7 Ways to Make Your Holiday Marketing Stand Out

The holiday season is fast approaching. Customers are beginning to think about holiday preparations and gifts, and companies are starting to ramp up their marketing efforts to attract shoppers. Throughout November and December, the competition for attention will be fierce.

To keep your brand top-of-mind throughout the busy holiday season and bring new and existing customers through your doors, you’ll want to take steps to make your marketing efforts stand out from the crowd. Use these seven tips to give your holiday marketing a competitive edge.

1. Use tactics that grab attention

Especially during the holiday season, customers are overwhelmed with emails, mailers, catalogs, social posts, and other communications from brands—and their attention starts to dwindle. In order to bring your company front and center, your marketing tactics should be designed to immediately catch and hold the customer’s attention.

One way to make sure you do this is to reach out to customers across multiple mediums, both in digital and print. Increasing the number of touchpoints your customer has with your brand increases the chance they’ll remember and pay attention to you.

There are also many simple enhancements you can make to your marketing campaigns that will have a more memorable impression. For example, instead of sharing static images on social media, consider sharing GIFs, animations, or videos—the activity and motion will help to catch the viewer’s eye. On printed pieces, add embellishments like metallic foiling, embossing, or coatings to texturize mailers and provide something unique and special.

2. Tell your audience what sets your brand apart

Your marketing pieces shouldn’t be the only things that stand out from the competition—your brand itself should, too. Consider what makes your company different from competitors and let your audience know.

Customers are drawn to the unique aspects of a brand—what makes them more personable or what aligns with their own values. Perhaps all of your products are made locally, or you donate a portion of your sales to a nonprofit organization. Every brand has its own unique elements, so broadcast those to your audiences to let them know what you’re about!

3. Take a customer-first approach

It’s tempting to explain all the cool features of your products or services to customers, but think about things from their perspective. You want customers to see value in your offerings—to know that your products can make their lives easier, happier, or better.

Shape your marketing messages around what your products can do for your customers and how they will benefit from buying them. Tap into your audience’s emotions to convey the feelings and experiences they’ll have once they own your product or use your service.

4. Personalize your campaigns

Customers like to know that brands understand them, and there’s no better way to prove that you do than by creating highly targeted campaigns designed around their wants and needs.

Start by clearly defining your target audience. Understand who those buyers are and what they care about, particularly around this time of year. Then segment your audience groups—such as new leads versus returning customers—and craft separate messages for each group in both your content and advertising campaigns.

Try to identify pain points or challenges for those audience segments and offer solutions to make their lives easier. During the holidays, one of the biggest pain points is stress from gift shopping. Use demographics and other customer data to make personalized gift recommendations or highlight seasonal offers that are relevant to them.

5. Appeal to emotions

The holidays are a particularly emotional time of year. Your customers are bound to feel many strong emotions, such as gratitude, hope, nostalgia, delight, reflection, celebration, and togetherness.

Using these emotions can add a special element to your campaigns and directly align with how customers feel to create a more positive impression. Consider your audience and choose a few emotions or holiday sentiments that are most likely to resonate with them.

For example, parents might respond well to messages of togetherness and celebration, while younger shoppers might be more impressed with sentiments of wonder and excitement. Be sure to tie these emotions into the messages, imagery, and overall look and feel of your campaigns.

6. Keep up with your content strategy

Throughout the holiday season, all too many companies take a sales-heavy approach and overwhelm customers with endless discounts and promotions. Sales fatigue can weigh on customers and cause them to tune these messages out. Alternately, by sharing informative, inspirational, and seasonal content, your brand can stand out from the noise.

Content proves your value to customers and engages them instead of merely selling to them. Make deeper connections with your audiences by sharing content that is useful and relevant, that helps them solve a need or reduce holiday stress, and that positions you as a thought leader in your industry.

The holidays are the perfect time to share special, themed content. There are plenty of options to choose from, including holidays gift guides, recipes, how-to videos for DIY gifts, quizzes, and much more.

7. Share in the spirit of the season

The holidays aren’t just about selling—they’re a time to show gratitude and give back to those who help your business thrive. Make sure you spread some holiday cheer to your customers, staff, and community to forge even deeper connections.

Your brand can make an impact by doing good in the community. Have your entire team volunteer with a local nonprofit, or team up with a charity to raise money or donations.

The spirit of the season should also extend to your customers. Show gratitude to them for supporting your business by sending thank-you notes from your team or hosting a “thank-you” event and inviting local community members. If you have a few key clients or customers, you could even send thoughtful gifts to remind them of how important they are to you. Even a small gesture can go a long way!

Think strategically for seasonal marketing

Marketing during the holiday season requires a little extra effort to ensure your brand’s voice is heard. By paying close attention to your audience, your messages, and what helps your company stand out, you can craft creative marketing campaigns that bolster your brand’s holiday marketing efforts.

How to Combine Digital and Print for More Effective Marketing Campaigns

Digital marketing has largely been adopted as a key marketing strategy for many businesses, but that doesn’t mean print is dead. In fact, print and digital marketing can work together to create more effective campaigns.

By using print as an extension of your digital marketing efforts, your campaigns can go even farther than with digital alone. Print can help drive traffic to your digital channels. What’s more, combining print and digital allows for additional touchpoints in the customer journey, helping to boost brand awareness and improve engagement. Print not only adds more touchpoints, but it also adds variety and memorability to your campaigns to help your brand stand out.

Print marketing comes in many forms, including direct mail, brochures and fliers, sales materials like fact sheets and catalogs, print ads, and even stationery and business cards. Signage is also an important aspect of print marketing. By using these tangible items to reinforce the messages you send on digital channels, you can add authenticity and trust to your campaigns and make a greater impact.

Combining Social Media and Print Marketing

Social media is a necessary component of digital marketing. Through your social channels, you can have conversations, build relationships, and get customers more engaged with your brand. Using print marketing strategically can bolster these efforts.

One of the ways to combine print and social media is to use printed materials to direct consumers to your social channels. Include your social media handles on all printed marketing collateral, so customers and leads know where to find you online. You might even take it one step further and advertise exclusive content within your print pieces to gain new followers on a particular social platform. In that case, set up an autoresponder on your brand’s account for when someone new follows you, and share the content piece within that automated direct message.

Printed materials can also prompt consumers to join the conversation on your social platforms. Include a unique hashtag on printed collateral and encourage customers to use it online.

It can also work the other way—social media can bolster the effectiveness of your print campaigns. Social channels offer a wealth of consumer data beyond basic demographics, such as likes and interests, that you can use to create highly targeted print materials or direct mail campaigns. You might find success using this data to entice leads with targeted freebies like content or giveaway items.

Combining Websites, Email, and Print Marketing

Your website and email lists are two other crucial components of your digital marketing strategy. Current and potential customers use your website and emails to learn more about your brand and stay up to date. These, too, can be integrated with print marketing for maximum effect.

Use print marketing to drive traffic to key landing pages on your website. If you want to recruit email subscribers, add a QR code or a shortened URL that takes users directly to your sign-up page. You can also do this for product pages or digital catalogs; showcase a few popular products on the printed piece, then direct buyers to the full catalog or an order page. If you’re offering a giveaway, the same rules apply. Advertise the giveaway on the printed piece and include a QR code or URL that takes the consumer to a page where they can redeem the gift.

Two-part content campaigns also work really well with print and digital marketing. Include a teaser for a piece of content on your printed material, and direct customers to your website or email newsletter to view the rest.

Leveraging Digital and Print Technology

What’s exciting about the combination of digital and print marketing is that advancements in technology have allowed for greater interactivity between the print and digital worlds.

One example of this is personalization. Variable data printing, which allows variations in text, colors, graphics, and images based on the recipient, lets you personalize almost all printed materials. This extends to things like personalized URLs—when added to print pieces, PURLs direct customers to landing pages that are highly targeted and customized to them. You can even use PURLs to pre-fill a lead’s information into online forms.

Print goes farther using new technology like augmented reality, which blends the physical and digital worlds with just a smartphone. Similar to adding QR codes, you can use AR in print marketing to send the consumer to a landing page, form, video, or app; it can even allow them to make a phone call or send an email.

But AR can do much more to enhance the digital experience of your printed pieces. It can reveal hidden text, images, or graphics on your mailers when looked at on a screen. It can turn flat images on sales sheets into 3D models and make them interactive. You can even use AR to launch animations, videos, and sound effects to create more immersive campaigns.

Creating the Most Effective Blended Marketing Campaigns

Of course, when combining digital and print marketing efforts, you still want to adhere to marketing best practices. Most notably, make sure the content you send through any medium is relevant and valuable to the audience. Using print and digital together allows you to take this a step further and really personalize your content for a highly targeted campaign.

All of your materials—online and offline—should include a clear call to action. If you’re using print to drive customers to an online location, make the offer and directions clear and easy to follow, or you might not see as much engagement as you’d hoped for.

Also pay attention to the design of your printed and digital pieces and how they work together. Link graphics, colors, and fonts across mediums for brand cohesion. Make sure your print pieces draw attention, so consumers want to check out your digital offerings. Using special embellishments like foil, embossing, glossy or matte coatings, or die and laser cuts on your printed materials can grab and hold the customer’s attention enough to direct them online.

Finally, tracking your campaigns is extremely important. Consider how you will measure ROI for both printed and digital items. QR codes and custom URLs can help you track how many people are following through on the print-to-digital jump. You might also track usage of a unique discount code provided only on printed marketing materials to see how effectively your print campaigns contributed to purchases or conversions.

Print is just as important in your marketing campaigns as ever, but with today’s technological enhancements, print will serve a different purpose as a tangible extension of your digital campaigns. By combining your digital campaigns with print in unique and engaging ways, you’ll be able to amplify your marketing efforts and see better results.

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!

Why You Need Content Marketing to Build Customer Loyalty

In the age of fierce competition and high brand standards, building customer loyalty is key for small businesses. You want buyers to return to your company again and again because of what your brand has to offer. In order to obtain this loyalty, your brand will need to start by building customer trust.

Trust and loyalty are hallmarks of good relationships with your customer base. To accomplish these things, you need buyers to find value in your brand—not just in your products or services, but the company’s existence as a whole.

Unfortunately, it’s tougher than ever to have in-person interactions with customers, so you’ll need to shift your relationship-building efforts to new platforms and modes of communication. The best way to do this, and to build loyalty and trust along the way, is to use content marketing.

What is content marketing?

Content marketing is a strategic approach to creating and delivering valuable, relevant content to your customers on a regular basis. Content marketing can take on many forms and be delivered through a wide range of platforms. Most importantly, content marketing is used to engage, excite, educate, and delight your customers in order to build those lasting, trusting relationships.

Why content marketing? The approach has a number of purposes:

  • Attract and engage customers: Posting content on a regular basis provides something for your current customers to engage with and enjoy, but it also provides more avenues for potential customers to find you and encourages them to give your brand a shot.
  • Demonstrate value: Customers don’t just turn to your brand for your products and services. They’re looking for value, whether in the form of entertainment, education, or expertise. Through content marketing, you can demonstrate your brand’s thought leadership and deliver consistent value.
  • Nourish and strengthen relationships: Creating engaging content helps to foster relationships with your customers, then continue to nourish and strengthen those relationships by remaining consistent and valuable.

A lot of brands misuse content marketing and are disappointed with their results. This is largely because of a misunderstanding of what, exactly, content marketing should be used for.

Content marketing is not about completing transactions. It’s not an ad that will close a sale or entice a customer to purchase right away. Rather than using content marketing to drive sales, use it to give your audience what they need and want. Whereas ads might turn people off or seem pushy, content marketing offers something interesting to the audience and positions your brand as an expert or an inspiration.

There are tons of ways to do this, from blog posts to videos to eBooks and infographics. Any type of useful, creative content can be incorporated into a content marketing plan.

For instance, if you run a clothing boutique, you might share photographed look books to inspire buyers’ fashion choices. If you run a plant nursery, you might create a series of videos teaching gardening basics. No matter what type of content you choose, it should inspire, teach, and engage a specific audience: your customers.

Using content marketing to build trust and loyalty

So, how do you use content marketing strategically to build trust and loyalty among your customers? There are a few ways you can approach it.

  • Be authentic: One of the most important things to remember about content marketing is that all your content—whether it’s a video series, webinar, or photos—should be authentic to your brand. Stick to the same messages, style, and voice you use in other aspects of marketing. You don’t want your content to come off as forced. Instead, it should feel familiar and approachable.
  • Tell a story: Nothing is quite as engaging as a good story, and storytelling is a great way to build emotional connections with your audience. Use content marketing to tell stories relating to your company. You could tell your brand’s story and history or even the story of a customer who found success by using your products and services.
  • Show how you do good: Is your business committed to giving back to the community? Does your brand support a particular cause, or do your employees volunteer for a local organization? Show customers how and why you choose to do good in this way. Done correctly, this type of content can build trust and loyalty by proving to the audience that you’re dedicated to more than just making money.
  • Humanize your brand: More and more customers are interested in learning about the faces behind their favorite brands. Content marketing gives you the perfect opportunity to humanize your brand by showing off the people behind your operations. For example, you could create employee spotlights or share photos of company events.
  • Allow customers to interact: The best content is that which allows customers to actually engage and interact with your brand. Try to incorporate interactive content into your marketing plan to open up a two-way conversation. Fun things like quizzes work well on social media, while webinars and workshops allow a smaller segment of your audience to get even more value from your company.

Give your customers what they need

You don’t want to make content just for the sake of making content. The most important aspect of content marketing is ensuring that you create and deliver content that’s tailored to your audience. Rather than push information and ads on customers to drive what you need and want, give them what they need and want. Doing this will show your customers that you have value to offer and will build more trust and loyalty.

To do this, you need to understand who your customers truly are. Drill down on their demographics and psychographics to determine the specific segments of your audience. Then, create content specifically for them. They should find everything you share useful and relevant.

The content for every brand will be different, but to narrow down on the focus your content should have, ask yourself:

  • What challenges do my customers have, and what solutions can my brand offer?
  • What topics are relevant to my audience?
  • What does my audience care about?
  • What can I teach customers that will add value to their lives?

Most importantly, don’t use content marketing to sell. Although your content should always be relevant to your brand and might even mention your products and services, its main focus should be on the engagement and value it delivers—not on your brand making a profit. When done correctly, content marketing will convince customers to check out your offerings on their own because they trust you and appreciate the value you have to offer.

Everyone pays more attention to content that’s tailored to their specific interests. By focusing your content marketing strategy around what your customers truly want, they’ll learn that your brand offers immense value. Continue using different types of content to nourish and strengthen the relationships you have with your customers; trust and loyalty are sure to follow, at which point you’ve created a customer for life.

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.