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Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Over-Planning Causes Inaction

Last week I wrote this post sharing my social media strategy as it is today.  I received a ton of great feedback!  Thanks to everyone who commented on this blog and in the group discussions it was posted in.  One reader, Mike Y, left a comment offering to review my LinkedIn account and my website.  I accepted his offer and we continued our discussion via email.

I had mentioned that I plan to rebrand my website in a couple of months after revising my business plan.  His response was to "rebrand now, while it is ripe and your efforts don't go to waste, the investment is minimal."  This really got me thinking about my current approach.  Perhaps I spend too much time planning and not enough time acting.  Don't get me wrong, I still think business planning is critical (I've written about it here and here, plus it's a service I offer as a consultant).  I just think maybe I need to move through my planning process more swiftly.

Has anyone else found themselves having to choose between careful planning and swift action?  Which do you tend to lean towards?

Oh, and if anyone would like to see what other insights Mike has on e-Marketing check out his latest blog post below.  I've looked at a few of his other recent posts and it's pretty useful stuff!

Monday, March 29, 2010

Outsourcing Should Be A Win-Win

My grandfather worked in the same factory for 30 years.  He worked his way up the ladder (and pay scale), and they paid his retirement benefits until the day he died.

Those days are long gone.  Retirement plans have given way to 401Ks.  Employee promotions are pretty rare.  Most companies view their employees as expendable.  Many employees see their employers as nothing more than a means to an end.

Employees often fear their job will be outsourced, and this can be very scary.  However, the best, brightest, hardest working people can see this as an opportunity.  Why should a talented worker be stuck in a dead-end job with company that doesn't care about them?  Instead the top performers can offer their knowledge and skill to a multitude of companies that are willing to pay for their expertise as an independent contractor.

When done effectively outsourcing should be a win-win scenario.  Businesses win because they have someone reliable handling their affairs.  Talented workers win because they work with businesses that understand the value they provide.

The only people that lose are the under-performers.

Friday, March 26, 2010

How Do You Use Social Media?

Social media can be quite overwhelming.  There are many different ideas about which social networks are the best to use and how to use them most effectively.  These are the social media forums I use and how I use them:

LinkedIn- I signed up for a LinkedIn account a few years ago but only used it to connect to a few former coworkers.  In the past few months I've found it to be a fantastic resource for making new connections with business professionals, and the discussions in the various groups I've joined are what make social networking worth while.   

Twitter- I follow several professionals on Twitter that send out great content, and I love that the format forces us all to get right to the point!  While I do retweet things I find interesting or useful I don't create much original content on Twitter. 

Facebook- I mostly use Facebook to keep up with friends that I don't see very often.  I rarely post on Facebook, but I enjoy reading other peoples' updates.  I have a fan page for my consulting business, but frankly it sucks.  I may revisit the idea in a couple of months, but it's pretty low on my list of priorities.

BizSugar- The only niche social medium I use.  It's a great resource for professionals to link to their blog posts, and the rating system (similar to makes it easy to fins something smart to read.

I'm still figuring some of this out, but I think what I have in place works for me, at least for the moment.  What about you?  How do you use social media?

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Small Businesses Need Business Plans Too

One great thing about small businesses is their ability to produce results.  They don't have to worry about many of the things that slow down corporations like stock prices and endless reporting.  With less administration needed they can spend more of their time generating revenue and growing the business.  But how should the business grow?  Where should the business go to find new customers?  What products or services can be included to help the company succeed?

These questions (any many others) should be answered by creating a business plan.  Business planning is critical to any business's success, but all to often is overlooked by smaller companies.  It's also important to review your business plan on a regular basis (monthly, quarterly, annually, etc.) and make revisions as needed. 

Below are links to a couple of great (and free) resources to help start the planning process.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Struggling With Social Networking

A post I wrote Friday about struggling with increasing my network got an incredible response!  I received a ton of great comments on this blog and in the LinkedIn discussions where I posted a link .  One comment in particular was so compelling that I asked the author if I could re-post it here for everyone to read. 

Below is the comment I received from Mike Klassen. I think you'll enjoy it as much as I did. 
I've been wrestling with this a bit myself... more-so with LinkedIn and Facebook. With Twitter, as long as there's some sort of possible common thread (usually in the realm of sales, marketing, consulting, etc.) I'm happy to connect with people there.

I do tend to stay away from the folks whose career seems to only be posting every passing thought on Twitter. I unfollowed one gal who seemed like a very nice person. (She was consultant.) But her tweets were constant. I couldn't figure out how she had any time to work with clients with the daily stream she sent out.

I saw Lewis on the Rise to the Top podcast, too. There's probably a comfortable spot between only connecting with people you know and connecting with everyone who has a pulse. :)

I think what I'm finding these days is that I'm willing to connect with more people I don't know well. The reason is that as my network grows, I may run into folks who need services I don't have direct, personal connections with.

It would be nice to tell those folks, "While I don't know _____ personally, I've been following him/her on _______ and they seem like they know what they're talking about. You might want to check him/her out."

I also appreciate it when people who want to connect with me on LinkedIn or Facebook take just a moment to explain why they want to connect.

It might be as simple as, "I'm in direct marketing and see that you are, too." Otherwise, it almost feels like they're wanting to connect just to boost their numbers which is something you can get a lot here on LinkedIn.

I don't know... am I not catching the true spirit of social media? Should I be connecting with everyone who passes by me on the Internet? Perhaps if I had clearer goals in this area, it would be easier to come up with an answer.
If you'd like to read more from Mike be sure to check out his blog at  I had a chance to read a few of his postings over the weekend and they're every bit as good as his great comment here.  Thanks to Mike for letting me re-post this, and thank you to everyone for all of the great comments.  I'd love to hear more of your concerns and suggestions!

Friday, March 19, 2010

Increasing My Network

As I mentioned in a recent post I have kept my social network very small.  Everyone in it was someone I knew personally, and therefore everything I sent and received felt more personal. A couple of things this week have made me rethink this strategy.

1)  I've been reading a few posts from Lewis Howes.  He is a very strong proponent of using LinkedIn to connect with other professionals, and he posts many helpful suggestions on how to use LinkedIn more effectively (as you can see in this post). 

2)  I saw a tweet suggesting to use TopFollowed to help increase my Twitter network.  I signed up for it, and my network is in fact bigger.  I did already have to unfollow a couple of accounts that weren't for me (I hate when people tweet every thought in their head!), but it's too early to tell whether this will help me make any positive connections.

In all I think it was definitely time for me to reach out and begin expanding my network.  I'm still going to look for quality connections rather than quantity. 

Does anyone have any helpful suggestions or similar experiences?  As always feel free to comment.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Do We Really Own eBooks?

This week I read Seth Godin's Unleashing the SUPER Ideavirus on Vook.  I really enjoyed the material, and I absolutely loved experiencing the content as a blend of text, video, and hyperlinks.  This is my first time purchasing an eBook (I've read a few free pdfs) and it was an overwhelmingly positive experience.

But I still won't be buying eBooks.  Not yet anyway.  Many people in cyberspace have proclaimed the death of bookstores, but don't be too sure.  It may cost me more money to buy a paperback, but it's completely mine.  I can reread it as often as I want.  I can loan it to a friend.  I can give it away if I want.

eBooks are cheaper than physical books and more convenient to purchase.  Click a button and it's on the screen of your eReader in seconds.  You can still reread your books, unless you don't want to keep your current eReader.  What if you purchased Linchpin for your Kindle last fall?  Will you still use your Kindle when the iPad comes out?  What happens if you buy the iPad and something new comes out in a year?  Does all of the content you bought become worthless?

Last fall I bought Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion at a local Barnes and Noble.  Not long after I bought The 4-Hour Workweek from  Barnes and Noble didn't make me give back Influence.  I still have it, and I've gone to it for reference at least once after reading it.

Until eBook sellers figure out how to let customers own the material they buy physical book will still have their share of buyers, including me.

Any avid eBook readers please feel free to comment!

Monday, March 15, 2010

Nobody is Great at Everything

I spent some time this weekend working on a SWOT Analysis for my consulting business.  I've done them before, both as an undergrad and as a grad student, and I've always found them easy.  But this one has been particularly difficult.

It's tough to analyze ourselves because it forces us to admit there are things we aren't so good at.  That's never fun on a personal level, and it isn't fun for a business owner either, particularly when it's a one-person business.  But it's necessary to recognize the things we don't do well so that we can structure our businesses accordingly.

If you're bad with finances hire a bookkeeper.  If you don't understand technology hire an IT professional.  If you need help with marketing hire a consultant (like me!).  If you are really good at performing a specific function (like a doctor, lawyer, plumber, etc) but have no business skills maybe you should consider taking on a partner.

It's best to determine your strengths and weaknesses up front so you can plan your business accordingly.  As for my SWOT Analysis, I still have plenty of work to do.  I think I'll need to outsource a few things (like web development) so that I can focus on playing to my strengths.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Google Apps Marketplace- First Glance

This week Google launched its newest offering- the Google Apps Marketplace.  I'm a huge fan of all things Google (my apologies to all Apple fans), so naturally I'm excited about their app store.

Google Apps Marketplace provides a great opportunity for small businesses, both buyers and sellers. This article on TechCrunch does a great job of explaining the details, so I won't try to here.  Instead I'd like to highlight a few of the apps that caught my attention.

Google Calendar Time & Activity Report - FREE

Add time and activity reporting to your Google Calendar.
Calculates and charts hours spent and amount and duration of different event types, for specific users, within a specific date range, etc.
  • Connects to your Google Calendar data
  • No software, no setup
  • Easily manage time and people


Office In Cloud: Microsoft Office Integration for Google Docs

Office in Cloud for Google Docs is the first native and easy-to-use integration between Microsoft Office and Google Docs
  • Cloud's tagging for personal documents
  • Save/Open/Update/Merge Google Docs from MS Office
  • Share documents with others with notifications


BatchBook Social CRM

BatchBook is a lightweight but powerful CRM that allows you to easily organize contacts, monitor social networks and track leads and deals.
  • Integrates with other small business web apps
  • Tracks contacts, communications and tasks
  • Highly customizable; custom fields and reporting


OnState Virtual Call Center for Google Apps

Firmly at the crossroads of Google and SaaS, OnState is a true hardware-free call center and ACD that enables full customer collaboration when paired with Google Apps.
  • Unified communications across voice, video, chat
  • Combine Google, Salesforce, SIP, and others
  • Ensure the right team members are reached


Google Analytics Dimension Analyzer - FREE

Identify and analyze top landing pages, campaigns, keywords, etc. by any metric, e.g. top landing pages by conversions, top traffic sources by new visitors, etc. No setup, runs on your live data.
  • Connects to your live Google Analytics data
  • Easily identify top performers across dimensions
  • No software, no setup

Has anyone else looked at or purchased any of the apps?  Feel free to comment.

    Wednesday, March 10, 2010

    Social Media Groups: Taking the Good with the Bad

    Monday I wrote a post about The Joy (and Pain) of Social Networking.  Another opportunity/challenge that social media presents is joining and participating in groups.  I have joined a few groups on Linked In and Facebook, and so far I've had mixed results.  I've found several excellent articles from these groups (like this and this).  But as with anything online I have to sift through the scam-my stuff to find these gems. 

    This sours an otherwise enjoyable experience.  I tend to put off checking my group discussions until last: I'll go through my email, catch up on blogs in my Reader and updates on my Tweetdeck, then maybe I'll look at a group or two if I have time. 

    Are you having a similar experience?  Am I joining the wrong ones, or do they all have their share of junk posts?  Is there a better way to approach groups?   Please leave a comment if you have any thoughts or insights.

    Monday, March 8, 2010

    The Joy (and Pain) of Social Networking

    I've been increasing my online presence this year, and it's going quite well.  I've made friends on Facebook.  I've connected with colleagues on LinkedIn.  I have a few of tweeps on Twitter.  I have a handful or regulars that read this blog (thank you, by the way).  Recently I started a website and a Facebook fan page.  I've enjoyed it much more  than I'd expected.  I love reading tweets from @iannarino, blog posts from Seth Godin, and status updates from my friend Tracey. 

    There have been a few people along the way that make the experience less enjoyable, particularly on twitter.  You know who I mean: the people who follow your tweets hoping that you'll follow theirs.  The ones that send a personalized message that is clearly scripted.  Those who send several updates a day with a link to their website hoping to drive traffic.  I quickly remove them from my contacts, but in doing so I usually notice something disturbing: they have thousands of followers!  Thousands of people who are bombarded with spam from their "friends" because they are trying to make new contacts.

    I'm currently following 6 people on twitter.  Only 6.  But I find them all interesting, and I enjoy getting new tweets.  I only have 34 friends on Facebook.  But I know most of them personally, and I love seeing how life is treating each of them.  I follow 15 blogs, and I look forward to new posts appearing in my reader (a list of the blogs I currently follow is on the home page). 

    I purposely keep all of my social networks small so I can manage them.  I keep them small so I can be more social.

    Friday, March 5, 2010

    Startup Advice In Exactly Three Words

    I was browsing discussion topics and news items posted in my Linked-In groups yesterday and this article caught my eye:

    It's a collection of 50 pieces of advice for start-ups, all of them three words (as the title suggests).  I think it's worth a look.  Some of my favorites:
    • Defer renting space.
    • Sell something today.
    • Respect your competitors. 
    • Cancel unnecessary meetings.

    My least favorite:
    • Avoid business plans.
    Check it out and see if any are right for your business.

      Wednesday, March 3, 2010

      Small Business Use of Social Media Increases

      A recent survey by the University of Maryland’s Smith School of Business showed that the rate at which small businesses are using social media doubled from 2008 to 2009 (12% to 24%).  There's a great article about it posted here on Mashable and another here on Marketing Pilgrim.

      As this graphic suggests most small businesses that are using social media use Facebook and LinkedIn.  Twitter usage is relatively small, even smaller than blogging. 

      Interestingly 50% of small businesses complained that using social media takes more time than they expected.  17% believe social media gives customers an forum for complaining, and 6% believe social media has hurt their business's image.

      The main takeaway from this data: Social Media is a great resource for small businesses, but it isn't magical.  Any marketing campaign takes effort and planning, and that includes social media.

      Monday, March 1, 2010

      Clients Don't Want Advice, They Want Results

      In doing some research this weekend (the not so glamorous life of an MBA student) I came across an interesting bit of information about strategic consulting:
      Recent trends have shown clients to be tired of strategy in itself.  They have become increasingly sophisticated consumers of strategy consulting services, and are looking for results that can be implemented quickly.  Clients have become more results-driven with the result being a greater desire for compensation to consultants being tied to these results.
      The above is from the Business and Company Resource Center, a proprietary database that I can't paste a link to (check out your local library for access).  It's a short excerpt from a much broader industry analysis, but I think it makes two notable points:
      •  Clients want to be able to implement changes quickly.  They have a problem, and they want to hire someone to fix it ASAP.
      • Clients are more inclined to hire a consulting firm whose compensation is based on achievement of predetermined goals. 
      Both of these points can be good for clients.  They force the client and consultant to determine what their objectives are up front, and they ensure that incentives are aligned accordingly.

      However, both of these points have their drawbacks.  Being held to a rigid time-line and agenda limit a consulting firm's ability to advise.  Consultants that are paid to complete a specific task will complete it, even if it is not in the client's best interest.