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How The NRA Exerts Influence Beyond Political Contributions

How The NRA Exerts Influence Beyond

Political Contributions

After a mass shooting, the spotlight inevitably turns to the National Rifle Association, the nation's most powerful gun lobby and one of the most significant donors to political campaigns each year.

The NRA's campaign contributions to individual federal candidates are well-documented, with each contribution limited to $2,700 per cycle to each candidate or their personal political action committee.

But political influence from outside groups is far more than just cold hard cash in the form of direct campaign contributions.

The Washington Post reports, for example, that the NRA has donated less than $4 million to members of Congress in the last 18 years. In an era where some Senate races cost nearly $100 million, $4 million seems like very little.

 

 

Here are other ways the NRA plays a role in policy and politics:

  1. The National Rifle Association could also give to party committees and the national party. A maxed-out donation to the national party quickly increases campaign spending to more than $100,000. Any organization – or person – can also give $33,400 to a party committee, like the National Republican Senatorial Committee, the National Republican Congressional Committee or their Democratic counterparts. Finally, state and local parties can each receive a $10,000, quickly allowing campaign finance totals to sour to nearly half-a-million dollars.
  2. While the organization has to follow campaign limits, its members can make their own political donations, also following campaign finance limits noted above. But with millions of members, political clout builds quickly.
  3. The NRA has a politically active membership. With more than five million members, the NRA constantly communicates with its members about gun issues and advising them how to vote. The organization is also constantly increasing its voter rolls by registering people to vote.
  4. The NRA also activates its membership when elected officials are facing gun-related legislation, resulting in phone calls and emails and letters to Congress. In addition, members' votes are noted and advertised to their issue-oriented membership.
  5. The NRA has its own super PAC and 501c4 political organization which can run its own political campaign. The two groups combined spent more than $27 million in the 2014 midterm elections on Senate and Congressional candidates, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. A lot of that money was spent on political advertising on television, radio and digital, and on direct mail.

In 2014, the NRA had a nearly perfect track record in its top races. In the ten races the NRA spent nearly a million dollars or more – eight Senate races and two House races – the candidate the NRA backed one in every race except one.

NRA's Top Wins, Amount Spent, NRA-backed Candidate

North Carolina Senate: $4.2 million: Thom Tillis won

Colorado Senate: $4 million: Cory Gardner won

Louisiana Senate: $2.7 million: Bill Cassidy won

Iowa Senate: $2.7 million: Joni Ernst won

Arkansas Senate: $1.9 million: Tom Cotton won

Georgia Senate: $1.4 million: David Perdue won

Kansas Senate: $1.2 million: Sen. Pat Roberts won

Arkansas House: $1 million: French Hill won

Kentucky Senate: $900,000: Sen. Mitch McConnell won

NRA's Top Loss, Amount Spent, NRA-backed Candidate

Minnesota House: $840,000: NRA-backed Steward Mills lost to Rep. Rick Nolan

Chuck Reynolds
Contributor

Sanders’ Mistake Was Not Declaring Victory After He Already Won

Sanders' Mistake Was Not Declaring Victory After He Already Won

By every measure possible, Clinton defeated Bernie Sanders in the Democratic presidential nominating race.

Among pledged delegates, she bested him by a 55 percent-to-45 percent margin; in the popular vote, it was 56 percent to 43 percent; and among all delegates, it was 60 percent to 40 percent.But there are still two ways in which Sanders succeeded. One, he performed better than anyone – probably including himself – ever expected, giving Clinton a truly competitive race.

Two, he's already pushed Clinton and the Democratic Party to the left. Take Clinton opposing the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement early in the primary season, despite her earlier work as secretary of state laying the groundwork for the accord. Or Clinton saying she'd sign a $15-per hour minimum wage bill into law, even though she previously called for $12 an hour. Or President Obama stating he'd expand Social Security benefits.

Yet after those victories, after the final primary results and after Clinton became the party's presumptive presidential nominee, Sanders still marches on. He hasn't conceded to Clinton or endorsed her.

And on Tuesday, Sanders

  • New leadership inside the Democratic National Committee (presumably replacing DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz);
  • The most progressive Democratic platform in history;
  • More open primaries;
  • And eliminating superdelegates in the Democratic nominating system.

But the demands on DNC leadership, open primaries and superdelegates seem small. Why call for reforms to processes that you and your supporters deem unfair (rightly or wrongly), while not touching other processes (the caucuses) that benefited you?

Not conceding to Clinton appears even smaller, especially after she became the first female to become the presumptive presidential nominee of a major political party.

And the leverage he has seems even smaller still, given that Clinton won eight of the last 11 Democratic contests; that President Barack Obama and Sen. Elizabeth Warren already endorsed Clinton; and that polls show Clinton expanding her lead over Donald Trump – all suggesting that Clinton might not need Sanders' blessing to win the White House.

On Tuesday – after he issued his list of demands

 Sanders met with Clinton. And their campaigns both released positive-sounding statements about the meeting.

"Sanders congratulated Secretary Clinton on the campaign she has run and said he appreciated her strong commitment to stopping Trump in the general election," the Sanders campaign's statement read. "The two discussed a variety of issues where they are seeking common ground: substantially raising the minimum wage; real campaign finance reform: making health care universal and accessible; making college affordable and reducing student debt."

The statement concluded, "Sanders and Clinton agreed to continue working to develop a progressive agenda that addresses the needs of working families and the middle class and adopting a progressive platform for the Democratic National Convention." (Note: While the Clinton campaign's statement called for unity, Sanders' made no mention of the "U" word.)

Bottom line: Sanders' campaign – in one way or another – continues.

But whether it's in politics or at the gambling table, there's a risk when you stay too long, especially after you've already won.

Chuck Reynolds
Contributor

Trump Is a Man on an Island — and He’s Sinking

First Read: Trump Is a Man on an Island — and He's Sinking

First Read is a morning briefing from Meet the Press and the NBC Political Unit on the day's most important political stories and why they matter.

Trump is a man on an island — and losing

Yesterday, we saw President Obama and Hillary Clinton deliver a tag-team slam on Donald Trump over the presumptive GOP nominee's reactions to the tragic Orland shooting. "Are we going to start treating all Muslim Americans differently?" a visibly angry Obama asked. "Are we going to start subjecting them to special surveillance? Are we going to start discriminating against them because of their faith?" Almost at the same time, Clinton added this: "One day after the massacre, [Trump] went on TV and suggested that President Obama is on the side of the terrorists. Now just think about that for a second. Even in a time of divided politics, this is way beyond anything that should be said by someone running for president of the United States." Trump delivered his own counterpunch at his rally in North Carolina. "I watched President Obama today and he was more angry at me than he was at the shooter." But as the Democratic Party has rallied around Clinton (save for Bernie Sanders — more on that below), Trump is pretty much all alone here in his reaction to Orlando. "I'm not going to be commenting on the presidential candidates today," Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said, per Benjy Sarlin. "I am not going to spend my time commenting about the ups and downs and the in-betweens of comments," added House Speaker Paul Ryan. And then there's this: "Senator Tim Scott, R-S.C., paused a moment after being asked by NBC News whether he had any thoughts on Trump's response to Orlando. 'You know…hmm,' he said. Then without another word, he walked onto the Senate floor." Hmm indeed.

 
 
GOP leaders distance themselves from Trump 6:07

GOP leaders pull a Marshawn Lynch

The Republican reaction was akin to Marshawn Lynch declaring to the media at the Super Bowl, "I'm just here so I don't get fined." Two other GOP comments stood out to us yesterday. There was Sen. Lamar Alexander declaring that Trump isn't the party's nominee — yet. "We do not have a nominee until after the convention," he said. And Sen. John Cornyn, the No. 2-ranking Republican in the Senate said he's done talking about Trump. "Wish me luck," he said, according to Politico. And on top of it all, Trump is losing. After our NBC|SurveyMonkey poll showed Clinton now with her biggest lead over Trump, a new Bloomberg poll from yesterday found Clinton ahead by 12 points, 49%-37%. As we wrote last week, Trump has the rest of this month to calm his party. If he doesn't, the GOP is in big trouble — and all bets are off.

Obama spoke out against Trump for international reasons as much as domestic ones

One final point to make about Obama's slam on Trump yesterday: He responded to Trump for international reasons as much as domestic ones. Obama wanted to counter Trump's post-Orlando speech for an international audience.

Bernie Sanders hasn't played his hand well — at all

Well, the 2016 primary season came to an end last night with Hillary Clinton beating Bernie Sanders in DC, 79%-21%. And it came to an end without Sanders conceding or endorsing Clinton, although the two met last night and released positive-sounding statements. Here's the reality: Sanders hasn't played his hand well. Many of his demands from yesterday (wanting Debbie Wasserman Schultz out of the DNC, ending superdelegates, having more open primaries) seem small. By not conceding a race he trails by every measure possible, he seems even smaller. And smaller still is the real leverage he holds, especially after losing eight out of the last 11 contests, after Obama and Warren have already endorsed Clinton, and after polls show Clinton increasing her lead over Trump. The irony here is that Sanders already won — he performed better than anyone imagined, and he already effectively moved Clinton and her campaign to the left. But one of the arts in politics is declaring victory after you've already won. But Sanders continues to march on… Here's the delegate math after last night's DC primary:

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Donald Trump was the focus of Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders meeting 0:25

In pledged delegates, Clinton is ahead by 392 delegates

  • Clinton 2,217 (55%)
  • Sanders 1,825 (45%)

In overall delegates (pledged + super), Clinton leads by 925 delegates

 

 

Wasserman Schultz doesn't 100% guarantee she'll remain at the DNC through November

As for DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz, she refused to 100% guarantee that she would remain in her job through November, per her interview on "MTP Daily" yesterday.

TODD: Do you feel as if your job is part of this negotiation between Clinton and Sanders?

SCHULTZ: No. What I know is that we are working hard to make sure that we have the best nominating convention that any political party has ever put on that will launch our nominee to the White House…

TODD: So would you say definitively you're not leaving this job before the end of November, period?

SCHULTZ: No. I am going to continue to be focused on electing a Democratic president.

TODD: One of my producers isn't fully — you are — you plan on being the chair of the DNC through the election in November?

SCHULTZ: I am planning on continuing to focus all the way through the election to the end of my term on making sure that we can elect Democrats up and down the ballot.

The Democratic race, by the numbers

With the Democratic primary season now over, here are some additional numbers to chew on:

  • Total votes won: Clinton 16.0 million, Sanders 12.3 million
  • Total states and territories won: Clinton 34, Sanders 22
  • Total number of primaries won: Clinton 28, Sanders 10
  • Total number of caucuses won: Sanders 12, Clinton 6
  • Total spent by campaign: Sanders $202 million, Clinton $174 million

Portman flips on federal gun ban for those on terrorist-watch list

"U.S. Sen. Rob Portman said Tuesday he favors a federal ban on weapons sales to those on the U.S. terrorist watch list, even though he voted against a similar proposal last year," the Plain Dealer writes. It's worth watching to see what other vulnerable GOP senators up for re-election this fall do – like Sens. Kelly Ayotte, Ron Johnson, and Pat Toomey. All of them voted against the legislation last December.

On the trail

Hillary Clinton delivers a speech on national security in Hampton, VA at 1:15 pm ET… Donald Trump holds a rally in Atlanta, GA at noon ET. Don't forget to check out the political unit's rolling minute-to-minute coverage of all the latest 2016 developments at the On the Trail liveblog at NBCNews.com.

Chuck Reynolds
Contributor

Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders Agree to Work Together

Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders Agree to Work Together

 
 
 
Sanders Calls for Major Shakeup in DNC Leadership 0:53

The Democratic Party establishment's long, awkward, and occasionally frightening nightmare is over — or at least just about.

Hillary Clinton was declared the winner of the final primary in the Democratic Party's presidential nominating process Tuesday night, just as she sat down for a highly anticipated summit with rival Bernie Sanders.

The carefully choreographed meeting ran for nearly two hours at the neutral territory of the Capital Hilton in Washington, D.C.

Image: Bernie Sanders and Jane Sanders

Sen. Bernie Sanders, center, accompanied by his wife Jane, center right, leaves through the lobby of the Capitol Hilton after meeting with Hillary Clinton in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday. Andrew Harnik / AP

 

Afterwards, both candidates released nearly identical statements calling the meeting "positive" and saying they had agreed to work together to defeat Donald Trump.

"The two discussed a variety of progressive issues where they share common goals like raising wages for working families, eliminating undisclosed money in politics and reducing the cost of college for students and their families," a Clinton official said, echoing the same policy items listed in Sanders' statement.

However, while Clinton's statement discussed "unifying the party," Sanders' made no mention of the "u" word.

Sanders' wife and campaign manager attended, along with Clinton's campaign chairman and campaign manager.

 Clinton and Obama Team Up Against Trump

As the sun set over the capital city, which had the unpleasant distinction of voting after every other state and territory in the country, it was easy to forget how close the 2016 presidential contest came to going sideways for Democratic Party elders.

They had so carefully cleared the way for Clinton to be their next leader. But if a few votes had gone differently in Iowa's exceptionally tight caucus, or if Bernie Sanders had run a more effective campaign in Nevada, the insurgent could have given Clinton a real run for her money.

Instead, the forever front-runner ended up taking 34 contests to Sanders' 23, including the biggest prizes, and winning millions more votes and hundreds more pledged delegates. Meanwhile, the most recent general election polls show Clinton well ahead of Donald Trump — despite holdout Sanders supporters.

 

Hillary Clinton departs after meeting Bernie Sanders at a hotel in Washington, D.C., late Tuesday. JOSHUA ROBERTS / Reuters

Still, Sanders has refused to concede the race. He hoped to extract concessions from Clinton on the Democratic platform and other issues during Tuesday's confab, their first face-to-face meeting in months.

Earlier in the day, despite being hours away from losing his ninth contest out of the last 12, Sanders issued a series of demands ahead of the meeting.

He called for a replacement to Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the Democratic National Committee chairwoman with whom his campaign has often feuded, an end to superdelegates, more open primaries, and the most progressive platform in the party's history.

"The time is long overdue for a fundamental transformation of the Democratic Party," Sanders said.

Those issues and more were likely discussed inside the conference room at the Hilton, where Sanders and Clinton met behind closed door and away from the throng of reporters who crowded into an alley to catch a glimpse of the candidates entering the hotel.

After the meeting, aides gave little hint about what went on in the room where it happened.

Sanders' actions in recent days have made it clear he is no longer really trying to win the presidency.

There are no events on his calendar, no more talk of flipping superdelegates, and almost no fundraising emails. He's said repeatedly that he's prepared to help the Democratic Party stop Donald Trump.

The question is how. Aides say they're still working that out, aware that some of his most die-hard supporters will view an endorsement of Clinton as capitulation.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Obama Backs Hillary Clinton: 'I've Seen Her Judgment, I've Seen Her Toughness' 3:10

Sanders will address supporters Thursday on a teleconference, during which he's expected to discuss his future. No matter what, he has earned a place in shaping the future of the Democratic Party.

This weekend, many of his top outside allies will convene in Chicago to plot the future of the Sanders movement, with or without the Vermont senator.

Sanders' half-alive candidacy has left the rest of the party in a state of limbo.

In a statement marking the end of the primaries, Wasserman Schultz made no declaration that Clinton had clinched the nomination, as her Republican counterpart had done weeks ago for Trump, even though John Kasich was still in the race.

"We congratulate both Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders," Wasserman Schultz said.

The uncertainty is tolerable — at least for for now — say Democrats, who want to give Sanders and his supporters space to heal.

But the party has already moved past the primary in almost all ways but officially.

President Obama proved an effective attack dog for Clinton Tuesday, as has Elizabeth Warren. Both endorsed Clinton last week.

Next, the party hopes to add Sanders to its roster.

Chuck Reynolds
Contributor

Eight Issues That Could Shape Politics in 2016

Eight Issues That Could Shape Politics in 2016

The 2016 presidential election has largely been defined so far by personal attacks and horse race polling. But significant policy differences exist between the candidates, especially Republicans and Democrats. And while those differences will be hashed out on the campaign trail over the next 11 months, some topics are destined to help define the nation's next election.

Here are some of the issues to watch in 2016.

1. The Economy and Jobs

Elections are usually categorized into one of two compartments: the economy or foreign policy.For instance, the 2004 election, just three years after 9/11, was undoubtedly a foreign policy election. In 2008, the election was economic focused as the recession had just begun.

In 2016, it's still unclear if this will be a foreign policy or economic election. Millions of Americans feel left behind as wages have stagnated and the middle class shrinks. But the rise of ISIS and the recent terrorist attacks in the west have revived fears about terrorism.

 
 
Federal Reserve to raise interest rates – what it means for you 1:46

For the first time since 2007, respondents in the NBC News/WSJ poll say terrorism, not the economy, is the most important issue to voters.

Republicans and Democrats can't even agree on the importance. While Republicans say terrorism is the most important issue, Democrats still say it's the economy.

2. Terrorism/Foreign Policy

With the rise of ISIS, the terror attacks in Paris and San Bernardino, increased tensions with Russia, a nuclear deal with Iran, the prolonged involvement of U.S. troops in Afghanistan and the entrance of U.S. military advisers into the war in Syria, the importance of foreign policy — especially terrorism — is a critical issue for voters.

In the latest NBC News/WSJ poll, 40 percent of respondents say terrorism is most important — more than any other issue — compared to just 21 percent who said so in April.

Image: Geneva Security

An armed policeman patrols on December 12, 2015, at Geneva Airport in Geneva. Two men of Syrian origin were arrested on December 11 in Geneva with traces of explosives in their car, Swiss public television said, as the city remained on high alert due to an increased jihadist threat.

3. Federal deficit and budget

Government spending is a top priority for Republicans. According to Pew Research, nearly eight-in-10 Republicans said in September that the budget is "very important" to their vote. Only six-in-10 Democrats thought it was "very important." This dovetails right into the concerns over the size of government, which Republicans are also more concerned about.

4. Wall Street/Equality

While Republicans are concerned about the size of government, Democratic voters are most concerned about income inequality and the role of Wall Street financial institutions. All three Democratic candidates have unveiled plans to reign in Wall Street and the issue is Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders' central plank.

5. Health Care

Healthcare consistently is mentioned as an important for voters but why healthcare is important diverges at political identity. Republicans are more interested in repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act while Democrats are more concerned with expanding access to healthcare. Both parties are concerned about the cost.

6. Immigration

Like health care, the issue of immigration is an issue that continuously comes up on the campaign trail and one that is concerning to the electorate for different reasons (see Rubio v Cruz). Republicans are more likely to want to control immigration and increase border security while Democrats are often more interested in a plan to address the undocumented immigrants living in the U.S.

That is evidenced on the campaign trail when Republican candidates have adopted an enforcement and border security approach while Democratic candidates discuss ways for immigrants to assimilate and stay in the U.S.

7. Environment and Global Warming

This is an issue important to Democrats but barely on Republican voters' radar. According to Pew Research, it's the issue that has the biggest split between Republicans and Democrats. While 74 percent of Democrats say it's important, only 37 percent of Republicans do. If the voters of the two parties can't even agree on its importance, it's even more difficult to agree on what to do about it.

On the campaign trail, Republicans talk about the environment in the form of an overzealous Environmental Protection Agency hindering the economy with heavy-handed action. Democrats promise to remake the American economy and energy sector to be more environmentally friendly and to address climate change.

8. Guns

In the wake of numerous mass shootings, guns is a consistent theme in the political discourse, even so after the San Bernardino attacks. Still the issue is not likely to rise to the same importance of the economy. Republican candidates promise to protect gun ownership with some Republicans, including Donald Trump and Jeb Bush saying that it's going to be difficult to prevent mass shootings. Democratic candidates are vowing more regulation and oversight of guns as a way to prohibit mass shootings.

What do you think is more important – to protect the right of Americans to own guns, OR to control gun ownership?
 
Chuck Reynolds
Contributor
 

 
 

How do you define business development?

How do you define business development?

Some companies define it as “Partnerships and Alliances” while others define it as “Whatever it takes to Develop the Business”.

Business development can be many things.

It really depends on company. In my mind, however, the role of business development is to find new strategic opportunities for the company and start the company on the path to execute (incubation). It is not uncommon for business developers to have a combination of strategy, marketing & sales, finance, legal, and operations background.

Based on my experience in business development,

here’s the flavors I’ve run into (roughly from more to less common):

  • Partnership development
  • Strategic market development and sales
  • Strategic marketing
  • Mergers, acquisitions, and financing
  • New business line exploration
  • Channel sales
  • New product development

_______________

Steve Shu specializes in incubating new initiatives with a primary focus on strategy, technology, and behavioral economics. He is author of Inside Nudging: Implementing Behavioral Science Initiatives (to be released June 2016) and The Consulting Apprenticeship: 40 Jump-Start Ideas for You and Your Business.

Function of Business Development

The singular function of business development is to figure out how to  get your product or service into the hands of clients or customers,  ultimately, to increase the value of your business by gaining market  share or directly generating revenue. It’s easier to think of business development as a role within an  organization in the context of that function. A business development  role can include a wide range of responsibilities depending on the needs  and stage of a given company.

One of the most exciting and challenging roles for a BD person is to  help a start up find product-market fit. That might mean one-to-many  ‘selling’ to drive user adoption of the service/product or one-to-one  ‘selling’ to advertisers or licensees. In either case, what makes this  challenging there is little or no process or formula for success. For  example in the later case, it’s on the early stage BD person to discover  the practical need and value of the product or service in the  marketplace through trial and error with partners.

At more established  companies that have reached product market fit, the spectrum of BD roles can vary. It can range from a sales  person with a target/quota that has a BD title because the sale is  considered ‘highly consultative’ to a more strategic BD person who is  responsible for taking a more broad view of the business and generating  new businesses/revenue streams based on the current businesses assets.

Chuck Reynolds
Contributor

 

Business Development – What does it mean? Who is it for?

Business Development – What does it mean? Who is it for?

Is it the same for everyone?

If you now maybe having worked in a number of roles that you might consider as business development (BD), You should start publishing journey on LinkedIn with a bit of reflection. It often gets asked what the difference between straight selling and BD is, so if you try and define the differences (for your own sake, if nothing more!). To some degree, they’re different sides of the same coin.

Selling and BD go hand in hand.

There’s been in roles where there is strictly selling, others where there is a combination of sales and BD, and also in roles that you would consider true and pure BD. In all, however, Some would link to what would be considered BD within that particular business.

So the answer to the header title is no, BD is different for everyone and every business, dependent on a number of factors – budget, a size of a workforce, attitude to BD, etc.

What is ‘true and pure’ BD?

The sales process is one that involves a lot of people – product development, designers, pricing, marketing, technical, management – ‘front-line’ salesmen and ‘top-end’ management need to combine forces to deliver a product that their customers want.

If you walk into a shop to buy a pair of trainers, for example, this has been designed from the early stages by trained footwear designers, manufactured from these designs in a production process of sorts (industrial or bespoke, depending on the brand), marketed in the appropriate manner to raise awareness of the product, eventually landing on the shelves of the shop you’re in, with a friendly guy/gal willing to help you transact some business when you make the decision to buy them.

So where does BD fit into this process? What’s it all about then? The foremost word that comes up in the BD world is ‘relationships’. That’s pretty much what it’s all about. Good business development will help identify, maintain and encourage relationship building within a firm, building rapport with both suppliers and customers.

It helps strengthen the bonds between these links, supporting the marketing copy and material that establishes your product in the relevant marketplace. It helps provide information as to what the client needs to the ‘front line’ sales team, assisting them in closing the deal at the end of the process.

It helps inform management as to how the market is moving, providing insights into new developments of technology, social media and other digital avenues that the firm can take advantage of, to build and maintain loyalty.

It helps small companies access bigger markets and large companies engage newcomers. So a definition of ‘true and pure’ BD is ‘helping a business to develop its relationships’.

Plain and simple.

It’s networking on a daily basis; attending cutting-edge events to learn about the industry you’re working in; finding (er… stalking?) people on LinkedIn to see what events they’re attending and making sure you meet them there, in person, so that you can have that all-important introductory chat; it’s offering your loyal customers something more than a newsletter – why not run a seminar and invite them along to it? They might be happy to be invited.

The personal touch is always a winner. We hear more and more now about relationships marketing, social currency, engagement, etc. BD is the platform that most of this is built on.

Who is it for?

As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve worked in roles that have been classed as BD but have really been sales. I’ve worked in hybrid roles where you might do a bit of both. And I’ve worked in the ‘true and pure’ BD roles too. What this has shown me is that BD has a place in every business. You can’t ‘develop’ your business without a good BD strategy.

So whether you’re encouraging your front-line staff to sign up to a few newsletters, or get yourself down to a few networking events, or join a LinkedIn group and start up a discussion, BD is something that can’t be overlooked. It’s all very well to have a great product and a nicely designed website, with some great leaflets and a slick business card but, without the right approach to BD, no one is going to see it in the way you want to.

Having worked as a supplier to a lot of startups and growing SMEs, the one thing that I’ve noticed which has set apart the successes from the failures is their approach to BD. Develop the relationships – build a community around your business and your product just needs to do what it says on the tin. The rest will fall into place and you’ll have a strong, loyal customer base who are happy to sing your praises.

For that reason alone, if nothing else, BD is essential for pretty much any business going.

 

Chuck Reynolds
Contributor

 

Contemporary strategies that help improve your rankings

5 contemporary strategies that help improve your rankings

The rules of the SEO game have changed over the years, but columnist Pratik Dholakiya has some solid strategies for increasing search visibility and authority that you can safely use in 2016.

Improving your rankings isn’t as simple as it used to be. As businesses have become more invested in SEO, search ranking algorithms have grown smarter and more sophisticated. The result is that many techniques that used to be acceptable are now considered gray hat or black hat — and in some cases, can even earn you a traffic-throttling Google penalty.

Still, the challenge remains: We need links, we need traffic, and we need rankings. How do we achieve this in an ethical manner? Luckily, there are still powerful white-hat strategies you can leverage to improve rankings. Here are five of the best that we at E2M use successfully to this day.

1. Guest posts

Guest posting has been contested territory for some time. Back in 2014, Google’s then-head of webspam, Matt Cutts, advised that guest posting was increasingly ineffective at building links. If you’re doing a lot of guest posting, he warned, “you’re hanging out with some really bad company.”

It’s easy to see why guest posting has come under fire in recent years. After all, guest blogs used to be a really easy way to get backlinks — maybe a little too easy. All too often, the standard guest post is 500 words long, includes no links to sources (other than the author’s own website) and presents no thoughtful commentary or new insight.

I’m not saying you can’t have a worthwhile 500-word post. Of course, you can. But the majority of guest bloggers aren’t looking at readers’ concerns. They don’t care whether you derive value from the post or not. They care about getting a link, and they’ve nailed the absolute bare minimum required to achieve that end.

That drags the name of the “guest blogger” into the mud. But it also gives you an opportunity.

Rather than focus on acquiring links, guest blogging can help with SEO in other, less direct ways. By consistently posting excellent, in-depth content on relevant blogs, you’ll drive up authority and get more social shares, along with signs of quality that Google takes seriously. You’re also more likely to get actual traffic to your website from high-quality content — which is what link building is supposed to be about anyway.

Stuffing low-quality posts with links to your site — or paid third-party links — may be a thing of the past. But guest blogging is still a powerful tool to increase authority and search visibility.

2. Infographics

Infographics are a powerful way of getting a point across quickly and intuitively. That’s one reason why they’re so popular. But they’re also an effective way of getting high-quality backlinks quickly.

The trick to getting that to happen is in the embed code. After you create your infographic, you can use a tool like the SeigeMedia Embed Code Generator to build the code. This is the code that people who want to post your infographic to their own site will use.

So include a request to link back to your site, and make it easy by bundling exactly the URL you want them to use into the infographic’s embed code. That way, they can’t avoid seeing it. Sure, some people will ignore it, but most people will attribute your infographic when they post it — and make the attribution a hyperlink back to your site. Bingo!

To get your infographic in front of more people, use infographic publishers (Visual.ly is one). Most will want a 70-or-so-word description of the infographic; then they’ll store it, and when other content marketers and bloggers want a graphic, they’ll be more likely to find yours. The free infographic publisher landscape changes quite quickly, so to make sure you’re not putting your content on dead sites.

Want some extra juice? On those sites, you can search for infographics on the same subject as yours, then reach out to users who have accessed those infographics and ask if they’d be interested in yours. Our annual infographic on Google’s algorithm updates (now in its fourth year) was picked up by Entrepreneur, Social Media Today, Marketing Land and more!

All in all, infographics are a great way to get quality backlinks from a range of relevant sites.

3. Personal blogs of the CEO & other employees

Blogging lets you connect with your readers. Most blogs are written in an informal, conversational style that’s a long way from what you’d see in a newspaper or magazine. And that’s true of professional blogs, too.

Using personal blogs at work — the CEO’s blog, for instance — can be a way to generate content that feels natural and personal. These people can blog about their own interests, and those interests are bound to overlap with the company’s targeting.

Blogs like this are also a way to offer specific insights, because certain employees will know things no one else on your team knows. For example, what are the legal implications of the product you’re developing? Get someone from legal to blog about it. Suddenly, readers in a similar position at other companies suddenly have a reason to read this content.

Personal professional blogs can be done one of two ways. You can offer a multi-voice blog on your company website, either as posts within the larger company blog or as separate sections with their own visual branding. Or you can have team members blog on their own domains and occasionally refer back to the company blog when it’s appropriate.

4. Beat the champ

How do you become the champ? By beating hundreds of could-have-been-a-contenders? No. You have to seize the top spot from the person who’s already there.

You can do the same thing with link building and SEO content marketing. Look at content that’s already performing well in your vertical. Find a piece of content that a) you think is awesome, and b) is performing well in organic search. Drop the URL into the usual suspects — like Ahrefs or Open Site Explorer — and see which sites are linking to it. Download all the linking sites into a spreadsheet.

Then, pick the post apart.

Would it work better if it were longer? If you’re looking at the “10 best ways to get more traffic with your blog,” maybe you should write the 20 best ways or the 100 best ways. Would it work better if it were more detailed? Maybe do the same number of methods, but in crazy, inch-by-inch detail.Remember that content is content. Your content doesn’t have to be a blog post. It could be an infographic, or a YouTube video, or a Vine. It could be a stand-alone resource page.

But that’s only going to be a winner for you if you’re getting your content seen. Once you’ve created your super-link worthy content, you have to reach out to the right people. All too often, reaching out to people is a stab in the dark. “You might be interested in something along these lines… ” Yeah, but probably not. The success rate of these attempts is often very low.

But you already have the lowdown on the people who would be interested in content like this. Remember when you used Ahrefs, Open Site Explorer or the tool of your choice to find out who was linking to the content you just improved upon? Check the spreadsheet you put together earlier, and then do a quick sanity check. Pages that don’t make sense, like article directories and forums (Yes, they still exist) can go.

What are you left with? A list of people who are actually very likely to be interested your content.

5. Giving interviews

CXOs and other employees are great subjects for interviews. Everyone else has to produce content, too, and the word of someone in the field (especially an expert) is worth a lot. So if you’re a high-level company spokesperson or an extremely knowledgeable subject matter expert, you’re likely to be approached more often than you’d actually prefer.

You can’t take up an offer for an interview and sit there like a stereotypical used car salesman, hard-selling your own product. But you can sell your brand.

When you’re in front of the camera, or on the page, you are your brand. If you’re confident, insightful and open, viewers relate. Remember, even in B2B, the buying decision isn’t made by highly sophisticated algorithms. You’re still selling to human beings. Viewers or readers need to see you as someone who understands the problems they’re trying to solve. That’s partly competence and partly a hard-to-define “she gets it” factor.

Interviews also offer the opportunity to talk directly about your company’s offerings. You can mention new initiatives, updates, new products or ventures. Talking about these in interviews gets them exposure. Add a link to the interview text if you’re being interviewed by email, or spell the URL out in a video interview.

Conclusion

It’s still possible to improve your rankings with careful strategy. Increasingly, it’s about leveraging content marketing to improve linkability. That can be done by targeted outreach, by encouraging social sharing or by using content itself to encourage linking. But it all helps drive up a ranking.

Chuck Reynolds
Contributor

 

8 Creative Ways to Connect With Customers on Facebook

8 Creative Ways to Connect With Customers on Facebook

 

Facebook is a not-so-secret secret weapon for promoting your business. That being said, a lot of companies don't take full advantage of what this social media platform has to offer when it comes to making deep, lasting connections with their customers. Ads and pleas to "like this" simple don't quite cut it.

That's why we asked eight entrepreneurs to weigh in on how to best use Facebook to your company's advantage. Here's what they said:

1. Put Other People in the Spotlight

On the MySocialCloud Facebook page, we try to cross-promote with our partners and highlight our customers a lot. For example, we partnered with a company called Free Bike Project that has students ride bikes around its campuses with our advertisements on the sides of the bikes. We then ask the students to take pictures of themselves with the bikes, and we post the pictures on our Facebook page. We've found when we put other people and their friends in the spotlight (rather than our brand or ourselves), people get more excited about our company and engage with us more on social media.

2. Interact in a Private Facebook Community

We invite our customers into a private community on Facebook where they can interact with us and one another, share war stories and where they can turn for support. It's an amazing way to help them see us as a conduit for them as a united front of crusaders.

3. Post Video Updates

It's proven that video posts on Facebook highly increase the chance of user comments, shares and "likes." Create a weekly company update keeping your customers in the loop on new products, employees, goals, etc. Remember, talk about your company and product as well as the category you are in. Your customers want to see you as the expert in the industry, and they will continue to come back if you have great advice!

4. Offer Discounts and Promo Codes

You can stay connected to your customers through Facebook by posting discounts and promotional codes for your business products and services. But to keep your customers coming back for more, set a limit on the access to a promo code to about 50 people. If a customer sees an expired promo code, they'll likely check back to see when the next one is posted.

5. Post Unrelated Content

The main purpose of a Facebook page is to communicate company information to customers. However, there’s no reason we can’t make it fun. Posting pictures or videos that have nothing to do with the company tells me a little more about my customers than another promo. Also, it shows the lighter side of the company, which helps customers feel a closer connection to us.


Lots of companies have Facebook pages that offer no real value to those who follow them. Nobody wants to hear about business all the time. They want to be entertained and engaged, and they want to be a part of the companies they follow. What better way than to post content that appeals directly to them? They’ll have some fun while strengthening their ties to the company, which is the entire point of social media.

6. Share Stories

Share stories to build trust and reliability. We share stories and photos of events, charitable contributions, organizational partnerships and the daily activities happening in and around our business.

7. Post Consistently and Respond Quickly

Realty One Group places a premium on being consistent and responding to engagement. We make a point to post every single day. When a customer notices that you are updating your page with useful information, he is more likely to engage.


Perfect example: An agent wrote on one of our photos asking if we had our logo in a certain format to use for printing. She said the format was not available to her in our back office and reached out via Facebook. Not only did we respond to her — we got her email and sent her the format she needed to carry out her business. She expressed such gratitude for us going out of our way to help her, and that alone was reward enough.

8. Recruit Talent Socially

We have a relatively large Facebook page of over 75,000, and the page has been growing quite steadily over the last year. We've really focused on using Facebook as a recruitment tool for our company. When we have a difficult posting, we usually throw it up on the Facebook page and sometimes give out rewards for candidates that other users can bring to us. The response is extremely positive and usually results in hundreds of new candidates joining our database. Not only does this strategy grow the page, but it also helps us get great candidates placed in amazing positions.

Chuck Reynolds
Contributor

Social Media Tactics to Increase ROI

        5 Social Media Tactics to Increase ROI

Social can be one of the most challenging platforms for brands to measure return on investment. Companies that grew up on traditional advertising and metrics often have trouble making sense of the value of the online ecosystem. But with 52% of U.S. consumers using the web as their primary purchase tool, it’s an area brands can’t afford to ignore.

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Last week the commenting and social curation platform Livefyre hosted an evening chat with a handful of influential analysts, marketers and publishers, sharing thoughts on need-to-know ROI growth tools. It’s a formula Forrester Senior Analyst Kim Celestre calls “social depth,” a fancy phrase for discovering, exploring and engaging with online consumers, eventually leading those conversations back to brands’ websites.

Here’s the social depth formula broken down into five, easy tips.

1. Engage

User-generated content, blog posts, videos, tweets and chatter are all over the web. Harnessing the power of brand advocates, addressing customer concerns and fixing problems empowers participation. It’s easier to put out a fire than it is to ignore it.

People want to interact and create relationships with brands online. Catering to those fans via product giveaways, social interaction and real replies separate the companies that get it from the ones still in the dark.

“The consumer is boss, so we have to match that,” explains Andrew Backs, P&G’s manager for global business development. “Look for solutions to unlock the consumer voice.”

2. Be Authentic

You can’t fake it online, says Sid Shuman, who runs social media for Sony Playstation. “They can smell that a mile away.”

The same die-hard brand advocates championing your product will be the first to call out shady behavior or content that doesn’t reflect brand culture. When in doubt, ask your community for help when it comes to content. Shuman suggests crowdsourcing content for in-house interview and articles. Because they live and breathe the brand, fans “come up with better questions that we could any day,” he says.

3. Keep Content Premium

Hitting “publish” is social suicide if the material isn’t quality. Take advantage of WordPress, Tumblr and social media to craft strong messages. Know the rules and follow them: Every network requires a specific approach and language (tweets are written differently than Facebook posts).

Stick to a calendar for posting, and focus on making followers feel part of the brand’s family. Using platforms solely as selling tools quickly alienates customers. Hire professionals—and fight the urge to turn sites into content farms or automate feeds.

Peter Yared, CBS Interactive’s CTO/CIO suggests using your sites to curate and amplify positive content about your company. “Find the interesting content that’s being posted and use it to bring value to your audience.”

4. Integrate Real-Time Apps

Incorporate social into every aspect of what you do, says Jordan Kretchmer, Livefyre’s founder and chief executive. Kretchmer’s company reports 88% of businesses using Twitter feeds, comments, ratings and reviews on homepages increases user engagement. Forty-two percent boosted their average time on site.

It may sound painfully simple, but adding these tools are the equivalent of a restaurant showing off a top health code letter grade. It empowers consumers to interact and share content. Plus, constant updating improves search engine visibility much more than static pages.

5. Experiment

Nothing risked is nothing gained, especially when it comes to social. Fail and see what works. Test tone, style and new monetizing tools, such as native advertising, which serves sponsored content, tweets and Facebook stories. eMarketer reports 73% of U.S publishers now offer some form of native advertising. But be careful: This hot topic still often fails to hook users, as do most click-bait attempts.

Chuck Reynolds
Contributor

 

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