Three Steps to Honing Your Message

Developing powerful messaging can be one of the toughest challenges businesses face in marketing and branding. You do so much, and you know it all, but how do you convey your organization’s value to your audience? How do you tell them the 1,000 reasons to work with you in under 50 words?

Many businesses focus on the wrong things to try and connect with their audience, leaving them no closer to their goal and with a whole lot of wasted time and effort on their hands. Gone are the days of people caring how old your business is; gone are the days of long stuffy bios and dense, technical language.

Effective messaging doesn’t have to be a mystery. It simply takes the right approach to get to the message you’re looking for.

Where to start

When hiring someone outside your organization to help with marketing, a common tactic is to research your top three competitors and base your messaging on what they learned. They’re hoping to find out what you’re up against, what is successful for others in your industry niche, and where the bar is set.

But this strategy is deeply flawed. It starts on the premise that your competitors know what they’re doing, which very often they don’t. (They probably looked at competitors’ websites, too!)

The second problem with this approach is that it only reflects what has already been done and will only work to ensure your messaging becomes a copycat of theirs, undermining your unique perspective and value. Essentially, it puts another company’s words in your mouth—and your competitor’s at that!

So, instead of looking back at the lagging indicator created by what other organizations have done in the past, start by looking to the future. Your future. Ask yourself where your organization is now and envision where you want to go. Your message should reflect where you are now and project the future with you and your client in it.

Define your audience

Before you write anything, start by defining your audience. Identify who your ideal customer is and what brings them to you. What are their worries, challenges, and pain points, and why are you the organization to help them overcome those things?

Once you’ve identified the face of your audience and you’ve identified their challenges, envision their future. Envision how their future will be improved through what you can offer them. Create a message that allows them to see a better version of their future selves. Work to reflect their pain points back to them in the form of their aspirations, enabled by you.

Simplify

One of the quickest ways to lose someone’s attention is to overload them with information. Read through your message from the perspective of your ideal customer. Are you providing them with information they don’t need at the moment? Are you getting wordy about your excellent organization and all the fantastic things you do?

While it may make you feel good, it only makes it harder for your ideal customer to get what they need. People are busy. They have a lot to do and little time to do it, and they want the easiest, most transparent, most obvious solution. They shouldn’t have to expend effort to understand what you do or know the obvious next step. If they do, they’ll leave and probably never come back.

Your message should only give people precisely what they need at that moment. No more, no less.

Keep working at it

As your business develops and grows, so should your messaging. Consider it a living, breathing part of your organization that needs to be fed and allowed to evolve.

Don’t hold your messaging hostage to old, stuffy language just because that’s the way you’ve always done it. Keep coming back to it, evaluating its effectiveness, and giving it room to change. It takes serious effort, but with every inch of messaging effort you put in, your customers receive a mile in value.

 

 

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How to Get Online Reviews for Your Business

We all check reviews out, whether it’s for a restaurant, a new car purchase, or a medical professional. We know how valuable they are when we read them. But are you taking the time to cultivate that type of experience for your customers? Creating that advantage for your business?

More reviews mean better SEO, more social credibility, and more usable data for your company to source. But how do companies get reviews? Making a one-time push for reviews is common. Brick and mortar retail stores and restaurants solicit reviews after a grand opening or event. Online companies will get reviews after rolling out a new product or service.

Having current customer reviews makes a huge difference as most people consider reviews that are a few months old irrelevant. So, what are some ways your company can keep the reviews consistently rolling in?

Reach out

A great way to get customers to leave reviews is by directly asking them. The challenge here is doing so in the right way, at the right time. Here are some ideas.

  • Set up an automated email asking for a customer review. Schedule it to go out a week or so after a customer has made a purchase. Make sure you give them enough time to receive and use the product before scheduling the email to send.
  • Set up a short survey to send out right after you complete a webinar or event, asking people to share their experiences. Remember, when asking for a review, being prompt is key.
  • Send out a social media post asking for loyal customers to give back. This can be done in a friendly, personal tone that encourages people who care about your company to come forward and show their support. Be sure to express your gratitude and make it cheerful—you don’t want to appear desperate!
  • Asking one-to-one is also a great way to get reviews. Consider having a wrap-up meeting after completing a client project. Use this time to ask them about their experience, make sure they have everything they need, and request a review. This is a great practice when your business offers services that require in-person or video meetings. People respond well to being asked personally—happy customers want to give back!

Make it easy

Optimize the pathways your customers can take to leave reviews by creating multiple avenues for them to do so. The easier it is to leave a review, the more likely people will take the time to leave you one. You can do this by:

  • Creating easy, direct routes from your website to pages like Facebook, Yelp, and Google Review by adding badges to your menu bar and footer
  • Making sure you add a link asking for a review to your email signature
  • Adding a link for reviews to your product pages and confirmation emails

What to avoid

An important rule to getting reviews: Never pay anyone for a positive review. It is not only illegal but can be very obvious to anyone reading them. When customers come across fake reviews, they immediately lose trust in the company. If your company is getting fake positive reviews, it will backfire and undermine your social credibility and legitimacy.

Ready, set, go!

Make sure you keep your eyes out for new ways of engaging customers and bringing in reviews—the internet is a constantly changing platform and staying on top of current trends is critical to maintaining relevance. Any way you look at it, reviews will help your company get visibility, credibility, and informative, usable data.

Talk with your team, create a plan for asking for reviews, and then stick with it! Consistent reviews can give your business the social proof you need to boost both SEO and credibility. And unlike so many other activities, it doesn’t require a line in your budget!

 

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Three Books to Help You Jumpstart Your Brand

Creating a relevant, strong, and trusted brand is one of the most fundamental aspects of developing a successful company. Many entrepreneurs find that it’s one of the hardest things to accomplish. Not because it’s unattainable, but because it takes long-term planning, strategy, and self-education, all of which require quite a lot of time. (Oh, and the belief that it’s worth the time.)

One of the reasons creating a successful brand is so difficult is that it’s confusing. Messaging, platforms, brand development—it’s all been rapidly changing for the better part of the last two decades. Keeping up is hard work! But if you put aside the technology and the data and all the fancy new platforms, there are some strategies any business can tap into that are evergreen and will last the lifetime of your business.

Aside from hiring a marketing company to help you, there are an overwhelming amount of resources out there for business leaders to tap into to help them grow and develop their brand. To help, we’ve narrowed it down to three books that will help you cover all the most important bases.

The Truth About Creating Brands People Love

Authors: Brian D. Till and Donna Heckler

This book is excellent for busy leaders who don’t have more than a handful of minutes a day to spend reading. The book is broken up into 51 short chapters, each teaching one specific lesson about marketing. Take your highlighter and go chapter by chapter, allowing each truth to sink in throughout your day. From positioning to strategy, Till and Heckler do a stellar job breaking down common marketing misconceptions and righting the common marketing ‘wrongs’ companies make every day. This book will help you avoid common mistakes and enable you to develop a better understanding of what marketing is and isn’t.

Start With Why

Author: Simon Sinek

Since his famous TED Talk, Sinek has been a household name among business leaders for the last decade—and for good reason. Start with Why breaks down one of the most fundamentally impactful messaging strategies out there. Detailing the same method that skyrocketed Apple into one of the leading brands of the 21st century and enabled Martin Luther King Jr. to move an entire generation, every entrepreneur should read this book—not just people interested in marketing their business. It will help you frame your brand and your vision and enable you to authentically connect with your audience in a lasting and impactful way.

Building A Story Brand

Author: Donald Miller

This bestseller offers a handy toolset designed to help you position your brand in a way that connects with the dreams and goals of your audience. In today’s world, the customer has never been more important, and many brands struggle to understand how to position themselves to their audience. This book takes you chapter-by-chapter, step-by-step, through a series of exercises to help you clarify your message into something your customers will want to listen to. It may even help you better understand your organization. When developing your website, your marketing materials—even your sales pitches, this book turns the traditional advertising storyline on its head in a refreshingly clear and effective way.

Take matters into your own hands 

Don’t let the feeling of overwhelm stop you from attacking the problem of your brand. And don’t let fear of the unknown stop you from learning something new. You don’t have to spend thousands of dollars on a marketing organization to develop a successful brand. In fact, doing the learning yourself will help you develop a greater understanding of your brand, empowering you to take it farther than any external organization has the power to do. The information is at your fingertips; all you have to do is open the book.

 

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What Marketing Stats Can Teach Us About Human Behavior

Whether you’re in HR, marketing, sales, the C-Suite, or customer service, you rely on people. You need them to listen, to purchase, to follow, to keep coming back to you. And while your audience might be different, people are generally the same.

As the world of marketing has boomed over the past decade, so has its reliance on data and its ability to derive knowledge from it. Some data is too specific, but some data speaks on a grander scale, tying into modern human behavior and sentiment that we can use to inform just about any part of business.

Stat: After a bad experience, 88% of visitors won’t return to a website.

We live in a world of abundance. Customers have seemingly endless choices when it comes to where they spend their money and time. If they don’t like their experience with you, they can return to Google and click the next link in their search.

What can this teach us? That you have to prioritize your customer’s experience—even if your product is the best on the market.

If you work in HR, this correlates to an employee’s onboarding or offboarding experience. If they have a bad one, their entire perception of the organization can be tainted. If you’re in sales, think about the experience your prospects have with you. Are you calling them once and then forgetting about them? Or are you only focusing on trying to sell them the product of the highest value despite whether it’s right for them?

Ultimately, your audience’s experience as they are introduced to you, your website, your product, or your organization, sets the tone for your entire relationship. If you’re not making your best effort to give them a quality experience, they won’t be inclined to stay for long.

Stat: Nearly 100% of first impressions of a website are based on aesthetics and design.

While we’ve all heard the saying “don’t judge a book by its cover,” these days, that’s how people decide whether you care about them. If you haven’t updated your sales presentation since 2015, no one will take you seriously because they won’t feel taken seriously. If your employee handbook is ten pages of technical language without text breaks, no one will take the time to read it. If you show up to your job interview in an old t-shirt and ripped jeans, they aren’t going to give you a chance.

The way you present your information, value proposition, business, or company values is just as important as the information you’re trying to convey.

Stat: Every dollar invested in user experience results in an ROI of up to $100.

Investing your time, energy, and money into the experience of your audience pays off. While this may be common sense, it’s still one of the most impactful concepts you can learn. If your business sells products online, have you taken the time to walk in your customers’ shoes? Do you know what it’s like to purchase something from your own site?

If you’re preparing for a sales meeting, do you research your lead? Do you know what their pain points are, what their values are, what their goals are? Have you role-played your presentation?

As an HR leader, have you reviewed your employee benefits usage? Do you know what their experience is during open enrollment? Have you tried to seek out ways to improve it?

The success of your venture rests upon the ease of engagement for your audience. The easier it is for them to say yes, make the purchase, and understand what you’re telling them, the more often you’re going to succeed.

The underlying truth

Ultimately, each of these statistics tells us one fundamental truth: it’s not about you—it’s about your audience. Suppose your first concern is impressing your audience with your experience or making sure they buy the most profitable product or hit all the boxes on your compliance checklist. In that case, you’re setting yourself up for building low-quality relationships that won’t last.

If, however, you’re concerned with what they see when they first meet you, if you’re careful about how they receive the information you’re communicating, and if you’re bent on making it as easy as humanly possible to engage with you, then you’re setting yourself up for success. It’s that simple.

 

 

Content provided by Q4iNetwork and partners

Photo by rawpixel

Five Easy Ways to Improve Your Website

These days, businesses have more options than ever when it comes to building their website. And while there are great DIY tools you can use to build a website at a low cost, if you’re not trained in design, you might be doing yourself more harm than good. Whether you like it or not, the design of your website will play a significant role in your visitors’ perception of your company and brand.

If you’re building your website yourself, pay attention to these five design concepts to keep your visitors engaged.

1. Make some room

One common mistake companies make is squeezing a ton of information into a small amount of space. While you may think that information is essential and useful to your customer, if it doesn’t have room to breathe on the page, no one will spend the time to read it. Designers refer to this useful little concept as “white space.”

White space is essentially the negative space surrounding anything on a page (or piece of content). It functions as a mental “break” for viewers, creating a visual pause between pieces of information. If you don’t leave enough white space on your page, the information you present will quickly become overwhelming and cumbersome to consume.

This goes for text, images, videos, or any combination of content. Be sure you’re leaving your viewers’ brains “room to breathe” on your site. Create this white space by breaking up your site into sections, or strips of content, using different solid color backgrounds to create visual separation between sections. For further explanation and examples, check out this beginner’s guide to understanding whitespace.

2. Cut. It. Out.

A challenge many companies have is identifying what information should be on the site. Business owners often love talking about their company and tend to feel the need to offer up way too much information than necessary for a website.

The content on your site should be:

  • Concise
  • Clear
  • To the point
  • High level (not in-depth and detailed)

You don’t want your site to tell your customers everything they might ever need to know about your business. You do want your website to intrigue your customers enough to want to start a conversation with you.

Do yourself a favor and keep your About Us page short, keep the subject of your messaging centered around your customer, and keep your explanation of your products and services as Simple. As. Possible.

3. Content, content, content

When it comes to grabbing and holding the attention of your visitors, it helps to do your research. Different types of content have different strengths and functions, so knowing how and where to offer varying types of content can be extremely helpful.

Integrating video content, visual graphics, and written content throughout your site will help visitors consume information and expand their understanding and connection to your brand and product/services. If you’ve got a particularly important piece of information you want to share, consider putting it into a short video to help it stand out from the rest of the information on your site.

4. Simplify the journey

An easy way to turn people away from your site is to overwhelm them with options. To simplify and clarify their journey through your site, avoid having multiple pop-ups on one page, or too many CTAs in one space. Two is fine, but offering three or more directions for a visitor to go may overwhelm and frustrate them.

Keep your message obvious. Think about what it is you want your readers to do and then stick to that. If a visitor has to exit out of multiple pop-ups, alerts, and chatbots to get to the information on your page, you’re only getting in your own way.

5. Optimize

Making sure your site works well on mobile devices should be a top priority. For the past few years, more than half of all web traffic happens on mobile devices – more than half of all your website visitors are viewing your website on their phones! If your site isn’t optimized to function properly on a mobile device, you’re setting yourself up for readers who won’t get the information you want to share and likely won’t come back.

Take your time, and do it right

75% of people will judge the credibility of your company based on your website’s design. It’s the first real interaction you’ll have with the majority of your customers. If you want that experience to be a good one, then take the time to build a site that represents the brand you love. It’s worth it.

 

Photo by goodluz

Content provided by Q4iNetwork and partners

 

More Than a Logo: How a Strong and Consistent Brand Impacts Your Entire Organization

Often, when the topic of branding comes up, thoughts of logos, colors, and fonts preclude all else. But your brand is so much more than that! Your voice, messaging, company beliefs and values, vision, and purpose come together to create a cohesive story that impacts everything from external marketing to internal company culture.

How your brand affects how others perceive you

A strong brand will do wonders for your marketing. By incorporating your voice, values, and purpose into your messaging, you begin to establish your brand as a consistent presence in your industry or market. This consistency distinguishes your company from your competitors and gives you a leg up in the marketplace. You’ll begin to build trust with your prospects earlier in the buyer’s journey, establish deep lines of customer loyalty, and increase your company’s credibility.

But your brand doesn’t just affect your audience. In fact, its effects on your organization are far more significant and much more important than anything seen from the outside.

How your brand affects your perception of yourself

When you have a cohesive brand, your whole organization is improved from the inside out. You’ll find employees more aligned, teams working together more efficiently, and productivity increased.

Cross-departmental communication can often be a pain point for larger organizations. With a strong brand, though, consistency is easier to achieve, and communication becomes streamlined through the natural guide created by the values and vision that make up your brand.

Clearly defined company values can even improve your recruiting and hiring process! Your brand provides candidates the ability to determine if they will feel good within your company. When you find someone who aligns with your brand and seems like they could play a vital role in achieving your company’s vision, you’ll find that they’ll be a good fit for your culture, and the transition will be natural.

Refining from the inside out

If you’ve never taken your organization through a branding process, it takes a while. It’s not a simple checklist or a short survey. It will entail philosophic conversations around the very existence of your business and might bring up uncomfortable topics that need to be addressed. But the time and energy you pour into it will result in a business and brand that you and your team can proudly stand by and celebrate. Your audience will see the confidence and pride from miles away and will inexorably be drawn towards you.

 

 

Photo by everydayplus

Content provided by Q4iNetwork and partners

How to Create a Marketing Strategy When You’re Not a Marketer

While most small businesses invest in marketing, they rarely have a marketing team on staff. Or even have one person whose entire job is dedicated to marketing for the company. Usually, marketing falls to one or two employees whose primary job allows them the small amount of time they need to send out social media posts and emails every so often.

Often, those who take on the marketing role are volunteers genuinely interested in making marketing work for their company. But without training, it can be challenging to make the most out of the little time they have to market effectively.

While sending out weekly posts on social media or monthly emails is a great start, without a coordinated effort, you’re going to lose a real opportunity to grow your online brand.

The good news is, you don’t need to be highly trained in marketing to increase the effectiveness of your efforts. With just a little added time and effort, you can make the work you’re already doing reach a whole lot farther.

Time to plan

To make the most out of your efforts, take a step back and consider your marketing from a distance. Start by breaking up your business year into sections. The sections will be different depending on your industry. For retailers, you’ll break it down by season. For insurance agencies, by quarter, and so on.

Then, take a look at your business’s activities during each section. Identify any special events, meaningful goals, or company initiatives relevant to each section. These will be the centerpiece for your section themes.

For reference, Memorial Day weekend will be a theme centerpiece for most retail stores, as there are always large sales and increased traffic during this time. For insurance agencies, fourth quarter will center around open enrollment and employer-employee communications.

If there is a month or section that doesn’t have a specific event or theme, you can have fun and come up with the theme yourself! Choose something about your company you want your customers to know about.

  • Do you offer any special services or products you think could use some extra promotion?
  • Do you feel your audience has a clear idea of your company culture and brand image?
  • How well does your audience understand the services you offer?
  • Is your audience comprised of everyone who would benefit from your services? Or could you expand your communication to more people?

Break it down

Using your chosen theme, come up with a monthly, weekly, and daily communication strategy that ties into it. Consider the different types of content your company can offer.

If your company has social media, email lists, and a website, each of those platforms supports varying types of content.

Break up your content into hierarchies. Start by identifying the main event/theme/product. Then consider tiers of supporting content:

  • Daily or weekly communications: These will look like social posts or short emails.
  • Content offers: These are educational content offers that support your central theme, such as checklists, eBooks, or blogs).
  • Events: If you want (or have the capacity) to take it a step further, consider offering a special opportunity like a webinar, seminar, or pop-up shop.

Plan out how often each piece of content gets pushed out, and on what platforms. Consider how they support and play off each other. Think of it as a puzzle! Each piece plays its part to create one cohesive picture.

Tying it together 

By creating content themes that tie each piece of your content together, you’ll start to build awareness among your audience of each topic and increase the effectiveness of your message.

It’s common sense, really. The more coordinated your efforts, the easier it will be for your audience to follow along and consume the message you’re communicating.

The time it takes to create a yearly marketing strategy is well worth the effort. By picking a message and sticking with it, you’re also making it easier on yourself to come up with new, relevant content. Whether you’re marketing for your company because you’re trained, or because someone needed to do it and you stepped up, strategy is the number-one tool you want in your belt.

 

Content provided by Q4iNetwork and partners

Photo by ammentorp

Navigating Marketing During a Crisis: Q&A

In the wake of COVID-19, marketers are scrambling to figure out how to talk to their audience.  You need to continue marketing, but how do you do so in a way that feels right during a time when everyone is scared, nothing is certain, and people aren’t buying? 

If you’re feeling at a loss and unsure how to continue talking to your audience, you’re not alone. We’ve compiled answers to some common questions companies are struggling with.  

Should we drop our regular content plan altogether to focus solely on COVID-19? 

The short answer is no. People are overwhelmed already. Continuing to post your regular content may help your audience preserve a much needed sense of normalcy. There are hundreds (if not thousands) of articles and resources shared every day that pertain to COVID-19. The front pages of every major news organization are covered with COVIDrelated content. So posting about it just to feel like your content seems relevant isn’t the most helpful approach.  

However, if you have resources that are unique to your business/industry and will be specifically helpful to your audience, then absolutely share them.  

The key here is to make sure you’re providing something useful to your audience.  

I need to be marketing a product/service, but I don’t want to sound insensitive.  

This can be a tricky one because it all depends on your ability to navigate tone through writing. The best thing you can do is be honest and authentic. People will pick up on anything that feels like you’re taking advantage of the crisis.  

Be direct. If referring to the crisis feels relevant and necessary, speak to the specific needs and anxieties of your audience. Acknowledge them and explain how your product can help them. 

If your product has nothing to do with COVID, adding a simple statement at the end of your copy may be all you need. Here are some examples:  

  • Stay safe! 
  • Take care of yourself! 
  • Stay healthy! 
  • Sending our wishes for your health during this time! 

We had an event scheduled that we had to cancel. How do we go about telling our audience?  

First, before you decide to scrap the whole event, consider whether it’s possible to convert your event into a virtual experience.  

  • Can you livestream your event? 
  • Can you host it on a video meeting platform like Zoom? 
  • If you can’t hold the whole event online, how about setting up a virtual round-table discussion based on the theme of your event?
  • If you were going to share materials, can you share them on your website? 
  • If it was a networking event, how can you connect your attendees virtually?  

There are numerous platforms you can use to help you convert your event to a virtual experience. Make sure you’re not losing out on the opportunities they offer before you decide to cancel.  

If, however, you need to cancel the entire thing, you’re not alone. Communicate changes clearly and quickly with your audience. Try not to spend too long talking about the circumstances that are forcing you to cancel. They don’t need to know that you don’t have the team resources or virtual hosting capabilities. Keep your explanation simple and direct. Here’s an example: “We regret to inform you that due to the circumstances created by the pandemic, we are canceling our event.”  

Give them the necessary information they need about what to do, and be sure to end on a positive message. Your audience will understand. The whole world is adjusting their lives around the virus, so it’s not going to shock or deeply disappoint them if you need to cancel.  

Be intentional. 

Above all, be intentional. Make sure your message is honest and direct, and your audience will appreciate it. Be ready to make adjustments as circumstances change. Keep an ear to the ground as you listen to what your community, competitors, and audience are sayingWe are in this together, and we can all support each other through the many challenges if we stay connected and open.  

 

Content provided by Q4iNetwork and partners

Photo by Andrey Alyukhin

Think Brand Doesn’t Play a Role in the Hiring Process? Think Again.

In today’s world of online expansion, many aspects of business success have changed dramatically, influencing the way companies compete with each other, connect with their customers, and even make sales. Companies have had to adjust their priorities, setting their online presence and customer experience at a much higher bar. It isn’t far-fetched to say that brand image is a major source of life blood to a company, playing a massive role in attracting new customers and filling the pipeline. 

These days, customers have access to an immense amount of information about your brand, from reviews of products to price comparisons between your competitors. People trust each other’s online reviews nearly as much as they trust personal recommendations. More than half of consumers will only purchase from a company with a star rating of four or more. It’s up to your business to stay ahead of the curve and ensure that what’s being said about it online is beneficial to the company.   

There are countless B2B services based on this idea. Marketing agencies, website developers, customer outreach teams, and data analysists all working to build and maintain a healthy brand image. But there’s a whole part of building a brand image that isn’t talked about nearly enoughemployee and candidate experience.  

Everyone matters 

It goes without saying that what people say about you online matters. But when was the last time you checked to see how candidatefriendly your hiring processes are? Have you ever looked up employee reviews of your company on sites like Glassdoor? What about internal surveys to gauge the employee onboarding experience  

Unfortunately, candidates are often the last priority on the long list of people companies are worried about. But this is a mistake, especially now when the employment rate is at a record high. Companies have to compete with each other for talent and stand out as a preferred place of employment to potential candidates. And anyone who comes in contact with your company has the potential to influence your brand image through online reviews. 

So how do you make sure your candidates (whether or not they become employees) walk away feeling good about their experience with your company? 

Call them back 

A common mistake that many businesses make is failing to communicate with candidates. Making sure to call them back, whether or not they’re getting an interview or moving to the next step in the application process, isn’t just polite, it’s respectful.  

If someone has taken the time out of their day to apply to work at your company, they deserve the two minutes it will take to call and acknowledge their effort. Remember, everyone who interacts with your company should have a positive experience. They may be a future customer, or reviewer, or even a candidate for a different position. Treating them with respect by taking the time to call them back and tell them where they are in the process is paramount to ensuring they walk away having had a good experience.  

Be transparent 

An informed candidate is a higher quality candidate. Think about it. If a candidate has to jump through hoops to submit their resumeor doesn’t know if the position is offering the salary they need, or can’t easily find the job description, they’re going to be frustrated at best. 

Being transparent about everything from the application process to the starting salary and benefits allows candidates to ensure they aren’t wasting their time applying for a job they don’t want, or that isn’t right for them. If you provide them with clear expectations around how they will move through the process, you remove confusion and increase ease. Its better for them, and you.

Be Timely  

Just because someone is applying to work for you doesn’t mean you should prioritize your time over theirs. More often than not, candidates are already employed and have to take time out of their workday to come to an interview. So it’s costing them money and/or time to arrive for an interview. Make sure your interview process reflects your understanding of the time and effort needed on their end. Don’t show up late or cancel last minute.   

Additionally, companies often make the mistake of thinking their candidates are only in competition with each other, when in fact, your company is in competition for the best candidate. Don’t make the mistake of waiting too long before reaching out to them. Or you’ll lose them to a company that beat you to them. Plus, there’s nothing worse than to be left hanging. Let them know whether or not they got the job or are being moved to the next round. Even if you call to let them know they didn’t make the cut, at least they won’t be left wondering.  

Take the opportunity 

Every time your company interacts with someone, you have an opportunity to make a positive impact on your brand image. Each person who walks away from your company is a potential brand ambassador, customer, or reviewer. If your company is really about creating a positive experience, then every interaction, internal and external, should play into those values.  

 

Content provided by Q4iNetwork and partners

Photo by grki

The Webinar: A Lesson Learned

Last week I did something professionals do all the time. I attended a webinar. It was advertised by an HR company I follow and the ad was effective and engaging. It highlighted three HR professionals who would be hosting the webinar and the core topics they were covering.  

It seemed like it was set up to be an extremely informative webinar where I could learn from HR leaders about core challenges and concepts relevant to HR professionals around the world today. So it’s not surprising that I was expecting to walk away from the webinar with new ideas and direction for how to approach the challenges facing HR.   

Sadly, I was both mistaken and disappointed. What could have been a great opportunity to learn, turned into what I can only describe as listening in on a loose and freeflowing conversation between all three hosts that was not only hard to track, but that lacked clear direction. Although the conversation was lively, it covered very basic topics that I come across every day in my reading but without the structure you’d get in an article.  

R.E.S.P.E.C.T 

You can have as many brilliant and successful people on your webinar (or presentation) as you’d like, but if you skip over what’s needed to prepare, you’re going to disappoint your audience.  

If you plan to host a webinar, presentation, panel, or anything that has people taking time out of their day to sit down and listen to you, you’ve got to take steps to prepare. Respect the time your audience has dedicated to listening to you, hoping to learning something.  

Define your goal 

You may have a great topic for your presentation, but if you don’t define your goalyou’re going to have a hard time untangling your topic into a clear story that your listeners can follow. This is especially true if you’re presenting with multiple people.  

You may all be experienced leaders with informed opinions, but without sitting down and defining your goal as a group, everyone is going to come to the presentation with a different goal in mind. This lack of structure is guaranteed to come across in your conversation.  

So sit down, and hash it out. Figure out what you want your listeners to walk away with. Is it a list of actionables they can use in their practice? Or a new way of thinking about an old topic? Or a better understanding of the drivers behind an issue? Whatever it is, figure it out beforehand and structure your presentation to support your goals.  

Visuals, visuals, visuals 

It may seem like a lot of work, but a webinar without visuals is like a foreign movie without subtitles. You may be able to follow along with the plot, but you’re going to lose a lot of the subtext at the very least.  

It takes work to capture and maintain people’s attention. You aren’t going to get it just by putting a few slides together with bright pictures and the questions you’ll be talking about on them.  

Break down your talking points. Go back to your goals and trace them into what you want people to take away from your presentation. Then write it down and put it on their screen. This will help your listeners process what you’re talking about and it will help you to stay on track as you talk. Listeners truly appreciate useful and informative slides. I have yet to attend a webinar and not had someone ask if the slides will be available after the presentation.   

Practice! 

Ok, you may be rolling your eyes at this one, but it can’t be stressed enough. I felt as though I was listening in on a phone conversation between three people who wanted to chat about their jobs. They interrupted one another, went on tangents, and it was hard to follow them 

Practice the presentation all the way through multiple times. Ask yourself at the end of each run-through what you think your audience walked away with. Ask yourself if it was clear and concise or if you went on unnecessary tangents that should be cut out of the actual presentation.  

This is a great opportunity for you to parse away any extra material that might clog the flow of the presentation and muddy your talking points and common goal. Figure out who is going to talk and when so you’re not interrupting each other and can step in for support if someone strays off topic.  

Even if it’s just you presenting, practice will help you clarify in your mind how you want to talk about the subject and what parts of it matter the most. When it is clear for the presenters, it’s clear for the listeners.   

If you’re going to ask people to take time out of their day to listen to you, you owe it to them (and you) to come prepared. You know you’ve got something worth talking about, otherwise you wouldn’t be there.  So show it! Treat your presentation like the valuable offer it is. Your audience will thank you, I promise.  

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Photo by Teeramet Thanomkiat