As a Leader, Helping Your Employees Grow is One of Your Most Important Jobs

As a leader within your organization, it’s understandable to feel like the list of things you have to look over gets longer and longer all the time. While you’re being pulled in so many different directions, it can be easy to forget about one of your most important jobs of all: doing everything in your power to make sure that your employees are getting better and stronger with each passing day. Make no mistake: this is absolutely something you’ll want to spend time thinking about every day for a number of compelling reasons.

Helping Your Employees, One Step at a Time

One of the most important ways that you can help your employees grow is by encouraging them to take an active role in their own professional development. One of the major reasons that you became the leader you are today is because you were not content to “spin your wheels” as far as your career was concerned. Help your employees understand that the status quo is never something they should be satisfied with and provide them with guidance in the form of mentorship opportunities along the way.

Another one of the most important ways that you can help your employees grow involves showing that you trust them by constantly pushing them outside of their comfort zones. One of the ways that we get better in our professional lives involves stepping outside the box we normally live in and doing something that makes us fear what might happen. By constantly challenging your employees, you not only help them move forward – you help show how valuable they are to both you and your organization by establishing a bond of trust that is very difficult to break.

An Investment in Your Employees is an Investment in Your Future

Another reason why helping your employees grow is one of your most important jobs has to do with the positive effect it can have on your company as a whole. Think about things from a hiring perspective – you aren’t just looking for someone to fulfill certain job duties. Anybody can do that. You’re looking for someone who can regularly surprise you and exceed your expectations on a daily basis. If you’re having a hard time finding or attracting these candidates in the interviewing process, the next best thing is to essentially build them yourself by investing in their development over time.

This not only presents you with a workforce capable of doing higher quality work on a daily basis, but it also helps cement your business’s reputation in your industry and with your own clients as an entity that can be trusted and relied on. Yes, it’s true that this will also make your employees more marketable. But with benefits like these, this is one risk that you should be more than willing to take.

At the end of the day, outward success in the world of business begins from within. By looking at your employees as what they are – a solid foundation from which to build the business you’ve always dreamed of –
you can then begin strengthening that foundation brick by brick through employee growth and development initiatives. Not only will your employees themselves thank you, but your clients and ultimately your bottom line will thank you, as well.

Succeed in Business Without Undue Stress: Lessons From a Sailor

Whether you’ve been in business for 40 years, or you are a startup waiting for the perfect time to enter the marketplace, you want to know how to succeed in the fast-paced world of capturing market share. Let’s see how your business can benefit from the lessons learned in the daily life of a salty sailor.

Sailors are known for their exciting tales of far-off worlds and adventure beyond a landlubber’s imagination. The trusted captain and crew have a few pointers to share for a successful voyage.

Know your vessel.

Is she seaworthy? Is she built and maintained by people who take pride in their work? What are her quirks? Not all vessels are the same by any means. Know what makes her unique and tend to those details. What is the greatest strength of your enterprise? What is your core competency, or what is the distinguishing feature of your product? Having a well-defined product or service and a good understanding of how it compares to similar items in the marketplace is crucial.

Choose a good crew.

Your crew will make or break the voyage, and as the captain, all the responsibility is resting on you. Is the “crew” of your “vessel” the best in the business, or did you hire your brother’s high school best friend out of some misplaced sense of obligation? You have to constantly assess the skill and knowledge of your crew. Do you have the right people stationed at the right post? Just as you wouldn’t put a deckhand in charge of navigation, you must insist on having all of your staff working in the areas of their expertise.

Know where you’re going.

As a sailor, you must always be aware of your latitude and longitude. You have to know where you are in order to chart a course to where you want to go. The tools available today are changing rapidly and technology is great, but do not lose sight of the basics: quality, consistency, value, and customer service. Knowing where you are in these key areas and how you stack up to the competition will allow you to get where you want to go, be it increased market share, growth, innovation, or profitability.

Sharpen your senses.

The wind will change direction and velocity and make your life terrible if you aren’t in tune with Mother Nature. The same goes for rain, thunderstorms, and squalls. Know what conditions are in the forecast, but always keep watch to discern subtle changes and patterns. Business journals and analysts are out there making predictions and it can be hard to figure out who has the best information. Sharpen your senses and your gut will guide you in the direction of success. Look at the forecast, but know that your gut is rarely wrong.

Know how to adjust your sails.

When the wind changes direction or a storm system builds, sailors understand that they’ll make no progress fighting the forces of nature. They know that by simply adjusting their sails, they can harness those forces, adjust their course, and continue on. They may even adjust their destination to make the most of the situation. Similarly, a leader of any enterprise must know how to adjust his plans to accommodate changes in the market. Market forces can be infinitely stronger than your iron will and can crush your business if you fight. If you accept the change and adjust your course, you may find yourself in a different place from where you intended to go, and it may be far better than you expected.

Whether you are a captain on the high seas or a captain of industry, you old salts have a lot in common. Next time you are in a pub near the marina, strike up a conversation with the weather-worn sailor in the corner. You just might learn something.

Marketing Automation: What You Need to Know

“Marketing automation” is more than just a buzzword – it is a very real practice that is empowering marketers around the world to accomplish more than ever in a shorter amount of time. At its core, marketing automation is a term used to describe a set of software, technologies, and other platforms that automate marketing on certain channels. These can include e-mail, social media, websites, and more. The idea is that by automating certain repetitive tasks that, while hugely important are also time-consuming, you unlock a host of additional benefits that can’t be ignored.

Reaching Customers on a Deeper Level

Targeted marketing has always been the bread and butter of many businesses in terms of increasing customer engagement. People don’t want to feel like they’re just one of a million different people being marketed to simultaneously – they want to feel like your business is taking time out of its busy day to speak to them directly. This helps increase the effectiveness of your marketing materials and is also a great way to take an average customer and turn them into a loyal brand advocate at the same time.

The issue here is that this historically takes a lot of time – or at least, it used to. Marketing automation is one of the best tools that you currently have to reach your unique customers in a meaningful way. Previously, you would have to manually segment customers based on things like your buyer personas. You would have to spend time creating these niche groups of customers based on their personalities, their needs, their likes and dislikes and more. While effective, this takes a great deal of time.

With marketing automation, however, you can simply create restrictions that will allow your software resources to segment these customers automatically based on whatever criteria you want. You get the exact same beneficial end result, but you only had to spend a fraction of the time in order to get there.

What Marketing Automation Is NOT

When people hear the term “automation,” they often call to mind images of technological solutions or other IT developments that are designed to completely replace the jobs of human employees. While that may be true in an environment like a factory floor, this couldn’t be farther from reality in terms of marketing.

Marketing automation is not designed to be a replacement for your marketing team or the hard work they’re doing – it’s designed to be supplemental to the existing experience. Automation isn’t an excuse to hire one less employee, but to free up that employee’s valuable time to put to better use elsewhere within your organization. Maybe Thomas shouldn’t be spending so much of his day writing and sending out new tweets or Facebook updates every time you publish a new piece of content – maybe that should happen instantly so that Thomas can work on something a bit more important to your larger business objectives.

These are just a few of the major advantages that marketing automation is bringing to the table in terms of what the industry looks like today. By automating certain basic marketing functions, it’s enabling your employees to do better work in a more fundamental way. It gives them the ability to work “smarter, not harder,” so to speak.

Failure Is an Opportunity: The Positives That You Can Learn From a Good Day Gone Wrong

Nobody ever plans on failure. When you wake up in the morning, ready to start another rough day at the office, you don’t think to yourself “Oh boy, I really can’t wait to screw up that big project today.” Failure is something that tends to happen, despite the best of intentions. In those moments of darkness, it’s easy to let setbacks both large and small get you down. However, a quality that all real leaders have in common is that they don’t dread failure at all because they know that it is inevitable. Failure is only truly a negative thing if you fail to seize the opportunity of the unique learning experience you’ve just been presented with.

Failure Helps You Combat Momentum

One of the most common reasons why failure sometimes rears its ugly head has to do with something that can often be your biggest strength –
momentum. As the machine that is your business grinds along, day after day, you begin to get into a “groove” thanks to our old friend momentum. Productivity is on the rise; you’re producing adequate results, and you’re well on your way to meeting your deadlines and satisfying clients. Then, disaster strikes. Maybe a finished product isn’t nearly where you need it to be, or a mission-critical process has broken down. This is where momentum works against you sometimes – because you were riding the wave of that groove, you likely overlooked small problems earlier on before they had the chance to become much bigger ones in the present day.

This is where failure becomes your best friend – it forces you to stop and think about everything that led to this moment. What along the way caused the failure that you’re experiencing right now? It likely wasn’t anything that happened this morning, or last night, or even earlier in the week. It was probably a series of small decisions made weeks or even months ago that snowballed into your present situation. With failure, you have an opportunity to look back and see things in a much clearer way. You can make a note of certain decisions you made that didn’t quite pay off in the way you thought they would and, as a result, are ones that you’re not going to make again in the future (or at least you shouldn’t).

The Benefit of Hindsight

An old saying tells us that hindsight is 20/20. Many people think this is an ironic statement – because you can’t go back in time and change the past. You’re forced to live with the knowledge that the failure you’re experiencing is one you created yourself. Instead, look at this saying as a positive thing. Hindsight may not allow you to change the past, but it IS a powerful tool that you can use to positively impact the future. This is the core of what learning from failure is all about.

Think about it this way: your mistake may have cost your business X number of dollars today, but it also helped you save a much larger amount of money on an ongoing basis because you had a rare chance to learn and improve in a way that wouldn’t have presented itself otherwise. Learning from failure, therefore, becomes incredibly positive, as you’re investing in the future of both your company and your career with the lessons you’ve learned today.

These are just a few of the reasons why failure is only a negative thing if you allow it to be. Sure, you had expectations that you’ve set for yourself and others that you didn’t meet – feeling disappointed or even upset in these moments is natural. But failure is nothing if not a great opportunity to stop, reassess, and bounce back even stronger. Failure is natural throughout all points in life. In biology, every time you exercise your muscles begin to break down. However, they then rebuild themselves stronger than they were before – this is how we get more fit. There is absolutely no reason why the same shouldn’t be true in the world of business.

MPM as a Marketing Tool: What is it?

Simply put, marketing performance measurement and management, or MPM, is a means of monitoring and adjusting marketing campaigns on the fly. Any good marketing campaign is a fluid campaign, accommodating changes and adjustments as they become needed. Large corporations spend thousands of dollars on gaining a command of MPM, but that doesn’t mean that small businesses cannot benefit from trying to master the same tools.

MPM is a way of systematically managing and coordinating your marketing assets for the improvement of the overall strategic marketing of your products or services.

Really, MPM is more like a fine-tuning mechanism that allows you to tailor your best marketing assets to do their best work for you and informs you of those marketing channels that are not performing as you had hoped or planned.

MPM is About Timing and Comparison

Timing has to do with when you release specific marketing channels. If you released them all around the same time, you would never be able to evaluate which ones were the most productive for you. Staggering their release provides the necessary criteria for effective evaluation of each one’s individual value to your marketing scheme. That way the channels can be compared for their effectiveness. A spike in sales can result from any marketing channel, but if they are all released at the same time, you cannot easily determine which ones are successful and which ones are not.

Once you can establish which channels are the most successful, you can emphasize those channels, modifying them accordingly to increase their effectiveness.

In the digital realm, the metrics tell the story. The analytics, that is, the collection of data, permit you the luxury of creating new strategies based on the success of earlier efforts. With this information, you can not only improve existing campaigns, but you can also more aptly tailor future ad campaigns. Fully strategic thinking involves planning ahead, and the analytics from MPM give you the information to do that more effectively.

There are five pillars to MPM. Each has its own value and must be addressed. The first is alignment. Align your marketing efforts to your desired results. Target those results and adjust your campaign according to the success of initial strategies.

Second is accountability. This is simply a statement of how well any specific marketing channel delivers the desired results based on the metrics you have before you.

Third is the analytics themselves. This is the data that drives your campaign and complements and improves it with its needed modifications.

Fourth are the alliances. You form these naturally in the process of marketing, but using them is an important part of successfully employing an MPM strategy. Use your network partners, such as content providers and the agencies that locate them, as well as other assets to emphasize your successful marketing channels.

Finally, there is the assessment. This is the natural outcome of the process, the data that is compared and contrasted for their relative benefits. The strengths and weaknesses can be evaluated in real time as each campaign develops, permitting adjustments and allowing growth in the campaign, itself.

Handling Negative Online Reviews Like a Pro

Online reviews can make or break a business. More and more often, customers are turning to sites like Yelp, Google, and Facebook to get an unbiased view of every business they use.

Negative reviews are pretty much inevitable, regardless of how hard you try. Your responses, or lack thereof, can also have a dramatic effect on how people view your company’s credibility and dedication to customer service. Here are a few tips to handle negative online reviews like a pro.

First and foremost it is important to have a consistent approach to handling both positive and negative feedback.

Meet Kelly…
Kelly owns a local hair salon and uses many types of online profiles to represent her business. Since public comments can’t be deleted, Kelly has developed a solid approach to protecting her business’ online reputation.

Set Up Alerts

The first line of defense for Kelly’s online business reputation is daily alerts. Setting up alerts through Google, Facebook, and Twitter lets Kelly know when someone has mentioned her business. She gets these alerts sent to her inbox daily.

Comment Always

Kelly’s policy is to comment on as many pieces of feedback as possible. She leverages the personal touch by interacting with her customers in a timely manner to all forms of feedback. She’s also turned her responses into an art form.

Positive Feedback

Kelly always responds to positive feedback. It doesn’t have to be the great American novel, but Kelly makes sure it’s genuine and has a personal feel to it. Observe the magic:

3/24/2015: Jen, this is one of the sweetest, most thorough reviews I have seen. Thank you so much for your kind words about the salon and our wonderful nail artist, Nickie!

Negative Feedback

Kelly always acknowledges the client’s concerns and states in the public reply that she will contact the person to follow up and resolve the issue. If she doesn’t have the client’s contact information, she invites the person who posted to contact her directly.

At this stage, Kelly understands the importance of not engaging in justification, excuse making, claims of innocence, or outright denial. Here is an example of what NOT to do…

Michelle,
I am really surprised by some of the comments in your review. You were 15 minutes late for the appointment. The stylist you were booked with had already packed up to leave and you were marked in our books as a no show (15 minutes late for a 45-minute appointment is pretty late). I tried to convince the stylist to stay and see you because it was Valentine’s Day and I didn’t want you to go away disappointed. She needed to get to her other job but agreed to do the blowout even if it meant being late for work. I asked you if you minded skipping the complimentary hand massage that we usually do with our blowouts since you were late and she needed to get to her second job. I’m sorry if that made your experience less pleasant. However, she did stay late and do an amazing blowout for you.

What a complete turnoff! If you want to try and win her back and impress others? Try this instead:

Hi Jonathan,
Thank you for taking the time to submit a review. We are sincerely sorry that your experience was less than satisfactory on this visit. We would be grateful for the opportunity to make this situation right for you. Please feel free to contact me at XXX-XXX-XXXX and I will assist in reconciling this issue. A private message has also been sent. Again, many thanks for the feedback – it only helps us serve you better!

The Clock is Ticking

Kelly promptly follows up on her commitment to reach out. The best person for this job is the business owner or general manager – someone with the clout and authority to fix the issue in one phone call or email. She and her manager put on their best customer service hats and really listen to the client’s concern.

Follow-Up on the Follow-Up

Once the issue is resolved, and only if it was a positive result, Kelly asks the client to follow up on the posting and comment that the issue was resolved. This can be the most impactful. Kelly always goes back to the original posting personally to briefly talk about how the resolution went down.

The key to success lies in being genuine, working proactively, and embracing the age-old philosophy, “The customer is always right!” even if you aren’t in agreement.

Innovation: What Living Outside the Box Really Means in Terms of Your Career

Gone are the days where to really make an impact in your career, you had to prove yourself to be the best little worker bee out there. While having a strong work ethic and the determination to accomplish any task that you’re given are always important regardless of the business you’re talking about, they have been superseded in recent years by something much more important: innovation.

According to a study conducted by Fast Company.com, employers are increasingly looking not at the surface-level work histories of applicants when hiring new employees, but at their history of innovation. Employers want critical thinkers because critical thinkers don’t just get the job done – they flip the job on its head and do it in a way better than anyone ever has before.

If you really want to use this idea to your advantage and lay the foundation for positive growth in terms of your career, it isn’t good enough to just think outside the box. “Outside the box” just officially became your new home.

Innovation and Your Career: A Match Made in Heaven

Life is full of unpredictability. The major benefit of making an effort to not only think outside the box but to make it your permanent home comes down to metamorphosis. Emphasizing innovation throughout all aspects of your life doesn’t just make you more adept at dealing with change – it allows you to embrace change. It allows you to go beneath the surface of a situation and take anything you find, good or bad, and turn it into something that can help propel you forward.

If you’ve developed a reputation as an innovator, you instantly make yourself more valuable in most businesses because “innovation” and “saving money” are synonyms. Being an innovator means that you can use limited resources combined with your passion, your drive, and the sheer force of your creativity to not just solve a problem, but to accomplish something.

Innovation: Bringing it All Back Together Again

Innovators bring true value to a situation or environment. They’re not followers. They’re leaders. If you can truly train yourself to think with an eye towards innovation in everything you do, you’re creating the type of situation in your career where the definition of “success” doesn’t matter, as it will always be well within arm’s reach.

These are just a few of the reasons why making a constant effort to live “outside the box” is so important. In the short-term, it makes you a much more valuable employee who is able to solve challenges, and allows you to come up with creative solutions that allow a business to stand apart from the competition and more. In the long-term, it makes YOU a much more valuable commodity. It doesn’t just teach you how to naturally overcome any curve ball that your career goals may throw at you. By creating a situation where innovation is built into your very instincts, it teaches you how to naturally use ANYTHING that life may throw at you to your advantage.