6 Reasons Your Business Should Be Blogging

Social IconsAs social media grows and takes more of a stranglehold of Internet users’ time, the focus on use at the various networks and social sites becomes heightened. Yet, while those sites may or may not make or break your marketing and brand, the effect of having a business blog has never been greater, due to those social media sites.

Here are six reasons your business should be blogging:

1) Your Blog Is Your Hub
While you may be set up on Facebook, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Twitter, etc. and sharing different updates to different networks, your blog remains your hub – the one point where all roads lead to. Test and optimize conversions for lead generation (or whatever you’re focused on) at your blog and you’ll have a winner, in many cases, regardless of where the visitors first initiated contact.

2) Blogs Generate Leads
Your hub should be generating leads, which isn’t always easy via social media sites. Sure, you can get Likes, Follows, Pluses and all the rest, but those leads don’t convert like good ol’ email marketing. An email marketing list is still the most valuable digital asset that almost any online business can have. Your blog can generate leads better than any social media site, no doubt, because it can be configured specifically for this, whereas your social media sites are going to encourage following at that site.

To take it a step further, if you’re business is already using email marketing; the case for blogging is even stronger. Among those that use email marketing, companies that blog get twice as much traffic from their email than those who don’t.*

3) Blogs Are Great for Search Engine Optimization
Blogs still rank really well in search, and for this reason, should not be ignored. While social can give you a boost, and social elements can be added to your blog (such as Like, Share and Tweet buttons,) your blog is still king at giving away both content and context, which the search engines are always thirsty for.

4) Blogs Build Trust
Blogs are typically seen as sources of valuable information. They’re taken more seriously by most users than social media sites. Because of this, trust is an important reason to be blogging. In the digital world, trust is the hardest thing to come by because there is no face-to-face like in the offline world. Blogs can combine the social feel, at a more business-like level, that can crush both social media sites and static website, to inspire trust in your prospects and customers.

5) Blogs Sell Services
Leveraging the trust that can be built and value that can be given away at a blog, there can be solid conversion and sales of services through a blog that won’t happen the same way elsewhere. If nothing else, it’s high-level lead generation, but combining all fronts and your blog is moving the prospect closer to the sale.

6) Blogs Enhance Reputation Management
The perfect balance of social and corporate, a blog that publishes regular content is magnetic to search engines. If what shows up in search when someone searches for your brand name matters, then a blog would benefit your business.

Business blogs have been proven to deliver immense value, as demonstrated by the 81% of companies that consider their blogs “useful,” “important” or “critical.”** I encourage you to take a look at Proforma’s Social Media White Paper that showcases the 21 lessons we learned in our 12 month journey to growing our social media reach by 12 million users, including some of the tactics we’ve used to grow our blog viewership beyond 100,000 in just three years.

Simple Tips When You Need to Focus

Image courtesy of 55Laney69's photostream

Image courtesy of 55Laney69′s photostream

Sometimes I feel overwhelmed when considering the scope of a big project. Getting started is often the hardest part – and it can be tempting to spend time on smaller, easier tasks to avoid tackling the elephant in the room.

Sooner or later, you have to get the ball rolling. So here are some tips for buckling down when a project requires your complete focus.

•    Break it up into manageable pieces: Separate sections and develop a timeline for working on each one. For example, schedule Sections 1 and 2 on Tuesday; Sections 3 and 4 on Wednesday, and so on. For me, splitting up one big project into several little ones almost always makes the big picture seem more achievable.

This also works great if you need input from others on certain areas. If Janet’s insight would be helpful on Section 2, you can aim to schedule a meeting with her on Tuesday so her advice is fresh in your mind when you’re working on that section.

•    Block out chunks of time: I typically block out two or three hours first thing in the morning to work on just that one project. As with anything that requires focus, you want to avoid going back-and-forth between your big priority and other things – that kills momentum.

•    Limit distractions: Don’t check your email every time it pings. Don’t answer your phone every time it rings. If you get to the office at 8AM, make it a point to check your email at 11. For the three hours in between, that project is your only concern. If there truly is an urgent issue, people will find a way to let you know.

•    Take breaks: Even if it’s just a walk to the kitchen or around the block. I’m always amazed at the new things that occur to me while I’m taking a lap around the building. Something about getting up and away from my desk after working on something for a while seems to clear mental roadblocks.

•    Give yourself time to review: If at all possible, it’s always best to sleep on it before sending your work to the masses. How many times have I left the office thinking a project was close to done only to have a new idea on the drive home, or catch a huge error the following morning? More than I can count!

So build in some wiggle room for yourself and the rest of your team to take a close look and make any changes.

For more tips on finding focus, check out this article from Inc.com: 5 Tips to Help You Hyper Focus

4 Simple Steps to Keep Your Customers Happy

Image courtesy of Chris Range

Did you know it costs five times as much to attract a new customer than to keep an existing one?  Your customers are your biggest assets. Don’t give them a reason to leave. Customer loyalty should be your ultimate goal, but it cannot be accomplished if they aren’t happy.

Are you doing everything you can to make sure your customers have a positive experience, reviews, and referrals? If there’s a chance you’re not, here are four simple steps to keep your customers satisfied.

1.    Phrases that will make your customer happy:  “It’s Everyone’s job to delight customers.” – Mark Kilens.  There are certain “magical words” that customers want to hear from you and your staff.  Practice using these phrases that will make your customer happy:  “How can I help?”, “I can solve that problem.”, “I don’t know, but I’ll find out.”, “I will deliver on time.”, “It’ll be just what you ordered.”, “The job will be complete.”, and “I appreciate your business.”

2.    Act on the knowledge that what your customers value are dependability, promptness, attention, and competence.  “Do what you do so well that they will want to see it again and bring their friends.” –Walt Disney.  Creating love between your company and customers can help scale positive word of mouth that’s absolutely priceless. Customers loved being treated as individuals.  Remember to never argue with a customer.  Immediately take action to remedy the situation.  Don’t make any excuses.

3.    Build Trust – Alert Customers to Changes.  “Loyalty is when people are willing to turn down a better product or price to continue doing business with you.” – Simon Sinek.  It takes 12 positive service experiences to make up for 1 negative experience.  This is how sensitive trust is between a business and its customer.  Here is how approach any changes:  Heavily research any changes that would affect your customer.  Be methodical and thoughtful in how you communicate.  Keep a healthy mix of misses and things you have done right.  Find value in the feedback about from your customers.

4.    Don’t let customers forget you.  “68% quit because of the attitude of indifference toward the customer by the owner, manager or some employee.” -Michael LeBoeuf.  One of the most important functions for generating repeat business is following up.  Effective follow-up begins immediately after the sale to let them know you appreciate their business.  Let customers know exactly what you are doing for them.  Write long term customers personal, handwritten notes frequently.  Always try to keep it personal – voice mail and e-mail are easier, but the personal touch is often lost.  Instead, schedule to stop by his or her office at a designated time.  Remember special occasions like birthday and anniversaries.  Pass on information such articles, new products information, or books the customer might be interested in.  Consider any follow up calls as business development opportunities.
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Let the Light In – Perforated Graphic Films

Perforated Window Films by Graphic Impressions

3M ™ Scotchcal ™ Perforated Window Graphic Film IJ8171 - Copyright  3M Corp

3M ™ Scotchcal ™ Perforated Window Graphic Film IJ8171 – Copyright 3M Corporation

Our perforated window graphics let you capitalize on extra window space without sacrificing natural lighting or visibility. They are made using durable 3M films that are engineered to bring brilliance and sharpness to your custom graphics.

Advertisements, promotions, decorations, and branding posted on your storefront windows will give your company’s point of purchase promotions the brilliance and professionalism that your company deserves.

before and after illustration of window perforation.  copyright 3m corporation

Copyright 3M Corp.

Perforated window graphics are versatile and can be used on vehicles, storefronts, signs, and many other transparent surfaces.

To learn more about our perforated window graphics and Graphic Impressions’ full “design to installation” services, call us at 1-800-237-2171.

Pursue Your Passion: Invest In Yourself

Image courtesy of Alan Cleaver's photostream

Whether you’re an entrepreneur attempting your first startup or a tenured member of the workforce looking for something new, when will the timing be right to take a chance, invest in yourself and start striving towards your goal? The truth is it may never be. Sitting on your couch and putting your dreams on hold for something easier, more comfortable, is always the less exhaustive route to take. But in the end, where does that really get you? Yes, this is a rhetorical question but I think it gets the point across and is well stated in the quote below from Alltop founder, Guy Kawasaki -

“The hardest thing about getting started is getting started.”

Here are four takeaways to help realize your professional dreams:


  1. Stop talking and start doing: It’s easy to talk about all the great things you want to do. It’s even easier to never take action on your dreams, letting life pass you by. Find your action items and get started today. The longer you wait to take that first step, the farther you are from realizing your goals. Set goals, be accountable, be passionate and maybe most importantly, be realistic about the outcome. The more honest you are with yourself the more room you have to grow.
  2. Invest in yourself: It’s often thrown out in conversation that someone is investing in themselves. This kind of statement can seem fictitious, and very may well be. But don’t think for one second that great entrepreneurs like Larry Page, Mark Cuban or Jeff Bezos didn’t take a chance on themselves in time or money. Remember, not only is it important to have liquid assets when starting a new venture, but knowing the value of your time and recognizing that your time has worth is just as important when push comes to shove.
  3. 3.    Take the good with the bad: Undoubtedly there will be bumps along the way; financial woes, unpredictable clients and difficult employees. Be prepared for them all but don’t expect to have all the answers. There’s something to be said about learning along the way. Not only will it help build character, these experiences will help you develop an approach for future encounters with similar situations. These types of situations will also give you the confidence to ask for help. Find solace that you aren’t the first person to come across a difficulty in business or personal development. Let this be the catalyst to build a personal network of like-minded individuals to help you through the struggles.
  4. 4.    Pursue your passion: Whether your passion is brand communications, insurance or financial management, keep that passion as your driving force. Or maybe your passion is a lifestyle business where brand communications is a means to an end. That’s ok too but be cognizant of that fact. Be self-aware, be genuine and be accountable. But above all find what makes you happy and don’t be afraid to invest in yourself!

The Recipe for a “Good” Tweet

Image courtesy of C!...'s photostream

Image courtesy of C!…’s photostream

Chances are fairly good that unless you’ve found a way to live without any form of media in your life for a larger part of the past decade that you know what Twitter is. Chances are even more likely that you yourself own one of the reported 883 million Twitter accounts in existence today. Even if, to this point, you’ve defied the odds, I daresay you would be able to pick out a good, quality message over a less popular one? How about being able to determine which Tweet was shared more than the other? Three Cornell students claim they’ve made a computer algorithm that can outperform the average person. Give it a try here and stop back in here when you’re done.

How did you do? My first try found me correctly selecting the more popular tweet nearly 73% of the time… not bad, but the computer algorithm beat me by one solitary tweet at 75% correct. I found myself asking some interesting questions: Why was the computer able to outperform me, what criteria is it using to select the better message? Is it possible that there is, in fact, an algorithm that can guarantee your message is more popular than other, similar messages, 75% of the time?

My questions led me to a discussion the Cornell students had regarding what criteria the computer was given to select the better message. What I found were seven items, among others, that the computer was trained to look for:

1.    Know what topics trend on Twitter – A recent study broke down tweets from the second quarter of this year by category and found that tweets under the topics of sports, science & technology, politics, art & entertainment, and business finance performed better on Twitter than on either Facebook or Pinterest while tweets discussing family issues, health & fitness, and shopping were poorly received on this medium compared to the others.

2.    Use an image or a video – Simple enough; you only get to use 140 characters on Twitter… so why not share something that’s worth at least 1,000 words?

3.    Post any links about 25% of the way through your message – Twitter is geared toward those who want information NOW. If they have to wait til the end of your message to get a link, they may have already clicked on to the next message; don’t give them the chance.

4.     Track and Learn – One advantage the computer algorithm has over us is that it’s got five years’ worth of analytical tools at its disposal instantly. If you want a true barometer for what does and doesn’t work for your site, consider working with analytical tools to fine-tune your online presence.

5.    Preview with stats, quotes, and takeaways – Tweets that contain quotes receive 53% more retweets than your average post. Curiosity killed the cat, so draw in your viewers with a small taste of what your content truly has to offer.

6.    Use your social media to inform your content – It’s the age-old marketing concept to know your audience, and it still holds true today. Chances are pretty good that if you’re talking about the things that are popular in your industry right now, you’ll get noticed a lot more than if you’re simply taking shots in the dark with your posts.

7.    Sharing is caring – Not immediately (necessarily), and never something you want to consistently do (to avoid annoying others), but GOOD content, content that gives you an “AHA!” moment, content has opened your eyes to something new (perhaps something you’ve found on the Proforma Blog?) should be shared. If the message or content within was enough to make some kind of an impact on you, it’s a good bet that there are others out there that would similarly benefit from seeing the same message.

It won’t happen overnight, and you won’t always find success, but if you spend enough time working at these seven items, not only will you find yourself beating the algorithm (which I wound up doing 80%-74%) but, and more importantly, you’ll find yourself to be considered a thought-leader in your industry and the following you begin to gain can do wonders for expanding your business.

Online Resources:
http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2014/07/01/upshot/twitter-quiz.html
http://www.socialbro.com/blog/8-key-social-media-shareable-content-marketing

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Don’t Miss This Chance to Make a Great First Impression

Image courtesy of Zach Taylor's photostream

Image courtesy of Zach Taylor’s photostream

I once started a new job, on a Friday, at 2:30 p.m. Mind you, this was a typical Monday to Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. job. There was no explanation given on the somewhat odd start day and time. When I showed up, no one seemed to remember I was coming in. My desk was dusty, did not have any supplies and there was no plan for an orientation. I was walked around the building for about an hour and told that I could leave.

That should have set off red flags about the type of employer and the value that was placed on employees, especially during the on-boarding phase. True to that first impression, the company had a do as I say, not as I do approach that resonated from the top levels down to the front line. It is no surprise that turnover was extremely high and departments did not work well together.

Here are five tips to create a great first impression for any new hires.

1.    Schedule the person to start two hours after you plan to arrive: This will give you time to get settled and put out any fires so you can devote your time and attention to the new employee when he or she arrives.

2.    Provide a new hire FAQ, before the first day: Be sure to cover if you will be providing lunch or if lunch should be brought, dress code, parking and smoking policies. Nothing makes people feel more uncomfortable than if they do not fit in on the first day, simply because they didn’t know.

3.    Ensure a welcoming environment: Alert the receptionist that a new hire is arriving or be visible when he or she is due to arrive. Make sure a work space is cleaned and stocked with standard supplies. Post a welcome sign, including his or her name. Introduce the person to the team. And be sure to point out things like the coat rack, closest restroom, employee break room, copy machines, etc. Also, plan ahead so an email address is setup and any other necessary logins and passwords are ready.

4.    Have downtime activities planned: In most environments, new hires will need direction and guidance for most of their tasks. Have other things planned for the employee to do when he or she gets “stuck” and you are not immediately available to provide guidance. This may include industry publications to become familiar with, training manuals, websites to review and depending on the role, it may even be appropriate to include filing or other non-urgent but important tasks.

5.    Consider asking for their help: If employee onboarding has not been a focus in the past, consider asking the employee to help in documenting procedures, checklists and manuals for future new hires. Use a fresh eyes approach to help you prepare for the future.

Showing all your new hires that they are valued and appreciated from their very first day will create the right environment for them to be a trusted ally for you and the company as a whole.

Summer Gardening in Central Kansas: Advice From a Novice

Here we are -  already over the longest day of the year, the day that marks the beginning of Summer.  With respect to the weather in our part of Kansas we don’t have much to complain about, at least in comparison to Two years ago.

rosemoss flower

While the weather has been somewhat mild, we’ve still had a few of those scorching hot days that can stress out your plants, or worse. With the sometimes too wet, sometimes too dry weather, all of us with plants (or those of us who take care of plants) have had to hunker down and pay attention because the wild weather oscillations make “one size fits all” gardening all but impossible.


 

 

Here are some quick tips for gardening:

Use What Works:
Find plants that work in the areas that you are planting in.  This may seem obvious, but Photo of a clump of beard tongue.  sometimes its easy to buy a plant and not realize that its completely inappropriate for the environment in which you intend to plant it.  Even when you have zone, sun, and drainage requirements down, sometimes the soil PH or a lack of a wind block can turn a good flower bed plan into a dreary mess.

Sadly, sometimes you can do all of the right things and still have something fail in vivo.  You can, however, limit your frustration by contacting local gardening clubs, greenhouses, and even your city’s horticulture department for information.

Research
You’re reading this article,  so you may already be doing some online research.  Good on you!  It’s super easy to use a Google Image search to look for problems specific to your plants or problems with similar plants.

There numerous horticulture sites and databases that are just a Google search away.  Some contain advice, and some have user comments that add to or clarify the information in the database.  Use them, as always, knowing that the information you’re getting may not be accurate.

Observe:
Not just the plant itself, but the soil.  If the soil is already visibly moist, you don’t need to water it again.   Signs of overwatering and underwatering can be deceptively similar,  so it is wise to take into account soil drainage and retention when assessing any problems you may have.

It’s wise to use a small spade, scoop, or cultivator to check the ground under the very top layers of soil.  Just make sure, of course, that you’re not digging too close to the plant.

Inspect plants for signs of disease, such as malformed leaves, growths/bumps along the stalk, and discoloration.

Pay attention to how your plants behave after a rain, or on the hottest days.

Maintenance
Does your plant need pruning? Can it be dead-headed? What interventions can you use to keep your plants healthy in the summer?

While weeding is crucial to maintaining a healthy, aesthetically pleasing garden spot, it is also good to perform routine maintenance on your plants.  Some plants require “dead-heading”, or the removal of old blooms, in order to keep producing flowers.  The humble annual Coleus, for example, tends to have healthier-looking foliage when its flowering spikes are removed.

Beware that a lot of plant care should be cultivar-specific. Roses, for instance, vary wildly on tolerance for pruning and dead-heading.  As emphasized above – you should do your research (lest your efforts yield unforeseen results!).

Do Nothing
Know when to leave things alone.  Sometimes plants need to adapt to your garden, especially during drastic weather changes or right after planting.  Imprudent pruning can have you cutting off aesthetically displeasing leaves which can still be supplying a large amount of energy to the plant.  Sometimes plants just look bad for the hottest hours of the day, so no amount of water  around the roots will make them perk up.

The point is that you should know when to just leave things alone.  Sometimes doing more will leave you with less.


The above is a novice’s heuristic guide to maintaining a garden in unpredictable environs.  Do you have a favorite source of information or any general tips to add?  Please leave a comment!

 

hibiscus flower

 

 

Online Customer Portal

Graphic Impressions is pleased to announce that online ordering and inventory updates can be made available for select accounts through Graphic Impressions.

One aspect of the custom graphics business is that each of our customers have different needs that require different products.  This creates a challenge for creating an online shop.  How can clients place orders for their custom products through an automated system?

Through our website, now, customers can login and see their custom products, receive inventory updates, and even check on the status of a installation.  Each customer has a unique customer portal, and no one but the intended customer has access to the intended customer’s options.

Whether you are staging a national campaign for your franchises, or simply in need of the ability to check the status of your inventory or orders 24 hours a day, our new web portal may be just the thing you need.

To inquire about this service, please call 800 237 2171 or contact us at info@graphicimpressions.com.

 

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