Print Marketing Is About Selling Value, Not Services

There’s a common misconception that far too many marketers have that needs to be put to rest once and for all.

A lot of people still seem to think that if you’re really going to carve out a stronger competitive advantage for yourself in an increasingly crowded marketplace, you need to make your services appear objectively better than everyone else’s. You need to talk about how your products are better, stronger, faster, longer-lasting, more cost-efficient, etc. All this to steal as much attention away from your competition as you can.

In truth, that is a myth. You shouldn’t be selling services at all. You should be selling the value that those services provide. In other words, the thesis at the heart of your print marketing campaign shouldn’t be “here’s what I can do that nobody else can,” but rather “here’s what I can do for you.” Mastering this approach requires you to keep a few key things in mind.

Everything Begins and Ends With Your Customer

The art of selling value instead of services is one of those situations where buyer personas come in handy.

When you begin to come up with a buyer persona for your ideal customer, you try to add as much information about that person as possible. But once your persona has been completed, you shouldn’t be asking yourself, “Okay, what do I need to tell this person in order to convince them to give me money?” Instead, you need to get answers to questions like:

  • What problem does this customer have and how do my services solve it for them?
  • In what ways will that person’s life be easier after their purchase than it was before?
  • What does that person want to accomplish, and how can I help make that happen?

Then, you work your way back to the products and services that you’re trying to sell, thinking about the problem and positioning yourself as the solution.

A Whole New Approach

This is one of those areas where specificity will carry you far. Think about the individual portions of your sales funnel and what someone needs to hear at each one to move from one end to the other. Use this “value-centric” approach not to convince someone that the time is right to make a purchase, but to give them the actionable information they need to arrive at that conclusion on their own.

In the end, there are probably a lot of other companies in your industry who do what you do – but nobody does it in quite the same way. That key thing that differentiates you from so many others is the value that only you can offer and what should be at the heart of all of your marketing messages.

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5 Meeting Rules You’ll Actually Want to Adopt

Are meetings something that you would consider magical at your organization? No? Why not? Aren’t meetings a place to collaborate, share ideas, dream big dreams and then make things happen?

Few business people would describe meetings using terms like actionable, positive, critical and focused . . . yet those are the terms that help define success in moving the organization forward.

Communication methods are imperfect as a whole. While you can create a business plan via a series of emails, it’s inefficient and the plan will often lack creativity. The same goes for one-on-one meetings. Team meetings are the ideal way to build energy and enthusiasm for a new idea and generate actionable outcomes, but without the proper structure, even these meetings can be considered wasted time.

Here are 5 rules that will help keep your meetings on pace, on target, and provide you with the successful outcomes that you need from your time together.

1. Start With An Agenda

No, you shouldn’t begin with ‘What will it take to fill an hour of team meeting time this week?’, because if that’s your first thought then you’re already sunk. Request that team members send agenda items at least 24 hours before the meeting time and consolidate them to form your agenda. Keep in mind the flow of topics, and be sure you’re leaving time for strategic conversations. Leave items that may fall into deep tactical minutiae to the end of your agenda.

2. Plan for Takeaways

Consider the consensus that you’re attempting to build with your meeting, or what your takeaway should be. Perhaps you need someone to volunteer for a new project, or you just need to inform a group about a direction that will impact their work. If you feel that there may be some pushback to your ideas within the room, look for a partner who will be in the meeting who can help support your point. If an item that was on your agenda doesn’t have a clear actionable, add it to a parking lot for a later date.

3. Keep Time Sacred

Time is money, and never is that more true than when you have 3-15 individuals in a room together meeting without a timeline or agenda. Based on your agenda, break down how long each portion of the conversation should take and allot time accordingly. If your meeting should only need 23 minutes, then schedule that much time — perhaps plus a few minutes extra. Be a stickler about keeping conversations in check and moving the agenda along to hit key points in your list.

4. Consider a Drive-By

Just need to chat with a few people about a simple topic? Instead of finding space and time for a full-fledged meeting, consider a 5-minute drive-by or stand up meeting. Grab a few people and huddle around a desk or common area, hash through your questions or concerns and let everyone get back to their day. In the same amount of time that you might take to walk and get a cup of coffee, you’ve made a decision, kept others updated on important points, and reduced the overall inefficiency of the day. The time for small talk can be over lunch; use these drive-bys to distill your ideas into the length of an elevator pitch. This may be uncomfortable for some people as it requires checking your ego at the door, but teams that are able to adopt these policies can become much more agile.

5. Keep it Moving

Always focus on the end result and what you need to keep your projects moving. This could be anything from an approval by a superior, someone agreeing to take on a task, or even consensus that you’re heading in the right direction. Capture takeaways and next steps, and most importantly — the name of the responsible party and when the result should be delivered. This will keep your meetings on task and team focused.

The word ‘meeting’ doesn’t have to be a negative concept. Instead, use these 5 meeting rules to adopt a culture of forward motion, positivity, and respect within the organization that will drive success both now and in the future. This isn’t a one-time change to how you approach meetings, but an organization-wide initiative to take back your time and productivity.

4 Ways to Stop Your Team from Falling Apart

There are times in every supervisor’s work life that you can feel everything going off the rails — projects don’t sync up as they should, laughter feels forced within your team, and the energy levels are low.

While it may feel like everything is falling apart at the seams, and you’re not sure what you can do, don’t give up! There are ways to bring teamwork back to your team, but it will take some work to rebuild trust between team members and realign your focus to the future.

Even the most high-performing teams have moments of doubt that can be introduced by stress or fear. These negative emotions could overtake a team or its leader, but the first step is re-imagining the future and then casting that vision to your team.

Prevention is Worth a Pound of Cure

While it may be too late if your team has already entered a downward spiral, preventing negativity from happening is always the best alternative to a team that’s coming apart at the seams. Getting to know your team, understanding their motivations and stressors, and working hard when you need to will help you become a trusted member of your team — and not just the leader.

Spending time together bonding in good times will help sustain your relationship during times of difficulty, both with each individual team member and the team as a whole. This trust doesn’t come overnight but is worth the time spent building it in the long run.

Slowing the Negativity

Perhaps your team has just begun showing signs of stress, such as team members being unwilling to contribute in meetings, leaving early, or losing energy early in the day. If you look up in the afternoon and everyone is wandering around looking aimless instead of focused on work or building relationships, it’s past time to get more involved in your team’s dynamics.

Start by talking to someone on your team, either the person who is seemingly the most stressed or one with whom you have the most trust built up. See if you can determine what the root cause of the uncertainty is, and look for potential options for resolution together.

Returning from the Brink

If your team is truly on the brink of collapse, with your best and brightest team members disengaged and actively looking for other opportunities, it’s time to take more drastic measures. Consider asking your human resources department if they’re hearing any rumors about what’s happening, or pull the team together as a whole in an offsite meeting to add to their comfort level.

Request that they be open and honest with you about challenges that they’re encountering — either within the team, outside the team or even outside the organization.

Take Charge of Results

You also must face the possibility that you as the leader are the problem, which can be painful and difficult to accept. However, you must first look to make changes in your own leadership style in order to help salvage your team’s success.

Take responsibility for finding a solution, and don’t be afraid to claim accountability when things aren’t going as you had planned. Too often, leaders find themselves in a situation that feels hopeless and attempt to look externally to find the problem.

If there is truly someone on your team who is causing the excessive negativity, know when it’s time to make the difficult decision and make a change in personnel. Sometimes, all it takes is removing a negative influence or underperformer to bring your team back to center.

Today’s organizations are moving quickly and chasing many different initiatives at once. Managing people is always a balancing act: creating a culture of learning and accountability while allowing people the space they need to take appropriate chances. Fortunately, nearly every team can be brought back from a downward spiral with time, effort, and loads of positive energy from its leader.

The Dignity of Work

Down But Not Out

Albert Serur was just a young man when he passed out cold in his client’s office. Only four months into his job, a previously undiagnosed heart condition might have sidelined him permanently. But Serur didn’t go down without a fight. Rather than recovering from emergency surgery at home, he hired a driver so he could sleep in the car between sales calls.

“Adversity helps you deal with who you are,” he says. “If you can start preparing for things proactively both personally and professionally, you’re going to be ready, and you’re going to be a better leader.”

“Will-Set” that Trumps a Skill Set

At 28, Serur is the youngest state director at American Income Life and chief executive of its Wilmington subsidiary. Serur Agencies brings weekly employee training sessions that focus less on technical abilities and more on workplace camaraderie, helping people develop a “will-set” with emotional tools to handle challenging situations. These offerings are a timely response to a felt need; in a recent Society of Human Resource Management report, “respectful treatment” was a top priority of the workers, even above pay.

“I’ve seen many people who have more God-given talent than I have, but if they have one difficult relationship issue, they just fold,” says Serur.

Valuing the “Dignity of Work”

Workforce prioritization was how Starbucks recently explained the “fairly flat” performance of its stock. While a recent reduction of corporate-tax rates made the company hundreds of millions of dollars, Starbucks chose to re-invest this money in its workforce rather than funneling profits back to shareholders. Priorities included closing gender pay equity gaps worldwide, offering stock grants of $2,000 for managers and $500 for employees, expanded paid parental leave, and even access to critical illness insurance for parents of employees. Executive chairman Howard Schultz says people are an enduring priority:

“We’re trying to make long-term decisions,” Schultz said. “We’re trying to value the dignity of work. We’re trying to do everything we possibly can to demonstrate to the world … that the better way is not a zero-sum game where you leave your people behind.”

Microsoft has also seen a shift toward creating workplace wins. Several of Microsoft’s former employees have returned to the company after CEO Satya Nadella took over. These “boomerangs” say workplace culture has changed significantly under Nadella’s emphasis on “One Microsoft,” a collaborative environment that hasn’t existed in the past. Nadella has shifted reviews toward solidarity and teamwork, where employees are rewarded not just for their own work but how well they’re able to make use of others’ contributions. Boomerangs say this step away from the “smartest person in the room,” intimidation tactic has brought a more conversational, empowering environment. Microsoft has emphasized patience before perfection, incentives for developing others, and teaching staff to diffuse tension after disagreeable meetings.

Bonds that Last

Some companies use humor to grow unity. The Improv Asylum comedy troupe teaches communications skills at organizations like Google and Intel. This troupe’s mantra is that one person must always accept the premise given and then expand on the idea. “The sink is going to start spraying pink paint, you say?” “Well, yes, AND . . . lucky for us, we’re hosting the abstract art seminar this weekend!”

As it turns out, this is also a great workplace communication technique:

(The phrase) “‘Yes, but’ is prevalent in the corporate culture, and that shuts ideas down,” says Bob Melley, director of corporate training at the Boston theater company. “‘Yes, and’ encourages everyone on the team to offer ideas. It creates a bond and establishes trust.”

Here’s Why Visual Communication Works

According to a recent study, the average person gets distracted in just eight seconds – although, for some people, just 2.8 seconds is enough. When you operate predominantly in the print-based marketing world, you’ve already got something of an advantage over most people: print is something tangible. It exists in the real world. People can hold a flyer in their hands or share it with friends and family members if they’d like to, and it’s already something that’s harder to get distracted from than a computer screen. One way to take the benefit of print and extend it even further involves using the full power of visual communication to your advantage.

Visual Marketing: Breaking It Down

Human beings are visual learners – they always have been, they always will be. It’s not necessarily a sign of intelligence but about how the human brain operates. By making sure that all of your collateral includes a healthy blend of both text AND visual elements, you can absolutely make this idea work to your advantage.

Consider the fact that when a person hears a piece of information, they’re only likely to remember roughly 10% of it about three days later. These aren’t exactly good odds if you’re trying to prime a member of your audience to make a sale. When that same piece of information is paired with a relevant image, however, people retain a significantly higher 65% of that same information over the same period of time.

This, in essence, is the power of visual communication at play. In terms of your marketing content, when you make an effort to include relevant images that really help tell a larger story when paired with the text, people will spend more time looking at those images than they do the text on a page. This is why images alone aren’t important, but relevant images are the key to your long-term success.

Show, Don’t Tell

Basically, you need to focus on the age-old idea of "show, don’t tell." The next time you sit down to design a piece of collateral, try to convey the major idea in a sentence or two. Whether you’re trying to sell a product or service or inform someone about an upcoming event or something else entirely doesn’t matter – just figure out what the essence is of what you’re trying to say.

Then, think about what parts of that story can be told via images instead of text. What is the bare minimum amount of text that you can get away with that will still include all the relevant information (like dates and times)?

This is the type of approach that you need to take when you sit down to create any piece of print marketing collateral that will eventually be consumed by your audience. Marketing is nothing more than convincing someone to follow directions – you’re trying to give a consumer the information they need to reach out to you and make a purchase, for example. Well, when you consider that people literally follow directions 323% better with the combination of both text and illustrations than they do with just text alone, you begin to get an idea of why visual communication is one of the most valuable tools that you have in your print marketer’s toolbox today.

Break the Rules; It’s Okay as a Market Disruptor

Who are the folks who really define a market these days? It’s definitely not those companies who follow the market rules and play nice with everyone. More often than not, the key players and new leaders of the pack are the ones who are writing their own rules on how to operate, sell, and grow – the market disruptors.

Being a disruptor is not to be confused with being an anarchist. Unlike the political zealot, the disruptor is not fixated on tearing things down. Instead, this is a company that wants to redesign the stage to work in its favor, not the existing market.

More Than Traditional

Take the example of Growup Urban Farms. In the food business, the idea is to produce food or distribute food products from producers. This assumes that one is either a traditional manufacturer as a grower or making a profit on someone else’s work either growing plants in soil or raising animals on a farm. But what happens when someone decides to create food in an unorthodox method that doesn’t require the traditional resources of soil and land? That’s the case with Growup Urban Farms.

A Company Redefined

The company has found a way to mass market food production of vegetables and fish without the large land outlay or ocean harvesting. While the traditional model requires a rural setting, the disruptive aspect of Growup is that it can literally be operated in the most urban of settings, using physical stacking and space efficiency inside artificial walls and city streets. Their product is natural but created in warehouses. It uses natural methods of growth but there is no soil, ocean or land consumption involved.

The founders of the company, Kate Hudson and Tom Webster, have redefined what it is to be a modern farmer. And that has the potential to redefine how food is produced and where. The old rules don’t apply anymore that farms must be rural and need soil, or that fish can only be harvested from ocean stock. Growup disrupts the food market and not just with its cost model. The company also redefines placement of farm fresh food, eliminating the need for long-distance transportation into cities. Instead, the farm is literally in the city just blocks from the businesses it feeds with the product.

Go Where No One Else Does

The idea of being a market disruptor is not some trendy new 21st-century concept; every major market inventor or new breakout leader was essentially following the path of a disruptor by going down a path nobody else was considering at the time. Whether it was Nikola Tesla or Google’s founders, every breakout has been driven by a unique prospect that seemed rogue or maverick to the mainstream.

So if you want your company to get beyond just surviving and breaking even, then you have to find that spot that differentiates everything about you. Don’t follow existing models, create a new one that has its own rules for success.

How to Lead by Example

As a leader, the people you supervise watch your every move. To gain their confidence and trust you must provide an example they will want to follow. You could lead via a system of punishments and coercion, of course, if accelerating turnover is your hobby. But motivating them positively is a much better way to go.

To that end, here are 6 examples you can use to become the type of leader that people want to follow.

1. Do not think of them as workers only.

It’s important to keep in mind that the people working under you have bills to pay, troubles to cope with, and possibly a personal tragedy or two in their lives. Approach them with respect and be kind, knowing that they may be going through hard times.

2. Take the time to make them feel special.

It may seem corny, but try keeping notes on the people working under you, just one fact about each of them. It could be something you overhear in the hallway- perhaps a hobby, a favorite musician, a peculiar interest. You can use this information at opportune times to let them you take a real interest in them.

3. Listen to emotions.

This can be hard for some, but with effort, even the most stoic of us can discern emotions. Listen to what employees say and take a moment to mentally tag their statements with an emotion. Just say to yourself, ‘Mark feels frustrated,’ or ‘Sally is disappointed.’ Even if the emotion is irrelevant to the situation, just take a moment to recognize it without judgment. Make a habit of this and in a short amount of time you will begin to behave in a more empathetic way, and they are certain to pick up on that.

4. Don’t fight every battle.

For diligent, hardworking, and logical people, it’s easy to fall into the trap of trying to right every wrong. But there’s a fine line between being a problem solver, and being belligerent. Remember, your internal resources are limited, as are those of the people around you. Trying to squash every small discrepancy will drain your resolve, and it will squash morale.

5. Always let them save face.

‘Praise in public and censure in private’ is the golden rule of leadership. When someone has made a mistake and you must have a word with them, help them avoid the scrutiny of their coworkers. Don’t force them to take the walk of shame into your office after announcing over the P.A. that they are being summoned. They will appreciate it immensely.

6. Display solidarity

Your job is important, and no one would expect you to get into the trenches every day- however, there’s no better way to establish respect and to understand the day-to-day realities of the work your employees do than to occasionally step into their role. It’s not enough to have done it before. You must demonstrate the willingness to do it again. Remember, this isn’t your chance to show them up by outdoing them. It’s a way to develop solidarity and to understand the challenges they face each and every day.

Some of these tips may sound overly soft-handed. But if you apply a little imagination and find a way to maintain your proper station and dignity while following these guidelines, you can transform yourself from a competent manager into an inspiring leader.