Think Fast, Be First

Twenty-four hours after New York City lost one of its most famous landmarks, had removed all of its usual promotions and publicity material from its home page, extended condolences to the American population, and announced a program to donate money from purchases made on the site to the victims of the horrendous attack. wasn’t the only Internet enterprise to offer support to victims of the world-shattering catastrophe. Several sites around the globe established similar support programs within hours of the attack.

First of all, fantastic. “Well done” to those brands that not only reacted speedily to events but also managed to exhibit the humanity in their value platforms. There’s no doubt that Amazon’s timing was crucial to this success. The terrible event was a tragedy not just for New York City or America. This was a global event that touched every cognizant human being. Imagine an event so uniting in its horror that more than 20 countries across Europe paused together for three minutes’ silence three days after the attack.

Within just 12 hours, Amazon had collected more than $600,000. But aside from these financial results, the brand has collected much more. In demonstrating its human face, Amazon has garnered kudos that might otherwise have taken years to establish, at a cost of millions of dollars. The fact that Amazon was the first global brand to react, to articulate a clear position — to spend time and money on the site’s responsive development and management — has created yet another twist to the brand that under ordinary circumstances would be almost priceless.

I wonder; would every brand gain value from this type of response? Could Barnes & Noble and Borders, for example, do the same with similar success? The answer is yes, if they were the first to do it, and no, if they were second. Here’s a Catch-22 for the second-place responders. Brands responding to the tragedy after Amazon has already set the pace could earn themselves a copycat image — not very appealing to their audiences. But if these brands let go of the opportunity, they succeed in making the Amazon program unique and risk being seen as lacking a human conscience and being insensitive to a global event.

The response of most American companies to the ghastly event could have been engineered to simultaneously demonstrate community support in the aftermath and to build their brands. Even the copycats would have succeeded in gathering brand strength as long as they worked quickly enough to confound any awareness of who was the first to put the idea into practice. Delay eliminates the chance that copycat brands may have had to show the world the responsible and human side of their brand identities. Unless those brands are participants in industries with a transparent involvement in the tragedy, such as airline companies.

Whether a brand should act as a copycat isn’t my point. The relevant issue is that Amazon displayed its ability to think outside the box while supporting its brand’s values and, potentially, generating goodwill without major investment.

That’s good branding.

Good branding isn’t necessarily a matter of nice ads, impressive Websites, and glamorous television commercials. Great marketing companies, such as SMA, have already showed that good branding is about creative thinking, engineering brand difference, and demonstrating a capacity for original thinking that none of your competitors can replicate.

So, here’s my question: When was the last time your thinking surpassed your limits?

Brands Equal Unique Promises

By now, the Internet is some 30 billion pages large, so it doesn’t take too much analysis to appreciate the chance of someone finding your site by accident is close to zero. Generating traffic to sites is as big a challenge as keeping customers’ interest once they’ve arrived.

The goal, therefore, is to optimize the traffic-generating capacity of every possible channel to achieve maximum visits to your site. You’re not surprised. It’s obvious, right? However, I constantly encounter ignorance of this matter. Many brands are far from perfect in the traffic-generating arena.

In my years of experience, I’ve found offline activities are highly successful at generating online traffic. Again, not surprising. What is surprising is many companies, for some reason, have difficulty understanding the importance of securing online traffic by communicating the Web site’s message offline.

I suppose the usual offline promotion goes something like “Visit” How many people would take the time to find a computer, remember the address, type it in, and wait for a response without necessarily knowing what they’re about to visit?

Every offline-generating activity needs to initiate action and communicate a reason for this action. So “Visit” is not effective without an appealing explanation as to why someone should visit that site. By “appealing explanation,” I don’t mean weak messages such as “Lots of good offers” or “News every day.” You need to go further. You need to commit to something meaningful and unique.

Try to create messages that are concrete, hands on, and, most important, constantly changing (establishing new reasons for customers to revisit your site). The appeal you create must be almost retail-like. For example: “Save 20% on all future software purchases at,” or “Test your knowledge of X at” Come up with a proposition that makes potential visitors curious — curious enough to visit your site and check out your brand.

Make sure your URL never stands alone. It should always be tagged with a proposition that teases potential visitors and inspires them to visit your brand.

Don’t stop there. Guide your visitors into the part of your site that fulfils the promise. There’s nothing worse than being teased with an enticing message, only to discover the site barely covers whatever it was that persuaded you to visit. Ensure you can offer synergy between the URL proposition and what you deliver.

Don’t make empty promises. If you use several messages, you should have several links on your home page to help visitors continue their exploration and close the deal. If you use only one message, make sure it’s reflected clearly on the home page.

Remember, the first 20 seconds are the most important. If you lose customers here because you didn’t deliver what you promised, they’re likely to never visit you again, no matter what promises you make.

Listen up! A brand is a promise. Successful brands always keep their promises.

Workplace Programs Promote Heart Health

Workplace Programs Promote Heart HealthA program to promote health in the workplace conducted in several worksites across India resulted in significant declines in heart disease risk factors.

A four-year heart disease prevention program implemented in six industrial worksites throughout India resulted in significant reductions in cholesterol, blood sugar, blood pressure, tobacco use and sedentary behavior and improved dietary habits at the workplace. The health intervention program was described in a study published in 2009 in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

The study suggested that an effectively designed health intervention program and a comprehensive heart disease prevention program are successful in decreasing cardiovascular disease risk factors at the population level.

Economic Benefit of Workplace Health Programs

The worksite intervention cost approximately $7.30 per person per year, and the researchers of the study predicted costs could be even lower if carried out as a larger program. The human capital in India’s workforce is almost 30 million, and implementing the intervention on a larger scale has the potential to make a national impact.

“Given the fact that India is expected to lose 237 billion international dollars from 2005 to 2015, an economic loss attributable to CVD [cardiovascular disease]…such a low-cost program would be extremely useful,” the researchers said.

Description of the Workplace Heart Disease Prevention Program

More than 5800 employees and their families aged 10-69 years participated in the worksite intervention, which was a multi-pronged strategy of health promotion, high-risk primary prevention, and policy level and environmental changes. The intervention was implemented by trained, locally stationed, project health care personnel.

The program’s primary objectives were to:

  • Increase consumption of locally available fruits and vegetables;
  • Promote a healthier diet, including higher fiber consumption and decreased intake of salt and oils;
  • Promote physical activity;
  • Reduce tobacco use;
  • Maintain a healthy weight; and
  • Raise awareness of prevention and treatment of high blood pressure and diabetes.
  • The intervention sought to influence behaviors at the individual level, interpersonal level (family, workplace-related peers) and environmental/macro level (social norms at worksite and home).

Methods of intervention included:

One-to-one interactions between trained health project personnel and employees and families

Population-based strategies using posters, banners, handouts, booklets and videos for individual and mass awareness

Group interactions, health melas (fairs) and motivational sessions conducted by investigators and locally stationed project personnel

Posters, banners, handouts, booklets and videos were translated into several languages and distributed. These materials are available from the World Health Organization country office for India.

workplace wellness programs objectivesThe program empowered and motivated management, employees and families who initiated policy and environmental changes. Dietary improvements at worksites included: adding salads to cafeteria menus; reducing frequency of fried foods served per week; voluntary withdrawing or restricting food that are high in salt; and periodically providing fruits as an alternative to Indian desserts. In addition, employers banned tobacco use onsite.

Individuals with risk factors were referred to health care facilities for treatment and further support. Onsite physicians received risk reduction targets and treatment guidelines for hypertension and diabetes. Individuals with risk factors participated in group counseling sessions on diet, tobacco use and physical activity and had the opportunity to arrange for individual counseling sessions.

Decreasing heart disease risk factorsIntervention Decreased Heart Disease Risk Factors

Positive lifestyle changes initiated by the workplace wellness program succeeded in decreasing heart disease risk factors, potentially saving a significant number of individuals from life-threatening cardiovascular events:

  • Blood sugar decreased by almost 10 percent
  • Systolic blood pressure reduced by 2.8 percent
  • Tobacco use reduced from 39 percent to 29 percent
  • Addition of salt to cooked meals was reduced by more than half
  • Daily fruit consumption almost doubled
  • Daily physical activity increased
  • Significant declines in mean body weight, waist circumference, blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar

Workplace Programs May Have Positive Impact Around the World

The study suggested that a worksite approach in health promotion programs on cardiovascular risk factors can be implemented and can have a positive impact on health outcomes throughout India and other developing countries.

In populations at risk for CVD, even small reductions in the population risk factor profiles should result in larger reductions of morbidity and mortality caused by CVD, thereby saving millions from disability and expenditure on curative measures,” the study concluded.

Bartering Basics for Small Businesses in Canada

Bartering Basics for Small Businesses in CanadaIt is easy to overlook the value of bartering goods and services with other entrepreneurs – especially when you are unaware of just how widespread the custom is today.

Although bartering predates the use of currency, the practice thrives in today’s marketplace – made even easier by the use of the Internet.

Bartering is the exchange of goods or services for other goods or services of equal value instead of cash. A common example involves trading services for media placement – radio airtime, ads in industry magazines, etc. This can be a boon to new businesses looking to get the word out that they have opened shop.

In Canada there are several organizations dedicated to linking entrepreneurs with others who are interested in bartering. Some go beyond merely connecting you with other like-minded business owners, and actually manage and track the transactions, for a fee.

The practice is common enough to warrant specific reference by Revenue Canada, and there are rules regulating the exchange of goods and services, including the obligation to charge and collect GST on the exchanged items.

This is an introduction to bartering in Canada; perhaps you will find that it is beneficial to your business.

Benefits of Bartering

If you are a new business owner financing your start up on your own, you need to keep tight reigns on your cash. How can you acquire the goods and services needed by your company without tapping into those reserves? Find someone who needs what you produce and strike a deal.

Other reasons to barter:

  • Move that extra stock you have on hand;
  • Make the “down time” in your business (between clients or a seasonal lull) pay off;
  • Reach new clients that wouldn’t necessarily purchase your services – show them the value of your offerings and you may win over a long-term customer in addition to the services;
  • Happy barter exchange partners generate word of mouth for you!

Barter Networks

What happens if you don’t happen to need the services offered by the person requesting yours?

Let’s imagine that you are an accountant, who wants a website, and you know a web designer but they already have an accountant. Well, you could find a third person who provides a different service that the web designer does need, perhaps a publicist, and who happens to need accounting services.

As long as you are trading services of equal value (based on the amount of time spent and the hourly rate), it all can work out fine.

However, if you need 10 hours of web design, and the designer needs one hour of the publicist’s time, and the publicist needs 20 hours of accounting, this can break down pretty quickly. Keeping track and making sure that everyone gets an equal value out of the deal gets hard. It’s at this point that you might seek the services of a barter network.

Barter networks are third party organizations which help track the potentially complicated dealings (also called “barternets”). When you join a barternet, you post the value of your offerings (for instance an hour of your services) and other members “purchase” your offerings. This leaves you with a credit to spend. This simplifies the process by allowing you to exchange hours that you have put in for other services than those provided by the person requesting yours.

Before laying out money for a membership, here are a few questions you should find answers to:

  • How many members are in the network?
  • How diverse are their offerings? A barter network with only a few members or one that has too many members in your field is not going to be useful to you. The more members in the network and the wider the selection of offerings of those members, the better the opportunities for you to get what you need.
  • How do they review the members for membership? There is no point in joining a barter exchange network if there is no verification system or peer review to prevent unethical practices by members.
  • How established is the network? You want to have some assurance that the organization will be around for you to collect the credits you amass through your labour.
  • How do they charge? Some networks charge a fee (monthly or annually), others charge per transaction (usually a percentage of the value of the exchange), and still others charge a combination of membership and transaction fee.
  • What are the reviews like? Speak to some of the members of the network, and better still, find people who have left recently to find out what their experiences are and what impression they are left with.

Pay Per Click Optimization Tips

PPC Keywords Can Drive Targeted Traffic

A Pay Per Click (PPC) campaign can lead to high conversions if the rules for Pay Per Click optimization are followed. Read these useful Pay Per Click optimization tips.

Pay Per Click is not the cheapest way to drive traffic to one’s site but if a PPC campaign is properly planned and executed, it could turn out that the profit made out of it is substantial. PPC advertising is one of the best ways to drive targeted visitors to a site and hope for good conversion rates. In order this to happen, there are certain PPC optimization tips to keep in mind.

Choose a Small Number of Targeted PPC Keywords

When PPC optimization tips are concerned, one of the most important tips is to keep the number of keywords small. It might sound more lucrative to choose tens of keywords to bid for but this is not profitable. When a large number of keywords is selected, targeting is less precise and as a result, conversion rates are lower.

In the beginning, it might be difficult to pick the right keywords. One possible approach is to pick many keywords and run a small campaign in order to see which of them convert and which don’t. After this test, the professional marketer has a set of good PPC keywords to bid for and he or she should stick to them.

Don’t Participate in PPC Bid Wars

Even if there are particular PPC keywords that convert marvelously, if these PPC keywords are expensive, PPC optimization for them might not be viable. Sometimes it might be hard to resist the temptation to outbid a competitor for a lucrative PPC keyword but generally, PPC bid wars don’t lead to increased income. Rather, PPC bid wars can exhaust one’s PPC advertising budget and leave him or her without means to bid on cheaper (and good) keywords.

Track Conversions

Tracking conversions is a must and there is hardly an experienced PPC marketer who doesn’t do it. There are special software applications (including free ones) to track conversions and the benefit of these applications is that they show how much was spent and how much was gained from a particular PPC campaign.

A good software package can calculate many rates – for instance how many clicks are necessary in order to make a sale. These statistics are useful because they help to fine-tune a PPC advertising campaign and spend money wisely.

Budget Wisely a PPC Campaign

Another vital PPC optimization tip to keep a PPC advertising campaign under control is to budget wisely. Based on what the verdict of the conversions tracking tool is, a webmaster needs to make a budget that is aimed at achieving top results with minimal investment.

There are many ways to budget wisely a PPC campaign. For instance, daily limits on the amount of money to spend or limits on repetitive clicks from the same IP are just some of the easiest to do.

Use Conventional SEO As Well

PPC is a very powerful way to drive targeted traffic and generate sales but good old SEO isn’t dead. The discussion is not SEO or PPC is best because in many cases when a PPC campaign doesn’t work well or simply is too expensive, exclusive content for SEO campaign can perform much better. This is why it is necessary not only to carry PPC optimization but also to devote time, effort, and money to SEO as well.

PPC optimization has many aspects. Pay Per Click keywords, especially Google Pay Per Click, work very well if one knows how to use them. If he or she doesn’t, then a PPC campaign can quickly turn into a waste of time and money.

Effective Workplace Stress Management Skills

Effective Workplace Stress Management Skills

In today’s fast paced society and with the current financial climate making it harder than ever to find and maintain employment, it is hardly surprising that work-related stress is a real problem for many people. Although a certain amount of stress can help getting things done on time, too much stress can result in very serious consequences for both one’s physical and mental health.

How Workplace Stress Affects Physical Health

There are many different potential implications that stress may have on physical health and well-being including heart problems such as tension headaches, high blood pressure, chronic back pain and extreme fatigue. For those under high levels of workplace stress, very serious consequences may result including diabetes, stomach ulcers, heart disease, stroke and some people may suffer a complete burn-out requiring an extensive recuperation period.

Many people find that working in very stressful environments cause overeating and significant weight gain which in itself increases the likelihood of developing many additional health problems.

How Workplace Stress Affects Mental Health

Mental health problems are recognised to be on the rise with as many as one in four people thought to be affected at some point in life. Poor sleep quality including insomnia and nightmares caused by excessive stress can have a serious impact on a person’s mental well-being. Work-related stress also may result in drug and alcohol abuse, both of which have potentially alarming effects on mental health and in some cases can trigger forms of mental illness such as depression.

Those who are in highly stressful positions may show increased irritability, high levels of anxiety and find that self-esteem is often linked to how things are progressing within the workplace. As mental health problems are a major cause of sick-leave it is really crucial to understand how to manage stress as effectively as possible.

Stress Management Tips – Regular Exercise and Eat Healthy

workplace stress management - exercise

Possibly the two simplest and most effective ways to manage workplace stress, as well as other causes of stress, more effectively is through taking regular exercise and eating a healthy, balanced diet. Exercise has long since been recognised as a very effective way to improve mood and reduce tension as it provides a release of feel good hormones known as ‘endorphins’ leading to an increased sense of well-being. Ideally, try to aim for thirty minutes of exercise at least three times a week including things like cycling, walking the dog, swimming, running or a workout session at the gym.

Eating a healthy, nutritious diet will certainly help to improve energy levels and reduce mood swings, particularly if one is currently consuming umpteen cups of caffeinated drinks and sugary snacks each day. The key word here is balance, no food should be off limits, just make sure one is getting plenty of fruit, vegetables, protein and fibre. Drinking water rather than fizzy drinks or high caffeine drinks will also help with energy levels and maintaining a healthy weight in the long-run.

Stress Management Tips – Achieve a Healthy Work-Life Balance

work-life balance

As with establishing and maintaining a healthy diet, balance is also important in wider aspects of an individual’s life. Draw a pie chart representing an average day and fill in the segments to show how much time each day is spent working, socialising, relaxing and sleeping. This is a quick and easy way to recognise which areas are out of balance. For example if one is working 40+ hours a week and not spending any time with friends or on other social activities then this is unsurprisingly going to have an impact upon one’s ability to cope with stress.

Having a support system in place of friends, family, work colleagues, as well as a specific activity which one uses to relieve stress such as playing sport will make a big difference to both mental and physical well-being both in the short and long-term.

As highlighted above, workplace stress can have serious impacts upon mental and physical health and may also lead to reduced morale and workplace conflict. Key ways to manage stress effectively include leading a balanced life, taking regular exercise and enjoying a balanced diet.

Create Customer Loyalty: Increase Sales And Improve Business

Customer Loyalty Program - Loyalty Card

Customer loyalty- how do you get it? This is a question business owners find themselves asking all the time. Customer satisfaction is what they strive for because returning customers mean more money and referrals.

Barbara walks into your store every time with a smile on her face. She loves you and your business and is constantly sending you new customers. The only way Barbara could be a better customer is if she shovelled the snow off your sidewalk for you. How can you find more customers just like Barbara?

Customer Loyalty Is The Key To Business Success

Customer loyalty is the key to business success. All owners want to grow their business and returning customers with referrals are what keeps a business afloat and helps it thrive. So, to keep customers satisfied and returning, business owners need to get creative.

If you are a parent of teenagers, you have probably heard the term, BFF. She is my BFF or he is my BFF. What is BFF? It stands for ‘Best Friend Forever.’ Why don’t you take your kid’s favorite term and use it as a concept for a customer loyalty program for your business? Do some brainstorming to see how you can create BFF customers for your business.

4 Rules for Creating a Customer Loyalty Program

  • Make The Customer Feel Special—Learn their name and use it all the time. Set up a system to remember birthdays, anniversaries and send them greeting cards on these special days. Remembering personal information makes them feel important.
  • Be Creative—Surprise your customers with gifts, cards or personal notes with their orders to show they are appreciated. Learn their likes and dislikes. Think of your customers whenever you come up with a loyalty program. For example, when conceptualizing a physical rewards card, choose a design that resonates with your target market.
  • Be Consistent—A successful relationships require consistent communication. Ongoing contact with customers giving them new information, rewards and discounts reinforces their belief that they are special to you and you value their business.
  • Be Sincere— One fact about sincerity is that it cannot be faked. A person can spot insincerity in an instant and artificiality can damage all previous efforts to gain their trust.

All businesses are competing for customers. A customer loyalty program that makes patrons feel important will maximize profits and create a stream of new buyers through referrals. When a customer is valued, then competition is not an issue. When a person is treated outstandingly, there is no desire to seek out competitors and word of mouth referrals will come pouring in.


Good Customer Service – Improve Customer Satisfaction

Improve Customer Service

Good customer service is one of the most valuable tools any business owner can have. And there are a number of easy ways to ensure customer satisfaction.


Customer service is one of the most essential parts of creating and running a successful business. Companies known for having excellent customer service skills, friendly employees and good problem resolutions are more likely to attract and retain customers. Employee training and customer satisfaction surveys are two basic ways to ensure good customer service, and reinforce the necessity of improving customer satisfaction. There are a number of ways to improve the customer service skills of a company.

Customer Satisfaction Surveys

One of the easiest ways to gauge customer service skills is to take customer satisfaction surveys. Surveying customers is a great way to determine how guests feel after interacting with a business, and they can create a goal for improving customer service with each visit. Offer a coupon or discount to customers who take an online customer satisfaction survey or fill out a printed survey at the business location.

Keep in touch with customers who offer feedback to determine if customer satisfaction is improving. Offer opportunities for guests to offer feedback on a regular basis.

Customer Demographics – How to Tailor Customer Service to the Customers

Develop a demographic of the people who use the business. This can include information about the physical characteristics of guests, as well as their lifestyle preferences, opinions and personal values. Use this demographic information to develop a strategy for making each guest feel comfortable when interacting with the business.

Use information based on customer feedback to develop a general idea about the demographic of shoppers and guests who visit the business on a regular basis.

What are the Benefits of Employee Training?

Employee interaction with customers plays a huge role in creating the level of customer satisfaction individuals feel with a business. Employees put a human face on a company, and their performance when interacting with customers can decide whether or not guests become repeat customers. Employee training offers many benefits to business owners.

Train employees to interact with customers in a positive, respectful manner. According to Be Our Guest, by the Disney Institute, customers want to feel that they are treated with respect and dignity. There are a number of ways employees can be trained to work with customers.

Training Employees for Customer Service

Employee training should include customer service and customer satisfaction as two of its central goals. Teach employees how to interact with customers in a successful and positive way. For example, each customer should be greeted with a smile and a vocal greeting. Employees should actively seek out customers and offer assistance. In case of a problem, such as a returned or defective item, employees should be able to offer a solution or find another employee who can. Train employees to focus on the positive outcome of any situation. Thank customers at the end of each interaction.

Customer Satisfaction and the Service Mission

Have employees create a service mission that reflects the desire to create a positive business experience for each customer. Display the service mission in a location that is visible to both employees and customers as a reminder of the goal of the business. Increased customer satisfaction can be easier to attain when employees have a visible reminder of their service mission.

Working with customers is a vitally important part of any business. Ensuring that each customer leaves happy will help keep shoppers returning to the business. Happy customers can keep a business afloat for many years, and well-trained employees are the best way to ensure great customer service.

Strategies to Improve Your Small Business

Strategies to Improve Your Small Business
Success by Organised Business Management and Strategy Implementation

One way to start, improve or transform any small business into a well organised, high performing and profitable business is to clearly define the vision and business strategies, to organise the business with high performance systems and to manage for results. Conceptually, this approach can be expressed as a six step process that is repeated on a regular cycle or as needed due to a significantly changed business situation. This same process is used if starting a business, with a new business or if the business is already established.

Six Step Process to Improve a Small Business

  • Use SWOT [Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats] analysis to define the key strengths and weaknesses of your business and then to extend that by considering the market opportunities and threats
  • SWOT analysis becomes the input to define the vision, competitive edge and strategy
  • Balanced Scorecard [1] is used to create the strategic focus and operational control for the business by structuring the strategy into a comprehensive set of objectives, targets and measures. This will encompass: financial, customer, internal, learning and development
  • Business plans are created and systems [2] are designed to perform all key business operations, to capture appropriate metrics and to meet the strategic objectives
  • Roles and sourcing strategy are defined to operate the business systems
  • Business plan is implemented and business is operated and managed using those business systems and as needed those systems are optimised or adapted to changing strategies

This six step process is continually being used to ensure that the business has the right strategies and maintains that strategic focus and control through implementation and execution.

Better Decision Making

Any strategic or major decisions that the business needs to take should be considered in relation to the balanced scorecard and only taken with the knowledge or expectation that it will positively contribute to the business. Major business decisions that are needed but that do not contribute to the business objectives need to be evaluated as to their real significance and importance. In some cases that decision needed is:

  • Both important and significant and identifies a balanced scorecard gap that needs to be addressed
  • Significant to the business but is not related to the important strategic objectives – it is treated with an appropriate lower level of priority
  • It is neither significant nor important and may lead to the conclusion that the business activity requiring a decision is unnecessary and so may be optimised by elimination

Organised Business Management and Strategy Implementation

Using this six step process for strategy implementation and business management will lead to a well organised and high performing business and if good strategies are selected then also to a profitable business but as always there are many caveats and things that can and will go wrong. Those things have already led to many business failures and so strategies and systems should be designed with that in mind – avoiding common business problems.