The Importance of Being Heard

How do you get your message out? More importantly, how do you get your message out so that it is heard above the cacophony of others struggling to get their message out?

That is the trial of the age in which we live. People are constantly exposed to messaging whether it be via TV, radio, online music, Internet browsing, Facebooking, email campaigns, ads in your favorite apps, or a combination thereof (for example, we just signed up for HuluPlus and one of my kids first questions as we were enjoying reruns of a favorite program was, “How come there are commercials? Aren’t we paying for this?”). Now there is group texting as a targeted way to get your message out – this supposedly requires the end user to opt in but we’ll see how long that lasts.

So what is the best answer? There is no single BEST WAY. But it is very important for you to understand who you are trying to reach and what that particular audience is most likely to respond to. In other words, you should not try the shotgun approach. I recommend, instead the artillery approach: carefully determine where your message needs to go, and then fire away, but don’t stop there. Find out if you were on target and if not, then readjust your settings and fire again.

How does that work?

Well in actual artillery you usually have a forward observer who scouts out the location and communicates the coordinates back. This forward observer is crucial. Without one, the artillery has no idea where to fire. In your campaign, you need to do some forward observing. Where is your target? Where will they be when you begin your campaign? How are they “outfitted”? Do they use smart phones? Do they text a lot? How do they receive news and information? Via the Internet? TV? Radio? How do they interact with various media? All of this information should be gathered as part of your forward observing.

In real artillery the forward observer communicates with the fire direction center which actually computes the distance from the target, the precise direction to the target and handles all the other data calculations. For you this means you need to evaluate the data you discover or receive about how your target actually behaves so you can determine which forms of communication are most effective for your target.

The command post is where the power lies – it is the command post that controls the firing of the guns. For you this means now you get to make the decisions: What venues will be used (provided the input from the fire direction center); when the campaign will start; whether it will be shooting only once or “walking the fire” onto the target with multiple shots.

But the story too often ends there. What you need, just like real artillery, is to go back to the forward observer and make sure you hit the target! For your business, that means you need to measure the results of your campaign. Did you hit your target sales? Did you get the right number of leads? Did the phone ring enough times? Whatever you determine, at the outset you want to measure, you have to actually measure. If need be, now is the time to readjust your sites and fire again. If you scored a direct hit, you can determine whether it makes sense to go after the same target again or whether to shift your sights to another, similar target.

While the goal of an actually artillery campaign is to rain down death and destruction, the goal of a business communication campaign is to grow your business. So in your case, collateral effects aren’t damaging. If you focused on one specific area of communication and got lots of collateral effects such as people close to the target area calling, buying  or otherwise doing business, this is even more data you can take into account with your next artillery campaign.

(Details on artillery taken from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Field_artillery)

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Change Your Perspective

I just took a look at my schedule. Next week I have lunch with Brian DeLaet twice. The problem you see is that I am Brian DeLaet.  Two different colleagues have sent me calendar invitations to have lunch with them. The problem is they didn’t think about it from my perspective.

So my calendar now says I’m having lunch with Brian. Not as helpful as I’d like. Now I have to open up the invitation to see who it is that Brian is dining with.

And a lot of businesses treat their customers the same way. They start off with the perspective that if you’ve arrived – either in person or online – then you’re “in” and they skip over foundational parts of the relationship. It becomes all about “us” – the company, rather than being all about “me” – the customer.

We experienced that today with a software company. We received a username and a password for the software we purchased. There was no mention of how or where to use this information. Just the codes. After some not insignificant searching, we discovered that once we had created an account on vendors site, we could use the codes to get access to the software and registration keys. Ooops. No one told us that.

So what is a business to do? Review your process from beginning to end and test it. Make sure it is customer friendly every step of the way. And a lot of businesses take this step. But this is only the first step. Every process gets changed over time. It gets “improved” when a new manager changes one part of the process but when another manager changes a different part of the process, bad things can happen.

What you need to do is build in a continuous review of your process. For example, if you sign up for EduNotes (our newsletter) you’ll likely be told to expect it weekly when in fact it is now only twice a month. Oops. That is a process that we are reviewing (should be fixed by the time you receive this) so that we are creating the correct expectations for people.

Obviously this applies in every aspect of business but here are just a few of the processes you should check on your web site:

  • First and foremost, the sales funnel – are you guiding visitors down the best path for them to do business with you? Are calls to action clear and prominent?
  • Is the sign up for your email newsletter smooth, clear, and setting the right expectations?
  • How can I find your contact information?
  • How can I find your physical location?
  • If your site is set up for ecommerce, is it easy to put things in my shopping cart?
  • Is it easy to check out?
  • If your site is generating leads, are the forms easy to fill out? Are you asking for too much information?
  • Are the images on your site appropriate and do they facilitate your processes?
  • If you have complex activity (users in forums, members interacting, data being shared) are the instructions clear?
  • If you want people to engage with you via social media, are the links prominent and working? (I clicked a Twitter link last week that took me to twitter.com instead of to a user’s page)

Let me close with one last example illustrating the need to review and streamline your processes.

  1. I received an email from a vendor saying I need to renew a service for a client.
  2. I clicked the link they provided in the email and filled out the form.
  3. I received an email saying I filled out the wrong form and directing me to the right form.
  4. The next time I got a similar email, I remembered the link was wrong but couldn’t find the correct link.
  5. I started a chat with the vendor and was directed yet a different form.
  6. Suspecting something was amiss, I did a Google search, and found the form I’d used previously.
  7. I asked the support person about this other form and was told either one would work!
  8. I requested that the correct link be put in my emails moving forward so that I wouldn’t have to go through this again.
  9. I was told that would happen. Stay tuned to find out if it does.
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Test Your Way to Success

Are you doing any testing on your web site? You ought to be. The testing, in fact, can be outside of your side whether through email marketing, social media or a variety of other options.

I subscribe to Which Test Won (www.whichtestwon.com) and I learn something new each week.  This week I was sure I had it nailed. They ran an email campaign for an ecommerce store and I was sure the “On Sale Now” heading would draw attention and close the deal.

Nope. Wrong again. The subtle approach wins. But here is what the folks running the test did that I want to talk about: The contents of the email were identical except for this one part (the call to action). So they were pretty confident in the results.

Because the “subtle” approach took less space, this also pulled up the video link beneath it which may have made the whole thing more visual and drawn attention first to the video link and then to the call to action.

And the other key thing is that the company is testing to see what is more effective. If you aren’t testing, you’re not learning what works. Simple A / B testing can be done on your web site very easily through Google Website Optimizer. Most email marketing programs have this built in as well.

So what can you test?

  • Sales Copy
  • Images
  • Buttons
  • Colors
  • Button colors
  • Image colors
  • Calls to action
  • Position of elements on the page / email
  • Heading
  • Subject line
  • Bulleted text vs. free flowing sentences

What do you need to get started? Simply an understanding of how much traffic you have to the page or email and one item to test.

Been testing? Don’t stop. Once you figure out what “the winner” is, keep that and test some other aspect.

Need help? Let us know.Православни икони

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Office 2010 Released

It’s out. It’s nice. If you’re using Office 2003 or earlier, it’s time to upgrade.

Office 2010 uses the same kind of ribbons that Office 2007 users have grown accustomed to. The new “ribbon” that you’ll find in Word 2010 is the one that 2007 should have had. It’s called file. The file ribbon gives you all the options and information about the particular file that you’re working on that you could possibly want to know.

For example, as I type this blog entry in Word 2010, when I click the file tab, I have lots of nifty choices like Open, Save, Save as, and Print but the option that is highlighted is Info. Under Info I can Set Permissions (protect the document so that only those who should see it can), Prepare for Sharing (basically let’s me easily strip hidden information that other’s shouldn’t see but that is useful to have for an in house document) and work with different Versions of the document.

I can also see useful information such as how long I’ve been editing this document, add or view the Title and any Tags, see who the creator is, and lots of other information. It is also from the file tab that I can open recent or other documents and do many of the tasks from the old File menu.

As is usually the case, the biggest change comes with Outlook. As the way people communicate continues to change, Microsoft tries to make Outlook the tool to help you do this. Outlook now has its own ribbons (for some reason Outlook 2007 didn’t get the ribbon makeover).

The newest feature here is the Quick Steps box. Basically what this box does is let you create macros or rules on what do with certain messages. Once that rule is created, you can run it by clicking the appropriate button in the Quick Steps box. I’m still experimenting with this but this feature holds potential in helping to tame the email beast.

Access has some nice new features, one that we’re taking a very close look at right now is the Project template. What is nice is that Access is now really designed from the get go to be interactive. I opened the Project template and the first thing I had to do was create a user (myself) and then log in. Then I was off to the races creating and entering information on the project.

The downside is I wanted to watch the video which required SilverLight which I had already installed which Access didn’t recognize as being installed. Still a few issues, it would appear but all in all I like this latest version and could see moving some of our folks to it even before the first service pack.

Other tools that come with the complete version of Office 2010 include OneNote (great for taking quick notes or for having a notebook on a particular task or subject) and InfoPath – the tool for forms – now comes with a Designer part and a Filler part. For business users (those with lots of computers and users), there’s also a new program called SharePoint Workspace. I’m still investigating these but they look to be pretty nifty tools for improved work flow.

The full version “Professional” retails for around $500 but as a productivity tool is well worth it.

 

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Email Scams Proliferate

Lately we’ve been getting bombarded with email scams. Beware and DO NOT click on these unless you communicate with network administrator (call us if you don’t have a network administrator: 303 268-2245).

One message has a title like this: A new settings file for the <youremailaddress> mailbox has just been released and it was a bogus link that you are supposed to click on. DO NOT click the link!

The second message we’ve seen has this subject line: Important – System upgrade and it also has a link that you should not click under any circumstances.

Beware, be aware, and be safe on the Internet.

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Three Concerns about E-Newsletters

OK, I just posted five reasons you SHOULD have an e-newsletter, now let’s look at three things you need to take into account as you start writing your e-newsletters:

  1. Junk Email filters. There is a lot of email out there. And a lot of that email is automatically generated junk that you don’t want to read. The unfortunate point is that a good email newsletter site like AWeber.com or Constant Contact.com is also an automatically generated email that can caught in a filter. We use Aweber and we get a spam assassin score BEFORE we send so we know how likely it is to get filtered out.
  2. Information Overload. How many emails do YOU get every day? I get over a hundred, not including the junk that gets filtered out. Even then I’ve got an overload of information and should probably unsubscribe from half a dozen newsletters. But they’re really good when I take the time to read them. So remember that your reader is likely overloaded and that leads to the next concern:
  3. Competition for Attention. Like I said, I get over 100 emails a day. So your e-newsletter is competing for my attention with every other item in my inbox. And of course I’m likely distracted by who’s IM’ing me or what the latest tweet from Twitter is as well. One key issue to deal with here is to make sure your subject line leaps off the screen in a way the engages the reader from the start.

These concerns aren’t insurmountable but you should be aware of them so that you can prepare to make your newsletter stand head and shoulders above the rest.икони

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Five Reasons to Use an Email Newsletter

Putting a newsletter into email is easy.  Reaching people that want to be reached by you is so easy it feels thrilling! Really it does! Give it a try. Here are five reasons you should try it if you aren’t already:

  1. Low cost distribution: Sending out a hard copy newsletter can cost anywhere from $0.42 to $10.00 depending on how much work and postage you put into it. An email can be sent for nothing or next to nothing.
  2. Less focus on formatting: Instead of having to make the content fit the available space, you can just focus on writing good content.
  3. Ease of distribution: You don’t have to spend time folding and stuffing envelopes nor do you have to lick stamps and take it to the post office. Simply click send when it looks right and off it goes.
  4. Easy to post to your web site: Once you’ve taken the time to write good content, you should always post it on your web site so the Search Engines can index your content. In the same way you should always archive your newsletters on your site to keep that good content available.
  5. Easy to link your newsletter to your web site. For most folks, getting people to visit their web site is their goal. If someone visits the web site, they are more likely to make a purchase so why not put the first three paragraphs of your nine paragraph article in the newsletter with a Continue Reading link that goes to your web site?

So get off your backside and start writing. And start getting permission from people to send them your newsletter.

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An Email Address By Any Other Letter

Shakespeare may have said that a rose by any other name would smell as sweet, but who would have imagined that email address starting with any other letter would get less spam?

Say what? A researcher in England discovered that, for real email addresses, those beginning with less common letters receive less spam. So that means that if your name is Mike Xanowitz, you might want to have your email address as xanowitzm@mydomain.com instead of mxanowitz@mydomain.com. M’s, you see, get more spam than X’s.

This is just one study but the results feel right to me. Think about it another way. mike@mydomain.com sounds pretty general, even if mydomain.com isn’t so well known. xanowitz@mydomain.com on the otherhand is pretty specific. So if I were trying to send unsolicited commercial messages (otherwise known as spam) to this domain, I might get lucky and guess that mike@ is a valid email address. But unless I know Mike personally and know how to spell his last name, I’m unlikely to simply guess at xanowitz@ and be right.

Does it mean anything to you? Perhaps not if you already have an established email. If however you’re in the process of creating a new email address, consider a lesser used first letter such as x, y or z for your email address.

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Make Your Site the Centerpiece

One of the most unusual aspects of a company having a web site is that the site can be a great marketing tool for the business but that site needs its own marketing plan (which should dovetail with a bigger company marketing campaign).

If you set your web site as the centerpiece of your marketing, there are a few simple steps you should take to make sure you get the most from it:

  1. Print it on EVERYTHING. Every piece of printed material that your company generates should have your web address (URL) on it. This includes:
    • Brochures
    • Business Cards
    • Letterhead
    • and even:

      • Invoices
      • Proposals
      • Contracts
    • Let people hear it. If a caller is sent to voicemail, make sure they know they can also contact you on the web at www.yourdomain.com. If your phone system lets you control what people hear while on hold, make sure your message comes out there and that it mentions your web site.
    • Another easy to take step that is too often overlooked is your email signature. Every email program lets you have an automatic email signature. Make sure you include your web site address in the signature.

    These are just three easy steps you can use to help you market your web site.

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    Stay Organized and Stay Productive

    We’ve been giving and receiving Outlook training this week and it hit me how important it is to stay focused with productivity tools of which Outlook continues to be one of our most important. In an office environment, using Outlook as the front end to an exchange server gives lots of opportunities for sharing schedules, assigning tasks, sharing calendars, and storing emails in public folders so that others in the company can easily access the same information.

    Outlook 2007 is a powerful tool whether in a business environment with Exchange server or as a standalone program. The search component in particular is powerful. I have on my Outlook Favorites the search folders Unread Mail and For Followup. You can also add particular category searches that help you to stay connected and keep moving forward. The To-Do bar on the right side of the screen is a handy tool that you can expand or hide to meet your needs but when expanded shows your upcoming schedule and flagged emails.

    Another productivity tool that I use in conjunction with Outlook is Jott. I’ve written about Jott previously but it is a great time saver if you’re out and about a lot. I can call Jott to send myself emails, ask for reminders that will come to my phone and email, or send an email to anyone in my address book. Yes, from my phone. So when I’m driving down the road and remember that I need to confirm an appointment via email, I can call (using my hands free bluetooth device of course) and tell Jott to send an email to Ted, letting him know that I’ll be at the breakfast meeting on Friday and Ted will get the email.

    Between Outlook, Exchange and Jott, I manage to stay organized and on top of my schedule and keep my productivity high.

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