Taking a look back at the top blog posts of 2015, we've shared essential information on running a successful business in an environmentally responsible manner, as well as a variety of stories on business improvement. Here are a few of the topics we covered that resonated most with readers.
Sustainability is the Future of Business
In 2015, one of the most contentious discussions in politics was the debate over climate change and global warming. Business owners have a great responsibility to the planet in how they choose to run a business, and sustainable practices ensure that today's planet will remain beautiful for future generations.
In "10 Traits of Sustainable Businesses" we shared:
The Massachusetts Institute of Technology published an article in an issue of MIT Sloan Management Review with the results of an expansive study that interviewed more than 200 people from more than 60 companies. The results offer an excellent view of sustainability from the point of view of active companies known for their sustainable practices.
One of the most interesting findings from the study was that sustainable companies routinely looked for solutions outside the company's walls:
"Sustainable companies learn from the outside. In doing so, they are far more likely to encourage their employees to assimilate knowledge from sources external to their company than are traditional companies (72% vs. 20% at traditional companies)."
Emotional Connections Fuel Business Growth
Over the past two decades, the internet significantly changed the way modern businesses interacted with their customers. The concept of customers forming an emotional connection with a business was a popular topic for discussion in 2015 as small businesses sought ways to connect with customers and build brand loyalty.
In "How to Encourage Customers to Build an Emotional Connection With Your Brand" we said:
Building an emotional connection with customers isn't just an activity for small businesses. Billion-dollar international companies use this strategy often, and they're experts in making people believe that a giant corporation has feelings and cares about their well-being.
While corporate responsibility and other generous activities may mark a business as particularly sensitive to the needs of its customers, there's a lot going on behind the scenes. Big business thrives on sustainable customer relationships that last years and build brand loyalty.
An article published by Forbes reveals:
"To create valuable, sustainable customer relationships, great brands don’t sell customers on contracts—they seduce them with connections. Impactful, memorable, emotional connections lead to true brand loyalty."
The article goes on to describe efforts by airline Virgin America to build loyalty with its customers. The company has a goal to provide each customer with an "unforgettable experience," and they've built a reputation on providing an exceptional flying experience with their customers.
What's incredible is that the airline doesn't always offer the lowest fares, and yet repeat customers don't seem to care. By promoting a culture of caring about the customer, Virgin America has built a fiercely loyal customer base with a true, emotional connection to the company.
A Good Location is Essential for Your Brick & Mortar Business
No matter how advanced e-commerce becomes and no matter how many people shop online instead of in stores, brick & mortar locations will remain essential for many industries. The continued economic recovery and positive economic outlook influenced many people to start their own businesses in 2015. One of the first responsibilities of those efforts was to choose an ideal location for business operations.
In "How to Find the Perfect Retail Location for Your Business" we revealed:
Marketing your services to an interested demographic is smart because you want to make sure that the people most likely to buy your goods or services are aware of your product. The same wisdom applies when you're looking for a suitable location.
An interview on Entrepreneur.com suggests:
"Get a demographic overview of the area you're looking at-age, income, households, etc."
What does this mean when you're looking for a good business location? Well, imagine you're the owner of a sandwich shop, and you get a lot of customers for lunch when the work crowd comes in for food. Most of your customers are working adults, and they want to get in, out, and on with life.
Finding a location that's near a business park or other commercial business area might make more sense than a sit-down spot on Main Street where most of the shops are geared toward tourists and people who want exotic food or the classic diner experience.
Consider: If you decide to rent/buy in an area that's not close to your customer base, you'll have to spend more on advertising to let customers know about your business.
Employee Recycling Programs Help Boost Corporate Responsibility
The average business usually has a few recycling bins in the office somewhere, but many business owners haven't gone any further in creating a culture of corporate responsibility through employee recycling programs. For small business owners, the idea of corporate responsibility has been a topic reserved for multinational companies, but 2015 saw new interest in this topic.
In "How to Encourage Your Employees to Recycle at Work" we shared:
Waste is everywhere in corporate America, but it's also a problem for small companies where the owners assume recycling will just increase costs down the line. In fact, creating an environmentally-friendly workplace with a comprehensive recycling program may reduce costs.
For example, do you buy disposable cups for the coffee maker? Does the water jug come with those little disposable pyramid cups? Do you have a line of printers at the back of the office that constantly buzz with printouts? Eliminate these disposable items and watch your overhead costs go down.
According to an article by Inc., up to 90 percent of office waste can be recycled! They recommend starting small and ramping up efforts and looking for obvious areas of waste in your office. Making a list is your first step.
A website called Less is More, which was put together by the government in Santa Barbara, California, suggests walking through your facility and making the following notes:
- Define the activities conducted in each room.
- List activities for each area that produce waste.
- Define those types of waste.
- Note which types of waste can be recycled and reused or not used in the first place.
Successful Branding Means Avoiding Common Branding Mistakes
Branding is an essential topic for discussion for all business owners, but modern branding is a complex process that requires more than a good logo and a catchy advertising jingle. Awareness of branding mistakes helps business owners avoid those missteps, particularly when a business is in its infancy.
In "5 Branding Mistakes to Avoid" we revealed:
Simplicity is the most important concept you can include in your discussions about your company's logo. Look at any of the major brands that have stood the test of time, and you'll see a logo that's remained virtually unchanged for decades, or even more than a century (as in the case of Coca-Cola).
There's no doubt that you want your logo and the graphics associated with your brand to be memorable, but don't assume that creating a complex and "never before seen" combination of letters, fonts, and colors is the answer. Designing a unique logo that "feels" like your business will help you create something unique.
"Write down what you think about the brand; perhaps even create a mood board with imagery that reminds you of the brand’s ideology…"
Think about the history or genesis of your business. What do you want people to think or feel when they see your company's logo? Take those simple emotions and ideas and apply them to a clear and straightforward logo design.
Remember: Onlookers will identify a simple and clean logo on your custom printed bags much easier than if the bag features crowded and complex images.
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