HBR.org
2019-02-15T13:05:02Z

Based on a 15-year study of more than 200 organizations.

2019-02-15T14:00:15Z

Give workers some control, and create checks and balances.

2019-02-15T15:00:04Z

Some tech firms are going out of their way to avoid uncomfortable disclosures.

Business.com
8 Things Every Marketer Needs to Do
Fri, 15 Feb 2019 05:00:00 -0800

For many business owners, bringing in new customers and closing the deals can be the hardest part of the venture. Especially in a marketing business, it can feel uncomfortably personal.

Fortunately, there are a few simple rules that you can follow that will help make small business marketing easier and more effective. Invest wisely in your efforts and you’ll be sure to see your business take off.

Here are a few things to keep in mind as you get started:

1. Know Yourself

This may sound like something that happens automatically but it’s easy to lose sight of yourself when you feel like you’re fighting to stay afloat. Understanding your own strengths and weaknesses is the first step in marketing yourself well. You need to know what sets you apart.

What do you offer that your competition doesn’t? It can be something as simple as being conveniently located for a particular metro area or as complex as niche expertise or high-end customer service. The flip side of this may be that you can’t take on large projects or that you don’t do rush jobs.

Once you know this, you’ll be able to focus on attracting the kinds of clients that will most appreciate your strengths and don’t need services you can’t offer.

2. Know Your Clientele

This takes imagination and a lot of legwork. Your goal is to find the people who already need what you have to offer and are waiting for you to come along, instead of convincing people who don’t need you that they do. This involves talking to a lot of people. Reach out to people who provide complementary services as well as potential customers. Ask them when they use your product or service, how, and what problem it solves for them. Figure out their demographic information, interests, and price points. Most importantly though: listen. Clear your mind of whatever assumptions you have and try to really hear what your customers need and want.  

3. Understand What’s Out There

In the last 20 years, the internet has created a long list of new marketing outlets for you to consider. Learn about the different options, including social media for small business advertising, social media networking, content marketing, and SEO. But don’t forget about the more traditional methods: print, radio, or TV advertising, local sponsorships, and good old fashioned in-person networking. Before you decide on any of these, understand the costs involved. Some of them can be free to do yourself but take a lot of time and effort. Also, understand the effectiveness of each. A radio commercial may let you reach a lot of people at once, but most of them will ignore you.

4. Focus Your Efforts

Don’t try to use every possible marketing channel. Unless you have a huge marketing budget, you’ll probably just end up burning through your resources. Instead, figure out which one is the most effective for you and focus there. This means you’ll have to know which has the best cost-benefit ratio. And don’t be afraid to consider your own discomfort as a cost. In-person networking may be a great way of marketing your business, but it’s not going to work if you’re always looking for excuses to avoid doing it.

5. Go Where Your Customers Are

This is the most important question to answer before you decide on a marketing plan. Where are your customers hanging out? Let’s say your customers are parents of young children. You can find them in daycares or toy stores, but once they’re in those places they’re probably in a rush or have already made purchasing decisions. Instead, find out where they are when they’re thinking about their purchases. Maybe they’re doing price comparisons online or asking other parents for recommendations at the park or on parenting-focused Facebook groups. This is why getting to know your customers is so important. The better you know them, the better you can catch them at just the right moment.

6. Don’t Stop When You’ve Closed the Deal

In the world of marketing, this is called customer retention. You don’t just want to get customers, you want to keep them. That means that the products and services you provide have to make them want to come back again next time. Your quality and customer support should be great and working with you should be a nice experience.

After that, start looking for ways to keep in touch with your customers in between purchases. You can use promotions, a newsletter or Facebook page, or even a personal email or phone call to follow-up and make sure the work you did or product you provided is working out as planned. Not only will this keep them coming back, it will also keep your name fresh in their mind so that they’re more likely to spread the word.

7. Try New Things

Keep in mind there are many different ways you can market yourself. None of them work overnight so don’t switch back and forth between them too often. However, you’ll also need to make sure you don’t get stuck in a rut. There are small ways you can test what works best: in online advertising, for example, professional marketers will often run two different ads with slightly different colors or headlines. If you run a print ad in a local newspaper every Christmas, make sure you do something different every year. If you’ve always run ads in the same local magazine, try a different one. Or you can get more creative by sponsoring a little league team or partnering with other local businesses.

8. Be Honest

Throughout all of this, make sure that your marketing reflects the truth about who you are and what you offer your customers. Besides the fact that it’s the right thing to do, it also makes good business sense. If you’re upfront about what you can do, you won’t waste time on customers who won’t buy from you in the end. Customers who get what they expect, leave happy and go on to spread the word for you.

Tips for Doing Business with These 10 Global Cultures
Fri, 15 Feb 2019 08:00:00 -0800

Businesses that seek to conquer new markets should not only worry about marketing and logistics. They also need consider the local business customs of the new territories they're working in.

Doing business with people from different cultural backgrounds can be challenging. Being mindful of effective communication is not going to be enough. It’s imperative to be sensitive to cultural considerations.

The following are notable cultural distinctions among businesspeople and customers in top global markets outside the United States.

1. Japan: The high-tech country that still uses physical business cards

The world’s third-largest economy is one of the first countries to embrace the digital revolution, but it has not abandoned the traditional business cards. It is advisable to prepare stacks of these cards when dealing with Japanese business professionals. Business cards are part of a unique business tradition. They should be passed with both hands and similarly accepted by the recipient with both hands.

Further more, Japan is known for their high regard for age and status. Be sure to show courtesy or deference to people of age and those who hold authority, as a way of showing respect.

2. United Kingdom: Using humor and indirectness to avoid conflict

The British business culture leans away from direct statements, to avoid conflict and show politeness. It is considered rude to disagree with someone outright. Being straightforward can be viewed as arrogant, abrasive or aggressive. These can adversely affect the possibility of establishing good business relationships.

Additionally, it helps to use humor to lighten up the mood. The British are said to favor dry and witty humor. If you don’t find a British joke funny, though, don’t forget the value of indirectness. Fake a smile or laugh if possible, and never show a dismissive or jeering reaction.

3. India: Body language mindfulness goes a long way

Being aware and practicing body language in Indian business culture can be likened to doing yoga. There are many things to remember. Some of the notable ones are as follows:

Do the “Namaste” pose when saying hello or goodbye by placing your palms together, with the fingers touching and pointing towards the sky.

When shaking hands or offering and receiving gifts, money, checks, and business cards, use both hands or your right hand.

Keep your feet flat on the ground and never point your toes or soles towards anyone. Also, never point your fingers at anyone.

Take off your footwear as you enter someone’s home.

If your footwear or feet touch someone, be sure to apologize promptly.

When having a business dinner, if the host eats without using a spoon/fork, do the same and eat with your right hand. The left hand is considered unclean in Indian culture.

4. Russia: Time is precious, but don’t forget to socialize

Russians value their time, so be sure to come on time during meetings or appointments. Don’t just show up to meet a Russian professiona; be sure to set an appointment first. However, don’t be too surprised if your appointment is canceled on short notice. During meetings, it is advisable to allocate some time for socialization before going to the business discussions. You can make up for the time “lost” during the introductions by offering a detailed and well-organized presentation.

5. China: Offending and being easily offended are a no-no

China has a diverse and unique culture. Don’t expect it to align with what you have been accustomed to. For one, you should be tolerant of the high volume Chinese businesspeople speak at and the loudness of their offices and workplaces. Another essential point to remember is respecting personal space. Avoid physical contact as much as possible. Moreover, meals should not be treated as meetings. If you are invited to a dinner, you may notice that you are introduced to non-business people and the discussions are not purely business related. 

If you are setting up a store in China, exert the effort to adapt not just in the way you deal with businessmen but also with the locals. Retail translation or localization can be of significant help in this regard. See to it that your product packaging, branding and marketing are compatible with the local market.

6. Germany: Emphasis on planning, punctuality, and respect

Germany is a country that has punctuality embedded in their DNA. Never be late to meetings or appointments with German professionals. Respect the German business culture especially in their preference to have everything planned and organized. They don’t like surprises or abrupt changes in schedules or planned activities. Additionally, understand that Germans want their business and personal lives clearly distinct from each other. Avoid talking or doing business with a German professional on vacation or in a family dinner.

7. Australia: Laid back but in control

Many perceive Australians as laid back people, which is mostly true, even in the way they do business. However, being laid back does not mean they don’t value punctuality and organization. Australians do take their business seriously, so come prepared to meetings or appointments. Be sure to show respect and avoid using a position of power as leverage when doing negotiations. Be honest and put emphasis on common sense when doing business discussions. As much as possible, avoid methodical approaches in winning negotiations.

8. Italy: Relationship-oriented business

The Italian sense of family manifests in the way they do business. However, Italians also have a sense of formality. Shake hands like professionals do. Dress for the occasion. Be prepared when having meetings or business appointments. The Italians are relatively lax when it comes to time, but avoid making them wait. If you can’t make it on time, be sure to tell them in advance and provide a good reason.

9. United Arab Emirates: Emphasizing Arab customs

Arab businesspeople tend to look intimidating. You don’t have to appear meek in their presence, but be sure to learn about their customs before you interface with them. Mind the clothing in particular: For men, you wouldn’t go wrong with suits, and darker colors are perceived as more professional. For women, a suit is recommended, but skirts are allowed as long as the hem is below the knee. Non-Muslim women are not required to wear the hijab.

During conversations, start with light discussions to establish relationship and build trust. Just avoid controversial or abrasive topics, even when you’re just being overheard by your Arab business counterparts.

10. Belgium: Fostering an egalitarian approach

Belgians are open to compromising, negotiating and invoking common sense in doing business. They seek to establish mutual trust and usually treat everyone equally regardless of status. Punctuality and respect for each other’s time is of critical importance. Moreover, they tend to favor doing business with those they already know. As such, it would be an advantage to have third-party introductions.

This is by no means a comprehensive guide to dealing with businessmen from different cultural backgrounds. However, this should serve as a reminder for everyone to learn to adjust and be mindful of cultural differences, as culture plays a significant role in business dealings. 

4 Trends That Will Change the Way You Sell in 2019
Fri, 15 Feb 2019 09:00:00 -0800

As an executive at Richardson sales training, I have the pleasure of working with some of the world’s top sales leaders. In doing so, I’ve learned about the specific factors driving change among those organizations.

Renewed Sensitivity to Risk Demands Emotional Awareness

While future economic conditions in 2019 are debatable, it remains clear that business sentiment in today’s highly volatile market is softening. As a result, the consideration of risk is creeping into decision making in a way that we haven’t seen in the last few years. Consequently, sales professionals can expect to encounter an increasingly risk-averse outlook among customer stakeholder groups.

Understanding the emotional disposition of buyers in this unpredictable and uneven buyer landscape will be critically important for the sales professional’s success in 2019. They will need to be more aware of the less obvious, less measurable buying factors that influence purchasing decisions. Consider that research from Harvard Business School shows that 95 percent of all purchasing decisions are made with the subconscious mind. As some envision eroding business conditions, modern sellers will need to understand how the customer’s psychology drives these subconscious decisions.

AI as a New Entrant in the Marketplace Competes for Control

As AI takes a stronger role in serving data to sales leaders and the sales enablement community, the benefits come with risks for sales professionals. Therefore, it’s important to understand the three inherent problems with the technology.

First, AI is only as strong as the input data. Too often this data is incomplete or wrong. Second, AI lacks a contextual understanding of the sale. Each selling scenario is different. There are nuanced backstories, unique stakeholder dynamics, and late-stage changes to the customer’s needs. AI cannot encompass this constantly unfurling picture. Third, reliance on AI can blunt the sales professional’s critical thinking skills while eroding the sales professional’s sense of responsibility. The technology has yet to prove its ability to provide guide rails to a process that is fluid.

Reading Each Selling Scenario and Responding with a Range of Skills

As uncertainty grows, sales professionals can expect greater volatility in the marketplace. To respond, sales professionals will need both a full range of modern consultative selling skills and the ability to selectively leverage the right skills based on the context and customer situation. More than ever, it will be critical for sales professionals to “read the field” in each selling scenario. They will need to understand the various stakeholder’s needs, the customer’s buying process, their perceptions of value, and more.

Successful sales professionals will take this information and use it to dynamically move from skill to skill with agility and fluidity that is seamless to the customer while remaining authentic and truly consultative. The best sales professionals understand how to transition between skills, even as the situation changes within the course of customer conversations.

Responding to a Less Bullish Economic Environment Demands Making a Case for Change

The ability to make a case for change will become more important than ever in a less bullish environment. Developing this case means identifying the buying factors. These factors are the facts, circumstances, and influences behind the customer’s buying decisions. Some of the most common buying factors are:

The case for change: The case for change centers on either a business challenge or opportunity that triggers the buying journey. The sales professional must understand the nature of the challenge or opportunity so that they can understand how to position the solution in a way that fits the customer’s strategy with clear and measurable outcomes. Stakeholder dynamics: More stakeholders are involved in the decision process than before. Sales professionals must assess the differing needs and varied levels of support among the decision makers. The decision process: As the stakeholder’s needs change, so do timelines because internal priorities compete for attention. The sales professional needs the skills to gauge the momentum of the sale, willingness to invest, funding for the purchase, and the details behind the procurement process.

Previously, customers had to decide where they would spend on solutions. In 2019, they will decide if they want to spend at all. In 2019, the market will demand more proof of efficacy and outcomes.

Trucking Technology Is Improving Fuel Efficiency
Fri, 15 Feb 2019 11:00:00 -0800

Advances in technology continue to revolutionize the business world, but technological strides often have a big impact on us in ways we are completely unaware of. Whether you order something on Amazon, buy produce at a local grocery store or fill your car up at the gas station, you're being impacted by one thing: trucking.

Trucking and freight has served as the backbone to American commerce for decades. In 2015, 49.3 million tons of freight valued at more than $52 billion were transported on average per day throughout the United States. That tonnage is expected to increase 1.4 percent per year between 2015 and 2045. Trucking is a vital part of the U.S. economy, and advances in technology in this industry have benefited both trucking companies and their customers.

"In the world of commerce, people are expecting more every day," said Garland Chow, associate professor of operations and logistics for the UBC Sauder School of Business. "All the improvements and adoption in fuel-saving technology has, in some ways, allowed the trucking industry to respond to demand by their customers to lower the price."

 

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Fuel-efficient trucks, better dispatching and a new electronic logging device (ELD) mandate have all impacted the industry on the enterprise level. Fleets comprising thousands of trucks have always had the opportunity to improve margins through technology and data. But now these tools have trickled down to smaller fleets as well.

How technology is impacting fuel efficiency

Joel Morrow, a co-owner and driver at Ohio-based Ploger Transportation, uses an in-cab tool called PedalCoach, which analyzes driver behavior and coaches drivers to use fuel more efficiently on their runs.

"This is a drill-down thing focusing on efficiency," he said. Most companies "get all this data – they have a hard time figuring out what any of it means, and here we get to look at stuff in real time in the cab with the driver on the road that actually understands what's happening."

PedalCoach accounts for things like load, driver and precipitation, so drivers get accurate scores for their driving regardless of factors outside their control. Morrow said this can liberate drivers from things like favoritism from dispatchers or skepticism about vehicle health at the shop. After all, if your score says you've done your best, it's hard for bosses or mechanics to challenge you.

"I got a device in here that says I drove my truck to the very best of my ability," he said. Sometimes drivers run into issues when they have a problem with their truck that a mechanic cannot immediately find. Tools like PedalCoach prove that if a truck isn't running up to snuff, it's not necessarily the driver’s fault.  

"'See my score,'" Morrow would say at the shop. "'It's 97 percent now – there's something else wrong with the truck,' and this has always been a source of friction between the driver and the shop … Now, I never have a problem, because my shop wants to look at the score and say, 'Oh, he's got a problem, let's go find it.'"

Morrow said the biggest advantage of PedalCoach is it levels the playing field among drivers.

Fuel economy tools and actionable data

Vnomics' True Fuel platform also removes variables like precipitation, load, wind speed and elevation, so drivers can focus on making their run as fuel-efficient as possible. Alan Farnsworth, CEO of Vnomics, said True Fuel provides auditory coaching to drivers.

"A quiet cab means a fuel-efficient cab," he said. True Fuel prioritizes real-time coaching with post-shift data so drivers can understand their current performance and plan for a better run the next day. "It's a combination of game-day coaching plus looking at the films after the game and figuring out how you want to do better the next time out."

Vnomics' True Fuel gives an accurate score of driver performance that accounts for variables like load size and elevation. More and more platforms are emerging to let drivers focus on their performance.

Vnomics provides manageable, actionable data so both drivers and fleet managers can better understand fuel economy. For example, Vnomics can help fleet managers plot truck speed with fuel efficiency in mind. Farnsworth said that up to a certain speed – say 58 or 60 mph – fuel burns at a steady rate. In some cases, when drivers go above a certain speed threshold, the burn rate outweighs the perceived time saved by the drivers. This type of information can encourage drivers to slow down, help small companies save on fuel and ensure consistent delivery times.

"Usually the amount of time saved [by speeding] is dwarfed by the cost of the fuel that is wasted," Farnsworth said.  

Tools like PedalCoach and Vnomics' True Fuel not only level the playing field among drivers, but they provide companies with actionable data. Morrow said it's easy for companies to drown in fleet data, and often the simple insights can provide the most impact.

Bottom line

Technology has always been a major factor in trucking, but with the ELD mandate, smaller fleets that might not have adopted solutions are starting to use technology. This opens the door for fuel economy tools like Vnomics. By coaching drivers and understanding basic fleet data, trucking companies can drive down fuel costs and make better decisions.

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