Changing Your Attitude Creates A Productive Team and Drives Revenue

It’s time to be more aware of attitudes in the workplace…especially yours. As a business owner or team leader, your attitude is what sets the tone for your work environment and plays a huge role in building a healthy work culture, which in turn affects the dedication and productivity of the employees under you.

While most people don’t pay much attention to their attitude until someone brings attention to it, as a leader, you need to be consciously aware of the effect you’re having on your team.

The point is this: You need to consciously control your attitude in the workplace. Why? The simple answer is employee engagement. To break that down, here are some statistics regarding what employee engagement does for your ROI:

  • Turnover reduced by 65% low-turnover companies and 25% for high-turnover companies
  • Absenteeism reduced by 37%
  • Shrinkage reduced by 28%
  • Safety incidents and quality defects reduced by 48% and 41% respectively
  • Earnings per share performance increased by 147%

If you haven’t been actively aware of your attitude and your employee’s reaction to it, then you may not realize how changing your attitude can make your team more productive either. Making an active effort to have a positive attitude will ultimately influence your team to be more positive, and more engaged. It boosts morale, increases productivity, as well as a host of other benefits, including increased revenue.

Tips for Attitude Improvement

Your attitude is often instinctual, so learning how to craft your attitude to meet your needs can be difficult. The following list of tips will help you become aware of, and better express, positivity in the workplace.

Focus on a Positive Vision of the Future

Your mental picture for the future can become a self-fulfilling prophecy. When you’re overtly negative, your team’s outlook is more likely to be negative and you’re more likely to achieve poor results. By having a positive vision of the future, you’re more likely to reach your goals.

Focus on Goals for You and Your Team and Daily Check-Ins

You may be tempted to believe that not pressing your employees for project statuses is a friendlier approach to leadership. Statistically, that’s not the case. Engagement and productivity are more likely the more involved you are. Specifically, according to Gallup, the rates of engagement are: 38% when managers help staff set goals, 28% when managers hold staff accountable, and 31% when managers are approachable for questions and problems.

Focus on Positive Self Talk

It’s important to understand that this does not mean putting on blinders and ignoring negative situations and interactions, and it doesn’t mean becoming obsessively positive in a way that can’t acknowledge negativity at all.Positive self talk refers to your inner monologue, the part of your stream of consciousness that handles how you view yourself and others. Retraining your inner monologue to view things first, logically, and then, positively can result in lower stress, better mental health, and less risk for depression. Interestingly, this often involves thinking at yourself in the third person.

Focus on Positive People

Don’t underestimate the power of one person’s energy to affect another’s. Just consider the last time you were around someone who was constantly negative; exhausting, isn’t it? There’s two sides to this tip: first, positive people aren’t and don’t need to be perfect people; second, at some point you need to make a determination about whether or not you need to let an employee, with a toxic effect on company culture, go.

Focus on Listening to Others

There’s fewer ways to understand your team than to actually listen to them, that is, to actively listen to them. Understand their concerns, their needs, their goals, and you can invest in them so as to help them invest in your company.

Focus on Humor, Especially About Yourself

There’s something to be said for the importance of taking things seriously, of course, but there is such a thing as being too serious as well as a need for levity. Worry is, in fact, counterproductive, and you’ve only got so much time in your workday. Taking yourself, your work, and your team too seriously lead to higher levels of stress, derision, and hostility.

Focus on Responsibility Not Function

Limiting yourself or allowing your team members to limit themselves with the phrase “not my job” is a fast track to limiting how much you or they invest in a particular project, or even your company. If the ball gets dropped, the sense of responsibility will ensure the team picks it back up. Combined with check-ins, and you’ll also begin to identify top performing employees as well as toxic ones.

Focus on Results

You could rephrase this tip to say focus on your team, or even focus on your business. The point here, is that when you’re at work, you’re at work. Outside emotional influences and negativity can lead to a poor attitude at work, which, in turn, ends up with poor results. This isn’t to say you should repress your emotional needs in an unhealthy way, rather you should focus them as much as possible on maintaining positivity in the workplace.

Effects of the Positive Workplace

Remember, a positive attitude is contagious. As the saying goes, “a dead battery can’t charge a dead battery.” You have to be the force for positive change, and as a leader, your workplace will invariably see an atmosphere changed for the better.

What these changes can do for you:

  • Inspire helpfulness in others. Few want to help someone with a bad attitude!
  • Improve energy levels, enthusiasm, and performance momentum
  • Make way for better decision making, problem solving, and creativity
  • Enable risk taking and increase the resilience in the face of a challenge
  • Lowers stress and engender better working relationships.
  • Validate work efforts even in the face of project hangups and bad news
  • Promotes friendly competition as a force of motivation
  • Promotes a sense of teamwork
  • Improves productivity and willingness to take extra steps (e.g., overtime) for success
  • Increases time spent productively while decreasing time wasted
  • Supports proactive approaches to risk prevention
  • Improves morale overall

There are more ways to create a positive atmosphere in the workplace, especially when trying to inspire an innovative company culture. Employees that feel they have more input, and are able to have a real influence toward the company’s success, are more likely to be invested in the company for the long term.

It should be a little easier to determine how changing your attitude can make your team more productive. Remember, no two businesses and no two people are the same. With a positive attitude and a willingness to listen, you can guide your people to a more prosperous future.

SMB Guide to Effective Marketing Strategy

 

The Dos and Don’ts of Back to School Advertising in Houston

back-to-schoolWith more than 300 private schools, eight public school districts, and dozens of colleges and universities in the Houston area, the market for back to school advertising is not lacking and may benefit your business. Here are some dos and don’ts for successful back to school marketing for your Houston business for the next school season and beyond.

Do: Plan your Marketing Campaign Early

Studies have shown that back to school shopping, internet searches, and planning increase the first two weeks of July. Savvy moms, dads, and college students are getting a big head start these days. Begin preparing for this time a few months early. Think about the sales and promotions your business would like to offer, and the means by which you will advertise (i.e., via social media, paper mailers, email list campaigns, and if applicable, store front displays).

Don’t: Forget the Dads

Traditionally, moms have been the target audience for back to school advertising. But more and more dads are getting involved with the school shopping/preparation process and can be great targets for your business’ marketing campaign.

In line with increasing your digital device campaign, a recent report from Microsoft Advertising cited that “50% of men are influenced by digital ads and 44% are influenced by online search results.” So, focus on your digital device ads and promotions to appeal to the men shopping for their kids.

Do: Use Social Media to Bring in Back to School Customers

According to Experian Marketing Services, 64.8% of moms are social media users and are very willing to promote businesses to their friends, if they are pleased with the service and prices. They will also let their friends know when the service and/or prices aren’t to their liking. So prepare well and outshine the competition with your outstanding customer service and promotions.

Don’t: Forget the College Students

They are a large pool of customers to pull from. Marketing to college students has some uniqueness. For example, some students attend school all year-fall, spring, summer, and winter sessions. There is your opportunity to engage beyond the typical back to schoolseason.

During the summer and winter sessions, take special care to market your business through sales and promotions targeted to college students. This is especially beneficial if your business is located in a college town, but even if you don’t, your town still likely has highschoolers departing for college at the end of summer.

Do: Increase Campaigns to Target Different Digital Devices

According to a recent Nielsen report, the average family /individual owns four different digital devices. Do your research so your business can reach each type of device. If this isn’t your cup of tea, hire a tech-savvy professional who can literally hook your business up and get your marketing campaigns seen and heard over the wire (or network).

Don’t: Ignore Opt-in Inbound Marketing

Examples of inbound marketing are SEO (search engine optimization); PPC (Pay-per-click) advertising based on keywords; social media; and blogging. This type of marketing requires constant work and sufficient resources dedicated to producing high quality marketing around the clock. There also has to be excellent communication between your inbound and outbound marketing teams. They need to be working towards the same goals and objectives and collaborate with each other often.

Do: Engage your Customers Beyond the First Day of School

Sometimes in the hoopla of trying to advertise, create sales, and bring in real customers, businesses forget to focus on keeping the back to school customers for the rest of the year and beyond. Keep in mind the students who wait to see what their friends are wearing and bringing to school then shop after the rush. And don’t forget mid-year shopping. Engage well beyond that back-to-school season.

Don’t: Ignore the Good PR You Can Earn by Donating a Percentage of Sales to Local Schools

In the recent economic downturn, schools have received less state and federal funding and many parents aren’t able to contribute financially as much as they once did. A community-involved promotion can surely help to build sales and help the community, in turn, creating lasting relationships.

Marketing for back to school goes well beyond simply lowering prices, shouting out sales, and crossing your fingers that you’ll get some customers. Start planning early; target the right audience; use social media; target various digital devices; engage beyond the rush; don’t forget dads and college students; and be vigilant when using inbound marketing.

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Dear Rookie Sales and Marketing Professionals….


One of my younger cousins is about to embark upon her first marketing internship experience. As I guided her through some of those beginner questions over the phone last week – a whole slew of pointers started coming to mind. Rather than overwhelming her with the “what I wish I would’ve known then” diatribe over the phone…I put it in a letter. (Sometimes writing one actually works.)

To be honest, I wish someone would’ve written this same list for me about 12 years ago. I literally blush as I type this…those rookie-move moments flooding back into memory…ugh. 

Alas – while I had to learn the hard way in some instances (we all do) – i’m hoping I can help a few young marketing souls avoid making the same mistakes. And if I’ve at least accomplished that…well…then…you’re welcome.
(ahem)

Dear Cuz –

Congrats on the new gig. A few extra pieces of advice popped into my mind as ‘Day One’ approaches. So I thought I’d share with you in random order and in numbered bullet points, of course.

Suffice it to say that some things I learned the hard way…

1. Spell check and re-read EVERYTHING. You’re the marketer…which means your communication skills (written and verbal) should be a good example.

2. Re-read your (important) business emails out loud and see if they make sense verbally. If not – you may want to consider revising.

3. Punctuation is just as important. A sentence missing a “,” or a “-“ can completely change the meaning of what you’re trying to say.

4. This all said – don’t rush your emails. Take the time to put thoughts together clearly, succinctly. A good email takes more time to write but it’s worth it. It’s a reflection on you professionally and it instantly gains the trust of others in your skillsets. (Much of your work will be conducted via emails and other electronic communication – you could apply these suggestions to any channel.)

5. Since you’re new and young – I’d stay away from Facebook all together while at work. You’re supposed to be busy. Don’t let it be ammo for anyone at the office who is adjusting to you and your style.

6. Think twice about adding colleagues you barely know as “friends”

7. Suggest you immediately turn on the feature that allows you to review/approve any posts or tagging done by friends and make sure if you approve of them – that they are a positive, professional reflection on you and your life. (People can be quick to judge that “the new chick is on FB all day” when they see you “like” something at 10a on a Tuesday. That’s all it takes.)

8. If you accept colleagues into your social spaces – you may want to limit the access they have to photo albums, etc.

9. Dress for the job you want – not the one you have. Keep those skirts close to knee length. Avoid cleavage, etc…

10. You won’t believe how attire can change how you’re perceived – and especially by women.

11. Don’t ever engage in office drama/gossip. Take the high road. You never know who can be trusted or not – especially this early into a gig.

12. Never complain about work on Facebook or any other place.

13. Network as much as you can. Attend company functions. Get to know people and their responsibilities in other types of positions at the company. The more you learn about them and respect their disciplines – the more they’ll appreciate and listen to you. (eg. Spend a half day with an accountant. It’s quite interesting for a marketer.)

14. Listen. Listen. Listen. Hear it. Then talk.

15. Never “REPLY ALL” on mass company emails…or emails sent to a large group of people. (It’s a classic rookie move. You WILL get made fun of.)

16. EVERYTHING you do or email is traceable. Careful what you send/receive.

17. If you’re bored…proactively find something (relevant to your job) to do. Make something better…create a process…make a plan. Do some research. Show your value.

18. Find mentors and keep in touch with them – even when you don’t need anything. They’ll be there for you if you show you care about what they’re doing on an ongoing basis. It’s lame to only reach out when you need something. They enjoy providing insights – always.

19. Handwritten “thank yous” go a LONG way. If someone does a favor for you at the office…let him/her know you appreciate it with a note of thanks.

20. Ask for a deadline so you can prioritize what someone needs. Never not respond b/c you don’t have an update. Simply let them know you’re working on it and/or give an ETA. A response with an update is BETTER than no response. (Unless they give you a preference.)

21. Before working collaboratively with someone – ask him/her how they prefer to communicate…via email?  Text  messages?  Phone calls? (I hate voice mails. I tell every colleague, friend, agency, etc…not to leave me a vmail. They stress me out.)

22. Before jumping into any conversation with ANYone…ask them if they have a minute or two to chat. You may need them now, but they may need to wrap something up before they can help you and may not tell you that. Respect their time.

23. Set goals for your career/development with your supervisor. Make sure they are attainable and you measure your results along the way.

24. Google is going to be your best friend/tutor/coach/resource.

25. Admins and assistants aren’t below you. They have more clout than you think.

26. Don’t get schnockered at work HHs.

27. Bullet points

28. Bullet points

29. Bullet points

30. Respond to emails from your leaders with urgency.

Knock ‘em dead.

~AM

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5 Ways to Get Your Boss to Say “Yes” to Your Marketing Budget

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Anyone who has ever worked in marketing understands that Houston businesses have to spend money to make money. Unfortunately, bosses may not want to hear it – especially if you’re asking them to invest in a new advertising strategy that is outside of their “comfort zones.” So how can you get over this hurdle and start building a marketing budget that will help your business to become more successful than ever? Here are a five tips and tricks that can help sell your marketing plan to your boss and (finally) getting your budget approved.

1. Treat Your Boss as Your Client

Building a marketing budget is very similar to the sales process. By viewing your boss as your “client,” you can effectively create a sales pitch that is strategically designed to address his/her problems, offer solutions and overcome objectives. Using this model, you can help your superior(s) understand why they need to invest in a new advertising plan and why your strategy is the best way for the company to meet its revenue goals.

2. Present the Facts

Although your boss may be comfortable with more traditional advertising tactics like print ads or direct mail, he/she may shy away from the “unknown.” Because of this, it may challenging for you to get your approvers to give the green light on newer strategies like content marketing, social media, etc. As a case-in-point, B2B marketing insider Michael Brenner has observed that, “The real problem … isn’t to get funding to get something new, but to get people to stop doing what isn’t working.” In other words, your task isn’t necessarily to convince your boss to try something new, but rather, to stop spending money on tactics that aren’t yielding results. To accomplish this, you must be prepared with facts like this *:

  • 44% of direct mail is never opened
  • 86% of people skip television ads
  • 70% of customers prefer electronic marketing to paper ads

* Inbound Marketing vs. Outbound Marketing [INFOGRAPHIC]

3. Get SMART

When building a marketing budget and presenting it to your boss, you need to set S.M.A.R.T. goals. Unless your objectives are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-bound, he/she won’t understand how or why it is that your plan will be able to solve any of the company’s problems. Be sure to identify specific needs that can be addressed in a realistic and relevant approach. At the same time, you must come up with a way to track and measure the success of these tactics, and provide a (tentative) for when the plan will come to fruition and what types of results can be expected.

4. Respect the Money

Have you truly come up with the most cost-effective way to meet your company’s objectives? When building a marketing budget, you must consider company money as your own. If you wouldn’t spend your hard-earned cash on your advertising recommendation and might seek out a cheaper way to do it, find and present an approach that you would spend your hard-earned money on. That’s what your boss will expect and will support.

5. Prove Yourself

Results are what really count. Start small by requesting a three month “pilot” program that will allow you to prove your plan for generating qualified leads, converting them to customers and thus, boosting revenue. Once you’ve proven your methods for a sales quarter, move on to another phase of your strategy. Through quarterly updates, continue building a marketing budget and updating your plan to meet the needs of your now growing business.

Building a marketing budget is an on-going process, but it doesn’t have to be tedious. By following this five-step guide, you can continuously win your boss’s approval and help to improve the efficiency of your company’s marketing budget.

Houston Networking 101: Looking to be Connected? Be a Connector First

6_things_to_consider_for_getting_that_first_appointmentIf you’re a business professional in Houston and you’ve joined a committee or organization, it’s inevitable that on any given weekday you’ve got some form of networking experience on the calendar. In fact, you’ve got so many events and soirees on your weekly roster, your friends and family are beginning to wonder if you’re campaigning for political office.

While sometimes the honest intent is to build relationships for immediate benefit, never underestimate the power of a connection over time. And the key to harnessing its full potential is selflessness as well as an understanding of the simple truth that most connections take patience and a genuine interest in others before generating any reward for them or for you.

Also, how about thinking about networking a little differently every so often? Perhaps even in this light: if someone else gains from a connection, then I gain too.

Take a less self-indulgent approach and consider the “Code of [Networking] Ethics” as dictated by a self-proclaimed “connector” (aka: me) – and perhaps you’ll see more of the fruits of networking when you focus on serving others first.

Here goes…

1.  Be Selective. It’s virtually impossible to attend every networking event in Houston. You can be selective here. Find ones that appeal to like-minded individuals. It’s also ok to go to the events that actually look fun too. [Seriously. We get it.] There’s another filter that I like to use, where I typically avoid networking events hosted on Thursday and Friday evenings. Those are my nights. However, Mon – Weds = game on.

2.  Manage Expectations. Not every event is going to yield an opportunity. Sometimes you attend a lame one. But don’t write off all future events with an organization that executed a serious fail. These groups radically change time, date and location of these soirees as a form of trial and error. Let’s give them some forgiveness knowing that. Regardless, per point number one, are you applying the right filters before deciding on which events to attend?

3.  It’s Not Always for [Your] Profit. If you’re a business owner and responsible for the rise and fall of your company, it’s tough to divert your attention away from anything that won’t pay out. However – try to think about the ROI from a networking opportunity not in terms of instant financial reward but in terms of gratification in meeting new people with new perspectives who have an interest in learning about you just the same. A reputation built on positivity and a willingness to help others out of pure good will can be just as valuable as the Benjamin’s. [Plan B? You’re too busy. Got it. So – send someone else from your company who believes in the virtue of reputation management.]

4.  Make Time. It can take as little as 30 seconds to send a note, make a phone call and/or forge a relationship that you believe has potential. The small gestures matter.

5.  Be a Filter. Protect contact information as you would want your information to be protected. Ask individuals if it’s ok for you to share their info with others before you share it. And also be a filter on time. If it’s not a symbiotic opportunity for the two parties you’re connecting – it may not be worth it.

6.  Use Your Judgment. Savvy and skilled connectors use good judgment. They know how to bring a ‘want’ together with a ‘need.’ And they think about it before making it happen.

7. Keep in Touch. Let’s be honest, we take care of those individuals who make personal and financial “deposits” into our lives. It’s true. Clients or business affiliates who make a continual investment in helping you achieve your goals will get priority seating. [On the flip side…don’t be the individual who randomly reaches out to someone you didn’t bother to stay in touch with in order to get a pair of tickets to a sold-out concert. We’re on to you.]

8. Timing Isn’t Everything. Well – not in the networking context at least. All you need to do is follow through. There’s no time constraint on that. Set expectations with people if you must, but those smart professionals you’re looking to connect understand that you’ve got a job to do that actually pays your bills. It may take you some time to follow through on your promise to connect two individuals. This point is a great segue to the next.

9. Stick to your Word. What matters is not how soon you make a connection happen (certain exceptions apply) but that you simply did what you said you were going to do. Reliability goes a long way.

10. Give Thanks. When you are the lucky one to benefit from a connection that someone has graciously bestowed upon you, show appreciation. And be sure to give thanks sooner than later and in whichever ways you believe it will best resonate with this person.

You’d be surprised at how effortless it can be to make significant, positive impacts in so many ways. It really doesn’t take anything other than a little bit of time on your end, an act of kindness on someone else’s behalf, and an eye for who should meet who.

Be known not only for your ability to build a brand or a business, but also for encouraging growth in others where you receive no immediate reward. If you focus on this selfless aspect of networking, someday in your time of need, those that you’ve connected will go above and beyond for you just the same – personally and professionally.

And you never know when a seemingly arbitrary introduction, followed by the occasional email exchange and coffee rendezvous over time, can pave the way to the game changer someone (maybe even you?) have been waiting for.

That all said – happy networking everyone. I’ll be seeing you one of these Mondays – Wednesdays…but probably not a Thursday or Friday.

Lessons Houston Businesses Can Learn to Maintain Customer Loyalty

are_you_making_the_most_of_your_talents-According to a study conducted by Colloquy, a company that provides education and research to the brand loyalty-marketing industry, 26% of U.S. consumers surveyed are more likely to share news about a bad experience with a brand rather than a good one.  What’s even more surprising is those consumers who are most loyal to a brand are more likely to spread negative news about a bad experience.

In the case of the Carnival Cruise Line ship, Triumph, 100% of the 3,142 passengers will share their recent experience on the stranded ship with family, friends, co-workers and just about every other consumer looking for related content.  Not to mention the crew of just under 1,100 who are also likely to share negative feedback across all forms of news platforms.  And then the consumers who read these reviews and stories will share the second-hand details with other consumers, and so on, and so on.

Unfortunately for Carnival, social and digital media enabled news of the plagued Triumphto reach far beyond the network of the passengers almost immediately.  Consumers couldn’t avoid reading the horrific news story even if they tried.  However, thanks to consumers who double as brand ambassadors, the reviews online aren’t necessarily always negative even during crises like Carnival’s Triumph. Consumer comments on Facebook and Twitter are mixed.

Can Carnival win back the nay-saying consumers?   The answer is, yes.  We live in a “forgive and forget” world. Six months from now, thanks to time and those brand ambassadors willing to give praise to Carnival, consumers will have moved on. But that will not excuse Carnival from building a strategic PR and marketing campaign to win back customer loyalty.  We can expect to see full-scale, aggressive campaigns from Carnival to fill cabins on their ships once again.

Another great example of how consumer loyalty to a brand can combat a negative is the National Hockey League. This $3.3 billion business experienced its fourth season stoppage since 1992.  The recent lockout frustrated loyal consumers, many who spend discretionary income on expensive tickets, jerseys (or sweaters, as they’re called by real hockey fans) and other NHL merchandise.

During this most recent lockout which delayed the NHL season by 119 days, I was asked, “which side are you on”? [Meaning, the players’ side or the administration’s side – the two groups feuding over dollars.] Like most hockey-loving consumers, I didn’t really care who was right or wrong, I wanted to see my favorite team back on the ice.  And now, the NHL is back.

Despite the shortened season schedule and a hike in ticket prices that exceeds most other pro sporting events, consumers have showed loyalty. They are watching games on the NHL network and local television, in addition to purchasing tickets in impressive numbers. And to prove how much a strong brand, with an arsenal of brand-loving consumers, can quickly recover after a potentially-damaging situation, USA Today reported the NHL had 17 home-opener sellouts, and NBC announced the ratings from the opening telecast were the best for a regular-season NHL game in more than a decade.

Ok, so the teams did have to put a little effort into regaining some of the momentum with its loyal consumers who felt gipped for the first half of the 2012/2013 season.  Hence, teams executed “we’re sorry” promotions in each NHL city asking consumers to “forgive and forget.”
Case studies provide great examples of how-tos. But there are other fantastic resources to turn to. If your business has lost customers due to a bad experience, you may also want to check out Fast Up Front’s “Five Steps to Win Back An Unhappy Customer.”

Now, what does this mean to you, the Houston business owner? It means a lot! Your reputation is everything and if your customers air their grievances with your business using social media, review sites and other digital means (in addition to word of mouth) you need to be listening and crafting the appropriate response tactics. Turning your back on what’s being said about your brand could do a tremendous amount of damage to your business. Bad things happen even to smart and savvy businesses and it’s crucial that businesses handle these situations with the tack and diplomacy that these two major brands have used. It’s a cliché but making lemonade out of lemons comes to mind.

Thankfully, genius minds out there have built turn-key solutions and systems to enable businesses to monitor consumer thoughts, behaviors and interactions with a respective brand. Some reputation management solutions take it to another level by offering strategic response strategies and tactics for businesses at odds with negative consumer feedback. They specialize in knowing when and how to position the right response to a harmful message.