6 Steps To Customer-Centric Writing

LISTEN. SOLVE. REPEAT.

Most business owners come ingrained with a laser-like focus on their business. They’ll swell with pride and “shout it from the rooftops” to tell you about their newest, exciting product or service. However, like the majority of people in business, they tend to take a business-focused approach, focusing on promoting the features or specs of the product and making sure that you know how this new product or service is the best of the best.

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Herein lies the rub, as they say. While shouting it from the rooftops might seem like a good approach, customers don’t necessarily want to hear about your business. Instead, they want to hear about how your company will help THEM. They are more concerned that you understand their need and are offering a solution to address it.

Here’s where customer-centric writing and promotion comes in. Instead of writing with the focus on you and your business, you can stand out from the crowd by thinking about how your new product or service will benefit your customers. Writing with your client in mind demonstrates that you understand their needs and want to help them achieve their goals. Writing with empathy creates better connections, improved communication, and happier outcomes. Happy customers become your business’s greatest fans.

Here are six steps to help you shift your perspective to be more customer-centric:

  1. List at least three to five main features of your business.
  2. Arrange the list beginning with the most important feature.
  3. Now look at the list, select the first feature, and dig down to what that feature means to your customer. For example, if you are in the tire business and one of the features is that you’re within walking distance of a mall, then you might put “location” on your list.
  4. Step into your customer’s mindset. What does your location mean for them? How will it solve their problem? The benefit is they can drop off their car, shop, have lunch, or meet a friend instead of sitting in a dull waiting room.
  5. Take the next feature you listed and then go through the same process. Rinse and repeat with the rest of the features.

If you’ve never looked at your business this way before, it’s likely that you might not be sure of what your customers do want and need. How can you find out? That’s where tip #6 comes in. Even if you’ve been in business for a while and think you know the needs of your customers, it’s good to refresh your viewpoint.

6. Pay attention to the questions they have and ask them for more information about what they’re trying to do. Don’t assume you know what they want, find out by talking to them.

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Your customers are individuals, with goals and dreams unique to them. They come to you for help to make these happen. What does your company do for them? That’s the direction your marketing writing needs to take.

When you practice customer-centric marketing, you not only differentiate yourself from competitors, you establish the basis for customer loyalty, repeat business, and word-of-mouth recommendations.

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Print Marketing Is About Selling Value, Not Services

GettyImages-826040844.jpgThere’s a common misconception that far too many marketers have that needs to be put to rest once and for all.

A lot of people still seem to think that if you’re really going to carve out a stronger competitive advantage for yourself in an increasingly crowded marketplace, you need to make your services appear objectively better than everyone else’s. You need to talk about how your products are better, stronger, faster, longer-lasting, more cost-efficient, etc. All this to steal as much attention away from your competition as you can.

In truth, that is a myth. You shouldn’t be selling services at all. You should be selling the value that those services provide. In other words, the thesis at the heart of your print marketing campaign shouldn’t be “here’s what I can do that nobody else can,” but rather “here’s what I can do for you.” Mastering this approach requires you to keep a few key things in mind.

Everything Begins and Ends With Your Customer

The art of selling value instead of services is one of those situations where buyer personas come in handy.

When you begin to come up with a buyer persona for your ideal customer, you try to add as much information about that person as possible. But once your persona has been completed, you shouldn’t be asking yourself, “Okay, what do I need to tell this person in order to convince them to give me money?” Instead, you need to get answers to questions like:

  • What problem does this customer have and how do my services solve it for them?
  • In what ways will that person’s life be easier after their purchase than it was before?
  • What does that person want to accomplish, and how can I help make that happen?

Then, you work your way back to the products and services that you’re trying to sell, thinking about the problem and positioning yourself as the solution.

A Whole New Approach

This is one of those areas where specificity will carry you far. Think about the individual portions of your sales funnel and what someone needs to hear at each one to move from one end to the other. Use this “value-centric” approach not to convince someone that the time is right to make a purchase, but to give them the actionable information they need to arrive at that conclusion on their own.

In the end, there are probably a lot of other companies in your industry who do what you do – but nobody does it in quite the same way. That key thing that differentiates you from so many others is the value that only you can offer and what should be at the heart of all of your marketing messages.

The Way I See It

kirkA kindergarten teacher was helping a boy with a math question and she asked, “If I give you one apple and one apple and one apple, how many apples will you have?” The boy confidently answered, “Four.” Surprised, thinking the boy didn’t listen properly, the teacher asked again, “Listen closely this time… If I give you one apple and one apple and one apple, how many apples will you have?” Seeing the look of disappointment on her face, the boy hesitantly replied, “Four.”

Assuming maybe the boy didn’t like apples, she asked, “If I give you one strawberry and one strawberry and one strawberry, then how many you will have?” He replied, “Three.” The teacher smiled victoriously and asked one more time, “Now, if I give you one apple and one apple and one apple, how many apples will you have?” Without missing a beat, the boy again replied, “Four.”

Confused and becoming slightly annoyed, the teacher asked how that could be possible. The boy smiled and replied, “Because I already have one apple in my bag.”

Here’s the way I see it: When someone gives you an answer that is different from what you expect to hear, don’t always assume they are wrong. If you’d like answers to all of your printing questions, we’re here to help!

Connecting Your Online and Offline Marketing Campaigns

GettyImages-674565164.jpgNo matter the industry your business operates in, it is imperative to connect online and offline marketing techniques. Many entrepreneurs have found that the better they market themselves offline, the more well-known they become online, and vice versa. For now, let’s take a closer look at how you can connect your online and offline marketing campaigns to improve lead generation and increase your sales revenue.

Tracking URLs Is a Must

Many website development service providers provide a variety of automated analytics that are simple to use and easy to understand. When you market yourself offline through print advertising, it’s a good idea to make sure to use unique tracking URLs for the links you provide in your ads and direct mail. In doing this, your web analytics can track how many people are coming to your site via the URLs on your offline marketing. You’ll love being able to see how well your offline marketing efforts are paying off, and these unique tracking URLs enable you to do this.

Promoting Yourself Online to Attract Offline Customers

Tom is a freelance writer and the majority of his clients connect with him online. They perform a search for freelance writers, and they hire him through his website or one of the content creation platforms he is featured on. Still, there are several clients that he has secured via offline tactics, including direct mail, trade shows, and conferences. To boost prospective clients’ awareness that he is going to be present at these events, he uses social media. Posting on social media can educate your prospects about the reasons they should connect with you at an offline event.

Use Your Social Media Profiles to Boost Brand Awareness

Any offline marketing materials you distribute should include your unique social media profile URLs. When a person connects with you via social media profiles, this shows up in their news feed, which is viewable by their friends and followers. Tom has had numerous clients tell him they became aware of his services due to a friend following him on one of his social media profiles. When advertising your presence on social media on your printing materials, make sure to include an actual URL to each of your profiles. If you only include a social media logo, this doesn’t help them find you on each platform.

Provide Coupons In Person to be Used Online

When marketing yourself offline, such as through direct mail, or at a tradeshow or conference, make sure you include printed coupon codes. There’s a good chance the people you give them to will stuff in them their wallets or lay them on their desks once they get back to the office. Either of these places is a great place for your coupon code to be because it will give them a reminder of your brand and the services you offer. More so, it will entice them to hop online and visit your site to make a purchase using the discount code you gave them.

The Takeaway

No matter the industry you are operating in, connecting your offline and online marketing efforts is crucial. As your business grows, you will quickly see how the two of these interconnect with one another. More importantly, the more you integrate the two together, the quicker you will become an industry leader.

Create Your Own Vanity URL

A SHORT VANITY URL THAT IS SPECIFIC TO YOUR COMPANY

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While many people use popular URL shorteners (like bit.ly or goo.gl), did you know you can create a short vanity URL that is specific to your company or product name?

A custom vanity URL provides consistent branding, no matter where your content is shared. It also creates link trust, meaning readers will feel more confident sharing your content from a source they trust. Examples of vanity URLs include: nyti.ms (The New York Times) or huff.to (The Huffington Post).

Here are steps to create your own vanity URL:

  • Choose a vanity URL that resembles your regular domain name and is less than 8 to 10 characters. Consider abbreviating your company name, removing vowels, or using initials. Domai.nr is a popular domain suggestion tool if you need ideas.
  • Choose a hosting service, such as Bit.ly – which offers very detailed stats about link sharing, clicks, and more.
  • Buy your vanity URL using any domain registration site, such as GoDaddy or iPage. For convenience, consider purchasing your vanity URL from the same place your website is hosted.
  • Set up the shortener. If you are using Bit.ly, go to “Account Settings” and then “Advanced.” Select either ‘Personal’ or ‘Business’ under the “Custom Short Domain” header and enter the vanity URL you purchased.
  • Create a DNS record for your new vanity domain. If you need help with this step, consider asking your domain registrar.
  • Verify your tracking domain to ensure all click traffic will appear on your dashboard. To set up your tracking domain in Bit.ly, go to the “Advanced” tab in Settings. Enter the domain name you want to track (your site’s long domain name) and verify that you own the domain.
  • Share! As long as you are logged into your Bit.ly account, any URLs from your long domain will be automatically custom-shortened.

If you’d like ideas or samples for creative print marketing tips, contact us today. We’d love to help.

The Difference Between CMYK and PMS Colors

PASS WITH FLYING COLORS

The complexity involved in color and how big of a difference various color profiles can make on your print project is something you’ll want to pay attention to. Is there a specific shade of orange or blue that is included in your logo? Depending on who created your logo, your color scheme may include CMYK colors, PMS colors, or both!

CMYK Colors

The term CMYK refers to the four ink colors that make up the schema: cyan, magenta, yellow, and black, which is considered the key color. This particular model mixes together the three primary colors and includes black to produce darker shades. To create an image, printers define four separate plates that make up a full image. One plate is used for each of the four colors (cyan, magenta, yellow, and black) and is designed to lay down a very specific amount of pigment on the image. While this may sound like a simple way to print, it has worked effectively for hundreds of years.

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PMS Colors

PMS (or Pantone Matching System) colors are slightly different than CMYK colors because they are mixed before they are applied to a surface. The pure spot color, or PMS color, is a mixed ink that allows for a wider range of reproduced colors than the CMYK spectrum. Each PMS color contains a unique hue, which can be matched by a number that is associated with the Pantone Matching System of swatches. PMS inks are not laid in a dot pattern but can be screened in a halftone to produce a variety of shades

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Viewing Colors

Viewing either PMS or CMYK colors on a computer screen is a challenge due to lighting changes and the display variation. Fortunately, Pantone LLC provides a printed color chart for PMS colors that allows anyone to see the exact color that will be printed on your project. A unique set of numbers allows printers and customers to communicate effectively about what can be a challenging and variable subject: color. What looks like magenta to one person could easily be described as a red-purple by someone else — making it tough to describe specific colors without the common language available with PMS standards.

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Ready to get started on your next printing project? Our color professionals are experts at matching current color schemes or helping you find just the right shade to communicate your brand. Contact us today to learn more and get started on your next project!

How Has the Internet Changed Lead Generation?

GettyImages-536026639.jpgThere is no denying that technology has greatly revolutionized lead generation, especially in regard to the internet. Gone are the days of having to cold call prospects and knock on their doors. Sure, these tactics still work, but business owners are continually finding ways for lead generation to be more cost-efficient and effective. For now, let’s take a quick look at how the internet has changed lead generation and the many reasons you need to be taking advantage of technology to expand your customer base.

Artificial Intelligence Technology Enhances Lead Generation

Thanks to advancements in artificial intelligence technology, you can engage with leads online like never before. In fact, you don’t even have to be the one engaging with them. An AI software program can do the engaging for you. Take, for example, if your website offers a chat feature. Before connecting the customer with an actual representative, artificial intelligence software can engage them in a natural-sounding conversation to determine which department the customer needs to be directed to.

Targeting Leads Has Become Incredibly Simple

When you distribute content, whether through direct mail print marketing or online, you need to have a specific target audience in mind. This target audience, of course, needs to represent people who are likely to be interested in the product/service you are selling. Thanks to the internet, it is now easier than ever to target leads.

It’s All About the Analytics

If you aren’t using analytics to track website visitors, you need to be. An easy-to-use tracking platform that is excellent for determining which pages on your site are performing the best is Google Analytics. There is a good chance the service provider that is hosting your site also provides some type of analytics to take advantage of. Regardless of the tracking tools you use, though, analyzing data on page performance can help you pinpoint which pages need to be further optimized and which ones need to be left alone. This enables you to improve time management because you can focus your attention on the pages that need improvement rather than wasting time on the ones that are already attracting quality leads.

Automated Email Sequencing

You want your emails to be as personable as possible to improve the odds of turning a cold lead into a warm lead, but you can’t accomplish this through a single email. Instead, you need to create an email sequence that is automated; this will engage your leads in a systemized manner and it allows you to warm them up to an offer.

The Takeaway

Your existing customers deserve your attention, but at the same time, you need to be focusing some of your operations on lead generation. Thanks to advancements in technology and the internet, it is now easier than ever to generate leads in a timely and cost-efficient manner. By deploying the four tips outlined above, you’ll be well on your way to capturing leads and improving customer satisfaction at the same time.

6 Over the Top Things to Look for in Business in the Future

ThinkstockPhotos-502868039.jpgBusiness isn’t going anywhere. In fact, here’s where the most probable types of market exchange will happen with customers according to famous futurists:

  • Remember those Star Trek episodes where people used a transporter to go from place to place? In the future, it’s likely that business will use something similar to deliver goods, from your printed materials to food to durable products delivered right into a person’s room as ordered, bought, and sent from a business electronically.
  • Michio Kaku sees a technology-driven convergence of thinking, consciousness, and the internet. Instead of thinking of the internet as a tool, people will become the Net by connecting their brain to it for full immersion and interaction, as well as contributing to real-time synergies in information generation and use. Business, no surprise, will become far more intangible as a result, adapting to the mind-environment to keep pace with where the new demand exists.
  • Personal augmentation with technology will be commonplace. Just being a regular, average human being won’t be good enough. Instead, people will carry their technology within them. Not to be confused with “on” them, but tech actually integrated with their bodies. We won’t need a computer to design what we want to print; the idea will come straight from a digital connection to our minds translated to electronics and then produced by a vendor as we desired.
  • James Canton sees robots and artificial intelligence giving human-led business a run for its money due to the fact that robots and AI will be able to easily grind millions of bits of statistical data and produce probabilities of what consumers want well before any humans can realize that want or need on their own.
  • Some folks don’t even look at business in typical environments. Instead, Jason Silva sees cars becoming so advanced, our need to drive will be replaced by our need to get lots done in a car while it dries itself. And that includes business, generating new ideas, printing and producing inside a car, and getting work and life done while traveling from point A to point B every day. Business services will tailor themselves to people working remotely all over the place, delivering what they need where they are, and when they need it.
  • Finally, our bodies won’t necessarily want to live longer just because our technology advances. So instead of relying on a failing system, the medical community will embrace body part production and printing, creating organ replacements designed by computer to work specifically with an individual patient. The term “batch order” printing replacement organs will take on a whole new meaning in hospitals.

    Long story short, business will likely still be around years from now, but how it delivers goods and services to consumers will change dramatically.

A Bag of Tomatoes

kirkOne day, a school teacher asked each of her students to bring a plastic bag of tomatoes to school with the number of tomatoes equaling the number of people each child dislikes. Some children brought a bag of two or three tomatoes, while others had up to 20 tomatoes.

The teacher then told the children they had to carry the bag of tomatoes with them everywhere they went for two weeks. As the days passed, the children started to complain about the awful smell of the tomatoes, and some also complained about the heavy weight of the bag.

The teacher explained, “This is similar to what you carry in your heart when you dislike people. It makes your heart bitter, and the effects of negative feelings get heavier and stronger every day.”

Here’s the way I see it: Every time you let go of negativity in your life, you make room for positivity. Let us know if we can help with any upcoming printing projects so you can focus on the more important things in life.

Is Your Advertising Take You Up or Down?

ThinkstockPhotos-825180460.jpgMarketing and advertising can be quite costly. However, marketing can attract customers and earn you money. So, you need to be asking yourself “is your advertising taking you up or down?”

Let’s take a quick look at three of the best ways to make sure your marketing efforts are boosting your sales revenue instead of draining your budget for nothing.

1) Keep An Eye On Frequency Rates When Online

Advertising online can an effective way to reach a targeted audience. What you want to avoid, though, is blasting your ads multiple times to the same people. The more times the same consumer sees your ad, the more they will become annoyed by it. In fact, when the same person sees the same ad twice, the click-through-rate decreases by 8.91 percent. Seeing the same ad five times decreases the click-through-rate by 30 percent. And once they see the same ad nine times or more, the click-through-rate is cut in half. More important, the cost-per-click rate increases each time the ad is seen multiple times. This is why you need to check ad frequency  and mix up your marketing mix using other effective channels like print.

2) Switch Up the Background

Both your online and offline marketing campaigns can benefit from switching up ad background colors. Did you know that ads with the color blue tend to make consumers feel calm? Green brings about a sense of peace, while yellow ignites a feeling of happiness and optimism. With this in mind, you need to integrate these colors into your ads based on the feelings you are trying to invoke. For example, if you are advertising massage services, then you will, of course, want your background color to be blue or green to portray a sense of peace and calm. If you’re advertising a theme park or vacation services, then using yellow in your background to bring forth feelings of happiness and excitement will be effective.

3) Run Your Own Blog

One of the most effective and cost-efficient ways to market your business is by running your own blog. Your blog can touch on a variety of topics, including articles discussing products you sell, tips for your using products, how to get good deals on your products, and how your products can be used to make your life simpler. The important thing is to make sure you are providing content to your readers that has value.

Once readers see that you are genuinely trying to make their lives better, they will come back to read your future blog postings. More importantly, they will be enticed to share your postings with other consumers, which is an excellent way to attract and secure new customers. Even better is that running your own blog is very affordable. In fact, if you’re a decent writer, you can write your own blog postings for free. If you don’t write, you can always hire a content creator to create the content for you.

5 Meeting Rules You’ll Actually Want to Adopt

GettyImages-861164910.jpgAre meetings something that you would consider magical at your organization? No? Why not? Aren’t meetings a place to collaborate, share ideas, dream big dreams and then make things happen?

Few business people would describe meetings using terms like actionable, positive, critical and focused . . . yet those are the terms that help define success in moving the organization forward.

Communication methods are imperfect as a whole. While you can create a business plan via a series of emails, it’s inefficient and the plan will often lack creativity. The same goes for one-on-one meetings. Team meetings are the ideal way to build energy and enthusiasm for a new idea and generate actionable outcomes, but without the proper structure, even these meetings can be considered wasted time.

Here are 5 rules that will help keep your meetings on pace, on target, and provide you with the successful outcomes that you need from your time together.

1. Start With An Agenda

No, you shouldn’t begin with ‘What will it take to fill an hour of team meeting time this week?’, because if that’s your first thought then you’re already sunk. Request that team members send agenda items at least 24 hours before the meeting time and consolidate them to form your agenda. Keep in mind the flow of topics, and be sure you’re leaving time for strategic conversations. Leave items that may fall into deep tactical minutiae to the end of your agenda.

2. Plan for Takeaways

Consider the consensus that you’re attempting to build with your meeting, or what your takeaway should be. Perhaps you need someone to volunteer for a new project, or you just need to inform a group about a direction that will impact their work. If you feel that there may be some pushback to your ideas within the room, look for a partner who will be in the meeting who can help support your point. If an item that was on your agenda doesn’t have a clear actionable, add it to a parking lot for a later date.

3. Keep Time Sacred

Time is money, and never is that more true than when you have 3-15 individuals in a room together meeting without a timeline or agenda. Based on your agenda, break down how long each portion of the conversation should take and allot time accordingly. If your meeting should only need 23 minutes, then schedule that much time — perhaps plus a few minutes extra. Be a stickler about keeping conversations in check and moving the agenda along to hit key points in your list.

4. Consider a Drive-By

Just need to chat with a few people about a simple topic? Instead of finding space and time for a full-fledged meeting, consider a 5-minute drive-by or stand up meeting. Grab a few people and huddle around a desk or common area, hash through your questions or concerns and let everyone get back to their day. In the same amount of time that you might take to walk and get a cup of coffee, you’ve made a decision, kept others updated on important points, and reduced the overall inefficiency of the day. The time for small talk can be over lunch; use these drive-bys to distill your ideas into the length of an elevator pitch. This may be uncomfortable for some people as it requires checking your ego at the door, but teams that are able to adopt these policies can become much more agile.

5. Keep it Moving

Always focus on the end result and what you need to keep your projects moving. This could be anything from an approval by a superior, someone agreeing to take on a task, or even consensus that you’re heading in the right direction. Capture takeaways and next steps, and most importantly — the name of the responsible party and when the result should be delivered. This will keep your meetings on task and team focused.

The word ‘meeting’ doesn’t have to be a negative concept. Instead, use these 5 meeting rules to adopt a culture of forward motion, positivity, and respect within the organization that will drive success both now and in the future. This isn’t a one-time change to how you approach meetings, but an organization-wide initiative to take back your time and productivity.

Repurposing Marketing Content

BREATHE NEW LIFE INTO YOUR BEST MARKETING CONTENT

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Why reinvent the wheel if you have great content available at your fingertips? You don’t have to create new content every day. Rather, you just have to get your existing content into the hands of more people. Here are some tips to breathe new life into your best marketing content:

 

  • Transform points from an article or blog into an infographic or chart that can be used on more visual social media platforms, like Instagram or Pinterest.
  • Consider converting your most popular blogs or newsletter posts into a podcast with a personalized, conversational spin.
  • Expand your reach by submitting your blog posts to content syndication networks.
  • Consider using infographics for slide decks for workshops, presentations, and seminars. The short bits of information are great for creating an outline and can easily be expanded on when talking.
  • Sprinkle customer quotes and testimonials throughout your website as a way to increase customer trust.
  • Repost your most popular previous posts across different social platforms. The shelf life of a given photo or video is short, so reposting actionable content every few months can be a great way to reach new audiences.
  • Replace purchased stock photos on your blog or website with photos taken during company events to make your website more personalized and friendly.
  • Convert webinars into video tutorials to educate your audience on their own time.
  • Turn frequently asked questions into a blog post. Chances are, if a few customers are asking questions, there are a lot of customers interested in the answers.
  • Creating bite-sized video clips that act as teasers to full videos is a simple way of reusing your already created video content.
  • Break up longer articles or posts into a themed series. A series will build up anticipation for your audience and helps to spread the ideas out over time.

If you’d like awesome ideas for how to reuse your marketing content creatively in print, give us a call today at 856.429.0715!

4 Ways to Stop Your Team from Falling Apart

GettyImages-649346048.jpgThere are times in every supervisor’s work life that you can feel everything going off the rails — projects don’t sync up as they should, laughter feels forced within your team, and the energy levels are low.

While it may feel like everything is falling apart at the seams, and you’re not sure what you can do, don’t give up! There are ways to bring teamwork back to your team, but it will take some work to rebuild trust between team members and realign your focus to the future.

Even the most high-performing teams have moments of doubt that can be introduced by stress or fear. These negative emotions could overtake a team or its leader, but the first step is re-imagining the future and then casting that vision to your team.

Prevention is Worth a Pound of Cure

While it may be too late if your team has already entered a downward spiral, preventing negativity from happening is always the best alternative to a team that’s coming apart at the seams. Getting to know your team, understanding their motivations and stressors, and working hard when you need to will help you become a trusted member of your team — and not just the leader.

Spending time together bonding in good times will help sustain your relationship during times of difficulty, both with each individual team member and the team as a whole. This trust doesn’t come overnight but is worth the time spent building it in the long run.

Slowing the Negativity

Perhaps your team has just begun showing signs of stress, such as team members being unwilling to contribute in meetings, leaving early, or losing energy early in the day. If you look up in the afternoon and everyone is wandering around looking aimless instead of focused on work or building relationships, it’s past time to get more involved in your team’s dynamics.

Start by talking to someone on your team, either the person who is seemingly the most stressed or one with whom you have the most trust built up. See if you can determine what the root cause of the uncertainty is, and look for potential options for resolution together.

Returning from the Brink

If your team is truly on the brink of collapse, with your best and brightest team members disengaged and actively looking for other opportunities, it’s time to take more drastic measures. Consider asking your human resources department if they’re hearing any rumors about what’s happening, or pull the team together as a whole in an offsite meeting to add to their comfort level.

Request that they be open and honest with you about challenges that they’re encountering — either within the team, outside the team or even outside the organization.

Take Charge of Results

You also must face the possibility that you as the leader are the problem, which can be painful and difficult to accept. However, you must first look to make changes in your own leadership style in order to help salvage your team’s success.

Take responsibility for finding a solution, and don’t be afraid to claim accountability when things aren’t going as you had planned. Too often, leaders find themselves in a situation that feels hopeless and attempt to look externally to find the problem.

If there is truly someone on your team who is causing the excessive negativity, know when it’s time to make the difficult decision and make a change in personnel. Sometimes, all it takes is removing a negative influence or underperformer to bring your team back to center.

Today’s organizations are moving quickly and chasing many different initiatives at once. Managing people is always a balancing act: creating a culture of learning and accountability while allowing people the space they need to take appropriate chances. Fortunately, nearly every team can be brought back from a downward spiral with time, effort, and loads of positive energy from its leader.

Post-Show Followup Techniques You Will Want to “Borrow”

ThinkstockPhotos-857037440.jpgTrade shows are one of the most exhausting, yet exhilarating, ways to spend your marketing dollars. You not only get to meet with your customers face-to-face, but you can also see what your competitors are up to, get great ideas for the future, and generally feed off the energy on the show floor. However, if you’re not using the time after you return to the office effectively, you may be wasting much of the goodwill that you created at the show. Here are some great tips and techniques from marketers that will help you knock your post-show communication out of the park.

Capture Contacts Logically

Before you even start to pull together samples and brochures for your event, you need to determine the best way to capture contacts for later follow-up. This could be anything from a name badge scanner provided by the event coordinators to the low-tech solution of a giveaway fishbowl where contacts drop in their business cards. Simply gathering the information isn’t enough, you need a solid plan in place of how you’re going to get these new names and their requests into an actionable marketing database.

Create a Specific CTA

Your call to action is just that: a way to encourage your audience to take a specific action that leads to your desired result. Starting with the end in mind allows you to craft a campaign where each step builds towards the logical conclusion — your customer placing an order or asking for a demo. The first step may be a quick email, while the next step could include mailing a sample with a custom printed letter. A final step of a phone call or postcard a few weeks after the show proves to your audience that you’re committed to meeting (and exceeding!) their expectations.

Sort and Assign Leads

If you’re using an automated solution for capturing leads, you may wish to begin immediately by sending an email as soon as you return from the show. If this isn’t possible due to volume, go through your lists and segment your leads into hot, warm, and cold. If you’re able to immediately assign the hot leads to a team member to call and can convert them to customers, great! Most people spend a day or two regrouping after a show, so timing is everything. Call too soon, and you’re likely to get a voicemail recording which is generally a dead end. Call too long after the show, and people have forgotten all about you. This is one of the reasons that a branded, high-quality print piece is a fantastic followup. If you start your print project quickly, your materials can be there soon after your prospects are back in the office.

Nurture Your Prospects

Create a formal and ongoing communication strategy that allows you to continue the conversation with your various audiences. Some people may be very interested in your products or services, but perhaps they don’t have the budget to start a project immediately. Others may be lukewarm in their interest levels, but you can see how you’re adding value to their organization. What’s important is that you tailor your messaging to your audience to convert as many as possible into customers.

Now that you know the basics of trade show and event follow-up, you’re ready to hit the road. You will see the true benefits of growing your audience and communicating effectively with all the new customers and sales coming your way!

A Team Attitude

kirkI heard a comical story about a man who got lost while driving through the countryside. While trying to navigate a narrow country road in heavy rainfall, he accidentally drove off the road into a deep, muddy ditch. While he wasn’t injured, his car was stuck in the mud, so he walked to the nearest farm.

He asked the farmer if he could help him pull his car out of the ditch. The farmer nodded and replied, “Yep, Warwick can get you out of that ditch,” as he pointed to an old mule standing in the pasture. The man looked at the small, old mule and had his doubts, but he figured he had nothing to lose.

The two men walked Warwick back to the ditch where his car was stuck. The farmer hitched the mule to the car and hollered, “Pull, Fred! Pull, Jack! Pull, Ted! Pull Warwick!” And just like that, the mule pulled the car from the ditch with very little effort.

The man watched in amazement, but asked the farmer, “Why did you call out all those other names when Warwick was the only one pulling?” The farmer chuckled and said, “Old Warwick is blind, but as long as he believes he is part of a team, he doesn’t mind pulling.”

Here’s the way I see it: Emily Voyles once said it best, “It doesn’t take strength to win. It takes the true heart of the team to win.”

How to Turn Negativity into Inspiration

ThinkstockPhotos-663352750.jpgIt’s easy to look at successful business people and feel jealous of what they’ve accomplished. They make it look so easy that you wonder why you’re not having the same level of success in your life and career. However, what you may not see is the hundreds of times they’ve had their ideas shot down, been passed over for a promotion, and just generally rejected in their lives. No one is immune to the soul-crushing feeling of harsh criticisms, but how you react to these situations is what makes the difference. From taking a leap into the unknown to dealing with difficult situations, these stories of overcoming negative situations will inspire you to achieve more than you could possibly imagine.

Stirring Generations of Moviegoers

George Lucas tried to sell his Star Wars script with studios for nearly five years before he finally received his first chance. It’s almost unimaginable that without one 20th Century Fox executive who believed in his vision, generations of children and adults alike would have never been introduced to that vast galaxy that lives far, far away. Today, this franchise is worth over $30 billion and continues to expand. His thoughts about always pushing forward through rejection and failure? “You use the information that you’ve gotten, which is experience . . . Failure is another word for experience.”

Apprentice Yourself in Failure

Henry Ford’s story tells how he spent his life working on every conceivable type of device, but it wasn’t until he tried his hand at creating a horseless carriage that he truly began — to fail. He started multiple companies with various partners, each time attempting to find the secret sauce that would allow him to produce his automobile efficiently and cost-effectively. Throughout his journey, he faced setbacks and people who didn’t believe that he could be successful. Finally, he found the ideal financial backer who allowed him to realize his true vision of an inexpensive yet reliable vehicle that could be mass-produced. By never giving up, he not only made Ford a household name but also created innovative production methods that jump-started the American economy.

Demoted, Fired . . . President of the United States

There are few Cinderella stories more inspirational than that of Abraham Lincoln. From his birth in a one-room log cabin to a sketchy education, Abraham Lincoln went on to become one of the most influential leaders in American history. Not only was he demoted during his stint in the Army, not only did he work through several failed businesses, but he also suffered defeat through multiple elections before rising to the country’s highest position. Abraham Lincoln’s inspiring story shows that failure is truly never an option.

The Right Job for Enough Money

Not everyone equates becoming rich and famous with being successful. In fact, Professor Jeffrey Sachs feels that the key to inspiration is finding the right job for enough money. Being inspired, and inspiring others, often comes towards the middle or end of a long career that can include negativity, stress, poor bosses, and apathetic co-workers. While it’s practically impossible to know upfront whether a particular job will become what inspires you, the only way to reach that higher plane is through overcoming negativity. Work-life balance and true happiness come through the inspiration to excel wherever life finds you.

Life is difficult, and few people will hand you an opportunity on a silver platter. Turning negativity into inspiration may be one of the toughest things that you will ever do, but the payoff is everything! Take a moment each day to inspire and uplift others. You never know when your kind words could encourage someone to keep pushing towards their dreams.

Custom Printed Box Bands

A CREATIVE YET AFFORDABLE WAY TO BRAND YOUR PRODUCTS

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Packaging is a key component of your companyБ─≥s identity. Custom printed box bands are a creative yet affordable way to brand your products. Not only do packaging sleeves improve the shelf-appeal of your product, but they also provide branding and product identification and enable you to provide more information about what is in the box.

The creative options for custom printed box bands are endless and can vary from a narrow belly band to a full band that fits the width of your box to everything in between.

Box bands can also feature die-cut edging or cut-out shapes, as well as foil stamping, embossed or debossed logos, metallic ink, and much more to enhance the appearance. They can be designed to close with peel and seal closure, glue, double-sided tape, or a customized label, such as a corporate anniversary seal.

If youБ─≥d like help creating unique box bands to help brand your product and ensure it gets noticed, stop by or give us a call today!

The Dignity of Work – Down But Not Out

ThinkstockPhotos-832112086Albert Serur was just a young man when he passed out cold in his client’s office. Only four months into his job, a previously undiagnosed heart condition might have sidelined him permanently. But Serur didn’t go down without a fight. Rather than recovering from emergency surgery at home, he hired a driver so he could sleep in the car between sales calls.

“Adversity helps you deal with who you are,” he says. “If you can start preparing for things proactively both personally and professionally, you’re going to be ready, and you’re going to be a better leader.”

“Will-Set” that Trumps a Skill Set

At 28, Serur is the youngest state director at American Income Life and chief executive of its Wilmington subsidiary. Serur Agencies brings weekly employee training sessions that focus less on technical abilities and more on workplace camaraderie, helping people develop a “will-set” with emotional tools to handle challenging situations. These offerings are a timely response to a felt need; in a recent Society of Human Resource Management report, “respectful treatment” was a top priority of the workers, even above pay.

“I’ve seen many people who have more God-given talent than I have, but if they have one difficult relationship issue, they just fold,” says Serur.

Valuing the “Dignity of Work”

Workforce prioritization was how Starbucks recently explained the “fairly flat” performance of its stock. While a recent reduction of corporate-tax rates made the company hundreds of millions of dollars, Starbucks chose to re-invest this money in its workforce rather than funneling profits back to shareholders. Priorities included closing gender pay equity gaps worldwide, offering stock grants of $2,000 for managers and $500 for employees, expanded paid parental leave, and even access to critical illness insurance for parents of employees. Executive chairman Howard Schultz says people are an enduring priority:

“We’re trying to make long-term decisions,” Schultz said. “We’re trying to value the dignity of work. We’re trying to do everything we possibly can to demonstrate to the world … that the better way is not a zero-sum game where you leave your people behind.”

Microsoft has also seen a shift toward creating workplace wins. Several of Microsoft’s former employees have returned to the company after CEO Satya Nadella took over. These “boomerangs” say workplace culture has changed significantly under Nadella’s emphasis on “One Microsoft,” a collaborative environment that hasn’t existed in the past. Nadella has shifted reviews toward solidarity and teamwork, where employees are rewarded not just for their own work but how well they’re able to make use of others’ contributions. Boomerangs say this step away from the “smartest person in the room,” intimidation tactic has brought a more conversational, empowering environment. Microsoft has emphasized patience before perfection, incentives for developing others, and teaching staff to diffuse tension after disagreeable meetings.

Bonds that Last

Some companies use humor to grow unity. The Improv Asylum comedy troupe teaches communications skills at organizations like Google and Intel. This troupe’s mantra is that one person must always accept the premise given and then expand on the idea. “The sink is going to start spraying pink paint, you say?” “Well, yes, AND . . . lucky for us, we’re hosting the abstract art seminar this weekend!”

As it turns out, this is also a great workplace communication technique:

(The phrase) “‘Yes, but’ is prevalent in the corporate culture, and that shuts ideas down,” says Bob Melley, director of corporate training at the Boston theater company. “‘Yes, and’ encourages everyone on the team to offer ideas. It creates a bond and establishes trust.”

Stay in the Game – Finding the Off Switch

ThinkstockPhotos-78288882Do you ever lay awake at night feeling restless about work? Do you take projects home each evening or over the weekend? When the day is over, is it difficult for you to quiet your racing thoughts?

You work hard. And you enjoy it. But in this mobile generation, devices meant to create freedom have tethered us to the desk as we toe the line between productivity and workaholism. A study of 3,000 UK workers showed that 69 percent regularly work outside their office hours, and the average worker fails to use six days of paid leave each year. In the midst of an overwork epidemic, are you preserving your own well-being?

Digging Your Own Grave

While our parents said “hard work never killed anyone,” research says otherwise. Men who are unable to mentally relax after work nearly triple their risk of heart disease and psychologist Mark Cropley, studying health and stress at the University of Surrey, says an inability to detach brings disastrous consequences:

“Inadequate psychological recovery, or poor disengagement from work, is associated with a range of health problems including cardiovascular disease, fatigue, negative mood and sleep disturbance,” Cropley said.

What is the difference between an industrious person and a workaholic? Experts say the industrious can push past typical office hours but remain emotionally present for others, enjoying fulfilling relationships and intentionally scheduling time for things they love. Hard workers experience short bursts of stress for a deadline but follow this with a purposeful schedule reduction (like comp days or shortened office hours) to restore depleted energy.

Workaholics struggle to find this off switch. The troubling feelings or facts accompanying their lifestyle stress fails to curb their unrealistic performance ideals. Workaholics are obsessed with work and the adrenaline rush it brings; often they walk fast, talk fast, eat fast, and struggle to delegate for fear others will not do “as good a job.” While appearing externally healthy, their internal overdrive brings physical distress: panic attacks, claustrophobia, depression, decreased immune function, sleep disturbances, or an inability to enjoy life’s pleasures. Workaholics have an increased risk for metabolic syndrome, a higher need for recovery, and struggle with cynicism and emotional fatigue; when your biological systems keep working around elevated set points, you have a greater risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD), diabetes, and even death.

Worried you may be digging an early grave? Here are a few checks to flag your workaholic tendencies:

  • Your work eats into meal times
  • You are often first to arrive and last to leave
  • You are always on your phone or computer
  • You appear relationally distracted and find little time for leisure activities
  • You experience anxiety or irritation when interrupted or kept from work
  • You feel guilty when you’re not working and find it difficult to relax at night

Quality Trumps Quantity

Beyond improved health, accounting firm Ernst & Young found that for every additional 10 hours of time off taken, employees’ annual performance ratings improved by eight percent. How can you make productive changes if you are stretched too thin?

  • Reflect on reasons for compulsive work
  • Ask for help from your team and intentionally delegate
  • Set clear rules for how many hours you will work each day, quitting several hours before bed
  • Replace workaholic tendencies with positive habits: cultivating hobbies, building a skill you don’t use at work, and pro-actively scheduling time with friends
  • Resolve to save 25 percent of your energy to bring home at night. Put a fence around weekends to avoid temptation

Self-care keeps you on top of your game and ensures you STAY in the game. And that’s a win for us all!

When to Post on Social Media

Market-339THE BEST TIMES TO POST

Managing multiple social media networks can be challenging, and so can knowing the best times to post. While there is no one-size-fits-all answer since every type of business has varying audiences, here are the most suggested time frames and a few things to consider when posting on social media:

Facebook

  • Early afternoons on Thursday is the most recommended day to post on Facebook.
  • Early mornings and late nights are the least optimal time to post.
  • Video posts are among the most popular.

The less people want to be at work, the more they are on Facebook.

Tool to consider: Fanpage Karma. It not only analyzes your profiles and those of the competition but also manages all your customer conversations in one tool – even composing, planning, and publishing posts.

Twitter

  • Thursday around Noon is the most recommended time to post on Twitter for business-to-business audiences.
  • Weekends and Wednesdays are most popular for business-to-consumer.
  • Noon and 6 p.m. have the highest click-through rate when people are on lunch breaks or commuting home.

Tweets that are engaging and build trust in your brand are more effective than those that are purely promotional.

Tool to consider: Followerwonk helps you dig deeper into Twitter analytics and see who your followers are, where they are located, and what they tweet.

Instagram

  • Monday through Friday are the best days to post, with Mondays typically having the most engagement.
  • Avoid posting around 3 p.m. each day, since that has the lowest engagement.

Build your audience with the 80/20 rule – which means 80% of content should be educational and engaging, while 20% is self-promotional.

Tool to consider: Over is an app that lets you apply overlayed text and graphics onto your photos and is great for sharing tips, inspirational quotes, or adding a creative twist.

LinkedIn

  • The best times to post are between Noon and 5 p.m. from Tuesday through Thursday.
  • The worst times to post are Monday and Friday.
    Encourage your employees to share your company’s content.

Tool to consider: LeadFuze allows you to quickly create a list of leads and target accounts through a simple search.

Pinterest

  • Most Pinterest users are female and are more active in the evenings, with activity peaking at 9 p.m.
  • The most popular time to pin is Saturday between 8-11 p.m. or 2-4 a.m., although the best time for fashion & retail is Fridays at 3 p.m.

Tool to consider: Buffer can help you find great images to Pin from any website and immediately add to your Pinterest schedule with the Buffer browser extension.

If you need help promoting your social accounts in print, give us a call. We’d love to share our ideas!

Here’s Why Visual Communication Works

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According to a recent study, the average person gets distracted in just eight seconds – although, for some people, just 2.8 seconds is enough. When you operate predominantly in the print-based marketing world, you’ve already got something of an advantage over most people: print is something tangible. It exists in the real world. People can hold a flyer in their hands or share it with friends and family members if they’d like to, and it’s already something that’s harder to get distracted from than a computer screen. One way to take the benefit of print and extend it even further involves using the full power of visual communication to your advantage.

Visual Marketing: Breaking It Down

Human beings are visual learners – they always have been, they always will be. It’s not necessarily a sign of intelligence but about how the human brain operates. By making sure that all of your collateral includes a healthy blend of both text AND visual elements, you can absolutely make this idea work to your advantage.

Consider the fact that when a person hears a piece of information, they’re only likely to remember roughly 10% of it about three days later. These aren’t exactly good odds if you’re trying to prime a member of your audience to make a sale. When that same piece of information is paired with a relevant image, however, people retain a significantly higher 65% of that same information over the same period of time.

This, in essence, is the power of visual communication at play. In terms of your marketing content, when you make an effort to include relevant images that really help tell a larger story when paired with the text, people will spend more time looking at those images than they do the text on a page. This is why images alone aren’t important, but relevant images are the key to your long-term success.

Show, Don’t Tell

Basically, you need to focus on the age-old idea of “show, don’t tell.” The next time you sit down to design a piece of collateral, try to convey the major idea in a sentence or two. Whether you’re trying to sell a product or service or inform someone about an upcoming event or something else entirely doesn’t matter – just figure out what the essence is of what you’re trying to say.

Then, think about what parts of that story can be told via images instead of text. What is the bare minimum amount of text that you can get away with that will still include all the relevant information (like dates and times)?

This is the type of approach that you need to take when you sit down to create any piece of print marketing collateral that will eventually be consumed by your audience. Marketing is nothing more than convincing someone to follow directions – you’re trying to give a consumer the information they need to reach out to you and make a purchase, for example. Well, when you consider that people literally follow directions 323% better with the combination of both text and illustrations than they do with just text alone, you begin to get an idea of why visual communication is one of the most valuable tools that you have in your print marketer’s toolbox today.

The Way I See It

kirkHere is a story that made me chuckle. It made me think about the challenges many businesses face when trying to keep some customers happy.

One day, a hardworking waiter asked a frequent customer how he had enjoyed his meal. The customer replied that everything was fine, but it would have been better if they had served more bread. The waiter agreed, and the next time when the man returned, the waiter doubled the amount of bread, giving him two slices instead of one. However, the man still complained. So, the waiter gave him even more bread on his next visit still without success.

On the fourth visit, the waiter was determined to make the man happy, so he gave the customer a full loaf of bread. The waiter could barely wait for the man’s reaction. After the meal, the man looked up and said with a smile, “The meal was good as always, but I see you’re back to giving only one piece of bread.”

Here’s the way I see it: Be thankful for customers who complain because you still have the opportunity to make them happy. If there is anything we can do differently for you, we’d love to hear about it!

Small Business Marketing Ideas

CREATIVE AND COST-EFFECTIVE WAYS TO MARKET A SMALL BUSINESS

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Here are a few creative and cost-effective ways to market a small business:

  • Consider a door hanger or recurring postcard campaign to all residents in an X-mile radius of your business. Consider highlighting lesser-known products, offering an exclusive discount, or inviting them to a free hands-on training event.
  • Build relationships and get involved in your community through charity events, sponsoring local sports teams, volunteering at fundraisers, or donating your time or services to local non-profits.
  • Develop a customer loyalty program with a variety of special promotions and incentives that would appeal to your particular customer base, such as birthday discounts, a reward punch card, free shipping, monthly discounts, free upgrades, and more.
  • Engage with your audience on social media. Post information on new products, link to interesting industry news bits, and encourage customer conversations.
  • Become an industry expert. Create a blog or newsletter with a customer Q&A section and offer helpful tips and tricks that will make people think of you next time they are ready to purchase.
  • Create a monthly contest. For example, encourage visitors to guess how many jelly beans are in a jar for a chance to win a [fill in the blank].
  • Create a customer referral program. For example, provide custom-printed referral cards that provide an exclusive discount to new customers. Also, reward existing customers based on how many new customers they recruit.
  • Build your customer testimonials and reviews. Request customer reviews, and make sure you respond to all reviews, positive or negative.

If you’d like help creating marketing materials to grow your business, give us a call or visit us online today at http://www.sjprinter.com!

3 Opportunities for Better Customer Follow-up

ThinkstockPhotos-843169968Have you ever considered an online purchase but been put off by taxes or shipping costs? That’s what a Reddit user (Doug D.) experienced when he fell in love with a sweatshirt from Archrival Clothing. Doug, a UK resident, added the item to his cart, but was disappointed to find he couldn’t get Archrival’s alluringly low shipping prices since the company was based in the US.

Winning Follow-up

Game over? Not quite. Someone from Archrival took note of Doug’s abandoned “Shopping Cart” and realized the shipping prices were probably to blame. This resourceful employee immediately e-mailed Doug, offering several alternatives to ship the order for less, including a FedEx International Economy option, Delayed First Class Overseas Mail (on the company’s dime), or European purchasing options.

Doug’s reaction? Rave online reviews for the company itself:

“Wow. My mind is blown. This is potentially the best customer service I have ever experienced. You definitely deserve a purchase just for this e-mail.” Doug and his girlfriend bought several items, ordering more than originally intended, all due to proactive customer care.

Leaky Buckets Bring Lost Opportunities

Business is all about relationships, and good relationships are built on great communication. In today’s wired world, we communicate constantly, yet connections are frequently missed. Author Dan Kennedy describes these botched follow-ups as the “hole” in our buckets. If business is the bucket where we pour energy, ideas, and money, the “holes” are wasted time, money, or failed follow up. This may include failing to track contact information, not rescuing lost customers, or belated follow-up with prospects.

What impact does correspondence have? According to Harvard Business Review, the most frequent customer complaint is poor follow-up. Fifty-six percent complain that they need to re-explain their issue when calling back. Sixty-two percent need to repeatedly contact the company to get issues resolved. As a result, 65% are likely to speak poorly about the company and 48% go on to tell 10 or more people about their bad experience. Poor communication can influence not only your customer but spill over into the public as well.

Show Them the Love!

Sometimes we fail to communicate because we are forgetful, have full schedules, or we fear looking pushy. But consistent follow-up builds sturdy bridges, and any step toward better communication will bear long-term fruit. Consider these opportunities for better follow up:

  1. Always acknowledge a message from a customer: with gratitude, with further questions, or with a confirmation of the request
  2. Give a brief status update of the issue at hand
  3. Respond via the customer’s preferred method of communication (e-mail, website, phone call). If uncertain, reciprocate with the method the customer initiated with

Use stronger written follow-up communication to:

  • Make a calendar request or recap a meeting
  • Ensure your last message was received or inquire about further questions or concerns
  • Express gratitude for an introduction or appreciation for their business
  • Congratulate clients on a recent accomplishment
  • Wish customers luck on an upcoming project or personal endeavor
  • Solicit feedback on a future project or decision
  • Send helpful information or resources (pertinent to your previous conversations)
  • Make people personally aware of upcoming incentives or promotions

To make good intentions a reality, consider adding correspondence goals to your schedule (placing reminders in your phone or calendar or sending unique printed thank you notes on a bi-annual basis) and chart a new course of consistency to ensure your relationships receive the optimal care they deserve.

Thank You Labels

LABELS MAY BE SMALL, BUT THEY’RE BIG FOR BUSINESS

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Labels may be small, but they are big for business, especially when you use them to say thanks and show customers they are appreciated.

Thank you labels are a great way to show your appreciation with all outgoing envelopes, invoices, packages, postcards, receipts, and more.

Thank you labels can easily serve a dual purpose. For example, in addition to a thank you message, you may also consider offering a promo code for a discount on their next purchase. Or, thank you labels can be designed to thank customers for their loyalty and remind them of an upcoming customer appreciation event.

The creative design options for thank you labels are endless. They are available in a variety of sizes, shapes, colors, and finishes, such as an embossed logo, foil finish, creative die-cut shape, or more.

The simple act of saying thanks can leave a valuable, lasting impression that helps customers remember you for future business. Order thank you labels today!

Break the Rules; It’s Okay as a Market Disruptor

ThinkstockPhotos-638949820.jpgWho are the folks who really define a market these days? It’s definitely not those companies who follow the market rules and play nice with everyone. More often than not, the key players and new leaders of the pack are the ones who are writing their own rules on how to operate, sell, and grow – the market disruptors.

Being a disruptor is not to be confused with being an anarchist. Unlike the political zealot, the disruptor is not fixated on tearing things down. Instead, this is a company that wants to redesign the stage to work in its favor, not the existing market.

More Than Traditional

Take the example of Growup Urban Farms. In the food business, the idea is to produce food or distribute food products from producers. This assumes that one is either a traditional manufacturer as a grower or making a profit on someone else’s work either growing plants in soil or raising animals on a farm. But what happens when someone decides to create food in an unorthodox method that doesn’t require the traditional resources of soil and land? That’s the case with Growup Urban Farms.

A Company Redefined

The company has found a way to mass market food production of vegetables and fish without the large land outlay or ocean harvesting. While the traditional model requires a rural setting, the disruptive aspect of Growup is that it can literally be operated in the most urban of settings, using physical stacking and space efficiency inside artificial walls and city streets. Their product is natural but created in warehouses. It uses natural methods of growth but there is no soil, ocean or land consumption involved.

The founders of the company, Kate Hudson and Tom Webster, have redefined what it is to be a modern farmer. And that has the potential to redefine how food is produced and where. The old rules don’t apply anymore that farms must be rural and need soil, or that fish can only be harvested from ocean stock. Growup disrupts the food market and not just with its cost model. The company also redefines placement of farm fresh food, eliminating the need for long-distance transportation into cities. Instead, the farm is literally in the city just blocks from the businesses it feeds with the product.

Go Where No One Else Does

The idea of being a market disruptor is not some trendy new 21st-century concept; every major market inventor or new breakout leader was essentially following the path of a disruptor by going down a path nobody else was considering at the time. Whether it was Nikola Tesla or Google’s founders, every breakout has been driven by a unique prospect that seemed rogue or maverick to the mainstream.

So if you want your company to get beyond just surviving and breaking even, then you have to find that spot that differentiates everything about you. Don’t follow existing models, create a new one that has its own rules for success.

Five Ways to Provide Mind-Blowing Customer Service

ThinkstockPhotos-640147624.jpgDid you know that surprising and delighting your customers is something that starts before they are truly aware of your business and brand? Each interaction throughout the customer lifecycle is an opportunity to provide mind-blowing customer service that people simply must share with their friends. Creating true advocates for your business should be your goal, and that only happens when customers are over-the-top excited about your product and service offerings. How do you inspire that type of loyalty in what can be a fickle audience? These tips will get you started down the path to lifelong devotion from your fans.

1. Treat Employees Like Gold

Your most important asset when it comes to ensuring long-term customer loyalty is closer than you may realize — your staff! When your employees are empowered to react quickly to negative situations and provide proactive support to ward off challenges, your customers will feel the difference. Employees who feel as though they’re simply showing up to punch a clock are lacking something, and that will show up in their interactions with customers. Employees who are regularly rewarded for going above and beyond expectations will continue that trend.

2. Foster a Culture of Possibilities

When you foster a culture of possibilities for your staff, they will be much more likely to take exceptional care of your customers. Why? Because employees take more ownership, and “your” customers become “their” customers . . . and friends. Good customer service is expected (and even demanded) by today’s customers. Going the next step to completely blowing your customers’ mind takes extra effort to provide unexpected benefits. This could mean providing free custom proofs to clients, adding in 10% overages “just because” or delivering earlier than expected. On time and on budget are expectations — you have to raise the bar to blow their minds.

3. Create an Easy Button

There will always be customers who are looking for the fastest and cheapest items. However, the customers you really want to cultivate are those who are willing to pay a premium for truly exceptional service and delivery times. The majority of people in America today have severely limited time, and when you’re able to show customers that you respect their needs and move quickly, they will be surprised and delighted. Optimize each process, remove unnecessary clicks from your website and apps and generally think through the user experience at every turn.

4. Focus on What’s Important

Customer-facing organizations are often looking for ways to reduce the amount of time required to interact with the public on each transaction. While this can result in efficiency for customers and staff alike, it can also cause a measure of frustration when poorly implemented. Forget the long list of meaningless metrics that don’t impact service levels or profitability. Look for measurements that directly impact customer satisfaction such as the number of calls required to resolve a return, for instance.

5. Stand Out from the Crowd

Are your competitors sending out postcards? Take their concept and go bigger: send a unique mailer that is truly attention-grabbing. There are rumors going around that “direct mail is dead”, but nothing could be further from the truth! As fewer competitors rely on print, customers are more likely to be engaged with the unique and interesting pieces that do hit their mailboxes. Have fun with your promotions and your customers will reward you richly.

The reality for businesses today is that customer retention is much less expensive than attempting to find and recruit new customers. Sure, you’re always on the lookout for new customers, but shouldn’t you also look for ways to create an over-the-top excellent service culture that keeps people returning for more?

Why Establishing Your Brand as an Authority is a Top Goal

ThinkstockPhotos-809785742With every piece of marketing collateral you create, you’re essentially trying to accomplish two key goals. Yes, you’re always trying to inform members of your audience about the products or services that you offer – or the ones that you’re about to launch. But at the same time, you need to do something much more powerful. Something that, if executed correctly, can help guarantee that yours is a brand with the ability to stand the test of time.

You need to establish your brand as an authority – not just in the context of what you have to offer, but within the larger sense of the industry that you’re operating in. If this isn’t already one of your top goals, it should be for a number of essential reasons.

The Power of Brand Authority

To better understand the importance of brand authority, consider the following two statistics. According to one study, 45% of your brand’s image (meaning what people think and feel when they encounter it) can ultimately be attributed to both what you say and how you say it. More importantly, the same study revealed that 54% of people don’t trust brands at all.

The most critical thing to understand about this is that brand authority is not something that you can give yourself. The majority of people who don’t trust brands don’t do so because the brands told them not to – it’s because those brands failed to live up to their promises one too many times. It’s because they didn’t have anything to offer beyond a sales pitch. It’s because those brands weren’t able to connect with their audience in an emotional, raw, and ultimately genuine way.

Because those brands failed to understand that brand authority really has to do with your larger reputation – it’s that kernel of trust that you don’t give yourself, but that others give to you.

It’s also not something that you’re going to be able to build in a day. It’s less the product of one major move and more about a series of smaller ones. It’s something that grows slowly, every time you choose to partner with a charity on community outreach or make your presence known at some type of local event. It’s something that grows inside your audience every time they see a piece of collateral that isn’t just a product spec sheet, but that offers true insight and information in a way that helps them even if they don’t make a sale.

When built properly over time, it’s also something that makes it easier than ever to not only keep the customers you already have satisfied but to bring new ones into the fold as well. This will invariably translate into a sense of “when the time comes and I do choose to make a purchase with this particular brand, I can rest easy knowing that it is money well spent.”

In the End

Ultimately, establishing your brand as an authority should be a top goal because it allows you to become more than just the products you sell or the services you provide. When your customers have a question, they come to you for the answer. When they want to learn more about a related topic, their first thought is to go to you for the education they seek. When you do launch a new product or service, they’re interested in what you have to offer because there is a level of trust that exists between you that they don’t have in other relationships.

This is why brand authority is so important – because it lets you become more than “just another company” and provides you with a level of authenticity that can take a standard audience and turn them into a loyal army of passionate advocates before you know it.

A Frog’s Plan

The Way I See It  A Frog’s Plan

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A persuasive old frog asked two geese to carry him south with them. At first, the geese said no because they didn’t believe it could be done. After great consideration, the frog suggested that the two geese hold a stick in their beaks, and the frog would hold onto the stick with his mouth. The plan worked great, and the three-some flew over the countryside, gathering a lot of admiration for this unbelievable demonstration of creative teamwork.

Suddenly, they overheard a bystander say, “Wow! What a creative way to travel! I wonder who came up with that idea?” Without being able to help himself, the frog opened his mouth and exclaimed, “It was meeee!” as he plummeted to the ground.

Here’s the way I see it: Harry S. Truman once said it best: “It is amazing what you can accomplish if you do not care who gets the credit.”

Got an important project coming up? We’d love to help you create beautiful print materials that you can take all the credit for!

 

The Magic of Dialogue

ThinkstockPhotos-584853270.jpgWho doesn’t love a great conversation? There’s something compelling about swapping stories, sharing hurts, and multiplying joys as we connect together each day. Companies are finding the catalyst to true connection often comes through listening.

Marketing and editorial strategists Michelle Horowitz and Kendall Meade believed so strongly in conversation that they launched an entire online platform called InTELLects to grow real-life interactions that promote conversation, creativity, and community:

“I’m energized by making connections and asking people deeper questions,” says Michelle. “It’s how I learn, and it’s how I grow.”

InTELLects features notable leaders, thinkers, and change agents, building a community of mentors and offering users the chance to ask questions – any questions – to grow the collective conversation. The co-founders believe authentic discussions pave pathways to clarity, grow existing communities, and instigate this new universal truth: “ask, and you shall succeed.” InTELLects is promoting a paradigm shift that’s moving companies away from “shoving a sales pitch” and toward authentic customer engagement.

The Critical Surfing “Slow Down”

 

In today’s complex ecosystem, marketers are realizing that consumer engagement (or return on EXPERIENCE) is a long-term, holistic measure of a customer’s encounter with a brand. Engagement includes any action a customer takes to connect with a company: downloading an app, participating in a forum, or referring products to friends. Engagement brings significantly greater return than website traffic, as researchers report that attention span in “surfing” is typically less than nine seconds per page.

How can we slow people down? Horowitz says asking questions is a wonderful place to start.

“True engagement stems from building a place where people can honestly learn, share, and engage,” she said. InTELLects believes that real conversations transcend the noise and forge emotional connections.

Through digital channels, today’s entrepreneurs have powerful tools to create highly personalized relationships. While community forums have been around for ages, expanding social networks like LinkedIn Groups and Google+ Communities offer a chance to connect with customers and ask questions that can build emotional connections that last. Recent data shows that 68 percent of audiences spent more than 15 percent of their time reading the comments section of a story – revealing the allure of dialogue to build powerful community connection.

Growing the Conversation

 

As you seek to build your own “conversational opportunities,” here are a few questions to consider:

  1. What does your target audience connect with?
  2. What questions do they have about your product?
  3. What is their favorite feature of your business?
  4. Where can you proactively predict what they want to stay ahead of the design curve?
  5. What educational or training gaps could your company offer on their behalf?
  6. What are some practical questions you could pose to gain insights in these areas?

Need ideas to get you started? Grab your team and brainstorm how you might:

  • Host a contest
  • Promote customer achievements on your own social media page
  • Allow your VIP customers to co-create content
  • Host webinars or events
  • Make someone your “brand ambassador” for the month
  • Allow users to have fun, like the Reddit community did in its season-long Fat Tire experience

As technology barrels ahead, one of our own goals is to keep people at the forefront. Whether it’s online forums, beautifully handcrafted printing, or just the face-to-face interactions we have with you every day, we believe nothing trumps relationships. We enjoy hearing about your own questions and ideas, and we look forward to serving you this year. Let’s keep talking!

Women Leadership Matters in Business

ThinkstockPhotos-614875172There are plenty of lists in business and the news. However, they frequently only represent one half of the human race with men. The fact is, women can be just as tremendous as business leaders, and they are showing their capability daily. Here are five women we all can take a lesson from in how they function and perform as leaders and would provide great case studies if the higher education system would recognize them:

1. Mary Barra

General Motors has been in the heat of regulatory and litigious battle over faulty car ignitions that were known by its management to exist but were allegedly tolerated for cost savings. However, it has been Mary Barra who has been at the helm of the company leading it back on the correct path. And Barra is no stranger to the car world. She worked her way up from the bottom through engineering and then through administrative management as an insider. She is the most powerful American car company CEO yet most American drivers know nothing about her.

2. Ginni Rometti

If your name is on a government file somewhere, there’s a good chance Rometti’s company product has touched it. As the CEO of IBM, Rometti’s products and services have the widest reach and are used worldwide. Ginni Rometti was also an insider, starting with IBM as a system engineer in 1981 and then working upward into management. Today, her decisions impact every big company and government that relies on large database systems and related hardware, but many in the tech field would be hard-pressed to remember her name on a test.

3. Meg Whitman

Probably one of the most recognizable of women business leaders due to her run for Governor of California in 2010, Whitman today is the in-charge CEO of HPE (formerly Hewlett-Packard). Whitman first gained fame as hard-charging CEO of eBay, launching its massive growth in the 2000s, but she was already on the executive track well before. Although she resigned in February 2018, Whitman continues to redefine her role as one of the longest-lasting CEO role models for women in business. And many wonder what Whitman’s next step will be in 2018 as the leader has reincarnated herself multiple times.

4. Marillyn Hewson

Another insider who worked her way up the ranks, Hewson started with Lockheed-Martin in 1983. In her earlier executive capacity, Hewson has held key roles in operational leadership in a company that competes with the biggest brass for top aviation contracts from the government, military, and industry. Since 2015, she has been aggressive on the military market, reading the tea leaves for a resurgence in military spending. Her strategy was correct, especially after the latest Presidential election results. Most would not expect to see Hewson next to generals in photo ops, but she is the face of Lockheed-Martin on Capitol Hill.

5. Debra Crew

When people think of a cigarette company CEO, they visualize an older man with thinning hair and a cigar. They don’t think of Debra Crew. Yet this CEO has cut her teeth in PepsiCo, Dreyers, and as a veteran intelligence officer prior to her executive days. Crew’s challenge is huge, making a company work in a world where smoking seems to be a dying market. And since her start as CEO the company has grown in capitalized market value by 16 percent.

These five women are not models, actresses, or famous wives. They are battle-hardened CEOs worth their title and with billions in market investment at their fingertips.

Oversized Table Talkers Start Conversations

AN AFFORDABLE AND CREATIVE WAY TO GET YOUR MESSAGE IN FRONT OF YOUR AUDIENCE

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Oversized table talkers, a larger version of table tents, are an affordable and creative way to get your message in front of your audience.

Oversized table talkers typically feature a large triangular tri-fold vertical design or quad-fold vertical design. When designed with eye-catching graphics and bold messaging, they become a great table centerpiece that demands attention.

Oversized table talkers are a great way to dress up any flat surface at conferences and other trade show events, waiting areas, point-of-purchase displays, checkout counters, waiting rooms, restaurants, and coffee shops. They can be used to spread the word about upcoming events or sales, new products or services, as well as industry tips and tricks.

If you’d like help creating the perfect table talker for your organization or business, or you’d like to see examples of what we can do for you, give us a call today at 856.429.0715! Our creative team is eager to help.

7 Reasons Why Data is Important for Your Business

ThinkstockPhotos-636409332In 1854, the idea of clean sanitation in London was generally non-existent in the urban setting. There was no such thing as running water; average people had to get their water supply daily from a local street hand pump. As a result, pests and disease spread quickly, which was the case with a cholera outbreak in London’s Soho district at the time.

Focus In on the Problem

At first, no one could quite figure how cholera was infecting people, and the common thought blamed vapors or people’s breathing. John Snow, a doctor already well established in London circles and practice, focused on a hypothesis that cholera was spread by shared water. However, many of the other doctors and officials thought a water-borne disease idea was a silly concept.

Because the authorities at the time needed convincing with greater evidence and the local cholera epidemic was spreading and killing more and more, Snow devised the idea of taking already known data and combining it with a local map. He already knew from public health records who had become sick with cholera and died as well as their home addresses. Snow mapped their locations in relation to local water supplies.

Interpret the Results

By creating the spatial relationship, Snow was objectively able to display that the cluster of cholera infections in 1854 was within close proximity to one water source – the Broad Street Water Pump. Using this information, Snow then convinced the local city authorities to remove the pump handle, making it inoperative. With the source gone, the cholera infections soon died down, and Snow’s hypothesis was supported.

Business Lessons You Can Glean

So how does John Snow’s smart use of existing data teach us valuable lessons about managing a business? There are 7 gems to glean from his example:

  1. Business data is all around us and can be used for far more than just one purpose if we open our eyes to see how it can be used.
  2. Data behaves in trends and patterns which, frequently, can help make solid business predictions about what is to come.
  3. A company needs both access to its data regularly as well as the right tools to make the information valuable and useful. Too often businesses have one or the other but miss their opportunities because no one has connected the dots so to speak.
  4. Staff need to be trained to think outside the box. The reason Snow was successful was due to the fact that he didn’t follow traditional convention. He asked “why.”
  5. Management has to be willing to listen to alternative options based on good data. London city authorities were locked up in old-fashioned ideas about cholera until Snow showed them obvious connections of disease spread.
  6. Data comes in lots of different shapes and forms. Standardization is key to allowing useful data to be pulled across different operations. Snow had to combine public death records, maps, stories, and authority information in one combined grid to make it useful.
  7. Keep it simple, stupid. Snow didn’t transform his data into an archaic medical thesis. He produced useful information on a simply everyday map that everyone could understand quickly and easily.

Existing business data can be a gold mine for marketing and business strategy if companies are willing to actively take advantage of what they have. That requires an open mind, good skillsets in data interpretation, and a management team that can act quickly on opportunities as they become apparent.

Marketing Your Fundraising Event

AFFORDABLE MARKETING EFFORTS TO CONSIDER FOR FUNDRAISING EVENTS

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Here are a few affordable marketing efforts to consider for your next fundraising event.

  • Apply for a Google AdWords Grant, which is a program that offers free Google advertising to eligible non-profits. To see eligibility requirements and how to apply, visit: https://www.google.com/grants/eligibility
  • Secure sponsors who can provide funding and help attract a broader range of attendees. In return, use their logo on all promotional materials.
  • Focus on your cause and think of ways to attract others with similar passions. For example, consider making a brochure, slideshow, or video that talks about ways that your fundraiser can help the lives of others.
  • Submit a press release with a newsworthy angle to area newspapers and magazines, local bloggers, community calendars, and radio and television stations to increase your promotional efforts.
  • Create a Facebook event page with event information, registration links, and event updates. To keep information current and top of mind, consider posting auction item announcements, success stories, thank-you messages to volunteers, and a Q&A for your audience.
  • Create a unique Twitter hashtag for your event so followers can easily track event-related tweets. Consider tweeting photos of last year’s event, your promotional flyer, and even featured auction items.
  • Distribute flyers at other locations or events that are related to your fundraiser. For example, if you are organizing a fundraiser for a local animal shelter, consider handing out flyers at a dog park or local veterinarian.
  • Ask volunteers, community members, and donors to help spread the word. For example, you can ask others to invite their family and friends, share your Facebook event, and distribute posters and flyers.
  • Increase donor retention by following up after the event. Consider sending a newsletter with an update on how much your event raised, or sending thank you letters, emails, or even phone calls to show your appreciation.

If you’d like help creating affordable print materials for an upcoming fundraising event, please let us know. Our printing team can offer several creative, yet cost-effective ideas to ensure your fundraising event is a success.

How to Lead by Example

ThinkstockPhotos-512124388.jpgAs a leader, the people you supervise watch your every move. To gain their confidence and trust you must provide an example they will want to follow. You could lead via a system of punishments and coercion, of course, if accelerating turnover is your hobby. But motivating them positively is a much better way to go.

To that end, here are 6 examples you can use to become the type of leader that people want to follow.

1. Do not think of them as workers only.

It’s important to keep in mind that the people working under you have bills to pay, troubles to cope with, and possibly a personal tragedy or two in their lives. Approach them with respect and be kind, knowing that they may be going through hard times.

2. Take the time to make them feel special.

It may seem corny, but try keeping notes on the people working under you, just one fact about each of them. It could be something you overhear in the hallway- perhaps a hobby, a favorite musician, a peculiar interest. You can use this information at opportune times to let them you take a real interest in them.

3. Listen to emotions.

This can be hard for some, but with effort, even the most stoic of us can discern emotions. Listen to what employees say and take a moment to mentally tag their statements with an emotion. Just say to yourself, ‘Mark feels frustrated,’ or ‘Sally is disappointed.’ Even if the emotion is irrelevant to the situation, just take a moment to recognize it without judgment. Make a habit of this and in a short amount of time you will begin to behave in a more empathetic way, and they are certain to pick up on that.

4. Don’t fight every battle.

For diligent, hardworking, and logical people, it’s easy to fall into the trap of trying to right every wrong. But there’s a fine line between being a problem solver, and being belligerent. Remember, your internal resources are limited, as are those of the people around you. Trying to squash every small discrepancy will drain your resolve, and it will squash morale.

5. Always let them save face.

‘Praise in public and censure in private’ is the golden rule of leadership. When someone has made a mistake and you must have a word with them, help them avoid the scrutiny of their coworkers. Don’t force them to take the walk of shame into your office after announcing over the P.A. that they are being summoned. They will appreciate it immensely.

6. Display solidarity

Your job is important, and no one would expect you to get into the trenches every day- however, there’s no better way to establish respect and to understand the day-to-day realities of the work your employees do than to occasionally step into their role. It’s not enough to have done it before. You must demonstrate the willingness to do it again. Remember, this isn’t your chance to show them up by outdoing them. It’s a way to develop solidarity and to understand the challenges they face each and every day.

Some of these tips may sound overly soft-handed. But if you apply a little imagination and find a way to maintain your proper station and dignity while following these guidelines, you can transform yourself from a competent manager into an inspiring leader.

Spilled Coffee

kirkThe Way I See It – Spilled Coffee

Take a moment to imagine that you are holding a cup of coffee. Suddenly, someone comes along and bumps into you, causing you to spill your coffee everywhere.

Now, why is it that you spilled the coffee? If you responded, “well, because someone bumped into me, of course,” that’s the wrong answer. The truth is, you spilled the coffee because there was coffee in your cup. Had there been tea in the cup, you would have spilled tea.

Here’s the way I see it: Whatever is inside your cup is what will spill out when bumped. The same is true in life. When life comes along and bumps or shakes you (which WILL happen), whatever is inside you will come out.

Take a moment to consider: Will you spill joy, gratefulness, peace, and humility? Or will you spill anger, bitterness, harsh words, and overreactions?

A Single Red Feather

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It was a brilliant start to a lasting legacy. Conference organizers work hard to stage successful events, helping worldwide professionals network in meaningful ways, with long-lasting benefits. One international conference intentionally introduced certain attendees online before their event. But there was a problem. How would this cohort take their connection offline in a sea of 8,000+ people?

Perhaps a simple, visible strategy would work: these participants placed a single red feather in their name badge. Red feather attendees committed to seek each other out in friendly, approachable, non-threatening ways. By the close of the conference, curiosity and goodwill drove hundreds of new people to request a red feather and to join this informal circle of friends. Why? Because everyone needs a great network to lean on!

Collect Relationships, Not Just Business Cards

Networking is important! A recent LinkedIn study revealed that 70 percent of people in 2016 were hired at a company where they had a previous connection. But while 80 percent of professionals consider networking to be important to career success, 38 percent said they find it hard to stay connected to (or in touch with) their network.

How can you grow or maintain your personal networking tree beyond online networks like LinkedIn or Meetup? It doesn’t have to be difficult! Even simple steps like participating in webinars, attending conferences, volunteering your time locally, or actively following and commenting on your alumni newsletters can forge and strengthen connections. As one Cornell MBA reflects, “the concept is to stay connected even when you don’t need to, so when the time comes for that extra spark, your network will be able to ignite you on your path.”

Beyond the enjoyment networks bring, a web of professional relationships can be leveraged for great gain. As you strengthen bonds with a specific pool of people, you can enhance the quality of your services, increase customer retention, and gain important contacts and sales opportunities that you might never have accessed otherwise.

While many of us dread the idea of traditional networking, we often forget that building alliances is about collecting friends, not business cards. Remember, your goal is to come to know and enjoy people. If you’ve chosen relationships wisely, it should be fun to learn from others, gain management ideas and advice, and to spur on another’s profit and performance. As you and your colleagues update and encourage one another, the hope is that, ultimately, you’ll become each other’s salespeople!

Local Business Networks Bring Life

Another natural way to overcome networking barriers is to intentionally sow into local business relationships. Local business networks are a refreshing antidote to the isolation we often experience in today’s culture. A thriving local business community helps each of us because it empowers us to grow in our goals, to access important relationships, to collaborate on custom solutions, and to bring inspiration or motivation on the days we need it most.

Coupon Postcards Get Results!

A WIN-WIN FOR YOU AND YOUR AUDIENCE

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Are you looking for a fun and creative way to ensure your direct mail postcards get noticed? Consider designing your postcard as an oversized coupon!

Coupon postcards are a win-win for you and your audience. Not only are they an affordable way to spread your message, but they also provide valuable savings for your customers.

Here are a few ways to add pizzazz to your coupon postcards:

  • Design the full postcard as a coupon, so when it is redeemed, you can easily track redemption by using the customer information on the back.
  • Consider a unique die-cut shape that is relative to your promotion.
  • Super-size it. Consider an oversized postcard that demands more attention, or even a fold-over postcard coupon, using half as an advertisement, and half as a tear-away coupon.
  • Design your postcard as a heartfelt thank you, and include an exclusive coupon that shows customers how much you appreciate their business.
  • Create a monthly product spotlight postcard campaign that highlights various products or services you offer, and includes a coupon discount.

Print Boosts E-Commerce

THE POWER OF PRINT LIVES ON

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If you’re looking for a way to increase your online traffic, print marketing may be the answer.

Many successful online businesses rely on print media to supplement their marketing efforts. Whether it be a product catalog, a flyer promoting a new product, or a simple postcard advertising an upcoming sale, the power of print lives on.

The popularity of print is increasing as people take a break from their phones and computers and are engaging more with printed materials at their leisure. Print materials provide a convenient, relaxing browsing experience without the distractions of other digital media or the eye strain of a computer. Shoppers can browse the items they want, then go online and order when they’re ready.

If you’d like to test the waters and try a few smaller campaigns to see how print can help boost your online sales, our creative team would love to help. And remember, other printers may be nearby, but nobody comes close. Contact us today at 856.4290715 or visit http://www.sjprinter.com

 

The Best Employee Benefit

The Best Employee Benefit

“Quality is much better than quantity.
One home run is much better than two doubles.”
– Steve Jobs

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Work is life, and life is work. While most people wouldn’t say work defines them, employment certainly influences the pleasure or pain we experience. The average individual will spend more than 90,000 hours working in their lifetime. But we’re not necessarily enjoying it. Up to 80% of people are dissatisfied and 40% of people say their job is “very or extremely stressful.” Since work is a fundamental part of our existence, shouldn’t we seek to enjoy it more?

Millennials seem to think so; in fact, 60% of 2015 grads would rather work for a company with a positive social atmosphere even if it meant a lower paycheck. People are recognizing that today’s best jobs include not only great salaries and benefits but also a positive experience of fun and fulfillment. When employees are energized and engaged, they produce higher quality work. Keep in mind that over 80% of employees in Fortune 100’s “Best Companies to Work For” said they work in a fun environment!

Bringing More Joy to the Job

A recent experiment by the University of Warwick tested the effect of fun on workplace productivity. Organizers randomly selected 700 individuals and showed them a series of 10-minute comedy clips or provided them with refreshments. After verifying that these opportunities brought a feeling of “happiness,” employee productivity was tracked through various tasks. For those with happiness triggers, productivity increased by an average of 12 percent. In some cases, it rose as high as 20 percent! For a business to thrive, an enjoyable workplace is essential, so how can we bring more joy to the job?

“Customers will never love a company until its employees love it first.”
–Simon Sinek, author of “Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action”

The physical environment is a critical component. An Arcadis study of 2016 Trends in the Workplace found that “staying well at work” was a primary focus of companies seeking to keep their employees happy and healthy. This included prioritizing work areas that were physically safe, aesthetically pleasing, psychologically nourishing, with several fascinating tips on how to craft well-designed workspaces which have a positive effect on mood, well-being, and productivity.

From birthday bashes to walking meetings and break-time trivia competitions, employers are also injecting more fun into each day. Manisha Priyadarshan, from Sparks experiential marketing, said employees should look forward to coming each day, so one of their core company values is, “work should be fun.” Here’s what that looks like at Sparks:

  • “We run a program called “Mix & Mingle”: employees selected from different departments have lunch and get to know each other. We also run a program called “Food4Thought”, where employees can learn more about Sparks over lunch by hearing presentations from people in each department.”
  • “HR runs a program called “TedEd”: an hour-long live session including a screening of a Sparks-relevant Ted Talk followed by a round-table discussion.”
  • “We have bimonthly “Flash Contests” to inspire people to think about our company’s codes, i.e. send a story of a time when “the client’s problem was your opportunity.”
  • “We’ve hosted a number of fun events: Chili Cook-off, Halloween Party, Holiday Party, Valentine’s Cupcake decorating, Mini March Madness, Earth Day, and Summer BBQs.”
  • “We have recently implemented a Bring Your Dog to Work committee, where a select panel of dog owners and dog lovers will help decide which employees’ pets would make great workday partners by spending a day at the office.”

Looking for more ideas on employee recognition or workplace rewards? Give us a call at 856.429.0715 or visit http://www.sjprinter.com!

Sticky & Sour: The Next Step After a Bad First Impression

ThinkstockPhotos-843963182.jpgWhat are some of your most awkward professional blunders? In a recent social psychology article, Heidi Grant Halvorson shared the story of her friend Gordon and his job interview at a prestigious university:

During his campus visit, Gordon was dining with a senior faculty member named Bob. As they ate, Bob commented on the quality of his lunch. “You know, this is great,” Bob said. “You should try this!” Wary of offending, Gordon cautiously complied, reaching over for a bite. While the interview seemed successful, the job was given to another person. Years later, Gordon found the real reason for the rebuff was this: When Bob said, “You should try this,” he meant, “You should try this sometime,” not, “you should eat off my plate.” Bad manners left a sour taste of lasting consequence.

Knee Jerk Reaction or “Real Jerk” Response?

Humans naturally make snap judgments, and impressions are much harder to undo than to create. “First impressions are very sticky,” says Grant Halvorson, author of “No One Understands You and What To Do About It.”

First impressions are rooted in us and continue growing stronger, influencing future interpretations and causing “confirmation bias” to sway us in the initial direction. Grant gives this example:

“Once we have an understanding of something, we interpret everything that comes after from the vantage point of the knowledge we already have. Let’s say I think you’re a jerk, and the next day you realize ‘Hey, I acted like a jerk,’ so you bring me coffee. That seems unambiguously nice, but that action can be interpreted in a number of ways, and if I think you’re a jerk, I’m most likely to see it as an attempt to manipulate me.”

How to Restart and Rebuild

So what happens if you get off on the wrong foot? Is there any way to overcome awkward introductions? The answering is a conditional yes. We all have graceless moments, but not everyone knows how to repair the damage. Here are a few tips to help you rebuild after a clumsy misstep:

  1. Talk to people individually. Show genuine interest and seek to find common interests. Look for informal opportunities to build facetime, ask questions, and encourage others.
  2. Restart and rebuild. Apologize and move forward by offering evidence of your sincerity. If you’ve been rude, show extra kindness in the next ten conversations. If you’ve been sloppy, make your next twenty projects immaculate. Follow up immediately and consistently, in the opposite spirit of your initial mistake.
  3. Poke fun at your own blunder. Call attention to the big elephant so you can say sorry and laugh! Transparency gives people a chance to empathize and relate rather than judge or criticize.
  4. Offer to help. Figure out what is important to people and use your skills to collaborate or lighten their load. Halvorson says sometimes this takes strategic positioning:

    “The best way is to try to create a circumstance in which they need to deal with you, ideally where they need you in order to get what they want . . . It’s not the most awesome sounding advice because what it means is that, if you have a colleague who doesn’t think that highly of you, what you need to do is get your boss to assign you to work together on something, which is not what people want to hear, (but) when you can help them achieve their goals, then suddenly you are worth paying attention to.”

Ready to leap ahead with a fabulous first impression? Consider business cards, unique promotional products, fun hanging tags, and more. Give us a call to talk options at 856.429.0715!

Win Customers With Colorful Packaging

ADD SOME COLOR COMMENTARY

When you consider the packaging that you will use for your clients’ products, remember that color is one of your channels that communicates instantly. There are thousands of shades of each color, and picking the ones that evoke the emotions you want can help you forge a connection with the consumer. Here are a few tips to help you get what you want.

Ask yourself which one color gets your message across.

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Red is vital and exciting. Green can communicate healthfulness or sustainability. Pink can be girly or comforting. In some cases, such as a label for strawberry ice cream, the color associations are obvious. For other products, choose colors based on the mood you think fits the brand. For example, an outdoor recreation store wouldn’t print their hangtags or envelopes in purple since purple doesn’t really evoke the feeling of the outdoors. Instead, they would choose colors that would get the message across while also fitting in with the company colors. And, remember not to overuse color. Too many trying to shout at once just turns into noise. Pick a dominant one, then accent with others.

Always plan a family of products and marketing assets in advance.

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Think in terms of how these items will look together. If you have multiple flavors of ice cream labels, for example, plan how all of the different flavors will look lined up next to each other. Creating a unified look will allow customers to identify which products come from your brand. While allowing each product or flavor to be easily distinguished from the others, the use of a strong overall palette will help build your brand.

Always do a color-accurate printed proof.

Inks respond differently to different surfaces. To ensure that your assets will look exactly as you want them to, have a color-accurate proof made before doing your entire run. Even if you have printed that color in the past, testing it first can lead to better outcomes.

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Always consider how things will look and how they will make your customers feel. By keeping these vital color rules in mind, you can create packaging, brochures and other assets that make your brand attractive to consumers and easily recognized.

You Shouldn’t Fear Your Competitors. You Should Learn From Them.

ThinkstockPhotos-504013680.jpgAs is true in most industries, there are days where it probably seems like every time you turn around you’ve got some new competitor to deal with. Your market space was already a tight one – now you’ve got to worry just as much about the companies that are vying for the same market as you do about the market itself.

For as frustrating as this can be, however, it also represents a fantastic opportunity that is just waiting to be taken advantage of if you really know what you’re doing.

At the end of the day, you shouldn’t actually fear your competitors at all. You should see them as a source of education and inspiration.

The Canary in the Coal Mine

One of the biggest reasons why you should try to learn from your competitors instead of fear them has to do with the fact that you’re trying to accomplish the same goal. You just have two completely different approaches about how to best do that. You’re still operating in the same industry, and you’re still trying to reach the same basic audience. From a marketing perspective alone, this is much more exciting than you probably realize.

Remember that success in marketing comes down to knowing as much about your audience as possible to get the right message in front of the right people at the right time. When your closest competitor launches a particularly successful marketing campaign, sit back and ask yourself “why?” Dive deep into exactly what they did and how they did it. What language choices did they make? What print avenues did they explore? What part of their timing played a roll in their success? Did they do anything particularly noteworthy in terms of font or other design selection?

The same is true when your competitor’s campaigns fail, too. Why did your competitor’s campaign fail to strike a chord with your audience? What mistake did they make? What incorrect information were they working from? How can you avoid this problem yourself?

From a certain point of view, it’s almost like you get to naturally A/B test every campaign that you run without spending additional money because you’ve always got someone trying to hit targets that are very similar to yours. Pay attention to what they’re doing and see what works and what doesn’t. Then, figure out how to adapt this information to your own efforts. Rest assured, they’re probably looking at you in the same way.

You’re All in this Together

An even more important reason why you shouldn’t fear your competitors is also a simple one: you’re truly all in this together. Think about it like this: the audience that you’re trying to serve and the audience that your closest competitors are trying to serve are one in the same. You’ve both pledged to make the lives of these people better through your products and services. Make no mistake, this is a terrific situation to be in for everyone involved.

For starters, competition is healthy. Every time your closest competitor hits a home run with a new product launch or marketing campaign, it shouldn’t make you depressed – it should make you want to wake up tomorrow morning and try that much harder.

Your audience will absolutely benefit from this healthy sense of competition and that is an incredibly important position to be in for all of you.

The Key to Letting Go

kirkOne day, a little boy was walking around his home with an old, colorful, family heirloom vase. When his mother saw him, she said, “Please put the vase down before you drop it and break it.” The boy replied, “But, I can’t get my hand out.”

Becoming frustrated, the mother said, “Surely if you got your hand IN the vase, you can get it out.” Hearing the commotion, the boy’s father came to help. He gently pulled on the boy’s arm and even tried using vegetable oil and soap to free his hand. In desperation, the father said, “I’d give twenty dollars to figure out how to get your hand out right about now.”

“Really?!” the boy exclaimed. Suddenly, they heard a clinking sound and the boy’s hand slid out of the vase. In disbelief, his parents turned the vase upside down and a quarter came out. The little boy explained that he had put a quarter inside and wanted to get it out, so he was clutching it in his hand, but when he heard he could get twenty dollars instead, he let go.

Here’s the way I see it: Sometimes, in order to move on to bigger and better things, we must let go of the little things holding us back. Next time you have a print project coming up, keep us in mind so you can let go of your worries.

Why You Should STOP Checking Your Email First Thing in the Morning

ThinkstockPhotos-845509748Thanks to smartphones and other types of mobile devices, we’re more connected to the world around us than ever before. This certainly has both its advantages and disadvantages.

On the one hand, it’s never been easier to get more done while on-the-go. You can be just as productive in your office as you can be halfway across the globe on vacation.

On the other hand, this can lead to a definite feeling that “switching off” is impossible – especially when you consider that according to one recent study, 61% of people check their phones within five minutes of waking up in the morning.

From a certain perspective, this makes a bit of sense – after all, if you want to get as much done in a day as possible it stands to reason that you should check those emails that piled up overnight as soon as you can, right? Well, not necessarily. There are some compelling reasons why you should STOP checking your email first thing in the morning, especially if you’re concerned about productivity.

You’re Doing More Harm Than Good

The main reason why you should stop checking your emails right when you wake up in the morning is that you’re doing a lot more harm than you are good. According to one study, 66% of people say that the first thing they do in the morning is either A) check their email, or B) listen to their voicemail. So don’t worry – you are hardly the only person out there making this mistake.

To understand why this is such a problem, consider the fact that according to Forbes the average person checks their email roughly 15 times per day. When people limited their checking to just three times per day, however, their productivity increased, and their stress levels decreased. Part of the problem is that when you check your email, you’re at the total will of whatever messages you find. Everything else gets moved to the back burner. It’s also particularly stressful if you’re waiting for a reply to an important email that hasn’t arrived yet.

So why, exactly, would you want to cause yourself that level of stress in the morning?

By both limiting the number of times that you check your email throughout the day AND by making sure that it isn’t the first thing you do in the morning, you’re in a much better position to get your day off on the right foot. You’re beginning your day in the most stress-free way possible, giving yourself a little breathing room to contextualize your priorities and lay out the day ahead without distraction.

In the End

These are just a few of the many reasons why you should STOP checking your email first thing in the morning. Yes, the instinct to try to get as much done in a day is a strong one – especially for a career-driven professional such as yourself. But you need to understand that you are quickly reaching a breaking point – “diminishing returns” doesn’t even begin to describe it.

Minimize the number of times that you check email throughout the day and pick your spots very carefully. Your productivity levels, not to mention your stress levels, will thank you for it.

How One Clothing Brand Is Making Headlines with an Unusual Niche

ThinkstockPhotos-533964527.jpgIt can be hard for a decades-old company to continue to innovate in exciting ways.

Tommy Hilfiger, founded in 1985, has made their reputation through dedication to an “American cool” classic style. The clothing line faltered in the early 2000s as their once-trendy red/white/blue palette and reliance on stripes and bold geometrics fell out of favor.

The Power of Innovation

However, recent innovations at the brand have led to a resurgence, with global sales topping $6.7 billion per year. Their latest move has been an unusual one: creating an adaptive clothing line for adults with disabilities.

The clothes will incorporate features that make it easier for men and women with disabilities to put them on each day and fit them to unique body shapes. These features include one-handed zippers, adjustable hemlines, velcro or magnetic closures, and other items that allow independence and style.

Most clothing in the line adheres to the classic Tommy Hilfiger styles with bold solids, stripes, and blocks of color. The newly launched clothing collection features 37 items for men and 34 for women.

Creativity Equals Gains

About fifteen percent of the world’s population has a physical or a mental disability. When the buying power of disabled individuals is combined with that of their family members, they represent around $6.9 trillion in spending power. Designers who bring their creativity to the challenges of making excellent clothing for this audience have a lot to gain.

What You Can Learn

A few lessons from Hilfiger’s success that can apply to your brand:

Look at who is underserved.

Moving into a crowded playing field can be difficult, at best. Instead of trying to distinguish yourself from the pack where competition is fierce, look at who is not served well by current products. By addressing the needs of these groups, you can carve out a niche for yourself and make an audience for your brand.

Start with a pilot program.

Tommy Hilfiger first created a collection of adaptive clothing for kids last year. When that was a success, they expanded to add the new collection for adults.

Get help from experts.

If you are heading into an area that is new to you, look for guidance along the way.

Tommy Hilfiger partnered with Runway of Dreams, a nonprofit whose goal is broadening fashion choices for kids with disabilities. They also worked on the kids’ line in partnership with adaptive clothing brand MagnaReady.

When working on the adult version of the clothing line, they spoke to a number of individuals to learn about their biggest fashion frustrations. They learned that the big three challenges were adjustability, modified closures, and other factors that made it easy to get in and out of garments. With that knowledge in hand, they built these into every item in their adaptive line.

Doing good does well for you.

It’s hard for fashion brands to make mainstream news. Some brands try to make the cut by doing something shocking, which can yield negative attention that can hurt goodwill for your brand. By reaching out to an underserved audience, Tommy Hilfiger got the attention of the media and got the sort of positive coverage that helps.

Looking where you can fill a need can allow your brand to make a bigger difference in the world. It can also spell increased success for your brand. By identifying these needs, you can provide customers with something they needed but weren’t getting from someone else and build strong and valuable relationships.

Best Practices For Integrating Your Remote Workforce

ThinkstockPhotos-498832710As technology continues to evolve, so do the lives we lead – both personally and professionally. According to one study conducted by Gallup, nearly 43% of employees in the United States spent at least some time working remotely in 2016 – a significant 4% jump from just a few years earlier in 2012. Remote work is such an attractive proposition that it has even begun to play a major role in an employee’s decision of whether to work for a particular company – something that poses a number of interesting implications for their employers.

Chief among them is the idea of what a “team” is supposed to be. Your employees are all important individually, but their contributions are supposed to add up to a larger, more critical whole. How is that possible when a large part of your workforce barely sets foot in the office, if they do so at all? In truth, integrating your remote workforce into your in-office one is a lot more straightforward than you might think; you just have to keep a few key things in mind.

Integration Begins With Leadership

The absolute best practice for integrating your remote workforce in with your “live and in-person” employees begins and ends with you: their leader. Never overlook an opportunity, no matter how small, to bring remote employees into the fold and make them feel like they’re a part of the greater good. If you start an email chain, for example, don’t just include the “in-person” employees.  Make sure that everyone who needs to know is involved, regardless of location.

Don’t hold those weekly meetings on-site and then send remote workers a summary after the fact. Embrace the benefits of teleconferencing and allow them to dial-in live and in person. If you’re hosting a company get-together or are taking employees out for a well-deserved meal, make sure that you extend the invitation to those outside the office. This is especially important if they work from home (or elsewhere) 100% of the time. These are small moves, but they’re also meaningful ones that help remind people that wherever they are, they are equally valued in your eyes.

Encouragement and Communication

Another critical step to take to integrate your remote workforce better involves slightly adjusting the way your in-person teams communicate. Make it a priority to embrace instant messaging or collaboration platforms like Slack to keep team members connected together. Not only will this make in-person employees feel a bit like they’re a part of the “remote” world, but the reverse will also be true. Your remote workers will feel more connected to your office as well.

Always remember the one factor that matters the most: encouragement. If someone does a terrific job or blows your expectations away, acknowledge them on the most prominent stage even if they work remotely. Just because someone isn’t regularly in the office or the other employees don’t see them every day doesn’t mean that they don’t deserve their fair share of recognition. Any move that you would make to reward an in-person employee should be extended to your remote workforce. Not only will this help make them feel like they’re equal contributors, but it will also go a long way towards bringing your teams together to form the cohesive whole that you need them to be.

Co-Branding Marketing Partnerships

Market_Image_335.jpgAN ESSENTIAL MARKETING TOOL FOR BUSINESSES WHO WANT TO REMAIN COMPETITIVE

Building smart relationships have always made good business sense, and now it’s more important than ever, and the opportunities are everywhere (if you look for and manage them correctly).

Using the power of co-branded marketing partnerships to gain exposure and utilize new distribution channels is not only smart, but it’s also an essential marketing tool for businesses who want to remain competitive and stand apart from their competition.

A unique example of a co-branding partnership is Uber and Spotify. Music-streaming app Spotify partnered with ride-hailing app Uber to create “soundtrack for your ride.” Uber and Spotify offer very different products. However, they share a very similar goal: to gain more users.

Here are a few tips to consider for selecting an ideal partnership:

  • Put yourself in your customers’ shoes and choose a partner that will excite your audience and give you a competitive edge over your competition.
  • Create a partnership that is mutually beneficial for both parties, ensuring you both fill gaps and needs for the other’s business.
  • Establish common goals and detailed terms of who is doing what to benefit both organizations mutually. Define the tasks you will perform and have your partner do the same. From this, you can each be accountable to yourselves, to each other, and to the business.
  • Identify and utilize the strengths of each partner. Bringing out and using the strengths of the individuals within the partnership will add to the motivation, the energy, and the odds of long-term success.

If you’d like ideas on how to promote a co-branded marketing partnership, give us a call today at 856.429.0715. Our team of experts would love to help.

Send Me All the Shoes You’ve Got!

ThinkstockPhotos-513384421.jpgA growing shoe company sought to stretch their global influence, sending their first salesman to Asia to set up shop. After several days, he sent this dire message: “Bring me back immediately, you’ve made a terrible mistake. People in this village never wear shoes.” Months later, an enthusiastic associate asked for the opportunity to lead an international sales effort, offering to move anywhere. He packed his things and moved to the Asian outpost. After no immediate feedback, the boss began to wonder if they’d made another costly mistake. Soon, an overseas message rang through with joy: “Send me all the shoes you’ve got. I’ve never seen so many prospects!”

They say delayed hope can make the heart sick, but a dream fulfilled is a tree of life. Wouldn’t you like to experience more of the latter? New dreams can enliven enthusiasm and bring fresh joy for the days to come. But often the drudgery of life keeps our backs bent and our steps heavy. We are slaves to the checklist, struggling to lift our eyes above the tyranny of the urgent to see strategic breaks that might be right before us. Do you notice opportunities that others don’t? Do you have a vision for something that is bigger than the status quo? Would you like to?

Opportunity Isn’t Knocking; It’s Passing

Often opportunity isn’t knocking; it is passing. Many days opportunity doesn’t come looking for us; instead, we need to aggressively seek new ideas and perspectives, banging on the door until we finally crash through. Creativity may come in bursts, but often it is something that happens through our ironclad commitment to grow and evolve. How can you grow in resourcefulness or notice opportunities you are currently overlooking?

Team perspective can motivate enormous momentum. Surround yourself with good people, especially those with gifts and experience different than yours. What may seem daunting to you may be an exhilarating challenge for others! If you work alone, consider contracting a consultant to grow your skill set. Or network with a private coach for problem-solving, brainstorming, and peer advising. Often when you are pigeon-holed in one industry, it is harder to see broad-level solutions.

Extreme Differentiation Turns Obstacles into Opportunity

In stretching perspective, don’t just think outside the box, think contrary to the box itself. This strategy, called extreme differentiation, helps you uncover opportunities hiding in plain sight as you note the current gaps in your industry and brainstorm options that are dramatically different than your competitors.  Extreme differentiation pushes you to address problems that your competitors aren’t even considering.

Commit yourself to being someone who tries to see potential in every person and every situation. When it seems you have reached a dead end, take a hope-filled breath and view it as an opportunity to build something better. Richard Branson, the founder of the Virgin Group, gave this example:

Thomas Edison knew a thing or two about turning an obstacle into an opportunity. When he was in his late sixties, his huge West Orange New Jersey laboratory burnt to the ground. Rather than cursing his luck and panicking, he gathered family and friends to marvel at the fire and immediately began planning for the future. Edison started plans for a much-improved lab, seeing the potential for improvement the disaster had presented. He said: “You can always make capital out of disaster. We’ve just cleared out a bunch of old rubbish! We’ll build bigger and better on these ruins.”

Find the good in whatever situation you’re presented with and you’ll be on your way to finding those hidden opportunities.

The Answer is in Your Hands

kirkI heard an interesting story about an old man. According to legend, he could answer any question asked of him correctly. Two young boys heard of his wisdom and thought they could fool him, so they caught a small bird and went to his home. One of the boys held his hands out covering the tiny bird and asked the old man if the bird was dead or alive.

Without hesitation, the old man replied, “Son, if I were to say that the bird is alive, you would close your hands and crush the bird to death. If I were to say the bird is dead, you would open your hands, and it would fly away. You see, you hold the answer in your own hands.”

Here’s the way I see it: Your hands are capable of whatever goal you are looking to achieve. However, the trick is learning to use them to your advantage. If you have an important print project coming up, we’d love to help so that you can focus on more important things.

Don’t Throw in the Towel Down but Not Out

GettyImages-694845400.jpgThey say that the difference between baseball and life is perseverance. No matter how hard you swing in the batter’s box, three strikes always mean you’re out. But in the game of life, strikeouts are only assigned to those who stop trying.

Feel like throwing in the towel today? We all do sometimes. But consider the words of Thomas Edison, who made more than a thousand attempts before finding the right materials to create the incandescent light bulb:

“Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.”

Or find hope in the words of journalist David Brinkley:

“A successful man is one who can lay a firm foundation with bricks others have thrown at him.”

The Irrevocable Power of Attitude

While circumstances are often beyond our control, we all have irrevocable power over one crucial area: our attitude. Austrian neurologist and Victor Frankl considered himself living proof. His best-selling book, “Man’s Search for Meaning” (or: Nevertheless, Say “Yes” to Life: A Psychologist Experiences the Concentration Camp) chronicled his experiences as a Holocaust survivor, discovering that a fundamental human reality means finding hope in all forms of existence. Even the most brutal. Frankl said this:

“The last of our human freedoms is to choose our attitude in any given circumstances.”

Surviving or Thriving?

How do you move beyond mere survival? Whether it’s stress at home or disappointment at work, how can you equip yourself with a persevering attitude?

Angela Duckworth (professor of psychology at the University of Pennsylvania) was teaching math when she noticed something intriguing: The most successful students weren’t always the ones who displayed a natural aptitude but those who possessed an overcoming (or “gritty”) spirit. That grit – a combination of passion and perseverance targeting a particular goal – helped Duckworth develop a “grit scale” tool to predict outcomes . . .  like, who would win the National Spelling Bee or who might graduate from West Point. Duckworth found a “gritty” attitude beat the pants off things like your I.Q., SAT scores, or even physical fitness in determining whether individuals might succeed!

Here are a few tips from Duckworth on awakening passion when your willpower is dying:

  1. Discover and deepen your interests. If you feel like quitting, re-examine what really energizes or inspires you. Perhaps a depressed spirit can prompt you to consider a necessary life change.
  2. Commit yourself to a positive attitude. Duckworth says the difference between quitters and overcomers was largely how they processed frustration, disappointment, or boredom. While “quitters” took negative emotional cues as an opportunity to cut and run, gritty people believed that struggle was a chance for growth, not a signal for alarm.
  3. Look forward not backward (especially in the face of failure!). Resilience is the ability of people, communities, or systems to maintain their core purpose, even in the midst of unforeseen shocks or failures. Futurist Andrew Zolli, author of Resilience, Why Things Bounce Back, says grit is the combination of optimism, creativity, and confidence that one can find meaningful purpose while influencing surroundings, outcomes, and individual growth in the process. In other words – even failing doesn’t bring failure! No matter what you face, you can take heart that even setbacks bring progress and that even suffering has meaning.

Of course, the final factor in persevering power is the support of a strong community. That’s why we take pride in a thriving local business economy and we take pleasure in shaking your hand. Let’s continue to grow in grit as we run the race together this year!