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Written by Rena Shawver, L&I Return to Work Partnerships
When a horse reared up behind her, all Leah could do was hope for the best as the 1,200-pound animal came down on top of her. The vet tech knew instantly her back was broken. After multiple surgeries to repair several breaks and a long recovery period, Leah had recovered physically as much as possible. Among other things, her “new normal” meant no heavy lifting. She realized her permanent physical restrictions would not allow her to work with large animals again. But being a veterinarian technician was the only work she knew; and she loved her job.
Today, Leah is working full-time as a vet tech with a new employer at a small animal emergency clinic. Although she was hired for her skill, as a certified preferred worker through the Washington State Department of Labor & Industries (L&I), her employment comes with financial incentives that will benefit both her and her employer.
Supporting workers after recovery
Like Leah, some workers are not able to go back to their old jobs because of permanent medical restrictions caused by a workplace injury or illness. They’ve healed but are limited from doing certain tasks.
L&I certifies these workers through the Preferred Worker Program and provides financial incentives and premium relief to eligible employers who create medically-appropriate, long-term jobs for preferred workers.
Major changes to the Preferred Worker Program
Last January, the Washington State Legislature expanded the Preferred Worker Program to allow all employers in Washington State, including the employer of injury and self-insured employers, the opportunity to hire a preferred worker.
Under the rules of the expanded program, employers will receive the following:
- Financial protection against subsequent claims,
- Premium relief,
- Bonus payment equal to 10% of the worker’s wages or $10,000, whichever is less, for continuous employment, and
- Reimbursement for:
- 50% of the base wages paid to the preferred worker, up to $10,000.
- Some of the cost of tools, clothing, and equipment the worker needs to do the job.
Why offer incentives to support jobs?
Many employers at heart want to help their workers after an injury, but find making that transition from the job of injury to a new job that meets the worker’s physical or mental restrictions a hardship financially.
Preferred Worker Program incentives help the worker and employer keep their relationship, giving them extra support and guidance through a transition period often with the help of a vocational counselor.
Other return-to-work incentives
Stay at Work is another return-to-work incentive program. L&I reimburses eligible employers for some of their costs when they provide temporary, light-duty jobs for injured workers while they heal. Employers covered through the workers’ compensation State Fund may qualify for financial incentives from both the Stay at Work Program and the Preferred Worker Program.
Hiring employers could also qualify for additional financial help to modify equipment at worksites that will help preferred workers complete certain work-related tasks.
Using return-to-work programs help lower an employers’ workers’ compensation costs both in the short and long-term.
Learn more about the Preferred Worker Program
Already, about 100 employers have contacted L&I with interest in hiring some of the 1,500 certified preferred workers who are ready to work and are supported by the financial incentives of the Preferred Worker Program.
To learn more, sign up for one of L&I’s Preferred Worker workshops by going to www.Lni.wa.gov/PreferredWorker. Or contact the Preferred Worker Program by phone at 1-800-845-2634 or by email at PrefWorkerProg@Lni.wa.gov to ask how to apply for preferred worker benefits.
Hear more about Leah’s story by watching this video.
Written by guest blogger Corianne Burton, SEO Specialist with N2Q Consulting
“Make the customer number one.” “The customer is always right.” “Customer service is priority numero uno.”
These platitudes may seem tired, but they speak a long-known marketing truth. However, foundational marketing often makes the mistake of simply denying the fact that the customer comes first.
Thinking you know better than your audience, seeing consumers as numbers and not people, and failing to give customers their due attention are seemingly trite mantras from days of old… but they’ll come back to haunt you. If you become tone deaf to these truths, you’ll pay in lost traffic, missed prospects and opportunities, and even your loyal, long-time customers going a new direction. The good news is that you can still take back the success of your marketing campaigns. Just make sure to address these key foundational errors that many marketing firms make.
1. Thinking You Have All the Answers
…Or thinking that you need to have them. Marketing is tricky; it’s an ever-changing field of consumer attraction. While you may have great ideas, keeping current and creative requires humility. You must step back from all the good that you know (or, believe you should know) in order to listen. To learn. To ask questions.
Stop relying on the tried and not-so-true marketing methods. They only maintain the status quo and – as you can tell by our name – this is something we don’t like. To say no to the quo and move into the great beyond, you must listen to experts in the field, ask questions and get creative with marketing efforts that work well for your company and with its goals. If you need help, ask. After all, holding fast to the idea of being a jack-of-all-trades may hurt your endgame.
2. Believing One Size-Fits-All
Furthermore, making assumptions and following stock strategies reaps problems for campaigns and your client relationships. In other words, marketing proposed to “fit everyone” likely fits no one. Failing to listen to your audience or understand the goals of your company lead to lackluster marketing campaigns.
Focus on a segmented, targeted audience rather than a broad one. Taking into account the habits, triggers, interests, goals and hopes of prospects allows you to tailor your marketing to better meet their needs. Plus, matching these details to the goals, products and services of your company helps build relationships. This considerate attention leads to loyal customers.
3. Avoiding the Social Scene
You may desire to remain aloof from the crowd (whether digital or real world), but being antisocial in marketing efforts hurts your business. While social media proves vital to success (for those companies whose customers engage with it), half-hearted efforts produce full failures. Yes, nothing is better than a poorly run campaign.
To take advantage of social media, make sure you’re attending to Facebook or blog comments and questions. Build relationships rather than broadcasting or promoting yourself through these platforms. You’ll be rewarded by knowing more about your audience. The truth is consumers want to know that you see who they are beyond a mere notch in your sales belt.
4. Not Taking Advantage of Analytics
In the activity of a week, assessing the impact of marketing campaigns by “feel” proves difficult. Often this critical assessment gets set aside for lead chasing and advertising. Yet, marketing 101 teaches that tracking and measuring results is crucial for knowing what is working.
Fortunately, a host of analytics offer help in determining your return on investment. Google Analytics, social media analytics such as Facebook insights, and email campaign data give feedback to let you know where adjustments need to be made for greater success. Use the figures and switch up campaigns by concentrating your efforts on what works.
5. Failing to Draft a Strategy
Digital marketing and technology bring a flurry of business boosting options to your door step. It’s exciting! Unfortunately, these opportunities also prove overwhelming, even paralyzing to your marketing efforts. Or, if you eagerly jump in with both feet wherever you can, you run the risk of landing in the wrong place.
Marketing objectives and goals culminating in a strategy are vital. Identify where you want to go and the tactics on how to get there become clearer. Plus, assessing each marketing component to ensure it leads to the same destination proves easier. Your analytics will more accurately measure what you intend to when your direction is set.
Whether you go DIY or hire a creative agency to get your efforts flowing, addressing the details of your marketing campaign proves critical to your success. Your audience does come first. The customer really is numero uno.
Humble yourself to listen to your prospects, customers, industry experts and even your competition to adopt a marketing strategy which tailor fits your company and demographic. Engage with your audience to build loyal relationships. Be sure to use analytics to measure and adjust as needed.
Doing nothing out of fear or everything out of eagerness yields poor marketing results. Money and time are precious commodities poured into these efforts. Use them wisely by developing an intentional marketing campaign that avoids these top marketing mistakes.
To speak with a beyond the status quo marketing firm for help with any marketing efforts that overwhelm or allude you, reach out to N2Q today. We love to see you succeed.
The close of one year and the start of the next brings many things. For most individuals and businesses a new year means a new start, providing a clean slate with which to move forward. While this may not be technically correct – after all, the clock striking midnight on New Year’s Eve doesn’t erase previous performance – the mindset of change and starting over can be refreshing, especially for small businesses with big goals.
Whether 2016 was a year overflowing with success or wrought with challenges, the coming of 2017 is the perfect time to refresh your brand, fine tune your focus, and get started on the right foot. A brand refresh can have great potential, reminding you of your vision, ensuring consistency, and encouraging growth rather than stagnation. Here’s what you can do to ensure 2017 is your best year yet.
Connect With Your Audience
Most companies choose to leave outsiders in the dark when it comes to business strategy. For many, this is a logical decision, preventing competitors from overtaking your ability to gain ground. However, this approach can have the opposite effect with customers, putting up walls that create unnecessary distance.
The beginning of the year is a perfect time to inspire some loyalty and emotional ties. Consider posting a blog summarizing your activity and successes in 2016 and thanking your customers and fans for all that they do for you. When shared on social media, these posts provide the kind of information that stimulates a connection between you and your customers.
Target a New Market
If you’re a small company or a new business, you may not be reaching everyone who can make use of your products and services. In order to maximize potential, use the start of a new year as inspiration to grow and improve.
Take time with your marketing team, and review who you are targeting, what you are targeting, and where the majority of your sales are coming from. With this information, you can draw conclusions regarding what areas you can approach more aggressively, and which audiences likely aren’t receiving the attention they deserve.
Even the most successful companies in the world can feel the pain of pinching pennies. To improve your odds of financial success in the new year, it’s important to take a deep dive into your expense reports.
Start from the top down and evaluate each category that drives your spending. Sure, you may not be able to do anything about monthly rent, but making minor energy saving changes, like limiting printing to must-have reports, can really add up over the course of the year. Look for unnecessary expenses that your team can do without that won’t compromise employee morale, and make some cuts for the new year.
Try New Marketing Techniques
How you market your products and services can be a great opportunity for growth and change. With so many options from social media marketing to email newsletters, there’s bound to be a strong strategy you’ve never considered.
Instead of doing the same things day after day, take a look at what your marketing campaigns may be lacking. Are you tracking your success with Google Analytics? Are you focusing solely on Twitter instead of taking advantage of Facebook? By taking the time to identify shortcomings, you can find a great way to move forward in the new year.
Brainstorm New Ideas
When the status quo is positive, it’s easy to fall into a predictable rhythm every year. However, there’s no good way to grow without incorporating changes. The start of another year is the perfect time to start brainstorming new ideas, whether that means putting more focus into research and development, or simply improving community relations with volunteer activities.
Consider putting out a suggestion box and soliciting ideas from your team. Take at least one option offered, whether functional or recreational, and implement it company-wide. This strategy not only shows that you listen to feedback, but can also demonstrate a willingness to keep moving forward.
A brand refresh offers many benefits, providing a new perspective on your corporate identity and an opportunity to build connections with current and prospective customers alike. If you’d like to do more than simply exist in the new year, this can be your chance to revitalize your brand and move your business forward. By changing up marketing techniques, building emotional connections, and launching new products or services, you help ensure that 2017 will be a smashing success.
As they say, ignorance is bliss.
Unfortunately, this generally doesn’t apply to digital marketing. In fact, ignorance may be as far from bliss as possible, especially if your social media accounts aren’t performing to your standards.
For those with no way to track website performance and metrics, it can be easy to believe that you’re hitting all of your benchmarks, driving new traffic, and harvesting adequate leads. Overlooking weak spots and missing pain points completely is also possible without a good way to objectively evaluate how your social media accounts are functioning.
Luckily, there’s a better way. Google Analytics is a free tool widely used by novice webmasters and seasoned veterans alike. It offers an easy way to evaluate traffic sources and determine the effectiveness of social media campaigns. Providing insight into the many facets of site functionality, Google Analytics can unwrap your website’s performance, uncovering the truth about what your digital marketing is able to accomplish.
Curious? Here’s how you can make the most of your social media stats:
Track Traffic Sources
Many marketers erroneously believe that as long as website traffic stays steady, everything must be fine. In reality, this couldn’t be further from the truth. Without a solid understanding of where your customers are coming from and how they’re getting to you, it’s very challenging to get a full picture of consumer web behavior. Google Analytics is extremely valuable in this arena, breaking down traffic from exact point of origin.
Under the category Real Time there is a section called Traffic Sources. From here you will be able to see exactly where traffic to your website is originating, a function that silos results based on individual traffic sources. Many of these sources should be expected; most marketers see many results from Google and direct access, as well as social media sites, blog posts, and more. Take the time to go through your most popular sources, and determine which are social media sites and see how these sites rank overall.
Set Goals with Campaigns
In order to truly hone in on how your social media marketing campaigns are working, Google Analytics lets users set up goals. This feature allows you to narrow your results, tracking specific features regarding how consumers perform once they reach your site.
Under the Admin tab, click Goals, and then select New Goal. In the fields provided, enter the data you wish to track, including pages visited or viewing duration. Choose a name that summarizes what you’d like to accomplish, and select Destination as the type. Then, in the destination field, enter the tail end of the URL you’d like to track. For example, if you’d like to see how many Twitter followers make a purchase, you can set this field to reflect your Thank You page. Users can also add monetary value tracking or incorporate a sequence of pages through the Funnel feature.
For most marketers, conversions are an end goal. Fortunately, Google Analytics makes tracking conversions easy, providing access to one-click insight by going to the Acquisitions menu, selecting All Traffic, and then choosing Channels. From here, users can enable the Social view to see exactly how social media sites break down.
The report generated here will include many valuable stats, including goal conversion rates, goal completions, and goal value, providing a great overview into how your goals are performing for each social site. Users can also utilize the Assisted Conversions report, accessed under the Conversions menu under Multi-Channel Funnels. This report maps which leads were originally, but maybe not specifically, a result of social media marketing. For example, a customer may have found your site through social media, clicked away, and then used Google to find your page again days later in order to make a purchase.
Google Analytics is a great start, but numbers alone can’t tell you how to improve. Instead, you need to learn from what information you have available, using it to develop insights that can be applied to boost your social performance. Devise questions that relate to social behaviors and see how your customers are fitting into the mold. What social media sites have the highest visits? Do Facebook leads have a longer page duration? Is your traffic from Twitter viewing more pages on average?
Formulating these questions can help you get to the root of your social media successes and failures, especially when you are running specific campaigns. For example, if visitors from Twitter are spending more time on your landing page but don’t see a reason to click through, perhaps your marketing materials are misleading.
For marketers at all stages of the game, access to analytics can be the demarcation between growth potential and slowing sales. Google Analytics can provide many of the insights you need to improve performance, putting game-changing resources right at your fingertips.
A Facebook page is a must-have for any small business these days. Your customers and potential customers are as likely to look for you on Facebook as they are to seek out your own web page. Having a presence on Facebook allows you to build relationships with customers in a unique way.
Facebook makes it easy for businesses to get started on the platform. Let’s walk through what’s involved in setting up your own Facebook business page.
Setting Up Your Facebook Page
When you create a new business page on Facebook, start out by choosing the correct category. You can label yourself as a local business, a company or organization, a product or brand, an artist or public figure, another type of entertainment, or a cause or community organization.
Depending on the choice you make, Facebook asks you for more information. For example, if you say you’re a local business, you then provide information including your hours of operation and parking locations.
You also need to provide your company’s name. If you’re commonly known by more than one name (“Howie’s Bar and Grill” vs. “Howie’s,” for instance), decide how you want to appear on Facebook. It’s possible to change your name once you’ve published your Facebook page, but it’s far from simple to do.
Facebook then walks you through a template to get all the information needed for your page. Be ready with a compelling description of your business and a link to your website. You also need a profile picture, which might be your logo, and a cover photo that exemplifies your business.
Add any admins to the page to help you edit and manage it. Don’t choose admins on a whim, as any admin has full control over the page. You don’t want to add someone who might later decide to lock you out of the page.
You can also add a call-to-action button to your Facebook Page. This button lets your visitors take a simple action just by clicking. You might want to use this button to link to your e-commerce website or to place a phone call to your store.
Facebook makes it easy to handle all these steps through its interface. If you prefer, you can also customize your Facebook page. If you have the tech skills, you can use iframes to build a custom page, or you can opt for a third-party app like Pagemodo.
Publishing Your Page
Once your page is designed, it’s tempting to publish it right away. Hold off, though! Keep your profile private until your page is truly ready for the grand unveiling.
Now is the time to add content to your page. Use a variety of types of posts as you populate your page. Add text status updates to point out deals and exciting news. Captioned links are helpful to get visitors over to your website or e-commerce page. Many Facebook users are captivated by photo or video content, so start creating and adding visuals to your page. If you’re planning a big sale or a special event at your store, add it as an event to Facebook so users can click to say whether they’re attending.
If you have big announcements to make, pin them to the top of your Facebook page so any visitor sees them first. If you already have a blog tied to your business, use the Networked Blogs app to link your blog to your Facebook page. This app will republish any of your blog posts to your Facebook page, making it easy for your fans and customers to gather in one spot to see what you’re thinking.
Turn on Facebook Messaging so your customers can contact you directly via Facebook. This easy customer service connection lets your customers and potential customers know that you’re listening to them and helps build rapport with your brand.
Once you have enough content on your page to make your business look well-established and to give a casual visitor something appealing to scroll through, you’re ready to publish your page. As soon as you set your page to Public, start inviting people you know on Facebook to Like the page. This drives activity toward your page.
As you move forward with your Facebook business page, you can continue to post intriguing content that attracts more visitors and turns them into customers.
Looking to give your year-end sales a boost this holiday season? Want to create a captivating, seasonal marketing campaign that’s both fun and effective?
Here’s seven simple ways to market your business this December:
Deck the Halls
Whether you have a retail outlet, an office space, or an industrial location, a little time and effort spent decorating your space can help make your business more noticeable, and more inviting. With just a few sprigs of evergreen branches, a couple strands of garland and some colorful LED lights, you can easily add a welcoming, festive vibe to your shop, office, or store.
Consider partnering with a local charity this year to create a campaign that benefits people in your community.
Contact your local toy bank, children’s hospital, or other non-profit group of your choice to discuss how your business can help. For example, you could run a promotion that gives customers a discount off a product or service in exchange for an unwrapped toy to be donated to a non-profit, or food items that can be given to a food bank.
Despite the wide-spread use of smart phones and other tech gadgets, many people still love to use a simple, old-fashioned calendar to keep track of their day-to-day appointments.
A customized calendar that’s branded with your business name and logo makes the perfect customer appreciation gift at this time of year and it’s a great way to keep your company front-and-center for your clients throughout the year.
Decorate Your Social Media Pages
If you maintain a Facebook, Twitter, or other social media accounts for your business, it’s easy to decorate your pages with holiday-themed backgrounds, fonts and photos. You can even update your pages with a new design each day to keep your audience engaged!
Offer Holiday Promotions
Regardless of what type of business you operate, chances are good that your customers and clients will expect to get a deal during the holiday season.
Consider offering a promotion on gift cards (such as buy a $100 card, get 10% off your next purchase), and look for ways to encourage your customers to come back to your business in the new year by creating time-limited deals that are good in the month of January.
Send Real Greeting Cards
Although ‘snail mail’ is on the decline, people still love to receive cards in their mailboxes – after all, a card is better than a bill!
If your company has a mailing list of loyal customers, why not take the time to mail out a personalized, hand-signed greeting card to each one? Sure, it can be a bit time-consuming, but with all the e-mails and digital marketing materials flooding consumers these days, a traditional, old-school holiday card is sure to make a positive impression on the recipient.
Host A Holiday Social
Everyone loves a great party, right?
This year, consider creating a holiday-themed open house as a thank-you to your neighbors, customers, and fellow business owners. Make sure to serve up lots of finger foods and non-alcoholic drinks, and if possible, source your supplies from another local business.
When it comes to making the most of the holiday season, it’s easy to make your business stand out with just a little bit of effort and some creative marketing efforts!
Enjoy your holidays, and have a safe and Happy New Year!
Written by Kirstin Davis, BBB Marketplace Director
The Small Business Administration reports the percentage of self-employed seniors has been steadily on the rise since 2000. The data shows the percentage of individuals 62 years and older who were self-employed increased from 4.2 percent in 1988 to 5.4 percent in 2015. Better Business Bureau knows scammers often target seniors, so it is important senior business owners stay adept to common scams occurring to small businesses. Here are a few tips for small business owners and local nonprofit organizations who have a lot to think about and ways to avoid these common scams.
Internet & Phone
Watch out for ransomware, phishing, URL hustle and spoofing scams. Scammers play on fear, convenience and lack of technical knowledge. BBB receives complaints each year from business owners who have been scammed out of money or important business information by people who know how to speak in business terms.
A business owner or office manager may receive an invoice for a printed or online directory renewal notice. Scammers are counting on the fact that business owners have a lot on their plate and will make these notices appear legitimate, local or industry targeted. Keep a list of directories you are published in and evaluate the values of those directories on an annual basis.
Business owners may receive a box of supplies as either a “gift” or with an invoice included. Scammers are taking the opportunity to see if a busy owner will pay the invoice with no questions asked. If the “gifted” items are sent back, the business may receive a bill for a high percentage restocking fee. Another red flag is a contact describing a “going out of business” sale offering significant discounts on supply items that are misquoted or never arrive at all.
A scammer may over pay for the item or service and then ask for a refund to be sent by wire or cashier’s check. Most likely the form of payment was fraudulent and the scammer is trying to pocket the over payment. The business owner is then out of the product, if sent, and additional revenue.
“Best of” or “Who’s Who” in your industry are great recognition. Business owners want to be sure the award is legitimate and that it isn’t just a way to pay very high prices for plaques to display in your office.
Follow our blog for more consumer protection tips and information on BBB investigations.
It’s that time of year where companies are preparing for the holiday and gift-giving season. Giving and receiving gifts may be enjoyable, but it is important to understand proper workplace etiquette before going shopping.
Better Business Bureau serving the Northwest offers the following tips for gift-giving in the workplace:
Follow Office Policy
Before you do anything check with your manager or human resources department to understand the inner-office gift exchange policy. There might be certain stipulations on what you can and cannot give for gifts. For example, it might be against company policy to give cash or alcohol out during business hours.
Skip Your Boss Unless Its Baked
While it’s tempting to give your boss a gift as a thank you for his leadership, it’s not actually appropriate to give a higher-up a gift. If you are set on giving your manager a gift, opt for baked goods or something homemade that doesn’t cost a great deal. You can also pool your money with co-workers to give a present that’s from the entire department.
Stick to the Agreed Upon Amount
Office gift exchanges usually have a price limit to avoid overspending. Don’t try to impress your colleagues by going over the agreed upon price. Shaming co-workers is not the best way to create office camaraderie. On the other hand, if you cannot afford to participate in any gift exchange, simply bow out. It shouldn’t be a requirement in your company to partake in the festivities. So don’t feel bad if you sit this one out. Again, you can always bake cookies and bring those to your office mates instead!
Avoid the Risqué
Pass on any gifts that come across as sarcastic or vulgar. Even if you know the gift recipient very well, crude gifts have no real place in the office. Stick to something appropriate that compliments the receiver to avoid making anyone feel uncomfortable.
Say Thank You
Mind your manners and be sure to thank the person who took the time to get you a gift. You can do this by either sending a thank you note or by shooting over an email of gratitude.