Ways You Can Develop a Healthy Work Environment for Your Employees

Almost all business leaders realize that the happier and healthier your team is, the better they will perform. And of course, great performance by employees means that your company grows and succeeds more easily.

However, too many leaders don’t put a lot of thought or planning into their work environment. They let it be whatever it is – which is often something not conducive to high productivity and engaged work. 

The good news is that you can create a work environment where your employees are healthy and happy. Here’s what you need to know. 

Provide a Sense of Mission For Everyone

Too many company mission statements are a mish-mash of corporate-speak that doesn’t really mean anything to anyone. It goes on the wall, but it isn’t lived out day-to-day. But your business can be different.

People’s lives at work are greatly enriched if they feel that they are doing something meaningful. It gives them a sense of ownership and encourages them to do their best work. Pay alone doesn’t encourage creativity and engagement. Mission-driven workers are 54% more likely to stay for five years at a company and 30% more likely to become high performers. 

Making your mission the front and center of every day isn’t just good for employees, either – it’s essential to a successful organization. The mission makes your team cohesive.

Patagonia is a great example of this. They have an explicit mission to be a steward of the planet and among other initiatives, don’t make metal pitons that are hammered into rock. Their clothing is made from organic cotton. And it doesn’t stop there. Their headquarters welcomes employees’ children and the company allows surfing breaks, flexible schedules, and volunteering sabbaticals. 

The result? A successful company, 4% turnover, and 9,000 applicants for new openings. 

Pretty impressive!

Offer Health and Wellness Resources

A company that wants a truly healthy and happy environment will offer the resources to make it happen. 

A big part of this is allowing workers time off when they’re ill, and encouraging them to treat their illness rather than being a “hero” and coming to work sick. Using a natural treatment method such as CBD can help employees battle a number of cold and flu symptoms at once, such as aches and pains, fatigue, and even nausea.

You can also offer workplace wellness programs. Wellness programs encourage healthy behaviors, give options for treating problems, and encourage employees to be consistent in their health efforts. 

As a result, your company will save a significant amount of money. The average financial return on these programs is $3.27 in health savings for every dollar spent, along with $5.82 for every dollar spent in lower absenteeism. 

Employees appreciate these programs, both for the impact on health and on the overall culture of the company. In fact, 87% consider these options when choosing an employer.

If you want a happier, healthier workforce, consider offering a variety of health-related programs employees can take advantage of. This may include health educators, counselors, and even massage therapists. Health educators and counselors can provide in-depth education on preventive care employees can engage in to keep themselves in tip-top shape. These educational programs often teach lifestyle changes and choices such as diet or exercise programs or meditation techniques.

Don’t Overlook Mental Health

Americans are among the most stressed populations in the world, and nearly half feel worried on a regular basis. Helping your employees handle these pressures is important. Some of the cause is work stress, but many Americans also feel stressed about finances, their health, and their families. 

Offering access to confidential mental health programs like an Employee Assistance Program can also make a big difference. You can also encourage the use of technology, like mobile apps, to monitor and improve mental health.

Be sure you don’t stigmatize or punish employees — officially or unofficially — who take advantage of these programs. Otherwise, you’re working against the health and happiness you’re spending money to provide.

When you prioritize physical and mental health in the workplace, you’re sending a message that your employees matter and aren’t just a worker to you. You see them as people, and that’s important for a healthy work environment.

Give Consistent Praise and Recognition

Not receiving praise and recognition for good work is a consistent complaint among employees. Too many workplaces focus on correcting mistakes and overlook when people do a good job. It’s simply expected.

Unfortunately, not giving praise and recognition puts your employees on the fast track to leaving the company. Being unappreciated is the number one reason employees look for other jobs. 

Make a plan and include recognition as a regular part of the workday. Whether it’s encouraging employees to brag on each other or getting a thank you from a manager, your staff needs to feel appreciated. Be sure to solicit feedback from your employees on a variety of things — did your team deploy a new product?  How did it go? Have you implemented that new recognition program? What’s working and what isn’t? Great bosses ask for feedback and put it into practice. It’s yet another way to recognize your employees’ contributions.

Healthy and Happy Workers Matter

Why should you bother with employee health and happiness? Because it matters to your business and your bottom line. Companies with happy employees outperform competitors by 20%. Plus, when your employees are happier it impacts how they do their job.

Unhappy employees telegraph their attitude to customers. So do happy ones. So if you want excellent customer service, you want to have a happy, healthy staff.

You’ll also save significant money on health costs, turnover, and absenteeism when your team is healthier and happier. 

Most of all, you’ll be treating employees as what they are – real people who really matter. That, alone, is plenty of reason to invest in a healthy work environment.

Client Communication: How to Do It Right

Communication, they say, is the basis for any healthy relationship. Much like in romantic bonds, family relations, and our friendships, transparency and honesty are necessary for all parties involved to feel appreciated and to know each other’s expectations. It’s not much different with professional bonds, isn’t it? The clients that give you the most trouble are the ones that send you lengthy emails with zero useful feedback, the ones that bombard you with information you cannot use, and the ones that don’t know what they want. 

Whether you’re working as a solo freelancer or you’re a part of a larger agency, if your role involves any amount of client interaction, you know that misunderstandings can cause more headaches than any amount of actual work ever could. Implementing certain rules, sticking to specific habits in client communication, and setting boundaries are all very important ways in which you can ease those headaches and make sure that your collaborations are more effective.

Define the process

Some companies and freelancers still assume that every single one of their clients has the same idea of the services they provide. For example, the field of digital marketing is a vast one indeed, and if you haven’t specified which particular areas your expertise covers, you can expect your clients to either come to you with a slew of questions, or to assume that you do exactly what they need and want. In both situations, you’re already in a mess. 

First of all, make sure that every touchpoint of your communication entails clear information. Your website, for starters, should have a clear page explaining your services in full. When someone reaches out to you, before the collaboration even begins, you should make sure that they know exactly what you can do for them, and what your business doesn’t cover. That way, you’ll prevent many misunderstandings and you’ll be able to qualify client leads more efficiently than ever. This can be done by using proposal software that will allow you access to a variety of client proposals.

Establish boundaries

We’ve all been there: a client sends you emails in the middle of the night, with no regard for your personal time off, expecting you to reply as soon as yesterday, and constantly in need of changes and alterations to your original service. Some clients are needy, others are borderline certifiable, but sometimes you cannot assess if they are a good match for your business until very late in the collaboration. 

In any scenario, setting those boundaries early on can help you manage those complicated relationships better. For starters, you can emphasize your work hours and when you’re available for communication via chat, phone, or email, and how long it typically takes you to respond. You should also let your clients know that when they need changes to your provided service or product, you have a process to stick to, and explain how long it takes. All of these details could be beneficial for letting your clients know how to get the information they want without disrupting your workflow. 

Embrace discovery

Especially when you’re in a creative industry, delivering something that will be in line with your clients’ expectations and needs can be tricky. Creative work is very individual, although based on expertise, and if you’re running a web design agency, for instance, you can often go through several stages of back-and-forth communication before you actually complete the work at hand, by no one’s fault in particular. Those interactions can still take away a chunk of your valuable time, and preventing that can be beneficial for you and your clients.

You can create and send out a customized web design client questionnaire as a part of your discovery process in an attempt to cover all of your bases and prevent all those changes early on. Of course, it’s always possible for your client to send the design back for tweaks, but you can at the very least prevent major, time-consuming changes that can affect your productivity. This is especially handy if your customers aren’t familiar with the industry and wouldn’t know what kind of details you need to begin with, so some guidance is essential.

Ask for feedback to improve 

Some clients like in-person meetings, some love Skype, while others enjoy the email correspondence that comes with clarity and transparency. In any scenario, you might not be perfectly compatible in terms of those preferences with each and every client, but you can find ways to accommodate their needs without disrupting your own process. A great way to avoid conflicts would be to ask your clients for feedback regarding your performance but also your communication and availability. 

Insights collected in that way could be helpful in defining your future relationships and in redefining expectations in your existing collaborations. In a similar manner, you should feel free to provide your own comments and feedback if you feel that your client should give you more space or that they aren’t available enough to the detriment of the project, causing missed deadlines and the like. Transparency in the form of regular feedback is a healthy way to let your client relationships blossom over time.

 

Although it takes time to evolve as a freelancer or even as a part of a team within an agency, you can certainly find ways to improve how you interact with clients. Take these tips into consideration, and you’ll be able to ensure long-lasting bonds and more satisfied clients down the line.

Best Free Conference Call Services for Businesses

Having the right conference call service on your side can help improve your business in so many different ways. First of all, it provides you with a chance to contact members of your team who are far away on a moment’s notice. It also allows you to skip the necessity to go across the globe in order to attend a meeting in person. Sure, a lot of people prefer a face-to-face meeting, however, organizing one in order to resolve an issue in several minutes is a waste of everyone’s time and resources. Fortunately, a conference call service can help you avoid this but which platforms are the best for your business? Here are several worth considering.

  1. Skype

It would be simply unfair not to mention skype at the very top of this list. Why? Well, the first reason is the fact that even today, skype boasts with as many as 1 billion downloads and about 300 million monthly active users. One more thing that sets skype apart is the fact that it’s at the very top of the industry for years now. Keep in mind that this tool is completely free and that it provides you with a simple and efficient conference call service that you can use for both international and local meetings alike.

  1. Google Hangouts

If there’s one thing that we can notice about Google nowadays it’s the fact that it tries to be competitive in virtually every field out there. This ranges from becoming competitive with MS Office, with tools like Google Docs and Google Sheets. One incredible Google tool that you can use for conference call services is the so-called Google Hangouts. The best thing about this tool is that it’s completely browser-based and that, all you need to access it is a Google Account. In other words, it’s a tool that you can always default to.

  1. Zoom

Another amazing tool for conference calls, especially if you have a particularly large team, is Zoom. The only downside of this tool lies in the fact that your calls are limited to 40 minutes, however, seeing as how the majority of meetings don’t actually exceed 20 minutes, this is more than enough. Other than this, by having a limited time for the meeting, you’ll have extra motivation to keep it short and to the point. It is estimated that we spend about 31 hours in unnecessary meetings each month, either way, so avoiding this might be especially important. Needless to say, you have both free and premium accounts.

  1. Redback Connect

When it comes to hosting a conference with a particularly large audience, what you might need is a tool that’s closer to a life event streaming service than an IM software. Redback Connect is a perfect example. As is expected, this is something that can completely erase all geographical boundaries, which makes it ideal even for major industry-relevant conventions. The fact that you can also provide your audience with an on-demand content makes for another major selling point of this tool.

  1. Viber

Another tool that you need to take into consideration is the use of Viber for the purpose of conference-calling. The problem with this idea lies in the fact that Viber’s biggest advantage also tends to be its major downside. Namely, a Viber is a tool that virtually everyone nowadays has installed on their phone. On top of this, it also has a desktop version. The fact that it has a wide personal use makes people available 24/7, however, this also means that they might get distracted by other (personal) messages that they receive while working.

  1. FreeConferenceCall.com

The next tool that’s worth your consideration is the FreeConferenceCall.com. This is a reliable and simple tool with a more than self-explanatory name. The tool itself can be registered for free in a matter of minutes but you also have an option to continue with your Facebook account, thus facilitating this already short process even further. The use of this tool is also quite simple, seeing as how you can set up an online conference in a simple three-steps-long move. You get a free account, you invite participants and you start an audio conference. It really is that simple.

  1. WebEx

One more amazing tool that you should consider using is WebEx. The benefits of using this tool are numerous, the biggest one being the fact that you get to the conference call, screen share and file share within the same platform. Due to the fact that the tool also has a simple and effective whiteboard for quick and efficient messaging, it is more than clear that this is an end-to-end conference tool like no other. This is particularly effective when you’re sharing visual ideas. For instance, in a scenario where you’re trying to design a custom sign for your business. A brainstorming session in WebEx can be quite a sight. Now, the tool itself is not free, however, you do get a trial period. This means that you can always use it as a one-time solution.

  1. UberConference

One of the tools that a lot of people probably expected to see earlier on this list is the popular UberConference tool. What you get is a free conference call tool that specializes in voice calls. Sure, conference call services in 2020 usually imply video support, however, the truth is that audio always comes first. This is especially important to allow various parties to participate in conference calls while driving.

  1. FreeConference.com

Finally, we have one more tool with a self-explanatory name that can provide you with a highly-efficient online meeting room for your staff. The platform has support for any device, which gives you an additional layer of versatility that you need. Add to this the fact that you get support for international dial-in numbers and what you’ve got yourself is an ultimate tool for going global with your business. 

In conclusion

At the end of the day, there are several factors that all of these tools share. First, the registering process is always free and simple and the tool itself has a simple and intuitive interface. In fact, one could even get out of the way to claim that it makes little to no difference when it comes to which of the tools you decide to use. Now, while differences may not be exactly astronomical, they’re definitely present. Also, seeing as how no tool is so clearly superior or inferior to others, you can just pick the one that fits your own personal preference without the fear of making the wrong choice.

How to Make the Most out of Business Conference

Business conferences are still events which provide excellent opportunities for professional development, establishing contacts and growing your business, but only if you know what to do and how to do it. Not only can you learn a lot, but you have so many chances to meet people from the industry who might become your clients or who can recommend you to others. However, you shouldn’t leave anything to luck, but prepare well for each and every conference you attend. Here are just some of the most important things you should do before, during and after a conference, which should help you make the most out of it.

Set your goals

There must be some very good reasons why you’ve decided to attend a particular conference. Think about them and consider what you’d like to gain from the experience. You may wish to introduce your company to a wider audience or improve brand perception, for instance, which is why you need to go to the conference with a list of goals you’d like to achieve during the event. Don’t forget your goals and work towards reaching them.

Manage your time carefully

Just like you plan your vacation, you need to do the same when it comes to attending conferences. Every conference organiser issues the conference itinerary ahead of time and in most cases you have both a print and electronic version. Look carefully at the sessions you are most interested and make sure you allow yourself enough time to move from one venue to another. You need to plan all that before the conference in order to avoid confusion once you get there.

Get your materials ready

You need to represent your company in the best possible way. Everyone will base their opinion of your brand based on the impression you leave. So, make sure you have enough business cards and all other advertising material ready. If you need great product catalogues and brochures, turn to professionals who do great print advertising material.

Prepare questions

If there is an interesting talk you’d like to hear or a chance to meet someone you can really learn from, make sure you brainstorm the questions you’d like to ask them. This is also a chance for you to voice a question on behalf of your team, as well. So, ask them what they’d like to hear and add their questions to your list.

Get into right mindset

Some conference attendees shy away from the opportunity to create new connections because networking makes them inauthentic. Those people can never really benefit from such events unless they change their mindset. You’re not establishing connections because that is what you should do, but because it’s great for your career and future success. A conference should not be seen as an obligation, but rather as an opportunity to expend and diversify your network and acquire new knowledge.

Hunt for information

It’s vital to speak with as many people as possible at a conference. You might hear more about the topics that interest you or get inspired by some new ideas and concepts. In order to do this, you should try to attend as many sessions as you can, even if a topic doesn’t seem directly related to what you do. You never know when you might learn something, especially when it comes from a different angle. Needless to say, if an opportunity arises to talk to one of the keynote speakers, grab it. Ask them all the questions you’ve prepared or discuss a point they made during their presentation.

Build your network

A lot has already been said about the importance of networking. It’s probably the most beneficial aspect of every conference. That’s why you should not shy away from introducing yourself to new people, even if you are introverted in nature. All successful businesspeople believe meeting face-to-face is crucial for nurturing and maintaining long-term professional relationships.

Follow up

One of the things many people fail to do is follow up on the groundwork they did at a conference. If there is a logical and natural opportunity for you to get in touch with someone you met at the conference, use it. However, be careful not to come off as overbearing or desperate for a business connection. You should start a professional, yet friendly conversation and turn that into a connection that will last. Pay attention to what they say and don’t be aggressive in your approach.

Naturally, these are just some of the most important and basic tips you should follow regarding your presence at a business conference. As the number of conferences you have attended rises, you’ll surely come up with some additional ones, which might actually help you gain advantage over your competitors. Business conferences are still very important because they provide so many benefits. It’s only up to those attending them to make the most of their time there, which includes careful preparation, proactive behaviour and following up. Only then can you say you’ve truly reaped all the benefits. 

How Company Safety Responsibilities Are Evolving

Is your company keeping pace with the evolving dangers in the workplace? If you answered no, and you’re doing the minimum, then you may be putting your employees and customers at risk.

While companies have evolved exponentially in recent decades, so has humankind, technology, and the risks that both can place on a productive workforce. Changes must be made to ensure that your employees and the people who use your products and services have total confidence in your organization. Below are some ways the world is evolving and how your company should respond.

Start with the Basics

While the world is constantly changing, it is essential to remember the basics of safety in the workplace and build up from there. According to statistics from the National Safety Council, a worker is injured on the job every seven seconds. These injuries include everything from being struck by equipment and back injuries due to repetitive lifting. In the wider world, workplace incidents involve children working in dangerous factories.

The first step to mitigate these incidents is to create and promote a culture of safety around the office where everyone is equal and every worker feels comfortable when they walk into work. Add signage about common threats, have an open-door policy for employees with concerns, and hold safety meetings where you encourage everyone to keep an eye out for each other. If someone is injured on the job, make sure to follow proper workers’ compensation procedures so workers can get the care they need and know that the company has their back.

Then there are the standard safety precautions that every business should have in effect, such as testing equipment to ensure it works properly and completing regular safety inspections. Trips, slips, and falls are a common occurrence, so clean spills immediately, close drawers and remove cords from walking paths, and keep hallways free of debris. You can even implement programs that encourage health and wellness with gym memberships and required breaks during all shifts.

Preventing Workplace Violence

Unfortunately, there is a growing trend these days of violence in the workplace. Every year, 2 million assaults and threats of violence occur in our nation’s workplaces, including those sad stories we see on the news that involve gun violence. Employers must take this evolving threat seriously and be proactive so employees can feel secure when they wake up to go to work each day.

The first step should be added security, whether that is with guards or metal detectors that not only alert staff if someone brings a weapon into the office, but are helpful in preventing theft. Still, while a company can spend thousands of dollars on equipment, reducing the threat comes down to creating that positive company culture. Establish a zero-tolerance policy that is communicated directly to all employees verbally and with signage. Such a policy should enforce the fact that anyone who makes a threat of violence will be relieved of their duties.

Security cameras also create a way of catching incidents and holding the guilty parties accountable. It is also recommended that you have a response plan in writing if an incident were to occur that includes how to properly document the events and what victims need to do for medical attention. If an incident does occur, management should have a meeting with all staff members so that everyone can understand what occurred and how it can be avoided in the future.

Effective Cybersecurity

As our workplaces evolve, so does our technology. With advancing computer systems, hackers are finding new ways to steal consumer information. Yes, protecting your employees is paramount, but protecting the confidential information of your customers should have equal importance. Even a stolen email address can provide a hacker with access to a customer’s account and the private contact information and pictures that could be used for blackmail or fraud. You simply do not want your company to be held responsible for a damaging data breach.

Your staff is the front line of security when it comes to protecting customer data, so it is necessary to educate employees on common threats and how to avoid them. For instance, a commonly used tactic includes sending phishing emails that look like authentic correspondence but instead include a link or attachment that, when opened, creates a doorway for hackers to access your systems. Employees should be made aware of the signs of such scams, which include but are not limited to:

  • Email addresses that look real but are off by a letter or two.
  • Emails with many spelling errors.
  • Any attachment or link that they were not expecting.
  • Emails with a sense of urgency.

All employees, from the CEO to the floor workers, should know how to keep their computers secure. Computers need to be locked whenever employees leave the area, and systems should have complex passwords that include letters, numbers, and special characters. Company websites should also be protected with antivirus software and updated firewalls to prevent intrusions.

It is the companies responsibility to help their employees and customers feel safe and secure when they do business. A company that evolves with changing trends will always be highly-regarded and stand the test of time.

Image Source: Pexels

Never Let You Go: Addressing the Challenges of Retaining Employees

Let’s face it: finding the kind of talent you need to give your business the competitive edge is tough, but what’s even tougher is holding on to that talent. Gone are the days when a gifted young upstart fresh out of college takes a job with a company and remains there throughout her professional career. According to estimates from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, today’s younger baby boomer will have held an average of 12 different jobs in their lifetime. If you’re a millennial, the number is even higher, with the churn rate of young workers three times that of preceding generations.

And that’s not good news if you own a business. If your company is hemorrhaging employees, that also means it’s hemorrhaging money. When you lose an employee, not only have you lost the skillset for which they were hired, but you also lose productivity. And lost productivity means lost profit.

What you gain, however, are additional costs in recruiting and retaining new talent. In fact, the costs to replace an employee can be as much as 50% of annual salary for an entry-level worker—and for a senior executive, those costs can soar to as much as 200%! So, what can you do today to hold on to your most talented employees for many tomorrows to come? Read on to find out!

Find the Right People

The first step to holding on to your most talented employees is to make sure they’re the right fit before you even hire them. If your company is understaffed or there’s a particular position that needs to be filled urgently, the temptation to rush the recruiting process can be great. But that’s a mistake.

It’s far better to take the time you need to ensure that the candidate you have your eye on is a good fit for your company’s future as well as its present. Incorporating this long-term strategy into the hiring process is going to help you weed out those candidates who are only interested in or fit for a short tenure, versus those who are willing and able to invest in your company for the long haul.

Make a Good First Impression

It might feel like onboarding and retention don’t have much in common, but that’s actually not at all the case. In fact, your new hire’s onboarding experience is probably going to set the tone for how they feel and think about the company. Unfortunately, though, onboarding is something not many employers pay adequate attention to. Want proof? An estimated 42% of new hires don’t even have their own computers or workstations on the first day!

If the onboarding process is confused or haphazard, if the company seems unprepared for the introduction and integration of the new employee, that’s certainly not going to reflect well on the business, its staff, or its processes. And once you’ve lost your new hire’s trust, it takes a lot of time and effort to get it back. Worse, if your employee doesn’t trust you or feel good about the company in general, you’re probably not going to keep them very long.

If a new employee is being integrated into an existing team with a strong bond, your onboarding is going to have to include more than just making sure the new recruit has a workstation and some tasks for the first day. Team building will be essential to cultivating trust not just between you and your new hire but between them and their new team. At this early stage, encourage team building via more informal activities like daily huddles or team outings. These will allow all parties to get to know each other and foster bonds that will help everyone succeed.

Grow Your Talent

While it’s key that you screen your candidates carefully and that you provide your new hires with a seamless and skilled introduction to your company, your work is far from over. It’s just beginning, in fact. Because once you have your talent in place, you need to cultivate it. People don’t like to be bored. They don’t want to stagnate. And no matter how skilled your employees may be, there’s always room, opportunity, and desire for growth.

This is why professional development needs to be central to your retention strategy. Hiring a chief learning officer (CLO) for your business is a wonderful way to help you cultivate—and keep—your best talent. The goal, ultimately, is to provide your employees with robust opportunities to learn new skills and expand existing ones, to pursue new degrees, certifications, and licensures, and to advance within the company. Essentially, if your employee can see a future with your company, they’re more likely to stick around to make it happen.

Run the Numbers

Thanks to the brave new world of data analytics, employers now have more and better tools than ever to know their business and their employees. In fact, people analytics are a powerful way to monitor the performance, engagement, and satisfaction of your workforce. Best of all, these resources can help you spot emerging trends that might compromise morale or lead to the loss of your best people. And once you’ve identified the threat, you can do what you need to end it before it escalates.

The Takeaway

Now more than ever, business owners need savvy to ensure their businesses thrive in an increasingly competitive global business environment. Developing successful employee retention strategies is one of the most potent weapons employers have for cultivating an efficient, cohesive, and high-performing workforce to cope with the formidable challenges of doing business in the new millennium. What it takes, though, is a strategy of careful recruiting, seamless onboarding, continuous talent development, and the integration of the latest and greatest in people analytics software.

Image Source: Pixabay

 

Ways Brands Can Achieve Successful Personalization

In a competitive industry, it’s vital that you find a way to set yourself apart. The first method that will help you do so is to increase your marketing spending. The rule of thumb is that you should take about 10 percent of your average annual profit and dedicate it to your marketing. If the industry is particularly competitive, however, it’s probably smarter to go for anywhere between 20 and 50 percent instead. Another thing you can do is personalize your business. This method is quite effective, even though it’s far from simple. Here are several ways in which brands can achieve successful personalization. 

Brand awareness

A lot of people make a distinction between brand recognition and brand awareness, however, not a lot of them keep in mind that brand awareness has different forms and levels, as well. You see, brand awareness means that your audience knows a thing or two about your products, still, it is your job to make this learning process as simple as possible. How? Well, by focusing on those features that really matter – features that go into the decision-making process of your audience. Is your product cheaper, of higher quality or more versatile than those of your competitors? This is one of the first things that your audience has to learn about it.

Encourage active dialogue

The only way to personalize your brand properly is to give your audience what they want. The only way to figure out what they want is to ask them or let them tell you on their own. So, encourage active dialogue with your audience. First of all, you should implement chatbots, seeing as how they are the optimal tool of customer service in the 21st century. Second, start reading comments and monitoring brand mentions online. Get engaged in this discourse but avoid online arguments at all costs.

Experiment with formats

In order to get really close to your audience, you need to start using all the content formats that you can come up with. Why? Well, because the majority of marketers get lazy and opt for either text-based or video marketing. First of all, you might want to consider a podcast and infographics for your digital marketing. Second, you need to start thinking outside-of-the-box. What we’re mostly focusing on is offline marketing. Agencies like PostcardMania specialize in postcard advertising, which is one of the simplest ways to personalize the approach to your audience.

Focus on the product

Another thing you need to do is focus on the product. A lot of brands make a mistake believing that the most important brand feature is the logo or the company colors. The truth is that the product itself needs to be something that makes people come back. Take, for instance, Coca-Cola, their colors, logo and packages are recognizable all over the world. These visual traits are not the reason for people to buy Coca-Cola’s product. Their unique beverage is the key ingredient in this branding strategy.

Play on the nostalgia card

Previously, we’ve talked about Coca-Cola’s approach to branding and there’s one more example that you could learn on – playing on the nostalgia card. For years and years now, Coca-Cola has a unique and impactful Christmas strategy. This is particularly effective in their case, seeing as how Santa Claus shares their brand colors – red and white. Therefore, the Coca-Cola has all but become the official beverage of Christmas. Even if your product is not as old or impactful on the market, you can still associate it with something more familiar. We’re talking about an era, a holiday or a particular activity. 

Employ storytelling techniques

The next thing you need to understand is the fact that there are various storytelling techniques that could make your content more immersive. For instance, when writing about your business, it’s important not to portray the brand or even your staff as protagonists. A business, any business, is merely an agent. The role of the protagonist always goes to the average buyer. This everyman is a person that your audience will have an easier time identifying with, which makes your job of reaching out to them a lot simpler.

Stand for a cause

In the end, you could try to offer your audience something beyond the product itself. You see, you’re not actually selling a product but an idea. This idea is something that your audience can stand behind. So, take up a cause. First, it’s important that it’s something that your audience cares about. Second, it’s vital that it’s something that you care about, seeing as how genuine engagement is something that you just can’t fake. Also, this will humanize your business, thus showing your audience that it’s more than mere profit-generating machinery that they initially saw it as.

Conclusion

The very last thing you need to keep in mind is the fact that there are so many factors to take into consideration. This ranges from the nature of your audience, the characteristics of their demographic, the nature of the industry and many other issues. Therefore, you can use the above-listed as guidelines and turn their implementation into a successful branding strategy. As the end result, you’ll bring your brand closer to your audience than ever before.

5 Tips to Provide Better Omni-channel Sales to Your Customers

Nowadays, customers are all about convenience. For businesses of all sizes, and especially small and medium ventures trying to establish a foothold in the competitive market, one of the major obstacles is to provide a seamless purchasing experience for their customers across all relevant platforms. This is because managing sales on numerous fronts can be a cumbersome task, yet the modern customer still demands of their brands to allow them to stay in control of their purchasing habits and preferences.

This is why companies around the world and in all industries are starting to branch out their sales strategies and are incorporating numerous lucrative channels into their operations to appeal to the digital demographic, and boost sales on those platforms that 21st-century customers are using. So today, let’s go over the five tips to help you provide better omni-channel sales to your customers to drive customer acquisition and retention.

Focus on mobile commerce

We live in a mobile world, and it should come as no surprise that customers across the globe are increasingly consuming online content and making their purchasing decisions via mobile devices, especially their smartphones that accompany them on every occasion. Unfortunately, though, the majority of businesses are yet to realize the true power and potential of mobile optimization, as 90% of customers are still unsatisfied with the level of mobile service they provide. So, if you haven’t optimized your processes for handheld devices, now’s the time.

Not only should you optimize your entire website for all screen sizes and ensure a seamless browsing experiences on all mobile devices, but you should also optimize your check-out and sales processes to make it easier for your customers to buy using their smartphones. Remember, M-commerce is on the rise, so be sure to capitalize on this trend while it’s still in its infancy.

Use direct messaging to your advantage

Nowadays, customers want to talk to their favorite brands directly, preferably without wasting any time. Sure, email is still a powerful sales and communication tool you should use in your strategy, but it’s also important to provide your customers with a way to communicate with your representatives in real time, in order to answer their questions, resolve any unique problems that might be holding them back, and inspire them to complete their purchase. Aside from having a live chat function, direct messaging is the only way to achieve this goal.

It’s also important that you leverage all forms of direct messaging, ranging from messaging platforms on popular social media networks, all the way to the good old SMS function, which by the way has a high chance of incentivizing engagement. Combining all of the available messaging platforms and allowing your customers to make a purchase over text is a powerful way to drive sales and deliver a better overall experience. 

Manage sales orders from multiple channels

One of the biggest problems companies of all sizes face nowadays is the problem of importing sales orders from multiple channels. If done correctly, it can boost sales across the board, but if not implemented properly, it will cost you time and money, and it might even hinder logistics and inventory management. All of this can have a negative impact on the sales experience, and your brand experience as a whole. This is why you need to manage your entire sales operation form a centralized cloud platform.

In some of the most complex industries in the world such as manufacturing, companies are integrating comprehensive manufacturing software that provide business owners with hundreds of useful features that cover a range of processes, including sales, in order to make cross-channel order importing manageable and reliable for all parties. In turn, this type of cloud-based software provides reliability and scalability, and allows business owners to stay in control of complementary processes such as logistics and inventory.

Offer live chat and quick automated solutions

Another powerful way you can improve sales is to offer live chat services to your customers, but also to integrate some AI-driven solutions that will tackle menial and repetitive tasks. For the former, consider introducing voice calls, phone communication, and voice communication over social media. For the latter, be sure to integrate chatbot technology that will be able to communicate with your customers instantaneously and guide them towards a solution to their problems, but also incentivize them to make a purchase. 

Leverage the popularity of email

On a final note, keep in mind that while email communication is still one of the best digital marketing tactics you have at your disposal that drives engagement, it can also serve as an amazing sales tool if geared towards this purpose. Some companies choose to use emails to keep customers up-to-date with current events, or to simply notify them of new deals and discounts, but if you want to truly make email a sales-oriented tool, then you should let your customers know that they can make a purchase directly via the email platform.

Wrapping up

In the modern business world, sales is no longer a goal, it’s a journey and an experience – one that customers should be able to control and enjoy on their own terms. With that in mind, be sure to integrate these powerful solutions in order to create an omni-channel sales strategy and drive customer happiness through the roof.

How to Build a Positive and Healthy Company Culture

If you think back to the different companies you’ve worked at over the years, each likely left a different impression on you. This is because every company has a different company culture consisting of different of unique values, ways of operating, and management style.

Company culture matters because it not only helps create a unified workforce, it can also be a key to success. In fact, Deloitte’s core beliefs and culture survey discovered 94% of executives and 88% of employees agreed that distinct workplace culture is imperative to run a business successfully. The survey also found a correlation between those who described themselves as being happy at work and their company having a distinct culture.

Positive company culture can lead to more engaged employees who are fully-present and passionate about the work they do. After all, ultimately, employees want to have a positive experience when working at an organization — and it’s your job as a leader to provide that. HR plays a significant role in creating an office culture as it begins with hiring candidates whose beliefs and values fit into that culture. As Jessica Herrin, founder Stella & Dot states; “shaping your culture is more than half done when you hire your team.” On that note, here are ways you can build a positive and healthy company culture.

What is Company Culture?

When you think of company culture, what first comes to mind? Perhaps it’s a state of the art gym and having access to unlimited snacks, or maybe it’s the daily flexibility and laid-back atmosphere. While these can be elements of company culture, there is so much more to it.

Edgar Schein, author and former MIT professor defines company culture this way: “Culture is the deeper level of basic assumptions and beliefs that are shared by members of an organization, that operate unconsciously and define in a basic ‘taken for granted’ fashion an organization’s view of its self and its environment.”

In essence, company culture is about deciding what your values and beliefs as a company are and ensuring you have a team of people ready to live by them. Harvard Business Review concludes that there are six components of great corporate culture, which include:

  1. Vision
  2. Values
  3. Practices
  4. People
  5. Narrative
  6. Place

When all of these elements are fused together, you should have a differentiated culture, improved performance, and a lasting organization. But how do you go about creating a company culture that supports the fulfillment of your overall mission and business objectives?

Hire the Right Team

Your staff are the people that will embody and create the company culture, so they’re a good place to start if you want to improve it. It is imperative that you hire new employees based on cultural fit as they will create your company culture.

A job interview is a good way to help you hire for culture fit, but you have to go beyond the information you find on their resume. Ask questions that will give you a sense of their values such as what motivates them to do their best work, or whether or not they’re still friends with old colleagues. Behavioral assessments are another good way to see how they approached work situations in the past and if they’ll fit well with your team.

Once you hire the right people, you also have to familiarize them with the new culture. Shoe and clothing retailer Zappos did this by creating The Culture Book, which consisted of employees’ definitions of company culture. This is a single example of how you can get new recruits to understand your company, what you value, and how to function within the confines of these beliefs daily.

Prioritize Job Satisfaction

Satisfied employees are likely to be happier, better engaged, and more productive. For this reason, if you want a positive company culture, you need to ensure your employees are satisfied. Monster composed a list of top ten companies based on worker satisfaction, and one member of this list includes a holding company run by Warren Buffet. Just a few of the reasons his company made it there are reportedly because of the fun atmosphere, great leadership, diversity, and flexibility.

To achieve employee satisfaction, you need to find out what their needs are and how you can help them create a balance between work and their personal lives. Know that it also doesn’t have to be a guessing game as you can get feedback directly from your staff to enhance their employee experience. For example, if you receive feedback that there isn’t enough opportunity for growth and development, you could put training programs in place. If not, your most valued employees could choose to resign in favor of another company where they see themselves growing. Seeing as turnover causes employers hundreds of thousands every year, it’s a cost worth avoiding.

Next, acknowledging employees for the contributions they make to your organization is important. Research by Gallup found one of the main reasons an employee leaves a job is because they don’t feel appreciated. Recognize yours in a way that’s meaningful to them, such as by verbally praising them or sending out an email. For those that like to be recognized with rewards, you could offer employee stock options or another form of physical of financial incentive. It’s a way of rewarding them for helping the business meet their objectives which can have good returns in terms of productivity.

You can learn more lessons about company culture from successful organizations like Apple, Virgin, and Airbnb. Two key lessons incude the golden rule — essentially, focusing on how essential it is to treat your staff how you want to be treated. Doing so not only ensures your employees are happy, but it’s also a way to preserve the reputation of your company.

Lead by Example

When it comes to company culture, it’s critical that you lead by example. Good leaders should be able and always willing to listen and show empathy, as these are integral components of a healthy business setting. Being empathetic towards employees sends a message that their feelings matter and they are seen as well as heard. This, in turn, can help you develop a staunchly loyal and more connected workforce. Additionally, you’re teaching them how to behave and treat others within your company. When you see others embodying positive company culture, champion and encourage them.

Building a positive and healthy company culture isn’t a single day’s work. It requires the upholding of core values and consistency, and at other times, it requires tearing down values or old traditions that don’t resemble the company culture you’re aiming to build for the sake of integrity. At the end of the day, positive company culture is an impetus behind a thriving business.

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The Challenges of Self-Employment

Self-employment is becoming more popular than ever. Freelancing currently makes up about 35% of workers in the U.S. Additionally, more than 7 out of 10 small business owners say they’d rather focus on growing their business than going back to a traditional form of employment.

But, just because self-employment is popular, it doesn’t mean it’s easy. In fact, it can be quite scary to branch off on your own to follow your dream or build off of an existing business. The responsibilities solely fall on your shoulder, and if you can’t make it work, you risk not being able to pay the bills.

If you’re tempted to dive into the world of self-employment, there are plenty of benefits. You get to be your own boss, set flexible hours, decide exactly how you want your business to be run, and you don’t have to answer to anyone else. It’s great for people who are tired of their traditional job, people with unique skills, or those who want to try something new. For example, self-employment is often a great option for new moms or stay-at-home parents.

But, there are also challenges you’ll undoubtedly have to face. The more aware you are of those challenges ahead of time, the easier it will be to face them and overcome them.

Paying Yourself What You’re Worth

When you’re just starting out with self-employment, one of the biggest challenges you’ll face is knowing how much to charge people for your services. You can create your own policies that can help to determine your costs, and use a time card calculator to clock your hours. That can be helpful if you’re charging an hourly rate to your clients.

Unfortunately, it’s not always as simple as working a set number of hours. Your pricing should be less about income and more about the quality of life you want to have. You could have 50 clients at one time and be completely burnt out, or you could have a handful of clients, be well-rested, and make more money.

Don’t set your pricing so low that you have to take on more than you can chew just to stay afloat. Consider what your services are worth. How much time and detail are you putting into what you do? What would you pay for your services? Developing pricing strategies that answer those questions is an honest way to know how much you should be charging.

If you burn yourself out because you’re not charging enough, your self-employment will fizzle out quickly because that’s not a sustainable way to live. Set boundaries for working hours and for how much work you can reasonably take on. The best clients are usually willing to pay a little bit more, so go for those big fish and don’t underestimate how much you’re worth.

Facing Personal Challenges

When you decide to take the plunge into self-employment, you should anticipate that it will be stressful – at least for the first few years. First, you’ll have to devote nearly all of your time and attention to making your “business” work. That can impact your relationships and even your mental and physical health.

You might also not be an instant success. Your first few years will undoubtedly consist of building a client base and getting consistent work. It takes time to build up that kind of loyalty from people, and at times you might feel as though you’re failing. That can take a huge toll on your self-esteem.

It’s important to build your confidence by doing things like talking positively about yourself, banning negative self-talk, and staying focused on your goals. Building confidence will help you to stick with it and can provide you with the motivation you need to make your self-employed career a success.

Planning for the Future

Once you get a large client base and it seems as though your business is taking off the ground, the last thing you’ll probably want to think of right away is what you’re going to do when you retire. Self-employed workers often face the challenge of not having a retirement fund. Not only that, but many don’t even have an “emergency” fund for the future in case something were to happen.

It’s hugely important to save for retirement when you’re not working for a business that will do it for you.

As an individual, you can contribute to an IRA with the income you make. Self-employed individuals also currently get social security benefits. While the amount given by social security usually not enough to cover living expenses, it can help when your self-employed business is slow.

Planning ahead as much as possible will help you to stay secure for the rest of your life. Hopefully, you can continue to do what you’re doing for many years to come, but everyone needs to retire at some point.

Have you been thinking about becoming self-employed? The best thing to do is to weigh out the pros and cons. If you believe the advantages of self-employment outweigh the risks, you could be the dreamer the world is looking to with the next big idea.

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