Archive for the Tips & Tricks Category

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

Following the Leader Wherever He May Go….

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One pervasive characteristic most people share is the desire to belong. Children in school often develop close-knit groups of friends as a way to satisfy this need. Even in our professional lives, the desire to be part of the crowd continues.

A major component of this desire is the tendency to follow the decisions made by group leaders. This explains why trends in fashion, music, and business can spread so quickly.

People come to trust certain brands based on the opinions of those they respect within their peer group. As a marketer, you can tap into this phenomenon to help your own products and services succeed. Here are just a few ways to make the most of people’s desire to follow the crowd.

Reviews

Product reviews are huge. An estimated 70 percent of Americans say they look at product reviews when considering items to purchase. Many of these people trust product reviews nearly as much as they would recommendations from people they know personally. Positive product reviews can help show customers that yours is a product worth their investment.

Start by asking customers to leave reviews after a sale. Then advertise those reviews on your website and marketing materials. If your company has positive ratings from organizations like the BBB or Angie’s List, make sure you present that information prominently, too.

Along similar lines, user-generated content, such as blog posts, testimonials, and YouTube reviews, can hold considerable weight with new customers. Try to spark new content by holding user-generated content contests, where winners receive coupons or a special promotion.

Social media mentions and shares

Given the penetration of social media, it makes sense that social media mentions and shares can attract lots of attention for your company and its brand. Use monitoring tools to track the number of times your products or services are mentioned online. Encourage people to share content you publish on their social media pages. Add social media sharing options at the bottom of blog posts, newsletter articles, product pages, and other key content areas of your website. All of these can be great ways to capitalize on this phenomenon.

Statistics

Statistics are a fantastic way to get a second look from potential customers. User statistics can show you how your products or services already appeal to the crowd. Track down and leverage whatever your most positive statistics may be. These could include anything from blog readership to how long you’ve been in business to customer retention rates. Any statistics that help to establish an air of legitimacy can (and should) be used to leverage the power of the crowd.

Humans are by nature social creatures. We tend to seek out social groups that make us feel like we’re part of something larger than ourselves. We also tend to follow the lead of those around us and trust the opinions of our peers. Keeping these dynamics in mind and finding ways to leverage their power is essential to effective product marketing.

Date: 27th July, 2014 | Under: Marketing, Tips & Tricks | No Comments

Taking an X-Ray of your Business

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From the time the x-ray was invented around the turn of the 20th century, people have been fascinated by the capacity of these rays to capture what lies beneath the skin. When the technology is used by doctors, it can help determine if bones are broken, detect disorders or illnesses, or see how well a broken bone is healing.

As business leaders, we must sometimes look at our own businesses with x-ray eyes: uncovering and treating problems beneath the surface before they get out of hand or cause permanent damage.

Uncovering problems

Few businesses run perfectly. As any company grows, it will experience bumps, bruises, and hiccups along the way. Part of running the business involves being able to lead the company through these times, so you can come out the other side stronger and better prepared for the future. Many times, this involves easy fixes. Perhaps a new employee is needed to handle greater demand or a policy might need to be tweaked to adapt to an evolving workflow.

Sometimes, however, problems are not so easy to fix. Take, for example, customer service. We’ve all experienced times (as customers) when we’ve felt like we’re being passed around from person to person, trying to find a simple answer to our question. By the time we get our answer, we’re so frustrated with the process that we end up completely annoyed with the company. This damages the company reputation and may even cause us to stop doing business with them.

As a business leader, you need to realize that these kinds of deep, penetrating problems cannot be fixed with simple, one-size-fits-all solutions. Sometimes, you need to look deeper and see where the ‘bone’ is broken — and how badly — before you can begin to treat the symptoms and heal your company. Only after you have a clearer picture of what’s really going on can you find the right way to fix the problem and make your company stronger for the long run.

Making the repair

If your company is facing a major problem that can’t be fixed easily, don’t be afraid to go back and start over in finding the solution. While it can certainly be intimidating to think about how long the process will take and how much potential revenue you might lose along the way, it’s important to remember that taking the time to complete these repairs properly will make your company stronger over the long haul. This, in turn, will help to boost revenue and make up for lost time. Companies that neglect to make difficult but necessary changes often find themselves losing money (and customers).

So how can you go about fixing tough problems? Start with these steps.

  1. Sit down and plan out exactly what your end goal will be. Providing higher-quality customer service is one possible example.
  2. Work backwards to generate ideas about how this goal can be reached. This will typically involve doing industry research and learning more about what the competition does to accomplish a similar aim.
  3. Educate and retrain all members of the organization about the new methods and procedures, so everyone is on the same page, even those who aren’t directly involved with the affected areas.
  4. Invite feedback from customers and employees to see how well the changes are working.

Growing a business sometimes means being willing to go back to the drawing board to see how a key part of the business can be changed and repaired to make it stronger in the future. Don’t be afraid to ‘x-ray’ your business and find ways to help it grow in the years to come.

Date: 13th July, 2014 | Under: Tips & Tricks | No Comments

Carpe Diem: An Important Business Mantra

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Recognizing and grasping the right opportunities is important in nearly every aspect of business. Taking bold action at just the right time can take a company from decent to extraordinary, from paying the bills to thriving. In some cases, success itself can hinge on a single connection or contract that opens the floodgates.

If you’ve been around the business world very long, you know that success is not completely predictable. Some companies with very talented leadership and great ideas never seem to get out of the starting gate, while other companies with lesser talent manage to make it all the way to the top of their industry. The difference often boils down to knowing how to recognize opportunities and then having the courage to take them.

Recognizing opportunity

So how can you ensure you’re taking advantage of the right opportunities? The first priority is understanding your niche in the marketplace. Make sure you have a clear idea of how you’re serving customers and what you’re doing to stand out from the competition. This will help you recognize those unique chances when they come along.

Next, make sure you’re always on alert. That doesn’t mean you need to work perpetually and check email constantly, wherever you are. It does mean, however, that you must remain alert to opportunities in unexpected places. For example, if you’re out at a restaurant and strike up a conversation with another patron, recognize and take advantage of any opportunity you find for a business contact. Similarly, if you’re receiving goods or services from another company and notice some way that your company could help them improve, speak up and offer your suggestions. This is no time to be shy or second guess yourself. Strike while the iron’s hot, as the saying goes.

Don’t expect every opportunity to be perfect. Most won’t be. But that doesn’t mean they aren’t worth your time. Being right and being perfect aren’t one and the same. Those imperfect opportunities are often enough to help you grow your business.

Recognizing opportunities and having the courage to walk up and seize them can make an enormous difference in the success of your business. Playing it safe might allow you to pay the bills, but it will also limit your potential growth. Learn how to recognize the appropriate opportunities, take courage, and see just how high your company can go.

Date: 1st July, 2014 | Under: Marketing, Tips & Tricks | No Comments

Making Friends and Finding Customers: Using the Same Process to Find Both

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Young children tend to be relatively indiscriminate when it comes to making friends. As long as the other child is remotely interested in playing the game at hand, they tend to quickly run off together at a playground. As people grow up, however, they tend to become a little more selective when it comes to choosing friends. As we age, we look for people who share interests with us and possess a similar life outlook. When we find people who share these particular qualities, we begin to form relationships and bond with them.

Why we care about finding friends with similar interests

We seek friends who share our interests because these common touch points make it easy to find things to discuss with them. Friends who share our interests can anticipate our needs, answer our questions, and engage us in a way that people with whom we have nothing in common cannot.

Of course, these similarities don’t have to revolve around particular activities. Sometimes, personality traits or beliefs will draw us to our closest friends. But in all cases, there’s something we find engaging and significant in the other person when we begin to form a friendship.

Relationships with companies

For your company to be successful, you must build relationships with your potential customers. Understanding the dynamics of friendship can make this easier. Similar to the process of meeting new friends, your company must seek out potential customers who have particular characteristics that align with your buyer personas.

Just as a person seeks new friends by participating in activities they enjoy, you, must look for new potential customers in areas where those prospects tend to congregate. This might mean going to Twitter if you’re trying to reach the college-age crowd or to the daily commuter newspaper to reach middle-aged commuters on the metro. Knowing where to go to meet potential customers will make an enormous difference in the success of your marketing campaign.

Once a new customer has been introduced to your company, the relationship will need to be nurtured, so it can grow. There are a number of techniques you can use here. For example, providing a regular stream of content that offers value to customers will help them grow to trust your company to answer their questions and provide them with the services they require. Compelling content will also keep bringing customers back to your website or physical place of business. The more they return and are exposed to the company brand, the more willing they will be to do business with you.

You can also build relationships with customers by encouraging camaraderie among them. When customers feel like part of an exclusive group, they tend to have greater feelings of customer loyalty and are more likely to become repeat customers.

Building friendships typically involves finding people who share particular traits in common. You naturally use those traits to build a relationship you come to rely upon and trust. Similar techniques need to be used when building a customer base. Seek people with particular characteristics that match your identified consumer personas, then work to nurture those relationships and encourage people to return time and again. If you think of finding customers like finding friends, you should have great success building a marketing campaign.

Date: 24th June, 2014 | Under: Tips & Tricks | No Comments

What Marketers Can Learn at the Farmers’ Market

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Imagine walking into a farmers’ market. Like many other visitors making their way through the stalls, you’ve become increasingly concerned about where your food comes from and the techniques used to grow it. The farmers’ market offers you a distinct advantage because here you can actually speak with the people who grew or raised the food you’re looking to buy. You can ask them questions.

You approach the first stall. The farmer offers a variety of foods — fruits, vegetables, and even a bit of meat and cheese. You try to ask some questions about what pesticides were used when the plants were growing, what the animals ate, and whether or not the chickens were allowed to roam. The farmer seems annoyed by your questions. He gives you gruff, brief answers that don’t really address your concerns but seem focused instead on getting you to make a purchase or move along.

The next stall is similar, except you note that the prices are about 10%-20% higher. Still, you reach out to the farmer behind the counter and start asking questions. What a difference! The farmer comes out from behind the counter and tells you all about the methods he uses to grow and raise his different livestock and crops. He explains what safeguards he has in place to protect the consumer’s health and the experience he has in the field.

The time comes for you to make a purchase. Who are you more likely to buy from? Is it the farmer who just pushed you to buy or the farmer you’ve begun to trust because of his helpfulness, even if he does charge a few cents more? For most people, the answer is going to be the second. When people form bonds with merchants and begin to feel as though they can trust them, they become increasingly likely to buy from those vendors. This same concept should be incorporated into all your marketing campaigns.

Helping to build a relationship of trust

Becoming a source of answers and an authority in the industry for potential customers is a critical part of building this relationship. This often involves building plenty of valuable content online that customers can turn to when they have questions. Content that adds value helps customers begin to trust a company, their products, and their knowledge of the industry. When a single company has the answers a customer is looking for time and time again, there’s little question who they’ll turn to when they’re ready to make a purchase.

One way to build this kind of relationship is by working to become a regular community figure. Look for events or people you can sponsor to help get your company name in front of potential customers on a regular basis. Being available in person to answer questions for potential customers is one of the best types of marketing.

You should similarly take advantage of networking opportunities and work to establish friendships with many other professionals. As you nurture these relationships, remember that you’re building for the future, too. Even if you don’t get any immediate sales from a contact, they’ll be far more inclined to turn to you in the future if they know you’re someone they can trust.

Taking the time to build relationships with potential customers — by answering their questions, providing them with quality content, and even forming friendships — is a wonderfully easy way to grow your business. People naturally turn to the people they trust in business, so follow the same rules as the helpful farmer in the farmers’ market, and begin to improve your own marketing techniques.

Date: 20th June, 2014 | Under: Marketing, Tips & Tricks | No Comments

Marketing Your Brand to Every Palate

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One of the joys of eating out as a family is the opportunity to let each person choose their own meal. For those with a bit more daring palate, that might mean trying something new. For others, it might mean ordering an old standby they know they’ll enjoy. In either case, the person is more likely to enjoy their dining experience because they have the chance to order something that suits their own individual taste.

Distinct appetites and marketing

Just as every person has their own unique palate when it comes to food, your customers have their own appetites when it comes to how they want to receive your marketing messages. Keep this in mind as you plan your marketing campaigns. Work to tailor your message (and media) to address the needs of the various types of customers you’re trying to reach.

Begin the process by developing several key buyer or customer personas. Your marketing campaigns should be carefully tailored to address the particular characteristics each of those personas share. For example, if you’re marketing for a bank, the ads you use to reach consumers looking to save time checking their balances and making deposits might not be the same ads you would use to reach consumers searching for information on a reverse mortgage.

In the same way, try to tailor your campaigns to address the platforms your customers are using to access your information. Emphasize web links and clickable phone numbers on mobile websites, email addresses and phone numbers on standard web pages, and easy-to-remember URLs on print ads and brochures. For direct mail marketing, target your campaigns based on demographic information, such as income levels, number of children, location, and so on.

The more precise you can make your campaign, the more likely it will be to succeed. Customers appreciate it when they feel as though a marketing campaign addresses their unique concerns and problems. When customers see advertisements that don’t apply to them, they tend to ignore them. In some cases, they may even get completely turned off by the company involved. Taking the time to tailor your ads to address the needs of different groups of potential customers is the best way to start gaining new customers and improve the visibility of your company.

Whether it’s a night out with the family at a favorite restaurant or a marketing campaign aimed at gaining new customers, remembering the individual tastes of the people involved always makes good sense. A well-planned, well-focused, multifaceted campaign leaves customers feeling appreciated and increases the chance of reaching them when they’re ready to buy. If you’re ready to get started with your next marketing campaign, reach out to us to see how we can help you make it happen.

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


 

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