Where Do You Leave Your Fingerprints?

JBMG_5500aBy Jeff Bowman

Our fingerprints are a sure-fire way to identify us. We leave them everywhere, and we never give a second thought to it when we touch something. The same holds true with our businesses. We are leaving our finger prints on so many things that to trying to figure out all the places they could be is an impossible task.

Now, of course this may not worry you in the least, but it is beginning to worry me. As a strategist who works with businesses every day, and tries to find the most optimum way to gain market reach and exposure, or consolidate branding messages, I am responsible for leaving those fingerprints as well. If you haven’t yet figured it out, the fingerprint I am talking about is digital, the amount of data that is left on the internet, where today, any smart phone or tablet can access it. Like the “footprints” that were the buzzword only a few years ago, we are leaving these digital fingerprints any time we put any type of information anywhere on the web.

My fear is not that my fingerprint is using up valuable resources that will someday in the future affect the next generations, but that we are getting to a point of what I refer to as “Communication Smudge”. Just touch the screen on your device and the amount of information that we are bombarded with becomes a blur. Getting a message out becomes increasingly difficult. How do you market your product or service electronically and actually get seen? It often reminds me of Dr. Seuss’s Horton Hears a Who. Our message is like the tiny world that sits atop a dust speck on the top of a clover that Horton the Elephant finds in a field.iStock_000005044123Small

Each minute the amount of “stuff” added to the web is simply astounding, and causes the “smudge”, one message just melts into the next. A recent article posted by Neil Spencer illustrates in dramatic style what gets pumped online every minute of every day, and the finger print remains eternally. Here are some highlights:

  1. Over 204,000,000 emails
  2. 48 hours of YouTube uploads
  3. 571 new websites go online
  4. 684,000 Facebook entries
  5. 100,000 tweets.

I didn’t even mention the number of blogs, “likes” and apps that are committed to internet pipelines each minute.

Where and how it will it end? I don’t know. Your digital fingerprints are helping to clog up the system. Perhaps we will reach a point where face to face interaction will once again be the norm and business intelligence won’t come from a touch screen. Pass the Windex!

 

 

 

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Filed under advertising, blogging, Communications, Facebook, Jeff Bowman, Marketing, Media, social media

Do You Measure Training ROI?

JBMG_5500aBy Jeff Bowman

For more than 25 years now I have watched various corporations take the training that has been provided for their employees and try to measure the return they received from the investment. Not as easy as it sounds.  Measuring ROI is a process, and it includes collecting and analyzing performance data both prior to and in a fixed time period after training, then trying to quantify that into some measurement of real financial benefit. There are conditions attached to getting true measurements that are rarely taken into account.

  • Was there an accurate benchmark set before training occurred?
  • Was there a control group to measure against for improvement??
  • Was there any environmental difference that would affect performance results?
  • Are there clear improvement expectations?
  • Is the performance improvement measurable or anecdotal in scope?
  • Was there follow-up coaching for improvement and reinforcement?

For those that want a predictive outcome of the value of training prior to the actual training taking place, we can only rely on analyzed data from a multitude of studies in North America over the last few years.  As Trainers we can make no guarantees because we can’t control the variables after we leave the building.  We can, however, leave you with some proven statistics;iStock_000028228004Medium

  1.    A Lou Harris and Associates Poll says “employees who say their company offers poor or no training, 41% plan to leave within a year”, compared to 12% where the respondents receive excellent training.
  2.    On average $1.00 invested equals an $8.00 net benefit
  3.     Companies investing $1,500 per employee experience 24% higher profit margins
  4.     Investment in Personal development results in a 21% increase in productivity.

The ROI on training and development can have a huge impact on your business, not just in revenue, but in employee morale, creativity and leadership retention!

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Filed under Human Resources, Jeff Bowman, Training and Development

Networking is about paying it forward

stephen2By Stephen Rhodes

Social Media guru Chris Brogan has a weekly magazine that dishes out great advice on a range of things. This week he talks about paying it forward, building networks that focus on cultivating relationships.

He says, “the word “cultivate” means to develop. That means that YOU have to work to make the relationship better. It doesn’t mean “meet people so you can ask them to help you do something.”

I have written before about the value of networks,  face to face interaction. There is no instant gratification here and those who glad-hand their way through a networking event and follow up with a hard sales push will lose more business than they will gain.

The first barrier to break down is trust. If you are doing most of the talking in a networking environment, the chance of building  any sort relationship is remote. Listen. Ask questions. Focus on who you are listening to and not  the next mark. Trust takes time to build but the wait is worth it.

Here are some tips from Brogan. And check out Owner Magazine.

Brogan's site OwnerBUILD A HELPFUL NETWORK

1.) Be open to connecting with anyone. You never know.
2.) When introducing others, ask first privately if you can make the introduction (lots of times, people introduce me to others that I can’t much help, for instance).
3.) Upon meeting someone new, think of ways you can help them. I promise this is MUCH more useful than thinking of ways they can help you.
4.) Set calendar reminders or ANY other method to keep in touch with people on a semi regular basis. Cold networks don’t help.
5.) Connect great people in your network together. It’s always greater than the sum of the separate parts.

You can subscribe to Owner Magazine here

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Tracking in 2014- five things to measure

stephen2By Stephen Rhodes

My last blog talked about hitting the refresh button at the start of 2014, shaking off the bad or embracing the good as the giant ball dropped at Times Square.

I mentioned the importance of hitting the ground running in 2014 and today had the opportunity to listen to a group of networkers  talk about just that and for some the first few weeks were already promising. As the first meeting of the year, for this networking group, many reported success in 2013 over the previous year. How did they know. They track their business.

Now for some of you that’s a no brainer.

MeaSURINGHere are five things every business should measure

  1. The sales pipeline – I think we all understand the importance of filling the hopper/pipeline with prospects to help take the peaks and valleys out of the business cycle. When we are busy it is difficult to remember that new leads may take months to emerge as business, but it is vital that we keep looking for new customers even during peak periods. Every business is different in terms of the length of time required to turn a lead into a sale, so first understand your own cycle. Equally important, is to track the leads so you know where to put the effort/money to build the business. Ask people how they heard about you. And track what activity – advertising, website, social media, newsletter, networking – generated the business.
  1. Conversion rate – So we are really good at generating leads but not so much at converting those leads into sales. How many leads do you need to generate the business you require to meet your revenue targets. If you need 10 new customers a month (average sale $2,000 a month) to meet your target and your conversion rate is 25% then you must generate 40 new leads a month. Understanding this dynamic helps you to manage the business throughout the year and make adjustments as required.
  1.  Cost of New Business – Tracking leads and where they came from tells you what activity is generating new business  but it’s also important to know at what cost.  Using our example in #2, we know that we need 10 new customers or $20,000 each month to meet our targets, But what did it cost to get that $20,000 in new revenue? You paid to generate 40 leads, remember. Knowing the cost, and what activity generated the revenue, is fundamental in managing your business.
  1.  Customer satisfaction – It’s more expensive to generate a new customer than it is to keep an existing one. If you are growing your business 10% a year but losing the same amount, you need to know why. I have talked at length about how important it is to talk to your customers. Develop an advisory board to help you provide an excellent service level. Survey your customers. Seek out testimonials from satisfied customers. Happy customers can provide excellent referrals.

Track the details. What is the customer spend? What happens year on year? Can you raise the spend with incentives?

  1.  Profit & Cash Flow- Profit is what drives the bus, but cash flow fills the tank. Expectations around profit are different for every business, but understanding what impacts profit helps you to better determine what adjustments might have to be made to expenses or revenue. That analysis needs to take place monthly -don’t wait until November to determine that the wheels fell off along the way.

Cash flow – You need cash flow to run a business.  It doesn’t matter how much money is coming in down the road if you don’t have enough money to get from here to there. It’s the difference between what comes in and what goes out.

      Take a look at your own cash flow

  1. Start with the amount of cash on hand – your current bank account balance(s)
  2. Make a list of what’s coming in – customer payments, collection on bad debts, interest or investment earnings, etc. Include when it will be coming in.
  3. Make a similar list of money going out – payroll, monthly overhead, accounts payable or other debt, taxes payable, equipment purchases, marketing expenses, etc.

Now, track what actually happens. Set up an Excel spreadsheet with your projections and the       actual numbers. (You can also find worksheets online) It will help you see what needs to be adjusted.

There are many metrics in business, and each business may have its own measuring tools. The point here is make sure you measure results. It can be the difference between success and failure.

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Filed under Marketing, Small Business, Stephen Rhodes

A fresh start in 2014

stephen2By Stephen Rhodes
The start of a new year is a time of renewal and for many a period of optimism,  hopefully building on the success of last year.

Ideally, 2014 is the next stepping stone in your long-term plan. For some, it might require an adjustment because plans often require tweeking. Maybe you are ahead of where you expected to be at this point. Maybe not. Either way the start of the year is the perfect time to set in motion a plan that propels your business forward.

If your plan in 2013 fell short of expectations, I hope you were able to assess what went wrong, and adjust. For that to happen you had to set measurable goals that can be evaluated all year long. Quarterly analysis is a good milestone. You also needed to look at the external environment– the local economy and your competitors for example. And talking to your customers for their input can help you determine what you might have done differently.

If your business is ahead of where you expected, it’s important to understand why so you can continue to build on that momentum. So, set goals and measure quarterly. Adjust as required.

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Filed under Marketing, Small Business, Strategic Planning, Uncategorized

Why do we hate advertising?

stephen2By Stephen Rhodes

Advertising has become a pariah .

Consumers will go to extraordinary lengths to avoid the stuff, particularly on TV, with PVRs, online viewing options like Netflix and torrent downloads.

So where did it go wrong?

Consumers  are tired of being tricked, manipulated and treated like idiots. The advertising industry ranks somewhere between politicians and used car salesmen (with apologies to used car salesmen) in public opinion and it’s getting worse not better.

big earsPeople are better informed today, have access to unlimited information and have the ability to consult friends and even strangers about a wide range of  the products and services. Does anyone travel anymore without checking the reviews on the  airline, the hotel/resort  and the food? Would you buy a car without checking reviews online? So, when you tell me it’s new and improved I am just liable to check that out.

Chloe Della Costa, Associate Editor, iMedia Connection makes some great points in her article Why people hate the ad industry.

Chloe says advertising can still rescue its reputation and it will take a mammoth shift away from monologue to dialogue. Stop yelling at us and ask us what we think.

It’s particularly difficult this time of year with so many fighting for our consumer dollar. It’s like a siege -newspapers, magazines, flyers, TV , radios and in-mall advertising.

There is so much noise, I wonder if anyone is listening.

What do you think?

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Filed under advertising, Marketing, social media

Does Your Business Respond With RAGE?

JBMG_5500aBy Jeff Bowman

Nothing says more about a company than how they respond to customer complaints. As hard as we might try to be perfect in our business, there will always be something that someone either doesn’t like or appreciate about what we do. As we all know, most people will never complain directly to you, however they will talk to everyone they know behind our corporate backs, and that is far more damaging than expressing their concerns directly in the first place.

The thing is, that business owners often don’t want to hear complaints, they don’t encourage customer interaction and often won’t acknowledge there is even an issue. Educated consumers and social media have been changing all that!  Now the “talk to their friends behind your corporate back” means involving the masses through “internet interaction”.  There have been tons of high-profile cases where social unrest bred through internet or twitter posts have led to serious issues for large corporations.  Kevin Smith vs, Southwest Airlines , Lulu Lemon’s “exposure” grew tremendously due to the web. Maritz Research recently studied Twitter complaints and found that almost 70% went unresponded to by the company being tweeted about! That is simply unacceptable in today’s business world

Conversely, the study found that 83% of the complainants that received a reply liked or loved the fact that the company responded.Liked or loved, those are some pretty strong words! I’ll bet that those companies who responded did it with RAGE.  RAGE is my acronym for Recognize, Acknowledge, Gauge and Evaluate.

To be able to recognize that there is an issue, you need to invite conversation through social media, so that consumers can hopefully talk to you first. If they like the response, chances are they will not only like it, but respond socially in a more positive light about you.

When you acknowledge, you do it with empathy and understanding.  Put yourself in the consumer’s boots and respond in a way that shows real concern and a desire to rectify the situation.

Continue to gauge social media to determine if there is more to the issue than a few scattered complaints, as well as seeing if your goodwill is gaining you points by those who you have responded to.  Is your name popping up elsewhere or are you trending?

Finally, evaluate what happened, how quickly you responded, the importance of your actions, the outcome and if there is anything else that is warranted to be done. Try to measure the increase in goodwill that occurs after the initial interaction.

Utilizing RAGE to your benefit will help you turn dissatisfaction into trust, respect and business growth.  Turn those with complaints into your company’s evangelists and turn the social media tide in your favour.

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Filed under blogging, Communications, Customer Service, Jeff Bowman, social capital, social media, Social Networking, twitter

Business Advice for Party Goers

JBMG_5500aBy Jeff Bowman

T ‘is the season for the holiday office party! Yes, those parties that many employees look forward to attending, looking for opportunities to climb the org charts, charm their co-workers or simply enjoy the festivities and the holiday spirit. Then, there are those who dread the mere mention of an external social gathering with co-workers.  They fear the unwanted conversations about anything but work, the mingling with others they may dislike and the drinking and carousing that seem to be associated with these types of gatherings. 

There have been countless cases of those who sought to climb the ladder of success stumbling on the rungs and falling flat on their face at such parties. I have put together a few quick tips that will allow you to get the most out of your office party this year without having to worry about going back into the office on the next business day.

  1. Drink responsibly or not at all.  We have all seen those individuals who have a little too much of the spiked eggnog and say things or do things that they would never have normally without the liquid courage in them. And by all means if the party is in the office, unplug the photocopier!
  2. Proper attire – Most holiday party invitations will advise of the dress code, however if it simply says business attire or festive outfits, then dress respectably. Holiday colours are good, dressed down jeans, t-shirts etc are bad. Try to find that balance between festive and professional if you can.
  3. Drunk man on christmasTime is of the essence – Arrive in a timely manner.  It is just as noticeable by those you work with whether it is at a staff party or a regular office day, how punctual you are.  If the party is a “drop in” that isn’t an issue however if it is at a specified time, be there. If you are going to be a little late, advise the organizers beforehand so they are not left wondering if you will show up at all. I also make it a point never to be the last one to leave.
  4. Mix – Holiday parties are all about mixing and mingling, meet people you don’t know, go out of your way to speak to those you rarely get a chance to speak to a the office, be congenial and always polite. Avoid the regular office water cooler cliques. Try to avoid bringing the office to the party and separate those office/work issues with outside socialization. Use your finest networking skills.
  5. Frame of mind – Please keep in mind the party is for everyone. It is a sign of thanks for the great work you do during the year. Even if you don’t like these types of parties, try to have the best time you can, and don’t spoil it for others.  Your attitude will have a huge impact on the entire event. Recognize those who have put so much planning into the event on your behalf, and toast to their efforts.

A few small tips that will allow everyone to enjoy your holiday office gathering.  My grandmother used to say “Don’t say or do anything that you wouldn’t do in front of me!”

Have a safe and happy holiday.

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Filed under Jeff Bowman, Networking, Uncategorized

Traditional marketing is dead, really dead

stephen2By Stephen Rhodes

Traditional marketing is dead. No, really it’s dead. It’s pining for the fjords.

We have all seen what’s happening to newspapers, declining revenues, layoffs. Television is a landscape in flux, with Netflix and alternative online viewing options that bypass advertising, at least for now.

And Content Marketing is rising like the Phoenix – attracting  and retaining customers by  creating  content that attempts to change or enhance a consumer behavior. Fewer hard sells from pitchmen, but rather information that makes the buyer more intelligent.

hilltopsAt its essence is the belief that a smart content strategy delivers ongoing valuable information to buyers, who ultimately reward us with their business and loyalty.

Building a relationship of trust is important to customers who need information to make smart buying decisions. That’s why networking is such an effective tool in the B2B world. It takes time to build trust but once it’s there, relationships blossom.

Traditional marketing still relies on a we talk you listen. And for most of us, that doesn’t cut it anymore.

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Filed under B2B, Content marketing, Marketing, social media, Stephen Rhodes

Putting the wow into your customer service

stephen2By Stephen Rhodes

Customer service isn’t what you think it is; it’s what your customer says it is.

When we work with clients, we  ask  what separates them from the competition and often the response is customer service. And that’s not surprising because I have never heard a business say they have bad customer service.

The Disney model is to anticipate what the customer wants or needs and be one step ahead of them. Few businesses do that and that’s why Disney is in a class by itself. Before anyone steps into one of their theme parks, they know who you are, where you have come from, and how long you have been listening to your kids wail “are we there yet?” Your first visit  has to exceed your expectations or they haven’t done their job. And based on their research, they do time and again. All employees take the Disney training and are empowered to do whatever it takes to ensure the customers experience the wow factor.

Putting the wow into your customer service isn’t as difficult as you think. But it requires thought and discipline.

Those who know me, know I drive a 1995 Volvo, which requires some TLC from time to time.

In recent weeks I have had two mechanics look at a particular problem with the car not starting. Paul, a mechanic at Collex Collision 
( 322 Rutherford Road, Brampton (905) 457-9250)  has been servicing the car for a number of years and is mindful of the age (read value) of the car and not spending lots of money on it.  So Collex calCollexls me to tell me they suspect a certain switch needs replacing but didn’t want to spend $500 of my money in case they were wrong. I appreciated their honesty. That’s the way Bill Strachan and his team at Collex work.

auto acumenSo, my mailman, another Volvo driver, says he has a relative who just opened a garage – auto-acumen – (310 Queen Street, Brampton (416 402 3226) and he is an experienced Volvo technician. So I took the car to Fyzal and he promised to check it out. A few hours later he listed a bunch of issues but said only one was required to get the car running again. Imagine.  It was the same switch that Paul identified at Collex.

Fyzal replaced the switch and the car is running fine. Auto-acumen also services all car makes.

A few days later, I am waiting for a haircut and my cell phone rings. It was Fyzal asking if there were any problems with the car. I was flabbergasted.

Some businesses  understand the value of customer service and practice it daily. Collex and auto-acumen get it.

Have you got a great customer service story?

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Filed under Customer Service