Tag Archives: media

Top 5 Reasons an M.A. in English is Useful in Business

26 Feb

People often ask me if I think my Master’s Degree in English is useful in business. I find it a curious question since the answer seems so obvious to me. However, since it’s asked so frequently, I’m offering the following top five reasons:

  1. Communication Skills: My coursework improved my written and oral communication skills. When you’re pursuing your M.A. in English, you learn to write clear, concise, well-documented research. You also learn to orally communicate your arguments in classroom discussions with peers and professors. It’s one thing to have an opinion and another to be able to clearly and cogently discuss it with others. And, whether you’re writing emails, blogs, or reports for your colleagues, these skills are timeless.
  1. Critical Thinking Skills: Writing, research, and critical analysis are the foundations of a master’s degree. You learn how to accept constructive criticism of your work and use that criticism to improve and grow. You learn how to conduct research, organize that research, and then use inductive and deductive skills to facilitate an outcome. Regardless of your business environment, this is a skill set that transfers beyond the classroom.
  1. Consideration of Varying Viewpoints: An essential foundation in the study of English literature is literary theory and criticism. Literary theory is the systematic study of the nature of literature and of the methods for its analysis. By studying the many schools of literary theory you learn to view literary works through a variety of lenses. Learning to analyze information from many different perspectives offers the opportunity to grow your thought processes. Understanding the various schools of thought translates into the ability to do so in the business world. You learn to be open to new business models and methodologies.
  1. Commitment to Long-term Goals: One of the most arduous tasks a student will undertake is the research, writing, and presentation of their master’s thesis. The process generally begins as you reach the final semester of your coursework. The length of time it takes to complete your master’s thesis will vary — but it always takes longer than you think. I was given great advice by my thesis chair to, “pick a topic/writer you feel you can live with for the next year or two.” As in business, you may not enjoy every task your job requires, but if you’re pursuing your passion, it makes it all worthwhile.
  1. Conceptual Thinking Skills: Individuals who have strong conceptual skills typically have excellent cognitive abilities. These skills include thinking creatively, formulating abstractions, and analyzing complex situations as well as understanding issues and solving problems. Conceptual skills allow a manager to visualize the entire organization and work with ideas and the relationships between abstract concepts. It also enables an effective manager to weed out those variables that are inefficient and/or detrimental to a successful outcome.

Top 4 Sales Tips for Success

28 Jan

While there are many great tips for increasing your effectiveness as a sales person, these consistently prove to be among the top 4 sales tips.

  1. Demonstrate Respect
    When you take the time to learn a client’s business and her professional needs, you’re demonstrating respect for her as a client and a person. This might sound simple, but it is no longer the norm and therefore bears repeating. Given the easy access to information via the web, there really isn’t any excuse for not doing the homework needed before calling. A “cold call” should be “warmer” with our present day access to data.
  2. Respond Promptly
    There is nothing that loses a sale faster than not returning a phone call or email in a timely manner. Understandably, you won’t always have an answer to a client’s questions or share the same sense of urgency that she has, but at least demonstrate “signs of life” when she leaves a message or sends an email. By responding to her call/email, you’re at least acknowledging receipt and providing an estimated time for delivery of the information requested. That said, be sure to meet that deadline with the necessary information and/or a status update.
  3. Communicate Effectively
    Many of you who know me are aware of my personal disdain for written or electronic communication that includes multiple font types, font colors, and font sizes. The most flagrant of these occurs when someone has obviously “copy/pasted” a section of the email from another email or document. If you’re going to do this, at least take the time and demonstrate the professionalism to ensure that ALL fonts are consistent throughout your communication. Failure to do so gives the impression that you are not a person with attention to detail. For me personally, this would make me question your attention to detail in the handling of my business.
  4. Create a Long Term Relationship
    Granted, not every piece of business will be the right fit, at the right time, at the right price. However, the care, respect, and attention given during the sales process will provide future success. If clients are treated as partners in business, they will be more likely to refer others and use your product or services in the future. Customer service is the most frequent differentiating factor in making a sale.

We can automate many processes, but people still do business with people, and there’s not an app for that!

My Five Must-Reads of the Week

26 Jan

While attending conferences, enduring airplane flights, and attending networking events, I’m often asked what my own five must-reads are daily and weekly. So, the curtain is lifted.

These are my five go-to sources:

  1. Inc.com / @SalesForce
    Geoffrey James is a contributing editor at Inc.com, where he writes an award-winning blog. Each article offers bite-size pieces of information that can better your work life.
  2. Fast Company
    Fast Company focuses on progressive business media brand, with editorial focus on innovation in technology, leadership, and design. Fast Company inspires readers to think beyond traditional boundaries stretching traditional boundaries to create the future of business.
  3. The Blog of Tim Ferriss – Experiments in Lifestyle Design
    Tim is a writer, lifestyle coach, business advisor, and lifestyle mentor. His books, blog, and podcast offer great tips and hacks for your work life and professional life.
  4. Penelope Trunk
    Penelope is an entrepreneur offering online courses to help you manage your career. She has founded four startups each built with a focus on a community. She documents her experiences in this blog.
  5. HuffPost Small Business
    Featured blog posts, bestseller lists, and reviews. If you’re looking for a quick snapshot of material to pick from each day, look no further.

Let me know what great blogs, articles, or podcasts you can’t do without!

Tell Me Something New!

18 Jan

How many articles do you read that just re-spin the same information over and over again? There are so many questions people have that are just not being answered. So, my intention with this article is different. I ask YOU, what topics you would like to read/learn/hear more about?

  1. What type of business questions would you like answered?
  2. What topics of advice would you like to learn about?
  3. Do you prefer to read articles, listen to podcasts, webinars, or have the option to do both?
  4. Are you interested in learning how to do your current job better or how to transition into a new job or industry?

I am on a quest to learn more about YOU. I want to learn more about the information that YOU and others like YOU are interested in.

Please take a moment to answer the above questions in this survey https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/YTN7KCB. I’m NOT selling anything nor will I be soliciting you afterward. I am sincerely just trying to learn more about the professional curiosities that are important to YOU and your peers.

I will share the results in the next blog post!

 

 

Networking is Not for Dummies

18 Dec

Successful networking is more than just walking up to strangers at an event, introducing yourself and your business, exchanging business cards, and closing with a handshake and a promise to call. Successful networking requires planning. It’s essentially like going on a group sales call. You have to prepare a plan, lay some groundwork ahead of the event, and define measurable goals for yourself. Fortunately, the Internet has made all of these steps so much easier and less time-consuming.

Who will be attending the event? Whether it’s a holiday party, the Chamber of Commerce breakfast, or an association meeting, knowing your audience is important. Make some phone calls; ask to see the RSVP list; and review your list of business prospects to seek out those target-rich attendees that you want to meet.

What is your networking goal? Do you want to meet a potential client that has been unwilling to set an appointment? Or, do you want to meet someone you’ve only heard about in your business community? Knowing what your goal is will also help you determine if the networking event was successful. (I always love asking sales people if the event was successful and they say “yes.” Then, when I ask what made it a success, they appear stunned as though it’s a trick question.)

How are you going to prepare for success?

  • Make a realistic list of people who you would like to meet and why. What can they contribute to your business and what can you contribute to their business? Successful networking is a win-win proposition.
  • Use LinkedIn to see if those individuals are “connected” to others in your LinkedIn network. Then, reach out to those you know and ask them to introduce you either by email prior to the event or at the event.
  • Determine the objective you would like to achieve. Do you want to ask for business, to set an appointment, or to establish just the first step pending a phone follow-up?
  • Learn what interests your prospects enjoy. With the Internet and social media, it’s not hard to learn something about a person’s hobbies, reading interests, favorite sports teams, or travel experiences. See if you have anything in common outside of the business. Something you might be able to use to lead into a conversation. Caution: There’s a difference between doing some research and stalking. You don’t want to come across creepy, just interesting.
  • Be knowledgeable. Read the news the day before and day of a networking event. Try to hit the following sections: Sports, Money, and Weather. You’ll notice that I stay away from politics or local government. (Politics, religion, and local government are still taboo topics and far too unstable to use in your first meeting with a prospect.) This information will help you in any conversation.
  • Be a good listener. This sounds so old-fashion and redundant, but you’ll find your best conversations are the ones where you listen more than you talk. Effective listening skills give a lot of insight into the other person’s business needs, problems, and how you might be able to solve them with your product or service.
  • Ask educated questions. Do your homework. Learn about your client’s business, their competitors, and the environment in which they operate. As the saying goes, “people have to know that you care before they care what you know.” Demonstrating knowledge of their company and that you’re willing to put in the effort to learn about them will go a long way.
  • Be authentic. Be honest. Be responsive. There’s nothing that can ruin a reputation or relationship faster than inauthenticity and dishonesty. If you don’t know, say so. If you don’t care, don’t pretend. And, if you say you’re going to do something, do it.

Networking can be a very positive and productive experience. Take the time and effort to make the most of each contact along the way.

Are You Invested?

1 Jul

I’m a voracious reader. I’m always in the middle of at least 2-3 books of which, at least one is a novel. I recently finished Inferno by Dan Brown. Without coming across like a book critic, let’s just say that it wasn’t worth the time it took me to drudge through to the end. Quite simply, the plot was thin, disjointed, and read like a travel log through Italy, I realized one of my greatest disappointments was my lack of investment in the characters. I didn’t care enough about the protagonists even though I read Brown’s other books.

Eager to cleanse my disappointment, I browsed through every bestseller list reading reviews, editorials, and sample chapters. Once again I realized I was looking for a novel with characters worthy of my investment. The story’s important, but a really great protagonist can make just about any story more interesting. The best fiction writers create characters that are multi-dimensional, relatable, and charismatic. The reader wants to spend time, invest time with him/her. They want to be an existential part of the story.

This investment in the main characters holds true in all aspects of life. Think about your best friends – – Your favorite bosses – – Your mentors and colleagues – – Your favorite sales people. We have choices. I go out of my way to purchase and service my car tires from a certain shop because the guys are honest, genuine, and always pleasant. I can probably buy the same tires and other car services elsewhere for even a few bucks less. But I like these guys and I’m invested in them as people.

Ultimately, whether we’re talking about characters in a book or the people with whom we do business, it’s the connection we have with the individual that makes the difference. Like the books we read, we want to work with people who are invested in us and with whom we are invested. Who is worth your investment?

Don’t Send Them Away From Your Website

11 Mar

Now that information is so freely accessible through the Internet, websites need to be more than a “store front” for your association; they need to be a resource for information that is useful and can’t be found elsewhere.  As they phrase goes, “content is king.” The most robust association websites provide content that offers value to its members, keeps them returning to the site, and encourages them to forward your information (a link to your website) to other members and prospects.

Why Is This Important?
One of the greatest challenges for associations is finding relevance and creating value to its members and communities. One of the most cost-effective ways to meet this challenge is to create and maintain a website that is a knowledge center. Websites need to offer robust content, useful information, user-friendly resources, and ways for members to become engaged in your association’s community.

Do and Don’t
Here are just a few do’s and don’ts

  • Don’t just supply links on your website to other websites that provide the information they’ve come to your website to find. While this is a shortcut to offering resources, it takes people away from your website. More importantly, it conveys the message that someone else has better information than you can provide. Result, they will “bookmark” those websites and leapfrog your association’s website the next time they need similar information.
  • Don’t neglect to update your resources and information frequently. This will provide both relevance and increase your organic search engine optimization (You’ll increase your visibility on a Google search.)
  • Don’t be one-dimensional in your content. Chances are your association’s members have an array of needs, interests, and ways they find value in their membership. In other words, your website needs something for everyone; your content needs to be balanced.
  • Do update your content often. If members don’t see new information each time they visit your site they won’t find a reason to come back. Once you’ve updated your content, send an email to your members highlighting the new content they will find on the site. If they go to the site often enough, it will then become a habit. Note: Sending this email on the same day of the week each week creates anticipation.
  • Do be a knowledge center/knowledge leader. People return to websites that demonstrate knowledge and expertise in their field. They like to have one place to locate all information without going to multiple sites. Use the expertise and thought leaders in your organization to demonstrate the level of knowledge your organization represents.
  • Do utilize social media, video, webinars, and blogs to offer multiple ways for people to engage in your organization. People learn and consume information in different ways. If your membership is multi-generational, it’s important to provide vehicles for communication and information dissemination in ways that are accessible to everyone. Added benefit: Using multiple media tools increases your visibility on a Google search.

Next Steps?
Let’s get started:

  • Define the core value of your association. What does (or can) your association offer that can’t be found elsewhere?
  • Fill in the Blank: “We want our members, prospective members and the communities we serve to think of us as ____________.”
  • Create a plan and process for updating your site, keeping it relevant, and discussing the analytics. What web pages are popular, how often are members coming to the site, and how is your engagement is being effected.
  • Ask for member and community feedback along the way.

While this is just a brief overview, remember that a robust association website provides content that offers value to its members, keeps them returning to the site, and encourages them to forward your information to others.

Resetting Expectations

7 Mar

I was enjoying my morning ritual of coffee, newspaper, and favorite morning talk show when the host brought up the topic of our 24/7 work lives. He used the term “reset expectations.” My ears perked up. This is such a great phrase. Let’s face it, the lines between “work hours “and “personal time” have become blurred by the accessibility that mobile technology provides. We have become inextricably connected to our jobs and as such, we begin to respond to every email regardless of the time of day or the level of importance. So, how do we regain control of our lives and our jobs? We reset expectations.

What is Resetting Expectations?
If we answer our emails within minutes of receiving them regardless of the day of the week or time of the day/night, then we have set an expectation. Our clients, friends, colleagues, now expect to receive a response immediately. If they don’t, they will send the infamous “did you get my email” email reminding us that we usually respond within seconds of the “read receipt.” Furthermore, we begin to feel guilty or negligent if we don’t respond right away. Well, unless someone’s life or safety hangs in the balance, that email can probably wait until I’m back in the office tomorrow. We need to “reset expectations” so we can regain balance in our lives.

Triage Your To Do List
I think we can all agree that the volume of email requests, text messages, and comments from our social media connections inhibits our ability to manage our time most effectively. The first step in resetting expectations is to establish a triage process. The dictionary defines triage as: (1) “The determination of priorities for action in an emergency.” (2)”The process of sorting victims, as of a battle or disaster, to determine medical priority in order to increase the number of survivors.” We’re probably all more familiar with the medical application. If we go to the emergency room, the first place they send us (after collecting insurance and verifying payment) is to “Triage.” In that room a nurse makes an assessment of the urgency of our situation and prioritizes our condition relative to others.

In medical triage, we wouldn’t want someone awaiting a rhinoplasty procedure to go into surgery before a patient in need of heart bypass surgery. While the person awaiting their nose job thinks it’s pretty important, of course everything can’t be equally important. If we want to reset expectations we need to triage our requests from friends, family, clients, and colleagues to ensure the most important things are getting done first and the most important emails are being answered first. It doesn’t mean we don’t love everyone equally, it just means that we need to be more efficient, healthy, and at peace.

Communicate Expectations
Of course we can’t reset our expectations in a vacuum. We need to communicate with our clients, colleagues, and family so there isn’t any misunderstanding. Suggestions:

  • Evaluate the scope of services you have with your clients and ensure you communicate and mutually agree upon the times you will be accessible. Set/reset the expectation of a reasonable time frame for discussions, deadlines, and status updates.
  • Use your auto-reply. Don’t just say you’re out of the office. Instead, be specific about the day, date, and times you will be unavailable and leave emergency contact information.
  • Show some self-discipline. Just because you can answer that email quickly, don’t. Unless you’re sitting in the dentist office with nothing else to do, chances are it’s an interruption to what you’re doing at the moment.
  • Put down the Blackberry and iPhone during family/social time! We all do it subconsciously. We reach for our phones, glance at our emails, look away from our conversations, and convey (though unintentionally) the message that something may come across our phone that’s more important than the person/people we’re with at the time.

Warning: I’m going to try to reset my expectations. While I am eager to receive your comments, feedback, and most of all suggestions, I will not be checking my blog via phone during dinner this evening.

Don’t Font All Over My Email

15 Feb

I just can’t remain silent any longer. Some may call it a pet peeve. Some may call it a frivolous complaint. However, I consider it an impediment to my ongoing obsession with working efficiently and responding to emails in a timely manner. So, what is this thorn in my side? It is the email that contains multiple fonts, multiple font colors, and email signatures that are just as miss-matched as the email preceding it.

So with all of the bigger issues confronting the business world why does this bother me? Well, if you read one of my earlier blogs, The New Normal of Email Communication,” then you’ll know there are implications beyond the simple irritant. I won’t rehash those issues here. Instead, the following explains why I prefer you “don’t font all over my email.”

Reading Made Difficult
When you send an email that contains mixed fonts, you make your emails more difficult to read. Example? An email that is a mix of Arial, Times Roman, and various font sizes instantly creates confusion. The reader needs to determine if these mixed fonts are there for a reason, or if they are just a result of the copy/paste function that the email writer used to send the email quickly. This instantly creates a barrier to reading and responding quickly.

If you are using different font colors to differentiate tasks, requests, or topics, consider bullet points instead. Bullet points make it easier for the recipient to interpret your communication and the information you are conveying or requesting.

Note: In my case, I now need to copy/paste your email into a Word or Text document so it’s all in one font so that I can read it clearly and ensure that I can respond effectively. This takes more time on my part and delays a response to the email sender.

Care Enough to Do It Right
We often forget that emails are “the new memo.” They are a reflection of your professional brand. Sending an email that is a hodge-podge of fonts types, font sizes, and font colors may infer that the sender didn’t care enough to send a “clean” and coherent email. If you are using a mix of font colors, make sure there is a reason and explain that reason in the email. (Example: “Answers to your questions are in “red.”)

Note: Our professional communications (written, email, verbal, video) are reflections of our professional brand. They reflect more than just our aesthetics. They reflect our attention to detail, our respect for the communication we are sending, and respect for your recipient’s time.

Your Signature is Your Last Impression
Make your signature consistent with your email. So what do I mean? It only takes a minute to modify your email signature to be consistent with the font of your email. Accordingly, don’t use multiple colors in your email. When your name is in one color/font and your address is yet another, it loses a professional appearance.

Note: It only takes a minute to click “select all” on your email to ensure that your font types, font colors, and font sizes are consistent. If you are unable to change the font on your signature, then use the same font in the body of your email.

Well, perhaps I stand alone in my “fonting” issues. Or, perhaps I’ve brought up an embarrassing topic that many of you have been afraid to talk about. Well, I’ve done it now. I’ve brought “irresponsible fonting” out of the shadows and into the open.  The topic no longer needs to be discussed in hushed tones.

Your Social Media Strategy – Pulling it Together

26 Jan

The final step in this three-part process ensures that all of the work you did in steps one and two of “Social Media Strategies Made Easy,” are put to good use.

That said, by now you should see a pattern of behavior of your audience and be able to match up your social media objectives with the appropriate platforms to reach each. So, this final step is to ensure you “speak the language” of each of the social media platforms to execute your strategies effectively.

Facebook
If you are using Facebook as a “bulletin board” to announce product discounts, special events, pictures or accomplishments then it’s not really complicated. Build your Facebook Page and start posting. Utilizing coupons or discount codes can provide a method of tracking the efficacy of this tactic. If your business is a hotel or restaurant, include a “reservation link” that you can track a direct tie to your Facebook page.

However, if you selected Facebook to engage your audience in a two-way dialogue to get feedback, suggestions for bettering your product/service, or creating a social community, then it’s a bit different (and more fun in my opinion). You can build a Facebook page open to everyone (although I suggest close monitoring if you’re going to allow posting) or you can build a Facebook group that provides a more selective audience.

A Facebook Group offers your audience the sensation of membership and exclusivity. This also allows you to control who participates while staying engaged in a dialogue with a more intimate audience.

Important: As with any relationship (virtual or otherwise), it is important to be authentic, honest, consistent, and persistent. In a wired world, people expect immediate gratification and immediate feedback. If you just pop in and out, they will lose interest in your site and go elsewhere. Technology has shortened our attention span and a successful social media strategy takes this into account.

Tone: The tone of a Facebook dialogue is casual but tasteful. Your tone should be conversational and informative without being sales pitchy. Personality goes a long way to keeping people interested and returning to the site.

LinkedIn
If you’ve determined that some of your audience “lives” on LinkedIn, then this is where you need to be a thought leader. This social platform provides a great vehicle for demonstrating your knowledge and commitment to your industry. It will take some time to find your company’s “voice” on LinkedIn and some trial and error as to which LinkedIn groups and forums prove successful in engaging your audience. However, persistence and consistency will move your discussions to the top of the groups. The most successful dialogues are the exchange of best practices and participation in the Q&As of the platform.

Important: LinkedIn offers you the opportunity to put your professional face forward. However, be sure to solicit suggestions and advice from others as well. People are more likely to share in your discussion if they feel as though their comments are being considered and respected as well.

Tone: Keep a professional tone. Discussions should remain free of controversy and should not become too familiar. These are business relationships.

YouTube
Whether you choose YouTube or another video platform, adding video to your Facebook group and your company website creates a layer of interest. Keep videos brief, entertaining, and informative. As discussed earlier, the tone and environment for taping need to be professional and without distractions. Unless your business is the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus, keep the video free of jumping dogs and flying coworkers.

Note: Adding video to your web site makes it more engaging, and will contribute to search engine optimization organically. Decide on the type of video most appropriate for your products/services. Examples: Training video, How To video, Customer Testimonial video, or Demonstration video.

Whatever your social media strategy, remember that it will require constant review and adjustment. As you progress and monitor your results, try new platforms. Remember to start simple and then experiment with growth. There isn’t a single strategy or template for success that works for everyone. Social media strategies are as unique as the people you are targeting.

Best of luck and have fun!

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