Month: December 2013

All I Really Needed to Know About Working I learned in Kindergarten…well, almost

By Sue Brady

KindergartenRobert Fulghum wrote a book in 1989 called: All I Really Needed to Know I Learned in Kindergarten. (You can buy it here). It was so simple and easy to read that it became a sensation virtually overnight. And that was before the Internet! To date he has sold over 7 million copies of his book, and it is the inspiration for this blog post.

Here’s what Fulghum says he learned and how I think it applies to the workplace (all book quotes used with author’s permission):

1. ‘Share everything.’ It’s important to share your industry and/or company and/or product knowledge with other employees. Why? Because it helps people trust you and might help them succeed. Don’t hold back. If someone asks you a question, answer it honestly. Be a mentor. There has probably been a time in your career when you really could have used one. Share useful information. It doesn’t hurt.
2. ‘Play fair.’ That means no cheating or undermining others. They’ll find out and then they won’t trust you anymore. Trust is a tough thing to win, and an easy thing to lose. Tweet this!
3. ‘Don’t hit people.’ Or stated differently, be nice. Shouting in an office situation for instance is NEVER necessary. It does not make you sound smarter or be more right, and it will certainly damage your credibility. Being labeled as a bully won’t do you any good.
4. ‘Put things back where you found them.’ If you use someone’s stuff, make sure you put it back, in good condition.  Same applies to using community things, like in your lunchroom at work.
5. ‘Clean up your own mess.’ Own it and make it right. If you made a mess of a presentation, acknowledge it and go about making it right. If you said something that created angst with your employees, own it and correct the situation. If something you did made someone look bad, own it and apologize.
6. ‘Don’t take things that aren’t yours.’ That means someone’s lunch from the fridge, someone’s mug from the shelf, someone’s umbrella drying by the door…and someone’s idea that you overheard being discussed.
7. ‘Say you’re sorry when you hurt somebody.’ Again, own it and make it as right as you can. It’s hard to take back words, so think before you speak or take an action that you might regret.
8. ‘Wash your hands before you eat.’ Get rid of germs and feed your mind well. Eating is important, as is taking care of yourself. Keep your brain healthy.
9. ‘Flush.’  Sometimes you just have to let it go. Whether it’s bad thoughts about someone or ideas for revenge, sometimes it’s best to just flush those thoughts. Keep a mental ‘file 13’ (aka trash), and load it and empty it frequently.
10. ‘Warm cookies and cold milk are good for you.’ Duh. It’s always wise to treat yourself.
11. ‘Live a balanced life – learn some and drink some and draw some and paint some and sing and dance and play and work every day some.’ Volumes have been written about work/life balance and how important it is. Working hard is important, but enjoying a life outside of work is important too to your own health and well-being. Not only that, but downtime will make you a better employee. There are many studies that have been done that illustrate the importance of taking a break from work. There’s more to life than the office. Start a new hobby, volunteer somewhere, begin a fitness program. Whatever it is, don’t just work.
12. ‘Take a nap every afternoon.’ I’ve never worked for a company where this was encouraged, but there are studies that show that napping improves your creativity and can make you more alert. At Google they even have nap pods for employees to use.
13. ‘When you go out into the world, watch out for traffic, hold hands, and stick together.’ Look out for your peers. Everyone can use help sometime, and sometimes the world can be a dangerous place. Remember, there is no ‘i’ in team.
14. ‘Be aware of wonder. Remember the little seed in the Stryrofoam cup: The roots go down and the plant goes up and nobody really knows how or why, but we are all like that.’ If something doesn’t make sense, question why. Some things are the way they are for a reason, but others should be changed. Understand the difference and appreciate the ‘wonder of why’ before you try to change a sacred cow. But don’t be afraid to question ‘the way it’s always been done.’
15. ‘Goldfish and hamsters and white mice and even the little seed in the Styrofoam cup – they all die. So do we.’ Life is short. Don’t waste one minute of it being an asshole.
16. ‘And then remember the Dick-and-Jane books and the first words you learned – the biggest word of all – LOOK.’ Look for the one good thing in the person at work who you really can’t stand. Everyone has one good trait. Sometimes you just have to look a little harder to find it.

You might also be interested in: The Worst Advice (and best!) I Ever Received from a Boss.

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The Changing Corporate Holiday Party

By Sue Brady

Party in a BoxOffice holiday parties are changing. I’ve been reading about this and decided it was worth writing about, given the uniqueness of the one I just attended.

I’ve always enjoyed office parties. It’s a chance to talk to coworkers in a more casual way and allows you to get to know folks on a different level. When I first started working, holiday parties seemed to always be in the office. There was plenty of drinking and socializing. Later, parties seemed to shift to hotels or cool locations. One employer of mine from Washington, DC held our party in the Air and Space Museum! It was different and very cool.

Another company I worked for more recently has a tradition where each year at the holiday party, two folks are nominated to plan the party for the following year. There are no rules other than sticking to budget. This leads to a lot of creative parties, like the one held in the lobby of the Field Museum in Chicago.

Some companies have completely changed the paradigm. One small company mentioned in this article took their employees to a shopping mall, bought them lunch, gave them gift cards to go and spend right then and there (with the rule being, they had to spend them on themselves), and then they met back up after the allotted amount of time for drinks. Other companies are making their holiday parties into charitable events.

Because we are a 100% virtual company, my current employer, RM Factory, threw a virtual office party. A few days before the party, a box arrived containing a holiday music CD, a holiday glass, mini bottles of vodka and Baileys, cranberry juice, a martini shaker and some nibbles. At the allotted hour we donned our ugly Christmas sweaters, poured ourselves a drink, fired up our video conference, and had a toast together as a company. Not only was it a blast, but no one had to drive home afterwards! The ugly sweater contest added an individual touch as well, and prizes were awarded.

What interesting (and publishable) holiday party stories do you have?

 Holiday Party 2

Improve your Marketing Results with these Testing Tips

By Sue Brady

TestingAny direct marketer worth their salt knows how important it is to test on a regular basis. Testing is your path to improved marketing results. But how do you know what’s worthwhile to test? The biggies from the offline world mostly apply in the online one: Offer, copy and creative, in that order. But there are a million things that are worth testing. If you are fortunate to have a steady stream of visitors to your website, you can learn things on a daily or weekly basis. For instance, think about testing the critical elements on your home page:

  • The call to action button and location
  • The location of the phone number on your home page
  • Your website headline
  • Your website hero image (the primary image, usually at the top of your home page)
  • The order and description of your product benefits
  • The placement of your offer

These elements can be tested using A/B testing methodology or using multivariate testing. The difference between those two is that with A/B testing, you are evaluating one element change at a time. It’s called A/B because A is your control (the version currently being used) and B is the new test. With multivariate you are able to test a number of things at one time. This can be very useful if you have a highly trafficked site and can swap multiple elements in and out in a controlled manner. And there are over-arching tests you should be doing as well, such as sending a searcher to a landing page vs landing on your website directly, or using different landing pages for specific ad groups from your search campaign (with dynamically generated keyword specific content).

In addition to driving online conversions, most websites offer a toll-free number for prospective customers to call. The call center that receives those calls is another place where testing can and should happen. Phone technologies are readily available that allow you to A/B test scripting, call routing or other key elements. You might want to test something quickly and on a small scale, and there are ways to do that too. For instance, my employer, RM Factory offers a service called iQueue. iQueue is a cloud-based mini call center that allows for highly controlled testing and optimizations of offers, copy, scripting, and positioning. Sometimes the larger call centers don’t want to take on small programs, but a mini test lab like iQueue can take care of that.

It’s always fun to test into a new winner. Here are some surprise winners (highlighted in green) on programs that I’ve worked on. The control is listed first:

  • $200 rebate vs Free installation (free is the most powerful word in direct marketing, so this one really shouldn’t have come as a surprise)
  • Image with no person vs image with a person
  • Red type vs green type (color matters!)
  • Website with corporate focus vs customer focus (actually, this one came as no surprise)
  • Staid, talking head DRTV ad vs humorous ad

Please share your testing surprises in the comments section below!

To Build or to Buy. That is the Hot IT Question.

By Sue Brady

Build or Buy?When does it make sense to use corporate IT resources to build a system/software/technology vs buying one off-the-shelf? Many companies struggle with this question.  The answer is of course, it depends. There are many business tools that are readily available today: content management systems, CRM systems, accounting tools and the like. If you have an IT department that has coders, developers, and other technical functions, you may be able to create these tools yourself. But the question is, should you?

There are good reasons to build tools yourself, such as: hammer

  • There is no off-the-shelf product that satisfies your needs
  • A client has asked for a product that they can own
  • It will be cheaper to build it
  • The off-the-shelf products won’t be able to keep pace with your level of growth

And equally important, there are bad reasons to build it yourself: no hammer

  • You have a big IT team and need to keep them busy
  • You don’t trust any of the off-the-shelf products
  • You need something a little different from the off-the-shelf choices
  • You can charge the client for a totally custom product
  • It will be cheaper to build it

There are pros and cons to both options. Buying a product typically means the implementation will be faster and the timelines to do so will be more predictable. Risk is lower because the product has been tested and is more standardized. There might even be a certain level of product support for you to take advantage of. But, you also have to stay one step ahead of product enhancements to know that whatever product you’ve chosen can grow with your changing needs. And you need to make sure you understand the product lifecycle so that when you consider costs, you know down the road what you’ll need in the budget for support/changes/enhancements.

Building gives you a certain amount of control but means that you have to manage costs carefully, avoid things like scope creep and continually set timing expectations. Plus you’ll also need to anticipate and handle new product feature releases that your business might need. Make sure you also set expectations around timing. Marketing folks are impatient, so if building is going to take three times as long as buying, you may get pushback. Be sure you have the budget to support the build.

Some companies like to use a hybrid approach where an off-the-shelf product is used, but modified to meet the business’ needs. This can work, but if a large amount of modifications are needed, you probably won’t be saving money or time in the long run.

I came across this rule-of-thumb advice in a variety of places: When you are looking to automate a business process that can be viewed as a commodity, you should buy. When you’re talking about a core competency/differentiator for your company, you should build. Tweet this.

Do your homework, run a cost/benefit analysis, and be realistic with the stake-holders with whichever option you choose.

Top Six 2014 Digital Marketing Predictions

By Sue Brady

bigdata_2013

The New Year is sure to bring more change that will surprise and delight us users. Here’s my stab at six things I think will happen.

  1. The use of mobile customer service tools in call centers will explode. Cloud services in the call center environment has seen rapid adoption over the last couple of years, and that paves the way for the use of innovative customer service solutions. According to Frost and Sullivan, there were a dozen or so mergers/acquisitions in 2013 that pave the way for this development. Adopted tools will include more Siri-like services, and will also include location-specific help (‘I’m on 4th and Main. Where’s your closest service center?’).
  2. Snapchat will live to regret its Facebook $3 billion cash offer turndown. As it turns out, it’s also rumored that the CEO turned down an offer from Google valued at $4 billion. They will entertain offers but won’t get another one quite as sweet. Sure, the CEO is a young kid from a privileged background who may not care too much about wealth, but he turned down what sounded like a great deal, and you can be sure his investors care about wealth (as do his employees!).
  3. Google+ will continue to report high usage numbers, but will under-perform in all aspects of social engagement and lead generation in both B2B and B2C, except with helping SEO rankings on Google in general.
  4. Big data will continue to confound, but prove to be a goldmine for those who know how to use it. In order to handle big data, companies must understand their goals as well as have tools in place to do something with the data they collect. As more and more companies work out creative and impactful ways to use their data, their methodologies will be copied by others and using data will take on even more prominence. According to a CompTIA study of IT executives, 55% think data is critically important now, and 62% think it will be critically important in 2014. In the same study, they found that 8 in 10 execs agree/agree strongly to the statement: “if we could harness all of our data, we would be a much stronger business.”
  5. There will be a large merger between two existing social media platforms. This may be someone like slideshare merging with a video platform to enhance the one that they have or perhaps Pinterest doing the same. Short video is hot and gaining adoption. Look at the rise of Vine. It was founded in June, 2012 and has over 40 million users (now in 19 languages!). Plus there are newer players like Instagram Video (launched in June, 2013 to the 150 million Instagram users) and videos on Snapchat (launched video in February, 2013 to its 26 million users). Or perhaps this merger will in fact be a purchase of Snapchat by a new buyer.
  6. Attribution tools will take a huge leap forward because brands will adopt usage in increasingly great numbers. As more tools are developed that make attribution easier (read about that here) it makes sense that more companies will use them. And, adoption will happen because it’s the best way to value the ROI on multiple marketing touches.

What are your digital marketing predictions for 2014?