Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Getting Creative at Work May Be the Best Use of Your Time Today

Better. Faster. Cheaper.


Those are the siren calls of managers today -- always on the lookout for ways to make their workers more productive.


What if you discovered that your teams would actually gain productivity by taking the time out of their day to be creative? While carving out time for creativity may feel like a waste of time upfront, you may be surprised to find that the results of making this space will be far-reaching. The daily grind and immediate needs of others don't leave a lot of time for thinking outside the box, but you'll see that scheduling time for creativity is a critical ingredient for high-performing individuals and teams. 


Small Investment, Big Rewards


Getting creative doesn't mean you need to pull out the fingerpaints and scissors in your common room.


It just means that you should offer your team members a variety of ways to choose their own path when it comes to specific tasks, brainstorm new ideas (and implement them!) or look for ways to help others. Taking as little as 90 minutes every week two weeks gives people the time and space to unleash their great ideas and helps them work smarter -- not harder. This small investment can pay off with big rewards. Even if you don't implement every idea, your team will be excited to get together and share their thoughts and suggestions and know that they're being actively listened to. 


Creativity Takes Many Forms


Brainstorming is an easy way to build camaraderie within a team and also generate some amazing ideas, but what are some other ways to bring creativity into the workplace?


These tips can help you get started on a productive time together.


  • Create effective work groups. It's important to ensure that your teams are well-balanced when creativity is your goal. If you have one individual who tends to overpower the conversation, it can be tough for others to join in on the fun.

  • Make it challenging. Consider asking your teams to solve a unique challenge -- maybe one that's not even related to your current situation, but designed to help people come together around a common goal. 

  • Give them space. Not physical space, mental space! If individuals are so concerned about daily tasks that they're unable to devote the mental capacity to the project, you're not going to reap the benefit you might expect. 

  • Allow freedom to choose. If you're offering a specific work opportunity that needs to be overcome, don't get too tied down in the details of how it needs to happen. Ask that teams consider the "Blue Sky" approach, where there are no boundaries, no limitations (systems or individuals) and just go for it. The sky's the limit!

Perhaps the most important thing to remind your teams going into a creative space is that all judgment should be suspended.


There are no bad ideas. Every individual deserves to have their idea or direction fully listened to. Don't evaluate ideas before their time or you will interrupt the flow of information that is what brings true creativity to light. After a few sessions, you may be surprised to find that your teams are excited -- and not reluctant -- to join in on the fun.


With luck, this openness, creativity, and conversation will begin to flow throughout your teams on a more regular basis. As people come to realize that others will listen, they are more likely to share without fear. Let your creativity free and reap the rewards! 

Getting Creative at Work May Be the Best Use of Your Time Today

Better. Faster. Cheaper.


Those are the siren calls of managers today -- always on the lookout for ways to make their workers more productive.


What if you discovered that your teams would actually gain productivity by taking the time out of their day to be creative? While carving out time for creativity may feel like a waste of time upfront, you may be surprised to find that the results of making this space will be far-reaching. The daily grind and immediate needs of others don't leave a lot of time for thinking outside the box, but you'll see that scheduling time for creativity is a critical ingredient for high-performing individuals and teams. 


Small Investment, Big Rewards


Getting creative doesn't mean you need to pull out the fingerpaints and scissors in your common room.


It just means that you should offer your team members a variety of ways to choose their own path when it comes to specific tasks, brainstorm new ideas (and implement them!) or look for ways to help others. Taking as little as 90 minutes every week two weeks gives people the time and space to unleash their great ideas and helps them work smarter -- not harder. This small investment can pay off with big rewards. Even if you don't implement every idea, your team will be excited to get together and share their thoughts and suggestions and know that they're being actively listened to. 


Creativity Takes Many Forms


Brainstorming is an easy way to build camaraderie within a team and also generate some amazing ideas, but what are some other ways to bring creativity into the workplace?


These tips can help you get started on a productive time together.


  • Create effective work groups. It's important to ensure that your teams are well-balanced when creativity is your goal. If you have one individual who tends to overpower the conversation, it can be tough for others to join in on the fun.

  • Make it challenging. Consider asking your teams to solve a unique challenge -- maybe one that's not even related to your current situation, but designed to help people come together around a common goal. 

  • Give them space. Not physical space, mental space! If individuals are so concerned about daily tasks that they're unable to devote the mental capacity to the project, you're not going to reap the benefit you might expect. 

  • Allow freedom to choose. If you're offering a specific work opportunity that needs to be overcome, don't get too tied down in the details of how it needs to happen. Ask that teams consider the "Blue Sky" approach, where there are no boundaries, no limitations (systems or individuals) and just go for it. The sky's the limit!

Perhaps the most important thing to remind your teams going into a creative space is that all judgment should be suspended.


There are no bad ideas. Every individual deserves to have their idea or direction fully listened to. Don't evaluate ideas before their time or you will interrupt the flow of information that is what brings true creativity to light. After a few sessions, you may be surprised to find that your teams are excited -- and not reluctant -- to join in on the fun.


With luck, this openness, creativity, and conversation will begin to flow throughout your teams on a more regular basis. As people come to realize that others will listen, they are more likely to share without fear. Let your creativity free and reap the rewards! 

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

The Communication of Change

Keys to Meaningful Change


The oil crises of the 1970s rocked many industry giants, including the transportation industry.


In 1981, British Airways was reeling from massive financial losses and a reputation for terrible service. Nearing meltdown, the airline brought on a new chairperson, Lord King, who quickly spotlighted three areas where the company was operating inefficiently: careless spending, disorganized staffing, and inadequate communication. King’s leadership quickly produced results. After only ten years, the company became the largest airline in the UK, reporting the highest profits in its industry ($284 million, to be exact!).


What was the key to this turnaround?


Large-scale organizational change. King made major structure changes, including a reduced workforce (from 59,000 to 39,000), elimination of unprofitable routes, modernization of the existing fleet, and marketing upgrades to revamp the airline’s image.


Did King make these massive changes by crossing his fingers and wishing for the best? Hardly. British Airlines combined accurate research with a clear strategy that informed their decisions and overcame resistance.


Discontentment: The Shadow Side of Success


One thing King had in his favor was discontentment, which was at an all-time high.


While many of us believe contentment is key to a happy life, sometimes pain (including frustration with “business as usual”), is a gateway to greater fulfillment. Experts find that a shadow side of successful people is this common personality trait: they struggle with perpetual discontentment. Forbes columnist Brianna Weist says this:


“There is a difference between people who are content and people who are successful, and it is because the latter push themselves whereas the former tries to sustain the status quo. Without a certain measure of growth or expansion, the human mind gets bored, or tired. This will, eventually, lead to a tipping point at which the content person becomes discontent... and then change is made.”


Change as a Formula


Pain moves us: to make radical shifts, to take risks we wouldn’t otherwise consider, and to get the full potential out of life.


Dissatisfaction, combined with a skill set and action plan, can be the most essential agent for change. But far-reaching change can be tricky to maneuver, requiring precise timing and a thoughtful strategy.


Organizational change experts David Gleicher and Kathie Dannemiller coached change strategists with a model that looks something like this:


  • If change were a formula, it is this: "D * V * PF > R" (Dissatisfaction * Vision * Preferred Future > Resistance)

  • Dissatisfaction paired with a vision for a preferred future motivates people to overcome resistance to change.

  • To catalyze change, an idea or product must possess a clear path for a breakthrough while fanning the flame of frustration with the current state of being. If the product of those three factors is greater than the existing resistance, change will occur.

What This Means For Your Business


It means you can relax, even when people are unhappy!


Intentionally listen to your employees and customers and consider rising frustration as the first step to positive change. Use the change model to evaluate whether the time is right to communicate early steps towards meaningful shifts. Find healthy networks or professional development opportunities where you can reflect on industry trends, process leadership ideas, and analyze competitors to identify areas of opportunity.


Finally, cut yourself some slack if you feel irritated with your own areas of personal frustration. Great futures can come from great pain, so allow your dissatisfaction to chart a course toward exciting new destinations. You’ve got this!

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Four Savvy Strategies for Crafting Unforgettable Content (Part 3)

In the age of visual brilliance and short-lived attention spans, sometimes we wonder if content really counts. But no matter how glamorous the graphics, they simply cannot stand alone. (Even the Lone Ranger had Tonto, right?) Today, we’re looking at part three of this question: How do you write exceptional copy? Content that commands attention, arouses interest, or compels people to action? Last week, we discussed slogans and sensory appeal. Today we’ll consider one final, fun technique.


4. Jaw-Dropping Surprises


Remember the “no way!” stunner at the end of The Usual Suspects? Kevin Spacey shakes off his signature limp and strides to freedom as his police interrogator gradually realizes Spacey is a mastermind killer who lied brilliantly for hours. Or remember how your jaw dropped when Darth Vader revealed he was Luke’s father? While these movie plots were phenomenal, the surprise factor was what drove them home.


That same principle applies in writing. As Chip and Dan Heath discuss in their book “Made to Stick,” our brains filter out consistency to focus on differences. Marketing “surprises” may include splashy headlines, shocking graphics that bring your message to life, or a story that encapsulates a core message.


In 2009, copywriter James Chartrand of a prominent website design company “Men with Pens,” dropped a bombshell on the writing world with this plot twist:


“Why James Chartrand Wears Women’s Underpants.”


Chartrand went on to reveal that SHE was actually a (literal) woman, a woman who had previously struggled as a freelance writer and single mom. As she labored to gain credibility, she decided to experiment with a male pseudonym, and quickly found her blog in Micheal Stelzner’s list of the Top Ten Blogs for Writers. Chartrand’s biography post was brilliant, authentic, and fun. But the surprise factor (that “he” was really a “she”) was the kicker that kept people talking about the company for years.


While you may not be able to drop a bombshell in all your copy, you can upend reader expectations in three other ways:


First, break the norm whenever you can. Offer unconventional advice, provide simple techniques or little-known shortcuts, or use angles you would normally avoid (like blatant typos in upscale literary magazines like we mentioned in part one). In life, and especially in art, people crave the unexpected. Surprise people consistently and you will be rewarded! 


Second, defy expectations. Writers can do this is with odd pairings or disrupted patterns. For example, serene words like spa, relax, and peace can be disrupted by words like devastate or scandalize. Avoid traditional clichés (knight in shining armor, white as snow) in favor of words that overhaul expectations. A spa ad could feature odd word combinations like scandalizing serenity, gluttonous, self-gratification, or services that are devastatingly delicious. Surprise them as you shatter clichés or use tonal dissonance that is abrasive to the ears.


Finally, build a logical flow and then intentionally disrupt it. Check out these “surprise factor” car advertisements that perfectly illustrate the point. A romance spoiled. A hero thwarted. Ridiculous ideas grab us as things are placed out of context (like dogs driving a car). As you watch these clips, consider what you thought was going to happen versus what actually happened. Pay attention to the emotion you experienced when the surprise was unveiled. Did you enjoy it? Of course you did! And you’ll remember it longer as a result.


Whether it’s a plot twist, shattered clichés, or unexpected humor, readers crave fresh content and they will thank you for providing it. Now go create some surprises of your own!

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Printed Reminders Keep Sales on Track

Remembering to go to the doctor or dentist's office was much simpler back in the day when nearly everyone had a printed calendar. You would go home after a visit and immediately add your next visit to your calendar. The complexities of life today means that it can be tough to keep track of everything, even if you're putting follow-up visits in your smartphone. The cost of a missed office visit can really add up over time, causing professionals to lose thousands of dollars per year. The tiny cost of creating a simple printed reminder that can be saved to your patients' fridge provides an extra touch point for busy individuals.


Improved Experiences


Improving the experience of patients in today's competitive environment may mean the difference between a growing and robust practice and one that dwindles away over the years. One physician's office saw the benefits firsthand when Dr. Marcus L. decided to implement small printed reminders for his patients. As a family health practitioner, Dr. Marcus would often require follow-up visits with patients after their blood work was returned to review their results. Many patients would forget about this check-point, costing his staff time and money due to blank spots in their schedules with no billable time. 


Boosting Revenue


Dr. Marcus was already working with a local print shop on some flyers for an upcoming health fair, and his account manager heard his woes and recommended a short-term test of some printed reminders. Dr. Marcus agreed and printed up a 3 month supply of the small reminders for his staff to pass out to patients. What he discovered after that test period was quite surprising! His staff helped track the number of empty slots. He discovered that there were 25% fewer empty slots on his schedule due to the reminders! 


Printed reminders help keep patients and staff on track with follow-up visits for doctors and dentists -- and could benefit many other professional offices as well! Think hairdressers, aestheticians . . . the list is endless! 

Friday, June 15, 2018

How Building Effective Teams Can Supercharge Your Business

Team building can be an overused cliche in business circles, but there is something truly magical about what a cohesive team can create together. Individuals working alone are able to contribute specific tasks towards a goal, but a team working together adds energy and power to push their achievements higher. This is one of the reasons there are so many books and manuals focused on building effective teams. If you have never seen this in action you may not believe the synergy that can be attained -- it is almost like a force of nature. See how building effective teams will maximize employee productivity and happiness as well as helping you retain your hardest workers. 


Effective Teams Bring Their "A" Game


A Gallup article from a few years ago stated that up to 70% of employees are showing up to work disengaged, costing the American economy billions of dollars every year in lost productivity. When you find ways for these individuals to connect to one another, they become invested in seeing each other become successful. Engaged, enthusiastic employees are ones who are constantly looking for ways to innovate and exceed expectations. If you could move the needle on even 20% of your mediocre performers, the impact to your bottom line would be significant. 


Effective Teams Provide Diverse Ideas


The age-old saying that 'two heads are better than one' is extremely valid in today's business world. The complexity of ideas and interconnectedness of our systems means that it is difficult for any one person to have the knowledge needed to innovate and excel. Bringing together your team in a safe space allows for the free flowing of ideas between members -- and the ability to synthesize these great ideas into something actionable for leadership. 


Effective Teams Blow Through Restraints


Where one person working alone may be worried about going down a specific -- and potentially risky -- path, a cohesive team has the bravery to take the leap. These leaps are what drive lasting change in an organization. Without this shared risk-taking and an ability to literally blow through restraints, your business can become stuck in the rut of doing things the way they've always been done. 


Effective Teams Inspire Others


Let's face it, everyone wants to be a part of a winning team. When you see one team that seems to get all the awards, recognition and respect, you want to see what makes them special. Many times, it's their ability to work effectively together and collaborate to achieve a shared vision and goals. When one team in your organization is able to attain this level of cohesiveness, it will inspire and motivate others to do the same. This breeds a more positive working environment for all. 


Effective Teams Have Fun Together


When work ceases to be work and becomes something that you enjoy doing during the day, you are able to devote your heart more fully to the tasks at hand. This joyful passion shines through in everything that you do. Ineffective teams can cause this light to dim, but having fun together can create a bond where individuals connect at a deeper level. 


There are so many ways that effective teams create a sum that is greater than the individual parts. When the team truly works together as a single unit, the strengths of each person are multiplied allowing for an oversized impact on your organization's effectiveness. Bring your teams together if you want to truly supercharge your business! 

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Get Proactive With These Summer Marketing Ideas for Outdoor Events

With school ending and summer starting, adults and children alike will be spending as much time as possible outdoors at home and community events. In most locations, summer weekends are chock full of local and regional events that attract a wide array of people. Some events attract local residents of a community or region, while larger events can bring tourists into an area for a few hours, day or an entire weekend.


Summertime creates both opportunities and challenges for marketing to clients. While you may have more opportunities to provide products and materials for events, getting customers to walk in your front door is more difficult. Customers who like to participate in summer activities spend as much time as possible out of doors including taking vacations, days off and leaving early. So how do you take advantage of summertime doings instead of having them take advantage of you?


Opportunities


Let's start with the opportunities. Since people are out and about during summer at farmer's markets, fairs and concerts, you may run into clients in one or more of these casual setting simply by participating in them yourself. You should always be ready to hand out marketing materials everywhere you go, especially if most of your clients are local. Fill a pouch or tote with apropos marketing handouts for people you meet when out. Handouts should be family-friendly and summer appropriate such as:


  • Water bottles

  • Water toys

  • Lip Balm

  • Sunscreen

  • Visors

  • Hats

If you give out marketing items that people actually will use in the summer, they will love getting them which puts your contact information in front of them for at least that day. Parents will also love anything that you hand out to occupy their children's time such as foam fingers or other toys.


Beat the Heat


If handing out materials isn't appropriate for an event, another idea is setting up a mister tent to help people beat the heat. In fact, handheld fans, water bottles (with water in them), squirt guns and other products that help people cool off will always be appreciated by prospects. Just be sure that your logo and contact information is big and bold. Misters are so delightful during hot summer events that they are very popular with all ages. To engage prospects, hand them small towels with your logo and information to dry off after they get wet.


Keeping Drinks Cool


For food events, cup or can holders that insulate are a fantastic handout. Arrange with food vendors to give them to every customer that gets a drink. Or create event promotional materials such as cups that have a coupon imprinted on them. The ultimate goal is to invite people into your brick-and-mortar business or visit your website, so a coupon offer for a free or discounted service is ideal for giveaways.


Challenges


The biggest challenge for marketers during summertime is to drive customers indoors to your business. People are inclined to spend time outside during warm weather. Additionally, customers may be out of the office for a significant number of days and can't be reached. Therefore, it is important to think outside the box creatively to find prospects and offer them an incentive that will overcome their reluctance to come in. Every locale has one or more special events unique to that area. Go out of your office to where you will find crowds of people and offer them something that they can't wait to use.

Friday, June 8, 2018

Branding Equity: What It Is and How to Build It

Carl is a business owner who is experiencing firsthand just how much the internet has revolutionized the consumer buying process. It used to be that a simple look at your products' features was enough to sway consumers to make a purchase. But now, it's all about the brand. In fact, Carl's brand has become his most valuable asset. That is why he is doing all that he can to build his brand equity and distinguish himself from his competition. 


What is brand equity?


Brand equity is what your business is worth without its inventory. Or, more simply stated, it's about how valuable your brand is in the eyes of consumers and the relationships that you have with your customers. 


To build brand equity, you must leave a lasting, positive impression regarding your brand in the minds of consumers. Your products and services and their demand and usefulness, of course, play a role in how well you can satisfy your customers, but they alone do not generate brand equity. 


Top Tips for Using Marketing to Build Brand Equity


The steps outlined below are not in any particular order. They are three examples of essential steps that Carl has used to build brand equity, and each of them is an ongoing process. You don't build brand equity overnight, and then suddenly get to take a vacation. You must work at creating this type of equity on a daily basis just like Carl has done.


1. Release Information About a New Product


You can have a quality product that you know consumers will want to purchase, but they have to know about it first. This is why you should always distribute information about your products. Whether it be creating a product brochure or a how-to guide that goes into the packaging of a new product, you will want to provide as much detail as possible. In fact, Carl has found that the more in-depth and more detailed his brochures and how-to guides are, the more engaged his customers are.


2. Monitor Trends and Perform a Competitive Analysis


Building brand equity means you can adapt to changes as they occur, especially changes related to new trends that hit the marketplace. The best way to monitor trends is to keep a close eye on Google searches. You will also want to perform a competitive analysis to see how your competitors are keeping up with the latest trends. Chances are, you can benefit from employing many of the same tactics your competitors are using. Carl, for example, performed a competitive analysis and discovered three of his competitors were enjoying an increase in sales by offering seasonal discounts. Carl then went to a local print shop and had 1,000 business cards printed with a discount code on the back. Over the period of six months, the discount generated an eight percent increase in his sales. 


3. Collect, Use and Distribute Customer Feedback


Lastly, since brand equity is all about how you appear in the eyes and minds of consumers, you will want to use their feedback and respond to it appropriately. Carl publishes his customers' feedback in the brochures and how-to guides he creates. Customer testimonials have been proven to be a huge asset in generating sales. 

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Every Extrovert Can Learn to Listen

The Courage to Connect


When research professor Brené Brown opened up to a TedxHouston audience about shame, vulnerability, and courage, she had no idea her message would become one of the most wildly popular TEDx talks of all time (with over 24 million views). Brown has spent the last ten years studying the power of authenticity and empathy, and poses wonderful questions like these:



  • How do we embrace vulnerabilities and imperfections so we can live from a place of authenticity and worthiness?

  • How can we engage people in a way that makes them feel worthwhile, brave, and willing to commit to something bigger than just a project or deadline?

  • How can we choose courage over comfort, stretching our team to connect in ways that powerfully motivate everyone?

Every Extrovert Can Learn to Listen


Brown’s work hits home in the hearts of many who long for authentic relationships and want to see this come alive in their workplace. While there are many hindrances to open communication, one of the greatest barriers is simply our personality differences. Over half the population are considered introverts, but research shows that introverts make up only two percent of senior executives. Which gives extroverts a great opportunity to do lots of talking. But studies show that business leaders who prioritize listening are perceived as considerably more effective than those who dominate the conversation.


Invite Them to Engage


We all have room to grow, and great interactions begin with intentional listening. Here are three ways to quiet your mouth and open your ears as you seek to engage others in meaningful ways:


1. Start every meeting with a question.


Imagine yourself standing before your team with an invitation instead of a megaphone.


Seek to motivate conversation rather than charging into a meeting with a tight-fisted agenda. Opening your gatherings with dialogue can shake out the nerves and cobwebs of the entire team, sparking creativity and building interpersonal collateral. Increasing dialogue can catalyze more “green light” brainstorming and bring a fresh, life-giving dynamic to your entire company. When you formulate meeting agendas, push yourself to start with a prompt and to leave more tangible space for discussion.


2. Listen with action.


How can you show your teammates their insights really matter?


Often people are tentative about sharing constructive criticism, fearing negative repercussions or believing “nothing will really change.” Great leaders surround themselves with those who will give honest feedback, and they intentionally close the “listening loop” by following up with some sort of action. Close a meeting by thanking your team for their honesty, or sending personal e-mails telling them you valued their input. Make a list of things to look into, review, or change, and add timelines to these goals so your ideas aren’t lost in the weekly grind. Even if you can’t implement suggestions, make a point to tell people they are valuable and you have actually heard what they are saying.


3. Embrace vulnerability as a step toward courageous communication.


What do you do when someone asks you a question you can’t answer? Saying, ‘I don’t know” can be the most significant reply of all.


When you acknowledge your limitations, it opens the door for your teammates to step in and shine or to admit their own uncertainties or frustrations. Vulnerability can grow powerful partnerships and prompt growth in areas you hadn’t previously targeted. Ultimately, vulnerability builds engagement, which grows teams and enriches the atmosphere. Push yourself toward bold, transparent communication, and you may be surprised at the results. Brene Brown says it like this:


“Vulnerability is not weakness. It’s the most accurate measurement of courage.”


Ready to open a new pipeline of thoughtful teamwork and open communication? Be brave, be intentional, and sometimes . . . just be quiet.


 

Friday, June 1, 2018

Everyone Is Looking to Save a Dollar: How Discounts can Improve Your Sales Revenue

Many businesses look at offering discounts as a method for losing money. But, what they don't realize is discounts actually generate revenue and improve their brand equity. Let's take a closer look at how discounts increase sales and can put you a step ahead of your competitors. 


Improve Sales Revenue


First and foremost, discounts, whether they come in the form of online codes or paper coupons, will draw the attention of consumers to your business. They increase traffic and, most times, lead to a sale. Even better is that while customers are using their discounts codes on your website or in your store, they tend to look around at other products and services you have for sale, which can further boost your sales. 


Spread Brand Awareness


By offering discounts, you are putting your company's brand name into the minds of consumers. Even if consumers don't come to your store to use a discount, your brand name will at least be implanted into their minds. Also, if they don't take advantage of a discount, they may know someone who can and offer to let them use their discount code, which only expands your brand awareness even more. 


Increase Social Media Fans and Followers


Everyone is out to save a dollar. When they come across companies that offer great discounts, they tend to look them up on social media and either hit the Like or Follow buttons. And if you've ever used social media, then you know that when one of your friends hits the Like or Follow button, it shows up in your newsfeed. When you offer discounts, you have the potential to greatly increase your social media fans and followers. 


Build a Strong Reputation


Consumers really love purchasing products and services from companies that offer regular discounts, like military and senior citizen discounts. As you continue to offer these discounts on a regular basis, you will build a strong reputation for your company and showcase to the public that you are a socially responsible organization. 


Clear Out Space for New Inventory


Have you ever wanted to bring in new products to sell but you didn't have room because you had too much old inventory sitting around? One of the best ways to clear out this old inventory is by offering discounts. Having a weekend sale where you offer a 20% discount on the products you are trying to clear is an excellent way to:


  • Free up space

  • Increase sales

  • Spread brand awareness

  • Increase traffic to your store

  • Establish Loyal Customers

Your customers deserve a discount, especially if they do business with you on a frequent basis. This is why creating a loyalty reward program that offers returning customers a discount is essential to establishing long-term relationships with your existing customer base. 


Meet Your Sales Goals


You know that to maintain a profit, you must meet your sales goals. Offering discounts may decrease profit margins for a bit, but they can most definitely help you meet sales goals to ensure you keep maintaining a profit. End of the season or end of the quarter discounts should be offered at least four times a year. 


The Takeaway


Don't be fooled into thinking that offering discounts are going to hurt revenue. It likely will do the exact opposite as well as bring several other advantages, like expanded brand awareness and the establishment of loyal customers. 

Friday, May 25, 2018

Why Your Marketing Should Be Actionable Above All Else

One of the traps that even seasoned marketing veterans often fall into involves crafting collateral that has far too much information for its own good. Marketing messages start out simple enough, but as brands continue to grow and evolve, the marketing messages do the same until it can be difficult to remember what that short, sweet, actionable idea was in the first place. 


And if you think your marketing has lost focus, just imagine how your audience members probably feel.


When your marketing starts to suffer from a lack of direction, it starts to become much too passive. Thankfully, the solution is simple - strip away the noise and focus on the action of it all. This, of course, requires you to keep a few key things in mind.


What is Actionable Marketing?


Think about your marketing the same way you would something like a call-to-action. A CTA is effective because it's clear and concise. It tells your readers exactly what you want them to do, how you want them to do it, and most importantly, what they're going to get in return.


It's a way for them to take the experience they've already had and elevate it to the next level by continuing their relationship with your people or your brand.


Passive marketing, on the other hand, does the exact opposite. People may see one of your flyers and become aware that your brand exists, but they're not motivated to do much with that information. They certainly don't know why they should care or what you can do for them that nobody else can. Passive collateral just... is. That, most definitely, is a problem. 


To put it another way, every element of your collateral - from the color design of a flyer to every last word on a brochure - needs to be building towards the eventual action that you want someone to take. It's like a CTA on a larger scale and rest assured, it pays dividends. 


The Byproducts of Actionable Marketing


Actionable marketing requires you to target your audience. You need to know who people are, what demographics they fall into, what they like, and what they don't like. You then have to address a specific need that they have and direct them to take your desired action.


If all of this sounds familiar, it's because these are the types of things you should already be doing. Making action a priority simply allows you to double down on these efforts, allowing them to rise to the surface. 


The real benefit of actionable marketing is precisely that - it creates its own momentum. It has an energy that passive content just can't match. You can use that energy to create new opportunities for yourself, not only in terms of up-selling or cross-selling your products but also with regards to increasing the overall lifetime value of your customers.


Simply put, if your marketing content is active your customers will be, too, and that's the type of opportunity you do not want to overlook.

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

5 Ways to Find the Strength to Try One More Time

Have you ever wondered what it takes to become an Olympic athlete, a NASA astronaut, or a leader in a major organization?


The one trait that all of these individuals likely possess is persistence: the ability to get back up, dust themselves off after a fall, and keep trying. No matter your talent, regardless of your genius and irrespective of your education, persistence is often the trait that sets people apart from their peers in terms of their level of success.


Succeeding at anything in life requires a great deal of effort over a period of time -- very few people simply decide to be the best at their craft and are able to do it without a battle. How do these individuals find the strength to try one more time . . . repeatedly?


1. Be Prepared


Planning for success helps you think through all of the reasons why someone would disagree with your ideas, and also gives you the bulletproof mentality that you're prepared for any question that comes your way. Think of all the reasons why something won't be successful, and then consider arguments against that point. Become your own devil's advocate, and it will be that much easier to find a positive response and an open door for your next request. 


2. Be Adaptable


Being adaptable provides you with the mental agility to not hide in a corner when you're kicked to the curb. As Larry Ellison, the founder of Oracle Corporation states:


“When you innovate, you’ve got to be prepared for people telling you that you are nuts.”  


You have to be willing to adapt your thinking and your processes and find a way to create change while not straying from your core ideas. You can't listen to every naysayer, but you can look for the nuggets of wisdom that they share and use that information to your advantage the next time you try to move forward. 


3. Be Confident


You may be surprised that confidence is not the first attribute we consider, but the reality is, you need to have a plan in place that you can trust and support before confidence will help you through to success. Confidence in yourself, your family, and your ideas -- as well as a burning passion to make a change in the world -- are what can help you continue on even when it feels as though there's no path forward. 


4. Do the Work


Unfortunately, there are few things in life that can replace hard work. Whether that hard work is from an athlete completing the same moves repeatedly for months or even years or a business leader who is told "No" more times than they can count, the ability to simply buckle down and execute on your vision is critical to long-term success. 


5. Inspire Others


Perhaps one of the most rewarding things you will ever do with your life is to inspire others to be their best. Take the time throughout your life to inspire others. When you realize how many people you have impacted and how many are watching your success, it's a lot easier to find the strength to try again in difficult times. 


Finally, in the words of Thomas Edison: "Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time." Shouldn't you give it one more shot? 

Friday, May 18, 2018

Print Marketing Is About Selling Value, Not Services

There's a common misconception that far too many marketers have that needs to be put to rest once and for all.


A lot of people still seem to think that if you're really going to carve out a stronger competitive advantage for yourself in an increasingly crowded marketplace, you need to make your services appear objectively better than everyone else's. You need to talk about how your products are better, stronger, faster, longer-lasting, more cost-efficient, etc. All this to steal as much attention away from your competition as you can.


In truth, that is a myth. You shouldn't be selling services at all. You should be selling the value that those services provide. In other words, the thesis at the heart of your print marketing campaign shouldn't be "here's what I can do that nobody else can," but rather "here's what I can do for you." Mastering this approach requires you to keep a few key things in mind.


Everything Begins and Ends With Your Customer


The art of selling value instead of services is one of those situations where buyer personas come in handy.


When you begin to come up with a buyer persona for your ideal customer, you try to add as much information about that person as possible. But once your persona has been completed, you shouldn't be asking yourself, "Okay, what do I need to tell this person in order to convince them to give me money?" Instead, you need to get answers to questions like:


  • What problem does this customer have and how do my services solve it for them?

  • In what ways will that person's life be easier after their purchase than it was before?

  • What does that person want to accomplish, and how can I help make that happen?

Then, you work your way back to the products and services that you're trying to sell, thinking about the problem and positioning yourself as the solution.


A Whole New Approach


This is one of those areas where specificity will carry you far. Think about the individual portions of your sales funnel and what someone needs to hear at each one to move from one end to the other. Use this "value-centric" approach not to convince someone that the time is right to make a purchase, but to give them the actionable information they need to arrive at that conclusion on their own.


In the end, there are probably a lot of other companies in your industry who do what you do - but nobody does it in quite the same way. That key thing that differentiates you from so many others is the value that only you can offer and what should be at the heart of all of your marketing messages.

Friday, May 11, 2018

Don't Throw in the Towel

Down but Not Out


They say that the difference between baseball and life is perseverance. No matter how hard you swing in the batter’s box, three strikes always mean you’re out. But in the game of life, strikeouts are only assigned to those who stop trying.


Feel like throwing in the towel today? We all do sometimes. But consider the words of Thomas Edison, who made more than a thousand attempts before finding the right materials to create the incandescent light bulb:


“Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.”


Or find hope in the words of journalist David Brinkley:


“A successful man is one who can lay a firm foundation with bricks others have thrown at him.”


The Irrevocable Power of Attitude


While circumstances are often beyond our control, we all have irrevocable power over one crucial area: our attitude. Austrian neurologist and Victor Frankl considered himself living proof. His best-selling book, “Man’s Search for Meaning” (or: Nevertheless, Say “Yes” to Life: A Psychologist Experiences the Concentration Camp) chronicled his experiences as a Holocaust survivor, discovering that a fundamental human reality means finding hope in all forms of existence. Even the most brutal. Frankl said this:


“The last of our human freedoms is to choose our attitude in any given circumstances.”


Surviving or Thriving?


How do you move beyond mere survival? Whether it’s stress at home or disappointment at work, how can you equip yourself with a persevering attitude?


Angela Duckworth (professor of psychology at the University of Pennsylvania) was teaching math when she noticed something intriguing: The most successful students weren’t always the ones who displayed a natural aptitude but those who possessed an overcoming (or “gritty”) spirit. That grit – a combination of passion and perseverance targeting a particular goal – helped Duckworth develop a “grit scale” tool to predict outcomes . . .  like, who would win the National Spelling Bee or who might graduate from West Point. Duckworth found a “gritty” attitude beat the pants off things like your I.Q., SAT scores, or even physical fitness in determining whether individuals might succeed!


Here are a few tips from Duckworth on awakening passion when your willpower is dying:



  1. Discover and deepen your interests. If you feel like quitting, re-examine what really energizes or inspires you. Perhaps a depressed spirit can prompt you to consider a necessary life change.

  2. Commit yourself to a positive attitude. Duckworth says the difference between quitters and overcomers was largely how they processed frustration, disappointment, or boredom. While “quitters” took negative emotional cues as an opportunity to cut and run, gritty people believed that struggle was a chance for growth, not a signal for alarm.

  3. Look forward not backward (especially in the face of failure!). Resilience is the ability of people, communities, or systems to maintain their core purpose, even in the midst of unforeseen shocks or failures. Futurist Andrew Zolli, author of Resilience, Why Things Bounce Back, says grit is the combination of optimism, creativity, and confidence that one can find meaningful purpose while influencing surroundings, outcomes, and individual growth in the process. In other words – even failing doesn’t bring failure! No matter what you face, you can take heart that even setbacks bring progress and that even suffering has meaning.


Of course, the final factor in persevering power is the support of a strong community. That’s why we take pride in a thriving local business economy and we take pleasure in shaking your hand. Let’s continue to grow in grit as we run the race together this year!

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

How Has the Internet Changed Lead Generation?

There is no denying that technology has greatly revolutionized lead generation, especially in regard to the internet. Gone are the days of having to cold call prospects and knock on their doors. Sure, these tactics still work, but business owners are continually finding ways for lead generation to be more cost-efficient and effective. For now, let's take a quick look at how the internet has changed lead generation and the many reasons you need to be taking advantage of technology to expand your customer base. 


Artificial Intelligence Technology Enhances Lead Generation


Thanks to advancements in artificial intelligence technology, you can engage with leads online like never before. In fact, you don't even have to be the one engaging with them. An AI software program can do the engaging for you. Take, for example, if your website offers a chat feature. Before connecting the customer with an actual representative, artificial intelligence software can engage them in a natural-sounding conversation to determine which department the customer needs to be directed to. 


Targeting Leads Has Become Incredibly Simple


When you distribute content, whether through direct mail print marketing or online, you need to have a specific target audience in mind. This target audience, of course, needs to represent people who are likely to be interested in the product/service you are selling. Thanks to the internet, it is now easier than ever to target leads. 


It's All About the Analytics


If you aren't using analytics to track website visitors, you need to be. An easy-to-use tracking platform that is excellent for determining which pages on your site are performing the best is Google Analytics. There is a good chance the service provider that is hosting your site also provides some type of analytics to take advantage of. Regardless of the tracking tools you use, though, analyzing data on page performance can help you pinpoint which pages need to be further optimized and which ones need to be left alone. This enables you to improve time management because you can focus your attention on the pages that need improvement rather than wasting time on the ones that are already attracting quality leads. 


Automated Email Sequencing


You want your emails to be as personable as possible to improve the odds of turning a cold lead into a warm lead, but you can't accomplish this through a single email. Instead, you need to create an email sequence that is automated; this will engage your leads in a systemized manner and it allows you to warm them up to an offer. 


The Takeaway


Your existing customers deserve your attention, but at the same time, you need to be focusing some of your operations on lead generation. Thanks to advancements in technology and the internet, it is now easier than ever to generate leads in a timely and cost-efficient manner. By deploying the four tips outlined above, you'll be well on your way to capturing leads and improving customer satisfaction at the same time. 

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Is Your Advertising Take You Up or Down?

Marketing and advertising can be quite costly. However, marketing can attract customers and earn you money. So, you need to be asking yourself "is your advertising taking you up or down?"


Let's take a quick look at three of the best ways to make sure your marketing efforts are boosting your sales revenue instead of draining your budget for nothing. 


1) Keep An Eye On Frequency Rates When Online


Advertising online can an effective way to reach a targeted audience. What you want to avoid, though, is blasting your ads multiple times to the same people. The more times the same consumer sees your ad, the more they will become annoyed by it. In fact, when the same person sees the same ad twice, the click-through-rate decreases by 8.91 percent. Seeing the same ad five times decreases the click-through-rate by 30 percent. And once they see the same ad nine times or more, the click-through-rate is cut in half. More important, the cost-per-click rate increases each time the ad is seen multiple times. This is why you need to check ad frequency  and mix up your marketing mix using other effective channels like print. 


2) Switch Up the Background


Both your online and offline marketing campaigns can benefit from switching up ad background colors. Did you know that ads with the color blue tend to make consumers feel calm? Green brings about a sense of peace, while yellow ignites a feeling of happiness and optimism. With this in mind, you need to integrate these colors into your ads based on the feelings you are trying to invoke. For example, if you are advertising massage services, then you will, of course, want your background color to be blue or green to portray a sense of peace and calm. If you're advertising a theme park or vacation services, then using yellow in your background to bring forth feelings of happiness and excitement will be effective. 


3) Run Your Own Blog


One of the most effective and cost-efficient ways to market your business is by running your own blog. Your blog can touch on a variety of topics, including articles discussing products you sell, tips for your using products, how to get good deals on your products, and how your products can be used to make your life simpler. The important thing is to make sure you are providing content to your readers that has value.


Once readers see that you are genuinely trying to make their lives better, they will come back to read your future blog postings. More importantly, they will be enticed to share your postings with other consumers, which is an excellent way to attract and secure new customers. Even better is that running your own blog is very affordable. In fact, if you're a decent writer, you can write your own blog postings for free. If you don't write, you can always hire a content creator to create the content for you. 

Friday, April 27, 2018

5 Meeting Rules You'll Actually Want to Adopt

Are meetings something that you would consider magical at your organization? No? Why not? Aren't meetings a place to collaborate, share ideas, dream big dreams and then make things happen?


Few business people would describe meetings using terms like actionable, positive, critical and focused . . . yet those are the terms that help define success in moving the organization forward.


Communication methods are imperfect as a whole. While you can create a business plan via a series of emails, it's inefficient and the plan will often lack creativity. The same goes for one-on-one meetings. Team meetings are the ideal way to build energy and enthusiasm for a new idea and generate actionable outcomes, but without the proper structure, even these meetings can be considered wasted time.


Here are 5 rules that will help keep your meetings on pace, on target, and provide you with the successful outcomes that you need from your time together. 


1. Start With An Agenda


No, you shouldn't begin with 'What will it take to fill an hour of team meeting time this week?', because if that's your first thought then you're already sunk. Request that team members send agenda items at least 24 hours before the meeting time and consolidate them to form your agenda. Keep in mind the flow of topics, and be sure you're leaving time for strategic conversations. Leave items that may fall into deep tactical minutiae to the end of your agenda. 


2. Plan for Takeaways


Consider the consensus that you're attempting to build with your meeting, or what your takeaway should be. Perhaps you need someone to volunteer for a new project, or you just need to inform a group about a direction that will impact their work. If you feel that there may be some pushback to your ideas within the room, look for a partner who will be in the meeting who can help support your point. If an item that was on your agenda doesn't have a clear actionable, add it to a parking lot for a later date.


3. Keep Time Sacred


Time is money, and never is that more true than when you have 3-15 individuals in a room together meeting without a timeline or agenda. Based on your agenda, break down how long each portion of the conversation should take and allot time accordingly. If your meeting should only need 23 minutes, then schedule that much time -- perhaps plus a few minutes extra. Be a stickler about keeping conversations in check and moving the agenda along to hit key points in your list. 


4. Consider a Drive-By


Just need to chat with a few people about a simple topic? Instead of finding space and time for a full-fledged meeting, consider a 5-minute drive-by or stand up meeting. Grab a few people and huddle around a desk or common area, hash through your questions or concerns and let everyone get back to their day. In the same amount of time that you might take to walk and get a cup of coffee, you've made a decision, kept others updated on important points, and reduced the overall inefficiency of the day. The time for small talk can be over lunch; use these drive-bys to distill your ideas into the length of an elevator pitch. This may be uncomfortable for some people as it requires checking your ego at the door, but teams that are able to adopt these policies can become much more agile. 


5. Keep it Moving


Always focus on the end result and what you need to keep your projects moving. This could be anything from an approval by a superior, someone agreeing to take on a task, or even consensus that you're heading in the right direction. Capture takeaways and next steps, and most importantly -- the name of the responsible party and when the result should be delivered. This will keep your meetings on task and team focused. 


The word 'meeting' doesn't have to be a negative concept. Instead, use these 5 meeting rules to adopt a culture of forward motion, positivity, and respect within the organization that will drive success both now and in the future. This isn't a one-time change to how you approach meetings, but an organization-wide initiative to take back your time and productivity. 

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

4 Ways to Stop Your Team from Falling Apart

There are times in every supervisor's work life that you can feel everything going off the rails -- projects don't sync up as they should, laughter feels forced within your team, and the energy levels are low.


While it may feel like everything is falling apart at the seams, and you're not sure what you can do, don't give up! There are ways to bring teamwork back to your team, but it will take some work to rebuild trust between team members and realign your focus to the future.


Even the most high-performing teams have moments of doubt that can be introduced by stress or fear. These negative emotions could overtake a team or its leader, but the first step is re-imagining the future and then casting that vision to your team. 


Prevention is Worth a Pound of Cure


While it may be too late if your team has already entered a downward spiral, preventing negativity from happening is always the best alternative to a team that's coming apart at the seams. Getting to know your team, understanding their motivations and stressors, and working hard when you need to will help you become a trusted member of your team -- and not just the leader.


Spending time together bonding in good times will help sustain your relationship during times of difficulty, both with each individual team member and the team as a whole. This trust doesn't come overnight but is worth the time spent building it in the long run. 


Slowing the Negativity


Perhaps your team has just begun showing signs of stress, such as team members being unwilling to contribute in meetings, leaving early, or losing energy early in the day. If you look up in the afternoon and everyone is wandering around looking aimless instead of focused on work or building relationships, it's past time to get more involved in your team's dynamics.


Start by talking to someone on your team, either the person who is seemingly the most stressed or one with whom you have the most trust built up. See if you can determine what the root cause of the uncertainty is, and look for potential options for resolution together. 


Returning from the Brink


If your team is truly on the brink of collapse, with your best and brightest team members disengaged and actively looking for other opportunities, it's time to take more drastic measures. Consider asking your human resources department if they're hearing any rumors about what's happening, or pull the team together as a whole in an offsite meeting to add to their comfort level.


Request that they be open and honest with you about challenges that they're encountering -- either within the team, outside the team or even outside the organization.


Take Charge of Results


You also must face the possibility that you as the leader are the problem, which can be painful and difficult to accept. However, you must first look to make changes in your own leadership style in order to help salvage your team's success.


Take responsibility for finding a solution, and don't be afraid to claim accountability when things aren't going as you had planned. Too often, leaders find themselves in a situation that feels hopeless and attempt to look externally to find the problem.


If there is truly someone on your team who is causing the excessive negativity, know when it's time to make the difficult decision and make a change in personnel. Sometimes, all it takes is removing a negative influence or underperformer to bring your team back to center. 


Today's organizations are moving quickly and chasing many different initiatives at once. Managing people is always a balancing act: creating a culture of learning and accountability while allowing people the space they need to take appropriate chances. Fortunately, nearly every team can be brought back from a downward spiral with time, effort, and loads of positive energy from its leader.

Friday, April 13, 2018

The Dignity of Work

Down But Not Out


Albert Serur was just a young man when he passed out cold in his client’s office. Only four months into his job, a previously undiagnosed heart condition might have sidelined him permanently. But Serur didn’t go down without a fight. Rather than recovering from emergency surgery at home, he hired a driver so he could sleep in the car between sales calls.


“Adversity helps you deal with who you are,” he says. “If you can start preparing for things proactively both personally and professionally, you’re going to be ready, and you’re going to be a better leader.”


“Will-Set” that Trumps a Skill Set


At 28, Serur is the youngest state director at American Income Life and chief executive of its Wilmington subsidiary. Serur Agencies brings weekly employee training sessions that focus less on technical abilities and more on workplace camaraderie, helping people develop a “will-set” with emotional tools to handle challenging situations. These offerings are a timely response to a felt need; in a recent Society of Human Resource Management report, “respectful treatment” was a top priority of the workers, even above pay.


“I’ve seen many people who have more God-given talent than I have, but if they have one difficult relationship issue, they just fold,” says Serur.  


Valuing the “Dignity of Work”


Workforce prioritization was how Starbucks recently explained the “fairly flat” performance of its stock. While a recent reduction of corporate-tax rates made the company hundreds of millions of dollars, Starbucks chose to re-invest this money in its workforce rather than funneling profits back to shareholders. Priorities included closing gender pay equity gaps worldwide, offering stock grants of $2,000 for managers and $500 for employees, expanded paid parental leave, and even access to critical illness insurance for parents of employees. Executive chairman Howard Schultz says people are an enduring priority:


“We’re trying to make long-term decisions,” Schultz said. “We’re trying to value the dignity of work. We’re trying to do everything we possibly can to demonstrate to the world … that the better way is not a zero-sum game where you leave your people behind.”


Microsoft has also seen a shift toward creating workplace wins. Several of Microsoft’s former employees have returned to the company after CEO Satya Nadella took over. These “boomerangs” say workplace culture has changed significantly under Nadella’s emphasis on “One Microsoft,” a collaborative environment that hasn’t existed in the past. Nadella has shifted reviews toward solidarity and teamwork, where employees are rewarded not just for their own work but how well they’re able to make use of others’ contributions. Boomerangs say this step away from the “smartest person in the room,” intimidation tactic has brought a more conversational, empowering environment. Microsoft has emphasized patience before perfection, incentives for developing others, and teaching staff to diffuse tension after disagreeable meetings.


Bonds that Last


Some companies use humor to grow unity. The Improv Asylum comedy troupe teaches communications skills at organizations like Google and Intel. This troupe’s mantra is that one person must always accept the premise given and then expand on the idea. “The sink is going to start spraying pink paint, you say?” “Well, yes, AND . . . lucky for us, we’re hosting the abstract art seminar this weekend!”


As it turns out, this is also a great workplace communication technique:


(The phrase) “‘Yes, but’ is prevalent in the corporate culture, and that shuts ideas down,” says Bob Melley, director of corporate training at the Boston theater company. “‘Yes, and’ encourages everyone on the team to offer ideas. It creates a bond and establishes trust.”

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Stay in the Game

Finding the Off Switch


Do you ever lay awake at night feeling restless about work? Do you take projects home each evening or over the weekend? When the day is over, is it difficult for you to quiet your racing thoughts?


You work hard. And you enjoy it. But in this mobile generation, devices meant to create freedom have tethered us to the desk as we toe the line between productivity and workaholism. A study of 3,000 UK workers showed that 69 percent regularly work outside their office hours, and the average worker fails to use six days of paid leave each year. In the midst of an overwork epidemic, are you preserving your own well-being?


Digging Your Own Grave


While our parents said “hard work never killed anyone,” research says otherwise. Men who are unable to mentally relax after work nearly triple their risk of heart disease and psychologist Mark Cropley, studying health and stress at the University of Surrey, says an inability to detach brings disastrous consequences:


“Inadequate psychological recovery, or poor disengagement from work, is associated with a range of health problems including cardiovascular disease, fatigue, negative mood and sleep disturbance,” Cropley said.


What is the difference between an industrious person and a workaholic? Experts say the industrious can push past typical office hours but remain emotionally present for others, enjoying fulfilling relationships and intentionally scheduling time for things they love. Hard workers experience short bursts of stress for a deadline but follow this with a purposeful schedule reduction (like comp days or shortened office hours) to restore depleted energy.


Workaholics struggle to find this off switch. The troubling feelings or facts accompanying their lifestyle stress fails to curb their unrealistic performance ideals. Workaholics are obsessed with work and the adrenaline rush it brings; often they walk fast, talk fast, eat fast, and struggle to delegate for fear others will not do “as good a job.” While appearing externally healthy, their internal overdrive brings physical distress: panic attacks, claustrophobia, depression, decreased immune function, sleep disturbances, or an inability to enjoy life’s pleasures. Workaholics have an increased risk for metabolic syndrome, a higher need for recovery, and struggle with cynicism and emotional fatigue; when your biological systems keep working around elevated set points, you have a greater risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD), diabetes, and even death.


Worried you may be digging an early grave? Here are a few checks to flag your workaholic tendencies:


  • Your work eats into meal times

  • You are often first to arrive and last to leave

  • You are always on your phone or computer

  • You appear relationally distracted and find little time for leisure activities

  • You experience anxiety or irritation when interrupted or kept from work

  • You feel guilty when you’re not working and find it difficult to relax at night

Quality Trumps Quantity


Beyond improved health, accounting firm Ernst & Young found that for every additional 10 hours of time off taken, employees’ annual performance ratings improved by eight percent. How can you make productive changes if you are stretched too thin?


  • Reflect on reasons for compulsive work

  • Ask for help from your team and intentionally delegate

  • Set clear rules for how many hours you will work each day, quitting several hours before bed

  • Replace workaholic tendencies with positive habits: cultivating hobbies, building a skill you don’t use at work, and pro-actively scheduling time with friends

  • Resolve to save 25 percent of your energy to bring home at night. Put a fence around weekends to avoid temptation

Self-care keeps you on top of your game and ensures you STAY in the game. And that’s a win for us all!

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

3 Opportunities for Better Customer Follow-up

Have you ever considered an online purchase but been put off by taxes or shipping costs? That’s what a Reddit user (Doug D.) experienced when he fell in love with a sweatshirt from Archrival Clothing. Doug, a UK resident, added the item to his cart, but was disappointed to find he couldn’t get Archrival’s alluringly low shipping prices since the company was based in the US.


Winning Follow-up


Game over? Not quite. Someone from Archrival took note of Doug’s abandoned “Shopping Cart” and realized the shipping prices were probably to blame. This resourceful employee immediately e-mailed Doug, offering several alternatives to ship the order for less, including a FedEx International Economy option, Delayed First Class Overseas Mail (on the company’s dime), or European purchasing options.


Doug’s reaction? Rave online reviews for the company itself:


“Wow. My mind is blown. This is potentially the best customer service I have ever experienced. You definitely deserve a purchase just for this e-mail.” Doug and his girlfriend bought several items, ordering more than originally intended, all due to proactive customer care.


Leaky Buckets Bring Lost Opportunities


Business is all about relationships, and good relationships are built on great communication. In today’s wired world, we communicate constantly, yet connections are frequently missed. Author Dan Kennedy describes these botched follow-ups as the “hole” in our buckets. If business is the bucket where we pour energy, ideas, and money, the “holes” are wasted time, money, or failed follow up. This may include failing to track contact information, not rescuing lost customers, or belated follow-up with prospects.


What impact does correspondence have? According to Harvard Business Review, the most frequent customer complaint is poor follow-up. Fifty-six percent complain that they need to re-explain their issue when calling back. Sixty-two percent need to repeatedly contact the company to get issues resolved. As a result, 65% are likely to speak poorly about the company and 48% go on to tell 10 or more people about their bad experience. Poor communication can influence not only your customer but spill over into the public as well.


Show Them the Love!


Sometimes we fail to communicate because we are forgetful, have full schedules, or we fear looking pushy. But consistent follow-up builds sturdy bridges, and any step toward better communication will bear long-term fruit. Consider these opportunities for better follow up:



  1. Always acknowledge a message from a customer: with gratitude, with further questions, or with a confirmation of the request

  2. Give a brief status update of the issue at hand

  3. Respond via the customer’s preferred method of communication (e-mail, website, phone call). If uncertain, reciprocate with the method the customer initiated with


Use stronger written follow-up communication to:


  • Make a calendar request or recap a meeting

  • Ensure your last message was received or inquire about further questions or concerns

  • Express gratitude for an introduction or appreciation for their business

  • Congratulate clients on a recent accomplishment

  • Wish customers luck on an upcoming project or personal endeavor

  • Solicit feedback on a future project or decision

  • Send helpful information or resources (pertinent to your previous conversations)

  • Make people personally aware of upcoming incentives or promotions

To make good intentions a reality, consider adding correspondence goals to your schedule (placing reminders in your phone or calendar or sending unique printed thank you notes on a bi-annual basis) and chart a new course of consistency to ensure your relationships receive the optimal care they deserve.


 

Friday, March 30, 2018

Break the Rules; It's Okay as a Market Disruptor

Who are the folks who really define a market these days? It's definitely not those companies who follow the market rules and play nice with everyone. More often than not, the key players and new leaders of the pack are the ones who are writing their own rules on how to operate, sell, and grow - the market disruptors.


Being a disruptor is not to be confused with being an anarchist. Unlike the political zealot, the disruptor is not fixated on tearing things down. Instead, this is a company that wants to redesign the stage to work in its favor, not the existing market.


More Than Traditional


Take the example of Growup Urban Farms. In the food business, the idea is to produce food or distribute food products from producers. This assumes that one is either a traditional manufacturer as a grower or making a profit on someone else's work either growing plants in soil or raising animals on a farm. But what happens when someone decides to create food in an unorthodox method that doesn't require the traditional resources of soil and land? That's the case with Growup Urban Farms.


A Company Redefined


The company has found a way to mass market food production of vegetables and fish without the large land outlay or ocean harvesting. While the traditional model requires a rural setting, the disruptive aspect of Growup is that it can literally be operated in the most urban of settings, using physical stacking and space efficiency inside artificial walls and city streets. Their product is natural but created in warehouses. It uses natural methods of growth but there is no soil, ocean or land consumption involved.


The founders of the company, Kate Hudson and Tom Webster, have redefined what it is to be a modern farmer. And that has the potential to redefine how food is produced and where. The old rules don't apply anymore that farms must be rural and need soil, or that fish can only be harvested from ocean stock. Growup disrupts the food market and not just with its cost model. The company also redefines placement of farm fresh food, eliminating the need for long-distance transportation into cities. Instead, the farm is literally in the city just blocks from the businesses it feeds with the product.


Go Where No One Else Does


The idea of being a market disruptor is not some trendy new 21st-century concept; every major market inventor or new breakout leader was essentially following the path of a disruptor by going down a path nobody else was considering at the time. Whether it was Nikola Tesla or Google's founders, every breakout has been driven by a unique prospect that seemed rogue or maverick to the mainstream.


So if you want your company to get beyond just surviving and breaking even, then you have to find that spot that differentiates everything about you. Don't follow existing models, create a new one that has its own rules for success.

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Five Ways to Provide Mind-Blowing Customer Service

Did you know that surprising and delighting your customers is something that starts before they are truly aware of your business and brand? Each interaction throughout the customer lifecycle is an opportunity to provide mind-blowing customer service that people simply must share with their friends. Creating true advocates for your business should be your goal, and that only happens when customers are over-the-top excited about your product and service offerings. How do you inspire that type of loyalty in what can be a fickle audience? These tips will get you started down the path to lifelong devotion from your fans. 


1. Treat Employees Like Gold


Your most important asset when it comes to ensuring long-term customer loyalty is closer than you may realize -- your staff! When your employees are empowered to react quickly to negative situations and provide proactive support to ward off challenges, your customers will feel the difference. Employees who feel as though they're simply showing up to punch a clock are lacking something, and that will show up in their interactions with customers. Employees who are regularly rewarded for going above and beyond expectations will continue that trend. 


2. Foster a Culture of Possibilities


When you foster a culture of possibilities for your staff, they will be much more likely to take exceptional care of your customers. Why? Because employees take more ownership, and "your" customers become "their" customers . . . and friends. Good customer service is expected (and even demanded) by today's customers. Going the next step to completely blowing your customers' mind takes extra effort to provide unexpected benefits. This could mean providing free custom proofs to clients, adding in 10% overages "just because" or delivering earlier than expected. On time and on budget are expectations -- you have to raise the bar to blow their minds. 


3. Create an Easy Button


There will always be customers who are looking for the fastest and cheapest items. However, the customers you really want to cultivate are those who are willing to pay a premium for truly exceptional service and delivery times. The majority of people in America today have severely limited time, and when you're able to show customers that you respect their needs and move quickly, they will be surprised and delighted. Optimize each process, remove unnecessary clicks from your website and apps and generally think through the user experience at every turn. 


4. Focus on What's Important


Customer-facing organizations are often looking for ways to reduce the amount of time required to interact with the public on each transaction. While this can result in efficiency for customers and staff alike, it can also cause a measure of frustration when poorly implemented. Forget the long list of meaningless metrics that don't impact service levels or profitability. Look for measurements that directly impact customer satisfaction such as the number of calls required to resolve a return, for instance. 


5. Stand Out from the Crowd 


Are your competitors sending out postcards? Take their concept and go bigger: send a unique mailer that is truly attention-grabbing. There are rumors going around that "direct mail is dead", but nothing could be further from the truth! As fewer competitors rely on print, customers are more likely to be engaged with the unique and interesting pieces that do hit their mailboxes. Have fun with your promotions and your customers will reward you richly.


The reality for businesses today is that customer retention is much less expensive than attempting to find and recruit new customers. Sure, you're always on the lookout for new customers, but shouldn't you also look for ways to create an over-the-top excellent service culture that keeps people returning for more? 

Friday, March 23, 2018

Why Establishing Your Brand as an Authority is a Top Goal

With every piece of marketing collateral you create, you're essentially trying to accomplish two key goals. Yes, you're always trying to inform members of your audience about the products or services that you offer - or the ones that you're about to launch. But at the same time, you need to do something much more powerful. Something that, if executed correctly, can help guarantee that yours is a brand with the ability to stand the test of time.


You need to establish your brand as an authority - not just in the context of what you have to offer, but within the larger sense of the industry that you're operating in. If this isn't already one of your top goals, it should be for a number of essential reasons.


The Power of Brand Authority


To better understand the importance of brand authority, consider the following two statistics. According to one study, 45% of your brand's image (meaning what people think and feel when they encounter it) can ultimately be attributed to both what you say and how you say it. More importantly, the same study revealed that 54% of people don't trust brands at all.


The most critical thing to understand about this is that brand authority is not something that you can give yourself. The majority of people who don't trust brands don't do so because the brands told them not to - it's because those brands failed to live up to their promises one too many times. It's because they didn't have anything to offer beyond a sales pitch. It's because those brands weren't able to connect with their audience in an emotional, raw, and ultimately genuine way.


Because those brands failed to understand that brand authority really has to do with your larger reputation - it's that kernel of trust that you don't give yourself, but that others give to you.


It's also not something that you're going to be able to build in a day. It's less the product of one major move and more about a series of smaller ones. It's something that grows slowly, every time you choose to partner with a charity on community outreach or make your presence known at some type of local event. It's something that grows inside your audience every time they see a piece of collateral that isn't just a product spec sheet, but that offers true insight and information in a way that helps them even if they don't make a sale.


When built properly over time, it's also something that makes it easier than ever to not only keep the customers you already have satisfied but to bring new ones into the fold as well. This will invariably translate into a sense of "when the time comes and I do choose to make a purchase with this particular brand, I can rest easy knowing that it is money well spent."


In the End


Ultimately, establishing your brand as an authority should be a top goal because it allows you to become more than just the products you sell or the services you provide. When your customers have a question, they come to you for the answer. When they want to learn more about a related topic, their first thought is to go to you for the education they seek. When you do launch a new product or service, they're interested in what you have to offer because there is a level of trust that exists between you that they don't have in other relationships.


This is why brand authority is so important - because it lets you become more than "just another company" and provides you with a level of authenticity that can take a standard audience and turn them into a loyal army of passionate advocates before you know it.