Tag Archives: blockchain

Donald Trump Inauguration Special Make Bitcoin Great Again!

Donald Trump Inauguration Special
Make Bitcoin Great Again!

As the Trump era dawns on the world, there are mixed feelings. On the one hand, there is the promise of a new age of politics brought on stage by a man that won the elections as an outsider. On the other hand, the anxieties stemming from the sheer unpredictability of the man. Yet there is one widely imagined benefit that Trump may have – He is good for Bitcoin.

Make Bitcoin Great Again

Bobby Lee, CEO of BTCC is certainly upbeat about Donald Trump assuming the presidency. In a tweet, he says “Together, we can make #bitcoin great again”. Lee has been positive on Bitcoin prices for 2017 and in an interview with CNBC, which you can view here, he basically stated that geopolitical reasons will lead to Bitcoin rising to newer highs.

Why the Donald is good

Donald J. Trump and the Federal Reserve are both critical factors when it comes to why Bitcoin may do well in the incoming administration. The Federal Reserve is likely to keep hiking interest rates, which will push up the United States dollar. Trump’s policies involve a massive amount of infrastructure building, which will likely give the dollar an upward edge.

As the Denmark-based Saxo Bank wrote in a report titled – Outrageous Predictions for 2017, “The Trump regime pulls out all the stops and jumps on a fiscal spending binge, further increasing the circa $20 tln of the United States national debt and in the process. This potentially may triple the current United State budget deficit from approximately $600 bln to $1.2-1.8 tln or some 6-10 percent of the United States’ current $18.6 tln economy.”

They add, “This creates a domino effect in emerging markets. China, in particular, leading people globally to look for alternative forms of currencies and payment systems not tied to central banks that have exhausted monetary policies or crony governments that are in full financial repression mode nor transaction systems that are long overdue for a revolution.” Interestingly Bobby Lee hasn’t missed out on this potential clue either. Look at what he has been retweeting below.

Trump’s budget chief loves Bitcoin

Finally, perhaps even if it is a long shot the thing that can work in favor of Bitcoin –  the man in charge of the Trump administration’s budget office, Mick Mulvaney is a Bitcoin enthusiast and the founder of the Congressional Bitcoin Caucus.

Mulvaney has stated:

“Blockchain technology has the potential to revolutionize the financial services industry, the United States economy and the delivery of government services, and I am proud to be involved with this initiative.”

Mulvaney is also a gold investor and has accused the Federal Reserve of debasing the value of the dollar according to Bloomberg. All in all, it seems that the Trump era is likely to be a godsend for Bitcoin.

Chuck Reynolds
Contributor

How To Invest In The Institutional Revolution Of Blockchain

C

How To Invest In The Institutional
Revolution Of Blockchain

  We’ve all heard that Blockchain will revolutionize business. We nod our heads in agreement, but do we really understand it? In an attempt to uncover the significance of Blockchain and opportunities for investing, I spoke with one of its leading voices, Richie Etwaru. Etwaru is a Chief Digital Officer, author, keynote speaker, and a repeat TEDx speaker. This is an edited version of our conversation on the phone and over email.

For “non-techies” like me, could you provide an overview of Blockchain?

Etwaru: Blockchain is a protocol that allows trust, consensus, and autonomy. The first use of Blockchain was Bitcoin. However, anything that can be represented digitally, such as rights, goods, and property, can use Blockchain. The core of Blockchain is a distributed ledger, the opposite of ledgers as we know them today. For example, Bitcoin combined technologies of distributed ledgers, network computing, and cryptography to coordinate the secure and trusted inventory and transfer of money represented digitally.

Organizations (such as governments, corporations, and volunteer groups etc.) currently operate in a trust vacuum. They use some type of double-sided accounting to coordinate the transfer of value between each other via multiple proprietary ledgers. Because they make the assumption that the other party’s ledgers are not to be trusted, they use inefficient middle wo/men to manufacture trust between organizations. However, organizations operating on a Blockchain, operate in the abundance of trust. Blockchain transactions are secure, trusted, instantaneous and don’t require a third party for validation.

What is the historical perspective of Blockchain?

Etwaru: Ledgers stem from the Dutch word legger, meaning “a book laying or remaining in one place”. Early versions of ledgers were physical books kept in a single place in a church where the official representations of scriptures were written and read in sermons. That’s why modern double-sided accounting using financial ledgers, such as sales ledgers and accounts receivables, are known as the principal “book of account”. And, of course, the practice of keeping official representations of assets, liabilities, income, expense and capital is referred to as ”book keeping”.

The actual books are mostly gone. Today’s modern digital ledgers, coupled with debiting and crediting via double-sided accounting, enable the inventory and transfer of goods, services, rights, property and several other types of assets/value. For example, the amount of cameras for sale at any given second on Amazon.com is the result of a ledger with debits and credits between Amazon’s inventory management systems, camera suppliers, and consumer’s shopping carts and shipping partners.

Tell us more about the concept of a distributed ledger.

Etwaru: The ledger is about to have an upgrade at an epic scale, into a distributed ledger.

A distributed ledger is the digital inventory of value where participants on a network each h  ave a copy of the ledger. Transactions that change inventory are verified by the majority of network participants. Once verified, these transactions are written to all copies of the ledger at the same time as an irrevocable block of transactions chained to prior blocks via a sophisticated set of encryption techniques. The distributed ledger reduces double counting, the need for settlement, the need for double-sided accounting, and dependence on trusted third parties to manufacture trust.

The trust of a single ledger is sacred, like that old book lying in an ancient church. But to trust someone else’s ledger or thousands of other ledgers at every moment, requires that we operate on a commerce protocol that enables the secure and trusted inventory and transfer of anything that one would ever want to account for.

Is blockchain to business what social media is to communications, ie, a great leveler?

Etwaru: Yes, this is like what social media did for communications. Any person or collection of persons or things may be able to organize, govern and corporate as they see fit. The Blockchain is a new type of commercial freedom  However social media was an information technology that drove an information revolution. The Blockchain is an institutional technology driving an institutional revolution.

How could Blockchain bring about an institutional revolution?

Etwaru: The difference between the collaborative and industrial corporation is the incentive model. For the first time, Uber, AirBnB and Wikipedia are showing us that a pure intrinsic motivation model of commerce can work. People can be completely self-motivated to create value in what we can call a common market.

This intrinsic motivational model coupled with the ability to leverage Blockchain to design how we organize and govern in groups to create and capture value gives rise to a model of commerce that much freer than the one we have today. In the future, we may find that the design of the institution we know it today where we are employed, managed, governed, and paid — with capital invested, boards of directors, shareholders and dividends — may seem very archaic. Blockchain begins the powering of this institutional revolution.

How can Blockchain invite more people into commerce and change business structures?

Etwaru: The potential of Blockchain extends far beyond new business models. For example, according to the United Nations, over 2 billion people on the planet do not have sufficient identity. This hinders their ability to participate as consumers in commerce. Blockchain can help that. For example, the government of Estonia has been piloting digital identity for citizens on a Blockchain. This type of democratization of trusted identity not only lowers identity fraud but also levels the playing field. It extends the boundaries of commerce to those who have monetary value but no identity to participate in commerce. We can now allow those people who are not trusted as consumers into commerce.

In addition to the impact of Blockchain enabling commerce, it also lowers barriers of groups of humans to organize and govern. Until now, that has required incorporating, following written by-laws, governing with boards of directors, installing management layers, and carrying the overhead to “run” an organization and “prove” compliance.

The distributed ledger coupled with smart contracts give rise to an organizational archetype that does not currently have a legal home. Referred to as a Decentralize Autonomous Organization (DAO), a DAO is an organization where the vision, mission, strategy, principles, currencies, assets, and operating model are represented on a Blockchain. Abundant trust and sharing leads to transparency. Simple consensus leads to decisiveness. Autonomous execution of smart contracts lead to a reduction in managerial overhead and lower the barriers to entry.

The jury is still out on how governments will accommodate these new free form “corporations” as they enter commerce. While governments catch up, the world’s largest DAO (called The DAO) is a crowd-funding project where over 10,000 people have autonomously poured almost $200 million into an investment pool. The DAO has no shortage of first generation challenges and growing pains, however this $200 million experiment suggests that instead of relying on choosing between an S-Corporation, a C-Corporation, or a Limited Liability Partnership etc., entrepreneurs of the future will be able to “design” their own organizations customized to the optimal needs of their mission, vision, and strategy to change the world.

How are businesses and individuals investing in blockchain today?

Etwaru: There are three types of investments into Blockchain. First there are those that are still chasing Bitcoin and digital currencies. While viable, these Bitcoin-only investments are typically limited to the Fintech sector and are similar to the email gold rush at the boom of the Internet. Bitcoin is to Blockchain what email (or AOL chat) were to the Internet. It’s the first instance, but one of the least interesting ones.

Second are those that are building platforms. Ripple, Ethereum, and The HyperLedger Project are all instances of investments into making Blockchain platforms. These vary in size, model, and sophistication. Ethereum is somewhat crowd sourced and focusing on the consensus and smart contracts layer. The HyperLedger Project is more of a collaboration of large Fortune 500 companies perfecting the trust layer and use cases in trust.

The third are those building on top of the platforms, or ahead of the platforms, in anticipating that the platforms will catch up. These are vertical, very specific use cases to prove digital music/art rights, show ownership of cars/equipment, or to store and share records of sensitive information about persons or things. Many of these are in Fintech, the shiny object that first distracted the venture capital and angel investor community, but increasingly, investments are being made beyond Fintech into Blockchains of rights, non-monetary assets, and property and others.

Chuck Reynolds
Contributor

 

 

Trump’s ‘Acting’ CFTC Chair Details Vision for Blockchain Regulation

Trump's 'Acting' CFTC Chair Details
Vision for Blockchain Regulation

Donald Trump hasn't even formally appointed CFTC commissioner Chris Giancarlo as chairman yet, and he's already appropriated the president-elect's slogan: "Making Market Reform Work for America." In comments given to about 300 swaps traders, analysts and more at the SEFCON event in New York City this week, Giancarlo for the first time referred to himself in public as "acting chairman" and laid out his "agenda" going forward for the regulation of blockchain and distributed ledger tech.

Reading from a prepared speech, the current CFTC commissioner yesterday reiterated his five-point plan for regulators to promote the technology, adding that if implemented successfully, he believes DLT could make regulatory compliance easier – even if Trump has plans to remove the control altogether.

Giancarlo said:

"DLT may allow market participants to manage the enormous operational, transactional and capital complexities brought about by Dodd-Frank. At the same time, it may provide regulators with the market visibility necessary to fulfill our mission to oversee healthy financial markets."

To accomplish this, Giancarlo expanded on his plans as first outlined in May for regulators to "promote" DLT and other financial technology. Specifically, he said regulators need to designate "savvy" teams to work with FinTech companies, create safe environments for innovators to experiment, "participate directly" to help build proofs-of-concept and collaborate with both local innovators and international regulators to minimize overlap.

Call for cooperation

And Giancarlo’s America-centric slogan doesn’t appear to come at the expense of cooperation. In fact, as he argued, the CFTC needs to collaborate with other US financial regulators to "emulate" work being done in the UK, Australia, Singapore and Japan "to avoid stifling innovation and DLT's potential benefits". The DLT plan was part of five "elements" Giancarlo said would help make market reform work for America. These included providing customer choice in trade execution, fixing swaps data reporting, making the regulatory culture more progressive and encouraging FinTech innovation (the category that included his DLT plans).

Not only did Giancarlo indicate that distributed ledger technology could make Dodd-Frank compliance easier if successfully implemented, but he said it might actually strengthen the job market. "Making market reform work for America," said Giancarlo, "means fostering FinTech innovation for the health and betterment of US financial and capital markets, market participants and the American jobs they support."

Audience reaction

The reaction among audience members to Giancarlo's speech was largely positive, though skepticism remains regarding whether the cost of implementing DLT might be worth the potential benefits. For instance, Kevin McPartland, head of research at Greenwich Associates, said he doesn't expect much change to happen for the first year that Giancarlo is in charge of the CFTC, assuming Trump formalizes the appointment.

Instead, McPartland thinks there will initially be even less change to regulatory considerations, as planned modifications are tabled and the new chairman works to replace a depleted array of commissioners. However, once the new team has its footing, McPartland believes Giancarlo would likely align his blockchain controls with Trump's policies.

McPartland described the impact on regulation to CoinDesk:

"I’m not sure it will be better or worse, just a little bit different. If there is a more hands-off approach taken by financial regulators, that should allow the industry to more freely innovate and move forward as opposed to spending so much time and money on compliance."

Micaeh Green, partner at Steptoe & Johnson LLP and co-chair of the law firm’s government affairs and public policy group, largely echoed McPartland’s stance that Giancarlo would likely give the industry a light touch on regulation. According to Green, Giancarlo will likely increase the interaction between regulators, technologists and market professionals to help ensure what is being built is compliant from the day it goes live, but without hindering its possible applications in diverse sectors. "I think what you hear out of Mr. Giancarlo is, 'Let's see if that can be used,'" said Green. "Because it can be very efficient, from the market standpoint, it can be very cost efficient from the market standpoint, and reducing cost is very important."

Conflicting views

Optimism aside, the future might not be smooth sailing. As the Financial Times reported yesterday, Giancarlo’s embrace of the Dodd-Frank act – and the potential benefits blockchain could have on making compliance easier – puts him in direct opposition to Trump. During Trump's presidential campaign he promised to "dismantle" the Dodd-Frank Act, the regulatory overhaul put in place after the financial collapse of 2008 as part of a bid to help increase industry oversight. It would appear that Trump might have no interest at all in Giancarlo's belief that blockchain could simplify compliance.

Larry Tabb, industry analyst and founder of Tabb Group, told CoinDesk that even if a blockchain solution was feasible – and useful – it might not save enough money to be worth implementing. "The amount of work just to get it into production is just so high," said Tabb. "Let’s just say we spend $100m building out a platform. Each of those firms have to spend that to implement it. You’re talking about billions and billions of dollars just to retrofit stuff that works today." Regardless of what the future might eventually bring, however, Giancarlo reiterated his goal for the speech was to make explicit his plans going forward.

Giancarlo said:

"In my work as acting chairman – and, if I am honored to be nominated and confirmed by the Senate as CFTC Chairman, my priorities should come as no surprise. These priorities are part of an agenda I like to call 'Making Market Reform Work for America.'"

Chuck Reynolds
Contributor

Some Social Media Marketing Tools to Catapult Your Brand in 2017

Some Social Media Marketing Tools
to Catapult Your Brand in 2017

With millions of brands emerging each year, all vying for the public’s attention, small businesses may find it difficult to compete against more established, larger corporations and businesses with attractive social media campaigns. Sharp visual imagery by professional designers and firms are often costly. While fees may play a huge factor in this perception, this should never hinder owners from maximising their social media footprint.

Here are a few cost efficient social media tools to help small businesses catapult their brands into the new year:

Facebook Canvas Ads

With billions of users, Facebook is a great platform to advertise your brand, and they’ve just made it easier to do so with Canvas. Canvas is a new form of expressive advertising that allows businesses to showcase their products and services on Facebook in a visual storyboard. It’s a combination of videos, still images, and a call-to-action button, to allow users to develop appealing integrated Facebook advertising. Facebook advertising charges may apply and varies depending on the budget set by the user.  

Everypost

Everypost is a new app that helps businesses save time by streamlining their social media content in just minutes. Users are provided with social analytics, team collaboration abilities, future scheduling options, and more. Packages may vary, but their free, personal option is a great way to test out the service before upgrading.

Ripl

If you’re seeking eye-catching video advertisement creations with a low cost and high impact, then Ripl is the app for you. This app allows business owners the ability to create professional video advertisements in three easy steps with templates that are simple to use. Users are given access to a full catalog of unique designs, the ability to add music, schedule posts, and add logos. The app is currently free to download on the iTunes App Store and Google Play. A pro version is available for a small fee, and it provides additional resources and support to help small businesses boost their brands.

Studio

One way to better advertise your business or service is to turn your images into professional designs. Studio provides beautiful lettering and custom designs that are easy to layer on top of your photos. This free app allows users to remix Studio templates, and customize them to fit their brand messaging. The beautiful overlays will capture the eyes of your followers and rejuvenate your social media stream.

Chuck Reynolds
Contributor

Ways Data Can Boost Your Social Media Marketing

Ways Data Can Boost Your Social Media Marketing

 

After a decade of attempting to connect with customers and prove return on investment, brands are still struggling to achieve success with social media marketing and engagement. What does success look like? For most marketers, success includes anything from raising brand awareness and thought leadership to lead generation.

But how can we develop and curate the right content, post at the most effective times and prove impact? In my experience and from what I hear from our customers, the only way to achieve real success is by using and leveraging data. Social media marketers can boost their performance and the performance of their campaigns by leveraging the power of data to inform their decision-making. Here are six ways to do just that:xxxxx

Use the right technology:
Choose a social technology that relies on data to increase efficiency, support collaboration and improve workflows. The right tool will allow you to grow your capabilities and activities by adding additional pieces of the suite when digital efforts and priorities shift. You’ll want to be sure the tool can be configured in multiple languages to develop deeper relationships with global customers and that the interface is intuitive, easy to manage and offers the analytics you need. Plus, a simple but visually appealing way to show those analytics is a must (I’ve spent too much time formatting data in the past). In your assessments, make sure you look at how the importance of data has played in to the platform’s development.

Break the ROI myths:
Many marketers struggle to prove ROI because of myths that declare that social impact is unmeasurable. This is not true. You can use data to track consumer behavior that proves the value of social. For example, measure attribution. What motivated the customer to buy? What was the path they took? When did they convert? Social’s impact is an important part of the overall ROI of a campaign and needs to be measured. I’m not saying it’s easy, but it is possible, and the best marketers are doing it today.

Measure, optimize and succeed:
Once again, this is where a data-driven platform will offer performance analytics that are housed and viewed in one dashboard. Data should be available, relevant and understandable so that stakeholders across your organization can visibly see the impact social has on your customers and revenue. Take the same approach you would with measuring and optimizing search, email and other digital channels. Hold social to the same standards as you do everything else.

Don’t post and pray:
Stop playing the content strategy guessing game. Data and machine learning can tell you when and where to post. Brands that follow optimized timing recommendations see an increase in reactions of 17 percent on Facebook and 4 percent on Twitter. If you have the right tool, an auto-scheduler can automatically pick the best time to publish, eliminating guesswork and increasing post performance.

Go beyond perceived influence:
Don’t rely on perceived influence. Just because your audience follows a celebrity doesn’t make that celebrity the right influencer for your brand. Data can drill down to reveal who the true influencers for your brand are and allow you to hone in on what your customers’ interests and areas of expertise are. It will also show you how they like to engage so you can craft the right message for the right audience at the right time. Social influence and expertise tools, such as Klout Data, use machine learning to identify relevant trending topics, subject matter experts, profiles and influence scores for you.

Understand your customer in every dimension:
Your brand’s audience is not just your customers. It’s every single person who touches or interacts with your brand: customers, employees, vendors, affiliates. Think of this as your “total community.” When you take a total community approach, you’ll identify and enlist the help of every stakeholder and include them in your approach to how customers will be engaged. You can co-create the customer experience and then scale it to apply to every touchpoint in the buyer’s journey. Data will provide the depth of insight you need to see your total community holistically and empower you to craft truly personalized social engagement strategies.

The right data will make your work more efficient and effective and boost your performance by giving you an edge in social engagement, strategy and interactions. Now more than ever, leveraging data is essential to ensure the actions you take result in delighted customers and better performance reviews for you.

Chuck Reynolds
Contributor

Essential Inbound Marketing Strategies for Every Startup

 Essential Inbound Marketing
Strategies for Every Startup

Inbound marketing has become increasingly popular in the marketing and advertising world for the last several years, and it's no surprise why. While traditional outbound ad campaigns attempt to persuade unfamiliar audiences with sales-y messages, "inbound" campaigns focus on the value they can provide users. And that prompts those users to naturally gravitate to those business when the need arises. Generally, inbound marketing strategies are less expensive, hold a wider range of benefits and, over the long term, will generate a higher rate of return.

ADVERTISING
So, if these benefits resonate with you, consider the following inbound marketing strategies, which are among the most popular. At this point, they're essential for all new startups:

On-site content marketing.

On-site content marketing is useful in a number of ways. Not only does new content drive new readers to your site, it keeps your existing readers and customers engaged with your brand, allowing you to maximise client retention. You'll have to provide highly detailed, original and valuable content, which isn't always easy or straightforward; but, with a steady stream of high-quality content, you'll find that the advantages can be enormous.

Content marketing also provides syndication fuel to your social media and email campaigns and boosts your search rankings (more on this momentarily). In a recent survey I conducted, of 357 marketers, 93 percent of respondents said they planned to increase or keep their on-site content marketing budgets the same. That's pretty high praise for the power of on-site content!

Off-site content marketing.

Your off-site content marketing campaign will function in a similar manner, prompting you to provide well-written, targeted, valuable content, but instead of publishing it on your own site, you'll be publishing it on another site (hopefully, a major media publication!). The advantage here is the opportunity to gain visibility with new audiences, who may not have heard of you otherwise. You'll get referral traffic, and your brand reputation will steadily grow as you work your way up to bigger and better publishers.

Search engine optimization (SEO).

On-site and off-site content marketing will provide you substantial fuel for increasing your search visibility. On-site content attracts inbound links, while off-site content directly builds links to your site. The more high-quality, valuable inbound links your website has, the higher it will rank in search engines. In fact, a recent report from Google noted that two of the top three ranking factors in the algorithm were content and inbound links.

But there are other, more technical components to SEO you'll need to implement to boost your inbound traffic from search engines. These include optimising for mobile devices, improving site speed and targeting strategic niche keyword phrases. It's a time-intensive strategy, but it pays off in spades.

Social media marketing.

Organic social media marketing has taken its fair share of hits, but it remains one of the most effective strategies for generating new visibility. You have the power to engage with almost anyone in the world through social media, gradually building up a loyal audience (as long as you're consistently providing valuable insights and material).

Throw your on-site and off-site content into syndication here, and your followers will have even more reason to stick around. Alone, social media can generate a steady stream of traffic to your site, and build your brand, but its real power is amplifying the effects of your other inbound marketing strategies. According to the same survey referenced earlier, 65 percent of respondents — the highest percentage across 10 marketing strategies included in the survey — said they believed that social media marketing was poised to become even more effective in the next five years.

Influencer marketing.

Influencer marketing is relatively simple in concept, but it's a little more difficult to carry out practically. The idea is to target "influencers" in your industry –these are thought leaders, movers, and shakers who hold the best reputations and the biggest portions of audiences in your niche. By working with these influencers on joint content projects or even just innocuous exchanges on social media, you'll cross-pollinate your audiences (oftentimes for mutual benefit), and earn a better reputation by proxy.

The hardest part is identifying the influencers most likely to benefit your brand and persuading them to engage with your campaign. Influencer marketing seems to be the most cutting-edge strategy on this list, evidenced by the highest percentage of marketers (38 percent) agreeing to a statement on the survey — in this case saying they were "not currently using this strategy, but plan[ned] to in the future."

Email newsletters.

I hesitated to include email newsletters on this list, since email marketing in general, might be considered an outbound strategy. However, email newsletters usually revolve around the provision of content to subscribers, increasing their loyalty and retention while simultaneously setting up a recurring traffic stream back to your site.

Because your content is providing value to your readers and subscribers, and you're not just using it as a way to advertise your products and services, it can be considered a form of inbound marketing. Additionally, email marketing may be a relatively low-hanging fruit: In the survey, email marketing was reported as the second-easiest tactic to perform, but one that provided the fifth-highest ROI of the ten strategies included.

Personal branding.

Finally, personal branding may be used in conjunction with almost any of the strategies above. For example, you might have some of your upper-level team members post more on-site content and reach out to major publications for guest-posting opportunities, or even to become contributors in order to fuel an off-site content strategy.

Of course, you'll want to syndicate that content on social media. You can make a more personal appeal in your influencer marketing campaigns as well. By tying your corporate brand to a number of personal brands, you'll make your company more accessible, human and trustworthy — three qualities that are hard to come by for consumers these days.

There's an almost magical quality about these strategies, not because of how they work on an individual level, but how they work together. All of these strategies have the power to enhance and complement each other, increasing your total return by multiples if you end up using them together. Pool your resources to conquer these tactics, adjusting and refining your approach along the way, and nothing will be able to stop your startup's marketing momentum.

Chuck Reynolds
Contributor

Inbound Marketing Techniques Every Business Should Use

Inbound Marketing Techniques
Every Business Should Use

All types of businesses, but especially startups and smaller businesses, can benefit from these inbound marketing techniques, says contributor Neil Patel.

 

Every business needs to do some kind of marketing. But what kind of marketing is the most effective? Most of the conventional marketing approaches are too expensive or unwieldy for smaller businesses and startups to successfully employ. That’s why inbound marketing, and its various techniques, make sense for any business — but especially for startups and smaller businesses.

 

Inbound marketing is more of an approach than it is a list of tactics. Inbound marketing, at its core, is about attracting prospects to your business rather than going out to find those prospects. Traditional marketing relied on email lists, cold-calling, billboard advertisements, and direct mail. Modern inbound marketing uses organic search traffic, opt-in email forms, and content publication to attract customers. Inbound marketing is the best approach for today’s businesses, whether B2B, B2C, e-commerce, SaaS, tech, non-tech, brick-and-mortar or otherwise.

Here are the six inbound marketing techniques that I’ve used with amazing success in my startups, and that you can use to grow your business.

Give Away A Free Guide That Is Directly Related To Your Business

If you’ve ever seen any of the resources like these I’ve created, you’ll know that I’m a big believer in creating advanced guides. Each of my guides are thousands of words long, making them a huge source of organic traffic. I didn’t publish them simply to get words out. I published them to provide marketers with rock-solid information. Many marketers I know use this technique to build their email lists, like AudienceBloom, which published The Definitive Guide to Marketing Your Business Online.

One of the best publishers of free guides and resources is HubSpot, the grandfather of inbound marketing. HubSpot’s collection of resources deserves to be called a “library” simply due to the sheer volume of resources. If you’re looking for a good model of a company that creates free guides, HubSpot is the exemplar.

Make sure that the guide is relevant to your business. HubSpot can afford to publish a huge variety of guides, because they are a big business that plays in a lot of sandboxes. Keep your guide as specific as possible, because you are using it to gain a certain type of visitor — ideally one who will convert to become a customer.

Pick One Or Two Keywords, And Optimize The Heck Out Of Them

Inbound marketing is nearly synonymous with “SEO.” So, how do you “do SEO?” There’s a lot to know. One of the most important features of SEO, however, is the power of keywords.  In order to successfully gain traffic for relevant keywords, you have to use those keywords on your site.

Though some may argue that keywords aren’t as important as they used to be, you still need to be aware of — and use the words — that people might enter into a search engine when they’re looking for content like yours. Many marketers I know try to gain traffic for tons of different keywords. Instead of focusing on a few relevant terms and variants that mean the same thing, they try to do this:

  • Gain first-position result for head terms — the most commonly searched terms. But, try as you might, you’re not going to gain the first position on Google for “iphone” or “computer.”
  • Simply improve their keyword rank. However, there’s more to SEO than keyword rank. Moving the needle on keyword position is nice, but that’s not going to create better traffic.
  • Trying to gain position for a huge variety of keywords. Although, it’s good to have a comprehensive list of keywords that you’re tracking and targeting, it’s a waste of time to try to win all of these keywords at once.

The solution is to focus on a few keywords that are valuable, and create specific pages on your website that are for those keywords specifically. A good example of this is Practical ECommerce, which targeted the keyword “A/B testing tools for small business.” When you eliminate ad results, they rank number one:  The company chose a long-tail (less-searched) keyword that was relevant to its business, optimized for that word, and came out on top.

Build Your Personal Brand

In order to be a truly successful marketer, you’ll need to build your personal brand. I recommend the personal brand approach for anyone who’s involved in marketing, but especially for startups. Today’s startup culture is dominated by personalities who can successfully advertise themselves as leaders, as much as they advertise their companies as innovators.

Entrepreneurs like Jayson DeMers, Joel Gascoigne, and Hiten Shah are examples of people building businesses by means of building their personal brand. If you start a business, it’s virtually impossible to separate yourself from that business. It only makes sense to use your personal brand to build that business. Many brands such as Tim Ferriss’s and Ramit Sethi’s depend almost exclusively on the power of their personal brand. Some entrepreneurs build businesses that are founded upon their personality and their advice. You may choose a different approach. Instead of building the brand upon your personality (like Sethi and Ferriss), you can build your brand then use your personal brand to promote it.

Ask And Answer Questions On Social Media

Social media turned inbound marketing into a viral interactive experience. Now, instead of just hearing about companies and going to them, potential customers found companies, followed those companies and interacted with those companies. In study after study, social media has a very low track record of bringing in conversions.

Email and organic search are by far the best sources for conversions. Don’t depend upon social for your conversions. But you should engage social as a powerful method of inbound marketing. It may not bring conversions, but it does other things that enhance your brand.

It’s not enough to merely have a presence on the social media platforms. Instead, you need to engage these platforms. Social media is social. That means that there are real people behind every like and follower. In order to connect with those people, you need to ask questions, answer questions, respond to tweets recognize +1s and be a presence.

In the case of HubSpot, it is vigilantly monitoring its brand, and scouring the social sphere for mentions. People might hashtag it, tweet at the company or talk about it. Each of these social mentions, provide an opportunity for HubSpot to interact with the mention, thereby increasing its brand image and its reach into other social networks.

Create An Email Popup

Popups are controversial. Even though some people hate them, they’ve proven to be successful. In every business I’ve built, I’ve used some form of email opt-in to build my email list. An email list is one of the single most important factors in building a business. I’ve been able to leverage the power of my email list to create compelling subject lines, and grow my businesses even more.  If you really want to grow your email list, use a popup opt-in form. You’ll be blown away by the results. ShopifyNation is a great example of using a successful popup opt-in.

Guest Blog

Guest blogging is an ideal form of marketing for so many reasons.

  • Powerful linkbacks
  • Bigger audience
  • Personal brand building

One great reason that guest blogging is such an awesome form of marketing, is that it gives you the right to do this:

The list of publishing brands on the landing pages lends a sense of prestige and cachet. As the reasoning goes, if you’re mentioned on Marketing Land, New York Times, Huffington Post, etc., you’re probably pretty important. This is just one of the reasons that guest blogging is such an effective inbound strategy.

Conclusion

There are hundreds of ways to use inbound marketing to grow your business. These six are just the start, but I think that they are the best way to start. I wouldn’t suggest them if I haven’t used them myself. They truly work, and I can prove it. The best way to prove it to yourself is to try it yourself. If you aren’t using any of these inbound techniques, pick one, try it for six months, and see what an impact it makes for your business. What inbound marketing technique have you found to be the most successful?

Chuck Reynolds
Contributor

What is the solution to the skills shortage outsourced or in-house?

What is the solution to the skills shortage
outsourced or in-house?

The argument for bringing marketing activity in-house is that it provides more control, while an internal team is more flexible and agile than an external agency. David Burnand, marketing lead for Northern Europe at Adobe Marketing Cloud, said the decision on whether to outsource will not be easy in the future. One major consideration will be where a brand’s data sits and how much access agencies should have to it.

                                      

“Of course, there remains a huge role for agencies to do the kind of work brands cannot produce in-house, such as massive website builds or specialist creative work,” he said. OpenJaw’s Lewis suggested a mixture of outsourcing and in-house projects is the way forward. He said agencies bring an external perspective even if they do not always understand the intricacies of a brand’s business.

Creative England’s Paine pointed out a third route which future marketing teams should exploit. “In the future, our marketing team will go direct to a source for a particular service,” she said. “It might be direct to a video production company that can create content more cost-effectively than an agency.”

Microsoft has already hired its own photographers and copy- writers and is considering recruiting video experts for its in-house team to produce bite-size content quickly. “Black Friday was a good example of where we needed content fast and the agency model is not set up for that,” said Davies.

John Lewis is known for having a strong relationship with its creative agency adam&eveDDB, which is behind its Christmas commercials, and Swift said an agency must be a business partner.

vision 100 marketing teams

“Adam&eveDDB is integral to our communication strategy and it does our social media marketing too – because it is good at it,” she said. “It also understands our brand. If you have too many specialist agencies with different disciplines, it becomes a fragmented arrangement. We are almost seeing a return to the full-service agency model.” The British Council’s director of strategy and engagement Hilary Cross agreed and said if agencies are to feel part of the marketing team more time must be spent embedding them into a brand’s organization.

Just Eat’s Dawe insisted that regarding specialists in such as social media platforms and technical work involving data, it makes sense to bring in outside experts. “If we did everything in-house, we would have a huge internal team,” he said. “If you are putting more money into ATL marketing, you need external creative input. You can tell when an ad has been put together internally because it has that introspective feel. The important thing is to give agencies the correct brief.”

Often the decision on whether to outsource depends on the skills a brand has internally.

Should marketing strategies be global or local?

Global brands have a crucial decision to make in how they structure their teams around the world, especially when consumption patterns differ between markets. The NFL’s Swanson was the first person the league hired as a specialist marketer for an international territory. She said the LA office now allows her small team to produce specific local content for the UK to ensure it is relevant to British-based fans.

The British Council, meanwhile, has around 500 marketers across the world and local marketing directors have been growing their teams organically. However, if the brand is to be recognized as global, it must devise a long-term international marketing strategy to ensure consistency.

Chuck Reynolds
Contributor

Build the marketing team of the future

Build the marketing team of the future

Marketing teams of tomorrow will need people who are curious, flexible and have a mix of commercial and technical skills, according to panelists at Marketing Week’s Vision 100 roundtable in partnership with Adobe. What does the marketing team of the future look like? That was the question addressed by members of Marketing Week’s club of visionary marketers, the Vision 100, at a recent roundtable debate in partnership with Adobe. The panel discussed the talent challenges they face and how the industry must adapt to the convergence of marketing with sales and technology.

Do we need digital specialists?

For seasoned multichannel marketer Barnaby Dawe, global CMO at Just Eat, the issue of whether digital specialists are required in a world where digital communications are pervasive is not straightforward. He does not envy newly qualified marketers who are under pressure to demonstrate both technical and brand skills.

He told fellow Vision 100 members that many digital natives enter the industry with technical abilities but struggle to make the connection between their digital specialism and a brand’s messages.  “We get growth when our brand appears on TV, and as more money goes into above-the-line (ATL) campaigns I will need marketers who understand the brand and the creative idea, and can execute it in a technical way,” said Dawe. Microsoft’s UK CMO Paul Davies agreed that brands will need marketers with a breadth of knowledge and that the mix of team members must be balanced. This means ensuring brands embrace both the art and the science of marketing.

He noted the emphasis on recruiting people who understand data and technology, but said there is still a lack of attention paid to hiring and training those who bring creativity. “The focus has been on the science and ROI but you must attach everything to a big idea,” he explained. “Future marketers must be good at collaboration because brands need people with strengths in both areas.” Rachel Swift, head of marketing, brand and social at John Lewis, said the industry needs to understand the consumer environment within which marketing will operate in the future.

“Empowered customers will expect transparency, honesty, and value. They will be firm but fair, demanding, and want immediate responses,” she said. “With that in mind, marketers must be able to adapt and embrace change, be responsive and keen to learn what’s working quickly. Finally, let’s not forget this is a creative industry that is supposed to be fun.”

The NFL’s UK head of marketing Sarah Swanson pointed out that her brand has fans rather than customers and that the marketing team is more specialist in the US and generalist in the UK. “We can see the science part of what we do as marketers, but the art must support the passion people have for our brand and engage ‘fandom’,” she said.

Marketers must be able to adapt and embrace change, be responsive and keen to learn what’s working quickly.

Many brands have developed specialist digital teams, but HMV’s head of marketing Patrizia Leighton was adamant the entertainment retailer might never have survived going into administration if it had not taken a more generalist approach in recent years. Her team has had to return to basics, with the marketing strategy focused on how the business meets customers’ needs and concerns. “If we had separate specialist digital teams or a digital plan, we would have lost some of the understanding of the brand that our marketers required to get closer to the customer and connect with them,” she said.

According to Creative England’s chief marketing and strategy officer Dawn Paine, brands are operating in an age of the “irrational consumer”. This means data is useless unless the marketing team can make sense of it and act on it. “It is a terrifying time to come into marketing and brands need people with strong intelligence and emotional skills,” said Paine. “Marketers are constantly reacting and you must never stop finding out more about your customers.”

The challenge for these senior marketers is how to find the people with the talents they will require. Colin Lewis, interim CMO of OpenJaw Technologies, an online tech partner to the world’s biggest travel brands, says brands must be more prepared to hire people with potential and train them up. “Few candidates have the exact skills brands are looking for but we want the skills now,” he said. “If you are prepared to train people, the talent you have in your team will be aligned to your brand objectives.”

Chuck Reynolds
Contributor

 

Everything You Need to Know About Bitcoin

Everything You Need to Know About Bitcoin

Many netizens have heard of bitcoin, the digital currency. This means it exists electronically. To be more precise, bitcoin is a type of cryptocurrency – the implication of security and encryption is important. Cryptocurrency, or digital currency, is an invention of the Internet. Basically, someone out there thought, "hey, what if…Read more. In this post, we attempt to identify 10 questions about Bitcoins that can give you a clearer understanding of what it is, what it does and how you can use it to buy products or services online.

What are bitcoins?

Bitcoin (capitalized) refers to the software or network (ie: the Bitcoin Network), while bitcoin (not capitalized) refers to the digital currency itself (ie: two bitcoins). he price fluctuates, depending on what people were willing to pay for it. It traded for as low as pennies (during the infancy stage) to as high as USD1200 during its peak in 2013.

Who developed the idea of bitcoins?

The idea of Bitcoin was conceptualized by Satoshi Nakamoto, an anonymous figure. In May 2008, he shared a white paper [PDF] about Bitcoin, a peer-to-peer cryptocurrency. Without disclosing who he was, Satoshi outlined how the currency would work: bitcoins would be ‘mined’ by computer software, transferred directly amongst users and recorded in an untamperable ledger without the need of a third party.

Part of Bitcoin’s appeal is Satoshi Nakamoto’s anonymity, who many view as a selfless act towards a new era of financial revolution. Online detectives have identified a few candidates, including a real-life Japanese person sharing the same name. Some even theorized that Satoshi Nakamoto is a pseudonym for a collective.

In May 2016, the Bitcoin community was shocked when Australian entrepreneur Craig Wright identified himself as Satoshi Nakamoto. Some people believe his claim, some didn’t, but on the whole the Bitcoin community is unaffected – the Bitcoin ecosystem is decentralized, and cannot be controlled by any person(s), including the creator.

What is so special about bitcoin?

Bitcoin is a peer-to-peer currency and runs on a system which allows you to send and receive bitcoins without a third party. To put simply, fiat currencies rely on third parties, such as banks or payment processors like Visa, to verify the transaction. This is how you and I can ensure payment sent was indeed received. However, bitcoin transactions are recorded in a public ledger called the bitcoin blockchain. This information are permanent and publicly viewable on Blockchain.info and cannot be edited or deleted.

This means that the transaction records act as proof of transaction. Bitcoin is also programmed to be non-duplicable, which means double spending is highly unlikely.

What is decentralized currency?

Bitcoin is also a decentralized currency, as in no one government, individual or group holds authority over it. This makes bitcoin spendable anywhere in the world as long as the receiver accepts bitcoins as payment.

Decentralised currencies are a unique concept. Similar to the internet, it is free from geographical boundaries – this is why bitcoin is also dubbed ‘the currency of the internet’.

Due to lack of control and regulations, many countries are understandably wary of bitcoin – and other cryptocurrencies in general – but some progressive countries such as Japan have started to recognize it as currency.

Is bitcoin anonymous?

Bitcoin’s anonymity is a myth. Or rather, it is now much harder to make anonymous transactions with Bitcoin. Because as the ecosystem matures, many bitcoin service providers have started implementing KYC/AML regulations. KYC/AML stands for know your customers/anti-money laundering . This requires users to submit proof of identity and proof of residence.

It is also fairly easy to trace bitcoins. Bitcoins are usually bought from bitcoin exchanges, received as payment, or donated. With transaction details publicly viewable online, it is possible to trace where the bitcoin came from.

 How do you use bitcoins?

Bitcoin can be used for spending, similar to money. Some people also keep them for investment purposes, while others prefer to use them as a method to make international money transfer.  Bitcoin exists electronically and is kept in ‘bitcoin wallets’. There are many types of bitcoin wallets: desktop wallet, mobile wallet, online/web-based wallet, hardware wallet and even paper wallet.

To read more about bitcoin storage, check out this article by CoinDesk. You can have as many wallets and bitcoin addresses (where you receive money from others) as you like.

How many people are using bitcoin?

Estimates vary – it is hard to find out the exact number of people who use Bitcoin. One way to measure number of bitcoin users is by measuring the number of bitcoin wallets. According to CoinDesk’s State of Bitcoin and Blockchain 2016 report, bitcoin wallets doubled to 12.77 million in one year, from the end of 2014 to the end of 2015. Even though many bitcoin users have more than one wallet (it is common to hold a few wallets), this is an indication that the number of bitcoin users worldwide is increasing.

Another way to estimate bitcoin usage is by the number of bitcoin transactions, which has steadily increased. Although this could mean that the same people are simply making more bitcoin transactions, it is fair to assume that there are new bitcoin users in the mix, too.

How do I acquire bitcoins?

There are three main ways to get bitcoins: mine them, buy them, or work for them.

Bitcoin Mining
Bitcoin mining used to be really profitable. However at the current time it is no longer cost effective for the average individual. One will need to buy specialised Bitcoin mining equipment, get/rent dedicated spaces for them, and pay their associated costs (rental, electricity and cooling costs).
Buy Bitcoins
You can buy bitcoins from many online exchanges. There are a lot more options now than ever before – there are global bitcoin exchanges and also country-specific bitcoin exchanges. You can also buy them from other people via Localbitcoins.
Work for Bitcoins
Some people get paid in bitcoins, instead of cash currencies. Websites such as XBTFreelancer… and Coinality list jobs with bitcoin payments.There are other less effective ways to acquire bitcoins. You can get (very) small amounts of bitcoins from bitcoin faucets, which pay you to look at advertisements. You can get them as donations. There are also bitcoin ‘investments’ but if you wish to not lose money, Badbavoid companies that are listed in itcoin Badlist.

How do I send/receive/spend bitcoins?

Bitcoin wallets come with bitcoin addresses, which represent a destination, similar to an email address. Bitcoin addresses are alphanumeric, between 27-34 characters in length. Many bitcoin service providers have user-friendly user interface which allows users to generate bitcoin addresses, send and receive bitcoins.

To send bitcoins, users simply have to ensure positive balance in their bitcoin wallets, insert the receiver’s bitcoin address, and hit send. There is a small miner’s fee to process the transaction – miner’s fees are given as a reward and incentive to Bitcoin miners for maintaining equipment. Bitcoin transactions usually take less than an hour to arrive, but it can take longer or shorter depending on the fee amount and the bitcoin service provider.

You can spend bitcoins anywhere that accept bitcoins as payment. You can also use a Visa/Mastercard-linked bitcoin debit card issued by companies like Wirex or Coinbase.

What are bitcoin’s disadvantages?

Depending on who you ask, you’ll get different answers. Coders and programmers might argue that bitcoin is already an outdated network, compared to some of the newer cryptocurrency networks available. Here we will concentrate on bitcoin’s disadvantages to the casual user:

Advanced digital knowledge is necessary

Bitcoin can be stolen in many ways. It is the bitcoin owner’s responsibility to keep them safe, and this meant implementing additional layers of security such as 2-factor authentication. Keeping them in web wallets can be dangerous. If you have a significant amount of bitcoins, you are advised to keep them in hardware wallets such as Trezor or Ledger.

Bitcoin service providers can be hard to trust

The biggest names have failed the Bitcoin community. Who can forget the Mt. Gox incident in 2014. It was the biggest bitcoin exchanger at the time and practically disappeared overnight along with almost 745,000 bitcoins. More recently in 2016, thieves stole almost 120,000 bitcoins during the Bitfinex hack – and experts still don’t know how they did it.

Lack of acceptance

Cold hard cash is still the widest and most used form of payment – it’s acceptance is second to none. By contrast, bitcoin is only accepted at a handful of shops. However, bitcoin debit cards help to address this issue – linked to payment processors, they help make bitcoin spending a bit easier.

Lack of protection

In general, bitcoin is not considered legal in most countries around the world. Therefore, theft or scam victims have almost no option for recourse. However, the legal landscape is ever-changing and one of the best spots to update yourself on where bitcoin is acceptable or not is Bitlegal.io.

Anti-bitcoin politicians

While many countries around the world mainly cautioned the public against the risky nature of Bitcoin, some politicians or political parties have extreme views about bitcoin. Russian and French lawmakers are considering banning it altogether.

Wrap Up

Bitcoin is cool, but the underlying technology behind it – the blockchain – is even cooler. Turns out, having a method to record data in a way that cannot be tampered or deleted is a good thing. It is also a cost-effective method to store information. Many companies including major banks have expressed interest in the blockchain technology.

Chuck Reynolds
Contributor