Should you Participate in the Sharing Economy?

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As a young teen, my first experience with the sharing economy was through a popular file sharing network that suddenly bursted into existence called Napster. Through the network we could all share our songs and albums and have access to a massive worldwide music collection. It offered benefits that were absolutely game changing: downloading individual songs instead of buying complete albums, access to music from the comfort of your home and obtaining music at a fraction of the cost (the cost of learning how to use the program). Little did I know at the time but Napster changed the way music is bought, sold and consumed, forcing the industry as a whole to adapt.

What is the Sharing Economy?

In the article What Is The Sharing Economy at the people who share blog, a concrete definition of the sharing economy is attributed to the following: “The Sharing Economy is a socio-economic ecosystem built around the sharing of human, physical and intellectual resources. It includes the shared creation, production, distribution, trade and consumption of goods and services by different people and organisations.”

In the article The Sharing Economy by Fast Company, the sharing economy is broken into three categories: “first, product-service systems that facilitate the sharing or renting of a product (i.e., car sharing); second, redistribution markets, which enable the re-ownership of a product (i.e., Craigslist); and third, collaborative lifestyles in which assets and skills can be shared (i.e., coworking spaces).”

When we think of the term “sharing” a monetary exchange does not usually come to mind. However, the majority of services that use this model, monetize their offerings. In the sharing economy, consumers are paying for “access” instead of “ownership”. The sharing economy is perfect for those that desire limited usage of a good or service or that don’t mind sharing their own goods or services with others.

Should you become a consumer in the sharing economy?

The major advantage to becoming a consumer in the sharing economy is the cost effectiveness. Shared goods and services are offered at a lower cost than traditional options. For example, the ride sharing services Uber and Lyft offer significantly lower fares than taxis.

In the hotel and accomodation sector, services like airbnb and couchsurfing allow travelers to obtain accomodation in the homes of strangers who participate as hosts. This is a beneficial arrangement for travelers as they reduce their costs of accomodation. Also, this arrangement is beneficial for the added experience factor. When travelers share a home with a host, they have the opportunity to form a new friendship and learn more about the city or country they are in from the hosts perspective.

The drawbacks to the sharing economy for the consumer are simple. The issue of trustworthiness is a real concern. The only way to see if the person providing the good or service is trustworthy is consumer reviews and verification systems that are based solely online. Just because some users experiences were good at a particular time and place does not  necessarily mean that your experience will be the same. Also, many of these services like Uber and Lyft are unlicensed which means there is a lack of consumer-protection regulations imposed apon such businesses.

Should you become a worker in the sharing economy?

Becoming a worker in the sharing economy is ideal for those looking for the perks that come with these jobs such as a flexible work schedule, social interaction, networking opportunities and supplemental income. The drawbacks of the sharing economy for workers include: lack of benefits like health insurance or pension plans, unfair wages and personal tax accountability.

While there are drawbacks. Many have seen that the willingness to be strategic is a key to success. For example, car-sharing services can present certain drawbacks to providers like the cost of gas, the wear and tear on their vehicle and the taxes that drivers must take out of their pay. To counteract these disadvantages, it is important to devise certain strategies. One of which is to drive as much as possible during peak hours in order to increase the pay per hour. Also, if you keep track of your gas and other car expenses, you can write those expenses off on your taxes. It is also important to take advantage of carsharing as a unique networking opportunity. While giving someone a ride, you also have the opportunity to talk to them about your business or area of expertise.

The sharing and ownership economies are here for the long run. With a clear understanding of their advantages and disadvantages we can mitigate the negative costs associated with both systems and choose the option that is best for any given scenario.

 

 

 

4 Ways You Can Frame Pain Points in Your Messages to Customers

Illustrating the problem you solve in an effective manner is a way to show potential customers you confidently understand your industry, their pains and how you can help them. When brainstorming copy for a new website or marketing visual, use the pain points you solve for your customers as the starting point. As with any design project, art follows copy. After you’ve determined your pain points, frame each point appropriately in a unique context to help your message stand out.

Pain points are psychological triggers, that allure and build interest, but do not over exaggerate a problem or use false information to trick an individual.

The purpose of a pain point is to introduce the reader to a real problem and dramatize the issue into a context the reader can understand immediately. A pain point is a tool and opportunity to explain the direct problem and validate the severity of the issue with credible facts and verified data.

Depending on your audience, the way to frame a pain point differs. There’s framing methods such as envy, controversy and building false desires, but those are used for link-baiting not telling the true value and story of your business. Below is 4 ways you can frame a pain point to tell the story of your business, including notes when each framing method is wise to use.

Shock

Link the pain point to an absurd piece of information your audience can relate to. You can fuse large numbers of people affected by large problems with other prominent health or social issues such as heart disease, cancer, poverty, homelessness, or communicate the figures into relations to the size of cities, states and countries.

As a framing method, shock works well when you are introducing a topic that is unknown, and unfamiliar to the general public. For example, let’s say your business solves a pain point that currently afflicts 500 million people across the globe. Framing a number as high as 500 million is unfathomable to think about, but if you framed that combining the populations of the United States, Canada, and Mexico is still below 500 million, paints the situation in a shocking and understandable manner that can be easily visualized.

Humor

Link the pain point to a humorous idea, using observational, absurd or satirical humor that illustrates the problem in a serious way, but in a scope that one can find funny.

As a framing method, humor works well for money figures. When talking about millions, billions, or trillions of dollars, it’s very difficult to communicate these elevated figures to an audience who doesn’t handle these amounts in their daily life. Very few people do. Using humor, you can frame concepts such as the financial debt of a nation into a narrative that is absurdly funny. For example…currently the USA has $19 trillion in debt. If every worker in America wanted to help pay off this debt equally, each worker would be $152,000 in the red.

Motivating

Linking the pain point into a motivating action, reveals a positive outcome is not far away. You want to explain to the reader that there’s a problem, but it doesn’t deplete their resources, money, or time to solve it, or require some unattainable superhuman level of work.

As a framing method, motivation is an engaging tool to communicate to your reader, that the solution to their pain is only a short distance away. Motivation works well when handling pain points that are emotional. Mental states such as grief, depression and anxiety are pain points that can be relieved from a motivational framing of your solution.

Daunting

Painting the problem to feel like brain torture, ultra time-consuming and mind numbing is a way to communicate a problem as daunting. Think about reading a mortgage word for word or memorizing the terms and conditions for your credit cards. If this was the current solution to your current problem, wouldn’t you want to be aware of a solution that didn’t require mentally exhausting work?

As a framing method, daunting works well for situations that have a reputation for being difficult. The common perception of working with legal, financial and property services are commonly thought of to be daunting and requiring extensive work from their customers along with the perception that these professions are going to find a way to take more from you then they need. If you work in law, the financial sector or real estate you could frame a pain point on how transparent your service and cost is, reducing the daunting aspects that are common in your industry.
If you’re looking to learn more about pain points, here’s a great article containing 15 other ways to frame psychological triggers: https://blog.kissmetrics.com/15-psychological-triggers/

Managing Distractions for Technology Dependent Professionals

Technology is exciting, it brings speed and efficiency to our interactions with the world. With the wide range of applications available to us, we have tools to complete important tasks that once were much more challenging. However, this technology is so engaging with its applications, notifications and messaging capabilities, that it can easily serve as a distraction when focus is critical. The same technologies that help us, can at times hurt our productivity at work.

Technology and productivity

When employers were polled in a recent Career Builder survey, three-quarters expressed that two or more hours a day are lost in productivity due to distractions such as texting, the internet, social media and email. Many employers have policies that prohibit the use of cell phones during work hours and block access to particularly distracting websites that may cause productivity loss. The problem of distraction is particularly challenging for IT professionals that use the internet for troubleshooting and reference tasks and use smartphones to test their applications and websites.

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A contributor to this growing problem is the pervasive belief that multi-tasking itself does not contribute to productivity loss. This multitasking myth was addressed by Dave Crenshaw in a course offered by Lynda.com. In one of the video modules, a timed written exercise is conducted. During the first half of the exercise, two distinct statements are written one at a time. In the second half of the exercise, two statements are then written at the same time by multitasking. At the end of the exercise, it is revealed that the tasks are done slower when done via multitasking. In another video module the instructor then demonstrates that multitasking itself causes each task to take longer.

Managing distractions

To address this problem there are several solutions:

  1. Schedule “play breaks”: This is time specifically set aside for checking social media, email and text messages apart from working hours. Having a specific time to handle these concerns takes away the immediate need for them to be addressed in the moment.
  2. Take note of message ideas: Many message oriented distractions can be handled by quickly jotting down any ideas that come to mind for emails, tweets, text messages etc. These ideas can later be acted upon during the scheduled “play breaks”.
  3. Mindful awareness: In order to avoid these distractions entirely it may be helpful to remain mindful of their root causes. For example, one may feel as though they need a distraction to counteract a particularly frustrating or mundane task faced in the workplace. It is important to remain mindful of this and engage in positive reinforcement concerning the execution of work related tasks. If these sort of tasks have been handled in the past then surely they can be addressed in the present without the use of a distraction.

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If all else fails then there are several applications that work well to control productivity and limit distractions. One such example comes from the leading online platform Upwork which has a software system in place to track freelancers as they complete projects. This app records information such as mouse movements, keyboard activity and random screenshots every 10 minutes. This information is then available for the client to review. There are also applications such as Cold Turkey and Self Control App that block websites for the period of time that the user specifies. This can be great to block access to particularly distracting websites that are frequently visited by the user.

When it comes to technology, it is true that with great power, comes great responsibility. With the right techniques and a little self-discipline, anyone can use technology to its full advantage at work without falling prey to the distractions that hinder productivity.

Design Your Website For Your Customer

Your small business website is an opportunity to take your user on a simple, clear journey. You can craft a single page that tells the story of your business and why your unique venture is valuable to your customer and convert a lead or sale from this interaction. Or, you can take the irrational approach, and make your website visually cool and all about your awesome-ness. When you take the latter approach, please cross your fingers that your site resonates with your customers.

First Impressions Matter

Your website is a tool, a place to educate your customer. It’s fundamentally a middle man who speaks on your behalf to connect you to your customer. When a potential customer lands on your site from a search, link, or social media platform you have mere moments to grab their attention and encourage them to spend their time learning about your business. Whatever first impression your website radiates, will either build a connection or encourage a visitor to click the close button. Single page websites are user-friendly, allowing a reader to scan the page quickly on their device, and make a decision.

What should you show your viewer right away?

It’s simple, but there’s common misconceptions. Your website doesn’t need to be “cool” or “clever.” All you need to do is put the customer’s need first and show them you have relief to their pain(s). The first thing to show a visitor is your name and title, who you help, and what specific problem you solve. Add in other relevant information that is vital to your customer, visuals and/or FAQs, then give a call to action to tell the reader the next step. All key information needs to be above the fold, and fill up the screen before a visitor starts scrolling down.

This positioning of your professional first impression online does 3 crucial things.

  1. If the visitor isn’t who you help or have the problem that you solve, then they know this within seconds and can leave, neither party will lose any time.
  2. If the visitor reads this and they are your ideal customer and have the problem you solve, then why wouldn’t they read on and perform your call to action?
  3. It shows you can communicate who you are and what you do in a simple, clear manner. It’s like your digital elevator pitch that works 24/7. As Einstein said: “If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.

When speaking about the specific problem you solve, should you be brief or elaborate on your solution?

This depends 100% on who your audience is. There’s A/B testing data that shows longer copy around 1200 words work effectively, but so does shorter copy under 400 words. If you need a reference, this blog post is just shy of 800 words.

The length of copy depends on if the person visiting your website already knows what they’re looking for. If your visitors are going to learn something new from your small business, then make the copy longer. But if they already know about you and your business offerings, you can keep it short.

For Example: If you’re a designer that specializes in bamboo wedding jewelry, you need to consider who your audience is, and if they are aware of your product. If you’re getting most of your traffic from a blog that covers a catalog of bamboo wedding items, you can provide an overview about your product and the unique aspects. The viewer is already educated on bamboo wedding products, so you can keep general information brief. But, if you’re getting traffic from a large social platform like Twitter, taking the time and writing a detailed overview of your process, the benefits of bamboo jewelry and other positive facets of your product, will educate your viewer on your business and industry.

Once you hit 500 unique visitors a month on your website, you should consider A/B testing your site.

Each business interacts differently with its customers, testing two pages with different copy, layout structure, images, color and call to action is a way to determine what converts best with your customers. From testing you can experiment to see how your customers use your site, and refine the design into an ideal user-experience as your business grows.

You can sign up with A/B sites which do cost a monthly fee, but unless you have consistent traffic coming in every month, you can hold off for now. The best thing to do is to ask your current customers how user-friendly your site is, then document feedback to implement during the next redesign of your website.

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3 Reasons Most UK Millennials Voted Against #Brexit

Last week, the United Kingdom voted to leave the European Union.  The impact of Brexit was immediately felt around the world as financial markets were mostly in the red the next day and the British Pound hit a 30-year low.  European Union leaders are openly talking about making Brexit painful for the UK to dissuade other countries from leaving. Most younger voters voted ‘Remain’. The majority of older voters, age 65 and up, voted ‘Leave’. Here are a 3 (economic) reasons why Millennials wanted to stay.

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Wall Street Journal Pre-Brexit Survey

1. Pride and Paper

60% of voters surveyed over age 65 wanted Brexit. Brits qualify for a State Pension (similar to U.S. Social Security) at age 65. Reports show that pensioners have the paper and younger folks have high unemployment. Pensioners earn more than the average worker. Essentially, deciding to move out of the European Union was more about pride for pensioners and paper for Millennials.

UK unemployment is currently 5.0% but unemployment for workers age 18 – 25 was 11.9% in April 2016, down from 14.2% the year before. Okay, so, Millennials workers may have had a tough go in the job market. What else?

2. Pence and Sensibility

The UK economy was bustling before Brexit…okay…not so much. Prior to Brexit, there were rounds and rounds of austerity. Unlike the U.S. focus on reducing government spending; the UK sought to shore up budgets by cutting spending, reducing benefits, and increasing taxes. (Remember Grexit?) The rounds of austerity came after the 2008 global financial crisis sparked by the U.S. housing crash. Millennials were already having a tough time, the risk s from Brexit were far too great for this generation. Wait, one last thing…

3. Negatory Abbey

The term NINJA is business lingo for No Income, No Job, No Assets.  Long-term economic trends and recent financial crises have reduced Millennial income and future earning potential. Moreover, Millennials starting a career simply do not have a lot of assets. It’s hard to buy your first home without savings, a job, and money in the bank.

At the end of the day, Brexit just didn’t make sense for UK Millennials who were already struggling. Pensioners had enjoyed years of economic prosperity  and the benefits of social welfare programs like the State Pension and the National Health Services (universal healthcare). UK pensioners, much like U.S. Baby Boomers, have decided to deny Millennials the benefits they are enjoying by voting for Brexit. What do you think?

2 Changes to LinkedIn After the Microsoft Acquisition

A friend emailed me on LinkedIn asking about people I knew in the media industry in Washington, D.C. I figured that I’d log onto LinkedIn and search my network. This was after the Microsoft acquisition. I immediately noticed 2 major differences.

1. Searches Are Rate-Limited

I was not able to see more than 2 pages of my own 1st connections without agreeing to “upgrade my service”. I thought these were my connections???

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2. People Also Viewed

I noticed that in some cases the “People Also Viewed” result list had some of the names blurred and replaced with “LinkedIn Member” even if the individual was already one of my 1st degree connections. I could still see some of the folks in the “People Also Viewed” list; but, ultimately, this feature is also rate-limited. You have to upgrade to LinkedIn Business Plus to access these previously available (and free) features.

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Perhaps this article from CIO.com hits the nail on the head: Microsoft bought LinkedIn for your relationship data. In summary, Microsoft got LinkedIn, all of our professional relationship data; and, all we got is the grand privilege of paying for what was previously free. Innovation FTW!