Things to Know Before Considering Investing in Stocks

The stock market has always been the most popular destination for aspiring investors. Even the experienced investors are mainly focused on stocks due to their benefits and their potential for yielding a substantial return on investment (ROI). But what does investing in stocks really mean? Simply put, by purchasing a share of some company’s stocks, you’re purchasing a small percentage of their entire assets. You can sell or buy more stocks when the price is right or hold on to them, in order to enjoy the income from dividends.

Either way, stock investments are a good opportunity to gain profits from the money you have saved up and currently have no need for. However, even though the stock market is highly regulated, it’s important to understand that every investment is a risk. In other words, stock prices are evaluated based on a company’s performance. If you don’t know what you’re doing, you might lose your entire investment before you even realize your own mistake. With that in mind, here are a few things to know before considering investing in stocks.

Consider diversification

As mentioned before, every investment is a risk, especially if you focus only on a single investment method, such as stocks. Investors suggest that by diversifying your investment portfolio, you can minimize the risk of losses. For example, if you suffer a loss from stock price decrease, you can balance it out from other investment assets.

Diversification means investing in various stocks as well as ETFs (Exchange-Traded Funds), bonds and mutual funds or investing in alternative methods, such as gold, real estate and so on. However, if you want to stick to stocks, you should know that you have options available to you that will help hedge risks and insure stock losses. These options are also called stock options, specifically, call and put options. Options are contracts between two parties on the stock market, so it’s advised that you do not engage in such activities without consulting a lawyer first.

Consider taxes

Taxation laws should always be monitored by investors. Taxes can influence your investment decisions in many ways. For example, after the “Tax Cuts and Jobs Act” has been signed in the U.S., the taxes for large companies went down from 28% to 21%. The same act affected small companies reducing their taxation from 32% to 21% as well. This change made small cap stocks a good investment opportunity. However, it’s important not to solely focus on how taxes affect stock prices but how they affect your gains as well.

For example, if you receive dividend income from your stock investments, you must pay income tax that is oftentimes 15% but it’s subject to change. In addition, taxes affect selling stocks for a profit or loss. If you hold on to your stock for more than a year, for example, your incomes are taxed at a long-term capital gains tax rate. That’s why it’s important to consult with an advisor, in order to understand at which capital gains tax rate your incomes or losses are taxed.

Understand the rules and regulations

The stock market is highly regulated, which means any wrongdoings or misconduct won’t go unpunished. The stock market is regulated by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) in the U.S. SEC is a government agency whose task is overseeing and enforcing rules and regulations regarding the stock market laws. Each country has their own government agency representative to help regulate the market, such as the FCA (Financial Conduct Authority) in the U.K. or the Australian Securities and Investment Commission (ASIC) in Australia.

The SEC is also in charge of publishing mandatory financial disclosures regarding corporations. Moreover, they investigate criminal behavior such as insider trading, spreading of false information, accounting frauds, manipulation of the market and so on. That being said, it’s important to familiarize yourself with any laws, rules and regulations regarding the stock exchange in your country of origin, in order to avoid misunderstandings or inconveniences.

Be mindful of the influence

Investors are prone to following what the others are doing, especially new investors on the stock market. The fact of the matter is that each investor has a unique strategy they’re following. That means that you shouldn’t copy what others are doing or where they’re placing their investments. For example, following the trends from newsletters or investing where everyone else is may mislead you to make a mistake. Instead, try to follow the accuracy of stock prices.

As a matter of fact, stocks have actual value but they oftentimes vary in accuracy. As mentioned before, stocks are evaluated based on a company’s performance on the market and prices are bound to rise or drop based on estimates and future projections of that company’s performance. However, at any moment, stocks are worth the present value of the future cash flow their holders will receive. Therefore, trade based only on actionable information you can obtain, instead of risking your investment based on a hunch.

 

The stock market presents investors with the opportunity to maximize their ROI for long-term investments. However, the stock market holds a significant risk, especially for those that are unfamiliar with how the market works. That’s why it’s important to consider important factors before you start investing in stocks.

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Why Operating Cash Flow is Important for Small Businesses

Every business, no matter how large or small it may be, depends on its cash flow. Cash is the most important business asset because it’s the most liquid asset as well. Having cash means you can pay for every expense immediately. It also means you can make investments when an opportunity presents itself. Without cash, a company would start having financial difficulties and eventually go bankrupt, even if that same company is generating good revenue and profits.

That’s why cash is considered king in the business world, at least from a financial point of view. It’s of the utmost importance for companies to track their operating cash flow. Operating cash flow is cash generated by a company’s everyday operations and not the cash gained from external resources, such as private reserves or investor funds. In other words, the cash a company can generate in order to sustain its business operations. Here are a few reasons why operating cash flow is important for small businesses.

Business liquidity

A company’s liquidity determines its chances of long-term success. Basically, what liquidity means is the ability of a company to cover its immediate and short-term liabilities, i.e. its obligations or debts using its own assets. The liquidity ratio is determined by a company’s ability to pay its dues on time within a one-year time span. That’s where cash flow and cash-on-hand come into play. To calculate the ratio, companies must assess their liquid assets. The number of liquid assets a company possesses can usually be found in their balance sheet.

For instance, an emergency savings account is considered a liquid asset. Simply put, how fast can you turn your asset into cash determines the liquidity of an asset, and since a savings account is basically cash stored up, it’s one of the most liquid assets a company has. On the other hand, a building is also a liquid asset, but it takes time to sell it and turn it into cash. What’s more, you can rarely get the right price quickly for the building’s true worth, which means this asset is less liquid than the cash itself.

Balancing the cash flow

Positive cash flow is crucial for companies. It means you have more money coming in from accounts receivable than going out through accounts payable. However, too much cash can be almost as bad as not having enough cash. Primarily because if you have a surplus of cash, it means your company is missing out on potential investment opportunities where it can generate even more income and profit.

On the other hand, lacking cash means your company is most likely unable to collect payments from clients or customers on time. That can be solved by implementing a direct debit system for your recurring incoming payments and repeat customers, which will automatically collect funds. In other words, you balance the cash flow by ensuring payments are collected on time and surplus funds are invested wisely.. However, you cannot do that if you don’t track your operating cash flow.

Avoiding a financial crisis

As mentioned before, companies that generate good revenue can still go bankrupt without a positive cash flow. As you already know, cash is the most liquid asset. That means that you can use it to pay urgent expenses, such as bills, taxes, salaries and so on. However, a lot of small business owners confuse revenue and profits with cash, which is a huge mistake.

  • Revenue is a total sum of money your company has obtained by conducting business operations over a specific period of time. Simply put, revenue is the entire income of your company, which was generated from sources such as sales, borrowed capital and interest rates among other things.
  • On the other hand, your profit is the total sum of money your company has after you subtract your business expenses, i.e. operating costs and taxes from your total revenue. That profit is also called Net Profit.

Revenue nor profit is actual cash.

For instance, payments from invoices are considered sales profits and revenue but you don’t get cash until invoices are due, which is anywhere between 30 and 120 days. Conversely, you still have expenses to pay during that time, such as salaries and bills but you can’t do that without cash, which means you either find funds elsewhere or declare bankruptcy. That’s an example of going bankrupt even when your company generates revenue.

Operating cash flow is essential for small business success, as well as for financial stability. Having positive operating cash flow means your company is self-sustainable. In other words, your revenue, profits and cash can maintain optimal business operations without you having to pour external funds into your company, such as taking out a loan or asking an investor for financial aid.

4 Ways to Improve Your Company’s Customer Experience Strategy

Nowadays, consumers are savvier than they ever were. Businesses that wish to engage their customers and ensure their loyalty must provide more than exceptional product or service quality. As a matter of fact, it’s all about the customer experience these days. What exactly is customer experience? Simply put, customer experience is the sum of all interactions a consumer has with a company both pre- and post-purchase.

What’s more, a customer experience strategy is a company’s effort to make those interactions meaningful, seamless, and exceptional, in order for them to form an outstanding experience for the consumer. The better the experience companies are able to provide to customers, the easier it becomes to ensure their satisfaction, engagement and even loyalty. Not only that but consumers generally prefer to do business with companies that can provide a seamless customer experience. That being said, here are a few ways to improve your company’s customer experience strategy.

Understand your customer needs

Nowadays, customer experience revolves around ensuring your company is able to meet customer expectations, needs and demands. In order to achieve that, you must first understand your audience well and also understand their needs. Market research, for example, allows you to gain insight into your target audience and discover who they are, what they do and of course, what they like.

Also, a competitive analysis allows you to learn more about your customers from the way your competitors treat their customers and how customers are responding to that experience. However, the essence of understanding customers is to put yourself in their shoes and determine what you would expect from a business or a brand. This will help you develop a more strategic approach with a focus on the customers themselves. It will allow you to improve your strategy and deliver an exceptional experience to your audience.

Improve customer support

It’s no secret that you cannot expect from every individual customer to immediately understand how your products, policies, services or something similar works. Sooner or later, someone is bound to get confused and seek support. You must be able to provide customers with answers or solution because customer support is also a crucial element of customer experience. As an example, even industry giants, such as Apple have a unique approach when it comes to customer experience, especially support.

There are various Apple store locations worldwide that can easily be found with a simple search. Apple’s take on in-store experience is to train staff to deliver value to customers through service and support, instead of just trying to sell a product. Therefore, whether your company is interacting with customers online, offline or both, make sure you provide adequate support on each access point. That way, you ensure there are no inconveniences or misunderstandings that may ruin customer experience.

Hire the right staff

When it comes to improving your customer experience strategy, it’s important to remember that, in most cases, customers interact with your employees. Therefore, employees are also essential in delivering a seamless experience whether through service, support or some other method. When improving your strategies, consider hiring the right employees with the right people skills, if you haven’t done so by now.

Employees can establish and encourage emotional responses in customers, which will improve customer relations with your company. In other words, customers are more likely to relate to your brand when they interact with the pleasant and helpful staff because those employees help humanize your brand. Human interactions are much more meaningful than customers having to interact with machines or automated responses. Customer experience improves when customers can find assistance from the staff should they need assistance in the first place.

Listen to your customers

Another approach to your customer experience strategy improvement is to listen to your customers. No doubt that expert consultants in your company will give you valuable advice on how to improve customer experience, but in the end, it’s the consumers themselves that get to decide if the experience is good or not. That being said, it’s better to get information from the audience you’re trying to serve. You can start by asking your customers for feedback.

For instance, are they satisfied with your current efforts, are there any improvements they’d suggest, is your customer service and support meeting their needs and so on are just a few things you should focus on learning from your customers. What’s more, acting upon your customers’ feedback not only helps you improve overall customer experience but it also grants you customer appreciation as well. In fact, consumers are much more willing to conduct repeat business and remain loyal to companies that listen to them, especially companies that are willing to improve, in order to meet their customers’ needs.

 

Customer experience plays a vital role in business success. Not being able to provide a seamless customer experience will ruin your business regardless of the product or service quality you have to offer. Consumers want to do business with companies that can provide them with an exceptional customer service, support and overall experience. That’s why it’s important to improve your strategies and ensure customer satisfaction.

Social Marketing Tactics Every Business Owner Should Be Using

Small local businesses, global enterprises, you have something in common – regardless of your chosen market and busyness type, you should strive for social media dominance in order to boost recognition and pave the road to long-term success. Quite simply, we live in a social-media-driven world, and it would be a terrible waste if your brand didn’t try to reach the eyes and ears of a three-billion-strong social media audience.

However, the road to social media superstardom is not as short and picturesque as you might think, as the overly-competitive arena begs of companies to up their social marketing strategy and fight fiercely to surpass the competition. With that in mind, let’s take a closer look at some of the best social marketing tactics that will help your marketing strategy propel your brand towards new heights.

Define your social media goals

First things first, it’s not just about being present on social media or posting whenever your social media manager feels like it – it’s about having a clear battle plan, supported by realistic and attainable goals. So, much like your other departments, your marketing team needs to set up S.M.A.R.T. social media goals that are:

  • Specific – what do you hope to achieve on social media? Improved click-through rate? Better brand awareness? More conversions? All of that and more? Good, you can move on to the next step.
  • Measurable – how will you measure your performance on social media? You need a quantifiable metric that will tell you exactly how many new visitors, followers, and customers you’ve gained. Remember, without hard data, there’s no way to gauge your progress.
  • Attainable – every social media goal needs to be realistic and attainable. Supported by an amazing brand identity, you can hope to make a boom in the social media arena, but don’t expect to gain millions of followers in six months’ time.
  • Relevant – why post anything if it’s not going to benefit your company, its recognition in the market, or help you gain new followers? The SM goals you set need to be relevant for your business, but they also need to be relevant for your viewership. After all, they are driving force behind your success.
  • Timely – deadlines are important, they give your employees the incentive to push for better results and they make goals easier to reach. If you attach a deadline to a social media goal, you’re more likely to achieve it efficiently and effectively.

Choose the best platforms accordingly

Every business should be present on every social media platform out there in order to expand its reach and grab the attention of numerous audience types. However, not all SM networks were created equal, and not every SM platform will benefit your brand equally.

With that in mind, it’s important to research your most relevant channels of communication and focus on growing these instead of wasting your time appealing to a nonexistent audience somewhere else. For B2B brands, it’s usually a network like LinkedIn or Google+ that will be the most fruitful, while B2C brands can make great success using Instagram and Facebook.

Focus on content marketing

In the online world, content is king for a myriad of reasons. Simply put, stellar content is what will separate your brand from the competition and establish an emotional connection with your audience. However, even though your content needs to be in line with your brand identity, you should also gather relevant feedback by posting paid surveys online and incentivizing your audience to share with you their likes and dislikes.

Deep industry insights such as these will go a long way in boosting your entire social media and content marketing strategies, giving you the information and drive to craft amazing content across the board. Be sure to diversify your content pool as well in order to make it shareable across all relevant SM platforms.

Never let your accounts fall silent

A silent account is no different than a nonexistent one. If you fail to post stellar content on a regular basis, you will lose the interest of your followers and your SM strategy will suffer as a result. After all, how do you expect to grow your audience if your reach has plummeted?

Remember, regular posting builds traction and interest, so it’s not just about wowing your audience with amazing storytelling and relevant information, it’s also about putting that information in front of them every single day.

Combine stellar content with influencer marketing

Last but not least, every growth-oriented company should leverage influencer marketing to gain better exposure, extend its reach, and boost brand recognition and trust across the online universe. A useful trick you want to implement from the get-go is actually focusing on landing micro-influencers instead of their multi-million-follower counterparts.

Why, you ask? Because micro-influencers that only boast a couple of hundred thousand followers tend to preach a more trustworthy story, and they tend to have loyal followers who actually act on their trustworthy advice.

 

Social media marketing should be an inextricable part of your overarching digital marketing strategy if you want to make it big in the online world and attract the expansive digital audience towards your brand. With these winning tactics at the ready, you can go ahead and propel your brand towards long-term social media dominance.

5 Tools for Boosting Your Startup’s Launch

They say that every beginning is tough, however, the problem with this lies in the question: how does one define tough? Is it merely an effort to end result-wise or when observed from the standpoint of personal stress endured? Both of these aspects can’t be measured objectively, which means that the launch of your business is only as tough as you allow it to be. With that in mind, by utilizing proper tools, you can make your initial efforts much more effective, as well as reduce the amount of stress you’re supposed to suffer from in this pivotal stage. Here are five tools that could help you in this regard.

1.     Google Docs

Eventually, you’ll need a collaboration tool, yet, the choice of a collaboration tool might influence the structure of your projects. This is why it is not something you should pick straight away. Look at all the options out there and, most importantly, ask your team for their opinions. For the time being, most of the sharing, scheduling and collaboration can be done in a tool as standard and simple as Google Docs. Apart from this, Google Docs is a completely free tool, which is why there are virtually no downsides to using it. Even when you do embrace a collaboration platform, you can keep it as a side-tool.

2.     Google Analytics

The next challenge you’ll encounter is the one of your web presence and market research. Both of these things can be handled through Google Analytics. Sure, you can go to business blogs and read about experiences of businesses belonging to the niche you’re currently trying to penetrate, nonetheless, there’s no guarantee that the same will happen to you. With Google Analytics, you’ll be able to thoroughly study your own audience and get actionable first-hand data on their online behavior and habits.

3.     Dibz

As soon as you start, you’ll need to spearhead your digital marketing campaign and one of your first stops will be the issue of SEO. On-site optimization is just one part of the problem, but it is also something you can handle in a matter of hours. Off-site optimization in form of link building is something that takes a lot more time and active effort. This is also why you need adequate link building tools and Dibz is one of the amazing options for you to go for. Needless to say, this platform is great for both the process of link building and influencer opportunities research.

4.     Skype

If you’re running a remote team, you need a tool capable of hosting conference calls. Now, while some may argue that there are better tools for this than Skype, there are several perks of this software that simply shouldn’t be underestimated. First of all, it’s constantly updated, worked on and has an amazing customer service. Second, it’s compatible with various devices, which makes it even easier for you to stay connected with your team, your partners and even your clients at all times.

5.     Wave

Finally, when it comes to the issue of money, your overhead may not be that great but the sources they come through may be quite numerous. You might deal with a number of subscriptions, as well as invoices (both as account payables and receivables), which is why you need a tool that will allow you to monitor and manage this at all times. Due to the fact that money management is the most stressful part of your job as a fresh entrepreneur, this should take a huge burden off your back.

Conclusion

The perk of each of these tools lies in the fact that you don’t need to be an IT expert to use them. After all, Skype and Google Docs are probably the platforms you’re already using, while Google Analytics and Dibz have an incredibly beginner-friendly learning curve. This leaves you with Wave, which, although not familiar, is fairly easy to master and has a dashboard that will help you manage all your incomes and expenses quite effortlessly.

Things You Need to Know About Targeting a Vulnerable Audience

One in every five people has some sort of disability. They are working in almost every industry and have variant amounts of savings. This makes them an interesting target audience for some specialized, and numerous general marketing campaigns.

There are ways to target this market and to establish it as a niche for your business. However, it needs to be done in a tactful and respectful manner. Once your company is recognized as one that cares about the issues concerning people with disabilities, it can make a long-lasting foothold in the market.

Engage with the local community

The company that wants to get the trust of people with disabilities needs to engage with the issues concerning them beyond the workplace. This is usually done via the local political bodies and community organizations. Therefore, make sure the company has its representatives in these institutions, in a formal or informal manner.

Use your resources to promote the worthy causes related to the integration and access to those with disabilities in your town and your area. This effort will be noticed and it’ll be both, the right thing to do and a useful marketing tool.

Go to the source

When creating a marketing campaign of any kind you need to include those who the campaign is affecting in the process. This type of market research helps in a very practical way because you get to see how the customer will experience your work.

This is especially true when it comes to the vulnerable audiences. In order to have an effective and lucrative campaign, you need to include people with disabilities in it. Their advice will make the market effort appear more genuine and honest.

Disability organizations

There are numerous disability-related NGOs, both local and nationwide. These organizations usually have a broad overview of what concerns people with disabilities and where more infrastructure and more funding is needed. For the most part, the issues regarding employment are what people struggle with the most.

Create a dialog with these organizations early on. It’s partly a good idea just to listen and learn about the demographic you’re interested in. In the long run, you can also make a difference and help where your company is able to help. The connections you make within these organizations could also prove to be lucrative and helpful.

Employment

One of the ways to show that you’re truly a member of the community, and committed to working with those with a disability, is to make sure you hire them in your company. There’s nothing more valuable to a company than its employees, and these sorts of bonds take a long time to forge, but they can’t be easily broken.

There are disability employment services that can help you find the best employees with disabilities who will enrich your company and fit in with your corporate culture as well. They will also assist with making the necessary changes in your office.

Specialized media

There are media that specialize in the topics and needs of people with disabilities. It’s not always a big market, but there are all types of media from traditional newspapers to podcasts and blogs. Try to take advantage of these channels and connect with your audience by becoming a part of their media diet.

One of the things you can do is to appear in this media in the form of interviews and think pieces, but you can also go one step further and help by providing the funding for disability-related media.

Make your support known

Many business owners who have ties with the disabled community hesitate to talk about it in a public and open way. They feel like there’s something wrong in using the ties with the community for marketing and job hunting purposes. However, if the support and activism are genuine, there’s no reason to hide them.

Use every opportunity to say that your company is open to the employees with disabilities and promote your work with the community in both charitable and activist organizations. This isn’t just advertising it is raising awareness about the issue, too.

The big picture

In the end, the efforts to include people with disabilities are important, and often useful, and that’s why you should engage in them. However, they aren’t the most important thing for finding the customers with disabilities. The quality of your services, your products, and your customer support is what’s most important.

In order to attract most customers and keep them loyal, you need to work on making your products better and your services more reliable.

Every company should make an effort to include people with disabilities on their team and to promote its work with these customers in mind. That’s not only good for the community but for the company as well.

6 Most Common Ways Startups Are Leaking Money

In order to grow or even function, startups need to spend money, however, spending and leaking are not the same things. The greatest difference here lies in the efficiency of the investment. Every time you pay more for something that can be done with less, you are putting yourself further away from the break-even point and diminish the chance that your business will make it. In order to avoid this, you need to get familiar with six most common ways in which startups are leaking money.

Canceling your landline

Try to record every single time you receive a phone call and look at the report at the end of the month. One of the things you might notice is that, when compared to your website’s chat box, your email or even IM/DM service on your social networks, you receive relatively few calls via phone. In other words, having a landline is an option you can simply do without. Sure, if the majority of your customers belongs to the baby boomer generation, this might not be a sound idea. In any other situation, however, just outright canceling your landline might be a good idea.

Paying bills in person

Paying bills in person costs you somewhere around $12 per bill. Considering the number of bills you pay on a monthly and yearly basis this may amount to a small fortune. Most business owners, unfortunately, accept this as the inevitable expense of doing business without stopping to consider the possibility of paying these bills online. In this way, you could reduce the cost of paying for a single bill to $1,50 only, which makes this move incredibly frugal.

Inefficient marketing

The thing about marketing is that, in the past, it was nearly impossible to pinpoint its efficiency. Sure, you hire a marketing expert, let them work and experience a boost in sales, traffic and popularity. However, were you really able to tell which of the 10 techniques they used actually caused the increase? This is why John Wanamaker once said that although he knows that half of the money he spends on marketing gets wasted, he can never know which half.

Nowadays, in the era of digital marketing, such a thing is not necessarily true. For instance, when hiring SEO experts, you can insist on elaborate SEO reports on a regular basis, and thus be able to evaluate their efficiency. Even a complete digital marketing layman understands metrics like traffic, number of first-time visitors and conversion rate. In this way, you can stop spending money on areas that aren’t yielding you a decent ROI.

Not automating customer payments

In order to become reliable, customer payments need to be automated and organized into a subscription-like system. With present-day platforms and digital tools, this is fairly easy to achieve. In this way, if people forget to renew a subscription, even for a function they use every single day, you’ll automate this process so that it automatically renews. This will also mean that customers will need to cancel the subscription manually, which, on its own, might be enough to dissuade some people who are still on the fence when it comes to canceling.

Hiring unqualified people

Training people takes time and money and waiting until they acquire enough experience may cost you even more. In other words, hiring unqualified people is a clear money leak for your business, and one that can be avoided by setting just a bit harsher hiring criterion. Sure, this will diminish your talent pool or even cause more problems if you need to make an emergency hire, however, thinking about this in time is definitely a money-saving practice.

Web hosting

When it comes to web-hosting, you need to walk a thin line between free and too expensive. The first one may paint a bad image of your business, whereas high-end web hosting (although providing great ROI in the long run), may not be something you can afford. Luckily, the number of options out there is simply staggering, which should allow you to find a perfect choice, provided that you’re willing to invest a fair amount of research.

Conclusion

Apart from these six solutions, there are other ways to save money. Still, what makes the above-listed suggestion unique is the fact that it doesn’t diminish the efficiency of your research. Eliminating same-day delivery, lowering the quality of your products by skimming on supplies and laying people off directly affect your appeal and productivity. With the above-listed six examples, you get to save some money while not having to face a single significant downside.

How to Build a Successful eCommerce Brand

We live in a world of global trading, a world where eCommerce is on a perpetual upward trajectory, fuelled by an ever-increasing demand for goods of all shapes and sizes in a seemingly endless marketplace. This is truly the dawn of a new age for entrepreneurship, as nowadays everyone and anyone with a solid Wi-Fi connection and a laptop can launch and grow their online store, and establish a global reputation.

That said, the eCommerce market is an extremely populated one – some might deem it oversaturated as well – which begs the need for a unique approach to branding, marketing, and positioning in order to set yourself apart from the competition. Acquiring loyal customers requires meticulous preparation and effective implementation, so here is your essential guide to building a successful eCommerce brand that will pave the road to a prosperous future in the industry.

Make it personal

In a sea of mediocrity and monotony, an expansive marketplace where every online store resembles the other and customers have no real way of distinguishing between brands, there is an imperative to build something truly unique and different, something that will resonate with the hearts and minds of your demographic. And your best bet is to create a personal brand people will know and love.

Now, a personal brand can take numerous forms, and even if you don’t want to base the brand’s personality on your own story, you do you want a smiling face and a friendly voice to be the key portrayers of your business. Why? Because in a sea of corporations looking to make a quick buck, people will want to connect and develop a relationship with an image that is relatable, personal, and trustworthy.

So instead of going for the shotgun approach and creating yet another online store that bears no unique trait whatsoever, focus on tailoring a story and an image based on relatable values, a brand your audience will want to be a part of, and share across the online universe.

Find your niche and USP

Of course, a brand cannot hope to find its unique voice and visuals without first discovering its most prospective niche, probing deep into the habits of its target demographic, and establishing its unique selling proposition. In a world of hot commodities and ever-changing trends, you want to find a lucrative and prospective niche, preferably one that will allow you to grow and not get overwhelmed by the sheer number of competitors.

Finding such a niche is not an easy task. Hot commodities such as tech might seem appealing, but the competition is so vast that you might never achieve the success you dream of. But regardless if you choose to sell smart gadgets or baby accessories, you need to develop your unique selling proposition in order to solidify your standing in the market, and motivate people to join your brand.

Design, integration, simplicity

When it comes to building success in the eCommerce arena, website design will play a vital, if not the key role. Your entire business depends on the development and implementation of a strong, recognisable brand. That’s why your online presentation needs to portray this in the best way possible.

Take the Australian eCommerce market as a prime example of the importance of branding, and try to implement their methods into your own strategy. Companies specialising in website development in Sydney and other entrepreneurial centres in the country give priority to meticulous web design that does not only speak the true language of your brand, but boasts full integration, including mobile optimization and transparency. This way, you will win over the crowd with an amazing design, but by keeping it transparent, optimised, and simple, you can even speed up the decision-making process and boost conversions.

Prioritise customer experience

Another crucial element that will define the future of your online business is customer experience. The fate of your business literally depends on the positive to negative feedback ratio, and as a growth-oriented company trying to outpace the competition, you cannot afford to receive any negative feedback.

This is why you need to develop effective channels of communication with your demographic, work on continuously improving your processes, and act on valuable customer feedback in order to drive innovation. Not only will this boost your brand recognition and customer loyalty, but you will be able to always stay one step ahead of the competition as well.

Create stellar content

Last but not least, it’s important to recognize the power and potential of content marketing. Just because what you’re selling is inherently appealing to the public, or because it’s something everyone needs doesn’t mean that your products shouldn’t have a unique story, message, and support a certain set of values.

Remember, a product without a creative description or story is just another product on the web, but if you give it a unique name and a purpose, people will have something to connect with on a deeper level, and thus become your lifelong customers. They will become a part of your brand.

In the overly competitive eCommerce arena, you cannot afford to lose time and money trying to beat your peers. Instead, you need to focus on the consumer, and create a brand your target demographic will connect with on an emotional level. Only this way will you be able to pave the road to long-term success in the online world.

Is Investing in Gold a Good Idea in 2018?

Since the dawn of time, people have kept their assets in precious metals. Sure, gold and silver were also a currency, yet, even when this was not the case, the appeal of gold was widely accepted. Nowadays, with so many other investment options (foreign currencies, stocks and cryptocurrencies), it may seem as if investing in gold may not be such a good idea. This notion is further supported by the fact that gold is currently on a slight decline. However, where some see a negative trend to stay away from, others see an opportunity to buy cheap. With this in mind and without further ado, here’s why investing in gold might still be a good idea in 2018.

Diversifying your portfolio

One of the things that a lot of people know is the fact that the price of gold skyrockets in the state of crisis. Because of this, investing in gold might be a perfect way to diversify your portfolio. According to some estimates, it is recommended to keep at least 20 to 30 percent of your assets in gold and silver, while 10 percent is considered to be the bare minimum. The way in which this works is quite simple. Even in the moments of financial crisis, some people have a surplus of capital that they intend to invest.

Seeing as how the value of most stocks seems quite volatile in those moments, they are more likely to invest in gold. After all, it is only natural for people in these situations to show more faith in commodity than in currency, especially due to the fact that most global currencies are no longer backed by gold. As the demand for gold increases, its price skyrockets. Nevertheless, this is something you need to think about in time, which is why it is usually smart to buy when the price is on a decline.

Savings, wealth or investment

Another thing you need to understand is that gold is not only efficient as an investment but also as a way of saving your assets or wealth. While some may find this trend outdated, buying gold coins allows you to place them in your own safe, without having to rely on a third-party. In an era of cryptocurrencies and stocks, where all your assets are in digital form, you can go to bed one day as a wealthy man and wake up the next as a pauper.

Even in the worst-case scenario, where the gold that you’ve invested in loses all its value, you still have it in physical form. This means that all you have to do is sit on top of it for a while and wait for its value to bounce back. Unlike companies whose stocks you buy, gold is not here for years and decades but for millennia. During this period of time, it managed to maintain hard value, which makes it into one of the most consistent wealth trends in the history.

The issue of jewelry demand

One of the things that affect the price of gold the most is the global jewelry market. In fact, one of the reasons for this decline in price is the fact that the jewelry demand is currently down in China. China and India together make up 60 percent of the global jewelry demand, however, with the impending trade war between the U.S. and China, a lot of things got a bit more complex.

Namely, one of the direct results was the loss of Chinese consumer confidence. To make matters even worse, last year, there was a cash crisis in India, where the government prohibited the use of large-denomination bills. Needless to say, jewelry was one of the commodities that were hit by this the most. Nevertheless, it isn’t unrealistic to expect that the jewelry market will recover from this in the nearest future.

Lawsuit proof

Another thing you need to understand is the fact that most lawsuit rulings and settlement offers work on a basis of your overall assets worth. The great thing about gold is the fact that no one can really know how much gold you actually have. Sure, someone determined can look for your previous purchases but most (if not all) gold retailers keep this information confidential. Aside from this, you can leave your gold in a bank vault, lock it in your bedroom safe, bury it in your backyard or display it in the living room. You can even do all of these things at the same time, which makes it virtually impossible for anyone else to know just how much gold you have.

Incredibly portable

One more thing you need to keep in mind is the issue of practicality and portability. In the past, we stated that gold can be left for safekeeping in a vault or on a shelf. However, a lot of people have no idea just how much space gold takes up. This is hard to precisely pinpoint, yet a bullion that is a size of a VHS tape can be as expensive as $200,000. This means that you could literally take all your assets in a briefcase to another country. Sure, one may argue that it’s easier to do this in a bank, yet, this way, it’s much harder to get your hands on the same amount of cash. In the ideal-case scenario, you would have to give your bank a 72-hour notice, which doesn’t sound that bad, unless it’s a situation in which every minute counts.

A legacy

In one of the previous sections, we mentioned that the price of gold is bound to bounce back, however, there’s no guarantee that that will happen in the next year or even next several years (while it is quite likely). On the other hand, for those who bought gold to protect their assets, this shouldn’t pose a significant problem. All in all, you can pass on all your gold to your children and your children’s children (which is something that a lot of people do). Sure, this same amount of gold might be worth more or less but its sheer quantity will remain unchanged.

Conclusion

At the end of the day, from this standpoint, it seems inevitable that 2018 and 2019 will be much better for gold investors than 2017, however, even if this wasn’t the case, buying gold still wouldn’t be a missed investment. All in all, this is a trend that is definitely worth your consideration.

6 Must-Consider Courses for Small Business Owners

Nobody said that college education does not help in the business world, but even without an academic background, an entrepreneur can learn the ropes and build a profitable organization. Examples of Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, and Mark Zuckerberg have shown that college dropouts can easily enter the global business pantheon.

Still, there is little doubt that lack of knowledge and expertise quickly spells doom for small businesses. Even with enough money to hire experts, it pays to be in the know when it comes to things that impact and shape your company. Besides, there is a wide range of valuable courses available these days. Thus, do not miss this opportunity to grow personally, professionally, and propel your organization towards success.

Marketing

All entrepreneurs are engaged in marketing one way or another. Like it or not, this is the only way to break out in the market and get products and services in front of people. A solid marketing course should provide deeper insights into conducting market research and identifying the target audience.

Moreover, it is designed to help you select proper channels and tools for the delivery of your messages. Upon completion, entrepreneurs are able to develop digital and traditional campaigns, engage the customers, allocate resources better, and achieve a good ROI. All in all, they are better prepared to elevate your company above the competition.

Financial planning

The financial side of running a business can be daunting for unseasoned founders. Yet, it is precisely the ability to master financial planning and management that goes a long way towards improving your bottom line. So, seek credible financial planning courses as well as those on general finances and accounting.

You will figure out the optimal capital structure, recognize growth opportunities, balance the budget, use balance sheets properly, manage the inventory, maintain a firm grip on cash flow, keep track of transactions, and make sound financial projections. So, it is time to get on top of the numbers game and monitor the financial health of the organization.

Business management

To be a proper leader, an entrepreneur has to be on the ball at all times, successfully handling daily management tasks. Therefore, a management class is one of the essential steps towards climbing up the career ladder. You have a chance to hone your soft skills and learn to lead by setting a good example.

Furthermore, courses in this department emphasize the value of business communication, proactive employee motivation, company-wide collaboration, task delegation, supervision, performance assessment, etc. Ultimately, you should be able to better inspire the troops and let them march towards business greatness.

Building a startup

If you are yet to launch your small business, you must ponder courses on building a startup. They help you familiarize yourself with validation of business ideas and the creation of killer business models. You become aware of strategies used to secure a market share and set up the foundations for sustainable growth.

Certainly, you will not be in a conundrum when figuring out the best model of incorporation and all the requirements associated with it. Therefore, you should have a nice head start in a long business race, instead of stumbling at the first hurdle.

Developing innovative ideas

Ideation is a name of the business game. It drives innovation and enables small businesses to get ahead of the curve. Courses that cover the process of idea generation teach you how to think creatively, overcome practical obstacles and realize the potential and value in novelty concepts.

Armed with such knowledge, your every idea will be more than a wild guess and become a calculated risk at worst.  Most resources also give you an understanding of how to properly communicate, pitch, and present your ideas, via presentations, visual media, meetings with investors, etc.

Legal issues

Constantly evaluating and optimizing your business from a legal standpoint is paramount. In case you have trouble even thinking of that, do not fret. Take on a course in law in entrepreneurship. These courses empower businessmen to fine-tune their business plans, select a business name, and protect intellectual property.

Also, legal courses better equip business people to steer away from business-sinking scenarios, such as trademark infringement. Finally, along the way, participants are in taught to recognize the value of forming strong relationships with business attorneys and other legal experts.  

On a steady course

Having a college degree is not a prerequisite for running and managing a business, but possessing the know-how is. Courses are an invaluable asset to you and to your company and they are becoming a standard across industry sectors. You have more tools than ever before.

So, step up your game and tap into great and affordable online sources of knowledge. You will save a lot of money and headaches down the road. Move forward with confidence, whether you are facing number crunching, strategic planning, day-to-day management or some other vital task. Be as independent and resourceful as you can.