20 Inspiring Quotes on How to Build a Successful Startup – Thomas Oppong

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Startups have always been hard. Even when you think you are putting in your best, it may not be enough to pull it off. Truthfully, most people fail. But don’t give up on your dream just yet. If you really believe that you have something amazing to share with the world (and there is a market for it), go for it. Don’t be discouraged by the number of times you have tried and failed, but be inspired by the number of people who have failed and bounced back as successful entrepreneurs.

Here are some of the most important insights from amazing founders on building a great startup.

1.”User experience is everything. It always has been, but it’s still undervalued and under-invested in. If you don’t know user-centered design, study it. Hire people who know it. Obsess over it. Live and breathe it. Get your whole company on board.”
–Evan Williams, co-founder of Twitter

2. “No growth hack, brilliant marketing idea, or sales team can save you long-term if you don’t have a sufficiently good product.”
–Sam Altman, president of Y Combinator and co-founder of Loopt

3. “The product that wins is the one that bridges customers to the future, not the one that requires a giant leap.”
–Aaron Levie, co-founder of Box

4. “The last 10% it takes to launch something takes as much energy as the first 90%.”
–Rob Kalin, co-founder of Etsy

5. “Mistakes will not end your business. If you are nimble and willing to listen to constructive criticism you can excel by learning and evolving.”
–Meridith Valiando Rojas, co-founder and CEO of DigiTour Media

6. “Make your team feel respected, empowered and genuinely excited about the company’s mission.”
–Tim Westergren, co-founder of Pandora

7. “Make something people want” includes making a company that people want to work for.” –Sahil Lavingia, founder of Gumroad.

8. “As an entrepreneur, you have to be OK with failure. If you’re not failing, you’re likely not pushing yourself hard enough.”
–Alexa von Tobel, founder of LearnVest

9. “Unless you are a fortune-teller, long-term business planning is a fantasy.”
–Jason Fried, founder of 37signals

10. “The strategy is to first know what you don’t know, the tactic is to grind, and the value is to remember: there are plenty of places to innovate.”
–David Friedberg, founder of Weatherbill

11. “Even if you don’t have the perfect idea to begin with, you can likely adapt.”
–Victoria Ransom, co-founder of Wildfire Interactive

12. “Micromanage the process, not the people.”
–Joe Apfelbaum, co-founder of Ajax Union

13. “The secret to successful hiring is this: look for the people who want to change the world.”
–Marc Benioff, founder of Salesforce

14. “Bad shit is coming. It always is in a startup. The odds of getting from launch to liquidity without some kind of disaster happening are one in a thousand. So don’t get demoralized.”
–Paul Graham, co-founder of Y Combinator

15. “Be undeniably good. No marketing effort or social media buzzword can be a substitute for that.”
–Anthony Volodkin, founder, Hype Maching

16. “If things are not failing, you are not innovating enough.”
–Elon Musk, CEO of SpaceX and Tesla Motors

17. “I think not focusing on money makes you sane, because in the long run it can probably drive you crazy.”
–Kevin Systrom, co-founder of Instagram

18. “We must learn what customers really want, not what they say they want or what we think they should want.”
–Eric Ries, author of The Lean Startup

19. “Don’t start a company unless it’s an obsession and something you love. If you have an exit strategy, it’s not an obsession.”
–Mark Cuban, serial entrepreneur and investor

20. “Sustaining a successful business is a hell of a lot of work, and staying hungry is half the battle.”
–Wendy Tan White, co-founder and CEO of MoonFruit

Failure hurts, but it’s your response to it that matters.

Rather Than Trying to Reinvent the Wheel, Be Inspired by These 5 Books – Clay Clark

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To not run a venture into the ground, entrepreneurs need to learn what it takes to succeed. Often this just comes from not making the mistake twice — but there are a few proactive strategies entrepreneurs can make to not make the error in the first place.

While it helps to talk to mentors, colleagues and customers, picking up a book can also be extremely beneficial.

As a business consultant, I am a voracious reader of self-help books, case studies of thriving companies, and the biographies and autobiographies of the world’s most successful people. I relentlessly implement the best ideas into my businesses.

The five books listed below absolutely must be read if you are looking to change your life and your path to success.

Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill1422032723-think-and-grow

The author of Think and Grow Rich was personally charged by Andrew Carnegie with the task of compiling the world’s most comprehensive research into the science of success. With the help of personal introductions by Andrew Carnegie, diligence and an absolute burning desire to teach the world how to become successful, Napoleon Hill devoted nearly his entire adult lifetime creating practical content entrepreneurs need to become successful.

The habit of doing more than you are paid for can benefit any business that sells a product or service. Learning and understanding the principle of the mastermind philosophy of networking can increase the value of your network and your net worth.

How to Win Friends & Influence People by Dale Carnegie

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To secure financing, close a deal, get married, build a team, motivate your staff and do anything in life, you must be able to positively influence people in a sustainable way. And How to Win Friends & Influence People teaches you just that.

Most formal educational curriculums teach you business skills you need, but without the ability to communicate and lead others, your dreams will never turn into reality. If you are an aspiring entrepreneur, businessperson, or human who just wants to move up in life, this book is a must read.

Rich Dad Poor Dad by Robert Kiyosaki

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The entire focus of this book is teaching you the practical steps you need to know to make your wallet grow. Robert Kiyosaki’s detailed training on the cash flow quadrant and pathway shows you how to go from being an employee to becoming self-employed and a successful investor. Reading Rich Dad Poor Dad is a must for anyone looking to go from poverty to prosperity. This book will teach you how to get out of the “financial rat race.”

The E-Myth Revisited by Michael Gerber

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In The E-Myth Revisited, author Michael Gerber explains that most entrepreneurs have a unique skill or product, but it does not make them great business owners. Gerber methodically teaches how over-worked and underpaid entrepreneurs change their businesses to be scalable and duplicable. The knowledge you will obtain from this book will empower you to start or grow a business in any industry. Once you learn to build a scalable business system, you are no longer limited based on your skills. Building a successful business comes down to documenting your values, processes, systems and checklists.

Soft Selling in a Hard World by Jerry Vass

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During the course of Soft Selling in a Hard World, the reader is taught how not to sell and why most sales presentations come across as tacky, high pressure and cheap. The reader will learn how to change her entire mentality about the sales process to help solve a problem for the buyer by purchasing the seller’s products or services. This can be achieved by writing compelling call scripts or learning how to overcome objections, two tactics this book touches on.

How Entrepreneurs Can Design Their Lives and Businesses for Success – Carol Roth

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You may not know her name, but Pernille Spiers-Lopez knows a thing or two about design. She served in executive-level roles at furniture company IKEA for more than a decade, namely as CEO for IKEA North America and later as global chief human resource officer. Today, though, her design passion is something entirely different — helping entrepreneurs to design their lives and businesses in a way where they can plan for the kind of success that suits them.

While you may subscribe to the old adage that if you fail to prepare you prepare to fail, you may not realize that you have more control over how you set up the plan to coincide with the goals and objectives you value the most.

As a personal friend and mentor of mine, I asked Spiers-Lopez — who also serves on boards as a corporate and non-profit director in both the U.S. and Europe for Save the Children, Meijer Corporation and Coop DK– if she could share some of her best lessons for entrepreneurs from her new book, Design Your Life, so that you can design your own life and business for the kind of success that you desire. Some of her top tips are recounted below.

Take on big challenges.
Pushing yourself to take on challenges that you think sound impossible is a critical component for success, says Spiers-Lopez. “We learn the most — and grow the most — in challenging situations that stretch us beyond what we think our limits are. Often, it’s our own mindset that limits us.” Not only do the big challenges and goals create energy, passion and interest for you, but for those around you, such as team members and investors.

To accomplish the big ideas, Spiers-Lopez advises, “Have a mindful, long-term plan that you can break down into small, achievable steps or milestones to make execution possible, while keeping your eye on the bigger picture.”

Focus on your strengths rather than what you lack.
Spiers-Lopez believes that one of the biggest challenges for entrepreneurs, especially women, is overcoming our own negative thoughts. She shares, “I find that, women in particular, we talk ourselves down. I have been the only woman in the board room and even found myself doing this. For example, I remember thinking ‘Why is nobody listening to my ideas?’ Instead of talking myself into being small or not good enough, I turned it around to see how I could change my communication. I asked myself why I wasn’t being heard and how I could reframe or change my communication so that it would be heard.”

She advises that instead of focusing on what you lack or what’s going wrong, emphasize your strengths, whether you are selling to capital providers, customers, team members or otherwise.

Diverse perspectives are a leading asset.
Further, Spiers-Lopez recounts that her favorite phrase for businesses is one that she heard from a friend: “Great minds think unalike.” Entrepreneurs and businesses get into jeopardy when groupthink takes over. The businesses that embrace diversity in perspectives and a 360 degree view can make sure that they see not just what’s in front of them, but what could lie ahead.

Use elimination to make choices, especially overwhelming ones.
Whether a new entrepreneur is deciding which business to pursue or an existing entrepreneur is deciding between directions to grow the business, choices can be overwhelming. Spiers-Lopez suggests that instead of making your head spin wondering “What do I want to do?” to instead focus on “What do I not want to do?”

Being clear about what doesn’t interest you, what doesn’t align with your core values, core business, and what you are not good at can help you see the forest through the trees as you clear away the unwanted foliage.

Build a strong, supportive network.
“Success in life means being successful personally as well as professionally,” says Spiers-Lopez. “I wouldn’t be where I am today if it weren’t for surrounding myself with the right people. At home, this is having the right partner in my husband, who is supportive so that we both can put our time, energy and resources where they need to be when they need to be there.” She advocates that having the right life partner, where your choices are viewed as supporting mutual goals vs. sacrifices is a big part of business success.

On the business front, Spiers-Lopez also says to surround yourself with a variety of supporters, including those with more experience and a variety of skills that you can learn from. Even better, she advises that entrepreneurs create a formal advisory board and make sure that it is filled with people who are willing to challenge you and ask “are you crazy”? Having “yes men” (or women) around won’t help you to get to the next level.

Be patient.
“Success takes time,” says Spiers-Lopez . “Be patient and don’t panic during the journey. It’s a long ride and those that make bad choices borne out of impatience or panic are the ones who won’t be successful.”

While she acknowledges that there are some overnight successes, Spiers-Lopez says that they aren’t the norm and that you shouldn’t be discouraged if you aren’t the next Snapchat. “It would be like hearing that someone made $200,000 at the racetrack and then being upset because you went there and didn’t. It’s not normal and it certainly shouldn’t be your plan.”

This Strategy, Used by the Red Sox, Can Elevate You Above the Competition – John Brubaker

There might be 31 flavors at your local ice cream shop, but most are just variations of vanilla. It’s really the only place vanilla sells.

In an era where consumers can purchase individual tracks on the iTunes store to make their own playlists and design their own dress shirts delivered to their door, both customization and the customer are king. If you don’t listen to them, someone else will. Now more than ever is a critical time to be connected to your stakeholders to learn and understand what matters most to them.

Walk into virtually any store, look at the shelves and you’ll see products getting lost in a sea of sameness. Ask a clerk to differentiate one product from another and often they can’t. It is said that a confused mind doesn’t buy. A confused mind can’t help sell your product either. This leaves most brands competing on price, which is a race to the bottom and a race virtually everyone loses. Sadly, it’s how must businesses try and compete in every industry.

What can you do to avoid this commoditization trap? One simple thing: hit the road — literally, go on tour. This is the single greatest success strategy I teach my coaching clients. Go on a listening tour visiting all your clients. It’s an idea I got from the Boston Red Sox.

For a number of years right after John Henry’s ownership group took control of the Red Sox, its front office diligently kept its ears to the ground by listening to its most important customers, the fans. At season’s end, front office personnel would travel from Portland to Providence and everywhere in between holding town hall-style events throughout New England. They called it a listening tour.

These listening tours were viewed by Red Sox management as a fundamental operating principle. They would listen to questions, fan feedback and ideas from members of “Red Sox Nation,” who are arguably the most passionate fans in professional sports. Additionally, they fielded comments and questions via webcast and posted the listening tour videos on the team’s website.

Key ideas that have been implemented as a result of listening-tour feedback are gluten-free food vendors, ticket sale policies and incorporating social media into the ballpark experience. This can also be a powerful way you can elevate and separate yourself from the competition.

A company that executes the listening-tour strategy to perfection is Anderson Bean Boot Company. I recently sat down with its general manager, Ryan Vaughan, to discuss how the company differentiates itself from the competition.

Vaughan has created his own version of the listening tour by hiring tech reps to be the eyes and ears on the floor with retailers. They don’t visit the retailers to sell, just to listen and help. Vaughan mentioned that having tech reps visit retailers is very different than simply sending sales reps. A sales rep is typically looking for the next order, whereas the tech reps are listening and helping to find solutions for the retailer. Think of their store visits as reconnaissance missions where they gather intel.

Key questions that get answered on the tour are:
What trends are you noticing in the market?
What’s working for the competition?
What can we do to make it easier for you to sell our boots?
Who are our strongest competitors?
When we lose a sale, who is it usually to?

A great example of listening to problem-solve for the retailer and differentiating as a brand came in the form of creating custom designs for specific retailers. Bold designs that are the farthest thing from vanilla help the individual retailer distinguish itself from local competitors and simultaneously prevents Anderson Bean from becoming commoditized.

The company has taken the listening tour to a higher level by holding what its calls “trunk shows,” where customers can set an appointment to be fitted for a custom pair of boots. This provides the customer the best possible level of in-store service and at the same time shows the retailer what customers really want.

How are you custom tailoring the experience to make it unique and memorable for your customers?

The leadership team at Anderson Bean walks the talk, literally. CEO and co-owner, Traynor Evans, walks the factory floor every day and stops to listen to his employees. The management offices are deliberately located inside the factory as opposed to next door for the very same reason, to be accessible and listen closely.

When was the last time you checked in with your employees to ask for feedback or suggestions to improve their experiences?

Vaughan has also flipped the listening tour on its head by bringing the company’s retailers down to the factory to experience it. They spend two to four days at a time on site in Mercedes, Texas, being shown product, manufacturing and designs. They are entertained during their visit, and at dinner, Vaughan and his team make it a point to simply listen and learn. Many retailers attend the site visit every year.

Back to the Red Sox for a moment, a key point most people outside of professional baseball would miss is that a majority of the listening tour was actually conducted during the team’s busiest time of the year, from Nov. 1 through the holidays. This is the time when player acquisitions happen. Amidst free agency, trades and coaching changes, the Red Sox invest time in getting out and listening to customers. This sends a clear message that they are never too busy to listen to their customers.

Often in business, when we enter our busy season, we develop a bunker mentality and get so busy we forget to invest time in listening. Is a listening tour easy? No. But when you do the hard things the right way you set a solid foundation upon which you can grow.

5 Reasons Why Being Unrealistic Is a Good Strategy – Zach Cutler

Business is about numbers, statistics and hard facts, and entrepreneurs must have a strong grip on reality to do well. But departing from reality can ironically lead to greatness.

Here are five reasons to leave reality, think outside the box, and be unrealistic:

1. The only constant in life is change.
Especially in today’s digital world, business changes at a rapid pace. Even the most deep-rooted industries can change overnight with a new, unexpected idea. The most successful ideas seem ridiculous and implausible at first. After all, obvious ideas have already been created.

Think about Facebook. In the golden age of MySpace, does another social network, created by a student exclusively for a select group of students, sound like a successful idea?

Instagram, a photo-sharing social network that offers filters, was bought by Facebook for $1 billion only two years after its launch among a sea of other social networks and apps.

Uber disrupted the long-established taxi and transportation industry in just a few years and is now valued at more than $40 billion. In a similar fashion, Airbnb, the social-networking hotel chain, is expected to outgrow the world’s largest traditional hotel chains in terms of value and bookings.

In each of these seemingly unlikely cases, the startups tackled well-established industries and competitors with new ideas that brought big results. Thinking unrealistically can shake up old ideas and businesses, invite innovation and create a lasting impact.

2. Reality is bred from thought.
It only takes one thought to change actions, behaviors and outcomes. When an entrepreneur commits to an idea, and are convinced he or she will accomplish something, he or she eventually will. No matter how unrealistic an idea seems, it can become reality if the mind is resolute about realizing it.

3. The most successful people are often the most unlikely.
Beethoven was deaf. Ray Charles was blind. Innovators who think unrealistically, despite potential roadblocks, are in the end perhaps the most likely to achieve greatness.

4. Unrealistic ideas create motivation.
Unrealistic ideas usually stem from, or center around, passions. With passion and determination to achieve the impossible, the team adopts an “us against the world” mentality, and will work to make the unrealistic goal a reality.

5. Technology changes everything.
Reality is constantly changing in the technology revolution, and the impossible is becoming possible. Unrealistic thinkers recognize this rate of change and think toward the future.

Products, ideas and services that are now a part of everyday life were unrealistic only a decade ago. The growth of smartphones, social media, apps and the ability to customize and personalize nearly everything were once unrealistic ideas.

Thinking ahead can help entrepreneurs become industry leaders, creating ideas that will address potential problems and satisfy future wants and needs.

What’s holding you back from going for your unrealistic ideas?

The Extraordinary Power of Visualizing Success – Matt Mayberry

All top performers, regardless of profession, know the importance of picturing themselves succeeding in their minds before they actually do in reality. Something I have been able to translate over to the business arena from athletics is the power of visualization. It is extremely effective when harnessed and used correctly.

Every Friday night after our team dinner, my college teammates and I would gather in the hotel conference room to prep for our game on Saturday.

We were led through a series of visualization techniques and practices led by a sports psychologist. Right away, I started to experience the incredible benefits of taking the time to picture myself succeeding before actually playing in the game. I visualized every little detail, from walking into the locker room, tying my cleats and having conversations with my teammates and coaches.

I would picture myself having the “perfect” game, executing the defensive game plan and making big plays. The more vivid I was, the better I seemed to play. I couldn’t believe it. Before the game even started, I had already played the entire game in my mind. This made a tremendous difference because it greatly increased my confidence and comfort level.

In turn, I have been able to harness the power of visualization outside of athletics. Before I take the stage and speak to a large audience, I always picture myself giving the “perfect” speech. I begin weeks in advance by picturing the audience, my choice of words and the reaction from the crowd once I am finished. Visualization can be applied to any area of your life, as I know it has become very beneficial throughout mine.

Consider these three examples:

Boxing legend Muhammad Ali was always stressing the importance of seeing himself victorious long before the actual fight.
As a struggling young actor, Jim Carrey used to picture himself being the greatest actor in the world.
Michael Jordan always took the last shot in his mind before he ever took one in real life.
These top performers, among many others, have mastered the technique of positive visualization and openly credit it as a success tactic.

When you think of a big goal or dream that you want to achieve, it’s natural to think of all of the obstacles that will come your way. The problem is far too often we allow these obstacles to become so big in our minds that it inhibits us from moving forward. This is when many become satisfied with mediocrity.

Don’t let this be you. Rather than creating larger-than-life barriers in your mind and dwelling on everything that will hold you back, envision yourself victorious like Ali. Picture yourself as the greatest at your craft like Carrey. Visualize your next shot as your winning shot like MJ.

What will it take? What sacrifices will you make? How can you handle any obstacles and still have enough to make it to the finish line? The key is to make your positive vision stronger than anything that can set you back.

The truth is, if you can’t picture yourself achieving a goal, chances are you won’t. The more vivid you can get, the better it will work for you. Start thinking of your personal goals in life. Spend about 10 to 15 minutes picturing yourself achieving each one.

Get as detailed as possible. Picture what you will do once your goal is reached. How amazing does it feel? How will this change the course of your life? Remember, the little details increase the likelihood of the big picture.

You don’t need to spend endless hours. Simply get in the habit of putting together a positive vision into your everyday life. Visualize yourself succeeding, achieving every goal, completing every task. See what it does for you and how it makes you feel. This will likely become a pivotal part of your success arsenal.

The bottom line is this: If you can’t picture yourself in your own mind being extremely successful, dominating your market, and running a phenomenal business, then chances are you never will.

5 Things ‘America’s Most Dangerous Underdog’ Can Teach Us About Success – Phil Dumontet

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You can’t talk about success in the running world without mentioning Mebrahtom “Meb” Keflezighi. When Keflezighi’s family settled in San Diego in 1987, he didn’t speak English and had never raced a mile. Yet, he went on to win a silver medal in the 2004 Olympics and became the first American man in decades to win both the New York and Boston marathons.

To succeed, Keflezighi training consisted of doing four-and-a-half-minute-mile high-speed circuits and running at 4,000 feet (and sleeping at 9,000 feet) in the mountains of Mammoth Lakes, Calif. He pushed his personal limits to the max, and it paid off.

The most successful athletes are driven by the desire to accomplish their goals and hit new personal records, something business leaders should also be doing.

If you want to follow their formula for success, do these five things:

1. Focus on your signature strengths.
Your signature strengths are what you do best — the talents that distinguish you from others. The first step is to discover what those strengths are. Analyze your victories, identifying the qualities that helped you achieve them.

Keflezighi, for example, won major marathons by focusing on his consistency. While some marathoners’ times fluctuate, his best times span a 90-second range, which helped him focus on the mark he needs to hit.

Using your signature strengths will make you happier, driving your ability to perform. “Studies have shown that the more you use your signature strengths in daily life, the happier you become,” writes Shawn Achor in his book, The Happiness Advantage: The Seven Principles of Positive Psychology That Fuel Success and Performance at Work.

2. Define success and visualize achieving it.
Consider what motivates you. Is it a passion for doing the work you’ve chosen, making a positive impact, receiving public recognition or something else? Winning doesn’t always mean generating the most profit. It sometimes means loving what you do and who you do it with.

You can’t let anyone else define success for you. Once you’ve defined it, visualize achieving it. Keflezighi’s goal in each race is to win, no matter the length or number of competitors. Guard yourself against people who distract you from your goal.

3. Compete against yourself, not others.
Not everyone is comfortable with the competitive nature of sports. Competition can evoke ideas of cutthroat tactics, ruthless opponents and a zero-sum game. Although these exist, eliminate the idea of competing against others. Instead, embracing a sense of inner competition will help better prepare you for success.

Keflezighi focused so strongly on his own preparation, not on others’ or on gaining media attention, that The Wall Street Journal called him “America’s most dangerous underdog.”

Push yourself to continually improve upon what you can control as you seek your personal best. By focusing on your own game, you’ll likely surpass competitors along the way.

4. Keep things in perspective.
Don’t let anything overshadow what’s most important to you in life. These things often include maintaining good health, spending quality time with the people you love and savoring the moment.

Keflezighi hasn’t limited his success to marathons; he’s also raising three daughters with his wife.

5. Recognize failure as opportunity.
“Only those who dare to fail greatly can ever achieve greatly,” Robert F. Kennedy said. It takes determination and grit for marathon runners to push through the pain at mile 20 and failure is a real possibility.

Keflezighi faced failure on and off the course — after being sidelined by injuries, he lost Nike as his sponsor. He rebounded by enlisting Skechers as his new sponsor and winning the next Olympic trial.

A single-minded focus on your challenges and the decisiveness to act to overcome them can help you triumph over seemingly insurmountable odds.

Though you won’t hit every goal, you must take risks to make gains. Whether they turn into victories or injuries, they’ll offer you the opportunity to learn and train to do better next time.

It’s this ability to gain strength from successes and failures that separates the best from the rest.

The Startup Marketer’s Guide to Sponsored Online Content – Matthew Kammerer

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Today’s startup marketer may be aware that while creating a blog is an important first step in finding an audience, placing sponsored content in online publications can be an unrivaled catalyst for growing readership and finding qualified customers.

Here’s how to find the right publishers, craft targeted content and track results:

1. Realize when native ads may bring a boost.
Marketers today are moving further away from interruptive advertising channels, such as text, banner and popup ads, and toward more native, educational tactics. If you can deliver your message in the same format as the content someone is already consuming (blog posts, newsletters and podcasts), you will generate real engagement based upon natural interest.

Many times this can be done via paid-content placements with specific publishers. Not only is it a more targeted expenditure of the marketing budget but it can be a much classier way to reach an audience.

2. Find the right publishers.
Here’s how to hone in on publishers of sponsored content that reach your audience profile and marketing goals.

Topical match. Perform some keyword searches to see which publishers specialize in certain topics.

Traffic volume. Use Alexa to determine and compare overall traffic volume on different websites that offer native advertising. This will tell you if a publisher has the reach you need. Be careful with this metric, however. Purchasing sponsored content on a site that carries quality content might be more worthwhile than buying a native ad on a blog with huge traffic.

Content promotion. Does a given site promote its content — even from sponsors? Does it have active social-media channels or an email newsletter? Some sites may offer to give a sponsored article an extra tweet or include it in the newsletter.

Decision-making audience. Be sure the publishers you’re evaluating reach decision-makers for your product or service. Many publishers have an ad-buying kit on their site describing their audience.

Platform options. Working with a content marketplace like Contently, OneSpot or Syndicate (owned by my company, BuySellAds) saves time by letting you execute a curated multisite campaign through one contact rather than having to manage dozens of external relationships for a large purchase.

3. Craft content.
Before approaching any publisher of sponsored content, first fully understand the topics it focuses on and the voice. Publishers aren’t likely to accept content if it’s off topic or the tone doesn’t match.

Adhering to these crucial steps will ensure that your content will be a perfect match:

Tap into the spirit of the audience. What do these consumers care about? What are their problems? What makes them take action?

Craft your content into a great story that educates people about what your company does, while developing loyal readers and converting them into customers.

Take cues from popular content. Most sponsored publishhing sites will list their most popular content. Scan this and look for common themes in titles and topics.

Educate readers with value. Give the audience something of great value while simultaneously showcasing your company’s product or service. Creating content that benefits the customer, the publisher and your business will ensure a mutually beneficial partnership.

If your team is strapped for resources, understand that many publishers will even offer to write content for your company at an additional cost Since they already know how to talk to their audience, this can be a big help.

4. Measure results.
Setting expectations for metrics of sponsored content is a tricky thing since it differs by industries and audiences. Advertisers should go into this with an open mind, ready to test and learn. Establish your own benchmark metrics after a few placements, and your gut instincts will often tell you if something is worth the investment.

Recurring sponsorships perform best, in giving a steady platform to tell your story in a compelling, educational manner while also bringing back interested visitors.

5 Time-Consuming Tasks Small-Business Owners Should Outsource

Overhead can overtake small businesses in a hurry. But too many business owners impede their revenue growth doing everything just to save a few bucks.

Strategic outsourcing solves this dilemma.

Many entrepreneurs reject outsourcing because of the extra cost. However, they fail to calculate the value of opportunities lost because they sank too much time into energy-sapping tasks best left to others. Simply put, they save money but they do not make money.

As an example, I could put together my own PowerPoint presentations if I chose to do so. But I would spend twice as long as as an extremely proficient designer, and in the end, it would look half as good.

If I did it myself, I might save $50 in outsourcing fees. But it would cost me two hours of my workweek, two hours I could spend figuring out how to raise 10, 20 or even 100 times that amount in revenue.

So in the spirit of creating more time in your day to grow your business, here are five key outsourcing opportunities for small businesspeople:

1. Accounting
This may seem obvious, but it is too critical to leave off the list. Not only is accounting time consuming, it is also more and more of a specialty trade (especially in highly regulated states such as California). Accountants know the rules and can keep you out of trouble. They are highly efficient because they do this stuff every day.

Rule number one: Find a good bookkeeper for day-to-day accounting, a great payroll company to handle paychecks and withholdings and an even better CPA for tax accounting.

2. Banking
Separate from the accounting function is your relationship with an actual human being at your local bank. Most banks today have small-business specialists who can help you with cash flow, loans, grants, lines of credit and more. You need money to run a business. Your small business banker can help.

3. Artwork
This includes website art, logos, letterhead, etc. Everyone thinks they can do their own design work, and they can, but very few can do it well. You can find incredibly talented designers on eLance.com who can handle all of your artwork needs for a very small amount. I had an entire PowerPoint deck built for a major presentation. It cost me $35 and it was stellar.

4. Social media
I am all for reaching out on Facebook and Twitter, but doing so takes time. Trust me, there is a college kid in a marketing class out there that would love some part-time work strategically posting, responding to posts and articles, finding connected people to link to, etc. Don’t let your inner control freak get in the way — outsource this crucial element.

5. Editing
If your business requires a great deal of written material, find someone who specializes in word crafting and editing. Spend your time coming up with great content. Leave it to someone else to pore over your documents and ensure accuracy. A second set of skilled eyes will catch and improve things that you will miss.

Do what you do best and outsource the rest. – Jeff Shore