Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Legalized Marijuana and Your Business

Two states have legalized the recreational use of marijuana and other states may follow suit. A number of other states permit the use of pot for medical purposes. Is it time to review your employee manual to account for this drug?

On-the-job versus off-the-job use

You may have heard of the Washington man who was first in line to purchase marijuana the day it became legal in that state. (The employer had seen him in the local media and was unaware that he had taken the day off.) When the test showed him to be positive for pot use, he was fired. He was later reinstated when it was clear that he was not on the job the day he used the drug.
This is only the first instance of any repercussions for legal marijuana use as it relates to the workplace. It won’t be long before there are terminations that come before the Department of Labor for review.

What to do

If you are in a state that has legalized marijuana, it may be worthwhile to review your company’s employee manual and set guidelines with respect to marijuana use. You can restrict use for safety reasons, but you can’t put a blanket ban on it if marijuana is legal in your state. You may not need to make any changes if you have a substance abuse policy that is broad enough to cover marijuana’s new legal status.

If you don’t have a policy in place that is suitable, consider rules that parallel those for alcohol use in the workplace. For example, there should be an explicit ban on driving for company business—or driving a company-owned vehicle for any reason—while under the influence. Be sure to check with your attorney before putting anything in writing.

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Why You Should Start Your Christmas Campaign Right Now (Really)



Every year the Christmas decorations seem to sneak into stores a couple of weeks earlier. A decade ago, people grumbled when the decorations came out in early November. No joke, this year I saw a Christmas display at my local grocery store in early August. But while people may claim they aren’t thinking about Christmas yet, the truth is retailers are only reacting to customer demand. And you’d better believe that demand is already there online, too.

People are making their holiday purchase decisions well before the holidays. If you haven’t started your Christmas campaign yet, then you need to get on it right now. You could be missing out on tons of revenue, in part because the competition is a lot lighter in the months before the holidays than it will be in November and December.

Here are five compelling reasons why your company should start Christmas campaigns early.

  1. Because Sales Start Sooner Than You Think
The key to online marketing is to reach people before they make decisions about purchases, not when they’re about to start buying. And people start their sales early. According to one study, they begin making holiday purchases right after Halloween. So it follows that if you don’t begin your Christmas marketing campaign until right after Halloween, you’re losing out on a lot of potential purchases.
Instead, work backward. You know that people will be shopping during the first week of November, so you want to reach them at least a month before then. Don’t assume that everyone buys at the last minute. Some people ‘pride themselves’  on being done by the end of summer. And more than a third of holiday shoppers say they ‘start before November. That’s a significant chunk to lose out on if you are starting your campaign late.

  1. Because Your Company Will Stand Out
For the past two years, the British department store Selfridges has opened its brick-and-mortar Christmas store in August. The smart marketers behind this plan have turned the early opening into an event. It receives loads of media attention in the U.K. and across the world, despite this year opening some 142 days before Santa Claus is due to slide down the chimney.

Because the campaign is so unique, Selfridges really stands out. Think about it. If you get an e-mail pitch with candy cane imagery in August or September, it’s a lot more likely to capture your attention than one with similar pictures in November or December, when everyone’s into candy canes. By getting an early jump on advertising, you ensure your campaign will get special attention.

  1. Because You Have Time to Tweak It
When you start your campaign in August, you will have plenty of time to gauge whether the campaign is working before you get to the frazzled November and December months. At that point, it’s way too late to make changes to your campaign. In fact, you won’t really know whether it’s working until a few weeks before Christmas.

But by starting your campaign early, you are building in a cushion that will allow you to make changes as needed. Not getting enough opens on your emails? Mix up the messaging. Getting too few likes, shares or retweets on social media? Highlight some different products. Flexibility is the key to any really good marketing campaign, and starting early gives you a chance to take advantage of that flexibility often.

  1. Because You Will Be in a Time Crunch Later
Let’s face it, November and December are busy months. From a practical standpoint, whether you own a small business or work for a Fortune 500 company, you are going to be swamped at the end of the year. You don’t want to be making decisions about a holiday campaign while you are supposed to be doing 10,000 other things, not to mention your own personal shopping.
Here are ways that doing an early campaign helps you save time later:
  • You will have already set up all the logistics for the campaign.
  • You plan out sales dates and merchandise well in advance.
  • You can avoid deliverability problems that often strike in November and December.
  • You can survey potential buyers to find out what they will be looking for well ahead of time and have those things ready to go.
  • You can troubleshoot your ads well before the Christmas rush.

  1. Because You Get Better Pricing
Know what’s in high demand in November and December? Online ad inventory. Know what that means? Higher prices. When people are competing for ads, it drives up pricing. When lots of people are clicking on your ads, it eats up your ad budget more quickly. For instance, an ad that may have gotten 50 clicks in a day in September will get 500 in December. If you only have $X dedicated to the campaign, you may spend your allotted budget in one day instead of seven.

That’s why it’s smart to start early. Inventory will be cheaper and you will probably get a better conversion rate. People will only click on your ads if they’re really interested, rather than clicking on everything in sight as they desperately try to finish their shopping. That means more real leads at a lower price, which is the goal of every campaign.

The Bottom Line
You don’t need to wait until it’s cold and snowy outside to launch your Christmas campaign. With creative ideas, you can save time and money on your holiday outreach, not to mention gaining lots of dollars from making those early sales.

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Monday, September 29, 2014

How To Get Your Clients To Pay Faster

Nothing is more frustrating to a small business owner than extending credit terms of net 30…and receiving payment 60, 90 or even 120 days later. As you wait for the slow pokes to pay, your firm’s cash flow dwindles to a trickle, and you begin to worry about paying your own bills or meeting payroll.
Is your small business struggling to get customers to pay bills on time? If so, you’re not alone. A report in the Wall Street Journal indicates that as of late 2012, 64% of businesses experienced problems with late-paying customers. Late-paying firms included some big names, who tended to follow their own corporate policies on when to pay bills rather than adhere to the payment terms requested by their small business partners.

Other than sending reminders and past due notices, is there another way to coax clients and customers into paying on time? One firm, Xero, an accounting software provider, discovered something interesting when it surveyed 1,500 small business owners. They found that by sending out invoices as rapidly as possible, their clients greatly shortened the time it took them to get paid, regardless of the credit terms extended to a small business firm’s clients.
See our choice for best invoicing software here.

The chart below provides intriguing findings from their survey:

Screen Shot 2014-08-08 at 10.36.29 AM

While extending longer net payment terms to your customers may seem to be a good idea to attract additional business, late payments may offer more headaches than help to small businesses looking to grow their customer base.

Key Take-Aways
  • Send invoices out quickly. It’s easy to put off invoicing clients when your business is busy, but your cash flow may suffer if bills are delayed. Set aside regular time each month to issue invoices promptly to your customers.
  • Also set aside time each month to follow up on unpaid invoices. Delays sending out reminders add up to longer delays to receive payment.
  • When establishing payment terms for your small business, stick to shorter suggested terms rather than offer lengthy terms. Xero states that Net 30 is the suggested maximum amount of time to extend.
  • Use professional accounting software to generate invoices and track payments. Well-designed invoices tend to be paid more quickly than casual written notes.
  • Many business accounting programs such as QuickBooks provide detailed reporting features that enable you to run reports on Accounts Receivables by date and client. This makes it easy to follow up on unpaid invoices each month and to note any particular clients who seem to always delay payment.
  • If you are a service-based business, you may want to experiment with asking for a deposit at the start of a project and invoicing once significant project milestones are achieved. This drips cash back into your company as each invoice is paid rather than waiting for a lump sum at the completion of the project.
  • Don’t hesitate to follow up professionally and politely on unpaid invoices. If you’re provided good service, completed all project deliverables, and successfully completed a project, then you deserve to be paid on time.

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10 Elements of An Effective Print Ad

No matter what people say about print publications, people still purchase and read them on a frequent basis. Reaching print readers to generate response takes effective advertising strategies. Below are 10 elements of an effective print ad.

1. The product or service. The ad should attract people to product or service. It should provide a solution to a persona problems and attract prospects at the bottom funnel of the sales cycle that are ready to act.

2. Strategic targeting. Ads need to engage with target personas. The more you know about the personas the better you can position your marketing message to reach and engage with these audiences.

3. Provide a strong offer or an ethical bribe and making it irresistible to the prospect.

4. Creating a strong Headline that implies the offer

5. Develop support for the offer through proof elements such as facts, research, stats, testimonials, gurantees, etc.

6. Position value of purchase to outweigh price

7. Include strong visual elements and pictures that illustrate the message of the headline.

8. Creating a strong "CTA" or Call To Action such as a gift, reward, benefit, etc. abd feature urgency or time stamp sucha as limited quantity, seating, etc.

9. Include a tracking mechanism to manage leads such as a coupon, dedicated phone number, landing page, etc.

10. Develop a simple clean ad layout that illustrates the sequence of the elements of the offer.

Although newspaper subscriptions have noticed a decrease in the last few years, newspaper ads still reach and attract affluent audiences in local communities and is still a powerful strategy for advertisers to reach their local audiences.

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Sunday, September 28, 2014

6 Marketing Metrics Your Boss Actually Cares About


Are you preparing to present a marketing presentation to the C-level executives? If so, forget about click-per-post and similar metrics because that will just not cut it with the management board. CEOs and CFOs are more interested in how marketing is helping the business make more money. In addition, they want to know if the money injected in marketing is worth it.

To get CEOs and CFOs to support the marketing department, give them the metrics that matter. Below are the metrics you should present to the executives:


i) Customer Acquisition Cost (CAC)
This is the amount the company spends to get a new client. To calculate the CAC, compute the amount of money used for sales and marketing within a specific period and the number of new customers acquired over the period. The CAC is the total amount spent divided by the number of customers acquired. The CAC measures and determines if the amount spent on acquiring new customers is justifiable.


ii) Marketing % of Customer Acquisition Cost
This is the amount of marketing expenditure expressed as a percentage of the total sales and marketing spend used to calculate the CAC. This metric includes any expenses, salaries, commissions and overheads of the marketing department. This metric is an indication of the performance of marketing.

iii) Ratio of Customer Lifetime Value to CAC (LTV: CAC)
This is a comparison of the total value of a customer against the amount used to acquire him. The Lifetime Value (LTV) is calculated by considering the amount the customer pays over a period minus the gross margin divided by the estimated churn percentage for the customer. The higher the ratio, the better.

iv) Time to Payback CAC
This is the time it takes for a new customer to pay back the amount used to acquire him. The shorter the period, the better. Once the CAC has been repaid, the company starts reaping profits from the customer. Generally, you should strive to recoup the money spent on acquiring a new customer as soon as possible so that subsequent revenues go to profits.

v) Marketing Originated Customer %
This is the number of customers acquired over a certain period as a result of your marketing efforts. The metric is represented as a percentage of the total number of customers acquired. In any given period, a number of customers will be acquired. This metric seeks to find out how many of the customers were acquired from the company’s marketing efforts.

vi) Marketing Influenced Customer %
This is the percentage of new customers that interacted with marketing at any point in the buying cycle. The metric is used to measure the influence of marketing across the entire buying process.
The above are the marketing metrics that matter to the C-suite. These are the numbers they are interested in and that influence their decisions. The above metrics are not just for presentation. They can actually point out where your marketing strategy is not as effective as it should be, and hence you can take correct measures in time.

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Saturday, September 27, 2014

Five Ways to Turn Facebook Fans into Paying Customers

You have been cultivating quite the Facebook fan base, making sure that your reach is large and followers are consistently interacting with your original content. Your business has daily content being published, so why aren't your Facebook followers turning into paying customers yet?
There are a couple tricks to Facebook fans and turning them into paying customers, most of which are easy to do and replicate week to week. In fact, most of these strategies you could implement right now and see an uptick in fans switching to loyal, paying customers. Here are the five biggest ones that will help give you a sales boost.


  1. Always link back to your website. If your Facebook page and website are not connected, then you're not going to see the sales you want. Making sure your links on your page go back to your website is crucial and provides a bridge for Facebook fans to turn into paying customers. This means having links both on your profile and in your content.
  2. Create enticing Call To Action buttons. On top of links, an eye-catching and enticing CTA button on your Facebook is going to draw in fans interested in your services. Buttons can be created easily and can link fans to a landing page where you gather up email addresses and other important data. Most CTAs offer free incentives such as ebooks, worksheets, or important research crucial to your customer's pain points.
  3. Set up automated workflows. Once you have gathered up enough emails, you can start branching out from Facebook and automate a workflow that will send out emails to prospective leads. They already have an interest in your business, so these types of emails can jump a few paces ahead in the sales funnel and instead provide offers on your services or an opportunity to talk about your potential customer's needs one-on-one.
  4. Know your analytics. Even Facebook heavily relies on analytics and it becomes very important to decide what type of content is working and how to multiply that formula for the best results. Every post you publish on Facebook is going to have data associated with it and you will want to keep an eye on that data to see what your Facebook fans are responding to the most. Higher quality content means better click-through rates and paying customers.
  5. Consistently test and experiment. Marketing on Facebook should be a constant test for your business, as some strategies will start to lose their momentum compared to others. This might be because of changes Facebook makes or the preferences of your Facebook fans. Either way, it is good to keep a close eye on your strategies and tweak them when needed.

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Friday, September 26, 2014

5 ways to use emotional appeal on your newspaper print ads

What makes a great newspaper ad? There are many factors: message, typeface, artwork, headline. What you really need are good newspaper advertising ideas so your message and your business will jump off the page.

No advertising strategy is foolproof, and every effective ad campaign should be tested. However, you don’t have to work on Madison Avenue to come up with a winning idea for a newspaper ad. Here are five things to consider when brainstorming your newspaper advertising ideas:

  1. Appeal to greed – Greed is a universal human motivator and is one of the most effective advertising messages. Offer something for nothing – a free trial, or a free sample, or something value. If you can’t offer something for free, offer it for less or for a limited time. The reason sales always work is because people love a bargain; offer deal and create some urgency by making a limited time offer. If you can find a way to appeal to greed your ad will generate a response.
  2. Promote through fear – Fear also is one of the strongest advertising motivators. Demonstrate that failure to buy or act will have dire consequences. What happens if you don’t buy life insurance? What is the risk of driving on bald tires? If you don’t get an annual dental exam you risk a root canal or gingivitis. You get the idea. And be sure to back up the argument with facts and figures.
  3. Appeal through compassion – Many corporations use compassion as a tool to build empathy with consumers, and to promote sales. Demonstrating ways that you and your target audience can help others is a great way to gain attention. Sponsor a non-profit event. Create a special sale where part of the proceeds goes to charity. Find a way to appeal to consumers so that it both builds positive brand awareness and sales. When using this strategy, consider what kind of compassionate link you need to forge with prospective customers? Does it make more sense to create an ad that addresses world hunger, or will get more attention by supporting a local Little League team? If you can appeal to your target market with compassion, they will remember your, and they will be more likely to buy from you.
  4. Sell with humor – The big advertising agencies get the big money by coming up with clever and funny ad concepts. If you are going to try to sell with humor, beware; this is a slippery slope. First, make sure whatever humorous concept you come up with speaks to your brand and brand value, e.g. don’t use chicken jokes to sell plumbing services. Second, make sure your ad is really humorous. Test it with friends and family. Third, make sure it’s in good taste. Fourth, consider whether the ad has lasting humorous appeal. Some humorous ads remain clever over time while others get stale very quickly. If you can find the right humorous combination, your ad will not only be funny but memorable and maybe even go viral.
  5. Appeal to your tribe – Find the common denominator with your target market and appeal to them as members of the same exclusive club. Whether it’s community pride, or sharing a love for an exclusive product, or an insider’s knowledge that others don’t have, make your audience feel special and included.

These are just some of the emotional appeals that should be considered as you develop your newspaper advertising ideas. Understand what motivates your customers and you can appeal to them with a message that will prompt the right call to action.

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