• Tool of the Week

  • Looking for the Secret to Greater Profitability? You Already Have It

    Tap this important resource that's right in front of you.
    CREDIT: Getty Images
    We've all heard the phrase "time is money," but these days it seems like "data is money" might be more appropriate. According to The Harvard Business Review, high-performing companies that employ data-driven decision making are 5% more productive and 6% more profitable than their competitors. Cha-ching! But data is more than just a money-maker. Today's consumers have high expectations--and a whopping 72% expect companies to understand their needs and expectations. Good news: That same money-makin' data can help you build stronger relationships with customers, too.
    Let's get down to the nitty-gritty. With growth on their minds and limited resources on hand, how do small businesses keep up in a data-driven market? Luckily, the task is not as daunting as it seems. You're probably already collecting a huge amount of data, whether it's orders in your POS system, inventory levels from your ecommerce shop, or traffic from the company website. Now, you just need to transform that data into intelligence--and voilà! You can see your existing data in entirely new ways. Here's an action plan to help you get more out of your data:
    1. Set goals that match your business objectives: Before digging into your data, define what's most important to your business. Perhaps it's growth, a new product launch, building a strong team, or surpassing a competitor. Once you nail that, you can recognize which data sources and metrics are key to isolate from all the noise out there. Spend time thinking about your company--what's your bottom line, what's influencing behaviors--and hone in on what information could help you make better decisions.
    2. Use the right tools: The decisions you make from data are only as good as the data itself. Bad data comes in many forms--duplicates, missing or inaccurate info, outdated sources--and can cost small businesses up to $100 per record. It's likely you'll have data coming from multiple sources and programs, which can make analysis costly. So invest in tools and technology that will help you focus on quality collection, aggregation, and analysis. Consolidating all your data into a system like a customer relationship management (CRM) platform will provide a single source of truth across all your lines of business. Services come and go, but your valuable company and customer data should remain with you until the end.
    3. Expand access: Once you consolidate and organize your data into a central view, make it actionable by sharing it with the broader team. Business growth is inhibited when departments operate in silos; when everyone has the same view of the business, you can truly start making data-driven decisions and keep everyone moving in the same direction. When you share data, like customer information, with the broader team, you communicate and coordinate with less friction and operate like a well-oiled machine. Your small business will run a lot smoother when your team is in sync.
    4. Make it a habit: When you need to make decisions, start asking, "what does the data tell us?" Create a culture where data becomes part of the discussion and decisions. The best way to start applying data analysis is to use your intuition to guide the process, then use data to tell you whether your gut is true or false. And that's where the power of data comes in: in the past people relied on their knowledge and experiences to make a decision, but now we the ability to say for sure what is working or not.
    5. Stay nimble: Small businesses have the advantage of agility. Look at your data and formulate tests and hypotheses. Then apply those actions as tests. These isolated tests can help drive more productive outcomes that you can rollout on a larger scale. And if you're applying AI technology to your business, then you're already one step ahead of the game. AI helps you automate manual tasks and proactively cull actionable insights to support your current business workflows.
    Your existing data can help you make better decisions so you can strengthen your business performance, productivity, and relationships. Don't wait--because after all, you know what they say...Data is money.

  • Boost Your Staff’s Productivity by 6 Percent by Buying This 1 Thing

    This is even more motivating than money. A lot more motivating.
    So, if you're trying to figure out how to motivate your employees, and you're already paying them market rates, you may want to consider pizza from time to time. Just about everyone likes it (and feel free to conduct your own experiments involving different cuisines) and see if that gives everyone a needed boost.
    The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.



  • 3 Essential Leadership Lessons You Can Learn From This Iconic Football Team

    The Seattle Seahawks inspire loyalty that goes way beyond the field. Here's how.
    CREDIT: Getty Images
    The Seattle Seahawks are more than just a football team. Even if you don't like football (and I usually don't) if you live anywhere around the Pacific Northwest, it's impossible not to want to root for this team that does pretty well on the field--and does everything absolutely right off the field.
    I was born in Manhattan, and on a recent visit back, I found myself struggling to explain to a group of New Yorkers why the Seahawks are special, and why someone like me who has never been a football fan can find myself taking a surprising degree of interest in their games. The answers have little to do with how they actually play, and everything to do with who they and how they handle themselves. They offer lessons any smart leader can use to create the culture that will attract customers and talent to your organization. Here's some of what the Seahawks get right:

    1. They show appreciation to their supporters.

    Seahawks fans are collectively known as the "12th man" or "12s"--the equivalent an extra player on the field who helps boost the team with their enthusiasm, and by cheering really loud. Letting people who support you know how much their support means is a great way to engage with customers, investors, and fans.
    It's also a brilliant marketing move. The people of the region have responded by painting huge number 12s on everything from buildings to Boeing airplanes. Seattle fans have twice broken the Guinness World Record for loudest crowd at a sporting event--and their loud cheering has rattled an opposing team into a false start more than once. The Hawks--who retired the number 12 in honor of their fans back in 1984--keep the love-fest going by raising a giant "12" flag before every home game.

    2. They're respectful and inclusive.

    One area where American sports teams have come in for frequent criticism is their lack of respect for Native American peoples and traditions. When baseball's Cleveland Indians made it to the World Series this past season, it drew attention to the team's name and prompted renewed calls for them to change it. Back in football, the Washington Redskins have spent years in court fighting lawsuits from Native Americans who object to both the team's name and its logo. And then there are the Seahawks, whose gorgeous logo is a nod to coastal tribal art, and seems to have been inspired by this Kwakwaka'wakw eagle mask. Running back Marshawn Lynch beat a native drum during the team's 2014 victory parade. Local Native Americans have responded by loving the team just as much as everyone else does.

    3. They don't play the blame game.

    In 2013, the Seahawks won the Super Bowl for the first time. In 2015, they were in the Super Bowl again, and ahead in the last seconds of the game. But then they suffered a dispiriting loss to the New England Patriots when they passed the ball from the Patriots' 1-yard line. It was intercepted by Patriots cornerback Malcolm Butler and the Patriots eventually scored a touchdown to win. What happened afterward was striking. Head coach Pete Carroll and quarterback Russell Wilson both claimed responsibility for the loss. Not only that, they each praised Butler for making a spectacular play. Two days after that game, Wilson was where you can usually find him on a Tuesday, visiting sick children at a local children's hospital. Anyone who thought he might want to take a couple of days out of the public eye to lay low and lick his wounds would have been mistaken. "You stay classy, Russell Wilson," commented Buzzfeed at the end of its photo essayabout the visit. Without a doubt, he will.

  • How Employee Advocacy on Social Media Helps Gain Customers

    Your employees are the voice of your company and biggest advocates. Use them!
    CREDIT: Getty Images
     Many companies have embraced content marketing and have had degrees of success with it. Every month I talk to a handful of businesses about their social media marketingstrategy.
    One of the biggest misses I see with almost all the companies that are ineffective on social media is they all lack advocacy from their employees. In fact, some companies still prohibit their employees from engaging online with company posts. Taking this stance shows a complete lack of trust in your employees. Your employees are you thought leaders and subject area experts. They should be encouraged to engage on the company's posts.

    Lack of employee advocacy is often a glaring hole in a company's marketing strategy.

    Last year, I was in a client meeting with nine of their top executives and managers present. They had a content marketing program that was failing. The first thing they asked me was about the quality of the content. Was there a problem with their writing styles, titles, images, the times they were posting, etc.?
    They had a CEO that was an exceptionally talented writer. They had other employees that were writing good blogs. They had a social media manager that was posting creative content to their company social sites.
    Clearly, the problem was not their content. The meeting was just after lunch. That morning the CEO had published a blog post on LinkedIn. It was an incredible piece loaded with great insights from the career of the company's top executive. The post was performing miserably. It lacked engagement, and the lack of views was an insult to the high-quality piece of content that had been produced. During the first 30 minutes of the meeting, I sat there and mostly listened to them tell me about their company's woes with their content marketing and social media strategy. The excuses they gave were all pointed toward external factors. They blamed the lack of engagement on platforms. Finally, when it was my turn to talk. I asked a simple question: "How many of you liked, commented, or shared the CEO's blog post on LinkedIn this morning?" What do you think the response was? After shifting uncomfortably in their seats and some visible signs of quick thinking in search of a way to spin their answer so that they weren't guilty. None of them had tweeted it out or even so much put a like on the post. The CEO, on the other hand, had a big grin. It was an aha moment for all of them and the exact moment the company's culture began to shift toward embracing employee advocacy to boost their content marketing efforts.

    Why should you encourage your employees to share company content?

    • Increased SEO and traffic to the company website
    • Studies show consumers will listen to individuals more than brands
    • Employee advocacy can expand content distribution by 10x or more helping your company reach a much larger audience.
    Consider these statistics from recent studies:
    • 91% of B2B buyers are influenced by word-of-mouth when making their buying decision. [USM]
    • 56% of B2B purchasers look to offline word-of-mouth as a source of information and advice, and this number jumps to 88% when online word-of-mouth sources are included. [BaseOne]
    • Word-of-mouth has been shown to improve marketing effectiveness by up to 54%. [MarketShare]
    • 68% trust online opinions from other consumers, which is up 7% from 2007 and places online opinions as the third most trusted source of product information. [Nielsen]
    Consumers place a higher level of trust in experts. This drives influence in the marketplace which can play an important role in affecting purchasing decisions. The bottom line is that an effective employee advocacy program drives brand awareness and increases referral traffic to your website, which will improve your conversion rates substantially.

  • Happy Veterans Day- Honoring All Who Have Served


  • Corporate Culture Is No Joke!

    Your company culture had better be positioned properly for success. Otherwise, the accomplishment of your most strategic objectives are in jeopardy.
    CREDIT: Getty Images
     You may have read my 3 part-series on Culture By Design. The final installment was published just last week. The response was so overwhelming that I thought it may be worth offering one more piece on the subject of corporate culture.
    With that, let's explore what happens to an organization that fails at its cultural transformation work because it chose not to craft its Culture by Design. I hope that you'll conclude, as I have, that corporate culture is no laughing matter and that it must be done fashioned in a very deliberate way to avoid these problematic consequences. Here are the symptoms of a failed culture transformation effort:
    • Destabilized Execution: The work needed to drive cultural transformation is time-consuming and intense. In the short-term, in fact, the effort can interrupt the work setting as key players are asked to participate. In the long-run, though, making poor choices in where to make needed changes or misfires in how those changes are implemented can serve to severely disrupt the way work is done well into the future.
    • Squandered Resources: Similarly, the time, people and money spent on an ill-conceived or poorly executed cultural transformation initiatives are resources that you can't get back - that waste can be tallied in, both, their true costs as well as missed opportunities (where those squandered resources could have been put to better use).
    • Lowered Morale: If the result of the initiative bares no fruit, employee morale will, most certainly, take a hit - lots of build-up and no follow-through will be the prevailing opinion among the rank and file.
    What are the reasons for culture transformation failure? There are many. Here are three of the most common ones as seen among recent clients: 1. Change Fatigue: A topic that I've written about in the past, change fatigue is a very real phenomenon experienced by organizations that have been unable to deliver results from past change initiatives. Consequently, this failure has led to confusion and emotional overload among staff. Thus, any cultural change effort falters because of institutional burn-out. 2. Little to No Staff Engagement: Many organizations choose to drive cultural change through top-down telling. This doesn't work. Simply put, there is a huge difference between communication and engagement. To transform a corporate culture, you must engage everyone in the organization by including them in the process and securing their commitment to change. 3. "Flavor of the Month" Mentality: As mentioned above, most staff members have lived through failed change efforts of one form or another in the past. The thought of participating in another one does little to excite or to motivate. So, many choose to just "Wait It Out" - expecting leadership to shift their focus to another "flavor of the month" change program somewhere down-the-line. What can be done? As offered in the series, the adoption of a proven, structured methodology will enable you to create a sustainable culture that attracts talent, drives brand, improves performance, and creates competitive advantage. Many talk about culture - a process like Culture By Design helps you transform it. To close, regardless of the approach chosen, it's essential that you cultivate your corporate culture deliberately to position your organization for bold success.

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  • The 1 Simple Way to Instantly Increase Your Visibility on LinkedIn

    CREDIT: Getty Images
    In today's online landscape, the best headlines and summary text rule the day. You have mere moments to catch someone's attention before he or she scrolls right by without a second thought. In a nod to the breakneck speed of today's social media landscape, LinkedIn recently revealed a new - albeit unannounced - way to increase the social media curb appeal of each and every blog you publish on the platform.

    How To Drive More Traffic To Your LinkedIn Blog Posts

    It's simple enough to execute, and best of all helps you drive more traffic to your LinkedIn blog posts via unique, customized Twitter and LinkedIn status updates that you create on the fly. (NOTE: Watch this video to see how it works.) What LinkedIn wants you to do is find a compelling, curiosity-invoking thought or takeaway from inside your blog, and use that as "bait" to get prospects fishing online for content to take a nibble by clicking on your post. Once you find that important thought, takeaway or too-good-to-pass-up statement within your LinkedIn blog, you simply highlight it on your post page with your cursor. As soon as you do, a small "share" arrow appears to the right of your text, and you then click that arrow to pull up a Twitter or LinkedIn sharing box. (NOTE: Watch this video to see how it works.) Just choose whether to use a Twitter update or LinkedIn status update, and you're good to go. In either case, you've created a customized, enticing Tweet or LinkedIn status update that goes beyond a simple blog title or "Read my new post!" type share. Give it a try, and increase the social media curb appeal of your LinkedIn blog posts in the process!