Cash Flow and Marketing: What You Need to Know

Cash Flow and Marketing: What You Need to Know

Cash flow is important in the lifespan of any business, but one of the key things to understand is that it’s about more than just “money in versus money out.” It’s a valuable look into the bigger picture of what you’re doing, and by having a handle on this aspect of your finances, you can take advantage of business opportunities when they arise.

First, you need to understand how every element of your business relates to this cash flow concept, including marketing. To that point, marketing has a very specific relationship with cash flow that you’re going to need to be aware of moving forward. 

Hone Your Budget

Yes, it’s true that marketing costs can often seem unpredictable. However, working hard to hone your marketing budget can make these unexpected situations easier to deal with.

To get started, sit down and think about your upcoming marketing efforts in relation to your other expected cash inflows and outflows. You can’t afford to throw just anything at the wall to see what sticks;  you have to be more precise than that. Create a realistic marketing budget (that includes room for experimentation if needed) that is proportional to the rest of your expected business expenses and revenue streams. 

It’s All About That Return

What matters most? Return on investment. For this, focus on the metrics that provide you the context necessary to understand your marketing efforts.

Essentially, stop thinking about marketing ROI as just “how many sales did that last campaign bring in?” and don’t be afraid to break things down on a more granular level. Start looking at metrics like your customer acquisition cost. If one of your campaigns was aimed at increasing more traffic to your website, start breaking things down based on metrics like “time spent on site” and “conversion rate.”

It’s important to know how your marketing collateral is performing in terms of overall sales and revenues, but in terms of your cash flow you need to dive deeper than that. As long as you’re able to A) show that your marketing is giving you something in return, and B) you can identify exactly what that something is and when it occurs, you know where the value of every marketing dollar rests. 

This, in turn, will give you the context necessary to understand marketing’s affect on cash flow and vice versa. When you know that “X action will pay off in Y way after Z amount of time,” you suddenly know the impact that every marketing decision you make actually has and when that impact is going to occur. This makes long-term cash flow projections not only easier to make but more accurate as well.

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Visuals Need a True Narrative For Maximum Effectiveness

Visuals Need a True Narrative For Maximum Effectiveness

Human beings are visual learners, which is part of why visual communication is so effective (and important). Whether you’re talking about a B2C or B2B situation, marketing presentations allow your message to transcend the world of more straightforward marketing tactics and take on a whole new potential audience at the same time.

Case in point: according to one study, people only tend to remember about 10% of what they hear just three days later. If they receive the same message when paired with relevant visuals, that number jumps to an incredible 65%. It makes sense, then, that 37% of marketers said that visual resources like presentations were one of the most important forms of content for their business in general. 

However, presentations are NOT necessarily a silver bullet, and you shouldn’t treat them as such. Without a strong narrative at the core of your marketing, in general, it’s far too easy to get lost in fluff that ultimately doesn’t matter – affecting the impact on your audience as a result.

What’s in a Narrative? Quite a Bit, It Turns Out

Call it whatever you’d like – a narrative, a central idea, the main thesis, etc. Every campaign needs a straightforward idea (preferably one that can be summed up in a sentence or two) at the start of it all, acting as a solid foundation from which everything else is built.

For the sake of comparison, let’s look at the power a simple narrative brings to the table regarding another visual communication medium: filmmaking. The movie “Star Wars” from 1977 is one of the most successful films of all time. It spawned billions in merchandising sales, one of the most successful franchises ever, and even led to the $4 billion acquisition of LucasFilm by Disney a few years ago.

But “Star Wars” isn’t really about crazy aliens, amazing spaceships, thrilling outer space battles and all of that other stuff. At heart, “Star Wars” is a simple and relatable narrative: a young boy who grew up on a farm dreams of a better and more exciting life, so he jumps at the chance to join the Rebellion and travel the stars.

It’s not any more complicated than that. Every single scene in the movie reinforces that narrative in some way. It all relates back to that simple idea.

Simple and Effective

Your marketing needs to be the same way. Whatever idea that you’re trying to convey or message that you’re getting across, it needs to be A) stated up front, B) as short and as simple as possible and C) relatable in some way. As long as you have those three elements, every other decision you make with regards to content needs to refer back to it, and your marketing will soar.

Having a strong, true narrative (and identifying it before you begin work) keeps you focused. Without a true narrative at the heart of it all, you’re left with marketing that doesn’t really justify its own existence.  

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Repeat Success is No Small Achievement

Repeat Success is No Small Achievement

Arnel Pineda never imagined that he would be fronting the world-famous rock band, Journey, when he began singing American rock songs with his friends’ band as a teenager. 

For years his exceptional singing talent had been good enough to belt out songs with club bands doing parties, special events, contests, weddings, and regular appearances around the Philippines, Pineda’s home country. However, one evening Pineda was filmed doing his performance with a particular Journey song, “Don’t Stop Believin’.” The performance, as well as Pineda’s accuracy in singing the song so similar to how the original version was sung by the first Journey frontman, Steve Perry, shocked people. It also shocked the guitarist and an original member of Journey, Neil Schon, when he watched the YouTube video as well. One would think that the fairytale story ended at this point as Pineda rocketed to fame as Journey’s replacement singer. However, that’s not quite how things went.

Upping Your Game

Yes, Pineda could sing, no argument. And he did a darn good version of Journey as a bar band singer. However, the band made it clear to Pineda that if he were to be considered a serious contender for the real band, he would have to up his game. That meant singing all the original Journey songs to perfection. 

It’s easy for the typical person to think this challenge might be doable. That’s because no one sees what Pineda had to go through to match every tone and every inflection that Steve Perry had done to make Journey’s songs famous in the first place. Unlike Perry, who could craft a new song with any version of voice he liked, Pineda had to duplicate the original to every single detail. It was a grueling process with Schon and company catching every mistake and pushing Pineda to reach the zenith of his ability. There were plenty of times Pineda wanted to quit as well, questioning his own talent. Fortunately, the Filipino singer realized his full potential and succeeded.

Success Can Be Hard to Repeat

This story is a classic case showing how hard it is to achieve success a second time once a standard or great performance has been achieved in the first place. In business, a one-time success is just that, a fortunate blip. When a business team can repeat the performance and do even better consistently, that’s a huge achievement. It proves that the success was not just good luck or a brief opportunity when things just fell into place. 

Repeat success is the primary goal every business team strives to achieve. And it is extremely hard. Conditions change, markets fluctuate, customers move to new interests, team members leave and get replaced. All of these factors and more change the mix in how successful a team can be. To overcome these changes and repeat the success is really the higher level of performance that pays big with rewards when it can be achieved.

Not Just for Entertainment

Think Pineda’s story is just something that happens in the entertainment world? Look at Apple after Steve Jobs passed away. The Apple team lost a core resource in Jobs and still had to find a way to keep Apple growing and succeeding even more than what Jobs had achieved with the company. CEO Tim Cook and company did exactly that, but it was a huge challenge to fill Jobs’ shoes year after year since his passing. In many ways, Cook had to perform just as hard a Pineda to repeat a success and make it better. So the next time you see a repeat success story, don’t dismiss it so quickly. It’s frequently much harder to succeed a second time versus the first.

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From Small Things Come Big Changes

From Small Things Come Big Changes

Pierre Omidyar didn’t plan to start a mega-corporation in the late fall of 1995. In fact, all he wanted to do was get rid of some computer equipment he had laying around by selling it through a digital garage sale. However, once he realized how popular his simple web page started to become, and the fact that he could charge a fee for folks to use it, eBay was born.

In three short years, the eBay online auction concept went from a private website to a viable business that quickly began to explode. Omidyar had hit on what many in business invention call a “primal need,” something that everybody needs and doesn’t yet exist. 

With the help of Jeff Skoll, Omidyar brought in Meg Whitman, the same Whitman who later ran for California’s governor, and corporate eBay took off. By 1998, eBay had gone beyond just selling used and collection items and was quickly becoming a viable brand name for online selling in general. The model continues today and competes directly against regular retail selling.

Seeing What it Could Become

The key aspect of Omidyar’s success, however, was not Whitman and her corporate choices of personnel, nor was it the smart linkup with PayPal to make eBay’s payment processing extraordinarily fluid and easy for customers. Omidyar could see that he had something valuable and, if given the resources, what it could become. This key talent is what makes the difference between inventors and idea people who never quite achieve success, and people like Omidyar who realize what seems to be impossible starting out.

Omidyar had a number of essential factors present and working in his favor:

  • Again, the primal need for an online auction platform or similar garage sale digital tool was needed.
  • Second, it could be easily accessed by anyone who wanted to participate and pay the fee.
  • Third, the tool was easy to use and produced immediate results and rewards for those using it.
  • Fourth, and most important, no one else was making the same idea happen successfully at the time.

Without these elements in place, Omidyar’s personal website might have made some small cash and even generated a small following, but it would not have turned into the worldwide corporation we know as eBay today. 

Finding Ways to Make it Grow

Some explain the opportunity as a momentary blast of good luck or fate, and others argue it’s the genius of the person involved producing some incredible new service or product. In reality, eBay is neither; it is a product of Omidyar being able to see the promise of an idea and finding ways to make it grow and become more useful, accessible, and popular. 

Ebay expanded and became a household name because the company took every opportunity to follow the four principles above in its business strategy. That constant commitment to creating value in a brand is why people keep coming back to eBay as a service some 20 years later, regardless of what the internet and technology have provided since.

If you need help creating value in your brand, we’re here to help. Give us a call today!

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Making Philanthropy the Family Business

Making Philanthropy the Family Business

If you ask the owners of many large, family-owned businesses what keeps everyone together, you may notice a trend: philanthropy. Helping others truly does run in the family, and multigenerational businesses are in a unique position to pass along not just the business perspective needed to be successful, but also how to have a positive impact on the community. Even if kids are too young to be involved in the family business, it’s never too early to begin coaching children about why it is important to help those who are less fortunate. It’s not just large organizations that benefit from giving back — family businesses of all sizes find that philanthropy offers a way for all ages to come together around a common goal. 

Teaching Financial Stewardship

While most parents strive to raise children that are strong and confident of their place in the world, the reality is that there will always be others who do not have the same opportunities for nutrition, good schools, and a loving family environment. It can be challenging for kids growing up in a family business environment to understand that not everyone has access to the same technology, toys and clothing — and that being a good steward of finances means finding ways to contribute to the health and well-being of others. This often starts early with a percentage of allowance going to support those in need and can continue to grow throughout their life.

Legacy of Values

Passing a company down through multiple generations is a powerful legacy,  and one that provides no small measure of pride when passed along. The values of hard work, thrift, and benevolence make for great leaders in the community and in the business — and are a good way of maintaining strong ties with customers and employees. Even family members who are not a part of the daily running of the business are often able to get involved in a philanthropic effort in some way.

Deliberate Goals

Being deliberate about creating goals for your family business around giving is yet another way of enforcing the importance of strategy within the organization. When multigenerational leaders work together to solve challenging problems for the greater good, that hard work often spills over into daily life. A key to selecting a good philanthropic effort is that it’s large enough to engage family members of all ages in some way. This allows you to tailor opportunities for service and giving to the specific preferences and strengths of an individual. For instance, some people are born to be fundraisers and are able to weave a compelling tale about the how monetary gifts will be utilized in a way that compels people to provide cash infusions. If others are more comfortable working behind the scenes, there is plenty to be done there as well.

Building family values, providing support to the community — where’s the downside? When you need printed materials for your next community project, contact us!

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Boosting Customer Engagement with Fall-Themed Promotions

Boosting Customer Engagement with Fall-Themed Promotions

Fall is a beautiful time of year with cooler weather in some regions, and connotations of family in all parts of the country. Fall brings with it traditional themes of back to school, falling leaves, carving pumpkins, football, and fall holidays. One of the most popular traditions during the fall season is the range of pumpkin-flavored treats available. Using these themes, you can create campaigns to drive new customers and return business.

1. Giveaways and Contests

It is always fun to promote a coupon or giveaway with a fall flavor. These can include coupons to neighboring businesses for cross-promotion or sweepstakes for fall gifts. For B2B companies, it is best to keep these rewards under $10 because some industries have strict limits on what they can receive as gifts. Easy gifts are seasonal doughnuts, bags of coffee, pumpkin pie or other food specialties of the season. If you prefer to offer non-food rewards, small sports-related gifts make good selections. It is best to have rewards that appeal to most clients whether men or women and any age.

2. Seasonal Discounts

Offering seasonal discounts as companies ramp up for the year can drive business. These discounts should be offered in early August to allow for planning time. Giving customers bulk discounts for large orders is a good incentive for any product or service.

3. Educational Videos

Combine some video with your print promotions to encourage loyalty from your customers. Videos can truly be on any subject to help customers better understand what you do and how best to approach you for specific jobs. Humorous videos are an excellent way to help customers remember what they have learned. You can promote custom products and services that make your business unique and invite them for a free sample after viewing the video.

4. Fall Infographics

The football theme is a great one for fall infographics. You can lay out a play-by-play scenario for a custom service on a colorful direct mail infographic that will catch your customer’s eye. Use it as a poster in your building, email it to your customer list, and hand it out with orders. Infographics are great for simplifying complex ideas with simple illustrations and graphic arrows. 

These are just a few ideas to get promoting this fall. Remember, if you need help with your printing and marketing, give us a call today!

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Healthy Employees Are Productive Employees: Why to Incentivize Health at Work

Healthy Employees Are Productive Employees: Why to Incentivize Health at Work

Productivity really is the secret to everything in terms of your business’ success. Happier employees tend to be more productive, which is why it is essential that you focus on things like corporate culture and team-building exercises whenever the opportunity arises. 

Many people don’t realize, however, that this is only one small part of a much larger story. It isn’t enough for your employees to be happy – healthy employees are also significantly more productive than those who are not, which is why if you’re not already making health and wellness top priorities within your organization now would be an excellent time to start.

Healthy Employees and Productivity: Facts and Figures

According to a series of studies that were recently conducted on the subject, healthy employees may be a whole lot more valuable than you’ve even realized:

  • On average, employees who eat healthy foods (or who at least make an effort to do so) tend to be about 25% more productive than those who do not.

  • Employees that exercise for at least a half hour each week are an impressive 15% more likely to have higher job performance than those who do not.

  • Healthy employees also take fewer sick days, which is not surprising. The true revelation, however, is just how far this benefit goes: absenteeism is a massive 27% lower in employees who A) eat healthy, and B) exercise regularly.

  • The most important statistic of all is the fact that overweight and generally unhealthy employees cost employers in the United States an astounding $73.1 billion collectively per year, part of which has to do with the fact that they tend to file twice the number of workers’ compensation claims than those who do not.

At this point, the answer to the question “how important are healthy employees?” becomes resoundingly clear: very, very important. But saying that you value your employee’s health is one thing. Actually taking steps to show that this is true is something else entirely.

How to Value Health at Work

Luckily, valuing healthy employees is simply a matter of a series of small choices. You can begin by making sure that healthy snacks are available for employees in the office who may be “burning the midnight oil,” for example. If you’re one of the many workplaces around the country that has a vending machine on-site, consider restocking that vending machine with healthy snacks like fruits and vegetables instead of the traditional potato chips and sweets. People will absolutely start to eat them, especially if they don’t really have an alternative.

You’ll also want to consider emphasizing health in terms of things like employee benefits packages. Consider throwing in a free gym membership to a local fitness club that employees can take advantage of after they’ve worked with your organization for X number of weeks or months. It may not be something that everyone uses, but those who do will benefit greatly. You’ll also benefit, too, as this is a clear sign that you actually care about the health and fitness of your employees – something that will make it easier to attract top talent in the future.

Also remember that according to one report by Quantum Workplace, employees tend to be 14% more engaged when they are provided some time off to “recharge their batteries,” so to speak. So the next time you think it’s a good idea to make people work incredibly long hours week after week, you may want to think again.

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What Google’s Mistakes Can Teach Us About Leadership

What Google’s Mistakes Can Teach Us About Leadership

One of the things that Google is famous for is data-based decision making. When they want to find the most effective way to do something, they look at the numbers and work from there. However, even a company as married to analytics as Google is vulnerable to lapses and oversights. Recently, their data showed that their process for hiring and promoting the best managers for the job was all wrong. 

When you look at where Google made their mistake and what they did to correct it, you could save your company some money and heartache and also create a more effective workplace. 

Google’s Error and Assumption

Besides a dedication to data, Google’s other key characteristic is a high regard for technical expertise. Tech savviness was so prized that, historically, it was one of the top factors in whether someone would get promoted to management.

When Google set out to learn whether their hiring and promoting strategy was working, they discovered something interesting: the best managers were not necessarily the ones who were technical experts at all.

After gathering and analyzing data from 10,000 manager observations, they learned that the quality they valued most had almost no bearing on whether someone was a good manager. Instead, soft skills were what made all the difference.

What the Data Says Makes a Good Manager

Google used their large pool of data to identify eight qualities and habits that make great managers. While technical skill was on the list, it was the least important of all the qualities on it. In order of importance, the qualities that make great managers include:

  • Good coaching.
  • Empowering your team to work without micromanaging. A good manager hires good people, then gets out of their way.
  • Interest in employees’ well-being and success. People are more motivated and show greater job satisfaction when they know that the people they work under care about them.
  • A results-oriented and productive outlook.
  • Excellent communication skills, especially good listening.
  • An interest in employees’ career development. Good managers understand that we all do better when we all do better.
  • A clear vision and strategy.
  • Key technical skills. These aren’t important because your manager will be doing hands-on work, by the way. They are important because it allows the manager to advise the team that they’ve assembled for the job.

In addition to the revelations above, Google discovered a lot about the types of managers who make employees happy. The most important quality is a calm demeanor and an even keel. In a high-stress environment, someone who keeps things steady is key. They also discovered that the best leaders puzzled through problems with employees instead of just telling them what to do. 

By looking at the real data about good managers, Google was able to improve their hiring practices, improve worker satisfaction, and increase productivity. 

The biggest takeaway? Always challenge your assumptions. You may learn that what you thought was effective may be harming your company more than it helps. By taking an honest look at your analytics, you can seize startling revelations. Use them to make your company a better place and to rise above the competition.

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Bullies, Burgers, and Buzz

Bullies, Burgers, and Buzz
What do Whopper Juniors and bullying have in common these days? They are both being talked about. A LOT.
 
Recently, Burger King released a three-minute video in honor of National Bullying Prevention month. The viral video revealed that 95 percent of customers were willing to report their smashed, “bullied” Whopper Jr., but only 12 percent stood up for a high school student being harassed in the same store. The “No Junior Deserves to be Bullied” spot received national attention, generating countless online shares and loads of free publicity. One blogger said this:
 
“Yes, this is basically a three-minute Burger King ad. And, yes, it’s not subtle. But this PSA is better than it has a right to be, and is certainly more than you’d expect from a restaurant that doesn’t really have an ethical obligation beyond selling burgers . . . this weirdly good anti-bullying PSA will wreck your day.”

Viral: Why Certain Messages Multiply

Have you ever wondered why some YouTube videos go viral? Or why some products receive more word-of-mouth and top-of-mind awareness? Whether we’re in marketing, politics, or public health, it’s helpful to consider why certain products or ideas catch fire. Wharton marketing professor Jonah Berger, author of Contagious: Why Things Catch On, devoted nearly a decade to researching this very question. We all know that word-of-mouth marketing is the most dynamic form of influence, but why do some things seem to create more buzz? Berger gives several ideas for getting your ideas to stick and to SPREAD.
 
  1. Social Currency. What we talk about influences how other people see us – whether we look clever, silly, or thoughtful. How can our product or idea be a fun or interesting thing for someone to share with others? Many who shared the Burger King ad found it to be a compelling social commentary, a fun (but thoughtful) perspective worthy of passing along.
     
  2. Triggers. People often talk about whatever comes to mind. Just like a Subway ad might be effective in a subway station, a trigger is an association that prompts people to think about related things. Burger King wisely released this PSA during Bullying Prevention month, because what is on the top of the mind is often at the tip of the tongue. Burgers and bullies were on our lips in October.
     
  3. Emotion. How can we craft messages and ideas that make people feel something? Our relational bent prompts us to share things that are surprising, inspiring, funny, beautiful, or motivating. Burger King tapped into a heartfelt issue, knowing that when we care, we are more likely to share!
     
  4. Stories Sell. Why are Super Bowl commercials so fun? Because nothing tops a great story, and these ads tell them well. Top marketers know that one way to replicate a message is to embed it in a “Trojan Horse,” or a noteworthy narrative people are bound to repeat. In this instance, the Whopper Junior had a supporting role in the greater story of bullying and social justice. But Contagious reminds us the product or idea has to be essential to the plotline: “We need to make our message so integral to the narrative that people can’t tell the story without it.”
     

Getting Your Message to Spread and Stick

Looking for ways to get your message to spread and your brand to stick? From large-scale publicity to customer care and referral options, we have opportunities in all sizes. We’ll help you package your stories, triggers, and ideas with several time-tested tools and tricks. Give us a call to talk options!
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Ways to Protect Your Brand in the Real-Time Information Age

Ways to Protect Your Brand in the Real-Time Information Age

A brand is more than just a company logo, and it’s bigger than any one particular product or service. Instead, it’s the feeling that people get when they think about your company. It’s what goes into the instinct they have regarding whether or not to make a purchase.

A brand is also massively important in terms of how successful your marketing efforts will be in the long-term. The impression someone has of your brand is something that occurs almost immediately.  48% of consumers say that they are more likely to become loyal to a brand if their first experience is a positive one, regardless of whether or not that experience actually took the form of a purchase. 

That means your brand must be protected at all costs, particularly in the real-time information age that we’re now living in. People are being marketed to from nearly every angle. If you don’t work hard to strengthen and hone your brand, you run the risk of being lost in the shuffle. Hope is not lost, however, as there are a few key things you can do to protect your brand as much as you can.

Consistency is Key

One of the most important things you can do to protect your brand is focus on something that real-time information doesn’t provide: consistency. According to one study, 90% of consumers expect that their experience with a brand will be similar across all channels – whether you’re talking about print, in-person interactions, or digital content.

Don’t Wait For Your Audience to Come to You

Another study estimates that, on average, you really need about five to seven positive brand impressions with a consumer before they start to remember your brand in a similar light. This is good, but you need to remember that in a real-time information age, you don’t necessarily have the time to wait for a consumer to initiate those impressions.

Also, consider the fact that brands that are consistently presented are three to four times more likely to experience brand visibility. YOU must be reaching out to your audience by way of consistent, enjoyable and helpful experiences whenever and wherever you can. Increase the frequency of the print marketing collateral that you’re putting out there and focus on being helpful, educational, and informative. 

The Unmistakable Benefits

Give people as many opportunities to experience your brand as you possibly can and your entire identity will benefit as a result. If brand visibility is something of a numbers game, you need to play those numbers as well as you possibly can. Don’t wait for someone else to hopefully do it for you.

Successful branding brings with it a wide range of different benefits, from increased customer loyalty to an improved image, to a relatable identity and beyond. But in an age where information is everywhere, your brand is something that you also need to work hard to proactively protect. If you don’t, you run the risk of watching those important relationships with your audience begin to deteriorate.

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