Author: MrContent

Employ This Unique Question-Storming Technique to Drive Creativity in Your Team

A well-known pastor once said this: “It takes guts to get out of ruts.”

In truth, it takes more than just guts. It takes inspiration, which is what drives courage and fuels life and new energy. When your team wants to create brain flow or stimulate innovative ideas, asking the right questions and getting others to ask them with you is one way to start.

The Question Formulation Technique

Most people spend a lot of time worrying about giving the right answers.

But an answer can only be as powerful as the question it addresses. If you work with teams, one of your goals should be to draw on each person’s unique strengths and creativity. But this can be a challenge if you can’t get the ball rolling.

If you want to try a different launch point for your next creative gathering, consider the Question Formulation Technique (originally formulated by the Right Question Institute). Here’s how it works:

Design a Question Focus

Pick a problem or challenge that is important to you. It should be clear and stimulate new lines of thinking. It should not be a question.

Establish Rules

Start by setting a time limit of around 5-15 minutes. Agree on this ahead of time and set a list of parameters before brainstorming begins. Brainstorming rules could include:

  • Encouraging people to ask as many questions as possible
  • Refraining from stopping green light thinking to answer, judge, or to discuss the questions posed
  • Asking everyone to submit at least three questions
  • Writing down every question exactly as it is stated

Produce Questions

Now it’s go-time.

Use your question focus to formulate as many questions as you can. Aim for 50 questions in 15 minutes to give your team a brain jolt.

Improve Questions

Once you have a list of questions, the next step is to try to improve them.

For example, you could change yes/no questions into open-ended phrases. You could modify a generic question by adding specifics (changing “how can we preserve heat loss in drafty spaces?” to “how can we increase heat efficiency by 20 percent?”)

Sort Questions

After brainstorming, your list will seem a bit jumbled.

Drill down by sorting questions into common themes then prioritizing the most critical areas. Choose 3-4 categories with the most potential and rank them by importance.

Take Action

Now ideas can take flight.

After ranking your categories, decide what you need to do next to generate creative solutions. Do you hand off a concept to a design team? Work with a consultant to flush out possibilities? Maybe you want to take the top-ranking question and have another “question-storming” session to flush out specifics for this concept.

Reflect and Reframe

Before closing your session, reflect on what your group learned and how you might assimilate these insights into your work. This may uncover hidden assumptions or reframe the way your team approaches its next obstacle. And give positive feedback on the discussion that just happened.

Teaching people to ask questions and partner in decision-making can fundamentally change the synergy of your team!

Go Print When a Presentation Matters Most

Given the restrictions of 2020 thanks to COVID, the term “slidedeck” has probably entered everyone’s vocabulary far more than they care to know.

With nearly everyone spending at least three hours a day online in digital meetings, digital slide presentations have become commonplace. However, that doesn’t mean going digital is the best choice for those decision-making events.

The Tangibility of Print

The standard for a powerful presentation has been and continues to be the professionally printed presentation package.

Why? In a word – tangibility.

People are tactile creatures, especially when making big decisions that have significant ramifications. Print presentations finished in high-quality stock and graphics meet that innate drive to have something physical in hand before making a big commitment.

3 Reasons Digital Falls Short on Presentations

Going digital with your presentation with a digital slidedeck doesn’t have the same effect on people as print. Here are three reasons digital falls short in this way.

1. Digital Overload

Most audiences are now suffering from digital overload.

You don’t have to go far to hear the constant complaining about having to chew through 50 to 300 emails a day, thanks to an over-reliance on digital communication.

What kind of attention are your presentation attendees going to have left to click open and read through another digital presentation, no matter how well done? 

2. Easily Manipulated Digital Content

Digital files can be easily manipulated, especially if they are going through multiple hands to get to the presentation party.

Many assume that by converting a slidedeck to a PDF format, the file will be protected and its integrity kept the same. This is a false hope. Without a fully encrypted form protection, the file can be tampered with. And when a presentation matters, the sender should make sure the content isn’t tampered with from the version sent to the version being presented.

3. The One-and-Done Digital Dilemma

What happens when a digital presentation is complete?

Does the recipient in a meeting save the digital slidedeck for future reference? It’s unlikely.

Most people just hit the delete button, hoping someone else has a copy if they actually need it again down the line, or hope that it was saved in their email folder. The likelihood of someone reopening a digital slidedeck to read its content completely is highly unlikely given the digital blur most people are under today.

Capture Attention with Print Presentations

A print presentation on high-quality stock makes a huge difference in all of these situations.

People have something tangible to read and hold that isn’t a computer screen. In fact, a professionally finished presentation in print is probably unique and an immediate stand-out in 2021.

And, the presentation can’t be faked, fudged, or tampered with without ruining the package in total. The same can’t be said for a digital file.

Finally, people do actually look at print material repeatedly after seeing it for the first time. If the document isn’t discarded right away, most folks will reread the package before deciding whether to file it, scan it, or recycle it. And that means your message sink in even deeper. 

When a presentation matters, deliver it in print!

4 Straightforward Ways to Strengthen Workplace Communication

In March of 1977, conditions at Spain’s Los Rodeos Airport were chaotic.

Due to a nearby terrorist incident at Gran Canaria Aiport, many flights were diverted to Los Rodeos. The airport quickly grew congested with parked airplanes blocking the only taxiway. This forced departing aircraft to taxi on the runway instead. Patches of thick fog drifted across the airfield, greatly reducing visibility for pilots and the control tower.

Around 6:00 PM, a Boeing 747 KLM flight initiated its takeoff run while a PanAm 747 was still on the runway. When the planes collided, the KLM plane lifted off briefly, then stalled, rolled, and burst into a fireball upon striking the ground. The PanAm plane was also ripped apart and destroyed by the collision, resulting in a total loss of 583 fatalities. It was the deadliest accident in aviation history.

Unfortunately, the tragedy was entirely avoidable but it occurred in a moment of confusion. The pilot believed he had received clearance for takeoff. He did not.

Avoid Your Next Communication Breakdown

While your communication breakdowns probably aren’t quite this serious, they do account for lost time, efficiency, or depletion of team morale.

Good communication is essential for the success of personal and professional relationships. But often, this skill is assumed rather than carefully honed and evaluated. And failed communication has consequences.

According to statistics, 28% of employees mention poor communication as their primary reason for failing to perform tasks on time. One survey of 400 large companies reported an average loss (per company) of $62.4 million per year due to inadequate communication to and between employees.

Poor communication skills make it difficult to build trustworthy relationships with your clients, investors, and suppliers. Here are a few bad habits to eliminate and strategies to try instead:

Assuming Rather Than Clarifying

In work relationships, people tend to swap opinions and stories rather than asking questions.

Managers who take a coach approach to conversations will dig in with simple questions like, “tell me more.” Clarifying questions help to build trust and strengthen accountability.

Being Indirect Versus Intentional

If you desire prompt responses to outstanding questions, don’t just sit back and hope for the best.

Instead, use direct outreach strategies including a follow-up inquiry within 24 hours. To keep the communication cycle moving, reach out and “tap back” over the next day or so. Most of the time you can move the ball with just a simple inquiry like, “thoughts?”

Hoping Things Will Get Better Instead of Speaking Up Immediately

Many people avoid tricky conversations, but this rarely ends well.

When you delay after sensing a red flag, you may be enabling things to get worse. Don’t wait to speak up when something isn’t working. If a team can adapt or innovate early on, this benefits everyone.

Sending Rather Than Scheduling an Email

Everyone loves to scratch items off the to-do list.

But if you really want to optimize communication, perhaps you should delay on hitting the “Send” button. What if you prioritized your communication around the days and times that are most convenient for others?

When people read with full attention, your message will carry much greater weight. Try using the “schedule send” feature in your platform to send more effective, timely messages.

Foundational Skills Bring Long Term Value

With so much at stake in your business, communication is a foundational skill every person can improve. When you grow your communication skills, you instantly add value to your firm and your team.

Touch is Everything: Choosing the Perfect Paper for Printing

There’s nothing better than the feel of a well-constructed catalog, brochure, or invite.

After all, no one wants to be handed a pamphlet that crumples because the paper quality is not up to par. This is why choosing the right paper for your print marketing projects is more important than you might think.

Choosing Your Paper Type

There are many different kinds of paper to choose from for your print projects. These vary in composition, design, weight, and thickness.

Gloss vs. Matte

Choosing whether to use gloss or matte paper is one of the most common choices when picking out paper.

Gloss paper has an incredibly high shine that enhances color. Matte, on the other hand, has a muted surface that refracts light and reduces glare. It has a textured, soft feel compared to a gloss, which has a sleek and almost sticky feel.

Uncoated vs. Coated

If you’re looking to achieve enhanced colors and a matte or glossy finish, coated paper would be a paper choice for you.

Coated paper is also more resistant to everyday wear and tear, such as dirt and water that may come in contact with it. Uncoated paper is not as durable but is the perfect choice for items that may need to be written on. Some examples of projects that should use uncoated paper are brochures, envelopes, and letterheads.

Silk Coated

When thinking of silk paper, think more of a fabric feel rather than your traditional paper.

It’s more of a luxurious feel to touch. It’s somewhat between a matte and glossy finish. The colors will remain vibrant yet reduce shininess. Magazines and catalogs are the most common projects to use silk-coated paper for the inside text pages. These items are regularly picked up by individuals and quickly flipped through. These hands-on projects will be best suited with silk-coated paper.

Paper Weights

Paper comes in all types of weights that can seem like another language when deciding which is best to use for your printing project.

The weight of paper is determined by the weight of 500 sheets of a paper size in its uncut form. For example, an uncut sheet of bond paper is 17 x 22 inches before it’s cut to letter size. If a stack of 500 of these sheets weighs 20 lbs, then the paper is labeled “20 lb.” 

Traditionally, paper weights are split into categories, including bond, book, cover, index, tag, and text paper. In each of these categories, there are varying weights that are available. If you’re looking for a heavier cover for a catalog, you might want to choose a 100-lb. cover rather than a 60-lb cover. Along with that, you may prefer lighter inside pages, so you may want to choose a 60-lb. text paper rather than 100-lb. text paper. 

If you’d like to get a better idea of the touch and feel of the paper for your next printing project, ask us for paper samples today. 

More than a Boss: How Inspiring Managers Lead from the Front

“The greatest leader is not necessarily the one who does the greatest things. He is the one that gets the people to do the greatest things.” (Ronald Reagan)

What is the difference between a boss and a leader?

John Maxwell said it this way:

“He who thinks he leads but has no followers is only taking a walk.”

If you can’t influence others, they won’t follow you. And you can’t lead people where you aren’t going yourself. Inspiring managers are those who do more than delegate tasks; they put skin in the game by personifying the actions and attitudes they hope to replicate in others.

Nearly 250 years ago, a man dressed in civilian clothes was riding a horse when he encountered a group of weary soldiers. The exhausted troops were digging a defensive position to prepare for the next battle. Though morale was already low, the leader of this beleaguered group was a mean-spirited man who threatened to whip those who could not finish the work in an hour. He barked orders from the rear while pacing back and forth behind them.

The stranger on horseback was appalled. “If this is so important, then why aren’t you helping them?” In response, the battalion leader growled about how he was in charge, and the men will “do as I tell them.” Then he shouted at the stranger, “Help them yourself if you feel so strongly about it!”

To the surprise of all, the rider disembarked from his horse and pitched in alongside the fatigued soldiers until they finished the job. After congratulating the crew for their perseverance, he turned to the crew leader and snapped, “You should notify top command next time your rank prevents you from supporting your men – and I will provide a more permanent solution.”

That day the pompous manager learned a lesson in humility. But not until after he recognized the stranger as General George Washington.

Why Little Things Count

Leading from the front is more than just asking people to imitate you. It is a modest attitude that says, “I am willing to do whatever I have asked you to do.”

This means living consistently in the big “whys” of what you do every day and being willing to get your hands dirty to show that little things count. Leading from the front in your position might mean:

— Finding (and articulating) the silver lining of challenging moments

— Sending handwritten birthday or thank you cards

— Having open office hours (and a listening ear) at least one morning a week

— Keeping accurate files to demonstrate the importance of order and accountability

— Asking hard questions that lead to uncomfortable — but necessary — conversations

— Taking ownership of mistakes and protecting your team in crisis moments

— Make a point of doing small jobs (that are below your pay grade) each day

— Greeting people by name

True leadership typically doesn’t involve mountaintop moments and brag sessions. Instead, it serves others in authentic relationships.

Morale will climb as you stop bossing and start leading.

6 Winning Direct Mail Campaigns

Direct mail offers results that other channels just can’t match.

According to a recent study, direct mail has a response rate as high as 9%. However, there are always ways to engage your audience better and improve your mailers’ effectiveness. These methods below catch your recipents’ attention and increase the chances that they’ll read and respond to your direct mail piece. 

6 Winning Direct Mail Campaigns

1. Instill Curiosity with a Quiz

Do you worry your direct mail envelopes are going in the trash unread?

Take a page from Harvard Medical School’s playbook. In a recent mailing to woo subscribers for their Harvard Heart Letter newsletter, they put a heart health quiz on the front. The answers to the three-question quiz were inside the mailer, giving recipients a reason to open.

2. Benefits, Not Features

As marketers, it’s so easy to get caught up in promoting all the neat features of your product.

Your readers, however, don’t care about that. They care about how your product can be of benefit to them.

HelloFresh hit the mark with a February 2020 mailer that highlighted three big benefits to ordering their kits. At a glance, readers could see that the service could save them time, save them money, and offer more variety.

3. Leverage Testimonials

Research shows that a recommendation, whether from a friend or a stranger, has a lot of sway on reader opinions.

In fact, 70% of people will trust a recommendation even when it comes from someone who they don’t know. 

Florida Gulf Coast University used the power of testimonials by putting recommendations from past students right on their mailing postcard. Having names, faces, and a glowing recommendation from current students helped convince potential attendees that the school is a good choice. 

4. Use the Magic Word

No, not “please.” The powerful word that gets your mailer a second look instead of a quick trip to the recycle bin is “free.” 

A March 2020 mailer from Estee Lauder catches attention with bright coloration and a prominent offer for a free gift when people visit their counter inside Macy’s. Offering a gift is a way to get people inside your brick-and-mortar location, where there is an increased chance that they’ll take the opportunity to buy.

5. Catch the Eye with Familiar Forms and Images

When Nestle was promoting their Kit Kat Chunky bar in the UK, they used a familiar image — a Royal Mail card about an undeliverable package.

However, instead of the normal reasons for failure to deliver, recipients learn that the free chocolate bar Nestle intended to send them was “too chunky” to fit through their mail slot. The mailer served as a coupon to get a free bar to try from the store.

6. Invite Recipients to Interact with Your Mail Piece

To raise awareness for World Water Day in Belgium, the organization demonstrated the importance of water in an innovative way.

They sent a postcard that could only be read after the reader held it under running water. This tactile trick increased engagement and also got the group a viral bump on social media.

No matter what your business, it’s possible to catch readers’ eyes and attention with your direct mail pieces. Think about how to evoke your recipient’s curiosity, which can lead to engagement and conversion.