Making the call – stay with print or go digital?

It’s true that more and more publications are taking their formats online. It’s also true that many people still read printed materials. If you’re looking to move a publication like a newsletter or magazine online, consider these questions during your decision making process:

  1. Who’s the target audience? What do we know about them? In addition to demographics, what do we know about their information needs, ease of accessing print or digital communication, time constraints, and expectations aligned with our organization’s purpose and brand?
  2. What content do we need to share, and how can we best manage it? Is a print or a digital format better for what we need to communicate?
  3. How do we want to engage our audience? Digital allows faster communication and the ability to link to additional content. It makes it easier for readers to share content with others, as well as reply to us. Digital also allows us to track results and interest in specific areas. We can do that print – with more effort and expense. What’s best for us?
  4. Who will produce our content and manage design? Both print and digital publications require quality writing and editing. Printed pieces benefit from strong graphic design that also carries over into an online PDF version. Digital designers can move an e-newsletter from average to great. Consider, too, that an e-newsletter requires a skillset in working with a web-based platform – which can sometimes be tricky to get just right.
  5. What’s the cost difference? Printing and mailing can be expensive, but so is hiring someone to build and maintain a database for an e-newsletter. What works for our budget?

You will likely find that leveraging both print and digital pieces is the best marketing communications strategy. Many organizations find a balance that meets both their customers’ needs, and their internal capabilities. So, when you’re ready to think about moving from print to digital, keep an open mind, think creatively about options and put your customers first. Chances are, you’ll make the right call.

Meeting Management 101

Meetings. The staple of every good business day, right? Or not, especially if they drag on without much action, keeping you from valuable work time at your desk or with customers. Meetings can sometimes pile so tightly after one another that it feels like all you’re doing is talking about projects or initiatives instead of doing something to move them ahead. But we think you can do both — manage meetings and progress.

Here’s how:

  • Set a time frame and honor it
  • Prepare an agenda before the meeting
  • Set objectives to accomplish by meeting’s end
  • Utilize a “Parking Lot” for ideas that are important but would distract from the main conversation
  • Include the right people – those with responsibility, authority and expertise related to the topic
  • Keep it small if possible
  • End the meeting by reviewing next steps and to-dos

The Trust Factor

Trust and Respect
Treating employees with respect means understanding and appreciating the reality of their daily work, providing them with valuable and useful information so they can make good decisions, and collaborating with them to produce the best possible result for the customer.

Papering the walls with vision statements and quotes from famous people on leadership usually falls short in “creating corporate culture.” In today’s mobile and digital age, people are inundated with information, and they’ve turned down the volume on those things that don’t have some direct relevance to their lives. That’s nothing new. The first question any employee asks when presented with change: “How does it affect me,” followed quickly by, “How does it affect those I work with.”

Employees want context. They want to know how their company is performing – good or bad. They want to know what the company believed in and how it makes decisions. Most employees see the business strategy through the prism of the company’s beliefs and values, not the lens of a financial P&L statement.

What usually makes the difference? A CEO and leadership team that sets the example by engaging in authentic and frequent communication that fosters open, ongoing discussions on things that really matter to the company, its people and its customers.

A recent national poll asked the following question: “When you think of companies you trust, what are the most important activities for them to be involved in?” The answers in priority order:

    • Fair treatment of employees
    • Ensuring that products meet accepted social and environmental standards
    • Open communication of both positive and negative facts
    • Commitment to responsible business practices 
    • Philanthropic donations and activities
    • Ongoing partnerships with sustainable non-profit organizations

Translate Trust
Employees who feel trust and who see trust demonstrated by their leaders will translate that respectful, trusting behavior to the way they treat customers. If you don’t have trust inside your company, then you can’t transfer it to your customers.

It reminds me of a Zig Ziglar quote: “If people like you, they’ll listen to you. But if they trust you, they’ll do business with you.”

What’s your trust factor?

Ask Your Customers What They Value

One of the key ideas taking hold in the healthcare industry is looking at value from the point of view of the patient. Is the cost of a service or feature worth the benefit to the patient? Many businesses beyond health care also define value by looking through the eyes of their customers, and so they regularly turn to their customers for insight, feedback and new ideas. Sometimes it confirms your trajectory, sometimes it leads to surprises.

One of our healthcare clients invited patients to participate in an improvement event to redesign a hospital’s birth center. The patients and hospital staff learned from each other – and ended up going in a whole new direction.

“I was blown away because they had a plan based on a customer survey,” said one of the patients who participated in the improvement event. “I never realized they would even do something like that. In our discussions, though, we determined we wanted a different option. So, the staff developed a list of questions about the new direction. Then, they called patients and confirmed the new idea. It was so impressive. They moved quickly and they changed their minds right then and there.”

Defining value from the customer’s perspective is a worthy enterprise for any business. The good news is you can obtain the voice of your customer in a variety of ways to meet business objectives, and accommodate time and resources.

  • Complete a periodic “voice of the customer” survey. This can be a simple online survey. Ask about your performance in areas of strategic focus, ask about customer service and leave room for customers to give additional feedback. We do this annually at Bottom Line, and we gain valuable insight for improvement, along with confirmation of what we’re doing well. Check out our website to see our results for yourself.
  • Take the customer survey results one step beyond your internal use – share them with your customers. By transferring the online survey into a personal conversation, you strengthen the relationship, have opportunity to educate about your other products and services, and continue to glean insight from customers.
  • Invite customers to join improvement events – to actually sit at the table with you. The transparency, education and mutual problem-solving benefits everyone. “It was four days of intense planning and thinking through the possibilities,” said one customer of a wellness program operated by one of our clients. “I was privileged to be a part of it. I wasn’t there with just healthcare providers. I was there with members of my community. To see these people working as dedicated professionals solving real problems was a joy.”
  • Follow-up to specific customer’s comments, complaints and concerns. Every opportunity to talk with a customer is an opportunity to listen, learn, share and improve. Most of us just want to be heard, so even if you can’t do anything, listening well and seeking to understand go a long way toward demonstrating respect.

 Asking customers what they value isn’t hard. What’s hard is mustering the courage to really listen, to be honest about their input and to respond appropriately. A genuine willingness to understand value from your customers’ point of view is the launch pad for delivering it.