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Ten Ways to Conserve Energy for Your Small Business

Many small business owners agree that saving money on your overhead expenses results in more money to reinvest in your business and to collect as profit.  Although you may not have total control over some of your monthly expenses, there are others, such as gas and electricity, that you can reduce by implementing some easy energy conserving practices.

You can easily meet your small business energy needs and keep the additional funds for other important matters.  Here are a few simple ways that you can conserve the energy in your small business while reducing your carbon footprint on the Earth.

1.Consider Automatic Lighting

While turning off your lights when not in use is standard practice for conserving energy, you can take it a step further.  Switch plate occupancy sensors can be installed in areas, such as the restroom or break room, where employees may forget to switch off the light.  The sensors will turn the lights off when there is no one present, and then turn the lights back on when movement is detected.  This simple fix can save between twenty to seventy percent of the energy normally used in these areas.

2.Switch Your Bulbs

Consider replacing your light bulbs with compact fluorescent lamps and light-emitting diodes that are Energy Star approved. These lights last approximately ten times longer than incandescent bulbs, so you won’t have to purchase and replace as many bulbs.  They also cost seventy-five percent less to operate.

3.Open the Blinds

Use natural lighting as much as possible throughout the day.  Not only does it save you from having to use electricity, but natural sunlight will boost the mood and morale of your employees.  If you are in the process of selecting a business location, make sure that you choose one with a generous supply of natural sunlight.  You may be able to add light to your existing location by installing a skylight.

4.Schedule Regular Maintenance

If you are trying to save money by skipping your annual heating, ventilating and air-conditioning appointment, it may end up costing you more money in the long run.  Scheduling annual maintenance for your HVAC will ensure that your system is functioning at its maximum efficiency.  It may also help to catch any concerns early on, before the damage becomes more costly to repair. Strategically scheduling regular tune-ups before the hot summer and cold winter seasons may help to elongate the life of the unit.

5.Replace Your Filters

Dirty HVAC filters will compromise the efficiency of your system.  More energy is used and wasted as the heating and cooling components work harder to maintain the desired temperature level.

6.Set  the Temperature

Having a programmable thermostat in the workplace is a must. You can customize the temperature depending on whether the space is occupied or unoccupied.  For instance, during business hours, you may want to set the temperature at seventy degrees during the winter.  While the business is closed, you can decrease the heat to sixty-six degrees, saving energy while no one is in the building.

7.Circulate Your Air

Ceiling fans are a great way to circulate and cool the indoor air during hot, summer months and are less expensive to use than air conditioning. You can set the thermostat temperature a few degrees higher, and simply use fans to cool the air. Turning your thermostat temperature up by just one degree will save approximately three percent on cooling costs.

8.Select Energy Efficient Equipment

When purchasing office equipment for your business, make sure to always select Energy Star products.  Energy Star approved equipment, including printers, computers, copiers, televisions, thermostats, windows, ceiling fans, refrigerators and other essential office supplies, are the most efficient choices.

9.Turn it Off

Make it a common practice in your office to turn off machines and computers that are not in use.  Change your settings so that your computer will automatically switch to hibernation or sleep mode after a certain period of time of not being used.  You can set your printers, copiers, fax machines and other equipment to do the same.

10.Consider Laptops

Consider purchasing laptops for your employees rather than desktop computers. Laptops will save a considerable amount of energy.

Small business owners who make energy smart choices will benefit with reduced energy bill costs.  Keep in mind that using Energy Star approved equipment and appliances may come with tax incentives as well.   Energy conservation is not difficult.  Just a few simple changes will help to make your small business more energy efficient.

The Noob’s Zen Guide to Email Marketing and Social Media Speak

Are you new to email marketing and social media? (Oh no, a noobie, a noob!) Sick of all the marketing mumbo jumbo double speak? Not sure what all these terms mean? This article will help clear up some of that. Or possibly make you more confused, I’m not sure which. If you are a seasoned email marketer, however, for God’s sake, don’t read this article. It will bore you so badly that you’ll read to the end and say “that’s 6 minutes of my life I’ll never get back.”

Social stuff:

Klout – This is kind of a cool one. Klout is a company and a score. This score measures your “importance” in terms of how much influence you have across the internet. It refers mainly to people who have a lot of Twitter followers and particularly those people who’s Twitter followers follow them on a particular topic. The score is used by companies who want to understand how important a particular customer is to their company/brand. So, if you are Ronco, one of the greatest inventors of all time, and you sell a lot of “Spray-Paint-the-Bald-Away“,
a Twitter user with 4 followers (one being their mother) does not have the same influence on Ronco’s brand as a Twitter user with 19,086 followers, who writes a blog about products for hair loss. By the way, if you find a good blog on hair loss, send me the link.

Bitly – You know how Twitter only allows you to share 140 characters of text? Well Bitly is a company that will help you take a really long URL that you want to share on Twitter and shorten it. So a link like http://blog.thoughtreach.com/2012/07/why-cant-i-do-email-marketing-with-outlook.html will shorten to something like http://bit.ly/M7ho2q which makes it fit a lot better into the Twitter box. When your Twitter followers click the shortlink, it will auto-forward them to the long link.

Mosaic – Not even all the seasoned email marketers know about this one. A mosaic in email marketing is an HTML table that is full of lots and lots of rows and columns, each having a different background color. If built properly, the mosaic can render a fairly good representation of what an image would actually look like. Read why using mosiacs is impactful and then why you may not want to use them.

Social sharing – this is where you post a link to something on a place like Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Pinterest etc.

The Big Picture

ISP –  Internet Service Provider. These numbskulls either provide access to the internet or they provide email inboxes (like Gmail, Hotmail, AOL, Yahoo). Marketers will babble on and on about “don’t get blocked at ISPs” so get used to this one.

ESP – Email Service Provider. These companies provide mass email sending software tools for marketers. The greatest of all of them is Thought Reach (a company destined to rule the earth one day). But, in the list too are Eloqua, Marqueto, Constant Contact, and Monkey Mail or Mail Chimpanzee, or whatever they call themselves these days.

SaaS – Software as a Service. This just means that it’s a software product that you access by using your browser (instead of having to download and install the software).

Mobile – in the email world, this refers to all the bajillion recipients who open their emails on a mobile device. About 1/3rd of all mass email sent is opened on a mobile device.

Email marketing metrics

Click throughs – this is the number of times that any link inside your email message was clicked. This is an important measure of how engaged your recipients are (more on engagement below). If they are clicking, they must have at least some level of interest and thus want to receive  your emails.

Open rate – This is the rate at which your subscribers open your email. Some open, some don’t. Not all mass emails sent will register an open if the recipient opens the email, but a lot will. It’s not a perfect metric, but it helps you understand if you are on the right track. Open rate is determined by a one pixel image quietly hidden in the email. Once this image is loaded, the open is registered.

Read rate – The read rate is different than the open rate because it’s not based on the one pixel image pixel. The read rate is based on mailbox providers marking the message as “read” due to subscriber activity in the inbox. This is a type of data that you need a third party provider to obtain, like Return Path.

The Who (minus Roger Daltrey)
Receivers – actually, this doesn’t refer to the people who receive your email. Instead, it refers to the ISPs like Gmail that are first receiving your email before putting it in the inbox (or spam box ) of your subscriber.

Senders – senders can either refer to the marketer who is sending the email, or to the ESP that the marketer is using to send the email.

Subscribers – these are the people who have signed up for your email list.

Recipients – these are the same as subscribers.

Double opt in – this is a method of verifying that a new subscriber to your email list really, really wants your email. In this method of subscribing, a visitor comes to your website, fills out a form to get onto your email list, and then your system automagically emails them and asks them to click a link to confirm. Using this type of subscription method will help you avoid spam complaints by ensuring that the person who’s email address was entered, is actually the person who signed up for the list in the first place.

Spam with Bacon

Spamtrap (honeypot) – Now we’ve hit upon the good stuff.  Spam traps are email addresses used by ISPs to trap spammers. These are email addresses that are either completely made up or have been dormant for a long time. The ISP is looking to catch people spamming so that they can block the email being sent by that person. If a completely made up email address is suddenly receiving messages, the email is likely spam. If you “accidentally” email a spamtrap email address, here’s what you can do to help fix the mess you’re now in.

SenderScore.org – this is a free website that can tell you how well your email sending reputation is with the receiving ISPs. Many ISPs report information to senderscore.org that tells others if they think you behave well as a brand in your email practices. Ask your ESP what your IP address is, and enter it at senderscore. It’s a little like high school. A score in the high 90’s is great. One in the 30’s is not quite so great, and may land you in detention.

IP Address – this is a little like the street address in front of your house. Only in this case it’s the internet address from which you are sending your email. Unless you send more than 50-100k emails per month, you are likely sharing an IP address with other senders. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. But it’s always a good idea to check the senderscore of your IP address to be sure it is good and that other senders on that same IP address aren’t negatively impacting you.

Sender reputation – this is another term used to convey how well your brand behaves with its email sending practices.

Reputation monitoring – this is the practice of a marketer monitoring how well their brand is perceived by ISPs in terms of sender reputation. Software tools can be used to detect email reputation.

Engaged / Engagement Rate – These don’t mean the same thing that your girlfriend says they do. When you email your recipients, the number of times that they open the email and click a link within it is called the engagement rate. ISPs use this rate as a determining factor in whether or not they deliver your email to the inbox or not. It’s a long story, but trust me, if a subscriber hasn’t opened or clicked in a long, long time, you need to remove them from your list to protect your engagement rate.

Authentication – only true email marketing geeks get excited about this one. But any marketer sending mass email needs to have their emails “authenticated.” Authentication technologies are things that tell the receiving ISP exactly where the email is coming from and that you are who you say you are. Unless your email is authenticated properly, it may not make it to the inbox because it is not trusted. Authentication technologies include DKIM, DomainKeys, Sender ID, SPF, and DMARC. Not that you care what those stand for, but you want to make sure your ESP sets these up for you.

Segments / segmentation – this is a term that relates to dividing your email list into different groupings. A reporting / analytics tool within your email marketing tool will help you create these groups. For example, if you sell a lot of Ronco “Spray-Paint-the-Bald-Away”, you’ll want to segment on people who are male, are over 50, and are predisposed to using spray paint on their bald heads. These are the same people who would buy a Chia pet too. Just some free advice.

Search:

SERP – Search Engine Results Page. This term is used to describe the placement of where your webpage sits in the rankings of the search engines. Is your webpage on page one of the search engine results page or on page 39,599?

SEO– Search Engine Optimization. SEO is a set of skills and techniques used to help rank the pages of your website higher in the Google (and other) search engine rankings.

Panda – the name of a software update to Google’s search algorithm. Google’s algorithm is what calculates where your webpage shows up in the SERP. This particular update routed out a lot of low quality websites from the Google search results. If you aren’t doing anything black hat on your website, you have nothing to worry about.

Black hat – these are nefarious techniques that unscrupulous webmasters use to get their web pages to rank higher in the search engine rankings. Use black hat techniques and you might just end up back in detention again.

White hat – these are the good ways to do SEO. Having really good content (unlike this article : ), having really important sites link to yours, and writing in natural language by not stuffing keywords all over the place are examples of white hat techniques.

Twitter:

Tweet – a short message you send out to your followers.

Followers – these are your minions. Those people who, for some reason, unbeknownst to the rest of mankind, want to hear what you are tweeting. Try not to accidentally lose all your followers by being spoofed into giving up your Twitter password.

Twitter minions
Followers are your minions.
People dumb enough, I mean
smart enough to listen to what
you have to say.

Following – these are the people you want to hear what they are blabbing about. To become a follower, you may have clicked the little “follow” link like this one.
Follow @ThoughtReach

@ThoughtReach – any time you see an @ symbol, that is someone or some company’s username on Twitter.

#something – a # symbol on Twitter is like a keyword or phrase. It might be something like “#emailmarketing” which is a way for Twitter followers to search for people talking specifically about the topic of email marketing. The # symbol just helps identify all the caterwauling going on about that topic.

Nonsensical

Fair Trade coffee – a black liquid substance consumed by marketers nearly as much as it is consumed by software developers and typically packed full of caffeine (a God-given substance that I’m sure is an unrecognized fulfillment of scripture somewhere). The “Fair Trade” part means that the coffee (or chocolate or whatever) is sourced in a manner that certifies that the grower was paid in a fair manner. It also typically is associated to good-earth practices like organic farming.  If you are a marketer and your coffee isn’t Fair Trade, and you are hearing this for the first time, that’s ok. Just make the switch. A hilarious look at coffee facts.

Ficus tree– a thing thrown at me by Loraine, who sits in the cube next to me. Loraine’s forays with flying ficus trees appear notoriously throughout the Thought Reach blog. You’ll just have to bear with us on that topic.

Why a serviced office can save your small business money

In the current economic climate, running a successful business can be quite a daunting prospect, with even the most experienced of companies struggling to adjust to the recession. The chances of becoming more cost-effective are an increasingly problematic area – with every decision that you make as a company playing a much bigger role in its continued existence. Your office space can have a key role in determining this, as it any stage an idea can be developed that could make you a success and prolong your company’s lifespan. In recent years, an increasing amount of businesses have chosen to cut costs by having a serviced office, making it one of the fastest growing sectors in the European and global property market today.

Having an office can be a difficult process, what with setting up accounts, furnishing it and organising contracts – often making it a more expensive task. Would you not rather have all of this done for you, and all you had to concern yourself with was moving in? That’s why having a serviced office can really help benefit your business as you are put in control and are able to reduce important costs.

In addition, you will often find that you can get a great discount from having a serviced office because you are essentially buying in bulk when it comes to services, meeting rooms, function rooms and much more, as a result you will generally be paying less and will find it much cheaper across the board to manage.

What are the benefits of a serviced office to my company?

Serviced offices can be a very useful way of cutting the costs of your business, as well as offering a wide range of benefits, some common examples include:

  • Cost-effective – Serviced offices are often a cheaper option of running a business because you are effectively paying to rent an office with all the benefits in one supplement, rather than paying for everything on an individual basis
  • Accessibility – Many serviced offices include useful facilities such as: conference rooms, air-conditioning, high-speed broadband and secretarial assistants
  • Flexibility – Many new, but not necessarily small, businesses cannot accurately predict their headcount figures over a two or three year time span. A serviced office can provide you with suitable space and you have the luxury of not being tied down to it if you decide to expand further
  • Shared facilities – rather than paying for your own facilities, you are often given the option to share facilities at a lower cost
  • Financial control – you are given more control over your finance because you are reducing expensive running costs. You will be able to forecast how much you spend, giving you a higher level of financial control
  • Networking – Having the ability to network with fellow businesses and employees who might be sharing your office can be very beneficial, as you generate new leads and clients all in the comfort of your own building

3 Ways Personal Bias is Killing your Marketing Campaign

Originally published on SocialMediaToday.com

The Chief Marketing Officer has just walked into your office, well, into your cube anyway. And she’s not happy. You feel the tension.

“They’re looking at our budget with a microscope. If we don’t absolutely nail this next major campaign, they’re going to, to…..well, something…..”

She’s not being paranoid either. Marketers are under the gun, having to justify each spend. The average tenure of a CMO is just two years.

“I just feel like we’re missing the market somehow,” you tell her. “Something doesn’t feel right. I mean, we’re hitting all the big social channels, but it’s like the consumers are out to lunch.”

Well, maybe the consumers aren’t out to lunch, maybe you are. Maybe you are making assumptions as a marketer that you shouldn’t. Is your bias as a marketer sending you in the wrong direction? Well, it doesn’t have to be this way.

Your Bias as a Marketer

As marketers, we have an innate bias to believe that consumers think and act just like we do. Maybe not consumers like your mother, but other consumers anyway. Although email marketing is going to remain the absolute rock star in terms of driving revenue, social channels are in the limelight. But are you sure you’re hitting the right social channels?

Marketers only have a certain amount of time in the day. You’ve got to hit the big two, Facebook and Twitter, but are you missing anything else? What if your bias towards your personal use and preference of Facebook and Twitter blinds you to the fact that consumers don’t put the same stock into those two networks? What if you were to sit down with a group of your customers and ask them what social networks they are starting to use more?

You are Missing Key Social Networks

As it turns out, marketers are heavily biased towards personally using Facebook and Twitter. Not that non-marketer (normal) consumers are not. But normal consumers aren’t as enamored with those two channels as you are. In fact, when asked about smaller players Pinterest, Instagram and Foursquare, it turns out that consumers prefer those channels significantly more than marketers.

Remember, just because you barely use Pinterest, Instagram, and Foursquare in your personal life doesn’t mean it’s that way for everybody. Your customers are quietly shifting their focus onto these smaller players. And you (the marketer) are missing the boat.

Marketers are Not Normal

ExactTarget put out a great infographic that outlines all kinds of biases that we marketers carry. ExactTarget does excellent research. And, I’m not just saying that because when I was at a one of their user conferences last year they gave me a free ticket to the Katy Perry concert. I know, I know. Katy Perry. Secretly, you want to go act like a twelve year old girl and scream at a Katy Perry concert too. Your jealousy betrays you.

Take a look at the graphic on the right. It shows that normal consumers have a much higher preference to use Pinterest, Instagram, and Foursquare as compared to marketers. Are missing the market because your market may be using different social networks than you?

Are You Sure You Should Design for Mobile?

We read article after article about mobile. Mobile this, mobile that. Mobile blah-de-blah-blah. And, as a marketer, I’d bet money that  in your front pocket, or purse, is an iPhone.  If not an iPhone than a Samsung 8G-double-quad-smart-McSlidey phone, right? At any rate, we marketers keep hearing how important designing our email marketing campaigns for mobile devices is becoming. After all, if you believe the stats, 497% of all emails sent are opened on mobile devices (the stats are so high because your customers apparently are not only opening your email campaign on their smartphone, they are opening your email campaign on their smartphone over and over again.)*  Perhaps you are making the wrong assumption about designing for mobile. Don’t believe me? So, now might be a good time to for you to glance at the graphic below.

 

Make sense now? My suggestion? Don’t ignore the trend with mobile. Instead, take a look at your email marketing tool’s reports to see if it can tell you how many are opening your emails on mobile, and about what type of mobile devices your customers are opening your email with.

 

These are just a couple of the biases that are outlined in ExactTarget’s research. To view the full infographic click on it below, or go here to see the full research report.

Why Have a Christmas Office Party – Employee Motivation

For many bosses, the perception of what a typical office Christmas party entails is not entirely positive. Fueled by a mix of alcohol and the shedding of work stresses, relaxed inhibitions can create circumstances that fan the flames for unwanted rumor mills and office gossip.

This negative view is incredibly short-sighted, however. For one, it totally negates the benefits that an office Christmas party presents in terms of motivating employees. Office Christmas parties offer the chance to reward and engage with employees, in the process boosting morale. Relaxed inhibitions and the shedding of work stresses, if channeled correctly, can be hugely positive; allowing employees to build a rapport with one another which can yield long-term results further down the line in a working environment.

Rewarding

In terms of motivating employees, rewards can play a crucial factor. Monetary recognition is of course an effective method of rewarding employees. However, if bonuses aren’t an option, or a company can only afford to pay out relatively small windfalls, then throwing a Christmas party could present a better use of funds and a similarly effective reward for staff.

This is because the main psychologically motivating factor involved in rewards is born out of the recognition that precedes it. Therefore a Christmas party that takes the time to reflect on the endeavors of the past twelve months and the vital role that the businesses’ employees played in both can act as a fantastic reward, which in turn can have motivating qualities.

Combining the Christmas party with an award ceremony and annual speech, if done correctly, can prove beneficial also. Mixing business and pleasure in this manner and recognizing various aspects of employees work can underpin the rewarding properties of throwing a seasonal bash.

Engaging

For businesses, the benefits of engaging with employees at a Christmas party are similar to rewarding them. The value found in enjoying the festive season with colleagues in a more personable environment cannot be understated. A statement reinforced by Sam Booth, the head of Keele University’s events arm Keele Conferences, in light of research conducted by the university to explore the motivational value of events for businesses;

“It’s the one time of year that you get the chance to truly reward employees for their input and engage them with business objectives for the year ahead […] No matter how big or small your Christmas budget, businesses should not underestimate the long-term value of engaging with employees by getting into the festive spirit.”

Creating a Rapport

Christmas office parties, by creating an environment that encourages the shedding of work stresses and relaxed inhibitions, can help employees to interact with colleagues and superiors as people and not just co-workers. This essential for building a workforce rapport that transcends the merely professional to become more friendly. Of course not all employees are going to get on, but if a team dynamic can be produced that blends personal and professional relationships, it can have significant benefits for long-term productivity.

Employees that have developed the type of relationships, based on personal interactions that Christmas office parties encourage, are much more likely to work better as a team when needed. For instance, by building a personal understanding and a level of empathy with one another, employees tend to share workloads, when pressurized situations call for it, and tackle testing tasks as a team, rather than a collective of individuals.

Return on Investment

The bottom line is what drives the decisions of all businesses, irrespective of size. By having the motivating properties evaluated in this post, the Christmas office party is clearly not a frivolous activity devoid of return on investment (ROI). However, when times are hard and costs are squeezed, the budget set aside for social activities, within a business, are often the first victim.

However, for those bosses that are still undecided on whether throwing a Christmas party makes financial sense, it should be noted that it is not essential to spend exorbitant sums to motivate employees and see the ROI desired. If your budget is smaller still, even just a change of scene can have the desired effect, as Sam Booth explains;

“For businesses on a smaller budget, something as simple as holding the end-of-year team meeting in a different venue, followed by afternoon tea, mince pies or Christmas quizzes can really help make the difference. Not only will it keep employees’ spirits up towards the end of the year, but it will ensure that 2014 planning sessions are played out in a relaxed and fun environment, helping to instill positivity for the year ahead”.

20 Facts About Social Media Marketing for Small Businesses

Social media marketing is getting increasingly popular because of its ability to connect and reach targeted audiences virtually, within less time, and less effort. Especially, small businesses are finding social media very helpful for branding and marketing.

Facts about social media and small businesses

Marketer says that one in every four people will have a social media account in 2013 across the world. This shows how much popularity social media is gaining in the world. So, if your small business does not yet have a social media presence, then now is the time to start social media marketing.

Here are some facts that show how social media is making big impact on small businesses.

  • Constant Contact reported that 49% of small businesses have found social media marketing effective for their businesses.
  • According to Socialmediatoday, 44% of small business decision makers are using social media websites to extract information of other businesses.
  • 73% of small businesses were using social media in 2012 according to mediabistro.
  • eMarketer reported that 24% of small businesses have integrated social media in a structured way into their business.
  • Facebook is leading among all the social websites with 82% of small businesses registered; it is followed by YouTube, Twitter and LinkedIn with 73%, 47% and 47% respectively. (Source: Mediabistro).
  • 80% of small businesses use social media websites for monitoring and collecting information about competitors to their businesses (Source: Socialmediatoday).
  • Lead-to-close rate is 100% on social media than traditional marketing methods (Source: Socialmediatoday).
  • 80% of customers on social networks prefer to connect themselves to brands through Facebook (Source: Socialmediatoday).
  • 53% of small businesses use social media as an engagement tool for providing 2-way conversation customer support (Source: Socialmediatoday).
  • It might also be surprising to know that 86% of social referrals are done by Facebook, while 11% and 3% are done by Pinterest and Twitter respectively (Source: Socialmediatoday).

Time spent by small businesses on social media websites

  • According to Socialmediatoday, 21% of small business marketers are spending at least an hour on social media per day, while 58% are spending at least 10 minutes on social media per day.
  • 50% of small businesses have increased time spent on social media compared to last year and reported gaining new customers and better business (Source: Swiftpage).
  • 80% of small business marketers have understood importance of social media marketing and are planning to increase their time spent on social media this year (2013) (Source: Socialmediatoday).

Purchases made through social media

  • 46% of online users are counting on social media before making purchase decision (Source: Neilsen).
  • 71% of users of social media websites say that they are more likely to purchase products from the brand they follow online on different social media websites (Source: Digitalsherpa).
  • 15% of customers use social media websites to search for local businesses. This is biggest advantage to local and small businesses (Source: Digitalsherpa).
  • 63% of users prefer businesses with the information that can be easily accessed on the social media websites (Source: Digitalsherpa).

Customer acquisition on social media

According to Socialmediatoday,

  • 52% have found their customers on Facebook in 2013.
  • 43% have found their customers on LinkedIn in 2013.
  • 36% of marketers have acquired customer on Twitter in 2013.
Small online business like US Combat Sports that rely on organic SEO can also benefit from social media. From the above facts and figures, it is clear that many small businesses are utilizing different social media platforms for various purposes and reporting gains and profits. Is your business next?
To find out more about small business hosting for your business, take a look at Aussie Hosting

10 Summer Marketing Ideas for Your Small Business

Are you looking for new, fun, unique and creative ways to market your small or micro business this summer? Try the following ten summer-marketing ideas.

1. Create a partner package

Partner with non-competing businesses that share the same target audience to develop a winning package for everyone.  A restaurant, theater and a hotelier could partner together to create a romantic couples’ weekend package, for example. Each company would market and sell the package, and all three would split the proceeds.

2. Sidewalk misters

When it gets hot, shoppers can be miserable. Venture into busy shopping districts armed with a backpack/spray nozzle water mister, and offer to cool off passersby. Make sure your outfit is branded, and you have brochures or flyers to distribute.

3. Stickers

Summer is perfect for outdoor marketing, and stickers are perfect for crafting fun and unique ways to reach your target customer base. Locate outdoor areas in which your stickers can interact with the environment to help your brand get noticed.

4. Festival contests

Rent booth space at popular festivals your customers attend, then run a contest that collects contact information in return for a chance to win a prize. Follow up with customers once the festival is over.

5. Hot spot banners

Identify summer hot spots in your town: beaches, pools, attractions, high-traffic areas, etc., then strategically place large-format vinyl banners well within view. You’ll be able to maximize your exposure with a minimal investment.

6. Hot weather promotional items

Coolie cups, fans, water bottles and other promotional items are perfect for summer marketing. Give them away to anyone who enters your location on hot days.

7. Temperature-related discounts

Launch a fun campaign that gets customers to your location during the dog days of summer by offering a discount based on how high the temperature climbs. You’ll be able to land sales on days when customers would otherwise stay indoors. Of course, make sure your location is air-conditioned to keep them inside longer.

8. Go to lunch

Take your best customers out to lunch during the summer to reinforce your business relationship, foster customer loyalty, and glean information that can improve your company and customer satisfaction. Your customers will appreciate the gesture.

9. Community service

Organize a litter pick-up day and invite the community to pitch in. Recruit volunteers and let the media know what you’re planning to do.  You’ll get great PR for a great cause.

10. Have fun with holidays

The summer has plenty of wacky holidays that present opportunities for fun and unique marketing. For example, June is candy month, July is National Anti-Boredom Month, and August is National Golf Month. Think you can roll one of those into an attention-getting marketing campaign?

What other creative summer marketing ideas do you have? Share them in the comments!

5 Most Efficient Office Communication Methods

Not too long ago, small businesses primarily used email for office communication. But today, when just 15 percent of office emails are deemed useful, it seems there are often more efficient methods of office communication. Read on to discover the best workplace communication solutions.

Face-to-Face Office Communication for Emotional Content

It might be seen as an old-fashioned communication method, but face-to-face conversation is still an important way to connect with colleagues and clients. It’s the method of choice for sharing any information with a strong emotional core, whether it’s good news or bad.

Sixty-nine percent of surveyed workers say they share positive feedback face-to-face, while only slightly less, 63 percent, say they give negative feedback this way. This isn’t surprising. American psychology professor Albert Mehrabian insists the majority of a conversation’s meaning is imparted by facial expressions and body language, rather than the words themselves. Face-to-face conversation is uniquely the only office communication method which combines all three important elements.

Face-to-face communication is also valuable when a significant amount of feedback is required. Problem solving and brainstorming is always best done face to face, as solutions can be found then and there. These processes which see co-workers and clients coming together also help create the bonds that make for stronger companies.

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The rapid response of face-to-face communication is also one of its greatest strengths. If you don’t have the time to wait for a return email or play a game of phone tag, an old-fashioned chat is ideal.

Mobile Messaging for Working out the Details

As our phones become smarter, the line between internet-based instant messaging and cellphone-based text messaging is becoming blurred. Both now have similar features, and the programs we once used exclusively on our computers are now often available as smartphone apps. Mobile messaging has moved from simple text-based communication to video chatting and file sharing.

The instant nature of this communication method makes it ideal for working out the details, especially while multitasking. With mobile messaging you can sort out meeting details while glancing at your calendar or share a document that needs urgent feedback. As mobile messages are saved in a smartphone’s memory, workers can also access them again if their memory fails.

Remember, though, that text-based office communication has the potential to be misunderstood, even with the aid of emoticons. If you’re relaying a message that’s complex or emotional, choose video chat or another communication method.

Considering their efficiency, it’s encouraging that mobile messaging services are becoming easier to use and more accessible to a range of workers. Blackberry Messenger, also known as BBM, will soon be available on Android platforms, for example. The BBM for Android ease of use will be as intuitive as the pioneering Blackberry version.

Phone Calls for Follow Ups

Electronic communication may be all the rage, but the humble telephone still has an important role to play. It bridges the gap between digital communication and face-to-face collaboration, offering emotional warmth and expediency. That makes it the most efficient choice for debriefing after a face-to-face meeting. The warmth of a voice and the extra effort taken to make a phone call can often help seal a business deal.

It’s also one of the most efficient choices if a matter needs urgent attention. Emails can quickly become buried in overstuffed inboxes and instant messages can be easily ignored if they come at an inopportune time. The sound of a ringing telephone is much more difficult to overlook. Make a call if you need a problem resolved quickly or someone’s urgent input.

A phone call is also a good option if you’re relaying sensitive information. It’s much safer to call a colleague with your social security number or the combination to the safe than sending this information over email.

Email Leaves a Paper Trail

While other office communication methods might have stolen the limelight recently, the days of the workplace email aren’t numbered. Ninety-two percent of employees say they still value email as a communication tool. And email marketing automation systems are more powerful than ever.

Emails are ideal for employees who struggle with communication. Your messages can be refined and revised until you’re saying just the right thing. You’ll also have a copy of what you said, and any responses you’ve received, to refer to later. This paper trail can be a handy memory jogger and a great way to resolve office disputes.

Office inboxes can get cluttered though, so email only works when timeliness isn’t a factor. With the average person taking almost 11 hours on average to respond to professional contacts, email’s only efficient when your message isn’t time sensitive.

Emails also have the potential to be misinterpreted. Forty-three percent of people believe email is the main cause of confusion and resentment in the workplace, much more than those who point the finger at phone calls or social networking. A brief email sent in a rush can easily come across as careless or even aggressive, for example. No wonder 64 percent of people surveyed admit they’ve sent or received an email that’s caused such negative feelings.

Enterprise Social Networking is the New Frontier

Enterprise social networking takes the familiar format of Facebook and similar sites and adapts it to the corporate world. Tools like Slack, Yammer, MoxieSpaces, NewsGator, and Chatter seek to engage employees and create a more transparent working environment. While it’s possible to send private messages, enterprise social networking encourages more open office communication.

Workers see a personalized page, akin to a Facebook wall, with information which considers the people and topics they follow. This information is also searchable, so employees can easily find what they’re looking for. File-sharing and instant messaging functions are also built in to most enterprise social networking sites.

Enterprise social networking is believed to be the key to reducing the email stress that plagues the majority of employees. Studies show 83 percent of workers have elevated blood pressure, heart rates, and cortisol levels when sending and receiving emails. Multitasking emails with phone calls or face-to-face meetings, as workers must do in busy office environments, also increased stress levels in 92 percent of survey participants. No wonder forecasters predict that more than 50 percent of large companies will use enterprise social networking tools as one form of office communication.

With a range of communication methods available to employees, they’re now able to choose the most efficient way to relay their messages in the workplace.