Category Archives: business

Does My Restaurant Need to Offer Mobile Ordering to Get Ahead?

Does My Restaurant Need to Offer Mobile Ordering to Get Ahead?

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National chains like Starbucks, Five Guys, Chick-fil-A, Taco Bell and, most recently, McDonald’s have popularized online ordering, and busy customers appreciate the convenience of skipping the line. But if you’re an independent restaurant owner who doesn’t have the deep pockets of a franchise or chain, does mobile order-ahead make sense for your business?

The expense and technological know-how needed to create and maintain a mobile ordering app may be daunting, but if you’re looking for strategies to give your restaurant a competitive edge, offering mobile order-ahead is worth looking into – and there are several options that are less expensive and easier to implement than a custom app.

In addition to cutting your customers’ wait time and making it convenient for them to quickly pick up their orders, mobile order-ahead can help you attract new customers and gain increased loyalty from your existing clientele. Consider the following:

When selecting menu items on their phone, customers have no fear of receiving a judgmental smirk (whether real or imagined) when ordering large fries with a diet beverage and low-carb entree, or of hearing impatient sighs from customers waiting behind them as they study the menu. As a result, they’re likely to place larger orders. For example, Business Insider reports that Taco Bell’s mobile order tickets are 30 percent higher than its in-store sales.

The National Restaurant Association’s 2016 State of the Industry report shows that 63 percent of smartphone users place takeout or delivery orders using their phones. However, only 37 percent of restaurants offer mobile ordering, with chains and franchises four times more likely to offer mobile order-ahead apps than independently owned establishments. Industry experts expect the demand for mobile order-ahead to rise, estimating a 57 percent increase in these sales over a five-year period, reaching $38 billion by 2020, according to Business Insider. Adopting this technology now sets your business apart as a trendsetter and allows you to cater to customers who don’t want to spend their lunch hour waiting in line.

In addition to craving convenience, consumers want to save money. By offering coupons, promotions or loyalty rewards to your customers through your online ordering app or website, you encourage repeat business.

The NPD Group, a marketing research company, notes that money-saving promotions are effective incentives for mobile order-ahead customers, with 29 percent of all digital orders utilizing coupons. The combination of order-ahead and loyalty programs has been successful for Starbucks, which reported to Forbes a 16 percent year-over-year increase in active app users and 27 percent of its U.S. sales coming from orders placed using its app.

While the benefits of offering mobile order-ahead technology to your customers is enticing, the cost and complexity of creating a custom app can be prohibitive.

“In a smaller merchant’s reality, very few are ready to invest $10,000, let alone $100,000, in an ecommerce website and a mobile ordering application,” said Jean-Francois Noel, CEO of mobile ordering solutions company FANS Entertainment, in an interview with PYMNTS.

However, white-label apps and order-ahead aggregators are lower-cost alternatives that can give you the functionality you need. Here are some options to consider:

Some point-of-sale companies, such as Revel Systems and SalesVu, offer white-label apps that you can customize with your restaurant’s branding and use for mobile orders. The advantage to this solution is that the app is ready to use – it’s already been developed and tested – and integrates seamlessly with your POS system. The drawback is that, if you switch POS systems, you also have to find a new mobile ordering solution.

Order-ahead aggregators, such as Grubhub and Yelp’s Eat24, are mobile app platforms that work with many restaurants, giving customers the ability to find multiple order-ahead and delivery restaurants from a single app. Engadget reports that Amazon is also getting into the order-ahead aggregator space through the new Amazon Pay Places feature on its app, though at this time it’s only available to TGI Fridays restaurants in a few eastern U.S. cities.

The benefits of working with an aggregator are that it’s less expensive than other options and helps order-ahead customers find you, which is an advantage that even restaurants with custom apps could capitalize on. However, it lumps your restaurant in with your local competitors, and repeat customers may choose to try another local restaurant when presented with multiple options.

Although mobile order-ahead is increasingly popular, especially among quick-service restaurants, developing a custom app is a costly venture that not many independent restaurant owners can afford. However, less expensive options, particularly working with an order-ahead aggregator, are viable solutions that restaurant owners would do well to investigate.

Social Media for Business: A Marketer’s Guide

Social Media for Business: A Marketer’s Guide

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With such a large percentage of the public using social media – Pew Research Center reports 70 percent – businesses can’t afford not to interact with customers via channels like Facebook, Twitter and other social platforms. But while you should be marketing via social media, you shouldn’t necessarily be on every channel. It’s important for you to invest in the platforms where you’re more likely to reach and engage with your audience.

To choose the best social media channels for you to interact with your customers, take some time to familiarize yourself with each network, how it runs and what demographics use that platform. Here are the basics you need to know about today’s most popular social media platforms.

Facebook is the biggest social network on the web, both in terms of name recognition and total number of users. With nearly 2 billion active users, Facebook is a great medium for connecting people from all over the world with your business.

In the 13 years since it launched, Facebook has grown from a simple website where college students could keep in touch into a multifaceted web and mobile social platform where anyone can connect with not just their friends and family, but also celebrities, organizations, businesses and more, thanks to the Pages feature.

Considering that Facebook has a wealth of options for any type of organization, it’s a great starting point for your business, regardless of your industry. You can use Facebook to share photos, videos, important company updates and more. Additionally, the site can be more low-maintenance than other social networks. Whether you post several updates a day or only a few a week won’t make much of a difference in what your fans think of you.

Facebook for Business: Everything You Need to Know

Facebook for Business: Everything You Need to Know

Facebook tips, business

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Facebook is currently the biggest social media platform in the world, with over 2 billion active users. While most users update their personal profiles and interact with their friends on this website, many businesses have found it useful for advertising and connecting with customers.

Using Facebook for business purposes can sometimes be difficult. Because of Facebook’s rules and algorithms, it can be difficult to make sure your followers see what you post. This social media platform is also one of the most difficult to use if you want organic traffic. However, Facebook is one of the best tools to use if you want to target a specific audience through paid campaigns. Facebook knows a lot about its users, and it uses this information to your advantage when you purchase ads.

In order to run ads on Facebook, you need to create a business page. Keep in mind that you can only create a business page if you have a personal account on Facebook.

Creating a business page is fairly straightforward; Facebook guides you through the steps, and you can always visit the help center for assistance if needed.

Beyond the basic general information required by Facebook (name, username and business category), be sure to include as many details as you can about your business, such as your contact information, website, social accounts, default and cover photos, “about” section, hours, location, etc. so your customers know they’ve come to the right page.

Other important features to pay attention to on your business’ Facebook page include:

You can add a call-to-action button to the top of your page to encourage visitors to interact. Some examples of things you can have customers do include book services, get in touch, shop, sign up, or download an app/game. Facebook recently rolled out some new call-to-action options, so you’ll be able to choose from a wider range of buttons to display for your page visitors.

On the left-hand side of your page, you can add a link for reviews. Here, customers can leave a star rating and write a review on your business. Reviews and ratings show up at the top of your page. These reviews help verify your business and make it easy for satisfied customers to recommend your product.

The community page is where posts, photos and videos from customers show up. Customers can also check in to your store here. This page is a great area for your audience to interact and learn more about your company.

The messages at the top of your page takes you to an inbox with messages from your audience. Messages are similar to the regular chat feature on Facebook, but this lets you respond as your page. Keep in mind that your page messages don’t come through on the Facebook Messenger app; you have to download the Facebook Page app to receive these messages on mobile devices.

Facebook Messenger is an important customer service tool, and customers expect you to use it – in fact, Facebook tracks the response rates and times of brand pages so customers know how quickly they can expect an answer. As your business grows, however, it may get more difficult to keep up with the volume of incoming messages. Messenger now has several new tools and updates that make it easier for brands to engage with customers on the platform, including Natural Language Processing for Messenger chatbots. It’s also easier and more attractive for consumers to use, especially if they are making purchases: When purchasing via Facebook, customers can now use Payments on Messenger for a one-step checkout process.

This is an analytics tools provided by Facebook. It’s free to use, and shows information on actions taken, page views, the number of people you’ve reached, the number of post engagements and more. This information can help you create social campaigns that are effective.

You can use Facebook’s publishing tools to schedule posts to go live in the future. You can also create videos here, post job applications and create lead forms.

Once you’ve created your business’s Facebook page, the real challenge begins: creating and engaging an audience of followers and customers. Here are 10 tips to help you along the way.

Facebook has excellent targeting tools. It can help you target a specific demographic, location, and interest groups. You have to know who you’re trying to sell to first, of course. Once you have an idea of who your ideal audience is, utilize the targeting tools Facebook offers.

While you’ve created a business Facebook page to gain more customers, your audience won’t respond well to you if you’re only trying to sell them your product or service with every post. Try to be personable in your Facebook posts. Help your audience feel comfortable with you by sharing more than marketing content.

It can be difficult to get organic traffic on Facebook, but doing giveaways and other contests can help. You can use services like Rafflecopter to offer an incentive for liking and following your page. It’s a good idea to get followers to share your page in order to qualify for the contest. Be sure the giveaway is relevant to what you’re selling. You want to attract the ideal audience, so don’t give away something random; give away something that the ideal buyer will want.

Facebook allows you to create events as your page. You can invite anyone to these events, and pay extra to promote them to a targeted audience on Facebook. Events can be a good way to engage your audience and turn them into customers.

It can be time consuming to create and share only original content. You can save some time and effort by curating and sharing relevant content from other sources that your ideal audience would also be interested in. Networking with these other sources might benefit you in other ways, as well. Some of these sources might share your content in return, which can help you connect with a wider audience.

Don’t just publish a post and then be done with Facebook for the week. Create and share posts that will engage your audience, and then respond to their comments, questions and concerns. If you’re having conversations with your audience, they’re more likely to become your customers.

Remember the good times and celebrate anniversaries by highlighting company milestones like the anniversary of your opening, your first 1,000 followers, or another milestone. These can help engage your audience and seem more personable. If you’re offering a special promotion for any milestones or anniversaries, you can promote them here, as well.

Facebook offers insights and analytics on how your posts are performing. Take advantage of these statistics to find out what kind of content is engaging your audience. Adjust your posts according to what you find to become more engaging, and reuse the strategies that are most successful.

If you find that you’re spending too much time on Facebook each day, you can try scheduling your posts. You can do some of this in Facebook itself, or you can use a third-party platform like HootSuite or Buffer to create and schedule content to share in the future. While this does take up some time upfront, it can save you time in the long run.

The best way to reach your desired audience is to run Facebook ads. While these do cost money, they’re effective because of Facebook’s audience targeting tools. You can choose a daily or overall budget for ads, select the amount of time an ad runs and adjust your desired audience. Facebook tracks the interactions on each promotion you run, which can help you develop highly successful campaigns in the future.

For more tips on using Facebook for Business, check out this BND guide.

What Employees Really Need From HR

What Employees Really Need From HR

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To achieve a productive atmosphere – and an engaged company culture – you need to establish open communication with your employees. However, only 16 percent of employees feel connected and engaged at work, finds a new survey.

The study by EmployeeChannel, Inc. revealed that frequent and effective communication are the top two behaviors that create a positive experience at work, and open communication ranked as one of the top initiatives employees want in a company. However, nearly half of employees are neutral, disagree or strongly disagree that their HR’s communication efforts make them feel informed or involved.

Poor communication is bad for employee retention and recruitment, putting businesses at risk for high turnover rates. Employees might also fall short of assignments and deadlines, causing your company to suffer.

Steve Adams, CEO of EmployeeChannel, noted that using modern technology solutions to communicate with your employees can help make sure that everyone is on the same page. It’s crucial to take advantage of mobile, personalization, analytics and AI technologies to provide an employee-centric solution, he added.

“Based upon our research and hundreds of conversations with HR and internal communication teams, we believe the most effective way to address employee engagement is to acknowledge that employee communication is the cornerstone of employee engagement, and to commit to improving employee communication using contemporary technologies,” said Adams.

Not all workers sit in an office with their manager from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m, so when choosing your communications technologies, you need to consider employees’ individual workflows and schedules to serve their specific needs.

“For non-desktop and remote workers, any solution must be designed from the employee perspective and must be on the communication device that is most critical to their personal lives – the mobile phone,” Adams stated.

He noted that mobile phones are the best choice today, since most people are attached to their devices at all times, making it easier to connect with workers who aren’t in-office.

Once you implement a technological solution that suits the needs of managers and employees, learn how to efficiently follow through with your plan. Adams offered the following tips for HR professionals to make sure they’re communicating well with their employees.

  • Perform a communication audit. This will help you understand how to best communicate with employees today, what’s working and what’s not.
  • Develop a “fit-to-purpose” model. You want the channel of communication to match your desired business outcome.
  • Create a multi-channel communication strategy. Base this on the “fit to purpose” model. No single channel will meet your communication needs.
  • Train employees. Make sure workers understand the fit-to-purpose model and multi-channel strategy so that they can effectively use it.
  • Provide a single platform for employer-to-employee communication. Make sure it supports the model and mitigates possible challenge
  • Use behavioral insights to gauge impact and effectiveness. Have an analytics platform that provides data on trends and employee engagement.

5 Top Expense Trackers

5 Top Expense Trackers

An expense tracking app can help you reimburse your employees. / Credit: Shutterstock

Rent, utilities, equipment, furniture, inventory, licenses, insurance, marketing, staff – small businesses incur all sorts of expenses. It’s essential that you keep careful track of them all to make sure you stay on budget. Thanks to an explosion of quality money-tracking apps, it’s now easier to track your expenses than ever before. We researched dozens of popular money-tracking apps to bring you our top five picks for 2017.


Available on Android and iOS devices, Expensify is great for making expense reports on the go. A must for frequent business travelers, Expensify allows you to take photos of receipts and manually log expenses. When you take a photo of a receipt in Expensify, the app automatically reads the receipt and translates it into a logged expense. You can organize your expenses by categories, like mileage, travel and food. Best of all, Expensify is free for individuals and just $5 a month for teams.



Concur is a robust business expense reporting app that’s perfect for established (and growing) small and midsized businesses. In addition to the ability to track expenses, Concur has built-in workflows for employee reimbursement, submissions and approvals, invoice tracking, vendor payments, travel booking, and more. The great thing about Concur is that you can build it out however you want, and it charges you accordingly (based on features and number of users). Concur is also a great choice for serious tracking, because the company offers a suite of products for small businesses, so you can add more functionality as you need it. The app is free, and available on iOS and Android, for existing Concur customers.



Wally is a colorful app with a poppy interface and lots of great expense-tracking functionality built in. You can use Wally on an Android or iOS device, and it’s free. Like in other expense-tracking apps, you can take photos of receipts directly in Wally or enter expenses by hand and categorize them accordingly. Wally also tracks your income for you and offers you a projected savings for each month. With its focus on personal finance rather than business finance, Wally is a good fit for people with microbusinesses or side hustles.



We already know that QuickBooks is one of the most popular accounting software solutions for entrepreneurs, and the company’s app for expense tracking is excellent. Compatible with both iOS and Android devices, QuickBooks Self-Employed costs $5 a month and packs a serious punch in the features department. This app allows entrepreneurs to separate business and personal expenses, and track both. You can automatically track mileage, create and send invoices no matter where you are, estimate taxes on a quarterly basis (no math required), and more. You can also pair QuickBooks Self-Employed with TurboTax for just $12 a month and enjoy a super-easy tax filing process. As the name suggests, this app is best for self-employed entrepreneurs or owners of microbusinesses.



A comprehensive cloud-based accounting program, FreshBooks start at $9.95 a month for a single user and five clients, but if you own an SMB, we recommend opting for the $29.95-monthly plan, which allows an unlimited number of clients and an extra staff member, as well as project management tools. You can access FreshBooks on any iOS or Android device as well as on your laptop, making it a good option for entrepreneurs who want a fully functional accounting package that also has mobile expense-tracking abilities.

How to Wirelessly Print From Your Smartphone or Tablet

How to Wirelessly Print From Your Smartphone or Tablet

Sometimes, you just need to print something out. / Credit: Shutterstock

The world is becoming increasingly paperless and mobile, but from time to time, printing is still necessary. But not everyone knows exactly how to connect their smartphone to their printer. Check out our step-by-step guide below to wireless printing from your iPhone, Android or Windows 10 device.

Google Cloud Print comes preinstalled on most Android devices, but you can download it manually.

  1. Once you have Google Cloud Print, open the app you’re printing from and tap the three dots that indicate more options (usually in the upper right corner) to find and select the Print option.
  2. Identify or add a printer compatible with your device that’s on the same shared Wi-Fi network.
  3. Once the printer is added, printing from your Android device should be self-explanatory.

Apple’s built-in AirPrint feature makes it easy to print directly from any iPhone or iPad without downloading additional drivers.

  1. You can only use AirPrint with printers compatible with Apple’s technology. Check this list to make sure your printer is AirPrint-enabled.
  2. Make sure your phone and your printer are on the same Wi-Fi network.
  3. Next, open the app you want to print from and find the print option, which may be under Share, Print or Other Options. Tap Print or the printer icon and select Choose an AirPrint-enabled printer.
  4. You should be able to easily identify and select the printer of your choice (or add a new printer), specify your printing needs (number of copies, etc.) and send your job to the chosen printer.

If you’re still having trouble using AirPrint, make sure you’re running the latest version of iOS and that the app you’re printing from doesn’t have any updates available.

If you’re using a Windows 10 device and you want to print wirelessly, the setup is easy.

  1. First, open Cortana and type in Printer. Select Printers & Scanners when it appears.
  2. Select Add a Printer or Scanner. Assuming your printer is on the same Wi-Fi network as your Windows 10 device, you should have no problem locating it and adding it to your queue.
  3. Now you should be able to print with ease.

If you have a Windows 8 device without a built-in driver, here’s what you need to do to wirelessly print.

  1. Download Print Now ($1.99). It’s a Windows application that makes it possible for Windows users to wirelessly print through Google Cloud Print.
  2. Make sure your Windows device is connected to the same Wi-Fi network as your cloud-ready printer.
  3. Link your printer to Google Cloud Print by opening Chrome browser and typing chrome://devices.
  4. Under New Devices, locate your printer. Click Manage next to it.
  5. In the Confirm Registration pop-up window, click Register.
  6. Go to and click Printers to confirm your printer is registered.
  7. Once that’s done, it’s easy to send files to the printer from OneDrive, Google Drive, Dropbox or your phone’s onboard media library.

Could iMessage Be Your Next Customer Service Opportunity?

Could iMessage Be Your Next Customer Service Opportunity?

Texting at work can make employees more productive. / Credit: Texting image via Shutterstock

When everyone is heads-down glued to their phones, it’s usually because they’re tapping away, sending messages back and forth. The ubiquity of instant messaging has trained all of us to ping someone with a text or chat message instead of the last-century method of making a phone call.

This behavior modification has an important impact on business. Recent research from BI Intelligence found that customers are more likely to shop at a business they can engage with through a chat app. Facebook, Google and other companies already offer their own solutions for doing this with tools like Messenger and Google My Business.

Apple is finally jumping into this area, launching Apple Business Chat. The feature is in preview and is set for release later this year with iOS 11. It’ll integrate an iMessage-style option right inside Apple Maps and search results on one’s iPhone.

Apple Business Chat empowers customers to reach out to a business directly through iMessage. Credit: AppleYou’ll also be able to begin a conversation with a business through Siri and Spotlight search. It leverages Apple’s ecosystem to deliver a frictionless experience, something that has traditionally been a strength of Facebook and Google.

The strategy for Apple is critical. A presentation archived from the company’s Worldwide Developer Conference details how one could go from searching for a business to striking up a conversation right on the iPhone.

“In looking at what [Apple is] offering, it’s a straightforward kind of step for people to take advantage of the ubiquity of people’s smartphones and knowing their location and leveraging that to get people connected with business,” said Bob O’Donnell, founder and chief analyst of TECHnalysis Research. “This then provides the business with another tool to interact with the customers directly.”

The biggest question mark, according to O’Donnell, is automation. For example, businesses with a Facebook page can use Messenger to deliver an automatic message once someone writes in. This way consumers get the immediate feedback, and it buys the business time to respond.

With smaller shops especially, not all owners are available to hop right onto their phones and respond. For the feature to be more practical, some type of automated response system should be built in, according to O’Donnell.

Apple Business Chat is but one of many ways that businesses can embrace digital tools for communicating with current and potential customers.

“Data shows more and more people are clicking on ads online, particularly on mobile, ordering products, and doing most of their research with their smartphone,” said O’Donnell. “[For] a local business … [these devices] have considerable value, [giving them] the ability to tap into how a smartphone can recognize where a person is and what sorts of things they’re searching for.”

Business Chat is available in preview with iOS 11. One must sign up for the developer preview to try it out, keeping in mind there are likely to be bugs and other instabilities with the current version. Additionally, Apple may announce other features as it gets closer to a launch date.

What Apple’s New App Store Guidelines Mean for Small Business

What Apple’s New App Store Guidelines Mean for Small Business

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Tech-loving small business owners are probably aware that Apple recently released updated guidelines governing the acceptance of apps in iTunes. One of the changes has ruffled some feathers, particularly with those who aren’t all that tech savvy. It’s especially impacting companies that have relied on no-code app makers.

In the Minimal Functionality section of the update, under section 4.2.6., Apple’s App Store review guidelines now state, “Apps created from a commercialized template or app generation service will be rejected.” Since many small business owners use app generation services or independent contractors to build customized apps, this new standard could be alarming. Not all app makers and subsequent apps are so impacted, but some are according to reports about companies such as Appy Pie. However, Appy Pie tells us that only one app created on their platform (one of more than 2 million) has been impacted thus far. The company also said it is receiving more users per day than before.

Based on the work Apple has done over the past year to clean up the App Store, it looks like the focus of the guideline changes has been on removing outdated apps, copycat apps and spam apps. As you can imagine, most spam apps aren’t created by diligent developers who spend hours on each design; they’re created using simple templates and app builders.

While we can’t say for sure that Apple’s new guidelines won’t change the app creation process for small business owners, it’s reasonable to guess that most rejected apps will be in violation of more than just guideline 4.2.6. However, Apple is unlikely to be clear as to why your app has been rejected or ejected from the store.

Before you invest in building a coded, custom app for your business, do your homework and understand the risks involved. It is possible that an app you have created will be rejected, not only based on the rule outlined under 4.2.6. but because of one of the many other guidelines on Apple’s list.

If you hire an independent developer to create an app for you, you should ask them if they’ve read Apple’s new App Store review guidelines and how they plan on maintaining compliance. You should also ask any potential developer you hire how they will handle operating system updates, since Apple now requires all apps to stay current if they want to stay in the app store. If you plan to use a DIY app maker, make sure it does not advertise as a no-code maker and is more targeted at low-code or custom code.

For Great Hires, Personalize the Candidate Experience

For Great Hires, Personalize the Candidate Experience

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To attract modern candidates, your company needs a modern hiring strategy – and that means focusing on the candidate experience.

Human resource software company SilkRoad recently conducted research to determine the current state of hiring in America, including what today’s candidates are looking for. According to data from 14 million applicants, 329,000 hires and 655,000 interviews, SilkRoad concluded that job candidates want companies to develop a holistic approach to hiring that encompasses the entire spectrum of prospective employment into a single experience.

“Modern job seekers view their interactions with a company – from recruitment to retirement – as a single integrated experience, and companies need to adopt an approach which matches that way of thinking,” said Amber Hyatt, vice president of product marketing at SilkRoad.

“Companies should build a hiring strategy around five best practices: know your audience, create a persona, develop your employee value proposition, evaluate the current candidate experience and connect the candidate to company goals. By following these steps, companies can improve their sourcing effectiveness and deliver an amazing personalized candidate experience.”

Based on SilkRoad’s Sources of Hire report, here’s what your company needs to do to create a seamless, personalized hiring experience for candidates. 

1. Know your audience. Using data from prospective candidates, generate an employee profile based on the qualities and skills for a position and the characteristics that excel in your organization.

2. Create a persona. Identify candidate demographics and consider their qualities, not their qualifications. From here, create a career story attractive to this persona and design a singular experience mapped to it.

3. Develop your employee value proposition. Consider your survey data and star employees, then conduct interviews with staff to expand on the patterns found within. From here, design a message that attracts candidates and promote it like crazy on social media, your blog and employee referral programs.

4. Evaluate the current candidate experience. The application process should be as basic as possible. Go mobile with an easy to use app for phones and tablets and trim down on questions; ask the right ones at the right time. Develop a communication process that reflects your brand and train your team and hiring managers how to present and discuss it to remove bias.

5. Connect the candidate to company goals. Help a candidate envision their role within your company by providing insight into their potential impact on the organization. Through clarity of expectations, development, and mentoring programs and a mutual knowledge of a feedback schedule, a culture of feedback will create engagement and a vested interest from the candidate.

The Science of Persuasion: How to Influence Consumer Choice

The Science of Persuasion: How to Influence Consumer Choice

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How do you get a person to buy a product or service? Psychology holds answers to questions that have preoccupied marketing departments for decades, particularly surrounding how to influence people and how people respond to attempts to influence their behaviors.

“Persuasion is no longer just an art, it’s an out-and-out science,” said Robert Cialdini, professor emeritus of psychology and marketing at Arizona State University, at the 125th Annual Convention of the American Psychological Association. “Indeed, a vast body of scientific evidence now exists on how, when and why people say yes to influence attempts.”

Cialdini has synthesized years of research on social influence into six universal principles for understanding attempts to influence human behavior. These can be used by businesses and consumers alike to better understand the inner workings of purchasing behaviors, as well as which appeals are more or less likely to succeed.

  1. Reciprocity – Humans often feel the need to return a favor or reciprocate kind gestures. When it comes to consumers, this might be fostered by offering a free sample or generous discount, for example.
  2. Commitment – Once someone is engaged with something, they are more likely to stick with it. In business, this means cultivating brand loyalty; once someone is working with a product or using a service, they are more likely to commit to paying for it again.
  3. Pack mentality – The more people who do a certain thing, the more likely others are to do it as well. When brands can demonstrate their popularity or satisfaction across a wide customer base, other consumers are more likely to buy in as well.
  4. Authority – People are more likely to listen to an expert than just anyone off the street. So, while pack mentality is important, having a relevant expert speak to the effectiveness of a brand’s product or service is essential to converting new consumers as well.
  5. Liking – People who are similar to the target consumer are more likely to persuade the consumer to buy. People from similar demographics, whether in terms of ethnicity, socioeconomic class, religious inclination or even just the same interests, are far more effective at persuading consumers than those they perceive as vastly different from them.
  6. Scarcity – People tend to want what they perceive they cannot have. Making a product or service seem exclusive or as if it will go out of stock if they don’t act quickly often makes it more enticing to the consumer and increases the likelihood that they will buy in.

Armed with these six principles of influence, companies can more adeptly navigate their potential consumers and convert more to sales. However, Cialdini warned against crossing the line between influence and manipulation. To do so, he said, could spell disaster in the long run.

“People, companies and marketers need to ask themselves whether the principle of influence is inherent in the situation – that is, do they have to manufacture it or can they simply uncover it?” he said. “No one wants to be a smuggler of influence. Claiming to be an expert when they’re not, exploiting power – those eventually will have negative consequences.

“We can focus too heavily on economic factors when seeking to motivate others toward our offerings and ideas,” he added. “We would do well … to consider employing psychological motivators such as those we have covered here.”