Tuesday, December 12, 2017

What Your Customers are Worth (and Why it Matters)



What is the value of a customer? What profit can they bring this week? This year? Over a lifetime? It may seem like a simple concept, but many small businesses have no idea what a regular customer is worth to their business. This creates two problems:



  • Uncertainty about effective marketing. What is the number of new customers you'd like to attract and what is an appropriate budget to do that? Defining a customer value will guide your marketing strategies!

  • Ambivalence regarding customer retention. With a metric for measuring customer values, you can navigate appropriate parameters for retaining them or expanding their business. Research shows that increasing customer retention rates by merely 5% increases profits by 25% to 95%!

Customer Lifetime Value



While there are many complex formulas for calculating a Customer Lifetime Value (CLV), a basic approach is to break calculations into five digestible portions, like this:




  1. Average Order Value (AOV). On the most basic level, AOV is calculated by how much money is spent per customer in a year, divided by how many orders are placed by that customer in that timeframe.

  2. Purchase Frequency (f). Take the number of orders/visits/transactions from the past year and divide it by the number of unique customers you had. The total equals frequency, or how often an average customer purchased from you.

  3. Customer Value (cv). The base value of a customer can be calculated by multiplying the AOV by the purchase frequency (cv = AOV * f). In this instance, the customer value is being calculated for one year.

  4. Average Lifespan/Time (t). A customer's lifespan is how long they actively connect with your business before they move on or go dormant. This can be a complex calculation, but to keep things simple you can either give a broad estimate (an educated guess) or you can calculate an average based on a select number of known customers (adding the length of each of their commitments and dividing by the number of customers). For example: Total Length of Commitment/Number of Individual Customers = Average Customer Lifespan (t).

  5. Customer Lifetime Value (CLV). Now that you've got a general idea of a customer's value for a year and the average customer lifespan, you can use these variables for a lifetime value: Customer value (cv) * Average Lifespan (t) = Customer Lifetime Value (CLV)



While this is a very simplified equation, even a ballpark CLV can give you a more accurate idea of how valuable each client is to your business. What should you look to spend in order to gain a customer? How much should you spend to extend their loyalty? A benchmark CLV will give you a helpful base for marketing, loyalty programs, and sales goals for the upcoming year. Take a look at a more complex approach Starbucks has taken to determine their CLV as a whopping $14,099!1



Your Customers Are Your Future



A customer represents the future of your success and your livelihood, and it will be difficult to thrive if you aren't willing to risk or invest to attract new business. What are your obstacles to expanding your reach or enlarging your advertising? Has the uncertainty of direct mail marketing kept your business from growing? Why not rely on our expertise? We offer sophisticated, simple ways to reach a mass audience for an amount that works within your budget. Need a creative concept or help to carry it to completion? We offer prompt, knowledgeable service for every custom design mailing. Give us a call today!


Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Cash Flow and Marketing: What You Need to Know

Cash flow is important in the lifespan of any business, but one of the key things to understand is that it's about more than just "money in versus money out." It's a valuable look into the bigger picture of what you're doing, and by having a handle on this aspect of your finances, you can take advantage of business opportunities when they arise.



First, you need to understand how every element of your business relates to this cash flow concept, including marketing. To that point, marketing has a very specific relationship with cash flow that you're going to need to be aware of moving forward.



Hone Your Budget



Yes, it's true that marketing costs can often seem unpredictable. However, working hard to hone your marketing budget can make these unexpected situations easier to deal with.



To get started, sit down and think about your upcoming marketing efforts in relation to your other expected cash inflows and outflows. You can't afford to throw just anything at the wall to see what sticks; you have to be more precise than that. Create a realistic marketing budget (that includes room for experimentation if needed) that is proportional to the rest of your expected business expenses and revenue streams.



It's All About That Return



What matters most? Return on investment. For this, focus on the metrics that provide you the context necessary to understand your marketing efforts.



Essentially, stop thinking about marketing ROI as just "how many sales did that last campaign bring in?" and don't be afraid to break things down on a more granular level. Start looking at metrics like your customer acquisition cost. If one of your campaigns was aimed at increasing more traffic to your website, start breaking things down based on metrics like "time spent on site" and "conversion rate."



It's important to know how your marketing collateral is performing in terms of overall sales and revenues, but in terms of your cash flow you need to dive deeper than that. As long as you're able to A) show that your marketing is giving you something in return, and B) you can identify exactly what that something is and when it occurs, you know where the value of every marketing dollar rests.



This, in turn, will give you the context necessary to understand marketing's affect on cash flow and vice versa. When you know that "X action will pay off in Y way after Z amount of time," you suddenly know the impact that every marketing decision you make actually has and when that impact is going to occur. This makes long-term cash flow projections not only easier to make but more accurate as well.


Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Repeat Success is No Small Achievement

Arnel Pineda never imagined that he would be fronting the world-famous rock band, Journey, when he began singing American rock songs with his friends' band as a teenager.



For years his exceptional singing talent had been good enough to belt out songs with club bands doing parties, special events, contests, weddings, and regular appearances around the Philippines, Pineda's home country. However, one evening Pineda was filmed doing his performance with a particular Journey song, "Don't Stop Believin'." The performance, as well as Pineda's accuracy in singing the song so similar to how the original version was sung by the first Journey frontman, Steve Perry, shocked people. It also shocked the guitarist and an original member of Journey, Neil Schon, when he watched the YouTube video as well. One would think that the fairytale story ended at this point as Pineda rocketed to fame as Journey's replacement singer. However, that's not quite how things went.



Upping Your Game



Yes, Pineda could sing, no argument. And he did a darn good version of Journey as a bar band singer. However, the band made it clear to Pineda that if he were to be considered a serious contender for the real band, he would have to up his game. That meant singing all the original Journey songs to perfection.



It's easy for the typical person to think this challenge might be doable. That's because no one sees what Pineda had to go through to match every tone and every inflection that Steve Perry had done to make Journey's songs famous in the first place. Unlike Perry, who could craft a new song with any version of voice he liked, Pineda had to duplicate the original to every single detail. It was a grueling process with Schon and company catching every mistake and pushing Pineda to reach the zenith of his ability. There were plenty of times Pineda wanted to quit as well, questioning his own talent. Fortunately, the Filipino singer realized his full potential and succeeded.



Success Can Be Hard to Repeat



This story is a classic case showing how hard it is to achieve success a second time once a standard or great performance has been achieved in the first place. In business, a one-time success is just that, a fortunate blip. When a business team can repeat the performance and do even better consistently, that's a huge achievement. It proves that the success was not just good luck or a brief opportunity when things just fell into place.



Repeat success is the primary goal every business team strives to achieve. And it is extremely hard. Conditions change, markets fluctuate, customers move to new interests, team members leave and get replaced. All of these factors and more change the mix in how successful a team can be. To overcome these changes and repeat the success is really the higher level of performance that pays big with rewards when it can be achieved.



Not Just for Entertainment



Think Pineda's story is just something that happens in the entertainment world? Look at Apple after Steve Jobs passed away. The Apple team lost a core resource in Jobs and still had to find a way to keep Apple growing and succeeding even more than what Jobs had achieved with the company. CEO Tim Cook and company did exactly that, but it was a huge challenge to fill Jobs' shoes year after year since his passing. In many ways, Cook had to perform just as hard a Pineda to repeat a success and make it better. So the next time you see a repeat success story, don't dismiss it so quickly. It's frequently much harder to succeed a second time versus the first.


Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Bullies, Burgers, and Buzz

What do Whopper Juniors and bullying have in common these days? They are both being talked about. A LOT.




Recently, Burger King released a three-minute video in honor of National Bullying Prevention month. The viral video revealed that 95 percent of customers were willing to report their smashed, "bullied" Whopper Jr., but only 12 percent stood up for a high school student being harassed in the same store. The "No Junior Deserves to be Bullied" spot received national attention, generating countless online shares and loads of free publicity. One blogger said this:





"Yes, this is basically a three-minute Burger King ad. And, yes, it's not subtle. But this PSA is better than it has a right to be, and is certainly more than you'd expect from a restaurant that doesn't really have an ethical obligation beyond selling burgers . . . this weirdly good anti-bullying PSA will wreck your day."





Viral: Why Certain Messages Multiply



Have you ever wondered why some YouTube videos go viral? Or why some products receive more word-of-mouth and top-of-mind awareness? Whether we're in marketing, politics, or public health, it's helpful to consider why certain products or ideas catch fire. Wharton marketing professor Jonah Berger, author of Contagious: Why Things Catch On, devoted nearly a decade to researching this very question. We all know that word-of-mouth marketing is the most dynamic form of influence, but why do some things seem to create more buzz? Berger gives several ideas for getting your ideas to stick and to SPREAD.





  1. Social Currency. What we talk about influences how other people see us - whether we look clever, silly, or thoughtful. How can our product or idea be a fun or interesting thing for someone to share with others? Many who shared the Burger King ad found it to be a compelling social commentary, a fun (but thoughtful) perspective worthy of passing along.


  2. Triggers. People often talk about whatever comes to mind. Just like a Subway ad might be effective in a subway station, a trigger is an association that prompts people to think about related things. Burger King wisely released this PSA during Bullying Prevention month, because what is on the top of the mind is often at the tip of the tongue. Burgers and bullies were on our lips in October.


  3. Emotion. How can we craft messages and ideas that make people feel something? Our relational bent prompts us to share things that are surprising, inspiring, funny, beautiful, or motivating. Burger King tapped into a heartfelt issue, knowing that when we care, we are more likely to share!


  4. Stories Sell. Why are Super Bowl commercials so fun? Because nothing tops a great story, and these ads tell them well. Top marketers know that one way to replicate a message is to embed it in a "Trojan Horse," or a noteworthy narrative people are bound to repeat. In this instance, the Whopper Junior had a supporting role in the greater story of bullying and social justice. But Contagious reminds us the product or idea has to be essential to the plotline: "We need to make our message so integral to the narrative that people can't tell the story without it."




Getting Your Message to Spread and Stick



Looking for ways to get your message to spread and your brand to stick? From large-scale publicity to customer care and referral options, we have opportunities in all sizes. We'll help you package your stories, triggers, and ideas with several time-tested tools and tricks. Give us a call to talk options!

Friday, November 3, 2017

Ways to Protect Your Brand in the Real-Time Information Age

A brand is more than just a company logo, and it's bigger than any one particular product or service. Instead, it's the feeling that people get when they think about your company. It's what goes into the instinct they have regarding whether or not to make a purchase.



A brand is also massively important in terms of how successful your marketing efforts will be in the long-term. The impression someone has of your brand is something that occurs almost immediately. 48% of consumers say that they are more likely to become loyal to a brand if their first experience is a positive one, regardless of whether or not that experience actually took the form of a purchase.



That means your brand must be protected at all costs, particularly in the real-time information age that we're now living in. People are being marketed to from nearly every angle. If you don't work hard to strengthen and hone your brand, you run the risk of being lost in the shuffle. Hope is not lost, however, as there are a few key things you can do to protect your brand as much as you can.



Consistency is Key



One of the most important things you can do to protect your brand is focus on something that real-time information doesn't provide: consistency. According to one study, 90% of consumers expect that their experience with a brand will be similar across all channels - whether you're talking about print, in-person interactions, or digital content.



Don't Wait For Your Audience to Come to You



Another study estimates that, on average, you really need about five to seven positive brand impressions with a consumer before they start to remember your brand in a similar light. This is good, but you need to remember that in a real-time information age, you don't necessarily have the time to wait for a consumer to initiate those impressions.



Also, consider the fact that brands that are consistently presented are three to four times more likely to experience brand visibility. YOU must be reaching out to your audience by way of consistent, enjoyable and helpful experiences whenever and wherever you can. Increase the frequency of the print marketing collateral that you're putting out there and focus on being helpful, educational, and informative.



The Unmistakable Benefits



Give people as many opportunities to experience your brand as you possibly can and your entire identity will benefit as a result. If brand visibility is something of a numbers game, you need to play those numbers as well as you possibly can. Don't wait for someone else to hopefully do it for you.



Successful branding brings with it a wide range of different benefits, from increased customer loyalty to an improved image, to a relatable identity and beyond. But in an age where information is everywhere, your brand is something that you also need to work hard to proactively protect. If you don't, you run the risk of watching those important relationships with your audience begin to deteriorate.


Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Maintaining a Work/Life Balance: Why Perspective Is Key

Work/life balance? No problem, right? But then those daily tasks start to add up and your nights start getting longer. You start going in on the occasional Saturday, then the "frequent" Saturday. Pretty soon you're so bogged down with your "to-do" list that you can't even think about taking that vacation with your family.



Maintaining a proper work/life balance is a challenge, sure - but it's also a lot easier than you might think.



Enjoying Life is a Task, Too



When the pendulum that is your work/life balance begins to swing decidedly in the direction of "work, work, work," you start to encounter a few key problems almost immediately. You're trying to do too much at the same time, and the quality of work tends to suffer. You're also getting burned out, which leads to less getting done because you lack the motivation to push on when you need it the most.



This is a large part of the reason why experts agree that you should look at downtime for what it is: a mission-critical task that you need to preserve your productivity throughout the week.



As you begin to build your schedule each week, make sure to add leisure activities at strategic points when you'll need them. Don't be afraid to add "go to the movies" to your calendar for Thursday, or pencil in that lunch with your old college friend on Monday afternoon.



If You Want to Move Up, Plan Some Down Time



Human beings NEED downtime to stay efficient. It's a way to periodically re-charge our batteries. It's the reason why people say you shouldn't cram all your studying into the night before a big test in college and should instead break your coursework down into smaller, more manageable chunks in the weeks proceeding that moment. The former is an absolute recipe for disaster, and the latter supports the way your brain operates.



If you add in leisure items to your list of things to do, you'll enjoy the added benefit of being able to check them off said list throughout the week. When you do this, it releases endorphins into your brain - meaning that you get a boost of satisfaction from having accomplished something, anything, and you get to take a mental breather at the same time.



None of this is difficult advice to follow - all it requires is some perspective about the things that matter most in life. Yes, work is important, but actually living your life is important, too.


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!


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.


Monday, October 9, 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!


Thursday, October 5, 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.


Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Why Educated Confidence Will Carry You Far In Business

To say that confidence is an important quality for a business leader to have is an understatement. At any given time, your employees are going to be looking to you to make decisions and provide insight. They need to know beyond the shadow of a doubt that you're confident in the actions you're taking. You need to know that you've given serious thought to the long, often difficult road ahead of you and that you're making the right move for the right task at the right time. If people can see that you believe in yourself, in your business, and what you've worked so hard to build, they'll start to believe in those things, too.



But something many people often don't realize until it's far too late is that "confidence" and "educated confidence" are NOT the same thing.



What is Educated Confidence?



Trust, belief, faith, conviction - these are all among the most essential ingredients that go into creating a confident leader. But one of the most important is also one of the ones that is rarely mentioned - humility. Humility allows you to acknowledge that even though you're a leader, you're still just one small cog in a much bigger machine. A living, breathing machine with a life of its own - one that is much more powerful than any one individual working within it, even when that person is yourself.



In many ways, educated confidence is all about slightly adjusting your perspective to account for your own limitations. You need to be confident in the fact that you're not always going to have the right answer to every problem you face. And that's okay - because you're also confident in the people around you and you know that you'll get through it together like you always do.



You need to be confident in the fact that you are going to make mistakes as a business leader - probably a lot of them, in fact. But this is something that you welcome because you're also confident in your ability to learn the right lessons from these mistakes and strengthening yourself and your entire organization in the process.



It's All About the Decisions



It has been said in the past that leadership essentially comes down to your ability to make decisions - but this is only one small part of a much larger story. It's also about your ability to see those decisions through the lens of all possible consequences, both good and bad.



An overly self-confident leader often becomes one that people follow because their paychecks depend on it, not necessarily because they want to. We've all had these types of bosses - the people who are experts at delegating responsibility (read: barking orders) but who always seem to disappear when those proverbial chickens come home to roost.



A leader armed with the power of educated confidence, however, is someone that people follow because they just can't help themselves. They acknowledge that they don't have all the answers and they likely never will, but that's okay - because "we're all in this together." It's the idea that just because you're a leader doesn't mean that you're always right - and you wouldn't have it any other way.



Educated confidence is that little voice inside your head that says "maybe I should get a second, or third, opinion on this, as this is definitely outside of my wheelhouse." It's a voice that you shouldn't try to stifle or tamp down, resist or ignore.



Instead, you need to give that educated, confident little voice a megaphone.


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, September 5, 2017

That Cranberry Drink of Yours Might be 87 Partnership Years Old

The typical perspective taught in business class is that one must compete against other similar businesses to obtain, hold onto, and grow a market share. And for that to happen, either the market must be new, or someone has to give up some of their market shares to make room for a new business. However, while this "top dog" approach is treated as the norm in capitalism, it's not always the best approach to business success.



Making Cranberries Successful



The Great Depression of 1929 began because of a stock market crash and a sudden loss of cash liquidity. As a result, both successful and not so successful businesses were destroyed when the crash occurred.



However, in 1930, amidst the worst economic condition the U.S. had seen and with thousands out of work, the Ocean Spray Cooperative was started in Massachusetts. This cooperative venture, started by three separate cranberry farm growers, was the result of a smart and realistic realization that going it alone in the post-crash market was not going to be possible. Rather than fight and compete against each other, the three growers bonded together to combine their resources and success.



It ended up producing one of the few business success stories launched in the midst of the Depression. Today, that same cooperative now includes a membership of over 700 different farm operations in six states and two countries. The key to their major success was partnership and sharing versus competition and "winner takes all" attitudes.



Half a Loaf is Better Than No Loaf



Going it alone in business may mean you're accepting pain and struggle that isn't necessary. Business owners should look around and see if there is any potential to partner up or form an alliance with available competitors, thereby sharing a larger market potential than what their single business is capable of. The results can potentially ensure long-term viability and strength versus suffering from the common "flash in the pan" syndrome so prevalent with new small businesses and startups. This approach can be particularly effective and strategic when a business wants to venture into an unknown, new territory that the potential partner is already present in.



The digital world offers multiple ways for partnerships to be established. Businesses shouldn't limit themselves to just horizontal relationships with other similar businesses. Vertical relationships with suppliers and end users or business clients can lock in additional market share and business not accessible by simply going it alone.



For those who think that partnerships are temporary mutual positions at best, take note of the fact that 1930 was some 87 years ago, and Ocean Spray is still going strong with cranberries as well as other agricultural products for the national food market.



While cooperating with other businesses may not work for everyone, clearly, the synergy of the many can outdo any singular benefit of a lone business acting in a market isolated and against everyone.


Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Millennials Hate your Marketing -- Here's Why (and what you can do about it)

You've done it! You researched the young adult market, identified their buying power, and now that "just for millennials" campaign has launched and you're waiting for the leads to roll in. But instead, nothing happens.



What's behind the lack of attention and response from this coveted age group? Adults under the age of 30 make up about 1.4% of the U.S. population and pack about 1.3 trillion in buying power domestically. This massive market is made up of savvy consumers who are digital natives and who are very aware of marketing and advertising.



So, why aren't they paying attention to your marketing? It could be one of these three reasons.



You Treat Them as an Afterthought



It's a common misconception that millennials, particularly young ones, don't have the money to buy things or that they waste their money on the wrong things, like avocado toast and pumpkin spice lattes. The problem with this approach is that brands who see these young adults in this way tend to promote the most heavily discounted or bottom of the line products using cost-conscious gimmicks.



Both entry-level products and marketing gimmicks drive millennials away. These savvy users what the newest, the latest and the best, and they can pay for it. Don't assume your youngest targets can't afford your best or most recent models. If they are truly captivated with your brand, they'll find a way. Offer your best products and your most innovative lineup to this group and if they like what you have to share, they'll keep coming back for more.



You Roll out a "Millennial" Product



You may call it that internally, but labeling your product as a millennial offering is a sure way to drive young adults away from it. Promote it that way on social media and you could get a lot of attention - in a negative way. That innate disapproval of marketing means that millennials are going to be suspicious of any product that announces itself as aimed at them (and could even mock it relentlessly online). You can target millennials with a campaign, approach, or product, but don't overtly mention it in your materials to avoid a backlash.



You're Not Social



If you're dabbling in social media because you are supposed to, but not truly interacting, you're likely driving away the very consumers you want to attract. Millennials are social media savvy and use channels regularly for entertainment, engagement, and social chatter. A steady stream of promotion is going to drive these coveted young adults away. Instead, pull back on the promotions and truly engage.



If you have an employee who already loves social media, this might be the right person to have monitor and post, even if they are not officially on your marketing team. Social media channels that speak to and "get" millennials can lead to huge brand success, while a mismatch in your messaging can cause millennials to see your brand as out of touch or irrelevant.



Harnessing the power of this massive demographic is well worth the effort, but the first step is ensuring that your current messaging isn't driving your young adult targets away from your brand. Taking the time to learn how millennials spend money, what matters to them, and even why they love engagement so much can help you tailor your efforts to resonate with this coveted group.




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.


Friday, August 18, 2017

Why Patience is One of the Most Important Qualities a Leader Can Have

The chasm between a leader and a great leader is a deep one. It is one that is often filled with qualities like clarity, decisiveness, courage, passion, and a healthy amount of humility given the circumstances.



But one of the major qualities that is essential to leadership that people don't talk about nearly enough is patience. When patience is practiced wisely, it can have a dramatic effect on your entire organization from the top down.



The Ripple Effect of Patience



In general, patience is more important than just being willing to wait for results. Yes, all people are different and employees need to be given room to move at their own pace for the sake of quality. But, the true benefit of patience runs much deeper.



First and foremost, patience shows respect in a way that also encourages productivity at the same time. If you're the type of leader who delegates responsibility but then spends hours each day telling people to "hurry up" or to "get things moving," ultimately all you're really doing is creating frustration or fear in an environment where you can afford neither.



Being willing to wait for someone to work at their own pace shows an employee that you value their overall contribution to the larger organization. You didn't just choose any person for this job; you chose the right person for the right job. Sometimes, that takes a little more time than you'd like, but that is perfectly fine. Patience is also an important acknowledgment that every person progresses at a different pace. If you're up in arms every time someone takes a little more time to complete a task, what you're doing is communicating that they're not as good as someone else when given the same responsibility.



Patience Also Says a Lot About You, Too



Being patient with others isn't just about your employees - it also speaks volumes about you. When you're constantly working from a place of "I needed this yesterday," all you're doing is artificially inflating the stakes of the business you're trying to run. You're not making considerate decisions; you're making ones fueled by little more than raw emotion and a ticking clock.



Patience shows that you're the type of leader willing to stop and let things breathe for a moment. It shows that you're willing to listen and consider all variables before making a thoughtful judgment about what to do next. It shows that you're not the type of person to make snap decisions that you'll later regret and that your employees shouldn't be willing to settle for that, either.



These are just a few of the many reasons why patience is one of the most important qualities a leader can have. It's also important to remember that you need to be patient with yourself. Patience is a virtue, yes, but it's also something of a discipline. You'll need to acknowledge the importance of patience and the role it plays in your business so that you can grow into the type of leader who no longer has to make an effort to be patient with others. Instead, it will become an afterthought.


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 4, 2017

The Art of Time-Blocking: A Simple Tip to Revolutionize Your Productivity

Most people just aren't that good at multitasking. Trying to remain focused (and organized) is one of the most significant time wasters, especially in the life of a business professional. When you try to do too many things at the same time, you become a "Jack of all Trades, Master of None." Just when you're trying to get work done on that big project, another email comes in that you have to respond to. You hop over to your email client and suddenly the phone is ringing, or you realize that you have to proof a new design before it heads out the door. It's maddening.



Thankfully, there is a better way. By adopting the fine art of time-blocking, you may have just found the simple, yet effective technique you've been looking for to unlock a bold new era of productivity in both your personal and professional life.



What is Time-Blocking?



At its core, time-blocking is the idea that you should segment your day into clearly defined (and strictly adhered to) blocks of productivity. Organize the tasks you need to complete by category and set aside a specific amount of time for those categories each day.



If you feel like you're spending an unfortunate amount of time responding to emails every day at the expense of everything else, set aside 9:00 am to 10:00 am every morning to just focus on emails. Devote every ounce of your attention to this one task and when it's over, move onto the next one. Outside of the occasional emergency, don't respond to emails for the rest of the day. Get it done, and then move on.



The Benefits



The beauty of time-blocking falls into two distinct categories. First, it's an incredibly effective way to eliminate distraction. Instead of trying to divide your attention between ten little tasks, it's almost like you're tackling just one big one (i.e. emails, and nothing more). Not only do you get those initial tasks done faster, but the ultimate quality of your output is also much higher because you're no longer trying to do too many things at once.



Next, time-blocking is also an excellent way to build up a strong sense of momentum that will carry you through the rest of your day. As you begin to move from block to block, you'll constantly be surprised by just how much you're getting done. This wave of productivity (not to mention the wave of euphoria) builds on itself, driving things home towards the finish line (and the end of the work day).



Success Comes When You Look Ahead



Another one of the keys to success regarding time-blocking is a little bit of forward thinking. This isn't something you can make up on the fly. You need to consider the types of tasks you need to do each day and what you have to get done by week's end. Look ahead a little bit and make a list of your top priorities. Then, separate those into categories and get down to business.



Remember, it's important to be honest with yourself. Time-blocking won't suddenly create an extra hour in your day, but it will help you make better use of the hours you already have. If you try to add too many things to your list to the point where it becomes unrealistic, you'll end up working against your goal and not towards it. You'll quickly begin to feel overwhelmed, which is something that you do not want.


Monday, July 31, 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.


Monday, July 24, 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.




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.


Monday, July 3, 2017

4 Essential Tips for Time Management On-the-Go

It happens to the best of us: you've worked hard to build a daily routine that lets you maximize every second of every day. You've mastered the fine art of working smarter, not harder, and everyone in the office is jealous of your productivity skills. Then, that upcoming business trip (or even vacation) gets slotted on the calendar and threatens to jeopardize everything you've built up to this point.



Take a deep breath and relax. Staying as productive as humanly possible while on-the-go is a challenge, yes, but that doesn't mean it's impossible. If you want to make the best use of your time while you're out of the office, here are four simple, yet essential, tips you'll want to focus on.



1) Beware of Those Time Zones



You know how it takes everyone a few days to recovery from the hour gained or lost due to Daylight Savings Time? Time zones are even worse for your productivity, especially if you're not a frequent traveler. If you're going to be headed across the country (or even across the world), the first thing you should do is update all of your devices to local time. You're the one out of the office, so the burden is on you to adapt, not everyone else. Most "smart" devices have a feature in the "Settings" application that will update to local time automatically as soon as you connect to your first Wi-Fi network once you arrive.



2) Cloud Storage Is Your Friend



If you're not already embracing the wonders of cloud-based storage services like Dropbox, now would be the time to start. Not only does it make sure that all of your documents sync to all of your devices, but many services (like Dropbox for Business) include built-in collaboration features that let multiple people edit the same documents at the same time. Whether you're on a business trip or are on vacation, if something needs to be approved or modified while you're waiting for your flight to take off, you'll still have the opportunity.



3) Don't Try to Adapt Your Routine. Make a New One



Regardless of where you're headed, your instinct may be to take your daily routine, the one you worked so hard to build and hone, and cram it into a travel-shaped box. This is an instinct that you should fight at all costs. Don't pretend that nothing has changed just because you're going to be away from the office for a few days. That's how mistakes are made. Instead, think about the obligations you have on your trip and find opportunities to remain productive around those scheduled demands. You'll have a much better chance at building a new, temporary routine that works for the specifics of the situation you find yourself in.



4) The Devil Is (NOT) in the Details



When you're hard at work in the office, you tend to have more time to pay attention to the little details of the task at hand. It's something that goes hand-in-hand with being a career-driven professional. The problem is that this is almost always a bad idea. Striving for perfection 100% of the time is a great way to get less done in a day than you need to.


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.


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.