A Royal Road to the Heart

A Royal Road to the Heart

“The royal road to a man’s heart is to talk to him about the thing he treasures most.”

Relationships are the backbone of everything we do, especially in business. Whether you intentionally network or avoid small talk like the plague, relationships are something you can’t afford to ignore. A Harvard University study showed that only 15% of the reason a person gets, keeps, or advances in a job is related to technical expertise, but a crushing 85% has to do with our interpersonal skills!

Networking is a Lifestyle

Here’s the good news: the best networking is what naturally occurs in authentic, real-life relationships. Networking isn’t just something you do at professional mixers or conventions, rather, connections that leverage results are the ones we build every day. Networking is not an event, it’s a lifestyle! However, daily networking means you may need to stretch yourself socially, which can be a challenge for Americans. The APA defines Social Phobia as an (irrational) fear of looking stupid, and social phobia is especially common in the United States. Social phobia can be healthy, acting as a “social glue” in relationships and protecting our reputation. But is there a down side? Does social phobia keep us from advancing? Maybe more than we think!

Conversations: The Critical Link to Success

“You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you.”

Conversations are a critical link in the chain of relationships that lead to success, so if you want to grow professionally you need to get over your nerves and genuinely enjoy people. Sweaty palms? That’s ok! The best way to conquer fear is to go out and get busy! Here is a wonderful visual memory “stack” to move conversations forward and empower you for more proactive, inspiring conversations.

The Conversational Stack

Visual #1: A huge brass nameplate.
Introductions start with names, and people love talking about themselves! Use names early and often.

Visual #2: Atop the nameplate sits a large white house.
Ask where someone lives or where they grew up. When people talk about their hometown they loosen up and you find many common connections.

Visual #3: Inside the house is a family playing board games by the fire.
Ask about family and important relationships!

Visual #4: On the fireplace is a large work glove and a clock.
Work and daily tasks are a huge part of identity. Chat about work, school, or how they spend their TIME.

Visual #5: The work glove holds the tail of an airplane.
Many people adore traveling and talk for hours about their adventures.

Visual #6: The propeller of the airplane is a tennis racket.
Ask people about leisure, hobbies, and what brings them joy.

Visual #7: The airplane propeller is attached by a lightbulb.
People love to discuss books they’ve read or concepts of interest. People think cool thoughts; encourage them to SHARE!

Visual #8: On the lightbulb stands a Private First-Class soldier.
If you want to genuinely connect, never forget to ask about Problems, Frustrations, and Concerns.

Visual #9: The soldier holds a football goal post and a trophy.
If you want to inspire, be sure to ask about goals, dreams, and accomplishments. Affirm and encourage people too!

A Guaranteed Return on Investment

Why make conversation? Because success stems from relationships, and great conversations always bring a 100% return. So, go enjoy people, and stop in to see us soon. We look forward to more wonderful conversations with you this year!

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Using Continuity to Strengthen Your Branding Efforts

<p>Your brand is a lot more than just a name or a logo. It’s the feeling that someone gets when they come into contact, any contact, with your organization. In fact, the thing that really increases engagement and drives loyalty isn’t your products or services (though, to be fair, they do help quite a bit) – it’s this idea of the larger brand itself.</p>

<p>Because someone could potentially have that experience with your brand, the idea of brand continuity could not be more important. Regardless of how someone interacts with your brand, it should all feel like it’s naturally coming from the same place at all times. To truly master the idea of using continuity to strengthen your branding efforts, there are a few key things you’ll need to keep in mind.</p>

<h3><strong>One Brand, One Voice – No Exceptions</strong></h3>

<p>Continuity means all of your marketing efforts need to feel as consistent as possible regardless of what those efforts happen to be. In the world of print marketing, this can be as simple as making sure that all of the fonts in your advertisements match (or at least reflect) the fonts on your actual products themselves. This can also encompass larger ideas, like if you revamp or redesign your company logo in one place you immediately roll it out everywhere at the same time to avoid confusion.</p>

<p>In a single word, your goal is “synchronicity.” Every marketing-related decision you make must serve two masters. First, it must be purpose-driven with a strategic move made with a specific payoff in mind. Secondly, you need to make sure that it is NOT a move that is ultimately at odds with the way you talk to customers, the relationship that you have with them, or the idea that they have of your brand to begin with. </p>

<h3><strong>A Great Persona Makes All the Difference</strong></h3>

<p>Brand personas are incredibly helpful in this regard because they allow you to laser-focus your messaging on a few of your “ideal” customers in a way that makes it much easier to maintain one voice. If you segment your target audience into groups that are each represented by a singular fictional persona, it makes it much easier to make consistent decisions across all of your efforts. You can both make sure that continuity is preserved for all materials targeted at those people, but you can also easily get a “bigger picture” look about how each individual effort plays off of and compliments the rest. </p>

<p>The impact of negative brand continuity isn’t limited to a customer getting their wire’s crossed. Eventually, this problem will create a challenge that is much harder to overcome – a total loss of brand value in general. Not only will this see fewer sales for your actual products and services, but the same will be true of any retailers that may sell your products as well. This, in turn, will create fractured relationships, which goes a long way towards putting you farther away from your goals, not closer to them.</p>

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You Don’t Demand Employee Trust. You Earn It.

ThinkstockPhotos-515603630.jpgCorporate culture is pretty much the key to everything in the world of business. According to a series of studies reported on by Forbes, nearly 90% of people who responded said that company culture was incredibly important for their firms. In fact, 92% said that they firmly believed that improving corporate culture would enhance the value of their business, while more than half of respondents said that corporate culture influences everything from productivity to creativity to profitability, value, growth and beyond.

At the same time, only 15% said that their company’s culture was where it needed to be.

It Begins at the Top

At first glance, these numbers may appear to be somewhat at odds with one another – but they really aren’t. Corporate culture begins at the top and, if anything, that 15% statistic can be attributed to one essential little word: trust. Leaders set the tone that affects the entire organization, and if employees don’t trust their leaders, they ultimately don’t trust the direction of the business that they’re devoting so much of their lives to.

Make no mistake: trust is not something that you can demand from your employees. It’s something that you have to earn – all day, every day. It’s also something that requires you to keep a few key things in mind.

Trust is a Privilege, Not a Right

Yes, you worked incredibly hard to become the leader that you are today. You put in long hours. You worked weekends. You devoted the majority of your life to your career and a constant push to achieve bigger and better things for yourself. Now you’re in charge of the proverbial ship, and everyone should just trust that you know what you’re doing by default, right?

There’s an old rule of storytelling that says that whenever possible, “show, don’t tell.” That essentially means that instead of having a character talk about some important development in the plot, SHOW the development instead by having them do something active. It’s why in “Star Wars,” instead of just having people stand around and talk about how bad the Death Star is, we see it blow up a planet to convey the same information in a much more active way.

This is the same mentality you need to adopt if you want to start earning the trust of your employees. If you make a mistake, don’t shift the blame – accept responsibility. Don’t ask any employee to do anything that you would be unwilling to do yourself. If you want people to come in on the weekend, you should also come in on the weekend. If you need your team to work long hours, guess what – you need to work them, too.

Show You Care

Every day, look for new opportunities to show your employees that you not only value what they do but that you’re all in this together. Remember that their productivity, hard work, and excellent performance needs to benefit more than just you and your career – it needs to positively impact them, too. They’re not going to follow you into battle because you tell them to. They have to want to do so.

The only way you can get to that point is if they trust you, and the only way you can get to THAT point is if you’re someone worth trusting. This simple distinction is often what separates a good leader from a great one.


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The Lessons Taught by The Movie “Office Space”

Close your eyes and picture this: On your early morning commute, you get stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic. Your senses are bombarded with horns honking, the sound of breaks squeaking, and the pungent smell of exhaust. Your reward for making it through this mess isn’t much better. Your individual cubicle awaits, lit only by artificial lights which have a way of making you look sick and feel hopeless. Once you arrive in your allotted space, you are faced with mountains of redundant, seemingly meaningless tasks you must complete, while answering to eight different bosses who don’t communicate amongst themselves.

If the movie “Office Space” came to mind during this exercise, you are getting the right idea. While the movie’s comedic portrayal of an office environment is exaggerated, as business owners, it’s wise to learn the lessons you can glean from it.


Bill Lumbergh is the boss in the movie “Office Space.” He is often seen hanging around Peter’s (main character’s) cubicle, overreaching his boundaries and seemingly controlling every aspect of Peter’s day. Peter also has eight bosses other than Bill, or maybe including him. This means everything has to be repeated over and over to the point of insanity. This drives Peter crazy, and it is not productive either.

Lesson #1: Give your employees what they need to do the job: training, materials, etc. Then, let them work. Get out of their way. Studies have even proven that micromanaging can cause employees to perform at a lower level, not higher. Just imagine trying to do even a simple task with someone standing right over your shoulder, and it’s easy to understand why micromanaging is so detrimental.

Provide Well Functioning Equipment/Updated Software

In the movie, the copy machine almost takes on the role of character thanks to the fact that it is so detested by Michael and the other main characters. It seems this copier/printer will never work properly, which causes endless difficulties. Peter, Samir, and Michael (main characters) end up destroying the machine in a rural field outside town after their frustrations reach a boiling over point.

Lesson #2: You should provide your employees with what they need to get their job done as mentioned above. Sure, things break. That’s understandable. However, expecting your employees to continue to use subpar equipment, computer, software, etc. yet still pushing them to meet deadlines and maintain the same level of production simply isn’t fair.

Create a High-Quality Working Environment

It is no wonder the characters of “Office Space” so detest their jobs. They work in 6′ x 6′ cubicles with no windows. In addition, Peter is situated right across from another employee who patches calls through, so in essence, she spends all day saying “just a moment” in an irritatingly spunky voice.

Lesson #3: Cubicles are sometimes unavoidable in today’s office buildings. However, give your employees the freedom to move around to break up their day. Make sure you have seating available for your employees outside where they can walk around and enjoy being outdoors. If outdoor space isn’t an option, at least make sure you provide a lounge with couches or comfortable chairs where employees can go to take a break from their own cubicle walls.

Most employees understand that doing business in today’s technology-saturated society often means they are required to sit at a desk and work on a computer most of the day. This doesn’t have to look like the movie “Office Space,” though. Thankfully, with a little thought and purposeful planning, you can ensure your employees never feel like Peter or the other characters from the movie. Simply adhere to these lessons from “Office Space,” and you will be heading in the right direction.


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Cash Flow and Marketing: What You Need to Know

ThinkstockPhotos-484376185.jpgCash flow is important in the lifespan of any business, but one of the key things to understand is that it’s about more than just “money in versus money out.” It’s a valuable look into the bigger picture of what you’re doing, and by having a handle on this aspect of your finances, you can take advantage of business opportunities when they arise.

First, you need to understand how every element of your business relates to this cash flow concept, including marketing. To that point, marketing has a very specific relationship with cash flow that you’re going to need to be aware of moving forward.

Hone Your Budget

Yes, it’s true that marketing costs can often seem unpredictable. However, working hard to hone your marketing budget can make these unexpected situations easier to deal with.

To get started, sit down and think about your upcoming marketing efforts in relation to your other expected cash inflows and outflows. You can’t afford to throw just anything at the wall to see what sticks;  you have to be more precise than that. Create a realistic marketing budget (that includes room for experimentation if needed) that is proportional to the rest of your expected business expenses and revenue streams.

It’s All About That Return

What matters most? Return on investment. For this, focus on the metrics that provide you the context necessary to understand your marketing efforts.

Essentially, stop thinking about marketing ROI as just “how many sales did that last campaign bring in?” and don’t be afraid to break things down on a more granular level. Start looking at metrics like your customer acquisition cost. If one of your campaigns was aimed at increasing more traffic to your website, start breaking things down based on metrics like “time spent on site” and “conversion rate.”

It’s important to know how your marketing collateral is performing in terms of overall sales and revenues, but in terms of your cash flow you need to dive deeper than that. As long as you’re able to A) show that your marketing is giving you something in return, and B) you can identify exactly what that something is and when it occurs, you know where the value of every marketing dollar rests.

This, in turn, will give you the context necessary to understand marketing’s affect on cash flow and vice versa. When you know that “X action will pay off in Y way after Z amount of time,” you suddenly know the impact that every marketing decision you make actually has and when that impact is going to occur. This makes long-term cash flow projections not only easier to make but more accurate as well.


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Boosting Customer Engagement with Fall-Themed Promotions

ThinkstockPhotos-594486944.jpgFall is a beautiful time of year with cooler weather in some regions, and connotations of family in all parts of the country. Fall brings with it traditional themes of back to school, falling leaves, carving pumpkins, football, and fall holidays. One of the most popular traditions during the fall season is the range of pumpkin-flavored treats available. Using these themes, you can create campaigns to drive new customers and return business.

1. Giveaways and Contests

It is always fun to promote a coupon or giveaway with a fall flavor. These can include coupons to neighboring businesses for cross-promotion or sweepstakes for fall gifts. For B2B companies, it is best to keep these rewards under $10 because some industries have strict limits on what they can receive as gifts. Easy gifts are seasonal doughnuts, bags of coffee, pumpkin pie or other food specialties of the season. If you prefer to offer non-food rewards, small sports-related gifts make good selections. It is best to have rewards that appeal to most clients whether men or women and any age.

2. Seasonal Discounts

Offering seasonal discounts as companies ramp up for the year can drive business. These discounts should be offered in early August to allow for planning time. Giving customers bulk discounts for large orders is a good incentive for any product or service.

3. Educational Videos

Combine some video with your print promotions to encourage loyalty from your customers. Videos can truly be on any subject to help customers better understand what you do and how best to approach you for specific jobs. Humorous videos are an excellent way to help customers remember what they have learned. You can promote custom products and services that make your business unique and invite them for a free sample after viewing the video.

4. Fall Infographics

The football theme is a great one for fall infographics. You can lay out a play-by-play scenario for a custom service on a colorful direct mail infographic that will catch your customer’s eye. Use it as a poster in your building, email it to your customer list, and hand it out with orders. Infographics are great for simplifying complex ideas with simple illustrations and graphic arrows.

These are just a few ideas to get promoting this fall. Remember, if you need help with your printing and marketing, give us a call today!


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Ways to Protect Your Brand in the Real-Time Information Age

ThinkstockPhotos-657955676.jpgA brand is more than just a company logo, and it’s bigger than any one particular product or service. Instead, it’s the feeling that people get when they think about your company. It’s what goes into the instinct they have regarding whether or not to make a purchase.

A brand is also massively important in terms of how successful your marketing efforts will be in the long-term. The impression someone has of your brand is something that occurs almost immediately.  48% of consumers say that they are more likely to become loyal to a brand if their first experience is a positive one, regardless of whether or not that experience actually took the form of a purchase.

That means your brand must be protected at all costs, particularly in the real-time information age that we’re now living in. People are being marketed to from nearly every angle. If you don’t work hard to strengthen and hone your brand, you run the risk of being lost in the shuffle. Hope is not lost, however, as there are a few key things you can do to protect your brand as much as you can.

Consistency is Key

One of the most important things you can do to protect your brand is focus on something that real-time information doesn’t provide: consistency. According to one study, 90% of consumers expect that their experience with a brand will be similar across all channels – whether you’re talking about print, in-person interactions, or digital content.

Don’t Wait For Your Audience to Come to You

Another study estimates that, on average, you really need about five to seven positive brand impressions with a consumer before they start to remember your brand in a similar light. This is good, but you need to remember that in a real-time information age, you don’t necessarily have the time to wait for a consumer to initiate those impressions.

Also, consider the fact that brands that are consistently presented are three to four times more likely to experience brand visibility. YOU must be reaching out to your audience by way of consistent, enjoyable and helpful experiences whenever and wherever you can. Increase the frequency of the print marketing collateral that you’re putting out there and focus on being helpful, educational, and informative.

The Unmistakable Benefits

Give people as many opportunities to experience your brand as you possibly can and your entire identity will benefit as a result. If brand visibility is something of a numbers game, you need to play those numbers as well as you possibly can. Don’t wait for someone else to hopefully do it for you.

Successful branding brings with it a wide range of different benefits, from increased customer loyalty to an improved image, to a relatable identity and beyond. But in an age where information is everywhere, your brand is something that you also need to work hard to proactively protect. If you don’t, you run the risk of watching those important relationships with your audience begin to deteriorate.


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