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Archive for 2015|Yearly archive page

How do I find my passion? Answered in Quora by Oliver Emberton, Founder of Silktide

In Uncategorized on March 29, 2015 at 1:40 am

Too many of us believe in a magical being called ‘passion’. “If only I could find my passion”, we cry. “Finding my passion would make me happy”.

Well, passion is real, and very powerful. But almost everything people believe about finding it is wrong.

Rule 1: Passion comes from success

All of our emotions exist for good reason. We feel hunger to ensure we don’t starve. We feel full to ensure we don’t burst. And we feel passion to ensure we concentrate our efforts on things that reward us the most.

Imagine you start a dance class. You find it easy. You realise you’re getting better than others, and fast. That rising excitement you feel is your passion, and that passion makes you come back for more, improving your skills, and compounding your strengths.

The enemy of passion is frustration. If you constantly struggle with something, you’ll never become passionate about it. You learn to avoid it entirely, guaranteeing you never improve.

Most people get this backwards. They think we discover our passion, and that makes us good at something. It’s actually finding that you’re good which comes first. Passion comes from success.

Rule 2: Childhood is where passion goes to die

In theory childhood provides a great opportunity to try a bit of everything, find your talents, and with them, your passions.

But think for a moment how badly the system is stacked against you. Say school lets you try 20 subjects, ranking you against thousands of other children. Those aren’t good odds. Most kids are, by definition, around average. And it doesn’t matter how much we improve education, because people need to feel exceptional to feel passionate, and improving education simply moves up the average.

Say you’re one of the lucky ones, and you’re top of your junior math class. The education system will keep rising your difficulty until you find a level – like college – where you’re not exceptional anymore. Even if you actually are objectively pretty great, once you feel merely average, you’ll find your passion slipping.

And that’s if you’re lucky. What if your passion was for art? From an early age that passion is compromised by its social consequences. “It’s hard to make a living from painting” say your parents. “Your cousin is doing so well from engineering. Why can’t you be more like him?” And so you put your passions to one side, and let them wither.

In a population of billions, it’s obvious that not everyone can be unusually great at a handful of academic subjects. What if your true skills are in speechwriting, or creative dance, or making YouTube commentaries of videogames? None of those things are even on the syllabus.

And so most people grow up without much passion for anything.

Rule 3: Passion can be created

It may help to know that the most successful people in life generally didn’t pick their passion off a shelf.

In fact, many of the world’s most successful people dropped out of education entirely. Not because they were stupid – but because they found other areas where they were more skilled that education did not recognise.

They created their own passions.

Only a tiny fraction of people can expect to excel in the narrow subjects that childhood primes us for. And competition in that space is basically ‘everybody in the world who went to school’, which doesn’t help our chances.

But if you look outside of that space, you’ll find less competition, and more options. And this is how you tip the odds of finding a passion in your favour.

Option 1: Create something

When you create something new, you’re inventing something to be passionate about.

You might design novelty cushions, or write Batman stories, or start a Twitter account dedicated to fact-checking politicians.

New things are relatively uncontested. By creating something new, you’ve made your odds of becoming exceptional far, far higher.

Now it’s important to note that this doesn’t sidestep Rule #1: passion comes from success. So if your new Twitter account only has 5 followers after a year, you probably won’t be too passionate about it. If you had 5 million, you’d have quit your job. You must find success to fuel your passion.

But at least you’ve drastically improved your odds, because your competition is so limited. Only a handful of people will even dare to try something new. And you can be one of them, just by starting.

You see this pattern throughout history’s greats. A student called Mark was never going to be the world’s greatest programmer. But he started building cool websites, and he found he was unusually good at this because even better programmers rarely dared to try. It just so happens one of his little experiments became Facebook.

Option 2: Lead a new trend

The older and more established an area is, the harder it will be to compete in. Millions have got there before you, and the lower your odds of standing out, the lower your odds of being passionate.

But there’s always a new frontier being born, a place where everyone else is hopelessly incapable, and even modest skills can be impressive.

Say you were a teenager who started making YouTube videos, back in 2005. You grow a modest following, and your growing success excites you. By the time the ‘grown up’ world had realised YouTube was Kind-Of-A-Big-Deal with 4 billion views every single day, you’ve become a passionate master of an invaluable new craft.

That isn’t fantasy. There are mountains of hugely successful YouTubers, and most started in the same way: before everybody else. It’s the same for the first bloggers, rappers, and videogame designers.

If you can find something new that’s growing fast, and get skilled at it early, you’ll find it disproportionately easy to excel because of the lack of competition. And that’s your new passion right there.

Option 3: Fuse mediocrity

One limitation of education is it’s designed to narrow your skills. Education generally finds your One Best Thing, and pushes that thing as far as you can stand it:

The problem is most of us, by definition, can’t be the best in any one area. But we can be exceptional in our combinations.

Say you’re an average artist, with a decent sense of humour. You won’t have much hope with an art degree, and you can’t study ‘humour’ as a subject. But you could be an awesome cartoonist.

Or take an average business student, with some programming ability, and decent sales skills. That person is surprisingly well suited to become the boss of others who were better than them in any one of those areas.

The most successful people are almost never defined by a single skill. They are a fusion of skills, often not even exceptional skills, but they’ve made their fusion exceptional. Steve Jobs was not the world’s greatest engineer, salesperson, designer or businessman. But he was uniquely good enough at all of these things, and wove them together into something far greater.

This is the final route you have to finding your passion: combine skills into something more valuable. Remember, passion comes from success. If a new combination gets you better results, that could be your passion right there.

Why passion matters

Passion is attractive. As passion comes from believing you’re unusually good at something, being passionate is a very sincere way of saying, “by the way, I’m awesome”.

Passion will persuade people to follow you. It will persuade people to believe in you. But most importantly, passion will persuade yourself. Passion is an emotion specifically intended to make you go crazy and work your ass off at something because your brain believes it could rock your world. That, like love, is a feeling worth fighting for.

And like love, what we’re passionate about is too important to leave to the mercy of fate. If you haven’t found your passion yet, create new things, lead new trends, and fuse new combinations. But don’t ever stop looking.

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I SOLD TWO COMPANIES FOR MILLIONS. HERE’S HOW I PRIORITIZE. – taken from Hubspot blog

In Uncategorized on March 2, 2015 at 8:05 am

Hey. I’m Brian, the VP of Growth at Sidekick. You know what’s harder than growing a company?

Determining what the hell to focus on.

For entrepreneurs, every day is different. One day I’ll be signing partnership agreements. The next day I’m interviewing job applicants. And the following day I’m pitching investors. All the while, praying my brain doesn’t deactivate after last night’s three hours of sleep.

Yet if I can count on one thing, remaining steady, despite the day … is that there will be distractions.  

“Hey Brian, can you send me that partnership agreement?” 

“Hello Brian, will you shoot over this month’s revenue report?”

“Umm … Brian … the server just crashed. What should we do?” 

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Constantly distracted by external requests (let alone internal thoughts or ideas, which can be the most distracting), it’s easy to forget long-term goals. However, there’s a systematic approach I use to stay focused.

A template that forces me to consciously think about a task’s importance before doing it.  

It functions in three easy steps.

Step 1: Copy the Blank Time Management Matrix Template. 

First, make a copy of the Blank Time Management Matrix Template by clicking File > Make a Copy. You can use this blank template to follow along, inserting your own tasks, as I quickly explain how I use the template to prioritize.

However, you must be signed into your Google account in order to make a copy!

time-management-matrix-template-screenshot

Step 2: Write new task, label by quadrant.

Step two is simple. On the sheet ‘My To-Do List’, write a new task in Column A, then label the task by priority (1, 2, 3, or 4) in Column B.

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It will now magically appear in the sheet ‘My Prioritized To-Do List’, automatically organized for you.

The task prioritization system I use is Dwight Eisenhower’s strategic time management matrix (diagram visualized below), which organizes tasks into four quadrants.

Time_Management_Matrix_Sidekick

Before I used Eisenhower’s prioritization system, my to-do list was a never-ending nightmare:

Brian_to-do_list

All tasks merged together, leaving me with the perplexing question … what should I do first???

Now, rather than randomly completing unprioritized tasks, I put them into the template. This forces me to question a task’s importance.

I take a few seconds. Stop. Take a breath. Think…

“Do I specialize in this?”

“Does it contribute to my long-term goals?”

“Could someone else do this? Should I focus on something else?” 

Through these questions, I’m building a system that will drive business forward. Particularly, one guided by my personal G.P.S. system, where I define my Goals, Priorities, and Specialties.

  • Goals. Achieve 500,000 weekly active Sidekick users, grow team to 15 intelligent people, and exercise three times per week.
  • Priorities. Spend time with family and friends, exercise regularly, hire smart people, and educate current team members.
  • Specialties. Training team members, analyzing growth experiments (whether product features or marketing), and customer/competitive analysis.

My personal G.P.S. system is the ultimate roadmap (pun intended) for focusing on important tasks, both professionally and personally. It helps me stay focused, but more functionally, it’s now easier to label tasks into the appropriate quadrant in Column B.

I encourage you to write down your own G.P.S. system, which is available in the blank template:

G.P.S. system eisenhower

For a full glimpse into my to-do list, an example of a completed time management matrix template, access it here.

Brians-spreadsheet-to-do-list

Not only will you gain access to all my to-do list tasks, but I’ll explain the logic behind why I labeled tasks into that specific quadrant.

For a preview, here are a few Q1 tasks and the logic behind why I label them as Q1.

Q1: Important/Urgent Tasks (Do Now) Why I labeled Q1
Prepare Q1 growth metric results for team meeting tonight Leading our team and hitting 500k WAU is agoal. Urgent because it’s due tonight.
Review persona research questions before customer interviews today Customer analysis is a specialty. Urgent because interviews are today.
Send video chat dial-in information to job candidate for final interview tomorrow Hiring smart people is a priority. Plus, I can quickly check this off my list by scheduling an email to her, so she gets it 10 minutes before the interview.
Coordinate time with friends for fiance’s surprise birthday party tomorrow night Time with family and friends is a priority. Urgent because it’s tomorrow night(!)
Review latest retention experiment and have front-end developer implement before tomorrow. Analyzing growth experiments is a specialty. Urgent because meeting is today.

 

Similarly, here are a few Q3 tasks and whether I’ll delegate, automate, or decline them.

Q3: Not Important/Urgent Tasks  Whether I’ll delegate, automate or decline
Coffee request for tomorrow from small-business podcaster I met at networking event Politely decline request, as it detracts from my personal G.P.S. system. Also, I work mostly with SaaS products, not small business, so this doesn’t make sense.
Pay Internet and gas bill due tomorrow I can automate this, eliminating tasks from future to-do lists, through automatic billing from my checking account.
Schedule haircut and doctor appointment I can delegate this to a personal or virtual assistant.
Promote today’s blog post on Twitter and to email list I can automate this with automatic social-media and email publishing
Pickup party supplies for fiance’s surprise birthday party tomorrow night I can delegate this is to an errand-running program, such as TaskRabbit.

 

Access my entire to-do list (over 35 tasks), along with the logic behind each decision, by grabbing the Google Spreadsheet called Brian’s Time Management Matrix Template [example].

Step 3: Complete task, then delete it. 

Finally, once a task is completed, delete the task on the ‘My To-Do List’ sheet. Do not delete tasks on the ‘My Prioritized To-Do List’ sheet. Doing so will erase the formula used to visually sort the tasks.

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That’s it. It’s incredibly simple, yet surprisingly powerful.

Simply write in your new task, label it by quadrant, then delete the task once you’re finished. However, you may be asking, “What if I don’t have personal assistants?”

Great news. I’m covering that exact subject in a few days.

I’ll explain how I find the right personal assistant, including the exact websites to use and precisely how much it costs. Yes, even solo-entrepreneurs will benefit from this information.

In addition, I’ll explain how I save time using automated email templates to outsource tasks, which you can easily copy and paste. Everything will be available, completely free, to all email subscribers (subscribe below).

Until then, I’m happy to answer specific questions about how to use the time management matrix template in the comments.

12 Must Watch TED Talks for Entrepreneurs – taken from Shopify blog

In Uncategorized on March 2, 2015 at 7:55 am
12 Must Watch TED Talks for Entrepreneurs

We believe passionately in the power of ideas to change attitudes, lives and ultimately, the world.

TED is a circuit of highly popular conferences that present “Ideas Worth Spreading” – which have quickly grown to become some of the most well known conferences around the world. TED has attracted presenters such as Bill Clinton, Jane Goodall, Larry Page, and a large handful of Nobel Prize Winners.

Many of the presentations, known as TED Talks, present ideas that are particularly valuable to entrepreneurs. I put together a collection of TED Talks that all entrepreneurs, including ecommerce store owners, should find interesting and worthwhile. Since a lot of the presenters below have written books, I have included a link to purchase. All of the money earned from Amazon’s affiliate program will go to Acumen Fund, a non-profit venture that supports entrepreneurs in developing countries.

Let us know which TED Talk you think should have made the list in the comments.

Rory Sutherland: Life Lessons from an Ad Man

Entrepreneurs can learn a lot by studying behavioral economics. Rory Sutherland, Vice Chairman ofOgilvy & Mather (one of the biggest marketing/advertising agencies in the world), makes the assertion that a change in perceived value can be just as satisfying as what we consider “real” value. The idea that intangible value can strongly influence opinion (and purchase decision) is evidenced in Sutherland’s humorous and deeply insightful presentation that every entrepreneur – certainly every marketer – should watch.
If you like this TED talk, also see “Sweat The Small Stuff,” an equally entertaining argument to put more focus on small details instead of big expensive problems. I also recommend his book “Rory Sutherland: The Wiki Man.”

Simon Sinek: How Great Leaders Inspire Action

People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it. Simon Sinek is an author, motivational speaker, and strategic communications professor at Columbia University. Sinek has a simple but powerful model for inspirational leadership that starts with his famous “golden circle of motivation” and the question “Why?”

If you like Simon Sinek’s TED talk, you should also check out his popular blog Re:Focus which is regularly updated with fascinating articles that will help entrepreneurs build businesses. Also check out his book “Start With Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action.”

Dan Ariely: Are we in Control of our own Decisions?

The decisions we make are not only inevitable, but they’re also extremely predictable. Dan Ariely is a behavioural economist, professor, and author. He uses his own shocking research findings to show how we’re not as rational as we think when we make decisions.
If you like Ariely’s TED talk, also check out his podcast “Arming The Donkeys” and his books:

Seth Godin: How to get your Ideas to Spread

Be remarkable. Safe is risky. Being very good is one of the worst things you can do. Everyone has heard the expression “The best thing since sliced bread” but did you know that for 15 years after sliced bread was invented it wasn’t popular? The success of sliced bread, like the success of anything, was less about the product and more about whether or not you could get your idea to spread or not.
Marketing guru and author Seth Godin spells out why, when it comes to getting our attention, bad or bizarre ideas are more successful than boring ones. Godin has published almost a dozen best-selling books, some of the most popular being: “Purple Cow: Transform Your Business by Being Remarkable,”  “All Marketers Are Liars,”  “Linchpin: Are You Indispensable?”  and “Poke The Box.”

Malcolm Gladwell: Choice, Happiness, and Spaghetti Sauce

The food industry used to determine what people want to eat by asking them – as you may have seen in the focus groups portrayed on Mad Men. Fact is, people don’t know what they want. Ask people what kind of coffee they like and they’ll say a “dark, rich, hearty roast” – in fact, most people actually want milky weak coffee.
Malcolm Gladwell, author, journalist, thinker, gets inside the food industry’s pursuit of the perfect spaghetti sauce, and makes a larger argument about the nature of choice and happiness.
If you like Malcolm Gladwell’s TED talk, entrepreneurs should also check out his books “The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference,” and “Outliers: The Story of Success.”

Tim Harford: Trial, Error, and the God Complex

Unilever (they own 400 brands, including: Dove, Lipton, Becel, and more) hired some of the most brilliant engineers in the world to design the perfect nozzle to squirt out laundry detergent. No one could get it right. So they used trial and error instead. They created ten random variations of a nozzle, and kept the one that worked best. Then they created ten variations on that one, and kept the one that worked best, and so on. After 45 generations Unilever developed a perfect laundry detergent nozzle with absolutely no idea why it works.
In this TED talk, economics writer Tim Harford studies complex systems and finds a surprising link among the successful ones: they were built through trial and error. He asks entrepreneurs to embrace our randomness and start making better mistakes. Check out Tim Harford’s books “Adapt: Why Success Always Starts with Failure” and “The Undercover Economist.”

Steven Johnson: Where Good Ideas Come From

Entrepreneurs often credit their ideas to individual “Eureka!” moments. Steven Johnson doesn’t think it’s that simple and shows us how history tells a different story.

Steven Johnson is a best-selling author of seven books all on the intersection of science and technology woven together by personal experience. Johnson’s book, “Where Good Ideas Come From: The Natural History of Innovation” digs deep on the topic introduced in his TED Talk above. Also check out his most recent book which is only available for pre-order “Future Perfect: The Case for Progress in a Networked Age.”

Cameron Herold: Let’s Raise Kids to be Entrepreneurs

Cameron Herold thinks weekly allowances teach kids the wrong habits – by nature, they teach kids to expect a regular paycheque, something to which entrepreneurs usually don’t get. Herold’s two kids don’t get an allowance. He’s taught them to walk around the yard looking for stuff that needs to get done, then they negotiate a price. In his TED Talk above, Herold makes the case for a new type of parenting and education that helps would-be entrepreneurs flourish.
Cameron Herold is an entrepreneur through and through. He’s been building businesses since he was born – moved on to create 1-800-GOT-JUNK, now he coaches CEOs all around the world. His book “Double Double: How to Double Your Revenue and Profit in 3 Years or Less” came out last year, and is a step-by-step guide to grow your business.

Dan Cobley: What Physics Taught Me About Marketing

Physics and marketing don’t seem to have much in common, but Dan Cobley (one of Google’s marketing directors) is passionate about both. Using Newton’s second law of motion, Heisenberg’suncertainty principle, the scientific method, and the second law of thermodynamics, Cobley explains the fundamental theories of branding.

Jason Fried: Why Work Doesn’t Happen at Work

The office isn’t a good place to work, meetings are toxic, and ASAP is poison. In Jason Fried’s TED Talk, he lays out the problems with “work” and offers three suggestions to fix a broken office.
Jason Fried is the co-founder and president of 37signals, a company that builds web-based productivity tools. Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson wrote the book REWORK, which is about new ways to conceptualize working and creating.

Daniel Pink: The Puzzle of Motivation

Traditional rewards aren’t always as effective as we think. Sometimes using money as motivation does more harm than good – and people perform far worse when motivated with cash.

Daniel Pink is a best-selling author, journalist, and the former chief speechwriter for US Vice President Al Gore. If you enjoy Pink’s TED Talk, check out two of my favorite books by Daniel Pink, “Drive: The Surprising Truth Abou What Motivates Us” and “The Adventures of Johnny Bunko: The Last Career Guide You’ll Ever Need.”

Richard St. John: 8 Secrets of Success

Why do people succeed? Is it because they are smart? Or are they just lucky? The answer is neither. Success Analyst, speaker, and author Richard St. John asked over 500 extraordinarily successful people what helped them succeed. He analyzed their answers and discovered eight traits successful people have in common. His book “The 8 Traits Successful People Have in Common: 8 to Be Great” goes into further detail on each of the traits that are briefly outlined in his TED Talk above.

Looking for more great inspirational content? Check out 12 Must Watch “Non-TED” Talks for Entrepreneurs.

22 Awesome Websites with Stunning Free Stock Images – taken from Shopify blog

In Uncategorized on March 2, 2015 at 7:51 am
22 Awesome Websites with Stunning Free Stock Images

I know your pain.  You’re looking for free images for your website.  You’ve looked far and wide for gorgeous, free images to use online, but keep running into cheesy pictures of people laughing at their salad.

The good news is there are ton of different free and paid images for commercial use available online if you just know where to look.

In this post, I’ve compiled the ultimate list of resources to source free images for your website. Whether you want free stock images for your blog, to download, or for commercial use – you’ll find them here.

Take a look, and enjoy!

Note:  While these may be listed as free, it’s best to double check to ensure what the licensing is for each resource. Some may require approval for commercial use, while others may be totally free to download and use.

Unsplash

Why it’s good:

  • High resolution stock photography
  • 10 new photos every 10 days
  • Royalty free

Gratisography

Why it’s good:

  • Free images for commercial use
  • New photographs added weekly
  • Humor, and high contrast photography

Little Visuals

Why it’s good:

  • 7 new photos every 7 days
  • Landscape and nature focused photography
  • Free high resolution images

Superfamous

Why it’s good:

  • Free stock images to download
  • Use for personal and commercial purposes
  • Nature and abstract stock photographs

Life of Pix

Why it’s good:

  • Extremely high resolution photography
  • New photography added weekly
  • Copyright free images

Startup Stock

Why it’s good:

  • Beautiful high resolution stock images
  • Perfect for a tech related website
  • Focuses on startup photography

MMT

Why it’s good:

  • Free for commercial use stock photos
  • New photos added every week
  • Focuses on nature and city photography

Pexels

Why it’s good:

  • 5 new photographs added daily
  • Huge collection of artistic stock images
  • Nature, abstract and technology related photography

Magdeleine

Why it’s good:

  • Ability to sort photography based on colors, categories
  • Easy to navigate system
  • Beautiful high contrast photographs 

Jay Mantri

Why it’s good:

  • Beautiful landscape and city photography
  • Easy to navigate system
  • 7 new photos every Thursday
  • Royalty free images for commercial use

Stock Snap

Why it’s good:

  • Powerful search engine for finding stock images
  • Free for commercial use
  • Extremely user friendly interface

Re:splashed

Why it’s good:

  • Ability to filter photography based on keywords
  • Beautiful stock photography for any field
  • Over 600 free images available

Picography

Why it’s good:

  • Fabulous lifestyle photography
  • Easy to navigate system
  • Hundreds of photographs available for personal and commercial use 

ISO Republic

Why it’s good:

  • Large community of photographers contributing
  • Easily sortable based on stock image category
  • Perfect images for blogs and online stores

StokPic

Why it’s good:

  • 10 new stock photos every 2 weeks
  • Amazing lifestyle photography
  • Extremely easy to navigate

Wefunction

Why it’s good:

  • Trendy overhead photographs of desks
  • High quality stock images for use

Raumrot

Why it’s good:

  • Sets available depending on what category you’re looking for
  • Colorful and high contrast photographs available
  • Hundreds of photographs available for use

FoodiesFeed

Why it’s good:

  • Perfect for any food related website
  • Extremely high quality stock photographs
  • Makes use of trendy overhead stock images

Bucketlistly

Why it’s good:

  • Perfect for any travel related website
  • Extremely high quality stock photographs all free
  • Photographs from all around the world 

Cupcake

Why it’s good:

  • Landscapes and nature related photography
  • Free for commercial use images
  • Perfect for hero images

Getrefe

Why it’s good:

  • Very easy to navigate
  • Extremely high quality stock images
  • City and “real life” photography

SplitShire

Why it’s good:

  • Extremely high quality stock images
  • Abstract and portrait photography
  • Free images for commercial use

Conclusion

Now that we’ve taken a look at the best places online to get stock images free, it’s up to you to take advantage of them.  Whether you’re using them for a blog, website, presentation or more – you’re all set.

Let us know in the comments if you found any other stock photography resources online!


About The Author

Tucker Schreiber is an ecommerce entrepreneur and Content Marketer at Shopify. Get more from Tucker on Twitter.

11 Easy Content Marketing Ideas You Can Put Into Action Today – taken from Shopify blog

In Uncategorized on March 2, 2015 at 7:48 am

If you’re running your own online store, then you know that having a blog is critically important for generating traffic to your store. A blog significantly improves search rankings and gives you a chance to connect with more customers.

But what if you’re not an amazing writer? And what if you don’t know what to blog about?

Don’t worry. The first blog post is always the hardest. That’s why we collected examples of different kinds of posts for your inspiration.

Take a look, and consider writing to tell your story, announce a sale, or give a guide to your products today.

Make a List of Influencers to Follow

Here’s an easy way to create good content – and offers the potential to be widely-shared:

Make a list of the top 25 blogs, Twitter accounts, or even Tumblrs, for someone interested in your industry to follow. Compile that list, write a few sentences about why you included each blog or Twitter account, publish it, and send it to the people you feature. If you do it tastefully, there’s a good chance that they’ll share the post with their audiences. That will get you lots of traffic – in addition to improving your SEO.

Here’s an example of a post that compiles a list of blogs to follow, from Coffee Cup News. And here’s an excerpt:

Dear Coffee I Love You – Simple and clean coffee blog in which writer Brian Jones shares cool coffee stuff.

Pure Coffee Blog – Bill reviews coffee and tea shops as well as coffee and tea at home.

I Need Coffee – A wealth of coffee information started by Michael Allen Smith in 1999.

Answer Questions About Your Industry

Some of the most successful pieces of content marketing ever comes via Marcus Sheridan of River Pools and Spas.

River Pools and Spas installs fiberglass pools, the cost of which is not always transparent. Sheridan decided to write blog posts about every aspect of fiberglass pools.

Sheridan’s posts were so good that the New York Times profiled him with a headline: “A Revolutionary Marketing Strategy: Answer Customers’ Questions.”

His blog posts often rank on the first page of Google for their search terms. And that’s driven both traffic and sales.

Here’s an example of a very informative post in that ranks well and answers customer questions, from River Pools and Spas. Take a look at this excerpt:

As you can see, there are many options available, and when someone receives a quote from our company, we thoroughly examine each option as to educate the homeowner on the option’s benefits as to identify its overall importance to the success of the project.

When an inquiry is made as to how much our pools cost, extent of installation is also a key factor. What I mean by this is that as a company, we have four different packages we offer our customers. Unlike most pool companies, we will do as much or as little as our customers would have us do. This flexibility leads to less stress and more savings for the customer. The packages are as follows, with their corresponding price ranges:

1. Self Install…

Profile Your Team

Your team is made up of interesting people. Why not feature their stories?

There’s a variety of things that you can do. You can write up a short bio of them that includes their interests and where they’ve been. This can also take the format of a Q&A, when you spend 15 minutes chatting with someone on your team and then write up the questions and their responses.

This is an especially easy way to generate some good content. Most importantly, it gives your customers a sense of who they’re dealing with. When they purchase a product from your store, they know that they’re buying from real people with real passions.

Here’s an example of a wonderful profile of a bookbinder at DODOcase. DODOcase is proud of being based in San Francisco, and notice that one of its questions is about why the employee loves the city.

WHAT MOST DO YOU LOVE ABOUT SF?

I moved here almost 20 years ago. I’ve seen a couple of tech booms, a couple of busts, and I raised my son here. What do I most love about San Francisco? I most love that I met my wife here.

WHAT’S SOMETHING WE DON’T KNOW ABOUT YOU?

If you know me, you know I brew my own line of craft beers. If you haven’t tried them then you don’t know what you’re missing. My wife is an amazing chef. When we have people over, it’s never necessary for our guests to bring their own beer. Actually, it’s not really allowed.

Give a Sneak Peek of New Products (and Ask for Feedback)

There’s two ways that this tactic can be valuable:

First, it generates excitement from your customers for a new product. If they like what you do and are loyal towards your brand, they’ll feel especially good that they get to see a new thing first.

Second, it has the potential to increase engagement. If you manufacture your products, consider floating a prototype for people to see; they may offer valuable input on what can be improved. And if you don’t manufacture your own products, ask your readers which of the options you can stock most appeals to them. Let them anticipate something that they’ll buy from you.

Here’s an example of a company putting prototypes up on its blog while asking for feedback, via Catan Boards. There are two photos of the prototype, and the commenters are quite excited about it. And here’s an excerpt.

Catan Bag prototype in the works

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What do you guys think? It’s still pretty rough, but we’re getting close to a finished pre-production prototype. Let us know your thoughts here…

Make a Tutorial for Your Products

Everybody wins when your customers know how to use your products.

Not every product needs an in-depth tutorial on how it’s used. But for certain products this can be a big help.

Does your product have cool, non-obvious uses? Is it best enjoyed in a certain condition? Is there something that the customer should do to make the most of it? By all means point all of these things out. Potential customers may see one more way to use your product and existing customers may be pleased to discover a new way to use it.

Here’s an example of a blog post that offers ideas for getting the most out of a hearing aid, from Audicus. Much of it is non-obvious and can improve the experience of customers. Here’s a brief excerpt.

Auditory Training

Auditory training can help you discern soft speech in noisy environments such as parties and restaurants. Listening And Communication Enhancement (LACE) Auditory Training programs can increase speech comprehension by as much as 40% and offer multiple listening exercises.

Audio Games

Recent studies have shown that audio games, when supplemented with specialized hearing aids such as Visually Guided Hearing Aids, can actually improve your ability to detect soft speech. Audiogames.net offers hundreds of free games, many of which rely on sound alone.

Announce a Sale

This one’s pretty obvious. When you have a big sale coming up, announce it on your blog. It’ll give people something to link to.

Use the space to talk about the products you have on sale, and if it’s applicable, why these products are right for the occasion. (It may be, for example, the perfect present for Mother’s Day.) And if you’re able to design something, put together a graphic.

Here’s an example of a blog post that announces a sale in the form of a great graphic, via the Cult Crew. Notice that the red, white, and blue theme goes perfectly with the Fourth of July.

Run a Contest

Running a contest is similar to announcing a sale. They’re both effective and attractive ways to get more attention for your store. Just make sure that you’re not making the common mistakes with giveaways and contests.

You can have all sorts of giveaways, of your products, of gift cards, or even special experiences like a visit to your store. And entering the contest can take a variety of forms. The easiest way is to submit a comment at the end of the post. You can also ask people to tweet about your store or share it on another social media platform.

Set up Gleam to make the most out of your contest. Gleam offers one-click entry, built-in viral sharing, and multiple ways of picking new winners.

Here’s an example of an effective contest run on the blog of Kigurumi, which sells animal onesies. It asks entrants to submit by posting a picture of themselves in their onesies on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, or email, for a music festival pass the following year. Here’s how Kigurumi introduces it.

Headed to a music festival or concert this summer? Snap a photo in your kigurumi onesie and enter this contest (older photos OK too)! We’re giving away music festival passes and kigurumi onesies this summer! Simply submit photos of you and your friends in our kigurumi onesies from Wednesday July 3rd until Saturday August 31st, 2013 and you’ll qualify to win a prize pack!

Write About an Event You Participated In

If you help put on an event then you should definitely write about it. But you can also write about something that you don’t own, like your thoughts on a conference.

Write up your impressions and thoughts about a conference or meetup you went to. It shows that you’re paying attention to where your industry is going and people will appreciate the insights. Make sure to snap a few pictures and post them up too.

Here’s an example of a blog post that shares actionable tips for how to succeed at a trade show, via Sycamore Street Press. There are lots of photos among the tips and the recollections of how the event went. Here’s how the piece starts:

This was Sycamore Street Press’s fifth time showing at the National Stationery Show, and the first time I was completely happy with the way our booth turned out. It was also our best show yet as far as sales and press coverage goes, and I don’t think that’s a coincidence.

Here are my top 5 tips for creating a successful National Stationery Show booth, if you are interested…

Tell the History of Your Company

Being an entrepreneur means something special. Few people think of it, and even fewer people act on it.

So what’s your founding story?

Share the story of why you decided to become an entrepreneur. Was it driven by an event? Was it the result of a special trip? Were you struck by inspiration of some sort? Tell the story and connect better with your customers.

Here’s an example of a post that tells the founding story of Pura Vida Bracelets. The business was started when two friends visited Costa Rica, and is now successful enough to have been featured on Good Morning America and Sports Illustrated. Here’s how the post starts.

A five week college graduation trip to Costa Rica turned into a business venture for two Southern California friends Griffin Thall and Paul Goodman. Between the beautiful sunsets and the rolling breakers, it wasn’t long before these two friends began to deeply appreciate and fall in love with the simple Pura Vida lifestyle and culture of the people they encountered. This is how it all began…

Make a Video: Product Tutorial

Okay, we don’t want to give the impression that content marketing is only blogging. It can be making videos, writing emails, and other kinds of content-generation too.

Sometimes you just can’t write about how to use a product. You have to show, not tell. Then it’s time to post a video on Youtube (or some other platform).

Besides, video marketing is effective. By one estimate, consumers are 64% more likely to purchase a product after watching a product video.

Shoot a product tutorial to introduce your product, its benefits, and how it can best be used.

Here’s an example of a video that very informatively discusses how to fit a road bike, via Performance Bicycle.

Make a Video: How Your Product Is Made

Our last suggestion for an easy piece of content: Make a video of how your product is made.

Do you have a very interesting manufacturing process? Does it require special tools and equipment? Is the process fun to look at? Shoot a video of its production.

Here’s an example of a very cool video via Doucette and Wolfe Furniture of a Windsor Chair leg being made.

Conclusion

You know your business well, and there are lots of opportunities to create good content by telling people about cool things in your industry. Write a blog post, shoot a video, or generate some other type of content today to tell your story and improve SEO.


About The Author

Dan Wang is a Shopify Content Specialist studying economics and philosophy at the University of Rochester. Talk to Dan on Twitter.