Tuesday, February 16, 2016
He should know. Walt Disney achieved some of the most spectacular success anyone has ever reached in cinema, winning 22 Academy Awards and more awards and nominations than anyone else in history. He did so by overcoming rejection of his ideas and doing "the impossible."
Disney's most profound idea, the notion of feature-length animated films when nothing but shorts had ever been done before, was widely criticized as foolish and destined for failure. He persisted, though, and we all know how that turned out. Disney's endurance in the face of blanket rejection made the difference. By comparison, what a sterile and vacuous world we would have had if he would've listened to his detractors and bailed out on his plans.
Long before he was laughed at by Hollywood studios, he learned the value of endurance from other so-called failures that might have derailed an otherwise imaginative career. Early on he was fired from a newspaper for not having any original ideas and for lacking imagination, of all things. His first feature-length animation was Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, and it became the most successful film of 1938, earning the equivalent of 134 million in today's dollars. That's not too shabby for someone who lacks imagination. The world is far better off because he had the endurance to see the project through.
Distinguished writer Malcolm Gladwell outlined a theory that it takes 10,000 hours of work on a business to really know what you are doing, to make it a success. That is five years of full-time work--in other words, endurance.
David Weber and Kenny Lao hatched an idea for a food bar built around dumplings as a primary menu item. Their idea actually placed second in a New York University Stern School of Business competition, after which they launched the brick-and-mortar Rickshaw Dumpling. Becoming a bit too ambitious, they launched a second store and stretched their resources far too thin. Nearing bankruptcy, they abandoned the second site and started a mobile food truck, instead. This proved quite successful and saved their business, becoming a well-known icon in New York City. Their endurance--as well as their ingenuity--provided them the vehicle they needed to succeed.
In business and in life, we can allow rejections and other circumstances to rule us, or we can take charge and continue unhindered by those circumstances. An anonymous line states that calm seas do not a skilled sailor make. The rougher the sea, the more practice you get at handling problems. Walt Disney, David Weber, and Kenny Lao stuck it out. The example provided by people like this is an inspiration for us all.
It is said of mountain climbers that they do what they do simply because the mountain is there. But, without endurance there would be no successful climb. In business, the best formula for success involves the endurance of a mountain climber--just because your goals and objectives "are there." Endurance can and frequently does make all the difference.
Friday, February 12, 2016
Employee Engagement: The Most Important Aspect of Your Business You're Not Paying Enough Attention To
You could hire the most objectively creative or hard-working employee that you could find and it ultimately won't make much of a difference if they are actively disengaged from the environment they're working for in the first place. Employee engagement, in general, isn't just one of the most important things to concern yourself with, but it's arguably the MOST important thing for a number of fascinating reasons.
The Employee Engagement Problem
Many recent studies have been done that were designed to provide valuable insight into not only how important employee engagement is, but what happens if you're a business owner with an uninterested workforce. According to a study that was completed by Dale Carnegie Training, only 29% of workers in the United States are actively engaged with their jobs. Roughly 45% are not engaged in any way and, to make matters worse, a full 26% are actively disengaged.
When you're dealing with a disengaged workforce, you're dealing with people who aren't giving 100% of their time, energy, and creative effort to the task at hand. You're dealing with people who aren't doing their best because, to be quite frank, what's the point? You're also creating a situation where you can't hope to accomplish your own goals and the goals of your business because the people you depend on don't see the same value in moving your business forward. Rest assured, this is a problem that you need to address at all costs.
How to Fix Employee Engagement
According to another study that was conducted by Towers Watson, 79% of highly engaged employees also reported that they had both trust and confidence in the people who were leading them. A survey given out by the Psychologically Healthy Workplace Program (PHWP) indicated that employees who felt that their contributions were truly valued by their employers were 60% more likely to report that they were doing their very best inside and out of the office on a daily basis.
If you're a business owner with an employee engagement problem, it stands to reason that the first step to take involves looking inward for the solution. Employee engagement is almost intimately tied to morale, so what is the true nature of the issue you're dealing with, here? Is it that your employees feel like you don't know what you're doing? Do they feel like you have unreasonable expectations? Do they feel unappreciated?
These are the important questions that you'll need to answer in order to drive employee engagement as high as it will go. Employee engagement is absolutely the key to unlocking the true productive workforce that you need and to create an environment where "creativity" is the name of the game, thus allowing you to create the best possible marketing materials and establish the best possible connection with your target audience moving forward.
Tuesday, February 9, 2016
Putting the "Relations" Back in "Relationship"
To boil this concept down to its essentials, think for a moment about how irritating it is to write an impassioned letter to a business expressing some important concern or criticism that you have only to receive a standard form letter in return. You poured your heart and soul into this issue, making sure to detail every last grievance you had and that every word got the importance of your message across loud and clear. In exchange, you got a letter that has been sent out 1,000 times before that was probably sitting on a server somewhere, just waiting for an intern to swap out [INSERT NAME HERE] with your actual name.
It doesn't make you feel good and it certainly doesn't make you feel appreciated. It might even make you think twice about doing business with that particular company again. Though this is a simplification of the issue you face when you keep everyone at arm's length, it is actually quite an apt example and is something that you absolutely need to keep in mind moving forward.
"You" and the Customer
There are a number of different things that you can do to help deepen this emotional connection, even if you aren't actually speaking directly to someone. It's all about the language that you use and how you're using it. Consider a promotional poster outlining all of the great features that a particular product brings with it into the marketplace. You could have the best product in the world, but if you're just listing features in a series of bullet points it will still come across as a bit cold and distant. That emotional connection just won't be there.
Now, consider what happens when you re-frame the exact same message to directly address the reader. "X feature helps YOU solve Y problem in your life." Suddenly, you're sending forward the exact same message, but in a way that doesn't seem like he's being recited by a faceless corporation. It sounds like it's coming from a friend. Ultimately, if you want to instill loyalty in your customers, that's exactly what they need to think of you as - a trusted friend that they know they can depend on and turn to in their time of need.
We believe that this is one of the many ways that "you" will come in handy. Remember that everyone you deal with, from the customers who buy your products or services, to the vendors and suppliers that you depend on, to your own employees and more, you're dealing with unique individuals who always deserve to be treated as such. It doesn't require a lot of work to keep things personal in the world of business, and the benefits will pay dividends for a lifetime.
Friday, February 5, 2016
The most famous quote by cultural anthropologist Margaret Mead is, "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has." Dreams4Kids is this kind of forward-thinking small group, and its success is directly linked to its marketing campaigns. While Margaret Mead's quote bears remembering, it is also true that the engine that drives such successful enterprises is marketing, and with non-profits, donors are the spark that runs the engine.
Marketing through email has been around for quite a while now. It is basically the online version of a direct mail letter--the electronic counterpart to postal letters, fliers, and brochures that have been used and are still being used so successfully. Combining your print marketing with your email marketing just makes sense.
Some of the advantages email marketing has are obvious. Emails are fast and cheap. They can deliver your message almost immediately at almost no cost, and have literally no negative environmental impact. That is quite a bargain. But there are some less obvious benefits, too. With email, you can track whether your mail is getting opened or not. That is valuable information for any marketing campaign. After all, the trick is still getting your message opened and read. If you can determine which messages are getting opened, you have a head start in adjusting the campaign.
What actually works?
How does a non-profit like Dreams4Kids successfully market using email? They follow some easy guidelines that any small business can employ.
1. Decide what kind of campaign you want. Emails can be regularly scheduled newsletters or more sporadic announcements linked to specific events. Both are beneficial and should be considered. But, if you try the latter, be sure your timing is appropriate. The reader must have time to react, but not too much time.
2. Know your target audience. This is an important step in getting those emails opened and read. Whatever is in your email, it has to be relevant to the clients' interests or you are wasting your time.
3. Provide value. Once it is open, your email must provide something valuable to the reader, whether it is a discount coupon, an announcement of a product launch, or some other information that the client has an established interest in. This is where the mantra comes from: Content is king. The content must have value. Determine what your customers' questions are and then answer them before they are asked. That provides value.
4. Be brief and to the point. Rambling messages rarely get read completely today. One such email could doom all your subsequent emails to the delete button without being opened.
5. Use images to attract the reader's eye and maintain interest. A picture really is worth 1,000 words.
6. Use a mobile-friendly email template. If you still think today's technology is mostly limited to desktop computers, think again. Technology statistics website Statista.com says that Apple Computer's iPad sales top $1.6 billion quarterly. Worldwide tablet sales by all manufacturers are now over 50 million units quarterly. The days of the desktop's supremacy are now well behind us. Your emails have to be easily read on tablets and smartphones or your campaign is doomed from the start.
Using email in conjunction with your print marketing really can work for you so that your business becomes part of your customers' conversations. If Dreams4Kids can effectively use email to attract donors, you can use it to attract and keep customers for your business.