Lucky seven

“The Seven Dimensions of Wellness” By Jasmine Jafferali (Club Industry, 10 July 2007). The process of checking out Club Industry’s new web site (www.ClubIndustry.com) I bumped into this piece from Ms. Jafferali.

Obviously, it’s not new but that is no reason to discount its value. What’s appealing is that these Seven vectors take AU’s holistic approach and brings it all the way back to the individual. Or as Collins would probably say, back to the wellness of the right people on the bus. In other words, a healthy business starts with healthy people – both employees and maybe even clients/customers.

True, Jasmine’s context is within the sports/fitness club industry. If you’re not in that industry then try imagining your company or organization as a club and consider that employees are not just productivity tools but are first are foremost human beings. They need to be well 24/7, not just from 9 to 5.

Btw, clubs have guests too, right? So if you need it, here’s another vote for being guest-centric.

The power of one, plus one (or more)

“Dynamic Duos” by Stephanie Overby (CIO Magazine, 15 October 2009). Further proof that the myth of the individual as victor is just that, a myth. Regardless of how many successes (and failures) are painted, in nearly 100% of the cases there is actually a team behind the individual being attributed with the accomplishment. For example, believe it or not, Tiger Woods has a caddy and he has a coach. Yes, he is obviously very talented but he can not do what he does on his 0wn.

Here are a couple choice pull quotes:

“Isolation is quite literally unhealthy—as bad for you as smoking or lack of exercise,” explains Rodd Wagner who, with fellow Gallup executive Gale Muller, coauthored the book Power of 2: How to Make the Most of Your Partnerships at Work and in Life. “The more we collaborate, the more we accomplish.”

“We have a culture that emphasizes being the all-around hero, even though research is quite clear that each of us is a mixture of strengths and weaknesses. It’s a real blind spot in business strategy,” says Wagner. To forge good partnerships, “you have to recognize both that you need help and that you are also the help someone else needs.”

The irony is, while many individuals become self-absorbed in their quest (and in turn come up short), the smart money pulls up a bus and focuses on getting the right people on board. Believe that myth all you want, but the truth is that realizing success — whether you’re on the clock, or after hours — does in fact take a village.

Some things never go out of style

“Q&A: Jon Gordon – Career Watch: The benefits of hard work” (Computer World Magazine, 19 October 2009). There are many who would like to believe otherwise, success is not just about great ideas. There are plenty of people with countless great ideas. It’s not limited only to those with an Ivy League education. There are plenty of Princeton grads looking for work right now. Luck might have a little bit to do with it, but not nearly as much as most (lazy) people insist on believing.

So what is the magic bullet? The secret ingredient? The special sauce? Answer: hard work! A great idea and a great education are meaningless without the drive and determination to get the job done.

One, two, tweet

“Staying On Message” by Jaikumar Vijayan (Computer World Magazine, 19 October 2009). There’s certainly no shortage of ideas and examples on the business uses of social networks. None the less, this is a solid collection to get your week started on the right click.

In addition, there were two other soc-net focused articles from ComputerWorld.com that you should be of interest to you:

“Social Security – Public cloud vs. internal social networks” by Stacy Collett

“Scams & shams: The trouble with social networks” by Robert L. Mitchell

The change will do you good

“Leading Change – Why Transformation Efforts Fail” by John P. Kotter (Harvard Business Review, www.HBRreprints.org).  In this day and age, it’s difficult to have a conversation about almost anything without some reference to change. In fact, one of the longest standing uber-buzzwords is innovation, which obviously requires change. Ironically, what doesn’t seem to change is that so many fail at trying to change. Mr. Kotter’s ideas might be the difference maker for you.

If this topic interests you — and it should — you can also consume: “Change Through Persuasion” by David A. Garvin and Michael A. Roberto (Hardvard Business Review).

Truth be told, neither of these articles are new. However, they do address many of the fundamentals and the universal truths that continue to challenge every organization regardless of the date on the callendar. As they say, “Change is constant.” The issue is, are you going to be proactive, reactive, or a victim of your denial that things are never going to be as they were.

There is no perfect point of view

“Mixed Signals” by Sam Gosling (Psychology Today, October 2009). True, this might be a bit heavy weight for a Friday afternoon post. On the other hand, it has the potential to supply you with some provocative pondering over the weekend. What makes this one special is that in functions on so many levels. The insights can be applied to your personal persona, your business persona, your online persona, and even to your company/brand.  It’s like a personification of, “it’s not what you say, it’s what they hear.” In this  case it even applies to what you say to yourself.

Needless to say, you already know how much we like to push forward truths that can be followed across the multiple vectors life. “Mixed Signals” fulfills that quest.

The smaller shape of bigger things to come

“Start Connecting With Customers’ Smartphones” by Mary Brandel (Computer World Magazine, 5 October 2009). Simply put, a thorough overview on the subject of mobile phones and web sites with some great insights as well. For some it looks like the time has come to seriously consider that mobile version of your web site you’ve been dreaming about for too long. For others it looks like you might not have a choice.

And in semi-related, if not geeky news, “Book review: What’s wrong with software development” by Mitch Betts (Computer World Magazine, 5 October 2009). Mitch reviews “Wrench in the System” by Harold Hambrose (John Wiley & Sons Inc., 2009). The thing is, the value of great design and usability isn’t limited to software. Once you read this little bit, stop and ask yourself, “How can we use design to make our company more guest-centric?” Think. Create. Act. Try again.

Making it simple

“Looking at Life as One Big Subscription” by Damon Darlin (New York Times, 10 October 2009). Interesting, a concept that should be considered especially given how comfortable many people are with the idea of pay once for year round service.  There are certainly no shortage of instances where making multiple sales (i.e., three or four times, or more) per year can be simplified into a single “subscription”. For example, a florist might be able to make use of  “subscription” in offering a package for three holidays per year. Those holidays could be set or picked by the guest. Not only does that free up resources from pursuing each sale individually but the following year a simple, “Did your wife like her flowers? Would you like to renew your subscription?” is all that needs to be asked. The sale has been made, now it’s an issue of renewing.

Another option, might be a non-profit. Maybe a donation can be packaged in such a way to be sold as a subscription/membership (i.e., there would be something given in return to the donation). Reciprocity can be a very powerful tool. Again, renew is a much simpler concept than trying to get a repeat purchase.

Think about it, how can subscription help your business? What do you buy that you wish you could subscribe to?

Make it sticky

“Prototype: It’s Brand New, but Make It Sound Familiar” by Mary Tripas (New York Times, 3 October 2009). A classic lesson in, it’s not what you sell, it’s how you sell it. The key is empathy — as the sender you are responsible for packaging your ideas in a form that the receiver can consume, not the other way around.   If you find this interesting/helpful then you might want to check out “Made to Stick” by Chip Heath & Dan Heath (www.MadeToStick.com).

Be careful what you wish to measure

“The Dangers of Bad Data” by Vik Torpunuri (CRM Magazine, 1 Oct 2009)

“You Are What You Measure” by Lior Arussy (CRM Magazine, 1 Oct 2009)

“Goals Gone Wild” by Stephanie Overby (CIO Magazine, 15 September 2009)

No one will deny that setting goals and measuring progress are important. What’s even more important is setting the right goals, using the right measurements to determine progress, making sure the data is accurate and complete, and then how those measurements are used to manage the initiative.

For example, Google’s AdWords preaches the value of Click Through Rate (CTR), as well as cost per click (CPC). While both are helpful and should be monitored, they are both in many instances the wrong measurement. The better measurement is conversations as well as what Google Analytics calls goals. In theory you can have a great CRT and CPC for one campaign, but another campaign can have a lower CTR and a higher CPC but lead to more or better conversions. It’s an issue of quality verse quantity.

It should be noted that Google only gets paid for clicks not for conversions. So much for “Don’t be evil”, eh? Also, the next time some SEM “expert” starts praising himself/herself about CTR and CPC ask them about their conversion rate. Ask them about the impact their efforts were able to make on the bottom line. CTR and CPC isn’t enough and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. Success is much more holistic than that.

Another example, is a call center. We’ve all phoned an 800 number looking for help with an issue only to get bounced from rep to rep to rep. Guess what? In that call center lenght of call probably factors into a rep’s review. Should length of call be measured? Yes, it should be. Should it be used to alter behavior of the reps in such a way that it compromises the relationship with the guest? Probably not.

The bottom line is this… measurement is important. Just be careful that you’re doing it right. And always question numbers and graphs when they are presented to you. Never assume that the messenger is right and is telling you what you really need to know.

If your message falls on deaf ears/eyes, does it still make a sound?

“Prospect Research” by Waddy Thompson (The NonProfit Times, 15 September 2009). Please note: The link to Mr. Thompson’s article will actually take you to his web site, not NPT.com. NPT, being an old media outfit (?), did not have the article posted on their web site. They also did not respond to an inquiry as to whether it was going to be added any time soon. And old media wonders why they’re losing readership. I don’t get it. Actually, they don’t get it. Oops, I digress.

Waddy does a super job here in laying out a framework for segmenting your mailing list and why that matters. What’s beautiful is that this mindset works for all types of businesses, not just 501(c)(3)s. With tools such as Salesforce.com or Zoho’s CRM offering (http://crm.zoho.com/crm/) the possibilities are powerful, inexpensive and nearly endless.

Here is another article of interest (that has been sitting in the to-be-posted pile, so please excuse the delay, the information is still spot on): “Email Segmentation for Higher ROI” by Peter Prestipino (Website Magazine, February 2009).

Don’t forget, targeting your message is not only good for you but it’s even more good (note: the word play was intentional) for your guests. They, just like you, have limited time and attention. The better you stay on *their* message, the more likely they are to keep you in their conversation. It’s not so much about what you want to say, but about what they want to hear. Right? Right!

Survival of the capable

“Interview: Andrew McAfee — Writing the book on Enterprise 2.0″ by Hugh McKellar (KMWorld.com, September 2009). The book might not be due until December (from Harvard Business School Press) but this interview should help you to warm up to Mr. McAfee’s ideas now. Here’s a free sample:

HM: So, you’re quite confident that the Enterprise 2.0 movement is a fundamental shift in the way that organizations can share knowledge and gain collective intelligence and ultimately increase the bottom line?
McAfee: I am very convinced of that. I am also convinced that not all organizations are going to share that view. Even if they do, not all of them are going to be equally capable at deploying the new technologies and the new styles of collaboration and getting people to change the way they work. However, for the ones that actually can get through that process, I think some brilliant capabilities await them.

So either you’ll have it, or you won’t. And if you don’t then don’t expect your struggle to get any easier. What’s it going to take? Read the interview.

All you, all the time

“Retail Mentor’s Roundtable” by Dan Bolton (Specialty-Coffee.com, September 2009). Someone please put a star next to Mr. Bolton’s name for this one. This is pure genius!

Answers to these two questions neatly sum up the situation:

— Do you believe the retail coffee business is harder now than it was two years ago?
— Do you believe it is going to get any better in the next two years?

Whether you were asked these questions last year (when times were bad) or this year (as times got worse) or next (as things improve), the answer is the same. “Yes, it’s getting harder. No, it’s not going to get any easier.”

So here’s another question: If the coffee business is not going to get any better in the next couple of years, then who has to get better? The answer: “You.”

If you can’t inspire you then who can?

Give more get more

“T-Shirt Premium Jazzes Up Public Radio Fundraising” by Michele Donohue and Mark Hrywna (The NonProfit Times, 15 September 2009). Good stuff. Who doesn’t love a success story? And a premium? But as you read this please keep these AU caveats in mind:

— Why was the KCSM-FM promotion only offered to “lapsed” members?

— The article says that there was over $42k raised from 577 donors with an average gift of over $100. Simply put, that math doesn’t add up.

— There is not mention of a control group for the KCSM-FM promotion. And while the results sound impressive, the true effectiveness is impossible to analyze. Maybe it just a better looking mail piece?

— While the fulfillment vendor isn’t specifically mentioned, AU wonders if Zazzle.com (or a similar service) might have been a better, more cost effective choice.

— Since when are mailing labels considered a premium?

Last but not least, maybe the concept of donor should be put to rest already? To a certain extent,  donor implies a sense of one-and-done. However, member and membership not only gives the guest a sense of belonging to a community but it should also force the NPO to not see every warm body as a dollar sign. Perception and words matter.  Needless to say, donor, in a world where expectations are formed by Web 2.0 does not inspire an appropriate “UX” (user experience).

Calculate your IIE (Investment In Expectations)

“What’s your Twitter ROI? How to measure social media payoff” by Mary K. Pratt (ComputerWorld.com, 21 September 2009). Ms. Pratt crafts a soft, user friendly overview of some of the ROI issues that are confronting organizations as they migrate their brand into the realities of Web 2.0 and beyond. If you’re in this camp then this article will let you know that you are not alone.That said, aren’t these the say type of questions we asked 10 years ago as the internet went mainstream? My stock tongue in cheek joke is — The internet, I hear it’s gonna be big.

Unfortunately, the article misses the mark on the point of social media, Web 2.0, etc. and the associated shift in the paradigm. The world as it now exists isn’t about the brands, it’s about the guests. I’m certainly not going to suggest that any effort be pursued at all costs. We are talking business after all. However, the old mind set of, is what I’m spending going to get my customers to do what I want them to, doesn’t really apply in a world where the guest has the power. The question guests now ask is, is brand such-n-such doing what I expect? Are they living up to MY expectations?

In short, you don’t really have a choice.

You’re going to have to surrender to the fact that some of the old measurements (of control) no longer apply. The approach needs to more holistic. There needs to be effort put into being part of the conversation (and stop focusing on leading and/or manipulating it). For example, the reality is, you don’t have to tweet. However, you do need to give people something to tweet about. It’s amazing what you can get for free if you know how to play your cards right. The fact is, in the history of business, no marketing tool has been more cost effective than word of mouth/Tweet/FB status.

Actually, you have two choices. One, figure it out now. Two, figure it out later. Either way, you will have to figure it out. These things — whether it’s Twitter, Facebook or their eventual cousins — aren’t going away anytime soon. If you wait to make the investment in understanding and using the tools then you will only be that much further behind the curve. This isn’t a sprint, it’s an ultra-marathon. So while you’re scratching your bum, focused on ROI, others are being guest-centric, putting their self-interests aside for the moment and pushing forward knowing that the return will come.

Because as we all agree, standing still isn’t the key to success.

Bees or flies? – Part 2

Time for a little bit of shameless self-promotion…

The original post dates back to June or so. This letter was printed in the September of issue of CRM Magazine (online: www.DestinationCRM.com). Unfortunately, CRM did not post the letters of the September issue on their web site. As you know, they have done so in the past. (Wink, wink. Nudge, nudge.)

Beautiful article by Associate Editor Jessica Tsai (“Search Engineering”, July 2009, http://sn.im/0709tsai). Search engine optimization (SEO), search engine marketing (SEM), and online marketing in general continue to be hot topics. The theory is, why chase customers when they can find you? Yes, when done right, it can work quite well.

Ms. Tsai does the subject matter justice, with a thorough (even fantasic) overview of SEO. There are a few things I’d like to add to her efforts, however, that I believe will help the CRM masses.

1) The design and user experience (UX) of the site itself is critical. While not part of SEO, per se, there is a very important connection: There’s no point in driving traffic to a visually unpleasing and/or dysfunctional web site. Guests will judge a book by its cover, and if they don’t like what they see or how it works they will bounce. In order to fully benefit from SEO (i.e., inviting guests over), we believe more companies should first focus on cleaning up the house.

2) The article focuses on the value of a web site “homepage”, but the current approach is that there is no such thing as a homepage anymore. Since search engines will drop a person into any page of a site, it’s not safe to assume the homepage will be the point of entry. The relationship can start anywhere, so plan accordingly.

3) One essential factor that’s too often overlooked — click fraud in paid search (PPC) — appears in one of the article’s sidebars (“Bad and Ugly SEO”): “Some reports indicate that one-third of clicks on paid search are fraudulent — the result of developers creating bots to click on competitions’ ads, raising those competitors’ costs.”

Even with Google’s much-vaunted AdWords/AdSense, some estimates put the click-fraud rate above 15 percent. Either figure represents a pretty significant amout of waste to not be aware of — especially for anyone new to pay-per-click advertising. Yes, search engines say they prevent it but the general belief is to the contrary.

So we’d like to add a caveat to the feature story: SEO/SEM is not a panacea. It will not make up for a visually dated web design or a marginal user experience. Nor will it fix a shaky business model, poor customer service, or a second-rate product or service. SEO/SEM is merely a way to attract customers.

Mark Simchock
Chief Alchemist
Alchemy United

Your vision . Our passion . Success realized

We feel honored to be validated (again) by another respected authority. This time it is CRM magazine.