Friday, December 14, 2018

How to Avoid a Plateau by Avoiding These 8 Business Mistakes

Mistakes happen.

If you’ve been in business for a while, you know by now that mistakes are just part of the process. New businesses and startup companies are slowly learning this.

Nobody is perfect, but some mistakes happen on a larger scale than others.

But here’s the thing, lots of these mistakes can be avoided.

That was my inspiration for writing this guide. There are certain common business mistakes that I see people making all of the time.

Brands are only making these mistakes because they don’t realize it until it’s too late.

Realistically, there are hundreds of mistakes that different businesses make each day.

However, I wanted to focus the attention on specific types of mistakes.

Your business always needs to be growing. If sales start to plateau or even drop off, it’s going to be a major problem for your company.

But you can prevent a plateau by avoiding these common mistakes that I’ve identified.

Use this guide as a reference to correct any of the mistakes that you’re currently making, or you can avoid them completely in the first place.

1. Not focusing on sales

Shockingly, this is a major issue that I see all of the time.

You would assume that generating more sales would always be a priority for a company, but sometimes brands start to lose sight of exactly why they are in business.

You’ve got to be making money. This money stems from sales, period.

That’s the best way to make sure your company will grow and ensure that you won’t stall in a plateau.

When I’m consulting with businesses, they’ll show me all of these other metrics that they’re focusing on, which is fine. But what are your sales?

If what you’re doing doesn’t translate to conversions and transactions, it’s not helping you out.

Don’t get me wrong. It’s great if you’re getting more email subscribers, social media followers, and website traffic.

But running out of cash is one of the top reasons why startups fail.


If you can focus on new ways to generate sales, you’ll always have a steady cash flow.

I understand that you have so many other areas of your company that require your attention. However, you need to have priorities.

You can’t let sales to a back seat to anything, or it’s going to be a problem for you in the future.

2. Forgetting about the customer

Your business will live and die by your customers.

All of your decisions need to be profitable.

These two statements don’t always add up. But you need to find a balance between both of them if you want to grow. Here’s what I mean.

On the one hand, a decision you make could reduce your operational costs and ultimately drive up your profit margins.

But if that cost reduction impacts the quality of your products and services, it’s not going to benefit your customers.

As a result, sales will start to drop, which is much worse than a plateau.

Let’s take a look at these priorities for businesses in 2018.


Do you see some commonality here?

Nearly everything on this list will help improve the customer experience. That’s what you need to prioritize.

Clearly, other businesses have recognized this and are acting accordingly.

So if you forget about your customers, it will be easy for them to just leave and go to one of your competitors instead.

If you put more emphasis on making your customers happy, the rest will take care of itself. Don’t cut corners just to turn a higher profit.

3. Ignoring data

Earlier I explained how some people focus on too many metrics that they forget about sales.

But another issue that I see all of the time is companies that just ignore these metrics completely.

I’m talking about things like:

  • website traffic
  • conversion rates
  • click-through rates
  • ROI

These are just a handful of the top metrics every marketing manager needs to track.

Without this data, how can you know if your campaigns are successful? How will you know what which decisions to make?

Another issue that I see is business owners who are clinging to the wrong data.

Here’s an example to show you what I mean.

Let’s say your business has website traffic that is increasing exponentially. You can’t just assume that it means your company is successful.

If your sales and conversions aren’t increasing at the same rate, you’re not actually growing, which should be a major concern for you.

That’s why you need to track your data and know how to analyze it properly as well.

4. Not analyzing your competitors

Your business doesn’t operate in a vacuum. There are outside factors that will have a direct impact on your success.

You need to keep an eye on your competitors.

Otherwise, they’ll steal your customers before you even realize what happened.

Compare yourself with them to see how you stack up. The easiest way to do this is with a SWOT analysis chart.


It’s simple but very effective.

That’s because it forces you to see where your business stands on paper. Just saying things like “we’re really good at what we do” doesn’t give you any benefit.

When you put things in writing, any glaring mistakes or areas where you can improve will be more obvious.

You can also take advantage of helpful tools to monitor your competitors.

One of the first things you need to do is identify who you’re competing with. You’ll want to analyze competitors locally, regionally, and online as well.

Compare your prices to them. Look at their website.

Check out their advertisements and social media campaigns.

What’s working for them? What needs improvement?

Then, you can apply what’s working for your competition to your own business. Avoid their mistakes.

See what customers are saying about your competitors online. We’ll talk more about online reviews in greater detail shortly.

5. Avoiding new technology

Adapt or die.

This theory can be applied to nature, as well as business.

If you’re resistant to change, it’s going to be the downfall of your company. That’s why you need to educate yourself about new technology trends.

  • live chat
  • artificial intelligence
  • automation
  • machine learning
  • beacon technology

These are all things that can help your business grow.

I see so many business owners that are stuck in their old ways. But just because something worked for you back in 2005, it doesn’t mean that strategy will work in 2019.

To be successful in the future, you need to look beyond today, tomorrow, and next year.

You need to be prepared for technology advancements coming in 2022 or 2025.

Keep up with the latest trends. You don’t necessarily need to apply everything right away, but you have to start somewhere.

For example, you can start by building a mobile app for your business.

mobile app

Why haven’t you developed an app yet? Don’t let the costs associated with this venture scare you away.

22% of business owners say that mobile app development is too expensive.

An additional 23% don’t think they can run a business and maintain an app at the same time.

This type of mentality is what’s going to cause a plateau, and eventually a decline. Find ways to make this happen, especially if you’re in the retail business.

Mobile apps have triple the conversion rate compared to mobile web browsers.

Product views per user are 4.6x higher, and the add to cart rate is 2.5x higher.

Building a mobile app for your small business is just one example of implementing new technology, and it’s not even that new.

If you’re resistant to change, it’s going to stunt your business growth. So have an open mind moving forward, especially when it comes to technology advancements.

6. Ignoring customer reviews

I briefly mentioned this before when we talked about monitoring your competitors.

In addition to reading what people think about other companies, you need to see what customers are saying about your business online.

There are lots of different places you need to check, such as:

  • reviews on your website
  • third-party sites like Yelp or Google
  • social media comments

Respond to reviews.

Take notes about what customers are saying. Make the necessary changes based on this information.

Group common reviews together. If all of your customers are having the same problem, and you don’t make an adjustment, it’s basically just a slap in their face.

In addition to harming your relationships with existing customers, online reviews will have a direct impact on future sales as well.

92% of people read a review before making a purchase online.

88% of consumers say they trust an online review as much as a recommendation from someone that they know. This impacts their buying decisions.

buying decision

Furthermore, 35% of people are less likely to buy if no online reviews are available.

This means that you need to take this strategy to the next level.

Not only do you need to read and monitor reviews, but you also need to encourage your customers to write reviews to improve your online reputation.

If you’re ignoring this, it’s a mistake that will be costly for your business.

7. Not accepting more payment methods

This relates back to what we talked about earlier in terms of forgetting about the customer.

I realize that it’s more expensive for you to accept certain forms of payment compared to other options. However, everyone has different preferences.

The days of just accepting credit and debit cards are over.

So if you’re still not taking every major credit card, it’s probably unlikely that you’re allowing customers to pay with digital payment methods.

But as I said before, you need to adapt to new trends and technology. Digital payments are becoming the way of the future.

digital wallet

19% of consumers are using digital wallets.

About half of the people who use digital wallets expect merchants to accept those payment forms. But here’s something else that you need to keep in mind. More than one-fifth of users who don’t use digital wallets still expect businesses to accept digital payment methods.

Again, if you have integrated new technology into your business, this won’t be a problem.

The last thing you want is for a customer to decide they want to buy something, but change their mind because you don’t accept their preferred payment method.

Don’t expect them to just reach for another card. Instead, they’ll go find what they’re looking for from another business.

8. Never offering value

Why should people buy from your business?

It may sound like an odd question but think about it for a minute. You need to create a highly effective value proposition.

This will make it clear to everyone why they should buy from your business.

You need to understand the wants and needs of your customers.

There’s a big difference between what consumers want and what marketers want.


As you can see from the graph, 72% of consumers want to see posts from brands on social media related to discounts and sales.

However, just 18% of marketers post those things.

There is obviously a major discrepancy here.

Even if you don’t want to offer discounts all of the time, you still need to come up with ways to add value to your brand. Otherwise, consumers won’t have a reason to buy from you, and sales will eventually decline.


Nobody is perfect. Every business makes mistakes.

You’re going to continue making mistakes in the future as well.

However, you reduce the chances of making these errors if you know what to look for before it happens.

Some of you may already be doing some of the things that I’ve covered on this list. But now you can identify those mistakes and make changes before they get out of hand.

If you can stay clear of the blunders that I’ve outlined above, it will help your business avoid a plateau or a decline.

What types of mistakes does your business need to fix in order to stimulate growth?

Thursday, December 13, 2018

How to Buy a Domain Name

Your domain name is very important. It would be a mistake to gloss over the process of coming up with a name. If you take your project seriously, then you need to start off on the right foot with your name. After all, it’s going to be with you for the lifetime of whatever business or project you intend to use the domain for.

Many of the guides on how to buy a domain name or how to build a website tend to gloss over this process as well. It is often assumed that the best approach is to just register whatever domain name is available and call it a day. I think this is a big mistake.

There’s nothing wrong with registering a domain name that is available, as long as you’ve thought it through and are intentional about it. In fact, I would encourage that. The issue is that in many cases, people don’t even realize that there are other options. Getting your hands on the optimal name is more doable than you might think.

In this guide, I want to walk you through my process for buying a domain name, starting with how I go about coming up with a name in the first place.

Understand the Cost of a Domain Name

First and foremost, I suggest that you do put some budget behind your domain name — especially if it’s for your business. If your budget is tight, then you’ll be more limited in what you can do.

There are two options when it comes to getting your domain name

  1. Register a name that isn’t already currently registered.
  2. Acquire a name that is already registered from the person or company that owns it.

Regardless of which option you go with, you’ll still need to pay the annual registration fee of $7–$15/year on average.

The cost of acquiring a domain name will vary widely: You can easily spend 4–5 figures on a name. In some cases you can find a good one for hundreds of dollars. Some domain names aren’t for sale at all, while others have sold for millions of dollars.

Brainstorm Concepts and Ideas

Before you even think about buying a domain name, you’ll need to do some ground work.

Get creative, because it’s time to do some brainstorming.

Your domain name is going to be used for something. Maybe a business, or a campaign, or maybe just a blog. And you probably already have some ideas around what it’ll be called, so you’ve already started the process.

Create a Concept List

I like to call this a concept list. It’s the list before your final name list. It isn’t necessarily names, but for now, just concepts.

Take your project and write down of all the words, descriptors, phrases, ideas, mantras, etc. that come to mind. Come up with as many words as possible. Use a thesaurus to help.

I personally find a mind map useful for this process.

Create a List of Potential Names

Once you have a thorough concept list, you can develop a more refined list of potential names. Start by listing all the names that you like. Since you might not have an unlimited budget, make sure you dig deep here. You can’t be too picky yet, because that will end up limiting your options. Write everything down that you think might work.

Narrow Down The List According to Viability

You can narrow your list down quickly just by typing in the .com for each name that you like. Type it into your browser and see what is there.

  1. If there is an established website built on the domain name, cross that off your list. It is very unlikely to be a viable option.
  2. If nothing comes up at all, then keep it on your list. That could mean that the domain name isn’t registered yet, which is great!
  3. If a landing page with ads comes up, that means the domain name is parked. It is owned by someone already, but might be an acquisition target. Keep this on your list.
  4. If the domain name is for sale, then that is the best case scenario. That’s exactly what we are looking for. Keep it on your list, and take note of the listed price if there is a listed price.

I find that my best domain names are generally ones that are for sale (as opposed to unregistered). I recommend browsing through the following websites to get more ideas. You might get lucky and find something you like just by browsing. If you do, add those to your list as well.

BrandBucket — They put together more creative, brandable domain names and then sell them. I’ve found a lot of names here that I would not have thought of on my own.

BrandBucket domain name research screen — They have a huge selection of domain names for sale. They have transparent pricing and offer a seamless experience. This is always my starting point, and preferred approach to acquiring a domain name. domain purchase flow — Probably the biggest selection of domain names and the most well known place to acquire a name.

Sedo domain purchase flow and Uniregistry are the biggest players in selling domains. More times than not, if a domain name is for sale when I type it into my browser, it is one of those two companies that is behind the sale. I find them to be the most reasonable. is another one that I have bought from.

Once you have the narrowed down list. The next step is to dig even deeper to determine what your final options will be.

Choose Your Name

You’re ready to go through the process of choosing your domain name.

Some high level rules:

  • Don’t worry about SEO or keywords. That doesn’t matter.
  • Avoid hyphens.
  • Stick with a .com only. If you are in the UK, Australia, etc. then of course a, .au, etc. is also good.
  • The shorter the better, generally speaking.

Quick checklist for your domain name options

  • Do you feel good about the name? Do you like it? Are you confident when you say it? Does it feel good when you write it down? When you read it?
  • Is it brandable? Is it unique, easy to remember and meaningful? Is it easy to read and spell?
  • Does it pass the google test? Google the name. Ideally there are not any other organizations that pop up. If there are, you at least want to make sure they are not in the same industry, or even in a closely related industry.
  • If it passes the Google test, you are probably good to go, but just in case, you also want to check for trademarks.

A Note on Social Handles

In a perfect world, you’d pick a domain name whose social handles are also available. This isn’t a perfect world. My take on this is that it’s hard enough to get a good domain name. Don’t make it even harder or nearly impossible by also adding this criteria. When it comes to picking up the social handles, you’ll have options. You can get creative, or even potentially acquire the handles from the current owners.

It’s a good idea to consider social handles when making your final decision, but don’t let that alone stop you from picking the right name.

The Starter Domain Approach

An approach that I am a fan of is to use the starter domain approach. The idea here, is that you can start with a domain name with the intention to move to another one down the road.

Let’s say you identify a domain name that you really like, but it is out of range for your budget. For example, when I was coming up with a name for my latest company, I really liked Someone else owns it, and isn’t necessarily looking to sell it. If I wanted to buy it, I would have to offer a lot of money — a lot more than I was ready to pay. If I wanted to take the starter domain approach, I could have gone with the name Good Life Media, and acquired which is for sale for $24,500. (That price must have gone up, because it wasn’t that high when I was actually considering this as an option.)

Anyway, I could start with and eventually try to acquire It would be very easy to rebrand from Good Life Media, to Good Life. Internally, we would just go by “Good Life.” The day that we eventually acquire would be a huge milestone and would create a built-in company goal that we could go after as a team.

If you want a real life example, The Wirecutter just recently rebranded to WireCutter.

Considerations for the starter domain approach

  • Make sure it will translate cleanly. The two names have to be very closely related, and you could ideally even use the desired name everywhere outside of the actual domain name, including in your logo.
  • Remember that there is no guarantee your desired target domain name will be there when you are ready.
  • I recommend getting into discussions with the broker or domain owner of your desired name as soon as possible. Even if you know there isn’t any chance you can afford it today. They don’t need to know that. This is actually a huge advantage for you, because it is common that over time the owner will drop the price as they realize their high price isn’t going to happen.

Acquire And/Or Register Your Domain Name

At this point you should have a narrowed down list of viable options for your domain name. The next step is to own it.

Each of your options should fall into one of three categories.

  1. The domain name is available and unregistered.
  2. The domain name seems to be acquirable, but it is not clear.
  3. The domain name is clearly for sale.

What to Do If the Domain Name is Unregistered

In this case, all you need to do is go to NameCheap and register the domain name. You’ll find out for sure if that is an option or not once you type it into the search bar on NameCheap.

Namecheap domain not for sale
Our domain isn’t for sale…

Namecheap domain for sale
But is for sale — for less than $1,500.

You’ll go through a straightforward process here. Don’t buy any of the add ons or worry about web hosting or any of that yet. You want to use NameCheap to simply register your domain name. That’s it. They are the best domain registrar, and I use them exclusively. I do not use them for anything else, because there are other companies that I use for the rest of my web needs.

After you finish registering the domain name, that’s it. You are officially the proud owner of your new domain name. All you have to do moving forward, is be sure to renew the domain name each year. If you fail to renew it, then someone else will be able to replace you as the owner.

What to Do If the Domain Name Seems Acquirable

If the domain name seems acquirable, but it isn’t clear — you have two options. Either you can try to figure out who owns the domain name yourself and reach out to them. Or, you can hire a broker to do it for you.

If you hire a domain broker, there isn’t much risk. Typically, the only way you will have to pay a fee is if you buy the domain name. The downside is that you do have to pay a fee if you buy the domain name.

Sedo is a good place to start if you want to hire a domain broker.

In the case of doing it yourself, you can start with a WHOIS search to try to figure out who owns the domain name. Googling the domain name and seeing if it is tied to any social media profiles or other websites is also a good approach.

More times than not, I will fail at finding out who owns the domain name myself. It is common for people to use privacy features that hide their contact information. Most domain registrars offer this for free, so people tend to do it by default.

The benefit of a domain broker is that they have a huge network. They almost always know who owns what, and if they don’t, they have ways of figuring it out. Back to my example. There is no way I ever would have figured out who owns that domain name if I didn’t have a broker to figure it out for me. Of course, I still do not know who owns that domain name, but at least I have a broker who does.

Another benefit of a broker is that you do not have to deal with the awkwardness of negotiating price. You have a middle man who can be the bad guy for you.

What to Do If the Domain Name Is Clearly for Sale

Domain names that might be acquirable, as outlined above, can be challenging. I much prefer to focus on names that are clearly for sale. These are easy.

If the name is already for sale, then the process is straightforward. The only thing you really need to think about is negotiating price.

Negotiating Price

There is often opportunity to negotiate price. Depending on who you are dealing with, there could be some room to get the price down.

I don’t recommend pushing too hard or overthinking this. That might just lead to wasting time and potentially losing out on the name. However, there is no harm in giving it a shot and doing some level of negotiating.

After The Acquisition

Once you acquire the domain name, the next step is to transfer to your domain registrar. Again, I recommend NameCheap. You can see the process for transferring your domain name here. It also helps to understand how domains work.

Regardless of how you acquire your domain name, the final step is to see it sitting inside of your NameCheap account. That is when it’s official!

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

12 Tips for Taking Better Marketing Photos for Your Social Media Campaigns

Every business needs to be active on social media to be relevant in today’s digital world.

So if your company is on social media, it’s a safe bet that you’re uploading photos to your profile on a regular basis. Pictures and other visual elements will improve your marketing strategy.

But it can be challenging to find the right pictures to post.

Let’s say you want to upload at least one new picture to a social platform each day. That’s 365 images per year.

Lots of businesses don’t have a library of that many original photos. So they just take a random picture and post it to their profiles last minute without putting too much thought or effort into it.

This is going to be a major problem for your business if you’re using a similar strategy.

Everything you share with your followers on social media must have a purpose. In order to get the best results from your campaigns, everything needs to be high quality.

Fortunately for you, technology has advanced to the point where you have a professional quality camera in your hand or pocket in nearly all waking hours.

You don’t need fancy equipment to take great marketing photos. All you need are some basic photography skills and inspiration for your subject matters.

Every day, 300 million pictures are uploaded to Facebook. Instagram has an average of 95 million photos uploaded daily.

If the photos you add to social media don’t look professional, it’s going to hurt your brand image. That’s why I identified these 12 tips to improve your social media marketing photos.

1. Create balance with grid lines

The rule of thirds is one of the most basic photography skills that you should get familiar with.

This technique will improve the composition of your photos and create balance, which is more visually appealing to anyone who sees the picture.

Your smartphone allows you to enable grid lines when you’re taking a photo.

rule of thirds

This feature makes it easier for you to follow the rule of thirds.

The grid is very simple. It’s just two vertical lines and two horizontal lines that are all spaced apart equally.

You should position your subject matter and anything important in your photo where those lines intersect.

An amateur photographer just centers everything on the screen. But that’s not as appealing.

By using the rule of thirds, the image has more room to breathe.

Just look at all of the open space in the skyline above. This puts more emphasis on your subject matter.

Plus, people are used to this tactic being applied in professional photography, whether they realize it or not. So when someone sees a photo without the rule of thirds applied, it will automatically not seem as attractive to them.

2. Find symmetry

Symmetry is another visual element that we are just naturally drawn to.

So if you have the opportunity to capture symmetry in an image, you should definitely do so.

Here’s a great example of a photograph with symmetry.


It’s simple, but it works.

Now, take a moment and imagine what this photo would look like if it weren’t taken from this angle.

If the camera was positioned slightly to the left or right, the symmetry would be lost.

Sure, it may still seem like a nice picture of a walkway going out into a clear ocean on a beautiful day. But capturing the symmetry elevates the image and brings it to a more professional level.

Your pictures need to stand out to draw attention from your followers.

If it looks like an amateur is taking all the photos, it will reflect poorly on your brand. We both know you don’t want that to happen.

3. Crop instead of zooming

Another rookie mistake that I see people make all of the time is using the zoom feature.

Manually zooming in on a subject is a big no, unless you’re using a professional camera to take pictures.

But like I said before, that type of equipment is unnecessary. Your smartphone will capture pictures that are good enough to post.

However, once you start zooming, it damages the quality of the photo.

Instead of zooming, just get closer to your subject. If that’s not possible, don’t worry about it. Take the picture from where you are and use the rule of thirds to improve the composition.

After the photo is taken, you can just crop the image to your liking.

Here’s an example of how to do this in Adobe Photoshop.


For the most part, you shouldn’t need to do this on your computer. You can crop photos directly from your smartphone.

Notice how even though this picture is being cropped, the rule of thirds is still being applied.

The reflection in the water is also a nice touch, but we’ll talk more about that shortly.

4. Embrace natural frames

Framing your image is another basic photography skill. No, I’m not referring to developing your photo and putting it into a wooden box.

Sometimes subject matters are perfectly positioned to be captured within a natural frame surrounding it.

Any time you have the chance to use a natural frame, you should take advantage of it.

Here’s a simple photo of an airplane wing that has a natural frame.


This image is perfect for so many reasons.

First, if you try and get too close to the window to take the picture, you’ll end up getting a glare. Second, the wing by itself is just too boring.

By adding the window to the picture, it elevates the quality of the picture to the next level. You get the see the lighting changes and the shadows as the natural light from the sun comes into the plane.

Here’s the thing, if you’re not happy with the natural frame you can always just edit it out by cropping the image, as we previously discussed.

When you’re taking a photo, keep an eye out for natural frames such as trees, fences, bridges, archways, or anything else that creates a similar framing effect.

5. Look for reflections

I briefly mentioned this before when we were talking about cropping. Taking photos of reflections can add a really unique perspective to your photo.

Check out this example from Todo Bien Tours.

todo bien tour

Todo Bien gives private coastal bus tours in southern California.

So obviously they want to show their social media followers what their bus looks like. But rather than just showing a boring picture of the bus, they use a reflection to capture the water and coastline during a sunset.

It’s a creative way to show off your photography skills.

Taking a picture of just the bus or just the sunset would be average and pretty basic. But by capturing both in the window reflection, it elevates this campaign to new heights.

6. Shoot repeating patterns

Just like symmetry, patterns are another great way to capture the attention of your followers.

Sometimes finding the right pattern is all about shooting from the right angle and perspective. Just look at this photo of bike wheels to show you what I’m talking about.


This pattern isn’t necessarily present from every angle.

If you step back and photograph these bikes from above, or head on, the pattern wouldn’t be the same. It would just look like a row of bikes.

Yes, the subject matter may still be relevant enough and usable for your marketing campaign, but it can be improved by using this strategy.

7. Get a tripod and mount for your mobile device

Earlier I briefly mentioned how you don’t need a professional camera or expensive equipment to take high quality photos for your social media campaigns.

But with that said, it can’t hurt to invest in something small, like a tripod and mount for your smartphone.

The tripod will allow you to go hands-free when taking a picture. Plus, it helps ensure that the image is level.

You can also use this type of equipment to extend your range and make it a little bit more comfortable to hold your phone securely.

Joby has a bunch of great products for this purpose.


You can check out their website to browse for what you need.

Otherwise, there are thousands of other similar products available online from other retailers as well.

Most of these are pretty inexpensive. You can find a quality stand and mount for under $50. It’s worth having, even if you don’t use all of the time.

8. Create a new perspective

You don’t want your social media marketing photos to look like everything else out there.

It’s important for your brand to come up with new perspectives to separate yourself from the crowd.

I really like this example from Tropicfeel on their Instagram page.


The picture itself is beautiful. The houses, ocean, and coastline grabs the attention of an audience right away.

But something about this photo is a little bit different than you normally expect.

It’s not typical for people to put their legs and feet in this type of shot. Usually, you’d expect this to be a selfie or just a landscape shot.

But Tropicfeel uses this unique perspective to showcase their product, which is the shoes in the photo.

Look at the caption.

They created a new hashtag of #tropicselfeet to encourage other people to take this type of photo as well. This is a great way to write instagram captions that drive engagement.

So find a perspective that’s unique to your brand.

For example, let’s say your company sells skateboards. Rather than just taking a picture of a guy on a skateboard, you could mount a camera to the nose of the board.

9. Take candids

You don’t always want to just take pictures of your products.

People are a great subject matter for your social media campaigns. In fact, photos with faces get 38% more likes and 32% more comments than photos without them.

But your subjects don’t always need to be posing.

Candid shots add a human element to your brand. They show people in action, as opposed to just putting on a show for the camera.

Take a look at these photos that were uploaded to the Thule Facebook page.


None of the people in these pictures are posing.

All of the shots are candid.

The reason why this works is because it shows an audience how people behave naturally when they are doing something.

This is an opportunity for you to showcase how your products and services can be used on social media.

I also like the idea of taking candid photos of your employees. By showing your staff in photos, it creates a more authentic interaction with your audience. Your followers will realize that there are real people behind the scenes of your brand.

10. Get abstract

Think outside of the box.

You need to realize how many pictures are flooding the timelines of your followers on a daily basis. If your marketing photos don’t jump off the page at them, they’ll just simply keep on scrolling.

Abstract images are a great way to capture attention, like this one from the Allbirds Instagram page.


Allbirds has a line of shoes called tree runners. So lots of their posts encompass nature and different photos of trees.

This one is definitely one of the most unique photos that you’ll see on their profile.

It’s art painted onto a fallen tree trunk. The image on this unconventional canvas is a nature scene, which also includes trees.

At first glance, a social media user might not even realize what they’re looking at.

But it’s definitely enough to stop them in their tracks for further examination.

11. Be funny

Stop taking yourself so seriously.

OK, there are certain businesses that need to more serious than others. If your company specializes in things financial investments or funerals, you probably shouldn’t be cracking jokes on social media.

But those types of brands are just a small percent of the population.

If your company sells products or services to a target audience that can appreciate some humor, don’t be afraid to take a funny photo for your social media campaigns.


36% of consumers are prompted to make a purchase after seeing a funny post from a brand on social media.

So taking a humorous photo can do much more for you than just drive engagement. This strategy can directly lead to sales.

Just make sure you stay away from controversial subjects.

I definitely don’t recommend making jokes about subjects like politics or religion. Photos like that can really damage your brand.

So keep it light, but stay professional.

12. Don’t be conventional

How can you make your marketing photos jump off the page to social media users?

You want your posts to make people say, “Wow!”

Leave them in awe. Here’s an example from the Vuori Instagram page.


This post is advertising their men’s swimwear.

A conventional idea would be just to photograph a picture of the swim trunks. That’s boring.

Another idea could be showing a model wearing the bathing suit, or even swimming in it. But again, that’s boring as well.

It’s conventional, and audiences expect those types of posts from brands.

You know what’s not conventional? A guy jumping off a cliff into the ocean wearing those shorts.

This photo is awesome. It’s definitely the type of post that will grab the attention of users on social media.


If you want to run successful social media campaigns, you need to focus more attention on the quality of your marketing photos.

Don’t worry, you don’t need to buy expensive equipment or hire someone to do this for you. It’s easy to take and edit photos without hiring a professional.

All you need is some basic photography skills to get you started in the right direction.

After that, it’s just all about deciding what types of photos will speak to your target audience on these platforms.

Use this guide as a reference and inspiration for your future marketing photos.

What types of photos does your brand share with people on social media?

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

How To Start a Business: 23 Steps To Becoming Operational

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Starting a business is daunting.

There is so much to think about and so much to do.

It’s hard enough trying to figure out how to build and grow a business. The last thing we want to think about is figuring out how to put together an operating agreement or picking the right accounting system.

The good news is that all of the things that need to get done in order to start your business have been done a million times before. You don’t need to reinvent the wheel or waste brain power on figuring out what to do.

There are at least 23 things that you should do when starting a new business and we can walk you through each one of them step-by-step.

I’m going to assume you already have a business idea, and I’m not going to show you how to build or grow your business in this article. These are the practical steps, necessary to begin operations.

Note: I cannot stress the value of building like you are going to grow from day one enough. I get that you are probably the only person in your business right now. You should operate as if you are an organization of people, not just yourself. This will save you an incredible amount of headache down the road, and also leave you room to try and fail in areas that you won’t want to fail when you do have a sizable organization.

1: Put together a very high level and basic business plan

Don’t overthink this. You just need to be able to answer two big questions:

  1. What do you need to do in order to get to profitability?
  2. How are you going to pay for the things that you need to do in order to get to profitability?

If you think long and hard about these questions, you’ll end up with a good starting plan. Be realistic about what it’s going to take. Do your research, and know your numbers. Put it all to paper, and the business plan will evolve into a useful tool and true north for at least the first 6–12 months.

2: Come up with a name

Coming up with a name can be harder than doing the business plan! Your name is…well…your name. It has to be good. It does not have to be perfect and it does not have to be a fancy, made up word like Google or Yahoo. Generally speaking, here is what matters:

  • You have to be confident in the name. Honestly, this is probably all that really matters. It’s definitely the most important aspect of coming up with a name. If you don’t love it, then you can’t sell it. You’re going to be selling it 24/7/365 for a long time. At least that is the plan!
  • You need to pick something unique. The general rule of thumb is that when you search Google for the name there isn’t an established business or product that already has the same name.
  • Your name must be memorable, brandable and simple. You don’t want to make it harder than it already is to be found and known.
  • You need to have the .com of your name. This is critical! It’s unbelievable how many people take this for granted and just completely disregard their domain name. If you want people to take your business seriously, make sure you have the .com.

A good process for coming up with a business name:

  1. Brainstorm words, concepts, ideas, beliefs, descriptors, etc.
  2. Brainstorm names based off your initial brainstorm in step 1.
  3. Check the names in Google. Delete any options that are already a known business — especially not one in your space.
  4. Make sure the domain name can be acquired. Check out our guide on how to buy a domain name for help here. Do not expect to register a domain name for $7/yr and call it a day. You really need to invest in a domain name for your business name. If you have a tight budget, get creative! You can get a great name that checks off all the boxes for under $1,500 if you put in the effort.

More tips for coming up with a name:

  • Imagine your name with a logo on a big sign in your future office space.
  • Imagine your name on a T-shirt.
  • Say your name out loud. “Hi, I’m Name from Business Name.” How does it feel? Do you like how it sounds?
  • Bounce your options around and talk to people about it.
  • Spend some time thinking about it and let it sit for a while. Do you continue to come back to the same name?

3: Buy your domain name

Again, do not take this lightly! It is not an area that makes sense to be cheap. We use Namecheap to buy our domains — you can read more about why in our review of the best domain registrars.

4: Set up social media accounts

It’s tough enough to find a good name where buying the .com is possible. Chances are, you won’t get exact match social media handles as well. Do everything you can to get them, but if that fails — get creative. Your social media handles / urls are much less important than your website, but they’re still worth putting effort into.

5: Develop a brand identity

It’s nice to have a logo, colors, fonts and a general look and feel to go along with your name. You can always update your brand identity down the road, so the initial run just needs to be good enough. 99 Designs is a great option for a full brand identity package. You can run a design contest that allows you to pick from hundreds of options.

6: Get some business cards

Your brand identity package from 99 Designs will come with business card designs. You can use them to get business cards printed online by Vista Print.

7: Find an accountant and an attorney

This one is easy to put on the back burner. You’ll save yourself a lot of hassle and potentially save your business altogether by getting ahead here. Line up the legal and tax pros ahead of time. There are lots of great options and your accountant and attorney can both be remote.

We haven’t personally used it, but we’ve heard a lot of good things about Upcounsel.

8: Set up an LLC

You can use your attorney for this, or you can use a service like Legal Zoom. Setting up an LLC is simple, so it’s a good spot to save some money by using a service like Legal Zoom.

9: Get an EIN

Getting your Employer Identification Number is something you can take care of along with the LLC. They typically go hand-in-hand. You’ll need that to do just about everything, including business banking.

10: Create an operating agreement

Even if it’s just you, an operating agreement is needed. Unless you have other people involved with your business, you can definitely get away with Legal Zoom here. Chances are, things will evolve and you will update your operating agreement down the road anyway. If you do have other people involved, have your attorney help out here.

11: File necessary paperwork with your state

If you’re using a lawyer, they can do all of this for you. Otherwise you’ll need to do some research into the requirements in your state, which also vary depending on the type of business you’re starting.

12: Set up 1Password

By now you are starting to see the theme here: Reduce future headache! Set up your systems now and you’ll be able to focus on growth moving forward.

1Password is an excellent tool for managing all of your passwords and sensitive data. It makes it easy to securely share logins with your team — which is key because Centrify estimates that lost passwords cost $416 in productivity per person.

13: Open a business bank account

Pretty straightforward. You’ll need that EIN. It’s typically most convenient to go with the same bank you’re already using for your personal accounts.

One thing to watch out for is a the upselling that many of the bigger banks do. For example, with Bank of America, we went ahead and took them up on an offer for Intuit Payroll. It ended up being a terrible user experience. The people at Intuit recommended that we sign up for a new account directly with Intuit because they couldn’t figure out how to solve some of the problems we were having. They put the blame on Bank of America. This ended up working out because instead of signing up for Intuit Payroll, we researched other options and found Gusto, which is much better.

The point here is to use your bank account for a bank account and be wary of using them for other offers or services.

14: Setup a G Suite account

G suite is the most important tool for our business. We do almost everything using G Suite. Our emails and calendars are all on G suite. We also rely heavily on Google Drive / Docs.

You’ll need to get this set up as soon as you have your domain name. Then you can easily get your business accounts set up.

15: Create a basic, foundational website

Your website can be a very big project depending on your business. In some cases your website could be the business. That’s why the focus here is simply on a basic, foundational website.

It’s good to have a one-page site live with information about your company. Then you can build further from there.

You can be up and running in the matter of minutes with Wix. Once you’re ready to do a full feature website, it’s easy to switch over to WordPress.

16: Set up a payroll service for employees and contractors

We like Gusto. They are very good. We use them and find their service to be superior to Intuit Payroll.

You won’t need to worry about this until you start paying employees or contractors. It’s good to have it ready and on deck though. Not only will the service automate your payroll, but it will also take care of taxes and forms that need to be filed.

17: Set up Quickbooks

A Quickbooks account is essential from day one. This is how you’ll manage your books and ensure you always have good records. Going back and importing historical data isn’t fun. The sooner you get it set up the better.

18: Put a basic accounting system in place

The best bet here is to work closely with your accountant. A good approach is to ask your accountant what you need to be doing throughout the year to make things easier when tax season comes and to make sure all quarterly obligations are met.

Quickbooks does all of the heavy lifting, but there are still things you’ll need to stay on top of. There is some crossover with what’s already been outlined here, but Shopify put together a good guide on small business accounting.

19: Create a subscription tracker

This is easy but often overlooked. 1Password is great for keeping track of your subscription logins. You still need some way to quickly see everything you have and what you are paying for, especially as you grow and have more people using and signing up for different tools and subscriptions.

A simple spreadsheet is all you need. Track the subscription, cost per month or year, terms (if any), payment method (what account or card is it tied to?), and renewal date.

20: Start using a project management solution from day one

The biggest thing here is to get in the habit of tracking all of your work. Even if you are the only person in your company, you should operate like an organization because someday you will have no choice. The other benefit besides creating good habits is the historical information and data that will come from working like this starting day one.

It’s very valuable for new people to come into your organization and be able to look back at what work has been done in the past. It’s context that will help them (and your business) be successful going forward.

It doesn’t matter what tool you use. You’ll likely change it a bunch of times anyway. We use Trello. There are dozens of great tools.

21: Build an internal wiki system from day one

Just as you should use a project management tool from the very early stages, it’s extremely valuable to start documenting everything right away.

If you ever want to scale your startup, you’ll need your brain to scale too. Your internal wiki is like your brain. Giving your future team instant access to your brain is huge. If you already have a disciplined approach to documenting things in the wiki, your team will follow suit.

It’s not fun figuring out the value of a wiki system 3 years down the road, 50 people deep. You’ll think of an endless number of documents you wish you’d have written out as you went along.

We use Confluence.

22: Set up a Slack account

Everyone loves Slack. It just works. Mobile communication is key.

23: Create a strategic plan for the next 12 months

Like your business plan, your strategic plan doesn’t need to be complicated.

Here’s how to write a simple startup business plan for year one:

  1. Come up with one big goal for the next 12 months.
  2. Determine what you need to do in order to reach your goal. What projects or activities will you need to perform?
  3. Figure out what metrics or parameters you can use to monitor progress. Put in place a system for tracking them.
  4. Review and challenge monthly. Make any necessary adjustments.

Even in a one-person shop, taking the time to do this will force strategic thinking and purposeful action. It will help you avoid being reactive and randomly doing whatever comes your way.

It becomes even more important when you have a team that needs to know what direction to march. They will need that context in order to do their jobs.

Other guides written on how to start a business are pretty general. I don’t see a lot of value in reiterating what is already out there, so here is a list of guides that I would recommend for further reading on how to start a business:

How to Dominate Google in 2019


You’ve already experienced it… SEO is becoming harder and harder.

As time goes on, it takes longer to rank and you have to spend more money to get the results you want.

But the reality is, you can’t wait forever to get results. And you have no choice but to leverage SEO as a tactic because everyone else is doing it.

So, what should you do?

Well, the first thing you need to do is adjust how you think about SEO. SEO isn’t only about rankings. To be honest, I don’t even track them for my own site. It’s about getting the right kind of traffic.

You know, the visitors who are ready to buy.

So, instead of teaching you how to rank for competitive head terms, which is going to be even more difficult in 2019, I’m going to break down a formula that will give you much faster results and sales in this ultra-competitive environment.

And best of all, I am going to break it down into 4 steps as I know you don’t have the time to do everything.

Here’s the 4-step SEO strategy you should follow in 2019:

Step #1: Attract customers before they are ready to buy

The most expensive keywords to go after are buyer intent keywords. You know, the ones where someone types in a keyword and is ready to spend money right then and there.

And that will always be the case. Not just from an SEO standpoint, but even a pay per click standpoint.

So, what should you do… not go after these lucrative keywords?

Of course not. More so, you have to go after them no matter how long it takes to rank. You just have to be patient.

But in the short run, there are other keywords you can go after that aren’t as competitive and don’t cause a sale right away. But they do cause a sale to happen… it just takes a few weeks from when that person first lands on your site to when they buy.

So how do you find the keywords that aren’t as competitive and cause people to buy (as long as you are willing to be patient)?

You use Google Correlate.

Here’s how it works…

Let’s say you are selling beard oil but you know the term is competitive and will take you a lot longer to rank for than you have.

So what do you do?

With Google Correlate, it will show you all of the terms people search for in Google before they search for the term “beard oil.”

In other words, these are the same people who buy beard oil products… but now you are going to attract them to your site before they are even ready to buy.

Type in “beard oil” or the term you want to rank for in Google Correlate. Then, shift series to -2 weeks, which means you will be given a list of terms people search for 2 weeks before they are likely to type in “beard oil.”

And then you will get a list of terms:

google correlate

As you can see from the image above, people type in terms like beard products, best beard oil, beard balm, what is beard oil, and how to make beard oil.

If you write blog content that is super in depth about those phrases, you’ll appeal to people who also search for beard oil.

The cool part about Google Correlate is it works differently than Google Suggest or any other keyword tool because they are showing you what people search for before they are ready to buy.

And similar to how you put in -2 weeks as the shift series, you can turn it into a positive number and see what people search for weeks after looking up beard oil:


You’ll notice a lot of people who search for beard oil search for oils related to coughs.

Most people who sell beard oil probably don’t think about offering oils for coughing, but it is a similar audience and it’s a great way for you to generate extra revenue from the customer base you already have.

Step #2: Land and expand

Everyone focuses on ranking for new terms. But there is an issue, it’s hard to rank for new terms.

Even though SEO has a huge ROI, it’s a strategy that requires patience.

But here is the thing, you can get results faster if you use the land and expand strategy.

Here’s how it works. Log into Google Search Console. Next, click on “performance” and you will see a list of terms that you currently rank for:

search console keywords

Then I want you to click on one of the most popular terms you already rank for and then click on pages. You should see a report that shows you the URL that ranks for the term on Google. You need this URL because you will be modifying this page.

search console pages

Now I want you to take that term and put it into Ubersuggest. Once the report loads, click on “Keyword Ideas” in the navigation. You’ll see a report that will look something like this:

ubersuggest keywords

You’ll see a laundry list of long tail phrases… I want you to take the ones that are buyer intent related and add them to the page that already ranks for the head term.

When adding the long tail phrases, make sure you adjust your content to be relevant to those keywords. And pick the ones that are highly related to your product or service. Just stuffing them into your page without adjusting the content is spammy and won’t provide a good user experience to searchers.

What you will find is that because you are already ranking for the head term, typically you will shoot to page one within 30 to 60 days for the long-tail variation by adjusting your content. It’s a quick win!

But the key to this strategy is to pick the right longtail keywords. Don’t just look at traffic numbers, focus on terms that you know will cause a sale or a lead.

Step #3: Build a brand

Google has been placing more emphasis on brands. In other words, if you have a strong brand, you’ll rank faster.

When I really started focusing on brand building, my traffic went from 240,839 in June 2016:

june traffic

To 454,382 in August 2016:

aug traffic

As the Ex-CEO of Google said:

Brands are the solution, not the problem. Brands are how you sort out the cesspool.

In other words, if you want to succeed on Google in the long run, you have to build a brand. As your brand grows, your search traffic will as well.

The way to monitor your brand growth is Google Trends. Type in your brand name into Google Trends as well as a few of your competitors to see how you are stacking up.

google trends

Sadly, there isn’t a quick hack to skyrocket your brand. There is, however, a formula that works for both personal and corporate brands.

So, what is the formula?

You do something that is bold!

Sure people can tell you to blog, speak at conferences, run ads… but none of that helps you build a brand that has a loyal following because everyone else is already doing the same things (or trying at least).

But what your competition isn’t doing is being bold. If you want a brand like Tony Robbins or Apple, bold is the way to go.

So how do you do something that is bold?

Well, lets first start with a personal brand (although I recommend that you build a corporate one instead).

Do the opposite

When it comes to building a personal brand, you’ll have to take the opposite approach of most people in your space. Whatever is working for them won’t work for you.

No one cares for the copycat, especially when they are satisfied with the original solution.

In other words, if you do exactly what your competitor is doing no one will care to follow you.

Let me give you examples of how to do the opposite of your competition:

  • Genuinely help people – a lot of people blog and participate on the social web, but how many people take the time to respond to their community? As far as I can tell, less than 1%. Just look at me. For years, I’ve responded to comments on my blog, Facebook, and even YouTube. I am so engaged with my community on LinkedIn that they honored me as one of their Top Voices of 2018! Most people are too lazy to do this… doing the opposite has helped me build a connection with you. And if you are wondering why I do this it’s because when I started out I had no money and people helped me. I’m just trying to do the same.
  • Writing 10x content – when I got into blogging, everyone was doing it. So I had to find a way to separate myself. I did this by writing in-depth guides… not those 5,000-word blog posts, I am talking about 30,000-word guides. On top of that, I spent money on the design so they would look beautiful.
  • Creating video content – when I got into the digital marketing community, there were already large conferences that had thousands of attendees. I thought speaking at all of them would help my brand… and they did to some extent, but I was just another speaker. But very few people in my space were creating video content… so now instead of giving speeches at conferences, I give them on YouTube, Facebook, and LinkedIn. I’m able to reach more people without having to travel and the content lives on forever (and is available for free to everyone!).

That’s how I stood out from my competition and built a personal brand. And then I did it for years as brands aren’t built overnight.

If you aren’t sure on how to do the opposite of your competition when it comes to your personal brand leave a comment and I’ll try and give you some ideas.

Now let’s go into building a brand for your company… It all comes down to one thing…

Be bold

No matter what you are selling online you have competition. It doesn’t matter if you are a B2B or a B2C business… you have competition, which means it is going to be hard for your brand to stand out.

So, how do you differentiate yourself?

You do so by being bold.

Let me give you an example. In the United States, there are tons of options when it comes to cell phone carriers. So how do you stand out when everyone offers the same phone and competitive pricing?

Well, T-Mobile separated themselves by offering free Netflix, unlimited data, and free roaming.


And you don’t have to be a big company to do something bold. When Zappos started selling shoes they decided to do a few things different. First, they offered a refund policy that lasted 1 year. Just think about that… if you return a shoe to them 12 months later, the chances are it’s out of style and they won’t be able to resell it.


Then they decided to randomly upgrade their shipping. So instead of ground shipping, they would randomly upgrade you to 2-day or next-day air.

And Amazon crushed their competition the moment they rolled out their Prime program. When it first came out, you would get free 2-day shipping on all Prime products for just $99 a year. What a ridiculously amazing offer.

Now that’s being bold!

Being bold doesn’t have to break your bank account. You don’t have to do something like Amazon and T-Mobile… it can be as simple as providing amazing customer service when you are in an industry that’s known for terrible support.

If you are unsure of how you can be bold with your business, leave a comment and I will try and give you some ideas. Make sure you provide an overview of your business so I can give you halfway decent ideas. 😉

And of course, being bold won’t build your brand overnight (it takes years) but you should see growth each quarter. If you aren’t, that means you aren’t being bold enough.

Step #4: Build a better mousetrap

A mousetrap? Why would you want to build a mousetrap?

Link building is still important. Sure, Google is looking at many other factors now, but link building still helps with rankings.

But it is harder to build links than it used to be back in the day. Everyone is blogging… heck, there are over 440 million blogs and over a billion if you count Tumblr, Medium, and

Yes, that means there are more sites to hit up and ask for a link but everyone is doing that.

So how do you build links when everyone is getting those spammy emails asking for a link, such as the one below?

spammy links

You have to build a better mousetrap. Something so amazing that everyone wants to link to it without you asking for a link.

It used to be detailed guides but seeing 10,000-word guides that have fancy designs are more common these days than when I started creating them.

They still work, especially when it comes to brand building, but they just aren’t as effective when it comes to link building.

Same with infographics, they used to get tons of social shares and links (they still do to some extent), but they aren’t as effective as they used to be.

So what kind of mousetrap do you need to build? You could start off with something that people are used to paying for.

For example, the consulting firm Price Intelligently released a free analytics software called ProfitWell.

With very little marketing, they were able to generate 943 backlinks from 187 domains.


I also did this with Ubersuggest.

ubersuggest tool

I put in more effort into marketing, so I was able to generate 10,667 unique backlinks.

ubersuggest links

A great example in the consumer space (this would do wonders for e-commerce sites as well) is animated infographics. Everyone has seen infographics, so Aminagraffs decided to make their infographics animated, which caused them to go viral.

Here’s part of their infographic that breaks down how a car motor works.

car motor

Best of all, the Amimagraphs founder didn’t do any marketing… the graphic just spread. Even with no marketing, it generated 751 backlinks from 136 domains and over 200,000 visitors.

car backlinks

If you want to use old-school link building tactics, you can, they just won’t help you as much in 2019. So, get creative and build a better mousetrap.

When you build a good mousetrap, you may be worried about cost. But there is a different way to think about it…

How much would you be spending on marketing to get the same results?

People make fun of me for what I am doing with Ubersuggest and think it is silly that I can “lose” $150,000 or so a month. But if I had to buy the traffic that I get because of Ubersuggest it would cost me much more than $150,000. Even though my mousetrap is expensive, it is still cheaper than paid ads.

And you don’t have to go as far as me. Doing what Animagraffs is affordable. I paid them $750 to create an animated infographic for me. I’m not sure what they charge these days, but I bet you can find someone on the web who will do it for a few hundred bucks.


Instead of thinking of SEO in the traditional sense, I want you to shift your strategy.

SEO is only going to get harder, Google is going to continually change their algorithm in ways you may not like, but the one thing that is certain is the old way of doing SEO will get you results, just not in the timeframe you want.

So, follow the 4 steps above. They are unconventional, but the industry is so competitive and saturated that you have no choice but to think outside of the box.

So what other unique strategies are you going to leverage in 2019?

The post How to Dominate Google in 2019 appeared first on Neil Patel.