Blockchain Crucial Tool In Solving Global Financial Deficiency

Blockchain Crucial Tool In Solving Global Financial Deficiency

  

Solutions propagated since the advent of the Blockchain

Among the frontline solutions propagated since the advent of the Blockchain is the development of global financial infrastructure that will reach the unbanked and underbanked populations of the world.

Empowerment

More than two bln people around the world do not have access to basic financial services as a result of the absence of infrastructure. The consequence of this is that they are deprived of efficient methods of transferring value and affordable credit. According to Alexi Lane, CEO, and co-founder of Everex: “Affordable credit is a key element of entrepreneurship and economic empowerment.” The solution offered by Blockchain technology in the financial sector appears to be one of the most crucial promises that the global economy has been presented with in a long time.

Since the creation of Bitcoin and the other Blockchain platforms that followed, the hope of reaching the so far unreached population has been given a boost. The P2P technology offered by Blockchain has by far eliminated the cost and logistics of building physical infrastructure before reaching the ends of the earth. Also, intangible elements such as trust and data immutability, among others, are no longer issues of utmost concern. Therefore, the world is presented with an opportunity to indeed achieve global financial empowerment.

Fuel of expansion

The participation of corporations in delivering infrastructure to the far corners of the globe is evident in the level of growth of major Blockchain platforms. After Bitcoin, the most adopted Blockchain platform, as evident in their market capitalization, is Ethereum. As an example, a Blockchain company specialized in developing Ethereum applications, Everex, recently announced that it’s going to reach two bln unbanked and underbanked individuals by allowing them to access affordable instant micro-credit and global fiat transaction services from mobile devices.

Ethereum’s rise

Such developments among many others have seen the Ethereum value to rise by over $150 in less than two months. Founder at Expanse.tech, Christopher Franko, describes Blockchain as the single most important technology for the unbanked or underbanked.

Franko explains:

“In America alone, there are roughly 10 mln people that fall into this category and according to the Global Index, that number reaches higher than two bln. That’s over two bln people that don’t have basic access to the infrastructure needed to be an active participant in the global economy. Blockchain technology should focus heavily on this segment of people and offer low-to-no cost solutions.”

According to Franko, he and his team are focusing on that very thing as well as other empowering software for things like governance and identity management. He also notes that as the world becomes more interconnected, its need for borderless identity and financial and governance infrastructure increases.

Chuck Reynolds
Contributor
Please click either Link to Learn more about – TCC-Bitcoin.

Alan Zibluk Market Hive Founding Member

Blockchains are the new Linux, not the new Internet

Blockchains are the new Linux,
not the new Internet

   Cryptocurrencies are booming beyond belief.

Bitcoin is up sevenfold, to $2,500, in the last year. Three weeks ago the redoubtable Vinay Gupta, who led Ethereum’s initial release, published an essay entitled “What Does Ether At $100 Mean?” Since then it has doubled. Too many altcoins to name have skyrocketed in value along with the Big Two. ICOs are raking in money hand over fist over bicep. What the hell is going on? (eta: in the whopping 48 hours since I first wrote that, those prices have tumbled considerably, but are still way, way up for the year.)

A certain seductive narrative has taken hold, is what is going on. This narrative, in its most extreme version, says that cryptocurrencies today are like the Internet in 1996: not just new technology but a radical new kind of technology, belittled or ignored by by most, which has slowly and subtly grown in power and influence over the last several years, and is about to explode into worldwide relevance and importance with shocking speed and massive repercussions. (Lest you think I’m overstating this, I got a PR pitch the other day which literally began: “Blockchain’s 1996 Internet moment is here,” as a preface to touting a $33 million ICO. Hey, what’s $33 million between friends? It’s now pretty much taken as given that we’re in a crypto coin bubble.)

I understand the appeal of this narrative. I’m no blockchain skeptic. I’ve been writing about cryptocurrencies with a fascination for six years now. I’ve been touting and lauding the power of blockchains, how they have the potential to make the Internet decentralized and permissionless again and to give us all power over our own data, for years. I’m a true believer in permissionless money like Bitcoin. I called the initial launch of Ethereum “a historic day.” But I can’t help but look at the state of cryptocurrencies today and wonder where the actual value is. I don’t mean financial value to speculators; I mean utility value to users. Because if nobody wants to actually use blockchain protocols and projects, those tokens which are supposed to reflect their value are ultimately … well … worthless.

Bitcoin, despite its ongoing internal strife, is very useful as permissionless global money and has a legitimate shot at becoming a global reserve and settlement currency. It's anonymized descendants such as ZCash have added value to the initial Bitcoin proposition. (Similarly, Litecoin is now technically ahead of Bitcoin, thanks to the aforementioned ongoing strife.) Ethereum is very successful as a platform for developers. But still, eight years after Bitcoin launched, Satoshi Nakamoto remains the only creator to have built a blockchain that an appreciable number of ordinary people actually want to use. (Ethereum is awesome, and Vitalik Buterin, like Gupta, is an honest-to-God visionary, but it remains a tool/solution / platform for developers.) No other blockchain-based software initiative seems to be at any real risk of hockey-sticking into general recognition, much less general usage.

With all due respect to Fred Wilson, another true believer — and, to be clear, an enormous amount of respect is due — it says a lot that, in the midst of this massive boom, he’s citing “Rare Pepe Cards,” of all things, as a prime example of an interesting modern blockchain app. I mean, if that’s the state of the art… Maybe I’m wrong; maybe Rare Pepe will be the next Pokémon Go. But on the other hand, maybe the ratio of speculation to actual value in the blockchain space has never been higher, which is saying a lot.

Some people argue that the technology is so amazing, so revolutionary, that if enough money is invested, the killer apps and protocols will come. That could hardly be more backward. I’m not opposed to token sales, but they should follow “If you build something good enough, investors will flock to you,” not “If enough investors flock to us, we will build something good enough.” A solid team working on an interesting project which hasn’t hit product-market fit should be able to raise a few million dollars — or if you prefer, a couple of thousand bitcoin — and then, once their success is proven, they might sell another tranche of now-more-valuable tokens. But projects with hard users, and barely any tech, raising tens of millions? That smacks of a bubble made of snake oil … one all too likely to attract the heavy and unforgiving hand of the SEC.

That seductive narrative though! The Internet in 1996! I know. But hear me out. Maybe the belief that blockchains today are like the Internet in 1996 is completely wrong. Of course, all analogies are flawed, but they’re useful, they’re how we think — and maybe there is another, more accurate, and far more telling, the analogy here. I propose a counter-narrative. I put it to you that blockchains today aren’t like the Internet in 1996; they’re more like Linux in 1996. That is in no way a dig — but, if true, it’s something of a death knell for those who hope to profit from mainstream usage of blockchain apps and protocols.

Decentralized blockchain solutions are vastly more democratic, and more technically compelling, than the hermetically-sealed, walled-garden, Stack-ruled Internet of today. Similarly, open-source Linux was vastly more democratic, and more technically compelling, than the Microsoft and Apple OSes which ruled computing at the time. But nobody used it except a tiny coterie of hackers. It was too clunky; too complicated; too counterintuitive; required jumping through too many hoops — and Linux’s dirty secret was that the mainstream solutions were, in fact, actually fine, for most people.

Sound familiar? Today there’s a lot of work going into decentralized distributed storage keyed on blockchain indexes; Storj, Sia, Blockstack, et al. This is amazing, groundbreaking work… but why would an ordinary person, one already comfortable with Box or Dropbox, switch over to Storj or Blockstack? The centralized solution works just fine for them, and, because it’s centralized, they know who to call if something goes wrong. Blockstack, in particular, is more than “just” storage … but what compelling pain point is it solving for the average user? The similarities to Linux are striking. Linux was both much cheaper and vastly more powerful than the alternatives available at the time. It seemed incredibly, unbelievably disruptive. Neal Stephenson famously analogized the 90s operating systems to cars. Windows was a rattling lemon of a station wagon; MacOS was a hermetically sealed Volkswagen Beetle; and then, weirdly … beyond weirdly … there was

Linux, which is right next door, and which is not a business at all. It’s a bunch of RVs, yurts, tepees, and geodesic domes set up in a field and organized by consensus. The people who live there are making tanks. These are not old-fashioned, cast-iron Soviet tanks; these are more like the M1 tanks of the U.S. Army, made of space-age materials and jammed with sophisticated technology from one end to the other. But they are better than Army tanks. They’ve been modified in such a way that they never, ever break down, are light and maneuverable enough to use on ordinary streets, and use no more fuel than a subcompact car. These tanks are being cranked out, on the spot, at a terrific pace, and a vast number of them are lined up along the edge of the road with keys in the ignition. Anyone who wants can simply climb into one and drive it away for free.

Customers come to this crossroads in throngs, day and night. Ninety percent of them go straight to the biggest dealership and buy station wagons … They do not even look at the other dealerships.

I put it to you that just as yesterday’s ordinary consumers wouldn’t use Linux, today’s won’t use Bitcoin and other blockchain apps, even if Bitcoin and the other apps build atop blockchains are technically and politically amazing (which some are.) I put it to you that “the year of widespread consumer use of [Bitcoin | Ripple | Stellar | ZCash | decentralized ether apps | etc]” is perhaps analogous to “the year of [Ubuntu | Debian | Slackware | Red Hat | etc] on the desktop.”

Please note: this is not a dismissive analogy or one which in any way understates the potential eventual importance of the technology! There are two billion active Android devices out there, and every single one runs the Linux kernel. When they communicate with servers, aka “the cloud,” they communicate with vast, warehouse-sized data centers … teeming with innumerable Linux boxes. Linux was immensely important and influential. Most of the modern computing is arguably Linux-to-Linux.

It’s very easy to imagine a similar future for blockchains and cryptocurrencies. To quote my friend Shannon: “It [blockchain tech] definitely seems like it has a Linux-like adoption arc ahead of it: There’s going to be a bunch of doomed attempts to make it a commercially viable consumer product while it gains dominance in vital behind-the-scenes applications.” But if your 1996 investment thesis had been that ordinary people would adopt Linux en masse over the next decade — which would not have seemed at all crazy — then you would have been in for a giant world of hurt. Linux did not become important because ordinary people used it. Instead, it became commodity infrastructure that powered the next wave of the Internet.

It’s easy to envision how and why an interwoven mesh of dozens of decentralized blockchains could slowly, over a period of years and years, become a similar category of crucial infrastructure: as a reserve/settlement currency, as replacements for huge swathes of today’s financial industry, as namespaces (such as domain names), as behind-the-scenes implementations of distributed storage systems, etc. … while ordinary people remain essentially blissfully unaware of their existence. It’s even easy to imagine them being commoditized. Does Ethereum gas cost too much? No problem; just switch your distributed system over to another, cheaper, blockchain.

So don’t tell me this is like the Internet in 1996, not without compelling evidence. Instead, wake me up when cryptocurrency prices begin to track the demonstrated underlying value of the apps and protocols built on their blockchains. Because in the interim, in its absence of that value, I’m sorry to say that instead, we seem to be talking about decentralized digital tulips.

Chuck Reynolds
Contributor
Please click either Link to Learn more about – TCC-Bitcoin.

 

Alan Zibluk Market Hive Founding Member

How to Vet An SEO Agency (and Prevent Failure)

How to Vet An SEO Agency
(and Prevent Failure)

  

 Major Algorithm Updates, Explained 

Finding the right SEO provider is important. It also can be a lot of hard work. This is why vetting SEO agencies is so important. You want to make sure your SEO agency is:

  • Easy to work with.
  • Going to deliver real value to your business.
  • Consistent.
  • Knowledgeable about the industry.
  • Within your budget.

The stakes are high. In most cases, SEO can make or break your business. Choose the right SEO agency and your business could start generating more traffic and revenue than it’s ever seen. Choose the wrong SEO agency and it could lead you to failure. We’re talking wasted money, penalties, and countless lost opportunities (e.g., rankings, traffic, and revenues). Although there are many honest and reputable agencies to choose from, there are still a few scam artists and dishonest agencies looking to exploit unknowing businesses.

The SEO Agency Horror Show

As the head of an SEO agency, I’ve seen the success stories. It’s always great to see clients grow and succeed because it helps us take pride in our work and showcase what SEO can do for businesses. But I’ve also heard some horror stories. One frustrating aspect of being an agency is hearing stories from businesses that come to us wary and frustrated from bad experiences they’ve had with unreliable SEO agencies. In speaking with such clients, there seems to be a common crescendo that leads them to their unfortunate breaking point, and it goes like this:

A business decides SEO is the next step in their growth plan, so they seek out and speak with an agency about services. The agency sells them potential results of successful SEO and makes guarantees about what they can achieve for the business. The business thinks it sounds great and takes the agency at their word. Ultimately, the business signs a contract with the SEO agency and gets locked in for an extended period of time. Fast forward a year or two later, and some businesses find themselves drained of money with little to show for it, or in some cases, with penalties that have made their online performance worse.

Tips for Vetting SEO Agencies

The advice and questions that follow are what businesses absolutely must consider and ask while vetting SEO agencies from an actual SEO agency’s behind-the-scenes perspective.

Develop a List of Criteria

Having some criteria beforehand will make you think critically about your expectations, protect you from going in blindly, and keep you in charge of what you want.

Think about things like:

  • Budget.
  • Desired contract duration.
  • Whether you want a local service provider or if you’re OK with a remote agency.
  • Reporting frequency.
  • Any other potential deal breakers.

Talk to 3 Different SEO Agencies

It’s smart to talk to at least three SEO providers before you make a decision. Aside from this being a generally good idea for the sake of knowing all your options, it also helps give you some leverage for possible negotiations regarding prices, services, and contract stipulations.

Make a List of Interview Questions

Asking the right questions before signing a contract can prevent the majority of SEO horror stories. Have the questions ready to ask each agency you speak with, so later you can compare answers and have plenty of information to help guide your decision.

Chuck Reynolds
Contributor
Please click either Link to Learn more about – Inbound Marketing.

Alan Zibluk Market Hive Founding Member

Tips for Vetting SEO Agencies

Tips for Vetting SEO Agencies

Develop a List of Criteria

The advice and questions that follow are what businesses absolutely must consider and ask while vetting SEO agencies from an actual SEO agency’s behind-the-scenes perspective. Having some criteria beforehand will make you think critically about your expectations, protect you from going in blindly, and keep you in charge of what you want.

Think about things like:

  • Budget.
  • Desired contract duration.
  • Whether you want a local service provider or if you’re OK with a remote agency.
  • Reporting frequency.
  • Any other potential deal breakers.

Talk to 3 Different SEO Agencies

It’s smart to talk to at least three SEO providers before you make a decision. Aside from this being a generally good idea for the sake of knowing all your options, it also helps give you some leverage for possible negotiations regarding prices, services, and contract stipulations.

Make a List of Interview Questions

Asking the right questions before signing a contract can prevent the majority of SEO horror stories. Have the questions ready to ask each agency you speak with, so later you can compare answers and have plenty of information to help guide your decision.

Chuck Reynolds
Contributor
Please click either Link to Learn more about – Inbound Marketing.

Alan Zibluk Market Hive Founding Member

Questions to Ask an SEO Agency

Questions to Ask an SEO Agency

Any honest and well-established agency

will happily answer your questions and address the concerns or reservations you have about SEO. Pay attention to how receptive they are to providing answers. Most importantly, don’t sign a contract with an SEO agency without asking these questions first:

  • Can you guarantee that my site will have a top ranking position?
    • Start with this question, because it’s a quick way to weed out shady SEO agencies. Legitimate SEOs will never guarantee a client a top ranking position because they know there are no guarantees with SEO.
  • How do you handle penalized sites?
  • Does your agency ever deviate from Google’s best practices?
  • Has your agency ever bought links?
  • How do you build links and what kind of links do you build?
  • How many links can I expect to have built per month or over the duration of my contract?
  • How much on-page, off page, and technical work can I expect to be done and what specific practices do you do for each?
  • Which tools do you use to achieve results and carry out SEO services?
  • Do you edit and/or optimize existing content on my site?
  • Is any of the work or content outsourced? If so, who does it?
  • How does your team handle content strategy and development?
  • What will specific content pieces be done for my site?
  • How do you plan to optimize that content?
  • Do you have any examples of work you’ve done for a similar business?
    • Successful SEOs are quick to provide case studies or examples of other businesses they’ve helped, so if you hear “that’s classified” or “we don’t share the results of other clients” in response, be wary.
  • On average, when do your clients start to see results?
  • How many active client accounts do you have?
  • How many people on your team are working on them?
    • If an agency has 500 active client accounts and only 30 people on their team, chances are they’re either stretched thin at the expense of quality or outsourcing some of the work.
  • Do you work with businesses that would be considered competitors to mine?
    • This isn’t always a bad thing, but if a direct competitor hires the same SEO company and has a bigger budget, you could be in trouble.
  • How often do you run site audits?
  • What specific metrics do you track and report on?
  • How do you handle reporting and tracking of my account?
  • How often can I expect to receive reports and updates, and how will you communicate them to me?
    • Ideal answers to these questions will include information on conversions, rankings, traffic, campaign and outreach updates, etc. Most agencies provide clients with access to reporting software so they can view a dashboard with trackable metrics.
  • How many people will have access to our website?
  • What steps do you take to ensure the security of our website?
  • Will you be making changes to the structure, web design, or coding of our website? If so, is that handled in-house or outsourced?
  • Who would be my point of contact, and how can I contact them if I have questions or concerns?
  • Can I meet the people who work on my account?
  • What will you need from my end?
  • How much time per month is needed from our end?
  • Can you itemize the pricing package by specific services and hours spent working on each?
  • What separates you from other SEO agencies?
  • Overall, what results can I expect from my website?

Conclusion

A lack of preparation makes you susceptible to being taken advantage of dishonest and shady SEOs. Do your research and prepare beforehand so you can easily identify the right SEO agency when you find them, and from there they’ll help you determine the best strategies to address the needs of your business.

Chuck Reynolds
Contributor
Please click either Link to Learn more about – Inbound Marketing.

Alan Zibluk Market Hive Founding Member

How to Create a Comprehensive Inbound Marketing Plan

How to Create a Comprehensive Inbound Marketing Plan

 Folks who live and breath inbound marketing

are all too familiar with the complexities involved in formulating a full-fledged inbound marketing strategy. Inbound marketing demands that you be more than a jack-of-all-trades handyman. Instead, you need to be a pro at dozens of specific skills – content writing, search engine optimization, social media, website design, conversion rate optimization, pay-per-click, email marketing, the list goes on.

As a result, when we assist marketers with inbound marketing strategy, the conversation often evolves into a discussion about building a marketing plan – how to prioritize, what to do, what not to do, what works best for specific business models and how to implement the proper infrastructure to facilitate inbound lead generation. Whether you’re launching a new startup company or looking for quick ways to revamp your enterprise marketing activities, a solid plan can make the difference between treading water and an achieving exponential growth. Following this guide will help you put the proper inbound marketing plan in place for your organization, prioritize each aspect of your strategy and focus on what drives the best results. In a world of instant gratification where there isn’t much time for planning so this guide is designed to help you really hit the ground running.

Define Your Buyer Personas

Where Buyer persona is the foundation of all things inbound marketing. Understanding exactly who you are marketing to, what makes them tick and how they communicate will help you craft messaging that truly resonates with your ideal customers. For those of you who are not familiar with the concept of a buyer persona, they are a fictional representation of your ideal customers. For instance, within your target market, there are likely numerous types of buyers. Your product or service may frequently be purchased by CEOs, Marketing Managers and Directors of Sales. Buyers in each of these roles have very different interests, priorities, and goals. Taking the time to define and understand the characteristic of each of your buyer personas will help you focus your content creation on topics that attract ideal customers.

Outline Your Marketing Triggers

Once you have identified who your ideal customers are and what makes their world go round, the next step is to identify the events and pain points that cause them to search for information about your product, service or industry. These events are known more formally as marketing triggers. Trigger-based marketing aims to meet potential customers at a point of need by being reactive, and targeted, rather than arbitrarily pushing out messages to big audiences.

Let’s consider the marketing triggers for an office furniture company. Office furniture is most often purchased by organizations that experience rapid company growth, geographic expansion, are undergoing building renovations, currently have outdated office furniture or just have the desire to stay up with new trends in office interior decor. Companies that experience any of these events may identify the need for new office furniture and begin to conduct research online. This is the perfect point in the purchase decision to provide a potential customer with a top-of-funnel offer that speaks to their needs and introduces the value of your product or service.

Create a List of Keywords

Now that you understand who your buyer personas are and what causes them to search for information, the next step is to figure out how people are searching for information about your product or service. Keyword research allows you to see the estimated search volume by location, how difficult it is to rank for certain keywords and estimate of the cost of purchasing search traffic through pay-per-click advertising. When creating a list of target keywords try to choose search terms with relatively high monthly search volume and a medium to low competition level. Google’s Keyword Planner is a great resource to quickly generate a list of relevant keywords and identify search terms that are in your sweet spot of competition and search volume.

Through this research, you can create a list of key terms and phrases to create content about. Crafting keyword rich content that speaks to the common questions that your buyer personas have when they encounter a marketing trigger ensures you are attracting the right people, at the right time, to your website.

Set Your Inbound Marketing Goals

The first step towards measuring the return on investment of your inbound marketing activity is identifying exactly what you want to achieve and when you expect to see the results. As outlined in the SMART Goal Framework, goals should be specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and timely. To set your inbound marketing goals, begin by assessing your website’s current ability to attract traffic, convert leads and close business. Some of the key performance indicators may include:

  1. Monthly unique website visitors
  2. Number of inbound leads / month
  3. Sources of traffic – PPC, SEO, Blogging, Social Media, Email

It can be helpful to create a series of scenarios and calculate the results for a number of potential outcomes. The following is a hypothetical example.

Tip: For a quick competitive analysis put your website and your key competitors into Marketing Grader. This tool reveals how your site stacks up against the competition in terms of filling the top-of-funnel with qualified leads and nurturing them into customers.

Outline Your Content Strategy

As we break down the inbound funnel you can see that leads typically fall into one of three stages:
Top-of-funnel Awareness:
leads at the top of the funnel are typically searching for general information about a subject
Middle-of-funnel Evaluation:
leads in the middle of funnel need to be introduced to your brand and learn what it is like to do business with you
Bottom-of-funnel Purchase Decision:
leads at the bottom of the funnel are most often looking for information that communicates the functionality and benefits of your product/service

The goal of top-of-funnel content is to attract as much awareness as possible and convert those visitors into leads. Social media, blog posts, videos, infographics and SlideShare presentations are all examples of top-of-funnel content that can easily spread amongst a large audience. Middle-of-funnel content begins to position your product/service. Branded webinars, case studies, free samples, catalogs, FAQ sheets, spec sheets or brochures can be used to effectively introduce your brand while providing value to the viewer. Leads at the bottom-of-funnel have shown signs that they are specifically evaluating your product/service. Sometimes these leads just need a little taste of what it is you have to offer – this might be a free trial, a live product demo, a discount or a complimentary assessment, consultation or estimate.

If you have great top-of-funnel content but you have nothing to offer leads in the middle and bottom of the funnel you won’t be very efficient at moving leads through the sales cycle. To identify where you may have obvious gaps in your content begin by evaluating your existing content and mapping it to each stage of the inbound funnel. Do your buyer personas have all the information they need at each point of the buying cycle? Understanding the questions, concerns, and objections that each of your buyer personas has, during the three stages of the inbound funnel will help your content strategy take shape.

Design Your Lead Nurturing Process

Some leads reach a decision to purchase a product or service much quicker than others. This can happen for a variety of reasons, but often the primary reason for a lead is to stall in the sales process is a lack of information. If a lead has unanswered questions, they are likely not ready to progress down the marketing funnel. The best way to reach out to leads and answer their questions is through a series of automated emails. Email automation gives leads a little nudge or reminder that you have valuable content available at their disposal. This encourages leads to re-engage with your content and move further down the inbound funnel.

The emails that you send to top-of-funnel leads should answer the most common questions that arise during your sales process. Once you have proactively reached out to answer these common questions, your leads will be better informed, more qualified and more receptive to accessing further information about your product or service. As leads progress to the middle of the funnel you can begin to position your product or service by delivering brand specific information. This might include a series of emails that address common questions and concerns about your business. Once a lead has acted on a bottom-of-funnel offer they are considered to be sales qualified. At this point, leads should be handed over to your sales team to be contacted directly and closed into paying customers.

Create a Conversion Focused Blogging Strategy

Conversion focused blogging strategies are designed to attract highly relevant traffic to your website with the goal of converting traffic into qualified leads. Each blog post supports an exclusive content offer by answering your buyer personas common questions and encouraging them to access your exclusive content. For instance, let’s think about our office furniture example.  If you write a top-on-funnel whitepaper about “The 10 Benefits of Open Concept Offices” you would then write a series of closely related blog posts that help attract traffic to that exclusive offer.
These might include:

  • Is Your Office Environment Crushing Creativity?
  • 4 Companies Leading the Open Concept Office Trend
  • 5 Design Trends Changing the Work Environment

Within each of the blog posts, you would feature a call-to-action to download “The 10 Benefits of Open Concept Offices” whitepaper.

Implement an Inbound Marketing Platform

While the bulk of the work in crafting an inbound marketing plan is routed, in strategy and content creation, the technology that facilitates inbound lead generation should not be overlooked. When considering infrastructure to facilitate inbound marketing choose platforms and approaches that will let you focus on your business, rather than the nuts-and-bolts of connecting disparate systems.

Recruit a Team of Inbound Marketing Experts

As we previously mentioned, inbound marketing requires a very diverse, yet specific skill set. Depending on your in-house expertise, capacity for additional work and the size of your budget it might make sense to hire for specific roles or outsource certain aspects of your inbound marketing execution.

A well rounded, Inbound Marketing team will have access to all of these skill sets:

  • Inbound marketing strategy
  • Copywriting
  • Blogging
  • Web Analytics / data analysis
  • Front & back end web development
  • Web design
  • Search engine optimization
  • Pay-per-click marketing
  • Conversion rate optimization
  • Email marketing
  • Social media / community management
  • Project management

Conclusion

Making the switch from traditional, Outbound dominated, marketing programs to inbound dominated marketing investments can seem like a leap of faith, but the benefits are indisputable. The sooner you can put this plan into action, the sooner you will be reaping the rewards of inbound marketing – more leads, at a lower cost, generated by a completely Scaleable Strategy.

Key Take-Aways:

  1. Define your buyer personas
  2. Identify your marketing triggers
  3. Create a list of keywords
  4. Set your inbound marketing goals
  5. Outline your content strategy
  6. Design your lead nurturing process
  7. Create a conversion focused blogging strategy
  8. Implement & Align infrastructure & business processes
  9. Recruit for the skillsets you need

Chuck Reynolds
Contributor
Please click either Link to Learn more about – Inbound Marketing.

Alan Zibluk Market Hive Founding Member

A Step By Step Guide to Inbound Marketing Strategy

A Step By Step Guide to Inbound Marketing Strategy

   Are you new to inbound or think your current campaigns could use some direction?

Over at OverGo we’ve come up with a pretty foolproof and seamless process of creating a marketing strategy. It’s really quite simple, all you need to do is set the goals, create the basics, automate the processes, and analyze the results. Let’s dig deeper!

Setting Goals

The first step to creating an inbound marketing strategy is to define your business goals. Based on where you are and where you want to go, it’s important to create a roadmap of how to get there. Along with this road you can define the KPIs that tell you how your inbound marketing campaign is doing. You can look at your competitors, your industry market, and where you are in that market to create realistic and attainable goals.

Discovery Session 

The first step in setting a direction is to set customized goals during a discovery session. Conducting a meeting with you and your team to identify your ideal customers is the best way to go about this. In this meeting, you can discuss your key metrics, revenue goals, and your sales process to produce the best-customized strategy. 

Create a Buyer Persona

A deeper understanding of your audience provides direction for the content you create and keeps your visitors coming back for more. You can create a research-based representation of who your buyers are, what they want to accomplish, pain points that shape their behavior, and how they make buying decisions.

Industry Research

An understanding of your competitors and what other companies are doing in your industry is ideal. You can pinpoint your specialty and see where the holes are in your industry that could be filled.

Getting Found

Keyword Research

Once we get an understanding of your audience, it’s important to find out how people are searching for your content through keyword research. This allows you to see the estimated global and local search volume, ranking difficulty and also predicts the cost of running paid campaigns. Through this research, you can decipher which terms and phrases to target in order to attract the right visitors to your website.

Onsite SEO

This consists of all the factors on a website page that influence search engine ranking. In order to get found for the keywords that are chosen in your keyword strategy, it’s important to optimize every page that is created on your website. All pages should include the appropriate keyword within the content, page properties, and the image tags. Performing onsite SEO for all current and future pages that you build out for your website is very important.

Editorial Calendar 

Before beginning your blogging campaign, come up with an editorial calendar to ensure that you are publishing and promoting content on a regular basis. An editorial calendar will not only make it easier to schedule content, capitalize on upcoming product or service launches, but it will ultimately encourage discipline in the running and updating of any blog.

Blog Writing, and Posting

Blogging is the basis of bringing traffic to your website and relevant visitors will come to your site when you blog about the right content. The key is to create content around your buyer personas pain points and main industry topics. Keeping up with blogging is a high priority in getting your website found online, the more frequent you blog the more visitors you will attract.

Pay-Per-Click

PPC campaigns give you an opportunity to put your message in front of an audience that is seeking your product or service. Through keyword research, strategic bidding, and a compelling advertisement you can get the results you want. PPC is no longer limited to search engines, you can also run PPC campaigns on various social media platforms.

Social Marketing

Social media is THE platform for sharing content and odds are your audience is engaging on at least one social media platform. Sharing content on your social media accounts allows you to reach your audience on multiple channels- Facebook, Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn. Social media acts as a gateway for potential prospects to find your website so it is important to be relevant, active and engaging in this sphere.

Getting Leads

Premium Content Production

Premium content converts visitors to leads on your website. Specifically, premium content is an offer that contains unique informational value to your target audience. Visitors are willing to fill out a form with their contact information in order to gain access to your premium content. Examples of premium content are eBooks, Webinars, Whitepapers, Case Studies, etc.

Landing Page Design

Landing pages are where premium content lives. Sending your potential clients to landing pages where you capture their information and create new leads for your sales team is a best practice. A good landing page is eye-catching, properly designed, and attracts new leads. The basis of a good landing page is to have the desired user action, which is what you want your visitors to do once they land on your page.

Call-to-Action Creation

A call-to-action (CTA) can make or break your website's lead acquisition rate. CTA's direct visitors to your premium content landing pages. We work with the branding of your website in order to create professional and exceptional graphic buttons your visitors will be compelled to click. We think of CTA as mini billboards positioned on your website to direct visitors to the next steps you want them to take. To facilitate lead generation you can design A/B CTA test groups and position them on various pages throughout your website.

Acquiring Customers

Alignment of Sales and Marketing 

Utilizing CRM integration allows you to provide your sales team with information that will make them better equipped for sales calls. With CRM systems you can track every action a lead takes on your website, your email marketing and on social media. This kind of information puts your sales team one step ahead on a sales call. They will be able to prepare themselves for the type of product or service the lead is interested in, and build on the trust the lead has already established with your business.

Lifecycle Communications

Getting to know your potential clients better is also important by creating a lead lifecycle plan based on your website content and sales funnel. Lifecycle plans segment leads based on who they are, how much interaction they've had with your business online, what kind of content you want them to receive, and at what part of the sales funnel you want them to receive it.

Lead Nurturing

The best way to move a lead through a sales funnel is to launch lead nurturing campaigns. You can do this with a workflow which allows you to trigger a follow-up email or a series of emails based on the action that a lead may take. This helps nurture and educate leads so they are prompted to take next steps and prepared before they even talk to a sales person.

Automated Workflows

Workflows are more than just a lead nurturing tool. They help you automate common marketing processes, moving leads through your funnel in an efficient way. Sending marketing emails, changing contact properties, and sending internal notification emails, are all possible with workflows. They bring marketers the same kind of automation a sophisticated CRM system provides to sales, bridging the gap between both processes.

Closed-Loop Reporting

Closed-loop reporting gives sales an opportunity to report on what happened to the qualified leads we provided, helping further understand your best and worst lead sources. With closed-loop reporting, you are able to plan more strategically for the future by focusing on your best lead sources, those with the best lead to customer conversion rate.

Retaining Customers

Closing sales and getting customers are great goals to have. But I think the inbound marketing mentality supports the fact that the relationship with your customers doesn’t need to end there. After you bring in leads from online tactics you can focus on turning customers into promoters of your business. After all, the best advocates of your products or services are those that have experience with them. Options for continued retention processes include implementing referral programs, continued customer education pieces, and segmenting customer newsletters in order to keep your customers coming back for more. 

Continued Education Pieces

Inbound allows you to segment your customers into lists based on their needs and implement marketing automation. You can communicate information on any additional needs they may have as a customer. Perhaps there is an opportunity to cross-sell but your customer was not aware of it, these communications will make sure they are well educated on the full scope of your products and services.

Segmented Customer Newsletters 

Newsletters aren’t just for leads and potential customers; you can send segmented customer newsletters so they continue to see you as experts in your industry. Customers receive newsletters that contain updates on current events in your industry, as well as press releases and product and service announcements.

Referral Programs 

A referral customer comes at a much lower cost and has a higher potential for retention and loyalty. If applicable for your business, you can create referral programs that make it easy for current customers to promote your product or service.

Account Analysis

Marketing Benchmarks  

Always analyzing your main marketing benchmarks is key. These metrics include customer acquisition cost (CAC) and ratio of customer value to CAC which is the total value that your company derives from each customer compared with what you spend to acquire that new customer. You can also look at the time to payback CAC which is the number of months it takes for your company to earn back the CAC it spent acquiring new customers, marketing originated customer percent which shows what new business is driven by marketing, and the marketing influenced customer percent which takes into account all of the new customers that marketing interacted with while they were leads anytime during the sales process.

Onsite Analysis 

Consistently performing a full onsite analysis of your website is also important. You do this by looking at keyword performance and rankings, organic search traffic and conversions, search engine optimization, blog performance, page performance, email click-through-rates, and much more. 

Offsite Analysis 

The offsite analysis goes hand in hand with onsite analysis. You can perform an offsite analysis which is the measurement and analysis of your online presence away from your website. This includes paid search campaigns, social media accounts and paid social campaigns. 

Monthly Reporting

Lastly, you can keep track of your unique business goals with in-depth reports based on your custom key performance indicators. Your reports are designed to foster communication and collaboration within your company so customizing it to your goals and with your sales and marketing teams is very necessary.

Takeaway

Setting up your strategy the right way might take a little bit of time, but in the end, it’s worth it and will produce the type of results that turn into leads and customers for your marketing and sales teams! If you want to learn more about how this can be applied to your business, I invite you to download our resource below!

Chuck Reynolds
Contributor
Please click either Link to Learn more about – Inbound Marketing.

Alan Zibluk Market Hive Founding Member

Billion Dollar Cryptocurrency Club Swells to Six Members

Billion Dollar Cryptocurrency Club Swells to Six Members

Bitcoin continues to set new record highs on a daily basis, and taking a host of altcoins along with it as investor demand for alternatives to equities remains strong.

Bitcoin’s market cap surpassed $37 billion today

when the price hit $2271.16, commanding more than a billion in trade volume in a 24-hour period, according to coinmarket.com. The total value of the coin market is now at $81.3 billion, as the last two days added more than $10 billion to the capitalization. Bitcoin’s value has almost doubled in the last month, even while its market share has fallen below 50%, thanks to the gains of other cryptocurrencies. Bitcoin’s gains have been steadier than most of the altcoins, but collectively, altcoins are rising at a faster pace.

Asian Trading Remains Key

Rising demand for bitcoin by Chinese and Japanese investors combined with falling stocks and other factors to push Bitcoin to new heights. Because the Japanese yen holds the largest share of bitcoin trading, Asian trading pushes the prices higher. The Nikkei Asian Review today reported, “Bitcoin going mainstream as Japanese business signs on,” signaling bitcoin’s growing popularity in Japan, which recently recognized bitcoin as a method of payment. Asian interest in bitcoin increasingly carries over to other currencies, as indicated by the gains for Ripple and NEM, the two most popular altcoins in Japan in terms of demand and trading volumes. Japanese regulators also decided to abolish the 8% consumption tax on transactions of Bitcoin bought from exchanges, which is set to go into effect in July this year.

Progress On Scaling Continues

Today’s announcement that a majority of bitcoin miners have reached a consensus to deploy the Segwit2Mb protocol upgrade for bitcoin also bodes well. Bitcoin’s rise has benefited from an alleviation of the fear that a “hard fork” will be needed – dividing bitcoin into two currencies – to improve bitcoin transaction times. A successful deployment of an alternative scaling solution indicates the hard fork that would have resulted in two separate currencies in order to speed up Bitcoin transactions may not be required. Wences Casares, CEO of bitcoin wallet Xapo and a member of PayPal’s board of directors one bitcoin would hit $1 million before the next ten years while speaking at the Consensus 2017 conference in New York.

Ethereum Continues To Amaze

Ethereum, the largest altcoin, hit more than $16 billion market capitalization with a $179.68 price, followed by Ripple at more than $13 billion. The top three cryptocurrencies — bitcoin, Ethereum, and Ripple — are the only players to boast more than $10 billion market cap. Ethereum has witnessed the fastest growth of any digital currency ever. Not even two years old, the platform is now worth more than $16 billion with its trading spaces consistently attracting more online active users than even bitcoin’s.

Ripple, designed for enterprise use and can be used by institutions for on-demand liquidity for cross-border payments, also continues to post rapid gains. Banks and payment providers that use XRP will secure better access to emerging markets at lower settlement costs. Ripple recently committed to placing 55 billion XRP in a cryptographically secure escrow account at the end of the year, addressing concerns that it will eventually sell its 61.68 XRP as it seeks to strengthen XRP’s exchange rate against other currencies. NEM, number four commands a $2.299 billion cap, followed by Litecoin at $1.575 billion and Ethereum Classic at $1.02 billion. There are now six cryptocurrencies with more than $1 billion market caps.

Altcoins Keep Shifting Position

Aside from bitcoin, the rotation shifts fairly frequently among the billion dollar players. A day ago, Litecoin, Monero, and Dash displaced Ethereum and NEM, with gains of 15%, 20%, 25%, respectively. NEM, number four, commands a $2.299 billion cap, followed by Litecoin at $1.575 billion and Ethereum Classic at $1.02 billion. There are now six cryptocurrencies with more than $1 billion market caps.

NEM has also made significant gains over the past few months. A major factor that has allowed NEM to transform into one of the most popular altcoins in Japan is its development team and company composed of Japanese founders and talents. NEM was initially developed and introduced in Japan by Makoto Takemiya, the co-founder, and CEO of Soramitsu, the company that has also introduced the Iroha blockchain project to the Linux foundation’s Hyperledger Project. Litecoin, one of the oldest altcoins, gained visibility this month because of its successful activation of SegWit, a scaling solution that circumvents the need for a hard fork.

Chuck Reynolds
Contributor
Please click either Link to Learn more about –
TCC-Bitcoin.

 

Alan Zibluk Market Hive Founding Member

Bitcoin rival Ripple is suddenly sitting on billions of dollars worth of cryptocurrency

Bitcoin rival Ripple is suddenly sitting on billions of dollars worth of cryptocurrency

  • Blockchain start-up Ripple built a digital payments network for real-time financial transactions.
  • It suddenly has billions of dollars worth of cryptocurrency on its balance sheet.

  

Bitcoin rival Ripple is suddenly sitting on billions of dollars worth of cryptocurrency 

Blockchain start-up Ripple is in a precarious position for a 5-year-old company.The business is still in its very early days but suddenly has billions of dollars worth of cryptocurrency on its balance sheet.Ripple, which built a digital payments network for real-time financial transactions, is also the creator and biggest owner of Ripple XRP, a digital currency that has increased in value by 40 times this year.There's a total of 100 billion XRP in existence, each priced at about 26 cents. The $26 billion of total value is second among cryptocurrencies, behind bitcoin, which is valued at $41 billion.

Ripple owns about 61 percent — or $16 billion worth — of XRP. If that were factored into the company's valuation, Ripple would be worth more than all but four U.S. start-ups — Uber, Airbnb, Palantir and WeWork. XRP is surging alongside Bitcoin and ether as well as smaller digital currencies like dash and monero. They're all benefiting from the growing interest in Blockchain, a distributed electronic ledger that makes all transactions trackable. Unlike other cryptocurrencies on the market, XRP is tied to — and majority-owned by — a single company.

That's led to concern among XRP investors and enthusiasts that Ripple will one day decide to capitalize on its massive stake and flood the market with currency. Some venture investors would surely welcome cashing in on some of that value after pouring about $94 million into the company. But for people with thousands (or millions) of dollars wrapped up in XRP, the fear of a sudden excess of supply has been unsettling, particularly considering the volatility of the currency. The price fell 13 percent late in the day on Thursday and double-digit daily moves are normal.

'Off the table'

To create some long-term stability and ease those concerns, Ripple announced a plan last week for the structured sale and use of its currency. By the end of 2017, the company will put 55 billion of its XRP into escrow and will unleash up to 1 billion into the market every month. Thus, investors will have some sense of what's coming. "We decided to take the issue off the table," Ripple CEO Brad Garlinghouse said in an interview. "We wanted to make sure we were combating any uncertainty about supply."

Garlinghouse is a well-known name in Silicon Valley. He had senior executive roles at Yahoo and AOL and was CEO of Hightail (formerly YouSendIt) from 2012 to 2014. He joined Ripple in 2015, and earlier this year took over the CEO role from founder Chris Larsen, a serial entrepreneur, who previously started online lender Prosper. Garlinghouse likened Ripple's situation to Yahoo, which derives almost all of its current value from its large stake in China's Alibaba. (Yahoo's core business is being sold to Verizon and the Alibaba stake is being spun out into a new holding company called Altaba.)

The analogy only goes so far, as equity investors haven't ascribed a big multi-billion dollar valuation to Ripple. The company last raised money in September, when the XRP currency was worth a tiny fraction of its current price.However, Ripple's business has picked up quite a bit of momentum since then, which helps explain at least some of XRP's rally. Last month, Ripple signed up 10 new financial institutions, including BBVA, to its payments platform that supports speedy transactions by eliminating all the friction that exists between various currencies and financial systems.

Global banks including Bank of America, RBC and UBS are also customers. While bitcoin is the more established cryptocurrency, it's primarily used today as an investment vehicle and has run into big latency problems with handling transactions. Ripple and ethereum have emerged as the early leaders in enabling business arrangements, with Ripple trying to build the digital payments standard for the financial sector. "Some of those banks are all in and some are still in the early stage running a pilot," Garlinghouse said. "We have real customers touching real production systems. We're the only company you can say that about in our space."

Chuck Reynolds
Contributor
Please click either Link to Learn more about –
TCC-Bitcoin.

Alan Zibluk Market Hive Founding Member

Kik maker launches cryptocurrency to fight Internet ‘giants’

Kik maker launches cryptocurrency to fight Internet ‘giants’

  

Launching its own cryptocurrency called Kin

Kik Interactive Inc., the maker of anonymous chat app Kik, announced today that it is launching its own cryptocurrency called Kin in order to push back against what Chief Executive Ted Livingston calls the “copy-and-crush strategy” of giant Internet companies.

“We’ve reached a worrying point in the evolution of the internet: More and more of our everyday digital activities — from talking to friends to ordering food to share photos — are controlled by fewer and fewer companies,” Livingston wrote in a blog post. “The biggest companies use their scale to  mass advertising dollars and give everything else away for free, making it nearly impossible for smaller competitors to find sustainable business models.” According to Livingston, Kik’s new cryptocurrency will allow developers to “link arms to compete with the giants together, building a better future for society while also making money.”

Kin is based on the Ethereum blockchain, and it will be integrated directly into Kik for in-app purchases, which Livingston says will help generate demand for the cryptocurrency. He noted that Kik’s existing digital currency, Kik Points, has already demonstrated that Kin could be successful. “Despite its intentional limitations, Kik Points saw a transaction volume three times higher than Bitcoin’s,” Livingston said. “As the default currency inside Kik, Kin will go far beyond Kik Points by allowing people to participate in an economy based on buying and selling stickers, hosting and joining group chats, creating and using bots, and much more.”

Livingston said he hopes Kin will help create an open, decentralized digital ecosystem, which would allow consumers to move to other platforms without losing apps or services that they have already paid for. Kik users will be able to earn and spend Kin through the app, which could allow the app’s predominantly younger user base to spend money without having to use a credit card. Kik will have also parental controls for Kin to prevent underage users from spending the currency without permission. Each day, an algorithm will also distribute Kin to developers through the Kin Rewards Engine based on how much their service contributed on the platform. The idea behind this rewards program is to compensate developers without having to rely on an advertising model, which Livingston says will “lead to a virtuous cycle in which the ecosystem grows in both size and quality.”

To oversee the new cryptocurrency, Kik is founding the Kin Foundation, an independent not-for-profit organization that will operate the reward engine and manages transaction services and a decentralized user identity. “It’s like Mozilla for the mobile era, but with payments built in,” Livingston said. Livingston did not name any names when describing the big “copy-and-crush” companies, but one of the most likely candidates would be Facebook Inc., which has been increasingly expanding its products to compete directly with newer social apps. For example, Facebook-owned Instagram has introduced a number of features over the last year that gives it functions similar to Snapchat.

Chuck Reynolds
Contributor
Please click either Link to Learn more about –
TCC-Bitcoin.

 

Alan Zibluk Market Hive Founding Member

Be As You Are ….