Top 5 Tips For Researching iPhone App Ideas

The launch date for my new iPhone App is rapidly approaching.  It has been a long and difficult journey.  In fact, the journey has been too long.  If we had done better in researching for iPhone app development and procedures, we could have saved ourselves time and hassle.

iPhone App

The idea for our app came about like most brilliant ideas, by mistake.  My partners and I agreed that the idea was fantastic and we had a unique value proposition that no other iPhone app had.  We then began to research iPhone app ideas that had succeeded and failed.  We’ve done our best to model our app after the more successful apps and avoid the mistakes of the failed apps.

I remember the first time I tried to ride a bicycle.  As soon as I thought I had it, I’d fall.  I’d watched my brother ride his bike for over a year and I thought I knew what to do and what not to do.  The truth is, until you actually immerse yourself in the experience, everything else is just make believe.  So too was our experience when we began to develop our iPhone app.

Just when we thought we had it all figured out, we’d be hit with a bombshell that would shut the whole project down for weeks while we tried to find a solution.  Better research and more information about building an iPhone app would have helped us speed up our time to market.  These are my top 5 suggestions for anyone looking to develop an iPhone app.

App Store – Spend hours combing through the iPhone app store.  We had an iPhone app idea that we thought was unique.  Then we found out that there were at least 5 apps that were just like ours.  It gave us the chance to download these apps and discover where they had failed.

Interview developers – Find app development companies and begin to dive into different aspects of your app.  Do not divulge all your information about your app to anyone, but do give out small nuggets to many different developers.  One problem for us has been the pause button in a video.  It is an essential part of our iPhone app idea but a very difficult thing to do development wise. If we had asked more questions, we would have discovered this problem much sooner.

Create an alternative – Most iPhone app inventors don’t know if what they’ve come up with is useful at all until they’ve finished building their iPhone app and no one downloads it.  Don’t waste your time on a bad idea.  Find another way to give people a similar experience.  We used multiple iPhones, slips of paper, and a group of friends to test our idea.  Luckily, everyone loved it.

Find your niche – When you look through the iPhone app store, look for similar apps to yours.  Then check the popularity of these types of apps.  Go through the top charts in the iPhone app store and look at what is selling in your niche.  If you’re creating an educational app, know what type of look and feel the top performing apps share.  Try to mimic these with your iPhone app design.

Know your budget – It makes sense for Facebook to spend millions on the development of their iPhone app.  The economics probably don’t scale for you.  Know your budget and what kind of quality and depth it will buy.  Don’t expect to build a dynamic app on a low budget.  Each page costs more money and each feature takes time.

Just like the first time I successfully rode my bicycle around the block, the first time I created an iPhone app was thrilling.  This new technology is a booming market place full of dreamers and achievers.  If you’re considering building an iPhone app I suggest you begin today.  Welcome to the iPhone app empire.

Do you think an iPhone app could be a good extension of your personal brand?

How To Define Your Audience

Being able to define your audience as a writer is a critical step that can not be denied.  If you do not correctly define your audience, you risk never growing in your platform.  So how do you define your audience when you’re just starting out?

Define your audience

Michael Hyatt recently had a post about building your personal brand.  Step 1 was to define your audience.  He attributes much of his success to being able to write laser focused posts that resonate with his audience.  That’s all good and well for the mega-blogger who has hundreds and thousands of readers to poll but what if don’t have a large audience yet?

If your blog is not exploding and you’re just starting out, don’t worry.  This is the perfect time to define your audience and begin growing your platform.  You don’t have to have hundreds and thousands of readers to define your audience if you follow what I’ve done.

Backtrack – What influence you?  Who do you listen to, read and follow on social media?  You will become a culmination of the 5 people you associate with the most.  The same is true about your writing.  You will become a culmination of those who you allow to influence you.

Law of attraction – We’re all attracted to people like us.  Because of this, you’ll find that it is easy to define your audience as someone very similar to you.  Look at the commenters on podcasts, blogs and social media accounts you listed on the backtracking step.  These people are very likely to be interested in your content as well.

Commonality – Look for commonality among commenters on the blogs you read.  I’ve found several people who have posted on Michael Hyatt, Tim Ferriss and Pat Flynn’s blogs.  “Can they really be into the exact same things I’m into?” I wondered.  Absolutely!  In fact, those same people are commenting on my blog.  This is simply because we like the same things.

Define yourself – What are your core values and priorities?  These will likely spill through in your writing.  If your life is Christ‘ centered, you’ll find this tone in your writings.  As such, others who are Christ centered will be drawn to your work.

Examine your popularity – Analytics can also help you define your audience.  Look at your top performing posts over the last few months.  Is there a common thread?  For instance, my readers tend to like running, biphasic sleeping and productivity.  As such, I can define my audience as being people who exercise, lead full lives and struggle to find time to sleep and also are high achievers.

You don’t need to spend big bucks for a firm to define your audience for you.  Nor do you need to have hundreds and thousands of readers who are willing to take a survey.  You simply need to examine yourself, your writing and your popularity to define your audience.

What are a few characteristics that you thing define your audience?

How To Find Time To Follow Your Passion

When I began blogging in 2011 I never dreamed it would be so fulfilling.  For me, writing has become my creative release.  My friends read my blog and wonder “where do find the time to follow your passion?”

follow your passion

I’ll be perfectly honest.  Finding the time to follow your passion is not easy.  For years I’ve struggled to find the time to write.

My world has recently been turned upside down.  Despite it all, I still maintain my blog and write frequently.  The truth is, you don’t have to struggle to find time to follow your passion.  You can begin today by following a few simple rules.

Prioritize – In everything you do consider whether or not what you’re doing helps you to follow your passion.  It is surprising how often I find myself on social media when I could easily be writing.  The problem is, I let the world tell me how I should spend my time.  If you’re going to follow your passion, you’re going to have to tell the world how you choose to spend your time.

Use Tools – When I began blogging I was inexperience and frankly naive.  I didn’t know the first thing about WordPress or the world of blogging.  If you’re going to follow your passion, you’re going to have to make it easy on yourself.  To do that, you need to research the tools of the trade.  Look to the leaders in your area of interest and see what they do.  Bloggers should look at Michael Hyatt’s Toolbox and Tim Ferriss’s “How To Build A High-Traffic Blog Without Killing Yourself.”

Create A Team – Kenny Chesney loves singing and performing for crowds.  Unfortunately, that requires him to travel.  I bet he doesn’t like arranging travel.  But someone out there does, and that is who he has arranging his travel for him.  If you’d like to follow your passion you’re going to need a team to do the things that are necessary but not interesting to you.  I have a web developer, an editor, and a Virtual Assistant who handle the aspects of blogging that I do not enjoy.

Focus On The Fun StuffDelegate everything you can to free yourself up to focus on the things you enjoy.  To truly follow your passion, you’ll have to get rid of everything else.  I like to look at Michael Hyatt’s latest ideal week.  Here I see a guy who’s built a huge platform but spends his days doing only the things he loves, the content creation!  This is how you should craft your schedule if you’re going to follow your passion.

Nothing is more impressive than a person who is fully engulfed and in love with what they’re doing.  Living a life where you follow your passion can be amazing and inspiring.  Following these few rules will get you to the life you’ve always dreamed of faster.

What would you do today if you were to completely follow your passion?

What To Do When You’re Feeling Overwhelmed

Over the last few months life has seemed to flip upside down.  I’m essentially homeless, our company is growing, my wife is back in the workforce, and I’m an active part of 6 different companies.  On top of all that, I’m starting a fun new project.  I’m feeling overwhelmed to say the least.

Feeling Overwhelmed

The pressures of the world have forced me into a corner I can not escape without a fight.  Perhaps many of you are also feeling overwhelmed.  You have bills to pay, children to take to soccer practice, long hours at the office, and you’re feeling overwhelmed by it all.

Trust me, you’re not alone.  As Andy Andrews, author of The Noticer likes to say, “We’re all either in a crisis coming out of a crisis or headed into a crisis”.  In order to pull yourself from this mess and survive the storm with your wits intact, you have to be smart.

I’ve developed a routine that I follow every time I sense that I’m going to start feeling overwhelmed.  This routine has bailed me out time and time and again.  I guarantee it will save you as well.

Pray – Whenever I’m feeling overwhelmed, the first thing I do is pray.  I do this for several reasons.  Prayer helps you find true north again and center your thoughts where they should be. Prayer also gives you a chance to verbalize your crisis and think it through.  You’ll come out with a clear mind and a better understanding of your problems.

Seek Wisdom – I often lean toward the bible here but you can find wisdom in many places.  The odds that what you’re going through has never happened before are slim.  You’re not the first person to be feeling overwhelmed.  What does God say about this situation?  The Bible is full of wisdom and guidance. Learn to lean on it.

Go to the well – Retreat into your happy place when you’re feeling overwhelmed.  The default for any achiever is to get moving and start trying harder to fix the mess.  Unfortunately, bad situations are a lot like quick sand.  The more you toil, the quicker you sink.  Remove yourself from the situations and get a clearer picture of what is important and what is not.

Prioritize – I always apply the 4 F’s of life when I’m feeling overwhelmed.  Faith, Family, Fitness and Finance.  These are the four cornerstones of life.  Prioritize them in that exact order.  Organize the tasks you must do by these four areas.

Sleep – You’re mind doesn’t worry so much when you’re asleep.  Moreover, stress can have a huge impact on your body.  When life becomes difficult and you’re feeling overwhelmed, try to find the time to get a good night’s sleep.  You’ll be more refreshed and alert to take on the challenges before you.

Life has a knack for spinning out of control and leaving a wake of disaster.  Don’t let it take control of you.  Learn to navigate the rough waters in your life by following this simple routine when you’re feeling overwhelmed.

What in your life is leaving you feeling overwhelmed right now?

How To Exceed Expectations And Earn A Promotion

The better we do at our jobs, the more we’ll succeed at life.  The secret sauce to advancing in your career is exceeding expectations.  I recently lost 20 pounds of fat.  Nobody noticed.  My fat friend lost 10 pounds.  Everyone was elated.

Exceed expectations

To gain attention, you must shock people.  Just doing the right thing all the time is not good enough anymore.  You must exceed expectations to stand out among the crowd.  Nobody cared that I lost 20 pounds because it was just normal for me to take care of my body.  When my fat friend lost 10 pounds, it was a shock that he was being proactive about his weight.

So how does this apply to the workplace?  If you’re going to be promoted or given a bonus, someone is going to decide that you deserve it.  When they make the decision to hire you or cut you that big check, they’ll first spend a minute thinking about their general opinions of your performance.  The only way to win at this game is to exceed expectations.

If you are a hard worker and always do your job well, you’re probably doomed because high performance is just normal.  Here are a few ways you can easily exceed expectations and earn the reward you deserve.

Be crazy organized – My best advice is to follow David Allen’s Getting Things Done program.  My favorite feature of the GTD program is that by processing in, you’re keeping information at your fingertips. Everything is neatly filed and easily accessible.  This has helped me exceed expectations many times.

Delegate – Keep yourself free to focus on what will get you noticed.  You’re not going to get that promotion because you are excellent at filing financial statements or addressing letters.  Delegate as much as you can and give your employees a chance to exceed expectations you’ve set for them.  You should be focused on the big win.

Be Prepared – Always try to have the answer. If you don’t, find it quickly.  The key to exceed expectations here is to take time to prepare before attending meetings.  Also, take time at the end of every day to review.

AnticipateDennis Rodman used to watch the ball out of the shooter’s hand.  Based on where they shot from and the angle of their shot, Rodman knew where the ball would be when it ricocheted off the glass.  Learn to anticipate your bosses next move and be there before the ball.  You’ll exceed expectations every time he goes to look through the new contract and you’ve already reviewed it, marked important information and made notes.

Prioritize – Jack Welch once said that the quickest way to advance your career is to “find out what your boss wants, then over-deliver”. If you’re going to exceed expectations in your boss’s eyes you’ll need to over-deliver on what he wants.  Use Nozbe to prioritize your projects based on what your boss wants the most.

In order to exceed expectations and advance your career, you’ll need to break away from the comfort of doing what you’ve always done and shift to doing what is uncommon for you.  You are in charge of getting yourself noticed.  Earn that promotion or bonus by exceeding everyone’s expectations and surprising them.

Any other ideas about how to exceed expectations?  Please leave them in the comments below.

Proper Email Etiquette

The use of email in the corporate world has been rampant.  I never receive letters anymore.  Even phone calls are few at about ten times a day.  But I still receive a multitude of emails all day long. Despite the fact that email is not a new thing, most people still don’t know proper email etiquette.

Proper Email Etiquette

I’ve written before on how to stay on top of your email and how to organize your email.  Tim Ferriss is famous for being the antithesis to everything that is email.  The topic of how to process your email has been discussed at length for years now.  Unfortunately, proper email etiquette is rarely a topic of discussion.

I would like to suggest a few ways on how you can improve your communication and effectiveness through proper e-mail etiquette.

1. Include a professional signature. – I see it time and time again, someone will send me an email with a picture of an animal or dancing bears in their signature.  Their signature will simply be their name followed by an annoying cavalcade of dancing bears.  Instead, opt for your business logo, telephone number, fax number, web address and possibly links to your social networks.   I use icons at the bottom of my signature that link to Facebook, Twitter and Linkedin.

2. Understand the fields. – Learning how to use the To, CC and BCC is a very important part of proper e-mail etiquette.  Only include the person or persons who you are directing the message to in the To field.  CC is used as an “FYI” service.  CC includes people who you want to be aware of the email but do not need to respond.  BCC should be used sparingly.  It hides the recipient so no one knows they can see the email.  I do this with my boss sometimes when I want him to be aware of something but I don’t want the recipients to contact him.

3. Consider your medium – Is e-mail the best way to convey this subject?  Often times, the emails I receive would have better fulfilled their purpose through a face to face conversation or a phone call.  Don’t be afraid to step away from your desk and actually speak with people.

4. Keep it short – My rule of thumb is 200 words.  If I can’t get my message across in less than 200 words, I’ll just call the person.  I’m notorious for sending emails that are on the lists.  I do this with my builder.  I send a list of everything that needs to be fixed.  Then I call him and explain each one in details.

5. Reply in a timely manner. – Responding once or twice a day is sufficient for most executives.  To avoid long delays in your response, download Xobni.  I’ve written here about Xobni before.  Xobni will analyze your inbox and show you the peak times that you receive most of your emails.  Choose to respond shortly after the two peaks.  In this way, you’ll be responding shortly after receiving most of your messages.

6. Do Not Criticize. – E-mails live forever.  I have several very rude e-mails from a past client.  A judge has asked to see them for a case against him.  This kind of thing is always better handled in person where your body language can be read as well.

7. Don’t forward chain letters. – I receive these nearly everyday.  I respond to none of them.  Being a person who is known to send frequent chain letters makes you a target for having your emails ignored.  Once you’ve wasted enough of someone’s time, they become leary of opening your e-mails.  If you feel this type of message is important enough to forward, please check the validity on first.  This is proper email etiquette.

8. Don’t forward lewd content. – Forwarding something racist, defamatory or libelous can get you sued.  It doesn’t matter if you’re not the original author.  If you spread it, you’re liable.  Proper email etiquette is to just not send or forward this type of message.

9. Company email is not private. – Companies have full access to everything you say and  do through their email accounts.  If you need to send a private email, do so through Gmail or any similar service.

10. Never use ALL CAPS. – It is harder to read and it’s very annoying.  It’s equivalent to walking into someone’s office and screaming your conversation.

11. Proofread your content. – It is not uncommon for me to use the word “you” instead of “your.”  My fingers have a hard time keeping up with my brain.  Your emails are direct reflections of yourself.  Have them make a good impression by proofreading every message before you send it.  Also, the use of spell-checker is a good idea for proper email etiquette.

This list is likely missing many other suggestions for observing proper email etiquette.  If you have other suggestions I’d like to hear them in the comments below.  With the amount of time spent on email daily, I’m sure most of us have ideas that can make email a more effective method of communication.

What can you suggest?

What Is A Blog?

Several years ago, I decided to start a blog.  Then I asked myself, “What is a blog?”.  The answer may surprise you.

What is a blog

On the surface, a blog might just seem like a place for someone to digitally spill their guts.  I’ve read a few blogs like this and they are awful.  That is not what a blog is, nor is a blog a place to put people down or share get rich quick scams.

Those are all just virtual journals.  There is no need to share that with the world.  What is a blog then?  When I’m asked what is a blog, I often respond like this:

Human Connection – A blog is human.  I can read the USA Today if I want the cold hard facts.  I’d prefer to consume my thoughts, ideas and emotions with other humans.  I have several bloggers that I read blogs from every day.  It’s like we’re sharing our knowledge over a cup of coffee but this of course is magnified times ten thousand.

Influence –  Blogs are an outlet for influence.  You share ideas and thoughts.  You share insights and concerns.  A blog is a place where dialect happens between you and your reader.  You influence them and they influence you.

Flesh out ideas – I never really know a topic completely until I’ve blogged about it.  Blogging about a topic helps me to flesh out my feelings and forces me to learn the subject in depth.  My posts on Evernote forced me to learn the software inside and out.  I’ve learned blogging more about Evernote than I ever did using it.

Learn From Others – What is a blog really if it’s not a place to learn from others?  I read numerous blogs every single day through Feedly.  Much of what I learn on daily basis is consumed from these blogs.  I also share all the best blogs with my twitter followers.  Follow me on Twitter at Jason Feltner Twitter.

Community – Blogs provide a sense of community.  As I mentioned before, I know and interact with many bloggers even though we’ve never met in real life.  These people influence me on a daily basis and vice versa.  We share ideas, insights and one another’s wisdom.

Platform – A blog is a great way to build a platform of followers.  A blog can be a launching point for a new career.  A blog can help you sell a book, an idea, a product or service.  A blog gets you out there and in front of your followers.  A blog is your home base where all your brand lives.

‘What is a blog’ is sometimes a difficult question to answer.  For me, a blog can mean one thing.  To someone else, they might find completely different benefits.  What stays constant is that a blog is a place to share ideas with the community and ultimately grow a number of followers.

What is a blog for you? Share links to your blog below.

5 Essential Tools For Starting An Online Business

The new rich have learned that the online business has replaced the traditional brick and mortar of yesteryear.  Unfortunately, the landscape has yet to be defined and many entrepreneurs are looking forward to starting an online business but they aren’t exactly sure on how to start.  These 5 tools are the first things I usually do for any online business.

Online Business

Our fathers had the advantage of starting a business in a very familiar landscape where the rules were established and the steps were defined by the generations that preceded them.  The dot com boom has completely changed the way business is conducted.  Luckily for entrepreneurs looking to start an online business, the opportunities are endless.

I have the pleasure of either advising, investing or starting six separate online businesses.  The first time around, I learned that starting an online business was not the same as the brick and mortar business.  Through the last five start ups, I’ve learned what works and what doesn’t work that well.  This is my list of the 5 essential tools for starting an online business.

Elance – This is my go to source for sub-contract work through the web.  There are many other sites that do similar things including oDesk which I use as well.  Elance has a simple interface and high quality sub-contractors.  Anyone looking to start an online business will need to contract out a wealth of work.  Elance is where I’d go.

99Designs – Your website is your store front in the online business world.  Just as a brick and mortar store must be in a building that people enjoy to enter, so must your website be a place where people want to enter.  I use 99Designs for all my company’s logos and collateral such as brochures and even eBook covers.  My logo, you guessed it was designed on 99Designs.

TopSpotIMS – Advertising is critical to the success of any online business.  Top Spot is the best place to outsource online advertising.  They are Google Premier SMB Partner.  I have them running all my Allied Equipment pay per click campaigns.  They are also building my new sites.  They are a top down provider.  They can design, build and optimize your website and your PPC campaign, email campaign, and all your SEOs.  They are a one stop shop for me and every online business I start with my investment team.

American Express Platinum – As awesome as an online business, you still might find a need for an office.  Web conferencing and meeting up at Starbucks is great.  But every now and then, you need an office.  Additionally, you need access to capital and a secure method of payment for Elance, 99 Designs and TopSpotIMS.  For both, I use American Express Platinum.  They partner with Regis Office space which is in most major cities.  They offer free office space and free conference rooms for times when you just have to meet face to face.  I love American Express Platinum for many reasons but this feature sold me.

Google Voice – This is great for any new online business because you can have one number that routes to any other number at any given time.  For my online businesses, we have one Google Voice number that routes to different people at different times.  I set it up through Google so that time is split between myself and my partners.  In one instance, we set it up to forward to our fulfillment company who answers as if they were us.

Starting an online business can be thrilling and terrifying at the same time.  These 5 tools will give you the platform of resources that you need to be successful.

What hacks have you found for making your online business outshine the brick and mortars?