Posts Tagged ‘relevant content’

Print marketing is compelling, memorable, and engaging.

As people touch, hold, and even smell paper, they respond in a profoundly personal way.

While digital communication is booming, this has only enhanced the unique voice that print brings for any business. Millennials and Gen Z are very difficult crowds to reach digitally, with 63 percent using AdBlocker and 82 percent ignoring online banner ads. This trend toward tactile is stirring potential for many exciting creative opportunities.

Today, we’ll highlight four print marketing trends from 2018 to inspire you in the year to come.

Simplicity

The world is filled with chaos, and fundamentally, viewers long for a return to simplicity.

Minimalist designs offer the respite people crave. Minimalist designs include images with a clear, elegant purpose, maximizing white space and using layouts that are clean and authentic. Uncluttered visuals bring an honest, compelling point into focus in a quick and arresting way.

For years, TBWA Paris has been on a mission to advertise McDonald’s in the most minimalist ways possible. This started in 2013 with extreme close-up photos of food and followed with computer-icon-style pictograms featuring McDonald’s menu items reduced down to very spare illustrations. Many of these ads used no branding whatsoever: the point was that the food was so recognizable it didn’t need a label.

By 2017, McDonald’s had the food disappearing altogether, featuring top sellers like fries, McNuggets, or Big Mac cartons that were completely empty (apart from a few crumbs), because the food had already been devoured by famished customers.

Effective? Absolutely. These simple ads bypass the brain and go straight to the stomach.

Personalized Print Pieces

Print is already a highly personal medium, but advances in technology allow businesses to enjoy increased access to personalized posters, flyers, direct mail, and more.

If you want to impress, try gathering online data about customer preferences and include that in print.

Branding even the simplest products has also allowed companies to gain a more personal touch. For example, a local auto garage printed customized labels for its water bottles and offered complimentary water to customers while they waited.

Color

If you’ve ever painted a room, you know the significance even a slightly darker hue can bring. Color experts Pantone released color trends for 2018 with this advice:

  • If you want to look resourceful, employ blue and orange hues
  • If you want a playful tone, choose yellow
  • If you’re looking for something discreet, try pink
  • If you want more sophistication, choose gold

What if you want to reach a diverse crowd?

According to Pantone, rosy tones bring a palette that “reaches out and embraces many different cultures.” Pantone said in 2018, print marketing was trending away from pastels and toward bright, bold colors:

“Intense colors seem to be a natural application of our intense lifestyles and thought processes these days.”

Storytelling

Storytelling is not just for YouTube.

Print that tells a story can alleviate suspicion and make instant connections, especially with younger audiences.

A Spanish lollipop grabbed this edge with its “ant aversion” ad for Chupa Chups lollipops. While normally a company might bore viewers with guilt trips for sugar-free products, Chupa Chups chose a “visual story” to make their point.

In the print ad, a sticky sucker had been discarded on a rock slab near the lawn. Meanwhile, a triple-wide line of ants detoured around the candy, heading toward the grass. The headline, “It’s Sugar Free,” brought a resounding finale to this playful story.

Chupa Chups reminds us that print is at its best when it is used as an art. Use vibrant colors, minimalist designs, and personalized print pieces to grab their attention and tell your story this year.

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Social media is an increasingly dominant medium for modern communication.

According to facts from the Pew Research Center and the Hootsuite Social Media Barometer Report 2018:

  • There are now 3.196 billion people using social media (up 13% from last year)
  • 11 new people start using social media each second, which is about one million people every day
  • 88 percent of 18- to 29-year-olds say they use social media
  • The total number of mobile phone users is 5.14 billion (up 4% from last year), which means people are increasing in their social media accessibility

As you look to grow your digital reach in conjuction with your print campaigns, social media is an obvious choice to feature ads, products, and (let’s be honest), to feature yourself!

But, how well does this go over with consumers? Not swimmingly.

Take a quick scan through the business posts you see online. How would you best summarize these? Does the content bring an encouraging word to you, the reader? Or do the majority of these posts seem narcissistic?

Bruce Kasanoff, author of “How to Self-Promote without Being a Jerk,” summarizes it like this:

“Two-thirds or more of the business posts I see on social media can be summarized in one word: Me. They are all about the person or company that shared the post: what they are selling, what they want, what they did. Yawn. Pause. Where’s the unfollow button?”

Instead, Kasanoff coaches entrepreneurs to embrace this mantra: serve, don’t sell. Intrinsically, people respond to those who approach them in a friendly, helpful manner. Social media is no different. When you take a self-centered or pushy tone it is a turnoff, whether you’re sharing online or in person. In contrast, everything you share on social media should offer a benefit to those on the receiving end. Kasanoff gives this example:

“Imagine that you are delivering a webinar in Chicago, and you share this news via social media. Don’t just say, ‘Come to my seminar.’ There are a ton of people who don’t live in Chicago or will be busy that day, so they can’t come. Instead, offer a lesson related to your seminar, and then say, ‘By the way, if you’re going to be in Chicago next Tuesday, I’ll be talking about this and related lessons.’ Thus, members of your network benefit even if they can’t do what you want them to do.”

Grow Influence Through “You-Centered” Communication

Living in the information age, people have grown increasingly resistant to interruption marketing, or “in-your-face,” one-way communication.

Instead, they crave engagement marketing: brand-consumer relationships built on trust and mutual respect. The foundation of this trust is thoughtful communication specifically tailored to the consumer’s needs. Effective communicators make the audience believe that the most important person in their correspondence – in their business relationship – is “you,” the consumer.

The key to successful communication is to make the reader feel – in every memo, letter, printed piece, or social media post – that the most important person is the reader.

Consider this contrast:

Option A: “Pixie Dust Cleaners brings a dazzling deep clean, offering eco-friendly products at the best possible price.”

Option B: “Looking for freedom from chaos? Pixie Dust Cleaners gives you a dazzling deep clean, with eco-friendly products that allow you to take a deep breath and enjoy every minute at home. Your peace of mind is worth every penny!

Before you communicate, ask yourself what your audience needs, wants, or values. Consider what is most important to them and try to personalize your correspondence or social media posts to these felt needs. As you produce more customer-centered communication, you will grow sales, enrich your reputation, and enhance the well-being of your business.

Coca-Cola is a brand built on scenes of enjoying life together.

Coke has worked tirelessly to promote not only its product, but the message behind it: that sharing, or gathering family and friends together, brings happiness. “Enjoying a coke” is the message in every ad, every culture, and every medium Coke communicates through.

The company’s 2014 “Share a Coke” campaign was one of its memorable marketing initiatives in history. That summer, Coca-Cola removed its iconic logo on 20-ounce bottles and replaced them with 250 of the country’s most popular names. Consumers were encouraged to find bottles with names that held personal meaning and to share them with others or post photos online with the hashtag #ShareaCoke. Within the first year, more than 500,000 photos were posted. Consumers ordered over six million virtual Coke bottles, and Coca-Cola gained roughly 25 million Facebook followers.

A Distinctly Personal Experience

What did Coke tap into that prompted this momentous reaction?

In part, it was the desire for a personal experience. For teens and millennials, personalization is not just a fad, but a way of life. Today’s consumers place a high value on self-expression, individual storytelling, and staying connected. Coke powerfully aligned playfulness, fun handheld products, and customization in a campaign for the ages.

In today’s global economy, consumers are more aware of product options and of what other people are buying. Subsequently, they’ve become more demanding about the products they purchase. Deloitte Global found that 36 percent of consumers expressed interest in purchasing personalized products or services and one in five were willing to pay 20 percent more for these options. Customization gives companies an edge in cosmetics, clothing, food prep, and toys, to name a few.

Personalized offerings add costs to the manufacturer but frequently result in higher profits because of:

  • A price premium associated with the benefits
  • More loyal, satisfied customers
  • Greater word of mouth because of the increased satisfaction and the “surprise factor” associated with an unexpected range of options
  • Enhanced customer experience via creativity and individual expression
  • Precise taste matching and less need to compromise

How About You?

Do your customers value experience and self-expression? How could you offer this more in your products or services?

It may be as simple as engraving someone’s name in a glasses case or upgrading products with matching accessories. French cosmetics brand Guerlain started offering customizable lipsticks by allowing clients to choose their own combination of case and lipstick color. Customization allows brands to grow consumer engagement and solidify brand loyalty, which is especially powerful in younger markets.

Forbes offers several talking points for firms considering customization:

  • What are the incremental costs associated with the customization options and how will they impact profitability?
  • How many options are necessary and what’s the incremental benefit as the number increases? What price premium will consumers be willing to pay?
  • Which customization options will be the most incremental to maximize sales? A research tool called a TURF (Test of Unduplicated Reach & Frequency) Analysis can help you assess.
  • What level of logistical, operational, and labor complexity will this involve? How often should customization options be updated?

Charlie Gu, CEO and co-founder of marketing agency Kollective Influence, says one budget-friendly customization strategy is the “module” approach. Instead of creating a product from scratch, businesses can offer several component options that can be mass-produced and easily assembled:

“Give customers choices, and then let them choose—customization within a framework,” he advises. “It doesn’t actually require any customization of the actual product. The consumers are essentially just picking their own color, but to them, it feels totally customized.”

Speech bubbles for comment

You’ve taken the time to collect your thoughts. You’ve carefully outlined your ideas, your theme, and the overall tone you’d like to communicate. Wouldn’t it be nice if people actually read it?

Better make it quick!

Generation Z, born after 1996, is already emerging from the shadow of millennials. Making up a quarter of the U.S. population, they will account for 40 percent of all consumers by 2020. Gen Z processes content faster than other generation, especially considering most can sort through piles of information using four screens simultaneously.

Although their options seem limitless, their time is finite. Gen Z consumers have an average browsing attention span of eight seconds (as compared to twelve seconds for millennials).

Make Every Word Count
As lead time decreases, efficiency must increase.

How do you evaluate the “right” speed for sharing? Research has answers! Here are some research-based guidelines on the ideal length for Tweets, Facebook and blog posts, headlines, and e-mails.

Twitter
Twitter allows a maximum of 280 characters, and your posts should resemble the same type of short and sweet chirp you might hear from a bird.

The essence of Twitter is its commitment to bite-sized, sharable comments. What is the ideal length of a tweet?

Research by Buddy Media shows 100 characters is the engagement sweet spot for a tweet. This analysis saw a spike in retweets among those between 71-100 characters (so-called “medium” length tweets). These posts have enough characters for the original poster to share something substantial and for a person sharing (or re-tweeting) to add commentary as well.

Facebook
Exactly what size is a 40-character post?

The sentence you just read had 41 characters. That’s pretty brief! Research by global marketing influencer Jeff Bullas found that posts with 40 characters received the 86 percent higher engagement (including comments, shares, and “like” rates from viewers) than other posts. Can’t limit yourself to such blunt communication? Posts with 80 characters or fewer received 66 percent higher engagement. Minimize length and you’ll maximize reach!

Blog Posts
Medium is a blog platform that taps the brains of the world’s most insightful writers, thinkers, and storytellers.

When measuring content that performed best on their site, Medium found that an ideal blog post is around 1,600 words, meaning the post will engage people for about seven minutes. A photo-heavy post is better suited to around 980 words, and any blog post longer than 300 words should be filled with subheads to create enhanced readability or “skim layers” for viewers.

Headlines
“Bold and Brief is Best!”

According to KISSmetrics headline experts, six words is the ideal length for headlines.

Usability research reveals people don’t only scan body copy, they also skim headlines. Consequently, they tend to absorb only the first three words and the last three words of each headline.

Don’t want them to miss your point? Then don’t use any words in between!

Six-word headlines can be challenging, so Kissmetrics suggests that rather than stressing about length, just make every word count. Especially the first three and the last three!

E-mail Subject Lines
Can you boost the open rate for your e-mails by manipulating the subject length? A study released by Mailer found a slight bump in opens and clicks at a certain range of characters:

·        4–15 characters: 15.2% open; 3.1% click

·        16–27 characters: 11.6% open; 3.8% click

·        28–39 characters: 12.2% open; 4% click

·        40–50 characters: 11.9% open; 2.8% click

·        51+ characters: 10.4% open; 1.8% click

Mid-range subjects brought the highest response. Also, research found higher open rates for e-mail subjects that convey timely information, imply benefit for quick action, and avoid exaggeration (such as capitalized letters or exclamation points).

Color management set

Ever rushed out the door only to trip on your shoes in the entryway? Or made a hasty stop at the intersection and found yourself in a costly fender bender?

Accidents happen when we hurry, and that’s true in both life and work. In project management, sometimes we fail to allow adequate time for extra details or unexpected delays. As you draw closer to a deadline, errors are made and important details are overlooked.

Print-Ready Success
Do you want to be proud of your next print project with a smooth transition from design to print?

Here is a handy preflight checklist to help you eliminate panic or costly mistakes when a deadline is near.

Thoroughly proof your document for typographical, punctuation, margin, or grammatical errors. Have one or two other people proof as well. Mistakes are easy to miss but embarrassing to everyone. To slow yourself down, trying reading your document out loud or read your text backward.
Embed your fonts and designs. There’s nothing worse than pouring over a precise design then finding a poor imitation after it comes back from print. To maintain the integrity of your design, it is important to link all aspects of your piece (images, artwork, and fonts) into a high-resolution PDF. This includes crop marks for bleeds displaying the exact size of your trimmed and finished piece.
Use correct proportions, dimensions, and resolution. Images should be proofed by others to make sure they fit on the page, are correctly centered, and are cropped or outlined as desired. The resolution of image files needs to be higher for print: a JPEG file needs a minimum resolution of 300 DPI (Dots per inch). If your file does not meet that standard the quality will not be as sharp or distinct.
Use consistent page layouts. Clean layouts communicate professionalism and make documents easier to read. Proof your design (especially multi-page documents) to be sure margins are consistent on every page, including booklet covers or pages that feature charts or infographics.
Convert image formats to CMYK. JPEG is the default image format for photographs from many cameras, cell phones, and mobile devices. Screen images on TVs, computers, and cameras use red, green, and blue in varying percentages, but commercial printers typically separate artwork into four colors (cyan, magenta, yellow, black). Most design software will allow you to easily convert or save a file in CMYK, or there are several free online file conversion tools as well.
Print a proof and confer with our team. A surefire way to ensure a quality product is to generate a poof and discuss it with us before the final printing. It’s also important to discuss turnaround times so you can plan your milestones accordingly and allow for multiple print runs (if necessary).
We’re here to help! With local printing, you get the benefit of a work-in-progress partnership. While it’s helpful to have a preflight checklist, the trained eye of a professional is even better! Our goal is to increase your productivity, reduce your stress, and save you time and money as your prep and proof your print projects.

We’re only one phone call away, and your questions are always welcome!

Content is king in advertising and communication concept, colorful arrows pointing to the word CONTENT at the center with chess king on black cement wall, creativity of brand website and social media

Researchers estimate that in 1984 a person saw an average of 2,000 ads per day.

By 2014, they saw about 5,000. With the explosion in spam and social media ads, that number increases daily. But consumers are fed up with in-your-face advertising that seems disruptive or manipulative. Instead, they’re attracted to authenticity and friendliness in a brand.

How can you build that kind of culture in your business?

It’s All About Content
Narratives and content marketing can bring fresh life to your marketing mix!

Content marketing is a strategic approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly defined audience. It shifts your team away from a “message” focus to a more optimal “people focus,” building trust and driving more profitable consumer action.

Content marketing generates stronger leads, increases sales, and enhances customer loyalty. Consider these facts:

77% of internet users read blogs
Small businesses with blogs get 126% more lead growth than small businesses without blogs
Content marketing costs 62% less than traditional marketing and generates about three times the leads
A 2014 Brandshare survey found that the majority of consumers are suspicious of brands’ intentions, but 87% said they would like a more meaningful relationship with their preferred brands
Why Print + Content Marketing = Success
When people consider content marketing, they typically think of digital media.

However, true diversification means thinking bigger. The Content Marketing Institute suggests two out of three marketers don’t include print in their content marketing, but there is strategic value to including printed content elements.

Why?

1. The Information Factor
Nielson found about 56% of consumers rely on printed matter for sales information, and:

56% preferred mailed or delivered circulars
52% relied on newspaper circulars
37% relied on in-store printed pieces or store-generated e-mails
27% relied on store websites
Print is seen as a concrete, reliable source, especially by prospects nearing a decision. If you neglect printed content marketing you may minimize your chance of landing a valuable client.

2. The Trust Factor
With today’s “fake news” paranoia, trust in digital media has decreased.

A 2017 study showed that printed news magazines are the most trusted news source (72% rated them positively) while only 33% believed social media provided honest information.

Even print versions of national newspapers were regarded as more trustworthy than the websites of that exact same publication!

Because of the physical nature of the medium, print is naturally viewed as more informative and trustworthy than digital media.

So how can you add print to your content marketing strategies?

Use embedded QR codes in game-style promotions or in-store displays. Check some inspiring examples here or here.
Look for ways to get your business or product featured in magazine or newspaper articles.
Employ printed “how to” postcards or maintenance checklists with online coupon discounts included in the text.
Print inserts for invoices or point-of-sale kiosks that highlight an excerpt of your blog to lead them online.
Consider generating your own quarterly or bi-annual niche publication.
Print custom thank-you notes with a snippet of your brand story or the first paragraph of your blog on the back.
Printed content marketing should be used as “bait” to generate nibbles from your potential customers.

If you don’t have a place to reel them in (like a “get started today” link) or a way to keep them in the net (a defined sales funnel or a customer retention program), all your time and energy will be useless. So be strategic, be customer-focused, and get out there and fish!

Combining their creative powers

In the 1950s, a young boy named John was enthralled by every chance to visit his best friend.

This family owned a soda pop bottling plant, which sparked a lifelong love for exotic flavors in John Nese. Years later, Nese brought soda to his family’s Italian grocery store in Los Angeles, known today for its 600 soda and beer flavors from around the world.

The variety wasn’t always this broad. Nese said the change came 20 years ago when independent grocers were being squeezed out by chains. One soda dealer offered a profit of $30 a pallet if Nese would streamline shelves and eliminate variety. Nese wouldn’t bite:

“Nuts to that,” he said. “A light bulb went off (and I said), ‘You know, John, you should be happy you own your shelf space, and Pepsi doesn’t, and you can sell anything you want.’ So I went out and found 25 brands of little sodas.”

Nese says this “freedom of choice” philosophy defines his family and his business, and customers can even make flavors of their own at the store. Rows of cane sugar syrups line the wall, along with bottles, caps, and carbonated water dispensers. “Whatever you think of, you can make!” Nese exclaimed.

This passion has fueled the Galcos’ grocery for over a century, and the Galcos plan to continue this legacy.

Successfully Passing Down Your Business
Small businesses make up around 99 percent of U.S. companies and 20 percent of these are family owned.

These businesses play a crucial role in creating jobs, exporting products, and generating wealth. As Baby Boomers reach retirement, 4 million of them will be handing off their privately-owned small businesses; in the next 15 years, we will see the largest transfer ever of private business to the next generation!

What are the keys to successfully navigating these transitions?

Preparation and communication are essential. Here are a few steps businesses are taking to pave the way for a smooth handoff:

Think decades in advance.
Small business owners often wait too long to start planning a transition, and typically only half of those planning to retire have identified a successor.

Justin Goodbread, a certified financial planner and exit planning advisor says the process is especially weighty for families:

“Families will most likely also have to cope with emotional and psychological issues that surface during a generational transaction. I believe a 10-year period is needed to successfully navigate a family business transaction.”

Sketch out clear successors and exit strategies.
A strong mission statement and business plan, a clear exit strategy for senior leaders, and an early commitment from successors are important hallmarks to longevity.

Build the right team.
Many businesses believe they can manage their transition independently, but this assumption is costly.

Healthy handoffs will require input from lawyers, accountants, financial advisors, business valuation experts, and a family business planner to shepherd the process. Though senior leaders may wish to gift the business ownership, experts believe financial buy-ins allow successors to get some “skin in the game,” as they emotionally double-down in commitment, maturity, and vision.

Be flexible as you exchange roles and responsibilities over time.
The gap between generations requires effective communication and an organized structure for each person involved.

This should be reviewed regularly to adjust the roles or time commitment of each team member. Goodbread recommends younger successors earn more responsibility on a day-to-day basis:

“It has to be earned or merited,” he says. “The problems start when a junior takes over a senior’s position in the company without earning it or wanting the position.”

Communication concept

Ramona Smith, a 31-year-old Houston teacher, has faced many challenges, including coaxing her son through cancer and struggling through a divorce.

But Smith believes life is about more than what knocks you down, it’s about the lifelines people offer to help you back up.

One of Smith’s lifelines was the mentorship she found in Toastmasters, a non-profit educational organization that teaches public speaking and leadership. In her 2018 speech, “Still Standing,” Smith posed as a fighter on stage and talked about surviving round after round with life but bouncing back again. Her accomplishments include dropping out of college four times (before graduating at the top of her class) and, most recently, being crowned the Toastmasters World Champion of Public Speaking in Chicago.

Smith outlasted 30,000 other competitors over six months of competition before being named the champion in August. Her success comes not only from her will to fight but from one speaking technique that helped her connect:

“If my hands are open to the audience, and my fists are not closed, and my arms are not too tight toward my body, it just makes the audience feel more connected, like I’m really open,” Smith said. “I’m vulnerable, and I want to give you all of me. And it makes me look relaxed and comfortable.”

Dananjaya Hettiarchchi, a human-resources specialist who won the Toastmasters competition in 2014, broke down the effectiveness of this technique:

“If you really concentrate, when you look at the inside of your palm, your eye relaxes,” Hettiarchchi said. “And a lot of great speakers, they open their palms towards the audience, showing more openness. And that allows the audience to connect with the speaker better, as opposed to showing the back of your hand.”

Best Body Language for Effective Presentations
If a simple gesture can have such an impact, what other nonverbal communication can increase our impact? Check out these tips from some of the world’s most personable communicators to increase your own credibility.

DO:
Open your hands toward the audience to relax and connect.
Use facial expressions with purpose. Sometimes when we’re nervous our face freezes up. If you don’t have an expressive face, work with a mirror to see how your expressions reinforce your message. Give your entire talk silently (while forming each word) and let your face do the communicating!
Maintain intentional eye contact. Leaders who speak over people’s heads or get buried in their notes seem impersonal or insincere. When you speak, move from face to face, making eye contact with one person at a time to ensure your audience is engaged. When answering a question, use extended eye contact to convey sincerity.
DON’T:
Hide, clasp, or fidget with your hands. This implies you don’t believe what you’re saying, or shows meekness that fails to command attention. Instead, keep your arms forward in an open manner. Use your hands to explain your point through confident, concise movements.
Plan your gestures in advance. Physical expression in presentations should arise spontaneously. Though body language is important, planned movements will seem awkward or inauthentic. Instead, plan key moments where you might take a different position in the room or how you will use visual aids to keep communication transparent.
Roam aimlessly or exhibit poor posture. Body language communicates a lot about your character, so pacing can make you seem jumpy or slumped shoulders may convey discouragement and apathy. Instead, move with purpose in your presentations. Aim for a neutral position, sitting or standing tall like a string is connecting your head to the ceiling.
Remember, the most important visual you can show your audience is yourself! Sharpen non-verbal communication skills and reap the benefits of credibility and respect!

Customer care, support (help) and personal development concepts

The winter of 2013 was a hard one for Georgette Carter.

As a single mom raising two young boys while she cared for a father with dementia, money was very tight. Then, she totaled her car and found her resources – and her hope – were nearly gone. That is, until a 1996 blue Ford Contour arrived from the Connor Brother Collisions “Recycled Rides” program.

Conner Brothers of Richmond, VA, overhauls donated cars and awards them to people who have been nominated by community members. Carter said her heart was rehabilitated almost more than the car she received:

“It turned my life around. I can get to my job on time, and I don’t have to maneuver to get my child out of daycare. I’ll never take that for granted again.”

Getting Others Involved
Small businesses like Conner Brothers are creating innovative giving models that not only impact people but strengthen the business and the character of the companies themselves.

Kevin Conner said his company donated its first car and was looking to extend the “Recycled Rides” program to three other locations, but they had some pushback in the process. Some objected to giving away freebies when they were working so hard to earn a living themselves. But Conner says this mentality changed when employees got physically involved because compassion comes from being part of an experience instead of merely giving a donation:

“I got them involved in actually giving the cars away, handing over the keys,” Conner says. “Now the guys at the shop call me and ask, ‘When is our next car?’ It would be easy to give money or a service here or there, but it’s the teamwork behind the program that creates an amazing atmosphere for a successful company.”

The car giveaways have become such a cornerstone for Conner Brothers that the program helps define the type of employees the company wants.

“Giving back is a huge part of our company,” Conner says. “I challenge the guys every day to give back in some way, to give customers more than they expect. People remember that.”

Giving That “Changes” Lives
Another giving strategy comes from literal pocket change, as givers round up or down for charity.

For example, the ridesharing company Lyft recently launched an initiative allowing customers to round up their fare to the nearest dollar for military appreciation and human rights campaigns. More than 40,000 passengers donated over $100,000 in the first two months!

Grocery stores, mass merchandisers, and retailers have also invited customers to donate change to worthy causes. As technology and digital platforms make such giving easier, small businesses have challenged staff members to round down their net pay to the nearest dollar (or tenth dollar) and give the difference to charity. While painless or even unnoticed, these small donations add up to a collective impact with heartfelt results.

Whether your employees give financially, volunteer together, or embrace a community partnership project, innovative giving helps your business to:

Stand out from competitors or set itself apart in the community
Make matching donations alongside employee giving to multiply impact
Use positive feedback from supported causes to provide content for print and digital marketing
Increase team unity as employees give toward a common cause
While generosity begins in the heart, often innovative giving strategies begin with small business. Join us for part two of this series to gain more inspiration for a culture of charity that will strengthen your business.

Old Way x New Way Crossroad

Looking to grow personally or professionally, but not sure where to start?

Last week we examined the incredible benefits of lifelong learning. Increased cognitive function increases the health of the entire body, and continued education sparks social engagement (as we learn from and WITH others) that brings confidence and delight. Research suggests that people with strong social connections tend to be happier and live longer.

Whether you feel supported by your employer or not, here are four simple avenues that will enrich your life and help you grow:

1. Stretch Yourself.

The first step in continued growth is to assess your buy-in.

Check out last week’s article for more detail on jump-starting your own motivation.

2. Ask Others to Stretch You.

Baseball legend Yogi Berra commented, “If you don’t know where you are going, you will wind up somewhere else.”

Perhaps one of our greatest obstacles is our lack of perspective. In the daily grind, it can be hard to identify or address our weaknesses and our virtues. Consider a coach or mentor to help you assess where you’re at and chart intentional steps toward positive change.

Can you find someone in your company who might have coffee with you on a monthly or quarterly basis? Is there someone in your field or professional network (even LinkedIn) who might fill this strategic role? Is it worth contracting a life or career coach (or even an organizational consultant) to help you maximize potential? Surgeon Atul Gawande makes this compelling argument:

“Élite performers, researchers say, must engage in ‘deliberate practice’—sustained, mindful efforts to develop the full range of abilities that success requires. You have to work at what you’re not good at. In theory, people can do this themselves. But most people do not know where to start or how to proceed. Expertise, as the formula goes, requires going from unconscious incompetence to conscious incompetence to conscious competence and finally to unconscious competence. The coach provides the outside eyes and ears and makes you aware of where you’re falling short. This is tricky. Human beings resist exposure and critique; our brains are well defended. So, coaches use a variety of approaches—showing what other, respected colleagues do, for instance, or reviewing videos of the subject’s performance. The most common, however, is just conversation.”

3. Read.

Reading is one of life’s simple pleasures and a commonly overlooked asset.

Reading broadens perspective, improves memory, and dramatically reduces stress. Make a point to read professional development articles, books on business topics, or personal development pieces that will sharpen your skills or spark curiosity. An energized mind is a productive mind, so dedicate time each week to read or listen to audio books (maybe as you sit in traffic) and you won’t regret it!

4. Pursue Life-Giving Conversations. Most people are experiential learners, growing confidence and skills as they participate rather than passively consuming.

One way to proactively engage your mind is through conversations, like book clubs, professional networks, or even loose business collaborations. Where are you connected or how could you grow in this area? Surround yourself with like-minded peers through opportunities like 1 Million Cups, TED Talks, MeetUp groups, and more. If nothing else, look for volunteer opportunities and connect with people on a casual level. Make friends, spark ideas, and find financial and professional support in areas you may never have considered.

Ready to shake off that slump or add spring to your step today? Let these adjustments chart a new course for growth in your career and future. Every moment is valuable and so is your potential. Steward it well and keep growing for life!