Here are a few creative ways to help turn your competitors’ customers into your own:
Here are a few creative ways to help turn your competitors’ customers into your own:
The first Friday in March is Employee Recognition Day, but you don’t have to wait until then to show your employees how much you appreciate them. Though the economy is on the upswing — finally — many employers are still feeling pinched, especially when it comes to budgeting for pay increases and other employee-motivating benefits. But even if you can’t afford a grand gesture, showing your employees how much you value their contributions is still a must.
Why is Employee Recognition So Important?
It may help to think of employee recognition efforts as an investment in your company’s success. While it’s true that motivated employees work harder and take more pride in their work, empirical evidence also supports the benefits of recognition.
A study of more than 4 million employees found that regular praise and recognition has a positive impact on employee performance, specifically resulting in:
Now that you know how important recognition is, here are a few budget-friendly ways to honor your hard-working employees.
1. Just Say Thanks
So what grabbed the top spot? Ninety-two percent of those surveyed rated “support and involvement” from their supervisor as the most desired motivator. Similarly, “personal praise” took second place with 79 percent describing it as very or extremely important. These statistics underscore the impact an employer can have, even without the backing of a huge budget.
Sometimes, it’s enough just to express your gratitude. Make it public by posting a handwritten note on their office door or wall, sending out a company-wide email, mentioning them in a newsletter, or praising your employee at the beginning of a meeting.
2. Break Time
Maybe you can’t afford to give them a raise, but can you spare an hour here or there? Instituting a recognition program based on off-time shows you care without cutting into payroll too sharply. Consider offering an extra hour at lunch, providing an early dismissal on a day of their choosing, or adding a few extra minutes to breaks every day for a week. If you can afford it, comp time is always appreciated and gives employees the break they need to recharge and come back re-motivated and ready to work.
3. Take ’em to Lunch
Recognize hard work by treating that special honoree to lunch. Find out their favorite eatery and order take-out, or go all out and have a sit-down nosh together.
4. Added Perks
Some incentives come at absolutely no cost to your bottom line, but can make a big difference to an employee. Reserve that prime parking space for them for a week — or a month, if you’re feeling generous. Ask one of the top managers or execs to stop by the employee’s desk and offer a personal “thank you.” Post a congrats message to Facebook or tweet it out — with your employee’s permission, of course.
If you have a small slush fund available, purchase some small gifts from nearby businesses. What employee wouldn’t love being surprised with a free car wash, movie passes, or a gift card to Starbucks?
Whichever low-budget option you choose, be sure to tailor it to each individual employee. After all, thanking your workers in cookie-cutter style doesn’t exactly scream, “You’re special! I value you as an individual!” With a bit of forethought and planning, you can give morale — and productivity — a boost.
Imagine taking several children, one at a time, into a room, where you’ve placed a tantalizing marshmallow on a table. You tell the children that if they can resist eating the delicious sweet sitting in front of them while you step out of the room for a few minutes, they can have two when you return. If the child can’t wait, they can eat the first marshmallow whenever they want, but they won’t get the second marshmallow when you return.
That’s exactly the experiment researchers at Stanford performed in the late 1960s. The footage they obtained of the children was quite fascinating. Some children looked away from the treat in front of them, while others tried to distract themselves by kicking the table or fiddling with their hair. Some of the children poked or stroked the marshmallow.
Years later, the researchers were able to make the connection that the children most capable of delaying gratification were the ones who were also more likely to succeed in school, resist other temptations in life (such as drugs or excessive alcohol), and avoid having behavioral problems. Clearly, the ability to delay gratification is significantly linked to personal success.
Adults and delayed gratification
Hopefully, most adults can be left alone with a marshmallow and avoid eating it when the situation calls for it, but that doesn’t mean most adults have mastered self control and delayed gratification. It’s always tempting to accept immediate pleasure or reward rather than wait for something more important down the line. We all have different areas where we know we would struggle to resist temptation. Just like the children in this experiment, however, we need to keep in mind the larger picture and see the good that can come from waiting.
What marshmallows have to do with business success
Business is all about being able to see the big picture. For companies to be successful, they have to be able to look beyond the current options and see where they want to go in the future. Sometimes, achieving these long-term goals means being able to pass over smaller rewards and delay gratification for the greater good.
For example, some companies may find themselves tempted to maintain their traditional marketing techniques rather than branching out into social media and inbound marketing. Sure, the company may continue to find occasional new customers, but that’s the small reward. The fact is the Internet is now critical for reaching an ever-growing portion of the consumer base. While entering the world of Internet marketing may require patience and extra work upfront, the reward companies receive from reaching their customers online can be enormous.
Children are not known for their patience, and an experiment first done in the 1960s has shown that many struggle with delayed gratification, even when the promised reward is sweet. While adults may have more self control than a child, we can still struggle sometimes to wait for potential opportunities to come to fruition.
When making business decisions, it’s always important to determine goals and then keep your eyes on the prize. Opportunities abound for companies that exercise patience and work toward a larger reward. Don’t settle for mediocrity. Instead, challenge yourself to think big and build the business of your dreams.
Thomas Paine once said, “Reputation is much easier kept than recovered.” There are two groups who understand this better than anyone else: businesses and celebrities. Both groups spend a considerable amount of energy protecting their reputations and promoting the image they want to portray. And both groups have seen this task grow increasingly complicated thanks to the Internet and social media.
Quick, when you think about Angelina Jolie, what word comes to mind? Probably something like ‘humanitarian.’ What about Paris Hilton? Her reputation revolves largely around being a party girl. These celebrity reputations are not organically developed. They’re carefully orchestrated by publicists and marketing teams, who help the celebrity determine what to say, when they should be seen in public, and what types of stories should be given to the media.
Hugh Grant’s experience
Today, Hugh Grant has a carefully cultivated image as a British gentleman and has starred in a variety of romantic comedies. During the mid 1990s, however, the star faced a considerable amount of unfavorable press following his participation in some illegal activities. He managed to save his image, and his career, by giving candid interviews about his own stupidity and then going on to make a variety of hit movies. Now, most younger fans probably don’t even remember that past.
How businesses can apply the same concept
As companies grow, some types of negative press are inevitable. It’s impossible to make all customers happy 100 percent of the time. Sooner or later, a disgruntled customer will complain about prices, service, or something similar. The trick to successfully maintaining a positive reputation is to address the issue head-on.
Social media and the reputation
Social media has changed customer service. Now, when customers have something to complain about, they’re not forced to call a special hotline. Instead, all they need to do is take to the company social media page or blog. They can rip the company to shreds and make their dissatisfaction known for all the world to see. The customer now has much more control over the reputation of a company.
Consider how Hugh Grant planned his comeback. His team worked to help him plan his interviews and create popular movies. He worked past the problem by addressing it bluntly and then looking toward the future. That’s also how companies must work.
Celebrities carefully construct their reputations by guarding everything that goes online, similar to how a company guards their own brand and what is posted online. When problems arise, however, they must be addressed, not glossed over. Once the celebrity or company has addressed the problem, they must then focus on providing quality in the future to give people something else to talk about.
For example, if a customer has written a blog post about a genuine grievance, reach out to them to see how the matter can be corrected. If customers post remarks on social media pages, show genuine concern that the customer had such a negative experience and try to make it right. Correct misunderstandings whenever they arise.
Customer service now takes place in the public sphere, and new clients will know if the company doesn’t care about past customers. At the same time, once a company has made genuine attempts at restitution, they must focus on providing quality for the future.
Protecting a reputation can be a difficult task in the age of social media, but it’s essential if you hope to survive. It involves carefully engaging the public while producing quality services or products that people can appreciate.
To our company CCPress.net, networking is an important aspect of the professional world on many levels. If you own a business, you network to find more clients, meet potential connections, and even find other companies you might collaborate with on a project one day. Those searching for a job have continuously heard how critical networking can be for finding the right fit.
Unfortunately, many of us find networking stressful. After all, it involves going up to people we’ve never met before, introducing ourselves, making small talk, and selling ourselves and our skills, all at the same time. While it may become more natural with practice, for most people it never becomes an easy process. Except, of course, for the under ten years old crowd.
While at the park the other day, two very young girls made eye contact and instantly became friends. Without so much as an introduction, they both stopped their respective games, took off toward the slide, and took turns racing each other around the playground. The mothers remarked how easy it is to find friends when you don’t even have to worry about making small talk. How do kids do it?
Most little children don’t know too much about rejection just yet. When they approach a new potential friend, they don’t worry about being told ‘no.’ The child is having fun, they know they’re having fun, and they would enjoy it if the other child joined them. If the other child doesn’t want to, however, it really won’t affect the fun the first child is already having.
Business leaders need to adapt this attitude. Are you good at what you do? Do you have something important to bring to the business world? If so, be confident in those skills. Present them to new connections, and offer those folks the chance to work with you. But remember that a refusal is their loss, and don’t let it discourage you. Approach the next potential connection with the same enthusiasm.
They have something concrete in mind.
When children run up to another child on the playground, they don’t agree to play together and then idly stare at each other. Like the two little girls, they race off toward the slide or begin digging in the mud. When one child asks another to play, they already have some great activities to get started with.
When approaching another business professional, know some concrete ways you could help them directly. If you develop a software program, when the conversation turns toward business, discuss their current software situation as well as the needs of the company and how your product or expertise might be able to help.
They aren’t pushy.
Like adults, all kids have different personalities. Sometimes one child is shy or may not want to play with other kids on that particular day. If one child says they don’t want to play, that typically is the end of the discussion. The inquiring child will retreat or find someone else to play with.
Networking professionals must also find this balance. No one appreciates a connection who’s overly pushy, even after they’re told their products or services aren’t needed right now. Professionals also tend to dislike those who seem more interested in making sales instead of making more genuine connections. You should make sure to always handle rejection smoothly and, when at networking events, focus more on meeting people. The sale can always come later.
Networking is undoubtedly an art. It requires confidence, eloquence, and the ability to form connections with other professionals to grow businesses and help people find the perfect position for their talents. Imagining a networking event to be a playground for adults can help you overcome your fears and approach the others in attendance easier and with confidence.
Ever feel like you’re missing out on the latest buzz from the business world? We get it: The sheer amount of info out there can seem overwhelming, but whether you’re a business owner, entrepreneur, or manager, it’s essential to keep up.
Now, here’s the good news: We’re here to make it easy for you to keep your finger on the pulse of the industry. We’ve searched the web for the best, brightest, and most innovative business blogs out there. Add these top blogs to your reading list for a simple way to stay in the loop!
1. You’re the Boss (http://boss.blogs.nytimes.com)
This New York Times blog is all about small business, from best practices to breaking trends. Written by entrepreneurs, business owners, and experts from a range of fields, You’re the Boss provides a place for small business owners to connect, share their successes (and mistakes), and compare notes from the battlefield.
2. Seth Godin’s Blog (http://sethgodin.typepad.com)
Seth Godin, a.k.a. marketing guru extraordinaire, provides a wide range of tips, ideas, advice, and general musings on a range of topics. The best thing about Godin’s, blog, however, is simply his quirky, creative writing style, which allows him to be motivational, inspirational, and insightful without ever slipping into cheesy territory.
3. Workshifting (http://www.workshifting.com)
Not only is Workshifting beautifully designed, but its content is hyper-focused on its readers’ needs and interests. Content melds work and lifestyle topics relevant to today’s on-the-move workforce, with an emphasis on the issues that affect work-from-home, flex schedule, and other employees who work outside the office environment.
4. She Takes on the World (http://www.shetakesontheworld.com)
With accolades from sources such as the Stevie Awards, Inc., and Forbes, She Takes on the World offers tips of the trade with a focus on female entrepreneurs. Along with content from founder Natalie McNeill, this blog offers content from a series of guest bloggers, expert advice from industry leaders, and articles about work-life balance. Yes, it’s geared toward women in business, but hey, it’s got a lot of great content for guys, too.
5. Pando Daily (http://pando.com)
For the latest in news from the tech front, turn to Pando Daily. Founded by Sarah Lacy — formerly of TechCrunch — this comprehensive blog serves as a journal of record for Silicon Valley. Its focus on start-ups, the tech industry, social media, marketing, and almost everything else that impacts the business world makes for interesting reading, as do its interviews with and features by industry insiders.
6. Naked Capitalism (http://www.nakedcapitalism.com)
Naked Capitalism offers a no-holds-barred look at the current state of the economy and the financial industry, and how it affects business. Economists, investment bankers, political advisors, and journalists make up the contributor list. Expect to put on your critical thinking cap when you sit down to read this thought-provoking blog.
7. Anita Loomba (http://anitaloomba.com)
For a clear picture of the confluence of digital marketing and social media, turn to Anita Loomba’s blog. Offering helpful tips, best practices, success stories, and the latest in industry news, Loomba covers the ever-changing, always increasing influence of social media and business marketing in her accessible blog.
8. How to Change the World (http://blog.guykawasaki.com)
Author, former Apple marketing guru, venture capitalist, and all-around smarty Guy Kawasaki offers hands-on advice to entrepreneurs in his How to Change the World blog. Expect to be motivated and inspired, but in a practical, realistic way.
9. Peter Shankman (http://shankman.com/blog/)
Finally, for a dose of humor to lighten the workweek, give Peter Shankman’s blog a read. An angel investor and entrepreneur, Shankman has a, shall we say, creative approach to the world of business, and his entertaining writing style reflects it. Plus, he’s got some good advice — so give it a try.
#1 When Barack Obama entered the White House, 60.6 percent of working age Americans had a job. Today, only 58.7 percent of working age Americans have a job.
#2 Since Obama has been president, seven out of every eight jobs that have been “created” in the U.S. economy have been part-time jobs.
#3 The number of full-time workers in the United States is still nearly 6 million below the old record that was set back in 2007.
#4 It is hard to believe, but an astounding 53 percent of all American workers now make less than $30,000 a year.
#5 40 percent of all workers in the United States actually make less than what a full-time minimum wage worker made back in 1968.
#6 When the Obama era began, the average duration of unemployment in this country was 19.8 weeks. Today, it is 36.6 weeks.
#7 During the first four years of Obama, the number of Americans “not in the labor force” soared by an astounding 8,332,000. That far exceeds any previous four year total.
#8 According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the middle class is taking home a smaller share of the overall income pie than has ever been recorded before.
#9 When Obama was elected, the homeownership rate in the United States was 67.5 percent. Today, it is 65.0 percent. That is the lowest that it has been in 18 years.
#10 When Obama entered the White House, the mortgage delinquency rate was 7.85 percent. Today, it is 9.72 percent.
#11 In 2008, the U.S. trade deficit with China was 268 billion dollars. Last year, it was 315 billion dollars.
#12 When Obama first became president, 12.5 million Americans had manufacturing jobs. Today, only 11.9 million Americans have manufacturing jobs.
#13 Median household income in America has fallen for four consecutive years. Overall, it has declined by over $4000 during that time span.
#14 The poverty rate has shot up to 16.1 percent. That is actually higher than when the War on Poverty began in 1965.
#15 During Obama’s first term, the number of Americans on food stamps increased by an average of about 11,000 per day.
#16 When Barack Obama entered the White House, there were about 32 million Americans on food stamps. Today, there are more than 47 million Americans on food stamps.
#17 At this point, more than a million public school students in the United States are homeless. This is the first time that has ever happened in our history. That number has risen by 57 percent since the 2006-2007 school year.
#18 When Barack Obama took office, the average price of a gallon of regular gasoline was $1.85. Today, it is $3.53.
#19 Electricity bills in the United States have risen faster than the overall rate of inflation for five years in a row.
#20 Health insurance costs have risen by 29 percent since Barack Obama became president, and Obamacare is going to make things far worse.
#21 The United States has fallen in the global economic competitiveness rankings compiled by the World Economic Forum for four years in a row.
#22 According to economist Tim Kane, the following is how the number of startup jobs per 1000 Americans breaks down by presidential administration…
Bush Sr.: 11.3
Bush Jr.: 10.8
#23 In 2008, that total amount of student loan debt in this country was 440 billion dollars. At this point, it has shot up to about a trillion dollars.
#24 According to one recent survey, 76 percent of all Americans are living paycheck to paycheck.
#25 During Obama’s first term, the number of Americans collecting federal disability insurance rose by more than 18 percent.
#26 The total amount of money that the federal government gives directly to the American people has grown by 32 percent since Barack Obama became president.
#27 According to the Survey of Income and Program Participation conducted by the U.S. Census, well over 100 million Americans are enrolled in at least one welfare program run by the federal government.
#28 As I wrote about the other day, American households are now receiving more money directly from the federal government than they are paying to the government in taxes.
#29 Under Barack Obama, the velocity of money (a very important indicator of economic health) has plunged to a post-World War II low.
#30 At the end of 2008, the Federal Reserve held $475.9 billion worth of U.S. Treasury bonds. Today, Fed holdings of U.S. Treasury bonds have skyrocketed past the 2 trillion dollar mark.
#31 When Barack Obama was first elected, the U.S. debt to GDP ratio was under 70 percent. Today, it is up to 101 percent.
#32 During Obama’s first term, the federal government accumulated more new debt than it did under the first 42 U.S presidents combined.
#33 When you break it down, the amount of new debt accumulated by the U.S. government during Obama’s first term comes to approximately $50,521 for every single household in the United States. Are you able to pay your share?
Something interesting happens between childhood and adulthood. As children, people tend to not want others to copy them. As adults, however, we spend a considerable amount of time trying to copy those around us. We see someone with a new idea, and all we want to do is imitate their accomplishments. Someone successfully develops a new app, and 50 similar ones seem to spring up overnight.
While imitation may be the sincerest form of flattery, it’s not always the key to success.
Consider this example: Two sisters, Anna and Mary, sit down together to draw pictures. As with many big sister/little sister pairs, Mary looks up to her big sister. She carefully watches as Anna sets about drawing a picture of their family house with everyone out in the yard. Mary picks up each crayon as Anna lays it down, then goes about copying her sister’s artwork.
After a few minutes, Anna notices what Mary is doing. “Mary, don’t just copy me!” she exclaims. “You have to make your own picture.”
Anna recognizes what many adults fail to see. If Mary simply copies her picture, she won’t be able to demonstrate her own strengths. If the sisters’ drawings are exactly the same, neither will stand out as unique. When they both create their own pictures, however, then each picture stands on its own merits and creative vision.
How to apply this to business
Developing new ideas in business is difficult. It takes a uniquely creative mind to come up with a useful service or product that no one else has thought of before. It can certainly be tempting to just copy another company or business model and hitch a ride on their road to success.
Unfortunately, this strategy rarely works. If you’re offering potential customers exactly the same product or service as an already established company, what reason would they possibly have to switch to you? Your business isn’t unique or special. Instead, it’s a copy of one they already know and trust.
Creating something unique
There’s nothing wrong with using another person’s success as a source of inspiration, but have confidence that you have something special to bring to the table, too. Find a way to work that into your business model.
For example, say you worked in retail for a considerable amount of time while putting yourself through school. You may decide to specialize in helping retail stores with their marketing plans. Or perhaps you’ve found new ways to cut administrative costs and are able to offer potential clients lower prices for the same high-quality service.
Whether you’re a budding entrepreneur or an established business pro, keep looking for things you can bring to the table that your competitors can’t.
Blaze your own trail. Find your own niche. And build your own success story other entrepreneurs will want to copy.