I had the opportunity recently to intervidw Rory Mullen, West Coast Director, IDA Ireland, and ask him a few questions about the innovation climate in Ireland and how the government is contributing to an increase in the innovation capacity of the island. Continue reading →

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Most investors want to find a startup idea that will going to make money. To do this, they shy away from companies that might seem a bit crazy, choosing the safer bets instead. But Bryan Johnson isn’t one of those investors. Instead, the serial tech entrepreneur turned investor goes after those ideas that seem impossible. He tells Fortune: “I want to get a company from ‘crazy’ to ‘viable.’ With today’s technology, we can now create in days, weeks or months what previous generations couldn’t do in a lifetime. Where DaVinci could sketch, we can build. Yet, we don’t have sufficient resources and people pursuing these goals.” To date, he has invested $15 million in seven startups. One of those companies is Planetary Resources, which wants to mine asteroids for precious metals. Vicarious, which is building a computer system that learns like the human brain, is another. And Human Longevity aims to lengthen the average human lifespan to 120 years. These are admirable goals, and certainly could have huge impacts if successful. But the likelihood of that happening is low, Johnson admits. And it’s also harder to measure the likelihood and risk for companies that don’t fit into an existing market. When looking at companies like tech startups, investors are able to assess a business’s ability to succeed and make money fairly easily. There are already tried and true ways for products like apps and services like social networks to bring in revenue. So investors can make some pretty good estimates about whether or not a company is likely to be successful, just by examining its business plan. But a company that wants to mine asteroids for precious metals is going to be a little tougher to evaluate. The risk doesn’t stop him though. Johnson is more concerned with ambition and big ideas. He says: “I invest in entrepreneurs who understand generally where the world is going, the enormous power of their tools and the enormous stakes that we have.” While taking the easy path with your business might help you better gauge your future success, pursuing a less conventional approach might bring even greater rewards in the long run. Don’t forget about the insane success experienced by companies like Google and Apple. Maybe your next business idea should be a little bit crazy too. Desktop Photo via Shutterstock The post Have an Insane Startup Idea? Try This Investor appeared first on Small Business Trends .

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As a marketer, there are a lot of things you can do right to build brand awareness, but there are just as many things you can do wrong. Below are 3 brand-damaging mistakes you might be making. Not Monitoring What Employees Say Online While watching to see what your employees or others associated with your company can be overdone and seen as intrusive or not trusting your employees, marketers should be monitoring what their fellow employees (as well as themselves) are posting online, especially if they publicly list the company in their bio or profile information. People shouldn’t be completely barred from sharing what they want on social media. But if they are representing the company in some way (which is especially the case with LinkedIn or a public Twitter or Google+ profile), then they should be cognizant of the type of content they post or share. One good thing marketers can do is work with human resources to create a social media and online branding handbook for new and existing employees that contains guidelines for appropriate behaviors when representing the company online. In addition to helping employees avoid posting embarrassing information, confidential information also needs to be kept off of social media . Once the policy is in place, HR and those involved with the company’s social media marketing can decide whether to monitor everyone’s social media accounts on a scheduled basis, or just occasionally as they see fit. This will likely depend on the company size, industry and security. Trying To Do Too Much At Once As digital marketers, it is extremely easy to have a constant fear of not being active on behalf of the company on an up-and-coming digital network or platform that could increase expose. FOMO (fear of missing out) is alive and well , not only for our social lives, but at work, too.  Especially if your job is about marketing and increasing awareness about your employer and products. However, there is such a thing as too much at once, especially online. In order for online efforts to be successful, it’s important to focus on just a few platforms at once, and do those extremely well. This is going to depend on your resources and industry as well. For example, a plumber probably isn’t going to have as much luck getting more exposure and customer recognition on Twitter as they would on Facebook. It’s important to figure out where your audience is, and be extremely active on those platforms, instead of trying to have a profile on every network or platform just because you can. Additionally, when it comes to product or campaign launches, if you only have the resources to allocate to a few platforms, don’t try to do the bare minimum on the others. What if a customer only sees what you’ve done on the platform where you didn’t try as hard? It can be easy when you are already knee deep in a project to think, “Let’s add a launch party, Twitter chat, and blog giveaway too!” But if you are only a team of 5 and need to make sure the website design is done by the time the project launches – and you have 5 interviews with local press and media – then it’s time to prioritize your efforts and make those you choose the best they can be. Not Being Open to New Ideas At first glance, this may clash with the point of not doing too much at once, but innovation and an open mind in the projects you do decide to work on will make or break your marketing campaigns and online recognition. If you are doing the same thing over and over, your audience is going to lose interest, which will eventually make your brand seem outdated. There are so many small, medium, and large businesses out there that have done their marketing the same way for many years, even decades. Each year follows the same, boring routine. A brochure with fall leaves on it for Halloween. A snowman holiday card sent to customers in the Winter. A “renew now!” push during Spring. And finally, the sun, wearing sunglasses, with a “hot summer deals” theme during the Summer. If you find yourself opening up the same file to use the same design during an annual or recurring campaign, it may be time to start thinking outside the box. Have a brainstorming session with colleagues and other creative-leaning employees from other areas of the company and ask them for ideas. These meetings could be held every quarter for 30-60 minutes and hopefully birth enough ideas to keep your marketing campaigns and projects powered throughout the year. It may take a few meetings before attendees start to feel completely comfortable sharing their ideas, so it’s important to push a “no idea is stupid” mentality and to have a positive, fast-paced tone. After all, no one likes meetings that drag on with no purpose or end in sight. Have a hard stop and make everyone feel like their time and ideas are valued. Once people begin feeling comfortable and appreciated, they will most likely share their best ideas. In addition, if employees come to you with a seemingly “crazy” idea, at least take it into serious consideration before casting it aside. If you can’t incorporate the entire idea, is there an aspect of it that you could? New ideas are created by people working with your company’s projects and services every day – so each idea is valuable. It is possible to focus on a few high-converting platforms, fill them with unique and engaging ideas, and have them be successful. As marketers (and employees), we are responsible for not only representing the best sides of the company, but making sure we can increase brand exposure and awareness with an audience that genuinely cares about what we have to say. Marketers Photo via Shutterstock The post 3 Brand Damaging Mistakes Too Many Marketers Keep Making appeared first on Small Business Trends .

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Apple claims its new 5K Retina iMac has the best resolution of any digital display — ever. It might sound like an idle boast were it not for the fact that the company has some numbers to back it up. The new iMac’s Retina display contains a total of 14.7 million pixels, for a 5120 x 2880 pixel resolution. The 5K screen is designed to have better overall image quality than both HD and Ultra HD. Apple says the new resolution and image quality improves the quality of playback on videos and makes text crisper and more easy to read and adds new depth to digital photos. All of this would seem to indicate that if your business application requires top level image quality, there may be no better option. In an official release on the new 5K Retina iMac, Philip Schiller, Apple’s senior vice president of Worldwide Marketing, explains : “Thirty years after the first Mac changed the world, the new iMac with Retina 5K display running OS X Yosemite is the most insanely great Mac we have ever made.” The new iMac, new image quality and resolution gets ample display on a mammoth 27 inch screen. The new iMac is already shipping from Apple and will be running the updated OS X Yosemite operating system when it’s first opened and booted. The OS X Yosemite update includes a focus on the look and feel of the operating system, including the use of translucent and streamlined menus. Not only does the new iMac include a groundbreaking display, it also boasts a variety of other high end specs. The 5K Retina iMac features a 3.5 GHz quad-core Intel Core i5 with Turbo Boost speeds up to 3.9 GHz, AMD Radeon R9 M290X graphics and a 1TB Fusion Drive. The computer can also be configured to include 32GB of memory and a 3TB Fusion Drive or 1TB of flash storage. The new 5K Retina iMac is also pre-loaded with the iWork suite of productivity apps that help create documents, spreadsheets, and slide presentations. Apple says the new desktop will retail starting at $2,499. Image: Apple The post Apple Claims the New 5K Retina iMac Has the Best Resolution – Ever appeared first on Small Business Trends .

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With Halloween almost here, Black Friday, Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday aren’t far behind. For small retailers, that means it’s time to gear up for your holiday marketing moves. Like last year’s, this is a short holiday shopping season (just 26 days between Black Friday and Christmas, compared to the more typical 31), so you’ll want to make the most of it. Here are some steps you can take to make your shop stand out from the crowd. Plan Ahead Planning ahead will give you an edge, enable you to budget better and ensure you don’t miss important dates. This year: Thanksgiving falls on November 27 Black Friday on November 28 Small Business Saturday on November 29 Cyber Monday on December 1. Create a marketing calendar working back from these and other key dates, breaking down the actions you’ll need to take to meet deadlines. For instance, if you want to send a direct mail piece to arrive before Thanksgiving, when do you need to design and submit the ad? Use Holiday Cards to Put Your Business Top-of-Mind Send early holiday cards (such as a Thanksgiving card) to give thanks for your loyal customers’ support all year long. Better yet, invite them to a special event or sale, and sweeten the pot with a discount or free gift offer. Help Shoppers Out Prepare to provide great customer service with little touches like free gift wrap or a gift-wrapping station, a personal shopper to help customers select gifts, or displays with pre-wrapped gifts for certain recipients such as “teacher gifts,” “gifts for Mom” or “baby gifts.” Hold Events at Your Store Choose an event that’s festive for the season, but also relates to your store, such as an author signing or reading at a bookstore, a musical performance of holiday songs at a CD store or a cookie-decorating demonstration at a gourmet food store. Events attract crowds and spur spending. Sell Gift Cards or Use Them as Promotional Items In 2013, gift cards were the number-one gift shoppers planned to buy, according to a Nielsen survey . Vantiv and eCard Systems are two companies that offer gift cards for small retailers; you can also see if your bank offers gift card options. Gift cards aren’t only for gifts; consider doing a “give one, get one” promotion where customers buy a $100 gift card or $100 worth of merchandise and get a $25 gift card for themselves. Appeal to Shoppers’ Selfish Sides With many Americans still watching their wallets, lots of shoppers wait for holiday sales to treat themselves to things they want or need. Window signage or ads promoting two-for-one; buy one, get one half off; or outright encouraging customers to treat themselves are very effective during the holidays. Show Some Sense (The Five Senses, That Is) Engage customers’ senses with colorful decorations, festive holiday music, seasonal scents like pine or cinnamon, and refreshments to keep shoppers from dropping. Music or scents that waft outside your store can attract foot traffic. Buddy Up Turn your business neighbors into marketing partners by creating promotions, contests and special events together. For example, hold a “12 Days of Christmas” giveaway where 12 retailers in your shopping center each give away a prize a day for 12 days. (Be sure to check into what your local business association is planning, too.) Take Part in Small Business Saturday Last year, 71 percent of U.S. consumers said they were aware of Small Business Saturday, and nearly half (46 percent) actively supported it by shopping at a local small business. The result: $5.7 billion in sales. Visit the website to get marketing tools, collateral and ideas for making the most of Small Business Saturday . Holiday Shop Photo via Shutterstock The post 9 Holiday Marketing Tips to Make Your Retail Store Stand Out appeared first on Small Business Trends .

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Innovation is an essential ingredient to the growth and success of China’s economy. The use of methods such as Systematic Inventive Thinking will accelerate that growth. But where should China focus its innovation efforts? Continue reading →

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Sponsored Post You probably already know that surveys can be beneficial to your business. But did you know that there are different types of surveys you can use to gather useful data? The type of survey you need will depend on the type of data your business wants to collect and from whom. Below are several your business can use to feed business strategy and direction. Different Types of Surveys Specific Topic Survey You’ll use this type of survey when you want to collect information about a singular component of your business. For instance, if you are exploring the possibility of adding a new product to your line, you could ask customers what they think of some of its features. Or if you’ve noticed an increased amount of customer complaints, you could run a survey only about customer service to find out if there are any underlying issues. These surveys should be short and super-focused. Decide what it is you really need to know about this single aspect of your business and get to the point as quickly as possible. You can send the survey out to some of your existing customers or to the target market of your potential offering, depending on the objective of the survey. Periodic Satisfaction Survey Even if your business isn’t considering adding a new product and hasn’t identified any major customer service issues, you still can – and should – use surveys regularly. Your business should conduct basic surveys periodically to measure customer satisfaction . The actual frequency and length of your survey will depend on your type of business, your customer or client base, and how you want to use the results (immediate feedback versus making adjustments every few months). The purpose of these surveys is to regularly measure your customer satisfaction over time. You should ask your customers about their overall satisfaction with your company along with a few more specific aspects of your business, such as product value and customer service. Choose the aspects that you feel are most important to your business, or, if you have identified key objectives or key performance indicators, use those to direct your survey questions. With these results, you’ll be able to measure satisfaction over time by comparing with the results of past surveys. Point-of-Sale Satisfaction Survey You can also measure satisfaction in a more immediate sense. After a purchase or transaction, you can contact customers to find out how the experience went for them. To employ this survey type, you should contact the customer via email, phone or mail, depending on how they made their purchase. In most cases, you should do so within a few days to a week of when they received their order or completed the transaction. These surveys won’t necessarily focus on overall customer satisfaction like typical overall satisfaction surveys. Instead, questions should be more focused on the transaction experience. For example, you can ask how they would rate their experience overall, how satisfied they were with shipping time, and if they found your ordering process straightforward. Employee Survey Surveys don’t have to just focus on your customers. Your employees are an integral part of your business, so their voices need to be heard as well. Reach out to your employees to find out if they’re satisfied and if they have any suggestions to improve efficiency or morale. This type of survey should happen on a regular basis. With employee surveys, you should try to find out some specifics, like asking how effective their team’s communication system is. But also leave a space for them to add their own comments and suggestions for improvement. As with any type of survey, it’s important to review the information and act on it if necessary. Research from a recent Officevibe infographic reveals that four out of five employees believe their manager won’t act on any issues that come up in their surveys. If employees, and customers for that matter, don’t believe their input matters, they’re less likely to take your next survey. So decide what type of survey is likely to get you the most useful information, make plans to implement it and be sure to follow-up with responses and take action on necessary changes. If you want to engage with your shoppers in the moments before, during and after making a purchase in your store, register for this webinar, “ Hyperlocal Research Made Easy ” on Nov. 12th to learn how. – Click Here to Register – Knife Photo via Shutterstock The post Surveys: The Swiss Army Knife of Feedback appeared first on Small Business Trends .

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Cultivating a wide professional network is great for business. However, the real key is keeping these relationships alive beyond the first meeting and connecting on LinkedIn. But how do you keep track of everyone in your network when you’re busy with your business? With this question in mind, we asked 10 entrepreneurs from YEC the following question: “What is one trick (or web tool) you have for maintaining your professional network online?” Here’s what YEC community members had to say: 1. Email Updates “I use email digests to keep up with my professional network. There are quite a few, such as  Bio Is Changed , that show you when your friends change their bios on Twitter or their LinkedIn Updates to see birthdays and new jobs. Those updates give you a good talking point to chat with your professional network.” ~  Ben Lang ,  Mapped In Israel 2. Email Tracking Software “Email tracking software such as  MSGTAG  helps you to know whether your emails have been read. Having this data helps you to keep your network from growing stale, and to know when to follow up.” ~  Andrew Schrage ,  Money Crashers Personal Finance 3. Humin “ Humin  is a great new app on your phone that allows you to organize your contacts as you should “humanly” remember them (by location, organization, university or interest). It links together and organizes your contacts automatically with your social media (Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin), address book and email. This is great whenever I am visiting somewhere new; I have contacts wherever I go.” ~  Kenny Nguyen ,  Big Fish Presentations 4. LinkedIn “ LinkedIn  is a great way to network, manage your connections and keep up with various industries.” ~  Timothy Schmidt ,  WebsiteRescue 5. Newsle “ Newsle  is a great way to be notified of accomplishments and achievements by your contacts. And when you receive good news about someone, you can send them a nice note and that’s it. Don’t view this as an opportunity to leverage their accomplishment to see how it benefits you. Be genuine and strive to get your company’s name (positively) in the press as well.” ~  Adam Stillman ,  SparkReel 6. Highrise “Better known as a CRM, I use  Highrise  to label different contacts, track conversations and, at a glance, get a sense of who I need to reach out to and when. The best thing is that it doesn’t overwhelm my calendar, and allows me to think more strategically about reach-outs while allowing room for spontaneity.” ~  Firas Kittaneh ,  Amerisleep 7. Twitter Lists “Regardless of the platform you use to manage your social media feed, Twitter lists can save an incredible amount of time in keeping up with your network. A five minute scan of my private “Important People I Like” and “Online BFF” lists quickly tells me what’s happening with my connections and how I can help.” ~  Molly Mahar ,  Stratejoy 8. Buffer App “With the  Buffer app  you can schedule out messages far in advance. Heck, why not schedule out a year in advance? Take a couple days and plan out your next year. I personally do this for my family and it works like a charm. They all think I’m on top of it. I remember everyone’s birthdays and special events. The same applies to business. Schedule it out!” ~  John Rampton ,  Host 9. Scheduled Time to Connect “Dedicate 15-20 minutes a week to go through LinkedIn, Twitter and wherever else to send messages, connect with new peers, comment on posts and express interest in and see what others are doing. By scheduling a dedicated time you won’t have to check here and there throughout the week. Do it all at once so that you can focus on what you’re doing and avoid multi-tasking.” ~  Brooke Bergman ,  Allied Business Network Inc. 10. Contactually “I use  Contactually  to “bucket” my network by how often I want to connect with them. Contactually automatically sends you an email every day with X number of people you should reach out to that day (you can set how many people you want to connect with on a daily or weekly basis). They also have templates you can use to streamline your message.” ~  Mike Ambassador Bruny ,  Ambassador Bruny Dot Com Fingers Photo via Shutterstock The post 10 Ways to Keep Up With Your Professional Network Online appeared first on Small Business Trends .

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As is true of so many things in life, the big boys have it a whole lot easier than the rest of us. Fishing for backlinks in exchange for money can be risky (not to mention deeply unethical), but that didn’t stop Hotels.com, an Expedia property, from sending out spammy emails asking travel bloggers for precisely that. What Happened? Earlier this month, a number of influential travel bloggers received an email from an as-yet unnamed “SEO Manager” for Hotels.com’s Americas division. The poorly-written email was sent from a Hotels.com email address, and claimed that the SEO Manager had been reading the bloggers’ posts. The sender went on to ask if the recipients would be interested in some “brand promotion for our hotels.” So far, so good, right? Unfortunately (for Hotels.com), the phrasing of the email soon took a detour into black-hat territory. The sender, who until the end of the email had been asking for hotel reviews or “more neutral content, such as ‘Brought to you by Hotels.com,’” then gave the game away by explicitly asking how much the bloggers wanted to be paid for helping Hotels.com acquire backlinks: “If you agree with partnering with us on helping us acquire backlinks, I would like to discuss a package or how you wanted to compensated to perform this assignment.” Oh dear. What Was Hotels.com’s Response? Predictably, Hotels.com was quick to distance itself from the shady machinations of the SEO Manager. In a canned response shortly after the incident came to light, Hotels.com issued the following statement: “We work hard to adhere to the guidelines which search engines have put in place. The email is not aligned with our program and was the result of an internal misunderstanding that has been quickly identified and resolved.” Presumably, the “internal misunderstanding” was that this type of back-alley shenanigans should never have been made public – and the SEO Manager responsible has been fired. So What’s The Big Deal? Aside from being risky business, Hotels.com’s attempts to buy backlinks from bloggers highlights just how often large, well-known sites get away with underhanded tactics that would otherwise ruin small businesses trying to do the same thing. Not convinced? Let’s take a look at other questionable tactics being employed by Hotels.com. Thin Content and Link Farms Do a search for “Hotels.com” and you’ll see firsthand how the site leverages its size and power to game the system: Apparently, the Hotels.com domain has almost 36 million pages indexed in Google. Even an SEO novice could see that something’s up. There’s no possible way that Hotels.com could have that many legitimate pages on its site. (WordStream is quite large and we only have 14,000 indexed results.) So what’s the deal with all those pages? Well, Hotels.com is using computer-generated pages featuring thin content and link farms to game the algorithm. The site has a page for virtually every city/state/region/hotel name in the world: This massive content farm is supported by aggressive, automated internal linking to further boost rankings: Ads are injected to bulk up all this thin content and further monetize pageviews: What Does This Mean? A few final thoughts. Hotels.com is a paid-link supported content farm that just so happens to offer hotel bookings. The site is using virtually every trick in the book to boost its rankings. When it comes to dodgy SEO tactics, brands get away with murder. Major brands still purchase backlinks to game their search rankings, despite the risks. The practice is common knowledge among those in the know. And SEO is too important to sites like this for management to not know of these kinds of tactics.Google spam algorithms still have a long way to go towards cleaning up the SERPS. Republished by permission. Original here . Images: WordStream The post Busted: Hotels.com Caught Buying Links, Apology is Weak appeared first on Small Business Trends .

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Since its launch, the iPad has completely changed the way kids learn. But not every learning experience has to be completely digital. That’s why tech startup Osmo created its innovative platform that combines digital technology with objects in the physical world. The objective is to help children learn. The platform works by placing the iPad on a vertical stand and attaching a small mirror in front of the device’s camera. The mirror allows the device to see downward. The view allows the iPad to capture images of children manipulating physical objects like letters ans shapes on a flat play area below. Osmo also provides a series of downloadable apps that recognize the objects and let children play games in which they try to reach the objective of spelling out words or choosing specific shapes. The games have theadvantage of being more tactile than mos digital learning environments. The company has raised $12 million in funding to aid in its growth. Accel Partners led the company’s first round of funding. Rich Wong, a partner at Accel who is joining Osmo’s board of directors told Venture Beat: “Osmo’s technology makes childhood education more personal, creative and engaging. We believe that the future of education will rely on intuitive innovation that amplifies learning through interactive online-to-offline experiences — Osmo is at the forefront of this movement. Osmo is a natural fit for parents and teachers because it adds a small but powerful layer of technology on top of a platform, the iPad, that children already know and love.” Like any groundbreaking business model, Osmo is re-imagining its market, in this case digital educational technology. Up until now that’s involved a pretty straight forward digital approach. Education from shapes to spelling to anything else has been limited to a digital world. Press this button to select shape A. Press this button to select shape B. But some children may need a more hands on approach. Osmo introduces an approach that won’t limit learners to a set of experiences totally confined to the digital world. The company returns the ability to feel and manipulate objects physically as part of the learning process. On the other hand, Osmo’s platform uses digital technology as an easy way to recognize and record the results of this play in a meaningful way. The company’s recent success gaining funding and its soon-to-be availability in U.S. and Canadian Apple stores shows this disruptive business model may be the next big innovation in learning technology. Image: Osmo The post Osmo Uses iPad to Teach Children About Letters And Shapes appeared first on Small Business Trends .

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