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Desk Organizing Ideas

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Picture thanks to Nick Slater for dribbble.com

Bookcase Desk

Our inventive ideas can help you create the perfect office, no matter how much extra space you have. Easy organizers and decorative touches will ensure your office is as stylish as it is functional.

Doors make great desktops: They’re inexpensive, roomy, and readily available in a variety of sizes. For the legs, you could use sawhorses, but low-rise bookcases offer the added benefit of extra storage. Thirty-inch square bookcases are the ideal height for a desk and are the same width as a standard-size door.

Prime and paint the bookcases and door in the same color. To give the desk a finished, cohesive look, line the back of the shelves with marbled paper (secure it with double-sided tape).

 

Wood-Grain Desk Accessories

Bring a natural note to your home office with coordinated wood-grain accessories. All it takes to make a matched set of mouse pads, file boxes, and straight-sided jars is faux-bois self-adhesive shelf liner.

 

Create a Hallway Office

With the right furniture, an organizing strategy, and a few pretty touches, a dead-end hallway, an under-the-eaves nook, or another such charming corner can have surprising office potential.

 

Office Wire Organizer

Eliminate tangles under your work area by feeding all cords through a hole drilled in the desktop. Then plug the wires into a power-surge protector strip mounted on the underside of the desk. Keep cords in a coated wire basket (available at housewares stores) suspended under the desk with wire hooks. Tags identify where each machine wire comes from.

 

Shared-Space Office

It can be a challenge to create a desk that’s roomy enough for one person, let alone two. This symmetrical setup is the perfect solution, unifying a pair of workstations in an open configuration that fits snugly against almost any stretch of wall without overwhelming the rest of the room.

 

Source: Marthastewart

Five Tips to Get Organized at Work

No one wants to be considered the office airhead. But losing just one important phone number (“I can’t believe I spilled coffee on that sticky note!”) or forgetting one vital meeting (“Where is my darn calendar, anyway?”) because you’re disorganized may make you look like one. These five organizing tips can help you become known for your brilliant ideas rather than your scattered brain.

 

organized workplace

Picture thanks to Britrix24.com

1. Chuck Your Junk

Just like when you declutter at home, think about whether you’ve needed something within the last year. Make a “toss” pile, a “store” pile and a currently active “to-do” pile. That take-out menu from the bankrupt sandwich shop down the street? Toss it. The budget report from 2009? Store it, but only one copy. A printout of the presentation you’re giving on Friday? Keep it on hand.

2. Store, Store and Store Some More

Resist the urge to be a perfectionist in dealing with the old paperwork in your “store” pile, or you’ll be lost amid stacks of miscellany for days. Just create a way to organize your materials in a way that makes sense to you. Everything related to the annual meeting could go in one labeled plastic bin or box, for example. Then work with your boss to find a place outside your office or cubicle to store this stuff.

3. Tackle Your To-Do Pile

This is where you should invest your efforts for the biggest payoff in long-term, sustainable organization. Create file folders for each project you are currently working on (or a different folder for each client or for each upcoming due date — whatever makes sense for you). When you complete a project, go through the file and discard the unimportant documents within. Then store the folder — which has been winnowed down to include only the project essentials — into an appropriate bin.

4. Keep Your Desk Clear

The surface of your desk should now be visible. Hooray! Keep it that way. One surefire way to prevent clutter from accumulating on your desk is to adopt the one-touch rule. Deal with every piece of paper that crosses your desk immediately. Trash it, act on it, file it or — if you really must — place it in your inbox until you have time to deal with it. (The one-touch rule is also applicable to email. Either respond right away, or direct your incoming messages to appropriate email folders.)

5. Use Technology Wisely

Strive to keep phone numbers and other often-used data on your computer and/or mobile phone. Online organizers — which you can access via your computer or your phone — can combine your calendar, address book, to-do lists and more. They can also send you pop-up reminders about meetings and deadlines. It may take a little time to master using these tools, but they’ll save you time (and lots of sticky notes) in the long run.

 

Source: written by Megan Malugani for Monster

How to Organize an Office Filing System

Learning how to organize office filing systems is crucial for any business that handles a lot of invoices, receipts, and other documents. Paperless offices sound great, but the reality is that many small businesses still need to store easily retrievable paper documents.

It’s important to know what files are most important, who needs to access them, and how they can be retrieved easily and efficiently.

home-filing-system-1068x713

Picture thanks to MoneyCrashers.com

Receipts and Invoices

Filing receipts and invoices properly is one of the most important things a small business needs to do. A nonexistent or messy filing system can add days of extra effort at income tax time as you don’t want to miss out on tax deductions because of missing receipts. If your business is ever subject to an audit and you are unable to produce the required documents in support of your expenses your claims will most likely be rejected and your tax return re-assessed.

As a small business owner, you need to be able to operate at your desk swiftly and easily. Though setting up a paper filing system sounds difficult, it is a relatively easy task that can be made easier through a few filing tips and tricks.

5 Steps to Organize a Filing System

To get yourself and your business on the right track, follow five steps to make sure papers are easily accessible and easily identifiable.

 

1. Assess personal and office habits: Think about which employees need access to files, where they work, and what will make the most sense based on their work stations. If you are the person who is most in need of access to papers, think about how you use your workstation. If that filing cabinet to your right instinctively makes sense, that’s probably a good starting point. If it is someone else, get their input—what works for one person won’t always work for another.

2. Decide on a filing system: What you do as a business will determine, to a certain extent, whether you choose to file numerically, alphabetically, or some other way. For example, do you search for customer information by name or account number? Do you file paperwork by category, such as expenses, financial, marketing, etc.? This is a critical step, as it will determine how you will lay out your filing system. Do this before you buy anything for your filing system.

3. Calculate storage needs: If you have a large number of files that you access daily, they should be at your fingertips. If you access them less frequently, you might not need them at your work space, but you still might need them close by. There may be a combination. Some files might be needed daily while others can be filed in long-term storage further away. Allow for growth when looking at filing cabinets—buy something to accommodate twice the files you think you will have now. This will limit the number of times you will have to reorganize your filing system.

4. Invest in a good labeling system: Being able to read file labels sounds obvious, but clarity in labeling will save you more filing time than you can imagine. Most companies who make labels provide templates that integrate with the most popular word processing software. You may want to consider one of the small label-making systems that also can print out individual mailing labels. Items that perform double duty are usually a wise investment.

5. Purchase file folders: The best investment is to purchase colored hanging folders with plastic label tabs and plain manila file folders. Colored hanging folders are easily available and easily recognizable. For example, if you put all of your client files in yellow hanging folders, financial information in blue folders, and anything related to marketing in red folders, you easily can see roughly where you should be searching for a particular file.

Simple Is Best

The KISS principle—Keep It Simple, Sweetheart!—applies to setting up a filing system that is easy to use and easy to grow with. Broad subject categories will allow you to easily add new files as you grow and will eliminate the need to upgrade or reorganize your filing system regularly.

Keeping it simple also will make it easier to integrate your paper and digital files as part of your overall document management system.

Going Paperless

If you are trying to green your business and make the shift to a “paperless office” you can scan expense receipts and store them with your other digital accounting information. Some cloud-based accounting software applications facilitate this by having mobile apps that allow you to take a mobile phone snap of an expense receipt and record it on the fly.

Reviewing Tax Laws

The IRS and the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) both accept digital images or paper copies of scanned items including:

  • Cash receipts
  • Bank statements
  • Canceled checks
  • Pay stubs
  • Credit card statements

The copies must be clear and legible. If not, the IRS or CRA may demand to see the original paper documents during an audit or routine request for documentation, so keep originals for the prescribed period of time.

 

Source: written by JILL CHONGVA / SUSAN WARD for The balance smb

8 Advantages of Using Social Media in Your Recruitment Advertising Strategy

As recruitment agencies compete for top talent, it has become increasingly necessary to use social media in talent acquisition. Indeed, over 90% of all recruiters now use social networking sites in their recruitment process. The following are eight benefits of using social media as part of your recruitment advertising strategy:

 

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picture thanks to digitalhrtech.com

 

1. Increases job visibility

Today, practically every ideal candidate you could consider for any position at your company is on social media. Facebook enjoys an active user base of over 2.19 billion. Twitter is popular for the ability to host job search chats and many millennials and Generation X demographic are active users of LinkedIn as a job hunting platform.

Wherever you look, you see social networks serving as incredible platforms for identifying and recruiting talented individuals to work for your clients. Certainly, few other platforms can reach as many people as social media, meaning that you are likely to get the caliber of talent other platforms can hardly match.

 

2. Higher quality candidates

Self-reported statistics from many companies show that they get high quality candidates whenever they recruit via social networking sites. One big reason why this is the case is because most people you will find on social media are tech-savvy, a fundamental requirement to land any job in today’s marketplace.

Additionally, they are likely to already be in the know regarding emerging business trends, adding to the skills they bring to the table. What’s more, if you choose to use your employees to announce new openings at your company via social media, chances are that the people you will hire will not only stay longer at your company, they will also be more productive than those you would hire through other platforms.

 

3. Better employer brand awareness

Social recruiting is effective, not just in finding you the ideal candidate, but also in increasing the visibility of your brand. By advertising new positions on social media, you strengthen your brand and create some level of trust among potential employees.

People view brands that have a strong social media presence as more trustworthy. Therefore, it would serve your business well to establish a robust social media presence, not just because you want to find good employees, but also because doing so will build trust among potential customers as well as make it a coveted place to work.

 

4. Reduce cost of hire

Recruiting can be a very expensive undertaking. Social recruiting is cheaper, but can still cost you significant amounts of money. All the same, the value you get from the hires you find via social networking platforms makes this approach extremely cheap.

Without a doubt, recruitment costs via social media are almost always, lower than those of other methods. A simple Facebook ad can for instance get you over two times more visibility than the traditional recruitment methods like classified ads in the dailies and job boards.

 

5. Opens the door to engagement

Imagine a brand that has taken its time to grow its audience, even using tools like Growr to organically grow on social media, but finds itself struggling to engage with the followers it has gathered. Such a brand can benefit from a social media post of a job opening.

As interested individuals seek out more information regarding the job opportunity, your social media page gets more engagement. Some interested parties will post on the comments section, others will share with their friends and followers, while others will send you a direct message to your inbox.

These conversations keep your page active and give you the opportunity to engage with potential employees. Some of these are people who would never have applied for a job at your company had you used any other recruitment platform.

Recruiters who know how to make the most of the recruitment opportunities available on social media will tell you that some of these social conversations are better than one-on-one interviews.

In any case, you can have several chats with several potential candidates on social networking websites, and only call a few of them to further the conversation in person at your business premises later. Furthermore, there are several social recruitment tools you can use that will help you do it fast and stress free. These include Jobcast, Work4 Labs, Jobvite, Bullhorn Reach, and LinkUp.

 

6. Allows you to target your vacancies more

Social recruitment comes with incredible ability to laser-target certain groups of people for the available vacancies. On LinkedIn for instance, you can try to share the job postings in certain industry-specific LinkedIn groups.

On this platform alone, there are thousands of groups for professionals in practically every industry you can imagine: from engineers to HR workers, to writers, to finance experts. That said, remember to post your recruitment messages in a way that would not be deemed annoying.

The idea is to attract potential candidates, not overwhelm them with promises of bliss if they get a job at your company. Though such promises might be true, potential employees could start to view you and your company as con artists or spammers, ultimately undermining your credibility and ruining your chances of getting top talent via the social platform.

Twitter hashtags also make for clever recruitment methods. You can also consider asking your employees to share the available vacancies within their social circles.

 

7. Screen your candidates

It is now an open secret that employers use social media to get an in-depth understanding of the people they have hired at their companies. Many people see social media platforms as free spaces where they can express their frustrations, talk about their causes and share their experiences as they go through the days of the lives. What you might not know is that potential employers also check out candidates on social media.

Social networking sites give them a deeper view of who they are about to hire. It gives them insights into the person’s personality even allowing them to figure out what their ambitions are and what they can expect once they hire them to work in their business.

Other recruitment methods cannot help you do that. Screening potential employees ensures that you work with those people who align with your company values and culture.

All the same, it is important to note that you should resist the temptation to review someone else’s social media profiles without them consenting to it. That said, most people now include links to their social media profiles in their CVs, a decision that implies that they are comfortable with potential employers reviewing their social media profiles.

 

8. Shortens hiring time

The traditional methods of recruitment generally take longer than social media recruitment methods. This means that when you have an open position that you need filled in the shortest time possible, social media is the platform to consider. Social networking sites not only make it easy and fast to communicate with candidates, it also allows them to respond faster. As a result, excellent work relationships often emerge.

What’s more, recruiting in a talent pool that has people who share common values, interest and work styles with the hiring manager or company often accelerates the speed with which you will find the ideal person for the job. This is great news for both the hiring party and the candidates hoping to get an opportunity to work at your organization.

Source: written by Marquis Matson for RecruitLoop 

Reasons to use social media in your job search

Using social media is a great way to boost your job search. Taking advantage of social media sites can help you find companies hiring. Here’s how to do it!
Job search on the internet.Picture thanks to jobjourney.com
You Can Become an Expert
Demonstrating a deeper knowledge about the industry you’re in — or would like to be in — through blogging builds your credibility, says Lisa Parkin, CEO of social media consultancy Social Climber. “Whether it’s on a personal website or on a dedicated blog about the industry they’re seeking employment in, job hunters can show potential employers their knowledge and skill sets by writing about a news event or relevant topic once or twice a week.”
You Can Blog Your Way to a Job
Commenting on the issues in your industry or field of work can itself be a path to a new job. Michelle Bramer, marketing and PR manager for online advertising firm eZanga.com, says blogs are an excellent resource for job candidates looking for new opportunities. And linking back to your blog while posting on other sites can lead recruiters right to your virtual door.
“Some of my favorite bloggers are small companies, and surprisingly, many of them are always looking for marketing and sales support,” Bramer says. If you’ve blogged about a company before, it can help strengthen your pitch when you apply there. As someone who routinely manages content writers and PR specialists, she says, “some of our best writers have been found by forging a relationship on a social network.”
You Can Learn About a Company’s Culture
Social media can go both ways — you can tell hiring managers about yourself, but you can also use it to learn about companies you’re interested in. Following a company on social media can give you an inside look into a its culture, clients and work, says Lauren Maiman, owner of the Midnight Oil Group.
“Use that info to your advantage when it comes to a cover letter or interview,” she says. “Use this insight to make sure you mesh with and want to be a part of their team. If you’re connecting in a meaningful way with them on social media, by the time you get to the interview, they should feel like they already know you (so careful what info you put out there, too).”
Source: written by Catherine Conlan for Monster

Social Media Success: A Guide for Job Seekers

Most people know that posting questionable content online could be detrimental in your job search. However, if you use social media professionally to showcase your skills and expertise, it could propel your application to the top of the stack and land you a job.

socialsuccess

Picture thanks to http://www.salesforce.com/

Recruiters are looking for candidates online, and what they find will help determine who they hire.

“When a recruiter searches an applicant’s name to learn more about them, it’s actually a red flag nowadays if someone isn’t found to be active online,” said Brie Reynolds, senior career specialist at FlexJobs. “LinkedIn is the bare minimum a job seeker should be using to help show employers that they are technologically savvy and understand the basics [of] digital communication.”

Social media can also be used to learn about companies you’re interested in and to find potential jobs.

“Companies post relevant articles and other information related to any changes happening within the company,” said Brooke Cordova, healthcare branch manager at Addison Group. “This knowledge can help a job seeker not only understand if this is a company they want to be a part of, but also give them an advantage in an interview setting.”

Each social network has its own unique characteristics and best practices. Business News Daily talked to hiring managers, recruiters and social media experts about how to optimize your social media accounts for your job search.

As the go-to network for both job seekers and hiring managers, your top priority should be perfecting your LinkedIn profile.

“Hiring managers may look to your LinkedIn profile to learn more about you,” said Reynolds. “If it doesn’t match your resume with your most up-to-date jobs, projects and skills, they may be confused. It may send the message that you’re not taking enough care with your job search or professional image.”

Reynolds also said you should keep your profile up-to-date because many hiring managers use LinkedIn to find applicants – sometimes before they even post a job opening.

“If you’re interested in new opportunities, even in the least, keep your LinkedIn profile up-to-date so you’ll be findable when a recruiter starts searching,” she said.

Cordova also reminds job seekers to turn on the “open to new opportunities” feature, which will expose your profile to more hiring managers.

Dana Case, director of operations at MyCorporation.com, also recommends keeping your profile up-to-date. “

“Focus on updating your profile to be as current as possible,” she said. “Ask trusted individuals you’ve previously worked with for recommendations and write blog posts to establish your credibility within your given industry.”

The brands and people you engage with on Twitter directly impact your followers’ perception of you and may affect whether hiring managers believe you’re worthy of working for the company.

When you’re looking for a job, a good percentage of your tweets, retweets and replies should focus on topics that are relevant to the companies you want to work for. You can achieve this by using keywords and hashtags that professionals in your field talk about and follow.

“Twitter can be used to identify leaders in an organization that you are interested in joining,” said Heather Monahan, life coach and business expert. “By following them and retweeting their tweets you can get their attention. Responding to their tweets and showing your value can give you an advantage over the other candidates who aren’t trying to communicate.”

Case also recommends taking advantage of Twitter chats.

“Engage in Twitter chats that are relevant to the industry you want to work in,” she said. “This is a great way to network with existing professionals already in these fields, follow them to begin building a rapport together, and cement yourself as an expert.”

Before you start using Facebook to your advantage, you need to make sure it’s not hurting your image. Be sure to delete or untag yourself from any questionable posts or pictures. Once your page is scrubbed clean, you should only post appropriate content.

“It’s important to be careful with the type of content you post,” said Karla Ruiz, social media director at Casanova//McCann. “Make sure you are posting content you’ll be proud of in the next few years. Keep control of your privacy settings and if you are out partying, enjoy the moment and leave your phone by your side. Once it goes live, it lives online forever.”

While it’s important to use privacy settings for personal information, you should keep some information public such as your employment information, location and professional skills. You should be searchable to hiring managers.

It’s always a good idea to engage with industry leaders and portray yourself as a thought leader on all social media platforms. A great way to achieve this on Facebook is by commenting and contributing to industry-specific Facebook groups.

“Being engaged and part of these [Facebook] groups can be a huge asset,” said Andrea Hurtado, director of marketing and brand health at Protis Global. “These groups can do quite a bit for you – assist and propel you in developing yourself professionally, connect you with other individuals in your field and/or get you closer contact with an organization that is looking for talent like you.”

While each platform serves a different purpose, it’s also important to have a consistent voice and style throughout all your social media profiles. You should be using social media to build yourself as a brand.

“Be sure to have a clean and consistent social media presence,” said Ruiz. “Don’t just share stuff just of the sake of sharing. Before posting, ask yourself – does this add value to my personal brand?”

Source: written by Saige Driver for Business News Daily

 

Creating a Strong Online Presence for Marketing Success

Social network web site surfing concept illustration

 

According to Google, 97% of consumers use the web to search for local businesses – and if the vast majority of your potential customers are online, you should be, too. Having a strong online presence is a crucial component of your marketing strategy, no matter what size your business is or what industry it belongs to.

An online presence is important for outbound marketing because it reinforces your brand and what you offer to your target market. Once you’ve communicated with your audience, you’ll need to have a web presence that helps portray why your product or service is so great – because that’s the next stop for the majority of your potential customers.

It’s also vital for inbound marketing, because quality online content will help attract customers even if they haven’t heard of your brand.

So here are three of the first things you need to look at when building your online marketing efforts.

  1. Your website

All businesses, no matter how small, should have a website. It can be extremely basic, but it should contain the fundamental information customers – both existing and potential – need. For example, one frustration I encounter far too often is restaurants that don’t have a website with a current menu, opening hours, location and contact information. I know I’m not alone in that if I can’t find these details, I’m less likely to visit the restaurant – but there’s no reason a business should lose potential customers over something that’s so easy to remedy and costs very little.

A basic website is pretty easy to set up using an application like WordPress. WordPress is a free blogging tool and content management system that gives users the option to pay a little more for the premium version. If it’s relevant to your business, you can even add an online shop – after all, in 2013, 70 percent of consumers preferred to do their retail shopping online.

If you’re not sure where to start, there’s a great guide to WordPress for small businesses on Social Media today. It’s easy to understand and runs through the factors you need to consider and steps you need to take when setting up your small business website.

If you’re starting from scratch and not sure what your website should include, survey your existing customers. Whether you send out an email asking for their input, or mention it casually while making their coffee, it’s the best way to get the insight you need – people love to be involved and share their opinions.

  1. Search engine optimization

Once you have a website, it’s vital that it can actually be found by search engines. After all, 89 percent of consumers use search engines to research a product, service or business before making a decision. To take advantage of this, you need to make sure to look at search engine optimization (SEO) for your website.

In case you’re not completely sure what SEO means, how it works, or why it’s important, here’s a quick rundown:

What: The purpose of SEO is to make it easy for search engines to find your website and list it in their ‘organic’ (as opposed to ‘paid’) results.

Why: People tend to trust search engines, so websites that appear high in results pages are more likely to receive traffic.

How: Using search-engine friendly methods to improve your website.

Who: Everyone – anyone who has information that people want to find on the internet should be using SEO techniques.

When: All the time – SEO is an ongoing process. It’s important to monitor the information on your website and make sure it’s current and correct. Search engines also love new content, which is why starting a blog can do wonders for your SEO.

Where: Major search engines include Google, Yahoo and Bing. They connect people all over the world to the content they desire, from products to services to information.

The Beginner’s Guide to SEO by Moz and Google’s Search Engine Optimization Starter Guide both give a fantastic overview of the basics and will help you optimize your website.

  1. Social media

Social media is an important part of your online presence that improves your chances of generating additional revenue and building customer loyalty. It allows customers, potential customers and other interested parties to engage easily via a channel that plays an important role in their everyday lives.

Although not every social media channel will be relevant to each business, it’s definitely worth looking into your options. For example, Facebook and Twitter will serve a purpose for almost any business – it’s a great place to post news, tips, photos and videos and ask and answer questions.

In addition to Facebook and Twitter, you might find Instagram, Google+, LinkedIn, YouTube, Pinterest, Tumblr, FourSquare helpful. Make sure to research available channels and find out if they will work for you. Instagram, for example, is a photo-sharing network, so it works wonderfully for businesses selling ‘beautiful’ products such as jewelry, food or housewares. It’s important to consider your target demographic – Instagram has around 130–150 million users, over two-thirds of which are women between the ages of 18 and 35. With Instagram, you’ll also need to keep a smartphone handy to properly access your account and engage with your audience.

Once you’ve decided which social media channels to use, get a clear idea of the kind of content you can share. The more compelling and engaging your material is, the more likely your followers will like, comment and share your posts. Engagement is key to promoting your brand – not only will it make you more appealing to existing customers, the more positive social activity that goes on, the higher the chance is that their friends will be exposed to your brand and intrigued by what you have to offer.

When they do this, they’re engaging with your brand and their networks (friends, family, colleagues) are seeing that engagement and may be prompted to check you out for their own needs.

 

Source: written by Lucy Godwin for Duct Tape Marketing

The Basics of Branding

Branding is one of the most important aspects of any business, large or small, retail or B2B. An effective brand strategy gives you a major edge in increasingly competitive markets. But what exactly does “branding” mean? How does it affect a small business like yours?

branding

Simply put, your brand is your promise to your customer. It tells them what they can expect from your products and services, and it differentiates your offering from your competitors’. Your brand is derived from who you are, who you want to be and who people perceive you to be.

Are you the innovative maverick in your industry? Or the experienced, reliable one? Is your product the high-cost, high-quality option, or the low-cost, high-value option? You can’t be both, and you can’t be all things to all people. Who you are should be based to some extent on who your target customers want and need you to be.

The foundation of your brand is your logo. Your website, packaging and promotional materials–all of which should integrate your logo–communicate your brand.

Brand Strategy & Equity

Your brand strategy is how, what, where, when and to whom you plan on communicating and delivering on your brand messages. Where you advertise is part of your brand strategy. Your distribution channels are also part of your brand strategy. And what you communicate visually and verbally are part of your brand strategy, too.

Consistent, strategic branding leads to a strong brand equity, which means the added value brought to your company’s products or services that allows you to charge more for your brand than what identical, unbranded products command. The most obvious example of this is Coke vs. a generic soda. Because Coca-Cola has built a powerful brand equity, it can charge more for its product–and customers will pay that higher price.

The added value intrinsic to brand equity frequently comes in the form of perceived quality or emotional attachment. For example, Nike associates its products with star athletes, hoping customers will transfer their emotional attachment from the athlete to the product. For Nike, it’s not just the shoe’s features that sell the shoe.

Defining Your Brand

Defining your brand is like a journey of business self-discovery. It can be difficult, time-consuming and uncomfortable. It requires, at the very least, that you answer the questions below:

  • What is your company’s mission?
  • What are the benefits and features of your products or services?
  • What do your customers and prospects already think of your company?
  • What qualities do you want them to associate with your company?

Do your research. Learn the needs, habits and desires of your current and prospective customers. And don’t rely on what you think they think. Know what they think.

Because defining your brand and developing a brand strategy can be complex, consider leveraging the expertise of a nonprofit small-business advisory group or a Small Business Development Center .

Once you’ve defined your brand, how do you get the word out? Here are a few simple, time-tested tips:

  • Get a great logo. Place it everywhere.
  • Write down your brand messaging. What are the key messages you want to communicate about your brand? Every employee should be aware of your brand attributes.
  • Integrate your brand. Branding extends to every aspect of your business–how you answer your phones, what you or your salespeople wear on sales calls, your e-mail signature, everything.
  • Create a “voice” for your company that reflects your brand. This voice should be applied to all written communication and incorporated in the visual imagery of all materials, online and off. Is your brand friendly? Be conversational. Is it ritzy? Be more formal. You get the gist.
  • Develop a tagline. Write a memorable, meaningful and concise statement that captures the essence of your brand.
  • Design templates and create brand standards for your marketing materials. Use the same color scheme, logo placement, look and feel throughout. You don’t need to be fancy, just consistent.
  • Be true to your brand. Customers won’t return to you–or refer you to someone else–if you don’t deliver on your brand promise.
  • Be consistent. I placed this point last only because it involves all of the above and is the most important tip I can give you. If you can’t do this, your attempts at establishing a brand will fail.

By John Williams for Entrepreneur.com

Don’t Make These 3 Social Media Mistakes

by Simon Reynolds

The buzz about the importance of social media is at crazy levels.

It seems everyone is obsessed with the desire to build out a powerful social media platform and campaign.

Certainly social media marketing is important. But it sure ain’t new. For centuries word of mouth has been both the most effective and the cheapest way to get customers, and social media is just a digital version of word of mouth marketing.

Now of course, it’s incredibly easy to put up a Facebook page, write a few posts and actually get some followers. This ease of creation and swift results has led to a passion for social media that is at massive levels and is increasing at an exponential pace.

But be careful. As the map makers of 500 hundred years ago used to say, ‘There be dragons here’.

There are three big mistakes that the majority of entrepreneurs are making with their social media that can endanger not just your company’s marketing, but the future profits of your organization.

Mistake 1: Spending Too Much Time Posting and Monitoring

Social media can be a huge time suck for entrepreneurs. Firstly, it’s always moving- every few hours someone has commented, complained or replied to what you’ve posted. This ever changing nature of social media is very,very seductive. It makes you feel like you have to always respond, always react. Pretty soon you’ve lost 90 minutes of your day handling it.

That’s a huge error. Social media is in the end just another marketing medium. It’s not the holy grail. It’s not a magic solution to your revenue woes. It’s merely another channel by which you can make contact with customers, deepen your relationship with them and hopefully inspire them to buy from you.

It’s important you don’t spend too much time on it. I suggest no more than 20 minutes each work day. Putting a time limit on your posting and monitoring will force you to be efficient and also leave enough time for you to work on the other vital marketing areas. Like email, print, your brochures, finessing your sales presentation,testing online ads, training sales staff, making your website more responsive, etc.

Spending any more time than that is in my view giving social media too much importance, for the reason that i’ll address next.

Mistake 2: Expecting Social Media to Generate Revenue

The world is littered with companies that went under while they were working on getting their sales from social media marketing.

Now don’t get me wrong: social media can be a highly potent marketing weapon. But here’s the cold, hard reality: I mentor many, many entrepreneurs and virtually none of them have been able to get people on their social media lists to actually write them checks.

Sure they’ll follow you, like you, even comment enthusiastically about how wonderful your products are, but getting them to buy from you as a direct result of what you post on social media is damn hard.

Now I’m generalising of course. I also work with entrepreneurs that are making a fortune from social media. But take it from me, they are a very small minority. Almost all entrepreneurs will find it way easier getting people to pay them money using other media, like email, telephone marketing,online ads, direct mail and website design.

So I advocate doing social media, for sure, just don’t expect your revenue to rise greatly because you are.

Mistake 3: Not Moving Your Followers To Your Email List

Here’s what most entrepreneurs don’t realize: If you have say 5000 people following you on your social media, you don’t own that list. Facebook, Pinterest or Linked In do. That can be dangerous.Your list may get deleted because of their error or as a result of cyber crime (it’s increasing at a worrying rate). Or the owners of those social media sites may change their policies, and start limiting your ability to post. (This has already happened. Did you know that when you do a business post on Facebook now, often only around 16% of your followers see it?). So leaving those precious names on social media sites is very risky indeed.

But there’s another reason you need to move them onto your own email list. Research shows that when you try to sell something to people who are on your email list, you usually get a better response than when you make the same offer on social media. There are all sorts of possible reasons why, but the fact is that email marketing is usually much more effective. How do you move them onto your email list? Just post a free report or offer some benefit to your followers – if they click on a link and leave their email address. If your offer is strong, you’ll get loads of people doing so, and voila, your email list will grow. Do this several times a quarter, and you’ll have the email addresses of many of your social media followers.

So in conclusion, yes social media is a fabulous marketing medium – it’s cheap, it’s fast and it’s highly engaging. But unless you avoid making the three mistakes mentioned above, it could also end up being a huge waste of time.

How to Build a Meaningful Career

by Amy Gallo

Everyone aspires to have purpose or meaning in their career but how do you actually do that? What practical steps can you take today or this month to make sure you’re not just toiling away at your desk but you’re doing something you genuinely care about?

What the Experts Say
Unfortunately, most of us don’t know how to make the job decisions that lead to satisfaction. Nathaniel Koloc, the CEO of ReWork, which provides recruiting services to companies that offer purposeful work, says that’s because no one really ever teaches us how: “Very few parents, teachers, and mentors urge us to think about this or give us mental models to use,” he says. “We tend to only get nibbles of what meaningful work is in our twenties.” As a result, we often pick jobs for the wrong reasons, says Karen Dillon, coauthor of How Will You Measure Your Life. “We look for things that we’re proud to talk about at a cocktail party or look good on a resume.” But rarely are those the things that translate to satisfaction. Here are principles you can follow to find a career — and a specific job —­ you don’t just enjoy, but love.

Know what “meaningful” means to you
Am I respected by my colleagues? Am I being challenged? Am I growing? Do I believe in the mission? “These are the things that are going to make the difference between being ok with your job and being truly happy,” says Dillon. But “meaningful” means something different for each individual. “Don’t just look to obvious things, like salary, title, or prestige of the company,” says Dillon. Koloc identifies four categories to consider:

Legacy
This is about the concrete outcomes of your work. What do you want to achieve? Sure, you may spend a lot of your day responding to emails or attending meetings — most jobs entail at least some of that ­— but what evidence do you want of your work? You might find it rewarding to advance the math skills of 80 students in one year, or build six desalination plants over the course of your career. This is often a question of how close to the frontlines you want to be. Some people want to help sick people directly while others aspire to help pass the Affordable Care Act.

Mastery
These are the strengths that you want to improve. For example, if you enjoy connecting with people, you could use that skill to be a psychologist or a marketer. Similarly, if you’re a strong writer, you could use that skill to write fiction or copy for advertisements. The key is that you are using these strengths in a way that you find rewarding. “Being good at something you don’t enjoy doesn’t count,” says Koloc. “It has to be something you love to do.”

Freedom
This is about the salary, benefits, and flexibility you need to live the life you want. For some people, this may mean a high paycheck that allows you to take exotic vacations. For others, it could be the freedom to work when and where you choose. Here you need to know the lifestyle you want and ask whether your job is helping you fulfill that.

Alignment
This last category covers the culture and values of the place you work. This is not the same as mission, warns Koloc, but is about whether you feel like you belong. What are the beliefs and priorities of the company and the people you work with? How do people treat each other? Do they hug? Have lunch together? “It’s important to enjoy spending time with your colleagues and your manager,” says Dillon.

The content of these categories will vary by person. Dillon suggests making a list of all the things you value, and then prioritizing them. This list will help guide your decisions and can be used to evaluate specific opportunities like a new assignment in your current role, a job at a different company, or a new career path.

Form hypotheses
If you’re unsure what matters most to you, think through a given day or week at work. Ask yourself: what made me most happy? What did I find most frustrating? Then, Koloc suggests, come up with a few hypotheses about what is most meaningful to you. I want a job where I create something that people can use everyday. I want a job that allows me enough flexibility to pick up my kids from school. I want a job where I’m directly interacting with people in need. “Be careful not to overcorrect for a particularly bad job experience,” says Dillon. “When you have a micromanaging boss, for example, it’s easy to think that your biggest priority is to work for a manager who doesn’t smother you, but if you seek out that one thing, you may end up being unhappy for slightly different reasons.”

Run experiments
Once you’ve nailed down your hypotheses, it’s time to test them. There are a variety of ways to do this. First, you can try things out within an existing job. “You might try to convince your manager to let you work remotely for a month,” he says. Take on a new assignment that allows you to try out new skills. “Look for opportunities to enhance your job. Sign up for a new cross-company initiative or propose taking something off your boss’s plate,” suggests Dillon. “I’ve never known many managers to say no to people offering to help out.” If you can’t run experiments within the constraints of your job, look outside the company. “Join industry groups, go to conferences, volunteer for a nonprofit,” advises Dillon. The third way to test your hypotheses is to have conversations. Find people who are doing what you think you want to do and ask them lots of questions. Listen carefully and critically, so that you don’t just hear what you want to hear.

Form a personal board of directors

Don’t go it alone. Work with others to kick the tires on your hypotheses and share the results of your experiments. Invite four or five people to serve as your informal board of directors. You might tell them, “I’m doing some exploring about what I want from work and I’d love to talk with you on occasion to get your feedback on my direction.” Include any mentors and trusted professional peers. And if your manager is receptive include her as well. “Not all bosses may be supportive,” says Dillon, “but if you have a manager who you can bounce career ideas off of, take advantage of that.

There are a few people you shouldn’t include, says Koloc. “Family members can be tough,” says Koloc. “Spouses, for example, need to know what you’re doing but they may not be best positioned to help you figure it out.” And don’t be afraid to dig deep into your past, Dillon says: “I have people who I haven’t talked with in years who call me when they’re considering a job change or a career transition.” Check in with this board of directors on a regular basis to update them on your thinking and ask for input.

Think long term
This work shouldn’t just be in service of getting your next job. “Career design is different than a job-search strategy,” says Koloc, and the question you should be asking yourself, he advises, is not “What job do I want?” but “What life do I want?” Think about where you want to be in five, ten, 20 years. Of course, you have to answer more immediate questions about what you want in your current job or your next, but do so only in the context of your longer, larger career goals.

When you’re already deep into a career
Even mid-career professionals can and do make big changes. “Your ability to turn the ship is no different but the speed at which you turn it is going to be slower,” says Koloc.“If you’re 35 and have two kids, it’s going to take longer to explore.” There’s good news though, he says: “You have more clues as to what you want and enjoy.” The important thing is to not feel stuck. “You may feel locked into a job, a higher salary, a higher title because you have more responsibilities, like a mortgage and kids, and sure, you may need to take fewer risks, but you don’t want to settle for a job or career you’re not happy with,” says Dillon.

Buckle down on your finances
One of the main reasons people give for staying in a job or career they don’t love is money. “Take steps to give yourself a financial cushion and a little psychological freedom,” says Dillon. Make a budget if you don’t have one. Look for ways to lower the amount of money you need each month: downsize your house, move to one car, and be more disciplined about saving. Having a financial buffer will make it more likely that when you find something meaningful, you’ll be able to act on it.

Make the time
“I have yet to meet anybody who wouldn’t benefit from setting aside dedicated time to sit down and think about what they want from work,” says Koloc. Schedule a time in your calendar to reflect on your career. Even if it’s just an hour every other week, you’re going to make some progress. “Sometimes just thinking about it will get the ball rolling, and then, often, the change becomes inevitable,” says Koloc.

Principles to Remember

Do:

  • Make a prioritized list of what a meaningful career would look like to you
  • Invite four or five people to serve as a board of advisors as you explore what you want
  • Experiment with different elements of a job that you’d want either in your current job, outside work, or by talking with people

Don’t:

  • Focus on your next role — think about what you want from work over the long term
  • Let the stage of your career hold you back — even those deep into their careers can make changes
  • Neglect your finances so that when you want to make a change, you don’t feel able to

Case study #1: Turn to those who know you
Deirdre Coyle had reached a point in her career where she knew she needed a change. She has been the SVP of communications at the Initiative for a Competitive Inner City for eight years and while she believed in the mission of the nonprofit, she just couldn’t picture herself in the role forever. “There was something else out there for me. I have high expectations of myself and wanted to push forward into new territory,” she says.

Still, the question was: What did she want to do instead? “I started by thinking options through and vetting ideas in my mind.” Did she want to go back to school? Did she want to pursue her passion for landscape architecture? Did she want to take her one-of-a-kind fashion accessory business to the next level?

She also got advice from a small group of people she knew well. “There are about six people in my life that I consider my advisors. They come from all different aspects of my life. They don’t know me equally well but they know important parts of me and I cherish their opinions,” she explains. With their help she eliminated a lot of options, such as starting her own business. While being an entrepreneur greatly appealed to her she was afraid of ruining the pleasure she took in her hobby by turning it into a job.

Deirdre told her boss that she was getting ready to move on. “We had worked very well together for close to ten years and I felt like I owed him that respect,” she explains. Soon after that conversation, a former executive director of the ICIC came to her and her boss with an opportunity: she wanted to start a company that would encourage entrepreneurism and job growth in Middle Eastern countries, starting with Saudi Arabia. “Even though the idea wasn’t yet fully formed, I knew right away that this is what I wanted to do,” Deirdre says. It fit many of the criteria she was looking for — it allowed her to travel internationally, work in emerging markets and build an organization from the ground up. She became the co-founder of the AllWorld Network and while “there are certainly moments of angst,” she is thrilled to be doing a job she loves.

Case study #2: Get your finances in order
Tim Groves liked his job at a civil litigation law firm. But he didn’t love it. “I didn’t get up in the morning excited to go to work,” he says. “And I knew if I continued on that career path, it wasn’t going to get better either.” He was interested in mission-driven work so he started by talking to people in the nonprofit world and signed up for automated job listings. “I volunteered and served on boards, and I had friends and relatives who worked in nonprofits so I had an inkling of what I could do with a law degree in a nonprofit setting,” he says.

He also did a few informational interviews with people he respected who had made similar transitions. He was careful in how he set up these conversations. “I told people that I wasn’t miserable at my current job, but that I was looking around and would love their perspective,” he explains. “I also mentioned that I had a mortgage and a family so didn’t want to broadcast this.”

To broaden his network, he became more active in his volunteer and board work and upped the pro bono law work he was doing. “I put myself in contact with people who could connect me to an opportunity or who could vouch for me when an opportunity came up.”

Tim and his wife had supported each other through several career transitions but this time, as he says, “the stakes were higher because we had kids, school tuitions, and college looming on the horizon.” Given that Tim was going to almost certainly take a pay cut, he and his wife came up with a budget and the lowest salary figure he could take. To give themselves more financial flexibility, they downsized and moved from a one-family to a two-family house where rent from tenants could help pay the mortgage.

About a year and a half after starting the process, Tim took a job as a development officer at the Rhode Island Foundation. “The process wasn’t always easy but I feel good about where I ended up,” he says.