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Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Communication For Business: How To Write Clear Yet Difficult Correspondences


Whether writing to an internal audience or external clients, difficult correspondences must be handled with care, most especially when dealing with human resources within the company. The communication must be clear, firm but not aggressive, fact-based, and concise. Written employee warnings, reprimands,  may be form letters or customized depending on the sensitivity of the matter or company policy regarding the issue. 


Here are some tips to construct difficult correspondences in a professional and firm manner:

Clearly outline the basis for the communication and desired response. It is not enough to reprimand the worker for being late to work when the desired outcome is for them to arrive 15 minutes in advance to clock in and situate themselves in their work space. Company policy regarding the issues mentioned so that the employee is not left feeling picked on or singled out. It is also important so that an official purpose of the written warning is established. Managers interested in improving their teams and subordinates will always leave follow up pointers with steps to correct the behavior and the desired response from the employee. 

Decide the outcome of the correspondence of the letter before you begin. Is this a repeat issue or serious offense that could result in termination or just needs improvement? Proper wording will depend on the desired outcome or desired effect.

Use words and phrases that are easily defined, not subject to interpretation, and based on facts. When dealing with touchy issues, the effectiveness of a written warning can be largely dependent on the actual words chosen. The difference between an escalating issue and a prolonged problem should be easily identifiable. 

"Your continued tardiness has caused your team to steadily fall short of their sales goals" should be backed up by data or verifiable occurrences. This statement makes a clear tie between sales (important benchmark) and their inability to reach work on time. However, this statement is different than "Your pattern of tardiness may have an effect on your teams ability to maintain their sales goals." The point is to be clear in what you are saying and the impact you want it to leave on the reader. One statement sounds like a reprimand while the other sounds like a warning.
Use a sandwich method when suggesting improvement. The sandwich method simply means that while the meat of the sandwich is the issue you want to address, it is sandwiched between two compliments or positive attributes. For example: 

Dear Employee,
Having you as part of the editing team has helped the company become more strategic in their thinking when it comes to online mediums. The management team is very pleased with your contributions, and would like to see this same professionalism applied to your relationships with coworkers in the office. Outbursts in the office interrupt the workflow, morale, and slows productivity. We look forward to your improvement in this area. We'd like to also take this time to solicit any questions or concerns you may have about company policy regarding appropriate workplace behavior and encourage you to speak with your supervisor in case of conflict. XYZ Inc considers you as an asset to the organization and hopes to see progress in this area without having to escalate the issue. For questions, comments, or clarifications of company policy, please contact your Team Leader.
Be firm when addressing issues regarding Title VII, sexual harassment, and other liability issues. The sandwich method is not appropriate for more serious issues that can affect company liability or human resources. In this case, there is a need for clear and objective language that could be presented in the case of an EEO claim or in wrongful termination accusations. For example: 

Dear Employee, After recent investigation into the accusation of sexual harassment involving you, we have uncovered evidence and testimony that places you in direct violation of company policy. In accordance with training received in your annual sexual harassment training and the employee handbook, this letter will serve as an official reprimand for your behavior. Any further need for discussion in this area would escalate the issue up to termination. 
Never allow personal bias or emotions to cloud the messages of any business correspondence, but especially delicate or sensitive issues. It is important not to minimize behaviors or magnify issues, rather to directly address them according to company policy. Communicating difficult topics may be difficult, but not communicating them could be costly for your company and reputation.


ChrissyBiz Solutions provides clients with customized, results-driven web marketing strategies. Our primary business writing duties include: article marketing,  search engine optimized web copy, blog content, social media, press releases, and newsletters  designed to drive traffic to your website and influence buyers decisions when purchasing products and services.

Contact ChrissyBiz today to discuss the impact that web marketing copy can have on your business.

Public Relations and Sales

How many times have you personally had a choice in a purchasing decision, and chose the business that had a more positive image? There are even occasions when prices can be different, but the perception of a place of business weighs heavily on the decision to buy or not buy. 

What is the relationship between the public perception of a brand or business and their ability to sell?

Lets us take a look at a few examples to examine the issue objectively:
  • Many athletes and entertainers risk their ability to be endorsed by major brands when they make major mistakes that draw public criticism.
  • Political figures often lose credibility and sometimes even their jobs for bad press. 
  • Companies and brands use the press to announce positive press to enhance their images.
  • Some companies and brands have gone out of business based on press. 
  • Even a homeless man was able to land a job because of being on the news and showcasing his skills. The fact that he was homeless really made some companies want him as it would make them seem sympathetic to his struggles. 
Public Relations are often over used by some companies and brands while others completely overlook the benefit of a positive public image and its impact on their bottom line. So, how can a positive image and being engaged with your market help your sales?
  1. Public Relations allows consumers to see a human side of your brand or business that is otherwise unavailable to them. 
  2. Community involvement and engagement can increase word-of-mouth advertisement as customers learn about community efforts, charitable causes, or other image-enhancing events. For example, reading about the companies recent charitable donation in the local newspaper, business blog, or other online source may be a conversation starter between friends or co-workers, along with a desire to support you as you support other causes. 
  3. Consumers are more likely to purchase from businesses with positive press than companies with no press or bad press.
  4. Public relations is a form of marketing that does not focus on sales but definitely contributes to increased or decreased sales. People remember articles, experts, and businesses that they have read about in a positive and negative manner.
  5. Internal perception of a company can even impact employees endorsement of a companies products or services. Employees will assist in marketing through suggestions to family and friends when their perception of the company is positive. Conversely, when they are displeased more than satisfied, they are less likely to recommend the company to family and friends. 
  6. Commercials and television advertisements are more costly yet highly effective in helping people recall your company or brand when making a buying decision. In the same manner, as more people migrate to the world wide web year after year, internet marketing without direct sales can be highly effective in a positive perception.
  7. Even when there is no call to action associated with buying a product or service, Negative PR is highly effective at having the opposite effect on sales.
  8. Companies can offer incentives, coupons, or other discounts for markets engaged with them in some way -- newsletters, social networking sites, or other mediums that help shape the perception consumers have about businesses. 
  9. Facts are not nearly as important as perception, unfortunately. Businesses have to take the reigns of their own public images as everyday consumers now have the ability to influence others perception of companies more easily, even if to only a small audience.
  10. The old saying that no news is good news does not apply to marketing and company sales. No news can actually be bad news if companies are not proactive in the global marketplace and positioned to take action. 
Can you think of any examples, well known or otherwise that agree with this or do you disagree? I would love to hear from you!


ChrissyBiz Solutions provides clients with customized, results-driven web marketing strategies. Our primary business writing duties include: article marketing,  search engine optimized web copy, blog content, social media, press releases, and newsletters  designed to drive traffic to your website and influence buyers decisions when purchasing products and services.

Contact ChrissyBiz today to discuss the impact that web marketing copy can have on your business.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Communication: Entrepreneurs and The Value of Criticism


Starting a business requires as much preparation of the mind as it does the financial, operational and marketing plans. No competent business person would blindly walk into a deal or contract without fully evaluating all the details.  Entrepreneurs must be 'teachable' and able to respond to information even when the intent is to offend. They also must be able to receive criticism. Criticism has a negative connotation to it, however, there is a major difference between constructive criticism and destructive criticism. Many would say that the major difference between the two is how the sender of the message is sending it. However, I would argue that the major difference is not how the sender meant it but how the the receiver uses it. 



Any statement that any person has ever made about myself or my business, my appearance, or anything else is only defined as constructive or destructive based on how I choose to receive and implement the information. Too many opportunities are overlooked by business people because of their inability to extract the constructive part of any criticism while disregarding the rest. 


For example, let's take a look at the following statements:


1. "Your store has crappy service and the lead cashier has no class"

2. "The store is always filthy when I come in, and I feel rushed because the environment does not feel welcoming"

Neither of these statements are nice and both could probably be stated in a more positive way. However, the savvy business person should be able to extract the good from any statement, assess its value to their organization, and disregard the rest, regardless of how the message is delivered. The emotions of the sender can determine how the message is received, however, it should not.

The first statement appears to be completely negative and most would immediately reject it and see no value in investigating. However, it is clear that the customer is dissatisfied and could potentially spread their dissatisfaction to others. It would be beneficial to look into the statements from an objective point of view to determine if the customer service could use improvement or the lead cashier could use some additional training. Or the manager could choose to overlook these two issues because of how the information was presented.



The second statement is packed full of pointers that when subtracted from all the emotions, can be quite valuable. Is the store in need of better maintenance procedures? Could it be that declining sales is associated with areas that are not as clean as they should be?

The ability to receive and implement criticism can be the difference between success or failure. Business requires the ability to set emotions and personal biases aside for objective decisions that push sales, to be able to foster a great work environment to improve productivity of the workforce, and respond to the demands of customers. Entrepreneurs and business owners will have to master this to be able to remain competitive and supply what their customers demand.

Can you think of a time when someone offended you but after the emotions wore off, the advice was instrumental in helping your business?



ChrissyBiz Solutions provides clients with customized, results-driven web marketing strategies. Our primary business writing duties include: article marketing,  search engine optimized web copy, blog content, social media, press releases, and newsletters  designed to drive traffic to your website and influence buyers decisions when purchasing products and services.

Contact ChrissyBiz today to discuss the impact that web marketing copy can have on your business.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Business Plan: Operations Part II ~ Technology

Technology plans are no longer only necessary for service or technology businesses. Technology is a major part of every business and industry. Companies will have varying dependence upon technology depending on their product, service, and access to resources. Every business must spend time brainstorming, then outlining the role that technology will have in daily business operations. 

The Technology Plan of any business plan should address the following: 

  • Specific technology the business will use to operate
  • The cost of the technology
  • What the technology will be used for -- customer interaction, manufacturing, producing services, marketing products or services, etc
  • Cost of the technology (fixed and variable) based on use
How to choose technology:
  • Cost
  • Effectiveness
  • Ease-of-use for internal and external users
  • Easy integration into existing processes / technologies
  • Savings for company time
  • Efficiency 
  • Ability to be upgraded or expanded based on demands of company
  • **Ease of replacing parts and ongoing maintenance of system**
  • SECURITY
Technology is here to stay and businesses unable to adapt or streamline processes through technology will be left behind in sales, competition, and growth. Technology enables companies to efficiently operate businesses and sell more with less effort. It is useful in every department of a company from financial accountability and human resources management to inventory control and marketing. 

Choosing technology is not as easy as it was in times past as the market has grown exponentially. Choosing proper technology will require research and even trial and error at times. When presenting technology purchases to senior management, loan officers, or anyone else able to give funds, justification for the purchases should be foremost. How will the purchase of the technology ultimately effect the bottom line, net income? There should be tangible results available and efficiency in processes directly related to the purchase of technology. Technology gives us the ability to perform essential and recreational functions more efficiently, more quickly, and easier.

Questions to consider:
  1. How will the purchase of the technology increase productivity?
  2. Will I save time or money buy purchasing this technology?
  3. Is the technology easy to use for myself? Easy to train others how to use?
  4. How long can I use this technology with my current technology? Will purchasing this technology require me to have to replace other technologies and increase cost? 
  5. Will purchasing this technology save money by eliminating time intensive processes? How?
  6. If I was unable to receive funding for this technology -- how efficient would my business run?
  7. Is this technology a requirement for business or an enhancement?
  8. What type of skill sets will my workforce need to operate this technology?
  9. If something replaced this technology within 2 years, would this purchase increase sales to cover new technology purchases?
  10. How will using this technology give me an advantage against competitors?
  11. How will clients respond to the changes in operation by implementing this technology?
  12. When can I expect to see positive cash flow after the purchase of this technology?
  13. What impact would this technology have on the need for human resources within the company...increase or decrease?
  14. If I had to operate without this technology, could I?
  15. Do I have emergency funds available in case the technology goes out unexpectedly?
As more brick and mortars transition online to increase their client base, they should be aware of the cost, implementation, and dependence their companies will have on technology. Making purchases without full understanding can result in waste of time and resources. Informed business owners are better positioned to make good decisions regarding technology and be ahead of the curve in most instances. 

Technology consultant costs must be considered as well because of the constant evolution of technology. Once a business transitions and becomes more dependent on laptops, tablets, and business software, there is no going back. Companies must be able to consult with experts when they are unable to make informed decisions. Include this in the technology plan as well. 


ChrissyBiz Solutions provides clients with customized, results-driven web marketing strategies. Our primary business writing duties include: article marketing,  search engine optimized web copy, blog content, social media, press releases, and newsletters  designed to drive traffic to your website and influence buyers decisions when purchasing products and services.

Contact ChrissyBiz today to discuss the impact that web marketing copy can have on your business.
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