Archive for August, 2015

The Specifics of Setting Values > Business Ethics

Posted August 31, 2015 By Callie

There is no doubt that business values are an important key to the success of any business. They bring a slew of important benefits to an organization – benefits that enable the people involved in the business to work in concert to achieve important goals like increased profitability and growth. However, many people remain stymied on how to actually go about setting up a set of values for their business. Do they choose the values themselves and impose them on the rest of the company? Do they allow everyone else to decide what the values are? What if they don’t agree with all of the values chosen? What if the rest of the business doesn’t agree with the values? Fortunately, setting values is not as difficult or complicated as it appears.

When setting you company’s values the first thing to keep in mind is clarity. You need to be exceptionally clear about what the nature of each value and how it applies to the people in the organization. This is not the time to use generalized, fuzzy verbiage. Clearly say what you mean and avoid confusion or worse, apathy.
Next make sure that the values are formalized. This means that they are not written down on a cocktail napkin or in the margin of a legal pad. The values you select are important. Therefore, make sure that they are properly memorialized and disseminated to everyone involved.

Next, take care to involve everyone in the business in the process of selecting the values. Nothing will leave your colleagues colder about the value set than excluding them from the process. However, involving everyone in the process doesn’t mean that your own personal voice and style, as the owner of the business, has been silenced. You still have a say. You need to lead the process without dictating the process. It’s a fine line, but you need to walk it if you’re going to end up with a set of values that are accepted company-wide.

Finally, you need to lead by example. Everyone in the business will be looking at you after the set of business values has been adopted. Your behavior will tell them whether the values are a living document that guides behavior or just a bunch of words that everyone pays lip service to. If your serious about obtaining the benefits of the value set for your business, then you have to be prepared to live those values every day.

The Alchemy of Business Values > Business Ethics

Posted August 31, 2015 By Callie

A common problem many business owners face is how to keep their businesses competitive. Let’s face it. Many times the day to day grind of a job can begin to wear on anyone. The combination of routine tasks and sudden deadlines can serve to dull the edge of creativity and put out the spark of inspiration. A lackluster miasma can begin to creep through an organization’s ranks. One person’s lack initiative can be contagious. It’s difficult to keep striving for success when no one else seems to care. If this situation continues long enough, it can begin to seriously affect a business’s ability to compete. Another shop with more energy and fire will begin to grab the market share. Luckily, there’s a solution that can turn things around.

A finely tuned set of business value can have an alchemical effect on a business’s lack of morale. Business values can turn the lead of uninspired, unproductive behavior into the gold of inspired, productive behavior almost overnight. Here’s how it works.

First of all, business values act to change behavior because they influence an employee’s attitude toward their job in particular and the overall business in general. By promulgating a code of conduct, and standing behind that code from the top down, a business sends a strong message to their employees that they are more than a cog in a machine. It sends a message that they, and every other individual associated with the business are a part of a team, with no one actor being more important than the others. If one person fails, everyone fails. If one person needs help, the whole organization is there is help. Everyone stands or falls together. This kind of message provides inspiration and accountability throughout the business. If one person’s output is less than expected, they are called to task by their own peers, not management. It’s that type of answerability that begins to make the business a competitive powerhouse.

In addition, business values also act to promote success throughout the entire culture of the organization. People whose daily behavior reflects the idea and spirit of those values are recognized and rewarded for their efforts. Other’s see this recognition and reward and are inspired to make positive changes in their own behaviors. Gradually, the idea and the spirit of the company’s set of values begin to positively influence everyone involved. The values the business decided to adopt act to transform the business completely.

Small Business Core Values > Business Infographic

Posted August 31, 2015 By Callie

CoreValues_Infographic

The Future of Commerce > Social Marketing

Posted August 31, 2015 By Callie

Two big forces are having a massive impact on commerce and are likely to collide in the not-too-distant future with gigantic repercussions.

What are these forces?

One is social commerce – the integration of eCommerce with social media to create a more interactive and community-drive type of selling.

The other is digital manufacturing – 3D printing and POD publishing that allows items to be created in factories as they are bought.

When these two meet, it will completely change the face of business.
Care to see how?

The Impact of Digital Manufacturing

Digital manufacturing has in fact already changed a lot of business and this has been felt nowhere moreso than the publishing industry.

Back in the day, if you were a writer wanting to publish your book, you would have two options. One would be to find a publisher willing to invest in you. The other would be to pay to have your book published and to order thousands of copies of your book yourself to try and sell to shops (a process known as ‘vanity publishing’). The problem was, that back then, you had to order your prints in advance meaning that any publishing project was a big investment and a big risk.
Then came POD – Print On Demand. This basically meant that you could have books printed professionally in minutes as needed. Sites like LuLu and Amazon now allow you to self-publish and sell your own books with no need to order in bulk. Pretty smart!

3D printing is doing the same thing for physical objects. If you know how to make a 3D model, you can now sell your own ornaments with no need to invest in a manufacturing plant.

Etsy Meets 3D Printing

One day we will all have 3D printers in our home and they will be advanced enough to print out computers.

On that day, we will no longer need to go through manufacturers at all to buy pretty much anything. Instead, we will rely on a form of social commerce called ‘peer to peer selling’. A good example of this is Etsy.

What this basically means is that if you have the ability to make a 3D model, a blueprint or a passage of text, you will be able to sell the idea directly to others.
This of course will mean that many traditional businesses lose their place, so the only way to avoid that is to adapt and to stay one step ahead. The businesses that are able to facilitate this type of P2P ‘intellectual property’ selling, will be the ones to truly win out.

Social Commerce, or ‘sCommerce’, is a buzz word that we are hearing more and more of in the current age of the web. eCommerce is big news for businesses as it allows them to reach a global audience, to cut overheads and to drastically increase both turnover and profits as a result.
sCommerce is simply the natural evolution of this eCommerce. It means, in short, using social tools and ‘web 2.0’ to drive more sales and to connect their customers and build communities.
sCommerce is a broad term with many different aspects. To give you a better idea of what it encompasses, read on and we’ll go over some of the main terms.

On-Site sCommerce: This means integrating social into your eCommerce site – by letting people share their purchases for instance or giving them the tools to communicate with other shoppers.

Off-Site sCommerce: This means promoting a product through Facebook or through other external social sites.

Social Network-Driven Sales: This is pretty self-explanatory and essentially means driving sales of your products via social media directly.

Peer-to-Peer Sales Platforms: A peer-to-peer sales platform is something like eBay or Etsy that lets users buy and sell among each other. A site like Amazon combines p2p sales with more conventional formats.

Group Buying: Group buying means getting lots of people to band together to buy an expensive item, or it means getting lots of people to buy something in bulk. So for instance, you might band together with friends to buy a bulk order of iPads at wholesale price and then that way make a saving.

User-Curated Shopping: This means that you can create your own lists of items whether these are favorite purchases or things you want and then share them with others.

Peer Recommendations: Peer recommendations is just a fancy way of saying ‘user reviews’. In an ecommerce setting though, this can be powerful stuff. Using peer recommendations you can basically b build trust in your items and gain some free exposure for your products at the same time.

Participatory Commerce: An example of this is Kickstarter – it’s a type of shopping that actually involves the buyer in the creation of the product. It’s pretty forward thinking and likely to be a big deal in the future.

Social Shopping: Social shopping is shopping that has a chat/forum function built in so you can get advice from friends or just ‘hang out’.

Amazon is pretty smart when it comes to business. If you didn’t realize that already, then the Kindle more than proves how good they are at spotting a niche in the market and designing an excellent product. The ‘Buy With One Click’ button has to be one of the most powerful features in any eCommerce site and is fantastic when it comes to encouraging impulse buys.

But another example of Amazon’s business savvy that you might not have noticed yet is the way that it has implemented social commerce features into its site – allowing users to communicate with eachother and using that as a tool to drive more sales.

Peer Recommendations

Amazon.com was one of the first sites to make the review process a big feature. When you buy a product on Amazon, you will be encouraged to leave a review and in doing so you provide more information for other buyers.

This is powerful for Amazon as it means you can get a recommendation to buy. What’s more, you will have faith that what you are buying is good quality.

This is actually what makes the negative reviews as important as the positive ones – it proves that bad products do get bad reviews and means that the shoppers are more likely to trust the positive reviews as a result.

Wishlists

Another excellent feature of Amazon is the ability users have to create their own wish-lists. These are simply lists of items that they’ve seen online and that they want and which can subsequently be passed to their friends and family who may be looking for ideas for a birthday or Christmas. The wishlists automatically update (to ensure the same item doesn’t get bought twice) and they are absolutely perfect for wedding present lists and other similar situations where multiple people are likely to be buying a gift for one person or a couple of people.

‘Buy as a Gift’

Similarly, Amazon also allows you to buy an item ‘as a gift’ which makes it all the easier to get things for people without worrying about wrapping it or taking it to them. This sort of feature makes Amazon the de facto place that many people choose for buying presents for others. And you can see how that might work out very well for Amazon…

So there you go – that’s all pretty smart on Amazon’s part. But don’t just be impressed, be inspired! How can you implement these sorts of features into features into your site?

Imagine if you were running a highstreet store but every customer who shopped with you stayed in your shop.

Space aside, this would create quite a unique problem for you as a seller because it would mean that bad products simply stopped selling. Why? Because when a new customer came in to look at something, you’d have the previous customers warning them against it.

This might sound like a farcical situation but in fact it’s very close to what the reality is in today’s age of social commerce.

Social commerce is all about leveraging the social aspects of the internet to either increase to decrease sales of a product or a service. And one of the most obvious examples of how this works is with regards to peer recommendations.

What Are Peer Recommendations?

Peer recommendations are precisely what they sound like – advice from other customers on whether or not to buy products or services.

What this looks like is a site like Yelp, TripAdvisor or Amazon. Go on those sites to buy a product or book a hotel and what you will find is that there are a ton of reviews from previous customers. This is then what will encourage you to either go ahead and buy or to quickly leave the website and never come back. Which reaction you have will of course depend on the nature of the reviews that have been left.

So if you run a hotel and your average score on TripAvisor is 1 star out of 5, that’s like having a legion of angry former visitors standing outside your building and warning people away!

Adapting to Peer Recommendations

So how do you adapt to peer recommendations as a business?

One obvious point is to make sure that you are at least aware of the feedback. If you haven’t looked up your own business or your own products on these sites, then make sure you do.
The next tip is to try and make sure you are getting positive reviews from satisfied customers. This sounds obvious but the point is that you need to encourage this to happen. Unfortunately, most of us aren’t interested in leaving reviews unless we feel very strongly – which usually means we had a negative experience.

Try to build a relationship with your customers and visitors and this way you will find they’re more likely to leave positive reviews.

And oh yeah… make sure you are delivering great value! There’s no hiding anymore thanks to social commerce!

In today’s world of social commerce, reputation management has never been more crucial. Social commerce basically means integrating social media with eCommerce and the result is a situation where buyers can convince other shoppers to buy and can raise the profile of a product.

Meanwhile, shoppers can discuss products with manufacturers and become true fans and sellers can get feedback that allows them to improve their products.

All this is very exciting but it also has its potential drawbacks for sellers if they aren’t careful. For example, if you are a hotel owner and you’re on a review site like TripAdvisor, this can do damage to your business unless you get solely positive reviews.

This is where ‘reputation management’ comes in – the process of altering the way that prospective customers see you when they research you online and thereby encouraging more sales and better experiences.

Controlling Reviews

One big aspect of reputation management then is controlling reviews. But how can you ethically impact on the reviews that you are getting?

One obvious way is to improve the quality of your product or service but there are other methods too. One example is simply to ask your happy customers to leave good reviews, or to incentivize people to leave reviews.

Another tip is to always respond to your reviews online. This way, you demonstrate to your prospective audience that you are at least listening and at the same time, you can put forward your story. Don’t make excuses or get aggressive – appear genuinely sorry and show how you are going to improve your service for next time.

SEO

SEO (search engine optimization) also plays a part in reputation management. Here, the question to answer is: ‘what comes up when someone searches for you online’? If the answer is that a negative review comes up, then you want to use SEO in order to alter this so that it’s your website, or even a good review that will come up instead. Doing this, you can impact on the way that people see your business by controlling what gets the most visibility.

Social Media

Finally, you can use social media to build your reputation, to strengthen your brand and to create relationships with your customers. This can work against any negative reviews and help you to put forward the image that you want to portray as a business.

An Introduction to Group Buying > Social Marketing

Posted August 31, 2015 By Callie

Group Buying is an interesting term that relates directly to social commerce and that is likely to play a bigger and bigger role as we move forward. Here we will dissect what this term means and we’ll explore what possibilities it holds.

What is Group Buying?
The basic idea behind group buying is that multiple team up to buy a single item or an item in bulk. A good example of this might be if a bunch of friends teamed up to buy something in wholesale.

Wholesale goods are simply goods that are sold in bundles and this in turn is how those resellers make their money. They buy 100 iPads for instance and as a result, they are then able to sell them on individually for a higher price.

But if there are enough of you, then you can team up to buy from a wholesaler in theory and get the same price. So if you can round up 100 friends, you could order your iPads in bulk and get them for the wholesale price. Some wholesalers of course demand that you be a reseller but others are happy to sell to anyone as long as they’re willing to buy in bulk.

Group buying meanwhile can also be used in order to buy big items that you then share. An example of this might be if a group of friends team up to buy a boat…

Group Buying and sCommerce

sCommerce is eCommerce but with a social bent. Often this means selling through Facebook or Twitter but just the same, it can mean using a range of other social features integrated into a business model.

This lends itself perfectly to group buying. Often you will find groups of people teaming up on forums or social media to order items in bulk and get discounts and there is a huge market for sites that are willing to do this for you.

But in many ways, this already does exist. And in fact, it’s group buying that makes many existent business models possible.

For instance: Groupon. Groupon is a site that offers huge discounts to people who are signed up by doing deals with the manufacturers of those products and the companies running the services.
Here, the idea is that the discount will go out to enough people, that the company will be guaranteed a huge bulk sale. Thus, they are able to offer significant discounts which ensures that the consumers will be even more likely to buy.

And as an added bonus, this also means huge exposure for those companies!