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The minimum wage has been in the news a lot lately.  President Obama has suggested raising the federal minimum wage over time to $10.10/hr from its current level of $7.25/hr as part of his goal to close the income gap in America.  SeaTac, Washington, has voted as a community to raise its minimum wage within the municipal limits to $15/hr, considered widely to be a “living wage.”

Conservatives decry these efforts, citing studies that show that raising the minimum wage depresses employment.  Liberals champion the efforts as a way to eliminate poverty and put more money back into the economy.
Who’s right?  It’s not a simple question to answer, but Jordan Weissman takes it on in his article “Should We Raise the Minimum Wage? 11 Questions and Answers” for The Atlantic.  Weissman does an admirable job of asking and answering the questions in layman’s terms, and allowing the reader to come away with a better understanding of how the minimum wage came to be a political football.
Basically, it boils down to which sets of studies you want to believe.   A 2009 meta-analysis of studies of minimum-wage legislation concluded that raising the minimum wage does not noticeably suppress employment.  A 2007 meta-analysis of a different set of studies concludes that it does.
Weissman also helps the reader consider who benefits from a higher minimum wage:
“A 2010 study by Joseph Sabia and Richard Burkhauser, who fall on the solidly conservative side of this issue, finds that if the minimum wage were increased to $9.50 from $7.25, only 11.3 percent of beneficiaries would live in impoverished households.
So maybe it’s better to think of the minimum wage as a way of getting more money to the broader working class. The Economic Policy Institute, for instance, notes that if the minimum wage were raised to $10.10 an hour, 70 percent of affected workers would live in families earning less than $60,000 a year.”
 
Weissman’s approach is a clear introduction to the controversy; you may not agree with his conclusions, but you’ll come away with a better understanding of this issue.
Laura Abrahamsen, January 14, 2014
Sponsored by ArnoldIT, developer of Beyond Search

Making Payments Go Mobile

January 7th, 2014 | Posted by jasmine in Mobile | revenue - (0 Comments)

New trends are on the horizon for 2014 in the field of mobile payments.  The question is, which apps and platforms will become the dominant modes of cashless, cardless payment transactions as we move into 2014 and beyond?

Brad Stone and Olga Kharif surveyed the latest developments in mobile payment technology in their BloombergBusinessweek Technology post “Easy Mobile Payments are Almost Here.”  We all know credit cards aren’t all that capable and are vulnerable to fraud and hacking.  The mere act of payment involves having a worker take a physical object from the customer and use it in some way often not in plain sight.
A seamless transaction between customer and business takes out the worker middleman, whether it’s a Paypal transaction or a brand-dedicated payment app like the one used by Starbucks.  The near-field communications technology of a few years ago has been abandoned for apps that access customer payment data stored in on the Internet.
Apple and Google are aiming products at the mobile shopper, while Uber and other services developed by Braintree (which Paypal recently announced plans to purchase) move payment for travel-related services such as taxi fares and hotel bookings into the background of their reservation applications:
“Transactions for all of these services are completed with one click, or even automatically behind the scenes. Bill Ready, Braintree’s CEO, says a whole class of shopping experiences will soon happen this way. ‘People are willing to shop and browse on mobile devices, but they never want to do data entry,’ he says. In five years in-store checkout transactions ‘will seem as foreign as a green-screen terminal does today.’”
All of this convenience comes with a price; rather, two:  the twin issues of privacy and security.  In order for smartphone payments to work, a whole of lot of your financial data will have to be stored in such a way that these applications can access it.  That means that the companies whom you pay this way will know a lot about you and your buying habits.  It also means that a lost phone won’t just be making your selfies vulnerable.
Laura Abrahamsen, January 07, 2014
Sponsored by ArnoldIT, developer of Beyond Search

Determining the correct price for your company’s product involves a huge number of factors.  You need to cover your overhead costs, but setting the right price will not only cover costs, but generate profit and customer loyalty as well.  Elisha Hartwig offers “3 Tips for Pricing Your  Product” on Mashable.

 First, Hartwig says, consider crowdsourcing.  Ask your customers and potential customers what they would be willing to pay for your product or service, and compare the average of those answers with the price of similar products.  You can do this face-to-face in your bricks-and-mortar store as well as set up a user feedback form on your website.  The process should give you a figure from which to start.
If you’re online only, consider just how much your customer is willing to pay to take a risk on something they can’t see or touch before they buy it.  One online fashion retailer focuses on new designers and sets prices low enough that customers are willing to take a chance on the unknown.  She considers it “gateway pricing”—if they love their purchase, they will be willing to spend more on subsequent ones.
Finally, Hartwig advises, find your niche in the marketplace:
“Once you’ve conducted substantial market research, scour the data for a price point that no one is addressing and adjust your business model accordingly. You obviously have to price your product high enough to cover any overhead and production costs — but if you can find wiggle room in your budget and lower the price of your product, even a few dollars might be enough to differentiate your product from the competition.”
Ask your customers, price to inspire loyalty and find a price point unoccupied by the competition. Considering these factors in addition to your costs will help you find that sweet spot.
 Laura Abrahamsen, December 31, 2013
Sponsored by ArnoldIT, developer of Beyond Search

Customer experience is a thing now.  It’s a job title with “manager” tacked at the end of it, it’s a certificate program in continuing education and conferences are held in its name.  But what is it exactly and why should your business be trying to optimize it?

 Don Peppers, founding partner of the Peppers and Rogers Group at TeleTech, wants you to remember what brought your customer to you in the first place: s/he has a problem, and you sell a product or a service that may solve that problem.   As Peppers calls it in his recent LinkedIn post “The Absolutely Ideal Customer Experience is NO Customer Experience that problem creates “friction,” and the best customer experience of all would be “frictionless:”
“So with apologies in advance to all the Customer Experience Managers out there, I’m going to suggest that the ideal customer experience is no experience at all. Every Customer Experience Manager’s ultimate goal should be to eliminate the need to manage the customer’s experience, by sucking every last vestige of friction out of it.”
Whether it’s your bricks-and-mortar store, your website or your table at a trade show, you want to make sure that solving your customer’s problem is your primary focus.  By keeping that directive in mind, you WILL be optimizing the Customer Experience.
Laura Abrahamsen, December 24, 2013
Sponsored by ArnoldIT, developer of Beyond Search

Stop at the Question Mark

December 17th, 2013 | Posted by jasmine in Business strategy | Expert - (4 Comments)

What is the biggest mistake we all make conversationally?  According to Shane Snow, journalist and CCO of Contently, it’s how we ask questions.  In his piece “This Post Will Make You a More Effective Communicator in 90 Seconds” for LinkedIn, Snow illustrates his point by contrasting two interviews of Elon Musk, the founder of SpaceX.  Now, Musk is a guy whose intended mission is to colonize Mars.  He has built a company around that mission.  He’s someone whose answers you would like to hear.

But, according to Snow, the interview conducted by Kevin Rose, founder of Digg and a partner at Google Ventures, yielded far different results than the Musk’s interview with Charlie Rose, the veteran PBS/CBS journalist.  The reason?  Kevin Rose asked Musk a question, then jumped in with an array of possible answers, while Charlie Rose simply asked a question and stopped talking.  The difference is astounding, and the mistake is everywhere once you start paying attention.
Snow’s advice as a professional journalist to businesspeople?  Stop it:
“The art of asking great questions is one of the most frequently useful. The #1 tip for asking better questions? Cut them off at the question mark.
Those better, terser questions will make you a better conversationalist, a more effective information-gatherer. A more efficient speaker. And, perhaps paradoxically, a more pleasant communicator.”
If you are seeking information, ask an expert and listen to the answer. Don’t suggest the answer you would give.  Otherwise, why are you even asking?
Laura Abrahamsen, December 17, 2013
Sponsored by ArnoldIT, developer of Beyond Search