Three Tips To Getting Good Photos For Your Website

Three Tips To Getting Good Photos For Your Website

What is the first thing you think of when you picture the ideal website for your company? We know the most important selling points lie within the content, but vibrant and crisp photos are what will draw users in and leave them actually wanting to continue through the pages of your website. 

Product images, before and after images of the services you provide, and even a snapshot of your team will allow potential customers to get a glimpse of what they can expect when choosing to reach out to your company. 

Luckily for all of us, it doesn’t take a degree in photography to get visually appealing photos that show the hard work that was put in to get the final result. In this post, we will dive a little deeper into a few tricks and tips to up your picture taking game and bring your website to new heights.

Tip #1: Don’t Sweat The Equipment

I think we can all agree that technology is nothing short of amazing. Nowadays, everyone has a phone, planner, entertainment system, and yes, a high quality camera, all in one device that fits in their back pocket. 

While having a separate DSLR camera is nice and will still get the job done, it simply isn’t a necessity anymore. Most of the smartphones that came out in 2019 boast up to a 12 megapixel rear camera. This equals out to roughly 6 times the resolution needed for a high definition image on a computer screen, which means there isn’t much excuse for a tiny, blurry photo on your website.

Of course, no matter how nice the camera is, in your phone or otherwise, it can only be as good as the person behind it. 

Again, as designers, we aren’t expecting Annie Leibovitz levels of photography prowess when requesting images for your website. We are here to help you! All images that are sent in can always be cropped, color corrected, and retouched as needed to make sure the message gets across quickly and clearly.

Phone-Taking-Photo-Of-City-At-Night

Tip #2: Lighting Is Key

Any social media influencer worth their salt knows about the magical “golden hour” when it comes to taking the perfect, glowing selfie. This is only one example of how lighting in your photos can make all the difference between drab and dreary or vivid and vibrant. 

Natural sunlight in the early morning or late afternoon, when the sunlight is a little more diffused, are the ideal times to get an even source of light for your photos. However, even when the lighting is not ideal, there are still ways to work around it.

If you are working with bright light around your subject, you want to be sure that your photos don’t become overexposed and full of glare. Though it sounds counter intuitive, this could be a good time to use the flash function to balance out any harsh light and fill in any shadows that it creates. Creating more even light distribution will ensure that you don’t lose detail throughout the subject of the photo.

Alternatively, if you are working in a dark area, there are tools to magnify what little light is available. You can use a reflector, mirror, or even a large, white poster board or curtain to help reflect light back towards your subject. 

In the examples below, you can see that using flash to compensate for the darkness of the room creates heavy shadows and a glare on the background.

Photo-Of-Flamingo-Lawn-Ornament-Taken-With-And-Without-Flash

Tip #3: Consider Your Composition

As crucial as lighting is in a photo, it barely matters if the composition is still unappealing to the viewer. Extraneous clutter, uneven landscapes, and awkward angles will all detract from what could otherwise be a fantastic photo.

One of the most important things to remember when taking a photo is the rule of thirds. Imagine a tic tac toe board across the image. The focal points of your image should be along the intersections of the grid. The rest of the photo then allows the viewer some space for their eyes to relax, rather than distracting from what is essential in the image.

Another huge part of creating good composition is enlisting hierarchy. This means creating a flow throughout your image to guide the viewer’s eye to what is important. 

For example, looking at our flamingo friend below, we can see that when we have a level horizon line, we use the rule of thirds, and there are easy to follow lines, it is a much more pleasing image.

Photo-Of-Lawn-Flamingo-With-Line-Of-Good-Image-Hierarchy-Drawn

Why Is This Necessary?

Think about the years you’ve put into making a beautiful product or being able to perform a perfect service. Now imagine that it isn’t being highlighted on your website or is being done so poorly. If what you are saying about the quality of your work is not being showcased to potential customers in an easily digestible way, why should they believe it or even care? 

Clean, clear photos help to build trust by showing them something that makes them say, “I want that for my home,” and they know you are able to provide it.

Getting good imagery for your website doesn’t have to be a difficult, daunting task. Keeping these tips and tricks in mind will boost your photography skills and remember, like anything else, practice makes perfect. Of course, your marketing team is also a vital tool in perfecting how your brand is visually represented. We are here to help!

Top 5 Seo + Marketing Things To Focus On In 2020

Top 5 Seo + Marketing Things To Focus On In 2020

Google makes thousands of updates to search every single year. How do you stay on top of the waves when you’re trying to be the best spouse ever, a super parent, and a successful business owner?

Oooh, I’ve got an idea! Make friends with a team of super nerds who spend hours every week testing new things and reading everything there is to read on Google, rankings, and all things SEO.

(Ahem, Spark Marketer.) 

We’ve got you covered. Based on our nerd-findings, here are the top 5 SEO and marketing things you should focus on in 2020. 

#1 Email

“Email’s dead!” has been cried more times than “The end is near!” But the truth is, email is alive and well. 

How alive and well? Oh, I don’t know…let’s ask Emarsys, SaleCycle, OptInMonster, Fluent, DemandGen, eConsultancy, and Campaign Monitor:

  • Email reaches about 85% of people. (That’s a waaay better reach than you’ll see with your organic social posts!)
  • For every $1 spent on email marketing, you can expect to see $44 ROI. 
  • 80% of business pros believe that email marketing increases customer retention.
  • 59% of people surveyed say marketing emails influence their purchase decisions.
  • Marketers who use segmented email campaigns see as much as a 760% increase in revenue. 
  • 68% of millennials say promo emails have influenced their buying decisions.
  • 60% of consumers have made a purchase after receiving a marketing email.
  • 60% of consumers prefer email when it comes to receiving promo messages from brands.

So yeah, I guess you could say email is still your best bet for communicating with customers. 

Aaaand, email is currently the only communication channel you really own. Facebook owns your Facebook page and Instagram profile. Google owns your Google My Business listing. Hell, Google even owns the search results. But you own your email list. 

So cherish it and use it to connect with your customers regularly and wisely!

3 bonus tips for sending better, more effective emails:

  • There are some words you should definitely avoid using in your subject line if you don’t want your emails to go to spam. Words like: free, money, and reminder. Studies show those can land you in the spam folder faster than Ghallagher can destroy a watermelon.
  • Use a familiar send name/email address and be consistent. If your customer doesn’t recognize your email address or name, they’re not going to read your emails. In fact, MailChimp says almost 50% of people will simply report an unfamiliar name or email address as spam. Eek!
  • Get personal! Personal greetings make people feel all warm and fuzzy inside. Research shows that when you practice ongoing, personalized communication with your customers, you can expect to see a significant increase in revenue and customer engagement. Plus, your emails are more likely to be opened, which is always a win. 

#2 GMB

You may not officially own it, but you need to pay attention to your Google My Business (GMB) profile. Why? ‘Cause Google loves it and it’s one of the first things your potential customers are going to see in search results. 

So first things first: If you haven’t already, claim your GMB profile and start filling out as much info as you can. Set your service area (if applicable), add your website, create Google Posts, answer questions, turn on messaging if you have the means to answer promptly. 

Google is always adding and testing new features — some good, some bad — so download the GMB app and regularly check in. 

We can’t promise you that all your GMB efforts will have the ROI that good email can have, but you should definitely be utilizing everything Google gives you, given that Google has 87.96% of search engine market share.

#3 Reviews

I know, I know, you’re not surprised to see this on the list — or at least you shouldn’t be! Reviews have been growing in importance for local businesses for the last few years, and they’re not going away.

Take a look at these stats from BrightLocal:

  • 82% of consumers read reviews when searching for local businesses.
  • Consumers read an average of 10 online reviews before feeling like they can trust a local biz. 
  • 91% of consumers say that positive reviews make them more likely to use a business.

So how do you get more of these trust-building reviews? Start by making your business the best it can be. 5-star service earns 5-star reviews. 

Once you know you’re nailing the service and customer experience side of things, go ahead and ask your customers to review you — whether through email, text, face-to-face, or some sort of automated service or platform. Yelp doesn’t allow you to ask your customers for reviews (weirdos), but Google does. So go for it!

#4 Your website

What’s the number one thing that consumers do after reading reviews? 

Drumroll…

They visit the company’s website. 

So don’t think, just because GMB is like a mini website right there in search results, that you can forget about your website. It’s still super important!

Here’s a quick cheat sheet on what makes a good website in 2020:

  1. Secure. If you haven’t made the switch from http to https, the time is now. Hop to it!
  2. Mobile-friendly. It’s a mobile-first world and something like half of searches are performed on mobile. So if you have a wonky website that looks like trash on a smartphone, it’s time for a revamp.
  3. Original photos and videos. Your customers don’t want to see Sven, the stock photo “blue collar guy.” They want to see you and your team. So upload high-quality, original photos to your website and show your customers who they’ll be working with. Also, the world can’t get enough video. Consider putting together a quick video to include on your homepage that introduces your company, answers common questions, and gives visitors the feeling that they’ve come to the right place for quality service. 
  4. Helpful, informative content. You own your website, so make it a super helpful and useful resource for your customers. More details to follow…

#5 Content

Your customers are doing more research than ever before, so be their #1 source of information and answers. How do you do that? By creating awesome content on your website, blog, and social profiles. 

Your written content doesn’t have to be a specific length. If you can answer a customer’s question in two sentences, do it. If you can provide more value by going deeper and writing more long-form content, do it! The length should fit the topic, need, and platform.

Videos are especially hot right now, and you don’t have to invest in super expensive equipment to create good ones. A smartphone, good lighting, and a tripod are all you really need to get started. So give it a shot.

What should you do in your videos? Answer customer’s questions. Introduce your team. Show them what it’s like to work with you. Show them how to do something or fix something. There are probably a million great ideas for video, so spend some time brainstorming. 

Pro Tip: One of the best books I’ve read on creating content is They Ask, You Answer, by Marcus Sheridan. Go get it. For real. I’d give you my copy but almost every page is dog-earred and almost every sentence is highlighted. 

There you have it, five things to focus on in 2020, straight from the super nerds at Spark Marketer. Have a great year!

10 Live Video Ideas For Facebook & Instagram (+ A Killer Formula For Doing Live Video)

10 Live Video Ideas For Facebook & Instagram (+ A Killer Formula For Doing Live Video)

You may think live video is something best left to influencers, musicians, and people who are supremely interesting. But no matter who you are or what you do, you should be leveraging live videos for your business. 

Why?

  1. Live videos get a lot more engagement than pre-shot videos on Facebook and Instagram. The more engagement you get, the more Facebook and Instagram will want to show those videos to other people, and the more trust those videos will build. 
  2. Live videos allow you to respond to questions in real time. People watching your videos can comment their questions and you can respond directly and get people to engage even more. Facebook live videos are the absolute best way to answer customer questions.

Ready for some ideas to help you get started with Facebook & Instagram live videos? We asked Megan, our Social Media Advertising Strategist, Megan, to share her top 10…

#1 Talk about what you do, where you do it, how long you’ve been doing it, and who you do it for

The purpose of this type of video is to answer some of the common questions potential customers will have and want answered before they pick up the phone and call you. 

What you do & where you do it:

Give those watching a good idea of what types of problems you solve and how you can help them. Let them know some of your top services and what areas you provide those services in. 

How long you’ve been doing it:

Talk about how long you’ve been doing it and how your experience translates to value for your customers. The more you can talk about why you’re passionate about what you do, the more trust you’ll build with your potential customers. 

Who you do it for: 

Share what your dream customer looks like. Do you service apartments, homes, and commercial properties? Give details about who could and should hire you. If people see themselves in that persona, they’ll feel like you’re a good fit for them. 

#2 Talk about price

Literally every business owner hates this one, but the ones that do it have found good success with it. What do we mean by success? Increased trust and less customer calls from people who don’t fit their demographic, can’t afford them, or are looking for a ‘cheap’ fix. 

Now, do you need to go on live video and list every single service and every single price? No. What we recommend is that you talk about price for your top five most popular services or the top five services you’re wanting to do more of. Talk about:

  • What is involved in that service
  • Why it’s important
  • An industry standard price

You do not need to tell them exactly what you charge for that service, but let your potential customers know what they might expect to pay when they call a company to schedule that service. That said, if you can go into specifics about what your company charges, DO IT.

We have a client who does share specifics. They say things like, “You know, we are higher priced than these other companies. Here’s why.” People are willing to pay a premium for a better service and a better experience — especially when the business is upfront about it.

#3 Give a safety list, to-do list, or some other step-by-step or numbered info 

When you do a live video that quickly walks your customers through things like: “#1: do this. #2: do this,” people eat that up. Here are some example topics:

  • How to find properly seasoned firewood
  • How to properly store seasoned firewood
  • How to unclog your drain — DIY

Anything that gives the customer value and makes something complicated or unclear a little bit simpler, do it. Sharing information and providing value for free builds trust with customers so that when they are in need of your services, you’re the one they think of. 

#4 Talk about how you got started in the business

What did you do before you started the business, if you’re the business owner? Bring a little bit of your story into it and a little emotion into it, because, you guessed it: people love stories. 

Where did you start? How did you get into the industry? It doesn’t have to be some magical story — just make it yours. Let it be raw. Let it be emotional. If it’s a story that’s worth crying over, cry. It’s okay. 

Live videos are where you get to show the most emotion and be real with your customers. 

#5 Interview one of your technicians or office staff about their favorite parts of their job or what their average day looks like

This is a fun, super short and simple live video that can really build trust and confidence in your company. It lets your customers see the faces of those working in your business, which is important because people don’t do business with businesses they like — they do business with people they like. 

#6 Show them how something unique to your business works

People want to feel knowledgeable — like they know something their neighbors don’t know — and your live videos can help. 

Most homeowners or customers don’t know about all the tools you use in your specific trade. So give them that information in case chimney sweeping or plumbing comes up during table talk. 

Are you a plumber? Outside of a wrench and a plunger, many people have no idea what you use to get the job done. Plumbing relies on some pretty technologically advanced (and expensive) equipment. Equipment your customers don’t have sitting around in the garage. Let them know!

Are you a chimney sweep? People are imagining Dick Van Dyke with his filthy crew of singing and dancing sweeps. You’re not just showing up to the job with a broom. You’re not just using a Shop-Vac — it’s much more advanced than that right? Show them what you really use to get the job done and how you keep their homes from looking like London during the Industrial Revolution. 

#7 Highlight how your team starts the day or a fun activity you guys like to do together

The goal of social media is to get people to know, like, and trust you. This is the like part of that. Show them that you have similar interests. Show them your morning routine or what everyone does when they get to the office. 

Does everyone drink coffee together before heading out for the day? Great — highlight that. People love coffee!

If you get comments like, “Ew, you drink Dunkin Donuts coffee?” GREAT. Engagement is the goal, and your DD loving customers will like you even more because of that shared connection. 

#8 Get a live video testimonial from a customer

We would love, love, love to see more of this. If you have a customer who’s been a customer for years and would feel comfortable providing a testimonial on camera, ask them to do it live! All you have to do is introduce them. For example:

“Hi, my name is Megan and I’m here with my client, Jessica. She just got Facebook Ad services and wanted to tell you a little bit about her experience so far.”

Then, just let your customer share.

These videos are easy and effective — you just have to make sure your customer’s comfortable sharing their experience. And here’s the best thing about these videos: If you tag the customer in the video, it’s not just going to be shared on your page — they’re going to want to share it with their family and friends on their own page as well. And their friends and family will say, “Oh, that’s my friend,” and want to share the video to their pages.  

That’s going to broaden your post reach and increase your post engagement by so much. And funny enough, this is the #1 live video (after price) business owners don’t want to do. 

#9 Interview someone prominent in the community that would have information that your audience might find helpful

This live video is designed to provide value, but doesn’t need to be tied directly to your business. For example, if I was a chimney sweep, I might interview a plumber. If I was a plumber, I might interview an HVAC company. If you know the mayor, reach out to the mayor if he’s well-liked. Ask to do a live video to go over some info that would be beneficial or helpful to your audience.

Let’s say you reach out to a local plumber and say, 

“Hey, I’d like to do a quick interview with you. We’ll tag your business and you can share it on your page as well. What I’m hoping is that we can cover your top five plumbing tips for homeowners.”

Those tips will provide additional value to your customers and build trust. Plus, the plumber you interview will probably want to provide his or her audience with the same kind of value, and may ask you to do a video on their page (for example: providing your top five chimney maintenance tips). 

It’s free, helpful content for your customers that makes both you and the company or individual you’re interviewing look more trustworthy.

#10 Tell them what to expect when they call to book with you

There are a lot of new homeowners out there who have no idea what to expect when they hire a plumber, chimney sweep, HVAC company, or other home service provider. So get rid of their uncertainty and help them call and book with confidence by enlightening them a little bit.

Tell them things like:

  • What questions they may be asked on the phone and how they can figure out the answers to those questions ahead of time
  • What to expect when you show up at their home to do the work

The best customer experiences are those when homeowners don’t have any questions because you’ve already answered them all. So, detail as much for them as you can and answer their questions before they have them. 

P.S. Want to print a cheatsheet of ideas to jumpstart your brain when you’re planning your live videos? Just download and print the infographic below. 🙂

10-live-video-ideas-for-instagram-and-facebook-checklist

The killer formula for a good live video

Okay, so you’ve got some ideas for live video, but what about format? How the heck do you know how to start or wrap up your live video? Don’t worry, we won’t leave ya hanging. Here are the 7 components that pretty much every live video should have…

  1. Attention grabber – Grab you audience’s attention with a question or fact that will surprise them and draw them into the video.
  2. Intro – Next, introduce who you are and what you do. If you’re interviewing someone, introduce your guest here as well.
  3. State the problem – Get specific about the problem your customer is facing.
  4. Solve the problem – Tell them how your company can solve that problem.
  5. Show expertise – Explain your qualifications and how they make you an expert on this subject.
  6. Overcome objections – Help customers overcome objections with thorough explanations.
  7. Call to action – Close with an if/then call to action (CTA) that will urge them to contact you.

Now, grab your smartphone and go live!

 

A Holiday Playlist To Keep You Relaxed & Sane This Busy Season

A Holiday Playlist To Keep You Relaxed & Sane This Busy Season

The holidays are a busy time for everyone, but if you’re a sweep, the mayhem is multiplied by 10.

It’s easy to get swept up (pun absolutely intended) and miss the magic of the holiday season, but Christmas and Hannukah are almost here!

We want to help you slow down just a bit and get into the holiday spirit — no matter how crazy things may be right now — so, we put together a playlist of some of our favorite holiday songs.

No matter what you celebrate or how, these songs will make you feel all warm and fuzzy inside. Enjoy!

9 Tips For Making Better Hiring Decisions For Your Small Business

9 Tips For Making Better Hiring Decisions For Your Small Business

If you’re like a lot of other business owners, a large portion of your time and thought goes into solving hiring challenges. Finding the right talent is the issue that never goes away.

A Small Business Trends study done by Guidant Financial and LendingClub found that out of the 2,700 small business owners surveyed, 351 (13%) named recruiting/retention of employees as their top challenge.

Infographic-Showing-Small-Business-Challenges-From-Study

Similarly, a Statista survey of small business owners in July 2019, found that hiring qualified/good staff and retaining them is the #4 biggest challenge business owners face.

Understanding the problem is easy. You know that better employees = better company. Great teams start with great people, and business success hangs on the people you hire.

But it’s the solution that’s harder to distinguish. Your business can’t afford to settle for anything less than A-players, but how do you actually find those those A-players?

Where do you start?

Well, to quote the old adage,

“If you do what everyone else does, you get what everyone else gets.”

So, it’s time to rethink the recruitment and hiring process. It’s time to get serious and develop a strategic approach to consistently finding and hiring the best people.

How do you do that?

How do you single the winners out of the crowd of people just interested in getting a paycheck? How do you keep from repeating the same hiring mistakes you’ve made in the past? How do you find talent and recruit the individuals who can make a real difference in your business?

Here are 9 tips to get you started…

Tip #1 Start with the right attitude.

I’m not totally sold on “The Secret” and all that law of attraction stuff, but I 100% believe that attitude is everything. Having the right attitude may not magically draw top notch employees to you, but having the wrong one will certainly repel them.

So it’s time to take a quick look inward…

Are you holding onto the belief that you’ll never be able to bring A-players into your business because of the industry you’re in? Maybe you do construction or you’re a service business and you believe that the hard-working A-players out there are already running their own businesses, not working for someone else.

Or maybe you, like this fellow on Quora, have written off an entire generation of potential employees because you’ve reached jaded and bitter “Get off my lawn!” old man status.

“Millennials are not A people and never will be…”

via GIPHY

Are you making the same mistake in your attitude?

Tough truth coming your way: The Millennial generation consists of people in their 20s and 30s. So, if you think everyone in that age group is a lazy piece of trash, your company will die with the Baby Boomers.

Plus, it’s just not true that allllll Millennials are B-players, C-players, or worse. What is true is that every generation is essentially the same. There were good and bad apples in the 1920s and there will be good and bad apples in the 2020s.

So don’t make the mistake of putting people into boxes and letting your preconceived ideas and stereotypes prevent you from finding the diamonds in the workforce.

Treat everyone you interview with respect and possibility, and you’ll have much better luck finding the people from every generation worth investing in.

Tip #2 Create clear, non-generic job descriptions.

Okay, this sounds pretty simple and obvious, right? But how many generic job postings have we all seen and created?

We throw in all this industry lingo and write in a utilitarian way that does a great job of telling potential employees, well, not much of anything.

Job descriptions like this are a dime a dozen:

  • Establishes sales objectives by forecasting and developing annual sales quotas for regions and territories and projecting expected sales volumes and profit for existing and new products.
  • Implements national sales programs by developing field sales action plans.
  • Maintains sales volume by tracking changing trends, economic indicators, competitors and supply and demand.
  • Completes national sales operational requirements by scheduling and assigning employees and following up on work results.

via GIPHY

What if instead of this sleep-inducing, generic gobbledygook, we wrote a no-fluff job description to attract exactly the talent we wanted?

What if we gave people a better idea of not just what their day-to-day would look like, but what kind of growth and fulfillment they could expect to experience?

What if we showed them how their job would directly impact their community?

When you go to write a job description, think about all the awful, boring copy your potential hire has already seen. How will yours stand out and make them stop in their tracks? How will yours attract the A-players and repel the C-players? What would you want to read?

Get creative, but keep it clear, so there’s no guessing whether or not they have what it takes to be a good fit for your company and the role you’re hiring for.

Tip #3 Ask better interview questions & dig out the stories.

According to the 2017 Wells Fargo & Gallup Small Business Index,

“The difficulty in identifying qualified candidates is by far the biggest problem small business owners cite. More than half (52 percent) say this is a challenge…”

And…

“Forty-three percent of small business owners say they have difficulty knowing how well job applicants will do once they’re hired.”

Well, that’s a problem, especially considering the time and resources it takes to hire, onboard, and train someone.

So why are we all so bad at figuring out which candidates are going to be the best fit and excel in the job we’re hiring them for? Maybe because we’re asking the wrong questions and focusing on the wrong things.

Let’s see, which tells you more about a person: a bullet list of skills and accomplishments (aka resume) or a story?

Ding, ding, ding! You guessed it: A story.

Unless you’re interviewing The Most Interesting Man In The World, a resume is about as exciting and enlightening as a teeth cleaning. And the resumes you’re using to judge candidates may not even be accurate.

Cyrus Kennedy, Chief People Officer & Partner at XQ Innovation shared on Quora,

“We conducted a study of 80 clients in various industries and all levels of the corporate ladder: 64% of all applicants were found to blatantly lie about something on their resume.”

Eek. No wonder the interview and hiring process feels a bit like guesswork.

What if instead of just looking at resumes and asking the same boring questions that candidates have well-rehearsed, scripted answers for, we tried something different? What if we asked better questions and paid more attention to what their answers really revealed about their personality, culture fit, and job fit?

via GIPHY

Throw out the boring questions and come up with a new list that will dig out the values and traits of the individual, so you can get a better idea of how right or wrong they are for your company.

Look for the stories that will tell you about their initiative, their ability to overcome challenges, their work ethic, their level of humility, the way they treat those with authority over them and those they have authority over…

What you really want is to ask questions that peel back the onion and get to the candidate’s true character. And make sure you’re paying attention to the subtleties of their answers, attitude, and mannerisms, because your customers will pick up on all of those things in a heartbeat.

Here’s a killer question that will tell you so much more about a potential hire than a resume will:

“When was the last time you can remember helping someone in a way you felt really made an impact on their life?”

Here’s why that question is such a win:

  • There’s no way your potential candidate has prepared for that question, so they’re going to tell you whatever pops into their mind first. That means you’re catching them in an authentic moment and not getting some cookie cutter planned answer.
  • Because their answer won’t be scripted, you’ll get to see how quick they are on their toes. Can they problem solve and come up with an answer quickly? That may be a good sign they’ll be a good fit for the job.
  • What they choose to share will tell you a lot about what is important to them. For example, if they answer “Tutoring my niece so she could pass her Chemistry test,” you know that family is important, they’re a patient and effective teacher, they care about the success of others, and they have some chemistry knowledge. No matter what they answer, I guarantee it will be more telling than any scripted answer you get.

Psst. I got this great question from Eric Flathers, a Business Consultant who shared it on Quora.

Tip #4 Know your dealbreakers and have an objective measuring stick.

If you want to avoid hiring mistakes, you can’t just have an “idea” of what you want in a potential hire — you’ve got to know exactly what you’re looking for.

The best way to do this is to come up with a succinct list of qualities that you’d like your new hire to have. You should know these before you ever come into contact with the potential candidate, and they should be broken down into “critical” and “nice to have” categories.

When you take the time to think about what’s a dealbreaker and what isn’t, you’ll be able to measure your new candidates in a systematic way. That way, you’re not getting distracted or hiring based on emotion.

via GIPHY

Once you’ve got your list, you’ve got to stick to your guns and measure candidates against your predetermined standards. Too many people rely on their gut instead of using an objective measuring stick to size up the candidate. So keep that list of “critical” and “nice to have” traits and qualities front and center, and use your interview questions to check for those traits and qualities.

It may take some time to come up with your dealbreakers, but how many hours have you wasted training the wrong person for the job? Just think of it as time redirected and energy better spent.

Tip #5 Hire with the things you fire for in mind.

Business owners often hire for experience, technical skills, and interviewing skills. But you know what people fire for? Bad attitude, poor communication skills, bad culture fit, poor customer service, and a lack of various “soft skills.”

So why are soft skills important enough to fire over but not important enough to be a part of the hiring process? Why are technical skills and experience always the dealbreakers instead of attitude?

I get it, it’s easier to test for technical skill than it is to test for soft skills, and technical skills are important. But in pretty much any job under the sun, soft skills are equally important. So, you’ve got to make them a priority during the hiring process.

Don’t hire the guy with the most experience if he’s got a lousy attitude and thinks most people are idiots. If you do, you’ll waste time and resources on someone who won’t be with you long.

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It’s far smarter to hire when the soft skills are there but the hard skills are lacking than it is to hire when the hard skills are there and the soft skills are lacking.

Tip #6 Consider role, team, and culture match equally.

Culture match, team match, and role match are all equally important to the success of your hire, so look for all three! And for the love of God, have higher standards for what a “match made of heaven” is than this girl.

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Role match:

Will your new hire enjoy the work and thrive in the position you’re hiring for, or is there some other position that might make more sense for them?

The reality is: people are built differently and the person that may make the top sales rep may make a terrible project manager. Having the right people onboard and in the right roles is incredibly important.

Ensure the best candidate is chosen for the position by assessing personality and passions, and making sure they’re a good match for the position you’re looking to fill.

Cultural/core values match:

When asked what surprising negative impact hiring a new employee had on her business, one of our clients, Deb Catura of Jack Pixley Sweeps answered,

“When the hire was not working up to company values, it affected morale and added more stress.”

And she’s not alone in that experience…

When you hire someone without considering how they’ll fit with the company culture, other team members, and the core values you have in place, you’re setting yourself and your team up for some rough seas. It’s just not worth it.

So share your core values and culture with the potential new hire, and ask interview questions that will help you assess their alignment and fit with the things you and your company hold dear.

Team match:

We all want to work with people who make our work life more enjoyable, not less. People who love their jobs, strive to make a difference, and positively impact those they work for and with.

So don’t look at role match alone. Introduce your potential hire to the team and make sure they’re a good fit before you say “Yes.”

Your team will thank you for investing the time and valuable energy into making sure the next hire is a good fit, a productive player, and someone who will be a positive and valuable contributor to the team.

Tip #7 Show potential hires a clear trajectory.

It’s true: Some A-players will go out and start their own business, but not all of them. You can attract A-players to your business and gain their loyalty by showing them a clear trajectory for growth within your business.

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Empower them. Educate them. Train them. Invest in them.

In a recent interview, the owner/operator of Shepard Painting Solutions said,

“If you have the mindset that you want to train people to the point where they are good enough to go out on their own and you empower your employees, you’re probably going to attract better people.”

Preach.

Don’t just recruit A-players, keep them by developing them into the future leaders of your business. Help them be successful in their career. Take them down a path and set them up for success by giving them the training they need to succeed in their role.

Deb Catura of Jack Pixley Sweeps does this with her employees. She has a clear path carved out so there’s no guessing whether there’s potential for growth.

Deb shares that all new hires begin work as “helpers” in the Repair Division for several weeks. During this time, they get on the job training under the Training & Development Manager, a senior tech.

There are certain attainable benchmarks that need to be accomplished before practice tests, and while the Training & Development Manager trains and prepares the new hires, he also evaluates for work ethic and common sense. Those that show Chimney Technician strengths move to that part of the business.

Smart! New hires know exactly what to expect and how to get to the next level. No guessing. No trial and error. A-players like to know what is expected and how to advance, so they’ll find this incredibly attractive in a business.

Tip #8 Always be on the lookout for A-players and make your business attractive.

Many companies are trying to create something great, but they have the wrong ingredients. They settle for B- and C-players and don’t start the search for top talent until they’re so desperate for help they’ll settle for anyone.

It makes sense, but it’s a reactionary mindset that can lead to some bad hiring decisions.

Truth is: filling a position starts long before an opening. You need to always be on the lookout for potential A-players, whether you’re actively interviewing or just out and about. You never know where your next new hire will come from.

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But you need to make sure that you’re what they’re looking for as well.

That starts with treating your people well. Like hangs out with like, so if you’ve got A-players on your team and you’re treating them right, when you do have an opening, there’s a good chance one of your A-players may know the perfect person for the job.

Deb Catura of Jack Pixley Sweeps shares that,

“Referrals from employees and their friends found us the best hires.”

And she’s certainly not alone. Here at Spark Marketer, we’re one big incestuous friend pool. It seems every hire has come through someone else already on the team.

Now for the big question: To Incentivize Or Not To Incentivize?

Some people may encourage you to incentivize employee referrals, giving employees gift cards or financial rewards for referring people they know, but that’s not really necessary. If you’re doing a great job of providing a healthy and rewarding environment and career for your employees, you shouldn’t need to incentivize them. After all, we all want our friends to be happy, too.

On the flip side, even if you have a financial incentive, if you’re a terrible leader and your employees can’t stand their jobs, they’re not going to tell their friends to join in on the misery.

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Okay, aside from employee referrals, where else can you look for potential A-players?

Many people have luck with LinkedIn, Facebook, associations, and even Craigslist. Be open and keep your eyes peeled! Your “dream” employee may even wait on you at dinner this Friday or make your coffee on Saturday morning.

Here are some tips for making your company attractive to the A-player-types you’re hoping to attract:

  • Celebrate your team on social media and on your website.
  • Showcase how you’re different in your marketing. Give them a glimpse into what the job’s like and what it’s like to work for you. One great place to do this is on your Now Hiring page. Instead of making it a long boring list of job requirements and tasks, make it entertaining and informative — a “day in the life of _______” kind of thing.
  • Make your job listing stand out. Think about all the boring out there. If you’re really different, then show them in your job listing!

P.S. Here are some quick tips and insights from Taylor on building a team of A-players and holding onto those winners…

Tip #9 Cut your losses faster.

Take your time when selecting a candidate, but be quick to let them go if it’s not a good fit. 

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No amount of training will ever teach the wrong person how to be the right one. So evaluate the new hire regularly, and if hiring them was a mistake, cut your losses.

Deb Catura of Jack Pixley Sweeps echos this sentiment saying that, if they knew what they know now when they hired their first employees,

“We would make a decision to release new employees that were unreliable more quickly.”

Truth is: You probably won’t have much success transforming C-players into A-players, no matter how much time and energy you put into it.

So if you make the mistake of hiring a C-player, let them go and start your search for an A-player to fill his or her shoes.

Make Your Next Hire The Right Hire

Hiring the wrong person can be an extremely expensive and time consuming mistake.

It can lead to wasted time, wasted resources, organizational disruption and dysfunction, and low team morale. Not to mention a lot of headaches for you and your HR person.

So turn the hiring process into a science and protect yourself against the same hiring mistakes you’ve made over and over again in the past.

Hiring doesn’t have to be a painful guessing game. You now have some tools and tips to help ensure your next hire is the right hire. Good luck!

Have hiring tips we didn’t include? Shoot ‘em over to me at jessica@sparkmarketer.com!

3 Lessons From CMWorld That Every Business Owner Needs/Desperately Wants To Hear

3 Lessons From CMWorld That Every Business Owner Needs/Desperately Wants To Hear

I spent a few days at the beginning of the month in Cleveland for Content Marketing World, and Jesus, pleaseus was it amazing! Three days of intensive workshops and classes on everything a content marketer’s heart could desire — from analytics and email marketing to storytelling and scriptwriting. 

I saw faces I’d only ever seen at the bottom of blog posts or on webinars, and connected with some of my fav people in the biz. And of course, I shamelessly rolled on the ground with adoptable pups from City Dogs during Yappy Hour.

But I know you don’t care about how much I geeked out when I met Ann Handley or who drooled more during Yappy Hour, me or the dogs. So I’m going to skip ahead and share three takeaways from the conference that I think we all — content marketers and business owners alike — need to hear. 

Ready?

#1 Be realistic.

You know the rockstar of your industry? The guy everyone’s always talking about? His name is now a synonym for “success” and — you’re not jealous — but yeah, maybe you roll your eyes a little when his name comes up in conversation.

We all have those people.

As a content marketer, we compare ourselves to Redbull, Wendy’s, Nike, Zappos, [Insert big, successful brand here.] They’re doing such amazing work, engaging with audiences, and seemingly having waaaaay more fun than the rest of us. 

But here’s the thing: we’re not the same. 

The creative team for Nike likely consists of more than one person. But here, it’s just me, and my time and energy is focused in 403,939,482,039 different directions. Not because I want it to be, but because that’s my reality. When you have a small team or a one-man/woman team, you have to wear multiple hats.

What about you — who are you comparing yourself to? That rockstar who has 50 more employees than you do? Let’s say it together: “I’m not him.” And that means your business doesn’t have to look like his. 

Do you feel any relief? Are your shoulders slowly inching away from your ears? Good, because the best thing you can do is be realistic. 

Sure, you can take ideas and strategies from businesses that inspire you, that are big and successful, and marry them to where you are in your business. But your momma told you and I’ll tell you again: stop trying to be someone else. 

You can take lessons and strategies from the rockstars and see where and how they make sense for your business. But remember, you’re not them, and no one is asking you to be. Be you!

#2 Stop trying to do everything, everywhere.

This is #1’s equally incapacitating cousin. We try to do it all and we try to do it all well. It’s a natural instinct for go getters, self-motivators, and those with entrepreneurial spirits, but some of it comes from external sources…

There are webinars and blog posts and thought leaders telling us we have to:

  • be on every social media platform the moment it pops into existence
  • market everywhere our audience is
  • offer more services and meet every single client need or want
  • start a podcast, a video series, a training school…
  • do it all better, faster, and more profitably
  • oh, and find balance while we’re at it.

Don’t you wish you could just tell everyone to shut up? You can. I give you permission. 

To paraphrase Joe Pulizzi, you’re not Ryan Seacrest, so stop trying to be everything to everyone, everywhere. 

And here’s the big secret: when you stop Seacresting, you’ll be waaay less stressed and waaay more effective. Yup, every push, every minute, will have more impact on your business. And isn’t that what you really want anyway? 

It comes back to accepting your reality: there’s only one of you and you can be much more effective if you split your energy three ways instead of 30. As a business owner, that may mean learning to delegate so you can get some things off of your plate. It may mean cutting your services down or holding off on adding new services until you’re staffed and ready. 

Figure out what you can cut back on and what deserves more of your time and energy. Think about which efforts will really move the needle. See which ones are already making a difference and think about what could be if you dedicated more time and energy to X, Y, Z, instead of A-Z. 

#3 Take one action item from every learning opportunity. 

This one was repeated multiple times during Content Marketing World and I think it’s what allowed me to come back from the conference with a plan and not a conference hangover. 

Ready for it? Write down one action item from every learning opportunity, whether you’re listening to a fav podcast, reading a book, attending a conference, summit, or convention, or just having a conversation with one of your mentors. Keep every actionable item in a notebook or a note on your phone, and revisit them when you’re planning your week.

Remember, you can’t do it all, but you can do something. So, lose the comparisons, let go of your attachment to the outcome, and just try something. Don’t try to tackle every item on your list at once — instead, pick one, maybe two a month, and put as much energy and time as you can into making it happen. 

One Last Thing…

Okay, actually there is one more lesson…Go to conferences, trade shows, conventions, and trainings whenever you get the chance! 

Whether it’s the NCSG Convention, Service World Expo, International Roofing Expo, HPBExpo, or a smaller training or summit, try to get to at least one a year. And when you do, make sure to share what you learn with others. You never know who needs to hear it. 

I mean, did you ever think you’d learn anything applicable for your service business from something as nerdy as a content marketing conference? 😉