SMB Marketing Tips

279 posts categorized

May 27, 2016

Using SMS Messaging as Customer Service Tool

 

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It’s only when you stop to reflect what life was like ten years ago that you realize just how far SMS messaging has come. Back then, text messages were still primarily used for interpersonal communication between friends and family. Now, all kinds of businesses use SMS for all kinds of reasons, all of which enhance the customer experience and just make life easier for everyone. 

Think about the text messages you receive that aren’t from people you know personally. Banks send statements and fraud alerts; taxi drivers and ride-sharing services let you know they’ve arrived via text; healthcare providers send appointment reminders and everyone from airlines and travel companies to concert promoters and delivery services send confirmations by SMS.

The reason all these organizations are using text messaging over other forms of communication is very simple: people actually read their texts. Further, most people actually read ALL of their texts - and they usually do it within a few minutes of receipt. That fact is music to the ears of marketers in any industry, when you consider how routinely commercial emails are trashed, ignored, or junk filtered before they even had a chance. With SMS, around 90% of all messages are opened and read within three minutes. And since a similar percentage of the population owns a cellphone, using it as an effective way to reach people is a no-brainer. 

And yet, one-to-one customer support is one area where SMS messaging has been slow to take off - thought that’s beginning to change. So it should, because the potential is considerable.

 

SMS Customer Service is Win-Win

Firstly, every consumer out there is a candidate for SMS communication. It doesn’t require a smartphone, so even the most committed feature phone acolyte can be reached, and 2G networks are still the most reliable. Because of the 160 character restriction, a text message doesn’t demand too much of the recipient. There’s no action required - the recipient can consider the information and make their choice as to whether it’s relevant. If not, they can opt out of receiving future messages from the brand. 

Businesses love SMS because of the aforementioned high read rate, and the personal, informal tone generally expected of the information contained therein. A mobile marketing campaign centered around text messages is also incredibly cheap compared with more traditional mass media strategies. 

But while the benefits of SMS as a marketing strategy are well understood, we’re only just beginning to see customer service-based applications of the technology. Airlines have rightly spotted the aptness of text messaging for letting passengers know about delays and cancellations. Some have started using text messaging to help reduce wait times at check in, and provide passengers with a way of interacting with the airline that doesn’t require a tedious phone call.

May 24, 2016

Building a Personal Connection with B2B Buyers

 

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People running businesses know that successfully selling products or services to consumers means making personal connections with those consumer. Buyers typically want to fill an emotional need with a purchase, so companies and brands need to set out to be the perfect entity to fill that need. A consumer’s desire to be prettier, skinnier, and happier fuels sales in the B2C market, but does that same desire translate to the B2B industry? Not exactly, but we can look to personal connection as a way to drive sales in B2B niches when we consider that business buyers too want to feel emotionally and personally satisfied. Therefore, to successfully sell to B2B buyers, you must focus your marketing efforts on creating personal value for a human, emotional B2B buyer. You can do this through many channels, including SMS marketing.

 

What Drives the B2B Buyer

 

B2B buyers often have a lot at stake when it comes to making the right decisions for their companies. They feel pressured to purchase products that will represent their businesses in the right ways, give their customers a consistent image of their brand, and show their higher-ups that they have a solid grasp of their company’s vision and values. This means that B2B buyers consider emotional needs, such as their reputation and their capability for adding value, when they look for products to purchase.

 

Call it emotional buying, ego purchasing, or making choices based on intuition. Just don’t ignore it. B2B buyers are human beings that can be influenced in many ways similar to B2C buyers. They might have facts, figures, and a company’s bottom line in mind when they make a purchasing decision, but they’re also looking for perceived value when they buy and you should be trying to give them that value. You can offer value by positioning your company as a business that’s trustworthy and reputable to work with, a creator of products that have integrity, and an organization that efficiently delivers exactly what you say you will, when you say it.

 

The Data Supports Emotion Driving B2B Buyers

 

Google and the CEB Marketing Leadership Council surveyed about 3,000 B2B buyers a few years ago in hopes of finding out what drives their purchasing decisions. The results of the market research showed that 50 percent of B2B buyers will probably buy from a company that they feel emotionally tied to. Compare this data to a study done by market research firm Motista, which organized baseline data from B2C purchasers, and you’ll see similar findings. 

 

The Google and CEB survey surprised many in the B2B industry because it indicated that more than 50 percent of B2B buyers approach making purchasing decisions the same way that regular consumers do, which means they look for personal value. What was even more shocking to some B2B business owners is that the research showed buyers were eight times more likely to pay a premium price for a product or service if they felt they were receiving greater personal value.

 

How to Build a Personal Connection with a B2B Customer

 

When you realize that a real person is somewhere behind every buying decision a company makes, you can set yourself up to best meet those buyers’ needs. To be the business that makes the sale, it’s important to be friendly, easy-to-work-with, and likeable. Do this, of course, by offering honest and sincere phone and in-person communication, as well as outstanding products and services. However, you should also use your SMS marketing tactics to build personal connections with B2B buyers and let them know that communication that meets their needs is important to you. 

 

You can use text marketing to stay in touch with buyers and let them know about new inventory. Follow up on purchases with personal texts that ask for product or service feedback, and inquire via text about any future purchase needs a B2B buyer might have. Let your B2B buyers know that you are respectful of their time and don’t want to send out excessive email or text blasts, but that you’re ready to serve should they have needs or problems.

Use SMS technology to meet B2B buyers where they are, which often means recognizing that they’re human beings who constantly want to stay informed and create value for their companies, and themselves. Take advantage of the opportunity to make any genuine personal connection you can with your B2B buyers, via text messaging and other means, and they’ll likely become long-time, loyal purchasers.

May 11, 2016

The Hottest New Trends in Mobile Marketing

 

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The mobile revolution has taken serious root, with marketers scrambling to make their websites mobile-friendly, create new and exciting apps, and otherwise drive traffic and increase revenue through mobile means. This is the mobile age, and with that in mind let’s check out some of the hottest new trends taking over mobile marketing: 

 

“Smarter” Social Messaging Apps

There’s greater selection regarding social messaging apps than ever before, with options now including Snapchat, WhatsApp, Kik, Peach, WeChat, and Facebook Messenger. People chat anytime, anywhere in today’s world, and about half of mobile phone users in the United States are predicted to rely on mobile messaging by the end of the year. The evolution of social media apps is already evident in China, where 91% of Internet users favor instant messaging over search. 

Platforms allow users to send multimedia messages, make payments, or use video call. They’re even used as interfaces for bot-driven interactions. 

 

Blurring Lines Among Apps, Social Media, And E-Commerce

Integration among apps and their social media and e-commerce outlets is a hot new mobile trend this year. Many social platforms are linking e-commerce features into their social media networks, such as Instagram’s “Shop Now” feature and Pinterest’s “Buyable Pins.” People didn’t used to shop on social media platforms, but the more seamless the integration, the more likely shopping on such platforms will become the norm. 

 

Branded Keyboards

A wide variety of branded keyboards are available through a mobile device’s app store, and function as ideal branding options. They allow companies to remain where they want, i.e. in consumers’ faces, without being a source of interruption or annoyance. App use equals keyboard use, meaning this type of branded engagement is far-reaching. Recent research indicates the average mobile device user works on the keyboard over 100 times per day, with branded keyboard leader Kibo seeing millions of downloads a month. And that was just in the company’s first year of operation. 

 

Apps=Lifestyle Reflections

In 2016 apps are expected to become integral parts of consumer lives as opposed to individual features that people turn to on occasion. Examples of apps as “lifestyle reflections” include fitness apps that offer weather alerts before a run and remind the person it’s time to pick up the dry cleaning. 

Lifestyle apps also increasingly indicate values. Think of consumers saying “I’m a proud fan or supporter of [x and y], which is why I use these [branded] apps.” 

 

More From Search Engine Results

Videos are already cropping up in Google’s search results, but the media giant is going a step further by experimenting with video ads. Should consumers take to video ads appearing in their search results, apps may also make appearances in SERPs. App directories and recommendations are already there, however apps as part of search engine results is a whole other thing. Such implementation will provide stores and directories with an exciting new set of opportunities. 

These and other trends are changing the marketing landscape, and mean marketers must remain that much more aware of current and future mobile trends. 

 

May 04, 2016

Technologies That Changed Retail

 

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In 2016, global business to consumer e-commerce sales is expected to reach $1.92 trillion. As impressive as this figure from Statista is, that’s millions of lost in-store experiences and missed customer service conversations. In an age of convenience, it can be easy to forget about what you might be missing.

Many shoppers enjoy walking down the aisles of large retail stores, checking prices and talking to people. They also like to touch the things they plan on buying. For every gained purchase online, a material purchase is lost, which has raised the stakes considerably for brick-and-mortar retail locations. If ever these stores needed a hero, it would be now. 

Who would have guessed that mobile technology could be that hero? The use of mobile technology in retail stores could save many from going out of business and help them keep pace with online shopping trends. Here’s how mobile technology is changing the retail game in a world full of online shoppers.

 

Saving Time with Retail Mobile Technology

Often, it’s faster to ask someone a question, make a suggestion, or compare two products than it is to find credible answers online. In fact, digging around on the Internet is almost more time-consuming than driving to the store in the first place.

Now, imagine all sales associates have smartphones or tablets that can locate what you want anywhere in the store. They can give you a price check, compare prices, and tell you where else you might find what you’re looking for. This is the direction mobile technology is heading, as physical retailers scramble to catch up on the super-highway. By empowering employees to help customers, mobile saves time while providing people with truly authentic service. Plus, shoppers get to walk out of the store with their merchandise in tow—no delivery time needed. 

 

Increase Productivity Among Retail Employees

Additionally, mobile technology will help retail owners save money by increasing the overall productivity of employees. In addition to customer service, mobile technology allows sales associates to manage inventories, place orders, receive shipments, take phone calls, and more. This also eliminates a mountain of paperwork and makes organizing data much less complicated. More people can do more work in a shorter amount of time.

Creating a network of employees working on mobile devices can also cut down on long checkout lines (especially during the holidays). The mobile Point of Sale (mPoS) is all about being ready the moment a customer agrees to make an in-store purchase and having an associate there to swipe the credit card. If that same customer walks to a long checkout line, they may decide not to wait. That’s a lost opportunity that’s likely to wind up somewhere online.

Shop owners can take some of those lost sales back by using mobile to capitalize on every possible sale.

The good old days we remember, when the Internet had yet become an e-commerce mecca and flashing banner ads were so bad they were good, are gone. To keep pace with all the sophisticated technology that keeps online shoppers coming back for more, brick-and-mortar retailers have no choice but to fire back with mobile.

May 03, 2016

Staying on the Right Side of the Law with Mass Texting Service

 

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Own a business and think you might want to add text ads to your marketing campaign? Make sure you know the rules before you play the game, or you may land yourself in court.

Retailers from clothing stores to vitamin companies are figuring out that the best way to reach consumers is through their mobile devices. So, they’re putting ad campaigns together that will land their companies’ names, and their messages, directly in the public’s text message applications. 

Whether these companies have read TechCrunch’s report that stated consumers spent more time on their phones than watching TV in the second quarter of 2015, or they did their own research to show society’s reliance on mobile devices, these businesses want to cash in on behavior that doesn't seem to be changing.

However, in order to stay lawsuit free, companies need to approach text advertising in the right way. 

 

Mobile Advertising and the Telephone Consumer Protection Act of 1991

The Telephone Consumer Protection Act of 1991 states that anyone dialing a person’s mobile phone or sending a text message must have consent. This federal law prohibits unsolicited mass calls and text advertisements, and it gives recipients of those unsolicited calls the right to collect up to $1,500 in statutory damages for each violation (or each phone call or text message). Individuals who receive unsolicited messages to their cell phones do not have to prove any harm was done when they seek damages, either.  

 

Don't Take a Chance – Get Permission for Text Advertisements

Imagine the potential damage to a business from one unsolicited text message sent out to thousands of customers or potential customers. A single mass text could ruin a small company financially, and it could have owners or executives of the company slapped with a lawsuit that they’ll need to spend time and PR resources fighting.

If you’re considering a mass texting service for your business, stop and make sure you’re clear on the laws pertaining to text messaging before you press that send button. If you don’t, you might be setting yourself up for a multi-million dollar settlement to avoid litigation, when you could have simply asked for consent. If you remember one thing when it comes to a mobile marketing campaign, it’s that consent matters.

 

What Does the Law Say?

It’s critical with any text messaging campaign to get consent to send messages to an individual’s cell phone. InfoLawGroup LLC, a boutique law group focusing on data security and media matters, emphasizes that the FCC’s (Federal Communications Commission) Telephone Consumer Protection Act reigns supreme in matters of mobile phone mass advertising, and it specifically spells out what rules must be followed if any company uses what’s considered to be an autodialer (automatic dialing system) to reach out to multiple consumers.

The law is specific, but lengthy, and it’s a must-read if you’re thinking about adding mass text service to your marketing campaign. It describes exactly what the law considers to be an autodialer, and it offers clarity in terms of procedures and penalties involved in sending text messages to multiple individuals at once.

To protect your business, familiarize yourself with the Telephone Consumer Protection Act before you send any text messages as part of your company’s marketing campaign.

May 01, 2016

Apps vs. Mobile Site

 

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As a small business owner, you’ve probably wondered whether to focus on making your website mobile friendly or utilizing the skills of a talented app developer. Both offer mobile marketing strategy advantages in light of industry, budget, and target audience, yet considering the amount of conflicting advice floating around, deciding which one to go with is often challenging. 

In 2013 a Compuware survey found that 85 percent of consumers enjoy apps over mobile websites. However, this hardly means one is better than the other, or that there isn’t just as huge a market for mobile sites. It’s like saying a percentage of people prefer the beach to the mountains—there’s still plenty of reasons to market mountain-based attractions. 

The decision to go with apps over a mobile website or vice versa depends on your mobile marketing strategy and related tactics.

 

Mobile-Friendly Websites

A mobile-optimized website is essentially a responsive design that recognizes when a visitor is using a mobile device and then converts the site to a version that’s easy to read via mobile. Therefore, you don’t necessarily need to produce different or additional content for a mobile site, as you would have to for an app. This makes mobile marketing management a much more streamlined process, and allows you to focus on other aspects of your business, rather than concerning yourself with content all the time. 

Mobile websites arguably drive more traffic than apps, so consider your ultimate goals behind site use: are you looking to improve consumer loyalty, or increase revenue by expanding your customer base? A cross-channel site may be your best option depending on what you wish to accomplish. 

 

Apps

The main advantage of having an app for your business is that it lets you make excellent use of a tablet or smartphone’s hardware and native functionalities. Cameras, GPS, speedometers, gyroscopes, and other useful pieces of technology found on the vast majority of modern devices are easily worked into your app’s operation. 

Another advantage of apps is that they rarely require an internet connection to run. Most apps store data locally on a phone or tablet’s hard drive, so users may enjoy them even if no internet connection is available. For example, some news apps download and store content through a Wi-Fi connection so users may read about current events until the app is able to sync with another connection. 

App infrastructure and development tools are more sophisticated and user friendly than ever thanks to demand for app developers, with major operating systems offering a serious selection of frameworks for developers to work with. Most frameworks are free. 

 

Wrapping Up

Again, which one you decide to go with depends on what your ultimate marketing goals are, how big your budget is, and more factors. If you have the means and the employees to handle a mobile-friendly site and an app, why not try both and see if one offers more benefits to your company than the other. You also might find that your team is efficient enough to provide content to each channel, thus increasing brand awareness and reach. Whatever you decide, remember that it’s a very good idea to offer at least one of the two options to your target audience. 

April 24, 2016

The Global Reach of SMS Messaging

 

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SMS has carved out a place as one of the key marketing tools for the modern business. With affordable, effective application for both B2C and B2B marketing, text messaging is also being used as an internal communication method. If there’s one remote communication technology you can be sure everyone has access to, it’s text messaging.

Therein lies the principal appeal of SMS: it’s universality. Not only do people across the globe have access to SMS, the majority of them carry a phone everywhere, which means that access is readily available, often within minutes of a message being sent. Let’s take a look at the reasons why text messaging is the surest way to reach the largest number of people:

 

  1. Global Reach. There are phone carriers in almost every country in the world, and because SMS works on 2G networks (as well as 3G and 4G), it can be used to communicate with an active mobile phone anywhere in the world
  2. Classless. Unlike other mobile technologies such as apps and geo-location, text messaging doesn’t require a smartphone. Indeed, the SMS protocol predates the advent of the smartphone by more than a decade, which meant it was so widespread by the time everyone started carrying miniature computers in their pocket that it was beyond reproach. No phone manufacturer has even considered not including this simple feature on their phones. The smartest smartphone can communicate with any active cell phone built in the last 20 years in two ways: a phone call or a text message. That’s a pretty level playing field for global communication.
  3. More likely to be read. Than any other form of digital communication. Conservative estimates reckon at least 90% of text messages are read within three minutes of receipt, and unlike emails, they won’t get spam filtered or routinely ignored.
  4. It’s economical. Not just in terms of financial cost, but because of the 160 character limit - a major part of the appeal when it comes to actually reading messages - it requires an economy of language that all marketers should be seeking to use anyway. Your brand message will be clear, concise and direct. It has to be!
  5. It’s permission based. Because consent is required, you know your messages won’t form just another part of the digital white noise we’ve all become used to tuning out on a daily basis. Anyone who receives your SMS messages has requested them, making them much more likely to engage.
  6. It plays well with others. SMS messaging works in harmony with other forms of digital marketing, allowing you to create a truly ‘joined up’ mobile marketing campaign. If, for instance, you have details of an upcoming event on your website, SMS messaging is the perfect way to alert customers to it and include a link to the full story. By incorporating SMS messaging into your overall mobile marketing strategy, you will maximize your reach.

April 17, 2016

Mobile Marketing and the Emoji Question

 

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New research indicates that mobile marketing campaigns are increasingly turning to emojis to make their messages pop. Marketing automation company Appboy surveyed close to 9,400 campaigns on Android and iOS platforms, and found emoji usage had increased more than seven-fold year-on-year, as of March 2016. The report found e-commerce marketers and retailers were the most likely businesses to use emojis in mobile marketing campaigns.

Why are mobile marketing managers using emojis? Simply put, it’s because the rest of us do, and it’s seen as an easy way to add some color and individuality to a campaign. With so much activity happening in the world of mobile marketing, it’s highly competitive and volatile; some 800 million users got their first smartphone last year alone. Another 600 million will join them this year.

With such vast numbers, it’s crucial for e-marketers to understand who they’re trying to reach, and with what kind of message. In this context, emojis become one contributing factor to the success of a mobile marketing campaign. Used well, they set the right tone for a brand image. 

 

Using Emojis

So how do you use them in the most effective way? One of the most common mistakes brands make is to use emojis in place of text, where text would communicate more effectively. Emojis should complement your written message, not replace it, so for your first campaign, try incorporating one or two relevant emojis. This will give you a chance to feel out your audience to see if they respond well to emojis. Not everyone does!

Remember too that a constant stream of unhelpful, if fun, messages will result in irritated customers opting out of your contact list or deleting your app. Don’t get over-excited with the new plaything and start barraging your user base. Stick to the mobile marketing strategy of only issuing messages when you have a special offer to promote, or other information that will be of genuine interest. Incorporate emojis into these, rather than trying to build a new mobile marketing campaign around emojis.

A recent BI Intelligence report takes a look at mobile marketing tactics such as emojis. One of the key findings was the importance of marketers leveraging different tactics according to demographic and audience size. It’s vital to respect the personal nature of mobile messaging, and be highly vigilant for over doing it. Emojis are a good example of mobile marketing tactics that can go wrong if misapplied, but work wonders when done right.

April 04, 2016

How to Give Away a Million Burgers with Mobile Coupons

 

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Recently, the fast food chain Jack in the Box announced it was giving away one million of its new double-stacked, buttery-bun hamburgers. The “Declaration of Delicious” giveaway announcement came in the form of a Superbowl 50 commercial, and was designed to promote the restaurant chain’s new menu. 

 

Coupon Fun … And Fraud?

Consumers had one week to claim their free burgers. Doing so required making a visit to the Jack in the Box website and signing up to receive a mobile coupon for a free Double Jack or Jumbo Jack burger. 

However, coupon fraud is an issue that isn’t going away anytime soon, so how was it possible for one of the biggest burger chains in the United States to give away one million burgers without more than a few people claiming more than a few coupons? 

 

The Mobile Coupon Solution

In the old days, print coupons would have made the Jack in the Box giveaway a prime target for fraud. Today’s mobile coupons have all but eradicated the issue, with Jack in the Box combining online and offline tools to sidestep fraud-related problems. The restaurant chain sent redeemable codes over text or email to those who signed up to receive the coupon; the codes featured expiration dates. Guests had to either bring the printed versions of the online coupon to the restaurant, or show the codes to a staff member on a mobile device. 

 

What Consumers Preferred

Unsurprisingly, guests overwhelmingly favored the mobile version of the Jack in the Box coupons. Research by CodeBroker noted 70 percent to 80 percent of emailed coupons are viewed on mobile phones, while 20 percent to 30 percent of said coupons get printed. Overall, pulling up a coupon code is considered to be much easier than taking the time to print it.

In terms of email and SMS, consumers generally prefer receiving coupon codes via SMS. The percentage of those who indicate SMS as their favored methods for receiving deals and discounts has continued to rise over the past few years, something that’s very likely to continue. 

 

A Few Suggestions

The Jack in the Box promotion offers several lessons for marketers looking to refine their mobile tactics. For example, it’s been suggested that the restaurant chain emphasized its mobile app as a means of obtaining mobile coupons directly, as higher redemption rates come from app coupons, according to CodeBroker. Another suggestion marketers might consider for their own mobile marketing campaigns is one-time-use coupons at checkout. Generic promo codes generally result in more fraud.

Jack in the Box also missed a golden opportunity to collect information on consumer behavior throughout its burger campaign, starting with issuance and followed by redemption, location, and expiration. One-time-use coupons provide the chance to collect such analytics, and allow for tailored demographic segmentation and new campaign re-targeting. 

What’s the moral of this mobile marketing story? Jack in the Box did a fine job with its mobile marketing campaign, but failed to capitalize on a few key avenues. Mobile marketers would do well to fill in these holes in their own efforts. 

 

March 23, 2016

Do Good Week: Maintaining a Positive Company Culture

 

As part of this year's 'Do Good Week' we take a look at how you can inspire and maintain a positive company culture. 

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In order to do well in business, you need to maintain a positive company culture. What is a company culture and how do you create one that positively impacts your business, and therefore your customers? Company culture is a shared set of visions and values for the betterment of the company and those it serves, and it’s a collective effort to uphold those visions and values through every business decision and action.

 

Examples of a Positive Company Culture

A positive company culture is seen in the way leadership communicates with employees, in the enthusiasm employees have when performing their jobs, and in the effectiveness of the company to better the lives of its customers. Companies like The Disney Store have created a positive company culture by taking into consideration all of the above-mentioned points, and companies that are successful in creating a positive culture tend to experience enormous success.

 

The Importance of Positive Company Culture

It’s important that a company’s founder set the tone for a positive culture from day one. His or her visions and values can then be passed on to first-hire leadership, employee teams that are built subsequently, and any vendors or merchants that are representative of the company. It’s crucial that anyone who joins the company, in any capacity, is aware of the positive company culture that has been built and prepared to help maintain it. 

A positive company culture must be practiced and on display at all times in order to keep the business thriving. This means that anyone who is not on board with the culture that the company has created needs to decide to adopt a new attitude or face the consequences. Culture is that dire for a business’ success. 

 

How to Create and Maintain a Positive Company Culture

The culture a company creates for employees, and for customers, will be slightly different from one business to the next because of factors like the nature of business, the business’ target audience, and business location, among others. However, in the end, a positive company culture will be focused on a few things, including clear communication, fair dealing, and the happiness of employees and customers. The following are some goals a business can focus on to create a company culture that benefits management, shareholders, employees, and customers:

 

Recruit the Right People

To create a positive company culture, start with a leadership team that understands and embraces the business’ vision and values, and then make sure everyone who comes on board in any other capacity is clear and accepting of the culture. When you screen employees, hold willingness to uphold your company’s culture as a “must.” This will help your business by getting the right people into your company from day one, which means less turnover later. 

 

Commit to Orientations and Ongoing Training

Make it a requirement that every person who comes to work for your company go through an orientation that specifically addresses the company culture you’ve created. Also, make periodic training classes a requirement so that employees can receive updates to your visions and values (as they might change according to the state of an evolving business) and reminders about your company’s ultimate goals. 

In addition to these methods of maintaining a positive company culture, it’s a good idea to foster company-wide communication at every level, consider recognition and awards programs for those who go above and beyond in upholding your business’ values, and generate an atmosphere of caring in which employees feel connected and comfortable with each other, like a family.