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The Bite of the Cobra: Overcoming Technology Paralysis in 5 Easy Steps
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the Bite of the Cobra : Overcoming Technology Paralysis in 5 Easy StepsIt’s a sadly familiar story – after the excitement of conducting extensive audience research and crafting a killer initial offer, you find yourself sitting at your computer, staring blankly at the screen in front of you as paralyzing discouragement starts to set in.

Why? It’s all because the awesome technology product that promised hundreds of conversions has suddenly become a setup nightmare.

Just a step away from seeing the fruits of your labor, technology problems can stop you dead in your tracks and make you feel like all of your time and effort have been wasted.

Six months ago, I found myself caught up in a technology tangle, in so deep that I almost convinced myself to give up on my marketing dreams. But, instead of quitting, I took a few simple action steps that got me back on track, and I’m here to share how you can do the same.

Like the deadly bite of a venomous cobra, technology snafus can quickly paralyze your creative genius. With its rapid and sometimes confounding updates, the online world can sneak up on your business and strike as stealthily as that exotic snake, leaving you confused or, worst case, completely derailing your progress.

If you’re struggling with a particularly vexing tech problem, you can take action with these five steps – before paralysis takes over and you lose heart (or momentum).

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CEI 111: Behavioral Economics with Dan Ariely
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If you’ve ever wondered why people do what they do, and make the mistakes they make, you’ll love today’s podcast with Dan Ariely.

Dan is an author, and a leader in the field of behavioral economics, and while that might sound a little too academic, it’s not! Dan’s a charming and funny person, and he has an incredible way of teaching through stories and clever examples.

He’s also the one who can also tell you what your customers will be happy to spend their money on, when it comes to online businesses.

So let’s get started! All you have to do is click the play button below.

Podcast runtime: 23 min 15 seconds | Transcript

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The Forgotten Gift: Using Intuitive Intelligence for Greater Business Success
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gift for Valentine's Day with red hearts

“Have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.” ~ Steve Jobs

Does this scenario sound familiar?

You have a friend who seems to have an uncanny knack of knowing when to start projects and when to hold back, and you wonder how he does it.

When you ask, he answers, “Intuition.”

Maybe you got the feeling that something wasn’t right about your last product launch – but you ignored it, only to discover that the feeling was right all along, and you should’ve paid attention.

Chances are, you’re like most people – thinking that it’s okay to pay attention to your intuition when it comes to minor things like picking a parking spot, but not for important decisions, and definitely not when it comes to your business.

But, what if you’re wrong?

Everyone has intuition, but whether you use it or not is a choice. What if by not trusting your intuition you’re not using all the tools available to you?

Albert Einstein said this about intuition:

“The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift.”

Perhaps it’s time to take a look at this forgotten gift and see how you can use it for greater business success.

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Firepole Funnies #018: Living the Dream
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Comic18

Enjoying the Firepole Funnies?

If you liked what you read here, please let Christina (and the rest of the Firepole team) know in the comments below. Feel free to suggest future comic strip ideas – we can’t guarantee we’ll use your idea, but we’re always open to suggestions!
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7 Reasons Why an April Fool’s Day Prank is Great for Marketing
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20150402Every year on April Fool’s Day, the marketing world goes wild. Big brands from Google to  Frito-Lay jump on the bandwagon, launching imaginary new products and announcing new corporate missions in an effort to outdo each other with the best prank of the season. But why? Why is April Fool’s so beloved by marketers? What does it do for a marketing strategy — and should you be doing it next year?

Maybe — but maybe not. Humor is a powerful marketing tool, and April is a great excuse to use it even if it’s not part of your usual branding. But like all marketing strategies, you shouldn’t implement it just because everyone else is doing it; you need to know why before you can know whether it will work for you. Here’s why pranks can be great for marketing— and how the big brands use them successfully.

Show off your company personality

As a small business or entrepreneur, you probably don’t struggle with a big, corporate image, but that doesn’t mean your personality always comes through. Take an honest look at your copywriting and branding, and you might discover that it sounds a little dry at times. Do your customers really feel like they know you? Does your personality make you stand out? Or are you just one of a million similar small businesses that do what you do?

If you struggle with sounding impersonal, humor can help you break out of the mold. For example, on April 1, 2009, the magazine The Economist announced it was building a theme park called Econoland to “promote The Economist brand to a young and dynamic audience.” The theme park was a joke, but the prank did appeal to a broad audience.

Want to implement this tactic? It’s easy — any prank will show off your personality and help customers connect to you as a person. Just make sure your April Fool’s joke is in good taste.

Have fun and get creative

Pranks and humor don’t just impact your outside message; they influence your internal team dynamics, too. By giving your team (or even yourself, if you’re a soloprenuer!) permission to be silly and think outside the box, you encourage a mindset of creative fun. And getting creative with humor might even help you get creative with more serious projects, too.

Few companies exemplify creativity better than Google, which holds regular hack days where employees get to work on something innovative and new. And Google is also known for its April Fool’s Day pranks, which are often elaborate and absurdly believable (remember Google Nose?). Getting creative sparks more creativity — and it’s fun.

How can you do this? Try thinking crazy — and then think crazier. Try playing the inefficiency game: start with a ridiculous idea, and then try to make it more ridiculous, more inefficient, or more impossible.

Introduce a new idea or product

Introducing a new joke product is a great April Fool’s prank. But your new product doesn’t have to be a joke — or not entirely. A fake product idea can be a great way to test the waters for a real new product or shift you’re thinking about for your company. You can put an idea out there without committing to it and get a feel for what your audience would think without any risk.

You wouldn’t be the first to turn a prank product into a real one. Look at ThinkGeek, whose Star Wars Taunton sleeping bag was designed for April Fool’s but later licensed by Lucasfilm for development. (And yes, Star Wars fans: you can still buy one.)

Want to try this next year? Take a look at the ideas tucked away in the back of your head. You know – those really innovative or slightly nutty ideas that you come up with in the middle of the night and think you might want to try with your company someday? Add a few twists to make them even more ridiculous, and announce them as a joke product. Then see what your audience thinks.

Get featured seasonally

You probably know that jumping on trends can be a great marketing tactic. When you connect your brand to something that’s happening in real time, you’re participating in a larger conversation that’s already going on, and that’s a great way to get attention. Newsjacking is a hard way to do that; joining seasonal trends is an easy way. If you create a really great prank, you just might get featured on news roundups — many of which run articles every year about the best marketing pranks.

Look at Seattle real estate company Findwell, whose 2014 April Fool’s prank about a new condominium community just for Seahawks fans landed a link on a Geekwire roundup along with Google and Kickstarter.

Want to get your brand’s joke featured next to Google? Look for sites that posted roundups of pranks last year, and send your joke press release to the writer.

Go viral

Unless you already have a big audience, it’s hard to predict whether something you create could get picked up on social media. The internet is fickle, and what’s popular one week might not be the next. And on April 1, you’re competing against a lot of other brands (including really big ones) who are all trying to do the same thing you are: leverage the season to attract attention.

But there are some ways for you to make your joke stand out from the crowd. As an example, look at Scope’s 2013 ad for bacon-flavored mouthwash. Proctor & Gamble noticed the bacon meme trend and used that as inspiration for their prank — and social media embraced it.

Want to increase your chances for a popular prank? Take your inspiration from trends. You can also consider getting other brands in on the joke with you — the more people who are promoting your meme, the more likely it is to take off.

Make fun of yourself

Humor can quickly backfire, and what sounded funny inside your team might not sound funny at all to your audience. If you want to play it safe, just be silly without making fun of anything. But if you really want to poke fun at someone, poke fun at yourself. And if you want to do it really well, make fun of yourself and your company for the same things that your customers are likely to make fun of.

Need an example? Look at Twitter’s brilliant 2013 prank. That year, Twitter announced that it was introducing a two-tiered service, and that vowels would be discontinued for non-paying customers. The twitterverse erupted with the news, which mocked the common tendency for tweets to leave out vowels in order to fit messages into 140 characters.

How can you try this yourself? Dig into your customer feedback: your emails, comments and interactions with your audience. What questions do they ask often? What confuses them or bothers them? What do they complain about? These could be good ground for humor — as long as you avoid the impression that you don’t take customer concerns seriously.

Increase engagement

Unless playing pranks is a regular part of your marketing strategy, chances are that your April Fool’s joke will surprise your audience. It might even shock them — in a good way. Surprise is a powerful trigger to get people to react, which means they’ll be more engaged in what you have to say and more likely to respond. And engagement is always a good thing.

For an example, take a look at our own email yesterday. It was a little shocking, but it drove a lot of engagement — most of it positive. Many of our readers jumped in on the joke themselves, like Penny, who wrote:

“Finally! A resource for us — the pole dancers of the world. As you have always encouraged us to find our niche, I have truly found mine: middle aged, overweight pole dancers!” 

And Dan, who asked,

“Don’t we all need to move to Montreal to fully ‘embrace’ this new thrust?” 

Want to get similar results? Do something surprising — maybe even a little shocking or offensive. As long as you know your audience, you can touch on controversy without getting too offensive, and you’ll get more response. Just make sure that you’re prepared for the backlash, and that you know how you’ll respond if people get mad.

Marketing with humor isn’t as easy as it sounds. There’s a lot more to it than just coming up with a silly idea and putting out a press release. But if you do it right, taking advantage of the absurdity that takes over the internet every April could be well worth the effort.

Did your company play a prank this year? Will you next year? Why?