5 Tips for Welcoming Employees Back to the Office

After more than a year of working from home, many businesses are looking ahead at the possibility of returning to the office later this year. This is an exciting prospect for many. However, in the same way, working from home required a transition, returning to the office will, too.

Fortunately, there are a few things you can do now to prepare your office for reopening and build excitement among your employees as they get ready to come back. These five tips can help you freshen up your space and welcome employees back in a positive way.

1. Redecorate Your Workspace

One of the simplest things you can do before your employees return is redecorate to create an inviting environment. Giving your space an upgrade will build anticipation for your office reopening since the “big reveal” will give everyone something to look forward to.

Redecorating doesn’t require a major overhaul. Simple things like window, wall, and floor graphics can go a long way in making your space feel brand new. Vinyl graphics can be applied just about anywhere—not only on windows, walls, and floors, but also on doors, furniture, appliances, and even ceilings.

Use specially designed and branded graphics to create an immersive experience and build brand pride among your teams. For example, apply a floor-to-ceiling graphic in a prominent area to create a statement wall and an office focal point. It could display your company’s mission or vision to remind employees why you do business.

2. Revamp Visitor Areas

Reopening your office doesn’t only mean your employees are coming back—it also signals the return of in-person meetings with clients. Extend your redecorating efforts to common areas and visitor spaces like your lobby, waiting areas, and meeting rooms to further solidify your brand experience.

Just like your employee-facing workspaces, outfit these areas with new graphics that display who your brand is and what you stand for. You want visitors to have a positive experience with your brand in order to strengthen those relationships—especially after a year of distance.

3. Consider Different Comfort Levels

Even when it’s safe for employees to return to work, everyone is going to have different comfort levels for in-person interactions. During your transition back to the office, be mindful of these varying preferences and adapt to meet individual needs.

One way to do this is to utilize social distancing signage while redecorating your space. Employ floor decals in common areas, as well as signs on tables and chairs in meeting rooms, to remind people to keep a safe distance. You could also implement directional signage to indicate one-way pathways where necessary.

Another way to improve the comfort of your office is to provide employees with tools to express their preferences nonverbally. This could take the form of desk signage, chair decals, stickers, wristbands, lanyards, or other visual indicators that use a color system to alert coworkers about what types of interactions are appropriate. For example, a red sign could mean no physical contact, while yellow means elbow bumps are okay, and a green indicates handshakes, hugs, and high-fives are welcome.

4. Build the Excitement

Many people will be excited to see their coworkers face-to-face again and any changes you’ve made to your office. Build on this excitement and boost morale by making the return to the office a momentous occasion!

Invite employees back with a “welcome back” box packed with branded gifts, new materials, and goodies. This type of gesture will help your employees reconnect and feel like they are a valued members of the team.

You can put almost anything in the box—branded or otherwise—but some ideas include: essential office supplies, important information about new guidelines, comfort level indicators, and an assortment of fun items. This could be electronics, such as headphones or mini Bluetooth speakers, self-care and relaxation kits, branded apparel, and more!

5. Stay Positive

After working from home for so long, transitioning back to the office will be more challenging for some employees than others. Make sure your team members know you’re there to support them every step of the way.

Keep your overall messaging positive to remind people of the many good things that returning to the office can offer. Focus on the benefits, such as enhanced collaboration, creativity, and problem-solving, as well as team unity.

In addition, find ways to celebrate together. Maintain positivity by celebrating being back together as a team and recognizing special occasions, individual accomplishments, team wins, goals achieved, and more. These celebrations can help employees get back in the groove while also fostering a more positive workplace.

Bringing your teams back to the office will no doubt require a period of transition. However, by planning ahead, finding ways to engage employees, and working to make their return as positive as possible, you’ll be able to forge ahead as a stronger, more unified company.

4 Ways for Your Business to Support the Community

Community InvolvementIf recent events have taught us anything, it’s that communities tend to come together during difficult times. As a local business, you make up part of the fabric of your community. Now, you have an opportunity to work with other community members to help everyone push through challenges.

Beyond lending a helping hand, being actively involved in your community can have long-lasting benefits for your business. Prominent local businesses are able to build more brand recognition, encourage customers to shop local, forge deeper connections with buyers, and harness a loyal consumer base.

Here are four ways to use your brand to support and engage your local community right now.

Call Attention to Milestone Moments

For the past year, the milestones that are important to your community members haven’t gotten as much recognition as they normally would. One way you can humanize your brand and deepen your community connections is by helping to celebrate these milestone moments.

There are tons of people and occasions to celebrate—graduating high school and college seniors, local athletic events, weddings, birthdays, anniversaries, and so much more. Local heroes are also deserving of love right now—healthcare workers, veterans, firefighters, teachers, long-term care providers, parents, and anyone going above and beyond the call of duty would certainly appreciate a shoutout. Make your brand part of that celebration and spread positivity while helping your customers feel extra special.

Storefront signage is a great way to bring recognition to these moments. Customized banners and flags, window clings, yard signs, and sidewalk signs call attention to your chosen milestones from customers and passersby.

Small in-store giveaways like stickers, pens, and postcards are also fun ways to spread your messages. Not only will these be special take-home items for the people you’re celebrating, but they’ll serve as a tangible reminder of your brand and the trust you’ve built.

Sponsor a Local Cause or Event

Businesses and industries of all kinds are in need of extra support right now. Sponsorships allow you to support causes that are near and dear to your community while also getting your brand in front of potential customers.

There are lots of different ways to bolster both local events and your business. Sponsoring a children’s sports team is one popular choice. In doing so, you might have the opportunity to place your logo or company name on uniforms or on a banner at the playing field.

You could also sponsor a club, nonprofit program, fundraiser, or other community events. By doing so, your logo and branding will be included on advertisements for the event, as well as on signage, printed materials, t-shirts, and promotional items at the event. Regardless of whether they’re held virtually or in person at a limited capacity, events provide plenty of opportunities for brand awareness. You may be able to host a table, donate giveaways, or give a short presentation.

Share Your Expertise

While they’ve been stuck at home, people have become increasingly interested in staying active, learning new skills, and bettering themselves. Demonstrate your business’s value beyond just providing products or services by teaching your community members something new.

It doesn’t matter what the nature of your business is—you have valuable information to offer. Use this opportunity to educate and engage potential customers, build credibility, and position your brand as an industry thought leader.

Consider hosting a virtual event or webinar that people can tune into, whether as a one-off event or a series. For example, business owners are well-positioned to provide graduating seniors with interview tips or to hold a class on entrepreneurship basics. You might also consider fun events, like a DIY craft workshop, a cooking class, or a virtual group workout.

Additionally, you could create how-to videos or written guides to use as lead generation tools on your website and social media platforms. Find out what your community members are interested in and identify ways you can use your expertise to share knowledge.

Partner with Local Brands

You know how challenging navigating the current market can be. Other businesses are facing the same challenges and are likely looking for new ideas to drum up business. Now is the perfect time to get to know your neighbors and team up to help each other!

Look for businesses that are not direct competitors but offer complementary services to yours. Brainstorm ways you can work together, such as a joint promotional offer or a “shop local” campaign. You could even share fliers or coupons to drive traffic to each other’s businesses.

These types of partnerships allow you to network with other business owners and key members of your community, so you can learn from and support one another. All of the businesses involved will benefit from the extra exposure, which will help to strengthen your community as a whole.

Community Participation Is Key for Your Business

As a local business, it’s important for you to have a presence in your community. When you support your neighbors during difficult times, both your community and your business will come out stronger on the other side. Consider this an opportunity to gain brand recognition, build a loyal customer base, and make a positive local impact by getting involved.

6 Sides of the agBox That Will Elevate Your Marketing

At AlphaGraphics, we develop custom, innovative solutions and use the latest technology to take brands to the next level. Our newest innovation is agBox, a way for businesses to build and share unique branded experiences for virtually any occasion.

agBox can be infinitely customized to your brand and whatever initiative you want to enhance. Here we share some of the ideas we are most excited about¾the ones that build outstanding experiences from the moment they arrive! Consider these as a starting point as you decide which agBox to build for your audience!

The following examples are designed with an eye toward remote work and play, but the concepts can be applied to any comprehensive marketing strategy or business initiative.

1. eventBox

Galas, fun runs, and trade shows are just a few of the events that have gone virtual for the time being. But how best to engage virtual participants? New circumstances call for new innovations—enter the event in a box.

Event in a box supplies participants with promotional items that keep the event top-of-mind and in the public eye. Bracelets? T-shirts? Perhaps even yard signs, if the event calls for grassroots fundraising? Encourage participants to go the extra mile by supplying them with a small pack of stickers, flyers, and buttons, giving them the tools to turn this year’s virtual fundraiser into the most successful event yet.

2. salesBox

Sales pitches are even more daunting in an age of remote conferencing. Distractibility makes it difficult to connect and raises the likelihood that contracts will go unsigned. But what if you could command the attention of your potential customer?

A sales box brings any pitch to the forefront of the prospect’s attention. Flat graphs and presentations are no substitute for tangible earnings reports or sales decks. Of course, you could opt for a flashier array of gifts to accompany those well-printed documents. At the very least, the sales box represents your company’s willingness to go the extra mile—a gesture that will surely be noted when decisions are being made.

3. conferenceBox

With conferences and meetings moving online, it’s difficult to get the same level of engagement as you would at a traditional in-person event. A conference in a box can take your virtual event to a whole new level.

A conference in a box full of branded giveaways creates a tangible, immersive experience to accompany your virtual event. Pens, flash drives, key chains, tumblers, totes, stationery, and printed conference materials are just a few of the items that really shine in this type of box—but the sky is the limit! Go above and beyond your attendees’ expectations and leave them feeling invigorated long after the event has ended.

4. partyBox

Celebration and connection are crucial components of any corporate culture, and the party in a box helps deliver just that. Whether you’re celebrating birthdays, reveling in the acquisition of new business, or just attending virtual happy hours with colleagues you haven’t seen in months, a party delivered to your doorstep raises everyone’s spirits.

For less than the cost of lunch, your business has the ability to reward your high-functioning teams for their continued success. Want to show your appreciation for your rising stars with branded sunglasses? How about glassware to toast during happy hour? The choices for your personalized party in a box are virtually limitless.

5. new hireBox

Getting new team members up-to-speed in a remote work environment is a challenge for any business. However, remote working provides an opportunity for creative onboarding. Immerse new team members in your corporate culture before their first day on the job with a new hire box!

Consider what knowledge is vital to the continued health and growth of your business, then consolidate those findings into quick-hit reference sheets to be included in the box. Add in all the supplies a remote worker needs, from day planners to corporate swag, and voila! Your new employee feels like part of the team from day one.

6. holidayBox

The holidays provide the perfect backdrop to make your employees feel a sense of togetherness, and we can all attest to how important that will be this year. Take the time to express your thanks and gratitude to your hard-working teams with a holiday in a box.

If your business is planning a virtual holiday party, this is the ideal opportunity to make sure everyone receives their due appreciation. A well-timed holiday in a box ensures your virtual holiday party is one to remember by creating a sense of anticipation and excitement leading up to the event. Take it one step further by tagging your boxes with a note, “Do Not Open Until MM/DD!” The joy of an entire team unwrapping their gifts in unison will connect even the most remote workers and set the tone for a successful year ahead.

Think Inside the Box

As you can see, the options for an agBox are truly limitless. If it fits in a box, there’s a good chance we can deliver it to your target audience to provide a unique, immersive, and unforgettable experience!

If you feel inspired to send an agBox to your customers, prospective clients, or colleagues, get started today by contacting one of our marketing and print service centers near you to schedule a free consultation.

We’re excited to see what kind of “inside the box” creations you come up with!

8 Ways to Engage Local Customers Each and Every Day

Local small businesses live and die by their reputation among customers in a well-defined geographic area. If your local customers love your business and identify with your brand, a business can boom quickly and grow steadily. If they’re turned off by your brand identity, you’re likely to suffer at the hands of your only consumer base.

Getting into and staying in the good graces of local customers means not only presenting a business model and brand that’s appealing, but continuing to present that image. Forgetting about your business is almost as bad for your bottom line as disagreeing with it!

Staying in front of your local customers without becoming an annoyance can be tricky. Luckily, there are a few surefire ways to tread that line with impunity, keeping your business a local fan-favorite:

Explore Influencer Marketing

Influencer marketing is a subtle, yet powerful way to stay on the local radar. If you’re a restaurant, invite local business reps to bring their lunch meetings to you. If you’re a print shop, volunteer your services for a local nonprofit. Influencer marketing is all about grassroots reputation building. Find people who will talk about your brand, and give them a reason to say positive things!

Get Involved In Your Community

If people see you as a fixture in the community, they’re going to support your business. Attend local events, donate to local groups and maintain your standing at the local level. Remember, every local impression you make is absorbed by your potential customer base.

Respond To Reviews

Whether positive or negative, it’s important to show your local customers you’re engaged. Responding on social platforms to reviews is a great way to stay in their world. Customers who take the time to leave a review or ask a question give you permission to engage them—capitalize on this in a simple, positive way and others will take note of it.

Advertise As A Service, Not Interruption

This is the essence of passive marketing. Display your daily specials on a chalkboard, leave your door open with a sales flyer at the entrance or offer a punch card for customer loyalty. These are all ways you can reach customers daily, without interrupting.

Improve Your Exterior Signage

As a local brick and mortar establishment, your exterior signage is going to do more for you than any digital ad. Make sure you’re making an investment in your primary storefront signage—it’ll translate into daily impressions that serve to keep you relevant within the local consumer class.

Consider Sponsorship

There are numerous opportunities for sponsorship with a community. From 5k runs to bike races, little league teams to car shows and more, these events need support. You’ll showcase the vested interest you have in local events and gain the respect of brand advocates who sing your praises. Moreover, if things like shirts or bumper stickers are part of the sponsorship, these items will continue to market for you long after the event has passed.

Support Local Radio

Local radio is a great marketing medium for your customer demographic—it spans only as far as your potential customers do! Having a radio spot here and there is a great way to get your name into the mix. Whether they’re sitting in traffic on the way home or scanning channels for something to listen to, customers are going to hear your appeal and remember it.

Experiment With Digital Ads

In the modern age of digital advertising, PPC ads can geographically targeted. Whether you’re advertising through Google or Facebook, targeting only your local crowd will make sure you’re getting face time each and every day. And, thanks to nominal costs, this blanketing method of advertising can also be the most cost-efficient.

Remember, your local customer pool is the only one you’ve got to work with: make sure you’re cultivating a brand that’s valued by them! Consider the above ways to stay relevant and popular among your local customers.

Want even more great ideas on how to get your business noticed in your local market? Come visit us, AlphaGraphics Middleton!

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 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.

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.

Variable Data Printing Can Improve Ask Letter Effectiveness

Personalize With Variable Data Printing

Fall is the gateway to winter and, by extension, the heralding force before the holiday season. If you’re part of a charitable organization, you know all too well the potential that the season of giving has when it comes to collecting donations. It’s no coincidence that fall is the prime time of year when many not-for-profit causes send out ask letters and donation solicitations! Find out how variable data printing can improve these results below.

Asking for money is never easy and, in fact, for charitable organizations who solicit donations, it’s often an uphill battle to collect for your cause. Too many attempts can be off-putting, too few attempts can leave people forgetting about your efforts, and an improperly-worded ask letter can leave people soured on giving.

To be truly effective in bringing in donations, you need to find a silver bullet: a single letter that inspires people to donate and feel good about doing so.

A Personal Touch

Variable data is the first step towards creating a donation solicitation that’s truly effective. Nothing will send your letter to the circular file faster than a generic tone or a “fill in the blank” quality that makes the recipient feel like you’re just after their money. Personalizing core elements of your ask letter can immediately set the tone of your plea for donations:

  • Variable printing the name of each recipient lets them know that you recognize them. “Dear sir/ma’am” or “to whom it may concern” will never be as attention-grabbing or meaningful as “Dear Mr. Smith” or “Hi, John.”
  • Use past information to generate a unique ask. Something simple such as “last year you donated $50 to our cause” or “will you match last year’s pledge of $100 this year” will let them know you remember and appreciate their past generosity.
  • Pair accomplishments with a recipient’s donation for maximum effectiveness. “We enjoyed seeing you at the Jones Park BBQ in July” or “your contribution made the South Shore Movie Night a huge success” are ways to connect further with potential pledges.

The more information you have, the more you can make it work to the fullest by incorporating it into your ask letter. Variable data printing makes it possible to customize a basic ask letter in such a way that by the time you send it out, each copy has its own personalized touch that makes it unique to the recipient.

Unique Identifiers

It’s important to use variable data to bring your ask letter full circle. This means not only customizing a letter for each recipient but also creating a way to reap more information and see your return on each mailing.

FOR EXAMPLE:

  • Use variable data printing to print unique donation QR codes on letters. When recipients scan codes to donate, you’ll be able to track who’s donating, how much they’re pledging, how many days after the mailing they donate and more.
  • Print return envelopes for check donations that already have the recipient’s address, your address and prepaid postage on them. In doing so, you’ve removed all barriers from the donation, while also ensuring you can track who’s sending a donation back, how much, which addresses are incorrect/not up to date, etc.

Variable data printing has immense potential to raise the bar for your organization’s next ask letter or donation solicitation. Instead of sending out a basic, uniform letter and hoping for the best, consult with AlphaGraphics Middleton today to turn each letter into a unique and meaningful appeal.