You Shouldn’t Fear Your Competitors. You Should Learn From Them.

As is true in most industries, there are days where it probably seems like every time you turn around you’ve got some new competitor to deal with. Your market space was already a tight one – now you’ve got to worry just as much about the companies that are vying for the same market as you do about the market itself.

For as frustrating as this can be, however, it also represents a fantastic opportunity that is just waiting to be taken advantage of if you really know what you’re doing.

At the end of the day, you shouldn’t actually fear your competitors at all. You should see them as a source of education and inspiration.

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The Canary in the Coal Mine

One of the biggest reasons why you should try to learn from your competitors instead of fear them has to do with the fact that you’re trying to accomplish the same goal. You just have two completely different approaches about how to best do that. You’re still operating in the same industry, and you’re still trying to reach the same basic audience. From a marketing perspective alone, this is much more exciting than you probably realize.

Remember that success in marketing comes down to knowing as much about your audience as possible to get the right message in front of the right people at the right time. When your closest competitor launches a particularly successful marketing campaign, sit back and ask yourself “why?” Dive deep into exactly what they did and how they did it. What language choices did they make? What print avenues did they explore? What part of their timing played a roll in their success? Did they do anything particularly noteworthy in terms of font or other design selection?

The same is true when your competitor’s campaigns fail, too. Why did your competitor’s campaign fail to strike a chord with your audience? What mistake did they make? What incorrect information were they working from? How can you avoid this problem yourself?

From a certain point of view, it’s almost like you get to naturally A/B test every campaign that you run without spending additional money because you’ve always got someone trying to hit targets that are very similar to yours. Pay attention to what they’re doing and see what works and what doesn’t. Then, figure out how to adapt this information to your own efforts. Rest assured, they’re probably looking at you in the same way.

You’re All in this Together

An even more important reason why you shouldn’t fear your competitors is also a simple one: you’re truly all in this together. Think about it like this: the audience that you’re trying to serve and the audience that your closest competitors are trying to serve are one in the same. You’ve both pledged to make the lives of these people better through your products and services. Make no mistake, this is a terrific situation to be in for everyone involved.

For starters, competition is healthy. Every time your closest competitor hits a home run with a new product launch or marketing campaign, it shouldn’t make you depressed – it should make you want to wake up tomorrow morning and try that much harder.

Your audience will absolutely benefit from this healthy sense of competition and that is an incredibly important position to be in for all of you.

 

 


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Why You Should STOP Checking Your Email First Thing in the Morning.

Thanks to smartphones and other types of mobile devices, we’re more connected to the world around us than ever before. This certainly has both its advantages and disadvantages.

On the one hand, it’s never been easier to get more done while on-the-go. You can be just as productive in your office as you can be halfway across the globe on vacation.

On the other hand, this can lead to a definite feeling that “switching off” is impossible – especially when you consider that according to one recent study, 61% of people check their phones within five minutes of waking up in the morning.

From a certain perspective, this makes a bit of sense – after all, if you want to get as much done in a day as possible it stands to reason that you should check those emails that piled up overnight as soon as you can, right? Well, not necessarily. There are some compelling reasons why you should STOP checking your email first thing in the morning, especially if you’re concerned about productivity.

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You’re Doing More Harm Than Good

The main reason why you should stop checking your emails right when you wake up in the morning is that you’re doing a lot more harm than you are good. According to one study, 66% of people say that the first thing they do in the morning is either A) check their email, or B) listen to their voicemail. So don’t worry – you are hardly the only person out there making this mistake.

To understand why this is such a problem, consider the fact that according to Forbes the average person checks their email roughly 15 times per day. When people limited their checking to just three times per day, however, their productivity increased, and their stress levels decreased. Part of the problem is that when you check your email, you’re at the total will of whatever messages you find. Everything else gets moved to the back burner. It’s also particularly stressful if you’re waiting for a reply to an important email that hasn’t arrived yet.

So why, exactly, would you want to cause yourself that level of stress in the morning?

By both limiting the number of times that you check your email throughout the day AND by making sure that it isn’t the first thing you do in the morning, you’re in a much better position to get your day off on the right foot. You’re beginning your day in the most stress-free way possible, giving yourself a little breathing room to contextualize your priorities and lay out the day ahead without distraction.

In the End

These are just a few of the many reasons why you should STOP checking your email first thing in the morning. Yes, the instinct to try to get as much done in a day is a strong one – especially for a career-driven professional such as yourself. But you need to understand that you are quickly reaching a breaking point – “diminishing returns” doesn’t even begin to describe it.

Minimize the number of times that you check email throughout the day and pick your spots very carefully. Your productivity levels, not to mention your stress levels, will thank you for it.

 

 


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A Single Red Feather

It was a brilliant start to a lasting legacy. Conference organizers work hard to stage successful events, helping worldwide professionals network in meaningful ways, with long-lasting benefits. One international conference intentionally introduced certain attendees online before their event. But there was a problem. How would this cohort take their connection offline in a sea of 8,000+ people?

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Perhaps a simple, visible strategy would work: these participants placed a single red feather in their name badge. Red feather attendees committed to seek each other out in friendly, approachable, non-threatening ways. By the close of the conference, curiosity and goodwill drove hundreds of new people to request a red feather and to join this informal circle of friends. Why? Because everyone needs a great network to lean on!

Collect Relationships, Not Just Business Cards

Networking is important! A recent LinkedIn study revealed that 70 percent of people in 2016 were hired at a company where they had a previous connection. But while 80 percent of professionals consider networking to be important to career success, 38 percent said they find it hard to stay connected to (or in touch with) their network.

How can you grow or maintain your personal networking tree beyond online networks like LinkedIn or Meetup? It doesn’t have to be difficult! Even simple steps like participating in webinars, attending conferences, volunteering your time locally, or actively following and commenting on your alumni newsletters can forge and strengthen connections. As one Cornell MBA reflects, “the concept is to stay connected even when you don’t need to, so when the time comes for that extra spark, your network will be able to ignite you on your path.”

Beyond the enjoyment networks bring, a web of professional relationships can be leveraged for great gain. As you strengthen bonds with a specific pool of people, you can enhance the quality of your services, increase customer retention, and gain important contacts and sales opportunities that you might never have accessed otherwise.

While many of us dread the idea of traditional networking, we often forget that building alliances is about collecting friends, not business cards. Remember, your goal is to come to know and enjoy people. If you’ve chosen relationships wisely, it should be fun to learn from others, gain management ideas and advice, and to spur on another’s profit and performance. As you and your colleagues update and encourage one another, the hope is that, ultimately, you’ll become each other’s salespeople!

Local Business Networks Bring Life

Another natural way to overcome networking barriers is to intentionally sow into local business relationships. Local business networks are a refreshing antidote to the isolation we often experience in today’s culture. A thriving local business community helps each of us because it empowers us to grow in our goals, to access important relationships, to collaborate on custom solutions, and to bring inspiration or motivation on the days we need it most.

 

 


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Understanding Intent versus Impact in the World of Marketing

ThinkstockPhotos-667556640It is essential to understand as much about your audience as possible, especially the differences between “intent” and “impact” in the world of marketing. Intent is something that you have total control over – it’s what every font selection, every color choice, every turn of phrase and every piece of collateral is ultimately building towards. Impact, on the other hand, is something else entirely. Making an effort to understand the difference between these two concepts is the key to maximum success moving forward.

It All Comes Down to Perspective

The major difference between intent and impact ultimately comes down to a matter of perspective, or an acknowledgment that sometimes a statement (or in this case, a marketing message) isn’t necessarily as “black and white” as you may have thought it was. In addition to knowing who the people you’re marketing to actually are, it’s important to understand as much as you can about the way they think.

Before you send any marketing message out into the world, there are a few key questions you need to ask yourself:

  • How will this message play in different regions of the country? Are there certain terms that are used one way on the coasts and another way in middle America? What difference does that make, if any, in terms of how that message would be received?
  • How do pain points differ based on audience? Is a very specific problem that one portion of your audience has not an issue at all to others? How does something like economic status play into how a particular message might be received?
  • How will the culture change the way the impact of a message varies when compared to the original intent? Even if you’re not a global company, think about things from that perspective. You would probably have to make some adjustments to your messaging when marketing to customers in Europe versus those in the United States as you’re talking about two totally different cultures with different norms and taboos. Are there any cultural implications that might adjust the impact of your message in a way you’re unprepared for?

This approach will help give you as much insight as possible into the various perspectives of the people you’re trying to reach, which can not only make campaigns resonate more but it can also help avoid sticky issues like this one at the same time.

At the end of the day, the difference between intent and impact in the world of marketing can be summarized like this. “Intent” is the thing that you were trying to do – the message you were trying to convey or the goal you were trying to accomplish. “Impact” is what you actually did, which itself is influenced by a wide array of different factors. Sometimes a message that you had complete confidence in is received in a way that you could never have predicted and these are the types of moments you need to be ready for.

 

 


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Motivation Matters

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Motivation matters. Why? Because without it we fail to thrive. Lack of motivation is linked to lethargy, depression, and higher employee turnover. In contrast, studies show goal setting (even goals WITHOUT attached financial incentives) improved worker performance by 12 to 15%.
How well you can motivate yourself or others can have a substantial effect on the pleasure and profit you experience.

Drive and Thrive: Kicking Motivation into High Gear

How do you increase motivation, especially for tasks that aren’t always fun? Dan Pink, the author of Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, says recognizing what types of motivation work in varying situations can be helpful. For example, while simple extrinsic motivators (bonuses, team incentives, public recognition) are often helpful for linear, task-oriented projects, these “carrot and stick,” conditions are not always best:

“The trouble is . . . that for work that is non-routine, for work that isn’t algorithmic but is more conceptual, that requires big-picture thinking, that requires a greater degree of creativity, that requires solving more complicated, complex challenges, the if-then motivators don’t work very well at all. And that’s not even a close call in the science. The behavioral science is very, very clear that– give people those kinds of motivators for creative, conceptual, complex tasks, and they will often underperform.”

Pink says it is an intrinsic motivation that prompts people to do a creative activity, working not for incentives but because something is interesting and worthwhile. In the long run, intrinsic inspiration produces greater positivity and more imaginative, enduring results. Researchers identify three keys for building intrinsic motivation:

  1. Autonomy. Autonomy is a sense of authority over our projects or time management. It may involve options like working remotely, flex scheduling, or creative workspaces. While autonomy allows greater independence, it can be guided in an accountable manner. For example, people are more successful in self-managing when they have goals that are S.M.A.R.T. (specific, measurable, achievable, relative, and time-bound).
  2. Mastery. We all desire to improve, and mastery equips people for continual development. Whether it’s on-going education, professional networking, or increased responsibility, we are typically happier when we are growing. How can we equip our team with fresh training or more challenging responsibilities? Is increased mastery giving way to bigger projects or the chance to teach others?
  3. Purpose. Often productivity stems from personal satisfaction; we work from the heart when we’re connected to a sense of community, impact, or big picture vision. While not all mundane tasks can infuse passion, typically we underestimate the power of celebrating small wins each day. Teresa Amabile, Harvard Business School professor and author of The Progress Principle, found that the biggest motivator at work was the sense of measurable progress.3 When we believe we’re making a considerable contribution, it’s almost impossible NOT to be motivated.

What can you do to grow a sense of autonomy or mastery in your workplace? How can your public recognition or team incentives create a greater sense of passion at work? We have many creative ideas and visible tracking options to help you recognize, celebrate, and help your team stay on a path toward motivating fruitful progress. Give us a call to talk more!

 


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Keeping Employees Engaged During the Dreaded Month of January

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Returning to work after the fun and
exciting Christmas season can feel like
an uphill battle. If you really want to keep
your employees happy, healthy, and engaged during the dreaded month of January, there
are a number of essential things to keep in mind.

Encourage Your Employees to Spend Time Outside

Part of the reason why January is so terrible for so many people comes down to SAD, or “Seasonal Affective Disorder.” It’s a very specific type of depression that relates to changes in the seasons and is often brought about by how cold and dreary January has a tendency to be.

The key to combating this is, thankfully, a simple one – encourage your employees to get outdoors as much as possible. Take them out for lunch at that great new restaurant down the block and insist that you all walk there. Get as much natural light into your workplace as possible. Even getting just fifteen minutes of quality sunlight exposure every day can have a big impact on their mood and their productivity.

Along these same lines, consider starting an exercise program at your office in the new year. Not only will this play an important long-term role in keeping your workforce as healthy as possible, but this type of physical activity will also go a long way towards combating SAD head-on.

Encourage Frequent Breaks

It’s important to take an active role in the work/life balance of your employees during the Christmas season, particularly when their attention is being pulled in so many different directions at once. Guess what? This idea doesn’t stop being any more important just because the calendar now says “January 1.”

Look for any opportunity that you can find to give people a bit of a break from the important tasks at hand. People always need to recharge, but this will become especially important during January and the rest of the cold winter months of the year. Make sure that people are getting out of the office and home at a decent hour, too. Once again, you may think that pulling long hours will help productivity in the long run, but all you’re doing is compromising the quality of the work that people can provide you.

While it’s true that nobody (yourself likely included) likes to return to work after the fun of the Christmas and New Year season, it isn’t as bad as you probably think it is. Indeed, so much of keeping employees engaged during January comes down to a matter of perspective – one that you can fully control just by remembering tips and tricks like those outlined above.

 


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Brochures: An Incredibly Effective Marketing Tool

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Sometimes things become trends for a reason. Case in point: brochures. Brochures are still incredibly effective marketing tools. Why?

Because Brochures Have Versatility to Spare

Brochures are the perfect supplementary tool to give to someone to clue them into more information about your product or service WITHOUT having to rely on the internet. Did you just come across someone at a trade show or other event? Give them a brochure. Did you just have a walk-in that you weren’t expecting but don’t have time to dive into the deep details you need to make a sale? Give them a brochure.

Any good salesperson can tell you that the number one rule of marketing is “always be prepared,” and a brochure allows you to do precisely that.

Because It’s A Marketing Tool in More Ways Than One

Another one of the most important reasons why brochures are still incredibly effective comes down to the many ways in which they can be used beyond straight selling. Yes, this is a great way to give someone a big portion of information about your products or services… but a brochure also makes your contact information readily available. It works a lot like a business card that way, only going above and beyond what a business card can do on its own.

Because of The Power of the Hard Copy

Finally and perhaps most importantly, brochures are effective marketing tools for one reason above all others: they exist in the real world. They’re physical. People can hold them in their hands, or give them to friends and family members.

Customers prefer having something that they can hold rather than reading information from a company website. Some people even so far as to print the information they want from your website so that they can digest it at their own pace (at the cost of their printer ink).

Nobody is saying that gorgeously designed websites aren’t exactly that – but a brochure is a perfect way to take all that information you already have and bring it into the realm of the physical. Not only that, but brochures and other types of print marketing will immediately allow you to stand out from competitors who have switched to primarily digital materials – another benefit that is too powerful to overlook.

These are just a few of the many reasons why brochures aren’t going away anytime soon. If you didn’t get to create as many brochures as you wanted to during the last year, 2018 would be an excellent time to start.

 

 


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Never Underestimate the Value of Good Relationships

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Tattly was started almost on accident. Design blogger Tina Roth-Eisenberg was looking at the temporary tattoos her daughter received at a birthday party, and was disappointed by the uninspiring fake tattoo designs available. She had many talented artist friends due to an artistic coworking space she’d recently founded. Bringing these folks together to create a new product seemed a natural fit.

Soon after, she had a range of high-quality temporary tattoo designs that she was offering for $5 a piece. In addition to artists from the coworking space, she solicited work from artists who she knew online through her popular design blog.

Two months after beginning work, Tattly launched with 16 designs. The company has grown quickly, with their designs showing up everywhere from high-end retailers like Macy’s to the Tate Museum and the gift bags at the annual White House egg hunt. Over 8,000 retailers now carry Tattly temporary tattoos. Roth-Eisenberg’s success is due as much to successfully leveraging her relationships as it is to her innovative ideas. A few of the ways she made her relationships count:

Look for new ways to leverage relationships.

Like most bootstrapped companies, Tattly was running on a very small margin. Roth-Eisenberg provided the first $15,000 in funding from her own pocket. However, she ran into issues when she realized that she was out of cash to actually print the tattoos.

To solve her cash flow problem, Roth-Eisenberg reached out to a contact and asked if they’d like to sponsor the first “bonus” Tattly, a free temporary tattoo that would ship with every sale. Her partner was enthusiastic about the opportunity. With the advance, Roth-Eisenberg was able to pay for the first printing of her tattoos.

When you are considering a new direction, always remember what your current contacts do besides the business they do with you. You may have opportunities that you never thought of.

Show support to the ones who support you.

Too many platforms and businesses undervalue the creative talent that helps them find their success. Tattly has formed strong and loyal relationships with artists from all over by providing a healthy commission on every one of the tattoo designs shown. At the time of this writing, the company has paid out over $1 million in royalties to artists. Because of this, Tattly has attracted over 120 talented designers.

Let your fans be your ambassadors.

When Tattly started, the company did not have a budget for promotion. However, Eisenberg’s existing following from her design blog provided a huge boost. Her social media following worked like a built-in PR and marketing engine. Tattly’s influence only grew as proud followers shared the eye-catching designs. This was enough to quickly draw the attention of wholesalers who were happy to carry the bright and fun pieces of art.

Have confidence in your relationships and provide as much value as you seek. Through this and some creative thinking, you can make opportunities not just for your business, but for all of your potential collaborators.

 

 


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Branded Promotional Products Make a HUGE Marketing Impact

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People love free stuff; they always have, they always will. This is why branded promotional products are so effective. It doesn’t even necessarily matter what “it” is. So long as it’s free, people are going to come running.

Choosing the right type of promotional products can have a huge marketing impact because of their longevity and because they’re functional in a way that people truly appreciate. If you’re thinking about experimenting with branded promotional products but aren’t sure if it’s something that will be worth your time and effort, here are a few key reasons why now would be an excellent time to start.

Branded Promotional Products Earn You the Right Kind of Attention

According to a recent study, 53% of people used some type of promotional product at least once per week. More than that, six out of every 10 of them said that they tend to keep promotional products for up to two years.

This means that when you invest money in creating that attractive and helpful branded tote bag, you’re essentially putting a piece of marketing collateral out into the world that someone will carry with them for around two years. That is 24 months worth of opportunities for them to use that bag in public, acting essentially as a walking billboard. That’s a long period of time to effortlessly keep your brand at the forefront of someone’s mind.

Integrating Branded Promotional Products Into Your Larger Campaigns

Branded promotional products compliment your other marketing efforts and earn a place among all the other techniques you’re using. You also need to know when and where to roll them out. If you’re the type of company that will be appearing at a trade show, for example, branded promotional products like USB chargers or even fidget spinners are terrific because they can attract attention to your booth and help guarantee that every personal interaction gets off on the right foot.

Think about it like this – the first known use of branded products as a form of marketing dates all the way back to 1789when a guy you may have heard of named George Washington was trying to get elected president. The commemorative buttons he used at the time undeniably made an impact on the message he was trying to spread. If it worked for George Washington, you could bet that it will work pretty well for you, too.

When you also consider the fact that adding a promotional product into your larger marketing strategy can increase the effectiveness of your other types of collateral by up to 44%, you begin to get a better understanding of why the “all of the above” strategy is one that is more than worth exploring.

 


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Customer Service in Action – A Personal Touch

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Customer service is never more important than when something goes wrong. Your actions can either win your customer back, or it can cost you that customer for life.

Nobody knows this better than Amazon, who has built a massive reputation for fast and reliable order fulfillment. Through their consistent excellence, they’ve completely changed the retail industry. But what happens when mistakes are made?

Overcoming Mistakes

As a general rule, Amazon offers their Prime customers a free month of their Prime service if a package doesn’t arrive by its guaranteed delivery date. That’s about what you’d expect them to do, right? Amazon has been known to up the ante, though, when bigger customer service problems exist. For instance, an expected December 24 delivery that was late prompted Amazon to provide a personal phone call with a sincere apology, not to mention a $20 credit that could be used on a future order – and this was before the customer even reported the issue! A missed Christmas deadline didn’t lead to anger and fury; instead, it only yielded even deeper customer loyalty. And it’s all because of the personal touch that’s all too rare in today’s automated world.

Back Up Your Promises

The Amazon example rings true in several ways. On an immediate level, the message is simple – even when customer demands put a strain on your resources, you still owe it to them to exceed their expectations. If you’re in a position to make guarantees to your customers, you’d better have a way to meet those deadlines. And, just as importantly, you’d better have a backup plan in case those deadlines can’t be met for any reason, even if those reasons aren’t necessarily your fault. That backup plan, it goes without saying, shouldn’t include only reacting when you have something to lose.

Add a Personal Touch

But there’s a bigger takeaway from Amazon’s customer service. Yes, businesses typically go all out when a customer’s patronage is at stake. A smart move, to be sure. However, it’s also a good idea to take elements of that full-court press and incorporate it into your everyday approach.

Consider the example of DDP Yoga, a fitness program with a loyal following and that has an appearance on Shark Tank to its name. To this day, owner Diamond Dallas Page calls a handful of new customers each day to personally welcome them to the program and answer any questions they may have. As a result, those customers have a more personal connection to the product, and they’ll be that much more likely to stick with the program and refer it to others.

You might not have a fitness program to sell, and you might not have the resources of Amazon. But there’s no reason why you can’t do a little something to delight your current customers. A personal phone call or a handwritten note is all it takes. By taking these measures of your own accord instead of in response to something you’ve screwed up, you’ll encourage a great deal of loyalty from your customer base.

All They Really Want

At the end of the day, customers don’t ask for much. All they want is to know that your business cares about them as people, and not just as dollar signs. Using a personal touch can help you to achieve this to great effect. If big businesses like Amazon can execute this strategy perfectly, what’s your excuse for not taking action?

 

 


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