New Year’s Resolutions for Your Small Business

New Year 2017 Resolution Check List

It is a tradition of sorts to make resolutions for the New Year, such as losing weight or eating healthier. Some people also include resolutions that impact their family’s future, such as resolving to plan two family vacations this year. However, most resolutions are quickly forgotten as people fall into their habitual way of living. A better solution is to plan goals for the year and break them down into smaller, easy-to-accomplish steps. Similar to planning personal resolutions, you can also make resolutions for your small business. By looking back at the year behind you and analyzing your company’s performance, you can resolve to alter your results this year by changing your behavior.

What is the Difference between Resolutions and Goals?

A resolution is a promise to take action. It is easy to break a resolution because there is nothing except for willpower holding you to that action. A goal is a specific, measurable finish line that you aim to reach by a specific point in time. The biggest difference between a resolution and a goal is the exactness or the ability to measure your results. It is possible that your resolution for this year is to lose 10 pounds. If you are a planner, you might take the time to figure out how you will do that. Perhaps you will visit the gym each day and cut out sweets from your diet. If you stick to your resolution, you will reach your goal. However, the minute you stop the change in your behavior, it’s very likely you’ll be saying hello again to that 10 pounds on your hips.

Planning a goal takes more than making a promise to yourself. Instead, planning a goal requires that you set a goal that you can realistically achieve, and then set out the steps to get you there. Once the journey begins, success is more likely if you remind yourself of your goals regularly, reward yourself as you achieve milestones, and measure your results to make changes to your plan along the way.

Collaborating with Your Team

Unless your business has only one employee, yourself, it is a good idea to sit down with your team and ask them to contribute toward making goals for this year. Many companies create three-to-five year goals and then break them down into specifics when each year arrives. Since your team will be the people in the trenches who are taking action to reach the goal, inviting them to collaborate with you on the plan will give them a reason to become more invested in the outcome.

Why is January a Good Time to Make Plans?

Not all companies start their fiscal year in January. If your fiscal year begins in a different month of the year, then start your plans then. For those who follow the calendar year, January planning will focus all of your team on where you want to go. It will drive them to work harder and achieve more as long as you continue to refocus them towards the goal throughout the year.

Don’t forget to reward yourself and your staff for incremental achievements. People need incentives and reminders to keep moving forward and improve behaviors. Work on creating good habits that make goals achievable and coach those who struggle with them. Remember everyone has something unique to contribute and learns differently. Ask your team what they need to succeed.

The Amazing Power of Peer Pressure in Groups

yes or no , peer pressure concept – think different concept

When Stanley’s daughter was about five and a half, it was time for her to pick out her first bike. No surprise, she wanted something with bold colors and controls. The typical child bicycle for girls was frequently some kind of flowery motif, a princess bike, or a fairy theme. However, when Stanley brought his daughter to the store, he made a point to tell her she could pick any bike in the store for her size. And she chose a bold, fire-engine red Transformers bike for her favorite TV robot heroes. Stanley wasn’t sure about the pick and asked her again if his daughter was sure. She looked around and within ten seconds was done; it would be the Transformers bike without question. So, that’s the bike she got.

A month later Stanley’s daughter went with her sister to the local park. They were back within minutes, and the younger one was crying. Stanley asked them what happened and, between sobs and hiccuping, his younger daughter blurted out she had been picked on for riding a boy’s bike. The culprit was other neighborhood kids, particularly girls. Stanley’s daughter rolled her Transformer’s bike into the garage, laid it down, and ran inside sobbing. That was the last time she ever rode that bike again. Stanley tried to see if she would ride it again a month later, but no luck. The bike ended up going to charity.

Every day at work people face decisions that they must then put in front of others, their peers. Like Stanley’s daughter, they will meet people who will criticize and oppose actions or directions chosen. Sometimes it’s for technical reasons and sometimes they do it just to be a pain. However, those peer pressure decisions can be immense depending where one is in their career. If starting out, and the opinion comes from more experienced peers, the pressure can have a huge effect on how people try to fit in, even causing anxiety in some folks. Everybody at some point wants to be accepted, and at work, it can be a fundamental requirement to gel with the “team.”

How one deals with peer pressure and compensates for it will dictate how capable of a decision-maker he or she can be. While it would be easy to assume things are top-down, dictatorial, in reality, our decision-making is often an interactive, communal function, so influence matters tremendously. Realizing this and learning how to control the pressure separates good decision-makers from those who can only operate in a vacuum. Controlling it versus being controlled means one rides their “bike” instead of losing it under pressure.

People are fundamentally social creatures, so those who want to be decision-makers need to understand how to use social influence to their advantage, not disadvantage. The last place a decision-maker wants to be is being second guessed or shamed in public when pushing a proposal. Part of effective leadership is knowing how to influence ahead of time and build decision support before the decision actually has to be made. Some call it being “political,” but realistically, effective leadership involves performance with a team, not against it.

Visual Marketing Content Trends to Prepare For in 2017

Marketing strategy word cloud

The new year often brings with it a time of unabashed change. Regarding visual marketing content, this seems to happen like clockwork every January as a legion of marketing professionals re-ignite their search for the “next big thing” to attract the attention of their target audience. If you want to make sure your 2017 begins as strong as it possibly can, there are some key visual marketing content trends that you need to be aware of.

Integration Continues

According to SmartInsights, one of the biggest upcoming visual content trends to prepare for is nothing new – a further integration of digital and traditional marketing. Only 5% of marketing professionals who responded to a survey say that their campaigns are fully optimized and integrated at this point, but 33% are actively trying to get to that point. Another 33% are currently experimenting with limited integration, and another 12% consider themselves integrated, but not necessarily optimized in the way that they’d like to be. That certainly doesn’t mean they aren’t trying, however.

Never forget: anyone who tells you that you should rely on EITHER print OR digital marketing is probably just trying to sell you something. To reach the widest possible audience, you need to look at them as two important halves of the same whole.

Visual Content Is No Longer a “Single” Technique

In the recent past, marketers tended to look at visual content the same way they looked at social media or video production – all separate techniques that made up a larger marketing campaign. This has been particularly true in terms of people who were doing both print and digital marketing. Visual content was more towards the print side of things, whereas digital skewed towards text-based materials. The wind is changing, though, and it’s clear that visual content no longer serves this purpose. Instead, it must become the very foundation of your larger campaign, the through-line that connects all of your various channels together in a visual way.

Case in point: research has shown that people following directions with both text AND illustrations do an incredible 323% better than those who are only relying on text. When taken together, this means that visual marketing content has a place in every aspect of your larger campaign, from that email you’re about to send out, to new leads, to the breathtaking new flyer you’re about to hand off to USPS. From that perspective, the biggest trend in visual content marketing to prepare for is the very idea that you’ll now be relying heavily on these elements in more places than ever before.

Looking Forward

These are just a few of the key visual marketing content trends that you need to be aware of to prepare better for what awaits you in 2017. One thing is for sure: visual marketing collateral is here to stay, and in many ways, it is more effective than ever. The shape that collateral takes is changing, though, as it should be, and it’s up to you to stay ahead of the curve, so you don’t accidentally find yourself getting left behind.

Cover Versus Text: What Paper Thickness Means For You

Pile of Paper

If you’ve ever stepped foot into a print shop or ordered a print job online, you’ve most likely been faced with what can be a daunting question: What kind of paper do you want? Then, that feeling of panic sets in, much like when you’re faced with the paper or plastic question in the checkout line. Your mind races to quickly analyze “the most eco-friendly option” while the customers behind you silently judge you.

Fear not! This crash course in paper weights will make you a paper expert in no time at all.

What Does Paper Weight Refer To?

Without getting into too much talk about the technicalities of certain paper types and offset weights, the answer is really pretty simple. Paper is generally measured in pounds per 500 sheets (a.k.a. one ream) of the standard sheet size assigned to the papers in that category.

Example: Bond paper has a standard sheet size of 17″ x 22″ (also called “basis size”). If 500 sheets of bond paper weigh 20 pounds, that paper is classified as 20 lb. bond. You might also see this represented as 20# bond.

There are paper stocks that are heavier or lighter than the above example, so you will sometimes see 16# or 24# stock as well.

What Do The Different Paper Stocks Mean?

In commercial printing, you’ll generally see four categories of paper stock:

1. Bond
2. Book
3. Text
4. Cover

1. Bond Paper

Bond stock is most commonly used for letterhead, copier paper, and laser printer paper. Similar to bond stock is writing stock. Writing stock is typically pricier than bond. It has shorter fibers, making it softer. It can be used for company stationery and sometimes contains a distinctive watermark. Writing stock can also be made with a variety of finishes.

Standard weights for bond/writing stock are 16#, 20#, 24# and 32#, with 20# being the most commonly used for in-house applications. Use 32# stock for resumes or competitive business documents to really impress!

2. Book Paper

Book stock can come in coated and uncoated varieties. Their weights vary from 30# Bible stock to 115# book stock. Bible stock is very thin paper, so named because it is usually used to print Bibles. Other book stock uses include magazines, catalogs, posters, and booklets.

The basis size for book stock is 25″ x 38″, so 500 sheets of 30# Bible stock will weigh…you guessed it – 30#!

3. Text Paper

Text stock is a higher grade of paper used in projects requiring a better quality paper. It’s a bit thicker than your standard bond copy paper. Text paper is often used for brochures and flyers, some magazines, and thin posters. Text paper weights range from 60# to 100#.

The basis size for text stock is 25″ x 38″, so 500 sheets of 60# text stock will weigh…you got it – 60#! (You’re picking this up amazingly fast!)

4. Cover Paper

Cover paper (also called “card stock”) is heavy paper used for projects like business cards, postcards, and rack cards. Like text paper, weights range from 60# to 100#.

Because cover paper is a thicker stock, it has a smaller basis size (24″ x 36″) than text and bond papers. The equation is the same, though – 500 sheets of 80# cover stock is going to weigh 80#.

Paper Choice and Quality

As you may have guessed it, the heavier the paper, the pricier it will be. Some people may have the tendency to skimp on paper weights because they don’t think it’s that important. Psychologically, when people feel a lighter weight paper used on something they instinctively feel should be heavier, they make a value judgment about your company, product or service. Clearly, this is not a decision to be taken lightly.

Next time the paper choice question comes up, you can relax with the comfort of knowing that you are now a paper pro!

How to Put Apps and Social Media to Work for You as a Business

Group of People Connection Digital Device Concept

Running a successful business today means putting social media to work for your company. Regardless of industry, a strong social media presence allows you to maximize your reach, while at the same time generate sales from other sources aside from local consumers. Whether you are launching a startup or looking to expand a current business, utilizing social media and various applications that are beneficial to teams and industry leaders is a way to stay one step ahead of the competition while reaching a much wider audience.

Branding Your Company’s Social Media Presence

Before setting up social media platforms including Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, and Instagram, it’s important to consider the audience you want to reach regarding demographics and age groups. How do you want to present your company? What voice do you want to implement when showcasing products or services? Are you planning to share graphics, videos, or humorous updates to potential customers? Carefully consider the voice, tone, and style you want to use to represent your brand based on the audience you plan on reaching (with paid or organically grown content).

Social Media Tips for Business

When creating social media pages for your business, using the same handle and username for all options is highly advisable. Steer clear of confusing names or characters that may leave users lost or unsure of your page’s authenticity. Consider the flow of your posts and the type of content you produce to streamline your pages and keep users coming back for more. Share real stories and content from relevant industry professionals, helping to build brand loyalty and authority. Consistent updating is the key to maintaining relevancy while also keeping potential customers engaged in hearing what you have to say.

Slack

Slack is known throughout both the startup world as well as large-scale companies to help teams and employees better communicate with one another. As a free app download available for both Android and iOS phones, Slack allows individuals within a company to create selective “channels” for marketing, general chat, social media, and any other customized channel that is fitting for your business. Sending messages to an entire team simultaneously allows employees to work more efficiently while also staying on topic with unlimited channels available. Sending images, graphics, and documents is also a possibility with Slack, making it extremely useful when completing everything from print projects, marketing material outlines, to setting goals for an upcoming week or month.

Houseparty App

One application that is growing fast within business markets is an app that was originally designed for college students and a younger demographic altogether. The Houseparty App is free and available on Android and iOS phones, allowing users to create private or public “rooms” to video chat with one another “on the fly.” Although Skype is an alternative, along with GoToMeeting, Houseparty is entirely free and allows up to 8 users in one room simultaneously. Chatting with team members or employees who work remotely will help everyone to catch up on projects and plans quickly regardless of location.

Evernote

Evernote is a classic app that is useful for saving documents, photos, and even print materials you want to share with your entire team or specific employees with ease. The free version of Evernote allows users to upload 60 megabytes of data each month, with premium versions available for large-scale companies. Using Evernote is a quick and easy method of showcasing updates, saving and pinning websites to share, and collectively engaging in one another’s finds online (without pesky bookmarks and browsing).

Take time to consider your company’s needs regarding finance, communication, and time management to assess which type of apps work best for your teams. Find the voice and branding of your business to appeal to potential consumers without sounding robotic or “too corporate,” while still resonating with those who are interested in your products or services. The more you truly understand the needs of your consumers, the easier it becomes to relate to them, helping to boost sales, loyalty, and interest in any industry.

Qualities That Brands With Longevity Share

Brand Concept

In the world of business, there is perhaps no commodity more precious than longevity. Getting a brand up and off the ground is one thing – keeping it around for the long-term is something else entirely. Creating longevity will rely in large part on your marketing, although this is only one small part of a much greater whole. The best marketing campaign in the world can’t create a long-standing, successful brand if a few qualities aren’t underneath it all just waiting to be communicated to the widest possible audience.

They Trigger an Emotional Response

One of the biggest traits that all brands with serious longevity share is the fact that they’re able to trigger an emotional response with their target audience, creating a loyal army of followers. This is true both with the way they market AND the way that response integrates into the service they provide.

Apple is a great example of this based on their image as the “hip, trendy” electronics company. People see a sleek, sophisticated Apple product in an equally compelling ad and they can’t help but think, “That looks really cool; I want that.” The same goes for a company like Amazon.com, albeit from a different angle. The way that Amazon has embraced personal marketing, both regarding the advertising it creates and with regards to the personalized recommendations that each user enjoys, makes them think, “I like Amazon; they get me.” That type of emotional connection is something you just can’t put a price on.

They Live Up to What They Promise

All of the best brands with serious longevity share the fact that they live up to the promises they make in their marketing materials. This comes from a deeper understanding of not just the people they’re trying to attract, but who those people are and what they want. These brands know how to communicate with their target audience and, as a result, don’t just live up to their promises, but they know how NOT to make a promise they can’t keep.

Take FedEx, for example. Entrepreneur.com recently cited FedEx as a brand with an incredibly strong corporate identity, owed largely to the fact that it’s operations are so incredibly efficient. FedEx is a brand built on trust, and the road to trust is paved with promises that have been kept in the past. FedEx is seen as an incredibly reliable service, and people in need of shipping rank FedEx favorably in that regard. This creates something of a self-fulfilling prophecy – a symbiotic relationship that only strengthens over time specifically because FedEx knows what its audience wants and it knows how precisely to give it to them every time.

Once again, Apple is another example of this idea in motion. They promise products that “just work” and have historically delivered on that promise time and again. This has made them not only one of the most successful brands in the world, but also one with serious longevity in an industry where companies come and go like the weather.

These are just a few of the core qualities that all brands with longevity share. Remember that in the grand scheme of things, brands come and go all the time. Creating a brand is easy, but if you want to make sure that your brand stands the test of time, you need to focus on offering something truly unique on an ongoing basis.

2017 Price Change Information: USPS Marketing Mail and What You Need to Know

Four rural mailboxes.

A new year always brings with it a variety of different changes, and it seems that 2017 will be no exception, as far as the United States Postal Service is concerned. Anyone who relies on the USPS for their direct mail marketing activities would do well to sit up and take notice, especially with regards to the price change information and other news that has recently been announced.

What’s In a Name?

According to PitneyBowes.com, the USPS “Standard Mail” tier will be rebranded as USPS Marketing Mail in 2017. Additionally, what was previously known as “Alternate Postage” will now be called “Share Mail.” Pricing structures have been changed (and arguably, simplified) accordingly.

When the new branding goes into effect, letters that are 3.5 ounces in size or less will cost $0.284 – a reduction from the current $0.290 pricing structure. Flat rates for items that are four ounces or less, on the other hand, will actually increase to $0.555 from the current rate of $0.546 that is expiring. It’s important to note that these rates are for the USPS Marketing Mail items that are processed through non-automation means.

Other Upcoming USPS Changes

The USPS also announced a number of other changes, particularly to items that fall into the presorted mail category. Overall, people can expect a price decrease on average of about 0.25%, though it’s important to note that certain types of items will actually increase in price at the same time.

One change that marketers will no doubt be happy about is the fact that presorted First Class Mail will see a significant price reduction. Starting at the end of January, sending 3.5-ounce materials will now cost the same price as a one-ounce letter. Up until these changes go into effect, the pricing category ranged from one to two ounces, not 3.5 ounces.

Those First Class letters up to one ounce will now cost you $0.49 as opposed to the current $0.47. Flat rates up to one ounce will increase to $0.98 from $0.94, while First Class Mail parcels will allow you to pay one price ($2.67) for any item up to four ounces in size. Each additional ounce will cost you $0.21, which is actually one of the few categories of pricing that will remain unchanged in the new year.

Changes Behind the Scenes in 2017

It’s also important to note a significant change in the way these types of items are processed. Items that used to fall under the 3-Digit and AADC categories are being combined with First-Class Mail Presorted Automation Letters and USPS Marketing Mail Automation Letters. Ultimately, this won’t really change the price that you can expect to pay when you send your marketing materials out into the world, but in theory, it should make them easier to process and send out once they’ve made their way into the hands of the United States Postal Service.

All of these changes will go into effect on January 22, 2017. Until then, the current pricing structure will still apply. As marketing budgets get tighter than ever during a period where direct mail marketing has never been more important, it’s always essential to stay as up-to-date as possible on any and all USPS pricing changes to help make sure you’re getting the most out of your hard-earned (marketing) dollar.

Overcoming the Getting Started Obstacle Course

I can do it

Collette Divitto was born with Down syndrome, but she hasn’t let that stand in the way of doing what she wants with her life. As a passionate baker, Collette sought opportunities to work in that field and earn a living. However, every place she applied told her that she was not a good fit. Instead of giving up, she formulated her own cookie recipe and went into business for herself.

Her cinnamon chocolate chip cookies were popular with friends and family. When one friend after another told her, “you should sell these!” she took the leap and began her small business out of her apartment. She bought business cards, made a website, and learned how to create invoices. Before long, she was taking orders online and had her first local client, the Golden Goose Market.

While Collette faced a unique set of challenges getting her business off the ground, everyone who wants to start an enterprise will face hurdles. Overcome these hurdles by asserting the sort of grit and curiosity that got Collette started:

1. Remember that you don’t need permission.

Collette first tried to work for other businesses. When they did not see a use for her, she decided to go out on her own. Instead of waiting for an opportunity to present itself, those who wish to forge a business should follow Collette’s courageous steps.

2. Be willing to learn new skills.

When bootstrapping a company and getting it going, you may not be able to hire people for every role. Collette learned how to do her own accounting so that she could get started. If she’d waited for someone who could do that job for her, she might still be waiting to start.

3. Reach out to the network you already have.

Collette’s local client, the Golden Goose Market, is right in her neighborhood. Since they already knew Collette, they were willing to take a chance on her and display her cookies. Look to your own network; think about the people you know from old jobs, friends of the family, and other contacts. They may have a need for your service or know someone who does.

4. Capitalize on what makes you unique.

Collette Divitto got promotion through human interest stories because of the obstacles that she has overcome. Think about what sets you apart from your competition. It can be a brand story, a unique product like Collette’s top secret cinnamon cookie recipe, or an aspect of your customer service that goes above and beyond what your competitors provide. Recognize your unique attributes and learn how to convey them to your prospects. These qualities are the ones that make your business more appealing than the rest.

Being willing to take risks and dedicating the work necessary can help ensure your business’s success. This sort of courageous approach can get you through those slim early times and make it more likely that your business will thrive.

Content Marketing Best Practices to Double Down on in 2017

The word “content” with four hands making thumbs up gesture.

Marketing is an industry that is constantly changing, especially since technology does the same. If you think back to what your day looked like even five years ago, it will likely have little resemblance to the work you’ve already done today, or how you’re doing it. Despite that, there are still some best practices that are as powerful today as they ever were as far as content marketing is concerned. Along those lines, there are a few key content marketing best practices that you’re going to want to double down on as 2017 fast approaches.

Forget About SEO

In today’s digital climate, the importance of writing content for people first and search engines second cannot be overstated enough. Google has made some massive changes to its algorithm in the last year that favor quality, well-written content above all else. Google, Bing, and more have all placed a strong emphasis on making sure that content is king. As long as you create your marketing collateral with that in mind, these companies have promised to make sure that you’re taken care of regarding search engine rankings.

Focus on helping people. Try to provide insight and provoke a response. If you craft your campaigns with these simple goals in mind, everything else will fall into place.

…But Don’t Totally Forget About SEO

None of that is to say that SEO, in general, isn’t necessary. Just make sure that when it comes to content marketing, you’re not trying to stuff in as many keywords as possible. Instead, shift your SEO efforts to other areas, like making sure that you’re updating your content regularly, that it has all of your (correct) contact information, and that you’re promoting yourself through outlets like social media.

More Than Just Blogs

Remember that blogs are a powerful tool in the content marketing game, but they’re not the only tool you have to play with. Things like newsletters, eBooks, and user guides are all an excellent way to reach your target audience in fun new ways. Visual materials like infographics, charts, and even videos are also a great way to bring the visual element that you’re known for into the content marketing arena in a powerful way.

Refine Your Customer Persona

Many people use customer personas to help guide their marketing campaigns, something that is especially helpful when it comes to content marketing. Something you cannot forget to do, however, is to update these personas on a regular basis. Think about how much your business has changed in the last year and understand that your ideal customer has probably changed just as much. Use the new year as an opportunity to re-evaluate your existing buyer personas so that you can always keep your eye on the prize, so to speak.

A new year brings with it the opportunity to start fresh, but that doesn’t mean throwing the baby out with the bathwater. Embrace new techniques, but also never lose sight of the old saying of “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” Some content marketing best practices are certainly not broken, and those solid techniques are what you can be doubling down on in the new year.

3 Emotions That Go Along with Operating Your Own Business

Unhappy and Happy Smile

Many emotions go along with owning your own company. From the excitement of opening your doors the first time to dealing with chaos in the office, running your business will be enjoyable sometimes and cause much frustration other times.

The Main Three

It seems that you can boil business emotions down to three that most business owners share or have experienced at one time in their business journey. They are:

1. Fear

Do you ever find yourself being scared that you might actually succeed? Fear is one of the most common emotions that successful business owners feel when first starting out. Being afraid of success can hold you back if you don’t properly deal with it. Operating any company requires risk, and it is because you are human that risk likely scares you.

By talking with people who have taken a risk before, you will gain a better perspective on how to balance risk with common sense. Overcome fear and risk by having an open mind, and be willing to be a lifelong learner. The more you learn, the more you know in regards to appropriately handling different issues in business.

2. Euphoria

Another common emotion tied in with running your own business is euphoria. If you have any success at all, your brain will create endorphins and cause you to feel extreme pleasure. And while euphoria is a great motivator to help you continue your success, you must remember that running a successful company requires a daily effort. Just because all of your clients are satisfied on one day does not mean they will all be satisfied the next. Be prepared to make changes as needed.

3. Frustration

Frustration can be minimized by taking time out of each day to focus on yourself. If you’re not happy, neither will your customers. If you find yourself frustrated, take a step back and give yourself a moment to clear your mind. Clarity is essential to overcoming the frustration that is tied in with chaos and change.

Dealing with the emotions that go along with operating your own business is key to keeping your company afloat. By following the tips mentioned above, you’ll be much more likely to run a business that brings you much success and joy.