Gmail Now Even More Inaccessible In China

China Internet China has made it increasingly difficult to use Google services, including Gmail, this year. Now Gmail users are blocked from a workaround that allowed them to access their emails through third-party services. Previously, people could still download messages through apps like Apple Mail and Microsoft Outlook, which use POP, SMAP, and IMAP. Now it appears that these servers have also have… Read More

Good Riddance To Social Search

2014-12-24_1125 Remember how not too long ago the future of search — at least according to the big search engines — was social search? Today, you’d be hard-pressed to find any mention of social search on Google or Bing (let alone Yahoo Search). Let’s be thankful for that because social search was an ill-begotten idea to begin with. Read More

A Visual Introduction to Customer Lifetime Value [Infographic]

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This post originally appeared on the Sales section of Inbound Hub. To read more content like this, subscribe to Sales.

All customers are not created equal. Sure, you might like some more than others, but that doesn't mean they're your best clients. Sales comes down to revenue and ROI -- so how can sales leaders objectively determine which customers are most valuable?

Through a customer lifetime value (CLV) analysis. But calculating CLV isn't a cake walk -- inaccurate data, confusing metrics, and inadequate technology can all block the path. But the organizations that do figure out a customer's net costs and revenues over their engagement see the benefit: Three-quarters of senior executives in North America categorize CLV as a highly or extremely valuable indicator

This infographic from Aria provides a CLV primer, explaining the concept, covering how retention and satisfaction play into customer value, and suggesting ways to bump up your average client's CLV. You'll find that playing favorites based on net revenue versus rapport is a lot more profitable. 

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Facebook apologizes after ‘Year in Review’ stirs up bad memories for some users

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While scrolling through your News Feed on Facebook this holiday, you probably encountered the typical statuses from friends: photographs of families opening gifts and inevitably, a few "Year in Review" posts, a photo slide of highlights from your Facebook Timeline over the past year

Unfortunately, Facebook's algorithm for choosing the images wasn't very thoughtful, dishing out good memories along with the bad

Facebook: "Remember those memories that now make you sad? Look at your Year In Review!".

— William Wilkinson (@willw) December 26, 2014 Read more...

More about Facebook, Social Media, Business, Year In Review, and Apps Software

Want More Sales? Try Using These 13 Influential Words

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This post originally appeared on the Sales section of Inbound Hub. To read more content like this, subscribe to Sales.

The pen is mightier than the sword. (Which is good, because you probably don't want to threaten prospects into buying at sword-point.)

As the primary "weapons" to convert prospects into customers, words are incredibly important to salespeople. How sales reps deliver their messages and converse with contacts can have a dramatic effect on the outcome of a conversation. Using the wrong phrase might cast a negative shadow on the proposal, while tweaking just a few words in the pitch might induce someone to buy immediately. The underlying message is certainly critical, but the words used to deliver it are equally so.

That's why all salespeople should become word nerds. Here's a list of 13 words that can help you close more deals and earn your prospects' trust in the process.

1) You

Selling is about your prospects, not about your company. A simple way to make that clear is by using the word "you" as much as possible. Think back to your childhood: Did your parents ever tell you it was impolite to talk about yourself? Apply that rule here. Every time you might be tempted to phrase a sentence from the perspective of your company, find a way to rework it to make your prospect the subject.

2) Value

"Customers don't care about features and benefits," Colleen Francis, owner of Engage Selling Solutions, writes in her book Nonstop Sales Boom. "They only care about value and achieving their objectives." Again, it's about them, not you. Skip over all the amazing features your product or service contains and instead make it clear how your offering will create value for your prospect's business. 

3) And

This is a clever replacement for "but" when dealing with criticisms or objections. The word "but" signals to the prospect that you are about to utter a statement that runs counter to what they'd like to hear. "And" is, by its very nature, inclusive -- you seem to agree even when you're disagreeing. Consider these two examples from Sales Coach Seamus Brown:

"I see that you only have a budget of $50,000, but let me tell you why our system costs $100,000."

"I see that you only have a budget of $50,000, and let me tell you why our system costs $100,000."

Brown points out that the second sentence acknowledges the prospect's budget, while the first steamrolls over the problem and makes the buyer feel ignored. What a difference one word can make.

4) Do

Many sales experts recommend using "do" instead of "try." For instance, instead of "I'd like to try ... " say, "What I'll do is ... " This makes the seller seem competent and trustworthy, and it boosts the prospect's confidence in them.

5) Or 

If you present a single proposal to a client, you only give them the option of accepting or rejecting. But if you present them with two or three different variations on your proposal, suddenly you've doubled or tripled your odds of receiving some form of a "yes." So, in negotiations, don't just ask if they'd like to sign the contract -- ask if version A or version B or version C is preferable. 

6) Should we ... ?

Most people balk at being told what to do -- especially when the person dishing out orders is not a member of their organization. With this in mind, the phrase "you should" can come off as arrogant and presumptive. Reformulating suggestions as questions helps the prospect keep an open mind and diminishes the potential for the conversation to take a nasty turn. 

7) Consensus

According to Matthew Dixon's The Challenger Sale, "Widespread support for a supplier across their team is the number one thing senior decision makers look for in making a purchase decision." So words that express agreement among stakeholders, such as "support" or "consensus," could have a significant impact on your primary buyer's mindset. If you have backing from the entire team, play it up as much as possible. If you don't, stress how you're going to attain it. 

8) Imagine

Stories stick in people's mind more readily than straight sales messaging. The best reps don't only use stories in their speech; they also make sure prospects see themselves as the protagonists. The word "imagine" can be helpful in this aim. Suddenly, the prospect isn't just hearing about a better future enabled through a new product or service -- they're actually picturing themselves living it. And now the vision isn't just in the salesperson's mind; it's a shared vision.

9) See, Show, Hear, Tackle

Okay, so this isn't one word ... but they're all part of one family. Each of these words evokes a sense, and sensory language grabs people's attention. Think about how the words you use relate to visual, auditory, and kinesthetic triggers.

10) Their Name

Just like "you," using your prospect's name makes them feel like they're the focus of your attention, and your presentation is customized just for them. People also naturally pay attention better when their name is sprinkled throughout a speech.

11) Power Words

The English language is filled with words that provoke strong feelings -- fear, joy, discomfort, safety.  A good sales presentation will summon all of these feelings and more at the right times. To hit all the appropriate high and low notes, incorporate power words into your speech. Jon Morrow's list of 317 words that pack a punch is a good place to start.

12) Because

Ellen Langer, a social psychologist and professor at Harvard University, conducted a study where she tested the impact of phrasing on people's willingness to let someone cut them in line. Here are the variations she used:

"Excuse me, I have five pages. May I use the Xerox machine?"

"Excuse me, I have five pages. May I use the Xerox machine because I have to make some copies?"

"Excuse me, I have five pages. May I use the Xerox machine because I'm in a rush?"

While only 70% agreed to let her cut in line when she used the first question, upwards of 90% let her skip when she used either the second and third phrasings. The takeaway? When asking people to do something, always include a reason. Don't just request that your prospect introduce you to another stakeholder or fill out a survey -- explain why you'd like them to take these actions. 

13) Opportunity

Problems are bound to crop up in the sales process, but that doesn't mean you should acknowledge them as such. The word "problem" has a negative connotation and can make the prospect feel as if the process is difficult and unpleasant. With this in mind, replace it with more positive words. Instead of saying "no problem," for example, say, "it's my pleasure." "I understand the problem" can become "I see an opportunity to make this run more smoothly."

What are the selling words that you swear by? Share them in the comments.

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10 Handy Backup Tools for Your New Mobile Device

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There's nothing quite like tearing off the wrapping paper of a gift to find a beautiful, new piece of technology inside.

But, as many of you know, the part after that initial excitement dies down isn't so fun. You know, the part where instead of hanging out with your family, you're hunched over on the couch, backing up your old version of the device and transferring all your information over to the new one. 

From your photo and music libraries to your business and financial documents, there's a lot of valuable stuff stored on your old phone or tablet -- stuff you don't want to lose when switching to a new one. Luckily, there are some great tools out there to help you make the transition as seamless as possible.

Check out our list below of a few of the top cloud-based backup tools for your computers, phones, and tablets. (And if you have other favorite backup tools, share them with us in the comment section!)

Data Backup For Apple Devices

1) iCloud

Backs up "the most important data." 

Launched in 2011, iCloud is Apple's cloud storage service. It automatically backs up your device over WiFi every day while it's turned on, locked, and connected to a power source. Because iCloud space is limited (and so you don't have to upload and download huge amounts of data), it only backs up your device's "most important" content. When you're switching from an old device to a new phone, simply enable iCloud to back up all your content, and then restore that content on your new device using the same iCloud account. Click here for instructions.

2) iTunes

Backs up all the data.

You can use iTunes instead of (or in tandem with) iCloud to back up all the data on your device, including all your music and videos, by syncing your old device with iTunes on your computer, and then transferring that content back onto your new device. Click here for instructions.

3) iMazing

Backs up apps, music, photos/videos, contacts, text messages, voicemails, notes, gaming app progress, and more.

iMazing is a free app downloadable on either a Mac (OS X) or PC (Windows) that lets you create a complete snapshot of your Apple device, store it on your computer, and then restore it to your new Apple device. Click here for instructions.

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Data Backup For Android Devices

4) MyBackup Pro

Backs up apps, photos/videos, music, contacts, call log, text messages, and more.

MyBackup Pro has been noted as one of the best applications for backing up your Android device. Once you've downloaded the app and signed up with a PIN number and password, you can back up your data to the cloud, restore it on a new device, and even access it online via the developer's website. According to Ars Technica's review, "backup to the cloud does take up a significant amount of time over backing up to the SD card ... but you could always do both to ensure that you have two copies of all the data." The app costs $4.99 on Google Play.

5) Titanium Backup

Backs up apps, settings, music, photos/videos, and more.

Lifehacker named Titanium Backup the best backup app for Android devices. It lets you back up all your apps and settings to the cloud via Dropbox (as well as to your SD card) and then restore them whenever. You can also schedule backups if you want to, giving you more control over the safety of your device's content even once you've already started using your new device. There's a free version and a $6 Pro version, but you'll need the $6 Pro version to use this app when switching devices. The Pro version is the one that syncs the content on your device to your Dropbox account automatically, whereas the free version just uses your phone's SD card to store backups. Click here for instructions.

6) G Cloud Backup

Backs up files, folders, photos/videos, music, SMS messages, contacts, external SD cards, call logs, and more.

Created by a developer called Genie9 for the Google Play store, G Cloud Backup backs up your files, folders, photos/videos, music, SMS messages, contacts, external SD cards, call logs, and more using Amazon's S3 cloud storage locker, which is secured with 256-bit AES encryption. According to AndroidCentral's review, the app has an extensive feature list but is very simple to use. It comes with a variety of options for when to back up (only at a certain time, only when plugged in, only on WiFi, and so on). As for price, it's free up to at least 1 GB (depending on your plan), but you can get up to 8GB free if you follow steps like tweeting about the service, liking them on Facebook, and so on. Otherwise, it goes for $32 per year or $80 lifetime for 32GB.

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Storage Systems for Any Type of Device

Unlike the previous tools, these are device-agnostic -- they work on Apple, Windows, and Android devices.

7) Dropbox

Backs up photos/videos, documents, and files.

Dropbox is a popular cloud storage solution for photos, documents, videos, and files, and it lets you store and access any of these things from your computers, mobile devices, and the Dropbox website. So anything you save in your Dropbox can be restored on a new device in a snap. You can store up to 2 GB for free, but if you need more space, you can get up to 100 GB for $19.99 per month.

8) 1Password

Backs up passwords.

1Password is an app that lets you keep your passwords secure in one place. (And, depending on your device, it can also let you bypass log-ins by holding your fingerprint on the home key.) But when you switch onto a new device, you'll want to transfer your secure password data over, too. It turns out you can use Dropbox to back up your data and sync it to your new device. Click here for instructions.

9) OneDrive

Backs up photos/videos, documents, and files.

OneDrive is Microsoft's cloud storage solution -- and although it's tightly integrated with Windows, it has desktop clients for Mac too, as well as mobile apps for Windows Phone, iOS, and Android. It works much like Dropbox does, except it gives you more storage space for less: 15GB of storage for free and 100 GB for $1.99 per month. It comes with OfficeOnline, an app that lets you create, edit, and share documents across all your devices.

(There are other cloud-based storage solutions available other than Dropbox and OneDrive, like Box and Google Drive. Here's a side-by-side comparison so you can make the choice that's best for you.)

10) Evernote

Backs up notes you save to your Evernote account.

Like Dropbox, Evernote is also connected to an online service. When you create notes in Evernote, they're saved to your Evernote account online so you can access them on your account from any device. So when you get a new device, simply log in to the Evernote app with the same account and your notes will be there.

Have you used any of these backup tools, or do you have other recommendations? Share with us in the comments below!

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8 Quick Tips to Help Increase Your Landing Page Conversion Rate

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Your business can always benefit from high converting landing pages. Higher conversion rates means more customers, and more customers means more profit potential. The purpose of your landing page is to capture leads and warm them up before sending them further down your sales funnel. Think of your landing page as a work of art.

Every detail of your page should have a deeper purpose for being there other than a need to fill up space. From the size and color of your call-to-action button to the length of your copy, every choice you make should have a strategic reasoning behind it. Once you have a foundation for your page, it’s time to test it. Again. And again. And again.

Damien Newman, a previous IDEO design analyst and current CEO of the transformation consulting firm Central, came up with an image that illustrates the design process.

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His model, “The Squiggle”, essentially breaks down the design process into two stages: when you don’t know where you’re going with an idea, and when you do. The first half of the model, referred to as the “fuzzy end”, relates to the early stages of creating your landing page. At this stage, you still don’t know what is going to work and what isn’t.

The “fuzzy end” embodies all your formatting changes, copy edits, headline adjustments, color changes, image placements, etc. This is the stage where you are expected to be all over the place. But, as the image depicts, your path of direction gets more narrow as you funnel out what is effective from what isn’t. Eventually, the path will straighten and the single, crystal-clear purpose that you have been trying to convey all along will gradually become more visible.

Don’t be one of the businesses that lets the “fuzzy end” overwhelm and devastate them from reaching their purpose. To keep you on the right path, we have come up with a list of 8 tips to improve your landing page’s conversion rate:

1) Be Consistent

Consistency can refer to two things. The first is consistency in the information you present. Any inconsistency in the facts you present will be a huge red flag for potential clients. For instance, if your site says you’ve helped 300+ clients on your landing page, but says 250+ clients on your actual site, your credibility will immediately shrink.

No one is going to pursue which number is right. What they are going to do is “X” out of the page. Put time and effort into your copy to ensure your facts and numbers are consistent.

The second is consistency in your user’s experience. New does not mean better for everyone. Consistency entails a sense of comfortability for those visiting your landing page.

While it is important to continue innovating and improving the elements of your landing page, too many changes at once can overwhelm your visitors and cause drop-offs that decrease your conversion rates. The next point provides a solution to this problem.

2) Make Incremental Changes

Sometimes businesses are so focused on revamping their landing page that they forget to think from a client’s perspective. Complete landing page redesigns can lead to confusion and stress for clients who previously felt comfortable and confident when visiting your page.

In some cases, a complete redesign has caused up to a 20% drop in conversion rates. Instead of letting this happen, ease them into the process with gradual improvements that excite and educate them one step at a time.

Additionally, incremental changes allow you to monitor precisely which changes triggered an increase or decrease in conversion rates, rather than just guessing which features of your complete revamp had the greatest effect.

By gathering data and using that data to make incremental changes to your landing page, you will know more precisely what the cause of a drop off was and then reverse it.

3) Narrow Your Focus

Your landing page should have one, and only one, intended action in mind. More calls-to-action means more confusion for the prospect, so make it as clear as possible for your prospects what it is that you want them to do. Try cutting your copy in half to ensure that everything you say is relevant to the one product or service you are trying to sell. Try limiting your value proposition to two lines in order to keep your content clear and concise. Get rid of excess distractions by providing as few images, copy, and forms as possible.

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Additionally, the only form fields that you should be asking for should be those that are most valuable to your company and do not cause any friction. You also shouldn’t have any links on your landing page leading somewhere else or you may possibly lose the potential prospect. This will make it immediately clear for potential clients what you offer and what they should do next.

4) Test Different Phrasing and Formatting

The way you phrase your call-to-action, value proposition, and headline can make or break your landing page’s conversion rate. When presenting a call-to-action, make sure you don’t jump the gun. Instead of “Create an account now”, try “Sign me up!” or “Get me started!”. The first one sounds selfish, implying that them creating an account will benefit you, whereas the latter reminds them of the benefits that are being provided to them.

Keep your value proposition simple and clear by limiting it to what your business is offering and how it will benefit your client in two short sentences. Always make sure that you are proposing a unique solution that your client would not find anywhere else. For instance, a value proposition might promise to deliver “fast results”. This is an ambiguous promise that would be much more effective quantified, such as a promise to deliver results “in 2 days or less”.

When phrasing headlines, the most successful are those that use emotional triggers that insight empathy, humor, or any other comforting feeling. Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO) expert, Oli Gardner, expressed that a strong headline and copy can compensate for a poor design. Our previous article, “4 Steps to Headlines that Make Your Readership Skyrocket” offers more tips on creating effective headlines.

In addition to phrasing, test out different graphic elements on your page. Enlarge the button, change the color of it, move which side of the page it is on. All of these are elements of conversion psychology that can make significant impact on whether or not your visitors click the button. Do this as part of your incremental changes and run tests to measure the impact each change has on conversion rates.

The color of your button should be different from everything else on the site in order to attract attention to it. For instance, the color red typically denotes a sense of urgency. This could either lead to an impulse buy or stress that turns the client away. Testing is the only way to decipher these effects. This concept of using urgency as a tool is expanded on more in our next tip.

5) Create Urgency

Creating a sense of urgency or scarcity is an effective approach that can be implemented into your landing page. For instance, “Limited Time Offers” compel visitors to act quickly.

For instance, if your call-to-action includes a free e-book or webinar in exchange for signing up for your email list, you can create a sense of urgency by saying that only the first hundred to sign up will be given access to the free ebook. This induces the visitor to act quickly and take your intended action.

6) Use Directional Cues

Since you can’t always be physically present for potential clients visiting your site, try the next best thing for directing their attention to what’s important: directional cues.

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Landing pages are not read like a book, which is why directional cues are essential for showing the visitor how to read it. Directional cues can range from arrows blatantly pointing towards the information you want the visitor to see, to more subtle ones such as the person in the image looking at the call-to-action button. Previous studies have shown focus levels more than doubled when directional cues were used on a landing page.

7) Credibility Indicators

Use previous client testimonials to supplement the point you are trying to convince your potential clients of. In general, potential clients are going to trust other clients more than they are going to trust you.

Implement positive testimonials on your landing page and include a picture of that person next to it to enhance credibility. Skip the cliche “They were great!” or “Highly recommend” testimonials, and use the personable ones that truly represent what your business did for previous clients.

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8) Relevance

Does the copy on your landing page match the content that was in your ad? If your ad makes a promise, make sure that your landing page immediately assures the reader that they will still find that promise after clicking.

The ad should be as identical as possible to the landing page’s graphics, header, and information. The chart below from “The Smart Marketer’s Landing Page Conversion Course”, demonstrates these necessary parallels.

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Have you had experience with creating effective landing pages? Let me know by commenting below!

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15 Weird and Wonderful Company Holiday Cards

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This post originally appeared on Agency Post. To read more content like this, subscribe to Agency Post.

It's that time of year again, when agencies use all their remaining creativity and joyful spirit to create festive holiday cards, videos, and websites. It's also the time where agency staffers are given free reign to get downright weird. And thankfully, this year did not disappoint.

If you're looking for messages of goodwill and hope for humanity, you won't find it in these examples. But you will find awkward people dancing around in onesies, a hipster santa, and a Pomeranian in 12 different outfits -- and isn't that the most you can hope for this holiday?

Check out this list of the weird, wacky, and wonderful world of agency holiday cards. (Warning: The audio in #3 is NSFW.)

1) Exit10

There's nothing like pelting your co-workers with snowballs to spread a little good cheer around the office. Exit 10 used a Phantom camera to film the slow-motion, icy attack. 

2) AKQA

The agency created a website that can turn your phone into a virtual snow globe. When you this website on a mobile device and shake the screen, it'll start to snow (on your screen, not in real life). If you rotate the phone, you'll see other parts of the winter landscape inside the globe. You can even write your own message and send the globe to your friends and family by email or social media. (Go ahead, check it out! We'll wait right here.)

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3) Ogilvy & Mather Paris

If Christmas was the product of an advertising stunt, this video shows it would look a lot different. This video from Oglivy & Mather shows what it might be like if the concept of Christmas was pitched to a focus group -- and it brings up some questions about the strange traditions we all accept. 

(Warning: Audio is NSFW.)

4) School Editing

This is a fun one one one agency did of their employees lip synching to a catchy Christmas song -- even more impressive, they did it all in one take.

5) Door Number 3

Austin-based Door Number 3 introduces us to "Hipster Santa," who brags about his free-range reindeer and his sleigh that "runs on penguin tears and pure Santa sweat." And, just FYI, he's requesting soy milk and gluten-free cookies this year.

6) Plan B

Plan B brings the "Elf on the Shelf" to the agency world to report on who's being naughty and who's being nice -- both in their dealings with clients and their professional behavior in the office. 

7) Klick Health

Klick Health remixed "Jingle Bells" using 131 office sounds to create a unique and fun holiday tune. 

8) Wasserman + Partners

Wasserman + Partners created a fun Instagram video series they call "12 Holiday Holograms." Here are two examples:

 

9) MUH-TAY-ZIK | HOF-FER

Copy editors and The Chicago Manual Of Style followers can stop praying for that Christmas miracle: The agency created a bookmarklet to that adds the Oxford comma to web pages because "missing Oxford commas ruin Christmas."

10) Brokaw

The holidays are a time of joy, laughter ... and, quite possibly, shame fueled by free alcohol and inordinate amounts of sugar at your office holiday party. But thanks to Cleveland-based Brokaw's post-holiday apology-maker, you might just be able to atone for your behavior. 

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11) Zulu Alpha Kilo

The agency employed its reputation management skills to rebrand and make over the abominable snowman. A series of 16 videos shows the creature's start as a "tough" client to his transformation into a charitable, well-read vegan. We've included the first one below, but you can watch the whole series here.

12) Brownstein Group

The agency used popular movies as inspiration for a set of holiday-themed posters. Check out three of them below, inspired by Diehard, Home Alone, and Jingle All the Way respectively.

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13) Organic

Organic tries to erase fruitcake's bad reputation with the Fruitcake-O-Matic. The site lets you create your own treat and send it to a friend -- and the agency is sending 20 real cakes to users each day. 

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14) St. John & Partners

The agency is crowdsourcing a 3D printed holiday village. Want to add to the growing village? SImply tweet an idea using the hashtag #PrinterWonderland.

Coming soon... #PrinterWonderland

A video posted by St. John & Partners (@stjohnpartners) on Dec 12, 2014 at 3:37pm PST

 

15) Wunderman

Wunderman created a "12 Days of GIFAWAYS," where a "snowbro" plays a charades-type game and viewers guess what he's acting out to win a gift. (You need to be in the U.S. and have a Twitter account to enter.)

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16) The Pita Group

 The holidays can be a stressful time. Luckily, this agency decided to take it out on fruitcake, not clients in this stragely beautiful, very satisfying high-defitinion video.

17) The Duffy Agency

The Duffy Agency created an Instagram Christmas tree with ornaments featuring the faces of the agency's friends and business partners. Is your face on there?

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Did I miss any? Let me know in the comments!

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15 Business Books Every Aspiring Entrepreneur Should Read

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No textbook can replace real life experiences, especially when it comes to running a business -- the hard judgment calls, the late nights, rolling up your sleeves and getting dirty down in the trenches with your team. Remember this though, it is possible to pave a smoother path for yourself by looking to the successful founders who came before you. After all, when aiming to make it big, who better to learn from than those who’ve already been put through the ringer and come out on top? Read about their experiences and study their failures, then consider how you might approach similar challenges.

Proactive learning like this can change the way you think, improve the way you work, and transform the meaning of success for you and your business.

Not sure where to start your research? Check out these fifteen books every entrepreneur should read:

15 Business Books Startup Founders Should Read

1) The Hard Thing About Hard Things: Building a Business When There Are No Easy Answers

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Ben Horowitz, cofounder of Andreessen Horowitz, offers up a brutally honest look not at what’s needed to start a business, but what it takes to run one. Readers can appreciate the equally entertaining and shrewd descriptions of his journey from software engineer to venture capital CEO. His no-nonsense approach and relatable wisdom are characteristics I consider to be invaluable for anyone in a leadership role, whether at a startup or a Fortune-level corporation.

2) Resonate: Present Visual Stories That Transform Audiences

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Whether you’re doing the dog and pony show for funding, seeking to effectively communicate with your team, or looking to position yourself as a thought leader in your industry, you’re going to need to learn to make and give stellar presentations. Ask any business owner and he or she will tell you, strong in-person presentation and communication skills are the difference between the remembered and the forgotten.

In her book Resonate, presentation expert and Harvard Business Review contributor Nancy Duarte explores a number of proven techniques for transforming any presentation into what she describes as "an engaging journey" for audiences. As the leaders of our companies, it's imperative that we maintain a thorough command of the spoken word in such a way that elicits any number of desired responses from clients, investors, and colleagues alike. This book spells out the how-tos behind these key communicative skills.

3) Business Model Generation: A Handbook for Visionaries, Game Changers, and Challengers

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With social networks, blogs, and daily startup life generating more din than an oncoming freight train, knowing when and how to cut through the noise can be tough. Business Model Generation zeroes in on today’s shared language of success while educating readers about the building blocks of businesses, beginning with a concept known as the business model canvas. This book stands as an invaluable tool for defining, iterating upon, and innovating your business model.  

4) This is Service Design Thinking: Basics, Tools, Cases

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The core of every successful startup today hinges on the product and the experience, be it for a user or consumer. Here Mark Stickdorn highlights the importance of human-centered design and discusses methods for customer and design research. I'd say without reservation that this one's a must-read for any active or aspiring business owner or product marketer.

5) Gamestorming: A Playbook for Innovators, Rulebreakers, and Changemakers

Gamestorming

Brainstorms possess the ability to either exhilarate and excite or frustrate and discourage those participants charged with creating from them products, campaigns, or brand concepts. Many reports point to the latter, maintaining that most brainstorms are toxic and a complete waste of time. Says organizational psychologist Adrian Furnham, “Evidence from science suggests that business people must be insane to use brainstorming groups.”

But before you run off and eliminate groupthink from your toolbox, I suggest you read Gamestorming by Dave Gray. This self-described playbook serves as a how-to for overseeing effective team collaboration. Grab yourself a copy if you’re looking to shake up the ways in which you co-create and ideate with employees or customers. I should know– this book inspired an entirely new method of growth hacking at our company, which we’re now calling the 50/50 experiment.

6) Value Proposition Design: How to Create Products and Services That Customers Want

ValuePropDesign

By the same team that brought us Business Model Generation, this book lays the groundwork for defining and understanding successful value propositions. Whether that success translates into a sound business with engaged and happy customers or a major acquisition from Google, it’s safe to say this book is a worthwhile buy. With applicable exercises and workshop ideas for colleagues and clients alike, Value Proposition Design undoubtedly lives up to its title.

7) The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership: Follow Them and People Will Follow You

IrrefutableLawsofLeadership

These days you can’t scroll through a marketing blog without being inundated with headlines about shiny SAAS tools. Analytics, social listening, you name it. But with enough gizmos and services to fill our minds and browser extensions, it’s amazing how often we overlook the need to equip ourselves with the single most important tool: our own ability to lead. That’s because ultimately, it’s on us as the founders to instill that same virtue in our teams. As education expert John Holt once noted, “True leaders, in short, do not make people into followers, but into other leaders.”

8) The Lean Startup: How Today’s Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful Businesses

TheLeanStartup

Eric Ries is the Tony Robbins of the startup world. Thanks to his refreshingly concise writing style, his book is chock full of relatable lessons. His pointed honesty is one of the many reasons I refer this book to just about every entrepreneur I know. His explanation of the Build-Measure-Learn framework educates readers on the uses of customer-based observation, a tool that ought to exist at the heart of every startup.

9) The Founder’s Dilemmas: Anticipating and Avoiding the Pitfalls That Can Sink a Startup

TheFoundersDilemmas

This one stands out for its ability to convey the many challenges you will inevitably face as a founder. Author Noam Wasserman frames what he calls the “three R’s”– relationships, roles, and rewards– as factors every founder must constantly evaluate and adjust. He places special emphasis on the ways in which organizers can confidently go about making tough choices about human and financial capital. My favorite part about this read is how in-depth the lessons it contains actually are. Suffice it to say, I wish it existed when I was starting my business.

10) Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less

Essentialism

As the founder, owner, and veritable captain of your ship, you can expect to encounter countless distractions, both personal and professional. Great leaders know how and when to be myopic in their scope of work. Essentialism teaches us the ways of a modern day “essentialist”. That is, how to be the type that works smarter, not harder, in order to maximize on productivity levels across the board.

11) Creativity, Inc.: Overcoming the Unseen Forces That Stand in the Way of True Inspiration

CreativityInc

When we talk about failure being the foundation for success, Ed Catmull’s Creativity, Inc. is treasured by many for its candid story and style. In it, he recounts the inception and creation of his company (for those unaware, that’d be the world famous Pixar Animation Studios). It’s not your average philosophical recipe for management or bland, chest-pounding tale of overcoming the odds, but rather a simple narrative of one man’s childhood passion for art and technology. How he forged that into the ideals and experiences behind one of the most innovative companies of our time, is something every one of us can stand to learn a thing or two from. This one’s a remarkably insightful look at how even the most successful careers are comprised of countless failures. Catmull’s introspection and empathy are incredibly inspiring.

12 & 13) Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action & Leaders Eat Last: Why Some Teams Pull Together and Others Don't

    StartWithWhy        LeadersEatLast

Speaking of empathy, Simon Sinek’s books Leaders Eat Last and Start With Why are two truly reflective books that out to be in every founder’s literary arsenal. He uses biological evidence to assess the psychological and sociological impact of empathy, and offers various frameworks for ways in which empathy itself can be utilized as a tool to drive your organization’s success. Though similar in nature, both of Sinek’s books carry unique sets of takeaways for today’s founders. Start with Why explains the fundamental need to know and articulate our business’ “why”, while Leaders Eat Last teaches us how to uphold the tenets of our “why” as we incorporate new people into the folds of our business.

14) Outliers: The Story of Success

outliers

When we think about what drives success, we often point to fundamental elements like hard work, passion, and commitment. But what about more arbitrary factors like a person’s birth date, cultural background, or familial upbringing? Author Malcolm Gladwell encourages readers to consider how individualized one’s own potential for success actually is. Redefine your definition of success–and learn how the “10,000-Hour Rule” applies to you– in this thought-provoking bestseller.

15) Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap … And Others Don’t

goodtogreat

Let’s be real, not every company among us breeds excellence. While some possess the DNA makeup conducive to long term success, countless others simply do not. But is it possible, still, for those companies classified as “mediocre” to carve out permanent places for themselves in today’s market?  To make the leap from good to great? Jim Collins examines this question, and in the process uncovers a certain set of characteristics capable of distinguishing a company’s potential for enduring greatness. The findings in Good to Great reveal the qualities of successful leaders, the importance of technology, and the need for a disciplined culture, among a number of other truths that will almost certainly impact your business.

So whether you’re still watering the seedling of an idea, or currently running a full-fledged startup, there always stands the need to learn from those before you. The entrepreneurial mindset is quite erratic, so a solid foundation of lessons, learnings, and guidelines is important to moving onwards and upwards… in the right direction!

Are there any standby books in your library that I didn’t include here? Tweet them my way @petesena.

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Privacy Groups Upbraid MPAA For Trying To Bring SOPA Back At The State Level

mpaa-logo The ongoing struggle between Google and the Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood has new players this week, as a number of privacy groups waded into the mix, dinging the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) for, in their words, a “coordinated campaign to shut down and block access to individual websites through backdoor methods resoundingly rejected by the public and federal… Read More
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