07 Jun 2016 Comments Off on Assembling the Team: How to Get the Right People Into the Right Roles in Your Business
Assembling the Team: How to Get the Right People Into the Right Roles in Your Business
One of the most important things to do BEFORE you start assembling a team to work on a particular project for your business is to gain a better understanding of your options. In particular, you’ll want to take a long, hard look at each employee and see what they bring to the table in a way that nobody else quite matches.
Every one of your employees has a strength – something they do better than anyone else. Assembling a team requires you to temporarily think less about who they are as a whole and more about how you can use their particular, unique strength as a tool to service a much larger goal. Take marketing, for example. A standard promotional flyer essentially has two core elements: the visual design and the language being used. If your team consists of two people and both of them are expert graphic designers, you will likely end up with something that LOOKS fantastic but that isn’t actually as effective as you need it to be when communicating a message. If you match up your best graphic designer with someone who truly has a way with words, on the other hand, now you’re cooking with gas.
Is this a gross oversimplification of the situation? Sure, but the underlying truth is incredibly relevant – you need to identify what is truly unique about a person and put them in an environment where that talent can shine.
Putting the Pieces Together
Once you’ve identified some of the unique talents that your employees possess, the next step invariably becomes putting all of those disparate elements together to form a more cohesive whole. It can be helpful to think of this process a bit like putting together a baseball team. Even though everyone loves a good home-run hitter, not every single person in a lineup is a power slugger. A few batters are known for their home runs, while others are known for dependability. Sometimes you don’t want a home run at all – sometimes you need someone who you know is going to get to first base nine times out of ten. Other times you need speed – after all, those bases aren’t going to steal themselves.
The point is that you’re trying to put together employees who aren’t JUST high quality, meaning they not only bring something unique to the table, but their skills also compliment everyone else’s. In the context of your business, a team needs to be exactly that – a collection of people who are great on their own, but when they all focus their talents together on the same goal are practically unstoppable. Making sure that you understand how these talents not only work, but work TOGETHER, is one of the biggest things to focus on in this regard.
At the end of the day, assembling the perfect team for your business and getting the right people into the right roles is less about the people themselves and more about your own perspective on the situation. Provided that you enter into the situation from the right angle, know how to identify and bring out the core qualities of these employees, and understand how they all fit together to form a cohesive whole, you’ll be creating the type of situation where success isn’t a matter of "if," but "when."
03 Jun 2016 Comments Off on When it Comes to Your Marketing Goals, Don’t Forget About Consumer Education
When it Comes to Your Marketing Goals, Don’t Forget About Consumer Education
Whenever you begin to execute a marketing campaign, you’re usually trying to service a few key goals at the same time. One of your top priorities is most likely brand awareness – you don’t just want to get the word out about a product or service, but you’re also trying to position your company as an authority on a particular topic. You may also want to help inform your target audience about the product in question. One of the most important marketing goals that far too many people overlook until it’s too late, however, is consumer education. When it comes to your objectives, consumer education must ALWAYS be a top priority for a number of key reasons.
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.
31 May 2016 Comments Off on Innovation: What Living Outside the Box Really Means in Terms of Your Career
Innovation: What Living Outside the Box Really Means in Terms of Your Career
Gone are the days where to really make an impact in your career, you had to prove yourself to be the best little worker bee out there. While having a strong work ethic and the determination to accomplish any task that you’re given are always important regardless of the business you’re talking about, they have been superseded in recent years by something much more important: innovation.
According to a study conducted by Fast Company.com, employers are increasingly looking not at the surface-level work histories of applicants when hiring new employees, but at their history of innovation. Employers want critical thinkers because critical thinkers don’t just get the job done – they flip the job on its head and do it in a way better than anyone ever has before.
If you really want to use this idea to your advantage and lay the foundation for positive growth in terms of your career, it isn’t good enough to just think outside the box. "Outside the box" just officially became your new home.
Innovation and Your Career: A Match Made in Heaven
Life is full of unpredictability. The major benefit of making an effort to not only think outside the box but to make it your permanent home comes down to metamorphosis. Emphasizing innovation throughout all aspects of your life doesn’t just make you more adept at dealing with change – it allows you to embrace change. It allows you to go beneath the surface of a situation and take anything you find, good or bad, and turn it into something that can help propel you forward.
If you’ve developed a reputation as an innovator, you instantly make yourself more valuable in most businesses because "innovation" and "saving money" are synonyms. Being an innovator means that you can use limited resources combined with your passion, your drive, and the sheer force of your creativity to not just solve a problem, but to accomplish something.
Innovation: Bringing it All Back Together Again
Innovators bring true value to a situation or environment. They’re not followers. They’re leaders. If you can truly train yourself to think with an eye towards innovation in everything you do, you’re creating the type of situation in your career where the definition of "success" doesn’t matter, as it will always be well within arm’s reach.
These are just a few of the reasons why making a constant effort to live "outside the box" is so important. In the short-term, it makes you a much more valuable employee who is able to solve challenges, and allows you to come up with creative solutions that allow a business to stand apart from the competition and more. In the long-term, it makes YOU a much more valuable commodity. It doesn’t just teach you how to naturally overcome any curve ball that your career goals may throw at you. By creating a situation where innovation is built into your very instincts, it teaches you how to naturally use ANYTHING that life may throw at you to your advantage.
31 May 2016 1 Comment
Realize the Amazing Power of Your Blog: Blogging and Social Media
Digital marketing, it’s pretty simple, right? Draft up 500+ words of amazingly educational and entertaining content, upload it onto your blog, maybe sprinkle on a little SEO magic and you’re good…right? Well, let’s just put it this way: if you have teenagers, they’re rolling their eyes at you. If you have dogs, they’re staring at you with that head-cocked-to-the-side look they give you when you’re missing the obvious.
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:
• Tweet out your headlines and grabbers with a link to your content
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.
24 May 2016 Comments Off on Handling Negative Online Reviews Like a Pro
Handling Negative Online Reviews Like a Pro
Online reviews can make or break a business. More and more often, customers are turning to sites like Yelp, Google, and Facebook to get an unbiased view of every business they use.
Negative reviews are pretty much inevitable, regardless of how hard you try. Your responses, or lack thereof, can also have a dramatic effect on how people view your company’s credibility and dedication to customer service. Here are a few tips to handle negative online reviews like a pro.
First and foremost it is important to have a consistent approach to handling both positive and negative feedback.
Set Up Alerts
The first line of defense for Kelly’s online business reputation is daily alerts. Setting up alerts through Google, Facebook, and Twitter lets Kelly know when someone has mentioned her business. She gets these alerts sent to her inbox daily.
Kelly’s policy is to comment on as many pieces of feedback as possible. She leverages the personal touch by interacting with her customers in a timely manner to all forms of feedback. She’s also turned her responses into an art form.
Kelly always responds to positive feedback. It doesn’t have to be the great American novel, but Kelly makes sure it’s genuine and has a personal feel to it. Observe the magic:
3/24/2015: Jen, this is one of the sweetest, most thorough reviews I have seen. Thank you so much for your kind words about the salon and our wonderful nail artist, Nickie!
Kelly always acknowledges the client’s concerns and states in the public reply that she will contact the person to follow up and resolve the issue. If she doesn’t have the client’s contact information, she invites the person who posted to contact her directly.
At this stage, Kelly understands the importance of not engaging in justification, excuse making, claims of innocence, or outright denial. Here is an example of what NOT to do…
What a complete turnoff! If you want to try and win her back and impress others? Try this instead:
The Clock is Ticking
Kelly promptly follows up on her commitment to reach out. The best person for this job is the business owner or general manager – someone with the clout and authority to fix the issue in one phone call or email. She and her manager put on their best customer service hats and really listen to the client’s concern.
Follow-Up on the Follow-Up
Once the issue is resolved, and only if it was a positive result, Kelly asks the client to follow up on the posting and comment that the issue was resolved. This can be the most impactful. Kelly always goes back to the original posting personally to briefly talk about how the resolution went down.
The key to success lies in being genuine, working proactively, and embracing the age-old philosophy, “The customer is always right!” even if you aren’t in agreement.
20 May 2016 Comments Off on Outsourcing Employee Training – When does it make Sense?
Outsourcing Employee Training – When does it make Sense?
When you first started your company, you likely had some vision of what the customer experience would look like. Depending on your market, it could have looked something like the highly polished Front Desk staff of New York’s Plaza Hotel, or maybe the sarcastically surly wait staff of San Diego’s Dick’s Last Resort. Whatever the market, you definitely wanted to create a distinctive customer experience.
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!
17 May 2016 Comments Off on Not All Mailing Lists Are Created Equal – Maximizing Your Return With Mailing List Savvy
Not All Mailing Lists Are Created Equal – Maximizing Your Return With Mailing List Savvy
It’s ironic, really. The lists that we struggle to be removed from are also the same lists our companies strive to obtain. The truth is, for many businesses, targeted mailing lists are the bread and butter of their marketing efforts. Being able to create niche-marketing materials and then putting those materials into the right hands is essential to a company’s survival.
Not all mailing lists are created equal, though. Understanding the different types of mailing lists is critical in maximizing the return on your investment of content and quality marketing materials.
Consumer Mailing List
Consumer mailing lists are comprehensive lists of people associated with their demographic, economic, and psychographic information. The consumer mailing list helps your business target individuals with very specific profiles for maximum return on investment. Typically, you can choose to filter these types of lists by the following data:
Consumer mailing lists are more expensive than say, a neighborhood mailing list, but your ability to filter out non-ideal recipients can make your investment worthwhile, especially for high-quality mailings such as multi-page letters, brochures, or large, high-quality postcards.
Neighborhood Mailing List
Neighborhood mailing lists are by far the most cost-effective list you can get. Many local businesses will target specific neighborhoods within a particular zip code or geographic location that falls within a specific radius of their business location.
This type of list is effective for obtaining new clients, particularly if your business wants a broad reach without regard to specific demographic or psychographic categories. Deliverables commonly associated with this type of mailing list include coupons, smaller postcards, and tri-fold 20# paper-stock brochures.
Business Mailing List
Business mailing lists are the "Holy Grail" for B2B companies, enabling them to maximize new targeted opportunities. This list type includes data pertaining to:
– Business Type
By targeting specific business data points, your company can identify and market directly to your ideal clients. You can also use the data points to differentiate the type or content of your marketing materials. For example, if you are a woman-owned business wanting to connect with other women-owned businesses, this type of list can help you do that, while still allowing you to send similar content to non-women-owned businesses with a different slant.
Specialty Mailing List
Specialty mailing lists are, just like they sound, lists of people filtered by special categories that you determine. Common types of specialty mailing lists include:
– New Parents
The list goes on. Essentially, if you can think of a niche that you want to market to, you’ve got yourself a specialty mailing list.
Truly understanding the individuals and businesses that your product or service is ideal for is the key to success. Combining a highly targeted mailing list with marketing materials that speak directly to the people or businesses on your list will boost your chances of making that next sale.
09 May 2016 Comments Off on The Power of Leadership: Bringing Out the Best From Introverted Employees
The Power of Leadership: Bringing Out the Best From Introverted Employees
As a business leader, one of the core requirements of your job is to make sure that you’re bringing out the absolute best in your team at all times. Every employee working under you not only needs to excel on their own terms but must also be contributing towards the larger whole at the same time. Having quiet, introverted employees can certainly make this difficult, but therein lies the challenge. If you want to use your leadership skills to bring out the best from your introverted employees, you’ll certainly want to keep a few key things in mind.
Work on Your Pace
One of the biggest mistakes you can make in terms of dealing with introverted employees is trying to force them to adapt to the way you like to work. Introverted employees typically don’t like fast-paced, high-stress situations. They need time to think, to plan, and to ultimately prepare for the task ahead. Part of the way you can help bring out the best in these employees involves embracing this idea wherever possible.
Say you’ve got a big meeting coming up and you know that an introverted employee will need to contribute as much as possible. Instead of springing this on them at the last minute, let them know as soon as possible. Give them time to get their thoughts straight and make sure you give them a clear, actionable agenda to work from. If you allow them to build up to the meeting, you’ll find that they’ll be much more engaged than you probably thought they would.
One of the most important things to keep in mind about introverted employees is that they will rarely, if ever, take outward pride in their own accomplishments. They typically don’t like attention, even if it’s positive, which means that a lot of the hard work they’ve been doing will likely go unnoticed. As a result, it becomes your job to take pride in those accomplishments for them. If an introverted employee absolutely nails a project, make sure everyone on the team knows it. Make the announcement on their behalf, allowing them to feel great while embracing their personality at the same time. Just make sure you spread the love – all team member accomplishments should be acknowledged equally, both for introverts, extroverts, and everyone in between.
Use Technology to Your Advantage
Another factor to consider about introverted employees ultimately comes down to communication. An introvert doesn’t necessarily like to keep in constant contact either in person or by phone, but luckily, technology has made it easier than ever to adapt to this idea. Utilize virtual communication for projects when possible, either via text messages to your team or instant messaging conversations, e-mail threads and more. This will allow your introverted employees to not only contribute to a larger project but to do so in an environment they feel the most comfortable in.
These are just a few of the ways you can bring out the best from your introverted employees all day, every day. Remember that just because someone is quiet and prefers to work in a solitary environment does NOT mean that they aren’t contributing. In the same way, a loud, boisterous attitude doesn’t make someone a good employee either. Your primary goal is to strike a balance. You need to provide ALL employees, regardless of their personality type, exactly what they need to thrive.
03 May 2016 Comments Off on Succeed in Business Without Undue Stress: Lessons From a Sailor
Succeed in Business Without Undue Stress: Lessons From a Sailor
Whether you’ve been in business for 40 years, or you are a startup waiting for the perfect time to enter the marketplace, you want to know how to succeed in the fast-paced world of capturing market share. Let’s see how your business can benefit from the lessons learned in the daily life of a salty sailor.
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.
29 Apr 2016 Comments Off on Understanding What’s Really Going on at the Post Office
Understanding What’s Really Going on at the Post Office
If you had a tough time during the Great Recession of the last few years, you are in the same boat with many, including the United States Postal Service. With computers, e-mail, and the rise of similar types of technology, total mail volume was already on the decline – and then, the most troubling economic times in decades hit. All types of mail volume dropped dramatically in a short period of time.
According to the official USPS website, total mail volume in 2006 was roughly 213.1 billion pieces of material. The total mail volume in 2015, on the other hand, was 154.2 billion. While that’s still a lot of mailers, flyers, and other items being delivered across the country on a daily basis, a drop of that magnitude is still pretty staggering.
What is an Exigent Rate?
Because of this situation, the USPS asked for something called an Exigent Rate Case. That meant that due to demanding circumstances, the Postal Service was allowed to "raise market-dominant prices above the CPI-U (consumer price index) price cap" for a limited time. After an approval process that required a submitted proposal and a hearing conducted on the record with an opportunity for public comment, that increase was granted – leading to the current rates that we’re experiencing.
So Why are Rates Dropping?
Exigent Rate Cases are not permanent – they have a limited lifespan as, theoretically, the special circumstances that required them in the first place will resolve themselves eventually. This is exactly what is happening. When the emergency rate expired on April 10, 2016, most of us experienced the first postal rate drop in our lifetime. With the price of a first-class stamp dropping to 47 cents, it represents the first decrease in nearly 100 years.
The good news is that mail volumes have actually recovered pretty significantly. This is especially true in terms of packages, as more people than ever before are choosing to buy their everyday items online at retailers like Amazon.com. The news may be great for consumers and marketers, but it is doing little to actually relieve the problems that the Post Office is still going through.
Megan J. Brennan, the current Postmaster General, said that multi-year revenue declines are still a very real concern and were in excess of $7 billion in 2009 alone. In a statement she would go on to say that "Removing the surcharge and reducing our prices is an irrational outcome considering the Postal Service’s precarious financial condition."
Looking Ahead for the Post Office and Marketers
Not to worry, though. The United States Postal Service isn’t going anywhere anytime soon – however, exactly what these rate decreases will do to their bottom line remains to be seen. One thing is for sure, as previously stated, there has never been a better opportunity to truly experiment with the benefits that direct mail has in terms of your overall marketing efforts. If you’ve moved more in a digital direction due to increased mailing and shipping rates over the last few years, this rate drop is the perfect incentive to dip your toe back in these proverbial waters.