Publicity Without The Price Tag, It’s Just a Matter Of Spreading The Word

Can you get people talking about your business and your products without actually paying a fortune for publicity? Yes, you can. Here are some tried and tested ways to get the publicity you want – for free.

Word-of-mouth publicity

Word-of-mouth is an exciting possibility. This is an unpaid form of publicity in which satisfied customers tell other people about how much they like your product or service. People will spread the word about your product or service if it promises a new experience. It makes them look good for having communicated the news and it also makes them look well informed. A human interest story around your product experience can spread like wild fire.

The customer experience needs to be truly astounding, not just a matter of “satisfaction”. Word-of-mouth has a ripple effect: each happy customer can steer dozens of others to the company. It is also one of the most credible forms of advertising. The person making the recommendation has nothing to gain monetarily. And personal reputation is also at stake if the product does not live up to all it is touted to be.

Social media

This can get you loads of free publicity. You can set up a FaceBook page or a Twitter account at no cost. It’s an excellent way to build relationships and generate word-of-mouth publicity. However, be focussed on what you want to communicate and to whom.

Viral marketing

If your promotional material goes viral, it can give your public profile a big boost. It could be an unusual photograph, a video clip or a quote. What works and what doesn’t? There’s no magic formula, but if it’s different, unexpected, quirky and catches the imagination, upload it and the chances are it will catch on. It takes imagination to present your product this way, so think out of the box.

Write a great press release

A press release is an official document you send out answering key questions about your product or service—more importantly, giving some new information that would be of interest to readers. Beware of the ‘crying wolf’ syndrome. Don’t just keep sending out press releases for the sake of sending them because when you do have something newsworthy to communicate you may not be believed. Give the media something substantial to work with. It’s advisable to get a PR professional on board to write your press releases and send them out to the right people. You’ll find it pays dividends.

Get noticed

One way to get free publicity is to get your name and picture in the media. If you are involved in philanthropy, local media might pick up the story. But make sure you truly believe in the charity you are supporting and are not doing it purely for PR value. You can also participate in industry events. Here you can get a lot of coverage from trade media. Contributing to trade publications, writing about topics of interest to the industry, add to your credentials as an industry professional.

Ad promotions

You can sponsor ad promotions that link your brand with the industry as a whole. This can be in the form of ‘advertorials’ that are informative but are not overtly linked with your brand. Customers may tend to skip this form of paid editorial content, however. Think about whether the potential results are worth the cost.

Publicity triggers

There are many ways in which you can bring your product top-of-mind in everyday situations. You can link the brand name with a popular play that’s being talked about or a hit tune. You can make it catchy by actually making it part of everyday conversations. Make a list of triggers you can use to remind people of your product –even subliminally—and also give the list to your friends. Top-of-mind is tip-of-the-tongue so find interesting ways to get your product name into people’s lives and you’ll be surprised at the results.

Promoting your product doesn’t require a lot of money. It just requires people to talk about it.

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Beware The Pitfalls, Working Remotely Has Its Disadvantages, Too

A lot has been said about the advantages of getting a virtual office. It really frees your employees so they can work from anywhere any time. However, there are some pitfalls in the working remotely scenario as well. It makes sense to be aware of what they are and find ways to deal with them.

Fall in efficiency

When people don’t come in to the office every day but work from home or some other location, you may well find a drop in efficiency. Of course, efficiency may increase in some individual cases, but it’s been found that people working remotely are generally not as focussed on their work as they should be. They tend to take frequent breaks and are easily distracted. Besides, if you need to reach someone urgently, you may find him or her difficult to locate. Waiting for them to get in touch can be frustrating.

There may also be situations when you need to pull out all the stops and work collectively to deal with a crisis. How can you do this if the full team is not in one place to pull their weight? One solution is to schedule a specific time in the day when everyone is on call, a sacrosanct time slot. Scheduling meetings over Skype is another option and has the advantage of talking to people
one-on-one.

Negative perception

When they don’t see the entire team working single-mindedly on their problem, clients begin to wonder how serious people are. A negative perception may set in, without real justification in many cases. But clients tend to draw their own conclusions about what they see or don’t see. They don’t have the same comfort level they would have if they saw the whole team on the job working together. The answer is to tell clients honestly that having employees work remotely has been a well-considered decision. It saves the cost of running a full-fledged office and the money is being used to provide better tools and resources to help clients get a competitive edge. Reassure your clients by sending a regular progress report on the job.

Less bonding between employees

Employees need to bond with each other, spend some time chatting over coffee, discussing the latest happenings, sharing views on new movies and having a healthy debate about sports teams and matches. This is not strictly work but it helps create a friendly ambience, which is known to improve productivity. When people are working remotely, they don’t have the advantage of this camaraderie. It’s important for employees to be in touch with each other via email and instant messaging. Make sure social events such as lunches and dinners are arranged at regular intervals so people can feel they belong to the same team. Don’t forget to include people working remotely in brainstorming sessions. Let them also share in decision-making and celebration of milestones such as achievement of targets.

Security hazards

When people are not working together in the same physical office, compliance difficulties may creep in. Safety procedures must be carefully followed so that confidential data doesn’t inadvertently get into the wrong hands. When the question is a matter of sensitive, top-secret information, employees should be asked to come into the office to work on special tasks. Extra precaution needs to be taken when members of the team are scattered in different locations and need to access confidential data.

Loss of trust
There’s a danger that you might lose trust in your employees when you don’t see them at their desks every day. You may wonder if they are actually putting in the time required. This is where you need to pull out the trust card and have faith in your employees. Don’t micro-manage and ask for frequent reports. Resist the temptation to keep asking how the job is going, what progress has been made. Let your employees know that you trust them implicitly and are depending on them to get the job done. Let them know that you are available for consultation but are absolutely confident about their abilities. Sending out a message that you trust your employees will go a long way to ensuring that not only is the assignment done on time, but that it’s done brilliantly.

The pitfalls of a virtual office can be avoided with a little thought and careful planning. Having a virtual office is a whole new way of working, providing flexibility to your employees so they can do their best work at the right time and from the location that suits them best. Exploit these advantages but find a way out of the problems.

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Look before you sign: Important considerations when choosing a serviced office

Your business plan is ready, your key employees are on board. Now, what you need is the right serviced office. Making the right choice will save you time and money. It will create the right impression and get your business off to a good start.

Here are some parameters you need to consider before you sign on the dotted line for your office lease.

Location

This is a driving force in the decision. You want your office to be business central. It should be easily accessible by clients as well as employees. Check out for yourself the availability of public transportation. If the transportation network is good, you might even consider moving to the suburbs—which could be a significant saving. It’s a good idea to talk to people who already work in your planned location to determine pros and cons.

Infrastructure costs

If you are renting or leasing the office, you will incur infrastructure costs varying from laying carpets to buying furniture and equipment, to wiring. Not to mention staffing and day-to-day running costs. That’s why a serviced office is a far better choice. All these things are taken care of. All you have to do is just walk in and get down to business.

Office services

Running an office involves a host of services. These include reception and telephone answering services, pantry services and business support. The quality of these services has a direct impact on the productivity of your business, employee morale and customer confidence. Most providers of serviced offices have a list of services they provide. The key question is the quality of service, the commitment and experience of the staff. You might consider a trade off between quality and price but this may prove costly in the long run. Discreet enquiries from current users will give you an idea about the kind of service you can expect to get. This is not an area where you should make compromises. Get the very best service available.

Hidden costs

After moving in, you may encounter costs that you had not considered or budgeted for. These can be substantial. While everything cannot be anticipated, it makes sense to ask questions however trivial they may sound and get satisfactory answers. Also, it’s important to read the fine print. The terms and conditions you agree to are important and oversights might prove costly. A legal eye going over the terms and conditions is a good idea.

IT infrastructure support

Your operational efficiency depends on how well the computers, servers, printers and other IT equipment run. Check on the internet bandwidth. Is internet availability in this location hampered by traffic congestion and slowdowns? Delays accessing the internet result in productivity loss. They also damage your credibility. Consider whether you would have to install upgrades of internet bandwidth, which will add to expenses. It’s best to get your own IT consultant to check out the reliability of internet connection in the proposed office before you move in.

Safety

Reputed serviced office providers ensure fire safety and other protection for a safe working environment. Nevertheless, don’t take this for granted. The safety of your employees is at stake. This is, of course, the most important consideration. Moreover, there would be a lot of expensive equipment in the office which also needs to be safeguarded. Make sure that the highest standards of safety are guaranteed.

Total cost assessment

After all the plans are in place, make a realistic assessment of the actual payout that you will incur. Not surprisingly, this will differ significantly from initial estimates. Include every detail, however small. Factor in unexpected breakdowns, delays and emergencies. Now match this with your budget. If you see significant budget over-runs likely to happen, see where you can make expenditure cuts. It’s best to do this before you make the final commitment to move in.

Make a checklist of your requirements and make sure all the important parameters have been considered before you take that all-important step—moving into your serviced office. This will make a difference to the bottom-line as well as the productivity of your business, employee well being and customer delight.

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Does your company have a culture of innovation?

An office that has a culture of innovation attracts the best talent and achieves its business goals faster than those regular ‘nine-to-five’ offices where people just work because they have to. A culture of innovation in an office is an environment that encourages out-of-the-box thinking on an on-going basis.

To make the most of innovative thinking in the office, top management needs to decide which areas of innovation the company needs. There has to be a clear-cut direction. Are ideas needed to make customer service really spectacular? Do you currently experience a barrier in entering new markets and are looking at ways to making a breakthrough? Do you need a focus on new trends so you can be one-up on the competition? It is up to the leader to channelise thinking into a specific path, otherwise there will just be a stream of haphazard ideas which, though interesting, are not aligned with corporate strategy and objectives.

To lay the foundation for a culture of innovation in the organisation, you need to look at different parameters. What are your company’s core strengths and how can they be exploited to the maximum? What weaknesses need to be overcome and how does one put on the innovation cap to address this problem? What can be done to beat the target competitor in the marketplace?

Somewhere within the organisation are innovative ideas waiting to surface. It’s the leadership style that can make or break these ideas, so the right framework needs to be created. If you’re the boss, so much depends on you. Do you dismiss the idea offhand without giving it due consideration? Do you immediately see ways in which it won’t work rather than exploring its possibilities? Do you pay lip service to the need for ideas but never use them? Next time someone comes to you with a new idea, stop and think: do you immediately shoot it down? Unless you communicate a good reason why their ideas can’t be implemented, people will stop coming to you with them.

Giving people conflicting messages can be an innovation killer. Do you ask for innovative ideas and at the same time want people to meet short-term goals? This may send out a confusing message.

Creating an innovative environment means allowing people unstructured time to think, experiment and explore new ways of doing things. They should be encouraged to meet informally. Steve Jobs, the great innovator, said: “Innovation comes from people meeting up in the hallways and calling each other at 10.30 at night with a new idea.” Make sure your organisation encourages this kind of thinking and does not expect people to work too rigidly according to office norms. Ad hoc meetings should be encouraged. People should be able to tinker with their ideas, share them with anyone, any time. Brainstorming should not be the exception but the rule in the office.

One stumbling block to the generation of innovative ideas is a feeling of fear—fear of being rejected or ridiculed. This needs to be eradicated. People should feel free to come up with ideas. Mistakes should be tolerated. Failures should not be penalised but welcomed—because failures quite often lead to new directional thinking.

Ideas can come from anywhere and from anyone—even the person coming in with the tea. Don’t give the impression that only a select few from the innovation think tank can come up with ideas. Everyone who contributes an idea should be acknowledged and if the idea is accepted, duly rewarded.

It’s a good idea for the leader to walk about in the office, stop and chat with employees in their cubicles and encourage them to come up with new ideas. His or her door should always be open to people. One anonymous someone can come up with that winning idea everyone has been searching for. The next innovator might be right there, in plain sight.

Build a culture of innovation in your organisation and give talented and motivated people an opportunity to explore new ideas. When you create this kind of environment, you’ll have created a magnet for a talent pool of innovators who will help take the company to a new level of success.

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Why Serviced Offices Make Good Business Sense

Whatever your business, one of your biggest priorities is cutting costs. You have to find areas where expenses can be kept low. This is specially true when there is an economic downturn. But even when the economy is doing well and your business seems to be on the upswing, it is wise to keep costs as low as possible to maintain your margins and build up a contingency fund.

A big chunk of expenditure goes on leasing workspace. The rental itself eats up a good percentage of what you are earning. And when you lease space, you still have to furnish and maintain it. You need phone lines, an internet connection. You need staff. Day to day maintenance ends up costing more than you thought and saps your energy. When you should be focussing on your business, you find you are spending an inordinate amount of time just running the place and the costs keep mounting.

Given these conditions, serviced offices are a better option for most businesses. As the term suggests, these are offices kept ready for occupation. They are well-furnished and equipped; they are well-run, properly staffed and maintained. The furniture is in place, phone lines are installed. There’s a professional team taking care of all the details, leaving you hassle-free. The best ones (and it makes sense to choose the best) have an inviting ambience. All you have to do is take the kind of workspace that suits you and start working.

Cash flow is smoother with a serviced office. You get one bill that includes maintenance, infrastructure and all business facilities. All your office-related outgoings are included in that one bill. And you usually are charged once a month, so you don’t have to come up with a huge amount of money every quarter. This is specially helpful if you are a new business, just getting your feet wet. Being able to plan your outgoings month by month makes managing finances easier.

Scalability is a major advantage with serviced offices. Not locked into a longterm lease, you have the flexibility to leave at very short notice. If your business is growing and you need to expand, you can relocate to a bigger place. However, you may not even need to do that as most serviced offices are let in units, which means that you can take on more space without the expense and bother of relocating. It works the other way, too. If you need to downsize, a serviced office will enable you to get a smaller workspace without giving up any of the benefits of a well-run office.

Don’t underestimate the amount of time, energy and money that are needed just to keep the office running. Maintenance problems can crop up any time and you will need to divert your energies to dealing with them. You will be wasting precious time which should be spent on concentrating on business.

A serviced office makes good business sense. You cut your outgoings—besides, you have no ‘surprise’ expenses to deal with. You get value for money and have the flexibility you need. A serviced office provides a solid base from which you can build your business. How wonderful to be able to walk in and just get down to business without a care in the world –except what you can do today to make your business grow.

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