Opening Doors Blog

What Makes An Effective Newsletter

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Newsletters are a great way to increase awareness of your business among your customer base or business partners. However, not all newsletters are inherently great. In order to have a decent open rate (percentage of recipients who actually opened the newsletter email), you need to have great content, but that can be tough. Thinking of new content every month takes a lot of creativity and time. Here are some ideas to get you started:


  • Product release: If your company just released a new product, announce it. Make sure to include pictures and specs of the product as well as release dates and where to find it.

  • Industry news: If there was a big industry change that will affect your business, write a couple paragraphs about it in the newsletter. Explain what the change is and exactly how it will affect your business, if at all.

  • FAQs: If there is a certain question that you keep getting asked about your organization, the newsletter is a great place to address it. You can even make it a permanent section and just answer a new question every month.

  • An editorial by an industry expert: If there is an opinionated manager or leader in your company, have them write an editorial about something in the industry. An editorial should express an opinion, but have plenty of facts to back it up. A good editorial also addresses some possible arguments against the opinion being presented.

  • A letter from the founder/president/CEO: If your company just experienced some growth or expansion, have an executive write a letter thanking the audience for their business. If your company recently suffered a crisis or a setback, an executive can address that and make an official statement as well.

  • Event announcements: If your organization will be attending a tradeshow or hosting an event, include summaries of what you’ll be doing there as well as the dates. Making your customers/clients/partners/employees aware of what’s going on is a great way to get your audience more involved.

  • Blog posts: If your company has a blog page, sharing a popular blog post from the last month or quarter (depending on newsletter frequency) is a great way to fill up space and get more visits to your website:

  • An anniversary: If your business recently celebrated a milestone, share it with your audience. An excited tone can make your audience excited for you, too.


There are tons of content topics you can include in your newsletter. If creativity is your thing, have fun thinking of new and inventive ideas. Just remember to always include photos and graphics to keep your newsletters visually engaging, and have fun with it. We hope these tips help spur your business success!


BACK TO BASICS: Government as a Sovereign

Monday, July 03, 2017

I can still remember sitting at the Army Judge Advocate General's (JAG) School, one of the few blue uniforms in a sea of green, to be taught the magic of government contracting.  Still jet-lagged after the flight from Tokyo to Virginia, I was pounding coffee as the professors started educating us on fundamentals. Weeks later, I emerged as a new acquisition professional. Flash forward to present day and I still marvel over the layers and nuances of our profession.

 

I recently started reflecting on these memories and decided to refresh myself on these fundamental concepts of government contracts. With the aim of helping others understand the foundation of the government contracting environment, I created a series of posts to be called “Back to Basics”. This first post focuses on the most fundamental and distinctive aspect of contracting with the U.S. Government – that the Government is a sovereign entity and has immunity from lawsuits.  

 

The Government’s “sovereign immunity” exists simply because the government is the government. In plain English, sovereign immunity means the government cannot be sued or found liable for its acts unless it waives immunity. From a contracting perspective, the concept of Sovereign Immunity is scary because one party of the contract is immune from suit. Fortunately, our government recognized the impediment to contracting and passed the Contracts Disputes Act (CDA), 41 U.S.C. §§7101–7109.  The CDA waived the government’s sovereign immunity, thus, placing the government on equal footing with the contractor, and allowing contractors to sue the government for breach of contract.

 

Sovereign Immunity may seem unfair on its face – and it can result in unfair outcomes on occasion. However, there are solid public policy reasons for the concept as well as numerous waivers of immunity, all of which, would be good topics for a much longer article. This post however, only discusses the waiver of sovereign immunity in relation to government contracts, and the ability of contractors to pursue damages if the government breaches a contract.  

 

Waivers of sovereign immunity often have strict requirements that must be met, and which establish penalties and interest. For example, the CDA establishes requirements for when the waiver is effective: (i) contractors first file a claim with the contracting officer, (ii) contractors certify the claim, and (iii) claims must be filed within six years.

 

Because these requirements are a condition for the waiver of sovereign immunity, the requirements must be strictly met without regard to the respective desires of the parties. Equity or fairness cannot trump the express language of the statute, and courts have denied claims even if the contractor is 100% in the right. Government policy encourages contracting officers and contractors to resolve disputes amicably through discussions, requests for equitable adjustment, or even alternative dispute resolution such as mediation. If these avenues do not resolve the dispute and, unfortunately, a formal claim is necessary, then contractors need to follow exactly the CDA requirements in FAR Subpart 33.1.  

 

The CDA is just one example of the government’s waiver of sovereign immunity within the government contracts environment. Other similar waivers include the Prompt Payment Act (PPA), 31 U.S.C. §3901, et seq and Equal Access to Justice Act (EAJA), 5 U.S.C. § 504; 28 U.S.C. § 2412. If the government fails to pay a contractor on time, then the PPA establishes penalties for that late payment. The EAJA is unique to small businesses and enables them to recover certain attorney’s fees if they prevail in a lawsuit against the government.

 

Additionally, sovereign immunity and the waiver thereof also apply to contracts with state governments and tribal governments. If you contract with either of these entities, then you will need to learn about the applicable laws waiving sovereign immunity.

 

Just as in so many situations, the best tool a contractor can have is knowledge of the government customer, the acquisition regulations and practices, active management of contracts, and an adequate compliance program. Over the next year, I will continue to relay these snippets of my memories of days long ago in Charlottesville, Virginia at the Army JAG School learning about government contracts and sipping my coffee.


 

Karri brings more than two decades of experience in government contracting and aerospace and defense industries. She started her career as a U.S. Air Force judge advocate where she supported major defense programs, base operational contracting, and international and joint war operations.  Karri gained additional breadth working in a major D.C. law firm on a variety of government contracting matters. Her extensive background in working for and with the U.S. Government (Department of Defense, U.S. Air Force, the Intelligence Community, and NASA) gives her a unique perspective, helping companies understand the underlying policies and rationale for the government position. 

4 Reasons Why Effective Job Descriptions Add Value to Your Business

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Effectively developed job descriptions are communication tools that greatly contribute to your organization's success. Poorly written employee job descriptions, on the other hand, add to workplace confusion, hurt communication, and may leave employees unsure of what is expected from them. Further, having a written description of duties accomplishes many important things that protect your business and positions you for success:

 

1)      Legal Protections. If a dispute arises over job duties, the job description will be used to settle the matter. An accurately written job description may avoid potential lawsuits and defend a termination decision for an employee who did not satisfactorily meet the requirements of the job.


2)      Reward & Recognition. Clearly defined roles and responsibilities provide the basis for employee reviews, salary increases, setting goals, and growth paths. Employers also use job descriptions during evaluations for raises, promotions and recognizing employees that go above and beyond.


3)      Employee Compensation. A job description serves as a reference guide when determining comparable industry salaries and helps maximize dollars spent on compensation for the position by ensuring experience and skills needed for the job are detailed.

4)      Recruiting the Right Talent. Job descriptions provide the foundation for effective job advertisements and developing interview questions that ensure you are screening and selecting candidates with the skills and experience necessary for the position.


“Other Duties as Assigned” is the most important element of a job description.

Make certain employee job descriptions have enough flexibility so individuals can "work outside of the box." Ideally, employers are hiring highly motivated and skilled employees who are eager to do more than just their assigned tasks. But not all workers are as dedicated to their jobs or the companies. Employees who refuse to do more than their job description specifically states can create avoidable headaches for their employers.


By including “other duties as assigned” to a job description, the employer has flexibility to add new tasks to the position as needed. You want people who are comfortable taking reasonable chances and stretching their limits. You don't want to encourage people to think, "That's not my job."


Finally, job descriptions should always include an “Employee Signature” at the bottom. All employees should sign to demonstrate acknowledgement of their job description. Signed copies should be retained in the employee file. 





Reagan Freed is an accomplished HR executive with extensive experience supporting small, mid- and large businesses develop people strategies that support organizational goals. Her experience ranges across a wide variety of industries including engineering, construction, telecommunications and business process outsourcing (BPO).

Solvere HR Consulting provides powerful HR solutions that optimize your organizational capability and profitability through your most valuable asset -- your employees. Learn more at www.solverehr.com.


Marketing Tactics: Segmentation

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

  What’s so important about segmentation?

The simple answer: If everyone was the same we could sell anything to anyone the same way. But this is not the case. Surely your product or service offering is not a one size fits all model. When we segment messaging, or offers, to key groups of people, the results are better.

There are five key practices to consider when segmenting your data. They are:

1. Audience segmentation

Know who is buying your product and/or services. But don’t stop there. It’s equally important to determine who is making the decision. For example, data shows on the consumer side that women in the household make the financial decisions. But, at the same time, it may be the man who is doing the research and deciding which products to consider. On the business side, a human resources executive may be looking for a solution, but the CFO is making that final purchasing decision. And this is where segmentation becomes so important. In other words, the end user who may not be the decision maker is most concerned with features, but the final decision maker may be more concerned with cost and value.   

Fact: Segmented email campaigns produce nearly a 29% higher open rate and a nearly 50% click through rate than undifferentiated messages --MarketingProfs.com

2. Demographic segmentation

Once you’ve identified your audience you need to go another level down and segment based on demographic. For example, if you’re a car manufacturer you can’t always market your highest-level model. You’ll need to understand the audience better and consider factors like geography, household income (HHI), gender and more. This way, you can market the high-end to the higher HHI groups, the base models to the lower HHI groups, and perhaps all-wheel-drive models to geographical locations that have winter driving conditions. The fact remains that you can segment your list in an infinite number of ways. So you’ll need to be methodical and test everything you do.

3. Behavioral segmentation

Behavioral segmentation is a key to testing your efforts. Once you have segmented your audience, you can begin to segment future communication based on their actions. For example: for the group that has not responded, you’ll need to create a new message in hopes of getting their attention. Then there’s the group that may have responded, but not converted into a sale. You’ll need to send them a new message that gives them more reason to take the next step. There are a variety of tools to help you understand the data, so be sure you set up your campaign in a way that allows you to track actions made by your audience.  

Fact: “Segmenting the data for one client produced a smaller mailing resulting in a cost savings of 37% with a 32% increase in response.” – Nonprofit client

4. Segmented landing pages 

Once your direct communication has done its job and brought your audience to your website, you begin to have more control over continued messaging. How you manage this becomes a key factor in converting visitors to sales. Using the latest technology, your website can be set up to recognize customers individually when they visit. By doing this you are able to control what they see, using dynamic content to deliver a highly personalized experience. From simple messages like “Welcome John”, to displaying specific products or services, you want your first hit to be as impactful as possible. There is no doubt you have seen this on some of your favorite retail sites – but when it’s done well you might not even realize it.

5. Predictive modeling

Sometimes what we’ve learned in the past can be leveraged to help us succeed faster in the future. By leveraging predictive modeling, the ability to save significant costs by targeting marketing campaigns to a smaller universe of prospects that generate a higher ROI versus marketing to a larger universe of prospects becomes possible. A predictive database model looks at existing and past customer behavior and predicts future buying behaviors. 

By using a client’s existing sales data we can identify:

     The customers that are most likely to buy and at what price

     The most likely first time customers among prospect records

     The current customers that are likely to become lapsed customers

In today’s hyper-competitive environment, marketers must significantly improve the impact of every marketing dollar spent. And communicating the right offers to the right people at the right time - through the right channels – is key to optimized results.

Let me know your thoughts.

No matter what your business is or who your customers are, The Contrino Group team can help you in all facets of communication. From acquisition and retention strategies, to segmentation, formats and touch strategies – we’ve done it all and have some great success stories to share.

Joe Contrino is CEO of The Contrino Group, a direct marketing agency located in Lafayette, CO.

Joe is an award winning direct marketer with over 32 of years of experience.   Prior to founding The Contrino Group, Joe was a Senior Partner at Suite 700 Direct, Integrated Marketing Solutions Manager at Henry Wurst, Inc., and CEO and owner of Contrino Direct Marketing, Boulder, CO.

Joe is a Direct Marketing Association Certified Direct Marketer Professional, Industry Co-Chair of the Denver Postal Customer Council Board of Directors, and speaks regionally and nationally on direct marketing topics and trends.


5 Useful Apps for Small Business Owners

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

In today’s society, technology is everything. People use it to track their finances, communicate with everyone, track their health goals, and even wake them up in the morning. Technology can come in all forms, and small business owners have many opportunities to take advantage of the ever-advancing technological world. Apps are an easy and effective way to utilize technology, so here are five apps that are great for small business owners:

 

  1. Gusto: Similar to Quickbooks, Gusto is an app that streamlines the entire payroll, tax, and benefits process. The app can help you with employee onboarding by automatically reporting new hires to the government along with their tax information. The app costs a base of $36 per month plus $6 per month per employee, but if accounting isn’t your thing, Gusto is worth every penny.

  2. Slack: Slack is a communication platform you can use to keep in contact with all of your employees. You can create groups based on projects or departments, and keep track of workflow. You can also use the app to send direct messages, and there’s no limit to how many employees you can add. You can try Slack for free or get more features for only $8 per month.

  3. RescueTime: This app tracks and records how much time you spend on different sites. You will receive daily reports on how you spent your time that day, which is great for improving efficiency. You can get the app for free, but for $72 per year, you get access to added features like alerts and the ability to block websites.

  4. Square: For businesses like food trucks, retail shops, or salons, Square is a great go-to payment app. Users receive a portable card reader that they can attach to any mobile device for easy payments. Square costs $49 upfront and 2.75% per transaction, but it’s free to download and works on all devices.

  5. MailChimp: MailChimp is an email managing app that can help you send out newsletters and other mass communications over email. This email marketing app can help you keep track of all your contacts on email lists. Pricing depends on the number of subscribers you have, so look at the website for more information.

 

Being a small business owner means you have to wear a lot of hats. These apps can help you get organized, communicate with your employees and customers, and keep track of payroll and workflow, so take advantage of them because you can!

 

Basics of Media Relations

Tuesday, June 06, 2017

If your organization is growing, innovative, or generally interesting, it can help business to share stories with media outlets. However, getting started in media outreach can be a bit overwhelming. The first steps are the most important. After you get used to reaching out to media outlets and start building relationships, it gets easier. Here are some basic steps you should take to build media relations as a small business:


  1. Create a contact list: Think about what outlets might be most interested in stories your company has to share. Ask yourself whether local outlets, national outlets, or niche publications would be most appropriate. Also think about if print media, video, or audio media would be best. After narrowing down your options, find who you need to communicate with. You can do this by figuring out what kind of stories or news your organization has to offer and then finding the reporter, editor, or producer who focuses on a relevant section of the media outlets you have chosen. Those are the people who should be on your media contact list.

  2. Personalize your emails: Sending a general email to all of your contacts isn’t good enough. No one will be interested in a story if they think you have no idea who you’re talking to. Mention them by name in the introduction, and mention a story that they recently reported on and explain why they should be interested in your story. Your pitch should be personalized to the reporter. Just make sure you’re not contacting them with new ideas too much at first, or you’ll get on their nerves and burn bridges.

  3. Only pitch newsworthy stories: If your story is generic or uninteresting, it won’t get published in any media outlet. Media representatives are generally only interested in trendy topics, like fashion, technology, health, etc. Human interest stories are also interesting if you can pitch them right. Remember: news needs to be timely and relevant and human interest stories need to tug at the heartstrings.

  4. Build relationships: If a reporter uses your story, make sure you send them an email thanking them. If the interview went well, taking them out for coffee or lunch as a thank you might be appropriate. Building personal relationships with media representatives can help your organization get more stories in the news. First and foremost, make sure that you are a pleasant and friendly person to work with.


Pitching to media representatives is scary. Don’t expect it to pay off at first, either. It’s important to tweak your approach with every rejection. Before you email a reporter, make sure that your story is newsworthy and relevant, or your efforts won’t be worthwhile.


Starting your Business: Financing

Friday, June 02, 2017

When I talk with people considering starting a business, financing the purchase is almost always one of their major considerations. It’s a widely accepted truth that one of the biggest contributors to any new business failing, is going in undercapitalized.  With that in mind, here’s a quick review of the most popular ways businesses get financed:

Savings

The first and most obvious option, is to look at your savings. If you have mutual funds, bonds and stock market investments, you can liquidate (taxes will be incurred) and apply towards your business.  Many people feel more secure investing in their own abilities - which they can control - rather than suffer the unpredictability and lack of control inherent in the markets.  If your portfolio exceeds the amount of money you need – you can quickly and easily borrow against your securities by contacting the custodian of those securities.  Interest rates are good, and you simply pay yourself back when you can.  If your need for funding is half (or less than half) of the value of your securities, this is a good route to go.  Using some of your savings to help fund your franchise is always ideal – and in fact lenders will always require you to use SOME of your own dollars. When it comes to fully funding your business from your own personal assets, one thing to keep in mind is that experts recommend that you never invest more than 75% of your cash reserves. For example: If you have $100,000 in savings, invest no more than $75,000 of your own cash.  

Rollovers as Business Startups (ROBS)

Another option is to use your retirement funds. There are specialized financial companies that will set up and facilitate the (tax free) transfer of your retirement funds into your business. This can be a very attractive way to go if you feel that your business will grow in value and that you may want to sell it in the future.  The retirement account will own the business, and when you sell, the bulk of the capital gains can be sheltered inside the account.   ROBS allow you to access your retirement funds without incurring taxes regardless of your age.  And best of all, this option allows you to start your new business completely debt free – you don’t have to pay back the money you withdrew unless you want to replenish your retirement savings. This account is now your business retirement plan which you can fund or not fund going forward.  There are plenty of caveats, not the least of which is that your business will be electing a C Corporation entity, but talk to your tax advisor as this may be the most attractive option for you.

Bank and Credit Union Loans

If your business is a startup – this is not going to be an easy option. The important issues in landing bank financing will be your credit rating, collateral you are willing to put up and your background and skillsets.  You will need to present a complete loan package including a personal financial statement, copies of personal tax returns for three years, and verification of the source of your down payment as well as a well thought out business plan.  

 Resale opportunities, which are already cash flowing and have some operating history lend themselves to this option.  If you have a good relationship with your bank, strong assets and are willing to sign a personal guarantee, this option is the best in terms of rates.

You should also be prepared to be asked to put in your own money. Banks will, in the case of SBA loans, usually ask that you invest between 20% – 30% of the amount needed so that you have “skin in the game”.

SBA Loans

Another option is to try to get a loan backed by the U.S Small Business Administration (SBA).

One reason SBA loans are so appealing to banks is because they are partially guaranteed by the government, which makes them less of a risk to the lender. These loans provide short-term capital (typically 7 or 10 year terms) that can cover equipment, lease buildout (tenant improvement) and working capital.  These loans carry different interest rates, but usually are 2.75% over prime and will also require you to inject anywhere from 20-30% of the loan in cash.

Expect onerous paperwork and preparation – you’ll need, among other things, three years of tax returns, a thorough business plan and other types of documentation.  As in straight commercial loans, your background and skill set will be an important consideration.  But remember, without collateral you are unlikely to find a bank willing to take the risk.

Unsecured Lines of Credit

No discussion of funding would be complete without talking about unsecured lines of (business) credit.

A non-traditional line of credit in the form of business credit cards are among the easiest lines of credit you can get. It will provide fast access to cash, and payment flexibility typically associated with a traditional credit line but without all the drawbacks.

Qualifying for this type of revolving credit line is FICO® driven and doesn’t require the yearly reviews, excessive documentation and level of scrutiny that comes with a traditional credit line.

Some of the advantages of non-traditional business lines of credit are as follows:

1) Access to cash quickly – With unsecured business credit cards, you can utilize as much or as little credit from your line as you want to, anytime and anywhere

2) High credit limits – Business credit cards carry high credit limits, making it extremely convenient to finance larger business purchases. Many cards even offer 0% APR for the first 12 months.

2) Flexibility – With business credit cards you have flexible payment options compared to a fixed month-to-month payment that comes with a business loan. When you tap into your credit line, you have three options every month. You could pay the full amount due, pay at least a minimal portion of the balance or pay greater than the minimum amount due.

3) True separation – Business credit cards enable business owners to separate personal and business expenses while benefiting from business credit reporting. This makes it possible for business owners to establish the creditworthiness of the business itself.

4) Personal credit protection – small business credit cards that report solely to the business credit agencies allow business owners to protect their personal credit ratings while building their business credit.

Of course, these lines of credit have significant drawbacks as well: once the introductory interest rate is over, the rates jump and you can get into trouble quickly. It’s important to manage your debt responsibly, make large payments when you can, and get those credit card debts paid off first.

For this reason, we generally recommend using another source as your primary source of funding, while also lining up unsecured lines of credit as a supplemental form of “insurance” so you can be well capitalized for those first few months when cash flow will be minimal.

Home Equity Lines of Credit (HELOC)

From USLegal.com Home Equity Line of Credit (HELOC) is a type of mortgage loan usually taken using the home equity as a security for the loan. HELOC is used for home improvements, medical bills, and purchases. The funds are obtained by writing checks against the line of credit. Interest paid on the loan is generally tax deductible. The difference between a conventional loan and a HELOC is that in HELOC, a borrower is not advanced the entire sum up front. The customer uses a line of credit to borrow sums that total no more than the credit limit.

Home equity lines of credit are a great option to consider - assuming you have home equity.  Most banks will loan up to 80% of the value of your net equity – the difference between your current market value and your mortgage balance.  Market value is determined by an appraisal – which you’ll pay for.  These loans are inexpensive to initiate and relatively quick and easy to tap - and allow you to access the built up equity in your home with very little paperwork and fees.

These are just some of the more traditional methods of funding your business.  Most businesses are started using a combination of these options along with OPM (other people’s money.  Many large and successful business (Whole Foods is one that comes to mind) were financed in the beginning by friends and relatives.

Jane Stein
Previously with a large Wall Street firm, Jane Stein was a Certified Financial Planner for over 25 years, and provided comprehensive wealth management solutions for a large base of families – representing over 250 million in assets. She wrote an investment column, and conducted public seminars titled “Money Matters for Women”, in an effort to empower women to take charge of their investments. Now she helps men and women achieve financial security through business ownership. Jane Stein is the founder of
Your Franchise is Waiting, a consultancy firm for men and women exploring franchising as an alternative career path.

10 Ways to Recognize Employees for Free

Friday, May 26, 2017

10 WAYS TO RECOGNIZE EMPLOYEES FOR FREE

Article by Reagan Freed, Solvere HR Consulting


Reward and recognition should be individualized to be effective. What motivates one team (or person for that matter) won’t be as effective for another. It’s worth the effort to find what motivates each of your people. Further, consider that not all employees appreciate a public display of recognition. It’s equally as important to find out HOW they like to be recognized in addition to learning WHAT type of rewards motivate them. Asking these questions in the form of a survey is a very effective method to gather the intel you need.

Reward and recognition doesn’t have to be expensive! In fact, sometimes it’s the most basic forms of appreciation that make the biggest difference. When crafting your rewards and recognition programs, also consider what is in-line with your company values. Some types of rewards will map directly back to your company culture. And the way you recognize your employees should line up too.

Here are 10 effective and FREE ways to recognize your employees:

  • A sincere “thank you” and handshake face-to-face.
  • Write a personal note specifying exactly what the employee did that you want to recognize.
  • Recognize a job well done in a meeting or get others involved in applauding the great work.
  • Send a shout-out around in your company’s private social site or other public social media channel.
  • Mention an employee’s success story in a presentation, webinar or even in the company newsletter.
  • Give a long lunch, an extra break or a get-out-of-work-free day.
  • Offer a stretch goal or even let an employee take on a more managerial role—like a team lead.
  • Arrange for the CEO or other top manager to stop by and say, “Great job on _________!”
  • Offer extra flexibility or more chances to work from home if desired.
  • Create a “Wall of Fame” or white board where you display what employees do that’s extraordinary.

 

Solvere HR Consulting provides powerful HR solutions that optimize your organizational capability and profitability through your most valuable asset -- your employees. Learn more at www.solverehr.com.


Reagan is an accomplished HR executive with extensive experience supporting small, mid- and large businesses develop people strategies that support organizational goals. Her experience ranges across a wide variety of industries including engineering, construction, telecommunications and business process outsourcing (BPO).


She has experience working in the United States and internationally in Europe, Middle East, Australia/New Zealand, Liberia and many countries in Asia.


She is recognized for being a multi-talented and versatile problem-solver with a proven track record of increasing employee engagement and enhancing leadership capabilities that directly impact bottom line results. Reagan’s broad knowledge of business disciplines enable her to develop unique people strategies designed to contribute to overall strategy.


Reagan earned her Bachelor's in Business Management from the University of Colorado, Denver and is a certified SHRM-SCP. She is passionate about advancing the HR profession, and serves as a volunteer for the Boulder Area Human Resources Association (BAHRA) as the Director of Communications & Marketing.




How To Focus Your Marketing Budget

Wednesday, May 17, 2017


Not all customers are created equally.

No matter how advanced we get with technology, we’ll never be able to predict how much a specific customer will spend. However, there are ways to analyze existing data to help profile customers and determine where your marketing budget should be focused.

The fact remains, not all customers are equally profitable, nor do they all have the potential to become your most profitable customers. This is a fundamental tenet of marketing, which is why it’s critical to continuously improve the impact of every marketing dollar spent. 

By utilizing your database to communicate the right offer, to the right person, at the right time, you can effectively influence customer decisions. It all begins with segmenting customers to deliver the right message at the right time.

Your budget will likely dictate how sophisticated you can be in your data segmentation. The three most basic forms of data segmentation are:

1) Demographic – Age, Income, Net Worth

2) Attitudinal – Psychographic, Clusters

3) Behavior – Lifestyle, Buying History

Once you’ve developed your segmentation, RFM analysis, and cluster analysis, predictive modeling can be used to measure and identify segments with the most relevance.

RFM looks at customer history to determine recency, frequency, and monetary value.  Customers are then scored and a contact strategy can be developed.

A cluster analysis can assist you in developing “clusters” or groups of customers with similar characteristics, but who are different from members of other clusters. By differentiating, messaging strategies can be better developed.

Lastly, predictive modeling identifies multiple variables that may or may not relate to buying behavior. Variables are fed into a statistical program and the output provides a score for every record. When compiled correctly, this is a powerful tool that can improve customer acquisition and decrease customer attrition. 

In the end, knowing your customer can be a critical aspect to developing a loyal base from which your business can grow.

Let me know your thoughts.

No matter what your business is or who your customers are, The Contrino Group team can help you in all facets of communication. From acquisition and retention strategies, to segmentation, formats and touch strategies – we’ve done it all and have some great success stories to share.


Joe Contrino is CEO of The Contrino Group, a direct marketing agency located in Lafayette, CO.

Joe is an award winning direct marketer with over 32 of years of experience.   Prior to founding The Contrino Group, Joe was a Senior Partner at Suite 700 Direct, Integrated Marketing Solutions Manager at Henry Wurst, Inc., and CEO and owner of Contrino Direct Marketing, Boulder, CO.

Joe is a Direct Marketing Association Certified Direct Marketer Professional, Industry Co-Chair of the Denver Postal Customer Council Board of Directors, and speaks regionally and nationally on direct marketing topics and trends.



Tips for Getting the Most Out of a Tradeshow

Friday, May 12, 2017

Tips for Getting the Most Out of a Tradeshow

Tradeshows are great for any business. Not only are they an excellent place to display your business, but they make networking easy and they’re fun. If you’re new to the tradeshow circuit, the idea of presenting your business at such a platform can be overwhelming, but it doesn’t have to be. Here are a few tips to help you get started and make the best of your tradeshow experience:

1.     Have at least two people from your business attend if you can

One person will need to attend your booth at all times to talk about your business and answer questions anyone might have. The second representative will be responsible for networking: they should explore the tradeshow with business cards in hand, meet people, and try to acquire some clients or business partners. They can also attend any lectures or workshops at the show. Both of your representatives need to be knowledgeable enough about your business to answer any questions and thoroughly explain what you do.

2.      Pay attention to aesthetics

Your booth needs to be attractive, since that’s what initially attracts attendees. Use colorful banners and large printed photos. Use technology if you can: running slideshows or videos on a TV always creates a crowd. Make sure your company’s logo is clearly visible. Also make sure your representatives are dressed nicely and in a way that represents the attitude of your business (however, sweatpants are never acceptable). Just being there isn’t enough: your display needs to be noticeable.

3.     Prepare your people

As previously mentioned, whoever is representing your business at the tradeshow need to be well versed in all aspects of your business. If you are featuring specific products, write a short script for the person/people presenting it at your booth. Rehearse a quick introduction for your booth and for networking. You can also create a spec sheet for any details that are important or any questions that might be asked. Just make sure your representatives don’t say the wrong thing.

4.     Bring your products

If you have a product, it needs to be presented at your display. If your product is small enough, bring a lot. If you have a larger product, like a piece of equipment, ask for some outdoor space to do a demonstration or film it working and have the video rolling at your display. There is no point of presenting your business if you don’t have your product clearly visible somewhere in your display.

5.     Have fun

Tradeshows are fun. They are a meeting of people and businesses with similar interests. They are a place where you can get excited about what you do and show off your business. Networking is important, but being personable and having fun with the experience makes it easier to talk to people. The same goes for presenting your business at your booth: being confident in your knowledge and expertise will make people feel more comfortable interacting with you. Explore and smile, and you will certainly get the most from your tradeshow experience.

Tradeshows are a great opportunity to humanize your business and get your company more facetime. Tradeshows cost money, and they aren’t always cheap, so make sure you take full advantage of the opportunity.

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