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Numbers And The Stories They Tell

September 1st, 2014 by Mardy Sitzer

data analysis cartoon1Every business owner that I know is focused on numbers. They either feed off of them daily or procrastinate exploring them. Regardless of a business owner’s relationship to numbers, you can be sure that their business data influences their mood on any given day.

In business, it is always about the numbers. But which numbers should you be looking at?

I get exposed to a lot of data in my line of work. Not just the data for Bumblebee, but more so the data for my clients. I see web traffic analytics data, lead tracking data, social post analytics, email campaign data, sales data, and so on.

I also learned something about numbers a long time ago – we really don’t speak the same language.

I was never good at math in school and I won’t even discuss my performance in the college statistics class I took my sophomore year. And in my early days of selling, I would break into a sweat when my boss would ask “what’s the GP on that project?” And I won’t even describe my mental condition when told “I need your projected sales for next quarter.”

What I learned about my relationship with numbers was that I always had a kind of gut feeling about them. While I couldn’t do the math and calculations with any style or grace, I always had a good sense about them. What I also learned about numbers is that we aren’t always paying attention to the numbers that matter when it comes to improving outcomes, and that is what I want to explore through this post. Read more…

Is It Time To Redesign Your Website?

August 24th, 2014 by Mardy Sitzer

Bad PlanningYou might have the nagging sensation that your website is overdue for a refresh or possibly even a complete do-over; yet you procrastinate.

Memories of the pain and suffering you experienced the last time or possibly even the last few times; the last thing you want to do is repeat that experience.

I can’t say that I blame you, but you really shouldn’t use that as an excuse to not do what is best to grow your company. Have heart and read through as I have some suggestions to help you, but first, let’s see if you need to undergo a refresh or redesign.

5 SIGNS THAT IT’S TIME TO REDESIGN Read more…

I’m Using Social Networks And It’s A Waste of Time

July 22nd, 2014 by Mardy Sitzer

Mardy-CRA-Oct2011
I still hear that social media is a waste of time from attendees in a workshop, students in a business class, at business-networking events, and sometimes at a chance meeting.

There are still large groups of entrepreneurs and solopreneurs that have yet to try social media. Or, they have tried social media and found it to be a total waste of their time.

Well, I love a challenge so I will often ask them about which social networks they joined and what they did with them. The answers are relatively the same each time.

‘Well, we set up the profiles and posted things about the company, product or service.’ They might have even set up a coupon or campaign of some sort. Yet, nothing materialized. I even hear what a waste of time blogging is, and again, when asked to describe their efforts it goes like this – ‘we set up a blog and hired someone to write posts using our keywords.’

I have no doubt that these efforts failed to earn any results. In support of the further complaints of social media being a waste of time, the point is that no time was really spent and no real effort invested, and as the old profits of yore said, ‘you reap what you sow’.

Here’s what went wrong: Read more…

Eight Ways To Get You Paid Faster

June 30th, 2014 by Mardy Sitzer

Freight-invoiceHow Does Your Invoice Reflect On Your Brand?

This probably isn’t even a question that has come to mind. Companies that produce receipts at the time of purchase think about contact information and coupons, but businesses that produce invoices for their products or services seem to put little thought into the design of their invoices.

This recently came up while I was conducting a communications audit for a new client, and again as I was teaching a branding class. The attention to details placed on invoices typically has to do with the listing of items, pricing, surcharges, taxes, totals, terms, addresses and remittance details. Standard templates are often used and for the most part all appear to look the same – boring, uninspired, and truthfully – down right rude.

Getting paid for services rendered or items supplied is the single most important part of a business’s health and financial well-being, and yet so little thought is put into the design and content from a branding and marketing perspective.

I’m also guessing that businesses work on the assumption that an accounting department clerk or general administrative staff person is the only one who will see the invoice and so there is no need to dress it properly. You would be wrong on several levels here. First, someone in management or possibly even an owner may review invoices for approval first, and those staff people – they can be the grease or the cog in the wheel to getting you paid.

The invoice is the last touch in a transaction and has as much weight as a proposal or estimate. The opportunity to stand apart from your competitors, an opportunity to cement your brand, and a moment of truth that they made a good decision to do business with you and hope to again exist with your invoice.

Go ahead, pull out one of your invoices and take a good look. Then pull out your logo, your tag line – or brand promise, and your mission statement and evaluate how your invoice reflects on your brand.

I’m guessing you’re thinking that it is okay. The invoice is doing the job it was intended to do, but ask yourself – can it be more? Can the invoice communicate a meaningful difference between you and your competitor, or help to make this part of the transaction something they would actually look forward to, or possibly generate another order right on the spot?

The following are some suggested changes to make, and who knows, your clients might actually look forward to your invoices.

  1. Most invoices are emailed these days so go ahead and use your color logo.
  2. Even if you print and mail your invoices, don’t come off as a cheap-o with just black and white. Use your color printer to show off your logo, in fact think about using color elsewhere on the invoice to highlight some important information.
  3. Don’t leave out your tag line. Why not remind your clients why they bought from you in the first place.
  4. How about saying, “THANK YOU” or “It was a pleasure to serve you”, being polite and expressing, a little gratitude can go a long way to getting you paid and a repeat order.
  5. Not only say thank you, but also you might add “if you have any questions or if we can be of further service, please don’t hesitate to call us at 555-555-5555.”
  6. Keep things interesting and change up an additional message, like some of these examples – of course you can customize them to fit your own business model:
    • Please let us know how we did by taking a short performance survey (and provide a url to a survey).
    • We enjoyed doing business with you so much use this promo code to get a discount on your next order.
    • Getting paid quickly is our goal, so we are happy to offer a 2% discount if you can pay us in net 10 days.
    • While no one likes to get bills, we hope you’ll enjoy this free cup of coffee on us as a way of saying thank you. (Include a gift card if you are mailing your invoice.)
    • Did you hear the news yet? You get a 2% discount if you pay us in net 10 on line (or direct deposit).
    • If you were pleased with our service, we’d really appreciate it if you would take a moment and give us a rating on Yelp (or Facebook or Google).
    • Now let’s talk about the communications process – don’t wait until the invoice is past due to reach out. Send an email with a statement several days in advance saying something like “We like to help our clients keep in good standing. Your invoice will be due shortly so we just wanted to double check that our records match and that you have a timely payment scheduled. Please take a moment and compare the attached statement to your records and don’t hesitate to contact us at 555-555-5555 if you have any questions.
    • You can even send an email communiqué on the exact due date if payment has not yet been received and say something to the effect of – “Goodness, your payment was due today and we have no record of receiving a check from you. If you sent it then you can relax, but if you forgot, you might want to rush payment so you can avoid interest charges.”

So, now that you have your invoice out in front of you and you’ve read this post, check your average days outstanding. Implement these ideas and check to see if there is an improvement.

Emails That Can’t Be Read

June 16th, 2014 by Mardy Sitzer

Screen Shot 2014-06-16 at 10.58.21 AMGoodness, the year is 2014 and companies and organizations still aren’t getting email right. While I could go on and on about poor practices in email marketing, I thought I would focus this post on just one point – hopefully to effectively get the point across so that you don’t make this mistake.

I realize I posted on email marketing fails just last month, but that post covered several points on the topic.  This post is dedicated to images in emails, or more accurately – your image as the email.

Why must your entire email be an image? I don’t understand what it is that you think we are going to see. Today’s technical environment is one of safety and speed so images don’t download automatically. Most people get their emails today on their smart phones or tablets first – and they are usually set to not download images automatically either.

So, if you were sending an email blast out as part of a marketing effort – why would you set yourself up for failure? The image in this post is from an email that I received this morning. This is not uncommon, but this morning it triggered a ‘what the…’ for me. There is not one single word to be seen until I scroll all the way to the bottom (note to readers – notice that I said I had to scroll all the way down to see anything – hint, hint). Read more…

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