Business Development
For Lawyers Is Imperative

Attorneys looking for more clients should consider these four steps,
from finance columnist Michael McDonald.

   handshake shaking handsHandshake Shaking Hands

Business development is undoubtedly one of the greatest challenges that any business faces in any industry. For lawyers, the problem of bringing in new clients is made more complex by multiple factors, including a stigma against advertising in the legal sector, difficulty in finding clients who can actually pay their bills, and a balkanized industry that has both cutthroat competition among small providers and a degree of tacit collusion among large providers. Add to this the lack of expertise many attorneys have in marketing or data analytics, and you have a recipe for the type of stagnancy that has afflicted large swaths of the industry for years.

The business development problem for attorneys is not new or unknown. A recent survey by litigation financing company Burford Capital showed that a full 97% of attorneys identified business development as a challenge today, versus 68% of attorneys who said the same thing in 2013.

Despite the widespread need across the industry for business development, many lawyers remain loath to use formal advertising. For example, one reputable legal partner whose 30-person practice focuses on business disputes said, “Any good attorney worth their salt does not need to advertise – if you have a good reputation, that is all you need. Advertising in law is for ambulance chasers.” That view is just one man’s perspective, of course, but it seems to epitomize the perspective of a large segment of the industry. The commonly held view seems to be that outside of accident and personal injury law, traditional advertising is unneeded. Thus, any lawyer who violates this view will likely be seen by at least a portion of peers as being inept and unable to bring in enough cases through their reputation and word of mouth alone.

The view that advertising is unnecessary is probably harmful to the industry as a whole, and of course to many individual attorneys. Advertising can serve two roles; persuasion or information provision. The information provision side of advertising is particularly valuable to attorneys. Helping to educate the general public and the business community about legal services is a useful function that ads can serve. The key for any attorney in marketing is to understand the return on investment from marketing expenditures. Unfortunately, most attorneys are not familiar with the tools and techniques used in business analytics to forecast the effectiveness of marketing spend. Data analytics remains an under-utilized tool of attorneys.

Litigation finance has sprung up as a mechanism to help deal with this. Anthony Trufelli, an executive with Bridgeway Legal Funding, notes the value of a primer his firm produces to explain litigation finance to clients. According to Trufelli, “The purpose of our guide is to be a tool or resource attorneys can give their clients should they be interested in an advance.  The purpose is to shift the burden of explaining the industry off the attorney’s plate so they can focus on more important things.”

Despite the rise of litigation finance, the large majority of cases are still too risky to be funded by third parties. Add to that the ethical concerns some observers have about the industry, and you have a recipe for continued problems with client credibility. Optimization of pricing can help attorneys deal with this issue, but it’s an imperfect solution.

Attorneys looking for more clients should consider several steps:

  • Look carefully at options to reach potential customers through advertising – most industries do advertise, and there is little reason for attorneys to be any different.
  • Dig deep on business analytics – Big Data and Business Intelligence may seem like the topic du jour of the moment, and to some extent they are overhyped, but there is a kernel of truth behind the hype, and they can help build a better business.
  • Study differential pricing opportunities – like airlines, hotels, and even business consultancies, attorneys should NOT be charging the same fees to all clients. Fees should be based on supply and demand for the skills required for a particular case.
  • Consider third-party funding if appropriate – not all cases will work with third-party funding, and it often makes sense to get help in shopping a case around to prospective funders, but there is no reason not to at least consider third-party funding if you have a viable case that could use it.

Overall, with all of the obstacles to effective business development, it is little wonder that so many attorneys cite business development as a hurdle to success. Despite these challenges, attorneys need to confront the issue head-on.

Chuck Reynolds
Contributor

Let's Want to Close the Knowledge Gap on Crypto Currency

Cryptocurrency trading has become a way of life

In Asia, Europe, and the Americas, Cryptocurrency trading has become a way of life, but that is not the case in Nigeria and other African countries. In this interview, the Chief Executive and Principal Consultant, Crypto Plus Certified, Mr. Peter Ayoade Moradeyo tells Ndubuisi Francis that his company is poised to close the knowledge gap with the ultimate goal of enlisting Nigeria on the global cryptocurrency exchange.

What is a good way to concisely explain Bitcoin, Blockchain, and Cryptocurrencies?

The success story of Cryptocurrency dates back to 2009, during the financial breakout, when Bitcoin was formed on blockchain technology. Bitcoin was first introduced in Asian countries and gradually to Europe, US etc. It is needful to clarify however, that the blockchain technology is not the same thing as Bitcoin; the relationship between them is only that Bitcoin is deployed on the blockchain technology. Interestingly, Bitcoin seems to be more popular today than the platform on which it stands. Now, there are two things which distinguish Cryptocurrency from the normal currencies.

The first is that it is finite. It has a fixed number that can be taken off and immediately that happens, its value shoots up and we all know that anything that can finish naturally increases in value as it is being taken up. So, as the world gradually adopts cryptocurrency, the available number reduces and value automatically drives upwards, causing it to grow dynamically in value. That explains why Bitcoin has been able to grow like that since 2009.

The second thing is that cryptocurrency has intrinsic value or what some call store of value. Let me explain it this way: each copy of a coin is an address, a location on the blockchain. When one address belongs to a person, that address cannot belong to another person in any part of the world. This is unlike the fiat counterpart where any money reading on a person’s bank account means that the bank owes the account holder to the tune of the said amount, but not necessarily that money is the account holder’s to cash at any time. This is why sometimes the banks would tell an account holder that they do not have enough cash to complete a transaction. The case of the blockchain is different because the value is intrinsic and better preserved.

What is the function of CryptoPlus Certified?

Since 2009, Bitcoin and several other alt coins have been coming up. Alt coins are referred to as alternative coins to Bitcoin which is the first and most popular of them all. At a point, we realized there was an opportunity where Bitcoin and other coins can relate in value; there is value relativity between them. So, we started by trading Cryptocurrency. I can recall that sometime in 2015, there was an upsurge of certain Ponzis in Nigeria. Nigerians sustained the following of Ponzis until it became almost endemic. Unfortunately, very few Nigerians knew about the very essence of the medium of transfer which Bitcoin was during the transaction of these Ponzis. Bitcoin was only used because it did not need a third party like banks to facilitate a transaction between the Ponzis and their victims. So, the Ponzis took advantage of their patronage, cashing in on the anonymity of transaction which was part of the features of cryptocurrency. What was supposed to have been an advantage became a disadvantage because of the ignorance of Nigerians.

Someone needed to educate Nigerians appropriately as to what cryptocurrency really meant and what disruption it was meant to address. So, we now came up because before now, we had a deep background on its trading. We decided to reappraise the image of Cryptocurrency as it were in Nigeria.

Also, at several conferences we have been all over the world, we realised that Africans are non-existent on several cryptocurrency trading platforms. Just like we have the Nigerian Stock Exchange with several companies trading on its platform, there are also several participating bodies that trade value among us. The sad thing here is that Africans are non-existent on any Cryptocurrency exchange whether in US, Asia or Europe. This is also true when one considers Cryptocurrency graph. The Asians are up there; Europe and America are there too, but Africa is non- existent. Our function at Crypto Plus Certified is basically to close the knowledge gap so that people can take advantage available and then Nigeria can be enlisted on what we call the global Cryptocurrency exchange.

We trace the current state of Cryptocurrency trading to a slowness of adoption. The federal government is yet to adopt a framework for the implementation of blockchain that can give rise to participation. Several countries have done that but for some reasons it has not happened in Nigeria.

You have a dream to raise and establish 1,000 Nigerians on the Poloniex Exchange. What is the implementation plan put in place to achieve this and why the choice of Lagos, Abuja and Port Harcourt?

We need to make it clear that Nigeria is a country with many opportunities. We also need to state that Bitcoin came into Nigeria with a wrongly perceived image, and on the wrong platform. So, our first goal is to take the responsibility to repair that image, and then reappraise the benefits and enlist Nigeria as a participator in the normal trading of Cryptocurrency.
In order to achieve that, we launched what we called, ‘Dream 1000’. It is all about trading on Poloniex which is the largest Crypto exchange in America and we are currently working with them on releasing a mobile platform strictly for Nigerians and it will work as an arbitrage with our own exchange which will come from Germany. We want to work as an arbitrage so that they will trade on our own platform via the mobile interface. Nigerians can be taught on how to trade this currency easily, and our strategy is very unique because the mobile application is actually enhanced to be able to reduce all the variables of a trading system. Since we launched the ‘Dream 1000’ recently in Lagos, we have had some of our students who were able to distinguish themselves with the level of knowledge we passed to them and they are going to show Nigerians that we are serious about what we are here to do.

How has the response been like?

I grew up in Nigeria before I decided to relate with other countries for business reasons. One thing I know about Nigerians is that they respond to results. So, the first thing we want to identify is, we want to be able to have people who have had results and that is why all the events we have done, we have been showcasing people that distinguished themselves, those that we gave the knowledge and they applied it and got results. We want to be inspired by results and not just belief.

Can Bitcoin be regulated? What about Bitcoin and taxes?

Those conversant with information coming out of crypto plus certified would have noticed that Nigeria is currently on a discourse on how to regulate Cryptocurrency trading based on several frameworks. I have several write-ups regarding this. Cryptocurrency trading as it were is decentralized and this is why the banking system cannot operate it. It is decentralized because of its nature. For instance, Bitcoin as it were, does not have a management interface and that is why the regulation has not been somewhat forthcoming. But it is found to be very secured and has an ability to store values. That has been the reason for all the inquiries on how do we have a framework for a kind of currency that has thus kind of features? Sometimes, it takes time, but individuals are working and several people have stored values on it and exchanged it with another. The US is an example where Poloniex is operating. So looking at it more objectively, the regulatory framework and the operational climate go hand in hand but they can be mutually exclusive.

 Bringing it to a layman’s understanding, what are the advantages of Bitcoin and how does Bitcoin work?

In a layman’s way, I would like to use the similitude of changing one currency to another, for instance. If you have some Naira notes and you want to change to Dollar, knowing the exchange rate that relates one to the other will be very helpful. Now to a layman if I bring my Naira and want to buy a Dollar, I will change the Naira to a Dollar based on the foreign exchange rate agreed between the person selling the Dollar and myself. Now imagine where you have the Bureau de Change in the middle and you have the buyer, that is, the demand, on one side and the supplier on the other side; that is the way it works. The person at the middle collects commissions from two persons. The buyer sells at a price based on demand and supply. So, if the demand is higher than supply, the price is likely to go up. If I’m able to read that the demand and price for a thing I bought and own have gone up and I sell it, now the difference between what I bought and what I am selling now that the price has gone up is my own profit. That is the basic analysis of how it works.

Demand for Cryptocurrency…what are your training modules like? The fee, process, and duration?

Training is 30 days and we have a huge demand for it and because of this, we have set up world class training hubs in the three geopolitical zones Lagos, Abuja and Port Harcourt. So, demand is already there. We have a structure that accommodates different levels of trading – the strategic portfolio building and robotics. Our modules cover; Introduction to Cryptocurrency Trading – CPC 101, Cryptocurrency Masterclass – Advanced Trading CPC 102, Trading Engaging Robotics – CPC 103. People are already aware of what Cryptocurrency is; it will be wrong for us to say that people are not aware of it. The only thing is that there is a knowledge gap on how to use it and take advantage of the value in it, and that is what we are trying to close up.

Is there any risk attached to Cryptocurrency… Is Bitcoin legal? And how secure is Bitcoin?

The idea of trading Cryptocurrency and the national legal framework is mutually exclusive. Trading on Cryptocurrency can be done when someone knows how to handle it. The reason for the legal framework is to protect the participators because when there is no third party that puts power in the hands of those that know the ‘Whats’ and ‘Hows’. Bitcoin is safe and this knowledge is out there. You are your own bank. Records are protected by mathematical laws and are irreversible. The Blockchain technology protects its addresses and have histories on an open ledger, and is always available and transparent for anyone to confirm.

Chuck Reynolds
Contributor

Bitcoin Mining Pool ViaBTC Says
No to
Segwit

  

Following a previous announcement by F2Pool

that they are now to signal for segregated witnesses (segwit), ViaBTC has publicly reiterated they do not support segwit for a number of reasons.  The bitcoin mining pool says:

SegWit, which is a soft fork solution for malleability, cannot solve the capacity problem… Even if SegWit after activation can slightly scale up block size with new transaction formats, it’s still far behind the demand for the development of Bitcoin network.

Bitcoin has been running at full capacity for months with numerous proposals put forward and rejected by miners. The latest ones are segwit, currently at around 32% hashrate share, and Bitcoin Unlimited which stands just under 40%. Segwit’s main aim is to send transactions off-chain and onto second layers, such as the Lightning Network or sidechains. ViaBTC says such transactions “are NOT equal to Bitcoin’s peer-to-peer on-chain transactions” before adding that “LN will also lead to big payment “centers”, and this is against Bitcoin’s initial design as a peer-to-peer payment system.”

The main criticism against segwit is its use of a 1:4 ratio, which many suspect is a political decision that will bind bitcoin’s trajectory for decades to come regardless of technical factors. ViaBTC says: “SegWit lifts the block size limit to 4MB with 1MB base and 3MB witness block. However, from the current transaction data, the average effective block size will be less than 2MB even if all transactions upgrade to SegWit. This is a tremendous waste. If we want to double the capacity of Bitcoin, we’ll need to make sure the internet bandwidth to run full nodes can support at least 8MB blocks, instead of 2MB. This will make it even tougher to increase block size in the future.” Moreover, the decision to upgrade to segwit is irreversible, according to ViaBTC. So if something goes wrong, bitcoin might be stuck because:

“On technical terms, SegWit uses a transaction format that can be spent by those who don’t upgrade their nodes, with segregation of transaction data and signature data. This means SegWit is irrevocable once it’s activated, or all unspent transactions in SegWit formats will face the risk of being stolen.” Some 70% of miners have now made a decision on whether to support segwit or Bitcoin Unlimited, a proposal which simply increases the blocksize as set by nodes and miners. It’s not clear what the other 30% are waiting for, but it will be interesting to see what they do decide once they get around to exercising their duty.

Chuck Reynolds
Contributor

What Is Bitcoin? Is It Legal Money? What Could Happen To Bitcoins In 2017?

  

Bitcoins, a form of digital currency

that operates on the principles of cryptography, has lately come under the scanner of the authorities throughout the world. So, it’s become necessary to know what are Bitcoins, how it works, the legal status of Bitcoins as well as what holds in the future of Bitcoins. 

In the year 1976, F.A Hayek, in his book “The Denationalisation of Money,” propagated the establishment of competitively issued private money. In the mid-70s, what seemed like a farfetched idea was conceived by yet another Economist in the year 1999. Milton Friedman, an American economist who received the 1976 Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences, predicted of time where internet, (still in a nascent stage then) would help abolish the role of a government and evolve a currency free from the shackles of the government control. Less than ten years later the prophecy came true when Satoshi Nakamoto, a Japanese, invented a form of cryptocurrency called “Bitcoin.” The origin of Bitcoins can be traced to the aftermath of the global recession and money crisis of 2008 that shook the whole world economy.

What is bitcoin? How does it work?

In the simplest form, Bitcoins can be described as a “Peer to Peer Electronic cash system.” Bitcoins can be used as a method of payment for numerous goods and services and for simple transactions like purchasing vouchers, paying bills, etc. In different jurisdictions, Bitcoins are treated as a property, currency, virtual asset, good, security or commodity for the purpose of trading on a stock exchange or commodity exchange.

Essentially Bitcoin is a cryptocurrency, i.e., it operates on the principles of cryptography to manage the creation of Bitcoins and securing the transactions. Cryptocurrencies are managed by private parties, without the need for a government authority to monitor the currency system. The currency has been designed in a way that the number of total units of Bitcoins in circulation will always be limited. Going by the pace at which Bitcoins are being minted, the last unit will be mined around the year 2140.

The cryptocurrencies essentially work on the Blockchain system. A Blockchain is a public ledger of Bitcoins that is designed to record all the transactions. The chronological order of Blockchain is enforced with cryptography and each new ledger update creates newly minted Bitcoins. This is designed in a way that Bitcoin wallets can calculate their total balance and new transactions can be verified. The integrity and the chronological order of the block chain are enforced with cryptography.

Bitcoin Working

The buyer and seller can enter into transactions by using their Bitcoin wallets that are secured by a secret piece of data called, a “Private key.” The key is used to authorize the transactions by the owner of the wallet, and cannot be normally tempered by anyone, once it is issued.  The transactions are performed by adding the Bitcoin wallets on an exchange, acting as a facilitator for sale and purchase of Bitcoins. All transactions are displayed between the users and usually begin to be confirmed by the network through a process called “Mining.” It is essentially the process of creating new Bitcoins out of the total Bitcoins that are designed to be “Mined” using computers. The transactions transfer the value between the users and get recorded in the Blockchain, ensuring that each transaction is valid.

Is Bitcoin legal money?

The legality of Bitcoins is controversial, while some jurisdictions have express laws and regulations to deal with Bitcoins, others still fall in gray areas. As per a recent bill in Japan, Bitcoins and other virtual currencies have been given legal recognition and are accepted as a mode of payment. While in China, trading in Bitcoins come under the regulatory restrictions imposed by People’s Bank of China.

In the U.S.A, different states have adopted varying approaches to Bitcoins. Recently a U.S Magistrate in the state of New York ruled that Bitcoins are not money, while a contradictory stance was taken by a judge in Manhattan, who ruled that bitcoins are acceptable means of payment. The Internal Revenue Service in the United States defines bitcoin as property rather than currency for tax purposes. The U.S. Treasury, by contrast, classifies bitcoin as a decentralized virtual currency.

In Russia, reportedly, Bitcoins may soon be regulated in a bid to tackle money laundering, though, in the past, Russia has expressed its displeasure with Bitcoins and other cryptocurrencies. In India, as of now, no regulations have been framed by either Reserve Bank of India or Securities and Exchange Board of India, the two contenders, for the purpose of drafting regulations pertaining to Bitcoins and acting as a watchdog.

In India, who ultimately acts as a regulatory authority can only be decided based on whether the government decides to treat Bitcoins as “Currency” or “Security/Commodity.” As per current Indian laws, “Currency” can only be issued by the government but the residuary powers in this regard lie with the Reserve Bank of India which can notify “Bitcoins” as currency.  After the demonetization drive in India, the demand for Bitcoin has more than doubled in less than two months. The Indian government has reportedly set up an inter-disciplinary committee to regulate the Bitcoins amidst the apprehensions that the black money hoarders may have invested into Bitcoins.

Bitcoin trends in 2017

Bitcoins are extremely volatile in nature. While the future trends for Bitcoins can’t be predicted with utmost certainty, as per a report published on Forbes, the market is set to show strong waves in the favor of cryptocurrencies, as predicted by a crypto market intelligence startup. As per the latest position, The 24-hour average rate of exchange across USD Bitcoin markets is US$1184.87, the 7-day average is US$1204.85, and the 30-day average is US$1080.26 confirming only the volatility of Bitcoins.

There are possibilities that some countries may introduce an Exchange Traded Fund (ETF) to make Bitcoin Trading easier and accessible. While a similar application to create an ETF has been rejected by The US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), the chances of other countries adopting it are not bleak. Currently, sale and purchase of Bitcoins is a multi-step process. Creating an ETF would make it possible for the investors to buy Bitcoins through the stock market.

Further, In the future Blockchains, the underlying technology to Bitcoins may bring revolution in the music industry.  Cryptography could transform the music industry by using Blockchain ledgers. As per reports, an attempt is being made to bring music distribution under the cryptography. This can be done by adding the music to blockchain and letting the users distribute the music by paying a sum. This can also bring down music piracy.

To sum up the discussion, it can be said that while Bitcoins may not replace the “Fiat Currency” anytime soon, but there has been a phenomenal growth in the acceptance of cryptocurrencies around the world. While the investors may still be reluctant to invest in Bitcoins, given the high risks associated with it, the demand for Bitcoins has grown manifold. In the end, it could be argued that a good legal and regulatory framework for Bitcoins would help the investors decide the viability of Bitcoins in the long run.

Chuck Reynolds
Contributor

Blockchain in Energy Sector: IOTA to Offer Decentralization, Scalability, No Transaction Fees

  

With motor vehicles becoming an ever increasing luxury around the world,

pollution levels are increasing but the Blockchain could help to reduce the transportation industry’s contribution to global warming that promises a cleaner and energy efficient future. In an article written in December by Carsten Stöcker, Senior Manager in the Machine Economy Innovation Lighthouse Lead at German energy firm, Innogy SE and Thomas Birr, Senior Vice-President of Innovation & Business Transformation at Innogy SE, the future of transport will change through ‘Blockchain-enabled secure peer-to-peer (P2P) transactions that eliminate or minimize the need for centralized authorities such as banks or ride-sharing services such as Uber or Lyft.’

Blockchain and energy transactions

Through the Blockchain, trip charges will be deducted from the passenger’s Blockchain-enabled digital wallets or charged to their credit card, with payment going straight to the vehicle owner. As noted by Stöcker and Birr, Blockchain-enabled mobility transactions mean that consumers and providers can take part in the transportation system, setting the terms, conditions, and pricing they choose.

“Automotive OEMs want to collaborate with us in order to participate in building a Special Purpose Decentral Platform for Mobility Transactions,” said Stöcker, speaking to Cointelegraph. “We are also now engaging with many owners of EV charging assets around the world in order to bring charging poles to one Blockchain platform.” Yet, while the Blockchain can have a significant impact on how energy transactions are conducted, there are issues with it, such as scalability, transaction costs and offline transactions, that limit its effectiveness. The IOTA Tangle is attempting to fix this by addressing many of the shortcomings with today’s Blockchain technology by delivering secure, practical and scalable applications.

Transferring value without any fees

The IOTA is a digital currency with the goal of establishing itself as fuel for efficient machine-to-machine and Internet of Things (IoT) transactions. Instead of using a regular Blockchain, the IOTA uses its IOTA Tangle, which validates transactions in a Directed Acyclic Graph structure (DAG). This is a revolutionary new blockless distributed ledger, that is scalable, lightweight and makes it possible to transfer value without any fees. Stöcker, who is also an IOTA Foundation member, which was founded by David Sønstebø, said that instead of achieving consensus through an expensive mechanism, which can lead to centralization, those within the IOTA network are active in the validation of transactions and consensus.

“When a device makes a transaction and broadcasts the transaction to the network, by protocol or ‘by default’ it has to validate two previous transactions,” he said. “So, it’s a real peer-to-peer network by machines for machines.” He adds that this new concept has immediate advantages: decentralization, scalability and no transaction fees. With all IOTA tokens pre-mined, no mining is required. Not only that, but given the fact that 2779530283277761 IOTA were created, this enables transactions with a little value attached to them. For instance, micro-transactions, which can be beneficial within the energy industry.

Deploying the IOTA in the real world

Of course, in order to deploy the IOTA in the real world, adoption needs to be achieved in a development friendly ecosystem, which is being undertaken in its IOTA Development Roadmap. With the IOTA Tangle designed less rigorously, it means transactions can be made in an offline environment, which copies the IoT, where devices use different networking protocols such as Lemonbeat, Bluetooth LE, LPWAN, or ZigBee. “As such, IOTA is the first permissionless distributed ledger that achieves scalability, making Machine-to-Machine payments for the IoT possible,” said Stöcker.

Chuck Reynolds
Contributor

 

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Tips to Creating a Successful Content-Marketing Campaign

The phrase “content marketing” is all over the web these days.

Content has become a conglomeration of many things: webinars, blog posts, videos, social network shares and more. It sounds like a great idea. If done right, a well-executed digital campaign will yield considerable benefits for both established businesses and entrepreneurs. Such a strategy has the power to position a business as a topical authority and establish the owners and executives as experts.

The devil, as they say, is in the details. Implementing such a campaign isn’t as easy as it seems and takes a bit more effort than pressing a button. Depending on your business goals, time needs to be spent aligning your company’s brand’s online persona with your customers’ needs. Once posted, content that’s shared requires interaction on your part. Interact directly with your community by saying something meaningful to stimulate continued conversation. Content marketing can be a boon for your brand. Be sure to follow these tested truths when planning your campaign:

Know your audience and keep the content relevant. 

Each social network has a unique identity and audience, so take some time to research the demographics of the social marketing platforms you use to share. All sites are not the same. Some skew highly to men (Google+) and others are more popular with women (Pinterest). Check the current information on the sites to determine where to share your content to the to best effect.

Whether you market to businesses or consumers, you no doubt have a grasp of their interests. Blogs are still a great way to build an engaged community around your brand and interests. An example of a blog that successfully uses content marketing is SavvySeller.co. This is a community site offering helpful advice for online sellers while displaying ads for its parent company, World Lister. Check what your customers are sharing on social media. By making your blog posts relevant to readers, they may pass along your content as well and become your advocate, awarding you with free, yet most valuable, marketing.

Beware of constant self-reference. 

Repetitive self-reference will not stimulate engagement. The days of broadcast advertising are long past, and without giving your message a twist, broadcasting will do nothing but discourage readers. Rather, use stories to illustrate the benefits your business has to offer. Direct your message to the reader and be sure to personalize it by using the word “you.” In this way, your posts directly address (and pique the interest) of your community. Keep the promotional content to no more than a 1-to-7 ratio. As social scientist Dan Zarrella says, “Stop talking about yourself.” Instead, “start talking as yourself.”

Share what works

When creating content for your business, consider your own time schedule and talents. Sitting down to write a white paper may be painful for many people, and small businesses may not have the time or resources to produce one. If you are more comfortable communicating your messages in another format, for example, why not try sharing the following:

Short-form articles (like this one)

Infographics or small sharable graphics are easily produced on a platform such as Canva

Photographs of products in action that you can share on Instagram 

Short product demonstrations or instructional videos (try to keep them under two minutes)

Other related business content

Also, consider sharing content about things you are passionate about. By posting ideas and subjects that are personally relevant to you (the business owner), you project your humanity to your online influence.

Consider curating.

 A growing trend is content aggregation which is deriving content directly from others’ RSS feeds and automatically turning them into shares. Aggregating is not curating. In contrast, curating content requires a human being to find, read and qualify digital content that is relevant to your audience. Curating may sound like a lot of work, but it may take as little as 30 minutes a day. If you (or another member of your staff) regularly read digital content that relates to your business, finding articles to share is a simple proposition.

Even the owners of niche businesses can find articles that might resonate with their audience. If you curate and share content from others, your audience will look to you as a reliable source for information on a specific topic. A secondary benefit of sharing third-party content is that you build relationships by broadening the conversation with others within your industry.

Measure once and then again.

 Track the comments and responses to your pieces. When you share links on social media platforms, use the many free metrics tools to decipher which of your posts were on track. By on track, I mean were they read? Shared? Acted upon? If a platform or content type isn’t working for you, be sure to put effort into the ones that are. Know that your content marketing will build with time and continuity, and social content may not translate into sales immediately. Set up a plan in advance and have reasonable expectations. You are brand building for the long haul.

Chuck Reynolds
Contributor

 

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Ways to make your inbound marketing stand out

Experts in content creation and digital strategy discuss the best methods and channels to attract new customers.

  

Marketing IT Bullseye

Converting leads and contacts into customers continues to be the top marketing priority for many companies, according to HubSpot research,. And organizations that focus on inbound – e.g. using content marketing, social media and SEO to attract customers — (vs. outbound) marketing are more likely to be effective. Here are a few things your business can do to make your inbound marketing efforts more effective – and convert more prospects into customers.

Know who your target audience is – and where they get their information

“You must define your audience before you even get started, creating the fundamental inbound marketing ‘buyer persona,’” says Ryan Malone, founder & CEO, SmartBug Media. Personas should factor in demographics – gender, age, education, location – and include things like the customer’s likes and dislikes, where they shop, where they work and who they buy for (family, friends, coworkers).

Once you’ve identified and defined your ideal customer, use that buyer persona to guide your strategy, “from the keywords [you] choose, to the website experience, the blogs you write to the social media sites you use for promotion,” he says. “Many organizations mistakenly try to be everything to everyone; however, to truly see inbound success, you must focus on attracting the right audience first and foremost."

Plan ahead

“SMBs need to look at the big picture and strategically plan content long term,” says Jamie Domenici, vice president of SMB marketing, Salesforce. “This allows your business to capitalize on… seasons, holidays or events [that are relevant to your business and target audience].” For example, Valentine’s Day is a holiday no florist, chocolatier or jeweler would want to miss. And “having an editorial calendar ensures the business can prepare interesting and insightful content well in advance.”

Develop an SEO strategy

“Search optimized blogging is one of the best ways for small and medium sized businesses to improve inbound marketing,” says Lauren Fairbanks, CEO, S/G Content Marketing. Just “make sure you focus on the right keywords that match your customer's pain points and work on creating content around those.”

“The best (and free) place to start with this is AdWords Keyword [Planner],” says Amy Nedoss, marketing strategy director at SocialRaise. “Find low-competition and high-volume search terms. Then align your content with [them]. That way the content is highly targeted and has a better chance of being found [by your target audience].”Fight enemies smarter and faster with an open, unified ecosystem for a resilient defense.

“Another trick to improve SEO is to revive your old content,” says Tim Jernigan, marketing analyst, Badger Maps. “If your existing posts don’t receive traffic anymore, you can revamp them with infographics [or] images. You can even combine a few blogs to make a PDF guide [or white paper] and post [with a new title].”

Create a company blog and fill it with useful content

“The secret to a successful inbound marketing strategy is to consistently provide quality content that is interesting and helpful to current and prospective customers. At the heart of this strategy is the humble blog,” says Domenici.

“Company blogs drive inbound traffic to your website, and can also give your business credibility within your industry,” she says. “Customers favor companies that offer valuable knowledge rather than ones that are too self-promotional, so be sure to identify common customer pain points and provide easy-to-follow solutions. Extend the reach of your blog by sharing posts across your social networks to engage with customers where they are.”

Send fewer emails but with better content

“A big theme we’re seeing this year is sending less email better, which is something we’re really leaning into at HubSpot,” says Jon Dick, vice president of marketing, HubSpot. “As people’s inboxes become more and more crowded, many marketers have resorted to increasing their email volume to get the same number of opens. But this approach is backwards.”Sending fewer but more relevant emails “will actually get you more opens and better engagement in today’s environment,” he says. The key is to “focus on adding… value and investing in good content that shows, not tells, your message.” If you do this, “the few emails you do send will get good engagement.”

Include graphics and/or photos in messaging

“Humans are more receptive to visual content,” points out Domenici. So “incorporating visual elements [in your messaging] is a sure-fire way for your small business to increase the draw of your inbound marketing strategy. Readers will often become disengaged with ‘how-to’ blog posts that are text heavy, but adding graphics can help illustrate step-by-step instructions in a clearer way. Video tutorials are also a great way to easily provide a solution to a common problem and can easily be shared through different channels.”

Interact with consumers through podcasts and videos

“Nothing showcases the personality of a brand better than utilizing the latest digital media channels,” says Mark Nardone, executive vice president, PAN Communications. “Brainstorm podcast topics that will open up discussions around industry trends and best practices. This will garner interest from consumers and influencers and position your brand as a thought leader and resource for your target audience.” And don’t leave out video.

“With a 5x higher recall than the written word, video is the most engaging media format and most effective in assisting conversions,” says Kent Lewis, founder & president, Anvil Media. “Video production costs have decreased dramatically. And live streaming (on platforms like Facebook), 360-degree video, augmented and virtual reality… and drones [have] all make video capture and viewing more dramatic and immersive. If your brand isn't doubling down on video as a key element for inbound marketing, you will miss the bus.” 

Tap social media influencers

“It’s imperative that brands use social media to develop an influencer repertoire to share news… and establish a brand image,” says Nardone. Social media “influencers play a crucial part in inbound marketing practices by acting as brand So after you have created your buyer personas, find out which social media platforms they are using and who are the influencers in your category or industry. Follow and interact with them to establish a connection. Then reach out to them about promoting your brand.

Try Facebook Lead Ads

“If you aren't using Facebook Lead Ads, you're missing out in a big way,” says Michael Mignogna, CEO, Minyona. “Prior to Facebook Lead Ads, when advertising on Facebook, you had to create an ad that pointed to a landing page on a website outside of Facebook and then hope the user felt like taking the desired action.

“With Lead Ads, an advertiser can offer a free download of an ebook, for example, and because it all happens inside of Facebook, the information the advertiser wants to capture is auto populated so the user can simply click ‘download,’” he explains. “We use this for several clients, and… we are able to bring them dozens of new inbound leads per week that automatically get opted into an email nurturing campaign.”

Share content on LinkedIn Pulse

Post blogs and articles you’ve written on LinkedIn Pulse. “It won't hurt SEO in terms of duplicate content, and it will help you reach many more people with minimal additional effort,” says Maddy Osman, founder & SEO content strategist, The Blogsmith. “LinkedIn has some of the best reach on any social platform, and as more people engage with your LinkedIn Pulse post, it will reach their networks as well. It's a great way to use your existing network to reach more people and funnel them to your website.”

Don’t offer up all your content for free

“The majority of your content should be freely available on your company blog, but some of it should be only available for download if people enter their contact details into a lead generation form,” says Brett Langlois, SEO & content team lead, Pure SEO. “This will allow you to capture their details and enter them into your sales funnel.”

Invest in marketing automation

“The most successful inbound marketers have the right tools to amplify their efforts,” says Tommy Burns, marketing specialist, Matrix Marketing Group. “There's only so much you can do alone, and marketing automation can free up valuable time to be directed where it's needed most. Increased inbound results offset any cost.”

Be patient and persistent

“Inbound marketing is a long game,” says Julie Graff, social content liaison, Pole Position Marketing. “While you can get some quick wins (particularly with pay-per-click advertising and some SEO tactics), it's going to take some time to see real growth. Don't pull the plug because you don't see results right away. Your goal should be long-term, sustainable growth. This takes patience, time and an ongoing strategy. When you do see results, you're not done. You need to keep going. Digital growth results stop when you stop investing time in them.”

Chuck Reynolds
Contributor

Bitcoin & Other Cryptocurrencies Shaping Future Economy, Capitalism Morphing

  

Bitcoin & Other Cryptocurrencies Shaping Future Economy, Capitalism Morphing

Money has shaped our modern economy. We have gone from using grain and cattle and even salt as currency to using metal tokens (coins) and paper. However, paper has the habit of sticking and it has been around ever since the Chinese introduced it during the Tang dynasty. We have grown comfortable using paper currency and no one can deny that it has had its usefulness. Now we are approaching another era in which bits are playing the same role that paper did. Digital currencies are no longer something that will happen way into the future, they are here. How will the advent of digital currencies like Bitcoin, Monero, Ethereum and etc affect the future shape of the economy?

Is it the end of Capitalism?

Ed Finn wrote an article in the Guardian asking, “Do digital currencies spell the end of Capitalism?” Finn’s article covered the DAO issue and how Ethereum community dealt with the hack. He examines the very nature of digital currency and ponders the questions surrounding ‘programmable money.’

In the end, he succinctly concludes:

“If what counts, and how we count, is measured in processor cycles instead of human exchange, it will change the rules of the economy as surely as driverless vehicles will change transportation. What we value is fundamentally a question of belief, and it’s increasingly unclear what we believe in more: billfolds or bits?”

So what will change if we move to digital currencies, surely these currencies change the nature of money as they are not issued by a central monetary authority or backed by the promise of the sovereigns.

These currencies are an organism of their own kind. They open the doors to people issuing their own tokens and creating their own monetary policies. This could radically change the financial system as individuals could potentially fund their own enterprises with their own currencies. They also remove the vagaries of the interest rate cycles associated with government issued money and break the nexus between big businesses and the government.

The era of financial empowerment

Digital currencies have opened doors which were firmly shut. These currencies hold the promise of distribution of wealth like never before. Not only have they brought in the technology to transfer money in a blink of an eye at minimal costs around the world, they have also brought access to ‘money’ for people who never had it before.

As Dominik Zynis of the WINGS Foundation says:

“Digital currencies will allow anyone, be it person or community, to be included in the economy by self regulated credit expansion enabling trade people who previously lacked access to requisite mediums of exchange.”

Creating trust among people

At the moment people have no choice but to trust the sovereign’s money. It is after all, a promissory note. Digital currencies put the trust fact squarely among the public. People who choose to use a particular digital currency, do so because they recognize it as money. Not because they were told to use it as money. The use of digital money or programmable money opens the doors for applications like smart contracts. Smart contracts within digital money can revolutionize the way ‘deals’ are done. Escrow can be inbuilt so that a transaction is only completed when certain parameters are met. This removes the need for having intermediaries in financial transactions, property transactions etc.

Capitalism is about to morph

The present economic system that we live in has reached its peak potential. We need a new era of economics if we are to develop further. In an era where the planetary resources are increasingly dwindling, we need a system that places less emphasis on profit and more on developing human resources. Virtual currencies or digital currencies can usher in an era of entrepreneurship and development. They can also transform how we do business today and remove regulatory bottlenecks out of the system. While capitalism might not come to an end immediately due to ‘programmable money’, it is certainly about to evolve into something different. No one can deny though that we are at the crossroads.

Chuck Reynolds
Contributor

 

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The Most Promising Cryptocurrencies To Buy In 2017

  

                        The Most Promising Cryptocurrencies To Buy In 2017

The year 2017 kicked start with a booming bullish wave that pushed the price of bitcoin and many altcoins up to unprecedented levels. Bitcoin recorded its all-time high a few weeks ago, as it exceeded the $1300 price level for the first time ever since the genesis block was mined. This rise in the market capital of bitcoin, ethereum, monero and others was fueled by uncertainty towards the fiat economy secondary to Trump’s winning of the US Presidential elections, Brexit and the unrest in the Middle East.Throughout this article, we will point out the most promising cryptocurrencies that have the potential to grow massively and hence, can represent good investment opportunities in 2017.

Ethereum:

Ethereum is a unique cryptocurrency that presents a distributed computing platform that features the “smart contract” functionality. Many crypto-enthusiasts think that ethereum is undervalued at the moment and others believe that its real value is even greater than that of bitcoin. Ethereum is by far the most promising coin to invest in this year. During the past couple of months, ethereum has been witnessing a bullish wave that led to more than %300 rise in its price in March. Even more, ethereum has recorded last March its all-time high of $54. In my opinion, ethereum has the potential to be worth more than $100 by the end of this year.

Monero:

Monero is one of the most promising altcoins that will definitely witness enormous gains in 2017. Apart from most other cryptocurrencies, Monero’s transactions are anonymous, thanks to its CryptoNote protocol that relies on ring signatures. Similarly to ethereum, monero’s price spiked, recording more than 100% gains during the past few weeks. Interestingly enough, monero has also recorded, in the later half of last March, its all-time high of $25. Monero has the potential to grow to over $50, especially after AlphaBay, one of the major darknet marketplace, has chosen to add monero as a payment method late in 2016. Oasis, another darknet marketplace, also started to accept monero payments, and more markets are expected to do so too, during 2017, which will take the price of monero to the moon.

DASH:

DASH currently represents the third biggest cryptocurrency by market capitalization. Similarly to monero, DASH’s transactions are anonymous via a unique coin mixing service known as “PrivateSend”. The year started with a bullish wave that has been controlling DASH’s market since then.  The bullish wave climaxed later in March by scoring DASH’s price all time high of around $116. DASH was the second cryptocurrency to be added as an accepted payment method on darknet’s marketplaces. It has the potential to grow to over $200 this year, especially that DASH is by far the cryptocurrency with highest anonymity levels.

Other Coins:

There are other coins that hold great potential for growth in 2017. Augur is a promising altcoin as it is presenting a new concept for decentralized market predictions. STEEM also holds enormous potential as it is by far the most successful decentralized social network. MaidSafeCoin’s price can also skyrocket during the upcoming months as it is supporting a new concept of crowd-sourced internet. GameCredits also hold great potential for growth during 2017, especially that it is introducing a new concept for online gaming markets.

Chuck Reynolds
Contributor

 

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80% of all Bitcoins Will Have Been Mined In a year From now

The World Bitcoin Mining

is in for quite a reality shock in about a year from now. As most people are well aware of, the amount of bitcoins being mined every day is much compared to a few years ago. What is even more intriguing is how the vast majority of BTC has been mined already. In January of 2018, 80% of all 21 million BTC will be mined and brought into circulation. A significant milestone that should not be overlooked by any means.

Inching Closer To 80% Of All Bitcoins

It is quite interesting to think about how far bitcoin has come since its inception. With a  hard limit of 21 million BTC to be generated by 2140, a lot of people assume there are still a lot of coins to be mined for the next few years. While that is true up to a certain extent, we are getting closer to 80% of the finite supply being brought into circulation already. Said milestone will take place roughly 365 days from now.

It remains a bit unclear as to what this will mean for the price per individual BTC, though. Asa mining becomes more difficult and less profitable unless continuous new investments take place, the price per existing bitcoin should go up in value. Moreover, with “only” 4.2 million coins to be generated after January 2018 = over the course of nearly 122 years – the demand for bitcoin should increase as well. However, neither of these factors are a given, as the cryptocurrency market does not operate like more traditional models.

At the same time, the 80% milestone could force some miners to shut down their operations. We have seen some major mining difficulty spikes over the past few weeks, and that trend will continue for quite some time. A higher mining difficulty requires more hash power and electricity to mine the same amount of bitcoin. For a lot of miners, January 2018 may become a good time to call it quits once and for all.

Should that happen, however, things will become even more intriguing. If there were fewer miners, it is expected the mining hardware manufacturers will take an even larger stake in the bitcoin mining process. Companies such as Bitmain and Bitfury have brought a lot of mining hardware online over the past few years. With more energy-efficient hardware still being developed, it is not unlikely a certain degree of centralization will occur in the mining world.

One of the lingering questions being asked aloud is whether or not we will ever see 100% of bitcoin’s entire supply be mined, to begin with. The final 5% could prove to be challenging, as the trade-off between costs and earnings will make it seem far less attractive to do so. It will take a very long time to mine the 21st million BTC, that much is already a given at this point. In fact, most people alive today in the bitcoin world will never that happen.

The coming year could become a very important one for Bitcoin as a whole. Albeit there are no guarantees or certainties, once 80% of the supply is mined, things will change eventually. Whether that will be in positive or negative fashion, remains unknown at this point. We live in very exciting times, especially when one has grown fond of the concept of bitcoin and cryptocurrency.

Chuck Reynolds
Contributor