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March 29th, 2012

Not too long ago Google introduced Google+ in an effort to take on Facebook and Twitter in the social networking war – and given the fact that over 20 million people have already started using this feature since it was introduced last June, there’s a good chance it will continue to gain ground and popularity among web users. But what is Google+ and how will it affect the ranking of your company’s web site – if at all?

Google is attempting to combine the most popular features of Facebook and Twitter into a centralized social hub where users have the ability to share content with specific groups of people called “circles.” As users build these circles, they’ll be able to see web sites that members of their circles have +1’d (is that a verb?). There’s also a group video chat feature called “Hangouts,” and a user-defined topical news feed similar to Twitter’s hashtag called “Sparks.” While positive (or even negative) reviews from users online have always been viewed through the lens of skepticism, Google+ will add a level of validation to those reviews since you only see the +1’s from people in your circles.

While it’s still too early to tell how Google+ will affect your company’s SEO, it’s safe to assume that Google will reward web sites that get lots of +1s because of the web’s evolution to become more “social” and user driven.

The bottom line to all of this (and a key ingredient to any company’s success online OR offline) is good old fashioned customer service. These days it’s easy for any disgruntled customer to post a negative comment online. And once it’s posted, it’s practically written in indelible ink. Get enough negative reviews and your reputation will definitely take a hit. Additionally, it’s important that you monitor your company’s reputation online and encourage happy clients to post positive comments about you.

Topic Articles, General
October 28th, 2011

The recent passing of Peter Falk brings to mind one of the most useful techniques in negotiation. It’s called “The Columbo Effect.”

As a homicide detective in Los Angeles, Lt. Columbo wore a raggedy trench coat, drove a beat-up Peugeot, told corny and heartwarming stories about his wife and dog, and had the habit of forgetting to ask a key question in every interview and interrogation.

In short, he put the other person at ease because they felt superior to Columbo. “How could this bumbling, scatterbrained misfit outwit me?” they all mused.

For the negotiator, whether you’re trying to win a million-dollar contract or simply make a sale, it’s advantageous to appear a “little less okay” than your respected opponent. It makes them feel comfortable and maybe even a bit smug.

Then you’ve got them right where you want them.

This is not to say that you should be unprofessional. Leveraging The Columbo Effect simply means not being afraid of being less than perfect. Do you enjoy being around perfect people? No one does. If you show the other person that you’re imperfect, they will be more apt to make mistakes. Think of Columbo. He always got his man or woman—and that’s because they usually said too much, assuming he was inept, and then dropped clues right in his lap.

How do you act “less okay” than your opponent in a negotiation? Struggle a bit with your answer. Ask to borrow a pen and paper to take notes. Forget your business cards for the first meeting. Drop your glasses mid-discussion.

The tougher the negotiation, the more critical it is to understand that if someone in the room has to be not-okay, it will be you and not your adversary. When your adversary feels not-okay, the barriers go up much faster than you can break them down. But not-okay-ness on your part, or The Columbo Effect, breaks down barriers like magic.

If you have any doubts about the wisdom of this advice, it couldn’t be easier to check out. The next time you find yourself in a situation in which your adversary is maybe just a little standoffish or doubtful, try being a little less okay than they are. Pretend your pen has run out of ink, or search your pocket for some paper and ask to borrow a slip of theirs. You will notice an immediate, beneficial difference in the atmosphere of this negotiation.

Topic Articles, General
October 28th, 2011

When it comes to correcting employees, are you a lumberjack or are you a gardener?

A lumberjack uses an axe to make broad sweeping strokes and chop down trees. On the other hand, a gardener makes cuts with an attitude of pruning, molding, shaping and helping things grow.

Recently, I spoke with a client who was behaving like a lumberjack. (He gave me permission to share this story.) We were talking on the phone in a coaching call and he used phrases I’d never heard from him before, such as “I blasted that employee” and “that was a stupid mistake.” He repeated these phrases over and over. As I helped him work through the issues, he realized the way he was behaving was not really congruent with his personal values.

I gave him three tools to use when correcting employees—call them gardening tools:

  1. Never respond to a first instance. We all make mistakes and, most of the time, we all recognize when we make those mistakes. It’s no different with your employees. By giving them a little bit of space to make mistakes and correct themselves, you’ll empower them. Now, obviously, if the mistake causes blatant harm to the company, you’ll need correct immediately. Yet for majority of mistakes that your employees make, you can back up and give them a little bit of room.
  2. Correct quickly with clarity. Many “lumberjack” leaders allow poor employee behavior to occur repeatedly and they keep their frustration bottled up. After weeks or even months of this self-restraint, they explode. Instead, when you see something that’s out of place, on the second instance, jump right in and correct. Do it with clarity, focusing on actions and results instead of personal opinions or emotions. In other words, describe what actions they did and what result they got from those actions. Then describe what different actions you want from the employee, and what different results will come from those actions.
  3. After correction, be supportive and caring. Sincerely tell the employee how important they are to you and to the company. Be as specific as possible. This will help them help them realize that you’re not the enemy. You’re their friend—a gardener. As a leader, you’re there to help them grow and improve not just for the company but for their personal career, too.

Use these three simple “gardening” tools consistently, and over time your employees will begin to view you as a trusted mentor and a resource for their success.

Topic Articles, General
October 28th, 2011

According to a University of Utah study, you can increase your efficiency (or your employees’ efficiency) by 25% just by adding a second monitor. With multiple monitors, you can get more done since you aren’t minimizing and maximizing all day long. Therefore, adding monitors can be a money maker for your company.

The study documentation states that 108 university and non-university personnel participated in a comparison of single monitor, multi-monitor, and multi-monitor with Hydravision display configurations. Respondents edited slide shows, spreadsheets, and text documents in a simulation of office work, using each of the display arrays. Performance measures—including task time, editing time, number of edits completed, and number of errors made, as well as usability measures evaluating effectiveness, comfort, learning ease, time to productivity, quickness of recovery from mistakes, ease of task tracking, ability to maintain task focus, and ease of movement among sources—were combined into an overall evaluation of productivity. Multi-screens scored significantly higher on every measure. Respondents got on task quicker, did the work faster, and got more of the work done with fewer errors in multi-screen configurations than with a single screen.

Consider trying this in your office. Add a monitor or two to your desk and to those of your employees. See what kind of feedback you get and how much more efficient and productive they become when they have the ability to move quicker, use multiple applications at once and no longer have to constantly minimize windows.

Topic Articles, General
October 28th, 2011

These days, the Web gives everyone—B2B companies, consumer brands, consultants, nonprofits, schools, etc.—a tremendous opportunity to reach people and engage them in new and different ways.

Now we can earn attention by creating and publishing online for free something interesting and valuable: a YouTube video, a blog, a research report, photos, a Twitter stream, an e-book, a Facebook page. But how should we measure the success of this new kind of marketing? The answer is that we need new metrics.

I’m critical of applying old forms of offline measurement to online marketing. There are many ways to track progress such as how people participate in your social networking sites, how many people are reading and downloading your work, and how many are making inquiries about or buying your products and services. Here are some things you can measure:

  1. How many people are eager to participate in your online efforts? (You can measure how many people “like” you on Facebook, subscribe to your blog, follow you on Twitter, sign up for your email newsletter, or register for a Webinar).
  2. How many people are downloading your stuff? (You can measure how many people are downloading your ebooks, presentation slides, videos, podcasts, and other content.)
  3. How often are bloggers writing about you and your ideas?
  4. And what are those bloggers saying?
  5. Where are you appearing in search results for important phrases?
  6. How many people are engaging with you and choosing to speak to you about your offerings? (You can measure how many people are responding to contact forms and making requests for information.)
  7. How are sales looking? Is the company reaching its goals? (Ultimately, the most important form of measurement within management teams is revenue and profit.)

Guest article provided by:
David Meerman Scott’s book The New Rules of Mar-keting & PR opened people’s eyes to the new reali-ties of marketing and public relations on the Web. Six months on the BusinessWeek bestseller list and published in 26 languages from Bulgarian to Viet-namese, New Rules, now in its second edition, is a modern business classic. Scott’s popular blog and hundreds of speak-ing engagements around the world give him a singular perspective on how businesses are implementing new strategies to reach buyers. www.davidmeermanscott.com

Topic Articles, General
October 28th, 2011

In an article I wrote a while back called Corporate Culture Counts, I briefly wrote about the J.M. Smucker Company. I believe this company is an excellent role model to follow for teaching anyone how to successfully run a business today. Founded in 1897, this company now employs over 4,800 em-ployees and is doing over $4.7 billion in sales. Tim and Rich-ard Smucker are the Co-CEOs for the J.M. Smucker Company and they believe they serve 6 constituents:

“the consumer, the retailer, our employees, our suppliers, our communities, and our shareholders. We believe if we take care of the first five, the sixth will automatically be taken care of.”

They live and work by the creed, You Will Reap What You Sow. Here are their rules for achieving success in business:

  • Let the Golden Rule guide every decision.
  • Don’t have secret strategies – make sure everyone knows the strategy and knows their role.
  • Have a culture that promises people a better tomor-row based on their good work.
  • Don’t be content; you’re responsible for making things better.
  • Doubt your own infallibility.
  • Have faith. Believe in a higher force.
  • Don’t do what you know only for material rewards – be called to your life’s work and have a purpose.
  • Laugh and have a sense of humor.

In a world where corrupt deception abounds, it is refresh-ing to have such a prominent company set a great example of just the opposite. But their written words are only a guide to follow; it is your leadership, your example, your culture that will determine your success.

Guest article provided by:
Robert Stevenson is a highly sought after, internationally known speaker. He is the author of the best-selling books “How to Soar Like An Eagle in a World Full of Turkeys” and “52 Essential Habits For Success.” Robert is a graduate of the Georgia Institute of Tech-nology (Georgia Tech) and is a former All-American Athlete. He started his first business at 24 and has owned several companies. Robert has international sales experience dealing in over 20 countries and his client list reads like a Who’s Who in Business. He has shared the podium with such renowned names as Gen-erals Colin Powell and Norman Schwarzkopf, Former President George H.W. Bush, Anthony Robbins and Steven Covey. www.robertstevenson.org

Topic Articles, General
August 31st, 2011

“The world is against me and I can’t take it anymore!” cried the distraught woman. She had just called a crisis hotline desperate for someone to help her. “Last week I was in a car accident, my house was broken into, and now my computer has crashed and erased all of my business files!” This woman was already having a bad week, but it was that stupid computer that finally made her snap.

A New and Growing Anxiety Disorder Affecting Americans

According to a Washington Post report, there is a fast-growing disorder that is affecting millions of Americans called “computer rage” – and psychologists and crisis hotlines are starting to see more people and more computer rage cases cropping up. Kent Norman, a University of Maryland psychology professor, studies computer rage and its effects. According to Norman, “In the workplace and at home, we’re smashing computer screens, beating on keyboards, and throwing equipment out the window.” What’s interesting about this phenomenon is that most people do not destroy, smash, or beat on non-electronic items like cars and furniture; it seems completely directed towards electronics, and more specifically computers.

Don’t Be A Victim!

Since most people spend their entire day working at a computer, problematic PCs are certainly a huge contributor to stress and anxiety. If you already have enough to worry about and want to make sure your computer isn’t adding to your stress and anxiety levels, then call us today about our Effort Free IT plan. For a flat-rate fee, we’ll monitor and maintain your computer network to make sure you never want to throw your keyboard through your monitor!

Topic Articles, General
August 31st, 2011

Your chances of talking your way out of a traffic ticket are slim – but it’s not uncommon for a driver to talk themselves INTO one by insulting the officer or annoying them enough to write a ticket when they might have otherwise let them off with a warning. Here are the things NOT to say:

  1. “Whatever…” This disrespectful remark will almost always insult the officer and land you with a ticket. Same goes for rolling your eyes, arguing or making profane remarks.
  2. “I didn’t run that light!” or other denials of wrong doing. If you did something wrong, admit it; you’re more likely to be given a warning. Of course, if you truly didn’t feel like you did what the officer claimed, don’t say you did something wrong just to agree with the officer.
  3. “I know the mayor.” Never pull a power play like this on an officer. They aren’t afraid of who you’re friends with if you broke the law. Remember, they’re doing their job by stopping you.
  4. “I’m calling my lawyer.” Again, this won’t threaten the police officer because they deal with lawyers all the time. Threatening an officer with your attorney is a no-win situation for you.
  5. I’m on my way to the DMV/hospital.” If you were pulled over because of an expired ticket, don’t use this line. Cops hear it all the time. “But officer, I was just on my way to the inspection station…” And unless you are truly sick or injured and there’s a real emergency, don’t lie and make it sound as though you were responding to an emergency. Again, officers hear this all the time.
  6. “But everyone else was driving 90!” That doesn’t mean it’s okay or lawful. A police officer won’t let you off simply because everyone else is doing the same thing.
Topic Articles, General
August 31st, 2011

A phishing e-mail is an e-mail sent by a hacker designed to fool the recipient into downloading a virus, giving up their credit card number, personal information (like a social security number), or account or login information to a particular web site. Often these e-mails are well designed to look exactly like an official notification from the site they are trying to emulate.

For example, a recent phishing e-mail was circulated that appeared to come from Facebook stating that videos or photos of Osama Bin Laden’s death were posted online. These e-mails looked exactly like a legitimate Facebook e-mail and even appeared to come from “Facebookmail.com.” Once you clicked on the e-mail the phishing site would attempt to install a virus on your machine.

And now due to recent security breaches with Sony and e-mail marketer Epsilion, phishing attacks are going to increase – and they are going to get more sophisticated and harder to distinguish from legitimate e-mails. That’s because the hackers that were able to access the private databases of the above mentioned companies now have the name, e-mail and interests of the subscribers, and in some cases birthdays, addresses and more. That means a phishing e-mail can be personalized with relevant information that the user provided to Sony, making the e-mail appear to be more legitimate and the user more likely to click on the links provided and take the actions requested. Now more than ever it’s critical that you are wary of e-mail notifications and the actions they request you take. Even having good anti-virus software installed won’t protect you if you give your account information away freely.

Topic Articles, General
August 31st, 2011

You may have heard about the new “Buy Back” program being offered by Best Buy. The premise behind Best Buy’s Buy Back program is simple: Buy a technology product in certain categories – mobile phones (but not pre-paid phones), laptops, netbooks, tablet computers and TVs – from Best Buy, and the store will let you bring it back and receive a portion of the purchase price. Of course, there are “catches.”

First, the Buy Back program isn’t free. Its upfront cost is based on what you’re buying. For example, the Buy Back benefit on a $2,500 TV would cost $349.99. New laptops can run $70 and phones $40 to $60. Second, Best Buy won’t give you the full purchase price back. The amount is based on the age of the device and the condition it’s in. An item returned within six months will get you a maximum of 50% of the purchase price provided it’s in good condition and you have all the parts. If you wait 18 to 24 months, you’ll get no more than 20% and if you wait 24 to 48 months, you’ll only get 10%.

Finally, you don’t get cash but a Best Buy gift card, which, naturally, can only be used at Best Buy. So is it a good deal? Depends on how often you like to upgrade your equipment and how much you frequent Best Buy stores. If you like new things and love Best Buy, it’s probably a great deal. However, there are many critics of the promotion who say the only beneficiary is Best Buy.

Topic Articles, General