Short videos: Use Vine to build your brand

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samsung's vineVine’s looping six-second videos can help marketers spread their messages across social media in innovative ways says author Bob Cargill, who offers 10 ways to use Vine in your own campaign.

“If you really want to make a splash in the social media waters, you should try making videos with the mobile app Vine,” says Cargill, who is director of social media at Overdrive Interactive. “Sure, with more than 1 billion unique users visiting the site each month, your potential audience on YouTube is going to be gargantuan. And with more than 150 million monthly active users on Instagram, you’d be hard-pressed not to experiment there as well, even if your videos can only be up to 15 seconds in length. If you want to socialize with all the cool kids, however, you can’t overlook Vine, where more than 40 million registered users, are telling their stories in short, continuously looping six-second videos.”

Among his 10 tips are:
1. It’s Easy to Use.
2. It’s Quick to Digest.
3. It’s Spur of the Moment.
4. It’s Convenient.
5. It’s Instructional.

Read details on all 10 here — with example videos.

 

Business success: Oh, my ears and whiskers!

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Business Success LogoDo you ever feel like that rabbit from “Alice in Wonderland”: always running a bit behind, trying to catch up, feeling like you have more to do than can be done? Yeah, me too.

But read on… this week’s Business Success contributor — Andy Core, author of Change Your Day, Not Your Life: A Realistic Guide to Sustained Motivation, More Productivity, and the Art of Working Well — has some great, easy tactics for getting a grip on your too-busy days. 

13 Tips for Thriving in a To-Do List-Dominated World

As hard as I work every day, shouldn’t I have “arrived” by now? It’s a question that nags at you as you slog

Andy Core

Andy Core

through each day, bound to the tyranny of your to-do list, one eye constantly on the clock. It seems all you do is work, but you have only mediocre results to show for it. Once, you had big goals and the confidence to achieve them, but now all you feel is tired, stressed, and overburdened. It seems the dreams you once had—of leading your department, being the top salesperson, joining the C-suite—have disappeared into the quicksand that has become your daily life.

If this scenario describes you, you’re not a loser. Like so many others, you’re an unwitting victim of today’s demanding work culture, not to mention bad habits that are sabotaging your best efforts.

As you go through life, you develop habits and routines that you think will help you succeed. Problem is, many of those patterns probably don’t work for you personally. What’s productive for your coworker may not work well for you, for example. Or a strategy that was effective five years ago may no longer work.

Even your instincts can lead you astray. But you can change habits and patterns that don’t serve you. You can refocus your attention, redirect your thoughts, and generate greater motivation, energy, optimism, and creativity, as well as more rewarding relationships.

As a thought leader on increasing employee engagement, I can help you become what I call a “Thriver”: someone who works hard, meets or exceeds expectations, and enjoys high levels of personal and professional success, accompanied by (and this is the best part) lower stress levels.

My new book, Change Your Day, Not Your Life: A Realistic Guide to Sustained Motivation, More Productivity, and the Art of Working Well, gives readers the tools to create precisely that type of life. It also includes a curriculum to help companies reengage employees, improve communication, retain talent, and boost innovation—all of which catapult overall profitability.

To start reclaiming the goals that once inspired and excited you, you’ll have to change the way you approach your day. Instead of a worker whose actions are dictated by supervisors and to-do lists, you’ll need to begin acting like the CEO of your own life.

Read on for a few CEO-worthy tactics that will help you start thriving immediately:

Figure out what’s doable in a day. In Change Your Day, I write about a woman named Janet. She came to me hoping that I could help her find some semblance of balance. She was overworked, overstressed, and overweight. She had no time to exercise or to spend with friends and family. She was constantly on the go and fueled by caffeine, with no chance to recuperate between projects. Not surprisingly, Janet wanted to change her life.

Initially, Janet was disappointed when I told her that changing her life was just too hard. But I explained that turning your whole life around is too big a goal. You can’t sustain that many major changes at once. Instead, I told Janet, I simply wanted her to change her day. I wanted her to reengineer her routine a little bit at a time, one day at a time, cutting out a small stressor here, and adding in a more productive habit there. Our whole strategy was to make small, doable changes that would, over time, create an unstoppable momentum.

You must do the same. You must set realistic boundaries. You must create goals that can be accomplished in the space of a day. Remember, nearly all problems, challenges, and needs are best faced if they are brought down to the scale of “what can be done right now” by taking on “one small piece” of a difficult situation.

Get big things done before 9:00 a.m. (instead of snoozing, procrastinating, and lurking at the water cooler). Ever notice how your morning sets the tone for your whole day? As Sir Isaac Newton famously said, “Objects in motion tend to stay in motion.” So if an object (you) gets a groggy, frustrating start, you’ll probably feel sluggish and behind the eight-ball all day long. However, if you start your day with positive and productive ideas, actions, thoughts, and feelings, you’re likely to gain momentum throughout the day.

Here’s an example of what I’m talking about. I know a top salesman named Barry whose daily pattern involves getting up early, exercising, eating breakfast, spending time with family, and accomplishing several meetings or other work activities before 9:00 a.m. By the time his colleagues are settling into the starting blocks, Barry has already blown through several important tasks on his to-do list, and he’s geared to continue that pace for the next several hours.

The point here isn’t how early Barry’s alarm rings—it’s that he makes the most of the first several hours of his day instead of snoozing and procrastinating, as so many of us do. The truth is this: What you do first matters.

DO first, then KNOW (not the other way around). Most people believe that the knowledge that something is important should make you want to do it. But in reality, that’s not the case. So, why don’t we do what we know we should do? If we know spending less time on Facebook will make us more productive, why won’t we just commit to spending an hour less on the site each day? If we know setting aside 30 minutes to walk or jog each day will make us healthier, why aren’t we jumping up off the couch right now?

Study after study shows that knowledge alone usually isn’t enough to impact our desires. In fact, the opposite is true. First, you must do something—like bite the bullet and put on your workout clothes! If you experience positive feelings, attitudes, and results because of your action, you will learn that whatever you just did is good, and you’ll want to do it again, and again, and again. Over time, you’ll develop a new habit, and you’ll become an evolved person.

In other words, you must DO in order to KNOW in order to BE different. Remember, nothing in your life gets better until your daily patterns get better.

Own up to your junk hours. “Junk hours” are a little like junk food: While they provide short-term pleasure, they contribute to long-term imbalance and exhaustion. For instance, junk hours might include chasing rabbit trails on the Internet, shooting the breeze with colleagues at the water cooler, checking email in order to avoid doing other work, or even attending an unnecessary meeting.

In order to maximize each day, you need to own up to your junk hours. You need to identify when you’re going through the motions of work, versus when real work is being done. Don’t be ashamed that your junk hours exist, because everybody needs to take breaks and shift gears. Your task now is to exchange your low-value “junk” activities for ones that build greater health and value into your workday.

For instance, I know one woman who, instead of taking an endless string of coffee breaks, sets aside 20 minutes each afternoon to knit. I know another man who decided to spend his lunch hours either with friends or going to the gym, instead of trying to squeeze in more work around bites of a burger. In both instances, these scheduled breaks increased my friends’ energy levels and sense of well-being. They felt less of a need to take low-value breaks and began to experience more productivity.

Instead of adding to your to-do list, build a new pattern. Maybe you’re thinking, Sure, I’d like to change my day, but the thought of adding a boatload of items to my already out-of-control to-do list makes me want to crawl back into bed. I can’t handle any more tasks and responsibilities! If that sounds familiar, take a deep breath. The changes that build momentum are rooted in decisions, not additional tasks.

To build a productive new pattern into your life, you usually won’t have to add new tasks to your day. Instead, you’ll simply do what you are already doing, or want to do, in a way that becomes habitual. For instance, if you want to wake up an hour earlier so that you can jump-start the day, you simply have to change the time your alarm rings and the time you go to bed. If you want to be more productive at work, you might have to replace aimless procrastination with scheduled breaks. In both cases, you’re changing the way you perform existing tasks, not adding new ones.

Remember, though, it isn’t sufficient to simply trigger the start of a new behavior. You need to make sure that you have a motivating reason to make this change, as well as the confidence and energy to sustain it so that it becomes a pattern.

Start with one thing. Then add another. Then another. Losing weight is one of the most commonly made New Year’s resolutions. It’s also one of the most commonly abandoned. That’s because people think of losing weight as a singular change. It’s not. To lose weight, a person will need to eat healthier, eat smaller quantities, and become more physically active. That’s three changes. And each of those sub-changes has many smaller components; for instance, eating healthier might involve drinking more water and less soda, eating more fruits and veggies, reducing refined sugars, etc. That’s a lot of changes to keep track of!

The point is, don’t take on more than you can handle. Break each goal down to its smallest components, then pick one of them to tackle. Pursue this change until it becomes a habit, then move on to the next one. Start with one thing and don’t add another until you’re ready. Positive motion creates positive emotion.

Make a big-box checklist. It’s a given that you have a to-do list. Maybe it’s on paper, on your smartphone, or just in your head…but you have one. It’s also highly likely that your list isn’t as useful as it could be. Too often, you get stuck doing the urgent instead of the important. I have a solution: Make an actual, on-paper checklist each afternoon for the following day or each morning. Put a box by each task—the more important that task is for you to complete that day, the bigger its box should be.

I focus first on my big-box tasks. At the end of the day, if most of them have checkmarks, it’s generally been a good day! Yes, prioritizing my daily list by the size of the boxes on it may sound simplistic, but it has made me feel much more accomplished and satisfied with my day. It also has helped me relax in the evenings because it is easier to remember the big boxes I’ve checked off, thereby making it easier to leave work at work. I’m no longer distracted by each shiny ball that rolls by—I’m able to ignore them and train my focus on what’s really important.

Think about it so you don’t have to think about it. We all have “those” tasks and obligations that eat up a lot of our time, that we find difficult and frustrating, or both. For instance, when you come home at the end of each day, maybe you find yourself standing in the middle of your kitchen with no clue what to cook for dinner. As a hunt-and-peck typist, I was once slowed down and aggravated by the need to produce papers and reports.

Figure out where these areas are for you and commit to learning a new pattern. For me, that meant buying a book and relearning how to type using a two-hand method. In the cooking example above, that might mean getting into the habit of planning meals and shopping for their ingredients each weekend. Yes, learning new patterns can initially be tedious and laborious. But once they’ve taken hold—often in three weeks or less—they’ll speed up your performance, streamline your effort, and lower your stress. By putting in some thought about “problem areas” now, you’ll save yourself from having to think about them later. Eventually, this method changes once-tedious tasks into automatic, “I don’t have to think about it” behaviors.

Infuse meaning into your work. First, let’s get one thing straight: Doing meaningful work does not mean that you will “love” every second of it. “Meaning” can simply be a recognition of what you enjoy about your work. With that understanding, though, you’ll be more motivated, productive, and satisfied. I recommend completing the following exercise:

• Focus on what gives you the greatest joy and meaning at work—be able to define it.

• Reflect on how you are making a difference at work and through your work—be able to give examples.

• Reflect on the meaning of your work as it relates to your core values.

• And then…seek to increase what you enjoy!

You’ll come to find that the “administrivia,” the mundane and routine chores required of you, and the not-so-exciting aspects of your work become easier to do and get completed more quickly if you have a strong focus on what you do find exciting, rewarding, or fulfilling. Personally, thinking about how I hope to help people with my next speech, presentation, or coaching session helps me to get through the parts of my workday that I don’t enjoy as much, like paperwork, scheduling, and staff issues.

Seek to serve, not shine. To some extent, it’s human nature to look out for Number One. We all want to rack up accomplishments, receive accolades, and garner recognition. But in many situations, the desire to shine can cause you to get in your own way. Just think of the overeager salesman whose desire to exceed his quota makes him come off as pushy. Instead of convincing you to buy his product, his self-serving attitude just makes you want to cut the meeting short.

Ironically, the key to shining is putting others first. People who channel their efforts toward making others’ lives easier are nearly always respected, included, and considered valuable. When you help others reach their goals and become their best, you’ll usually find that the same things happen to you.

Fill up your energy bank account so you can make withdrawals when you need them. Throughout life, circumstances arise that are beyond our control. You may experience a major illness, lose a loved one, or be forced to relocate. You may have to occasionally work long days and go without sleep. The list goes on. It’s because of these out-of-our-hands circumstances that we must all focus on controlling what we can.

What I mean is, know your needs and capacities and try not to exceed them on a regular basis. In other words, get enough sleep. Eat nutritiously. Exercise when time permits. That way, when you do find yourself needing to push the limits, you’ll have a healthy margin of energy, motivation, or whatever to draw on. Manage what you can manage as often as possible in order to compensate for what you cannot manage.

Forget the future. (Really!) The future can be an inspiring thing…but it can also be a scary and misleading one. Awfulizing, what-ifs, and doomsday thinking can plunge you into paralyzing anxiety. And making incorrect assumptions can send you down the wrong path. That’s why, aside from setting goals for yourself, you should try not to let your mind wander into future outcomes.

Thrivers trust in an execution mindset and focus their attention and efforts on the here and now. That’s because nobody can predict when or under what conditions the future is going to unfold. The only thing a person truly can do is to focus on the processes of today—and live them out to the max. That’s not only going to produce personal peace in the present tense, it’s going to be the best possible preparation for whatever the future holds. Enjoy the process and take great joy in the rewards!

Forgive yesterday so you can work on today. Most successful, hardworking people are often hard on themselves to an unproductive level. They are their own worst critics and spend valuable time lingering on mistakes and slip-ups. Long after the event—whatever it was—is over, they beat themselves up relentlessly instead of spending their time in a more productive state.

Treat yourself with the same compassion and generosity you’d extend to another person who’d messed up or fallen short of a goal. If it helps, follow the two-hour rule I learned from one of my past coaches: When you have a bad performance or make a mistake, you have two hours to pout, scream, cry, wallow, or do whatever you think will help you deal with the disappointment. But when 120 minutes have passed, it’s time to start moving forward again.

Remember, nobody is perfect. We all make mistakes. What sets Thrivers apart is the fact that after a fall, they forgive themselves faster, get back up, and continue the journey forward.

By making small changes in how you approach your day, you can begin to take back your to-do list and accomplish the big goals that will really help you thrive. It’s time to stop allowing your quest for success to leave you feeling tired, stressed, and disillusioned. So, how will your tomorrow look different from your today? What is one small change you can make right now to start rewiring the patterns that define your life?

Busting mobile credit processing myths

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Business Success LogoMobile credit card processing systems allow merchants to process credit card payments with a physical credit card reader attached to a smartphone or tablets. Benefits include convenience, a streamlined POS system and access to a breadth of business opportunities based on collected consumer data.

“Nevertheless, mobile payments as a whole remains a hotly debated topic among retailers, customers and industry experts alike, reports Business News Daily. “To stay competitive, it’s more important than ever for small businesses to stay current and understand where mobile payment technology is headed. If you’re considering adopting mobile payments or are simply curious about the technology, here are 10 mobile payment myths that are completely untrue.”

Myth #1: I already have a POS system — the hassle isn’t worth it.

Myth #2: Setup is difficult and complicated.

Myth #3: All rates are conveniently the same.

Myth #4: Credit card information is stored on my mobile device after a transaction.

Myth #5: It raises the risk of fraud.

Details on the 4 listed here and five more are here.

 

 

Build your business’ better tagline

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A great tagline captures the essence of the value you provide to your customer in one or two concise sentences, according to Forbes. And, “creating a tagline is a powerful exercise, as it forces you to think about exactly what it is you do for your customers that is unique.”

How do you do it? Start with your advantage point, then ask three questions:

• What is the ultimate benefit I want my customer to gain?
•  How will my product make my customer’s life better?
•  Why is my business better than my competition’s?

What’s an example of a tagline that clearly indicates a unique advantage point? Verizon’s “Can you hear me now? Good.”

There are more tips in the full article here.

Business success: Yeah, whatever

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Business Success LogoI knew the day was going to come, and recently, it arrived.

I said something to my kids — I don’t recall what, but it really doesn’t matter — and my darling daughter, usually the epitome of sweetness, rolled her eyes at me and said, “Whatever.”

She’s only 9, and not yet surfing the choppy waters of adolescence; I’m confident she was merely mimicking someone she saw on TV, perhaps trying on a bit of teenage defiance to see whether or not it will eventually fit.

In any case, I was having none of it. I am not the kind of mom who would tolerate that little show of disrespect, and I think my strong response to her rudeness has convinced her not to do that again. But handling snarky behavior as a parent is quite different than handling it as a business operator. What if it’s your employees who are cynical or mocking? What does that indicate, and how can you change the behavior?

This week, Rich Karlgaard, author of The Soft Edge: Where Great Companies Find Lasting Success, sheds light on this difficult situation.

Is Employee Cynicism Killing Your Culture?

In an age of cynicism and irony, Northwestern Mutual is a throwback to a more innocent time. The company is the antithesis of “cool.” It has the kind of culture in which people embrace plain suits and sincere handshakes, take pride in wearing achievement ribbons, kick off conferences with patriotic music. It’s the very portrait of wholesomeness and earnestness—the Boy Scout of the insurance and financial services industry. There’s no place for hipster lingo, inside jokes about customers, snarky tweets.

Karlgaard 2013 headshot 1

Rich Karlgaard

Oh, and Northwestern Mutual has been in business for over 157 years and is worth $25 billion in sales. It might not be hip to be square, but it’s very good for business.

Mocking irony, snark, and cynicism are very much in vogue, but they are also toxic to your company’s culture. Once cynicism gets a foothold in your culture, it spreads—just like an ill-advised tweet or blog post. You need to proactively fight it.

Most of us can agree that cynicism is ugly. It trivializes the gravity of bad behavior and normalizes superior attitudes toward customers and, often, coworkers. But that widespread cynicism is also a red flag that something is seriously awry in your company.  And that “something” centers on trust.

Cynicism is the defense mechanism of people who feel unsafe and powerless. It’s an expression of the uncertainty that comes from working in an environment where ethics are lax, employees don’t feel valued, and information is withheld. When it thrives in an organization, it signals a lack of employee trust—a problem that’s gotten significantly worse over the last generation.

The example of Northwestern Mutual makes it clear: Building trust is not just a nice thing to do. It’s a strategic thing to do.

Trust underlies successful working relationships. It improves group effectiveness and performance. It underpins organizational credibility and resilience. All of these factors contribute to creating a sustainable competitive advantage, because trust attracts talent, strengthens partnerships, and retains customers.

The good news is you can tap into the strategic power of trust by consciously shifting your company’s culture. Here’s how:

Know that trust has two dimensions: external and internal. First, there’s the external trust between an organization and its customers: Will a company stand behind its products? If something goes wrong, will they do the right thing? The second dimension is the internal trust between employees, managers, and top-level management. Do leaders keep their promises? Can employees speak up without censure? Do people have each other’s back (or stab them in it)?  Generally, what’s true externally is also true internally.

When employees can trust leaders and each other, customers can trust employees. And vice versa, of course. Cynicism cannot be eradicated if trust doesn’t extend in all directions. But know that you need to start internally, with the employees on whose commitment and engagement your success depends. If they don’t feel that they can trust your company with their careers, you’re in trouble.

Get clear on what a culture of trust and earnestness looks like. No doubt your employees have (probably very strong) opinions on trust within your company and where they’d like to see improvements. Hold a company-wide summit where everyone can share those opinions and include an anonymous component like a suggestion box or survey. Get everyone’s input, from the C-suite to the custodian. Your goal should be to pin down exactly how a culture of trust translates to leader and employee behaviors.

Ask, “Who do we want to be?” Identify the ways cynicism manifests—for instance, through snarky comments, manipulating customers, talking behind coworkers’ backs, and so forth. Then, together, establish some ground rules aimed at dissolving cynicism and promoting old-fashioned values.

Then, get the “rules” in writing. Put the results of your trust summit in writing and ask all employees to sign this document. It should spell out actions like, “I will not badmouth customers,” or, “If I have something to say to an employee, I’ll say it to their face.” Some companies have even gone so far as to prohibit blind cc’ing in order to promote a culture of trust.

Of course you can’t simply outlaw cynicism and snark or talking behind someone’s back. Trust can thrive only when employees are treated like the self-respecting adults that they are. However, you can “formalize” values and ask people to abide by them. That’s the need these contracts serve.

Creating an official “standards of behavior” document helps crystallize the attitude you’re hoping to cultivate. Just saying “let’s all be trustworthy now” means nothing. Creating the document shows that your organization is willing to go beyond mere lip service. Plus, people are just more likely to abide by an agreement if they’ve signed their name to it.

Let only “Boy Scouts” lead. (And Girl Scouts too, of course!) People will emulate leader behavior, whether it’s good or bad. It’s just human nature. Leaders who roll their eyes when a certain customer calls are giving permission for employees to be similarly disrespectful.  Complain about your boss in the break room and you can expect to overhear your own team making fun of you as you approach the water cooler. The key is to hire and promote leaders who truly do live the values your company espouses.

It doesn’t matter how intelligent, charming, or technically capable leaders are if they don’t uphold the agreed-upon values. The negative impact they have on your culture will more than offset any talents and skills they bring to the table.

Never lie or hide the truth. There are many things you’re thrilled to share with your employees. “Our customer satisfaction scores are 15 percent higher this year!” Or, “Our first quarter profits exceeded our goal!” Yet there are other things you might not be so eager to share, like, “We’re going to have to downsize,” or, “There aren’t going to be any raises this year…and by the way, we may have to reduce your benefits.” Tell them anyway.

Even when the news is bad, people should never feel they’re being kept in the dark. Transparency and trust must coexist.

Show employees that you care. When people don’t believe their leaders care about them, not just as workers but as human beings, of course trust can’t thrive. And while it’s true that fake or contrived caring only increases cynicism, genuine caring dissolves it. This means leaders must be “people persons” who stand up for their employees’ best interests and don’t mind showing (appropriate) affection.

NetApp is a company that truly gets this. Consider the following quote from its vice chairman, excerpted from The Soft Edge:

“I believe in leadership rather than management,” Tom Mendoza of NetApp explained. “You can be loud, you can be quiet, but leadership is what you are, not what you say. So my overriding principle of leadership is people don’t care what you know unless they know that you care. All industries have one thing in common, which is people come through for their leaders not because they’re afraid, not because they’re intimidated, but because they just don’t want to let them down.”

Aspire to predictability. It sounds a little dull, doesn’t it? Most of us want to be known as creative, outside-the-box thinkers. We don’t want to be bound by routine or limited by “the way everyone else does it.” And that’s fine—embrace innovation to your heart’s content in areas like product development and marketing campaigns. Just don’t be unpredictable in your behavior, priorities, and values.

Unpredictability destroys trust. The couches of psychotherapists are filled with people whose parents were unpredictable. As a leader, your team should have total confidence that you’ll do what you say you will. They should have no doubt that you’ll keep your promises, act with integrity, and look out for their best interests.

By the way, predictability in the matter of trust is different from predictability in tactics. Good leaders and coaches will shake things up. Legendary basketball coach Phil Jackson once held a Chicago Bulls practice in the dark. He wanted to see how well his players really knew the plays he was teaching!

Make it safe to speak up. When your employees make an honest mistake, can they admit it without being scolded and belittled? What about input and ideas? Can they share those things and expect to be taken seriously? Hopefully, the answers to both questions is “yes.” Everyone should feel confident that they can participate in meetings and projects, say what’s on their mind, be respected for their opinions and ideas, and admit mistakes.

Either trust rules your organization, or fear rules it—you have to choose. A fear-based culture kills employee curiosity. It quells exploration, dulls creativity, and stunts growth. In a climate of fear, people are afraid to make mistakes. Fear saps performance, synergy, teamwork, and morale. It makes people feel powerless—and if you have no power over your own work life, of course you’ll be cynical.

Celebrate grit and gumption. If you want employees to be worker bees—performing the tasks you designate, on a timeline you set—compensate them with paychecks only. But if you want your employees to be partners, you’ve got to reinforce them when they act like partners. In other words, take notice when they display passion and motivation (grit) and initiative and guts (gumption).

When employees do the things you want them to do—persevering through tough tasks, innovating, taking calculated risks—reward them. A simple thank-you can go a long way. So can public recognition at a meeting or through a company-wide email. And of course perks like “free” vacation time or bonuses are always welcome. The point is, notice and celebrate the behaviors you want more of.

When people are truly engaged, they can’t be cynical. Engagement and cynicism can’t coexist in the same moment.

Constantly drive home the “meaning” of the work people do. One of the best methods to increase trust is to identify your greater purpose, your “true north.” Why do you exist? What meaningful value do you offer to employees, customers, or society? A great purpose should be aspirational, not merely financial. It should create a common cause and promote a collective effort. It should answer all the tough questions of why: Why commit? Why persist? And, most important, why trust?

At Northwestern Mutual, employees with whom I’ve spoken say they aren’t driven by dollar signs. They truly feel that their life’s work is helping people. When clients call and ask, “Am I going to be okay?” they take pride in being able to say “yes.” They’ve found a meaning in selling insurance that goes much, much deeper than balance sheets and profits. And, ironically, that’s why so many Northwestern field reps are the millionaires next door.

My point? Figure out what meaningful things your company provides customers, whether that’s peace of mind, easier lives, reliable support, or something else, and look for ways to convey that purpose at your company. It’s hard to be cynical about your work and your customers when you actually do believe in what you’re doing.

The next time you’re considering how to make your organization a better place to work, think beyond an in-house masseuse, climbing walls, and free fresh-baked cookies. While employees will certainly appreciate “fun” perks like these, they don’t mean anything if your culture isn’t grounded in trust. Trust is, and always will be, the foundation of creating an award-winning environment and culture that leads to high performance and success.

Boost your tradeshow booth traffic

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“You have to do something special to stand out from the competition at tradeshow booth. From the decision on upgrading your old display to hand-picking the best relationship oriented sales people to man your show booth. There are so many options to improve your visibility at your next show exhibition.”

That’s the word from Timothy Carter, marketing manager for trade show display exhibit company Nimlok, writing at Small Business Trends.

Carter provides tips to boost traffic at your tradeshow booth, to get more customers, and expand your brand identity:
• Contact Registered Attendees Before the Event
• Create an Escape From the Chaos
• Give Away Products That Attendees Really Want

Get the details on these and other tips in the full article here.

 

Business success: Don’t spit back

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Business Success LogoMy dad always used to say, when someone was really, really enraged, that they were “spitting bullets.” We’ve all seen or experienced situations like this, when someone is so angry that they’re spraying rage, and even insults, like buckshot. Anybody who gets in their way, targeted or not, might take a hit. This is never a pleasant position to be in, but it can be particularly challenging in a customer service situation — especially when other customers are within earshot.

Here, John Tschohl, President of Service Quality Institute, explains how to not just handle a furious customer, but even keep their business.

Deal With an Irate Customer, Don’t Lose Them

John Tschohl

John Tschohl

Facing off with a screaming, unreasonable, irrational customer represents the ultimate test of any employee’s service skills.  It can take you to your breaking point if you’re not careful.  Staying grounded and above the fray requires you to find inner strength, and persevere beyond the initial difficulties.

Dealing with irate customers is one of the most pressure-packed experiences you will ever encounter on any job.  During every confrontation it is important to remember:

  • Every customer is a different person with a unique set of circumstances and personality traits.
  • Irate customer encounters can emerge out of nowhere—the key is to be ready.
  • You represent an opportunity to set things right.
  • Compassion is essential.
  • Despite your best efforts, sometimes there is nothing that can save a situation.

Ditch the “I’m Sorry” Script.  Sorry, just doesn’t cut it sometimes.  Saying “”I’m Sorry” is so overused it sounds insincere.  Be specific by saying “I apologize for this issue…”  Make sure your apology directly makes reference to the actual issue, and ALWAYS try to use the customer’s name when addressing them.  It adds a personal connection to them.

Get on the customer’s side of the counter.  Visualize for a moment an upset customer walking in your door and approaching you.  The first thing an angry customer does is attack you.  It’s very important to remember that you are not personally being attacked but are listening to someone who is in an attacking mode.

Partner with your customer.  Let the customer know that your job is to go to bat for them.  This tells them that you are their emissary and you want to resolve it together.

The 4 C’s of Handling Irate Customers and Difficult Situations

It’s all about:

• Compassion – Listen carefully and react to their words, not just their

behavior.  Examine the facts.

Calm – Remain calm and don’t lose your cool.

Confidence – Handle the situation knowing you are following company guidelines—and serve the customer.

Competence – Save the customer with your competent handling of the situation so he or she continues to be a customer.

Regardless of how a problem is solved, getting it done now is the best way to stop the venting and to bring an irate customer around.  You need to show your customer than, as an employee and as the face of your organization you are invested in solving the problem.

6 Steps to Handle Irate Customers

  1.  Listen carefully and with interest. Put yourself in your customer’s place
  2. Ask questions and actively listen to the answers
  3. Suggest alternatives that address their concerns
  4. Apologize without laying blame
  5. Solve the problem quickly and efficiently.

Remember, it costs at least five times as much to gain a new customer than keep an existing one and with social media it’s even more costly.  The average number of friends on Facebook is 130.  Keeping a complaining customer, according to Tschohl, should be the top priority, and at these cost ratios you can afford to be generous in your time and effort.  Successful companies set themselves apart with the service they provide to their clients and customers even at the most difficult times.

Handling irate customers can be difficult and take an extraordinary amount of patience and time, but in the end it benefits everyone in your organization, and your customers as well.

Take Care Of Yourself.  Dealing with irate customers will drain you physically and emotionally and put your skills to the test.  You must find ways to take care of yourself.  As part of your “recovery time”, know that dealing with irate customers is allowing yourself to relax, recharge and assess your role.  Recovery separates you from the situation and gives you a chance to breathe.

Learn from every complaint.  Do something!  Fix the process; train staff in the issue; eliminate the fault.  Wherever possible let the complaining customer know that they have helped you resolve a problem – they’ll feel great and come back again and again (and will probably tell their friends!).

Entice your customers to buy “offline”

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Business Success LogoYesterday we noted the danger posed by devices like Amazon’s upcoming phone which makes it much easier to see a product in your store, snap a photo of it, and get an automatic link to buy it on Amazon. What can you do to combat “showrooming?”

Quite a bit, according to theHarvard Business Review.

“Showrooming, once a worry primarily for consumer electronics retailers, is expanding into markets we might have thought exempt,” the business site says. “Today we can investigate everything from cars to books to groceries in person and then proceed to order them online, often with greater ease and significant savings.”

That’s the problem — what to do about it?

“A satisfying real-life retail experience is something Amazon can never duplicate – but the trick is translating that satisfaction into dollars spent on-site. We should see this as an experience design problem. A look at retailers who succeed despite showrooming reveals three design imperatives.”

What are these imperative? Read the whole article here.

Business success: Talk like The Gipper

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Business Success LogoWe all know being an effective communicator is an essential skill in business — but knowing it, and actually accomplishing it, are two very different things. This week, we get some tips on improving communication skills from none other than the Great Communicator himself, Ronald Reagan… as told by Dan Quiggle, author of the new book, Lead Like Reagan: Strategies to Motivate, Communicate, and Inspire.

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Dan Quiggle

In studying the highest levels of leadership, impact, and influence, several common aspects of effective communication become clear. The 10th anniversary of Ronald Reagan’s passing was Thursday, June 5, but even 10 years later and 25 years after his presidency, he is still known as the “Great Communicator.” He masterfully demonstrated effective communication throughout his presidency, a perfect and historical example being his speech at the Brandenburg Gate, when he implored Gorbachev to “tear down this wall!” You can become a “Great Communicator” by carefully planning and creating your own messaging.

Powerful communication skills are critical to positively affect the overall direction and impact of your vision and its fulfillment. Time and time again, Ronald Reagan not only spoke words with resonant meaning and impact but prompted action from the American people and the world.

Whether it’s a keynote speech or a casual conversation with a family member, the true meaning and value of effective communication can be realized through focusing on the listener and tailoring your message accordingly, rather than prioritizing the words you want to say or the points you want to make. If you want to really improve the way you communicate and the impact your messages have on others, regularly evaluate what you say, how you say it, and how your words are being heard by others. If you truly want to communicate like the “Great Communicator,” you need to challenge yourself to embrace communication excellence.

Here are 15 essential ways you can increase your communication success:

1. Significance. Realize the significance, power, and the importance of clear, concise communication and the effect it can have on others and on the fulfillment—or the failure—of your vision.

2. Substance. Have substance—something meaningful and important to say. There are many leaders today who talk more and more and yet say less and less. Know what you want to say before you start talking. Plan your communication with great intention.

3. Sincerity. Communicate with honesty and authenticity—with sincerity. The more sincere your message is, the more impact it will have on others. As such, you need to choose your vision carefully and make sure it is one that you wholeheartedly embrace and can communicate genuinely.

4. Sell it. Believe in your vision and in your message. You need to have more enthusiasm for your vision than you expect others to have. Your passion and energy, or lack thereof, will be evident to your listeners.

5. Say it. Tell your listeners what you are going to tell them, then tell it to them, then tell them what you told them. Make sure they leave knowing exactly what you want them to know and remember.

6. Say it again and again. Constantly refer to your vision. Have a consistency in your message every time you communicate. Make it clear to others what you stand for, what you believe in, and what your vision is. Repeat it. Retell it. Restate it. Repeat it.

7. Symbolize it. Personify your vision and symbolize it. When you think of Ronald Reagan, you think of freedom. Make sure those around you know exactly what your vision is—and then personify it with consistency.

8. Stance. Be aware of your stance: 55 percent of face-to-face communication comes from body language, 38 percent comes from tone of voice, and only 7 percent of communication actually comes from the words used. Your nonverbal cues speak much more loudly than your words, so learn to control and manage your body language and facial expressions, making sure they match your spoken message.

9. Specialize. Even though you may be articulating your vision over and over again, it will be more meaningful and memorable if the message is customized for those hearing it—specialize. You should talk to people, not over their heads or beneath them. Talk to them, specifically.

10. Study. Be prepared, study, be informed and well read, and have compelling, convicting arguments supporting your vision. You should know more about your subject matter, your industry, your plan, and your vision than anyone else. Research related topics and fields so that you have an expansive base of knowledge. Gather relevant facts and information and develop creative ways to share them.

11. Style. There are many effective methods of speaking, so find your unique style. Infuse your personality, your background, and your vocabulary into a personal cadence and rhythm of speaking that uniquely suits you. Practice articulating your vision. Ask for candid feedback and continue to hone your most effective style.

12. Simplify. Use small, short words that everyone can understand and remember. A simple message clearly articulated is much more effective than one that seeks to impress others with your knowledge but is not able to transfer any of that knowledge to others.

13. Solicit. Invite commitment and support. When you communicate, it should be clear what is being asked. Articulate your vision and outline the role you want others to play in fulfilling it. Do not assume they know what you are asking of them. You have to tell them—and then persuasively invite their support and their best efforts.

14. Stories. Combine your content with original stories and personal examples that are meaningful to you and relevant to your vision. Stories can create far greater impact than just a conveyance of facts, ideas, or opinions. Chosen carefully, stories can affect others in powerful ways.

15. Smile. Nothing is more effective in engaging others than a genuine smile when appropriate. It brings a transparency to your message and conveys a warmth and kindness that has the potential to disarm even the harshest critic. Open the lines of communication by smiling—it is contagious!

Although there is no magic formula for becoming the Great Communicator, in your own way you can formulate, articulate, and communicate your vision with greater success, effectiveness, and confidence. As we see from Reagan, making memorable remarks is one thing, but those who are able to spur others to action, invite active participation, or cause a positive change in thinking or behavior truly understand the value and importance of communication. Words without action are without impact.

Whether you are communicating a vision to your company or speaking to your family, my challenge to you is to incorporate the example of Ronald Reagan to achieve greater impact. Choose your words carefully to not only inspire action, but to create a positive environment in which you can change your world and the world of those around you.

Dan Quiggle, author of “Lead Like Reagan: Strategies to Motivate, Communicate, and Inspire,” is the founder of The Quiggle Group, president and CEO of America’s Choice Title Co., and dean of faculty for the Leadership Institute in Washington, D.C. He began his professional career in the office of Ronald Reagan and learned leadership directly from the “Great Communicator” himself.

Business success: Get your groove back

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Business Success LogoIf you sometimes feel like your “get up and go” got up and went, this week’s Business Success column is for you! Geoffrey James, an author and columnist for Inc.com, offers some simple tips to get yourself motivated to succeed.

23 Best Ways to Get and Keep Motivated

No matter what you do for a living, the key to success is motivating yourself, each and every day.

Most people don’t realize that motivation mostly emerges from minor changes in your own behavior.

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Geoffrey James

Here’s how to remain a go-getter, even when the going gets rough:

  1. Realize that YOU are in control. You cannot control the outside world, but you can control your emotional reaction to it.
  2. Accept where you are. Life is like those signs that read “You Are Here.” You can get somewhere else only if you know where you are now.
  3. Adopt a positive vocabulary. Use strong adjectives (e.g., “fantastic”) to describe what’s good and weak words (e.g., “annoying”) to describe what’s not.
  4. Condition your mind. Train yourself to think positive thoughts while avoiding negative thoughts.
  5. Condition your body. It takes physical energy to take action. Get your food and exercise budget in place and follow it like a business plan.
  6. Avoid negative people. They drain your energy and waste your time, so hanging with them is like shooting yourself in the foot.
  7. Seek out the similarly motivated. Their positive energy will rub off on you, and you can imitate their success strategies.
  8. Have goals—but remain flexible. No plan should be cast in concrete, lest it become more important than achieving the goal.
  9. Act with a higher purpose. Any activity or action that doesn’t serve your higher goal is wasted effort—and should be avoided.
  10. Take responsibility. If you blame (or credit) luck, fate, or divine intervention, you’ll always have an excuse.
  11. Stretch past your limits. Walking the old, familiar paths is how you grow old. Stretching makes you grow and evolve.
  12. Don’t expect perfection. Perfectionists are the losers in the game of life. Strive for excellence rather than the unachievable.
  13. Celebrate your failures. Your most important lessons in life will come from what you don’t achieve. Take time to understand where you fell short.
  14. Don’t take success too seriously. Success can breed tomorrow’s failure if you use it as an excuse to become complacent.
  15. Avoid weak goals. Goals are the soul of achievement, so never begin them with “I’ll try…” Always start with “I will” or “I must.”
  16. Treat inaction as the only real failure. If you don’t take action, you fail by default and can’t even learn from the experience.
  17. Welcome obstacles. You can’t grow stronger if you’re not lifting something heavy, so savor your problems.
  18. Get perspective. Take the time and effort to step back, reexamine your assumptions, and find truths that you missed before.
  19. Appreciate being alive. Never neglect to marvel at the miracle of conscious existence, which is all too soon over.
  20. Relax more often. Spend at least one hour every day doing something that’s just because you enjoy doing it.
  21. Experience wonder. Take pleasure in the unexpected and unusual because without them life would be tedious and boring.
  22. Be playful. The joy of a child still lives inside you; let that child out at least once each day.
  23. Give thanks. Experience deep gratitude for all the wonderful things in your life: family, friends, work, and play.

Getting and keeping motivated puts you in control of your actions and your career, thereby lessening stress. Even implementing a handful of these changes can have a major effect on your health and your attitude.