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Get your company noticed with help from a digital marketing agency.
By Gwen Moran
When Paul Banco was looking for a digital marketing agency to help Ci-Ban , his $1.8 million Marlboro, New Jersey, IT consulting firm, with online marketing, he asked colleagues for recommendations. His biggest concern was finding an agency with a solid track record and an understanding of his industry.
"We needed to reach both customers and consultants who would work for us," says Banco, 32. "Even if they weren't an expert in our industry, the agency had to understand those different audiences."
Another hallmark of a good agency, says Will McIntosh, CEO of digital marketing agency Fuel Interactive, is an ability to take dense digital marketing concepts and present them in simple, understandable language. However, it doesn't hurt to do a little homework about what you need. McIntosh suggests subscribing to the digital marketing newsletters available through websites like ClickZ, MediaPost.com and SearchEngineWatch.com, which can give you a good understanding of what you need and spark a few ideas.
David Burk, CEO of Clear Ink, an independent digital marketing agency, says agencies' services focus on three areas: customer acquisition, conversion and retention. The acquisition practice gets prospects' attention through website development, search engine optimization and more. The conversion practice "gets them to do what you want them to do the minute they hit the site," he says. This area includes landing pages, applications, interactive website elements and the like. A retention practice includes data mining and predictive modeling, or finding out who your best customers are and where they came from so you can snag more of them.
How do you find a good agency? Decide whether you prefer face time or if you need someone who specializes in your field, says Burk. If the former, begin asking local colleagues for regional references, or be prepared to pay travel charges for a firm to visit you. Either way, check out the firm's online presence, Burk advises, and use several search engines to see if they've optimized themselves well online. McIntosh stresses the importance of looking at past success stories and ROI. "If the agency isn't talking about analytics and ROI early on, it's a sign that they may not have the wherewithal to deliver value," he says. "Everything is trackable online. They should be telling you how you'll be able to measure what they're doing for you."
Gwen Moran is co-author of The Complete Idiot's Guide to Business Plans. Reach her at email@example.com .
Thrilled and Fulfilled
Meaningful work keeps employees happy and your bottom line healthy.
By Mark Henricks
The big money for companies like Kim Kleeman's is in working with large publishers to develop textbooks, workbooks and test-preparation programs. Those customers usually know just what they want and simply expect her staff to execute it, explains the founder and president of Glenview, Illinois-based Shakespeare Squared. But those projects don't excite Kleeman's 24 employees. Their passion lies in creating reader guides and other materials to help teachers integrate popular children's books into classrooms. So Kleeman tries to offer a healthy mix, even though those projects are smaller and less profitable.
"I have my editors clamoring to work on those projects," says Kleeman, 33. "I don't know how many companies have their employees literally fighting over the work, but there's a positive aspect to that." Indeed there is. Kleeman says her $2.5 million company experiences virtually no burnout or turnover and employees maintain a high degree of passion for their work, something she directly credits to making sure people do work they find meaningful.
Kleeman is onto something, according to Michael Pratt, a business school professor at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, who has studied meaningful work. "People with meaningful work are less stressed," says Pratt. "They're happier." Higher job satisfaction translates to less turnover, and that usually means superior corporate performance.
There are a a number of ways companies can make work more meaningful for employees, Pratt says. One is to attach meaning to the products or services the company offers, or to the customers it serves. This is essentially the approach taken by Kleeman, a former teacher whose employees are also current or former teachers collectively committed to providing their peers with excellent educational aids.
Companies in less inspiring lines of business can make the workplace itself meaningful. They can do this by giving people more variety and greater au-
tonomy, or by developing a strong culture with values that employees connect to. In this way, they can find meaning not so much in the customers or products, but in their fellow employees. As Pratt puts it, "Even though your job itself may not be meaningful, you can give people a sense of community."
Making work meaningful is a slippery concept with no standard methods of measurement. It tends to be defined differently at every company, Pratt says. So rather than copy what another business is doing, you need to find what can be meaningful in your own company environment. And that will give you a powerful, long-lived advantage. Says Pratt, "Organizations are realizing it's an important thing."
Mark Henricks writes on business and technology for leading publications and is author of Not Just a Living.
Insurance for export shipments is traditionally provided either through a transportation company, a freight forwarder or an insurance company specializing in ocean cargo. And it's as vital to your product delivery plans as safe vehicles and sturdy cartons. Consider these four points when securing ocean marine (international shipment) insurance.
1. Get enough coverage. The most common type is the all-risk policy covering most physical loss or damage from any external circumstance, excluding loss or damage caused by war, riots, acts of terrorism, strikes, or civil disobedience. "An all-risk marine policy covers your liability to the steamship line for any damage or loss to product and their equipment while moving your goods," says Ric Frantz, co-founder and CEO of LR International Inc., a full-service international freight-forwarding company. Frantz says this "generally costs about 1 percent to 2 percent of the declared value of your shipment."
2. Decide who will secure the insurance. How much control do you want if something goes wrong with your shipment? Your terms of sale usually determine this. Your liability ends at the point at which the title to the goods changes from seller to buyer. If, for example, you are guaranteed payment for your shipment regardless of its condition upon arrival, you might be more inclined to let your customer handle insurance. However, if you are shipping on an open account, where you have not secured a method to guarantee payment, you should secure the insurance yourself, through a U.S. com-pany, to ensure that any claims will be settled expeditiously.
3. Decide who pays for it. The party that secures insurance isn't necessarily the one that pays for it. So a customer may request insurance but not offer to pay for it. How you and your customer assign financial responsibility depends on the cost of the coverage and how the expense will affect each party's bottom line. Negotiate to achieve a win-win situation.
4. Leave a paper trail. No matter who arranges and pays for the insurance, you must be able to present certain documents in the event of a claim: a letter of claim along with a copy of the bill of lading covering the shipment, a copy of an insurance certificate, a survey report issued by a claim agent, and an invoice showing the amount of damage or loss. Time is of the essence: Do not miss any filing deadlines.
Even one export shipment that doesn't arrive is one too many. Protect your business, your cargo and your customer's interests before releasing merchandise.
Helping other minority entrepreneurs succeed is Nelson Davis' business.
When Nelson Davis launched his Los Angeles-based TV show, Making It! Minority Success Stories, a weekly series that showcases local minority entrepreneurs, some questioned the availability of material. That was in 1989--but this year, the show hit episode 524 and is expecting $525,000 in sales, primarily from sponsorships.
From the beginning, Davis was confident he'd find plenty of stories in the city's melting pot, but he learned that if he wanted to get the show's stars out there--and have a successful show as a result--he'd have to go "knock on doors and ask for support," he says. Once sponsors were sold on the concept, the cycle of people "making it" was put into motion. As long as there are minority entrepreneurs Davis can help, the show will go on. And from there, he hopes viewers will be inspired and "get some tangible, actionable information toward being in business for themselves."
By Mark Henricks
- Even skeptics about global warming need to realize that it's a business reality with opportunity for profit. In Climate Change (Harvard Business Press, $18), sustainable-business experts Andrew J. Hoffman and John G. Woody give three steps to prepare for and capitalize on what's coming, including measuring and reducing your company's carbon footprint.
- In The One Minute Entrepreneur (Currency/ Doubleday, $19.95), legendary management writer Ken Blanchard, speaker Don Hutson and entrepreneur Ethan Willis use a fable format to describe how to create a business with a firm foundation and then build on it. Short chapters and folksy aphorisms describe the progress of the entrepreneurial protagonist as he grapples with realistic obstacles and ambitions.