The way people work has changed.

4 min read

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

The corporate world has changed more in the past two years than in the past twenty years. It took a pandemic to make people realize that you don’t need to travel for work two hours a day to sit in front of a computer that is connected to the internet anyway.

It is no longer possible to attract people to work at a full-time job in a corporate office because people have realized that the idea of a “safe and secure” job is just a dream that can collapse at any time. There is no need to work at a specific location in a specific city because we all live in the global village called the internet. 

If you have expertise on a specific skill, you can remotely work for the best companies in the world at command earnings that compete with anyone in the world with the same skill. And the best part is that you can work on a contract basis.

Related: 11 Best Websites for Freelancers to Find Jobs and Make Money

So what is preventing people from becoming freelancers and quit their day job (if they are fortunate to have one)? The lack of a personal brand.

The full-time corporate world operates on slightly different rules where you can jump from one company to another based on your personal network and influence. But in the freelance world, having a personal network is not enough, you need a personal brand.

Building a personal brand doesn’t mean becoming popular. A personal brand is built when you add value to people’s lives through your content, sometimes without charging anything for it.

If you want to build a strong personal brand as an influencer, you need to start with blogging. Write a few articles a month about what you learn, what you know and what you have experienced. Writing is the best way to let the world know that you exist.

Related: Here are the Advantages of Working as a Freelancer

Once you start writing, you will see that opportunities will come your way. Start helping out people with your content and then with free consultations. There are a ton of freelancing opportunities in the world, and you can become a specialist in one category. Let’s say, for example, you are an SEO expert. Start writing about SEO on your blog, share them on social media and post videos about what you know. 

Research companies that you want to help and maybe create an SEO audit report for them and cold-email it to them. If you add value first instead of asking for an opportunity, an opportunity will come your way. 

You cannot demand heat before you throw in the piece of wood. Set up a calendar that shows your available times and let people book a free 15-20 minute consultation call with you. This is how you add value and then get a sale, without asking explicitly for the sale.

Freelancing makes you an entrepreneur where the product is yourself. This is the first step in your long journey of building something for yourself, that eventually becomes greater than yourself. 

Freelancing also requires professional relationship skills, sales skills and the skill of adding more value than what you are getting paid for. This skill is vastly different from the skill of being an employee.

If you are not in a full-time corporate job right now, it is time to start freelancing instead of trying to find a job in the post-pandemic, new world order. 

If you are already in a corporate job, you need to start freelancing as a side-hustle as soon as possible. Even if you are just building your brand and doing free consultations, it is more than enough to start with because it creates the foundation for your future freelancing journey. 

You might have friction getting started in this journey if you are an employee or have been one. Because the typical mindset of an employee is to look for security and “something guaranteed” for every piece of effort that you put in. Getting started with your freelancing career is the first step in dealing with career and professional uncertainty.

I cannot tell you what opportunities you will get once you start building your personal brand. But I can say with conviction that once you start, you will start getting opportunities.

Related: 18 Freelance Sites to Find Your Next Gig

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Follow these five ways to learn new skills and stay competitive in today’s professional world.

5 min read

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Learning a new skill can be one of the most satisfying things you can do to grow. Learning a new skill is not just a financially smart decision, but it is also good for your mental health. When you learn new skills, you feel more powerful. New neural connections are formed in your brain when you learn something new. The best way to change your life is to change your mind. And learning new skills is the best way to change your mind, literally. 

When the normal routine of life makes your life dull, having entertainment alone is not enough to recharge yourself. Entertainment can be good for a weekend — but if you do not learn anything new for years, you will start hating your work.

The traditional system of education expects us to finish school and college and then work for the rest of our lives. That strategy might have worked 30 years back as the world was slowly moving towards the information age. It is not going to work anymore. To thrive in this day and age, learning has to become a habit and continuous up-gradation of skills is required to stay relevant and competitive. 

One of the biggest challenges in learning after school and college is that the learning journey becomes lonely. If you are trying to learn from a book or an online course with a set of video tutorials, your learning can become quite stressful. Students learn best when they are energetic and happy. And the only way to feel energetic and happy during your learning journey is to be part of a community that has the same learning goals as yours. 

1. Sign up for a cohort-based online course

Many online courses nowadays are cohort-based, and cohort-based online courses usually have a community around them. Being part of a community can impact your learning journey in very subtle ways that are not obvious. Remember, you are the average of the five people around you. 

If you are part of a learning community where you see other students have similar goals such as yours and if you see that they are making progress with their professional journey, you are highly likely to grow along with them. You will have a positive pressure to achieve results.

Related: Why Remote Learning is an Avenue That is Worth Exploring

2. Sign up for a mastermind program

After the completion of the online course, you can think about becoming part of a mastermind community where the learning journey continues beyond the course duration. A mastermind community is usually led by a mentor, and you will have the best of the best students as part of the community. 

Mastermind community memberships usually come at a premium, but it is worth the premium because the ideas that you get from the community for your career and business will be well worth the price. 

3. Start blogging about what you’ve learned

To make sure that you do not forget what you learn, take notes and write about what you have learned in your blog. Writing organizes your thought process and it is one of the best ways to remember. 

If you write in a public blog, you can also build your brand at the same time and may even start having some subscribers who want to copy your notes. A lot of digital mentors have built their following because they started taking their notes in public. 

Related: 4 Tips for Finding Your Profitable Blogging Niche

4. Implement your learning

You also have to make sure that you implement what you learn. Implementation is very important because when you implement your learnings and get results, you are going to have validated learning. Validating what you have learned will make sure that the concepts you are trying to learn will go from information to understanding. 

Once you understand something new, you will feel powerful and your perspective will expand. Once your perspective has expanded to new horizons, you will never be able to get back to your original state of thinking.

Also, implementing what you have learned gives you a project in hand. You get hired for what you can do, not what you know. Online course certificates usually prove that the student knows something, but not that they can do something. When you do a project, the project proves that you can do something. And who knows — the project can become a side hustle and may even become a business someday.

5. Become a digital mentor and teach

And finally, start teaching what you have learned to your followers. If you are already blogging and vlogging about what you know, you will have an audience. Create a smaller mastermind group where you are the mentor and help your students. This will mostly happen online. You are effectively becoming a digital mentor for your students. Teaching is one of the best ways to learn, because it forces you to simplify the concepts you already have in your mind.

Related: How VR Will Accelerate Talent Learning and Development

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Kick-start your picture perfect profession.

5 min read

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

It is no secret that influencers can earn great money from their social networking accounts or blogs. The popularity that social media has received in the last decade has made this profession a dream job for many people. Being a well-known public figure is not just a hobby, but for some, a full-time occupation. Since pursuing this career path is becoming a more common objective, many entrepreneurs are wondering, How do I earn money from posting on social media? It is possible to make a lucrative business through being an influencer if you follow these five tips. 

1. Stick to your niche

In order to influence your fan base in a certain field, you first have to select a niche. If you do not pick one, you will have a hard time building an audience of people that are engaged and interested in your message. You do not have to limit yourself to just one category, but be sure your individual niches align with one another in some way. For example, you can combine health and fitness with lifestyle or beauty. It is also important to remember that your niche is not going to appeal to everyone, especially when you are just beginning your career as an influencer. The key to becoming successful in this profession is adding your unique voice and thoughts to everything you do. This will allow you to show off your strengths, passions and personality. 

2. Get a great publicist

For an influencer that is just starting out it is important for the public to know, and understand, who you are, what you do, and what separates you from other people in your field. Choosing the right publicist could be the difference between having a thriving career or failing in this profession. Publicists generate news stories to get their clients in front of the press and always be top of mind, making them invaluable when it comes to launching your influencing career.

Social media has opened new doors of publicity and fame for young people. Having a publicist on your team can put you a step closer to stardom because they have a clear understanding of media trends and the importance of building a strong foundation with your audience.

Related: 10 Ways to Get Global PR Exposure

3. Create shareable content

As an influencer, you have to consistently create content that your audience will love. The information must be high quality and packed full of value in order keep your fans engaged and following you for more. Plan your marketing strategy for social media by deciding on your goals and the type of content that will help you reach them. Determine how often you will post on each platform, and also what time, so you can receive the most engagement from your audience. The crucial thing here, as mentioned before, is adding your unique voice to all your content and establishing your image as an influencer. 

4. Engage your audience

Your success as an influencer depends a great deal on finding the right audience and community to support you. Without followers and fans, your brand does not hold much value on social media. Your target audience is the people that will power your brand, so they should be your main focus when you think about what to post. 

Your ideal fan base will depend on the market you are trying to tap into and your content quality should match their interests. Also pay attention to the comments on your posts or create posts that will engage your viewers so you can have more insight on what your fans want to see more or less of from your posts. This will make your followers feel closer to you and strengthen their loyalty. Knowing and engaging with your audience is important because it shows that you value them as much as they value you. 

Related: 7 Strategies Entrepreneurs Can Learn From The Kardashians

5. Collaborate with other influencers

Collaborating with other established influencers in your niche can be a great way to increase your followers. Some public figures on social media have a huge reach and working with them can help expose your content to different audiences and bring more traffic to your profiles. To increase your chances of success, you can feature influencers in your content by doing interviews or covering their stories. Then tag them when you share the post and they will more than likely share it on their own profiles for their audience as well. 

When it comes to making money as a social media creator, the sky’s the limit. Taking the necessary steps to avoid mistakes that are frequently made by beginners is an important part of the process. In this profession you are encouraged to be creative and unique in order to stand out and attract a solid fan base. By following these five tips you will increase your chances of building a lucrative career from being an influencer in no time at all.

Related: Being an Influencer is a Job

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You might think that enjoying your last cup of joe in the late afternoon is enough to avoid adverse sleep effects, but science says otherwise.

3 min read

If you’re like most Americans, you start your morning by reaching for the hot cup of coffee — or several — that gives you the energy boost necessary to get through the day; 62% of people in the U.S. drink some form of the beverage every day, with consumption increasing in the younger demographic, according to Reuters

You’ve probably heard that caffeine can disrupt your sleep, but many people think that downing their last cup in the late afternoon, or even in the early evening, is early enough to avoid any adverse effects come bedtime. Unfortunately, the science says otherwise: Independent cites research suggesting that you should hold off on the magical bean brew once 2 p.m. rolls around, or at least seven hours before you plan to go to bed. 

Related: 5 Ways That Coffee Affects Productivity

In a study published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, consuming caffeine in the six hours before bed won’t necessarily keep you awake, but it will reduce your quality of sleep. It also wreaks havoc on your body’s internal clock, mimicking the effect of jet lag. According to another study published in Science Translational Medicine, enjoying a double espresso three hours before bed (or its equivalent, approximately 60-100mg of caffeine) can wind your body’s clock back by nearly an hour. 

When it comes to how many cups you should be drinking per day, the Mayo Clinic recommends about four, which should approximate 400mg of caffeine.

Soda- and energy drink-lovers should take note of these findings too — caffeine is caffeine, which means that the suggested 2 p.m. cutoff also applies. 

What’s the big deal? Disrupting the body’s clock does more than leave you feeling groggy the next day; it’s also been linked to heart disease and neurodegenerative disorders like Alzheimer’s. 

It’s not all bad news though: As long as you get your java fill between 10 a.m and noon — the window of time when that rush of caffeine is most needed and most effective — you can reap the rewards of your daily habit without worrying about the costs. 

Related: Do You Drink More Coffee Than Elon Musk, Mark Zuckerberg and Other Creative Leaders?

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Covid-19 forced businesses to create a more empathetic and flexible environment. Continuing these new practices will help create a more inviting and enjoyable workplace.

4 min read

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

For years, professionals have asserted that the ability to adapt and be flexible would determine whether businesses sank or swam. The Covid-19 pandemic, however, put that ability to the absolute test in 2020. We’ve learned some major lessons through the crisis that, fortunately, hold the potential to help company leaders and teams build back stronger than ever before.

1. Providing better health and wellness resources  

During the pandemic, people faced a slew of new stresses and disruptions to their everyday life. Many individuals struggled to do things like make doctor appointments or eat right. Personally, I struggled with being unable to sleep well  my home and work life blurred so much that my mind simply wouldn’t shut down. 

Companies discovered that they had to face these issues head-on during the crisis, both to maintain productivity and to ensure that workers felt cared for. We learned the necessity of total wellness resources, including mental health, financial health and various other kinds of support. We expanded existing programs and came up with new tools to support employees and their families.

The expansion of telehealth services is a good example. At my workplace, one of our Prescription Digital Therapeutics (PDT) products helps people who struggle with chronic insomnia. We offered this as an added resource for employees in our comprehensive benefit program. In using it, I had the opportunity to learn the importance of sleep, and it helped me create healthier behaviors and habits. It was life changing for me, and I am forever grateful. It’s the small things that companies don’t always think about that can make the biggest difference in our team members’ lives.

Related: A Year of Pandemic: Learning for Entrepreneurs and SMEs

2. Rallying around empathy

Before the pandemic, employers and employees interacted with a relatively limited degree of vulnerability. They couldn’t really understand what the home lives of others were like. With so many people working from home, it leveled the playing field. Both workers and leaders had to show their realities and deal with interruptions from pets, kids and significant others. Many learned to be more empathetic and accepting of the personal circumstances people had. 

Overall, this lesson has helped many companies, including my own, shape more grateful, caring and compassionate cultures, where people are free to speak up on topics other than work. My company encouraged managers to check in regularly in order to understand how they were feeling, not just about their jobs, but also about issues like civil unrest, the presidential race or their home life. We asked employees and managers to demonstrate “unified empathy,” put themselves in the other person’s shoes and offer more conscientiousness.

Related: Why an Adaptive Mindset Matters for Entrepreneurs

3. The clock doesn’t have to rule productivity 

In the early days of the pandemic, the big worry for employers was how to keep workers motivated and productive from afar. It was almost impossible for many employees to keep their regular schedules, and it only got more difficult once homeschooling began. Businesses had to accommodate more unusual work hours and be flexible based on case-by-case situations. They learned that workers still got their tasks done even without face-to-face supervision or a traditional daily schedule.

4. Leveraging communication tools matters

Even though workers had digital communication tools like email before the pandemic hit, most teams still relied heavily on in-person collaboration. But once businesses had to work remotely, they had to collaborate more through tools like Trello, Slack and Zoom. They learned that they could still achieve effective communication through these options and that leveraging them could help maintain or even improve results. Even so, tools are only as good as the users that are using them. Companies have to encourage consistency and build good habits in the way they use these solutions and include strategies to ensure that people easily navigate and find value in whatever tool they select.

Related: The 4 Best Tools for Internal Business Communication

With the pandemic now coming under control in the United States, businesses are starting to end their remote journeys and go back to the office. They can apply all of what they have learned to make the post-pandemic work environment more inviting. Even so, the past year has been a roller coaster. Ideally, we need to give employees time to acclimate. Take small steps, such as easing your way back in slowly with just one or two days at the office per week to start. With a little patience, you can adapt, get your footing and walk a road with a new perspective that brings even more success. 

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5 min read

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Many startups (like ours) don’t have outside investors. We have chosen to self-fund our business, which has its pros and cons. While we are maintaining control (a good thing), one of the biggest challenges is funding marketing, which as we all know, is necessary to grow. The good news is that there are many scrappy marketing tactics and channels you can deploy to build momentum without spending your hard-earned cash.

Here are five tips that we’ve used over the past year that have worked for us.

1. Podcasts

There are always podcasts looking for guests to speak on every topic under the sun. We have been on over 75 podcasts in the past year, covering a range of topics: female founders, marketing, startup life, DTC, clean beauty, mompreneurs and more. Find your areas of expertise (everyone has them), then you can pitch yourself.

There are a number of “Find a Guest, Be a Guest” podcast groups on Facebook, including one I like by Poddit that you can join. From there, you can browse through the “asks” and apply to podcasts that are relevant to you. The beauty of podcasts is that the majority do not charge anything to be a guest; they are evergreen, and most of the time, you get to tell a holistic story about your journey and your business. Plus, an extra bonus is that you’ll have content you can share out and repurpose.

Related: Top 25 Business Podcasts for Entrepreneurs

2. Partnerships

 Another great way to grow your customer base and audience is to partner with like-minded brands. We have had a lot of success in finding new customers by partnering with brands that share our values. For us, that tends to be indie clean beauty, fashion and jewelry brands who care about sustainability, diversity and quality.

From giveaways to gift with purchases to creating content together (like blogs, IG Live or video interviews), there’s a ton you can do to promote each other. And chances are if your customers like your brand, they may like a related brand with similar values. The key is to make sure everyone is aligned on the requirements for each brand so no one brand feels like it contributed more than another. 

3. Blogs

 Creating a blog section on your website can help with a number of things. First, it can drive traffic to your site (assuming you have baked in some SEO). Second, it can make you an authority in your area of expertise or industry. And third, blogs provide a place to tell a deeper story. We often blog about our interviews with other founders, but we also use our blog to educate around Mekabu, our hero ingredient, share hair tips, talk about clean beauty and more. This gives you another opportuity to share out content  and you can pull out quotes or soundbites for social media so you’re not always reinventing the wheel.

Related: 3 Ways to Create More Content (and Views) From Your Blogs

4. Livestreaming

 We are active on a number of livestreaming platforms including talkshoplive, Shop LIT Live and Spin. Most of the platforms are free to join and will take a portion of revenue from sales, making it a very low risk proposition for brands. If you sell a product, these platforms provide a great place for you to share your story in an engaging way (video) and to get creative. You’ll need to be comfortable on camera and get your story down, but the beauty of these platforms is that you can do most of them regularly (every week if you want), so you’ll find yourself getting into a groove pretty easily and figuring out what works for you. The key is to have good lighting (a ring light) and an engaging set up.

5. Social media 

Of course, we can’t forget the power of social media. Much of the above content can be disseminated via Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter, Tik Tok and even LinkedIn. Actively working to create engaging content will help grow your audience organically (although it takes effort and time), so you shouldn’t have to pay for followers. You will also have higher quality and more engaged followers this way. Ultimately, if you can cut down some of your longer form content into soundbites, you’ll have plenty for social  most of it free.

We are very opportunistic about taking photos of our products in interesting spaces (and will often have a set of products with us just in case), which enables us to get beautiful imagery without needing to hire a photographer. Of course, there are times when a professional photographer is much better, but for a lot of the “blocking and tackling” content, you can find ways to get the imagery that you need (and don’t forget about sites like Unsplash where you can download royalty-free photography).

Related: 10 Laws of Social-Media Marketing

So ultimately, in order to get momentum without money, you’ll have to be a bit more hands-on and disciplined, but it’s actually quite doable. And you’ll find that many times, the different tactics feed off each other, so it gets easier over time. 

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7 min read

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

As a founder, I spent my fair share of years starting companies, growing them to a certain point and getting stuck. 

We kept hitting the invisible growth barrier.

I sold my companies, but I never quite achieved my dream sale. It wasn’t until my third company that I figured out how to go from $1 million to $2 million (and then keep going).

Every business goes through some very predictable stages.

You start off with your business partner or first employee, and maybe a client or two. Your charisma and sheer force of will get you to $1 million in annual sales. This is the first break point. It’s almost a rest stop; you regain your balance, reevaluate your surroundings, make some brave (expensive) hiring decisions, take a deep breath and push forward.

Related: You Cannot Cut Your Way to Growth

Sometimes businesses fail at this point. In fact, it can take a long time to get past the plateau that hits at your first million. There are several factors at play.

Product-market fit

You may simply have hit the demand limit for your product or service, and you may need to redesign it to suit a broader audience. In my earliest businesses, I could find a dozen clients who would pay under a hundred grand for a website, but couldn’t find very many that would pay double that without a significant increase in sophistication. 

This meant retraining our team and coming up with higher value products.

It requires a big change in the way you do business — hiring, training, management, project management, quality assurance, account management and sales.


When your business is turning over around a million, you might have ten or a dozen people on your team. You’re all super-aware of what’s going on. You will work nights to get a big order out or prepare for a big pitch. You read each other’s minds and jump in to help. To some degree, you are all capable of doing each other’s jobs in a pinch.

North of this first million, and it starts to become important that you have specialists, and sometimes specialist teams. That means new management and new processes. Sometimes you will find there is an inner circle (the original team) and everyone else. 

Caliber of staff

At this stage of growth, you begin to need more experienced staff to manage teams and bring in workflows and practices that they have seen work well elsewhere. In other words, you need more senior people.

Except you can’t afford the really experienced ones yet. Up to the first million, you were training great people you worked well with to deliver what was in your head. Now, you need to hire people with expertise. They are expensive. Perhaps you need to do without a few junior staff. Or sacrifice your own salary. Or give away shares.

This is where it gets seriously frustrating. It’s not so much that you come unstuck, it’s the opposite. You grind to a halt. You stall. Your business just stops growing.

Related: Why Employees Are an Entrepreneur’s Best Investment

It is utterly predictable, but only after you’ve seen it from the other side a number of times. I had six companies of my own and was then CEO of a group. I taught MBAs. Then I created a growth-acceleration program that’s now gone global. So I’ve seen exactly what happens at each business plateau.

The one that happens at around two million can be particularly disheartening. As I said, it took me three attempts (and ten years) to figure it out. Stressful? Check. Frustrating? Check. Depressing? Hell yes, and not just for me. Everyone I see gets to this point, gets stuck, can even start going backwards. Your own morale takes a hit, and no matter how much of a brave face you put on it, your team knows. Your best team member reads the writing on the wall and gets a better job with a bigger competitor.

So how do you break through the growth barrier?

If you look at it as a chance to take a breath, some things become obvious.

The first is that what got you here is unlikely to get you to four, five or ten million. It’s a very different version of what happened at a million. You need to redesign some important things. You need scalable processes, covering things like marketing, delivery, customer retention and hiring — things that can work really well even when they are delegated.

To scale, you will need new processes. You need smarter tools so your smartest people can focus on growth, not handling repetitive tasks.

Yet change is really hard to enact, especially from the inside. Your senior people have spent the past couple of years accelerating from your million-dollar pit stop. They have built great processes, relationships, sometimes fiefdoms. It is incredibly difficult for them as individuals to ditch what has worked so far and create brand new, untested, scalable processes. They will be reluctant to mess with the status quo.

And this is why you are stuck: You cannot grow because you are optimized for the level you are at.

The only way to do it reliably is to use a systematic approach and involve the people who are going to be the future of the business. 

At 2Y3X, the frameworks we use are based on the work of Edwin Locke (goal-setting theory), Kaplan and Norton (Balanced Scorecard) and others. I wrote a book about it — Scale at Speed — which sets out in detail all of the individual tasks and best practice processes.

It’s going to require you to get your most important people involved. And by that I don’t mean your most senior people — many of them have entrenched interests and do not want anything to change. 

But change you must. 

Assemble a team called the “Growth Lab Team.” They are your future stars, people who really fit your values, who want to see progress and can envisage a stellar future. You will work with them to define your goals. We work with three-year goals, usually something like “triple revenue.” Then, work backwards from the end of the third year and figure out what you will need to be doing during year three.

Then, you take another step back and look at what you will need to do in year two to be prepared for year three. Finally, you look at the coming year. What do you need to change, design or implement today?

We break this down into different focus areas, and we make each task manageably deliverable in a quarter. For example, sorting out reliable inbound marketing will take three months. So will developing a system to keep every single employee on track and 100% effective. And so on.

Related: How to Grow Your Company Without Losing Its Culture

As an entrepreneur, you have been successful in starting a company — in surviving, creating products and services clients are willing to pay for, and building a team that really wants to do good work.

What isn’t so easy is taking this amazing business platform and growing it to the point where you can make a fantastic sale and realize your dreams. The secret is that you just need to look at it from a different perspective. Realize that there are stages, and that you need to change at each stage. 

What will the result be? Well, in my case, it would have saved ten years, and I would have been seriously successful much, much faster.

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6 min read

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

The concept of data literacy didn’t exist when I started my career in marketing in the mid-1990s. We had few marketing channels, all of which were offline, and we had to track them manually in spreadsheets. We distributed leads to our sales team on a floppy disk. We sent coupons to prospects, and every day I had to go to the mailbox to see which coupons came back filled out. As scarce as it was, data was still extremely important back then. 

Today, marketers have access to a massive amount of data through multiple channels, both offline and online. New channels are constantly emerging, and each becomes its own data track. However, all of that data goes into different applications and systems, making it very difficult to get a complete picture of what is really going on. We are all striving to reach a real-time, 360-degree view of customers. This is the foundation for personalization, timing and relevance: How do you send the right offer to the right prospect at the right time?  

The more you can master the timing and the relevance, the greater impact you’re going to have with your marketing investments. With inaccurate or incomplete data, you get a skewed picture of potential consumers. If you create the wrong offers at the wrong time, all of your marketing will go to waste. Researchers Rex Briggs and Greg Stuart looked at more than $1 billion of marketing spend by 30 major corporations, and found that 47% of the advertising campaigns didn’t work. That’s 53% of marketing spend wasted.

So how do you reduce the waste and increase the return? It comes down to data literacy — how well you can read, work with, scrutinize and communicate with data. If you have access to all of the data, and the ability to analyze and make smart decisions based on it, then your marketing efforts will likely succeed.

Related: How to Use Real-Time Data to Fine-Tune Your Business Decisions

The challenge of fragmented data

In a recent survey, 36% of company leaders said that of all of their departments, sales/marketing showed the best performance in utilizing data-driven insights for strategic purposes.

But over the past two decades, marketers have faced an uphill battle in trying to be data-driven. A proliferation of marketing tools are now used to engage customers over complex customer journeys. Customers expect to have a seamless experience across an ever-expanding set of channels. And organizations face an explosion of data, all stored in silos, that need to be integrated in order to derive insight and smart decisions. 

All of these trends have created fragmented data, which is a major barrier to data-driven insights. In a 2020 report, 47% of executives surveyed said their top digital customer experience challenge was “siloed systems and/or fragmented customer data.” 

Thanks to recent developments in cloud and advanced technologies such as artificial intelligence, we’re finally entering an age of integrated data. We can now access and analyze all of the relevant data available to gain a complete view of customers and tie our marketing investments to business outcomes. This represents the biggest transformational moment for marketers since the birth of digital marketing in the 1990s. It’s a bigger step-change than social media. 

While technology tools in 2021 allow marketers to connect with customers and prospects with 10 times the precision and business impact, the art of applying these new tools is what separates good companies from great companies. Over the past five years, I’ve been able to use data to do things I couldn’t previously imagine. I’ve also had the opportunity to advise CMOs at customer organizations about how to use data to transform their marketing organizations and businesses. Here’s my advice to others:

Establish clear marketing objectives and metrics.

It’s important to create a strong foundation for all stakeholders to build upon. In marketing, that entails setting goals and tracking progress. One of our key objectives at Snowflake is to become the industry’s most insights-driven marketing team. We developed two key metrics to measure our results: predictable pipeline generation and growth efficiency. Our goal is to build scalable tools and models to drive efficient growth and proactive actions. To support this, we put a lot of work into predicting real-time return on investment to optimize our marketing programs and disrupt aged B2B marketing analytics practices.

Develop a complete picture of your customer

Tear down your data silos to understand your full range of customer data. Take DoorDash, which broke down data silos to generate a 360-degree view of all of their customers, powering their marketing analytics and allowing them to provide a more personalized experience. Prioritize access to the most strategic data sets available for your business. With real-time, granular insights into product sales and customer demographics, marketers can graduate from stale, weeks-old reports to instant intelligence on customers.

Related: The Insane Amounts of Data We’re Using Every Minute (Infographic)

Turn your love/hate relationship with IT into a winning partnership

To align objectives and priorities around being data-driven, marketing needs to establish close relationships with IT and business stakeholders. This needs to be a strategic objective, like a mandate. Otherwise, it’s not going to work. All teams need to follow a clear roadmap to drive the execution, and communicate regularly. At PepsiCo, IT took time to understand the objectives of marketing, then created an advertising ROI Engine which turned 60-plus data across marketing, sales and third-party entities into market insights and predictive models that could be shared frequently, internally and externally.

Become a master of the data

Marketers also need to know how to gain control of the data to amplify their own efforts. Marketing is a big investment, and marketers need to be able to demonstrate how that investment is turning into profit for the company. Success is based on how effectively you support the growth of your company, and the only way you can prove that is through data. So having the mastery of data in your skill set is vital for marketers.

Once you establish and track your objectives, eliminate data silos, bring all of your data together and develop the competencies needed to access it, analyze it and achieve insights, you can reach a holistic view of customers and deliver a tailored 360-degree customer experience. You can develop a clear picture of attribution and marketing spend ROI. You can activate data in real time to create highly targeted, effective campaigns. And eventually, you can unleash the power of data science products using machine learning and artificial intelligence to optimize your campaigns. At that point, your data literacy will become a data superpower.

Related: Why Data is the World’s Most Valuable Resource Today

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Biden has proposed to nearly double the capital gains rate to 39.6% for those earning more than $1 million.

3 min read

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Small businesses play a vital role in America’s economy given the fact that they make up 99.9% of all businesses according to the Small Business Administration’s Office of Advocacy. However, the importance of small businesses has been diminished by President Biden’s capital gains tax proposal which, if passed, would make America’s rate nearly the highest in the world. With many small businesses still working to get back on their feet following the hardship created by the pandemic, this proposal could decimate small businesses across the U.S.

What’s being proposed?

Currently, the long-term capital gains tax rate is 20% for single households with more than $445,850 in taxable income in 2021. Biden has proposed to nearly double the capital gains rate to 39.6% for those earning more than $1 million. In addition to the new tax rate, businesses must pay a 3.8% Medicare surtax bringing the rate to 43.4% before local and states taxes are factored in.

Businesses lose big

So, what does this look like for business owners? For examples sake, let’s say a California business owner has a $100 million company that they’d like to sell keeping in mind that $11.7 million isn’t subject to estate tax. Under Biden’s proposal, the business owner would owe $43.3 million in federal income tax (capital gains and Obamacare tax), $13.3 million in state tax and $35.3 million in estate tax. In the end, this leaves this business owner with $8.1 million, effectively reducing their wealth by over 90% after taxes are paid.

Second-generation businesses will struggle to survive

In addition to increasing the capital gains tax, Biden has also proposed to remove the step-up in basis and instead carry over an asset’s tax basis from the decedent to the next generation. This means that if you own a business when you die, your inheritors must pay income taxes regardless of whether or not they sell the business, saddling them with a huge tax bill that currently doesn’t exist under today’s policies. For example, let’s say a parent owns a $10 million small business and passes it on to their child when they die. If Biden’s proposal is passed, the child would now owe nearly $4 million in capital gains taxes that they likely can’t afford as it’s nearly half of the value of the business. If they can’t afford the capital gains taxes they’ll have to sell, but who can afford to buy the business? Big corporations. So rather than the family business continuing on and passed on for generations, larger corporations win in the end.

Related: Cryptocurrency and Taxes: What You Need to Know

When it comes to initiatives posed in Biden’s tax proposals, big businesses continue to receive a majority of the benefits. Why is that the case? We’ll discuss why capital gains from real estate entrepreneurs and small businesses get hammered while big businesses can acquire companies without capital gains in my next article.

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5 min read

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Some say luck is all around us and all we have do is look. Those of us who are luckier than most understand that is true; however, we have to do more than look. We also have to work at it. When we hear the word “luck,” things that might come to mind could be winning the lottery, finding a $20 bill on the ground or even getting the first parking spot at the front of the full lot. 

If the definition of luck is “a form of success brought by chance,” then the above would, in fact, be correct examples of luck. That is one literal definition of luck: good fortune brought about by chance rather than one’s own actions. However, what if we had the ability to increase our chances and make better choices? Wouldn’t we be luckier? Yes, and because of that, there are two types of luck I have come to find in life: unreliable luck and reliable luck. 

Unreliable luck fits the traditional definition: success resulting from chance. But reliable luck involves increasing your chances by making strategic choices. 

Related: How You Can Learn to Have Lucky Genes

Here are three reliable choices I have found that have increased my luck over the years. 

Take more success-driven actions 

There are some people who believe when they focus and spend time envisioning a certain outcome or possession they desire, all they have to do is will it, and it will come to them. Then, there are some of us who know that when we increase our actions in a strategic way, we increase our chances of getting what we want.

You can think about getting a new job, or you can do something to get a new job. You can think about making more money, or you can do something that will make you more money. You can think about falling in love, or you can go out and put yourself out there more. I am not saying we get what we want every time we take action. I am saying we get luckier with every action we take. 

Build critical relationships 

Several people have told me who we surround ourselves with is who we become. I agree with this; however, we are in charge of who we spend time with and who we don’t. Who are three people you need to stop hanging out with? And more importantly, who are three people you need to start hanging out with that will better your chances for success?

When selecting these people, don’t confuse someone who is on the journey with you with someone who has already been where you want to go. Having support is necessary; having insight in terms of getting lucky is better! Spend time with people who have already finished the race you have set out to start. These people can give you insight, feedback and, more importantly, connections to get you to where you want to go faster. 

Related: How Cultivating Relationships Helps You (and Your Company) Thrive

Decrease the physical distance between you and your goals

While in New York City, I sat next to a stranger while eating lunch on a bench in Central Park. We both gave the smile of approval to sit beside each other as we ate our sandwiches, and after a bit, we started talking. She shared with me her big dream is to be on SNL one day as a cast member. I then found out she lives in a small town in the Midwest and travels to New York once a year to get a feel for the city and check out comedy clubs where she hopes to get lucky and be discovered.

When I explained that her odds of getting on SNL would be better if she moved to New York or a place where they scouted for new talent, her response was, “If it is supposed to happen, it will happen!” Maybe. But that’s unreliable luck! When it comes to my dream and desires, I would rather invest in reliable luck. Instead of thinking it will happen, make it happen. We can do that by being in a place that we can get the experience more often than once a year. If you want to be a tennis player, but are hanging out on a football field, it’s unlikely you’re going to be the best tennis player in the world.

Become luckier

There are some people who glance at my success and consider me lucky. I am lucky — very lucky — because I invest in reliable luck. I take actions every day toward the goals I have set. I build relationships with people who can take me to where I want to go. I put myself in places that help me excel in my profession. I am not waiting for things to happen. I am making things happen. I am increasing my chances. 

When we want to be luckier in life, we should look to increase our opportunities, not leave everything up to pure chance. Yes, there are some people who go from having nothing to having everything because of unreliable luck, or they believe they willed it to happen. We can sit around and wait for that unlikely turn of events to happen for us, or we can go out and make our chances increase. 

Related: The Secret of Entrepreneurial ‘Luck’ in 3 Simple Steps

When we invest in reliable luck by taking action, building better relationships and decreasing the physical distance between us and our goals, we will inevitably get luckier. Don’t leave reliable luck to chance, and chances are you will have more luck.

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