Pick the Best Prototype Process (Not the Cheapest One)

Designers always want to save time and money during prototyping, but “cheapest and fastest” is usually not the best option. The top prototyping methods—stereolithography (SLA), selective laser sintering (SLS), urethane cast, soft tooling, and hard tooling—all have their advantages and disadvantages. What must be considered is how the prototype will be used and what the production goals are, especially if you are making a tight-tolerance part that’s critical to the function of a product or system or if it is something that requires a plastic overmolding.
These additive manufacturing technologies are ideal for rapid prototyping. Guided by a CAD pattern, SLA uses an ultraviolet laser to build a solid part by solidifying and accreting individual layers of photopolymer resin. Although SLA is relatively fast, there are size limitations and photo-curable resins can be expensive. SLS is similar to SLA except that a carbon-dioxide laser fuses together thin layers of powdered metal, plastic, glass, or ceramic to construct a solid product. Compared to SLA, SLS can make prototypes from more materials that may have properties closer to production-intent materials. Even though materials options have increased over the years, SLA and SLS are not yet production intent.
Urethane Cast/Mold
This low-volume production method utilizes polyurethane plastic materials to produce prototypes that can be finished to look like hard-tooled plastic parts. However, material choices are limited and may not deliver the same qualities that preferred production plastics can. Urethane cast/mold can be a cost-effective method of prototyping if there is a need for a higher quantity of parts at the fitment or proof-of-concept stage. Overall the process is fairly limited and becoming less common in the industry.
Soft Tooling
This process provides relatively cheap tooling, a high number of parts, and may also allow for use of the intended production material. Soft tooling is usually built with aluminum cores and cavities and samples can be turned around in a few weeks. This may be an option for early prototype builds if the parts are simple, tolerances are loose, and function and fitment are not critical requirements.
Hard Tooling
For engineered parts with tight tolerances, testing requirements, and an intention for functional use, hard tooling is usually the best option. The up-front cost is more expensive and the lead time is longer; however, hard tooling will likely save both time and money down the road. It will guarantee the ability to use production-intent resin and can accommodate design and dimensional changes after the parts have been sampled. Hard tooling also provides the opportunity for process development and verification early in the program timeline. It’s also a good choice for supplying several hundred thousand parts, bridging the gap from prototype to production.
Understanding what you need is important when considering which prototyping method to select. Cutting costs during the development stage by opting for the least expensive prototyping option generally doesn’t save the money over the long term—be sure to evaluate lifecycle costs as well. (Source: Medical Injection Molding by Kaysun)

What is Cloud Acceleration?

As businesses increasingly move to “the cloud,” unfamiliar terms appear. One of these terms is “cloud acceleration.” In order to better understand cloud and IP acceleration, let’s first look at a similar concept: content delivery networks (Source: IP Acceleration by Aryaka).
A content delivery network, or CDN, is a large network of servers located around the world designed to distribute content to users in a highly efficient, fast manner. For example, popular websites and blogs with users located around the globe need a fast and efficient way to deliver content – even if users are located tens of thousands of miles away. Since the time it takes to deliver data between a server and an end user is influenced by geographic differences, having servers located in data centers around the world can bridge those distances and improve performance and availability. Each server contains its own cached version of the content and can quickly deliver it to local users.
Cloud acceleration has a similar goal: to deliver content to end users as quickly as possible. While content delivery networks can do this, they are generally limited to delivering static content such as webpages, images, and videos. It is not practical for CDNs to deliver constantly changing content such software as a service (SAAS), cloud-based applications, and SharePoint data. With dynamic data, a content delivery network can’t keep up with the changes.
Instead of relying on a distributed system of servers, cloud acceleration improves dynamic content delivery by improving the efficiency of the delivery path upon which the data must travel between the IP source and the end-user. A form of IP acceleration is used to decrease duplicate data within the transmission. By optimizing the TCP protocol and eliminating duplication within the transmission, the dynamic content can move more quickly through the path to and from the end user.

A Maintenance Program For Your Business

There are always going to be issues that are involved with any type of maintenance operation. It doesn’t matter if you are running a maintenance crew for an apartment community or if you are using them for any type of production facility, you would want to ensure that things are running as smoothly as possible throughout the entire maintenance process. One of the ways in which you can keep track of the process is to use maintenance software for a variety of your needs. For example, you may be able to use the software for running any tickets and it certainly can be of benefit in any type of maintenance management system, both large and small. It is also important for you to consider the asset management software that may be included. That will help you to keep track of any items that are used by the maintenance crew to ensure that they are available when needed.
It also helps if you spread the maintenance staff out to a certain extent. Although you may have those that are running tickets and those that are specific to certain types of machinery, it’s a good idea to give them experience in other areas as well. In that way, you will not be caught unawares if you should happen to be short with maintenance personnel that typically take care of those items. It will also help to boost the morale of the maintenance staff, allowing them to improve in their skills that will also be to your benefit.

A Great Office Set-Up

It doesn’t matter if you are designing something in your home or if you are designing an office, it is important for you to keep your own personal interests in mind. You can do all the research that you possibly can do online and in your local area but unless you actually enjoy the design itself, you are unlikely to be happy with the finished project. Of course, you are going to be differences involved when designing an office over designing a home. For example, a look at office design ideas are going to show you such things as modular furniture systems and office furniture Bay area services that can do everything from designing a home office all the way to designing a large corporate office.
One of the difficulties that are experienced when designing an office is the fact that you need a comfortable mix of both personal likes and functionality. You absolutely want to be comfortable in the space but you don’t want to sacrifice the fact that you are trying to get something done when you are in the office environment. Fortunately, the two can come together quite nicely if you design it in such a way that you will inspire yourself to the fact that you are surrounded by things that you love. If you decorate in that way while at the same time, using the right type of office furniture, you will find that you have the perfect mix of what you enjoy and what needs to be done.

System Maintenance For Your Business

There are many things that need to be considered when you operate a business. One thing that certainly needs to be considered, however, is the maintenance that is necessary to keep your business up and running at any given time. For that to occur in many operations, a full-time maintenance staff needs to be hired. They will be able to take care of everything, from running individual tickets, all the way to the system maintenance that is needed for your project. What are some of the things that you can do to keep your maintenance staff happy and working continually?
One thing that you can do is to employ the use of enterprise asset management software effectively. When you do so, you will be able to see the entire operation at a glance. It will allow you to keep track of any tickets that need to be run, and the asset management software will also allow you to keep up with any stock that needs to be rotated. When you employ this type of software, it will allow your maintenance crew to continue to operate effectively and it will even have outside benefits that you made on considered. For example, it can give you a list of any type of preventative maintenance that is necessary to ensure that major problems do not occur if at all possible. By taking care of the preventative maintenance in advance, you will be able to keep your operation running as smoothly as possible and be able to avoid any costly downtime because of machinery problems.

Becoming A Dog Trainer

When you love working with animals, there really is going to be no better job than being a dog trainer. Of course, before you begin working with animals, you are going to need to make sure that you are qualified to open one of the dog training schools that may be in your area. It is not simply enough for you to hang a shingle outside of your home and you call yourself a dog trainer, you need to actually have a dog trainer certification that will let people know that you truly understand what you are going. After all, people are very choosy about their animals and the individuals that are going to be working with them on a regular basis. They need to be comfortable with you and the type of training that you are going to offer.
You also need to consider the various options that are available to you when you are going to be training an animal. Some dog trainers are going to hold group sessions, either at their location or perhaps in a rented facility in the area. Keep in mind, you are going to need to have a larger area, and you must make sure that everything is kept in check. You may also want to consider working with people one on one in their home. This is something that will benefit both the owner and the animal, as it will allow them to work in a comfortable environment and help to develop a bond between them that will last throughout their lifetime.

How Online Video Can Help Your Business

The Internet is constantly changing and our business is constantly changing as a result. Just a few short years ago, contacting multiple customers through online video was something that was practically unheard of. Only those who had access to the fastest Internet provider were able to take advantage of the benefits of online video. Today, however, video installation and usage on the Internet is taking place in all types of businesses. They are able to take advantage of audio visual services to extend the reach of their customers considerably as well as to keep in touch with those that are inside of their business who may be working remotely. What are some of the things that you should consider if you are taking your business online through video?
One of the things that you may want to consider is the digital signage solutions by Graybow Communications that are available. Although you may use video in many of the seminars that you post online, there are also those that are going to be audio only. If you have the digital signage available for your company, you can post it on the website where they will tie in for the audio connection. It will give you the opportunity to brand your business to those that have an interest in what you are offering. Of course, there are also going to be times when online video or screen sharing is necessary and these must be set up in advance. With this type of solution set up properly, you can reach new customers and you will find that many of them are taking advantage of what you offer.

Managing Big Data In Your Business

There are going to be certain processes that take place within any business that are going to be very time-consuming. This is usually seen when a business uses any type of big data in order to make any changes that are necessary to their business to keep them running more smoothly or perhaps even to increase their reach. Transaction data can often be a big part of this issue, especially if it is compiled on a daily basis. There are some things that can be done, however, to help you to move your business forward and to enjoy the business process development that will enable your company to continue to be profitable, even in today’s market.
One of the things that should be considered is the application monitor software that you are using on your servers (Source: Application Monitor by OpTier). It is important for this to be considered, as it will make a difference in how successful your business happens to be. The applications that are running on your server are not only going to be used by those within your business, they will often be used by any clients who are accessing the server to look for specific information. If everything is running properly, it will not slow your server down and keep that data from being accessed. On the other hand, problems need to be recognized and rooted out as quickly as possible to keep your customers from getting frustrated and perhaps start looking to the competition for the solutions that they need.

Five Tips to Become a Successful Entrepreneur

We all know the story behind the software giant Microsoft started by Bill Gates. The company was a startup by just two friends with several hurdles ahead of them, but with a strong vision in their minds - "A computer at every desktop".

When Infosys was started in 1981, it was just a team of 7 professionals. Today, the company has grown to be ranked #27 among the top companies in India and is one of the Fortune 500 companies.

The list of entrepreneurs is endless but they all had the same thing in common - a strong vision that stayed with them during their ups and downs which helped them achieve what they are today.

Deciding to become an entrepreneur is no small deal and there is no turning back. You need to be sure that you want to be an entrepreneur for all the right reasons. To put it in a different way, below are few reasons on why you must not become an entrepreneur.

- If you want to become rich quickly
- If you want to work less hours
- If you want to work flexible hours
- If you are not disciplined
- If you give up easily

You must become an entrepreneur when you have passion to do something and have the necessary patience, risk taking abilities, perseverance and skill needed to become an entrepreneur. Below are some of the characteristics of accomplished entrepreneurs.

Clear Vision or Goals

To succeed in your business venture, you must always have a set goal ahead of you. Similarly, entrepreneurs should always have a clear vision and know exactly what they are striving for at any point of time. Clear short-term and long-term goals need to be set and be reviewed periodically

Create Opportunities

Successful entrepreneurs always look for and create opportunities for themselves, have an open mind and adjust to fastly changing trends to grow their enterprise. They also create markets if they are not able to identify one.

Established entrepreneurs also look for how an acquisition or merger opportunities can benefit their business. Therefore they look at ideas and opportunities to enhance their business while they also evaluate inherent risks. This attitude needs to be nurtured by all aspiring entrepreneurs.

Know Your Business

Once you have identified a line of business, you must have in depth knowledge on the intricacies of the business. Knowledge about the current and future demand, supply, competition and financial requirements are essential before you kick start the venture.

If necessary, a vocational training can be taken under some expert in the field who is willing to impart hands-on training.

Effectively Manage Finances

Once you have a business startup, you need to create a business plan and set apart funds for all the working expenses and taxes to be paid. You can either do this yourself or hire a professional who is willing to do this for you.

The banking needs of the company, the working expenses, loans and working funds for the company all need to be managed. How the returns from the business would be managed and the insurance needs for the concern also need to be taken care of.

Hard Work and Discipline

Last, but not the least, for any business to be successful, hard work and perseverance is a must for any entrepreneur. You must be willing to work without time constraints to take the business forward. Discipline to work during worst times is the litmus for any successful entrepreneur.

Tips To Be A Successful Entrepreneur

  Tips To Be A Successful Entrepreneur

Entrepreneurial nature, probably the most thrilling from the mood an individual may encounter isn’t some thing that may be described adequately without having to be long-winded. You are able to think about this because a mix of a good irrepressible goal to develop wealthy in order to produce some thing with a persistent commitment to achieve success. The actual nature frequently negates dangers for example wellness alerts as well as lack of cash; just about all because of 1 natural character refusal to simply accept failing.

The actual uncommon personality characteristics of the business owner frequently determine achievement or even failing. One unique attribute which differentiates a business owner in the group is actually their organic readiness in order to presume dangers to be able to create small business ventures. Another capturing attribute amongst business owners around the world is definitely an severe self-confidence degree. Listed here are much more from the differentiating features that you ought to create to stay this particular unique class:

1. Fervent belief that you could alter points with regard to much better. A good unshakable perception that you could develop much better, faster as well as less expensive methods for performing points.
2. Usually using a answer coming soon for just about any difficulties as well as capability to conquer problems very easily.
3. Positive concerning the potential customers of the company as well as every endeavor.
4. Impartial way of thinking.
5. Higher energy; unwavering psychological endurance as well as inner inspiration.
6. Readiness to reside with regard to as well as commit later on.
7. Readiness in order to test along with a penchant with regard to innovative considering.

The actual readiness of the extremely prosperous business owner in order to “go this alone” could make a business owner seem aloof sometimes. However once the period arrives and also the require comes up, the experienced business owner usually exhibits the readiness in order to work with others. About the drawback, the actual nature associated with entrepreneurship could make one very delicate in order to errors. The actual irrepressible generate to achieve success could make all of them seem brief tempered sometimes as well as impatient using the errors associated with other people.

As an business owner demands foreseeing a chance prior to other people will as well as getting the actual lure whilst knowing complete nicely which possibilities aren’t completely without having a few danger. An effective business owner allows which everybody can make errors however understands which understanding through errors is very important.

Taking care of as well as Promoting the actual Nature associated with Entrepreneurship
An absolute technology popularly referred to as ‘Performance Administration Systems’ as well as learning business lifestyle as well as conversation assist promote as well as nutriment the actual nature associated with entrepreneurship.

Motivating Multitudinous Considering
Companies follow medical methods to develop as well as bridegroom their own long term frontrunners. Every part associated with understanding as well as encounter is actually provided it’s because of location.

1. Singularity associated with considering offers it’s weak points. You need to look for to consider “outside the actual box” from each and every chance.

2. Understanding is actually profit the financial institution. You won’t ever understand whenever you might need info a person acquired sometime ago. It is best to look for in order to reveal you to ultimately various encounters as well as companies.

3. Building a good analytical skills is important. This really is accurate regardless of whether you have your personal company or even not really.

What Does it Take to be a Successful Entrepreneur?

Many books and articles are written by and about successful entrepreneurs, with great information about what it takes to succeed. If it were possible to distill all of that information into a few words, it might be this: Being a successful entrepreneur really just boils down to solving problems and being resilient enough to find answer without giving up.

As Thomas Edison famously said: "If I find 10,000 ways something won't work, I haven't failed. I am not discouraged, because every wrong attempt discarded is often a step forward." Hopefully, you won't need 10,000 attempts to find the solution you're looking for, but many people give up after only a few tries.

Whether you own a new company, have been in business awhile, or are an employee with the desire to become successful, the next time you run into a problem, take the initiative to find a solution. Be persistent, and don't give up at the first sign of resistance. Yes, that is easier said than done. There are many entrepreneurs, but not nearly as many successful ones. Those who succeed are champion problem solvers and have the will to not take no for an answer.

3 Simple Steps to Marketing Success in 2012

Marketing for businesses can fall into several categories. Marketing that's too complicated can lead to never getting it done, while marketing that's ineffective can lead to its early demise. Neither of these scenarios helps a business achieve the ultimate goals for successful marketing: leads and sales.

Fortunately, effective marketing does not need to be complex in order to yield results. Follow these three steps to build a sustainable marketing program.

Step 1: Get Found

It's simple. No matter how great your service or business is, it won't matter much if your customers can't find you. Just as important, they have to be the right kind of customers for your business and your products. Your company needs to be found in the places your customers frequent the most. Your customers don't spend all of their time in one space, and neither should you. Get the word out about your business through effective multi-media campaigns.

Step 2: Convert

Capturing their attention is only the first step. In order to make it effective, you must get your prospect to engage with you somehow. Your content and sales information has to turn tire kickers into buyers. Get them to act by making a great offer. It doesn't necessarily have to be a discount; it can be an offer for free information or anything that your prospect finds valuable in order to help them make a decision about what you sell. Engage them and offer them value before you ask for a sale, click, or call. But do ask for them to act.

Step 3: Analyze, Test, Improve, & Repeat

The only way you can improve your marketing is to constantly track, test, and tweak. Constantly work at improving the results. But above all remember that consistency is the key to any successful marketing. You must have an active marketing calendar that takes into account where, how, and what your customer wants to learn about your company.

Marketing your company is really not that hard. Successful marketing requires that you educate your prospects and provide value. Build trust and provide real information that truly helps them. Do that consistently, and you will realize that marketing is not as difficult as it seems.

Of Manhole Covers and Marketing

You've probably heard the question asked, "Why are manhole covers round?" Answers vary from the obvious ("because manholes are round") to the more obscure. Wikipedia offers several possibilities. My personal favorites?
  1. A round manhole cover cannot be accidentally dropped into the round hole it covers.

  2. The circular shape makes the heavy covers easier to roll.

  3. Round castings are easier to machine lathe than those of another shape and less expensive to produce in a size wide enough for a person to fit through.

  4. The round shape makes it easy to replace an open cover without having to line up the corners.

  5. A round tube holds up better against the earth's compression surrounding it than a shape with corners would.

If I were to guess, I'd say it's probably a combination of all these things (and maybe more) that made round manholes and manhole covers so popular.

Which brings me around to marketing.

Like a manhole cover, the best shape for your company's marketing is also round. More to the point, the best approach to your marketing is a well-rounded one. Just as the reasons for using a round manhole cover are many and varied, so too are the reasons for choosing each specific element in your marketing plan. The big difference? In marketing, there is no one-size-fits-all.

As you consider new marketing opportunities for your company -- and reexamine existing channels you're not sure are still working as effectively as before -- ask yourself, "How well does this approach fit with my overall marketing plan?" If the answer is "not very well" or the reasons you come up with for trying it aren't very sound, you know where that idea should go: straight into the file shaped like a manhole cover.

A Fish Story Worth Remembering

Many years ago, a pike was placed in a tank with live minnows. As you'd expect, the pike immediately swam at the minnows and ate them. After a few days, a glass partition was added to the tank, and the minnows were placed on the other side of the glass (away from the pike). The pike continued to swim after the minnows, but kept running into the partition. Eventually, it gave up and swam around its own side of the tank instead.

After some time, the experimenters removed the glass partition separating the fish, but the pike still did not go after the minnows. It had been conditioned to think it could not reach its prey. An account of a similar experiment involving perch is available here.

So what does any of this have to do with business? Well, people, like fish, often give up too soon. We condition ourselves to believe a goal is unobtainable because we've experienced setbacks in the past. We give up trying, even if the barriers that once held us back are no longer there.

So the next time someone (even that small voice inside yourself) tells you, "Oh, we've tried that before, and it doesn't work," remember the story of the pike. Then give it one more try.

Six Steps to Handling Mistakes at Work

Mistakes are a natural part of life... and business. How you handle those mistakes will go a long way in turning a dissatisfied customer around. Here are a few things you can do when mistakes occur at your company to help resolve the issue and make sure it doesn't happen again:
  1. Acknowledge the mistake. When someone brings an error to your attention, own up to it. Apologize for any inconvenience it may have caused, and get to work (with the customer) to resolve the situation.

  2. Act swiftly. As soon as a mistake comes to light, get to work fixing the problem. If it's a quick fix, all that much better. However, if resolving the issue will take more time, let the customer know that, too, and set a realistic timetable for reaching a resolution.

  3. Keep the customer involved. Ask the customer what you can do to make things right, and keep in close touch with them until the issue is resolved. This will help the customer see how seriously you take the situation... and their business.

  4. Follow up and follow through. After the situation has been resolved, follow up with the customer to make sure everything is now okay. Follow through on any promises you made, and let the customer know how much you appreciate their feedback.

  5. Schedule a postmortem. Once you've had a little time to breathe, gather together the key members of your team who worked on resolving the problem. Figure out what caused the initial error, and decide what can be done differently in the future to prevent the same thing from happening again.

  6. Shore up your processes. This goes hand-in-hand with the previous step. With the team's recommendations now in hand, start implementing the changes you think will help your company move forward into the future.

Break the Ice - 6 Cold Call Success Strategies

Few of us enjoy making cold calls, but for many salespeople cold calling is inevitable. Here are six tips to help warm your next cold call:
  1. Don't make the cold call your first point of contact. Instead, start with a letter or email. Introduce yourself, your company, and the products or services you provide. Explain the benefits the prospect will gain from working with you, and let them know you will be following up with a phone call to set up an appointment to talk.

  2. Or the last. Don't jump right into a sales pitch on your first cold call and expect to close a sale. Respect the person's time, their schedule, and the fact that your call was not on that schedule before you made it. Ask if this is a good time to talk. If it isn't, suggest times when you could call back, or offer to meet in person if that will work better for the prospect.

  3. Do your homework. Find out ahead of time who you should be contacting at a prospective company. Learn what you can about their business and how your solution can best fit their needs.

  4. Prepare an outline. Have some idea what you want to say before you make your call. Start with a script if that makes you comfortable, but try not to make it sound too mechanical or forced. Relax as best you can and try to be yourself. Your preparation and earlier contact should help.

  5. Ask questions. Don't do all the talking. Instead, introduce yourself, and then ask the prospect about their company and the role they play in it. Listen carefully to their responses. Work to build a rapport and connect with them one-on-one.

  6. Follow up. As your call wraps up, try to set a time to meet face-to-face or over the phone again. After hanging up, send another email, thanking the person for their time, and reminding them of any future appointments you made. If they had questions you were unable to answer on the spot, find those answers and pass them along as quickly as possible. And create a schedule of regular follow-up activity to help you stay front-of-mind.

So what other advice do you have for warming up cold calls? I'd love to hear your suggestions and success stories in the comments below.

What Are Your Product Photos Saying?

If a picture's worth a thousand words, have you ever thought about what your photos are saying? We live in a visual age, where images surround us. Whether on your website, marketing materials, billboards, or ads, the photos you choose to represent your products and services are very important. Here are a few tips to ensure your photos are saying what you want:
  • Don't photograph your products on a cluttered shelf. Rather, depict them in use in an appropriate abstract environment or on a clean white background.

  • Save your originals, and don't reduce their file size. You never know when you'll need to re-purpose images, such as if you want a low-res image from your website to work in a high-resolution print brochure.

  • Take a lot of photos when you have the opportunity. You may be surprised how a new angle or different lighting can change the appeal and appearance of your products.

  • If images don't do justice for your products, don't use them. Consider posting a "photo coming soon" placeholder, rather than posting a poor-quality photo. But do so only if you fully intend to post an image later.

  • Adjust the resolution of photos on your website to ensure they won't slow the load time for the page. Nothing is worse than a great photo nobody has the patience to download and see.

  • Use intriguing photos to supplement Facebook posts and create additional interest. Organize these photos into albums for easy viewing, and use relevant album names, such as "new products," "seasonal promotions," and so on.

Will the World End in 2012?

There are doomsday predictions that say the world will end this year. We won't be able to validate those predictions either negatively or positively until this time next year (if there is a next year!). But one thing is certain: Sadly, 2012 will be the end for some businesses.

While going out of business is an unfortunate reality that happens in many industries (especially in a down cycle like we've been experiencing lately), it does NOT have to happen to your business.

So how can you keep from becoming part of the statistics in 2012? Make a real commitment to marketing your business.

Marketing does not have to be overly complicated or require a large budget. It might be as simple as figuring out the ideal prospects who would purchase what you sell, then targeting those prospects with relevant messages via as many marketing channels as your budget allows. If your budget is tight, focus on a niche group. Start small, and grow your business from there.

If you don't have one already, start a marketing calendar today, and set up a plan for various marketing activities that you will do throughout the year. Be encouraged and proactive, so we can all look back at this time next year and chuckle about the latest doomsday predictions.

An Internal Newsletter Your Team Will Love

While newsletters are a great way to build relationships with customers, many companies overlook the team-building opportunity an internal newsletter offers within their own doors, as well. Internal newsletters are a great way not only to learn more about colleagues, but also to keep employees informed about company news, events, and other important announcements. Here are a few tips for creating an internal newsletter your employees will love:
  • Create a plan by defining the frequency of your newsletter (such as monthly or quarterly) and the types of articles or sections you'd like to include. Also develop a template you can easily modify for each issue.

  • Encourage teamwork by assigning a few people to specific parts of the newsletter each month, such as pulling company stats (sales volume, incoming calls, trade show outcomes, etc.), writing feature articles about company events, and so on.

  • Create an idea library. Stockpile various ideas, photos, jokes, quotes, seasonal graphics, etc., to save time down the road.

  • Acknowledge employee birthdays, corporate anniversaries, new hires, promotions, etc.

  • Consider offering a "message from the president" to make employees the first to know about new products, company changes, initiatives, etc.

  • Highlight successes. If a department had an outrageous month, highlight their achievements, and offer a company-wide congratulatory message.

  • Share encouraging survey results, customer compliments, and thank you notes from appreciative customers.

  • Consider a Q&A section where employees can submit questions and have a leader provide answers in an open forum for all to see.

  • Use an "employee spotlight" article to help staff members get to know their colleagues better. This type of article can range from information about the employee's position within your company to their personal hobbies, interests, and the like.
By creating an internal newsletter that encourages team-building and focuses on the successes of your employees, you can not only increase communication amongst your colleagues but also boost employee morale and give your team something fun to talk about around the water cooler.

What other ideas can you think of for an internal newsletter? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

7 Rules for Prospecting in 2012

The best way to not only survive the recession but to actually thrive in it is to bring in new clients and new business. Growth is possible, even in this economic climate.

The lifeblood of all businesses is gaining new clients. Acquiring new clients is challenging enough in any environment, but especially today. The lack of new clients is often the primary cause for the decline and failure of a company.

To get new clients, you must look for prospects who fit what you do best. Here are seven rules for prospecting in today's environment. Following these rules will make it easier to start new relationships that will lead to new opportunities in 2012 and beyond.

1. Do This, and You Can Forget All the Other Steps!

You must have heard by now that all you have to do to get new business is to send a few tweets and Facebook posts, then sit back and wait for the hordes of leads to flood your website and your phone lines, right? Inbound marketing can fix all of your company ills by solving all the lead generation problems. Old school prospecting is a thing of the past. Your leads will now pursue you. No doubt you have read and heard about all of this, and for those who believed it, it wasn't too long before frustration set in. Thousands of dollars later, the realization came that these are half-truths. Sure, there is a place to mix in these tactics, but to really succeed in growing your business, nothing can replace real prospecting that leads to real relationships that open the door to real opportunities.

2. Have a Plan.

You will never know where you need to go if you don't have a plan. This is an old rule, but it applies as much today as it did in the past, and it will continue to apply far into the future. You must know the profile of the person and the company you can profitably do business with. You must set real goals and have a realistic plan to achieve those goals. Know what you want your ideal client to do as the next step when you are prospecting, and use that as your objective. Break it down to a step-by-step process, and track your leads to see where they stand in your sales lead funnel.

3. Research Before You Make the First Call.

Do some homework on your potential prospect before the first call or meeting. Know who the decision makers are, and try to find out their hot buttons ahead of time. The more you learn, the better your chances for making a connection and bond. You may never get that chance again. But don't waste too much time researching. If you stop all of your prospecting activities to research, your pipeline will grow stale, and you will halt your momentum. So do your research, but don't stop your prospecting.

4. Decide What Methods to Use.

Which are the best methods to use for lead generation? The best way to open the door to a relationship with your ideal client depends on the prospect. Some will like phone calls, some will like email, some will prefer direct mail, some will only respond to referrals, and some will respond to a business or casual network environment. Don't just rely on one method. Use as many as you can, and vary your approach. Let your prospect decide which one is best for them.

5. Just Do It.

Doing everything you need to do once you start the process of prospecting is not easy. Get help where you need it. It doesn't matter if your process is not perfect. Can't get an appointment to see the top decision maker? Go for the second in command. Do whatever is necessary to keep the activities moving forward. Work hard, but also work smart. Use all of the productivity tools and help you can get. But whatever you do, don't let anything stop your momentum. Keep your eyes on your goals.

6. Make Them an Offer They Can't Refuse.

Great. You are filling your pipeline and getting appointments. Now what? You will greatly improve the odds of getting your prospect to say yes if you have a compelling proposition that adds real value or potentially solves a problem for them. Why should they do business with you over any other similar company that wants their business? Why should they choose you and invest their limited time with you? How are you going to help them grow their business and improve their business results? In other words, you must answer the question: what's in it for them?

7. Ask Questions and Follow Up.

Ask great questions and (more importantly) listen to their answers. Take notes so that if you can't give answers instantly, you will be able to get back with them with the correct information later. Most of the prospects you meet will be juggling multiple tasks just like you are. It is very easy to forget about you and your proposal. Follow up relentlessly until you get an answer. Of course, you don't want to be a pest, but at the same time don't take a lack of response as a negative answer. Be respectful, but don't give up easily. These character traits are what set apart the top achievers from the also-rans. If you learn these skills and master them, your prospect pipeline will never dry up.

Making Connections

Inside every human being is a desire to connect in real and tangible ways. This desire for connection permeates everything we do and every decision we make: even our decisions of what to buy and when. We respond to ads because we connect with them somehow. A spokesperson, scene, or catchphrase resonates with us and makes us laugh, or cry, or both.
  • A soldier sits down in a quiet moment to listen to a recordable storybook his child sent from home.

  • A team of clydesdales pulls an iconic wagon into New York City, then bows silently before the Statue of Liberty in reverence.

  • A couple drives frantically to the top of a parking ramp. The man jumps out and signals his confused girlfriend to follow, just in time to... miss the airplane banner flying by, asking her to marry him.
Each of these commercials (and many others like them) tells a story that, at first glance, has little to do with the product they're selling. Instead, they show the product (or in the case of the clydesdales, a symbol of the product) in real-life situations that make it far more relatable than a simple product shot or feature list ever could.

Here are links to the three commercials I mentioned in this post. A quick warning: If you haven't seen these, you might want to have a box of Kleenex nearby for the first two. Feel free to list some of your own favorites in the comments at the end of this post.

"Active Duty" Hallmark Commercial

9/11 Tribute from Budweiser

Wherever Life Takes You (Chevy Cruze ECO)
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