The Secret to the Perfect Holiday Email Campaign

The Secret to the Perfect Holiday Email Campaign

Social Media Consultant and Copywriter
Image credit: Atos International

Yes, it’s that time again. Holiday shopping season is on its way. (Although, for some, it’s already started.)

For online retailers, there’s more competition than ever before. Cyber Monday brought in more than $2 billionfor online retailers in 2014, and holiday spending was up 15 percent from the year before, according to a ComScore report.

To be sure they don’t miss out on this incredible time for sales, some merchants already have begun plotting their holiday marketing strategy, which includesemail marketing.

Why email?

Email is one of the most important aspects of a holiday strategy because in 2014, more than one in fouronline orders on Black Friday were placed as a direct result of email marketing. Plus, this medium was cited as the single most effective marketing channel in the United States that same year.

Think about it: While many people have a crowded inbox, an email has much more staying power than a social message that falls victim to algorithms, time passage, and limited reach without paid promotion.

The next question, then, is: “How do I write the perfect holiday email campaign?”

Related: How to Create an Editorial Calendar for Your Blog

Write an Open-Worthy Subject Line

The subject line of your email is essential. After all, it’s what gets your reader to open and discover the marketing message inside. Write a snooze-worthy subject line and your email will sit unopened until it eventually gets pushed down in the queue (and ultimately becomes out of sight, out of mind).

Think about using these tried and tested subject lines:

  1. “You’re Missing Out on X” (create fear of missing out)
  2. “A Special Discount for You, (First Name)” (personalized)
  3. “Want a Free Gift?” (everyone loves free things)

Next, think about your email’s core objective…what should the reader do once they open the message?

Start With One

When crafting your holiday emails, think about the single objective you want your customer to accomplish as a result of opening and reading your message. Eliminate decision fatigue by resisting the temptation to showcase every sale and promotion—just focus on the single-best promotion based on past success or customer feedback.

Once you’ve identified your objective, create a simple call to action button that is centrally located and easy for the scanning reader to find. Your button should have compelling microcopy (that’s the words on or around the call to action button) such as:

  • Get my discount
  • See the sale
  • Get shopping
  • Show me more

These simple phrases tell the reader exactly what they can accomplish by clicking on your button as well as what they can expect to find on the other side.

Related: 4 Apps That Can Make You a Better Writer

Keep It Simple

As for the overall design and messaging of your holiday email, less is more.

Your customers are being bombarded with marketing messages all season long. Don’t add to the noise by sending complex email with bells and whistles. Your email should download quickly and leverage whitespace that lets messages and images breathe.

Also, it must be mobile-friendly. According to Litmus, 53 percent of all emails are opened on a mobile device—so if your content doesn’t display correctly in those environments, your customers probably won’t take the time to pinch and scroll until they can see things clearly.

Get Planning

The final secret to your holiday email campaign: Start writing drafts right now.

Shoppers are starting earlier than ever, so you need to allow for time to refine your message and email campaign design before your competitors start sending their own messages and snapping up customers.

Related: 5 Blog Topics You Need to Stop Writing About

No Pain, No Gain in Startups: Short-term Suffering Leads to Lasting Rewards

No Pain, No Gain in Startups: Short-term Suffering Leads to Lasting Rewards

Founder and CEO, The Bouqs Company

When it comes to startups, risk comes to mind for many. But not taking that leap poses a greater risk — the risk of missing a great opportunity for compensation, personal growth and networking galore. Choosing to accept startup risk — as a founder or early employee — could fundamentally alter your life and career, and quite frankly, I think you should do it.

Building a startup isn’t as risky as it sounds, it just requires a trade off of some short-term pain for long-term gain. Here are some initial pains I went through when building my company, so you can be ready when starting yours or joining your first new venture:

Related: 4 Steps to Taking Calculated Risks That Move Your Business Forward 

Short-term pain #1: Little to no pay

When I first started The Bouqs Co., I took no pay for eight months. Zero dollars. And I’m no spring chicken. I had a 15-year career at Bain & Co and Disney, a new mortgage in Los Angeles and a 1-year-old boy at home.


This kind of sacrifice is common in the beginning stages of a startup. Founders often sacrifice their pay to fund what needs funded, betting they’ll get it back (and more) later. And due to necessity, most startups pay below market in salary in early stages, asking employees to focus on equity upside instead.

Short-term pain #2: More hours

Startup founders and early employees work more hours than almost anyone — except maybe bankers. For example, at the launch of XYZ Co., two to three people will be the only ones running the entire operation. That’s a lot of work per employee. As funding and demand increase for XYZ Co., the team will expand to six then 10 then 20 and so on.

The trouble is, no matter the number of people on XYZ Co.’s team, the work is never less. Nothing about XYZ Co. existed in its early days, so it requires an incredible amount of time and energy to give it life and sustain it. This means many hours split among few people — and it’s a grind.

Short-term pain #3: The fear it might not work out

The founding team works long hours for little or no pay, barely scraping by for months. Regardless of their Herculean effort, there’s no guarantee the company will succeed. There’s a constant fear in the back of everyone’s mind that they are sacrificing all they have for something that may ultimately fail.

That kind of stress paired with early mornings, late nights and lack of funds is usually what scares away would-be entrepreneurs. But it’s just fear. It’s not reality. While there’s no guarantee it will work, there’s also no guarantee it won’t.

Related: What the High Dive Can Teach Entrepreneurs About Dealing With Fear

And ultimately, it isn’t real risk. Regardless of the outcome, the gains will likely outweigh these pains. Here’s how you win, regardless of whether your startup results in an initial public offering or a closing of the business:

Long-term gain #1: Compensation growth and equity

While founders and early employees may start out making below-market salary for their skills, when the company gets big, they’ll be making more than they would have in their alternative reality non-startup company. At a startup, founders automatically step into senior management roles, skipping over the traditional rise up the ladder. As the company grows, early employees naturally move into higher management positions. Since they helped build the company from the ground up, they’ve earned the seniority needed to lead newer employees.

Additionally, the equity value in a successful startup can be more than enough to offset any short-term decreases in pay in the beginning. As a startup accrues value, equity value grows to exceed what early team members would make as employees at regular day jobs.

Long-term gain #2: Not much is actually lost — even in failure

Even if the business fails, not much money is lost by an employee or founder in the grand scheme of things. Let’s say Sara tries to build a startup. She makes nothing. Zero dollars. Zilch. Six months later, it fails. Take the lost wages (half of one year’s salary at the next best alternative job) and divide it by all the money she will make in her career. It’s just a tiny portion.

The losses, while real, are mitigated by the short time frame in which startups make it or break it.

Long-term gain #3: Learning at a fast-forward pace

Running a startup forces founders and employees to learn more than they would at any traditional job, earlier in their career. Everyone is forced to do more, do it more quickly and are asked to execute beyond their pay grade and experience. This means rapid development of experience and skills that may take years to acquire in another environment. If the company doesn’t go big, at the least employees will walk away with knowledge and experience that makes them more valuable in the job market.

Long-term gain #4: Building a solid network

When building a startup, founders and employees meet and have the opportunity to develop relationships with key people who may influence the business or their career. They’ll attend industry events and meet business influencers, investors, founders and others who could get their ideas in front of the right eyes to help the startup take off. These connections may also support their individual careers down the road. Plus, it doesn’t hurt to be well-connected to a pool of successful investors when another great idea for a business manifests in the future.

While there can be downsides to founding or working at a startup in the beginning, there’s always a light at the end of the tunnel — in the upside or downside. Ultimately, the experience gained, the connections made and lessons learned are likely to be more than enough value to cover any short-term losses.

And those who make it? They get to change the world in some way, experience a life-changing sense of accomplishment and validate that the risk was worth it all along.

What short-term sacrifices did you make when you started your own business? What did you gain long-term? Please comment below.

Related: 7 Essentials for Overcoming Mental Barriers to Exceptional Success

Be Careful of Data That Can Cause Bad Insights

Chief Data Officer at Whisper

You are excited, you turned your dreams into a product. Now you sit and watch as new users trickle in. One by one, they start using your product. You see more users in your database; maybe you see orders being placed. Great! Now what’s next? Is there anything you can do to make the user experience better? Maybe that button should really be blue? Does there really need to be an intro video? What if the loading screen is taking too long for the users in India? Answers to these questions and many more can be derived from data. The problem is, you need to know what data to collect and how to collect it. More importantly, you need to know how to look at the data and how to reason with it. In doing so, it is vital to keep one thing in mind: The only thing worse than not having data is drawing bad conclusions from bad data.

Seven years ago, I was sitting at a research lab in Tokyo working on ways to improve the allocation of security guards all over Japan. From that moment until today, I have had the good fortune of working on various problems and building data-science teams across different companies. I have seen and learned from various data pitfalls and want to share some of the most interesting and impactful ones here.

Related: 3 Ways Scrappy Entrepreneurs Can Keep Data Scientists on Board and Motivated

Be careful of biases.

Humans are creatures of habit — and biases. For example, we routinely pick data that fits/confirms our preconceptions (confirmation bias), choose data that may not be representative of the user base (selection bias) or focus on the most obvious attributes of the users/products ignoring anything else which be the actual cause of changes (salience Bias).  Some of these biases can have tremendous effects on evaluating performance.

The quickest remedy here is to take a step back and see if the population you are considering for your analysis is representative of the overall population you are targeting. If any subpopulation of the users are not represented or their ratio in the overall population is different than what is observed in testing, it is time to reconsider how the users are sampled for the test.

Learn to look at the ‘right-size’ picture.

Having a clear view of the big picture is always important but depending on the problem in hand, it can also be misleading.

Consider the case where we are trying to optimize for new-user conversions, and we have an app that runs both on iOS and Android. Overall, we may see that it has 20,000 users, out of which 10,000 converted and 10,000 were lost. Then we dig a bit deeper and look at each individual platform. We may see that on Android, we are doing really well, with 400 conversions to 100 users lost, while on iOS, it is basically even for conversions and for users lost.  But if we had only looked at the overall picture, we would have lost the fact that whatever we are doing on Android is working. This effect of having a seemingly obvious overall trend disappear or reverse itself when looking at individual groups vs. the combination of all those groups is called “Simpson’s Paradox,” and it shows up more often than one would expect.

Related: 4 Tips to Landing Your Dream Job in Big Data

Make sure you have enough data to make informed decisions

It is common to look at changes in user behavior and assume that the recent change you have made is responsible.  But how do you know it was not based on sheer luck? This concept of statistical significance can easily lead to bad decisions that get made, as the observed changes are likely to be purely based on chance. Therefore, they may not only be ineffective but also have the very opposite effect of what was originally desired.

After all, you wouldn’t make a decision based on a single user, but how about 10, hundred, or even a thousand users? Is there a magic number? As it turns out, there isn’t, and this really is a bit of a trick question. It really depends on what you are trying to track and compare. If you are going to be tracking users for a long period of time, you can work with a smaller set of users. Or if this is an event that happens very often, then you can also work with a small set of users.

Data can be your biggest ally and your most versatile tool when finding the right direction for your product. However, just as good data can be of great value, bad data can be hugely detrimental. When you are faced with making a data-driven decision, ask yourself just one question: Am I looking at the right type of data, representing the right population of users, and do I have the right amount of it in order to see significance?  Using this as your guidepost will hopefully lead you to the right outcomes.

Related: 4 Ways to Construct a ‘Data-Innovation’ Map for Your Business

9 Tools to Improve Your Instagram Marketing

9 Tools to Improve Your Instagram Marketing

Founder and CEO of Boom! Social

Instagram can be an incredibly powerful platform for marketers. With nearly 28 percent of the U.S. population now using it, there is no better platform for marketers who want to promote visual content. While the app alone may be enough to get you started, using the right tools can really ramp up your results. For those who want to take their Instagram marketing to the next level, consider the following:

1. Piqora


Ever wonder which images are most effective with your audience or which hashtags you should be using to get the maximum visibility for your images? Piqora lets you know exactly which images get the most likes and comments so you can constantly be improving on your content strategy. Piqora also provides unique hashtag analytics, giving you important insights into which individual users are using certain hashtags, and how influential those users are. This is a great feature for finding and following influencers in your niche.

Related: 5 Ways to Make Your Instagram Photos Stand Out

2. Word Dream


This is another graphic app that’s easier than easy to use. Simply plug in the text you want, and watch as the app creates a stunning graphic you can download and share on social media. If you want to play around with your graphic to add your own style, you can certainly do this too. With options like color and style adjustments, filters, special effects and text layouts, you can customize your graphics to give them a style all their own. Struggling with finding suitable quotes to use in your images? An added bonus is that Word Dream provides you with hundreds of inspiring and motivational quotes you can use for your designs. Word Dream is available free for a limited time on iTunes and Google Play.

3. Repost


Repost lets you easily repost photos on Instagram while giving credit to the original poster. It also lets you see which photos and users are getting the most reposts, as well as allowing you to search for relevant users, tags and contests. Available on both iOS and Android.

4. Tapshop


Owned by Piqora (see above), Tapshop lets you turn your Instagram into an online shopping portal. When users click on a link within your profile, they’ll be taken to a landing page full of your products they’ve liked. They can then buy any product on that page, and the next time they “like” a photo on your feed? They automatically get an email with a link to buy that product.

5. Crowdfire


Have you ever noticed your follower count going down, and wanted to know exactly who has unfollowed you? Crowdfire gives you an easy way to find inactive followers and unfollower, find new users to follow and keep track of how your social media updates impact your follow / unfollower numbers.

Related: 5 Things You Need to Know About Instagram’s New Ad Platform

6. Schedugram


Do you ever have images on your computer that you want to share on Instagram? You have to get them into your phone, then type your description on that tiny little keyword. With Schedugram, you can now post to Instagram from your computer. It lets you easily schedule and manage your Instagram posts via a single or bulk upload so you can plan ahead. Have more than one account? Schedugram also lets you manage and post to multiple accounts all from the same dashboard.

7. Iconosquare


Iconosquare is another fantastic tool for viewing Instagram via the web. It gives you the ability to respond to comments, search for posts by hashtag keywords, plus a new contest feature. The tool also allows you to easily see who your friends are following, and to see what content is currently getting the most likes and comments via the Populars tab. It also gives you access to a whole host of unique analytics, like love rate, talk rate and post distribution.

8. Diptic


Diptic is a photo collage app, however, it isn’t like the most other collage apps. Diptic actually has a couple of features that sets it apart such as animated photo collages and video collaging that you can put to music. Unfortunately, the full range of this app’s functionality is only available for iOS, but they do have an Android app.

9. Tagboard


Tagboard allows you to search and follow hashtags to see content that is being shared. It’s a great way to find popular social media posts you can share with your audience. Plus, it also offers a content aggregation feature for events, websites, etc.

Having the right tools can make a world of difference for your Instagram strategy, but if you are also looking to grow your following then check out my post, 9 Ways To Get More Instagram Followers. My 10 Instagram Marketing Hacks can also help you be more effective.

Which tools would you add to this list? What’s your go-to Instagram tool? Feel free to share below.

Related: How One Woman’s Cosmetic Company ‘Gramed Its Way to Insta-Success

4 early-warning signs one of your managers is becoming a problem

Bob Corlett, Contributing Writer Oct 21, 2015, 1:59pm EDT Updated: Oct 21, 2015, 5:05pm EDT

Are your managers giving your company a bad reputation?

Image provided by Getty Images

A few years ago, the caliber of your management team was not a public matter. Your internal disagreements stayed private. Outsiders rarely knew whether or not you had few bad apples on your leadership team.

Frankly, if most of your managers were good, you could get away with a few who were not-so-good. HR only needed (or wanted) to intervene if you were going to be sued.

It was a pretty low bar. Now those days are gone. Having 80 percent good (or good-ish) managers doesn’t cut it anymore.

Thanks to employer reputation sites like Glassdoor and Indeed, one bad manager with frequent employee turnover can make your entire organization look like a bad place to work.

Because of the increasing visibility of internal management problems, there has been a huge growth in the demand for executive coaching. Sharon Armstrong, co-author of “The Essential HR Handbook,” noted that some managers are great at achieving company goals, but may be leaving a path of destruction in their wake.

She wrote, “Some managers are well-liked but not terrifically effective. But most managers need coaching to become both effective at getting results and effective at developing people. Having consistently good managers is the key to maintaining a good reputation as a place to work. And that means you need to invest in the development of your managers.”

Signs of a management problem

Here are a few early warning indicators that indicate when you might want to get coaching for your managers:

  1. Their business results are not fast enough, large enough or up to the standard needed.
  2. You see obvious internal disagreement as to which problems should be solved, lack of clarity about the goals, and disagreements about the priority of the work.
  3. There is a breakdown in civility, common courtesy and respect among team members, and obvious signs of stress, frustration and anger.
  4. There is a tendency to blame problems on a person instead of looking at systemic issues.

4 Things I Learned After My First Year as an Entrepreneur

4 Things I Learned After My First Year as an Entrepreneur

Entrepreneur, Executive Coach, Author, Speaker

It’s been almost a year since I took the entrepreneurial leap and launched myexecutive coaching practice. I’m not going to lie, working for myself has been completely spoiling. Setting my own agenda, choosing the place and times to work, and determining the clients with whom I work (no social hand grenades) has been completely fulfilling.

I’m a big believer that in uncertainty lies opportunity. If the rules aren’t already written then write your own rule book, and if there is a book, make edits.

Related: Don’t Let these 5 Illogical Thoughts Stop You From Starting a Business

Sharing lessons is important. After all, nobody learns from their successes or really even question why they won something, they just accept it. Here are four things to consider before taking your leap into the entrepreneurial unknown:

1. Marketing isn’t easy.

Not in terms of marketing your product but yourself (self-promotion). Now, I’m not blanketing all entrepreneurs by saying this because there are certainly people out there who believe the world revolves around them. However, for those who live in reality and “get it,” selling yourself (not that way) isn’t easy.

Here’s the secret to not sounding like a you-know-what: don’t talk about yourself. Instead, highlight what it is your product or service provides and let customers make the connection for how it benefits them. This is a subtle yet important difference. People want to know how they’ll benefit from buying what you’re selling, and yes, who you are is a large part of that.

Consumers buy from vendors they like, trust, and respect. They also buy products and services that benefit them so be sure to craft your marketing message that way.

2. A strategy is different from an objective.

I wrote in another column what a sound strategy looks like, and just the process of thinking strategically can be a challenge if you’re more inclined to the executor role. Think of it this way: an objective is where you want to end up — it’s your destination. Strategy is how you get there.

Consider, for instance, a ladder — the kind you lean up against the side of the house to clean out the debris in your home’s gutters. When you lean the ladder against the house, the goal is to climb to the top (and not fall off). The rungs provide the means by which you get there — the daily behaviors that help you execute the strategy — and the rails of the ladder set the direction for where those rungs lead (they can only go one way). If, once you get to the top of the ladder you find yourself on the wrong roof, you simply shift the ladder.

Related: Being Your Own Boss Is Great Except for the Hours

3. Focus on what you, and only you, can affect.

Entrepreneurship is an investment in yourself, your beliefs, convictions and definition of value. After all, if you don’t believe your new widget is valuable then you wouldn’t feel compelled to sell it, right?

As an entrepreneur, you should focus on your area(s) of expertise, on what only you can affect, and allocate other tasks to outside professionals. Virtual assistants are great for this as they provide the subject-matter expertise to work effectively and efficiently in their roles while allowing you to do the same.

4. Stay fit.

Anybody who says there’s no time in the day to exercise simply doesn’t place fitness as a priority. It’s that simple. Being an entrepreneur is no different. What prevents people from doing the hobbies they enjoy is fear. They worry that if they’re not working on something geared toward business then they’re not being productive, and this is anything but true.

We all need personal time, it’s how we decompress from the pressure of the day so we can return the next day and work optimally. Learn how to manage your fear of missing out (or FOMO) syndrome and watch your stress levels plummet.

It’s not an easy decision, but holding your feet to the fire and placing yourself in an environment that demands success certainly narrows down your priorities of what’s important and what isn’t. It also wields greater fulfillment. Choose wisely.

Related: A 4-Step Checklist That Will Increase Your Chances of Starting a Successful Businesses

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How Could Your Business Implode? Let Us Count the Ways.

How Could Your Business Implode? Let Us Count the Ways.

Founder of Launch & Hustle and Digital Marketing Consultant Specializing in Social Media & Mobile Marketing
Image credit: Shutterstock

There are monsters lurking out there, ready to destroy your startup. These are not the ineffective or balky team members that may give you an occasional headache. No — these are the Godzillas that stalk any successful enterprise with the sole purpose of taking it down. Don’t let these bogeymen scare you out of business. Just make sure you recognize them and avoid them if at all possible.

1. Predatory lenders.

There is a very active market right now for small business loans. Companies are aggressively pursuing small businesses and pressing them to sign financial instruments at oppressively high interest rates. If you already have a relationship with a regular bank or credit union, always go to them first for financial help and advice. If you must go shopping outside of traditional lending institutions, make sure they are a member of a regulatory board like ABA orAAPL. In a roundup of the top rated and researched financing options, Business News Daily outlines a pretty stellar list of general financing options to choose from in case you can’t get a bank loan.

Related: Cash Crunch: What’s the Best Loan for Your Small Business?

2. Making your numbers instead of thinking.

Zach Atherton, organizational behavior specialist and founder Utah based Laugh and Learn Workshop said, “Performance management systems always discourage free thinking. If your employees fixate on achieving production numbers, as an example, they will not approach challenges and problems creatively or risk a novel solution. Refusing to consider employee initiative to favor raw numbers will mean a more inefficiently-run business since your workers focus on measurements instead of needs.”

3. Ex-employees with a grudge.

Employees are let go for a number of reasons. But whatever the reason is, it’s best to work sincerely at doing it professionally and sympathetically. A former employee with a grudge can wreak havoc on today’s social media. If they hit the right buttons, like sexual discrimination or political agenda, they can leave an ugly cloud over a company that lasts for years. If you have any doubt about how an employee is going to handle being let go, Michael Ehline founder of The Accident Law Blog says, “have your legal person draw up a document that stipulates what that employee can and cannot say in public about the decision to let them go.”

Related: 3 Reasons to Think Again Before Bashing Your Company on Glassdoor

4. Unhappy customer service staff.

Customer service is seen as a dead end job when there are no opportunities for advancement and firm performance expectations in place. That mindset creates an ideal environment for slackers and underachievers. Customer Relationship Management software can be an invaluable aid in guiding and motivating your customer service people. Yet only 29 percent of small businesses use a CRM system.

5. Neglected web design.

Your business is constantly changing and evolving to meet the needs and challenges of your customers and market. Your landing pages, websites, and other online properties, including fan pages and apps, must respond to those changes in real time. That requires whoever is running your online marketing to be flexible and responsive. I’ve seen many companies go down the drain because they outsourced their online marketing to consultants who were unreachable and much to slow responding to requests for updates on simple things like contact forms. Don’t let this happen to you.

6. Getting on the wrong side of the IRS.

Nobody is calling the IRS a “:monster.” They are just doing their job. Just make sure your accounting people are doing THEIR job. Filing on time. Asking for extensions when needed. Keeping up on sales tax. Are you up to date on theNexus laws and exemption certificates? The IRS can be a courtly Dr. Jekyll when you follow the rules, but when you get behind you’ll find they swiftly become a Mr. Hyde. Don’t be that guy!

Related: What One Man’s Fight Against the IRS Teaches Us About Entrepreneurship

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Inspire Employee Loyalty With Recognition Rooted in Company Values

Career and Workplace Expert; Founder and President, Come Recommended

Employee engagement used to top the list of HR concerns. While it’s still very much among the top challenges faced by employers and HR professionals, employee retention and turnover has taken over as the leading concern in today’s workplace.

The solution? Employee recognition. But not just any recognition — values-based recognition.

Values serve as the foundation a company is built on and should drive every aspect of business — especially recognition, as it can help retain employees. But, with only half of the U.S. workforce saying they feel valued by their employer, according to a 2014 survey of 823 employees by the American Psychological Association, something is missing.

That something is values.

A 2015 survey of more than 800 HR professionals by the Society for Human Resources Management (SHRM) and Globoforce found that connecting recognition to values positively impacted retention for 68 percent of respondents.

Yet, while 81 percent of companies practice formal recognition, only 58 percent tie that recognition to the company’s values, according to the survey.

Not all employee recognition programs are created equal. To hold on to your best and brightest, here’s the formula for creating a program that reinforces the company’s values:

1. Identify the traits and behaviors that embody core values.

What traits, practices or behaviors are necessary for individual and company-wide success? What company values need to be adopted to drive that success?

These questions can help identify what needs to be better enforced through recognition, as well as reveal what needs more attention. In fact, the aforementioned Globoforce survey found that in companies with a values-based recognition program, 31 percent said it helps meet learning and development goals, as opposed to only 11 percent of companies without.

Related: The 8 Values Every Company Should Live By

2. Align employees with the company values.

In order to effectively align employees with the company’s core values, they need to understand how those values relate to their day-to-day tasks. That connection is formed through communication. Help employees better align themselves and their work efforts with the company’s values by communicating them from the top and connecting them to overall work goals.

When it comes time to reevaluate individual and company-wide goals for the quarter, highlight how those goals can be achieved by enforcing the company’s character — and publicly recognize and reward those who do just that.

Related: 7 Ways to Build Credibility, Trust and Character That Will Grow Your Business

Step 3: Focus on the process vs. results.

Unlike other employee recognition programs, values-based recognition focuses more on the actual process than on the final results. After all, demonstrating the traits, behaviors and practices that are in line with the company values will inevitably lead to the desired outcome.

However, the aforementioned APA survey found that employers most often reward results stemming from individual job performance (46 percent), length of service (44 percent) and team performance (29 percent). A mere 18 percent recognize employees who engage in specific behaviors.

The key to creating a successful, values-based recognition program is to acknowledge and reward the process employees take to achieving work-related goals — especially when that process follows the company moral code. By recognizing the process over results, peers are encouraged to adopt similar processes, which is much easier than trying to mimic the same results.

Use a tool like Tap My Back that allows team leaders to define what actions (Taps) are available for recognition and motivates team members to repeat those actions.

4. Lead by example.

Sometimes the best — and easiest — way to encourage employees to embody the company’s moral code is to simply lead by example. Bring organizational values to life by living and breathing those values while at work, and employees will follow suit.

Actively model the company’s character in everything the organization does, from the decision-making process to company culture activities to employee recognition. Most importantly, make an example out of employees who exhibit the company’s core values to encourage peers to do the same.

Related: 5 High-Performing Habits to Instill in Your Culture

How Working for 8 Failed Startups Catapulted My Success

How Working for 8 Failed Startups Catapulted My Success

Growth Expert at 22Social
Image credit: Thomas Hawk | Flickr

Eight failed startups in three years.

Close to 100 ambitious employees who had their dreams crushed.

My situation is not unique — nine out of ten startups fail. It’s a cold reality. As a result, I quickly learned everything not to do and slowly learned everything I should be doing. The process was painful, but the progress was there.

I had suffered financially — no new clothes for years, a junk car, and a laptop that barely worked. I was at the point of sleeping in my car and interviewing across California.

Related: These Wildly Successful Entrepreneurs Once Were Homeless

Finally, I landed a job in San Diego at a Facebook marketing startup, 22Social, with huge potential. Several months in, I knew this company was not like the rest. We were going to make it big. In a short period, we doubled our revenue and began hiring more employees.

Looking back on how I made it, here are the eight lessons I learned from my failures that catapulted my success:

1. Put yourself in a position to create value.

It’s simple: Keeping your job depends on how much value you add to the company. When put in a position where you’ll create less value, you should disregard what you’re told to do and focus on something better. Once you stop listening to people who give you orders that undercut your output, you’ll become more successful and make them happier.

2. Speak your mind.

The biggest regret you’ll have is not speaking your mind when it matters. You may be hesitant to take a strong stance because you risk rejection. But the actual risk in a world with constant innovation is not taking chances. And you never know if bouncing your small nugget of wisdom on others may turn into a gold mine.

3. Do things that are unlikely to work out.

Multifaceted entrepreneur Elon Musk once said, “When something is important enough, you do it even if the odds are not in your favor.”

The chances are that your startup will fail. Since the odds are already against you, then you might as well take on projects with huge upside and a devastating downside. Even if you devote months to a project, and it fails, the next time you want to commit to a similar project, you’ll know what strategies to avoid.

4. Company culture is everything.

Startups live and die based on their quality of team communication. There’s a huge difference in production between people who wake up excited to put 100 percent into their work and those who dread seeing their coworkers.

Related: 3 Ways to Create the Company Culture You Want

5. It’s not how much you read, it’s what you read.

I’ve read hundreds of books to give myself the knowledge that helped perpetuate my success. It’s not all gravy. What I realized is that many five-star Amazon books aren’t worth the read because it’s now effortless to self publish and regurgitate information. Remember, read books that are relevant to what you’re achieving, those are the ones that will provide the most benefit.

6. Avoiding distraction is your most valuable skill.

Distractions are everywhere from Facebook to Instagram. Moreover, they’re in the work you’re doing that you mistakenly think must be done by you. If you can outsource your work for a good price and get the same results, then you need to do something better.

7. Success doesn’t happen overnight.

Almost always, you will have to take many more steps than you originally thought to achieve success, but the good news is that you can decide whether to walk or run.

Most people believe they deserve to be at the finish line. But until you put in the work required to conquer your dreams, you won’t realize what it takes to go through the journey of ups and downs.

8. Failure is only good if it changes you.

Risk failure only if you’re willing to change what you did wrong the next time around. Many who fail can’t pinpoint their mistakes. And repeatedly doing something that’s not working is the definition of insanity. So figure out a new strategy before moving forward.

I encourage you to take these eight lessons and add to the list along your startup journey. Good luck!

Related: 6 Stories of Super Successes Who Overcame Failure

3 Creative Marketing Strategies Inspired by the Music Industry’s Collapse

3 Creative Marketing Strategies Inspired by the Music Industry's Collapse

Entrepreneur, Startup Consultant

What changed the music industry?

Maybe it was Microsoft, which in 1997 incorporated digital music (MP3) support into its Windows Media Player, allowing users to conveniently listen to music from their computers.

Maybe it was the introduction of Napster in 1999, which perpetuated the use and distribution of MP3s to millions of users worldwide — although the truestreaming revolution might have started when Radiohead released Kid A in 2000.

Maybe it was the first iPod hitting the shelves in 2001, ushering in “a thousand songs in your pocket” and an all new way to carry, share and consume music.

Or maybe it was John Cougar Mellencamp?

I would argue that the music industry changed in 2006, when Mellencamp became one of the first major recording stars to record a song specifically for a major corporation, producing Our Country for Chevy. Why this particular event? Because it was not the digitization and streaming of music that changed the music industry, it was the acknowledgement by musicians that it had changed, hence ushering in new way of thinking about, producing and profiting from music.

When Our Country hit the commercial airwaves, my generation (Gen X) looked at Mellencamp as a “sell out.” The music charts at that time were filled with artists, after all, not corporate spokespeople, and to produce a song — much less license a song — for the sole purpose of promoting a product was akin to music treason.

Related: Lessons From a Country Music Duo to Make Your Business ‘Big & Rich’

“I agonized,” Mellencamp told USA Today’s Edna Gundersen in 2007 about his decision to produce Our Country. “I still don’t think we should have to do it, but record companies can’t spend money to promote records anymore, unless you’re U2 or Madonna.”

Mellencamp saw early on what took the music industry a few more years to see. The traditional means of reaching consumers and making money were done. Musicians needed to reinvent themselves.

Marketing professionals are finding themselves in a similar predicament as the music industry. Reaching consumers is more difficult as the use of traditional channels of advertising continues to fade. Today, consumers have choices, and a great many of them, so they can easily tune out advertisements, and with digital natives entering the consumer market soon, this trend will only continue.

If businesses want to stay ahead, they need to think more like Radiohead and Mellencamp and get creative with their promotional strategies. Here are three simple ideas businesses can run with:

1. Leverage influencers.

One strategy musicians are adapting is to become advocates for their own music. By generating a substantial social-media following, musicians can reach out and engage with their fans far more personally, which helps them sell concerts ticket and merchandise (and maybe even music). Not every business can generate the fan following of musicians, but they can still tap into online influencers.

Love or hate them, social-media influencers, or individuals who have made a lucrative living from building massive online audiences, have tremendous influence when it comes to promoting products. More important, most young consumers do not look upon celebrities who promote products as “sell outs.” Rather, the idea is viewed as a respectful way of making a living.

One such company that has had success with this strategy is Challenged, developers of a mobile app that allows users to make daily challenges with friends, celebrities and companies with a focus on social awareness. The creators of the app engaged with a number of social-media celebrities, such as Nash Grier, which propelled the app into the top 20 lifestyle apps (and top 150 overall)in just a couple of months.

Haven’t heard of Nash Grier? Well, a combined 28.7 million social-media followers says you should.

2. Place products.

Attitudes in the music industry have changed and adapted (somewhat) to digital-music streaming, with some even advocating that musicians give away music for free. Radiohead continued along these lines in 2007 when it released In Rainbows for free, simply asking patrons to pay for what they thought the download was worth.

The idea, of course, is to get the music in the hands of customers before they burn the music from a friend’s CD, download it illegally or stream it on a music service such as Spotify or Pandora. This allows artists to provide a personalized experience and ultimately control how consumers experience their brands.

For businesses, traditional means of promotion, namely commercials, are slowly losing effectiveness. With more and more people cutting cable and avoiding commercials, and with the recent introduction of ad blockers, businesses will find it increasingly difficult to get their brands in front of people.

Related: Marketing Geeks Take Revenge on Advertising Tech

Instead, businesses need to consider creative ways to be where consumers are and, again, get noticed. The idea of product placement, or getting your product or service seen, used or mentioned in a program (typically television programs or movies), has been around for years.

Avion tequila gained attention in 2010 when it cleverly placed its tequila in the popular HBO show, Entourage. Since being introduced to the show’s huge audience, the company has seen tremendous growth and gained the backing of liquor giant Pernod Ricard SA.

I recently noticed a placement of the Under Armor logo in Season 2 of NBC’s The Black List. Although very subtle, I would argue that it is much more prominent than any advertisement that was skipped or even left out altogether, as is the case with streaming the series on Netflix.

Getting a product placed on a programs may be difficult, but with the right strategy and a focus on smaller niche markets, it can work for any company.

3. Consider podcasts.

A podcast is, essentially, radio on demand. As someone who religiously listens to podcasts while driving, running or doing chores around the house, I can attest to the quality of the programming that is being churned out. As more multitaskers like myself come to understand the benefits of audio programs on demand, the opportunity for reaching consumers via this medium will grow.

With 271,000 podcasts available, marketers need to know and understand which podcasts their customers are tuned in to — and with data, that should be easy. Research and find the right podcasts that meet your customer profile and company culture, and simply inquire about advertising costs. Many times, the podcaster will produce the commercial for you.

Think it’s a little early in the podcasting trend to jump in? A cumulative 1 billion podcast subscribers says otherwise.

The takeaway from all of this is that marketers need to get creative. These are just three ideas to consider, but more than likely, the best ideas have yet to be discovered. Maybe it just requires a bottle of Avion tequila and Radiohead to inspire you.

What other creative ways have gotten your product or service noticed? Please share your insights with others in the comments section below.

Related: 3 Proven Ways Entrepreneurs Can Get Media Exposure