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The Joy of Text: The Right Way to Do It

SMS marketing can be an easy and inexpensive way to stay in touch with your customers. SMS — also known as Short Message Service — marketing is when you send a text message to your customer database in order to tell them about your service or product. Various sources will tell you that a majority of people now own cell phones and that text messaging is prevalent among those who do. Usually SMS marketing is a means to get your customers through your door — physical or metaphorical — in order to purchase your product. SMS marketing can be tricky, so it’s important to have the right people helping you along the way. As you get started with SMS marketing, here are some basics to think about.

Get customers to grant permission

Given the laws about soliciting people via cell phone — including by text — it’s important you ensure your customer signs up to receive your texts. One of the best ways to do this is to provide an incentive like a chance to win an exciting new piece of technology or a gift certificate. Provide the number for your customer to enter the contest. Be sure to let entrants know that entering the contest also grants their permission to receive further text messages from your company. Although some consumers utilize unlimited texting plans, others do not and will want to know they will be charged a fee for receiving your texts. Be frank but friendly; letting customers know pertinent information upfront will decrease the likelihood of angry customers blocking your texts in the future.

Keep customers engaged

Offer your customers promotions to entice them to continue receiving your text messages. Give them a certain percentage off by entering the code given in the text message. You could offer a bonus item to the first ten people through your door the following day. If you’re a company that gives out free samples, considering including some kind of giveaway with orders, whether placed in person or online.

Know your customer and your product

It’s important for you to understand when your customers will be free to check their texts and respond to your message. If you’re appealing to stay-at-home parents or foodies who plan meals at the start of the day, considering sending a text in the morning about a dinner special you’re offering. Tantalize customers when they are likely to be hungry and looking for options. A late afternoon text can prompt action from a customer willing to stop by your place of business on his/her way home from the office, whether s/he’s picking up dinner or popping into your store to pick up a sweater on sale.

Use SMS marketing timing to your advantage

If business is slow, use SMS marketing to boost your sales. The message you send will get to your customers in a matter of seconds. Use that window of time to offer deals or discounts to customers who buy from you within a certain time frame. Be sure to be clear on the details of the offer, such as noting your offer is only good on the following Monday — not every Monday.

Be prepared for customers to respond

Once you have appealed to customers and you begin attracting business, make sure you’re able to provide what was offered. If you offer a buy-one-get-one special, have enough of that item to get through the promotional period. If you’re asking your customer to click on a link in a text message, ensure the link works so the customer can get to your website. Make sure the customer has a good experience so they will continue to receive the SMS marketing messages. Customers who have to jump through hoops just to save a small percentage off the regular price might not follow through if completing their purchase becomes an ordeal.

Opting out

Always give your customer a chance to opt out of receiving text messages from you. Every message you send should include instructions on how to stop receiving messages from you. Ideally, you’ll never lose any customers, but making it difficult to stop messages — no matter how interested the customer was when s/he signed up to receive communication from you — will only result in bad word of mouth that can affect the rest of your customer base.

SMS marketing is one of the easiest ways to stay connected to your customers. It’s crucial to get permission, respect your customer’s privacy and make it easy for them to both contact and shop with you. Happy customers breed positive feedback and return business!

Simplify your Business Life with Simple Productivity Tools

Time yourself for efficiency

Time yourself for efficiency

Many people tend not to refer to themselves as minimalists. We simply buy, use, and collect too many things to think otherwise. Yet with all our gadgets, trinkets, and supplies, we usually find the most value in minimalist tools and methods that help increase our productivity.

Despite the appeal of multi-featured products and multitasking, I’ve found that having fewer tasks and options to focus on at a time makes getting things done a whole lot faster and easier. Here we’ll talk about three incredible tools you can use to simplify your business life, home life, and possible even your social life.

They are simple tools that focus your attention on very little at a time, and yet make sure that you excel at the little you set out to do. You’ll be able to accomplish what you need to do first, finally making time to do what you enjoy as well.

Evernote

Evernote has grown significantly since it was launched back in 2008. Reaching more than 11 million users last year, it has easily become one of the most popular productivity tools of our time.
Evernote is an organization tool for iPhones, iPads, and other mobile devices. The application can also run on Microsoft Windows, Mac OS X, and various Internet browsers. On your computer Evernote can copy selected windows on the screen, including web pages if your browser supports it. You can then mark these copies with titles and organize them into notebook, archiving them in a number of ways.

On mobile devices, items you’ve copied can be synced directly to the Evernote cloud service, so you’ll never lose any of the information that you’re organizing. You can also take pictures from your smartphone or tablet and save them directly onto your Evernote account. You can also add GPS tagging and audio comments to each of the pictures you save.

There are hundreds of ways you can use this tool to your advantage. Many companies have switched to Evernote as their central filing system, abandoning physical paperwork altogether. Students use it as a great way to take written notes and keep track of their school work. Families use it as a cheap way to store their photos through a cloud service, versus an unsecure hard drive.
As you begin to use it, you’ll notice other little ways you can be more productive with this tool. For example, let’s say you’re going to a major mall, airport or other commercial area. Before you leave the parking lot, take a picture of your car, GPS tag it, and then you can use the GPS on your mobile device to walk right back to it later.

Evernote can be a valuable productivity tool if used correctly and consistently. Give it a try for a week and see how it works. There’s no downside and its basic service is completely free.

Pomodoro Technique

Developed back in the late 1980s, the Pomodoro technique is an incredible time management system that involves working in short focused waves. The basic idea is to use a timer and work on a single task for 25 minutes without any interruption, and then take a short break for 5 minutes. This takes a lot of pressure off a particular task while discouraging unnecessary multitasking.
The Pomodoro technique allows you to make calculated progress on all of your tasks by encouraging deep concentration without distractions instead of tackling it all at once and feeling overwhelmed. It’s simple, but very effective, and keeps you focused on what’s most important.

Steps:

  • Select a take you need to accomplish today.
  • Set a timer for 25 minutes and begin working on that task.
  • When time is up, take a short 5 minute break.
  • Repeat.

Every 4 cycles, take a 25 minute break.

You’ll notice after trying it that the Pomodoro technique is very easy to remember and follow. It doesn’t require any special software, lists, or other medium. You can practice it with anything.

Zendone

Zendone is complementary software to Evernote. It further explores the organization and productivity features that Evernote offers by creating a task management system for you.
When you connect Zendone to Evernote, you’ll choose one of your Evernote folders as your main task inbox. In the future, anything that you upload to that Evernote folder will also pop up in your Zendone inbox as a task. So with Evernote you have a fantastic way to collect and organize vast amounts of content on one digital interface using text, pictures, and audio recordings.

With Zendone, you can now designate what you want to do with this information and prioritize it in the form of daily tasks. If it’s just information for the file then you can archive it for reference, but if it something you need to get done at a later date, like paying a bill or taxes, then you can title it and organize it as a task in your Zendone inbox.

Try utilizing each of these three productivity tools to your advantage. Collect and store information on Evernote while using Zendone to organize it into tasks. Then use the Pomodoro technique to accomplish those tasks. Rinse and repeat. It’s a simple way to maximize your productivity while lowering your stress. Give it a try and let us know how it worked for you in the comments below.


blogVincent H. Clarke is a Marketing Analyst for USB Memory Direct, a wholesaler of promotional USB drives. While he mostly writes about marketing and branding, he also enjoys writing about personal improvement, productivity, and start-up culture.

Tweak and Repeat

Any business can apply multi-channel marketing, but cross-channel marketing is the ideal way to increase revenue and customer loyalty, especially when marketers apply the Pareto principle. Cross-channel marketing is more challenging than multi-channel marketing. Instead of focusing on disseminating a message via multiple channels, cross-channel marketing is customer focused. Companies must expend significant resources to capture adequate information about users and track their needs across all channels. Applying the Pareto principle cuts down the time needed to discover client needs while maximizing ROI.

The Pareto principle

Although originally not related to marketing, the Pareto principle stems from work by an Italian economist named Vilfredo Pareto, who discovered 80 percent of the land in Italy was owned by 20 percent of the population. Surveys he conducted confirmed other countries had a similar ratio. The economist even discovered 80 percent of his garden peas came from 20 percent of his pea pods.

Pareto did not actually come up with the principle, however. A business management consultant named Joseph M. Juran discovered 80 percent of quality control issues stemmed from the top 20 percent of problems. He named the principle after Pareto. Over time, people have expanded the principle to explain other business matters, such as:

  • 80 percent of complaints stem from 20 percent of customers
  • 80 percent of profits come from 20 percent of time spent
  • 80 percent of sales are by 20 percent of sales staff
  • 80 percent of sales are made from 20 percent of products

Perhaps the most relevant discovery for cross-channel marketing is knowing 20 percent of the customers are responsible for 80 percent of the profits. Knowing this, cross-channel marketers should focus their efforts on identifying and tracking those 20 percent.

The efficiency of the Pareto principle

Cross-channel marketing requires companies to track users across all channels, meaning each customer must have their own profile and sales staff must be able to match content to the customer. Taking the time to track all of a company’s customers is a waste of time and resources, according to the Pareto principle.

Only 20 percent of the customers possess exceptional brand loyalty. These one out of five customers are really the only people worth tracking because they produce most of the profits. Tracking the top 20 percent is a more realistic goal than tracking everyone as well. Once the top 20 percent is identified, sales staff can not only concentrate on marketing to them but they can also see who those people influence socially and push to expand their ideal customer base.

The Pareto principle and staffing

For the most effective cross-channel marketing, a company should identify their best salespeople and then expand. Cross-channel marketing relies on well-trained sales staff, especially in a call center. For example, a customer sees a product on TV or in a magazine he likes. He goes online to view the product on the company website, perhaps even scanning a QR code with his smartphone, before calling the company to ask questions. All of the data about what the customer wants is available. When he calls in, a salesperson has the chance to study the data and anticipate the customer’s needs, increasing the potential of a sale and the chance the customer will become part of the core 20 percent.

Companies can use sales figures to find the most effective employees, but they should also look for people who display leadership qualities, are self starters and who influence others. These people will attract more high-quality workers, ensuring the sales staff comprises only the best employees. The remaining 80 percent should be retrained, reassigned or possibly let go.

Companies can even use the Pareto principle when recruiting workers by looking for the natural leaders at other companies. Often times, recent college graduates who have not yet had the chance to prove themselves with sales numbers or a customer service history can become part of the top 20 percent. They are highly educated and motivated to prove themselves.

Bridging the gap between marketing within channels and creating integrated customers takes significant effort. Narrowing down the targeted group with the Pareto principle simply makes sense. After brainstorming the best ways to accomplish this goal, companies can even use the principle to narrow down ideas as the top 20 percent are most likely to result in 80 percent of the results.

Creating More Engagement

Social media offers businesses unrivaled opportunities for direct customer connection. A new poll from the Allstate Corporation found that, while Americans are skeptic about the information found on social media, they believe that interacting via social media makes them more informed as consumers. They also feel it gives then the edge of influence compared with consumers that do not use social media. This engagement carries over in a variety of ways: The Allstate Corporation poll found that social media users are more likely to perform some type of volunteer work and are more likely to seek out opinions before making larger purchases. Sixty-four percent of consumers expressed a desire to see companies using social media for customer service purposes, and 59 percent revealed that they found a company more accessible if it had a social presence.

Each social media outlet has its own strengths. For spreading the word about sales, giveaways and sweepstakes, Facebook works very well since it supports image hosting so well. For connecting with individual users and seeming responsive to customer concerns, Twitter allows for a quick but meaningful interaction. And for leveraging business connections, LinkedIn is best. Additional benefits of growing social media use may include reaching more consumers with less money than you might spend on a traditional ad campaign, benefiting from being seen as accessible and modern by consumers, and leveraging social media presence to other parts of the workforce, such as human resources.

As customers go mobile, social media outlets place increasing importance on mobile connection. Recently LinkedIn developed an iPad app that runs via mobile web. And Facebook keeps taking about developing a mobile phone and recently bought the popular web and mobile photo sharing Instagram. They’ve even developed an app for feature phones, showing that all mobile platforms are primed for social experiences.

By mobilizing your web presence, you increase the chance of converting mobile users to social fans. There are many ways to develop a mobile website; creating a stylesheet that controls screen size and strips your web content of large images can help users navigate your website on the go and doesn’t require an expensive developer. If you want to invest time and money, you can customize an app interface. Having a mobile website also helps users who click on a link in Facebook or Twitter and get directed to your website. If it’s not mobile, chances are high that they won’t stay to read the content.

To keep mobile sites lean–and therefore faster to load–place video, image and other media on the social networks and link to them from the website. Dual promoting keeps your website quick to access, something vital to mobile users, and archives your material.

Of course, to make the most of this social presence, you’ll need to have someone monitoring your social presence on a regular basis, to connect with customers and identify problems, such as unhappy customers, before they get out of hand. As users increase the frequency and the ways of social communication, this social point person must keep up with the volume so you maintain the appearance of approachability.

Given the changing context of social media, which is increasingly going mobile due to high smartphone and tablet use, businesses need to constantly adapt to stay on top of the game. Look out for new platforms that arise, such as Pinterest, and become an early adopter to maintain social prominence with existing customers and attract new fans.

Alternatives in the Cloud: Knowledge is Power

All the cool kids at the water cooler seem to have one phrase on the tip of their tongue: the cloud. Everybody is talking about the cloud. However, thanks to various advances in cloud computing, not everyone is referring to the same thing when they reference the cloud.

Essentially, anytime someone mentions the cloud, they are referencing computing that exists as a service rather than as a product. Instead of a bulky disk that downloads a program onto their computer, cloud computing exists outside of their computer. The resources, software, or information that are provided as part of the cloud exist on a grid or network, which in most cases is the Internet. When companies use the cloud, they can expand their capacity and functions without having to add any extra infrastructure, hire any extra staff or purchase any software. For instance, if a company needs to engineer a large-scale project, they no longer have to waste weeks planning to buy new servers or other equipment. Instead, they can simply sign onto a cloud computing service that offers them this functionality without requiring them to spend piles of cash.

When many people think of cloud computing, they immediately think of the cloud services offered by Amazon or other big names in the industry; unfortunately, a relationship with any of these companies can be costly whereas a relationship with a smaller company may be just as effective or even more effective for less money.

Although most people are referencing the same set of advantages and the same general ideas when they refer to the cloud, there are several different forms of this emerging technology.

Six Types of Cloud Computing

  1. Web-based clouds. With the right web based service, business owners can avoid using expensive applications that may require a lot of space on their computers. Instead, they can perform the same functions from a web-based program. For example, they can use an API for something as ubiquitous as Google Maps, or they can use a mash-up of various programs so that they can perform routine tasks like payroll or payment processing easily and efficiently.
  2. SaaS (Software as a Service). This allows multiple users to access the same web based software from their own browsers.
  3. PaaS (Platform as a Service). This layer of cloud computing allows businesses to run a stack of tailored applications on the cloud’s infrastructure without purchasing the software or servers that would have been necessary to run these applications a few years ago.
  4. Utility cloud services. Instead of employing a host of geeks to add memory here and there, businesses can now safely and easily store heaps of data on the cloud using the cloud’s utility services.
  5. Managed services. Businesses have been using this version of cloud computing since years before the phrase was ever used commonly. In this version, the cloud provider rather than the business employees uses the application. Managed services are commonly used for things like anti-spam services that many business owners find useful to outsource.
  6. Service commerce. A combination of SaaS and Managed Services, service commerce cloud computing gives the end-user access to a number of services from a single application. These applications act like personal assistants, and they can do almost anything for a company from helping them to track their expenses to helping them to organize their payroll.

These six iterations of cloud computing are just fractions of what cloud computing is capable of. As the technology continues to emerge, new ideas will come into play, and the types of cloud services that providers can offer will continue to expand and evolve.

With so many cloud-computing options, more and more business owners are looking to the cloud for their particular needs, and they have many different providers that they can opt to work with. There are companies like Amazon that have massive, sprawling cloud servers for enterprise businesses. For companies and individuals looking for an Amazon alternative, there are many smaller cloud service providers that offer the same services for lower rates.

 

The Future is Now, but For How Long?

Years ago I sat in a library computer lab at my university and thought, “Wow, the MySpace era is over, upended and replaced by Facebook, but how long will the victor stay on top? If MySpace could fall, surely Facebook will as well. What will Facebook do in the future to lose users in the same way?” Of course, Facebook has done very well for itself since and successfully defeated social media challengers or integrated them into its sweeping empire. That does not change the fact that technology is cyclical and someday Facebook will give rise to a new brand that will occupy that space.

 

This is especially important to marketers who specialize in social media and technology trends. Facebook built its empire on the sale of information and created a sharing platform irresistible to the masses. That model has changed the DNA of our interaction with the Internet and will likely continue on into the future.

Twitter is growing into a mature platform for short-form discourse and advertising. Pinterest is currently being mined for its marketing potential. Sites with a heavy social leaning are cropping up all over the place and nearly all of them present an avenue for marketing products, but marketers have to ask how long social media will continue to be a trend.

You can register your business on as many social media websites as you see fit, and you may find a way to sell products and generate traffic through one of them that is revolutionary. However, in addition to experiments in cutting edge social media, web marketers must keep in mind the foundations of the business that will always exist with the web. As marketers explore the final frontier of marketing on the web, it’s important that they maintain a foundation of solid tactics that will more than likely continue on into the future.

No matter how easily you are able to join a social media site, they remain inherently complicated as far as meeting business goals. Since they were designed as social networks that eventually incorporated a business aspect, they don’t always lend themselves to infiltration by brands.

Longevity

Social media groups are inherently driven by popularity, yet the most successful products experience the fastest rate of growth when they are still new and undiscovered by the masses. While it’s understandable to want a presence on the new, cool site the unfortunate rules of middle school still apply: by the time everyone has itit is no longer exclusive and desirable. Social media marketing isn’t going anywhere next year, or the year after that. But someday there will be something new, and when that day comes we will have to fall back on a foundation of strategy that is typified by plain old good content.

All this to say that it is very important to stay abreast of new technologies when developing new ways to create brand identity on the Internet. It is equally important to maintain best practices for the innovations that got us to this point and continue to propel us toward the marketing future. Maintaining a solid newsletter, engaging the customer, and some campaign management software will go a long way when the frills of social networks begin to fall away and its successor rises from the ashes.

So yes, get on the social networks that make sense for your brand, but also remember the basics that got us to this point, because sooner or later we may have to rely on them again.

 

In-House Social Media Teams on the Rise

I don’t need to tell anyone here about the rise of social media and how it has been injected into the DNA of doing business in the 21st century. Nevertheless, it can be an eye-opening experience to watch just how much social media is catching on.

It’s no secret that social media has real effects and results for businesses that do it right; more and more companies are seeing the light. The most recent trend in businesses of all sizes is hiring in-house social media teams to handle brand management, customer engagement and digital marketing.

Savvy marketers have long praised the growth and efficacy of social media on the whole. Facebook has ballooned to more than 800 million users in the wake of its OpenGraph platform – the behind-the-scenes protocol that allows integration with Spotify, news sites, and all that other cool stuff. Perhaps it is this continued success for Facebook that led to its recent and long-awaited IPO.

More companies across the board are following the lead and cultivating in-house teams dedicated to social media. They generally operate within the realm of a marketing department, though their tasks are more dedicated solely to social media.

The big question is how this will affect firms that have helped companies with social media strategy up to this point.

The importance of business-suited social media is also evident in the backlash Google+ received when users learned they could not create business pages – an innovation Facebook pioneered – that have since become standard procedure for any real social sharing network. YouTube’s announcement of brand channels was welcomed with ringing bells and banging drums by enterprise businesses.

More often than not, a business will enter into a social media campaign believing there are fans of their brand out there waiting to have a place to congregate and spill their guts about just how much they love a company. What we’ve seen is that, though that is sometimes the case, most people are waiting for a tweet offering free coffee or a grocery coupon. “Liking” a brand on Facebook is more indicative of an interest to receive something for nothing than it is a genuine curiosity about a brand.

Rather than be pulled into these campaigns by outside marketing firms or agencies, businesses have elected to develop their own in-house teams that will take a perspective that emphasizes the companies’ strengths instead of just diving into social media because they read 100 blogs on the internet telling them it was the right thing to do.

These in-house teams are culled from freelance social media professionals or marketing gurus who have the wherewithal to understand what social platforms work for the business by which they are employed. Whereas some shoddy agencies have put companies that sell plumbing services to the residents of Muncie, Indiana on Twitter and Vimeo without any real reason, these in-house teams are being assembled with the mindset of the company taken into account; hopefully, these in-house teams will understand which of the many, many social platforms actually present an opportunity – and which should be ignored.

If this trend continues, social media marketing companies like Back At You will have to start leveraging their expertise in order to stay relevant. And the case may become harder to make as more experienced social media professionals are snatched up to work exclusively for big brands.

Free Marketing Society

How can you get your business noticed on a budget?

Starting a business is difficult, but the real challenge comes in keeping that business going. Finding capital and cultivating a brand can be thrilling aspects of owning a business, but then there are the more mundane things like operations planning and payroll solutions. These “mundane” things are essential, so outsourcing them to firms that know what they’re doing can free up your time to handle what is, in my opinion, one of the most challenging, rewarding facets of business: marketing.

Getting the word out about your business is one of the most essential processes you can engage in. It’s particularly difficult for new small businesses that are just beginning to gain footing in the market and have to convince potential consumer to trust in a brand that they likely have never heard of. What’s invigorating about this daunting task is the clean slate it gives you. You essentially have the power to sculpt your brand from square one and Think about the Apple 1984 commercial and how iconic and influential it was on the brand.

 

 

Of course, we don’t all have the money to write a commercial and hire Ridley Scott to film it. Luckily, the Internet has democratized marketing in such a way that makes getting the word out about your company easy and cheap. There are multitudes of marketing strategies and tactics that small businesses can employ that help them effectively extend the brand outward and save some loot in the process.

Despite living in the Tron age, many of the best marketing techniques are the most traditional. There are lots of marketing dollars behind spreading the word about local business as evidenced by the successful Small Business Saturday and Shop Local campaigns, and the oldest form of marketing for local campaigns is word of mouth.

Finding opportunities to participate in your community at highly trafficked events increases visibility for your brand and business – hopefully giving you a chance to get people talking to you and to each other about your business.

The most accurate analogue for word-of-mouth in the digital space is probably Twitter. Yes, you’ve heard it a million times before, but Twitter truly is a stellar vehicle for generating buzz about your business to a large pool of consumers. Of course, it’s not easy to cultivate a group of influential Tweeters willing to interact with and broadcast your tweets to their followers. But if you have a business that fits the Twitter model in the first place (tweeting solely about the hours your gym is open doesn’t make for an interesting feed), you can win over followers and free publicity at the same time through relevant tweets and a wicked sense of humor.

Through the twilight years of the 20th century, you might buy a listing in the local Yellow Pages in order to make your information available for people who were searching for an arcade, or a juice bar or whatever type of business you run. Today, it’s all about search engines, and in the same way you want to increase your visibility in a business index – perhaps by buying ad space – SEO strategy and digital marketing techniques help raise your visibility in search engine results. Customers can’t patronize you if they can’t find you!

Another way to build the profile of a business through marketing without breaking the bank can be achieved by setting your business up as a thought leader; this will help build your status in the community and pull people through the doors of your business, digital or otherwise. An example: a friend of mine runs a super high-class restaurant; it only seats maybe 50 guests but is built around a very intimate dining experience. In order to establish himself in the city, he would host free grilling classes once a month and train customers on how to use serious kitchen equipment. Once word got out about how great the place was, reservations fell in like waterfalls. He still does the classes but has enough clout now to charge three figures.

On the Internet, this can be achieved through setting up a site that builds your brand as one that has a pulse in whatever industry you’re in – maybe through a blog or other content distribution method. Angie’s List recently unveiled a comprehensive guide to plumbing that is designed to become a resource for a wide swath of customers.

These are just a few of the many free marketing techniques in the toolbox of the nascent small business owner on a budget. A lot of initiative and a little creativity will go far in the first years of marketing your business.

Thankful for Social Sharing

A big part of Thanksgiving is about being thankful for what you have and what you have been given in your life.  Yesterday many of us raised a glass, or a turkey leg, to our friends and family. We said our thanks for our jobs, our health, our businesses. I want to take a minute to thank social media.

For so many of us, social media has changed our lives. It has changed the way we do business, they way we maintain our friendships and familial connections. It has become a part of our every day life.

Reasons why I am thankful for social media

  • Because of Twitter I was able to find a whole new career that did not exist when I was in school.
  • I have been able to reconnect with many old friends
  • I have been able to maintain better and strong connections with my friends because of being able to keep in touch on Facebook and Twitter.
  • I have been able to provide support to friends and family even when I could not be there, and reach out in a way that I was not previously able to.
  • I have been able to receive tremendous support from friends and family on the social networks
  • I have established a significant and meaningful online community.
  • I can share more of my life with the people I care about.

Social media has become a cornerstone in my life, both professionally and personally. My community has helped me through both good times and bad times. They have helped me learn more about situations that affected me and helped educate me. They have been a shoulder to cry on and a fried to laugh with.

I am thankful for the amazing relationships I am able to have because of social media.

Million Dollar Failures: A Review of Nothing to Lose, Everything to Gain by @RyanBlair

Ryan Blair Nothing to Lose

Are you afraid of failure? Blair shows us that failure is an integral step to success.

I am sad to say that I rarely read books anymore. I read blogs, magazines, articles, email, Facebook status updates, and tweets. Books seem to fall to the wayside, especially ones that are not on my iPad. Over this past weekend I decided to dig into a book I had received from Ryan Blair called “Nothing to Lose, Everything to Gain“. This book is a philosophical business autobiography that blends Blair’s life story with hard knox business lessons.

I have read a lot of business books. I have read books on theory, philosophy, data analysis, case studies, economic reports and wishy-washy fluff that seems to inspire people.  I am sure you have already guessed that the wishy-washy inspirational fluffy books are not my cup of tea. I don’t want to read a book and hear advice like:

Most people dive right into a new business. They jump in with both feet. But they are jumping without a parachute. They are starting in the middle.  Where should you start your new business?  At the BEGINNING!

Though I am a lover of the skillfully crafted mixed metaphor, or a good tongue-and-cheek cliche, I am not a fan of cliche being used for actual guidance mixed with metaphorical solutions. If you are wondering if I just randomly came up with that example, sadly no. I have actually heard that being given as “hand to God” business advice.

In a conference I was recently attending a speaker was talking about how people often forget to identify the basic steps needed when starting a project. He asked where you should start any project. Someone behind me actually answered “the beginning” and she was serious about it.  It drove in how conditioned we are to these non-answers when learning business strategy and philosophy.

In reading Blair’s book I was pleasantly surprised to not be handed a page full of ambiguous metaphoric dribble. He spoke about the rough time he had growing up, the inspirational and formative lessons he received from both his father and step-father, and the challenges of being an entrepreneur.

Right now you should be asking, how is that different from any of the other “my life as a struggling entrepreneur” books out there.  What differentiated this book for me was the fact that he spent a lot of time talking about his failure and breaking it down for the reader.  He explained why he pursued certain business deals and then the step-by-step break down of why they failed. He spent quality time examining his own role in the failure. He successfully conveyed the message of how failure is important to success and that many times our actions, or personality, can be a primary driver for our own failure. He writes about how his past failures were integral to his current success and how he was able to implement what he learned and harness it for positive results.

In outlining his success, Blair did not just write in autobiographical story telling or philosophy. He breaks down how he has handled getting venture capital, hiring (and firing) people, and selling your business. He gives real tips that how the progression on A+B=C, where as most people will talk about A then show you C and leave out the crucial middle step.  Of course the middle step, the one that says this is how you do it, is left out and leaving you with answers like “the beginning!”

Of course every person is different. Every business is different. Blair’s break downs give you lessons as he learned them and explains how he did them. But they are tools that can help you think critically about how you can work through your own business problems. For me, many times I find that a solution is easier to come by when the problem does not seem so enigmatic. By learning how someone else worked through theirs, I can see the light at the end of my own tunnel better.

Blair ends the book wishing you a life based on the philosophy of “nothing to lose” where you put it all on the line to fight for your success. What it left me with was his wish that we all have our own million dollar failures, because those are a stepping stone to a million dollar success.