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Work-Life Balance: What is It and How Do You Achieve It?

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People use the phrase “work-life balance” often, and it’s even become a selling point for companies who want to attract new talent. In this way, the elusive “work-life balance” has in a sense become a benefit of employment, much in the same way that health insurance or vacation days are benefits. But how do you define this phrase, and more importantly, how do you REALLY achieve it?

From our perspective, work-life balance is a moving target, something that cannot be given one definition. We think that it looks different for every person – the difficult part is deciding what it looks like for yourself, and then implementing activities and habits to achieve your own personal balance. This is why it is difficult to quantify, and even more difficult to compare. There are so many variables at play, and below are just a few examples of work-life balance.

Example A: “The Work-IS-Life Balance”

These are often entrepreneurs who are energetic, full of ideas, and LOVE what they do. Perhaps they have grown a business to the point where it “runs itself.” Perhaps they have sold a business and are working on their next venture. Either way, they really like working, and sometimes, they have several businesses that they are working on (and in), and because they love what they do so much, they end up spending the majority of their time working. For them, however, a lot of this work is enjoyable and thus considered free-time activities.

Example B: “Work Hard, Play Hard”

This person works a lot, and is always on top of their work. They probably at least like what they do, if not love it, and so they don’t mind spending an above average amount of time at work. However, when they do take time for themselves, they make it count. They may go on adventurous vacations where they completely disconnect and immerse themselves in their activities or perhaps they prefer a more relaxing island getaway – either way, they achieve work-life balance by trying to fully immerse themselves in what they are doing, whether it is work or play.

Example C: “Treat Yourself”

When this person leaves work, they leave it completely. They do not believe in overworking and spend a good amount of time on self-care and family activities. They believe that there are more important things to life than working and making money, and they prefer to spend their time on those things. They will not be found in the office on the weekends or evenings, unless it’s required.

Example D: “Balancing Act”

This person works a lot and always seems frazzled. They try to make time for family and friends, but this ends up stressing them out even more because they feel like they’ve neglected their to-do list. They just can’t seem to catch up. One of the main problems this person faces is not balance, per-se, but time management. Perhaps if they could learn how to manage their schedule a bit better and use their time more wisely, their work-life balance would be more harmonious and they wouldn’t feel so frazzled.

These are just a few archetypes that we’ve noticed over the years. What does your work-life balance look like?

There’s No Such Thing as a Brand-less Business

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A new online retailer wants to make a splash in the business world by offering a range of nondescript everyday products for a mere $3. The name of the company is Brandless. (You can read the story here.) It’s an interesting idea, and we wish the entrepreneurs well, but we hope the moniker doesn’t confuse anyone about what a constitutes a brand. Apparently, we’re also not the only ones to cast a skeptical eye at the name of this new enterprise.

Upon reading about the of the new company in the Wall Street Journal, Donald J. Boudreaux, Professor of Economics at George Mason University penned a “letter to the editor.” He wrote:

“Regardless of its aspirations, a company called “Brandless” has a brand – namely, “Brandless.”  And the goods sold by that company are not generic; they’re branded.  The company’s targeted consumers, who allegedly are put off by brands, might indeed fancy that by buying products from a company named “Brandless” that they are cleverly escaping crass capitalist plots to overcharge for pointless marketing gimmicks.  But these consumers’ understanding of markets is mistaken.”

Professor Boudreaux also points out that whether people continue to buy the $3 products beyond a first purchase depends on the quality of the product being sold—which in concert with the low price—will quickly establish a brand image for both the products and the retailer. (If you’ve ever been to Dollar Tree or Everything’s A Dollar stores you get the idea.)

As Boudreaux indicates, the founders of Brandless are playing on the false understanding that brand equals promotion. They want you to believe the products they sell are foregoing a huge budget for brand marketing and passing the savings along to Brandless customers. It really never works that way but regardless, all brands exist apart from marketing. Ultimately, a company’s image is in the eye of the beholder. Yes, marketing can communicate information about a brand, and it may try to highlight positive perceptions while minimizing the negative. Yet only individuals coming together can say how a brand is regarded. This helps explain the persuasiveness of word-of-mouth advertising; it’s unfiltered honest brand communication, right from the source.

In any event, we all like brands … so much so that we brand everything. (For example, you may have married one specific “brand” of human being.) Recognizable brands save us time in locating and remembering things we like and helping us stay away from things we’d rather avoid. Without brands, every trip to the supermarket would be like a 50-first-dates of trial and error.

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The Six Stages of Super-Client Development

customer relationship business development_newsPicture a great client. He or she will have been buying from you for quite a while. They make purchases on a regular basis. They appreciate the work you do and they respect your expertise. And the best part is that they recommend your business to their friends, family and business associates.

Do you have a lot of clients like this? Do you have any? If you’re short on the number of super-clients in your client base, it may not be a reflection on the value of goods or services you provide. In fact, the opposite could be true. Maybe you put so much effort in being the best at what you do, that you’re neglecting the customer-development stage of your business. After all, you don’t just find great customers hidden like Easter eggs. They must be created—by you. It’s a process that takes planning, dedication and time.

There are six stages to creating a committed client:

  • Create awareness of your brand – Yes, this is basic but we’ve got to start somewhere. Besides, it’s impossible to have more great clients than people who’ve ever heard of your business, so maximize the foundation of your client base through marketing (i.e. PR, social media, digital advertising, direct marketing … etc.). Not every promotional vehicle is effective for every business type and there are a lot of factors to consider (that’s where agencies like Pinstripe Marketing come in!) but you must let people know your company exists, one way or another.
  • Get your target audience interested in your products/services – Congratulations! Some prospective clients have heard of your business! Unfortunately, they have probably heard of your competitors as well. Now you have to help them understand why your products or services are better than those they can get elsewhere. You do this with a consistent brand message based on value propositions to the customer by utilizing marketing vehicles tailored to your business and audience.
  • Do some convincing – After the first couple of stages, you may have landed a few clients, but you want more, don’t you? Now’s the time to back up the value claims you’ve made with blogs, testimonials, case studies and white papers. You might even show off your confidence by inviting customer reviews/feedback on your website or through social media. Such persuasion motivates buying decisions and helps cement the client-business relationship. People who carefully consider a decision before making it become emotionally invested in seeing it turn out well. No one likes to admit to a mistake, so if such a customer has a rare moment of disappointment, they will be less likely to cut and run, allowing you to recover from a minor error.
  • Ensure the purchasing experience is a good one – What would you do if someone concluded their business with you feeling regret, and you knew about it? How could you get them to feel better? Send them a card letting them know you appreciated their business? Maybe inquire as to their ongoing satisfaction with the product or service, or the level of attention they received? Perhaps make sure they know you stand behind their purchase with reasonable support so they stay happy? Do these things with everyone as standard operating procedure, and you’ll combat stray feelings of regret among the few. You’ll also ensure that worry-free clients bond even more tightly with you!
  • Never take them for granted – If you’ve been diligent in developing client relationships through this point, you should be in great shape. In fact, victory is yours if you don’t blow it. Remember those promises to answer concerns and provide appropriate ongoing support? Make sure you’re keeping them. And, in general, stay in touch with friendly cards, surveys, newsletters and specials. Always let existing customers know how important they are to you. (Just think of all the work you’ve put into the relationship already. Don’t let that go to waste now!)
  • Take advantage of their advocacy – They really like you and you really like them. This is where the investment in client development truly pays dividends. Make it easy for great clients to share their enthusiasm by featuring them in testimonials and case studies, onsite reviews and marketing collateral. You might even reward them with a client referral program. (Meanwhile, don’t forget to take a moment to feel earned pride over every super client you have!)

It’s true that not every prospect will require every outlined step to be a buyer; you may be lucky enough to have a few very low-maintenance clients for years and years. Conversely, some people are going to leave you no matter what you do. But If you have a process for turning customers into advocates and stick to it, you will have exponentially increased your odds of enjoying consistent, sustainable business growth.

If I Have to Go to One More Happy Hour…

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Networking always seems like it revolves around a happy hour or cocktails in a conference room with some finger foods. These events can be effective in bringing people out to mingle, but really lose their luster after a while. Below are a few networking ideas that stray from the traditional “bring your business cards” happy hour networking events.

Building Relationships – Strengthening Bonds

Today, business networking is more than an exchange of business cards. Your time is more precious than ever, and spending it with people you barely know may feel like you’re taking away from other work and family time. If you want more meaningful interactions, then it’s time to change your point of view about networking and concentrate on building relationships. One of the best ways to break out of the happy hour habit is through alternative forms of networking.

Volunteering

Some of the strongest bonds you can form are with like-minded people. Volunteering for a non-profit organization will get you in touch with people who care about the same things you do. With your business experience, you may choose to sit on the board and use your strengths where they are needed. The added bonus is that there are a lot of other business people who are the board for non-profits. They donate their time to causes they care about, which will be something you have in common.

For Entrepreneurs

There are many community organizations for entrepreneurs. Usually, these are focused around specific areas and have criteria for getting admitted. Nothing too stringent, just rules in place that limit the types of businesses in the group. You can practice your elevator pitch and share some insight into owning your business.

Social Media

Build and reach out to your network through social media. This is a great venue to share information about your business or the industry. It’s also a good way to share any leads to people in your circle. Remember to keep your profiles up-to-date and regularly post interesting information to capture their attention.

Even when we volunteer, we need to open ourselves up to talk to strangers. Try not to be too shy and maybe you’ll have something in common. If so, focus on talking about those things, then branch out from there and talk about business. These are like-minded people, so just be yourself and enjoy your time together.

 

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