Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Procrastination and the Crock Pot

Most of us are told that Procrastination is bad.

And for good reason. Waiting until something is due to start often results in a half-assed, rushed job that is likely to have errors that would have been avoided if you hadn't done it at the last minute in a rushed, half-assed manner!

However, I've been giving this word some thought and want to challenge you to do the same.

It all began on a Friday morning. I was attending an introductory sales presentation by Paul Lushin when he mentioned that procrastination is good. Due to the time limits of his presentation and all of the other items he was covering, he didn't same much more about the subject.

But I thought about it the rest of the day, and decided to write about it.

However before I began writing about it, I checked my email and low and behold, there were not 1 but 2 newsletters in my inbox talking about the evils of procrastination.

More fuel to my fire.

First a posting on the Dumb Little Man blog entitled Four Crucial Steps to Avoid Procrastination.

Ali Hale gives some good advice on how to overcome Procrastination if it is a problem in your life and business.

Next, Seth Godin touches on the subject as he talks about Finding Inspiration Instead Of It Finding You.

Again, good advice about a more disciplined life, but there is another side of procrastination that I know is good.

I call it Crock Pot Procrastination.

Crock Pots and Slow Cookers became popular in the 1970's, as more Moms entered the work force fulltime and were still expected to feed the family at dinnertime.

A crock pot allowed you put raw food into a slow cooker, add some water and spices and let it simmer all day so when you came the house was filled with the aroma of a delicious dinner and our plates were filled tasty morsels of goodness.

Contrast this with the Microwave. What used to take an hour can now take 5 minutes. And that is how a lot of us operate with multi-tasking, doing everything now, etc.

In order for procrastination to work for you instead of against you, you need to follow the Crock Pot rules:

  1. Prepare the ingredients. Start thinking about the project way ahead of the deadline.
  2. Let it simmer. Go do something else. Some of my best creative ideas come when I'm mowing the yard, or playing a game. Staring at a computer screen and trying to be creative can be counter-productive.
  3. Capture some of those ideas. Like the aroma that fills the kitchen as the food is cooking, those random ideas can add flavor or direction to what you are going to create. Write them down, save them in your voice mail, just have a system to capture those ideas.
  4. Have a deadline. Dinnertime is 5:30 tonight. Not 9:30 tomorrow morning. Set a time to take the ideas that have been cooking in your crock pot, set the table and eat.
  5. Save your leftovers. Not all of your ideas will fit into the project you are working on. Perhaps they are ideas you can use in the future.

By the way, the Friday that all of this happened was 11 days ago, August 20th. And I wrote this after about 24 hours of "Crock Potting" the idea of Good Procrastination.

But due to an abundance of ideas, I scheduled it to appear publicly today on the 31st, which takes the pressure off of having to Microwave an idea for a blog post that I've committed myself to update every week.

So how it all works?

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Privacy & Personalized Marketing

Facebook just launched a location service where people can update where they are on their Facebook page.

This is not a new service in social media, there are a couple of others including the one I use on occasion, FourSquare.

But Facebook is a giant. If you watched the video I posted last week, (Click here to see it again), did you catch that if Facebook were a country, it would rank 3rd largest in the world?

Facebook has privacy issues because it is so big.

Let me explain.

Because Facebook is so popular, unscrupulous people have found ways to gather information that most people would want kept private.

To Facebooks credit, they have created increased privacy options, but the general public hasn't locked down their Facebook pages and taken advantage of the privacy options Facebook offers.

I prefer location services like Foursquare, because I can use it when I want and only include people that I trust as my friends. Tonight I'm going to a baseball game and I'll use it to see who else is there.

Some businesses have used Foursquare as a marketing tool by offering specials to people who "Check in" on Foursquare when they are at that particular business. At lunch today, I was checking in on FourSquare and noticed that the Radio Shack in the same shopping center was offering a FourSquare special of 10% off just for showing them your phone with the FourSquare offer. It's a form of Word of Mouth endorsements via social media.

Most people however I not aware of all of the ways they give up their private information.

10 years ago, my mom was afraid of ordering anything online, yet for years she would freely give her credit card number to a stranger over the phone when placing an order at Sears.

Take a look at your key ring.

Do you have one of those loyalty cards with a bar code from your grocery store that they swipe in order to save money?

They have a record of everything you buy. Sometimes that is helpful like when they had the egg recall last week, some of the grocery stores were able to call customers who purchased the recalled eggs and leave them a warning and recall message.

And unless you are buying stuff that would be embarrassing, then you probably have nothing to worry about.

Personalized Marketing at the grocery store also occurs when they hand you coupons for your next visit that are based on the items you just bought.

Websites, and search engines do personalized marketing too, with ads that are relevant for what you are searching for and/or your location.

In the radio business, I've done a form of personalized advertising too.

No, I don't call your name in a commercial, but I'll target a very specific person in the content of the ad and keep it as time relevant as possible too.

A few other thoughts on this subject, when I turned 50 a few months ago, the direct mail and some of the email (Spam) I started receiving was geared to the 50+ generation. More like the 65+ generation.

And if you are going to send a direct mail piece to me addresses to RESIDENT or OCCUPANT, I'll probably be calling on you to teach you how to do a better job with your advertising and marketing.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

The New Normal of Advertising & Marketing Options

40 years ago, when I was ten years old, Walter Cronkite was the most trusted newsman in America. Uncle Walter delivered the news to millions of people 5 nights a week and his network, CBS, was one of three television channels that most households relied on. ABC was the youngest and was a spin-off of NBC.

1970 was also the year that PBS was launched although it took years for it to become a national network.

We had 5 local AM Radio Stations and 3 or 4 FM Radio Stations to listen to. And a morning and afternoon newspaper.

That's what was normal for media in Fort Wayne, Indiana.

Advertising options included all of the above along with Billboards, Phone Books and Direct Mail.

A friend of mine worked for the dominant radio station in the 1970's and the morning show was listened to by 60% of all radio listeners. Now we have around 20 radio stations, 16 of them are FM, and the most popular morning show is listened to by less than 15% of all radio listeners.

We have Cable TV reaching 8 out of 10 homes, and then there's the internet.

Advertising options have exploded. If you are running your advertising and marketing the way your parents or grandparents did 40 years ago without recognizing these changes, you are destined to fail. Sorry about that, but it's true.

The changes are also happening faster than ever before. So if you added a website to your marketing plan 5 years ago, it looks dated, and less trustworthy.

I know, I know... it's hard enough to keep up with the changes going on in your industry, let alone the changes in marketing and advertising.

So how do know what to change? What to drop? What to add?

Those questions are premature.

First you need to know about the heart and soul of your business. Your business has a personality that is unique. You need to know and understand this part of your business so that which ever advertising options you use, you are being true to your business and your customers.

Very few businesses are able to transform themselves from one niche to another. We'll explore that in the future. And we'll also look at the New Normal from a consumers viewpoint.

This is one of the latest in a series of video's that demonstrate some of these changes:

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

People and Technology

Technology can help your business communication, but you have to have the right people managing it.

Last month I used a trip to the dentist to illustrate how no matter what business you are in, you can use the technology tools of today to connect with your customers.

Click here to read it.

Today, I've got an update.

Last week I got an email from my dentist as part of their new email initiative:

(I replaced his name with "My Dentist" and am protecting his street address too)

My Dentist, DDS
XXXX East State Blvd
Fort Wayne, IN 46815

Dear Kathleen Howard,

Every day more exciting and important information is being communicated electronically via the Internet. In the future, My Dentist, DDS would like to communicate with you via email, which will enable you to receive teeth cleaning reminders, schedule your next appointment online, confirm your scheduled appointments online and receive money saving specials. My Dentist, DDS would like your permission for the privilege to serve you more efficiently and conveniently via email.

If you would like to be part of this convenient online program, you do not need to take any additional action. If you prefer not to have My Dentist, DDS contact you via email, please see instructions at the bottom of this message, and your name will then be deleted from our emailing lists immediately.

We appreciate your business and look forward to seeing you soon.


Your friends at My Dentist, DDS

The first problem is they used my wife's name, not mine. They sent it to my email account, not my wife's.

Very few families have "Family Email Accounts".

We have individual email addresses. Email is not like regular mail. If you address something to my home address, whoever gets the mail sorts it and gives it to the appropriate person.

The next problem is the content of this email along with the subject line which read, "My Dentist requests your permission."

I already gave permission last month at the dentist office when I gave you my email address.

And the content is written in a non-friendly, almost legalese style that does not reflect the nature of my dentist and his staff, whom I characterize as fun and competent. Yeah, my dentist is fun!

So what went wrong?

They need to make sure the people using the technology understand how to use it instead of just filling in the blanks in the email template without considering the recipient.

At the radio stations where I work, we recently fired someone who did her job pretty good.

Not perfect, but it seemed okay.

Turns out pretty good wasn't good enough.

Problems started cropping up because she was in charge of inputting data into computers and following specific guidelines.

She had the "Google approach". Google is forgiving, it helps you with spelling errors, makes suggestions, etc.

Our computer systems require perfection.

I discovered 6 mistakes that were made in one day, and I'm not even trained to work in that area, I just know how to check for errors.

So, use technology, but make sure the folks you put in charge know how to use it, and care enough to do it right.

By the way, that is NOT a picture of my dentist!

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Losing or Winning Customers?

Friday and Saturday I had two very different customer service experiences.

Friday evening my wife and I took my step-daughter out for her birthday, and she wanted to go to Applebees. I happen to know the Human Resources Director and Marketing Director for Applebees and because of this, I have some inside info on what's supposed to happen when you visit.

Our waitress and the rest of the staff did everything perfectly. This was the first time I've visited Applebees for dinner, I usually stop by for lunch. Now they get my recommendation for dinner too. Despite showing up at 6:15 to a full house, they found a spacious booth for the three of us and we were done by 7pm including desert!

Saturday, I visited Arby's for a diet Mt. Dew and I decided to try one of the Junior Deluxe Sandwiches. I went to an Arby's that I've never been to and it was terrible. I visit an Arby's 4 times a week, mostly for breakfast or lunch and they usually have good, speedy service. Not this time though.

I walked in and there were no other customers inside and just one car at the drive thru. I heard voices but didn't seen any employees for about 45 seconds. When they saw me, they seemed surprised and I asked if they had diet Mt. Dew because I didn't see it on their menu board.

Her answer, with a big sigh, "No".

Then she just stared at me.

I stared back.

Finally I told her my order, a Junior Deluxe and a small diet Pepsi to go. She pushed some buttons on her register and then said, "Fer here or ta go?"

I repeated, "To go please."

"$3.75", were her next words.

I gave her a 5.

She gave me my change and walked away.

It seemed to be talking an awful long time, so I glanced at the screen that counts down how long it takes for an order to be completed and when the timer hit 4:23, she reappeared and set my order on the counter, on a tray.

Since I don't take tray's when my order is to go, I took my food off the tray and walked out.

Oh, three more things,

The manager was laughing about the drive-up customer that changed their order and calling him a dumb-XXit. And the young lady who took my order, answered the phone while I was waiting for my food and was talking to someone on the other end about what they were going to do that night. Maybe that's why she couldn't remember my order was to go.

And the restroom, let's just say it needed a LOT of attention.

My wife and I both commented to each other Friday night about how nice our Applebees experience and I bet we'll be back for dinner on a regular basis. That means more money going to Applebees because of the way they handled themselves. That's how you Win Customers.

When I got in my car with my Arby's sandwich and drink, the first thing I did was post on 4 square, twitter and facebook or terrible the service was at this particular Arbys. This is how you Lose Customers. Not just me, but anyone of the 1500 plus people who are friends or follow me on the social networks.

What lessons can we learn from this?

  1. Have a customer service plan.
  2. Make sure your employees know it, and do it and you'll all benefit.
  3. Bad news spreads even faster with the social media tools customers have and unless you are on top of this, you could lose more customers than you can recruit.