Archive for 'technology'

Cincinnati Social Media Breakfast Review

This morning (April 29, 2008), I (Roger) attended a social media breakfast in Cincinnati at the Holiday Inn in Newport that was “headlined” or “emceed” (whatever term you’d prefer to toss in here works for me) by Albert Maruggi. One of the primary reasons I decided to attend was that I’ve listened to Albert’s podcast, The Marketing Edge, for quite some time and have enjoyed it quite a bit. It’s always nice to meet the human behind all of it in person versus text in an e-mail, blog posting, or Twitter exchange. Additionally, there are a few people that I’ve interacted with on-line that I thought would be nice to meet in person so this was a great opportunity to do that although early mornings are extremely rough on me and always have been.

Early morning whining aside, here’s a rundown from my perspective of the event:

Attendees in Cincinnati:

The group that made it out for the event wasn’t large in numbers, but it was obvious that there were a lot of talented folks that had opinions about social media and its place within business. WIth apologies ahead of time to anyone I neglect to mention, here is a list of people in attendance along with links to their business , primary content outlet (such as a blog or podcast site) or Twitter profile (in case you wish to follow them).

Twitter Implications for Business

The conversation began with Jason Falls sharing his experience about Twittering about Robby Gordon for Jim Beam for the Baja 1000 and how this took Jim Beam to a new level of marketing and created a unique following. Other drivers’ crews got wind of what Jason was doing and sent him updates to Twitter about them as well. This spurred on further conversation about Twitter and how it can be used for business in addition to getting to know someone better.

The recent earthquake in the Ohio Valley that shook Louisville and the Ohio Valley a bit was discussed. It was mostly agreed that all of the information the media, local and national, was begging for was readily available on Twitter if anyone elected to look there, but they seemed to request information and personal stories through more traditional mechanisms such as the telephone and e-mail. Jason estimated that it took something like 37 minutes from the time he first noticed something on Twitter about the earthquake to when a media outlet reported something.

Albert offered up the Next Newsroom initiative and how that may impact journalism as we know it today which sparked a good portion of our friendly debates this morning.

Citizen Journalism – The Future?

There was a lengthier debate about citizen journalism and how that can be effectively managed and embraced by traditional media. The suggestion was made that print media HAS to get their story right the first time whereas on-line media (blogs in particular) can go back and edit their story should there be inaccuracies. In print, this can be very damaging so traditional media errs heavily on the side of caution and verifiable sources before running with a story. Things will likely remain this way for print because of the ramifications of erroneous reporting.

It was also suggested that it’s nearly impossible for traditional media to open up the publication gates to allow herds of citizen journalists into the fray because the average reader won’t automatically get the fact that it’s not a trained writer and that the facts may not be 100% verified versus someone expressing their thoughts and opinions like they can with blogs and social media.

Albert stated that the Next Newsroom Project is offering training for citizen journalists so that they are more responsible with their reporting and can become a valued resource to the community they aim to serve. Something to keep an eye on.

Some random thoughts and out-takes:

  • Newsvine is good at weeding out quality content
  • Digg is not so good for community based stuff yet is good for articles and content discovery
  • Cinplify.com was mentioned as a local (Cincinnati) resource that is similar to Digg
  • Albert mentioned how StumbleUpon is driving a lot of traffic to his sites while others mentioned how Twitter is doing the same for theirs (personal note: I’ve seen about 1/4 of our recent referral traffic from Twitter to Zing’s main site)
  • Archive.org keeps track of the history of sites and its content
  • Think about how you’re going to brand yourself before you enter into the social media sphere; if you’re to use your full name, consider the implications down the road should you wish to “re-invent” yourself–that history isn’t going to disappear quickly
  • Any site based on an algorithm can be gamed because it generally takes just one element of the algorithm to exploit it; once that element is figured out, the game is on!

Overall, this was a top notch meeting and a lot of healthy debate took place. I’m glad I made the trek and met more interesting people that I can socialize with on and off-line. I am looking forward to interacting more with those in attendance this morning and learning various perspectives on social media as they pertain to business. Thanks to all of you!

If you were in attendance, what was your take? Did I miss something major? Did I spell your name wrong? 😉 Please let me hear from you.

Zing Social Media Overview Seminar Review

Yesterday (April 23, 2008), we hosted a very small group to discuss “10 Ways to Increase Sales from Social Media” at Zing’s offices in Louisville. For those that didn’t get the opportunity to attend, here’s a summarization of what all was discussed.

We started off the discussion with a quick round robin to see who all used various social media sites in some of the different categories. Included in the mix were sites such as LinkedIn, Flickr, YouTube, Twitter, MySpace, Facebook, Scribd, HubPages, Squidoo, EzineArticles, and WordPress (blogs). Our small group had mixed reactions to the sites mentioned whether they had heard of them or not. A lot of the sites were unheard of before our chat today so it’s fair to say that those sites aren’t being utilized yet by all of our attendees.

We had interesting debates throughout, but one thing stuck out to me that is both encouraging and puzzling all at once–a lot of people are very unaware of what is out there from a new media, web 2.0, on-line social aspect, but they realize it’s becoming more of a necessity for businesses to get involved. It’s no longer a novelty or kids’ playground anymore. Once you see large corporations investing major dollars on internet marketing and new media interests, the rules of the game change quickly. Usually new technologies in business follow a progression like this:

  1. Younger generations test out something because it has that “cool” factor and it’s new
  2. Solo entrepreneurs start to dabble thinking it might give them an edge and allow them to compete with larger competitors
  3. Small and medium businesses begin to realize that the solo entrepreneurs are onto something and begin to jump into the pool
  4. Finally, corporations see this wave of activity and understand the technology has matured enough to begin to invest substantial resources

Once the corporations are involved, it’s no longer a phenomenon or cool technology–it’s a full fledged strategy and set of tactics to make money. They may not have it mastered when they first enter the fray, but it won’t take them long to figure out how to capitalize.

So why is all of this happening so fast these days that some companies feel as though they’re getting left behind unless they act soon? Today’s consumer is tuned out to traditional advertising and media so it’s forcing the marketplace to become more creative in their approach, and that’s where social media comes into play. Believe it or not, there are still quite a few business executives out there that are reluctant to enter the social media space, and their reasonings vary greatly. Some of it is a generation gap, and some of it is a mindset that isn’t quite as “inclusive” by nature as a lot of us that are more comfortable with social media and sharing our lives publicly. I’m personally old enough to understand the apprehension from the “traditionalists” yet young enough to get the fascination with so many avenues for self expression.

All of that being said, there is no magic bullet where social media is concerned, but there are business applications for just about every sect of social media that need to be understood before making a decision to implement a strategy for one’s company. My recommendations for social media success, from a business perspective, to the group today were:

  1. Commit to a social media strategy or don’t bother
  2. Be yourself (hiding behind a pseudo-name isn’t going to win you points over the long haul)
  3. Transparency rules because people can sense a phony very quickly
  4. Be consistent
  5. Understand the time involvement–this isn’t like traditional advertising where you pay for a block of time or space and the returns are predictable. It may take a year for a social media strategy to begin to pay dividends, but those dividends could be huge. Can you afford to a) wait that long? or b) miss out on a great opportunity by passing on social media?
  6. Don’t try to sell–as mentioned above, people are tuned out to traditional advertising methods so showing up on a social media site trying to pitch your product or service isn’t going to be well received. It’s just like walking into a party where you know a couple of people–you wouldn’t barge into the middle of a group you didn’t know and immediately start trying to sell them something would you? I’d hope not. If you would, please skip my parties. 😉
  7. Follow the golden rule–give to receive and remember, it’s not about you first.
  8. Add value–become a resource or educate somehow if at all possible. Eventually people will notice and take action accordingly.

Finally, I’d summarize the overall message I was trying to convey to the group today as it’s all about an inclusive vs. an exclusive mindset. Traditional ways and methodologies versus new age and progressive strategies. We’ve gone from a business model of doing things FOR our clients to doing things WITH our clients. The firms which view things in that legacy view of “for” instead of “with” might find things a little rocky one day as we travel further down the path.

The rules of marketing have definitely changed, but have you changed with them? Either way, I’d like to hear your take.

SMB Consulting: Change of Focus Imminent

During my solo afternoon bike ride before the rain hit, I was doing some thinking about the core competencies of my firm and what I could boil it down to in the simplest of terms. After some internal back and forth, I came up with “lead generation” is what everything falls back to. Search optimization is beneficial only when it generates more qualified leads. Same with advertising and marketing efforts–quality lead generation is the ultimate goal when a company engages in those activities. So that got me to thinking about some of the services we currently offer that don’t relate to that core of lead generation.

Technology consulting doesn’t really fit into the “new” mission of the business. Neither does strategic planning although there are strategic elements involved when trying to generate leads through marketing or advertising so it’s more of a complimentary aspect than part of the core. Same goes for business planning–it’s not critical to the core of lead generation although marketing planning is so I foresee a shift in approach coming there. Web design/redesign, however, is a precursor to lead generation because the web is a critical tool to utilize when trying to attract potential customers and generate leads so that is something to be more focal for us moving forward.

What all is really involved in lead generation?
Website Design/Re-Design
Copywriting (falls under website design & SEO if you break it down)
SEO
Marketing (SEO falls under marketing if you really break it down)
Advertising
Sales Training/Development

I’m sure I’m leaving some things out, but that’s a pretty good core list of services which doesn’t look all that related to the initial core list of services I envisioned when starting the firm two years ago. For some strange reason, I feel a sense of clarity after mulling through that during my ride today. I feel like the sense of purpose has now been defined and all future activities will have a greater meaning. Straying will be much more difficult, and it will be easier to make decisions about whether to take on a certain client, form a joint venture, partner, or offer another service.

In watching the first couple of DVDs of Mike Filsaime’s The 7 Figure Code, it talks about the “hedgehog concept” that is broached in Jim Collins’ bestselling Good to Great classic. I’ve read Good to Great, but I hadn’t revisited it in, well, two years so I was happy to have that topic come up again. My first “to do” after watching the first couple of DVDs was to figure out what I think this firm can become truly great at doing, and lead generation consulting is what I kept coming back to. Every business transaction starts with some sort of lead, and leads will never go out of “style” so this newly redefined mission could fuel the company for decades.

Moving forward, look for a shift in focus and offerings from our firm along with content that directly relates to the newly found focus.

What do you think of this approach? Good, bad, or indifferent–let me hear from you. I value all of the feedback I receive.

PS–So far, The 7 Figure Code has already stoked my internal coals to rethink everything from a more simplified place so it has proven invaluable after just 2 DVDs (16 total). If the next 14 provide as much thought provoking material, unbelievably great things are going to happen! I’ll post a more complete review of the package once I dig deeper into it–it just arrived yesterday (Thursday, 7/26/07).

10 Ways to Improve Cash Flow

Just about every business would like to improve their cash flow. Below are ten ways which may help your business achieve that objective rather quickly:

Bill Promptly; Take Advantage of Payment Terms

The faster you can invoice a client, the quicker the clock starts to tick for the customer to pay in order to meet the terms of the contract you both agreed upon at the beginning of the relationship. Conversely, if you’ve agreed to terms of Net 30 with one of your suppliers or vendors, don’t pay the bill immediately; wait a little bit to take advantage of those terms and keep the cash in your (hopefully) interest bearing account a little longer.

Offer Payment Incentives; Penalize Late Payers

Many times businesses set forth payment terms of Net 15 or Net 30, but they neither offer any incentives to beat those terms nor penalties if the terms aren’t met. Consider adding both to your invoices to decrease your accounts receivable days outstanding. Chances are most of your customers will pay promptly if there is an incentive involved.

Run Credit Checks on Potential Customers

While this sounds like a no-brainer suggestion, many businesses today take whatever business they can acquire and run checks only when problems arise. Often times it is too late to run a check after issues surface. It’s better for your business over the long haul to reject a customer immediately that slow pays or is consistently delinquent. Slow payers are frequently troublesome clients aside from their propensity to get behind on paying you—they are typically the impossible to please variety that will nitpick your organization and sap its resources.

Sell off Under Utilized Assets and Fully Depreciated Assets

Once an asset has run through its useful life and is no longer a depreciable asset, consider selling it off if you can get good value for it. You’ll get an influx of cash that can help you replace that asset or upgrade to a new technology or model and possibly reduce your debt in the process. Many assets will last well beyond their useful life so you may be able to fetch top dollar from a smaller business looking to improve their operation by adding used equipment.

Encourage Partial Payments

If your business is in a bit of a cash crunch, try encouraging your clients to make partial payments on the front end of projects or working arrangements. Most will be agreeable to such provided you make some concessions on your end such as small pricing incentive or discount to do so. This helps you improve your cash on hand while helping your client spread payments out so that everything doesn’t hit all at once in one lump sum.

Comparison Shop Suppliers Online

The Internet makes comparison shopping a breeze, and some of your vendors and suppliers may take you for granted by not adjusting their pricing to reflect current market and competitive pricing. By checking the competitive landscape every quarter or so, you can gain some leverage by knowing how much you should be paying for particular items especially those that are more commoditized.

Stick to Budgets

This is another suggestion that may seem rather obvious, but there are several projects that suffer budget creep throughout a fiscal year. A couple hundred bucks here or there may not seem like much for a particular project, but it will quickly add up if there are multiple projects going on across an organization.

Spread Out Payments; Don’t Pay All at Once

Spreading out payments through a month versus paying everything on one day can really alleviate a cash crunch due to the natural flow of business and customers’ payment preferences. All of the money due to you in a given month doesn’t come in on one day so why should all of the money going out? This little tip can save a lot of headaches even though the temptation to pay everything on one specific day to get it out of the way may seem logical at times.

Add a Shift Versus Taking on More Space

A lot of small to medium businesses are quick to add office or production space when it may be more cost effective to simply add another shift. If your business is a morning shift only operation, how much could you save by simply adding a second shift versus adding production capacity? Chances are you could save quite a bit of development and rental costs by better utilizing the space you have today.

Pay by Credit When Possible

Paying by credit seems to have a stigma attached to it, but it can buy you some extra time to stockpile more cash to pay things off if you play the terms correctly. Since there are also some low rate credit options available, it may be more cost effective to take on a little interest expense until the cash reserves are built up enough to pay things completely off.

Cash flow problems don’t have to cripple your business if you take a step back and evaluate your options objectively. Implementing a few of the tips above can improve things almost immediately and put you back on the right track to a positive cash flow.

2nd SEO Class

Just a quick reminder note that SMB Consulting will be providing the second Search Engine Optimization training class this coming Thursday, June 14, 2007 from 9 AM until 4:30 PM at the McConnell Technology Training Center off Industry Blvd. here in Louisville. It’s the same material as the first class so it’s not too late to learn SEO from the ground up. The class is very hands on, too.

If you’re interested in attending the class, there are a few spots still available. Please e-mail info@smbconsultinginc.com for more details or to sign up. Registration is $650 for the first person and $450 for each additional person you bring which includes all training materials and lunch. All you have to do is show up on time–we’ve got you covered with pens, highlighters, computer lab, and a customized textbook.

Hopefully, we’ll see you in class this week or in one of our upcoming out of town sessions. The next sessions will take place in Cincinnati, Indianapolis, Nashville, and possibly St. Louis so if you live in one of those locales, shoot us an e-mail so we can begin to iron out the details for the classes.

For more information on SEO or the training material, you can visit the SEO section of our main website at http://smb-seo.com.

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