Word of Mouth Marketing: Are You Giving Them Something to Talk About?

It used to be that marketing consisted of things like TV and radio commercials, billboards, and print ads. And while these things still exist, it’s in a world where countless other marketing tools and outlets are available simultaneously. In this new marketing reality, customers have enormous amounts of information literally at their fingertips.

They also have access to an another extremely powerful sales tool: other people.

Online sites like TripAdvisor, Yelp, and Glassdoor exist for the sole purpose of providing peer-to-peer customer testimonials and feedback. These sites are frequently used by consumers as decision making tools to help them determine everything from what to eat for lunch, to where to buy a car, to which employers are worth pursuing. And they are not taking these reviews lightly.

The power of peer-to-peer marketing

A few quick facts:

  • Consumers read an average of 10 online reviews before feeling able to trust a local business.
  • 57% of consumers will only use a business if it has 4 or more stars.
  • 91% of 18-34-year-old consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations.

Need to make a purchase? It’s very likely your first move is online.

A quick Google search will instantly reveal online reviews, testimonials, and ratings for just about any product, service, or business. Questions thrown out on social channels will instantly result in numerous comments from friends and family who are all-too-willing to share their personal opinions and buying experiences.

But this isn’t just how you operate. It’s how your customers operate as well.

Potential clients are hopping online to research your company website, Facebook page, and professional LinkedIn profile. They are also seeking out sites like Yelp, Trip Advisor, and their own social accounts and then using this feedback to make buying decisions. And all of this is often happening long before they’ve tested your product or interacted with anyone in your organization.

As a business, you can’t ignore this powerful influence your customers have over your business. You must provide a customer experience worth talking about. In a good way.

  • What makes you different?
  • What do you offer that no one else does?
  • What is it about your company that makes people want to recommend you to friends, family, and total strangers on the internet?

In other words, what are you doing to get people talking? And listening?

Customers make the best salespeople

You can sing your own praises all day long, but when it comes down to it, you will never be as effective at marketing your business as your biggest fans are. If you’re not taking advantage of word of mouth marketing, you’re ignoring a huge opportunity for organic growth.

You can have the best website in the world and the perfect marketing plan in place, but if you aren’t inspiring your customers to speak on your behalf, you’re missing out.

Yes, you need a quality marketing team, but you don’t need them to do all of the work. Happy customers will gladly take on some of that heavy lifting. All you have to do is give them an amazing experience— and one that they want to share.

 

Content provided by Q4iNetwork and partners

Photo by gpointstudio

 

Compliance: It’s Not Just About Avoiding Risk

Some businesses think staying in compliance is all about reducing risk and staying out of trouble. But companies that approach compliance as a way to help achieve their overall business objectives will do far more than avoid fines. They’ll build organizations that produce happy and productive employees, loyal customers, and a healthy bottom line.

The relationship between compliance and culture

For business owners, industry rules and regulations are a fact of life, and they can be used in several different ways:

  • As a threat to keep employers in check
  • As a set of rules to keep employees in check
  • As a helpful tool to make your workplace better, safer, and more pleasant for everyone

Now, which one of these three tactics do you think is going to make your business a more enjoyable place to work? Entice new employees to jump on board? Result in a more engaged and productive team?

Yes, you can control your team with threats and rules, micromanage behaviors with fear-based incentives, and rule with a culture of discipline. Or you can use compliance as a way to help you take care of your people and your business.

What’s your motivation?

Let’s think about some of the various aspects of compliance and approaches you may have taken or witnessed in the past.

Harassment

Is your main goal to avoid expensive litigation? Or is it to create a healthy workplace where everyone feels comfortable and respected?

Discrimination

Are you following EEO practices because you’re afraid of being sued? Or are you committed to fostering a diverse workforce with a variety of talents, viewpoints, and experiences?

Payroll

Are you paranoid about compliance because a screw up will cost you back pay plus any added fines and penalties? Or do you value your employees and want to make sure they feel appreciated and get paid correctly?

Benefits

Are you offering health insurance, sick time, and leave options because the law says you have to? Or do you want to invest in keeping your employees happy, healthy, and productive?

Privacy

Do you worry about data security because breaches are expensive and there are fines for releasing confidential information? Or do you truly care about your employees as people and want to protect them and their families?

Licensing

Do you require your staff to have proper qualifications because you don’t want to pay fines or be shut down? Or is it because you want to give your employees the tools they need to succeed and your customers the best service possible?

Safety

Are you checking the OSHA boxes because you’re terrified of the cost of a fine or accident? Or are you genuinely committed to making sure everyone on staff makes it home safely after their shift?

How you view compliance matters

The approach you take to compliance says a lot about the approach you take to running your business and taking care of your employees. If you’ve been looking at compliance as nothing more than a rigid set of rules you have to follow, you’re missing out on a huge opportunity.

Short-sighted businesses view compliance as a necessary tool to control staff and protect the organization. But merely wanting to avoid claims isn’t an inspiring motivator.

Innovative, big-picture organizations see compliance as a natural extension of their business philosophy and strategy.

  • They will find opportunities to align their compliance practices with their purpose, values, and vision.
  • They will look beyond the rules to see why they are important and how they can support the things that matter to their employees.
  • They will associate good compliance practices with good business.

These kinds of organizations will also involve their employees in their compliance processes, giving them a sense of ownership and accountability. Engaged staff members can then become happy advocates and active participants in the creation and implementation of policies that create inclusive, safe, and healthy workplaces.

Some companies will continue to look at compliance as a set of boxes to be checked off, and they will technically be meeting their obligations. On the other hand, businesses that choose to embrace compliance as an opportunity to live out their people-focused values are those that will build the best cultures and attract the best talent.

Why not be one of them?

 

Content provided by Q4iNetwork and partners

Photo by Shopping King Louie

20 Things That Matter to Your Employees

It’s no secret that many businesses are struggling to find and keep good employees. A common refrain is that this is due to a strong economy and low unemployment rate. And these factors are most certainly at play. But at the end of the day, employees choose to stay or leave for a variety of reasons.

Is there a way to make your organizational turnover magically disappear? No. But there are really just two basic steps to recruiting and retaining great employees:

  1. Find out what they care about.
  2. Do your best to provide it.

If you want to hang onto your best people, it serves you well to find out what they value and begin to shape your corporate culture around those key things.

What are employees looking for?

Don’t get stuck in the mindset that a paycheck is the only thing that matters. Yes, compensation is important. And it still ranks near the top of the list when it comes to reasons to take or leave a new position. But today’s employees care about a whole lot of things. And unlike during the recession, they aren’t afraid to venture out looking for new opportunities that provide them.

Lots of research has been done on what employees want out of their jobs and careers. If you want to take a direct approach that applies specifically to your team, business and industry, ask your employees what matters most to them. Survey your entire team regularly and commit to conducting exit and stay interviews with your best employees.

If you want some quick answers based on employee satisfaction research and studies, we’ve got you covered.

Here’s a list of 20 things that show up time and time again on the list of things employees want and need from their employers in order to be happy and satisfied at work.

  1. R-E-S-P-E-C-T. Find out what it means to employees. Hint: Fair, honest, and respectful treatment of all employees at all levels has become a basic expectation.
  2. Fair and adequate compensation – Employees will accept lower salaries in exchange for other meaningful things, but at the end of the day they need to feel valued AND be able to make rent.
  3. Comprehensive benefits – Healthcare is becoming a larger driver of job choice and satisfaction. Today’s job seekers are expecting to see benefits information listed up front in job postings, and they are using that information to make career decisions.
  4. Career development – Dead end jobs are so yesterday! If your employees can’t see a path for the future within your organization, they’ll start looking elsewhere.
  5. Trust – Levels of consumer and employee trust are at an all-time low. A culture of transparency will go a long way toward increasing staff loyalty and engagement.
  6. Meaning – Your employees want to be connected to something bigger than their To Do list. They want to work for companies who are doing good in the world, and they want to know how their work contributes to that vision.
  7. Flexibility – Employees are balancing a variety of responsibilities, both at work and at home.
  8. Balance – More and more people are prioritizing a healthy balance of work and rest. Your staff is willing to work hard, but they can’t (and won’t) do it 24 hours a day.
  9. Recognition – Feeling valued and appreciated is critical to keeping your team happy. This doesn’t have to mean constant praise or raises. But they need to feel that their work is important and that they are valued both as people and contributors.
  10. Communication – Poor communication and lack of information are top complaints of unhappy employees. It’s a basic thing that is often overlooked. Don’t be that employer.
  11. Culture – Nothing chases good employees away faster than a toxic manager or culture. Tolerating a negative environment and destructive behaviors will encourage bad employees to stay and good employees to leave.
  12. Leadership – Organizations with weak leadership will have a hard time hanging onto strong employees. Lack of clear direction, goals, and expectations leads to lack of engagement. Bottom line: positive, motivated employees want to work for positive, motivated leaders.
  13. Autonomy – Employees want to feel like their ideas matter and that they are capable of running projects and making decisions. Micromanagement will crush employee innovation, creativity, and initiative. It will also destroy engagement and morale.
  14. Teamwork – An environment of support and collaboration is far superior than working alone or in a vacuum. Even the most independently motivated workers want to know there’s a capable team behind them they can count on.
  15. Technology – Your employees want to be good at their jobs, and they expect to be given the tools to do so. Outdated tools and processes will quickly frustrate those who strive for high performance and continued improvement.
  16. Training – Developing your employee skill sets doesn’t just help you and your company. It shows your employees that they are worth investing in. And it keeps their work from becoming monotonous, boring, or stagnant.
  17. Diversity – Employees come in all shapes, colors, sizes, and preferences. Your employees crave variety and so should you. Not only do diverse teams perform better, they open the door to a wider pool of talent.
  18. Sustainability – Think people aren’t concerned about the long-term survival of their jobs, companies, communities, and the planet? Wrong. Sustainability has become a catch phrase for a reason, and today’s employees are factoring corporate social responsibility into their career choices.
  19. Integrity – For better or worse, employers lead by example. Increasing numbers of employees are looking for employers who demonstrate things like honesty, fairness, and equality, and they can tell the difference between companies who talk a good game and actually follow through.
  20. Security – Employees want to be part of financially sound and stable organizations. Yes, today’s workforce is mobile, but it’s not just about random job hopping. Career moves and decisions are often based on forward motion, increased opportunities, and the ability to get ahead financially. A chaotic, unpredictable, or volatile environment won’t feel like a safe bet.

How do you measure up?

Is your organization committed to providing some these kinds of things? If not, it’s time to start— unless you secretly enjoy higher turnover, lower productivity, and a constant struggle to find good people.

In that case, forget about this list and keep on churning through your staff. Your competitors will be more than happy to snatch up your best employees.

 

Photo by WAYHOME studio

Just How Important is Company Culture?

It seems like everywhere you turn, there’s another article about company culture. How to build a good one, how to avoid a bad one, how this company rocked it, or how that company completely screwed it up.

No one would blame you if you were tired of hearing about it. But here’s the thing: Company culture can literally make or break you as a business.

Who you are, how you act, and what you believe will eventually come back to you. 
Or come back to haunt you.

Very few people start a business with bad intent, and yet it’s shocking how many “good” companies end up with poor practices, corrupt leaders, and in horrific, cringe-worthy situations.

How does this happen? One (little) thing at a time.

Just about every business you can think of began with a great idea and few people dedicated to making it work. During the incubation stage, it’s pretty easy to create an atmosphere of teamwork, camaraderie, and commitment to the company goal. Start up culture is often known for being highly productive, ultra-creative and super exciting.

When new people and processes start to get added into the mix, it becomes harder to maintain that united passion, sense of purpose, and team spirit. As the business grows, so does the risk of bringing on individuals who aren’t a good cultural fit. It may be hardly noticeable at first, but over time the organization can shift from one person’s big, crazy dream to everyone’s big, crazy nightmare.

Now here’s the good news: Because company culture is created from within, it can also be changed from within.

How does this happen? One (little) thing at a time.

It all starts by clearly defining who you are and who you want to be.

  • What do you stand for?
  • What kind of people do you want on your team?
  • What are the values that will drive every action and interaction, from every employee, manager, and staff person, every single day?

Once you decide what matters most and how you will live that truth, you can start filling your bus with the right kind of people and reinforcing those values in big and small ways at every turn.

But getting and keeping the right people is only one part of the equation. To properly build and maintain the vision, organizations need to go all in on their values. They’ve got to live and breathe their core beliefs and be completely committed to demonstrating them with everything they say and do.

If you’re looking for an example of this concept in action, The Ideal Team Player is a quick read that illustrates how vitally important company culture is and how to go about finding and hiring ideal team players. The book identifies ideal team players as people who work hard, leave their egos on the shelf, and have a knack for dealing with a variety of personalities and situations. It also illustrates ways you can determine if your current and potential employees have these qualities.

But more importantly, The Ideal Team Player also paints a vivid picture of what can happen when an organization continually commits to its culture.

When it comes to culture, there’s no such thing as a little thing.

When you emphasize your company values in a strong and consistent manner in all things big and small, those who don’t share those beliefs will feel uncomfortable in the environment you’ve created.

Not only will they not fit in, they will naturally select out, taking their bad behaviors to a company that is more accepting of such things, or who isn’t as clear about how to live their truth.

And then you’ll know you’ve done it right.  

 

photo by Lipik Stock Media

Complaints Happen. What’s Your Policy for Handling Them?

You’re a great employer. You offer competitive wages and benefits, remote work options, paid time off, and even have an office dog. What could employees possibly have to complain about?

Maybe nothing. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have a complaint policy in place just in case.

Dealing with discontent

Even businesses who try to do everything right sometimes end up in situations that cause unease for employees and trouble for the organization.

Employees could be unhappy about a number of things that are affecting their work environment or even their personal lives. Some will suffer in silence, some will simply leave, and others will gather the courage to speak up.

When thinking about these options, it makes sense to ask yourself which scenario is best for your business.

Would you rather have:

  • Disgruntled and disengaged employees?
  • Constant turnover?
  • An opportunity to learn what employees want and how to get them to stay?

You don’t know what you don’t know

Even the best business owners have seen things go awry at work. You could have a rogue supervisor or employee that’s acting inappropriately, a frustrating new technology, or a compensation structure that just isn’t keeping up.

You may think you don’t want to encourage employee complaints, but there is a big downside to a complaint free workplace.

If no one says anything, you’ll keep on trucking along, never knowing the real drivers of employee disengagement and turnover. Worse yet, if there’s some serious behavioral issues, you may be blindly heading toward a public relations nightmare and/or an expensive legal battle.

Create space for complaints

In doing so, you will also create space for growth and improvement.

The key to effective handling of employee complaints is to create a policy that is timely, confidential, and fair.

1.) Don’t wait.

If an employee lodges a complaint and nothing happens, this sends one of a few messages:

  • We don’t care.
  • Your concerns have no merit.
  • Yes, this is happening. And we have no desire to change it.

The longer you sit on these things, the more uncaring (or guilty) you appear. Whether or not that is the case.

Even if you are taking the time to research the issue and carefully respond, you’ve got to let people know. Communicate that the message has been received, tell that person you are looking into it, and provide a rough idea of when they can expect to hear back from you.

2.) Keep it confidential.

There are many reasons employees don’t speak up about sensitive issues.

  • They’re shy, uncomfortable, or embarrassed.
  • They don’t want to make trouble.
  • They’re afraid of retaliation.

A process that protects people during the complaint process is going to allow a more authentic conversation. Not only does it protect the person with the complaint, it protects anyone who might be on the other end of it until the matter can be resolved. The last thing you want is a sensitive complaint making its way around the organization before the facts have been laid out.

A good policy will provide a clear structure for how to go about lodging employee complaints. The nature and severity of issues could vary greatly, so make sure to build in multiple reporting options. Someone who feels harassed by their direct supervisor won’t feel comfortable lodging a complaint with that person. Create opportunities that allow for maximum honesty and fairness. 

3.) Check bias at the door.

You heard the part about fairness, right? With society more divided than ever, remaining impartial is becoming extremely difficult. According to Wikipedia, even Sweden isn’t truly neutral. Whaaaat?

The point is, people are picking sides on all kinds of issues and events based on personal beliefs, experiences, and what they’re seeing in the media. Many times, our “data” sources include incorrect information, rumors, or worse yet— gut feelings. And many of us are sticking to our tightly held biases, no matter what kind of facts and evidence are revealed. This isn’t good.

Life doesn’t happen in black and white. Getting to the bottom of employee complaints includes a lot of gray area. Make sure those who are handling complaints in your company are able to step back, remain objective, and look at the situation with impartial eyes.

It’s important that all complaints, investigations and resulting actions are applied fairly and consistently, each and every time.

It’s also important to recognize the opportunity for growth.

Keeping an open mind means more than just giving each employee the opportunity to speak up. It means being willing to look deep inside your company and see potential problems and other unpleasant things that may be happening, with our without your knowledge.

No complain, no gain

Hearing honest feedback isn’t always fun. It can be annoying, uncomfortable, and even downright painful.

But, if you’re able to reframe employee complaints as a valuable opportunity for self-reflection and growth, you could very well be on your way toward better communication, streamlined processes, lower turnover, and happier employees.

 

Photo by STUDIO GRAND OUEST