Your Willingness to Accept Feedback Will Affect All Areas Of Your Business

ThinkstockPhotos-637152194.jpgMany people make the mistake of assuming that feedback automatically equates to complaining. After all, people tend to not speak up about issues unless the topic reaches a boiling point, right? In reality, feedback doesn’t have to be like this at all. When given properly, feedback is constructive and can help to both reinforce what you’re doing right and pinpoint what you may be doing wrong.

No one is immune from the concept of feedback because no one is perfect. When you learn to accept feedback (regardless of where it is coming from or how positive or negative it may be) it will have a dramatic effect on all areas of your business.

Accepting Feedback Helps Employees Feel Engaged

A willingness to accept feedback has a direct relationship with something all business leaders should be concerned about: employee engagement. Feedback goes beyond open and honest communication and enters into a realm where employees are free to speak their minds when they feel it is necessary to do so.

If employees don’t feel like they can come to you with issues they see as essential, it can have a negative effect on your entire business. According to one study conducted by Execu-Search, 42 percent of all employees feel like company leadership does NOT contribute to a positive company culture. This goes a long way towards explaining why, according to a Gallup study, 51 percent of the U.S. workforce is not engaged.

The most alarming statistic of all is that these types of disengaged employees cost businesses between $450 billion and $550 billion annually. As a leader, this is the type of situation that you’re creating for yourself by being unwilling to accept feedback from those around you. Even if you don’t agree with something that an employee has to say, just the fact that you’re willing to listen to them goes a long way towards keeping morale (and company culture) as strong as it can be.

Feedback Acknowledges the Importance of Continued Learning

Feedback is also critical to the modern business for the simple reason that it sets the tone for everything that comes next. It’s less about your willingness to listen and more about showing that you’re always looking for ways to improve, to do better, to make stronger decisions, and to increase your performance.

Luckily, it isn’t hard to accept feedback at all, and you get can plenty of practice because it’s around us all the time. Every time you’re talking to an employee, or a customer, or a vendor, you’re getting feedback. Going out of your way to hear it can help make employees feel more valued, which in turn motivates them to work harder. It can also make your customers feel more valued, which strengthens your long-term relationships.

This type of actionable information is crucial for you to make stronger, more informed decisions in your position moving forward. Going out of your way to get constant, honest, and (yes, sometimes) raw feedback helps make sure that your actions are aligned with the goals of your business.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The Art of Time-Blocking: A Simple Tip to Revolutionize Your Productivity

ThinkstockPhotos-610773854.jpgMost people just aren’t that good at multitasking. Trying to remain focused (and organized) is one of the most significant time wasters, especially in the life of a business professional. When you try to do too many things at the same time, you become a “Jack of all Trades, Master of None.” Just when you’re trying to get work done on that big project, another email comes in that you have to respond to. You hop over to your email client and suddenly the phone is ringing, or you realize that you have to proof a new design before it heads out the door. It’s maddening.

Thankfully, there is a better way. By adopting the fine art of time-blocking, you may have just found the simple, yet effective technique you’ve been looking for to unlock a bold new era of productivity in both your personal and professional life.

What is Time-Blocking?

At its core, time-blocking is the idea that you should segment your day into clearly defined (and strictly adhered to) blocks of productivity. Organize the tasks you need to complete by category and set aside a specific amount of time for those categories each day.

If you feel like you’re spending an unfortunate amount of time responding to emails every day at the expense of everything else, set aside 9:00 am to 10:00 am every morning to just focus on emails. Devote every ounce of your attention to this one task and when it’s over, move onto the next one. Outside of the occasional emergency, don’t respond to emails for the rest of the day. Get it done, and then move on.

The Benefits

The beauty of time-blocking falls into two distinct categories. First, it’s an incredibly effective way to eliminate distraction. Instead of trying to divide your attention between ten little tasks, it’s almost like you’re tackling just one big one (i.e. emails, and nothing more). Not only do you get those initial tasks done faster, but the ultimate quality of your output is also much higher because you’re no longer trying to do too many things at once.

Next, time-blocking is also an excellent way to build up a strong sense of momentum that will carry you through the rest of your day. As you begin to move from block to block, you’ll constantly be surprised by just how much you’re getting done. This wave of productivity (not to mention the wave of euphoria) builds on itself, driving things home towards the finish line (and the end of the work day).

Success Comes When You Look Ahead

Another one of the keys to success regarding time-blocking is a little bit of forward thinking. This isn’t something you can make up on the fly. You need to consider the types of tasks you need to do each day and what you have to get done by week’s end. Look ahead a little bit and make a list of your top priorities. Then, separate those into categories and get down to business.

Remember, it’s important to be honest with yourself. Time-blocking won’t suddenly create an extra hour in your day, but it will help you make better use of the hours you already have. If you try to add too many things to your list to the point where it becomes unrealistic, you’ll end up working against your goal and not towards it. You’ll quickly begin to feel overwhelmed, which is something that you do not want.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The Quarterly Audit: Why It’s Always Good to Give Your Print Collateral a Once-Over a Few Times a Year

ThinkstockPhotos-508917258.jpgAn opportunity that far too many people don’t take advantage of is the idea of a quarterly audit. Don’t worry; it has nothing to do with your taxes. Instead, it’s a process that you should go through a few times a year that provides you a chance to re-assess and re-evaluate. It’s a time where you force yourself to stop and think “This print mailer was designed in January, and it worked great in January. It’s April, now. What needs to change?”

Stop and Smell the Roses

When performing an audit of your print marketing materials, make a list of everything that has changed since the last time you had the chance to re-evaluate things. How have your business goals shifted in the last few months? Have you accomplished more or less than you thought you were going to at this point? What does your average customer look like today, as opposed to three months ago? How have your campaigns been performing?

If you can provide business-specific answers to questions like these, you create for yourself a valuable context that you can then use to make the right, actionable decisions regarding things like design and distribution moving forward. What you’re doing is taking a process typically completed at the end of the year, looking backward and seeing what worked and what didn’t, and then forcing yourself to do it as often as you can.

Trends and Best Practices

Another reason why the idea of the quarterly audit is so important is that, by and large, the world of print marketing is changing rapidly. New technologies, techniques, tips and best practices are emerging all the time. Taking the time to go back over everything you’ve done so far a few times a year gives you a chance to incorporate all of this into your workflow as soon as you can.

Think about it this way: maybe you designed new buyer personas in January with an aim towards attracting a different type of customer. You’ve produced everything with those buyer personas in mind, trying to maintain a consistent voice across all collateral. If things aren’t working quite right and need some tweaking, would you rather know in April or wait until December?

In the end, what you’re doing is strengthening your foundation. Many people use January 1 as a great chance for a “fresh start.” It’s a time where you stop and think about where you are, where you want to be, and how you’re going to get there. If you do this multiple times per year, however, it puts you in a much better position to be responsive to both internal and external changing factors. Above all else, it’s an opportunity to make sure that you’re still headed down the path that was important to you on January 1, if that path is still important to you at all.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The One-Trick Pony Syndrome

ThinkstockPhotos-JE9171-001.jpgHave you ever heard the phrase, “a one-trick pony?”

Researchers believe the “one-trick pony” phrase comes from an entertainment background. According to research, the earliest reference was associated with circus ponies used to perform a trick or feat that impressed audiences. The ponies involved could do an amazing act, such as walking on their hind feet, but that was all they could do. Eventually, the audiences got bored with the show. In one version of the story, a pony had a dog partner that would ride on it. While the audience got sick of seeing the pony do the same thing every time the circus was in town, the dog gained fame because it learned and began to perform new tricks. In time, the dog became the star, and the pony was relegated to hauling circus carts.

Is Your Business A One-Trick Pony?

The moral of the story here is not to allow your business to get stuck on only one good thing. It’s tempting to think that if you have something good going, why ruin it? Well, over time that good thing will become less and less popular. The number of customers who want it will diminish and the business will have to start cutting prices to keep it attractive. Eventually, the product or service won’t sell at all.

Palm PDAs and Blackberry were both perfect examples of the one-trick pony mistake. They both had a really good product for a while, but both companies failed to upgrade and develop new products. Eventually, someone else did, and their customer base walked away. Those text screens on a Blackberry and similarly on a Palm PDA simply looked old and obsolete versus smartphones like the original Apple iPhone. The world had changed.

It’s Time to Diversify

Is your business riding the wave right now of a star pony? If so, now is the time to be looking for and generating a new path. Diversify into a new product or new service. Not only does it protect your business’ longevity, but multiple revenue streams from different customers will eventually offset each other when one of them starts to weaken.

Companies that map out their product/service life cycle and plan for eventual loss with replacement “ponies” are the firms that survive and grow. Don’t let all your energy, money, time, and effort go down the drain with a one-trick pony. Instead, use the initial success to be your springboard for the next one.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Learn How to Communicate on a Case-by-Case Basis for Better Results

_ThinkstockPhotos-76756624.jpgTo say that communication is important in the workplace is an understatement. This is true regardless of the type of business you’re running or even the industry you’re operating in. One study from McKinsey Global Institute found that not only does active communication bring people closer together in the workplace but in these types of situations productivity tends to improve between 20% and 25% on average.

At the same time, there is no “silver bullet” method to communication that will instantly get everyone on the same page. Only by looking to your employees as individuals, and playing to their own individual strengths and preferences, will you finally be able to see the communication gains that you so richly deserve.

Let the Employee Be Your Guide

Perhaps the most important thing for you to understand is that communication no longer means face-to-face conversations, -or at least it doesn’t exclusively. This is particularly the case regarding introverted employees, a staple at any organization.

Just because Ryan from Accounting doesn’t like to speak up in meetings doesn’t mean that he lacks communication skills. It just means that speaking in front of a group isn’t necessarily his forte. Instead of trying to force Ryan to adapt to your wishes, consider how Ryan would prefer to communicate.

Emails, memos, texting, one-on-one meetings, phone calls: these are all viable options regarding getting ideas across in the modern era. As a business leader, it’s not your job to get everyone to communicate the way you want to just because you prefer looking someone in the eyes when you tell them what they need to do next. It’s your job to make a note of the conditions that a person excels under and then do whatever you can to facilitate those needs whenever possible.

The Larger Implications of Communication

Consider the fact that according to one survey, an incredible 46% of employees said that they “rarely, if ever” leave a meeting knowing exactly what they’re supposed to do next. This is the danger of a “one size fits all” approach to communication. You end up becoming something of a “jack of all trades, master of none.”

One study revealed that 26% of employees think email is a major productivity killer. But when you reverse that, it means that 74% of employees think email is just fine. But it’s important not to create an “either/or” situation where one doesn’t have to exist. If you know that Robert is going to get the information he needs from an email, send away. If you know that Brenda is the type of employee who needs to sit down and talk out her next objective in person, be sure you make time for her in your schedule.

It’s up to you to find the right communication method that works for the individual so that everyone can be on the same page when it comes to contributing to the whole. 

It’s important to remember that according to a recent Gallup poll, 70% of employees in the United States said that they just weren’t engaged in work anymore. Creating an environment of open and honest communication is one of the keys to combating this issue head on. But you must also remember that no two employees are created equally.  An approach that works great for getting one employee to open up and become engaged in their work may be woefully inadequate for the next.

Only by making an effort to communicate on a case-by-case basis will you be able to generate a workplace where success is no longer a question of “if” but “when.”

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

What Happened to Summer?

Back-to-School Marketing Starts Earlier Than Ever

ThinkstockPhotos-669986094.jpgThe temperature is soaring, steaks sizzle on the grill, and kids play in the pool, but not everyone is thinking summer. Back to school season is starting earlier than ever for big retailers and the impact trickles over into all aspects of marketing. Both Office Depot and Land’s End launch back to school campaigns at the start of summer – in some cases before school even ended in some parts of the country.

This is a change even from last year; according to AdAge, 2016 saw back to school marketing head into full swing around the middle of July. Time magazine cites the need for retailers to make as many revenues as possible during the highest spending periods as the reason Black Friday, Halloween, and Back to School promotions are being scheduled earlier than ever before.

When does Back to School Begin?

Big retailers working on the premise that earlier is better have begun pushing back-to-school marketing back each year. Back to school is big business for retailers, since it is worth about 78 billion; it is second only to the major holidays for revenues, according to AdAge.

How Early is Too Early?

Office Depot’s back-to-school advertising rolled out June 25 of this year, a full three weeks earlier than 2016’s July launch. Other retailers are following suit, but there is some consumer backlash against the early push. Lands’ End received public criticism on social media when their back-to-school catalog dropped while kids in many parts of the country were still in school.

“We got your #backtoschool catalog in the mail. Our kids still have two weeks of school left this year! #fail #marketing,” tweeted Greg Magin.

@GregMagin helpfully tagged his rant with #fail, #backtoschool and #Marketing, so it was seen by far more than just his followers. This backlash from consumers shows that a too-early launch can backfire. Right now, the sweet spot for back-to-school marketing seems to be right after the 4th of July through the end of the month.

Back-to-school marketing is all about timing. Being aware of this pitfall, and of the enormous potential of this busy season, can help you make the most of Back to School season for your brand and ensure your organization has a visible presence during this often overlooked marketing opportunity.

Make Back to School Time Count for your Brand

Positioning your Back to School promotions in July and working to build not only sales but also awareness can help place you in front of consumers when they’re ready to outfit the kids for the next school year. Since most consumers begin searching online well before they part with actual money, building awareness ahead of this busy season can help you get the results you want without irritating consumers.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Craft More Compelling, More Emotional Presentations Today

ThinkstockPhotos-200402274-0011.jpgThe major goal of any piece of marketing collateral is to connect with your audience in a deep, meaningful way. This is true regardless of the specific type of marketing you’re talking about – from that terrific new flyer you just designed, to a banner, and beyond. Presentations are a particularly valuable format in this regard as they give you a nice opportunity to really dive a little deeper into certain subjects in a way that other mediums don’t allow.

However, the format is only a means to an end. If you really want to make sure that you’re crafting the most compelling, emotional presentations possible, there are a few key things you’ll want to keep in mind.

Find That Theme

Because presentations tend to be long form documents (at least in comparison to something like a flyer), you always want to make an effort to keep your “eye on the prize,” so to speak. Every presentation has a topic. That topic should be reinforced again and again by your primary theme. This is the main idea you’re trying to get across or the idea that you’re trying to help someone understand.

Once you’ve settled on your theme, EVERY component of your presentation needs to feed back into it. This will form the basic spine of your piece. Anything that isn’t directly related to that theme or the topic at hand has to go – no exceptions.

It’s a Visual World; We’re Just Living In It

Another essential step you want to take in your quest to craft more compelling, more emotional presentations involves including as many visual elements as possible. Remember that a presentation is not a white paper or a blog post – it is a medium that is perfect for relevant images and other visual content.

Human beings tend to be visual learners.  We can’t help it; it’s just the way our brains work. One study revealed that once someone had heard a piece of information, they usually only remembered about 10% of that content three days later. When that same information is paired with a relevant image, however, that number jumps to 65%.

In terms of presentation success, it’s hard to find a tip more valuable than relying on visuals. Visuals give people something to latch onto, something to break up big blocks of text and (more importantly) are naturally engaging. People even follow directions better when the content they’re reading is filled with pictures, so this is one of those major tips that you definitely don’t want to avoid.

These are just a couple of the major tips that you can use to craft more compelling, more emotional presentations. Remember that one of your top priorities as a marketer is always to get the right content in front of the right people at the right time. However, doing that is only half the battle.  Making sure that the content is as striking and as engaging as you can is another major component when it comes to getting people to make that ever-important sale.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment