3 Gems for Small Business Owners from Jack Ma

3 Gems for Small Business Owners from Jack Ma

At a recent business leader meeting put on by American Express, Jack Ma from the Alibaba Group was the guest celebrity speaker. The reason why was that Mr. Ma was invited to share a bit of his wisdom and advice, particularly to small businesses. American Express has been maintaining a campaign of supporting and driving sales to small businesses to help them grow nationwide.

A Little Bit of History

Jack Ma did not come from well-established roots like, for example, President Trump. Ma was born and raised in mainland China, competed against thousands of others for a rare spot in the Chinese university system, and could not find regular employment many times. Then, with a spare moment of luck, he was exposed to the internet and realized nobody had catered websites to the Chinese. From there, his success took off, most notably with Alibaba.com.

Simple Gems of Advice

In his speech, Mr. Ma focused his advice to small businesses on three points:

  1. He advised business owners and those considering the venture to find out why businesses fail. Schools typically only teach success stories, but it’s critical to know what causes some people not to succeed to avoid the same mistakes.
  2. Business owners should listen carefully to their next-door neighbors. They are, literally, average consumers who can tell a business owner a library of secrets about what a consumer actually looks for when shopping. The problem is, people tend to avoid their neighbors thinking they’re too nosy. It’s an opportunity missed.
  3. Small businesses should “fix the roof when the sun is shining.” It’s an analogy that essentially means a business owner should be making changes and additions when things are going well. When things are rough, or there’s a major challenge, it’s not the time to be spending energy and money on fixes. Get to a good point again before thinking about changing operations or adding to costs.

Get Out of the Weeds

A lot of what Mr. Ma provided in his speech may seem like common sense for small business owners, but it’s hard to focus on thinking strategically when one’s head is buried deep in just trying to make it through the day. This is why his advice is so important; it reminds business owners to take a moment once in a while to get their head out of the weeds and think in terms of running a company again instead of momentary crisis management. In Ma’s opinion, smart and successful business owners are looking, learning, and timing their decisions with the best opportunities. And, they are not ignoring the best sources of business lessons when they become available.

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Boost Happiness Without Stress: How to Stop Multitasking

Boost Happiness Without Stress: How to Stop Multitasking

Have you ever felt as though you’re not as productive as you’d like to be, even when it seems as though you’re working all the time? Perhaps the problem is not the number of hours that you’re working, but instead, the focus that you’re bringing to each particular task. Studies have shown that multitasking can be incredibly bad for our brains, and is truly a way of doing more things incompetently instead of getting more done! If you’re always checking Facebook, waiting for your email inbox to ding like one of Pavlov’s dogs, or getting interrupted by physical visitors at your desk, you’re not going to be as effective and efficient as you’d like to be. The outcome? More stress — and that’s something we can all do without!

Your Brain on Multitasking

Did you know that your brain is incapable of multitasking? It’s true, and what your brain is doing when you think you’re ultra-productive is pinging back and forth between tasks at a high rate of speed. The problem is that things often get lost in translation or fall between the cracks of our mental map, making it tough to figure out where we were in a task we abandoned a few minutes before. This "epidemic of distraction" (as some researchers label multitasking) is incredibly prevalent in modern society and starts at a very young age. The cognitive overload that we suffer as a result of multitasking can cause headaches, poor sleep, a feeling of being overwhelmed, and even depression.

Dangers of Multitasking

It’s not too strong of a word to say that multitasking is dangerous to our brain because it is. This negative practice has been shown to decrease creativity and cognitive control, and lead to serious memory problems. The more you include multitasking in your daily work, the more likely you are to become distracted easily over a longer period. Think about it: if you’re training your brain to be looking for the next distraction constantly, then are you likely to be able to focus well on one task? Probably not. Even something as seemingly simple as glancing at your phone as you’re stepping off a curb can be dangerous to your health for a variety of reasons. If you’re fortunate enough to be out of the way of oncoming traffic, your gait may be affected by your distraction causing a serious fall on the unstable or uneven ground.

Practicing Mindfulness

One of the best ways to overcome a tendency to multitask is to create mental space for yourself to focus on one task at a time, also known as mindfulness. Try stopping yourself when you start to become distracted. Put away everything else on your desk or computer, close programs (don’t minimize them!), and create a space for yourself to think and to breathe.

Don’t let yourself fall into the trap of feeling like you need to work at double speed — and multitask — to get everything done. Instead, take a break and focus on getting the most out of each busy day. When you’re able to concentrate on one task at a time, you’ll find that you’re getting a lot more done and staying calmer in the long run.

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The Importance of Appreciation For Morale

The Importance of Appreciation For Morale

As a hard worker, you want to be appreciated. This is simply human nature. We all want to feel our hard work is noticed and appreciated. After all, it only seems fair to be at least appreciated for giving your blood, sweat, and tears to make a profit for your employer. As an employer, you need to understand the importance appreciation has when it comes to the morale of your workplace. Appreciation is a huge aspect of a healthy, thriving workplace environment.

The Data Proves The Importance of Appreciation

A Chicago Tribune survey asked 30,000 employees who enjoyed their job why they loved their work. The most common reason cited by these employees was, “I feel genuinely appreciated at this company.” This data shows what we have been talking about, showing appreciation matters. Making people feel like their efforts at work make a difference is important. The next step is learning how to communicate genuine appreciation without it coming across as fake.

What Appreciation is Not

Just because your goal is to show your employees the appreciation they deserve doesn’t mean you will automatically know how to go about this. There are a few clear ways not to go about showing appreciation, though. For example, don’t just depend on your employee recognition program to do the job. Appreciation at Work found that around thirty to thirty-five percent of employees don’t want to go up in front of a large group and accept an appreciation award anyway. Therefore, even though an event created to show appreciation is well intentioned, it can backfire and create an adverse outcome. Often, even if a person doesn’t mind going up in front and receiving such an award, the certificate or gift they receive feels impersonal. Generic, group-based awards don’t feel genuine in many cases, so employees don’t find this as motivating as true appreciation. Besides, saying one positive thing about an employee in front of a group hardly makes up for an entire year ignoring all the extra work an employee is doing.

What Authentic Appreciation Looks Like

Of course, money always talks, so giving out bonuses, gift cards, or other monetary rewards is an excellent way to show appreciation. However, don’t be fooled into thinking that your employees only want to receive financial rewards. They also want to hear how appreciated they are on a regular basis. Keep in mind that appreciation doesn’t have to be something you say, it can be something you don’t say. For example, if your employee works extra hours all the time and they have to take off to handle a personal situation, don’t give them a hard time because they are out of the office for one day. This only makes them resent being at work and in turn, makes them a less productive employee who will eventually start looking for work elsewhere.

Remember, don’t act like your reward for their hard work or their paycheck is a gift. You aren’t giving them a gift. You are simply paying them what they are owed. Look at bonuses the same way. It might seem like “extra” to you, but to your employee, they feel they have worked hard to “earn” that money by working extra hours or taking on additional responsibilities.

Creating a workplace that shows appreciation is necessary to keep employees happy and loyal. The saying, “an employee who feels appreciated will always do more than is expected” says it all. Although your employees are getting paid for services rendered, they are people who want to feel like their efforts matter to the company. This is a crucial piece towards creating healthy morale in the workplace.

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“Take It From Me”- Why Testimonials Are So Effective

"Take It From Me"- Why Testimonials Are So Effective

Marketing is all about giving your customers the information they need to make an informed purchasing decision. Everything you do – from the copy you craft to the images you choose – is built around that simple purpose in mind.

But marketing itself has evolved over the years, away from the heavy reliance on the spec sheets of yesteryear. It’s essentially become an open line of communication between you and the people you’re trying to serve. People don’t want to be "sold to" anymore – or at least, not in the way they used to.

This is why customer testimonials are so important. Instead of "taking your word" for it that your product or service is going to impact their lives positively, it lets real customers hear from other real customers why the decision they’re about to make is a good one.

The Power of Testimonials: Facts and Figures

In addition to communicating with your audience, another essential goal of your marketing materials should involve building as much trust and credibility as you can. Your customers don’t just want to know that you can solve their problem – they want to know that you can do it better than anyone else. To that end, customer testimonials are incredibly effective – particularly in the world of print.

Part of the reason why testimonials are so important is that they help create a deeper, more emotional appeal for your branding. Consider the following statistics:

  • According to one study, the regular use of customer testimonials can help you generate roughly sixty-two percent more revenue not only from every customer but from every time they visit your brand.
  • Ninety-two percent of people said that they read testimonials when considering a purchase.
  • A further eighty-eight percent of consumers said that they trusted these reviews just as much as personal recommendations, according to the same study.
  • To top it off, seventy-two percent of those who responded to the survey in question said that positive reviews and testimonials helped them trust a business significantly more.

Simply put, customer testimonials create something of a self-fulfilling prophecy regarding your connection with your target audience. Someone enjoys your product or service, so you encourage them to leave a positive review or testimonial. Consumers naturally trust each other more than they trust just marketing collateral, so that testimonial adds more weight to the decision they’re trying to make. Those initial happy customers, therefore, encourage more purchases, which creates more happy customers, etc.

When you combine customer testimonials with other effective marketing tactics – like a heavy reliance on not just print but on print techniques that help your collateral stand out and make a unique impression – suddenly your message is being amplified in the best possible way. You’re giving an opportunity to let regular customers become brand advocates, which does more in terms of building trust, credibility, and emotion than you could ever do on your own. You’re also creating more brand advocates in the process, which is always a good thing.

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How to Take the Lessons Learned in Online Marketing and Apply Them to the World of Print

How to Take the Lessons Learned in Online Marketing and Apply Them to the World of Print

Print marketing isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. Over the last few years, people are coming to the realization that digital and print isn’t an "either/or" scenario. Many use one to supplement and compliment the other to great effect. Despite this, people still tend to think of them as two different mediums, thinking you have different rules that you use online than those that you follow in print.

Because online marketing has become so prominent, it has taught us some very valuable lessons. One of which is that those lessons aren’t reserved only for the digital market. You can apply those lessons to your print collateral and come out all the better for it.

Marketing Is About Intimacy

Perhaps the biggest lesson that various digital and online marketing channels have taught us is that at the end of the day, you’re not trying to "sell" to someone at all. You’re trying to connect with them. The best marketing reaches out to customers and prospects in an intimate way that establishes the type of bond that turns prospective customers into buyers, and buyers into loyal advocates.

On the internet, this often takes the form of various social media and related techniques – after all, what could be more intimate than contacting someone on a small device that they carry around with them all day? The key takeaway, however, is that you DO have a way to maintain this intimacy in the world of print marketing, too.

According to a study conducted by the United States Postal Service, sixty-nine percent of people who responded said that they felt direct mail was more personal than internet mail. Emails may be great and efficient, but an actual letter (or in the case of a marketer, a flyer or brochure) is something tangible. They can hold it in their hands, pin it up on the refrigerator and share it with their friends and loved ones.

Optimizing Print Campaigns Through a Digital Lens

So how do you take full advantage of this fact and build the type of intimacy and emotional connection you can online? Simple. Take the rules that the internet forced marketers to adopt and apply them back into your print campaign.

Don’t just tell the story of a product or service, tell the story of your entire organization. Bring people into the fold and let them see who you are, what you’re all about, and why you do what you do. According to Millward Brown, physical materials forge a stronger connection inside the human brain than digital media ever can.

You can also take the valuable data you’re gathering about your audience from the digital world and apply that back into your print collateral. Marketing has gotten hyper-specific. By using various software, you now know precisely what type of white paper, blog post, or video to send to someone at just the right point in the customer journey to help nurture that lead and guide them through to the desired outcome. Taking that one step further, you can also use the same insights to know exactly what type of flyer someone needs to receive in the mail, or take a successful visual element from social media and transform it into your next poster.

Print media is a format that people are naturally wired to engage with. If you can provide them with materials that are worth engaging with, similar to and combined with what digital agencies have been doing over the last few years, you’re in an incredibly powerful position as a result.

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Why Print Marketers Excel At Resonating With an Audience

Why Print Marketers Excel At Resonating With an Audience

Any solid relationship, regardless of the type you’re talking about, has the core foundation of intimacy in common. This is true whether you’re talking about your relationship with your significant other, your relationship with your best friend, or even the relationship between yourself and your favorite brand. If any relationship is going to be successful, it must have that basis of close familiarity or friendship, a warm confidence upon which everything else is built.

So, how do you help cultivate intimacy with someone, particularly regarding a brand and its target audience? Easy. You resonate with them. You focus your efforts not on saying how great your products or services are, but by using images and text to carefully evoke memories, feelings, and emotions within your audience at any and all opportunity. Emotions are something that print marketers have come to excel at over the years for a number of important reasons.

Print is Emotional

One of the reasons why print marketers are so great at resonating with an audience has to do with the natural benefits of print. It’s inherently an intimate medium, especially when compared with something like email. Customers have gotten savvy; they know that even a personalized email is something you probably generated in seconds. A personalized piece of print collateral, on the other hand, took a lot more effort.

You had to think long and hard about every aspect of your print mailer because you only got one shot at it. If your customer ignores Monday’s email, you can instantly try again on Tuesday (or even Monday afternoon). The same is not true of print. You had to go over every detail and every last design choice in your mind to make sure you would invoke every potential reaction. You had to put your heart and soul into it, making sure it was *just right.* You had to send it in the mail and wait patiently to see what reaction you would get.

Customers can feel this. They appreciate it. In a world where they’re constantly being bombarded by marketing messages every time they turn on their smartphones, it’s something they want more of. These are likely the major reasons why 43% of customers find print ads less annoying than online ads, but why they also consider print collateral to be inherently more trustworthy, too.

The Limitless Potential of Print

Another one of the major reasons why print marketers are so great at resonating with an audience is because they know how to play to the strengths of the very medium itself. One of the most exciting things about print is that it is interactive. How you engage with a customer can vary depending on the specific type of customer you’re talking about.

An Email is an Email is an Email

Try as hard as you’d like to differentiate yourself, but you’re still looking at 500 or so words with a graphic or two that are likely being viewed on a small touchscreen device. Print, however, can be literally anything from a gorgeous-looking flyer on a heavy paper stock to a branded coffee mug, key chain, magnet and more. It’s something tangible. Something that your customer can hold in their hands. Something they can share with their friends

To put it another way, print is something real, which is a major benefit that you just can’t put a price on in today’s digital world.

In recent years, forming this type of unshakable bond has become the major goal of marketers everywhere, even going beyond just buying and selling. If you can convince someone to make a purchase, you’ve made a sale. Congratulations! If you can plant the seeds of intimacy within someone and really resonate with them, you’ve just created the type of loyal brand advocate that will last a lifetime. We believe that it’s a technique that print marketers have honed over the years and they’ve gotten exceptionally good at, to say the least.

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What You Need to Know About Facebook’s New Mix Modeling Portal

What You Need to Know About Facebook’s New Mix Modeling Portal

We’ve written extensively in the past about how when it comes to digital and print marketing, you’re not looking at an either/or proposition. Often, businesses of all sizes are finding great success embracing the best of both worlds – reaching out to the customers who are most receptive to print channels via traditional methods and using digital resources when they’re most appropriate. We’ve even written about how you can take the lessons learned online and use them to make your print strategies even stronger.

We’re not the only people who share this opinion; it would seem. Facebook has recently launched a mixed marketing portal designed to make it easier than ever for businesses to compare Facebook-based advertisements to television, print, and other types of collateral. While this does mean big things for people using Facebook as an advertising platform, what it means for print marketers is even more interesting.

What Facebook is Doing

The social networking giant’s mix modeling portal for marketers is a significant extension of an existing partnership. Over the course of the past few years, Facebook has teamed with Nielsen (the people who tell you how many people watch the Super Bowl each year, among other things), comScore (the people who focus on digital, TV and movie analytics), DoubleVerify (a company that aims to "authenticate the quality of each digital media impression"), and others. This has all been done to provide clear metrics on how far a Facebook ad reaches, how many impressions it gets, its ultimate performance, and more.

For advertisers that rely heavily on Facebook, this means that they now have access to twenty-four different third party measurement partners to track the performance of their ads around the world, see how their ads are comparing against similar ads running in the world of print and more.

For print-based marketers, this also thankfully means that the reverse is true, too.

What This Means For You

Even if you don’t heavily advertise on Facebook, this new model is still something to pay close attention to because of the metrics at play. It’s another example of the ever-important concept of "pay attention to what is working online and use it to strengthen the foundation of your print campaigns." Thanks to Facebook, this just got a whole lot easier.

By giving advertisers the ability to compare a successful Facebook ad to other elements of their campaign like print, people who DO happen to be heavy print advertisers can essentially come in from the opposite angle and learn just as much. It’s all a matter of perspective – the marketing mix modeling portal can be used to look at one of your successful print ads, compare it to ads that are running on Facebook and use that actionable information to feed back into the print campaign to help achieve your desired outcomes.

Print and digital advertising have historically been measured in very different ways, but thanks to Facebook we just took a big leap closer to a uniform standard that can be used in both situations. You can use the Facebook MMM Portal to see how impressions reach and other metrics translate into the real world and back again.

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