What counts as new?
While doing some research on what other marketing companies are doing with their web sites I happened upon a Roanoke-based firm who had a “What’s New” section on theirs. When I clicked on the link it was clear they had a different perspective on what counted as new. The latest entry was from April 2010 – over six months ago.
In a web-based world where current is king and information is expected, out-of-date stale “news” sections are a problem, especially when the site is for a Marketing or Advertising Agency.
It’s critical you have the structure in place to make your web site a relevant, changing and current part of your business model. If you don’t plan for regular web site updates and marketing, it won’t happen. Your site quickly becomes like week-old bread…
We can coordinate a system of regular updates with our Content Management platform and the unique approach we take to proactively updating and marketing your link to internet customers and visitors. Just like someone has to “mind the store,” it just makes sense to constantly work to keep your web site fresh.
The topics I write about generally percolate for a week or two before they make it to print.
This month, I was all set. Ready to share what was on my mind as usual --- until I saw the following piece in Sports Illustrated. It was a classic case of two well meaning departments not cross checking the master calendar.
“The Huntsville Stars hosted Pleasures Ladies Night (sponsored by a sex toy store) and the North-Central Alabama Girl Scouts sleepover at the same game last week.”
We all make mistakes.
Before you put your marketing calendar to rest and before that promotional schedule is printed, it’s a wise idea to check with other departments. It’s an even smarter idea to check the piece one last time yourself. While it may be an intern’s calendar project or something done by someone else in your office, there’s a good chance if you are in the decision process (or at the top of it), the ultimate responsibility is yours.
If you think these things only happen with small or local companies, think again. Shortly after I went to work for an NBC affiliate a piece came out from the television network that highlighted an upcoming special sports presentation. It was titled, “Ray Charles on Ice”. That presents some interesting mental images. Someone in New York had clearly not proof-read that piece before it was distributed either…
Minimize your exposure – have good cross checkers and proof readers. Communicate. Then check it yourself – the way my Mother and Father taught me to do it is still the best. Read it backwards.
Proof your work.
Leadership from Which2Learn
For years I have looked for business principles in odd places or at random times. Usually I file them away for some future use. While it might have been smarter for me to read all the leadership books I could find, observing what others were doing shaped me as a businessperson and has worked out okay.
Recently I heard an interview with Jamie Foxx and the famous director Quentin Tarantino. Tarantino wouldn’t be the first person from whom you’d expect to learn leadership concepts, but upon a closer look, it makes a lot of sense. Who could you get to organize hundreds of people – including some with incalculable egos and star power – but a movie director? Foxx was talking about his recent role in the film Django Unchained and Tarantino’s directorial approach to the film.
Two things impacted me:
1) Tarantino had everyone (even celebrities) leave their egos (and their smart phones) off set.
2) The director walked around, spoke with, and cared for the "extras" that were playing such an important role in the movie.
The movie is set in the south during the time of slavery. Actually slavery is more than the backdrop – it is more of a character. Tarantino was concerned the main actor (Jamie Foxx) and others might not be able to fully feel the part if they were wrapped in modern conveniences. Foxx wholeheartedly agreed. Tarantino was also concerned about the impact filming a movie about a slave (a rare topic in Hollywood), would have on those who were playing the parts of slaves in the fields and plantations.
The director’s approach won over Foxx, the rest of the cast, and the crew. During the hour interview the mutual respect was evident between director and his big name actor. It was obvious in the final product too. Now – go lead by paying attention to the atmosphere you create and watching out for everyone.
Water Goes Where it Wants2Go
Earlier this month Beth Kolnok from our office went on what looked like a really cool hike. Those of you from around Roanoke know there are an amazing number of trails in the area. I was intrigued by this particular one because of two reasons - it was a bit off the beaten path & the payoff was the amazing view of a large waterfall. I decided to pack my backpack and try out this trail myself.
I've always loved waterfalls - I can stare at them for quite a while.
As I sat at the overlook and peered down at the Bottom Creek Gorge, I noticed the water making its own path down the mountain's ledge. Industrious people through history have figured many ways to harness the power of water.
Another Simple Example4Your Business
Our businesses are a lot like the path of water.
Like water, your business may flow in a natural direction, picking up speed as you move forward - often faster than you desire. Until you redirect, harness, and capitalize on the power generated, you're likely to watch it race out of control. Just as it takes planning to build a dam or a canal, you need to put thought into where you want your business to go. Directing your efforts to maximize the power at your disposal, your business will have a better chance to succeed.
Back in my days as a sales manager, I had several reps share concerns in regards to their "account list". If they were serious about improving their list, I'd spend time with them - coaching them to create a different one. Whether you are in sales, management or support, there is no reason to be a victim of the rush of business, instead direct your efforts into where you'd like to see your business thrive.
Let it flow.
Tell people who you are and explain what you do.
It seems pretty easy on the surface but many companies struggle to define themselves and do so in a way that others understand. Over the past several months, B2C Enterprises has had the fortune of helping several companies do just that. By creating a name as well as defining their brand, B2C helps companies expand and grow their product or service lines. We use our proprietary Brand2Capture process to walk our clients through the elements that help define them, the look that aligns with who they are, and language that captures what they do.
While the process may be the same, the results never are. They can't be - because no two situations or businesses are exactly alike. What seems to get most people stuck is defining exactly what they do.
Sometimes it is easier than others.
A while back I saw the familiar look of a Chicago Police cruiser. It was the same as I'd seen in movies like the Blues Brothers or Ferris Bueller's Day Off. It remained just like it was on ER and all the other shows throughout the years. I'd seen it hundreds of times - or maybe more. This time, however, something different caught my attention.
On every cruiser is the phrase, "we serve and protect". A very strategic move from a police department rooted in a not-so-appealing past. To overcome this perception, the Chicago Police Department emphasizes and defines their roll to first "serve" the community and then "protect" it. A daily reminder about what those men and women are called to do.
Simple and direct.
How about you? What does your business, medical practice or organization intend to do?
In the five years or so of writing these monthly columns I've been asked a lot of questions and been given a lot of feedback. Therefore, I assumed my readers understood my reasons for sending the B2Seed. Then it occurred to me I could use the B2Seed as a topic of a B2Seed.
Wow. That's Deep.
Except it's not - it's really quite simple. Naturally, I like to write - hopefully you can tell that from the energy that goes into delivering some value to you with these monthly pieces. But it's far more than just being an outlet for my dormant passion for creative writing driving this work. I send these out to you as my own way to keep my company and our work in front of you on a regular basis.
It's a form of top-of-mind awareness that has proven helpful to our company through the years.
Whether you are a good writer, a good speaker, or have some other talent, it's important to have a plan and work on some sort of regular new business outreach. Monthly has been comfortable for me. I know others who like to blog daily or some who speak to groups quarterly. The interval isn't nearly as important as the act of a consistent communication.
It's the same structure that has proven so successful for so many of our clients who practice regular advertising, marketing, or public relations.
People don't always need your help, that's true. When they do, you want to make it easy to find you. With potential B2C Enterprises' clients, they know they are at most about four weeks away from hearing from us again. In addition, they can quickly pull up an old issue or look us up online.
Value. A Pause. A Chance to Connect.
Take Time2Enjoy the Days
"Don't wish away your summer."
That's what my Mom would tell me as a middle schooler when in early June I'd start talking about our annual family beach trip that wasn't until late August.
We'd pack the little wagon and head to North Carolina's Outer Banks for a two week (remember when two week vacations still existed?) family trip and it was generally the highlight of the summer.
Although there was that one year...
They were great trips, but as Mom so rightly pointed out, they came at the very end of the summer. Before the trip there was wiffle ball to play, swimming to dive into, friends to ride bikes with, girls to meet, smaller family trips to take, and movies to watch. All enjoyable activities and the kind of things kids jam into their summers.
But if you weren't careful, you'd spend so much time looking forward to the beach trip, that you miss those good times and find yourself back in the classroom in September.
Look Up4The Motivation
I've found life to be like that. Often time business imitates life.
You pound the pavement looking for that next client. You relentlessly pursue the completion of the next project. You proudly cross the next item off of your to do list. You build that next building or hire that next employee.
All good things as a general rule.
Just be mindful that in the pursuit of that next big thing there is a pursuit. There is a need deep in us to pause and reflect and enjoy the process. It becomes part of the paycheck in life you can't cash. Building things, creating, leading, helping, producing - those are the big things of life. And they are the things of business. You're accomplishing so much - enjoy it.
Then hit the beach.
With about as much frequency as “How’s it going today?” I am asked “How’s business?”
Immediately I have to decide….Is this a “not sure what to ask you so I’ll just ask the simple how is business question”, or are they genuinely interested in the affairs of the marketing and advertising agency I run? And if they are actually interested in the affairs of the company, how much do I really think they want to know or hear?
Most of the time people just want the basic information – they’re busy and on to the next thing.
The Quick Solution4You
I heard someone say once, “You asked me what time it was and I told you how to make a watch."
There is a time and a place for details, but I’m pretty sure when you’re faced with answering that ever-present question about business, it’s generally neither the time, nor the place. The “how’s business” question requires an answer that is authentic, true, and (maybe most of all) concise.
Here’s a secret – I’ve been working a lot this year on my own answer to that whole “how’s business” query. Thinking through it on my own and with a few trusted advisors led me to the place where I can help you come up with your own standard answer.
So how’s business?
“It’s so great to work for clients who appreciate what we do - with people I love in a comfortable environment. And I get to do it here in Roanoke, Virginia.”
Yep, business is good.
Plans don’t work out and things happen when you least expect them.
As many of you know, not only do I handle marketing and advertising at B2C Enterprises, I also work as a career firefighter/engineer in Chattanooga, Tennessee. One of the things we do is plan for emergency incidents before they happen, or, in firefighter shorthand, pre-plan.
We visit all the commercial buildings in our district to see what unique issues the construction, layout, or materials stored might present. We study the houses as we drive down residential roads to see which are better accessed from the back alley. When we visit a home on a medical call, we even note where bedrooms are located in case we have to make a rescue in zero visibility.
Our job requires us to consider the unthinkable and plan for when the “normal” situations change. The same is true in every other job.
As leaders of our respective businesses, projects, or departments, it doesn’t do us any good to hide our head in the sand and expect our current situations to last forever. Just ask the pay phone repair company.
The Uncomfortable Question must be asked: If this doesn’t work, if the market changes, or the current message isn’t attracting buyers, what do we do? What is our next step?
Don’t be scared off by the discomfort of knowing that your current efforts might be a waste. Take the time to consider possible issues, look at your options, and develop some alternative routes of action.
Embracing the Uncomfortable Question will not only prepare you for when your product stops selling or your database gets hacked, it might also lead to revelations on how to improve and grow your business to the next level right now.
Dan Bryan is the B2C Enterprises representative covering the southeast Tennessee and northwest Georgia market. He can be reached at Dan@b2cEnterprises.com.
B2C Enterprises is an award-winning advertising, marketing, and business development firm. If you'd like to talk about how we can help you with a tough problem, schedule a meeting, call 540.904.1229.
If you are a human being in a typical office work space, you're probably one who uses email. More likely than not, Yahoo, Gmail, or even AOL email rules your world. It’s as constant as the rising sun. It stands to reason that something so ever-present would have some rules.
Yet, based on the emails I see, it appears the sending and receiving of email communication is still a bit like the “wild, wild west.”
Not like THAT "Wild Wild West"... okay, well maybe a little like that.
Whether others adhere to basic communication principles shouldn’t determine how you approach it.
Do It4Yourself (and those you email)
Once you hit send, that communication, no matter the topic, recipient, purpose, or message, becomes the property of other people. What do you want them to think?
First of all, consider why you’re writing and what you’re trying to say. It sounds basic, but it’s worth a pause at the very least. Often I’ll be typing an email and have a bad feeling. I will purposefully stop and think – “Do I really need/want to send this?” Perhaps a phone call or in-person conversation would work better.
Recently I received an email that had been forwarded seven times. Seven times! Recognize unintended people may be reading what you are sending to one.
Consider the timing. Just because you are working on a Saturday morning or a Sunday night, doesn’t mean your co-workers have to hear from you right then. Most people have smartphones now and getting emails at odd times can shift someone into work mode whether they want to be or not. Most email systems have a “Delay Delivery” feature. If you don't know how to use it, a quick internet search will do the trick. No one likes the showoff who sends random emails at odd times to prove how hard they are working!
Use To: and CC: as they are intended. If you send an actionable email to multiple people (both in the To: line) how will they know who is supposed to actually take the action? To whom is the email really being sent? And is there anyone else you’d like to be on the inside of the communication? That’s how those two buttons are really used.
Finally, remember everything in your email says something about you. Grammar, punctuation, tone, the message itself, details, the salutation, all of it – reflects who you are and how you work. One of the smartest things you can do is quickly recheck the email before clicking on the send button. That’s even harder to do with your thumbs on a smart phone. You want people to receive the message in the spirit in which it was sent AND allow the recipient to see what an incredible person you are.
Or at least know you’re a normal, busy human being – who is clearing their email out like everyone else.
Grumpy. Edgy. Angry. Or just plain ornery.
Sometimes you come across a person who just rubs you the wrong way. It happens to all of us in business (or education or healthcare or not-for-profit foundation work). That’s because those people are everywhere. Hopefully you aren’t one of them! =)
Recently, a few teammates at B2C Enterprises met with someone who came off as bristled before they could even mutter a “Hello” to that person. When they got back to the office they asked me what could make a person act that way.
Surprisingly, I actually had an answer.
Hurt people hurt people.
Sometimes they are protecting their newly-acquired territory or their lower-than-it-should-be esteem. Often, they are themselves the target of some disdain, drama, or workplace anxiety. No matter the cause of their consternation, they are undoubtedly hurtful when they react to your questions, needs, or even your very presence with vitriol.
So, what do you do? Whether you want to or not, you sometimes have to work with these people regardless of the circumstances. You may as well have a plan – some steps to help you down the treacherous path.
It’s tempting to try to brighten their day. Sometimes you can and, if you can, you should. Don’t be surprised if you can’t build a bridge with some of these people, though, and don’t feel defeated if you can’t.
After all, if there’s a bridge, then there’s a way for that negativity to come across to you.
Money is a great motivator.
Generally we can all agree on that concept and, as the holidays and the end-of-year bonus season approaches, it’s worth noting that most everyone is motivated by mo’ money, mo’ money, mo’ money. (That’s a 90’s comedy sketch reference for those not as old as I am.)
As important as a generous compensation package may be, there are other ways to encourage success and drive the results you most want to see in your organization. I’m not saying this will only work in sales departments, but I can tell you my background is in that world and I absolutely saw a pattern.
The other day I passed a fellow business owner on Kirk Avenue in downtown Roanoke. He was carrying an old trophy he had picked up somewhere. It reminded me of “Flo”. Before the hugely successful Progressive Insurance campaign, Flo was the name of an old bowling trophy we gave to outstanding performers at WLAJ in Lansing, Michigan. Awarded once a week, Flo congratulated sellers with recognition and rewards, like rights to the prime parking space just outside the door of the TV station (a prize that was particularly valuable during Michigan’s winters – believe me).
This type of acknowledgement continued in Toledo, Ohio when I discovered an Asian figurine in storage at WTVG. We had a name for that masterpiece as well and it came with a fortune cookie and other fun stuff. At WNWO, we used a fancy sports medal. It was always healthy competition – usually the team encouraged one another and acknowledged each other’s success; unifying, fun, and a great way to recap a busy week.
A Marketing Reminder4Us
Celebrate your successes – together. Whether you are in sales, production, healthcare, support, marketing, or some other department, it’s a common way to change a culture. People are motivated by money, yes, but they also like to have fun, enjoy friendly competition, and appreciate the recognition. Sharing the tasks and successes as a team is one of the most important things you can do to build it.
So, you see? Bowling trophies, figurines, fortune cookies, and parking spaces can prove invaluable.
B2C Enterprises is an award-winning advertising, marketing, and business development firm. If you’d like to talk about how we can help you motivate your team, or see some examples of our work, just call 540.904.1229.