Rethink Your Marketing Plan

marketing_planThe key to success in business is very complicated.  You need a lot of different factors to work together at the same time like a product or service that customers not only want or need, but are willing to pay for, a back room that allows you to deliver the experience economically and on time, and you need to collect more revenue than your costs.

One of the main components of creating demand is a strong marketing plan.  At this point, I know you are thinking- “No kidding”.  But it is amazing how difficult it is to achieve a strong plan.  When going through your plan, you need to ask yourself the following questions:

1.       What is our content marketing strategy?  According to Michael Brenner, you need to change how you reach, engage and convert new buyers by establishing yourself as the expert, not just as a purveyor of a product or service.  Branding takes a back seat to credibility.

2.       What is your out of home strategy?  How are you reaching customers when they are out and about to get conversions?  Social and digital media are great ways to get intercepts at the time of potential purchase.  Restaurants tweeting specials at 11:30 is a great way to sway a lunch decision. 

3.       Do you love your current clients?  One of the largest segments of business that you ignore is your current users.  This is especially true in healthcare.  One of their core indices is new patients.  However, it is much easier to grow revenue by supplying current patients with more services- whether they are inside of an individual office or health system.  Make sure you engage the people who are already used to working with you.  They will buy more.

4.       Am I ready when my potential clients are ready to buy?  Again I will pick on health care providers.  One of the main purposes of Urgent Care Centers is to help you avoid emergency rooms.  However, almost every urgent care closes at 9 pm.  When are emergency rooms the busiest- you guessed it, from 10 pm to 4 am. 

5.       Am I aligning myself with companies that make sense?  Budweiser sponsoring sporting events or beauty products on daytime TV make perfect sense, logical combinations.  A billboard for orthopedic surgeons on a bridge probably not so much.  That money could sponsor entire youth sports leagues where kids are getting hurt every day or a senior center where people are always talking about their maladies.

Again nothing that I post is rocket science.  But take the time to really think about how to engage your clients and potential clients.  You will find that many of your expenditures are wasted effort because the target is not able or willing to buy your message when you are delivering it.

Managing Your Team- And Yourself

InterviewLots of articles at this time of the year are related time management.  It seems like the only time of the year managing your time is a problem is now.  Or maybe it is the only time that you have the time to think about it.  That is a huge issue if that is the case. 

How you spend your day is one of the key differences in being a leader versus simply a manager.  By no means is my method or schedule the only way to achieve the balance of getting your work done versus helping your team achieve their goals, but it is steeped in management guru theory from people like Steven Covey and Peter Drucker.

1.       Handle your business at the very beginning and end of your days.  If you work a nine-hour day, I would suggest the first and last 45 minutes of the day to handle your work.  Focus on planning and reviewing what happened, what you need to do as immediate next steps and challenges that you see doing that.  Respond/send your emails that need a little thought including meeting notes and status updates. (1:30)

2.       Touch base with your team before getting into the bulk of your day.  I have the habit of having a five-minute chat with every team member every day.  “What’s hot?” and “How can I help?” were my only questions.  It was amazing how things branched from there.  It also enabled me to know their schedules and subsequently, what challenges may lie ahead for me.  If you have 6 direct reports, budget one hour. (1:00)

3.       Focus your meetings to occur during the core work hours of 10-3.  In most companies, five hours a day in meetings is more than enough time.  Use the down time between meetings to return “Yes/No” emails, eat lunch, and urgent voicemails.  Don’t let the firefighting distract you, it only draws out the meetings. (5:00)

4.       Managing up is a skill that many leaders forget.  Take the next block of time to check in with your immediate boss and other key stakeholders in your team’s success.  This should be quick- 45 minutes’ tops.  You should not have time for gossip and other time wasters- and neither should they.  I usually split this time right before and after my meeting blocks. (:45)

5.       The last 45 minutes use as flex time.  Is there a colleague that you wanted to touch base with?  A report that needs analysis?  Whatever you cannot get to in your normal day.  If you don’t have any pressing issues, use the time to plan.  It is amazing what an uninterrupted time to think does for your progress.

If you are like me and put in many hours over 9 per day, I would look at expanding all of your time segments other than #3.  Five hours in meetings is brutal and any longer will reduce your capacity to lead.  If you bring work home, limit it to FYI type stuff- reports that you need to be familiar with, not own, quick response emails/texts/VM.  They tend to not interrupt your family time- you know, the real reason why you work.


When to Hire New Employees

InterviewNew Year, New Beginnings.  For almost 20% of the workforce, this is really true as January is one of the top months for new job starts.  With over 87% of the workforce changing jobs within 5 years, that is a lot of turnover.  While it seems to be easy to leave jobs, how do you know if the job is worth replacing or if you need to add staff?

The old adage that people find work to keep themselves busy sometimes clouds what is really necessary versus people filling the day.  Social media also hinders your ability as a manager to see how “hard” a person is actually working.  Group texts, posts, tweets, etc. sap countless hours out of your team’s work day.  Throw in meetings, conference calls, and forget about it!

When we look at increasing our staff, we look at three things:

1.       Is our current staff actually taxed?  As I mentioned above, putting in 40-45 hours a week but spending 15 hours goofing off may mean that we need to change the person doing the job, not splitting the job.  However, if an A Level performer is struggling to keep her work flow going, then you may need to look at getting her help.

2.       Will the hire either reduce costs or increase revenue?  At the end of the day, every employee needs to fall into one of those buckets.  If an AR manager brings a wealth of experience in reducing the amount of outstanding invoices, then that may be a great hire.  However, adding a person to AR because there is a backlog may not be.

3.       Can you outsource the needs and receive better service?  Before hiring an HR manager for a small office, look at the alternatives.  Can a third party company handle the issues that you are typically having?  The third party typically is more cost effective since you are only utilizing them when you need them.  Payroll, sales, creative services, accounting, and marketing are all departments that outsourced vendors tend to work well as they bring lots of experience from different industries to your company.

When I was cutting my teeth as a manager, I was once given some advice that stuck with me.  Top performers always get help.  Middlers need to be mentored to see if they can perform better and lower performers need to leave.  I guess that is why 20% of the workforce moves in January.

Prepare for Your Annual Review

meetingHappy New Year! Hopefully your holiday season was safe and enjoyable, and business year ended up successful. As the calendar turns, a few things always occur- you make resolutions, your company will talk about rebirth and rejuvenation in the New Year, and you will have your annual review. If you are like most people, all three bring groans and disappointment instead of excitement.

However, if you follow some simple steps, you can not only make your annual review tolerable, but turn it into a tool for pushing your career track.

  1. Do Your Research. Review the copy of your previous review and become intimate with the details. Know your perceived deficiencies, strengths, and goals. Believe it or not, almost no one reads their previous annual review before their new one including the reviewing manager. Get a leg up by knowing what was already said about you.
  2.  Be Prepared. List the results of your goals- both the challenges that caused you to miss them and the actions that caused you to achieve them. Write out the corrective action that you took to improve your deficiencies. Be prepared to talk about how you grew as a person and as an employee in the previous year. Point out achievements in a missed goal, but make sure there is no blame assigned for missing a target. For instance, if you only hit 95% of your sales goal, but booked 125%, focus on the bookings, not operations inability to ship it.
  3.  Be Proactive. Based on your last year achievements, your corporate climate, career goals, etc., have your version of your annual goals ready to discuss. Make them challenging, but attainable. It is amazing how if you present your goals to your manager, it makes it easier for you to meet those goals. Know possible areas for improvement and corrective action.

By taking the time to be prepared and proactive, you will have an opportunity to lead the review rather than react to it. This is one of the few opportunities during your year where you can lay your cards on the table and shape how you are judged. However far too many people leave their review in the hands of their boss. Take control of the situation, it will lead to a better increase (maybe not this year, but in the future), more attainable goals with better buy in from you, and ultimately, a better career path.