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Ira Koretsky
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Duane Bailey
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Guest Bloggers
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Join me at what will prove to be a highly useful business summit. Hosted at the beautiful Marriott Fairview, the Turkish American Business Group Annual Small Business Summit, offers a variety of speakers and panels all designed to help you grow your business.  The agenda includes:

2:00 - 2:40 Check-in

2:40 - 3:00 Opening Keynote by Varol Ablak, CEO of Vocelli Pizza with Emcee Dan Nainan (old friend of mine)

3:00 - 3:50 Access to Capital, Commercial Lending and Alternative Funding

3:50 - 4:00 Coffee Break

5:00 - 6:00 30 Tips in 30 Minutes by 3 Experts to Grow Your Small Business (Ira Koretsky's program)

6:00 - 7:00 Reception

8:00 - 9:00 Gala Dinner with Congressman Rob Wittman, Talha Sarac, President of PERA Construction and Chairman of the Turkish American Business Network, Nick Spanos Co-founder of Bitcoin Center at NYC, John S. Powell, SVP of EagleBank, and William D. Euille, Mayor of Alexandria

 

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Soon to be a Veteran? Veteran? Spouse? Looking for hands-on career advice? Join me and a distinguished group of presenters providing free career workshops at the annual Association of the United States Army (AUSA) conference in Washington, DC.

I was part of the 2013 program and look forward to this year's event. While the event is Army-focused, any service member, veteran, and spouse is welcome.

The American Freedom Foundation workforce hiring event at AUSA is presented by Sourceamerica® and GES.  12 workshop sessions take place October 13 – 15 to provide resources and information for veterans and transitioning military.  I'll be giving my program, "“Your Upcoming Tour on Main Street:  How to Positively Engage and Influence Hiring Managers with Your Words and Stories" on Monday 10/13 10:30am to 12noon and Tuesday 10/14 1pm to 2:30pm (list of all programs)

AFF "mission is to honor the men and women of America’s armed forces, raise awareness for their service and sacrifice and raise money for organizations that serve and support our Veterans, active duty military and their families." 

If you need any more information please let me know (contact me here).
 

 American Freedom Foundation’s Warriors to the Workforce
Hiring Event at AUSA Announces Workshop Sessions  

12 Workshop sessions will take place October 13 – 15 to provide resources and information for veterans and transitioning military 

Attendance at Warriors to the Workforce Hiring Event is FREE and open to veterans, military service members and spouses.

Presentations will include topics such as mental readiness, confidence building, networking and presentation skills, resume writing, interviewing techniques, job searching, career planning through goal setting, translating military skills and training into civilian life and corporate experience, among others.

In addition to these transition workshops, veterans will have the opportunity to meet with some of the country’s largest and most veteran friendly employers including Aerotek, ASM Research, ATK, Inc., BAE Systems, Calibre Systems, CSC, Didlake, Inc., Easter Seals Veterans Staffing Network, esri, Elbit Systems of America, First Command Financial Services, General Dynamics Information T echnology, Goodwill Industries, Hendrickson International, Kaplan University, Linden Industries, Melwood, Navy Federal Credit Union, Pride Industries, RNDC-­?USA, SAIC, Still Serving Veterans, TFD Group, University of Phoenix, USACE, VETS Group, Working Warriors Nations–MVLE and Department of Veterans Affairs.

Attendance at Warriors to the Workforce Hiring Event is FREE and open to veterans, military service members and spouses.

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Sales is one of the hardest jobs in any company. There are daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly and yearly commitments to be made. And in organizations that are serious about sales growth, a good portion of the salesperson's compensation is at risk.

Sales and its sustained growth are requirements for long-term financial success in any organization. During my own career in technology sales, I lived by the mantra, "If you ain't growing, you're dying." Done right, sales drives revenue growth, which in turn drives growth in profit margins, net income and shareholder value (e.g., earnings per share). No sales, no growth.

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Yet the responsibility for sales growth is not the sole purview of the salesperson. There are many building blocks to a successful sales growth strategy. They include marketing, sales support, contract administration, finance, billing, customer service, operations, implementation and post-implementation services, and virtually everyone in your organization, from the CEO on down.

In my view, everyone is a salesperson. Everyone is accountable for growing the business. A sense of urgency, timely responses to emails and phone calls and the prioritization of customer-impacting issues over internal projects and reports are some of the ways these other functional groups can help support sales growth.

If you're looking for a simple way to keep everyone in your organization focused on your sales growth strategy, here's an idea. Invest in a set of building blocks, like the ones you see in the image above. Spell out your growth strategy (I chose "sales" in my example). Then hand a building block to a representative from each functional area. Ask each person to display their block on his or her desk as a daily reminder and to bring it with them to their weekly team meetings. During each meeting, ask the block holders to report on what they've done in the time since you last met to support your strategy to grow the business.

If your sales results are not meeting your growth expectations, take a closer look around the organization. Are the building blocks of a successful sales strategy in place?

For more on sales growth strategies, please see:
How One Brand Is Growing Sales While Raising Prices in a Weak Economy
Achieving Market Share Growth in a Weak Market
The Power of the Human Touch in Sales
Is a "Can-do" Attitude Part of Your Business Plan?
What Makes Your Company Different?

As an MBA graduate of the Robert H. Smith School of Business at the University of Maryland, I am excited about next week's presentation.  I'll be presenting "Executive Storytelling" with fellow part-time MBA students. 

It was a serendipitious meeting with Megan, the professional development program chair. We met at a Smith School Event for International Development. After chatting a bit, I learned Megan worked for the Department of the Army and I'm an Army veteran. Soon after, we talked about a variety of topics, which led to the "What do you do?" question.

A few months later, I'll be sharing some great video clips, thoughts, ideas, and exercises on business storytelling. I'm looking forward to a dynamic exchange of ideas.

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According to the 2013 Social Media Marketing Industry Report published by Social Media Examiner, the top three benefits of social media marketing are greater exposure, traffic and marketplace intelligence. It's no wonder 97% of the marketers surveyed indicated they were participating in social media marketing.

If your brand is represented by the remaining 3% of the sample who has yet to make the leap to social media marketing, let me share some thoughts on how social media has helped me market and grow my brand:
  • Higher brand awareness
  • More traffic
  • Increased access to market intelligence and insightful content

When I first created my LinkedIn and Twitter profiles over four years ago, my personal brand was nothing more than an idea in my head. Since then, I have added Facebook, Pinterest, Foursquare, Snapchat and blogging (here at The Chief Storyteller) to my social media marketing mix. I've become a curator of insightful content, both others' and my own, on a focused set of subject areas like marketing and sales, social media, fitness and outdoor recreation.

A deliberate, integrated marketing communications plan that utilizes a blend of the social media channels I participate in has helped me to expand awareness of my personal brand, driving more traffic to my posts and ultimately increasing others' exposure to me.

During the past four years, my personal brand has enjoyed steady and phenomenal growth. Yours can, too, with the right social media marketing strategy.

For more insights on social media marketing and branding, please see:
Content Marketing: Why Blogging Should Be Part of Your Growth Strategy
Make It Personal: How to Communicate with Greater Impact
Reputations of Non-Social Brands Are Fair Game on Social Media, Too

As consumers, we love to share our opinions of a brand and our experience with it –
the people we encounter, the products we buy or the service we receive. Most brands expect this type of customer feedback. Smart and successful brands, in fact, invest considerable resources analyzing this information and use it to inform their marketing strategy.

We expect it, too. What we don't expect is for brands to review their customers...and to share their feedback on what their experience serving us was like. So you can imagine my surprise when I received an email from a shipping company I had hired to transport my son's motorcycle to college recently.

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The subject line in the email read, "Feedback for your recent uShip transaction." Before even opening the email on my iPhone, I assumed it was an invitation for me to provide some feedback on my shipping experience (which was outstanding, by the way). When I opened the email, I saw the words "Positive Feedback." Following that were a few lines describing the shipper's experience working with me and thanking me for my business.

The review I received was a good one and it made me feel great. I wondered, though, what would have happened if the shipper thought I was unreasonable and difficult to work with. Would they have shared that feedback with me, as well?

I also wondered if there were other brands who share customer feedback with their customers. As a consumer, if you expected to be reviewed on how well you conducted yourself, would that change how you interact with the brand and the people who serve you?

It's something I'll be thinking about the next time I am in line waiting to be served, interfacing with a salesperson or otherwise interacting with a brand.

The summer of 2014 will be remembered for the #IceBucketChallenge phenomenon on social media.

Since first receiving mainstream media attention in mid-July, when attention became focused on raising awareness and funds for ALS research, the Ice Bucket Challenge has gone viral. Participants who receive the challenge have 24 hours to accept the challenge, make a donation to an ALS charity of their choice or both. Participants who accept the challenge must post a video of themselves on social media, showing a bucket of ice water being poured over their heads. Participants also have the option of nominating others for the challenge.

When I received my Ice Bucket Challenge on Facebook in mid-August, I thought, "Why not?" It seemed like a fun way to promote awareness and raise money for a cause I had previously supported through one of my employers.

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I promptly accepted and then nominated three of my friends to do the same. Within a short amount of time, my Facebook feed began to fill with Ice Bucket Challenges from family and friends.

I'm thrilled to have played a part in helping to promote the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge and can now cross it off my summer bucket list. If the challenge is on your summer bucket list, there's still time.

End your summer by doing something fun and making a difference. Accept the challenge, send a donation to the ALS charity of your choice or both. You'll be glad you did and you'll have a great story to tell!

For me, business networking used to mean early morning meetings, a Metro ride into Washington DC, several cups of coffee, lots of face-to-face introductions and a steady exchange of business cards. All told, each networking event required a three- to four-hour investment of time...until I discovered the George Washington University (GWU) LinkedIn Virtual Networking Hour, a monthly speed networking event sponsored by the Office of Alumni Career Services.

Over the course of one lunch hour, participants select one or more industry clusters they would like to network with. They are then randomly paired with fellow Colonials (i.e., GWU alumni) for several 8-minute text-based conversations. Participants exchange career goals and advice, contact information and connections. In lieu of business cards, the Colonials connect with one another on LinkedIn and, in some cases, make arrangements to continue their conversations in person over coffee or in email.

While I am still a proponent of face-to-face networking, I've come to appreciate digital technology as a tool for more efficiently making new connections and expanding my business network. During the last few months, I've made some valuable connections and have given and received helpful career information...all over a fresh cup of coffee from the comfort of my home office.

For more on business networking, please see:
Spring Is a Great Time to Revitalize Your Professional Network
Your Brand Story in 30 Seconds: "What Do You Do?"
The Power of a Personal Connection
Why Likability Is the Key to Your Personal Success
How to Make the Most of Your Network

I stumbled across a blog post from HubSpot the other day on the benefits of business blogging ("The Benefits of Business Blogging: Why Businesses Do It, and You Should Too" by Corey Eridon). Among the top benefits cited in the article were the following:
  1. Blogging helps drive traffic to your website,
  2. It helps convert that traffic into leads,
  3. And it helps establish your authority.

In short, business blogging drives growth. It can increase brand awareness, website traffic, credibility, leads and revenue.

Yet, a 2010 study by eMarketer found only 40% of businesses were using blogs for marketing purposes. While we can be certain that number is higher today, I continue to encounter businesses who still don't blog. If your business is among those who haven't tried blogging, maybe it's time to consider it as a potential growth tactic.

Still not convinced?

Consider these recent content marketing statistics:
  • 79% of B2B marketers use content marketing to achieve brand awareness goals (Content Marketing Institute and Marketing Profs, October 2012)
  • 77% of Internet users read blogs (Social Media Today, August 2013)
  • Social media sites and blogs reach 8 out of 10 U.S. Internet users (Content Marketing Institute, February 2012)
  • Companies with active blogs have 97% more inbound links (Content+, February 2012)
  • B2B companies who blog generate 67% more leads per month than those who don't (Social Media B2B, March 2012)
  • 61% of consumers have made a purchase based on a blog post (Social Media Today, August 2013)

We live in a world of acronyms.

This was true before Twitter and, more recently, Instagram and Facebook. Thanks to social media platforms like these, acronyms have taken on a new form – the "hashtag" – and have become so much a part of the vernacular that the term was added to Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary in 2014.

A hashtag is an acronym or cluster of letters, preceded by the # symbol (which, incidentally, is known in Europe as a hashmark). Hashtags were originally used on Twitter to mark topics and keywords so that others would be able to search on them. Instagram and Facebook began supporting hashtags in 2012 and 2013, respectively.

Anyone can create a hashtag.

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It can be difficult for users, particularly new ones, to know what a hashtag means. So on Friday, Twitter rolled out a new feature to users of its iPhone app that explains the meaning of hashtags. When a user searches on a hashtag (e.g., #icymi), the app will display an explanation of what the hashtag letters stand for, followed by a series of tweets containing the hashtag.

Twitter iPhone app users can now find quick and easy explanations for common hashtags like #icymi, #tbt, #iot, #yolo and others. It's all part of a concerted effort by Twitter to widen its appeal by making the user experience more intuitive.

The American fast-food segment is highly competitive. Competition among brands is fierce – with respect to price, food quality, service, location, and the condition of each restaurant. Established brands are struggling and, for many, same-store sales are declining.

So when rising food costs caused Chipotle to raise U.S. menu prices an average of 6.25% to 6.5% during the second quarter of 2014, analysts expected a negative impact on store traffic and sales. Instead, Chipotle's same-store sales grew 17.3% for the second quarter, despite a weak U.S. economy. This was preceded by a strong first quarter, with 13.4% growth, and a steady history of extraordinary growth since the company was founded in 2003.

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Chipotle's growth is unique among its peers in the U.S. restaurant industry, whose same-store sales rose a mere 0.3% in the second quarter of 2014. In an attempt to lure customers and boost sales, many of Chipotle's competitors now offer lower-cost, "value-meal" or "healthy choice" menu options in addition to their standard fare.

Chipotle has taken a different approach.

Instead of trying to be like everyone else, Chipotle is redefining the customer experience. Chipotle believes food served fast doesn't have to come with the look and feel of a traditional "fast-food" experience. Their "Food With Integrity" promise is a strategic gamble that American consumers would be willing to pay more for food with great taste and nutrition. It's also evidence of their commitment to sustainability – that educated consumers would place a higher value on food that is sustainably raised with respect for animals, farmers and the environment.

The market research firm, PlaceIQ, recently profiled fast-food customers at several competing restaurant chains and found Chipotle customers to be among the best-educated. And as Chipotle has shown, better-educated consumers are willing to pay more for a product that is better and more sustainable.

For more on how brands are using sustainability to redefine and differentiate their customer experience, please see:
How Doing One Good Thing Is Making a Difference
Beyond Green: The Transformative Nature of Sustainability
A FRESH Approach to Going Green
Maximum Fun Meets Minimal Impact

I received an automated Twitter message the other day, in response to my decision to follow a health and wellness company that provides expert fitness advice and nutritional guidance.

Since 2009, when I first opened my Twitter account, I've received thousands of these direct messages. What made this one stand out was its personal nature; specifically, the inclusion of the phrase, "I'm Neil – Community Manager @fitnessrepublic."

I've always believed people place a higher value on relationships with other people than they do on relationships with a brand. So when a brand reaches out to me in a personal way like Fitness Republic did, it's easy to notice. In this instance, the direct message I received from Neil inspired me to check out his brand's website. I liked the content I saw and bookmarked it for later reference.

With over 4,100 followers, it's becoming harder for brands to get noticed by me on Twitter. Brands like Fitness Republic, who add a personal element to their communications, are increasingly the ones who catch my attention and make enough of an impact to warrant further action.

If you're still sending canned communications from your brand, consider adding a personal touch. Make a greater impact with your customers by introducing them to the people behind your brand.

For more on the role relationships play in your brand communications, please see:

How Well Does Your Branded Content Invite and Reward Conversation?
How Volunteers and Community Managers Serve Brands, Too
Social Media Is About Building Relationships

The other day I gave one of our Storytelling for Executives workshop programs. In it I showed one of my all-time favorite videos, the Turbo Encabulator.  I show it to demonstrate the best and worst aspects of using jargon. Most people do not even realize how much jargon they use in his or her various communications. This video is a humorous way of gently reminding everyone to minimize jargon. One of the program participants asked me for the actual text of the video (see below), prompting me to write this post.

You owe it to yourself to watch this one and half minute video to be completely awed at the delivery by a truly gifted presenter, Bud Haggert. If it wasn't for the fact that nearly every important word is made up, you might actually believe he is talking about a very technical, highly complex piece of machinery, the Turbo Encabulator.

Director Dave Rondot shares the background of how the video came to be...

This is the first time Turbo Encabulator was recorded with picture. I shot this in the late 70's at Regan Studios in Detroit on 16mm film. The narrator and writer is Bud Haggert. He was the top voice-over talent on technical films. He wrote the script because he rarely understood the technical copy he was asked to read and felt he shouldn't be alone.

We had just finished a production for GMC Trucks and Bud asked since this was the perfect setting could we film his Turbo Encabulator script. He was using an audio prompter referred to as "the ear". He was actually the pioneer of the ear. He was to deliver a live speech without a prompter. After struggling in his hotel room trying to commit to memory he went to plan B. He recorded it to a large Wollensak reel to reel recorder and placed it in the bottom of the podium. With a wired earplug he used it for the speech and the "ear" was invented.

Today every on-camera spokesperson uses a variation of Bud's innovation. Dave Rondot (me) was the director and John Choate was the DP on this production. The first laugh at the end is mine. My hat's off to Bud a true talent.

 

Wikipedia has an entry providing some nice background information on the origin of the Turbo Encabulator idea, posting by Time Magazine (I bought the issue), the actual GE product data sheet included in the General Electric Handbook (see picture below), and more.

Here's the text. Enjoy!

For a number of years now, work has been proceeding in order to bring perfection to the crudely conceived idea of a transmission that would not only supply inverse reactive current for use in unilateral phase detractors, but would also be capable of automatically synchronizing cardinal grammeters. Such an instrument is the turbo encabulator.

Now basically the only new principle involved is that instead of power being generated by the relative motion of conductors and fluxes, it is produced by the modial interaction of magneto-reluctance and capacitive diractance.

The original machine had a base plate of pre-famulated amulite surmounted by a malleable logarithmic casing in such a way that the two spurving bearings were in a direct line with the panametric fan. The latter consisted simply of six hydrocoptic marzlevanes, so fitted to the ambifacient lunar waneshaft that side fumbling was effectively prevented.

The main winding was of the normal lotus-o-delta type placed in panendermic semi-boloid slots of the stator, every seventh conductor being connected by a non-reversible tremie pipe to the differential girdle spring on the "up" end of the grammeters.

The turbo-encabulator has now reached a high level of development, and it’s being successfully used in the operation of novertrunnions. Moreover, whenever a forescent skor motion is required, it may also be employed in conjunction with a drawn reciprocation dingle arm, to reduce sinusoidal repleneration.

 

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I read an article in Forbes magazine a few years ago about purpose-driven branding, which spoke to the difference between a brand promise and a purpose. The article went on to say that while every brand makes a promise, not every brand has a purpose. Brands with purpose forge deeper relationships with their customers, differentiate themselves from their competitors and are worth paying more for.

Your brand promise is ultimately how customers will experience your brand. Your brand promise is a statement of what you will do for your customers. A brand promise is to your brand what features are to your product.

Without a purpose to support it, a brand promise is empty. The brand purpose is the "So what?" of the promise. It answers the question, "Why?" Why do your employees come to work every day? Why do customers buy your products? It speaks to the benefits your customers will receive when they buy from your brand.

Consider the example of a hybrid automobile.

While the brand promise might read something like, "We make lower fuel consumption and emissions possible," it does not speak to the "So what?" of the promise. The purpose speaks to how customers will specifically benefit from the lower fuel consumption and emissions that are being promised. Define that purpose (e.g., We make our customers' lives better through cost savings and cleaner, healthier air) and it becomes easier to see why customers would want a deeper relationship with a brand that genuinely cares about their financial and physical well-being. It's also a good reason why customers might be willing to pay more for a hybrid automobile.

Just as a good salesperson knows the importance of articulating benefits in the sale of premium products, a good marketer knows the importance of defining a purpose for his or her brand.

Your people, even the volunteers, are your brand. How they appear, what they say and what they do are all manifestations of your brand.

While this may seem fairly obvious in a business setting (e.g., a salesperson on a sales call), it's often less obvious in non-business settings (e.g., employees on a community service project, volunteers serving others on behalf of a faith-based charitable organization, etc.).

I encountered an example of this recently during my WorkCamp volunteer experience. To the residents we were helping, the other workers and I represented the faith-based service organization that had sent us to their homes. Their experience with our organization was limited to the interactions they had with us during our work projects. Our openness to engaging them, our work ethic, the quality of our work and the condition in which we left their homes when we were done all formed an impression of our organization's brand – who we were, our values and the things that made us special.

Organizations that are active in the community would do well to remind participants of the their role in representing their brand. After all, you only get one chance to make a first impression.

For more on the relationship between branding and volunteerism, please see:
How Volunteers and Community Managers Serve Brands, Too
Your Brand and the Community It Serves
What the Boy Scouts Can Teach Your Business About Serving Others

I recently made a reservation for an appointment at an Apple Genius Bar. I had been away for a week and noticed my iPhone was running progressively slower as the week wore on. As I was preparing to return home, I decided it was time to have an Apple Genius take a look at it.

When the time of my appointment had arrived, I walked into the Apple store and was greeted by an Apple Genius. With an iPad in hand, he asked me about my iPhone and how he could help. He ran some diagnostics and concluded my iOS 7 operating software needed an upgrade. He backed up my iPhone and then proceeded with the upgrade. After a few moments, he came by to check on my progress.

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I told him the upgrade was complete and that I had decided to upgrade 11 of my apps while I was there, as well. He smiled and encouraged me to take as much time as I needed. When all of the upgrades were complete, I tested the iPhone and its normal speed had returned. I walked over to the Genius Bar technician who had helped me and asked what I owed him. He smiled and said, "Just a good handshake."

While these activities are considered fairly routine and could have been done by me at home, what made my tech support experience with Apple extraordinary is the fact that he never even mentioned it. The Genius simply wanted to help me. There were no excuses, no obstacles and no costs. Where other manufacturers might have provided me with a toll-free tech support number to call, Apple provided me with a personalized in-store tech support experience. Where other manufacturers would have insisted I complete these functions on my own, Apple did them for me. And where others might have asked for a credit card number to bill, Apple merely asked for a handshake.

My interaction with the Apple Genius Bar this week exceeded my expectations in so many ways that it served to deepen my connection with the brand and its technology. Deeper connections differentiate brands and allow them to retain me and other users as loyal customers.

Is the tech support experience your brand is providing like the one I received with Apple, where the extraordinary happens and customer connections are deepened with every interaction? Or, is it like those other experiences I mentioned where the opposite is true? If the answer is like those others, it may be time to think differently about your customer experience.

 

 

A common fear among CMOs and other marketing leaders who have yet to embrace social media is losing control of their brand's online reputation. Social media is, after all, an open forum where anyone can share an idea or express an opinion.

And yet, not having an active presence on social media platforms like Twitter does not completely shield non-social brands from unsolicited social media mentions, either positive or negative ones. The people who have something to say will either find a brand's Twitter handle (even those that are relatively inactive) or often guess at one for brands who do not have one.

Non-social brands, which I define as those that are not proactively engaging people online, are letting others speak for them. By their silence or, worse yet, their limited reactive engagement, they are ceding control of their online reputation. Think about it for a moment. Do you really want people characterizing your brand's reputation as #behindthetimes, #worstcustomerserviceever and #noresponse?

Build your reputation as a proactive brand. Listen to and communicate with your customers, prospects and other stakeholders. Anticipate their needs and make an effort to demonstrate your brand's value before your hand is forced.  

For more on the intersection of branding, social media and online reputations, please see:
Social Media Marketing Lessons from "A Christmas Carol"
The Power of Social Media in Brand Storytelling
Social Media: Why You Need to Tell Your Own Story

There is one day left to register (click here).  Here's the top 10 and a bonus reason why you should register right now and not miss this!

1.  Don't miss the best entrepreneur author and business speaker expected in dc this year,
2.  Unleash your why to inspire, align and resonate with your clients - catapult your growth
3.  Enjoy the great entertainment by business owner and EO member Jim Reznikoff's jazz group "The Rez experience"
4.  Win a chance to get coffee one-on-one WHY TIME with Ridgely before he leaves DC
5.  Get to see behind the scenes at the inspiring and fun Performing Arts Center, The Atlas
6.  Get to know one of the hottest growing DC neighborhoods: the hopping H Street corridor - before the streetcar comes online!
7.  One of the top 50 business books will be being handed out too!
8.  Get $100 worth of free tickets for you and a date to a performing art event in dc - or for you to handoff to your executive team!
9.  Lock in the steepest discount available for the next Ignition Shift event.
10. Join several DC entrepreneur and thought leaders of EO YPO VISTAGE and CEO groups who will be here
and...
11. Meet the handful of business owners flying their teams in from other cities just for this event - they are all growing extremely fast - learn their secrets!

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"The Washington Post" recently ran an article in its Health & Science section on healthy and unhealthy office relationships. In case you might be wondering, the article was not talking about romantic relationships at work. Rather, it spoke to the impact of the office environment on your health, mood and productivity.

Like many of you, I've spent the better part of my career working in an office. I've experienced many of the healthy conditions described in the article: a boss who regularly interacts with his or her people and allows them to make decisions, co-workers who share time together over lunch away from their desks, more open work spaces where people tend to be quieter because they know others can hear them and a décor of natural colors and designs for promoting a warm atmosphere. And, if I could add one of my own favorites to the list – an "open door" policy that promotes collaboration and transparency through a limited number of shared closed spaces for private phone calls and meeetings.

Contrast those experiences to the ones I've had in offices with some of the unhealthy conditions mentioned in the article: a brow-beating boss who micromanages his or her people, co-workers who regularly eat lunch at their desks, loud conversations and other annoying sounds from cubicles with high walls and a monotone décor in shades of gray. And, of course, the pervasive presence of "behind-closed doors" conversations and other activities in closed office spaces that promote a culture of secrecy.

In my experience, businesses whose employees have healthy relationships with their offices tend to perform better than those where the opposite is true. Offices with unhealthy conditions tend to breed a lack of trust, little respect for others and low morale while offices with healthy conditions are places where people trust and respect one another and generally feel good about coming to work.

Employees with healthy office relationships generally are healthier (i.e., fewer sick days), more enthusiastic about coming to work (which shows in their interactions with your customers) and more productive (i.e., efficient). They tend to stick around longer and have higher retention rates than those with unhealthy office relationships. At the end of the day, their higher retention rates can translate into lower costs, higher margins and improved earnings for your business.

For more insights on office relationships and culture, please see:
Your Employees Play a Leading Role In Shaping Great Brands
When Was the Last Time Your Employees Had Fun at Work?
What Story Is Your Organizational Culture Telling?
What Makes Your Company a Best Place to Work?
Employee Retention: People Leave Managers, Not Companies

One of the clearest memories I have of my first summer job at a Howard Johnson's restaurant is of a poster in the service area, where the wait staff typically congregated when not serving customers. The quote on the poster read, "Our customers are the reason for our existence."

I'm sure this poster, or a similar version of it, found its way into a number of other restaurants at the time. It was, after all, nothing new and it was actually a simple way of reminding employees of the importance of serving customers in a way that was friendly and polite.

Although it's been a few years since I've waited tables, I've learned serving customers well entails more than providing friendly and polite service. Brands who serve customers extraordinarily well don't need simple reminders, either. You see, serving customers is in their DNA. It's instinctive and it happens naturally. Brands (and people) who serve others well have a genuine interest in helping others. In fact, I would make the argument that the desire to serve others is the foundation of a great customer experience.

In a few weeks, I will be departing for my third WorkCamp with the faith-based organization I belong to. There, I will manage a week-long service project where a team of high school youths will be making repairs and other improvements to the home of a resident who could use a helping hand or two. Although the working conditions may be less than ideal, none of us will complain. And the only pay we'll receive for our work that week will be the immense satisfaction that comes from knowing we made a difference by serving someone in need.

Many of the teens who participate in WorkCamp come back year after year, for as long as they are eligible. Why? Because serving others is in their DNA. They genuinely want to make a difference. They enjoy providing others with an uplifting and memorable experience.

Now, imagine these are the people serving your customers. What do you suppose your customers might say or write about their experience with your brand? 

For more on the importance of serving others, please see:
How a Chance Encounter Became a Magic Moment
Working Together to Accomplish the Extraordinary
Your Brand and the Community It Serves

As a business leader, you know how important it is to have alignment between your team, staff, and your vision. The alignment comes from truly understanding the "Why." And the challenge is to turn your vision into specific steps your team can take to discover, understand, and unleash the power of your why to make your business grow. You have to get your whole team rowing the boat in the same direction at the same time.

Simon Sinek (FaceBook) (TED presentation) talks about Learning your Why. How would you like to experience your own "Why" discovery?

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Next Wed, on June 18th (register here), one of the best entrepreneurial minds and authors, Ridgely Goldsborough, is joining us for a one night only IgnitionShift event with the tools, exercises, and direct coaching we guarantee will drive you and your executive team to:

a) Discover your "why" -- your passion for what you do and why you do it
b) Understand how your "why" can catapult your business forward in specific ways
c) Align your team and get the right people in the right seats based on their "why"
d) Connect on a powerful level with your clients and your marketplace

Join fellow high growth CEOs from Entrepreneurs' Organization (EO), Young President's Organization (YPO), and other regional leaders - along with their executive teams - for this one time only experience.

* Learn how to dramatically stand out from your competition.

** Sponsors will be providing door prizes and give-aways. The first 50 guests to arrive will receive a special gift. **

Register for the event before it fills up! Grab space for you and your team today! Early bird rate ends tomorrow, June 11.

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IgnitionShift is my (along with fellow charter members) ongoing event series and educational platform for high-growth companies.

On June 1st, Timothy D. Sands took office as the 16th president of Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (more commonly known as Virginia Tech). In a recent discussion about faculty promotion and tenure, he spoke of the importance of patents and other signs of innovation and entrepreneurship. He cited these as "evidence of impact," which he defined as "how that work changes the marketplace, how it changes the technology, and how [it enables] people to do things they couldn't do before."

It's easy to see how this notion concerning "evidence of impact" can be applied to marketers. For example, if you've spent the last few years researching, developing and implementing your organization's new marketing strategy, what evidence of impact can you provide? How have you changed the marketplace? How have you changed the way technology is used in your industry? How are you enabling your customers to do things they couldn't do before? Are you inventing the future or are you just following everyone else?

The answers to these questions are potential game changers. They look beyond more traditional measures of sales and revenue growth, profitability and ROI. They are what differentiates market leaders from their competitors.

As I have said before, activity is interesting, results matter. It may be time to look at your results and what lies beyond them. What evidence of impact can you provide?

My college-age son started his first full-time management job the other day. He'll be spending his summer as the Aquatic Facilities Manager at the local country club, where he'll oversee a staff of 12 lifeguards and the operations of the facility.

As he prepared to head off to work for his first day, I wanted to impart some sage advice. And I wanted to leave him with something I knew he would use.

Here is what I decided to share...

This is an exciting day for you, one you will remember for a long time. This is also an exciting day for the people you manage. They, too, will remember this day for a very long time. More than anyone they encounter or anything else that happens today, you will have a role in how they remember this day.

Because you're the boss.

They will be watching you to see how you react to the situations you encounter. They will be listening to what you say, even when you're talking with someone else. They will be looking at your facial expressions, to get a sense for how you think things are going. And they will care what you think.

Because you're the boss.

If you take nothing else away from this, remember to smile. Just smile. And smile often. Let them know you care about them and the people you are there to serve. No matter what happens. Show them you trust in their abilities and you value their contributions...however large or small they might be.

Because you're the boss.

When he came home from work, I asked him how his first day had gone. He just smiled.

For more leadership insights in the workplace, please see:
Your Employees Play a Leading Role in Shaping Great Brands
Why Family Relationships Make for a Great Place to Work
When Was the Last Time Your Employees Had Fun at Work?

As a speaker, I have a very high bar before I recommend other speakers. Ridgely, without question, exceeds the bar. He's personal, insightful, warm, and an expert at what he does. I had the pleasure of being in Ridgely's program several months ago sponsored by Entrepreneur's Organization in Baltimore (Ridgely's bio is below).

We were able to get him to come to the Washington, DC area to present his "Unleash the Power of Your Why" on Wednesday, June 18, 4:30 to 8:30, in Washington, DC.

Join us for an entertaining and transformational workshop where you will:

- Discover your WHY in an interactive format—yes, you will learn the exact process you can apply at home and at the office
- Create WHY-based messaging for your marketing
- Learn how neuro-science drives behavior and how you can use that in your personal life as well as your business
- Use your WHY to build an inspired organization—a WHY-focused organization
- Know how your WHY can drive the culture of your company

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Click to register. The event is hosted by IgnitionShift. This is my (along with fellow charter members) ongoing event series and educational platform for high-growth companies.

 

altAbout Ridgely Goldsborough

Author and international speaker, Ridgely Goldsborough, known in the Latino market as Richeli, has spent the last 20 years as an expert in personal growth and development. Much like Napoleon Hill did in the early part of the last century, Ridgely has interviewed titans of business and industry in person, for his television show and on the radio. Based on the principles learned from these interviews and his own personal journey, Ridgely continues to write books and create audio and video programs to help us all on our journey to success.

In Business
- Started his first enterprise at the age of 16. In the past three decades, he has created 36 companies, with 400 employees in 35 countries.
- Founded, as the publisher, Network Marketing Lifestyles, the first ever four-color glossy magazine distributed on the newsstands for the industry of direct sales and multilevel marketing, in addition to three other magazines.
- Continues to develop various businesses in a diverse array of industries, with a passion for personal growth, particularly in the Latin market.

As a Writer
- Written nine books, including The Great Ones, The Power of Belief, Masters of Success, Skinny, Happy and Rich and four others.
- Shares his columns and inspirational articles, in English and Spanish, on over 30,000 websites.
- Created over 60 audio programs on personal and professional development.

As a Speaker
- In the last twenty years, Ridgely has given thousands of presentations on motivation, personal and professional development and business education, on five continents, in both English and Spanish.
- Conducted well over 100 interviews with titans of industry on the themes of success, prosperity and wealth accumulation.

Radio and Television
- Created 50+ inspirational and educational programs entitled A View From The Ridge that played on the radio across the Midwestern United States.
- Created his own television program, Modest To Millions based on interviews of successful business men and women who shared their keys to prosperity and wealth.

In Summary
If you are looking for a first class speaker with years of experience in both the English and Spanish markets, who entertains, motivates and educates all at the same time—and who is one of the world’s premiere experts in personal growth, prosperity and wealth accumulation, contact us today to book Ridgely for your next event!

Ridgely splits his time between Latin America and Pensacola, Florida, where he lives with his wife Kathy and their four children.

 

Brokerage firm E.F. Hutton was best known in the 1970's and '80s by the advertising tag line, "When E.F. Hutton talks, people listen." Their television commercials typically involved a conversation between two people. When one of them mentioned his broker was E.F. Hutton, the others around them would suddenly stop what they were doing and listen intently to the one who was talking.

If you are talking on social media, are people listening? Do you have "E.F. Hutton" credibility among your community of followers? Are you posting content on social media networks like Twitter and Facebook that people are acting on? How do you know?

One way to tell is by measuring your Klout. Klout is an online measure of your brand's social media influence. It measures influence based on your ability to drive action. The more influential you are, the higher your Klout score (as of June 2013, the average Klout score was 40).

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Why is online social media influence important?

As you may recall from the E.F. Hutton television commercials of 30 years ago, the market landscape included so many competing sources of financial advice that it was often difficult to break through the noise. The same is true of today's highly competitive content marketplace. Even if your content is amazing, it won't have an impact if no one is listening.

For other insights on Klout and how you can increase your brand's online influence, please see:
Why a Good Social Media Marketing Strategy Includes Content and Engagement
5 Insights for Marketing Your Brand On Social Media
Does Your Brand Have Klout?

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

My #FirstTweet

Everybody has to start somewhere.

I reached a few social media milestones last week and it got me thinking about my own start on Twitter. When did I send my first tweet? What did I say? Was anyone even listening?

Luckily for me, the good folks at Twitter recently launched a website, called 'first-tweets.com', that lets users search for their own (or others') first tweet. Turns out, my first tweet was sent on December 30, 2009 and it was a New Year's wish acknowledging the previous year and decade.

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Over 5,500 tweets and 3,900 followers later, I've come a long way. I guess someone was listening, after all. My active social media accounts now include Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, Pinterest, Foursquare, Snapchat, Klout and Kred. More importantly, my social network consists of thousands of followers, professional connections and friends who I've had the privilege of sharing some really great content with since December 2009.

These last four years have been a period of rapid growth for me and my personal brand. My Twitter community has grown at an annual rate of 46%. My online social influence, as you might expect, has also seen tremendous growth. Kred, a tool that measures social media influence, now ranks me in the top 5% of influential social media users in the Global Kred community (i.e., all of Twitter). 

It's been an exciting time for me and I've enjoyed the ride. If you're not on the social media bandwagon, why not climb aboard and join me for the rest of the ride? If the past is any indication, it's going to be a fast one!

For some of my earliest blogs on social media, please see:
Social Media – Are You Connected?
Are You Embracing Social Media?
Business Storytelling for Social Media
Make Your Personal Brand Stand Out in LinkedIn
• Extend Your Brand's Reach with Twitter

I've spent the majority of my professional career in technology sales, where I've worked with some of the best salespeople I have ever met. We sold premium telecommunications products and services in some tough markets. Our newly deregulated markets were characterized by intense competition from new entrants, a steady stream of emerging technologies, a changing distribution model, industry consolidation and continued governmental and investor oversight.

No doubt, we had our ups and downs. While there were some "lean" years (i.e., weak markets), our focus never waivered. We were a quarter-to-quarter business and our objective was to grow market share in a profitable way. And we were successful. When I left Avaya, we were the market leader in inbound contact center solutions and ranked among the top three in IP Telephony.

What powered our success?

Let me offer a few personal insights from my experience:

Create Value
As a senior account manager, my role was to create value for my client's business. More often than not, I did this by showing how the products and services I was selling could help my clients achieve one or more of their top business objectives. As an example, instead of positioning our contact center management solutions as a commoditized product that could be purchased at a discount, I focused on how I could help my clients improve their customer experience by achieving first-call resolution in a cost-effective way.

Advise and Consult
A key element of the consultative sales experience was to provide customers with new ideas for enabling their personal and professional success. Clients wanted ideas on how to avoid risk, save money, increase productivity and grow market share. Our conferencing and collaboration solutions allowed a client to accomplish all four of these goals, with reliable technology that enabled employees from around the globe to make real-time decisions on new customer acquisition strategies.

Offer Solutions
We live in a world where information is readily available and clients complete more than half of their buying experiences online before they even meet with a sales representative. Today's clients are more interested in best of breed, multi-vendor solutions than a single vendor platform. Collaborating with trusted partners and bringing them together on behalf of the client to form a seamless, interoperable solution to address a pressing business challenge helped to differentiate me as a problem-solver.

If there is a point to this story, it's that creating value, providing your customer with a consultative sales experience and collaborating with partners to offer solutions will help you grow your market share in a way that is profitable. In fact, some of my largest sales were for "business solutions" that carried higher price points (and margins) than what my competitors perceived as comparable offers.

For more on winning sales strategies and tactics, please see:
How Social Media Is Changing the Way We Sell
If You're Selling, Are You Showing or Telling?
If You're in Sales, Tell Me Something I Don't Know
What Makes Your Company Different?
"Refrigerator Rights" and Why Organizations Value Them

In my last post, you may recall my mentioning the findings of a recent e-commerce study by predictive analytics firm Custora.

 

It was largely a good news story for email.

 

Customer acquisition via email has quadrupled over the last four years. Email marketing is a growing trend in e-commerce and customers acquired through the email channel have a higher Customer Lifetime Value than those acquired through most other channels.

 

If your brand is looking to acquire new customers through the email channel, here are some tips for optimizing your e-commerce strategy:

1. Make it to the recipient's inbox.
In the sales world, this is the equivalent of "earning a seat at the table." Avoid spam triggers in your subject line. Target customer segments and buying patterns.

2. Get opened.
In a March 2013 Customer Experience Survey by Kentico, 48% of participants listed email as their preferred form of communication with a brand. Use a familiar, recognizable name in your return email address. Make sure your subject line is relevant to the needs and concerns of your target audience. Include an eye-catching image in the body of your email.

3. Give the recipient a compelling reason to act.
Create a call to action. Provide the recipient with 3-5 reasons to click through the link(s) in your email. Add social share buttons for increased click-through-rates (CTRs).

4. Make it easy to read from a mobile device.
Data shared by Litmus during Marketing Sherpa's 2014 Email Summit indicate that close to half of all emails are opened on a mobile device (i.e., smartphones and tablets). Use simple and short subject lines. Reduce copy to accommodate reduced screen real estate.

5. Invest equally in other elements of the customer's purchase journey.
Google research tells us 90% of consumers have mult-screen brand experiences. Provide your customers with a brand experience that is at once seamless and specific to the nature of the device they are using. Examine it from the mobile user's perspective. Optimize the entire path to purchase, from the landing page through the shopping cart.

Done right, email marketing can be one of the most valuable tools in your e-commerce strategy. What other ideas do you have for optimizing your strategy?

 

If you're like me, you unlikely suffer from email overload. Multiple email accounts (I have 4) across multiple devices (I have 5, including an iPad and an iPhone) and not enough hours in a day to actually read all of the emails I do receive. It would be easy to conclude from what I've just told you that email, as a marketing channel, is no longer an effective way to acquire and retain customers like me.

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Not so fast. 

As I was researching material for an upcoming guest lecture I'm going to be giving on digital marketing, I discovered evidence to suggest the opposite may be true. Here's why...

"...research shows old-fashioned email is still far more effective than social media in attracting customers to your business online."
     - Forbes, 'Why Email Is Still More Effective Than Social Media Marketing,' October, 1, 2013

"Email subscribers can also deliver something that traditional websites and social media struggle with: loyalty."
     - Adweek, 'Don't Count Out Email Newsletters,' April 15, 2014

A 2013 e-commerce study by predictive analytics firm Custora found that customer acquisition via email has quadrupled over the last 4 years. Email marketing is a growing trend in e-commerce, with increasing numbers of retailers building communities, collecting email addresses and converting email subscribers to customers. The study also found the Customer Lifetime Value (CLV) from customers who arrive through the email channel is 12% higher than average.

If you're a marketer, be sure to include email in your marketing mix. And visit us again next week when I share some tips with you for optimizing your email marketing strategy.

I've spent a good portion of my sales and marketing career on the front lines of a handful of successful rebrands – post-divestiture AT&T in 1984, spin-off Lucent Technologies in 1996 and start-up Avaya in 2000.

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My job was to maintain our momentum in the market (i.e., achieving sales growth and profitability targets) while helping customers to understand the impact of the rebrands (e.g., new name, brand promise, values, message and image) on them. Customer feedback varied and opinions were strong, as you might expect when a brand whose heritage spans more than a century of innovation and reliability undergoes a change so significant it requires a corporate rebrand on three occasions during a 16-year period.

The key to my individual success – and the success of these rebrands – was an extraordinarily high level of employee engagement across the business. Employee videos and TV ads, like AT&T's futuristic "You Will" campaign in the early 90's, brought the new AT&T brand to life and gave us a glimpse into a future filled with the promise of innovation. They inspired us to believe in what was possible. The integration of the new Lucent brand into our onboarding and training processes helped transform us into passionate brand advocates and evangelists. And volunteering along with 250 other Avaya employees in community service projects like the cleanup and restoration of City Park in New Orleans, which was badly damaged by Hurricane Katrina in 2005, gave us a sense of purpose.

These rebrands succeeded because senior management had the foresight to engage us often and early. They shared ownership of the rebranding processes with us and made sure we were emotionally invested in their outcomes. In short, they "sold" us on the new brands so we could confidently and articulately "sell" them to our customers and the communities we served.

For more on the importance of employee engagement in your organization, please see:
How to Lead Change In Your Organization
One Team, One Goal
What Makes Your Company a Best Place to Work?

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