Microsoft Teams smart displays make it easier to work from home

In addition to detailing new features for its Teams software, Microsoft has also taken the wraps off Microsoft Teams displays, which are small portable displays that include high-quality microphones, speakers, and webcams for use with video chats. According to the company, these new displays are all-in-one devices made specifically for Teams users, offering them voice access to Cortana and a touchscreen.

Microsoft Teams is, of course, a collaboration platform to help workers get things done while working remotely or simply in different departments. Microsoft Teams displays are Cortana smart displays that work as an adjunct to one’s daily workflow, joining a laptop and other gear to provide high-quality remote communications tools alongside a more convenient quick-access interface.

The Teams displays feature what Microsoft refers to as a ‘glanceable’ interface that provides quick access to chat, calls, contacts, calendar, voicemail, and other things. Users can quickly view messages and mentions, their upcoming meetings and other appointments, and more. As well, the displays provide voice access to Microsoft’s personal assistant Cortana.

Users are given a certain degree of personalization control over the Microsoft Teams display, including the ability to change the wallpaper. The display integrates with the user’s main PC, meaning they can unlock and lock the smart display using their laptop or desktop. As well, this integration enables users to participate in Teams meetings using either of their devices.

Microsoft says that its Teams displays offer enterprise-grade security and necessary security features, including shutters to cover the webcam, mute switches for the microphones, sign-ins using Azure Active Directory credentials, an admin portal for managing and updating the devices, and Cortana enterprise-grade services.

The first Microsoft Teams display will be the Lenovo ThinkSmart View, and it’ll soon be joined by a model from Yealink.


How To Create A Brand That Attracts Luxury Buyers

Every brand conveys a message — and, the very best brands are targeted towards a specific consumer market. They know their audience and become almost familial with them. Collectively, we know and can feel strong brands – such as behind family-oriented companies like Oreo cookies, or luxury brands such as Burberry or the Ritz Carlton. Of course, these brands have built up their reputation and brand feel over the years with their products and their advertising.

When creating a brand that will attract luxury buyers, it’s important to look to other brands who have done it well, and learn from them. Across the board, these brands know their target customer and how to serve them in a way that feels like a five star experience. Here are some initial, foundational steps of creating a luxury brand.

  1. Create A Customer Persona & Incorporate That Into Your Marketing

First, it’s not enough to say that your ideal customer is a ‘luxury’ or ‘high end’ buyer. Who are they, really? Creating a customer persona is one of the best steps you can take before creating an ad or building a marketing campaign. Jessica Lunk, wrote for Benchmark One, that this crafted persona should include a detailed understanding of the customer’s history (who are they, and where do they come from?), a ‘day in the life,’ and their biggest pain points.

Ideally, this should be done through interviews, so it’s not merely guesswork. Interviews are the best way to understand a customer’s challenges, especially when they’re not primarily apparent. Look for clues of ways in which you can make their lives easier and more convenient, or offer them the five star service that they’re looking for. Then, alter their customer personas into ‘characters’ for ad and marketing campaigns, using variations of their stated pain points to guide the narrative around your ads.

  1. Add Luxury Amenities Or Features

Beyond your own value proposition and the marketing, how can you make your product or service experience as ‘luxury’ as possible? Again, ‘luxury’ means something different to everyone. For one, it might mean unparalleled convenience, whereas for another, it might mean unparalleled decadence. Opt to have a bit of both. An example: if you had a dog walking business that serves families in the Upper East Side of Manhattan, you could add in a luxury bandana or bagged assortment of dog treats every time you walk. It’s that ‘cherry on top’ that always lingers for customers.

For coming up with your own ‘features,’ think about the experience you wish you could have when you purchase a similar product or service. Royston G King of Master Scaling, noted that for his business, they provide luxury by being accessible. “We have a standard we always meet, otherwise we have failed: and that’s following up or being accessible within five minutes of a customer or prospect’s message,” he shared. “People don’t want to wait in today’s era. They want what they want when they want it, and if they don’t get it right then, they can go elsewhere.” He also uses this philosophy in sales messages and following up quickly. “We take an approach of being omnipresent, which shows the customer that we will always be there if they work with us,” he explained. Luxury can also be in the intangibles.

  1. Collaborate With Other Brands That Appeal To The Same Market

If you’re just getting started in building your brand, sometimes the quickest route to a brand feel is through brand association. For example, Asprey, deemed a ‘luxury brand,’ partnered with the Ritz Carlton for their ‘purple water beauty amenities,’ which includes body lotions and shampoos within the hotel rooms. This elevates the Asprey brand to the brand the Ritz Carlton has established.

This can be done in a variety of ways. Victoria Kennedy, CEO of Atman Real Estate and top luxury real estate marketer, noted that collaborating on events or through networking has helped her. “In the real estate luxury buyer market, everything is your network. If you work with others who are building the same brand and bring people together for events and get-togethers, I’ve found that that’s a great way to mark your own brand, while also getting more exposure.” So, start to look for brands who may be open for collaborations. If you’re both appealing to the same target market, it may be a win-win for both parties.

  1. Don’t Be Afraid To Go For A High Price

Finally, remember that price conveys a message, too. A luxury brand with low priced items may be a unique value proposition, but it may also lead people to undervalue your product. Rather than trying to compete on price with other brands, compete on features and amenities. How do you go above and beyond for your customers? This stands out more than a low price does, at least for luxury buyers.

Ultimately, your brand is composed of the experiences you create for your customers.


If you are not in businesses such as pharmaceuticals, grocery store supply chains or psychotherapy, you’re probably wondering how you’re supposed to market your business in the time of the COVID-19 crisis.

As a business consultant, I asked myself that very question. At first, I couldn’t think of anything, but then someone reached out to me and said, “Didn’t you teach entrepreneurship in high schools? Kids and schools are desperate for interesting content online right now. How long would it take for you to set up online entrepreneurship training for high school students?”

I told him it would take just a couple of days and be completely free of charge. It would be my contribution to the common good. And that’s when it hit me — that’s effective marketing in these turbulent times. Contribution marketing.

What is contribution marketing?

We’ve all heard of content marketing, relationship marketing, paid marketing, and on it goes. This is different. This is marketing in which you are contributing to the public good. Contribution marketing means offering a product or service that fills an immediate need.

And it’s the only type of marketing you should be focusing on right now. Why? Because building brand equity and goodwill is going to come back to you in spades. It’s called karma.

If you’re a brick-and-mortar business like a fitness studio, it means offering your services online. If you’re a home education platform, it means offering a sampling of your courses for free or at deeply discounted prices. If you’re a fashion business, perhaps you take off the restocking fees since no one can come to the store to try on clothes at the moment.

And don’t cheat by offering the same discounts and services that you normally do. Extraordinary times call for extraordinary marketing efforts. Your contribution marketing needs to be completely new and unprecedented.

We’ve already seen some small and large businesses engage in successful contribution marketing. For example, Loom, which offers video-recording software, removed its limits on file staring because it saw so many people were using it to communicate with their virtual teams. T-Mobile launched T-Mobile Connect, its lowest-priced smartphone plan ever, and educational software companies like Scholastic have opened up much of their platform free of charge.  

Is contribution marketing right for you?

To find out if contribution marketing is the best path for your business, ask yourself a few questions:

  • Do you offer something that fills an immediate public need?
  • How can you contribute your time, money and effort in a constructive way?
  • Where can you offer support?

In some cases, you may not have an answer. If you’re a travel company, for example, this just might not be your time to market discounts on summer vacations. That’s fine. It doesn’t mean you can’t tend to your business in other ways.

Just put a freeze on your marketing efforts for now. Don’t expend any energy on it.

Instead, buckle down and take care of your business from the inside. Get your taxes in early this year (despite the extended due date), organize that paperwork that you always avoid, sit with your team and start doing workflows. Take a little break. Let your business be quiet. Gear up for your next launch. My point is: If you’ve got nothing contributing to say, don’t say it.

What not to do

Despite all the uncertainty and pressures all around you, do not respond to this crisis from a place of fear. Deep discounts and fire sales are not the answer.

Neither is preying on other people’s fears by just sticking the words “COVID-19” or “coronavirus” on your latest campaign even though it’s completely unrelated. That’s clickbaiting, and it’s not only insensitive — it’s terrible for business.

What’s good for business? Contribution marketing. It’s not about saving money. It’s about how can you help people in real, tangible ways. And if you are wondering what the ROI is, you’re not thinking about it correctly. You are providing a service to the world. Even from a practical business standpoint, you’re building goodwill and gaining free exposure.

Do you know what it would cost you to get the kind of viral publicity some people are getting now because of their free access offering? Remember these changes are temporary. This too shall pass. But right now the world is what it is, and your marketing needs to reflect that.


How to Expand Hiring in a New Business

Most new entrepreneurs are eager to expand as quickly as possible. They see growth as the fuel necessary to succeed, and to achieve growth, you need to invest in more resources and a further reach. However, if you aren’t careful, expanding too quickly can work against you. So how can you scale up your hiring efforts without running into long-term problems that could threaten your business?

The Problems With Hiring Too Quickly

Let’s start by looking at the main problems with hiring too quickly and hiring too many people:

Expenses. Employees are one of the largest expenses a new business will face, and if you aren’t careful, their costs can quickly overwhelm the business. If you’re suddenly tripling your staff, with little groundwork or revenue to support that increase, your business might not be in a position to survive long-term.

Poor fits. Opening the doors to new people and filling roles as quickly as possible can be problematic for your organization. In a rush to fill seats, you may lower your hiring standards, ultimately ending up with candidates who don’t quite fit — either because they don’t have the requisite training and experience or because they don’t align with your culture.

Culture retention. Speaking of culture, establishing bigger teams and/or teams in new locations can dilute your culture if you aren’t careful. Right now, you have a core, central team that embodies your values and can self-sustain your vision for the business. But bringing on too many people or bringing them on too quickly can cause that culture to fade away.

Strategies to Scale Hiring Efficiently

Fortunately, there are several strategies you can use to hire more efficiently, easing the burden on your finances while simultaneously granting you access to candidates who will serve a better fit.

Inventory your needs. First, make sure you take the time to truly analyze and inventory your needs. You want your business to expand, but how quickly do you really need to expand, and how many employees do you really need to accomplish this? For example, you might have a vision for a future with 10 locations and a team of 15 employees per location, but could you accomplish the same results, or nearly the same results, with just eight locations? Or with 12 employees per location? What would those extra two locations or three employees per location be doing? The more exacting you are, the more unnecessary expenses you’ll be able to trim away before you even spend them.

Focus on one segment at a time. Next, try to focus only on one segment at a time. If you’re opening multiple new locations, try to focus on hiring for one before you move to another. Start from the top and work your way down; if you have more skilled, more experienced and better-fitting leaders in place, they’ll be able to make new hires on your own. You’ll be able to trust their judgment as they expand their own teams. You also won’t get overwhelmed with hiring decisions, meaning you’ll likely make fewer compromises long-term.

Expand who you’re willing to hire. Expanding the people you’re willing to consider for a hire can be beneficial as well. A broader potential talent pool means you’ll have access to people from more backgrounds, with more diverse experiences, and possibly, lower costs as well. For example, you may want to get a U.S. visa or visa waiver to bring on someone from another country. You may also decide to go fully remote so you can hire people around the country (or even around the world).

Supplement full-time hires with part-time hires and contractors. Full-time hires can be a major drain on your budget. They’re advantageous for long-term situations, due to their continuity and dependability, but if you’re still growing, you may need to trade those advantages for lower costs and more flexibility. If that’s the case, you’ll want to mix in a number of part-time hires and independent contractor hires with your full-time hires. Thanks to the gig economy, there should be no shortage of candidates.

Take your time with onboarding and training. You can make sure your hires end up as a better culture fit by spending more time on onboarding and training. Invest in each new candidate, and provide them with all the training, education and resources they need to be successful. It’s a fantastic move for workforce sustainability.

With these strategies, you should be able to steadily expand your business, bringing on plenty of new people without putting too much of a strain on your budget, diluting your culture or settling for poor fits. Take your time, set your goals in advance, and you’ll be much more satisfied with the final results.



6 Ways to Become a Company People Want to Work For

Creating a strong culture is key to becoming a world-class workplace.

Every founder wants their company to be known as a top workplace and desired company to work for. But how can you create that reputation? Recently, my team at Vistage compared data on the companies that won workplace awards with other companies captured in a survey of 1,518 CEOs from small and midsize businesses conducted last fall.

What we discovered was that the winning c  ompanies demonstrated greater focus and commitment to their culture, and they also appeared to have stronger cultures. More than one-quarter of CEOs from the winning companies said they were satisfied with the strength of their culture, a percentage 2.5 times greater than that of the CEOs from the other companies.

The winning companies demonstrated a deeper commitment to performing rituals that engaged employees. These companies were: 

1. Reexamine your workplace culture and make changes.

Now is a perfect time to reassess existing culture and make sure it still serves its purpose. For some, this might mean tackling institutional problems a remote workforce revealed. For others, this could mean finally taking the time to figure out what you want your workplace culture to stand for and where you can make meaningful changes to policies.

2. Invest in your employees’ development and well-being.

Don’t just say that you care about your employees; prove it by investing in them, and today that also includes investing in their mental health. Recent events have proved to be a traumatic time for most, including those who have been indirectly affected by job loss, health issues, or civil unrest.

Professional development for employees is just as important now as it has always been, but doubling down on resources to help your employees care for themselves and their families–as well as being sensitive to those needs–is key. Your people will notice these investments and appreciate them.

3. Use hiring or re-onboarding as an opportunity to share your culture.

Whether you’re planning to welcome furloughed workers back or are fortunate enough to ramp up new recruitment again, impressions matter, so make sure that these employees hear the right messages about your culture from the outset. Consider scheduling virtual meetings to personally connect with each new hire and discuss the company culture. This can have a positive and lasting impact.

4. Prioritize companywide diversity and inclusion efforts.

Job seekers consider workplace diversity an important factor when considering employment opportunities. Consider diversity and inclusion training to not only foster greater understanding and teamwork, but to also ultimately drive greater innovation, creativity, and productivity.

Communicate clearly to employees about how your diversity and inclusion efforts play in your organization’s core values and its approach to work. Employees are laser-focused on what their leaders are saying and doing. You have their attention, so now is the time to recommit to establishing an inclusive workplace culture as a key part of your company.

5. Create programs that reward and recognize the right behaviors.

Think about how you reward employees and whether those rewards are consistent with your cultural values. If they’re not consistent, change them. If you reward your employees on the basis of sales goals, this implies that your culture puts greater value on “how much” than on “how.” If that’s not the message you’re trying to send, you may need to adjust your compensation structure.

6. Highlight workplace safety and security.

These efforts need to be more front-and-center because of Covid-19. Once we start returning to work, feeling safe and secure in an office or field environment is going to make all the difference for employees. Only then will they be able to not just perform well but also take advantage of a company’s culture, feel good about it, and actively contribute to make it stronger.

Engaging your employees is more important now than it’s ever been before. Using the above tools to establish a strong and inclusive workplace culture can make all the difference.


4 Low-Cost Marketing Strategies

Every Business Should Know

Let’s be real. Marketing can get expensive. With such a strong emphasis on digital marketing, it can seem like the only way to be successful is through buying ads or paying for SEO. While both of those are very popular and useful ways to market a business, there are also many marketing strategies that come at a low cost, if not for free. These four low cost marketing strategies create organic traffic and exposure for your business, and they all place an emphasis on the most important factor of marketing: the people you’re targeting.

1. Network

Networking is one of the most effective marketing strategies that everyone has access to, and there are plenty of ways to do it. First and foremost, LinkedIn is a platform entirely devoted to networking. As a rule of thumb, you should be adding everyone you shake hands with or speak with, including customers, similar business, and more. In building a personal brand through LinkedIn, you can promote your business brand. To make networking even easier, you can make a group page for your business, or join a local business group and participate with the existing members and audience to boost the exposure of your business.

LinkedIn is far from being the only way to network. Networking is a mindset and an approach that prioritizes people rather than positions and businesses. In putting people first, you can determine who matters most that you need to get to know and what you can do for them. Then you can market your business to a broader audience in a less obvious, more effective manner. The best part about networking is that you can essentially do this anywhere, at any time, with anyone. Is there a local business association that holds meetings? Join it. A chapter of a marketing association in your city? Join that, too. Start utilizing any and every opportunity that brings you in contact with new people.

2.Build a partnership.

Ever heard the saying “I’ll scratch your back if you scratch mine”? That’s exactly how a partnership works.  Let’s say you own a car dealership and there’s an auto detailer and repair shop down the road. If you partner with the auto shop, you can refer people there for maintenance and keep their business cards or flyers in your dealership. In return, the auto detailer can refer people to your dealership when they need to buy, sell, or trade their vehicle and they can also keep business cards or flyers in their shop. Maybe there’s even a discount if they mention that the partnering business referred them.

Building a partnership can market your business to the customer base of another business, and vice versa. This works especially well for local businesses, as it fosters a sense of unity and support within the community. People are exceptionally receptive to recommendations that come from businesses they already trust and have had positive experiences with, and you can use that to your advantage through a partnership. It’s cost-effective, marketing-savvy, and will build your reputation.

3.Ask for reviews.

The only things people pay attention to more than what it says about your company on Google are the reviews that previous customers have left you. I once found a rental property I was interested in, and upon searching for reviews of the real estate agency I found an entire Facebook page dedicated to very passionately written bad reviews about the company (and that was in addition to a low Yelp score). I was horrified after reading all the negative experiences other customers had with the agency, and have since warned many friends to avoid renting or buying any properties from them solely based on those reviews.

What your customers have to say about you is the clearest indication of the kind of experiences future customers will have with you. By asking customers who have had positive experiences to write a quick review on Facebook or Yelp, you can accumulate endorsements and vouchers. Plus, if someone is willing to take the time to write a review, it’s likely that they’ll recommend your business to their friends and family for future needs. All of this comes at little to no cost and lets your customers to do the marketing for you.

According to Carlos Fearn, a Marketing Consultant at Rankology, “Consumers trust online reviews nearly as much as if it were a recommendation from a friend. It is imperative in today’s online society that a business encourages their customers to leave reviews on the major social networks and portals to show their satisfaction with your company.”

4. Blog.

Helping people before they actually need anything from you is a marketing tactic that A) might not even be a “real” marketing tactic and B) has great returns. An easy way to do this is by adding a blogging component to your company’s website where you can offer useful tips and insights about things related to your business. The only thing it will cost you is time, and by blogging about the topics you’re already knowledgeable about, you can market a friendly credibility that’s in the interest of the customer.

For example, if you’re a bakery, share some easy recipes around the holidays, or offer tips on baking for people with food allergies. By providing a real utility to the kind of customers who have use for the information you’re providing, you create a relationship that establishes your business as a helpful authority. People tend to value helpful over pushy and if someone has used tips or recipes from your bakery’s website, you’ll probably be their first thought when they need a sweet treat on their lunch break.


4 Ways Small Businesses Can Master Marketing

We often hear from our customers that it had always been their dream to own a business – whether that’s opening their own store or starting their own restaurant. Like most entrepreneurs, the goal is to turn a passion into a career.

However, many people are held back by the fear that they won’t be able to manage their business successfully. It takes a leap of faith to open a new business, and it takes business savvy to keep it open. In a series of posts, I’ll explore common challenges small business owners face and how to solve it.

One of the first hurdles a small business owner faces is getting the word out about her new business. Or, if the business is established, growing the business and attracting new customers. At the heart of driving sales is marketing. For business owners without marketing experience, this can seem overwhelming. The good news is there is a lot a small business owner can do to market a business easily and efficiently.

  1. Define your unique value proposition (UVP).

The first step in marketing a business effectively is understanding your capabilities and the white space your business is filling in your industry.

Inevitably, you will face competition, so take the time to outline what sets you apart from your competitors. Become as informed as possible on your industry. Sign up for industry newsletters; read relevant trade publications; and consider participating in industry events. This will allow you to identify trends, and stay up-to-date with important news. It will also help you identify your competitors. Take a close look at what they are doing and how they present themselves to potential customers.

Then determine who your target customers are and what they want. This is important – one of the biggest small business marketing pitfalls is to assume you know your customer without doing research.

Clearly identify the service you are providing and the problem you are solving for your target customers. This will help you define your UVP – the unique benefit you are providing for your customers.

You’re not trying to sell to everyone, which is a good thing. Your goal is to clearly define who you are targeting, why they want your product and how best to reach them. Once you know that, your job is to consistently execute your marketing plan.

2. Maximize your online presence.

Armed with a clear understanding of your business and its industry, it’s time to market it to potential customers.

While there are many marketing channels to consider, typically the most efficient and cost-effective are online.

Take time to audit your online presence. An easy place to start is your website. Make sure the website design is consistent with your brand and that the site is easy for customers to navigate, and find the information they’re looking for.


If it’s appropriate for your business, make it easy for customers to sign up for a mailing list. This will enable you to build a database of customers, who give you permission to reach out to them regularly with product updates, interesting news or coupons.

In addition to listing your products or services, consider adding a blog to your website to provide tips and product or service updates to customers.

Beyond your own website, be sure to build your presence on and spend time managing review sites, like Yelp and Angie’s List. These help validate your business and can boost sales. You can even share good customer reviews on your website.

Whether you’re communicating via your website, a blog, an email, a third party review site or social media, be sure to keep a consistent voice. Every customer touchpoint is an opportunity to build your brand.

3. Start a conversation.

Social media channels are a low-cost way to get the word out about your business and build relationships with your target audience.

Choose a channel, which your customers are already on. Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn serve very different purposes, so be smart in your choices, and think about the kind of content you like to post. Using platforms specific to your business makes it easy for customers to find and interact with your business online.

When it comes to posting on social media, consistency is key.

Create a schedule to ensure you are posting regularly so your audience knows to expect content. For example, plan for three posts a week, which you can draft in advance.

In order to keep content dynamic, take a three-prong approach:

  • Talk about yourself and your business,
  • Talk about your customers,
  • And talk about your industry.

Share updates about what’s happening at your business, such as a new shipment you’ve received or a peek behind the scenes. Be sure to thank your customers, and engage them through questions.

Finally, share interesting news articles, and invite your social media followers to share their thoughts. In all social media posts, make sure you’re authentic and realistic so your audience can connect with you.

4. Consider paid content.

The paid aspects of social media can also be a great way to boost your business’ profile, and get in front of new customers.

For instance, you can target the exact type of customer you are looking to attract with advertising through Facebook and LinkedIn campaigns, based on the information individuals have shared on their profiles.