Friday, July 29, 2016

Email Marketing: There's a Good Chance You're Doing It Wrong

Email marketing strategies aren’t always all they’re cracked up to be, and getting them right is more important than you might realize. Digital marketing trends come and go, but email continues to prove its staying power.

Having a website, in fact, might be the only aspect of marketing more critical than email, but email’s high returns (about $44 for each dollar put toward email marketing) keep marketers increasing their budgets for campaigns.

The key is learning how to effectively integrate it with other marketing tactics.

The companies we work with that set up email marketing early often see better-than-average ecommerce conversion rates. The right strategies generate more revenue on a per-visit basis than those that don’t incorporate email ever will.

Employing reliable tactics helps avoid the kinds of blunders that the startup Honestbee saw during its recent campaign when it pretended to partner with an exotic merchant offering whale, panda and koala meat in order to raise animal rights awareness.

Readers weren’t impressed, and Honestbee faced a public outcry against the campaign even after revealing it to be fake.

Misguided tactics to avoid
Having a good idea of how your readers will respond to your messaging before you start planning an email campaign will help ensure it doesn’t meet a fate similar to Honestbee’s.

Here are a few email don’ts that will help you avoid alienating or annoying your subscribers:

1. Don’t send emails ‘just because.’  Many consumers believe that marketers overestimate how often people want to hear from them. Emails that lack practical, useful information come across as boring and spammy and lead people to unsubscribe.

Every message should grab attention and call readers to action. Customers appreciate it when every piece of your campaign is meaningful, and they’ll show their gratitude by purchasing.

2. Don’t use sales-bait language. Emails with all-cap subject lines and blatantly pushy sales language (e.g., “20 PERCENT OFF TODAY ONLY!”) have worn out their welcome. People have gotten wise to email marketing gimmicks, and they know click bait when they see it.

Think like a customer. How would you feel if you received the email you just sent out? If your own subject line makes you think, “Someone just wants my money,” it’s time to get more creative.

Instead, a personalized headline (e.g., “Happy Birthday, Nathan -- Surprise Inside!”) connects with the recipient and stimulates curiosity.

3. Don’t say too much. Too much information kills conversions. If emails aren’t easy to understand and short enough to hold attention, overwhelmed readers won’t sift through them -- and your call to action could get lost in the copy.

If you have a lot of information to send out, break it down into component parts to send individually in a “drip campaign.” If that’s not possible, embed links to allow readers to click-through to the information at their own pace.

For example, we used a customized drip campaign to increase KO Production’s subscriber base by 16,000 while also increasing site engagement.

4. Don’t trust just any old image to help your campaign. Images must complement your copy to avoid sending mixed messages. Too many or too few also hurt: Imbalanced ratios of images-to-text make your emails seem noisy. Worse, images that don’t load smoothly make your company look amateurish and unprepared to do business.

Because a one-second delay can reduce conversions by 7 percent, testing is a crucial step to take before sending out any piece of email marketing. Tools such as Litmus make it easy to preview your email across different platforms and formats, to see what needs improvement.

Chubbies really knows how to use images; its copy promotes the shorts its sells, but the images the brand includes also promote the kind of lifestyle its subscribers respond to best. Of course, the brand also makes sure its content displays consistently on every medium.

Email is going to remain a mainstay of any business that relies on digital marketing, and the revenue it generates can be well worth the effort.

If you tailor messages to your audience and choose your language carefully to ensure outgoing emails are intriguing, readable and full of valuable information, you can maximize revenue each time you hit “Send.”

Image Credit: Shutterstock

Westchester Networking for Professionals (WNFP) is a business networking association dedicated to helping small businesses and entrepreneurs develop, expand and grow. We offer affordable opportunities to help create a positive impact and advancement in your business interests and personal quality of life to take you to the next level.
Stay Connected with WNFP!
Join WNFP Communities!

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Five Important Steps to Effective Email Marketing

Each time a prospect gives your company their personal email address, a contract is formed between you and them. Their role in the contract is to invite you to send them your content. In return, your role is to deliver valuable content they'll appreciate. Any time you send them content that's rushed or shoddy, you're not keeping your end of the deal. But by delivering email marketing that's useful and appreciated by your market, your company is building loyalty, trust, and ultimately sales.

For effective email campaigns that will make your readers glad they opted in to your content, consider these five important best practices.

1. Promote, Promote, Promote

The best email campaign in the world (if such a thing could actually be measured) would be 100% useless without a solid email list. Many businesses go only as far as placing an opt-in form on their website. That's a decent start, but you should also consider effective calls to action that encourage people to sign up. Your list should be advertised like any other product or service. You'll want to let your leads know how signing up for your content is going to benefit them. You should draw attention to that signup form with some creative copy on your homepage. Keep in mind that you're focusing on quality over quantity. You want people on that list who actually are excited to receive the content you send. Also, you'll want to promote your opt-in email content via your social media.

2. Remember, Quality Content is King

The importance of quality content is hardly a secret. Unfortunately, however, quality is lacking in many email campaigns (and many other places on the internet, for that matter.) Businesses are not just creators of products and services anymore. They are also creators and publishers of videos, blogs, newsletters, infographics, and anything else their audience finds useful or entertaining.

In your email marketing, create content that you're passionate and knowledgeable about. Ask yourself, "Will this video or blog post give our audience useful information that they wouldn't have learned before now? Will writing about the weird and bizarre be helpful or harmful?"

3. Name Names to Personalize Your Emails

Did you know that every day, the average person is subjected to over 120 emails? Clearly, you need to cut through the clutter and be seen through all of the information overload out there. If you don't, you can hardly expect your audience to choose your messages and ignore those of your competitors. 

Yes, the advice to personalize your email marketing is common. But the reason you hear it all the time is that it's effective. One of the simplest ways to personalize your emails and gain the attention of your audience is to mention the first name of your recipients within the email. There are other ways to personalize your email messages, of course, but starting with the inclusion of names is one of the most effective tactics."

4. Don't Neglect Responsive Web Design

Responsive design refers to the ability to easily read emails and landing pages on a variety of devices, including smartphones, tablets, laptops and desktop computers. Smartphones and tablets represent a huge percentage of all email interactions. "Our reliance on mobile devices means email must be mobile friendly," says Bob Fabbio of eRelevance, a marketing automation service. "The majority of people who have problems accessing an email, landing page or website never return to it in the future, which makes responsive design an essential component of any effective email campaign." Just remember, however, that responsive email design is a wasted effort if your emails link to a not-so-responsive landing page.

5. Keep Landing Pages Specialized

An email is obviously not the end of the line. Rather, it should be a beginning step toward conversion. Does your marketing message lead the reader to a generalized homepage that doesn't have anything to do with the email's content? If so, it probably won't be effective at lead conversion. Your emails should link to specialized pages featuring a product. Keep the goal of conversion in mind!

Your email campaigns, if done right, can be effective workhorses in your marketing efforts. So take them seriously. With a little thought and effort, they can build relationships with customers and make your business stand out from competitors.

Image Credit: Getty Images

Westchester Networking for Professionals (WNFP) is a business networking association dedicated to helping small businesses and entrepreneurs develop, expand and grow. We offer affordable opportunities to help create a positive impact and advancement in your business interests and personal quality of life to take you to the next level.
Stay Connected with WNFP!
Join WNFP Communities!

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

8 Brilliant Tricks That Will Make You a Master at Networking

Studies say that over 70 percent of people have found their jobs through networking. And you can safely bet that successful entrepreneurs didn't get to the top by living in a bubble.

Now more than ever, networking is a necessity to stay ahead in business.

So how do you pull it off?

It doesn't involve thousands of LinkedIn requests or throwing your business card at everyone you meet. The answer is simple: Truly effective networking involves being your authentic, fabulous self, and becoming your own best cheerleader.

Even if you hate networking, there are some painless and proven ways to forge connections and radically improve your success.

I won't keep you waiting. Here are some simple ways to connect with successful people:

Arrive early to events

If the thought of walking into an enormous crowd and seamlessly blending into a group makes you nervous, this tip should be filled in the "so simple it's brilliant" cabinet.

Wendy Gelberg, author of The Successful Introvert: How to Enhance Your Job Search and Advance Your Career, says this works so well because "There are just a few random people who have shown up early, and they're delighted to have someone to talk to. Then you become part of the group."

Spill out your personal details

When you're out and about networking, it goes a lot easier when you feel like you're talking to a friend, or if there's a connection beyond a mutual business exchange.

That's why networking expert Achim Nowak, author of Infectious: How to Connect Deeply and Unleash the Energetic Leader Within, recommends revealing your personal life to others. Nope, you don't have to (and shouldn't) reveal details about your last date, but you can take steps to let some details lose to make the connection flourish.

He recommends sprinkling in some personality when you're asked the standard questions. For instance, when asked, "Where are you from?" don't be afraid to follow up with "San Francisco, and I have to go to a high school reunion there next month; I'm a little nervous."

Stand up

Amy Cuddy, a Harvard psychologist, author, and TED Talk star, gave advice on how to become a more confident networker through simple tweaks to your body language. Stand up tall, have a firm handshake, and look individuals in the eye (but don't overdo it).

Even if you're feeling a little jittery, make a concerted effort to appear like you're calm and collected. This is a scientifically proven way to improve your confidence and make others trust you, so it will snowball once you start.

Remember--it's a two-way street

Dave Liniger once brilliantly said, "You can't succeed coming to the potluck with only a fork."

A common mistake that most people make is approaching networking as a key driver of sales. Sure, the ultimate goal of networking is to connect with people who may be able to help you reach a particular goal. Networking, however, always starts with giving.

Focus on providing, and this will ensure that you establish real connections. If you want to build strong bonds, you'll need to invest in relationships--so give without expecting much back in return at first.

Be authentic

Susan Solovic, an award-winning entrepreneur and keynote speaker, says, "Remember, people do business with people they know, like, and trust."

Being honest and being your true self is the best way to do that. Remember again, though, to keep it a two-way street--a mutual relationship. TV host Celeste Headlee gave a powerful TED Talk titled "10 Ways to Have a Better Conversation" in which she says that it all "boils down to the same concept, and it is this one: Be interested in other people."

Find out their treasures

Dale Carnegie, author of the networking staple How to Win Friends and Influence People, said that the easy way to anyone's heart is to talk to the about what they "treasure most."

Is there a subject that makes your eyes light up, and that you could talk about for hours? Find that with someone else, and you'll go far together.

An easy way to start is to ask, "What made you get into your field?" instead of the standard "What do you do?" question. Beyond that, try to avoid the standard snooze questions and instead ask about things that truly make people tick.

Act like you want to talk

When we're alone at an event, our default reaction is often to keep our eyes glued to our iPhones or to stuff our faces with snacks.

The Wall Street Journal says this is the completely wrong way to go about it. They say people "who stand in a corner, hunched over their cell phone or a plate of food, are sending a negative signal."

So if there's someone you want to meet at a party, act like you're ready to meet them before they even walk into the room. That way, they'll probably gravitate to you before you even make an introduction. Trust me, putting away Pokémon Go for a minute will be worth it.

Don't forget the thank you

Harvard Law School says the end of a business meeting with someone is just the beginning if you want to forge a long-lasting relationship (makes sense).

Their brilliant solution to stay in touch (while generating kindness) is to follow up with a handwritten thank you note. Beyond that, they also recommend keeping the connection updated on anything they helped you with--like a job search--while thanking them again.

It's simple: Follow the golden rule by treating a connection the way you'd want to be treated. It's not only a good practice, but it will help you forge longer-lasting connections.

Image Credit: Getty Images

Westchester Networking for Professionals (WNFP) is a business networking association dedicated to helping small businesses and entrepreneurs develop, expand and grow. We offer affordable opportunities to help create a positive impact and advancement in your business interests and personal quality of life to take you to the next level.
Stay Connected with WNFP!
Join WNFP Communities!

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

How to Use Email Marketing Automation, Without Turning Your Subscribers Off

I know — it’s scary at first.

Your customer relationships mean everything to your business, and you don’t want to damage your relationships with impersonal, automated messages.

Unfortunately, that’s what a lot of businesses send when they start using email marketing automation.

You want to save time, but never at the expense of turning your customers off with dull, lifeless messages, right?

Let’s look at how email marketing automation can help you nurture, not sabotage, your customer relationships:

Step 1: Give your subscribers a warm(er) welcome

When someone joins your email list, they’re highly engaged and eager to hear from you.

So don’t blow it. Create an automated Welcome Email that triggers when a new contact joins your email list.

You can customize this email with your logo, brand colors, contact information, and a personal message.

Take a look at the finished product:

Jack’s Backyard Bar-B-Que’s logo and contact information are prominently featured at the top, along with a personal thank you, explanation of what they’ll be sending, and a call-to-action button that links to a downloadable cookbook.

Never underestimate the power of thanking your subscribers and offering them something valuable right away. Remember, this initial email will set the tone for how your subscribers feel about your email marketing messages, so making a great impression pays off.

Your welcome email should always include:
  • Your business brand (logo, brand colors, and contact information)
  • A personal thank you
  • An overview of what your business will send in the future
  • Something valuable (A coupon, downloadable content, useful video, etc.)

Step 2: Let your subscribers get to know you.

A welcome email is a great start. But don’t stop there!

Rather than throwing your new subscribers into your regular mailings right away, take some time to nurture new relationships by building a well-planned autoresponder series.

Don’t worry — it’s easier than you think. Create an email and schedule it to send a few days after your Welcome Email to let subscribers get to know you better.

Tip: Scared you’re emailing people too much? Remember this is the time when your list is most engaged and eager to hear more from you. You can send less frequently once they’ve settled in.

This is your opportunity to humanize your business. Show them where to find you on social media, point them to one of your popular blog posts or case studies, or encourage them to pick up the phone for a consultation.

As with your Welcome Email, stay focused on providing value to your subscribers. Why should they follow you on social media? What’s in it for them? Will they learn useful tips? See fun behind-the-scenes videos? Always articulate the benefit of taking an action with you.

Take a look at how Jack’s Backyard Bar-B-Que invites their subscribers to learn cooking tips:

Not only will Jack Backyard Bar-B-Que’s subscribers learn some new cooking tips, the restaurant is also demonstrating its expertise and driving traffic to its website. Win-win-win!

Step 3: Get to know your subscribers better.

The third email in your autoresponder series is your chance to hear more from your subscribers. The more you know about them, the easier it is to send personal emails that inspire action.

Send a one-question online survey to find out what they’re most interested in or where they heard about you. Or have them update their profile by adding their birthday. This email should send about a week after your initial Welcome Email.

Here’s one last example from Jack’s Backyard Bar-B-Que:

Once you know a subscriber’s birthday, you can create a recurring birthday email to send your subscribers a personal message or gift to celebrate their birthday.

Choose one of Constant Contact’s birthday templates, or customize your own.

Here’s how Suzi’s Sweet Shoppe celebrates their subscribers’ birthdays each month:

By rewarding loyal customers, the shop is driving repeat business and delivering a personal experience for subscribers to look forward to each year. What might seem like a small gesture helps your business stand out from the competition and show your subscribers how much they matter to you.

Conquer your automation fears!

It’s ok to be hesitant at first. Don’t try to do too much at once. Start with a simple three-part autoresponder series to welcome new customers to your email list.

Then, add in a birthday autoresponder as a special treat to remind your subscribers how much you appreciate them.


Westchester Networking for Professionals (WNFP) is a business networking association dedicated to helping small businesses and entrepreneurs develop, expand and grow. We offer affordable opportunities to help create a positive impact and advancement in your business interests and personal quality of life to take you to the next level.
Stay Connected with WNFP!
Join WNFP Communities!

Monday, July 25, 2016

Why Your Visual Advertising is Failing: Display Advertising 101

Do display ads work? If you’re going by the number of clicks, the answer is a deafening no. In fact, the average click-through rate for display ads across all formats and placements is downright abysmal, just 0.06 percent, reports HubSpot. A January 2014 study found that Millennials (18- to 34-year-olds) were far more likely to tune out display ads on social media sites and search engines than they were to ignore traditional TV, radio and print ads, according to eMarketer. Worse, half of all clicks on mobile ads are accidental, reports GoldSpot Media. At the same time, display ad spend is expected to surpass search ad spend in 2016. So, what gives?

The Internet is flooded with visual ads– and most of them are pretty subpar. Sure, we’ve moved beyond those flashy banner ads circa 2005 that screamed “Buy Me Now” in loud, clashing colors. (Right?) But even the most attractively designed visual ads can still fall short. Effective ads align simple, professional design with compelling messaging and smart backend analytic refinement. These ads leverage the channel in a way that makes sense for a business’s specific goals and the target market’s needs.

Could it be we’re actually over thinking display ads? The ABC’s of the perfect visual ad are not rocket science. Here’s how to get back to basics and fix your visual advertising problems.

Display Advertising 101
Keep It Simple

Bannersnack’s collection of the best examples of display advertising all feature simple designs that harness the power of brand elements (like logo and colors) to build trust with viewers and drive clicks. Great ads speak to users. The harness the power of empathy to understand the target audience, what makes them tick, and what elements they respond to. The Apple Music ads are the perfect example of simple design that harnesses brand recognition and trust with a clear call-to-action message. Apple has already created plenty of buzz around Apple Music. There’s no need to explain how the service works. Here, a simple “Available Now” CTA works best to drive conversions.

Create a Sense of Urgency

Today’s savvy Millennials are used to display ad retargeting with multiple offers. To drive click-throughs, you need to create a sense of urgency with your ads without sounding like spam. Adobe’s display ads for Creative Suite are the perfect examples. The ads use compelling visuals to draw on what Adobe is already best known for – amazing photographs via Photoshop – and then add simple CTAs with limited time offers. The blue “Join Now” or “Get Started” buttons visually contrast with the darker backgrounds, subtly drawing attention to the CTA without being in your face about it.

Focus on One Offer at a Time, A/B Test for the Most Effective Message

Businesses like Amazon and eBay offer a host of services and products. But their ads are completely streamlined. They never cram too much information into one display ad. But just because you’re making one offer at a time doesn’t mean that you can’t have multiple ad iterations. Check out what Amazon Prime did with the company’s Prime Video display ads. While the text is the same in each of these four ads, they vary design elements (background color, CTA button color) for A/B testing. Changing too many elements between ads can make it difficult to determine which element truly is responsible for the boost (or fall) in clicks. By focusing on one offer at a time and only varying background color and button color, Amazon is better able to determine which subtle design difference have the biggest impact on click through rates.

Design Ads Specifically for Retargeting

Users who are retargeted are 70 percent more likely to convert, reports Digital Information World. To maximize the effectiveness of your retargeting ads, align design with strategy: what does the user need to convert? For Asana, this meant building greater awareness around the app’s benefits, reports Bannersnack. For Marin Software, their goal is a bit different: rather than promoting benefits, they promote reports with information that’s relevant and timely for their audience. For Moz, the strategy is even simpler: try Moz Pro for free. All three of these strategies have been effective because the companies understood what prospective users needed to see to convert. Don’t assume what works for Company A will also work for your business. Learn what moves the needle for your users and align your ad messages accordingly.

Bottom Line

Display ads are most effective when great design aligns with brand strategy and user needs. Understand what makes your users click on an ad: is it a sense of urgency to sign up for a trial offer? Is it out of curiosity to learn more about a new product or service? By getting back to basics, you can maximize the impact of your display ads.

Image Credit: Shutterstock

Westchester Networking for Professionals (WNFP) is a business networking association dedicated to helping small businesses and entrepreneurs develop, expand and grow. We offer affordable opportunities to help create a positive impact and advancement in your business interests and personal quality of life to take you to the next level.
Stay Connected with WNFP!
Join WNFP Communities!

Sunday, July 24, 2016

5 Reasons Every Growing Business Needs Customer Intelligence

Collecting data is relatively easy. Everyone collects data.

Finding smart, efficient ways to use that data to land new customers and build great customer relationships is much less common, and that's why doing so can dramatically improve sales and boost long-term revenue.

The following is from Chad Kutting, general manager of SalesforceIQ CRM, the intelligent CRM system that helps small businesses gain deeper insights into customer needs so they can focus on connecting with their customers and closing deals.

Here's Chad:

We've all heard the expression, "It's not personal; it's just business."

Well, don't believe it. Business is always personal, especially when you're a small or fast-growing company. The problem is, great relationships take a lot of work and attention to detail--but busy sales reps rarely have an extra moment to spare.

Adding to the pressure is the fact that customers know your business has tons of relevant data, so their expectations for a personalized experience are higher than ever. But data by itself isn't enough to take a customer relationship to the next level.

What your business really needs is "customer intelligence." Data is merely facts and figures. Customer intelligence is the actionable understanding and insight that comes from analyzing and contextualizing that data in real time. In other words, it's the critical step that takes customer data and converts it from practical to personal.

To illustrate the difference, here are five ways customer intelligence can help you grow your business faster and smarter.

1. Make the best connections.

Would you rather make a cold call or turn up the heat on a warm connection? Most people feel more comfortable with the latter--and research shows it's also a far more effective approach.

LinkedIn found that business-to-business buyers are five times more likely to engage when the outreach is through a mutual connection. Intelligence can help you find connections in the data of customers, colleagues, and partners to help you generate new opportunities, map the most direct path to decision makers, or identify alternative leads in case the one you're pursuing fizzles out.

2. Drive customer success.

If your customers are successful, it's great for your business. If they know you contributed to their success, it's even better.

Customer intelligence drives your mutual success by giving you full insight into every customer's history. When you know a customer's business requirements inside out, you can proactively recommend the best products at the right time. That way your customers always have what they need--and you never miss an opportunity to make a sale.

Complete histories also let you immediately connect customers with the right experts in your company to resolve issues quickly and close deals faster.

3. Elevate sales efficiency.

Productivity is where customer intelligence really shines, and that's a huge win considering research shows that the average sales rep spends only one-third of his or her time actually selling.

Customer intelligence comes to the rescue by reducing or eliminating time-consuming manual data entry, organization, analysis, and search. It enables reps to more easily see which accounts have the most potential. It can help identify new opportunities that are a good fit for deals already in progress.

And when entire teams have access to the same customer information, everyone can be ready to close deals at a moment's notice.

4. Cut costs.

It costs a lot more to acquire a new customer than to keep an old one--five to 30 times more, according to many studies.

Customer intelligence can avoid those costs in at least two, simple ways. First, it helps you identify upsell and cross-sell opportunities for deals already in progress so you get the greatest value out of the customers you've already earned. Second, it helps you find untapped connections and opportunities in the relationships you already have instead of paying for dead-end leads in expensive contact lists.

5. Retain company knowledge.

Your customer data is a gold mine--but, right now, most of the wealth is probably untapped and unusable in emails, calendars, spreadsheets, sticky notes, and many other places.

Customer intelligence technology gathers all those nuggets of information and keeps them in a shared vault your entire team can access anytime. If employees leave for other opportunities, their knowledge has already been captured and shared. And as your sales team grows, the complete customer histories they need are right at their fingertips to get them up to speed quickly.

Because your business is built on relationships, you need to run them as intelligently and efficiently as any other process--without sacrificing the personal touch. Customer intelligence is designed to strike the perfect balance by keeping you on track with tasks and in tune with customers at all times.

Image Credit: Getty Images

Westchester Networking for Professionals (WNFP) is a business networking association dedicated to helping small businesses and entrepreneurs develop, expand and grow. We offer affordable opportunities to help create a positive impact and advancement in your business interests and personal quality of life to take you to the next level.
Stay Connected with WNFP!
Join WNFP Communities!

Friday, July 22, 2016

5 Ways Growing Fast Can Cripple Your Business (and How to Fix It)

Business growth is a sure sign of success. Ergo, the faster your business expands, the more successful you must be, right?

But in the midst of all the potential and excitement promised by a wildly successful business, owners often neglect to consider the drawbacks of rapid expansion. That is, until they are swirling in the whirlwind.

The truth is, fast business growth isn't all popularity and financial bliss. There are numerous unexpected pitfalls that could stunt your growth before you even get a chance to enjoy the prosperity. Here are some of the most common growing pains you should watch out for.

1. The Unraveling of a Standardized Process
As you begin to rapidly grow, you'll need to improvise to meet increased demand. The higher demand climbs, the less time you'll have to redesign workflows to account for volume and new employees.

At this point, your old processes will stop working effectively. This is right about the time businesses enter a state of free fall.

The Fix
  • Start by addressing operations that directly affect customer experience (like ordering and order-processing systems).
  • Turn away customers if you must. Don't over-promise and under-deliver.
  • Leverage technologies that will help streamline and automate. This will free your management and employees to focus on more pressing areas of business.

2. The Dissipation of Your Company Culture
When you grow fast and hire quickly, you run the risk of losing the spark that ignited your explosive growth.

Businesses often bring on too many contractors to keep up with growing demand, and these people may not be as invested in the company and end up walking away with insider intel. And demand is so great, there is no time for proper training and onboarding.

It's "sink or swim," and company culture often gets compromised in the riptide.

The Fix
  • Define yourself. Is your company young and trendy, or professional and sophisticated?
  • Expound your mission statement and values.
  • Set cultural expectations for your organization.
  • Build enthusiasm behind your company's mission and values. Lead by example.
  • Do not hire outside your company culture. Make adequate time for hiring and recruit the right people.

3. The Downfall of Great Customer Service
Rapid growth means less face time with customers. It also means an onslaught of new customers who easily distract businesses from their current customers--you know, the patrons who helped them get where they are today, and are fully capable of making or breaking your reputation.

The Fix
  • Set a company-wide standard of excellence in customer service.
  • Address customer issues and questions quickly and thoughtfully.
  • Actively ask for feedback from customers.
  • Listen closely to customers and use intel to refine operations.
4. High Employee Turnover
Fast business growth will undoubtedly test the endurance and loyalty of your staff. For them, your success means facing a lot of changes. If they feel over-worked and under-valued, you risk veteran employees jumping ship faster than you can replace them

The Fix
  • Incentivize hard work; give bonuses and positive reinforcement.
  • Invite them to be a part of the process. Ask for their input as you reshape your brand and processes.
  • Invest in your employees. Equip them with the tools they need to succeed.

5. Spatial Challenges
As you hire more employees, expand departments and prepare to meet heightened demands, you will inevitably outgrow your space.

But the answer isn't necessarily to expand office space. First, you need to understand how your employees are using their workspace, and whether all areas of your office space are being optimally utilized.

The Fix
  • Listen to your employees and the requests they make.
  • Be present on the floor.
  • Utilize space management software to monitor employee usage of space and assets, and to forecast future needs.
  • Expand accordingly.
With the right tools and practical knowledge, it is entirely possible to grow your business with grace. Keep these pitfalls in mind so you have the insight necessary to navigate your business in the right direction--even at full speed.

Image Credit: Getty Images

Westchester Networking for Professionals (WNFP) is a business networking association dedicated to helping small businesses and entrepreneurs develop, expand and grow. We offer affordable opportunities to help create a positive impact and advancement in your business interests and personal quality of life to take you to the next level.
Stay Connected with WNFP!
Join WNFP Communities!

Thursday, July 21, 2016

3 Ways You Can Use Data For Better Employee Relationships Right Now

Every company relies on employees to provide the best work ethic possible to ensure the success of the product or service. More tools are popping up in order to harness the employee from the recruitment phase to retention. Although there are plenty of tools that can be utilized, there are also simple things that the employer can do internally to get the best from future and current employees.

Starting my company 12 years ago has allowed me the pleasure and the pain of seeing employees come and go. As many will note, it is far more expensive to obtain new talent than it is to retain, however, in the competitive landscape it is incredibly tricky to make sure great people stick around. As CEO, I have had triumphs in building a strong team and also have made mistakes that I have turned around to create tips that will allow any business owner the chance to build better employee relationships starting today.

1. Examine what keeps your current employees around

Your best recruiting assets are your current employees. In order to recruit talent that will help grow and build your business, it is key to find out what is keeping your current employees around and what has caused former employees to leave. Memory can be hazy and unreliable, which is why it is important to keep a record of "employee inventory." Key factors to consider, include salary, advancement opportunities, job challenge, and snacks (yes, snacks). Create a spreadsheet of every single employee and track at least six data points, but make them consistent for every employee. Identify the current salary range, how many promotions received, and what are their favorite snack items. Let the data be your top selling points in identifying potential employees to join your company.

2. Set core goals for employee review

It is important for both the employee and employer to be on the same page for what is expected of them. It is crucial for both the employee and employer to have data when an individual surpasses (or under performs) expectations. Setting up a standard employee review, however, is not an entirely effective way of measuring this performance. Instead, it is key to pair a base of general company expectations with individualized data metrics. If there is a want or need to include attributes such as attitude and community building, it is important to assign a number to correspond with the behavior. The soft data and the hard data can provide a full scope of how the employee lifts the company both in culture and in growth.

3. Know when your employee is about to leave and stop them

You do not need to stalk your employee's internet history in order to know if they are leaving. Instead, you can know by looking at past employee behavior and by simply asking. Now, this does not mean blatantly asking the question, but rather looking at the responses given by past employees for leaving and generating questions that highlight those issues so you are able to address them and prevent them from leaving. If you identify that most of the past employees left when their projects stayed static for a year, perhaps engage current employees fitting this description with, "Are there any tasks in the project that you would like to own?" Whatever question you might pose, make sure that both the question and the answer are recorded.

It is truly important to look at all interactions, answers, and moments as data points. Soft data is incredibly nuanced and hard to track in a standard service. This human element of data is the key advantage an employer can utilize in ensuring that future and current employees bring forth the most value to the company and that the company can bring the most value to them.

Image Credit: Getty Images

Westchester Networking for Professionals (WNFP) is a business networking association dedicated to helping small businesses and entrepreneurs develop, expand and grow. We offer affordable opportunities to help create a positive impact and advancement in your business interests and personal quality of life to take you to the next level.
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Wednesday, July 20, 2016

10 Unsuspected Secrets for Growing Your Business to Ridiculous Success

Once you’ve started your business and got all the basics covered, you still need to work to constantly improve. Whether you need a little push when it comes to finances, marketing or time management, there are some unsuspected secrets out there for growing your business to ridiculous success. Check out the tips from members of our small business community below.

Find Out How Lenders View Your Tax Returns

Tax returns are part of most loan applications. But what exactly are those lenders looking for? In this Fundera Ledger post, Gretchen Schmid provides an in-depth look at how lenders view tax returns. You can also check out the discussion surrounding the post over on BizSugar.

Use These Project Management Tools to Support Your Team

Managing projects requires more than just staying on top of emails from team members. With the help of some actual project management tools and processes, you can actually support your team and their projects. Sebastien Boyer outlines some of those tools and techniques in this Nutcache post.

Manage Your Time Spent on Business Emails

Managing email can be a huge time suck for business owners. But some have found a good system for managing inboxes without requiring a big time commitment. Let Small Business Trends know all about your own email habits in the poll included in this post by Joshua Sophy.

Learn About Display Targeting
When it comes to online advertising, the way you target your ads can make a huge difference in the success of your campaigns. Display targeting can be effective, but only when used correctly. This post by Zoe Liang of Reef Digital includes information on different types of targeting and how to get the most out of your ad dollars.

Consider Hiring Temporary Employees

If your business is growing and you need some help getting everything done, but not necessarily on a long-term basis, you might consider looking into temporary employees. This CorpNet post by Rieva Lesonsky includes some tips for bringing on temporary help. And BizSugar members share thoughts on the subject here.

Keep an Eye Out for These Things When Hiring a Business Coach
A business coach or mentor can really help you take your business to the next level. But you need to know what to look for to make sure that your business coach is going to be a good fit. Stephen Moyers shares some tips for finding a great business coach in the SPINX Digital Blog.

Get More Online Reviews

You can only tell people how great your business is so many times. Sometimes, they just won’t hear the message unless it comes from someone else. That’s why getting positive online reviews is so important. Here, Aaron Weiche of GetFiveStars shares some tactics for getting more online reviews.

Understand What Good Customer Service Means

Providing good customer service isn’t just about making service staff members available. You also need to actually build relationships with customers, as Tony Paull of Tony Paull Consulting discusses in this post. The BizSugar community also discusses the post here.

Create “Big” Content

Just writing simple content for your business can only get you so far. If you want to take your content to the next level, you need to work on longer, more involved content. John Stevens of the Ahrefs blog shares how to write big content, even for non-writers.

Overcome These Mobile SEO Challenges

Marketing to mobile consumers is no longer optional. But that means you need to SEO specifically for mobile devices. In this Search Engine Journal post, Shane Barker outlines some common mobile SEO challenges that businesses face along with some solutions.

If you’d like to suggest your favorite small business content to be considered for an upcoming community roundup, please comment below.

Image Credit: Shutterstock

Westchester Networking for Professionals (WNFP) is a business networking association dedicated to helping small businesses and entrepreneurs develop, expand and grow. We offer affordable opportunities to help create a positive impact and advancement in your business interests and personal quality of life to take you to the next level.
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Top 10 Networking Party Icebreakers

So many organizations set up cocktail parties in hopes that their members will connect and get to know one another. Unfortunately these gatherings usually end up with the same people hanging in cliques. Or worse, the events are held in loud bars where it's hard to hear people and connect.

Socializing at a cocktail party should be fun, and the networking should be valuable. It can be so long as the organizers set a good environment and help people make connections. Here are some creative ways to "break the ice."

1. Rapid Fire Introductions.

Some people get anxious in crowds, not knowing how to start a conversation with strangers. The host can alleviate this issue by having the group pair up and engage in quick rapid-fire introductions for a brief 30 seconds. They should be instructed to reveal one interesting fact about themselves to the other person and then move on to someone else. After the exercise people may gravitate toward the most memorable people they met, looking to learn more.

2. No names on the name tag.

Names tell little about a person. Put something interesting about the person on the tag instead. They could put either their favorite travel destination or the farthest travel destination they have ever encountered. Maybe they could put their favorite movie or TV character on the sticker as well to get the conversation moving in a different direction.

3. Give them a buddy.

Why not pair people off from the start? Use the name tag to your advantage here, either color-coding or numbering it so that people have to find someone else that belongs to their pair. If you know your guests well enough, then you can try and arrange people that could potentially help one another.

4. Ask people to add a distinctive/creative addition to their wardrobe.

How you look certainly impacts a first impression. As an organizer you can stimulate creativity and individuality by requiring people to wear something different (think an ugly Christmas sweater party). It can be anything from cool shoes, a weird hat or unique jewelry. Put it on the invitation that they must prepare to tell a story about the item. This will get everyone thinking hard about their wardrobe and also have them looking forward to seeing what others are wearing.

5. Empty out their pockets.

Nearly everyone carries something in their pocket. So get everyone opening out their pockets and showing people around them what they have. That is a quick and easy conversation starter that should create a fun and unique experience.

6. Have professional facilitators.

Why depend on the attendees to connect and mingle? Bring in some shills that can get the introductions and conversation going. Hire a few actors to liven up the group and keep the momentum flowing.

7. Create a scavenger hunt.

Ask each person on the RSVP to identify a few simple facts about themselves. Then give people a checklist and ask them to go seek out a person that matches the item on the list. Everyone in attendance will be in on the activity and even latecomers can get in on the act. Offer prizes to those who find the most people on the list.

8. Create small group interaction.

Instead of letting people stand alone or hanging out with the same old group, put people in groups with fun and intellectual activity. This helps people socialize in comfortable ways and build working relationships.

9. Have a Storytelling Contest

Have people prepare a 2-minute story on an interesting topic like My Scariest Moment or My Funniest Experience. Give a prize for the best story. You can even break into groups and have a final with the best story from each group.

10. Get them dancing.

You don't always need to break the ice through verbal communication. Dancing is a daunting experience for many people, but once they get in the groove, they loosen up pretty good. Bring in a Swing or Salsa teacher and make it a lesson so people aren't self conscious about their abilities.

Image Credit: Getty Images

Westchester Networking for Professionals (WNFP) is a business networking association dedicated to helping small businesses and entrepreneurs develop, expand and grow. We offer affordable opportunities to help create a positive impact and advancement in your business interests and personal quality of life to take you to the next level.
Stay Connected with WNFP!
Join WNFP Communities!