- Offer a comparison chart that focuses on reasons why customers should choose your product over the competition. For example, you may offer a standard five-year warranty, while your competitors may only offer a three-year warranty. Or perhaps they offer an extended five-year warranty option, but at an additional price.
- Stay informed of what your competitors are doing, but avoid copying their ideas. Instead, add value and make their ideas even better. For example, if a competitor offers free shipping on purchases of $100+, you could provide free shipping on all purchases and possibly even returns.
- Create a unique tagline or slogan that focuses on your key selling points, such as: “Hassle-Free Returns” or “Receive your lunch order within 30 minutes or it’s free.”
- Add value to a comparable product through added services, such as longer support hours, free training, and live phone operators (no automated phone service).
- Create a customer survey. Ask your audience how you can improve, what new offerings they wish you provided, what they like best about your company, and what areas they may find lacking. Their answers could easily point to ideas that will help you gain a competitive advantage.
- Provide a risk-free trial to test your products or services before committing to a change.
- Compare your guarantee to your competition. If your competitors don’t offer a guarantee, this is an extra reason to promote your guarantee heavily.
- Compete with low-price competitors in creative ways. Offer exclusive discounts when items are purchased together as a package, or offer free or discounted add-on bonuses.
- Romance your competitors’ customers. Show them the affection they may be missing from their current vendor, and let them know you’re willing to go the extra mile to win their business.
- Even if prospects are happy with their current provider, be sure to continue your marketing efforts. Create front-of-mind awareness so you’re at the top of their list if they ever change their mind.
Newsletters have a proven track record for creating front-of-mind awareness, establishing and maintaining credibility, and publicizing an organization to the community. Here are a few tips to improve the effectiveness of your newsletter:
- Become a resource by including how-to articles, helpful industry tips and tricks, and links to other articles and podcasts that may be of interest to your audience.
- Feature a special offer or promotion in each issue to track your newsletter results.
- Include a customer testimonial section to highlight customers who are finding success using your products or services. This will not only boost your credibility, but also increase customer visibility.
- Offer subscribers a “sneak peak” at new products. This will make them feel special and encourage them to spread the word about their insider knowledge.
- Create an “Ask the Expert” section, featuring industry experts to answer customer questions. Include the name and business of the customer who asks the featured question.
- Keep track of customer/recipient birthdays and send them a free birthday giveaway or discount.
- Provide highlights from an online customer portal or discussion board where customers can chat about industry trends, new products, and other relevant issues. Include a web link, and encourage newsletter readers to join in the discussions.
- Commit to a regular schedule. Readers will look forward to and expect your newsletter, so inform them if you take a hiatus from the regular routine.
- Post current and archived issues on your website with a link to subscribe.
Give us a call today if you’d like to see examples or need more ideas for creating a newsletter that your audience will look forward to receiving. Our creative experts would love to help.
Why is Employee Recognition So Important?
It may help to think of employee recognition efforts as an investment in your company’s success. While it’s true that motivated employees work harder and take more pride in their work, empirical evidence also supports the benefits of recognition.
A study of more than 4 million employees found that regular praise and recognition has a positive impact on employee performance, specifically resulting in:
- An increase in individual productivity
- More engagement between colleagues
- Increased employee retention
- A decreased number of on-the-job accidents
- A better safety record
- A greater number of positive comments and loyalty scores from customers
Now that you know how important recognition is, here are a few budget-friendly ways to honor your hard-working employees.
1. Just Say Thanks
A survey by Dr. Bob Nelson, noted author and motivational guru, asked employees to rate their most-desired and least-desired forms of recognition. Guess where “cash or cash substitutes” finished? Near the bottom. You heard that right. Only 42 percent of those surveyed deemed monetary reward as very or extremely important.
So what grabbed the top spot? Ninety-two percent of those surveyed rated “support and involvement” from their supervisor as the most desired motivator. Similarly, “personal praise” took second place with 79 percent describing it as very or extremely important. These statistics underscore the impact an employer can have, even without the backing of a huge budget.
Sometimes, it’s enough just to express your gratitude. Make it public by posting a handwritten note on their office door or wall, sending out a company-wide email, mentioning them in a newsletter, or praising your employee at the beginning of a meeting.
2. Break Time
Maybe you can’t afford to give them a raise, but can you spare an hour here or there? Instituting a recognition program based on off-time shows you care without cutting into payroll too sharply. Consider offering an extra hour at lunch, providing an early dismissal on a day of their choosing, or adding a few extra minutes to breaks every day for a week. If you can afford it, comp time is always appreciated and gives employees the break they need to recharge and come back re-motivated and ready to work.
3. Take ‘em to Lunch
Recognize hard work by treating that special honoree to lunch. Find out their favorite eatery and order take-out, or go all out and have a sit-down nosh together.
4. Added Perks
Some incentives come at absolutely no cost to your bottom line, but can make a big difference to an employee. Reserve that prime parking space for them for a week — or a month, if you’re feeling generous. Ask one of the top managers or execs to stop by the employee’s desk and offer a personal “thank you.” Post a congrats message to Facebook or tweet it out — with your employee’s permission, of course.
If you have a small slush fund available, purchase some small gifts from nearby businesses. What employee wouldn’t love being surprised with a free car wash, movie passes, or a gift card to Starbucks?
Whichever low-budget option you choose, be sure to tailor it to each individual employee. After all, thanking your workers in cookie-cutter style doesn’t exactly scream, “You’re special! I value you as an individual!” With a bit of forethought and planning, you can give morale — and productivity — a boost.
Networking is an important aspect of the professional world on many levels. If you own a business, you network to find more clients, meet potential connections, and even find other companies you might collaborate with on a project one day. Those searching for a job have continuously heard how critical networking can be for finding the right fit.
While at the park the other day, two very young girls made eye contact and instantly became friends. Without so much as an introduction, they both stopped their respective games, took off toward the slide, and took turns racing each other around the playground. The mothers remarked how easy it is to find friends when you don’t even have to worry about making small talk. How do kids do it?
Most little children don’t know too much about rejection just yet. When they approach a new potential friend, they don’t worry about being told ‘no.’ The child is having fun, they know they’re having fun, and they would enjoy it if the other child joined them. If the other child doesn’t want to, however, it really won’t affect the fun the first child is already having.
Business leaders need to adapt this attitude. Are you good at what you do? Do you have something important to bring to the business world? If so, be confident in those skills. Present them to new connections, and offer those folks the chance to work with you. But remember that a refusal is their loss, and don’t let it discourage you. Approach the next potential connection with the same enthusiasm.
They have something concrete in mind.
When children run up to another child on the playground, they don’t agree to play together and then idly stare at each other. Like the two little girls, they race off toward the slide or begin digging in the mud. When one child asks another to play, they already have some great activities to get started with.
When approaching another business professional, know some concrete ways you could help them directly. If you develop a software program, when the conversation turns toward business, discuss their current software situation as well as the needs of the company and how your product or expertise might be able to help.
They aren’t pushy.
Like adults, all kids have different personalities. Sometimes one child is shy or may not want to play with other kids on that particular day. If one child says they don’t want to play, that typically is the end of the discussion. The inquiring child will retreat or find someone else to play with.
Networking professionals must also find this balance. No one appreciates a connection who’s overly pushy, even after they’re told their products or services aren’t needed right now. Professionals also tend to dislike those who seem more interested in making sales instead of making more genuine connections. You should make sure to always handle rejection smoothly and, when at networking events, focus more on meeting people. The sale can always come later.
Networking is undoubtedly an art. It requires confidence, eloquence, and the ability to form connections with other professionals to grow businesses and help people find the perfect position for their talents. Imagining a networking event to be a playground for adults can help you overcome your fears and approach the others in attendance easier and with confidence.
Now, here’s the good news: We’re here to make it easy for you to keep your finger on the pulse of the industry. We’ve searched the web for the best, brightest, and most innovative business blogs out there. Add these top blogs to your reading list for a simple way to stay in the loop!
1. You’re the Boss (http://boss.blogs.nytimes.com
This New York Times blog is all about small business, from best practices to breaking trends. Written by entrepreneurs, business owners, and experts from a range of fields, You’re the Boss provides a place for small business owners to connect, share their successes (and mistakes), and compare notes from the battlefield.
2. Seth Godin’s Blog (http://sethgodin.typepad.com)
Seth Godin, a.k.a. marketing guru extraordinaire, provides a wide range of tips, ideas, advice, and general musings on a range of topics. The best thing about Godin’s, blog, however, is simply his quirky, creative writing style, which allows him to be motivational, inspirational, and insightful without ever slipping into cheesy territory.
3. Workshifting (http://www.workshifting.com)
Not only is Workshifting beautifully designed, but its content is hyper-focused on its readers’ needs and interests. Content melds work and lifestyle topics relevant to today’s on-the-move workforce, with an emphasis on the issues that affect work-from-home, flex schedule, and other employees who work outside the office environment.
4. She Takes on the World (http://www.
With accolades from sources such as the Stevie Awards, Inc., and Forbes, She Takes on the World offers tips of the trade with a focus on female entrepreneurs. Along with content from founder Natalie McNeill, this blog offers content from a series of guest bloggers, expert advice from industry leaders, and articles about work-life balance. Yes, it’s geared toward women in business, but hey, it’s got a lot of great content for guys, too.
5. Pando Daily (http://pando.com)
For the latest in news from the tech front, turn to Pando Daily. Founded by Sarah Lacy — formerly of TechCrunch — this comprehensive blog serves as a journal of record for Silicon Valley. Its focus on start-ups, the tech industry, social media, marketing, and almost everything else that impacts the business world makes for interesting reading, as do its interviews with and features by industry insiders.
6. Naked Capitalism (http://www.nakedcapitalism.
Naked Capitalism offers a no-holds-barred look at the current state of the economy and the financial industry, and how it affects business. Economists, investment bankers, political advisors, and journalists make up the contributor list. Expect to put on your critical thinking cap when you sit down to read this thought-provoking blog.
7. Anita Loomba (http://anitaloomba.com)
For a clear picture of the confluence of digital marketing and social media, turn to Anita Loomba’s blog. Offering helpful tips, best practices, success stories, and the latest in industry news, Loomba covers the ever-changing, always increasing influence of social media and business marketing in her accessible blog.
8. How to Change the World (http://blog.guykawasaki.com)
Author, former Apple marketing guru, venture capitalist, and all-around smarty Guy Kawasaki offers hands-on advice to entrepreneurs in his How to Change the World blog. Expect to be motivated and inspired, but in a practical, realistic way.
9. Peter Shankman (http://shankman.com/blog/)
Finally, for a dose of humor to lighten the workweek, give Peter Shankman’s blog a read. An angel investor and entrepreneur, Shankman has a, shall we say, creative approach to the world of business, and his entertaining writing style reflects it. Plus, he’s got some good advice — so give it a try.
What, Exactly, is Content Marketing?
Old-school advertising was pretty much a one-way street with the company doing all the talking. Content marketing turns it into a two-way conversation by actively engaging the audience. Do this by encouraging comments on your blog posts and social media sites, holding contests, or otherwise reaching out to your audience for input.
Keep up your end of the bargain.
Asking for audience participation is good, but it’s not so good if you do nothing with the information you gleaned. Reply to audience comments; respond to their requests and needs. Perhaps a certain aspect of your website keeps getting the same complaint. Hold up your end of the conversation by acknowledging the issue and perhaps even tweaking what ever’s wrong to better fill people’s needs.
Make it easy to find you.
Of course, you won’t have any conversations at all if people can’t find you. In addition to a user-friendly company website, you should set up a blog and accounts on your chosen social media platforms that all easily link back to your website. When you share a blog post or add new information to your website, share the link across your social media channels.
You don’t have to go nuts and join every single social media platform out there. Instead, focus on the ones where your target audience is most likely to tread. Learn more by analyzing the social media habits of your target demographic, then go where those folks go.
Fuel your audience with quality content.
Keeping your audience engaged means keeping up a steady flow of quality content. Again, you don’t have to go nuts trying to post something new and exciting every five minutes, but you do want to add fuel to your content marketing fire with fresh content on a regular basis.
Note the keyword “quality” here. Provide content that’s polished, informative, compelling, and even entertaining. While text may make up a good chunk of your content, also take advantage of the power of pictures and videos. Include them in related posts, or let them fly solo if they say all they need to say on their own.
Since people are none too fond of reading the same stuff again and again, make sure you cover a variety of different topics that are relevant to your audience.
Don’t bombard your audience.
Bombarding your audience can consist of that aforementioned strategy of beating them over the head to “buy, buy, buy” with every post you create. But it can also include posting at such a rapid and fanatical rate that your audience has no time to absorb, respond, or even breathe.
More is not necessarily better, especially if the more is of poor quality. Over-posting can not only mar your reputation as a professional, but it can backfire in a big way. Instead of being attracted to your company, you may instead find your audience fleeing in droves, leaving you with no one left to talk to but yourself.
Mastering the art of attraction is just one aspect of content marketing, but it’s one of the most essential for eventual success.
Consider this example: Two sisters, Anna and Mary, sit down together to draw pictures. As with many big sister/little sister pairs, Mary looks up to her big sister. She carefully watches as Anna sets about drawing a picture of their family house with everyone out in the yard. Mary picks up each crayon as Anna lays it down, then goes about copying her sister’s artwork.
After a few minutes, Anna notices what Mary is doing. “Mary, don’t just copy me!” she exclaims. “You have to make your own picture.”
Anna recognizes what many adults fail to see. If Mary simply copies her picture, she won’t be able to demonstrate her own strengths. If the sisters’ drawings are exactly the same, neither will stand out as unique. When they both create their own pictures, however, then each picture stands on its own merits and creative vision.
How to apply this to business
Developing new ideas in business is difficult. It takes a uniquely creative mind to come up with a useful service or product that no one else has thought of before. It can certainly be tempting to just copy another company or business model and hitch a ride on their road to success.
Unfortunately, this strategy rarely works. If you’re offering potential customers exactly the same product or service as an already established company, what reason would they possibly have to switch to you? Your business isn’t unique or special. Instead, it’s a copy of one they already know and trust.
Creating something unique
There’s nothing wrong with using another person‘s success as a source of inspiration, but have confidence that you have something special to bring to the table, too. Find a way to work that into your business model.
For example, say you worked in retail for a considerable amount of time while putting yourself through school. You may decide to specialize in helping retail stores with their marketing plans. Or perhaps you’ve found new ways to cut administrative costs and are able to offer potential clients lower prices for the same high-quality service.
Whether you’re a budding entrepreneur or an established business pro, keep looking for things you can bring to the table that your competitors can’t.
Blaze your own trail. Find your own niche. And build your own success story other entrepreneurs will want to copy.
Advice From Mr. Feeny: How The Boy Meets World Mentor Can Help Transform Your Business
Like all teenagers and young adults, they looked for people they could confide in, who would help them make the right decision and correct their path when they didn’t make the best choices. The characters found this in Mr. Feeny, a school teacher who also happened to be Cory’s neighbor. In becoming their mentor, Mr. Feeny also had a profound effect on many people who tuned into the show each week.
Although most of the people who once spent their evenings engrossed in episodes and reruns of Boy Meets World are now seasoned adults, experienced in the business world, the life lessons Mr. Feeny taught an entire generation are far from forgotten. Here are just a few quotes from the popular teacher that sum up his wisdom.
“Sometimes a sure thing is not the best thing.”
In business, it can be very tempting to take the easy road: to keep running the exact same marketing campaigns and contacting the same people, knowing you’ll get at least a certain amount of response. This is taking the easy way out. To be successful, however, you must be willing to step out of your comfort zone and try something new. Keep what works, but expand and be willing to venture off the beaten path and find new ways to grow.
“You don’t have to be blood to be family.”
Being successful in business and in life is all about building relationships. Relationships should be built on mutual trust and knowing that a friend will always be there for you, just as you will be there for them. Maintaining close bonds with people encourages us to grow as individuals and can help us succeed in the business world. No one can succeed entirely on their own. Instead, they must work to nurture relationships and develop connections with others within their industry.
“Believe in yourselves. Dream. Try. Do good.”
This quote aptly sums up what is required of entrepreneurs and business leaders alike. No company is going to be successful if the leaders don’t believe in what the the group is capable of accomplishing. They must all be able to envision a successful future and be willing to take the steps to make that dream a reality.
Business leaders need to continually try new things and not be afraid to dive back in if an initial plan is not successful. At the same time, no matter how successful a company may be, they cannot forget to think about others. This means operating with a general compassion for their community and those around them. This may take more energy than just running a yearly canned food drive, but will go much further in creating a pleasant place to work and fostering a healthy, positive spirit. This spirit can take the business far.
A mentor for all people, old and young, Mr. Feeny lives on in the memories of countless fans of Boy Meets World. While the lessons he gave may have been oriented toward leading children and adolescents into adulthood, they’re just as valuable for professionals working to succeed in the business world. It would do us all some good to remember the life advice of Mr. Feeny.
Identifying what’s already working
To know when it’s appropriate to change strategies and find ways to innovate, you must first evaluate how your original strategies are working. There are a variety of techniques you can use to judge the success of your marketing campaigns, including:
Share of voice
This is a great way to see how much ‘buzz’ a marketing campaign is generating. Share of voice essentially monitors how much the consumer base is discussing your company compared to the amount of time they spend speaking about your competitors. This information can help you determine how prevalent your brand is online, how familiar your name is to potential customers, and even how positively or negatively people think of your brand online. Free tools like Social Mention and Google Alerts are a great place to start.
Gauge how frequently people visit your company website now compared to how many page views you received before the campaign began.
Spikes in business
After implementing certain marketing techniques, such as a direct mail marketing campaign, watch for spikes in business compared to previous months.
Once you’ve determined the success of your marketing campaigns, you’ll have a more accurate picture of what styles work best for you and your customers.
The value of remaining consistent
Continually changing your marketing strategies is rarely an effective approach. Marketing is all about getting your brand name in front of customers and convincing them that you’re the company to turn to when they need the products or services you sell. Marketing campaigns that continually change are going to struggle with the basic goal of getting customers to recognize your brand. If your message and means of communication are constantly changing, potential customers will have a harder time trying to absorb what you’re saying. If you try to use every marketing strategy, nothing will stick, and you’ll end up spinning your wheels.
Successfully walking the line between consistency and innovation
When you’re looking to successfully blend consistency and innovation, you must determine what works for you and branch out slowly from there. Isolate which techniques are working best. Is it Facebook? Is it direct mail marketing? Whatever the answer, that should be the basis for your marketing campaign.
Now, focus on learning how to take those specific strategies to the next level. Look for ways to shrink the sales cycle, so potential buyers are converted into paying customers more quickly and more efficiently. Investigate ways you can help that portion of your campaign reach more people. If direct mail has been a huge success, try to pinpoint what it is about the demographic you’ve chosen that has made the campaign so great, and then find more people who fit that demographic. If Facebook has brought in many new leads, determine what types of content are attracting the most attention, and work on developing similar lines. Make it easier for customers on social media to enter the sales funnel and improve ROI.
Innovation should never be done blindly. It should be done with specific goals in mind and to help improve existing successful practices. That doesn’t mean you should resist trying something new, just that it should be done in a controlled manner and should not replace what has already been working. Innovation must work hand in hand with consistency if you hope to achieve the highest level of success.