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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.

Fun

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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6 Elements of a Million-Dollar Brand


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It’s obvious that a path to a million-dollar anything will be immensely difficult and require a lot of dedication. Once you’ve decided that you can dedicate yourself to invest in a solid branding campaign, then you can really say that you’re on the path to achieving the creation of a million-dollar brand.

What makes Givenchy fashion different from Gap and what separates the Bentleys and the Mercedes-Benzs from the Hondas and Toyotas? Here are some of the things that make successful brands popular and well-respected.

1. Have an attention to detail.

Steve Jobs’ once remarked that: “It’s not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works.” The more accurate word to describe this is meticulousness or thoughtfulness for your clients’ user experience. Anticipating the little things that will impede user experience and coming up with innovative and sleek solutions to those impediments is the hallmark of a million-dollar brand.

Related: 10 Success-Boosting Motivation Tips From Millionaire Entrepreneurs

2. Don’t ignore surveys.

Surveys can dramatically help you improve the ROI of some of the investments you make toward your brand. Surveys are a vital part of any branding campaign. If your branding campaign is a ship on the ocean, then surveys would be analogous to the ship’s navigational wheel. Surveys allow you to pinpoint and characterize the public perception and reaction to your branding attempts, and that awareness is essential to any future improvements you might make.

3. Master online visuals.

Making your brand visual appealing is make or break. Visual aids have a big impact on SEO and visitor engagement.

Related: Why This Entrepreneur Scaled Back His No. 1 Product

4. Focus on feeling.

One reason certain brands are worth so much more than others — especially when it comes to fashion — relates to the feeling that customers get from things like the illustrious and storied historical reputation of certain fashion houses as well as the unique blend of materials they use. But the modern definition of a luxury or an exclusive brand is sitting on a paradox in the sense that more and more people have the money and the means to afford those “luxury” products.

The Economist article, “Exclusively for everybody,” highlights the social repercussions of widespread luxury brands: “As luxury-goods sales have expanded geographically, they have also spread across the social scale. When Coco Chanel created her No. 5 perfume in the 1920s she reserved it for her best couture clients, but in the following decade she sold it in smaller bottles so that more women could afford it.” Nowadays, it’s completely within the realm of possibility to effectively duplicate the characteristics of quality.

5. Make use of influencers.

In the current market climate, branding is all about association with popular, informal figures called influencers. Did you know that select Instagram influencers can bag upwards of a few thousand dollars per sponsored post? Platforms such as Instagram are crucial for branding because they gather a large number of people with similar interests, feelings, attitudes and a high level of trust towards a certain figure, which can be converted into very positive outcomes for branding.

Related: 4 CEOs Share Their Secrets on How to Dominate Your Market

6. Exemplary customer service

Covering all of your bases is part of the process of making an excellent brand, and customer service stands as one of the pillars of a great branding campaign. If you think about it, customer service is the department that involves the most person-to-person interactions, so how well your customer service representatives deal with your clients will have a major influence on their thoughts regarding your brand. Customers are very likely to associate an image or feeling that they get from dealing with a customer service representative with the entirety of your brand, so it’s doubly important to really have a regimented, comprehensive customer service approach.



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8 Hacks to Learn New Skills in Half the Time


It doesn’t take a genius to learn something quickly. After all, learning is a skill, which is something you can develop over time.

While it might be frustrating at first to pick up on what habits work for you, by making an effort to do so, you’ll be much better off in the long run. That’s why I’m going to go through a few different methodologies I’ve used to learn things quickly and efficiently. Check them out:

1. Start simple

Perhaps one of the first things you can do to learn a new skill is figuring out how to take it on in its simplest forms. For example, let’s say I wanted to learn something like the piano. My initial aim is going to be one that applies simple chord progressions and melodies, such as pop songs. This allows me to start to work through an understandable concept that I can execute rather than reading through a bunch of theories that I otherwise couldn’t apply.

Related: Why This Old School Activity Is Beneficial to Your Brain

2. Chunk time

As time is going to be your most valuable asset in taking on a new skill, it’s important to spend it wisely. I personally like to follow a method called “chunking,” where I break up topics into smaller, learnable bits. What was started in the 1950s by Harvard psychologist George A. Miller has now become one of the most well-known teaching methods around, and something you should consider to make your process more efficient.

3. Talk it through with someone

If you’ve ever had to memorize a speech, then you know how efficient this method of memorization can be. In a study conducted at Montreal University, students were told to read words on a screen, with some verbalizing the words to themselves while the others read silently. What they found was that with the act of reading and verbalizing, your brain associates multisensory information with the text. This practice can really work if you let it, and I highly suggest practicing it while walking or driving somewhere.

4. Write things down

This isn’t just opening up notepad on your phone or laptop and jotting a couple of bullet points, but rather physically taking out a pen and a piece of paper to commit to memory. As noted in a study by Betsy Sparrow of Columbia University, when we rely too heavily on a computer to remember things, we’re less likely to commit to it ourselves.

Related: 5 Online Learning Sources to Boost Your Business Acumen

5. Take useful breaks

If you could trade a week’s worth of procrastination on Facebook, Reddit or any other distraction for a day off, would you do it? Most likely so, but we need to take breaks from working (as a matter of fact, they’ve been proven to help us be more productive). That’s why I purposely have dedicated break times, including implementing power naps, which as studies have shown, can help boost energy to finish out your day strong.

6. Repeat in moderation

We’ve all heard the advice that if you spend 10,000 hours on a practice, then you’ll become a master at it. Unfortunately, that’s not always the case. As noted in a study by Princeton University, deliberate practice like that can have a variance ranging from 1 to 26 percent, depending on the activity performed. Certain things we’re going to get better at because we dwelled on it, while other times it requires rolling up your sleeves and getting to work. It’s up to you to determine which is needed for your learning goals.

7. Find value in daily life

It’s incredibly difficult to find a use for something that you can’t apply in your daily life. Honestly, how many times have you heard someone ask why they had to learn calculus in high school? Moreover, while calculus might not have a practical application at the grocery store, some people might see how it fits into a bigger picture. The goal here boils down to how you find fascination in a subject, and why you fell in love with it.

Related: How the World’s Smartest People Learn Things Faster

8. Meditate on it

While some have considered meditation a somewhat pseudoscience, it’s actually been proven to be an excellent mental exercise. As noted in a study presented by MIT, participants who meditated over an eight-week period were able to better control alpha rhythms, a part of your brain that helps the flow of information as well as limits distraction. Overall, this can be one of the best methods to boosting concentration to learn something, and I highly suggest you take a few minutes out of your day to do so as well.



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The Rise (and Rise) of Branded Podcasts


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Are podcasts the new blogs? Judging by the way brands and publishers are doubling down on podcasts, it seems like we may have already crossed over into the next content frontier.

For years, listeners have tuned into podcasts to hear crime anthologies and pop culture analysis, but podcasts are no longer a niche corner of the content market controlled by NPR, they’re going mainstream with the help of major brands. Every brand, regardless of vertical, is endlessly concerned with developing new strategies for carving out audience connections. In this age of content overload, brands have the unenviable task of determining how to create content that actually cuts through all of the noise on the internet.

Related: How to Make a Fun (and Profitable) Podcast for You and 10 Million of Your Closest Friends

With more content to consume via blogs, editorial websites, social platforms, YouTube, etc., internet audiences have less patience for material that is not engaging or immersive. Many consumers don’t have the time (or will or energy) to read long-form articles and essays. Instead, they’d rather see, or hear, the subject matter being presented for them. As a result, podcast consumption is on the rise. Entrepreneurs, especially, are voraciously consuming podcasts as a means of gleaning new ideas and inspiration for business solutions.

According to a recent Edison Research study, an estimated 67 million people have listened to a podcast in the past month.

Like the blogging boom that came before it, the beauty of podcasts lies in their inherent accessibility. In theory, anyone can produce a podcast and amplify their story. But as the podcast landscape becomes more saturated and entangled, taking the approach of simply recording and hoping for the best will not suffice.

Large organizations, including eBay and GE, are not riding the podcast wave lightly. The reason why their branded podcasts, Open for Business and The Message, respectively, have achieved such praise and success is because these organizations made the decision to partner with experienced podcast producers to get it right. It would have been easy enough for GE to simply set up its own audio initiative in-house and stake its claim in this corner of the content market. But GE didn’t want to produce a podcast for the sake of producing a podcast, it wanted to leverage this medium as a way of bringing a new dimension to the GE brand identity and, ultimately, breathing new life into the company.

Related: The 24 Best Podcasts for Entrepreneurs In 2017

By partnering with proven audio storytellers, GE was able to rely on Panoply’s expertise in creating a narrative that not only supports that unique medium, but also challenges GE to explore new ways to tell a story and engage an audience. With the help of Panoply, GE was able to deliver a new-age sci-fi anthology, reminiscent of War of the Worlds that successfully attracts audiences without overt promotion.

Understand your audience.

Podcasts are giving brand marketers the opportunity to think and create outside of the box. However, just because this growing medium is expanding the parameters of branded storytelling, it does not mean that brands can abandon their identities altogether for the sake of telling an interesting story. The only way in which branded podcasts work is when there is a perfect marriage of brand voice and story.

As a digital market and auction place that has helped many earn side incomes, eBay understands that its users and followers are interested in side hustle and entrepreneurial success stories. Its podcast, Open for Business, connects with eBay’s target audience because it explores real stories of what it takes to open a business and bring entrepreneurial dreams into fruition. The content is informative and inspirational, but it is also highly relevant to eBay’s core demographic. The company made the choice not to just stamp its name on a knockoff version of Serial because they knew that type of content would be too disconnected from eBay’s corporate identity.

Related: Podcasting Success Tips From 3 Top Female Entrepreneur Hosts

If media analysis and patterns can be trusted, then we’ve likely only just began to uncover the power of podcasts for brands. In fact, industry experts predict that branded podcasts will have doubled by the close of 2017. When executed correctly, podcasts enable organizations to think beyond their current storytelling pillars, and expound on new ways to forge deeper audience connections. But before you invest in new audio equipment and tease your production to your current audience base, you would be wise to follow in the footsteps of the brands that have gotten podcasting right, by taking the time to align with experts and explore content ideas and frameworks that actually relate to your core demographic.



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Why Brands Big and Small Continue to Fail at Influencer Marketing


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Seventy-eight percent of marketers who used influencer marketing in 2016 noted that calculating return on investment (ROI) would be a top challenge for 2017.

While many companies continue to pour money into SEO and social media, others have come to find that influencer marketing provides the greatest opportunity to move the needle. There’s only one problem: some brands, many of which are among the biggest in the world, continue to fail at influencer marketing.

Related: 12 Ways to Actually Get an ROI Using Influencer Marketing

I’ve been able to avoid this by implementing a targeted strategy with my eyes fixated primarily on ROI. Here are my thoughts on why many big brands are failing at influencer marketing, despite large budgets and dedicated professionals overseeing their campaigns:

1. They ignore niche influencers.

Big brands often fall into believing that “bigger is always better.” This isn’t true with influencer marketing. It’s often the niche influencers that have the biggest impact on reach, engagement and the bottom line.

Through the growth of Agent Beta, I’ve learned quite a bit about what does and doesn’t work in the world of influencer marketing. Spending all your time chasing top influencers is a waste. Focus on connecting with niche influencers who have a hyper targeted following.

Related: 10 Elements Needed to Create Effective Collaboration Between Your Brand and Your Influencer

2. They don’t spread the wealth.

Instagram, Instagram, Instagram. I hear it time after time. Instagram is the only place to be if you want to win at influencer marketing. I totally disagree.

When building my personal brand and companies, as well as assisting others, I’ve found it possible to achieve great success through other social platforms, such as Snapchat. Every platform calls for a unique approach in order to succeed, but it’s well worth it in the end.

3. They don’t learn.

In some ways, this goes along with point one. Big brands fall into the trap of collaborating with anyone who has a large following. Some don’t even take the time to learn more about the influencer’s approach.

Related: How One Entrepreneur Worked with More Than 300 Influencers Last Year

My strategy is simple. Before I ever reach out to an influencer, I review every last detail of their social platforms. This includes a thorough review of any campaigns they’ve run in the past and how they communicate with their audience. This approach gives me a clear idea of what I’m getting into, instead of taking a shot in the dark.

If you want to succeed at influencer marketing — something that many big brands are unable to do — you need to avoid the many mistakes that these companies continue to make.



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10 Ways to Preserve Cash as a Bootstrapped Startup


As a startup founder, the term “runway” has an entirely different meaning than what most people think of when they hear the term. For those unfamiliar, runway refers to the amount of capital on hand before a startup goes bankrupt. Usually, the runway is measured in months.

For bootstrapped startups (meaning ones without venture capital funding) running out of runway can be a serious problem that limits the decisions leadership can make. Fortunately, there are strategies bootstrapped startups can implement to save money.

1. Reduce operating costs by working remotely.

For anyone who has calculated important business metrics like CAC (customer acquisition cost) or CTS (cost to serve), you will know just how hard it is to reduce fixed operating costs. One way to alleviate these costs is by creating a company that employs remote workers. Rather than needing to provide workers with office space, computer equipment, snacks and coffee, founders can avoid these money draining costs.

Related: All the Crazy Ways This Entrepreneur Saved and Earned Money to Finance His Startup

According to a Gallup poll on the state of the American workplace, 31 percent of employed Americans work remotely 80 to 100 percent of the time. This is a 7 percent increase compared to findings from four years ago. In short, working remotely is a phenomenon embraced by businesses and employees alike. It can be a great tactic for reducing overhead and therefore preserving cash.

2. Make frugality a company value.

In the mid-1990s when Amazon was just getting started, Jeff Bezos and crew worked on the floor in a 400-square foot warehouse. Bezos and his team decided that they needed desks, but being the frugal and resourceful entrepreneur that he is, Bezos decided to build desks out of doors and four-by-fours rather than purchase expensive office desks.

Today, Amazon lists Frugality as one of the company’s 14 core values. To perpetuate this value, Amazon gives out the Door Desk Award to recognize employees who save the company money in smart and sustainable ways.

3. Prioritize profitability over growth.

Today, both public and private companies tend to prioritize growth over profitability. Founders of all kinds are constantly in search of the hockey stick graph that shows all numbers moving up and to the right on a steep slope.

But growth has its costs — one big one can be profitability. For founders struggling to preserve cash, switching to a business model that leads to profitability sooner rather than later may be a smart decision. Venture capitalist Fred Wilson wrote that biasing toward profitability can also improve business decisions generally: “I also think the profit motive, generating more revenues each year than the expenses you are spending to do that, is a really valuable constraint on a management team. It forces them to think creatively and logically about the investments they want to make.”

4. Take advantage of tax breaks and incentives.

Some states have recently created tax incentives to encourage innovation. Founders should be sure to spend time researching what tax breaks their business may qualify for to preserve cash. In New York State, for example, startups that open an office on or near a college campus may be eligible to operate tax free for 10 years.

In addition to tax incentives, some government agencies such as the Small Business Administration (SBA) offer grants and seed funding to startups working on exciting research projects. According to its website, the organization has contributed more than $2 billion to startups working on promising ideas.

5. Only hire top talent.

All-star employees can handle the workload of 1.5 or two normal employees. Therefore, it may make sense for founders to focus on hiring top talent. While supremely talented employees may command top-dollar, it can still be more cost effective to hire fewer but more talented employees. For founders who are strapped for cash, many early hires are willing to accept stock options in place of high salaries. This can be a good short-term strategy to preserve cash while attracting top talent.

Related: 6 Ways to Save Your Business Thousands Each Month

6. When possible, hire contractors instead of full-time employees.

Freelancers or contractors provide businesses with a more scalable workforce. As a bonus, these employees usually don’t expect the traditional benefits businesses must provide when hiring full-time employees.

Even Facebook and Google, companies that have plenty of cash on hand, have recently hired armies of contractors to manage various important tasks such as online moderation.

7. Build an amazing internship program.

Interns, as opposed to full-time employees, are less expensive to hire and require fewer benefits. They can also make a meaningful impact on your business. If founders time the hiring process correctly, they can land a few highly talented interns from top universities who will invest months of their time in exchange for experience, strong mentorship and good recommendations.

Founders interested in hiring interns to reduce costs should ensure they have a strong pipeline of candidates by doing some recruitment marketing. Once hired, it’s important that interns go through a thorough training program to ensure they will be productive as quickly as possible.

8. Delight customers to create word of mouth.

New customers referred to your business have very low acquisition costs. Businesses such as Dropbox and PayPal could rely on word-of-mouth marketing to attract new customers because it was highly cost effective. As a result, both companies were able to scale effectively while keeping acquisition costs low.

For founders interested in developing word of mouth, a great way to begin is by creating delightful customer experiences for existing customers. By going beyond to “wow” customers, founders are planting the seeds of new business.

9. Master organic search to reduce CAC.

Customer acquisition cost or CAC is one of the most important metrics every business must grapple with. The higher CAC is, the harder it will be to preserve cash and scale the business in a responsible way. However, the lower CAC is, the easier it is to make a profit and to, therefore, invest more in attracting new customers.

A great way to lower CAC is by mastering organic search as a marketing channel. Unlike other mediums such as paid search, display ads or paid social media, an organic search strategy can be successfully operationalized on a limited budget.

To get started, founders should consider implementing the “skyscraper technique.” Using this strategy, marketers produce content that targets increasingly short tail keywords to grow awareness, traffic and ultimately, customers.

Related: 5 Components of Bootstrapping a Business

10. Monetize content just like Airbnb.

During the early days of Airbnb, the company was struggling. In need of cash, founders Brian Chesky, Joe Gebbia and Nathan Blecharczyk came up with a side project to make some quick cash. During the 2008 presidential campaign, Airbnb released Obama O’s and Cap’n McCain’s — cereal boxes that were sold for $39 apiece. The company sold 1,000 boxes of the commemorative cereal and made enough money to continue working on the business. Today, Airbnb is valued at $31 billion.

Cash strapped companies can consider creating an on-brand side project that allows the business to create cash flow while helping to spread awareness of the company’s main product offering.

The early days of any new business can be financially trying. For founders hoping to preserve cash, there are a few different tactics that can be implemented to save money while growing the business responsibly.



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