Resolution 2015: Try to be more LIKEABLE

likeableIt is not about the looks but the attitude you carry that makes you likable. Such people are more likely to become leaders, make more money, get better opportunities, and attract other positive people as mates. Look around, and you will find that the most likable people make it their business to stay attractive regardless of how life shines upon them.

Here are the top five things you could do today to become more likeable:

1. Listen

Active listening is the key! Most likeable people have mastered the art of listening. We come across many people who are always preoccupied with themselves and what is on their own mind. They are always thinking and planning on what to say next and simply forget to listen actively. While communicating, a likeable person is aware of the fact that it is important to make the opposite person comfortable by listening to them and acknowledging their presence.

2. Learn

We have all heard the saying, “It is never too late to LEARN”! Also, there is no doubt that smart is sexy and ignorance is ugly. Amazingly attractive people know that it’s not necessary to be a genius to uphold admiration, but it helps to be aware of current events and develop your mind by always learning new things. Try this: give an hour a day to making yourself smarter and see a whole new crowd of people join you in discussions.

3. Watch what you speak

It is important to have control on what comes out of your mouth. Nothing makes attractive people unpleasant faster than stupid things they say. Incredibly likeable people know that you don’t have to be the smartest person in the room to retain interest, but demonstrating your ignorance is sure to shove people away. It is always seen that being enigmatic and attractive goes together, so whenever you get an opportunity, say enough to generate interest and always leave people wanting more of your brain.

4. Believe in giving

A generous soul is an enormous attractor. Amazingly attractive people know that selfishness is ugliest when it’s on the physically privileged. There is something magical about genuine selflessness and generosity. So the moment you try to offer yourself freely, you will see the universe embracing you and showering you with love.

5. Smile

Stay happy, stay positive and make it a point to always SMILE! Extremely likeable people love life, and all aspects of it. They enjoy the pleasure of challenges as much as they enjoy the rewards of success. They are humble by heart and always have a positive outlook. The key is to making the most of every minute and live in the moment. Likeable people are not afraid to share their joy in their movements and on their face. So if you ever feel unattractive, try finding the little joys in your day and express each positive notion with a big SMILE! Trust me it always helps. Soon or later people around you will wonder what’s causing your happiness and want to join you in experience that joy.

Top 5 books to read this holiday season

Person reading a book on the beachThe end of the year holiday season is considered the best time for businesses to shut shops and re-look at their objectives for the coming year. The holiday season acts as a boon for many entrepreneurs, as business is a slow and this is the time when you can focus on redefining or re-engineering your business for the coming year. The time is best to rejuvenate your mind and the best way to do it is to indulge in some good read for learning and inspiration.

Here is a list of the top 5 books that will inspire you and get you geared for the coming year:

1. The Human Age: The World Shaped by Us
This landmark book is written by award winning poet and writer Diane Ackerman. The content of the book talks about the human relationship with nature and how it has radically changed the way we do things. How man is on the verge of exhausting all possible resources on planet earth. The writer takes us on an exhilarating journey through our new reality, introducing us to many of the people and ideas now creating and shaping our future and that of our fellow creatures. At the end, the book allows the reader to think about the ultimate future of humanity.

2. Age of Ambition: Chasing Fortune, Truth, and Faith in the New China
A non-fiction book written by Evan Osnos, a staff writer at The New Yorker, the book is a firsthand account of the authors travel in China, where he interviewed people swept up by economic, political, and social change. This book is considered to be a vibrant, colorful, and revelatory inner history of China during a moment of profound transformation. A must read for all westerners as it gives a unique insight into the radical change that the country is currently going through and how it is shaping the future of business.

3. The People’s Platform: Taking Back Power and Culture in the Digital Age
This unique book is written by documentary filmmaker and activist Astra Taylor. If you use the internet, then this book is a must read. The book analysis how the Internet changes and affects today’s culture, from journalism to music. The author lays out one of the smartest arguments about the nature and effect of technology in our digital age. This remarkable book talks about how the internet is slowly becoming the people’s platform and the ongoing changes that it is brings with it.

4. Everyday Sexism
Or more popularly known as The Everyday Sexism Project, is a website founded on 16 April 2012 by Laura Bates, a British feminist writer. The objective of the site is to document everyday examples of sexism as reported by contributors, later adapted into a book. This bold, jaunty and ultimately intelligent book documents the verbal and physical abuse a lot of women have to put up with, predominantly by men, almost on a daily basis in the UK & US. This is a wonderful book that details the struggles that women face in everyday corporate life due to sexism/misogyny. It is eye opening and well researched.

5. Think Like a Freak: The Authors of Freakonomics Offer to Retrain Your Brain
Written by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner, this book teaches us all to think more productively, more creatively, more rationally i.e. to think like a “Freak”. The author’s argument ranges from business to philanthropy to sports to politics, all with the goal of retraining your brain. With their trademark blend of captivating storytelling and unconventional analysis, the authors ultimately induce the reader to think with an open mind and come up with unique concepts and ideas.

What is your competitive advantage?

Competative advantageIf you think you are the only one selling a certain kind of product or offering a niche services, then think again! If you look around you would see that there are many entrepreneurs and business owners that are constantly trying to do things differently, or trying to solve a problem in the most innovative ways. So how does one get an edge over their competitors in the market? Though you might be offering the same product or service, but how can you stand apart in the competition and also get noticed?

With the changing global economy, finding your businesses’ competitive advantage has become the most critical aspect and to add to that, the way you market that advantage will eventually play a key role in how you succeed in the market place. In simple terms, competitive advantage is something that occurs when a business develops certain attribute or characteristic that allows it to stand out and outperform its competitors. This unique advantage could be things like access to specific resources, skilled manpower a specific business model and/or technology. All of this could help in creating a unique product or service or even act as a competitive aid in the overall business process (for example, better identification and understanding of customers).

While identifying your advantage, try to divide your competitive strategy into three broad categories:

- Expertise: If you are a specialist in your field and think that you are offering a cutting-edge product or service, then expertise is something you would need to focus on while marketing your competitive advantage. Also, if you or your business has been involved in one industry for a number of years, you can add that to your competitive advantage.

- Business Process: If you feel you manage your business better than your competition then that is something you could show as your competitive advantage. Focus on your results based and customer centric approach by including testimonials and case studies in your marketing material. While marketing your business process you would need to always keep in mind that your high quality staff is the most critical piece to the success of your business.

- Relationships: If you spend the time making your customers feel special and understood, then focusing on your customer relationships might be the way to go. Though there are potential risks involved in this option because you would need to dedicate time and energy to these relationships and that may mean you can only take on a select number of customers at a time. However, it helps if you are able to build a good ongoing business relationship with your customers and market that advantage at the right time.

As an entrepreneur it is important to analyze your business and find that unique aspect that will make your product or service stands out from your competitors. It is important to always focus on one area or aspect and market it as your competitive advantage, rather than focusing on multiple advantages and marketing them all together. It is always advisable to start small and slowly penetrate the market with your uniqueness that would eventually offer you a long lasting competitive advantage.

Divide your market

PieChart-512Managing a profitable business is all about understanding your customer’s behaviors and needs and providing services or products that rightly fulfil those needs. As an entrepreneur it is important to notice the essence of valued customers and their different types. Having a holistic view of the business objective is important, but knowing your customers and how they form a buyer’s market is also important. Market segmentation helps us define this customer base in a market scenario. It refers to the division of a set of consumers into people with similar needs and wants. Market segmentation allows for a better allocation of a firm’s finite resources and offerings.

How are markets divided?
In a typical business set-up, markets may be divided into several sub-markets or categories based on several sources. For example, any market segmented into sub-markets on the basis of geographic location is known as Geographic Segmentation. Examples of such division are nations, states, regions, provinces, districts, counties, cities or even neighborhoods. Similarly, a market split into sub-segments on the basis of variables such as age, gender, sex, family, income, education, religion, culture, occupation, profession, ethnicity etc is known as demographic segmentation. There are many other categories and sub-categories that a market can be divided into, based on your business or marketing needs.

Customer behavior

While segmenting markets it is also important to keep in mind that your customer are just not numbers, but are humans and have specific needs and behaviors. For example, as you analyze your potential market you would notice that some users may be classed as heavy users of your product or service while others as light users. Some may be just first time user while other are occasional users only. So it is also important to keep the behavioral aspect in mind.

Segmentation with the help of big data

Technology has made market segmentation easier; however with the advent of the big data phenomena, businesses are finding it difficult to keep pace with the huge amount of varied information available. The big data technology is changing the way consumers comprehend brands, increasingly through multiple channels and in multiple ways. This, in turn is changing the way consumers interact with brands, and the way they share their experiences. Business owners have understood the importance of this new technology and are finding innovative ways of funneling out relevant customer information that will help them easily compartmentalize customers into different segments. It has now become easier to make detailed categories and sub-categories within a given market and segment the customer data into more detailed sections.

Segmentation is the first critical step in marketing, and the basis towards satisfying needs of your customer and gaining overall market profitably. It is often the mix of where-what-who and why (the benefit or need) which is driving the segmentation. The grouping together of customers with common needs makes it possible to select target customers of interest and set marketing objectives for each of those segments. Once the objectives have been set, strategies can be developed to meet the objectives using the tactical blend of product, price, promotion and place.

Mind your language

Mind your languageIn the advertising and marketing world its important to be cautious about the kind of language and tone you use while communicating with your internal and external customers. Any company or enterprise, irrespective of the industry, has to be aware of the fact that they have to maintain a consistent brand image. The language and the tone of communication plays a very critical role in defining and maintaining that brand image. Brand language is the body of words, phrases, and terms that an organization uses to describe its purpose or in reference to its products or services.

While defining a brand language for a company it is important to be careful about the choice of words and the tone used. Here are the 5 benefits of choosing the right brand language for your company:

- Its all about Keywords: Ask your customers this: What are the words that come into their minds when they think about your business or brand? For example over 80 percent of the world’s population directly associates “dreams,” “creativity, “fantasy,” “smiles,” “magic,” and “generation” with the Disney brand. So its important to carefully chose the words that you use while communicating with customers. Its like offering a visual cue i.e. the moment someone sees your brand or company, they should associate it with certain keywords.

- Build Relationships: Your tone will clearly signify how good you are with your own company objectives and the brand. Many brands use formal language, and that directly reflects in the way they deal with their customers. A more relaxed, friendly or catchy tone should be used if the company actually lives those values. So if your tone does not reflect your company values and your personality, your communications will always appear awkward.

- Be positive – The key to successful branding is to chose words and a tone that gives a positive effect in the minds of the customers. When positive words become strongly associated with particular brands, these words can become assets, to the extent that competing brands may find the words difficult to use. For example words used by brands such as Kellogg’s and Gillette i.e, healthy, masculine etc.

- Make it simple yet sharp: It is important to use a language that is easily understood by the masses but it should have sharp edges that cut across the normal patter of communications. Take your language cues from your company values, your brand personality and most importantly your customers. Listen to what customers say about their experiences and use those as keywords. With the advent of the internet, companies and brands have become extremely involved in social media and online listening and are actively monitoring the  most searched words, hashtags that people are interested in, most popular categories under a business and industry etc.

- Build a Perspective: It is not about what a company says, its about what your customers here or perceive. Words used should build a perspective in the minds of the customers. For example when we think of Kellogg’s we think of words such Breakfast, Snacks, Recipes, Cereal etc, but the perspective it offers to its customers is healthy and uplifting. So its important to always keep the perspective in mind while choosing the words to be used to define a brand, because at the end of the day its all about your customers.

Q&A with Rahul Varshneya

imageedit_2_6007827613Q. What is your favorite aspect of being an entrepreneur?

A. My favorite aspect of being an entrepreneur is the fact that you truly define your success. You will grow as much as you really want to and that there’s no one else that controls your fate.

Q. What do you feel is the major difference between entrepreneurs and those who work for someone else?

A. Like I mentioned earlier, the biggest difference in my opinion is that Entrepreneurs get to define their own path to success. They go as far as they can imagine. Now one can argue the same for those who work for others, but those people most often don’t control the fate of the company directly. Being an entrepreneur is all about taking decisions that decide their fate as well as that of the company’s.

Q. What ignited the spark in you to start a new business venture or to make significant changes in an existing business?

A. The spark was fueled by a problem that I personally faced, or I saw someone that I was connected to, face. All the companies that I previously started were based off that and the same goes for the current business as well. The services arm (Arkenea) was launched to help entrepreneurs and businesses to deliver a fantastic user experience to their customers through technology and the product (Foster) helps these startups and small businesses to keep their audience engaged by sharing engaging content. The problem that Arkenea was started to solve was faced by my co-founder and I when working in our previous organization. And for Foster, the problem emerged when we were looking for a solution that could help Arkenea keep its audience engaged to project ourselves as experts in the industry, as well as help keep the brand alive in the audiences’ minds.

Q. How do you find people to bring into your organization that truly care about the organization the way you do?

A. This is the biggest challenge for most companies. There isn’t an easy solution or the right way to this. There are many things that send across a certain message to the potential employee as well as gauge their interest and culture-fit for the company. We spend a lot of time telling them about us, our values and culture to make sure they realize what they’re getting into. We lay a significant focus on getting a buy-in from the employee and we ensure these are the right reasons they’re joining the company for, by clearly laying out the growth path for the employee. Once the employee joins, the ‘care’ part is built over a period of time by engaging them in certain activities apart from their KRAs where they feel they play a role in the organization’s growth.

Q. How do you generate new ideas?

A. The best ideas come from problems. I look at day to day problems and gather information on how intrinsic or deeper it is. If it is something that someone would pay to solve, then I look for a way to solve that problem in the most efficient and user-friendly manner. That is how I generate new ideas.

Q. What motivates you?

A. The biggest motivation is knowing that what you do actually makes a difference to someone’s life in a direct manner. That keeps me going day after day!

Q. If you could talk to one person from history, who would it be and why?

A. I’m not sure if you’d consider Steve Jobs as part of history, but the way I look at it, he would be one person that I would surely love to meet and talk. Steve Jobs somehow knew the pulse of the market and knew how to interpret insights into experiences for consumers. He had an eye for flawless execution and would leave no stone unturned in making every product clearly stand out in the market. Steve Jobs is my hero.

Q. What have been some of your failures, and what have you learned from them?

A. There have been many failures along the way of starting and running a few companies. Even with the existing ones, you keep testing hypothesis to see if it can get traction. Sometimes it works, sometimes it fails. But if I would have learnt one thing, that would be to be persistent. I love this quote from Albert Einstein, who said that, “It’s not that I’m so smart, it’s just that I stay with the problems longer.” If you stay with the problem long enough being committed to finding a solution that works, something that finally resonates with your customers, you will find a solution and find success in what you’re doing. Most often, people quit. Quitting, according to me is the biggest failure.

Q. Do you believe there is some sort of pattern or formula to becoming a successful entrepreneur?

A. There can never be a pattern or formula for becoming successful. If there were, wouldn’t everyone be just successful? One of the other things is that everyone’s definition of success is different. Would you call 1 million downloaded a success or the one that received $100,000 in revenues? Is making $1 million a year successful or making $1 billion finally called success? In my view, success means you enjoy every waking moment of your life doing what you love.

Q. What would you say are the top three skills needed to be a successful entrepreneur?

A. The top three skills according to me would be Persistence – to stay with the problem long enough to find a solution, Focus – laser-sharp focus to get things done and Humility – to accept your mistakes and customers’ feedback, and learn from them.

Rahul Varshneya is the co-founder of Arkenea LLC which helps entrepreneurs and businesses build engaging mobile apps. Click here to subscribe to his free email course on maximizing app downloads.

Find a Mentor

imageedit_2_7958483912You might have the greatest start-up idea or have strong financial backing to kick-start your business, and to add to that, you might also have the knowledge and industry experience to get started on your entrepreneur journey, but ask yourself this: wouldn’t you rather ALSO have someone like a guide who could help you, or support you through the whole process of becoming a successful business owner?

A good mentor is what you need! They help you think through the start-up phase with a more experienced outlook; suggest ways to do things the right way and sometimes also help you with necessary industry knowledge or know-how that you might be missing. A mentor is someone who understands your perspective or perhaps has walked the same path that you decide to embark upon. A good mentor will be there to motivate you and identify your achievements and also give you a cautious heads up when crisis strike.

Here are a few points to remember while finding a mentor:

Be ready to be mentored: This is one of the most necessary characteristics of a wannabe entrepreneur. If you have an “I know it all” attitude then you are not open for coaching or mentoring. If you want to learn and grow fast, then you should be willing to consider ideas that may not match your expectations or opinions. Your business ideas and approach might be perfect for you, but another viewpoint will help you get a broader perspective about the situation, and will help you make the right move.

Networking is Key: As an entrepreneur, networking should be your second nature. Your approach towards networking should not be just to build customers or associates, but to find people who you could learn from, people you think could be potential mentors for you. Remember, networking is not about sending bulk email or handing out business cards to people you meet at a seminar or an event, it’s about making the effort to connect with people, collaborating, learning and adding value.

A good mentor is someone who has had success as an entrepreneur: According to statistics, the very best mentors are usually those who have been or are entrepreneurs themselves. A good mentor is someone who has walked the path of entrepreneurship and has gained the required experience, which is not long ago. Such mentors have been through the phases that you are going through and genuinely want you to succeed as well. In a typical situation, you should be able to see yourself “succeeding” the same way your mentor is today.

Thank your mentors and Pay it forward: It is always important to acknowledge and thank people who have helped you. Generally a good mentor would not be in it for the money, but would want others to grow. It is important to find ways to thank your mentor for all the support and help they provide you. Last but not the least, try to pay it forward i.e. you may never be able to pay your mentors back, but you can recognize what they have done for you by becoming a mentor to others.