Test Your Brand Messages to Maximize Impact

Donald Miller is an author, speaker, and CEO of StoryBrand, a company that helps businesses clarify their message.

StoryBrand helps hundreds of brands to eliminate confusion, connect with customers, and grow sales. Miller says many brands struggle to break through because they don’t test their brand messages before sharing:

“We have a mantra at StoryBrand: If you confuse, you lose,” said Miller. “The answer to confusion is always ‘no’. When people are so close to what they offer, they tend to be either really vague or they speak inside language. I’m amazed.

“I’ll actually say to somebody, ‘Do you think on a scale of 1-10 that your message is really clear, from 1-10 with ten being clear?’ They will say they are a 10. I will tell them to come up in front of the group [and] ask them to tell me what they offer. They will say, ‘Nutritional packages that allow equestrian products to flourish.’”

Clear as mud, right? Miller says professionals often fail to use simple phrases people can easily understand:

“Here’s the thing, test it at Starbucks. You’re standing in line . . . there are strangers all around. Say, ‘I’m so sorry to bother you, but I’m actually starting a business. Can I tell you what I offer and then ask you if you understand?’”

Does Your Message Resonate?

Companies allocate enormous resources to hone their message.

A brand message, communicated to your target audience, describes what you do, the value you bring, or how you’re different. Your brand message should resonate with the needs, wants, or luxuries of your niche, sometimes with simple slogans like these:

 Eat Fresh.

     Designed for Driving Pleasure.

     Like a Good Neighbor, State Farm is There.

Strong brand messages are memorable, stir an emotional response, and distinguish a brand from its competitors. But when companies hone their identity, they sometimes miss a key element: relevance to their customers. What’s important to your company may not be the thing that matters to your customers. Consider these questions to clarify:

  • Why does my brand matter? Why does it matter to our customers?
  • What does our brand stand for? How will this affect our customers?
  • How are we different than competitors? Why does this matter to our customers?

When you don’t speak to customers on their terms, you are probably falling short. Be clear on what your customers care about and how you can address their situation. Use language that is authentic and messages that align with your clients’ desires or purchasing plans.

Also, consider testing brand messages before publicizing them. This doesn’t have to be complicated. Start by simply reading your copy out loud to yourself. Does it sound conversational and real? Then test it out on others. Poll your friends and family, create anonymous surveys for staff and clients, run focus groups with target audience members, or do a website trial with a third-party testing tool. As you move forward, consider logging the impact of:

   Product descriptions

   E-mail subject lines

   Print ads, graphics, or layout options

   Call to action statements

   Packaging colors or logo designs

   Slogans/taglines

   Online landing pages

   Advertising campaign concepts

   Time or location an ad is presented

While testing takes work, business leaders agree it is worth the effort: 72% of advertising professionals said it’s important to test an ad before it’s launched, and 85% of product-focused managers said testing is vital to their success at work. Testing content can sharpen your focus, make your message more relevant, and boost the response to your marketing pieces.

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How Emotions Win Customers

Brands build loyalty because emotions win customers!

Cassell’s Hamburgers is something of a Cinderella story.

Founder Al Cassell launched the iconic lunch counter in Los Angeles in 1948. Famous for grinding beef daily, Al’s passion for great burgers and homemade mayonnaise lived for years. But by 2012, struggling owners decided to sell off Cassell’s rights, recipes, and equipment. It seems there was no magic touch that could save this beauty.

Jingbo Lou had other ideas.

As a Chinese exchange student, Lou came to the U.S. to study at the University of Southern California and developed a passion for architectural restoration that grew out curiosity for American culture:

“As an immigrant to this country, my very big task is to learn the culture,” Lou says. “I really fell in love with the history.”

J Lou put this love to work bringing Cassell’s back to life in a salvaged, crumbling 1920s inn called the Hotel Normandie. J Lou recognized a hotel/restaurant combo was a chance to cater to the nostalgia of many Californians.

And he was spot on.

Since Cassell’s reopening in 2014, the business has topped many “best of” lists and expanded into Downtown LA and a LAX location in Terminal 1.

Why such phenomenal success? Because emotions sell.

Emotions Win Customers

Brands build loyalty because emotions win customers!

While you may believe your decisions are rational, most choices are actually controlled by your intuitive (emotional) mind. Studies show that people rely on the heart, rather than on logic, to make decisions. Douglass Van Praet, author of Unconscious Branding: How Neuroscience Can Empower (and Inspire) Marketing, says this:

“The most startling truth is we don’t even think our way to logical solutions. We feel our way to reason. Emotions are the substrate, the base layer of neural circuitry underpinning even rational deliberation. Emotions don’t hinder decisions. They constitute the foundation on which they’re made!”

Brands put emotional marketing in play by focusing more on the needs and passions of customers instead of on the unique product benefits their products bring.

For example, Pampers exalts healthy, well-rested infants instead of dry baby bottoms. Nike inspires people to overcome limitations instead of highlighting superior shoe quality. Harley sells people freedom without limits rather than offering a mode of transportation. And Cassell’s Hamburgers offers people a return to simpler days, including original chairs, tables, signage, and original menus hanging on the wall.

Want to enhance the emotional message your brand brings? Brand marketers suggest starting with steps like these:

  • Treat prospects as people rather than buyers
  • Give people multiple chances or channels to try or become familiar with your products
  • Use ads with identity messages that motivate or move people
  • Create a shared community among purchasers
  • Inspire users to have dreams
  • Offer messages that give people an experience, not just information

Create stories that allow your company to be part of people’s lives and appeal to every aspect of your customers’ personalities: their ego, needs, dreams, or general emotional state.

These connections can happen through music, artworks, logos, signage, slogans, sport, or anything that really ‘speaks to your customers.

Above all, emotional branding seeks to build lifelong partnerships between a business and its customers. Once someone is emotionally captured by a brand, they are more likely to stay loyal for decades.

PrintItPlus can help you with you brand!

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What the Amazon Effect Means for Your Small Business

How small businesses can adapt to Amazon’s influence?

When Josh Silverman took over Etsy (an e-commerce website focused on handmade and vintage items), he faced immense pressure to revive the company financially.

He didn’t disappoint. While shedding jobs and increasing holiday promotions, Etsy swung from a $29.9 million loss (in 2016) to an $81.8 million net income in 2017.

Managing this feat in the face of Amazon’s competition was impressive. Amazon notched $51 billion in net sales in the first quarter of 2018, recently confirming it has exceeded 100 million Prime members globally. In contrast, Etsy has 1.9 active sellers and 33.4 million active buyers.

Amazon is everywhere: delivering groceries, storing music, and putting items at your doorstep in two days or less. Amazon has been so present that it has become a verb: as in, “I Amazoned it.” While Amazon brings smiles to many, it brings tremors to some small businesses. Many are outraged at the demise of mom-and-pop shops, and even large-scale retailers have taken hits.

What It Means For Small Business?

The Amazon effect is a catchphrase used to describe how Amazon has influenced our interactions with other businesses.

Because so many people are Amazon subscribers, this platform has raised expectations for shopping experiences. As writer Corey Pemberton notes,

“Because the vast majority of us use Amazon regularly, we’re well aware of a new kind of customer experience. We used to drive to the shopping mall, painstakingly search for items, and wait in long lines with little complaint. But now that we’ve experienced the joy of picking out things in our pajamas and clicking to have them shipped straight to us, the alternative seems substantially less desirable.”

Subsequently, expectations of all businesses have increased.

HOW YOUR BUSINESS CAN ADAPT

Here are four ways small businesses can adapt in the wake of Amazon’s influence.

1. Work to develop distinct, personalized products.

Part of what makes your business irreplaceable is the individual products only you can produce.

While resellers can undercut some sales, a small business with a unique, quality product can’t easily be replicated.

2. Partner with e-commerce platforms.

A recent Insureon insurance company poll of 2,400 business owners showed 68 percent of businesses surveyed said that online retailers had a positive impact on their business:

“[Online retailers] have forced small businesses to embrace e-commerce as a critical route to reach their consumers and revenue source,” said Jeff Somers, president of Insureon.

Businesses that don’t sell online will struggle to stay relevant in the modern age, but e-commerce doesn’t just mean partnering with Amazon. Typically, a small business’s website is the most common place to sell.

3. Feature customer ratings and reviews.

When buying online, people need extra input to tip toward commitment.

When you’re looking to buy, who do you trust more: a long-time neighbor or a sophisticated salesperson? Obviously, humans are biased toward “ordinary people.” One of Amazon’s best features in their abundance of ratings and reviews. Capitalize on this yourself and allow the words of others to convince your prospects.

4. Become a destination.

Amazon is convenient, so make your business an experience, not just an errand. Change your product mix regularly and make it enjoyable for people to physically “discover.” Add entertainment with lessons, parties, samples, or anything to engage families. Tell your story and give people pride in doing business with you.

An Enhanced Customer Experience

Amazon isn’t killing small business, but it is changing the way we buy and sell.

Payoneer e-commerce manager Iain McNicoll says Amazon has given entrepreneurs a chance to create customer experiences they might have otherwise been overlooked:

“People see Amazon as crushing small business,” McNicoll said. “Really, I think it opens up a door for small business, allowing them to now reach new customers that they wouldn’t have been able to reach in the past.”

PrintItPlus always can help you with different advertising solutions and branding!

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Yard signs, banners, posters and other “Signage” can get your message out to thousands of potential voters (and customers) in West Palm Beach

Generic yard sign - 2018 campaign

Campaign season 2018 is here and in full swing. At Print It Plus we have everything you need to help you design and produce top quality political campaign signs (or any other type of banner, poster or sign that you need) to help promote your campaign or company as elegantly as possible.

One of the best ways to establish your name and that consistent brand and message that conveys what you are trying captures the attention of as many potential voters (or customers) as possible is to display your message big and bold in high traffic areas. Oversized banners, yard signs, A-Frame signs, H-Stake signs, Flags and posters can draw eyes and attention to your campaign. These signs should be an integral part of your campaign or company messaging as you are trying to stand out from all of the other competition.

Your sign must be of high quality: a poorly-made sign can take as much away from your message:

  1. The materials used: our vinyl banners are made basically from the following long-lasting material: 13-ounce vinyl and the highest quality ink. At Print It Plus we use state-of-the-art equipment combined with the highest quality materials to produce a beautiful, professional banner that will also last against the elements.
  2. Design: find someone to help you to design and produce your banner or sign. Even if you already have the perfect design in mind, you may need an experienced designer to help turn your vision into the top-quality sign you want for your business. We have specialized in designing all sorts of banners, signs, print, marketing and advertising materials for almost 30 years. Our many design awards speak to our expertise.
  3. Guarantee: Ask for how long the printer will guarantee their finished product. We offer a (1-year guarantee) to replace your banner or sign at NO CHARGE if it fades or gets torn. Just another way you can trust you are receiving the highest quality product your money can buy.

Political Campaign/Yard Signs:

Every campaign needs the added exposure of yard signs. Spread the word about your election where everyone will see.

Sizes:

12 x 18

18 x 24

24 x 36

Display Options:

  • H Stakes Standard
  • H Stakes Deluxe
  • A Frames Plastic
  • A Frames Metal

Business Signs:

If you are a service business, a yard sign could be displayed to show your company is or was working on a project. “Another Quality Project by XYZ Company.”

Large banners, posters and other signage allow you to convey a strong, consistent, indelible idea to potentially many people. And it is much more permanent than a commercial of any type, even those in a magazine or newspaper.

If you are not incorporating signs, banners and posters into the marketing of your political campaign or business, then you are missing out on critical opportunities. Now is a great time to work with our professionals at Print It Plus to create a sign, banner or poster highlighting your political campaign this election year.

In addition to our custom design on signs, posters, banners and all printed materials we also offer direct mail campaigns, vehicle decorations, and car and truck wraps, marketing collateral, variable data printing, promotional products, and websites.  We are proud to be in our 30th year of servicing the entire Palm Beach County, Florida area and beyond including Royal Palm Beach, West Palm Beach, Wellington, Loxahatchee, Palm Beach, Palm Beach Gardens, Lake Worth, Boynton Beach, Delray Beach, Jupiter and Boca Raton with free pick-up and delivery throughout the county.

To talk with our account team or to place an order, contact us today by calling us at (561) 790-0884. You can also visit our website at HTTP://WWW.PRINTITPLUS.COM or email us at info@printitplus.com. We look forward to helping you CREATE INFINITE POSSIBILITIES this campaign season, throughout 2019 and far beyond!

Post-Show Followup Techniques You Will Want to “Borrow”

ThinkstockPhotos-857037440

Trade shows are one of the most exhausting, yet exhilarating, ways to spend your marketing dollars. You not only get to meet with your customers face-to-face, but you can also see what your competitors are up to, get great ideas for the future, and generally feed off the energy on the show floor. However, if you’re not using the time after you return to the office effectively, you may be wasting much of the goodwill that you created at the show. Here are some great tips and techniques from marketers that will help you knock your post-show communication out of the park.

Capture Contacts Logically

Before you even start to pull together samples and brochures for your event, you need to determine the best way to capture contacts for later follow-up. This could be anything from a name badge scanner provided by the event coordinators to the low-tech solution of a giveaway fishbowl where contacts drop in their business cards. Simply gathering the information isn’t enough, you need a solid plan in place of how you’re going to get these new names and their requests into an actionable marketing database.

Create a Specific CTA

Your call to action is just that: a way to encourage your audience to take a specific action that leads to your desired result. Starting with the end in mind allows you to craft a campaign where each step builds towards the logical conclusion — your customer placing an order or asking for a demo. The first step may be a quick email, while the next step could include mailing a sample with a custom printed letter. A final step of a phone call or postcard a few weeks after the show proves to your audience that you’re committed to meeting (and exceeding!) their expectations.

Sort and Assign Leads

If you’re using an automated solution for capturing leads, you may wish to begin immediately by sending an email as soon as you return from the show. If this isn’t possible due to volume, go through your lists and segment your leads into hot, warm, and cold. If you’re able to immediately assign the hot leads to a team member to call and can convert them to customers, great! Most people spend a day or two regrouping after a show, so timing is everything. Call too soon, and you’re likely to get a voicemail recording which is generally a dead end. Call too long after the show, and people have forgotten all about you. This is one of the reasons that a branded, high-quality print piece is a fantastic followup. If you start your print project quickly, your materials can be there soon after your prospects are back in the office.

Nurture Your Prospects

Create a formal and ongoing communication strategy that allows you to continue the conversation with your various audiences. Some people may be very interested in your products or services, but perhaps they don’t have the budget to start a project immediately. Others may be lukewarm in their interest levels, but you can see how you’re adding value to their organization. What’s important is that you tailor your messaging to your audience to convert as many as possible into customers.

Now that you know the basics of trade show and event follow-up, you’re ready to hit the road. You will see the true benefits of growing your audience and communicating effectively with all the new customers and sales coming your way!

 


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Print It Plus Celebrates 30-year Anniversary in Palm Beach County!

30 year Logo

We are proud to announce that 2018 marks its 30th year in business in Palm Beach County! Founded in 1988 by David and Kimberly Leland, Print It Plus has come a long way in 30 years – while never losing sight of our mission to bring high-quality, locally-based products and services to the Palm Beach County business community.

“Honestly, our 30 years in business here in Royal Palm Beach has been an amazing experience,” Kimberly said in a recent interview. “Not only is this a wonderful community, but we have really enjoyed working with individuals and businesses in helping to better this community. Helping local businesses grow and become successful has been very rewarding for us personally as well as professionally.”

We officially opened the doors to Print It Plus in October of 1988 in the same location where our business still resides today – 11420 Okeechobee Boulevard near the heart of the Village of Royal Palm Beach.

“Back when we started we were a two-person operation: I was out on the road during the day, while Kimberly waited on customers here at the shop,” David reminisced. “At night, I would run the printing presses while Kimberly did the typesetting. Our 3 kids would be doing the homework, eating their dinner or watching TV in the back. When they were old enough they would help us with some of the work.”

“As area residents, as well as local small business owners, Kim and I are extremely proud to be celebrating this milestone of 30 years,” said David. “We’re proud to say we’ve grown and evolved as technology has changed, and we look forward to serving this wonderful community well into the future.”

He continued, “We have gone through good times and bad, including one of the worst economic downturns of our lives (the Recession from 2008-2010) – and we survived because we have built such a foundation in this community of not only volunteering and supporting our community and it showed that it supported us during the hard times or we probably would not have survived like so many other businesses didn’t. It is nice that we are still getting the support from our local Village, and our local businesses”

We credit our team’s commitment to offering the highest quality and best customer service on a daily basis to continue building on our company’s winning formula. Today, Print It Plus employs local experts and has expanded its product and service offerings to include vehicle wraps, graphic design, branding, website, multi-media marketing, advertising, promotional products and of course, printing – most of which are produced onsite or sourced locally.

“We give tours of our operation, and people are always amazed to see what goes into creating great printed and branded products,” said Vice President Kimberly Leland. “It takes a combination of excellent customer service, designers, as well as, state-of-the-art equipment.”

Come in any time during business hours and we will be happy to work with you to create a winning marketing strategy, and/or take you on a guided tour of our facility. We specialize in turning your printing, branding, marketing and advertising ideas into profitable solutions for your company.

Print It Plus will help you grow your company by finding the best marketing and advertising products and services for your situation in Palm Beach County – from Royal Palm Beach to Boca Raton, West Palm Beach, Jupiter, Delray Beach, Boynton Beach, Palm Beach Gardens, Lake Worth, Loxahatchee and everywhere in between. We provide virtually any product or service imaginable to communicate with your clients, employees, stockholders, and vendors.  We are experts at corporate identity pieces, branding, marketing, printing and design. For more information about Print It Plus, contact Kimberly Leland at kim@printitplus.com, by calling (561) 790-0884, or go to our website at www.printitplus.com.

We wish all of you a happy and prosperous 2018!

Boost Happiness Without Stress: How to Stop Multitasking

Have you ever felt as though you’re not as productive as you’d like to be, even when it seems as though you’re working all the time? Perhaps the problem is not the number of hours that you’re working, but instead, the focus that you’re bringing to each particular task. Studies have shown that multitasking can be incredibly bad for our brains, and is truly a way of doing more things incompetently instead of getting more done! If you’re always checking Facebook, waiting for your email inbox to ding like one of Pavlov’s dogs, or getting interrupted by physical visitors at your desk, you’re not going to be as effective and efficient as you’d like to be. The outcome? More stress — and that’s something we can all do without!

Your Brain on Multitasking

Did you know that your brain is incapable of multitasking? It’s true, and what your brain is doing when you think you’re ultra-productive is pinging back and forth between tasks at a high rate of speed. The problem is that things often get lost in translation or fall between the cracks of our mental map, making it tough to figure out where we were in a task we abandoned a few minutes before. This “epidemic of distraction” (as some researchers label multitasking) is incredibly prevalent in modern society and starts at a very young age. The cognitive overload that we suffer as a result of multitasking can cause headaches, poor sleep, a feeling of being overwhelmed, and even depression.

Dangers of Multitasking

It’s not too strong of a word to say that multitasking is dangerous to our brain because it is. This negative practice has been shown to decrease creativity and cognitive control, and lead to serious memory problems. The more you include multitasking in your daily work, the more likely you are to become distracted easily over a longer period. Think about it: if you’re training your brain to be looking for the next distraction constantly, then are you likely to be able to focus well on one task? Probably not. Even something as seemingly simple as glancing at your phone as you’re stepping off a curb can be dangerous to your health for a variety of reasons. If you’re fortunate enough to be out of the way of oncoming traffic, your gait may be affected by your distraction causing a serious fall on the unstable or uneven ground.

Practicing Mindfulness

One of the best ways to overcome a tendency to multitask is to create mental space for yourself to focus on one task at a time, also known as mindfulness. Try stopping yourself when you start to become distracted. Put away everything else on your desk or computer, close programs (don’t minimize them!), and create a space for yourself to think and to breathe.

Don’t let yourself fall into the trap of feeling like you need to work at double speed — and multitask — to get everything done. Instead, take a break and focus on getting the most out of each busy day. When you’re able to concentrate on one task at a time, you’ll find that you’re getting a lot more done and staying calmer in the long run.


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Why Patience is One of the Most Important Qualities a Leader Can Have


The chasm between a leader and a great leader is a deep one. It is one that is often filled with qualities like clarity, decisiveness, courage, passion, and a healthy amount of humility given the circumstances.

But one of the major qualities that is essential to leadership that people don’t talk about nearly enough is patience. When patience is practiced wisely, it can have a dramatic effect on your entire organization from the top down.

The Ripple Effect of Patience

In general, patience is more important than just being willing to wait for results. Yes, all people are different and employees need to be given room to move at their own pace for the sake of quality. But, the true benefit of patience runs much deeper.

First and foremost, patience shows respect in a way that also encourages productivity at the same time. If you’re the type of leader who delegates responsibility but then spends hours each day telling people to “hurry up” or to “get things moving,” ultimately all you’re really doing is creating frustration or fear in an environment where you can afford neither.

Being willing to wait for someone to work at their own pace shows an employee that you value their overall contribution to the larger organization. You didn’t just choose any person for this job; you chose the right person for the right job. Sometimes, that takes a little more time than you’d like, but that is perfectly fine. Patience is also an important acknowledgment that every person progresses at a different pace. If you’re up in arms every time someone takes a little more time to complete a task, what you’re doing is communicating that they’re not as good as someone else when given the same responsibility.

Patience Also Says a Lot About You, Too

Being patient with others isn’t just about your employees – it also speaks volumes about you. When you’re constantly working from a place of “I needed this yesterday,” all you’re doing is artificially inflating the stakes of the business you’re trying to run. You’re not making considerate decisions; you’re making ones fueled by little more than raw emotion and a ticking clock.

Patience shows that you’re the type of leader willing to stop and let things breathe for a moment. It shows that you’re willing to listen and consider all variables before making a thoughtful judgment about what to do next. It shows that you’re not the type of person to make snap decisions that you’ll later regret and that your employees shouldn’t be willing to settle for that, either.

These are just a few of the many reasons why patience is one of the most important qualities a leader can have. It’s also important to remember that you need to be patient with yourself. Patience is a virtue, yes, but it’s also something of a discipline. You’ll need to acknowledge the importance of patience and the role it plays in your business so that you can grow into the type of leader who no longer has to make an effort to be patient with others. Instead, it will become an afterthought.


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Wish You Were More Productive? Try These 3 Tips!


Being productive means making room for the things you really want and uncovering new and innovative ways to work smarter, not harder. Thankfully, it’s a lot easier than you probably think it is. If you want to become more productive, here are a few key traits you should focus on.

Take Frequent Breaks to Recharge Yourself

Although this may seem a bit on the counterintuitive side, studies have shown that taking frequent breaks throughout the day help to recharge yourself. Our “biological clock” has two basic forms that are dictated by our natural twenty-four (circadian) rhythms and our shorter than a day, but longer than an hour (ultradian) rhythms. Our ultradian rhythms essentially function in 90-minute intervals. This is why it’s so easy to go from “firing all cylinders” to “boy I need a nap” and back again throughout the course of your work day.

Remember that managing your time and managing your energy are not mutually exclusive. Taking breaks will help get you over the hump and allow you to come back better and stronger than ever.

The Results Are All That Matters

In a piece originally published by Forbes on how to be a more productive manager, it stated how one of the key traits to focus on is leaning into the results, not the process. One of the reasons why we often feel overwhelmed at work is because we’re just not getting the results we’re after with a particular task. This causes our productivity (and as a result, our morale) to take a nosedive.

Because of this, it’s important to make your number one priority a high-quality, consistent, and reliable output, rather than simply trying to do as many things at the same time as possible.

Discipline, Discipline, Discipline

According to the experts at PsychCentral.com, one of the essential things that you can do to become more productive at work is to maintain a strict sense of self-discipline at all times. Highly productive people aren’t just able to eliminate tasks that are ultimately time-wasters – they also have a high degree of personal responsibility and are constantly looking for ways to improve themselves, both of which fall back under the distinct umbrella of discipline.

Hitting goals, meeting deadlines, fulfilling promises – these are the true goals behind that task you’re trying to find the time to accomplish. Maintaining focus on these through strict self-discipline is the perfect way to suddenly find more time in each day.

These are just a few of the key traits that you can focus on to instantly become more productive at work. This was the good news – the better news is that gains like these in your professional life will undoubtedly have a ripple effect on your personal life, too. You’ll be happier at home, and you’ll have more time to spend with your loved ones. It really is a win-win situation.


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The Rise and Fall of Nate Silver: A Lesson in Risk Communication


Political prognosticator and analytics guru Nate Silver rose to national fame by correctly predicting elections. But in 2016, Silver joined almost every other analyst by projecting a victory for Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. Was Silver’s good luck over?

Cognitive Bias and the “Failure” of Data

Actually, Silver’s estimate for the 2016 election was closer to correct than almost anyone else’s. He saw Clinton as a heavy favorite, but still gave Donald Trump a roughly one-in-three shot of winning. But the world didn’t remember that part of the projection once the election results came in. They just remembered the part Silver got wrong. Nobel Prize winner Daniel Kahneman has an explanation: cognitive bias.

Kahneman studied how people make decisions and judgments, and he quickly discovered that they don’t make any sense. People like to think of themselves as logical and rational, but they mostly use logic to justify believing whatever they want to believe anyway. And one thing people absolutely love to believe is that the future is certain. Human minds loathe uncertainty. Uncertainty breeds anxiety and fear—sometimes paralyzing fear. So when given a number like “one in three” or “ninety percent,” they subconsciously convert the odds to “yes” or “no.”

This cognitive bias is often very useful. You probably never consider the statistical chance that you’ll be run over by a bus because if you did, you might never leave the house. It’s far easier, and probably mentally healthier, to treat the risk of bus accidents as a 0. But the tendency to round probabilities up or down can be disastrous in the business world.

Communicating Risk

Have you told your boss that there’s a 90% chance you’ll make the sale? If the deal didn’t go through, you were probably in a bit of hot water. Has a supplier ever told you her product’s failure rate was less than 1%? You’d probably be pretty mad if your order was a dud. The problem with both of those statements of probability is that they do a poor job of communicating risk. They invite the mind’s cognitive bias to take over and convert the estimate into a certainty. When that certainty turns out not to be so certain, it feels like a broken promise.

That’s why the world decided Nate Silver was wrong. They had rounded up the probability of a Clinton victory to a guarantee. When Trump won, it felt like Silver had broken his word. His failure wasn’t in the data—it was in the way he communicated the risk.

The lesson here is that quoting numbers won’t save you. Don’t just toss out percentages—put them in context. Visualizations are one useful technique. If a product will fail one time in a hundred, a graphic with 99 white shapes and one black shape gets the message across far more effectively than the numbers. Analogies are also effective. A 90% probability? That’s about the same as the chance that an NFL kicker will make a 32-yard field goal. Anchoring the numbers to a familiar context creates a lasting impression. It forces the mind to acknowledge uncertainty.

In business and life, people care about honesty. But if your goal is to be trustworthy, it’s not enough to state the facts. You have to make those facts sink into others’ minds. When it comes to probabilities and risks, that task is taller than it looks.


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