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Management Skills: What Not to Say to Your Employees

Any business owner knows how important attracting and retaining quality employees is to ongoing success. There are plenty of ways to keep your staff happy – salary, benefits and other perks are among the top. As an employer, there are also certain things you must do on a daily basis – namely to watch what you say. Simply put, there are certain things you should never say to an employee, ever. Otherwise you might find yourself facing frequent (and costly) turnover. Here are a few examples of things you should never say to an employee.

“This is how we’ve always done it.”

Sure, following company policy is great, but making statements like this is the quickest way to extinguish innovation and creativity. It’s always a good idea to keep an open mind, even if you happen to be a creature of habit. If one of your team members makes a suggestion, weigh it and see if it would be beneficial to implement. Not only might you find a new technique that will save time, improve efficiency or boost sales, but you will show your employees that you value their opinion and that they’re an important member of the team.

“I need you to be more of a ‘team player’.”

Things like this are broad statements and don’t clearly communicate what the problem is, nor what behavior you’d like corrected. Identify what it is that the employee is doing that you’re not happy with, and then pull them aside to discuss the situation. For instance, if the staff member in question is consistently missing team meetings, sit them down privately and explain to them how important it is that every team member be present at these meetings and why. Be clear about what’s expected of the employee going forward so that there’s no room for misinterpretation.

“I know exactly how you’re feeling.”

Even if you think you understand why your employee is upset about something and what they are feeling, this statement is something that can easily come across as insincere and the employee may feel you are humoring them. Encourage the staff member to openly discuss with you what is bothering them, and then validate their concerns with empathy by saying something like,  “I see where you are coming from” or “I can only imagine what you’re feeling.” Then set to work to find a solution to the issue at hand that will help your employee get over that hump.

“You did a real great job.”

Just like the team player comment mentioned above, the problem with a statement like this is that it’s too vague. While it is obviously meant to be a compliment to a hard working employee, it’s much more effective to cite specific examples of what you appreciate. Not only does this show your staff that you are tuned in and recognize their efforts, but it also reiterates the exact type of behavior you’d like to see more of.

In addition to what you say, tone is also an important thing to watch. Avoid posing questions or making statements in an accusatory or confrontational manner. Stay calm, even toned and stick to the facts. If you do, your communication will be clearly received and will have a much more powerful affect on your staff.

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posted by Rebecca Daneault @ 7:57 AM

3 Compelling Reasons You Should Hire a Freelance Writer

Every business needs content – whether it’s for marketing material, an email newsletter, website copy or blog posts. Many business owners, for one reason or another, attempt to handle this task on their own. What they quickly find out is that writing isn’t always easy, and if you’re not a natural at it, you’ll probably find yourself with less than stellar results. The good news is there are professionals out there who can take that task off your plate and whip up some fantastic content to help make your business more successful. Not sure if you’re ready to farm out your writing? Here are 3 compelling reasons you should.

It will save you time. Unless you are an experienced writer, chances are you’ll find yourself spending an inordinate amount of time coming up with topics and producing quality content. For instance, in order for your blog to be successful, it should be updated frequently. Finding the time to do so, however, can be a challenge and may make the task seem overwhelming. People who write for a living are comfortable drafting content quickly and meeting strict deadlines. By hiring someone to take this time-consuming task off your plate, you will be freed up to focus on more important business matters.

It will make you look more professional. Let’s face it, not everyone has a way with words. You may be a wiz at closing a sale, but when it comes to writing, that same pizzazz simply may not apply. Errors like misspelled words or poor grammar can make your business look less-than professional and cause prospects and existing customers to rethink their decision to do business with you. Having a professional writer to handle all of these tasks will eliminate this risk, and the polished content they produce will help portray to your clients and prospects that you are someone they want to work with.

It will open up the doors to other perspectives and possibilities. You are probably so focused on your running your business that you eat, sleep and breath it – and rightfully so. The problem is, this can limit your exposure to other ideas and perspectives when it comes to things like marketing. Professional writers work in a variety of industries and across a number of business models. That means they’re exposed to many different ways of doing things, and can offer some tips and suggestions on how you can leverage these methods for your own business. What’s more, having a fresh voice behind your brand can breathe new life into your products or service and attract a whole new audience.

Let’s face it - at some point, you’re going to need copy written for your business if you are to remain competitive. Handling this task yourself may leave you feeling overwhelmed and frustrated, and could potentially harm the image you want to portray to clients and prospects. Hiring a professional freelance writer can solve these issues and help deliver your business’s message in a way that gets results.


posted by Rebecca Daneault @ 6:25 AM

5 Tips for Creating an Effective Email Newsletter Campaign

When it comes to online marketing techniques, one of the most popular methods continues to be email newsletters. People may not answer their phone calls, but they do check their email, and often. The problem is figuring out how to create dynamic, engaging emails that actually get people to open them and read the content inside. Here are five simple ways you can make your email newsletters more appealing to your audience and more effective at getting you the results you want.

Make Them Targeted – If you really want to reach your intended audience, then you first have to understand who those people are and, more importantly, what they want or need. Having a thousand email addresses to send your newsletter to is great, but if only 10 of those email account holders are likely to purchase your product or service, you’re missing the mark and wasting your time. If you really want to get results from your email marketing campaign, then make sure you’re reaching the prospects who really count.

Make Them Engaging – If you’re going to entice people to read your newsletters, they must be interesting. A good rule of thumb is to aim for 90% helpful information, and 10% sales-related material. Include things like helpful tips, links to resources your audience might find useful and general content that’s relevant but lighthearted and fun. Then throw a little product info or coupon into the mix. And don’t just use the same boring template every month, either. Spice it up – give your readers something to look forward to and make them want to open up your emails each month to see what’s in store for them.

Make Them Trackable – Whenever possible, try to include items within your newsletter that will make it easy for you to track results. For instance, if you include a coupon, make it printable for use in-store, or with a coupon code for online purchases. That way you can measure the results of any given campaign to see what worked and what may have fallen a little short. It’s also a good idea to regularly include a request for feedback from your audience. Encourage them to respond and share what they like or don’t like, or what they’d like to see in future emails.

Make Them Consistent – If there’s one thing that will take the wind out of the sails of any email marketing campaign it’s inconsistency. If customers have no idea if or when they can expect to get a communication from you, they’ll lose interest pretty quickly. And if you’re not sending out messages with enough frequency, you may even end up in your audiences’ spam folders. When you start your email marketing campaign, decide on a frequency and stick to it. We recommend no more than once a week, but no less than once a month.

Make Them Professional – You may have your own email for your business, but managing a significant email campaign may be too much for that type of scenario. To really make your email marketing messages powerful and effective, you’re better off using a reliable service that specializes in running these types of campaigns, like Constant Contact or MailChimp. Both offer some services for free with the option to upgrade for a nominal fee.

Email marketing is about more than just slapping a bunch of data into a message and hitting send. To truly be effective in increasing web traffic and boosting sales, your email newsletters have to really stand out. These five simple tips will help you get the most out of your e-newsletters so you can begin seeing real, sustained results.

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posted by Rebecca Daneault @ 1:14 PM

Simple Tips for Making Office Communications More Efficient

One of the most critical keys to success for any business, regardless of industry, is being able to manage your communications, both internal and external, in an efficient manner. Otherwise you will quickly find yourself letting things slip through the cracks, which can easily lead to customer dissatisfaction and loss of business. Unfortunately, not everyone is inherently organized. For those folks, we thought we’d offer a few helpful tips on how you can keep things running smoothly and stay on top of all of your office communications.

Minimize – Nowadays, businesses don’t need to house and maintain a ton of equipment for their telecommunications needs. With things like smartphones, apps and virtual phone systems (ahem), you can minimize your communications and streamline everything to become more unified and efficient.

Audit – It’s a good idea to do a quick audit of your communications invoices every once in a while (at least quarterly) to make sure you’re not overloaded with services you don’t need or use. If you find this to be the case, speak with your provider. You may be able to negotiate an agreement that’s a better fit for your needs, and will save you money and eliminate unnecessary clutter.

Meet Virtually – Just because your team is in 10 different places doesn’t mean you can’t connect and collaborate easily. Group calling is an excellent tool for keeping everyone in the loop without having to waste valuable time traveling to be in the same place.

Schedule – One of the biggest wastes of valuable time when it comes to busy business owners is trying to manage email throughout the day. It may seem like a good idea, but it can be incredibly distracting and a huge productivity killer. Instead, schedule a specific time during your day that will be dedicated to reading, responding to and filing away your emails and stick to that schedule.

Leverage Apps – With technological advancements occurring on an almost daily basis, more and more businesses are turning to applications that have been designed to help in just about every area, including communications. Things like GoToMeeting and Google Docs let people connect and share data regardless of their location, significantly streamlining workflow and internal processes.

Embrace Voicemail – Just like email can be a time-killer, answering every phone call that comes in can have you chasing your tail and getting nothing accomplished. As much as you want to be there for your callers, there are times when it’s important to set aside distractions and focus on the task at hand. Let voicemail pick up once in a while – just be sure you record a professional greeting and follow up appropriately.

Text – While it may seem like something that only teenagers are doing, SMS text messaging is actually taking the business world by storm. Leverage this time-saving tool to send notifications, updates, and other information to your customers or your team, instantly and simultaneously.

Staying on top of your business communications doesn’t have to be a chore or a challenge. When you put these simple tips into action, you’ll be able to stay connected to everyone – your colleagues, your team and your customers – without having to sacrifice efficiency.

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posted by Rebecca Daneault @ 2:54 PM

4 Simple Ways to Keep an Eye on Your Competition

We’ve all heard the expression, “Keep your friends close and your enemies closer”. Well, when it comes to success in the business world, this couldn’t be more accurate. Monitoring your competition can help you to improve your own products and services, because you can learn what things are working for them that you might emulate, and what they’re doing wrong that you can avoid. So how do you keep a close watch on your competitors without hiding in their bushes with a pair of binoculars? Easy.

Leverage the Power of Google – You already use it for everything else – why not also use it as a tool to keep an eye on your closest competitors from afar? It’s incredibly easy, efficient and your competition will be none the wiser. Simply set up a Google alert with the name of the companies you’d like to keep tabs on and any associated products, and every time those terms appear in a blog post, press release or article on the web, you’ll receive a notice. This will let you keep track of announcements, reviews or complaints that you can use to your advantage.

Learn Their Keywords – One of the most important components of SEO is choosing the right keywords to target. If you’re optimizing the wrong words and phrases, you’re missing out on critical traffic to your website. There are a number of tools you can use to determine which keywords people are using to search for your particular product or service, but one of the easiest is to find out which ones your competition is already ranking for. Tools like Alexa and KeywordSpy allow you to identify both the paid advertising and organic keywords that are driving traffic to your rival’s site so you can follow suit.

Look into Public Records – When a business plans to launch a new product, they typically apply for a patent or copyright first, right? Additionally, businesses that want to expand or renovate their physical location are usually required to have a permit in order to do so. Your competition is no exception. And, because this information is public record, you can get a good idea of what they have up their sleeves before they make their first move.

Experience it First-Hand – What better way to measure the quality of your competition’s goods or services than by trying them for yourself? For instance, if you’re in retail, take an incognito shopping trip to see how their products and customer service stack up in comparison to yours. Take note of their inventory, how their employees treat customers, what types of displays or marketing materials they are using – anything that can help you better hone your own strategies. If you’re uncomfortable about spying yourself, or if you’re afraid you’ll be recognized, have a close friend or trusted employee do it, or simply hire a mystery shopper.

When it comes to business, regardless of industry, understanding your competition plays a critical role in ongoing success. These are just a few of the many ways you can keep a close eye on your competitors and use the information you uncover to improve your own business. Just remember – if you’ve already reached a certain level of success, someone’s probably spying on you too. Just be mindful of what information you make public and take it as a compliment. 


posted by Rebecca Daneault @ 2:50 PM

How to Leverage Customer Feedback to Boost Sales

One of the most important components of a successful marketing plan is that of “social proof”. Social proof is basically the art of leveraging the positive feedback of your existing customers to influence your prospects and encourage them to also do business with you. Trusting a business is one thing – trusting the reviews and testimonials of other consumers is another, and it’s proven time and time again to be a highly effective marketing tool. That said here are some helpful tips on how you can use the positive feedback from your customers to your advantage.

Give them a prominent spot on your website.

What good are customer testimonials going to do you if they’re hidden somewhere that your prospects can’t easily find? You should be proud of the good work you’ve done, and how satisfied your customers are, and you should share that pride by displaying your positive reviews at the top of your web pages, and at several locations throughout your site. You worked hard to get those reviews – now it’s time to show them off!

Promote them offline.

Many businesses proudly display their positive feedback online on their websites and social media profiles, but fail to recognize the importance of also promoting them offline. Consider posting a billboard in your office, store or restaurant on which you can pin printed-out versions of all the glowing customer reviews you’ve received. If a customer sends an email, writes a hand-written note, or posts a review on Yelp or any other media resource, print it out and post it!

Incorporate them into your sales pitches and marketing materials.

Think about it – if you’re marketing to people who have no experience dealing with you, how will you convey the message that you are a quality business with whom they should work? Sure, you can tell them yourself, but it would be much more powerful to let your already satisfied existing customers do the talking for you by including excerpts of testimonials in your emails, letters, and other marketing materials.

Use LinkedIn to your advantage.

LinkedIn is an excellent marketing tool for businesses because it has a built-in resource for writing reviews and recommendations. Ask your colleagues, coworkers and customers to consider visiting your profile and lending a few kind words on your behalf. Once you have established a number of glowing recommendations, encourage other people to visit your profile and read these reviews by including a link on your website and in your email signature.

When it comes to spreading the word about your products or services, one of the most powerful tools you can use is the positive feedback of your existing customers. Remember, people are naturally drawn to things with which they can relate. By leveraging your existing client base to connect with your prospects, you can capitalize on this concept and use it to your advantage.

And, just to inspire you, here’s how we’ve leveraged some of our happy customer reviews!

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posted by Rebecca Daneault @ 8:58 AM

5 Tips for Launching a Successful SMS Texting Campaign

In today’s mobile society, people are increasingly turning to their mobile devices to do everything from staying in touch to conducting business, and just about everything in between. More and more businesses are beginning to see the benefits of using SMS, or text messaging, to market their products and improve sales. But there is sort of a science to the technique if it is to achieve the desired results. If you’re thinking of launching your own SMS campaign, here are 5 tips to help make it a success.

Choose the Right Provider – There are plenty of fish in the sea when it comes to SMS providers, but not all of them are created equal. Before you embark on your mobile marketing journey, make sure the company you choose to work with is reputable and offers a product that meets the specific needs of your business. (We happen to know of a great onewink, wink!)

Stay Compliant – Just as with phone calls, there are certain laws and regulations that govern the use of text messages for commercial purposes. Make sure you are aware of these laws before hand so you can carefully comply and avoid any potential problems down the road. A good place to start is the Mobile Marketing Association’s Consumer Best Practices document, which will give you a better idea of what you can and can’t do in terms of marketing via mobile devices.

Offer Something of Value – Whether it’s a coupon, discount, free giveaway or invitation to an exclusive event, be sure that whatever it is you’re offering is something that your audience will find worthwhile. Otherwise the majority of your messages will end up in the ‘deleted’ file, and you’ll probably find yourself with an increasing number of requests to unsubscribe. Remember, the point of SMS marketing is to entice your target audience to come in and spend money on your products or service, so give them something that will do just that!

Leverage the “Limited Time Only” Technique – There’s something extremely powerful about telling people that they only have a short amount of time to act on an offer. It’s what’s known in the marketing industry as a call to action, and it’s something that can be very effective in SMS marketing campaigns. Consider sending out an offer that is only valid for a given timeframe to really entice people to come in and do business with you. For instance, a restaurant owner might offer a free appetizer or drink to anyone who visits in the next 2 hours and mentions a particular word or phrase.

A Little Goes a Long Way – Just as with email marketing and any other type of communications with customers, SMS texting is most effective when it’s used in moderation. A few well-timed messages will get you much better results than bombarding your audience with endless texts. Otherwise, after a while what doesn’t end up in their deleted folder will simply be seen as noise and ignored. Keep your campaigns spaced apart and provide timely, valuable offers.

At the end of 2011, there were approximately 6 billion mobile subscribers worldwide. The world is going mobile, whether we like it or not, and if you’re not leveraging the power of this technology for your business you are most certainly missing out. When done correctly, SMS marketing can be wildly successful. By following these tips you will be well on your way to developing and implementing your own mobile marketing campaign that will help you boost sales and improve your bottom line.

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posted by Rebecca Daneault @ 5:25 PM