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Free-Analysis Marketing April 28, 2009

Posted by David Dirks in business strategy, Increasing Your Profitability, Recession: How to Beat It!, Sales Strategy/Tactics, Sales Tactics.
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David DirksThe Big Dogz always know how to keep applying what works in almost any market or economy.  They’ll take advantage of marketing opportunities that  other businesses either miss entirely or just sit on the sidelines wishing they had.

Take Scotts LawnService, which is a well-branded and nationally known entity established by the Scotts Company (yes, those same people who make the fertilizer and weed killers you use on your lawns each year).  The local Scotts LawnService in my area sent out a mailer with one simple offer: A FREE lawn analysis.  I believe I get one every year from them.

Their deal is simple.  They come to your home and conduct soil samples that allow them to test for the ph levels of your soil and for other key ingredients that should be a part of a healthy lawn.  That’s the part they do for free.  The analysis is detailed and tells you what you need to do (with Scotts or without them) to improve the health of your lawn.

But there is another key part.  They also include a price quote to provide the service necessary on your lawn to bring it up to snuff (if it needs it).  That doesn’t cost you anything either.  I’m not obligated to do anything with them and they know it.

Here’s the deal:  they know that they’ll be enough people who also take advantage of their price quote to more than make up for those who don’t (and the expense of mailing them).  The old true & tried ‘free analysis’ works time and again…as long as the analysis has some depth to it and isn’t shoddy.

Scotts has many competitors in this field of lawn care.  Anyone with a truck, lawnmower, rake, weed whacker, leaf blower, and some ambition can get into this business.  Whether they are good at it or not is another story.

I’m going to take a wild guess that many of the lawn care & service operators are having a tough time of it right now.  How many of them do you think are coming up with ways like this to improve their chances of survival?

Oh, one more thing.  Scotts also offers a ‘satisfaction guaranteed’ policy.  “…we guarantee you’ll be thrilled.  And if not, we’ll do what it takes to make it right.”

That’s another way to insure you survive.  Guarantee your work.  Between that and the free analysis, it’s no wonder Scotts LawnService remains in business year after year. The Big Dogz always know how to apply the right pressure and do it assured that their competitors won’t.

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E-mail best practices for the global leader April 22, 2009

Posted by rickbron in Bronder On People, Communication, Global communication, Global leadership, Grow your skills, Leading globally.
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The Big Dogz match their choice of communication technology to the degree of interpersonal interaction required coupled with complexity of the topic. I discussed the technology choices in my last entry. This entry looks at some best practices for using E-mail.

 

·        Keep it short, no more that 1 scroll for the receiver. If you need more than that, it is probably too complex to use e-mail. Try a phone call instead.

·        Try putting your entire message on the subject line.

·        Use tags on the subject line.

 

Action: when you want the recipient to take action

 

Response: when you are responding to a request from the recipient

 

FYI (H,M,L): when you are just giving information to the recipient

 

It is amazing. When you start using these tags to send email to others, they will start using the same tags with you.

 

·        Use the subject line to get the attention of the reader without being melodramatic.

·        Consider the guideline “One e-mail, one topic.” It makes it easier for the recipient to focus.

·        If you are asking for information, leave a space between each request. The recipient can put the answer in the space. Make it easy for them to respond.

·        Use shared websites for large files. Sending large attachments clog the network. Just include the link.

·        Forget the background scenery. It just irritates most people.

·        Never send an email when you are emotional! Write your response and store it in the Draft folder for later reading. Once you have calmed down, read the email from the perspective of the receiver. A good technique is to read the e-mail aloud to make sure it is not threatening. In more sensitive situations, have a colleague read the e-mail and give you feedback. Make changes and then send.

·        Using caps, colors and other fonts can help the recipient focus on what is important. Be careful of over doing it.

·        If you are seeking information, use pre-defined forms to make it easy for the recipient to give you the information.

·        Run spell check. Look for other non-spelling errors like the use of form when you mean from.

·        Use cc and bcc sparingly. Make sure every person cc’d needs to be aware of the information. If you are using bcc too much, it may be a sign that you need to talk to the person.

·        Use “Reply all” only when everyone needs to see your response.

·        Stay out of flame wars. If you are the target, use the telephone to handle the situation.

·        If you send two emails on the same subject and the recipient still does not understand, make an appointment to talk to them

·        Using sarcasm in an e-mail will always get you into trouble. Sometimes we feel we are being cute with sarcasm, but the recipient does not think we are being sarcastic. They think we really mean it.

·        Never put anything in an e-mail that you would not want read in a court of law. For some of us, this also means never put anything in an email that you would not read in front of your mother!

 

I have special tip I want to share for those who communicate with people who have English as a second language. Try to keep your vocabulary and content at the eighth grade level or lower. For those of you in the USA and most of Europe, this means 13-14 year olds. Now, the vocabulary of a native English speaking 13-14 year old is very impressive. I am not suggesting you speak like a 13-14 year old; just use that level vocabulary. Here is how you can check the grade level of your e-mail to your global team members with ESL.

 

1.      Copy your e-mail and paste it into Word.

2.      Click on Tools

3.      Click Options

4.      Click Spelling & Grammar

5.      Click the box next to Show Readability Statistics

6.      Click OK

7.      Run spell check

 

At the end of the spell check, you will get a report of the readability level of the content. If you copy and paste this entry into Word, you will see I have written it at grade level 6.2.

 

To customize your readability to each global team member, run the readability statistics report for e-mails they send to you. You can improve the effectiveness your e-mail by using English at the same readability level.

 

If you have any tips or techniques for communicating more effectively using e-mail, please send me an e-mail (rbronder@gmail.com) with your tip.

 

Next, I will be looking at some best practices for communicating with voice mail.

 

Global communication technology April 14, 2009

Posted by rickbron in 18916129, Bronder On People, Communication, Management.
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Communicating in a global environment is a significant challenge and can sometimes be a daunting experience. The first aspect of global communication the Big Dogz focus on is the technology.  Matching the communications technology with the situation will go a long way toward making your global communications more effective.

 

Choosing the optimum technology starts with looking at two major dimensions of the communication.

  1. How much interpersonal interaction do you desire?
  2. How complex is the content?

 

Using these two dimensions, the Big Dogz can determine the optimum communication technology. Here are eight possible technology choices.

 

1.      E-mail

Use this technology when the interpersonal contact is low and content is the least complex. Effective uses of e-mail include specific answers to questions, announcements, quick thank you notes or conversation summaries. E-mail is the most preferred communication technology amongst global leaders. It is also the least effective communication technology relative to understanding. E-mail is widely used because it is quick, easy and can withstand time zone differences. When you select e-mail for other than simple communication, you can count on spending more time later sorting out the problems! The Big Dogz consider e-mail the technology of last resort. Use it sparingly.

 

2.      Voicemail

Voice mail adds the power of tone to your communication. Tone is important for communicating urgency. This sense of urgency addresses the slightly higher need for interpersonal contact in the communication. Also, you can address a more complex topic with voicemail. Voicemail is a more effective choice than e-mail because of the tone factor. However, it is always a good practice to follow up with an e-mail since that is the preferred communication technology.

 

3.      Instant message

When you have an urgent message to send and the message is simple, instant messaging is an effective technology. In recent time, IM technology advances have been spectacular, and IM has become almost indispensable for communicating when people are working at the same time. IM is quick and allows two-way communication. You can also save the content for later reference to make sure you understand what transpired. For those skilled it its use, the IM technology, in some situations,  can be as effective as the next technology.

 

4.      Telephone call

Good old fashioned talking to one another! This technology is effective for high interpersonal contact and content complexity. It is two-way communication without the non-verbal signals. The lack of non-verbal signals is a major drawback; however, most people can accommodate the difference with more emphasis on tone. The telephone allows the highly interactive paraphrasing that is the hallmark of effective communication. The Big Dogz use this technology when the topic is important or personal.

 

5.      Telephone conference

Ahhhh, the joys of a virtual meeting! This technology is most effective when you need interpersonal contact to share information or generate solutions to complex issues. The telephone conference allows you to involve more people simultaneously and to deliver more information quickly. One of the major mistakes made in telephone conferences is that there is no validation that everyone understood the same thing! The Big Dogz know that taking some time at the end of a teleconference to verify a common understanding makes future teleconferences shorter.

 

6.      Groupware

In this category, the Big Dogz include tools like Microsoft Live Meeting, Webex Meeting and others for conducting virtual meetings. Using these tools adds a significant improvement to the virtual meeting. They allow anyone at the meeting to display visual representations of information. Even simple slides with bullet points are more effective than trying to explain with just spoken words. Once you conduct a global meeting with one of these tools, you will never go back to just conference calls. Of all the technologies here, I believe this one has the highest return on investment in providing communication that is more effective. One of the drawbacks to this technology is that is it same time technology and that does not address the time zone challenge. However, the Big Dogz will use this technology anytime they can!  Interactive virtual meetings address a need for high interpersonal contact while allowing the global tem to discuss and resolve complex issues.

 

Also in this category are the tools that allow you to share stored information on the internet or within your organization’s intranet. Having a team website falls into this category. The team website is a great place to store common documents, status reports or to contain information about the people on the project. Recent major advances in website development tools have made it easier for anyone to create a website. This is no longer a request to the IT department. One big advantage of the team website is that it spans time zones.

 

7.      Video conference

Video technology takes the virtual meeting concept to the next level. With video, you get the non-verbal component, which adds significant power to the communication process. Video conference technology is often difficult to find in any but the large corporations since it is so expensive. Again, technology has come to the rescue in the form of the webcam. This technology is very effective for one-on-one meetings between the global leader and team members. It addresses the need for high interpersonal contact and high complexity. Using webcams in regular team meetings also increase the interactivity of the team members. The good news is that webcams are relatively inexpensive and available everywhere. The no so good news is that webcams consume large quantities of internet bandwidth. The Big Dogz check to see if they can use webcams and use them whenever possible.

 

8.      Face to face

OK, well not exactly a technology. Face to face communication is by far the most effective way to communicate. You get all three major components of a communication — the content, the tone and the non-verbal signals. This technology is most effective for building rapport and commitment. Of course, the major drawback with this technology is the cost in time and money. The Big Dogz do everything they can to get at least one face to face meeting with each member of the global team.

 

Choosing the optimum technology can significantly improve your capability to lead a global team successfully. The Big Dogz know that you can’t always use the technology you want, but you can make an informed decision and be aware of the potential problems that could arise from using less than optimum technology.

 

In my next entry, I will describe some of the best practices with each of these technologies.

 

 

No Sales Goodwill Here April 10, 2009

Posted by David Dirks in Dealing With Competitors, Keeping Your Customers.
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David DirksThis morning I went to a local printer I use for to a quick print job I needed for a presentation.  I walked in the shop and begin to explain what I have and what needs to be done.  The woman at the counter simply says, ‘we’re closed’ and points to the sign on the outside near the door…yup the sign says you are closed.  However, the lights are on in the shop and the door is open.  Not only that, the sign says they are normally open from 8am to 5pm on Fridays.  How would I know they decided to ‘close’ today?

What’s worse is the part when I ask here if she knows of another printer who could do the job.  She meekly says a name of a office supply store which I won’t name but you wouldn’t have your resume printed there.  It’s not there thing.  No big deal right? Well, except that the store she named wasn’t even close by.  And right next store, in the strip mall next to theirs is a Minuteman Press.

So I’m thinking to myself, you will send me to some schlocky outfit rather than your competitor next door?  Is that the best you can do for me, the customer?  I think not.  So, I took my business over to the Minuteman Press.  He was open and took care of me right way and, pretty much by default, he earned my business today.  By the way, the job I had in hand was worth several hundred dollars.

So, here are a few points worth noting from this sad tale.

  • If you can’t do the job, recommend one of your competitors who can.  This was the ‘moment of truth’ that the first printer flunked with flying colors.  I would have appreciated the close proximity of the press next door and my ability to get the project done today.  I would have felt gratitude to them for helping me find the appropriate printer.  It would have earned them much goodwill.  Instead, it made me mad and bought them no goodwill whatsoever.
  • If you are going to close your store on a normally busy day during your regular business hours, don’t close unless you absolutely have to.  Except for an emergency, your customers are expecting you to be open.

Trust me when I say this:  the first printer didn’t seem to care about my need for immediate, high quality printing.  “We closed”, is the only advice I really got.  Well, keep that up and you will be closed…only permanently.

There.  I feel better now. 🙂

Leading a global team April 7, 2009

Posted by rickbron in Bronder On People, Getting what you want, Management, Management Principle, Team basics.
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Do you have to lead global teams? Many companies are expanding globally to take advantage of the basic economics of hiring workers. While some of us may not agree with that strategy, it is widely adopted. It is not the purpose of this entry to discuss the viability of international outsourcing. It is my purpose to give you some tips and techniques on how to be more effective in that environment.

 Some of the most common challenges facing managers and leaders in a global environment are:

  • Staying connected
  • Time differences
  • Alignment or mis-alignment of goals
  • Language
  • Culture differences
  • Expectations of senior management
  • Managing performance

 Not everyone can be successful as a global manager or leader.  Effective global leaders typically have:

  • A willingness to communicate, form relationships with others, and try new things
  • Good cross-cultural communication and language skills
  • Flexibility and open-mindedness about other cultures
  • The ability to determine if a global worker is performing up to expectations

 The principles that guide us in becoming an effective team leader with co-located teams also apply in the global arena. However, the effective global leader is aware of four factors that affect their performance in a global situation.

1.      Pay more attention to time. Things just take longer when you are acting globally. It is sometimes difficult to convince senior management of this concept, but it is true and the global leader must consider it. In addition, the effective global leader understands that not everyone lives in the same time zone.

2.      Have more patience. Since things take longer and people do things differently across the globe, the effective global leader has more patience. I once had a manager tell me, “I know I need to learn more patience. How long will this take?” Learn how to breathe deeply or learn the art of Zen or something to increase your patience. You will need it.

3.      Make effective use of technology. The purveyors of technology are rapidly working to close the global gap. Global leaders have telephone and visual technology available to access people in any part of the world. Learn the technology and use it to help you close the global gap!

4.      Adapt to different cultures. When everyone shares the same building, it is easy to interact culturally. Once you go more than 50 miles, nuances start to creep into the culture. Just imagine the cultural differences when the person is over 5000 miles away. It is the responsibility of the global leader to create a team culture. That culture must not violate any of the cultural taboos of the global community.

 Using these four factors as a foundation, I will be writing a series on leading global teams with emphasis on communicating, building rapport and getting results.  Stay tuned.

Improving Your Memory April 2, 2009

Posted by David Dirks in Fixing performance problems, Grow your skills, Work/Life Balance.
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David DirksAs I scanned my emails today, I found this piece on improving your memory.  I could use that as I’m sometimes moving as fast as the speed of light and invariably I’ll forget something along the way.  Sometimes its a small thing and sometimes it’s something more significant.  So when I caught this, I thought I’d pass it on to you too.  It’s provided by neuroscience researcher Mark Underwood.

Suffering from C.R.S. (Can’t Remember Stuff)?
5 Tips for Memory Fitness

While millions of us have resolved to make 2009 the year for getting our bodies into better shape, an expert on neurological fitness suggests we also make this the year to get our minds into tip-top condition.

“With Alzheimer’s and other neurodegenerative diseases now starting to affect adults in their 30’s, it’s never too early to begin a simple program geared to maintain brain health and stimulate cognitive function,” says neuroscience researcher Mark Underwood.

Underwood says many researchers now believe brain health and memory can be positively influenced by simple things we can do physically, mentally, and nutritionally:

1. Stay physically active. Regular activity, not necessarily planned exercise, seems to relate to brain fitness. Activities like gardening, dancing and cleaning could increase chances of maintaining brain health.

2. Challenge your brain. Calculate, do word search games and crossword puzzles, and go to lectures, concerts and museums.  Learn a foreign language or how to play a musical instrument.

3. Stay socially active. People who are active in clubs and social networks may hold up better cognitively than those who are less socially active.

4. Feed your brain. The brain and nervous system are comprised of 60 percent fat, so ensure your diet is rich in the Omega 3 essential fatty acids found in coldwater fish, fish oil, and flax oil.  Google “brain foods” on the computer and try a few.

5. Lower brain calcium levels with supplements. Proper levels of calcium within the neurons are required for optimum brain function.  As we reach middle age, brain calcium levels begin to rise because our bodies stop producing a protein responsible for regulating calcium concentration within the cells.

“Too much calcium in a neuron will ‘short circuit’ it and it stops working,” says Underwood.

“When millions and millions of neurons become over-calcified and stop working, an individual can feel blank, forgetful, slow-witted, and begin to experience symptoms sometimes associated with diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.”

ABOUT MARK UNDERWOOD
Mark Underwood is neuroscience researcher and co-founder and president of Quincy Bioscience in Madison, Wisconsin.  Mark is responsible for researching the “calcium binding protein” found in jellyfish and developing it for use as a calcium regulator in the human nervous system. He is the author of the book “Gift from the Sea.”