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Jack Ma Will Retire in 2019 to Focus on Philanthropy

Jack Ma

Ma is scheduled to leave his post as Alibaba executive chairman next year. Credit: Wikimedia Commons/Foundations World Economic Forum

Jack Ma – China’s richest man and the co-founder of e-commerce giant Alibaba – is retiring from the company to focus on philanthropy.

The business magnate has confirmed that he will step down as executive chairman 12 months from Monday. He is set to hand over leadership roles to Alibaba’s current chief executive, Daniel Zhang.

According to Alibaba, the major shift was intended to reduce the company’s dependence on a single individual while fostering long-term growth. The multi-national conglomerate said Ma will remain on its board of directors until 2020 despite his retirement as chair.

He would also stay as a member of the Alibaba Partnership, which is composed of long-time senior managers who have significant control over the business and its affiliated companies.

“Teachers always want their students to exceed them, so the responsible thing to do for me and the company to do is to let younger, more talented people take over in leadership roles so that they inherit our mission “to make it easy to do business anywhere,” Ma stated in a company press release.

He further stated that he, himself, still has “lots of dreams to pursue.” The renowned businessman said people close to him “know that I do not like to sit idle.”

Alibaba’s Legacy in the Business Industry

Alibaba is known for being an active force in sectors across the Chinese economy and has definitely transformed many. The internet company has an entertainment arm, Alibaba Pictures, which owns a stake in Amblin Entertainment owned by Steven Spielberg.

It also has a hugely popular app for movie tickets called Tao Piao Piao. In addition, the company has a 12-year partnership with the International Olympic Committee. Its goal is to help organizers of the Olympic Games with digital strategy and other processes.

In 2014, Alibaba officially went public on the New York Stock Exchange. It has a market value of around $421 billion. This year, the company ranks as the biggest e-commerce company in the world by total value of merchandise sold across all of its platforms. Alibaba also has the ninth highest global brand value.

Alibaba positioned itself as a strong e-commerce player in 2015. At the time, its online sales and profits bested all major U.S. retailers, including eBay, Amazon and Walmart combined.

The company is not only known for its products and services. In 2017, Alibaba showed its influence over consumers by orchestrating China Singles Day. Celebrated annually, the November 11 event is a popular holiday among Chinese youth who celebrate their pride in being single.

The event was considered the world’s largest online and offline shopping day. Within 24 hours, Alibaba’s sales for that celebration reached over $25.4 billion.

Jack Ma and His Road to Success

Ma, 54, was born in September 1964 in Hangzhou, China. It’s there that he attended Hangzhou Normal University, where he graduated with a BA in English in 1988. He was an English teacher before creating the Alibaba group with 18 other co-founders.

Ma established Alibaba 19 years ago in his apartment and has led it ever since. He has seen it evolve from being a small internet company to one of the world’s biggest multi-national conglomerates.

Alibaba made Ma one of the wealthiest and most influential men in China. As of 2017, he has a net worth of more than $40 billion.

The famous businessman stepped down as Alibaba CEO in 2013. While Zhang has already taken over the reins, Ma continued to be Alibaba’s most recognized face. He also served as the company’s guiding hand years after he vacated his CEO post.

Over the years, he has become a familiar figure in Silicon Valley and Hollywood. He recently rubbed elbows with the global elite at this year’s World Economic Forum in Davos.

Jack Ma

Jack Ma at the Annual Meeting 2018 of the World Economic Forum in Davos, January 24, 2018. Credit: Wikimedia Commons/Foundations World Economic Forum

Philanthropy Plans: What’s Next for the Alibaba Exec?

Ma wants to return to education for his latest philanthropy project. The former English teacher said in an interview that he wanted to establish his own foundation. His goal is to follow the footsteps of his fellow billionaire philanthropist, Bill Gates.

“There’s a lot of things I can learn from Bill Gates,” he told Bloomberg TV.

He explained, “I can never be as rich, but one thing I can do better is to retire earlier. I think someday, and soon, I’ll go back to teaching. This is something I think I can do much better than being CEO of Alibaba.”

In another conference, Ma shared his thoughts on the idea of giving. He told his audience at the time that everyone can help in their own little way, if they just put their heart into it. The business magnate also discussed why philanthropy is not only for the rich and powerful.

“Everyone has the right and the ability to give. It doesn’t matter how big or small your contribution is, and it doesn’t mean you have to do something big or be someone important to do philanthropy,” Ma stated during the recent Alibaba conference on philanthropy held in Hangzhou.

The Alibaba group executive added, “Personal philanthropy is not about giving cash, but giving your heart, your time and most importantly, your action. Ultimately, personal philanthropy makes you a better person, and if everyone participates, we will have a better world.”

Organizations Helped by Jack Ma

Ma started thinking about his succession plan 10 years ago. He previously decided to put more time for philanthropy via the Jack Ma Foundation. In 2016, the organization pledged to donate $30 million to an initiative to support teaching in rural China.

Ma also handed out a $3 million donation to Queen Rania’s education efforts in the Middle East and North Africa. Last year, he set up a $26 million scholarship at the University of Newcastle.

While most of his donations go to education efforts, he is known for helping out the health sector as well. Ma and his business partners have donated 560 million yuan ($82 million) to a hospital in East China in 2017.

One of his latest grants was for the new program called the Netpreneur Prize. To help Africa’s digital economy, the Jack Ma Foundation will award $10 million to 100 African entrepreneurs over the next decade. The program will focus on a new breed of entrepreneurs, including small businesses, female founders and grassroots innovation.




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Marketing Automation: Top 5 Platforms to Save You Time

marketing automation

Are you an aspiring online entrepreneur or a tech-savvy person? Then you’ve heard of marketing automation. Many marketers swear by it, some believe it’s not a good investment… but what is it? Why is it important? How do marketing automation platforms help grow a business? Is it worth the hassle?

What is Marketing Automation?

Marketing automation refers to any software or platform for automating a wide range of marketing tasks. Marketing departments perform a lot of repetitive actions, like managing social media channels, sending out emails and other online admin tasks. With the technology of marketing automation, doing these tasks is much faster and easier.

In this article, you will see a rundown of the top 5 most reliable marketing automation platforms available right now. You’ll learn their pros and cons, their important features and why they are so popular with users.

Let’s get started!

1. Marketo


This multi-functional platform offers customer engagement marketing, real-time personalization and marketing automation. Its marketing management functionality includes marketing calendars and budgeting tools.

Its key features are quite straightforward. You have a lead generation, search marketing, website visitor tracking, as well as measure and optimize ROI. You also get forms, landing pages, email marketing and campaign management.

For its cost, the Spark plan starts at $999/month (1 domain, 30 campaigns). Both the Standard and Consumer campaigns are $1,499/month (1 domain, 60 campaigns). Meanwhile, the Enterprise starts at $2,999/month (4 domains, unlimited campaigns).

Marketo works best for medium- to large-sized organizations. It does have a steep learning curve, though. Be prepared for a platform, as people say it’s hard to get used to.

The good thing about Marketo is its excellent customer service. They are efficient when it comes to customer concerns. They also have a product that is fast-evolving.

2. Salesforce


Salesforce is a feature-rich customer relationship management (CRM) tool. It caters to small, medium and enterprise organizations focusing on sales and support. Among its key features are sales management, customer service and partner relationship management.

These applications allow you to easily track leads, monitor campaigns, offer after-sales service and manage customer accounts.

Salesforce works great for any business size. However, it can be overwhelming in terms of price and usability. Some say it has a steep learning curve for newbies. They also claim the user interface appear outdated.

Four plans are available on Salesforce, ranging from $25 to $300. The most basic is the Lightning Essentials at $25/month. It’s then followed by Lightning Professional at $75/month and Lightning Enterprise at $150/month. For large businesses, Lightning Unlimited is worth $300/month. The more advanced the plan is, the more features are accessible to your team.

3. MailChimp


Known for its smart and flexible features, MailChimp is great for marketing automation. It keeps you in touch with customers and prospects via streamlined email marketing. Emails are triggered based on online activity, signup date, etc.

You can offer personalized emails because of its behavioral targeting feature. Monitoring engagement is much easier and product recommendations show up based on previous purchases. They offer a free plan (a huge plus for newbies) which lets you send 12,000 emails and 2,000 subscribers.

This is good news for SMB and personal accounts. Most of the basic templates and tools can be used on a free account. Pay-as-you-go options are available as well. This is cheaper for businesses have low-volume clients but still need automation and integration features.

For $30/month, you get 2,500 subscribers. $75/month gives you 10,000 subscribers and $215/month gives you 30,000 subscribers.

4. HubSpot


HubSpot is an inbound marketing software. It allows businesses to turn their marketing from outbound lead generation to inbound. You can get found by potential clients much easier and in a natural way.

The company owns a 41.6% share of the automation software market. This puts them a frontrunner in the industry. While they have a well-designed product, it’s not recommended by many. Why? Because there are better alternatives out there that even cost 20 times less.

There’s a lot of hype around HubSpot but most of the reviews are mixed. Almost everything on this platform can be found elsewhere for free. It’s also more expensive – many features are available in other platforms for a lower price. Although this software helps a lot, it does not seem to perform efficiently.

A free account on HubSpot is available if you’re new. The Starter package is $50/month, while the Basic plan starts at $200/month (billed annually). Professional costs $800/month (billed annually) and Enterprise is $2,400/month (billed annually)

5. ActiveCampaign

active campaign

ActiveCampaign provides a seamless experience for marketing efficiency. The platform lets you grow your business through email marketing, marketing automation and customer management solutions.

This platform is a combination of many aspects of business marketing. Its user-friendly interface helps you create engaging and beautiful emails. It’s much easier to gather information about your contacts and apply marketing automation techniques.

More than 100,000 users trust ActiveCampaign for their marketing needs. The process is pretty straightforward – a credit card is not required to set things up. 150 integrations are accessible, so the tool connects you with your favorite services. People around the globe also love the software’s helpful and quick support.

ActiveCampaign offers four types of pricing plans. You don’t need to pay setup fees. For 500 contacts, you can get a Lite Plan that is $15/month (billed monthly) or $9/month (billed annually). Everything from the Lite Plan is included if you get the Plus Plan, which is $70/month or $55/month (billed annually).

The Professional Plan is at $159/month (billed monthly) or $129/month (billed annually), and the Enterprise Plan costs $279/monthly (billed monthly) or $229/month (billed annually).

Is Marketing Automation a Good Idea?

The answer is a resounding YES! Marketing automation can be an amazing tool to help owners grow their businesses. You can use these above-mentioned platforms to prioritize the right leads. It’s not for everyone, though. So make sure to do your research first. Stay away from marketing automation pitfalls that many have fallen into.

A Reminder to Marketing Automation Users

“Marketing automation” has turned into a buzzword, indeed. Marketers now use automation software thinking that all digital marketing tools are necessary for growth. Although it’s true, a lot of legwork is needed to hit the ground running with your business.

This is a common misconception that encourages many users to rely too much on sophisticated tools. They fail to realize that they still need a solution to generate new leads.

The consequence? Marketers chose to buy email lists instead of generating inbound leads. Yes, it’s a quick fix but not a long-term solution. Think of using chemical enhancers to make your plant grow faster. It does the job well but you are not preparing yourself for long-term success.

Final Thoughts

It’s not the easiest marketing initiative to execute on, that’s true. But marketing automation is not impossible!

Imagine yourself trying to grow a plant. One of the things you need is a fertile soil for your plant. You need seeds and make sure they’re cared for, as well as water and light to nurture it. Yes, it’s not foolproof but it’s always possible.

No marketing automation is the best. We have our own preferences – choosing the perfect one for you all depends on what you need.


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Colin Kaepernick is the New Face of Nike’s Latest Campaign

Colin Kaepernick

Colin Kaepernick is the newest face of Nike. Credit: Wikimedia Commons/Erik Drost

Colin Kaepernick, the NFL quarterback who started kneeling during the anthem to protest against violence and injustice, has been made the face of Nike’s latest ad campaign.

Kaepernick has been tapped to help Nike commemorate the 30th anniversary of its iconic slogan, the brand announced on Monday. He is set to join other well-known athletes, including Odell Beckham Jr. and Serena Williams.

The latest ad shows a black-and-white close-up of Kaepernick’s face along with the words, “Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything.” The phrase is believed to be a reference to Kaepernick’s lawsuit against the NFL for allegedly keeping him out of the league due to his protests against police brutality.

Kaepernick is known for leading the San Francisco 49ers to the Super Bowl in 2013. He left San Francisco two years ago and has not been picked up by any time since. Many teams had a need for a quarterback at the time but all of them declined to sign Kaepernick. This led many to believe owners were punishing him for his stance against the police or believe his presence would only lead to alienation among fans.

With his ex-teammate Eric Reid who was also one of the first NFL players to kneel during the anthem, Kaepernick filed grievances claiming team owners have conspired to keep them out of the NFL.

Since Nike’s announcement, many have expressed their views about it on social media. While many have praised Kaepernick for keeping true to his stance, others have slammed him for what they believe as disrespect to the military and the American flag.

Donald Trump Responds

President Donald Trump has publicly responded to Nike’s decision to make Kaepernick the face of its new ad campaign.

Donald Trump

President Donald Trump criticized Nike’s recent campaign involving Colin Kaepernick. Credit: Wikimedia Commons/Gage Skidmore

“I think it’s a terrible message that [Nike] are sending and the purpose of them doing it, maybe there’s a reason for them doing it,” the U.S. leader told Daily Caller Tuesday. “But I think as far as sending a message, I think it’s a terrible message and a message that shouldn’t be sent. There’s no reason for it.”

While he does not agree with Kaepernick’s stance, the president did acknowledge that both Nike and the NFL player had the freedom to express their own opinions.

“In another way, it is what this country is all about, that you have certain freedoms to do things that other people think you shouldn’t do, but I personally am on a different side of it,” Trump further stated.

In addition, he said Nike paid him “a lot of rent” because its flagship store in New York City is located in a building owned by Trump. The company left the property in 2017.

President Trump has frequently lambasted players who have kneeled during the anthem in the almost two years since Kaepernick began the movement.

Just last month, Trump suggested that players who kneel should be placed under suspension without pay.

NFL owners caved into the pressure earlier this year – approving a policy that would fine players who kneel during the national anthem. The new policy has since been put on hold by the league.

John Brennan Defends Kaepernick

One of the prominent people who defended Nike’s decision was former CIA Director John Brennan. Brennan lauded Kaepernick in a tweet, saying the athlete only gave meaning to the Constitution by taking a knee during the anthem to protest violence and racial injustice.

“Colin Kaepernick drew our collective attention to the problem of continued racial injustice in America,” he posted on Twitter Monday night. “He did so not to disrespect our flag but to give meaning to the words of the preamble of our Constitution—‘in order to form a more perfect union.’ Well done, Colin, well done.”

Bad Publicity is Still Publicity

The controversy around Nike’s new Kaepernick ad is probably not much of a surprise to the major sportswear company. In fact, many believe they have employed him to create more buzz for the brand.

In spite of the backlash, Kaepernick’s involvement is believed to be helping the promotion of Nike. Within less than 24 hours after Kaepernick’s spot was posted on Twitter, Nike has generated $43 million worth of media exposure.

Apex Marketing Group reported that a vast majority of that exposure is either neutral or positive. That means it outweighs the risk of alienating several customers, sports marketing executive Bob Dorfman said.

The move also positions Nike as a risk-taker, delivering a strong signal to its current slate of famous athletes. “It’s not a move that any company can make, but for Nike it’s definitely smart business,” Dorfman added.

Nike has yet to issue an official statement regarding the matter. On Tuesday, the company’s shares closed down 3.2 percent – its biggest one-day drop yet since the month of April. Meanwhile, shares in Nike’s strictest rival Adidas also dropped.

Nike’s Marketing Strategy

Nike is well aware that most of its customers are from the younger generation. NPD Group reports two-thirds of Nike’s customer base are below 35 years old from different races.

“Nike cares most about the category influencers and tastemakers — nearly all of whom will embrace their decision,” Howe Burch, Reebok’s former head of marketing in the U.S., said. “They know they will lose some customers short-term but not the kind of customers that really drive their business.”

Nike’s marketing strategy has been known to include disruptive athletes. Back in the early 1970s, runner Steve Prefontaine was tapped as the first athlete endorser of Nike.

The company is also known to be outspoken when it comes to its endorsers. When organizers of the French Open banned an outfit worn by Serena Williams, the company tweeted, “You can take the superhero out of her costume, but you can never take away her superpowers.”

Nike’s Relationship with the NFL

Some believe the renewed partnership between Kaepernick and Nike might result in tension between the company and the league. Nike has been the official uniform supplier for the NFL since 2012 and their partnership has been renewed up until 2028.

Kaepernick is in the middle of a legal battle with the NFL. Last week, an arbitrator said the controversial athlete had enough evidence to take his grievance suit to trial.

According to Burch, Nike’s decision to hire Kaepernick given his status with the NFL is quite unexpected.

“It’s a little surprising that they would take this position as the official supplier to the NFL,” Burch explained. “But they’ve never been uncomfortable being contrary.”