Tuesday, June 2, 2020

The Experts Weigh In: Two Strategies for Recession-Proofing Your Business

As COVID-19 shakes businesses around the country, today is a great time to reflect on the victories of those who’ve survived previous financial struggles.


In particular, the 2008 recession offers valuable lessons from entrepreneurs who shifted to either a “prevention” or a “promotion” focus. Here are two real-life success stories, with takeaways for your team.


Prevention Focus: The Montgomery Group


Ernest Montgomery is an NYU grad who launched a creative agency that produces advertising campaigns and manages its talent (photographers, stylists, makeup artists) in-house.


In 2008, Montgomery enjoyed modest success, booking clients like American Airlines and Pepsi. He rented a beautiful office on 7th Avenue in Manhattan, expanded his staff to 15 artists, and grew revenue to around $800k/year. But when the recession hit, he was forced to make some difficult decisions.


Choosing a primarily defensive strategy, Montgomery cut every expense he could think of. He abandoned offices and made his entire staff remote. He axed his web design budget and learned to build sites himself. And most dramatically, he permanently relocated to the Dominican Republic.


Why?


“A campaign that costs $100k to produce in Miami can be made for $65k in the Dominican Republic,” said Montgomery. “A location that costs $10k in Miami costs $500 here — and there is so much less red tape — street permits, blocking off traffic, all that.”


To this day, when Montgomery meets with clients he hops a three-hour flight into New York City, spends the whole day in the U.S., and takes the last flight home. To survive financial hardship, he advises companies to ask their clients, employees, and associate three questions:



  • “What can we do to make things feel better?”

  • “How can we survive this as a group?”

  • “What are we going to do differently once this is over?”

With a leaner overhead, companies are more nimble, with greater flexibility to follow the market and its new demands. And that defensive maneuver can give you an offensive advantage.


Promotion Focus: The Baker Hasseldenz Studio


Scott Baker and Mary Ann Hesseldenz are known for making custom luxury furniture for wealthy clients.


Before the 2008 recession, their Arizona studio catered to clients who were building new homes and wanted matching $17,000 couches or $5000 cocktail tables. But when the housing market tanked, they had to recalibrate.


The couple says they survived the 2008 crash by paying attention to trends and making quick adjustments. While wealthy people weren’t building new homes, they noticed there was still a thriving remodeling market. Their studio quickly shifted focus from high-end furniture to millwork and cabinets.


During the recession, the couple kept overhead low by hiring independent contractors and keeping workshop space minimal. Due to their quick thinking, the couple later noted that their income during the recession actually went up! A decade later, they’re up to $1 million in gross revenue: $500,000 in millwork, $300,000 in furniture sales, and $180,000 in interior design fees.


A promotion focus will look different for everyone, but it requires offensive moves. This may include diversifying your client pool, forging strategic partnerships with other companies, pivoting to a different product focus, doubling inventory where you find strategic buyer’s markets, or rolling out a creative new ad campaign.


A Time to Showcase Your Brand


Whether you take a prevention or a promotion focus, it’s important not to hide!


Today is the best day to showcase your brand and maintain relevancy. Take advantage of this season to build new systems and amplify name recognition. The objective during a crisis is to go beyond survival and to come out stronger.

Friday, May 29, 2020

Pack Extra Meaning into Your Message with Strategic Color Combinations

Of all the elements of design, color is probably the most challenging to understand. 


Color originates from a light source that is viewed directly or seen as reflected light. While colors can be displayed in spectrums, prisms, or contrasts, the power of colors is not only in their arrangement, but in the way we perceive them.


Want to add depth to your message? The colors you choose can add an extra layer of meaning.


Colors Prompt a Specific Response


According to Sally Augustin from Psychology Today, research shows that particular colors can prompt measurable responses.


Here are the impacts of five particular colors, and how you can use them to your advantage:


Green


Seeing the color green has been linked to more creative thinking—so greens are good options for pieces featuring innovation, creativity, artistic specialties, or proactive growth.


Red


People featured in front of red backgrounds are generally seen as more attractive when silhouetted against other colors, so reds are great for photo backdrops, booklet covers, headshots, and more.


Having a red surface in view also gives people a burst of strength, so reds are good choices for concepts related to fitness, acceleration, competition, and courage.


Violet


People tend to link greyish violet with sophistication, so these hues can be a good selection for places where you’re trying to make a stylish impression.


Try subtle violet/grey hues in designs for home apparel, personal products, product labels, and more.


Yellow 


Yellow is associated with joy, happiness, optimism, and energy.


This color stimulates mental activity and generates muscle energy. Yellows are great for stimulating appetite, implying freshness, or for conveying warmth. Yellow also screams for attention, so you can use it to grab interest. Avoid overdoing it by adding yellow in contrast with another color.


Blue


Did you know that people are more likely to tell you that blue is their favorite color than any other shade?


Blue is a great choice for design, especially with so many shades to choose from! Nature-themed blues can call forth feelings of calmness or serenity, and are perfect for striking a tranquil tone. Turquoise or royal blues can project stability and reliability, which is strategic for brands that want to communicate productivity or security.


One caution about blue: it is not very appetizing. In the world of cuisine, humans are geared toward avoiding blue as it is often a sign of poison or spoilage. Some weight loss plans even recommend eating your food off a blue plate to squelch hunger!


Color Your Communication


Color is a powerful communication tool and can be used to signal action, sway emotions, and even influence physiological reactions. 


The right use of colors can play an important role in conveying information, creating moods, and influencing the decisions people make. Be strategic and add extra meaning to your message with dynamic, powerful color combinations.

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Prepare for Your Next Breakthrough by Prioritizing Self-Care

There are many seasons in life.


Some are exhilarating, others exhausting. Some bring immense growth, and others deplete you.


Just as there are seasons in nature, there is continual change in our daily lives. Many of us were caught off guard by the coronavirus, and our questions about the future can be more depleting than the uncertainty of this day.


But wisdom takes the long view, and that means prioritizing personal health so you can endure and thrive tomorrow.


From Crisis to Recovery


As you move from a season of chaos to a season of recovery, self-care is one of the most important things you can do. What might this look like? Here is a checklist to consider:


Set a Routine and Prioritize Consistency


Since so many things are out of whack, daily routines are more important than ever.


Create expectations for yourself and your family by involving them in daily cleaning, cooking, recreation, or school responsibilities. Make room for relaxing and fun activities, and build quiet space into your calendar. Posting a new weekly schedule for everyone can make life feel more fun, productive, and stable.


Spend Time Outside


Enjoy the outdoors every day, whether it’s a walk around your yard or sitting under an umbrella on your front steps.


The outdoors will refresh you. Even opening the windows can bring an invigorating breeze and a gush of energy.


Cultivate Joy


A lot of what we hear and see these days is scary and troubling, and there is power as we move in the opposite spirit.


Whether it’s a YouTube video or a hopeful song, find one thing each day that makes you smile, laugh, or feel good. To double the impact, share your positivity with others. A joy shared is multiplied!


Reach Out


Perhaps the last few months have left you so frazzled you haven’t made time for others.


Isolation is very dangerous, increasing your risk of mortality, prompting quicker cognitive decline, and inflating your pessimism about the future. People need people, and sometimes YOU need to be the one who makes the first move. Reach out to others through emails, video-conferencing, a driveway coffee date, or a long walk.


Control What You Can


While it is natural to worry about the future, anxiety can carry you away.


When uncertainty tempts you to fret, counteract that by concentrating on what IS in your control. Can you deep-clean your storage room, re-arrange furniture, or start a wood-working project? Bringing order to chaos is a wonderful antidote to stormy emotions.


Help Others


Research shows that helping others is a great way to help yourself.


When recovering from a season of stress, one of the best ways to recover is by lifting others up too. Can you donate money, supplies, or time to a non-profit? Deliver groceries or a “favorite” pampering item to someone who isn’t expecting it?


When you are stressed or afraid, one of the most powerful things you can do is to find someone who is worse off than you and serve them.


This Too Shall Pass


COVID-19 has prompted a season of isolation and stress like many have never known.


It is scary to think of living like this forever, but remind yourself that it WILL end, even if it takes a long time to rebalance. Just like seasons pass each year, this time of testing will pass as well.


There is no “right way” to take care of yourself, but it crucial that you do it!

Friday, May 22, 2020

Customer Service Stories to Make Your Heart Smile

“Well done is better than well said.” (Benjamin Franklin)


After months of social distancing, today, people are craving a personal touch more than ever. Companies that go the extra mile remind us of an important truth: people are valuable. Businesses that genuinely care about their customers will express it, and clients will reciprocate with a loyalty that lasts.


Looking for inspiration? Here are three heart-warming stories.


Lego Understands Children


Losing a toy can be devastating to a child.


Lego recognized this and personalized their response in an unforgettable way. When Luka Apps lost his favorite Lego figure (Ninjago’s “Jay ZX”) while shopping, he wrote an apology letter to Lego, begged for a replacement, and said his father had warned him about taking Legos outside.


Lego didn’t just replace Jay; they surprised Luka with something special. A customer service rep named Richard responded quickly, telling Luka he had talked to (Ninjago Spinjitzu Master) Sensei Wu:


“He told me to tell you, ‘Luka, your father seems like a very wise man. You must always protect your Ninjago minifigures like the dragons protect the Weapons of Spinjitzu.’ Sensei Wu also told me it was okay if I sent you a new Jay and told me it would be okay if I included something extra for you because anyone that saves their Christmas money to buy the Ultrasonic Raider must be a really big Ninjago fan.


“So, I hope you enjoy your Jay minifigure with all his weapons. You will actually have the only Jay minifigure that combines 3 different Jays into one! I am also going to send you a bad guy for him to fight! Just remember, what Sensei Wu said: keep your minifigures protected like the Weapons of Spinjitzu! And of course, always listen to your dad.”


Richard’s response was so creative it went viral. Lego surprised Luke and won the hearts of families worldwide.


B. Dalton: Placing Customers Above Competition


Is your company truly focused on customer satisfaction?


B. Dalton (a bookseller later acquired by Barnes and Noble) was famous for its relentless customer care. One Christmas, a mother was shopping for a book her son requested. An employee scanned the computer and found the desired book was in stock but still packed.


After unsuccessfully searching the storeroom, the employee returned with an apology. Disappointed by her inability to help, the worker then called a competing retailer, reserved the book for the customer, and printed directions to the other store. Reader DD Moffitt was stunned by this consideration. While B. Dalton missed the sale that day, it gained DD’s loyalty for life.


Trader Joe’s: Turning a Problem into a Party


One evening, a mother and son were grabbing groceries at Trader Joe’s.


The boy (as boys are known to do) was bouncing off the walls. He ran loose from his mother, escaped to another aisle, and almost ran over an employee. The embarrassed mother moved quickly to apologize, but the employee said they were all used to it, and that shopping with children was kind of like “a dance party on the floor.”


With that, he started dodging and grooving and called several fellow employees to jam along.


They asked the shy child to join in the freezer section party, and soon the whole store was laughing. By making light of a tough situation, Trader Joe’s made this an unforgettable day.


It’s All About People


Business is about relationships, and customer service stories are wonderful because they illustrate kindness in action and spark new ideas.


Enjoy these illustrations and allow them to inspire you to take your own service to a higher level.

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

3 Strategies for Pursuing New Business Opportunities

In the weeks surrounding the onset of COVID-19, businesses worldwide have pivoted quickly.


Many have juggled shifting expectations by establishing remote work arrangements, securing supply chains, reducing employee workload, cutting costs, or applying for government support.


Now it’s time to move forward with a proactive business plan and to consider new opportunities. What will this look like for your business? Here are three strategies.


Strategy 1: Same Products, Different Channel


If the majority of your business takes place on-site, now a promotion focus through a different channel may be helpful.


In what ways can you offer the same (or similar) products and services through an online channel? Can you digitize any of your physical products? Can you offer webinars, online consultation, or build a technology-mediated delivery solution? From curbside pick-up to livestream shopping events, ramped up digital options are a low-hanging fruit every business should explore.


One florist facing delivery bans sold “virtual” bouquets for $70-$400 dollars. The recipient got a photo of their bouquet over email with the promise of a live delivery once businesses re-opened. When Chinese cosmetics company Lin Qingxuan was forced to close 40% of its stores, the company redeployed its beauty advisers as online influencers, and digital tools like WeChat engaged customers virtually. One large-scale livestream shopping event featuring 100 beauty advisers, helping Lin Quingxuan’s February sales climb 120% over 2019 sales.


Strategy 2: Same Infrastructure, Different Products


During a crisis, leaders must recognize opportunities and make the most of them. 


The COVID-19 season is a crucial time to consider new opportunities. While the need for some products and services has fallen, demand for others is high and even growing. Can your business deploy existing infrastructure to produce different products or offer new services?


In the spring of 2020, companies such as LVMH (perfumes) and Skyroro (rockets) switched to producing hand sanitizer within a few days. Manufacturers like GM, Ford, and My Pillow modified idle production lines to manufacture medical devices and face masks.


If people today see increased value in e-learning, improved individual health, or meaningful networking, how can your business identify and fill these needs? Disruptors often come from the bottom of the market to upend traditional retailers, or they create new markets and appeal to customers who have previously gone without a product.


Strategy 3: Same Products, Different Infrastructure


Perhaps your challenge is an increased demand for a particular product or service.


In this season, some companies may need to quickly augment physical systems, communication networks, or staffing to increase production or delivery capacity. And building new infrastructure often requires collaboration with external partners.


Employee sharing is one example of companies shifting infrastructure to meet needs. In Germany, McDonald’s staff have been permitted to work at Aldi stores while on-site dining is shuttered, and groceries are swamped. On the physical side, an adapted retail model may mean offer smaller stores (or “nodes” within large spaces) rather than crowd-based facilities.


Monitoring needs and forecasting future behavior are critical to adapting your infrastructure and remaining nimble.


Creativity Fuels Innovation


During a crisis, many things are out of your control.


But that’s ok because you can still shape your response! Focus solely on what you can control. Look for creative ways to adapt, and you will come out stronger in the years to come.  


 

Friday, May 15, 2020

Selling the Vision: The Passion Behind the Product

In 1948, Richard Stack started Dick’s Bait and Tackle with three hundred dollars borrowed from his grandmother.


As the store expanded into sports and retail, Richard and his son Ed learned many lessons. Ed says one impactful memory came during a moment that tested his father.


One day a little kid walked in the store and wandered over to the baseball section, then grabbed a glove and bolted toward the door. An employee nabbed him as he reached the parking lot and dragged him back inside. The employee was yelling at the child when Richard Stack intervened. He looked the little boy up and down and laid a hand lightly on his shoulder. From his ragged clothing, it was clear that this child came from a family with limited resources.


“Why’d you steal the glove?” Stack asked.


Tears streamed down the child’s face as he squeaked, “I just want to play baseball.”


Stack nodded. “You can’t steal,” he said. “No matter how bad you want something, you cannot steal it. I want you to promise me you’re not going to do this again.”


“Yes, sir,” the kid said.


“Ok,” said Stack.


Then he walked over to the baseball section of the store and had the boy pick out a ball and a bat to go with the glove.


“You go play baseball,” Stack said, “and stay out of trouble.”


Because Richard recognized the value of his own youth sports experiences, his business was always a major proponent of individual kids and youth sports initiatives. In the early 1960s, Richard went on to expand the Binghamton, NY Little League program from 60 kids to 240. And eventually, Dick’s Sporting Goods began donating over $20 million a year to school sports programs nationwide.


Casting Customers in the Starring Role


Every kid dreams.


Ed Stack says this is something Dick’s keeps in mind through all their business decisions today. When a parent comes in to buy his or her kid a baseball glove or soccer cleats, they are buying more than equipment; they’re buying a dream of joy or greatness for their child. And Dick’s expands that vision to entire communities, leading a “Sports Matters” giving campaign with this storyline: “Every Kid Deserves a Chance to Play.”


Selling a vision is very different than selling a product, and it’s much easier. A vision is about a customer who sees themselves as the main character of your narrative. Here customers see what they could achieve through the vision you create. This starts by highlighting the challenges or problems of their current situation: potential they could tap into, dreams they want to achieve, or opportunities they may be missing.


Inspiring brands always lead their messages with an idea. For Dick’s, a core idea is that sports make a huge difference in the life of a child. Whether your idea is a belief to change the world or to encourage social responsibilities, your core belief will draw like-minded people to your brand. And when this vision engages the customer, they begin to own it for themselves.


Selling the vision isn’t about functions or features; it’s about showcasing the possibilities. Instead of selling rain boots, sell a world without soggy feet. Instead of selling coffee subscription services, sell the aroma of blissfully fresh beans at the doorstep each month. Instead of selling bats and gloves, sell the dream of children who have a place to belong.


Paint a picture of the desired reality and offer a road map for achieving it.

Selling the Vision: The Passion Behind the Product

In 1948, Richard Stack started Dick’s Bait and Tackle with three hundred dollars borrowed from his grandmother.


As the store expanded into sports and retail, Richard and his son Ed learned many lessons. Ed says one impactful memory came during a moment that tested his father.


One day a little kid walked in the store and wandered over to the baseball section, then grabbed a glove and bolted toward the door. An employee nabbed him as he reached the parking lot and dragged him back inside. The employee was yelling at the child when Richard Stack intervened. He looked the little boy up and down and laid a hand lightly on his shoulder. From his ragged clothing, it was clear that this child came from a family with limited resources.


“Why’d you steal the glove?” Stack asked.


Tears streamed down the child’s face as he squeaked, “I just want to play baseball.”


Stack nodded. “You can’t steal,” he said. “No matter how bad you want something, you cannot steal it. I want you to promise me you’re not going to do this again.”


“Yes, sir,” the kid said.


“Ok,” said Stack.


Then he walked over to the baseball section of the store and had the boy pick out a ball and a bat to go with the glove.


“You go play baseball,” Stack said, “and stay out of trouble.”


Because Richard recognized the value of his own youth sports experiences, his business was always a major proponent of individual kids and youth sports initiatives. In the early 1960s, Richard went on to expand the Binghamton, NY Little League program from 60 kids to 240. And eventually, Dick’s Sporting Goods began donating over $20 million a year to school sports programs nationwide.


Casting Customers in the Starring Role


Every kid dreams.


Ed Stack says this is something Dick’s keeps in mind through all their business decisions today. When a parent comes in to buy his or her kid a baseball glove or soccer cleats, they are buying more than equipment; they’re buying a dream of joy or greatness for their child. And Dick’s expands that vision to entire communities, leading a “Sports Matters” giving campaign with this storyline: “Every Kid Deserves a Chance to Play.”


Selling a vision is very different than selling a product, and it’s much easier. A vision is about a customer who sees themselves as the main character of your narrative. Here customers see what they could achieve through the vision you create. This starts by highlighting the challenges or problems of their current situation: potential they could tap into, dreams they want to achieve, or opportunities they may be missing.


Inspiring brands always lead their messages with an idea. For Dick’s, a core idea is that sports make a huge difference in the life of a child. Whether your idea is a belief to change the world or to encourage social responsibilities, your core belief will draw like-minded people to your brand. And when this vision engages the customer, they begin to own it for themselves.


Selling the vision isn’t about functions or features; it’s about showcasing the possibilities. Instead of selling rain boots, sell a world without soggy feet. Instead of selling coffee subscription services, sell the aroma of blissfully fresh beans at the doorstep each month. Instead of selling bats and gloves, sell the dream of children who have a place to belong.


Paint a picture of the desired reality and offer a road map for achieving it.