Friday, February 16, 2018

How One Clothing Brand Is Making Headlines with an Unusual Niche

It can be hard for a decades-old company to continue to innovate in exciting ways. 


Tommy Hilfiger, founded in 1985, has made their reputation through dedication to an "American cool" classic style. The clothing line faltered in the early 2000s as their once-trendy red/white/blue palette and reliance on stripes and bold geometrics fell out of favor. 


The Power of Innovation


However, recent innovations at the brand have led to a resurgence, with global sales topping $6.7 billion per year. Their latest move has been an unusual one: creating an adaptive clothing line for adults with disabilities.


The clothes will incorporate features that make it easier for men and women with disabilities to put them on each day and fit them to unique body shapes. These features include one-handed zippers, adjustable hemlines, velcro or magnetic closures, and other items that allow independence and style.


Most clothing in the line adheres to the classic Tommy Hilfiger styles with bold solids, stripes, and blocks of color. The newly launched clothing collection features 37 items for men and 34 for women.


Creativity Equals Gains


About fifteen percent of the world's population has a physical or a mental disability. When the buying power of disabled individuals is combined with that of their family members, they represent around $6.9 trillion in spending power. Designers who bring their creativity to the challenges of making excellent clothing for this audience have a lot to gain.


What You Can Learn


A few lessons from Hilfiger's success that can apply to your brand:


Look at who is underserved.


Moving into a crowded playing field can be difficult, at best. Instead of trying to distinguish yourself from the pack where competition is fierce, look at who is not served well by current products. By addressing the needs of these groups, you can carve out a niche for yourself and make an audience for your brand.


Start with a pilot program.


Tommy Hilfiger first created a collection of adaptive clothing for kids last year. When that was a success, they expanded to add the new collection for adults.


Get help from experts.


If you are heading into an area that is new to you, look for guidance along the way. 


Tommy Hilfiger partnered with Runway of Dreams, a nonprofit whose goal is broadening fashion choices for kids with disabilities. They also worked on the kids' line in partnership with adaptive clothing brand MagnaReady. 


When working on the adult version of the clothing line, they spoke to a number of individuals to learn about their biggest fashion frustrations. They learned that the big three challenges were adjustability, modified closures, and other factors that made it easy to get in and out of garments. With that knowledge in hand, they built these into every item in their adaptive line.


Doing good does well for you.


It's hard for fashion brands to make mainstream news. Some brands try to make the cut by doing something shocking, which can yield negative attention that can hurt goodwill for your brand. By reaching out to an underserved audience, Tommy Hilfiger got the attention of the media and got the sort of positive coverage that helps.


Looking where you can fill a need can allow your brand to make a bigger difference in the world. It can also spell increased success for your brand. By identifying these needs, you can provide customers with something they needed but weren't getting from someone else and build strong and valuable relationships.

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Why Developing Good Leaders is Critical to Your Business' Success

Regardless of the type of business you're running or even the industry that you find yourself operating in, everyone knows that quality leadership is essential. It's equally essential for you to realize that leadership doesn't begin and end with whoever's name is on the door. Experience goes a long way, but the type of raw, natural talent necessary to become a good leader isn't something that can necessarily be taught. It's something you're born with.


That's why when you do recognize that you've got the makings of an excellent leader working with you, it is imperative that you do whatever it takes to help cultivate and develop that talent whenever possible.


Identifying Good Leaders


First thing's first: not everyone working for your company has the makings of a good leader, regardless of how you currently feel about them. According to one recent study, only about one out of every ten people have the talent necessary to rise to this status. That means that spotting a candidate isn't something that is just going to happen every day.


When you do see someone with the qualities of an excellent leader, you'll know it. They're usually the first people to arrive and the last to leave. They're the people who keep a consistently cool head under pressure and who naturally seem to help elevate the rest of their teams to the level where everyone involved is doing their best work. They work incredibly hard for seemingly no reward at all because they just don't know any other way to go about their day.


When you see someone who fits that description, make a note of it. They're probably going to be running your business one day.


The Development Process


Once you have identified one of these fabled "good leaders," the first thing you have to do is support them in any and all ways that you can. Never be shy about feedback, even when it's critical in nature. The chances are high that they're the type of person who welcomes constructive criticism anyway. Don't just tell them what they're doing correctly; make sure they know what they can do to improve and, more importantly, how they can do it. 


Next, challenge them whenever possible. Don't throw your growing leaders into the proverbial deep end of the pool to fend for themselves, but don't allow them to simply spin their wheels either. Challenge and adversity are two important qualities that make all of us stronger. Little by little, this person will start to grow and evolve in front of your eyes and your business will become all the better for it. 


Looking Towards the Horizon


Finally, remember that good leaders are an investment in the future of your company. Good leaders don't just help in terms of collaboration and more substantial productivity.  They're also innovation creation engines at the same time. By taking the time to develop the good leaders in your midsts today, you're going a long way towards guaranteeing future success for your business.

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

The No Tears Guide to Letting Someone Go

Having to terminate an employee is never fun. Even if you've had to execute this task hundreds of times over the course of your career, it never gets easier. Everyone understands how devastating and humiliating it can be to lose a job and, as a leader, you must find a way to handle the dismissal in the best way possible.


Come Prepared


Nothing is worse than a manager who is wishy-washy. Go over the employee's track record ahead of time to confirm the employee’s performance merits dismissal. Ideally, you would have met with the employee previously and given them the proper warnings and a chance to rise to your expectations (think: three-strike policy). Regardless, the employee is going to want a clear answer to why he or she is being let go, and you need to provide a compelling reason.


Before the meeting, get all your ducks in a row regarding termination policies. Be prepared to settle the questions whirling in your employee's mind: When will he get his last paycheck? Is she entitled to a severance package? What’s the timeframe for clearing out his desk? Before you draw up a termination contract, double check policies to ensure accuracy.


Set the Scene


It should go without saying, but terminating someone in a public setting is the ultimate faux pas. You’re not making an example of someone; you’re making the rest of your team dislike you. Find a private room in the office and shut the door. Silence the phones and computers. The time of day you call the meeting doesn’t matter. Honestly, there’s no “best” time to dismiss an employee. Ideally, get it done as soon as possible since delaying the inevitable makes an already hard situation worse. Once you start the meeting, cut to the chase. Small talk isn’t going to soften the blow. Aim for a considerate tone, but avoid sounding emotional during the conversation.


The Right Way Versus the Wrong Way


There are two ways most termination conversations can go. If a manager does it the wrong way, you’re likely to have the employee react in one of two ways: tears or yelling. Take the following two scenarios:


Wrong Way


Sylvia is called into a meeting where she has to sit and wait for fifteen minutes while you finish a personal phone call. You try the direct approach and tell her she’s dismissed effective immediately. You don’t give her much feedback on her performance and direct her to HR about her final paycheck and insurance benefits. You usher her out of your office in less than ten minutes.   


What went wrong here? Sylvia is likely to feel humiliated over the abrupt dismissal. She is confused over what went wrong and will have no idea how to plan out her next move.


Right Way


You have had consistent contact with Sylvia prior to the meeting about her performance. You’ve offered guidance on how to help her succeed in her role. After multiple attempts at trying to resolve the situation, you and Sylvia both realize the position and company isn’t the right fit for her. When you call her into a meeting to let her go, she’s not surprised. You give her all of the details about her termination and ask for her to sign a termination contract after she takes the time to look it over.


In this scenario, you have let Sylvia go compassionately and professionally. She can use this experience to excel in her future endeavors. Your reputation as a fair and considerate manager stays well intact.


Inform the Masses


Avoid causing a workplace-wide panic by being transparent with the rest of your staff. You don’t have to give your team all the details about the dismissal but offer reassurance that the termination wasn’t the first in a string of firings.


Firing an employee is hands down the hardest part of being in a leadership position. At the end of the day, reassure yourself that the termination is necessary to avoid ultimately hurting the company.

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Customer Service in Action - A Personal Touch

Customer service is never more important than when something goes wrong. Your actions can either win your customer back, or it can cost you that customer for life.


Nobody knows this better than Amazon, who has built a massive reputation for fast and reliable order fulfillment. Through their consistent excellence, they’ve completely changed the retail industry. But what happens when mistakes are made?


Overcoming Mistakes


As a general rule, Amazon offers their Prime customers a free month of their Prime service if a package doesn’t arrive by its guaranteed delivery date. That’s about what you’d expect them to do, right? Amazon has been known to up the ante, though, when bigger customer service problems exist. For instance, an expected December 24 delivery that was late prompted Amazon to provide a personal phone call with a sincere apology, not to mention a $20 credit that could be used on a future order - and this was before the customer even reported the issue! A missed Christmas deadline didn’t lead to anger and fury; instead, it only yielded even deeper customer loyalty. And it’s all because of the personal touch that’s all too rare in today’s automated world.


Back Up Your Promises


The Amazon example rings true in several ways. On an immediate level, the message is simple - even when customer demands put a strain on your resources, you still owe it to them to exceed their expectations. If you’re in a position to make guarantees to your customers, you’d better have a way to meet those deadlines. And, just as importantly, you’d better have a backup plan in case those deadlines can’t be met for any reason, even if those reasons aren’t necessarily your fault. That backup plan, it goes without saying, shouldn’t include only reacting when you have something to lose.


Add a Personal Touch


But there’s a bigger takeaway from Amazon’s customer service. Yes, businesses typically go all out when a customer’s patronage is at stake. A smart move, to be sure. However, it’s also a good idea to take elements of that full-court press and incorporate it into your everyday approach.


Consider the example of DDP Yoga, a fitness program with a loyal following and that has an appearance on Shark Tank to its name. To this day, owner Diamond Dallas Page calls a handful of new customers each day to personally welcome them to the program and answer any questions they may have. As a result, those customers have a more personal connection to the product, and they’ll be that much more likely to stick with the program and refer it to others.


You might not have a fitness program to sell, and you might not have the resources of Amazon. But there’s no reason why you can’t do a little something to delight your current customers. A personal phone call or a handwritten note is all it takes. By taking these measures of your own accord instead of in response to something you’ve screwed up, you’ll encourage a great deal of loyalty from your customer base.


All They Really Want


At the end of the day, customers don’t ask for much. All they want is to know that your business cares about them as people, and not just as dollar signs. Using a personal touch can help you to achieve this to great effect. If big businesses like Amazon can execute this strategy perfectly, what’s your excuse for not taking action?

Friday, January 19, 2018

Branded Promotional Products Make a HUGE Marketing Impact

People love free stuff; they always have, they always will. This is why branded promotional products are so effective. It doesn't even necessarily matter what "it" is. So long as it's free, people are going to come running.


Choosing the right type of promotional products can have a huge marketing impact because of their longevity and because they're functional in a way that people truly appreciate. If you're thinking about experimenting with branded promotional products but aren't sure if it's something that will be worth your time and effort, here are a few key reasons why now would be an excellent time to start. 


Branded Promotional Products Earn You the Right Kind of Attention


According to a recent study, 53% of people used some type of promotional product at least once per week. More than that, six out of every 10 of them said that they tend to keep promotional products for up to two years.


This means that when you invest money in creating that attractive and helpful branded tote bag, you're essentially putting a piece of marketing collateral out into the world that someone will carry with them for around two years. That is 24 months worth of opportunities for them to use that bag in public, acting essentially as a walking billboard. That's a long period of time to effortlessly keep your brand at the forefront of someone's mind.


Integrating Branded Promotional Products Into Your Larger Campaigns


Branded promotional products compliment your other marketing efforts and earn a place among all the other techniques you're using. You also need to know when and where to roll them out. If you're the type of company that will be appearing at a trade show, for example, branded promotional products like USB chargers or even fidget spinners are terrific because they can attract attention to your booth and help guarantee that every personal interaction gets off on the right foot. 


Think about it like this - the first known use of branded products as a form of marketing dates all the way back to 1789 when a guy you may have heard of named George Washington was trying to get elected president. The commemorative buttons he used at the time undeniably made an impact on the message he was trying to spread. If it worked for George Washington, you could bet that it will work pretty well for you, too. 


When you also consider the fact that adding a promotional product into your larger marketing strategy can increase the effectiveness of your other types of collateral by up to 44%, you begin to get a better understanding of why the "all of the above" strategy is one that is more than worth exploring. 

Friday, January 12, 2018

Brochures: An Incredibly Effective Marketing Tool

Sometimes things become trends for a reason. Case in point: brochures. Brochures are still incredibly effective marketing tools. Why? 


Because Brochures Have Versatility to Spare


Brochures are the perfect supplementary tool to give to someone to clue them into more information about your product or service WITHOUT having to rely on the internet. Did you just come across someone at a trade show or other event? Give them a brochure. Did you just have a walk-in that you weren't expecting but don't have time to dive into the deep details you need to make a sale? Give them a brochure.


Any good salesperson can tell you that the number one rule of marketing is "always be prepared," and a brochure allows you to do precisely that.


Because It's A Marketing Tool in More Ways Than One


Another one of the most important reasons why brochures are still incredibly effective comes down to the many ways in which they can be used beyond straight selling. Yes, this is a great way to give someone a big portion of information about your products or services... but a brochure also makes your contact information readily available. It works a lot like a business card that way, only going above and beyond what a business card can do on its own.


Because of The Power of the Hard Copy


Finally and perhaps most importantly, brochures are effective marketing tools for one reason above all others: they exist in the real world. They're physical. People can hold them in their hands, or give them to friends and family members. 


Customers prefer having something that they can hold rather than reading information from a company website. Some people even so far as to print the information they want from your website so that they can digest it at their own pace (at the cost of their printer ink). 


Nobody is saying that gorgeously designed websites aren't exactly that - but a brochure is a perfect way to take all that information you already have and bring it into the realm of the physical. Not only that, but brochures and other types of print marketing will immediately allow you to stand out from competitors who have switched to primarily digital materials - another benefit that is too powerful to overlook.


These are just a few of the many reasons why brochures aren't going away anytime soon. If you didn't get to create as many brochures as you wanted to during the last year, 2018 would be an excellent time to start. 

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Keeping Employees Engaged During the Dreaded Month of January

Returning to work after the fun and exciting Christmas season can feel like an uphill battle. If you really want to keep your employees happy, healthy, and engaged during the dreaded month of January, there are a number of essential things to keep in mind.


Encourage Your Employees to Spend Time Outside


Part of the reason why January is so terrible for so many people comes down to SAD, or "Seasonal Affective Disorder." It's a very specific type of depression that relates to changes in the seasons and is often brought about by how cold and dreary January has a tendency to be.


The key to combating this is, thankfully, a simple one - encourage your employees to get outdoors as much as possible. Take them out for lunch at that great new restaurant down the block and insist that you all walk there. Get as much natural light into your workplace as possible. Even getting just fifteen minutes of quality sunlight exposure every day can have a big impact on their mood and their productivity.


Along these same lines, consider starting an exercise program at your office in the new year. Not only will this play an important long-term role in keeping your workforce as healthy as possible, but this type of physical activity will also go a long way towards combating SAD head-on.


Encourage Frequent Breaks


It's important to take an active role in the work/life balance of your employees during the Christmas season, particularly when their attention is being pulled in so many different directions at once. Guess what? This idea doesn't stop being any more important just because the calendar now says "January 1."


Look for any opportunity that you can find to give people a bit of a break from the important tasks at hand. People always need to recharge, but this will become especially important during January and the rest of the cold winter months of the year. Make sure that people are getting out of the office and home at a decent hour, too. Once again, you may think that pulling long hours will help productivity in the long run, but all you're doing is compromising the quality of the work that people can provide you.


While it's true that nobody (yourself likely included) likes to return to work after the fun of the Christmas and New Year season, it isn't as bad as you probably think it is. Indeed, so much of keeping employees engaged during January comes down to a matter of perspective - one that you can fully control just by remembering tips and tricks like those outlined above.