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2014

Talent-Thumb.gifA healthy work/life balance and a positive company culture are two of the leading attributes prospects look for. But did you know that growing businesses can provide these benefits just as well – if not better – than larger corporations? Find out how in “Attracting and Retaining Top Talent,” the first guide in our “Leveling the Playing Field Against Larger Corporations” series.

 

Click here to download the PDF guide "Attracting and Retaining Top Talent"

 

 

Click here to read all four of the Leveling the Playing Field Against Larger Corporations guides.

Marketing_Mobile_body.jpgby Robert Lerose.

 

Americans have always been a people on the move. The frontier may be more settled today, but consumers are still in motion—and mobile devices are becoming more integrated into their daily lives. Small businesses need to develop a mobile marketing strategy to stay connected to their customers and prospects or risk losing potential sales. According to a 2013 survey by iAcquire, a content marketing agency, 40 percent of people will leave a website that is not mobile optimized. Here are some suggestions for putting a plan in place.

 

Customize the message

"Nearly every customer or potential customer has a cellphone and, through mobile, small businesses can take that cellphone and engage it," says Mike Wehrs, CEO and president of Scanbuy, which provides cloud-based mobile connection solutions. "You're putting an actionable item right in their hands on the device that they want to have in their hands 18 hours a day. You level the playing field with larger businesses that small businesses might be trying to compete with."

 

The first step is to figure out the goal of your mobile marketing plan, such as increasing store traffic, building customer loyalty, spreading awareness of a sale, or building attendance at a sponsored event. To get a higher return on your mobile campaign, Wehrs advises tying it to more traditional advertising, such as a newspaper advertisement.

 

Scanbuy also provides its own type of quick response (QR) code that can provide a customized experience for the consumer. For example, Scanbuy put their QR codes on merchandise for a small coffee store chain. When a customer scanned the code, they saw a short video that explained where the coffee beans were grown, providing a nice eco-friendly background. Returning customers also got a customized message thanking them for their patronage and offering them a 10 percent discount coupon if they bought the highlighted merchandise. If the customer scanned the QR code after lunchtime, the message automatically changed to 25 cents off any pastry with their purchase, since pastries would be thrown out later in the day.

 

Marketing_Mobile_PQ.jpg"Now you have what appears to the end user as a completely unique experience, but it ties to a very easy rule of what time of day it is when somebody scans something," Wehrs says. "The consumer has the perception that the store is really talking to them. It feels like a personalized offer."

 

Make the menus easy

Experts say that small businesses should not think of their mobile customers as separate from their other customers. Both groups want the same things, but there are some specific differences in the way mobile customers interact with a business. For example, mobile customers are three times more likely to act on the result of a mobile search than desktop or laptop searches, the iAcquire survey found. A site that is mobile optimized is key to those higher conversions.

 

"If someone has to zoom in to read some text or, worse yet, if they have to zoom in to hit a button, a lot of people will leave your website because it's a frustrating experience," says Luke Starbuck, director of demand generation at Mobify, which helps e-commerce retailers ramp up their conversion and revenue rates. "Being mobile optimized on a homepage is about having a clear option for the user to search. Search is more important on a mobile homepage than on a desktop."

 

The menus and navigation options should be clear and easy-to-use. For example, Starbuck says that websites that have an icon with three horizontal bars on top of each other is an easy way to indicate a simple to manage menu that often drops down from the top of the page.

 

Seeing what your competitors are doing can help you come up with your own mobile programs. "Pick up a smartphone or a tablet device and spend time browsing some of the biggest companies that are in a similar space or serving similar customers to see what works or doesn't work," Starbuck says. "Reach out to customers to understand what their expectations are. Ultimately you're really just looking to provide a great customer experience and meet their expectations."

 

Make consumers feel special

Campaigns that reinforce the immediacy of mobile marketing messages with reminders in your other marketing communications have the potential for generating the best results. For example: "[The text campaign could say,] 'Text Dave's Barbecue to 949494 to join our mobile list for exclusive coupon deals and store events,'" says Brendan Burnett, online marketing manager for Outspoken, which helps businesses leverage the power of mobile messaging technologies. "You can back that up with in-store signage, send it out on your emails, and put it out on social media channels."

 

Getting people engaged with traditional strategies—such as a contest—can work well in mobile marketing, too. Outspoken ran a successful contest at a trade show with a text campaign that generated a large number of new prospect leads. "Compared with trying to get someone to go to a landing page and sign up, it can be a lot more cost effective [to do mobile marketing]," Burnett says. "It's the closest way to your consumer."

 

Making the customer feel part of an exclusive circle of preferred members can drive engagement, too, as Burnett knows firsthand: "I've got this restaurant two blocks away from me that does text messaging and I just love it. They give me great deals and free desserts. It makes me feel like I'm in their mobile club, that I'm in the know."

Content provided by Aetna for the exclusive use of Bank of America and the Small Business Community

 

A healthy business starts with healthy employees. After all, healthy employees generally cost less to insure. But small employers reap even more with indirect benefits. Healthy employees are more productive on the job. They’re absent less often. And they tend to be happier with their job, which means less turnover and training. That’s why workplace wellness programs are gaining popularity.

 

No budget? No problem! Here are 5 ways you can promote good health in your workplace right now:

  1. Be a good example – Your employees look up to you. Show them that you value good health by practicing it yourself. Workplace wellness best practices almost always include visible leadership support as a priority.
  2. See what your health plan offers – Your health plan may have extra benefits to help employees stay healthy. Contact your plan administrator to make sure you’re taking advantage of any wellness programs offered by your health plan. And make sure your employees understand how to use these programs. If you don’t get it, they won’t either. Be sure to ask questions.
  3. Start a walking challenge – Provide pedometers to employees, or show them how to search for and download any of the many pedometer options available for smart phones. Put a chart in the office for everyone to track their steps. Then, you can offer a prize to the person who gets the most steps each month.
  4. Encourage full lunch breaks – People tend to make unhealthy choices when they’re in a hurry. Talk to your staff to be sure they are getting at least a half hour to eat lunch.
  5. Offer healthy foods at work – If you have a vending machine or cafeteria, make sure you have healthy food options. You can also have a local farmers market deliver fresh fruits and vegetables to the workplace.

 

 

 

Learn more about Aetna insurance solutions

 

Source: Workplace Wellness Programs Study, Final Report; Soeren Mattke, et al; the U.S. Department of Labor and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; 2013; http://www.dol.gov/ebsa/pdf/workplacewellnessstudyfinal.pdf, last accessed June 1, 2014.

 

Aetna is the brand name used for products and services provided by one or more of the Aetna group of subsidiary companies, including Aetna Life Insurance Company and its affiliates (Aetna).

 

©2014 Aetna Inc.

14.22.102.1-Jul (7/14)

Touchpoint

When the Boss is Absent

Posted by Touchpoint Jul 7, 2014

When_boss_is_absent_body.jpg

by Matt Krumrie.


Stephanie Laitala was diagnosed with a serious medical condition in April of 2009. Ten days later she was in surgery. In the coming months she underwent chemotherapy. Seven months later sales were up 20 percent at her company.

 

How did this happen without Laitala, president and owner of OWL Bookkeeping and CFO Services, at the helm?

 

"We didn't have anything in formal writing, anything to account for my leave of absence,” admits Laitala.

 

But in 2008 Laitala implemented the Entrepreneurial Operating System (EOS), created by Livonia, MI-based EOS Worldwide. The EOS is a simple, complete, business management system that empowers leadership teams to run successful companies. She was introduced to the EOS through a fellow business owner and that person introduced her to Mike Paton, a Twin Cities-based Certified EOS Implementer.

 

"Owl wasn't where I wanted it to be," says Laitala. "We were growing, but by teeny amounts. The kind of growth you trip over, not the kind of growth entrepreneurs crave and I was really frustrated. Mike and I met and the approach clicked. It's been the best thing we ever did."

 

The EOS doesn’t just empower the business owner only, it can set clear direction for an entire staff within a small business.


"Everybody knew what they were responsible for," says Laitala. "They knew exactly what their job was and exactly what my job and responsibilities were. Everything was covered because it was measured through the EOS."

 

But planning for an unexpected absence goes far beyond having a system such as an EOS in place, says Laitala. There needs to be someone who understands invoice procedures, can do payroll and pay bills. Someone other than the business owner should have access to key system passwords and be able to serve as a signor on checks.

 

"What will shut down the doors is not having money come in and go out," she says.


For Laitala, she was fortunate to work with a company full of accountants, so her operations manager handled the accounting and bookkeeping functions while she was out. For other companies, that might not be so easy.

 

"It's such a good idea to have at least one other person be able to access the money," says Laitala.

 

Having systems and procedures in place to prepare for an unexpected absence is critical for small business owners. Whether it’s a medical issue, accident, unexpected family or personal situation, an emergency can strike at any time. Without a plan a business can quickly lose key customers, projects can stall, and in some cases, an entire business can shut down.

 

“Planning ahead isn’t just necessary to handle the immediate effects of the boss being absent—the future of your company may depend on it,” says Paul McDonald, senior executive director of Robert Half Management in Westlake Village, California.

 

Even if you are able to weather the initial storm, if ongoing strategies are not in place, you risk suffering from the aftershocks. For example, employees may become burned out taking on extra responsibilities and begin looking to leave for new opportunities, or initiatives that were postponed may not be able to be jumpstarted quickly enough to take advantage of the corresponding business opportunity.

 

“A plan for what to do when the boss is absent prevents situations where no one knows what to do and ensures the company stays up and running,” adds McDonald.

 

One option is for the most senior manager to begin running the day-to-day operations, says McDonald. Very quickly, however, he or she should begin establishing new roles for others who can take on more responsibilities. The sooner these roles are established, the quicker the company can get back to as close to normal as possible.

 

“Make sure all key stakeholders understand the plan, can execute it and will be able to effectively communicate it to the rest of the staff,” says McDonald.

 

As president of Executive Group, Inc., a Loretto, Minnesota-based CEO peer group, Bill Mills works with over 75 CEOs across the country designing strategies that enhance personal life and freedom while producing sustainable growth and profits. About a decade ago he worked with the husband and wife owners of a Long Island, New York printing company where the couple was out extensively over several months tending to their ill son. The problem was especially acute since the son also worked at the company and was next in line to succeed his parents. 

 

The experience reinforced his belief that small businesses should create an accountability chart, says Mills. This differs from an organizational chart and provides a roadmap that clearly describes the function, role and responsibilities of each individual throughout the organization.

 

"I think that in times of crisis people pull together very well and I think that's what gets people through," says Mills. "But by having an accountability chart in place, it provides a starting point."

 

Mills works with CEOs to implement a program called the half day plan. The idea behind the plan is to get business leaders to design a program where over the course of the year they only commit to working 50 percent of their typical time. Each individual designs their own plan--perhaps working four hours a day, a few days a week or even one month on, one month off. At the end of the year they add up their hours and it needs to equal working only 50 percent of the time.

 

"Through a series of questions and planning, we break down the CEO’s job responsibilities and identify who in the organization, if the CEO suddenly couldn't be there, should take over those key responsibilities," says Mills. “This type of plan not only gives the CEO more freedom, it gives other employees  more responsibilities and prepares staff for a possible crisis in case leaders are unexpectedly out for any period of time.”

 

Business owners—and all managers—need to establish succession plans, even for temporary absences, says, McDonald. “This will ensure the business can continue running while the boss is out. Identify a successor and begin training him or her immediately before an emergency arises. 

 

When_boss_is_absent_PQ.jpg

"An added benefit of a strong succession program is that it can be motivational for the successors, placing a spotlight on their value to the company and enhancing retention of these star performers," says McDonald.

 

Communicate with all constituents

Employees, vendors, suppliers and more importantly, customers, want to know that new leadership doesn’t mean drastic or immediate changes, says Margaret Spence, president and CEO of Douglas Claims and Risk Consultants, a West Palm Beach, Florida-based company that provides injury management solutions.

 

"Nothing could hurt a small business more than having the key person leave, retire or pass away and the biggest account walks away because they no longer feel attached to the business," says Spence.  "Remember, customers buy based on relationships that may have been built over time. The new person or team must quickly reach out to the customers and work on retaining them long-term."

 

Since emergency can strike at any time, a contingency plan that includes key man insurance should be in place, says Spence. Key man (also called key person) insurance helps companies survive the loss of a key leader. This is especially important for a small business because  the unexpected death of a business owner can dramatically impact the company, or even cause it to cease operating. Key man insurance covers the cost of consultants, executives, clerical, and administrative personnel to operate the business for a given amount of time.

 

"This will allow the business to hire temporary executives to run the company until long term decisions can be made," says Spence.

 

As for Laitala, her health sabbatical helped her grow as a business owner.

 

"It made me realize more about how I was leading the company," she says. "Sometimes getting away from the business allows you to see how a team is really doing. I am a visionary leader, but I realized the way I was running some things may have actually been hurting the business.”

 

Today, she leads a workshop called “How Cancer Saved my Business.” And her company has continued to grow 20 percent every year since 2009 while increasing from six employees to 37. The best part? She's now five years cancer-free.

 

“I am fortunate we had the systems in place, but I work with some really great people and they ultimately were responsible for helping us pull through,” she says.

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