Cut Through the Noise with Print Marketing admin

 

Before the advent of social media marketing and digital advertising, print marketing was one of the top ways marketers could affordably and effectively reach customers. Now, as technology continues to evolve and shift consumer behavior as a result, businesses rely on both digital and print marketing strategies to get their message across.

Print marketing can provide your business immense value and help cut through the noise of your competitors, particularly right now. Here’s why you should focus on print marketing efforts and the benefits that await you if you do.

The value of print marketing

As the world faces a new normal and consumers adapt to major changes in both their work and social lives, marketers should re-examine the value that print marketing can provide. Here are just a few reasons print marketing is likely to be effective:

  • Digital marketing fatigue: In response to recent events, businesses have leaned heavily on digital marketing. As a result, customers are barraged with a seemingly endless stream of emails and advertisements online, on social media, and on their devices. When everything looks like an ad online, customers quickly stop paying attention. By appearing offline, print marketing helps cut through the digital fatigue.
  • Rising email opt-outs: Along the same lines, digital fatigue means that email opt-outs are on the rise. Companies may discover higher rates of email opt-outs as customers try to scale down their inboxes—particularly if the content of the email isn’t relevant to their changing situation. If your main focus is on email marketing rather than something physical, you might be shut out with a single click.
  • Too much screen time: After working, socializing, and entertaining themselves online day in and day out, more and more consumers are making an effort to minimize screen time. This essentially means they are actively shutting out digital ads. Print marketing helps to engage customers in a different way—and in a way that may not be so easily dismissed.
  • Physical mail can be a brand experience: Direct mail hasn’t stopped, and customers are heading to the mailbox every single day. In some cases, they are even excited about it! With the right kind of direct mail piece, you can catch their attention and provide further opportunities for them to interact with your brand. For example, the packaging of your direct mail piece can be, in itself, an immersive brand experience, or the piece can include a QR code or URL for the customer to continue engaging with your business.
  • Signage catches the eye of customers on-the-go: Many customers are anxious to get out after months of isolation. Physical signage is more important than ever to catch the eyes of these pedestrians or drivers. A large banner, flag, or window sign can attract a digitally fatigued customer the moment they’re ready to buy.

Grabbing and holding a customer’s attention with print

In print, attention to detail and unique designs, colors, textures, and personalization can make your marketing materials pop more than they would on the screen. Even the ability to hold something physical in their hands gives your customers a tangible and memorable experience. Marketers can use the power of print to grab and hold their customers’ attention.

Direct mail

Direct mail may seem simple, but there are a lot of considerations to make when designing your piece. What size and shape will it be? Should it be folded or flat? How will the customer physically interact with it? Also consider the finish your mailers use. Different coatings can make colors pop and shine and provide a textural element to the piece. No matter what you choose to do, always align the design with your branding and style.

Direct mail can also be personalized thanks to variable data printing. Think about whether you want to incorporate any variable elements into your piece. A highly tailored mailer can make a lasting impression, just make sure you have accurate and reliable data to produce a variable piece effectively.

Finally, consider your packaging. A postcard might be sent alone, but envelopes and boxes should include branded elements inside and out. Package your direct mail piece in a way that makes the customer excited to open it.

Signage

Signage can also be used to tell a story and create an experience for customers. This all starts by letting customers know your business is open and ready to serve. Make “Now Open” signs inviting and fun while matching them to your brand.

The best signage also shares your value proposition and other brand messages with passerby. What value do you offer? Why should customers stop in? Entice them with a great offer or benefit.

When designing your signage, don’t forget to utilize all available space for the biggest effect. Each side or angle can share a different message to customers. For example, banners have two sides—you can welcome customers in and thank them as they leave, or customize both sides of your banner with different brand messages.

Stand out from your competition with print

Using print marketing not only helps you reach customers in a different way from your competition, it can also make your customers feel special. When you craft a personalized and unique print campaign, you demonstrate to customers that you’re putting in the time and effort to serve them. Plus, your brand will stand out from the sea of emails and digital ads to engage your customers in new ways.

Explore the Outdoors! 8 Outdoor Activities That Are Good for Your Family’s Mind and Body

Summer is officially almost here, which means kids are done with school and the weather is enticing people to get outside. This is a great time to enjoy the outdoors and discover what’s available in your own backyard.

Many states have relaxed stay-at-home orders and are giving residents more freedom to travel while maintaining social distancing guidelines. This gives your family ample opportunities to explore the outdoors and have some summer fun.

If your kids (or you) are itching to head outside, check out these eight social-distance-friendly summer activities that can stimulate the mind and body.

  1. Go camping in your backyard: Camping in state or national parks isn’t available in all states right now. Even if it is an option for you, the demand is high, and it might be difficult to land a spot. Thankfully, you don’t have to go far to enjoy a camping adventure. Instead, host a family “staycation” and enjoy camping in your own backyard! Help your kids pitch the tent, unplug from your phones and tablets, and roast marshmallows over a backyard fire pit or camping stove.
  2. Hit the hiking trail: Hiking is not a banned activity in most areas—especially not on trails near your home. Pack some snacks, water, and sunscreen, and take your family on a hike to enjoy the scenery and the feeling of getting lost for a little while. This can help soothe stir-craziness and give everyone some exercise.
  3. Go geocaching as a family: Geocaching is like a real-life treasure hunt that your whole family can participate in. Better yet, you can do it without interacting with anyone else. All you need is a GPS system and the coordinates of a cache before you can hit the town in search of treasure. Because geocaching is like a game, it’s perfect for kids. Encourage them to bring a small trinket or toy to leave in the cache for others to find later.
  4. Get a little messy with crafts: Kids love craft time, and there are tons of educational and creative activities you can find online. However, some of them can create a big mess you don’t want in your house. When the weather is nice, set up a tarp or table outside and let your kids get a little messy! Now is the perfect time for slime, sidewalk paint, and bubbles thanks to easier clean up.
  5. Take the pup to a dog park: Our furry friends need to get out, too! If your local dog park is open, bring the family and pups out to play. Being there also gives you the opportunity to chat with other dog owners and get to know more community members while still social distancing.
  6. Do a little birdwatching: Nature has lots to offer, including peace and quiet. Birdwatching can be a relaxing and fun hobby for people young and old. Purchase a simple birdwatching guide and binoculars, and head to your local park to help your kids identify the birds twittering in the trees. You can even make birdwatching into a game to get the little ones involved. Challenge them to identify as many birds as they can in a day, or make a list of common local birds and give them a stamp for each one they see.
  7. Hold a backyard sports tournament: Many recreational and school sports clubs have been cancelled, and your kids might have lost their creative and energetic outlets in the process. This doesn’t mean they can’t play, though! Get the family together to host a sports tournament in the backyard. You can switch between your kids’ favorite games, like basketball, soccer, flag football, or even ping pong. Don’t forget to reward the winners with a small prize for their sportsmanship!
  8. Take weekly field trips: It’s likely that your local community has a ton of hidden gems, so take advantage of them by going on local field trips. Pick one day a week that works for your family, and head to a nearby museum, monument, park, or another interesting place. While there, teach your children something new about the place you’re visiting and why it’s important. You can even get your kids involved with planning by asking what they’re interested in and creating a field trip destination list as a family.

Getting outside and exploring your local community this summer can keep kids occupied, help you get exercise, and stimulate your minds—all while social distancing. By making time for family outdoor activities, you can fight off boredom and help your children enjoy their summer in new ways!

Maintaining Your Business’s Culture in the New Normal

Of all the factors that drive business success, culture is among the most important. People need to come to work each day and feel good about what they do—like they’re part of a team; somewhere they’re appreciated. Good culture is the secret sauce for any successful business.

A lot of what creates good culture comes from the everyday interactions people have while at work. Casual conversation around the water cooler. Meetings they sit in on. Brainstorming sessions between coworkers.

Seeing people and interacting with the physical workplace are the biggest building blocks of culture. For many businesses, those building blocks are gone for the time being. We’re working from home, social distancing, and minimizing our interaction with the workplace. It begs the question: How can you preserve your company’s positive culture in the face of these changes?

The workplace and the way we work may be changing, but a strong culture can survive these changes. To make sure your people feel appreciated, recognized, and fulfilled, you need to adapt your culture to the new norm.

Keep your culture strong while at home

Remote work is here to stay. Even if you don’t keep your team on a full-time telecommuting schedule, your culture needs to extend beyond the physical workplace. Watercooler chats become Slack channels. Weekly meetings become Zoom calls. The 9-5 workday becomes “whenever someone messages you back.”

What businesses need to realize is that while the way we do things may be changing, what we do can stay relatively the same thanks to technology. Coworkers can still crack jokes back and forth—only now, they can send memes and gifs. They can still compare notes after a meeting—they’ll just collaborate in a Google Doc, instead.

For your culture to stay strong, you need to provide employees with the means to keep things as close to normal as possible. They may be working from home, away from the workplace and the people in it, but if they can still get the same level of interaction and gratification, positive culture will persevere.

Revitalize your culture

New shifts in work habits and routines can give you a chance to revitalize parts of your culture that might be stagnant or antiquated. Use the “new normal” as a way to reinvent parts of your business that have a direct impact on culture.

Ask yourself how you can support and encourage employees—both as a group and on an individual level. Small changes and improvements can go a long way toward revitalizing your company culture and rejuvenating a workforce that might feel initially displaced.

Take care of your staff

The biggest contributor to positive culture in a time like this is taking care of your staff. Make sure their needs are met, and do what it takes to provide them with confidence and assurance. Often, this is simple:

  • Get them set up to work remotely and answer any questions they have
  • Make adjustments to policies and protocols that make telecommuting easier
  • Check in with employees individually and see that they have what they need
  • Provide a medium for feedback and take meaningful strides to support workers

It comes down to accommodating and enabling your staff. If they can ease comfortably into their new situation and feel supported doing so, they’ll make the transition just fine. Conversely, if the pressure is always on and they feel overburdened, it’ll contribute to a negative company culture.

Focus on employee wellness

For individuals telecommuting, their living space has now become their workplace. This can have big ramifications for their physical and mental health. Employers need to recognize the strain that comes with living where you work and provide outlets for alleviating some of the burdens that accompany this radical change. Some very simple examples include:

  • Employee wellness packages and offering time off or personal days
  • Flexible work schedules within a set range of hours or over a period of days
  • Encouraging relaxation breaks and wellness activities, such as yoga or even a nap
  • Wellness games and incentives, encouraging employees to stay active and healthy

Whether it’s hosting a department-wide watch party for a movie on Friday night or tallying points for employees who rack up steps on their pedometer, make employee health a priority. Positive culture can only come from a workforce that’s physically and mentally well and who feel like you value them beyond their ability to work.

Make new employees feel welcome

The workforce is always in flux, which means adding new members to your team and saying goodbye to those who find new opportunities. Maintaining culture amidst growth and turnover comes from engrained processes. How will you practice onboarding in a virtual environment without leaving new employees feeling isolated? What steps can you take to integrate them into the team in a meaningful way?

Make onboarding and team recognition core elements of your new normal. Try virtual meet-and-greets or Friday conference calls and activities. Encourage inclusion into group communication threads. The quicker people feel like they’re part of a team, the stronger your culture grows.

Welcome the new norm

We’ve all had to change the way we work—and the changes likely aren’t over. The new norm is becoming clearer by the day and, for most people, that means more time spent interacting with people from a distance. This doesn’t mean the death of your company culture! It means new opportunities to grow a positive culture in your workplace. All it takes is a little adaptation and a focus on the people responsible for your business’ success.

Keeping Your Brand Positive

 

These days, it’s hard to escape talk of COVID-19. It’s infiltrated the news, social media, advertising, and worst of all, our daily thoughts and concerns. As a brand, it’s important to be sensitive to the current state of affairs while also giving your customers a positive escape. As you might imagine, it’s a difficult balancing act.

To ensure your brand is sending the right messages to its audience, now is the time to reevaluate your content strategy and refocus on the positives.

Reevaluate your customers’ content needs

The first step in refocusing your brand’s content is taking a deeper look at what kinds of content your customers are looking for. You may have had a firm grasp on this before, but the pandemic has changed many people’s outlooks and reactions to consumer-facing brands.

Conduct social listening, surveys, and data analysis to discover your customers’ attitudes toward particular messages. What do customers expect from you? What do they want more of? Are they tired or overwhelmed with certain content types or topics? What are they interested in right now, and what are the sentiments surrounding those topics?

Really listen to your audience during this time and use their feedback to reshape your content strategy.

Provide positive, non-crisis content

One thing all brands can do more of at this time is share more positive, uplifting content that has nothing to do with COVID-19. Sharing funny memes or heartfelt stories can give consumers a break from the overwhelming amount of news and social media coverage of the pandemic. Keep your brand’s voice positive, inspirational, and uplifting, but stray away from wit or sass that might be inappropriate for the current situation.

You may not want to avoid the topic of COVID-19 entirely if it’s relevant to your brand, but you shouldn’t feed into the crisis mentality, either. If you do talk about the pandemic, share messages about helping others and how your brand is there to help. Try to keep things light while ensuring they’re relevant to your brand’s goals and voice.

Market sensitively

The key to navigating marketing during the pandemic is to stay sensitive. Now isn’t the time for major sales pushes that capitalize on the crisis. However, this doesn’t mean you can’t still promote your brand.

Find ways to position your business in a sensitive and helpful way. If you’re a small, local brand, share messages that encourage the support of local businesses—not only yours, but also others in the community.

Pay close attention to the words your ads, social posts, and other marketing campaigns use. Avoid creating a sense of urgency—nothing is more important than COVID-19 right now. Instead, reframe your product or service messages to show the value they can offer customers, especially during this time.

Expand your content horizons

Every brand’s content strategy has been disrupted in some way. Now might be a great time to try new content types you might not normally do.

While you want to keep topics relevant to your industry and your customer’s needs and expectations, try to shake things up a little bit. Test new content ideas and see how customers respond to them. Can you provide additional value through a new, relevant content angle?

Additionally, try testing new content formats and gauge audience response. Perhaps your customers would be interested in reading more blog posts or watching informative YouTube videos about your brand and products. There are tons of ways you can expand your content strategy to provide more positive and valuable content while simultaneously strengthening your platform.

Show your positive impact

Now more than ever, customers want to know that the brands they love are giving back and doing good in the world. It’s somewhat expected that a brand’s profits take a backseat in favor of charitable acts and support.

Your brand can feed into this by showcasing the positive things you’re doing in your community and encouraging others to do the same. Don’t present it in a way that’s “showing off” or grandstanding. Instead, lead by example and make it a movement your audience can rally behind.

Share acts of community service by members of your team, whether they’ve volunteered time at a food bank or homeless shelter, or sewed masks for hospital staff. If your business donated food or money to a charity, share that. You could even host a fundraiser with your followers to show that you’re interested in doing good while making the biggest possible impact.

Positive branding can result in brand loyalty and trust

Consumers are paying closer attention to marketing efforts than they normally do. Staying positive humanizes your brand and lets customers know you care about them, not just the bottom line. By sending the right messages, you can strengthen the trust your customers have in your brand and position your business as one of immense value.

Maintaining Employee Morale While Working Remotely

If you were fortunate enough to maintain your business operations the past few months while allowing staff to work from home, you know that transitioning an entire workforce from the office to remote work presents more than a few challenges. One of the biggest challenges business owners and managers face right now is how to maintain employee morale while everyone is separated.

Employees are scared, uncertain, and likely pulled in a lot of different directions while they try to balance work, children, and life at home. On top of all that, they’re disconnected from their colleagues. Giving your staff a morale boost to help them maintain their drive is absolutely essential to the success of your business and the health and happiness of your team. Use these tips to keep morale high and maintain a strong company culture while working remotely.

Maintain clear, consistent communication

One of the most important things you can do during this time is communicate with your employees as often as possible. Many things are up in the air, and employees fear cut hours, layoffs, reduced benefits, and more.

Be honest and transparent with your staff about how the pandemic is affecting your business and how that might affect them. Make it clear to them you have a plan of action to combat the effects of an economic downtown. You might even want to ask for their suggestions and encourage them to contribute ideas for the business’s continued success.

Ask your team questions, either one on one or within a team discussion. Request their feedback and, more importantly, ask how they’re doing on a personal level.

Overall, try to reduce uncertainty as much as you can. The more open you can be, the more your staff will trust you and understand you’re there to take care of them.

Use creativity to prevent burnout and bolster engagement

Working from home all day, every day is enough to cause burnout for many staff members. Add to this the stress of homeschooling children, worrying about finances, and managing uncertainty, and employees are likely to check out of work quickly. To combat this, you’ll want to flex your creative muscles to come up with unique ways to keep employees engaged.

It’s important to stay connected with meetings and conference calls, but too many meetings can reduce productivity and make people less engaged. Rather than host the same dreaded bi-weekly virtual call, spice things up! Host a weekly virtual happy hour or trivia challenge that gives your workers a break from the monotony. Get everyone involved in remote team-building games or exercises to help them connect interpersonally. If someone is celebrating something, host a virtual get-together to acknowledge it!

When you do need to focus on business matters in team meetings, make sure to keep things light and avoid falling into a bland meeting routine. Let your employees chat at the top of the meeting to socialize a little before kicking things off. Try to minimize the amount of time your staff have to dedicate to meetings each day to avoid burnout.

Additionally, give your team the freedom to work without being micromanaged or under significant pressure. Your business still needs to operate but giving employees a little extra space, and grace can go a long way in helping them adjust to remote work and discover their own methods of staying productive. Encourage your team to take real breaks and give them a space for “water cooler” conversation in a dedicated Slack channel. Giving them room to breathe will show that you trust them to get the job done.

Recognize individual efforts and successes

When you’re in the office, you’re able to quickly pop by an employee’s desk to congratulate them on a job well done. But when everyone is working remotely, it’s easy to let acknowledgments fall through the cracks.

A simple compliment can make a huge difference in employee morale. Pay close attention to individual contributions by members of your team, then make sure they know that you notice their hard work. A simple Slack message or email thanking them for completing a challenging project or stepping up as a team leader lets them know they’re doing valuable work. You might even want to call out stellar performance on a team conference call or email chain to encourage other staff members to follow suit.

Beyond personal praise, you could acknowledge your employees’ efforts through incentives, prizes, or giveaways—even something small like a virtual gift card for coffee would do. When something special is on the line, your staff will be motivated to work extra hard and can have a bit of fun and build comradery through playful competition.

High morale will keep your team strong

The importance of positive employee morale cannot be understated, especially when your team is separated and working remotely. In order to keep your business on track and push through the uncertainty of the situation right now, you must prioritize your employees’ wellbeing. In doing so, you’re sure to see great results and come out the other side with a team that’s stronger than ever before.

7 Activities to Do with Your Kids While at Home

Community

The global health crisis has disrupted almost every aspect of our lives, but it has also affected our children. With schools closed, sports and clubs paused, and social events canceled, our kids are also struggling to cope with the changes.

But COVID-19 has also given us a unique opportunity to spend extra time with our families at home. We normally don’t have this much time in our regularly busy lives to dedicate to trying new activities with our kids. With some creativity, we can turn this time of disappointment and uncertainty into one full of love, joy, and learning!

If your family is feeling the stress and boredom of being stuck at home, try these seven activities to bond and have some fun.

  1. Build a fort: Gather up all your spare sheets and blankets, pull out the camping gear, assemble your dining room chairs, and get creative with kids young and old! Make a blanket fort in your living room that’s big enough to fit the entire family (and don’t forget your pets!). Pop some popcorn and fill bowls with snacks to have an extra-fun family movie night.
  2. Learn something new together: With schools closed, most children are getting a combination of homeschooling and virtual learning. But by being at home, kids have the opportunity to learn other kinds of things aside from English, math, and science. Talk to your child about their interests and see if there’s something you can teach them—or, better yet, something you can learn together! Download Duolingo to challenge each other while learning a new language, follow an online cooking class, or pick up a new crafting hobby together to expand both of your horizons.
  3. Have a dance party: With limited access to parks and playgrounds, energetic kids might feel a little stir crazy. When they start bouncing off the walls, you might struggle to stay calm. To help everybody shed some stress and let out all that pent-up energy, ask for your kids’ help in putting together a playlist of their favorite music. Then, clear out your living room and hold a dance party to release those jitters!
  4. Take virtual tours: Many families aren’t able to travel the world, regardless of a pandemic. However, many famous museumsnational parks, and landmarks are available to “tour” on your computer screen! Connect your computer to the TV or gather around the monitor, and use Google Earth or specially designed virtual touring websites to experience everything from the Louvre to the Great Wall of China. This also makes for a great educational opportunity, since your kids can learn about history, art, nature, and culture!
  5. Host family game night: Board games and card games are the perfect solutions to otherwise quiet nights indoors. Have your children pick out their favorite games, then play a round of each with the entire family. This is a great way to have some fun while stimulating your brains. If you want to bring even more family and friends into the fun, there are tons of virtual board games perfect for playing while still social distancing! Fire up a virtual call and play together from your respective homes.
  6. Give their rooms a facelift: If you’ve been on a cleaning kick at home, get your kids involved by having them reorganize their bedrooms and playrooms. Make it fun by offering to redecorate their space with a new coat of paint or some simple décor once they’ve cleaned it out. Assemble a donation pile of old clothes and toys, then see how you can spruce up their space. Adding just a few new storage bins, a cute rug, and a lamp can transform their room and make them feel like they’ve accomplished something great!
  7. Start a backyard garden: With spring weather finally here, now is the perfect time to head to your backyard. Order some new pots, soil, and seeds from your local hardware store, and have your kids help you build a backyard garden. Let them choose a few things they want to grow—whether it’s flowers, herbs, or vegetables. Gardening will get you all outside for some sun and fresh air, and it will help your children learn a new skill.

The pressure to teach your children and keep them busy at all hours of the day can be immense. However, think of this time as an opportunity to help them learn new things, expand their horizons, and get a little extra one-on-one time with you. You can still get things done around the house and be productive with your children in tow!

Bonus idea! Inevitably, you and your kids will want some alone time to rest and recharge. Download our free coloring book for your kids to enjoy during their downtime! Not only does it give them a creative outlet, but it encourages kids to stay safe and healthy.

While everyone should have some quiet time alone for their hobbies, engaging your kids with activities the whole family can do together is sure to create some fond memories for all of you and relieve the stress of quarantine.

Keep Your Mind and Body Active from the Comfort of Your Home

With businesses closed and jobs transitioned to remote work, most of us have been stuck at home for weeks on end. Worse yet, there’s no telling when this pandemic could end, which can add on to feelings of stress and anxiety.

While sitting on the couch and binge-watching movies or your favorite TV shows might have sounded like a dream at first, lounging around probably got old pretty quickly. Now, you might be pacing your living room, itching for something to do.

To relieve some quarantine stress and help you feel productive while stuck inside, it’s best to engage your mind and body each day. Here’s a helpful list of ideas on how to keep your mind and body active – all from the comfort of your own home.

  • Journal daily: Journaling is a great way to express your thoughts and experiences in a healthy way. Grab a spare notebook and dedicate a little time to journaling in it every day. Write down your thoughts and fears or a few things you’re grateful for to help you center yourself.
  • Start a blog: Do you have a special skill or hobby you’re passionate about? Start a blog and share your unique ideas with the world! From cooking to crocheting to lifestyle inspiration, anything is fair game. Or, start a “quarantine blog” where you can share your experiences during social distancing and help others understand they’re not alone.
  • Do at-home workouts: You don’t need a full gym to complete a challenging workout! Using only body-weight exercises, small free weights you can store in a closet, or household items, you can get your blood pumping and stay active inside. Make a goal to complete at least one 20-minute workout a few days per week. You can even get the entire family involved!
  • Clean and declutter: Staying inside is one thing, but staying inside a messy house is another. Use your spare time to spruce up your space from top to bottom. Now is the perfect opportunity to clear out that hallway closet you’ve been avoiding or to reorganize your pantry. Break down areas of your home and try to tackle a little bit each day.
  • Practice mindfulness: The world is a scary place right now, and tensions are high. Instead of scrolling through social media, take a break and focus on mindfulness. Short meditation sessions where you focus on your breathing or an encouraging mantra can help you relieve stress and calm down from feeling overwhelmed.
  • Make an inspirational collage: Mood boards or inspirational collages are both creative and encouraging. Gather supplies you have around your house and create a collage of things you want to do after the pandemic is over, as well as some of your longer-term goals. Clip pictures from old magazines, dust off your paintbrush and paint sets, pull out that giant pack of colored pencils from your desk drawer, and get creative!
  • Check books off your reading list: It can be difficult to find time for quiet reading during the hustle and bustle of everyday life, and your reading list might seem endless. Don’t let books collect dust on your shelves! Now is the perfect time to immerse yourself in a fantasy world or fictional story as an escape.
  • Do a yoga challenge: Yoga is a great activity for the mind and body since it blends mindfulness with body-weight exercises and stretches. Look up a yoga series on YouTube or download a yoga instruction app to get started right in your living room.
  • Take an online course: Lots of educational institutions and hobbyists are offering online classes for free right now, so take advantage of them! If you’ve always wanted to explore a particular subject or you’re looking to bolster your resume, now is the time to learn something new.
  • Connect virtually: You don’t have to suffer in boredom alone! Your friends and family are just a video chat away. Host FaceTime or Zoom calls with family and friends, or propose virtual lunch meetings or coffee dates with coworkers. If you can’t video chat, find an online community to take part in, such as a virtual book club or hobby group to have discussions with.
  • Create the perfect playlist: Music can be energizing, therapeutic, and cathartic. And nobody knows your music taste better than you! Put together some playlists that will lift your spirits or get you ready for a workout, then host a dance party in your living room with your family!
  • Tackle a project you’ve put off: Have you been meaning to re-paint your guest room for months? Have your leaky faucets officially driven you nuts? Take stock of all the home improvement projects you’ve been putting off and try to complete as many as you can with what you have on hand, or order parts online.

Don’t squander the extra time you’ve been given! By keeping your mind and body active and engaged, you can help shed the stress of being stuck at home while also improving your skills, your space, and yourself.

3 Steps for Small Businesses to Succeed in Light of COVID-19

It’s no secret that the rapid spread of the novel coronavirus has created significant challenges for businesses large and small. Almost every business entity has been impacted on some level, whether due to federal and local mandates or even a positive diagnosis of COVID-19 within the organization.

Small businesses, however, are poised to be particularly affected by this crisis, largely because of the amount of cash that is flowing—or not flowing—into their accounts. This is causing major uncertainty as to the financial wellbeing of small businesses, their owners and their employees.

Although nobody knows for certain what will happen next, there are steps every small business owner should be taking now to prepare for what’s ahead. Take these three steps to maintain control over as much of your business’s future as possible.

1: Communicate, communicate, communicate

Above all else, communication is critical during this period of uncertainty. Make sure you’re implementing consistent and transparent communication with all critical stakeholders of your organization—particularly your employees, your customers and your financial partners.

  • Employee communication: Right now, transparency with your staff is key. Employees are bound to feel uncertain or scared about their jobs and incomes. If you don’t communicate consistently and honestly, they could imagine the worst or grow distrustful. It may be useful to set up a weekly video conference if you’re not able to hold meetings in person to catch them up on new developments. Let them know truthfully what impact COVID-19 is having on your business. What have the financial impacts been so far, and what steps will you all need to take to survive this? Reassure them as much as you can, but don’t give them misleading information or false hope. Beyond that, also make sure to check in with your staff on a personal level. Ask how they’re doing and see if there’s anything you can do to make their situations easier.
  • Customer communication: Aside from your staff, your customers will also want to know what’s going on with your business. Be proactive in customer communication, letting them know the steps you’re taking to protect them, your employees and your business’s products and services. If you’ve altered your delivery model or hours, update them on the changes so they can continue to support you as much as possible.
  • Financial communication: Communication with your bank and lenders is also crucial. Be transparent and open in your communication to ensure you’re getting all the help you can as it relates to your business’s financials. Ask questions and communicate your needs—you’d be surprised at how willing these organizations might be to help. Is your landlord willing to defer your rent? Will the bank let you defer a loan payment or two? Can your equipment supplier find a financial situation that works for you both? Being proactive about these requests can give you the financial support you need to pull through this difficult time.

2: Make cash king

Financial control is paramount during this time of economic uncertainty. Find ways to maximize or preserve your cash flow and reduce operating expenses so your business has a nest egg ready for later.

  • Plug cash leaks: Take a look at where every penny from your business is going. Are there any cash leaks? If you can identify every expense, determine which costs are needed and which are not for running your business. Can you do virtual client meetings instead of in-person appointments over lunch? Is there a way to minimize supply expenses? Every penny counts right now, so don’t spend on unnecessary extras.
  • Reevaluate expenses: Next, take a look at bigger expenses that might be challenging your business’s financial stability. Is it possible to defer employee retirement contributions in order to keep your staff employed? What about healthcare contributions? Temporarily reducing these expenses can free up cash so your business can remain operational without major layoffs.
  • Reduce hours: You may not have the cash to pay employees for their normal hours right now, but you might be able to keep everyone employed by reducing your business hours. This way, you’ll still have the potential for income while maintaining your staff.
  • Minimize living expenses: As a small business owner, you’re in a unique position to help your business on the personal side. If you’re taking a paycheck, consider ways you can reduce your personal living expenses. The less you take from the business, the less strain your cash flow will be under.

3: Revise your 2020 forecasts and budget

You probably prepared for 2020 with a budget and sales forecasts based on last year’s numbers. Of course, nobody could have predicted a global health crisis, so those numbers are likely no longer applicable.

  • Reevaluate new forecasts: Take this time to look at what your sales forecasts were and how COVID-19 might have changed them. The difference will largely depend on how operational your organization is during the pandemic. Set a conservative plan through the rest of 2020 and see how that impacts your business financials overall.
  • Brainstorm sales-boosting techniques: Now is also a great time to implement changes that meet the unique needs of the health crisis. Bring your team together to brainstorm ideas for target markets, products to offer and new sales tactics for during and after the pandemic.
  • Reset your operating budget: A revised sales forecast, reevaluated financials and a new marketing plan can drastically change your budget for the year. Take a look at the numbers and alter your 2020 budget—then stick to it—to make sure your business can weather the storm.

Small businesses that survived the 2008 recession were diligent in all of these efforts, and it’s important that your business follow suit now. Remember, cash is the lifeblood of your business, and communication, cost evaluations and cash preservation will help you conduct business effectively and come out successful on the other side.

12 Ways Business Owners Stay Productive During Uncertain Times

COVID-19 has led to widespread changes in our personal and professional lives. As people self-isolate and cities implement shutdowns, our businesses are feeling the impact.

Although many businesses have closed their doors temporarily to adhere to city and state guidelines, you don’t have to put your professional life on hold! There are many things you can do to prepare your business for when your doors open back up. Thought leaders and entrepreneurs can do these 12 things to stay productive while social distancing.

1. Reorganize your files

During your everyday hustle and bustle, you probably didn’t take time to organize important files appropriately. Take this opportunity to get organized! Open up past-due accounts, reorganize your internal file structure and shred outdated documents. Now might even be a great time to transfer paper files to a digital archive so they take up less space in your office.

With tax season around the corner and business financials likely in need of reexamining, there’s no better time than the present to go through your files and create a system that works.

2. Work through backlogs and old emails

When emails and requests come in faster than you can answer them, an overwhelming backlog can form. Now is the perfect time to sit down with your emails and backlogs and take care of anything you haven’t addressed.

Are there quotes you haven’t gotten to? Do you need to communicate with your customers? Are there A/R or A/P that have slipped through the cracks? While now might not be the best time to send out bills, you can organize these items so you’re ready to follow up when business returns to normal.

3. Organize your desktop

Take a look at your computer desktop. Is it a mess? Now’s the time to clean it! Delete old or irrelevant files, create a new digital filing system and do a malware check to ensure nothing is slowing you down.

4. Streamline your business

As a business owner, you know exactly where your organization’s inefficiencies lie, but you may not have had time to correct them. Identify ways you can streamline these inefficiencies to minimize hurdles in your operation.

For example, are your sales and marketing plans not leading to the returns you want? It might be time to reevaluate with the help of a concept-to-creation team like AlphaGraphics. Taking care of these inefficiencies now will help you be prepared for what’s coming next.

5. Start a blog

If your business doesn’t have a blog, now is a great time to start one! With extra time on your hands, it’s easier than ever to create new content that displays your expertise.

Research and create a list of topics you can position your brand as a thought leader in, then put content together for the rest of the year. By focusing on this now, you can get ahead and prepare two to three blogs per month!

6. Improve SEO

Along with your blog, you’ll want to tie in search engine optimization (SEO). If you don’t understand it, take an online course, watch YouTube videos on it or look into organizations that can take the burden off you.

Once you have a handle on SEO, start improving it by optimizing your web pages and blog with related keywords. You might also reach out to complementary businesses and ask to post your content on their blogs with backlinks to bolster your rankings.

7. Get on social media

Is your business reaching customers where they are online? If not, now is the time to start! Set up social media accounts and start pushing content.

Aside from consumer-facing channels, LinkedIn is a great social media tool for growing your circle. Find groups related to the business (or just things you enjoy!) and start interacting. Ask questions, post in forums and put out thought-provoking topics to engage with others. LinkedIn is a great place to learn what other business owners are doing during self-isolation and how they’re planning for the future.

8. Learn something new

The internet is full of paid and free courses that you can do from home to improve yourself. Think about the skills you and your team have and what you might be lacking. What have you always wanted to learn about or get better at? Check out some courses and turn your weaknesses into strengths!

If you find a course that would be good for your team, create a learning path and encourage them to complete it. Doing so can increase your human capital and take your business to new heights.

9. Call your contacts

During this time of uncertainty, people are feeling scared and alone. Reach out to your employees and business contacts and extend a helping hand as a friend. Everyone can use a listening ear and some encouragement right now.

You have no idea what these small gestures could do for others or how they could impact your business for the better.

10. Clean

When was the last time your store was deep cleaned? With no customers or employees around, grab some supplies and refresh the space!

Have your machines been collecting dust for months? What about the space underneath? Move machines, sales racks and desks to rid your space of every ounce of dirt or grime. When your doors are ready to reopen, your business will feel brand new!

11. Rearrange for effectiveness

Think about the way your office or sales floor is organized. Is your merchandise cluttered or your desk arrangement causing disruptions? Is there a way to rearrange things to improve employee workflows or customer experience? Move things around and see how you like it.

When everyone returns to work, it will be nice to have a fresh start and a refreshed workflow to tackle new opportunities.

12. Keep busy!

As tempting as it is to lounge around and binge TV during self-isolation, staying busy is your biggest ally in working through this time of change and uncertainty. Nobody knows how the world will be different after the pandemic, so stay vigilant. Encourage your team members to do the same and take time to train them from a distance.

By using these tips to look after your team and your business, you’ll be more than prepared for whatever lies ahead!