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Editor's Note: Learn from a panel of experts and entrepreneurs who have successfully financed their own ventures and are helping others do it at the Thought Leaders Live 2013 event May 29, in Long Beach, Calif. Event and ticket information can be found here.
Entrepreneurs care most about turning their vision into a real business, but often lack sufficient capital. Yet going hat-in-hand to investors asking for money could lead a startup CEO to lose control of their company. Sell a big stake in your business to an outside investor and that investor may decide your vision for the company is wrong or that you lack the capabilities needed to realize that vision.
Is it possible for an entrepreneur to both raise the capital needed to fund their startup's operation while retaining control of the business? In order to achieve their full potential, startups must evolve through four stages -- seeking a different source of capital at each one. Let's look at each of these stages:
Every day we hand out a tiny brochure about our businesses without even realizing it. Look at the stacks on your desk, the deck in your drawer or the stash in your wallet. Business cards, in all sizes, shapes and colors, are everywhere. And yet, while we all understand that a business card is a necessity, we often fail to see it as a marketing opportunity.
It's time to start seeing that little slip of paper for what it is: the best opportunity you have to market yourself or your business to a targeted and captive audience. After all, you chose to hand it to that person for a reason.
Here are six ways to spiff up your business card so that it collects sales, rather than dust:
1. Give your card a purpose. And we're not just talking communication. Cards that multi-task will be seen far more frequently than your average business card. Turn it into a bookmark, an event ticket, a note card, scratch card or sticker. Make it a conversation piece and your business will automatically become a part of the conversation.
2. Track it. Include a QR code or SKU on your business card, and whenever you hand it out, give the recipient an incentive like discounts or coupons for checking out your site. This way, you'll be able to track the rate at which your card compels people to action. If the current design and incentive doesn't work, you can always try another.
3. Challenge people. Surprise people with a fun fact or figure on your business card. Think about a Trivial-Pursuit-style question or piece of trivia that applies to your business. For example, adding a simple fact -- "You're more likely to survive a plane crash than click on a banner ad" -- could spur a conversation about new marketing channels and strategies, with business owners frustrated by their existing marketing efforts. Engage and amuse people when they read your card and your business will stand out.
4. Add credibility with testimonials. Customers relate to other customers. Because of that, testimonials speak volumes. Consider adding a brief quote or link to a quote on the back of your business card. It's a great way to use valuable space that otherwise goes to waste.
5. Support a cause. Social impact and business go hand-in-hand these days. Let people know about causes that drive you. Use your card as a vehicle to make a difference, and recipients will gain a better understanding of what drives you as a person and a professional. For example, you can include: "Proud supporters of Feeding America."
6. Put a face to the name. Consider putting your photo on your card so that people can continue to put a face to your name long after they've met you. A photo not only adds to the familiarity of your company's brand and increases your likeability factor, but paints a picture of you as a person. It also makes you easily recognizable from your competition.
7. Make the handoff memorable. The physical act of exchanging your card can be more valuable than the card itself. Use it as a conversation starter to better understand where the person's needs, interests or hobbies lie. As you hand out your card, mention when you will follow up and also reinforce a message about the value of your business.
Tomorrow marks Facebook's one-year anniversary as a publicly traded company. In the 12 months since its notorious IPO, the social media mammoth has made some significant strides, as well as some missteps.
Facebook snapped up Instagram, lost its cool factor amongst teens, flopped in the handheld device market -- all while attracting millions of new users across the globe. Here's a brief look back at Facebook's most notable highs and lows since the launch of its IPO:
May 2012: Facebook's IPO debuts disastrously. The stock price opens at $42.05 but closes at $38.23. Despite the lackluster performance and some technical snafus, some 500 million shares are sold and the IPO raises $16 billion. Facebook becomes the second largest IPO in U.S. history.
Research firm Nielson reports that Facebook usage continues to rise around the world, especially in Brazil, Italy and New Zealand. Two out of three Americans who are active online use Facebook.
July 2012: Facebook issues its first earnings report as a public company, announcing $1.18 billion in second-quarter revenue.
August 2012: At the 90-day trading milestone, its stock price continues to plummet to $19 -- half of its original price.
September 2012: Facebook announces that it has acquired Instagram. The deal is worth approximately $740 million, consisting of $300 million in cash and the remainder in stock.
October 2012: The company releases its third-quarter results, announcing $1.26 billion in revenue -- just slightly above analysts' projections. Facebook attributes 14 percent of its earnings to mobile advertising.
November 2012: Facebook's stock originally sold to investors for $38 per share at a valuation of $80 billion. At the six-month mark, it sells for $21 per share and is valued at $45 billion.
December 2012: At the final bell of the year, Facebook stock closes at $26.62, a far cry from its IPO.
January 2013: Riding a wave of earnings fueled by mobile advertising, Facebook reports that its fourth-quarter revenue totals $1.58 billion, outpacing expectations. Meanwhile, Nielsen reports that one in seven people throughout the world has a Facebook page. The stock price surpasses $30 per share for the first time in about six months.
March 2013: Graph Search launches, which allows users to search Facebook based on people, places, photos and interests. The new function pulls search results from information shared by users' friends and from public information shared on Facebook.
April 2013:Facebook Home, an app launcher for Android smartphones and tablets, is released. It replaces standard home screens with a steady stream of photos and posts from your Facebook friends. HTC becomes the first hardware manufacturer to offer Facebook Home pre-installed on the HTC First, a smartphone also known as the "HTC Facebook Phone."
May 2013: Facebook credits gains in mobile advertising for the growth of its first-quarter revenue of $1.46 billion -- an increase of 38 percent compared with the same quarter last year. The company's shares slide to around $26.
The Internet is rapidly evolving and entrepreneurs are finding creative ways to keep up. According to an Entreprenuer.com article businesses are using new internet techniques to keep up with the ever changing internet.