Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Four Strategies for Crafting Unforgettable Content

Andi Bell, the World Memory Champion of 2002, appears to have memory superpowers.


He can memorize the order of several decks of cards and recall them on the spot. How does he do it? Bell uses a location-based memory strategy, like this:


Bell picks a route through London and walks it repeatedly until it is fixed in his mind. As he walks, he associates cards of the deck with a character (like a bear or a pineapple), then connects each character and card with a site along his route: the bear becomes the House of Parliament, the pineapple becomes Buckingham Palace, etc. In this way, the deck transforms from a string of facts to a story to share. Each deck has roles that come to life mentally as Bell "walks the plot" of his route in London.


Make Your Words More Memorable


While you may not have memory superpowers, we all recognize the power of retention and its impact on marketing.


When you share memorable content, it shapes people's perceptions and positively disposes them toward business with your company.


Do you want to bring your brand story to life and make your marketing messages more memorable?


This is harder than it used to be. In a recent study, Microsoft found our average attention span has decreased from 12 seconds (in 2000) to about eight seconds today, with viewers exposed to up to 5,000 ads daily.


Audiences are bombarded by content, so yours needs to be memorable! Here are four principles to keep your communication as "sticky" as possible:


1. Follow the Rule of Seven


Sales are more than transactions; they involve a journey of decision.


People can't buy from you if they don't know you exist, and they won't buy from you if they don't trust you. Typically, people need to see your message at least seven times before they consider your offer. Don't expect people to respond immediately. Offer different methods to replicate your story to increase the odds that they'll respond.


2. Use Powerful Headlines


Advertising guru David Oglivy estimated that, because four out of five people only read the headlines, when you write a good headline, "you have spent eighty cents out of your dollar."


Since we encounter volumes of content each day, we can't possibly read it all. Great headlines come in many forms. Some are short, others are newsworthy, and many feature a strong product benefit. The best headlines are specific. Which of the following impacts you more?


"How to Improve Production Yields This Season"


OR:


"This Little Mistake Cost One Farmer $3,000 a year"


3. Be Funny


The most memorable messages make you laugh.


When Clutch Media interviewed consumers to find what kind of ads they prefer, people overwhelmingly chose ads that made them want to eat or laugh!


Humor is key to making content memorable, especially when messages are specifically tailored to your audience. Data showed that 53 percent of consumers are likely to remember content that is humorous!


4. Use Detailed, Personalized Stories


Which is more memorable: A stroke response fact sheet or a heart-wrenching brochure about a woman who dismissed her husband's fatal symptoms when he said he was "just tired?"


Stories share messages in solid, emotionally moving, unforgettable ways. The more people connect with a story, the more they'll remember it, so use stories that are specific, personal, and relatable to the clients you want to reach.


Package It With Perfection


In the end, HOW you share is just as important as WHAT you share.


Looking to package your content with noteworthy style? From stunning sell sheets to dynamic postcards and brochures, we'll bring superior craftsmanship that is guaranteed to add impact!


 

Four Strategies for Crafting Unforgettable Content

Andi Bell, the World Memory Champion of 2002, appears to have memory superpowers.


He can memorize the order of several decks of cards and recall them on the spot. How does he do it? Bell uses a location-based memory strategy, like this:


Bell picks a route through London and walks it repeatedly until it is fixed in his mind. As he walks, he associates cards of the deck with a character (like a bear or a pineapple), then connects each character and card with a site along his route: the bear becomes the House of Parliament, the pineapple becomes Buckingham Palace, etc. In this way, the deck transforms from a string of facts to a story to share. Each deck has roles that come to life mentally as Bell "walks the plot" of his route in London.


Make Your Words More Memorable


While you may not have memory superpowers, we all recognize the power of retention and its impact on marketing.


When you share memorable content, it shapes people's perceptions and positively disposes them toward business with your company.


Do you want to bring your brand story to life and make your marketing messages more memorable?


This is harder than it used to be. In a recent study, Microsoft found our average attention span has decreased from 12 seconds (in 2000) to about eight seconds today, with viewers exposed to up to 5,000 ads daily.


Audiences are bombarded by content, so yours needs to be memorable! Here are four principles to keep your communication as "sticky" as possible:


1. Follow the Rule of Seven


Sales are more than transactions; they involve a journey of decision.


People can't buy from you if they don't know you exist, and they won't buy from you if they don't trust you. Typically, people need to see your message at least seven times before they consider your offer. Don't expect people to respond immediately. Offer different methods to replicate your story to increase the odds that they'll respond.


2. Use Powerful Headlines


Advertising guru David Oglivy estimated that, because four out of five people only read the headlines, when you write a good headline, "you have spent eighty cents out of your dollar."


Since we encounter volumes of content each day, we can't possibly read it all. Great headlines come in many forms. Some are short, others are newsworthy, and many feature a strong product benefit. The best headlines are specific. Which of the following impacts you more?


"How to Improve Production Yields This Season"


OR:


"This Little Mistake Cost One Farmer $3,000 a year"


3. Be Funny


The most memorable messages make you laugh.


When Clutch Media interviewed consumers to find what kind of ads they prefer, people overwhelmingly chose ads that made them want to eat or laugh!


Humor is key to making content memorable, especially when messages are specifically tailored to your audience. Data showed that 53 percent of consumers are likely to remember content that is humorous!


4. Use Detailed, Personalized Stories


Which is more memorable: A stroke response fact sheet or a heart-wrenching brochure about a woman who dismissed her husband's fatal symptoms when he said he was "just tired?"


Stories share messages in solid, emotionally moving, unforgettable ways. The more people connect with a story, the more they'll remember it, so use stories that are specific, personal, and relatable to the clients you want to reach.


Package It With Perfection


In the end, HOW you share is just as important as WHAT you share.


Looking to package your content with noteworthy style? From stunning sell sheets to dynamic postcards and brochures, we'll bring superior craftsmanship that is guaranteed to add impact!


 

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Grow Creativity with the Brainstorming Strategies of Walt Disney

From Tarzan's treehouse to the Magic Carpets of Aladdin, Disney's creative team has spent decades constructing fantasy lands depicted in Disney movies.


Bringing dreams to life is Disney's business, and its empire spans 11 theme parks, a town, four cruise ships, dozens of hotels, and many waterparks and restaurants that help guests experience the happiest place on Earth.


The dreamers, or "Imagineers" at Disney are the brains behind the vision. Peter Rummell, who served as chairman of the Imagineers for 12 years, said creativity doesn't just happen. It has to be engineered:


"It is a process and if you don't understand that and if you sit around and wait for the lightning bolt, you're not going to be very productive."


Walt Disney himself was a master of creative thinking and brainstorming. Not only was he talented in discovering ideas, he knew how to convert possibilities into reality. One associate said this about Disney:


"There were actually three different Walts: the dreamer, the realist, and the spoiler. You never knew which one was coming to the meeting."


Disney's Strategic Brainstorming Techniques


Over time, Walt's team used his own attributes for guiding thoughts to build parallel thinking in groups, while at the same time generating concepts, critiquing ideas, and solving problems.


NLP expert Robert Dilts helped bring the technique to life, like this:


  • Four parts of a room were set up for different thinking methods: imagining, planning, critiquing, and for stepping outside the concept. Arranging a physical space for each mindset prepared teams to switch from one thinking mode to another.

  • Teams gathered with a target objective: an innovation to brainstorm, a problem to solve, or a process to improve. While dreamers practiced unhindered green light thinking, planners used red light critiques to define the how, the timeline, or the plan.

  • Meanwhile, critics and the concept overseers analyzed weaknesses of the plan, defining missing elements, gaps in the process, or obstacles to address.

Rotating between spaces allowed teams to transition from unhindered passion to logical plans. Impossible ideas weren't immediately squashed. And through this defined creative process, teams could generate solid creative ideas with an action plan to apply it. 


Unlock Creativity in Your Team


Though Peter Rummell has since moved on from the Imagineers, he says his time at Disney taught him three valuable lessons for guiding teams in creative thinking:


1. Entertain ideas from everyone.


"I think one of the major lessons I learned was that despite the hierarchy of an organization, an idea can come from anywhere."


Top leaders should be willing to listen and younger team members should be encouraged that everyone has a voice.


2. Build an eclectic team.


"An accountant sitting next to a poet is a really good idea," Rummell said.


High IQs are not pre-requisites to creative success. When teams are full of variety, often the least likely people can generate the best concepts. Varying skill sets help to energize the best ideas and to round out gaps in the plan.


3. Vet even the strangest ideas.


When Rummell's team was brainstorming waterpark ideas, they were totally stalled.


"We didn't want to do another Pirates of the Caribbean or some Caribbean island," Rummell said. "We were trying to figure out what would be fun or different."


Everything sounded silly until someone left for the bathroom and walked by a cubicle decorated in snowstorms. Though the idea of a freak Florida snowstorm sounded ridiculous, eventually the idea became "Blizzard Beach," the theme of an entire waterpark in Orlando.


Creativity doesn't just happen, so get resourceful and create some new brainstorming processes of your own. When you're ready to roll out new concepts, we'll help you bring them to life in print!

Friday, March 8, 2019

Go Off the Grid with Transparent or Overlay Design Options

Want to stretch your designs or look your very best in print?


Consider the bold, creative flair overprinting or transparent layering can bring.


Typically, when you generate multi-layer designs your design software will cause one element to cover the artwork below it. Graphics obscure backgrounds, fonts cover image details, or text wraps around focal points as you format it to your preference. This layering process organizes your piece and prevents the muddy look that can occur when colors bleed together.


Overprinting allows you to use one color on top of another in a way that blends two colors to make a third. This is especially useful if you're working with a limited selection of Pantone colors or to create a unique, funky feel when two pieces of artwork overlap.


Overprinting is an element that can be turned on and previewed in the attributes panel with your design software, and flattened (or exported) in the print settings.


Want to try it? Here are some basic examples to experiment with:


1. Blend text over images.


Start with a simple, uncomplicated photo like three bright citrus oranges.


Choose a photo with fewer details so your design isn't too busy. Add text over the image in either a lighter shade of the same citrus hue or a totally contrasting color (white font on orange fruit, for example). Blending the words and image will create a new, third color where the font overlays the fruit.


2. Apply a typographic hierarchy.


Create order in the way your design is read by adjusting font transparency levels throughout the image.


For example, try a textured wood background but allow it to peek through your text by adding transparency to your type. Primary headlines should be less transparent for a bold, commanding presence. Secondary heads or copy text down the page can increase in transparency for a more faded, mysterious feel.


3. Overlay a graphic with a solid color.


Use color to make a statement with a solid color overlay over the whole page.


This means that you cover an image or page with a semi-transparent colored box. The effect can add meaning to an image, bring attention to a design, or help you get creative with limited image options. Another option is to use gradients or filters to fade a background image or bring a bright hue to give a boring image some spark. A neutral color or sepia overlay can add a rustic flavor, then be paired with a bright or transparent font that really pops out.


Transparent Layering in Print


Transparency is also a great layering option that can also be used in all kinds of designs to bring exquisite elegance or unforgettable flair.


Curious? Feel free to visit with us about outstanding options like these:


  • Clear frosted business cards

  • Arresting posters printed on translucent stock

  • Frosted tote bags with artwork or logos foil-stamped on the surface

  • Translucent vellum paper used in formal invitations

  • Oversized translucent stickers for windowfronts, clever displays, or sharp packaging

  • Catalogs or booklets featuring bold text overlaid by a simple, transparent cover

Transparency can be a great way to reveal what's inside your package or under the project cover, letting the product inside sell itself! Use transparency and overlay techniques to give your project more depth, structure, or sophistication.


 

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

Use Game-Based Learning to Train Your Employees

Ethel Merman thought people should lighten up to really live, crooning these lyrics in 1931:


"Life is just a bowl of cherries: don't take it serious, it's too mysterious . . .


Life is just a bowl of cherries, so live and laugh at it all!"


Is life all fun and games? Definitely not.


But leadership experts are finding that one of the best ways to train people is by helping them laugh and compete as they learn through play.


United States... Gaming?


Recently, the US Army employed "serious gaming" to address challenges in their leadership training.


While soldiers were very capable in weapons and war strategies, the Army found its forces need to grow in their soft skills by increasing familiarity with the values, norms, and cultures where they were deployed.


First Person Cultural Trainer, a gaming simulation, was developed specifically to help junior leaders understand the consequences of their speech, body language, temperaments, and choices. Trainees used a 3D avatar to interact and work with individuals in a foreign community and to gain feedback on how their choices affected their ability to build rapport. Students progressed through four levels of gaming to build communication, interpersonal, and intelligence gathering skills.


Games for the Win


Advances in game-training strategies have steered many organizations toward a more recreational focus in their corporate cultures.


Games and stories are a fundamental part of human life: according to one study done by Essential Facts, in 2016 more than 60% of households in America had someone playing video games regularly. Humans excel in games because we love reward-based challenges, especially when objectives become progressively harder or more addictive!


To embed gaming in their corporate training culture Cisco used a "LiveOps" call center to challenge competing agents, ultimately reducing call time by 15% and improving sales by an average of 10%.


A Colorado restaurant gamified its objective to increase sales of specific menu items. When they sold a 4-pack of cinnamon rolls, staff could play online "point-yielding games," and reward points were redeemable for a branded debit card. One study estimated this restaurant realized a 66.2% ROI due to the increase in sales productivity.


Why do games work? Game training is effective because it:



  • Motivates employees to surpass expectations or to complete training exercises

  • Allows people to fail and try again without negative repercussions

  • Makes time for real-time reflection and feedback sessions

  • Grows individual confidence in carrying out tasks (as people practice, break challenges into micro-learning segments, and accurately perceive their ability to succeed)

Game Options of Your Own


Want to improve productivity or increase the cost-effectiveness of your team training?


Games offer hands-on, motivating opportunities that can be used over and over. Purchase simulations like GameLearn training platforms, or consider three hands-on options of your own:


1. New Hire Scavenger Hunt.


Whether it's a physical or online hunt for facts, facilities, or people, get people competing and moving and calm their nerves in the process.


2. Product Knowledge Mix and Match.


Employees take turns being introduced to a variety of customers (including purchasing needs, budget, or personal background).


Players then compete to match the best product to each customer while negotiating a deal or completing the sale.


3. "What If" Training Simulations.


These games give teams the opportunity to explore hypothetical situations.


If they made XX decision, what would happen? Assign real-life tasks and challenges, allow teams to collaborate and present options, and process together about the benefits or consequences of the strategies they chose. Added bonus: supervisors learn alongside employees and gain hands-on experience in leading their teams!


 

Friday, March 1, 2019

The Best Form of Marketing is YOU

If you could harness the most accessible, inexpensive form of marketing for your business, would you want it?


Everyone has it, but it's easy to overlook.


The most authentic sales tool is one that's always with you: yourself.


You are the face of your business. Marketing doesn't sell, people sell! You are the vessel that carries your business brand to every prospect you meet. Are you making the most of own potential?


Being cheerful, confident, and courteous can go a long way toward making a stellar first impression.


Be Cheerful


People want to do business with people they enjoy, and a cheerful attitude can give you a winning edge in many situations.


Whether you are outgoing or more reserved, seek to be:



  • Positive: be optimistic and look on the bright side of life. Be a "green light" thinker and keep an open mind to new ideas.

  • Polite: whether you're running errands or talking on the phone: be polite. You never know who's listening.

  • Persistent: when things don't succeed, don't give up. Be intentional to build relationships or follow up on leads. Make the first move and don't take rejection personally. As millionaire businessman Bo Bennett says, "A rejection is nothing more than a necessary step in the pursuit of success."

Be Confident


When you look good, you feel good. And when you feel good, your confidence is high and you are more likely to perform well.


Your mindset has incredible power to shape your circumstances and help you achieve your goals, so start each day on your toes:


Take care of yourself: Brush your teeth, get regular haircuts, and keep your clothes and accessories in good condition.


Dress professionally: When you dress well, people will respect you. Put time and thought into your choices to communicate that you care about what you do.


Respect your culture: Every company has different expectations for appropriate dress. While you may have the freedom to choose, it's best to lean on the simple, conservative side with accessories, necklines, or fit of your clothing.


Dress "Up": If you are attending an important event or meeting, it's always better to be overdressed than underdressed. A polished look lets people know you are serious and capable. If you feel overly formal when you arrive, you can always roll up your sleeves, ditch your blazer, or loosen your collar.


Be Courteous


Mark Twain said that action speaks louder than words, but not nearly as often.


People will judge you by your behavior, not by your good intentions! How consistently do your actions reveal a positive view of your character or business? Challenge yourself to:


1. Reach out to others. Be the first to say thank you, congratulate others, or start a conversation with someone who is standing alone. Be proactive, intentional, and kind. Do nice things at unexpected moments.


2. Live consistently. What are the mission and the brand values of your company? Do you represent these in both your professional and personal life? If your company exalts community investment, seek to volunteer and invest during your personal life as well.   


3. Be prepared for anything. Rehearse your personal introduction and have conversational icebreakers ready for unexpected moments. Have a product testimonial in your back pocket. Keep breath mints, business cards, or a portable phone charger ready. Think of yourself as a friendly, roaming billboard. Everywhere you go you can sell yourself and market your business.


Finally, remember to smile: a friendly smile makes everyone more inclined to like – and do business – with you.


If you need help marketing yourself on paper, give us a call and we'll make you look your best.

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

How Emotions Win Customers

Cassell's Hamburgers is something of a Cinderella story.


Founder Al Cassell launched the iconic lunch counter in Los Angeles in 1948. Famous for grinding beef daily, Al's passion for great burgers and homemade mayonnaise lived for years. But by 2012, struggling owners decided to sell off Cassell's rights, recipes, and equipment. It seems there was no magic touch that could save this beauty.


Jingbo Lou had other ideas.


As a Chinese exchange student, Lou came to the U.S. to study at the University of Southern California and developed a passion for architectural restoration that grew out curiosity for American culture:


"As an immigrant to this country, my very big task is to learn the culture," Lou says. "I really fell in love with the history."


J Lou put this love to work bringing Cassell's back to life in a salvaged, crumbling 1920s inn called the Hotel Normandie. J Lou recognized a hotel/restaurant combo was a chance to cater to the nostalgia of many Californians.


And he was spot on.


Since Cassell's reopening in 2014, the business has topped many "best of" lists and expanded into Downtown LA and a LAX location in Terminal 1.


Why such phenomenal success? Because emotions sell.


Emotions Win Customers


Brands build loyalty because emotions win customers!


While you may believe your decisions are rational, most choices are actually controlled by your intuitive (emotional) mind. Studies show that people rely on the heart, rather than on logic, to make decisions. Douglass Van Praet, author of Unconscious Branding: How Neuroscience Can Empower (and Inspire) Marketing, says this:


"The most startling truth is we don't even think our way to logical solutions. We feel our way to reason. Emotions are the substrate, the base layer of neural circuitry underpinning even rational deliberation. Emotions don't hinder decisions. They constitute the foundation on which they're made!"


Brands put emotional marketing in play by focusing more on the needs and passions of customers instead of on the unique product benefits their products bring.


For example, Pampers exalts healthy, well-rested infants instead of dry baby bottoms. Nike inspires people to overcome limitations instead of highlighting superior shoe quality. Harley sells people freedom without limits rather than offering a mode of transportation. And Cassell's Hamburgers offers people a return to simpler days, including original chairs, tables, signage, and original menus hanging on the wall.


Want to enhance the emotional message your brand brings? Brand marketers suggest starting with steps like these:


  • Treat prospects as people rather than buyers

  • Give people multiple chances or channels to try or become familiar with your products

  • Use ads with identity messages that motivate or move people

  • Create a shared community among purchasers

  • Inspire users to have dreams

  • Offer messages that give people an experience, not just information

Create stories that allow your company to be part of people's lives and appeal to every aspect of your customers' personalities: their ego, needs, dreams, or general emotional state.


These connections can happen through music, artworks, logos, signage, slogans, sport, or anything that really 'speaks to your customers.


Above all, emotional branding seeks to build lifelong partnerships between a business and its customers. Once someone is emotionally captured by a brand, they are more likely to stay loyal for decades.

Friday, February 22, 2019

Expert Advice for Classy Custom Labels

In today's visually-oriented market, brand persona is everything.


Strong, simple visuals go a long way toward giving you a rock-solid image to stand tall above competitors and to capture customer attention.


While companies work hard to shape outbound marketing, they can easily overlook options for the packaging and presentation of their products. Even simple tweaks can go a long way in making your brand shine!


Custom printed labels can offer a durable, stunning accent to your product or printing. But there are many variables when it comes to printing labels. From the right materials to laminate finishing, it's hard to know where to begin.


Here are a few tricks we've learned over the years to help you craft labels to heighten brand appeal.


Less is More.


When it comes to labels, it's important for your message to connect immediately.


When a label has complex fonts or busy designs, it can be difficult for readers to engage with your product. Keep your designs, images, and borders clean and simple for maximum user experience. If you post nutrition facts, make them as concise and reader-friendly as possible. Non-standard shapes or labels that match your package size are a great way to bring precision and flair.


Color is King.


Want to stop them in their tracks?


Colors command attention and make your message sing.


Try splashes of color against neutral backgrounds, or complementary colors that bring depth and warmth. If your label intends to communicate flavors, seek to pair colors that carry these natural associates (like greens for lime or orange for citrus).


As you design label colors, your goal is to help users find or associate with your product more easily. If you already have a branded color scheme, use this as your prominent theme. Colors help customers recognize your product and feel secure when they purchase in the future.


Fonts Rule.


Nothing says sleek like a perfectly sketched font.


Work to find the right balance of clean and clever. If a font is too generic, it will be easily missed. If it's too wild, it may be hard to read or seem silly. Stick to a font you've branded your company with, or use two fonts (max) to keep your label coherent and easy to read.


Experiment with font pairings: consider a headline that's bold and condensed with a copy that's light or vertically stretched. Or try an all-caps serif with an italicized sans serif to compliment. Test your font pairings on volunteers or gather feedback from artistic friends before finalizing a design.


Consistency Counts.


Labels help you build a personality.


What message will you send? What ideas do you hope to convey?


Keep your labels consistent with your brand identity, looking for distinct features you can highlight or graphics that illustrate your story. 19 Crimes Wines uses an interactive "Living Labels" app to allow each wine to unveil a mystery. Fieldwork Brewing uses blown up oceanside photos for its Island Time Sour Ales. Fit Buns High Protein Bread comes in a box that makes the pastries look like a ripped dude's abdominal "6-pack." The label also conveniently features a free fitness center coupon inside. Also, remember to keep your contact information accessible so customers can visit your website or contact you with feedback.


Let's face it: in the marketplace, beauty is often skin deep.


Your label is a representation of the things you've worked hard to build, so go the distance to make your brand stick. Need ideas to get you started? From hangtags to custom adhesives, we're your one-stop shop for creative label options!

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Four Exercises to Fuel Your Design Innovation

Even the most brilliant creators need new fuel from time to time.


If you're feeling stifled or uninspired (or you just want to have fun!) consider some of these creative "sparks" from designer Jim Krause to ignite fresh perspective in your monthly routine.


Exercise: Make a puddle of ink. Blow the ink around using a straw. Consider layering different colors of ink and using different kinds of paper. To mix things up, repeat this exercise but start the puddle of ink on an existing picture—a landscape, a silhouette, a cultural icon.


Takeaway: Creating things that create themselves reminds us that art is fun and beauty can arise from unexpected places.


Exercise: Choose a subject and create 25 thumbnail icons that depict its message and its meaning. If that's too easy, try 50 or 100. Start with basic sketches and transition into graphic design or photos. Consider different line weights, shaded and filled areas, or combinations of geometric shapes.


Takeaway: Forcing yourself to sketch the same thing in different ways can build and broaden your artistic muscle. The next time you work on a concept, fill a full page with icon sketch versions of it before you settle on your design of choice.


Exercise: When was the last time you took out a paintbrush? Still-life portraits are a tangible way to sharpen your skills, especially when you combine objects of various shapes and textures in interesting arrangements (think eggs in a bowl surrounded by glass spice bottles on a bustled cloth napkin).


Takeaway: Still-life paintings are like eating your carrots: they're good for you and increase your appreciation of texture. Painting helps you learn to see forms and colors, which makes you a more effective artist in any field.


Exercise: Begin with a blank piece of paper. Make a mark using the media of your choice (India ink, acrylic paint, and toothbrush, sketching pencils, chalk). The next mark you make will be a reaction to the first mark. This can be a new mark, a line, shading, fillers, or finishes. The goal here is not to "plan" what you're going to draw but to practice progressive art by following one element to another (like a group of people taking turns adding sentences to a narrative). Your goal is not to create a thing of beauty, but simply to flow. If the results are pleasing, that's fine. If not, that' s ok too.  


Takeaway: This exercise teaches the artist to rely on instinct: to react or flow rather than to plan and control. The best art can be born out of spontaneity.


Tend Your Roots


Creating is like breathing: it brings energy and life! If you only create what you're "told" to do, you will stagnate. Tend your roots by cultivating the passions and interests that nourish your artistic core. As you pursue creative expressions outside your job or career, originality will flow in your profession as well.


Now that your designs are really singing, find high impact print options that won't shock your budget. Want to talk cost-effective wow factors like thermography, high shine coatings, or alternative bleed options? Give us a call!


 

Friday, February 8, 2019

Team Collaboration Transforms Customer Service

T-Mobile touts itself as "America's Fastest Unlimited Network."


In a fiercely competitive market, T-Mobile knows one of its most crucial responsibilities is to bring pleasurable customer support to the millions who call their helpline each month. While traditionally its call service center resembled a factory floor (cubicles brimming with reps donning headsets), T-Mobile has dedicated the past decade to reinventing its service sector.


Today when you enter a T-Mobile contact center, you'll find reps sitting together in shared pods as they collaborate to solve customer issues as a "Team of Experts," or TEX. TEX teams include cross-functional groups of 47 people who serve named customer accounts in a specific market. Each team has a point leader, four coaches, and eight technology specialists. Customers no longer wade through a "call tree" but have immediate access to a dedicated, reliable team. Teams are so connected to their service region that they follow the daily news in this area and decorate their pods accordingly (like a Lego replica of the Golden Gate bridge).


"We're constantly talking about what's happening there," said a senior rep whose team serves San Diego. "I've never been to San Diego, but I know what's going on in the local news, where the best place is for fish tacos, and what the surf report looks like for the next few days."


Now a team in Chattanooga is responsible for 120,000 customers in Detroit, and a Charleston team responds to suburban Philadelphia. This collaboration allows each service team to operate like a small business, with members laboring together to increase performance. As a result, employee turnover has decreased by 48%. T-Mobile now boasts its lowest "cost to serve" ratio in company history (down 13% since 2016) and has been ranked the number one wireless company for service by Nielsen for the past 24 months.


Together Everyone Achieves More


Team collaboration fuels innovation and provides consistent service for your customers.


Does your team have a sense of enthusiasm or shared DNA that brings measurable results? T-Mobile started with four questions:



  • Are our customers happier?

  • Are they staying with us longer?

  • Are we deepening our relationship with them?

  • Are we making their service experience low-effort? 

Embracing a team-service focus brings your clients more effective answers. Reps develop more authentic relationships with clients, which means they can improve their everyday service functions. And this ultimately enhances the product or service you offer. A superior output prompts higher customer loyalty, increased sales, and better word-of-mouth for your business.


Here are three tips to help you improve customer service teamwork:


Clearly State the Team Objectives


Teams can't move fluidly until everyone knows what the "win" is.


Highlight Team Performance


Regularly communicate achievements, challenges, and specific goals. As progress is celebrated, motivation and unity increases.


Create a Sense of Belonging


While T-Mobile's traditional customer-service managers only measured individual performance, today compensation is variably weighted according to both individual and team performance.


Teams use collaboration software to resolve calls and alert each other of escalating issues (like regional power outages). From this ownership mindset to a wholesale transformation of the factory floor, customer care vice president Callie Field says team unity has empowered everyone to do more:


"If all you ask people to do is bring down their handle time, they can do that. But if you empower them to do more—to think like a small-business owner who is focused on the customer's happiness and the strategic management of their P&L—they can do that too. And they'll do it really well if you give them the tools and get out of their way."

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Target Local Consumers with Event Sponsorship

Corporate sponsorship is one of the most effective marketing channels, but most businesses haven't tried it.


What is event sponsorship and why should you consider it? From a 5K road race to a good old-fashioned neighborhood picnic, companies that get outside their walls can make a huge splash in the community.


Won't You Be My Neighbor?


Businesses that rely on local support understand that their company will grow primarily through the support of its neighbors.


How do you engage your neighbors?


By being a good neighbor! Put a face on your business by sponsoring a baseball league, hosting community events on your lawn, or by mobilizing your city to benefit a beloved charity.


Community development events show you are invested in your region and you enjoy its people. Here are some fun examples of how firms have made this a reality:



  • Budweiser helps sponsor the annual "duck" tape festival in Avon, Ohio. With music, brews, fashion shows, and family-friendly movies, the three-day event draws more than 60,000 people from around the world to see taped parade floats and a playful tapestry of taped costume creations.   

  • McDonald's and Pizza Hut sponsor "the Chicken Show" in Wayne, Nebraska, which features a "national cluck-off" and the world's largest chicken dance celebration.

  • In 2016 Pretty Pampers Beauty Essex hosted a charity event that offered affordable and luxurious experiences while raising money for The Cystic Fibrosis Trust. Local spas teamed up to provide steeply discounted services like massages and facials so donors could relax and unwind. Between sessions, guests could shop boutique vendor stalls featuring local clothing, jewelry, cosmetics, and home decor.

Hosting or sponsoring an event can help your business demonstrate its commitment to community involvement, philanthropy, and family fun. Of those local businesses who get involved in a community event, 80% said they were satisfied with the results and many reaped tangible benefits like features in local newspapers, tags in citywide blogs, promotional newsletter highlights, and social media selfies!


Events spread your name in print through T-shirts, prizes, water bottles, and giant displays, and photos of real people in action. This prompts word-of-mouth marketing that simply can't be captured elsewhere. In 2016-2017, companies who used local events saw sales increase by an average of 14 percent.


Use Corporate Events to Spread the Love


How can your business get started in spreading some cheer?


Sponsor a charity event or contest, host a sales or promo booth at a community festival, promote an on-site event, or allow your customers to nominate recipients of a "give-back" incentive you sponsor for your city. Sponsorship doesn't always have to be monetary: you can also look for ways to volunteer branded items, free service from your company, or concessions donations for a city-wide festival.


Want to multiply your marketing dollars and make a lasting impact? A micro-market event focus can bring better results and spread the love. When companies support issues they care about, they gain greater trust and loyalty from patrons. And that investment is sure to yield great returns!

Friday, February 1, 2019

Etiquette Training for a New Generation

Johnny Oleksinski of the New York Post has a bone to pick with millennials and their bad manners. Consider one technology-related example:


"Last week I watched in horror as a 20-something girl carefully snapped a photo of a basket of onions," said Oleksinski. "But we weren't at a serene farm or the Marché d'Aligre in Paris — we were crammed into the Columbus Circle Whole Foods. Thousands of customers were streaming through the aisle trying to grab some garlic for their dinners, and Little Miss Annie Leibovitz was blocking traffic to get some artsy snaps of nightshades. Will she print out these photos? Nope. A pile of white spheres under fluorescent light is even too dull for Instagram. Next time, Annie, take a breath and think about where you are . . . Pay for your brie wrap and vamoose."


Etiquette is Part of Your Brand


Oleksinski isn't alone. Modern professionals are finding a suffocating relationship with technology has left them oblivious to social basics their elders took for granted.


Presentation, both personal and professional, is a key to showing who you are. And etiquette training of all kinds is making a resurgence for millennials.


"Etiquette is so much a part of your brand," said Rachel Isgar, a Phoenix-based etiquette coach and author. "Just a few improvements can help your career."  


People respond to people, and poor manners may mean a hindered partnership, a missed promotion, or a collapsed deal. Companies like Beaumont Etiquette, which runs a marquee "finishing program" in the Plaza Hotel of Manhattan, have recognized a unique need for social training in the modern generation.


For $125, a participant can take part in a two-hour group session that teaches courtesy gestures, personal hygiene, and a range of soft skills conducive to successful socializing.


"Even if it was not something you were taught as a child, anyone can learn to have good etiquette, and it's up to you to teach yourself," founder Myka Meiers said. "I think, sadly, people become very self-involved . . . and forget about others. What I wish these people could learn is that by spending just a little time each day making someone else happy and spreading kindness, even the smallest gesture, their lives could be so much more fulfilled."


Meiers says honoring others includes everything from table manners to Twitter posts. Just as we once taught people to "think before you speak," how much more crucial should it be to "think before you post?"


"If you don't want your grandmother or your boss to read it, don't post it," Meiers said. "Once it's on the web, it's out there for good." 


Want to curb your own bad behavior? Consider ten smartphone tips for starters:  



  1. Never ignore those you're with to make a call or text.

  2. Apologize to your guest if you need to respond to an important message.

  3. Never leave your ringer on in quiet places.  

  4. Never use offensive language while using your phone in public.

  5. Don't post work-related complaints on social media.

  6. Don't photograph everything.

  7. Never post on social media while you're under the influence.

  8. Don't place your phone on the table during meetings.

  9. Don't text people about work outside of normal office hours.

  10. Don't dehumanize cashiers by using your phone while someone serves you.


Daniel Post-Senning, co-author of the 19th edition of "Emily Post's Etiquette: Manners for Today," says ultimately good manners are about putting others first, whether that's online or at a dinner party. While social customs change, manners are timeless:


"Manners are really reflections of core principles," Daniel says. "Consideration, respect and honesty."

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Tips to Become a More Decisive Leader

Each January, people set New Year's resolutions, embrace a visionary attitude for the year, or dream about possibilities for the future.


Some people thrive due to this natural "reset," but others ignore it altogether. And some people just feel stuck. They wrestle with questions like these:


  •    "I'd like to write a book, but where would I start?"

  •    "I want to be more organized, but what is the best scheduling system?"

  •    "I want to quit my job, but what would I do next?"

Do you feel stuck as a leader?


Twenty years from now, you won't remember how many loads of laundry you did or which Netflix series you binge-watched in 2019. What will matter is the relationships you cherished and the challenges you overcame. You'll feel pride when you look back at goals you achieved or significant contributions you made. And this begins with action!


Your habits compound over time to shape your identity and to impact others. But this starts with an action-oriented, decisive mindset.


Here are several catalysts to help you become a more decisive leader.


The worst decision is no decision.


Many times, people postpone decisions for fear of failing or making a poor choice.


But most failure stems from inaction, not from mistakes we make in the process. Though some decisions matter more than others, often the decision not to act is the most costly choice of all. Don't worry about doing the wrong thing or obsess over details. Make up your mind to be an action-oriented person and to learn from both your success and your missteps.


Action trumps the "perfect" plan.


It's easier to steer a car that is moving than one that is parked.


Often, we over-prepare or over-think things, which is really just a form of procrastination. Taking action may mean prioritizing undesirable tasks above all others, or refusing to do things you enjoy until you solve a stalled problem. Momentum is powerful, so pick one area to begin and get started!


Narrow the field.


Sometimes the hardest part of a decision is the plethora of options before you.


It takes time to evaluate the pros and cons of every choice, so pare down choices (or have your team do this for you) until you have only a handful of options to consider. It's easier to select one choice from two options than it is to select two options from 200!


Set deadlines.


When you struggle with passivity in a certain area, don't keep kicking this pain point down the road.


Instead, give yourself a time frame to research options and set a deadline for making a choice. Putting "deliberation dates" on the calendar transforms possibilities into realities.


Delegate more.


As you start a new season, challenge yourself to stop doing just one thing, and to empower just one person.


Step back to evaluate your schedule or ask someone to help you do this. What is sucking unnecessary time or energy? Could you purge this or share more of your load with your team?


Delegate authority to a trusted staff member and empower leaders around you by training and trusting them. And don't micromanage people, even if their style is different than your own. This discourages others because it suggests you don't trust them or you desire control more than you want growth!


Failure to make a decision or take quick action can sometimes hurt your business more than miscalculations along the way. Improve your decision-making capabilities and make this your most productive year yet!

Friday, January 25, 2019

Boost Online Reviews to Drive Profitable Consumer Action

How do you grab a lifeline on "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?"


You ask the audience!


While experts tend to get a trivia question right two-thirds of the time, the audience gets that answer right 91 percent of the time. Why? Because individually we are limited, but collectively we are genius.


In today's global economy, buyers understand the importance of collective intelligence. People rely on other consumers to help them decide what movies to see, which vet to use for their pets, or the best software to buy.


Recent studies show more than half of adults under age 50 consult online reviews before making a purchase decision. People trust and rely on these reviews, and products or companies that receive positive reviews increase the quality and quantity of their website traffic.


Gather and Manage Your Own Online Reviews


Customer reviews are an incredibly valuable asset in today's world, and businesses have more power over these reviews than they may think.


Don't leave your reputation in the hands of third-party sites like Google, Facebook, or Yelp! As you seek to generate leads and engage prospects, work to:



  • Encourage satisfied customers to leave reviews. Can you interview a brand loyalist personally? Have you launched an e-mail campaign to ask customers for reviews on recent purchases? Have you tried incentives to prompt greater response?

  • Get notified of new customer reviews and efficiently respond. Reply directly online or send a personal message to the reviewer to express gratitude or interest in their concern.

  • Aggregate and embed reviews on your business website. This increases the chance of positive reviews showing up in online searches by interested prospects.

  • Learn from reviews and improve service. Even negative feedback can signal customer engagement. The more you listen and respond to your customers, the more relevant and successful you will be.

As you flush out and manage reviews, don't assume that search engines and review sites aren't important. According to Mike Bluementhal, online marketing co-founder of GatherUp, Google is crucial:


"We advise small businesses to think of Google as your new Home page. Your Google brand result is one of your most important pages on the internet. That is not to say it can replace your website. It can't. But your Google presence should reflect the best your business has to offer. People searching will see how you appear in Google and make immediate judgments."


A Winning Formula


Bluemental says that 70 percent of new leads start at Google.


While traditionally word-of-mouth marketing the most powerful referral option, online reviews now hold tremendous influence. From phone calls, driving directions, or contact form fills, Google is the number one spot for new users to take action to connect with a business. And this behavior is strongly influenced by the customer reviews Google posts from the business website or social media pages.


In other words, manage your content and take great care of your customers! Care about what they think and streamline your service to their needs. Encourage them to share compliments. And when they do, give that content a boost so it appears far and wide online. Bluementhal says this will help entrepreneurs to improve weak areas while simultaneously growing areas of strength:


"It's a winning formula in today's landscape."

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Craft First-Class Flyers with 5 Quick Tricks

Want to grab attention for your event, promotion, or group?


Flyers are a low-cost form of mass communication that can be personally delivered, distributed through mail, posted in public places, or sent via e-mail. Flyers are fun to create and provide a great place to experiment with unusual images or layouts. As you explore the possibilities, here are five areas to sharpen your design:


1. Magnetic Focal Point


When you begin your design, clearly identify the theme of your message.


Look for an image or headline that best communicates this, and build your entire design around it. Every flyer should have one thing on the page that is huge, dominant, or captivating. If you catch their eye with this focal point, they are more likely to read the rest of your text. 


2. Logical Design Flow


After the focal point, your flyer design should have a sensible layout that intentionally leads the reader through the page.


Strong subheads should allow viewers to quickly scan the flyer. If the skim layers don't interest them, people won't read the copy. Designs should include engaging color and graphic contrast. If everything is large, nothing can really grab a reader's attention. Sequence a logical flow: left to right, top to bottom, or using visual cues like numbers, arrows, or a "map" of dashed lines.


3. Strategic Repetition


Whether your headline uses a playful typeface, script style, or an ordinary font with unusual colors, consider bringing a little of that font into the body of the text for repetition.


This may mean using one letter or one word in that typeface or highlighting key words or phrases in each section of the design to make them pop. A strong contrast of typefaces will add interest to your flyer, but intentional design repetition will bring a sense of integrity and solidarity to your piece.


4. Cohesive Alignment


Choose one alignment for the entire flyer.


Don't center the headline then set the body copy flush left. Don't center everything on the page but also squish extra elements in the bottom corners. Be confident in your layouts: try all flush left or flush right. Your design should feel brave and bold!


5. Appropriate Content


What should you include in a flyer?


While brochures or foldable flyers come in a variety of formats, a basic rule of thumb is this: the "where" determines the "what." The delivery of your publication has everything to do with its content. If your piece arrives in the mail to someone on your mailing list, you can include much more on it. If it is to been seen on a display board as people stroll by, your main feature must be readable at a glance.


Flyers are fun to create because they allow you to abandon restraint.


Your flyer will often go head-to-head with dozens of competing pages, so grab their attention and really go wild. Anything out of the ordinary will make people stop and look, and that is 90 percent of your goal.

Friday, January 18, 2019

Build a Culture of Success Through Kindness

Stephen Cannon became president and CEO of Mercedes-Benz in 2012. Though he was convinced about the quality of his cars, he recognized the success of his brand was rooted in the kindness of his people.


Cannon understood that the company, the true essence of Mercedes-Benz, was embodied by the people who sold and serviced the cars, including how generously they behaved.


"Every encounter with the brand must be as extraordinary as the machine itself," Cannon said.


Cannon believed almost every touchpoint of the brand involved a personal encounter with a human being in a dealership. Representatives could act in ways that were memorable and honoring, or repetitive and dismissive. This was a grand vision, but how could Cannon impart a culture of connection and compassion to 23,000 employees at dealerships nationwide?


 "There is no scientific process, no algorithm, to inspire a salesperson or a service person to do something extraordinary," Cannon said. "The only way you get there is to educate people, excite them, incite them. Give them permission to rise to the occasion when the occasion to do something arises. This is not about following instructions. It's about taking a leap of faith."


Kindness is Contagious


In this leap of faith, Cannon challenged dealers and employees to perpetuate a grassroots movement that scattered kindness like a contagion.


This included spontaneous acts of generosity, like a dealer who noticed a buyer's birthday on his closing documents and included a personalized cake when the customer came for the car. Or for a woman who panicked over a flat tire on the way to her son's graduation. When mechanics could not locate a replacement tire for her model, the service manager jacked up the showroom model, removed one of its tires, and sent this mom on her way in a flash.


 "We have so many stories like this," Cannon says. "They're about people going out of their way because they care enough to do something special."


Beyond encouraging "extra mile" efforts, companies can build a culture of kindness in three areas:


Giving Back to the Community


Businesses that sponsor volunteer days enjoy team building, civic pride, and a more personal investment in their neighbors.


Today a growing number of companies participate in a one-for-one model: for every product sold, they give one matching item (or dollar amount) to a person in need. Or for every hour an employee volunteers, a matching dollar donation can be given as well. For example, Microsoft employees serving as Boy Scout leaders can simultaneously "bank" corporate dollars into scout scholarship accounts for those in need.


Offer Employee Autonomy


If you want generous employees, healthy working conditions are essential.


Younger people especially enjoy working for companies that allow flex scheduling, remote working options, or some ability to shape their physical environment. When employees feel empowered, they generate better results. When you convey a sense of trust in your employees, they'll perform beyond expectations.


Build Personal Ownership


It is more natural for employees to show kindness if they are motivated by pride in what they do.


When Mercedes-Benz realized that nearly 70 percent of its front-line employees had never driven a car out of the dealership, the company put 800 new cars in the field, offering 48 hours of fun to each staff member. People drove their daughters for sweet 16 parties, chaperoned grandma on her 90th birthday, and snapped selfies to chronicle the adventure.


"The reactions were out of this world," said general manager Harry Hynekamp said. "Sure, people got to know the cars very well. But the biggest piece was the pride piece."

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

How to Succeed in Remote Working Environments

In the past, ideas of "virtual work" might have included colleagues from a different country or visions of mysterious IT specialists who hacked your computer by day and only crept out at night.


Today, virtual work is woven into the fabric of our experience. Remote working is essentially using technology to conduct business, often with nearby colleagues. This may include:



  • Using e-mail or IM to conduct business with nearby colleagues (in your city or down your hallway)
  • Multi-site meetings involving video-conferencing or simulcast options
  • Flex-scheduling that allows employees to work part of the week from home

Virtual work is on the rise: a 2017 Gallup report found 43% percent of Americans work remotely to some degree. Fifty-six percent of software startups worldwide have outsourced their work (contributing to the demand for remote workers) and, according to research by Gartner, organizations that embrace remote working will increase employee retention rates by 10%.


While there are many advantages to enhanced technology, there are unique difficulties to overcome. Whether you're keeping a team accountable or sharing instructions (but can't point at someone's computer screen over their shoulder), the demand for good communication has significantly increased!


Productive Virtual Relationships


What communication skills will you need to succeed in remote working relationships?


Whether you're e-mailing your colleague across the table or uploading blueprints to a design specialist in another time zone, here are some guidelines to grow your skills:


Establish Rules of Engagement


When working face-to-face, the style of communication evolves naturally.


You don't barge through a door when it is shut or get offended if someone pauses after you ask a question. But since we lose non-verbal cues in remote working, it's important to establish connection guidelines. Your team should discuss what technology you will use, how often to correspond, and the preferred method of communication. If one person enjoys e-mail but another sends 10 texts per hour, tension can build quickly. A multi-tasking supervisor may prefer to connect once a day, while a project manager might want hourly updates. If you're not sure where to begin, ask your team:


  •    What time of the day is best to catch you?
  •    What times are off limits?
  •    Is it ever ok to send a text message?
  •    What is the best way to share files?
  •    How should we connect offline if confusion arises?
  •    How will we eliminate lost or duplicated work?

Build Trust


Before starting a project, it's important for colleagues to establish a foundation.


To build relational trust, have one face-to-face (or video-conference) meeting to gain confidence in each other. Include simple social elements (questions that are sincere but not overly personal), share some of your own interests and career aspirations, and let a friendship develop naturally.


When colleagues work remotely, they're not as confident that you are looking out for their best interests. Seek to affirm good work or have a little fun, even just light-hearted online banter.


Demonstrate Competence


Take the initiative in giving regular progress updates, completing projects on time, or voicing questions and concerns before they spiral out of control.


Without nonverbal cues, silence can be damaging, so respond to e-mails quickly and honestly, even if you need more time to resolve an issue. Restate questions in your own words to ensure you are understanding any problems and be honest if you feel someone is hindering the workflow of your team.


Maintaining strong, productive virtual relationships takes extra tact and attention, but these contacts can lead to years of fruitfulness. Sow seeds of intentionality now and enjoy a high yield in years to come.

Friday, January 11, 2019

7 Signs That You are A Bad Boss (and 4 Ways to Grow

If you haven't had a frustrating boss in your life, then you are part of a slim minority.


Most of us have experienced a manager that's driven us to frustration or brought us to tears. Here are some "Bonehead Boss" stories from CBS News to make you grimace:


1 - After months of hard work, I closed a deal for $7,000,000. My customer bought the equipment because of our strong personal relationship and my company's technical capabilities. Six months later they doubled the order. My bosses, thinking that they had closed the deal, limited my commission to a fraction of what it should have been. I found a new job and quit. A week later my customer moved the order to my new company.


2 - I had worked at a camp for five summers during college when my best friend unexpectedly died from heart failure. When I returned from the funeral, my grandfather was on his deathbed. Obviously upset, I approached my boss and explained the situation. She said "Well, you'll have to get over it and get on with your life. I can't let you go again." My grandfather died the next week. When I told my boss about his upcoming funeral she said, "You should have planned better, you have no bereavement time left."


Ouch.


What if the Bad Boss is You?


Whether its disrespect, micro-managing, or verbal abuse, bad experiences with a boss can make people dread going to work each day.


But what if the bad boss is you?


According to the 2017 "Bad Boss Index" from Bamboo HR, here are seven mistakes managers frequently make. They:



  • Take credit for stuff they didn't do
  • Don't appear to trust or empower their employees
  • Don't seem to care if their people are overworked
  • Don't advocate for employee compensation
  • Don't back up employees when there's a dispute between staff and company clients
  • Don't set clear expectations or provide proper direction on assignments/roles
  • Focus more on employee weaknesses than strengths

How many of these characteristics apply to your leadership?


If you can relate, consider talking with your employees and asking how you can improve. Try to understand the impact of your faults and use this as motivation to change. People will trust you more when you are honest about your weakness.


Four Steps For Growth as a Leader


As you listen and implement change, here are four steps toward positive change:


1. Ask honest questions and listen without becoming defensive.


Even if only a part of the criticism is true, your ability to sift through exaggeration (without rejecting feedback entirely) will grow you in leadership and character.


2. Deal with feedback directly.


Don't discount a complaint or place the blame on others. Seek accountability and ownership for how others perceive you.


3. Take immediate action.


Give affirmation to the feelings and requests of others and look for two or three quick changes you can make to remedy frustration.


Try to sow in the opposite spirit: if you micromanage, be more intentional about delegating. If you criticize too often, seek to encourage more.


4. Establish weekly leadership goals and share them with someone you trust.


Have someone (a neutral friend or respected co-worker) hold you accountable for necessary changes, and schedule check-ins for at least one month as you move ahead.


Remember, a person who feels appreciate will often do more than you expect. Take ownership over your leadership and your team will flourish as you grow!

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Build Momentum with Contests that Make Your Customers Smile

Boston was overjoyed again as their darling RedSox capped off a 5-1 series victory over the Dodgers to take the 2018 World Series title.


The championship was well deserved, as Boston won a record 119 games, more victories than any World Series champion except the 1998 Yankees. "Now we deserve to be known as the greatest Red Sox team of all time," said infielder Brock Holt.


If the RedSox are not the greatest, they are certainly the most loved. According to numbers crunched by Bundle, Boston fans are "America's most obsessed baseball fans." Bundle's stats include money spent on tickets, food, and merchandise, including neighborhood restaurants and bars. From May of 2003 to April 2013, the Red Sox sold out every home-game seat – a total of 820 games for a major professional sports record!


The "Perfect Game" Promotion


One Boston retailer recognized this passion and tapped into the momentum.


In 2013, Jordan's Furniture held a "Perfect Game" promotion with one simple premise: any fan buying furniture or merchandise before May 5 would receive the furniture for free if a Red Sox pitcher threw a perfect game between July 17 and October 1. While that perfect game never materialized, the contest was certainly a home run. In 2014, Jordan's offered a new promotion: if the Sox could repeat their 2013 World Series victory, everyone who bought furniture between before May 18, 2014, would get a full rebate on their purchase!


Jordan's grabbed local excitement and used it as fuel for sales. And why not? A wonderful way to build brand loyalty is by making your customers smile. Like a "kiss a pig" contest generates giving, you can grow marketing engagement with an entertaining contest of your own. Here are three examples to get your creative juices flowing:


1. Get Them Snapping. 


People love to snap and share photos, especially of themselves.


Capitalize on that obsession with personalized photo contests! Any photo contest can begin with these words: "Show us your _____." Contestants then take photos that demonstrate their best, their worst, their ugliest, their cutest, etc.


Perhaps the winner of the ugliest couch gets a free upgrade from your showroom. Maybe the cutest baby picture nets a year of free diapers. The craziest bedhead gets a free cut and style from your salon. Get them sharing and enjoy the results!


2. Get Them to Go Wild. 


In this scenario, customers capture shots of themselves using your product "in the wild."


This contest could include video or traditional photo categories and might also be used as a monthly or bi-annual promotion. Winners receive a prize, a service credit, or a gift card.


When you publicize the contest, include questions that might draw fun testimonials as well. Feature results in your newsletters, social media posts, or in hilarious product reviews!


3. Get Them Celebrating


What food do you adore? Do others love it too?


Get their taste buds tingling by building contests around minor secular observances like national doughnut day, coffee day, s'more day, etc. (Run a quick internet search of "national food days" for inspiration!)


Seasonal contests allow you to foster anticipation every year, especially during your off seasons. Ask people to vote on their favorite pie flavor then serve samples. Ask contestants to guess the number of Ghiradelli chocolates in your vase on National Chocolate Day. Ask for sweetest first date stories and give away a Valentine's Day package at a local restaurant or hotel.


 Make customers smile and keep your name front and center all year!

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

True Empathy Can Win the Day

A farmer had a litter of puppies for sale. As he was driving the last nail into his advertising yard sign, he felt a tug at his overalls. "Mister," said a boy at his feet, "I want to buy a puppy."


"Well," said the farmer, "These puppies come from fine parents and cost lots of money. How much do you have?"


The boy dropped his head momentarily, then drew several coins from his pocket. "I don't have much, but is this enough to take a look?"


The farmer paused reluctantly but before he could answer three puppies rolled out of the doghouse. One tiny, awkward pup hobbled behind. The boy's eyes lit up. "I want that one," he exclaimed, pointing to the runt. The man shook his head solemnly. "Son, that puppy will never be able to run and play like the others."


The boy rolled up his trousers to reveal a steel brace running down both sides of one leg. "I do want that puppy. I don't run too well myself, and he'll need someone who understands him."


That day the boy won the puppy because he moved the farmer's heart. Why? Because empathy impacts people. Researchers define empathy as the ability to sense other people's emotions and to imagine how they might be thinking or feeling. Empathy is essential to human interactions because it allows us to connect in authentic ways and to offer helpful words, comfort, or assistance. Empathy is essential in every human interaction but is especially significant for those in customer service.


Empathy Begins with Real Listening


Would you like to be more successful in minimizing difficult situations or by helping customers overcome their hesitations as you're trying to make a sale?


All empathy begins with real listening. As you listen with empathy, ask questions like:


  • "How is this situation affecting you?"
  • "Can you tell me more about _____?"
  • "What do you think would be your ideal outcome here?"

As a person processes, take care not to interrupt. While you may not be equipped to address their concerns, asking empathetic questions can shift your focus to listen more effectively, opening new lines of communication and diffusing tension so everyone can move forward.


Empathy involves reflective listening, using phrases that demonstrate your understanding. Phrases that show customers you are taking customers seriously might include:


  • "I can understand how frustrating it is when . . ."
  • "I see this is very complicated/upsetting."
  • "I'm sorry to hear that and I'll do my best to help."

Pair Compassion with Action


As you communicate compassion, be ready to follow your words with action.


Take ownership of a situation by following up immediately, by referring it to a superior, or by positively addressing both the person and the problem. Phrases like, "ok, we can fix this," or "let's get this sorted out right away," will reassure customers you're taking ownership of the problem.


Action-based empathy also means thinking outside the box for large-scale change. Erin Henkel, portfolio director at the IDEO global design and innovation company, says often positive innovation begins with empathy:


"Effective companies need employees who constantly imagine themselves in the customer's shoes. As they make the customer's problems their own, they are better able to meet expectations, make necessary changes, and to retain customer loyalty for another day."


Being able to put yourself in someone else's shoes is a hallmark of intelligent leadership and of excellent teamwork. Work hard to grow empathy and you will open new lines of communication, create greater understanding, and help everyone achieve common goals.