Are You at Risk of Being “Uberized”?

If you’re like many Business Owners and Leaders you probably feel pretty good about the position you hold in your market… so did the taxi cab companies and drivers before Uber became a reality. Now they are scrambling and trying to find a way to survive… even to the point of trying to get political help in different cities to stay afloat.

Disruption and Commoditization have impacted virtually every industry today. There probably isn’t a single industry that hasn’t been impacted by a disruptive organization entering their market and stealing some of their market share. Uber is an excellent example but there are many others that have been equally disruptive. Companies such as LegalZoom have taken billions of dollars away from attorneys over the past several years. They captured and disrupted a document and transaction-based business and turned it into a commodity by substantially lowering the pricing of document preparation… impacting attorneys all over the country.

Amazon was an early disruptor to the entire book business… taking significant market share away from Barnes and Noble and Borders who were recognized giants in the book industry. And we certainly can’t forget about Blockbuster’s demise when Netflix entered the market. They were the unquestioned dominant leader in video rental and were virtually replaced overnight by an unknown company with a new disruptive business model that matched the needs of customers at substantial savings.

Even though these examples are in completely different industries there is one common thread that runs through all of them… they didn’t believe anyone could disrupt their dominance in their market. While it’s awesome to believe in your product or service, it’s dangerous to think there isn’t someone waiting in the wings to take away your position. Unlike any other time in history, we are now seeing new companies coming into traditional industries from many unrelated areas and establishing a disruptive model and capturing significant market share. This trend is only going to continue now that it has shown massive success over the past few years. So what can you do, as the leader of your business, to either avoid or minimize the impact of this potential disruption?

While commoditization is difficult to combat with products and services over a long period of time, there is at least one alternative that appears to withstand the test of time and delivers differentiation in the market… your CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE.

It is difficult to continually come up with new products and services to satisfy the ravenous appetite customers have today. Just when you think you have the best and leading edge product or newest service, someone comes in and “one-ups” you and takes away the leading spot. While you might remain there for some period of time, it is difficult to remain at the top for extended periods of time. Apple is one of the few that has been successful at this… but it took them many years of living in the shadow of Microsoft and others before they became the dominant leader. Today, Microsoft is in this unenviable position and trying to fight their way back to the top… especially in the race for the Cloud.

But these are behemoth companies… not the SMB market. They can throw billions of dollars at innovation and products and hope they find a winner. The small and mid-sized business (SMB) can’t be this frivolous with their cash and making too many product/service mistakes can wipe out a business before anything comes to fruition. The proven alternative to this madness is to focus on the ONE THING that is completely in their control to design and deliver… their CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE.

Customer Experience has both short and long term advantages. It is something that can be created and implemented within the year but last for many decades to come when implemented properly. And by properly I’m not talking about telling all your employees they need to be nicer to the customer… that never works for the long term… every company can be nice to their customers if they try. This isn’t the answer… this isn’t the differentiator… but it’s on the right track.

Creating a customized CUSTOMER JOURNEY that is built upon a very well defined Customer Experience Process (something we call Customer Experience Mapping) is what allows companies to reap these rewards for many years into the future. Think Disney… they created “the happiest place on earth” and continue to deliver this experience year after year after year. This didn’t happen by holding a meeting and telling all their employees and characters to be nicer to their guests… it happened because they have a very well defined Customer Journey that is built on a foundation of a well-designed and executed Customer Experience.

Nordstrom did the same thing many decades ago. They started selling shoes… then clothing… all at high prices. But they started with a very distinct process inside the organization for delivering an incredible customer experience day in and day out. Zappos followed this same model… sold shoes… one of the ultimate commodities in the clothing industry… and they dominate today. They don’t give discounts and silly things like “one day only” sales (every day)… they simply deliver a remarkable Customer Experience to every customer every day… and their customers love to buy from Zappos. And it has worked out pretty well when you consider they went from zero to over $1 Billion in revenues in less than 10 years and were sold to Amazon for more than a billion dollars. Not a bad model if you ask me.

One way to avoid being COMMODITIZED and losing customers is to design something even new entrants can’t copy… the experience you offer. If your Customer Experience is so incredibly amazing and remarkable… WOW… every single day with every interaction, this creates immediate differentiation and a long tail of success. It is the ultimate weapon against commoditization or even new entrants into a market. For a new disruptive entrant to take away market share they would need to be so much better and cheaper than anything you offered… which is difficult to do today. And for those of you that are saying to yourself right now, “Yea but we’re different, we do a good quality job and treat our customers well so we aren’t at risk,” I would offer you some instant advice… take the blinders off and get real with looking at your business. This is living in a fantasy world… this isn’t looking at your company from the eyes of your customer… they are seeing something very different. And if someone came into your market today and offered a completely different (and awesome) experience to your customers at or below your price they would be gone in a heartbeat.

Achieving long-term dominance doesn’t happen by “being nicer to your customers” and thinking you have created differentiation… you haven’t. Being CUSTOMER OBSESSED and creating a process based CUSTOMER JOURNEY that has a well laid out and documented CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE PROCESS at the heart of it is what will help you avoid being “Uberized.” This strategy gives you differentiation, uniqueness, and a special place in your customers heart and mind… it gives you the “long tail” of success.

I would strongly and passionately encourage you to learn more about why and how this is completely different than what you are probably doing today. If there was ONE THING TO FOCUS ON IN 2017 it would be to create a strategy based around a well-planned Customer Journey which incorporated an incredibly awesome Customer Experience by Mapping out all the experiences your customer will receive when they interact with your business (there are usually over 20 for most companies in the SMB market). If this is of interest and you want to learn more, let’s grab coffee and I can share how some of the best companies in the world have followed this path… for decades… and still dominate in their industries. I think you will find it a fascinating discussion…

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Science Research Funding Under A Trump Administration – What Will Happen?

Right after Donald Trump won the presidency, scientists and researchers got together to stage a large protest with signs and marched on Washington DC to make their case for research funding fearing that academia would be cut off from those 10s of billions of dollars in money flows to themselves and their institutions. Apparently, academia is worried their gravy train will end, and maybe they are right – but protesting won’t work. Academia is already in serious challenges due to the outstanding college loan debt default rates. Is this a perfect storm for science? Let’s look at this a little closer shall we?

There was an interesting article in Scientific American in the January/February 2017 issue titled; “Ending the Crisis of Complacency in Science – To survive the Trump administration, scientists need to invest in a strategic vision that mobilizes social change,” by Matthew Nisbet which stated:

“As newly elected president Donald Trump takes office, the scientific community faces the likelihood not only of unprecedented cuts in government funding for research, but also of bold new attacks on scientific expertise as a basis for policy making and decisions. Trump campaigned on a pledge to eliminate as much as $100 million in ‘wasteful climate change spending’ and there have been reports of plans to severely cut funding for NASA and other agencies.” The article also talked about the NIH funding of Stem Cells and how they might turn back to the Bush years on that type of science funding. There was a point in the piece about the need for scientists to do better with PR and media so the tax paying public would be more supportive. In fact the author of the article suggested better cooperation with journalists was important to change the narrative to continue climate research funding.

Interestingly enough, the NIH and NSF and other big research funders are under the executive branch of our Federal Government. Academia is worried because they chose the wrong political side and academia had brain-washed our kids towards a leftist, socialist skew – they are in fear now, but they’ve allowed that academic bubble to build – academia has caused their own demise, with their High IQ’s they still don’t see it. What do I think of this as the founder of a Think Tank?

Well, here is my assessment; My gosh, that article was so out-of-touch with the new political landscape. In fact, Donald Trump’s Administration is a breath of fresh air for science, and he’s about the only one who can save scientific research and academia from their current path towards a cliff.

Sure there will be cuts in all the ‘politically correct research’ that many in academia are now calling “science” and yes there will be cuts in Global Warming research – after all, it is academia that continues to go with that IPCC globalist narrative that climate science; it’s “settled” by consensus (what?). The climate scientists hypocrisy is epic – you see, if it is settled then there doesn’t need to be anymore science research there, we already know right? Now then, we have to determine if we should act on that research or not to cut human emissions of CO2 (which by the way is only 3% of the total CO2 output of this trace gas). Academia can’t have it both ways and say it is settled, because if it is then there is no need to keep funding their incredible PhD level academic salaries then. Let them find something else to study or get a new line of work.

Sure there will cuts to BS science and waste – there is a ton of it, admit it. I see the grants being awarded by the NSF, NIH, and some of that crap is a waste. With the Trump Administration – the good science stays and the crap goes – there will be plenty of money and research for GOOD science. Academia will have to adapt, just like businesses do. Remember it was one of theirs who said; “Change is the only constant” so they will have to deal with it. No more sniveling.

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The Eurozone Train Wreck Continues Into 2017

The European Union seems to be trying to hold itself together, but it is indeed wobbling itself apart like an aircraft engine with an unbalanced propeller and the vibrations are getting worse reverberating from one side of the continent to the other, where no nation is spared from the challenges which await – so what can we expect in 2017 you ask?

Well, “Brexit” has already had some effect on Germany and other nations are considering similar exits from the EU, which could quicken its demise. The recent Italian vote was problematic as is the condition of the Italian banks. Remember when Greece got caught short? Do you remember in 2014 what was going on in the EU? Let me remind you quickly:

MSNBC Money “China, France drag on global manufacturing revival,” published on February 3, 2014, written by Jonathan Cable and Koh Gui Qing which stated; “Manufacturers around the world enjoyed a solid start to the year as order books swelled, surveys showed on Monday, though a struggle for growth in China and a downturn in France took the shine off the overall picture. Euro zone factories had their best month since mid-2011 and, with unemployment near record highs, increased headcount for the first time in two years. They were led by a sharp pick-up in Germany and a revival among the states on the region’s periphery. But France, the bloc’s second biggest economy, remained a drag on the region.”

As an example Greece, when they entered the EU they had a bad credit rating and any loans would of cost them a lot in interest, when they joined the EU they effectively got the same rate on loans as Germany who as you probably know are very stable in the financial sector, so Greece took loans out at low interest rates for years.

Yah, Greece has always been a financial disaster like Argentina or Zimbabwe… now it’s all gone sour they are left with huge debts and so on, Italy and Spain are in the same boat and seeing as the UK loaned ALOT of money to Spain and others we are massively exposed to the crisis. Spain for example has more empty property (new builds) than the ENTIRE USA.

Real estate tanked in Spain, we all read about that in the WSJ, few in the US realized it was that bad. In 2008 China was challenged even after their 2008 stimulus as their municipals did elaborate growth projects, building for the sake of it?

Remember the original plan for the EU was to introduce one currency (which they did) and then introduce a EURO Government to manage it, the second part never happened and now the backlash is huge, and it doesn’t really matter that the 2008 crisis started in the US. The EU wasn’t doing that well before the crisis. And we shouldn’t blame the US for the crash, let’s not forget one of the enablers was AIGs London Office selling insurance often with guarantees in excess of 130% of face value on those mortgage bundles and credit default swaps.

Yes, we have some socialists in the US and when the capitalists and socialists get together or start using each other it is as if everyone loses their brains. So, the slow-motion train wreck and Eurozone melt-down continues, who is to say if it can continue for long without falling apart, and once that engine falls off the plane, its coming in for a very hard landing. Let’s hope that doesn’t happen in 2017.

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5 New Year’s Resolutions for Busy Families

It somehow seems that modern life is busier than it has ever been. As well as our work and family commitments, there are now so many ways to spend our leisure time; it often feels like 24 hours is simply not long enough to get everything you wanted done in the day.

The problem of being busy all of the time (even though it is a good problem to have) hits those of us who have time-consuming jobs and are also raising a family the hardest. If you fall into this category, you may find it helpful to read the following list of five potential New Year’s resolutions you could make to ensure your 2017 is less stressful than this year may have been!

1) Leave the office on time – Even if it’s only on one or two days a week, it is important that you sometimes put your foot down and leave your place of work as soon as your day is meant to finish. You’ll find that you get much more done in the evenings!

2) Invest in a 2017 calendar – It may sound like a simple step, but that’s sort of the point. Having your work and leisure commitments mapped out for the weeks and months ahead in an easy to view format will allow you to see at a glance just how busy you are and whether you are taking on too much.

3) Spend 10 minutes doing nothing – Again, this is more productive than it sounds! Set your alarm ten minutes earlier every day so that, before you get up, you can spend this extra time in completely undisturbed silence, thinking about what your priorities should be for the day to come.

4) What are your two most important tasks? – Speaking of priorities, it is also a good idea to take a step back from time to time and decide which the two most important jobs are that you wish to accomplish on any given day. This is a great way of clearing your head when you feel overwhelmed.

5) Consider hiring household staff – You may have thought that hiring a nanny or other household staff might be the ‘easy way out’, but this is not the case. Those who have invested in professional assistance of this kind know that hiring a caring and responsible person to help run your busy home is a fantastic way of relieving domestic pressures.

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SEO Tactics That Need to Be Considered

The year is close to the end and SEO consultants are already debating over the strategies and tactics that needs to be followed in the coming year 2017. Several has already researched and published several things and here are we. We have researched and compared several activities to identify which will work and where we did general silly mistakes.

After a clear indication and detailed research, we have identified few tactics that will definitely work in the coming year. Several had already in the marathon & performing much better and few are new (actually not new, but generally misguided prior).

According to the research, traditional approach of “off-page activities” and “on-page activities” will definitely work with few ideological changes. Lets discuss in detail:

On-site SEO Tactics (On-page activities)

To get ready to face hurdles in 2017, SEO Specialists should work first on On-site SEO Tactics. On-site SEO means the work done on the own website instead of other’s. From site structure to website speed, it incorporates several factors, such as-

 

  • UI and Navigation – Great UI always leads to the conversions, user interaction and better impressions. While clear navigation helps to improve visit duration of an individual user. Included in it, they are an essential elements to get rank and get authorized by several active users and webmasters. Use easy navigational formats, proper context placement, elegant web design, etc. to provide better user experience.
  • Site Architecture – A proper architectural design will definitely lead to the ranking and also impact on user experience. While at the different side, it will help to recognize user behavior as well. Site Architecture promises to the proper alignment, proper placement of context and a clearer look. Follow standards of web design, include high level graphics, relevant videos, error-free content, and things to improve user click behavior.
  • Site Interlinking – Interlinking plays a vital role in site ranking. As it leads a user to different pages on the same website and shares the link juice to others, it helps to improve page rank as well as the keyword impressions on Google. Use proper linking structure and anchor on relevant keyword to relevant web page to get noticed by Google crawlers.
  • Site Speed and Crawl ability – Faster loading enhances user experience and help a website to hold users for more duration. To make your website faster on browsers just minify your CSS and JS file and enable the compression of your resources. Even you should work on caching functionality, which amazingly improves crawl speed.
  • Mobile Responsiveness – It is the most essential element to rank well on mobile devices and get higher rate of user interaction. Google has already announced the necessity of responsiveness in its previous update – Mobilegeddon. So, adopt responsive layouts to rank well on search engine’s SERP for both desktop searches and mobile searches.
  • Schema Markup – To identify things accurately, we need few markups that define what it is, why it’s used, who own it, etc. Similarly, search engines also needed few markups to identify site’s elements. That’s why Google itself created Schema Markups that defines the author, title, logo, and several other elements in a website. It helps to index accurately and return back for the accurate search queries.
  • Local Identity Markup – As per Google’s Pigeon update, it’s essential to include Local NAP (Name, Address, Phone no) to get ranked high for local results. This markup results much better for the geocentric searches. So, include your local identity and get ranked better in 2017.
  • Include Authorize trust signals – Authorized websites will get some betterment in the SERP, as they reveal their trust signals. Their trust signals can be their partner’s logo, their SSL certificate, their trademark, etc. So, include trust signals to get user’s trust, this is essential in the near future.

Off-site SEO Tactics (Off-page activities)

On a parallel side, expert digital marketers needed to work on Off-site SEO tactics to create a better presence on search engines. By making authentic, relevant and themed links, we can face the hurdles and overcome from the obstacles in the coming year. Let’s discuss the major off-page activities that will lead in 2017:

 

  • Authentic Link Building – Authenticity comes first when we talk about user trust. Even for the search engine crawlers, authentic link building makes a website trustworthy and helps to improve impressions on a search engine. So, try to get better outbound links from.edu or.org websites or from highly ranked (high DA, PA and PR websites).
  • Content Marketing – Content appears as one of the most important factor in SEO and used as a lead tactic in off-page optimization. From traditional activities to the modern assignments, content used everywhere. But not ordinary, having creative, unique and effective content is essential for better impressions on search engines and it affects the user behavior as well. So, use relevant, grammar-free, unique, expressive and out of the box content for your SEO campaigns in 2017.
  • Authorize Guest Networking – The term networking will impact negatively for the crawlers and because of that, Google somehow didn’t recognize Guest networking for ranking. But if it used in a positive aspect, guest blog networking will impact much better. As they are highly relevant, most authentic and user centric, so, they directly lead more users to a website.
  • Keyword Optimization – Every strategy begins with the selection of relevant keywords, who takes the lead and makes a website visible in SERP for different search queries. Proper placement of keywords in a content (i.e. Keyword Density) and the proximity are essential to get benefited through selected keywords. So, use highly relevant keywords, keep focus on density and proximity, use them in headings and title, etc.
  • Local Listing for all – As per Google’s Pegion Update, local results will completely influence by local listings, NAP and local keywords. By doing local directory submissions, local citation, classifieds on local portals and promotions using local keywords will improve the rank for local searches. So, try to involve GEO specific keywords and local listings in your strategy for 2017 SEO.
  • Active Blogging – Be active to make your promotions worthy. As content marketing is an essential tactic of promotions, blogging is another way of content marketing. On your own blog, company’s blog or on other’s relevant blogs, continual blogging will improve your impressions. So, actively write informative, effective and relevant content for blogging purpose.
  • Themed Linking – In 2017, try to focus on thematic linking, as it shows more relevant and attract targeted audience. Themed linking simply means to the conceptual back linking or getting backlinks from similar concept websites. So, try to search relevant and similar theme sites through competitor analysis, backlink check or searching Google for similar content and place your backlink there.
  • Link Reclamation – Another technique that will give assurance for the better results. Reclamation simply means to recreate broken links by making them revive. For that you can search broken links on highly authorized websites such as Wikipedia, and target relevant thematic content towards your own website. So rebuild your authenticity by using link reclamation in 2017.
  • Client Testimonials/Reviews – Recommendation always improves user trust as well as the Google’s. By asking client testimonials and reviews (obviously positive) on different portals, such as Google business page, Facebook Page, Glassdoor and others, will enhance the ranks and impressions. So, ask positive reviews and testimonials from clients to rank well in 2017.
  • Improve Visual Content Engagement – Text only content can’t make you enhance your user stay on the website. As it somehow makes them bore and ruin their experience. Even no-one has time to read huge content. So, try to involve expressive and engaging visual content such as graphics, images, videos, animations, etc. to improve user engagement and to reduce bounce rate.

 

Social Networking Tactics (Social Signals)

Previously, these are known as a part of “Off-Page Tactics”, but now they have an individual preference and an impact on ranking and impressions on search engines. As a recommended tactic, these signals also consider to make conversions and direct connection. So, that’s require to keep your faith and focus over social signals and work on its elements, such as-

 

  • Social Activeness – Be active on social networks to create a recognized identity. A post on a daily basis can help you to transform your business page into a brand and aware relevant audience about your services, products and features.
  • Improve circle/Friend list of relevant fields – Be clear about the audience before selecting one as a friend on your business account. As it is solely for promotions and conversions and somehow work as a showcase, but only for the relevant one. So improve your friend list with most relevant users, which can help you to generate more pennies in less promotion.
  • Enhance Network – Along with the enhancement in friends, that’s also essential to be a part of different, but relevant communities and groups. It will help you to enhance your reach in the same industry and improve the chance of conversions.
  • Active Blogging on Social Networks – As an emerging platform, social networks are the perfect place to do blogging. As they guarantee about the self promotion and highest reach on a single post, they also assured you about more user interaction. Even the content placed on social platforms such as – Facebook, LinkedIn, Reddit, Stumbleupon, etc. will get high authority and index sooner.
  • Ask for Social Reviews – Social networks worth a lot to make your business a brand. So, be active on it to be always identified, authorized and recognized by several. Even, never leave a single day without interacting, sharing your thought and asking your circle for the reviews. As these are much appreciated way to get ranked on search engines.

Analytics and rapid check (crosscheck activities)

Google used to change its search algorithms on a regular basis (several times in a single year), which caused for the failure of several tactics and also amazingly improve few ones. In those changes some are seriously the giants such as previous – Panda, Penguin,

So, it’s an essential thing to cross check the work by keeping eyes on a few things, such as-

 

  • Google Tool Analysis – As an SEO consultant, we are used to with these tools and connected with them regularly. Even these are essential to calculate traffic and to analyze site errors. Moreover, that tools like Google Analytics and webmasters can be utilized to improve the site’s crawl ability, sitemap indexing, user behavior, manual penalties, and much more.
  • In-Page Analysis – To identify user’s behavior on a single page, we generally use In-Page Google Analytics tools. This clears out the user flow, means on which direction user reads the content and interacts with which context more. With a clear percentage, we can analyze the context worth and according to that we can modify our context.
  • Performance Measurement – To identify the worth of work, we need to do performance measurement on a regular basis. It includes backlink checking, broken link checking, 404 checking, link error checking, authority checking, etc. By the rapid checkup, we can make ourselves assure about the results and it will help us to prepare further strategies.
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