Three Benefits of Team-Building Activities

From afternoon activities to weekend retreats, team-building exercises are a great way for small business owners to build a better work environment.

Whether your team is made up of five employees or 50, some time away from the office is an opportunity to improve communication, increase productivity and boost company morale. But best of all, team-building activities are a great way to recharge your team’s collective battery and help your employees see you as more than just a “boss.”

Here are a few benefits of team-building activities for small businesses.

Better Communication. All clichés aside, small business owners know how important communication truly is. TeamBuilding2By organizing a team-building activity for your staff, you’re not only improving their communication skills, but forcing employees to converse outside of the work environment. The more comfortable people are around each other, the more efficiently they will interact and the better their overall rapport will be. Familiarity within the workplace will also increase collaboration and coordination, resulting in a more efficient and productive company. Better communication among staff members will also play a key role in employee retention.

More motivation. While the primary purpose of team-building activities is to improve teamwork, it will also motivate employees individually. By engaging your employees in an environment outside the workplace, you allow them to display their strengths, discover their potential, and express their personalities while improving their skill set. This can help solidify their roles within the team and encourage them to continue developing professionally. As an added bonus, higher motivation often leads to higher performance and productivity – always a good thing for small businesses.

Teamwork2Higher morale. Better communication and more motivation among your staff members will undoubtedly lead to a boost in company morale. By developing interpersonal relationships and improving problem-solving skills in a group setting, your team is likely to bond and become more cohesive as a unit; regardless of their roles and positions within the company, this will help create a positive work environment and benefit your business in the long run. Organizing team-building activities is also a great way to show your employees that you’re proactive and passionate about the success of your business – and hopefully encourage them to follow suit.

Seven Tips for Training Millennials

In the August issue of Paint & Decorating Retailer magazine, columnist Jan Niehaus touches on the increasingly relevant issue of training millennials. As she puts it: “the generation born between the early ‘80s and late ‘90s, who will represent 75 percent of the workforce by 2025, expect to be trained. But they don’t want just any old training.”

Given the prevalence of technology and social media in the lives of millennials, it’s no secret that traditional forms of training no longer cut it. Instead, businesses are better off using what Niehaus calls “dynamic media” – things your employees can interact and engage with, such as video, graphic animation, infographics and more.

How you train your millennial employees is also an opportunity to show who you are and what you’re all about; will they see you simply as the Millennialssource of their next paycheck, or as a company – and a cause – worth championing. To increase the odds of the latter, here are seven tips for training millennials in today’s marketplace.

Give them a purpose. Although your millennial employees are unlikely to work for free, their sense of purpose probably isn’t fulfilled from just a paycheck. More than past generations, millennials gravitate toward work that matters to them – or at the very least interests them. By educating them about your company’s vision and defining their role in it, you will validate them professionally and motivate them to go the extra mile.

Switch it up. As Niehaus states, “Instruction that starts with Module 1 and drones through Modules 2, 3 and 4 will bore them to tears.” Most millennials prefer to learn in multiple ways, so use a wide variety of teaching techniques. The more varied and more innovative, the better.

Be hands-on. With more opportunity than past generations, millennials are eager to develop various skill sets and learn as much as possible. What better way to learn than by doing? “Whenever possible, incorporate actual work tasks into the training,” suggests Niehaus. In addition to offering instant gratification and real-time results, hands-on training is easier to retain than online modules or traditional training TechLearningmanuals. Much like lack of purpose, boredom is a sure way to lose a millennial employee’s interest.

The more the merrier. Whether in person, online or at work, a sense of community is important to millennials. Team-building exercises, group learning and collaboration are great ways to engage employees in a social and interactive way. Providing one-one-one mentorship is also a great way to pass on role-specific knowledge and keep your younger employees engaged.

Get with the times. “If employees see images of people working at old-fashioned computer monitors,” Niehaus warns, “they will wonder if the rest of the content is also dated.” Avoid this by keeping their training tech-savvy, digital and accessible. Since technology changes at a rapid pace, be sure to keep your training fluid and flexible. And whatever you do, no PowerPoint!

Less is more. Perhaps more than any generation before them, millennials are inundated with distractions. Ensure you keep their attention by making your training concise, relevant and specific. It’s also more effective to break training into smaller sections and keep it ongoing than to lay it on them all at once and hope they remember it.

Talk to me. Although feedback may not be unique to millennials, it goes a long way in retaining employees. This doesn’t necessarily mean you need to hold their hands, but keep lines of communication as open as possible and don’t be afraid to hold frequent evaluations. Advice and criticism (so long as it’s constructive), as well as guidance and praise, will benefit everyone involved.

Three Simple Ways to Spruce Up Your Store’s Curb Appeal

In last week’s blog post, we shared three ways to get new customers through your front door. This week, we’ll focus specifically on one of those tips: improving your curb appeal.

Much like a prospective homebuyer seeking out that perfect property, each of your potential customers will form an opinion before they ever step foot inside. For better or worse, first impressions can make a lasting impression – so why not put your best foot forward?

In addition to keeping your storefront clean and accessible, an attractive presence and personal touches can make the difference between passersby coming inside and walking on by. It can also make the difference between gaining a customer for life and a missed opportunity. In order to cut down on cases of the latter, here are three simple ways to spruce up your store’s curb appeal without breaking the bank.Storefront

Windows. Whether you do it yourself or hire a local company, keeping your store’s windows clean is essential to maintaining a respectable street presence. But what’s behind your windows is equally important. Instead of simply hanging posters or stacking overstock, use window space as an opportunity to extend your branding and show people what you’re all about. Remember: like any good story, it’s better to show than to tell – and less is often more. Window presentations are also a great way to promote new products, upcoming events and seasonal trends.

Signage. Just because your signage shouldn’t take up all your window space doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have it. But signage shouldn’t be strictly promotional; instead of simply advertising sales or listing your products (or hours), try to engage passersby with something a little SandwichBoardmore personable. Again, stay on brand and remember that less is usually more – especially if your storefront space is limited. Setting up stylish sandwich boards on the sidewalk can also turn heads and get people through the door – just be sure to keep them relevant and current.

Paint. As a paint and decorating retailer, there’s no better way to put your money where your mouth is than by showing off your creativity and design expertise. While some commercial properties have certain restrictions (especially if you’re leasing), try to think outside the box and show a bit of personality with your color scheme. Even if your entire storefront can’t be painted, try for a bold front door, funky window frames or a sign that stands out. At the very least, ensure you touch up scrapes and chips as they happen and apply a new coat regularly. After all, nothing will turn a potential customer off more than a business unwilling to walk the walk.

3 Ways to Get New Customers Through Your Front Door

By now we all know that online shopping is on the rise. With the countless options and added convenience – not to mention the technological advancements and explosion of smartphone use – it’s no surprise that people have turned to the Internet for everything from books and clothing to electronics and jewelry.

But in the land of brick-and-mortar retailers, it’s not all doom and gloom. While a website’s “Buy” button may save customers time and money, there’s still a lot to be said for a top-notch shopping experience. In some industries – paint and decorating among them – there’s no replacement for experience, expertise and sage advice. As long as you offer quality products at fair prices, and provide exceptional customer service, there will always be a market for your business.

NewCustomersThe biggest challenge for independent retailers, therefore, is not competing with online shopping outlets; it’s finding your audience, getting them in your store and doing what you do best. Here are three ways to get more people through your front door and set your business up for success.

Promotions and events. Tempting as it may be to simply throw a “Blow Out Sale” sign in your window every couple months, in-store promotions should be about more than just bargains. They’re an opportunity to meet your neighbors, make a good impression and grow your customer base. Regardless of your industry, there are countless ways to draw a crowd without seeming desperate or overly sales-y; take advantage of holidays, piggyback on local trends or team up with other businesses or organizations in your community. The more inclusive your promotion, the more traffic – and more business – you’ll get.

Improve Your Curb Appeal. No matter how many times we’ve been told to never judge a book by its cover, we all still do it. For people visiting your store for the first time, dirty windows, trash on the sidewalk or a scuffed front door can be enough to turn them off. And between online shopping, big box stores and the other independent retailers in your area, there’s no shortage of alternatives for them to turn to. As a paint and decorating retailer, the pressure is especially high to look the part and make a lasting impression; take advantage of your position to stand out and show what’s possible with a keen eye and the right paint. Sprucing up your storefront is also a great way to catch the eye of someone who may be new to the neighborhood or never knew you existed. 

Refer A Friend Key Shows Suggest To PersonReferral Programs. While the days of traditional media advertising may be behind us, the power of word of mouth is alive and well. While a diverse product line, extensive industry knowledge and service with a smile go a long way, referral programs provide extra incentive for satisfied customers to recommend your business to others. Whether it’s a one-time discount or entry in a draw, rewarding your customers for referrals shows that you value their business. Once the new customer is in your store, however, the onus is back on you. Be sure to provide the same experience that got them in the door – and provide them the same incentive to refer the next one.

4 Keys to Boosting Blog Traffic

In last week’s blog post, we shared 10 Content Ideas for Your Small Business Blog. But what good is content if you don’t have readers?

While it’s true that blogging can generate leads, create connections and boost sales for your small business, you need a plan to get the word out. Unfortunately, there’s no magic formula or sure-fire strategy to succeed in the blogosphere overnight. But if you’re willing to invest some time and effort, there are certainly ways to build a following, increase traffic and, eventually, better your brand. Here are four tips to get the ball rolling.

Create Engaging Content. While flashy headlines and creative social media campaigns can get clicks, the key to any successful blog is the content itself. Remember, the primary purpose of a small Blogbusiness blog is not simply to make sales; it is to add value for your audience in the form of unique and engaging information. From product reviews to interviews with industry experts, your blog is an opportunity to assert your experience, expertise and influence while getting your name out there. Regardless of topic, ensure your blogs are clear, concise and relevant. And remember, quality trumps quantity every time. For a list of 10 specific content ideas, check out last week’s blog post.

Be Consistent. While blogging can be a great way to build momentum for your small business, posting sporadically – or only occasionally – will bring it to a screeching halt. By serving up new content on a regular basis, you will not only grow your archives and attract more eyeballs, but you will (hopefully) create anticipation among your audience. But consistency in blogging goes beyond frequency. Equally important as the when is the how. While the topics and structure of your blog posts may vary, be sure to maintain a consistent tone. Whether that tone is strictly professional or conversational and personable, stay true to your company’s values and overall branding. Through your blogs, people should come to recognize the voice of your blog – and your business. Bonus Tip: One great way to ensure consistency (both in frequency and in tone) is to create a blog series, as they ensure thematic uniformity, personal accountability and a reason for readers to keep coming back.

Be Proactive. No matter how engaging your content is, or how Trafficconsistently you post it, your blogging efforts will go to waste if no one knows about it. Instead of simply sitting back and waiting for people to find your blog (spoiler: they won’t), take matters into your own hands and find them! The best ways to share your blog with the world are by posting them on your social media channels or in a regular newsletter to your readers. In addition to quality content, intriguing headlines, attractive images and effective keywords will go a long way in making your posts more discoverable – and more share worthy – online. A well-placed “Subscribe” button on your website will also encourage your readers to follow you and ensure they never miss a post.

Edit Accordingly. If you’re following the first three steps and your blog still isn’t gaining any traction, there has to be a reason. With millions upon millions of daily surfers, the Internet is teeming with a built-in audience of people interested in your business or industry (regardless of how niche). To maximize your exposure to this audience, begin experimenting. Try sharing your posts on different days or at different times (the most optimal time to post on Facebook may differ from that on Twitter). Perhaps use different images, or tweak your headline formula. Either way, be sure to track your strategies and save your data so you know what works – and what doesn’t.

10 Content Ideas for Your Small Business Blog

Whether you’ve been blogging for years or you just got going, there comes a point when the ideas dry up and writer’s block takes over.

As we mentioned in last week’s post, one of the biggest mistakes a small business can make is letting their online presence collapse. Sadly, the main culprit is often a lack of inspiration. When it comes to sourcing ideas for your blog, it’s important to not only think outside the box, but to think like your target customers. What do they want to know? What do they need to know? What kind of information would add value to their lives?

Because we know how difficult blogging can be – and how important it is – we’ve created a roundup of 10 sure-fire content ideas to attract, inform and engage your audience.

Expert Interviews. Nothing says professionalism or builds trust quite like an interview with an industry expert. Since the paint and decorating industry branches off into many different sectors, you can engage your readers by writing a Q & A blog post with an expert in a relatable area like painting, lighting, wall coverings, home improvement, real estate, or design. Connecting with a credible and well-known industry source is also a fantastic way to build your network, take advantage of influencer marketing and grow your audience.Blogging

Search Quora or Yahoo Answers. When it comes to ideas, sites like Quora and Yahoo can be a blogger’s best friend. After all, if one person poses a question in an online forum, chances are it’s a common topic. Simply type in “painting,” “decorating,” “home improvement” or another related topic, and see what kinds of things people want to know about the subject. It might take a bit of browsing, but you’ll definitely find some fantastic blog ideas from the pages and pages of real questions from people who are likely in your target market.

Product Reviews. Who knows more about your products than you? If you get a new shipment or take on a new supplier, be sure to test the products and share what you find. The best review posts are often accompanied by high-quality photos and/or videos, along with specific, detailed information. While it’s also important to be honest, a little bit of bias is OK; simply focus on the positive and provide tips to maximize the value. Not only will product reviews help you establish yourself as an expert in the industry, it will give you great social media content and help your customers make the best choice with their paint and decorating needs.

How-to Tutorials. Another great way to engage your audience is with how-to tutorials. Whether they’re written or posted in video format, instructions for DIY projects are extremely sought-after on search engines and Youtube alike. The key to a successful how-to blog post is to be as concise, detailed and visual as possible.

Browse Blog Comments. An easy way to see what people are talking and/or asking about is to frequently browse the comment sections of your favorite paint and decorating blogs (or your own!). This will give you a good sense of which subjects are trending and what people want to know. Comments sections are also a great way to keep tabs on both your competition and your customer base.

Guest Posts. Collaborating with other experts in your industry is undoubtedly great for business, but it can also be great for your blog. By having an influencer create content about products, services or advice, you will provide valuable information in a fresh, new voice. In order to get the most from your guest posts, try to choose people with good reputations and strong social media followings; the more cross-promotion they are willing to do, the better.

Survey and mouse signSurveys or Polls. If you want to know whether your customers prefer neutral tones or loud, look-at-me shades for the living room, surveys and polls can offer a fun and interactive blog topic. The added beauty of surveys and polls is that they show readers you value their opinions. And after gathering your results, you will have content for yet another blog.

Contests. Much like surveys and polls, contests allow you to go beyond “talking at” your readers and actually engage with them. Whether you’re announcing a giveaway or providing updates throughout the duration of a contest, blog posts are an effective way to regularly reach your audience without pushing ads in their face and seeming too “spammy.”

July Cover option 2.inddRead Industry Publications. Magazines like HGTV, House Beautiful, and, yes, Paint & Decorating Retailer are filled with much more than just excellent lighting and perfectly-staged pictures – they’re a great source for blog content ideas. Since they’re monthly publications, you’re sure to find timely and relevant ideas for every season and every holiday.

Ask Your Audience. Besides improving your SEO ranking and providing content for your social media channels, the purpose of your blog is to give readers valuable, high-quality information that’ll help improve their paint and decorating projects. Since clients and customers are your main audience, why not ask them what kind of content they’d like to see? By putting out feelers, you’ll be able to pinpoint their wants and needs – and blog accordingly.

Five Online Mistakes Small Businesses Should Avoid

As a paint and decorating retailer, you’ve invested a lot of time and money into the look and feel of your shop. Your customers are looking for ways to make their homes more appealing, so your shop should be beautiful and your customer experience should be top notch.

But even though the bulk of your sales are likely done face-to-face, it’s more important than ever to invest in your online presence as well. However, whether it’s because of time constraints or a limited budget, simple mistakes can get in the way of creating a strong digital voice. To help you avoid these common blunders, take a look at these five online mistakes to avoid.

Not Having a Website. Regardless of industry, size and location, every business needs a website. Whether it’s a simple site with a few pages or a more advanced site with e-commerce capability, a domain dedicated to your company is a no-brainer. Not only will a legitimate website help make your business more credible, but it will help customers find you and answer some frequently asked questions (such as hours, location, product lines, etc.). If you find the online world to be too overwhelming, the beauty of web-building is that you can start small and work on one page at a time. There is also an ever-increasing number of website WebsiteBuildingbuilders like Wix, Weebly or WordPress, which offer countless options and walk you through the process from start to finish.

Neglecting Your Website. The only thing worse than not having a website is having a stagnant and outdated website. Like every other aspect of your business, it’s important to maintain your digital footprint. While keeping your website up-to-date with products and promotions is a great way to keep people coming back, one of the best ways to add value for customers and clients is to create a weekly or monthly blog. Whether you write about new products, DIY ideas, or seasonal promotions, this original content will keep people engaged and help boost your social media marketing efforts.  

Using Social Media as Your Primary Website. Social media networks like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram are a fantastic way to connect with customers, share exciting promotional campaigns and scope out the competition. But they do have limitations. For starters, social media platforms are one-size-fits-all and do not offer the same flexibility as websites when it comes to layout, design and content options. Social media also has to be updated more often than a website does. So instead of focusing solely on social media marketing, use it more as a supplementary tool. And, of course, be sure to include direct links to your social media channels on your website.

Using a Free Email Provider. Communication is key to the success of a small business, so any email address is a good email address, right? Not so much. For personal usage, free email providers like Gmail, Hotmail and Yahoo are fine, but it can make your business seem unprofessional to customers. To help legitimize your small business, it’s best to invest in a company-branded domain name (ie. customersupport@ABCPaints.com) in addition to your website.

Do not underestimate the power of search engine optimizationNot Embracing the Power of SEO. If you’re investing time and money (after all, your time is money) on digital marketing efforts for your small business, you owe it to yourself to learn about the power and importance of SEO (Search Engine Optimization). Simply put, SEO is a technique used to increase the amount of visitors to a website by obtaining a high-ranking placement on search engines like Google, Yahoo and Bing. Since there’s a whole lot more to SEO than alt tags and company-branded domain names, it’s important to spend time learning about this strategic marketing technique to truly reap the many benefits it can bring your business.

Five Hot Color Trends for Summer 2016

It’s official – the beloved summer season has arrived, and all of us here at PDRA couldn’t be happier!

While most people spend their summer days lazing around at the cottage or the beach, some use the downtime to spruce up their properties. As you know, the summer months make a great time to paint because open windows and fresh breezes can reduce fumes and cut drying time in half!

If your customers are looking to add a splash of color to their homes this summer, here’s a list of the season’s hottest paint trends.

Pretty Pinks. Once reserved solely for little girls’ bedrooms, pink is making a major splash in décor circles this summer. Fresh and warm, Florida Pink by Benjamin Moore will absorb all of the bright summer sunshine that beams through the windows. While it’s soft enough to usePotpourriGreen throughout an entire room, incorporating a crisp, white trim will help make the color pop and remain visually balanced.

Light Greens. The color green is definitely trending in 2016, and light shades are widely seen as the most stylish and versatile for the season. A nice contrast from the warm tones that are typically associated with summer, Benjamin Moore’s Potpourri Green and Mellow Mint by PPG act as complimentary backdrops for natural decor like freshly-picked flowers and greenery from the garden. To make the earthy tones stand out more, we suggest using a natural wood trim or baseboard.

Coastal Blues. As one of the most beautiful shades in Benjamin Moore’s repertoire, Santa Monica Blue evokes feelings of calmness and serenity, which is perfect for the relaxing summer season. Reminiscent of the deep waters found on a tropical island, coastal blues can transform your home into a warm beach house with a single stroke. SantaMonicaBlueWhen paired with high-contrast shades like coral or turquoise, guests will feel like they’ve walked into a luxurious Caribbean resort.

Muted Violets. Soft and luxurious, muted purples resemble the fresh flowers that could be found in a blooming summer garden. Perfect for a variety of rooms including the kitchen, bathroom or bedroom, understated violets look best when used as a stand-alone with a simple white trim and ceiling. No matter where you use them, shades like Lavender Haze by PPG are neutral enough that the can be carried over for the rest of the year.

Bold Berries. Nothing says summer like fresh fruit, so why not add a blast of bright berry-colored paint to your décor? While bolder shades like bright red or dark blue can add a refreshing splash to any room in your home, however, they are usually most effective in small doses – or as accent colors. For those feeling adventurous this summer, you can’t go wrong with PPG’s Wild Mulberry or Berry Fizz by Benjamin Moore.

Reaping the Business Benefits of Social Responsibility

In this month’s issue of Paint & Decorating Retailer Magazine, Communications Consultant Jan Niehaus preaches the importance of corporate social responsibility (CSR).

“As a paint and decorating retailer, you can garner respect among your business peers and customers by demonstrating your own CSR commitments,” she writes. “The respect you gain will lead to trust, and trust is vital to sustaining business relationships, retaining loyal customers and even attracting new ones.” CSR1

Perhaps the best thing about committing to a CSR strategy is that you can do it on your own terms. There is no one way to improve the environment and quality of life in your community, so you have the freedom and opportunity make a difference in a way that suits your business and your brand.

“Even the smallest company can formulate and publish its CSR policies,” continues Niehaus, citing the removal of Styrofoam from breakrooms and upgrading to energy-efficient lighting as examples.

So if you’re looking to use philanthropy as a strategic marketing technique, you need not worry about changing the world – any step in the right direction is a great start. Here are three business benefits of doing so.

Attract New Customers. With the rise in environmental awareness among millennials, it’s more important than ever for businesses to be socially responsible. While shoppers used to make decisions primarily on price, the current generation of consumers are always looking to support businesses that make conscious efforts to make their communities a better place – for now and for years to come. If your shop is doing something to help reduce its environmental impact, be sure to share the news on social media so people can hear all about it and think of you next time they’re in the market for paint and decorating supplies.

Earn Respect. It takes a serious effort to make real changes towards social responsibility within your shop. Whether you start a new recycling program, make the switch to energy efficient lighting systems or organize a community cleanup,CSR2 customers, staff and other industry professionals will always notice your efforts and respect what you’re doing. In addition to attracting new customers and pleasing existing ones, a renewed commitment to CSR will bring your store a great deal of legitimacy and give you a serious edge on the competition.

Improve The World. When it comes to making positive changes to improve your shop’s social responsibility, it’s important to remember the number one goal: to make the world a better place for the next generation. By making positive changes within your business, you’ll help spread awareness about the importance of social, environmental and economic sustainability simply by setting an example. The more passionate you are about the issues, the more your customers, staff and industry colleagues will see your efforts and decide to apply them to their lives, too.

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