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How to Keep Innovation a Top Priority at a Tech Company

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Eric Kasper


As the saying goes, the only thing constant is change, and that’s absolutely true at tech companies. Technology is always changing. And for tech companies, figuring out what those changes need to be and making them happen is paramount. It represents your best shot at thriving and growing and helping you keep innovation a top priority.

While getting the first version of a product to market is exhilarating, it’s not when the work ends. It’s merely when the real work begins, in determining how a product can improve and thinking about those next changes.

Innovation, important as it is to this growth and change, needs to be nurtured, cultivated, and encouraged in your employees. If your company is trying to make innovation more central to all you do, here are some tips for how to inspire innovation in your company.

1. Make time for free, innovative thinking.

It can be hard to be innovative just out of the blue. Having a specific time and place in which innovation is encouraged is a key to making it happen.

I recommend taking time out once a month to hold a session that is dedicated exclusively to idea generation. You don’t have to find a separate location to do something. However, it’s still best if it has a “retreat” sort of feel to it, as free-flowing and freeform as it possibly can.

Make sure that you have somebody getting all the ideas down. Having it on a whiteboard visible to everyone allows one idea to springboard to others.

And make sure that you have a facilitator that can keep the energy of the session going. Asking the right questions and the right follow-up questions is key.

2. Don’t shoot down new ideas immediately.

Your innovation idea sessions should be a brainstorming space. Nothing is off the table and nothing is too wild to consider.

Not everything you come up with can be implemented, of course. However, these sessions should be about all the things you can dream up rather than what might be the most rational and logical direction in which to make change.

Take vertical farms, for instance. Conceived in the 1970s, this trend toward indoor, controlled-environment agriculture became possible, as the New York Times reported, thanks to LED light prices dropping nearly 95 percent between 2008 and 2015. That one piece of the puzzle was enough to perhaps change the future of food — even though these farms will have additional challenges requiring more innovation.

Coming up with a new idea that might seem outlandish or unattainable can actually lead to ideas that are doable and inspired. If you see an idea that fits this description, you can let it simmer a bit. Talk through all the options that stem from that, and all the opportunities that might present.

Perhaps even have a follow-up meeting once everyone’s had a chance to sit with what you’ve come up with in that initial meeting. It might lead you to a different idea that becomes your next big thing and help you keep innovation a top priority.

3. Don’t be afraid of failure.

The fear of failure is very real and very present. It can lead some companies to make choices that are safe, predictable, and meet the expectation of their core customers.

However, they don’t allow those companies to spread their wings beyond that and inspire new people. When you’re risking failure, it’s often because you’re taking a chance and you’re trying something that’s new, pushing you into undiscovered terrain with an uncertain outcome.

But where failure can lie waiting is also where opportunity lies.

You can, of course, mitigate against the prospect of failure by doing your homework beforehand. You don’t have to go blindly into whatever risky territory you might think your innovation could take you.

And what initially might look like failure isn’t necessarily that — it could be, for example, that a product you envisioned to do one thing and isn’t being adopted for that purpose could have some other application that does, over time, prove to be a worthy innovation.

Take the iPad. It gathered functions and utilities for customers over the years. However, perhaps not the ones Apple envisioned would be truly resonant for customers at the outset. Consequently, they are now central to how people use them and how Apple’s adopted its marketing around them.

As a recent Forbes article revealed, one tech-savvy parent has revealed how its Focus mode is allowing what has the potential to be a distraction machine, full of games and videos, to steer his kid toward using it to complete homework assignments…without accessing the other temptations that lie within.

4. Bring in new eyes.

You might think that your ideas work within the bubble of your own company. However, part of the fear of failure comes with not knowing how that technology will work in the real world. So, why not bring the real world to you as you seek to keep innovation a top priority?

When you bring in new people — customers and potential customers not yet familiar with your products or the innovations you’re bringing to those products — you have the opportunity to discover things you wouldn’t otherwise know.

Have people come in to test your products. This can help you find opportunities for improvement. You can assess the functionality of your product, the UX and design features, or simply other uses for the product that you haven’t yet conceived.

As pointed out in a recent Readwrite article, the maxim about only getting one chance to make a first impression rings true. “When a person installs an app,” the article points out, “they will likely figure out if they wish to keep the app or uninstall it after the first use only. Therefore the app just has one chance of staying in the app list of the user.”

Most people use 10-30 apps on their phones. However, there’s obviously a lot of competition to stay on people’s phones.

Speed, the onboarding process, and the app’s responsiveness to gestures are all factors in whether an app stays on a customer’s phone. If you’re bringing a new app to market, those new users testing out your innovations can help you with those factors.

5. Get customer feedback on the regular.

However,  to keep innovation a top priority, the information gathering shouldn’t stop with the release of the product.

Your future innovations can be informed and inspired by how people are using what you’ve created. You can highlight what they’re learning and discovering about it.

Customer feedback will not only help you gauge how satisfied customers are with what you’ve created, but will help you determine what next innovations they’re hungering for — and that will turn the process into a meaningful dialogue in which you’re building a relationship with your customers over time.

Keep Your Eye on the Prize: Innovation

It’s easy to ease the innovation reigns and coast for a while at a tech company.

However, a tech company that isn’t focused on innovation will quickly fall behind in today’s fast-paced tech-focused world. Implement some of these ideas and your company will make a solid effort to be constantly innovating. It will be easier to stay competitive and keep innovation a top priority.

Eric Kasper

Eric Kasper is the CEO, and founder of Tradefull, a complete e-commerce solution helping retailers operate most efficiently. He is a serial entrepreneur and an authority on e-commerce technology and processes. He strives to help e-commerce companies of all sizes simplify their processes in order to help them ultimately reach their goals.

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How to Nail the Art of Visual Email Marketing

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How to Nail the Art of Visual Email Marketing


Interesting subject line ✅
Engaging and relevant copy ✅
Actionable CTA ✅

All these make up a high-converting email. But there’s one more thing that helps in getting maximum ROI from your emails. That’s attractive visuals. Vennage has revealed that 49% of marketers rate visual marketing as “very important” for their marketing strategy. Three days later, people will probably remember only 10% of the information they hear but 65% of the information if it is presented with a suitable image.

So, if you want your emails to make a difference and prompt the subscribers to take action, using visuals is a must.

That said, let’s take a look at all the different types of visuals and rich media you can use to enhance the email’s aesthetic appeal.

1. Images

Static images come first, as they are a basic yet compelling part of visual email marketing. Whether you want to display your product with a pretty picture or break down the content with vectors, images come in handy. If you want to pull the plug on lengthy text, use relevant images along with a crisp copy.

Take a look at this email by Touch of Modern. They have nailed the art of product photography and included the perfect image that would attract shoppers.

Source

2. Illustrations

Illustrations can be used as a powerful storytelling tool in emails. According to a survey, illustrations and infographics are performing better than many other visual elements when it comes to yielding engagement. Rather than using stock images, you can use meaningful illustrations that add more value to the emails.
Here’s an email by Harry’s that uses an illustration to depict the awesomeness of their face wash packs.

Source

3. 3D Images

3D images originated in the 1970s. They established their identity in web designing and gradually made their way to emails. These images add depth to the flat email design and bring freshness to the subscriber’s inbox.
Burberry has incorporated a nice 3D image to promote their open spaces in the email.

4. GIFs

Let me take you back to the earliest usage of GIFs in emails.
In the year 2007, Lake Champlain Chocolates incorporated GIFs in their emails, and to their sheer surprise, it brought 49% higher conversions.

Then, in 2014, Dell drove 109% revenue (marketingsherpa) with the help of an animated laptop image in email.

Animated GIFs prove to be extremely beneficial in various use cases, as discussed below:

  • Displaying the huge range of products available in your eCommerce store
  • Inspiring wanderlust in the readers with enticing images of the destinations
  • Demonstrating the usage of your products
  • Promoting a new show released on your OTT platform
  • Executing occasion-based email marketing
  • Animating the typography to draw attention to an important message

Anthropologie has used action-packed animation to show its products. It portrays comfort and aesthetics and lures the readers to buy.

5. 3D Animations

3D animations are a step above GIFs. If you want to further enhance the user experience, use 3D GIFs as Lyft has done.

Source

6. Animated Illustrations

Illustrations with animations are a visual treat. They help in telling a story to the subscribers. If you go by the “Show, don’t tell” adage, try using animated illustrations in your emails.
Grammarly sets the perfect example of using animated illustrations in their email promoting the midnight sale. The animated owl and clock form a great combination to convey the message.

7. Cinemagraphs

GIFs are snippets taken from a video or an animation played on a loop. On the other hand, cinemagraphs are sophisticated animations with a seamlessly endless loop that take the subscriber back to a past moment.
Here’s an email example by Detour Coffee Roasters showing the use of cinematography in their welcome email.

Like GIFs, you can use cinemagraphs in the telecommunications industry and add visual oomph to your emails. It will pique the subscriber’s curiosity and make them buy an OTT subscription to watch the show.

8. Videos

You can add videos in emails in two ways.

  1. Place a video thumbnail with the play button and take the reader to the landing page.
  2. Embed the video in the email itself and let it play therein.

The first option is pretty straightforward in that you just have to embed a static image in the email that emulates a video thumbnail.
Here’s an example.

The second option requires some coding expertise. You have to consider email client support too, if you want to use embedded videos in email.
Take a look at this email template to experience an embedded video in it.

Some Additional Ideas to Make Emails Stand Out

  1. You can use a monochrome design layout with a single color in the emails.
  2. Add gradients to reinforce visual hierarchy and get the emails read till the end. You can even experiment with innovative CTA buttons with gradients.
  3. The key to using visuals effectively is to follow the principles of visual hierarchy. Arrange the email components in a Z or F-shaped pattern to guide the readers. Also, adhere to the accessibility best practices.

Pro-tips for Adding Visuals in Emails

  1. The text-to-image ratio should be maintained at 80:20.
  2. As email clients block images by default, add a suitable alt-text with every image. This will also be useful if the subscriber views the email with images turned off. It is an important accessibility best practice and aids the screen readers in conveying the message to subscribers with visual impairment.
  3. Don’t add important information and CTA in the images.
  4. An all-image email will trigger spam filters and hamper your email deliverability rate.
  5. Avoid stock photos at all costs. Real photographs work better if you want to leave a lasting impact on the subscriber’s mind.
  6. Animations should not flash between 2 to 55 Hz; otherwise, it will aggravate the condition of photosensitive epilepsy.
  7. Keep close tabs on the email file size to ensure fast loading. It will prevent cutting into the user’s Internet bandwidth.
  8. While adding GIFs and embedded videos, include a suitable fallback to curb rendering issues.
  9. Use images judiciously without getting over the board.
  10. Test the emails so that they render well across all the major email clients and devices.

Wrapping Up

Remember those times when it seemed impossible to format emails with anything more than an image? And now, we have so many different options to explore and make our emails more fun and entertaining. Besides visuals, you can even use interactivity to add to the visual appeal. Test and see what works best for you.

Put your creative hats on to create email designs that resonate with your email subscribers. It will, in turn, bring you unmatched results in terms of open rate, click-through rate, conversion rate, and ROI.

Featured Image Credit: Provided by the Author; Thank you!

Disha Bhatt (Dave)

Disha Bhatt (Dave)

Disha Bhatt (Dave) works as a Content Strategist at Email Uplers. She is a dentist, who has found her calling in words & technical subjects. She loves to pen down travelogues and romantic short stories in her free time.

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6 Ways to Prepare Your Business for the Upcoming Holidays

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Calendar


The holiday season can be incredibly disruptive, especially for small businesses and their customers. You could either be in a very slow season looking for things to accomplish or so overwhelmed by business that you feel like you got run over by a reindeer. If you haven’t started making preparations yet, you need to start today.

Simple adjustments can help you gain more business or handle a heavy influx of holiday patrons. Here are several ideas you can consider implementing to end the year on a high note:

1. Decorate With Holiday Spirit

Any customer that enters your business will feel the holiday spirit if you’ve got the right decorations in place. You don’t have to go overboard with inflatable pumpkins or flashing Christmas tree lights, but some well-placed decorative touches can really bring the place together. Plus, this makes the workspace festive for your employees as well.

You can choose to highlight the general themes of the seasons or focus on specific holidays. For example, autumn leaves and fall colors can get you well into November. You could also mix things up by putting up ghosts and jack-o’-lanterns for Halloween and switching them out for turkeys and pilgrims for Thanksgiving.

The same can be done for winter. Snowflakes and snowmen will work for the entire season. If you want to get specific, you have Hanukkah, Christmas, and New Year’s decorations to consider.

2. Work Out Employee Vacation Times

Everyone wants to take time off during the holidays, and for good reason. This is one of the best times of year to gather with family and enjoy life together. Unfortunately, some businesses can’t afford to have all of their employees taking time off simultaneously. Your job is to make sure everyone is getting fair time off while still staffing important dates around the holiday season.

How you approach this task is up to you and how you think your team will respond best. You might think it’s fair to let the most tenured employees select their days off first. You could also develop a rotation so that the same people don’t hog the same days off every year. Even a first-come, first-served approach could be considered if you think your team will be OK with it.

Remember that you deserve to take some time off as well. Being an entrepreneur is incredibly demanding and time-consuming. Taking even a couple of days off to enjoy the holidays with family can help you recover mentally and physically.

3. Encourage Calendar Collaboration Among Team Members

To ensure everyone on your team is on the same page with project deadlines, essential meetings and events, and client needs, it’s essential to collaborate on a team calendar. Most calendar software today offers team calendars.

Make sure everyone on your team has access to one another’s calendar so they are aware of when they are available. Then, team members can collaborate to help each other take on things that could otherwise be missed.

Thankfully, there are many collaborative calendar integrations available for teams to utilize in order to maximize their time. By utilizing these tools, teams can work more efficiently together. Therefore, they can minimize the chances of missing deadlines, missing meetings, or making clients unhappy.

4. Make Holiday Business Hours Known

Your customers also deserve to know how your business will operate throughout the upcoming holidays. You should communicate in advance the days you plan on being closed. This way, customers and clients won’t be disappointed when they try to visit, and nobody is there to receive them.

This is extremely important for schedule-based businesses. The sooner you block off certain days, the less likely you will have to reschedule a meeting or appointment that was booked in advance. Clients who have their end-of-year scheduled meetings rearranged or moved at the last minute will not be happy.

Consider sending out an email that details your holiday hours to any customers who have provided contact information to you. Additionally, you could also consider adding a note on your email signature that states when your business will be closed. You could implement this early on, especially for the winter holidays. At the very least, put up a notice on your front door and website that makes the revised schedule known and accessible.

5. Plan Marketing and Promotions

The holiday season is for family and friends, of course, but it’s also a commercial opportunity for businesses. (There’s a reason they call the day after Thanksgiving “Black Friday.”) While you shouldn’t lose sight of what’s most important, your business should be thinking about some promotions to run. The right marketing campaign at the right time can dramatically boost your revenue.

Marketing plans practically write themselves this time of year. Black Friday and Christmas sales are common and desirable. A salon could run cut-price haircut specials on Black Friday for those who want to escape the shopping fray. A mani-pedi promotion could capture the attention of those primping for holiday parties. Put your business’s personal twist on the season, and you’re likely to see sales increase.

What’s most important to prepare for is the increase in business during a holiday promotion. Make sure you are appropriately staffed for busy days with numerous consumers cashing in on holiday deals. If you’re not prepared to handle the business you’ve attracted, you’ll have a blue Christmas.

6. Consider Getting Extra Help

If you’re feeling overwhelmed by all of the business coming your way over the holidays, consider contracting some extra help. Plenty of businesses hire seasonal workers to lend them a hand for a couple of months. Your business doesn’t have to be an exception.

The great thing about seasonal workers is that there’s no long-term commitment. You can get an extra receptionist, hair stylist, or stockroom organizer for just as long as you need. These workers are looking for some extra holiday cash and simply want the additional hours before life returns to normal.

You may even consider contracting some digital help. A webmaster can help you keep your website up and running even with double the online traffic. Your clever marketing strategy could be implemented by a third party so you can focus more fully on your customers.

Closing Thoughts

Of all the above steps, the most important common denominator is to be sure your clients and customers are aware of when your business will be out, so they can plan ahead as well. This will help your business avoid the inconvenience and disappointment the unavailability may cause. Be sure to encourage in-house collaboration on important dates, in addition to collaborating externally with your clients and customers.

Keep your business on the nice list by being prepared for every upcoming holiday, whether it’s the longer holiday breaks in the winter or the shorter holidays throughout the year. With the above holiday preparation planning tips, your business can plan well ahead for this holiday season so nothing slips through the cracks.

Though it’s an extremely busy time for everyone, the holiday season doesn’t have to get stressful. There are so many ways to avoid all of the stress by planning well. The better you work together to prepare, the jollier the holiday season can be for your business and your customers as we head into the 2023 new year.

You might not feel entirely ready for 2023 just yet, and that’s fine. But by taking steps to prepare for the new year now, you’ll position your business to succeed beyond your expectations.

Published First in Calendar. Read Here.

Featured Image Credit: Photo by Quang Nguyen Vinh; Pexels; Thank you!

Calendar

We are Calendar, trying to make the world a much more productive place. Check us out online at https://www.calendar.com.

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Face Supply Chain Disruptions : Work Smarter, Not Harder

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How To Start a Business While Living With Your Parents


Supply chain disruptions are nothing new. However, since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, supply chain disruptions have become more common. At first, these issues caused major shortages throughout the country. Now, shortages are still occurring along with inefficient shipping processes.

These issues have forced business owners to struggle with ways to stay afloat. Delays, interruptions, and cancellations have made it nearly impossible to keep up with demand while avoiding wasteful spending.

However, some things simply aren’t within your grasp when it comes to supply chain disruptions. On the other hand, you can work smarter to address them. You’re responsible for how your business responds to these disruptions, and with better approaches, things will run more smoothly.

With that in mind, let’s look at how your business can deal with supply chain disruptions. You can create a sense of hope in this digital world as things slowly start to return to normal and the supply chain issues start to balance out.

Use Data Analytics to Survive Supply Chain Disruptions

Collecting clean data and putting it to use can improve everything from customer service to your marketing endeavors. It can also be used to mitigate the effects of a supply chain crisis. Developing innovative data solutions can keep your business afloat and even help it grow during uncertain conditions.

Different Data Methods for Supply Chain Disruptions

To start using data to your advantage during supply chain disruptions, consider these methods:

  • Take a look at demand trends. You can look at customer orders and purchasing trends over the last year. This will give you a better idea of how much to order and how often to counteract supply chain disruptions.
  • Organize your data. This also makes it easy to look at your current inventory and open order allocations. You can compare your inventory and orders with data provided by production teams or vendors to create a realistic timeline of when things will arrive or when they can be shipped out to customers.
  • Pay attention to demand volatility. People aren’t necessarily hoarding items as they did at the beginning of the pandemic. However, there are still some things consumers are regularly purchasing to prepare themselves for the future. As you look at data relating to the current supply of popular products, as well as data from the manufacturers, it will be easier to keep a steady flow of those products in stock.

While looking at data might not sound like an immediate plan of action during turbulent times, it’s easier to make positive changes and work smarter in the face of supply chain disruptions when you have the right information.

Build Your Brand to Withstand Supply Chain Disruptions

It’s difficult to focus on anything but the supply chain issues affecting so many businesses right now. However, retting over those issues isn’t going to get you anywhere. By shifting your focus and putting your energy into supply chain disruptions, your business can move forward.

Building a brand isn’t easy, which is why it requires a lot of time, attention, and focus. Taking this time to hone in on your marketing is a great way to make your business more of a household name. That kind of brand recognition is exactly what companies need right now to stay afloat when supply chain disruptions occur. You can build your brand awareness and identity (stickeryou dot com), in a variety of ways, including:

  • Defining your company values
  • Understanding your audience
  • Determining what sets your business apart
  • Creating brand guidelines

Once you have a strategy in place to grow your brand, utilize things like logo creation, social media, and special events to grow your name and help your customers understand who you are.

Build Consumer Relationships Despite Supply Chain Disruptions

Even if you’re facing supply chain issues, you can build relationships and establish trust with consumers. Today’s consumers desire relationships with businesses more than ever before, so it’s okay to show the “human” side of your brand as often as possible. That can make it easier to provide positive customer service experiences when you’re facing product shortages and delays.

Communication with your customers is one of the best ways to deal with frustrations over delays and supply chain issues, so be transparent. Make it a part of your identity. When you make sure your audience knows about the issues you’re facing and keep them updated about shipping information (including delays), they’re more likely to be understanding and patient.

Prepare to Handle Disruptions to Your Supply Chain

Supply chain disruptions are all but inevitable. Make sure your business has a backup plan and is prepared to deal with them when they arise.

If you don’t have one already, consider establishing an emergency management center within your business. Once you have a team in place, you can offer them previously collected supply chain data and create a plan of action. This will make it easier for them to create an effective strategy while reducing the risk of miscommunication that’s often associated with supply chain disruptions.

You should also create a backup plan that incorporates the existing suppliers that can adapt with you when disruptions happen. It should also include technology exploration. Tech, such as AI, can make a big difference in the future of your business – even if it forces you to change some of your existing supply chain processes.

Be Patient During Supply Chain Disruptions

Additionally, try to be patient when disruptions occur. This isn’t the first time the world has seen supply chain issues, but they’re more unsettling now since there’s no end in sight. As someone involved in business, take heart in knowing these delays and disruptions won’t last forever.

In the meantime, focus on working smarter, not harder — to navigate supply chain disruptions. By mitigating some of the issues, being smart with data collection, and focusing on boosting the strength of other areas of your business, you’ll be able to get through these disruptions more comfortably. You may even come out on the other side with more resiliency and knowledge.

Featured Image Credit: Provided by the Author; Mika Baumeister; Unsplash; Thank you!

Amanda Winstead

Amanda Winstead is a writer from the Portland area with a background in communications and a passion for telling stories. Along with writing she enjoys traveling, reading, working out, and going to concerts. If you want to follow her writing journey, or even just say hi you can find her on Twitter.

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