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Category Archives: Markethive-Social

Some of the Top Benefits Of Social Media Marketing

Some of the Top Benefits Of Social Media Marketing

To some entrepreneurs, social media marketing is the “next big thing,” a temporary yet powerful fad that must be taken advantage of while it’s still in the spotlight. To others, it’s a buzzword with no practical advantages and a steep, complicated learning curve.

Because it appeared quickly, social media has developed a reputation by some for being a passing marketing interest, and therefore, an unprofitable one. The statistics, however, illustrate a different picture. According to Hubspot, 92% of marketers in 2014 claimed that social media marketing was important for their business, with 80% indicating their efforts increased traffic to their websites. And according to Social Media Examiner, 97% of marketers are currently participating in social media—but 85% of participants aren’t sure what social media tools are the best to use.

This demonstrates a huge potential for social media marketing to increase sales, but a lack of understanding on how to achieve those results. Here’s a look at just some of the ways social media marketing can improve your business:

Increased Brand Recognition. Every opportunity you have to syndicate your content and increase your visibility is valuable. Your social media networks are just new channels for your brand’s voice and content. This is important because it simultaneously makes you easier and more accessible for new customers, and makes you more familiar and recognizable for existing customers. For example, a frequent Twitter user could hear about your company for the first time only after stumbling upon it in a newsfeed. Or, an otherwise apathetic customer might become better acquainted with your brand after seeing your presence on multiple networks.

Improved brand loyalty. According to a report published by Texas Tech University, brands who engage on social media channels enjoy higher loyalty from their customers. The report concludes “Companies should take advantage of the tools social media gives them when it comes to connecting with their audience. A strategic and open social media plan could prove influential in morphing consumers into being brand loyal.” Another study published by Convince&Convert found that 53% of Americans who follow brands in social are more loyal to those brands.

More Opportunities to Convert. Every post you make on a social media platform is an opportunity for customers to convert. When you build a following, you’ll simultaneously have access to new customers, recent customers, and old customers, and you’ll be able to interact with all of them. Every blog post, image, video, or comment you share is a chance for someone to react, and every reaction could lead to a site visit, and eventually a conversion. Not every interaction with your brand results in a conversion, but every positive interaction increases the likelihood of an eventual conversion. Even if your click-through rates are low, the sheer number of opportunities you have on social media is significant.

Higher conversion rates. Social media marketing results in higher conversion rates in a few distinct ways. Perhaps the most significant are it's humanization element; the fact that brands become more humanized by interacting in social media channels. Social media is a place where brands can act like people do, and this is important because people like doing business with other people; not with companies.

Additionally, studies have shown that social media has a 100% higher lead-to-close rate than outbound marketing, and a higher number of social media followers tends to improve trust and credibility in your brand, representing social proof. As such, simply building your audience in social media can improve conversion rates on your existing traffic.

Chuck Reynolds
Contributor

Markethive

Search Engine Tools

Search Engine Tools

SEOs tend to use a lot of tools. Some of the most useful are provided by the search engines themselves. Search engines want webmasters to create sites and content in accessible ways, so they provide a variety of tools, analytics, and guidance. These free resources provide data points and unique opportunities for exchanging information with the engines.

Below we explain the common elements that each of the major search engines supporting and identify why they are useful.

Common Search Engine Protocols

Sitemaps

Think of a sitemap as a list of files that give hints to the search engines on how they can crawl your website. Sitemaps help search engines find and classify content on your site that they may not have found on their own. Sitemaps also come in a variety of formats and can highlight many different types of content, including video, images, news, and mobile.

You can read the full details of the protocols at Sitemaps.org. In addition, you can build your own sitemaps at XML-Sitemaps.com. Sitemaps come in three varieties:

XML

Extensible Markup Language (recommended format)

  • This is the most widely accepted format for sitemaps. It is extremely easy for search engines to parse and can be produced by a plethora of sitemap generators. Additionally, it allows for the most granular control of page parameters.
  • Relatively large file sizes. Since XML requires an open tag and a close tag around each element, file sizes can get very large.

RSS

Really Simple Syndication or Rich Site Summary

  • Easy to maintain. RSS sitemaps can easily be coded to automatically update when new content is added.
  • Harder to manage. Although RSS is a dialect of XML, it is actually much harder to manage due to its updating properties.

Txt

Text File

  • Extremely easy. The text sitemap format is one URL per line up to 50,000 lines.
  • Does not provide the ability to add meta data to pages.

Robots.txt

The robots.txt file, a product of the Robots Exclusion Protocol, is a file stored in a website's root directory (e.g., www.google.com/robots.txt). The robots.txt file gives instructions to automated web crawlers visiting your site, including search crawlers.

By using robots.txt, webmasters can indicate to search engines which areas of a site they would like to disallow bots from crawling, as well as indicate the locations of sitemap files and crawl-delay parameters. You can read more details about this at the robots.txt Knowledge Center page.

The following commands are available:

Disallow – Prevents compliant robots from accessing specific pages or folders.

Sitemap –Indicates the location of a website’s sitemap or sitemaps.

Crawl-Delay –Indicates the speed (in milliseconds) at which a robot can crawl a server.

Warning: Not all web robots follow robots.txt. People with bad intentions (e.g., e-mail address scrapers) build bots that don't follow this protocol; and in extreme cases, they can use it to identify the location of private information. For this reason, it is recommended that the location of administration sections and other private sections of publicly accessible websites not be included in the robots.txt file. Instead, these pages can utilize the meta robots tag (discussed next) to keep the major search engines from indexing their high-risk content.

Disallow Robot

Meta Robots

The meta robots tag creates page-level instructions for search engine bots.
The meta robots tag should be included in the head section of the HTML document.

In the example above, “NOINDEX, NOFOLLOW” tells robots not to include the given page in their indexes, and also not to follow any of the links on the page.

Rel="Nofollow"

Remember how links act as votes? The rel=nofollow attribute allows you to link to a resource while removing your "vote" for search engine purposes. Literally, "nofollow", tells search engines not to follow the link, although some engines still follow them to discover new pages. These links certainly pass less value (and in most cases no juice) than their followed counterparts, but are useful in various situations where you link to an untrusted source.

In the example above, the value of the link would not be passed to example.com as the rel=nofollow attribute has been added.

Rel="canonical"

Often, two or more copies of the exact same content appear on your website under different URLs. For example, the following URLs can all refer to a single homepage:

  • http://www.example.com/
  • http://www.example.com/default.asp
  • http://example.com/
  • http://example.com/default.asp
  • http://Example.com/Default.asp

To search engines, these appear as five separate pages. Because the content is identical on each page, this can cause the search engines to devalue the content and its potential rankings.

The canonical tag solves this problem by telling search robots which page is the singular, authoritative version that should count in web results.

In the example above, rel=canonical tells robots that this page is a copy of http://www.example.com, and should consider the latter URL as the canonical and authoritative one.

Chuck Reynolds
Contributor

Markethive

Is a college degree required for computer programming?

Is a college degree required for computer programming?

Is computer programming becoming a trade?
Technically speaking, you can skip college, go to coding school and land a good job.


Here's why that's a bad idea.

Is computer programming becoming a trade? By at least one account, it is.An article published in the Wall Street Journal claims that would-be programmers can skip college, go to coding school and land a job. In "Computer Programming Is a Trade; Let's Act Like It," Christopher Mims says that a computer science degree is no longer a prerequisite for getting hired as a software developer. The evidence he offers to build his case is that coding schools — Codecademy, Code Fellows, and others — teach students basic computer programming skills over the course of a couple of months and are turning out non-degreed graduates who get hired.

Skipping college and jumping into the work world after a couple months of coding school is certainly plausible given the high demand for computer programmers, but it's a bad idea. In this edition of Quality Time, I explore why the argument that computer programming is a trade makes no sense. 

Harder than it looks

The idea that computer programming is a trade assumes that coding is a fixed skill set, but it's not. Languages and frameworks change all the time, and new ones emerge constantly. A skilled software developer, trained in algorithms and other computer programming concepts, can move among them with relative ease. It's not as easy if you haven't had extensive training.

A team sport

What troubles me most about the "programming is a trade" argument is that it completely ignores the context in which software is planned, coded, tested and maintained today. It assumes that writing software is a solo activity — the lone cowboy coder in a back room, interpreting requirements however, he or she wants — but that is precisely the approach that often failed to produce software of value for businesses and has given software pros such a bad rap. All of the current thinking about software development — the Agile methodology, for example — can be seen as a shift away from that mentality. In other words, a coder works alone, but software development is a team sport.

Collaboration skills are key

Under the current, whole team approach to software development, essential skills go way beyond just coding or testing. You need the ability to interact and collaborate effectively with others and the willingness to take on tasks that may initially fall outside your comfort zone. That includes testers coding scripts for automation projects, developers crafting unit tests to check their codes before they write the code itself. Both developers and testers must work with business stakeholders to effectively elicit the right requirements for the project.

Do you think software professionals can move up the ranks without a four-year degree?

Most [software professionals] stand to benefit greatly from a four-year degree.

Traditional computer science degree programs don't teach collaboration skills, per se. (They should, but that's a whole other column.) However, beyond basic knowledge, college teaches us a million things that prepare us for the workplace. It teaches us how to think, how to argue our case before a group or through the written word. Mastering these activities instills confidence that carries over into the workplace, making us better team players and better software professionals. And there is a no way a couple of months of coding school can teach us that.

Yes, I know, Mark Zuckerberg didn't finish college — nor did Bill Gates, or countless other highly successful people in the software business. But most of us stand to benefit greatly from a four-year degree.  A couple of months of trade school may work for some professions, but not ours.

Chuck Reynolds
Contributor

Markethive

The New York Times, other outlets crying ‘wolf’ over Trump

The New York Times, other outlets
crying 'wolf' over Trump

All told, all but one of these stories and editorials can safely be deemed anti-Trump. Only one analysis can be considered to be down-the-middle: "Let’s Say Obamacare Is Repealed. What Then?" And of course, the editorials especially are so far off the rails in terms of negativity that it's almost comical in its hysteria. 

This "coverage" comes just one week after New York Times publisher Arthur Sulzberger and executive editor Dean Baquet promised in a letter to readers that the paper to "rededicate" itself to "…hold power to account, impartially and unflinchingly." They wrote:

As we reflect on the momentous result, and the months of reporting and polling that preceded it, we aim to rededicate ourselves to the fundamental mission of Times journalism. That is to report America and the world honestly, without fear or favor, striving always to understand and reflect all political perspectives and life experiences in the stories that we bring to you.

It is also to hold power to account, impartially and unflinchingly. You can rely on The New York Times to bring the same fairness, the same level of scrutiny, the same independence to our coverage of the new president and his team," the letter continues.

We cannot deliver the independent, original journalism for which we are known without the loyalty of our readers.

This kind of Monday morning offering also comes days the Times reported that "Firings And Discord Put Trump Transition Team In State Of Disarray" despite it being just one week since Trump had won the election and with 71 days to go until the inauguration.

David Axelrod, President Obama's 2008 campaign manager who was appointed to the role of Senior Adviser after the election, cautioned the Times of its hyperbole while showing the paper simply hadn't done basic homework in its rush to judgment.

But there is hope that the Grey Lady is getting the message that major changes need to be made to the way it goes about its editorial decisions.

Liz Spayd, the Times' public editor, says complaints to the paper are at its highest in 15 years.

Since the election, I have been on the phone with many Times readers around the country, including [reader Cindy] Capwell, to discuss their concerns about The Times's coverage of the presidential election.

The number of complaints coming into the public editor's office is five times the normal level, and the pace has only just recently tapered off. My colleague Thomas Feyer, who oversees the letters to the editor, says the influx from readers is one of the largest since Sept. 11.

Many people are commenting on the election, but many are venting about The Times's coverage. Readers are also taking to the comments section of Times articles to talk about it, says the community editor, Bassey Etim. Others are calling into customer care at multiple times the usual rate. … I can tell you there is a searing level of dissatisfaction.

We've all heard the story of the boy who cried wolf. Now we're seeing the story written before our eyes of a media that not only hasn't learned a thing from its election coverage where it completely embarrassed itself to the point it may never recover from an integrity perspective.

Call the Times "The Media That Cried Wolf." And we all know what happened to the boy who cried wolf too often: People stopped listening. And it's not just the Times. Visit the Washington Post or Politico or any cable news outlet not with the letters F, O, or X in it on Monday and you'll see an overwhelming wave of negativity.

That's not to say, of course, Trump should get a pass or extended honeymoon here. It's just a simple plea: Cover the good stuff with the same vigor and focus as the bad.

For example, Trump is ahead of schedule on cabinet appointments when compared to past transitions. And Trump did state it was "good news" that Chuck Schumer would be leading the Democratic party in the Senate, also noting he always got along with the senior senator from his home state of New York.

A look again at major political/traditional publications or outlets shows we're not seeing much or any coverage of the two very newsworthy items above. If it is actually covered, the stories are buried under coverage about Hamilton, Saturday Night Live, fake news and/or the alt-right.

Be fair. It's a simple mantra. Unfortunately, advocacy journalism has no time or tolerance for such a foreign concept.

Chuck Reynolds
Contributor

Markethive

Develope Leadership Skills by Mentoring

Develop Leadership Skills by Mentoring

 

Mentorship refers to a personal developmental relationship in which a more experienced or more knowledgeable person helps a less experienced or less knowledgeable person. The receiver of mentorship was traditionally referred to as a protégé or apprentice. Today, the term "mentee" is gaining acceptance and becoming widely used.

There are several definitions of mentoring. Foremost, mentoring involves communication and is relationship based. In the organizational setting, mentoring can take many forms. The formal definition that best describes mentoring is as follows:

"Mentoring is a process for the informal transmission of knowledge, social capital and the psychosocial support perceived by the recipient as relevant to work, career or professional development; mentoring entails informal communication, usually face-to-face and during a sustained period of time, between a person who is perceived to have greater relevant knowledge, wisdom or experience (the mentor) and a person who is perceived to have less (the protégé or mentee)." (Bozeman, Feeney, 2007)

Organizations have started to see the value of mentoring for enhancing work life, performance, commitment and job satisfaction. When mentoring is implemented successfully, there are measurable improvements in employee performance, retention, employee commitment to the organization, knowledge sharing, leadership growth and succession planning.

A mentor is a person who gives another person the benefit of his or her years of experience and/or education. This experience is shared in such a way that the mentor helps to develop a mentee's skills and abilities, benefiting the mentee and the organization.

A good mentoring relationship is identified by the willingness and capability of both parties to ask questions, challenge assumptions and disagree. It’s important to note that there's no one way to mentor. Every mentoring relationship is as unique as the individuals involved.

The mentor is far less likely to have a direct-line relationship with the mentee, and in a mentoring relationship this distance is desirable. Mentoring is rarely a critical part of an individual’s job role, but rather an extra element that rewards the mentor with fresh thinking as well as the opportunity to transfer knowledge and experience to a less experienced colleague, peer or employee.

The Difference between Mentoring and Coaching

Coaching is not the same as mentoring. Mentoring is concerned with the development of the whole person and is driven by the person’s own work/life goals. It is usually unstructured and informal. Mentors focus on the person (the mentee), that person’s career, and support for individual growth and maturity.

Coaching is much more about achieving specific objectives in a particular way. Coaching also is more formal and more structured, usually around a coaching process or methodology. Typically, coaching is job focused and performance oriented.

The Mentoring Process is a Two-way Street with Mutual Responsibilities

For mentoring to be successful, the mentor and mentee must collaborate on the process. The first meeting should be a face-to-face meeting where the following criteria are determined:

  • The goals for the mentee
  • The scope of responsibilities each person is assuming
  • Time commitments agreed to by both parties
  • Logistics of the process (how, when and where meetings and communications will take place)
  • Agreement on the definition of confidential information and how that information will be addressed throughout the process
  • Topics or issues that are outside of the mentoring boundaries
  • The process for dealing with conflicts and/or obstacles that may arise during the mentoring process
  • How and when to end the relationship

Effective Mentoring

The following guidelines describe an effective mentoring relationship

  • The mentee has no direct-line reporting to the mentor. This fosters trust, and the mentee feels more comfortable in sharing uncertainties about his or her abilities, creating free-flowing, open communication.
  • The mentor/mentee relationship is mutually satisfying. The mentor gets the satisfaction of watching someone grow who values his or her insights. The mentee gains a feeling of being valued, receiving beneficial direction and attention from someone who he or she respects and admires.
  • The intensity of the relationship is matched. It is taking up actual and mental time in proportions with which both people are comfortable. This time commitment is flexible as the mentee's needs change. Sometimes several meetings are necessary during a very challenging period, then none for months.
  • At any time, either party can stop the relationship and the mentoring process. There is no obligation for continuance.
  • An effective mentor gives wise counsel, and the mentee feels comfortable speaking on issues that may be sensitive. Once this trust is developed, the mentor can give advice or assist with tough recommendations.
  • The mentor is not mentoring two people at the same time who have a close working relationship. Discretion and confidentiality are paramount. The rules of engagement are stated up front with an agreement between the mentor and the mentee on who should be aware of the mentoring relationship.
  • The obligation for continuing is two-sided. When the mentor feels he or she has value to add and the mentee is getting something from the relationship, the mentoring may go on indefinitely, or either side can end it without justification.
  • Mentoring programs are about guidance and facilitation rather than formal training.

Chuck Reynolds
Contributor

Markethive

Definition of Advertising II

 Definition of Advertising II

INFORMATION

Information is defined as knowledge, facts or news. However, you should bear in mind that one person's information is another person's scam, particularly when advertisers talk about their products.

Information comes in many forms. It can be complete or incomplete. It can be biased or deceptive. Complete information is telling someone everything there is to know about something: what it is, what it looks like, how it works, what its benefits and drawbacks are. However, to provide complete information about anything is time-consuming and difficult. For example, to tell all about a car would require its appearance, manufacture and manufacturer, what percentage of parts are made in which countries, cost of upkeep, mileage (city and highway), cost (basic and with any and all combination of options), sales and excise taxes per state, preparation costs, insurance costs per state and locale, ride characteristics (noise by db interior and exterior, ergs required for steering and braking, relative comfort of seats, length of reach required to use controls, degrees of lean when cornering), acceleration, braking distance at many different speeds, etc.. All of this would require a documentary, not a commercial. Complete information is impossible to provide in an ad.

Thus, for advertising, information must of necessity be incomplete, not discussing everything there is to know about the subject. In advertising, what appears is everything the writer thinks the customer needs to know about the product in order to make a decision about the product. That information will generally be about how the product can benefit the customer.

There is, of course, the concept of affirmative disclosure. This concept requires an advertiser to provide customers with any information that could materially affect their purchase decision. Lewis A. Engman, FTC Chair in 1974, said:

"Sometimes the consumer is provided not with information he wants but only with the information the seller wants him to have. Sellers, for instance, are not inclined to advertise negative aspects their products even though those aspects may be of primary concern to the consumer, particularly if they involve considerations of health or safety . . .”

The Federal Trade Commission deals with such omissions by demanding affirmative disclosure of such information and backs up their demands with the force of law.

Bias is being partial towards something, feeling that something is better or worse than other things. Biased information about a product is that which emphasizes what is good and ignores what is bad about it. In advertising, this is not only normal but necessary. Of course, an advertiser is biased toward their own product and against the competition: selling their product is the way she makes her money, and their competition's sales reduce that income. Thus any advertising will use words and images that show how good their product is and/or how poor their competition is. This is biased information, but recognized and accepted by industry, regulators and consumers — it is called puffery, the legitimate exaggeration of advertising claims to overcome natural consumer skepticism.

However, sometimes the biased information goes beyond legitimate puffery and slips into deception, the deliberate use of misleading words and images. In other words, deceptive information is lying to the customer about the qualities of a product. Such deception is illegal, and the FTC requires the advertiser to cease and desist and, in some instance, to do corrective advertising to repair any damage.

PAID FOR

". . . paid for . . . " is pretty straightforward. If an ad is created and placed in the media, the costs of creation and time or space in the media must be paid for. This is a major area in which advertising departs from public relations.

PR seeks to place information about companies and/or products in the media without having to pay for the time or space. PR creates news releases and sends them to news media in hopes they will be run. Often PR departments produce events that will be covered by news media and thus receive space or time. There is no guarantee that the media will run any of the PR material.

Advertising doesn't have that problem. If time or space is bought in the media, the ads (as long as they follow the guidelines set down for good taste, legal products, and services, etc.) will appear. The drawback is that ads are clearly designed to extol the virtues of products and companies, and any ad is perceived by consumers as at least partly puffery. PR pieces are usually not so perceived.

PERSUASIVE

"Persuasive" stands to reason as part of the definition of advertising. The basic purpose of advertising is to identify and differentiate one product from another in order to persuade the consumer to buy that product in preference to another. The purpose of this book is to discuss some basic elements of persuasion.

PRODUCTS, SERVICES OR IDEAS

Products, services or ideas are the things that advertisers want consumers to buy (in the case of ideas, "buy" means accept or agree with as well as lay out hard, cold cash). However, there is more involved in products or services than simply items for purchase. (During the following discussion, "products" will mean products, services, and ideas unless otherwise noted.)

A product is not merely its function. It is actually a bundle of values, what the product means to the consumer. That bundle may contain the product's function, but also the social, psychological, economic or whatever other values are important to the consumer.

For example, let's look at a car. If the function of a car, transportation, is all that is important, then manufacturers would need only build motorized boxes on wheels, and consumers would be happy with them. Such is obviously not the case: the number of models and types of cars is huge, and if consumers didn't demand the variety it wouldn't exist. Consumers must find factors other than mere transportation just as, if not more important.

Perhaps the value is social. The type of car a person drives is often indicative of that person's social status. A clunker shows a lower status than a Rolls Royce. A sports car shows that a person is (or wishes to be perceived as) more socially active and fun-loving than a person in a sedan or station wagon. The type of car can even indicate which social grouping a person wants to be considered a part of: in the 1980s Volvos and BMWs were the car for Yuppies.

Perhaps the value is psychological. Some cars may make a person feel safer, or sexier, or give them self-esteem or enjoyment. Since the purpose of this book is to discuss psychological values and how to appeal to them, I'll go no further at this point.

Perhaps the value is economic. Some cars may be cheaper to run, give better mileage, carry more people or cargo, cause less damage to the environment.

The above four values, functional, social, psychological and economic, can stand alone. However, for most consumers, the values are bundled together in varying proportions. How closely a product approximates an individual's proportion of values will often determine whether rhe will buy that product or not.

Companies, through research, try to determine what values consumers want in their products, and then advertise to show how their product satisfies the customers' bundle of values better than competitors' products. To do this, the company must differentiate their product from competitors. There are three basic differentiations: perceptible, imperceptible, and induced.

Perceptible

Perceptible differences are those that actually exist that make one product obviously different from others of the same kind. The difference may in color or size or shape or brand name or some other way. In any case, the consumer can easily see that this car or couch or camera is different from other cars or couches or cameras. Perceptible differences allow a person to make an instant identification of one product as opposed to another.

Imperceptible

Imperceptible differences are those that actually exist between one product and others, but are not obvious. For example, there are imperceptible but profound differences between CP/M, MS-DOS and Apple and MacIntosh computers. You can't simply look at a computer and tell which it is; machines can and usually do look alike. And yet buying either precludes being able to use software designed for the other.

The same applied to Beta and VHS format VCRs. Although both are designed to do the same thing, there are differences between them that are imperceptible on the surface but preclude using the same tapes in both. There are other differences besides the size of the cassette: the machines use totally different ways of recording and playing back tapes. Beta records and plays back diagonally across the tape, VHS records vertically. Such a difference may seem small, but it means that anything recorded on Beta cannot be played back on VHS, and vice versa. Also, Beta's system used more tape per instant and thus had an advantage in the amount of information per inch of tape, meaning a better sound and picture but less available time. However, VHS overcomes its deficit by improved electronics and better processing of what information it gets per inch of tape. In addition, VHS (read RCA) managed to corner the market on rental tapes of movies (a major use of VCRs) and VHS has virtually killed off Beta (read Sony). All the differences between Beta and VHS are imperceptible: they are also crucial.

Induced

For many products, there is no actual substantive difference between one and another. For many brands of cigarettes, beer, cleansers, and soaps, rice, over-the-counter health products, etc., etc., ad nauseam, there is essentially no difference between one brand and another. These products are called parity products.

For these products, the only way to differentiate one from another is to induce that difference, to persuade people that there actually is some difference and that difference is important to them. These differences are created through advertising, not through any inherent difference in the products, and that creation often uses the appeals and methods discussed in the bulk of this book.

Heidelberg, the working man's beer. Michelob, the sophisticated nightlife beer. Bud, the athletic beer. Bud Light, the sexy party beer. Miller Lite, the fun and funny beer. Coors, the environmental beer. Coors Light, the fast beer. All of these are images projected onto products that have virtually no difference between them (taste tests show that few people can tell one from the other, particularly after having a few of any). This approach depicts the product in association with a lifestyle. For example, soft drinks show people having fun, usually athletic fun (a root beer company countered this approach by calling itself "the sit down soft drink"). Beer ads show people having fun. Airline ads show people having fun. (Notice a trend here?) They want you to think that if you use their product, you will enjoy the lifestyle depicted, and if you don't, you won't. Of course, the fact that the product is not necessary to the lifestyle is ignored.

Another approach is to project an image on a parity product. Marlboro is rugged male, Virginia Slims is independent female, Benson & Hedges is intellectual, Camel is cool and sophisticated. That there is no real difference between one brand of cigarette and another is beside the point. The point is, if you want the image you must use the product. This image approach is so successful that a manly man wouldn't be caught dead (no pun intended) smoking Virginia Slims or Benson & Hedges — he'd feel like a sissy wimp (or rather, that is what he thinks his friends would think he was).

Parity products have the greatest difficulty differentiating one from another. They must rely on creating a trivial or even nonexistent difference in the bundle of values their target audience might find important to their purchase decision. However, if and once that difference is firmly established in the target audience's perception, a company can often rely on habit, brand loyalty and/or cognitive dissonance to get repeat business.

IDENTIFIED SPONSORS

Identified sponsors mean whoever is putting out the ad tells the audience who they are. There are two reasons for this: first, it's a legal requirement, and second, it makes good sense.

Legally, a sponsor must identify trherself as the sponsor of an ad. This prevents the audience from getting a misleading idea about the ad or its contents. For example, many ads that appear in newspapers look like news articles: same typeface, appearance, use of columns, etc.. If the ad is not identified as such, the audience could perceive it as news about a product, rather than an attempt to persuade the audience to buy it. Case in point: what looks like a news article discusses a weight-loss plan. In journalistic style it talks about the safety, efficacy, and reasonable price of the product. A reasonable person might perceive the "article" as having been written by a reporter who had investigated weight-loss programs and decided to objectively discuss this particular one. Such a perception is misleading and illegal. Since it is an ad, somewhere on it there must appear the word "advertisement" to ensure the audience does not think it is an objective reporting of news.

Second, it makes good sense for a sponsor to identify herself in the ad. If the sponsor doesn't, it is possible for the audience to believe the ad is for a competitor's product, thus wasting all the time, creativity and money that went into making and placing the ad.

VARIOUS MEDIA

The various media are the non-personal (remember that?) channels of communication that people have invented and used and continue to use. These include newspapers, magazines, radio, television, billboards, transit cards, sandwich boards, skywriting, posters, anything that aids communicating in a non-personal way ideas from one person or group to another person or group. They do not include people talking to each other: first, talking is personal and advertising is non-personal; and second, there is no way to use people talking to each other for advertising–word-of-mouth is not an advertising medium since you can't control what is said. (The best you could do is start a rumor, which will undoubtedly distort the message in the telling, and is more the province of the PR department.)

Thus, to repeat (in case you've forgotten by now), "Advertising is the nonpersonal communication of information usually paid for and usually persuasive in nature about products, services or ideas by identified sponsors through the various media."

Chuck Reynolds
Contributor

 

Markethive

A Definition of Advertising I

A Definition of Advertising I

How advertising works requires a definition of what advertising is.

One definition of advertising is: "Advertising is the nonpersonal communication of information usually paid for and usually persuasive in nature about products, services or ideas by identified sponsors through the various media."(Bovee, 1992, p. 7) So much for academic doubletalk. Now let's take this statement apart and see what it means.

NONPERSONAL

First, what is "nonpersonal"? There are two basic ways to sell anything: personally and nonpersonally. Personal selling requires the seller and the buyer to get together. There are advantages and disadvantages to this. The first advantage is time: the seller has time to discuss in detail everything about the product. The buyer has time to ask questions, get answers, examine evidence for or against purchase.

A second advantage of personal selling is that the seller can see you. The person rhe's selling to. Rhe can see your face, see how the sales message is getting across. If you yawn or your eyes shift away, you're obviously bored, and the seller can change approach. Rhe can also see if you're hooked, see what features or benefits have your attention, and emphasize them to close the sale.

Finally, the seller can easily locate potential buyers. If you enter a store, you probably have an interest in something that store sells. Street vendors and door-to-door sellers can simply shout at possibilities, like the Hyde Park (London) vendors who call out, "I say there, Guv'nor, can you use a set of these dishes?", or knock at the door and start their spiel with an attention grabber. From there on they fit their message to the individual customer, taking all the time a customer is willing to give them.

Disadvantages do exist. Personal selling is, naturally enough, expensive, since it is labor-intensive and deals with only one buyer at a time. Just imagine trying to sell chewing gum or guitar picks one-on-one; it would cost a dollar a stick or pick.

In addition, its advantage of time is also a disadvantage. Personal selling is time-consuming. Selling a stereo or a car can take days, and major computer and airplane sales can take years.

Nonetheless, although personal selling results in more rejections than sales, and can be nerve-racking, frustrating and ego destroying for the salesperson, when the salesperson is good it is more directed and successful than advertising.

From the above, it appears that personal selling is much better than advertising, which is nonpersonal. This is true. Advertising has none of the advantages of personal selling: there is very little time in which to present the sales message, there is no way to know just who the customer is or how rhe is responding to the message, the message cannot be changed in mid-course to suit the customer's reactions.

Then why bother with advertising? Because its advantages exactly replace the disadvantages of personal selling, and can emulate some of the advantages. First let's look at the latter.

First, advertising has, comparatively speaking, all the time in the world. Unlike personal selling, the sales message and its presentation does not have to be created on the spot with the customer watching. It can be created in as many ways as the writer can conceive, be rewritten, tested, modified, injected with every trick and appeal known to affect consumers. (Some of the latter is the content of this book.)

Second, although advertisers may not see the individual customer, nor be able to modify the sales message according to that individual's reactions at the time, it does have research about customers. The research can identify potential customers, find what message elements might influence them, and figure out how best to get that message to them. Although the research is meaningless when applied to any particular individual, it is effective when applied to large groups of customers.

Third, and perhaps of most importance, advertising can be far cheaper per potential customer than personal selling. Personal selling is extremely labor-intensive, dealing with one customer at a time. Advertising deals with hundreds, thousands, or millions of customers at a time, reducing the cost per customer to mere pennies. In fact, advertising costs are determined in part using a formula to determine, not cost per potential customer, but cost per thousand potential customers.

Thus, it appears that advertising is a good idea as a sales tool. For small ticket items, such as chewing gum and guitar picks, advertising is cost effective to do the entire selling job. For large ticket items, such as cars and computers, advertising can do a large part of the selling job, and personal selling is used to complete and close the sale.

Advertising is nonpersonal, but effective.

COMMUNICATION

Communication means not only speech or pictures, but any way one person can pass information, ideas or feelings to another. Thus communication uses all of the senses: smell, touch, taste, sound and sight. Of the five, only two are really useful in advertising — sound and sight.

Smell

Smell is an extremely strong form of communication. However, when it comes to advertising, it is not very useful. A smell can immediately evoke memories. Remember times when you've smelled something and what memories came to your mind. The smell could be a perfume or aftershave that reminds you of Sheila or George. It could be popcorn, newly mown grass, char-broiling steak, or roses. Any smell can conjure up a memory for you.

However, that is smell's greatest problem for advertising. Although a smell can evoke a memory, everyone's memories are different. For example, the smell of hay in a cow barn always reminds me of my grandfather's farm in Indiana and the fun I had there as a child. To others, however, that same smell makes them think a cow had an accident in the living room, not at all the same response as mine. If an advertiser wanted to make me nostalgic about farms and grandparents, the smell would be perfect. To others the smell might evoke ideas of cow accidents or the pain of having to buck bales on a hot summer day, neither image of much use in making a product appealing.

The point is, the effect of using smell in advertising cannot be controlled by the advertiser. Although many people smell the same things, what they associate with those smells varies with each person. Without some control, smell is a very weak form of communication for advertising.

Touch

Touch has a limitation that makes it of little use to advertising — the customer has to come in actual contact with the item to be touched. Thus the item must actually exist and be put in a medium that can carry it. This puts touch more in the realm of personal selling than advertising.

It is possible to use touch for a limited number of products. For example, samples of cloth or paper can be bound into magazines. The potential customer can thus feel percale or the texture of corduroy, tell through touch the difference between slick magazine stock, embossing, Classic Laid or 100% rag paper. However, for the majority of products touch is useless for advertising.

Taste

Taste is probably the least useful communication channel available to advertising. Like touch, taste requires the potential customer to come in actual physical contact with the product. However, taste is even more limited than touch. There are few products other than food for which taste is a major selling point, and there is virtually no medium in which an ad can be placed that people are likely to lick; I'm sure few people are going to lick a magazine page or the TV screen, nor get much sense of what the product tastes like from them. It is possible to use direct mail, sending samples to homes, but that is an expensive way to advertise.

Thus, taste is much more effective in personal selling, such as sampling foods in supermarkets or in door-to-door sales.The remaining two senses, sound and sight, are the most effective and easily used channels of communication available to advertising. For these reasons virtually all advertising relies on them.

Sound

Sound is extremely useful for advertising. It can be used in a variety of media, from radio and television to the new technology of binding micro-sound chips in magazines to present 20-second sales messages. It is also capable of presenting words and "theatre of the mind."

Words, the method by which humans communicate their ideas and feelings, are presented by sound, by speaking aloud. Through the use of words it is possible to deliver logical arguments, discuss pros and cons, and evoke emotions.

More, through the use of sound it is possible to create what is called "the theatre of the mind." What this means is that sound can conjure in the listener's mind images and actions that don't necessarily exist. For example, if you want to create before the mind's eye the image of a party, you need merely use the sound effects of people talking and laughing, the tinkle of glasses and ice, perhaps music in the background. Even easier, tape record a party and play it back. To evoke images of a soft spring day the sounds of a breeze rustling leaves, the chirrup of insects, the soft call of birds is sufficient. The listener's mind will take those sounds, combine them, make sense of them, and create an image suited to their individual taste.  For example, a beer commercial may play the sounds of a bar in the background, and the listener may imagine themselves in their own favorite bar, and perhaps ordering that brand of beer. Thus sound, in the forms of words and effects, are quite useful to the advertiser in affecting a listener.

Sight

Sight is arguably the most useful of the communication channels available to the advertiser. Through sight it is possible to use both words and images effectively.

Words do not have to be spoken to be understood. They can be printed, as well. Although it is difficult to put in written words the emotional impact possible in spoken words, with their inflections and subtle sound cues, nevertheless written words are unsurpassed for getting across and explaining complex ideas or arguments.

There is an additional factor in sight that makes it excellent for advertising. The old cliché, "A picture is worth a thousand words," is correct. Think how long it takes to describe something as opposed to showing a picture of it. No matter how many words you use, some details will be left out that are visible at a glance. Thus sight can quickly and concisely show a customer what the advertiser wants rher to see, be it a product or how buying the product can benefit rher.

In addition, the mind does not have to consciously recognize what the eye sees for it to have an effect on the subconscious. An advertiser can put many inconspicuous details into a picture that will affect a customer on the subconscious level. For example, a drop of water on a rose petal may not consciously register ("I see there's a drop of water on this rose"), but will unconsciously leave an impression of freshness and delicacy. A small child looking upward into the camera, unsmiling and eyes wide, gives an impression of sadness and vulnerability, not shortness.

The five forms of human communication can be used to send any message to potential customers. However, not all five are equal. Smell, touch and taste are of little use, but sound and sight are of great value and effectiveness.

Chuck Reynolds
Contributor

Markethive

Some Reasons Why Your Business Should Invest In SEO

Some Reasons Why Your Business Should Invest In SEO

The term “Is SEO dead?” and what comes back in return is over 44 million references including the aptly titled article of the same name by fellow Forbes contributor Jayson DeMers. In his article, Demers shares a conversation he had with Sam McRoberts, CEO of VUDU Marketing and a widely published expert in the SEO field.

When queried if in fact, SEO is dead, McRoberts said “SEO is far from dead” but added the caveat that “it’s changed so drastically that people really need to learn to think of it as less of a marketing tactic, and more of a branding play.” Not sure I agree with that assessment but regardless of that and contrary to what you may have read recently, organic search engine optimization is far from dead.

In fact, many companies, including the LLondon-based SEO agency – Go Up, are making a renewed commitment to investing into developing solid, SEO optimized web infrastructure that is search-engine friendly, given the engines’ continued commitment to improving their algorithms over time.

Here’s a list of seven specific reasons why your business should definitely consider investing in your organic SEO:

 
  1. It still works – First and foremost, the techniques employed to improve SEO still work. Even though data regarding organic traffic from Google was pulled fairly recently, the techniques themselves remain sound. Plenty of SEO case studies performed post-Hummingbird can verify this. Joshua Guerra, CEO of marketing firm BIZCOR says “As long as you are focusing on optimal user experience while performing methodic SEO strategies, you will be rewarded with higher positioning and organic traffic.”
  2. It is not going to stop working any time soon – Based on the way search engines appear to be developing, it is not likely that SEO will cease to be effective any time in the foreseeable future. On some level, even audio and video searches ultimately depend on keywords the same as traditional text-based content; this link ensures the continued success of SEO techniques as long as it exists.
  1. It is cost-effective – Compared to the costs associated with other forms of online marketing such as PPC advertising, social media marketing, or purchasing leads for an email marketing program, SEO provides fairly good ROI. While PPC may drive more revenue and social media may be more important for your image, your organic SEO in many ways remains a bedrock of your online presence.
  2. Search engines grabbing more market share – Somewhere between 80-90% of customers now check online reviews prior to making a purchase, and this number is only expected to increase. It won’t be long before virtually everyone is searching for products and services online. Do you want them to be able to locate your business, or not?  Without organic SEO in place, people will have a very hard time finding you and will instead find your competitors.
  3. Rise of mobile bandwidth and local search optimization – Later this year, the amount of traffic delivered to mobile devices is expected to exceed that delivered to traditional desktop devices. With this dramatic explosion in mobile usage, a whole new world of effective SEO techniques have opened up for companies, such as local search optimization.
  4. Not having a healthy content profile is damaging – With each and every update to its search algorithm, Google and other engines change the way they look at websites. Things which didn’t exist a few years ago, such as social media indicators, are now given fairly high importance in terms of their impact on your rankings. Not building a healthy content profile spread out months and years is potentially damaging to your business, as it is one of the factors Google evaluates when looking at your site.
  5. Your competitors are doing it – “Remember, SEO is a never-ending process,” says Jason Bayless, Owner of BestSeoCompanies.com, a website which tracks and ranks the efficacy and service of many of the nation’s leading SEO providers. “If you’re not moving forward and improving your position, you’re losing ground to a competitor who is. That’s a simple fact of how the process works.”  Don’t let your competitors out maneuver you by ignoring this valuable tool for your business.

Investing in organic SEO is more important now than ever before, despite the current difficulty everyone finds themselves facing regarding the lack of organic keyword data and traffic. Your business definitely needs to have an SEO strategy in place if you are interested in succeeding in terms of online marketing; it remains one of the single most important components of any organization’s branding efforts and online presence.

Chuck Reynolds
Contributor

Markethive

Develop Leadership Skills by Mentoring

 Develop Leadership Skills by Mentoring

Mentorship refers to a personal developmental relationship in which a more experienced or more knowledgeable person helps a less experienced or less knowledgeable person. The receiver of mentorship was traditionally referred to as a protégé or apprentice. Today, the term "mentee" is gaining acceptance and becoming widely used.

There are several definitions of mentoring. Foremost, mentoring involves communication and is relationship based. In the organizational setting, mentoring can take many forms. The formal definition that best describes mentoring is as follows:

"Mentoring is a process for the informal transmission of knowledge, social capital and the psychosocial support perceived by the recipient as relevant to work, career or professional development; mentoring entails informal communication, usually face-to-face and during a sustained period of time, between a person who is perceived to have greater relevant knowledge, wisdom or experience (the mentor) and a person who is perceived to have less (the protégé or mentee)." (Bozeman, Feeney, 2007)

Organizations have started to see the value of mentoring for enhancing work life, performance, commitment and job satisfaction. When mentoring is implemented successfully, there are measurable improvements in employee performance, retention, employee commitment to the organization, knowledge sharing, leadership growth and succession planning.

A mentor is a person who gives another person the benefit of his or her years of experience and/or education. This experience is shared in such a way that the mentor helps to develop a mentee's skills and abilities, benefiting the mentee and the organization.

A good mentoring relationship is identified by the willingness and capability of both parties to ask questions, challenge assumptions and disagree. It’s important to note that there's no one way to mentor. Every mentoring relationship is as unique as the individuals involved.

The mentor is far less likely to have a direct-line relationship with the mentee, and in a mentoring relationship this distance is desirable. Mentoring is rarely a critical part of an individual’s job role, but rather an extra element that rewards the mentor with fresh thinking as well as the opportunity to transfer knowledge and experience to a less experienced colleague, peer or employee.

The Difference between Mentoring and Coaching

Coaching is not the same as mentoring. Mentoring is concerned with the development of the whole person and is driven by the person’s own work/life goals. It is usually unstructured and informal. Mentors focus on the person (the mentee), that person’s career, and support for individual growth and maturity.

Coaching is much more about achieving specific objectives in a particular way. Coaching also is more formal and more structured, usually around a coaching process or methodology. Typically, coaching is job focused and performance oriented.

The Mentoring Process is a Two-way Street with Mutual Responsibilities

For mentoring to be successful, the mentor and mentee must collaborate on the process. The first meeting should be a face-to-face meeting where the following criteria are determined:

  • The goals for the mentee
  • The scope of responsibilities each person is assuming
  • Time commitments agreed to by both parties
  • Logistics of the process (how, when and where meetings and communications will take place)
  • Agreement on the definition of confidential information and how that information will be addressed throughout the process
  • Topics or issues that are outside of the mentoring boundaries
  • The process for dealing with conflicts and/or obstacles that may arise during the mentoring process
  • How and when to end the relationship

Effective Mentoring

The following guidelines describe an effective mentoring relationship

  • The mentee has no direct-line reporting to the mentor. This fosters trust, and the mentee feels more comfortable in sharing uncertainties about his or her abilities, creating free-flowing, open communication.
  • The mentor/mentee relationship is mutually satisfying. The mentor gets the satisfaction of watching someone grow who values his or her insights. The mentee gains a feeling of being valued, receiving beneficial direction and attention from someone who he or she respects and admires.
  • The intensity of the relationship is matched. It is taking up actual and mental time in proportions with which both people are comfortable. This time commitment is flexible as the mentee's needs change. Sometimes several meetings are necessary during a very challenging period, then none for months.
  • At any time, either party can stop the relationship and the mentoring process. There is no obligation for acontinuance.
  • An effective mentor gives wise counsel, and the mentee feels comfortable speaking on issues that may be sensitive. Once this trust is developed, the mentor can give advice or assist with tough recommendations.
  • The mentor is not mentoring two people at the same time who have a close working relationship. Discretion and confidentiality are paramount. The rules of engagement are stated up front with an agreement between the mentor and the mentee on who should be aware of the mentoring relationship.
  • The obligation for continuing is two-sided. When the mentor feels he or she has value to add and the mentee is getting something from the relationship, the mentoring may go on indefinitely, or either side can end it without justification.
  • Mentoring programs are about guidance and facilitation rather than formal training.

How Mentoring Relationships Go Wrong

There are several reasons that a mentoring relationship may fail. Since a successful mentoring relationship is built on trust and the mutual commitment for both parties to hold up their end of the agreement, it is not surprising that the circumstances for failed mentoring are directly related to the failure in the relationship between the mentor and the mentee.

The following is an excerpt from a Wall Street Journal report in collaboration with MIT Sloan Management Review dated Monday, May 24, 2010.

  • Conflict in values: This type of conflict creates a lack of trust or rapport between the two parties. If neither the mentor nor the mentee is able to bend or compromise, they may find themselves unable to work together effectively.
  • Neglect of the mentee: If the mentor does not show an active interest in the mentee and act in positive ways to advance his or her career, this neglect can erode the mentee’s trust and faith in the mentor. Most mentors go into the relationship sincerely intending to give the mentee what he or she needs to succeed. It may be that the mentor’s schedule interferes with his or her availability, or the mentor may be experiencing excessive challenges with his or her own career, creating the feeling of neglect and frustration on the part of the mentee.
  • Mentors who manipulate the mentee: Mentee manipulation is most common when the mentor is the mentee’s direct supervisor or an upper supervisor from the same department. Manipulation comes in three forms:
    • Tyranny – This form of management by intimidation is a complaint that is often heard from mentees. For example, a mentor may threaten to demote a mentee unless he or she pulls an all-nighter to fix a problem created by the mentor.
    • Inappropriate Delegation – This includes requiring the mentee to do work that the mentor should be doing or withholding assignments that are coveted by the mentee and that would promote the mentee’s growth and development.
    • Politicking – This involves malicious acts like sabotage and taking undue credit with the intention of harming the mentee’s reputation, usually with the intention of making the mentor look good.
  • Mentees who manipulate the mentor: Although mentees have fewer resources at their disposal, mentor manipulation is not unusual. For example, the mentee may be attributing failures to the mentor and success to himself or herself in order to look good to senior management. This form of manipulation allows the mentee to use the mentor to forward his or her own advancement at the expense of the mentor.
  • Sabotage against mentors: When a mentee attempts to damage the career of the mentor, it is often revenge motivated. The mentee may be trying to retaliate for being passed over for promotion, for example. The mentee may blame the mentor for failure to achieve his or her goals. At times, the sabotage may be unintentional, e.g., the mentor may have stepped up to recommend the mentee for a higher or more responsible position. If the mentee fails, this may reflect poorly on the mentor.
  • Submissive mentees: This is usually a case where the mentee relies too heavily on the mentor, and the mentee’s abilities for independent thinking and growth are stifled. This situation also may cause the mentor to inadvertently take control in an effort to ensure the success of the mentee. In either case, the mentee’s ability to grow and prosper can be hindered.

So, how do you avoid the pitfalls of bad mentoring relationships?

  1. Provide support and training for mentors and mentees: Whether the company has a formal or informal mentoring program, mentors should go through a training program prior to taking on mentoring responsibilities. Support must be provided where the mentor or mentee can seek advice or assistance if either party feels that the relationship is not progressing in a positive way.
  2. Recruit right-fit mentors: People who volunteer to be a mentor are more likely to put in the time and effort and have the right skills for mentoring. Mandating that a person take on a mentoring role is a sure way to create failure.
  3. Match the mentor with the mentee: Make sure that the mentor and the mentee have things in common and have shared values, creating mentoring relationships that are more likely to succeed.
  4. Provide feedback: Mentors can share appraisals and progress with the mentee’s supervisor, who has a vested interest in the mentee’s progress and development. Someone from human resources also should be in the loop in the event that problems arise.
  5. Prepare for the end: To avoid hurt feelings, everyone should be prepared to understand that mentoring eventually ends. When the mentor has shared all he or she can share and/or the mentee has learned all he or she can from this mentor, it is time to end the mentorship. Preparing in advance will help to avoid hurt feelings when the time comes.

If you are considering seeking out a mentor, here are seven tips for maximizing your mentoring experience:

  • Know your goals.
  • Choose the best mentor to meet your goals.
  • Begin your mentoring relationship by discussing mutual goals and expectations.
  • Practice the highest standards of professionalism.
  • Learn to accept and give feedback.
  • Practice good communication.
  • Recognize that your success is your responsibility.

If you are considering becoming a mentor, below are some of the benefits of mentoring:

  • Learning new things about yourself: The self-reflection that can result from a mentoring relationship can be a powerful growth experience, giving you new and revealing insights about yourself, your skills and your experience.
  • Satisfaction of passing on knowledge
  • Contributing to the success of your organization by developing others
  • Acquiring new knowledge: Often, the mentor also learns new skills and ideas from his or her mentee.
  • Expanding your networking contacts
  • Building confidence
  • Assists you in staying current with issues and developments in the next generation of professionals and within your company

In today’s business environment, everyone has more work to perform, more responsibilities and more stress. Given this, you may ask yourself, "Why would I want to create additional time commitments on my schedule to become a mentor?" The simple answer is that mentors, through the process of mentoring, learn to be stronger leaders by developing exceptional interpersonal skills. Through the mentoring relationship, mentors often discover new resources in the form of innovative and creative ideas that are presented during the mentoring learning process and improved human resources through the development of promising new talent.

Chuck Reynolds
Contributor

 

Markethive

Effective Mentoring Skills

 Effective Mentoring Skills

There are many questions from mentors, mentorees, and mentoring program managers on what they need to do in order to have a successful mentoring relationship and an overall successful program. So we thought we'd devote this month's "Mentoring Minute" to Effective Mentoring Skills. It's important to note that you won't master these skills overnight. In fact, some of these skills are ones we'll all be working on throughout our lives. That said, we've found that the mentors and mentorees who embrace these skills sooner rather than later are the ones who experience the most success in their mentoring relationship.

 Open mindedness.
By far, one of the most important skills you need to have is the ability to keep an open mind. We all come to the mentoring "table" with our own thoughts, our own value system, and our own prejudices. This is normal: it's called being human. But the purpose of mentoring is to transform…not only the mentoree, but also the mentor. For this to occur, everyone needs to open their minds to new ways of thinking. It's not always easy, and it will likely be an ongoing process throughout the mentoring relationship. The point is to be aware of what you're thinking…and how it's affecting the relationship.

Active listening.
There are two types of listening: active and passive, and their definitions are just as their names imply. When you actively listen, you're fully engaged with the other person. You're focused on what he or she is saying, and you reinforce what the person is saying by offering nonverbal cues, such as eye contact and nodding your head. Active listeners are alert, sit up straight, ask questions, and show their sincere interest in what  other people are saying. Both mentors and mentorees need to engage in active listening with one another.

 Tough questioning.
The way to dig deeper into an issue is by asking questions, and sometimes the most important questions are hard to ask. Ask them anyway. Do so with diplomacy and tact, of course, but go ahead and ask.

Total honesty.
This goes hand-in-hand with the previous skill. If you ask a tough question — or if you're asked a tough question — be prepared to hear honest answers (or to deliver honest answers). It's not always easy to be completely honest, but it's important. Of course, to be honest, you need to feel safe.

Deeper reflection and self-awareness.
You ask a tough question, you hear an honest answer, and now what? This is where reflection and self-awareness come in. It's easy to want to move away from the challenging conversations and onto easier subjects. But the most successful mentoring relationship won't allow for this. Instead, mentors and mentorees will take time to reflect on what's been discussed. This is important because when we're discussing difficult issues, we can often slip into defense mode in the heat of the moment. Taking time to reflect, however, can help us avoid knee-jerk reactions and, instead, help us grow. Which is the whole point, right?

Chuck Reynolds
Contributor

Markethive

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