New Year’s Resolutions for Your Small Business

2017-resolutionsIt 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.

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Business Lessons from a Dog

dogBusiness lessons can be found everywhere we look in life. One of the best ways to learn is by simply looking at the world in a new way. Dogs look at the world differently than we do and often have a very simple outlook. If you want to learn more about business, these are some of the lessons your dog is trying to teach you.

 

Don’t Take Everything So Seriously
To dogs, everything is great. They do not get down about being out of treats. They definitely want one still but they move on very quickly and it isn’t that serious. Sometimes you have to approach business the same way. Yes, there are serious situations you will run into, but there are also some that you take too seriously. Things are usually not as bad as you make them out to be, so focus on the good and do not freak out so much over the bad.

Take a Chance on Something New and Trust Your People
Dogs are mostly happy-go-lucky and are always ready to go on a ride. They do not need to know where they are going, but they are happy to be on the ride. They trust you as their owner, and they know they will be taken care of no matter what. This kind of trust is not always found in the business world. In fact, it is rare. However, if you trust your employees, allow them to take the reigns sometimes and see where it can take the business.

Never Meet a Stranger
A dog never meets a stranger and is instant friends with anyone they meet. If you had this same approach, you would have a much bigger network of people that you could reach in your business. You could have new customers, new clients, new friends, and even new business partners. Approach each new person you meet with the same vibrancy and openness as a dog would and you will be surprised by how much it opens doors for you.

Listen When People Speak to You
This may seem very basic, but dogs are always listening when someone is talking to them. They may not do what is asked, but they are listening. Whenever someone is speaking to you in a business setting, you should focus your attention on them and actively listen to what they are saying.

Trust Your Instincts
Dogs follow their noses, and they also have killer instincts. They do not second guess them. Start trusting yourself more and when you have an instinct about something, more often than not, you will be right if the feeling is strong enough.

Dogs can teach us a lot about life as well as business. Most of these lessons can be used in the business setting as well as in your daily life. Just understanding these basic concepts can help you in your own life.

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

mail-boxesA 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.  And if all these changes just sound too confusing to you, don’t worry – just give us a call – and let Futch Printing & Mailing ADDRESS all your printing needs!

Qualities That Brands With Longevity Share

brandIn 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.

What’s in a Name? The Value of Sponsorship as a Branding and Marketing Opportunity

sponsorIn the world of marketing, you’re essentially always on the lookout for new and innovative opportunities to raise awareness about the brand that you represent. It isn’t just about getting the word out about a new product or service; it’s also about reminding people that you’re there, that you’ve always been there, and that you’re always going to be there. In an era where marketers strive to stretch the value of each dollar as far as it will go, one often overlooked opportunity may just generate the types of results you’re after: sponsorship.

Sponsorship and Brand Awareness: The Stats
Even if you don’t necessarily see sponsorship of charities, non-profits, or other local organizations as a valuable addition to your marketing arsenal, it’s clear that somebody does. According to a study conducted by IEG Sponsorship Report, sponsorship was a $2 billion dollar enterprise in 2016 and is expected to increase by roughly 3.7 percent over the course of the next year.

A report generated by the Edelman Trust Barometer indicated that sponsorship even goes far beyond marketing impact. Eighty percent of consumers around the world agreed that a business has a duty to play a very key role in addressing modern issues.

It even plays an important role in your own company culture. Fifty-one percent of employees surveyed said that they didn’t want to work for a company that didn’t have strong societal and environmental commitments, and almost seventy-five percent said that they liked their jobs more when they were given the type of opportunity to make a positive impact that sponsorship affords.

Sponsorship Best Practices
If you do decide to go ahead with sponsorship as a new brand and marketing opportunity, there are a few key things you’ll want to keep in mind. For starters, do your research carefully. Always make sure that you’re aligning with an organization that meshes with your existing culture and values. Do as much deep digging as you possibly can, as sponsorship creates something of a symbiotic relationship between two entities. A scandal at one will more than likely affect the other, so you’ll want to make sure that there are no skeletons hiding in the closet before you start spending your money.

You’ll also want to make an effort to isolate the impact of your sponsorship from the rest of your marketing activities, as only then will you be able to fully understand just what role it is playing in your larger campaign. MarketStrategies.com says that only half of marketers actually do this, which is a mistake. Though you’re doing something for a good cause first and recognition second, it still needs to be measured for maximum effectiveness – the same as anything else.

These are just a few reasons sponsorship is such a valuable branding and marketing opportunity, particularly for companies operating in the small and medium-sized business space. Not only does it give you a chance to raise awareness in a powerful way, but it also allows for something even more important – you get to give back to the community that you are an active part of.

Content Marketing Best Practices to Double Down on in 2017

 

contentMarketing 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.