What does your workspace say about you?

August 15, 2018


Take a look at your desk. What does it say to your clients? Your workspace might seem utilitarian and innocuous, but it might tell those who see it – clients, co-workers, and even cleaning staff – a great deal about the person who sits there.

Think about a desk that’s overflowing with paperwork, maybe with a takeout tray on top of a stack of files. What’s the impression there? If you’re generous, it’s: “this person is busy.” If not, it may be: “this person is a disorganized slob.” Another impression the paperwork-cluttered desk might give is: “This person has all of this paperwork out in the open; this person is careless with the information entrusted to them.”

Perhaps you like to show off knick-knacks or collectibles, like a signed baseball or some other memorabilia. While this can be a good way to connect with your clients, it can also be off-putting. To people who don’t share your interest, a display of toys, photos, or other non-essential items might seem frivolous. Strike a balance. Limit the number of these you’ll display, and keep them off of your desk – in an area that won’t be distracting. This sends the message that when you are behind the desk, you are there to work and focus.

Should you be strict about what you allow your employees to have on their desks within your office? To an extent, yes. If an item seems garish, odd, or even unpleasant, have a conversation about it and find out why it is being displayed. You’ll likely build a better relationship with the employee, while giving them the opportunity to understand your concerns.

If you set the example, many will follow your lead. Be clear, both in your behavior and in your interactions, that you want a comfortable, professional workplace, and that you expect the entire team to help present this to clients. That starts at your desk – just like the sign on Harry S. Truman’s famously said: “The Buck Stops Here.”

Mixing things up: How to find your new best practices

July 16, 2018


If you’ve got tried and true methods for interacting with clients, you may be hesitant to make alterations. But is staying within that comfort zone preventing you from reaching the next level?

It’s easy to get into a rut. We naturally want things to be simple, and part of that simplicity is cultivating a routine. How can you find the changes that will work well for you, while avoiding expending energy on innovations that won’t work out?

Talk to your colleagues.
Twenty years ago, you might have received a tip that the Internet was going to change how everyone did business. Ten years before that, you might have seen the chunky early cellular phones and thought, “You’ll never catch me with one of those!” Today we take both for granted. Innovations – and not just the technological variety – show up all of the time and, while not all of them catch on, many do. Regular conversations with your peers will likely reveal where you can make positive changes and avoid mere fads – discover what works for others and adapt it to your business. This goes beyond purchasing gadgets, and can be applied to any business practice. Don’t take the word of just one person – investigate and get a feel for where your energy is best directed.

Borrowing from the past and the future.
Sometimes the old-fashioned way is best. Cultivating relationships with more experienced or even retired members of your field can offer perspective on your business practices. You might not necessarily do things the way that they did, but the wisdom of experience may put a magnifying glass on a particular issue in your business practices. Find out who the big wheels were in your area and invite them out to lunch or a game of golf – it could be a valuable resource and help you think up a new angle, or better refine your current practices. The same goes for your up-and-coming colleagues; your future peers may have fresh ideas that you could benefit from. Buying them a cup of coffee and having a chat just might be the best monetary investment you make all year.

Stress test the results.
Whether it’s a new idea or something you’ve done forever, keep track of the outcome. For example: Do you get more results from calling contacts, or sending emails? What about physical mail versus email? Tally things up. Remember, too, that scientific practices require a “control,” so keep track of what happens when you aren’t using the practice(s) in question. This will help you get a “big picture” look at your strategies.

Recycling is for more than just plastic.
To everything there is a season, and that’s true for business practices. If a particular method isn’t working today, that doesn’t mean that it will never work. Perhaps it just needs refinement, or more time? Keep a list of things that you’ve tried, but set aside. You never know when an idea or a practice might suddenly become not merely relevant, but necessary.

One of the keys to success in any field is flexibility. The saying is: “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” That’s often wise, but it isn’t a license to stagnate. Finding your best practices, in present and in future, often requires an open mind and broad horizons.

Summer-Themed Client Appreciation Events

June 15, 2018

June Blog Image

As The Lovin’ Spoonful once noted, “Despite the heat, it’ll be all right.” Why not take advantage of Summer in the City (or anywhere else) by offering your clients a cool, refreshing outing? Here are some hot ideas:

Concert Series
Does your city offer a summer concert series? It’s not unusual for well-known musicians to play these venues, which are sometimes free to the public. Adding a catered meal and a few blankets and lawn chairs for a picnic will make it an event to remember. If it’s an unticketed event and you expect a large crowd, call the organizers and ask if there is a way to reserve a section. Becoming a sponsor for such an event might be an additional bonus, perhaps giving you a prime reserved spot for you and your clients, as well as your name and/or logo on the advertising.

Get Out of Town!
Why not a day trip? Chartering a bus for a tour of local natural beauty (the coastline, forests, even the mountains) could be a fun adventure. You could provide a picnic, or arrange for a group lunch at a restaurant along the route.

Beat the Heat
In some parts of the country, the name of the game isn’t finding the sunshine, but cooling off from triple-digit weather. Outings to water parks can be fun, but such an event might inadvertently exclude seniors and other clients and family members with mobility issues. Many areas have large (air conditioned) riverboat cruises which can offer dining and other recreation.

Consult weather reports while planning – not just for when to go, but also where. For example, if you are based inland and experiencing scorching temperatures, this heat wave might be drawing cooler weather along the coastline. In that case, a day at the beach might be a great escape!

Here’s another quick tip: Wherever you go, bring some bottled water and sunscreen for your clients. Make it fun and safe, and give your clients something to remember.

Working While Traveling Overseas

May 22, 2018


Are you finally taking that trip to Europe or Asia? Making good on that cruise you promised yourself? This is excellent news. Still, if you’re the boss (or the person who keeps things running around the office) there may be an expectation that you will be checking in while you are away. Here are some tips on how to do that successfully:

Allow yourself to relax.
Remember that taking time away for yourself is critical to your well-being, and your well-being is critical to the well-being of your business. Complete whatever work you can in advance, so that you will be able to disconnect from business matters as much as possible while you’re away.

Set reasonable expectations.
If you feel you must check in daily, select a time (no more 30-60 minutes) when you can look over emails and respond to anything that requires your immediate attention. Choose a time period that is within normal work hours back home, and make sure everyone knows that you’ll be checking in (and when you expect to do so). Be sure to relay to them that you will not be handling tasks beyond simple email replies. (You are meant to be relaxing, after all.)

If you feel the day-to-day business operations can survive without a daily check-in from you, perhaps you can check in every few days instead. If you have a great partner or assistant whom you trust to monitor your emails and phone calls, you may be able to avoid firm check-ins altogether, and instead rely on them to alert you via text or phone call if something requires your immediate attention.

Be certain you can stay in touch.
Check with your phone service provider to ensure that you will be able to send emails and, if necessary, make calls while abroad; even today, this is not always possible everywhere in the world. Check with your lodgers (hotels, cruise lines, etc.) and see what their Internet situation might be. Some phones allow you to make calls over Wi-Fi, and that may come in handy (and/or prove less expensive than purchasing an international calling plan).

Have a backup plan in place.
It makes good sense to be aware of any business centers in hotels you are staying in, or nearby Internet cafes. Don’t bring your laptop, unless you’re on a writing retreat or the like. Ask ahead and see if you will be able to Skype from the business centers, if necessary.

If you lose your phone (or find that it doesn’t operate the way you planned), you might consider purchasing a “burner” phone in your destination country – something inexpensive that will work well in the areas you’ll be visiting.

Be sure you know how to log in.
Don’t forget to look up and memorize (do not write down) login information that you may need in the event that you must utilize a ‘burner’ phone, and/or the computers in hotel business centers. These days many of us are so accustomed to logging in with a ‘Touch ID’ or via browsers that have saved our passwords, we may no longer be able to easily recall vital login and password information.

These ideas are not meant to foster anxiety about what might happen, but merely help you plan for a headache-free trip. The main idea is, of course, to relax and unwind, and you won’t truly be able to do that if you’re concerned about work.

When it’s Time to Retire

March 15, 2018

RetireYou’ve worked hard for many years and its nearly time to enjoy the fruits of your labor. Retirement! Some people talk about it all the time and others insist that they will never leave work, but too few people talk about what their plans actually are. I don’t mean saving money – I’m fairly certain you’ve done that. I’m also not talking about the trips you’re planning or the pastimes you hope to catch up on. I’m talking about what you’re leaving behind at work.

Some people talk about it all the time
and others insist that they will never leave work

Where do your clients go? Have you given any thought to who will be taking on your clients? Are you handing them all to a junior partner or another colleague? Not so fast – unless you are incredibly specialized, your client list isn’t “one size fits all.” It may be wise to divide your client list into different groups and consider which of your peers is best suited to handle the needs of each. Have a few different people in mind. Your clients will appreciate this extra care and attention.

Have you given any thought to who
will be taking on your clients?

What happens to your business? Maybe you are a small operation. Maybe you have a small staff. Regardless, you have some sort of entity that you are moving on from. Is your business something that you can sell? Will that decision serve your clients? Perhaps you share your firm with other colleagues who might may wish to “buy you out.” Family businesses have their own unique considerations; are your relatives ready to take on what you’re leaving behind? Whatever your situation, think carefully about how your business survives this transition – assuming that it continues after your retirement, at all.

Family businesses have their own unique
considerations; are your relatives ready to
take on what you’re leaving behind?

Are you really looking to stop working entirely? Or do you just want to scale things back? There’s no harm in simply reducing the hours that you work. Yes, you might want to either transfer some of your clients, or find someone to relieve you of some of your responsibilities. But you might also want to keep a hand in the game in order to maintain your income or just remain active. Whatever your reason, making that extra time can be done in whatever way suits your needs.

Retirement takes many forms. Like a sculptor looks at a block of marble or a mound of clay and produces a work of art, so must you look at your professional life and decide how to transform it into your retirement. It bears careful consideration and planning so that you may fully enjoy the result.

New Beginnings, Dos and Don’ts

January 31, 2018

Blog Image

Getting to know a new community

Have you relocated to a new area, new town, or even a new neighborhood within your city? If your career or business has moved with you, you may go through an adjustment period. Some Dos and Don’ts to bear in mind:

DO go out to lunch. You’ll learn a great deal just by observing your new environment. If the weather is nice, maybe take your lunch to the park. If it’s rainy and you have a time crunch, grab a cup of coffee and do a little grocery shopping during your lunch hour. Your observations can teach you a great deal about the people in your community. Also: bulletin boards at cafes, restaurants, and grocery stores will have tips on local activities and organizations.

DON’T hide online. Of course your business has a presence on social media, but there’s no exchange rate between a “like” or a “tweet” and being an actual presence in your new surroundings. If you are going online, augment your time with accounts on Meetup.com and Nextdoor.com. Meetup.com is a great resource for real life networking with people and professionals in your area. Nextdoor.com is a private social media feed that helps you encounter people who live in your immediate vicinity. Both are excellent ways to help you get to know your new home.

DO be an active parent. Attending school events with your kids is an excellent opportunity to make new connections and a low-key way to let people know what you do for a living. It’s like being a doctor – you mention it once at a party, and pretty much everyone has a sore throat they want you to look at. Maybe someone you meet doesn’t have an immediate need for your service, but they may remember you and tell their friends and family who do – especially if you make a great impression.

DON’T have expectations. While you probably researched your move, your new community may surprise you. If you are moving from an urban area to a more rural one, or vice versa, you might find that certain customs or norms – things you took for granted – may no longer be in play. Be aware and improvise.

DO say “Good Morning.” It may seem corny, but people will enjoy a warm, friendly “Good morning” when you pass them, or a “Good afternoon” later in the day.

As you get your bearings, remember to focus first on listening and observing. Keep an open mind, avoid snap judgments, and take some time to get the “lay of the land.”

Working From Home When the Big Snow Comes

December 13, 2017


The heavy weather is coming. While that may be big business for The Weather Channel, it’s not so great for getting to and from the workplace. Rather than risking the big commute, you might want to spend a day or two working from home, if you are able. Here are some rubber-meets-the-road ideas for when the highways are icy…

  1. Be sure that all your household work is done before focusing on business tasks. Get the laundry and the dishes finished in the morning or the night before. Seeing tasks in need of completion around the house might motivate you toward productivity of a different kind.
  2. Heavy weather can mean power outages, internet blackouts, and other disruptions of the tools we take for granted. If your power is out, make an effort to keep the day productive anyway. Reach out to nearby clients and contacts. Chances are they are snowed in, too. It’s a good opportunity to be neighborly, ask if they need a hand, or just catch up a bit. There may be volunteer opportunities in your vicinity that you could take part in, too.
  3. Social Media outreach is key. If folks have power and are at home, you can bet that they are going to be online. Today might be the day for an extra post or to find a couple of relevant articles to share.
  4. Catch up on the detail work. Since you’re unlikely to make a meeting, it would be a great time to update your contacts and consider how you’re going to be reaching out to them this year.

For those last two points, Marketing.Pro might be the best thing to happen to you on a Snow Day. All of your contacts in one easy-to-use interface. Why not sit down and schedule the next year’s worth of outreach? It’s simple with MarketingPro’s onboard automation tools and a huge library of content at your fingertips, including social media posts, letters, eNewsletters, financial articles, greeting cards, postcards, and more.

Four Ways to Strengthen Your Client Relationships

November 16, 2017


We’re all looking for ways to turn client relationships into a lifetime of mutually beneficial business. For some, it seems to come naturally. But best practices require conscientious effort from the naturals as well as the newbies. While by no means a comprehensive list, here are a few things to keep in mind:

Accentuate the Positive
While it may sound corny, maintaining a positive attitude is incredibly helpful. Imagine you’re going to see your insurance agent. When do you go see them? When you buy a policy, when you make changes, and most importantly when you need to take advantage of that insurance. Not all of these are good days, so knowing that your relationship is with a positive person who builds a real connection with you is helpful. The same thing works in reverse, so keep it positive.

Build and Share Knowledge
If this seems like another no-brainer, you’re probably already on the right track. You have to know what you’re talking about and convey it correctly. This is more than just what you’re offering. Keeping up to date will not only help you serve clients better, it will also provide ways to stay ahead of the curve, and anticipate their needs.

On the Spot
When a client calls or emails you, respond as soon as you can. Be someone they feel they can turn to anytime, and show them you value their business by providing prompt replies. Become a presence in your clients’ lives, not just a voice on the phone or a person who returns emails. Do you Skype? That can help, if an in-person meeting isn’t possible or convenient for them. Be present and helpful, whenever possible.

Give It Time
If you think about your closest friends and confidants – maybe your spouse or partner – your connection took time to reach the point of trust. The same is true of your professional relationships. The thing to keep foremost in your mind is that the good work that you do will be the bedrock those relationships are built upon. Be the person that you would want to have working for yourself and, with a little patience, you can build lifelong client relationships.


Which Greeting Cards Should You Be Sending?

October 18, 2017


The answer is more complicated than you might think. Timing, as they say, is everything.

Sometimes the answer is obvious. For example: is there anything more ubiquitous in polite, professional society than the birthday card? Thank You cards should be on your list, too, and welcoming a new client calls for a specific sort of thank you card. (You should be sending a card to those who made the introduction, as well.)

But which Winter Holiday cards should you send? Well, that depends largely on who your clients are and what they value. However, if I were to select one card above all others, it would be the Thanksgiving card. Thanksgiving is a widely celebrated* holiday, commonly seen as the beginning of the “Holiday Season” in the United States. While Christmas, Hanukkah, and Kwanza are also associated with the winter holiday season, they also create a crush of mail.

A Thanksgiving card has the potential of making a big impact. Your clients probably expect a Christmas card, but that card will typically arrive amid a flood of other cards from family, friends, and other professionals like you. A Thanksgiving card is a thoughtful gesture that may stand out more, and allows you to express your gratitude for their business, while wishing them well through the coming holiday season. Of course, sending a card at Thanksgiving doesn’t mean that you should skip the other holidays – it’s merely a strategy to foster a greater connection between you and your clients and contacts.

Sending a card at Thanksgiving doesn’t mean that you should skip the other holidays – it’s merely a strategy to foster a greater connection between you and your clients and contacts.

A card to celebrate the New Year is also in order. A “Happy New Year” card is another great opportunity – not only to observe the Holiday, but to let clients know that you’re honored to be working with them for another year. (Many also choose to use this card as a reminder to schedule an annual review.)

Consider grouping your contacts into three Winter Holiday campaigns. Your “A” clients should receive three Winter Holiday cards… a Thanksgiving card, a Happy New Year card, and a December card (Christmas, Seasons Greetings, Happy Hanukkah, Happy Kwanza, etc.) Your “B” clients and prospective clients should receive a minimum of two Winter Holiday cards (Thanksgiving and Happy New Year, more if you’re able.) All other contacts should receive at least one card (but two is better). Select the occasion you feel is most appropriate.

Marketing.Pro offers beautiful full-color Winter Holiday cards for all these occasions (and more). Your Holiday cards can even be automated to send to the contacts you choose, on the dates you choose. Upload your contacts, select the design(s) you like best, and the system does the rest (sorting, stamping, sending.) You can even upload your own handwriting and signatures for a more personal touch.

What about eCards? Don’t. At least, not for the clients and contacts you value. eCards are largely deleted, while a physical greeting card is a tangible reminder that the relationship is one that you value. After all, if your relationship with a client isn’t worth the cost of some paper and a stamp, you have the wrong clients.

If your relationship with a client isn’t worth the cost of some paper and a stamp, you have the wrong clients.

Don’t be afraid to shake things up a bit with your holiday and greeting card practices! I recommend mixing it up each year with at least one unexpected card to ALL of your contacts. (An occasion like “Talk Like a Pirate Day” is a great example!) The cards you send should reflect the relationship that you want to have with your clients – an enduring and connected presence!

*Many Native American families do not celebrate Thanksgiving due to their cultural preferences. Some religions forego the celebration of certain holidays, including Thanksgiving. Know your clients and adjust your strategies to avoid making an error – be someone who serves the entire community.

Networking at Your Child’s school: Do and Don’t

September 11, 2017


Back to school! Even for a busy professional like yourself, that can mean plenty of activities. School plays, concerts, home and away games, field trips, and let’s not forget Career Day. (Hopefully, nobody in your child’s class has an astronaut as a parent – everything’s a letdown after that!)

While you will be interacting with your children and your classmates a bit, you will also be interacting with other parents, teachers, school administrators, and staff. Are you going to reach out to them professionally? Of course, but you also don’t want to run the risk of making a school function about yourself. Here are some tips for making that effort without “crossing the line.”

DO have business cards. You may not keep your personal number or contact info on your business cards. That’s okay! There are situations where it’s appropriate to give out contact info to teachers, staff, and other parents. Writing it on the back of your card gives them the info and also creates a connection.

DON’T be too forward. Gear any personal conversations toward the other adults. Ask them questions about their professions. Focus on making connections first, clients last – you’ll find that it progresses organically that way.

DO respect everyone’s time. If you are taking part in an activity during school hours, remember that the other parents have likely taken time off from work to volunteer. As for teachers and staff, they ARE at work! At afterschool activities, people are there to focus on their children, and teachers are adding hours to an already long day. Do not try to manipulate conversations toward your business if they don’t go there naturally.

DON’T take on your child’s teacher as a client. At least, not immediately. While educators do have needs that you can help with, you also don’t want to create a situation where your business could conflict with your child’s education. Keep in mind that if you have a younger child, they may be assigned to the same teacher at some point in the future, or that same teacher may move on to teach a higher grade and your child could have them again. If you want to reach out to your child’s teacher, talk to them after the school year is over, and be informed.

Respecting the time and boundaries of school staff and parents may mean developing friendly relationships now, and reaching out to them at some later point, down the road. You can cultivate that relationship and maintain it through occasional greeting cards and other mail and email outreach. www.Marketing.Pro offers vibrant, relevant content that will help you maintain that bridge.