All posts by admin

Hard Fork Will Slow Bitcoin Price Down

Hard Fork Will Slow Bitcoin Price Down

  

With the ETF decision out of the way, the focus in the Bitcoin community has turned back to the scaling debate. While some proponents of an increase in block size are in favor of a hard fork, South African Bitcoin entrepreneur Vinny Lingham feels that this would negatively impact Bitcoin.

Scaling arguments

The Bitcoin network seems to be choking at the moment, with unconfirmed transactions piling up, transaction fees shooting through the roof and a general sluggishness across the network. Microtransactions have more or less ended, with high transactions fees making them unviable. Everybody agrees that there is a problem but unfortunately, consensus eludes the Bitcoin community on what the solution should be. The Core team believes that retaining block size at 1 MB is crucial to maintaining the distributed nature of the Bitcoin network, while others advocate increasing the block size to increase the network capacity.

Bitcoin Unlimited

Bitcoin Unlimited (BTU), which seeks to transfer power to decide on the block size to the miners, has emerged as a frontrunner to handle this problem. The proportion of nodes who have “signaled support” to Bitcoin Unlimited has increased steadily to over 30 percent. It has overtaken SegWit, currently backed by the Bitcoin Core team, which has 28 percent of nodes supporting it.

The increasing support for Bitcoin Unlimited has had some unintended consequences, with a bug in the software (since rectified) resulting in a number of codes crashing and doomsday scenarios being predicted if Bitcoin Unlimited becomes successful. Once the number of miners signaling support for Bitcoin Unlimited crosses 50 percent, it is possible for a miner to generate a block size greater than 1 MB, thereby forking Bitcoin.

Why is Vinny Lingham against a hard fork?

Vinny Lingham believes that Bitcoin has the potential to reach $3000, only if there is no hard fork.

“Danger on the horizon. If Bitcoin forks, all bets are off and we can kiss $3k BTC in 2017 goodbye…”

Vinny believes that Bitcoin’s greatest asset is its brand awareness, which will get diluted if there is a hard fork. It could lead to confusion for the common man of which Bitcoin is the real one. Merchants might avoid both BTC and BTU because of the confusion. It could also result in rival factions dumping both versions of Bitcoin at exchanges, thereby depressing the price.

Vinny points out to what happened to Ethereum Classic when the Ethereum Foundation sold off their coins. Moreover, the network effect would decrease with users divided between BTC and BTU, thereby lowering the overall value of Bitcoins in circulation. While the block size debate has sharply polarized the Bitcoin community, working together would be the only way to ensure that Bitcoin’s value is not destroyed.

Bitcoin Price Shrugs Off Bitcoin

 

Bitcoin’s price remained stable as news surfaced of a bug in Bitcoin Unlimited (BU) shutting down half of its nodes. On Tuesday, BU’s node numbers dropped suddenly from around 800 to 400, with developer Andrew Stone and investor Roger Ver subsequently confirming that an attacker exploited a bug in the protocol.

 

Stone wrote on Tuesday:

“We are seeing an abnormal, hard-to-create input result in a negative outcome so we are classifying this as a network attack.”

The events unleashed a frenzy of social media activity which even engulfed some of cryptocurrency’s best-known names. Core developer Peter Todd took to Twitter to deny any involvement in the bug, about which he tweeted an hour after the malicious episode began. Responding to Todd, tech blogger Avatar X alleged that fellow developer Greg Maxwell had said that two further bugs were present in BU which had “yet to be fixed.” Meanwhile, received hostility. One BU node operator accused him and other responsible parties of “plain incompetence” as panic gripped a community to whom Ver had only last week unveiled a brand new mining pool.

Chuck Reynolds
Contributor

Alan Zibluk Market Hive Founding Member

Someone Wants to Stick a Fork in Bitcoin

Someone Wants to Stick a Fork in Bitcoin

 

Which bitcoin will prevail?

A dispute among the people involved in bitcoin is revealing a paradox of the digital currency: The same resistance to human meddling that drove its popularity may also be its greatest limitation. It seems that the only way to get anything done is to split the currency in two.

At issue is the size of blocks, the batches in which transactions are processed and that make up the links in the so-called bitcoin blockchain. Currently, they’re so small that the whole system can handle only about seven transactions per second — nowhere near enough to compete with, say, Visa network’s 24,000 transactions per second. Some people think that’s a good thing! Bitcoin relies on thousands of internet-connected volunteers, and their operating costs should be kept as low as possible.

On the other hand, many are unsatisfied with the system’s speed. A faction known as Bitcoin Unlimited has released a new version of the software that can create bigger blocks and is now rallying the support of bitcoin miners, who process transactions in return for new currency. The plan is to gain enough minor support to build its own branch-off the chain. Meanwhile, the computer geeks who develop the core bitcoin software have offered their own solution, which not only increases capacity but also enables the creation of low-value payment channels adjacent to the main network — the idea being that people might not need every coffee purchase immortalized on a globally distributed ledger.

Bitcoin and the Blockchain

The standoff illustrates a vulnerability. Because bitcoin relies on a worldwide network of individual computers to maintain the blockchain, one group can — intentionally or not — become separated from the rest. The two networks will thus accumulate different information, creating competing chains. If the “fork” is unintentional, the networks eventually reconnect and discard the lesser chain. But if the fork is intentional, as in the case of Bitcoin Unlimited, it can continue forever.

The insurgents’ software will eventually disconnect from anyone who doesn’t support their blockchain. The most troublesome part is that both sides want to assume the identity of bitcoin. This would be like the Confederate states seceding from the Union, then insisting that they were the real United States and that the northern states had voluntarily left. Ultimately, it will be up to individual users to either choose one chain or recognize both as legitimate currencies.

This is one reason it’s so hard to tame bitcoin by, say, creating an exchange-traded fund so regular investors can get a piece of the action. The ETF filing for the Winklevoss Bitcoin Trust actually includes a provision specifying which bitcoin network it will support in the event of a split. Another ETF filing for Grayscale’s Bitcoin Investment Trust acknowledges that the fund will end up with equal values of two types of bitcoin, and must select one to keep in the fund. Thus far, Bitcoin Unlimited has secured support from the world’s largest mining operation, as well as adoption from about 10 percent of the bitcoin network. Unfortunately, the campaign suffered a minor setback this week thanks to a software bug:

Past rebellions have eventually faded. To make a credible attempt at a coup, Bitcoin Unlimited must recruit major exchanges, wallets, and other service providers. It’s not easy: People who treat their digital currency as real money tend to be risk-averse when it comes to new software. Even the developers of core bitcoin have not yet gained enough support to activate their upgrade. While the impasse might be aggravating for those who find bitcoin transactions too sluggish, it’s far better than a blockchain that is too easily modified. After all, immutability is supposed to be a feature, not a flaw.

  1. Incidentally, larger block sizes increase the risk of such partitions because nodes need to transmit more data to make sure everyone has consistent information.

  2. After a fork, the chain that is kept is the one that took more computational effort to create. It’s often the longer one, but not always.

  3. From the Winklevoss Bitcoin Trust S-1: “In the event of an upcoming modification to the Bitcoin Network that could potentially result in a hard fork with two separate and incompatible Bitcoin Networks, the Custodian, in consultation with the Sponsor, will elect to support the Bitcoin Network that has the greatest cumulative computational difficulty for the forty-eight (48) hour period following a given hard fork, in order to engage in bitcoin transactions and the valuation of bitcoin.”

    From the Bitcoin Investment Trust S-1: “If a permanent fork, similar to Ethereum, were to occur to bitcoin, the Trust would hold equal amounts of the original and the new bitcoin as a result. In consultation with the Index Provider, the Sponsor would select a Bitcoin Network (and therefore a single version of bitcoin). The Sponsor would simultaneously isolate the bitcoin on the Bitcoin Network that it did not select to segregate it from the Trust’s Bitcoin Holdings. The Sponsor’s intention would be to distribute to its Shareholders the bitcoin on the Bitcoin Network that it did not select.”

Chuck Reynolds
Contributor

Alan Zibluk Market Hive Founding Member

What Blockchain Means for the Sharing Economy

What Blockchain Means for the Sharing Economy

Look at the modus operandi of today’s internet giants — such as Google, Facebook, Twitter, Uber, or Airbnb — and you’ll notice they have one thing in common: They rely on the contributions of users as a means to generate value within their own platforms. Over the past 20 years, the economy has progressively moved away from the traditional model of centralized organizations, where large operators, often with a dominant position, were responsible for providing a service to a group of passive consumers. Today we are moving toward a new model of increasingly decentralized organizations, where large operators are responsible for aggregating the resources of multiple people to provide a service to a much more active group of consumers. This shift marks the advent of a new generation of “dematerialized” organizations that do not require physical offices, assets, or even employees.

The problem with this model is that, in most cases, the value produced by the crowd is not equally redistributed among all those who have contributed to the value production; all of the profits are captured by the large intermediaries who operate the platforms. Recently, a new technology has emerged that could change this imbalance. Blockchain facilitates the exchange of value in a secure and decentralized manner, without the need for an intermediary.

How Blockchain Works
Here are five basic principles underlying the technology.

Alan Zibluk Market Hive Founding Member

Google’s DeepMind has a plan for protecting private health data—from itself

Google’s DeepMind has a plan for protecting private health data—from itself

  

As part of its projects with Britain’s National Health Service, Google’s artificial intelligence unit DeepMind announced last week it’s developing a new way to protect confidential health data—from itself. Its problem: How to assure hospitals, and the public at large, that patient confidentiality isn’t compromised as it processes the sensitive medical health records entrusted to it.

DeepMind’s proposed solution is to create an indelible data log that can’t be tampered with. It would show when a piece of data was used, and for what purpose. Importantly, DeepMind itself wouldn’t be able to modify logs to use the data nefariously. The solution bears resemblance to the “distributed ledger technologies” or “private blockchains” that the financial world has been trying to create in recent years. While loathe to call it “blockchain”—DeepMind prefers the term “verifiable append-only ledger” to describe its health data system—it is interested in one property that the technology can confer upon its users: trust.

While the banks want blockchains to slash back-office costs while staying compliant, DeepMind needs blockchains to shore up public trust. Last year, DeepMind’s work with the UK’s health service was dragged into the public by a New Scientist investigation. The publication found that 1.6 million patient names, addresses, and other information from three London hospitals had been shared with Google’s artificial intelligence subsidiary. It triggered an investigation by the UK’s privacy regulator that is ongoing. DeepMind and the hospitals say they followed the rules.

Huge data sets are what make artificial intelligence work. For DeepMind, access to a trove of national heath data could give it a significant advantage in the race to develop AI techniques for healthcare (although it says the Streams app that it’s devising with the three London hospitals doesn’t involve AI). Nonetheless, DeepMind needs to assure the hospitals—and the public—that it’s handling sensitive medical data safely. “We hope that by building tools like this in the open, we’ll improve the level of trust that patients have with respect to this data access,” DeepMind co-founder Mustafa Suleyman says.

But for all its talk of transparency, letting patients access their own data logs isn’t part of DeepMind’s plan. Suleyman says it might happen one day, but that his firm’s obligation is to the hospitals. DeepMind is the data processor to the hospitals, which are the data controllers. “Our job is to help them do a better job of their own governance. In the long term, you can see the potential patient benefit … but it’s a bit early,” Suleyman says. This is a crucial distinction because under European data protection laws controllers bear heavier responsibilities (pdf).

So who owns what, when it comes to DeepMind’s health blockchain? The underlying data belongs to the hospitals, while the software belongs to DeepMind, says Suleyman. The data logs, created when the software processes the patient data, also remain under the hospitals’ control, DeepMind says. And what happens if there’s an error in logging the data since the records can’t be changed? The hospitals will have to figure that out, says Suleyman. “We provide that [data] set to the controller, namely the hospital. They already have a whole host of processes to deal with various degrees of error that may or may not have been made,” he says.

DeepMind says the system will be used sometime this year. It will be built on a foundation devised by Ben Laurie, its head of security and privacy. While at DeepMind’s parent company, Google, Laurie created a similar system to ensure security certificates issued by websites haven’t been tampered with, called the Certificate Transparency scheme.

For watchers of financial blockchains, DeepMind’s entry to it's space indicates progress for the technology powering these private blockchains. “It’s interesting, whatever it is,” says Simon Taylor, a co-founder of fintech consultancy 11:FS. “And in my opinion, a sign of where the market will move.” Not every business sector will need the sort of global, public, agreement on a ledger’s entries that cryptocurrencies like bitcoin require, he points out. Wall Street now has well-qualified company in the attempt to graft blockchain technology to existing industries.

Chuck Reynolds
Contributor

Alan Zibluk Market Hive Founding Member

Congress Takes Blockchain 101

Congress Takes Blockchain 101

The heads of the Congressional Blockchain Caucus want their colleagues to know the technology has many uses besides currency.

 

Congressman David Schweikert is determined to enlighten his colleagues in Washington about the blockchain. The opportunities the technology creates for society are vast, he says, and right now education is key to keeping the government from “screwing it up.”

Schweikert, a Republican from Arizona, co-chairs the recently launched Congressional Blockchain Caucus. He and fellow co-chair, Democratic Representative Jared Polis of Colorado, say they created it in response to increasing interest and curiosity on Capitol Hill about blockchain technology. “Members of Congress are starting to get visits from people that are doing things with the blockchain and talking about it,” says Polis. “They are interested in learning more, and we hope to provide the forum to do that.”

Blockchain technology is difficult to explain, and misconceptions among policymakers are almost inevitable. One important concept Schweikert says more people need to understand is that a blockchain is not necessarily Bitcoin, and there are plenty of applications of blockchains beyond transferring digital currency. Digital currencies, and especially Bitcoin, the most popular blockchain by far, make some policymakers and government officials wary. But focusing on currency keeps people from seeing the potential the blockchain has to reinvent how we control and manage valuable information, Schweikert argues.

A blockchain is a decentralized, online record-keeping system, or ledger, maintained by a network of computers that verify and record transactions using established cryptographic techniques. Bitcoin’s system, which is open-source, depends on people all around the world called miners. They use specialized computers to verify and record transactions and receive Bitcoin currency in reward. Several other digital currencies work in a similar fashion.

Digital currency is not the main reason so many institutions have begun experimenting with blockchains in recent years, though. Blockchains can also be used to securely and permanently store other information besides currency transaction records. For instance, banks and other financial companies see this as a way to manage information vital to the transfer of ownership of financial assets more efficiently than they do now. Some experiments have involved the Bitcoin blockchain, some use the newer blockchain software platform called Ethereum, and others have used private or semi-private blockchains. 

The government should adopt blockchain technology too, say the Congressmen. A decentralized ledger is better than a conventional database “whenever we need better consumer control of information and security” like in health records, tax returns, voting records, and identity management, says Polis. Several federal agencies and state governments are already experimenting with blockchain applications. The Department of Homeland Security, for example, is running a test to track data from its border surveillance devices in a distributed ledger.

The growing demand in the private and public sector for blockchain services has spawned a plethora of startups and enticed hundreds of millions of dollars of venture capital. But the nascent industry is handicapped by an uncertain regulatory landscape at both the state and federal level, says Perianne Boring, founder and president of the Chamber of Digital Commerce, a Washington, D.C.-based trade association.

How should governments use blockchain technology?

Services for transferring money fall under the jurisdiction of several federal regulators, and face a patchwork of state licensing laws. New blockchain-based business models are challenging traditional notions of money transmission, she says, and many companies are unsure where they fit in the complicated legal landscape.

Boring has argued that financial technology companies would benefit from a regulatory safe zone, or “sandbox”—like those that are already in place in the U.K. and Singapore—where they could test products without the risk of “inadvertent regulatory violations.” We don’t need any new legislation from Congress yet, though—that could stifle innovation, even more, she says. “What Congress should be doing is educating themselves on the issues.”

Chuck Reynolds
Contributor

Alan Zibluk Market Hive Founding Member

Blockchain Will Transform Customer Loyalty Programs

Blockchain Will Transform Customer Loyalty Programs

Loyalty programs have proliferated across travel, retail, financial services, and other economic sectors. The average U.S. household participates in 29 different loyalty programs, according to the 2015 Colloquy Loyalty Census. The result is a maze of point systems and redemption options, with cumbersome processes for exchanging points among program partners. Loyalty programs are ripe for some kind of disruptive innovation that would make them easier to use.

Blockchain may just be the answer. Best known as the technology behind bitcoin, blockchain enables a ledger of transactions to be shared across a network of participants. When a new digital transaction occurs (for example, a loyalty point is issued, redeemed, or exchanged), a unique algorithm-generated token is created and assigned to that transaction. Tokens are grouped into blocks (for example, every 10 minutes) and distributed across the network, updating every ledger at once. New transaction blocks are validated and linked to older blocks, creating a strong, secure, and verifiable record of all transactions, without the need for intermediaries or centralized databases.

For consumers juggling an array of loyalty programs, blockchain could provide instant redemption and exchange for multiple loyalty point currencies on a single platform. With only one “wallet” for points, consumers would not have to hunt for each program’s options, limitations, and redemption rules.

All loyalty programs are vulnerable to a blockchain revolution, but the travel industry is perhaps the most at risk. Travel loyalty programs tend to be complex and multicurrency, making them different from retailers, which typically run simple discount programs, or from banks, which offer cash back or a single currency that can be spent easily across a range of merchants. In some cases, travel loyalty program points differ by journey component (flight, car rental, hotel, dining), leading to fragmented point collections, and a typical “breakage” rate (meaning the share of points not redeemed) of 10%–20%, in our estimation. Plus, it can be difficult for the average person to accumulate enough points to earn a meaningful reward.

The Benefits of Disruption

Many industries have experienced disruption, due to technologies that successfully reduced inefficiencies and frictions, often disintermediating established players in the process. Large travel companies, such as airlines and hotel chains, know this from painful experience: They pay billions of dollars in commissions each year to Priceline, Expedia, and other online travel agencies (OTAs), which have transformed how consumers book flights, hotels, and rental cars. Blockchain-based loyalty platforms could be another such disruption.

Both small startups and large-scale technology companies are eyeing the possibilities this presents, and some are teaming up. IBM, for example, is partnering with startup Loyyal to develop blockchain infrastructure for loyalty and rewards programs. Travel companies with loyalty programs, whether stand-alone or part of a larger alliance, will have to figure out how to respond.

Early adopters could benefit considerably. First, blockchain could help relieve a large balance-sheet liability that many in the industry are facing. Loyalty programs have long relied on cobranded cards and partnerships to sell points and generate incremental revenue. But the number of airline seats and hotel rooms available for redemption in recent years has been limited by near-record occupancy and load factors. The result has been a growing volume of unredeemed points, which new accounting standards have turned into a headache: Revenue attributable to the value of loyalty points must be deferred until the miles are redeemed.

Adopting blockchain would enable companies to rapidly add and maintain loyalty partnerships without adding complexity to their programs. A robust, frictionless partner network could mean many more redemption options outside of the core travel product, thereby creating a much-needed release valve for these growing balance-sheet pressures.

Second, blockchain would enable businesses to break out of the loyalty program mold of narrowly defined, one-size-fits-all programs and redemption processes filled with customer hassles. Consumers increasingly expect personalized (not merely segmented) travel offerings and digitally enabled one-stop services; the growth of OTAs is in part a testament to that. Blockchain would allow both large and local partners to be added seamlessly, making the crafting of on-trend offers much easier, while virtually eliminating the back-end irritations of point redemption.

Caveats for Adoption

What shape are blockchain-based loyalty networks likely to take? Initially, each loyalty program might look to develop its own solution, but over time smaller loyalty programs might choose to band together to compete more effectively with larger ones. Ultimately, we expect to see the development of four to six blockchain-based loyalty networks, each anchored by a major airline, a major hotel chain, or a group of smaller travel companies. Options for building and maintaining the blockchain platform could include a joint venture with technology partners or with network providers such as banks or payment card processors.

Of course, the introduction of one or more blockchain platforms unifying multiple loyalty programs could pose a number of risks. Such platforms would add a transaction layer between consumers and program operators and merchants, likely generating a small per-transaction cost, which could grow over time, much like OTA fees. Customer data, a loyalty program’s most valuable asset, could become available to other network participants, even competitors. Currency devaluation is another risk in what is essentially an open marketplace for points trading.

To reduce these risks and avoid having their loyalty programs become commoditized, travel companies should get in on the ground floor of blockchain platform development. Participating in the initial structuring of commercial agreements and partnerships will be essential to protecting critical loyalty program components, including currency value, customer data and relationships, and transaction costs.

For any travel company considering an investment in blockchain, a few rules will be essential. First, they will want to participate in defining how currency is exchanged between programs — that is, how currency exchange rates are set, and any transferability rules. Second, they should seek to maintain exclusive control over their data, ensuring that only loyalty points, and not associated customer information, enter the transaction stream. Third, they should require guarantees that the platform is and will remain unbiased. Otherwise, traditional travel intermediary tools, such as paid search placements and exclusive promotions, could force companies into pay-to-play arrangements to ensure competitors don’t gain an advantage.

Travel companies, such as airlines and hotel chains, recognized too late the power of OTAs to disrupt the industry, and have been paying for that misstep ever since. The nascent state of blockchain for loyalty programs offers an opportunity to realize the value of disruption and shape its future impacts — if travel companies don’t wait too long.

Chuck Reynolds
Contributor

Alan Zibluk Market Hive Founding Member

Global Supply Chains Are About to Get Better, Thanks to Blockchain

Global Supply Chains Are About to Get Better, Thanks to Blockchain

 

When an E.coli outbreak at Chipotle Mexican Grill outlets left 55 customers ill, in 2015, the news stories, shutdowns, and investigations shattered the restaurant chain’s reputation. Sales plummeted, and Chipotle’s share price dropped 42%, to a three-year low, where it has languished ever since.At the heart of the Denver-based company’s crisis was the ever-present problem faced by companies that depend on multiple suppliers to deliver parts and ingredients: a lack of transparency and accountability across complex supply chains. Unable to monitor its suppliers in real time, Chipotle could neither prevent the contamination nor contain it in a targeted way after it was discovered.

Now, a slew of startups and corporations are exploring a radical solution to this problem: using a blockchain to transfer title and record permissions and activity logs so as to track the flow of goods and services between businesses and across borders. With blockchain technology, the core system that underpins bitcoin, computers of separately owned entities follow a cryptographic protocol to constantly validate updates to a commonly shared ledger. A fundamental advantage of this distributed system, where no single company has control, is that it resolves problems of disclosure and accountability between individuals and institutions whose interests aren’t necessarily aligned. Mutually important data can be updated in real time, removing the need for laborious, error-prone reconciliation with each other’s internal records. It gives each member of the network far greater and timelier visibility of the total activity.

How Blockchain Works

Alan Zibluk Market Hive Founding Member

Why Inbound Marketing is so Important For Your Business

Why Inbound Marketing is so Important For Your Business

Simply put, inbound marketing is creating and sharing useful, compelling and fantastic content with potential and established clients. It’s inviting them into your way of thinking and business culture. This way of communication is a full access pass to your expertise, know how, and story. Both established and new customers become part of your company’s journey, sort of a VIP, behind the scenes pass.

Traditional marketing is a one-way conversation – the marketer talking ‘at’ the potential customer. Inbound marketing is an invitation to an ongoing dialogue in which you can communicate with your customers in both a professional and congenial fashion.By publishing the right content in the right place, your output becomes relevant and helpful to your customers, not interruptive. Now that’s marketing people can get involved with. Inbound equals interactive.

Over the past five years, inbound marketing has become the most effective marketing method for doing business online. SEE INFOGRAPHIC BELOW. Instead of the old outbound marketing methods of purchasing ads, buying email lists, and hunting down leads, inbound marketing focuses on creating quality content that pulls people toward your company and product, where they inherently want to be. They want to become part of your story. Inbound marketing helps you work smarter with your money than traditional outbound marketing. Whether your company is big or small, inbound is 10x more effective for increasing:

  • Website Traffic
  • Sales
  • Lead Generation
  • Customer Loyalty

By aligning the content you publish with your customer’s interests and needs, you naturally attract inbound traffic to your website/business where you can then convince, close, and satisfy them over an extended period of time.

Delight Your Customers

The inbound way provides remarkable content to first time visitors, hot leads, or existing customers: Just because someone has already written you a check doesn’t mean you can forget about them! (It costs businesses 6-7x more to attract a new customer than to retain an existing one. KissMetrics). McKinsey’s research tells us, “70% of buying experiences are based on how the customer feels they are being treated”. Companies who embrace inbound marketing continue to engage with, delight, and (hopefully) upsell their current customer base into happy promoters of the organizations and products they love.

Ways to Delight Customers:

Surveys – The best way to figure out what your users want is by asking them. Use feedback and surveys to ensure you’re providing customers with what they’re looking for.

Calls-to-Action – These present different users with offers that change based on buyer persona and lifecycle stage.

Smart Text – Provide your existing customers with remarkable content tailored to their interests and challenges. Help them achieve their own goals, as well as introduce new products and features that might be of interest to them.

Social Monitoring – Keep track of the social conversation. Listen for your customers’ questions, comments, likes, and dislikes – and reach out to them with relevant content.

Content To Delight Customers:

  • Blogs
  • Podcasts
  • Video
  • Newsletters
  • Infographics
  • Images
  • eBooks
  • VIP Passes
  • Exclusive Offers
  • User Reviews
  • Compelling Announcements (Free shipping, Discounts, Special Offers, Surprises
  • Humour
  • Putting a fun spin
  • Interview satisfied clients

Converse With Your Customers

Make sure you have strong consistent social media presence where you are sharing and delighting your customers with your fantastic content and timely communication and response. This is the perfect outlet to connect and converse with your customers! All these different forms of inbound marketing are an on-going, multi-faceted conversation. Inbound marketing earns the attention of customers, makes your company easy to be found, and draws customers into your overall message and business practices. Modern, up to date, effective marketers make their way into the hearts and minds of their customers. In contrast, outbound marketing hits them over the head with obtuse, generic information.

Inbound marketing educates, informs, and eventually convinces customers to interact with, believe in, and spend money on your product or service. Inbound marketing can make your business stand out amongst the grey masses a.k.a. all of your competitors on the internet (that’s a lot). Remember, as stated before, by publishing the right content in the right place at the right time, your marketing becomes relevant and helpful to your customers, not interruptive. Now that’s marketing people can love.

So Are You Delighting People? Ask Yourself These Questions:

  • Are you solving peoples’ problems?
  • Are you providing recommendations and being helpful?
  • Are you enthusiastic, warm, and fun?

Chuck Reynolds
Contributor

Alan Zibluk Market Hive Founding Member

What is Inbound Marketing?

What is Inbound Marketing?

Inbound marketing is a strategy that utilizes many forms of pull marketing – content marketing, blogs, events, SEO, social media and more – to create brand awareness and attract new business. In contrast to outbound marketing, where marketers attempt to find customers, inbound marketing earns the attention of customers and makes the company easy to be found.

Why is Inbound Marketing Hot Today?

We live in a word of information abundance and attention scarcity – and the pace of information creation is accelerating. According to IBM, we now create 2.5 quintillion bytes of data each day — so much that 90% of the data in the world today has been created in the last two years alone.

Buyers today are more empowered. The web provides them with instant information gratification. They can access detailed specs, pricing, and reviews about goods and services 24/7 with a few flicks of their thumbs. Meanwhile, social media encourages them to share and compare, while mobile devices add a wherever/whenever dimension to every aspect of the experience.

"Inbound Marketing is so powerful because you have the power to give the searcher/consumer exactly what answers they are looking for at the precise point that they need it. That builds trust, reputation, and authority in whatever niche you are practicing this form of marketing in.” Because of this, traditional marketing tactics based on “renting” attention that others have built — and interrupting the buyer in the process — are becoming less and less effective.

 

 

“Although it varies greatly with product complexity and market maturity, today’s buyers might be anywhere from two-thirds to 90% of the way through their journey before they will engage with a vendor’s sales rep.”

Time for Inbound Marketing!

To replace outdated “renting attention” marketing tactics, companies are deploying new methods geared at building awareness, developing relationships and generating leads. In short, inbound marketing attracts customers to you so you are not chasing them down. It helps prospects find your company in the early stages of their decision-making process, leading to a stronger influence on their future buying decisions.

Why You Need Inbound Marketing to Survive

Inbound marketing offers numerous benefits. When utilized effectively, it can:

  • Shape a brand preference and influence future purchases. 
  • Generate social media shares and inbound links.
  • Put customers in the driver’s seat.
  • Help fuel search engine optimization efforts.
  • Increase brand awareness.
  • Enable customers to engage with your brand at their point of need, 24/7.
  • Generate qualified leads for less money (when compared with traditional marketing).

Unlike traditional marketing initiatives, inbound efforts build upon themselves over time. For example, a strong piece of content offers many immediate and long-term benefits. It brings attention to your company when launched and will continue to resource your clients as long as it stays on your site. As the content gains more exposure, it can then become an ongoing source of inbound traffic via search engine optimization (SEO), social shares and word of mouth.

“The key is to create a strategic content strategy tailored around your personas and the stage of the buying cycle they are in. By doing this, you are providing valuable content geared directly towards that specific visitor. This helps move them down the buying cycle, answer their objections and build trust. All of these factors result in short sales time, more qualified leads and an easier sale for your sales team.”

Types of Inbound Marketing:
What Makes For a Successful Campaign

There is no single inbound marketing tactic that works well on its own. Here’s what Bill Faeth shared with us about healthy inbound marketing ecosystems. “Inbound marketing can’t be segmented into separate categories, with each section holding independent power. While we rely on SEO to draw in visitors from organic search, that SEO doesn’t work if there’s no content. Without social media, blogs don’t reach new, interested people. And SEO, content and social media are all completely useless without a lead generation process in place.” Most successful inbound marketing campaigns incorporate all or parts of the following elements:  

SEO

Search engine optimization is an integral part of effective inbound marketing. Using effective keyword analysis, well-structured site design and other SEO “best practices” to launch your company to the top of search results will ensure that your content is being seen by the right audience and bring in the right leads.

Blogging

By far the most common form of inbound marketing, blogging can play a powerful role in driving traffic and nurturing leads. Additional resource: The Social Marketers Blogging Cheat Sheet.

Social Media

With 67% of online adults using social media to share information, you can’t afford to neglect widely popular online communities such as Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.

Live Events and Webinars

Take inbound marketing to the next level with online webinars and live events. And there’s much more: Videos, whitepapers, eBooks, e-newsletters, public speaking… Any opportunity to share valuable content is an opportunity to practice inbound marketing.

How to Initiate Your Inbound Marketing

When it comes to inbound marketing, the more you invest, the greater your return. Creating killer content is more about brains and commitment rather than budget. Don’t throw money at it – put your head and heart into it!

Here’s how to get started:

  • Identify your target audience and learn all you can about them. You can’t write content to inform your customers until you know what makes your audience tick.
  • Determine your unique, compelling story. Why should your audience listen to you?
  • Choose your delivery platforms. Will you blog? Tweet? Use Facebook? Pinterest?
  • Create and execute your content calendar.

It is important to create a schedule that will consistently turn out fresh and relevant content to continue to engage your audience. Keep in mind that your theme should be focused on customer issues, not on your business. “Rather than focusing on ‘enough’ content, marketers should be focused on publishing quality content. Content that educates their audience and builds brands and authority.  The right content will be shared, increasing your reach, increasing awareness, increasing trust and increasing leads. The wrong content will lose followers and damage your reputation.”
And don’t forget to set aside time for analysis on a weekly basis. This step will aid you in understanding how effective your inbound marketing efforts have been and how they can be improved.

Put Marketing Automation to Work

Inbound marketing cannot be relied on as the sole means of generating business. To achieve a more balanced approach, combine inbound efforts with outbound activities such as lead nurturing, lead scoring and other components of marketing automation.

Marketing automation empowers inbound marketers with tools and strategies to convert fans and followers to leads and customers. Automation accomplishes this by cultivating relationships with leads which are not yet ready to buy (most often via targeted email campaigns). Automation also enhances your inbound efforts by helping you separate legitimate leads from the not-so-legitimate ones. Furthermore, connecting marketing automation to your customer relationship management (CRM) system makes certain none of your leads get lost in the shuffle. Leveraging marketing automation with your inbound marketing campaign is like throwing fuel on your marketing fire.

Learn to Quantify Your Success

When measuring the success of your inbound marketing efforts, there are a plethora of metrics to choose from. Whether you decide to look at SEO rankings, inbound links or number of articles published, you’re sure to derive some insight into how your campaigns are performing. However, don’t get caught up in basing your decisions on marketing activities alone. For instance, having 5,000 followers on Twitter might sound impressive, but this number doesn’t offer too much insight in terms of real business results. Instead, you should be looking to financial metrics that show how marketing helps your company generate more profits and faster growth when stacked against your competitors.

One of these valuable metrics is organic traffic, which involves people finding your website by means other than typing in your URL or searching for your brand name. So, say you are a staffing company and a prospect types “local staffing solutions” into a Google search. If your company name pops up high in the results, then you’ve benefited from a successful organic search. Tracking how much of this traffic converts into leads will give you an idea of how you might need to adjust your marketing strategies. Taking it a step further, you should be tracking the trends (not just the hard numbers) so you can see how quickly your online presence is improving. Some marketing automation solutions have this type of useful functionality built right in.

Conclusion:
Make Inbound Marketing Work For You!

In our fast-paced society where the Internet and social networking shape our daily decisions, customers are exposed to more information than ever. This phenomenon is not only making them more educated but also is causing a change in buying behaviors. As a result, B2B and B2C marketing efforts must be adjusted to respond to this shift.

Today’s businesses are realizing that outbound efforts alone are not enough to produce profits. Instead, inbound marketing techniques need to be utilized in order to attract more leads and foster better brand preference. To be successful in inbound marketing, businesses need to introduce a disciplined approach to content creation, introduce marketing automation tools that can help them nurture and score leads, and optimize how these leads flow through the sales pipeline. 

“I can’t say enough good things about Marketo’s Customer Engagement Engine. With our prior solution, we had the right content but we couldn’t attain the level of focused delivery that Marketo gives us. Now we can offer targeted content and speak to prospects directly.” – Shantel Shave, Director of Demand Generation, Hootsuite [Source]. “Marketo RTP Content Recommendation Engine auto-discovered our content, analyzed the content performance, and then utilized predictive analytics to recommend relevant content to inbound prospects.

Chuck Reynolds
Contributor

Alan Zibluk Market Hive Founding Member

Some Top Companies Accepting Bitcoin

Some Top Companies Accepting Bitcoin

Since Bitcoin’s inception 8 years ago many merchants and retailers have warmed up to the currency and use it today. This article will list the 5 best places to spend your Bitcoins.

Dell

Dell started accepting Bitcoin in 2014, it is one of the largest personal computer companies in the US. Dell’s Bitcoin payment option is integrated with Coinbase and it is built right into the checkout page. When you’re ready to make a purchase, add your items to your cart, fill out your shipping details and choose Bitcoin as your payment method. After the order is submitted, you’ll be taken to Coinbase to complete your purchase.

CheapAir

                

Cheapair is a New York based company founded in 2005. It provides a service similar to Expedia which allows you to book flights and hotels. They first started accepting Bitcoin in 2013 and have never stopped since. Just like with Dell, Cheapair’s bitcoin payment system is integrated straight into their checkout page and is powered by Coinbase.

Overstock

Founded in 1999, Overstock is one of the largest American retailers based out of Utah. It offers a variety of products ranging from home decorations to computer hardware. The checkout process is similar to Cheapair’s and Dell’s and is integrated through Coinbase. When the company first started accepting Bitcoin in September of 2014 it because the first major retailer to accept Bitcoin.

In fact, Overstock’s CEO was so intrigued with Bitcoin that he decided to take it a step further by opening up his company’s stock to be publicly traded on the blockchain. As a result, they also became the first publicly traded company to issue stock over the internet.

Steam

Initially released in 2003, Steam is a digital distribution platform which offers a variety of PC games to more than 89 million gamers. It is considered the largest video game distributor owning roughly 75% of the market. It first started accepting Bitcoin in April of 2016 as they partnered with Bitpay. The checkout process is just the same, you simply select the Bitcoin payment option and Bitpays API will take care of the rest.

One potential reason that Steam partnered with Bitpay rather than Coinbase is because Steam has a higher focus on international users while the companies above focus on the domestic market. While Coinbase might be one of the more compliant companies in the US, Bitpay has a smoother integration overseas.

eGifter

eGifter is a New York based company founded in 2011, the youngest company on this list. The reason it ranks so high is because it opens up an opportunity to spend Bitcoin and dozen more places. eGifter provides a gift card buying and sending solutions to users and businesses. You can purchase a gift card for yourself, for a friend, or you can even start a group gift.

The best part is that eGifter accepts Bitcoin! Some of the stores that you can purchase gift cards for include: Amazon, Target, eBay, Adidas, Dominos, and much much more.

Chuck Reynolds
Contributor

Alan Zibluk Market Hive Founding Member