4 Lessons from Apple on Running Your Business

Looking to improve your business?  Finding a mentor in biz and in life is difficult to do.  A brand should always be challenging itself and growing.  Successful stories are essential in showing us the direction we should go.

If you're in need of a mentor, check out some of the secrets to Apple's success and how they can translate to you:

1.  Know what you do best; do it better than anyone else


Whether you're a restaurant or a tech startup or any brand in-between, this absolutely applies!  It is so easy to add new products or services because there *may* be money, or a market, or opportunity there.  But if a brand is pushing themselves out of their core competency, they may be risking too much for perceived new income.

An example:  Ever head of a Mexican restaurant that sell hamburgers and chocolate shakes?  And cheese cake?  Maybe people say they'd like to see it on the menu.  Maybe the chef does make a good cheese cake.  But before adding anything new, scrutinize if it is within your brand's true identity.  Or are you simply stretching to become all things to all people?

Lesson from Apple:  Apple creates products products within only four categories:  computers, phones, tablets and personal devices.  That's it.  They're not creating high-tech blenders or calculators.  They know what they do better than anyone else, and stick to those categories.


2.  Be customer-centric


This adage works whether you're selling a product or a service or a little bit of both.  The economy is shifting away from consumers who are entirely price conscious.  Consumers want to get a great price, but they're willing to spend more for a top-notch experience.

An example:  Say you are a clothing boutique that has a solid base of loyal customers.  Why not branch out and seek ways to further serve them?  Maybe partner with a high-end hair salon for loyalty rewards?  Or, find a great niche shoe store that would be a great fit with your customers.  Find a way to go above and beyond and make your customer's experience something to remember.  Have you thought to ask your customers how you can improve?

Lesson from Apple: Apple was the first to come out with computers in different colors.  Apple was the first to come out with an MP3 player that was so-very-much-more.  The tech behemoth tries to envision what their customers would want and then go a step or a leap past those expectations:  always go one better.

3.  Listen to the public; but don't become a slave to them


It is important to listen to what your customers and the public in general, say about your product or service, or a product/service in the same category as yours.  Though you should never become always-shifting and changing as public opinion morphs.

An example:  We'll journey back to the Mexican restaurant that serves hamburgers and shakes.  Maybe they had a few customers that claimed they would like to see these on the menu.  Maybe other Mexican restaurants are going in the same direction.  Before adding items that are not in your core competency to your line-up, a lot of soul-searching is required.  Is this the best decision in the long run?  Is this the best representation of our brand?

Lesson from Apple:  Prior to every product launch, news outlets love to interview people to find out what they'd like to see in the new iPhone or iPad.  Some of the suggestions make sense.  Some are obviously way too out there.  For example, an infrared camera to see in the dark.  Or, apps to control household appliances.  Maybe these things will be important in the future, but right now, they would be features very few would use and value.

4.  Price for value


Pricing of a product/service is always a difficult subject.  The best route is to price for value, whenever possible.

An example:  Sales are booming at your marketing firm, though you've had a few comments that pricing could be lower.  After all, your competitors offer lower prices.  And free coffee mugs.  It is important not to get caught up slashing prices.  If your customers see the value of your offering, then price should not be their primary concern.  There will always be a lower-price option out there.  If they are beginning to think about pricing, maybe it's time to reevaluate the level of value you are giving.

Lesson from Apple:  While there is a flurry of low-price competitors in the marketplace, Apple's products remain priced for value.  Many people complain about the price of a new phone, but Apple has a strong grip on marketshare across all of their product categories.

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We bet you never thought you could draw so many parallels between your brand and Apple.  The tech giant has a lot to teach us about doing business smarter.  We just need to take the time to listen.


5 For Friday featuring iOS 8, IPO fortunes and a vote that may have been influenced by social media.



Five quick links you don't want to miss before your weekend.

1.  iOS 8 is Here


What's so great about iOS 8?  We've come across a collection of links on the web that might show you why it's the bees-knees.  Here's how to become an iOS 8 Master.  Feel like 007 with these Secret Features of iOS 8.  And 25 Reasons iOS 8 is better than iOS 7.  Hope these tips make you feel more at home with the updated operating system.

2.  DIY Credit


Home Depot's security breach of over 56 million credit cards is on a larger scale than last year's Target security snafu.  Somebody tell them they need more than a hammer and nails to secure their credit card transactions!  Be sure to take some time to see if there is any suspicious activity on your card if you shopped at the Depot in the last year.

3.  An IPO to Dream About


Alibaba's IPO this week was hugely successful, raising $21.8 billion and a price per share at $68.  That's better than a genie in a bottle!  The stock sale could signal that the Chinese Internet industry may become the largest in the world.

4.  Social Media Informs Voters


Scotland's vote this week to possibly secede from the United Kingdom is the fruit of an era where the Internet helps to inform and convince voters.   Integrating technology in a more meaningful way since 2007 really paved the way for the referendum vote.  Imagine if Braveheart used Instagram and Twitter.

5.  Inspiring Your Weekend

Here's a quote from one of our hometown favorites.  Have a great weekend!


We'd love to connect with you on Facebook.

7 Sources of Content for Your Small Business Website

Finding inspiration for your small business website is not as scary as that blinking cursor on your blank Word document.  Take a quick look at your small business and you'll find more web-worthy information than you imagined.   Here are a few places to check out:

1. Your Past

Your small business is working hard every day.  Don't forget that you're creating and producing and moving forward along the way.  Display that hard work on your website.  Showcase your products or services or the effects of your products and services for the world to see.  The proof of your biz is in the pudding.  And people want a taste!

2.  Your Future

Things are happening all the time at your business.  People want to know.  Whether it's via a company blog, Facebook updates on your website or an Instagram feed, your brand's future is a great source of content for your small business website.

3.  Your Salesforce

Whether you have a sales team or if you are a team of one, salespeople are a great source of website content.  Every day customers and potential customers are asking questions.  Create a small answer bank on your website of the most common questions and their answers. 

4.  Make It Easy

Visualize your small business website as a pathway to your front door.  Every piece of information and assistance you can lend can help a customer along that path, making it easy for them to walk through your door.  What insights and information can you make available to help potential customers along?  What can you offer to make it easy to purchase from your brand?  Maybe a free sample.  Maybe a free consultation.  Maybe a slideshow about how your product or service will make their life better.  Make it easy for them to walk through the door and purchase from you!

5.  Directions and Hours

Nothing is more frustrating than heading out to shop or getting around to making a phone call and not reaching the person you intended.  At the very least, provide basic information about your business.  Where are you located?  What are your hours?  How do I get to your door?  At the very best, you could provide contact details for all of the employees at your small business.  Again, make it easy to do business with your brand.

6.  Show Us Behind the Curtain

Many of us revel in the deleted scenes and outtakes from our beloved DVD collections.  Brands are finding out that their customers are just as captive as an audience.  What does a team brain storm look like?  How high up did you have to hang an outdoor sign today?  How happy is that couple that you just took engagement photos of?  Your small business is an expert in your field.  So, show us!

7.  Don't Forget Your Off-Line Marketing

If you've spent money on a great new brochure, put it on your website.  There are amazing online options that make flipping through a brochure or catalog as enjoyable as real life.  Did you just put up a clever billboard in town?  Take a photo and add it to your Instagram or Flickr feed.  If you are spending money on marketing somewhere, put it online and maximize your money.  

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If you need a little help or a lot of help on your small business website, we'd love to connect with you!

Why Your Website Needs to be Mobile

Your small business or community now has a website.  That's great!  It's supremely important that you have a web presence.

But, I need to ask you, have you looked at your website on a mobile phone or tablet?

The results may surprise you.  If consumers need to do a lot of scrolling and zooming in and out to navigate your website, they will probably just leave in search of a mobile-friendly resource.  If you sell online, how does the shopping cart process look and feel on these mobile devices? If your website is not translating well on mobile devices, it can cost you sales.  Not convinced?

Mobile Shopping While In-Store

Check out this survey from a Cincinatti-based card processor, Vintiv.  The group found significant increases during the past year in the number of consumers that research and purchase right from their mobile device, while they are in-store.  It's hard to believe that we're making in-store purchases right from our devices!

2014 
Shoppers who paid for products in stores with tablets: 33%
Shoppers who paid for products in stores with smart phone apps: 11%

2013
Shoppers who paid for products in stores with tablets: 19%
Shoppers who paid for products in stores with smart phone apps: 2%

Mobile Shopping Overall

The major increase in mobile shopping is, of course, directly related to the number of people carrying these devices around with them.  You'd be hard-pressed to name someone in your circle of family and friends that DOES NOT have a smartphone or tablet.

Who is shopping on their smartphones and tablets?
30% of 18-to-34-year-olds
29% of 35-to-54-year-olds
14% of those over 55 years old

How Much Money are We Talking About?

We're talking about a major online sales!  Goldman Sachs projects that U.S. retail sales directly on smartphones will more than double from $70 billion this year to $173 billion by 2018. Similarly, tablet sales will more than triple from $130 billion this year to $453 billion in 2018.

Moving Forward

I think you now realize the opportunity in front of you.  Just as the major players in retail changed with the advent of online shopping, the major players can once again shift with regards to the mobile experience.  How can you move forward?

1.  Can Consumers Find You?

The first step in many shopping experiences is simply setting foot in your business.  When searching on a device, can people get quick and accurate directions to your door?  Also, do you offer a sampling of what your business is like?  Photos of the great food or product selection can entice shoppers to visit you rather than the competition.

2.  The Mobile Experience

It's time to simply look at your website on a variety of devices.  Borrow your friend's Android device and your nephew's iPhone.  Conduct a test purchase transaction on an iPad.  The ultimate question:  Is it a good experience?  Easy to navigate.  Easy to put items into the shopping cart.  Easy to swap out product features?  Consumers are looking for enjoyable experiences when they shop.  Make.  It.  Easy.

3.  The In-Store Experience

Can you offer a unique in-store experience?  A number of businesses are capturing the in-store device browsing by offering:

  • A QR code that is scanned in-store for a special coupon
  • Specific shopping apps to allow customers self-checkout
  • Special offers by text message
  • Offering more purchase options online than in-store
The time to become mobile-friendly is now!  While the process seems daunting, it doesn't need to be. The focus is on making the process to buy from you, research about you, or enter your door, easy and enjoyable.  

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Resources:





Outdated or Here Another Year? - Website Features

Website features, like anything else, come and go with differing fads and fashions.  Does your website have a feature you should hang on to?  Or a feature that you should get rid of?

Recently. Mashable asked 12 entrepreneurs for their opinion on web trends and features.
We read their ideas and had a few thoughts to share.

Homepage Sliders


What is it:  A slide-show of images and/or text that automatically rotates through.  Viewers can also click through all of the tabs.

Keep it or Trash it:  We currently produce a number of sites that use this feature.  Why do we love it?  It gives your web visitor a quick run though the hot-topics on your website.  In our visual-heavy culture, a combination of images and text can send a message faster than just text.

We say, keep it!

Stock Photos


What is it:  Getty revolutionized websites with the availability of a stock photo of pretty much anything and everything.

Keep it or Trash it:  If you don't have any proprietary photography that will work well, a stock photo may be your best bet.  However, web consumers are becoming more brand-loyal and they like to know the faces and places behind those brands.

We say, use stock photos only when necessary!

Animated Gifs


What is it:  In this case, a picture is worth 1,000 words.
Keep it or Trash it:  This fad went out over 10 years ago.  The American flag is a beautiful thing!  Just put a nice, small graphic of the flag on your site and leave it at that.

We say, keep the flag, get rid of the animation!

Reloading Pages


What is it:  As you navigate along a website, the menu, sidebar and footer don't need to be reloaded, necessarily.  Just the content in the middle of the page would need change.

Keep it or Trash it:  This is a must keep.  If you ever want to send a customer to a specific page or product, then each page really needs their own unique address.  Also, search engines love to crawl pages on your website.  Make it easy for Google to find your site and index all of its information.

We say, keep it!


Mobile Websites


What is it:  A separate website just for mobile devices.

Keep it or Trash it:  Responsive websites are becoming more of a necessity with increasing web use on tablets and cell phones.  If you've got an elaborate website, a separate mobile site may actually be easier for your audience to navigate.

We say, go responsive if you can.  If not, be sure to have a separate mobile-ready website.


Sidebars


What is it:  The 250-300 pixels along the side(s) of a website.

Keep it or Trash it:  If you utilize sidebars on your website, be sure all of the information you put there is necessary and not simply taking up space.  If you choose to go without, be sure your web site content has large margins.  What's a good rule of thumb for text width?  Your text should be no wider than it takes to list out the alphabet three times.  Any more and it is difficult for the eyes to track.

We say, do what delivers the most value!

Hit Counter


What is it: 
Keep it or Trash it:  Please let the "hit counter" go the way of the floppy disk.  But do delve into your website's stats to see how many visitors you've had, what the top search terms were for your website and other valuable information.  Please note:  hits are no longer being tracked.

We say, trash it!

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What website elements do you think should be a thing of the past?  We'd love to have you join the conversation on Facebook!

What the Top Apps of 2013 Say About Us

If you're like us, you've downloaded and used a number of different apps this year.  Apple recently revealed the top apps downloaded in 2013 from their App Store.  Here's the list:


Top Free iPhone
  1. Candy Crush Saga    
  2. YouTube
  3. Temple Run 2
  4. Vine
  5. Google Maps
  6. Snapchat
  7. Instagram
  8. Facebook
  9. Pandora Radio
  10. Despicable Me: Minion Rush 

Top Paid iPhone
  1. Minecraft – Pocket Edition   
  2. Heads Up!
  3. Temple Run: Oz   
  4. Angry Birds Star Wars
  5. Plague Inc.
  6. Afterlight
  7. Free Music Download Pro – Mp3 Downloader
  8. Bloons TD 5
  9. Sleep Cycle alarm clock
  10. Plants vs. Zombies 

Top Free iPad
  1. Candy Crush Saga    
  2. YouTube
  3. Temple Run 2    
  4. Calculator for iPad Free
  5. Skype for iPad
  6. Netflix
  7. Despicable Me: Minion Rush    
  8. iBooks
  9. Facebook
  10. The Weather Channel for iPad

Top Paid iPad
  1. Minecraft – Pocket Edition 
  2. Pages
  3. Temple Run: Oz  
  4. Plants vs. Zombies HD    
  5. Angry Birds Star Wars HD    
  6. Notability
  7. Angry Birds Star Wars II    
  8. iMovie
  9. The Room
  10. Bad Piggies HD


What do these apps reveal about us?




WE LOVE TO GAME

Minecraft, Temple Run, Despicable Me: Minion Rush, Candy Crush Saga, Angry Birds, Plants vs. Zombies, The Room, Bad Piggies--our smart devices are gaming devices, no doubt.  Whether we're waiting in the terminal before catching a flight or taking a breather on a stressful day, a quick gaming break may be just what the doctor ordered.

Smart device games are typically broken up into short, challenging levels.  This makes them fun to play and figure out yet easy to set down and come back to later.  Perfect for killing time.

The increase in gaming downloads also confirms that many parents use their smart devices to occupy kids on car rids, airplane flights or trips to grandma's house.  As much as we love our devices, our kids might love them even more than we do.  


WE'RE SOCIAL

Facebook, Instagram, SnapChat, Vine, -- sharing is second nature.  When we're at a movie, on a vacation or just having dinner with friends, most of us love to tell the world about it.  

While we're increasingly connected, there may be a bit of an illusion of friendships here.  It will continue to be a struggle to engage with people in real life, just as has been an issue since the beginning of human kind--people be messy.  These social media tools are a wonderful way to be connected, but we can always put more time and energy into the relationships we truly value.


WE WORK ON THE WEEKENDS

Pages, Notability, Skype for iPad, --our devices are mobile offices.  We can work when we want, where we want and how we want.  Meetings, brainstorms and updates can be done on the fly.

We can take work with us.  This is a major advantage when we want to live a little.  Taking a vacation and not falling behind; attending a birthday party and not missing an important email; and staying up-to-the minute are all benefits of the smart device generation.  For some people this can be liberating.  For others, this can be a stressful situation.  The key is to find the balance that works the best for you,  so you can be fully engaged at work and in your personal life.


WE'RE VISUAL

Instagram, iMovie, Afterlight, --our devices capture our lives.  Many people no longer take a separate digital camera.  We rely on the accessibility and convenience of our phones and tablets, as they're never too far away from us.  

While these devices can take great snaps and pics, we all need to remember to back up our photos, or risk losing them when our phones break, fail or are misplaced.   Also, a good quality digital camera may be preferable when we're capturing truly important moments.  It's easy to overestimate the photo quality of our favorite device.  


WE'RE RELIANT

Weather Channel, Sleep Cycle, Netflix, YouTube, Google Maps, Pandora -- our devices are our BFFs.  In bed, in the bathroom, at work and at play, our smart devices never far away.  We've come to rely on them for entertainment, information, normal every-day use.  When we lose or break a smart device we feel like a part of us is missing.  That's because a trusted tool relied upon every day is missing or not working properly.

While we rely on our devices, we must remember that they won't work properly without some proper care.  Backups, taking along power cords, and handling them with a bit of care are all important parts of the smart device relationship, so to speak.  We can lose valuable photos, information and contacts if we're not a little bit proactive.  That way, when a new, shiny model comes out, we won't be so invested in our current model that there's a fear to upgrade.  Or replace one that fell in the toilet.

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What do your apps say about you?  We'd love to hear your thoughts over on Facebook!

How to Unplug

As people who love the web, technology and our mobile phones, we readily admit that we're plugged in.  All.  The.  Time.  However, this can lead to information overload.  Or a sense of never really focusing on who we're with or where we're at.

What are The Symptoms?

Taking a retreat from your phone, laptop or tablet may be in order if:


  • Each time your phone chirps you absolutely HAVE to check it.  Resistance is futile.
  • Your Facebook friends know what you're doing, thinking and eating throughout the day.  Every day.
  • You've blown-up your significant other's phone because they haven't responded.  You've given them 30-seconds to do so.
  • You see a person in real life and can't connect with them.  You'll Facebook them instead.
  • You frequently stop talking with the person in front of you in order to check your phone.
  • Eating a meal without checking your phone is uncommon.  
  • Your typical response times to email is 3-seconds.
  • Your children recognize your obsession and rush to bring your phone to you each time it beeps, rumbles or squawks.  

How to Unplug


If you've reached your critical max for online-associations, here are some ideas to help you unplug.

1.  Decide how long you'll unplug.  Maybe just an hour?  A day?  A weekend?  Decide what's best for you given your current projects and commitments (no sense unplugging to relax and losing your job over it).

2.  Make it easy to do.  Maybe set a timer if you're looking for a 1-hour break.  Put your phone on silent so you don't hear every email that lands in your inbox.  Turn off your laptop and put it away.  Shut off your desktop computer and put a Post-It reminder on it that you're taking a break.  If you're unplugging for a longer period of time, be sure to respond to all important emails and possibly set up an auto-email responder to let interested parties know when you'll be available again.

3.  Focus away from technology.  You have a life outside of technology--trust us!  Plan a date night, go see a movie, pack a picnic or a day-trip.  Focus on people and places rather than what's happening online.

When you've completed your break, be sure to Facebook us because we're dying to know how it went.

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Here's a great info-graphic we found about unplugging (HT: DailyInfographic.com) :