Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own. Free Webinar | Sept. 9: The Entrepreneur’s Playbook for Going Global Register Now » Every small business loves the exposure, empathy and sense of community that having a website that’s a daily destination for consumers can generate. But getting people to visit on a regular basis can be a challenge, especially if updates are infrequent or all you have to offer is the occasional monotone press release or product announcement. Thankfully, building a website that’s “sticky” enough to keep users engaged and coming back doesn’t have to require investing thousands or reinventing yourself as the next online media empire. All it takes is a little elbow grease and personal touch, as indicated by the simple strategies below, each designed to send your homepage’s daily number of visitors soaring:Connect and Communicate: Make no bones about it: Blogging should be an essential part of any modern website. After all, a few clicks is literally all it takes to post updates in real-time around the clock, creating a steady stream of content that promises something new and exciting with every visit. Better still, professionals at all experience levels have the capability of readily doing it, and the practice also helps put a personal face on your organization, shining the spotlight on the individuals behind it. However, to really captivate an audience enough to keep them returning, take note: You’ll also need to provide content that’s dynamic, unique and offers measurable informational or entertainment value, plus speak in a language that all can understand. In short, the occasional pre-approved sound bite from the HR guy or gal won’t cut it. Rather, you need to address audiences like you’re having a normal conversation, and provide content with meaningful substance to the reader. Making-of articles, features detailing how to get more from your products, partner profiles, project diaries, step-by-step how-to guides, interviews with notable personalities or internal stakeholders: All present compelling ways to connect with audiences while also keeping them interested and informed, providing ample incentive to keep coming back.Emphasize Community Building: As social media insiders well know, creating a sense of community around your website is one of the most powerful tools for engaging and ultimately enthralling prospective fans. But doing so doesn’t simply mean throwing up a sponsored message board then leaving it to stagnate, or e-mailing customers sporadic newsletter updates that regurgitate existing material easily found elsewhere. Rather, you have to not only encourage discussion and actively take part in conversations by dedicating internal time and resources, but also make customers feel as if they truly have a voice in the discussion by listening to their concerns, responding and sourcing feedback at every opportunity. Implementing programs that recognize and reward valued contributors is also vital, as is creating fan-based initiatives that allow community members to contribute and share ideas, concepts and creations of their own. Even simply giving enthusiasts the chance to submit designs for your next fundraiser’s logo or arranging times where they can chat with top execs to provide input on upcoming ventures won’t just engender goodwill. They’ll also excite and empower a legion of amateur brand ambassadors–an essential source of free ongoing updates and constructive conversations, which will both attract users to and keep them enamored with your site.Design for Mass Distribution: Sharing is good–even more so if you’ve got a message worth spreading and it winds up in front of millions of eyeballs. As such, you should be not only updating your website with unique pieces of content (surveys, research reports, custom editorial clips, guides to solving common problems, unique looks behind-the-scenes, etc.) designed to grab viewers’ attention, but also making everything from blog posts to pictures, photos, PDF documents and videos shareable, embeddable and ready to be commented upon or re-tweeted via social media platforms. When it comes to corporate assets, the tendency–especially among hyper-competitive start-ups–is always to tightly hold and control. But often, the more powerful strategy is to design pieces of content with the specific idea in mind of seeding them throughout the user community, as it’s a great way to build brand awareness. Beyond heightened exposure and additional media mentions, using your website to disseminate unique, specially branded pieces of content can also lead to improved search engine optimization results through a larger number of incoming links. And, more important still, generate heightened word of mouth surrounding your homepage, letting countless potential readers know exciting things are happening there on a regular basis.Focus on Value: Exclusive specials, contests, promotions and timed discounts can all be powerful drivers of website traffic, especially in these cost-conscious times. By offering direct bargains and rebate programs on both an ongoing and sporadic basis through your online headquarters, you can keep customers’ interest piqued, and generate additional sales. These marketing programs become even more valuable when coupled with Facebook, Twitter and other social marketing tools, which have the potential to help news spread like wildfire online. Just make sure that the only place such bargains can be found is on your homepage, and be consistent in terms of the pages to which you drive this traffic, to establish in shoppers’ minds the importance of regularly checking a certain destination. Similarly, establishing relationships with key bloggers and members of the media can also help reinforce the message, as can a regular series of e-mail or newsletter updates designed to inform current and prospective buyers. Customers get to save on purchases while you benefit from enhanced publicity and heightened sales, creating a win-win situation for all.Use Targeted Demonstrations: While special membership options, premium subscription packages and frequent buyer programs can all prove great incentives, services that you freely give away are often just as important as those that you reserve for more exclusive clients. Whether you’re looking at offering complimentary computer virus scans by having users visit your homepage, providing a suite of free continuing education resources or simply hosting an archive of complementary, corporate-branded webinars on software engineering, realize: Providing helpful services or information at no charge that solve pressing, evergreen problems or answer important questions can all serve to generate a steady source of online traffic, and provide a ready supply of leads to upsell on premium services. Sometimes you have to give in order to get. It may seem counterintuitive, but ultimately, the practice makes a ready way to demonstrate your organization’s capabilities to a potentially lucrative client base, while also giving them a taste of the benefits to be had by partnering on more advanced or long-term services. Growing a business sometimes requires thinking outside the box.
As for myself, I never grew up with hockey or had friends who played. Even though I’m from Seattle, which is known for colder weather and its proximity to Canada, there were not many recreational leagues for kids my age growing up. One of the major reasons the NHL and hockey itself have not grown to the likes of the NFL and football is that hockey is much harder to get involved in. Interested players need an ice rink facility to practice and play games, the cost of equipment is high and there is a lack of recreational teams that people can get involved with. I first watched the movie “Miracle” in middle school when I was 13 years old. Before seeing the film, I did not know much about hockey or the fact that it was a major sport. But after, I realized just how significant hockey was to some people. Even though it may be hard to get involved in hockey or attend an NHL game, it is easy to watch a hockey game on TV. It may be hard to understand the rules at first, but it only takes a little persistence to learn how the game is played and why the sport can be so fascinating. Give it a chance — maybe, just maybe, the game of hockey will surprise some people. This is a good sign for the premiere ice hockey league in the world. Before the Golden Knights, the last time the NHL expanded was in 2000. The NHL adding two teams in five years is definitely a sign that the league is trying to grow its fan base. Even though there are a lot of restrictions when it comes to hockey, there is good news. According to usahockey.com, the number of hockey players in the 2018-2019 year is 567,908 — an all-time high. Viewership for the NHL has increased recently as well. According to NBC Sports, Game 1 of the 2019 Stanley Cup Final between the Boston Bruins and St. Louis Blues was the most-watched Stanley Cup game in four years, with over 5 million viewers. People are starting to recognize and appreciate hockey more. Hockey players are some of the most hardworking and dedicated athletes, and they play one of the most physical sports in the world. The 1980 U.S. hockey team entered the Winter Olympics as the youngest team in the field, consisting of mostly amateur players. Nonetheless, the team advanced to the semifinals, knocked off the perennial powerhouse Soviet Union 4-3 in what has been dubbed the “Miracle on Ice” and eventually went on to win the gold. It’s one of the most famous teams in American sports history. Hockey is exciting, and I’m sure it’s a great sport to play. I understand that parents may not want their children to get involved with hockey because injuries are far more likely to happen than in less violent sports, but if those same parents get their children involved with football, I do not see much difference. Hockey is a great sport and it is only a matter of time before it gets more exposure. Hopefully, major networks such as ESPN and NBC will show more regular season NHL games in order to increase viewership and fan engagement. I am actually pretty excited to welcome an NHL team to Seattle, though, because there are many NHL fans there who have been waiting for that moment. As a result, I hope to get into hockey as well and devote more time to watching the sport. Currently, the National Hockey League consists of 31 teams — 24 are in the United States and seven are in Canada. The most recent team to join the NHL was the Vegas Golden Knights, who joined the league in 2017. The NHL will even be welcoming its 32nd team to Seattle in 2021. In a country where football, basketball and baseball dominate, hockey is still a part of the “major sports” group. However, out of those, hockey is the sport that people pay the least attention to. Nathan Hyun is a sophomore writing about underrepresented sports. His column, “Hyun-derrated,” ran every other Wednesday.
Sarah Jane Tribble: [email protected], @SJTribble Aug 10 2018Three months after President Donald Trump announced his blueprint to bring down drug prices, administration officials have begun putting some teeth behind the rhetoric.Many details have yet to be announced. But experts who pay close attention to federal drug policy and Medicare rules say the administration is preparing to incrementally roll out a multipronged plan that tasks the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) and the Food and Drug Administration with promoting competition, attacking the complicated drug rebate system and introducing tactics to lower what the government pays for drugs.Mark McClellan, director of the Duke-Margolis Center for Health Policy in Durham, N.C., and a former CMS administrator, said that although none of the initial steps has “fundamentally transformed drug prices,” there is “a lot going on inside the administration.”Two HHS officials who are rolling out the plan, Dan Best and John O’Brien, described their efforts to Kaiser Health News not as a public relations strategy but a push to reform the system.”This administration is trying to go after root causes” of high drug prices, said Wells Fargo analyst David Maris.But others are not so optimistic.Ameet Sarpatwari, an instructor in medicine at Harvard Medical School in Boston, said policies the administration has rolled out thus far “alone will not translate into meaningful cost savings for most Americans.”Broadly, the strategy falls under a handful of steps:1. Attacking The RebatesHealth and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar has said Americans “do not have a real market for prescription drugs” because drug middlemen and insurers get a wide range of hidden rebates from drugmakers, but those savings may not be passed on to consumers or Medicare. In July, the administration submitted a proposed rule that could change the way rebates are handled.Details of the proposal have not been made public. But O’Brien, a deputy assistant secretary at HHS, explained during a recent conference on federal drug spending sponsored by the Pew Charitable Trust: “You don’t have to use market power to get rebates, you can use market power to obtain discounts, to actually lower the price of the drug on the front end.”Umer Raffat, an investment analyst with EverCore ISI, said “it’s not clear [that drug prices are going down]” but the “rebate structure is changing.”2. Bringing More Negotiation To MedicareThis week, CMS Administrator Seema Verma announced that Medicare Advantage insurers can use a step-therapy approach to negotiate better prices for Part B drugs — those administered in hospitals and doctors’ offices. These private plans will be allowed to require patients to first select the least expensive drug before stepping up to more costly drugs if the original medications aren’t working.The administration is also looking at ways to introduce more competition into Part B drug purchasing. That idea was mentioned deep inside the annual Medicare outpatient payment rule released last month.Peter Bach, director of Memorial Sloan Kettering’s Center for Health Policy and Outcomes in New York, pointed to the possible introduction of a competitive purchasing program in which a firm negotiates with drugmakers to buy their drugs and then sells them to the doctors and hospitals that will administer the medications. Bach said that helps ensure that hospitals and doctors can’t make more money by prescribing more expensive drugs.Currently, Medicare pays the average sales price plus 6 percent to doctors or hospitals when they purchase drugs, a pricing mechanism that can benefit the providers if the drug costs go up. If there were a third party buying the drugs, it would “have a huge effect,” Bach said.3. Paying For ValueTrump’s blueprint calls for CMS to encourage “value-based care” to lower drug prices, shifting from paying a set fee for drugs to basing payments on how well the patient does on them.Louisiana’s Medicaid program could show the way. The state is working with CMS to explore a subscription-based model to pay for hepatitis C medicines. Louisiana would pay a fixed price to a drug manufacturer that would then get unlimited access to treat patients enrolled in Louisiana’s Medicaid program or in prison.Related StoriesScientists identify new genetic mutation behind serious skull disorderNew research overturns the belief that braces boost self-confidenceHow black pharmacists are closing the cultural gap in health careThe program would move “from a big payment upfront to paying less over time based on actual outcomes,” said McClellan, who also serves on the boards of health care giant Johnson & Johnson and insurer Cigna.CMS also approved a Medicaid waiver from Oklahoma in June. Medicaid programs are allowed to negotiate drug prices. Oklahoma’s plan would expand that to negotiate additional prescription price reductions based on value-based purchasing agreements.Still, CMS’ recent rejection of a related Massachusetts proposal makes it difficult to believe negotiating drug prices will really happen, said Sara Rosenbaum, a professor of health law and policy at George Washington University.That proposal would have allowed Massachusetts’ Medicaid program to choose drugs based on cost and how well the medicines work.”They have been very good and quite careful with their [Medicaid] program and so why not let them try this?” Rosenbaum said.4. Tackling Foreign Drug CostsPharmaceutical makers often sell their drugs at substantially lower prices in many foreign countries than they do in the United States. Trump emphasized in May that “it’s time to end the global freeloading once and for all,” saying U.S. consumers were paying part of the cost of the medicines that patients in other countries use.He directed U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer to address the situation. Lighthizer’s office declined to comment.When Sen. Todd Young (R-Ind.) asked during a Senate health committee hearing in June whether trade agreements with other countries should be used to “level the playing field,” Azar’s response was swift: “We absolutely believe we should be using our trade agreements to get them to pay more even as we have our job to pay less.”Avalere Health President Matt Brow, who has been involved in talks with the administration, said it’s clear the focus on overseas pricing isn’t going away and the administration is “talking a lot about how to get the president what he wants.”5. Increasing CompetitionFDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb has become the Trump administration’s lead proponent for increasing competition among drugmakers.Competition resonates with Americans “because people see it every day in their experience in Costco and other places,” said Rena Conti, an assistant professor at the University of Chicago.Gottlieb has announced plans to bolster the use of generic drugs and an “action plan” to encourage the development of biosimilars, which are copycat versions of expensive biologic drugs made from living organisms.And to combat anti-competitive behavior in the market, Gottlieb said the FDA has passed along information to the Federal Trade Commission and hinted at potential action to come: “I think we’ve handed them some pretty good facts.”KHN’s coverage of prescription drug development, costs and pricing is supported in part by the Laura and John Arnold Foundation. This article was reprinted from khn.org with permission from the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. Kaiser Health News, an editorially independent news service, is a program of the Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonpartisan health care policy research organization unaffiliated with Kaiser Permanente.