Friday, November 24, 2017

From Small Things Come Big Changes

Pierre Omidyar didn't plan to start a mega-corporation in the late fall of 1995. In fact, all he wanted to do was get rid of some computer equipment he had laying around by selling it through a digital garage sale. However, once he realized how popular his simple web page started to become, and the fact that he could charge a fee for folks to use it, eBay was born.



In three short years, the eBay online auction concept went from a private website to a viable business that quickly began to explode. Omidyar had hit on what many in business invention call a "primal need," something that everybody needs and doesn't yet exist.



With the help of Jeff Skoll, Omidyar brought in Meg Whitman, the same Whitman who later ran for California's governor, and corporate eBay took off. By 1998, eBay had gone beyond just selling used and collection items and was quickly becoming a viable brand name for online selling in general. The model continues today and competes directly against regular retail selling.



Seeing What it Could Become



The key aspect of Omidyar's success, however, was not Whitman and her corporate choices of personnel, nor was it the smart linkup with PayPal to make eBay's payment processing extraordinarily fluid and easy for customers. Omidyar could see that he had something valuable and, if given the resources, what it could become. This key talent is what makes the difference between inventors and idea people who never quite achieve success, and people like Omidyar who realize what seems to be impossible starting out.



Omidyar had a number of essential factors present and working in his favor:



  • Again, the primal need for an online auction platform or similar garage sale digital tool was needed.

  • Second, it could be easily accessed by anyone who wanted to participate and pay the fee.

  • Third, the tool was easy to use and produced immediate results and rewards for those using it.

  • Fourth, and most important, no one else was making the same idea happen successfully at the time.

Without these elements in place, Omidyar's personal website might have made some small cash and even generated a small following, but it would not have turned into the worldwide corporation we know as eBay today.



Finding Ways to Make it Grow



Some explain the opportunity as a momentary blast of good luck or fate, and others argue it's the genius of the person involved producing some incredible new service or product. In reality, eBay is neither; it is a product of Omidyar being able to see the promise of an idea and finding ways to make it grow and become more useful, accessible, and popular.



Ebay expanded and became a household name because the company took every opportunity to follow the four principles above in its business strategy. That constant commitment to creating value in a brand is why people keep coming back to eBay as a service some 20 years later, regardless of what the internet and technology have provided since.



If you need help creating value in your brand, we're here to help. Give us a call today!


Monday, October 30, 2017

3 Signs to Help You Identify if Your Market is Changing

So much of your marketing success depends on your ability to get the right message in front of the right people at exactly the right time. To accomplish this, you need to know your audience - and the market that they inhabit - as intimately as possible.



But what happens if one day, suddenly and without warning, that market begins to change? Worse yet, what happens if this trend started while you weren't necessarily paying as much attention as you should have been? The answer is both unfortunate and straightforward: you'll be stuck playing "catch up."



This is a situation that you do NOT want to find yourself in. Here are a few key signs that indicate a market change may be taking place.



Product Innovation Is No Longer a Key Value Driver



You've worked hard to build a robust and stable business and nobody offers what you do in quite the same way. You've had a tremendous amount of success relying on this type of innovation up to this point as a result. However, if things start to shift in the opposite direction, you may be looking at a market change that you'll want to adapt to as fast as you can.



Simply put, product innovation - that is, the quality of what you do and how you do it - should always be the key value driver for your business. If you start to have to fall back on things like your prices, the reputation of your brand, or simply your ability to "out market" your competition, it's likely that your audience is reaching a maturity level that will represent a challenge in the future.



Look to Your Competitors



Competitors are not always a hurdle to be overcome. Oftentimes, they can be the "canary in the coal mine," so to speak, especially in a situation like this one. Take a look at some of the leaders in your industry, especially competitors that are larger than you are. What are they doing? Are they growing or retracting? Are they doing something that nobody else is doing because they can see something coming down the road that nobody else does? Keeping an eye on the health of your larger competitors can be a great way to stay ahead of the larger market trends that may be right around the corner.



Listen to Your Customers



Ultimately, the most important thing you can do to identify signs that your market may be changing requires you to see your marketing strategy as a two-way street. You're not just communicating with your audience; your audience is also communicating with you. If you're having a hard time getting solid insight into the direction of your industry and market alone, cut out the middleman and go right to the source: ask your audience what they see as their future needs in the areas you've dedicated yourself to serving.



Send out surveys or questionnaires asking for raw, honest insights into the questions you're asking yourself today. Take a current client or customer out for dinner and ask them what they see for the next five or even ten years in your industry. Never forget that without these people, your business wouldn't exist - so it's in your own best interest to listen to them as often as possible.


Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Print Advertising Feels Like Printing Money

Wouldn't it be great if you could print your own money? Life would be so much easier, right? Well, maybe not, but here's a little secret that feels like printing money: print advertising.



Print Advertising is Like Printing Money



Good advertising can go a long way for your business. Sometimes it's hard to explain what good advertising is, but you know it when you've seen it. Whether it's a heartfelt image or a tagline that makes you think, there's just something about incredible advertising that has a way to move and motivate you.



Good print advertising can inspire you to make a change, donate to a cause, or purchase that cool, new tech device. It provides everyone who passes it, holds it, or takes it out of a mailbox the chance to see that printed information. And, since print advertising is often locally targeted, it means that you can create a far more personal connection to your community than you can with digital ads.



Every time someone sees your printed advertisement and, in turn, goes in and buys a product or service from you, you're essentially printing your own money! These customers may have never come to your business and purchased your product or service without seeing the advertisement.



You Like What You See, You Buy What You Like



Picture this: You're walking down the street. Maybe you just finished grabbing a coffee with a friend, and you're heading back to your car. You check your watch to make sure you're still on time to pick up the kids from school. You look up and there, on the side of a building, is a poster for a brand new product one of the local boutiques is offering. It stops you in your tracks as you gaze up at it. It's incredible! How come nobody else ever thought of that before! You pull out your phone and snap a picture, so you remember to pick up the item later.



All of this is the power of print advertisement. People pay little mind to online advertisements, and TV ads are often on while the viewer is off grabbing another beverage from the kitchen. Print ads, however, are there regardless of what a person is doing and how often they pass a certain intersection. And every time someone sees the advertisement and buys something, you've just printed more of your own money.



So, what are you waiting for? Now is the time to start printing your own money in the form of print advertising!


Friday, October 20, 2017

Want to Be Successful? Take Time to Dream

One of the most famous dreamers of our time is Steve Jobs, the Co-founder and CEO of Apple, an iconic visionary who believed so deeply in the power of his dreams that he was able to bring them to life for millions of people. Jobs believed that the era of mediocrity was over and that you should put in the work on every project to make it great. His famous recommendation to a Disney retail executive to "Dream bigger" when it came to Disney stores resulted in a new type of store experience that continues to delight children of all ages. How can you leverage these same tactics and take the time to dream big in your own life?



Dream Fearlessly



Individuals often lose confidence in their dreams because everyday reality creeps in and has a way of tamping down your passion. Big dreamers are different. Even if you think they're relentlessly optimistic, it requires constant hard work and commitment to make dreams come true, and a fearless need to be successful.



Believe in Yourself



Constantly second-guessing yourself doesn't leave a lot of time for forward movement, making self-confidence a critical requirement for living your passion. You have to identify every element of your vision down to the smallest detail, and then break it down into the small steps required to make it happen. Professional athletes are very familiar with this concept, as they are coached to visualize making a basket, getting a hole in one, or nailing a complicated gymnastics floor exercise.



Take Action



Dreaming is great, but once the dream is solidified it is time to begin moving! Harness your beliefs and stay focused on reaching your goal. There will be others who will support you along the way -- great! There will also be those individuals who are constantly looking to undermine your skills, your ability, and your passion. Graciously ignore them, and keep taking steps to move your dreams forward into reality. Pausing too long to consider the consequences can often result in a missed opportunity, which may not come around again.



Compete to Win



Successful dreamers are by nature quite competitive. They're always looking around for how their competition is doing something and finding a way to improve upon the concept, or better yet -- revolutionize it in their own way. Solving problems for your customers is a daily devotion, allowing you to rise to any challenge and overcome it as you follow your dreams.



Leave Space for Dreaming



What can you stop doing (immediately, next week, in six weeks) that will free up additional time for dreaming? It can be incredibly difficult to fuel your passion when you're so caught up in everyday activities and overall busyness that you aren't able to stop and think. Actively look for ways that you can create space in your daily activities that provide a block of time in which to think about the future and how you'll get there. Your future self will thank you!



Finally, and perhaps most importantly, persevere. When things don't work out exactly as you had planned -- keep going. Remind yourself that nothing good comes overnight, and success can take years to achieve. Stay resilient, be patient and keep dreaming!


Tuesday, October 17, 2017

What Leadership Really Means in the Era of Working Remotely

More employees are working remotely than ever before. According to research conducted by GlobalWorkplaceAnalytics.com, roughly 50% of the workforce in the United States holds a job that is "compatible" with at least partial telework. Of those people, about 20 to 25% of them actually do work remotely at some frequency.



More than that, a further 80 to 90% say that they would really like to work remotely at least part time - pointing to a trend that is only going to get more popular as time goes on.



Employees who are all able to work from home (or wherever they'd like, really) sounds fantastic... if you're an employee. But what if you're an employer? More than that, what if you're a leader? How do you continue to do your job of bringing people together to benefit the greater good if they're all spread out over a potentially massive geographic area?



The Job Hasn't Changed...



The "good news" is that the leadership qualities required to steer any organization towards success have not changed, nor are they likely to ever do so. You still need to be an excellent communicator, making sure that everyone is on the same page, that they know what "success" looks like, and that they all still feel like they're contributing to something much more powerful and important than themselves.



You still need to be willing to lead by example, never asking someone to do something that you're unwilling to do yourself. You still need to inspire people to give their all not because their paychecks depend on it, but because they just can't help themselves.



... But the Tools Have



Things have changed, however. In terms of communication, for example, you need to be willing to adapt your process to rely less on face-to-face interaction and more on the digital resources that you have available to you. Collaborating on a project no longer involves sitting in the same room and hammering out ideas. Now, it'll involve using some cloud-based solution to give everyone editing access to the same files at the same time.



This type of thing will require an adjustment from your perspective, but it is one that is undoubtedly worth making. Typical telecommuters tend to be much happier with their jobs than people forced to come into the office every day, which will directly affect both productivity and work quality in a positive way. 73% of telecommuters say that they're more satisfied with their company than they've ever been before. Most of them work more than 40 hours per week. They also tend to work harder to create a friendly, cooperative, and positive work environment - something that you're also trying to do by being the best leader you can be.



In truth, how you're able to change your management style to keep up with the demands of the modern telecommuting workforce will go a long way towards deciding what type of leader you'll be today, tomorrow, five years from now, and beyond.


Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Your Company's Waste Makes This Man Rich

Matt Malone would probably be considered an odd fellow and maybe even mentally ill by those seeing him on the street. However, for those who know Malone personally, they might think that he's a genius.



Malone is, in modern terms, known as a dumpster diver. That involves essentially going into large dumpster bins and rummaging around to see what people have thrown away.



Malone was first introduced to the practice by accident when working in a company that got rid of far too much valuable, working equipment. What he realized at first was that the items were still usable, valuable, and most importantly, functional. However, when he took them home and started making inventions with the items, he realized something more - people wanted what he was finding and were willing to pay real cash for the items.



Diamonds in the Rough



Today, Malone is at an expert level, finding gems in the rough and converting them into sales of hundreds and even thousands of dollars. In fact, he makes more in dumpster-related sales than he does in his regular job.



However, this article is not about Malone's success. It's about the fact that Malone's earnings are possible because businesses regularly throw away thousands of dollars of perfectly fine commodities and equipment simply because it's not needed, no longer perfect, or no one knows what to do with it in the office. As a result, companies small and large are bleeding expenses daily without seeing the full benefit from what was bought. And that makes Malone a rich man.



Whether it's security cameras, unused ink toner, or usable furniture, companies move out perfectly viable goods and products to their collective dumpsters every day. And this obvious waste and loss of company money is because there is no incentive within most companies to try to make things stretch further. Don't need that toner anymore? No problem, buy a new one and throw the old one in the box in the hallway. The janitor will take care of it regardless of the fact we spent $300 to buy it on the last office supply order.



Reuse, Resell, Recycle



People regularly make fun of the TSA and government airport security, but the security agency has one step up on some of the smartest companies. Instead of adding more trash to landfills with all the nail clippers, pocket knives and nail files they confiscate from travelers at the security gates, they bundle them into large bins and sell them on eBay, recouping actual cash from free confiscations. How many companies actively recoup funds by reselling what they don't need? Not enough, which is why Malone and dumpster divers like him are becoming rich people.



Many parts of the world look at the U.S. and see it as synonymous with waste and laziness. But it doesn't have to be this way. A simple bit of attention on equipment and inventory can change behavior dramatically in every office and program.



General Motors got smart and now saves a $1 billion a year. By simply making it clear not to waste and to proactively consolidate extra material for reuse or resale, companies can add a small, but valuable additional revenue stream to their bottom line. That may be bad news for Mr. Malone, but he's likely not too worried. So many businesses are throwing away so much product daily, he's unlikely to run out of free trash discoveries and supply for a long time.


Friday, October 6, 2017

4 Productivity Tools That Will Give You Back Your Sanity

Whether you're working from home or the office, distractions happen, and they can be a productivity killer. Nearly everyone has an example of weeks that you look back on and wonder "What happened? I know I was busy . . . " while still feeling as though you've accomplished nothing. With deadlines crashing down on your head and the constant demands of family and work, it's important to be as productive as possible to maintain your sanity. These productivity tools are vetted by experts to help bring balance back to your life -- while still getting things done.



1. Time Trackers



Even if you're not a fan of tracking every task that comes across your desk, a time tracker can provide a valuable way to give yourself mental freedom from specific tasks. For instance, what if instead of tracking the time you're doing something, you track the time when you're not doing something -- like checking email? Set a timer for three hours and (gasp!) close your email client completely. Turn your phone over on your desk, and turn off the ringer. For three hours, allow yourself to focus on something other than responding to others. You will be pleasantly surprised at how productive you're able to be without the constant distractions caused by emails, text messages, and social media without feeling like you've been out of the loop for too long. Of course, you can always use time trackers in the traditional way, by setting estimates for time and tracking how long specific tasks will take. Either usage will help bring your productivity back into focus!



2. Take it to the Cloud



Cloud-based document and data storage platforms allow you to be productive regardless of your physical location -- a critical need in today's always-on business world. Google Drive, Dropbox, and Box are a few of the options that offer low-cost ways to sync your information between tablets, mobile phones, and laptops or desktops, so you're never truly away from the office. More corporations are utilizing these cloud alternatives to traditional enterprise data storage due to the relatively inexpensive cost and ease of use for employees.



3. Expense Management



Mobile apps such as Expensify allow you to take a quick snap of receipts and classify them by project, something that is invaluable for today's busy professional. Keeping track of receipts and ensuring that they get assigned to the right account is yet another of those small yet nagging tasks that can reduce your available mental space without a single return. Clear out the clutter mentally and physically when you use a digital expense management tool.



4. Email Productivity



Professional emails can be a hassle, from trying to remember to send something at just the right time to getting off the myriad of email lists that tend to stack up in your inbox. Tools such as Unroll.me will quickly unsubscribe you from a wide range of email lists in a few short seconds, while tools such as Boomerang allow you to schedule messages for delivery at a later date. This keeps your email from hiding at the bottom of an inbox that is stuffed full overnight.



Ultimately, these productivity tools will help you squeeze a few extra moments into your day by automating simple tasks such as unsubscribing from email lists and having the information at your fingertips when you need it. When you're able to take these actions when you think of them, you're clearing your mind for additional productivity -- instead of having to maintain a mental database of open tasks to be completed. Take back your sanity by becoming more productive and regaining some of your focus!


Tuesday, October 3, 2017

4 Ways to Incorporate Humor at Work

Nothing is more embarrassing than telling a joke and having it fall flat at work, but don't let that stop you from adding appropriate humor to the workplace, as it can be a great way to reduce tension and improve overall relations.



Having fun with the people you spend at least 40 hours per week with can raise your mood and boost camaraderie throughout your office. Here are some of the top ways you can incorporate humor at work:



1. Hire for Personality and Cultural Fit



When you're the hiring manager or simply someone able to have input into hiring processes, try to look for someone to join the team who approaches work seriously, and themselves lightly. This could come in the form of an easy smile, a little self-deprecating humor, or the ability to find the amusing side in everyday situations that others may consider stressful. When you have someone on your team who can inject some fun into the workplace, it gives others permission to crack a smile as well.



2. Encourage Silliness



Sure, you don't want to be silly all the time as you'd get nothing done, but a little wackiness once in a while can break up an otherwise boring or tedious day. Send a cute animal meme or 30-second video to a small group of work friends and enjoy the smile on their face when they view it. If it's not against your rules, post a humorous cartoon that has a positive message. It is important to be careful, however, as longer videos beyond two minutes or so sent to a large list of people can effectively kill productivity (which won't make your boss happy at all!)



3. Keep it Professional



A great rule of thumb is that if you would be embarrassed having whatever you want to say plastered on a billboard -- don't say it! Same goes for the grandmother test. If you wouldn't want your grandmother to hear what you've been saying, you probably should abstain. Don't make fun of others even when it's "just for fun," and keep teasing to a minimum. This especially holds true if you're a supervisor or in another position of power. You may not realize that your good-natured poking fun at others can be taken much more seriously when there's an imbalance of power.



4. Inspiring Others



You're more approachable to others when you're smiling, which may be one of the reasons that many leaders work hard on keeping a pleasant look on their face. When you work hard to uplift others with a pleasant word, even sharing amusing inspirational videos can provide you with some personal collateral to be used at a later time. It's important to note that individuals who appropriately use humor at work are likely to be promoted more quickly and make more money, so there are definite reasons to putting some fun-loving vibes into the air!



Using humor appropriately at work can tighten the bond between co-workers, keep those creative juices flowing, and make the days fly by! However, you always have to balance the good times with ensuring you're being as productive as possible on the job. Jokes and effective banter can improve your standing within the organization specifically because it is assumed that you are mature enough to understand the proper use of humor and that you're relaxed and confident enough to call attention to yourself.


Friday, September 29, 2017

Why Does Elon Musk Want Dissenters in his Company?

In many companies and organizations, there is a position that most employees learn to avoid. It's the position that stands out from the crowd and represents the minority voice on the team. Instead, folks learn to see which way the water is flowing and the music is playing, and they align their interests and concerns accordingly. It's often couched in phrasing as "being a team player" and being a "proactive player instead of a negative burden" or similar.



Elon Musk, the well known chief executive of SpaceX which just recently solved how to create a space rocket that can land itself and be reused again, follows a different path with his employees. He actually wants people to tell him when they think he's going down the wrong path. As Musk puts it, the lone dissenter or minority voice often points out issues and facts that if ignored can turn into costly problems later on. However, if a company team only follows the majority path, it can quickly turn into the fatal path of groupthink and "yes" men, ignoring major warning signs a big disaster is about to occur.



The Reward Dissenters Bring



Elon Musk and SpaceX are no strangers to risk. They operate in the high stakes game of off-Earth space transport and travel. A mistake in this environment has almost always meant total loss and millions of dollars wasted. So from Musk's perspective, a dissenting voice provides multiple benefits. It forces the supported path to be defended better by showing why the concern raised is not an issue, a form of vetting before moving forward. Second, the minority opinion frequently brings up risks or concerns that may be glossed over otherwise because they are inconvenient to the supported path. Again, the biggest business mistakes often start with small, ignored issues, like a small leak in a levee.



The idea of rewarding the person who raises potential problems goes against the trend of American business. For decades business managers have been taught that the team is all-powerful and that many minds in synergy produce more than the individual alone. However, this also assumes a lot of mistakes are made along the way to develop that experience. In rocket-building, however, mistakes can't be tolerated, so Musk believes in asking every question and giving a chance for dissent, an antithesis to traditional corporate culture.



Think This Doesn't Apply to You? Think Again



Some might argue that the same situation of a rocket company doesn't apply to a business creating software or coffee-makers. Businesses can afford to have mistakes and still make sales. However, in practice, this logic fails when the company gets sued and loses a major product warranty or personal injury case. Litigation has killed more than one small or medium business with a great product or service but no defense to a mistake that harms someone.



Musk doesn't believe every dissenting opinion should be followed. In fact, he notes in his advice they can be incorrect. However, listening causes the path chosen to be analyzed just a bit further to identify weaknesses missed. And in Musk's business, if it exists, avoiding that weakness can mean his multi-million dollar rocket landing again in one piece. What does it potentially mean for your company?


Tuesday, September 19, 2017

You Can Never Have Too Many Purchase Points

The sales funnel in a business has changed dramatically in recent years, thanks in large part to how digital and print marketing have been married together. The customer experience is now a fragmented one, and if you're only giving your audience one opportunity to buy, you could be leaving lots of money on the table. In truth, you can never have too many purchase points in today's modern climate for a number of key reasons.

How Freedom Gave Way to Multi-Point Marketing

The internet, in particular, has naturally led purchasing decisions to become more complex over time. Because more information is now readily available than at any point in the history of consumerism, people now spend huge volumes of time researching before they make that move towards a purchase. They're also getting their information from many different sources. Dimensional Research conducted a study that revealed 90% of people are influenced by online reviews before making a purchase. Another study revealed that 36% of people use a company website before making a purchase, another 22% rely on face-to-face interaction, and 59% even find out what their friends or family members have to say before they make a decision one way or the other.

You might think that this massive influx of information would make the sales funnel simpler, as it's now easier than ever to find the actionable information you need to make the most informed decision with your hard-earned money. However, it's actually had the reverse effect. Things have gotten significantly more complex as even the average consumer's opinion is now being pulled in a number of different directions.

The 21st Century Sales Funnel

This massive shift in the way that consumers operate has created a ripple effect, changing the way businesses operate at the same time. It requires marketers, in particular, to respond in more diverse ways, starting with not just how they've optimized their sales funnel to take into consideration 21st-century buying practices, but how they've designed the funnel in the first place.

According to a piece that first appeared in Forbes, content marketing is one of the primary keys to helping address these modern day challenges. Essentially, modern businesses need to assume that EVERY point in the sales funnel is a potential purchase point and content needs to be created to match. Content marketing lets businesses created and distribute relevant, valuable, and consistent content to attract their clearly-defined audience. If you're assuming that your audience could be ready to buy at the drop of a hat, naturally how you design that content will have to respond.

In essence, content and your larger marketing efforts must now be ready to address problems earlier in the buying cycle than ever before. The only purchase point in your sales funnel can no longer be the one at the end. Any point can now be a purchase point if you know what you're doing. These types of techniques also give way to an added benefit of allowing marketers to take advantage of more diverse channels to attract the largest audience possible from the outset.

So, not only are you getting consumers who are ready to buy sooner than ever before, but you're also getting a larger number of leads entering into the funnel. It may be trickier to manage, but it's the type of situation that our marketing ancestors would have gladly killed for.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

How to Inspire Those Around You Like the True Leader You Were Meant to Be

Even business professionals with the best of intentions often make the mistake of assuming that solid leadership is about one thing and one thing only: delegating responsibility. You've worked hard your whole life and you've ascended through the ranks - now is the time when people should start listening to what you have to say, right?



Yes, but not in the way you think.



You're the Inspiration



In truth, employees shouldn't be doing what you say just because you're the one saying it. They should be following your guidance because they want to, they're inspired to, and if given the opportunity, they'd be steering that proverbial ship in the same direction that you've chosen. To get there, though, you're going to have to do more than just bark orders. You're going to have to inspire. Here are a few key things to keep in mind when trying to inspire others.



Leaders Who Inspire Support Their Employees in More Ways Than One



One of the most common traits among leaders who inspire their workforce is that they tend to support their employees, both personally and professionally. After all, everyone wants to have meaning in their lives and wants to be encouraged to follow their passions.



To help support this, you need to create an environment where learning is encouraged and where everyone feels like you have your own personal interest in their success. You need to be a leader that fosters development - someone who looks for and utilizes every opportunity for a person to take a positive step forward. Doing this won't just inspire pride in one's work, it'll go a long way towards inspiring loyalty, too.



Inspirational Leaders Set the Tone



Another essential trait that you'll need to focus on to both inspire those around you and to become the true leader you were meant to be is to lead by example. This goes far beyond just "treat others how you want to be treated." You need to show that you're willing to do what you want others to do, too. Never ask someone to do something that you would never be willing to do yourself. Don't be afraid to get in there and get your hands dirty, so to speak. If you want your team to put in long hours and work hard on that next big project, you have to put your money where your mouth is and show that you're ready and willing to do the same.



Inspirational Leaders Value Trust Above All Else



A truly inspirational leader knows that human beings are exactly that - human. The road to success isn't going to be an easy one and if you aren't willing to trust the employees around you, they will soon recede into their comfort zone. They'll quickly start to feel like the risk of stepping outside that box isn't worth it and that the environment they're spending so much time in just doesn't support them in doing so anyway.



By trusting your employees (and being willing to accept that not every challenge is a simple one to overcome), you're creating a situation where people are more willing to take on challenges and risk any failures that come their way. You need to show people that even if something goes wrong, you believe in them and that you have their back. You need to make them believe that even when they have a setback, you'll still be by their side, urging them to move forward. Rest assured, at that point, they will.


Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Wish You Were More Productive? Try These 3 Tips!

Being productive means making room for the things you really want and uncovering new and innovative ways to work smarter, not harder. Thankfully, it's a lot easier than you probably think it is. If you want to become more productive, here are a few key traits you should focus on.



Take Frequent Breaks to Recharge Yourself



Although this may seem a bit on the counterintuitive side, studies have shown that taking frequent breaks throughout the day help to recharge yourself. Our "biological clock" has two basic forms that are dictated by our natural twenty-four (circadian) rhythms and our shorter than a day, but longer than an hour (ultradian) rhythms. Our ultradian rhythms essentially function in 90-minute intervals. This is why it's so easy to go from "firing all cylinders" to "boy I need a nap" and back again throughout the course of your work day.



Remember that managing your time and managing your energy are not mutually exclusive. Taking breaks will help get you over the hump and allow you to come back better and stronger than ever.



The Results Are All That Matters



In a piece originally published by Forbes on how to be a more productive manager, it stated how one of the key traits to focus on is leaning into the results, not the process. One of the reasons why we often feel overwhelmed at work is because we're just not getting the results we're after with a particular task. This causes our productivity (and as a result, our morale) to take a nosedive.



Because of this, it's important to make your number one priority a high-quality, consistent, and reliable output, rather than simply trying to do as many things at the same time as possible.



Discipline, Discipline, Discipline



According to the experts at PsychCentral.com, one of the essential things that you can do to become more productive at work is to maintain a strict sense of self-discipline at all times. Highly productive people aren't just able to eliminate tasks that are ultimately time-wasters - they also have a high degree of personal responsibility and are constantly looking for ways to improve themselves, both of which fall back under the distinct umbrella of discipline.



Hitting goals, meeting deadlines, fulfilling promises - these are the true goals behind that task you're trying to find the time to accomplish. Maintaining focus on these through strict self-discipline is the perfect way to suddenly find more time in each day.



These are just a few of the key traits that you can focus on to instantly become more productive at work. This was the good news - the better news is that gains like these in your professional life will undoubtedly have a ripple effect on your personal life, too. You'll be happier at home, and you'll have more time to spend with your loved ones. It really is a win-win situation.


Friday, August 11, 2017

Your Willingness to Accept Feedback Will Affect All Areas Of Your Business

Many people make the mistake of assuming that feedback automatically equates to complaining. After all, people tend to not speak up about issues unless the topic reaches a boiling point, right? In reality, feedback doesn't have to be like this at all. When given properly, feedback is constructive and can help to both reinforce what you're doing right and pinpoint what you may be doing wrong.



No one is immune from the concept of feedback because no one is perfect. When you learn to accept feedback (regardless of where it is coming from or how positive or negative it may be) it will have a dramatic effect on all areas of your business.



Accepting Feedback Helps Employees Feel Engaged



A willingness to accept feedback has a direct relationship with something all business leaders should be concerned about: employee engagement. Feedback goes beyond open and honest communication and enters into a realm where employees are free to speak their minds when they feel it is necessary to do so.



If employees don't feel like they can come to you with issues they see as essential, it can have a negative effect on your entire business. According to one study conducted by Execu-Search, 42 percent of all employees feel like company leadership does NOT contribute to a positive company culture. This goes a long way towards explaining why, according to a Gallup study, 51 percent of the U.S. workforce is not engaged.



The most alarming statistic of all is that these types of disengaged employees cost businesses between $450 billion and $550 billion annually. As a leader, this is the type of situation that you're creating for yourself by being unwilling to accept feedback from those around you. Even if you don't agree with something that an employee has to say, just the fact that you're willing to listen to them goes a long way towards keeping morale (and company culture) as strong as it can be.



Feedback Acknowledges the Importance of Continued Learning



Feedback is also critical to the modern business for the simple reason that it sets the tone for everything that comes next. It's less about your willingness to listen and more about showing that you're always looking for ways to improve, to do better, to make stronger decisions, and to increase your performance.



Luckily, it isn't hard to accept feedback at all, and you get can plenty of practice because it's around us all the time. Every time you're talking to an employee, or a customer, or a vendor, you're getting feedback. Going out of your way to hear it can help make employees feel more valued, which in turn motivates them to work harder. It can also make your customers feel more valued, which strengthens your long-term relationships.



This type of actionable information is crucial for you to make stronger, more informed decisions in your position moving forward. Going out of your way to get constant, honest, and (yes, sometimes) raw feedback helps make sure that your actions are aligned with the goals of your business.


Tuesday, August 8, 2017

The Rise and Fall of Nate Silver: A Lesson in Risk Communication

Political prognosticator and analytics guru Nate Silver rose to national fame by correctly predicting elections. But in 2016, Silver joined almost every other analyst by projecting a victory for Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. Was Silver's good luck over?



Cognitive Bias and the "Failure" of Data



Actually, Silver's estimate for the 2016 election was closer to correct than almost anyone else's. He saw Clinton as a heavy favorite, but still gave Donald Trump a roughly one-in-three shot of winning. But the world didn't remember that part of the projection once the election results came in. They just remembered the part Silver got wrong. Nobel Prize winner Daniel Kahneman has an explanation: cognitive bias.



Kahneman studied how people make decisions and judgments, and he quickly discovered that they don't make any sense. People like to think of themselves as logical and rational, but they mostly use logic to justify believing whatever they want to believe anyway. And one thing people absolutely love to believe is that the future is certain. Human minds loathe uncertainty. Uncertainty breeds anxiety and fear--sometimes paralyzing fear. So when given a number like "one in three" or "ninety percent," they subconsciously convert the odds to "yes" or "no."



This cognitive bias is often very useful. You probably never consider the statistical chance that you'll be run over by a bus because if you did, you might never leave the house. It's far easier, and probably mentally healthier, to treat the risk of bus accidents as a 0. But the tendency to round probabilities up or down can be disastrous in the business world.



Communicating Risk



Have you told your boss that there's a 90% chance you'll make the sale? If the deal didn't go through, you were probably in a bit of hot water. Has a supplier ever told you her product's failure rate was less than 1%? You'd probably be pretty mad if your order was a dud. The problem with both of those statements of probability is that they do a poor job of communicating risk. They invite the mind's cognitive bias to take over and convert the estimate into a certainty. When that certainty turns out not to be so certain, it feels like a broken promise.



That's why the world decided Nate Silver was wrong. They had rounded up the probability of a Clinton victory to a guarantee. When Trump won, it felt like Silver had broken his word. His failure wasn't in the data--it was in the way he communicated the risk.



The lesson here is that quoting numbers won't save you. Don't just toss out percentages--put them in context. Visualizations are one useful technique. If a product will fail one time in a hundred, a graphic with 99 white shapes and one black shape gets the message across far more effectively than the numbers. Analogies are also effective. A 90% probability? That's about the same as the chance that an NFL kicker will make a 32-yard field goal. Anchoring the numbers to a familiar context creates a lasting impression. It forces the mind to acknowledge uncertainty.



In business and life, people care about honesty. But if your goal is to be trustworthy, it's not enough to state the facts. You have to make those facts sink into others' minds. When it comes to probabilities and risks, that task is taller than it looks.


Friday, July 28, 2017

The One-Trick Pony Syndrome

Have you ever heard the phrase, "a one-trick pony?"



Researchers believe the "one-trick pony" phrase comes from an entertainment background. According to research, the earliest reference was associated with circus ponies used to perform a trick or feat that impressed audiences. The ponies involved could do an amazing act, such as walking on their hind feet, but that was all they could do. Eventually, the audiences got bored with the show. In one version of the story, a pony had a dog partner that would ride on it. While the audience got sick of seeing the pony do the same thing every time the circus was in town, the dog gained fame because it learned and began to perform new tricks. In time, the dog became the star, and the pony was relegated to hauling circus carts.



Is Your Business A One-Trick Pony?



The moral of the story here is not to allow your business to get stuck on only one good thing. It's tempting to think that if you have something good going, why ruin it? Well, over time that good thing will become less and less popular. The number of customers who want it will diminish and the business will have to start cutting prices to keep it attractive. Eventually, the product or service won't sell at all.



Palm PDAs and Blackberry were both perfect examples of the one-trick pony mistake. They both had a really good product for a while, but both companies failed to upgrade and develop new products. Eventually, someone else did, and their customer base walked away. Those text screens on a Blackberry and similarly on a Palm PDA simply looked old and obsolete versus smartphones like the original Apple iPhone. The world had changed.



It's Time to Diversify



Is your business riding the wave right now of a star pony? If so, now is the time to be looking for and generating a new path. Diversify into a new product or new service. Not only does it protect your business' longevity, but multiple revenue streams from different customers will eventually offset each other when one of them starts to weaken.



Companies that map out their product/service life cycle and plan for eventual loss with replacement "ponies" are the firms that survive and grow. Don't let all your energy, money, time, and effort go down the drain with a one-trick pony. Instead, use the initial success to be your springboard for the next one.


Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Learn How to Communicate on a Case-by-Case Basis for Better Results

To say that communication is important in the workplace is an understatement. This is true regardless of the type of business you're running or even the industry you're operating in. One study from McKinsey Global Institute found that not only does active communication bring people closer together in the workplace but in these types of situations productivity tends to improve between 20% and 25% on average.



At the same time, there is no "silver bullet" method to communication that will instantly get everyone on the same page. Only by looking to your employees as individuals, and playing to their own individual strengths and preferences, will you finally be able to see the communication gains that you so richly deserve.



Let the Employee Be Your Guide



Perhaps the most important thing for you to understand is that communication no longer means face-to-face conversations, -or at least it doesn't exclusively. This is particularly the case regarding introverted employees, a staple at any organization.



Just because Ryan from Accounting doesn't like to speak up in meetings doesn't mean that he lacks communication skills. It just means that speaking in front of a group isn't necessarily his forte. Instead of trying to force Ryan to adapt to your wishes, consider how Ryan would prefer to communicate.



Emails, memos, texting, one-on-one meetings, phone calls: these are all viable options regarding getting ideas across in the modern era. As a business leader, it's not your job to get everyone to communicate the way you want to just because you prefer looking someone in the eyes when you tell them what they need to do next. It's your job to make a note of the conditions that a person excels under and then do whatever you can to facilitate those needs whenever possible.



The Larger Implications of Communication



Consider the fact that according to one survey, an incredible 46% of employees said that they "rarely, if ever" leave a meeting knowing exactly what they're supposed to do next. This is the danger of a "one size fits all" approach to communication. You end up becoming something of a "jack of all trades, master of none."



One study revealed that 26% of employees think email is a major productivity killer. But when you reverse that, it means that 74% of employees think email is just fine. But it's important not to create an "either/or" situation where one doesn't have to exist. If you know that Robert is going to get the information he needs from an email, send away. If you know that Brenda is the type of employee who needs to sit down and talk out her next objective in person, be sure you make time for her in your schedule.



It's up to you to find the right communication method that works for the individual so that everyone can be on the same page when it comes to contributing to the whole.



It's important to remember that according to a recent Gallup poll, 70% of employees in the United States said that they just weren't engaged in work anymore. Creating an environment of open and honest communication is one of the keys to combating this issue head on. But you must also remember that no two employees are created equally. An approach that works great for getting one employee to open up and become engaged in their work may be woefully inadequate for the next.



Only by making an effort to communicate on a case-by-case basis will you be able to generate a workplace where success is no longer a question of "if" but "when."


Friday, July 21, 2017

What Happened to Summer? Back-to-School Marketing Starts Earlier Than Ever

The temperature is soaring, steaks sizzle on the grill, and kids play in the pool, but not everyone is thinking summer. Back to school season is starting earlier than ever for big retailers and the impact trickles over into all aspects of marketing. Both Office Depot and Land's End launch back to school campaigns at the start of summer - in some cases before school even ended in some parts of the country.



This is a change even from last year; according to AdAge, 2016 saw back to school marketing head into full swing around the middle of July. Time magazine cites the need for retailers to make as many revenues as possible during the highest spending periods as the reason Black Friday, Halloween, and Back to School promotions are being scheduled earlier than ever before.



When does Back to School Begin?



Big retailers working on the premise that earlier is better have begun pushing back-to-school marketing back each year. Back to school is big business for retailers, since it is worth about 78 billion; it is second only to the major holidays for revenues, according to AdAge.



How Early is Too Early?



Office Depot's back-to-school advertising rolled out June 25 of this year, a full three weeks earlier than 2016's July launch. Other retailers are following suit, but there is some consumer backlash against the early push. Lands' End received public criticism on social media when their back-to-school catalog dropped while kids in many parts of the country were still in school.




"We got your #backtoschool catalog in the mail. Our kids still have two weeks of school left this year! #fail #marketing," tweeted Greg Magin.




@GregMagin helpfully tagged his rant with #fail, #backtoschool and #Marketing, so it was seen by far more than just his followers. This backlash from consumers shows that a too-early launch can backfire. Right now, the sweet spot for back-to-school marketing seems to be right after the 4th of July through the end of the month.



Back-to-school marketing is all about timing. Being aware of this pitfall, and of the enormous potential of this busy season, can help you make the most of Back to School season for your brand and ensure your organization has a visible presence during this often overlooked marketing opportunity.



Make Back to School Time Count for your Brand



Positioning your Back to School promotions in July and working to build not only sales but also awareness can help place you in front of consumers when they're ready to outfit the kids for the next school year. Since most consumers begin searching online well before they part with actual money, building awareness ahead of this busy season can help you get the results you want without irritating consumers.


Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Indra Nooyi: A Story in Being Yourself and Persistence

Have you ever heard of Indra Nooyi? Maybe not, but you've probably bought her product at one time or another in the past year. Ms. Nooyi is the CEO of Pepsi-Co., the makers of the popular and well-known Pepsi soda brand. However, her position at Pepsi is not necessarily what is the most amazing fact of her story. Granted, reaching the status of being a Fortune 500 company CEO is huge and significant, but how Ms. Nooyi got her start is the real story. That's because she risked everything with no safety net to fall back on.



Some Compelling Advice



Indra Nooyi came to the U.S. like so many other great minds, arriving as a student immigrant. Ms. Nooyi jumped to a slot in Harvard's master's degree program in business. However, graduating wasn't her biggest challenge. It was translating her academic success into a result: getting a job. Ms. Nooyi's first real interview was total failure - no connection, no rhythm, no job. However, she received a piece of advice from a professor that Ms. Nooyi has carried forward since then to her role as a CEO. She was told to simply "be herself."



Ms. Nooyi clearly took the advice she received to heart. Not only has she been herself as intelligent, smart, persistent, and daring, she has also scored an enviable position of 75 percent plus support by her own employees worldwide. See if you can find a politician with as much support even when winning a national election.



What Makes A Person Successful?



For business owners and leaders, the lesson from Ms. Nooyi is to never forget what really makes a person successful. It's not the suit, it's not the past laurels, and it's not the school degree. What makes the difference that catches people's attention and gets their support is one's personal confidence and persistence. Ms. Nooyi gambled everything with not just coming to the U.S. to succeed but to also establish herself in a highly competitive arena: business consulting. Had she failed, Ms. Nooyi would have had to return back to India and likely would have disappeared into a vast number of IT companies there; everything for her was on the line. But she persisted. And Ms. Nooyi, with her new advice on being herself, was quickly hired. That in turn became her path to eventually becoming Pepsi-Co.'s latest CEO.



A Better Choice



Business leaders trying to keep a company going will at some point face a challenge where everything has to be put on the line to get to the next level. Many don't take that leap. It's too risky, it's too costly, or it's too unknown. Yet from Ms. Nooyi's example, the last thing anyone should be doing is trying hard to fake their way through the issue. Be yourself. Trust your skills and trust your gut to make the right the decision. That's what got a person to a leadership role in the first place, so why should he or she be any different at the moment that counts the most? Risk, responsibilities, fears of what-if can all combine to make someone think behaving differently may be the best path forward. Clearly, from Ms. Nooyi's example, there's a better choice.




Friday, July 14, 2017

Social Media and Your Marketing Strategy

When you are trying to reach a wide demographic for your business, you must get on social media. By developing a following on social media and learning how to use text messaging to get customers interested in your brand, you'll be on your way to building up a solid customer base.

Do You Have Followers on Your Facebook Page?

Most businesses use their Facebook page to post links to informative blog posts on their website or to share relevant news about their industry in general. To gain followers, you will need to get people to share the posts that you create and to gain interest by advertising your page. You can also gain followers by creating printed marketing materials that provide information on how to find you on Facebook. Almost all of your printed marketing products should contain information on all of your social media accounts to encourage customers to sign up.

Utilizing an Opt-In Texting Campaign

Think about how you currently communicate with your customers. In any business, the ability to ask questions and to get those questions answered quickly is important. When you create an opt-in texting campaign, you build a list of subscribers that you can send marketing materials to through text messages. You can grow this list of subscribers by creating a short code and printing it on your marketing postcards. For example, "To learn more about our business, text the word SHOP to 12345." You can send text messages that point people to your social media pages and share links to your social media accounts that will allow them to sign up for your campaign.

Consider Trying Twitter

Twitter can be a very useful platform for your industry once you can gain an audience and you learn how to strategize hashtag phrases. If you've ever seen a person write a status on Facebook such as "I love my dog, #labsrule, #dogsarethebest, #familypet," these hashtags do more than confuse people who don't know what they are. Hashtag use started on Twitter, and this is one way people follow industry news. People can search hashtags on Twitter. Anyone that types in "#labsrule," or any of the other hashtags written, will see the post written by the Twitter user that wrote the hashtag after their post.

Try to engage your customers by asking questions or sharing interesting news either through social media links or text messages. If customers start commenting on posts, keep the conversation going by responding. The more you can get your customers interested in your brand on social media, the larger the following you will create.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

5 Tips for Effective Direct Mail

Every day but Sunday, the mailbox delivers surprises. Of course, much of what arrives in the mail is expected, but that element of surprise never wanes. The mail might contain a card from a loved one, a check you didn't expect, or a great offer from a local company, via direct marketing. Successful direct marketing campaigns don't happen by accident, but a small business doesn't need to pour substantial amounts of money into such an endeavor to achieve a good result. That means rather than mass marketing, modern direct mail campaigns concentrate on targeted marketing. When businesses use effective direct mail marketing, they not only boost their bottom line, but add excitement to the routine of picking up the mail.



1. Set Your Goals



As a business, what do you expect this mailing to accomplish? Have a firm plan in mind ahead of time. What is your budget for this mailing? What kind of ROI do you think you'll receive? Crunch the numbers before embarking on a direct mail campaign.



Have a projected number of new customers in mind. For small businesses doing much of the work on their own, one of the best measures is sending out a mailer-only coupon for a percentage off a purchase or free item with purchase. Ensure that keeping track of the number of people who redeemed the coupon, including new customers, is quite simple.



2. The Mailing List



When it comes to an effective direct marketing campaign, nothing is as crucial as the mailing list. That seems obvious, but too many companies waste time and money sending direct mail to people with little interest in their product or service. You want a "Goldilocks" mailing list - not sending too many or too few mailers, but just the right amount.



While you will need to purchase some lists, focus on your own lists of previous customers. In fact, if you don't have a solid database of customer names and addresses as well as strong prospects, avoid direct marketing until you do.



3. The Demographic



Who are your customers? What is their primary age and income level? Where do they live? This information is essential for a small business conducting a direct marketing campaign. You're looking for your ideal customer, whether that person is a senior citizen, millennial, parent of young children, individuals with X amount of disposal income - that's necessary information before you start your campaign. The more personally you can delineate the target, the better the response rate. You can then consider the type of mailing list you want to purchase.



4. Clarity Rules



No matter what type of mailing format you decide to go with, the potential customer must instantly "get" what you offer. All the fancy graphics in the world won't make up for a confusing message. That doesn't mean your direct mail has to be boring - far from it. You only have a few seconds for the recipient to decide whether your offer is one worth saving or throwing in the trash. Funny, clever copy can help get the message across, but it must be absolutely clear. The person must instantly recognize they can get a special deal on your product or service and understand exactly what they must to do to take advantage of the offer. For best results, repeat that call-to-action a few times.



5. From Direct Mail to Online



Social media and direct mail marketing are not mutually exclusive. A direct mail campaign is a good way to get customers to follow you online. The cheapest form of direct mail, the postcard, can get you more online customers and followers. You want to drive traffic to your website, and direct mail is a useful vehicle. A coupon code on the postcard for online sales or some other promotion can gain you the customer info that you can then follow up on via an email or social media marketing campaign.


Friday, July 7, 2017

Craft More Compelling, More Emotional Presentations Today

The major goal of any piece of marketing collateral is to connect with your audience in a deep, meaningful way. This is true regardless of the specific type of marketing you're talking about - from that terrific new flyer you just designed, to a banner, and beyond. Presentations are a particularly valuable format in this regard as they give you a nice opportunity to really dive a little deeper into certain subjects in a way that other mediums don't allow.



However, the format is only a means to an end. If you really want to make sure that you're crafting the most compelling, emotional presentations possible, there are a few key things you'll want to keep in mind.



Find That Theme



Because presentations tend to be long form documents (at least in comparison to something like a flyer), you always want to make an effort to keep your "eye on the prize," so to speak. Every presentation has a topic. That topic should be reinforced again and again by your primary theme. This is the main idea you're trying to get across or the idea that you're trying to help someone understand.



Once you've settled on your theme, EVERY component of your presentation needs to feed back into it. This will form the basic spine of your piece. Anything that isn't directly related to that theme or the topic at hand has to go - no exceptions.



It's a Visual World; We're Just Living In It



Another essential step you want to take in your quest to craft more compelling, more emotional presentations involves including as many visual elements as possible. Remember that a presentation is not a white paper or a blog post - it is a medium that is perfect for relevant images and other visual content.



Human beings tend to be visual learners. We can't help it; it's just the way our brains work. One study revealed that once someone had heard a piece of information, they usually only remembered about 10% of that content three days later. When that same information is paired with a relevant image, however, that number jumps to 65%.



In terms of presentation success, it's hard to find a tip more valuable than relying on visuals. Visuals give people something to latch onto, something to break up big blocks of text and (more importantly) are naturally engaging. People even follow directions better when the content they're reading is filled with pictures, so this is one of those major tips that you definitely don't want to avoid.



These are just a couple of the major tips that you can use to craft more compelling, more emotional presentations. Remember that one of your top priorities as a marketer is always to get the right content in front of the right people at the right time. However, doing that is only half the battle. Making sure that the content is as striking and as engaging as you can is another major component when it comes to getting people to make that ever-important sale.


Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Improving Your Organizational Skills With Technology

If you're the type of person who wants to improve your time management skills, there's a good chance that what you really need to do is improve your organizational skills. We spend so much time each day trying to remember where we put that important memo, when that upcoming meeting got rescheduled to, or simply trying to get our heads around what obligations we have today. All of this is wheel-spinning certainly isn't driving your productivity forward in the way you need.



Thankfully, modern technology can be a huge benefit in terms of improving your organizational skills. You just have to keep a few important things in mind.



If You Can Add A Digital Version, Do So



One of the most important ways to use technology to help improve your organizational skills involves finally embracing some of the "digital" versions of "hard copy" techniques you may be holding out on. Case in point: an astounding amount of American adults own a smartphone, a device that is literally more powerful than the equipment used to pull off the NASA moon landings in the 60s. Yet many are still only using them to send and receive calls, respond to emails and send text messages. These are communications benefits, not organizational ones.



As an example, some people still like using a paper desk or wall calendar not only because of the intimacy, but because nothing can really go wrong with it. You make an important appointment, you write it down on your calendar, end of story. That information is always there. However, there's also a chance to go one step further.



Your paper calendar doesn't travel with you - your smartphone does. Get in the habit of using both a paper calendar for the tactile quality it excels at AND a "Calendar" app for the organization and especially the travel benefits. If you make an entry into your "Calendar" app on your iPhone, that data is automatically synced to your iPad and MacBook Pro, too. The same is true of data you enter into your "Reminders" app, your "Notes" app, your... well, you get the point. Making a habit of keeping both the paper and the digital version of something in this case creates a "best of both worlds" scenario.



The Cloud Is Your Friend



Along the same lines, let's get one thing straight: it's time to move as much of your daily life into the cloud as possible. Cloud storage isn't just a "virtual hard drive." If you're only thinking of the cloud like a digital version of something like a flash drive, you're not even hitting the tip of the potential iceberg.



When you upload a document into the cloud, it's instantly available on all of your devices. It can be shared with anyone - both other employees and clients - in a mouse click. Anyone can edit those documents and you have complete visibility over all changes and access permissions. It's also protected from things like hard drive failure and even theft. Thanks to both the military-grade encryption that services like Dropbox use and techniques like two-factor authentication, your data has never been more secure or accessible at the same time.



The most important benefit of all is that you always know where your data is - available, end of story. You don't have to worry about what you're going to do if you can't take your laptop on a plane with you because you can be just as productive and have access to all of the same information on your smartphone.



These are just a few of the simple ways you can use the technology you probably already have access to. Once you take the time to setup something like cloud-based storage, the hard part has already been done. You won't have to spend an hour or more each morning trying to remember where you put this or that. You'll just know. You won't need to wish there were more hours in a day because it'll be easier than ever to do more with the ones you already have.


Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Lessons We Can Learn From Great Business Minds of Yesteryear

Business leaders of yesteryear can teach us lessons even today. Cornelius Vanderbilt, who dominated shipping and railroads, John Pierpont "J.P." Morgan, who built a financial empire on investments and banking, Mary Kay Ash, who founded the exceptionally successful company Mary Kay Cosmetics, and John D. Rockefeller, who founded Standard Oil as was America's very first billionaire are all worthy of admiration and have lessons they can teach us. Today, though, let's look at one businessman, in particular, Henry Ford.



Who Was Henry Ford And How Did He Make An Impact in The Country?



Henry Ford, born in 1863, was a U.S. Industrialist who revolutionized automobile production, which allowed his company to mass produce cars, thus bringing the price down. This, in turn, allowed more regular folks to purchase cars and led to Ford Motors becoming hugely successful. In essence, Ford did more than creating a successful company; he revolutionized the entire transportation industry. Before his changes were implemented, most people were unable to afford such a luxury. Therefore, he took a product that was not widespread and made it applicable for the average consumer, thus changing the entire landscape of the country in several ways. Ford was able to achieve this success thanks to a few methods he applied within his business. These ideas are applicable to any type of business and can teach us as business professionals and entrepreneurs lessons on success even today:



  • Innovation is Everything: When it comes to innovation, Henry most certainly knew what he was doing. He utilized an assembly line technique that forever altered the way automobiles were produced. It's worth noting that he was not the inventor of said assembly line. He only created an innovative way to implement the technique within his business. This is a great lesson we can learn from him today. You don't have to come up with the idea or product in order to figure out a new way to utilize it.

  • Don't be Afraid to Specialize And Offer Solutions to Undiscovered Problems: Henry Ford understood his market and specialized in it. He understood that it's hard to find success when remaining too generic. He also understood his customer base better than they understood themselves. He was able to offer a product as a solution to a problem that his customer base didn't even realize they had. He once stated, "If I had simply asked people what they wanted, they would have asked me for faster horses."

  • Efficiency is Vital: Ford was such a believer in efficiency that he is credited with the creation of "Fordism." This term basically describes a system of mass production that is both standardized and efficient. He understood the importance of keeping his workers productive and achieving a maximum output. He was able to do this, in part, by providing incentives. These incentives, which included a reduced workweek and better wages, resulted in worker loyalty and efficiency.

  • Don't be Afraid to Learn Something New: Henry Ford once said, "Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at twenty or eighty. Anyone who keeps learning stays young." Henry Ford was personally committed to learning. He was never content to learn all he could about a subject and just stay there. He didn't want to just "be," he wanted to grow. This is likely how he was able to come up with such innovative ideas because he never got stuck thinking or acting a certain way. Instead, Ford was always up for a new challenge. We would do well to emulate this in our own professional lives.

There are countless other lessons we can glean from Henry Ford and other businessmen and women like him who revolutionized their industries and achieved amazing success. The important point to remember is that they all stepped out, took a risk, and believed in their goals. That is the foundation for any great success.


Friday, June 23, 2017

Top Five Ways to Work Less and Enjoy Life More

Everything today is about "more": more money, more time, more pressure, and ultimately, more stress. However, does this rat-race life leave you feeling flat and defeated and constantly chasing an ideal you're no longer sure exists? If this sounds like you, it's probably time to downshift and find ways to work less and truly enjoy your life more. Working less sounds like a scary prospect, but once you see how achievable it is and how much peace it will return to your life, you will be sold!



1. Make Changes at Work



We often get caught up in the tidal wave of rushing to get to the next level at work. So caught up, in fact, that we don't realize we are no longer enjoying the work that we do and aren't even sure that we're adding value. How do you make an honest shift towards happiness while not letting down your co-workers or your boss, and continuing to pay your bills? Fortunately, there are more options available than ever before. There are simple steps that you can take such as walking at lunch as a way to get away from your desk or more drastic options such as requesting a lower-stress (and likely lower-paid) position. However, there are some great middle ground opportunities at businesses today as long as you get creative. Have you ever considered flex time? More than ever, organizations are allowing their employees to work one day a week from home or create a more flexible schedule that doesn't inconvenience office mates or negatively impact work.



2. Pick Your Battles



Think of everything that you need or want to accomplish in the next five years. Maybe it's saving up for a big trip, or getting that huge promotion you've had your heart set on. Physically write down what is most important to you in the short-term and the long-term, and those are the things that you don't want to compromise on. Everything else is up for negotiation. If a short jaunt with friends comes up that will require you to skip a vacation day with family later in the year, just say no! The same goes for things like eating out on a weekly basis. The costs associated with feeding a family of three or four outside the home can really mount up, and keep you from reaching longer-term goals for a short-term convenience. This trade-off may not be worth it and may cause you to have to work overtime to support your fast-food habits.



3. Stop Multitasking



Taking the time to focus on one topic at a time truly does pay off. While multitasking feels efficient, a recent study at Stanford University showed how productivity can plummet when your brain attempts to focus on more than one thing at the same time. Instead, be intentional about what you need to accomplish -- focus, complete the task, and then move on.



4. Automate Your Savings



Ever find it difficult to get enough money together at the end of each month for savings? If so, it's time to outsmart yourself! Even if it's only ten to twenty dollars per week, start sending a small chunk of change from each paycheck to a savings account that you can't easily access, and do it automatically. The theory being that if you never see the money, you'll never miss it. Before you know it, you'll be able to buy something you've really wanted without having to work overtime or take on extra shifts to make it happen.



5. Get Motivated



Sometimes, the way to do your best work is simply to have fun! When you are energized and enjoying what you do, work just comes more naturally. Creative juices flow, relationships with co-workers have more synergy, and life is good. When you're at work, look for ways to enjoy it! The positive mood will spill over into your personal life, and you'll find yourself enjoying life more every day.



These are just a few of the ways you can find more peace and joy in your daily life, simply by finding the balance between hard work and hard play. Multitask less, focus more, and bring fun to everything you do!


Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Personalization Matters: Why Going the Extra Mile is Always Worth It

When people talk about the decline of "mom and pop" businesses in favor of the giant, national retailers, one of the things they bring up is that it's hard to find a store that you can walk into these days where the person behind the counter actually takes the time to learn your name. You can't walk into a national brand and expect someone to go "Hey, Phil - how did that new garden hose you bought last week work out for you? I've been thinking about you, and I thought you might like this other new product, too."



But the fact of the matter is that these days are not over - not by a long shot and especially not in the world of marketing. You absolutely can inject this much more intimate, fulfilling level of personalization into your marketing collateral - provided that you're willing to go the extra mile.



Personalization in Marketing: By the Numbers



If you ever wanted a clear cut example of why "going the extra mile" is an investment that pays off in more ways than one, look no further than the following statistics:



  • According to a recent study from Digital Trends, an incredible seventy-three percent of consumers prefer to do business with brands that use personal information to help create more enriching, more relevant shopping experiences.

  • According to a completely separate study from Infosys, eighty-six percent of consumers said that the level of personalization (or the lack thereof) absolutely plays a role in their purchasing decisions.

  • If you think that personalization is only a game for digital and internet-centric businesses, think again: direct mail success rates are continuing to trend upwards because, you guessed it, people find actual mail that they can hold in their hand much more personal and rewarding than something that is easily ignored like an email.

It's About "Walking the Walk"



The major benefits of personalization in marketing extend far beyond just statistics like these, however. It all comes back to the values that your brand represents and the promise that you're making to each and every one of your customers. Simply put, it's one thing to say that you care about all of your customers - it's another thing entirely to do the types of things that turn this from catchphrase into irrefutable fact.



Put yourself in their shoes. If you get two pieces of marketing collateral in the mail - one of which is addressed "Dear Sir or Madame" and another that has your name and maybe even specific information about past purchases that you've made - which one are you going to put more faith in? Which one would you bet cares about you more? Which one would you believe has a vested interest in making your life better?



Your customers have made their opinion loud and clear - they don't just want you to sell to them. It isn't just enough to have a product or service that is objectively better than anyone else's. They want to be a part of something larger than a single purchase. They want something that they're not going to get anywhere else - a true relationship with the people they give their hard-earned money to. Personalization and going the extra mile are just among the many, many ways that you can now do that in the modern era.


Monday, June 19, 2017

3 Easy Time Management Tips: How to Create More Hours in a Day

The one natural resource there never seems to be enough of is time. There are only so many hours in a day. You don't need to wish that tomorrow will suddenly be a 35-hour day to get all of your work done. Instead, you need to start using a few small, yet critical, time management tips today to work smarter, not harder, with the hours that you DO have available to you. Here are three tips to get you started.



1) Learn How to Travel Productively



These days, a significant portion of your work probably isn't taking place within the confines of your office. Whether it's meetings with clients or unexpected personal issues, you likely find yourself stepping away from your desk more and more. The key to time management isn't learning how to keep up with your obligations in spite of these sudden duties. It's learning how to fit in work time around them.



Even if you don't have a mobile tablet that you carry around with you wherever you go, it's still easier than ever to work remotely. If you're not already using a cloud-based file sharing service like Dropbox or iCloud, you need to start. Changing a document on your work computer makes those adjustments instantly available to every other device you have. Likewise, services like Dropbox for Business allow for real-time collaboration on files, letting people get together to work on a project even when they don't have the time to literally "get together" at all.



Remember, the smartphone that you likely carry around with you is more powerful than the technology that NASA used to send men to the moon in the 1960s. There are hundreds of thousands of apps that are available in the iTunes and Google Play app stores right now for you to use to customize that device in any way you see fit. Stop thinking about it like a device that you merely use to send and receive calls and start looking at it as your office on-the-go.



2) Hold Better Meetings



Meetings are just a fact of life. But one of the many reasons why people tend to dread that weekly "catch-up" gathering is because they're huge drains of productivity. The answer to this problem isn't to stop holding meetings altogether; it's to start holding better meetings.



Think long and hard about why you're having a meeting. If it's just to convey information, you could probably save everyone a lot of time and just send a lengthy email or inter-office memo instead. A meeting should always justify its existence. If it doesn't, it needs to drop off the schedule. Likewise, plan out an agenda for your meeting ahead of time and stick with it. Make sure everyone who needs to contribute knows what is expected of them before you all walk into a room, giving everyone a chance to be as prepared as they need to be.



3) Get Organized and Stay That Way



Again, time management isn't about finding more hours in a day; it's about working smarter, not harder with the hours you already have. One study estimates that as much as thirty percent of our working time each day is spent looking for misplaced items. It stands to reason that if you never feel like you have enough time to get things done, the true issue might just be that you need to take a look around and organize your life more effectively.