Tactics to Design the Best Business Strategy for Growth



Objectivity is critical if you want to create your best-possible business strategy. By allowing innate biases to prevail, it’s a recipe for disaster.

Unfortunately, companies often fail to achieve goals after executing their strategy. That’s because managers fail to discard their biases and they consequently fail to clearly see their challenges and options.

To capitalize on opportunities for growth, companies must use the most-productive approaches in designing strategy.

It isn’t enough to eye financial opportunities.

Typically, businesses are astute in eyeing their financial and marketplace prospects.

However, they fail to experience the desired growth for a few operational reasons.

They don’t use due diligence in evaluating their assets and in designing the best-possible organizational structure, and in recruiting and retaining the right people to execute the strategy.

The approaches must include careful assessment of their opportunities via financial performance, marketplace opportunities, competitive advantages and in operations.

Businesses can achieve the desired growth by fully and objectively utilizing the four approaches:

Financial

In order to achieve returns high above the cost of capital, it isn’t sufficient to merely use mundane valuation methods.

Companies will fare better financially when they look at internal data and external data by leveraging the view of external data as an outsider would.

This means developing benchmarks that will help to surpass the financial performance of competitors – using marketplace data to understand what will happen without taking counter measures.

By knowing where they are and where they want to be, businesses can best discuss and determine how to achieve superior performance.

Marketplace

In today’s dynamic marketplace, businesses often suffer from slow growth in their core activities and pine for higher growth sectors.

However, the first thing that such companies really need to do is be defensive – in football parlance, protect their goal line – and take baby steps to create internal opportunities in a granular fashion.

Once that’s accomplished, companies can look to contiguous markets of opportunity, but also to capture market share to deny opportunities for latent competitors.

So, the analysis should cover two areas: Determine which existing segments of your business can probably grow and analyze which are the possible attractive contiguous markets to pursue.

Competitive advantages

To maximize competitive advantages, businesses should be taking into account their assets and competencies, as well as any additional requirements for investment to achieve success against rivals.

This means evaluating whether they have the firepower to win and determine whether anything else will be needed.

If indeed more assets are needed, it’s vital to determine what advantages will be obtained and whether the newly found advantages will be sufficient for winning.

To successfully complete such analyses, management must query employees, customers and vendors for their insights. In this way, valuable information is obtained for a competitive advantage.

Operations

One salient mistake that companies make is in assuming the status quo in operations will be sufficient to achieve the goals.

To lay a foundation for success, it’s critical to assess your organizational structure, employees, processes and technology.

Then, take salient steps and make the needed improvements.

From the Coach’s Corner, here are related sources of information:

Scaling Your Business Starts with Effective Management — Confidence starts with knowing the difference between scaling and expanding – and growing with the help of your culture and employees. Here are Biz Coach strategies in human resources to scale your business.

10 Execution Values to Guarantee Your Strategic Plan Works — Many companies devote resources to devise a great strategic plan. But they fail in their objectives because they don’t link their strategy to execution. So here’s how.

For Profits, Align Your HR Program with Your Business Strategy — For profits, a successful human-resources management strategy should complement your overall business strategy. Here’s how.

Build a Strong Sales Foundation by Being Defense-Minded — Sports is a great lesson for sales growth — build a strong foundation by being defensive-minded. Protect your turf first. Here are five tips for sales domination in your hometown.

6 Strategies if You’re Losing Market Share to Small Rivals — Here’s a scenario that can happen to any successful business – smaller competitors grabbing your marketing share. Here’s what you can do.

 

“Good business leaders create a vision, articulate the vision, passionately own the vision, and relentlessly drive it to completion.”   

-Jack Welch


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Author Terry Corbell has written innumerable online business-enhancement articles, and is a business-performance consultant and profit professional. Click here to see his management services. For a complimentary chat about your business situation or to schedule him as a speaker, consultant or author, please contact Terry.





HR Tips to Manage Suspicious FMLA Leave


One most-challenging issues facing employers is the fishy use of leave by employees under protection of the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA).

The FMLA has been costly to businesses. It has led to productivity issues and disruptions in scheduling and expenses.

Widespread employee abuses have exacerbated employer challenges. Abuse of the FMLA is so rampant, management everywhere is naturally suspicious.

According to the Department of Labor’s web site, the FMLA permits 12 weeks of leave if an employee works a 12-month period.

However, the leave is unpaid. And it’s for the employer who has 50 or more workers within a 75-mile radius of the work site.

Employees can use accrued paid leave such as vacation and sick days. Employers may require workers to exhaust their paid leave before taking leave under FMLA.

Three reasons why employees can get leave under the FMLA:

  1. For a serious health issue of the employee or family member.
  2. Reasons pertaining to military employment or to care for a member in military service.
  3. The birth of a child, to bond with it or the placement of a youngster with your employee either for adoption or foster care.

The abuse is difficult to prove under the FMLA criteria. Even just for hinting at employee abuse, companies have been hit with employee claims of either FMLA obstruction or retaliation.

However, if employers can show the FMLA leave is used for fraudulent purposes, they can legally defend themselves against employee complaints.

But that’s not always the case.

Unpredictable courts

Courts have ruled adversely on technicalities.

For instance, when employers have terminated employees after taking FMLA leave but didn’t use it for that purpose, companies have lost in court.

In other words, courts have ruled that when a company has suspected and proved FMLA-leave abuse, the firing did not hinder the employee’s rights.

Even when employers have hired private investigators and obtained proof from the employee’s friends or social media in order to prove fraud, courts have ruled in favor of employees.

Precautions

So, you should get legal counsel and demonstrate considerable care and respect before challenging employees on their claims.

Before approving leave or challenging abuse, you should also monitor submitted information using Department of Labor forms.

Be cautious before approving and scheduling an FMLA leave.

You are legally permitted to request a doctor’s certification about the need for a leave. You can also ask for new medical certification in advance of each FMLA year.

If you’re dissatisfied with an opinion, you can request second or third opinions.

For intermittent leave, some employees have chronic conditions and certifications. So, try to plan in advance for leave schedules.

You can’t refuse leaves, but you’re on sound legal ground if you attempt to plan in advance.

Do your best to anticipate the duration and frequency of intermittent FMLA leave. You can insist on a diagnostic prediction of when a leave will be justified. Until you get such doctor estimates, you can delay approval.

Certifying intermittent leave requests

Specificity matters. Inquire about the employee’s specific situation. A medical certification can only pertain to a serious medical situation. Note: Don’t inquire about the person’s general medical situation.

Adhere to time frames for employee responses to your request for certification. Allow the employees a minimum of 15 calendar days to respond with the documentation.

If the paperwork is not complete, inform your employee in-writing why it’s insufficient. Then, give the employee seven days to provide the necessary information.

If you suspect something is amiss with a certification and the need for a leave, then investigate.

You are allowed to contact the employee’s doctor for clarification. Note: Do not allow the employee’s direct supervisor to contact the physician.

Otherwise, it’s OK for people such as your HR representative, other top managers or third-party administrators.

If you’re not convinced about the veracity of a certification, you can insist on another opinion and compensate for it. Don’t use a physician with whom you work.

Choose a doctor who is totally independent. In the event of differing opinions, you can get a third opinion and make it a mandatory opinion.

From the Coach’s Corner, here are related sources:

Avoid EEOC Legal Hassles over Unpaid Leave Requirements — You might want to review your current human resource policies. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission  has continued to push employers on unpaid leave under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

13 Management Tips to Solve Employee Absenteeism — Absenteeism causes migraines for a lot of bosses. Obviously, your company will make healthier profits, if you don’t have an absenteeism problem.

How to Smoothly Manage Your Employee Vacation Schedules — Depending on the size of your staff, managing around your employees’ vacation schedules can be a thorny issue. That’s especially true for a small operation. With just a few employees, it can be difficult to keep everyone happy and to cover the workload.

Why Companies Fall into the Management Lawsuit Trap — Small and many big companies are ripe for EEOC complaints. The majority of lawsuits targeting management usually stem from a half dozen poor practices. You’ll get into trouble using these six bad practices.

How to avoid EEOC Discrimination Suits — Here are six tips for micro-companies and 13 strategies for larger organizations to avoid EEOC migraines.

 

Nothing surprises me. I’m in management.


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Author Terry Corbell has written innumerable online business-enhancement articles, and is a business-performance consultant and profit professional. Click here to see his management services. For a complimentary chat about your business situation or to schedule him as a speaker, consultant or author, please contact Terry.

 

 

Shy in Networking? Here Are 4 Tips that Will Work for You



Good news if crowds make you nervous: The advantage in networking goes to introverts instead of extroverts.

“What? you ask. “Introverts have an advantage in networking at social events?”

That’s right. As an introvert, you have advantages in networking and also advantages in becoming a leader. Yes, that’s true.

Extroverts aren’t necessarily great in networking or qualified to be leaders. They’re not naturals in the art of persuasion, charisma, have boldness or in getting projects done successfully.

Introverted people are more likely to listen. Listening is an important quality for networking and leadership.

Moreover, extroverts are more likely to feel threatened if their ideas aren’t readily acted upon. They especially act with fear when questioned or challenged by others.

Conversely, this also means introverts can unobtrusively dominate at networking and other events.

Here’s how you can make shyness work for you:

Envision success by listening

During the 1970s and 1980s in my career as a young broadcast journalist, I learned valuable lessons about listening, negotiations and leadership when meeting two presidents – Ronald Reagan and Gerald Ford.

While I was very nervous, they made me feel important in the meetings. They were fantastic listeners. Ditto, when I interviewed Nancy Reagan.

Then, there was a comment by another great leader in American history: “Nobody cares how much you know until they know how much you care,” said Theodore Roosevelt.

Of course, he was an American statesman, writer and the 26th U.S president from 1901 to 1909, 25th vice president, and governor of New York.

President Roosevelt knew success results from empathy and focusing on others.

So try to always ask open-ended questions, not closed-ended questions. By asking open-ended questions, you’ll get people to talk freely. (More on this later in this article.)

Many extroverts miss the point of networking. Networking should be all about starting and building relationships by listening well.

Take baby steps seeking quality contacts

It can be very entertaining to watch many extroverts and narcissists working at social event.

They’re so busy working the whole room and grabbing business cards, they’re not as successful in launching valuable relationships.

The trick is to be affable and likeable.

Quality prospects are not impressed by a narcissistic approach by someone running around willy-nilly collecting business cards without regard to the feelings of others in attendance.

Introverts, on the other hand, take the time to learn important information from a few people. This means they can make the most in chatting with the people they do meet, especially with other introverts.

Do this, and you’ll have a better shot at developing relationships.

Ask the most-advantageous questions

Extroverts get off on the wrong foot by talking about what they care about, which means they’re less likely to pique the interests of others.

So be a leader. Briefly reveal something about yourself so the persons will feel comfortable in answering questions. (People appreciate what psychologists have called “free information.”)

Then, don’t ask mundane questions such as “What do you do?”.

Ask questions that will prompt people to reveal important details, such as “What projects are you excited to be working on?” or “What interests you the most these days?”.

Read between the lines

Strive to be intuitive.

In conversing with a stranger, you also need to grasp what the persons aren’t saying. In effect, listen to what people aren’t telling you.

Success in sales is all-about creating opportunities for growth by finding needs to fill.

Once you entice people to talk about their interests or even their passions, you can anticipate their challenges and determine needs you’re able fill.

From the Coach’s Corner, additional helpful information:

Football Lessons for Business Networking, Partnering — Nine key steps for companies to become stronger by teaming with others. By combining resources, companies succeed in meeting the needs of customers.

Sales, Networking Strategies to Build Strong Relationships — Knowledge has always been essential for success. But the ability to sustain strong relationships was and is both gratifying and important for success. Here are tips for strong sales and relationships.

Listening Skills to Improve Your Relationships and Business Performance — What counts in communication? Listening skills for discernment and trust. Discerning people are the most successful and listening skills are important for discernment. That goes for athletes and management, alike.

Earn Profits via Innovation, Relationships and Local Marketing — If your company is struggling as a result of declining profits, at least three factors are responsible: The clutter of competition, management, and ever-expanding and head-scratching list of advertising options.

Tactics to be Memorable but Respected in Sales Calls — In this frenetic marketplace, creating a lasting impression on your prospects and clients – so they become loyal as repeat buyers – your approach should include seven tactics.

Sales Secrets for Getting by Receptionists, Gatekeepers — Getting past receptionists and other gatekeepers is a universal sales challenge. Successful salespeople, however, have the right insights and approaches for success. Here’s how they do it.

“Networking is rubbish; have friends instead.”

-Steve Winwood

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Author Terry Corbell has written innumerable online business-enhancement articles, and is a business-performance consultant and profit professional. Click here to see his management services. For a complimentary chat about your business situation or to schedule him as a speaker, consultant or author, please contact Terry.






Management: Coach Your Employees to Better Performance



In talent management, coaching, counseling and giving feedback is of utmost importance.

But it’s a difficult challenge if you don’t have a coaching culture.

When managers become coaches, you get a higher-performing workforce. You will have replaced mediocrity with strong performance. Therefore, it’s best to develop a coaching culture to optimize talent management.

If your employees become toxic or if they backslide in performance and productivity, you need to figure out how to solve the problems.

Essentially, there’s a variety of challenges for you. Be absolutely certain you’re accurate in your employee assessments and avoid errors in evaluations.

For instance, you have to be aware that new workers have a learning curve. Veteran employees are asked to change. Toxic employees are disruptive and destroy morale among your staff.

In many situations, employees are fearful of coaching and don’t respond well. It’s also stressful for you. Avoid management stress. Take the necessary steps to enjoy your job while managing difficult employees.

Frustrations dealing with difficult employees coincide with many management issues – teamwork, morale, organizational dysfunction and weak customer relationships – just to name a handful.

And they’re all related to loss of profit. Especially for toxic employees, it’s vital to develop the best coaching tactics.

In all employee issues, you must always plan well and then self-ascertain how you did in managing the employees.

For example, ask yourself:

  • What went well and what didn’t?
  • What would you change about your approach with the employees?
  • How can you better prepare for such conversations?
  • How can I best support the employees and capitalize on the counseling?

A well-written set of performance goals work to motivate employees and help them to focus better on their responsibilities. They must be written well with the right phrasing.

Concurrently, give employees a chance to mull over what you said and to respond by engaging with you. This helps to guarantee the best results.

The employees become more confident and feel management support to implement an action plan with autonomy in their duties.

Always remember your approach must be to discuss employees and inspire them to work out their challenges vis-à-vis just telling them to improve or telling them what to do.

What if your coaching isn’t working?

Then, you must continue to be fair but to embark on progressive discipline to fix the problems while guarding against possible wrongful termination lawsuits.

Here’s how:

Oral reprimand

Immediately when spotting a performance issue, you should issue an oral reprimand and document it in detail and put it in a separate file (not the employee’s file).

In starting your reprimand, remember to ask if the employee if there are any skill shortcomings or long-term problems.

Outline an action plan.

Do your best to save the employee. This might or might not include referring your worker to your Employee Assistance Program, especially for drug addiction or alcoholism issues.

Written reprimand

If the employee fails to improve or if more problems develop, give the employee a written reprimand about the deficiencies, what’s expected and the possible consequences.

Be sure to explain your benchmarks for improvement in performance.

Have the employee sign an acknowledgment of your written reprimand. Insert in the employee’s HR file.

Ultimate reprimand in writing

Should your efforts fail, give the employee your final written warning. Usually this includes probationary status.

With your warning, include copies of the previous reprimands. Be specific on expected improvements. Specify time frames for improved performance.

Continually review the process

If you have a human resources department, of course, by now HR showed be notified about the issues. Prevent possible challenges to terminating the employee.

For instance, be aware of any discharge-related considerations:

  • Determine whether you have a contract with the employee and any possible restrictions.
  • Check on employee complaints – whether the employee has filed a workers’ compensation claim, complained to government regulators, or strategized to make it look as though you’re retaliating. Retaliation is a huge no-no.
  • Review all your steps to maintain fairness with the employee. You must be able to prove your case should there be legal ramifications.
  • Keep in mind that if you’re forced to terminate workers, you must first ask yourself three important questions.

Commence firing

After you’ve given the employee adequate opportunities to improve, start the termination process.

From the Coach’s Corner, related information:

10 Best Practices for an Online Employee Handbook — Companies that don’t convert their employee handbooks into electronic documents are missing noteworthy opportunities in human resources. Conversely, businesses that switch to a digital format accomplish at least five HR goals.

HR: Avoid Bias in Evaluating Top Employees Who Backslide — Don’t be too lenient with talented employees with a history of strong performance but who decline in their work. Document every event in any downtrend of performance. Inevitably, many terminated employees will file claims accusing you of discrimination.

Management: 5 Most Common Reasons to Fire Employees — With difficult employees, you have two obvious problems – the impacts on your organization and the behavior of the individual. Here’s what to do.

Management: 7 Tips for Success if You Must Layoff Employees — Companies typically make two short-sighted errors in a business downturn. They slash the workforce and marketing investments. To the contrary, it’s important to place a maximum value on your human capital and avoid layoffs, and to expand marketing.

How to avoid EEOC Discrimination Suits — Here are six tips for micro-companies and 13 strategies for larger organizations to avoid EEOC migraines.

“Resources are hired to give results, not reasons.” 
-Amit Kalantri

 

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Author Terry Corbell has written innumerable online business-enhancement articles, and is a business-performance consultant and profit professional. Click here to see his management services. For a complimentary chat about your business situation or to schedule him as a speaker, consultant or author, please contact Terry.







HR: Avoid Bias in Evaluating Top Employees Who Backslide



Management of employees can be the most challenging with rollercoaster emotions. That’s especially true in employee terminations.

Employee terminations are the most stressful and legally treacherous events for any human resources professional or manager.

Naturally, if you find it necessary to terminate employees, you must be legally and morally prepared with a paper trail that show your documentation in your evaluations of them.

The five most-common reasons to fire employees:

  1. Lack of productivity
  2. Toxic behavior
  3. Cannot cope with change
  4. No call or no show
  5. Customer and supplier complaints

But what about high performers who decline in their work?

Don’t be too lenient with talented employees with a history of strong performance but who decline in their work. Document every event in any downtrend of performance.

Inevitably, many terminated employees will file claims accusing you of discrimination.

So, it’s vital to be mindful of your biases when you assess the performance of employees. Don’t be misled about your high-performing employees. Sometimes, their performance decline.

If they are given excellent reviews but there are is no documentation of their declining performances, you risk legal trouble.

To reiterate, when a previously high-performing worker starts to go south, you must avoid playing favorites. Be very careful to document the person’s waning performance.

Their past excellent reviews don’t mean you’re stuck. The person is not impervious to scrutiny and unassailable.

Before terminations, ask yourself three questions

  1. “Am I following all applicable laws?”

You should be diligent in your human resources paper trail. That should include progressive discipline and counseling.

Be careful in what you do, say and write. If there’s any doubt, check with an expert. Actually, it’s a good idea to do it anyway.

  1. “Am I acting on facts and irrefutable information?”

Take and use copious notes.

Employees are entitled to know the answers to three questions:

  • What’s expected of me?
  • How am I doing?
  • What’s in it for me?

Don’t allow your behavior to become less than polite.

  1. “Am I fair and compassionate?”

Follow the Golden Rule. Treat employees as you would like to be treated in a termination by a world-class employer.

If an employee is not expecting to be terminated, remember the fault does not entirely lie with the worker. It’s your fault. 

Appearances

To avoid appearances of discrimination or favoritism, you must be 100 percent objective with all your employees. Show how each of their performances are improving or declining.

All too often with older employees, companies face accusations of age discrimination.

Take notice the very day an employee starts missing goals or otherwise performs poorly. Don’t risk firing a worker after giving a sudden negative review after years of excellent reviews.

Should you find it necessary to terminate an employee, be prepared:

Present evidence that you had discussed errors and poor productivity, requested improvements in the person’s performance, and to conform with your company’s objectives and plans.

Yes, it’s kosher to terminate employees who fail to adjust in this Digital Age.

You can rest assured that courts don’t automatically condemn your decisions in human resources.

What judges, juries and the Equal Employee Opportunity Commission want is to see is your documentation that you’ve discussed performance issues with your employees.

From the Coach’s Corner, here are relevant articles:

Human Resources: 12 Errors to Avoid in Evaluations — How should you properly evaluate employees? Make sure you are careful to avoid errors in evaluations. Naturally, you want to praise good performance and discourage bad. What are the best ways? Here’s how to avoid making those classic mistakes.

For Best HR Performance Reviews, 10 Sample Goal Phrases — A well-written set of performance goals work to motivate employees and help them to focus better on their responsibilities. They must be written with the right phrasing so they inspire performance and don’t invite costly lawsuits.

10 Best Practices for an Online Employee Handbook — Companies that don’t convert their employee handbooks into electronic documents are missing noteworthy opportunities in human resources. Conversely, businesses that switch to a digital format accomplish at least five HR goals.

Management: 7 Tips for Success if You Must Layoff Employees — Companies typically make two short-sighted errors in a business downturn. They slash the workforce and marketing investments. To the contrary, it’s important to place a maximum value on your human capital and avoid layoffs, and to expand marketing.

Avoid EEOC Legal Hassles over Unpaid Leave Requirements — You might want to review your current human resource policies. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has continued to push employers on unpaid leave under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

10 Tips on Responding to EEOC Complaints — Despite all the court cases, warnings and complaints filed at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, a study shows big companies are guilty of favoritism in their promotion practices. If you’re so accused, here’s what to do.

“Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn.”

-Benjamin Franklin


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Author Terry Corbell has written innumerable online business-enhancement articles, and is a business-performance consultant and profit professional. Click here to see his management services. For a complimentary chat about your business situation or to schedule him as a speaker, consultant or author, please contact Terry.





Storytelling: Motivate Customers to Brag about Your Company

 

More and more in marketing, you hear buzz phrases about storytelling – advising you about the concept of telling your story. It’s good advice.

Your best opportunity in marketing messages is to inspire your customers to write testimonials about their positive experience with your company.

Certainly, you’ll profit more if you can entice your customers to tell your story about your products and services.

Positive run-of-the-mill reviews are great, but it’s much better if you can get your customers to provide inspiring details about you.

Unfortunately, businesses struggle to persuade their customers to give a complete and outstanding review.

However, , you’ll see a domino effect if you employ the right strategies for customer engagement, collect their impressions and distribute it to your customers.

Once positive testimonials entice other customers to buy, the new customers will be inclined to become your brand ambassadors, too.

Four strategies to motivate customers to brag about your business:

Daily prioritize your engagement throughout your business

Your immediate goal should be to promote your brand as the best – with optimistic, powerful testimonials.

Go beyond just using social media. Develop a foundation to collect your customers’ impressions.

Inspire and appoint your employees to collect, edit ad publish customer stories. Monitor the performance of the testimonials on your social media and site.

Ascertain what you need

If customers are unhappy, they will crusade against you. If they are happy, most people will take you for granted.

So, avoid lethargy and disinterest. Get customers to sit down and go to work as your brand ambassador.

Don’t be mundane by giving customers a basic text box to complete.

Create a structure in which you make it easy for customers to be comprehensive to enable you to harvest their all-inclusive testimonials.

Use an easy-to-complete template to motivate customers to write.

Ask customers to explain the purpose of their purchase, how they achieved their goal, why the purchase was beneficial, and how they now feel about the purchase.

Show previous testimonials

Consider a reality – most customers aren’t the greatest of writers. So, help them with examples they can emulate.

Customers love a happy buying environment. When possible, use humor to make buying fun.

That should include soliciting the desirable tone and length of their stories.

Show gratitude – prevent buyers’ remorse

If you succeed in eliciting great testimonials, you should prevent buyers’ remorse. So, reward such customers.

You can do it in a variety of ways:

Consider letting them see their testimonial before you publish it. Happy customers are often delighted to see their comments online.

Provide rewards points. Toss in even more reward points if customers provide a picture. It’s truly worth a thousand words.

If your products are spendy, send them a check. The higher the price, the bigger the amount.

Good luck!

From the Coach’s Corner, here are relevant resources:

8 Strategies to Enhance Your Customer Service Image — Poor customer service is a salient reason why consumers aren’t loyal to businesses. True, today’s consumers are very demanding. It’s worth noting they’re demanding because they constantly encounter poor customer service.

Best Practices to Get Positive Customer Reviews on Amazon — Amazon has become the e-commerce destination where prospective customers can discover and buy anything they want. Here are four best-practices to attract great reviews.

Are You Attacked by Bad or Bogus Reviews? 5 Tips to Respond — Certainly you only want positive customer reviews. Internet-savvy shoppers read reviews to make buying decisions. Reviews can make or break you.

Marketing Tips via Mobile Devices, Reviews, Coupons — Digital marketing opportunities keep growing and growing. For instance, 70 percent of consumers research product reviews while they shop in stores. Ninety percent are relying on their mobile devices as they make in-store buying decisions.

14 Tips to Profit from Online Customer Reviews — For competitiveness and profits, businesses can’t afford to ignore the potential of online reviews. They’re a factor in revolutionizing commerce.
 

“Storytelling is the most powerful way to put ideas into the world today.”

-Robert McAfee Brown

 

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Author Terry Corbell has written innumerable online business-enhancement articles, and is a business-performance consultant and profit professional. Click here to see his management services. For a complimentary chat about your business situation or to schedule him as a speaker, consultant or author, please contact Terry.

 

 

 

 

Key Strategies for Best Holiday Sales on Amazon



Naturally, just like all your other holiday sales, Amazon has become increasingly important for retailers in e-commerce.

For instance, Cyber Week – the week prior to Thanksgiving – will account for a major portion of your Q4 sales as Black Friday and Cyber Monday follow in importance.

So, due diligence in Amazon strategies is imperative. Maximize your sales while also positioning your business for success in the future.

Here’s how:

Coordinate with strategic partners

Don’t wait to prepare for your inventory and sales needs. Well in advance, communicate with your manufacturers and retailers in planning your inventory.

Analyze your sales from the previous year. Then, forecast the best you can. If you have retailers, ask them about their purchasing plans. Ask your manufacturers if they can supply what you’ll need.

Try to anticipate your competitors and their prices.

Plan to look for late-breaking opportunities in sales.

Review fulfillment requirements

Make sure you know and comply with Amazon’s packaging requirements and shipping guidelines. And prepare for shipping with enough materials and have enough staffing to fulfill your orders.

Minimum advertising price (MAP) policy

Talk with your legal team about your MAP policy. Protect your company’s image and sustain pricing among retailers for compliance with state and federal regulators.

Communicate your MAP policy with your retailers. Work with them for productive relationships.

Take steps to compete effectively. Know your best price points and maintain flexibility along with your limitations.

Prevent arbitrage – people who buy discounted products and resell them on the Internet. Know and limit your sellers. Allow buybacks if they’re struggling to sell your products.

Avert legal risk

This is the time of year when your brand and profits can suffer. You potentially face a higher rate of copyright, counterfeit products and swindles and trademark infringements.

To reinforce your policies, communicate with your distributors and retailers. Scrutinize who is selling your products and the prices they charge.

Deal only with retailers you trust. Don’t allow unauthorized selling. Typically, such scammers never ship the products.

Check for bad customer reviews, questionable seller names and alleged so-called just-launched offers. That’s a benefit of Amazon’s Brand Registry program.

Plus, Transparency by Amazon means a transparency code is inserted on product packaging to enable scanning for authenticity.

Be seasonally specific

Your messaging and images will be more effective if you convey a holiday emotion. To connect with shoppers and for their repeat business, emotions will play an important role en route to success.

Use a great branding slogan but avoid year-round generics. That means verbiage in value propositions and images must be holiday-themed. Reinforce ideas for seasonal uses by using suggestive phrases.

Partner with Centers of Influence in your social media for organic interest in your products.

Do your research

Know which of your products are most-likely to sell. Usually, this involves The Pareto Principle. In other words, the 80-20 rule. Eighty percent of your sales will derive from just 20 percent of your products.

Check your search-engine optimization to see that it’s ready for Q4 sales. Update your keywords to take advantage of seasonal opportunities for sales growth.

If you utilize pay-per-click (PPC) or cost-per-click (CPC) advertising, update your search terms and bidding. Note: Bear in mind, you might have to do it on a daily basis.

Take special precautions to monitor questions about your products and customer reviews.

Capitalize on Amazon’s “Deal of the Day”

To take advantage of the Deal of the Day, know that your pricing must be your lowest of the year.

Plan your biggest discounted price but to stay profitable and plan to schedule your promotion several times.

Capitalize on history’s lessons

Amazon shoppers anticipate the lowest prices of the year. But be clear on differentiation. Shoppers subconsciously ask themselves the WIIFM question – “What’s in it for me?”

Take great care to make certain you have ample inventory on your earmarked products. If you don’t, of course, you’ll risk losing sales and allowing a black mark on your company’s image.

Remember shoppers love coupon deals.

Again, in advance of your holiday selling, don’t forget your Centers of Influence and social media to promote Amazon sales.

Harness the potential of mobile

This means optimizing for mobile customers.

With less screen space for mobile users, be doubly sure to insert salient features/benefit statements and keywords first.

Note: A+ detail pages are not decreased in size on mobile devices and appear on the screens before your product description.

Test … test … test

A data-driven approach is key. Start early to prepare for sales, so test early. But continue to monitor your data during the sales events.

With A/B testing you’ll be able to discover your top-selling products and deemphasize to poorest-selling items. Analyze, also, your verbiage and other factors including your coupon offers and search-term reports.

From the Coach’s Corner, additional relevant information:

Checklist to Create Cyber Monday Sales Success — In order to celebrate your Cyber Monday sales, you must first create a happy buying environment. That means reviewing your store and Web site to attract prospects and to create happy customers.

10 Tips to Optimize Your Web Site for Higher Sales — If you haven’t optimized your Web site for sales, you might want to reconsider. There are more and more indications that online shopping will continue to grow.

Marketing Strategies to Maximize Your Holiday Sales — The holidays are an emotional time of year. Consumers spend a disproportionate amount of money during the holidays, so it behooves your business to take advantage of your seasonal revenue opportunities.

Trending: How Merchants Increase Profits in Q4 Holiday Sales — As consumers continue to start earlier and earlier to shop for their holiday giving, merchants are honing their marketing strategies. Their tools include advertising, brand protection, strategic pricing, staging events, and using traditional media and digital.

Best Sales Pipeline Tips: Content Marketing, Follow-up and Marketing Automation — Here’s how you can maximize your sales pipeline with effective content marketing, prioritizing follow-up and marketing automation.

“Amazon has done something for all of retail, which is resetting the customer expectations about how quickly and easily you can get things.”

-Mary Dillon


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Author Terry Corbell has written innumerable online business-enhancement articles, and is a business-performance consultant and profit professional. Click here to see his management services. For a complimentary chat about your business situation or to schedule him as a speaker, consultant or author, please contact Terry.




Tips to Limit Employer Liability on Employee Cellphone Use



Smartphones should improve your employees’ performance and facilitate profits. But that’s not always the case because of some employees’ behavior.

In this litigious society, you can never be certain you’re free from lawsuits. That includes the use of smartphones.

Yes, there are increasing risks to companies over the use of smartphones by their workers. So, for your employee handbook, it’s imperative to develop a smartphone policy. Then, training employees regarding the policy is imperative.

Risks range from losing proprietary information such as trade secrets to harassment and other legal liabilities.

Legal liability involves employees who talk on the phone or texting while driving at work. Ouch.

Here are cellphone-policy tips to consider:

Prevention of accidents

Smartphone functions have become so elaborate, not only talking and texting, but taking pictures and games, too.

It’s very dangerous if employees use their smartphones while driving. Your policy should include avoiding such risks.

Etiquette

Develop and implement a policy regarding employees’ use of smartphones in driving and in other work situations.

More than a quarter of a century ago, I learned an embarrassing lesson in a client meeting just after I launched my consulting practice. My vintage phone was in my briefcase but it abruptly rang interrupting the meeting. So, before every meeting I quickly learned to turn off my phone.

So, it’s amazing now to see people use their cellphones meetings. It’s a sure-fire way to annoy clients or any other attendees in a meeting.

True, there might be times when an employee is expecting an urgent call necessitating the use of a smartphone.

As a consultant, sometimes I had to keep my phone on in meetings – if I needed to keep it handy if I was handling an important project for the clients. The clients certainly appreciated it.  But not as a rule.

Keeping records

Texting in business has become a common practice. But as you know, texts can’t be filed. Deleted texts are challenging to recover.

Decide how you want to keep texting records in case they’re needed; especially for legal matters.

Also, sometimes, emails become an issue in financial, legal or regulatory matters.

To avoid misunderstanding, don’t allow off-the-clock work which easily morphs into lawsuits.

Privacy

Employees should be advised that any of their messages on company-owned devices are the property of you, the employer.

In other words, they should be warned that they have no privacy in using a company device and their communications can be reviewed by you.

Also, point out that the business owns the telephone number. You don’t want employees who are leaving to use your number in a secret effort to steal your customers.

Inappropriate use

Employees should be advised that other inappropriate use of your phones will not be tolerated.

Along with your standard policy for sexual or any other type of harassment, institute a policy that your devices cannot be used for any form of harassment.

Performance and productivity

Your policy should cover how and when smartphones can be used. Remind your employees regarding your policies in using smartphones as a computer, the Internet, and social media.

From the Coach’s Corner, here are relevant tips:

Basics to Consider Before Writing Nondisclosure Agreements — If you have business secrets to protect you might want to use a confidentiality policy, a nondisclosure agreement and possibly a noncompete agreement. Here are the pros and cons.

16 Best Practices to Stay out of Legal Trouble with Employees — Generally, in human resources, companies find themselves in legal hot water because they inadvertently make mistakes with their employees. It’s important to triple down on preventative measures and responses to legal hazards when necessary.

Best Practices with HR Records to Guard against Legal Risks — If you aren’t able to supply relevant documentation, you’ll pay a heavy price. In some cases, you’ll even be forced to give the job back to a nonperforming or toxic employee.

Best Employee-Handbook Values to Avoid Legal Issues — Neither you, nor your company and nor should your employees be relying on an employee handbook with illegal or antiquated policies. Here are employee-handbook values to consider.

Management – How to Improve Accountability in Your Company — If business and tepid growth have affected your outlook, take a look at your human resources and consider a couple of questions. If you don’t like your answer, here are eight solutions.

“The cell phone has become the adult’s transitional object, replacing the toddler’s teddy bear for comfort and a sense of belonging.”

-Margaret Heffernan


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Author Terry Corbell has written innumerable online business-enhancement articles, and is a business-performance consultant and profit professional. Click here to see his management services. For a complimentary chat about your business situation or to schedule him as a speaker, consultant or author, please contact Terry.




Finance: Zero-Based Budgeting Aligns Resources with Priorities



Zero-based budgeting (ZBB) is no longer just your average budgeting technique. ZBB means all expenses must justified for all functions and analyzed for company needs and costs.

Many companies began using it in 1970 to help reduce expenses and cost-effectively apportion resources. But over the decades, ZBB went out of vogue.

In recent years ZBB has been gaining favor with companies. For them, it’s no longer business as usual. Why?

They know they experience improved cash flow for sustained growth by consistently aligning their business priorities. How?

Such companies take full advantage of the advances in technology, society’s increased awareness of human nature, and the desire for long-term strong financial results.

Instead of staying stuck using the same old budgeting approach, ZBB can change a company’s culture and managers’ mindsets – for more transparency and awareness to enhance discussions about managing costs and cost-effectively apportioning resources.

In essence, ZBB brings a new culture of continuous improvement with enhanced visibility in spending and cost discipline.

That’s easier said than done. Many companies have found their managers and department heads are reluctant to change. They’re somewhat territorial and want to maintain autonomous control over their budgets.

ZBB has been criticized for being labor intensive and too complex.

On the contrary, companies that have made the switch realize that with ZBB, profit and loss statements can be simpler in all cost categories – from manufacturing to marketing – as a result of new software or cloud-based solution approaches.

This also means financial recordkeeping and planning are much simpler to implement and to significantly reduce costs.

With ZBB, there’s more accountability as department heads are incentivized to justify expenditures. So, it’s all about governance of policies, costs and pursuing business goals.

ZBB doesn’t have to focus entirely an anticipating negativity. Some businesses are fortunate to have employees open to change.

For maximum profit, they know to partner with employees and to motivate them to offer profitable ideas.

Changing to ZBB

For success, there has to be a commitment at the leadership level and in role modeling for the ZBB approach. Leaders must lead by example with decisive action.

Senior management must commit to altering everyone’s mindsets and changing how things are done.

In this way, lower-level managers are more apt to adhere to planning in keeping with the companies’ culture and goals.

Managers become more sophisticated cost-containment and investment in initiatives. They take a balanced look at expenses and setting targets.

For long-term success, there has to be a new infrastructure. Leaders must continually reinforce and communicate the ZBB message.

So then, employees’ behaviors change in order to make every dollar count.

Checklist for lasting change

  1. For the desirable outcome, you must diligently reinforce the new ZBB method on budgeting and funding decisions.
  2. Again, as it can’t be overemphasized, constant communication of your convictions is paramount.
  3. Forget using the reams of spreadsheets. For real-time data in decision-making, make sure to choose the right tools of technology either in software or cloud-based solutions.
  4. Make training of your staff a priority to use the new tools.
  5. Be certain that everyone understands there are no sacred cows. You might need a cultural change. Don’t allow obstinance.
  6. Some employees will be tempted to call for exceptions claiming ZBB is too complex. Don’t allow them to submit cost leaks. Hold discussions about how to utilize ZBB and set limits on how they can qualify exceptions.
  7. Stop all the pain. Use uniform standards and require burden of proof from your employees.
  8. Evaluate every aspect and detail. Make sure you assess every cost driver. As a result, you’ll be more likely to identify growth opportunities.
  9. Keep an open mind. Don’t limit your thinking. Visualize the future using all feasible digital tools.

You might need to make significant changes in your culture. Your ZBB process must be consistent. Use unassailable analysis and insights. Make certain you maintain a strong governance structure and make decisions on facts not irrational emotion.

Good luck!

From the Coach’s Corner, here additional relevant tips:

Optimize Talent Management with 5 Coaching Culture Tips — When managers become coaches, you get a higher-performing workforce. You will have replaced mediocrity with strong performance. Here’s how to develop a coaching culture.  

Cutting Costs: 9 Best Practices to Avoid Making Reactionary Decisions — In chaotic times, it’s common for businesspeople to be fearful and reactionary when they feel they must cut expenses. But entrepreneurs need to be unemotional so that they make decisions that will bolster their objectives. They can take the emotion out of their decision-making — by eliminating stress factors — if their priorities are clearly defined with values.

Tips for Strategic-Thinking in Finance: Your Staff, Individuals — Many companies want accountants and finance professionals who are strategic thinkers. But that’s not happening at most companies. Here are tips for managers and employees.

Artificial Intelligence: How to Maximize Your ROI — You will maximize your return on investment in AI with these strategies.

Strategy: How You Can Capitalize on Predictive Analysis — The promise of predictive analysis: Obtain forward-looking insights to innovate and quickly recognize opportunities for growth.

“The budget is not just a collection of numbers, but an expression of our values and aspirations. “

-Jacob Lew


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Author Terry Corbell has written innumerable online business-enhancement articles, and is a business-performance consultant and profit professional. Click here to see his management services. For a complimentary chat about your business situation or to schedule him as a speaker, consultant or author, please contact Terry.




To Stay Stress-Free after Your Vacation, Copy a Dog’s Mindset



Two questions: Have you ever felt stressed even after a long holiday or vacation? Soon after returning to the office, have you felt the need for a “mental health day?”

If so, you’re not alone.

We go on vacation  for serenity – to lift our moods, change our perspectives and alleviate negative emotions.

However, even after a nice holiday or vacation, it’s pretty common to start feeling stressed when you jump into work.

Have you ever noticed how dogs behave? They stay in the moment and never seem unhappy.

Why not emulate the behavior of a dog?

The trick is to prevent stress from rearing its ugly head to keep it from ruining the benefits you received from your vacation.

Here’s how to minimize stress after a vacation:

1. Prevent phone calls your first day back

Before you leave for vacation, your automatic reply on your phone should indicate your return date, mention your preference that important matters be handled by email, and explain whom you want be contacted in your absence.

2. Shorten your first week

Return midweek. In this way, you’ll be more enthusiastic rather than dreading a heavy workload and week of problems. Prioritize the issues.

3. Work a minimal first day 

Go to the office for only four hours. Consider it to be sort of an orientation to ease back into your pressures, handle any pressing issues and to plan your schedule for the next few days.

Then, take the afternoon off. 

4. Work on an attitude of gratitude

The most serene professionals focus on the positive – the 90 percent of what’s going well rather than the negative 10 percent that isn’t going well. In this way, it’s easier for them to tackle the 10 percent.

So learn to keep a smile on your face by practicing an attitude of gratitude. In fact, if you haven’t already, start a gratitude list.

You’ll find you can think of 10 things are worth appreciating. Review your list. Reflect on it. Make it a regular thing to do.

5. Vary your routine

Avoid falling into a rut. Learn to keep an open mind by using the “Principle of Contrary Action.”

Keep a mental or written record of your routines. Every time you do something try to approach it differently. For instance, take a different route to the office and park in a different parking space.

Ever notice how happy your dog gets when you reach for a leash?

Sometimes people in business need a creative place at out-of-the-ordinary locations. Perhaps you have an employee whom you need to counsel. Or you might have a peer who needs encouragement.

So for discussions on difficult issues, try walking meetings.

6. Budget blue-sky sessions

While you immerse yourself in your daily routines and challenges, budget time for blue-sky sessions to dream about future plans.

Never allow the fires and problems distract you from your long-term goals.

7. Exercise

Whether you’re a runner, walker, golfer, yogi or gym aficionado – whatever your favorite way to exercise — budget time do it regularly.

And don’t forget to exercise your spiritual and mental health.

8. Consider planning periodic mental-health days

Don’t allow depression to consume you. Take periodic days off to relax with your family, play golf, go boating, fishing, or take in a Wednesday afternoon baseball game.

From the Coach’s Corner, here are related tips:

Career Tips: 5 Morning Habits of Winning Entrepreneurs — The key is to manage the highs and lows synonymous with a dynamic roller-coaster ride. You must stay on an even keel, despite all the negative surprises. Develop habits that make certain your attitude is contagious – an attitude worth catching — to prepare for daily success.

6 Best Mental Attributes of Successful Entrepreneurs — Becoming an entrepreneur is the hardest task you can imagine. The hours are long and you can expect a physical and emotional roller-coaster ride. A song made famous by Frank Sinatra explains it best.

5 Personality Traits for Personal and Professional Success — Five personality traits are important for overcoming stress and achieving goals academically, professionally and in personal relationships. This article includes a link to take a personality test.

How You Can Improve Your Memory for Career Success — Data is important in business but only if you retain and understand it. Your memory helps you to embed, store, maintain and recover information. Here’s important information to improve your memory.

Tips to Prevent or Eliminate Employee Toxicity — From time to time, nearly every boss has to cope with an employee’s negativity. That’s annoying enough, but you’ve got a nightmare if toxic attitudes spread among the rest of your workers. Here are solutions.

30 Time Management, Stress Reducing Tips — Tips that will enable you to take bold measures to invest in your future and make money by saving time and reducing stress.

“Self-esteem is as important to our well-being as legs are to a table. It is essential for physical and mental health and for happiness.”

-Louise Hart


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Author Terry Corbell has written innumerable online business-enhancement articles, and is a business-performance consultant and profit professional. Click here to see his management services. For a complimentary chat about your business situation or to schedule him as a speaker, consultant or author, please contact Terry.




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Seattle business consultant Terry Corbell provides high-performance management services and strategies.