How Great Blogging Boosts SEO and Authority for Ecommerce

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(Image credit: krisolin)

BY DAVE NEVOGT

Anyone who’s paid attention to trends in online marketing knows that content is king. For ecommerce, that traditionally just meant having great product copy and good alt image tags. However, especially for smaller online stores, competition with big long-tail retailers like Amazon and eBay is fierce – the only moments in the purchase cycle where it’s easy to gain a real advantage are in the research and remarketing phases. That’s where the content on your blog comes in to play.

Yes, writing long blog posts can actually help your business, both in terms of your SEO and your authority in the field. A blog that’s regularly updated (that means new articles between 3-4 times a week) can increase brand awareness, improve public perception of your brand, drive traffic to your ecommerce site, and make conversions more likely to happen. In this article we’ll explore how this works, and what are some easy strategies to make it happen.

HOW BLOG POSTS INCREASE AUTHORITY

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(Image credit: brainpop_uk)

Authority doesn’t directly lead to more sales. However, authority is a psychological trigger that influences how consumers view your brand, and increases the likelihood that they’ll buy. If your product or service is based on expertise, groundbreaking research, artisan techniques, or anything out of the ordinary, your blog is a great place to showcase why you’re a leading authority on what you do. If the content isn’t salesy – merely descriptive, or eye-opening – readers will be naturally intrigued by your products without you needing to spend a dime on paid advertising. Plus, unlike PPC budgets that eventually run out and need to be replenished, your blog article will be up for as long as you leave it there, and will continue generating authority and new leads.

It’s not only the perception of authority you generate among potential customers that helps drive your sales – it’s also authority from your peers, from others in your industry, and from bloggers. Perceived authority along with excellent writing leads to major improvements in SEO, which leads me to my next point.

HOW BLOG POSTS IMPROVE SEO

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(Image credit: johannes-p-osterhoff)

When you share your knowledge and establish yourself as an authority in what you do, you start getting more and more links back to your site as people share and repost your content. For SEO, this is the jackpot. Your rank in google search results will gradually creep higher and as a result, more people will see you.

It’s not just about getting high quality links back to your websites. Even just consistently adding unique and high quality content can help you rank higher. Google’s search algorithms favor websites with lots of unique content that are frequently updated, and they tend to penalize duplicate content. All these posts will also help get the ball rolling on customer interaction – when you provide something really valuable and thought provoking for current and potential customers that invites them to share their thoughts on the subject, it’ll increase the likelihood that they leave comments on the blog and on other areas of the site like product reviews, which is another huge boost for SEO.

EASY TIPS FOR WRITING GREAT CONTENT

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(Image credit: notionscapital)

To write the sort of posts that drive visitors to your ecommerce site, you’ll have to think carefully about your industry and your expertise. However, in general, if you follow these tips, you’ll make good headway building up your authority and your SEO ranking:

  • Write longer blog posts – minimum 800-1000 words. Set this goal for yourself and it forces you to generate meaty, valuable content for readers – not just an easy piece of clickbait.
  • Avoid using jargon and cliches. Remember, you’re an expert in your industry, but not all your potential customers are. In fact, taking the time to explain industry jargon can position you as down to earth and more helpful.
  • Avoid long sentences. Keep your writing concise and to the point.
  • Tell stories about your products instead of selling their features. It doesn’t matter if they’re boring products – even socks, sheets, or water filters can have a story behind them. If your competitors aren’t doing it, great – that gives you the opportunity to start the conversation.

Follow these tips and over time you should see sustainable improvement in your ecommerce sales. And of course, if you have experience blogging for ecommerce, please feel free to share it in the comments!


Dave Nevogt is the CMO and Co-Founder of Hubstaff, a time tracking and invoicing tool for remote entrepreneurs.

The worst business mistake I ever made

The worst business mistake I ever made

I went to college for writing.

That means I never took a class entitled “Business Mistakes You Should Avoid to Stay in Business.

Instead I took a healthy balance of bowling, history and appreciation of the cinema, and latin dancing. Before you judge me on the dancing class, just know this: four guys and 50 girls. Enough said.

Fast forward to late 2012. By then I had interviewed CEOs, studied business in China and run my own business for awhile.

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A small business owner was a guest speaker in one of the final classes of my master’s program. They gave an awesome speech and I went up to ask some questions post-lecture.

They mentioned  they had a huge need for a writer. Wait a second, I am a writer, I thought. A few sentences of shameless plugs later, I had a business card and a new potential client.

Well, I wish I could say I lived happily ever after, making so much money off the client that I hired a full-time bodyguard and biographer just because I could. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen.

The potential client called me a few weeks later, which happened to be the busiest time of my life. They were wondering if I could take on a small writing project. I said let me look at my schedule and get back to you on such and such a day.

First mistake.

Either I had time or I didn’t. If I didn’t, that would have been honest and allowed them to search elsewhere. Instead I stalled.

Then such and such a day came. I did not call the person back. Now they have been delayed more than a week and still don’t have an answer.

Finally, a week after such and such a day, I called back, got voicemail and left a message that basically said, “blah, blah, excuses, excuses, blah, I didn’t have time. Please consider me again in the future.”

Surprisingly, five months later, I have not received a phone call back as of press time. Potential client lost.

Looking back I am kicking myself because I may have lost hundreds or even thousands of dollars in business.

What did I learn?

  1. In this economy, never turn down work. There is no law against working past midnight and having a few sleepless nights.
  2. Communicate, communicate, communicate. Especially if you are in the business of communication.
  3. Make a good first impression because you may not get a second chance.

Thankfully, the lost business only forced me to order a few less beers at Disney, shop at T.J. Maxx a little more and order take out Chinese instead of sit-down. However, the principle is what bugged me and motivated me to never make the same mistake again.

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7 Reasons Entrepreneurs Shouldn’t Rely on Facebook, Tumblr or Behance

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Entrepreneurs, your website should be the center, or hub, of your web presence. Although you’ll have profiles and content on several third-party web platforms, they should all promote and link back to your website. Why? You can’t control third-party platforms, but you can control your website.

Some entrepreneurs try to avoid the effort of setting up a website by using third-party platforms. For example:

  • social media (e.g., Facebook page, YouTube channel)
  • blog on a third-party platform (e.g., WordPress.com, Tumblr)
  • personal or portfolio page on third-party platforms (e.g., about.me, Behance)

Building on rented land

The problem with third-party platforms is that you’re at their mercy; they can change (or disappear) on a whim. Some web experts use the analogy of renting versus owning land, and advise, “Don’t build on rented land.”

We’ll explore some of the ways in which you forfeit control by using third-party platforms (building on rented land), but maintain control by having your own website (building on your own land).

Hub and spoke model

The most effective way to use your website and third-party platforms together is in a hub and spoke model. Think of a wheel with a hub and several spokes extending from it. The hub represents your website, which you own and control, and the spokes represent the various third-party platforms which connect people back to the hub (your website). In this model, you’re not dependent on the success of any one third-party platform, but you use them all to support your website and improve your overall web presence.

Professional image and credibility

All else being equal, would you choose the consultant with a website, or the consultant that’s only on Facebook? How about an accounting firm, staffing firm, real estate agent, business coach, or manufacturing company? The fact that your business spent the money and time to create a website enhances your professional image and lends credibility.

While you’re at it, be sure to use professional email addresses too. Which is more professional: john@mybiz.com or john35@gmail.com?

Control your content

The terms and conditions of third-party platforms often allow them to use your content (text, images, videos, etc.) in ways you may not like. Are you willing to allow this? Your website gives you more control over your content.

Sometimes people tell me that it’s so much easier to post content to third-party platforms than to their websites. I agree that many platforms make it very simple to post content, and some website systems are more difficult to work with. That’s why we create sites with WordPress and train clients to manage their content. WordPress may not be quite as simple as posting to social media, but it can be close, and it’s certainly simpler than many non-WordPress systems.

Control the design

With your own website, you control the visual design. You (or your web designer) can ensure that the layout, typography, images, colors, etc., match your branding. Social media platforms control their visual designs, and you must fit within them. They also frequently change layouts, image sizes, etc., and you must scramble to adapt.

Greater functionality

On third-party platforms, you must work with the tools they provide. A website gives far more flexibility and potentially greater functionality; you can use a huge range of web technology. A few examples:

  • Contact forms
  • Embedded content from other sites (Google Maps, Google Calendars, entire web pages, etc.)
  • E-commerce systems with products, carts, and checkout (for digital or physical products)
  • Real estate listings
  • Appointment booking systems

You (or your web developer) can build the functionality you want into your site, limited only by your budget and available technology.

SEO: better visibility in search engines

Search engines (such as Google and Bing) pay attention to domains (the main part of a website address, such as mybiz.com). When you put your content on Facebook, LinkedIn, etc., your content is on their domain. To raise your ranking in searches, you’ll be better off using your own domain and establishing your own reputation with search engines.

Search engines measure several factors to determine a website’s ranking, including links from other websites and activity on social media. That’s why the hub and spoke model works; the spokes (third-party platforms) point back to and support the hub (your website).

Conclusion

As an entrepreneur, you should use third-party platforms to promote and drive traffic to your website, not as substitutes for a website. For the sake of your business’ web presence, you need the control that a website provides.

Wonder where to go from here? Let’s talk about your business’ web presence.

Author bio

Chad Warner is founder of OptimWise, a web design agency in Holland, MI. OptimWise creates modern, mobile-friendly websites that small businesses can easily edit. Chad is a co-organizer of WordPress Grand Rapids. He empowers small businesses, camps in forests, and has a passport to Middle-Earth.

Two Ridiculous Reasons To Work Alone

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“Coming together is a beginning; keeping together is progress; working together is success.”

-Henry Ford, Ford Motor Company Founder

Seth Getz

Entrepreneurship and innovation are social processes. Yes, we can come up with ideas in isolation, but working with others helps us make them a reality. Social interaction spurs the thinking process, making us aware of problems and potentials we may not have noticed before. Our ideas come to life as we critique and improve upon each other’s plans, but we get stuck in a rut without feedback. We need the energy that comes from sharing our ideas with others. Otherwise, we lose sight of the big picture as we spin our wheels, unable to take our ideas to the next level. Why do we keep doing this to ourselves? What keeps us from creating and getting involved in the social aspects of innovation?

  1. We believe innovation comes from isolation.

We are taught that we need to get away from distractions in order to be creative, and to an extent this is true. We all come up with great ideas in isolation, but what matters is what comes next. I know I come up with great ideas while in the shower, but unfortunately when I get out and get on with my day most of those ideas drop dead. By the next morning, I may not even remember them. What if I was around someone else and quickly shared my ideas? If my thoughts were embraced within a group of coworkers, I’d be a lot more likely to hold on to them. Positive feedback gives us the energy that allows our ideas to gain traction.

  1. We worry that someone will steal or criticize our ideas.

Fear keeps us from sharing our ideas. What are we so worried about? Perhaps we think someone will take our ideas and run faster with them than we can. Maybe we fear the inevitable criticism that comes with opening our ideas to the world. Can we handle people critiquing our “babies?” At first it might be hard, but unless we share our ideas and risk feedback, it’s unlikely that they will ever become a reality.

Don’t try going it alone. We all have this image of a solitary Thomas Edison toiling away in his workshop, but what we should be visualising is the little-known group of 50+ innovators that came to work with him from all over the globe. Together, they created a culture of innovation that allowed them to literally shed light on the world. Finding other people who are innovative thinkers and getting together with them on a regular basis allows us to create an energy and buzz that can never be rivaled.

The takeaway

So, how should we start sharing our ideas? Many turn to online forums, but Internet connections can never beat face-to-face conversations and close physical proximity. When we work together in the same space, challenging ideas flow and bounce around at an accelerating pace, creating a culture of innovation. Having lunch or coffee with other innovative people allows us to spark new ideas and refine old ones, and spending a day working together enables even more to be done.

Put yourself out there! Connect with the sort of people who bring these organizations to life. Find the ones who challenge your way of thinking the most, and work with them every day if you can. As James Cash Penney (the man who had the idea for a little thing called the department store) once said, “growth is never by mere chance; it is the result of forces working together.”

About the Author:

Seth Getz is a serial entrepreneur with a passion for small businesses and the people who start them. He is cofounder of Warehaüs Business Center, a vibrant co-working space for creative entrepreneurs located in Holland, Michigan. You can learn about Seth on his blog, sethgetz.com, and for more about Warehaüs visit the website, warehausholland.com

4 Questions with Diana Sandberg: Mom by Day, Entrepreneur by Night

1. Briefly describe your background, location, and how you started your business.

My husband and I live in Denver, Colorado with our 8-month-old baby girl. I am originally from Mid-Michigan, and went to college at Central Michigan University. Since college, I have been primarily in Sales and Communication positions. When I was pregnant last year, I began making headbands for my daughter to wear once she got here and I had a lot of fun with designing them. Once she got here and I began putting them on her, I had several people tell me that I should start selling them. So here I am! I have always had an entrepreneurial spirit. I worked for a start-up in college and for a year after, and I thrive on that challenge.

 RELATED: 5 Secrets of Successful Women’s Entrepreneurs

2. Baby girl headbands are hotter right now than skinny jeans, large-button sweaters and vintage sneakers combined. Why does every mom have to have these?

Simply put, baby headbands and hair bows are cute! I know several moms put headbands on their baby girls to make sure strangers understand they are little girls after having too many “what a cute boy” comments thrown their way. They are fun accessories to add to any outfit, and are so great for photo props.

3. Having a baby is the ultimate excuse for wearing sweatpants, eating pints of ice cream in a single night and looking forward to below average movies on Netflix. How did you find time to start a business?

Great question. Sometimes I think I may be a little crazy. There really isn’t time! You know how people say “sleep when the baby sleeps?” Well, there is none of that happening in this house. Nap time is my best friend when it comes to my business. I get the majority of my work done then, and after my daughter goes to bed at night. I am exhausted most of the time, but I absolutely love what I do – so I keep going with some caffeine and baby giggles (Oh yeah, and some of that ice cream you mentioned).

RELATED: Fashion entrepreneur says owning your own business isn’t all about you

4. What (legal) techniques have you used to help grow your business, especially since you are solely online? Do you have any plans to go brick and mortar?

I believe that word of mouth is the best possible tool for my business to grow, and in order to achieve that – I have to create an excellent experience for my customer, and put out a superior product. On top of that, social media has been a fantastic tool for me. I utilize my business Facebook page to reveal new designs, host giveaways, and post pictures of my cute customers wearing their hair bows. I use Instagram in a similar fashion, and I find that it helps create a “buzz” about my product and converts into sales at one point or another. I don’t have a plan to go brick and mortar myself, however – I am already in talks with one hospital back in Mid Michigan to carry my line in their gift shop. Depending on how that goes, I may look into more hospital gift shops, and possibly children’s boutiques or consignment shops.

Links

For more information about Grace Baby Bowtique, please visit her at https://www.etsy.com/shop/gracebabybowtique, her Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/gracebabybowtique and her Instagram @gracebabybowtique.

The totally true, uncensored story of the Jam Jar

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As the barista in the coffee shop talked endlessly in a loud voice about the boring history of pronto pups, Matt Gira plugged a colorful mason jar into the wall, connected another wire into his cell phone and hit play on his digital music service.

One Republic suddenly boomed throughout the small establishment, successfully drowning out the mind-numbing conversation just a few feet away.

The Jam Jar, an $80 “doesn’t-look-like-a-speaker-but-definitely-sounds-like-a-speaker” speaker, had saved my sanity with its wonderful surround sound effect.

All I could say to myself was “aweeeeesommmme….” as I did a revised version of the following Nae Nae beneath the table.

And Gira, a Hope College junior from Macomb, hopes his new product can have a similar effect on you – whether you’re a housewife between 30 and 50, a desperate housewife, a poor college student, a rich college student or even that barista.

That’s why he rolling out his most ambitious plan yet to introduce Jam Jars to the world: a $6,000 Kickstarter campaign that begins Friday, Sept. 5.

The Kickstarter will feature plenty of perks:

  • Donate $5 and you can get your song on the playlist for demos, trade shows, craft shows, and displays at stores.
  • Donate $12 and you can get a CD of the best songs from that playlist
  • Donate $25 and you can get a 16 oz glass Lio Mason jar mug
  • Donate $65 and you can get a Jam Jar in February. There’s 400 of those available.
  • Donate $100 and you can get a Jam Jar before Christmas. There’s only 30 of those though.

RELATED: Hope College student starts Dirty Water Beer to provide clean water across globe

Gira said the money he raises from Kickstarter will be used to help him produce enough product to get into stores and to trade shows. He’s already sold 30 Jam Jars via his Etsy shop and Web site with a short-term goal of selling 400 more during the Kickstarter campaign.

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Jams Jars, he said, were born from a few uninspiring trips to Target and Best Buy. Gira noticed plenty of useful tech products at the big box stores but they were predictable, modern-looking and bland.

Therefore, in the fall of 2013, Gira started a business called Lio, with the goal of being more creative with technology. His first speaker idea involved wooden speakers before he finally settled on a speaker made of mason jars, more specifically Kerr mason jars, widemouth, quart size, ironically purchased from Target.

RELATED: The Spiderpodium offers a creative, stylish way to charge your tech device

The Jam Jar features the speaker on top, a hole to plug into an outlet and a hole for a headphone jack on the side, and electronics and insulation inside the jar. It comes in nine colors at the moment, my favorite being purple. Please don’t tell anyone I said that. Seriously.

Anyways, Gira said it took a lot of tweaking and hard work since January, especially since Lio doesn’t have a real office.

“We’ve been lucky enough to be able to work in the engineering labs at Hope College, but the moving around between spaces has caused a lot of disorganization,” he said. “Sometimes we have everything in one location, and other times we have all of our supplies split up between locations. A bit frustrating at times, but we’ve worked through it quite well thankfully.”

As he becomes more efficient, Gira has reduced his turnaround time on a Jam Jar from 24 hours to 1 hour. And he’s about to hire two employees to help with sales and marketing. The future for Jam Jars looks bright.

“We’re currently planning on building the brand, developing a bluetooth and portable version, and different collections,” he said.  “Our end goal is to be creative though. That’s creating more unique products, and adding creativity to technology. There’s nothing mandating technology to have the modernistic feel, or to be the same.”

Yes, my son’s first birthday party was sponsored. And here’s how I did it.

 

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The Vision

It’s rare to have a wild idea you dream up in your head actually pan out the way you envisioned it.

But this month that’s exactly what happened to me.

No, I am not referring to “the local bus system employing aspiring models” idea, or “the resident DJ who plays your favorite song each morning you walk into the office” idea, or even “the killer combination of a tanner/Chinese restaurant business in a small town” idea.

Instead I am referring to the dream of having my 1-year-old’s birthday party completely sponsored by awesome local businesses.

No offense to Mickey Mouse, Clifford, Elmo or any other “age-appropriate” parties, but my wife and I have higher expectations for our little man.

We want him to think different. To be OK with trying something and failing. To pursue crazy ideas even if everyone else around him doesn’t think the idea is possible.

The Execution

So a few weeks ago I went to work so my walk would match my talk.

This visual of a sponsor list is what I dreamed about

I made a list of all the products and corresponding businesses that could possibly line up with our vintage newspaper themed party. I focused on smaller, newer, fresher businesses that likely had a desire to gain more exposure, yet without spending thousands on advertising. In exchange for their product donations to our party, I would promote the heck out of them through every means at my disposal.

Then I started calling, e-mailing, poking, AOL Instant Messaging, and well, stalking these businesses. Don’t worry, as of press time, no restraining orders have been filed.

I know this is crazy but many people didn’t respond. Like businesses I had frequented for years. A few politely declined. Others thought about it and then claimed something called “laws” prevented them from sponsoring.

I was discouraged. My goal was five sponsors and … I had none. At that point, I considered scaling back and settling for the typical party.

A sponsored party must be too crazy, I thought.

I was a few days away from quitting.

The Success

Just when I felt lower than Donald Sterling’s publicist, I received an e-mail that turned the whole event upside down.

I had a sponsor.

The uber-talented Anne Pageau, who owns Holland-based Give Studio, agreed to donate four of her trendy, decorative flasks to help make our party look even more authentic. The flasks, which come in bright colors and even louder sayings (Giggle Juice is our favorite), retail at $28 and are ideal for a sweet gift. We paired them with our collection of old cameras for a dynamite 1-2 combo.

Give Studio of Holland

And suddenly the sponsors started appearing one after another.

My long-time client Joe Nelis, who owns Nelis’ Dutch Village and the Thirsty Dutchman Pub in Holland, provided four bottles of his private label wine.

Then Nick Gillette, a manager with Grounds for a Better World Coffee in Midland, jumped on board by donating a stellar medium roast coffee for the party. The delivery of the product may have looked like a drug deal in a Subway courtyard but I am totally OK with that.

I couldn’t believe the sponsorship idea was actually happening.

With a few small wins on the board, I was confident and starting asking for products that weren’t on my original brainstorming sheet.

Soon I lined up the only coffeehouse in Michigan that brews its own beer – Essential Bean Coffee and Pub in Caledonia – and the award-winning cider of Sietsema Orchards in Ada.

I had reached my goal of 5 sponsors but I wasn’t about to stop.  During a non-driver’s ed approved commute home, I made a cold call to the Hawk’s Nest in Hamilton and landed two hot appetizers for the party.

The icing on the cupcake was convincing the emerging Scrumptious Cupcakes and Sweetery of Grand Rapids to donate a tower of gourmet cupcakes, 30 to be exact.

7. Freaking. Sponsors.

With just a few days to go before the party, I sought out last minute help from a team of experts. The legendary Melanie Gavie designed an incredible handout complete with QR codes to each sponsor’s Web site. Marketers Erik Morsehead, Ryan Litwiller, and Kim Jimenez helped me brainstorm social media and marketing strategy. And photographer Dennis R.J. Geppert donated a box full of old cameras.

The party was finally here.

The Event

I knew it was going to be great night when my family members were, gasp, early. Start time in my family usually means get there within an hour of that time.

All kidding aside, as guests arrived, the house looked stunning. Next to each sponsor’s donated product we had a small chalkboard labeling the business as well as business cards, logos, and coupons.

The sweet Late Harvest Vignoles white wine and the sweet de Rooie Molen red wine from Nelis’ Dutch Village started flowing and soon glasses could be observed inside and out. My wife now likes de Rooie Molen better than me. Great.

Nelis’ Dutch Village of Holland

Our bartender then began to pour glasses of Essential Bean’s Silver Foam IPA, an amber colored beer with a tasty foam top. Easy to drink and much less bitter than your typical IPA. Comes in a stellar growler with a stylin’ vintage logo.

Essential Bean of Caledonia

Rounding out the incredible selection of alcohol for a 1-year-old’s birthday party was … the Lemongrass Hard Cider from Sietsema Orchards. This self-proclaimed “summer shandy of cider” is a sweet, refreshing lemon-infused cider that makes your typical cider seem, well, pretty boring. I may or may not have drank half the bottle myself during the party.

Sietsema Orchards of Ada

And because no party is complete without caffeine, I can’t forget the warm, tasty Medium Roast we had brewing from Grounds for a Better World. My dad couldn’t keep his hands off it and, because he is retiring soon, I didn’t have the heart to say no to the guy.

Grounds for a Better World of Midland

The evening would not have been complete, however, without our two, oh-so-sweet food options. The Hawk’s Nest brought it with a pound of hot, flavor-filled Breaded Cauliflower and a pound of crunchy Onion Rings. They went so fast I barely could photograph their existence.

Hawk’s Nest of Hamilton

Finally, for dessert guests d-emolished the Funfetti with Vanilla Buttercream and the Yellow Cake with Chocolate Frosting cupcakes from Scrumptious. Some people said it was the best cupcake they had ever had. I personally couldn’t stop eating the frosting made from scratch.

Scrumptious Cupcakes of Grand Rapids

Scrumptious Cupcakes of Grand Rapids

The Conclusion

In the end, seven forward-thinking businesses gained incredible exposure via the actual party, through my social media posts, in a story the Midland Daily News ran about the party, and through this blog post. I applaud them for taking the chance and trusting me to deliver. Please go out and support them, you won’t be disappointed.

Equally important, I learned you never know what can happen if you simply ask people to partner with you. Prove to people you can provide value no else can. Dare to be rejected.

I saved $300 on a party. What can you do?

The Next Big Thing from Harvard: Q&A with LawNearMe.com Founder Samuel Shusterhoff

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Name: Samuel Shusterhoff

Age: 28

Location: New York City

Summary of Business: LawNearMe allows users to intelligently search an expanding database of local attorneys and seamlessly schedule consultations without incurring a fee of any type. While in the past, searching for an attorney consisted of consumers asking friends and family for recommendations, in today’s digital world, everything has changed. Today, the younger generations are using the Internet for everything from ordering lunch, to buying cars, to finding attorneys.

We want to help modernize law firms and help lawyers connect with a new client stream.  In the last three months alone, over 6,000 prospective clients have used LawNearMe to find a local attorney.

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Samuel Shusterhoff

1.  So you started LawNearMe.com at Harvard. Did Mark Zuckerberg inspire you? Or did you actually graduate, have friends and avoid moving to California?

Our developer actually created LawNearMe in a Harvard lab, I went to Indiana University…Following my graduation from Indiana University, I pursued my legal education at Widener University School of Law, where I graduated in May of 2012.  In a difficult employment market, I associated with a mid size law firm in midtown Manhattan.  Almost immediately, I realized that the legal community was out of touch with the new generations — the Internet frenzy—the “get everything you want in the touch of a button, no matter where you are” generation.  I saw a niche that needed to be filled, and felt I had the concept and the product to fill that niche. This was the genesis that led to the founding of LawNearMe.Com.

The website is not only a great tool to find local attorneys in one’s area, but it also provides real reviews from real clients, areas of specialty for each attorney, and also allows one to book an appointment instantly online.  An additional enhancement is the ability for the site to connect lawyers to the younger generations by providing mobile capabilities. Whether you are on the couch in your apartment or at the office, you can search on your computer or on your mobile device. The simple design and structure allows the website to be extremely user friendly. I like to think of it as a one-stop shop for finding an attorney.

 2. Say I accidentally found myself in a situation where I shot a few parked cars with a BB gun. People were definitely in them. How can LawNearMe.com help?

LawNearMe is an online and mobile platform that allows you to find, research, compare and connect with a local attorney. In your situation, if you either, a) are being arrested or b) just have a question about the law, you can find a local lawyer best suited for your needs and connect with them instantly. All of our attorneys provide a short phone consultation (i.e. 15 minutes) for free, which is plenty of time for you to find out if you really need a lawyer.

3. Right now when I search for an attorney the closest one is 200 some miles away. That makes me so mad I want to sue. When will LawNearMe.com be, well, near me?

We are growing rapidly and project to be in 50 states by the end of the year. We launched in New York City and Boston at the beginning of this year. We planned on targeting those areas only until we were ready to expand. Within the first couple of weeks we found there was constant traffic from all over the country, however, with no attorneys in those areas, we were losing clients. We were forced to expand as fast as possible due to client demand, a great problem to have. Currently in 16 states, we are constantly expanding and are entering new states weekly, sometimes daily.

 4. LegalZoom.com is on the radio all the time. How do you differentiate yourself from such a household name? In other words, what’s your long-term vision?

We are very different from Legalzoom. Legalzoom provides legal documents while LawNearMe provides lawyers.  There are other companies that are similar to LawNearMe.com but we are the only site to go above and beyond. We are not only a database, you can also book instantly online and we have one of the best and only mobile platforms for on-the-go connections.  We are a service, if you cannot find an attorney on our site or feel that you do not like the options you have, we will fix that. We are in the business of matching our clients to the best attorney for them.

Our goal is to become the online resource that any person needing an attorney or having a legal question goes to. We want to expand nationwide, while keeping our small business core values and customer service. In time, we want to become a household name, so much so, that when someone needs an attorney, it will be common practice for them to “LawNearMe it!”

Build your Confidence: How to land two dates to one formal event

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Asking a girl out was literally the scariest thing in the world for me to do in high school.

To be honest, I had a few knocks against me.

Back then I lacked GQ-worthy specs. Let’s see, any toned muscle. Orange pants. Shoes that weren’t endorsed by an NBA player.

But most importantly I lacked confidence.

That frustrating handicap resulted from a few notable fails.

There was that time I asked the cute blonde from class to the prom, the one who became an extra on Gossip Girls when she grew up. Obviously, I had a keen sense for talent. I can’t remember how it all went down but I recall she went with a drummer.

Bummer.

The next year I asked a pommer to homecoming and she said yes. We’d have to consult the security cams but I am certain I danced, I shimmied, and moonwalked like a white boy to math class after that.

However, the following day, right before math class, I was informed she changed her mind and had accepted an offer to attend homecoming with a random guy from out of town.

I hate random guys from out of town.

It stung and I basically did the Arrested Development sad walk for days.

The story would have been sad, real sad, if I stopped there and conceded I had no game and I would never have any game.

Thankfully, I had the courage to pursue the best strategy to overcoming confidence issues in a certain area.

I got back in the game.

It makes me sound super old, but whatever. I opened up the phone book and looked up the phone number of a nice girl in one of my classes. Then I waited until every last video on MTV’s TRL had played and while N’Snync’s “Bye, Bye, Bye” was still ringing through my mind, I dialed her number.

I thought about hanging up. But then I set aside my worries and decided to act confident, even though I didn’t feel that way. Must. Ask. Girl. Out.

I asked her out and she accepted. We dated the rest of my senior year and then went to prom together before the relationship fizzled over the summer.

Bummer.

Ultimately, though, what I gained was a sudden burst of confidence.

I left for college and started asking girls out with less and less nerves. Each time was a bit easier.

And all of this culminated with my school newspaper’s annual banquet in 2005.

When given the opportunity, I enjoy challenging the status quo. You know, the way things have always been.

Bringing one date to the banquet was totally cool in the eyes of the staff.

But I asked a few questions and determined that as long as I paid for each ticket to the banquet, no technical limit existed to how many dates one reporter could have.

Shoot, I thought, why not two dates then? Therefore, the guy who just a few years back struggled to ask one girl out now was asking two girls to the same event.

It crossed my mind that they both could say “no way” and I would end up empty handed. But I was confident now, in my approach, in my style and in my personality so I felt like they would say yes.

And they did.

I strolled into the formal event with a beautiful lady on each side and had the time of my life. Everyone in the room was in shock. They couldn’t believe I had thought of it, let alone pulled it off.

Confidence, my friends, had paid off.

Ladies aside, do you struggle with confidence in your career? Do you have ideas that you want to experiment with but are too scared to because of past rejection? Have you thought of approaching someone to start a business, but are worried they will think your idea is stupid?

The only way to build or regain confidence is to get back in the game.

Author Jeff Goins summarized this idea so well in his June 12 podcast episode. He said sometimes you have to act like your confident, even if you don’t feel confident. When you are successful, your confidence grows and grows and soon you don’t have to act anymore. You are confident.

He compares confidence issues to dealing with a bully.

“You can control the battle within …,” Goins said. “What I have realized is that the bullies – the biggest bullies you face – are not the ones in front of you. They are the ones in your mind. Every time I faced a bully they backed down.”

What areas in your life do you lack confidence and why? Please share in the comments below.

The Future of Fundraising: Q&A with Benefit Mobile’s John Johnston

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When a company dares to challenge the Girl Scout cookie fundraising model, I am immediately interested. Even better when it’s an app based in West Michigan. Please enjoy my conversation with Benefit Mobile’s Chief Business Development Officer John Johnston.

Describe the company’s background.

The company was founded by Derik Lolli 18 months ago and two other co-founders joined him early on to develop the technology for the mobile wallet. We’re currently working from basements, kitchens and bedrooms as well as using some of our investment and tech partners offices. There’s four of us actively involved in the business currently.

What’s wrong with the current fundraising model for schools and nonprofits? Won’t people buy overpriced cookies, popcorn, chocolate and magazines forever?

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People will still continue to do the traditional fundraising schemes from time to time. What Benefit allows is for year round, frictionless fundraising that doesn’t cost the donor/ user a penny.  The Benefit mobile wallet retailers donate a portion of every transaction to the causes you choose.  Retailers contribute every time you shop and pay using Benefit.  We’re hoping we’ve developed the happier way to pay! Knowing you’re giving to a cause you love every time you pay.

So how does Benefit Mobile work? If I can remember my Apple ID, I just download the app and start spending some serious C-A-S-H?

You’re exactly right, download the app from the iTunes app store (Android will be available in the summer), set up a payment method, select your cause and then you can buy store credit at the stores you shop at.  The best thing about Benefit is that unlike traditional gift card fundraising schemes like SCRIP (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scrip) where you pre buy cards. with Benefit you can buy credit right at the check out.

Looking ahead, I feel like Benefit Mobile is ready for world domination. Is that in the 5-year plan? In other words, what’s next?

We’ve just finished Beta testing mode and are officially live. We have almost 7,000 organizations coming online in the next two months. We’ll be focusing heavily on schools, nonprofits, churches and colleges/ universities. We’ve had some opportunities for licensing agreements for our platform that we are also looking into.  We hope to have almost 1million users raising money through the app in the next 12-18 months.

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We recently have been invited to speak at Google’s 20/20 conference in November. So there’s lots happening but we’re focused on building a great application and service that people love to use and that raises millions of dollars for great causes.  If we can do that, hopefully everything else will take care of itself.