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Thoughts On What Bitcoin’s Rise In Value Mean

Thoughts On What Bitcoin's
Rise In Value Mean

The cryptocurrency bitcoin — money backed by mathematics rather than governments or precious metals — first came into existence around 2009. The digital currency, which is "mined" by computers, has since gained a solid number of adherents, and nearly as many questions.

 

The CryptoCurrency BitCoin

Bitcoin brags about their digital wallets, easy transfers, identity protection and minimal fees. Critics warn of the system's complexity to explain, as well as its volatility. Some question the use the money is put to, saying that anonymity can help criminals shift money safer.

But in early January, Bitcoin's value surpassed a record-high set in November 2013, and as of early March, the price continues to rise. Is this change a temporary one, coming from market influences, or does it signal broader acceptance for the currency? Members in the Forbes Technology Council have this to say about what 2017 will mean for bitcoin adoption:

Remember: Early Leaders Are Usually Not the Ultimate Winners 

I think the real question is less about how widespread bitcoin's adoption is going to be, and more about how long before other currencies adopt blockchain as their basis. The early leader in almost any technology is usually not the ultimate winner. There is already a lot of development and early exploration both into integrating blockchain into currency, but there is not clear standard — yet.

Governments Don't Want It 

You don't need to go far to recognize why bitcoin is back at record highs. Just look at the situation with China's economy right now. The SEC delayed their decision on the Winklevoss's bitcoin exchange-traded fund, which means we'll likely not see what happens for several more months under a new presidency. Governments around the world will never want a currency that is supply limited.

Adoption Set To Increase 

I think as long as it keeps going up and continues to stabilize in its pricing, more people and businesses will become interested and adopt it in the coming year. With more work being done on country regulations and standards, as well as further research on applications for blockchain, the comfort level for use will increase.

Cryptocurrency Will Grow 

The bitcoin era is halfway through its course, while cryptocurrency overall is still growing. The golden years are already gone, and only big mining pools will be able to thoroughly profit from it from now due to large investors bringing tons of technological and human resources to the table. However, cryptocurrency popularity will only increase based on Bitcoin’s success and others will emerge.

Volatility Driven By Multiple Factors 

Unlike fiat currencies, bitcoin volatility is influenced by regulation, politics and proposed technology changes. 2017 started with a record $18 billion market capitalization. With 90% of miners and 70% of trades in China, the recent regulatory moves created vast volatility. The rest of the year will see even more volatility with the political, economic and technical (such as block size debates) uncertainties.

Chuck Reynolds
Contributor

Alan Zibluk Market Hive Founding Member

Sweden Moves to Next Stage With Blockchain Land Registry

Sweden Moves to Next Stage With Blockchain Land Registry

  

Sweden’s land registry authority to trial blockchain technology

A project set up last year by Sweden’s land registry authority, the Lantmäteriet, to trial blockchain technology for recording property deals has just moved to its second phase. Conducted by blockchain startup ChromaWay and consultancy group Kairos Future, the initiative is also working in partnership with two banks: SBAB and Landshypotek.

“It could be a great benefit for economic growth,” said ChromaWay CEO Henrik Hjelte on the project's potential, further arguing that Sweden is the ideal place to test a blockchain system for land titles, as trust in public authorities is high and could influence agencies elsewhere to follow suit. Under the proposed system, a buyer and seller would open a contract where banks and the land registry can view the workflow of the deal, such as due dates for payments. “In the blockchain confirmation of each step in the workflow is made with a hash, like the blockchain normally,” said Magnus Kempe of Kairos Future, adding: “Everyone has the same information and you can check it yourself.”

Another use example is verifying the existence of the IOU issued by the bank to the property buyer. “That part is going to be hidden for the others in the contract. You will only have the hash confirming from the bank that the IOU has been signed,” said Kempe. The newly entered second phase involves examining how the technology can be integrated with banks’ existing processes when verifying contracts. The firms indicated that ChromaWay’s platform won’t be handling any payments on the system – those will remain separate.

SBAB Bank, however, said it has no immediate plans to implement the tech, saying:

"Our reason to participate in the project has not been to actually implement the solution in our current processes. But rather an opportunity for us to get a better understanding of the blockchain technology and how it might possibly fit in our future products/offerings."

Trusting the digital

There remains one major hurdle to fully integrating this blockchain system for selling a house from start to finish. “We want to work fully digitally, but the law requires, at the moment, physical signatures on the papers, which makes it difficult,” explained Kempe.

While trust in digital contracts has been lagging for a long time, he argued that blockchain tech can now provide the trust needed to move forward. “As soon as the legislator understands that this is possible, I think it will come true,” said Kempe. Helping that process, the EU passed a directive in 2016 that puts more weight behind digital signatures and could eventually influence Swedish policy.

For now, the land registry project is looking at ways of working around the issue. Kempe said:

“Actually, the land registry today, they don’t receive much physical paper, they get PDFs of the contracts which are signed electronically so they don’t store the physical contracts. What we are thinking of is, you can actually sign the contract digitally in the blockchain to the land registry, they can award the land titles and then you can throw away the paper so you’re not dependent on the physical archive."

Outside interest

ChromaWay and Kairos Future said that they have been approached by more than a dozen public authorities from other countries expressing interest in the project. The team explained that they don’t hold any patents for the platform, preferring to see other organizations work on similar schemes, eventually leading to more collaboration.

Sweden’s testing of the blockchain for land titles is possibly the most ambitious application of the technology in real estate thus far. Others are working on the concept, however. Early last year, the land registry authorities in Eurasian nation Georgia began working with blockchain startup BitFury, which, in February, signed a memorandum of understanding to extend the tests to other government agencies.

According to ChromaWay’s Henrik Hjelte, the use of blockchain could be transformative for developing countries in managing ownership of property and improving transparency in real estate sales. On the other hand, proof-of-concept tests in Honduras were put on the back-burner in late 2015 over an apparent breakdown in communications between the government and Factom, the company that was supposed to conduct the trials.

ChromaWay and Kairos Future are confident about the future, though. Kempe said:

“There’s very little reason to think that this won’t work."

Chuck Reynolds
Contributor

Alan Zibluk Market Hive Founding Member

What’s Blockchain and How Could It Impact Government?

What's Blockchain and How Could It Impact Government?

Blockchain technology is the latest system governments are considering in the long-standing effort to increase efficiency.

The source code was originally created to support bitcoin, a decentralized payment processing, and stock exchange system. Creators were attempting to solve the risk that an online currency such as bitcoin could be double spent. To maintain the decentralized system, the network works on a peer-to-peer model, creating locked records that redundantly save across multiple servers.

Similar to a shared document, one transaction can be viewed across multiple places. However, a block record cannot be changed once it is recorded, only referenced as new records are made. The diffuse system is meant to act as its own iterative confirmation service.

Many people are talking about how blockchain could change everything from health records management to identity verification. “It has the potential to create new foundations for our economic and social systems. But while the impact will be enormous, it will take decades for blockchain to seep into our economic and social infrastructure,” an article in the Harvard Business Review says. Each recorded block of information represents a transaction and each transaction is redundantly recorded. Nearly 300,000 blockchain records are recorded daily for Bitcoin alone.

One UC Berkeley study expresses concern that the order of transactions is extremely important, and research firm Constellation says blockchain's main purpose is to prove entry order. Maintaining record order could be worked around if timestamps were applied by a vendor, but the necessity of this is still being debated. Blockchain has grown so much since its first mention in 2008 that an ID program and bank card were created to support refugees by an experimental Voluntary Nation program.

Aside from banking and identification confirmation, blockchain can also create smart contracts that automate transactions between parties and verify ownership of assets before the exchange is finalized by referencing older block records. Similar systems have been suggested for health-care records management and banking security where estimates of cost savings differ, anywhere from $12 billion to $15 billion.

Using a system that can decrease risk, is auditable and maintains real-time settlements could minimize the need for many record-based positions such as notaries and contract lawyers, leading to predicted savings. The multiple uses for blockchain is what concerns many stakeholders, especially as many rush to find use cases for the tech.

“When discussing blockchain technology, it is important to remember Amara's Law (named after Roy Amara, co-founder of Institute for the Future): ‘We tend to overestimate the effect of a technology in the short run and underestimate the effect in the long run.’ Anytime a technology goes through a hype cycle as is happening with blockchain, I find this maxim useful to reference,” Rachel Hatch, research director at Institute for the Future, wrote in an email to Techwire.

Startups like Ascribe remove the middle man from digital art, transferring more of the profit to the artist and the art to the buyer in one series of records. Many vendors agree that as more things become connected, more records are necessary. “The Internet of Everything needs a Ledger of Everything,” the Harvard Business Review said.

Hatch referred to this as a space for opportunities for change and growth. With a similar eye on change, Congress created a Blockchain Caucus to study use cases, and Delaware is considering it for its corporate registry. Many stakeholders agree that adoption will be a long time coming because the technology is the kind to build off of, not the kind that turns a business model upside-down. “The process of adoption will be gradual and steady, not sudden, as waves of technological and institutional change gain momentum,” the Harvard article said.

Chuck Reynolds
Contributor

Alan Zibluk Market Hive Founding Member

Blockchain Platform MultiChain Enters Beta with 15 New Partners

Blockchain Platform MultiChain Enters Beta with 15 New Partners

New Industry Partners are Joining

MultiChain, the private blockchain platform launched by Coin Sciences Ltd, has entered beta phase with the release of MultiChain 1.0 for Linux and Windows. The platform has also revealed that 15 new industry partners are joining its Platform Partner Program – a consultancy group originally backed by financial services giant Accenture.

Notably, the new members of the program include three multinationals – Boston Consulting Group, PwC, and Worldline – as well as 11 smaller companies. The MultiChain platform was set up with the aim of helping organizations more easily build applications using blockchains and distributed ledgers.

CEO Shinam Arora of Primechain Technologies, a new member of the partner program, explained some of MultiChain’s use cases, saying:

"We are using MultiChain for building several blockchain-powered solutions, including shared KYC/AML, syndication of loans and consortium lending, trade finance, asset registry, asset re-hypothecation, secure documents, cross-border payments and peer-to-peer payments.”

The platform said it plans to release a final version of the software this summer. In related news, Seal Software, a contract discovery and analytics platform, has said it will integrate MultiChain into its platform. The marriage will enable a machine-learning framework based on what the company called "intelligent contracts" to be used in conjunction with MultiChain's blockchain functionality.

Chain and Thales Interlock for
Blockchain Key Security Solution

 

A new Integration with Blockchain

French cyber-defense and aerospace firm Thales has launched a new integration with blockchain startup Chain aimed to boost blockchain security. The partnership will see Chain bridging its enterprise-focused blockchain software capabilities with the nShield hardware security module (HSM) developed by Thales. The move comes shortly after Thales unveiled a blockchain offering in conjunction with professional services firm Accenture.

Thales’ HSM is a hardware solution for securely storing private keys – the all-important strings of data that, for example, protect a user's bitcoin or other blockchain-tied tokens. As these pieces of information are critical in the context of digital asset management, the hardware offering has been positioned as one that would alleviate security concerns among enterprises and other organizations.

Jon Geater, CTO for Thales' cybersecurity arm, said in a statement:

"Blockchain is a game-changer in the financial services industry, with the potential to enhance security, speed and operational efficiency. Our integration with Chain provides a strong root of trust and ensures the integrity of the underlying blockchain operations that enables organizations to build, deploy, and operate blockchain-based transaction networks with confidence."

Regulators are also likely to cheer the advance of security measures in the blockchain space. In February, the European Securities and Markets Authority proclaimed that distributed ledger technology regulations would be premature, given the state of the tech and a lack of market-wide cybersecurity standards.

Chuck Reynolds
Contributor

 

Alan Zibluk Market Hive Founding Member

The ways that blockchain will change your life

The ways that blockchain will change your life

  

Blockchain is an intriguing concept to explore

Starting to gain traction in the mainstream, this technology has a lot of far-reaching potentials. Blockchain is an intriguing concept to explore. It is a digital ledger that entails transactions, working with data arranged through a series of records called blocks. This uses a secure system and is essential for managing financial data as well as the development of the Bitcoin. With all the hype that it’s received over the past year with Santander and others announcing that they are setting up their own internal Blockchain systems, it begs the question as to why blockchain is all of a sudden so appealing.

For those who already own a few Bitcoins but keep them and want to exchange for the higher price, there are many options to calculate, how rich you are. Even if you haven’t mined or bought Bitcoin yet, there are ten good ways how the underlying technology of blockchain will impact your life. These entail points on security, simplicity, and how well it works with your budget in mind.

It makes things secure

Blockchain technology is very secure and effective. You can get all transactions validated when adding blocks. This is thanks to how the blockchain system reads more data and is very transparent. The data gathered can be read by multiple databases. Encryption is not included in the blockchain system. You can still add that if desired. Digital signatures may also be added to confirm one’s identity when using it. Such signatures can also regulate read/write access rights.

The identities of people who work with the system can also be secured if needed. Proper certificates can be used to allow people to log onto a setup and use it. This allows the certificate to be used in lieu of an actual person’s name. This may work with a setup that keeps individuals from being identified. In some cases, the business running it may be listed but the individual responsible for triggering a transaction will not be listed.

Additional control is possible

You will get more control over any blockchain system you use. You can adjust your content in any way that you see fit. In particular:

● You can create limits as to what specific parties can do with a blockchain setup.
● The central owner of a block of data can be determined. You can adjust the identity of the owner to make whoever is in charge of a certain part more accountable.
● Limits can be created with regards to what people can or cannot do with a blockchain. This is especially for when you are trying to keep certain people from accessing specific spots.

You can use blockchain in cases where you need to get many parties to read the same data but while also maintaining some control. There is no limit to the amount of protection that you can add to it. This adds a setup that isn’t too hard to use without being complicated or far too technical.

It is a more durable solution

The blockchain setup uses a series of decentralized networks. This allows blockchains to be read by more parties. As a result, there are no central points of failure. It is easier for the blockchain system to handle any possible failures that may develop.

Transactions run faster

Transactions are easy to handle within the system. A universal system is used with the same kind of interface. This does not require any outside standards from separate providers. Confirmation times can vary on the system. It often takes less than half an hour of a transaction to be managed. It can take a few hours in some instances but such cases are rare.

Transaction costs are reduced

A great part of blockchain is that it uses no third parties for managing transactions. As a result, funds will be easy to move without spending too much money on each one. It often costs less than $10 USD to get a single transaction managed. The cost varies but it is typically around that total.

Only one ledger is required

You only need one ledger to get a blockchain transaction handled. This is another benefit of there being no third parties involved. Therefore, you can process a transaction quickly and effortlessly.

Transparency is possible

With a blockchain transaction, you can learn all about what happens. You will learn everything you need to know about an individual block by looking it up. You’ll find details on:

● How many transactions are involved in a single block
● Transaction fees
● The approximate volume of the block
● The size of the block
● Who is relaying that block
● How much time it takes to get some transactions reviewed

The information you will get is extremely detailed. It does require a bit of extra technical knowledge in some instances.

It is a direct solution

The blockchain system is made as a direct solution. All parties involved with a blockchain can alter the chains they find. Information on all prior blocks will also be made available online. With this, people can get a clear idea of how the system works. They won’t have to worry about any suspicious details in their chains.

Energy credits may be available

You may be able to get energy credits depending on where you are located. Blockchains may be generated for acquiring renewable energy credits. This helps you to get a business or other entity to work with solar or wind power or with other renewable energy options. This is useful if you are planning on generating renewable energy. This includes energy used for private purposes. This is useful but you must watch for the total credits you will earn versus what you might spend on energy. This includes looking at how much money it costs to generate energy used to produce a new blockchain.

Digital signatures may be required

The last improvement that blockchain uses comes from digital signatures. A digital signature is a setup that encrypts data with a digital code. This should entail a setup that is difficult to read without a proper encryption key. This helps to make it easier for you to get the most out of your security. You should look at how blockchain can be of benefit to you. This makes it easier for transactions to be made while also being fully transparency. The simplicity that comes with the setup is especially important. Be sure to consider it for your general use in the future.

Chuck Reynolds
Contributor

Alan Zibluk Market Hive Founding Member

How Blockchain Technology Will Dominate The Travel Sector

How Blockchain Technology Will Dominate The Travel Sector
 

Blockchain Technology can be a Valuable

CEO of CellPoint Mobile, which develops payment solutions & technologies that help airlines & travel companies. I am among those enthusiasts who believe that blockchain technology can be a valuable corporate finance tool outside of the banking sector. Airline industry CFOs and finance executives throughout the travel sector belong on the growing list of beneficiaries as well. As the backbone of digital currency, blockchain is already revealing its value in areas such as transparency, data security, logistics and process simplification, and even regulatory compliance. Recently, Walmart and IBM announced a pilot project to apply blockchain technology to Walmart's global supply chain management system.

Of course, not every company is a candidate for blockchain applications: A recent Wharton analysis concluded that a company must determine whether blockchain is suitable based on multiple factors. The rationale for embracing blockchain technology will make the most sense — and take on a degree of urgency — if the business structure involves any number of parties that need trust and inter-party data access and management. As a provider of mobile commerce and payment solutions for travel companies, this makes the travel sector an ideal candidate in my book.

More Business Equals More Revenue 

The travel business is complex and fragmented – ask any travel sector CFO or technology vendor. In addition to operational and financial challenges connected with protecting and growing their business, travel executives face distinctive challenges in their efforts to protect their customer base. Among the most pressing is identity management as security concerns persist and passenger numbers grow exponentially.

As the Walmart pilot suggests, there is growing evidence of blockchain's value on an operational level. But its potential benefits, including security features, extend to "soft" yet vital airline success factors, such as customer satisfaction and retention. For example, with blockchain processes serving as the underlying authentication layer for biometric-equipped mobile and wearable devices, a passenger's experience becomes easier, faster and more satisfying. They can verify their identities, purchase travel products, and ancillary services before, during and after their trips. They can communicate with airlines in a variety of new and engaging mobile formats without pulling out IDs and expose personal financial information every single time.

To extend the vision from a passenger's perspective, imagine going from home to the airport for a flight, then from the destination airport to your hotel and straight to your room without standing in a single line or sharing your personal data. Managing frequent flyer and loyalty programs and tracking baggage can also be a piece of cake, using blockchain technology as the information "connector." The beauty of this vision is that it serves as a genuine win-win for both the airline and its customers. And by contributing to customer satisfaction, an airline is much more likely to retain and grow that source of revenue, not to mention the range of ancillary purchases that become easier with blockchain technology.

From Visionary To Commonplace

Airlines and governmental bodies are already investing in the idea of a universally accepted blockchain ID, to both simplify travel and make it safer. The International Air Transport Association (IATA) and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security are important players, yet airlines and other travel companies must wrestle with the fact that innovation is being driven outside of their industries by companies such as IBM, Google, and Apple. Venture capital continues to pour into the bitcoin and blockchain world, with an estimated $1 billion in VC funding since 2014.

As the blockchain universe evolves within the travel sector, it holds the potential to integrate new products and services without excessive investment costs or overly complicated implementation efforts. Granted, this will not happen overnight. It will likely take another three-to-five years before blockchain technology matures to the point of widespread adoption, and perhaps even longer before many airlines and travel-related businesses understand out how to embrace and monetize blockchain. Only then can they affect change throughout the enterprise.

Chuck Reynolds
Contributor

Alan Zibluk Market Hive Founding Member

Arizona Lawmakers Pass Blockchain Records Bill

Arizona Lawmakers Pass Blockchain Records Bill

  

Arizona's legislature has cleared a bill that would recognize blockchain signatures and smart contracts under state law, sending it to the governor's desk for final approval.The measure, as previously reported by CoinDesk, would make data tied to a blockchain "considered to be in an electronic format and to be an electronic record" in Arizona. It also notably featured language specifically related to smart contracts, signifying an effort to capture new kinds of delivering information – in this case, via blockchain – under existing rules.

The bill's authors wrote:

"'Smart contract' means an event-driven program, with state, that runs on a distributed, decentralized, shared and replicated ledger and that can take custody over and instruct transfer of assets on that ledger."

Public records show that the bill was sent to sent to Gov. Doug Ducey's office on 27th March after clearing the Senate by a 28-1 vote on the 23rd. While it's not immediately clear if or when the governor will sign the bill, the broad support the bill saw in the legislature – members of the legislature's lower chamber approved it unanimously late last month – suggests the measure could ultimately get the green light. The bill is akin to legislation passed and signed into law last year in Vermont. Lawmakers in the state proposed allowing data embedded on a blockchain to be used in a court of law.

IBM Unveils Blockchain Platform for Oil Trade Finance

A group of companies including IBM has spearheaded the development of a new blockchain-based crude oil trade finance platform.Along with IBM, commodities trading group Trafigura and corporate investment bank Natixis took part in the creation of the platform, built using code from the Linux Foundation-led Hyperledger project. IBM’s BlueMix cloud hosting service is also being utilized.

Within the system, parties can view transaction data as it is published on the blockchain. The platform also hosts documentation and updates on shipments, deliveries, and payments. Natixis, a member of the R3 distributed ledger consortium, is no stranger to trade finance applications of blockchain, having joined with the "Digital Trade Chain" project last year. According to Arnaud Stevens, Natixis’ head of global energy and commodities in New York, the bank sees the tech as potentially bringing down costs while also boosting procedural transparency.

Stevens said in a statement:

"We want to use blockchain to optimize the antiquated arena of commodity trade finance. The current process is paper and labor intensive, we have multiple friction points with high processing costs and limited automation. Distributed ledger technology brings some much-needed innovation into our industry."

The platform’s introduction marks the latest bridging of the blockchain and trade finance worlds. It’s an application that has attracted significant interest from a range of companies and governments worldwide, including Dubai. Many of the world’s banks also continue to push ahead with related projects focused on the commodities trade.

Chuck Reynolds
Contributor

Alan Zibluk Market Hive Founding Member

How to Use Social Media for Your Lead Generation Marketing

How to Use Social Media for Your Lead Generation Marketing

  

Alan Zibluk Market Hive Founding Member

Elements of a Strong Inbound Marketing Strategy

Elements of a Strong Inbound Marketing Strategy

Are you a huge fan of cold calls? What about the marketing emails – that you never signed up for – invading your inbox? TV commercials in the middle of your favorite show? Unless it’s the Super Bowl, these marketing messages tend to be frowned upon or ignored rather than delightfully consumed.

 Most people that I know record TV programs solely so they can fast forward through the commercials. My TV capabilities are less sophisticated, but I typically use commercials to brush my teeth or clean the kitchen. I’m already on a “do not cold call list” with Verizon, and marketing emails are unsubscribed from more often than read. Non-remarketing display ads (i.e. the banner or sidebar ads we see when scanning websites) are clicked on an average of only 0.2%, according to Double Click. All of these methods fall under the family of “outbound marketing.” Shockingly enough, these disruptive outbound techniques convert at a much lower rate than inbound marketing strategies, where someone chooses to engage with your brand and actively seeks you out.

 

Inbound Marketing Strategies

Inbound strategies are all about being found naturally rather than aggressively pursuing leads through in-your-face tactics. Which person do you think would be more likely to buy a house? A. The person who received a message saying “Buy this house!” or B. The person who searched for and found the perfect house on their own? We both know the clear winner, which is inbound.

“Imagine a popup ad (outbound) vs. a funny infographic you chose to look at (inbound),” says Marketo’s Johnny Cheng. “Data clearly shows that people who choose to interact with your brand naturally convert higher.” Take a look at this conversion rate data by acquisition channel – inbound strategies have one of the highest rates, at almost 4%. Convinced that inbound marketing strategies kick ass for driving targeted leads and sales? Here are the 5 elements of a strong inbound marketing strategy, which you should be using!

SEO

SEO (search engine optimization) is a hard-to-control, waste-of-time tactic, right? Wrong: SEO is the process of optimizing your website’s content and structure for search in order to receive organic placements on the search engine results pages or SERPS. Having a quality website and content optimized for SEO ensures that Google’s web-crawling technology is able to identify and index your site’s content to have it appear for free to people searching. SEO is a critical part of your inbound strategy because if you can’t be found, then you’re not going to get business.

When SEO comes to mind I think keywords, code, website structure, link-building, and then my head starts spinning. SEO can actually get very complicated, quickly, so what should you be focusing on to get started? Start by identifying and utilizing the most important keywords to your leads. Of course, you want to ensure these keywords have high enough search volume and user intent to attract the most relevant audience. “There are many aspects of SEO, from the words on your page to the way other sites link to you on the web. Sometimes SEO is simply the matter of making sure your site is structured in a way that search engines understand,” explains Moz. I’m not an SEO guru by any means. Luckily, there is a plethora of free resources online so I’d recommend hopping over to Moz and our own SEO basics guide to get started.

PPC

Now we’re speaking my language! You might be thinking, wait – PPC is a paid tactic and aren’t paid strategies against the inbound methodology? Wrong! Paid search is technically still part of the inbound marketing family since search ads appear when a user is actively searching for something, therefore PPC ads are not interrupting another activity. Not all aspects of PPC will quality as inbound (like display ads), but ads on the search network are certainly one of the strongest elements of a strong inbound strategy, because search queries show so much intent.  So, how is PPC different then SEO? With paid ads, you’re paying for the placements on the SERPs rather than appearing organically. Why pay when you can appear organically? For multiple reasons…

With SEO:

  • You have far less control over when and how you appear on the search results page
  • A tweak in the algorithms can ruin your organic visibility
  • Seeing results often takes a long time (and isn’t guaranteed!)

With paid search, you’re able to pay for the top placements where people are more likely to see your ads and bid on specific keywords to attract qualified visitors. You have the control to adjust your budget, pause your ads during irrelevant times, target mobile searchers, easily measure your ROI, and the list goes on. Moral of the story is that you should be doing both SEO and PPC to get the highest volume and quality of leads.

Content Marketing

You wouldn’t have guests over and not serve a cocktail, right? The same goes for leads! Now that you’ve warmly welcomed them in the door through PPC and/or SEO you need to provide them something to drink, aka content. Oftentimes marketers think of content as the sole component to inbound marketing strategy, and while it’s certainly not the only aspect, it is a very critical one. Without fresh and useful content there is no chance of keeping and converting your leads. Your content should come in multiple forms with the goal of helping your audience answer a question or solve a problem.

The key to content marketing is that your content needs to stand out. “Your content must be remarkable enough to break through the clutter. It’s not enough to just produce content,” says Entrepreneur’s Murray Newlands. “Your content must educate, inspire or entertain your audience.”

So, where to start?

  • Create a blog:
    You should already know this, but a quality blog is one of the most effective ways to market a business. Blogging will help you attract new visitors, gain returning visitors, and convince warmer leads. A blog is a hub to keep your audience informed and prove that you’re a thought-leader in your industry. Here at WordStream, our blog accounts for more than half our total traffic!
  • Create guides, e-books, and other downloadable content:
    This will help your nurture your leads with longer-form content where you can sell how your products or services will help them.
  • Gather customer testimonials and create case studies:
    Case studies and customer testimonials will help convince leads that are further down the funnel. Hearing from someone like them will instill trust and up the chances of conversion.

     
  • Create a content :
    To ensure you stay on top of publishing fresh content regularly.
    calendar

Social Media

So you’ve created phenomenal content, published it on your site, and now you’re lounging on your beach chair enjoying a glass of wine? Well, you’re certainly not going to get profitable results with that attitude. You NEED to be attracting new and returning readers by sharing and promoting your content on social media. Creating the content is only a small piece of the puzzle. Ensuring the content reaches relevant people is where social comes in. This is inbound marketing because only people who want to see your content will follow your brand, and it's a great way to "subsidize" your organic traffic if you don't have great rankings yet.

Nowadays, anyone who’s anyone is on social media, whether it be Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Vine, Instagram, or Periscope; your audience is likely on multiple of these channels. Determining which platforms are most relevant to your buyer personas in a task in itself, but I can guarantee that several of your leads are spending a significant chunk of their time-consuming content through their personal social channels. 

Spend time creating a social media promotion plan to distribute your content to the right people, analyzing your top performing content, and paying to promote and gain even more traffic to the content that’s resonating with your audience.

Landing Pages

Your landing page is where your leads land after clicking on your call-to-action (another important element of your inbound marketing strategy). Whether it be a product page, a form fill-out to download a whitepaper, or a subscription service page, you need to ensure your landing page is top-notch unless you’d like to jeopardize potential conversions from coming in. Some important elements to keep in mind…

  • Relevancy:
    You need to make sure that the landing page is relevant to the call-to-action. For example, if your visitor lands on your page from a paid search ad advertising birthday cakes, you wouldn’t send them to a landing page selling Christmas cookies, right?
  • Focus:
    What is the goal of your landing page? Is it to “Sign Up for this E-Newsletter!” or “Download this Guide Today”? Make your landing page’s purpose singular. Ensure the CTA is big, prevalent, and above the fold. Also, make sure to restrict the navigation to other pages and keep forms short.
  • Design:
    This is a major component of keeping visitors engaged. Using videos or images, testimonials, and trust signals are all design elements that can help improve the conversion rates of your landing pages. Run A/B tests to decide on the best designs for your landing pages.

Bonus Inbound Marketing Tip: Remarketing

Once a lead has visited your site, expressed interest in your content, products or offerings, you need a strategy in place to keep them engaged. One of the most effective tactics? Remarketing. These tactic cookies your site visitors and follows them around the web with ads reminding them to come back. Remarketing can be set in a variety of ways. For instance, you can remarket to anyone who visited your site, show a specific ad to visitors who went to a certain page (or a set of pages), or even an ad to someone who has placed items in a shopping cart but hasn’t converted.

My older sister called me the other day blown away when she saw an ad on Facebook of the exact dress she was just looking at on Nordstrom’s website. Yes, she is a stay-at-home mom who’s a bit disconnected from the marketing world, but it just proves that this tactic resonates with shoppers. Remarketing says “Hey there, remember us? Are you still interested? ” which is why the tactic is considered a member of the inbound family since the shopper has already expressed interest. Covering these elements will provide a solid infrastructure for a killer inbound marketing strategy.

Chuck Reynolds
Contributor

Alan Zibluk Market Hive Founding Member

How to Develop a Business Growth Strategy

 

How to Develop a Business Growth Strategy
There are many ways to guide a business through a period of expansion.

  

Turning a small business into a big one is never easy.
The statistics are grim. Research suggests that only one-tenth of 1 percent of companies will ever reach $250 million in annual revenue. An even more microscopic group, just 0.036 percent, will reach $1 billion in annual sales.

In other words, most businesses start small and stay there.

But if that's not good enough for you—or if you recognize that staying small doesn't necessarily guarantee your business's survival— there are examples of companies out there that have successfully made the transition from start-up to small business to fully thriving large business.

That's the premise behind the search Keith McFarland, an entrepreneur and former Inc. 500 CEO, undertook in writing his book, The Breakthrough Company. "There have always been lots of books out there on how to run a big company," says McFarland, who now runs his own consulting business, McFarland Partners based in Salt Lake City. "But I couldn't find one about how to maintain fast growth over the long-term. So I studied the companies who had done it to learn their lessons." What follows are some of the lessons McFarland learned from his study of the breakthrough companies and how they can help you create a growth strategy of your own.

Developing a Growth Strategy: Intensive Growth

Part of getting from A to B, then, is to put together a growth strategy that, McFarland says, "brings you the most results from the least amount of risk and effort." Growth strategies resemble a kind of ladder, where lower-level rungs present less risk but maybe less quick-growth impact. The bottom line for small businesses, especially start-ups, is to focus on those strategies that are at the lowest rungs of the ladder and then gradually move your way up as needed. As you go about developing your growth strategy, you should first consider the lower rungs of what are known as Intensive Growth Strategies. Each new rung brings more opportunities for fast growth, but also more risk. They are:

Market Penetration.
The least risky growth strategy for any business is to simply sell more of its current product to its current customers—a strategy perfected by large consumer goods companies, says McFarland. Think of how you might buy a six-pack of beverages, then a 12-pack, and then a case. "You can't even buy toilet paper in anything less that a 24-roll pack these days," McFarland jokes. Finding new ways for your customers to use your product—like turning baking soda into a deodorizer for your refrigerator—is another form of market penetration.

Market Development.
The next rung up the ladder is to devise a way to sell more of your current product to an adjacent market—offering your product or service to customers in another city or state, for example. McFarland points out that many of the great fast-growing companies of the past few decades relied on Market Development as their main growth strategy. For example, Express Personnel (now called Express Employment Professionals), a staffing business that began in Oklahoma City quickly opened offices around the country via a franchising model. Eventually, the company offered employment staffing services in some 588 different locations, and the company became the fifth-largest staffing business in the U.S.

Alternative Channels.
This growth strategy involves pursuing customers in a different way such as, for example, selling your products online. When Apple added its retail division, it was also adopting an Alternative Channel strategy. Using the Internet as a means for your customers to access your products or services in a new way, such as by adopting a rental model or software as a service, is another Alternative Channel strategy.

Product Development.
A classic strategy, it involves developing new products to sell to your existing customers as well as to new ones. If you have a choice, you would ideally like to sell your new products to existing customers. That's because selling products to your existing customers is far less risky than "having to learn a new product and market at the same time," McFarland says.

New Products for New Customers. 
Sometimes, market conditions dictate that you must create new products for new customers, as Polaris, the recreational vehicle manufacturer in Minneapolis found out. For years, the company produced only snowmobiles. Then, after several mild winters, the company was in dire straits. Fortunately, it developed a wildly successful series of four-wheel all-terrain vehicles, opening up an entirely new market. Similarly, Apple pulled off this strategy when it introduced the iPod. What made the iPod such a breakthrough product was that it could be sold alone, independent of an Apple computer, but, at the same time, it also helped expose more new customers to the computers Apple offered. McFarland says the iPhone has had a similar impact; once customers began to enjoy the look and feel of the product's interface, they opened themselves up to buying other Apple products.

If you choose to follow one of the Intensive Growth Strategies, you should ideally take only one step up the ladder at a time, since each step brings risk, uncertainty, and effort. The rub is that sometimes, the market forces you to take action as a means of self-preservation, as it did with Polaris. Sometimes, you have no choice but to take more risk, says McFarland.

Developing a Growth Strategy: Integrative Growth Strategies

If you've exhausted all steps along the Intensive Growth Strategy path, you can then consider growth through acquisition or Integrative Growth Strategies. The problem is that some 75 percent of all acquisitions fail to deliver on the value or efficiencies that were predicted for them. In some cases, a merger can end in total disaster, as in the case of the AOL-Time Warner deal. Nevertheless, there are three viable alternatives when it comes to an implementing an Integrative Growth Strategy. They are:

Horizontal.
This growth strategy would involve buying a competing business or businesses. Employing such a strategy not only adds to your company's growth, it also eliminates another barrier standing in your way of future growth—namely, a real or potential competitor. McFarland says that many of breakthrough companies such as Paychex, the payroll processing company, and Intuit, the maker of personal and small business tax and accounting software, acquired key competitors over the years as both a shortcut to product development and as a way to increase their share of the market.

Backward.
A backward integrative growth strategy would involve buying one of your suppliers as a way to better control your supply chain. Doing so could help you to develop new products faster and potentially more cheaply. For instance, Fastenal, a company based in Winona, Minnesota that sells nuts and bolts (among other things), made the decision to acquire several tools and die makers as a way to introduce custom part manufacturing capabilities to its larger clients.

 Forward.
Acquisitions can also be focused on buying component companies that are part of your distribution chain. For instance, if you were a garment manufacturer like Chicos, which is based in Fort Myers, Florida, you could begin buying up retail stores as a means to pushing your product at the expense of your competition.

Developing a Growth Strategy: Diversification

Another category of growth strategies that was popular in the 1950s and 1960s and is used far less often today is something called diversification where you grow your company by buying another company that is completely unrelated to your business. Massive conglomerates such as General Electric are essentially holding companies for a diverse range of businesses based solely on their financial performance. That's how GE could have a nuclear power division, a railcar manufacturing division and a financial services division all under the letterhead of a single company. This kind of growth strategy tends to be fraught with risk and problems, says McFarland, and is rarely considered viable these days.

Developing a Growth Strategy: How Will You Grow?

Growth strategies are never pursued in a vacuum, and being willing to change course in response to feedback from the market is as important as implementing a strategy in a single-minded way. Too often, companies take a year to develop a strategy and, by the time they're ready to implement it, the market has changed on them, says McFarland. That's why, when putting together a growth strategy, he advises companies to think in just 90 chunks, a process he calls Rapid Enterprise Design. Sometimes the best approach is to take it one rung at a time.

Chuck Reynolds
Contributor

Alan Zibluk Market Hive Founding Member

Be As You Are ….