Business

There is No Room for Passive Aggressiveness in Business

A post-it note stuck to your monitor, a "general reminder" during a staff meeting that can only be directed at one person, an overly-loud conversation between two coworkers about pet peeves shortly after you heated up your tikka masala lunch--we've all been on the receiving end of passive aggressive behaviour at work, and most of us have dished it out a time or two as well. But it's time to acknowledge the simple fact that there is no room for passive aggressiveness in business.

For one thing, we can all agree that it solves absolutely nothing. Never once has a company-wide email reminding people not to bring highly-spiced, odiferous foods for lunch actually stopped anyone from bringing highly-spiced, odiferous foods for lunch. What it does do, however, is further the resentment of the masses towards that one person that really enjoys eating curried meals midday, and isolate that person by publicly shaming them for their food preferences simply because a few people do not share the same flavour palate. In this scenario, the subject of the passive aggressive reminder knows that they are the target of it, and this will affect their mood at work going forward due to embarrassment. For some, it may lead to distancing themselves from their coworkers to avoid any other potentially embarrassing situations that may become the next company-wide email reminder.

Sometimes it isn't as easy to pinpoint the target of passive aggressive actions, and this only causes more discord and discomfort in an office environment. Music is a great example in this case because people are so passionate about what they like and dislike listening to while they work. So, imagine working in an environment where everyone has their own office, but there are no doors to close to hold in that sound. Naturally, everyone in that shared space will try to find a volume balance where they can enjoy their chosen music without disturbing the rest of the office. But even that isn't enough for some people.

An example: Molly* is listening to country music, and Sharon* really dislikes hearing snippets of it when she walks past Molly's office. Sharon then complains to Manager Tara* about Molly's music. This leads to Manager Tara reminding everyone to keep their music quiet to ensure that no one is disturbed by it, but never mentions to Molly that there was a complaint about her music. How is Molly to know that she needs to adjust her volume? She won't, which will lead to more complaints from Sharon, and more reminders from Manager Tara to keep the volumes down-- a frustratingly cyclical situation where, at some point, I imagine that Sharon will run short of patience and confront Molly, or angrily gossip about how obtuse Molly is for not understanding that the generic music reminder was directed at her.

This entire scenario sounds ridiculous typed out, but these kinds of situations happen daily in offices across the country. People feel isolated, picked on, shamed--and for no good reason, either.

There is nothing unprofessional about being direct with someone. So long as you are treating people with respect, and not belittling or condescending to the people you work with, being direct is generally the best way to deal with any situation. If Sharon has just asked Molly to turn her music down slightly, she would have saved everyone in the office from having to endure those reminders and Sharon's frustrations. And everyone will be much happier in the long run, I promise.


*Names are made up, naturally.


Author's Note: I've been sitting on versions of this post for a few months now. I've been hesitant to post it because I never want my clients to think that I'm calling them out or being negative about them. This post is based on a cumulation of over a decade of experience in the business world.


Wonderland Media is a digital media agency located in Edmonton, Alberta that specialises in creating and implementing strategies for: social media, content marketing, public relations, event marketing, branding, and graphic design. Owner and creative director Ashley Fisher puts her decade of experience with marketing, design, and writing to good use by guiding small businesses and bloggers through the digital marketing quagmire.

Keep up to date by following Wonderland Media on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

How to Price Services

Whenever I am consulting with business owners, especially newer ones, the subject of pricing comes up frequently. Product pricing can be determined mostly using a formula, but pricing services can feel like a shot in the dark. There is no magic formula that works for every situation (unless you have one, in which case please share!), but there are ways to figure out if you are charging an appropriate rate for your services.

I use a simple spreadsheet to track my research which you can find here. You can download it by going to File > Download As, and then choosing which format you'd like to use.

Note: The formulas I have included make a few assumptions: that you fill out all 10 blank spaces on tabs one and two, and that you are working 8 hour days/40 hour weeks. You will need to update the formula for the averages throughout if you choose to use a different number of comparables or hours per day/week.

Comparison Shop

This may seem like a no-brainer, but doing research before setting your own rates is important. Charge too little and you're losing money on a project, but charging too much can drive potential customers away before you have a chance to speak with them. Find several comparable businesses that target similar markets and offer services like your own--the more comparable you have, the more accurate your pricing will be. Tab 1 of my spreadsheet contains the table to complete for comparable services research.

Research Salaries for Similar Jobs

If you were employed by a company to complete the services you sell, they will pay you based on industry norms and experience level. Glassdoor has an excellent salary tool that takes your geography into account. Once you find the annual salary for a comparable position, fill out the second sheet of the spreadsheet to figure out average hourly rates for those positions. Compare these results to the first tab, and you'll have a better picture of what reasonable rates for your area are.

Cost of Doing Business

When setting your prices, you have to make sure that you are covering the costs of operating your business. For this, you'll need to know how much you are spending on supplies, infrastructure, and other business needs, and then convert than into an hourly figure. The third sheet contains a table that will help you determine how much you need to make per hour to cover these costs.

In the end, you have to price the services that you offer in a way that makes you comfortable, but following these steps will ensure that your pricing is fair to both you and your consumer. Be sure to revisit your pricing regularly to keep your pricing in line with industry changes. Personally, I revisit my pricing structure at least once each quarter.

Need help? Send us an email at ashley [at] wonderlandmedia [dot] ca.

Avoid Customer Burnout With These Tips.

I want to support my small business-owning friends because I know how how hard it is to try and pave your own way in the world. It doesn't matter if you are an interior designer, a fitness coach, or a product representative (hey, Avon ladies!)--I want to support you. I want to know about your products, and I want to see your success. But, guys and gals, I cannot hold my silence any longer. There are so many amazing products that are sold through reps--Avon, Younique, hundreds of awesome leggings companies, Monat, Scentsy (and Party Lite, their candle counterpart), Mary Kay, and countless others that I know I'm missing. These direct sales positions can be incorporated into almost any lifestyle because they are so flexible, and I can understand the appeal. Create your own hours! Work from home! Be part of a dynamic team! Work with a seasoned mentor to learn more about business! Use your social network to recruit others! Copy and paste 30 status updates to your Facebook wall every day! Forget family photos--post our branded photos instead!

Wait...what?

The perks of being a product rep are amazing. The product line you are hawking is miraculous. We get it. And do you know how we get it? Because you are shoving it down our throats constantly.

The 80/20 Rule

There is a general rule in social media marketing called the 80/20 rule. In essence, you should be posting about your own brand only 20% of the time; the remaining 80% should be community outreach, sharing non-branded content, and generally cultivating a community around your brand.the 80/20 business wreath by wonderland media

Consider this business wreath--which is a thing, I promise. It illustrates (in the most beautiful way possible!) the 80/20 rule. Let's break it down.

 

  • The blue flowers represent your branded/product posting. Take note how few blue flowers are on the wreath!
  • The rest of the wreath represents your remaining social media posts. Post (yours or other's) tutorials, blog posts from like-minded bloggers, etc.
  • Visually, the wreath is cohesive, which alludes to your brand voice. Without curating your posts around your brand identity, you'll end up with a smorgasboard of posts and very little growth.

 

Creating your brand voice is personal, and may evolve over time. If you're incorporating religion into your beauty business, you could post inspiring stories from like-minded blogs. YouTube videos, funny memes about makeup, blog posts from beauty bloggers--these would fit into the voice of a beauty product representative.

 

I work with a few Scentsy reps as their business coach, and we've found through trial and error that Scentsy customers also tend to use essential oils, natural products, and enjoy DIY projects. Obviously this is our limited experience, not a sweeping generalization of the Scentsy customer base as a whole, but it goes to show how you can link together multiple ideas into your brand voice.

 

Tried and tested, this is one of the hard-and-fast business rules I always try to reinforce with my clients, but especially for anyone that is using their person profiles to promote their business. Failing to follow it will lead to brand burnout with your potential customers, and could lead to annoyed friends or family muting your posts entirely.

Extra Credit

It's your responsibility to nurture and grow your business, but there are tons of ways to make it a little easier on yourself. Here are some ways to avoid annoying your friends and family while still growing your business:

Create a dedicated Facebook page for your business.

You can invite your friends and family to like it--that way they get to choose if they want to follow your journey. This allows you to keep all of your business information in one place, if someone decides they want to look up a video or photo of a product, and it gives you more freedom to post the content when and how you like. Personal accounts are just that--meant for sharing your life with your friends and family, while following a business page comes with the expectation that you are going to try to sell to them.

Ask for permission before adding someone to a group for your business.

Groups are very different from business pages, and they should be treated as such. Groups are meant to foster discussions and connections within your community, whether it be with your colleagues or your customers. Not everyone that follows your page wants to be alerted each time a post is made, which is the default setting for groups. Save the group for your VIP clients, those that you've recruited to work with you, or people who express an interest in sustaining a long-term conversation about your product.

Don't just copy and paste.

Yes, I know that these companies come with robust marketing support, and probably have already sent you an eBook with 50 Facebook Posts That Convert. Just remember that people aren't stupid--even a non-marketer can identify when someone uses a pre-written post and not something unique or tailored to the rep. Instead of capturing attention, this conveys that you are just in it for the money, and not selling a product you are passionate about. Take two minutes to write your own copy, in your own voice. It makes a difference!

 

Have any other tips to add? Let us know in the comments!

 

Are you a business owner or product rep that wants help? Fill out the short form below to get started!
[contact-form][contact-field label='Name' type='name' required='1'/][contact-field label='Email' type='email' required='1'/][contact-field label='Comment' type='textarea' required='1'/][/contact-form]

 


Creative Market assets found in this post:

fleur watercolor assets from creative market

Advice from a Professional on Websites, Branding, and Being a Good Friend (to your professional friends).

As soon as someone finds out what I do for a living, the questions start coming. Some of them--like how I got into the industry--are pretty benign questions. Frequently, though, questions veer from personal to professional, and I end up giving out advice that would normally cost someone a few hundred dollars. My answers aren't usually what they expect, but they're what I need to give them:

  • Yes, I can take a look at your website and tell you what needs fixing. Please email me and I'll send you a quote for an appraisal. 
  • Sure, I can make you a simple logo with short notice. Please email me and I'll send you a quote for logo design. 
  • You hate your business cards? That's unfortunate. Please email me and I'll send you a quote for business card design. 
  • You want to launch a newsletter for your customers? Please email me and I'll send you a quote for newsletter design, content creation, and newsletter management. 

Unfortunately, too many people assume that designers and marketers are chomping at the bit to add (unpaid) work to their portfolio, or will work for dirt cheap/free because you are friends/family/co workers/distant relatives/neighbours/insert relationship here.

As a small business owner, I absolutely understand that sometimes you just don't have the budget for something. I can empathize with starting up a business on a shoestring budget. But I need you to understand that, while you need cards to promote your business selling widgets so that you can pay your bills, I need to charge for design work so that I can pay my bills.

So let me give you some free advice in the hopes of clearing up some misconceptions. All of these nuggets are based on the questions that I am most often asked about marketing, branding, and working with authors.

Branding

  • Yes, you need to develop your brand. You can use our branding workbook, or create a simple Word document outlining your logo, fonts, colors, and how you want your brand is portrayed to the world, but you need to sit down and figure this out sooner than later. This will be extremely helpful when you can work with a professional designer.

Websites

  • Yes, you need a website. If you offer products or services to consumers then you need a website so that people can find your business, refer you to potential clients, and act as the base for your online presence. If you are an author, you (at least) need a well-designed one page site with your information, links to published works, and contact information.
  • Just throwing one together using Blogger/Wordpress/Squarespace alone isn't enough to convey your professionalism or brand properly. You can make one yourself, but be ready to learn (at the very least) HTML and CSS to create one that is professional and customized to your brand.
  • Yes, even if you are a one-person show, you should have a website for your business.
  • No, you don't need to have a blog. If you aren't going to use it, don't add one to your site. If you are going to use it, make sure you update it regularly so that people can see that you are an expert in your field.

Marketing - Traditional

  • Yes, you need a logo.
  • No, using a logo generating website is not your best option. Depending on your needs, I can create one for as low as $50 for you--fully customized, and will properly represent your company branding.
  • Yes, you should have your marketing materials professionally designed and printed. Again, this goes back to consistency in branding and presenting a professional face to the world. This includes any assets used in your digital marketing, including Facebook and Twitter cover images, website imagery, downloads, newsletters, etc.

Marketing - Digital

  • If you sell products or services to clients, and you wish to expand your business and attract new customers, you should be marketing your business online.
  • You don't have to sink thousands of dollars into your digital marketing, but be ready for less than stellar results if you choose not to invest enough money.
  • Social media presence isn't a requirement, but it will allow you to see what people are saying about you and give you a chance to respond accordingly.

Editing/Proofreading/Line Edits/Manuscript Critiquing

  • Yes, you need a professional to look over your manuscript before self-publishing or querying an agent/publisher. You want the world to see the best version of your work possible, so that means having someone other than your friend or family member comb through your manuscript.
  • There are a lot of great resources for free help (I love Absolute Write for this), but remember that the advice you are given there is generally from amateurs or those with little experience with professionally editing, proofing, and providing feedback on manuscripts. *There are professionals that take part in the forums, however they are generally hesitant to give the cow away for free--as they should.*

I am probably missing some of the generalized advice that I've given, but this list is a very good start. Try to keep these points in mind when approaching professionals, and don't take it personally if they are cagey with their answers or outright tell you that they charge for services. We all have bills to pay, and unfortunately the bank does not accept gratitude.

Love the Space You're In

No matter which field you work in, professional envy is a thing, and it can rear its ugly head in infinite different ways. It's tricky, and it usually creeps up on you with zero notice. For me, it showed up as extreme office envy.

I live in a condo downtown, so the fact that I have an entire room dedicated to being my studio is incredibly fortuitous. I have a room where I can practice yoga, paint, create, or just use as an escape from the busyness of life.

Of course, there is a but coming. But. I don't own a proper desk, so instead I have an end table to put my computer on--and I sit on the floor. My monitor is propped up on yoga blocks, and there is nowhere to put my printer so it stays in the living room until I need it. Not exactly an inspiring place to work from...

Curse Instagram and Pinterest for perpetuating the idea of perfection and curation, and curse me for falling prey to the green goblin that is envy! For so long, I would look at the incredible spaces that others have built and shame myself for not having a beautifully designed den from which to work.

But envy no more. I keep reminding myself that it's a start. Every small business has a humble beginning, and this is mine. The room is a blank canvas, and it's my blank canvas. One day I'll have my dream office to work out of, and I'll appreciate it all the more for the wait.