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Have you ever used A/B testing in your business? It’s an excellent method for comparing two different versions of something to determine which performs better for your business. This could be two advertisements, direct mail pieces, , web pages, promotions, apps, or almost any other marketing tool. We’ll dive into A/B testing and how it can impact your marketing initiatives in your business.

What Is A/B Testing and How Does It Work?

Sometimes referred to as bucket testing or split-run testing, A/B testing is a statistical method for comparing the effectiveness of two different versions of something. For our purposes, that something will be a marketing tool, as described above.

This is a testing method that can be used by companies large and small to determine what works best for their respective situations and circumstances.And while this experiment can be utilized for both online and offline marketing, it’s easier to implement, control, and measure when applied to digital marketing activities.

First and foremost, all concerned parties need to be in agreement on exactly what is being tested. The more specific, the better. For example, you could run two digital ads that are identical in every aspect except the call to action, visuals, or the headline. But not all three because when you have too many variables, you end up with “noisy” results that make it impossible to determine which element caused what result. Similarly, all other factors must be equal.

Audience, timing, exposure, duration, etc. must all be essentially the same. This is precisely why A/B testing is easier to conduct in the digital marketing arena. Finally, the results must involve a “control” — that is, the current version of whatever you are doing, so that you have a baseline result against which to compare whatever you are testing. This baseline version can either be run simultaneously with test version A and B or as version A as the baseline and version B as the variant being tested.

What Are the Benefits of A/B Testing

The famous American merchant John Wanamaker is credited with having said, “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is, I don’t know which half.” Statistical testing has striven to figure out “which half” is worth the investment. A/B testing is an excellent tool to be used for this purpose.

But what worked for the likes of John Wanamaker in his time may or may not work for your small business. Indeed the same could be said for the business down the street or the peer company in another state. Marketing results are sometimes uniquely relevant to the individual business that is achieving them. Or to put it simply, what worked for John might work for you and then again, it might not. How do we find out which is the case? A/B testing!

What Are the Pitfalls of A/B Testing

The greatest caveat of A/B testing is that of false or misleading results. In order to avoid these, be as clear and concise as possible about what is to be tested and do not compromise the controls that are put in place. However, a lack of internal controls is not the only source for statistical “noise” in the results. Unpredictable external occurrences can cause unexpected results not only in the test bucket but also in the control. In the end it is important to have a competent, qualified individual examine the data and perform (or at the very least evaluate) the analysis.

Common Goals of A/B Testing from a Marketing Perspective

The holy grail of A/B testing is to be able to select the better of two single variables as they relate to your business, to your goals. The answer in each case may be very different for each business, yet the essential goal is still the same for all players. This is why there may be value in comparing notes with stakeholders from other companies, from other sides of the vendor/client desk, and even from unrelated industries. Constructive dialog is healthy.

The Spring-Green Way

At Spring-Green our industry-leading marketing strategy includes A/B testing strategies and marketing analytics to constantly monitor results in real time for constant improvement.Call 1-800-777-8608 or visit us at www.growmygreenindustrybusiness.com if you would like to learn more about business development opportunities with Spring-Green.

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Employee advocacy is what happens when the employees of a given company, of their own choosing, become evangelists and influencers for that company. We most often think of this in terms of what happens on social media, but advocacy also takes place via email, chat, texting, and even offline. Learn how employee advocacy has its benefits to help increase brand awareness.

Employee Advocacy as a Marketing Strategy

They say the hardest part of any inbound direct marketing campaign is making the “inbound” part happen, whether that be a phone call, a live chat request, a form submission, or an electronic order. We can and do use a variety of methods, digital and otherwise, to make that happen.

Now compare and contrast that with a personal recommendation from someone you know. “Call this company or go on their website and they’ll take care of you. Be sure to let them know that you know me and if you run into any issues, let me know and I’ll help you.”

Surely some of you are thinking, “That’s nothing new; that’s just like word-of-mouth.”  Yes, exactly! It’s very much like word-of-mouth and yet it’s much more than that. Employee advocacy behaves like word-of-mouth, and carries pretty much all the same benefits, but it’s an inside job!

Benefits of Employee Advocacy

First and foremost, an employee advocacy program — a deliberate and highly organized sequence of activities — is one more tool in the arsenal that may help a small business reach its goals. Here’s how.

• Employees know people who don’t follow your company. Therefore, employee advocacy expands the brand’s audience and may result in greater awareness, more followers, etc.

• The data consistently indicates that employees have more influence in some aspects than the CEO or even a celebrity spokesperson. This seems to prove that employee advocates may have more pull than do these other prestigious individuals.

How to Build an Employee Advocacy Program

So far we have explored the what and the why of employee advocacy programs as they apply to digital marketing strategies and brand awareness. As we explore the how of building an employee advocacy program, you may come to see why this marketing tactic isn’t more widely utilized by small businesses.

1. Employers cannot mandate advocacy. They do not own the employees or their respective social media accounts. But while they cannot mandate, they can influence. Therefore they must actively engage employees and in effect make disciples of them.

2. A viable employee advocacy program must be measurable in some way. Key performance indicators (KPI) must be defined and tracked. Examples of employee advocacy KPI include postings and/or shares per employee, leads generated per employee, organic reach attributed to the program, and more. If you can’t measure it, you do not have a viable program.

3. Give them a why. Even an engaged employee can be motivated to participate in a program of this sort by rewarding the desired behavior. This can take many forms, such as paid bonuses, exclusive perks, personal recognition, and more.

4. Set specific guidelines. Just as an employee may not mandate employee participation on social media, neither should they leave it up to the employees to sort out for themselves what they should share, specific language do’s and don’ts, protocols for responding to others, etc.

These policies should be in plain language, probably reviewed and approved by the employer’s attorney, and not only made available to employees but also discussed, in order to identify and address any gray areas.

At Spring-Green our industry-leading marketing strategy includes a viable employee advocacy program. Call 1-800-777-8608 or visit us at www.growmygreenindustrybusiness.com if you would like to learn more about diversifying your green industry business with Spring-Green.

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Building customer profiles and buyer personas are one of the best ways to engage your target audience. Creating personal profiles will help determine your niche to sell your products or services, and who you will be targeting your marketing efforts to.

Bear in mind that substantial studies and a quantity of scholarly literature have been developed on the topic of how to develop and use customer personas, but you don’t need a doctorate in data science to understand what persona profiles are and why we use them.

Developing Persona Profiles and Buyer Personas Persona Profiles

A persona profile is a representation of an ideal customer — or in some cases the exact opposite, a classic non-customer — based on factual data. Think of persona profiling as the development of a detailed model of an individual that goes way beyond basic demographic and geographic characteristics.

A buyer persona may contain many characteristics of the ideal customer for a given business, right down to the kind of lifestyle that person pursues, how, when, and where they shop, where they go for information, what’s bothering them, and more.

Let’s try an example. “Weekend Wanda” is a management professional in her early 40’s and works extremely hard all week, as does her husband, and spends most of her weekends entertaining friends and family at home. They invest in the continuing upkeep of their suburban home, both inside and out, as do all the neighbors.

Their property tax burden is unbelievable and spare time doesn’t occur nearly as often as they would like. Both Wanda and her husband enjoy the idea of working outside on their property, but the reality is they don’t have that kind of time. They tend to follow news and current events on their smart phones and haven’t had a landline phone or a conventional television hookup in years.

Data Driven

The above example seems extremely personal, and in one sense it is, but keep in mind that a persona is not a person.

It’s a statistical model based on the actual characteristics of a given customer base. The persona includes some basic demographic data — age, race, location, household income, home value, education, occupation, etc. — but also strives to explore the behavior and mindset of this ideal customer. And here is the key: all of this is based on gathered facts, not casual speculation.

Certainly, small business owners could be creating customer personas by hand, drawing up an armchair version of a persona profile using a basic template and their understanding of what their customer profiles look like. But even if and when it works, that approach is still subjective speculation.

As the late W. Edwards Deming put it, “Without data, you’re just another person with an opinion.” Consider also that an accurate buyer persona is likely not a one-size. That is, a business’ target audience is probably composed of multiple persona profiles, each valid in its own right.

How to Develop Customer Personas

In general, we develop personas based on customer profiles in order to better engage our target audience by developing more appealing content that optimizes the customer experience with our brand. We can go where they go to relate to them on a more personal level, appealing to the things that matter most to them.

Consider the difference between a billboard advertisement and a personal conversation. Crafting our messaging strategy based on customer personas moves us away from the billboard ad approach and close to the personal conversation.

Now imagine having developed several relevant persona profiles based on actual customers in a target market or several of them. How could you utilize these to get more bang for your marketing bucks? You wouldn’t just be having one conversation, trying to accommodate all the different — and we mean different — personas.

You would engage each target audience with its own relevant messaging and in the process, you would generate more quality leads which in turn should yield a higher conversion rate (more sales).

Customer Persona Profiling at Spring-Green

At Spring-Green our industry-leading marketing and technology utilizes real-world customer data and decades of proven experience to develop and apply persona profiles on a daily basis as part of our evolving marketing strategy.  As part of our marketing programs, list selection determines the best households to target so your marketing funds are invested wisely. Call 1-800-777-8608 or visit us at www.growmygreenindustrybusiness.com if you would like to learn more about diversifying your green industry business with Spring-Green.

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Twenty years ago, the dot-com bubble was still expanding and social listening did not yet exist. That’s how quickly digital marketing strategies have been evolving—and likely will continue to evolve. These are exciting times in which we live, though they may also seem a bit scary now and then. How do small business owners keep up, especially those with no formal education in digital marketing? With a great deal of help. But for now, let’s tackle the current topic at hand.

Social Monitoring vs Social Listening

Most businesses today, regardless of size, do social media marketing in some way. From creating content that drives audience engagement and brand awareness, social monitoring and social listening are two things that will benefit your business. What’s the difference between social listening and social monitoring?

Social Monitoring

Many businesses monitor their social media channels watching for questions from customers, responding to online reviews, direct messages, and so forth. Simply watching for mentions and taking a direct action like responding to a message, or reacting to a comment.

Social Listening

Social listening goes much deeper, looking for patterns in social media activity relating not only to a particular brand but also in the industry as a whole. Social listening delves into sentiment (the why), both positive and negative, measuring when and where it occurs and striving to separate cause-and-effect relationships within the data. This will help a business get insight and draw analysis that could shape long-term strategy and improved marketing decisions.

Social listening has the potential to impact the brand substantially and for an extended period of time. The difference between having an effective social listening strategy and not could be one of capitalizing on an opportunity that can help shape content strategy, improve marketing campaigns, and get an edge on your competitors.

How Can Social Listening Benefit your Business?

In essence, social listening has the potential to answer the question, “What’s going on,” in a timely fashion. Like most forms of marketing, producing and publishing a steady stream of relevant content across multiple channels does not happen without cost. An ongoing social listening strategy will not only reveal what seems to be working well, as well as when and where, but also if and when that changes — and sooner or later, it always changes. Good things to know, right?

Social listening tools will flag substantial changes or disruptions. Imagine this extreme example: A competitor to brand XYZ issues a product recall and becomes the target of several wrongful injury lawsuits due to some issue which your product does not experience and in fact could not experience due to key differences in your brand’s production process.

Yet social chatter is spreading like wildfire, not only about the XYZ recall but about a perceived inherent danger associated with that type of product, regardless of brand, including yours! Would you prefer to know about this now or next month?

Both of the above scenarios deal with information that could be utilized to a company’s advantage if obtained soon enough. Social listening tools are designed to accomplish this.

Digital Marketing at Spring-Green

Comprehensive social media monitoring and social listening are not activities that the average person can carry out without the right tools and understanding. At Spring-Green our Digital Marketing team takes care of social reputation management such as responding to comments and seeing how customers feedback shapes business for each of our franchises, as well as creating, managing and publishing relevant content for consumer engagement.

We make life a little easier for our Franchise Owners by not only including these tools as part of our comprehensive marketing strategy, but also by providing ongoing support to the professionals who use our strategies and systems on a daily basis. Call 1-800-777-8608 or visit us at www.growmygreenindustrybusiness.com if you would like to learn more.

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Continually growing a small business can be quite a challenge. Think about this: Even a business with a proven system had to invest time and money into proving that system. This is usually a matter of trial and error. People seem to dwell on the error part, but the path to a successful marketing strategy is exactly that, a process.

Lead Generation Tactics for Small Businesses

Here are some considerations that may help minimize the pain of getting leads and maximize your results for sales.

Understand the Process of Leads

We gain new customers through sales. In order to make sales, we need customer prospects. We get prospects, also known as sales leads, through numerous different sources, only a portion of which are truly worth our time and money. Because we do not convert every lead into a sale, we need to generate enough viable leads to yield the desired number of sales.

Within the process we have just described are two milestones that the small business owner must reach. The first is finding out which leads are worth pursuing. The second is determining how much to invest in each source in order to generate the desired number of leads.

Some ways for a small business to generate leads include:

Marketing Collateral and Advertising: what marketing tactics does your business offer to entice prospects? Direct mail campaigns, pay per click ads and social media marketing are just a few ways. Choose your marketing methods wisely that will give you the most bang for your buck.

Building Content: through blogs and email newsletters, you can inform the audience about a topic that connects to your products and services.

Social Media Channels: connect and engage with prospective customers to create conversations around your business, and have your current customers leave online reviews on platforms like Google, Facebook, or Yelp.

Cost Per Lead vs Cost Per Sale

Lead generation is an integral part of any valid sales plan. Quality sales leads infrequently fall from the sky at a sufficient and predictable rate. Like many worthwhile things, they are bought and the price you pay per lead matters a great deal. Why? Because the cost per lead affects the cost per sale and the cost per sale must not consistently be greater than the value of the sale itself.

To use the simplest example, if we pay $1,000 to generate ten leads from a given source, we have in effect paid $100 for each lead. If we close 10% on average from this source, we will get one sale from those ten leads, at a cost of $1,000 — not including any payroll, telephone, or other direct or indirect expenses. Is this good or bad?

If the sale generates $150,000 worth of average lifetime customer value, it’s pretty good. On the other hand, if your average lifetime customer value is $900 before expenses, it’s not so good. Ten-cent leads are worthless if the resulting cost per sale is less than the long-term value of that sale. This is why you must do the math.

Pick the Low Hanging Fruit First

Lead generation can sometimes be counter intuitive. Can a past rejection be a good lead? Sometimes. How about a former customer? It depends on the business, the customer, and the nature of the separation. What about free or nearly free leads, such as personal referrals? Oftentimes yes but again, it depends. Consider for a minute how your business finds potential customers?

As much as we would like to tell you otherwise, the proof is in the data that comes from your own results. But once you have that valuable information, logic says take the easiest pickings first. Then move up a tier. Then again and again until, in theory, you have reached your goals without having paid more for a new customer than that customer is worth.

A Good Test Is Better Than a Good Story

A wise business analyst by the name of W. Edwards Deming once said, “Without data you’re just a person with an opinion.” What does this mean to the small business owner? Take all matters into consideration. Test things, usually more than once, do the math, and trust the data.

It’s usually an apples-to-oranges comparison, but it’s a compelling story so why not run with it? Why not indeed. The sheer number of variables involved in any marketing endeavor are why what works wonders for a small business owner in one industry may be a total dud for another player in a different game.

Spring-Green’s Marketing Support

It’s a good bet that as a green industry business owner, you’ve thought many times about how to attract new customers and expand your business to increase income. Our Marketing and Technology support have become experts with our proven systems to drive a constant flow of new customers. From our Digital Marketing team to engage customers and best prospects and a National Call Center to handle inbound and outbound calls to close the sale.

Spring-Green has been involved in the science of lead generation for over 40 years. We have quite a story to tell, for those who want to learn more. Call 1-800-777-8608 or visit us at www.growmygreenindustrybusiness.com. We will be glad to hear from you.

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The concept of brand storytelling in marketing has gained considerable momentum in recent years, although the strategy has been around for a long time. Big tobacco used it for years, as have automobile and motorcycle manufacturers, traditional grocery and pharmacy chains, countless fast food concepts, and many others.

Small businesses utilize it, too — and sometimes do a better job of it than the big players. Does your marketing strategy include some type of brand narrative?

What Is Brand Storytelling?

Every brand has a story, either potential or actual, to tell. Yes, some are more worth telling than others. But what exactly do we mean by brand storytelling? Think of your brand’s story as your why for existing in the first place, how your mission and vision came into being.

Effective brand storytelling weaves facts and feelings together in a manner that compels an emotional reaction in those who would buy from you. You will often see the terms “brand storytelling” and “brand narrative” used interchangeably, and we will do likewise for purposes of this brief article, although the nuances differ. The term “story” implies a sense of completeness, whereas a narrative is an ongoing story in progress, whose conclusion may or may not yet have been written.

People Look for Reasons to Become Customers

A business in and of itself is a finite entity and not always a terribly exciting one at that. A company’s brand may be defined as the sum total of all the experiences one has with a given business, product(s), or service(s). A brand can certainly have a personality (or a culture) without being personal. Who cares? You should. People don’t buy from ledger accounts, big boxes or machine interfaces — not for long, anyway.

People want a reason to become customers. They look for it. Moreover, they deserve it. This requires a human touch on the part of the brand. And that is exactly why brand storytelling matters.

The Power of Brand Storytelling

Brand storytelling — the why behind your brand — has the power to provide that human touch. Iconic brands such as Apple and Harley-Davidson do it, as may the local butcher shop or old-fashioned ice cream parlor. Certainly your neighborhood lawn care professional, Spring-Green, also tells a compelling story.

What do these brands, large and small, have in common? They each weave their own compelling story, blending an optimal balance of necessary information and feelings that inspire an emotional connection between the brand and its customers.

In order to accomplish this, the brand narrative is about more than just the brand. It’s also about the customer and the core values that connect both parties. Effective brand storytelling can provide a wellspring of meaningful marketing content, which in turn drives customer engagement and loyalty. In some cases it’s downright tribal. We’ve already mentioned Apple and Harley-Davidson, but consider also Trader Joe’s and Jack Daniels. Each has used brand storytelling to gather and hold a brutally loyal following.

How to Create a Brand Story

Crafting a compelling brand story requires at least three components and a fundamental understanding of each. You also need a compelling storyteller who can draw upon these elements and craft a compelling narrative that continually resonates with the intended audience. This is not always the stuff of complex sophistication, yet none of this should be taken lightly.

1. The essence of what your brand does — both literally and in terms of the value provided to your customer.
2. Your target audience — those to whom you are telling this story and what about them compels the company and target audience to connect.
3. The essential need or want — the inherent desire you can fulfill or pain you can alleviate.

The Spring-Green Story

From our humble beginning around a dining room table in Naperville, Illinois to our proven national franchise concept, the Spring-Green story is embodied across the United States by every Neighborhood Lawn Care Professional® in our organization. Our story is an integral part of our omnichannel communications strategy, both internal and external. Our story cannot be separated from who we are and what we do. Call 1-800-777-8608 or visit us at www.growmygreenindustrybusiness.com to learn more.

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The impending death of print has been foretold since the late 1960’s. And while we would be the last ones to downplay the value of our own proven digital strategy, we can also assure you that a well-executed direct mail campaign — that’s right, printed snail mail — can pay a healthy return as part of a comprehensive marketing program. Why? Because we have the statistical data to back up that claim. With that said, here are our tips for creating effective direct mail pieces to implement in your marketing strategy.

Elements for an Effective Direct Mail Campaign

1. Know Your Intended Audience

At first glance, this may appear much simpler than it is. Define your customers. You can probably create a pretty good list of attributes. Which of those attributes, if any, differentiate the people who become your customers from the people who don’t? That’s a little more challenging. And which of those attributes can be used to filter a list of potential mail recipients? This brings us to our next recommendation.

2. Use a Targeted Approach

Assuming you do not have an unlimited budget, you probably want to reach the greatest number of legitimate prospects for your dollars spent. List filtering is as much about who will not receive your mailer as it is about who will. Depending on your type of business, for example, you might wish to include households with children but exclude apartment dwellers. Household income, marital status, and education attained are also common filtering criteria, but this only scratches the surface.

3. Try These Direct Mail Design Tips

Will you mail a letter? A multi-dimensional package? A postcard? There are many possibilities. Here are just a few considerations for creative effective mailers.

Obey the triple constraint. Between quality, timeliness, and affordability, the general rule of thumb is that you can have two out of three and one of these will always be the primary constraint. Knowing your constraints up front may save trouble later.

Convey your purpose early. Many if not most people go through their mail over the trash can. To make this all-important first hurdle, whatever you mail has to give its reason to be kept before it is even read. Headlines and visuals are all you have at this point, if that much. Show value, appeal to emotions, and unless it expressly suits your brand, avoid cheesy gimmicks at all costs.

Entice without overwhelming. Whether you are mailing a 3”x 5” postcard or a multi-page letter, avoid the temptation to fill every available ounce of space with words and images. People don’t need a particularly strong reason to discard one piece of mail and continue to the next one. The key is to consider three elements of print instead of two. Give your audience words, graphics, and space.

4. Integrate Your Content

The keyword here is content, not pitch. Yes, your space is limited no matter what dimensions your mail piece takes. All the more reason to use that canvas wisely. Go beyond making a pitch. Tell your story—every legitimate brand has one—and do so in a way that is consistent with all other components of your marketing mix.

When you convey a consistent message across all channels of communications, you create a consistent experience and build brand integrity. And just as you would everywhere else, include a call to action, expressly instructing your prospect to respond as you have intended them to.

5. Consider Timing, Frequency, and Interval

When should the mailing go out? When the prospect is most likely to respond. How many times? This depends on your industry, of course, as well as on what else you are doing with regard to executing a comprehensive marketing strategy. As a rule, the answer is almost never once. As to the interval, the amount of space between mailings, some industries have a fairly specific window of opportunity. Do not allow mail to land before the window opens or after it has closed.

6. Set Objectives and Demand Measurements

Know in advance how you will know whether a given campaign has done well or poorly. The answer will be a number. Why? Because direct marketing in all its forms is by definition, measurable. What can you measure? The key indicators are usually response (leads) and closings (sales) as a function of the total audience.

Spring-Green’s Industry Leading Marketing

This has long been a component of the Spring-Green way. No matter what the outcome, from instance to instance, from year to year, take into account all that has transpired and learn something from it so that you will be just a little bit smarter and possibly attain a better result next time.

Since its inception in 1977, Spring-Green has strived in an industry built on the principles of effective direct marketing.  Spring-Green’s industry-leading marketing and technology is backed by 40 years of experience.  Call 1-800-777-8608 or visit us at www.growmygreenindustrybusiness.com to learn more.

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The concept of utilizing a remote workforce is one of these flexible work options that some small business owners believe is reserved for larger companies than theirs. Why is that?

In reality the barriers to utilizing remote workers seem to have more to do with employer concerns than with any hardware, software, or regulatory limitations. Here are some benefits to offering the option of working remotely as well as some considerations for engaging a remote workforce and finally, a few considerations regarding how to work from home.

Benefits of Working Remotely

When working remotely is an option, employees aren’t the only ones who benefit. Certainly, the worker enjoys certain freedoms not found in the office as well as the ability to work in comfortable surroundings, not to mention a commute time that could be measured in seconds.

The employer, on the other hand, may enjoy expanding the workforce without the expense of expanding the physical workplace. Being open to hiring remote employees may substantially expand the candidate pool, especially in instances where working 100% remotely is feasible.

Finally, assuming that the work space is not entirely virtual, those who do come to the physical office may enjoy a little more elbow room, a shorter line to the coffee machine, etc. When done correctly, everybody wins.

A Few Considerations for the Small Business Owner

We said that employing remote workers has its advantages. That’s not to say that it would be a layup for all of you. Here are some things to think about when it comes to working remotely:

A lot depends on the nature of your business and the job roles. If you run a sales agency, you may have an easier time utilizing remote workers than if your business involves assembly lines. Regardless of your industry or business type, some roles simply do not lend themselves to working remotely.

Can you maintain the culture? Despite appearances, this is not a yes-or-no question. Whether employees work in a physical office or at a coffee shop and internet cafes hundreds of miles apart, the employer must strive to engage each of them and all of them. There are many reasons, but here are the top two: First and foremost, your brand is at stake.

The very essence of your business requires that a consistent experience be delivered, whether to employees, customers, vendors, or the public at large. Employing remote workers doesn’t change that. Employees who are effectively engaged tend to stick around. How do you engage employees without the benefit of controlling the physical environment?

The answer lies not only in conveying the proper virtual environment but also in building and nurturing the same type of relationship with remote employees as you do with the ones you see every day.

Consistency is king. Based on popular chatter, work-at-home employees suspect that you don’t think they work as hard or as much as their in-office counterparts, while the office workers think you let the remote workers coast all day. Neither perception is entirely accurate, but that perception is your problem.

We submit the following two pieces of advice: First, it is human nature for everybody, yourself included, to believe that they work harder than everybody else, regardless of their respective roles. Set it aside and urge everyone in your business to do likewise.

Second, every small business owner should have certain key metrics by which they gauge an employee’s performance in a given role and those metrics should prove valid regardless of the employees work location. Trust your metrics. If it helps prove that both sets of employees are on an even playing field, share and discuss those metrics as is appropriate.

A Few Considerations for the Small Business Employee

Not everybody is equally suited to work remotely. With that said, here are few ways to improve your odds.

Differentiate work life from personal life. This can be a challenge to small business owners as well as to their employees, regardless of where they work. If this has long been the case for conventional employees to commute to a physical work location, imagine what can occur when the home and the work space become one and the same.

Whether transitioning from personal life to work life or vice-versa, learn to put the one down as you take up the other. With practice this becomes habit, a habit with the potential to prevent many problems down the line.

Establish a place and time for working. Statistics show that remote employees tend to work more hours than they would at the office. This runs counter to the perceptions of many, but the key to keeping an even keel lies in self-discipline.

Designate your remote work space. Set a schedule for being “on the job.” Remote working entails certain flexibilities, which is good. Just be sure to compensate when appropriate and assuming that your employer is monitoring your overall productivity, so should you.

Establish a lifeline. It can be difficult to feel like one of the group when you are not physically there. Look for ways to stay connected, not only with your superior but also with your peers. Bear in mind that the ultimate objective is to not only make yourself feel like you belong, but to convince others within the organization to recognize that connection. If you can find an in-office advocate to help you accomplish this, all the better.

The Spring-Green Way

When Spring-Green Lawn Care came into existence in 1977, it did so as a work-from-home endeavor, this despite that the concept of a remote workforce was not yet a thing. But times have evolved and so has the Spring-Green organization. Does this topic interest you? Call 1-800-777-8608 or visit us at www.growmygreenindustrybusiness.com to learn more.

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Most employers understand that it takes time, money, and effort to recruit the right employees, and once found, the good employees are worth keeping. An increasing number of employers have come to acknowledge and accept the need to provide those individuals with opportunities for ongoing training and development, both as individuals and as valued members of the organization.

Wait a minute, isn’t all that training and development stuff for bigger businesses? Absolutely not. If your small business is big enough to have one or more employees worth keeping, then you are large enough to plan for them to stay and grow with your business. Some organizations call this an employee development plan or a personal and/or professional development plan (PDP).

Other names for the same type of program include career development or training and development. Spring-Green uses a combination of these and other terms to account for the growth opportunities we provide within our franchise system.

What Is Personal and Professional Development?

The term “personal and professional development” encompasses two broad categories of growth, personal and professional, that have the potential to benefit two invested parties, the employer and employee(s).

Personal development tends to focus on the individual, but the employer also benefits. For example, training in project management may help an employee to become more effective both on and off the job. The term professional development implies that the learned knowledge and skills are more directly job related. There is, however, quite a bit of overlap and the two terms are often used interchangeably.

Developing an Employee Development Plan

A personal and professional development plan doesn’t have to be complicated to be effective, but it does have to be structured and well thought out. The last thing a small business owner wants to do is invest time, money, and effort building a program that is not appropriate for the business or its employees. The employee development plan also needs to have some structure, so that once employees get excited about it, there is a complete and logical path for each to follow. Here are some key considerations that should go into the development and execution of any PDP.

Establish the purpose and desired outcome(s). Since the company’s inception in 1977, Spring-Green has been about defining desired ends and planning to achieve them—in that order. Before you plan a single hour of employee training and development, define in writing why you are doing so.

Seek the win-win or nothing. For any employee development plan to be effective, there must be something in it for all stakeholders. Consider a program that has as its sole objective to improve employee performance so that they’ll be able to produce more for the same pay. Now consider a program that teaches the employee skills not nearly as valuable to your business as to another employer.

What do these two programs have in common? Failure. They are both set up for one stakeholder to win at the expense of the other. That’s not sustainable. Now imagine a series of training modules that will not only make the employees more productive, but also make them more valuable to your business and more effective at home or anyplace else they may go. That’s a win-win.

Sell the sizzle. By all means, share the objectives as you unveil the opportunities. Show the employees not only the program menu of content, but also talk about what’s in it for them and why you get excited about this too. Most successful employee development programs can be aptly described as an investment by the employer that requires an investment of time and effort on the part of the employees. But never forget, the excitement is not about the investment but the return. Show them!

Measure and evaluate. Did the employee development plan work? How do you know? We now come full circle back to the objectives we established prior to developing the PDP. Learning can be measured. Employee performance, before and after, can be measured. But are you evaluating the employee(s) or the PDP? Both, of course.

One’s progress in an employee development plan should be included that person’s performance review. At the same time, there can and should be opportunities to improve the PDP based on its ability to deliver the desired outcomes.

The Spring-Green Way

You wouldn’t be reading this if Spring-Green didn’t offer opportunities for personal and professional development, not only for employees throughout the franchise system, but also for its Franchise Owners, who are by definition small business owners.

From our startup training and support to the online courses offered via Spring-Green University, and our professional development seminars, we provide training and development opportunities throughout the Spring-Green franchise lifecycle. Does this topic interest you? Call 1-800-777-8608 or visit us at www.growmygreenindustrybusiness.com to learn more.

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A common dilemma among small business owners revolves around how to motivate employees. While some business have bigger budgets and can do more to motivate their employees, there are also ways you can motivate employees without breaking the bank.

While it’s true that the best employees are easier to poach if they are underpaid, it is also true that money only goes so far when it comes to motivation in the workplace. This we know from experience.

Well then, if money isn’t the silver bullet of team motivation, what are the best ways to motivate employees? Here’s the thing: just as not everybody learns the same way, all are not motivated by the same things. A little research on motivating employees often invokes the important concept of employee engagement, which describes the quality of the relationship between an organization and its employees.

We will zero in on three key components of staff motivation: involvement, enrichment, and appreciation.

How to Motivate Employees Employee Involvement

Imagine growing yourself a management staff without hiring another employee. That’s the essence of employee involvement. By involving your employees in the decision-making process, without giving them the wheel entirely, you avail to them a greater stake in the business while teaching them how the process works within your organization. At the same time, you avail yourself to their insights and opinions. It’s a win-win arrangement that has the potential to improve over time.

Job Enrichment

The concept of job enrichment is related to employee involvement but is more employee-specific in its application. In general terms, an employee who demonstrates the ability and drive to go beyond the parameters of their current role can be assigned additional responsibilities that are not a part of their current job description. Doing this demonstrates an understanding that the team member is performing above and beyond their current situation and rewards them by expanding the depth of their role.

Again this is a win-win because you are grooming a promising team member for a greater role in your organization while at the same time demonstrating that you are doing so, perhaps giving them the motivation to stick around and work toward that mutually beneficial end.

Employee Appreciation

Employee appreciation is exactly what it sounds like. When an employee does well or goes above and beyond the scope of their role in the organization, you recognize the fact and allow your team to share in the recognition.

If the team as a whole does something noteworthy, such as smashing a weekly production goal or earning the praise of a difficult customer, you recognize and, if appropriate, celebrate that achievement together. Whether you celebrate a victory or discuss a failing, for the sake of the team, do so sincerely.

How Spring-Green Supports Employees

For the record, we use the term motivation to include that which not only makes a team member stick around but also drives them to perform. Over the past four-plus decades, Spring-Green has grown from a modest local business to a national franchise organization. The concepts that we have described here have been developed and proven within the function and scope of our business model. Does this topic interest you as a small business owner? Call 1-800-777-8608 or visit us at www.growmygreenindustrybusiness.com to learn more.

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