Custom printed giveaways don’t get much more fun than the frisbee flyer. To show you the possibilities, we took a few of our disks out to a frisbee golf park just down the road in Brentwood, TN.
Shop our full selection of personalized frisbees.
Custom printed giveaways don’t get much more fun than the frisbee flyer. To show you the possibilities, we took a few of our disks out to a frisbee golf park just down the road in Brentwood, TN.
Shop our full selection of personalized frisbees.
You’ve got deadlines to meet, meetings to attend, client deals hanging in the balance, and it feels like the whole team is counting on you. No matter what your line of business, you’ve no doubt been under stressful circumstances. If you’re an employer, both you and your employees face the challenges of stress on a regular basis.
Stress can be a real productivity killer when not managed properly. According to the University of Cambridge, stress on the job often results in loss of concentration, lack of motivation, difficulty with thought process, loss of memory, and poor decision-making. That’s a murderer’s row of adverse effects.
While there is no shortage of tips and tools for dealing with stress, figuring out the most efficient and effective ways to keep a healthy mindset can be just as great of a challenge as the work causing the stress in the first place.
At USImprints.com you’ll find dozens of stress ball and stress toy options. Do these really help combat stress on the job? What are some other ways to stay mentally healthy, focused, and productive? To find these answers we brought in an expert.
Ellen Wilkins, LMFT, PT is a licensed therapist, as well as a licensed and experienced physical therapist here in Nashville, TN. She’s uniquely qualified to address the relationship between mental health and the health of the body.
Here’s what she suggests:
The first five minutes of your morning can set the tone the rest of the day. Wilkins says simply taking deep breaths before you get out of bed to rush through your morning routine can bring a sense of calm. Meditating, focusing on your breathing, and letting your thoughts drift away can enhance the experience.
If the morning is too much of a rush, five minutes of thoughtful meditation before you walk into the office or turn on your computer can have the same benefits.
Breathing is a foundational element of meditation. Obviously, most of our breathing occurs automatically, without conscious thought. So often times we tend to hold our breath in stressful situations, Wilkins points out.
“When people feel anxious, there is usually tightening in their chest, and their breathing becomes shallow. Recognizing these sensations is key.”
Wilkins recommends taking at least three slow, deep breaths in these situations. A long exhalation helps to slow the heart rate down and helps the body relax.
Wilkins calls these opportunities, “the space between,” meaning the brief windows of time between daily activities. Busy people often can’t remember to eat lunch or take a quick break, much less remember to breathe. Mindfulness and a few minutes of deep breathing before an important phone call or a big meeting can aide relaxation and reduce stress.
Intense cardio exercise relieves stress for most people by releasing endorphins, which boosts mood, and decreases cortisol, the so-called “stress hormone.”
Stress relief toys are another way to influence the mind by doing something physical. Stress relief balls can provide value to those who’s anxiety manifests itself by restlessness and fidgeting. “Some people shake their legs, or bite their nails, or drum their fingers on the desk. Sometimes having an object to hold or mold can give enough grounding to affect your thoughts and dispense your excess energy,” Wilkins notes.
The use of stress relief toys can change based on the source of the stress. Is the stress coming from being stuck in a chair all day? A few simple exercises with a ball can go a long way. “Squeeze the ball(s) tightly in your hands, and shrug your shoulders as tight as you can to your ears,” Wilkins suggests. “Then release the shoulders and open your hands wide.”
“I think there are other uses for stress relief toys. After squeezing for a few minutes, I like to toss it up in the air, or bounce it off the wall, or try to make a basket in my trash can.”
Additionally, Wilkins says there are treatments to go beyond these few simple tools. Seeing a therapist or a physician is often imperative in certain situations.
For others, technology can provide useful assistance. There’s an app she recommends called Headspace, and various other teaching aides online.
Every organization goes through its fair share of heartaches: losing customers to competition, facing cash flow struggles, making poor strategic decisions, etc.
Some might say that the companies with the fewest transgressions have the brightest futures, and they may be right. But I’d venture to say that the real measure of a company’s life expectancy is the ability to recover from the most trying of circumstances. To stare death (or bankruptcy) in the face and live to talk about it.
Making mistakes is inevitable, and some mistakes may be graver than others. But failure isn’t final. We always have the opportunity to right the ship and find success again.
Whether or not you’re currently in a battle to revive your brand, these four stories of companies who made incredible comebacks will do more than just inspire you. These stories will offer valuable lessons to learn and apply to your own company both now and in the future.
When brothers Tom and James Monaghan took over a small Ypsilanti, MI pizzeria in 1960, they couldn’t have known how incredibly fast the business would grow. Seven years after starting the restaurant, Domino’s had already opened its first franchise location; by 1978 the company grew to 200 stores!
Domino’s expansion skyrocketed even further during the 1980’s with the introduction of its 30-minute delivery time guarantee. People loved getting their pizza fast, and Domino’s became famous for doing that better than anyone else.
But 1993 marked the beginning of the end for Domino’s growth when a St. Louis woman sued the pizza company after being struck by a delivery driver who was running a red light. In the eyes of the nation, the 30-minute delivery promise was to blame and as a result, Domino’s had no choice but to discontinue the iconic guarantee that had brought the organization so much success.
In response, Domino’s shifted focus to the Total Satisfaction Guarantee. If a customer is dissatisfied for any reason, Domino’s will remake the pizza or offer a refund.
Despite the new promise, the damage had already been done. Customers ordered Domino’s for its speed, not its quality. And without its reputation for speed, Domino’s began losing domestic market share to its competitors.
The 2000’s marked a very concerted, albeit desperate, campaign to keep up. Competitors’ menus had more variety, so over the span of 2001 to 2009 Domino’s adopted a copycat strategy and introduced eight new non-pizza items to its menu. But Domino’s was trying to fix the wrong thing. The problem wasn’t that the menu lacked variety; the problem was that the pizza lacked quality.
In 2009, then President of USA Operations Patrick Doyle took the lead role in launching Domino’s turnaround campaign to completely redo its 49-year old pizza recipe and revive the Domino’s brand.
Domino’s even created a website promoting this campaign: pizzaturnaround.com
And when Doyle became CEO in early 2010, he continued his efforts to improve Domino’s with the “Show Us Your Pizza” project:
I actually remember seeing these commercials and immediately preferring Domino’s simply because of the honesty and transparency. I appreciated the fact that a huge corporation wanted to hear from its customers and find ways to be better.
Unfortunately, touchy-feely emotions don’t change the bottom line, only an increase in sales does. But Domino’s had the sales, too. By the end of the first quarter of 2010, the pizza company saw amazing results: a 14.3% increase in revenue.
Now sometimes these sorts of marketing ploys provide nothing more than a short boost to brands and then fade away just as quickly as they came. Not such the case for Domino’s. Being more than 4 years removed allows us to look back at the company and see what kind of long-term impact the turnaround campaign had on its success. I think the following graph of Domino’s stock prices speaks for itself:
So, what can we learn from this?
Domino’s problem was its inferior product. Obviously, offering a competitive product is one valuable takeaway. But perhaps the more important lesson that we can apply to our own brands is to engage in open dialogue with our customers. Ask questions. Incentivize feedback. Find out what your customers love and what they hate. Then listen to what they say and show them the steps you are taking to improve.
While we’re on the topic of amazing junk foods, Krispy Kreme also boasts quite a remarkable comeback story.
In 1937 founder Vernon Rudolph opened his Krispy Kreme shop in Winston-Salem, NC and primarily sold his doughnuts to local convenience stores. The amazing aroma of fried doughnuts lured passersby to visit the shop and request fresh doughnuts.
Recognizing the potential of selling doughnuts direct to consumers, Rudolph quickly pivoted his business model. In fact, Rudolph put a window in his shop so he could announce when hot doughnuts were available to customers out on the sidewalk – the origins of Krispy Kreme’s now famous hot light.
During the 1950’s and 60’s Krispy Kreme exploded throughout the Southeast, opening dozens of corporate and franchise locations. But Krispy Kreme’s success suffered a major setback in 1973 when Rudolph died and Beatrice Foods, a Chicago-based food processing company, acquired the doughnut business. Beatrice Foods immediately began making several changes to cut costs, including modifying the original doughnut recipe.
Customers and franchise owners hated the changes and the brand floundered under Beatrice Foods’ ownership. In 1981, a group of franchisees purchased Krispy Kreme to return the brand to its former glory and set in motion another period of rapid expansion in the 90’s. While stepping away from Beatrice Foods positioned the brand for resurgence, it was actually the new ownership’s effort to manufacture a second expansion that nearly dismantled Krispy Kreme once and for all.
Krispy Kreme began saturating the market with lesser versions of its quality product through broad licensing deals with supermarkets, convenience stores, and gas stations. At the same time, Krispy Kreme opened shops along the West Coast and debuted on the New York Stock Exchange in 2001. By 2003 Krispy Kreme had locations in 43 states and the brand’s ubiquity was thought to be one in the same with market dominance; investors poured in and the stock reached an all-time high of $49.37.
But in 2004 the reality that Krispy Kreme over expanded and saturated the market with lesser versions of its quality product became all too evident. Chief Strategy Officer Cliff Courtney at Zimmerman Advertising, a national brand builder responsible for the successes of Papa John’s, White Castle, Firehouse Subs, and Boston Market, expounds on Krispy Kreme’s licensing blunder:
[Krispy Kreme] built a brand on a core pillar of ‘hot doughnuts now’ in the magical stores that had the same kind of magical pixie dust that an In-N-Out Burger has. Sort of, ‘Wow, I wonder if there will be one in my town some day.’
But then, all of a sudden, they took that brand, and without understanding what the values are of that brand, like the hotness and freshness that built the brand, they started selling them in grocery stores, cold. And selling them in outlets where they didn’t even make the doughnut. They really just sold the doughnut out of these smaller spaces. And so they lost sight of the values that made the brand great.
So what happened?
In 2004, Krispy Kreme’s stock, valued at almost $40 a share, dived all the way down to $8.51 in just one year. Over the next five years, Krispy Kreme locations all across the country shut down, and stock dipped even further, reaching as low as $1.01 in 2009 when the SEC determined Krispy Kreme’s accountants had cooked the books.
Rumors of bankruptcy spread and it appeared as if Krispy Kreme would completely collapse, but new leadership in 2009 and 2010 set out to save the doughnut company.
Krispy Kreme curtailed its aggressive expansion efforts, scaled back its distribution channels, and began righting its finances. The goal was to get back to the unique value proposition that made the brand so popular in the first place: hot, quality doughnuts.
And here’s how that’s been working out for stock value:
The story of Krispy Kreme’s rise, fall, and rise offers a tremendous lesson from which the rest of us can learn: know your niche.
As our brands find success, it can be tempting to expand too quickly or move into new areas that aren’t consistent with our brand values and identities. Any strategic decision you consider must always be measured against your brand – who it is and what it stands for.
Krispy Kreme built itself on fresh doughnuts that customers couldn’t find anywhere else. Unfortunately, the doughnut company was blinded by the prospect of increasing revenue at the expense of the very product that customers truly wanted.
Don’t make the same mistake. Know what makes your brand unique and stick to it.
AT&T has one of the most interesting company histories that you’ll ever come across. To make a long story short, AT&T’s growth is mostly attributable to two things: intellectual rights and government relations. In fact, it would seem as if the company was really run by a bunch of lawyers and politicians (even more so than usual). When the government finally disbanded AT&T’s telephone monopoly once and for all in 1982, the telecommunications juggernaut split into seven independent regional companies:
AT&T struggled mightily after its breakup. A failed attempt at entering the computer market and several uneventful technology company acquisitions left AT&T crippled. In an interesting turn of fate, one of AT&T’s offshoots, Southwestern Bell, had flourished in telecommunications and actually acquired AT&T in 2005. Southwestern Bell assumed AT&T’s name and branding; this is the company known as AT&T today.
But AT&T had a lot of catching up to do.
Earlier in 2000, Bell Atlantic (an AT&T offshoot) and GTE (the largest independent telephone company at the time) had merged to form Verizon Communications. In the same year, Verizon formed a joint venture with telecommunications company Vodafone, giving Verizon the firepower to beat its competitors on a national level.
Verizon’s advanced wireless network was edging AT&T out of the telecommunications market. To rival Verizon’s nationwide network, AT&T acquired the BellSouth offshoot in 2006 and BellSouth’s subsidiary Cingular Wireless.
The move helped AT&T to compete with Verizon’s network size, but at this point Verizon had already pulled ahead as the company to beat in the telecommunications industry. An arms race simply wouldn’t be enough.
Why switch from Verizon to AT&T when Verizon already offers the service I need? AT&T needed something to differentiate itself.
Surprisingly, Cingular Wireless, not BellSouth, was the key because in acquiring Cingular Wireless, AT&T also acquired the exclusive deal with Apple to develop the highly anticipated iPhone. The iPhone was exactly the differentiation that AT&T needed; the iPhone saved AT&T.
Now when I say saved I don’t mean that AT&T was saved from immediately going out of business so much as it was saved from suffering a long, slow death. The iPhone spared AT&T from entering into the same state of obsolescence and irrelevancy that plagues the likes of Toys “R” Us, Kodak, Research in Motion, and Kohl’s. Instead of trying to grow, these brands are simply trying to survive.
When Apple officially announced its iPhone to the public in January of 2007, droves of customers left other carriers and signed up with AT&T just to get their hands on the new device. AT&T’s stock was already on the rise thanks to its recent BellSouth/Cingular acquisition, but the iPhone bolstered it even more:
Success in telecommunications hinges on innovation and AT&T ran out of creative juices. Luckily, AT&T was able to tap Apple’s ingenuity and leverage the revolutionary iPhone to its benefit.
The big takeaway here is this: never rest on your laurels.
When AT&T began, the company was known for its remarkable breakthroughs in technology. But after the monopoly disbanded, AT&T and most of its offshoots weren’t developing new advancements in the industry anymore. Eventually, their competitors overtook them.
You may have a reputation for the best customer service in your industry, but if you aren’t continually hiring (and keeping) the best talent, creating (and improving) systems to enhance the customer experience, and investing in employee training, then don’t be surprised when you find your stellar reputation deteriorating.
In business, standing still is moving backward. If you want to keep or improve your market position, then you can’t rely on past successes to get you there. When you reach the top your work isn’t over, it’s just beginning.
For most companies, it takes years or even decades to reach the top. For Priceline, a well-financed Internet startup during the dot com boom, it only took a couple months.
Thanks to a quirky, William Shatner led advertising campaign and the catchy “Name Your Own Price” slogan, Priceline was able to bring in over 600,000 visits to the site on its first day and record 30,000+ airline ticket sales in just its first two months. Not too shabby, huh?
With so much success with airline tickets, Priceline quickly expanded its “Name Your Own Price” offerings to include hotel rooms, car sales, mortgages, long-distance phone service, groceries, gasoline sales, and even used goods (think early eBay).
Investors took notice of Priceline’s remarkable success and eagerly jumped on the dot com startup’s bandwagon, pushing the company’s stock prices up by 331% on the first day of the IPO!
But the high was short-lived. With the exception of hotel rooms, the business model simply wasn’t a fit with all the other markets Priceline was trying to penetrate. Priceline had to call it quits on all these other avenues, and consequently sucked the confidence out of consumers and investors alike. Priceline’s stock plummeted.
After some cost-cutting measures and a CEO change in May of 2001, Priceline was able to at least stop the bleeding. But right as Priceline was poised to make gains, the terrorist attacks of September 11 filled consumers with fear and led to a huge decrease in travel.
Priceline continued its struggles into 2002, and decided to hire Jeffrey Boyd as the new CEO in July of 2002. Despite the new CEO, many believe Priceline would suffer the same fate as the many other dot com busts that offered high hopes, but failed to deliver. Boyd had other plans.
Boyd’s first order of business was to focus solely on the travel industry, shedding all other distractions that still remained from Priceline’s early exploratory days: car rentals, hotel rooms, airline flights, and nothing else.
Second, Boyd added traditional pricing for flights to augment the “name your own price” option.
Airlines were still struggling to fill seats in the aftermath of 9/11 and their reduced prices made it nearly impossible for Priceline to turn a profit. Plus, flights through Priceline were subject to long layovers and inconvenient connecting flights – evils that were often necessary to match the price the customer wanted. Boyd saw an opportunity to earn business from customers who would otherwise turn to the airlines after unsuccessfully finding a “name your price” flight.
Third, Boyd invested heavily in improving its hotel service and acquired Travelweb, a hotel booking website owned by several of the largest hotel companies. As a result, Priceline’s hotel offerings drastically improved.
Only after Boyd refocused on the travel industry, added a standard airfare option, and improved its hotel portfolio did Priceline finally turn out its very first annual profit in 2003.
With things beginning to look up, Boyd wasted no time in carrying out the most impactful strategy of all: expanding Priceline into international markets. Priceline used its domestic sales to fund its international expansion, and became the turning point for the travel site’s success.
In 2004 and 2005, Priceline acquired several European hotel-booking websites, including booking.com, and infiltrated a European marketplace marked by longer vacations, spur of the moment travel, and weekend excursions. Only two years later, Europe was already accounting for over 50% of Priceline’s bookings.
And after Europe, Priceline continued its expansion in 2007 by acquiring agoda.com, a discount hotel booking site specifically for Asia, Australia, the Middle East, and Africa. By 2009, 61% of Priceline’s bookings came solely from international sales.
Priceline’s ubiquity in the major travel markets created a strong foundation for growth and projected the company well ahead of its competitors. From 2009 to present, Priceline’s stock has been nothing but uphill:
While on the surface it appears that CEO Jeffrey Boyd employed a string of several unique strategies to propel Priceline forward, there was actually a single thread of commonality amongst his decisions: flexibility.
Each step that Priceline took under Boyd’s leadership challenged the status quo of the organization. And Boyd was met with plenty of opposition; people inherently don’t like change.
Boyd had to show his team that his strategies were in direct response to the landscape of the market and not simply gut intuition or blind hope. The CEO was paying attention to the fluctuating dynamics of the marketplace and making corresponding adjustments to the business.
We can never know what political, social, economic, or environmental changes will come, but we certainly can build flexibility into our brand so that when the day for making adjustments comes, we will be ready.
Knowing what changes to make is all based on a deep understanding of your brand identity and the current marketplace. Pivot in ways that offer greater opportunities to earn new/more business while holding onto the core of your brand.
Now, you may be reading this and wondering, “If Krispy Kreme was right to reign things in, but Priceline was right to expand, then what am I supposed to do?”
Krispy Kreme was right to scale back because it was trying to be too many things to too many people. Krispy Kreme built its brand on hot, fresh doughnuts. Consumers lost sight of the true Krispy Kreme when the company started offering the exact opposite product: cold, packaged doughnuts. Furthermore, Krispy Kreme’s store expansion saturated the market until supply exceeded demand. Krispy Kreme was out of sync with what the market was telling them.
If you remember, the very first action Boyd took was to remove all the distracting industries that Priceline was pursuing and focus only on travel. Boyd knew that Priceline would be nothing to no one as long as it spread itself thin.
The decision to expand was based on the gaps in the international markets. Boyd recognized opportunities over seas to provide the same service to a new demographic that, at the time, was being underserved. Unlike Krispy Kreme, Priceline didn’t change anything about itself in order to expand.
As you consider taking steps to grow your business, find gaps in the marketplace that you can fill without sacrificing your brand identity.
The biggest lesson of all is perseverance.
Use these case studies as proof that just because you’re down doesn’t mean you’re out. Learn from these brands that didn’t give up, so that if and when you’re facing seemingly insurmountable trials, you will be prepared to make a comeback yourself.
Image Sources: Domino’s Pizza Box via miskan Flickr, Krispy Kreme Doughnuts via francois Flickr, Krispy Kreme Hot Light via tadsonbussey Flickr, AT&T Sign via wfryer Flickr, iPhone via mac users guide Flickr, William Shatner via swisschef Flickr
In a previous post I discussed how customer acquisition costs would bankrupt any business if they exceeded the lifetime value of customers. If what you’re paying to attract and keep customers outweighs what they’re paying to be customers, then you’re losing money. A sustainable company must have profitable customers.
But profit alone does not a successful business make. You also need a healthy cash flow. The calculator may reveal that your customers turn a profit after two years, but do you have the cash to cover your operating costs while you wait to break even? Profitability won’t save you when the bills come due and the well runs dry.
Poor cash flow forces many small businesses to close their doors, and even profitable businesses sink when their cash runs out. You just can’t keep the lights on without cash.
The concept is straightforward enough, but the implementation is where businesses get hung up. Just like profitability, cash flow is affected by several variables, and only when the root causes of a poor cash flow are identified will the solution be made clear. Cash flow forecasting is the “crystal ball” that provides insight into what’s hogging your money, so that’s where we’ll start.
The first step in addressing any issue is recognizing its true, underlying problems. If a cash shortage issue is a one-time occurrence (like in the case of business start-up costs), then a loan may be the perfect solution. But if maintaining a healthy cash flow is an on-going issue, then a loan would only offer temporary relief until the money ran out again.
Coming up short on cash is actually a symptom of a number of possible problems, all of which can be accurately diagnosed with cash flow forecasting. So we’ve created a cash flow projection tool that you can use to identify what’s tying up your money and how to make improvements to your cash flow.
We’re all about practical application, so we set out to make this a truly valuable calculation tool. The biggest difference between our cash flow projection template and others out there is that we’ve already done the heavy lifting for you. We’ve included calculations for when cash is collected from sales made on credit terms, and we even included calculations for cash realized from delinquent accounts.
I understand that it may have been awhile since your last accounting course, so here’s a quick breakdown of the components that make up a cash flow projection:
Now that we’ve got the terminology out of the way, go try out the online version of the tool; fill in your costs, sales, and collections projections and then play with the variables to see what has the biggest impact on your cash flow. Of course, you can always download the cash flow tool as well:
When adjusting the inputs in the cash flow tool, it’s easy to get prematurely excited about some of the positive results, “Wow, decreasing my credit terms by 5 days cures all my cash flow problems!” But before making any decisions, it’s important to understand some of the possible unintended consequences that cannot be reflected in the cash flow projection.
Decreasing the collection period for credit sales may seem like a great way to get your cash faster, and it might be, but don’t turn a blind eye to some of the potential negative side-effects.
Credit terms may be a huge deciding factor your customers use to decide with whom they do business. Remember: healthy cash flow is important to your customers, too! This is why it’s so vital to understand your customers and why they choose to work with you over your competitors. If your generous credit terms are a huge reason customers pick you, then changing those terms could mean losing a significant portion of your business.
Next, what’s the industry standard for credit terms? If 30-day terms are expected and you only offer 15-day terms, then potential new customers may pass over you when they are shopping for providers. Keep in mind how your credit policy may impact sales and acquiring new customers.
Finally, don’t forget that you can only collect payments to the same extent that you can enforce your policy. Shorter terms may help bring cash in faster, but they may also result in fewer timely payments and more delinquent accounts. To avoid writing these accounts off as bad debt, you must establish protocols and hire employees to follow-up with customers who have outstanding balances. Some businesses prefer to outsource this function to collections agencies, but the bottom line remains the same: it costs money to collect money. And this may go without saying, but I’ll risk looking like captain obvious and say it anyway: don’t spend more money to collect payments than what the payments are worth!
In theory, payment discounts will result in more customers paying on time, but “theory” doesn’t always pan out in “reality.” Just like making changes to credit terms, before you pull the trigger on payment discounts you must thoroughly understand your relationship with your clients. Is a discount important to your customers? Would your customers take advantage of a payment discount if you offered it to them? If so, approximately how many?
While you can never know exactly how customers will behave, you can certainly know your customers. Understanding your customers well equips you with powerful information that should give direction to the decisions you make.
If your customers aren’t at all motivated by discounts, then your efforts to encourage early payments will fall flat. On the other hand, if your customers are extremely motivated by discounts, then even a small payment discount may be all the help you need to fix your cash flow.
Incentivizing customers to pay on time may help alleviate the “need cash now” crisis, but keep in mind that discounts will also eat away at your revenue. How much revenue can you feasibly give up in exchange for timely payments? Use the projection tool to experiment with discounts and determine a target for the percentage of accounts receivable you’d need to collect to resolve your cash flow problem.
Finding a proper balance between the discount and projected collections has huge implications. Overestimating how much your collections will improve will leave you still waiting for the cash you need, and underestimating how many customers will take advantage of the discount will leave you with less cash than you need. If you implement a payment discount without exploring its likely impact, you’re just asking for trouble.
While improving inflows may offer a bigger bang for your buck, don’t discount the role that minimizing outflows can play in freeing up your cash. Sift through your expenses with a fine-toothed comb to see where there’s room for improvement. If you come across any luxury expenses, start dropping the ones that only affect you, as the owner, first. Maybe that means fewer business conferences, less money budgeted for company meals, or even a temporary salary cut until your cash is in good order.
The next step is to explore the possibility of renegotiating your terms with suppliers. Have you proven your trust with suppliers by reliably paying on time? Do you have a long history with your suppliers and established a strong relationship with them? Don’t be afraid to discuss credit terms with suppliers; the worst thing that can happen is they say no. But before you approach suppliers, you have to know what new credit terms to negotiate. Use the cash flow forecasting tool to push your expenses back and experiment with different payment terms; how many additional days would you need to fix your cash flow problem?
If you are, in fact, able to extend your credit terms with suppliers, then immediately make it a goal to work your way back towards the original terms agreement. When suppliers extend credit terms, they are actually transferring your cash flow burden onto themselves. When you eventually get a sure handle on your cash, offer to return to the old credit terms. This will go a long way for your relationship with your suppliers, plus it’s just the right thing to do.
Cutting back on employee perks or benefits should only be considered a last resort. While some of these expenses may seem frivolous (free lunches, the well-stocked Keurig, company happy hours, etc.) it’s important to consider the effect that their removal may have on morale and productivity. Before touching these expenses, always exhaust every other option first. And if it is unavoidable, be honest with your employees so they know the situation. Hopefully they’ll understand that coffee can’t be on the house until the cash flow is back under control.
In addition to the three aforementioned cash flow improvement strategies, there are also certain measures you can take to help prevent cash flow issues and quickly address them when they crop up in your business (notice I said when, not if).
No one ever plans on having a poor cash flow, but it happens all the time. All it takes is one unexpected expense, one bad month in sales, or one delinquent account to derail the money train. Protect yourself by preparing for the worst and mitigating damage when cash gets tight.
Storing up an emergency fund should be the first order of business for any organization (and family, for that matter). Exercise some discipline and build your cash reserves rather than buying any toys or even investing back into the business. How much to save before you can start re-purposing profits depends on the nature of your business and the risk involved. However, as a rule of thumb for an emergency fund, three month’s worth of operating expenses is a good place to start.
The goal of cash reserves isn’t so much to address the root cause of a cash flow issue as much as it is to buy you time to continue operations while you diagnose and resolve the underlying problem. Using the cash flow projection tool will help you quickly hone in on specific areas to free up cash, but it will likely take a few months to actually reap the rewards of those efforts. The effects of renegotiating credit terms, offering discounts for early payments, and shortening your own credit terms won’t be realized overnight, so you’ll need cash savings to float you along until you right the ship.
Sometimes a “one size fits all” doesn’t actually fit. When it comes to the credit you offer your customers, you may find it beneficial to customize your terms based on each customer’s credit history rather than treating every account the same way. Develop a rubric to grade your customers’ credit and assign specific credit terms commensurate with their scores.
Extending credit to customers is taking a risk. Be wise in the amount of risk you assume by vetting your customers before dispensing credit. Offer generous terms only to those who have demonstrated their reliability and use shorter terms to guard yourself from customers who haven’t yet proven themselves. As customers show they are trustworthy, you can always choose to reward them with better terms if you so desire.
We’re all busy people, and for some (not so) odd reason, settling debts never seems to be a top priority. So, when it comes to paying bills, a friendly reminder (or two!) can only help. Plenty of accounting software (like QuickBooks, for example) is equipped to send automatic invoice reminders to customers at designated time periods. Take advantage of such tools to help your clients stay on top of their bills and pay you in a timely manner.
If you discover that canned email responses only improve bill payments so much, then you may consider following up by phone as well. Some customers require more handholding than others, and if what you stand to collect justifies the extra effort, then by all means schedule the time to call your customers before they become delinquent. In fact, you may want to assign certain tiers of follow-up protocols that are directly related to the credit score you give them. The riskier the customer, the more intensive the follow-up procedure must be.
While there are several possible cash flow solutions available, it’s important not to succumb to analysis paralysis. There’s no time for hesitation when you’ve run out of cash. If you don’t already forecast your cash flow, download the tool and start today! And if you discover a potential cash flow issue down the road, start playing with the input variables in the tool to find out where you can make the biggest impact in your circumstance. Don’t wait until you’re face to face with a cash flow problem to address it – by then it might be too late!
Although I’m more than guilty of engaging in my fair share of debates on marketing theory, I do, in fact, relish practical application. So when I’m searching for marketing takeaways that I can put into action, I turn to brands that actually know what they’re doing (and have the proof to show for it). From whom else would you seek advice on success than those who’ve already achieved it?
I’m a skeptic, so I need evidence or else I’m not buying it. And I’ve seen plenty of content marketing “case studies” floating around out there that are pretty thin in the evidence department. So I took it upon myself to interview three brands that experienced remarkable success with content marketing and pulled out the major lessons we can all glean from these real life examples.
But before we jump in, I have to be honest that this post is just as much for me as it is for those of you who are reading it. Content marketing can be a tough nut to crack. I’ve faced several challenges in my own content marketing efforts, so I’m just as eager to start putting the lessons below into practice.
There have never been more ways to market a business than now, so it’s wise to thoroughly research your options and uncover the marketing strategies that stand to offer the best results for your business. But once you learn which methods hold the most promise, pursue them exclusively. Don’t spread yourself thin by continuing to invest in marketing efforts that don’t pass muster.
Abandon the illusion that a diversified marketing strategy achieves some sort of “blanket effect” that’s greater than the sum of the parts. When you cast your net, opt for targeted and deep rather than wide and shallow; you’ll catch more fish.
But don’t just take it from me. For years, Capterra, a business software matchmaking service, failed to see any significant results from its content marketing efforts. The problem was that Capterra was content (pun intended) with having a superficial relationship with content marketing. But eventually Capterra realized that it would only see returns once it “got serious about content marketing.”
Here’s what Capterra did:
Here’s what Capterra got:
But Capterra’s content did so much more than just drive traffic to the blog. The backlinks, social shares, and keyword-rich content lifted Capterra’s domain authority. Capterra significantly improved its rank for competitive keywords in Google, which brought a huge surge of new visitors to the site. And we’re not just talking about blog readers; we’re talking about qualified leads that have a real impact on the sales funnel and bottom-line. Have a look-see.
As an added benefit, Capterra’s email subscribers list grew from a few hundred to several thousand in a matter of months! Needless to say, Capterra has an incredible opportunity to regularly connect with these new leads and nurture those relationships into customers. A job well done, wouldn’t you agree?
Now, I need to make notice of two important points.
First, Capterra spent three years working deep in the trenches before staking a claim to these kinds of results. Content marketing is about the long game; overnight success stories just don’t exist. Rand Fishkin of Moz delves deeper into this reality in a really great Whiteboard Friday:
Second, investing in content marketing means putting your fate in the hands of Google (at least partially). The big bump in Capterra’s traffic not so coincidentally starts in May 2014 when Google rolled out its Panda 4.0 algorithm update. That’s why it looks like Capterra’s efforts “suddenly” started working.
Since Google doesn’t refresh and update its algorithm as often as you publish content, increases in traffic can come in the form of delayed spikes rather than a gradual progression in real time. So keep in mind that your content won’t show up in Google until the search engine’s algorithm recognizes it. Live by Google, die by Google.
All content marketing initiatives should include a distribution strategy. In fact, effective content promotion is arguably more important than the content itself. Just because you build it, doesn’t mean they’ll come. And it doesn’t matter how amazing your content is if you don’t have anyone to consume it.
So, deciding how to spread the word is what will ultimately make or break your success with content marketing. Moviepilot, an online platform for movie fans to stay abreast of and discuss upcoming films, is intimately aware of the power in choosing the right distribution strategy.
When Moviepilot launched in 2011, the startup recognized that its ideal audience had a strong presence on Facebook. Zuckerberg’s social network had done a lot of the heavy lifting by offering a central space for the most avid film fans to rally around their shared passion, but no one offered these fans the content they craved. Moviepilot filled that void.
Moviepilot leveraged the information available on Facebook to segment users and target them specifically based on demographics and interests. As a result, Moviepilot created 12 unique Facebook pages that publish relevant content specific to each audience.
The unique content sparked tons of conversations amongst its fans on Facebook and its users online. Community Director Aaron Kelly explains how Moviepilot saw this high level engagement as another distribution opportunity:
We saw a huge potential in the conversation that was happening in those comments, so we reached out to our most active community to ask them if they’d be interested in writing up their opinions into articles. It’s snowballed into hundreds of articles published every week, coming from some of the most passionate movie and entertainment fans on the web. It’s been amazing to watch.
Crowdsourcing contributors allows Moviepilot to pump out massive amounts of content on a regular basis. But even better than the quantity is the quality. Who has more opinions on the latest happenings in the movie industry than the fans themselves? And what better way to gain access to untapped audiences than through these content contributors who promote their work to their respective circles? Fans turn into contributors, contributors turn into brand advocates, and brand advocates turn into promoters.
In the span of 3 years, Moviepilot’s distribution strategy has paid huge dividends. The movie platform has garnered 27 million Facebook fans across its 12 branded Facebook pages, and the website recently passed 50 million visits in a single month. 90% of website traffic comes directly from Facebook.
Find out where your audience consumes content and feed them!
Knowing where your audience consumes content is only half the battle; you also have to discover what content they want to consume. Your audience has questions to be answered, problems to be solved, and challenges to overcome. It’s the brand’s responsibility to identify those struggles and create content that offers actionable solutions. Grasshopper, a virtual phone system provider, does this really well and owes much of its success to a deep understanding of consumers’ content needs.
About a year and a half ago, Grasshopper had its own “get serious” moment with content marketing and decided to re-launch a fully customized new blog, hire employees solely for content marketing, and set up a weekly production schedule (sound familiar?). But before Grasshopper produced even a word of new content, it surveyed its customers to find out what kind of help they needed most.
This invaluable feedback consequently shaped the new theme of Grasshopper’s blog: Marketing Insights for Entrepreneurs. And to ensure Grasshopper stays on topic, it even adopted its own mantra to use as a gut-check when producing content, “Are we being entrepreneurially generous?” Only content that personally caters to small businesses, includes real-world examples, and offers clear calls to action makes the cut.
Since its pledge to make content marketing a priority, Grasshopper has seen some huge growth in traffic and social shares:
And if you’re curious how the increase in blog traffic and social shares has impacted website traffic, here you go:
Grasshopper takes a round-a-bout approach to realizing a return on investment from its content marketing endeavors. In fact, lead generation isn’t even one of Grasshopper’s explicit goals. Emma Siemasko, Content Marketing Specialist at Grasshopper, explains:
The goal isn’t to bring in leads; the goal is to build a community and be a resource for customers. The number one reason Grasshopper customers cancel is because they go out of business.
Grasshopper wants small businesses to succeed and wants to help its customers stay in business. No strings attached. That’s why the virtual phone system company refuses to gate any of its resources. The more it can help entrepreneurs, the better.
Also, while Grasshopper’s content doesn’t directly bring in leads through gated sign-up forms or email marketing, it does generate leads indirectly through link building and SEO. As the content garners more backlinks and social shares, Grasshopper moves up in search results, gets more traffic, and increases brand awareness. So, Grasshopper’s content marketing not only helps increase the lifetime value of its current customers, but it also brings in new traffic that may convert into customers.
Organic search and word of mouth are Grasshopper’s top two acquisition channels and an effective content marketing strategy is largely to thank.
USImprints is a promotional products company that supplies thousands and thousands of custom branded products.
We have an obsession with customer experience, promotional marketing, branding, and building businesses.