Category Archives for "Business Development"

Mar 24

Using Overthinking as a Tool for Innovation, Education and Self-growth

Business Development , General Info

Coronavirus has changed the way many are working around the globe. Businesses are using a variety of tactics to adjust to the remote work life, and the work day for many has turned on its head. We can sulk and see this only as a negative, an annoyance, and a major disruption-or we can take the opportunity to learn, reflect, and innovate. The saying ‘if it isn’t broken, don’t fix it’ no longer applies here (and honestly should never apply-always improve!), but rather we should be proactive in answering the hard questions. How can we fix it? How can we turn this bad turn on luck into something productive? Now is the time for outside the box thinkers-which leads me into the topic of this blog... overthinking.

I have held a variety of jobs in both industry and seniority. These jobs did not follow the typical sequence like our parents and grandparents (who stayed with the same company for 100 years, walked to and from blocks and blocks in the snow, etc.) because the current job market is simply different. Students and recent graduates often ‘start over’ in companies numerous times whether through internships, switching industries, or the need to pick up a second job to pay for their amazon prime membership. This new delineation occurred to me and brought up a concern that I believe needs to be addressed. Rant mode:ON.

Typically, one's desire to do a job fully, purposefully, and with regard to company policy should be viewed as admirable-and in past decades I believe this was the case. However, now this action is often responded to with the daggering statement of,  “You’re overthinking it.”. It seems the act of wanting to learn, improve, and better your skills by both intra and interpersonal thinking has been deemed a flaw. When I have heard this in the workplace my initial feeling is that of embarrassment, and worst of all, isolation. 

School always came easy to me. I wouldn't consider myself a ‘brown noser’ by any means, I always felt that my quality of work should speak for itself.  I was never the one to want to read out loud or raise my hand, and this was not only because I was shy, but more so it was the fear of being wrong. The shame, the laughing, the inevitability of all eyes being on me and the thought in what I’m sure would be judgement from the class (flashback to college when I answered a question in my public economics course and the professor's response was a stern and simple, “wrong”). 

In school we prepare for the ‘real world’ by completing assignments to all specifications and are penalized when we fail to do so. We are encouraged to participate in class, to ask questions, and to take advantage of any opportunity to learn from the instructor and others. We venture into our first internships and jobs with this mentality instilled in us. Ask questions, take notes, execute these lessons. Wash, rinse, repeat. We walk in starry eyed, full of wonder (ok, maybe just me) and ask the employees to tell us everything about their job. The usual response-a look that expresses, I need to get my job done and you need to get away from me.

When we become adults I feel some of this fear mentality still exists. We don’t want to raise our hand in a staff meeting to ask for clarification because this makes us look like we didn’t listen carefully enough the first time. We are slow to speak up on our opinions of internal processes because we don’t want to anger the ones who put them in place.

Maybe it is my past love for assignments where following instructions led to a positive response that makes the workforce feel so scary sometimes. Going back to me being told, “You’re overthinking it”, I no longer view this as something shameful. I will not apologize for being curious. I will not apologize for the desire to be a good employee. I seek to squash the negative connotation of this phrase. We are told to think before we speak. ‘Thinking’ is innately a good action (which we desperately need more of in this society if you ask me, but I digress), and achieving is also a positive action-so why are the terms 'overachiever’ and ‘overthinking’ regarded as a bad trait?

My nerd self took the dictionary to solve this conundrum:

Think (verb): to form or have in the mind

Over (prefix): so as to exceed or surpass

Out (prefix): in a manner that exceeds or surpasses and sometimes overpowers or defeats

This then translates to the following:

OVERthink: to think too much about (something) : to put too much time into thinking about or analyzing (something) in a way that is more harmful than helpful

OUTthink: to outdo or surpass in thinking : to go beyond or transcend by thinking

By definition the term overthink should not be negative, and should be seen similar to outthink-I wonder where this went wrong. (could be removed?)

I have a background in retail team management, and not once did I believe my team was ‘overthinking’ a task-positively or negatively. I welcomed questions. My employees who asked for guidance tended to do the job right, whereas the ones who claimed they ‘got it’ did not, indeed, ‘got it’! Thinking is a necessary and admirable trait in any human, and especially in an employee where your bottom line is at stake. This concept of overthinking was never a topic for discussion at meetings among fellow managers of the company. If an employee was up for discussion it was usually because they failed to complete a task-they failed to seek clarification-they failed to think.

The key to all of this comes from WHO the individuals were in my sob story that claimed I was ‘overthinking’ my job. The answer-my peers. My managers weren’t scolding me for asking questions or coming to them for guidance. It was my trainers, my same level employees who have held the job longer than me that judged my curiosity and became annoyed by my desire to learn. These people we encounter in life who seek to tear down our busy minds are envious that we have such ideas.

So, during this time of social unrest, routine changes, and the need to make big decisions whether personal or professional-I urge you to do what the others don’t want to do. Think. Think about ways you can improve your current situation, think of new ideas for your work or budgeting, invent something, and don’t let the fear of a bad idea drag you down. I am an over-thinker and am proud to be one. Who’s with me?

-Lauren

Dec 09

Treat Your Competitors Like Partners? Here’s Why

Business Development

“If it wasn’t for [insert name of your arch rival in business], things would be easy.”

How many times have you said or heard a phrase similar to this one? When it comes to business development, we often blame competitors when we’re not winning deals. Those competitors might have better pricing, better features, or more slick-looking marketing materials. 

Is that competitor the real reason you’re not winning, though?

One company I found called Bendyworks, a mobile and web app developer in Madison, Wisconsin, doesn’t blame their competition. In fact, they embrace them.

Ashley Powell, Business Development Manager of Bendyworks, says it this way:

“Bendyworks competes differently than other companies. We are friendly with our competition, and treat people more like partners than anything else. While we naturally compete with other local firms for projects, we rely on firms to call us when they have more business than they can handle and when we have consultants on the bench, and they count on us to call them when the roles are reversed.”

How refreshing is Ashley’s view? In today’s environment of politicians constantly lobbing insults at each other and CEOs stepping down during a scandal, Bendyworks wants their competition to count on them.

Bendyworks empitomizes the phrase, “A rising tide raises all boats,” through their advocacy of the Madison tech scene.

Again, Ashley Powell:

“We know that driving out the competition means that we’ll have an edge on future business, but we also know that attracting top talent to Madison means creating an environment where senior level developers can see their current job, their next job and the job after that here in Madison.

Realistically, we want people to view Madison as a long term choice.  It’s a great place to raise kids, and it has great up and coming tech and entrepreneurial corridors.  We’re excited about doing our part to continue raising Madison’s profile, which is in keeping with initiatives from the Greater Madison Chamber of Commerce, who are launching a campaign to “Make Madison” (Make a career, make a life, make a difference.)  

To that end, we invite other tech firms in for our ‘Tech Talk Tuesdays’ to share knowledge, we’ve hosted joint book clubs with competing firms, and we do a TON in the community to bring more people to tech.”

Brad Grzesiak, CEO of Bendyworks says their company mission transcends the Madison tech scene as well:

“We believe so strongly in helping others succeed that it’s built into our company mission: Share Joy and Success in our Craft. And it doesn’t just stop with our industry partners, either; we sponsor and support local and global programs for youth of color, girls, and women. Sometimes that’s just a cash donation, though it’s often more hands-on, like inviting groups of youth into our office or mentoring at hackathons.”

Next time you or those working in business development at your company lament the competition, pause for a moment. What if you could work with your competition instead of against them? Bendyworks continues to succeed and grow through this model, and it’s something you should consider as well.

Nov 04

4 Ways to Manage and Train with Front-line Employees in Mind

Business Development

The Lack of Front-Line Employee Training in Action:

While traveling I learned a marketing lesson this week and I want to share with you.

Three different nights this week I stayed in a major hotel chain at three different locations. You know when you stay in a hotel and you log onto the Internet it makes you put in your credentials and then also has a splash screen that says this is the most important thing to us right now?

In the case this major hotel chain it’s a partnership with Lyft - so Lyft the Uber competitor.

I went downstairs the next morning to take what I thought was going to be a shuttle to the event. To my surprise, they didn’t have a shuttle, but the man at the front desk said - “Sir, you can get in Uber.” 

So, here’s a major hotel chain spending a lot of money on a marketing initiative, yet the front-line employees haven’t been yet trained or told to say Lyft instead of Uber.

Now, if you’re doing any kind of marketing initiative that’s broad-based, where you want people to think about you a certain way, please make sure you train your front-line employees first so they’re on the same page as you are. 

Manage and Train with Front-line Employees in Mind: 

Communicate: 

Ensure that as the boss, you are training your employees to be comfortable with communication. Asking questions is the first step to ensuring open communication is a major focus. Educate your employees about accomplishments in their department, their growth, and how they are an important member of your team. 

Training that Matters: 

Offer training that is specialized to what that employee is doing and the objective they need to be reaching for. Recognize the employees strengths and deliver training that is based on that employees performance. Recognize that the training you offer should develop and enhance their career goals.

Develop an Employee Appreciation Program: 

Feedback matters and your employees want to hear it. Make it clear to your employees that you are monitoring their performance and efforts towards bettering the company. Your front-line employees are directly reflecting your business and influencing the overall business results. Show appreciation and deliver rewards based on the efforts of every employee.

Let them Shape their Work Experience:

Frustration can commonly be a result of too many rules and regulations enforced in the workplace. Make your rules value-oriented and flexible to help create employee satisfaction. When employee satisfaction increases, the quality of work increases, and therefore your customer satisfaction is likely to increase. Gather insights from your front-line employees about how their job can become more enjoyable. Creating a structure and framework for your business does not have to include overbearing rules and micromanaging. 


Taking the time to ensure that carefully hired employees receive the quality of training they deserve will create an overall more enjoyable workplace experience. Create value and a positive experience for not only your customers, but all of your employees as well. 

How are you ensuring that your front-line staff members are aware of partnership marketing strategies?

Sep 02

How to Maximize the Results of Your Pitch Competition

Business Development , Marketing , Social Media

how to maximize the RESULTS of your Pitch Competition

A founder of a startup company came to me with a compelling question: “How can we use social media as a strategy before, during and after aevent?” The specific event he was referring to is a popular pitch competition that he is attending with his team. In fact, it is so sought after, only 15 groups can attend this event from all over the world. Preparing a social media strategy is not only a great way to introduce other companies to your followers, but to gain recognition for both you and your brand. Here's what to do before, during, and after your pitch opportunity.

What to do before your pitch competition

  1. Do research on the companies that are going to be attending the event. In this specific case, the Founder and his team will study the other 14 companies presenting at the pitch competition FoodBytes, follow them on social media, and begin their outreach plan.
  1. Come up with an eye-catching message that will make yourself stand out. You can enhance this message by including a graphic (our design team utilizes Canva). When you begin the outreach process, tag the CEO/Founder of the company and FoodBytes (or the host of other events). Here is a sample message: 

“We're looking forward to meeting you at #FoodBytes and learning more about you and your company <use company social media handle> there!” 

  1. Continue to make new connections by following or connecting with CEOs or Founders of the other companies. A great platform for doing this is LinkedIn. Ensure that your LinkedIn profile says a little about you and what you do, and then before try to connect with others.
  1. Create  team pictures with branded designs and add them to your Instagram Page. 
  1. When you begin to use your social media platforms to highlight the other people at a pitch competition, a question that founders and their teams will ask you is, “Why are you doing this for us?” Your answer should be as simple as, “Why would I not do this for you?” Consider this equation: 

 Social media (free) + Research (a little time) + Publicizing other people = GOOD BUSINESS 

Spencer X Smith and Alan Webber from Fast Company

AmpliPhi Founder Spencer X Smith with Fast Company Founder Alan Webber

What to do during your pitch competition

  1. Walk into the event with confidence because people are going to know who you are. You have done your research and reached out to those who are attending the event. Think of your engagement as though old friends are catching up, not introducing themselves for the first time.  
  1. Using Twitter, engage in real-time with other pitches and the event itself. Remember, it's your job to help THEM look good.
  1. Ensure you take lots of photos with the other Founders and their teams to share on social media platforms. Prove that you are who you say you are and celebrate each other’s successes.   
  1. Utilize event hashtags (and company hashtags if you have one) in your posts. It's likely the use of these hashtags will have an explosive amount of activity during the conference, but not so much following the event. Capitalize on where people are paying attention.

What to do for follow up after your pitch competition

  1. Post, post, post!! Use platforms such as LinkedIn and Instagram to showcase what you did at the event. Share the photos you took with other Founders and their teams and tag them to increase engagement. Again, help highlight them and what they do.
  1. Follow-up with the people you met using video messages. Soapbox from Wistia is a great resource for creating video messages. This is a much, much more personal way to share your message and help people recall who you are. Remember, they are going to meeting a lot of new people; you want to be the one who stands out! Don't relegate yourself to simply using email. Use personalized videos through Soapbox to solidify who you are in your prospects' minds.

How do you use social media strategies before, during and after an event? Did I miss anything? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!

Nov 30

How To Effectively Boost A Facebook Post

Business Development , Facebook , Marketing , Social Media

How To Effectively Boost A Facebook Post

Boosting allows you to choose a post that’s already on your business page and extend the reach by spending money to promote it.

In today’s world of social media, paying Facebook to show your posts to more people is incredibly helpful and most importantly, easy.

To do a great boosted post, we encourage two things to begin the process.

Define a goal for the post

Setting a goal will help you define success in the campaign. Whether it’s traffic to a web page, engagement on the post, or page likes, figuring it out ahead of time allows you to optimize the campaign and judge how successful it is.

Make sure that you have quality visuals

Whether it is an image or a video, it’s important that the quality is as good as it can be. Fuzzy pictures or shaky phone videos are simple to create but don’t always transfer well to engagement.

To get started with the actual post you’re going to upload your visual to your Facebook page. Then make sure you write some compelling copy and tag any person or organization that you want to have included in your post. Also, you should always include a call to action and a link, if necessary, to give people a way to engage.

Next, once the post is published, you can either click the “boost post” button or you can use the ads manager to boost your post.

Facebook boosting audienceIf you’re using the boost post button, it’s very self-explanatory on how to complete this process. The best part about using the button is that you can select an audience of “people who like your page and their friends”. This is the easiest way to reach people who are already familiar with your page and might not have seen the post.

If you’re using the ads manager, use the hamburger menu and select ‘page posts’. Then select the ‘published posts’.

Check out your stats and see which posts are performing well, based on the highest reach and largest engagement.

Select the post you wish to boost and select ‘create ad’ from the actions dropdown.

Name the campaign and ad set, select your objective and save to draft. Once you’re here you can go ahead and proceed how you would build an ad inside ads manager. Choose a proper audience based on who you’d like to target, set an appropriate budget, and select an objective that meets your goal.

(Creative used is video)

(Creative used is an image with link)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Another pro-tip of boosting a post is that with certain objectives you have the option to only pay for results. If there is a strong call-to-action, we recommend paying for engagements, not impressions. You can even manually enter a bid based on what those engagements are worth to you. Or you can just leave it on automatic bidding and Facebook will get the most post engagements at the best price.

Lastly, the creative inside the ad will already be done because it’s a post that’s been published to your business page, so when boosting there is no need to worry about that.

So, if you have a specific message or a post you’d like to build engagement on, don’t be afraid to boost away!

Apr 24

5 Ways to Overcome Your Fear of Approaching People at Networking Events

Business Development , LinkedIn , Marketing

5 Ways to Overcome Your Fear of Approaching People at Networking Events

Networking GroupYou have been invited to a networking event. You are excited and hopeful to learn new things and meet different, interesting people. It’s going to be awesome! Then you think of a crowd of unfamiliar faces, and the nervousness hits you. That’s followed by the expectation to be confident and sociable along with the incessant pressure to be witty and scintillating in front of people you don’t know. This was supposed to be awesome, you tell yourself, but you’re wondering if it’s more work than it’s worth.

If you are familiar with this feeling, fear not, because you are not alone. Here are 5 simple tips that may help you overcome your fear of approaching people.

  1. Be prepared – Dress comfortably and do your homework. Looking good will certainly boost your self-confidence. We all feel better about ourselves when we are well-dressed and comfortable. People usually have a positive impression toward those who carry themselves with boldness and are relaxed in their own skin.

    Also, do your homework. Try to find others who are attending the event and make a list of who you’d like to talk to. Do your research on them and figure out what they’ve been up to. These types of findings will be great conversation starters and give you a reason to approach them.

  2. Don’t overthink it – This can be really difficult, as overthinking is one of our natural reactions when facing a stressful situation. How exactly can we avoid thinking too much? Take deep breaths and approach the person you want to talk to immediately. It may seem hard, but it will prevent you from twisting the situation in your head. Waiting longer will only trigger you to overanalyze what could have been a simple “hi” followed by a nice introduction. If you are not sure what to, just throw away your script and be natural. You may even be vocal about being nervous, as people appreciate honesty. Remember: the more you think, the harder it becomes.
  3. Be yourself – Yes, this is a cliché, but the only way to get through your anxiety is to embrace who you are. You are not auditioning for a movie role or applying for a job, you are simply trying to connect with someone. Stop memorizing lines in your head, because more often than not you will not be able to use them. You don’t have to sound super smart, you just have to show the person that you are interesting enough to converse with. As you get more comfortable during the conversation, this is when you carefully add more flair to your dialog.
  4. Give genuine compliments – Once you’ve approached the person you’re going to talk to, be genuine in your conversation and the comments you’re going to give. The reason you want to connect with a particular person is because you are interested in developing a relationship with him or him. Be sincere in your compliments and comments. People like the feeling of being appreciated for the work they have done, especially when you praise them on something they exerted effort on.
  5. Remember, you’ll be just fine – Don’t be too hard on yourself. Whatever happens, believe me, you will survive. Real world practice is the best experience, and as you attend more of these events, you will come out stronger and more confident in yourself.

HandshakeApproaching people, be it a stranger or someone familiar to you, is not everyone’s strong suit. It really takes an enormous amount of courage to start a conversation with someone we don’t know, mainly because we are afraid of rejection and embarrassment. Nevertheless, choosing not to approach people will lessen your chance to grow your circle and learn new things. It is only difficult when you haven’t tried it yet.

Most importantly, remind yourself that you are not the only one. Others are surely as nervous as you are. Sometimes, you are too overwhelmed to realize that not everyone in the room knows each other. Face your fears and you will be surprised at how enjoyable it can be to connect with people.

 

Sources read:

https://lifehacker.com/overcome-social-anxiety-with-the-3-second-rule-1619636095
https://www.atlasandboots.com/travel-skills-talking-to-strangers/
http://invisible-advantage.com/how-to-approach-more-people-at-a-business-networking-event/

Mar 14

What is Social Listening and Why is it Important?

Business Development , Facebook , Instagram , LinkedIn , Marketing , Social Media , Twitter

What is Social Listening and Why is it Important?

Nowadays, social media is not just another platform for sharing pictures, life events and what you had for lunch. It is also used to voice your opinion about many different things. The digital revolution has changed traditional marketing and consumers have learned to take their inquiries, comments and criticisms online. Therefore, any business or brand for that matter, must learn how to integrate social listening in their marketing strategy.

Social Listening image

Imagine the amount of insights you can acquire from a certain market that is made up entirely of consumers who are talking about your brand. Social listening is the process of tracking and identifying what is being said about a specific brand or industry. It is important to monitor consumers’ tone when they speak about your brand via keywords, as they can help you leverage your insights and discover new ways to create content focused on your audience. Although social listening and social monitoring often go hand in hand, there is a certain difference between these two. Social listening does not merely focus on close monitoring through personal response on comments and queries. The main goal is to thoroughly analyze consumers’ sentiments and be able to extract pivotal insights from these conversations in order to create a strategy that is based on what people are saying. Think about it this way: social monitoring is like a cure – as a certain problem arises, it will help you be aware of and act on it on the spot. However, social listening is more like prevention – rather than just dealing with the problem after it arose, listening will help you prevent the problem from happening in the first place.

Why is Social Listening Important?

Brand Reputation

When you actively listen to what social media says about your brand, you know for sure that positive and negative feedback is inevitable. The thing is, social listening will help you identify and successfully recognize harmful threads before they create a lasting impact your brand. A good reputation is what allows a company to continue flourishing, and thus contribute to the entire brand health. 

Product Development

Social listening also gives more room for improvement. From the word itself, listening will help you get valuable feedback that could be the basis for your product development plan. Draw out an effective solution by focusing on the points that people find unsatisfying and highlight whatever works well for your brand.

Key InfluencerInstagram image

In this generation where even ordinary people can have an extended reach or impact on social media, it is also practical to know who has the power to influence consumers in a relevant marketplace. Influencers from different fields or industries love to discuss products online, particularly those they personally patronize. This may help you come up with a strategy if you know how to take advantage of their social / online connection.

Brand Engagement

What is the most logical thing to do after learning what consumers have to say about your product? Engage. Actively communicate with them and manage the growing brand loyalty so you can look forward to a potentially lifelong commitment between your brand and its users. In the age of digital marketing, it has become easier to reach out to your consumers to properly address their concerns through mobile and social media. Brand engagement is the key in making consumers feel that their voice is being heard and that their opinions actually matter.

Social listening, in a nutshell, will allow your brand to be at the forefront; it is just a matter of addressing and properly acting on your consumers’ wants and needs.

Mar 01

Boosted Posts vs. Facebook Sponsored Content

Business Development , Facebook , Marketing , Social Media

Boosted Posts vs. Facebook Sponsored Content

One of the most frequently asked questions I hear when working with clients on the Facebook platform is, “Should I boost it?” More specifically, should they boost a Facebook post they just created. My reaction varies every time I hear it because I know the client’s intentions are good, but sometimes it’s hard to explain my reasoning for not boosting. So let’s put it down in writing.

In the marketing world today, Facebook ads are just about the best way to spend a dollar. As long as that dollar is spent wisely!

There are 2 main ways to create a Facebook Ad. Boosted Posts and Sponsored Content through Ads Manager..

BOOSTED POSTS are what people are most familiar with because every post you create on your business page will have the option to, “Boost Post”.

Boosted posts are easier and much less intimidating for people not incredibly familiar with Facebook ads, such as the small business owner or employee. You can select a post that’s already on your page, choose a target audience, enter a total budget, and how long you would like it to run and voila. Let the reactions and engagement begin!

Boosting a post is great for brand awareness and can provide valuable social proof. Also, if your post contains a link, you can encourage people to visit your website. But again, that post MUST contain a link.

An example of what type of posts I’d boost are announcement posts. Whether it be a big company announcement like winning an award, an expansion, a new hire or announcing a big upcoming event, these types of posts are great for the fans you already have and people close to them, which is what boosting is good for.

FACEBOOK SPONSORED CONTENT created through Ads Manager is what I use 99% of the time.

You have much more creative control over what the sponsored content looks like in every way possible. The 20% text rule still exists (only 20% of your image can contain text) but you can include a headline (the larger copy right below the image), a news feed link description (the smaller copy right below the headline) and an optional display link which shows up in the lower left hand corner. There is also a large selection of Call To Action buttons including “Watch More” for videos, “Shop Now” for e-commerce and “Donate Now” for non-profits.

Another benefit of using Ads Manager to create your Facebook sponsored content is the sheer amount of available objectives. You can optimize your campaign for exactly what you’re looking for. Awareness, consideration, and conversion are the 3 main sections, and each section has multiple campaign objectives to select from. Obviously each piece of sponsored content can only have one objective, but there are many options, including Brand Awareness, Reach, Traffic, App Installs, Video Views, Lead Generation, Post Engagement, Page Likes, Event Responses, Messages, Conversions, Catalog Sales and Store Visits.

Another major advantage worth mentioning is the ability to target exactly who you’re looking for. There is some available audience targeting when Boosting a post but not nearly to the extent that you can when using Ads Manager. Not only can you target a custom audience that you’ve created but you can also overlap that audience with another detail. For example, let’s say I created an audience of visitors to my website over the past 60 days and then I wanted to narrow that audience down to those visitors to the site who live in Wisconsin, can do! And that’s just where it begins!

Some additional highlights inside Ads Manager are you can choose what you want to pay for (clicks, impressions, etc) and where you want your sponsored content to be seen (mobile, iOS devices only, desktop, right column, Facebook Marketplace, Instagram Feed or Stories, Messenger, etc.)

Plus, you can also Split Test your sponsored content making it much easier to figure out where your money is best spent. (I’ll expand on this in my next blog)

Whichever direction you decide to go, Boosting Posts or using Ads Manager, it’s a win-win. Facebook gives you the platform for the best audience targeting at a relatively inexpensive price…at least for now. So promote away!

Top