. You can clearly see how you different email campaigns interlink with each other using the visual builder. In AWeber, each automation is in a separate window which makes things disjointed as time progresses.
With that being said, both tools are awesome and don’t have any deal breakers which make the other one the outright winner. We can confidently recommend both, depending on your needs.
If I had to choose one that’s best overall, I would say I prefer ConvertKit’s automation tools and visual builder the best and that’s the one I would choose!
So, based on the features we’ve discussed above, which email marketing tool will you choose?
Christal Earle is a lot of things; she is a social entrepreneur who believes change is possible through smart collaboration and thinking differently. She’s a social advocate for the stateless peoples of the Dominican Republic and the environment. She’s a businesswoman who started her enterprise with a lightning bolt of inspiration and only $1,000 to her name.
But most of all, she’s brave.
She’s brave because amid life-altering moments of adoption, divorce, financial despair, and literally, no place to call home thanks to governmental bureaucracy, she chose to take on a cause bigger than herself.
Does that sound familiar? As entrepreneurs, we all must be brave as we take on problems much bigger than ourselves to create positive social change through sustainable solutions.
Meet Christal, Co-Founder and CEO of Brave Soles — a social enterprise that sells 100% handmade leather shoes with recycled tire soles made from discarded tires found in the landfills of the Dominican Republic.
Her innovative solutions using upcycling, microfinancing, and community engagement are helping break the cycle of poverty for her suppliers and providing hope for impoverished communities. As a social entrepreneur, Christal harnesses the power of storytelling to teach others how small economic choices, like buying a pair of sandals, can have a worldwide impact.
The 5-minute journey that woke Christal up
Christal Earle’s journey as a social entrepreneur started in 2000 when she co-founded Live Different, a Canadian charity dedicated to creating positive social change. In 2004 Live Different went International, making worldwide trips to impoverished communities in need of help.
In the summer of 2006, Christal took a break from her humanitarian work and vacationed at an all-inclusive resort in the Dominican Republic. It was during that trip that her life would forever be changed thanks to a five-minute journey her friend asked her to take to a community she was helping at the time.
“That was my first exposure to poverty at that level. I remember sitting in this Haitian woman’s house and having her explain that her home, which was smaller than my living room, was a communal home shared by many. She told me what it was like to be her; she was a single mom with four children, their beds were up on paint tins above the ground, and how each time it rained her house would flood.”
That moment was powerful for so many reasons, but mostly for the sacred trust she experienced with that woman who graciously let her into her world, allowing her the opportunity to take a “walk in her shoes.”
And to think, five minutes up the road was an all-inclusive luxury resort! The loud disparate dichotomy based on chance (or lack thereof) was deafening for Christal, and she knew she had to do something.
Thankfully, this chance encounter would be the reason Christal decided to make the Dominican Republic a priority for her humanitarian outreach efforts where she would find both her inspiration for Brave Soles and her adopted daughter, Widlene.
Garbage Dump Destiny
After that talk with the Haitian mother in the one-room shack, Christal brought hundreds of Live Different teenagers to the Dominican Republic that year.
They would visit a garbage dump where many impoverished people, mostly stateless with no legal place to call home, worked for $1-$2 dollars a day.
Christal and her team helped these people collect bottles and other recyclables. Since recycling is privatized there, this is how most stateless individuals earn an income. While there, Christal befriended a woman with a toddler on her hip. They chatted, she helped her find bottles, and they parted ways.
About a year after this encounter, Christal learned that woman passed away, and her child was now an orphan. She and her then-husband were thinking about adoption already, so they began a quest to find that child, Widlene, which they did in 2009.
Widlene is of Haitian descent and was born in the Dominican Republic, so to adopt her required official documents and judiciary approval. This process took months instead of the anticipated weeks, and during that time Christal’s marriage began to dissolve. They completed the process only to have an earthquake destroy the paperwork and, unfortunately, claim the life of the judge.
Now Christal had a daughter who doesn’t speak the same language, she had no legal abilities to protect her nor could she leave the country with her. On top of all that, she was legally separated from her husband and now had to face the reality of being a single parent in a foreign country.
What’s a girl to do but start rebuilding her life?
“I was still working with Live Different, but I felt a pull to do something else. I’m an entrepreneur at heart, and inside me, I wanted to be able to create something that was going to provide a way for me to co-create with other people.”
Christal split her time between the Dominican Republic and Canada while she and her now ex-husband, co-parented their daughter. She spent her time away making money as a speaker and while in the Dominican Republic, she continued to host teams taking them to the garbage dump to work with the stateless population.
While she had been helping them find bottles for years, her work in the dump took on a new meaning considering her financial struggles as a now single parent.
“I’m actually in the same boat as these people. It looks different on the outside, but financially, I was just as vulnerable…I had such empathy for the cycle that they were caught in. It was through that empathy that I started to see the people there and the dump itself differently. I noticed the tires.”
The tires weren’t new, but her perspective was, and that shift would lead to her moment of divine entrepreneurial inspiration.
“What’s with all the tires?” people would ask when Christal would bring them to the dump to work. Usually, she would shrug it off, claiming ignorance as they got to work. One day, she said those famous last words many social entrepreneurs have uttered before:
“I don’t know, but someone should really do something about it.”
A few weeks later she walks out of her apartment, says hello to her neighbor, and notices her sandals. Christal said she had a “total girl moment” saying she loved them and asked where to find a pair. Her friend said she bought the handmade leather sandals in Cuba and handed one to Christal for closer inspection.
That’s when lightning struck: she could be the person to “do something” about those tires in the dump. The sole on the sandal she was holding was no better than what she could create using those tires through upcycling and a little ingenuity with the help of local artisans.
Upcycling Ideas and Resources
Christal is the first one to tell you this was not a new idea; many organizations worldwide use upcycling to help impoverished communities create goods, including sandals which she had seen from Africa and Central America.
Those were never her style, but she realized she could create something to her tastes that would address the tire issue, employ local artisans, and provide an income for her and her daughter.
She visited a small artisanal shop to ask the local shoemaker if he could help her create a prototype. When she explained how wanted to use recycled tires as the soles, he looked at her like she had lost her mind.
The next day he sent her a picture of a simple leather sandal, and he told Christal he found someone who knew how to work with tires. Everything was falling in line from a manufacturing standpoint; now, she just needed to find the money to start her business.
Posting a Plan: You’ve got to start somewhere.
Christal was still barely making it by with her income as a speaker so as a single mom, there wasn’t a dime she could commit to this project.
She knew her crazy idea could work thanks to her Haitian artisan friends so she went to her apartment and using Post-it notes, created the business model on her kitchen wall. She decided on the “Brave Soles” name, visualized her brand and mapped out a timeline based on her research.
She determined that $250 is what she needed to start. Thanks to a generous friend, she got $1000.
Then, she got to work.
Brave Soles Takes Off Running
That next day she started making shoes. Over the following six weeks she set up a Shopify site, had people wear sample sandals to gain feedback, and took some amateur pictures of her products at a local coffee shop.
On June 7, an organic Facebook post using these pictures introduced her brand to the world. This post generated 40 sales in one day.
She knew she was on to something.
At the time, she didn’t have the inventory to fulfill the orders, so she knew it was time to ramp up production. The good news was, her customers were aware they were buying more than sandals and were willing to wait for their order.
This vision of co-creating with other entrepreneurs would initially come at a cost for Brave Soles. While the local community wanted the work, suppliers lacked the resources and machinery to do it.
Christal developed a microloan program so these suppliers could purchase what they needed. It was a win-win; Brave Soles would be their first customer and they would now be equipped to take on new business from others. She realized that this microfinancing initiative was an essential part of her story:
“We’ve created a microloan program to give people a chance to participate in our story…and one of the things I’ve come to realize thanks to feedback from our customers is that when they talk about us online and social media, it always comes back to ‘I love that I know the story behind what I’m wearing.’”
Telling the Brave Soles Story: The Ambassador Program
Christal says this story-based selling is nothing new, but there are new and unique ways to share their story worldwide. Today, the Brave Soles Ambassador Program has representatives located throughout the world ready to sell her products and her cause to their local communities and online.
“I stumbled into the idea because people were telling me how excited they were about Brave Soles products and how they loved our story and wanted to know how they could help us succeed. I realized there’s a model for people to share a part of our story through an independent sales program…and it needed to have an element that for everyone was transformational, not just transactional.”
Christal and her team have developed several ways for ambassadors to help sell their brand worldwide using startup packages, trunk show sales, and peer network groups.
She credits the success of the Brave Soles Ambassador Program to her global sales representatives who share her passion of helping people discover ways to think and buy differently. Christal and her team are challenging the notion that one person can’t make a difference with their dollar, and that you can fulfill your need and help others simultaneously by purchasing a beautiful item that has a remarkable story.
It Takes Village: Gathering Other Brave Souls
Christal believes that it takes a village to create a successful social enterprise, and that village can sometimes come at a cost. Since she founded Brave Soles, she has relied on a council of advisors and mentors that have helped her company thrive and in return, she has supported others.
She believes there is value in “putting yourself out there” in a way that is comfortable for you. If you are beginning as an entrepreneur, it may be taking advantage of local groups and free events that provide networking opportunities. As your business grows and you want to expand your network, you can seek out paid opportunities like startup incubators or becoming a member of a local association related to your industry.
She said it’s these relationships with others that has helped create the social impact she envisioned:
“I gathered a council of advisors and mentors around me and participated in some startup incubators that were healthy ecosystems made up of people like me who were experiencing the same kind of journey, and I know it’s why Brave Soles has been successful. Our success as a brand has been a team effort.”
The Journey Ahead
Today Brave Soles sources materials from landfills to create sandals, shoes, handbags, and more. With success has come expansion with suppliers now located in the Dominican Republic, Argentina, and Mexico. Christal’s dream of co-creation continues as Brave Soles currently employs cutters and sewers from these areas to help craft these handmade items.
Christal intends on pushing outside her comfort zone to seek new funding sources. She initially raised money from a private investor and now realizes that as her business grows, she needs additional funds to support that growth.
She encourages social entrepreneurs to be brave when asking for funding; to realize that as your business evolves so too will your budget and that’s a good thing if you can plan accordingly and think long-term. As she gears up for her next pitch, she relies on her previous experience and is reminded that it’s her story and passion that sells, and there is always someone looking for a reason to invest in humanity.
Action Steps and Takeaways
Know Why You Are in Business
Social entrepreneurs are passionate people working for both an income and a reason. What’s your reason? Why does it matter? What returns from your work would you like to see?
These questions may seem like a mundane exercise as you make big plans to affect social change, but they are essential to have as a new startup to remind you why you’re in business in the first place. Passion can be misplaced when other issues arise that our bleeding hearts want to address; these answers will help keep your business heading in the right direction and most importantly, viable.
Stick to Your Values
Now that you know who you are as a business, what do you stand for and how will you relay those values to your audience?
Storytelling has been integral to the Brave Soles brand since its inception and can help tell yours too. Christal’s experience with Live Different, her time spent in the garbage dump, and her personal struggles have all added to the Brave Sole brand in different ways, and the brand story keeps evolving as her business continues to grow.
How will you use storytelling to your advantage? You are selling more than products or services; you are inviting people to participate in your brand and affect social change. Using storytelling to communicate your passion and values can help create the continuous transformative sales you want rather than the one-time transactional sales you may receive.
People may love your product, but they will talk more about the experience with your brand rather than what they received in return for their money. Remember that! Love always wins so even when it’s hard to be kind, remember your mission is worth it.
When you’re faced with choosing an email marketing tool for your business, remember this: You shouldn’t be on the lookout for a tool that has ‘all the features’. Rather, you should be getting a tool – or any kind of software – based on whether it has the right features. That’s why today I compare ConvertKit vs GetResponse: Which tool will work best for your business?
For example, if you’re a solo entrepreneur who wants to sell an online course on your website, you don’t probably need a full-fledged marketing software with CRM, ad tracking and advanced segmentation. But, if you run a million-dollar ecommerce business, an email marketing software without these features is no good for you.
That’s why, when ‘shopping’ for email marketing software, your goal should be to choose one that’s a fit for your business.
ConvertKit Vs GetResponse: Which Email Marketing Tool is Right For You?
In this article, we are going to compare two popular email marketing tools: GetResponse and ConvertKit.
None of these tools are, so to say, ‘bad’.
But, because of the huge difference in features, only one is going to be the right fit for you. We’ll contrast the features in both tools which will help you decide which one will suit the needs of your business.
And again, that’s what ultimately matters.
Before we get started on that, though, here’s a brief intro of both tools – who they’re for and what they’re good at.
If you are a creator, a one-man business or a solo marketer who sells limited products or operates within a niche, ConvertKit is designed for you.
Here are some features which make ConvertKit unique:
It is a ‘subscriber-centric’ email marketing software. This means it provides great functionality that makes it easy to segment your audience and nurture them with targeted content.
The tool is easy enough to be operated by one person or small teams, yet the features it gives you are powerful enough to support your growing subscriber-base – and business.
Its automation tools are as good, or even better than what you get from ‘bigger’ email marketing tools like ActiveCampaign or InfusionSoft. Plus, the software is a pleasure to use because it’s so easy to understand.
With that being said, ConvertKit is just an email marketing tool – but a really good one. But you won’t find a great landing page builder or a CRM tool bundled with it. For that, you’ll have to subscribe to other marketing tools and integrate them with ConvertKit.
If you run a business that stocks a high number of products, have a sales and/or marketing team, and are particularly focused on developing relationships with your leads and customers, GetResponse is a perfect email marketing tool for you.
Here’s are the features which make it unique:
It is a ‘customer-centric’ email marketing software. This means its functionality can help you build a lead database, follow-up on them with personalized emails and convert them into your customers.
It has multiple tools bundled together under one roof. This means you’ll need a dedicated team to fully take advantage of GetResponse.
It is a tool that’s focused on helping you make sales. That’s why GetResponse isn’t just an email marketing tool. You also get a CRM service, landing page and webinar builder – and much more.
In essence, Getresponse is a great all-in-one marketing suite with some pretty diverse tools. But it isn’t easy to operate single-handedly. To take full advantage of all the features, you’ll need a dedicated team for it.
With GetResponse, don’t think of it as just an email marketing tool. Rather, view it as ‘a complete CRM (customer relationship management) software which comes with email marketing capabilities’.
And in conclusion, the main difference between both tools is this:
ConvertKit IS an email marketing tool. GetResponse HAS an email marketing tool.
ConvertKit Vs. GetResponse: Feature Walkthrough
The difference between the number of features ConvertKit and GetResponse have is huge. Here’s a helpful overview of exactly what features you get with ConvertKit and GetResponse:
So let’s start by taking a detailed look at what it’s like to use both ConvertKit and GetResponse. This will help you see better what each tool is capable of – and what you can really accomplish with them.
ConvertKit: The ‘Subscriber Centric’ Email Marketing Tool
With any email marketing tool, the first thing you should check is how good it is for writing emails, creating autoresponder campaigns and automating the whole process. In addition, you also want to examine how well of a system it provides you for getting and managing your subscribers.
First, let’s start with the form builder of ConvertKit which is how you’ll gain subscribers in the first place:
ConvertKit Form Builder
In ConvertKit, there are two ways you can capture the emails of your subscribers to grow your email list:
I’ll be honest right from the start, there aren’t a lot of customization options. There are just three templates for creating forms and similarly, a limited amount of templates to create landing pages.
But overall, the functionality of these are pretty good.
First of all, you can host your forms and landing pages on ConvertKit itself. You don’t even need a website. Second of all, if you decide to put it on your website, you can set triggers as to when you want your forms to appear. You can put them in between text, as a pop-up box or as a slider.
In addition, after people subscribe through your forms, you can redirect them to a thank you page, send them a downloadable file and more.
ConvertKit Email Features
In ConvertKit, you get a WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) editor in which you can write your emails.
And to be honest, it is a pretty barebone editor.
There aren’t any templates to get you started. This means you can only add text, images and GIFs to your emails. The best you can do is change the background and element colors in your emails – and that’s that.
ConvertKit says they don’t include emails because ‘barebone’ emails have a higher chance of converting.
But even then, the functionality of ConvertKit’s editor is pretty limited. You can’t drag and drop elements like text, images, GIFs and other cool widgets to create your email. It’s like you’re working in a Word processor.
Email Autoresponder (Campaign Creator)
Like any email marketing tool, ConvertKit’s email autoresponder is great.
You can easily create a series of emails for different marketing campaigns – customize the timings as to when you want to send each email, choose the dates when you want each email to be sent – and more.
In addition, you can create a broadcast, which is a one-time email you can send to all your subscribers.
Overall, ConvertKit’s user interface of writing emails and creating campaigns is pretty solid. On the left side, you can see all your emails in the sequence – and quickly navigate to the one you want to edit.
The only thing that’s really lacking when it comes to email in ConvertKit is the editor. Whether you love its simplicity or not – is up to you.
ConvertKit Subscriber Management System
To manage your subscribers, ConvertKit gives you just one list. And in that list, you can divide your subscribers using ‘tags’ and ‘segments’.
Tags are simply how you divide your subscribers based on their demographics, activity or relationship with your business. And segments are how you categorize different tags to further create the user groups you want. Nearly most of the time, this system works well.
This is because tags act as custom fields and you can put as many tags as you want in a subscribers profile. And since segments allow you to further organize your tags, you can pretty much divide your subscribers into any kind of audience you want.
The only problem is you get one list. This is a bummer because if you are running two separate businesses or websites, you can’t create another list of subscribers. For that, you’ll have to create a whole new account.
ConvertKit gives you a full section called ‘automation’. This is a powerful feature where you can automate nearly every single aspect of your email marketing. Here, you can do things like:
Start an autoresponder campaign when a subscriber joins your list.
Tag subscribers based on how they interact with your emails.
Trigger ‘actions’ based on something a subscriber does (or doesn’t do).
Connect multiple autoresponders together and send them automatically to the right audiences.
Ultimately, automations in ConvertKit is a powerful service that as you use it, the easier it will make email marketing for you. Subscribers will automatically receive new emails, get segmented into tags and segments, be added to autoresponder campaigns and more – all without you having to do a thing!
GetResponse: The ‘Customer-Centric’ Email Marketing Tool
With GetResponse, you get many marketing tools for your business. Let’s break them down one by one and see how GetResponse differs from ConvertKit as a whole:
In GetResponse, you truly get a fully featured email marketing tool for your business.
Right of the bat, there are 500+ unique email templates for you to choose from for every kind of email imaginable. And once you land in the email editor, you can a really intuitive drag-and-drop builder that allows you to simply drag text, images, videos and other cool elements onto your emails. Plus, there is an HTML version of the editor that lets you create simple text-based emails like in ConvertKit.
If that’s not enough, you also get 1000+ professional iStock photographs to put in your emails.
Plus, you can create autoresponder campaigns just like with ConvertKit. But unlike ConvertKit, you get a cool ‘calendar view’ in GetResponse with which you can see exactly which dates which emails in the campaign will be sent to your subscribers.
GetResponse’s landing pages deserve its own section. That’s because when compared to ConvertKit, or any other email marketing tool really, they offer a much better selection (and better designed) landing page templates. There are literally hundreds of them with beautiful graphics and vectors which make it a pleasure to use.
There are templates for Opt-in pages, squeeze pages, promo pages, downloads pages and more. Plus, like for emails, you get 1000+ iStock images and an image editor to edit them to suit your needs.
With ConvertKit, if you truly want to create a professional landing page, you’ll have to subscribe to a service like Leadpages or Unbounce. With GetResponse, you don’t need to.
But if you plan to put forms on your website only, this feature of GetResponse might not be of much use to you.
Webinars, Forms, and Surveys
In GetResponse, you get more ways to capture subscribers.
Sure, like ConvertKit, you can create forms and landing pages to get emails. But other than that, what you also get are webinars and surveys.
This is a feature which very few email marketing tools have.
In GetResponse, you can easily host a live webinar and create forms which let you capture the email of your attendees. Your subscribers can easily join your webinars using their phones and tablets.
Plus, the Webinar tool in GetResponse isn’t ‘basic’. Your attendees can chat with each other, you can write things in a virtual whiteboard, create polls, surveys and much more.
It really is a full-fledged webinar solution.
And finally, GetResponse gives you a full survey tool to create professional surveys with which you can get emails (and valuable feedback) of your website visitors.
To be honest, GetResponse’s CRM isn’t a feature-packed as other dedicated CRMs like SalesForce. But it’s more than powerful for you to keep track of your ‘leads’ and turn them into your customers.
For starters, you can a five-column dashboard which is divided into ‘New Opportunity’, ‘Qualified’, ‘Presentation’, ‘Won’ and ‘Lost’.
It is an extremely visual place where you can put your leads and prospects in the above categories, assign users to follow-up on them and custom fields and tags, right within the CRM tool.
Plus, you can add notes, events and time-based to-dos so you always know how to follow up on each lead.
Finally, tying all this together is GetResponse’s automation feature. Like ConvertKit, it is visual, lets you set triggers which activate based on behavior, allows you to link your many autoresponder campaigns and much more.
And while it is similar to the one in ConvertKit, it is so much more powerful in its functionality.
Because with ConvertKit, you are only able to automate your email marketing. But with GetResponse, you can automate activities that are happening inside your webinars and CRM as well.
This significantly increases the scope of what you can automate in GetResponse, and allows you to tie not just your email marketing, but also sales activity and live webinars together as well.
Final Deciding Factor: Pricing
If pricing were similar, the clear winner would definitely have been GetResponse. But in this battle, this is not the case.
Convert’s pricing starts at $29 per month for 1000 subscribers. The more subscribers you have, the more you’ll pay. But no matter which plans you get, ConvertKit gives you all of its features.
But GetResponse has different pricing. Their basic plan starts at $15 for 1000 subscribers and gives you just email autoresponders and the ability to create landing pages. This plan isn’t that good – and if you want something like this, you should get ConvertKit instead.
But if you want to open up features such as the webinar, full landing page builder and CRM, you’ll need to subscribe to the $49 plan, which when compared to ConvertKit, gets you more features at a better price.
But in the end, it all depends on what you want.
Do want a service that’s fully dedicated to email marketing? Or do you want a service that also takes care of your sales with a CRM, gives you a webinar tool + provides email marketing? The decision is yours…
To make your decision, how about doing some further reading?
This time of year can be quite stressful. Not only are we leaving another year behind, but we’re also starting off a new one. As entrepreneurs, it can be tempting to take this time to ‘catch up’ on all those lingering projects we’ve wanted to get done all year, but I would caution you against that.
Over the past few years of owning my own business and now as co-founder here at Change Creator, the end of the year brings its own joys and strains.
Today, I snapped at someone in a work meeting.
I had no patience, no time to discuss stuff, I was annoyingly rushed.
You see, that’s what happens at this time of year for me. I have a million little projects that still need to be done. Add to that the holiday strains and stresses (I have an 8-year old) and you’ve got one cranky person. Every year, I tell myself that I’m going to do my best and find time to just ‘chill’ but every year I give in and do way too much and feel that strain.
So this year, I’m stopping this cycle.
And, I’m going to focus on these 6 ways to enjoy the holidays as an entrepreneur and start 2019 as a more refreshed, positive, all-guns-blazing person on a mission!
1. Take some time to meditate.
Today a trusted colleague told me (again) to meditate. It’s something relatively new to my life but has made such a difference. I swear, 10 minutes of meditation is better than a few drinks to focus and relax you. You can meditate anytime, anywhere as long as you can find your center and focus. I will usually go through meditation spurts, followed by my most productive, happy days, then I’ll let the meditation slide for a few days, followed by my most stressed-out, unproductive days.
There’s a connection here people! Meditate = calm, productive, decisive.
Over the holidays, I encourage you (and me) to take a few minutes every day and meditate. It will keep all those busy schedules, family political discussions, and last-minute trips to the mall in perspective.
2. Delegate your holiday tasks too.
I have to admit. I used to be one of those overachievers during the holidays. I used to make homemade gifts, homemade stocking stuffers, and send out cards. I would schedule and host parties and do the whole nine. Well, I’ve decided that none of these efforts brought me any more joy than what I do now.
Over the past few years, I’ve streamlined my holiday efforts and found joy in what really matters, getting some downtime and eating copious amounts of food with friends and family.
I stopped doing all the cooking and shopping too. This year, I delegate. Everyone wants to be included and it’s not that tough to let people help.
I also do a lot of online shopping.
Just like in business, we can’t to it all on our own. If you are going to enjoy the holidays, you don’t want to be rushed off your feet planning and doing it all on your own. Delegate to friends, family, or just simplify. You’ll thank me for that when you get time to enjoy that third eggnog too!
3. Don’t start anything new from now until the new year.
Okay, folks. Finish whatever you need to this week and then done. Don’t start a new project, don’t try to get a jump on next year’s plans. Take this time to complete something, but stop there.
If you have a free day, that’s okay.
You don’t need to extend any extra effort to tackle those big, new projects. Guess what? It will all be waiting for you when you get back.
4. Unplug for (at least) one day!
I realize not everyone celebrates “Christmas” and that’s okay. But just because you don’t officially celebrate the holidays, doesn’t mean you can’t take advantage of the one day of the year that most people don’t work.
Unplug for one day. Please.
Don’t check your emails.
Don’t send any emails.
Don’t schedule posts or do some Facebook campaigns.
Unplug and enjoy!
5. Give yourself and your crew a break!
Our employees work really hard for us all year. Please, let’s not be those owners who demand work get done all year round. I’ve worked for many clients that think that Dec. 31 is a perfectly suitable deliverable deadline.
I will never be that employer. Our crew needs time to refresh and relax too.
This article was originally published on The Sedge.
Marketing. I’m going to go out on a limb and guess that this is not your favorite part of being a Change Creator.
It might even be the last thing on your list. It might feel a bit scary or uncomfortable; it might feel like a task outside of your wheelhouse, or it might be something you wish you could simply avoid altogether.
As a Change Creator, the entire reason you started your social venture is to serve your community with a product or service that improves their life.
You don’t want to worry about ‘getting in front of customers’ or ‘pitching’ or ‘promotional campaigns’. And you certainly don’t want to feel like a sleazeball! You don’t want to feel like you’re pulling the wool over people’s eyes, or pushing too hard for a sale.
You just want to do the thing that makes a difference.
If you’ve ever felt this way, I have great news for you: there is another way to share your impact brand and position yourself as the go-to company (or person) for what provide. You can market your social business in a way that feels authentic, values-driven, and human.
First, let’s look at what branding and marketing entail.
Anne Miltenberg is the founder of The Branding, where she co-creates branding strategies with social entrepreneurs. In her interview with Change Creator, Anne shared what branding means to her:
“Branding is framing who you are, what you do, and why it matters. It’s having a deep understanding of who needs to know you, and how they’re going to find out about you.”
Once you’re clear on who you are – your brand – you need to share it out and connect with the people who might be interested so they know you exist and are aware of the products or services you provide. That’s where marketing comes in.
Think of it this way:
If you have something that your community needs (which I’m sure you do), your job is to make sure they know about you. To that end, branding and marketing are not ‘nice to have’, they are essential activities to deliver on your mission.
People who need you are not going to find you out of thin air, or in a haystack. You need to be visible and take action in order to reach them.
I’m sure you’re doing your best to share your message. You’re probably sharing ‘who you are’, ‘what you do’, and ‘why it matters’.
But are you doing it in a way that sticks with people?
Every day you’re taking action in your business, and this shows that you walk the talk, which is important. Your actions will help reinforce the facts you’re sharing about who you are, and why you matter.
That’s great. But there’s actually a third ingredient that is going to be the most essential to help you connect with your audience and share your brand in a way that they remember, can relate to, engage with, and will share with others.
This ingredient is using storytelling in your branding and marketing.
When you use story effectively in your communications, it helps people not just understand, but connect with who you are. It helps them think of you when they need that thing that you’re delivering or creating or doing.
Here are five ways you can use story to connect authentically and meaningfully with your audience.
#1 – Share something personal.
This comes up naturally in stories but it’s worth mentioning because sharing something personal is a great way to form a deeper connection with your listener.
As a purpose-driven entrepreneur, the reason why you do what you do is an inherent advantage. It can be a unique driver for communicating with your with your people (although remember that you still need to have an offer that is competitive and creates real value).
As the founder, you want to use story to share why the work that you do is meaningful to you individually. You don’t need to keep your messaging ‘all business’. You can share the personal reasons why the work you do is important to you. Including this personal perspective will resonate with your audience and definitely make an impression about why they should remember you and the work that you do.
# 2 – Don’t be afraid to show your imperfections through story.
You might feel like you have to have it ‘all figured out’ in order to have a professional brand. But this approach can distance you from your audience and supporters.
The reality is, through your stories, you can show a little bit of imperfection. It could be hesitations or vulnerabilities that you might be feeling. No matter who you are, you have experienced challenges. Having doubts, questions, and vulnerabilities is a part of the human existence that we all share, and that’s why it’s so powerful.
If you’re willing to share some of those imperfections in your messaging and in your stories, it makes them that much more relatable to the people who are listening. They’re not thinking that you’re some mannequin up on a pedestal who has it all figured out, like a polished robot.
They see, “Oh, wow, this person is totally human. Their business is their passion and their business has flaws, too. And that’s okay. And I actually like them better for that because they’re real. And I get them because I have those challenges too.”
It creates a bridge where your audience can relate to you, and this shared experience can be extremely powerful for your for your brand.
#3 – Communication is a two-way street
Marketing is about standing alone shouting from the rooftops with your message, hoping it lands on your audience.
It is a two-way street with your potential customers and wider community. It’s important to give space for them engage with you, to respond and share what they think about what you’re doing. To give their feedback about your product or your offering or services.
I like to think of marketing as relationship building and it’s similar when it comes to your brand. Your audience wants to be part of the conversation, not just shouted at.
Sharing your story provides people a way to connect with your brand because stories need both a teller and a listener, otherwise you’re just talking to yourself!
Since stories are just as much about you as they are about your listener, you need to make sure that you provide channels for them to engage. Open that space. If you don’t invite them into the conversation, they’re not going to have any reason to raise their hand and talk to you.
It’s your job to make sure that you are opening up that two-way communication with your audience. Stories are a great way to do that, again, because you’re relating to people on a personal level and you’re sharing your experience and imperfections.
When you start from there, you can say, “Have you experienced this too? What’s your experience with this situation? What do you think about that?”. You open up the dialogue.
Make sure you’re always asking questions and letting your audience know that you want to hear from them.
#4 – The hero of the story is (spoiler alert) not you or your business.
Although it opens up the connection, people do not listen to you for your stories. They listen to make meaning in their own lives.
They are listening for ideas and greater understanding that applies to their own situation and objectives. It’s a very human thing to be fairly centered around your own life – you’re the one living it after all!
So your listener wants to know how, whatever you’re sharing, effects them and their life.
That makes them the hero of the story!
In the standard story arc, the hero is the person who goes through the journey. They try, they hit challenges, and they go through a transformation of some kind. They come out of their life experiences a changed person.
The hero of your brand is not you – it’s your customer, the person who is benefiting from the value that you create. This is a concept that Donald Miller outlines in his book, Building a Story Brand,
Donald explains how instead of being the hero, your role is to be the guide. You and your business are there to support the hero on their journey. No matter what kind of product or service you offer, whether it’s for a paying customer, or a beneficiary who is engaging with that value, it’s really all about them. And the more you keep that in mind in your stories and in your marketing, the more authentic and meaningful brand you will create.
#5 – Show transformation with examples.
I’m sure this is old news to you, but great stories have a beginning, middle and an end. As mentioned, usually there’s the person who encounters some kind of challenge or conflict, and they need to figure out how to move through it, coming out a changed person.
This arc can be summed up as a transformation, or a before and after. You want to use examples in your communications to show that you understand what that before and after is for your hero customer. You get where they’re at and you want to help them move through it.
The better you can describe that transformation through tangible examples, the more people will feel heard and understood. With that trust, they can rely on you as a guide in this transformation.
Those are the five tips I have for you to use story as you build your brand and connect with your audience as an authentic social entrepreneur who hopefully is getting comfortable with marketing and selling because really, it’s your impact is there if you don’t have customers?
Remember, if you’re not sharing your message with a wider audience, aka marketing, then why are you around? Why are you in business? And why are you doing this work? The people who can benefit need to hear from you and it’s your job to make that happen.
If you’re ready to craft the most compelling founder’s impact story, there might still be room in Captivate. Captivate is a 6-week program to help you articulate your story and put it at the heart of your marketing, so you can cut through the noise and attract your best customers, funders, partners and supporters.
For a great entrepreneurial idea to grow into a successful and thriving business, there is often a window of opportunity that is momentarily open. Successful business people know how to take advantage of that window of opportunity even when traditional business wisdom advises the opposite.
Vangst Staffing is today the number one recruiting resource for the rapidly growing cannabis industry across the United States and Canada. Since originally launching in 2015, they have connected around 5,500 candidates with professional employment opportunities in the rapidly emerging cannabis industry, and will most likely participate in helping to staff a large part of the quarter million jobs that are expected to materialize in this industry within the coming years.
The resounding success of Vangst, however, didn’t happen overnight. Rather, it was the brainchild of a young entrepreneur who believed in her business proposal even when the emerging industry still was in its infant stages.
The growth of Vangst from a one-person startup with zero clients to the number one recruiting agency in one of the fastest growing industries on the continent offers several helpful business insights, strategies, and ideas that other entrepreneurs would do well to replicate.
Identifying Unmet Business Opportunities
In 2015, the cannabis industry was still stigmatized and branded as a fringe industry dominated by a select group of people on the margins of society. Karson Humiston, the founder and CEO of Vangst mentions that when the company first started, almost no professional from the pharmaceutical industry would have considered a career within the world of cannabis. Three years later, however, Vangst is successfully connecting professional pharmacists and other professionals with high paying jobs in this industry.
As state legislatures across the country began to legalize both medical and recreational cannabis, Karson was able to foresee the growth opportunities in this market. While others scorned the emerging cannabis industry as nothing more than a few marihuana farms and dispensary shops, she was able to anticipate the market.
As cannabis slowly became legalized across large portions of the continent, acceptance would grow and people would discover the benefits associated with this previously stigmatized plant. Karson understood that past prejudice would make it hard for professionals across the industry to discover and take advantage of this emerging job market. Similarly, companies that operated within the cannabis market would also find it difficult to find quality employees for their growing businesses.
Thus, Karson´s idea of creating a staffing agency and recruiting resource specific to the cannabis industry filled a need in an emerging market that most people continued to avoid because of inaccurate perceptions about the industry. Today, lots of qualified individuals from a wide range of professions are looking at the cannabis industry as a potential career option. There are jobs available for botanists, executive assistants, chemical engineers, and dispensary store managers, to name just a few of the potential job openings. Vangst was able to get a head start on the industry and firmly establish a quality business service for both employers and potential employees in this industry.
Persistence and Tenacity
Identifying emergent markets is one part of the Vangst´s success story. However, it took a healthy dose of persistence and tenacity to see the business idea through to success. After going to an industry tradeshow and identifying the possibility for a cannabis industry staffing agency, Karson spent well over a year waiting for her first client. “I remember thinking that every day I would wake up and think that today is the day I´m going to get my first client,” Karson mentions.
She followed up with companies that she met at the tradeshow, relentlessly called the contacts on her list, organized meetings with these companies, and was mostly rejected. Finally, one cannabis company offered her an opportunity, mostly because they were impressed that she had continued to ask for a meeting after several prior rejections. Karson mentions that “somehow I was able to find them their accountant…and they referred me to some additional cannabis companies.
When you can get that word of mouth referral from a big brand…that is really what it took to go from zero clients to several clients.” Karson believes that entrepreneurship is about believing in a business idea and sticking with the plan.
“You have to believe in what you´re doing…and I was not willing to give up until I got a client. Setting goals and going after them…is the big differentiator between companies that can get off the ground and companies that inevitably fail,” she offers. “It comes down to giving up.”
While Vangst did build a small website that explained the services they offered, they didn’t simply sit back and wait for the phone to start ringing. Rather, Karson and the first members of her team would incessantly make phone calls to leading companies in the cannabis industry. They believed in their business proposal and wanted to contact directly people who mattered within the industry.
Amanda Guerrero, business development manager at Vangst, was one of the first employees that Karson hired. Amanda wanted to explore the Los Angeles cannabis market and was given free reign by Karson to try and create a new market on the west coast.
She would spend lots of time at networking events and developing strong relationships with people in the industry. Amanda shares that getting out there and spending lots of time in front of people who matter in the industry was essential for business growth.
“Being able to stick your hand out…takes a lot of confidence and grit, and it´s not a very comfortable position to be in…if your personality doesn’t lend itself to being outgoing.”
Instead of just sitting behind the phone, the hustle involved in going to conferences, setting up meetings, and introducing yourself to complete strangers was fundamental for strong business development. “The more that you introduce yourself to strangers the fewer strangers you’re going to have when you go back to visit,” Amanda adds.
As Vangst looks to expand into the Canadian market, Amanda has spent much time going to Toronto and other Canadian cities in search of companies and allies that will be willing to work with Vangst.
A Focus on Relationships
Vangst believes that relationship building has been the key to their success. Early on, the purpose of spending long hours at networking events wasn’t to find short-term success, but rather to build long-term business relationships.
Amanda´s time spent trying to expand Vangst´s influence in Los Angeles did not yield any immediate fruits. The market wasn’t ready and legal barriers still existed. However, the time and energy Amanda spent developing relationships with key players in the local cannabis industries planted seeds that later blossomed into long-term business relationships once the market did emerge.
When the company was just beginning, Karson mentions that Vangst was essentially offering a free service to their clients just to get their foot in the door. The extremely low entry offer was a business strategy aimed at building trust and letting their clients discover the quality of the service that they provided.
As Vangst has grown from a one-person startup to a company with over 50 employees working in markets across the continent, Karson wanted to make sure that all employees shared the main value of focusing on relationships with clients and maintaining the individualized component of the business service they offered. Making sure that employees´ goals are aligned with the long-term vision of the company is a fundamental strategy to help the company maintain one of the original elements that helped it succeed.
Business Insights and Strategies to Learn From Vangst Vangst
Vangst has almost singlehandedly built a community of entrepreneurial people that want to get involved in the emerging cannabis industry. Over 160,000 people are currently employed full time in the cannabis industry and that number is expected to triple by 2020. Their sound business strategy and philosophy has made Vangst poised to continue to be a major player as the cannabis industry continues to grow. Other entrepreneurs would do well to learn from Vangst´s experience, namely:
Identifying unmet business opportunities in an emerging (though overlooked) market
Persistence and tenacity even when the market appears to be non-responsive
Direct outreach towards major players in the industry
My “knife-in-the-back” experience had a positive side in that it led me to experience an epiphany. Congrats, you say – so what?
I agree, so what, people experience their epiphany every day. Wikipedia says an epiphany (from the ancient Greek epiphaneia, “manifestation, striking appearance”) is an experience of a sudden and striking realization.
To have an epiphany is common, not exceptional. You all know this and you all know it can apply to any facet of your life.
We experience these striking realizations when obfuscation by the universe conveniently clears and you see a pathway open up with pristine clarity. A clarity that could engender exhilaration to agony.
This story of my epiphany was related to career or at least the rest of my career. Wikipedia says “career is a person’s course or progress through life”. Although it’s arguable I don’t have a career as such any longer. I have to fess-up and declare that I’m 63.
Prior to my career epiphany, I had been CEO of a startup for 2+ years, starting when it was a concept and taking it to production in Azure and securing revenue from a couple of marquee customers.
I was pretty happy with the progress, although progress is rarely as fast as shareholders want.
Those 2 years were full speed and some. You know what it’s like when you start at the start – you’re working with the outline of an idea and you have to confirm product/market fit, raise capital, build the thing and then sell it.
Actually, it’s fun, in a way that people who haven’t done a startup might not appreciate.
Anyway, I’m 2 years plus in and suddenly the vibe changes. When you’ve been around for a while you get to be alert to what might otherwise seem like very subtle, even imperceptible changes.
The New Guy
The subtle changes started when the shareholders introduced me to this new guy they felt could really assist with the rate of progress. It didn’t take long for the new guy to start convening meetings (not always with me present), giving presentations, suggesting strategies and sharing his thoughts on the new business model he felt was essential for growth. Now the red lights were flashing.
At a Board meeting where I wasn’t advised the new guy would be presenting, I got to hear about his brilliant new strategy for the business. A full 57 slides of unrelenting banality.
So, now it’s clear. The “new guy” will be replacing me as CEO. This is classic “knife in the back” (KITB) stuff. It’s also typically the work of cowards. A collusion of cowards spruiking falsehoods.
Ironically the KITB is actually a kind of twisted backhanded compliment – a test to see if you’re perceptive enough to know what’s happening. If you figure it out then you’re actually politically adept, if not, well you’re clearly a loser.
I thought there’s no way I’ll lie down for this, particularly as I had formed the view that this “new guy” was totally out of his depth and knew next to nothing about the realities of life in a SaaS startup.
So, here we all are in the “strategy meeting” and the new guy is explaining his brilliant new vision, except his brilliant vision could be likened to a large bucket of caca.
I thought, “Are these Directors really swallowing this crap and believing the polyana picture pitched by the new guy?”.
Oh fuck. They really are. They’ve taken his bait – hook, line and sinker.
Seeing a Golden Opportunity
So in the course of about 2 weeks the scene has gone from me confronting shareholders to ask whether the new guy is, in fact, my replacement, which initially received a resounding “oh no Greg, we value you far too much to do that”, to a couple of weeks later “well, we feel it’s for the best and thought you could move to more of a part-time administrative role”.
Now, in case you may be thinking that I would ride off quietly into the sunset, I can assure the reader I didn’t. Given I’d experienced the pain of a KITB, I thought it only fair that I too should reciprocate and inflict pain.
Having been headhunted away from my previous CEO role, where I was happy, with a great team and a supportive Board, I had formed a view that the very least they could do was fully pay out my contract, rather than just give the minimum notice period of 3 months. After all, there was a clear moral obligation in my view. They’d headhunted me, so they were morally obligated to do the right thing, particularly after the KITB way they executed the change of CEO.
The conclusion of this sorry saga came with a confirmation by the key investor that they’d agreed to my request, although agreement came with a couple of caveats, which I thought were fine. By this time I just wanted to be out of the team, from which I had been unceremoniously benched.
I began to feel that this just might be a golden opportunity. A clean break, fresh air, new perspectives.
And a decision to fly away for a total change of scenery for about six weeks turned out in hindsight to be pure brilliance.
There’s no doubt been many people who’ve written about the cathartic release that overseas travel can initiate. In my case landing in Vienna in the early part of summer and then heading to southern Austria, on to Slovenia and ending up on the Croatian coast really did the trick.
If I’d have stayed in Sydney it’s quite possible my epiphany may not have exploded into my consciousness the way it did when I was sitting at a bar overlooking the Adriatic Sea.
That obfuscation by the universe I mentioned previously, dissipated sublimely as I was finishing my third margarita, watching the sunset lingeringly on a balmy Balkan evening.
Making a Real Change
That bar, that blissful evening, those scrumptious margaritas ended up being a potent recipe that sponsored a realization that I’d been gifted a wonderful and once-off opportunity to make a change for the better.
No longer would I pitch my talents to a group of investors who were seeking a CEO they could slaughter at their whim.
My vision at the Croatian bar was that I could help so many people in my community to crystalize their hopes for a future that they design and control. So many people in my community harbor dreams about creating and owning their future and I was the person who could set them up for success.
I saw with total clarity that my 63 years of experience actually had tremendous value to people who needed guidance and support for their entrepreneurial journey. And of course, there are so many ways to plan your journey, so many motivations and countless options.
Since that epiphanous moment in Croatia, I’ve taken many steps towards realizing my vision. When people ask me about the countless questions I know I must eventually answer, I say, “I know I don’t have all the answers today, I don’t even know all the questions today. I focus on taking a step forward each and every day, just like the Chinese proverb that a journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step.”
I like to think of the entrepreneurs I help as heroes and that they are on a heroic journey. The classical myth of the hero, setting forth from her known world to venture into the unknown world where she’ll slay the beast and return to her world as a hero.
I’m with her on that journey, helping her realize the heroes dream.
In the few months since the evening at the Croation bar, I’ve formed a not-for-profit called SEVENmile Venture Lab in my hometown of Manly, a harbor/seaside village that’s about a 20-minute ferry ride from Sydney.
I now have two co-founders who share my vision and together we’ve created a sizable wave of support. I can’t call it a tsunami just yet. Our community has embraced my vision to bring social and economic resilience to the regions we serve by educating and up-skilling people with a focus on the creation of new enterprises by women and men who want or need to design their future, young adults (16-25 years), migrants and the over 50s.
I’ve secured premises from our local Council and sponsors are circling as the word spreads that SEVENmile was devised around social resilience, diversity and inclusion.
When I tell the story of how I came to start SEVENmile Venture Lab, people lean forward and engage with excitement. That’s a very cool reward in itself, sensing that my humble vision can actually influence such a strong reaction.
SEVENmile will encourage and guide entrepreneurs of all ages and backgrounds to venture into unknown territory, just like I’m doing with SEVENmile.
It’s been a busy time for the environment. Actually, it’s been a busy 50 years, but when the conversation around the health of the planet recedes into the background, we get shockingly destructive reminders. For example, Hurricanes Michael and Florence and the earthquake in Indonesia which have all made the same point:
The time to act is (and has been) now.
These reminders have disproportionately affected those who are least able to withstand it. We still hear about broad devastation — and neglect — of many parts of Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria. And the earthquake in Indonesia is just the latest in a long line of extreme weather events that continue the tradition of impacting the poor and vulnerable.
So how do we move the conversation from “Why” and “Who caused it” to “What do we do about it”? Thankfully, the hard work is underway. A range of social entrepreneurs is already tackling these problems. We have a unique opportunity to focus on raising awareness around their work, at a time when the discourse is focused on increasingly unimportant questions like “Whose fault is this?”
While there is still disagreement on the causes of severe climate deterioration — as frustrating as that conversation continues to be to some — there is well-documented and verified data around the changes our planet has endured.
To start, the planet’s average surface temperate has risen about 1.62 degrees Fahrenheit (0.9 degrees Celsius) since the 19th century.
Thanks to the progressive sophistication of industry, how we make the things we frequently consume, and the extended quality and duration of our own lives, that change has primarily been driven by carbon dioxide increases (alongside other human-made emissions).
Our oceans have borne the brunt of this impact, with the top 2,300 feet (700 meters) of ocean showing a warming of 0.3 degrees Fahrenheit since the late ’60s. And according to America’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the average surface temperature of the seas has risen by about 1.6 degrees Fahrenheit over the past 100 years. Basically, since the 1980s, about a billion time the heat energy of the atom bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki has been added to the ocean which is the same as an atomic explosion every few seconds.
Whether you believe that humans caused it, didn’t cause it or are the butt of some cosmic practical joke, the American Meteorological Society boils it down to the following overarching narrative:
Our climate is changing.
Humans are playing a role in causing that change.
Human-caused climate change poses risks that we are not prepared to address.
We have numerous options to manage those risks.
Fortunately, we’ve already started thinking about how to combat these adverse impacts. Solutions to managing those risks fall into four broad categories:
Mitigation by reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
Adaptation by increasing our capacity to cope with climate impacts.
Geoengineering/climate engineering by counteracting those impacts through manipulation of our earth system.
Expanding our knowledge base and worldwide education through better understanding climate change’s implications and our options.
These strategies are not mutually exclusive. In order to be successful, we will likely need a range of solutions that champion mitigation, adaptation and innovation.
Sounding The Alarm – Time to Act
Despite common misconception, the infrastructure financing gap doesn’t only exist in emerging markets, though infrastructure shortages disproportionately affect those in developing economies. The Infrastructure Report Card, published by the American Society of Civil Engineers every four years, awarded U.S. infrastructure a D+ in 2017.
Officials in South Carolina, which was directly impacted by the devastation of Hurricane Florence in September 2018, must think about how to rebuild a range of physical infrastructure in the coming years. And despite the infrastructure that has been threatened with recent natural disasters, existing needs already were growing.
Across the state, driving on roads in need of repair costs drivers $502 a year, and over 10 percent of South Carolina’s bridges were recently rated as structurally deficient. Desperately needed drinking water-related infrastructure in the state will cost an estimated $1.8 billion, and 178 existing dams are currently considered “high hazard potential.” Beyond traditional infrastructure, the state’s institutions need help too. South Carolina’s schools have an estimated capital expenditure gap of $90 million.
And that was before Florence.
Our needs have steadily been increasing without a rise in the frequency and scale of natural disasters. How we rebuild — and with what capital — should be an essential part of the current conversation.
Huge Opportunities For Investors and Entrepreneurial Innovation
Impact investors and sustainability advocates have been searching for multilevel solutions for some time, thanks to a deeply felt sense of urgency.
For some reticent investors, the discussion around investing in climate only becomes comfortable as a market-opportunity (rather than an impact strategy). It’s no wonder why: Those investment gains have been — and continue to be — sizable. And in a time of increasing market volatility, investing in climate across some asset classes can offer an alternative to lower yields and inflation protection.
But moving capital — and getting investors excited about investing in climate — is only one part of the challenge. Many investors respond to this clarion call by asking “Well, who do I invest in?” It’s a fair question, but it hints at innovation stagnancy, which is simply out of touch with the numerous companies that are developing scalable, high-yield climate solutions.
For example, we don’t have to look much further than the Certified B Corporation community to find a range of catalytic companies and innovative thinkers on the case. The next time you meet someone who laments about how hard it is to invest in climate, share a few of the following examples.
Examples of Some of the Movers & Shakers
BioCarbon Partners, a newly certified B Corp (and a Best For the World winner in 2018) focuses specifically on the deforestation threats in Zambia. It sells carbon offsets generated from its local projects and channels those returns into preserving forests. Working directly with local communities, BioCarbon also offers opportunities for local income generation while creating a market for entrepreneurship.
Valley City Electronic Recycling is a Michigan-based recycling provider with clients across the Midwest. With a commitment to a “zero landfill policy,” the e-waste provider focuses on disassembly rather than shredding. This shift allows the recycler to repurpose reusable base materials and creates local jobs in the process.
Ilumexico was founded in 2009 to address a specific problem: a disproportionate lack of access to electricity in rural Mexican communities. By providing access to clean and safe energy, Ilumexico has designed a new framework for community intervention and access. Its approach includes educating households on energy use and consumption, providing energy access to schools and hospitals (often neglected by small-scale suppliers) and promoting clean and safe energy access. Illumexico combines two critical ingredients of sustainable energy use and consumption: education and access.
Carbon Capture and Credits
GreenCollar is the largest provider in Australia of carbon abatement — the practice of reducing the amount of carbon dioxide produced through “dirty” energy. To date, it has implemented over 100 carbon farming projects throughout the country, supplying over 62 million tonnes of abatement. The investment in the environment across renewable energy, carbon, water quality and biodiversity seeks to protect some of Australia’s most vulnerable natural landscapes while helping to create additional income streams for farmers and graziers in an environmentally sustainable way.
For more information on the vast number of B Corps working to protect and repair our planet and develop market-based solutions, check out the B Corps directory here.
When you think about what a story is, those probably come to mind immediately.
The truth is, the art of storytelling goes much deeper and is applied to just about everything in our lives.
Today, as entrepreneurs trying to truly make a positive difference in the world, the art of storytelling is more important than ever if you want to connect to your audience.
But first, it helps to understand that our brains have been hardwired for storytelling. It’s how to take a lot of data picked up from our senses and start making sense out of it so we don’t go crazy.
I’m a storyteller. You’re a storyteller. We are all storytellers.
We can all also say that we know how to draw, it’s innate. Give a child a pencil and through instinct, they will create a stick figure. Not the prettiest drawing but a drawing nonetheless. However, to reach a level of excellence, we must learn about the depths of any subject and practice…a lot. Maybe you’ve heard about the book by Malcolm Gladwell, Outliers? He found that someone must learn and practice for 10,000 hours give or take a few to become an expert.
Why Your Business Marketing Might Not Be Working
As founders, we have to figure out how to get traction which means find our audience and getting them interested in what we are doing. How to connect with them.
Not always an easy task.
There are many variables that impact marketing results.
But let’s get to the root of it and talk about some BIG barriers and trends you must be aware of to learn how to connect with your audience.
1 – Know What You’re Up Against
Over the years people have faced all kinds of marketing tactics. Everything from false claims, to interruptions, popups and completely irrelevant display banners that are shoved in front of them.
This has conditioned people to hate advertising on many levels which means their guards are up. They don’t want to be interrupted or fooled.
Here are some examples of what I’m talking about…
2 – Interruption Marketing
How many times in your life has a commercial or ad showed up in the middle of something like a TV show or video, and you say to yourself, “dammit, I hate ads!”
Maybe you were on a website and some popup shows itself and looks like malware virus that is spam? Yup, that led to more people saying, “I hate advertising.”
That is what we call interruption marketing.
In 2016 the global number of people using ad blocker software jumped to jumped to 615M! Adobe showed that $41B in ads would be blocked in 2016. The fact that people are growing more concerned about viruses and security will only continue ad blocking to grow.
3 – Display Ads
What about those classic display ads?
Well, simply put, people have learned to ignore them.
A study done by Infolinks found that “after being asked to recall the last display ad they saw, only 14% of users could name the company, the brand or the product. This suggests that brands are wasting millions of dollars in ads that consumers don’t remember or even notice.
Related: Download 18 Marketing Secrets From 100+ Expert Interviews!
Why Storytelling IS Marketing More Than Ever Today
As the internet has become more saturated over the years brands continue to find ways to jam advertisements in front of us. We are hit from all angles and after years of fake bullshit ads we not only learned to reject them as skeptics but we have started to crave a human touch with real authenticity.
You know you ‘have to’ spread the word about your business in order to have a big impact and generate great revenues… but it feels difficult, overwhelming, salezy, and unethical even?
When you put your story at the heart of your marketing effort, this authenticity bridges the gap between you and your audience. You can say less and have a much bigger impact – once you master the art of storytelling.
Once you find the right words and the best way to share your story you will attract your ideal audience. It will resonate with them on a deeper level so they are attracted in a real way that earns their trust.
“If what you’re doing matters, really matters, then I hope you’ll take the time to tell a story. A story that resonates and a story that can become true.” ~Seth Godin
3 – A Look at The Magic Behind The Art of Storytelling
Storytelling is not just an art, it’s a science.
Good stories literally change the chemistry of our brains. So, before you practice you must understand what makes it work.
Humans are emotional creatures and as you probably already know we have the ability to empathize with others. Empathy is important for social creatures because it allows us to understand how others are likely to react to a situation.
When you wrap your story in meaning and shift in values you can erase the skepticism we discussed earlier and start earning trust.
There are many types of stories entrepreneurs can tell – founder/origin, company, product, consumer…etc.
All great stories are the same. What that means is they flow according to a structure defined as an arc. It’s known as the dramatic arc.
The dramatic arc according to Gustav Freytag includes six key parts that empower stories for the most impact:
Exposition (inciting incident): The exposition is like the set-up of the story. The background information that is needed to understand the story is provided, such as the main character, the setting, the basic conflict, and so forth.
The exposition ends with the inciting moment, which is the one incident in the story without which there would be no story. The inciting moment sets the rest of the story in motion.
Rising Action: Rising action is a series of events and actions that move to story to a climax. During rising action, the basic conflict is complicated by secondary conflicts, such as obstacles and challenges that frustrate the main character’s attempt to reach their goal.
Climax (turning point): The climax is the peak of the action and the turning point in the story. After the climax, everything changes. Things will have gone badly for the main character up to this point; now, things will begin to go well for him or her. However, if the story is a tragedy, the opposite will happen after the climax; things that have been going well for the main character begin to go bad.
Falling Action: During the falling action, the conflict unravels with the main character either winning or losing. The falling action might contain a moment of final suspense, during which the final outcome of the conflict is in doubt.
Resolution: The story ends with the resolution, in which the main character is better off than at the beginning of the story. However, the tragedy ends with death and sadness, in which the protagonist is worse off than at the beginning of the story.
When we interviewed social entrepreneur and founder of Brave Soles, Christal Earle, she told us something interesting:
“…and one of the things I’ve come to realize, and the feedback that we get now, when people buy our stuff, and when they talk about us online is they always say, like, “I love that I know the story behind what I’m wearing”. […] People want to be connected to what they own, they want to have a sense of pride in those choices.” ~ Christal Earle
This is common for impact brands and social entrepreneurs. People today are demanding morals be put back into business and they want to connect with your mission and origin story.
The story is what people remember and talk about. They buy the experience and story, not just a product.
4 – The Experiment
Paul J. Zak pioneered research in the field of neuroeconomics (a field that seeks to explain human decision making, the ability to process multiple alternatives and to follow a course of action) and works on storytelling with the Department of Defense to help them understand why stories are so persuasive.
In this video, they share some of the fascinating experiments they did to learn about the science of storytelling.
5 – Final Words & Next Steps
I have personally interviewed over 100+ impact entrepreneur experts and when it comes to marketing something has always stood out – The importance of understanding human psychology and how people work.
It’s a lifelong learning process that you continue to figure out and learn how to become excellent.
While one article cannot teach you how to be a master storyteller, I hope that it has opened your eyes to the trends of marketing and the potential behind the art of storytelling to connect with your audience today.
Change Creator is here to empower socially-conscious founders like you to take your passion and successfully make a difference. Because the world needs you.
We believe that storytelling is one of the most important skills to master today in order connect with your audience and scale your impact.
This is why we partnered up with other impact entrepreneurs and experts to create, Captivate. A program designed to put your story at the heart of your marketing.
Now, you have the can of paint but you must learn how to create your masterpiece.
Related: Download 18 Marketing Secrets From 100+ Expert Interviews!