Easy to follow steps for writing your business identity

Vision

The vision statement is a declaration of your organization’s objectives. By stating the business long-term goal, the company is intended to guide the decision-making process.

For instance, Facebook vision is to bring people together. Through a platform that can be accessed from all over the world, Facebook gives anyone the opportunity to connect with people no matter where they are.

Mission Statement

The mission statement summarizes an organization purpose; how a business delivers its vision through products and services.

For instance, Facebook provides a free platform where users can share their news and thoughts, catch-up with friends, follow their favorite brands, and join groups based on their passions & interests.

Core values

Write 3 words that best describe your core values and diversify your brand from your main competitors.

Facebook Example:

Be bold – Move Fast – Focus on Impact

Core Keywords

Write 3 words on what your business should be focusing on to connect with your target customers.

Facebook Example:

Social – Inventive – Problem-solver

Identify areas on which you want to focus on to deliver business results. For instance, consider each business product/category or customer persona as your focus area.

Facebook as an example:

Focus Area:
Friends
Focus Area:
Professional
Focus Area:
Families
Focus Area:
Groups
Focus Area:
Businesses
Focus Area:
Charities

How to optimize your lead-gen with a lead scoring system – Using Pardot

As marketers or salespeople, we are very much focused on identifying leads, that is potential buyers who showed some level of interest in purchasing our products or services.

But how can we make sure these leads have a business value? One method is to set up a scoring system to differentiate between the good, the bad and the ugly.

  1. Assign points (0-up to X)

Lead scoring is a methodology used to rank prospects against a scale that represents the perceived value each lead represents to the organization.

Here at Expedeon, as the marketing team, we assign to each lead a score that ranges between 0 and 80 points. According to this measuring system, at 80 points a user gets assigned to one of our sales representatives that follows up with an introductory phone call. It’s now the responsibility of the sales team to convert a marketing qualified lead (MQL) into a sale qualified lead (SQL).

The secret of a high ratio SQL/MQL lays in an effective scoring system that identifies the stage at which a website visitor becomes a potential customer. If the MQL value is too low, the user might not be at a buying stage yet, if too high it could damage the chances of closing a sale (aka…losing to a competitor).

The numeric value is meaningless, what counts is defining a threshold score above which, the user is at a buying stage.

The scoring system currently in place assigns:

  • 50 points to a guide download
  • 1 point to a page visit
  • 3 points to an email click
  • 1 point to an email open
  • 5 points to a custom services page
  • 80 points to a direct contact or a brochure download – (the users becomes automatically a marketing qualified lead)

My recommendation would be to start from a high number (such as 100) while readjusting the value of each action to better represent their economic value. Don’t be afraid to lower the scoring threshold to test if marketing qualified leads (MQLs) could be converted into sales qualified leads (SQLs) in a shorter time frame. Finally, keep track of your changes by requesting a constant feedback from the sales team regarding the leads’ quality.

Another key aspect to consider is online behavior. Do purchasers perform specific online activities before converting? For instance, downloading a guide, watching a video or requesting more information? If that was the case, any page that helps conversion should also be reflected in the page scoring system.

How do you do this?

Google Analytics assigns a higher score to pages that contribute to conversion. These pages could reflect a higher score in Pardot. For instance, if a page gets scored 1 point/visit, pages with a higher score could get an additional +2 or +3 points.

  1. Grading (letters)

Depending on job title, business size, or even social media followers, a lead might have a higher or lower business value. For instance, a lead could have a higher ROI due to a tendency of customers with specific characteristics to make larger orders or become loyal customers.

By looking at the lead’s characteristics what distinguishes a recurrent buyer from an occasional visitor? Is geographical location, job position or age group?

Once you have found what defines your best customers, you can assign a higher grade to prospects who present such characteristics. Grades vary from A (great) to F (poor).

A combination of high scoring and grading should identify your priority leads.

But how can you find common features among your best purchasers?

An easy way to determine purchasers’ features is to generate a segment in Google Analytics to isolate all visitors that performed an online transaction.

How to create a segment:

  1. On top of a page view, click Add Segment
  2. Click on New Segment
  3. Click on Conditions (Under Advanced)
  4. Select Page from the first drop-down menu
  5. Select Contains from the second drop-down menu
  6. In the text-box select your check-out page (example, /checkout)
  7. Name your new segment (example, Purchasers)
  8. Click Save

Now, Purchasers can be identified by geography, interests, age, and gender.

Users having a more likely chance to purchase will then be marked with a higher score, while leads coming from a specific geographic and/or demographic with a low purchasing history will be marked with a lower score. The sales team will either not follow up or move them down the priority list.

  • Geographic attributes

To determine if the most profitable buyers come from a specific area, apply the Purchasers Segment in the Location View (Audience > Geography > Location). For instance, if most of the purchases come from the United States, by clicking on the US map it is possible to determine which states are the most profitable, and by clicking on the State itself, to visualize from which cities the orders came from.

In addition to scoring these leads higher in Pardot, it’s also good practice to incorporate additional digital strategies, including PPC and remarketing.

If the most profitable companies are located in a specific state or region:

  1. Generate paid campaigns that are specifically targeting those locations
  2. Generate an Audience in Google Analytics and use it for retargeting

How to create an Audience:

  1. Go to Admin
  2. In property open Audience Definition
  3. Select Audiences
  4. Select New Audience
  5. Import Segment
  6. Select your new segment (example, Purchasers)
  7. Select both Google Analytics and AdWords as display platforms
  8. Name your new Audience (example, Purchasers Audience)
  9. Click Save

Now, you can target those users by showing them related-products:

  1. Add the New Audience to a search campaign (use +Audience)
  2. Generate a Remarketing Display Campaign to target that specific Audience

Re-targeting is a great strategy for cross-selling and up-selling.

  • Job position

Information regarding job roles is far trickier to establish in Google Analytics, especially for science-related interests. The best way of figuring out the job role of prospects is to include a (mandatory) job field when a user fills in a form to access free content.

Currently, we have set up Pardot Forms on Progressive. That means that if a user has already downloaded a guide, on their next download they’ll be asked for additional information, such as their job role.

Pardot - Job position field

The more complete a data profile is, the easier it will be to send highly tailored information. For instance, academics, a far more budget-conscious type of customer, will be targeted with offers and discounts, while large corporations will receive updates regarding manufacturing and custom services options.

  • Age & Gender groups

To determine if the most profitable buyers have an age or gender bias, apply the Purchasers Segment in the Demographics View (Audience > Demographics > Overview). If the most profitable customers come from a specific age group or have a gender bias, you can assign a higher score. For instance, by looking at Purchasers > Age, I found that most profitable users are between 35-45 years of age.

As we do not ask for any personal data such as age and gender, we only use this information to tailor our PPC strategy: we exclude students (below the age of 25) and retired individuals (above the age of 65), while we bid (20%) more on the age group that – based on our data – is most likely to purchase (25-35 years of age).

 

Based on all the above attributes, users will receive a final grade that is the mean of all their scores. For instance, if a user has an A for geographical location, B for job title, and C for age/gender, their final grade will be a B.

  1. Lead source and offer

A very popular way to attract new leads is to promote offers and discounts. Did customers start purchasing after seeing one of your offers? Did they become first-time buyers after taking advantage of promotional codes? When a promotional campaign ends:

  • Report the percentage of new time buyers
  • Report the most successful marketing channels
  1. Budget, Authority, Need, and Timeline (BANT)

As the marketing team, we do not rely on BANT to qualify leads whether a prospect is a good fit based on their budget, internal influence, need to purchase and timeline. However, large quote inquiries and bulk orders (B) are prioritized and so are urgent purchasing requests (NT). In all these instances, a same-day contact follows (depending on the time-zone).

Otherwise, it’s the sales team rep in charge of assessing the sale potential of MQLs on the basis of the BANT methodology. If however, an MQL fails to become an SQL, the lead comes back to the marketing team for additional nurturing, through the Engagement Studio.

5. Segment customers based on their purchasing activity – the RFM model

Finally, customers are scored based on the recency and frequency of their purchases. According to this model, if they bought recently, they would get higher points. The same if they bought many times, or if they spent bigger amounts. These three parameters combined, create the Recency – Frequency – Monetary RFM score. This is a comprehensive table from Pluter.

Plunter - RFM Model

Once you have divided your customers into these groups, you can follow them up with tailored emails. If you don’t have enough manpower to follow up on each segment, focus on your best customers, those with the highest recency, frequency, and monetary score.

But how do you calculate RFM?

First identify Recency (days), Frequency (times), and Monetary Value (CLV) for each customer. Then assign a score from one to five to recency, frequency, and monetary values individually for each customer. For instance, the highest-value customers will have an RFM = 555, and the lowest-value customers an RFM=111.

A common calculation is to assign 5 to people that purchased in the last 24 hours, 4 in the last 3 days, 3 within the current month, 2 for last six months and 1 for everyone else. However, scores should be established based on the business you operate (for instance, for small businesses a purchase of $2K might identify a Champion client). Plus, such ranges should be constantly revised, especially when the business grows.

Once each customer has their RFM calculated, they are assigned to their corresponding customer segment.

Turn your email marketing into a success with these simple tips!

Email is a communication channel between you and your customers, either current or prospective.

But…how can you make sure that your email won’t end up in the virtual bin of your subscribers? A simple solution is not to use an email campaign as virtual sale-person. Instead, you should use emails to announce the launch of new products, move customers along the purchasing funnel and inform customers of important transitional messages. However, to avoid becoming a serial spammer the best long term solution is to begin by focusing on one specific strategy first and only after establishing a solid email marketing plan, you can start expanding the role that an email campaign plays in your business.

Email marketing is the foundation of business

Email marketing has become a more and more powerful tool since the average rate of social media reach has being decreasing progressively; for instance, Facebook organic reach represents for a brand only the 2.60% of its entire business, while Twitter click-through-rate is as little as a 0.50%. As organic reach decreases on social media, brand start investing even more in paid advertisement, as suggested by a 40% increase in the AdWords cost.

Market reach social media vs email marketing
Market Reach of social media vs Email marketing (2016)

All these evidence lead to a marketing conundrum: as organic reach decreases, logic dictates that a well established marketeer focuses more efforts (and money) on PPC (pay-per-click) campaigns. However, when everybody starts implementing such strategy the Cost-Per-Click (CPC) raises and the return-on-investment (ROI) decreases.

In this bleak scenario, email marketing comes to the rescue: it is cost effective and with a CTR of 3% it beats both Twitter lame CTR and Facebook constantly decreasing organic reach .

Take advantage of ESP (enterprise server platform)

ESP are online platforms that manage email marketing for you in automated, easy to implement and stress free manner. The most famous one is MailChimp that offers a free basic account: up to 200 subscribers and 12,000 emails sent/month.However, as many ESP are currently available offering a variety of prices and services it might be difficult to find the one that best suits your business needs. In addition to MailChimp, other options are CampaignMonitor, Customer.io and MailGun.

After becoming familiar with a free ESP, you might have a better idea if it is still a valid choice for your business or if it is worth investigating further and opt for a paid plan that includes features essential for your business (support team, automated messaging, testing etc…).

Opt for a SMTP-AS-A-SERVICE

While the ESPs are using their own server, the SMTP-as-a-service allow subscribers to sent emails directly from your own server. In addition to email notifications to your list of subscribers, SMTP-as-a-service can also send confirmation messages and daily activity summaries. You might consider SendGrid, SMTP2GO, SendPulse.

Define your email goal

1. Sales and Promotions

Email marketing: Example of Sales and Promotions
Email marketing:  Sales and Promotions

Emails that include a discount or promote a new product are defined sales and promotion emails as they prompt subscribers to purchase. These emails could be used to:

When creating an email campaign to drive sales through promotions:

  • Add an expiration date to create urgency
  • Offer specific advantages based on your audience (discount, free delivery etc…)
    • A good rule of thumb is: for less than a value of $100, offer a percentage discount, for higher amounts offer an absolute amount (for instance, $20 instead of 10%).
    • Offer two different deals to purchasers vs non-purchasers

2. Newsletters

Newsletter as email marketing strategy
Email Marketing: Newsletters

Newsletters are the most popular among the emails a company sends out on a general basis. Newsletters can include blog articles, updates on the users’ activities, alerts and so on.

Newsletters are generally sent on a monthly basis even if many companies send a weekly or a quarterly newsletter to their subscribers.

Newsletters could also include “Best Reviewed Products“, “Seasonal sales” and everything that could be relevant to your subscribers.

There are several advantages of including newsletters on a marketing campaign: they look less like advertisement, they are cheap and therefore even small businesses could run them and finally let users know more about the company they buy from.

3. Announcements

Announcement emails are generally sent out when a new product is launched, a key event is coming up or new partnerships are established. Announcements can include:

Email Marketing: Announcement Example
Email Marketing: Announcement
  1. Launch of new products
  2. Mobile and website upgrades
  3. Prizes awarded to the company
  4. Coming up events such as big sales or conferences

Announcement emails are very useful to show customers that a brand is thriving in the market and it keeps its focus on delivering better products and a better service. They also contribute to make the subscriber being part of the event.

4. Email Notification

Email Welcoming
Email Marketing: Email Notification

Email Notification such as a welcoming email is a must as it achieves multiple results: it confirms the subscription to the new member, it shows that the company values the new user by welcoming them and finally, as the subscriber is in the right mind set to know more about the company, these emails could help conversions. In addition, these emails are useful when:

  1. A subscriber has not been visiting your site for some time (The “we miss you” email).
  2. A subscriber has not committed to a purchase yet (The “coupon” email).
  3. A subscriber has not committed to a paying plan yet (The “subscription advantages” email).
  4. A subscriber’s plan has expired (The “renew your plan” email).

5. Onboarding

Email Marketing: Onboarding Example
Email Marketing: Onboarding

This strategy is often described as a drip series designed to help a customer to know and understand the many features and advantages of your products or services. Generally they are sent over a period of 2 months, once or twice a week.

  1. Use them when people sign up to a trial or to a specific plan.
  2. Add explanatory videos.
  3. Include examples, success stories to create a sense of trust.
  4. Add links to additional services/products that might be of help.
  5. Add a free gift.
  6. Review the drip-strattegy every 6 months.

6. Surveys

Email Marketing: Survey Example
Email Marketing: Survey

Surveys are ideal to know your customer better and re-direct your marketing campaign based on these results. Survey questions could include:

  1. What content do they look for?
  2. Which features/services/products would they value the most?

To increase the number of responses, you can offer a discount, a gift, a voucher. Do not make the survey longer than 3 min. unless you are offering a very good deal in return. In addition, do not run surveys more often than every 4-5 months as your subscribers might get annoyed.

Plan your new strategy based on your previous survey result and run the next one based on your new collected information.

7. Cart Abandonment

Email Marketing: Cart Abandonment Example
Email Marketing: Cart Abandonment

Cart Abandonment is quite a frequent practice among online buyers; indeed, 68% of purchases are abandoned. In order to encourage buyers to complete their purchase, you might set up email alerts.

But…Why do people abandon the cart when they have started adding products? Reasons could include:

  • They might get distracted by work or family issues.
  • They need to determine the final cost and/or compare it to other sites.
  • They are not completely sure and need to think it over.

But…How can you identify visitors and then their email address? Here’s how:

  1. Add a unique URL parameter to every link in the email you are sending out.
  2. When a user clicks on the unique parameter, they can be logged in.
  3. In addition:
    1. Offer a discount or take advantage of the discount ladder
    2. Include other related-popular items
    3. Leverage the scarcity principle (“24h only!“)

8. Purchase Confirmation Emails

Email Marketing: Purchase Confirmation Example
Email Marketing: Purchase Confirmation

As a purchase is the goal for which every e-commerce site exists online, the email confirmation helps to diffuse the anxiety due to submitting credit card details (above all among older generations). This practice helps to confirm to the purchaser that everything worked: the bought items are correct, the final price is not different from the one expected and the purchase will be delivered in the correct time frame at the right address. In addition:

  • Add a tracking link to let customers know the status of the delivery each step of the way.
  • Add a support number of email contact so that customers can discuss their issues/concerns.
  • Follow up with an email confirmation to let people know their package is on the way.
  • Conclude with the package has been dispatched and add “how to return your purchase” details.

9. Replenishment Series and Back in Stock Emails

Email Marketing: Replenishment Email Example
Email Marketing: Replenishment Email

If you are running an e-commerce business where people are buying items that needs to be replenished such as household products, food, pet food, even skincare and personal hygiene products. Sending people that have purchased a product that need replenishment a notification email that they products are running out is a great way to show customer care, encourage future purchases and create customer loyalty.

You can even add new lines of products that might be if interest and special discounts or offers.

A similar email is a Back in Stock email to let people know that items that they were interested in (“Wish List Items“) are finally available again. A wish list option is a great tool to track customers’ interests and leverage those items for future email campaigns.

10. Price Alerts

Deal emails are the most popular among businesses and customers as examples of extremely targeted promotional emails. These emails are particularly popular among travel sites and airplane companies.

11. Sales and Wish List Sales Emails

Sales emails with an added sense of urgency are great tools to drive customers to purchase. Showing that items that they have added to the wish list are actually on sales, pushes to close the deal, in particular if the stock is getting low pretty soon.

Write your first email

After learning the various types of emails you could be sending out to your subscribers, it is finally time to draft your first email. Let’s assume that your first email is about the release of a new product. Here the steps you need to follow:

  1. Download a (free) template. For a complete list of sites refer to EmailOnAcid.
  2. Modify color, style and images to match your brand.
  3. Add text and draft the first email.
  4. Edit, edit, edit!
  5. Ask for help from your colleagues and supervision from your managers.
  6. Send email either via ESP or your SMTP-as-a-service
  7. Hit send!

A little tip. Take advantage of the A/B split testing: 10% of your subscribers receive email A, another 10% receive email type B. The most successful email (the one that converts!) is then sent to the remaining 80%. Do not forget to consider your market segments when creating email campaigns. It would be counter-productive to send a newsletter about luxury cars to subscribers that look for cheap deals.

Start an email campaign

After choosing your email service and writing your first email, it is time to decide how to set up your email campaign. Here are few suggestions:

  1. Start emailing your subscribers every two weeks.
  2. After setting up this frequency, become more aggressive and email every week.
  3. Do not focus on number of unsubscribers or email open rate BUT to conversion rate.
  4. Consider how much revenue you want to drive by email. After reaching that value, you can switch to another strategy.

Follow up your campaign by testing features like:

  1. Headline style and text
  2. Time of day/week when the email is sent
  3. Clickable images with a clear CTA (click-to-action)
  4. Use colored links to make them pop up and drive attention.
  5. To understand conversions use analytics tools such as Looker or Chartio.
E-commerce vs Entrepreneurial Email Types
E-commerce vs Entrepreneurial Email Types

Segment your email list

Market SegmentationsThe best marketing campaigns divide their list into categories based on gender, psychography, geography and behavior.

If you are running an e-commerce website that sells a variety of luxury clothing, you end up having customers interested in different products and/or brands, based on their age, profession, interests: for instance, a fashionista would be more interested in the latest trends while a high-profile professional in tailored clothing. Understanding your market segments allow every marketing campaign to be more target specific and therefore drive more sales (in short, have a higher ROI).

Calculate the impact of your campaign

The final goal of your email marketing campaign is to drive sales. However, it might be difficult to establish exactly the impact of your campaign as so many factors are at play. A solution is to have a control group -generally between 2 and 5% of your users – that do not receive the email campaigns. If the email campaign is successful, there will be an increase of people converting compared to those that did not receive the email (control group).

Email Marketing Metrics (KPIs)
  1. Open rate and click-through rate:
    1. How many subscribers open the email?
    2. How many subscribers click on the appropriate link?
  2. Unsubscribe and spam rate:
    1. Allow people to unsubscribe to specific campaigns to reduce the number of people that completely abandon your email campaign
    2. Keep an eye on the amount of people that report your email campaign as spam.
  3. Bounce Rate:
    1. Number of subscribers that click on the link but do not convert.
    2. Number of people that abandon the funnel before converting.

Email Marketing dirty little secrets

Re-send the same email

Coming up with new ideas and better deals might be frustrating, time consuming and frankly reduce your ROI. This is particularly true when a big percentage of your subscribers do not even open your emails. A quick solution is to simply resend the same email to those people that did not open your email.

Market more aggressively

A way to market aggressively without looking like a spammer is to let people drop out easily if they are not interested:

  1. You let people unsubscribe with the first email
  2. You send a total of X emails to people who do not opt out
  3. You are now allowed to be more aggressive!
Time your emails

The rate of which people open emails can vary drastically with the time the email has been sent. In addition, things can become even more complicated as people in different professions and age range tend to open emails at distinct times. Two possible solutions:

  1. Use an A/B testing:
    1. Send email A at time X and email B at time Y, each at 10% of your subscribers
    2. Whichever works best, send it to the remaining 80%
  2. Take advantage of a ESP plan that allows to send emails at different times based on your market segmentation.
Do not forget your mobile users

As at least 50% of users check emails from mobile devices, it is important to deliver emails that are optimized on mobile devices. In addition, even the landing pages must be mobile optimized as people will struggle to convert if the pages are difficult to browse. A great tool to consider is Litmus as it allows to make sure that email look good on most clients’ devices.

Conclusion

In conclusion, email marketing is a very effective way to drive sales as it offers several advantages:

  1. It can be tailored to suit each and every market segments.
  2. It can be automated and the results tracked
  3. It is extremely flexible
  4. It is cost effective
A last Note: Keep your email list clean.
  1. Do not send too many emails and/or low quality/pointless emails.
  2. Do not buy email lists.
  3. Keep track of your bounce rate. If an email bounces, erase that contact.
  4. Keep an eye on spam traps.

Discover how to improve your business strategy in 3 easy steps

A business strategy is the means by which it sets out to achieve its desired ends (objectives). It can also be defined as long-term business planning that generally covers a period of about 3-5 years.

1. Identify Goals

Before you can start planning, you need to identify what your final objectives are. Establishing business goals involves devoting a fair amount of time to identify your business strengths, weaknesses and all the factors that differentiate your business from your competitors. You might ask yourself questions such as:

  • What the business mission and vision are
  • What the company is best at
  • What type of customers would be interested in your product/service

After answering few questions regarding your business and your potential customer’s identity, you can identify priorities in order to set up goals and objectives, such as:

  • Connect your business with the right crowd (potential customers)
  • Strengthen what separates your business from your competitors (USP)
  • Eliminate obstacles and hurdles that could prevent the business from being successful (keep cash flowing in, optimize the staff time etc…)
  • Focus on business growth, customers’ perceived values

Long Term Goals

Long Term Goals should cover a period of 5 years and should include revenue, customer service, social outreach and even employee development.

  • Revenue
    1. to achieve sale quota expressed in monetary or volume terms
    2. to increase customer retention
    3. to sign up with new channel partners
    4. to launch new services or products
  • Customer Service
    1. Strengthen your customer service skills (communication, empathy, work ethic)
    2. Consider every touch-points (before-during-after purchase)
    3. Engage more (find out about your customers’ interests and problems)
    4. Better your services (solve problems promptly, answer FAQs, create communities)
    5. Make your employees engaged in their role
    6. Allow customers to provide feedback
  • Social Outreach
    1. Increase number of likes and followers
    2. Increase number of leads and conversions
    3. Open company pages on additional social media sites
  • Employee Development
    1. Employ professionals in support of the existing team
    2. Develop the leadership abilities and potential with courses and training
    3. Align incentives and staff rewards with performance
    4.  Constantly encourage and support a culture of best practices

Short Term Goals

Short term goals should be a reflections of long term goals. For instance, to support long term goals, short term goals could be:

  • Revenue
    1. Increase sales quota by growing the business and/or improving financial efficiency
    2. Increasing customer retention by promoting offers, new products, discounts to existing customers
    3. Find channel partners and pitch them. Choose few that could offer different types of advantages: sell your product (distributors), collaborate with you (partnerships) or even allow you to sell their product in combination with yours
    4. Set-up a launch strategy
  • Customer service
    1. Train your team to get better in their job (for instance, how to tailor customer service)
    2. Brainstorm with your customer service team to get insights into customers’ feedback
    3. Create new channels for people to give feedback (phone, email, chat, online)
    4. Develop new channels to give customers a prompt reply (helplines, social media, website chats)
    5. Create a balance between work and free time for your employees
    6. Ensure that there is a way for customers to voice their feedback (online, via text message, on the phone, via mail)
  • Social outreach
    1. Create content that people like to read and share
    2. Investigate using Google Analytics if people find obstacles in converting (like a poorly designed page)
    3. Consider new unexplored channels for customer engagement
  • Employee Development
    1. Brain-storm with your team to find out about existing needs
    2. Consider what type of training your team needs to perform better
    3. Set-up a rewarding scheme based on performance such as gifts, bonuses and salary raises
    4. Train your team to learn management skills, anti-bullying practices etc…

Be SMART!

No matter what type of goal you are setting up, they need to be SMART, that means that each goal needs to have a structure, been traceable and clear objectives.By setting SMART goals, people can track directions, set milestones and estimate goal’s attainability. Once the goal has been determined, a SMART checklist is a practicable method to evaluate objectives: It clarifies the way goals are achieved and the criteria their realization will conform to.

Goal setting
The 4 features of a goal
  1. Specific: Define what you want to achieve, the more specific your description, the bigger the chance you’ll get exactly that. How to set specific goals:
    • The final goal you want to achieve
    • The location and the time of the goal
    • The methods implemented to achieve this goal
    • The partners needed to achieve it
    • Eventual obstacles and limitations
  2. Measurable: Define the physical manifestations of your goal or objective makes it clearer, and easier to reach. It means breaking your goal down into measurable elements.
  3. Attainable: You weigh the effort, time and other costs your goal will take against the profits and the other obligations and priorities you have in life.
  4. Relevant: Define the reasons why the goal matters. Does the objective help to reach the goal?
  5. Time Bound: Keep the timeline realistic and flexible. Being too stringent on the timely aspect of your goal setting can have the perverse effect of making the learning path of achieving your goals and objectives into a hellish race against time – which is most likely not how you want to achieve anything.

2. Develop a Strategy

A strategy will help to increase the value of your business. Understanding the business is the first step in order to make those decisions that help the business become more valuable.Based on the long and short term goals, here are few ideas to help you create a better business plan.

Revenue

  • Effort Costs:
    • Rate the average difficulty of performing a task (from new members to experienced staff) to deliver each service.
    • Rate the skills/experiences needed to complete each service (from basic to complex).
    • Rate the average time that each service requires to be completed.
    • Consider if the task can be automated. It increases the profit margin as it takes less time to deliver it.
Effort cost rating
How to calculate Effort Cost of your business
  • Business Volume:
    • Investigate if your sales follow a specific pathway.
    • Investigate if these sales are limited to specific service.
    • Identify the services that have:
      • The highest margins.
      • A growth positive trend in volume and margin.
      • Services that can be automated (from previous analysis)
How to rate your business services
How to calculate the best services for your business
  • Cash Flow:
    • Make a list of all the unavoidable expenses.
    • Make a list of discretionary expenses.
    • Make a list of your permanent staff salary.

Customer Service

  • Categorize your Customers:
    • Identify who they are.
    • Divide your customers into defined levels (Value-Loyalty, for instance).
    • Assign a monetary return to each category.
    • Focus on the customers who are high on both scales.
    • Find ways to bring the customers who are low on both scales on a high scale.
Categorize your customers
Categorize your customers based on their business value
  • Standardize your Services:
    • Identify your services. Provide catalogs and brochures to customers.
    •  Set up standard procedures so that even new staff can perform them.
    • Consider if these services can be repeatable and set at fix costs overtime.
    • Consider who long each service takes to be completed/delivered (labor) and how much it costs to the business (material): based on that evidence your final price should be “Cost” + “40-60% of cost”.
    • Focus on the services with the highest Business Optimization Potential Score:
      • The service price has a high margin.
      • There are detailed procedures in place.
      • These services can be easily automated.
      • The service is considered good value by customers.
Service Key Features
Business Optimization Potential Score

Social Outreach

  • Customer Outreach:
    • Investigate if you are marketing the right crowd.
    • Investigate if you are marketing your best products/services.
    • Investigate if you have the skills/budget to target the right audience.
    • Investigate from which channels your best customers come from.
    • Investigate how much revenue comes from each channel.

Employee Development

  • Allocation of tasks:
    • Rate each task in terms of complexity.
    • Rate each task in terms of time.
    • Rate each tasks in terms of skill sets.
    • Based on the results consider if:
      • Each task is performed by the most appropriate team member.
      • Some tasks can be outsourced.
      • Some tasks require more experienced individuals.
      • Some tasks can be performed by younger members.
      • Your services prices and margins need to be reviewed.
  • Outsourcing:
    • Consider outsourcing options and if they will save time, efforts and costs.
    • Consider if the staff will be release of minor time-consuming tasks.
    • Consider even virtual outsourcing options.

3. Conclusion and Future Plan

Conclusion

Based on the previous analysis, the final price of a single service/item should be based on the initial cost plus the average cost of the time spent by the staff delivering it. In order to make a profit, the Revenue should be the minimum amount a service/product should be charged after taking into consideration its total cost. In order to make the process more efficient, consider if:

  • Your services can be charged more due to their constant demand
  • The delivery process has become automated and therefore open for a cost reduction

This means that first-time assessed services might have become more or less profitable after this further analysis. Therefore, services that show an increase of sale volume (due to the constant demand) and sale margin (because they can be automated), are now those services your business should focus on. Consider if certain tasks could be outsourced to save you and your staff time and money. In order to make the service delivering system automated and more efficient, consider if you could find new ways to promote Employee Development. In specific, to avoid micro-managing your time, you should dedicate your energy only to those tasks that require your input, while leaving those tasks that could be perform by less experienced members to the junior staff. This could give you multiple advantages:

  • Save yourself time to perform only the required tasks
  • Save money by letting someone on a cheaper salary perform such tasks
  • Give junior staff new opportunities of career advancement

Therefore the Customer Services that will deliver the most consistent revenue, are those that:

  • Deliver the most consistent business flow in the long run (even if they are not the most expensive services or products that your business offers).
  • Can be easily automated and/or outsourced saving time and energy to your staff.
  • Have standard procedures in place making their performance easy even to new staff members.
  • Have been optimized by a Social Outreach:
    • Digital marketing effort provide a constant revenue
    • Social media channels offer a more direct interaction with your customers

Future Plan

Based on the conclusion outlined, it is time to develop a business goal timeline, which identifies the things that the business wants to achieve in a specific time frame. For each goal, you need to write down all the steps that need to be taken and assign at each step a daily/weekly/monthly/yearly time-frame.This plan need to include the business owner and the primary staff members. Start by being more detailed when you assign the tasks to avoid people from drifting away from the set goal. Review your plan on a weekly with your staff members to make sure that everyone is on the same page and on a monthly basis to to plan ahead the objectives of the following month. Finally, review the entire plan every 6-12 months to make sure your plan is still optimized.

How to work smarter, not harder

Work Smarter, Not harder is a dream that every hard working individual wish could become true. It might not be possible to enjoy every day to the fullest (such as finding time to travel, spend time with the family, cultivate hobbies etc…) but at least, it is possible to apply some tweaks to make our daily routine a little more pleasant and productive and finally find the extra time to enjoy all those little things that make us happy. Here are few:

1. Make a Plan

A planned start is the best start. You can start by outlining the tasks you want to perform the evening before by writing down a list of high priority tasks that you want to get done. To start with, make sure to include some extra time for completion and include also some easy, low-priority tasks to avoid feeling overwhelmed or depressed if all the tasks written on your list do not get ticked. On the day try your best to stick to your plan and do not let mess around with your schedule. To avoid stress, do a little preparation the day before, such as making sure that everything you need (documents, notes etc) are ready at hand or by communicating to your boss, colleagues, family members what you will be focusing on the day after.

2. Wake up early for some “me time”

In addition to get your schedule ready the day before, try also to wake up 30 min before your alarm goes off and use this time for yourself. Daily life can make you forget about yourself as it is dedicated to others, from family members to work colleagues. Cutting out some time for yourself is a great boost for your mental balance and happiness. You can use this time to meditate, read your favorite book or do anything that makes you feel better. In order to feel more productive, you could set yourself a task that you want to achieve by using this time, such as learning a new skill.

3. Avoid distractions

Despite all our efforts to be more productive, we often fail to perform all the tasks we planned to focus on, due to continuous distractions, such as colleagues requests, constant noise or simply our wandering mind. In the first instance, avoiding colleagues could be quite tricky, in particular if it is part of our job. However, we could implement some strategies; for instance, you could select a time of the day when you are most likely able to finish off your tasks without interruptions or, more simply, you could kindly ask your boss/colleagues to agree on a specific time of the week/day dedicated to “task-completion”. If you can, change location and find a nice quiet spot. In the second instance, you could isolate yourself from distracting noise with headphones while listening to an “increase-energy” music. To get even more of a positive vibe, surround yourself with a clean, clutter-free desk space. Finally to keep your mind from wandering, prevent yourself from doing “something else”, set yourself a timer for a break during which you could, for instance, read your Facebook board or check emails. You could set a 10 min break every 30-60 min work. Even better, go for a 10 min walk, get yourself some fresh water, exchange few words with a colleague.

4. Set High and Low Priority

After setting your goal, you are more aware of which tasks have higher priority. For instance, if you are running a research project, you are required to read scientific literature, plan and perform experiments, attend meetings and conferences. In order to finish off your project you know that literature reading and experimental planning are high and long term priority, while meetings and conferences are low and short term priority. Therefore, your energy should be focused on the high and long term priorities; however you should also be able to re-arrange them when short term priorities come up. For instance, attending a meeting ensure that people are on the same page, can share ideas, concerns and progresses, while conferences allow you to showcase your work. Therefore, focus your energy on your high priority, long term tasks but be flexible to re-shuffle your schedule when short term priorities come up.

5. Perform similar tasks together

When tasks of similar nature come up, try to perform them in batch. For instance, you could combine all the emails, phone calls or several 5 min meetings into one longer task. You could dedicate 1 hour of your day to send all the emails at once, dedicate a specific time of the day to phone calls or creating one long meeting instead of a series of short ones. You could even organize your tasks based on locations or time of the day. People organize their tasks based on their commute or at low peak times.

6. Know your rhythm and take breaks

According to several studies, the body works in cycles during which we can work effectively. At the end of the cycle our body needs to re-energize by taking a break as this point our focus decreases making our work less productive. In terms of cycles, there are different proposed models, however the rule of thumb is to take 20 min break every hour or a 30 min break every 90 min. Even if you are not allowed to take such long breaks, you can still move away from your task by taking a coffee, or catching up with a colleague. These micro-breaks do you wonders for improving your productivity. First, because your mind and your body need a break and second because quite often the solution of our problems come up as soon as we step away from them.

7. Focus at one thing at the time

Multitasking can be a good idea in certain instances, for instance, when we are dealing with minor tasks where little focus is required. However, most of the times, multitasking can add more stress and diminish the quality of our performance. Therefore, the best approach is to make a list of our daily tasks in a manner that we focus on one task at the time. If one task feels even too much to handle, divide it in sub-tasks.

8. Don’t be afraid to delegate

At times the workload can be just too much to handle. Therefore, delegating in the right way is a good skill to learn. First, you need to select the right person to delegate part of your workload, then you need to show them how to handle your task (for instance, they can follow you while you perform that specific task). After showing them the task, send detailed written instructions of what they are required to do; for instance, you can even add more details about specific steps that are more difficult to perform or require more attention. Finally, agree on a follow up meeting to check the progresses. Remember to state the requirement and the deadline clearly and set them up in a way that each step can later be followed independently.

9. Keep your workflow under control with checklists

To help you maintain your workload a little less stressful you can take advantage of electronic shareable lists. The idea behind these lists is to help you remember every step required to complete a specific task before you can delete it your to-do list. In case you need to perform a task such as filling in a tax return form, you might be required to complete several documents. Therefore, to make sure that every form is correctly handled with, you can write down a “Do-Confirm” list. In addition, you can also write down a “Read-Do” list where you explain in details how each form needs to be completed. In this case the list is a sort of cooking recipe where you indicate “How” the task need to be performed, while in the previous case, you tick each step after completion.

10. Keep an eye on your diet and drink plenty of water

A good healthy diet and plenty of water are great ways to make our body and mind work effectively. If you are not sure on how to start, you can begin by introducing more fruit and vegetables in your daily diet. Give new fruits and vegetables a chance and you will soon discover new flavors. Open up to tropical fruits, smoothies, Asian soups and everything green and fresh you have not yet tried! You can find indulging recipes on Pinterest which are easy to follow. Finally, do not forget to remain hydrated throughout the day to avoid migraines and loss of focus. Keep a bottle next to your desk and take few sips throughout the day.

11. How to process your emails

The best way to process emails is to dedicate a specific time-set throughout the day, usually of 30 min.; for instance, you could dedicate 30 min to email processing one time in the morning and one in the afternoon. First, delete all the unnecessary messages and/or archive newsletters and all those emails that are not needed to be deal with immediately. Reply to messages that take short time to respond, however, if they require longer replies you can opt for a phone call instead (which could better clarify your point in a shorter window of time). If they are task-related, add them to your to-do list (if you want to know more on how to create your perfect to-do list, check my two previous posts).

12. Questions before a meeting

Meetings can be a great tool for sharing ideas, update people on your progresses and better organize future projects. However, they could also be time-consuming and add little value. To avoid finishing in a drainage-type meeting ask these questions. First, make sure that you are indeed required to attend that specific meeting. To do this simply contact the organizer, ask what the meeting is about and decline politely if you consider your attendance is fruitless. When you contact the organizer, ask if there is an agenda, if not ask them to email one in order to avoid people going off topic. Third, require the organizer to set a time limit depending on the agenda. Make sure the meeting gets a reasonable time depending on the topic and the number of people involved (there is no point in having 2 hours meeting if people re mostly up-to-date).Forth, make sure that the required equipment is working before the meeting takes place: Is the room available? Is the WI-FI accessible from that room? Do we have a projector for presentations? Finally, consider the option of attending the meeting virtually if you need to spend unnecessary time travelling.

13. Take care of the worst, first

The sooner we deal with the worst task ahead of you, the sooner you’ll start feeling better. You will start using those energy wasted on worries for something more productive. You will definitely feel liberated with an entire productive day ahead of you! There are few tricks you can implement to mentally prepare for the scariest task (such as dealing with a difficult boss or client) by going through the meeting in your mind, or mentally rehearsing what you want to say, even practice with one family member. I personally love listening to self-hypnosis music for confidence boost or reading self-improvement books.

4. Pre and Post Vacation Tips

We all know how returning from a holiday can be a challenging time. Our mind and body need to readjust to the old routine and face again all those tasks that our job entails. However, there are few organizational tricks you can implement to make your return smoother. We could call these tips pre-and-post vacations tricks. First, before you leave for a vacation period, let people know how long you are going to be away and who to contact in case of emergency or who is going to cover your role during that time. You can even set an out-of-office reply with these information for people contacting you while you are away. Second, clean your desk and write down a list of all the things you have just accomplished (pre-vacation) and what needs to be done at your return (post-vacation). During your vacation, remember to switch off completely, this will make your return an even more productive one. If you have implemented the pre-vacation tips you should be all set for a stress-free holiday. When you are back, start in middle of the week to make your transition easier, 3 days should be plenty for setting up all the post-vacation tips. First, dedicate your first day to catching up with colleagues and going through all your emails (as outlined before). Second, go through the pre-vacation notes to mentally refresh yourself what you completed just before you left and what needs to be done as follow up according to your post-vacation notes. Finally turn these notes into a to-do list in which you also include any task communicated to you via email.

15. Know your Tools

Nowadays there are many tools that you can learn to use to make your tasks a little less stressful; for instance, Microsoft Office has many features that can help you formatting documents, analyze data or even create visually stunning images. One example is setting up the style of your Word document so that every time you write down a title, a paragraph of a list your chosen style is already in place. You can even cross-reference captions and update all numbering with a simple mouse click. Learning how to use Excel can save you hours of data analysis. Every-time you’d like to know how, take advantage of Google search or easy tutorials on YouTube. You don’t need to become an expert, but at least try to learn few tricks to make your daily life a little more efficient. You can also take advantage of mobile apps to set yourself on the right path to achieve career goals or help you remember important dates. Few ideas include setting reminders on your Google Calendar, using apps that track your fitness regime by calculating how many calories you consume, or that send you daily inspirational quotes or newsletter on your favorite topic. Just look around and get inspired!

How to challenge a client to think outside the box

Dealing with a client and theirs needs is not an easy task and apart from the “client from hell” every client presents their dose of challenge; insecurities, worries, concerns. Every situation needs a combination of understanding, self-assertiveness, patience and communication skills. Here are few tips on how to improve your dealing with a client might the situation arise.

1. The gap between what they want and how they want it

This is a common one. The client comes and says thinks like “out-of-the-box approach”, “cutting edge technology”, “disruptive ideas”. You start all fired up, full of enthusiasm because of the new prospective and then you end up with a client that looks disgruntled and vetoes any suggestion; maybe just for confrontational’s sake.

How to deal with the challenge: show you are in charge

You might feel discouraged, or even in the mood for using their tie as a strangling tool, however you should keep your calm and zen attitude, take a deep breath say one of these three magic sentences (that I learn from Dan O’Connor, communication skills expert) and then repeat what you previously stated:

  1. That may be but…
  2. I understand, however…
  3. I see your point, and…

In this manner, you show to the client that you got the message and that despite their criticism, lack of enthusiasm of faith in your abilities you do not budge because you are a great communicator and you are not intimidated.

How to deal with the challenge: Challenge them back

If the client is afraid of new perspectives, the values that your risky ideas could bring to the business and even about all the questions they might end up responding to in case things go wrong, show them how much playing safe costs to the business. Do not be afraid to challenge them to state clearly what their main concerns are.

  1. Ask them the actual cost of playing it safe (that is keeping things as they are)
  2. Ask them to talk clearly about their concerns (not just a vague “It won’t work”)
  3. Ask them to think about what a safe option might look like
  4. Ask them to consider what extra support might need from you to feel safe

2. The gap in knowledge and how to fix it

As professionals we might consider many topics as simple and pretty intuitive, however, when you speak to people outside your profession you might discover that things are not as simple and intuitive as you thought. Plus, as individuals we tend to have different approaches to learning while our education, mental attitude and personal skills might help to define what we find easy or difficult to understand. Therefore, we need to adapt our language, style and depth to our audience. However, there are few tricks you might consider to help you deliver your message.

9-Awesome-Reasons-to-Use-Infographics-in-your-Content-Marketing-v21
Source: Jeff Bullas

Take full advantage of Infographics

Infographics represent an easy way to deliver complex concepts into memorable bites of information. Taking full advantage of the power of images, infographics could become powerful tools to present business ideas to a client who is not -for instance- technical savvy.

Offer plenty of examples from inside your industry

Example are very useful to show people our thinking process, to explain difficult concepts using simple, everyday metaphors. In addition, examples are useful to show off previous work, such as portfolios that could better exemplify your type of approach (and maybe even create a starting point). Finally, come up with examples from competitors or closely-related industries, it would:

  1. Prove you are knowledgeable about the field and you keep yourself up-to-date
  2. Help to show key points about gaps in the market and how the client could take advantage from
  3. Provide examples of campaigns that have been successful and from which the client should learn

Come up with ideas from outside your industry

According to a Harvard Business Review, looking outside of your industry might produce more successful outcomes as reaching out to an industry expert may not provide those creative and disruptive ideas you were expecting. Therefore, in addition to be knowledgeable about your industry, you should also show your client that you are a multi-facets professional who can come up with creative ideas by applying concepts and strategies that have been successful in other fields and niches. Good strategies include:

  1. Read about niches that might relate to your field (psychology and media marketing, for instance) and expand from there
  2. Include every-team member in the decision making and value their opinions
  3. Expand your network, meet new professionals, offer your advice and ask (later) for help (did you know about RoR, or return from relationship?)

3. The gap in trust, how to better engage with your client

When meeting a client for the first time, it is impossible to know their needs and vision in just a couple of hours. It takes time, multiple meeting to fully commit to a client’s vision and to understand how your work might help strengthen their ideas and bring them to life. These are few suggestions:

  1. Let your client talks first. Put them at ease and let them explain what they are looking for (It does not matter if they are not clear, or do not know what they want. It is still a starting point)
  2. Avoid critiquing their idea, but instead offer suggestions that support and reinforce their goals (you can apply the three magic sentences, followed by a suggestion)
  3. If you feel like you might not be able to perform the exact task or finish in the exact time frame they have asked for, you should tell them honestly and professionally that you cannot deliver. Do not be afraid to say “No”. Better to under-promise and over-deliver than to disappoint.

4. The emotional gap, genuinely interact with your client

When meeting with a client show them you are interested in them not just at a professional level but also as individuals; talk to your client as they were real people, and not as you were addressing just a paying individual whose interest is somehow not aligned with yours. Remember that a better engagement, means deeper level of trust and therefore a bigger chance to push your client outside their comfort zone.

Engage with them during the decision making process

Clients want to feel active and part of the process. A clever method is to offer always three options to show that you are not imposing your decisions on them. Show them you are looking for their input, feedback and opinions.

Engage with them at an emotional level

People do not want to be convinced for rational reasons only. People want to make a connections in every aspect of their life. Consider a brand such as Nike, it is not just about sport gears, but mostly about pushing boundaries to reach for full potential. The same principle should be followed with your client. Ask them about their feelings regarding the project, both their fears and their hopes and aspirations.

5. The strategical gap, show them the big and the small picture

As pointed out before, your client needs to be included in the process both at a rational and emotional level. Therefore, it is important to keep the client involved by discussing priorities, budget details and progresses. However, while delivering the small picture on a weekly/monthly basis helps to keep your client on track of your progresses, you should also make sure that the big picture is clear both to you and your client.

example-marketing-roadmap-template
Source: Aha!
  1. Take a step back, find time to think before discussing the next step
  2. Talk with your client and discuss ideas, blocks and problems. You will both feel energized at the end of this exercise
  3. Divide your goals into small-goals. They will start looking more doable.
  4. Create road-maps to identify the actionable first steps
  5. Create mind-mappers to keep you focused
  6. Make your strategy and your strategy goals clear with SMART goals

6. The agreement gap, production, timelines and process

If you have followed all the steps to create a trustful relationship with your client, it might be the time to start considering the logistic of the project, such as the final product (production), how long it will take (timeline) and how it will be delivered (process). Until you and your client agree on strategy, goals and timelines, you are always at risk of them not understanding what success is and how it should be measured. The solution is to create a scope-of-work document that outlines the program details, budgets and metrics. This will alleviate any confusion over expectations and hopefully eliminate a difficult conversation.

What to know when planning your business

You are starting a business and you feel both nervous and excited. You are looking forward to create your own vision, be in control of your ideas, launching your product. Now, before starting investing your energies, time, resources and money, you should make sure that you have a clear idea of what your business stands for and how your ideal customer can benefit from it. These are a series of questions you might ask yourself to better define your business vision and mission, what the benefits your customers will get by choosing your brand and how to create goals and objectives for your digital campaign (you need one!).

1. Define your identity, what does your brand stand for? In this case you should have clearly in mind what your brand vision and mission are. Let’s consider Coca-cola, according to the company website, their vision is to provide a place where people are happy to work, provide quality drinks to customers, be an organization that moves at a fast pace.  Their mission is to refresh the world, make a difference and inspire happy memories. Now, think about your brand. Can you summarize in few key points what the mission of your brand is? For help on creating your vision check this post.

2. Define who your ideal customer, what is the message you want to deliver? Let’s reconsider Coca-cola, as we previously stated the brand is not just about a soft drink but mostly about sharing happy life moments with people we love. Coca-cola addresses group of friends and families who should be sharing fun time together and create happy memories. Think about your brand now. Can you come up with an ideal customer persona? Can you define their age, gender, nationality, education, values? Here a post to help you define your ideal customer.

3. What are you providing to your customer? You might have a great business idea followed by the best SEO-friendly website and the most supportive company team. However, if your customers cannot understand how your company is going to benefit them, they won’t engage with you for long. Everyone visiting your company website should be able to understand who you are (brand identity), what you are selling (product/service), when and where (online/store) and most importantly the customer perceived value (CPV).

4. Customer perceived value (CPV) The CPV relates to a marketing and branding concept that bases the success of a product on whether customers believe it can satisfy their needs and therefore the success of a marketing campaign ultimately depend on how they interpret and react to the brand messages. This is the reason why companies spend more and more resources researching how customers think and feel to create a campaign in line with their needs. Your marketing campaigns should therefore focus on what the customers think they want and try to influence their decision with tailored messages.

5. Where do I find customers? Finding your very first customers is quite a daunting task. If people talk about buying from trusted brands with high reputation, how can you get customers willing to buy from a brand with no reputation at all? One trick is to offer something free first, a little gift to a selected number of customers (you remember your ideal customer?), spread the word in your community (local press, newsletters) and finally relay on your very first customers to spread the love for the brand (friends and family can do that to begin with).

6. Define your goals, what is it that you want to achieve through a social media campaign? When you start your digital marketing campaign (it could be something as simple as creating a Facebook fan page), you should have some ideas of what you expect to achieve from your campaign; it could be increasing sales, brand exposure/reputation, attract business partners or like-minded clients. Whatever you are, either a start-up looking for brand exposure, a small-medium size business looking to attract more customers or a big corporation who aims to be the leader in their sector even on social media, make sure to have outlined your goals and how you expect to achieve them. Every quarterly re-assess them and modify your campaign accordingly.

7. Does your company website is a clear representation of your brand? A functional and attractive website, easy to navigate is key to the success of your brand online. However, it is also important to deliver to your visitors a visual message of what your brand stands for. It would be very difficult to deliver a message of cutting-edge website making firm if your company website is performing poorly or if it looks more like a website designed for teenagers! I must admit that I find big corporations websites which are not online retailers (like Amazon for instance), have quite often a very poor online presence. Don’t do that! There are plenty of free tools to make a website that looks 2016 worth.

8. Where is your business today and where you want to see it in the future? Analyze your business and write down everything you have achieved so far. You might discover you have achieved more than you thought. Write down what your business plan is and re-assess it quarterly. For more ideas on how to write a business plan, check out this post.

 

 

Business lessons from the master of suspence

Alfred Hitchcock is universally considered the master of cinematic suspense and one of the greatest directors of all times. Films such as Psycho, Vertigo, The rear window are just few examples of his great work and even today represents everlasting lessons of what cinema can achieve. In addition to a deep knowledge on fear and how to portrait it on the silver screen, Hitchcock was also a successful businessman and his lessons could still be applied by the digital marketeer today. Here are few.

Know your audience

Hitchcock was well aware that people go to the cinema to be entertained and escape reality and as director delivered exactly that. Most of his films starred a common man who found himself in an unusual situation which most of the times involved proving his innocence. The reason why he chose such a formula was to make the audience identify themselves with the main character and therefore provide a connection between its product (the film) and the buyers (the cinema goers). In a similar manner, your business should provide a product that talks to the audience, that create a connection with your buyers and satisfies people expectation.

Be your own brand

The audience was so aware of the Hitchcock style, that the director ended up saying “If I made Cinderella, the audience would immediately be looking for a body in the coach“. Whatever your business, do exactly the same: make your brand recognizable. Independently from your type of product, when thinking about it people should have a clear expectation.Be knowledgeable about your niche, dress your brand and show your audience that you put your own spin on it (don’t try to be what you are not). It doesn’t matter if people tell you that your brand identity is not something that the masses are appealed to. There is no need to embrace the pop culture if your style icon comes out from a 50’s magazine! People will appreciate your knowledge, passion and unique voice; a 50’s niche-oriented customers will be to identify you as the leader in your sector as the only brand whose mission is “to bring the 50’s style into the modern woman busy schedule”.

Look at it from the outside

Wear your own brand! Be sure that 100% of the time people can make a simple equation “your image = your brand”. You are a professional make up artist? Show it on your face (no, literally!). You define yourself as fashion forward? Maybe Mad Men would not be the most appropriate style to follow. Look at it from the outside: “What would I be thinking if I saw someone like me, would I get the message I am trying to deliver?”

Deliver the best product

Hitchcock did not only deliver a suspense film, he delivered a crafted product. Every scene was planned to the last details; lights, settings, camera angle, nothing was let to chance, no take was never done without his supervision. In his career he worked in several departments and because of that he developed a deep understanding of a variety of technique required to make a film work seamlessly (such as lighting and editing). Whatever your business, don’t leave things to chance, but plan accurately every step and never forget to become the most knowledgeable individual of  your business.

Great product at a fair price

Hitchcock was well aware of how expensive a film could become for a family of cinema goers. He even said that a film should be worth the price of the cinema ticket, dinner and baby-sitter (we could even add parking). Today this lesson is completely ignored as tickets are very expensive, and films quite often divided in multiple parts (so more than 1 ticket for a single film). Hitchcock was well aware that he could no control the price of a dinner or how much a baby-sitter could charge a family, however it could deliver such a great experience that it was worth all the additional fees. In a similar manner, you might not control all the external factors but you could choose to deliver the best possible product worth the price. You could even decide to make your business stand out by providing the most environmentally friendly packaging, the most reliable delivery system and even the most helpful customer service.

Be your main investor

When Hitchcock decided to adapt the book Psycho into a screenplay, he was so sure about the potential of the project that he had no problem in investing his money in the making. He was not afraid to take a risk because he had full faith in the future success of the picture (and it was indeed a big hit). As Hitchcock did, as business owner you should create a business in which you believe so strongly that you would feel confident in investing your own money. If you don’t believe in your business, hardly, other people would.

Be creative in your marketing

Hitchcock knew that Psycho needed to be a big financial success; for this reason he did not rely only on traditional advertising but took things into his own hands. First, he bought all the book copies so that people could not find out the ending twist. Second, he put people in front of theaters to talk about how scary Psycho was to other cinema goers. Third, the published advertisement (portraying Hitchcock himself) told viewers that they could not be late. Theaters followed the rule and late goers were not allowed in. Of course, this made people wanting to view Psycho even more. Finally, it kept the film very secret. Actors were not interviewed, the trailer showed very little and critics did not see the film beforehand. The buzz generated around the film made people jumped the line to watch it! This shows how an unusual approach to marketing can pique people interest, generate a buzz and deliver a financial success.