Tag Archives: trends

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!

 

 

Managing Your Non-Profit Like Your For-Profit

21 Feb

Business is business. Whether you’re managing a for-profit company or a non-profit association, there are common denominators that demonstrate few differences between the two business models.

As with any business, your goals guide the path you set to achieve your desired outcomes. By simply breaking this down into five common goals, it’s easy to see the similarities. Regardless of your business model, these five desired outcomes are essential to achieve a healthy organization that remains relevant, fiscally strong, and ensures loyalty among members/clients:

Goals of Your For-Profit Organization

  1. Generate income
  2. Minimize expenses
  3. Ensure customer satisfaction
  4. Increase customer base and market share
  5. Achieve profit for owners and/or shareholders

Goals of Your Non-Profit Organization

  1. Generate income
  2. Minimize expenses
  3. Ensure member satisfaction
  4. Increase membership and community awareness
  5. Accrue financial reserve for long-term financial viability

To remain focused on the main goals/objectives of your organization, I compare planning and decision-making to a bicycle tire. Often referred to a “hub and spoke” model, it clearly demonstrates that your core goal (represented by the hub of the wheel) remains strong and supported by the actions and strategic plans that lead to the hub (represented by the spokes of the wheel). 

Bike Tire1So how does this analogy prove useful as you manage your organization? It provides a touchstone for each decision you make and each work group or committee you establish. All strategies and tactics should lead back to supporting the hub.

As such, continually ask these questions of yourself and your colleagues: Does my plan or decision support the hub (goal) of my organization’s overall desired outcomes? Are my decisions, project work group, or committee contributing to the overall goal? If so, how do I demonstrate that connection? If not, do I need to reevaluate the relevance or strategic plan of my work group or committee?

That said, how does this apply to the adage, “business is business?” It simply means putting aside your own personal feelings, personal agenda, or decisions in the best interest of the business. This is easier said than done. However, an inability to do so results in failure if not today then tomorrow. Your first obligation is to the business and the health of that business and its employees, shareholders, members, and stakeholders. Keep in mind that the leadership and management you provide today determine the legacy you leave tomorrow.

Is Your Hotel Really Committed to Social Media Marketing?

3 Feb

Let’s be honest, few hotels have the human resources to commit to a full-time manager for their social media marketing effort. So, in order to still participate in the social networks, hotel brands and franchises take a cluster approach to their social media program. They group their hotels by brand, geographic territory, or destination and centrally post to all hotels in that grouping. While this may be cost-effective, are they achieving the results they expect? Are they generating sales leads, increasing restaurant patrons, and enhancing their customer experience?

Providing engaging and property-specific content on a regular basis takes time. It also requires a strategic plan and the ability to manage and adjust that plan as needed. If you can’t afford to hire a full-time employee on-site, then look to outsourcing your content or social media services. However, you will definitely want someone who understands both your hotel, the industry in general, and social media marketing. Social media marketing is now a professional discipline not a trend. Just because a college student can use Twitter, Facebook, FourSquare, YouTube, and LinkedIn, and take a “selfie” doesn’t mean they understand the business of hotels or more importantly, the sales and marketing process. In other words, just because I know how to drive a car doesn’t mean you want me to rebuild your car’s engine.

Effectively participating in Twitter and Facebook encourages your sales prospects to become more engaged in what you have to offer and more inclined to make a booking or contact you directly. If your Twitter or Facebook strategies aren’t providing measurable or at least trackable results, determine why and adjust accordingly.

Daily monitoring of Google Analytics allows hotels to track visitors to each landing page, determine where in the sales process potential page visitors are likely to be, and then deliver a clear and effective call-to-action that will drive them to make hotel reservations, restaurant reservations or book a catering event.

Remember, one of the best features of social media is the relative low-cost or no cost associated with this marketing vehicle. Photos can be candid shots or pictures taken by guests. Sales departments can create videos in-house without fancy equipment. Photos and videos are great and should be strategic in their frequency and audience. One of the best byproducts of videos is that it increases your hotel’s search engine optimization organically. A couple of hotels that have done a nice job are The Westin Atlanta Airport, Atlanta, Georgia, and Boca Raton Resort, Boca Raton, Florida.

Having spent over twenty years in hotel sales and marketing, the best part of my job was the personal interaction with guests, clients, and colleagues. Making a personal and human connection with people is one of the key touchstones of a successful hotel. Why not use your social media marketing plan to further that engagement before, during, and after your clients come to your hotel? Make your hotel more than just a destination…make it a community.

Making Time for Retrospection

5 May

I haven’t written an article for my blog in a while. It’s certainly not for lack of something to say, in fact quite the contrary. There are so many topics worth discussing lately that it can be overwhelming. With information flying at me from so many sources and at lightning speed, I often find myself on the verge of information overload. Sound familiar to anyone else? So with all of this two-way information at hand, why have I not contributed to my own blog? Well, I’ve been taking time for some retrospection.

Retrospection: Proactive vs. Reactive
“The act or process or an instance of surveying the past.” – – Merriam-Webster Dictionary
Quite often we find ourselves in a perpetual forward motion. Have you ever felt that the tools we’re using to better manage our time, clients, businesses, and family have now turn the tables on us and taken control of our lives? Between our Outlook calendars alerts, Google alerts, Task List alerts, Reminder pop-ups, and smartphones buzzing, beeping and singing at us, it occurred to me that I forgot to schedule time to breath!

So, it’s not that we never stop to reevaluate our lives, priorities, clients, businesses, and family. However, we usually do so when we encounter some convergence of due dates or inciting event that causes us to take pause, reboot, and adjust accordingly. In other words, our time for retrospection and reprioritizing are reactive. I think we can all agree that we could reduce our stress, increase our productivity, and enjoy our personal/family time if we took a proactive approach to the act of retrospection. But then retrospection is just the first step.

Introspection: Part of the Process
“A reflective looking inward. – – Merriam-Webster Dictionary
In the context of this discussion, the inward reflection is part of evaluating and reevaluating our business goals and their alignment with our personal goals. I think we all feel better when we’re enjoying our work life and personal life. We find greater balance, satisfaction, and peace when our clients, colleagues, family, and friends are happy and satisfied. We feel a greater sense of accomplishment when we’ve met all reasonable expectations of those in our two worlds.

Now, how do we begin? Well, each of us needs to find our individual path. For some, talking with colleagues, friends, and family, provides insight into our priorities. Others may seek spiritual guidance, guidance from a personal or professional mentor, or simply a quiet escape to the beach or mountains away from the noise of our busy world.

Some Tips to Consider

  1. Old School (but it works for me): Use a yellow legal pad and draw a line down the middle of the page. In the left hand column, write down the results of your retrospective process. (a) What have you been doing that you know you want to improve upon or simply do differently. (b) Where has your energy been focused? (c) How has your time been allocated?  In the right hand column, write down how you’re going to make the adjustments. Feel free to brainstorm with others involved so you get perspectives other than your own. Moreover, involving others in reassessing business priorities and goals increases the chance that you’ll gain support and buy-in for these changes.
  2. Overcoming Fear: Let’s face it, the greatest barrier to any change (personal or professional) is the fear associated with that change. Will we make the “right” decisions? What if we fail? What if others don’t like our retrospection and their corresponding future changes? At the end of the day, we need to remind ourselves that we will never make everyone happy 100% of the time. Change is scary whether you’re the one initiating the change or the one experiencing the change. However, as I continue to be reminded, change is always easier when you are proactively changing versus reactively changing.
  3. Looking Back to the Future: Retrospection allows us the time to analyze our past, and redesign our future. It’s the time to hit the Control+ALT+Delete and “reboot” our systems.  We need to embrace our successes, learn from our failures, and be excited and invigorated about our future.

I look forward to receiving your tips, feedback and suggestions!

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.

“A Fish Always Stinks From The Head”

3 Mar

While many cultures claim the proverb as their own, the interpretation is consistent. If a government, business, or organization fails, it is the leadership that is the root cause.

I think of this proverb often lately. Why? Well, I suffer the frustration of poor customer service on a daily basis. Am I unique in my suffering? I don’t think so.  I really don’t think I’ve set my expectations too high either. In fact, if I set the bar any lower, I could step over it! Let me give you an example and let me know if any of this rings true in your life.

When I contact a sales person at a company for a quote on a product or service they provide, I expect a returned call. When they say they will send a proposal, I expect them to do so. If they are unable to accommodate the scope of my request, I expect them to pick up the phone and let’s talk. Don’t just ignore my voice mails and emails. Bottom line, care enough about your reputation and that of your company to treat prospects with respect.

So, what does this have to do with the title of this article? It’s my opinion that if this lack of customer service exists in a company, then it’s because it is tolerated. And, if the leader of the organization doesn’t know that his/her employees are handling prospective customers this way, then there in lies the rub. A good leader knows his/her staff. He cares about his service and his customers. The leader sets the tone of the company, the expectations, and establishes ways to monitor and measure against these expectations.

I’ve had the pleasure to work for some great leaders so I know value of their influence. Tom Marello, my general manager at the former Renaissance Hotel in Downtown Atlanta used to require his Executive Committee members to take at least one hour each day to walk around the hotel and meet the staff, and take the time and effort to coach them in areas of deficiency. Tom knew the name and family members of each of our 200 hotel staff. We worked hard to impress him and he worked hard to give us a great hotel product to sell.  The real winners were the guests/customers. We wanted them to respect us and respect our boss. We wanted to give them a great customer service experience because we had pride in our hotel and in our boss.

If you’re a boss, give it some thought. Are your employees a positive reflection of your company or department? If not, it’s not too late to “clean the fish.”

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!

Social Media Strategies Made Easy– Part 2

5 Jan

The next simple steps are matching your answers to last week’s questions with the appropriate corresponding social media platform options. As the title states, we’re keeping it simple here. With this in mind, don’t bite off more than you can chew. You don’t have to enter every social media platform in existence. Start with one or two at a time. The most important part is to be consistent, committed, and systematic. In other words, do a couple of things great instead of many things half way.

Our first question that needed to be asked and answered was, “what are you trying to accomplish with your social media strategy?” In other words, what is your goal? The answers to this provide the first a major step in planning your social media strategy. Your answer may be one or all of the following:  (1) We want to drive more people to our Web site. (2) We want to let people know what we’re doing.  (3) We want to announce events we have planned and invite people to attend.  (4) We want to get feedback from our clients, know what they want and need from us.

Our second question was finding where your audience “lives” on the Web. This is an important question to answer, as it will be the best indicator for your first couple of entries into social media marketing. The best ways to find answers to is to (1) ask your current customers for the sites they visit, and (2) surf the Internet yourself to identify where your audience seems to show up.

Website: Your Storefront
The first goal of social media marketing is to drive traffic to your Web site. That Web site is your virtual storefront. It needs to be clean, offering robust content, easy to navigate, and representative of the tone and tenor of your company/organization. The following social media tools will “lead the horse to water.” Your Web site is what will determine “if you can make the horse drink.”

Facebook: Transcends the Generational and Technological Divide
Facebook is certainly the most globally accepted.  Parents use it to share pictures and information with family members. Kids use it to communicate with one another. Grandparents use it to stay engaged with their children and grandchildren. Associations use it to stay in touch with their membership. Subsequently, if you have a broad audience you are trying to reach, Facebook is a great place to start.

LinkedIn: Connectivity to a Mobile Workforce
LinkedIn provides a great professional platform to track and stay in contact with your clients, colleagues, and competitors. You no longer have to carry a stack of business cards in order to try to track down your essential business contacts. Equally important are the LinkedIn discussion forums that provide you with an array of knowledge leaders that can offer advice, Q&As, or simply provide feedback. If you are in region of the city, country, or world where you do not have easy access to your professional peers, LinkedIn provides a valuable resource. It also provides a great opportunity to generate your professional profile/resume (including recommendations) that establish your level of experience in your field.

YouTube: Short Videos Add Personality
YouTube offers an opportunity to include videos on your Web site as well as videos to embed in your marketing proposals and presentations. You can start simple and then progress into your own YouTube Channel. Added benefit, Web sites using video in their online content increase the likelihood of your site appearing on a Google search.

Take this week to match your goals and your audience with the appropriate platform(s). Next week, we’ll discuss how your content matters. What is your message, how to say it, and why does that matter? Until then…share your thoughts!

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