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Monthly Archives: February 2016

Termination Terrors

Ask any manager or business owner the most unpleasant part of their job and the majority will answer a resounding phrase – terminating an employee.  Handling a termination can evoke anxiety and a sense of dread for even the most experienced business leaders.  How an employer handles the event, however, can make all the difference in the tone and type of separation that occurs. Planning and executing an employee termination in a humane, ethical and professional manner can help diminish a large stir in the workplace.  If done poorly or in anger it can cause not only a huge disturbance in productivity and morale but also in the potential of a lawsuit down the road. Let’s look at termination terrors and how to handle this very sticky situation.

 

Once the writing’s on the wall for whatever reason (whether it is financial, productivity, cut backs, etc.), it is important to think about some things before you have the sit down with “said” employee. Things to consider:

Prepare – Have all your ducks in a row.  This may mean a written account of the reasons for termination, a letter prepared for the human resources file or just thinking about the best way to actually do the firing.
  • Be prepared by human resources about how to say “you’re fired.” Saying too much can get managers or leaders into legal hot water. Having a prepared written statement may be the best plan of action.
  • Be ready for questions: Monster.com has a list of common questions asked by terminated employees. These include: Can you give me an example of what I did wrong? Will I get a reference from you? Can I file for unemployment? Are you going to tell other employees I am fired? Do I get any severance?
  • Have another manager or HR representative be present for the meeting.  This will serve as a witness and probably keep things from turning ugly and stop false accusations if a lawsuit is filed.
  • Emotionally Prepare.  Allow yourself a few moments to steady yourself and keep yourself calm.  
Know the Laws- Part of your preparation will include understanding if the law is on your side when it comes to firing an employee. Did they break a rule in the handbook, commit a crime or just not cut muster?  Each case is different but your legal team or human resource officer should be able to help you out. If you don’t have an HR Department, you may want to consider hiring an HR consult for the event.  
The Aftermath – Be ready for an avalanche of questions from frightened employees who may think they are next.  Obviously not every detail can be given but employees will notice that someone is missing especially if it is a small office environment. Again consult your HR Department or legal team to find out what you can and cannot legally say.  Be prepared for morale to be low and find ways to counteract this by reinforcing to those that are doing a good job that you recognize their efforts.  

 

Easy Ways for your Company to be More “Green”

We’ve all probably heard of the three “Rs” by now:  “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle.”  Becoming more “green” has evolved from a fringe movement to a major part of our American culture.  Even small and medium sized businesses are emerging as environmentally friendly.  Want to get with the program and be more “green” at your company?  Here are some tips to get started and not only help the environment but also save yourself some money in the process!  

 

Save Power (and money) –
  • Invest in an automatic system that powers down technology when not in use and during non-peak hours. This could include lights, computers, kitchen appliances and even heat!
  • Re-evaluate Lighting – Artificial lighting represents 40 percent of electricity consumption in a typical office building, and almost a quarter of all electricity in the US. Take a second look at how the natural lighting can be used in your office.  This could include changing out blinds or even knocking down walls that block out light in cubical areas. Install motion sensors for bathroom and conference room lighting that is not always needed.  Wherever possible switch out high energy light bulbs for compact fluorescent bulbs.
  • Watch the thermostat!  While it is not possible to find a temperature where everyone is comfortable try to find a good balance.  Turn up the ac a few degrees in the summer and down a couple in the winter. There will always be someone who is too cold or too hot.
Paper Awareness –
  • Cut down on mailing invoices and start an email program that will save you not only paper but stamps as well.  
  • Buy printers that do double sided printing and always buy recycled paper.
  • Make as many documents digitized as possible. The organization will save you not only paper but also make it easier to find digitized data in a snap.
  • Consider switching to hand dryers in the bathroom.
Appliances –
  • Consider buying energy-efficient appliances when it is time to redo the employee kitchen.
  • Find energy-efficient work room equipment.
  • Be sure to recycle the old appliances wherever possible.
Green Employees
  • Encourage alternative work solutions including telecommuting, ride shares, taking public transportation.
  • Reward employees who come up with new green ideas.
  • Ask employees to be a part of the solution.

 

Successful Fundamentals of Online Marketing

Sorting out the bombardment of information about online marketing can be overwhelming at best.  “Use social media, email newsletters, SEO, promote the website” and the list goes on and on.  So, if you have become overwhelmed by the influx of online strategies, how do you figure out what is most important?  The answer may be as simple as getting back to the fundamentals.  Let’s examine what some of the tech and marketing experts are saying about the fundamentals to a successful online marketing strategy.

 

  1. Set Goals – It may sound obvious but redefine your goals if you feel like they are not gaining traction in your latest marketing campaign.  What exactly is it that you want to accomplish with this online campaign?  Do you want to promote a new product or service?  Gather names for emails?  Spread the word about your website?  Increase conversion rate?  No matter what it is make your goals simple and measurable.
  2. Get social – With so many social media platforms being used by a majority of the public, it is hard to determine which one will work for your business.  Sites like Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Google+, and Facebook all allow consumers to share valuable content with others in their network. Do some analysis before you head into a social media marketing campaign.  Who is your primary and secondary market?  What demographics do you need to expand into?  Use that information to decide on which platform may best reach your audience. Social media is also quickly becoming the primary way content is shared.
  3. SEO – Don’t forget about the fundamentals of search engine optimization.  Advertising, link building, keywords, blogging, and adding content can only help your SEO with the big search engines. With most consumers clicking on one of the first links that appear on a Google search, it is more important than ever to get your company on that first page.
  4. Keywords – WE can’t say enough about making sure that you are using the most effective keywords for your business. There are many keyword analyzers to help you determine the best keywords to use. Once you have a good hold on the best keywords for your industry, integrate them into newly written website content.
  5. Analytics – Use the analytics programs to take the guesswork out of a website’s effectiveness. Analytics can give your company concrete evidence if a page or promotion is working.
  6. Know the competition– As we have discussed in past blogs, it is always smart to find out what your competition is up to. Studying your competition can help you understand  what they are doing well and where their weaknesses are.

 

Common Mistakes of Email Marketing

“To err is human, to really foul things up you need a computer.”  Paul R. Ehrlich

This old adage is so true and examples of it can be found daily in the business world.  This is no more true than in the perfect example of messing up an email marketing campaign.  Email marketing itself has become so much more complex since it’s inception. We have come such a long way from the days of AOL’s “You’ve got mail.” Now there are Tweets, Posts, Pins and a whole assortment of information assaulting consumers on a daily basis.  So, let’s look at some fairly common mistakes businesses make when conducting an email marketing campaign.

 

Mistakes with the “Recipient Lists” – There are numerous “rookie” mistakes that can be made when dealing with your receiving list. These include:

  • Make sure you have permission to send email to the people on your list. Did they enroll on your list online or in the office?  How did you get their name?  Make sure you properly acquired the name.  
  • Make a policy of not purchasing a list from a third party.  No one likes to get spammed or have unneeded email in their already crowded inbox.
  • Reconfirm email list.   People change emails quickly once one has been spammed enough.  After six months email is considered stale if the recipient has not heard from you.
Content Mistakes
  • Proofread all emails being sent to ensure there are no silly typos or glaring grammatical errors.
  • Create content that will be relevant, interesting, and useful to your subscriber base.
  • Be very careful with subject lines and leads.  It only takes a few second for readers to decide if they are going to continue reading or not.
  • Don’t use pushy sales copy or gimmicky catchphrases. Be human and use a voice that is true to your brand.
Analysis Mistakes
  • Using companies such as Constant Contact or MailChimp give you the benefit of measuring your results.  Don’t forget to analyze what worked and what didn’t.
  • Before you send a campaign to your entire list, make sure that you look at it in preview mode.  This is possible on the two programs mentioned above.
  • Use testing practices to see if you can improve your open rates, click rates, and, perhaps most importantly, conversions.

 

Researching your Competition

We have all contemplated what it would be like to be the proverbial “fly-on-the-wall” at some point in our lives. This is no more true than when trying to outpace your business competition. How can this be done short of actually becoming a fly? Don’t let your imagination run wild on this one. There is no need to hire a hacker, go all ”James Bond,” or don a cape and mask.  While it is not possible to gain access to the conference room or data files of your greatest rivals, it is possible to legally gather intelligence on competitors in your business field. Following the trends of your competitors can be done in legal and ethical manners.  Let’s look at some of these methods of researching your competitors.  

 

  • Professional Conferences – Conferences and professional trade shows give several opportunities to finding out more about your competition.  For example, visiting competitors booths is highly suggested and gathering information through interacting with consumers who visit this booth. Ask questions and find out as much as you can about the rival company.
  • Industry Reports – Companies that are publicly held will need to file reports with the U.S. Securities Exchange Commission. These reports can give you quite a bit of information about your competitors like their new products and building expansions. Do your homework and read up.
  • Research Online – Do some simple searches online.  Check out the competitors web pages, online reviews, and Google Alerts that will help keep an eye on keywords and searches done in your business field.
  • Get Social – While you are doing your online homework, don’t forget to check out the competitors social media campaigns.  What platforms they are on will tell you quite a bit about the demographics they are targeting.  It will also tell you about upcoming sales, products and news from the company directly.  If you can get on an email newsletter list, even better!
  • Talk to Consumers and Suppliers – Seek out consumers as well as suppliers who will “give it to you straight” about what other companies (and yours) are doing right and wrong.  Conduct surveys to find out how you can differentiate yourselves from other companies in your field.  
  • AdWord Comparisons – Use some of Google’s tools to find out what AdWords your competitors are using.  Here are some great sites that can help you. SpyFu, Google Trends and Google Alerts.