small business

Rocky and the Power of Failure

(Spoilers ahead)

The best movies in the “Rocky” franchise are not concerned with winning or losing, but about drive, ability and performance. Rocky may be synonymous with Eye-of-The-Tiger-themed training montages and “Yo! Adrian!” catchphrases, but at their core, the best Rocky films are deeply personal stories of perseverance.

In the original “Rocky,” the titular hero isn’t interested in whether he can actually beat heavyweight champion Apollo Creed — winning is a secondary consideration. Rather, as he confesses one night to Adrian, Rocky needs to know whether he has it within him to “go the distance.” That is, to go 15 rounds with Apollo without getting knocked out or otherwise having the fight stopped. That’s where Rocky’s self-worth lies, and how he’ll prove to everyone that’s he’s more than just a “bum,” to use the film’s parlance.

Rocky II’s a good movie, too, but it doesn’t have the emotional resonance as the first film. Rocky III-V continued with diminished returns. It’s worth noting that, especially in the case of III and IV, the franchise becomes more invested with whether Rocky can beat the Big Bad at the end — whether that’s Mr. T or Dolph Lungren. Those films are preoccupied more with man vs man than man vs self. To me, that’s what makes the sequels a whole lot less interesting, (even despite the appearance of a young Hulk Hogan in III or a musical spot by James Brown in IV).

The franchise finds its footing again with “Rocky Balboa” (2006) and the most excellent “Creed” (2015). Like the original, the latest entries in the series are less about a hero fighting a villain and but rather a hero fighting for himself.

Spoiler ahead: The best Rocky films (“Rocky,” “Rocky Balboa” and “Creed”) are the ones where Rocky loses.

So why am I writing about Rocky? Because there’s a good chance your business is going to fail. The small business survival rate, after six years, falls to just 40 percent

There’s numerous reasons why businesses fail, and they’re not all in our control. Economics both macro and micro, disasters natural and man-made and emerging technologies all contribute to uncertainty. We all lose sometimes.

When we first meet Rocky, he’s a part-time “ham and egger” fighting in boxing clubs. He’s alone except for his pet turtles, making money working for a loan shark. His best days are far enough behind him that when challenged to fight champion Apollo Creed as a lark, he initially declines. Rocky fails to beat Apollo Creed, but by at least giving it a shot, he ends the film in a much better place. He found his self-worth in his quest to go the distance. He becomes a legitimate athlete.

He has Adrian.

Whether in business or in life, we mustn’t shirk a challenge.

That “Rocky” got made at all is somewhat of a minor miracle, and is a testament to the tenacity of writer and star Sylvester Stallone. Stallone recalled how, after he finally sold the script, the studio was reluctant to let him star. A relative unknown, Stallone pushed until he got the movie made his way — even turning down a $350,000 offer for the script without him starring. “Rocky” went on to win Best Picture, launched a franchise and created an iconic character.

Rocky teaches us that success doesn’t always mean we win, or that we are considered the best in our field. Sometimes success means going the distance and defying expectations of others or of ourselves.

It’s one of life’s paradoxes that in losing, sometimes we win.

For Further Reading

From Startup Dope: 5 Life Lessons Rocky Balboa taught us

From People.com: 10 Life Lessons We Can Learn from Rocky Balboa

From Brightscope.com: Eye of the Tiger – What Rocky Taught Me About Life and Business

You’re the Boss (New York Times): What “Rocky” Teaches Entrepreneurs

Can Your Phone Do That?

In addition to phone cases that do more, there are lots of accessories and attachments available that can transform your phone into any other tool you may need for your business. I couldn’t cover ALL the possible phone accessories/attachments in one blog post, since there are so many (and you can only really use one or two at a time, otherwise you’d have an Inspector Gadget phone). The following phone related gadgets are practical and affordable, plus their application can mean saving money on an extra piece of equipment.

Car Mount. This is helpful for people who travel a lot for work related purposes, but it can also be useful if you need a mount for pretty much any reason. This mount attaches to many different surfaces, so you can set it up on your window, wall, kitchen counter, and pretty much anywhere else. Think about anytime you’ve been using Google Maps on your phone for directions while trying to drive- not exactly a safe situation unless you have an extra arm. There are several different types of mounts available for different prices, but here is a recent list of 17 to get an idea.

Square Reader: If you’ve ever needed to accept a card payment from a customer on the go or without a retail setup, the Square Reader lets you swipe from your phone. To get the reader, all you have to do is sign up for a Square account and you’ll get the magstripe reader. Although it costs a little extra, you can purchase a Square Chip Reader for $29 that reads both chip cards and the usual stripe. Either way, the processing fee is 2.75% (which, if you consider the convenience factor is a bit of a fair trade). The reader works online and offline, so you don’t have to deal with the hassle of a bad internet/data connection in order to accept payments.

Keyboard. A useful tool for freelancers/people who may not have the budget to purchase a laptop but need to work on the go. Typing on your phone’s keypad is fine for shorter content, but as someone who has to type a lot of longer content, that tiny keyboard gets old fast. Some keyboards can be connected physically or through Bluetooth. Some of these keyboards range from $30-$130, depending on the brand. A couple features to consider- whether or not it comes with a stand (which I’d recommend if you don’t already have one to keep your phone upright while you type), and whether or not you want it to fold (which may be useful if you pack up and go a lot).

Dongles. Need to connect your phone to a projector? Certain dongles (the funny name for certain cords that connect your phone to another device) can hook you up. This Apple Lightning Digital AV Adapter will connect your phone to a projector or any compatible AV device. For Samsung users, this HDMI cable will also do the trick. It’s also a great way to do movie night (not really a business application, but a fun idea nevertheless).

Selfie Stick. Don’t knock it till you try it. Selfie sticks are not the magic wand of narcissistic millennials, they can also have a business application. You can use them to get a better vantage point for a picture, recording live videos, and more. (Additional ideas for using a selfie stick include self defense and feeding your pets). Selfie Sticks may seem like a frivolous phone accessory for your business, but you’d be surprised at how handy they can actually be.

Are there any practical phone accessories you’ve found helpful that got neglected in this post? Let us know! We love hearing about useful tech stuff 🙂

 

Kassie is a distance runner and a distance reader really. She lives in Ellsworth Maine and, while she might be quiet when you meet her, will throw out something witty when you least expect it.

Prisma & Co: The Business Application

Last week, I shared some of the new and exciting apps that have emerged recently. In the conclusion of that post, I recommended trying out one or all of them just for fun. While the fun factor still stands, this week we’re going to explore some ways that one of these apps can be used in business marketing.

Facebook 360

Unfortunately, you can’t upload a Facebook 360 image to a business page yet on Facebook, just personal profiles. However, if you’re really hoping to upload one of these, you can upload it to your personal profile, make that particular post public, and share it as your business. It’s a lot of extra steps for now, but we’re guessing businesses will be able to upload 360 images in the near future.

Prisma

There aren’t many examples of businesses incorporating Prisma in their marketing at the moment, however, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try it out. One idea is using it to spruce up a “regular” picture of your business (which is what we did below with Anchorspace).

Original

Original

Prisma Edited

Prisma Edited

Another idea is taking a featured image for one of your blog posts and making it into something interesting (there’s a new Abstract filter that seems pretty fun). Basically, when an app like this is in it’s infancy, you have a wide creative range- go ahead and see what you can create!

Boomerang

Boomerang came out almost a year ago, and it’s still being used consistently by businesses as part of their marketing. As one of Instagram’s satellite apps, it’s easy to share content on social media platforms (Instagram and Facebook) that you likely already have a presence on. It’s also easy to use- all you do is download the app, hold down a button to record a video, and save. Easy shareability and use are important characteristics for marketing apps and encouraging people to adapt a new social media platform in general.

Similar to GIF for business, Boomerang’s business application creates a way to visually grab your customer’s attention. It creates something eyecatching that will grab people’s attention as they scroll through their Instagram feed. As this article points out, “GIFs could potentially be the next emoji,” and although Boomerang videos technically aren’t GIFs, it’s not a huge leap. Boomerangs are easier to make from scratch than GIFs, as mentioned before, all you do is press a button. The one downside: to record on Boomerang you have to be within the app itself (meaning you can’t prerecord on your phone’s camera and reformat), which can make it hard to capture spontaneous footage.

What should you share? 

One of the trickier parts of Boomerang can be finding out what to share. Some ideas include your a fun shot of your storefront/office/physical location:

Happy Friday! By @stuporfluous

A video posted by Boomerang from Instagram (@boomerangfrominstagram) on

Show off a product:

Squad up! ???? by @usabasketball & @easymoneysniper

A video posted by Boomerang from Instagram (@boomerangfrominstagram) on

Or show off your goofy side:

Just rolling by ? with @xantheb

A video posted by Boomerang from Instagram (@boomerangfrominstagram) on

Since Boomerang videos are on an infinite loop, using video with some action or movement typically works best. A common Boomerang example is the blowing bubblegum loop. Reaction clips (think like a mime-exaggerated, dramatic expressions), jumping and throwing are also pretty common. It’s fun to do trial and error with, too- you never know when you’ll strike gold!

If you’re more interested in showing quick demonstrations or tours, Hyperlapse is probably a better Instagram satellite app. This creates a time-lapse video (or a sped up video) that’s longer than the 1 second Boomerang and doesn’t loop back and forth. Although it might not be the best for in-depth presentations, Hyperlapse can create a teaser video that creates interest and brings people to your website or store for more information/fact gathering.

As I said last week, Boomerang is a fun, easy to use app, and can bring an element of fun to your business marketing.

Kassie is a distance runner and a distance reader really. She lives in Ellsworth Maine and, while she might be quiet when you meet her, will throw out something witty when you least expect it.

Get It While It’s Hot (Ideas for Marketing in the Summer)

Happy woman jumping on blossom meadow. Beautiful day on field.For our area, summer is an important time for the local economy. From Memorial Day Weekend to mid-October, the area comes alive with businesses reopening for the season and lots of visitors. As marketers, we tend to have a watchful eye on what different businesses are doing to succeed in the summer market.

Sidewalk Fun. You’ve probably seen posts go by picturing clever sidewalk signs in front of restaurants. We’ve seen some from local businesses like MDI Ice Cream that are witty and well-illustrated. If done well, sidewalk sings/art can have roughly two different effects.

One, it catches the attention of people walking around on foot, and they decide to check your business out.

Two A, you take a picture of your sidewalk creation and share it on social media, where it can reach a wider audience (and puts you on the radar of people who aren’t around to see it IRL). Two B, the aforementioned people walking around town are so entertained by your sidewalk creation that they take a picture and share it on their social media. This has a similar result as Two A, but with an entirely different audience.

Outdoor and Indoor Options. Some people like to sit inside and others prefer outdoor seating, and most places (at least restaurants) have options for both indoor and outdoor seating. And it’s not just an idea for people who sell food or refreshments. I remember being a kid and walking around small coastal towns where my mom would want to go into a store or business that wasn’t really fun for a kid. And since we were walking around, I wanted to park it somewhere. Maybe it’s a bench outside, or places to sit inside, but it’s definitely a nice touch to have something on the outside and something on the inside, ideally a place for people to sit a spell and look around at your fabulous business.

If you really don’t have space, try to put out a dog water bowl. It gives a friendly, laid back touch… and gives dogs walking by a reason to stop and rest.

Directions and Referrals. Every now and then, people stop in to ask us for directions to a certain business, a place that sells/has X, or just recommendations in general. This just requires having a general knowledge of the area. Most people want to know about dog or kid friendly places, good hiking, where to find a lobster meal or ice cream, or want to know what a local would recommend. To handle these requests offline, you could have maps of the area (if there are any available) on hand to give out or refer to. In terms of online requests, you could dedicate a page of your website to “Things to Do” or “Our Favorite Local Places.” You could even get each employee to contribute their top recommendation for visitors.

Have physical copies of business cards or rack cards of your favorite places ready to go… and those businesses may do the same for you.

Online Menus/Information. A lot of travel-savvy people will do some reconnaissance before finding a place to eat, and the first place they’ll look is online, either a website or Facebook. Fortunately these are easy to set up, it just requires a bit of data entry. There are also plenty of free apps that will display your menu and allow for easy updates. I’ve used both MenuTab for Facebook and OpenMenu (which has you build one menu and lets you share everywhere, as opposed to entering the same information 3 times in 3 different places). Think of making frequently asked questions like tour times, services, and more easy to access from your website and social media.

As we head into a holiday weekend, some of these ideas may give you some of your own ideas for marketing in the summertime. At the very least, you’ll want to have the local ice cream places memorized!

Kassie is a distance runner and a distance reader really. She lives in Ellsworth Maine and, while she might be quiet when you meet her, will throw out something witty when you least expect it.

Why We Don’t Do it All

Occasionally, we have clients and non-clients ask if Breaking Even can help them with certain services that, as a company, we’ve decided not to get into (like logos, print design, and video production). “But we know some people who do exactly _____.” “Is there anyone who does all of this stuff in-house?” Well…not really.

I suppose there are some larger companies that will churn out all these services for you, and that in theory, keeping all these services in one place sounds like less work to manage. In theory. There’s something to be said for small businesses that specialize, though, so don’t write them off just yet (especially since their choice to specialize can be beneficial to you).

The “divide and conquer” method was helpful when it came to getting more done in early civilization, and it’s clearly successful. Humans who knew what was what in the plant world grew and gathered. More athletic types with lots of stamina and endurance, not to mention weapon wielding abilities, were in charge of hunting. Some people learned how to build houses, others to make jewelry and clothing. Division of labor also had a pretty significant role in the Industrial Revolution and mass production in factories, but that’s probably enough of a history lesson. Throughout human history, division of labor has been present in some capacity, and generally, we agree that this specialization allows society to move forward.

That’s not to say we shouldn’t know how to do certain things just because we don’t have to. For instance, I can (and have) changed the oil in my own car. It’s not something I need to know how to do, but it helps me understand the basics of how my car works. And what the underbelly looks like. Based on my level of skill (very little), frequency of the task (once every few months), time it takes (way too long), and my level of interest (non-existent, I am only interested in having a running car), 98% of the time, I just take it to a mechanic.

This more or less looks like what we’ve done here at Breaking Even Communications. Yes, we can code a bit. Yes, we know about fonts and can dabble in Photoshop. But we’d rather leave that stuff to the people who are actually passionate about them, while we work on the stuff we’re passionate about. And that’s good for you, too:

You Get the Best Service.  I’m hardly the best candidate for changing the oil in my own car. Yes, we can code a bit. We could probably photoshop some rack cards for you, if you asked us. Not to boast, but we’re pretty intelligent people, and could probably tackle almost any problem our clients came to us with. Then why do we refer people? Simple. Just because we’re capable of performing a task doesn’t ensure that it’s in the best interest of our clients.

In other words, “Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.” And if we refer to our graphic designer friends, they can refer internet marketing work to us. And we can all do more of what we like best.

It Spreads Risk. Let’s go back to my hunter-gatherer example. A mastodon has been seen nearby, so the hunters are going to go on a trip to hunt it down. No one is really sure how long this hunting trip will take, but it’s cool, because the gatherers are still around to provide food for everyone.

Spreading the risk benefits the business side of things, sure, but customers also reap the benefits. For instance, if our web hosts  away on vacation and one of our mutual clients is having an email problem, we can tag in. Working with other companies that have overlapping skills means you have a team working for you, even if geographically or otherwise separated in different companies.

Smaller Companies Have Lower Turnover. Smaller businesses and their employees generally have higher mental/emotional stakes in their work. There’s a different dynamic than what you’ll find at a large company or corporation. We really get into our work and finding solutions for our clients, and it’s pretty amazing that we get to collaborate with like-minded small businesses during some projects. And at the end of the day, that means you’re getting the best product we can deliver.

By contrast, we’ve gone through four payroll reps in four years at our larger local payroll company. So asking yourself if you want to deal with the same COMPANY or the same PERSON month to month may be a good distinction to make.

There Is A Lot Of Information To Keep Up With. The idea here that it’s hard to stay ahead on all technology. 95% of the world’s data has been created in the last two years and it’s not typically data about the Macedonians. We can be smarter faster by specializing.

Kassie is a distance runner and a distance reader really. She lives in Ellsworth Maine and, while she might be quiet when you meet her, will throw out something witty when you least expect it.

Hey, What’s the Blog Idea?

Told with some help from Will Ferrell.

When people ask us if they should have a blog on their website, they aren’t usually expecting to hear “Well, it depends.” Do I think blogs can be beneficial to businesses and websites? Absolutely. But, not all businesses have the resources- that is, time- to blog consistently and run the business. Like anything, if you know that you don’t have the time/energy to commit, then it’s best to leave it alone. Sticking to a consistent schedule (even if it’s only once a week) is kind of important for followers. Recently, I’ve gotten hooked on this awesome podcast (it’s actually 70% of why I watch the Housewives in the first place), and it only took me a week to decipher the schedule (not that it was particularly difficult). Every Wednesday on my commute home, I look forward to listening to the podcast that discusses Real Housewives of Orange County. And, because Ronnie and Ben have a consistent schedule, it’s become part of my weekly routine. Wednesdays are my favorite days of the week. It’s going to be tough when the season ends.

But if you can commit to something consistent and relatively frequent (once a month probably won’t cut it), then yes, a blog can do wonders for you. Here are some unique ways that a blog can do wonders for your business:

Prove you know things.

"...People know me."

“…People know me.”

I don’t mean this in a “I’m kind of a big deal…People know me” way or by spontaneously shouting things like “I party with John-John Kennedy!“, to go back to the Housewives (get it together, Sonja). Sharing industry knowledge shows that as a business, you know what’s what (even if, like Sonja, you may not always know who’s who). Employ the Internet has an excellent, easy to digest article all about this subject. If you’re in the tech industry, sharing information about new releases, recalls, or innovative ways for people to use devices demonstrates that hey, you know a thing or two about this whole technology business. Plus, you’re even willing to share that knowledge with other people.

But hey, won’t people just take my information and do their own thing? There is always that possibility. But, most of the time, people will read your blog and feel a bit daunted about going out and winging it on their own. Or, feeling confident with the wealth of information they’ve acquired, they roll up their sleeves and realize “Oh wait…this isn’t nearly as easy as I thought.” Either way, they’ll most likely remember you as the original source of their information and contact you for help.

Who knows, you might totally blow people's minds with all your knowledge.

Who knows, you might totally blow people’s minds with all your knowledge.

They aren’t just a “one and done” deal. You may think that nothing on the internet is permanent, but as this lesson in Twitter shows, old content that you may thing has disappeared isn’t necessarily gone forever. A more relevant example comes from our own blog. The posts that gain the most attention are those that were written a couple years ago (and this is without any extra sharing or extra promoting on our part). Nicole’s 2010 post on Mailchimp vs. Constant Contact is still in our top 10 most visited pages. This particular breed of posts (referred to in this Hubspot article as “compounding blog posts“) are basically golden eggs of a blog. While they may not directly be making you any money, they have a snowball effect that picks up as time goes on. That being said, blogs are not necessarily the place to go for instant gratification. Compounding blog posts start off handheld snowball size- you aren’t coming out of the gates with a boulder sized snowball.

Not all of your blog posts are going to compound. According to Hubspot, 1 in 10 blog posts will compound rather than decay. Generally, a compounding blog post has a title that mimics something people would search for (think about it: people trying to decide between Mailchimp and Constant Contact are probably going to search for something like “Mailchimp vs. Constant Contact” in a search engine) and cover topics that are “evergreen.” There should be a balance between hot topic ideas (those that are highly relevant now but will probably fizzle out within a month) and those that’ll withstand the test of time.

Mugatu-So-Hot-Right-Now

But will he be hot next season?

People feel like they know you already. Curious people visit websites to do some research prior to making a purchase. In fact, according to this article from Forbes, 33% of millennials consult blogs before purchasing decisions (unclear whether this is a blog written within a business itself or by third parties offering reviews). According to this article from Hubspot, blogs are in the top 5 for trusted online sources. As time goes on, people view advertisements as quick stories or clips, while blogs are seen as more authentic, like a peek behind the mask. When in perusal mode, a blog is often something potential customers use to put out feelers for a business. Speaking from personal experience, I’m usually on the lookout for things like tone (Is it friendly or didactic? Does it match what one would expect for their particular industry? Do they seem like they’d be approachable in real life?), topics (Do they write about the same thing all the time? Are they providing helpful material?), frequency (When was their most recent post?), and of course, the writing itself (words, syntax, the whole nine yards).

bestfriends

I like to imagine that this is how people feel when they read our blog.

We’ve gotten emails from people saying “Hey, we’d really love to work with you on X. I read your blog, and you seem like you’re fun to work with!” Oh…and we know what we’re doing. My point is, many of these people have never met us in real life, so they went to our blog for recon.

No matter what your industry, blogs can bring in business. You just have to think a little outside the box…and be patient.

Kassie is a distance runner and a distance reader really. She lives in Ellsworth Maine and, while she might be quiet when you meet her, will throw out something witty when you least expect it.
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