Archive for the Tips & Tricks Category

Keeping the Ship Afloat . . . In Business

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We’ve all heard the expression “keeping the ship afloat.” Anyone who has ever spent time on an actual ship knows that keeping a boat afloat and getting it to the intended destination is no easy task. Ships of all sizes require a considerable amount of work from everyone on board, and we in business can learn a great deal from these professionals when it comes to keeping our own companies running and moving in the right direction.

The importance of clear leadership

Ships are not democracies. A captain always leads the ship’s crew and directs activities on board. Captains have considerable experience sailing ships and know what needs to be done to make the trip a success. Their ability to see the larger picture lets them direct their subordinates. They don’t waffle in making decisions and have confidence in their abilities.

Like any good leader, however, a captain also willingly listen. Captains will take advice from their advisers in certain situations, and then balance the advice against their own experience. A good captain is able to take all of these sources of information and synthesize them to come up with the best possible solution.

As a business leader, you must be willing to do the same. Strong leaders unabashedly listen to those around them while also using their own experience and wisdom to make decisions for the benefit of the company. They don’t shy away from making firm decisions, nor are they so concerned for their own power that they neglect to listen to what others have to offer.

Dedicated workers

Ships have always required dedicated crews to keep them afloat. The ships of old required crews of men who would paddle the ship or control the sails to keep the boat moving. Crews today might man the sails or the engine rooms. No matter where the crew is working, however, they have to be prepared to give the boat 100 percent.

The employees you select for your business must also be fully dedicated to your company. You should be able to trust that their skills and experience will help them move the organization forward. Running an efficient business means not having to look over everyone’s shoulders, but instead establishing goals and having your employees work to meet you there.

Choosing a direction and sticking with it

When sailing a ship, the boat has a concrete destination. The captain and crew might have to adjust their route slightly if a storm comes up or another obstacle crosses their path, but they always know where they’re going and how they plan to get there.

Your business must have the same foresight. Successful organizations don’t set vague goals for success. Instead, they lay out concrete, measurable goals they want to achieve. When the goals of the organization are clearly laid out in front of everyone, it’s much easier for each person to know exactly what they’re supposed to do and how that fits in the broader picture.

Keeping a ship — or business — afloat requires strong leadership, a dedicated staff, and concrete goals. When you manage to keep these three ingredients in mind for your company, you’ll be well on your way to success.

Date: 17th October, 2014 | Under: Marketing, Tips & Tricks | No Comments

Business Lessons From the Wizard of Oz

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The Wizard of Oz is an exciting tale that has delighted people for several generations. When young Dorothy is magically transported from her home to the magical land of Oz, she and her companions must outsmart witches and other dangers in an effort to find the famed Wizard of Oz, who they believe can help her find her way home and grant her companions gifts of their own. Upon finally finding the wizard, however, they learn that he is not some great and powerful wizard after all. Instead, he’s just an ordinary man behind a curtain, projecting his voice and image to appear to be a magical being. Still, in the end, Dorothy does learn how to get back home.

The Wizard of Oz and Business

There are two key lessons we as business leaders can learn from the wizard. In one situation, he’s an excellent example of what we should do. In the other, he does the exact opposite of what would be appropriate in the business world.

What the wizard gets right

In Oz, the wizard regularly projects his voice and opinions for all the kingdom to see. He providers personalized information for each person who visits him.

In social media, we’re often asked to be like the man behind the curtain. We must project our voice and opinions in a variety of media, communicating a sense of authority and wisdom. With all the demands of the modern business world, it can be tempting to resort to automation. There are a number of ‘tricks and cheats’ available in the social media world. From programming social responses to buying followers to automating tweets, it’s very easy for those who desire it to completely remove themselves from the actual social media process.

If we’re to learn anything from the mysterious wizard, however, it’s important to remember to always have an actual person ‘behind the curtain.’ This will allow us to engage potential leads when they arise and avoid missing opportunities to bring in new customers, which can easily happen if all our responses happen automatically and we aren’t actually monitoring the conversation.

What the wizard gets wrong

Although it’s important to remain actually present behind all our social media campaigns, we also need to be authentic. The wizard made the devastating mistake of casting himself as something he wasn’t: a powerful wizard. When those who actually needed his help (like Dorothy and her companions) turned to him, he was virtually powerless to help. If we cast ourselves as something we’re not, nothing will destroy our reputation faster than our customers realizing it. We must always be realistic about our capabilities and strengths. Play up what you can do for customers and be confident in your abilities, but don’t ever let yourself get caught in a web of lies.

What to take away

Social marketing is an important part of branding and finding new customers. It requires authenticity. That means broadcasting a solid message based on what you can do for customers and always keeping a person involved with every stage of the campaign to communicate with customers. When you stick to these two rules, you’ll have a great chance of success.

Are you ready to get a new campaign started? Come talk to us! We’d be happy to help you get started.

Date: 10th October, 2014 | Under: Marketing, Tips & Tricks | No Comments

Are You Using Keywords Correctly

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When it comes to search engine optimization, few topics are as popular as the use of keywords. To hear some people describe it, keywords are the secret to success; if you just use specific keywords in your text enough, people will flock to your website. But think about the last time you read something that was clearly “keyword stuffed.” It probably sounded awkward, unnatural, and a bit forced, didn’t it? You probably didn’t take the information or the website too seriously. Fortunately, it is possible to use keywords effectively to entice visitors, give them confidence they’ve found a good source of information, and still sound completely natural.

Selecting the keywords

When choosing keywords, think about the words customers are commonly searching for online. Monitor the number of searches that are done for different keywords, and then choose a few you’d like to target. These should be keywords directly related to your business, so you can use them naturally throughout your website and blog.

When selecting keywords, make the subtle distinction between keywords you and other professionals in your industry are likely to use and those your customers are likely to use. Your keywords won’t do you any good if your site ends up just attracting competitors. They’re not looking to buy from you! You want to use language and keywords that reflect your customers’ priorities and their language. This will ensure you bring the right people to your site. This is also helpful for selecting vocabulary words to use on all your marketing materials, including your outbound direct mail and newspaper advertisements.

Using the keywords appropriately

Make sure you use the keywords a few times in content. This will let your visitor know they’ve found a page with the information they were looking for. If done naturally, using the keywords in the opening paragraph can be a good practice for this reason.

Don’t use your keywords excessively, though. Generally, aim to keep the keywords in mind when you write, and use them whenever the opportunity naturally arises rather than assigning yourself the task of fitting them in as often as possible. Using this system will help you improve the flow of your writing and make it sound much more compelling and natural, rather than a trap designed to bring visitors to your website.

The reason blogging and keeping your website up-to-date are so fantastic for marketing is that both of these practices allow you to naturally incorporate keywords into your content. Keywords should be thought of as subjects that you want to write about. They’re terms your potential customers are searching for because they’re interested in learning more. Be the source of information for them, so they will turn to you as a source of authority.

Keywords can be very helpful in developing websites to attract and retain visitors. Capitalizing on their value, however, requires understanding what customers and search engines are and aren’t looking for. Keeping these guidelines in mind should help you use your keywords to your advantage. If you’re ready to take your marketing campaign to the next level, let us know. We’d be happy to help get you started!

Date: 8th October, 2014 | Under: Tips & Tricks | No Comments

Building a Championship Team at Work

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Postseason baseball is in full swing. After six months and 162 games, only a handful of teams have earned a chance at becoming World Series champions.

Putting together a championship-quality roster is no easy task. Tryouts, trades, drafts, and injuries all play a part in the process. Teams must find the right mix of players who can bat, pitch, and field. Just as importantly, though, they must consider team chemistry, too. Is everyone playing together? Are internal rivalries or personality clashes going to get in the way of a cohesive unit? Can those clashes be overcome for the sake of success? In the end, it often takes experience to get it just right.

What businesses can learn from baseball

When you set out to select members for your own professional team — your business — you must give it as much thought as a baseball coach and general manager. Sure, you should carefully review resumes and interview candidates, but in doing so, try to avoid the temptation to simply fill a role, rather than building a team.

When you fail to evaluate a candidate for their ability to fit in with your company culture and ascribe to your company mission, it’s easy to lose your internal values. This can in turn damage employee morale and employee loyalty. When everyone is concerned with just completing a job, rather than working together as a team, people don’t feel as connected to their workplace.

Why this is dangerous

According to Bain & Company, it’s 6-7 times more expensive to acquire a new customer than to keep an old one. Building a successful business should be focused around delighting your customers, giving them reasons to return, and encouraging them to recommend you to others. Your employees are the ones who interact with these customers every day. They’re the face of the company. When you don’t take the time to develop a strong company culture that encourages employee satisfaction and a positive work environment, you end up putting up a huge roadblock for customer satisfaction.

Choosing your team

Work with your current team to develop lists of values and priorities that keep your workplace cohesive and productive. When you’re ready to make a new hire, carefully consider how the person will fit in with the rest of the organization. This will include asking them questions that relate to these specific values.

Consider having candidates speak with multiple people at the company or try performing some of the basic tasks they would do if they were hired. The better you can choose your employees, the better you’ll be at building an organization that works as a team and serves your customers with a united front. Have faith and trust in your organization, empowering your employees and making it an overall fantastic place to work and grow.

While many organizations realize their customer service will have an enormous impact on their success, they don’t realize that something as intrinsic as their hiring practices can have such a big impact. Give your company a leg up and complement your marketing efforts with a superior, service-oriented company. Get started by making sure each hire you make will be a great fit for your team. You may be surprised how much it pays off.

Date: 5th October, 2014 | Under: Tips & Tricks | No Comments

How Football Can Help Us Build and Grow Our Business

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With football season now in full swing, fans across the country are watching their favorite teams fight for a shot at postseason glory. Football is a sport that requires athletic prowess, analytical skill, and a considerable amount of strategizing. As such, there are many lessons we can apply to the business world. Here are just a few to consider.

Study the competition

Football teams are known for their intense studies of opposing teams. Coaches and players alike will spend hours analyzing footage from past games to get a feel for how their opponents work together, what plays they go to frequently, and what strengths and weaknesses they bring to the field. They use this information to develop their own strategies and to see where their opportunities lie.

As business leaders, we should do the same. It’s not enough to just occasionally glance at the websites of the competition. Instead, we should be analyzing their moves, seeing what works for them and what doesn’t, discovering where they’re failing their clients, and finding whatever else we can glean to help us compete more effectively. This insight will give us the tools we need to make our own businesses stronger, as we compete for customers and leads.

Build a balanced team

Successful football teams look for talented players in every position. Having four starting quarterbacks but no safeties will do a football team no good. The team needs to be balanced and account for every position. When games are starting, how often do we hear comments about how one team will be at a disadvantage because a particular player or two are out due to illness or injury?

The same principle applies to business. Successful companies account for every position, too. This includes:

  • leaders who can help the company see and attain its vision
  • financial experts who are good at accounting and planning budgets to help the organization make the most of its resources
  • marketing and sales professionals who excel at generating leads and bringing in new paying customers to help the business grow

Have a good leader

On the football field, effective leaders are essential. The coaches are responsible for developing the playbook and strategizing what plays to use. A good coach can work magic with a mediocre team, while a bad coach can have a losing season even with the strongest of players. The quarterback is another key position. Quarterbacks are responsible for leading the team on the field, implementing the plays the coach dictates, and keeping the team working together.

In business, leaders are equally important. They must be able to see the company vision and guide those around them toward that outcome. Talents in strategizing, encouraging others, and working in
groups are all important for leaders. Cultivate these talents among your staff, especially those in leadership positions, to maximize the potential of your company.

When it comes to organizing a business, football has many lessons it can teach. Keep these lessons in mind as you tune into this season’s games, and see just how much you end up learning.

Date: 26th September, 2014 | Under: Tips & Tricks | No Comments

Applying the Lessons You Learned During Your First Weeks of College

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Imagine it’s your first day of college. You enter campus, not knowing anyone. You find your way to your dorm room and review your class schedule and campus map to try and figure out where you need to go. You listen to the chatter of hundreds, if not thousands of new classmates outside your door. The whole process can feel more than a little overwhelming. You somehow need to find new friends in this home away from home, but when not a single face looks familiar, that can be easier said than done. How do you find people you like? How do you start forming relationships?

Chances are you begin by looking for people with common interests. If you’re into fitness, that might mean spending time at the gym on your free time. If you’re into a specific sport, you might try out for a team or get involved in a recreational league. If sports aren’t your thing, you might find clubs and groups that cater to your other interests. When you find people who share your interests, you start to build the relationships that will carry you through the rest of your academic career.

How you can apply the lessons you learned in college

The same principles apply to building your customer base. When you first begin building your company, you’re like that new kid on campus. You need to find people interested enough in you and what you have to offer that they’ll want to build a relationship with you. These relationships will be the key to finding new customers.

Where to go to find your niche

The key to successful marketing is finding your niche and building potential relationships. In school, you found those people by joining clubs, participating in sports teams, and taking part in activities where you would be likely to meet others with similar ideas and interests as you. When developing a marketing plan, you need to do the same thing.

Begin by determining the type of people you want to attract. Identify key characteristics of potential customers and use that information to find them. Learn what your potential customers are interested in, what concerns them, and where they like to hang out. Social media is a fantastic tool for finding potential customers and jumping into the community.

Social media offers access to groups, trending topics, and other useful insights you can use to pinpoint your desired audience while also finding meaningful dialogue that can help you better meet the needs of your customers. Use these resources to start building relationships. Just like that lonely freshman in college, you want to begin by starting the conversation. Become a familiar face to those in the crowd. Ask people about themselves and listen to what they have to say in response. Use that information to build your value. Show these new potential customers how you can help them solve their problems.

Finding a core audience and a niche to grow your business can seem intimidating, but it doesn’t have to be overwhelming. Think of how you handled your first weeks on campus. You focused on finding others with similar interests and started conversations to begin developing relationships with them. Many of these same tactics will also work in the business world. Focus on building relationships, and the rest will follow.

Date: 23rd September, 2014 | Under: Marketing, Tips & Tricks | No Comments

Business Lessons From The Great Gatsby

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The Great Gatsby is considered an American classic. Its recent film adaptation starring Leonardo DiCaprio has only increased its popularity. Few students in North America made it through high school without reading the book, and the film only helped to bring the images of decadence to life.

F. Scott Fitzgerald’s story takes place on Long Island during the 1920s. A mysterious millionaire named Jay Gatsby holds luxurious parties on a regular basis, all in the hopes of drawing his old lover, now married to another, to his home so he can rekindle the romance. Over the course of the novel, it becomes apparent that Gatsby has made his money participating in illegal activities, such as bootlegging, and has surrounded himself with an unsavory crowd of people who seem to care only about where the money for the next party will come from.

In the end, all the money in the world can’t save Gatsby from an untimely demise.

What we can learn from The Great Gatsby

Networking

Gatsby understood the importance of networking. He used his connections to build a reputation among the people of the fictional town of West Egg. His network even managed to bring him into contact with his old love, which was the ultimate goal of his parties and wealth.

Every business professional should leverage networking to build their company. It’s impossible to do business in a bubble. Networking will put you in touch with others in your industry who you might end up working with, as well as potential customers and clients.

Goals

Gatsby’s entire career was focused on reconnecting with his past love. He kept his eyes always focused on this prize and strategically worked to achieve it. From building his wealth to throwing his parties, his life was centered around this key goal.

Hopefully, your long-term goals are more business-oriented than Gatsby’s, but even so, it’s still important to keep your eyes focused on achieving them. Don’t get distracted or caught up in some new fad if it doesn’t help your company achieve its goals. Goals can change and adapt, but it’s important to always keep your eyes forward.

A strong foundation

Gatsby managed to build a wealthy empire for himself. However, this empire had a horrible foundation. He had built everything on an illegal enterprise and associations with people of questionable character. While he may have had good business sense, he still tried to take the easy way out — to build his wealth without having to develop an honest business.

When building your business, focus on establishing a strong foundation around a network of reputable business associates, strong products and services, and outstanding customer relations. Don’t take shortcuts. They’ll only come back to hurt you in the end.

The Great Gatsby is a classic novel that explores the world of the roaring twenties. It can be tempting to dismiss the moral lessons as products of a bygone era. For those of us in business, however, there are many things we can learn from Gatsby’s triumphs and failures. No professional should overlook them.

Date: 17th September, 2014 | Under: Tips & Tricks | No Comments

How to Say No to a Client

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The idea of saying ‘no’ to a client can seem counter-intuitive. You’re trying to grow your business, after all. But there are times when speaking up and turning down a request or deciding not to work on a particular project might be good for your company’s long-term growth. The key is learning how to gauge these situations so you can successfully focus on growing your business without worrying about problematic clients or requests. Here are three situations where you should definitely consider the benefits of saying no.

You know the client’s idea won’t work

Clients come to you because they know you’re an expert in your field. That means they trust you to know what you’re talking about when it comes to the industry. Sometimes, having that knowledge means you have to point out to a client that their grand idea isn’t as great as they thought.

Speaking up can be difficult, especially when dealing with a new client. You have to worry about feelings and trust. Consider the alternative, however. If you say nothing and complete the task precisely how the client requested it, and then the initiative falls flat on its face, who do you think the client will blame?

Protect everyone involved and carefully lay out your opinion and thoughts about a project before you even get started. Hopefully you and your client will be able to develop a plan that will be more likely to deliver results. In the process, you’ll protect your reputation while also sharing your industry wisdom, and any client worth working with will respect you more for it.

What the client’s asking for isn’t worth the money

These types of traps are easy to fall into for inexperienced newcomers to any industry. Thinking that some work is better than no work, it’s easy to get talked into taking projects that don’t pay nearly enough for the time and effort needed to complete them. But instead of accepting this type of project, try to negotiate a better rate, outlining exactly how much time and effort the project will take. If the client refuses to accept a more reasonable wage, let them go. Chances are, your time will be much better spent working on building a stronger portfolio, marketing, or any other task that can help you find new, well-paying clients. Have respect for your industry and for your own work, and refuse to work with people who don’t share that regard.

What they’re asking for is outside your expertise

There’s something to be said for expanding your skills and knowledge, but know when to say when. If a client asks for a job that’s too far outside your area of expertise, resist the temptation to try ‘winging it’ for the extra money. Otherwise, you’ll risk your professional reputation and the client’s trust. Instead, work with the client to find a trustworthy professional who can work with you to complete the project for the client. The client will appreciate your help and honesty. As an added bonus, the professional you referred the client to will appreciate the extra business and (hopefully) reciprocate down the line.

When struggling to grow a business, nothing is more tempting than finding as many clients as possible. Often this type of desperation can lead to accepting work you’d otherwise never do or agree with. To keep your business moving forward, it’s important to know how to correctly gauge and balance requests and be willing to sometimes say no. Use the above three instances as a starting guide to improve your client relationships and grow the business.

Date: 14th September, 2014 | Under: Marketing, Tips & Tricks | No Comments

Is It Possible to Succeed in an Over-Saturated Industry?

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The Internet makes it easy to see just how many businesses are vying to compete in an increasingly competitive atmosphere. At times, it seems there’s a business or product for just about any want or need. So how do some people manage to successfully establish new companies and find their way to positions of leadership in this hyper-competitive marketplace? How is it possible to break in when it seems as though your industry is already saturated?

Determine what unique qualities you have to offer

Think back to why you got involved in your industry. Chances are there was something about this particular business that piqued your interest — some aspect about it that made you know you could succeed. Perhaps you saw some unique ability or talent in yourself that you knew others couldn’t match. Uncovering that ability and finding ways to market it are the first steps to building your niche.

As consumers, we’re increasingly aware of all the options available to us to buy products from just about any vendor anywhere. While this can make it daunting as a business owner to think about just how much competition we have online, it also makes it easier to find a specific niche to fill.

Your niche might consist of just a few thousand people around the world. Before the Internet, it would have been impossible to reach those people and have a productive business. With the Internet, however, you can now market to your specific niche and build a successful company.

Develop personal relationships online and in person

Personal relationships are more critical now than ever before. Customers expect to be able to speak with you, ask any questions they have, and receive specific answers quickly. While many companies have begun to realize this important truth, many are still lagging behind. Taking the time to develop this kind of relationship with customers can help you stand out against the competition. It can also help nurture customer loyalty, which will provide added stability as your company grows.

As you’re building relationships, make sure you’re also nurturing contacts within your community. Sponsor local groups, charities, and events. This is a great way to connect with people on a personal level and encourage them to try your company. Such connections help to build brand awareness and recognition in the community. That way, when people are ready to make a purchase, they’ll be more likely to turn to you because of your constant presence and overall standing in the community.

Use every tool at your disposal

You have a number of tools at your disposal for getting the word out about your company. When you’re competing in a tight industry, you need to take advantage of them all. As you’re designing your logo and marketing materials, use color psychology to create the best possible impression on potential customers.

You can also use the modern tools of website design to your advantage. Track your visitors and find out where they’re coming from and why they are or aren’t making purchases. The better you understand your customers’ actions, the more you can do to improve your marketing and services to reach them.

It’s not easy to find your way to success when it seems as though there’s already a business to address any problem out there. Take advantage of the above techniques, and it just might be possible to be successful in an already saturated industry. Contact us today if you’re interested in learning more about how our marketing techniques can help you get ahead.

Date: 31st August, 2014 | Under: Marketing, Tips & Tricks | No Comments

Making Your Company Stand Out From the Crowd

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Most industries today are teeming with competitors, each offering a slightly different take on their products and services. In this environment, it can be difficult to imagine how you’ll ever make your products, services, and company stand out against the chaos. It is, however, possible.

Construct your advertising wisely

Customers see thousands of ads every day in just about every aspect of their lives. Whether browsing online, commuting, watching TV, or listening to the radio, customers find companies vying for their attention all the time. In this environment, it’s easy to see how customers get in the habit of just tuning out all the noise. To be successful, you must find ways to overcome that tendency. So how do you do it?

  1. Design ads that look nothing like those of your competitors. If your ads bear too much resemblance to other ads on the market, they’re much more likely to get overlooked.
  2. Make sure you integrate your ads across all campaigns. Once customers see so many ads, they tend to only glance at them. If your campaigns don’t use the same colors and themes, customers will be less likely to put them together and pay attention to what they say. By integrating them, customers get a consistent message across all platforms, which will help them absorb the message.
  3. Use a logo that’s visually appealing and represents your business well. Many companies, especially small businesses, tend to overlook the importance of their logos. However, logos tend to be one of the first things customers notice on advertising. A well-planned logo is excellent for branding. When the logo helps customers associate your business with your industry, they’ll start to form strong associations with your brand.

Tell customers what makes you different

We’ve all heard how important it is to find a niche within your industry and use what makes you unique to appeal to customers, but you should also take this a step further. Identify what makes you different. That might be where your products are made (made in the USA?), how they are made (fair trade? natural preservatives?), or how they can help customers solve a problem in their lives (increase sales?). Use that difference as a key point in your advertising.

Get out in the community

Companies that get out and involved in their communities will find their brand recognition soar, with sales following closely behind. There are numerous ways you can get involved in your community. You might sponsor a local kids’ sports team, a local charity run, or some similar event. You could set up a table at the yearly town picnic or sponsor a float in the town’s Memorial Day parade. All of these techniques will help you raise awareness within your community and show how much you care about the people you serve. The result: a better reputation and more chances to develop relationships with potential customers.

Your company might be competing within an oversaturated industry, but that doesn’t mean you have to be just another face in the crowd. Use the suggestions outlined above to get started building your own brand recognition and reputation. If you’re ready to get started with a new marketing campaign, give us a call or drop us an email today. We’d be happy to help you reach more customers.

Date: 3rd August, 2014 | Under: Marketing, Tips & Tricks | No Comments


 

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