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Authors

Ira Koretsky
(click for all of Ira's posts)
Duane Bailey
(click for all of Duane's posts)
Guest Bloggers
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Did you know LinkedIn has a plug-in for Outlook 2003, 2007, and 2010?

It seamlessly blends into Outlook. While in email, a person’s profile picture is automatically displayed in your People Pane View, whether they are one of your connections or not. Want to add the person, simply click on the green + adjacent to the picture, and the person will be invited to join your network.

Keep in mind, you can NOT personalize the invitation. The person will receive the plain vanilla invite.

LinkedIn Benefits include (from the site):
- Access Your Connections in Your Inbox:  See the latest LinkedIn activity and profile photo from any connection that sends you an e-mail.
- E-mail Your Connections Directly:  Just start typing a name and let the LinkedIn Outlook Connector fill in the rest.
- Keep Building Your Network:  Instantly send an invitation to connect from any Outlook e-mail.

Download it here
http://www.linkedin.com/static?key=microsoft_outlook

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Having traveled around the world both on vacation and speaking, I have come across a variety of interesting food names:

- Chicken with wilted spinach
- Stinky tofu
- Vegetarian meatballs

You may have heard, even tried some of these. By themselves, do the titles immediately make you think “yummy?” or do you mentally cringe? Personally, I cringed at "wilted spinach." Why would I order something out of date or not fresh? Because this was served at a very nice restaurant, I laughed out loud. It sparked quite an interesting conversation with my dining partners.

Quite unintended, I ended up liking the phrase wilted spinach quite a lot as a metaphor for bad messaging. As a result, I titled our approach to testing messages, “The Wilted Spinach Test.” At its core, the test looks to evaluate whether your words/messages resonate with your target audiences. At a detailed level, do your words/messages mean what you want them to mean? Words matter. A lot. To some, one word could be positive and to others, the very same word could be negative.

Do your written, spoken, and social media communications cause audiences to ask good questions, contact you, or skip right past you?

Monday, January 26, 2015

Words to Avoid - “Anxious”

altFor business communications, you should avoid using the word “anxious.” Anxious is a word all too often misused. You’ll hear people saying, “I’m anxious to meet Julie.” Or “I’m really anxious about xyz.”

By definition, anxious means: “characterized by extreme uneasiness of mind or brooding fear about some contingency” (Merriam-Webster Online).

For business communications, always use “eager.” By definition, eager means: “marked by enthusiastic or impatient desire or interest” (Merriam-Webster Online).

If there is a cause to use “anxious” to convey worry, we suggest using “concern” or “concerned.”

Since all of your business communications to your target audiences are related to your relationship and what you offer to them, choose your words carefully.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Selling Beyond Price

It's easy to sell on price, particularly when yours is the lowest. What happens, though, when your price isn't the lowest?

One of my go-to sales training exercises is to ask a group of experienced salespeople to imagine a world where there is no difference between their price and those of their competitors. If price is no longer a differentiator, how would they position their products and services? What would possibly compel someone to buy from them?

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This forces them to take a deeper, more introspective look at their selling approach. The best salespeople sometimes default to selling at a lower price, even when their products and services are arguably better. In doing so, they discount the value of the service they provide, the knowledge and expertise they offer, their relationship with the customer and the impact their products and solutions can have on their customer's business.

If a salesperson's first instinct is to offer a discounted price, it's a sign he or she doesn't attach much value to the things that matter most to customers. And if a salesperson doesn't believe these benefits are worth paying more for, why would your customer? 

For more on selling beyond price, please see:
How One Brand Is Growing Sales While Raising Prices in a Weak Economy
Achieving Market Share Growth in a Weak Market
What Makes Your Company Different?

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Imagine you arrive at a lunchtime networking event. It takes place in a hotel conference room, comfortably sitting 150 people.

As you enter through the main doors, you briefly stop to survey the room. “Where do I sit?” you ask yourself.

If you are like many people, you follow human nature and seek out comfort and safety. This means you seek out people you know—friends, colleagues, perhaps someone you met before. No longer...

To be successful at business networking, you should be stretching your comfort and safety zones.

At your next event, only sit with strangers.

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In today's go-go-go world, people want and demand information to be on point. Once you get the reader's attention, you can offer more details.

We suggest writing all of your emails smart phone-friendly. These types of emails are fewer than 100 words and take 15 to 30 seconds to read.

Need to send a lengthy email? Break it into two parts. The first part should be the short version, summarizing your key points. The second part offers the details and goes below your signature line

The New Year is a great time to look ahead and think about the things you're going to do differently in the year ahead, especially if you're a sales professional. Change is a constant in sales – the result of evolving market conditions, increasing competition and sales quotas with year-over-year growth targets.

You can embrace this change with these ten sales resolutions:
   1. Spend four more hours in front of your customers each week
   2. Learn one new fact about your industry each week
   3. Establish yourself as an industry expert on one social media channel
   4. Give your prospects one big reason to engage with you, outside of price
   5. Give your customers one big reason to expand their relationship with you and your brand, outside of price
   6. Make every customer interaction about them, instead of you
   7. Include five reasons to buy in every proposal, with a focus on value
   8. Sell high and wide within your customer organizations, with a goal of meeting one new decision-maker or influencer on every call
   9. Obtain one new customer testimonial each month
 10. Empower your customers through conversations that include words like: "and" (instead of "but"), "do" (instead of "try") and "yes" (instead of "no")

You can do this. Make 2015 the year of the customer, and your best year ever, with these resolutions.

  

For more insights on selling, please see:
Achieving Market Share Growth in a Weak Market 
If You're Selling, Are You Showing or Telling? 
The Power of the Human Touch in Sales 
If You're in Sales, Tell Me Something I Don't Know 
Are Your Customers Looking for a Better Deal?

 

One of the most common questions/statements we receive about storytelling is "I just don't know where to begin."

Choosing the right story, turning it into an engaging experience, and practicing to be a great storyteller of course takes time. What really doesn't take much time and very little preparation, is telling a “Today Story.”

It is an experience that happened to you the day of your presentation, before you begin.

Share your experiences:
- Airplane ride
- Conversation you had with someone previously (at the opening event night before is also a good source),
- Taxi cab ride from the airport with the person sitting next you
- Conversation you had with your spouse, child, parent
- "I was just talking to FirstName" about (a participant in the audience)

In three minutes or less, YOU CAN tell a great story. One that is relevant and interesting. And one that sets the stage for a great presentation to come to your audience.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

It Is In Giving That We Receive

The rewards of volunteering are varied and many...and sometimes, not readily apparent.

Over a decade ago, I volunteered for a few years as a religious education instructor. My job was to teach middle school students the basics of their faith. I used to tell anyone who would listen at the time this was one of the toughest audiences I had ever faced. Students at this age are very transparent and I knew many of them would have preferred to be somewhere else during class time.

I spent untold hours trying to make the lectures fun, engaging and interactive. We played games, watched movies, did community service work outside the classroom and more. I gave each student a hard copy of the evening's class notes (which were filled with facts, stories and quotes from the Bible) – realizing then that they wouldn't read them until months or years later, perhaps when they were taking a religion course in college.

While it was clear I was able to reach some students during those formative years, there were others who just seemed disengaged and detached. It wasn't until the other night, during a service at my place of worship, that a former student and his family were sitting in the row in front of me. I remembered him as one who seemed particularly disengaged at the time.

I recognized him during the service and, at one point, he looked at me and smiled. After the service had ended, his mom turned around and told me her son had recognized me as one of his religious education teachers and had told her I was one of the best he ever had. It was a great gift to know my efforts were appreciated and remembered after so many years.

I tell this story because it's an inspiration to all of us on the importance of giving our best in all that we do in the New Year, for it is in giving that we truly receive.

One of my favorite holiday television specials is "A Charlie Brown Christmas." It's entertaining, brief and full of timeless lessons.

As fans of the drama know, the story centers around a boy named Charlie Brown and his frustration with the growing commercialism of the Christmas holiday season. All he really wants is to find the true meaning of Christmas.

While the story contains an obvious spiritual message, I think there is one for brands here, too. Even before the show's debut in 1965, references to the growing commercialism of the holiday season are evident in American movies and other media. 1947's "Miracle on 34th Street" is one film that comes to mind.

If, as Linus tells us, the Christmas holiday season is less about commercialism and more about spreading "peace and goodwill," the takeaway for brands is the importance of putting their core values and customer needs above short-term sales and profits. Who among us has at one time or another felt our expectations were not met, after being "sold" the equivalent of a "Charlie Brown Christmas tree?" 

Talk to your customers, understand their needs and always remember your core values. Putting customers first and creating something special are great ways to show your customers a little love this holiday season.

For more marketing insights from holiday favorites, please see:
Social Media Marketing Lessons from "A Christmas Carol"
Reputation Management: Six Things Brands Can Learn from George Bailey 
What Ebeneezer Scrooge Would Like Us to Know About Organizational Culture 

While content may be king in the digital age, it needs to be delivered to the right audience at the right time and at the right place to make it meaningful and relevant.

This shouldn't come as a big surprise to marketers. After all, the central premise behind every successful sales presentation is knowing your audience – what their pain points are, what they're doing about them and how failing to resolve those pain points will impact your prospects both personally and professionally. It's also helpful to know where your audience is going for answers to those pain points – your competitors, trade associations, industry consultants, scholarly journals, white papers, social media, etc.

I was reminded of this recently during a visit to one of the big-box home improvement stores. I was looking for a rust-inhibiting spray paint for use on a bathtub when an associate started telling me about the store's promotion on kitchen cabinet re-facings. His knowledge level of cabinet re-facings was impressive. What he failed to realize was, at that moment, I could care less about re-facing my kitchen cabinets.

Great content, for sure. The same cannot be said for the context in which it was delivered. My pain point was a rusting tub, I wanted to repair the tub with a rust-inhibiting paint and the impact of my failing to find an answer to my pain point might be a potential water leak (which, incidentally, could cause extensive damage to the kitchen below the bathroom where the rusting tub is located). I also had previous experience with a rust-inhibiting spray paint and just needed to know where I could find another can in a different color.

Think about your digital content. I'm guessing it's awesome stuff. Now think about the context in which you are delivering it. Are you targeting the right audience? Are you delivering it at the right time and place? Are you present in the places where your target audience is going for answers to their questions? Or, are you trying to sell kitchen cabinet re-facings to a guy who simply wants to repair a rusty bath tub?

Tuesday, December 02, 2014

Good Spelling Leads to Good Selling

When I was an undergraduate marketing student at Fairfield University, my English professor would remind us of this simple admonition: "Can't spell, can't sell."

I didn't appreciate the power of his words until a few years later when I became a salesperson. As a young account executive for a Fortune 500 technology firm, I was selling more than just the latest information technology. I was selling ideas, solutions and my company's (and my) reputation.

Few things did more to challenge my credibility with customers than incorrectly spelled names and words in my proposals and presentations. These seemingly simple errors were perceived as evidence of indifference, insufficient preparation or a lack of attention to detail. It was also a stretch to claim expertise about some thing if I couldn't even spell its name correctly. In an instant, spelling errors could potentially unravel deals worth hundreds of thousands of dollars that were months in the making. 

So, as it turned out, my professor was right. Good spelling leads to good selling.

 

For more on how to increase your sales, please see:
Increase Sales with Better Storytelling
If You're Selling, Are You Showing or Telling?
If You're in Sales, Tell Me Something I Don't Know

When I showed up to my daughter's after school classroom, I was greeted by her class' election day voting.

For Governor, Jake won by a landslide. Superman barely earned Sheriff. Senators Pook and Eeyore won handily.

For the House, Elsa crushed and Anna sqeaked by Ariel.

I thought it quite clever how the teachers used the children's favorite characters to teach and demonstrate our voting.

What can you do to make learning/training more interesting?

 

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I'm excited to be part of the third Cleantech Open Southeast Regional Summit in the Washington, DC area. If you are at all involved in green, energy, cleantech, etc. I strongly encourage you to attend. CTO is a global organization with partnerships in every sector working with cleantech.  alt

Here's the write-up of my portion, taking place right before the reception and gala dinner, Wednesday 23 October, 4 to 5pm. I'll be the emcee and facilitator of the ~15 companies presenting their elevator pitches. I'll keep it interesting, lively, and provide some constructive suggestions to everyone.

Cleantech Open Semifinalist/Alumni Showcase and Technology Demo – Join Ira Koretsky, the Chief Storyteller®, and Cleantech Open semifinalists and alumni companies as they showcase their technologies. Audience members will cast ballots for the company that will win the “People’s Choice Award” to be announced at the Awards dinner and celebration.

 Here's a partial listing of the many distinguished speakers and panelists:

- Heidi VanGenderen, Director of Public Engagement, U.S. Department of Energy
- Najada Kumbuli, Investment Officer, Calvert Social Investment Foundation, Inc
- Robert Griffin, Director, Renewable Energy Office, U.S. Department of the Navy
- Sara Hanks, Founder & CEO, CrowdCheck
- Honorable William Euille, Mayor, City of Alexandria
- Scott Dockum, , Program Manager, SBIR, U.S. Department of Agriculture
- Dr. Barbara Kenny, Program Director, Division of Industrial Innovation and Partnerships, NSF
- Manny Oliver, Director SBIR Programs, U.S. Department of Energy
- April Richards, Director SBIR Programs, Environmental Protection Agency
- Walter McLeod, Principal, Clean Power Group-Africa
- Stephen Morel, Climate Finance Specialist, Overseas Private Investment Corporation
- Aneri Patel, Energy Access Officer, UN Foundation, and Executive Director, ENVenture
- John Spears, Sustainable Systems International & Clinton Global Initiative Advisor
- Elizabeth Dougherty, Director of Inventor Education, Outreach & Recognition, U.S. Patent & Trademark Office
- Ed Greer, Venture & Business Development, Dow
- Jim Efstathiou Jr., Editor, Energy & Commodities Bloomberg News

 

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Last winter, I blogged about the secret ingredients of an amazing customer experience. It was a story about my then recent experience with a small business called Campus Cookies. I concluded my blog post with the observation that every great customer experience starts with people. I also talked about teamwork and the role of the CEO or owner in creating a culture that enables his or her employees to deliver an amazing customer experience.

I'd like to pick up where I left off on my earlier blog, with an update to the story. Last week, I and many other Campus Cookies customers received an email offering a $5 gift certificate in exchange for a positive review on Facebook. With one finger poised on the delete key, I quickly scanned the email, using my thumb to scroll down the page.

I was about to press the delete button when this comment caught my eye: "The negative reviews keep me on my toes, but the positive ones, those keep me going." Then there was this statement: "The review pasted below, truly hits home for me."

In an instant, I felt compelled to scroll down and keep reading. I had to see for myself what was so special about "this review." To my surprise and delight, it was the blog post I had written last winter! I penned an email to the owner, Scott Davidson, thanking him for acknowledging my post and telling him to keep up the good work. Again to my surprise, I received an email back from Scott about an hour later, thanking me for my support and letting me know I, too, would be receiving a $5 gift certificate.

While this gesture of gratitude was very much appreciated, it certainly wasn't necessary. You see, writing about a brand whose owner and CEO gets that the key to success is less about providing a product and more about creating a personalized customer experience is an opportunity most people like me would embrace. I suppose the four dozen or so fans who responded to Scott's offer by posting positive reviews on the Campus Cookies Facebook page within hours of receiving his email are testimony to that.

While it's easy to find organizations whose leadership talks about the need for a culture of enabling employees to deliver an amazing customer experience, it's harder and far less common to see leaders like Scott who work side by side with their employees on the front lines to make that happen. Small companies whose CEOs and owners remain focused on serving customers are typically the ones who grow up to become the bigger companies listed among the best places to work

In the meantime, school is in session and cookie season is upon us. I can hardly wait to place my next order!

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

How You Treat Your Employees Matters

I've always admired how leaders in the top hospitality brands treat their employees. Follow them around a property for a while and you'll notice a very high level of personal engagement – they greet everyone they encounter with a smile and by their first names. The employees instinctively smile back and return the greeting, using the leader's first name, as well.

What you'll also notice during these exchanges is how natural the interactions are. The employees don't suddenly stop doing what they're doing when the boss appears. What happens behind the scenes in many of these hotels is evidence of a well-oiled machine. The employees are well trained in the brand's standard operating procedures. Their leaders have full confidence in them. The employees are happy to be there and it shows in everything they do.

Why does this matter?

What goes on behind the scenes invariably plays out in front of your guests and customers. If your leaders interact with their employees in a warm and genuine way, your employees will do the same with their guests and customers. If your leaders invest in their employees and value their contributions, your employees will take pride in their role of serving their guests and customers. And if your leaders empower your employees, they will go the extra mile to provide their guests and customers with an experience that keeps them coming back.

 

For more on the importance of employee relationships to your brand, please see:
Your People (Even the Volunteers) Are Your Brand
Your Employees Play a Leading Role in Shaping Great Brands
Why Family Relationships Make for a Great Place to Work
What Story Is Your Organizational Culture Telling?
Employee Retention: People Leave Managers, Not Companies

 

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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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

"How to Create Your Unfair Competitive Advantage"

Snag your spot now for a jammed-packed program with Social Marketing Maven Kim Walsh-Phillips.

This is the next exciting event from my organization, Ignition Shift.

Join us for this interactive workshop to discover:

- How to get inside your prospects heads to close more sales without conducting expensive research
- The marketing formula of  promotion +  giveaways to produce more sales in 29 days
- How to leverage social media and advanced strategies to outpace your competitors without spending more on marketing

Plus when register, you will receive a Facebook Ads Guide, a step-by-step ads blueprint to create Facebook Ads that sell lead to market domination! (Discounts expire this week - so CLICK HERE to get your spot now!)

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Results you will get include changes you can make in your operations to drive deeper, more meaningful, and more valuable relationships with your marketing dollars!  Join us!

Location

The West End Cinema (best indy theatre in DC!) and patio is a great, convenient location for us to enjoy connecting with other growth minded, accomplished business executive teams.

Your Ignition Shift team is excited to craft a fun and socially engaging experience for all of us to connect with the ceos and executives joining us for Kim's workshop. We'll have a red carpet interaction before Kim starts, and a fun, gift filled, social opportunity to run your marketing challenges by Kim post event!

 

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About Your Speaker  
Kim Walsh-Phillips, www.Facebook.com/KWalshPhillips, is the award-winning Speaker, Author, Strategist and CEO of IO Creative Group, a direct response social media agency.  She is a techie marketing geek with great shoes, a hatred of awareness campaigns and an obsession for marketing with a sharp focus on ROI. Kim has worked with brands such as Sandler Training, Dan Kennedy, Pamela Yellen, Harley-Davidson, Chem-Dry, and Hilton Hotels to increase revenue through direct response marketing. Kim is the author of "Awareness Campaigns are Stupid and Other Secrets to Stop Being an Advertising Victim and Start Monetizing Your Marketing" and the upcoming book co-authored with direct response marketing legend Dan Kennedy, "The NO BS Guide to Direct Response Social Media Marketing."
 
(Again discounts expire this week -  CLICK HERE & grab your spot now!)

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

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