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.

Read More

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.  

Read More

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.

Read More

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!
Read More

3 Signs to Help You Identify if Your Market is Changing

3 Signs to Help You Identify if Your Market is Changing

So much of your marketing success depends on your ability to get the right message in front of the right people at exactly the right time. To accomplish this, you need to know your audience – and the market that they inhabit – as intimately as possible.

But what happens if one day, suddenly and without warning, that market begins to change? Worse yet, what happens if this trend started while you weren’t necessarily paying as much attention as you should have been? The answer is both unfortunate and straightforward: you’ll be stuck playing “catch up.”

This is a situation that you do NOT want to find yourself in. Here are a few key signs that indicate a market change may be taking place.

Product Innovation Is No Longer a Key Value Driver

You’ve worked hard to build a robust and stable business and nobody offers what you do in quite the same way. You’ve had a tremendous amount of success relying on this type of innovation up to this point as a result. However, if things start to shift in the opposite direction, you may be looking at a market change that you’ll want to adapt to as fast as you can.

Simply put, product innovation – that is, the quality of what you do and how you do it – should always be the key value driver for your business. If you start to have to fall back on things like your prices, the reputation of your brand, or simply your ability to “out market” your competition, it’s likely that your audience is reaching a maturity level that will represent a challenge in the future.

Look to Your Competitors

Competitors are not always a hurdle to be overcome. Oftentimes, they can be the “canary in the coal mine,” so to speak, especially in a situation like this one. Take a look at some of the leaders in your industry, especially competitors that are larger than you are. What are they doing? Are they growing or retracting? Are they doing something that nobody else is doing because they can see something coming down the road that nobody else does? Keeping an eye on the health of your larger competitors can be a great way to stay ahead of the larger market trends that may be right around the corner. 

Listen to Your Customers

Ultimately, the most important thing you can do to identify signs that your market may be changing requires you to see your marketing strategy as a two-way street. You’re not just communicating with your audience; your audience is also communicating with you. If you’re having a hard time getting solid insight into the direction of your industry and market alone, cut out the middleman and go right to the source: ask your audience what they see as their future needs in the areas you’ve dedicated yourself to serving.

Send out surveys or questionnaires asking for raw, honest insights into the questions you’re asking yourself today. Take a current client or customer out for dinner and ask them what they see for the next five or even ten years in your industry. Never forget that without these people, your business wouldn’t exist – so it’s in your own best interest to listen to them as often as possible. 

Read More

The Art of Time-Blocking: A Simple Tip to Revolutionize Your Productivity

The Art of Time-Blocking: A Simple Tip to Revolutionize Your Productivity

Most people just aren’t that good at multitasking. Trying to remain focused (and organized) is one of the most significant time wasters, especially in the life of a business professional. When you try to do too many things at the same time, you become a “Jack of all Trades, Master of None.” Just when you’re trying to get work done on that big project, another email comes in that you have to respond to. You hop over to your email client and suddenly the phone is ringing, or you realize that you have to proof a new design before it heads out the door. It’s maddening.

Thankfully, there is a better way. By adopting the fine art of time-blocking, you may have just found the simple, yet effective technique you’ve been looking for to unlock a bold new era of productivity in both your personal and professional life.

What is Time-Blocking?

At its core, time-blocking is the idea that you should segment your day into clearly defined (and strictly adhered to) blocks of productivity. Organize the tasks you need to complete by category and set aside a specific amount of time for those categories each day.

If you feel like you’re spending an unfortunate amount of time responding to emails every day at the expense of everything else, set aside 9:00 am to 10:00 am every morning to just focus on emails. Devote every ounce of your attention to this one task and when it’s over, move onto the next one. Outside of the occasional emergency, don’t respond to emails for the rest of the day. Get it done, and then move on. 

The Benefits

The beauty of time-blocking falls into two distinct categories. First, it’s an incredibly effective way to eliminate distraction. Instead of trying to divide your attention between ten little tasks, it’s almost like you’re tackling just one big one (i.e. emails, and nothing more). Not only do you get those initial tasks done faster, but the ultimate quality of your output is also much higher because you’re no longer trying to do too many things at once.

Next, time-blocking is also an excellent way to build up a strong sense of momentum that will carry you through the rest of your day. As you begin to move from block to block, you’ll constantly be surprised by just how much you’re getting done. This wave of productivity (not to mention the wave of euphoria) builds on itself, driving things home towards the finish line (and the end of the work day). 

Success Comes When You Look Ahead

Another one of the keys to success regarding time-blocking is a little bit of forward thinking. This isn’t something you can make up on the fly. You need to consider the types of tasks you need to do each day and what you have to get done by week’s end. Look ahead a little bit and make a list of your top priorities. Then, separate those into categories and get down to business.

Remember, it’s important to be honest with yourself. Time-blocking won’t suddenly create an extra hour in your day, but it will help you make better use of the hours you already have. If you try to add too many things to your list to the point where it becomes unrealistic, you’ll end up working against your goal and not towards it. You’ll quickly begin to feel overwhelmed, which is something that you do not want. 

Read More

Craft More Compelling, More Emotional Presentations Today

Craft More Compelling, More Emotional Presentations Today

The major goal of any piece of marketing collateral is to connect with your audience in a deep, meaningful way. This is true regardless of the specific type of marketing you’re talking about – from that terrific new flyer you just designed, to a banner, and beyond. Presentations are a particularly valuable format in this regard as they give you a nice opportunity to really dive a little deeper into certain subjects in a way that other mediums don’t allow.

However, the format is only a means to an end. If you really want to make sure that you’re crafting the most compelling, emotional presentations possible, there are a few key things you’ll want to keep in mind.

Find That Theme

Because presentations tend to be long form documents (at least in comparison to something like a flyer), you always want to make an effort to keep your “eye on the prize,” so to speak. Every presentation has a topic. That topic should be reinforced again and again by your primary theme. This is the main idea you’re trying to get across or the idea that you’re trying to help someone understand.

Once you’ve settled on your theme, EVERY component of your presentation needs to feed back into it. This will form the basic spine of your piece. Anything that isn’t directly related to that theme or the topic at hand has to go – no exceptions. 

It’s a Visual World; We’re Just Living In It

Another essential step you want to take in your quest to craft more compelling, more emotional presentations involves including as many visual elements as possible. Remember that a presentation is not a white paper or a blog post – it is a medium that is perfect for relevant images and other visual content.

Human beings tend to be visual learners.  We can’t help it; it’s just the way our brains work. One study revealed that once someone had heard a piece of information, they usually only remembered about 10% of that content three days later. When that same information is paired with a relevant image, however, that number jumps to 65%.

In terms of presentation success, it’s hard to find a tip more valuable than relying on visuals. Visuals give people something to latch onto, something to break up big blocks of text and (more importantly) are naturally engaging. People even follow directions better when the content they’re reading is filled with pictures, so this is one of those major tips that you definitely don’t want to avoid.

These are just a couple of the major tips that you can use to craft more compelling, more emotional presentations. Remember that one of your top priorities as a marketer is always to get the right content in front of the right people at the right time. However, doing that is only half the battle.  Making sure that the content is as striking and as engaging as you can is another major component when it comes to getting people to make that ever-important sale.  

Read More

Improving Your Organizational Skills With Technology

Improving Your Organizational Skills With Technology

If you’re the type of person who wants to improve your time management skills, there’s a good chance that what you really need to do is improve your organizational skills. We spend so much time each day trying to remember where we put that important memo, when that upcoming meeting got rescheduled to, or simply trying to get our heads around what obligations we have today. All of this is wheel-spinning certainly isn’t driving your productivity forward in the way you need.

Thankfully, modern technology can be a huge benefit in terms of improving your organizational skills. You just have to keep a few important things in mind.

If You Can Add A Digital Version, Do So

One of the most important ways to use technology to help improve your organizational skills involves finally embracing some of the “digital” versions of “hard copy” techniques you may be holding out on. Case in point: an astounding amount of American adults own a smartphone, a device that is literally more powerful than the equipment used to pull off the NASA moon landings in the 60s. Yet many are still only using them to send and receive calls, respond to emails and send text messages. These are communications benefits, not organizational ones.

As an example, some people still like using a paper desk or wall calendar not only because of the intimacy, but because nothing can really go wrong with it. You make an important appointment, you write it down on your calendar, end of story. That information is always there. However, there’s also a chance to go one step further.

Your paper calendar doesn’t travel with you – your smartphone does. Get in the habit of using both a paper calendar for the tactile quality it excels at AND a “Calendar” app for the organization and especially the travel benefits. If you make an entry into your “Calendar” app on your iPhone, that data is automatically synced to your iPad and MacBook Pro, too. The same is true of data you enter into your “Reminders” app, your “Notes” app, your… well, you get the point. Making a habit of keeping both the paper and the digital version of something in this case creates a “best of both worlds” scenario.

The Cloud Is Your Friend

Along the same lines, let’s get one thing straight: it’s time to move as much of your daily life into the cloud as possible. Cloud storage isn’t just a “virtual hard drive.” If you’re only thinking of the cloud like a digital version of something like a flash drive, you’re not even hitting the tip of the potential iceberg.

When you upload a document into the cloud, it’s instantly available on all of your devices. It can be shared with anyone – both other employees and clients – in a mouse click. Anyone can edit those documents and you have complete visibility over all changes and access permissions. It’s also protected from things like hard drive failure and even theft. Thanks to both the military-grade encryption that services like Dropbox use and techniques like two-factor authentication, your data has never been more secure or accessible at the same time.

The most important benefit of all is that you always know where your data is – available, end of story. You don’t have to worry about what you’re going to do if you can’t take your laptop on a plane with you because you can be just as productive and have access to all of the same information on your smartphone.

These are just a few of the simple ways you can use the technology you probably already have access to. Once you take the time to setup something like cloud-based storage, the hard part has already been done. You won’t have to spend an hour or more each morning trying to remember where you put this or that. You’ll just know. You won’t need to wish there were more hours in a day because it’ll be easier than ever to do more with the ones you already have.

Read More

4 Essential Tips for Time Management On-the-Go

4 Essential Tips for Time Management On-the-Go

It happens to the best of us: you’ve worked hard to build a daily routine that lets you maximize every second of every day. You’ve mastered the fine art of working smarter, not harder, and everyone in the office is jealous of your productivity skills. Then, that upcoming business trip (or even vacation) gets slotted on the calendar and threatens to jeopardize everything you’ve built up to this point.

Take a deep breath and relax. Staying as productive as humanly possible while on-the-go is a challenge, yes, but that doesn’t mean it’s impossible. If you want to make the best use of your time while you’re out of the office, here are four simple, yet essential, tips you’ll want to focus on. 

1) Beware of Those Time Zones

You know how it takes everyone a few days to recovery from the hour gained or lost due to Daylight Savings Time? Time zones are even worse for your productivity, especially if you’re not a frequent traveler. If you’re going to be headed across the country (or even across the world), the first thing you should do is update all of your devices to local time. You’re the one out of the office, so the burden is on you to adapt, not everyone else. Most “smart” devices have a feature in the “Settings” application that will update to local time automatically as soon as you connect to your first Wi-Fi network once you arrive.

2) Cloud Storage Is Your Friend

If you’re not already embracing the wonders of cloud-based storage services like Dropbox, now would be the time to start. Not only does it make sure that all of your documents sync to all of your devices, but many services (like Dropbox for Business) include built-in collaboration features that let multiple people edit the same documents at the same time. Whether you’re on a business trip or are on vacation, if something needs to be approved or modified while you’re waiting for your flight to take off, you’ll still have the opportunity.

3) Don’t Try to Adapt Your Routine. Make a New One

Regardless of where you’re headed, your instinct may be to take your daily routine, the one you worked so hard to build and hone, and cram it into a travel-shaped box. This is an instinct that you should fight at all costs. Don’t pretend that nothing has changed just because you’re going to be away from the office for a few days. That’s how mistakes are made. Instead, think about the obligations you have on your trip and find opportunities to remain productive around those scheduled demands. You’ll have a much better chance at building a new, temporary routine that works for the specifics of the situation you find yourself in.

4) The Devil Is (NOT) in the Details

When you’re hard at work in the office, you tend to have more time to pay attention to the little details of the task at hand. It’s something that goes hand-in-hand with being a career-driven professional. The problem is that this is almost always a bad idea. Striving for perfection 100% of the time is a great way to get less done in a day than you need to.

Read More

3 Easy Time Management Tips: How to Create More Hours in a Day

3 Easy Time Management Tips: How to Create More Hours in a Day

The one natural resource there never seems to be enough of is time. There are only so many hours in a day. You don’t need to wish that tomorrow will suddenly be a 35-hour day to get all of your work done. Instead, you need to start using a few small, yet critical, time management tips today to work smarter, not harder, with the hours that you DO have available to you. Here are three tips to get you started.

1) Learn How to Travel Productively

These days, a significant portion of your work probably isn’t taking place within the confines of your office. Whether it’s meetings with clients or unexpected personal issues, you likely find yourself stepping away from your desk more and more. The key to time management isn’t learning how to keep up with your obligations in spite of these sudden duties. It’s learning how to fit in work time around them. 

Even if you don’t have a mobile tablet that you carry around with you wherever you go, it’s still easier than ever to work remotely. If you’re not already using a cloud-based file sharing service like Dropbox or iCloud, you need to start. Changing a document on your work computer makes those adjustments instantly available to every other device you have. Likewise, services like Dropbox for Business allow for real-time collaboration on files, letting people get together to work on a project even when they don’t have the time to literally “get together” at all. 

Remember, the smartphone that you likely carry around with you is more powerful than the technology that NASA used to send men to the moon in the 1960s. There are hundreds of thousands of apps that are available in the iTunes and Google Play app stores right now for you to use to customize that device in any way you see fit. Stop thinking about it like a device that you merely use to send and receive calls and start looking at it as your office on-the-go.

2) Hold Better Meetings

Meetings are just a fact of life. But one of the many reasons why people tend to dread that weekly “catch-up” gathering is because they’re huge drains of productivity. The answer to this problem isn’t to stop holding meetings altogether; it’s to start holding better meetings. 

Think long and hard about why you’re having a meeting. If it’s just to convey information, you could probably save everyone a lot of time and just send a lengthy email or inter-office memo instead. A meeting should always justify its existence. If it doesn’t, it needs to drop off the schedule. Likewise, plan out an agenda for your meeting ahead of time and stick with it. Make sure everyone who needs to contribute knows what is expected of them before you all walk into a room, giving everyone a chance to be as prepared as they need to be.

3) Get Organized and Stay That Way

Again, time management isn’t about finding more hours in a day; it’s about working smarter, not harder with the hours you already have. One study estimates that as much as thirty percent of our working time each day is spent looking for misplaced items. It stands to reason that if you never feel like you have enough time to get things done, the true issue might just be that you need to take a look around and organize your life more effectively.

Read More