Evolving Your Business

The World Series wrapped up last week and the San Francisco Giants won by beating the Cinderella-story Kansas City Royals in game seven. If you were paying any attention to sports last week, you surely saw a tweet, read a news story, or caught a clip from the Fall Classic.

What you might not have heard is that in the Arizona Fall League, the MLB is testing some new rules about the pace of game. The regular season of 2014 brought some new changes with the implementation of a new challenge rule in regards to questionable calls made by umpires. It’s still in its infancy but the challenge system has really helped to open a new door in the process of the game, making it less likely that important moments will be decided by a “bad call”.

Intentional walks will no longer require four pitches to be thrown. The manager will be able signal to the umpire and the batter will take his base.

Pitch clocks are being testing as well. Much like a shot clock in the NBA, it will provide the pitcher 20 seconds to get the ball to from the mound to the catcher. Failure to do so will result in a penalty.

Conferences at the mound will be limited to three per game. Right now, the catcher can run out to chat to the pitcher whenever he wishes. A system more like this would be more like the standard time out system in other sporting leagues.

In order to stay competitive, your business has to be willing to grow, change, and evolve with the needs of your customers. Take the MLB example and you’ll see that as they have been unable to pick up the “younger” generations, they are listening to the biggest complaints about their sport – that it’s slow and boring.

Their hope is that some of these new rules being tested can be implemented in the big leagues and lead to more people watching their sport, greater ratings, and better ticket sales.

You can change things like this in your own business if you are willing to listen to suggestions and take criticism. Your customers are the best reviewers of your business that you’ll ever have. They are the ones that will tell you either with comments, emails, or even choosing to take their business to other companies.

Encourage your customers to come to you and speak openly about what they like, don’t like, and even make a wish list for their needs. To be successful you need to be willing to evolve and grow. What are you doing to grow your business through what your customers need?

Laura Lee Interns at AccuConference: Week 3

Third in the series from our interns. Laura Lee also learned the elevator rules and enjoyed free ice cream for volunteering to go pick up the treats for the office

Well, I was not disappointed. Last Monday was the Fourth of July and the building management here threw a regular party complete with hot dogs, cookies and cold ones. I’m talking about lemonade and fruit punch here people; don’t be too jealous. On that note, the official countdown has begun. No, not the days left until I leave and go back to Oklahoma State (home sweet home), but the countdown to my 21st birthday which takes place at the end of this month. The magic date is July twenty sixth. So as my final days of being the ripe old age of 20 come to a close, I’ve been learning some cool things on the job. Last week we learned how to file with the United States government for a trademark, since we are creating new products and don’t want anyone else to steal our ideas. The process is a lengthy one, but being here at the company has taught me that our ideas (especially in the marketing world) are what really sell and what keeps the company going, so why not put a trademark on it?

I was sent on my first ‘intern run’ this week; which included getting the office ice cream from Braums down the street. I can’t really count it though- I completely supported the mission as ice cream is my one and only staple food…and they paid for my ice cream as payoff for going to get the goods. But I did feel more like a typical intern taking down everyone’s orders and money.

I am also learning a lot about etiquette in a business environment. For example: why do men ‘hold’ the elevator door for women? It seems very gentlemanlike, but the concept is just strange to me. Instead of letting the girl go first they jump in the elevator and then stick out their arm on the elevator door. That took some getting used to! The first time that happened I literally thought the guy was going to karate chop me as his hand flew out the elevator. But I’ve learned to dodge out of the way of the karate chop and gracefully say thanks to the gentleman holding my elevator door so gallantly.

When I am confused about something (this actually happens a lot- surprising I know!) there is no sweating over if I should ask someone or not. The atmosphere here is very much like that of a big family. I think that being in a welcoming environment is key to learning, and I am learning a lot.

Kaitlyn Interns At AccuConference: Week 3

Third in the series following our summer interns. This week Kaitlyn learned that taking the evelvator up one floor is risky and that we get to do some pretty cool things in the office. 

By: Kaitlyn

Well, it finally happened. Laura Lee and I got judged for riding the elevator up one floor to the AccuConference suite. I believe the judger’s exact words were, “Shame, shame, shame. Elevator foul!” He was kidding (I think), but I still felt ashamed. This occurred on our way back from our celebratory lunch. We were commemorating our one-month anniversary of working for AccuConference. Maybe it wasn’t one month to the exact day, but it was close enough. We just wanted a reason to celebrate and to eat something other than our sandwiches for lunch.

It sure does not feel like a whole month has gone by. Time goes fast when you stay busy. My latest assignment has been editing a collection of books the company hopes to publish. It feels good to know that my input is wanted. It has taken me a lot of time, but it is worth it knowing that my edits might one day appear in a published book. How exciting is that? Plus, this rewriting process has been oddly enjoyable to me. I have always liked writing, but I never knew that I would like editing, too. Perhaps I am learning more about myself than I thought I would while working here.

Another discovery I have made here is that at any moment, you just might answer the phone and a celebrity will be on the line, asking to be connected to a conference. It was pretty cool getting to rub it in my boyfriend’s face that a famous athlete called in to my office that day, although he’s still convinced he saw Roy Williams walk into his workplace once.

Aside from book editing, my agenda has been filled with learning about the tedious process of registering trademarks, writing copy for a new website, and learning about SEO strategy within Facebook. Also on the agenda, July 1st came and went, and Laura Lee and I once again assembled and sent out thank you packages for dozens of AccuConference customers. I feel this solidified my interning here for one whole month, considering I did this same exact activity the very first day I came in to work in June. Even though I have only got to do it twice, this is probably one of my favorite parts of the internship. It’s always nice to remind people that you appreciate them.

Before I know it, another month will go by, and then a few more weeks, and then I’ll be back at school again. Judging from how much I have learned during my short time here, I am sure that I will return to college with a new abundance of knowledge. Come to think of it, I will have learned so much that I’m sure there is nothing more for me to learn in school, right? How about this: I persuade the university that I have learned so much at AccuConference that I don’t need anymore courses, I skip out of my last semester of school, and I graduate even earlier than planned. A girl can dream…

Webinars Can Promote Your Business…If Done Correctly

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.

    The Perfect Online Meeting Solution for Direct Sellers

    Guest Post from Jennifer Fong, jenfongspeaks.com 

    I’ve been involved with webinar technology from close to its very inception. Back in my instructional design days, I remember working with trainers employed by the corporation I was working with, trying to create an instructional script format that would make it easy for them to deliver training using this new technology.

    Since then, I’ve watched the providers of this technology move in and out of prominence, and watched the pricing structure largely favor corporations with big budgets. This has troubled me a bit, because I’ve lately had the opportunity to work with a lot of direct sellers (think Tupperware or Mary Kay ladies) and see the online meeting tool provider market largely ignore this key demographic (which is a mistake, since at last count there were 15.1 million people involved in direct selling in the US alone, and more than 59 million worldwide.)

    You see, direct sellers make a lot of presentations, but often they are moms (or dads) living on a family budget, and 50 bucks a month or more can often be a big hit. Add to that the fact that, until recently, all you could really do was PowerPoint, and these providers really didn’t do what we needed them to.

    There are a few reasons why direct sellers need a good online meeting tool:

    1. Online group sales events (“online parties”)
    2. Online events to present the business opportunity
    3. Sales force training
    4. New product roll-outs

    As part of these meetings, we typically need to share information, possibly a live demo or two, and often do some group browsing of websites.

    In order to really effectively do these things, here are some of the features that direct sellers have said they would find incredibly useful in an online meeting tool.

    1. Reasonable pricing.
    2. Video. In the direct selling business, face to face communication is a must. It would also be great to enable web cams of anyone participating.
    3. Embedded chat. Chat can be a great way to share websites, as well as facilitate discussion with participants.
    4. PowerPoint/Presentation capabilities. This is a no-brainer for any kind of presentation.
    5. Live browsing that enables each viewer to independently interact with the website being shared. Especially when doing group sales presentations, we need to be able to take people to a specific website and then allow them to shop independently.
    6. Easy recording, with the ability to download that recording (not tied to a specific provider to keep/reuse the recording.) Our training libraries are a huge asset for our businesses, and it’s useful for folks who couldn’t make, for example, a live product rollout to still be able to see it.
    7. Polls to keep participants engaged.
    8. Viewable attendee list that captures contact info and makes it available to the moderator after the event.

    Direct sales provide such an incredible opportunity for online meeting tool providers. We’re typically a loyal bunch, we are the poster child of word of mouth (we’re constantly sharing great resources with one another), and our use of certain technologies can put those tools in front of millions. It’s time for the online meeting industry to take a closer look at this demographic. There’s a world of opportunity just waiting for them.

    Do you do online sales that involve live presentations? How do you use online meeting technology to facilitate those presentations? Would love to read your thoughts in the comments below.

    About the author:

    Jennifer Fong is a social media speaker and consultant who helps direct selling companies and individual direct sellers use social media effectively as a business building tool. A former direct sales company CEO, Jennifer built her company from the ground up, and understands what it takes to build, lead, and train a team, as well as the underlying principles of any direct selling business: network, sell, and recruit. She combines her expertise in direct sales with her passion for social media marketing to provide direct sellers with the knowledge they need to put social media to work for their businesses in a strategic and profitable way.

    Jennifer offers free information about social media and how to use it for direct sales on her blog at http://jenfongspeaks.com. Find her on Facebook at http://facebook.com/jenfongspeaks, and on Twitter at http://twitter.com/jenfongspeaks.

    AT&T Data Changes

    AT&T is trying to fix the network problems. By trying, I mean, changing everything so you'll use less on your data plans. Anytime you offer something "unlimited" users are going to test the limits and it's exactly what happened with the iPhone 3G.

    AT&T announced yesterday that they will be rolling out new data packages, right in time for the OS4 launch. These new data plans are DataPlus ($15.00/month for 200MB) and DataPro ($25.00/month for 2GB).

    I figured up the usage on my iPhone plan and I realize that it might actually benefit me to decrease down to the DataPro plan. I don't know if I've ever used 2 or more GB a month, so I wouldn't mind saving a couple of bucks a month on my cell phone bill. If I do go over my plan, then it's only an additional $10.00 for each GB over. The likelihood of extreme usage is low in my case, so it's something to consider.

    These data plans are not meant to affect what I would consider to be a regular user - in fact, according to USA Today, only 3% of smart phone user's account for 40% of the data usage. The data plan package change is not directed to users like me, but instead to these 3%. These are the users who cause the network outages, and AT&T must get control of them.

    If you have a massive amount of data use each month and you know that it’s going to affect your bill and make it higher, you might want to call AT&T now and get everything squared away. My unlimited plan will be grandfathered in but it might be worth it for me, in price, to go ahead and change. We all were screaming for AT&T to do something, now that they have, how do you feel about it?

    Note: I spoke with an AT&T rep that let me know that if I decide to change my voice plan down the road, it will not force me to change my data package to one of the DataPlus/DataPro plans, just in case you were wondering if that would make a difference.

    Put Your Email Signature to Work on Promoting Your Next Conference Call Event

    How often have you gotten an email from a client where there was no signature other than their name and email address at the bottom? We all get these types of emails, but did you know that you can put your email signature to work for getting more attendees at your next teleconference?

    Think of the space assigned to your email signature as free ad space. Make sure that you have not only your name, but your contact information as well as a link to your website and a link to the page that tells readers about your upcoming teleconference.

    Below is just one example that you may want to consider when setting up your own signature.

    Janie Smith
    Image Coaching for Experts

    Voice: 1-800-555-1212
    Fax: 404-555-1212

    Visit us on the Web at www.AccuConference.com
    Sign up for our free teleconference on February 15th at 1:00 PST today!

    Although these hyperlinks just go to our own website in this example if you linked to an informational page and sign up form for your upcoming teleconference you provide the instant opportunity to get more attendees at your next teleconference.

    Make sure that if you decide to create a fancy signature including images that some email recipients will only receive the text and the image as an attachment. When it comes to email simpler is better, but make sure to use this free real estate to promote your own services.

    Tips for Teachers Using Video Conferences to Instruct

    Have a script handy
    For an experienced teacher, this may not seem necessary, but really it is. Even if you are presenting a lesson that you know well and have taught many times, it is important to have some notes already written. Teaching by video conference is not the same as teaching in the classroom. The thought that your image is being beamed to people in a remote location may make you more nervous than you'd imagine. Whether you take a lecture-style approach or involve your class a lot, you feed off of listener reaction and participation. This is true no matter what the reaction is-even looks of boredom. When you are presenting a video conference you do not get that same type of instant feedback.

    Give a shorter presentation
    If you thought a student's attention span was short in a typical classroom setting, wait until you see how they fare during a video conference. Some will be fine, but others will get fidgety fast. If possible, do not spend the entire class time talking. Just as you would in any other class, give students time to do a group activity. Or let them swap and grade each others' papers while you go over the answers. Find a way to break the time up, so students are not looking at the screen the entire time.

    Additional Services to Look for in Your Teleconference Provider

    There are many standard services that a teleconference hosting-service can offer which make the experience more pleasant for the conference call participants.  There are other hosting-services, however, that provide increased value at minimal extra charges that not many people know about.  The extra values increase the effectiveness of a conference call and ensure a better outcome for the person holding it.  Below is a list of features that you should think about when deciding on a teleconference hosting-service to help conduct your businesses.

    Although this may not be something you normally would consider, Call Recording and Audio Playback are essential features to seek out when looking for a teleconference provider.  How many times has someone called in late or missed one of your teleconferences?  Having a provider with a call-recording option allows you to make a digital recording of the call which can then be stored on your provider's site.  The audio playback option then allows those who were unable to join the conference to call in and not miss a thing.

    A related service you might want to look for in a provider is Transcription.  This service will make and provide a written transcript of the recorded conversation to you.  This can be extremely important when planning business or sales strategies, carrying out interviews, or negotiating contracts or sales during a teleconference.

    Post Call Tracking is another feature that you could find useful, especially if your conference call is one that includes a lot of people.  This service allows the provider to track who participated in the call and who called in to hear the recorded call via the Playback mode.  This is something very important if the information in the call is essential to your business goals.

    Be forewarned, not all teleconference hosting-services offer these services.  One place you can find all of these, though, is right here at AccuConference.  In addition to all of these services, and more, we also hold the industry's "gold standard" in customer service.

    The History of Teleconferencing

    It all started just a mere 47 years ago in the 1960’s as a vision from American Telephone and Telegraph (AT & T) through its Picturephone device – the birth of teleconferencing. At that time, travel was cheap and many people simply didn’t understand that the Picturephone would be a workplace changing technology. It’s taken 47 years and hundreds of millions of dollars spent on fuel consumption for the idea that grew out of Picturephone to become a real-world every day application embraced by millions worldwide.

    There are three kinds of teleconferencing devices:

    1. Audio for verbal communication using the telephone.
    2. Video conferencing which uses the telephone for voice and video combined with the computer.
    3. Computer conferencing allowing printed media conferencing via computer terminal.

    The uniqueness of teleconferencing is that participants can be widely spread over the globe and yet meet in a virtual office space for a rapid exchange of ideas at anytime.

    The key benefits of teleconferencing are:

    1. Reduction of communication costs. As much as a 30% decrease in travel expenses is the norm for businesses which use teleconferencing regularl y.
    2. Availability of meeting information for people who could not attend a meeting. Our teleconferencing application allows for the recording of calls so all can benefit from the exchange of information even if they can not attend the meeting.
    3. Spontaneity of meetings. Due to limited cost for teleconferencing follow-up meetings can be held more frequently and on a more spontaneous basis allowing for a more collaborative approach in many areas.