Archive for the ‘Growth and Business Strategy’ Category

Tiny Company Called Microsoft Your Best ’11 Tech Play

In Growth and Business Strategy, Microsoft on February 19, 2011 at 4:42 pm

By James Altucher

My top pick for 2011 is a tech stock. That may not surprise you considering the big run by technology companies in the second half of 2010. But what may surprise you is what tech stock I’m throwing my weight behind: A tiny company called Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT).

Admittedly, Microsoft hasn’t given investors a lot to be happy about lately. MSFT stock has been kicked to the curb, down about -8% this year while the broader market has gained about +12%. If you’re a momentum investors this may turn you off, but I believe that the time is right for the rotation of capital back into this old standard.

Why? Here are some of the biggest reasons:

Stock Buyback Plan: Microsoft is currently working on a $40 billion stock repurchase, with $10 billion of that happening this year. That’s a lot of shareholder value.

Microsoft Flush With Cash: Though MSFT is often only mentioned derisively in the same sentence with Apple Inc. (NASDAQ: AAPL) and Google Inc. (NASDAQ: GOOG), one thing it shares with the two tech powerhouses is a war chest brimming with cash. Microsoft has $30 billion in the bank – and that’s even after paying a decent dividend of 2.3%, something neither Google or Apple offer right now.

Bargain Valuation: Microsoft trades for less than 8 times next year’s earnings (when you back out cash). Compare that to the S&P 500 which trades for about 13 times next year’s earnings. That would be impressive enough, but the icing on the cake is that MSFT earnings will grow twice as fast as the S&P earnings over the next five years.

Predictable Revenue: Much of MSFT’s revenues have shifted to subscription revenues making their earnings very predictable. The company is no longer as reliant on flashy software launches and one-shot sales.

Kinect for Xbox: The Kinect video game controller is is bigger than people think. And that’s saying something, considering the new gadget topped 2.5 million units sold at the end of November after less than a month on the market! Sales of the motion controller will top $500 million next year and $5 billion over the next five years. What’s more, applications will be created for it with very high margins.

Emerging Market IT Sales: The developing world is opening up its wallet when it comes to corporate IT. Though it may not be flashy, Windows remains the gold standard for computer OS software in the workplace so MSFT stock will be the prime beneficiary of this emerging market boom. Followed closely by fellow corporate IT powerhouses Cisco Systems (NASDAQ: CSCO) and Intel (NASDAQ: INTC), of course.


Social Network: Tech Bubble 2.0?

In Business Solutions, eCommerce, Facebook, Growth and Business Strategy, Social Media on January 10, 2011 at 11:27 pm

By: Dian L. Chu, Economic Forecasts & Opinions

Talk about another internet bubble.

New York Times broke the news on Jan. 2 that Facebook, the social network website, was able to get $500 million in funding–$450 million from Goldman Sachs and $50 million from Digital Sky Technologies, a Russian investment firm that has already pumped about half a billion dollars into Facebook.

But the real eye popping fact is that this latest deal values Facebook at $50 billion. That’s right, $50 billion, which is more than the current market cap of Time WarnerBaiduYahoo, and almost twice that of Dell, Inc.

Facebook P/E Multiple = 100+

Even though Facebook is not publicly traded, the company has raise about $850 million to date in total through a secondary market. Facebook’s value reportedly has roughly tripled over the last year–not bad for a company that’s only in business for six years.

Facebook does not disclose its financials, but its 2009 revenue is estimated to be around $800 million. Most recently, analysts figure the company could bring in as much as $2 billion in revenue annually.

So, if we take the $2 billion in revenue, the $50 billion new valuation, and assuming a 25% net margin (which is very generous), Facebook’s P/E multiple is an astonishing 100x..or even more, dwarfing even the high flyer Baidu’s PE ratio of 83. For comparison purpose, Google’s PE is around 24, close to that of Apple’s 22.

Goldman Sachs = Froth

Then, whenever there’s an institution player as big as Goldman Sachs wheeling and dealing, you know something frothy is brewing.

NYT noted Goldman Sachs has taken a 1% stake in Facebook, and most likely is aiming to get the lucrative underwriting and advisory fees in a future IPO. In addition, Goldman also devised an elaborate plan to create a “special purpose vehicle” for its rich clients to invest in Facebook.

The grand purpose is that this vehicle, no matter how many investors are in the “pool”, is to be considered as one investor, so to stay below the threshold of an SEC financial disclosure rule. Although there’s no indication if this would go as planned, but if anyone could make this work, it would be Goldman Sachs.

Suddenly, Coupon Clipping Is In!

Another sign of bubble is that Groupon, a two-year old “social coupon” site that’s yet to hit $500 million dollars in revenue, had recently rejected a $6 billion takeover bid from Google.

However, you can’t fault Groupon for turning Google down. MarketWatch reported that bids for Groupon have risen 254% from $36 a share in August, to as much as $127.50 a share on Dec. 30. And according to TechCrunch, Groupon is in the process of raising as much as $950 million, at a valuation that could be as high as $7.8 billion.

Separately, LivingSocial, a website similar to Groupon, just closed a massive round of financing totaling $183 million, including $175 million from the Amazon. Both Facebook and Groupon are expected to issue IPOs in 2012, while Twitter, Zynga and LinkedIn are three other social sites that investors are anxiously waiting for their IPOs.

China’s Social IPO Rush

The social IPO rush is not limited in the U.S. Reuters noted that China’s largest social networking company–Oak Pacific Interactive– is gearing up for an IPO in the United States next year, among a few other Chinese Facebook clones looking to list in the U.S.

Oak Pacific owns China’s largest online social networking site Renren, which is similar to Facebook, and Nuomi, which is like Groupon.

Cash Out Ahead of The Herd

Meanwhile, companies in the U.S. and Europe have more than $1.5 trillion sitting on their balance sheets, and there’s also an improvement in the market for venture-backed IPOs. For now, it seems many of these companies are willing to throw money at anything related to social networking.

From that perspective, Facebook probably would be wise go to IPO sooner rather than later before the mood turns sour, and ahead of the social IPO herd diverting available capital.  Zuckerburg probably could benefit from consulting Mark Cuban on the art of cashing out using Cuban’s / Yahoo deal as an example.

A Social Tech Bubble?

If history is any indication, it seems most of the elements that shaped the 2000 dot com bubble are present and accounted for in the current environment, including but not limited to, rapidly increasing valuation, market over-confidence and speculation, and excess liquidity.

So, could Facebook et al end up being a fad like Delicious? Only time will tell. Nonetheless, Microsoft probably won’t worry that much, since latest deal just more than tripled the value of its holdings when it paid $240 million for a 1.6% stake in Facebook in 2007.
Read more:

5 Ways to Unleash the Power of Webinars to Grow Your Organization

In Business Solutions, Cloud Solutions, eCommerce, File Sharing Solutions, Growth and Business Strategy, Social Viewing on December 22, 2010 at 10:00 pm


Online meetings are a great way to extend the reach of your business or non-profit organization without increasing your budget.

Lead Generation
Increase your sales by using webinars to generate qualified leads. The best way to do this is to provide webinars that are relevant to your target market. For example, an online marketing agency might produce a presentation with five tips for creating an effective Facebook Page.

Product Launches
Are you launching a new product or service? Get the word out by hosting an interactive webinar to show-off the features and benefits of your product or service.

Product Demos
The best way to sell your product or service is to show how it works. Schedule daily or weekly live webinars that provide a personalized walkthrough of your product.

Webinars provide a great platform to teach employees, volunteers, customers and students. Did you know that the Freebinar survey tool can also be used as a test? When you schedule a webinar, the optional survey section has an option to “enable scoring of questions”. Not only can you provide effective training via Freebinar, you can evaluate your attendees to see how much they learned.

Customer Communication
Town hall meetings, customer round tables, focus groups and CEO chats are great ways to build personal relationships with your customers and learn more about their needs. Traditionally, only big businesses with large budgets could hold these types of events. Through the power of webinars, now businesses of all sizes can engage their customers online.

Do you have ideas on great ways to use webinars that will help the Freebinar community grow their organizations? Let us know by sending an email to

In Business, Early Birds Twitter Most Effectively

In Business Solutions, Growth and Business Strategy, Social Media, Social Viewing, Twitter on December 17, 2010 at 2:56 am

Companies can work wonders before Twitter’s vast interactive audience of consumers, but it’s best to start slowly and build credibility

By Shel Israel

Like so many others, Lionel Menchaca, Dell Computer’s chief blogger, thought Twitter was “fairly worthless for business” when he first looked at it in March 2007, but trying new social media tools was part of his job. Menchaca opened an account and started posting links whenever he posted on Direct2Dell, the company’s oft-praised corporate blog, where he serves as principal author.

The results exceeded his expectations. When he posted a link on Twitter, people clicked on the URL in minutes. They commented often—and at Twitter, rather than on the blog. They were the first viewers to spread word of his new blog posts. Twitter moved fast and sent his words further than any medium he had previously encountered.

But that turned out to be less than half the story. Listening to others turned out to be even more valuable than distributing what he wrote. Menchaca discovered that by using the Twitter Search feature, he could monitor and sometimes join conversations about PCs. “Tweeters,” as they call themselves, regularly posted links to relevant content he might otherwise have missed.

Menchaca’s experience is far from unique. Businesses, ranging from the largest multinationals to home-office practitioners, often come for one reason and are surprised to find greater value in some other aspect they hadn’t considered. The surprise plus can bring help in marketing, sales, recruiting, feedback, support, sales or just getting closer to geographically scattered networks (as has been the case with IBM.)

Business uses for Twitter are proving to be as diverse as those for the telephone or e-mail. They generally break into two categories: ways to follow customers and ways to increase efficiency.

Companies are joining Twitter for the same reason politicians attend the funerals of famous people: It’s where they can find their constituents and hold close, informal conversations with them. For example, CrowdSPRING, a tiny Chicago-based startup, uses Twitter to find buyers and sellers for its online professional graphics marketplace. (Business buyers declare what they want to see in a new logo or website and then, on average, 70 designers bid on each project.)

Conversations start in Twitter and then spread beyond the platform’s seamless boundaries, rapidly reaching customers, vendors, recruits, and partners in a wide variety of markets. You can find potential customers on Twitter and perhaps snag a sale. You can also find conversations with consumers who are unhappy with your products and assuage them quickly and publicly.

Twitter may owe its blastoff to the dive the economy took. Microblogging became a much-discusssed option just as businesses began axing marketing, advertising, and public relations budgets and reducing their participation at conferences and social networking events. Because of those cuts, companies understood they still needed to reach out to customers. Twitter turned out to be a less-expensive and more efficient way to achieve this.

Twitter works well with other social media platforms, such as blogs, video, and audio podcasts, creating a whole new kind of interactive integrated communications solution. It is proving not just faster and cheaper—but more credible. Surveys consistently report that people tend to trust their Twitter friends more than formulated company messages. Users increasingly rely on one another for tips on what to buy, watch, read, or listen to.

While Twitter shares similarities with phones and e-mail, there’s a major difference: It works best in public. Anyone can see real people in a company trying hard to help.

Comcast, North America’s largest cable carrier, has a 10-member Twitter support team. Tens of thousands of tweeters witness employees trying—with customary success—to help customers. Conversely, consumers do not witness call-center conversations and the greatest failures among those interactions tend to make the most noise in the marketplace. Surveys show measurable improvements in Comcast’s customer satisfaction ratings since the company began using Twitter for customer service.

Of course, Twitter is no elixir. Companies who try to use the tool as yet another marketing arrow in their quiver—one that mostly carries targeted, one-way messages—usually fail.

While Twitter has had remarkable results in times of crisis, companies that jump in just when an emergency is breaking have joined too late. Their customers don’t know they are there. It takes time to establish your credibility in Twitterville and you need to understand how it works before that credibility gets tested.

It also takes time to understand how this deceptively simple-looking tool works. Nearly everyone I interviewed in my recent book mentioned how confused and disoriented they once felt. According to Twitter founder-CEO Ev Williams: “People are pretty much clueless when they first try Twitter.”

A smart business will start early. Nearly every company cited in the accompanying slide show stumbled and fumbled for a while before they discovered how Twitter could help business in many ways.

Shel Israel is author of TWITTERVILLE: How Businesses Can Thrive in the New Global Neighborhoods (Portfolio 2009

Social Media Revolution [Video]

In Cloud Solutions, File Sharing Solutions, Growth and Business Strategy, Social Viewing, Twitter, Web Development on December 15, 2010 at 8:43 pm

Statistics so alluring that it leaves the viewer wondering why some even consider social media to be a fad. It is certainly not the social media companies themselves, media companies or agencies that are leading people down this social garden path. Actually it’s people’s thirst for information, friends, acceptance etc (and a plethora of other sociological and anthropological aspects) that is resulting in people driving down more like a seven lane superhighway at breakneck speed resulting in these unprecedented engagement levels.

And when you are driving down a motorway and see a lorry parked side on in an adjoining field with a large ad on the side, do you remember the URL or phone number on the ad when you arrive at your destination? (If you’ve written it down whilst driving – shame on you!)

Yes, you nearly cash into the car in front of you trying to read the ad or slowed down so much that the motorcyclist behind you is now headbutting your number plate, but that’s just it. You read it and it’s gone. No hook, no memory. It’s a bit like an ad on the London Underground using an SMS number as the call to action.

Managing eCommerce: How to Design a Great “About Us” Page on Your Website

In Business Solutions, Cloud Solutions, Growth and Business Strategy, Social Viewing, Uncategorized, Web Development on November 27, 2010 at 4:19 am

Whether you’re starting from scratch or revisiting an About Us page in need of a little TLC, you can take yours from forgettable to memorable by incorporating these tips.

By Chana Garcia | Oct 18, 2010

It’s one of the most important elements on a company’s website and also one of the most undervalued: the ubiquitous “About Us” page—that section on your site that has been collecting virtual dust because you haven’t bothered to read it since, well, you first wrote it.

You may not be paying it much attention, but visitors to your site are. And considering that your About Us page is where the world clicks to learn about your company and the services you offer, which can mean the potential loss or gain of a customer, it deserves a little more consideration and a lot more respect.

“Most of our clients don’t realize how much their About Us page is visited,” says Thomas Harpointner, CEO of AIS Media, an award-winning marketing and interactive media agency in Atlanta. “It’s among the first three pages consumers go to when they visit a site. We’ve worked with both small businesses and Fortune 500 companies, and we spend more time consulting clients on the About Us page than any other. Companies are so focused on the design of their site, their products, and how they’re going to market them that they simply overlook it. It’s an afterthought.”

How to Design a Great “About Us” Page: Make the Human Connection

The primary purpose of your site’s About Us page is to provide information about your business and what it can deliver, so it should include the basics, such as who your company serves, how long it’s been around, and its long-term goals and mission. Don’t forget to include your address. And if your company has multiple locations or does business globally, this is the perfect place to mention that information, or at least link to a page on your site that does, such as your Contact Us page. But don’t stop there, which is a mistake a lot of businesses make. What results is a stale, unoriginal, and downright boring About page.

Fortunately, spicing it up is easier than you think. By incorporating a few strategic components, you can go beyond the yawn-inducing jargon. Simple tactics can make your About Us page a more exciting read and your company seem more accessible, says Lorrie Thomas, aka The Marketing Therapist, a marketing strategist, educator, writer, web marketing expert and speaker, and that can ultimately drive business and increase sales. Avoid writing a soliloquy (too much text is a turnoff) and focus on connecting with your site visitors.

For example, Thomas, who just returned from a 10-day speaking tour on better Web marketing, told her dozen or so employees to write their own bios for her company’s About Us page. Her only mandate was that in addition to providing a snapshot of their professional history, they include personal information, such as hobbies or their favorite activities. Some even set up links to their blogs and personal websites. This might also be a good place to include e-mail addresses for your staff. Readily available contact information shows customers that you want to hear from them and that you have nothing to hide.

“The About Us page needs to reflect the organization,” says Thomas, CEO of Santa Barbara, California-based Web Marketing Therapy. “It’s the story of how a company started, but it should also be the story of who’s behind it. Is the CEO an avid skier? Or a yoga guru? We’re no longer in the world of B to B, or business to business; we’re in a world of what I call P to P, people to people. Relationships are the name of the game. Your clients want to know you, like you, and trust you.”

Dig Deeper: The Weirdest Place to Find a Sales Lead

How to Design a Great “About Us” Page: Show, Tell, and Brag (A Little)

If it’s all about trust and relationships, there’s no better way to build both than by posting testimonials or listing big-name clients you’ve partnered with. That will lend your business a good amount of credibility. You might consider incorporating your clients’ logos somewhere on your page as an added visual element. Mentioning awards and recognitions your company received, as well as community service work, green initiatives, and interesting facts, will also make your business more appealing. And timelines, company history, and major milestones are attention-grabbing.

Harpointner said he once worked with a Philadelphia-based business looking to undergo a media makeover. When he went to the company offices and talked to the owners, he found out that the establishment had been around since the Great Depression, a fact that he says demonstrated its staying power and loyal customer base. Harpointner says he became adamant about publicizing the company’s long history not just on its About Us page but also on all its promotional material.

“I see a lot of well-established companies that have decades of business history, but for whatever reason they’re not sharing it,” says Harpointner, who has appeared CNBC and CNN Radio as an interactive marketing and e-commerce expert. “They tend to be shy about tooting their own horn. They think it’s not graceful to brag about themselves, but your About Us page is the one place where you should be tooting your own horn. For small or new companies, this is especially important, because consumers are just becoming familiar with their business. And if the About page comes up short, then the company looks like it doesn’t have much to say about itself. It’s really a missed opportunity.”

Dig Deeper: How to Get Customer Referrals

How to Design a Great “About Us” Page: Incorporate Social Media

If the digital age has taught us one thing it’s not to underestimate the power of promoting yourself across multiple platforms. Using your About page to post videos of you and your company, link to your blog, and place share buttons to your Twitter feed or Facebook page is not only a good business practice, it’s a smart one.

Social networking sites basically provide free advertising, and they can help attract customers you might otherwise not have had access to. Elizabeth Hannan, president and founder of Blue Blazing Media with offices in New York City, Scottsdale, Arizona, and San Francisco, calls marketing your company through LinkedIn or Foursquare your business’s “soft sell.” You many not see results immediately, she says, but over time, networking sites will become an invaluable tool for your business.

“It’s important that you or one of your employees serve as the social networking ambassador,” says Hannan, who has links to her blog and Twitter feed on her About page. “Potential consumers may come to your site to view your product but not buy the first time around, but they will look at your About Us and connect with you on other sites, such as Twitter, to see what topics you are discussing. It fulfills a need to connect with you and your company. We all want that warm, fuzzy feeling before we buy.”

Dig Deeper: How to Create a Social Media Strategy

How to Design a Great “About Us” Page: Consider Hiring a Professional

Although it’s crucial to integrate all the tech bells and whistles, if your About Us page has wimpy content, it will send the wrong message to your site visitors. Don’t be afraid to turn to friends and clients for help. Ask them to peruse your page and be honest about what works and what doesn’t. Once you’ve gotten feedback, the next best thing you can do, says Thomas, is to nix technology for a while and sit down with a pen and paper. “Getting away from your computer will clear your head. You’ll be focused on the task at hand rather than what our new About page will look like,” she says.

If you find yourself in need of professional help, think about hiring an expert. A good writer can make your About Us page pop with witty copy, catchy headlines, and SEO keywords. It will be money well spent, says Harpointner. “If a company spends money on direct-mail ads, billboard ads, and radio ads, then investing in an About Us page will probably the least amount of money it shells out. It’s up 24 hours a day, so in the big picture, it’s really worth it.”

Dig Deeper: How to Make the Most of Your Public Relations Firm

Four Ways Social Media Will Change Television

In Adobe, Cloud Solutions, Facebook, Google, Growth and Business Strategy, Social Media, Social Viewing, Twitter, Web Development, YouTube on November 14, 2010 at 10:32 pm

Read the full post at:

By Michael Wolf

At NewTeeVee Live, Robin Sloan talked about how Twitter is fast becoming the global TV watercooler. Certainly, the power of Twitter to facilitate real-time conversation during live viewing — as illustrated by Sloan — is impressive. As I discuss in my weekly update at GigaOM Pro (subscription required), there is no doubt that the broader integration of social media like Twitter into and around TV content is creating new opportunities in four areas: viewing, measurement, curation and commerce.

Let’s take a look at each.

Social Viewing

While the early social viewing implementations have largely been Mystery Science Theater 3000 knockoffs, the real action for viewing parties is at Twitter. The network’s real-time nature allows for interaction and surprise for fans who want to engage with others during the live-viewing experience. This isn’t to say that Facebook won’t show up at the shared viewing party, though.


Sloan’s presentation displayed fascinating visuals on how Tweet activity changes in live show windows (for example, the chart below, which shows Tweet activity during the first episode of this season’s Dancing With the Stars). This is a gold mine of information for brand marketers and TV execs looking to understand, down to the minute, how people react to different parts of different shows.

Source: Twitter


While curation is a big topic on the consumer web, it really hasn’t hit the video world yet. Startups like Shortform and Redux are beginning to enable curation of video content, but it won’t be long before personalized video channels will be created for TV viewing. This means not only do we get to look forward to creating our own channels someday, but may have to suffer through some media personalities becoming their own broadcasters.


Much of the hot startup activity in the web world in 2010 has been all about commerce on the computer screen, but it’s logical to think as connectivity goes to the best screen in the house, social commerce will also become social TV commerce. Imagine a social overlay on top of a QVC channel or even a lifestyle channel with a highly desirable demographic. The ability for a brand to offer a TV-based “Groupon” type offer and that also allowed a person to share with their own social graph could be highly compelling.

How To Guide: Turn Your Expertise Into Dollars Online

In Cloud Solutions, Growth and Business Strategy, Social Media on November 14, 2010 at 8:46 pm

By Darren Waddel, Mashable

Darren Waddell is vice president of marketing at He can be found on the MerchantCircle blog and on Twitter.

Every time you search for a topic online these days, it seems a few webpages pop up with advice from “experts.” Whether these websites are pages on Yahoo Answers, medical information sites or part of a community of small businesses like Yelp, they’ve become increasingly important sources of information for web searchers looking for answers to specific questions.

If you are an expert in something, you can offer your advice online — and turn that expertise into dollars. Small business owners are especially good candidates to become online experts, because they know their industries inside and out. Millions of small business owners have turned to blogging, writing articles, sharing tips on Q&A sites, and participating in forums as a way to drive traffic to their websites and build business credibility.

Expertise Pays

Small business owners possess a wealth of knowledge about their industry or sector, and when they share this knowledge with InternetInternet searchers, it lends credibility to their business and attracts new customers. Blogging is a key medium for sharing your expertise. The most recent Merchant Confidence Index, a survey of 10,000 small business owners conducted by my company found that nearly 30% are blogging and 35% plan to blog in the next three months. Those who are blogging have found that creating impactful content that people can find online is one of the best marketing tools available — and it’s free. According to data published by Internet marketing firm HubSpot, companies that blogged realized 55% more visitors to their site, 97% more inbound links and 434% more indexed pages.

Michele Gorham, owner of the Andover, Mass.-based Cookie Central bakery, is one small business owner who has turned her expertise into dollars online. She has created hundreds of blog entries about how to build a business, run a bakery, and other helpful topics; and she continuously answers customers’ direct questions through various social media platforms, including FacebookFacebookTwitterTwitter and YelpYelp. Because of Gorham’s rich content contributions, her listings on various sites are highly trafficked and regularly found by search engines — generating more sales for her business.

Getting Started

So what’s the first step if you want to start creating expert content online? The first thing you need to do is think about the topics you want to write about. What advice can you offer that would be useful to your potential customers? What are you knowledgeable about? Make a list of the topics you’d like to write about.

Next, you’ll need to develop a voice for your content. The most successful expert content is straightforward, informative, backed up with examples and research, and helpful to those who’ve searched for a specific term. Your articles should not be self serving. For example, if you’re a mechanic, don’t write an article that advises that the best way to fix a carburetor is to come into your shop and pay you to fix it. Instead, offer practical, step-by-step advice that can actually help someone with a problem. At the end of your article, you can add a gentle plug for your business and add your URL; don’t turn the article into an advertisement.

After you’ve written your article or blog post, you need to publish it online, and there are lots of options. Your goal should be to get the most exposure possible for your article, to drive traffic to your business website. You can publish your article on a personal, business or community blog, then add links to your article on your LinkedInLinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter accounts. You can answer an open question on Q&A sites, or pose your own and then go back and answer it. Remember, though, that if consumers like your advice but can’t find you, your efforts are being wasted. So make sure to create a detailed listing on local business sites, some of which will let you answer customers’ questions directly or publish your expertise via a blog or newsletter, and make sure you have your own web site. Also, fully fill out all profile information on any sites you utilize.

Some sites, such as Associated Content or Demand Media, pay experts a small sum to write topical articles, then syndicate that content to online newspapers and other websites. Demand Media pays up to $15 for a 500 word article. Other “citizen journalism sites,” like Examiner, pay based on page views. You won’t make millions by creating content for these pay-to-write companies, but if you blog regularly, your content will show up more regularly in searches for related topics, and you’ll build credibility in your industry — which is much more valuable than a few dollars.

In fact, most places where experts contribute their expertise online — blogs, forums, Q&A sites, and business directories — don’t pay contributors. But, as a small business owner, it’s still incredibly valuable to share your expert advice online, because your content builds exposure for your business, and that drives more people to your website and increases revenues long-term.

Making Sure your Content is Discovered

Wherever you decide to publish your articles, make sure the site is credible. The site should be populated by experts, such as small business owners or service providers with professional storefronts. Or if it’s your own blog, make it informative and professional — a useful site that your target customers will turn to again and again for information. For example, if you are a real estate professional, you could create a blog with inside information about a particular neighborhood, detailing not just houses for sale, but information on local schools, city government initiatives, community events, local businesses, and other things of interest to people living in that area. Such a site not only builds your credibility as a real estate agent, but delivers a valuable service to your potential customers that keeps them coming back for more.

To get your content found, make sure the sites you post it on optimize content for search engines. Embed links in your articles, and link to your articles from other places on the web as much as possible. Add links to the article on your Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and other social networking sites, as well as on your online business directory listings pages.

The bottom line: the quality of the expert content you produce online is critical to how well it works to build your credibility and boost business leads in the real world. If your articles are helpful and informative, they’ll be read and passed along, and that will increase the visibility of your content and your business. Offer helpful advice, and you’ll see how quickly your expertise is rewarded with new business leads.

CEO, Andrew Mason reveals ‘How to Get Super Rich’

In Cloud Solutions, Growth and Business Strategy on November 14, 2010 at 8:40 pm

By Ben Parr, Mashable

Groupon founder and CEO Andrew Mason revealed his six tips for creating a successful startup, or in his words, “polishing your turds and getting super rich,” at YCombinator’s Startup School event at Stanford University.

Groupon is among the hottest startups on the planet. In just two years, the company has made group-buying a worldwide phenomenon, grown to 1,600 employees and increased its valuation to more than $1 billion. It almost feels like Groupon and its team were always destined for greatness.

In reality though, Groupon’s road to prosperity was filled with a lot of struggles and big misses. Mason told the story of how Groupon grew out of a failed company that was trying to do too much all at once.

In 2007, he started a company called ThePoint. It’s a platform that lets users create donation campaigns for causes. You pledge money and provide your credit card, but you don’t donate anything until you hit the “tipping point,” either a certain number of people joining the campaign or hitting a certain financial mark.

Mason loved the vision behind ThePoint, which was to solve the problem of collective action. He thought that the platform could do everything from create charity campaigns to build giant anti-snow domes over Chicago (a real campaign on ThePoint). He wanted to give people the ability to make real change occur through collective action.

To prove the potential power of ThePoint, Mason started a small WordPressWordPress blog called Groupon in fall 2008, powered by a widget from ThePoint that provided the daily deals. By summer 2009, Groupon was clearly taking off and Mason’s team quickly shifted its resources and focus onto the daily deals platform.

While ThePoint didn’t get a lot of momentum, Groupon shot into the stratosphere. Why, though? Mason has six reasons why he thinks Groupon succeeded and ThePoint did not. More importantly, these six points are his advice to aspiring entrepreneurs trying to build businesses.

  • 1. You’re building a tool, not a piece of art. Mason suggests that you don’t get blinded by vision, as he was with ThePoint. Groupon has been the total opposite, very focused on hooking the customer within the first few seconds.
  • 2. Recognize and embrace your constraints.
  • 3. Have a growth plan.
  • 4. The best tools aren’t always that cool. Groupon chose e-mail because it’s simple and universal.
  • 5. You’ll probably fail. Mason suggests that you have the fear of failure in the back of your mind because it’ll help you confront reality and shape your decisions toward building a viable product.
  • 6. Quit now. Sometimes you have to let an idea go.