Upset and tired boy teenager sitting on the floor keeps hand to cheek looking thoughtfully and hopeless. Stressed student guy feels emotional discomfort, anxiety and mental health problems.

Your Team’s Mental Health – ROI

It is never easy to deal with stress and anxiety in the business world. Getting help from a specialist should be the first thing you do if you are struggling with your mental health. 

This is especially true in today’s environment of COVID-19 induced isolation.  In addition, with economic issues and job insecurity, not everyone can afford to seek help from a specialist.  

The good news is that many companies currently have programs for their employees.

There is far more than an ethical case for investing in mental health programs for employees. Poor mental health in the workforce presents enormous costs on businesses all over the world. Still, we see barriers to investment, like the lack of understanding of best practices, and the shortage of documentation that such expenditures actually do improve a company’s bottom line.

Today, we aim to address these concerns and show you why it is wise to invest in your team’s mental health.

Mental Health Defined

Mental health refers to a person’s state concerning their emotional and psychological well-being. Like our physical health, we need to take care of our mental health. 

When your employees enjoy good mental health, they will have the energy to perform and have a sense of direction and purpose. They can better handle the challenges presented to them at work and in life.

If you have a workforce that enjoys good mental health, your team can:

  • Make the most of their potential
  • Play a full part in the growth of your company
  • And cope with challenges in the workplace

As circumstances change, so does our mental health. It fluctuates as we move through different stages of life and challenging situations.

Work-related risk factors for mental health

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), there are several risk factors for mental health in the workplace. Most of these risks are linked to the organizational environment, managerial environment, type of work, employee skills and competencies, competitiveness among workers, and the support available for employees to do their jobs. 

For instance, an employee may possess the skills to do the work but may have little resources to do what is needed. Another extreme example is prolific office politics.

Other risks to mental health include:

  • Poor communication within the organization
  • Poor management practices
  • Insufficient safety and health policies
  • Lacing support levels for employees
  • Unclear tasks or objectives
  • Lack of control over an employee’s area of work
  • Limited participation in decision-making
  • Bullying and psychological harassment

It is important to note that bullying and psychological or even sexual harassment are among the most commonly reported causes of stress in the workplace. Also, experts noted that there are increased risks in situations where there is little social support and team cohesion.  This lack of connection between employees has now been exacerbated by working from home due to the pandemic we are currently experiencing.

These risks can be costly for both the employer and the employees, as they lead to reduced productivity and increased staff turnover.

Workplace mental health issues can cause both direct and indirect costs.

Direct costs include:

  • Health care costs
  • Disability claims

Indirect costs are:

  • Absenteeism
  • Reduced productivity at work
  • Employee turnover

Creating a healthy work environment

We can describe a healthy workplace as one where employees and managers readily contribute to the workplace. It is done by supporting and protecting the health, safety, and well-being of all employees.

A research study suggests that creating a healthy work environment should have a 3-pronged approach:

  • Reduce work-related risk factors
  • Enhance and focus on the positive areas of work and employee strengths
  • Deal with all mental health issues whatever the cause is

Proactive steps to take

  • Understanding of the workplace environment and how you can adapt it to develop better mental health for diverse employees
  • Be mindful of what other firms who have taken action have done
  • Learn from known organizational leaders and employees who have taken action in the past
  • Knowing the sources of support and where employees can find help
  • Awareness of the opportunities and demands of each employee in helping to establish stronger policies for workplace mental health
  • Implementation of health and safety practices, consisting of identification of distress, destructive use of psychoactive substances and illness, and offering support
  • Letting employees know what help is available
  • Getting workers involved in the decision-making process
  • Give employees the feeling of participation and control
  • Invest in programs for career development
  • Rewarding employees’ contributions

Benefits of investing in the health and wellness

Investing in mental health interventions should already be a part of a business’s overall strategy. It should cover prevention, early identification, encouragement, and recovery. Companies can hire occupational health professionals to support their organization in carrying out these interventions.

Research studies carried out by WHO on the cost-benefit of strategies to support mental health point to net benefits. They estimated that every $1 invested in mental health interventions yields $4 in improved productivity.

Programs to enhance mental health will potentially lead to a positive return on investments. A mentally healthy workforce is even more crucial now as the effects of COVID-19 continue to impact overall employee wellness.

Conclusion

It is time for businesses to give importance to the mental health of employees. One way of doing this is by removing the stigma surrounding this subject, causing individuals to hide their conditions for fear of being singled out. 

Investing in your team’s mental health will encourage you employees to ask for help, seek treatment, and support each other’s need for a mentally healthy work environment.  Ultimately the ROI will positively impact your bottom line as well.  

customer-service

Outsourcing Customer Service

When organizations talk about outsourcing, they mean delegating essential business processes to a specialized third party. This practice is common for areas like accounting, IT, and now even customer service.

Outsourcing is often beneficial to companies, both for the expertise, the third party brings and the financial savings outsourcing presents. The third-party involved will often control the daily management of the responsibilities delegated to them. This differentiates them from merely procuring the goods or services of an external firm.

The value of providing excellent customer service

If your company has a large customer base, then you need to provide efficient customer service to keep your customers happy.

Customer service reflects the culture of an organization as well as its strengths and shortcomings. Questions from customers should be given priority and must be noted courteously. Failure to do so may damage the market reputation of the company, fairly or unfairly.  In today’s day and age of online reviews –  customer service and reputation management is a key component of success for any company.  

Why outsource customer service?

With less time at their disposal, many multinational corporations have recently begun outsourcing customer service responsibilities. Not only does it reduce their labor cost, but it also helps in saving an immense amount of time, which they can reallocate to focussing on their core competencies.

Voice- and non-voice-based customer service activities are now being outsourced to India, the Philippines, and other Asian countries owing to the abundance of an affordable but well-educated English-speaking workforce. They are ready to work in shifts to help the U.S. and other Western companies. For this reason, Call Centers have become the ultimate solution for many broad customer-based companies for all their customer service issues.

Outsourcing firms heavily invest in infrastructure and personnel. With their well-trained staff and their well-equipped infrastructure, these companies are highly capable of meeting the demands of their clients.

Benefits of outsourcing customer service

Outsourcing customer service can give businesses a cost savings of at least 20%. With all that savings, companies can invest in expansion or other profitable ventures.

Also, by outsourcing customer service, customer questions and complaints can be handled immediately and objectively. Customers do not like to wait, and when you handle their issues quickly, you improve your brand image.

Companies also benefit from outsourcing customer service by serving international customers. Call centers are available round-the-clock, which means they can serve customers day and night.

Another benefit is scalability. You can flex by easily adding and removing services based on your company’s changing needs.

Tips for outsourcing customer service

  1. Assess your business model

Establish your business goal, brand voice, and tone guide for your customer service team. You should know what you want to achieve as this will serve as your team’s guidance when tending to customers. Brand consistency is crucial since it is what connects the whole operation.

  1. Invest in training

After hiring your customer service team, you need to evaluate your onboarding process. Determine if it is informative, thorough, and will be able to answer all of your customer’s questions. This reduces room for errors. 

If you do not provide sufficient training, you may end up spending more money on fixing the problems of your customers.

Invest in customer service skills training to increase your business’s chances of success when running your outsourced operations. This will help ensure you will get a higher return on your investment and positive customer feedback.

  1. Always ask for client feedback

Asking for customer feedback is one of the surest ways to improve your customer service methods. All types of feedback are helpful but focus heavily on the negative ones. Use them constructively to improve your strategies. Customers love companies that accept their mistakes.

Ask your customers through phone, in person, or by email. Ask them about which areas they suggest you improve. Of course, thank them for providing their honest feedback.

  1. Establish guideline for your brand voice

You want to develop a certain image or persona for your company. It will be used by the customer service team in all their interactions with the customers. Train your team on the style of communications you prefer for interactions.

  1. Research and compare your choices

Do not just focus on one outsource company. Create a list of options and research each one on your list. Review their services and costs. It is not advisable to assume that the least expensive company provides the best value.

  1. Ensure compliance with customer privacy and confidentiality

All customer information you share must be secured and placed on an encrypted server. You may need to restrict Social Security numbers, credit card numbers, and other customer data.

  1. Utilize Artificial intelligence

If you are not using AI in your business yet, especially in customer service, then you are missing out on a lot. Almost half of all businesses utilize AI in their marketing efforts. AI helps you handle customer care issues more efficiently.

Conclusion

Outsourcing your customer service process could be a valuable move going forward, but if you do not have a strategy for how to do it, you could end up squandering time, money, and resources. It is essential to have time to develop your team, carrying out smart AI methods, asking for comments from your market, and laying out your business goals for the most polished customer service practices.

Young business woman in video conference at the modern office space. Big windows and trees background

Managing Remote Sales Teams To Drive Your Business From Afar

The year 2021 is the year of the remote. As if it is not challenging enough to manage a sales team in a single room, try doing it with your team members in different locations, and you have yourself a very daunting task.

After the U.S. government announced a lockdown in 2020, 70% of all employees stayed away from their offices and began to work from home, according to an Owl Labs report. Giants in the business like Twitter, Google, Facebook, and Apple all announced that their employees no longer have to report physically to their offices. Many more companies with work-from-home capabilities followed suit.

The consensus is that the ease of use of technologies like Zoom, Skype, Viber, and Google Hangouts allowed employees to adapt smoothly to this new set-up. Also, people are still wary of going back to their offices because they fear the possibility of contracting the virus even as vaccines are already becoming available.

Most sales managers are trying to contend with a situation in which they do not see their subordinates physically for the first time in their careers. While 75% of all employees report being more productive working at home, sales managers have a slightly different outlook because they have more on their plates.

It is quite understandable for managers to struggle at first. The important thing to do is to learn how to adapt to what we call the new normal. Here are some of the things that can help you set up your remote team for success.

Provide the tools your team need to sell remotely

Probably the first thing to look at is, are the members of your team fully-equipped to handle remote selling? Sometimes, a landline, a cell phone, and an email will not suffice. A professional sales team needs a unified communications tool, network access hardware, sales enablement tools, and collaboration platforms to be most effective.

As face-to-face selling becomes a smaller part of the mix, companies are bolstering their infrastructure to provide sales teams with the flexibility, bandwidth, and capacity to deliver superior customer service while being cost-efficient. Call it unfair, but network performance is now just as important as employee skills in today’s digital selling economy.

Get better visibility

You cannot manage and measure what you cannot see. Alas, the absence of visibility, or lack of it, is a weak point of remote selling. Higher visibility is now crucial in a post-COVID-19 environment. It allows sales managers to gather the information they need to manage their teams better, as well as make the best decisions faster. A robust CRM is a good starting point. 

Hasten communication, lead flow, and response

To ensure effective leadership in a remote setting environment, managers need to discover ways to speed up communication to give the sales team inclusive information about every client activity and engagement. This allows managers to delegate tasks without giving up control. It also provides the remote salespeople the direction they need.

In the internet age, buyers are less willing to wait for information. They are used to instant access, so they expect to get answers to their questions within minutes or even hours, but not days.

Focus on building relationships

All sales teams are facing uncertainty about demand, and that is the biggest risk to the revenue plan by sales managers. According to recent research, only 20% of the customers a salesperson calls will buy in the short term. Sales teams project a 77% decrease in customer retention, 18% decrease in new business acquisitions, and 42% decrease in upselling and cross-sell opportunities. They also do not see things normalizing during the whole of 2021.

Success in the new normal therefore needs to be focused on relationship building. Sales teams now have to focus on opportunities that can sustain relations with major customers and the most valuable prospects. To achieve this, there should be information that enhances trusted advisor interactions and systematic management of accounts.

Get comfortable with one-on-one videos

There is still a chance to get personal during remote selling. A lot has been said about video conferencing not being as good as the real thing, but right now it is the closest we can get to keep human connections robust.

Create a personalized video to your prospects instead of sending impersonal emails or text-heavy SMS.

Give importance to learning and development

This is probably the best time to check in with your sales team and make sure they correctly use your current software and are maximizing the overall sales process. You might just find out that many of them do not understand how to best use your platforms.

Request feedback and ask them questions to get a clear picture of how they are using the tools you provide them. Create a learning and development plan based on the data you have gathered.

Stimulate overall wellness

An individual’s effectiveness depends on their overall health and mindset. To speak to clients effectively, one has to be at his or her best. The presence of the coronavirus can take a toll on one’s mental health, and it will affect the sales team’s performance.

Prioritize your team members’ health this year. Try a remote workout or fitness challenge. Offer incentives if you want, and it does not have to be monetary. Support work-life balance by setting regular times off or not sending emails during off-hours.

Conclusion

The landscape of sales is changed forever. Travel, events, and face-to-face selling are getting less relevant, and remote selling is going to take center stage, at least in the next few years.

These strategies will help accomplish an important goal, and that is to build trust and a solid relationship between you and your team, as well as your customers. A cohesive team can accomplish anything, albeit remotely.

cold-calling_720

Here Are 6 Cold Calling Secrets Even Sales Gurus Won’t Tell You

Cold calling is an age-old technique practiced by sales teams to boost sales. But in the age of Instagram and Facebook, modern sales teams seem to be ditching cold calling in favor of shares and likes. Is it time to pronounce cold calling dead?

Young sales professionals try to avoid it like the plague because it can be a painful struggle having to call people they do not know. They see it as an old-fashioned method that has seen better days. Indeed, it can be tedious and often leads to awkward conversations.

Yet, it would be a big mistake to avoid implementing this strategy altogether. No one can doubt the immense value it brings to a company that utilizes it properly. So, hold your horses. We should not bury cold calling just yet.

What is cold calling?

Cold calling is a strategy used in B2B and B2C lead generation. Callers do this by calling prospects to sell goods or services.  It is called “cold” calling because traditionally the prospect does not know the caller and has not expressed interest in the offer… so the call is the opposite of warm.  

Cold calling is indeed taxing, but it is anything but dead. If done right, it will bring beneficial new customers to your business. Making it work, involves having the correct prospect selection process, background information, timing the call, and calling with the right message.

Cold calling versus telemarketing

People confuse cold calling with telemarketing. Telemarketing is when a company gives their callers hundreds of phone numbers and tells them to call those numbers as fast as they can. Cold calling is much more than that.

A cold caller has to know what their prospect’s needs are. That way, clients respond more readily and are more receptive to the idea of discussing a particular subject.

Why small- and medium-sized businesses need cold calling?

Sure, social media and other online platforms are useful, but the competition is very tough in the online space. Contrary to what many think, online marketing is not free. Companies need to spend a substantial amount for people to notice them.

For instance, only 3% of your total followers on Facebook get to see your posts. You need to pay to reach more people. That is how Facebook plays right now.

Paid advertising works. However, it can be challenging to play in this pay to play arena for small businesses that have a limited budget. Cold calling, on the other hand, can produce similar results for less money. The advantage is it can get you in a conversation with potential customers more quickly.

Cold calling tips

Having a sincere conversation with a prospect is valuable, and cold calling is the best way to find relevant queries you would otherwise not be able to answer from a call list. Besides, people usually do not answer over email.

Here are some cold calling ideas you can use.

1.Change your mental outlook before making the call.

If you are like most individuals who make cold calls, your objective is always to close a sale even before making that phone call. However, the person at the other end of the line is aware of your mindset immediately.

Most people do not like being sold to. And they sense that you are more focused on your interests and not on what they need or want. This can create a big problem when you are trying to build trust.

Changing your mental objective will take away the fear of rejection that comes with the expectations of getting the sale as it is premature to even think about it. Instead of hoping to close a sale, think about building a meaningful relationship and having a genuine conversation so you can build trust. Eventually, you and your prospect can determine if you are a good fit to do business or not.

  1. Understand the mindset of the person at the other end

Imagine you are working in the office trying to beat a deadline when your phone rings. You answer, thinking it is your client. The person at the other end says, “Hello there, this is Tom. I’m with ABC Financial Solutions. We provide financial solutions to fit your needs. Do you have a few minutes?”

You will most likely think, “Oh no, another salesperson! I need to get rid of this guy!”

The very moment you use the old approach to cold calling that sales gurus teach – telling people who you are and what you offer – you trigger the salesperson stereotype, which is most often negative.

Sales teams often ignore that the problem is not what you are selling, but how you sell it. Salespeople undergo training that pushes for the sale, and that creates sales pressure. Put yourself in the shoes of your prospects. Mirror the language and tone they use, and you will find it easier to communicate with them.

  1. Answer the “so what?” question

Often, salespeople talk about themselves, their products, and their solution. They hope that the prospect connects with what they are pitching. 

However, talking about yourself is not the solution they are thinking about. When talking to a customer, answer the “so what?” question.

“We have a 14” LCD screen.” So what?

“Our laptop is very light.” So what?

“It fits in your bag.” So what?

Continue searching for answers until you answer all your prospect’s questions. That is how you help solve a problem.  Features are merely features until you are able to uncover the customer’s problem.  Once this is accomplished, the features turn into benefits.  

  1. Begin with dialogue and not a presentation

A cold call aims to start a conversation and engage a prospect in a conversation. Do not set them up to say yes or no, which is the old way of doing cold calling.

Engage people in a natural conversation, just as you would with an old friend. Then you can decide whether you can push the conversation further.

Never assume making a sale before calling because you do not even have an idea whether that person can buy what you offer. You do not have any ideas about their priorities, their budget, and decision-making process yet. Assuming you are selling something to them sets you up for failure.

  1. Diffuse hidden pressures

When speaking to your prospect, your voice should be natural and calm. Enthusiasm might come across as being too sales-y, which can pressure your prospect and they may reject you outright.

Let the conversation flow naturally and set up milestones throughout the call so you can evaluate whether there is a fit between you and your prospect.

  1. Determine a fit

Let’s say you have found your prospect to be receptive to you and you are having a good conversation, do you try to close the sale?

First, determine if they are prioritizing solving the problem. Maybe it is not in their budget yet, or it is not the right time. Finding this out is important. If the client says yes, they need it now, then you can proceed with your pitch.

Conclusion

Cold calling the traditional way is a numbers game, meaning you must make as many calls as you can so that if you get rejected you can just call the next person. The reason why salespeople fail is that they do the same thing all the time but expect different results.

The right way to cold calls is to know what to say and how you say it. If you use a fresh approach and understand how to get rid of pressure from your initial cold calls, you will encounter more success and satisfaction that will certainly change the way you do business. This new method of cold calling can bring you sales success beyond your imagination and remove rejection from your vocabulary for good.

What-Are-Explainer-Videos-and-How-Can-They-Be-Used

The Truth About Explainer Videos

While we are inundated with hundreds of thousands of words daily, our eyes and brains are hardwired to discern movements. Video is the best way to engage customers. 

That is why, despite the millions of blogs available on the internet, television remains a popular medium, and YouTube has become the second leading search engine and the third social media site in the world.

Notice how we skim through pages after pages of information on the web as we drown ourselves with emails, yet we stop scrolling and take in a video or two until their end. That is why businesses are now using explainer videos to communicate with their customers.

What are explainer videos?

Companies who have not jumped on the bandwagon are probably being left behind as far as their marketing efforts are concerned. People watch 1 billion hours of video on YouTube each day. According to CIsco, 82% of all internet traffic will soon be on online videos. 

Explainer videos are small bits of video – usually around one to two minutes – that come in many forms. They can be live-action, traditional animation, or 3D. Companies utilize comedy, drama, or action, depending on the theme. 

Due to its flexibility in design, explainer videos provide businesses with a variety of emotional tactics to send their message to their consumers.

Why explainer videos are effective

Explainer videos combine visual and auditory stimuli to explain even the most complicated concepts in a simple way that viewers can easily understand. They do not just provide text or audio, they use a mix of both plus motion. This makes them more effective because they grab attention and increase message retention.

Facts about explainer videos

  1. 7 out of 10 businesses that use video saw improved conversion rates.

More than any other type of content, videos have produced 70% more conversions for businesses. Also, companies that utilize video get 41% more traffic from search engines like Google and Bing than companies that do not. They also find that videos on a landing page increased conversions by 80%.

  1. Almost 80% of viewers shared entertaining videos

Marketers today get a big boost from the consumers themselves in spreading brand awareness. 

It is a known fact that people do not want salespeople to sell things to them directly. However, if you give them great content that they can consume, they would be more than happy to show them to their friends. 

Show people an entertaining, relevant, and insightful video, and they will share them with their network. It spreads word of mouth quickly, which is one of the most effective forms of marketing because it builds trust. 

Incidentally, 3% of consumers did react negatively and refuse to share videos. Their reason is that these videos were created by businesses.

  1. 87% of businesses who utilize videos make use of social media

In the old days, video distribution involved a large investment. That is no longer the case today as social media has become a platform for everyone to display their brands – big or small. Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and Twitter are just among the platforms that businesses use to distribute videos. Consequently, consumers get to share videos at no cost to the company.

  1. 36% of businesses who use explainer videos get lesser support queries

Explainer videos do as their name suggests: they explain. That is why businesses have seen a decreased number of queries, thus reducing costs. Customers would prefer to look for the information themselves before resorting to customer support. Videos are the most effective ways to give them the information they are looking for. By providing them the information they need through videos, their satisfaction increases.

  1. 73% of marketers in the B2B space believe videos affect their marketing campaigns

Explainer videos have become a part of the marketing strategies of B2B marketers. They believe it has helped them tremendously in increasing their sales.

Businesses can choose to use their videos in perpetuity once they upload them. It will generate activity as long as it is engaging until you decide to take it down.

How to create engaging explainer videos

Neil Patel, one of the top digital marketers right now, says an engaging video answers the 3 Ws of your business: who, what, and why.

It should tell the audience who you are, what you do, and why they should use your products or services. You should present this information within one or two minutes.

It should also be able to evoke an emotion. Most explainer videos should touch emotions. By focusing on these emotions, these videos could lead customers to act in a way that the company wants them to. In other words, it can influence a consumer to purchase your product or use your services.

So how can you do that? Start with a good script. Humans love stories. Stories introduce a character, followed by a problem. Your character should be able to solve that problem.

Try to combine live-action with animation. While animation by itself is entertaining, adding live-action will put a personal touch to your video. 

Lastly, explainer videos should let people know you exist. They should make your business unforgettable. Explainer videos should be able to communicate information within one or two minutes much better than a thousand words can.

Conclusion

Whether you wish to convert prospects into customers, get a lot of phone calls, or if you just need to explain a sophisticated concept, product, or service easily and quickly, explainer videos can help you get results. Instead of making them struggle to read words, make it easier for your customers to understand your business by presenting your ideas in a clear, crisp video. They will appreciate you for it.

5f18e0a879c5d690919b5457_work-unsplash

Innovation for your Business – Need a Fresh Idea?

Innovate, or become extinct. That is what most business leaders have in mind if they want to stay relevant in this dog-eat-dog world. Only those businesses that regularly provide innovative products, services, or processes can maintain long-term success.

Cost-cutting and efficiency help drive the success and growth of any institution. However, innovation remains the leading element that stimulates sustainability and profitability. Businesses have to be innovative both at the front-end and the back-end to stay ahead. The front-end is concept development, while the back-end includes the implementation of these concepts.

Managers do find this idea problematic. It goes against the rational and analytical processes that they have learned in business schools. Innovation means analyzing available information and converting raw data into practical concepts. It is also about making non-linear jumps. 

Business innovation: What is it? 

Business innovation is the method of creating something new or improving on what is available to serve a business. In short, it is thinking of new ways to do things. It can be about producing a new product or service, improving the workflow, or other things that will help the business earn more money in a new way. 

Most people confuse innovation with research and development, or R&D. While they serve the same purpose, R&D is limited to developing new products. Business innovation includes the application of new ideas in every aspect of the business.

The manifestation of business innovation

Where does business innovation manifest itself? The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development presents four ways: product, process, marketing, and organizational innovation. 

  1. Product innovation

It touches on freshly new or vastly improved products. 

  1. Process innovation

Process innovation is about new ways to deliver goods or services to customers. It might include altering equipment, techniques, or software.

  1. Marketing innovation

Marketing innovation refers to how the company presents its products to consumers. It may include changing the packaging, logo, company colors, or ad campaigns. It may also include price change strategies or niche modifications.

  1. Organizational innovation

It refers to changes in the bigger picture to improve overall performance. The company may decide to change business relations with third-parties, change business practices in areas like accounting or even compensation.

Where does innovation come from?

Where does one find inspiration for innovation? It can come from many sources. The great Paul Mccartney, former Beatle, said he came up with the idea of the song “Yesterday” in his dreams. It ended up being the best song of the 20th century.

So, inspiration obviously can come from anywhere. Here are the seven sources of innovation according to Peter Drucker, author of the book Innovation and Entrepreneurship.

  1. The unexpected

This is the “I found it” moment. It is both the easiest and the hardest way because you are not looking for it, but when it comes it is often a great idea.

  1. Incongruities

Incongruity is that feeling when you are uncomfortable about your current situation, and this is an opportunity to innovate. It is when you feel that there is a difference between what should be and what is. The earliest Apple iPod had buttons that Steve Jobs felt should not have been there. They got rid of the on/off button.

  1. Process needs

You may spot a weak link in your business’ way of doing things. A significant improvement to this process can lead to innovation.

  1. Industry and market structure

These two structures are always changing. There are regular changes in regulations, and product lines either expand or shrink. If you monitor these changes, you may be able to spot opportunities for new products or services.

  1. Demographics

Do not underestimate the power of ever-changing demographics. They are a great source of new ideas for new products. 

  1. Changes in perception

People change. Their beliefs, views, and feelings change over time. Businesses who know how to innovate leverage these changes.

Businesses know that changes in perception matter, but they have generally thought that it changes slowly. However, in the digital age, this is not so. The internet bombards us with new information every hour, and sometimes this helps change perceptions in an instant. 

  1. New knowledge

New knowledge, discoveries, and technologies can change a whole industry. When people talk about innovation, this is what they have in mind. However, this type of innovation typically takes the longest time to develop.

  1. New talent

Hiring new top talent is a key to keeping innovation flowing in any organization.  Brining on players from competitors, and even from varied industries helps to keep the team engaged and brings fresh ideas to the table. Diversity in hiring ensures that people with different backgrounds are coming at problems from different perspectives.  

Design thinking for innovation

Companies also adopt design thinking to learn and test new ideas quickly. It helps improve the traditional product development lifecycle and save time for product creators by reducing the risk of failure.

By applying a greater design thinking level, companies can accelerate innovation, find new processes to speak to customers, diversify products, and grow market share.

Benefits of business innovation

  1. Better growth

A company that stops innovating is doomed to fail. If you are not flexible enough, you are stifling your growth. Large companies who cannot think of new ways to provide products and services purchase other companies to acquire new ideas. Microsoft bought LinkedIn, while Facebook bought Instagram. For smaller companies, it is how they innovate that allows them to succeed.

  1. Differentiate your business

Innovation differentiates you from your competitor. It means you are doing something different. The more you innovate, the more you stand out.  

  1. More relevance

Businesses that can innovate will continue to be relevant. Companies that cannot fall to the wayside in the ever-changing business climate.

Conclusion

New ideas inspire innovation, which, if carried out, stimulates business growth. Globalization has increased competition. Businesses that fail to innovate can quickly be left behind in the battle for supremacy. 

Without fresh ideas and modern products, consumers could soon tire of the product or service you are providing and will move on to your rivals. With no new reason to be loyal to your product, the consumer will either search for a different product offering or a better price.

At the same time, if you have nothing else to offer, you will be compelled to reduce your price, thus diminishing your profit margins. If this approach still does not lure customers, you may be put under pressure to reduce the price further. This will lead to a negative cycle that could be extremely harmful to your business.

The only way for you to break out of this cycle is to constantly innovate and add value to your products or services.

Earned-Owned-Paid-Media-1

Customer Testimonials- a Powerful Tool for your Business

With the arrival of social media, consumers are engaged with brands now more than ever. Companies now have to contend with a new and influential marketing medium – customer testimonials. 

These days, it does not matter what you think about your business. Customers know better about your business than you do. It is for this reason that customer testimonials are so valuable. It appears that customers rely on the opinion of their fellow consumers more than any other source. 

Simply put, testimonials sell. The world wide web is so large that it has become an extremely impersonal medium. Humans trust humans. If you can humanize your web site, you will more likely get potential customers to do business with you. Testimonials convey honest and believable messages to potential customers.

In this article, we will take a look at how customer testimonials can carry your brand to new heights.

Paid, earned, and owned media

To further understand the value of customer testimonials, we will discuss the types of media the companies engage in.

Marketing, with the help of digitalization, has evolved over the past several years. Companies now make use of paid, owned, and earned media to promote their brands and each is a platform for testimonials of different types.

1. Paid media

Paid media refers to marketing and advertising promotions that businesses pay for. You need a budget with the belief that you will get a return on what you spend. Examples of paid media are Google Ads, Facebook Ads, television, radio, and print ads.

2. Owned media

Owned media includes websites, Facebook pages, and apps that your business owns and you have total control of. You would not need to pay for posts on these sites.

3. Earned media

Earned media is considered the most valuable of the three, and this is where customer testimonials belong. Consumers, influencers, and other sources begin to recognize and promote your brand because they are happy with your products or services. However, you have little control over this type of media.

Companies value earned media because it gives them the needed boost that they hoped for when they launched their brand.  These include services like Google Reviews, the Better Business Bureau, Trip Advisor, and other platforms where consumers can post reviews and comments about your products and services.  

Purchasing products on the internet can be daunting

Before buying online, consumers want to know many things. 

  • Is the site secure?
  • Is the business reputable?
  • Will the product deliver on its promise?

Since most consumers have never seen the physical product before making the purchase, they often turn to customer testimonials to find reputable answers to their questions. 

Importance of testimonials

1. They build trust and credibility

Integrity and reputation are the essential elements of every business. It will effectively ruin a company if these two qualities are damaged. Having positive reviews will quickly gain you more trust and build your integrity.

Don’t get me wrong, a negative review can also raise your trust ratings among consumers when used the right way. If you act immediately on negative reviews, adversity can quickly turn into one of your brightest moments.

2. They offer social proof

When potential customers see that the product is alright with the other consumers, they will most likely try it too. It can be a great sales tactic since it can easily result in the bandwagon effect.

3. Testimonials show how your product solves problems

A well-written testimonial can show others how your brand was able to solve a nagging problem for your customer.

4. Humanize your brand

Testimonials can give you a human interest angle that people can relate to. It helps them understand the brand that is right in front of them.

The numbers

Aside from reaching out to your customers through effective communication, another important task for your marketers is to develop as much credibility and trust as they can. Due to the several horror stories we all have heard about regarding scammers, customers want to know that you are for real.

  1. According to a survey, 92% of individuals said they read testimonials when thinking about buying something, especially from a brand they have not used in the past.
  2. Studies have shown that using customer testimonials regularly can help you generate 62% more sales from customers every time they take a look at your brand.
  3. Almost 9 out of 10 customers said they trust reviews as if they were personal recommendations.
  4. 72% of the respondents said that positive testimonials made them trust a business a lot more.
  5. According to a survey conducted by Nielsen, 70% of consumers trust testimonials given by strangers.
  6. 88% of the customers say testimonials affect their purchasing decisions when going online.
  7. As for B2B, customers said peer recommendations and testimonials are to them, the most reliable type of content.
  8. The quantity of the testimonials also matters. According to Vendasta, 73% of consumers read six reviews before deciding whether to buy or not.
  9. The same study says 12% of the consumers read at least 10 reviews.
  10. Before customers consider a star-rating accurate, there should be a minimum of 40 reviews, according to Opt-In Monster.
  11. Regularly using testimonials can increase your revenue by 62%, according to Strategic Factory.
  12. When placed beside more expensive products, customer testimonials can increase the conversion rate by 380%.
  13. Individuals who interact with testimonials spend 3% more per order, according to Big Commerce.
  14. Customer testimonials improve traffic by 45% compared to sites that do not have testimonials, according to Yotpo.

How to get customer testimonials

Don’t be afraid to just ask. You would be surprised to find out that your customers would be glad to help. And, you will feel great once all the positive feedback starts to trickle in. Offering an incentive via a discount or special offering is also a way to incentivize your customers for reviews and feedback.  You can ask them through the following methods:

  • Email
  • Phone call
  • Letter (use a self-addressed stamped envelope)
  • SMS
  • Social media 

2. Organize a free trial with a test group

You can select a group or individuals who can test your product. Ask for their feedback after they have tried your product.

3. Give a sample product to an influencer

Consumers trust influencers, so it is a great strategy to look for one. Or you can ask experts in your field to talk about your product. Recall how 9 out of 10 dermatologists recommending Brand A soap convinced you to buy it?

Always remember to ask permission to use their testimonials. 

How to effectively use testimonials

1. Identify the quoted person

To erase any doubts about the testimonial, always use as much personal information as possible, including name, company name, city, and age.

2. It should be a benefit-oriented testimonial

Impactful testimonials should present the key benefits of your goods or services.

3. Use numbers to quantify the benefit

Having numbers in there helps people measure the benefits in their thoughts. 

4. Never invent a testimonial

Never take your customers for a fool; they can differentiate fake testimonials from real ones. Instead of building trust, you would damage your reputation by doing this. 

Conclusion

The words of delighted consumers are very powerful tools for establishing trust, building your reputation, and increasing profitability. As an entrepreneur, you should tap into this power that is available to you for promoting your business. It will take a lot of work, but it is well worth it.

Sure, you can still make use of paid and owned media for your marketing efforts, but none can be as effective as the ones you have earned. Encourage your loyal customers to review your brand, and remember in the testimonial game, quantity does matter.  

predictable-revenue

Lessons from Predictable Revenue by Aaron Ross

Sometimes, great business and life lessons come from places you do not expect. Once in a while, you get little nuggets of wisdom that stick with you for as long as you live. Sometimes, we get to learn from amazing people who are experts in their field, and one such source of wisdom is Aaron Ross.

Aaron Ross is the Director of Corporate Sales of Salesforce.com. He is also the CRO of Predictable Revenue Inc. and author of Predictable Revenue: Turn Your Business Into A Sales Machine with the $100 Million Best Practices of Salesforce.com.

Ross was also one of those responsible for creating the revolutionary Cold Calling 2.0 inside sales process at Salesforce.com. It helped the company raise its revenues by a whopping $100 million.

He recently shared his story with Insight Square, including what he had learned at Salesforce.com, how to properly form and raise sales teams, and more. 

Key learnings at Salesforce; predictable revenue

Ross said he found out at Salesforce that people want predictable revenue all the time. Consistency every single year is what they want. 

People look for business growth that is not derived from merely guessing and reacting as well as crunch-time hustling towards the end of each quarter. As boring as it may sound, they prefer a formulaic and consistent process.

Ross presents three main ideas on how to build this type of sales machine, one that creates predictable income. These are:

  • Repeatable lead generation systems
  • Dependable sales processes
  • Your product must be a success with customers

He also presents three kinds of leads with different sales cycles and conversion rates. Lead generation, he says, is not all created the same.

  • Seeds – This is the most powerful of all types of leads because they come from satisfied customers who are happy to share their experience. Potential customers trust their fellow consumers. However, these are the most challenging leads to get.
  • Nets – Nets are marketing leads coming from the internet or traditional methods of marketing.
  • Spears – Spears are captured in a more focused approach led by sales development representatives, also known as your prospecting teams.

Each type has its own best method to grow. To grow Seeds is to establish a dedicated customer success program. For the Nets, the best way is through inbound marketing. To grow Spears, you need to employ Cold Calling 2.0 plus a team of prospectors dedicated to the program.

What is the key to good sales management?

Managing sales teams, according to Ross, is about being a good coach. Doing things yourself does not help. Instead, teach the team how to do things. Learn to let go if you want to build something big. Like a good father to his children, allow them to fail and learn from those failures. And do not take credit for every success.

Building a sales team should not be rushed

Ross observed that one of the biggest mistakes of Sales VPs and Board members is that they tend to add salespeople and make them work harder with the firm belief that this will increase revenue. They believe that they need to double their manpower and push them to work harder by generating more outbound calls to double their sales. They could not be more wrong!

Doubling your manpower, making them work harder, and making more calls, will not help you scale. Ineffective sales organizations do not realize that working harder only means that they are doing things wrong as it is. Even the CEOs make the problem worse by setting unrealistic sales targets.

Salespeople in an effective sales organization do not try to grow customer acquisition – they fulfill it. They put the task of acquiring customers into the hands of marketing. This is a huge shift away from traditional sales.

How to build high-growth companies with inbound and prospecting teams

Ross shares that he spends a lot of energy building a successful system that his hires can sink their teeth into. He realized early on that many companies have incompetent sales systems, which led to high failure rates. Ross also believes that if at least 20% of your people are not meeting the quota, then your system is bad, not your people.

He also does not believe in being a jack-of-all-trades. To him, specializing is more crucial as it helps people focus more on given tasks. For instance, Marketing Response Representatives should specialize in qualifying marketing leads instead of doing Cold Calling 2.0. Prospectors should concentrate only on prospecting.  A repeatable and reliable system with each team member functioning in a specific role is the key to success. 

Lead generation best practices

He advises companies to identify their Ideal Customer Profile (ICP) first. ICPs are the presumed profiles of the kinds of clients that will give you the most value for your product. 

Angle your ICP to your top 20% of customers. Train and support your team, keeping in mind that they need specialized skills and specific job descriptions.

Follow up phone calls after emails

Emails and phone calls may seem ancient, but they are still the most effective means of communication. A recent survey has shown that people still use them for high impact.

Nevertheless, a lot of people do not respond to them, sometimes deliberately, and sometimes they put off their response until they forget about it. That is why it is advisable to make phone calls to follow up on emails in order to get responses.  

Work-life balance

Ross sticks to a 20 to 30-hour workweek, which is something most people can only wish for. What is his secret? Specializing. It seems like Ross could not gush enough about the word, but it works, and you cannot argue with success.

Ross hires talented people for quite a lot of projects, so he does have to do everything himself.  He is not afraid of relying on the talent of others. 

Conclusion

The key to success is learning from people before you who have seen and done it. Learn not only from what they did well but from where they failed.

real-time-marketing-analytics-1024x386.jpg_x24732

Finding your Niche in Marketing your Business

The word “niche” means a specialized area of a market for a specific product. Since it is a special segment, it has a smaller following. However, this small group of people are the most interested and therefore has the potential to be very loyal.

If you think your business is operating in a saturated market, the most logical thing to do is NOT to quit. Instead, you can focus on a niche and support it with a marketing strategy experts call niche marketing.

Big businesses often use niche marketing. Volvo, for instance, produces high-end vehicles for affluent customers. At the same time, they also advertise large trucks to construction companies; both of which are separate niches. 

One of the most attractive features of niche marketing is that advertising budgets can go further. It costs less to market to a specialized market than it does target a larger mass-market. You also do not need as much prodding to get these focused customers to buy because they pretty much know what they are looking for. All you need to do is let them know your business exists.

What is niche marketing?

Niche marketing takes place when you concentrate your marketing efforts on a specific targeted segment of the market. These targeted segments, known as niche markets, present a product or service to a specified group of consumers who have specific wants. Niche marketers focus on a specific need, and they set their marketing efforts appropriately.

Niche marketing has to be devised to satisfy the unique demands of the targeted audience. Marketers must adapt their products to serve those unique needs. For example, if you have written a book about building and operating an e-commerce site, people who want to start an online business will be your niche market. People who are not interested in having an e-commerce site, or those who already have one, will not buy your book.

Finding your niche

Most people believe that being able to do more than just one or two specializations is a better business model because they can get more people into their marketing funnel. They also think that focusing on a niche market is too risky.

However, niche marketing can help your business stand out in an industry with hundreds of competitors.

Here are some tips on how to find your niche.

1. Know your strengths

Begin by identifying what you are good at and what you can offer. Successful niche marketing strategies use a brand’s unique strengths, which is why you have to know what the special qualities of your products are.

Marketing to a unique group of people is an opportunity for you to work with people you most want to be in touch with. If you love motorcycles, then a business related to motorcycles will allow you to serve like-minded people.  But true niche marketing narrows a broad group to something much more specific like new motorcycle buyers or classic retro cycles. 

2. Research your industry

Perform a competitive analysis after you have identified the niche market you want to serve. Find out if you have competitors in your chosen field, how many there are, and what are they already doing. Check if there are particular under-served segments with legitimate demand that you can penetrate.

3. Know your ideal customer

You should look closely at your target customer. It will help you know what they want so you can provide better products. You also need to create a buyer’s persona.

Creating a buyer’s persona should be one of the first things you do when creating a marketing campaign. A buyer’s persona is a fictitious person created by marketers. It specifies the demographics, behavior, desires, income, educational background, and other qualities of the people you want to target. Marketers do this to ensure that they have a clear understanding of their targets are getting relevant messages across to the right people.

4. Listen to your customers

Your customers know your business, even better than you do. That is why it is important to listen to them. That does not mean you have to eavesdrop on every conversation, though. Marketers make use of tools like social media to learn what consumers are saying about a particular industry, company, or person.  Surveys and focus groups can also be very helpful. 

There are also free and paid tools you can use to monitor how people are talking about your business, like Talkwater and Keyhole.

5. Test your campaign

Always test your idea, then review the results. See if it is effective and adjust it until it works. You might just need to do a few simple tweaks to your campaign.

Niche marketing misconceptions

1. You must be an expert

While it helps to be an expert in the field you choose, being knowledgeable will suffice. There are plenty of sites on the internet that can make you look like a genius. If you love what you are doing, then there will be plenty of possibilities.

2. Choose one niche and stick with it

It is not necessarily true. If you want to branch out to another niche, no one should stop you. The key here is to establish your first niche before jumping to another.

Conclusion

You can substantially increase the chances of your business’ success with niche markets. Instead of competing in a large existing market space with plenty of competition, you will be able to create an almost uncontested market space while making the competition irrelevant.

You can also reduce your marketing expenses through niche marketing because you will be concentrating on a specific consumer group and not on a broad audience. Niche markets are aplenty and profitable, all you need to do is find your niche.  

design-thinking-title-image-1

Design Thinking In Business

It has been said that designers at Apple integrated design thinking into their strategies to come up with one of the most innovative products in recent memory – the iPod and iPhone. These products quickly transformed Steve Jobs into being THE guy in the world of business.

Steve Jobs, Apple’s legendary former CEO, believed that great design is not about adding buttons just for the sake of having buttons. For him, simplicity is beauty. One or two mouse clicks is better than five. 

Other successful companies are making hundreds of millions, if not billions, of dollars utilizing design thinking as part of their process. A study made by the London Business School discovered that for every proportion of sales invested in product design, income grew by an average of 3 to 4 percent. Just ask Disney, IBM, and Microsoft.

What is design thinking?

While design thinking sounds like it is something the folks in I.T., as well as graphic designers, do, it is way more than that. Anyone can be trained to use design thinking in their daily tasks: businessmen, educators, marketers, and investors among others can be design thinkers.

Design thinking is a concept that businesses, as well as investors, use for constructive and innovative problem-solving. It does not just work for designers, it also supports people who are not trained as designers to apply creative tools to handle challenges they face at work and in their daily lives.

Design thinking is characterized as a customer-focused way to innovate. It reaches into the designer’s toolkit to blend the needs of consumers, the potentials of technology, and the demands for business success.

Design thinking is in its second wave as we can observe the acceleration of design-centered business management and human-centered design. This is not a stagnant idea and it evolves all the time. Design thinking concentrates on figuring out what people need and the experience of the end-user.

Why use design thinking?

Design thinking has emerged due to businesses’ need for creativity when it comes to developing new products and services that can serve the needs of customers. The customer is the main focus of this methodology.

Businesses who integrate design thinking in their processes consider people’s behavior, motivations, thinking, habits, ethnographic background, and overall needs. No longer is the focus on business-centric solutions, which is a positive development for all consumers regardless of the industry. 

Principles of design thinking

There are four principles of design thinking, according to the Hasso-Plattner Institute of Design at Stanford University.

1. The human rule

It means the design is an intrinsic quality in all humans.

2. The ambiguity rule

Problems can be ambiguous. It is open to interpretation, so it is crucial to remove all ambiguity limitations.

3. The redesign rule

In design thinking, we assume that all design is redesign. People are naturally looking for fresh ways to solve old problems at all times.

4. The tangibility rule

Through tangible ideas, we can communicate design ideas best. Tangible ideas allow better problem-solving, dialogue, and understanding.

Design versus design thinking

Design is the process of creating something unique into existence. It begins with defining the outcome of what the buyers expect. In the past, companies did not focus as heavily on the consumer’s needs. There was this belief that if you build it, they will buy it. Businesses, brand professionals, and marketers who develop strategies are already doing this, and they are, in essence, designing.

Employing design thinking strategies can help companies save large amounts of money because it funnels directly into consumer needs. Design thinking offers an uncomplicated way to focus on what the problems are. It also gives new insights and critical data for creating solutions that generate income for the business.

In the days before design thinking, companies who needed to release new products often developed expensive campaigns. Now, companies get to manufacture better products and at a faster rate. They also enjoy increased savings.

Another positive result of design thinking is that companies report improved customer feedback.

Design thinking in tech

When it comes to technology, many companies are now also focusing on better user experience by way of design thinking. Up until the last couple of decades, companies produced their products, then left it to their sales and marketing people to sell them. This practice applied across multiple industries.

Fortunately, well-known companies in the technology industry turned things around. Apple and Amazon got to know their consumers and created exceptional experiences for them. Soon after, many other companies followed suit like Airbnb and Uber, which took design thinking to another level. They simply removed everything not directly related to the user experience.

In the financial technology sector, many of the jobs currently available relate to UX designing, since the user experience is at the forefront of every fintech company. That is why almost every startup in fintech is focused on the consumer and how they can enhance their experience. These fintech companies provide services like peer-to-peer lending, crowdfunding, and payment solutions, to name a few.

Technology is now making its presence felt in the institutional space. And, along with these modern technologies, companies are introducing design thinking. 

Fintechs pay attention to the strategic direction of the user. They are familiar with the degree to which a user will lose interest in the product. They can establish functionality that enhances that efficiency for the user. In doing this, companies make sure there is user adoption, and they are also able to improve productivity.

Fund managers and investors have plenty of tools at their disposal to assist them with risk management, factor analysis, accessing liquidity, and portfolio construction. However, these products did lack design thinking in the past. No matter how useful the product companies produce, if users cannot figure out how to use them, they will not be adopted or widely used. 

Fintech companies understand that fund managers and investors are busy people, and if their products are too cumbersome to use, they will walk away from them. With design thinking, their products become more user-friendly, leading to a better experience.

Why should businesses invest in design thinking?

1. Improving the user experience (UX) saves money

Better UX leads to decreased cost of customer support and higher savings.

2. Increases revenue

Businesses that focus on UX experience increase their income and conversion rates. It also improves customer loyalty.

3. Drives competitive advantage

Companies with competitive advantage enjoy higher revenues.

Conclusion

By embracing better design thinking, business leaders can facilitate innovation, discover unique ways to approach and communicate with consumers, lead research and development, increase market share, expand products, strengthen customer relationships, and much more.

The importance of user experience as a result of design thinking is fascinating when correlating a user experience project to another investment with similar business goals. There were plenty of social networks before Mark Zuckerberg introduced Facebook to the world. There was a myriad of smartphone brands before Apple’s iPhone exploded onto the scene. We were already using taxis to travel before Uber came.

These businesses all focused on delighting customers and giving them the best experience possible, and these were made possible because they blended design thinking and strategic planning.

The winner here, of course, are businesses, and ultimately their customers.