Archive | March, 2020

MI4P Content – Your Blog Content (#994)

24 Mar
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How to Shift from Reactive to Proactive Customer Care

Everyone makes mistakes, but no one likes admitting them.

If we’re honest, business professionals hate owning up to mistakes because of pride, embarrassment, or fear that customers will leave. But denying weaknesses only magnifies awkward situations and hurts your company’s reputation. Dealing proactively with problems will strengthen credibility and spark improvements that benefit your brand.

When Micheal Houlihan and Bonnie Harvey founded Barefoot Cellars, they started in a laundry room of a rented Sonoma County farmhouse. Knowing next to nothing, they made many mistakes. In one instance, they discovered a barcode error that led a shipment to ring up for less than it should, which lost the distributor money.

When he caught the mistake, Houlihan showed up personally at the store’s corporate office with a check for the loss, including an added bonus for the distributor’s time and expense. Houlihan described to the manager how Barefoot Cellars was shifting internal processes to make sure the problem never happened again. Because Houlihan owned the mistake and informed the distributor in person, the orders kept coming, and a potential complaint became a memorable learning experience.

Overcoming “Survival Mode” Mentality

For many companies, the default approach is to respond to problems as they arise.

This survival mode mentality may work temporarily, but long-term success is built as your brand is able to impress and delight customers in a more proactive, personalized way.

Future forecasters predict that by 2023 businesses will transition into a season of “continuous service” through artificial intelligence. But in the meantime, customers still need care, and the best strategy is upfront intervention.

Looking to sharpen your systems? Here are three ways to be more proactive:

1. Inform Customers About Your Mistakes Immediately

It’s always better for customers to hear about a problem directly from you instead of discovering it themselves.

If your company identifies a problem upfront, you can avoid costly damages and harmful publicity. As you identify errors, take responsibility for the mistake, offer refunds or future discounts, explain how you are remedying the problem, and let people know who to contact for assistance.

2. Offer Self-Help Customer Service Channels

One reason service can be so frustrating is the wait time and red tape it involves.

Many customers prefer to find answers themselves, so generate accessible content that addresses common complaints. This may include a FAQ page, live chat software, webinar tutorials, or a customer care focus in your print newsletter. Not sure where to start? Review customer service call and email logs or use survey data from clients and customer service representatives.

3. Build 5-Star Service into Your Company Culture

For proactive service to work, it must be embedded into your company culture.

Here employees are trained to deliver not only “at” the level expected, but above and beyond what is promised. This means everyone (not just the people on the front line) must understand and desire a 5-star service. Teach employees to anticipate what a client MIGHT need and have a solution ready before they ask.

Build Your Brand by Fortifying Customer Confidence

One of the most effective ways to stoke customer confidence is to do things for your customers before they know they need it.

Like a vase on a pottery wheel, proactive service means continually molding and reshaping the interactions customers have with your business. As you preemptively address sore spots, you’ll confirm the customer made the right decision to do business with your company.

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MI4P Content – Your Blog Content (#993)

20 Mar

From: Ann Reinman <ann@pinnacle-printing.com>
Sent: Friday, March 20, 2020 1:14 PM
To: Ann Reinman <ann@pinnacle-printing.com>
Subject: FW: [MI4P Content] – Your Blog Content (#993)

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How to Build Trust and Unity Through a Strong Company Culture

When it comes to company culture, Zoom is off the charts.

Zoom is a California communications company that provides remote conferencing services for online video meetings, chat, and mobile collaboration.

Zoom’s mission is to develop a people-centric cloud service that unifies meeting experiences while improving the quality of communications forever. Zoom is passionate about connecting not only customers but employees.

The company sports its own “happiness crew,” a team committed to maintaining company values through wacky celebrations, community involvement, and volunteering. Happiness crews coordinate team serving opportunities like Habitat for Humanity, Special Olympics, and more, allowing employees to give back, to enjoy co-workers from other teams, and to make a difference for causes they care about.

Whether it’s arranging a “Bring Your Parent to Work Day” or decorating desks with rubber ducks, this passionate team culture has helped Zoom to grow and thrive.

Company Culture is Beyond “Perks”

Company culture is more than just great coffee or vacation incentives; it goes to the heart of how people treat one another and the values of the company itself.

Deliberately defining and communicating your culture makes it easier to determine who you’re looking for and why certain individuals are a fit for your team. It defines success for employees and encourages people to practice values that are important for your business. And deeper than just perks or parties, company culture unifies people and makes work more meaningful and enjoyable. As you design company culture today, you build trust, responsibility, and vulnerability for tomorrow.

5 Keys to An Enhanced Company Culture

What might an enhanced culture look like for your business? Here are a few keys.

1. Build From the Bottom

Start by defining your mission, vision, and values.

Create language or catchphrases that celebrate a “win,” so values come off the wall and into everyday life. When you center your culture around how you want people to be treated, company culture will fall into place.

2. Identify Cultural Ambassadors

Every company has team members who are passionate about company identity.

These people love the organization and serve as cheerleaders who breathe life into the workplace. Once you identify ambassadors, ask them what they like or dislike about the current atmosphere and what improvements they would suggest.

Ambassadors offer a buffer between the boss and the team and have immense power to sway opinion. Lean on them and be open to change!

3. “Mandate” Fun

A strong work culture requires that everyone gets together, whether it’s a mid-day splurge or an after-work activity.

Offer timed conversation prompts or get people competing to fuel momentum. Looking for ideas? From breakroom cooking competitions to a hilarious round of “Eat Poop, You Cat,” online hacks are endless.

4. Assign Culture Captains

Maybe you can’t afford a happiness crew, but every employee can assist you in connecting with changing personalities.

Involve employees by selecting rotating “Culture Captains” who are in charge of shaping ideas for the month. From Funky Friday costume days to a buffet of the month (with a merit-based giveaway item), getting people involved in planning means everyone will have more fun!

5. Encourage Anonymous Feedback

No one likes criticism, but if you don’t welcome feedback, culture “cancers” can grow.

Send a yearly survey to all employees so everyone can share how they’re feeling and provide anonymous feedback. Allowing an avenue for processing can prompt a wealth of new ideas. Sometimes your team has the solutions you need, and you don’t even know it!

Your Greatest Asset

In a world where great employees are like gold, treating your work atmosphere as an afterthought is a huge missed opportunity. Wise entrepreneurs will design company culture as intentionally as they design the products they sell.

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MI4P Content – Your Blog Content (#991)

13 Mar
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Gain Momentum with a Strong Visual Identity

When Ruben Dario Villa started his car air freshener company, Fúchila Fresheners, he had a clear idea of who he was and how he wanted to communicate.

As a Mexican American, Villa wanted his Chicano heritage to be instantly recognizable to people from his community:

“Fúchila in Spanish is slang for when something smells bad,” Villa said. “So calling [our brand] Fúchila Fresheners is ironic, and people thought it was funny.”

Fúchila’s products aren’t your typical tree-shaped fresheners. Instead, they include pop-art images of the late singer Selena Quintanilla-Pérez and renowned Mexican artist Frida Kahlo. The fresheners use simple, punchy colors that reflect Chicano heritage, and it works. While Villa started Fúchila from the trunk of his car, now the fresheners are carried in over 100 stores from coast to coast.

“The [visual] identity has been crucial to Fúchila’s growth,” said Villa. “It has a graphical element. It’s been attractive to people; I use very bright colors. It really is being authentic to me—it’s what I like to see and what I feel my community likes to see, so that’s what I gravitated towards.”

Why Consistency Counts

If you put five pieces of your marketing materials in front of you, what would you see?

Would you find a streamlined, consistent theme? Or would you see a confusing jumble of chaotic imagery, colors, and text?

In today’s visually-focused age, a strong visual brand identity is crucial. Visual identities offer a framework for clients to connect with companies in a reassuring, cohesive way, so when you engage prospects across different platforms, they know who you are and the personality you represent.

Visual branding includes logos, colors, typography, imagery, composition styles, photography, videos, and more. Just as Villa chose images relevant to Chicanos, your target audience should shape the theme of your brand. When you resonate with the desires of your audience, it will be easier to attract people.

3 Keys to Sharpen Your Visual Identity

Looking to sharpen your visual identity? Here are three keys.

1. Define Your Audience

Defining your audience can influence the tone you use.

Outline your target markets using demographics (age, gender, income, etc.) and psychographics (personality, interests, lifestyles, or desired solutions). Once you identify their values or concerns, you can appeal to their needs and wants.

2. Outline Your Mission and Voice

Your business probably has a clear vision, but can you communicate this to your audience?

Why do you provide your products or services? How do you hope to change your clients or bring benefit to their lives? Once you clarify your mission, identify the voice that matches this position. Whether this voice is authoritative, rebellious, or compassionate, seek to communicate in a consistent tone.

3. Use a Cohesive Style Guide

To build a strong visual identity, maintain a style guide to keep visuals cohesive across mediums.

Use color psychology to pick shades that match your voice. Define imagery that complements your message: is it pastel landscapes? Bright animations? Personable faces? Even shapes communicate: round and organic forms signal warmth and softness, while geometric or angular shapes signal innovation, prestige, or power.

According to John Du, a Los Angeles-based designer and art director, even typography is significant:

“Typography is just as emotional as anything else—when you look at different fonts, they have different personalities,” Du said. “If you want to showcase your business as something very traditional or respectable, you might consider a serif typeface. If you want people to see your business as something more modern, something more grounded, maybe you’ll choose a sans serif typeface.”

It’s All About the Image

Studies show that visuals increase a desire to read content by 80 percent.

When you create articulate, strong visuals, your business will gain momentum and grow strong relationships with customers and clients.

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Embrace Originality with 4 Unique Marketing Options

10 Mar

Want to sculpt an eye-catching identity and bring your print projects to life?

You dream it; we’ll print it! With today’s technology, you can print concepts as varied as your ideas and as rich as your imagination. Ready to toss the template and try something a little different? Here are a few ideas to push the boundaries in your next design.

Foil Postcards

Time to rise and sparkle!

Raised gold or silver foil will take any printing to the next level. With a tactile, metallic shine, foil postcards bring a “wow” factor that can’t be matched. Foil can be added to logos, lettering, die-cut shapes, outlines, borders, and more. You can foil on one of both sides of your postcard, or combine your foil with velvety coated paper to make your product shine.

Whether you want eye-grabbing handouts or incredible invitations, foil postcards are guaranteed to make a stunning impression.

Pearlescent Flyers

Looking for a quality that suits your style?

Add an extravagant touch with metallic, pearlized, and pearlescent papers for your next flyer. With a smooth feel and a glittery finish, pearlescent print pieces bring a modern, pristine look your customers can’t miss. Thick, shiny, and metallic, these paper stocks offer a gorgeous option for announcements, service menus, invites, and more.

For a rich, warm finish, go for antique gold, champagne cream, copper, or flaming reds and oranges. Or, for a refreshing and royal tone, try aqua tropics, blue vistas, botanical greens, and deep violets. And remember, pearlescent and metallic coatings require larger fonts and extra white space in your design.

Super Business Cards

Looking for something super impressive and super fun?

Super business cards are for you! Cut from premium paper that’s durable (yet lightweight), these non-bendy business cards bring a bold impression that LASTS. Customize them to your preferences, with round corners, shiny finishes, raised spot gloss lettering, and more.

Whether you want a muted matte feel or a sleek sparkly vibe, super business cards are guaranteed to be as unique as you.

Creative Rip Cards

Want to keep them thinking of you after they walk away?

With posters or publicly displayed marketing materials, prospects may quickly see you . . . and forget you. Rip card printing offers an effective tool for marketing that sticks.

Did you know you can attach rip cards to posters, flyers, and mounted displays? Like a long-lasting calling card, rip cards offer your clients a point of contact they can follow up with later. Many businesses combine rip cards with discounts and incentives, whether it’s a “Buy One Get One” offer or a 10 percent discount on an upcoming service or treatment.

Whether you attach rip cards to rack cards, displays, or door hangers, this creative option ensures you’ll be seen, remembered, and contacted.

The One and Only You

You’re not like anyone else, so brand yourself with a unique voice and creative marketing options.

When you print locally, design and print come to life in ways that can’t be matched elsewhere. Ready to own YOUR niche through our collaborative design process? Visit our website to get started today!

Reduce Financial Risk by Conducting a Stress Test for Your Small Business

6 Mar

How will the economy affect your business this year?

Economic conditions impact all businesses, but small businesses often feel the effect of changes sooner. Upswings in the economy mean more disposable income, which can provide a rush of new or expanded business opportunities for your firm. But dips in the economy may make it harder for you to break even, to cover payroll, or to qualify for loans that will increase your growth opportunities.

While you can’t control the economy, you can take steps to ready your small business for unexpected changes. One simple tool to consider is a stress test.

Ways to Stress Test Your Business

A stress test is a simulation to gauge your financial risk under different economic scenarios. The results can aid your financial planning and let you know where your business is at the greatest risk in the event of economic hard times.

Here are three ways to stress-test your business to stabilize it during unwanted slowdowns.

1. Solicit advice from others

Do you have an advisory board or a brain trust of reliable partners?

SCORE, a nonprofit that is a resource partner of the U.S. Small Business Administration, offers a network of volunteers, including retired C-suite executives, who can help mentor. You can search for a SCORE mentor online or through a local chapter.

2. Plan for worst-case scenarios

One of the more effective ways to prepare for change is to make projections.

Look at what a dramatic budget crunch might do to your business or what would happen if you lost a major client or product. Evaluate how this loss would affect your business and decide how you could trim expenses or diversify your client base before this happens.

3. Review your financial cushioning

What kind of cash cushion does your business have?

While experts recommend a six-month reserve, you can probably be more specific. Look at your net “burn rate” on expenditures to identify the rate at which you spend cash holdings. Then look at your monthly budget and estimate how much money you plan to use over the next 12-15 months.

From here, you can project what kind of cushion is necessary and how long it might take you to obtain a loan or solicit an investor if money was extremely tight. Even in a worst-case scenario, having a plan in place can alleviate fear.

A Road Map For the Future

While it is wise to conduct a stress test at any time, analysts say the best seasons are typically the spring and summer because larger market crashes tend to occur in the fall.

By planning ahead now, you can make informed decisions about decreasing inventory, consolidating debt, cutting payroll, or connecting with new investors. By stress testing your business’s finances and proactively plan, you can mitigate future problems and sleep better each night.

Find More Enjoyment in Life Through Strategic Energy Management

3 Mar

Steve Wanner is a highly respected 37-year-old partner at Ernst & Young, married with four young children.

When Wanner started working with “The Energy Project,” a consulting company focused on sustainable performance, he was working 12- to 14-hour days. Wanner was overweight, perpetually exhausted, and felt guilty about his family life. He was distracted, slept poorly, and made no time to exercise. Like many professionals, daily demands were pushing him to the limit.

Time is a limited resource, and often people recognize that better time management could make a huge difference. Many leaders think they can excel by working harder or being more organized, but simply working harder almost always leads to anxiety and a difficulty disconnecting at night.

A Better Way

Proponents of energy management say there is a better way.

Energy management is a science and an art. Most people understand the science: if you exercise, eat, and sleep well, you’re likely to create more energy. But energy management is also an art. What energizes one person may not energize another. Conversely, what sucks the life out of someone might be a motivator for another.

While time is unrenewable, energy is not. When we are more energized we are more creative, efficient, and powerful. That’s why it is imperative to practice strategic energy management.

How to Conduct an “Energy Audit”

As you conduct an “energy audit” on your life, here are two questions to consider:

  1. What drains me? (What am I “bad at” or miserable doing? What sucks large amounts of energy and leaves me feeling lifeless?)
  1. What sustains me? (What am I good at or fills me with pleasure, adrenaline, or a can-do spirit?)

With this perspective, evaluate your schedule in three ways:

1. Rate your daily tasks

As you list regular responsibilities and decisions, assign negative number values (-1 or -2) to things that drain you, and positive values (+1 or +2) to things that motivate you.

2. Delegate, automate, and designate

When possible, delegate or automate things that consume energy, and designate more time for things that give you energy.

Schedule your days so that energy-draining tasks are followed by mini “resets,” or by tasks that you enjoy. Pay attention to the times of the day or week that you have the least energy, and plan positive value tasks (+1 or +2) for those time periods.

3. Address energy-depleting habits in your professional and personal life

Whether it is a lack of sleep, eating at your desk, or not enough solitude, ask yourself where “joy suckers” could be changed into solutions.

Tony Schwartz, CEO of the Energy Project, gives several examples of options for proactive energy management:

  • Sitting down to eat breakfast
  • Leaving your desk for 5-10 minutes every 90 minutes
  • Checking e-mail only twice a day
  • Prioritizing energy-draining tasks early in the day, or working on them in a different physical space than your normal office
  • Taking deep abdominal breaths in stressful moments
  • Recruiting a gifted team member for tasks you find mentally exhausting
  • Requesting to do more of what you’re “good” at
  • Writing gratitude notes to others once a week
  • Disconnecting from work calls 15 minutes before reaching your driveway
  • Putting a hobby that you love on your calendar

Unlock Potential and Create Lasting Change

After Steve Wanner took a hard look at his habits, he began drinking less, going to bed earlier, taking short afternoon walks, and leaving his desk frequently. Wanner lost 15 pounds and says he feels more relaxed and connected to his family.

By creating and managing your energy budget, you will be better equipped to create change, make a difference and get results. Give it a try!