Showing posts with label business. Show all posts
Showing posts with label business. Show all posts

Friday, January 25, 2013

Don't Underestimate the Marketing Value of Volunteers

Have you ever volunteered for an event, or cause?  Did you feel underappreciated or that your effort and time were abused?  You're not alone.

While I must admit that this thought stems from experiences in my life from community and industry led volunteer efforts, I'm sure you have your own war stories.  When your volunteerism is devalued, it creates unnecessary drama and heartache for both you and the organization, business, or group you're working with.  And who needs drama in their lives . . . unless, of course, you're watching a good movie or live theatrical performance.  

For the organizations, groups, and businesses leading a cause or event, volunteers can be some of your greatest marketing assets.  By treating volunteers respectfully, everyone wins:  the leading organization, group or business, the cause or event itself, and even the volunteers.  Volunteers help the marketing effort primarily through viral marketing, spreading the word about your cause or event to people you might not otherwise reach.  But if you abuse their time you lose them and the people they know.

Here are some considerations to show appreciation for volunteers (or for volunteers to look for in a volunteer-driven cause or event):
  • Some volunteers are okay with casual or even formal word-of-mouth or paper certificate recognition (and some are fine with nothing), but most appreciate those little (or big) extra perks.  In my experiences, community organizations often put limitations on the perks or rewards because they feel they will get a better ROI; don't do this.
  • Just because a volunteer runs a business and has expertise in a specific area that they might otherwise charge for, doesn't mean that the business, group or organization asking for volunteerism should expect they'll get everything for free.  I have found this unfortunately and primarily true for industry led and business partnership volunteer efforts.
  • Organizational and (especially) business leaders sometimes automatically expect that the volunteers should be as professional as they are and should devote countless hours toward the volunteer effort; this is simply not true.  Let the volunteer arrange for their time and effort.  In my experiences, this is more often a problem for community organizations holding events requiring hours and hours and volunteer preparation time.
Asking a lot from a volunteer is also asking a lot from their own personal and business relationships.  This a consideration never to be abused.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Innovation Doesn't Require an Audience, Just That You Do It

As the father of LEGO fanatic, science lover, and Mythbusters aficionado, I've listened to numerous rants fromy ten-year-old throughout his young life about the disappointment of failed experiments and projects.  Most recently, in a rain of tears, he divulged that his ideas don't matter to the world.  I explained to him that innovation doesn't require an audience, it just requires that you do it.  

The most memorable innovators are those that continue to pursue their thoughts and 
ideas no matter what happens or who stands in their way. Whether they go it alone or stand on the shoulders of giants of yesterday and today to reach even higher, true, pioneering innovators never give up.  

Innovators have a constant craving.  They live on the raw attributes of their original thoughts.  It's as if they are children in spirit, untainted by the rest of the world.  Perhaps not even knowing they are working for the greater good, the ultimate measure of an innovator's success is an outcome the makes this world a better place to live.  

We can all be innovators when we don't give up, give in, or let others sway us.  Are you ready to share your innovations with the rest of the world?

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Integrating Resolutions, Goals & Projections Into Your Business Plan


I set personal and business goals, however, I'm not one to make New Year's resolutions.  But I do love hearing and reading everyone else's grandiose ideas and the varying ways to make them happen.  There are always so many great thoughts and methods to accomplish them, that I always glean something I had not thought of before - even if I morph it into something else.  

I also enjoy reading all of the projections for business trends and technological changes.  Most of the projections seem fairly similar and generally supported by the same root sources with a few varying thoughts.  Ultimately, It's good to be reminded of what happened during the year and where we might be headed. 

As the calendar year draws to a close, many businesses wrap up fiscal years also.  This is a busy time for many businesses.  They're not only closing the books on one year, but also revamping their one and five year business plans.

With so much change to consider, why not combine your New Year’s resolutions and your goals with your yearly business plan revision to make the outcomes more realistic for both.  And, even with reasonable business planning and goal setting, there's always going to be the need for change as the year progresses.  

When addressing this concept on Twitter today, it was good to hear similar thoughts from a long time friend of mine:

@StirlingMorris - Yes, goals are VERY necessary! People should have them for sure. I think they should just do it more than once a year! :)

Your personal and business goals can be specific, but, with all of the constant change in our lives and professions even a general outline can be effective.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Marketing Reminds Each of Us to Start Anew


How do you start your day?  An exercise routine?  A cup of coffee?  Although I might practice these rituals as well, at some point every morning - before I begin the hustle and bustle of my day - I give myself some time of quiet meditation.  I stretch, I listen, I feel the world around me, and I project myself out into the infinite universe - come to think of it, it's a lot like being Superman without the daily worries of saving the world.

The takeaway is that I start each day putting my best foot forward, if not just in my mind.  

Of course, reality checks back in; checking emails, making follow up phone calls, replying to messages, finishing projects.  My meditation, however, has given me a fresh perspective.  A fresh perspective in the workplace allows for new ideas to be considered, if not implemented.  A fresh perspective offers us insight into a world that could be, rather than focusing on the daily grind.  It drives how we market ourselves and our business pursuits.  And, ultimately, marketing reminds us to start anew.


Unlike other business management considerations, marketing reminds us of why we’re in business to begin with - the entrepreneurial spirit.  It reminds us to grow and to be creative in all of our endeavors.  It tells us what direction we should pursue.  Marketing whispers those thoughts that shape the world around us without fear of what others might think.

We all do it.  We all market ourselves even if we don't consider ourselves marketers by profession.  So, start today.  Market the better you.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Using the Scientific Method to Better your Business


Through the scientific method:  ideas are created, observed, and postulated resulting in a theory or set of theories to test potential results.  These results are then refined, adjusted, or revised to show advancement in thought.  Unlike the scientific method though, I have encountered a lot of projects in business that were stymied by the end result being recognized as the end of the project.  This limits the possibilities for any business to better serve their customers.

Rather than looking at a project as an end goal, look at it as a task to continuously work on.  For example, if you are a restaurant owner, this might mean not only taking into consideration just how clean a restroom is but also to make sure that the hand soap doesn’t smell chemically or that paper towels don’t leave a bad odor on your hands.  Over time, you might also consider a forced air hand dryer to be environmentally conscientious or perhaps adding hand lotion.

Any business can can fortify healthy business strategies by taking lead from the scientific method.  This doesn't necessarily mean hiring a research and development team, but it does mean pursuing continuous improvement as a best management practice.  Here are some big picture considerations that you may be already be practicing and just need to revise and revamp:
  • One and five year Business Plan updating cycles - with technology taken into consideration alone, updates are inevitable. Business Plans in your head are just good ideas waiting to be forgotten
  • Twice yearly staff reviews - you may already have a system in place for staff reviews, if not just through impromptu conversation, but when was the last time you reviewed your own actions?
  • Weekly or Monthly Staff Meetings - by staff, I mean that all staff (from ownership and management through reception and part-timers) should be part of this meeting Everyone should feel that their thoughts and opinions matter.
  • Customer surveyswhether it's a casual conversation or an emailed survey, consistent surveys throughout the year to evaluate your customers' wants and needs will help to secure success

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Little Things That Grow Business & Change the World

What Social Good programs does your business and staff practice daily? Recycling efforts, community volunteering, and other social good programming are all noble and necessary, but completely negated if you don't have your whole team on board.  From C-level executives to part-timers, every team member should constantly be involved to maintain social good best management practices. 

This isn't an original thought. It is, however and unfortunately, one that we need to keep reminding each other of on a daily basis.  In business, it's easy to get caught up in maintaining budgets in an effort to be fiscally responsible, and then, in turn, to forget our fiduciary responsibilities to ourselves, our staff, our customers, and the world of tomorrow by not living healthier lifestyles, especially in the office.

We have to go beyond just setting out blue trash bins for cans and bottles.  Instead, remind the entire staff in your regular meetings about the importance of cutting back on their use.  You can't make your staff eat or live better, but you can keep reminding them with positive, encouraging processes.  

  • Establish fiscal line item budgets to maintain social good efforts or increase the one you might have already.  This is a big pill to swallow, especially when you're off the financial mark and in the red. When you and the staff are practicing social good programming more often, then everyone starts to feel better and, ultimately, happier.  
  • Keep yourself updated with up-to-date news and healthy / sustainable living trends.  Staying informed is not only vital to personal and business growth, but it also shows your staff & your customers that you care about an ever evolving world.  
  • Get creative!  Try something new.  Try something different.  But, don't stick to one path. There is no one answer but there is always a better answer.

Your staff, customers, prospects, and business partners will notice these social good changes and will feel better about working with you.  These little things add to your business and marketing strategies and allow your business to grow.  The ROI is hard to see, but that doesn't mean that it's not there.  

Thursday, December 20, 2012

The Social Good of Young Innovators

A while back I was attending a professional organization meeting where there were about 60 or so attendees; primarily members and some guests. The chapter leader asked everyone to stand. He then proceeded to ask everyone that had been a chapter member for a year or less to sit; a small portion sat down. He asked for people that had been in three years or less to sit; a slightly larger portion sat down. He proceeded to ask about 5 years, 10 years, 20 years, and so forth up to 50 years.

After the 20 year mark there were only a few people standing. These were older folks that had been with the organization for some time, and the chapter leader asked that the chapter commend these folks.  This particular organization has an average member age of 55+ and is diligently working to bring in younger members. And, while I do applaud showing gratitude for so many years of service for one organization and its efforts, I couldn't help but think whether the chapter leader shouldn't have gone the other direction and started at 50 years.

Why are we, as nations and as a world, obsessed with celebrating the past through events and figure heads? Shouldn't we be celebrating the young, our future, with every waking moment?

To quote a brilliant person, and a man my family adores (particularly my son):
“Curious that we spend more time congratulating people who have succeeded than encouraging people who have not.” 
― Neil deGrasse Tyson

I am, by no means, implying that we should discount the tremendous efforts of individuals or specific monumental achievements & events. But I do think we need to spend more time, money, and attention on younger generations. Whatever concepts or actions a previous generation creates, it is inevitably up to younger generations to advance them or even start anew.  This is true for every aspect our lives including our:
  • Personal & familial relationships
  • Business & organizational relationships
  • Communities, Markets, & Industries
  • Global relationships
With each facet of life, we stand on the shoulders of giants and reach ever higher. But we also find new ways to support each other; new ways to grow & evolve that may not include the past. In fact, we may flat out dismiss the past in favor of a better way. This is the nature of innovation. And with technology at the heart, and with the internet in particular, progressive thinkers can connect, engage, & collaborate like never before.  

I say this as a father, an organizational leader, a business person, a global citizen and an advocate for the Social Good. We should embrace young minds in our communities and industries. We should work to create one human voice celebrating the young & the innovative spirit for the Social Good of all.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Determining The Value of Seminars & Presentations

When it comes to presentations and seminars in your market or industry, some are free and some cost the same as a great used car.  Some last all week and others can be given as a one hour lunch and learn. The worst are those that have great marketing to get you there, but offer absolutely nothing of value once you sit down. With so many options, how does anyone determine the value of seminars & presentations?

I've heard this question asked multiple times from individuals, businesses, & organizations, big and small, and there doesn't appear to be one answer.  There are so many types of seminars & presentations and these are further distorted by market and industry.  Through my career presentation experiences (giving and receiving), I have found there are two common denominators in determining the value of presentations & seminars - an enlightening presenter & a willing audience.

An Enlightening Presenter

I have heard many people say that a charismatic speaker can carry an audience no matter what the topic, atmosphere, or setting.  There are many things that make a speaker great, including charisma.  But when it comes to seminars & presentations, I want to be enlightened not charmed.

An enlightening presenter demonstrates as much, if not more, innovative thought as knowledge.  Don't spin and dance around what I already know or can read by myself.  Inspire me.  Most importantly, by the time the seminar or presentation is finished I should want to inspire others.

A Willing Audience

The value of an education is dependent on the work we put into it. I think a lot of adults forget this and look at education as a means to an end.  This is a huge mistake when it concerns the value of a presentation or seminar. The audience has just as much responsibility to enlighten themselves before and after they participate, if not just on a surface level.

Let's take marketing, for example.  If you plan on attending a Marketing seminar that is going to focus on how to integrate Google+ as a social media marketing tool for your business, show up having already registered for and experimented with the platform.  If you don't, this will only cause frustration for you.

Information and knowledge are not synonymous. A great seminar or presentation is lost on an audience unwilling to educate themselves before the event and then use that knowledge to further their education after.
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Learning always comes with a price if not just in the form of your time.  The value of a presentation or seminar depends just as much on your eagerness to be inspired as it for the presenter to be inspiring.  If this type of inspiration is present, then the cost becomes inconsequential - well, almost.

What are some examples of seminars or presentations that have inspired you?

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Finding the Value in Marketing for Small Businesses

The end of the year is a great time to assess your marketing efforts for the past year and map out your plans for the new year. For small businesses this can be a struggle, especially if you don't have a Marketing Plan already in place to get you there. Since having a Marketing Plan is critical component of developing a successful Business Plan, what are some steps to put one in place?


Know Thyself

An initial consideration in developing marketing strategies is to appreciate that there are no quick fixes. Cheap and fast is the mantra of the online marketing world, but it will not satisfy your long term marketing needs.  Finding the time and money to develop an effective Marketing Plan can be an obstacle easily overcome by understanding your business' value proposition.  

A value proposition is a unique selling point that doesn't compromise quality for price. Your value proposition is the inherent, not necessarily the monetary, worth of the product or service you offer. Once you know your business' Value Proposition, your ROI (return on investment) from your marketing efforts will be all the more meaningful.

What is your business' value proposition?

Help Wanted

Assuming you don't possess the marketing know-how to do your own marketing, another important consideration is who you contract with or hire to help with your marketing.  

It may seem like a cheap solution to hire college kids or young adults to help with your marketing because they presumably possess social media "skills”, but this will only hurt the customer and ultimately your business. The young person you hire will likely lack the business acumen that will make your marketing successful.  

Unless you hire a person with experience in marketing, sales, or business development, hiring a consulting firm to develop and manage your marketing is a must.

The better marketing consultant or firm is the one that focuses on marketing and nothing else. 

Plan Ahead

A small business will benefit from having a simplified Marketing Plan. As your business grows, you can add on more marketing efforts. Initially, you will have more success in mapping out your marketing strategies by:
  • Building a Marketing Plan: even if it's just an outline, put a model into action; you can't possibly know where you're going if you don't map out the route
  • Having all of your staff contribute to marketing efforts: each of your staff members brings a different perspective to the table; if you are your only employee then this should be easy
  • Regular monitoring and analyzing: monitoring your marketing efforts can be a daily activity, but you should be reviewing and revamping your Marketing Plan as often as your Business Plan - no less than once yearly
Can you function without a formalized Marketing Plan? Yes. Will you have more success with one? Unquestionably.