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Strategic Thinking in Business Planning

A strategy is an important for a organization’s culture in our dynamic culture. The purpose of the strategy is to identify clear goals that develop, enhance and improve the overall health of an organization. A tool that strength’s a business is called strategic thinking, defined as the act of generating and applying unique opportunities and that allows an organization to create a competitive advantage. It encompasses innovative, creative and entrepreneurial insight into an organizations environment, which increase greater success within an organization. While attending a course on “Delivering the Strategic Message: Make the Manner and the Message Count” at the University of Texas, Penny Crow, MS, RHIA, introduced her PILLARS© toolbox on how structured thinking process makes us better strategic thinkers.

You must plan before you act. Many organizations become reactive because they spend more time “doing” rather than planning for success. During this stage, you must determine your purpose, develop a road map, have a clear vision or direction and know why you are doing what you are doing.

Intent is important because an organization must be self-aware, intentional and deliberate about their business planning for people and processes of their organization rather than being victims of the market situations. “Think” time is crucial, so your organization does not lose its creativity by being reactive to these situations.

Leadership establishes the climate for the success of its people and processes. Leaders need to establish trust, so its people will listen to them and work together by providing a collaborative environment of growth and development. They must be able to provide direction and executes the plan with intentional movement for success.

It is important to learn terminology and language used within the industry of your clients, employees and partners, so that the organization can communicate consistently well with each others. Understanding each others’ language allows you to cross generations, and it gives clarity to the plan. Language and listening are parts of communication. Make sure everyone is saying and meaning the same thing.

After the planning is done, an organization can be intentional about the actions that you will take for your business journey. The action plan  should be deliberate, focused, calculated and empower your employees.

It is only through planning, resources can be defined as time, budget, people and processes.

This component involves three distinct, yet highly connected categories: operational, social and environmental. Building an effective sustainability initiative involves addressing financial stewardship and talent management, developing a succession plan for your organization’s well-being, and engaging your employees, customers and community.

Business owners and entrepreneurs need to be proactive and need to make time for strategic thinking. The sustainability of an organization requires not only thinking about what is happening now but also thinking about future outcomes. Without strategic thinking, organizations lack the capacity to successfully advance the direction of their business into one that possesses innovation, creativity and a competitive edge. The ultimate goal is bring your business to a new edge (nova ivica) through Strategic Thinking!

Sustainable Business Principles for the Entrepreneur

Lean principles find their origins in the manufacturing world, and as such, many people mistakenly think that they have no place in the business world. However, when applied correctly, Lean principles can bring increased efficiency, sustainability, and value to even the most unsuspecting process – including a business startup.

Don’t Squelch the Talent Around You

Of all the mistakes we could make, failing to utilize the talent around us dampers the entrepreneurial spirit and ideation the most. Innovation doesn’t take place in isolation – we need others to challenge, criticize, and celebrate with us. As such, we surround ourselves with teams (formal or informal) that bring value to our pursuits.

But, in the stress and pressure of day-to-day deadlines and requirements, we sometimes force people to work in areas in which they aren’t gifted or that under-utilize their skill sets. We give clerical or administrative tasks to those who thrive in collaborative, highly-communicative roles or ask the those more comfortable with the inner workings of a computer to develop our sales strategy. And though necessary at times, prolonged time spent on tasks in which one does feel effective can lead to burn-out, frustration, and lack of motivation – not to mention that people typically complete tasks in their areas of strengths more quickly and with higher quality.

The best way to combat wasted talent is to know your team. Know what they enjoy, where their talents lie, and how they are motivated. Tom Rath’s Strengths Finder 2.0 is a great way to begin understanding and assessing your team’s strengths and also learning how to work well on a team where diverse talents are represented, which is the best kind of team.

Avoid Over-Processing

In the world of entrepreneurship, we take our work personally; we count our entrepreneurial pursuits worthy of sacrificing stability, personal time, and, oftentimes, financial security. When we launch our product or service, we’re giving away a piece of ourselves. So, naturally, we design to be the best in the marketplace, but what if striving to be the best is more than what’s required?

Ultimately, our goal is to turn a profit by providing exactly what the customer wants with the minimal amount of resources required to produce it. So, we don’t necessarily have to be the best; we just have to be the best at meeting the customer need. It’s possible to spend extra time and money refining the product or service and making it shinier when the customer would have been satisfied with an already existing version.

For the success of any business, customer insight is foundational. As you’re building your business, surround yourself with potential customers who can tell you what causes them pain and what they most desire. Then, build your minimum viable product and use your network of potential customers to test it out. Don’t waste resources making something prettier when you could already be earning a return on your investment.

Prioritize Your Investments

Let’s face it – big thinkers aren’t always big doers. Some of the most strategic, forward thinkers in the world will be the first to admit that they don’t always know how to put their ideas into action or how to prioritize their investments. But, to let strategic ideas sit undeveloped in the crevices of the mind is the same as letting containers of in-process materials lie around a warehouse. They clutter the workspace and create confusion and inefficiency.

Documenting your and your team’s ideas declutters your mind and ensures your good ideas aren’t forgotten. Because our resources – time and money – aren’t unlimited, we need to invest them wisely. And, spending them across a long list of ideas won’t bring as much value as investing them strategically in those that will bring the most forward motion. Download a prioritization matrix template from Lean Methods Group, check out Fortune magazine’s 5 Apps to Track Your Every Idea, or replicate the matrix below to make sure you’re getting the most out of your investments.

Buy What You Need and Make What You Sell

This principle seems foundational, but have you ever been lured into bulk purchases because of a discount? In an effort to stretch our money, we can be tempted to purchase more than what we need, but to give into such a temptation could be crippling for a start-up. Funding is one of the biggest challenges for the entrepreneur, and to invest your hard-earned money in something you may or may not use is foolish. The storage costs of this decision alone are a waste, but the opportunity cost can be far more significant and, oftentimes, not fully realized until a later date.

The “make it and they will come” philosophy has been around for years, but it’s against core lean principles and is certainly unwise for the freelancer. The last thing you need is to invest your money in something no one may ever buy. It’s far better to require letters of intent or, better yet, contracts from prospective customers before you develop the product or service. Doing so shows you that your prospective customer is serious about purchasing your product and reduces the financial risk involved in the development and launch.

Learn from Your Mistakes

Learning what not to do can be just as valuable as knowing what to do. So, endeavor to be a life-long learner. One of the keys of Lean methodology is continuous improvement – note the word continuous; it implies that there will never be a day when the process cannot be improved. Let that be a guiding principle for your business ventures as well.

Collect feedback from your customers or partners. Look at your investments of time and money seeking to understand why they did or didn’t bring a return. Ask the hard questions and take action based on what you learn remembering to see each failure as an opportunity to learn and improve.

Social Entrepreneurship: 4 Types of Social Enterprises

The topic of entrepreneurship has become increasingly common in the last decade. Many business leaders even bemoan the idea that it has become a fad, something cool, a status of sorts. However, one area that has benefited from the increased attention given to entrepreneurship is that of social entrepreneurship and building social enterprises which look to better society or solve a particular challenge within a community.

This expanding branch of entrepreneurship has given birth to new lingo which should be clarified. Giving clarity to the words being used and the models practiced aids in how entrepreneurs develop their ideas by providing a clear vision they desire to see achieved.

Social Entrepreneurship is a mindset. It is the “Why” in the business approach. Those organizations or businesses who focus on the problem knowing the solution is one owned by the community. Social entrepreneurship is generally using socially innovative means to address the problem mobilizing communities in a different way.

Social Innovation is about the idea which can transform a community. These are the new steps and new paths people walk to address old problems. Good innovation is creative, transformative, and does not drain the resources of a community. The ideas are generally reproducible even with minor modifications.

Social Enterprises are the business models used to carry out the ideas and accomplish the vision. There are a variety of models that can be used to address social ills within a community, however, not all are equally useful for a particular problem. It is important that the model chosen is something sustainable and fits the values of the community and involves their participation in solving the problem.

Types of Social Enterprises


There are a variety of social enterprises and entrepreneurs who seek to bring awareness to a particular problem, cause, or a second brand solving a social issue. These enterprises attract a larger attention to draw out help from a community that may exceed the local community. In one sense, awareness brands crowdsource solutions to solve the social challenge.


When most think of nonprofits, they do not consider this to be a “business” model. However, a nonprofit can be sustainable while not turning profits. A nonprofit does not have to exist solely on gifts from donors. While many do, the work of a business and earned income can go towards sustaining the business practices, paying salaries, and giving toward the causes it is seeking to address. In most countries, nonprofits benefit from tax breaks and less restricting business laws making it an agile form of social enterprise.

For Profit

For profits are businesses who have a stated goal to increase their profit margin, yet still maintain a social goal. Clothing companies which create an increased transparency in the textile industry are examples of this. A specific example is Everlane. They maintain the focus of transparency in practices and pricing to ensure fair pricing and fair wages. Businesses such as Everlane similar to an Awareness Brand, yet turn a profit to reinvest in the social cause. The business is not only sustainable, but thriving.

“One for One”

The “One for One” model has been made famous by brands such TOMS and Warby Parker. Blake Mycoskie traveled to Argentina in 2006 and saw the hardship of children without shoes. This struggle led him to introduce a simple show model that was efficient, durable, and affordable. For every pair of shoes sold, they give a pair to a child in need. TOMS operates as a for profit and has expanded to address other social issues such as affordable eye care.

We address the power of social entrepreneurship here. If you wonder about starting a business and have difficulty deciding if it fits the social model, ask yourself, “What problem am I solving? Does my solution relieve pain within the community?”

5 Pieces of Valuable Career Advice

As a newcomer to Montenegro, one of the most common questions I’m asked is “How did you get here?” While sometimes I’m sure it’s prompted by the fact that my family is from a relatively small town in Mississippi, often times it’s a more probing question inquiring about my journey to follow my dreams of living and working overseas. The truth is that I’ve taken a nontraditional path to arrive in this beautiful place, but my success and my story is built upon the words of wisdom others have offered to me and that I now hope to pass along to you.

#1 “Do what you love”
My dad once told me that one day I would spend more cumulative time at work than I would spend
anywhere else, so I might as well choose something I’d enjoy. While that’s a sobering thought, I found it to be one of the best pieces of advice I’ve ever received. It’s easy to get caught up in the desire to accumulate money or the prestige of progressing professionally, but those ambitions are easily choked out by the challenges we face in the workplace. So, it’s important that you choose a professional path that allows you to do work you actually enjoy. After all, “we work to live – not live to work,” right?

#2 “Vertical isn’t always better”
Early on, a more experienced colleague shared that often young professionals are so focused on
climbing the corporate ladder that they work to develop expertise in one specific area – assuming this expertise will eventually lead to career growth. But, in reality, this decision can be far more detrimental and limiting to their aim than helpful.

As you think about the leader of a company, he or she needs to have a broad understanding of its inner workings. He or she doesn’t have to know all the details of how things work (there are managers for that), but the need to understand how one decision impacts all areas of the business is critical. Thus, making lateral career moves over vertical ones to gain a broader view of the interconnectedness of a company is critical for young professionals.

#3 “Take jobs outside your training”
I didn’t know what I loved to do when I first entered the workforce, so, out of necessity, my story is full of a lot of trial and error – taking jobs or volunteer opportunities to test the waters and see if I enjoyed the work. Often times I found out that I didn’t like the work, and that could be discouraging. But, even learning what I didn’t want to do long-term was valuable information because this knowledge guided my future decisions and pursuits. The courage to seek out and take opportunities outside the area of my formal education was fueled not only by my own prior experience but also by a mentor who saw a creative way to apply my skills as an industrial engineer in the sales and marketing field and later as a project manager – areas in which I never expected to work.

Taking jobs outside my structured training afforded me new opportunities to learn and gain skillsets that opened my eyes to work I really enjoyed but likely would have never considered if I had not been open to something non-conventional. As an added benefit, my diverse background allowed me to complement my colleagues’ expertise by adding value through my strengths, while at the same time developing my weaknesses by shadowing and learning from them.
#4 “Seek out those you admire”
The most valuable tool for building my career that I’ve received to date is the introduction of the
“informational interview”. Truly, the concept is quite simple – reach out to people you admire, meet
them for coffee, intentionally ask probing questions, and act on the information you receive. Yet, this tool alone has connected me with far more professionals than countless “networking events”, has connected me with job prospects, has led to shadowing opportunities, and has even kept me from making career moves that I would have regretted.

The hardest part of leveraging this piece of advice is using it. It can be intimidating to reach out to someone you don’t know and initiate a meeting while clearly articulating the desire to learn from them. But, I’ve found that most people enjoy talking about themselves, and they typically enjoy helping other people – especially when that person approaches them humbly. So, be quick to admit that you don’t know it all and still have a lot to learn, then invite some inspiring experts to coffee – the worse they can say is “no”.

#5 “Look for the window”
Sometimes, we can’t find a job that meets our needs but also allows us to do the work we love. What do we do then? We look for the window in a room full of closed doors. Find a job that allows you the flexibility to pursue your passions simultaneously, outside of or in conjunction with your day-to-day job. And who knows, maybe your side venture will eventually become your main gig – as is the case with so many entrepreneurs.

Let’s learn from each other. What advice have you received that’s made a profound impact on your life?

Top 5 Apps to Create Images for Social Media

Images are proven to increases engagement on social media with more clicks, reshares, responses and likes. As a small business or a one-person marketing team, is this something you can pull off by yourself? The answer is “YES!” by using a handful of amazing apps to get the job done.

#1. Canva – A start-to-finish design tool perfect for non-designers
As our most-used image app at Nova Ivica, Canva makes image creation easy with their premade templates, custom image sizes for every social media channel, drag-and-drop interface, cool fonts, etc. Canva’s goal is to empower you to design. Once you begin using the program, you will notice how many original images that you see shared were made in Canva.

#2. CloudApp – Fast and easy screencast GIFs
CloudApp allows you to create and share GIFs, screen recordings and annotated screenshots. It lets you store images online and link to them quickly and easily for fast sharing. With the app open, you can press Cmd+Shift+6 to make a GIF video with anything you do on your screen.

#3. Placeit – Integrate your social media accounts with cool stock photos
Placeit is an app that lets you create mockup images and videos for products such as apparel, mobile apps and books. Just give Placeit a screenshot, and they will apply it to a product as if the product actually existed. They have a variety of images that allow you to create your own unique marketing collateral.

#4. Over – Text onto photos
The Over app for iOS and Android lets is a photo editing app that makes it easy to add text OVER your images. By using the palette feature, you can also add images and even search the web for fun, transparent images to add to your photo.

#5. Aviary – Editing on-the-go
Aviary has endless features for users to explore and create, from filters, creative stickers, and frames to touch-up tools and lighting adjustments. In addition, Aviary offers stickers and frames, drawing tools, memes, and crop, rotate and straighten tools.

The Power of Social Entrepreneurship

With constant changes taking place in the world today, it is increasingly important to focus on how entrepreneurs can solve social problems through innovative business ideas. This growing concept is known as social entrepreneurship, and it has begun to gain momentum over the past two decades.

From education and healthcare to agriculture and finance, social entrepreneurship can take on many forms. At the core of each social entrepreneurship is a passionate person who desires to address a social problem in the world through a creative business idea. By implementing innovative ideas, social entrepreneurs are able to address problems that would have otherwise been overlooked by society.

Characteristics of Social Entrepreneurships

As with each type of entrepreneurship, social entrepreneurship requires a market for the product or service that is being created. Social entrepreneurs must be willing to accept a significant amount of risk when putting their business idea into motion. In addition to this, social entrepreneurs should strive to create a business model that is both sustainable and reproduceable so that it provides maximum benefits to the community.

For a social entrepreneurship to successfully fulfill the social aspect of the business, it must combine meeting a need in the market with something that will provide a solution to a social problem in the world. Whether a social entrepreneur is operating in their hometown or halfway across the world, they must have a desire to improve the lives of those around them.

Benefits of Social Entrepreneurship

#1. Innovation

Social entrepreneurs provide a fresh perspective on global issues. This leads to the implementation of cutting-edge solutions such as the invention of a new product or service. By offering products and services that give back to the community, a social entrepreneurship has the power to add value to the world in more ways than one.

#2. Creating Jobs

Not only does a social entrepreneurship seek to address global problems, but it can also have lasting effects on people through the creation of jobs. When jobs are created, it provides people with a steady income, helps to improve their standard of living, and stimulates healthy economic growth.

#3. Inspiring Others

Implementing positive social change inspires others to come alongside social entrepreneurs in their pursuits. This will look different in each situation. For some people, it may mean buying a product or service instead of another option to support an ethical cause. Other individuals may be inspired to develop an innovative solution to an issue that they are passionate about such as providing water to people who have no access to clean drinking water or providing education opportunities to people from poor communities.

#4. Differentiation

When people see that a business is actively seeking to solve a social problem, value is added to the business. This added value differentiates a social entrepreneurship from other business models. Because of this differentiation, it can promote business from people who truly want to make a difference in the world.

#5. Lasting Contributions to Society

Rather than focusing only on maximizing profit, social entrepreneurs focus on implementing change that will have a positive effect on society. Through a social entrepreneurship, people are empowered, and true change is brought about in the lives of people across the world. Social entrepreneurship is an amazing business model can have lasting effects on economic growth and social reform.


4 Common Misconceptions About Coworking

Coworking is a growing phenomenon across much of the world that has been revolutionizing the concept of workspace and management.

However, not everyone is convinced of the importance, sustainability, and longevity of coworking. Is this a fad that will dissipate over time, or is coworking here to stay, grow, and continue to transform work, office life, and even specific industries? Only time will tell, but in the meantime, the obstacles need to be addressed to continue moving forward.

#1. Lack of understanding

Coworking is quickly growing as its own industry, however, there remains a widespread lack of understanding about it. Some have not even heard the term before.

Answer: Coworking is a gathering of independent professionals and those with workplace flexibility that work better together than they do alone. Coworkers uphold the values set forth, as well as interact and share with one another. We are about creating better places to work and as a result, a better way to work. Read more about its 5 values here.

#2. Fear of stolen ideas

Today, the fight over intellectual property rights rages. Legal cases are fought over stolen ideas causing a distrust and overprotection. Such mentalities can hurt a coworking space, and even worse can keep people from entering one. Stories are even told about competing startups being too friendly in order to gain an upper hand. It is a real possibility, and is something that can only be addressed by the ethos of the community. Nobody wants to have their ideas taken, but such a fear should not leave black eye on the coworking industry.

Answer: Ask questions about the culture and how people do business, and if there is any sense of unethical behaviors taking place within the space. If you join a space, and anything suspicious takes place, report it. It can be a community killer.

#3. Lots of Distractions

Sometimes the idea of coworking leads one to think of a constant party in a space. Imagery of endless table tennis and foosball matches fill the mind.

AnswerSome spaces may incorporate these features, but a strong trend exists in really defining the design of the space to best suit work flow. As a recent interview from the Social Workplace Conference has noted, “a variety of spaces help to keep people motivated.” There is an element that people can be distracting, but this will depend on the type of space one is looking for.

#4. Lack of value

The question of value can always play a large part of someone deciding to join a coworking space. It may not even be that one will not receive value, but just the unknown. Can a social work environment filled with others trying to create something similar really be of value, help grow business, create a larger network, etc. These are doubts that exist within some. The main question is, “What am I really getting out of this?”

AnswerValue can be measured differently depending on the person. For small businesses, freelancers, entrepreneurs, or startup teams the cost of the space itself will be of value when compared to renting a space. The use of equipment, meeting rooms, and additional benefits that may come with the membership only grow this value. Other factors such as the potential to network, grow a client base, and work together on projects with those in the immediate vicinity create an immeasurable value depending on the long term goals. Even larger corporations are finding value with sending their people into a coworking space by finding new talent and collaborating on projects. Each person will have to define the value they are seeking, but when locating the right space even a day pass weekly can create value for the user.

People can always find an excuse not to try something. However, as the 2015 Coworking Survey demonstrates, coworking spaces and social workplaces are a movement. Coworking spaces are only increasing in number and at a strong rate. The best question is, “Why not try one?” We highly recommend Beta Bar in Montenegro. 😉

Have you worked in a coworking space? Are any of these objections legitimate? How can you work around them? 

Cross-Cultural Communication in Business

In a world that is becoming increasingly more globalized, it is important to know how to effectively communicate with people of other cultures. Whether you work with a diverse group of coworkers or engage in business transactions with people across the world, it is essential to be knowledgeable about the distinct cultures of the people you interact with.

Impact of Technology

As technology continues to grow and develop, great advances are being made in the ways people communicate with one another. As these capabilities have increased, our connectedness to the world has also increased at a rapid rate. It is now possible to communicate instantly with someone across the world through video chat, instant messaging, and social media. These platforms and many others have made it possible for numerous international businesses to emerge. Business transactions can now be completed across the world with nothing more than a laptop and a good connection to the Internet.

When communicating with the use of technology, it is important to identify which communication channel will be best. Some cultures rely heavily on nonverbal cues and body language. For this type of culture, a richer form of communication such as a video conference would be best. In other cultures that communicate directly, a leaner form of communication such as email could be sufficient. If technology is not used properly in business, it can unintentionally become a barrier to cross-cultural communication.

Relationship versus Task Orientation

When doing business cross-culturally, there are certain differences that you should take into account. One major difference that exists between cultures is relationship orientation versus task orientation. Countries that are more relationship-oriented focus on building relationships before doing business. In this context, it is important to spend a significant amount of time getting to know the person you are doing business with over coffee or a shared meal. This allows people to build trust with one another, and it lays the foundation for future business relationships.

Cultures that are more task-oriented place a higher priority on meeting deadlines and adhering to schedules. Oftentimes, people who are task-oriented view time as money. If you are late to a meeting with a task-oriented individual, this conveys to them that you do not value their time. To a task-oriented individual, it may initially seem counterproductive to spend hours getting to know people over coffee or a meal, but it is essential for business professionals to devote time to building relationships. Finding a balance between building relationships and completing business transactions is essential.

Cultural Sensitivity

Interacting with people in a cross-cultural setting brings to light differences in religion, ethnicity, language, communication patterns, and personality types. Researching other cultures prior to doing business with other people can increase your cultural sensitivity. This helps you gain a better understanding of why people respond in certain ways, what is most valuable to them, and how those values affect their day-to-day interactions with others.

When working cross-culturally, it is important not to impose your frame of reference upon other people. Because a person’s culture is linked to their identity, it is important to reserve judgement and try to see things from their perspective. This can bring about unity and mutual understanding. Whenever you truly seek to learn from people of other cultures, it fosters genuine respect and increases your overall effectiveness in doing business.

What are ways you can increase your cultural sensitivity today? 

5 Values of the Coworking Community

In 1995, a concept, known as “coworking” began transforming work style and space design. To keep anyone from setting “the rules”, the initiators defined coworking vaguely.

With only 20 years of history, coworking has evolved into a worldwide movement. It has vastly impacted economies, business development, and entrepreneurial ecosystems. Its progress has had direct impact on work environments and whole industries. Some argue it has influenced a stronger creative economy.

What is coworking? One must embrace the values which unite spaces despite their difference in markets and inhabitants.


Communnity extends beyond people working near one another. Community reflects a value of care not only for the space but for the individuals that inhabit that space. It carries an underlying idea of a shared purpose. Sometimes these communities organize around a similar occupation bringing together industry professionals who can push each other along. Other times the community reflects a diversity of occupations, yet the members wish to learn and grow along side of one another. In both cases, there is a shared value of care present.

For a better view of our view on community check out our post here.


An important aspect to any community is the ability to be open with one another. Some cultures struggle with this ideal of being open handed with ideas. Coworking combats this way of thinking. Members of a community must know each other and have trust among their piers. Those entering the space are not there to outright compete or gain the advantage, but to invest and give to the community. Since openness takes time to build, it should always be part of the goals of any coworking space.


Coworking creates an environment for individuals to collaborate with their strengths and professions. Those managing the space can help by encouraging projects that would necessitate collaboration among the members. There have been plenty of examples of new startups and companies forming as a direct result of collaboration within coworking spaces. Such examples create a positive impact on the community internally and the greater local economy.


There has been a shift in work style which rejects the traditional “work in isolation model” which was demonstrated by offices and even cubicles. The coworking value of accessibility rejects this model as well. It pushes the need for people to be accessible. While important ideologically, it may also cause some angst because it entrusts other members to be professional in their approach without being overbearing. When the members allow themselves to be accessible, it builds the community.


Ongoing health and development are central tenets of coworking. Sustainability includes the ongoing development of the economy culture surrounding it. Sustainability brings financial stability and personal/professional growth among the participating members. For sustainability to happen, the members must invest and active in developing the core values.

The coworking community accept these core values as unifying factors across the industry. They are interdependent for the success of the space. Failure in one area may undermine the others. Each core value must be cultivated in the local coworking space.

What has been your experience with coworking? Would you try it, recommend it, or avoid it? Visit the BetaBar website and contact us for a visit in Montenegro.

6 One-liners That Challenge Your Marketing Strategy #SparkMe

This year’s Spark.me line-up impressed even the most veteran attendees who have come to expect only excellence from the annual conference. Having attended this year for the for the first time, I must say that from the moment I arrived for the opening ceremony I could feel the excitement and anticipation in the air, and I knew I wouldn’t leave disappointed.

Though all the speakers were fantastic, it was Mark Schaefer’s one-liners that challenged me the most and filled me with gumption and drive as I considered the impact these truths could have on my own work.

#1. “People will believe a review from a stranger over advertising from your company every time.”

As any good presentation would, Schaefer’s talk began with the problem explaining that the days of pushing advertisements and seeing results are over. People have grown tired of constantly being bombarded with commercials of companies all claiming to be the best, and this constant exposure has led to repulsion and distrust. People now prefer to make their purchasing decisions based on a complete stranger’s input rather than that of your promotion, which no doubt boasts the obviously superb qualities of your product, because experience has told them that they simply cannot trust you. You sell the product; of course, you are going to say it’s great. But, in the eyes of today’s consumer, the more influential and valuable input comes from the average reviewer who’s seen as a neutral party and fills the role of trusted advisor.

#2. “If loyalty isn’t enough, what do you do?”

As Schaefer drove home the concept, he made the problem personal as he asked, “if loyalty isn’t enough, what do you do?”, and it felt as if the entire room gasped at the thought. What do we do now? If this isn’t a question you’re already asking in your workplace, it should be. Advertising is expensive, and in the world of start-ups, we know well that money doesn’t grow on trees. So, how do we make the most of our marketing resources and convince our audience to choose our product over any other?

#3. “I don’t know that I love the brand, but I love the people who made it.”

At the center of it all, Schaefer proposed love as the answer. Right about now, if you’re like me, you’re thinking “love – I thought this was a presentation on marketing; how can love be the answer?!” But, think about it. The days of being loyal to a company or a brand are over, but one thing remains – we still love people. In fact, Schaefer shared the story of a friend who had chosen a local soap manufacturer over a popular household name (Ivory). To his surprise as he inquired about her choice, his friend shared the entire story of the company’s start, the people who work there, and the way they support and improve the local community. When asked about the quality of the product and the brand, she answered with, “I don’t know that I love the brand, but I love the people who make it.”

#4. “The most human company will win.”

So, how do we illicit that sort of response from our audience? How do we make them love us? In essence, our humanness builds the connection between our company and our potential customers. People don’t want to buy from a huge conglomerate; they want to buy from someone they know and trust. It has become less about the product one buys and more about the people who produced it. In a sense, consumers want more for their money; not only do they want a superior product, they also want the feeling of pride as they become part of something greater by investing in people who inspire them.

#5. “Consistency is more important than genius.”

Sometimes we can become paralyzed by the search for the perfect idea, but Schaefer argues that in the world of humanness, it’s consistency more than genius that matters. As distrust continues to plague the consumer’s outlook on the commercial world, consistency from a plethora of people is the answer. As a marketer, you want to create natural avenues through which you can share honest stories. Some of our greatest influencers now are our employees – people who have connections with the average consumer. Have you given them a platform to share their stories? What about your consumers? Are you giving them opportunities to share why they love “the people who made it”?

#6. “Passion without a plan is just a hobby.”

As entrepreneurs, we want our businesses to be successful and many of us have built our businesses based on an idea that drives us, wakes us up in the morning, and propels us forward. But, without a plan and without concentrated action, our passion will remain a hobby and will leave us with an empty bank account and ideas of what could have been. To avoid that bleak outlook becoming a reality, we need a plan. How can you share honest stories of everyday people who propel your brand forward because of their love for your people? How are you going to drive consistency in these stories and their release? Ultimately, you want people to be filled with expectation and anticipation as they wait for the next story to be released. And, they won’t expect that which they aren’t exposed to on a regular basis, so get your team together and plan!

Now it’s your turn. How will you put these concepts into action?