Sunday, April 24, 2011

Daily Dealer Marketers on the Web

“Innovation is the specific tool of entrepreneurs, the means by which they exploit change as an opportunity for a different business or a different service. It is capable of being presented as a discipline, capable of being learned, capable of being practiced. Entrepreneurs need to search purposefully for the sources of innovation, the changes and their symptoms that indicate opportunities for successful innovation. And they need to know and to apply the principles of successful innovation.” ~Peter Dricker

One thing I know about marketing is that the vehicles for reaching potential clients are continually changing and evolving. Traditional methods are declining in importance as so many people are getting all of their news and information on the web.

While there are many things you can do with traditional advertising, it is so much better to use some of the new techniques that are currently on the rise. One such method is something called Daily Deal Marketing (DDM). This new vehicle is proving very effective and economical.

This is a brand new industry that will mature over time, but even still, there is so much opportunity out there. The two predominant Daily Deal Marketers are Groupon and LivingSocial. Both are designed to help drive new business to your door, and many companies are having some great success with them. A plant nursery we were working with was able to generate more than 500 new customers, and a spa grew its client base by more than 250.

Groupon is only three years old, but it already has over 50 million subscribers in more than 500 markets. The company raised close to a billion dollars in new capital after turning down a $6 billion-dollar buyout deal from Google.

The concept is pretty simple. The merchant offers a deal—typically 50 percent or less of retail value—that is made available to potential customers for a limited time. Generally, it takes a minimum number of purchases to activate the deal, and the merchant can put a limit on how many deals they are willing to give as well.

What the customer pays for the deal is split between the merchant and the DDM, so if you are offering a $4 cup of yogurt for $2, you will get $1 for each customer purchase. Payment by the DDM normally occurs within three weeks of the customer’s purchase.

Many entrepreneurs do not like these new marketing tactics as they generate so little income and they have to sell the product below cost. However, the real return is not the money that you receive for the product but the advertising. Not to mention the ability to bring in new customers. If you can bring a new customer to your door, it is worth the sacrifice on the initial sale because, now that they know about you, they are likely to come back.

Another return that you get from these deals is that you receive funds even if the customer never actually uses the coupon, which occurs around 20 percent of the time.

If you are a business that deals directly with customers, especially retailers, look into using DDMs. The concept is relatively simple, but the returns are very high. They are a very economical method for bringing new customers into your business.

You can do this.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Mindfulness Can Make You A Better Leader

“Leaders all over the planet are beginning to understand the benefits of purposefully learning to be more attentive and focused, non-reactive, and clear.” ~Saki Santorelli, EdD, Center for Mindfulness executive director

It is so satisfying when your personal and professional lives intersect. The art of mindfulness is one that I have been working on for some time, and it is now in vogue in the business world.

To me, "mindfulness" is living in the present moment without being influenced by the past or the future. That may sound glib, but it is really tough because our minds naturally want to dash back and forth between the past and the future and everything in between.

To illustrate, watch the way young kids play and interact. They do not really consider the past and the future because all they know is the present. Over time, however, our minds become more busy, and it becomes tough to live in the present moment. If we are able to get our minds to focus on the present, though, life is so much clearer and simpler.

Most mindfulness training starts with some form of meditation. Find a place to sit either on a cushion or the floor, and close your eyes. With your eyes closed, observe your thoughts. The most effective way to do this is to focus on your breathing. As thoughts or feelings arise, let them pass and return to your breathing. It may sound easy, but in reality, it takes some practice to get the mind to slow down.

Practicing mindfulness through meditation relieves anxiety and stress. I can personally attest to this.

You may be thinking, "That is great, Jerry, but what does all this have to do with leadership?" It is about finding clarity and getting to a place where you can make better decisions. When living in the present, the baggage of the past will not affect current decisions. Mindful leaders also do not fight change. If you are living in the present, resistance to change is not an issue.

To see things more clearly, you must have an undistracted mind. If your mind is busy, even at a subconscious level, your ability to focus and analyze is diminished. Now, I am not saying that mindfulness can replace knowledge, skill and relevant data in business decisions. Instead, all these elements should be utilized to get maximum benefits.

The University of Massachusetts is home to the Center for Mindfulness, which offers courses to help leaders bring mindfulness into their organizations. For iPhone users, there are many additional resources in the App Store under "meditation." Consider taking some classes on mindfulness. I promise it will change the way you see the world and your business with very little effort.

You can do this!

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Managing your Boss

“For a manager to be perceived as a positive manager, they need a four to one positive to negative contact ratio” ~Ken Blanchard

In the 10+ years I have been writing this column, people have regularly sent me requests for topics they'd like me to cover. The No. 1 most requested topic is how to manage a boss.

It is a common complaint, and employees really only have two options: either they learn how to deal with a bad boss or they leave, which is not a palatable option for most.

If you are one of those with a bad boss, you must figure out a way to work with the person. Unfortunately, you cannot expect your boss to change. Dwelling on your boss' shortcomings is not productive and will only make you feel bad.

All bosses — even the good ones — make mistakes, and some do not have the best skills to make each employee feel valued. Even so, you still must make an effort to do the best job you can.

Try to understand what motivates your boss, his or her goals, and how he or she is being evaluated. If you know what your boss values, you can easily figure out what to do to help achieve those goals. Your boss will appreciate your efforts and value you as an employee that much more.

If, however, you just cannot figure out what your boss needs to be successful, you need to ask. Nothing will flatter your boss more than asking him or her what you can do to help the firm or department be more successful. If you do not receive an adequate answer, which might happen, ask your colleagues if they can help you in this process.

We know marketing is a vital element of a business. For employees, it plays an equally important role in their relationship with their bosses. Employees need to market themselves to their bosses by communicating with them on a regular basis; weekly is the best frequency.

Keeping an open line of communication with your boss is important to managing your workload. Often bosses do not really know what all is on their employees' plates. The more you can communicate with them about your work load, the less likely they are to overload you.

If you have a problem with your boss, go talk to him, but make sure you take a positive, productive approach. Whether it is true or not, telling your boss how wrong he is will seldom yield positive results. Focus on the specific issue without making it a personal attack. For example, if you are concerned about a specific policy, explain how the policy makes you feel and offer suggestions for how it might be improved. Most bosses value constructive input from staff.

While managing your boss is not easy, it is something that every employee has to do. The more you can align yourself with your boss' goals, the better your relationship will be. A critical piece of this is marketing yourself to your boss on a regular basis.

You can do this!

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Incentives Can Motivate Your Staff

“Life takes on meaning when you become motivated, set goals and charge after them in an unstoppable manner.” ~Les Brown

Motivating your workforce is tough. Out of the many strategies and solutions for keeping staff motivated, the most effective way is using incentives.

We were assisting a very progressive firm that had set up a great incentive system to reward its employees for their billable hours. The system had been in place for three years, and the staff loved it. However, the owner was now concerned that the incentive was no longer working.

When I asked what made him think so, he explained that although folks were working hard to earn their incentives, but it was all they were concerned with. When it came to helping another colleague, they were not motivated to do so because there was no direct benefit to them.

On the surface this incentive system appeared to be working, yet it had unintended consequences. We changed the system to take into account a combination of individual production, team production and company success. Individual production was weighted at 60 percent, and team production and company success were each worth 20 percent. There is no question in my mind that this new incentive system aligns the goals of the individual with those of the firm.

Since the staff liked the old system so much, the owner’s challenge is to get them to accept the new plan. His strategy is to show them how they can make more money on this new plan, while promoting a spirit of cooperation.

While monetary incentives are great, many employees may not be motivated by money, particularly Gen-Xers (staff born after 1980). This group is motivated more by time off rather than a direct monetary incentive. In response, some entrepreneurs are rewarding staff with an additional day off for every month they hit their goals. The key to a successful incentive system is finding the reward that will motivate your staff to be more productive.

While incentives vary depending upon the work force and the goals of the organization, there are several key elements to include. First, the more frequently you reward the incentive, the better. It is hard to wait a year before you know how successful you have been and whether you have earned your bonus.

Second, the incentive system should be continually monitored to ensure it is working effectively.

Third, the incentive must have meaning for the people receiving it. Giving staff money, when doing so is not particularly motivating, is not good business.

A fourth element essential to a successful incentive system is a plan for support employees, whose efforts do not directly affect production numbers. Incentives for these workers should be based on the team’s production and the firm’s success.

Finally, you will need to have employee buy-in for the plan. When introducing a new incentive or changing the existing system, it is important that you sell it to your staff by showing them what they will gain.

Now go out and make sure that you have an incentive system in place to motivate your staff to help achieve the firm’s goals.

You can do this.