My How Times Have Changed.. Or Have They Really – The Rebirth Of Small Businesses

Small town shippingSomething interesting has been happening over the past 10 years and it is reminiscent of the “good old days”…  The 80s, 90s, and early 2000s saw a shift from family owned small businesses and restaurants to big box retailers, chain restaurants, and malls across America. There was also the likes of Walmart moving into small towns and becoming the center of commerce, putting family owned general stores that stood for decades out of business almost overnight. Then there was Sears, a pioneer in catalog sales, shifting away from their core of catalogs and into malls. Those decades were profit years for these giants of industry as they dominated the consumer market. But then in the mid-2000s, something happened: huge revenue gains turned to single-digit growth, or worse—flat revenue.

Now in the world of small business, slight growth to even flat revenue numbers isn’t a bad thing; typically, that means the bills are still being paid, employees are receiving paychecks, and owners are still getting money in their back pockets. However, these giants of industry are public organizations with shareholders demanding for ever-increasing profits, not single-digit growth or flat revenue projections. So, what did they do? The only thing they really knew how to do at the time: they began to cut cost. At first, these cost cutting tactics were barely even noticeable to your everyday consumer; typically, it meant a few less employees on the store floor, slightly reduced inventory, and maintenance items that were overlooked… But these tactics were not enough and revenues continued to flatten out, and for some, even drop a bit. So the cycle continued. Management continued cost cutting metrics to protect profits. This led to even less employees on the store floor, even less inventory, and maintenance items that continued to take a hit. Overtime, consumers started to notice these changes… Stores that once had just about anything they ever needed ended up not having their sizes anymore, help was becoming a little more difficult to find, checkout lines were growing longer, and stores started to look dated and in disrepair. Sears is almost a classic case detailed in this great article. Sure, if there had been no competition for consumer dollars, these industry giants could have possibly held on to consumers a bit longer, but there was more competition.

Enter ecommerce and Amazon… While big box retail was focused on cutting cost; smaller dot.com businesses were focusing on customer needs. Consumers were beginning to find that instead of dealing with long lines, increasingly clueless employees, and struggling to find exactly what they were looking for, they could now find exactly what they need and have it shipped to their front door in days, all from the comfort of their own homes. We also saw the rebirth of locally owned boutique shops that boasted quality and customized products with great customer service and experiences.

Restaurants were no different. When the major chains moved into new locations, they offered great food, settings, and bargain prices. Just like the boom of retail, consumers flocked to these new eateries. Business was booming and thousands of chain restaurants were popping up in clusters across the country almost overnight. What these chain restaurants didn’t realize at the time, is that this rapid opening of locations was the very thing that was going to kill them… Certain geographic regions typically only have so much disposable revenue that goes into the economy. However, at the time, that did not factor into these organizations’ business plans. Essentially, where competition was making revenue, others would follow suit. Shortly in each geographic hotspot, instead of having one or two major restaurants, there was an explosion of chains fighting for the same consumer dollar. It didn’t take long for this heavy competition to take its toll on these chains, and revenues began to slow or flatten out. Similar to big box retail, these major chains had shareholders to keep happy… As a result, this led to cost cutting metrics similar to what was happening to retail. Establishments had reduced staff, food quality took a hit, and certain locations started to look dated and in disrepair and consumers started to notice… Again, similar to retail, had there been no competition, these chain restaurants might have held on a little longer—but there was. Just as major chains were struggling, locally owned craft restaurants began to pop up. These craft restaurants offered tailored menus to the community, high quality food, and drinks with an atmosphere to match. Slowly but surely, consumers began finding these new craft eateries and abandoning once-popular chains.

Fast-forward to today’s market… Big box retailers and chain restaurants are failing left and right. Sears, JC Penny, Macy’s, Staples and others are closing hundreds of locations monthly, and restaurants like Applebee’s, Chili’s, Outback, and Bertucci’s are struggling to stay open. The likes of Walmart that once took over small towns shuttering locally owned general stores, are shutting down themselves. Once-flooded malls are closing their doors or struggling to stay open as attendance continues to wane… All of these changes are giving rebirth to the locally owned small businesses across the country. Once-struggling cities and towns are now being built as hubs around these locally owned boutique shops and craft restaurants. Consumers have grown tired of cost cutting metrics that lead to lower quality products and experiences that big box retailers and chain restaurants continue to offer. What we’re beginning to see is almost reminiscent of times before big box retail and chain restaurants took over the country! Now, let’s be real for a minute. The concept is not lost on us that major retailers and big box stores will always be around. Organizations such as Home Depot, Lowe’s, and Best Buy have seen some real turnarounds as of late. However, a focus on cost cutting and the lack of innovation within these industries are going to continue to take a toll in the long run. Only when these once-giants of industry focus on true innovation and focus more on the customer, will they overcome the huge challenge that lies ahead of them.

One last thought: in a way, we can point back to times being similar to the early 1900s. In the early 1900s, Sears launched their Catalog, and at the time, it was a true game-changer for retail.  If you’ve never looked at one, take a look (1918 Catalog) at the similarities to the Amazon of today; they had essentially anything you could imagine and delivered directly to your front door. Sears was extremely innovative for its time! Then in 1993, they closed the doors to the catalog due to rising cost, and they never looked back. Interesting to think that in July of 1994, Amazon was created; they became an online catalog of virtually anything you could want, delivered right to your door. If only all the manpower and knowledge of Sears’s executive team had focused on ways to innovate vs. cut cost, their history could have been written very differently…. While things may change, in a way they still stay the same… The Sears catalog and Amazon are essentially the same business model 100 years apart.

Take A Sales Loss Gracefully

Take a loss with graceYou’ve worked tirelessly for weeks or months on end regarding an opportunity—an opportunity that could make or break your bookings number for the month, quarter, or year. Then, when everything is all said and done, they decide to hold off, or worse, to go with another vendor. Unfortunately, if you are in anyway connected to sales, it is something you’ll hear all too often. Even when you put your best foot forward and execute the proposal absolutely flawlessly, there are going to be times when you get a no, no matter the situation.  However, all is not lost… how you react during this time will have direct ramifications for future business down the road.

When it comes to a deciding factor for whether someone moves forward with you or not, we find that there are many elements that play into the decision, and it may be impossible to understand the true meaning behind a decision. With that said, all too often when one has invested so much time and effort into an opportunity, they take things personally.  As a result, they tend to lash out towards the prospect for taking up so much time and for being the bearer of bad news. We’ve witnessed anything from the simple and sarcastic good-luck-with-that-statement to things that we wished to never witness again. Small Businesses seem to take the noes the hardest. And unlike larger enterprises, small businesses tend to have more on the line when opportunities decide not to move forward.

Whatever the reason, when you get the bad news from a prospect, take the loss gracefully. Not only does it show that you have some class, but there is a strong potential that the same prospect will come back in the future. Again, when a prospect comes to a decision, we may never know why. However, when they have a good experience with you, regardless of the outcome, they may end up coming back. More times than none, we find prospects who have told us no, overtime, end up doing business with us. The reasons range from various causes like their selected firm for the project dropping the ball, them changing their minds, or a new project surfacing that they feel is a better fit. Again, it’s not always a guarantee a prospect will come back, but leaving a negative will guarantee they never will!

Ensure that you take every loss with grace, and you’ll be surprised how many come back..

 

Dine Brands / IHOP Announces Name Change to IHOb

Dine Brands / IHOP recently announced that they will be changing their name to IHOb, and we have two theories for this recent announcement. The first being that this could all be a marketing gimmick that will be followed by a change in their menu or business model which, depending on the change, might be beneficial to the brand. The other could be more serious—where they are actually moving forward with the name change. IHOP, owned by Dine Brands which also owns Applebee’s, has been relatively flat from a revenue perspective over the past years…. Recently, Dine Brands attempted a bold marketing strategy with Millennials, and ended up failing greatly due to their misunderstanding of the age group. The name change could be a very similar attempt by Dine to break from the struggling numbers they have been seeing over the past few years to satisfy investors.

Unfortunately, if Dine moves forward with a permanent name change of IHOP to IHOb, we believe it will be a truly wasted effort on their part. Anyone that has been to either establishment owned by Dine lately has noticed a drop in overall quality of the restaurants—a direct result of focusing more on cost cutting metrics instead of finding ways to truly be innovative to increase revenue.  Regardless of what you call IHOP, at the end of the day, they are still going to have an overall brand perception issue with the general public, and they will continue to see flat or declining numbers in the upcoming years. For their sake, let’s hope it is just a marketing gimmick. Again, this all sums up another educational lesson at someone else’s expense: to not rely on gimmicks, such as name changes, without a true fundamental change to the business model. A name change is just that—a name change—and it doesn’t fix a true underlying issue.

The Importance of Testing in Marketing Campaigns

Testing Marketing CampaignsThe challenge with marketing in small business, is that you just do not have enough budget and resources to market like the big guys. This can create a challenge when coming up with new marketing campaigns and ensuring those campaigns are yielding the best possible results… Typically in larger organizations, they have budget and resources to develop messaging for campaigns. However, even with their large budgets, market surveys, research, and other methods, the large corporations will have a better understanding of what messages will resonate the most, but at best, they are just more of an educated guess. The only real true way to understand what messaging will yield the best results is to test, then test again, and once completed, do more testing. Testing is the only true way to understand what messaging will produce the best results, and in this article we’ll cover some of the basics for testing messaging and campaign effectiveness.

Analytics Tools – Before anything, you need to get yourself familiar with analytics tools available to your business. Some tools may be free and others will be fee-based. In this article, we’ll focus on the tools available at no cost, because even at their basic levels, free can add significant insight to your campaign effectiveness. Another reason for focusing on these tools is that we find most organizations we speak with are not aware of the analytics built in to the tools they use today.

Here are a few, for example:

E-Mail Software – Most e-mail software will have built-in analytics for tracking open, click, and unsubscribe rates along with other useful metrics.

Social Media ­- Some social platforms have analytics built in to monitor interaction levels. However, even at its most basic level, the easiest way to track social media is to keep track of follower levels from a month-to-month or week-to-week standpoint.

Google Analytics – Google analytics is an extremely powerful free website analytics tool and fairly easy to use and install. Google analytics will give visibility into items, such as which channels are driving website traffic, page click rates, time on page, traffic pattern, and more. Quite simply, Google analytics is one of the most powerful free tools available today.

CRM / Order Entry Systems – Although the most difficult to track, as you are relying on human data entry, these systems still can be effective. A simple question during the sales process like asking how someone found out about your business can yield some interesting results.

Once you have the tools and basic understanding of how they work, it is time to start testing and tracking. Here are a few simple tactics that can be implemented today to start testing campaigns and measuring effectiveness.

Splitting the List – Overtime, your company has hopefully developed a list of newsletter or e-mail recipients—this is a great base of your ideal community. An easy way to test campaign effectiveness is to break the list into equal and random buckets of two, three, or even four different segments. Once these segments are created, the goal would be to try different messaging across the list. The key is to try different structures in your subject lines, content, and content presentation. Tracking how each list performs every month across open, click, and unsubscribe rate will uncover what messaging yields the best results. Each month should be used as an opportunity to implement the changes from what was learned in the prior months and continuing to test new messaging across the different segments. Overtime, you should start to see an increase in overall interaction in your e-mail campaigns.

Social Messaging – Unfortunately without paid tools, Social Media is a little more difficult to track. However, all is not lost as there are still tactics that can be implemented to ensure you are moving in the right direction. Some social platforms, such as LinkedIn, can show interactions of individual posts which can be helpful, but also time-consuming, to track depending on how often posts are made. Instead, we recommend tracking social media on a week to week (or month to month) basis focusing on follower levels and Google Analytics traffic. Tracking follower levels is a great way to see if your messaging is attracting new followers. And by testing messaging and frequency, you should be able see a trend in follower growth. Also, Google analytics is another tool that could be used for this purpose since it can track how much traffic is being sent to your site via each social media platform.

Website Design – Quite possibly the most overlooked aspect of any marketing asset a small business has, is their website. Most tend to look at their website to showcase their products and services, which is a good start. However, we find that after launch, most small businesses leave their website as is and almost never update it or work to make improvements. This day and age, websites are becoming one of the most powerful assets a business can have and could be a full article all on its own. However, for the purpose of this article, we want to focus on the effectiveness of a website from a lead generation perspective. A proper website should not only be a showcase of products and services, but should also be an asset that generates leads (interested buyers) for the business.  Unfortunately, the most traditional ways businesses set up their websites is a simple “Contact Us” page and phone number. While “Contact Us” and phone numbers can generate leads for the business, there are other “calls to action” that can be built into the website to generate additional leads. Calls to action can be tricky, as it is difficult to understand what will compel someone to reach out to the business. Only through tracking lead flow from each call to action and testing messaging, location, and pages will you be able to understand what works best. HubSpot has a few great examples you can view here: https://blog.hubspot.com/marketing/call-to-action-examples

Advertising – Small businesses tend to spend a small fortune on all types of advertising and it never ceases to amaze us when we see the exact same ads used time and time again. Depending on how much your business spends on advertising, this could be the single biggest mistake your business is making, period… Why? Much like the theme of this article, how do you know if your ad is actually yielding the best results? Truth is, you don’t! Sure, that ad that has been running the past six years is generating some leads and business, but what if you could double, triple, or quadruple the effectiveness of those campaigns with the same amount of advertising spend you are putting into those ads today? The simple answer is to test different messaging across your campaigns and see what gets the most phone calls or visits to the website. The easiest way to test the effectiveness is to either create custom website landing pages or to track each campaign and see how many submissions you receive. Another way is to simply train your staff to ask how they found out about your business and to track within your order entry system or CRM.

Again, the biggest challenge in marketing, whether you are a small business or not, is that you never know what messaging will actually relate to your ideal consumer to produce the best results. Your business is already spending time and money for marketing, and by testing, you can ensure that time and money is being well spent. Testing is the only way to truly be sure that effort is being put in the right place.

 

 

Target Uses Local Retail Stores As Virtual Warehouses

Over the past few years, Target has become increasingly more innovative to compete against other local brick and mortar stores and Amazon alike… As an example, back in December, they announced a new mobile payments system called “Wallet” that allows customers to quickly pay for items via the mobile application, skipping lines and speeding up the checkout process. Yesterday, Target announced Restock, a nationwide next-day delivery service targeted directly at Amazon Prime Pantry—this is pretty interesting, but not innovative in itself (more of a copycat). What is innovative is that they are essentially using their local stores as a warehouse, and choosing to ship items directly from the store vs. a main warehouse… This method should allow for faster and more cost-effective shipping to consumers, along with taking advantage of millions of dollars of inventory sitting on retail store shelves. As consumers are increasingly shifting to online and more convenient shopping, this shift from Target will allow them to continue to maintain and open new local retail settings while not worrying as much about the impact of in-store food traffic that is causing major retailers such as Sears and JC Penney to close doors at an alarming rate.

This also poses an opportunity for small businesses to think about the way they conduct business as well. Many small businesses struggle with keeping warehouses and retail stores open, as they both typically come with high overhead cost. A strategy similar to what Target has launched, shifting ecommerce delivery from your traditional warehouses to retail shops, may be a more cost-effective path for small businesses that are struggling to keep warehouses open and costs down.

There’s A Problem, Stop What You Are Doing!

http://blog.toyota.co.uk/toyota-manufacturing-25-objects-andon-cordThere is a fundamental problem in businesses today that is absolutely crippling organizations of all shapes and sizes. What is that problem, you ask? It is simply the failure to address critical business problems in a timely and strategic fashion. Most either continue on as if the problem isn’t there, or as we call it “whistling past the graveyard”, or make snap decisions without truly understanding the issue at hand. Sure, it is an over-generalized statement, but it is not far off from the truth of what is happening daily in business. Just look at the retail and restaurant industries, for example. Businesses that have been around for decades, once pillars of industry, are crumbling around us daily. But why? They blame Amazon or millennials, but it ultimately comes down to the fact that these organizations are ignoring critical issues at hand and continuing with their own agendas with the belief they know what is best.

Organizations need to learn how to stop turning blind eyes to these fundamental business model problems while resisting the urge to make snap decisions. Instead, when a critical failure is identified, we suggest something that that is drastically different: stopping everything dead in its tracks. Stopping the process is not an entirely new concept as large manufacturers have emergency production line stops at every station. This allows anyone in the production line (not just management) that spots an issue to immediately stop the production line in its tracks. This then allows the manufacturer to properly analyze an issue and take critical actions preventing large amounts of products to be discarded due to defect, or worse, a defective product making its way to customers. It costs time and money to shut down large production lines, but some manufacturers recognize that quality products and happy customers are more important than the minimal amount of money lost to the down time.

In business, we need to have very similar approaches. Instead of ignoring issues or making snap decisions without analyzing the situation, allow anyone to bring up critical issues and “stop” the process if the situation permits. Then take the real needed time to truly understand the issue at hand and create a strategic approach to a solution. As an example, we look back to one organization we worked with that happened to have quarter over quarter growth, until they didn’t. Quarter over quarter success was met with declining numbers that were starting to add up to significant losses.  At this point in time where most organizations would have put increased pressure on the sales and marketing team to increase their numbers, we did the opposite. We stopped business completely for a few days to understand what the real root cause of the problem was, and we worked to identify solutions. It was found that just before the change in growth direction, this organization had made a number of key leadership new-hires that happened to make seemingly small changes within their teams—changes that had drastic downstream effects. The effect was so significant downstream that it was throwing off the rhythm of production and other organization items. Once we identified the issues at hand, it was easier to create a new strategy for success moving forward and leading to a faster increase of revenue and production once again. Stopping the business at that time was a difficult decision to make, and some disagreed with the decision. However, it allowed the organization to spot the issue and pivot quickly with a new strategy. Ultimately they could have struggled along, pushing harder on sales and marketing for more activity; this could have possibly increased sales slightly, but they would have never addressed the real issue and continued to struggle long-term,

When something is going wrong, think of your business like a manufacturing plant that is continuously churning out bad product. The longer it takes to address an issue, the longer your plant will continue to churn out bad product which will lead to disappointed customers and loss of business money. Stopping a business or a process in its tracks to make adjustments is a very difficult decision to make, but thinking of how much bad product a company is producing should help put into perspective on how stopping process is actually beneficial to the business. History has proven that making snap decisions or turning blind eyes to issues almost never works out—just look at what is happening to the retail and restaurant industries.

 

Bertucci’s Files For Bankruptcy

The restaurant industry has faced another blow with Bertucci’s filing for bankruptcy, citing changing climate along with cheaper and faster alternatives as the main reasons for the failing business. But is that really the case? We recently published on strategic innovation and the changing retail environments as organizations focus more on cost reduction vs innovation; this, unfortunately, is another case to add to the long list of failures. Bertucci’s has self-identified faster and less expensive competition as the primary drivers of revenue loss; however, their only noted attempt at remedying the situation was to add a 15-minute lunch option. Is that really innovation, or is it just adding a band aid to cover up the root issue? Both retail and the restaurant industries have been crying foul and claiming new competition and millennial behaviors as the primary drivers of revenue loss. 3SixtySMB believes that it really comes down to true lack of strategic innovation, cost-cutting, and mismanagement at an executive level as the true drivers of revenue loss for both of these industries… With all of this said, it presents a clear advantage for smaller and more nimble startup organizations to break into markets where, for once, giants are failing to serve consumers. However, it has become apparent that it cannot be business as usual, and once a core value proposition is defined, strategic innovation needs a top strategy in order to continuously move the business forward.

https://www.pymnts.com/news/retail/2018/bertuccis-brick-and-mortar-bankruptcy/

The Importance Of Strategic Innovation

Why are icons of yesteryear failing at alarming rates? Some say that it is the introduction of Amazon and Netflix, or Millennial’s becoming more predominant consumers; others say it’s old leadership or old business models. Sure, you can easily point to those as a cause for the decline, but is that really the reason? We believe that there is a fundamental underlying reason these organizations are failing: Strategic Innovations. We wrote not too long ago about how the retail organization has become so calculator driven, and cutting as much cost as possible while completely losing sight of innovation. Looking across some of the most successful organizations today such as, Amazon, Google, Apple, Tesla and others, what they all have in common is that they are all constantly innovating and pushing the ball forward.

Tony Robbins says it best in this great Podcast on strategic innovation: https://open.spotify.com/episode/71sqZXDJQF2C8Wjz7Ec2rN?si=nOCB3pHOS_C9vuKoxzKTWw

How To Develop A Social Media Marketing Strategy For Your Business

Social Media Marketing Strategy For Your BusinessFor as long as social media has been around, there are still many small and medium-sized businesses that have not fully embraced social media marketing. It was estimated in 2017 that 81 percent of the US population has a social media profile, and globally people spend more than 3.7 hours per day on social media. Furthermore, it was estimated in 2015 that Facebook influenced 52 percent of consumers, which was a 36 percent increase from 2014, and that was three years ago… Social media has become so influential for better or worse, and it now plays critical roles in presidential races across the world. It has shown no signs of slowing down and has continued to grow exponentially over the years. It has begun to absolutely dominate the way people perceive brands and make purchasing decisions. With all of this in mind, it is absolutely critical for businesses of all shapes and sizes to develop a social media marketing strategy. In this article, we’ll cover some of the key tactics to developing a social media marketing strategy—more of a Social Media Marketing 101.

Before we get into tactics, the first thing to emphasize is that social media success does not happen overnight. Too many times we run into business owners and executives that believe social media can be turned on like a light switch; this couldn’t be further from the truth. Although social media is a free marketing channel, it takes time and effort to develop a true impact… However, social media marketing does have a snow ball effect, as over time, the effectiveness of the efforts put into social media marketing will continue to grow and yield better results. In some cases, we’ve seen social media become the number one traffic generator for websites within a year’s time, however, overall success depends on effort and strategy.

Here are a few key tactics to ramping up your social media marketing strategy:

Channel Selection

The first step to developing a social marketing strategy is to identify what social media channels your business should participate in. Yes, there is a very big difference between social media channels depending on who your ideal buyer is. An organization that sells to consumers should be focused on channels such as, Facebook, Pintrest, Youtube, and Yelp, and organizations that focus on businesses focus more on LinkedIn, SlideShare, and YouTube. It comes down to understanding who your ideal buyer is, and what social media channels they actively use.

Profile Setup

Once you’ve identified the channels, it is time to set them up. This happens to be an area where we see most organizations make their first key mistake. Essentially, we find that most do enough to get by; this means they set up their accounts, add a profile picture, and maybe an address, but that’s about it. Since so many potential customers are on these social channels, it is best to think about your profile page as a digital billboard—or better yet—an extension of your website. With this in mind, it is important to share as much as possible about your business, products, and services. The end goal of any social media profile should be a virtual representation of your business.

Monitoring

Another key social media mistake businesses make is that once they setup their social media profiles, they walk away thinking their jobs are done. This couldn’t be further from the truth as prospects and customers will find your business’s profile and will interact with it; they’ll ask questions, look for additional information about your business and/or products, or post about their experiences with your business. This is a key opportunity to take advantage of the channels to directly interact with customers and prospects as they are researching for a possible purchasing decision. Indirect communication via social media is quickly becoming one of the most popular methods consumers are now using to learn more about businesses, products, or services before making a final decision.

Furthermore, what most businesses do not know is that regardless of whether an organization sets up their social profile or not, social media channels allow people to comment about these businesses. This means by not setting up and monitoring your social media presence, your business is missing out on possible customers wanting to learn more about your business and/or solutions—or worse—allowing them to complain about your business without a response. Quite honestly, you are missing out on business if you do not monitor these channels.

Sharing

Now that you’ve set up and started monitoring your social media profiles, the next item on the list is to start sharing content. Content can be anything from showcasing your products and/or services to providing opportunities that go beyond these things. We recommend sharing information about the industry, highlight. The key is to be social and educate customers and prospects while attempting to not be disingenuous. Almost all purchases today start with some type of online or social media search which means, if you are not educating your buyers, most likely someone else is (quite possibly, your competition).

Another key thing to understand is that social media posts have a very short shelf life; this means that from the minute you make a post, it becomes less relevant as others post their own content. For example, since there are so many people on twitter, the shelf life of a tweet is only minutes. With this in mind, it is important to post content several times a day. As a rule of thumb, we suggest posting at a minimum of once an hour in your respective social channels. We also recommend taking advantage of tools available (some for free) that make this task easier. We at 3SixtySMB use HootSuite.

Company Involvement

One social media marketing tactic that we’ve seen used to significantly enhance a strategy is to get the entire business involved. Social media is a numbers game, and there is only so much one person can do. As an example, one organization we worked with had a main corporate twitter profile with roughly 2,000 followers. However, due to the work we did with the rest of the organization, their CEO grew their own twitter profile to more than 14,000 followers. This led the organization, as a whole, to having more than 28,000 followers. This meant that as a company they had an exponentially higher follower count and reach that was far greater than the corporate profile alone.

This strategy required the person responsible for social media to create “lazy posts” and share them with the team daily. A lazy post was essentially a set of pre-canned social posts that the team could simply copy and paste into their own profiles. This guaranteed that, even at the basic level, the team was posting content. However, some took their social media profile to the next level and grew their follower base significantly by posting their own content as well.

Social Effectiveness

Once your organization has the basics down, it is important to find ways of improvement. This is done by measuring the effectiveness of all the social media effort by testing different tactics. There are some paid tools available, but even at the basic level, you can track follower and traffic levels month-over-month. Follower levels are easily captured from the channels themselves, and with Google Analytics, you can see what referral sources brought traffic to your site. Tracking both of these statistics month-over-month can give your team a fairly good indication of success from your social marketing. After a few months of developing a baseline for follower growth and website traffic, it is then important to try new tactics to improve the performance of your campaigns.

Again, in order for a social media marketing strategy to be effective, it’s important to remember it does not happen overnight. It takes a true commitment of time and effort in order to be successful. However, as mentioned earlier, when successfully deployed, we’ve seen it take as little as a year’s time for social media to become the #1 traffic generator for websites. Social media has become a marketing channel that just cannot be ignored; halfhearted approaches to this channel will not help your business be successful, and it must be approached with the same effort put into it as other more traditional marketing efforts.

Good luck, and we look forward to hearing about your tips and success stories regarding your social media experiences.

Sources:

https://www.statista.com/statistics/273476/percentage-of-us-population-with-a-social-network-profile/

https://www.dreamgrow.com/21-social-media-marketing-statistics

 

When Terminating An Employee Is Necessary

termination of an employeeFiring an employee is a difficult and sensitive subject for most. It is something to never be taken lightly as personal ramifications always go much further than we may know. With that said, it is a necessary evil in the business world; employees that are left to their own accords while not carrying their own weight can have significant negative impacts on the business. Unfortunately in today’s age, we see many employers holding on to employees much longer than they should, and their businesses suffer as a result. Now, if your business is doing well and/or you have no aspirations to aggressively grow your business, this article is not for you… However, if your business has been flat or struggling to grow over the past few years, it could be a result of a bad egg or two. In this article, we’ll cover common scenarios of when a business should consider terminating an employee.

Even the best employees can have slumps, family situations, or other situations that affect their work productivity. Before an employee is even considered for termination, there needs to be multiple attempts to work with the employee to help get them on track. Start with having a real one-on-one with the employee to understand their situation. To help make it personal, take the discussion out of the office and make it more informal (maybe over a cup of coffee, a walk, or just sitting outside). The goal is to help break down the formal barriers and truly attempt to understand the situation at hand… The hope is to uncover a root cause and help develop steps to help improve the employee’s ability to be successful.

Hopefully, understanding the employee’s situation and putting a plan in place will be exactly what is needed to get them back on track. However, if not, we suggest some type of performance plan that aligns goals to success. Everyone knows of these types of plans, but unfortunately, many get them wrong by making goals impossible to obtain. This is setting the employee up for failure, and worse, all of the other employees know this. This situation can really hurt organizational morale. Instead, goals should be fair and manageable, with a timetable to match. This gives the employee actual obtainable goals and an opportunity to turn themselves around. It is also a clear indicator that if they cannot turn themselves around in a situation set up to give them every opportunity to be successful, it’s time to let them go.

Here are some cases that may cause you to consider the possible termination of an employee:

Poor Performance

This happens to be the most obvious of reasons to let someone go, however, it is not as cut and dry as you think. Like mentioned earlier, before it comes to termination, first you need to truly assess the situation to understand what is causing the poor performance. At times, one may discover that the employee is not the root cause of the problem and that there are outside factors that need to be addressed. However, if it is uncovered that the employee is the root cause and they show no improvement, it’s time to begin the transitioning process.

Negative Nancies

Negativity breeds negativity—there is no way around it. In every organization, there is always at least one aggressively negative person that is not only negative about their situations, but directly imposes their negativity on others. We’re not talking about the person that tends to get frustrated from time to time, but the person that is negative toward just about everything and not afraid to speak their mind (all the time). Again, it’s important to explore any underlying issues that can be causing such negativity in the employee and find ways to fix. However, we find that in most situations these people are just programmed that way, and unfortunately, nothing can be done to improve the situation at hand—they just do more harm than good.

Ivory Tower Employee

These are some of the hardest of all situations. We all have that one former all-star employee that had their glory years many years ago, however, progressively over time, their performance continues a downward spiral. But it doesn’t stop there. Because of their prior success, they find most tasks beneath them or treat coworkers as peasants that should kiss the ring in order to get them to do their jobs. This is always a difficult situation as they have street credit from their prior successes and may have been a model employee at one point in time, but at the end of the day, there is a lot to be said about humbleness. If their performance is subpar and they refuse to work in a professional manner with co-workers, it’s time to move on.

Busy Body

There is always that one person that is so “busy” that they never have time to take on new work, and they struggle to complete the work that has already been assigned. Much like in the case of poor performing employees, there needs to be an assessment of what exactly is causing the issue. Are they truly overworked? Is there an outside factor causing things to be backed up? Is there a broken process somewhere? There is a case where the issue of workload (aka busyness) can be fixed. However, if the employee is the root cause, it’s time to transition them out.

The Example

Boy, is this is a tough one. In some cases, you may have an entire team underperforming, but it would be impossible to terminate an entire team. In this case, it may make sense to find the worst of the bunch to terminate as an example to the rest of the team of what fate lies ahead should their performance not change. This one is a tough one, as it may not always have the desired effect. However, some action is better than no action when an entire team is making mistakes.

The Fumbler

There are some people out there that have a great heart and mean well, but no matter how many times they try, they always tend to royally screw things up. This is another hard situation, as they really may be a great person. If their fumbles are having significant negative impacts on the business, it’s time to either find a role where they will have a smaller impact on the business, or remove them completely

A few additional tips:

Never terminate an employee out of anger. Let’s face it, we spend more time with our employees than our own families and closest friends; you are not always going to agree. At times, an employee can anger you to a point where you want to terminate them on the spot. Instead, take a breath and remove yourself from the equation and have another manager or executive step in to review the situation. There may be a time where emotions get the best of you, and after a cool down period, you’ll be happy that the employee is still with you.

Once an employee is identified as “questionable”, begin documenting everything. One of the key reasons why employers are holding on to employees longer than they should these days, is the fear of litigation. What is worse, is we are finding terminated employees (rightfully or not) are more often seeking litigation for termination. The best thing for yourself and the business is to ensure you have everything you need to back up the decision.

Whether you terminate an employee or they leave on their own, once they leave, there is a gap left in their wake. Recruiting is hard at times, and it can take weeks or months to fill an open position. This can have significant impacts on the business. We recommend to be “always recruiting”. This means always talking to possible candidates for the business. This allows both you and the candidate to get to know each other longer, helping both parties feel more comfortable when it comes to bringing them on to the business. This strategy can significantly reduce the downtime when you find yourself in need of filling a position.

We may sound harsh with what we shared in this article, however when it comes to your business, these hard decisions need to be made in order to be successful. Now, we always look at termination as being the last resort in the employee journey. We are strongly suggesting that employees are given every fair opportunity to turn their situations around, but some just can’t. Good luck, and we look forward to hearing your thoughts.