Plug In to the Power of Personal Reflection

Sometimes life is like a treadmill.

Power of mind concept.

Occasionally you’re on a calm jog and the belt speed never outpaces your strides. Sometimes, you push yourself to the limit but find the challenge ideal. But in certain seasons, the treadmill is moving too fast to handle. You long to step back from the grind, but this seems like an impossible luxury.

It’s ok to press pause. It’s actually GREAT to press pause. Often in our battle for success, we never stop to address broken systems in our home, health, or careers. Simple adjustments might bring substantially better output, but we rarely prioritize personal maintenance. The decision is yours: will you make time to reflect and adjust or continue relentlessly until life dumps you in a heap?

Take Time to Press Pause.

Once you’ve slowed down (yes, really slowed down!) what should you do?

Perhaps you should begin with a simple pleasure (a walk, coffee treat, or nap?) to allow your mind to unwind. Then consider an intentional approach to reflection.

Psychologist Robert Taibbi (author of “Boot Camp Therapy: Action Oriented Brief Approaches to Anxiety, Anger andDepression”) suggests you begin by defining a problem area as concretely as possible. Avoid being vague or grouping several problems under one umbrella (i.e. “this house is a disaster!”). Instead, identify specific areas of struggle (“this coat closet is overcrowded”) and decide on a personal plan of action.

Don’t be overwhelmed by what you CAN’T do, instead focus on manageable steps that will move you forward (“lower coat hooks would be better”). Begin with a positive spirit and an intentional ownership of the solution. Make a plan, ask for help, or take action as soon as possible. As you make even tiny strides, you will be empowered to continue.

Find Tools for Growth.

Sometimes a perspective shift requires greater insight than we have on our own.

Consider some coaching, mentorship, or tools like workbooks or discussion groups. Clinical psychologist and professor Jordan Peterson has been fascinated by the therapeutic effects of writing for decades. Experiments dating back for decades show that writing can reduce depression, increase productivity, and even cut down on doctor visits.

Peterson and his team have recently rolled out several tools for self-reflection, including virtues and faults analysis, past and future writing exercises, or a full “self-authoring” suite that allows people to locate and resolve problem areas so they can better dream and achieve in the future. “The act of writing is more powerful than people think,” Peterson says. The decisive results of Peterson’s research prompted NPR to dub his reflection tool the “writing assignment that changes lives.”

Make a Plan.

They say if you fail to plan, you plan to fail.

What part of your week do you devote to reflecting on your goals or challenges? Do you take mini-retreats to refocus? What if you set this as a top priority and allowed your reflection time to dictate your schedule priorities in a given week, month, or year?

Look for natural cues in your seasonal schedule (i.e. Daylight Savings changes, pre-scheduled auto maintenance, your half birthday) and seek to align some intentional reflection with these cues. Add smaller goals (like a monthly “plan of action”) to put wheels on your long-term vision. Find a friend or mentor to keep you accountable or schedule regular check-ins (alone or with others) to get yourself back on track after a derailment.

Just as professional performance reviews are a priority, how much more essential is self-review? Make regular deposits into your own well-being and soon your bank account will grow!

 

 

 

 


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Keys for Change: Small Businesses Making a Big Impact

The winter of 2013 was a hard one for Georgette Carter.

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As a single mom raising two young boys while she cared for a father with dementia, money was very tight. Then, she totaled her car and found her resources – and her hope – were nearly gone. That is, until a 1996 blue Ford Contour arrived from the Connor Brother Collisions “Recycled Rides” program.

Conner Brothers of Richmond, VA, overhauls donated cars and awards them to people who have been nominated by community members. Carter said her heart was rehabilitated almost more than the car she received:

“It turned my life around. I can get to my job on time, and I don’t have to maneuver to get my child out of daycare. I’ll never take that for granted again.”

Getting Others Involved

Small businesses like Conner Brothers are creating innovative giving models that not only impact people but strengthen the business and the character of the companies themselves.

Kevin Conner said his company donated its first car and was looking to extend the “Recycled Rides” program to three other locations, but they had some pushback in the process. Some objected to giving away freebies when they were working so hard to earn a living themselves. But Conner says this mentality changed when employees got physically involved because compassion comes from being part of an experience instead of merely giving a donation:

“I got them involved in actually giving the cars away, handing over the keys,” Conner says. “Now the guys at the shop call me and ask, ‘When is our next car?’ It would be easy to give money or a service here or there, but it’s the teamwork behind the program that creates an amazing atmosphere for a successful company.”

The car giveaways have become such a cornerstone for Conner Brothers that the program helps define the type of employees the company wants.

“Giving back is a huge part of our company,” Conner says. “I challenge the guys every day to give back in some way, to give customers more than they expect. People remember that.”

Giving That “Changes” Lives

Another giving strategy comes from literal pocket change, as givers round up or down for charity.

For example, the ridesharing company Lyft recently launched an initiative allowing customers to round up their fare to the nearest dollar for military appreciation and human rights campaigns. More than 40,000 passengers donated over $100,000 in the first two months!

Grocery stores, mass merchandisers, and retailers have also invited customers to donate change to worthy causes. As technology and digital platforms make such giving easier, small businesses have challenged staff members to round down their net pay to the nearest dollar (or tenth dollar) and give the difference to charity. While painless or even unnoticed, these small donations add up to a collective impact with heartfelt results.

Whether your employees give financially, volunteer together, or embrace a community partnership project, innovative giving helps your business to:

  • Stand out from competitors or set itself apart in the community
  • Make matching donations alongside employee giving to multiply impact
  • Use positive feedback from supported causes to provide content for print and digital marketing
  • Increase team unity as employees give toward a common cause

While generosity begins in the heart, often innovative giving strategies begin with small business. Join us for part two of this series to gain more inspiration for a culture of charity that will strengthen your business.

 

 

 


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Printed Gifts Are Perfect Any Time of Year

Providing your customers with a small memento of your business is one of the best ways to keep your brand top-of-mind.

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However, many business owners struggle with ideas about what they can use as gifts that are cost-effective, memorable, and useful to their clients. There are plenty of options on the market today in terms of promotional products, but a thoughtful printed gift may be the ideal option for your business.

Here are some of the ways that businesses are making themselves memorable in print!

The Gift of Humor

Knock knock. Who’s there? Etch. Etch who? Bless you, friend.

There are few things that will put a smile on someone’s face more quickly than a corny knock-knock joke. You know they are terrible, but you still have to smile! Your customers will feel the same way, so why not gift them with a little light and laughter in their life? A small printed joke book is the perfect way to let your customers know you’re thinking about them. Humor has been shown to build trust and inspire creative thinking — what better gifts could you provide to your best customers?

Giving Notes

Many organizations are clear and consistent with their message of helping others, so why not extend this concept?

A simple printed postcard or notecard showing your clients that you contributed to a specific charity on their behalf is a terrific way of showing your commitment to giving back to the community and the world. Prefer to have a more lasting memory for your customers? Printed magnets or labels will also help you share the message of generosity.

Office Supplies

Who “borrowed” my notepad this time?!?

Offices throughout the country hear this cry on a regular basis, so why not take away some of this pain? Printed pop-up notes or notepads are an inexpensive gift that will be appreciated for weeks — or even months. Plus, you can add your brand in a way that not only are you sharing your message with the individual sending the note, but the recipient will also have a positive association with your brand, too. Instead of doing a simple blank note, why not print inspirational statements on them or create bold “Thank You” messages on the notepad? Your customers will love being able to share them with friends at work.

Desktop Prints

Motivational posters or prints are always a welcome gift, as they help clients stay encouraged even when they’re going through a rough patch.

A simple mini-print is ideal for this situation, and you can even upgrade to a small matted display for your best customers. Help customers see how much they mean to you by sharing a heartfelt note that brings together your brand promise and shows how far above and beyond you are willing to go to provide top-notch service.

These are only a few of the ways you can share the appreciation that you feel for your clients on a daily basis. How do you show appreciation for your clients?

 

 

 

 


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Don’t Throw in the Towel!

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Down but Not Out

They say that the difference between baseball and life is perseverance. No matter how hard you swing in the batter’s box, three strikes always mean you’re out. But in the game of life, strikeouts are only assigned to those who stop trying.

Feel like throwing in the towel today? We all do sometimes. But consider the words of Thomas Edison, who made more than a thousand attempts before finding the right materials to create the incandescent light bulb:

“Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.”

Or find hope in the words of journalist David Brinkley:

“A successful man is one who can lay a firm foundation with bricks others have thrown at him.”

The Irrevocable Power of Attitude

While circumstances are often beyond our control, we all have irrevocable power over one crucial area: our attitude. Austrian neurologist and Victor Frankl considered himself living proof. His best-selling book, “Man’s Search for Meaning” (or: Nevertheless, Say “Yes” to Life: A Psychologist Experiences the Concentration Camp) chronicled his experiences as a Holocaust survivor, discovering that a fundamental human reality means finding hope in all forms of existence. Even the most brutal. Frankl said this:

“The last of our human freedoms is to choose our attitude in any given circumstances.”

Surviving or Thriving?

How do you move beyond mere survival? Whether it’s stress at home or disappointment at work, how can you equip yourself with a persevering attitude?

Angela Duckworth (professor of psychology at the University of Pennsylvania) was teaching math when she noticed something intriguing: The most successful students weren’t always the ones who displayed a natural aptitude but those who possessed an overcoming (or “gritty”) spirit. That grit – a combination of passion and perseverance targeting a particular goal – helped Duckworth develop a “grit scale” tool to predict outcomes . . .  like, who would win the National Spelling Bee or who might graduate from West Point. Duckworth found a “gritty” attitude beat the pants off things like your I.Q., SAT scores, or even physical fitness in determining whether individuals might succeed!

Here are a few tips from Duckworth on awakening passion when your willpower is dying:

  1. Discover and deepen your interests. If you feel like quitting, re-examine what really energizes or inspires you. Perhaps a depressed spirit can prompt you to consider a necessary life change.
  2. Commit yourself to a positive attitude. Duckworth says the difference between quitters and overcomers was largely how they processed frustration, disappointment, or boredom. While “quitters” took negative emotional cues as an opportunity to cut and run, gritty people believed that struggle was a chance for growth, not a signal for alarm.
  3. Look forward not backward (especially in the face of failure!). Resilience is the ability of people, communities, or systems to maintain their core purpose, even in the midst of unforeseen shocks or failures. Futurist Andrew Zolli, author of Resilience, Why Things Bounce Back, says grit is the combination of optimism, creativity, and confidence that one can find meaningful purpose while influencing surroundings, outcomes, and individual growth in the process. In other words – even failing doesn’t bring failure! No matter what you face, you can take heart that even setbacks bring progress and that even suffering has meaning.

Of course, the final factor in persevering power is the support of a strong community. That’s why we take pride in a thriving local business economy and we take pleasure in shaking your hand. Let’s continue to grow in grit as we run the race together this year!

 

 


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How Has the Internet Changed Lead Generation?

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There is no denying that technology has greatly revolutionized lead generation, especially in regard to the internet. Gone are the days of having to cold call prospects and knock on their doors. Sure, these tactics still work, but business owners are continually finding ways for lead generation to be more cost-efficient and effective. For now, let’s take a quick look at how the internet has changed lead generation and the many reasons you need to be taking advantage of technology to expand your customer base.

Artificial Intelligence Technology Enhances Lead Generation

Thanks to advancements in artificial intelligence technology, you can engage with leads online like never before. In fact, you don’t even have to be the one engaging with them. An AI software program can do the engaging for you. Take, for example, if your website offers a chat feature. Before connecting the customer with an actual representative, artificial intelligence software can engage them in a natural-sounding conversation to determine which department the customer needs to be directed to.

Targeting Leads Has Become Incredibly Simple

When you distribute content, whether through direct mail print marketing or online, you need to have a specific target audience in mind. This target audience, of course, needs to represent people who are likely to be interested in the product/service you are selling. Thanks to the internet, it is now easier than ever to target leads.

It’s All About the Analytics

If you aren’t using analytics to track website visitors, you need to be. An easy-to-use tracking platform that is excellent for determining which pages on your site are performing the best is Google Analytics. There is a good chance the service provider that is hosting your site also provides some type of analytics to take advantage of. Regardless of the tracking tools you use, though, analyzing data on page performance can help you pinpoint which pages need to be further optimized and which ones need to be left alone. This enables you to improve time management because you can focus your attention on the pages that need improvement rather than wasting time on the ones that are already attracting quality leads.

Automated Email Sequencing

You want your emails to be as personable as possible to improve the odds of turning a cold lead into a warm lead, but you can’t accomplish this through a single email. Instead, you need to create an email sequence that is automated; this will engage your leads in a systemized manner and it allows you to warm them up to an offer.

The Takeaway

Your existing customers deserve your attention, but at the same time, you need to be focusing some of your operations on lead generation. Thanks to advancements in technology and the internet, it is now easier than ever to generate leads in a timely and cost-efficient manner. By deploying the four tips outlined above, you’ll be well on your way to capturing leads and improving customer satisfaction at the same time.

 


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If You’re Not Already Blogging, Now Would Be an Excellent Time to Start.

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Many people fail to realize just how important blogs are to a successful business because they still think about what blogs used to be. In the early days of the internet, many blogs were essentially “live journals.” If you wanted to read about what a trendy high school girl was having for lunch with her friends, she probably had a Blogspot blog that would let you do just that.

But today, blogging has become much more powerful and is one of the best ways to connect with your target audience.

The Power of Blogging: Breaking It Down

It’s been said that an incredible 79% of shoppers spend half of their shopping time researching products on the internet. While it’s true that product pages, technical specifications sheets, and other resources are important, users are also gravitating towards something much more human and valuable – blogs.

Think about the things that the right blog allows you to accomplish. First, it lets you dive deeper into certain topics, products, and services more than you ever could on a traditional product page.

Blogging is also a great way to position yourself as a thought leader in your industry, regardless of what that industry happens to be. It’s a chance for you to show that you really can walk the walk in addition to talking the talk, which ultimately helps build brand loyalty over the long-term.

Blogging, in general, also has a number of clear advantages over other forms of communication when it comes to engaging with your audience, as illustrated by these stats:

An Easy Way to Expand Your Reach

Remember, your blog is not a silo. The content that begins on your blog will ultimately make its way across social media as your users begin to share it, thus bringing more people back to your website over time.

Blogging can also help tremendously with SEO and search engine visibility. One of the factors that Google’s algorithm looks for when determining rankings comes down to how often a website is updated. If you publish one high-quality piece of content to your site every day, guess what? That counts.

Nobody is saying that blogging is the ONLY technique you should be using to connect with your audience. In truth, your long-term success will come down to you employing as many techniques as you can in order to further your quest of reaching the right people at the right point in their purchasing journey.

 

 


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Conversational Marketing: Increasing Consumer Engagement.

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As a business owner, you undoubtedly understand the importance of marketing. What you may not be familiar with, however, is which marketing techniques work best.
One marketing tactic that has proven itself to be of the utmost value regardless of the industry you are operating in is conversational marketing. Increasing customer engagement and boosting profit levels, this form of marketing has great potential.

The Ellen Degeneres 2014 Oscar selfie that largely boosted the popularity of the Samsung Galaxy phones is a great example. Samsung didn’t push out the photo everywhere. Instead, it marketed itself and the platforms it was shared because they included conversational engagement. The same can be accomplished across offline marketing platforms when print media is properly integrated.

What is Conversational Marketing?

Conversational marketing intertwines digital marketing mediums with marketing methods that include actual conversations, such as face-to-face or telephone marketing. With today’s internet applications, like Facebook Messenger, conversational marketing has become extremely simplified. The goal of conversational marketing is to make existing and prospective customers feel heard.

What is different about Conversational marketing?

A key feature of conversational marketing that is different from most other forms is that it engages customers through one-on-one conversations. Both inbound and outbound marketing strategies are unified through conversation marketing because data is tracked and analyzed to produce targeted messages that create and promote consumer-specific offers.

Another notable aspect of conversational marketing is that it overcomes channel fragmentation. For example, traditional marketing platforms placed their focus on automated direct communications through outbound channels; mobile messaging, emailing, outbound telemarketing, etc. These automated messages were not producing engagement because they were not ‘real.’ With conversational marketing, though, inbound channels, including website chat tools, instant messaging, and call centers, use real people to carry out real conversations with consumers which greatly improves customer engagement.

Marketers have been challenged to take advantage of inbound interactions as a way to drive their marketing campaigns, and conversational marketing has served as a viable, effective, and cost-efficient strategy for achieving this goal. While outbound marketing tactics are limited in the number of customer interactions they can provide, conversational marketing increases customer response rates.

Developing Conversational Marketing Campaigns

An effective conversational marketing campaign allows businesses to capture consumer conversations and points of contact to develop the right message with the right offer, all the while using the right channel of communication. Developing this type of campaign means using a real-time recommendation engine that allows businesses to anticipate and prepare for consumer interactions before they take place.

Just like the popular 2014 Oscar selfie, your business needs to integrate conversational marketing techniques into its overall marketing strategy. Offline printing, including flyers, newsletters, and advertisements are a great way to accomplish this goal.

 

 


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Why Educated Confidence Will Carry You Far In Business.

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To say that confidence is an important quality for a business leader to have is an understatement. At any given time, your employees are going to be looking to you to make decisions and provide insight. They need to know beyond the shadow of a doubt that you’re confident in the actions you’re taking. You need to know that you’ve given serious thought to the long, often difficult road ahead of you and that you’re making the right move for the right task at the right time. If people can see that you believe in yourself, in your business, and what you’ve worked so hard to build, they’ll start to believe in those things, too.

But something many people often don’t realize until it’s far too late is that “confidence” and “educated confidence” are NOT the same thing.

What is Educated Confidence?

Trust, belief, faith, conviction – these are all among the most essential ingredients that go into creating a confident leader. But one of the most important is also one of the ones that is rarely mentioned – humility. Humility allows you to acknowledge that even though you’re a leader, you’re still just one small cog in a much bigger machine. A living, breathing machine with a life of its own – one that is much more powerful than any one individual working within it, even when that person is yourself.

In many ways, educated confidence is all about slightly adjusting your perspective to account for your own limitations. You need to be confident in the fact that you’re not always going to have the right answer to every problem you face. And that’s okay – because you’re also confident in the people around you and you know that you’ll get through it together like you always do.

You need to be confident in the fact that you are going to make mistakes as a business leader – probably a lot of them, in fact. But this is something that you welcome because you’re also confident in your ability to learn the right lessons from these mistakes and strengthening yourself and your entire organization in the process.

It’s All About the Decisions

It has been said in the past that leadership essentially comes down to your ability to make decisions– but this is only one small part of a much larger story. It’s also about your ability to see those decisions through the lens of all possible consequences, both good and bad.

An overly self-confident leader often becomes one that people follow because their paychecks depend on it, not necessarily because they want to. We’ve all had these types of bosses – the people who are experts at delegating responsibility (read: barking orders) but who always seem to disappear when those proverbial chickens come home to roost.

A leader armed with the power of educated confidence, however, is someone that people follow because they just can’t help themselves. They acknowledge that they don’t have all the answers and they likely never will, but that’s okay – because “we’re all in this together.” It’s the idea that just because you’re a leader doesn’t mean that you’re always right – and you wouldn’t have it any other way.

Educated confidence is that little voice inside your head that says “maybe I should get a second, or third, opinion on this, as this is definitely outside of my wheelhouse.” It’s a voice that you shouldn’t try to stifle or tamp down, resist or ignore.

Instead, you need to give that educated, confident little voice a megaphone.

 

 


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Why Does Elon Musk Want Dissenters in his Company?

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In many companies and organizations, there is a position that most employees learn to avoid. It’s the position that stands out from the crowd and represents the minority voice on the team. Instead, folks learn to see which way the water is flowing and the music is playing, and they align their interests and concerns accordingly. It’s often couched in phrasing as “being a team player” and being a “proactive player instead of a negative burden” or similar.

Elon Musk, the well known chief executive of SpaceX which just recently solved how to create a space rocket that can land itself and be reused again, follows a different path with his employees. He actually wants people to tell him when they think he’s going down the wrong path. As Musk puts it, the lone dissenter or minority voice often points out issues and facts that if ignored can turn into costly problems later on. However, if a company team only follows the majority path, it can quickly turn into the fatal path of groupthink and “yes” men, ignoring major warning signs a big disaster is about to occur.

The Reward Dissenters Bring

Elon Musk and SpaceX are no strangers to risk. They operate in the high stakes game of off-Earth space transport and travel. A mistake in this environment has almost always meant total loss and millions of dollars wasted. So from Musk’s perspective, a dissenting voice provides multiple benefits. It forces the supported path to be defended better by showing why the concern raised is not an issue, a form of vetting before moving forward. Second, the minority opinion frequently brings up risks or concerns that may be glossed over otherwise because they are inconvenient to the supported path. Again, the biggest business mistakes often start with small, ignored issues, like a small leak in a levee.

The idea of rewarding the person who raises potential problems goes against the trend of American business. For decades business managers have been taught that the team is all-powerful and that many minds in synergy produce more than the individual alone. However, this also assumes a lot of mistakes are made along the way to develop that experience. In rocket-building, however, mistakes can’t be tolerated, so Musk believes in asking every question and giving a chance for dissent, an antithesis to traditional corporate culture.

Think This Doesn’t Apply to You? Think Again

Some might argue that the same situation of a rocket company doesn’t apply to a business creating software or coffee-makers. Businesses can afford to have mistakes and still make sales. However, in practice, this logic fails when the company gets sued and loses a major product warranty or personal injury case. Litigation has killed more than one small or medium business with a great product or service but no defense to a mistake that harms someone.

Musk doesn’t believe every dissenting opinion should be followed. In fact, he notes in his advice they can be incorrect. However, listening causes the path chosen to be analyzed just a bit further to identify weaknesses missed. And in Musk’s business, if it exists, avoiding that weakness can mean his multi-million dollar rocket landing again in one piece. What does it potentially mean for your company?

 

 


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The Persisting Power of Loyalty.

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What is loyalty? Loyalty is words combined with actions. It is devotion tested by time. It is steadfast security that grows from a most prized character quality. Theodore Roosevelt said, “It is better to be faithful than famous.” American author Elbert Hubbard agreed: “If put to a pinch, an ounce of loyalty is worth a pound of cleverness.”

Relationally, loyalty builds trust, security, affection, and the ability to thrive. The same is true professionally – only as we build loyal customers and employees will we begin to see business prosper and flourish to its fullest potential. So how can you grow something so intangible, yet so critical, to the foundation of your organization?

Three Primary Pathways

The good news is, you already have buy-in at some level. Whether you have a small business or thousands of employees, customers and co-workers have entrusted you with their money, their well-being, or their future. And people who have “bought in” are looking for reassurance that they’ve made a good decision! How can you move them from the point of trial commitment to a place of wholehearted ownership? Here are three pathways to press into:

  1. Cultivate Loyalty. Being so focused on bringing prospects through the front door, sometimes, you can forget about those going out the back. Enduring connections happen when you urge your clients and employees to stay the course by encouraging them to renew their commitments and helping them VALUE what is VALUABLE.
  2. Celebrate Loyalty. This can be as simple as a Christmas card or as heartfelt as a personal phone call. As a company, be sure to set tangible goals and conspicuously celebrate the progress that’s been made. Look for strategic ways to cast vision, gather testimonies, craft impact pieces, and honor important milestones. Creatively appreciate your clients and co-workers, and publicly commemorate a job well done!​
  3. Reward Loyalty. According to the book Marketing Metrics, the probability of selling to an existing customer is 60-70 percent, and they typically spend 67 percent more than first-time clients. Additionally, persuasive personal recommendations are most likely to flow from your base. What are you doing to reward that devotion? Aren’t your most valuable clients or employees worth a little extra expense? Consider personalized incentives, tailored service packages, or preferential terms, discounts, or benefits. Give these influencers personal access to your leadership and go the distance to meet and exceed their expectations. Don’t forget, authentic personal relationships are a powerful motivator.

Prioritize People

Are you looking to cement your customer base so your organization can flourish to the fullest? Prioritize people as you cultivate, celebrate, and reward loyalty. Companies that can do this will experience enormous benefits through a thriving reputation, consistent customer retention, and enhanced employee satisfaction.

 


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