Friday, December 30, 2016
Her cinnamon chocolate chip cookies were popular with friends and family. When one friend after another told her, "you should sell these!" she took the leap and began her small business out of her apartment. She bought business cards, made a website, and learned how to create invoices. Before long, she was taking orders online and had her first local client, the Golden Goose Market.
While Collette faced a unique set of challenges getting her business off the ground, everyone who wants to start an enterprise will face hurdles. Overcome these hurdles by asserting the sort of grit and curiosity that got Collette started:
1. Remember that you don't need permission.
Collette first tried to work for other businesses. When they did not see a use for her, she decided to go out on her own. Instead of waiting for an opportunity to present itself, those who wish to forge a business should follow Collette's courageous steps.
2. Be willing to learn new skills.
When bootstrapping a company and getting it going, you may not be able to hire people for every role. Collette learned how to do her own accounting so that she could get started. If she'd waited for someone who could do that job for her, she might still be waiting to start.
3. Reach out to the network you already have.
Collette's local client, the Golden Goose Market, is right in her neighborhood. Since they already knew Collette, they were willing to take a chance on her and display her cookies. Look to your own network; think about the people you know from old jobs, friends of the family, and other contacts. They may have a need for your service or know someone who does.
4. Capitalize on what makes you unique.
Collette Divitto got promotion through human interest stories because of the obstacles that she has overcome. Think about what sets you apart from your competition. It can be a brand story, a unique product like Collette's top secret cinnamon cookie recipe, or an aspect of your customer service that goes above and beyond what your competitors provide. Recognize your unique attributes and learn how to convey them to your prospects. These qualities are the ones that make your business more appealing than the rest.
Being willing to take risks and dedicating the work necessary can help ensure your business's success. This sort of courageous approach can get you through those slim early times and make it more likely that your business will thrive.
Tuesday, December 27, 2016
Forget About SEO
In today's digital climate, the importance of writing content for people first and search engines second cannot be overstated enough. Google has made some massive changes to its algorithm in the last year that favor quality, well-written content above all else. Google, Bing, and more have all placed a strong emphasis on making sure that content is king. As long as you create your marketing collateral with that in mind, these companies have promised to make sure that you're taken care of regarding search engine rankings.
Focus on helping people. Try to provide insight and provoke a response. If you craft your campaigns with these simple goals in mind, everything else will fall into place.
...But Don't Totally Forget About SEO
None of that is to say that SEO, in general, isn't necessary. Just make sure that when it comes to content marketing, you're not trying to stuff in as many keywords as possible. Instead, shift your SEO efforts to other areas, like making sure that you're updating your content regularly, that it has all of your (correct) contact information, and that you're promoting yourself through outlets like social media.
More Than Just Blogs
Remember that blogs are a powerful tool in the content marketing game, but they're not the only tool you have to play with. Things like newsletters, eBooks, and user guides are all an excellent way to reach your target audience in fun new ways. Visual materials like infographics, charts, and even videos are also a great way to bring the visual element that you're known for into the content marketing arena in a powerful way.
Refine Your Customer Persona
Many people use customer personas to help guide their marketing campaigns, something that is especially helpful when it comes to content marketing. Something you cannot forget to do, however, is to update these personas on a regular basis. Think about how much your business has changed in the last year and understand that your ideal customer has probably changed just as much. Use the new year as an opportunity to re-evaluate your existing buyer personas so that you can always keep your eye on the prize, so to speak.
A new year brings with it the opportunity to start fresh, but that doesn't mean throwing the baby out with the bathwater. Embrace new techniques, but also never lose sight of the old saying of "if it ain't broke, don't fix it." Some content marketing best practices are certainly not broken, and those solid techniques are what you can be doubling down on in the new year.
Tuesday, December 6, 2016
But, if you really want to integrate the holidays into your marketing campaign and generate the type of success you deserve, you'll want to keep a few very important things in mind.
Use Holiday Visuals Whenever Possible
Visuals are always an important part of your marketing collateral, but they become especially so during the holiday season. From roughly November until the Christmas holiday season passes, people are already in a receptive mood for this type of imagery - so filling your marketing materials with holiday-themed colors, Christmas trees, packages, and other items is a great way to make sure you're noticed.
According to one study, this type of imagery can increase a person's retention of your messaging by up to 80%. This type of visual element can make your content more likely to be shared up to 40 times more than the average amount.
Look for Local Events You Can Sponsor
If there's one thing you can essentially guarantee about the holiday season, it's that calendars will be filled to the brim with holiday events all throughout the month of December. If you really want to attract the attention of that ever-important local market, you should start looking around for local events that you can sponsor. Not only can you help get your brand out there and raise awareness, but even if the event is only slightly related to your product or service you can still make new contacts and generate new leads as a result.
It's All About Emotion
If there is one key to success regarding holiday marketing, it can all be boiled down to a single word: emotion. The holidays are a naturally emotional time as people get nostalgic for friends, family members, and holiday experiences of years past. It's also a time where people make decisions emotionally rather than rationally - especially when it comes to purchases. Because of this, you should try to lean into the most emotional factor of your campaigns as much as possible. Focus on cheery words and images that will help people feel good about things like giving back, "paying it forward," and more. This is more likely to trigger an emotional response in your campaign, which will spawn action sooner rather than later.
These are just a few of the core ways you can use the holiday season to your advantage throughout your marketing campaign. Perhaps the most important benefit of the holidays is that you're working with a built-in ticking clock. Christmas is right around the corner, and no matter what you do, you can't delay it. People will naturally feel inclined to get those last minute gift purchases in before the big day arrives. If you've been playing into the holidays for your entire campaign, you can pretty much guarantee that you'll be on the forefront of their mind.
Friday, December 2, 2016
Put Information in a Format That People Want To Embrace
When people think of content marketing, they usually think of text. While this is true, it's important not to neglect the visual element. Case in point: pairing your marketing message up with the right visual image can increase the amount of information a reader will retain dramatically. According to one study, people are only 10% likely to remember information they hear 72 hours after they hear it. If that same information is conveyed in a piece of effective, content marketing with a relevant, attention-grabbing image, that number increases to an incredible 65%!
Color Really Does Mean a Lot
Continuing a discussion about the more visual side of content marketing, one of the most important elements that prove these types of marketing collateral can be more effective than ever all comes down to a single word: color. Another study found that if you're able to include colored visuals in your content marketing (or any marketing for that matter), you instantly increase someone's willingness to read and experience that content by an astounding 80%.
People Love Learning
Consider the fact that content marketing can be a lot more than just "marketing" - it can be an educational tool, as well. Take infographics, for example - especially since the advent of social media, infographics with rich, striking visuals have quickly proven to be powerful ways to get your message across. In fact, according to one recent study, an infographic is likely to be shared three TIMES more than any other piece of content on social media. When combined with print marketing, you can help establish your brand as an authority in your field to a much larger audience than imagined.
Content Marketing Creates a Higher Return on Investment
If you needed additional reasons to believe that content marketing is stronger than ever, look no further than one of the most important indicators: ROI. Studies have shown that not only does content marketing cost roughly 60% less than traditional outbound marketing like digital ads, but it can also potentially generate THREE TIMES as many leads!
Stats like these go a long way towards proving that content marketing is an excellent way to take your marketing message and present it to your target audience in a way that they're more than ready to receive. With the right piece of properly designed collateral, you accomplish everything from increasing awareness of your brand to establishing yourself as the real authority you are..... and everything in between. When you consider that 200 million people now use ad blockers as they browse the internet, high-quality, properly designed content is about to become even more important as time goes on.
Tuesday, November 22, 2016
The 2016 MacBook Pro
The new MacBooks don't have a standard USB port at all, getting rid of them in favor of the new (and admittedly superior) USB-C. This is a great step towards a much more productive future, but it's at the expense of the fact that we're not quite at that future just yet. Case in point: the new iPhone 7 does not have a USB-C port at all. Instead, it uses Apple's proprietary lightning cable.
This means that if you own both devices and just want to do something as simple as charge your iPhone with your MacBook, you need to purchase an external adapter. To be clear, this is not "the end of the world." The MacBook Pro is still powerful; it can still be used with the brand new iPhone. However, what used to be a one-step process now requires two, as well as a purchase of additional hardware. This is contrary to the popular mantra of "design for the user experience first, marketing second." This is the very same mantra Apple built its reputation on.
What Would Steve Jobs Say About All This?
Never one to shy away from "rattling a few cages," this is one particular case where we don't actually have to wonder what Steve Jobs may have thought about the steps that modern day Apple just took with the MacBook. He may have actually said it himself, in an interview conducted in the 1990s.
In an interview for the PBS documentary "Triumph of the Nerds," Steve Jobs talked about how important sales and marketing people are to an organization, but how it's equally important to keep them separate from the product development process. His argument was that all too often, products go from offering a great, easy experience to being "great and easy... to market." Innovation, usability, and the overall experience tend to suffer as a result.
In that interview, Jobs said:
"... the people who make the company more successful are the sales and marketing people, and they end up running the companies. And the 'product people' get run out of the decision-making forums. The companies forget how to make great products. The product sensibility and product genius that brought them to this monopolistic position gets rotted out by people running these companies who have no conception of a good product vs. a bad product."
Contrary to popular belief, Steve Jobs didn't hold an "anti-marketing" stance at all. He supported marketers, and with good reason. Under his watch his own marketing team created some of the most successful campaigns of all time. What Jobs was warning against was the idea that you should always design a product or service for the customer first, and then turn it over to the marketing people to do what they do. When marketing is considered an extension of the product development phase, the positive qualities that brought you to your current position in the first place are often lost.
Tuesday, November 15, 2016
It's All in the Visuals
One of the more subtle ways to build and maintain brand continuity is also one of the most important, mainly because it can be the easiest to get wrong. You have to make sure that all of your branding from the version of your company logo to things as seemingly insignificant as the font you use are as consistent as possible, regardless of which element of your online and offline presence you're using. If a version of your company logo is present on your website's "Help Desk" page, it should be the same version of the logo sent out in your latest email or print marketing materials. Don't use professional-looking fonts on your website if you're going to be using Comic Sans MS on your print materials.
You may initially think that this is incredibly easy to miss and in many respects, you're right. Customers aren't necessarily paying attention to every last visual element on a page versus a flyer versus a billboard. But, think about it this way: the ones that do notice may be put-off or at least find it odd, which is a feeling you do not want to invoke. Those that don't notice will still benefit from your strict brand continuity, even if subconsciously.
Getting Everyone on the Same Page
Another way that you can accidentally shatter brand continuity has to do with getting everyone on the same page regarding how your business works. If your website is very clear about one particular policy but your customer service team isn't, you're immediately confusing customers every time they pick up the phone. This confusion is especially evident regarding promotions. If an email goes out offering a new sale, you'd better make sure that anyone who answers the phones for your business knows about it and knows what it entails. Otherwise, your customers may get a disappointing experience when it feels like the left hand is unaware of what the right hand is doing, so to speak. It gives the impression that the different parts of your business are operating independently of one another, which is something you don't want to communicate to prospective buyers.
These are just a couple of ways that you can accidentally harm your brand continuity. Remember, you can never be 100% sure how someone is going to make contact with your business, especially for the first time. So, make sure however they encounter you, it's equally easy, enjoyable, and helpful.
Tuesday, October 4, 2016
Failure Helps You Combat Momentum
One of the most common reasons why failure sometimes rears its ugly head has to do with something that can often be your biggest strength - momentum. As the machine that is your business grinds along, day after day, you begin to get into a "groove" thanks to our old friend momentum. Productivity is on the rise; you're producing adequate results, and you're well on your way to meeting your deadlines and satisfying clients. Then, disaster strikes. Maybe a finished product isn't nearly where you need it to be, or a mission-critical process has broken down. This is where momentum works against you sometimes - because you were riding the wave of that groove, you likely overlooked small problems earlier on before they had the chance to become much bigger ones in the present day.
This is where failure becomes your best friend - it forces you to stop and think about everything that led to this moment. What along the way caused the failure that you're experiencing right now? It likely wasn't anything that happened this morning, or last night, or even earlier in the week. It was probably a series of small decisions made weeks or even months ago that snowballed into your present situation. With failure, you have an opportunity to look back and see things in a much clearer way. You can make a note of certain decisions you made that didn't quite pay off in the way you thought they would and, as a result, are ones that you're not going to make again in the future (or at least you shouldn't).
The Benefit of Hindsight
An old saying tells us that hindsight is 20/20. Many people think this is an ironic statement - because you can't go back in time and change the past. You're forced to live with the knowledge that the failure you're experiencing is one you created yourself. Instead, look at this saying as a positive thing. Hindsight may not allow you to change the past, but it IS a powerful tool that you can use to positively impact the future. This is the core of what learning from failure is all about.
Think about it this way: your mistake may have cost your business X number of dollars today, but it also helped you save a much larger amount of money on an ongoing basis because you had a rare chance to learn and improve in a way that wouldn't have presented itself otherwise. Learning from failure, therefore, becomes incredibly positive, as you're investing in the future of both your company and your career with the lessons you've learned today.
These are just a few of the reasons why failure is only a negative thing if you allow it to be. Sure, you had expectations that you've set for yourself and others that you didn't meet - feeling disappointed or even upset in these moments is natural. But failure is nothing if not a great opportunity to stop, reassess, and bounce back even stronger. Failure is natural throughout all points in life. In biology, every time you exercise your muscles begin to break down. However, they then rebuild themselves stronger than they were before - this is how we get more fit. There is absolutely no reason why the same shouldn't be true in the world of business.
Tuesday, September 27, 2016
1. It's not what you know but who you know.
In the course of doing business, business owners or potential business owners come up against this belief time and time again. However, while it is true that knowing the right people may help you get started or get access to some deals, in most businesses it is expertise, experience, and skill that propel you forward in business. If you can provide the solutions customers want, they will refer you to their friends and family.
2. Nice guys finish last.
This myth is a holdover from the era of Western movies and superhero comics. Nice guys (always portrayed as pushovers or wallflowers) finish last because the villains and heroes walk all over them. In film, this may be true. After all, Tony Stark isn't a nice guy. He is an arrogant, self-centered genius. However, The Avengers aside, in real life, nice guys finish first quite often. While a person with low self-esteem who doesn't speak up will not be successful without change, a courteous business owner is appreciated immensely by customers and vendors.
In today's modern world, people are used to dealing with machines, poorly-paid clerks, and online shopping. Finding a business person who is willing to offer them genuine customer service, build a relationship and spend time getting to know them to better serve them is rare. Many people are happy to pay more for real customer service. Therefore, being a "nice guy" is valuable to your contacts. They will remember your excellent service and come back for more.
3. Don't work hard. Work smart.
This myth is one of the worst business myths out there. There is no way you can run a business without working hard. Hard work is what separates the "men from the boys" as entrepreneurs. Successful entrepreneurs put in hours of labor to get their businesses off the ground. Working smart is just another way to say that there is a workaround or that you can find a way to skip the hard work. It just isn't possible in reality. If you aren't willing to work hard, you won't make it in business.
4. It's called work for a reason. It's not supposed to be fun.
All work has elements that workers do not like to perform. It might be the paperwork that you need to fill out for each customer or the data entry on your last case. However, why can't work be fun?
People who find work that satisfies them are much happier in life. That happiness translates to their work and their interactions with co-workers, customers, and vendors. If you love to sell, create graphic designs, or help customers find what they are looking for, then you ARE having fun at work. In fact, many companies are now providing their employees with ways to have fun at work to help reduce stress and fatigue.
So go ahead and have fun while working! It can only improve your outlook and production. Work can be fun.
Wednesday, September 14, 2016
When you're the boss, however, you aren't quite so lucky.
When you're the person in charge of steering the ship, there WILL be mornings where you don't feel as creative as you need to be. There will be days where being productive seems impossible, regardless of how hard you try. If you want to be able to stay as creative and as productive as possible, even when you don't have to answer to anybody but yourself, there are a few key things you'll want to keep in mind.
It's All About Momentum
Staying productive when you're the boss may require you to think about things a bit differently from how you're used to. One of the most valuable assets that you have on your side will be momentum, but unfortunately, that driving force isn't just going to create itself.
Say you have a big task ahead of you that needs to be completed by a specified date. When you look at it as a single goal, it can understandably seem insurmountable - particularly if you have nobody to answer to but yourself. However, if you were to break it down into a number of smaller, more straightforward tasks, suddenly you're building the type of momentum that will carry you far.
Start by making a list of all the more minor things you need to accomplish that will eventually add up to your singular large goal. It's important that you don't try to keep a record of this in your head - write it down on a piece of paper or in a word document on your computer. Doing so will help you visualize both what needs to be done, and the forward progress that you're making. Turn every task less into something that needs to be done and more into a single problem that you need to solve. As you do, physically check each item off the list. The benefit of this method is that you can SEE how much you're accomplishing, even if you haven't technically completed that one larger goal yet. Every time you cross off another task, you're building a little bit of momentum that will drive you forward to the next waypoint. Before you know it, all of those small individual items that seem insignificant by themselves will add up to the proverbial end zone that you were working towards in the first place. You're not doing any more or less work - you're just shifting the way you think about the task at hand when you don't have anyone to look to for motivation other than yourself.
Slow and Steady Wins the Race
Creativity is the same way. Instead of looking at something as a single, big task to be completed, be it a piece of creative material or a catchy new slogan for your business, look at it as a series of small puzzles to be solved. Visualize the amount of work to be done and the amount of progress you've made thus far. Before you know it your creative problem will be solved, even if you weren't necessarily feeling creative yourself along the way.
For those days where creativity seems fruitless and remaining productive seems all but impossible, remember a very mere fact of the business world that you've likely forgotten. Even though you're the boss, you DO have someone that you're answering to, the client. Put yourself in the mindset of one of your employees - what would you tell them if they were supposed to turn in that big project but didn't because they just weren't "feeling creative enough"? You'd say "too bad - it's too important, it needs to be done." Because the work IS too important and it DOES need to be done. As the boss, it isn't so much that you're answering to someone (in this case, the client), but more that someone genuinely depends on you. It's your job not to let them down in any way possible.
Tuesday, September 6, 2016
Why Use Trial and Error?
Even in our current modern age of computers and mobile technology, too many businesses use trial and error or other decision-making techniques without any evidence of potential results before they get started. Keeping in mind the adage of what happens to people who make assumptions, there are better ways to decide on business matters.
Using the Scientific Method
If you think back to your high school days, you may remember learning about the scientific method. Like many high school students, if you didn't pursue a career in science, it is likely that you have not thought about the scientific method in recent years. However, business is more like science than you might expect. You can prove and disprove many theories with factual evidence before risking time and money on a new project or campaign. Why should you risk your company income and employees' paychecks when you can test theories before you take the plunge? If you could predict behavior, you would be able to achieve much more reliable results.
Let's see how much you remember about the scientific method. The basic method is to create a theory and then set up a scientific experiment to test your theory. You need a test group equally divided into control and experimental subjects.
Setting Up the Experiment
Google is a prime example of a company that tests its theories on a regular basis. They are constantly running tests to see how people react to various changes in their search engine. When they find a particular change that nets the results they want, they then implement the successful change over a larger group of search parameters.
Tests have been run by various companies to answer questions such as these:
Do lobster tanks increase lobster sales at Food Lion supermarkets?
Do eBay users bid higher in auctions when they can pay by credit card?
Do Subway promotions on low-fat sandwiches increase sandwich sales?
Does a Toronto-Dominion branch get significantly more deposits when open 60 hours a week compared with 40? (from https://hbr.org/2009/02/how-to-design-smart-business-experiments)
When Tests Do Not Work
Testing does not work in all situations. You have to have a large enough collection of data to learn anything significant. However, when you do have enough data to create a test, testing will give you measurable and repeatable results. According to the Harvard Business Review,
"Whether in marketing, store or branch location analysis, or website design, the most reliable insights relate to the potential impact and value of tactical changes: a new store format, for example, or marketing promotion or service process."
If you have a situation with specific, measurable results, instead of guessing the outcome and taking the risk, create a test that will give you a valid answer and confidence in your investment.
Tuesday, August 30, 2016
Julia's mother, Chrissy, said that when her Julia was born, she couldn't hear her mom and would smell Chrissy's neck for comfort instead. The moment Chrissy picked up Walter, he did the same thing. "I remember just looking at him, and I knew that he was meant to be ours," she said in a Humane Society video. Walter was the last puppy of his litter to be adopted, but the Humane Society did not give up hope.
The Pasadena Humane Society, which introduced the two, posted a video of Julia and Walter on their page. The reaction was immediate and positive. "Amazing!!" said one commenter. "This is my dog, Wyatt. He is also deaf, and he has no idea he is different."
When we are communicating with our prospects and our customers, we can take some valuable lessons from Julia and Walter:
1. Different customers will respond to different communication.
Customers are not all the same. You will deal with Millennials and Boomers, urban and rural folks, and people from different income brackets and areas of the country. It is important to segment your marketing lists and create materials for each individual group.
2. Remember that each group does not think of itself as a segment.
Just like the dog Wyatt who thinks himself like any other dog, your customers just think of themselves as ordinary people. Talk to them directly and respectfully. Never talk down to a group. Don't use slang that is not in keeping with your brand. This can feel false and off-putting.
3. Remember that consistent marketing is key.
Don't just reach out to each segment once. Create follow-up emails and other remarketing opportunities. If you do direct mail, send a follow-up postcard to go out to people who did not respond to your initial offer. Just like raising puppies requires a long-term commitment, nurturing a prospect from initial contact to conversion takes patience, time and effort.
Marketing segmentation takes more time and attention than a shotgun approach. But, over time, you will find that it consistently increases your return on your marketing investment and helps you build stronger relationships with your clients.
Tuesday, August 16, 2016
When it comes to business, change is inevitable. As the world changes, so do our businesses in order to stay up-to-date and competitive. However, with each change, it becomes necessary to follow a transition process to acclimate both employees and customers. A transition can be the cause for issues to crop up in any area of your business. At a minimum, it can cause whining, grumbling and potential mistakes from your staff.
When managing change in your business, keep this quote in mind.
"Without change, there is no innovation, creativity, or incentive for improvement. Those who initiate change will have a better opportunity to manage the change that is inevitable." ~ William Pollard
The Need for Innovation
Innovation and creativity are two of the most important factors that make your business a premier vendor for your customers. How you and your staff interact with customers and how you provide the best products and services to them will nurture loyal customers and make their lives better. While your techniques and results may change, your values do not, and that is what your customers will come to expect from you.
Creativity is Evergreen
Your ability to create, or to help your customers create, is a valuable talent. Managing change offers you an opportunity to find new ways to develop and display your "wares." Since change requires learning and developing new skills, people that go through any transition can stimulate their creative centers at the same time they are learning.
How to Manage Change Effectively
To help your employees, customers, and yourself manage change in a positive manner, look for ways to reward people who make the transition effectively.
1. Use change to retrain staff on necessary skills and review their knowledge.
2. Offer incentives for staff to display their new knowledge and expertise to customers.
3. Offer discounts to customers who try your newest innovation.
4. Take the change in stages that make sense for the involved participants.
5. Explain why you are making the change and how it will improve your product, your operations, or grow your business.
6. Give staff and customers a forum to voice their opinions and complaints.
7. Thank people for trusting you and making the effort to try something new.
8. Express your understanding of resistance to change.
As you ask your people to take the steps to change, remind them of how far your business and industry has come and where you would be if you never made any changes.
Tuesday, August 9, 2016
Lily Robinson, 3 and 1/2 years old, wanted to know why the Tiger Bread from Sainsbury's (a British convenience store) wasn't called Giraffe Bread. After all, it looked like giraffe skin. She wrote a letter to Sainsbury's and her mother mailed it to their customer service department. (https://www.helpscout.net/10-customer-service-stories/)
In an incredible customer service response, Chris King, 27 and 1/3 years old, responded to Lily with another letter and a gift card. That response in itself would have been an incredible customer service moment, but the story continues.
Sainsbury's decided to change the name of the bread to Giraffe Bread and created signage explaining the story. Lily's mom was so impressed that she wrote about the story on her blog. (https://jamandgiraffes.com/2011/06/15/our-careline/) The story then got picked up by BBC News (http://www.bbc.com/news/business-16812545) and became a marketing tale that has returned goodwill to Sainsbury's many times more than what the first gesture from Chris King cost them. While this return doesn't happen every time you offer excellent customer service, your actions and response to customer complaints are opportunities to cement relationships with customers. Often, it is the customer service assistance that creates the most indelible mark in a customer's memory.
Customer Service as an Opportunity
There are many similar instances that companies never find out about that affect their bottom line. Not every customer calls or writes to a company because of a good or bad customer service experience. However, they may tell all of their friends about it. Positive or negative, word of mouth goes far and can create a bundle of good or bad press for a company.
Because most of us are dealing with automated phone systems and customer service reps that speak other languages and barely know English, a lot us have become numb to the massive amount of poor customer service. When we do come across good customer service, sometimes it is a shock to our system. We crave good customer service, and most people will return and refer others to any company that treats them well.
Examples of good customer service opportunities abound:
*The mechanic that takes the time to explain what is wrong and why it needs to be fixed, but won't fix anything that is unnecessary.
*The patio furniture sales person who brings out a ladder to get the last display model from the ceiling-high display shelf.
*The jeweler who walks the customer through the options of repair for their cherished, but cheap, pearl necklace.
These types of customer service experiences are appreciated by the customer and remembered.
By treating every customer service issue as an opportunity to strengthen your relationship with a customer, you can build the loyalty that every business needs. Loyal customers are your bread and butter, the customers who pay your monthly bills month in and month out.
Being a small business can give you more of these opportunities because you know your customers personally, so use these moments as a chance to shine.
Friday, August 5, 2016
Because of this, it's best just to assume that EVERY conversation you have with a customer is under public scrutiny at all times (because it probably is). Even responding to what you believe to be an invalid negative review of your business has the potential to turn quickly into a lightning rod of controversy depending on where it falls in the news cycle.
The Lessons Learned
For the sake of argument, let's say you've found yourself in the middle of a PR nightmare due to a conversation with a client that quickly went south. Maybe one of your customer service reps let emotions get the best of them and what started as a routine call quickly turned hostile, Now, the whole world seems to know about it. You can't take back what has already happened, but you CAN use the lessons that you're about to learn as the foundation of every decision you make moving forward.
For starters, examine the situation to find out what you did right and, most importantly, what you did wrong. The fact that you're in the midst of a public relations crisis itself is not something you did "wrong" since popular opinion isn't necessarily something you can control. However, look at the steps you had to take as a group to get there. What problem did the customer call about in the first place? Why did the conversation with your rep turn so negative so quickly? Why does this single interaction seem to be capturing the attention of so many people at this particular moment?
Once you have the answers to these questions, you can then get started making it right. Note that this does not mean "fix the problem" as in "make it go away." It means to do what you can to course correct and get back on the path you want to be. Take the steps to educate your reps on how to avoid these situations in the future. Take a look at the original problem that the customer had with your product or service and, if valid, do something to fix it. If the client took the conversation public on Facebook or Twitter, respond the same way. Remember - all eyes are on you and customers who see a business that is willing to own up to its "mistakes" and make them right are more likely to show sympathy and compassion than if you try to take care of everything behind closed doors.
For many businesses, a public relations nightmare is not a question of "if" but "when." The key thing to take away from this situation is that you have a unique opportunity that you can use to improve your operations across the board. Even if you think you're in the right, there are likely things that you could have done better, or you wouldn't be in this situation in the first place. If you DON'T take this as a chance to learn some very valuable lessons, you're wasting an opportunity to turn lemons into lemonade from a business perspective.
Friday, July 29, 2016
Likewise, understanding when it's time to quit a product you love, but that is not providing you with the gains you want, can mean the difference between success and failure, or even fulfillment and frustration.
In 1976, 23-year-old Don Schlitz wrote "The Gambler." After pushing it around for a few years, eventually, it was picked up by Bobby Bare and later, Johnny Cash. Despite the talent behind the lyrics and performers, the song never really took off. That is until Kenny Rogers picked it up and launched it to the top of the charts. Schlitz knew he had a song worth pushing and didn't give up. That perseverance paid off in spades (pun intended).
Knowing when to keep going with a product or service is not always so straight-forward, though. It's a difficult decision to give up on your "business baby" that you created and nurtured, especially when revenues are "ok." Sometimes, though, it's necessary to give up an "ok" thing to make room for an extraordinary thing. So, hear from some of the top founders in the country about how they know when to hold em' and when to fold em'.
Is It Profitable?
This question is probably the easiest to answer when you take into account: (1) revenue, (2) time and money investment, (3) emotional investment and (4) company goals. For Elisa Doucett, Founder of CraftYourContent, it's a no-brainer - "if it costs more fiscally and mentally to maintain than it makes, then it is no bueno."
For Matthew Newton, Founder of TourismTiger, his approach is similar - "if the return on time or money invested isn't worth it and you can't find a clear solution, it's time to kill the product."
Is It Providing Value?
Just creating a product because you want to make money or achieve a personal goal may not be the best for your product's success. Likewise, if your product is too similar to your competition or doesn't add more value than a competing product, it's time to move on to something else.
Micheal Ericsson, Founder of Search Scientists, looks to the founder's mindset in determining when to kill a product: "Everyone I know with a truly successful product...[is] not creating a product to create a product, they're moving forward with the goal to change a piece of the world."
Is It Feeding Your Passion?
While passion may not be the best reason for creating a product, it certainly should be a factor in keeping it going. According to Brandon King, Founder of SmartInternChina, "You should kill a product when it is killing you. If you go through an extended period of time working on a product you hate...that drains your energy, that is a good sign that it is time to move on."
Continually working on a product that you hate will erode your ability to put your best efforts into it. Nobody wants to put their name on a mediocre product.
Phil Ivey, (a.k.a. Gambler) always quits for the night when he's no longer at his best. The same holds true for running a business.
Tuesday, July 19, 2016
The dirty little secret here is that there are NO pointless meetings in the world of business - only wasted opportunities to get things done. If you want to make sure your meetings are justifying their existence, you'll want to keep a few key things in mind.
Know When to Schedule a Meeting and When Not To
The first step on your road to a more productive meeting schedule involves coming to an understanding of what type of information should be conveyed in a meeting and what would be better left for some other delivery mechanism. One of the reasons why meetings tend to fall into the "pointless" category for many people is that they don't require input or collaboration. If a team leader wants to draw everyone together to talk about updates to a project, but they don't want the advice of anyone else, what they're scheduling is not a meeting at all. It is an email at best.
Collaboration and the input of everyone involved should be a requirement for any meeting to justify its existence. If a particular problem has cropped up with a project and everyone needs to come together to solve it, that's one thing. However, if the purpose of the meeting can be accomplished by just sending a memo or some other form of communication, don't waste everyone's time by gathering the entire team together to talk about the work they are already doing. Instead, let the team just get on with doing their jobs.
It's All About Solutions and Focus
Another one of the reasons why more meetings tend to be less than productive is because people come with ideas, not solutions. One sure-fire way to make sure that nothing gets done is to allow people to come to a meeting and say off the top of their heads whatever is on their minds, firing off ideas that may or may not work.
In a perfect world, everyone at the meeting would know that you have a problem and would come prepared with X, Y, and Z suggestions for how to feasibly solve it. You wouldn't waste the meeting time searching for an answer to your problem. Instead, you would be able to pick the best solution available to you from what the team members came prepared with and brought to the meeting. Far too many meetings lack this type of targeted focus, which is why so many of us can walk out of a meeting and feel like it accomplished nothing.
At the end of the day, there are no pointless meetings in the world of business or, at least, there shouldn't be. Getting everyone together for a meeting can be a great thing. Everyone is in a room together, feeding off of everyone else's energy and building a solid foundation of creativity that will carry your business forward. Meetings that are little more than lectures (or worse, freestyle sessions) have no place in a productive organization. If you want to have a meeting, by all means, do so - just make sure it has a clear focus before you schedule it.
Tuesday, June 21, 2016
Broadening Your Customer Personas
Customer personas have long been a tool marketers have used when trying to relate to their target audience. These fictionalized, typically generalized versions of theoretical people can be a great way to help the designers of a campaign keep their "eyes on the prize," so to speak. After all, if you're setting out on a road trip across the country, it can be helpful to know exactly where you're going before you back out of the driveway.
However, the huge influx of data that marketers now have access to is a terrific way to deepen these customer personas more than ever before. You no longer just have things like age, gender, employment status or income level to work with. You can now draw from not only what has influenced past purchasing decisions, but WHO. You have volumes of analytical data pertaining to lifestyle, interests, and behavioral patterns. You can even draw valuable information from how a person might respond emotionally to a certain event in their life.
All of this means that an already powerful tool, customer personas, can now be put to even more meaningful use in the future. These personas are no longer generalized at all, which is very much a good thing for marketers everywhere.
Redefining the "High Value" Customer
Another great way to use customer data to create a more powerful customer experience is to reassess your "best" or "highest value" customers through the lens of this new data you're working from. You've always been able to call up data like average purchase size, lifetime value, and acquisition costs pretty easily, but now you can go deeper. You can get a real sense of how satisfied your customers are with your products or services and look at how that information may affect what you need to do for your customers in order to get them to remain loyal.
You can also see whether or not the people you're actually targeting with your marketing materials are the ones who are actually spending money on what you have to offer. If there is a discrepancy there, who ARE your buyers? Is this a problem, or is this a happy accident? What does this new information say about decisions that you were previously making on assumptions? This is all incredibly valuable information to have moving forward.
At the end of the day, the huge volumes of customer data that marketers now have access to is absolutely NOT a burden. We live in an age where it's now easier than ever to glean the type of valuable, actionable insight that you can use to make more effective, strategic decisions. All of this allows you to drive home the most important benefit of all: creating a much more powerful, organic, and deeply rooted customer experience than what was possible even five short years ago.
Saturday, June 18, 2016
You can't just demand that your employees dedicate a huge part of their waking days to helping you accomplish your own professional goals. They have to want it. You can't buy it, either - high salaries and competitive benefits help, but they'll only ultimately carry you so far.
So how do you make not only managing employees easier than ever, but also turn them into true, loyal team members instead of passive subordinates at the same time?
The answer is simple: mutual respect.
What is Mutual Respect?
The most important idea to understand about mutual respect is that you're dealing with a two-way street. You can't force someone to respect you just because you happen to be their boss or because your name is on the door. You have to earn it. You have to show them that you're worthy of it.
However, generating mutual respect isn't as easy as flipping a light switch. It involves a lot of small things that eventually add up to a pretty significant whole. It's about being genuine in your interactions with employees. It's about going out of your way to do the right thing and recognize a job well done. It's about making sure that all employees, regardless of position, have an equal voice in all decisions that affect them. It's about taking the time to show an employee that those eight hours they spend in the office on a Sunday didn't go unnoticed. That they were appreciated. That you wouldn't be where you are without them.
What Mutual Respect Means in the Long Run
If you're able to foster an environment where mutual respect occurs organically, you'll begin to feel a wide range of different benefits almost immediately. Mutual respect means that an employee is willing to put in a little extra effort and work harder because they know that you appreciate what they do and that you would be willing to do the same if the situation was reversed. Mutual respect means that if you do make a mistake, an employee is going to give you the benefit of the doubt because it's the same courtesy you've afforded them in the past.
Mutual respect also means that all employees understand and even believe that they have an equal voice. They don't feel like they work FOR you, they feel like they work WITH you - because you feel the exact same way. Even when a conflict does arise, it never gets heated or even contentious because people who respect each other don't argue and fight over issues, they discuss them like civilized adults.
These are some of the many reasons why mutual respect is the secret ingredient when it comes to managing employees. Creating a workplace where mutual respect is encouraged creates a "trickle down" effect almost immediately - conflict management is easier, collaboration is more efficient, and even the types of personality or cultural differences that stood to divide employees in the past only work to bring them together.
Mutual respect allows everyone to come to the simple yet important realization that at the end of the day, you're all part of the same team.
Tuesday, June 14, 2016
Ok, maybe business owners don't have issues with their cats, though the other questions are probably crowding their brain space right now. Fear not, we've identified 4 business trends you should be paying attention to this year.
- JOBS Act Crowdfunding Investment Opportunities
Not everything in business is free. It may be all well and good to max out credit cards or drain your savings to start and grow your business, but now there's a better way. The JOBS Act: Title III was recently released and what that means for you is that your business can raise investments through crowdfunding, even from non-accredited investors. If you're in the market to increase your market share, consider checking out sites like Crowdfunder.com or Equitynet.com.
- Rapid Delivery Systems
You've probably heard by now of rapid delivery and logistics systems like AmazonFlex and UberRUSH. Society is moving rapidly to an on-demand world, capitalizing on an economy of shut-ins, or more likely, extremely busy people. If you are in the business of selling products, you can now easily integrate an entire network of delivery drivers to hand- deliver your goods to your customers' doorsteps.
- Cyber Security
Unless you've been living under a rock, you've undoubtedly noticed that the world is moving to the cloud. The rise of SaaS (Software as a Service) companies and the increasing value of information have turned the web into a hackers dream. They're becoming more creative as well. Imagine coming into the office one day and finding that all of your files have been encrypted and a ransom note is in your inbox for the key. Your business could easily come to a crashing halt.
If you've never thought about cyber security or don't know where to start, head over to the Federal Communications Commission and create a custom Small Business Cyber Planner.
- Social Responsibility
Today's consumer is becoming more socially aware and more socially active. They care about the world they live in and they expect the same from the businesses they patronize. Earn their respect and you will have dedicated clients for life. We're talking more than just going green, though, although it's always a great first start. The next step is to imagine ways in which your product or service could help reduce suffering, poverty, or climate change. Find an issue that resonates with you and your clientele and that finds a way to effect a little social change from within your company.
Friday, June 10, 2016
Identifying your unique sales proposition is by far the most effective thing you can do to make your company a success. Creating a memorable image that will grab people's attention and make them feel like they want you to be their best friend goes a lot farther these days than claims at superiority.
But maybe you already know this and maybe you've already identified how your company is different from the rest of the companies that sell computers/shoes/lamps, etc. Fabulous! One question: Do your customers know what makes you unique? (Cue head scratching and cricket chorus.)
If your brand doesn't scream, "I'm a unique snowflake" to everyone that sees it, you can do better. You must do better! You owe it to your company to be as unique as you are. So, how do you go about communicating how your company is one of a kind? It's all in the brand!
One of the best ways to figure out how to craft your brand to communicate your unique sales proposition is to carefully analyze how other companies are doing it. Let's take a look at two companies that have really done the work to make sure their brand conveys their unique sales proposition...
- Saddleback Leather - This company makes leather bags and accessories, and...so do hundreds of other companies. However, Saddleback has distinguished itself by selling "excessively high-quality leather designs" that are overbuilt and backed by a 100-year warranty. Their logo: a thick, letter tag embossed with their name, with obvious stitching and three big rivets at the top. Their tagline: "They'll fight over it when you're dead." Their ideal customer is someone who works hard and wants their bags and accessories to work harder and last longer.
- Timbuk2 - Yes, another company that makes bags...but guess what? This one is...wait for it...different! By its' name alone, we know that they are about travel and adventure. If you don't want to wander out into the wild, brave the unknown, or at least have all your stuff clean and dry when you get to wherever you're going, you may not be their target customer. Their current tagline is "Drive the bus" which, let's be honest, doesn't necessarily convey a specific unique sales proposition, but the story behind it is compelling and reinforces their mission: "To inspire urban mobility, enable individuality, & promote responsibility." They do this through their adherence to their values, which include statements like "Be Fearless. Deliver. Be Nimble. Engage. Lighten Up." Timbuk2 is a fantastic example of infusing your company with personality.
These two companies, while selling many overlapping products, have gone out of their way to distinguish themselves from their competitors. They truly love their products and want their clients to love them too. What's interesting about both of these companies is that they were started by people who couldn't find what they were looking for in the bags of the world, so they set out to make them. In doing this, they were able to:
- Put themselves in their customers' shoes
- Understand what motivates their customers' behavior and buying decisions
- Uncover the real reasons customers will buy their product instead of a competitor's
These are three critical factors in identifying your unique sales position. Basically, they were the customers, so it wasn't a big leap to get into their heads and create the experience that would drive consumers to love and buy their products.
It's easy to get a little lazy and fall into the trap of "it's good enough for now" and throw something out there, never to be improved upon again. If you love your company, you'll take the time now to make sure your brand conveys exactly what you want it to convey to your ideal client.
Friday, June 3, 2016
The Benefits of the Consumer Education Push
For marketers themselves, an increased emphasis on consumer education brings with it a host of different benefits that can't be ignored. For starters, it allows you to take a deeper level of control over the narrative that you're trying to tell than ever before. You're essentially reframing the information that consumers are actively looking for in a much more positive way. Instead of making a declarative statement with your campaign like, "Here are all of the amazing and incredible features that my product or service has," you get to instead take a decidedly less sales-oriented approach and offer advice like, "Here are the problems you have, here is why you have them, and here is how my product or service is the answer you've been looking for."
Perhaps the biggest benefit of all to taking a consumer education approach to marketing, however, is that you're no longer trying to convince your customers that your product or service is necessary. Instead, you get to essentially PROVE that it's necessary and let your customer base come to the same conclusion on their own. This helps to deepen the sense of confidence that consumers get from your company, which almost always leads to loyalty sooner rather than later.
Transforming the Landscape
Another key thing to keep in mind about making consumer education one of your core marketing objectives has to do with the subtle ways in which you change the relationship between company and customer. With consumer education, marketing is no longer a passive approach. Instead, it's decidedly active - consumers are no longer HEARING about your product or READING about it, they're LEARNING about it. They're engaged with your materials in a whole new way. It officially transforms the marketing experience into a two-way street by way of empowerment. Consumers will WANT to keep learning about what you have to say and what you have to offer, helping to increase penetration rates at the same time. The more satisfied with the marketing experience a consumer is, the more confident they ultimately are with the ways in which they spend your money. If you can turn the tide of the conversation in your direction through consumer education, you're looking at a powerful opportunity that you can no longer afford to ignore.
These are just a few of the reasons why consumer education NEEDS to be one of your marketing goals at all times. Not only does it bring with it the added benefit of affecting consumer behavior in a positive way, but it also helps establish you and your organization as the authority on a particular topic that people are actively looking for.
Tuesday, May 31, 2016
Ok, maybe it's not as obvious as pick up ball...throw ball, but if you spend any time reading about online marketing, you've got to know how important of a role your blog can play in growing your client base. Don't worry, though, you're not alone. It's surprising how many established and emerging businesses underestimate the power of their blog. With a few added steps, you too can realize the amazing power of your blog.
Active Content Distribution
When you were planning your wedding or "Sweet 16" party, you didn't spend hundreds or thousands of dollars on gorgeous invitations just to leave them in the box, did you? Of course not! You sent them out into the world so they could tell the world the exciting news.
The same concept rings true for your blog content. They key is to actively push your content out into the world so people can line up to dance with you, money in hand. You want to get your content out on as many channels as you can. So this means:
o Tweet out your headlines and grabbers with a link to your content
o Post a summary of your content to Facebook
o Add your blog to your Google+ and LinkedIn Feeds
o Upload the cool images you post with your blog article to Pinterest and Instagram
o Turn your blog into a podcast or video and upload to YouTube
o Find out where your clients are hanging out and get your content out there!
It may sound a little daunting, but most of that can be done in one step using online tools that will help you to schedule your releases to touch your prospects and clients on a daily basis. Aim for 2-3 releases per day.
Depending on your business, your sales funnel can look much different than the business next door. So, without getting into too much detail, let's take a high-level look at what a sales funnel is and how your blog and other web content plays a role.
Typically, your blog articles will have one or more links to other pages of your website. You can be strategic about this and push ("funnel") them to where you want them to go. The page(s) that you're pushing your readers to may have a certain call to action that encourages them to give you their email address in exchange for something they find valuable. This could be a free white paper, free trial, webinar or other free consideration to obtain that valuable email address.
Once you have the prospect's email address, you can now trickle out relevant content (likely from your blog) into their brains via email. You'll have additional links to free content or additional sales pages that your prospects can click to when they're ready to make their purchase.
The sales funnel is all about grabbing that email address and using it to establish yourself as an expert in the field so that people will trust you enough or like you enough to buy what you're selling.
Too many business owners think they have to do everything alone. This is not only sad, but also a dangerous fallacy that may be choking off your business revenues. One of the big keys to building your business is teaming up with other complementary (not competing) businesses to expand your reach.
According to Andrew Davis, author of "Brandscaping: Unleashing the Power of Partnership" businesses that partner usually experience rapid success with their content. The key is to make your content noteworthy, so when you reach out to potential partners, they'll be impressed and want to work with you.
There are a host of ways to initiate strategic alliances. They all start with recognizing those businesses that complement your product or service and share your audience. From there, consider reading their blogs to see what they're writing about. Send them an email proposing a guest blog article that would be of interest to their audience and a link to your site. That opens a dialogue that can lead to tremendous collective success.
Friday, May 20, 2016
Fast-forward a few years...You're standing off to the side of your restaurant/coffee bar/bookstore/clothing boutique and you realize, despite your best efforts at conveying your vision, your staff is just not "getting it." If that's the case and you want to distinguish your establishment, it may be time to bring in some training experts.
The big question is this: What makes more sense for your business - doing your training in-house or outsourcing your employee training?
Market Placement and Reach
Your decision on whether to insource or outsource your employee training is typically impacted by how many people you need to have trained. Is it a set number of people at exact intervals? Many businesses can take advantage of on-demand training to reduce costs and ensure your employees are trained quickly and properly by having an external provider handle the training function.
Additionally, if you have trainees located in geographically diverse locations, a vendor can easily take a classroom-learning module and create web-based training. This can be hosted in-house or remotely, depending upon your business needs.
Outsourcing Training May Cost Less
If you have full-time employees that are specifically dedicated to training your staff, it can be a costly endeavor. Many small and mid-sized companies just don't have the monetary resources to dedicate man-hours to development, design, implementation, and evaluation of training for their employees. There's also the management and tracking of these functions to think about.
Instead of hiring one or two employees dedicated solely to training, it may make more economic sense to use an outside organization to send your employees to before you let them loose with customers.
Training your employees is not just about creating that distinctive customer experience. You also want to ensure that your employees have the proper tools to do the job efficiently and safely. Think of training as a way to safeguard your business and reduce the risk of injury, loss, and (gasp!) lawsuits.
There are a host of web-based training programs out there addressing topics like proper money handling, OSHA safety, and dealing with difficult clients.
Access to Expertise
Training takes a specialized skill set. Vendors that specialize in training have the ability to create customizable training systems at a fraction of the cost of having them built in-house. The individuals that design, develop, and implement training are professionals that know how to transfer knowledge to a wide variety of learners.
The bottom line here is that these outside vendors are in the business of training. In-house training is hard to beat if you have the financial means and the ability to keep a steady stream of projects in the pipeline. However, if this is not the case, it may make sense to look to outside options for excellent employee training. However you choose to train your employees, taking the time to ensure your employees know their jobs well will mean your customers will thank you!
Tuesday, May 10, 2016
Career advancement is a journey that never ends and continuing education is one of the single, best ways to make this road the easiest one of you've ever traveled.
The Key to the Future Rests in the Present
Even if you're completely satisfied with your current position and can't imagine ever wanting to go someplace else, continuing education is still valuable for a number of different reasons. Think about your long-term career goals. Where do you see yourself in a year? In five years? In ten? Even though you're satisfied today, there will still likely come a day where you begin looking for a change or what a little something "extra" out of your current situation. Continuing education not only makes it easier to ask for a raise within your current position, but it also makes you more attractive if the time comes where a management position opens up within your business that you might want to pursue.
Many experts agree that when hiring managers start to look at internal candidates for a new position, they actually grade on a tougher scale than if they were looking to fill a position from outside the company. At this point, a simple history of "hard work" and "dedication" isn't necessarily going to cut it - their expectations are higher than that. They KNOW you're a hard worker - it's why you still have a job. A history of regular, continuing education says that you've taken your dedication to a new level and that you're not only ready for new responsibilities, but you have the ethic and the skills to back up that claim.
It's All About Perspective
The late, great comedian Garry Shandling was a firm believer in the idea that the minute you stop working to improve yourself either personally or professionally, it's all over. He was the type of person who believed that his work was never done. There was ALWAYS something he could learn and ALWAYS some way he could improve the quality of the product he was putting out into the world. He deeply stood by these ideals, even though by any objective standard he perfected not only the sitcom but also the comedy television format with his HBO series (and he had the dozens of Emmy nominations to back that up). Yet still, it wasn't enough.
Just like Shandling, the moment you feel you've learned it all and the moment you feel like you've reached the point where you can't get better, you've lost a game that you never really understood in the first place.
This simple idea is perhaps the most important reason why continuing education is the key to career advancement, regardless of the type of industry you're working in. It forces you to think about ways that you could be doing better and about the shortcomings in your daily life that you need to address. It keeps you moving forward, but it keeps you grounded at the same time. Continuing education doesn't just make you a better employee on paper because you get to add a new certification or qualification to your resume - it makes you a better person, period.
Tuesday, May 3, 2016
Sailors are known for their exciting tales of far-off worlds and adventure beyond a landlubber's imagination. The trusted captain and crew have a few pointers to share for a successful voyage.
Know your vessel.
Is she seaworthy? Is she built and maintained by people who take pride in their work? What are her quirks? Not all vessels are the same by any means. Know what makes her unique and tend to those details. What is the greatest strength of your enterprise? What is your core competency, or what is the distinguishing feature of your product? Having a well-defined product or service and a good understanding of how it compares to similar items in the marketplace is crucial.
Choose a good crew.
Your crew will make or break the voyage, and as the captain, all the responsibility is resting on you. Is the "crew" of your "vessel" the best in the business, or did you hire your brother's high school best friend out of some misplaced sense of obligation? You have to constantly assess the skill and knowledge of your crew. Do you have the right people stationed at the right post? Just as you wouldn't put a deckhand in charge of navigation, you must insist on having all of your staff working in the areas of their expertise.
Know where you're going.
As a sailor, you must always be aware of your latitude and longitude. You have to know where you are in order to chart a course to where you want to go. The tools available today are changing rapidly and technology is great, but do not lose sight of the basics: quality, consistency, value, and customer service. Knowing where you are in these key areas and how you stack up to the competition will allow you to get where you want to go, be it increased market share, growth, innovation, or profitability.
Sharpen your senses.
The wind will change direction and velocity and make your life terrible if you aren't in tune with Mother Nature. The same goes for rain, thunderstorms, and squalls. Know what conditions are in the forecast, but always keep watch to discern subtle changes and patterns. Business journals and analysts are out there making predictions and it can be hard to figure out who has the best information. Sharpen your senses and your gut will guide you in the direction of success. Look at the forecast, but know that your gut is rarely wrong.
Know how to adjust your sails.
When the wind changes direction or a storm system builds, sailors understand that they'll make no progress fighting the forces of nature. They know that by simply adjusting their sails, they can harness those forces, adjust their course, and continue on. They may even adjust their destination to make the most of the situation. Similarly, a leader of any enterprise must know how to adjust his plans to accommodate changes in the market. Market forces can be infinitely stronger than your iron will and can crush your business if you fight. If you accept the change and adjust your course, you may find yourself in a different place from where you intended to go, and it may be far better than you expected.
Whether you are a captain on the high seas or a captain of industry, you old salts have a lot in common. Next time you are in a pub near the marina, strike up a conversation with the weather-worn sailor in the corner. You just might learn something.
Tuesday, April 26, 2016
Postal Rates: What is Going On?
On April 10, 2016, the cost to ship a first-class letter in the United States fell to just $0.47 - a rare phenomenon in recent memory. Additionally, the price of sending a postcard dropped a penny, international letters fell $0.05, and even coveted "Forever Stamps" saw a decrease in cost at the same time. These are the most direct mail and small business-friendly prices to come along since the beginning of the 2008 recession.
Direct Mail Doesn't Just Work - It Works Gangbusters
Despite all this, some people still refuse to give direct mail the chance it deserves because they naturally assume that digital marketing is more efficient in the tech-driven world in which we now live. After all, with people glued to their cell phones day in and day out, how much of an impact can direct mail really have?
The answer is "a great big one."
According to a study conducted by Compu-Mail.com, direct mail is still used heavily in an iPhone and Droid-centric world: approximately 43% of all local retail advertising still falls into this category. Not only that, but young adults are actually the largest group to respond to direct mail the most, particularly among the millennial crowd. According to a recent International Communications Research survey, approximately 73% of consumers actually prefer direct mail over alternative advertising methods. This is largely due to the fact that an equal number of respondents said that direct mail marketing was a much more personable experience than internet-based materials. Keep in mind that millennials think junk mail happens in their inbox, not their mailbox.
So, if the reasons why you had overlooked direct mail in the past were because "it was too expensive" and "you didn't think it worked," congratulations: those two reasons just evaporated in an instant.
No two businesses are created in quite the same way, and what works for one might not work for another - especially in terms of an overall marketing strategy. However, with the recent decline of USPS postal rates, now would be the absolute perfect time to give direct mail a try if it's something that you've flirted with in the past, but ultimately overlooked for whatever reason. Now, is a terrific chance to really dip your proverbial toe in the water and to see just how direct mail can benefit your organization, especially if you're doing so for the first time. These declining rates most likely aren't going to stick around forever, so go for it, and create your direct mail campaign today.