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3 Brands’ Different Approaches to Augmented Reality

As platforms and technology have grown increasingly sophisticated, brands have more tools to create compelling stories. But more resources and customer touch points also mean that cutting through the noise is more challenging than ever.

Luckily, we are on the brink of a new age of digital storytelling, one that will be steeped in augmented and virtual reality experiences. Augmented reality is changing the game for good, because it enables organizations to bring consumers into their stories, rather than simply producing content for viewers to passively consume. With the recent rollout of Apple’s ARKit, which enables developers to build their own augmented platforms and experiences, 2018 is poised to be the year that augmented reality is no longer viewed as a novelty, but as a pillar of digital content.

Related: Expecting Revolutionary Innovation From Apple’s Reveal Event? You’re Missing the Point.

Some brands are ahead of the curve and have already experimented with augmented campaigns and physical experiences to immerse customers in more compelling stories. If you’re planning to explore ways in which your brand can jump on the augmented bandwagon, take a page out of these brand’s books.


The MTV VMA’s are used to raising the stakes. But historically, the production has relied on live performances and candid moments to hook viewers. This year, however, MTV decided not to rest on its laurels, and instead launched an aggressive augmented-reality based campaign to entice viewers before the big night. The network turned its iconic Moonman logo into an augmented effect that allowed fans to place images of themselves in the Moonman on Facebook.

Related: Why Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality Will be Important for Your Business

National Geographic

National Geographic has built a media powerhouse by bringing every corner of the Earth to life through bold, lifelike photography and videos. With augmented reality, National Geographic can take that one step further. The media company dipped its foot into augmented waters at the 2017 SXSW festival to promote its scripted Albert Einstein series, Genius.

This new phase of the company’s life presents an interesting challenge, because the scripted television landscape is already overcrowded with quality narratives. To break through the noise and establish itself as a force out of the gate, National Geographic knew it had to make bold marketing plays. The augmented reality installation allowed festival-goers to essentially go into the mind of Albert Einstein by building out Einstein’s mathematical theories virtually and mapping them to physical objects in the room, ultimately enabling visitors to interact with Einstein’s ideas.

Related: Don’t Get Too Fancy in Your Marketing — Authenticity Always Wins


Adobe’s recent venture into the realm of augmented reality proves that this technology is more than a gimmick — it has the potential to instill real value for consumers and businesses alike. Adobe’s HoloLens developments showcased the ways in which augmented visualizations can overlay actual in-store settings to offer more insight into who shoppers are and how they behave. The applications include data paths hovering above a store layout to illuminate common traffic routes and smart mirrors that instantly relay insights about which items are being tried on and which are being purchased.

These brands prove that there’s no right way to implement an augmented strategy. Tapping into augmented reality development platforms gives brands the agency to determine how to best bring experiences and stories to life for specific audiences.

Related video: Why You Shouldn’t Try to Be the Next Elon Musk or Mark Zuckerberg

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AI Is Taking the Art Out of Sales

There are few professions with as much mystique as sales. A salesperson is revered for making the impossible happen and for overcoming insecurities and self-imposed limitations to close massive deals under pressure. We admire successful sales professionals because they do what we assume we could not: They close (and subsequently get that cup of coffee. Thank you very much, Alec Baldwin).

But times are changing and the salesman that has been portrayed in countless movies and TV shows is becoming irrelevant, or rather, obsolete.

Related: 4 Practices to Keep Sales Innovation on Track

Today’s sales professionals operate in a completely new environment. To be sure, some deals still happen in wood paneled boardrooms or over rounds of martinis, but most sales are being pursued in digital environments — email, websites, even text messages (funny enough, I close 20 percent of deals via text for my software agency). It’s a big shift from cold calling, which was the most popular sales strategy for years.

According to a Forrester Report titled “Death of a B2B Salesman,” more than 20 percent of B2B phone sales reps will be out of a job by 2020, replaced entirely by ecommerce. The author of the report, Andy Hoar, explains why: “B2B buyer behavior has changed significantly in the past few years. Nearly 75 percent of B2B buyers say buying from an ecommerce site is more convenient than buying from a sales rep, and 93 percent say they prefer buying online when they’ve already decided what to buy.”

Sorry, Jordan Belfort, your tactics won’t cut it anymore.

The change in environment demands an entirely new skill set.

“Today, sales organizations still need ‘The Closer,’ individuals who doggedly pursue deals,” says Uzi Shmilovici, founder and CEO of Base CRM, an AI powered customer relationship management system. “But that characteristic is competing with others that are actually more relevant today. The salesperson who succeeds today is a sales scientist, an individual who can plan meticulous campaigns in a digital context to drive large volumes of deals to close.”

Related: Follow Up Is the Sales Superstar’s Best Weapon

In the past decade, the outreach abilities of a single salesperson have increased exponentially from just the number of people that could be called in a day, to the number of people that could be emailed and targeted with customized pitches.

Now, artificial intelligence plays an important role in the modern sales office, helping to declutter and refine customer relationship management. These AI platforms monitor a salespeople’s habits over time and then begin to make recommendations to improve their performance. Shmilovici says prescriptive sales platforms do more than project sales numbers in the future, they make meaningful recommendations for improvement.

“Most CRM technologies help you to see how much you have sold, how much you are likely to sell, and which factors are most influencing your performance,” he says. “Prescriptive sales goes further than that by identifying which practices actually improve sales performance. These data-driven pieces of advice empower salespeople to take advantage of opportunities they may not have otherwise.”

Simply by observing how salespeople work and what is successful, prescriptive sales platforms learn best practices, and those can be incredibly precise. For example, it may find that cold pitch emails are 20 percent more effective on Tuesdays than they are on Mondays. It may discover that placing a follow-up call within 10 minutes of a web registration increases conversion. There is nearly an infinite number of potential insights that could be uncovered.

Humans working by themselves do not process large scale data effectively. But a prescriptive sales platform running quietly in the background can, and its recommendations add a layer of sales intelligence to every business.

Partnering with an AI to improve sales performance requires more of the disposition of a scientist than a Glengarry Glen Ross. In the famous speech given by Alec Baldwin, he decries complaints from the sales team about leads. Today, AI can play an active role in scoring leads by finding common traits between deals that closed.

You can make the argument that yesterday’s sales professionals who were most successful had instincts that helped them pick the best leads and intuitively know when to call and what to say. But technology augments those instincts, and now what is most important is that salespeople are able to leverage all of the technology at their disposal to strategize the highest possible outcomes.

Related: 5 Sales Lessons My Grandfather Taught Me

“Sales organizations are changing rapidly as the result of AI,” Shmilovici says. “They are hiring a different kind of salesperson, adding roles for sales scientists in their operations, and integrating with other aspects of the business more closely. All of these changes are improving results, which is what sales are all about.”

Is it sad to see The Closer lose the top spot in sales? Yes, in a way. But technology is creating a new and fascinating future for business. Young professionals do not have to recycle the same narratives that business leaders from decades ago have already acted out. We are in the early days of a radically new economy and it is exciting to see how it takes shape.

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Seriously, Please Stop Trying to ‘Go Viral’ on LinkedIn

Maybe you’ve seen it: the 19 paragraph breaks between sentences, the ultra-dramatic story titles, the cliffhanger second sentences that supposedly keep us on the edge of our seats until we’re able to click that “see more” button — and it’s only getting worse!

All of my #growthhacker and #socialmediainfluencer friends are going to hate this column because of the blatant disregard for patented LinkedIn hacks. So hold on to your viral-social-media-influencer hats for this truth bomb, because there’s “No Escapin’ This” (cue Beatnuts in the background. For you gen Zers it’s a rap group from the ’90s)!

Not everyone has a story interesting enough to “go viral.”

There, I said it. I don’t particularly care how you created your digital marketing agency while living at your mom’s house generating $2,000 the first month by selling her neighbor with the weird cats Facebook ads courses, which has now afforded you to travel the world.

Related: Evergreen Content Is the Secret to More Traffic. Here’s the One Reason Most Evergreen Content Fails.

I taught myself to code in prison without the internet, using textbooks. Now I go back into prisons to teach inmates how to program with the nonprofit The Last Mile. Sure, I’ve been picked up by some various outlets for my story (Time, The Next Web, etc.), but even my stuff hasn’t “gone viral,” and it’s much more primed than most.

Not everyone’s an expert.

I know, you bought a couple courses or even created one, and now you’re the ninja, guru, wizard of (fill in the blank). However, it’s just not enough anymore. You need to eat, sleep, breathe, whatever you’re doing, and do it for five, 10, 20-plus years. Then tell us how you’ve been successful. I don’t care about your “seven months under enormous amounts of stress.”

Finally, why do you care about going viral?

Virality is not a sustainable form of growth, it’s a vanity metric. Yeah, Sisqo was hot for a summer, but the thong song had to go.

Related: What You Can Learn From the Viral Shenanigans of Last Week Tonight With John Oliver

Here’s what I propose:

1. Create real community. I have a Facebook group of more than 16,000 other entrepreneurs who share advice, leverage each other’s networks and whose ideas my partner and I are now investing into with our new fund, Ammo Ventures.

2. Find your voice. Does this feel like we’re having a conversation while you read it? It should because that’s how I wrote it. This is a fun and engaging way to communicate. I put you, the reader, first, which allows me to have a two-way conversation with you, rather than just speak to you. I don’t speak at people in real life when communicating in person, why would I do that online? And it doesn’t even have to be with words. Timmy Sneaks and Ikonick have been able to do that with their art. Dope.

3. Improve our writing skills. Everyone knows Neville is the copyright King (or so he’s convinced us, which is an even better testament to his prowess). All of your favorite entrepreneurs from Noah Kagan to Sam Parr recommend him. That’s a good place to start. Ryan Holiday’s book club will help you improve every month. Here’s what helps me: write every single morning. And use Grammarly as a Chrome extension to fix your grammar while you improve.

4. Choose a channel, build your audience and parlay. Rather than regurgitate content and repurpose it across all of your channels. You should choose one channel, build your audience and take that audience with you to the next channel. It’s a much better approach. It mimics real life.

Related: What Gets Shared Online? Depends How You See It.

5. Create real value. My boy Gerard Adams created an accelerator in the heart of Newark. He’s creating real impact and changing lives. We do that with The Last Mile nonprofit. We go into prisons and teach inmates that are incarcerated how to computer program. That’s massive impact. Let’s do that instead.

Unless you actually talk like Dave Castro during the CrossFit Open (which would make me feel worse for you), save the paragraph breaks for when you actually have a new thought and please save us from your incessant rambling on LinkedIn.

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Content as a Service Is the Next Evolution for Marketing

Content marketing has quickly become one of the most important marketing channels for any business. According to data reported by CMI, 88 percent of B2B marketers produce at least one piece of content a day. Of course, marketers aren’t the only one’s producing content — product, sales, customer service and other teams within companies are all producing customer facing content.

In order for businesses to continue to provide customers and prospects with the right content, via the right channel at the right time, they will need to embrace content as a service (CaaS).

Where does your content live today?

Take a moment and think about where all of the different content you and your team produce lives today. If your business is like most, it is probably spread out over a variety of places. Some content might live on Google Drive, other content might be based in a website CMS, while other content might be trapped inside a mobile app.

Related: 3 Ways to Stop Overcomplicating Your Content Marketing Strategy

If you or a colleague wants to access and repurpose this content, how easy is it to do? Will you need to reformat the content so that it looks appropriate on a new device or channel? Can you even access the content yourself?

In some cases, you may not even be aware that the content you are looking for already exists somewhere else in the organization. This is the problem with the way content is managed by most businesses today. Content is siloed, hard to share and harder to repurpose for new mediums.

Meet CaaS, the future of content management.

While most businesses are struggling to manage all of the content needed to attract, convert and delight customers, there are some exciting new content as a service companies making it easier to manage and repurpose content.

Companies such as Prismic or Contentful are empowering marketers, developers and other business units to access, manipulate and share content from a centralized location. These platforms allow businesses to manage content in an agnostic way.

This means that content can be formatted so that it looks best on any given channel, making it easier to provide an omnichannel experience to prospects and customers.

Related: 6 Crazy Effective Growth Hacks for Your Next Content Marketing Campaign

We’re living in an omnichannel world.

According to research cited by Cybra, the opportunity cost of not embracing an omnichannel approach is 10 percent lost revenue. To bring the point home even further, Google found that the average generation Zer uses five screens to consume content.

For brands to remain relevant, business people simply must embrace an omnichannel approach when engaging with prospects and customers. Content as a service becomes all the more important when brands need to maintain a consistent message across devices.

Personalization is the next big marketing technique.

Prospects and customers are beginning to expect personalized experiences. Janrain reports that 74 percent of internet users get frustrated when presented with irrelevant things. Prospects will reward brands that are able to successfully personalize content. Forrester finds that 77 percent of customers will pay more when brands accurately make personalized purchasing recommendations.

Content-as-a-service platforms have the ability to help brands do personalization better. For example, if a website or mobile app can draw upon centralized content to select the most appropriate information for a specific user, brands can provide a better experience.

CaaS platforms coupled with personalization tools such as Optimizely, or those offered by marketing automation platforms, can create tailored customer journeys without needing to create an endless supply of unique content.

Related: How To Create Content That Hooks Your Prospects and Keeps Them Engaged

Getting data on content consumption.

How does similar (or the same) piece of content perform across different channels? Does this content resonate with your audience? Typically it is difficult for content marketers to answer these questions.

One version of content could be hosted on a blog CMS, another version could live in an email template. With content as a service platforms, it’s easier for content creators to understand how content is performing. Content insights can be centralized. Updates made to content based on centralized insights can be immediately pushed across channels with just the click of a button.

The way we consume content is changing, and swiftly. As consumers, we prefer personalized content provided by Netflix over cable. We want instantaneous, relevant content experiences at our fingertips, and we have little patience for brands that fall short of these expectations. We reward brands that provide an omnichannel shopping experience, and we consume content through many different screens.

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Don’t Wait. Here’s Why You Should Get in the Chatbot War Now.

While there is no way of knowing what the future will bring, one thing is for sure: the use of chatbots is on the rise. With the chatbot war heating up, it’s your job to learn as much as possible about this technology. This means many things, including how you can use chatbots to better serve your audience with the idea of boosting revenue and profit.

Before we discuss the ways to win the chatbot war, there’s something that must be said: There’s a good chance your competitors are already using chatbots to boost their business. Unless you want to get passed by, it would be in your best interest to position yourself for success.

Related: Top 10 Best Chatbot Platform Tools to Build Chatbots for Your Business

Now, let’s examine why you should adopt chatbots in your business:

1. Better customer service

Did you know that the use of chatbots could help to greatly reduce customer service expenses?

If that’s not enough for you to give this technology a second look, consider this: Chatbots can improve the customer service experience, ensuring that your audience always receives the assistance they require.

Most businesses, especially those with a handful of employees, are unable to provide personalized customer service 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

You can protect against downtime by using chatbots. This way, if somebody visits your website and has a question, you can still provide personalized assistance.

It may be ideal to have a real person on the other side of the conversation, but a chatbot is often the second best option.

2. To improve speed

In today’s day and age, speed is the name of the game. The faster you help customers the better off you will be. Therefore, you need to take full advantage of technology, including chatbots.

Get this: Four minutes is the average time savings per chatbot enquiry when compared to the use of a traditional call center. As a consumer yourself, you know that four minutes is a long time when waiting on hold or trying to solve a problem.

When you combine increased speed with cost savings, it’s easy to see why so many companies, big and small, are looking for ways to implement chatbots in their day-to-day business.

Related: How to Create a Facebook Messenger Chatbot For Free Without Coding

3. Improving success rate

Companies continue to avoid chatbots for many reasons. Some of them don’t understand the technology. Others believe that it will cause more harm than good. And then there are those who are concerned about the success rate.

It is understood that the use of chatbots is only a good thing if the outcome is positive. An infographic published by Juniper Research touches on this, noting that 20 percent of messaging bank bot interactions in 2017 will be successful.

Yes, this is a low number, but check out the other statistic shared in the infographic: 93 percent of messaging bank bot interactions will be successful by 2022. This should tell you one thing: chatbot technology is growing rapidly with each passing year.

While there may still be some kinks to work out, you don’t want to wait five years to get involved. At that time, your competition will have already figured things out, thus leaving you in the dust.

And of course, just because some companies are experiencing a less than ideal success rate doesn’t mean yours will follow suit.

Experiment, track and change

Do you remember the early days of social media when brands were turning their head, ignoring Facebook and Twitter in hopes that it was nothing more than a fad? Many companies are going down the same path in regard to chatbots. They’re watching other brands take advantage, but have yet to dive in.

Related: This Robot Therapist Talks to Patients Via Facebook

To win the chatbot war, you need to do three things:

  • Experiment with the technology
  • track what is and is not working and
  • make changes based on your findings.

When you do this, you’ll always be confident in the approach you’re taking.

The chatbot war has begun. You can throw your hat into the ring, or run and hide. The choice is yours, but those who get involved today are in better position to benefit tomorrow.

What are your thoughts on chatbots? Do you have plans to use this technology to improve your business?

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How Augmented Reality Is Going to Change Everything About Ecommerce

Imagine never running out of out coffee at home again. When you wake up, you know exactly how many grounds you should pour in the filter, what the precise water level should be in relation to how many cups you drink on average, and, even, if you will consume more based on the weather. Oh, and when you’re running low, an order is shipped right away without any effort on your part.

With how rapidly augmented reality is growing, that future could be coming sooner than you think.

Related: How VR Helps This Company Save Hundreds of Thousands of Dollars While Sticking to Its Mission

According to an overview by CB Insights on the augmented reality and virtual reality industries, VR has received 52 percent of venture capital deals, with AR at 22 percent. Yes, while VR has been the talk of Silicon Valley since deals such as Facebook buying Oculus came about, AR could one day outshine it, with ecommerce being at the forefront.

The changing landscape

While companies have come up with inexpensive VR headsets that work with any smartphone, to invest in a full-on, independent unit is wildly expensive. Don’t get me wrong, VR is on a great growth trajectory, with some predicting 26 percent of Americans will own a headset by 2018, but with AR, the basic foundation — think Pokémon Go — has already been tested. It begs the question: why is progress is taking so long? Although development has tilted in favor of VR, this trend is shifting thanks to some major players in ecommerce.

Welcome to the big leagues

On July 25, Amazon published a patent on Augmented Reality Presentation, giving a hint as to what’s to come from the ecommerce giant. The illustration shows users’ “trying on” watches in AR as they shop online. The examples are endless, from scanning a room and having a real-time home decorator analyze what would look best, to being notified of sales as soon as they’re available.

Related: How Augmented Reality Will Shape the Future of Ecommerce

Even though Amazon has been early to market, some other major tech giants are entering the race as well. Apple is currently developing its ARKit, an open source platform that allows for developers to build AR products on iPhones and iPads. Additionally, ARToolKit is offering a dev kit for AR as well.

Where the future is headed

According to Global Market Insights, the market for AR products is projected to grow 80 percent to $165 billion by 2024. Given the potential AR holds, that makes sense, especially when factoring in top-dollar industries such as medicine and engineering. However, when it comes to ecommerce, the question becomes: Will this be a fight between Amazon and smaller startups and retailers?

What this boils down to is the point of entry. Quite simply, if I’m able to look around my apartment or office for things to buy and Amazon is the first to have the best system for it, why would I look to anyone else’s online inventory? Digging through different AR apps is going to be a lot different than shopping online regarding retention, which will be a huge factor in defining how successful the experience will be.

Related: 5 VR and AR Startups Ready for Explosive Growth

For smaller businesses to grow their market share in the ecommerce world of AR, they’re going to have to start getting creative with the specific types of solutions they offer. After all, you’re going to be able to bring your product into someone’s home and visualize how it fits into their lifestyle, which is groundbreaking. Luckily for brands and influencers, new tools, including my company Blendars proprietary platform, are emerging, making it easier than ever for organizations to deliver more engaging experiences right to their audiences.

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How Augmented Reality Can Help You Achieve Your Fitness Goals

People are willing to try just about everything from fad diets to hypnosis to help them get on track to achieve their fitness goals.

One area that’s starting to gain traction in fitness circles is the use of augmented reality (AR) technology during workouts. No matter what their levels of fitness are, more and more people are seeing results with the help of devices that make exercising a little more straightforward and engaging.

Related: 7 Ways Entrepreneurs Can Keep (or Get) Fit, Happy and Productive

By incorporating AR into your fitness regimen, you can add fun and utility to your workout without sacrificing your gains. Here’s how the latest and the greatest in AR can help you reach your fitness goals — no matter where you start.

Real-time data

One of the most useful aspects of AR technology in the fitness world is the fact that it can provide you with real-time information about what’s going on in your body while you’re working out.

For instance, many augmented reality devices involve wearable technology that records your heart rate. This helps you make sure you’re working hard enough to shed those pounds or build that muscle, as well as helping you ensure that you don’t over-strain yourself. The ideal heart rate range for a 30-year-old to maintain during moderately intense exercise (the ideal range for fat burning) is 95 to 162 beats per minute, so you’ll want to keep an eye on your wearable tech to track your heart rate for maximum progress.

This isn’t limited to what’s going on inside your body, either — augmented reality devices also just help you track how far you’ve come. By helping you track the distance you’ve run or the steps you’ve taken, you can have a standard measure for your workout. Even better, many versions of AR technology reward you based on this. For example, you can unlock prizes based on the number of steps you’ve taken.

This is an important aspect of working out that people often forget, as seeing your progress can be a huge motivator to keep going and achieve your goals.

Related: Why You Need More Exercise as an Entrepreneur (and 7 Creative Strategies for Getting It)

Learning as you go

A staggering 47 percent of generation Z is predicted to be obese by the time they reach adulthood. A major factor in this unfortunate statistic is the fact that for a lot of people, the sheer amount of information to learn about fitness can be intimidating — and, ultimately, a turn-off.

From putting together effective workouts to just figuring out how those tricky machines at the gym work, there’s a lot of information to absorb at any given time in your fitness journey. Luckily, AR technology can make this a lot less overwhelming.

For one, you can receive personalized workout videos through an AR device such as smart glasses to jumpstart your fitness regimen. Just imagine: with this technology, you can have your own, personal fitness instructor show you the latest workouts, like high-intensity interval training (HIIT), yoga and Pilates. This reduces the nervousness associated with going to a fitness class for the first time, helping you on that first step of just understanding how everything is done.

Further, you can receive real-time instructions through AR smart glasses or just your headphones on your form, helping you maximize the ROI of your exercise and minimizing the chance of injury.


Finally, augmented reality technology just makes working out more fun. Adding gaming elements to exercising helps workouts become more accessible and rewarding to help you reach your fitness goals.

When it comes to people who are not used to exercising regularly, adding some sort of fun element goes a long way towards keeping them motivated through those notoriously tough first weeks and beyond. Not everyone loves working out for working out’s sake right off the bat — it can take an extra level of engagement up front to help them power through the tough first stages of a new fitness regimen before exercising feels rewarding on its own.

Related: Why This Weird Wearable Let Me Down — and What It Taught Me About Tech’s Limitations

Developers have created mysteries, puzzles and other games to get users up and moving. For instance, a popular AR app called Zombies, Run! is growing increasingly popular in the fitness set. Through your headphones, you listen and follow along as a helicopter pilot helps you escape a zombie apocalypse. Before you know it, you’ve run a 5K.

With the fact that one-third of American kids are currently overweight, a little fun in the name of fitness is only going to help.

What are some other ways you’ve been able to get on top of your fitness?

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10 Pieces of Financial Advice I Wish I Knew in My 20s

Your 20s can one of the most memorable times of your life. After all, you’ve just started to enter the workforce, have little responsibility and finally have a disposable income to call your own. However, even with all the freedom that youth provides, it can come with some significant financial consequences that can be crippling if you’re not careful.

While most people would consider themselves pretty financially savvy, I’d say that can be attributed to the fact that no wants to admit they’re bad with money. As cash rules almost every decision we make, it can be tough to swallow when we haven’t held ourselves to the best standard.

Related: 8 Ways Any Millennial Can Be a Millionaire in 5 Years

Granted, for most of us, it’s easier said than done, but that’s why getting into good habits while you’re young is so imperative. That’s why I’ve compiled a few tips I wish I knew when I was in my 20s. Following these could lend you a better path and help you save quite a bit as well.

1. Report your rent to credit bureaus.

Although a relatively new development in the credit reporting world, according to NerdWallet, nearly every major credit bureau allows you to report your rent. Although less than 1 percent of credit files contain rental information, this can increase your credit score tremendously.

2. Learn how to use a credit card the right way.

This is something that we probably should’ve listened to the wisdom of our elders more, but then again, sometimes it’s best to learn on your own. As creditcard.com notes, while younger generations tend to utilize their credit for clothes, entertainment and gas, older generations use it for travel and major repairs. Granted, having a budget and sticking to it with a credit card can be a good way to build your score, but using your card like boomers is an effective strategy.

3. Don’t inquire until you know for sure.

Credit inquiries can negatively impact your score up to five points, which is especially damaging to young people. The rule of thumb here is to shop around a bit when it comes to buying something that could need to be purchased on credit.

4. Build your credit.

Your credit is the number-one key you have to financial freedom, so utilize it wisely. As CreditRepair notes, there are numerous ways you can start on this, as it’s never too early to start thinking about your credit.

Related: 4 Money Habits That Separate Building Wealth From Just Making a Living

5. You don’t have to be rich to invest.

There’s a big notion that only those with a lot of money should invest in stocks or mutual funds. In fact, a recent study by Bankrate showed that just one in three millennials are investing. Even though you most likely won’t be rich overnight, it’s never a bad idea to use investments as a way of saving. Some good sources to check out are Acorns and Stash.

6. Save enough for rainy days.

According to a study by GoBankingRates, 72 percent of millennials have less than $1,000 in savings. That’s a pretty astounding figure, especially when you consider that money could be drained pretty quick in the event of an accident or unexpected event. Try to set aside a little more from each paycheck, as you never know when it might come in handy.

7. Hold off on buying a car (even if you can afford it).

While a lot of folks tend to follow the 20 percent rule (that is, only dedicate 20 percent of your income to a monthly payment on a car), even if you can afford that, it’s still not your best investment. First, cars are depreciating assets, meaning as soon as you drive off the lot, it’s automatically worth less than what you paid. Additionally, as you never know what’s going to happen with your car (whether it’s new or old), the unexpected maintenance or expenses are going to cost you regardless.

8. Beware of predatory lending.

Predatory lenders can potentially destroy your financial status, with the average interest rate clocking in around 400 percent. In short, this is the quickest path to bankruptcy, so if you’re looking for some extra financial help, exhaust all your resources, as well as possibly talk to a financial advisor.

Related: Get Out of Debt With These 6 Simple Steps

9. Stop spending so much money on socializing.

Like most millennials, I too have fallen victim to spending money for what I consider “the short term.” You know, things like going out to eat or going to shows, which for the time being is great, but as you get older, you realize this money is well spent other places. Plus, as millennials spend nearly 44 percent of their food budget on going out, cutting back can be an excellent way to save money.

10. It’s harder to get yourself out of a hole than it is to get in one.

It’s no secret that getting into debt is relatively easy. But the getting-yourself-out part? Not so much. As The Nest points out, the average time to pay off $9,500 with monthly payments of $461 will take approximately two years, with $1,555 paid towards interest. In short, being in debt is expensive, and as such, you should put a lot of consideration into what you incur before pulling the trigger.

Perhaps one of the best pieces of financial advice I ever heard tackles this subject very well: if the debt you’re incurring isn’t helping you make money, is it really worth putting on?

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Why Social Impact Is the Only KPI That Should Matter for Entrepreneurs

It’s 5:02 a.m. on a Monday morning. I’m up and posting to my Facebook group of 16,000-plus international entrepreneurs that I mentor. Sometimes my excitement as an entrepreneur wakes me up and keeps me up. I have so many rewarding projects that are either making a huge impact on society or (excuse my overt entrepreneurial confidence) will make a huge impact.

In my opinion, there’s only one metric that actually matters as an entrepreneur. No, it’s not social interactions, lead conversions, lifetime value or any of the growth metrics hocked by your favorite entrepreneurs trying to sell you a new product. Social impact is arguably the only metric that should wake us up, and keep us up, as entrepreneurs.

Related: When ‘Doing Good’ Isn’t Good Enough

Let me give you some context to what I mean.

I’ve overcome massive obstacles on my journey as an entrepreneur. Like when I went to prison for two years. During that time, I taught myself to build websites by reading textbooks. I wrote my first line of code with a No. 2 golf pencil. When I was released, I continued my education, and created a software development company that has been blessed to work with Fortune 500 companies like Microsoft, Warner Bros. and IBM.

Yes, that’s rewarding, but it pales in comparison to the satisfaction and intrinsic value I get while teaching other inmates in prison how to code. After my successful completion of my sentence, I realized the power of a positive prison program and joined The Last Mile, which is a nonprofit that is changing the prison system from the inside out. What started off as an entrepreneurship program for inmates has evolved into a program that teaches inmates in prisons how to write computer programs. I’m leading the charge with our team, developing the learning management system that is going to scale our program to the rest of the country so that inmates can learn how to code rather than stamp license plates. The social impact of this project is exponential.

Related: Why I’m Leaving a VC Firm to Work for Free

In December 2015, I was devastated. My wife passed away, and nothing seemed to matter at that time; my dreams, my life, even food lost its taste. So, I decided to travel the world for six months. It was during that time I realized the only moment I felt truly alive was when I gave back and helped people in need. So, I put together a nonprofit, rallied friends, family and anyone interested, and provided underserved communities resources. We did campaigns on Skid Row, helped women with addiction issues and gave back to orphans. The social impact was clear by the gratitude on every person’s face we were helping. 

A few weeks ago I was in New Jersey at Fownders‘ headquarters, hanging out with my friend Gerard Adams doing a Facebook Live for Entrepreneur, and working on ways to collaborate. After our Facebook Live, the question “What matters most as an entrepreneur?” came up, as we both have a passion for giving back. Not only does Adams and his team believe that social impact matters most, but he’s put his money where his mouth is.

By age 32, Adams has already sold Elite Daily for $50 million and has made millions over the course of his 14-year startup career. He could easily go “retire” in Miami, or come to LA and live the Hollywood lifestyle. Instead, he’s dedicated his life to helping underserved entrepreneurs through his accelerator program Fownders, in his hometown Newark, N.J. Everything Adams does is about giving back and helping others. It’s clear to see it in action when he operates as a leader; it’s depicted by what he stands for and posts on his social channels (he’s a must-follow on Instagram), and has even created an entire show around helping other leaders called, Leaders Create Leaders (an Entrepreneur syndicated program).

Related: How Volunteering in Haiti Inspired This Founder to Start a Business for Social Good

Fownders is no different, with a very clear mission as explained on their site: “Fownders’ mission is to disrupt the paradigm of how entrepreneurs, creatives and the next generation of leaders get the right education, exposure and self-awareness needed to truly leave an impactful legacy.”

It is a progressive education social enterprise, focused on educating young entrepreneurs through the principles of entrepreneurship and human development. The program has helped hundreds of young entrepreneurs and attracted business experts and social entrepreneurs from all over the world like Eric Thomas, Ryan Blair, Craig Clemens and Tom Bilyeu.

Another example that I learned while in New Jersey: After finding Adams on Instagram, Arian Ney left Germany temporarily to pursue a mentorship opportunity with Adams and his squad. Ney has a successful company of his own, where he focuses on social and digital marketing including Instagram strategy and growth, in addition to being a notable German fashion icon as shown through his own impressive Instagram following of almost 300,000 followers. However, as he mentioned to me, being around Adams and the team was a risk worth taking. The exposure, the networking and the impact they’re making was too hard to pass up, so he left Germany and moved to New Jersey for three months. 

Related: 10 Ways to Make Your Business More Socially Conscious

The Fownders team is a group of dedicated, loyal and passionate intrapreneurs who are focused on making the world a better place. After meeting some of the team members like Mitch Snyder, Brian Ragone, Jade Jordan, Amanda Johnson and Anthony Delgado, it’s no wonder how they’ve been able to achieve so much in such a short period of time. Their latest accomplishment has been the launch of their online platform, which will allow them to scale the program across the country, using the New Jersey location as the headquarters. The platform will give any entrepreneur direct access to Adams and the team, a startup curriculum YC Combinator would envy, a private Slack channel, tools, deals, resources and even in-person experiences.

The question remains, is social impact the only KPI that should matter for entrepreneurs? I think so, and so does Adams, his Fownders team and all of the other entrepreneurs out there making a positive difference in the world. If you’re helping someone in need, you’re awakening someone else (and keeping them up, even at 5 a.m. on a Monday).

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Why Going Cheap on Your Branding Is One of the Worst Mistakes You Can Make

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Your brand has a life.

Believe it or not, this thing you’ve created has legs to stand on, living and breathing every day. While this may sound high-minded, statistics prove otherwise. According to a study compiled by Bop Design, 54 percent of people don’t trust brands. But for those who do, 64 percent cite sharing a common bond with the brand as their primary reason for following or purchasing from them.

Related: The Many Ways You’re Marketing Even When You Don’t Even Know You Are

Why is this the case? Because your brand is your business’s first impression, and if done poorly, possibly the last. To some, branding seems like a luxury investment (and in some cases, this is true). However, going cheap on your brand development could not only lead to a disconnect with potential customers, but could also result in your company shutting its doors as a result of low sales. It’s a nightmare scenario for most entrepreneurs, which is why I’m going to go over a few reasons why investing in your brand is one of the wisest investments you could make.

A story you can sink your teeth into.

Breathe life into your business with a brand story or mission statement. Let’s be honest, coming up with your brand’s story is not an easy task. It’s going to take a lot of self-reflection and doubt, running through your purpose as to why your business exists in the first place. Additionally, this mantra will be what dictates every piece of copy or content your company puts out, creating a skeleton of how your voice will sound.

Let’s look at Whole Foods. The company could have created a wholesome-looking logo to lure people through its doors, but the multi-national retailer takes careful measures to back up its introduction to consumers. The brand has built a foundation of offering healthy and nutritious foods, and this foundation informs every marketing initiative and company development. From offering in-store educational experiences to teach consumers about food and emerging brands to getting involved in community-building programs through donating food to shelters and supporting local vendors, Whole Foods doesn’t just view its brand story as a marketing ploy, but leans on its pillars to guide the brand forward.

As Kissmetrics points out, there’s an actual science to what we deem as an authentic brand story. This breaks down to what’s essentially called neural coupling, or the emotional connection we feel when hearing a story. However, reaching this point might not be easily solved on your own, especially if you’re in a time crunch to launch.

Related: The Power of Pancakes: Branding Starts With Tribes, Not Beta Tests

While it’s up to you to have an agency or consulting firm take over your entire branding objectives, a lot of this is going to come from you. It’s not a bad idea to gain an outside perspective from someone to ask you the tough questions on why you started your business and what it represents, as well as where exactly you want it to head. The love you feel for what you’ve created is something most will understand, which is why having a third party pull the beauty of that out of you and translate it in a way others can comprehend is vital.

Because once you release your brand to the outside world, the perception of what it represents no longer belongs to only you anymore.

Your brand is more than just a logo.

A common misconception by novices in the branding world is making the assumption that a logo and a brand are synonymous. While your logo is one of the most important visual assets for your company — it is just the beginning. From there, you need bring your brand to life by embodying your values through marketing initiatives, product development and customer experience enhancements. Your brand’s goal is to represent an idea or shared truth between you and your audience, and that shared truth should permeate into the ethos of your business. It’s a common bond that drives towards a specific mission, which is something you’re going to miss the mark on by simply going for a cheap logo with the idea you’ll fix it later on.

When it comes to your logo, this symbol is going to represent an ethos that reflects upon how your company is aiming to change the world. Take the Whole Foods logo, for example. Many consumers in every major market across the country not only instantly recognize the green Whole Foods font, but new consumers also immediately recognize what the Whole Foods brand stands for thanks to the homage its logo pays to fruit and natural foods.

There’s plenty of places you can get a quality logo that won’t break the bank (I recommend checking out Deluxe). Remember, your logo is literally going to be everywhere your company is, so make it worth the ink it’s printed on. Plus, when done right, your logo is going to serve the purpose of telling your brand’s story without saying a word. So you have your logo … now what?

Related: The Secrets to Creating a Powerful Brand Message Using the ‘Trial Lawyer Marketing Method’

People talk, so you should listen.

How your brand is going to interact with the outside world will largely dictate the success of your company. From trade shows to social media, every interaction can give a valid perspective on who your company actually is. As Pew Research notes, more than 68 percent of all U.S. adults are on social media, so the potential amount of feedback you might receive could be tremendous.

Your brand is going to represent that universal truth you share with your consumers. Although discovering this is going to be tough, the rewards will be tremendous. People will no longer just be fans, but evangelists for what you’re about. Which begs the question: Are you ready to not just tell your story, but make it one that can stand the test of time?

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