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Feb
21
2011
Never Underestimate a Thank You Maranda Gibson

I have a client who often sends me questions or requests to change their account via email. He and I have a very good relationship, even if he always spells my name incorrect. It’s no big deal, but when you’re reading an email and you see your name spelled wrong, it’s one of those things that stand out. He and I were working on something that took a little bit of investigation and when it was all over, I sent him a thank you card.

The card was mailed a few weeks ago and yesterday, he emailed me again with another question and thanked me for the card. What else? He spelled my name correctly. Much like how it would stand out when it was wrong, it stood out even more when it was right.

I found it interesting that it was the first email after he got his card – it stood out to me and I can’t help but wonder if maybe the reason is because of the card. If you want to stand out to a customer, here are five ways to thank them.

  1. Send them a card just to thank them for their time and let them know you appreciate their business.
  2. Give great customer service and always thank them for choosing your company.
  3. Invite them to write guest posts on your blog or be interviewed for your newsletter.
  4. Send them a gift. It doesn’t really matter what you send them but something to express your appreciation of their continued business can do wonders.
  5. Send follow up email to thank someone for taking the time to sit down with you and let them know that you’re available to help them whenever they need it.

Sometimes, giving your customer “thanks” isn’t just in what you say, it’s in what you do. You can thank your customers by just showing them that you appreciate that they are choosing your company to do business with. What are you doing to thank your customers?

Feb
18
2011
Five Tips for a Happier Home Worker Maranda Gibson

A few weeks ago, we had an ice storm and record breaking cold weather that trapped most people in their homes for four days. I personally went a little crazy after two days and was ready to return to the office. I couldn’t imagine how people do that kind of thing every day – then I realized they probably weren’t thrown in to the middle of it like I was, nor are they sitting in front of their lap top in their living room because they don’t own a desk.

That week taught me a lot about what it takes to work from home and the things that would have made my four days in my living room a little more productive and a little less crazy. Here are five tips to being a little more productive at home and a little less distracted.

  1. Make a written schedule and include breaks. Plan out your day on paper and stick to it, but schedule yourself to have breaks away from your desk. I know you want to go change out a load of laundry – so put it on your schedule so it gets done and you can get back to work.
  2. Have a daily conference call to check in with your employees or co-workers. When you’re away from your desk and away from everyone, it can be hard to keep track of those that you work with. Check in with them daily and remind yourself of the people you work with.
  3. If you have an office to go to, schedule a day in the middle of the week to spend the day there. If not, grab your laptop or iPad so you can get out of the house for a little while.
  4. Shut the door when “work time” is over. Keep a separation between your work and home life by creating a work space that you can close the door to, that way, you won’t see the stack of papers on your desk that need to be finished. Out of sight and out of mind – enjoy time at home!
  5. Work with background noise that makes you comfortable. Some people work better with complete silence. Personally, I need some background tunes. In the office, you’ll rarely find me without my headphones on, and at home, I love the sound of the TV in the background. Take advantage of being at home and watch a violent slasher flick, if that’s what motivates you – just turn it off before you take a call or have a video conference.

I know a lot of you work from home – it’s a trend that we’ve seen on the increase over the last few years, and as someone who probably wouldn’t like it very much, I’m wondering if any of you ever felt the same. What did you do to make your day more productive at home? Did you hate it at first and now you love it? What happened to make you change your mind?

Feb
16
2011
Webinars Can Promote Your Business…If Done Correctly Accuconference

Here's another in our guest post series, coming from Gini Dietrich. Thank you for taking the time Gini!

When I speak to business owners and leaders, I always have at least one person say to me, “I get that everyone is moving online to communicate, and I want to get on the bandwagon, but my customers don’t use the Internet.”

I call baloney.

American adults spend four hours every day online — which means your customers are on the Internet, and it’s your job to figure out how to reach them there.

Webinars are a great way to do just that. You can do paid webinars or free webinars, depending on your budget and what you’re trying to achieve, but it’s an easy way to market to new audiences without leaving the comfort of your home or your office.

But do webinars make sense for you? Maybe you run a kid’s fitness company. You’re probably thinking, “I don’t have time to also do webinars.” I always say that making time to do just one more thing is pretty difficult, but when you see the return you get on your investment, it’s pretty easy to make the time.

There are a lot of opportunities to use webinars in your own sales and marketing efforts. Think about it this way–how do you sell your product or services now? Is it one-on-one in an office setting? Wouldn’t it be easier to sell one-to-many in that same office setting? Or maybe you attract customers through promotions and coupons. Webinars offer another way to extend that message to more than just the people in your surrounding ZIP codes.

Let’s talk about what types of things you could include in the presentation.

  • Demonstrate how your product or service works.
  • Showcase your culture or what it’s like to work at your company.
  • Do you have a passion around something business-focused, such as leadership, finances, or human resources? Create a webinar around your passion.
  • Host a webinar that showcases your technical expertise.

Keep in mind, though, that webinars are about the customer, not about you or your business. So showcase what you’re about by making it valuable to the customer. Tips, tools, how-tos, and demonstrations work really well.

Now that you’ve decided what your webinar topic is, following are the top 10 things to consider when promoting to your customers and prospects.

  1. Define what attendees will get from attending the webinar. What’s in it for them? What kind of value are you giving them that they can’t get on their own?
  2. Create a line in your e-mail signature to allow people to click on, and sign up, from there.
  3. Promote via your newsletter/e-mail database by letting people know what’s in it for them and making it easy for them to register.
  4. Promote via social networks — post it to your LinkedIn profile, add it to your Facebook fan page, tweet about it, or blog about it.
  5. Include a line about your webinars on your invoices.
  6. If you have a retail location, post flyers at points of sale.
  7. Post to the home page of your Web site.
  8. Include a one-click Outlook reminder that people can add to their calendars as they register.
  9. Ask for questions in advance of the webinar in order to engage people early.
  10. Send a reminder e-mail one week, one day, and one hour prior to the webinar.

Once you’ve decided on your topic and you’ve promoted the heck out of it (don’t be shy about repeating yourself over and over again – people need to see/hear a message seven to 12 times before they act), following are some tips for having a great webinar the first time out.

  • Use guest speakers—not only to add a certain amount of credibility, but also so you can use their network in addition to yours
  • Hold rehearsals
  • Promote at least a month in advance
  • Consider having a moderator to engage the audience and field the questions
  • Limit to one hour — we recommend 40 minutes of presentation and 20 minutes of question-and-answer session
  • Ask for feedback after the webinar via a survey (SurveyMonkey is the easiest and most cost-efficient tool)
  • Don’t be afraid to follow-up after the webinar, even with those who registered, but didn’t attend
  • I’m not going to pretend that hosting a webinar is a walk in the park. They’re hard work and they take some serious project management skills, but if you use the tips included here, you’ll be halfway there and you’ll be able to drive some serious leads from your efforts.

    Once you’ve decided on your topic and you’ve promoted the heck out of it (don’t be shy about repeating yourself over and over again – people need to see/hear a message seven to 12 times before they act), following are some tips for having a great webinar the first time out.

    About the Author: Gini Dietrich is the founder and chief executive officer of Arment Dietrich, Inc. and the author of Spin Sucks, the 2010 Readers Choice Blog of the Year, a Top 42 Content Marketing Blog from Junta42, a top 10 social media blog from Social Media Examiner, and an AdAge Power 150 blog.  You can connect with Gini on Twitter or on Facebook.

    Feb
    15
    2011
    The Bing and Google Battle Maranda Gibson

    Computerworld released an article last week that alleges that search engine Bing! is more accurate than rival (and unofficial giant) Google. With Experian Hitwise reporting that Bing boasted a higher market share of search, as well as snagging 1% from Google in January, and with a popular marketing campaign that suggests those who use “other” sites suffer from search engine overload, data suggests Bing is making moves in a positive direction.

    Even though the allegations are out there that Bing copies Google’s algorithms, the response by Microsoft that denies the allegations, and a number of other denials and finger pointing – the truth, as they say, is in the search – or is that pudding?

    There is a lot of wiggle room in these numbers though and it is slightly irresponsible to see higher percentages and simply state that Bing is hanging it to Google in the accurate search department. Among many other things that stand out and being possibly fallacies, I see three big problems with just looking at the numbers of Bing .VS. Google.

    1. The numbers don’t address the browser that is being used. If you open Internet Explorer, the default search engine is going to be Bing! and for someone who doesn’t use search that often, it’s easiest to just go with what is given.
    2. There is no accounting for who is searching – the difference between someone who is “experienced” at web surfing and someone who will go to whatever engine is provided and click on the first link that comes up.
    3. How many of the Bing! users have to go back and search again? Are the percentages reported from Experian Hitwise taking into account that those users might have to come back and search again because they didn’t get what they want?

    Google has long carried the mission statement that they are dedicated to providing the most accurate search results in in your first query. Look at this study from last year that shows that most Google users are experts, while most Bing! users aren’t. Doesn’t that speak to the quality of results that a Google user will generate versus a Bing! user? Saying that a higher number of clicks means the results are more accurate is kind of like saying I have more money in the bank, so I make more than you, to someone like Donald Trump.

    What do you think? Is Google losing ground – or is the whole thing just a bunch of baloney without any real meat?

    Feb
    10
    2011
    Planning for Unforeseen Circumstances Maranda Gibson

    One of the biggest stories of last week was a massive winter storm that left drivers stranded on highways in Oklahoma and made travel to Dallas/Fort Worth locations nearly impossible. Usually, getting around town wouldn’t be a big deal, but it just so happened that the Superbowl and a myriad of events were in town. Last week was a once in a lifetime experience that brought with it a once in a lifetime winter storm.

    We get snow and ice in this area, but it usually only sticks around for a day, with the sun coming out and temps rebounding quickly. Four days of below freezing and not a peek of sunshine weather is not what we expect. The city froze – along with the roads and various events. Charity events were cancelled, celebrity appearances were cancelled, and when Saturday brought a sunny day, unexpected crowds left a lot of people waiting in line – myself included. Now, we can never anticipate something like the ice and snow that fell across our area last week, but we can try to plan for the unforeseen circumstances. Here are some things we can learn from living in the middle of the unexpected winter blast.

    Plan for more attendees than you need. On Saturday, more people showed up than there was space for, and the fire marshal had to close the doors. Get with your conference call provider and find out how many people you can have, what you need to make a reservation, and plan over what you expect so that if you do have additional people coming in, they won’t get turned away.

    Advertise One Start Time. The event I tried to attend was advertised on the bands site as beginning at 2:30. Those of us that showed up at 1:30 were an hour early for that event, but were still turned away due to the first event being full. If you’re going to have multiple presenters or speakers, send out one start time for the event as a whole, and then send out a detailed agenda about the events going on throughout the day.

    Communicate earliest start times. Even though your event starts at 10AM, can participants log in before that time? Are they able to call in five or fifteen minutes early? If so, communicate that message so that those who are anxious to join the conference are guaranteed a spot.

    In the end, I listened to the concert on TV later that night and realized that even though some things are seen as “once in a lifetime” events – like the biggest football game of the year or a monumental winter storm,  we can’t see the future to know everything that might be coming. We can only plan for the unexpected and give everyone a lot of information upfront so that there are no surprises.

    What are you doing to plan for the unexpected that might come across on your conference calls or events? What is your contingency plan in the event of a last minute change?

    Feb
    07
    2011
    Useful Debate and an Open Mind Maranda Gibson

    Have you ever fallen into a conversation you didn’t really want to have? I have a friend who is incredibly smart, open, and kind, but we disagree on 99.99% of everything socially and politically. There isn’t anything wrong with that since she and I obey the rules for civil debate. Sorry to tell you, but not everyone is going to be able to have these kinds of open conversations. There is a fine line between openly sharing ideas and wanting to bang your head against the wall.

    Enter Gini Dietrich over on the Spin Sucks blog and echoes the sentiments I have felt since my years participating in intercollegiate debate – your mom tells you what you want to hear. (Doesn’t she though? Moms are the best people to talk to when you need a little confidence boost.) In her post, Gini challenged us all to reach out to a blogger or co-worker that we find ourselves disagreeing with and talk to them.

    Like Gini says, we tend to surround ourselves with like-minded people, so how do we step out of that comfort zone to gain a greater perspective on the opinions of others around us. How do we introduce ourselves to new ideas and new opinions?

    1. Attend an event outside of your comfort zone. Sign up to go to a networking event or conference that you wouldn’t usually see yourself attending. If you’re into social media marketing sign up to attend a conference that focuses on more traditional marketing ventures.
    2. Befriend someone who is interested in something you are not. The old adage of opposites attract can be very helpful when it comes to expanding your horizons. Making a new friend who loves comic books might show you that you don’t have to be surrounded with the people who love and think the way you do.
    3. Educate yourself on new things. Set a goal to learn about one new opinion each month. Think about the things you are passionate about; educate yourself on the origins of the “opposing sides” opinion. Why do they feel the way they do? How were their thoughts and opinions shaped by the changes in the world? Just remember to read with an open mind instead of a defensive one.

    Learning another’s opinion is an important part of success and just because you may not agree, it doesn’t mean their opinions should be discounted. How will you be reaching out to a new thought or idea? What can we do to be more open minded when it comes to all parts of life – not just in business?

    Feb
    03
    2011
    Twitter Emergency Management Maranda Gibson

    A huge winter storm moved across the Midwest this week, leaving areas from Dallas/Fort Worth to Chicago and over to the Northeast covered with ice and snow. With blizzard conditions reported in areas of Missouri, Oklahoma, and Illinois, driving conditions got worse and drivers found themselves stranded along major thoroughfares. Conditions were so bad that a number of interstates were closed from Oklahoma to Missouri to Kansas.

    Tuesday night, the Department of Emergency Management in Oklahoma issued to Civil Emergency Message to stranded drivers along Oklahoma highways, advising motorists to stay warm, conserve fuel, and to dial 911 if they are stranded. I’ve seen these messages before but the message issued last night contained something new.

    If you are on Twitter, you can tweet your information to @OKEM.

    Twitter has increasingly become a form of media to express weather conditions or traffic. Follow any media personality from a local news station, emergency management location, or even a school district account and you’ll find that more of these are embracing Twitter as a means to get information out to the public. School closings, road conditions, and even National Weather Service warnings are becoming something that is seen often on various Twitter accounts.

    This means that Twitter is being seen more and more as a legitimate means of communication and not just a way to update the world on what you’re reading or having for lunch. If the OKEM is accepting Twitter as a preferred means of communication – and I’m sure other agencies will follow. I thought of some ways we may see agencies using Twitter in the future.

    Police & fire departments can send out Twitter updates for extreme situations – like hostage events or even terrorist threats or DM the police department with tips about unsolved crimes.

    School districts can use twitter to update on a number of different issues. Since a lot of students are on Twitter, you can send @ replies to students or even DMs to notify students and parents about impending weather service warnings or any dangerous situations in the area that could affect your children.

    National Weather Service could take advantage of Twitter’s growing popularity by actively finding users in locations that have imminent warnings. Imagine being at a movie with friends and getting a text notification that there is a tornado warning – instead of being completely unaware.

    Twitter, long seen as just a marketing or “friending” trend, does have the potential to keep us up to date. While Twitter will never replace traditional 911 services how do you see other types of emergency management or alert systems being used to update citizens on potential problems?

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