Saturday, September 27, 2014

To Write Better, Start In The Middle

I earn my living doing something that many people regard as sheer torture: knitting words into sentences and paragraphs. Unfortunately for those people, nearly every job or business endeavor demands a certain amount of that torture. However, there's a simple trick that can make your writing easier and more effective.That trick is starting somewhere in the middle.I hear it all the time from people who have to write reports, promotional emails, performance reviews, white papers, blog posts, or any of the other kinds of content that play critical roles in the business world. "I just don't know how to begin" is a common plaint. "I hate staring at that empty screen and that #%#^$% blinking cursor" lament others. "I know exactly what I want to say, but I can't get started" some moan.Written materials do tend to be arranged in a linear fashion. There's a beginning, middle, and an ending. In school, most of us were taught to write in just that order. Remember learning about outlines and paragraph structure? Open your paragraph with a compelling sentence, use the next two or three sentences to provide support, and then conclude with some kind of summary?That kind of structure is an excellent objective, but there are no rules demanding that you develop it in that order -- except for the self-imposed rules in your head (and those your seventh-grade English teacher cemented there). When you have to write something, you should do it in the way that makes you most comfortable.When I recommend that you start writing the middle, what I'm suggesting is that you begin with the main point (or points) that you want to convey. You don't have to make them fancy or even grammatical -- all you need to do to get started is get them on screen (or on paper, for the traditionalists out there).Back in the days when we wrote on typewriters, starting in the middle was very difficult. But the advent of word processing software makes it very easy. Suppose you're writing an article about income taxes, and you want your reader to come away with the importance of planning, keeping good records, and filing tax forms in a timely fashion. You then enter these three sentences, with plenty of blank space between them: "Planning is a critical component of any tax strategy," "Keeping and organizing the right records will save time and trouble," and "Create a calendar that lists upcoming deadlines."

You may think that all you did was list the key points, but you've actually started writing your article. Now go to each of those sentences and jot down rough statements that either add detail or explain why they're important. Again, you don't have to be fancy or grammatical. Right now, you're just trying to organize your thoughts. For the "records" sentence, those thoughts might include "Look at last year's taxes to see which categories you'll need," "Set up a basic filing system to organize receipts and documents," and "Check what you've gathered to identify any gaps."Once you get all those thoughts into place, you're ready to combine them into sentences and paragraphs. You'll be surprised at how easy it becomes to turn those assorted thoughts into a cohesive paragraph, and how the transitions and other surrounding words will begin to flow. It isn't magic; it's just a matter of freeing yourself from writing in that linear fashion. Instead, you're doing exactly what your brain does naturally: capturing and rearranging random bits of information.When the middle of your article is finished (or well on its way), you'll find that it's much easier to craft a compelling introduction and a logical conclusion. And then, when you've completed your first draft of all those pieces, read through them to smooth out any jagged edges or rough spots. Don't skimp at this stage. Most professional writers spend just as much time editing and rewriting their work as they put into developing a first draft.The example I used here was for an article, but the same technique will work as well in a proposal, an email, a report, a blog post, or any kind of written communication. The key is freeing your mind from limits and letting your thoughts and knowledge find their way to the screen or paper. Once you practice this technique, you'll find that

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Building Your Business With A Purpose

Building my business has been a fun yet challenging journey. My Business journey began in 1998 and 15 years later, I have discovered that the only way to build a successful business is with a Purpose. In fact, I believe that a business without a purpose is a business that is destined to fail.When I wrote my business plan, it was written with my purpose in mind and that was, "To provide High Quality Childcare." In fact, my purpose was the glue that held the business plan together. Moreover, as I completed each section of the business plan, it was completed with my purpose in mind.Building a Business on purpose, takes lot of planning, lots of energy and lots of focus. Most importantly, you must be willing to persevere... no matter what comes your way. Adversity seems to attach itself to every business with a purpose; however, you must stay focused and stay the course.I must say, it is an awesome feeling to write the purpose for your business and see it in action! Are you ready to build to discover how to build a business with a Purpose? Today I am going to share with you some of the strategies that I used to build my business on purpose.A business without a purpose is like playing basket ball without a 'Rim"... it's pointless!

Master Your Time. You must take some time at the beginning of every week and make a list of your business priorities. Be sure to add your most important duties at the top of the list. Delegate time wasters. As you do this... You will develop a sense of accomplishment for every week. Moreover you will become a master of your time.

Personal Development. If you are not growing as an individual, your business will suffer or if you have character flaws, it will show and could even destroy your business. I recommend that you read a personal development book 2-3 times a year, so that you are able to develop a mindset that will sustain not destroy your success.

Master Your Money. You must have a plan for how you will spend the money that comes into and leaves your business! Money is the life line of your business and you must learn how to manage it well. Only buy what you need, invest in your business on a regular basis and keep a close eye on your money.

Business Associates. Hang around other successful business owners. In fact, get an Accountability partner; someone who will hold you accountable for your business success. If you are hanging around millionaires... you will begin to think like, talk like, look like and eventually become, "A Millionaire."

Evaluation system. Be sure to create an evaluation system for your business, to evaluate if you are really operating based on your purpose or if you are even accomplishing your business "mission." As you evaluate your business, keep this in mind; Only use methods and systems that are working for you and stop doing what is not working.

Take some time for you! After working 5-6 days a week on building your business; take some time for you. I find that, the more rest that I get; the more productive I am on Monday morning. Also, plan to travel! I believe that travel is a great way to spark your creativity and give you new ideas for your business!

I challenge you to take a moment to reflect on the purpose of your business? Your purpose is your "why"; it is the reason you are in business, so be sure to never stop building your business with a purpose. In fact, as you focus on building your business with a purpose; you will attract to you what you need for your business and what you need for the business will come to you sooner than you think it will!

Monday, September 22, 2014

Online Versus Offline Marketing: Which One Is Better?

It's amazing how the world has evolved during the last 20 years.More than just the shifts of power across countries... more than just the life changing events like hurricanes, earth quakes and terrorist attacks... the advancement of technology has completely changed the way that we view the world.YouTube has virtually replaced television. Blogs tend to break important news faster than the actual news stations. And people are meeting their friends and significant others through social networks like Facebook and eHarmony.And probably the most significant change has been the way that businesses market themselves.If you go to YouTube and search for "Dollar Shave Club" you'll find a minute-long video that a guy made in his warehouse that ended up getting over 15 million views... for FREE. The purpose of the video is to get people to go to his website and subscribe to a monthly program where they send you a high quality razor every month for a dollar.Now, imagine for a second... if just 10% of those views convert into sales for him, he just generated sales of over $1.5 million per month... for FREE.If you wanted to get 15 million views from a TV commercial, you would have to pay thousands of dollars, if not tens of thousands... AT LEAST.In another simple example... if you wanted to deliver a 15 page sales letter to 1000 people, and you were going to do it through direct mail, you would have to cough up at least $5,000 to send those letters out. And unless you hired a professional copywriter to write your letter for you, for all you know, you could have very well wasted your $5,000.Now, if you put that same sales letter on a website and drove pay per click traffic to it, you would most likely pay anywhere from $250 - $1,000 (dependent on the industry you're in). And the beautiful thing is, you can track everything. You get to see how many people saw your ad, and what percentage clicked on the ad.

You can also compare ads to see which one gets more clicks and you get these numbers in real time. If you wanted to compare two different ads through direct mail, you would have to wait weeks before you got any response and your tests would be relatively hard to track.There are countless more scenarios in which it is advantageous to deliver your message through online mediums versus offline, however, this doesn't mean that offline marketing doesn't work anymore.The most successful business people that I know use both online AND offline marketing tactics. They intermingle the two mediums to deliver their message.And probably THE MOST POWERFUL resource that comes with online marketing is the creation of the auto-responder. In its most basic form, an auto-responder is just that... an automated responding mechanism that follows up with your prospects automatically.As a basic feature of the auto-responder, you can send newsletters to your prospect list. If you had a list of 1000 people, you could email them on a daily basis at no extra cost to you. However, if you wanted to send a newsletter to 1000 people via direct mail, you would be paying AT LEAST $1,000 per day!It's THE most revolutionary invention in the world of marketing and business.In future articles, I will go into the finer details of each of the concepts that we talked about and will give you instructions on how to use them effectively.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Understanding The Holistic Marketing Model

We are operating in a world that is changing faster than ever. Your customers have become conditioned for change because it is in every facet of their life, work included. We have reached a point where, if something is NOT changing, there must be a problem. Technological advances are a prime example of this.If your company is small or medium in size, it has an advantage over many of your competitors. Your size makes it easier for you to adapt quickly. If you are too conservative, though, you lose this advantage. An open door can close quickly and an opportunity is lost. You are obligated to make educated decisions and act on them. You cannot be afraid to succeed."Holistic Marketing" is defined as the development, design, and implementation of marketing programs and activities that recognize the breadth and interdependence of their effects. The short definition is "In marketing, everything matters."Everyone employed by your company needs to recognize that ALL activities affect customer relations.In the "Holistic Marketing Model," there are four equally important components to consider. These four key ingredients will help to build the foundation that you need so that you are sure that you are doing the right things every step of the way, including adapting when you need to adapt.1) Internal Marketing - are you working together and truly thinking about the customers?Vertically, you must have the support at the highest level of ownership and senior management, as all successful companies do.Horizontally, your internal and external departments must be working in conjunction with each other. Departments such as Customer Service, Inside Sales and Marketing, and Outside Sales are obviously linked in that the customer has direct contact with these groups. What is not so obvious is the impact of the departments that have indirect contact with the customers. Customers don't usually engage with your company's Production, IT, Accounting, Shipping/Receiving, Human Resources, etc., but the activities of those departments is felt by the customer in one way or another. If we remember that we are all customers ourselves of many companies and product types, this concept of truly servicing the customer becomes more relevant.2) Integrated Marketing - the coordination of advertising, promotions, events, and channels (direct and indirect). Done correctly, this satisfies the customers' needs but also surpasses their expectations and keeps your company at "top of mind."Though you may sell through distribution, the practice of direct marketing is becoming more prevalent. End-user relationships are critically important because it is the end-user who is the ultimate customer. Think of it this way - if you lose a distributor for an end-user, you can find another. Your product still gets consumed. The only difference is that the reseller is different. If you lose an end-user, your product stays on your shelf. To be successful, you must develop and implement both PUSH (selling through distribution channels) and PULL (promoting directly to the end-user) strategies.Given the size of your company, you are likely not large enough to focus entirely on the PULL technique. You need the right distributors to help you create an awareness in the market. The role of the distributor has changed significantly, but they will remain obligated to act as an extension of your company.3) Relationship Marketing - when you hear "relationships", the natural tendency is to first think of your end-user customers. In commercial business, though, you have relationships with other groups as well, and they are important in keeping your company's brand healthy and thought of positively.

You may have marketing partners such as ad agencies, web design consultants, suppliers of premiums for give-away promotional items, distributors, and your own employee base. You must be building long lasting relationships with all of these groups.You choose those advertising vehicles that give you the best exposure to your target customers, and you need exposure to grow the brand. Your web design consultation is key to help keep your website at the forefront as being educational, navigable, and the face of your company to a large segment of customers. Distributors are important in that the customers' experience with your company depends on how your distributors respond and act. Many of your end-users' only experience with your company's brand is solely in their interaction with your distributors, so you need to spend resource marketing to this indirect channel. What is important to distribution? What motivates the distributor to promote your products?Finally, your employees must understand their role. To help with this, you are obligated to meet regularly with your employees of all departments to make sure they are kept abreast regularly with what is transpiring outside of the factory. "Town Hall" type gatherings are effective in fostering the desired goal of "Strategic Intent."You absolutely need to focus everyone's attention on winning by motivating them.You need to communicate not only the value of the target but also emphasizing to your team that what they think, say, and do matters to your organization's success.4) Performance Marketing - how are you actually performing? Is the balance between sales and cost of sales correct? Are you spending money appropriately on marketing initiatives? Is your Return on Investment in line with winning while satisfying the financial goals of your company?Examining what you may now have:- The products that you manufacture are among the best in the world in their category.- You can measure cost savings with credibility.- You are positioned to capture a premium price where it is deserved.- Being confronted with abundant, low priced competition has forced higher priced manufacturers like your company to come up with innovative products that lower customer costs. You have proven that you can answer successfully by being able to demonstrate a strong value proposition.- When premium priced products are not necessary for an application, you have other options for your customers.Count up these and other attributes that apply to your company and consider them as assets. That is what you have.Having won half the battle by creating tangible value for customers, the other half is in effectively communicating this value to the market. You probably do not do this nearly as well as you should be doing, given the story that you have to tell.One of your goals should be to spend only in those areas where value is created. For example, to advertise in a magazine that is not read by your target customer is of no value. Spend wisely be ensuring that you are capitalizing on the new and very real potential that has been created by your own investment in salespeople.David Packard, founder of HP, once said that "Marketing is too important to be left to the Marketing Department." If your company truly adopts the Holistic Marketing mindset, you will find this sentiment to be true. Everyone in your company will come to understand that they too work in the Marketing Department.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Dentists Vs Doctors

Yesterday I had an 8.45am appointment with the Dentist. Definitely not my favourite place to go and definitely not at that time in the morning.My husband and I arrived for our check-ups promptly and at 8.45am exactly I was shown into the chair. After a quick look around and an announcement that everything was fine, I went back out to the waiting room.And that is when the magic happened.I don't mean literally here; Harry Potter did not appear or anything like that.But that is when the systems took over.Once I had paid for our check-up, the receptionist asked me if I wanted to book my next check-up in a year's time. To be honest, not really as I don't like the Dentist at the best of times, but I did recognise that once it was done, it was in the diary.We booked our appointments, and I put the date in my diary. We also got a printed card to remind us too.But more importantly, we also get a text message a few days before an appointment to remind us that we were booked in and also to give us the opportunity to cancel if we need to.I would imagine before this system was in place, the Dentist suffered a lot from people simply 'forgetting' about their appointments.After all, a year is a long time away and not everyone will put the appointment straight into their diary; or even have a diary come to think of it for the following year.I also wondered if Doctor's surgeries, hairdressers and many other companies could benefit from the simple art of these sorts of systems.

When I compare going to the Doctors with going to the Dentist, the difference is major and very noticeable. In the Doctors, everyone appears harassed and stressed with no time to do anything. However, in the Dentist things are very calm and serene and the whole atmosphere portrays that.When I am in the Doctors, if I happen to take five minutes over my scheduled appointment time, it seems to throw the whole system out. However, when at the Dentist I was told they do x-rays every couple of years and mine was due; they advised that they would do it on my next visit and they would book a slightly longer appointment.Even though yesterday my usual Dentist was off sick, it did not seem to faze them at all. I would imagine they had a system in place for that too.I have talked about systems before, but it is so lovely when everything comes together and just works! And there is always a difference between companies that have systems in place and the ones that don't.So, a question for you?Do you have systems in your business? Are there places where things can be sped up, made more efficient or just automated?Do you want your business to appear like the Dentist, calm and serene? Or harassed and stressed like the Doctors? Systems can definitely help with that. Tell me your experience of systems in the comments section below.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Promotional Products - How To Choose The Best Personalised Promotional Gifts For Christmas

Are you wondering what to give your clients for Christmas? Personalised promotional products might just be the ticket. But how do you choose the best promotional gifts, especially for the holiday season? Here are a few tips.Regular Promotional Items Versus Items That Are Perfect For ChristmasBefore getting into details, it's important to differentiate between regular promotional items and items that work particularly well as Christmas gifts. There are countless options when it comes to promotional items, but most of them aren't really the best choice when it comes to Christmas gifts. Here's an example:One of the most popular promotional items are pens - and they're highly useful because not only are they used regularly but they're also passed around from one person to the next, so you get extra mileage. But do they make great Christmas gifts? No.Why not? And what WOULD make a promotional gift item an ideal choice for Christmas? Here are three criteria to consider when you make your choice...1) Price And ValuePens and similar office items such as sticky notes and notepads tend to be inexpensive and don't really qualify as "gifts." At least they don't unless you give high quality pens that are quite a bit more costly. So one of the key criteria is price or value. Cheap items just don't feel like gifts.2) Enjoyment FactorPens and other office items also feel too much like "work." For Christmas, you want to give something that adds some pleasure to life. That could be something as simple as a pretty paperweight, or as complex as a set of wine paraphernalia.

One thing that's universally enjoyed is clothing, provided it's attractive and of high quality. Sure, t-shirts and sweatshirts are welcome gifts all year long, but they also work well for Christmas. People like getting clothing for Christmas.3) SeasonalIf you want to give something that's really appropriate for the season, you have two options. Either give something that enhances the Christmas spirit, such as seasonal items, including snow globes, ornaments, and other such things.Or you could give things that people buy during this time of year because they will need them come January 1st. And this, of course, means calendars and diaries.Why Calendars Are The Perfect Promotional Christmas GiftEverybody has at least a couple of calendars, and they go shopping for them towards the end of the year. If you gift your clients or prospects an attractive calendar, it might very well get a place of honor on their office wall or desk. They might also use it at home. Either way, they will see it daily, and they will be reminded of YOU every day as well.So if you're looking for the perfect branded Christmas gift, start with calendars or diaries. Pick one (or several) that are truly attractive, have your logo printed on them, include a personal note or Christmas card, and send it off.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Top 4 Reasons to Hire a Sign Writing Company

In the times we live in, nothing lasts forever, quite literally. What we see one moment on the television, or on an advertisement billboard, is forgotten in the next instant. How, then, do you make sure you leave an impression on the minds of people? After all, that is the best marketing strategy - to make sure your audience remembers you.People, in general, are visual beings. Pictures make a better impression on the human brain. So the logo, the colors, and the pictures you employ in your marketing campaign play a very vital role. This is where sign writing companies come in. And here is why you should let them in.1. They know what to do:Sign writing companies have been in the business of sign creation for years, and in some cases decades. They know the pulse of the market, and the tastes of the people in the respective areas. This makes it much easier to arrive at the right design for various products and services. It is also a surer way to reach out to your customers.2. They offer a variety of services:There is no end to what man can design. And sign writing companies stand as a testimony to this fact. When you take the assistance of a sign writing company, you begin to discover other areas of your business that could do with better sign writing, and little by little, bit by bit, you will watch as your business undergoes a beautiful transformation. Ultimately, you will be satisfied that your products and services are being advertised in the best possible manner.

3. They help you cut down on the costs:If you had to hire freelancers, or get your displays and posters done by a bundle of individual contractors who each take care of different parts of the job, the total costs will skyrocket. When you hire a sign writing company, these problems will not surface. Most sign writing companies offer package deals that take care of everything from bulk orders to emergency orders, and they do them for reasonable rates as well.4. You are assured about the quality:One of the most raised issue when it comes to outsourcing a part of your advertising campaign is the question of satisfaction. Most businesses and enterprises are apprehensive about allowing a third party to handle their trade. With sign writing companies, however, this need not be a cause for worry. They are trained to make whatever they land their hands on ten times more beautiful and appealing. So you can be assured that the work will be of the best quality.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Going Global: International Marketing

The era of globalization in the corporate sphere has arrived, and there is no going back. As company audiences increase exponentially, so does the need for marketing specialists. In the past, audiences were only as large as the radio frequency would carry; now, audiences stretch as far as the other side of the world. New variables emerge such as different cultures, language barriers, political environments, laws and tariffs, and geographic infrastructures. These variables can cause a company's marketing approach and even product to greatly differ from country to country to better reach each target audience. To develop a marketing plan, follow these simple steps.1. Research the Target CountryTo effectively introduce a new market to a company, do extensive research. A marketing professional should research the external environment of the target country and city of entry. Discover the geography and infrastructure. Identify the population, the densest areas, the growth rate, official languages, the area size, the climate, and its terrain. Gain an understanding of the market's technological infrastructure and usage rate. Ask questions like, will the Internet be a good marketing technique or would the television be better? Know the competitive market. What other companies in the same industry have penetrated the market? Analyze the political/legal environment and driving economic forces- the political system, tariff laws, GDP, economic growth rate, unemployment rate, and inflation rate. Perhaps, knowing and understanding the culture is the most important factor. What is important to the citizens in their daily lives?2. Conduct a SWOT AnalysisAs with any marketing plan, be able to conduct a SWOT analysis of the company. Identify the strengths that set the company and its products apart from the crowd. Is it the quality products, partnerships, or lifetime guarantee? Know the weakness of the company, whether it is financial issues or brand dilution. Spot opportunities for growth and prosperity. Is there a competitive advantage? Finally, search for threats to the company's growth like a competitive market or economic downturn.3. Segment the MarketThe first step to succeeding in market penetration is to segment the market. Know the target age range for the campaign. After this range is established, research its socio-demographics. Under this subhead, discover the segment's level of education, the target gender and its percentage, the level of household income, and professions. Next, determine the segment's behaviors. These are the little nuances that govern the segment's society, like a courteous bow or an avoidance of eye contact. Psychographics are another important piece of the puzzle in understanding the target market. Look up the market's levels of individualism, indulgence, avoidance of uncertainty, etc.

4. State Measurable Objectives and Devise StrategiesJust like a local marketing plan, state the campaign's objectives. Make sure that the objectives are measurable, under a time constraint, and grounded in reality. Do not state vague objections that make the evaluation of success impossible later on. The objectives are the foundation to build the rest of the plan on. So, perfect them.Under the objectives, craft strategies that identify how the company will achieve the objectives laid out. Usually, the strategies are more prolific than the objectives, so that a series of events and other tactics fulfill the objectives.5. Establish a BudgetSet a financial budget for the marketing plan's research, strategies, and evaluation tactics. Consider the cost of middlemen for distribution, marketing communications (advertising, website, collateral), and channels of communication. Break down the cost for individual strategies and tally up the costs for an overall budget.6. EvaluateAfter the plan has been carried out, revisit the objectives for evaluation of success. A few examples of evaluation techniques are, reviewing quarterly revenue reports, sending out surveys, and measuring website activity.International marketing plans should not scare marketing professionals away from the task. Just remember the outline: research the target country, conduct a SWOT analysis of the company, segment the market, state measurable objectives and devise strategies, set a budget, and create an evaluation plan.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Corporate Video Production Boosts Business

You have just placed a new video on the website and you think it's cool. But after a while, you noticed that it doesn't get a lot of views. What's the problem? Most people don't know that it's not enough to just place any kind of video on a website whenever they feel like doing it. There are elements of a corporate video production that should be implemented. Yes, video has standards so you have to make it with quality before you can expect people to watch what you have prepared for them.As you would be creating a video that's worthy of your viewer's time, you should take note of these elements:Obtain clarity of purpose. Your video can become successful only when you are able to express your message in a simple way. You can promote one product or discuss one idea in the video. If there are a lot of things you want to tackle, make sure that you do not stuff them all into one video but make several videos, each one tackling one product or idea.Give your audience something they can digest. They have spent their time in watching your video. As a reciprocation, you should be able to give them good information or solutions for their inquiry. Your audience might have found your video through a search, and if it's a search, then they must be looking for some answers.At the outset, define your purpose why you would like to make a video for a certain product.Select your target audience. Do you have an idea who will be watching your video? This is important to determine since the content of the video should be tailored according to the temperament and taste of the target audience. Is it men you are targeting as audience, or is it women in general, teenagers or retired people?

Decide where to shoot. If you have no good lighting in your location, you can ask for the help of event companies to give you superb ideas on where to shoot. They can supply lighting, sound and video support teams so that you will be able to make a quality video production.How much should you spend? It depends on your capacity. Some companies have only a few hundreds to shell out for this project. That should not be a problem. Talk this out with your partner video company so that they will be able to tailor a complete and quality video with the budget you have. Everything is possible if you can just discuss things with a video company you want to hire.Videos have different levels of complexity and if you are tight in budget, you can still push through with the project. Your producer just needs to determine how much the budget would be so that they can start planning your project. Regardless of how expensive you want your video to be, the basic elements would always be involved and with that, you have a strong marketing tool to reach your desired market.