Archive for April 2020

How to Determine Optimal Pricing for Your Products or Services

April 28, 2020

In September of 2019, Apple unveiled the iPhone 11, featuring a dual-lens rear camera, automated night mode, and built-in support for vision, hearing, and mobility.

One of the biggest surprises of the iPhone 11 was not its technical features, but its price. The iPhone 11 started at $699, down from the iPhone XR’s previous price of $749, and signaling one of the biggest year-on-year reductions in iPhone history. Apple also implemented $150 cuts on products like the iPhone 8 and the Apple Watch. Tech specialists were quick to comment:

“The biggest news from the Apple launch was the price cut for iPhone 11,” Chris Caso, an analyst at Raymond James and Associates, wrote in a note to investors. “We view this as an admission that Apple stretched too far with the price points at last year’s launch.”

Apple executives were not afraid to adjust pricing to current customers, especially knowing it may encourage upgrades or woo digital streaming subscribers. Lowering prices also increased the likelihood of up-selling related products: people who buy iPhones are far more likely to purchase iPads or AirPods.

Pricing that is “Just Right”

What is the best strategy for pricing the products or services you sell?

At first glance, this question seems pretty straightforward. But in reality, pricing is an art. Pricing well can enhance sales and create a prospering business, while the wrong approach can alienate customers and give competitors the edge.

There are a variety of pricing strategies in business, with some psychological influences in the approach you take. Here are four models to consider.

1. Cost-Based Pricing

The most straightforward pricing strategy is “cost-plus” pricing.

This involves calculating the total costs it takes to make your product, then adding a markup to determine the final price. This method is simple, fast, and lets you quickly add a profit margin to any product.

2. Market-Oriented Pricing

Market-oriented pricing starts from a cost-based perspective but adjusts pricing up or down with an eye on the competition and the customer.

For example, after comparing your products to similar items on the market, you can consciously price your products higher and brand your products as “best-quality” or “better performing.” Conversely, companies that price products low can lure more customers or sell large volumes that easily compensate for slim profit margins.

3. Discounts and Markdowns

Discount pricing is a strategy where items are initially marked high but then sold at a seemingly reduced cost to the consumer.

This can be especially effective during seasonal demand, inventory liquidation, or when marketing to value-oriented purchasers.

4. Flex Pricing

Flex pricing (or dynamic pricing) allows businesses to manipulate sales based on current market demands.

Flex pricing is at its best on big retail days like Black Friday or Cyber Monday, but can also be linked to timebound marketing strategies. Similar to what many sports teams and airlines do with ticket prices, you can manipulate prices up or down in a timebound fashion.

Coupons are another way to discretely provide dynamic pricing to a subset of prospects or customers. This allows you to attract new users or build momentum during seasonal promotions while remaining profitable.

Dynamic pricing can be challenging but worthwhile. In 2013, Walmart used flex pricing to change the prices of its products almost 50,000 times a month, and with this pricing model, its global sales grew by 30 percent!

Adjust as You Go

You have a great deal of flexibility in how you set prices.

And the good news is this: there is no surefire method to pricing things “just right.” Consider the current pandemic situation, your target customers, eyeball the competition, and hone your marketing to match the pricing strategy you pursue. Experiment, adjust, and see what works for your business.

Five Strategies to Use Your “Quaran-TIME” Effectively

April 24, 2020

Mike Turner founded the Front Street Brokers real estate firm in 2005, with a desire to offer distinctive client experiences, to equip agents for the maximum efficiency and profitability, and to devote significant firm resources to a local, philanthropic focus.

After three years, Turner’s firm experienced a significant slowdown during the 2008 financial crisis. This was a time of immense strain, especially when scheduled closings dried up before his eyes:

“In that time period, we had 10 real estate transactions scheduled to close, and nine of them fell through for unforeseeable reasons,” Turner said. “All of a sudden, $100,000 worth of business income that we were dependent upon [was] gone.”

Turner faced difficult choices in this season, and many of us are facing similar decisions in today’s COVID-19 crisis. Today, Turner says that while change is inevitable, he knows we still have a choice. Will we allow unforeseen challenges to drag us downstream, or will we improvise to find a way across the river?

Five Strategies to Use Your “Quaran-TIME” Effectively

Anyone can become a victim when change comes fast and forcefully.

Sudden change is scary, and though we may not be able to swim upstream, we can still strategize and seek active growth. What are some ways your business can grow during this difficult period?

Use Social Media to Connect with Customers

Try a more animated touch through social media. If subscribers are opening your emails, they are expressing genuine interest. Take these customer relationships to the next level by including embedded videos or links to caring content you’ve posted on Facebook, Twitter, or YouTube.

Answer Questions or Position Yourself as a Helper

As you reach out to subscribers, ask if they have any questions or respond to challenges you know they have. Take an interest in the content they post as well – comment on it, share it with your followers, or start real conversations. Connecting to clients now will form a personal bond that lasts longer than the COVID-19 crisis.

Stretch Your Team’s Skills

When activity wanes, morale often follows. Invigorate employees by offering on-going education tools, professional mentoring within your team, or problem-solving workshops that mobilize groups to tackle some of your most ambitious goals. If your company lacks online meeting capabilities, this is a great chance to preview options like Zoom or Google Hangouts.

Do Some Spring Cleaning

While the pace is reduced, give focused attention to your internal atmosphere. Whether you need to spruce up workspaces or sort through old files, redeem the time by getting organized. This may also be a great time to refresh decor, business cards, or your website, or to involve your team in designing new content for newsletters and videos.

Express Gratitude

In hard times, a warm word goes a long way, and this can shift your own perspective from negativity to hope. Take time to say thanks to customers with handwritten notes, personal videos, or future discount options. Whether you plan a summer reunion party or make appreciation phone calls, prioritizing gratitude will make you a better entrepreneur in the long run.

Change Course, but Don’t Quit!

They say that genius is just persistence in disguise.

In tough times it’s ok to be discouraged, but it’s not ok to quit. Be proactive in this season, and keep taking the steps you can to inch ahead. New paths are, by definition, uncleared. But persistence and positivity are your most valuable assets as you journey toward hope.

Is Direct Mail Safe During COVID-19?

April 21, 2020

In fast-moving and uncertain situations, communication can be a challenge.

While you may have been temporarily stalled by the dramatic changes of the last month, now is the right time to be proactive in your customer connections. Crisis communication specialists tell us that, in hard times, communicating early and often is crucial.

The decisions you make now are essential for your business to survive today and to thrive later on.

Why Direct Mail is Still a Trustworthy Source

Reports of postal workers testing positive for the novel coronavirus may have raised some concerns that the pathogen could live on letters and packages, potentially exposing people to infection just from opening their mail or packages. But the U.S. Postal Service has assured us that the mail is still safe:

“There is currently no evidence that COVID-19 can spread through the mail,” the postal service said recently, alluding to the disease caused by the virus and citing the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization.

Most businesses are still mailing at this time, but if you have questions about direct mail marketing, you are not alone. It’s important to be ready with answers for your customers, preferably from reliable sources like the Center for Disease Control:

“Although the virus can survive for a short period on some surfaces, it is unlikely to be spread from products or packaging that are shipped over a period of days or weeks at ambient temperatures,” says the CDC. “Currently there is no evidence to support transmission of COVID-19 associated with [mail and packages] and there have not been any cases of COVID-19 in the United States associated with imported goods.”

Because the virus is not spread through the skin, but through the respiratory tracks, any contact with mail or packages is not an immediate danger. Regular hand-washing and proper hygiene are the most important factors for mitigating any risk with envelopes, packages, or really with any contaminated surfaces.

What Kind of Mail Should I Send?

Since people are currently hungry for connection, there is no better time to lean into your marketing efforts.

But be sensitive in doing this, and offer messages of hope and relief. Dartmouth professor Paul Argenti offers these tips for communicating during a crisis:

Focus on What is Important to the Customer

For example, Target sent out a note from the CEO to customers, describing enhanced cleaning procedures and additional staffing for order pickup and drive-up services.

Provide Relief When Possible

JetBlue became the first airline to waive change and cancel fees for coronavirus-related concerns. The move went a long way towards reassuring current customers as well as bringing new ones on board. Insurance companies, in contrast, do not consider the coronavirus a valid reason for canceling a flight.

Focus on Empathy Instead of Pushing Sales

Be creative, but keep empathy in mind. Companies should reshape advertising and promotion strategies to be more in line with the current mood of the day.

Watch for Those Silver Linings

While we’re all in unfamiliar territory right now, everyone wants to support each other.

Businesses care about customers, and all of us care about economic recovery. Keep reaching out to your clients and remember that this is only temporary. While this situation won’t last, many positive outcomes will!

The lessons we learn today can make us more flexible, strategic, and more community-minded.

Leading with Empathy During Uncertain Times

April 17, 2020

COVID-19 is officially a pandemic, and millions of Americans are working at home.

Even if you aren’t sick, you feel the impact of this pandemic. As the coronavirus has spread across the globe, the CDC has made drastic recommendations on social distancing, self-quarantines, and statewide “stay at home” mandates.

Through this unprecedented season, what are some of the best ways to navigate your professional challenges?

“I Feel Your Pain”

Empathy is one of the best starting points.

Defined as “the ability to understand and share the feelings of another,” empathy allows you to comprehend what another person is experiencing or to put yourself in their position.

Empathy is the ability to perceive a situation from another person’s frame of reference, and possibly to experience the emotions that go with that. Empathy is different from just “being kind” because empathy is a powerful tool that allows you to truly understand points of view that are vastly different than yours. A person leading with empathy is more aware of overworked employees, overtaxed customers, or solutions that another person may overlook.

The benefits of empathy are huge. A recent nursing study showed that nurse managers who were perceived as empathetic could boost vitality and thriving environments in their teams. Empathetic leaders can communicate better with employees and customers, build bridges of trust, and can facilitate optimal employee performance and compliance. And this brings exponential gain: organizations with engaged employees have higher productivity, profitability, customer satisfaction, and loyalty.

Empathy in leadership can manifest in many ways with regard to the coronavirus response. Here are just three:

1. Be Calm

During any crisis, people need their leaders to remain calm and to empathize with their thoughts or feelings.

While you may not share the emotions of your customers or employees, it’s ok to acknowledge feelings of anxiety or stress. When possible, share resources that promote facts, not fear (like information from the World Health Organization or the Center for Disease Control), in order to help people intellectually interpret the outbreak.

2. Be Flexible

With many people working from home (with kids in tow!), some employees may struggle.

Leaders should be considerate of missed deadlines, unforeseen health emergencies, and emotions bubbling near the surface. Remember, things are not “business as usual,” and special times require special considerations. Above all, flexible managers are consistently leading AND responding. Simply directing employees to available support resources can make a huge difference.

3. Be Available

Not everyone is empathetic by nature, so this is a great time to check your own heart.

Examine yourself daily and ask: Am I really listening? Am I taking in others’ points of view? Ask for feedback from people you trust or solicit comments through neutral channels. Or set up work-from-home chats where people can share tips, information, advice, or inspiration as everyone adjusts to a new normal.

Natural routines can also go a long way toward building confidence – consider morning huddles, or regular conference call “office hours” to offer an open door for people in their most vulnerable moments.

Be Positive and Proactive

Still not sure how to show grace?

Perhaps the best strategy is to change your perspective. Instead of prioritizing outcomes or objectives, use this time to focus on your own leadership. Ideally, you should be a coach, a therapist, a sounding board, and a support system to your employees. Allow people to chat candidly and comically, and make room for a few failures.

Create margin during this roller coaster, and everyone will benefit!

Responsible Marketing During COVID-19

April 14, 2020

Marketing During COVID-19

Fear. Stress. Helplessness.

Whether you’re caring for elderly parents or homeschooling your kids, people across the globe are struggling with big emotions during the COVID-19 situation.

How do you lead well in times like these? While daily leadership is essential for your business, crisis moments reveal the quality of your vision like nothing else. And while you may be exhausted or overwhelmed, now is not the time to push pause on your leadership. What are the “next best steps” you can take in this hour of uncertainty?

1. Increase the Frequency of Communication

During hard times, the frequency of communication should go through the roof .

Even if you have bad news, it’s important to acknowledge this ASAP. While you may not have all the details, a prompt announcement can minimize speculation, reassure panicked contacts, and let people know that you are proactively addressing each challenge.

2. Be Authentic

Now, more than ever, people are craving connection.

Since many of your customers and subscribers are working from the kitchen table, this is an important chance to re-tool your communication. Get in touch with your own feeling of isolation and use this to inform your messaging. From email communication to print mailings, review all your messages through the lens of people who are stuck at home. Ditch the corporate-speak and seek a more human tone for your brand, and use this framework to empower empathy while focusing on others’ needs.

3. Break Up the Depressive Mindset

All of us need a break from 24/7 bad news. So, how can you bring positivity in this hour?

Noting the deluge of video-conferencing, Audi of America recently launched a series of specially curated images to serve as a glamorous backdrop in virtual meeting rooms. Now enthusiasts can bring their favorite Audi with them to their next conference call or virtual happy hour, and Audi plans to release new images weekly. Simple pleasures make a big difference in tough moments!

Now, make it personal. How can you sound a note of joy or generosity today? Could you post a funny video, release a helpful blog, highlight hero stories, or offer incentives that benefit customers or people on the front lines?

Or look at your own product mix and ask: “what could I change to help my customers?” Do you have a paid or premium service that you could offer for free to help people get by over the next few months?

4. Sow Seeds of Honor

When you look at your schedule today, things seem rather quiet and eerie.

Companies of all sizes have sent people home, and every distraction has been silenced. While the coronavirus has ushered in strange times for all, good leaders won’t just hunker down. Instead, it’s time to push back with a different spirit.

In an age of mocking and disdain, today is a great day to show respect and gratitude. Whether personally or professionally, use this forced pause to repair a strained relationship, to say thank you, or to serve others. Make that difficult phone call. Donate blood or serve at your local food pantry. Show public or private appreciation for your leaders. And appreciate people who don’t deserve it (despite their inadequacies).

As you honor people, they will honor others. Perhaps this is a chance to shift the atmosphere and proactively build honor into the fabric of your network. As a leader, you WILL set the pace for others.

Connection is the New Currency

Though today’s challenges are extreme, it’s important to remember they’re only temporary.

It may not be easy, but many of us will come out of this stronger. Though it may feel that the waves are continuing to rise, take heart. Prioritize connection, and the uncharted waters can be parted in order to lead you toward a prosperous future and a newfound hope.

Ideas for Paying Employees When Finances are Tight

April 7, 2020

The coronavirus has rattled the world, and while the health consequences are dire, the economic fallout could be worse.

In just one week, from March 7 to March 14, initial unemployment claims jumped by a third, rising from 211,000 to 281,000. And while we don’t know whether workers have been laid off or furloughed, we do know that lost jobs are bad for families, employers, and the nation.

Job losses translate into increased federal spending and a slower response to unemployment claims, and those businesses that have to hire or train new employees down the road will undoubtedly take a financial hit later. Even if it’s difficult, your business can benefit by keeping employees on payroll and by modifying your business plan.

What might this look like? Here are some options to consider:

Lower Overhead Expenses

The most effective response to financial pain is to freeze spending wherever possible.

This may mean holding off on new investments, eliminating projects where costs exceed value, or re-proposing previously rejected cost-savings ideas. Want a more comprehensive guide to cutting costs? Check out this article from the Harvard Business Review.

Consider Alternative Financing

While borrowing may not have previously been in your plans, the Small Business Association is working directly with state governors to provide targeted, low-interest loans to companies that have been severely impacted by COVID-19.

The SBA’s Economic Injury Disaster Loan program may provide the vital support you need during this temporary loss of revenue. Other options to consider are family borrowing, hard money loans, or seeking a float loan from a customer or an external “angel investor.”

Liquify Assets or Discount Existing Receivables

How can you attain missing funds to pay employees in a crunch?

“Beg, borrow, or sell whatever you need in order to come up with the funds,” says Rod Jorgensen, the director of counseling at the Nevada Small Business Development Center. Whether you sell vehicles, buildings, or equipment, put every option on the table for consideration.

Donald Todrin, founder of the Northhampton, MA-based Second Wind Consultants, says taking as much as a 50 percent hit on your outstanding receivables may also be a wise strategy:

“If I’ve got $25,000 out on the street that I’m owed, I’d slash it down to $10,000 on a promise [that vendors] wire me the money today,” Todrin said. “Pay me half [of what you owe me] and I’ll wipe [the debt] out. And you raise cash instantly and overnight. Now you pay a price for that because that’s your overhead money, but you cover your payroll. You got to play for another day.”

Be Resourceful and Keep Employees in the Loop

If you know you are unlikely to make payroll, it’s essential to be honest upfront.

Proactive communication is crucial during a crisis. If finances are tight, tell people up front, starting with the natural hierarchy of company leaders and involving them in the process. Allowing leaders to inform their teams can soften the blow and make it easier to gather feedback.

And be creative. Teams that want to retain employees in extremely tight situations may consider shrinking paychecks across the board or ask the highest paid, top-level staff members to (electively) forgo paychecks for a short time so lower-level employees can still be paid. This spreads out income and grows confidence and unity in your staff.

People First

Though you may not be closing shop, many businesses will experience shortfalls in this season. Creative, sacrificial entrepreneurs will work hard to protect their most valuable asset: people.

Master Font Psychology to Bring Personality and Purpose

April 3, 2020

If you wanted to make a splash at a spring gala, what color would you wear?

If you wanted to be known for your edgy personality, what kind of car would you drive?

Just as your personal appearance creates emotion or impact, your design choices will too. While we often undervalue text in designs, every font has a unique personality and purpose. A little font change can go a long way.

With that in mind, take a look at font psychology and see how using it well can win customers through print!

How Fonts Influence Emotion

What is font psychology?

Font psychology deals with the impact fonts have on the thoughts, emotions, and behaviors of readers. For example, when you use a Bookman Old Style headline, it’s going to carry a very different tone than a Brush Script or a fanciful Curlz font. When you feature Tempus Sans in primary body copy, it will bring a more contemporary vibe than Franklin Gothic. Once you understand the associations a font carries, you’re on your way to using fonts to create the emotional impact you desire.

Fonts contain features like line, weight, size, and orientation. When you see a font, your brain disentangles those components and associates them with characteristics from the real world. For example, italicized fonts mimic movement (like a runner leaping off the starting blocks), and flowing scripts convey creativity (like a dancer spinning across the stage). Fonts mimic visual characteristics from the real world, so if you want to choose an appropriate font, choose one that visually resembles your context.

Keep it Simple with This Font Cheat Sheet

When you think of the vibe you want to convey, what adjectives come to mind? Basic or bold? Gentle or hardcore? Elegant or gritty? Once you’ve identified the tone you want, here is a cheat sheet you can use to craft corresponding messages:

Slab Serif fonts (or “Egyptians”) are perceived as important, bold, impactful, or attention-grabbing. Great slab serifs include Sentinel, Adelle, Clarendon, Linoletter, Archer, and Amasis.

San Serif fonts are perceived as simple, sensible, straightforward, neutral, and easy to read. Popular selections include Apercu, Futura, Avenir, Verdana, and Avant Garde.

Simple Serif fonts are seen as stable, respectable, timeless, formal, or traditional. Classic serif fonts include Garamond, Times New Roman, Georgia, and Palatino.

Bold or weighty fonts are seen as dominant, commanding, gallant, significant, and reputable. Have fun with bold fonts like Qanelas Soft Typeface, Nevis, Municipal, or Andor.

Condensed or ultrathin fonts carry a professional, forward-thinking, logical, or influential quality. To sharpen your image, try fonts like District thin, Antipasto pro thin, or Cocotte ultralight.

Vintage fonts come across as old school, retro, stylish, and remarkable. Type outside the box with six different Zing Rust fonts and carefree fonts like Palm Canyon Drive, Parker, or Lovelo.

Script fonts bring a sense of femininity, elegance, connection, and indulgence. Fun script fonts include Allura, Mistral, or the Segoe family.

Decorative fonts are seen as casual, cool, unique, or high-spirited. Stretch the limits with The Bomb, Circus, Cute Notes, Keep on Truckin’, and more!

Mono-spaced fonts can bring a techy, sophisticated, or smart vibe. To sell your credentials, try Courier, Inconsolata, Maison Mono, or BP Mono.

Display fonts bring a chivalrous, quirky, friendly, or eccentric tone. Use fonts like Amadeus, Anudaw, Bearpaw, and Collegiate to make design twice as fun!

Keep Fonts Front and Center

While fonts are sometimes an after-thought, text is an integral part of your branding and emotional impact. And many online resources are available to help you find fun, free fonts.

Use your font choices to shape perceptions, streamline messages, and project your intent.

4 Strategies to Curb Communication Breakdowns

April 1, 2020

They say that the only sure thing about communication is that we tend to get it wrong.

If communication between two family members is a challenge, how much harder is communication at work? Have you ever experienced a team “fail” like this?

  • After meetings, people don’t seem to know what was said or what’s coming next. It’s like the meeting never occurred.
  • After training on a new procedure, only one person recalls the protocol.
  • Following a brainstorming session, everyone assumes someone else is covering the “next step.” The ball is dropped, resulting in blame, disillusionment, and embarrassment

Make Your Messages Stick

Everyone knows communication is critical to success.

To run a thriving business, employees, managers, and CEOs need to communicate clearly and effectively. Unfortunately, there are hundreds of short circuits in this process, which can result in angry employees, difficult HR situations, and lost profit.

What can you do to improve team communication? Here are a few suggestions from some of today’s best leaders:

1. Kick Silo Doors Open

Many teams work well together but fail to communicate with the larger organization.

Communication silos occur when people in different departments don’t collaborate or connect to the bigger company vision. Enon Landenberg, founder and CEO of tech consulting company sFBI, says this is common:

“It’s very possible for departments to focus too much on their own work and miss out on the big ideas that only come from collaboration,” Landenberg said. “Egos [can prevent] honest discussions about the quality of work, necessary improvements and fresh ideas.”

To avoid this problem, send weekly briefings to the entire company and regularly schedule time for divisions or leaders to connect on projects, questions, or suggestions.

2. Limit Email Communication

When employees receive too many emails, they will start forgetting and ignoring the information they receive.

According to Jeff Corbin, founder and CEO of APPrise Mobile, urgent messages should always be relayed by phone or in person. And when it comes to email conversations, Corbin says this:

“[I follow] the three-email rule: After three messages, we talk.”

Simplify not only the amount of email but the language you use. When technical jargon abounds, you increase the chance for errors because people can’t understand you!

3. Squash the Gossip

News travels quickly, especially if it’s bad.

Some rumors are just silly, but many contain an exaggerated seed of truth. Managers should address issues head-on rather than mopping up messes later. Even if you can’t share all the details, giving people a snapshot of the situation will build confidence and quiet dissension.

4. Lead Engaging Meetings

When people fail to listen, their minds are probably elsewhere.

The burden of communication is yours, so make meetings concise and engaging. Share the purpose of a meeting immediately, and conclude with assignments and action steps. Train managers to share only the most essential information and to use stories to illustrate a point. (e.g. “Yesterday, I got a phone call from our largest shareholder, and guess what they said?”)

Megachurch pastor Craig Groeschel says this:

“Work to keep your meetings small and your communication large. Too many [leaders] make the mistake of including too many people in too many meetings. The purpose of the meeting determines its size and . . . [it is important to] keep the discussion moving. Maintain a sense of polite urgency, pushing hard enough to keep the meeting moving but not so hard that discussion and decision-making is rushed.”

Eliminating miscommunication can head off a whole host of problems, so be intentional and make improvements each day!