Embracing Changing Technology Gives your Business a Competitive Advantage

We all know technology is changing at warp speed, so it’s easy for small businesses to feel they can’t keep up—or worse, to feel too intimidated to even try to do so. There’s also the concern that implementing new technology is both costly and laden with potential risks.

This can sometimes lead to a mentality among CEOs and business owners that it’s safer to stick with “what you know.” But, the business that we see today that are killing it, have their fingers on the pulse when it comes to technology adoption.

Dan Hoffman at Business.com says, “for whatever investments a business owner incurs upgrading their business model, if done correctly, they can expect up to between 400 to 900 percent return on that investment after just a few months.” That’s because of improvements in digital technology, and related areas, have the potential to dramatically improve and streamline business operations.

For example, to what extent is your company invested in the use of big data? If you’ve been slow to adopt big data analysis, your business may be at a severe competitive disadvantage. After all, there’s a ton of valuable customer data out there, and you can be sure larger companies are mining that data for every buying insight they can find.

According to Small Business Trends, big data describes “large sets of structured and unstructured data” that fit into the “3V model” of big data analysis. The 3Vs are:

Volume—Storing data collected from sales transactions, social media, etc.
Velocity—Capturing data that streams in real-time
Variety—The wide array of data to be collected (text, video, audio, images)

Why is this important? Analyzing data compiled through the 3V model offers an in-depth understanding of the reasons behind customer purchasing behaviors, which can help you decide which product lines are worth the most in terms of promotion and ROI. Big data can also assist in predicting what your customers want in advance—valuable information to have in terms of planned future upgrades or a new product launch.

Maybe your small business doesn’t need big data quite yet… there are still other significant benefits of embracing changes in technology. Smaller companies can always benefit from:

●      More effective internal communications, when all employees utilize a cloud-based system for staying in touch with each other and with your customers

●      Greater lead capture and conversions through an optimized website, designed to entice customers to provide contact information and feed the sales pipeline on a continual basis

●      Opportunities to encourage customer feedback and interactivity, thus enhancing your brand on social media and enabling you to stay on top of customer buying trends

●      Greater leadership visibility through tracking and dashboard software that enables business owners to closely monitor levels of employee productivity (for example, making progress on key company initiatives)

●      Protecting yourself from cyber-crimes and being held cyber-hostage that can cost you money and time

Of course, no single individual can hope to stay current with every advance in technology. But by hiring the right people and giving them the proper resources—and by staying informed through industry updates and information from organizations like TAB—executives can feel more empowered about leveraging the benefits of new technology as they arise.

In other words, to remain competitive in the marketplace, there’s really no other option than enthusiastically embracing the opportunities new technology provides.

Want more advice on making your business more productive? Find out if a TAB Board is right for you!

5 Tips for Recovering from a Cyber Attack

Small businesses are increasingly aware that cyber-crime can strike any enterprise, not just Fortune 500 companies. This realization comes not a moment too soon, since various studies estimate that nearly 50% of cyber-attacks specifically target small businesses to achieve their nefarious objectives.

Why? Cyber security expert Joseph Steinberg points to several alarming factors:

  • Small businesses are considered more likely to give in to ransomware and pay hackers to restore urgently needed data.
  • Small businesses that regularly work with larger companies may be “a hacker’s golden ticket into a larger enterprise.”
  • Many small businesses lack a sophisticated line of cyber-defense.

Your business should take steps to guard against data theft, but even so, there’s no such thing as 100%-guaranteed protection. So, what happens when a cyber-attack occurs? Here are five mission-critical steps to keep in mind:

1. Fall back on your contingency plan. Your best defense lies in crafting a comprehensive assessment of your IT system’s strengths and weaknesses before a cyber-crime occurs. A thorough evaluation (not conducted during a time of crisis) can objectively determine where and how a malicious virus or hacker can breach your defenses. Encourage your IT team to brainstorm every possible contingency and come up with an action plan to protect against them.

2. Ascertain the extent of the damage. The first step following a verified cyber-attack is assessing the extent of damage to your system. Get your IT team—or a trusted third-party vendor—to scour the system and isolate any infected areas. Analyze incident data. Determine if internal security protocols were adhered to and, if not, pinpoint where the breakdown took place.

Also, as part of the assessment process, be prepared to enlist third-party expertise “to help handle and mitigate the fallout,” says data protection expert Ermis Sfakiyanudis. This includes “legal counsel [and] outside investigators who can conduct a thorough forensic investigation” that definitively details how much damage has taken place.

3. Validate the integrity of your data backup. Since many cyber-attacks take the form of encrypting precious data and rendering it inaccessible to you and your business, it’s critically important to have redundant data storage systems up and running at all times. These redundant servers and ancillary equipment must be maintained apart from your primary system, to protect against “collateral damage” from a virus or malware.

4. Repair the damage. If and when an attack does occur, “it’s time to begin the restoration process,” advises IT security specialist Andrew Douthwaite. Reformat hard drive volumes. Reinstall operating systems and applications. Adds Douthwaite: “After the breach it’s vital that you verify your backups are good.”

5. Notify constituencies about the cyber-attack without evasion or ambiguity. Virtually all IT security experts agree on the importance of communicating with various constituencies in a clear, forthright manner. To employees, customers, vendors and—if necessary—the media, you should share as many details of the incident as appropriate and outline the actions you’ve taken to repair the damage and ensure against future attacks.

Any executive’s initial impulse might be to deny or mitigate the truth, but remember—the integrity of your brand is at stake. Attempting to misstate or spin what happened in a way you think may bolster your image is extremely risky. A certain amount of consumer trust is lost when news breaks of a successful cyber-attack; if customers or employees or the media then suspect you’re covering up what happened, more trust will be lost, possibly forever.

Planning for the worst is the most effective strategy. As part of that effort, revisit your crisis plan at regular intervals, recognizing that technology (and company personnel) keep changing as well.

To try and keep yourself from being a target for a cyber-criminal in the first place, register to watch our BOSS Webinar about Why Small Businesses are a Cyber Criminal’s Favorite Target, at 9 a.m. (PDT) Wednesday, August 16, 2017.

To find out how to better manage your business, speak to us about business coaching and peer-advisory boards.

Five Tips to Launch your Recruiting through Social Media

Increasingly, smart businesses owners in search of talented new team members are turning to social media as part of their overall recruitment strategy. “Social recruiting” seeks to leverage the power of various social media platforms to strengthen the employers brand, attract interest among qualified job-seekers, and build a pipeline of talent to tap into for future growth.

In today’s economy, it’s becoming even harder to recruit – so you need every competitive advantage. If your business already has an active social media profile, it’s no great leap to expand into social recruiting. If not, you may be losing out in the “talent wars” to other, more nimble competitors.  And let’s face it, we all do our research online, so why would a recruit look anywhere else to see if they fit into your corporate culture?

Here are five ways to get the best new team members using social media:

Promote your brand on all platforms. Everything you post on your company’s website and social media platforms—from blog posts to company news, images and videos—should be filtered through the lens of brand awareness and company culture. Always gauge the potential impact of your content through the eyes of prospective team members. Is what you’re posting likely to attract them or turn them off? Are you portraying your business as a place where people would like to work or are you discouraging further interest?

Seek out and establish relationships with influencers. Just as it’s important to engage in influencer marketing, so you can boost your recruitment efforts by building ties with influencers in the realm of social recruiting. Seek out industry influencers with sizable networks, share their content and offer content of your own. As the relationships grow, you can begin touting job opportunities in your company—reaching a far greater audience than might otherwise be possible.

Get active on millennial-focused platforms. Sure, it’s important to be active on LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter, but you won’t necessarily generate a lot of interest there among millennials. Take time to explore Snapchat, Instagram and other sites where millennials “hang out.” Building your presence on these sites can result in greater brand awareness among the job-seekers you most wish to attract.

Encourage your current team to generate leads. Existing team member referrals are always a promising source for potentially qualified job candidates. Take this a step further by encouraging your team to promote open job opportunities via their own social media networks. Your objective is to have recruiting referrals (so set up a program that incents your team).

“Simply talking casually about enjoying a company vacation, feeling supported at work, or being glad about something that the employer is doing for them can make an impression on their followers,” notes Business.com. “But you want it to be genuine.”

Look to the future. Social recruiting bears only a cursory resemblance to recruiting teams “back in the day.” In today’s era, cultivating relationships is just as important as lining up applicants for your latest job opening. Whether you expend your efforts on LinkedIn, Facebook or other sites, the key is nurturing a pipeline of qualified candidates—individuals who show an interest in your company by following you on social media, commenting on your posts, sharing content with others—and then reaching out to those candidates when the time is right.

In many ways, social media has dramatically altered the way business gets done. It’s also an increasingly useful resource for attracting the right people from the emerging talent pool and putting those talents to use in your company.

Want more advice on recruiting and retaining great employees? Find out if a TAB Board is right for you!

 

8 Key Elements to Build More Efficiency into Your Business

“How do I make my business more efficient?” is a question business owners and CEOs are always asking me. While what constitutes “efficiency” might differ from one business to the next, an efficient business is one that delivers its products/services without excessive cost, effort or waste. The result of this focus on efficiency means such businesses can afford to deploy greater resources for growth-related operations (including research and development, sales, and marketing) while keeping expenditures down and profits high. Or, just maybe, if you’re an owner/operator, you can work a few less hours in the week (and wouldn’t that be nice?).

So, how can you go about building more efficiency into your business? As any TAB Business Owner Advisory Board Member might tell you, look first into your own style of working and leadership and then the rest of the business:

1 - Get out of “reactive” mode. Too many CEOs waste valuable time and energy focusing on tasks that are urgent, but not important. “Putting out fires” shouldn’t be at the top of your job description. Click here to learn helpful tips to be more “active”.

2 – Delegation. Improving efficiency begins by looking closely at where you’re losing time, but this requires that you acknowledge when you’re being stubborn and when you’re refusing to let go of the reins. In other words, start delegating today.

3 – Be specific – very specific. Never hold a meeting without a specified purpose and time-limit. Let’s face it - company meetings are inefficient. We call them for vague reasons, inviting too many (and therefore, the wrong) people, and no one dares suggest the meeting should end sooner, rather than later. Stop this madness today.

4 – Smaller time slices. Look at the possibility of convening a 5- or 15-minute meeting of the day or stand up meeting where team members can quickly describe their current work situation and then release people to go do their jobs.

5 – Communicate clearly. Often business don’t have a centralized method for sharing valuable information. With modern technology, there’s no excuse for not keeping everyone in the loop. Whether through video conferencing or cloud-based systems, don’t sacrifice efficiency due to miscommunication or other related issues.

6 – Motivation. Pay attention to team morale. Happy team members are generally more productive and efficient. When you go to the trouble of hiring smart, talented people, it only makes good business sense to see that they’re well compensated, enjoy great benefits and have continuous opportunities for development. Click here to learn 8 tips to boost employee morale.

7 – Outsource as much as you can. Your business is very good at making and/or delivering a product or service to customers. It may not be particularly efficient in certain key operational areas, such as IT, HR, accounting, and so on. In all these areas, outsourcing these services to companies who focus on providing efficient service to client companies may costs less than what your business spends now internally – and it allows you to focus on what you’re great at.

8 – Plan for the worst. Always have a disaster management plan in place. It may not be a flood or earthquake or tsunami, but some unforeseen event can cripple your business if you don’t plan. Being efficient includes contingency planning and devoting resources and information to take decisive action if a natural or man-made disaster occurs. Commit to a comprehensive analysis of specific potential threats and what you can do to mitigate them. Itemize your most valuable assets and layout crisis-management steps to keep these assets safe and secure.

Want more advice on making your business more efficient? Find out if a TAB Board is right for you!

Job openings in America are at a record high! 9 tips on how business owners can recruit the talent they need.

Job openings in the U.S. rose to the highest on record in April 2017, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Openings totaled 6.04 million, according to the monthly Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey released this week.

The high number of openings underscores the challenges that some employers have filling positions, eight years after the recession, especially for jobs that require specialized skills. The number of hires fell by 253,000 to 5.05 million, the lowest since April 2016. 

And that’s exactly what business owners that I coach are telling me – it’s difficult to find and hire talent.

So, here are 9 things to help you get that perfect team member.

1. Know what you want

Are you directly replacing a role? Or does the role need to be revised to suit the needs of the business? If you have a clear outline of the job to be filled, then it is more likely you will get applicants who fit the criteria you are after. Having specific experience, qualities and cultural points will enable you to attract the kind of team member you want for the job.

A vague job description will lead to numerous applicants that are not fit for the role, or a team member who was expecting a different role to the one they end up performing.

2. Ask your current team… and then everyone else you network with

Good team members are often found and recruited by referral from a current team member. Most people will only recommend someone they believe will be a good worker, since a bad hire might tarnish their personal or professional reputation.

Consider adding an incentive for current team members to refer a candidate for a job opening, with a reward for a successful application. I suggest breaking it down a little - a smaller incentive to just recommend a name (maybe they heard about someone, where you do the research and contact) and a larger one if this is someone they know and have influence with.

Next ask everyone you network with – in person and through online platforms. Partners, customers and even family/friends are often happy to help. And of course it’s all good publicity as it shows your company is prospering and can afford to have new team members (funnily enough, this is the perception even if you are replacing).

3. Be attractive in your marketing

The market has changed, and you need to action that. Even if you find a good candidate, they may have other offers and opportunities – so market to them – sell to them.

If you’re marketing to Millennials then think like one. Do you know a Millennial that doesn’t like watching a video?  Then get your phone out, put it on your selfie stick and take one and a half minutes to explain a little about your company, while you walk around it – they’ll pick up the culture pretty quickly and know if it’s a good fit – because Millennials are all about the cultural fit.

The interview stage is a good time to sell your company to the candidate. Make it be known why people find it fun to work with you and at your company.

It’s likely you’re in a competitive environment to win this candidate from other offers, so don’t be afraid to ask them about that. If you can find out which other offers they are considering you can talk to it. Candidates look at far more than just the remuneration… location, their manager and peers are all critical to this decision.

6. Select like a ninja

Use the best technology at your fingertips to find and select. You do not want to take time searching through multiple applicants. That can really sap your time. Use pre-qualification questions and let technology help you push the best candidates to the top of the pile.

A lot of people I am working with are also asking for the candidates Facebook and LinkedIn profiles (check your local laws about whether that is possible where you operate).

7. Re-evaluate your hiring process

Is it too long? Overly complicated? Do you keep in touch with the candidate while making a decision?

Candidates move quicker today, so should employers. The most important thing here is to keep the candidate updated on a regular basis. Communication every 48 hours is not overdoing it.

Don’t let your own internal business day-to-day slow down the process.

8. Background checks

Do them!  Spend less than $50 to find out what you need to find out. In addition, do your own cyber research.

True story: last week, during an interview, the hiring manager was looking down the candidate’s Facebook page and five posts in it said, “If I get through today without killing any co-workers it will be a miracle”. Disqualified.

9. Treat the new recruit’s family like royally

So, here’s what really happens. A team member goes home one day, tiered/frustrated and says to their significant other, ‘bad day!’ The supporting significant other says, ‘you should look for something else if it’s getting you down.’

That’s what starts the job search journey.

Having the significant other on your side really helps.

When your new team member starts (that very day), send an appropriate gift to their home thanking their family for allowing you to share them.

What is the first thing your team member is going to be asked when they get home? ‘How is the new job?’

Now you have two people agreeing this is the best new job ever.

How is your recruiting going?

If you have tips to share we’d all love to hear.

Business Owners – how to be the best boss in the world

Employee development used to be a luxury only big businesses could indulge in. That’s no longer the case and especial for business owners of small and medium businesses. To maintain a competitive edge in today’s marketplace, business owners must put a priority on building the skills sets of their team, to contend with ever-constant changes in both technology and market conditions – but more importantly – to keep your best team members.

If you’re looking to accelerate the quality of team development within your company, here are several tips to keep in mind:

A commitment to development begins at the top. Sometimes team members are sent the message that training is all-important, but then they see little participation or support from the business owner. This disconnect can weaken a team development initiative right from the start.

Business owner buy-in is “essential, and training programs can flourish when upper management recognizes the value of training, provides support, and participates in creating concrete objectives,” writes HR expert Steve Rossetti. Never forget, he adds, “that senior management are employees, too.”

If you’re a TAB Member (or thinking of becoming a TAB Member), you’re already demonstrating a commitment to developing your own skills—a point well worth making as you bolster your team training program.

Make training a regular part of each team’s work schedule. A one-time “training event” rarely delivers much return on investment, experts say. It’s more efficient to establish a schedule of ongoing development workshops or classes, because (a) this sets up the expectation and understanding among employees that training is a key part of their job responsibilities; and (b) continuous training reinforces key lessons and makes far more of an impact than any once-a-year or semi-annual event.

For bonus points – make it part of their KPIs.

Offer a range of learning options. Training is not the type of program that succeeds with a “one-size-fits-all” structure. Obviously, team members (like anyone else) learn at their own pace—not to mention having different workloads and job responsibilities—so it’s more effective to provide flexible learning options, including mobile and on-demand opportunities for training that better fit their schedules and ability to absorb new information.

This is particularly important, considering an average workplace might have as many as five different generations of employees working there. A serious commitment to development involves recognizing how different generations best absorb new information (millennials, for example, expect training to incorporate mobile devices as part of the learning process), in order to succeed.

Not to mention – your team may not be in one location.

If all this sounds like a significant expenditure of time and resources, remember the benefits your organization will reap with an effective employee development program:

Aids in recruitment and retention. The ability to acquire knowledge and further one’s career through training is a powerful recruitment and retention tool. Higher-quality job candidates will look more closely at your company if they see a genuine commitment to training built into your culture. In this way, your business can emerge as an employer of choice in the hunt for new, high-quality job candidates.

Builds a cadre of potential leaders. Employees who might otherwise be “stuck” in their positions can, through proper development, emerge as authentic leaders in their own right. In this way, you’re gaining a talent pool of potential team leaders and managers—a significant benefit, when you consider all the effort required to look outside the organization for such individuals.

Keeps your focus on the future. Team development necessarily centers around changes in meeting customer needs and adapting to new conditions in the marketplace. This focus on what lies ahead benefits everyone in the organization—from HR and marketing to IT and sales. It keeps everyone on their toes and looking ahead, rather than backward at “what worked in the past.”

Companies that go beyond paying lip service to team development reap the benefits of this type of initiative. Don’t overlook the value of a skilled, learning workforce as a key ingredient towards the growth of your business.

Want more advice on team development or general advice from other business owners like you? Find out if a TAB Board is right for you!

Make Your Marketing Message Contagious

Make Your Marketing Message Contagious

Jonah Berger first caught my attention in this Fast Company article (“Fifty Percent of ‘The Tipping Point’ is Wrong”). The article positions him as the new Malcolm Gladwell and challenges some accepted theory of The Tipping Point.

Berger is a Marketing Professor at the Wharton School of Business. At Stanford, he was a student of Chip Heath, author of the marketing classic Made to Stick. Made to Stick describes why messages stick with audiences. Berger has taken this concept a step further in his bestselling book Contagious: Why Things Catch On. Berger examines why certain products get more word-of-mouth marketing and why some online content goes viral...

May 4 – Star Wars Personalities for your Business – are you Han Solo?

If you can understand your own personality and the personalities of others around you, then you are on a roadmap for success and can build meaningful connections.

You’ve probably already heard of the 16 personality types that The Myers–Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) can provide you. Incase you’re not aware, the MBTI is an introspective self-report questionnaire designed to indicate psychological preferences in how people perceive the world around them and make decisions.

The test measures sensation, intuition, feeling, and thinking – and then ascertains that one of these four functions is dominant for a person most of the time.

So, in Myers–Briggs fashion – here’s what you need to know about the characters in Star Wars:

A lot of the entrepreneurs and business owners that I deal with are ESTP personalities. If you see Han Solo in yourself then this is what you need to know:

ESTP personality types always have an impact on their immediate surroundings – the best way to spot them at a party is to look for the whirling eddy of people flitting about them as they move from group to group. Laughing and entertaining with a blunt and earthy humor, ESTP personalities love to be the center of attention. If an audience member is asked to come on stage, ESTPs volunteer – or volunteer a shy friend.

Laugh it up, fuzzball!

Theory, abstract concepts and plodding discussions about global issues and their implications don’t keep ESTPs interested for long. ESTPs keep their conversation energetic, with a good dose of intelligence, but they like to talk about what is – or better yet, to just go out and do it. ESTPs leap before they look, fixing their mistakes as they go, rather than sitting idle, preparing contingencies and escape clauses.

Never tell me the odds!

ESTPs are the likeliest personality type to make a lifestyle of risky behavior. They live in the moment and dive into the action – they are the eye of the storm. People with the ESTP personality type enjoy drama, passion, and pleasure, not for emotional thrills, but because it’s so stimulating to their logical minds. They are forced to make critical decisions based on factual, immediate reality in a process of rapid-fire rational stimulus response.

Hokey religions and ancient weapons are no match for a good blaster at your side, kid.

This makes school and other highly organized environments a challenge for ESTPs. It certainly isn’t because they aren’t smart, and they can do well, but the regimented, lecturing approach of formal education is just so far from the hands-on learning that ESTPs enjoy. It takes a great deal of maturity to see this process as a necessary means to an end, something that creates more exciting opportunities.

Also challenging is that to ESTPs, it makes more sense to use their own moral compass than someone else’s. Rules were made to be broken. This is a sentiment few high school instructors or corporate supervisors are likely to share, and can earn ESTP personalities a certain reputation. But if they minimize the trouble-making, harness their energy, and focus through the boring stuff, ESTPs are a force to be reckoned with.

Look, I ain't in this for your revolution, and I'm not in it for you, princess. I expect to be well paid. I'm in it for the money.

With perhaps the most perceptive, unfiltered view of any type, ESTPs have a unique skill in noticing small changes. Whether a shift in facial expression, a new clothing style, or a broken habit, people with this personality type pick up on hidden thoughts and motives where most types would be lucky to pick up anything specific at all. ESTPs use these observations immediately, calling out the change and asking questions, often with little regard for sensitivity.

I still get a funny feeling about that old man and the kid. I'm not sure what it is about them, but they're trouble.

ESTPs should remember that not everyone wants their secrets and decisions broadcast.

Sometimes ESTPs’ instantaneous observation and action is just what’s required, as in some corporate environments, and especially in emergencies.

If ESTPs aren’t careful though, they may get too caught in the moment, take things too far, and run roughshod over more sensitive people, or forget to take care of their own health and safety. Making up only four percent of the population, there are just enough ESTPs out there to keep things spicy and competitive, and not so many as to cause a systemic risk.

ESTPs are full of passion and energy, complemented by a rational, if sometimes distracted, mind. Inspiring, convincing and colorful, they are natural group leaders, pulling everyone along the path less traveled, bringing life and excitement everywhere they go. Putting these qualities to a constructive and rewarding end is ESTPs’ true challenge.

Great, kid. Don't get cocky.

4 Tips to Boost your Sales by Kick-Starting your Influencer Marketing

Your company’s marketing efforts are up against some stiff competition. Way back in 2014, the research firm Yankelovich estimated that “the average American is exposed to 5,000 advertisements a day” (and we can all imagine that number has grown since then). As a result, your target customer have become increasingly impervious to ads, banners, pop-ups and other attempts to draw their attention to any particular product or service.

What’s the solution to overcoming this blizzard of images and ads that fewer people pay attention to? For many businesses, the answer lies in influencer marketing.

In case the term is unfamiliar, it’s pretty much what it sounds like, that is, “the action of promoting and selling products or services through people (influencers) who have the capacity to have an effect on the character of a brand.” And in our era of social media, influencer marketing has largely shifted from relying on superstar athletes and Hollywood celebrities to aligning with individuals with massive followings on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, etc.

If you feel influencer marketing has potential to dramatically enhance awareness of your brand, keep these tips in mind:

1 - Be selective about the influencers you pursue. Obviously, an influencer should possess a following whose tastes and needs correspond to your offerings. Research influencers before asking them to endorse or otherwise promote your products or services, to ensure that you’re connecting with likely prospective customers.

In the same respect, it’s not necessary to chase after “A-list” influencers with the largest social media audience. As communications strategist Linda Landers notes, “If your influencers are reaching the target market for your brand, then you’ve hit the jackpot, no matter how large or small their audience may be.”

2 - Clarify your goals. Associating with a key influencer can assist your business in a variety of ways, so it’s helpful to determine beforehand where they might be most effective. As noted, boosting brand awareness is a common objective, but there may also be opportunities to:

• Actively generate sales leads
• Reach a wholly new target audience
• Become more visibly active on social media
• Strengthen your relationships with an existing customer base

Knowing what you want to achieve will affect the ways in which you approach influencer marketing.

3 - Reach out to influencers in an authentic, respectful manner. In many ways, key influencers need businesses like your own as much as you might need them. But they will also be selective about whom they associate with. So, don’t rush in like a bull in a china shop. Cultivate a relationship based on an approach of authenticity and respect.

Start slowly, by following the influencer on social media. “From there you can comment on posts, retweet their content, or simply send them a compliment via social media,” advises marketing communications expert Bonnie Harris. Demonstrate a sincere interest in their content and don’t ask for reciprocity “until they see that you also want to do something for them.”

4 - Incorporate influencer marketing in a broader strategic plan. It’s exciting to successfully associate with a prominent social media figure and to begin amassing a whole new set of followers. In the long run, however, influencer marketing is more effective as part of a larger strategy that also draws upon more traditional marketing activities. This way, you can refine your various campaigns to reap the most benefits from a wide range of strategies.

Want more advice on sales and marketing or general advice from other business owners like you? Find out if a TAB Board is right for you!

8 Tips to Boost Employee Morale Today

The success of your company is dependent upon the success of your employees. The employee needs three things to be successful, a system to follow (including all the tools required to perform the job), accountability from their supervisor and motivation to keep on going. It’s this last factor – motivation – that can seem so elusive to some company owners.

Let us be clear, it is 100% the job of the company owner to keep the team motivated. Need a little help in this area? This might help:                                                   

1. Set expectations

Employees love to know what is expected from them. We prescribe to the well documented idea of having each employee list their Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) for the quarter using SMART goals. Once approved by their manager, the employee now has an objective way to keep their boss happy.

2. Have a daily huddle

Communication is key.  If I walked into your office right now, how much communication is going on (verbally, or online)? A simple, 5-minute standup daily huddle keeps the communication flowing and everyone on point. Daily huddles act as a natural caffeine boost to the morning. And if, like so many teams today, you’re not in the same location – do it virtually by web conference. We love Join Me, for the simplicity, but take your pick from the multiple technology options. The key to business owners – don’t miss even one – wherever you are.

3. Surprise the schedule

You’re the boss, so put a surprise in the schedule.  Maybe it was a long weekend, so let the team start late the first day back in the office.  Maybe it’s the first beach day of the season – so close early at the end of the week. Hump day getting people down – then grab a drink for the team early.

4. Why are you in business?

Your team need to know why you’re in business, beyond the financial reason. Pretty much every company owner I have worked with started their business for the good of something else, for the passion, for the challenge… so share that.

You may be able to also communicate your core values or guiding principles – providing you have them – this will work in the same fashion.

5. Say “thank you” and smile when you say it

Everyone loves to hear “thank you” – so say it often and say it like you mean it. That’s all.

6. Listen. Lots.

When someone is angry, you learn to let them talk it out. It’s the same for team members – sometimes they just need to get it off their chest. So, let them do that.

Remember Men are for Mars, Women are from Venus? Not every comment needs to be acted upon – they are not necessarily complaints.  At least half of the population like to talk it out, so let that happen.

7. Frame the environment.

Scientific study example… the landing page of a sofa company was changed in one way only – the background image. The visitors that saw the image of money (specifically pennies) were more inclined to buy on price. The visitors that saw the image of fluffy clouds were more inclined to buy on comfort (costing more). How do you want your employees to act when they are at work? What can you do about the work environment to support this?

8. Organize something out of the ordinary.

There are hundreds of things that you could do to reward an employee – and they don’t need to cost a fortune. Offer flexible hours, send a thank you note, throw a pizza party, offer primo parking, have a flip flop day /casual Friday, a day off pass, rent them a cool car for a weekend/week/month,  start a wall of fame, get a car detailer to come to the office, name an office room after them, have a masseuse visit the office, arrange an adult education class of their choosing, give them a magazine subscription, get a catered lunch, offer a gas card (or public transportation passes) to cover a month’s worth of travel expenses, movies on the company, support their kids interest (sports or girl scouts), concert tickets, send flowers to the family home, give them a new office chair,  email everyone in the office, lottery tickets, have their home cleaned,  bring the dog to the office, arrange for a singing telegram (what’s that gorilla doing in the office?),  send fruit or cookies arrange for their own personal assistant, an ice cream party, let them choose the background music for the office for a day/week, offer a taxi/Uber service, thank the entire family…

As a business owner, you want to motivate and keep the best team possible – really, little else is more important. So, act now, act today, and not only will your team appreciate it, the word will get out and you’ll start attracting higher caliber potential employees.

The Top 5 Sales Myths Every Business Owner Needs to Know

Every business owner (you and I included) is a sales person at some level. Pretty much 99% of the business owners I work with must sell to customers (potential and/or existing). And we all must sell our ideas to employees, vendors, partners etc.

Then, we move to the next level of a maturing business, where we (as the owner) can’t do all the selling. Either we don’t want to do all that selling, or we realize we can’t do everything in the business (if you get this, then great – your business is doing great).

Here are the 5 sales myths you need to know.

Myth #1: We can pick any employee to learn sales.

Well, perhaps not anyone—but certainly the guy in marketing who’s such a well-known “people person.” Right? In fact, salespeople who are good at what they do are a breed apart. They have a unique ability to strategize and think ahead, regardless of where they are in the sales cycle. They’re also committed to building relationships that don’t have any immediate pay-off. Yes, they’re persistent by nature, but that persistence encompasses much more than making repeated telephone calls. It involves ongoing research and working hard to retain such “soft” information as the name of a client’s fifth-grade daughter.

Myth #2: The right salesperson can convince anyone to buy our product.

Yes, salespeople are persuasive by nature (and training). But the era of mass impulse buying is long past, thanks to the wealth of information available to consumers online. Prospects know a lot more about your business before they’re ever approached by a member of your sales team, so they’ve already made at least a partial decision about whether to consider purchasing your product or service.

Expert salespeople understand the key is determining if a prospect has a genuine need for what they’re selling. They know they could spend all day extolling product features, when all the would-be customer wants to know is, “What’s in it for me?” Such sales veterans aren’t interested in trying to sell to everyone they meet.

Myth #3: CRM and online resources make selling easy.

While it’s true that Customer Relationship Management and the internet’s vast toolkit of resources offer advantages undreamed-of in an earlier time, the best salespeople understand that these resources help pave the way, but aren’t the cause of sales. They use online data to help prepare for their appointments with prospects, but never mistake the web and/or social media as replacing the all-important relationship they build with individual buyers or department managers.

Myth #4: The best salespeople see everyone as the “enemy” (including their fellow employees).

We can pigeonhole salespeople as wildly competitive and out to make themselves better than anyone else, including the people they work with. But don’t fall for the idea that your best performers will be cold-blooded, deal-making machines. Instead, aim for a sales culture within your organization that promotes a team mentality, by rewarding more than just the top performers, and by inspiring confidence in the entire team’s capabilities.

Myth #5: Our sales team must always be closing.

We all fall prey to the notion that sales must focus entirely on “ABC” (always be closing). But, as noted earlier, sales are equally all about relationships. And those relationships must revolve around a discussion of value to the customer, not the salesperson’s need to meet or exceed quotas. Building relationships takes time, so the most effective perspective is long-range, rather than any short-term benefit to the company.

Want more advice for your sales process, or general advice from other business owners like you? Find out if a TAB Board is right for you!

6 Qualities of Effective Women Leaders

This week is International Women's Day 2017 and the question is - will you #BeBoldForChange? Some of the most dynamic women I meet lead companies and have no problem with #BeBoldForChange. It lead us to the question:

Do leadership traits differ between men and women?

No one can say definitively, but it remains clear that women executives often face more difficult hurdles than men on the way to becoming CEOs and business leaders.

Here’s a look at six qualities that successful women leaders typically possess and which help them realize their leadership potential.

1. A belief in oneself. For both men and women, there’s a fine line between healthy self-confidence and an oversized, “look at me” ego. Certainly, an unshakeable belief in oneself is an essential trait for women leaders—not in the sense that they should prove they’re better than everyone around them, but rather being able to forge a culture where no one seeks to undermine or demoralize others at their own expense.

In fact, women with a deep sense of self-confidence are often more inclined to accept critiques and feedback on their leadership styles.

2. A willingness to nurture. In the frequently cutthroat world of business, “nurturing” can appear to be a soft or even disposable trait.

While a nurturing spirit is often confused with being lackadaisical or an inability to hold people accountable – this is simple not often the case. Being a nurturer, having a sense of being fair and just, and use of our women’s intuition are some of our strongest traits.

3. A focus on achieving one’s goals. The most effective women in business maintain a clear vision of what they wish to achieve—both in the short-term and over the long haul. Aspects of this vision may change depending upon circumstances, but the commitment to reaching one’s objectives remains unwavering.

This is frequently illustrated by a woman leader’s drive to balance her professional obligations with her life outside of work. Maintaining this precarious balance requires creativity and flexibility, additional traits demonstrated by effective leaders (of either gender).

TAB member Kris Derrig, president of Action Machined Products, describes her own personal journey towards a more balanced life (with the help of her Advisory Board).

It you want to focus on your goals, then this planning template will help immensely.

4. Building and leading teams. It probably can’t be said that women are better at developing relationships and building teams than their male counterparts. However, they can make use of their intuitive natures to discern conflict within a team—and then seek to resolve that conflict—as well as follow their instincts to favor a team approach, rather than asking an individual to take on too large a challenge.

5. Willingness to question the status quo. Strong female leaders frequently feel the need to challenge “the way business has always been done.” They don’t necessarily accept a traditional approach to strategy and may be more willing than some male leaders in pushing back against convention when they feel strongly about finding a more effective solution.

6. Not afraid to ask for help. Of course, broad generalizations are to be viewed skeptically, but women leaders often feel less inhibited about reaching out for input and guidance when necessary. They understand the limitations of trying to do everything themselves and (as noted previously with the quality of nurturing) see great value in empowering others to assume greater responsibilities. They’re also unafraid to seek the insights and feedback of other business leaders.

As long-time TAB member Lynne Gastineau, president of Gastineau Log Homes, recalls, “I knew I was going to need help if I wanted to grow the company and meet growing customer demand. Managing the staff and dealing with growth would require help. I saw TAB as a way to help me through that process.”

If you think being part of a group that offers consistent, insightful advice makes sense for your business, contact a local TAB board to learn more about membership.

To all the women who will #BeBoldForChange – we applaud you.

Four Tips for Successful Lead Generation

Your sales need qualified leads, like you need oxygen – it is the lifeblood of most businesses.

What is a qualified lead? Someone that has demonstrated an interest in your business’ products or services and is qualified to purchase from you. I other words – has the cash – or whatever else they need to have (location, time, prerequisite) to buy. Some of these leads can be nurtured into prospects and converted into sales, and won’t. To get tips on how to connect with qualified leads you can view our recorded webinar.

There are four key elements you need to get right to maximize qualified leads

1. Your lead capture forms MUST be user-friendly

Generating leads starts with capturing key customer information—enough to move a casual
visitor to your site to start the sales process rolling. Many sales efforts stumble when the lead capture forms on your landing page don’t reflect a typical user’s preferences; either they ask for too much information or, too little of the user.

Short forms may generate larger numbers of potential leads, but the quality of those leads might be lacking. There simply won’t be enough for your sales team to go on, and a lot of time can be wasted chasing after prospects who stubbornly refuse to become “qualified” in the desirable sense of the word.

Forms that ask for too much information are most likely to discourage potential interest in your business offering. (Though, on the bright side, those visitors willing to share an abundance of information are probably better qualified to begin with.)

Finding the right amount of information you ask for on your lead form may depend on what you offer as a “reward” for sharing information. Strive to balance your request for data with the value of the benefit you’re offering.

2. Your web pages should be optimized to generate leads

As with any business site, visitors flock to certain pages more than others. Businesses sometimes err by not optimizing the most heavily trafficked sites (such as the home page, “Contact Us,” etc.). Here are opportunities to seize on prospect interest in your business.

Make sure these pages are optimized with eye-catching, stand-alone calls-to-action (CTAs), generally placed in the upper left-hand corner for prime visibility. Also consider adding special offers on these pages, to generate further interest.

If your CTA does happen to send users to a general page on your site, it’s likely that they won’t bother wasting the time trying to find what they were after in the first place. They’ll just get it elsewhere.

3. Your call-to-action requires urgency

Speaking of CTAs, how compelling are the ones you feature now?

Remember, visitors come to your site at different stages in their “buyer’s journey.” A generic CTA won’t likely produce much response. Consider tailoring these with different goals in mind, such as downloading a white paper, viewing a demo product video or some other value-added incentive to generate more click-throughs.

4. Define what a ‘qualified lead’ is and ensure everyone in your business agrees

In some organizations, there’s a clash between marketing and sales when it comes to defining a lead.

Marketing-qualified leads (MQLs) are those leads identified by marketing as having genuine potential for a long-range customer relationship (with an emphasis on repeat business), These leads may grow out of analytic results or customer demographic characteristics that have proven successful in the past.

Sales-qualified leads (SQLs) are, by contrast, regarded by the sales team as promising opportunities for a short-term closed deal.

It’s imperative that your company’s definition of an MQL matches its definition of an SQL for this transference between departments to work seamlessly. For better results, close communications between teams will improve overall sales by generating a marketing agenda that best suits and supports your sales force.

Want more advice on sales and marketing or general advice from other business owners like you? Find out if a TAB Board is right for you!

The 5-Step Strategic Planning Template for Your Businesses

Are you hoping to invest more time into growing your business instead of getting bogged down by day-to-day business challenges? Maybe you are thinking you would like more time away of the business in 2017? More sales? Better profitability? More efficiencies with your team?

The most important tool for refocusing your energies on your company’s core goals is your strategic plan. There is hard evidence from the Small Business Pulse Survey showing the real-world advantages of the strategic planning process.

I’m going to assume you love what you do – check out this video.

Here, we’re focusing on a strategic planning template that will help you to craft your own strategic business plan. TAB’s Strategic Business Leadership® (SBL) process provides an effective framework for transforming your personal vision of your company into a clear and concise road map that will help to guide your organization’s response to every new challenge and opportunity. The SBL strategic planning process is designed to help small- and medium-sized businesses develop practical strategic plans with attainable, measurable goals. Use your “big picture” focal points to meet today’s business challenges with SBL’s five-step strategic planning template:

  1. Align organizational vision with your personal vision.
  2. Turn a critical eye toward your business.
  3. Develop the plans needed to meet your goals.
  4. Carry out your plans.
  5. Continually evaluate and adjust your plans as business conditions change.

The Five-Step SBL Strategic Planning Template

  1. Vision. To develop a truly effective strategic plan, you’ll first need to take an honest look at what you want to get out of your business. Develop a written Personal Vision Statement, one that details what you’d like to see your business strive towards and how that connects with your goals for your personal life. This isn’t a statement you need to share with employees, investors or customers, so be honest with yourself: are you hoping to sell the business? Bring in new management? Turn the company over to your son or daughter? After you answer these questions, you can develop a Company Vision that will ensure your management team and employees understand your team’s common goal. I have a couple of videos to help you write your personal and business vision.
  2. Analysis. Next, you’ll need to detail the features of your company and the business challenges that loom on the horizon. One proven method for accomplishing this is the SWOT analysis for identifying strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. Assess the things your company does best, and consider the areas where you fall short. Ask yourself about the characteristics that make your company unique, and describe the way your customers truly view your organization. Then identify emerging technologies or markets that might provide new opportunities going forward. Finally, make note of external factors that could cause trouble in the future, such as new regulations or competitors.
  3. Plan. You’ll need to detail critical success factors, goals, strategies and action plans as part of the SBL strategic planning template.
    • Critical Success Factors. Identify your organization’s most important large-scale objectives to help direct your efforts.
    • Goals. Set up concrete goals that can be achieved within one to three years. If your Critical Success Factor is expanding your product line, for example, you could set a goal of developing two new products within the next 18 months.
    • Strategies. Develop guidelines that will help you to meet your goals. In the above example, that might include allocating more resources to your R&D department to facilitate product development.
    • Action Plans. Produce a plan of action that meets SBL’s “S.M.A.R.T.” criteria: your plan must be Specific, Measurable, Actionable, assigned to a Responsible party, and fit within a set Timeline
  4. Take action. A plan won’t do you much good if you and your team let it sit idle. Focus on effective communication to make sure you meet your goals. Your whole organization needs to understand the direction you’re heading and the role they’ll play in making sure you reach your destination. You’ll also need to review and modify your plan as often as possible (preferably weekly), which will allow you to factor in new and unforeseen developments. Also, remember that growing your business will require your full participation. As the business owner, you’re ultimately responsible for ensuring that your company moves towards your objectives.
  5. Turn the Wheel. The last factor in the SBL strategic planning template is what we refer to as “Turning the Wheel.” You didn’t become a business leader because you wanted to stick with the status quo or let others guide your fate. Take ownership over your company’s progress. If things are veering off course, review your plan and revise it. If you need to change course to respond to the loss of a major client or because of difficulties acquiring capital, you’ll need to embrace your role as a leader. If you remember that your strategic plans will need to be dynamic and malleable, you’ll be better prepared to respond to the unexpected and to chart a new path forward.

The strategic planning process is an essential part of any company’s decision-making process. Regardless of your level of experience, and no matter how large or successful your organization is, TAB’s SBL strategic planning template can help you to excel when faced with tomorrow’s business challenges.

You’ve got a finite supply of business resources, and you’ll use them best when you move forward with purpose and conviction.

Start the strategic planning process today.

What would you consider the most important aspect of a cogent business strategy? Comment below to let us know what you’d need to include in your strategic plan.

How to Boost Customer Loyalty to Your Business

How to Boost Customer Loyalty to Your Business

What’s the long-term value of a loyal customer? Let’s start with a look at the “non-loyal” customer. He or she will:

  • Abandon your business after one mistake in delivery or a bad moment with your customer service representative
  • Jettison your business if they find better pricing from a competitor, even if the quality of that competitor’s product or service is suspect
  • If sufficiently disgruntled, spread the word on social media—potentially damaging your brand’s reputation before you have a chance to defend yourself

Given these scenarios—and considering the high cost of new customer acquisition—there’s a lot to be said for cultivating long-term loyalty among your current customer base. Here’s a look at key loyalty-boosting strategies to boost greater allegiance to your brand:

Reward loyalty with exclusive offers. Loyalty doesn’t count for much if there’s nothing “special” about it. Explore options such as offering exclusive discounts, free shipping or a points-based loyalty program you can promote on social media and in email marketing campaigns.

Be active in the community (and foster a community among your customers). People respond favorably to businesses that display a sense of civic duty. What type of charity events or non-profit involvement seems like a logical fit with your business? Get involved in your community and don’t be shy about publicizing these efforts on your website and social media platforms.

In the same spirit, how about cultivating a sense of community within your business? If possible, invite customers to visit your retail space and host events where they can mingle with you and other customers. Over time, such gatherings can instill a genuine sense of being “part of a family.”

Give customers a say in product development. If you’re looking at a product upgrade or new product launch, why not contact some of your loyal customers and get their feedback? This kind of informal collaboration not only generates loyalty (in terms of the customer’s pride of ownership), but helps ensure that Product 2.0 will more effectively meet your customers’ needs.

“We’ve used a private Facebook group of ‘super users’ to encourage customers to discuss their needs,” says Victoria Lynch of the UK-based Additional Lengths Ltd. Giving customers this kind of influence “has paid dividends both for product development and brand value overall, because people can see that we are listening and responding.

Share your expertise and insights. You’re an expert in your field, or you wouldn’t be leading a successful business. Create opportunities to share your expertise and insights with loyal customers—for example, through once-a-quarter email newsletters—and invite them to ask questions on your website or blog. If the information you provide proves helpful (in terms of boosting their own customer loyalty or getting them over a business hurdler), their gratitude and loyalty will be strengthened and more likely endure.

Remember customers’ special occasions. Marking an event like a birthday can be both a pleasant surprise and a touching gesture towards your customers. Entrepreneur Jai Rawat suggests motivating customers “to provide their special dates when they opt in to your newsletter” and then “reward them with bonus loyalty points” on their birthday.

Always provide a quality customer experience. Perhaps most importantly, do everything in your power to ensure customer satisfaction with your business at every touchpoint. Provide extra training where needed for customer service representatives. Invest in the most advanced and customer-friendly technology so people can easily contact you with inquiries or complaints. In these days of fragmented and often deficient service, people will often pay more for a quality customer experience.

Putting more effort into cultivating long-term loyalty will help keep your business growing in 2017 and beyond.

How and Why Entrepreneurs Choose Business Coaches [New Small Business Owner Survey]

According to The Alternative Board’s most recent Business Pulse Survey, 81% of entrepreneurs have seen a positive impact on their business from business coaching. Of course, business coaching comes in all shapes and sizes, and choosing the right coach for your business is essential to a positive ROI.

The survey considered some of the most important questions owners ask when choosing a coach to help improve their business. The answers to these questions as well as the insight found within the survey are not only beneficial to those seeking business coaching, but to business coaches looking to bring on new clients or improve their current services.

Whether you’re looking to bring on a business coach or build out your service offerings, the following questions are an excellent place to get started on your business coaching journey.

Who are the best business coaches?

There’s one thing 73% of business owners can agree on: other business owners make the best business coaches. In fact, the majority of entrepreneurs surveyed chose other business owners as their number one most trusted advisor — placing them over traditional business coaches and family members. Why?

Regardless of size, industry, or value, 70% of businesses face the same challenges. Experienced business owners, with any degree of success, have already overcome the bulk of the challenges entrepreneurs face everyday. Their first-hand experience is likely to hold the answers to any pressing issues.

What is a business coach?

The answer to this may seem obvious, but it’s important to differentiate between a business coach and a business consultant. Consultants are brought on to provide solutions to business challenges, while coaches help business owners find the answers themselves. Consultants solve problems — coaches train leaders. Karen Greetstreet at Passion for Business provides an excellent analogy for understanding the difference:

“A business coach will help you understand how and why you ride a bicycle, help you to determine what’s holding you back from riding properly, and jog along next to you as you ride.

A business consultant will explain why one bike is superior to another, teach you how to ride the bike, and if necessary, ride the bike for you.”

There’s no right or wrong, or better or worse way when it comes to choosing the right advisor for your business. It’s up to you to reflect on your business’s challenges and needs and determine whether you need a business coach, consultant, or both.

When do I need a business coach?

According to the survey results: always. Business owners were nearly split down the middle on whether a business coach is more important when the market is strong or the market is weak. “Business owners see the value in retaining a business coach both in a healthy business climate and an unhealthy one,” says TAB Vice President David Scarola. “The question isn’t when do you need a business coach, but what do you need it for.”

Where do I find a business coach?

The best way to find a business coach is to turn to your personal network. 85% of business owners agree that personal referrals are the most reliable method for finding the right business coach. This comes as little surprise, considering last year’s survey on how business owners choose the vendors they work with.

The majority of business owners surveyed in the 2014 study selected “other business owners using the products or services” as the most influential individual or group when making purchasing decisions for their company.

Why do I need a business coach?

The number one reason you need a business coach is to help you become a more effective leader. More specifically, those surveyed believe a business coach can best assist business owners who have trouble with accountability, growing revenue/reducing costs, voicing their business concerns, hiring more capable employers, and projecting themselves to key stakeholders and their business’s community.

Of these pain points, accountability was selected as the greatest benefit of business coaching. “As you run a growing organization, everything gets complex; you get busy and sometimes push off things you know are important. This is where a business coach comes in,” says Jeff Cayley, of Worldwide Cyclery. “You can discuss the vital things you need to accomplish in order to achieve your goals, and your coach will hold you accountable. That alone will make you more effective.”

How do I choose a business coach?

Take it from hundreds of other business owners – the number one factor to consider when choosing a business coach is their coaching style and philosophy. Not every style will work for every business, or every business owner. Close runner ups include their areas of expertise and their character/integrity. Scarola adds, “Just as your core values drive your business, so should your business coach’s drive theirs.”

With the majority of business owners choosing fellow business owners as their most trusted advisor, it’s no surprise The Alternative Board’s peer advisory model has seen a quarter century of success. Combining the insight of other business owners with additional business coaching provides entrepreneurs with the best of both worlds. If you’d like to profit from the accountability, strategic planning, and growth benefits of working with a business coach, contact your local TAB advisory board. Each advisory board is comprised of facilitators and local business owners to ensure the most powerful 360 degree perspective of your business.

How Business Psychology Can Help You Gain Customers

By Guest Blogger, Eileen O’Shanassy

There is a ton of psychology involved in doing business, and as a business owner you must understand that people behave in certain ways and can be influenced with the right triggers to purchase your products or services. There are many examples of how to use basic psychology to get more customers and if you are savvy, you can use these to your advantage as you market. If you want more information, check out applied psychology programs online or courses where you can learn these skills in a business sense.

Using Social Proof
When people have an opinion on something, you will put more weight into that opinion even if they didn’t conduct any in-depth research and haven’t compared the pros and cons. Businesses use social proof in the form of reviews, ratings, social media mentions, and buzz to bring attention to their products and services. They know that if they build a positive conversation around their business, it’ll create a momentum that will attract new customers. Use positive reviews like these to improve your customer reach and to market your business more easily.

Using Authority
You are more likely to trust a business if some kind of authority is attached to them. For example, if you see an endorsement given by a well-known figure or celebrity, you are more likely to trust the company that’s being endorsed. Sometimes the authority is built around reputable roles like doctors, law enforcement, physical trainer, etc. If you can establish authority around your business, you’ll increase your credibility and make it easier for new customers to trust you.

Scarcity
A psychological trigger that you often see used in infomercials is scarcity. People are generally attracted to things that are harder to get. Some get emotionally worked up by the possibility of losing something valuable. Infomercials often use this trigger by building up value in bonuses and discounts. The kicker is that the bonuses and discounts are only available for a limited time. This creates scarcity and often triggers customers to buy when they may not have done so under normal circumstances.

While psychology is an incredible way to gain customers, you still need to realize that your customers are people too. Don’t insult your audience by making it obvious that you’re trying to use a gimmick to get them to make a purchase. You have to walk a fine line and embed psychology into your communication in a way that is respectful while also impactful. Consumers have become more educated about marketers over the last few decades, so it’s important to learn how to use psychology the right way for the right products.

Need more advice on gaining more customers? Find out if the collective wisdom of a peer-advisory board is right for your business.

How to Treat Recruiting Like a Sales Process

In the fevered competition to recruit and hire “A-player” job candidates, many recruiters and HR departments are turning to a different model to get the job done. Imposing the structure of a sales process offers a new way to look at recruitment in general, and how to better position their own companies in particular. This approach might well be the answer to your own recruiting challenges.

Here’s a look at how taking a sales approach to hiring can work for your business:

Adapt elements of sales to recruiting. Your sales team follows a rigorous process of cultivating, nurturing and converting sales leads. With a little imagination, your in-house recruiter can adapt many of these same elements for the hiring process. HR thought leader Kim Shepherd advises following these “sales-like” steps:

  • Define the value proposition of your company for job candidates.
  • Reconfigure that value proposition into an appealing message.
  • Disseminate that message to targeted prospects via job boards, social media, etc.
  • Qualify and manage “candidate leads” as they come in.
  • Pursue the most promising candidates and close the deal.

Look at your applicant tracking system as “more than storage for archiving resumes,” Shepherd writes. Use it to “build and manage a pipeline, including measuring leads, tracking conversion rates and even creating the recruitment version of a sales forecast.” In this way you develop clear-cut metrics, including job candidate targets and deliverables.

Act like a high-performing salesperson. The best members of your sales team diligently stay on top of everything happening in the industry—reading blog posts and articles, reviewing trade publications, looking closely at potential clients’ websites and so on.

They also maintain an active presence on social media, passing along helpful links, connecting with influencers and sharing news about your company without openly engaging in a “sales pitch” to job candidates. “Don’t fall in the trap of tweeting sales jobs! Jobs! and more Jobs!” warns Live and Learn Consultancy LTD. “It’s not authentic and guess what, no one listens.”

Become a pro at selling your company. Here’s an area where many businesses can improve their odds of “bagging” the candidates they truly want. Look at the situation from the job-seeker’s perspective and develop compelling answers to these questions:

  • Why should I want to work for your company?
  • What does your company offer that I can’t find at one of your competitors?
  • What growth opportunities do you offer?
  • How do you foresee the company growing in the near future in ways that benefit me and other potential employees?

These are variations on the types of questions prospective clients ask of any company seeking their business. You’ll see greater interest among job applicants if you answer these questions in an authentic and inspiring manner.

Show off your culture. Just as a salesperson might give a potential client a tour of your business—in order to demonstrate how the culture is geared towards serving customers’ needs—so a recruiter should be prepared to show off your culture to achieve similar results.

Of course, candidates will get a taste of your workplace environment when they show up for an interview, so it’s imperative that they leave with a favorable first impression. Put together a “package tour” so candidates meet your best, most outgoing employees, get the chance to see your technology at work and get a feel for what’s going on. In many ways, this experience might be the “close” to your sales approach.

Finally, even if things don’t work out, be sure to end the budding relationship on a positive note. No one wants a disgruntled job applicant tweeting and posting unfavorable comments about your company based on a bad interview or recruiting experience. You never know when a candidate who wasn’t the right fit might (because he or she remembers how pleasant and approachable your recruiters were) refer a friend or colleague who turns out to be precisely the A-player employee you’re looking for.

Need more help finding top talent? Join us Tuesday, November 22, 2016, for our Business Owner Success Series webinar on “Recruiting When People Are Scarce.”

 

5 Tips for Effective Digital Recruiting

In the increasingly cut-throat world of employee recruiting, businesses that fail to devise effective digital recruitment strategies face the threat of getting left behind in the dust. That’s because, as the vast majority of prospective job candidates are soon to come from the millennial generation, digital technology is the best way to “speak their language” and draw the interest of this highly sought-after talent pool.

Here are five tips for crafting a digital hiring strategy that yields better results than more traditional recruitment efforts:

1. Focus on creating a memorable first impression.

Before undertaking any other efforts, it’s critically important that your business website—and particularly, your “Careers” page—impress job seekers from the instant they land on your site. The look and feel should be engaging, upbeat and informative (and of course, easy to navigate). A cluttered or amateurish site instantly conveys the notion that a business doesn’t have its act together—and can discourage candidates from looking any further.

Think of your site as a “company storefront” where visitors are treated to a display of your culture and products. Such a storefront must “deliver a cohesive brand image that reflects the company mission, vision and values,” notes HR expert Amber Hyatt. The brand experience, combined with in-depth job descriptions and online applications, “engages job seekers and helps them determine proactively if they are a cultural fit to the organization, and whether to apply.”

2. Showcase your brand on multiple platforms.

Remember, prospective candidates come to your business from a wide array of online sources. Putting together a noteworthy company profile on LinkedIn is a necessary first step—with special attention paid to highlighting your company culture—but no business can afford to stop there. Your brand must have a significant presence, and following, on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest and Instagram as well.

Maintaining a consistent message across various platforms is key. Since it’s your brand that “gives you the ultimate credibility,” be sure to “use the same banners, icons and style across the platforms and continue this theme into your website.” This way, your brand and messaging are familiar wherever job seekers encounter them.

3. Focus on providing content that engages and informs.

Both on your business and career sites, and in your social media outreach efforts, pay close attention to the kind of content you offer to followers. Tweets, posts, articles, etc., should reflect your company’s upbeat, employee-friendly culture. In order to reach the widest possible audience, mix things up with a blend of images, short videos, surveys, and so on that engage job candidates and keep them coming back for more.

4. Make the online job application process quick and easy to complete.

If you successfully grab the interest of a prospective candidate, don’t make the mistake of putting obstacles in the way of completing your online job applications. A variety of technology options should be considered, from dedicated candidate job portals to employee referral networks—anything that leverages integrated platforms to ease the application process. (Additionally, this will impress job seekers looking for companies proficient in digital technology.)

5. Incorporate big data in your recruiting efforts.

The same “big data” technology used to attract new customers can be applied to your recruiting efforts. Look into high-quality recruitment analytics programs that gather key data such as:

  • Typical applicant online behavior
  • Job website visits
  • Job description searches
  • Favorite social media platforms
  • Profile updates on LinkedIn, Facebook, etc.

“In the near future, most HR departments (many large companies already do) will have access to considerable pools of data that can tell a recruiter more about candidates than they know about themselves,” writes marketing specialist Aleah Radovich.

Adding a “digital dimension” to your recruiting strategies will broaden the range and scope of potential candidates, including the right type of talented individuals you want in your business.

Recruiting When People Are Scarce

 

Recruiting When People Are Scarce

When: November 22, 2016, 10:00 - 10:45 a.m. (MST)
Where: BOSS Webinar


Sometimes it feels like small business owners are fighting an uphill battle in the proverbial “War for Talent.” This month’s BOSS Webinar will focus on pragmatic ideas and considerations for uncovering hidden sources of talent, flipping the traditional candidate pursuit conversation and leveraging tools/plans that you may already have in place. Join us to learn how you can get ahead of the game as we all prepare for the 2017 recruiting season!

Register