Optimize Data to Make Better Decisions

In 2015, data and analytics guru Bernard Marr said, “I firmly believe that big data and its implications will affect every single business—from Fortune 500 enterprises to mom and pop companies—and change how we do business, inside and out.”

That was four years ago, and today Marr’s statement could not be more true.

Solve Problems with Data

Likes, clicks, counts, views . . . you dream it, and the technology can track it.

In a world of limitless measurement, data is helping companies solve problems, see performance, and scrutinize the market. And while it’s easier than ever to collect stats, knowing how to use this data can be a challenge.

Here are several markers to help you distinguish the forest from the trees.

Clearly Identify the Objective

Data seeks to support your business goals, so the best way to use data is to be precise in these objectives. For example:

  • A retail business seeking to grow revenue will measure which products are selling most quickly and if they are understocked in this area.
  • A sports team seeking to win more will use stats from individual players to analyze weaknesses.
  • A marketing executive seeking to generate greater return will analyze conversions to find which ad placements are generating the best response.

To set clear, data-driven goals, ask yourself:

  • What do I want to accomplish this quarter?
  • What are the weak areas the business needs to address?
  • What do I hope to achieve by gathering this data?

Outsource the Analytics

For many people, data shortage isn’t the problem. It’s time and expertise that are lacking.

Because it can be challenging to make sense of the data you’ve captured, sometimes the best option is to outsource. Perhaps there is someone on your team who can read, analyze, or interpret data for you. Maybe a team manager or an account representative could take ownership over their areas of expertise, and present information to your leadership in a simple, understandable way.

Your company may also benefit from third-party data providers like SAS, ClearStory Data, or Kissmetrics. Companies like these can work to combine your business’s internal data with publicly available information to help you make better business decisions.

Optimize Value

After assessing your data, you’ll want to identify the information that will increase value in your day-to-day operations. Areas to consider include:

1. Sales Patterns or Emerging Trends

What is selling the best? What is selling the worst? What product categories are growing fastest?

2. Internal Procedures

How long does each task take, and how can it be done better? Who is driving output? Can we trust high performers with more responsibility?

3. Project Management

Are we on time? Which projects or areas should we prioritize?

4. Benchmarking Competition

What is my competitor’s pricing? How do they market? Where do we fall short?

Save Time, Save Money

The market research firm IDC found that inefficiencies cost companies anywhere from 20-30% of their revenue each year.

Would you like 20% more money to use toward your business goals?

Armed with clear objectives and actionable data, your business can more efficiently market to customers, improve pain points, or streamline operations. The collection of actionable information is certainly worth your investment.

As they say, it’s never a waste of time to stop and sharpen the ax.

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From Ideas to Reality: The Basics of 3D Printing

3D print capabilities are growing substantially, and soon, they will be a regular part of our ever-changing industry.

While relatively new to the market, 3D printing is here to stay. In 1984, Charles Hull developed the technology for printing physical 3D objects from digital data. As the industry advanced, so did the popularity and affordability of this technology. Today, 3D printing is taking business by storm: growth in this field is expected to expand by 31% each year (to a projected $21 billion market in 2020!).

Create What You Imagine

What is 3D printing?

A 3D printer is a manufacturing tool used to create three-dimensional objects that have been designed on a computer. Once an object is designed, it can be imported into software specific to the printer in use, which will slice the parts and send the printer a list of paths and directions to create the item. 3D printers have a wide range of shapes, sizes, and types, but all of them lay down (or “cure”) materials layer by layer, fusing them to create a three-dimensional object.

In today’s competitive business environment, marketing that brings individuality can certainly hit home. 3D print marketing campaigns are distinct, original, and a whole lot of fun. Here are three examples of companies that have gone the extra mile with 3D print: 

  • Coca-Cola invited consumers to create mini versions of themselves in a gamified mobile app to promote its mini coke bottles. Photographs of users were transformed into images for a 3D model and sculpted into tiny statue keepsakes made of colored sandstone.
  • Nokia made a 3D printing kit available for its customers, enabling them to print customized covers for its Lumia 820 (later surprising several bloggers during the Mobile World Congress with a 3D-printed case showing their blog’s Twitter avatars).
  • In 2014, BelVita breakfast biscuits decided to turn tweets into action with its #MorningWin campaign. Fans who tweeted their morning success stories were eligible to win a 3D-printed trophy depicting their tweet in action. BelVita also turned submissions into a series of funny videos. Overall, #MorningWin generated 80 million social media impressions and over 11,000 new Twitter followers. Sales increased by 104% in one year!

A Hands OFF Process

3D printing allows designers to go straight from concepts to physical models while bringing ideas to life in a very short time.

3D printers employ a variety of materials, including plastics, polymers, steel, titanium, gold, and ceramic. This versatility means 3D printed models can be used for everything from artistic sculptures to personalized jewelry or even custom prosthetics and airplane components. Even 3D scans of individual people can be printed and modified to suit the end recipient.

As this technology progresses, entrepreneurs will find that their products may be as distinct as each client, and as wild as their ability to imagine. With 3D print, almost anything will be possible to dream, to draft, and to do!

3 Common Management Traps (and How to Counteract Them)

Are you looking to be more proactive in your influence?

Here are three common management traps, with practical keys for addressing them.

3 Common Management Traps

1. Avoiding a Problem or Tense Relationship

(Instead: Nip things in the bud)

Work environments and team morale can dramatically improve when managers deal with difficult relationships.

While most people avoid confrontation like the plague, effective managers deal with negative attitudes or relationships as soon as they appear. While it’s important to give people the benefit of the doubt, issues rarely resolve themselves. The longer you delay correction, the more difficult it becomes.

Stuck on where to start?

When offering correction, be specific. Say something like, “the report you submitted was vague, lacking financial data, and contained several errors. Please give it another pass and plan to give more attention to your first drafts in the future.”

When confronting team members, focus on a specific behavior, rather than the person or their intentions. For example, “your jokes were distracting and disrespectful to the person presenting the report.”

Before speaking, check your motives. Do you honestly want to help people improve? If so, describe actions or behavior the individual can do something about, and offer tools or training to support them.

2. Delaying Decisions

(Instead: Use decision-making timelines)

Many times, people postpone decisions for fear of failing or making a poor choice.

But most failure stems from inaction, not from mistakes made in the process. And the decision not to act is often the most costly choice of all.

When you struggle with passivity, don’t keep kicking a pain point down the road. Instead, give yourself a time frame to research options and set a deadline for making a choice. Putting “deliberation dates” on the calendar transforms possibilities into reality.

3. Refusing to Delegate

(Instead: Start small and consider a mindset change)

The biggest problem most leaders face is the inability to let go of their work.

Are you micromanaging or failing to release projects someone else could handle? If so, you may be the ceiling that prevents your organization from growth.

How can you start delegating when it is painful to do so? Experts suggest starting small (with basic tasks) and gradually working your way up. Improve trust by partnering with someone to do a task together the first time. Or schedule checkpoints to review work done by your team.

Delegation can also begin with a mindset change, illustrated in this example:

When Anika realized she had become a bottleneck for her organization, she had to redefine her core responsibilities. Previously, her mandate looked like this: “I’m the one in charge of getting the job done.” This “doer” mindset consumed her time and lowered her leadership ceiling.

As Anika considered her obligation to delegate, she redefined her leadership mandate to being “involved but not essential.” The result looked like this: “I lead people, priorities, and projects – in that order – and the work gets done because the right people are focused on the right tasks.”

With a refreshed vision, Anika could review her calendar, count the hours she devoted to “doing” versus leading or empowering, and identify mismatches where she was spending too much time on low-grade priorities. Within months, Anika streamlined work, expanded her influence, and multiplied her leadership.

Simple Course Corrections

While individual management mistakes are not catastrophic, over time, they can have a crippling effect.

Be intentional about addressing these areas, and you can improve team productivity, morale, and competitiveness in your field.

Use Themed Calendars as a Strategic Marketing Asset

In a digital world cluttered with text messages, pop-up ads, and spam, sometimes paper products hit the sweet spot when it comes to organization.

As the end of the year approaches, client and employee gifts may be on your to-do list. Themed calendars are a clever marketing asset that can serve as a unique token of gratitude.

Calendars are practical for everyone, offering branded staying power while conveying your business goals in a way that’s customized to the interests of your audience.

Looking for a few creative ideas? Here are three strategies to capture unique calendar themes.

1. Identify Your Goals.

Each company has its own high-profile days.

Whether you run a real estate company, a chiropractic clinic, or a financial consulting firm, there is a calendar theme that can be tailored to your needs. Start your design by identifying your goals. Do you want to generate more end-of-year orders? Keep employees on track for milestone deadlines? Sell more gym memberships?

Specify concrete goals you want to achieve and tie them to graphics or promotional themes that will build momentum for your business.

2. Schedule Your Promotions.

Did you know one of the busiest days for Papa Murphy’s Take-and-Bake pizzas is Valentine’s Day?

Each year on February 14, the company generates tons of sales from heart-shaped pizzas and s’more dessert delights. The key? Combining deliberate calendar planning with irresistible product promotions.

Every business has crazy seasons and slow seasons, and planning ahead can provide strategic opportunity to offset these challenges. Do you traditionally see a slump or spike in your business during critical months? Call these out in your calendar by placing special promotions in the calendar, or prepping team members with personalized perks or reminders within your calendar design.

Whether it’s the biggest sales day for local bakeries or the top period when shipping companies miss their delivery guarantees, highlighting seasonal trends can set you up for success.

3. Combine Calendars with Loyalty Incentives.

Rewards programs, freebies, and giveaways always make customers feel special.

Did you know eight out of 10 U.S. consumers own at least one giveaway item, and 60 percent of people who receive a promotional gift keep it for up to two years? Consider coordinating your calendars with themed swag or surprise incentives to keep loyalty levels high while generating significant growth.

According to the 2018 Trust Barometer report, over time, returning clients spend 67% more than new customers. Research estimates that a 5% increase in customer retention can increase a company’s profitability by 75%!

365 Days of Exposure

Calendars come in many formats: desktop, magnet, peel and stick, or even posters.

Want to find just the right product for your needs? From triangular desk calendars to transparent covers, we are happy to help you design the perfect promotional calendar. Keep your audience engaged with 365 days of exposure for your business!

How to Build Unity in Your Team on Three Critical Levels

They are the most exceptional basketball team there ever was, or ever will be.

The 1992 Olympic Basketball Dream Team, made up of legends like Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, and Scottie Pippen, dominated the Olympics, winning by an average of 40 points each game. The team seemed invincible, except for the day it wasn’t.

The game was a 20-minute scrimmage, which took place in June of 1992, in San Diego, California. The shocked victors were a star-studded college line-up. The reported margin was around eight points, with a final score of 62-54 (though coach Chuck Daly cleared the scoreboard before media were allowed in afterward). How could a powerhouse lose to amateurs? The answer was simple. Individual stars could not work together as a team. The talent was not enough to compensate for the lack of unity in the team.

Acceptance, Agreement, and Alignment

Without a unified team, the mission of your organization is lost.

Unity refers to the synergy of individuals working together to make a larger vision happen. This means each contributor to the team must be wholeheartedly focused on the same outcome to create consistency and achieve success.

What builds unity in business settings?

Generally, if people trust their leader and believe they have a voice at the table, they feel aligned with the greater purpose of an organization.

But the responsibility for building alignment lies with the leader, and includes three levels of unity:

Acceptance

Most companies already have this first (and lowest) level of unity, appointing a formal leader with team members who agree on this hierarchy.

At this level, people go along with the status quo because if they happen to object, they perceive the cost of speaking up as too great.

Agreement

At this level of unity, people agree with a team’s direction and generally support it.

Unfortunately, they are not necessarily invested in the leader’s ideas or committed to making them happen. While leaders may not experience outright resistance, at this level, teams lack momentum and can’t seem to make things happen.

Alignment

Here leaders find that people are not just with them, but fully behind them.

They’re committed to making the shared vision a reality and give tremendous effort to making it happen. They voice support in public and aren’t afraid to share concerns in private.

Move People Forward with Brave Communication

What happens if your team is stuck at level one or two? Leaders can take several steps to build unity in practical ways:

  • Discuss the levels of unity with your team, asking people to speak honestly about where things are at or share sensitive feedback in private.
  • Clearly articulate your vision, strategy, or your reason WHY. People can’t get on board with a vision if they don’t understand it. Be consistent in sharing the vision. The gravitational pull is always toward individual roles rather than team vision, and it’s your job to keep the end goal in sight.
  • Encourage debate and deliberation by positioning yourself as a learner. When weighing decisions, gather as much input as possible, then share why you decided on a particular direction.
  • Ask for buy-in. When you sense underlying tension, consider addressing it directly. Ask people who disagree with you to get on board anyway. On dicey decisions, it may be important to ask people (publicly, one by one, during a meeting) this question: “_____, can you align with this decision?”

Be brave in your communication, and you will cut to the core of disunity in your team. Remember, people can’t authentically buy-in until they’ve voluntarily committed first.

5 Smart Strategies for Fantastic Font Selection

Want to win in print? Let’s talk text.

While fonts are a crucial part of one’s design, often fonts are given merely a passing thought. However, good typography expresses personality, increases readability, and displays professionalism, ensuring your print ad delivers the right message in just the right tone.

Fonts can mark a clear difference between a piece that is awkward and amateur versus one that is sleek and professional. Don’t fast-forward through this crucial element in your project design!

Increase the Impact of Your Print Piece with the Right Font

Here are five things marketers should take into consideration when choosing the right font.

1. Readability

The most critical factor in font selection is readability.

If people struggle to read your text, they’ll probably pass on your business. Remember, script or decorative fonts are usually more challenging to read, especially in large blocks. Increasing font size and spacing between lines increases readability, whether you use simple or decorative fonts. If you aren’t sure of the best format, try several drafts and poll friends to get an objective viewpoint.

2. Instant Impact

Design, including fonts, is key to a consumer’s brand assessment.

Did you know that 72% of consumers say packaging design definitively influences their purchases? Using multiple fonts can enhance your message and captivate consumers, but don’t get carried away.

Choose fonts that compliment rather than compete with each other. Try a decorative font for a logo and a traditional font for the body copy. Or try a large, bold headline with a subtle script tagline. Logo fonts should act as an accent piece to reflect your company’s personality but use these fonts sparingly in other copy.

3. Emotional Connection

The height, curves, or angles of lines can resonate with consumers in ways you might not expect.

Take the New York Times, for example. This media giant has tried several times since 2003 to change its font and modernize its image. Each time, the paper received backlash from readers who felt upended at the deviation from what they had known and loved.

Over time, your font can become as much a part of your brand as your tagline or logo. Make an enduring, sustainable choice, and you may be surprised how it takes on a life of its own!

4. Target Demographic

To really hit home, remember your font should immediately click with your target audience.

For example, a stodgy, narrow font may work well for a cigar box but would seem clumsy for a children’s playground carnival. When beginning a project, ask yourself, “where and how will consumers read this information?” Aim for the customer, and you’ll find greater success.

5. Brand Goals

What is the overall image you want to project? Fun and playful or sleek and simple?

If you’re looking for something traditional, formal, or elegant, a serif font is usually best. If you’re aiming for a modern, sharp, or minimalist look, try sans-serifs. 

From Font to Fantastic

Fonts choices have a subconscious impact on how customers process and receive your message.

Push yourself to think contextually when it comes to fonts, seeking out those that will best connect to the culture, age, or the location of people you are trying to reach. Carefully attending to these details can make a difference that lasts for decades!

4 Nonverbal Communication Hacks to Streamline Your Success

“Few realize how loud their expressions really are. Be kind with what you wordlessly say.” 
― Richelle E. Goodrich, Making Wishes

Do you appreciate it when you are telling a story and your listener sneaks a peek at their watch? How about when you ask your child for help with a chore and they mumble a begrudging “yes” while dramatically rolling their eyes?

Communication is a nuanced endeavor.

Whether you’re using hundreds of words or simply standing in silence, you are in constant communication with those around you. Experts estimate that a minimal amount of communication happens through the exchange of words, while up to 93% occurs through tone, expression, and gestures.

Nonverbal interactions are our primary mode of communication (coming so naturally, even the smallest child has it mastered), and it is difficult to “fake.” Nonverbals usually tell the truth, even when our words are lies.

Be a Better Communicator in Your Professional Environment

Here are four interesting strategies to use nonverbal communication to your advantage.

1. Break the Tension

In moments of high tension, people feel more defensive when they sense you are trying to “win.”

Nodding your head during a conversation communicates that you are listening and making an active attempt to understand an opposing point. Nodding can also win people over to your viewpoint, as people subconsciously mirror the body language of those around them. When you nod while speaking, it adds authenticity to your words and makes people more likely to compromise with you in heated situations.

2. Understand the Relational Bonds in the Room

Sometimes the quickest way to grow trust in a group is to figure out where loyalties lie.

One trick is to watch for eye contact. When a group of people laughs, members of the group can’t help but make eye contact with the people they feel close to.

Another clue is the direction of a person’s feet. In group conversations, if the feet of the listener are pointed at the person speaking, it conveys interest and respect. If the listener’s feet are pointed away, it often shows they are disinterested or disconnected.

3. Communicate Confidence Even When You are Nervous

If projecting confidence can determine the outcome of your conversation, how can you add weight to your nonverbals?

Confidence is something you can practice before you enter a room. Research shows that the use of “power poses” (placing your hands on your hips, standing tall with your chin raised, or raising your fists above your head), can trick your brain into feeling more confident. Do this for 30 seconds before a meeting, and you’ll walk into a room with more natural confidence, resulting in a smoother conversation and a more poised disposition.  

4. Increase Influence Without Saying a Word

Sometimes the biggest distractions in a conversation are the fillers.

To establish trust while listening, avoid needless “noise” like pacing, tapping your foot, or fidgeting with your hands or pen. When you ask a question, and someone is slow to respond, resist the urge to jump back in. Remain silent for a few extra beats to show you respect this person’s thought process and that you’re confident in moments of negotiation. Quieting your impulses also helps you come across as competent and in control.

A Springboard for Success

These tips won’t make you a communication ninja, but streamlining these natural cues can help you better understand the relationships of those around you.

Intentionally sharpen your nonverbal skills, and you will build your network and streamline a path to success!

How to Effectively Guide Your Customers Through the Journey of Decision

Do you want to be more intentional and effective in your marketing?

Maybe it’s time to refocus on the journey you want customers to take. As a map is to a road trip, a sales funnel can serve as a guide for your prospects.

Sales are more than just transactions; they involve several stages of decision. Push too hard, and people run. Keep it too casual, and they delay. What is the ideal balance? Creating a sales funnel (or a content path for prospects to follow) can engage people every step of the way.

People can’t buy from you if they don’t know you exist, and they won’t buy from you if they don’t trust you.

Here are five stages to consider as you seek to move them from a posture of spectating to the point of final sale.

1. Awareness

In this step, prospects learn about your existence.

Just like dating, before you can introduce yourself to someone, you need to catch their eye. As you consider this stage of communication, ask yourself, “what will drive traffic in our direction? What will spark curiosity or attract interest?” Combining excellent print and digital marketing will put a memorable face on your business.  

2. Interest

Now that you’ve got their attention, be sure to keep it!

Here, prospects move beyond general awareness to intentional engagement. Ask yourself “what will engage them enough that they won’t drift away?” Seek to grow a top-of-mind presence while you showcase your skills and build their trust.

3. Consideration

Beyond just flirting, now two parties consider a match.

Your prospect evaluates your product or services, and you work hard to gain their commitment. Ask yourself, “what information do they need to make a decision?” Identify what is holding them back and outline unique selling points or benefits.

4. Action

Now it’s time for the big ask.

What irresistible offer or personal touch can you use to tip them toward action? Use incentives, bonus products, or hints of urgency to close the sale.

5. Retention

Did you know that the probability of selling to a new customer is 5-20 percent, while the chances of selling to an existing customer are estimated at 60-70 percent?

Perhaps the most essential part of your funnel is convincing current customers to keep coming back! After closing the deal ask yourself, “what messages of gratitude or additional incentives can I offer? How can I invite feedback, involve customers in an on-going conversation, or upsell the clients I already have?” The best part of a working funnel is turning one purchase into 10, or 10 sales into 100.

Begin with the End in Mind

To build a successful funnel, you need to start at the bottom. What is your ideal outcome? Define how many subscribers you want or how many products you hope to sell. Quantify the goal, then work backward to plan your marketing. Here’s one example:

The Apple Blossom boutique noticed that when they sent a printed direct mail teaser, about 20% of recipients visited a specific Apple Blossom URL that was created as an online landing page. Of these online visitors, 10% of browsers made a purchase. Using this data, Apple Blossom started at the bottom of the funnel to work backward for their marketing goals. The boutique wanted to make 100 sales for its spring promotion. If 10% of URL visitors would ultimately purchase, Apple Blossom knew they needed to bring around 1,000 people to this online landing page. If only 20% of direct mail recipients would visit them online, the boutique needed to send printed mail teasers to 5,000 individuals.

The Backbone of Customer Relationships

Sales funnels are the backbone of your customer relationships, helping you focus on the right customers and honing these relationships for maximum potential.

Offer people value at every stage and customers will put their trust in you with their wallets and their loyalty.

Selling Yourself Without Selling Out

Lisa Price describes herself as “the accidental entrepreneur.”

She got her start in her mother’s Brooklyn kitchen, creating body butter and selling it at the flea market at her mother’s church. Customers would stop by, smell a few things, and ask one inevitable question: “Do you have anything for hair?”

Price made this her top priority and never looked back. “Carol’s Daughter,” Price’s ridiculously popular natural hair care and beauty brand, eventually became a multimillion-dollar business that sold to L’Oreal in 2014. Price says the ability to spot innovation, create something, and sell herself have been several keys to her success.

Negotiating Well and Staying True to Yourself

How do you sell yourself without selling out?

Price was committed to finding healthy ways for African-American women to care for their hair. She stayed true to this mission (though her customer base eventually included Caucasian women as well). While touting natural products in place of highly popular chemical relaxers used in salons, Price presented herself as a simple girl with simple solutions.

Her product popularity coincided with stints on the Home Shopping Network and the rise of YouTube. Price could offer product demos, educate young women looking for solutions, and bring affordable alternatives to young markets. In 2009, “Good Hair” (a documentary produced and narrated by Chris Rock) showed a can of Coca-Cola dissolving in a chemical relaxer, and momentum spiked: women using relaxers in their hair dropped from 89 percent to 36 percent in just two years.

“The Internet makes everything democratic,” said Price. “Larger companies got left behind.”

Along the way, Price grew comfortable negotiating for her company and fighting for herself without folding under pressure.

Want to emulate her experience?

While you may not feel very powerful before signing a new deal, career coaches say you have the greatest negotiating power during the short time between being offered a job (or a contract) and formally agreeing to take it.  

Negotiating in these situations can increase your earning potential and ensure you’re properly compensated both now and in the future. So prepare well before coming to the table! This may include researching market averages, calculating your value (or your product value), and preparing your talking points in advance (i.e., years of experience, sales goals achieved, or unique benefits your product can bring).

Rehearsing with a friend, asking for more than your target number, and communicating with confidence can bring significant gains when you sit down to negotiate. And don’t worry about offending. Forty-three percent of job recruiters say it doesn’t impact their view of a candidate if one negotiates for salary, and 19 percent said it has a positive impact.

Price shared her advice for when an acquisition or initial salary offer isn’t right. Her script went something like this:

“I appreciate everything about this deal and am so excited, but if I have to live with this particular offer, it might be hard for me to be fully there and present. I don’t want to be distracted and thinking about other opportunities, so . . . ” Here, Price would lean in, give a specific ask, and let the chips fall. (It worked; she got more money.) When it came time to sell her company in 2014, Price said that outside of her marriage and children, this was the proudest moment of her life.

Negotiating is incredibly important because when you stand up for yourself, you tap into your skills to ask for more. This ultimately sends a message that you deserve it – which means you’re more likely to receive that request!