Tips & Tricks

Before You Send Your Next Meeting Request Read This

Over the holiday weekend I was privy to some friends griping about a side of professional life I have, thus far, been lucky to avoid: pointless yet mandatory meetings. They come in all sorts of flavors from "staff meetings" to "team update meetings" to "just checking in to see how you're doing meetings" and tend to take a nice bite out of ones day- not to mention productivity- as the leader aimlessly attempts to give the assembly some meaning. I listened as they each recalled their horror stories; entire days eaten up by meetings where their input nor presence was necessary, open ended (i.e. endless) review sessions without any structure that continually deviate from any semblance of a productive course, hours wasted trying to set up/understand presentation technology that is supposed to help not hinder meeting efficacy. The tales went on and on each contributing to the mounting sense of frustration over these bureaucratic inefficiencies. Before they got to riled up I changed the topic - this was a BBQ after all- but it left me wondering what would be a few easy considerations to take before planning a meeting that would help you avoid chaotic time sink territory. Here is what I came up with:


  1. Why are you calling the meeting? If you can't identify at least three reasons to bring people together for a conversation then you could probably scratch the meeting itch with a well worded email inviting a response. If you're calling a meeting because you always have a Monday meeting ask yourself whether they are really necessary or if you could convey the message in a group voicemail, email or simply make the meetings less frequent. 
  2. Are you looking for feedback, input or discussion? Or, are you just looking to talk. A theme appeared as I listened to my friends talk. Too often meetings were called when someone wanted to report something or share pertinent information but wasn't really interested in what the attendees had to say. I can understand wanting to make sure the message was received but sending an email with a receipt attached or "to let me know you've read this send me a reply with 'PURPLE' in the subject line" placed randomly in your message are two ways you can ensure your message has been received without taking up valuable work time. 
  3. Who really needs to be there? Unless a person's opinion, experience or work is required to achieve the goals of you're meeting then they probably don't need to be there. Giving the usual suspects the option to attend a meeting is one thing but requiring them to be there when their minds are elsewhere isn't doing anyone any favors. Put some thought into who you're asking to attend and you might find your meetings move a bit more smoothly. 
  4. Give it some structure. It is no secret I'm a fan of organization and I think every meeting could benefit from some structure. When setting up a meeting let the attendees know when you want to start and how long you're intending the meeting will go. Then STICK TO THAT. Letting people know you appreciate their time and busy schedules and dedicating yourself to a predetermined amount of time will keep the spirits high and meeting clicking along. If you're really feeling on top of your meetings go ahead and share that list of reasons you identified back up on question 1. Priming their minds for the matters you're going to touch on will mean they'll also be more prepared for the meeting. 
  5. Multitask. If you find yourself reaching for the meeting button every time something crosses your mind that you want to share I would suggest instead adding it to a meeting "to do" list. At the end of the day/week take a look at the issues you've identified and see if there is some way you can bunch things together in one meeting or, pull out a few really important issues to dedicate meeting time to then write an email to cover all the other smaller issues. The most effort you put into streamlining your meetings the more effective that time away from other tasks will be. 

These five points are by no means a cure-all for the meaningless meetings epidemic however they are a starting point for inciting change within your organization. Smarter more effective meetings will send a ripple of similar efficiency through the rest of your company's workflow so start tightening up your meeting strategy today.

Making The Customer Connection

For a small business their customer & lead database is the heart of their sales process. Without an organized system for tracking who you sell to, how you sold them and what they bought a sales team will find themselves engaged in a wild goose chase on inefficiency and low profits.

Large corporations often have entire departments dedicated to standardizing the sales process and training their sales reps on their highly customized CRM process. Small businesses, however, don’t have the luxury of cost or time to establish extensive procedures or elaborate systems. None the less, small businesses have a very real need for a streamlined system to track their customer relationships. Luckily in the past few years some excellent services have appeared that can help your small business maintain an improved system of customer engagement.

While a spread sheet and a tidy Outlook contacts file are a good start you might want to consider one of the CRM service options if you’ve found yourself suffering from any of these common sales process road blocks:


  • Remembering you talked to somebody at Acme Client but you’re not quite sure who it was or what         asked for.
  • Sent out a whole bunch of sample kits but lost track of where they went and how long ago.
  • Passed a client off to the next in the sales chain but you’re not sure if they ever followed up with them.
  • Find yourself sending out the same single email to people throughout the day/week/promotion.
  • Continually realize there are ways your current system fails or creates gaps in your efficiency. 


This post isn’t intended to endorse one service over another -we will leave you to do your own investigating- it is intended to help you recognize the need for having a CRM system in place and some factors to consider when looking in to your options. So, here is a list of things to keep in mind before you sign up for a CRM system:

A good system will allow you to easily:


  • Track contact w/ each customer (Phone, email, face-to-face)
  • Take notes about client interaction
  • Integrate with your other systems
  • Track the sales process with each lead and customer
  • Manage your timeline of interactions, emails, appointments, etc and alert you if a deadline is approaching.
  • Most importantly, look at your existing process and identify the weaknesses you should hopefully be able to find a solution that resolves most, if not all, of those issues.


Before you approve the payment ask:


  • Do they have a service level that fits your budget? CRM services can help make you more profitable but don’t put all your money into the system and not the clients.
  • Can you easily navigate the user interface? Most services will allow you a trial period, if you find actually using the service to be cumbersome or confusing from the start you’ll most likely end up abandoning it eventually.
  • Is there room to customize? Your sales process is distinct to your business you should be able to tailor the service you use to maintain that process.
  • What kind of customer support do they provide? Do they offer webinars or training so ensure you understand how to properly use all the service’s bells and whistles? If something goes wrong will you be able to rely on them to help you find a solution? 


Now that you have a starting point go forth and find the solution that best suits your company’s needs. With a standardized CRM process in place you’ll be able to focus more efficiently –and hopefully, profitably- on your customers.

Some Options To Consider: 






Write It Out

When was the last time you wrote? I don’t mean a quick email reply to your officemate or 140 character tweet. I mean really took some time to sit down and write out your thoughts. It is a practice I often find myself doing when I am trying to develop an idea or clarify my opinion on a matter. It helps to solidify my positions and makes me much more articulate when I need to talk about the topic or my position later.

Of course, the fact the I have to write a lot for work, gives me motive to write regularly but, now that I have realized the benefits of putting my thoughts on paper I find myself doing it a lot more for reasons other than blogging or proposal writing. Usually while in the middle of putting my thoughts into words I will see my thoughts take a natural order, one I might not have come up with if I had tried to find key point before fleshing out the full argument. I even sometimes find myself questions my initial opinion or finding a whole new side of the argument. I vary my approach depending on my mood or topic and I always feel better –not to mention, more prepared - after I’ve put my mind through a bit of a workout.

If you think starting your own writing workout would help you make better at forming arguments and sort through your thoughts here are the two main approached I use. 

Free Styling

When I have a nugget of an idea or even something as vague as a general direction I will often let my natural synapses take control. To keep the thoughts flowing freely I’ll pick up a pen and go at it; sometimes when I type I find the process can interrupt the stream of ideas. So, with nothing between my mind and the paper in front of me I begin writing everything that comes to mind, doing my best to make the thoughts string together somehow but ultimately not fussing with semantics. I’ll do this until I hit a block or until I feel the ideas have really played themselves out. Then, I step away and let it sit for a while.

After at least an hour but sometimes as much as a week I will return to the work and start to give the piece shape. I’m not looking to necessarily make it publishable, just to extract the strong points and find the most concise relationship between them. I work with the brain dump until I feel like I’ve absorbed enough to either help me in future articles and/or presentations or in conveying opinions.

Much like a brainstorming session this no rules approach often shakes loose some ideas that wouldn’t have been revealed by a more formal process. It also helps improve my understanding of the way I write. Becoming familiar with my patterns and voice makes writing on assignment easier and more efficient.


On the occasion when I’ve been gnawing on some ideas but can really wrap my head around how to connect them or what angle to use to dig a little deeper I give myself an assignment. I take a basic editorial approach. First, by making an outline. In fact, I often push the outline step to it’s fullest trying to organize the various thoughts I’ve already come up with. Then, I begin to build prose around that outline. Challenging myself to make my writing as concise and relatable as possible.

This approach requires me to be more structured but it usually provides the connections I need to make the best argument succinctly. I generally us this when I need to understand my thoughts but, more importantly, I want to be able to share them with others. I will edit the prose until I‘ve reached a point that I feel it stands on its own then I put it aside. The mere exercise of working through my thoughts and refining them primes my mind for future conversations. Instead of worrying I may not be explaining myself effectively or trying to justify a position I haven’t fully thought through I am more confident in presenting my thoughts and opinions.

While this may seem like a lot of work it saves me a ton of time because my head is clear and my positions solidified. At least try it once and see if it doesn’t help you with your formal work.

Be A Better Student

When I was in college I was the student who took color coded class notes, always had questions and made good use of professor’s office hours. What can I say, I have always loved learning (i.e. been a geek) and because of a childhood ADD diagnosis I had a well structured set of coping mechanisms to ensure I was absorbing everything I could from my education. In the years since leaving the world of formal education and entering the professional training & education industry I have slowly adjusted my set of learning tricks to adapt to the less formal learning opportunities I encounter. I have recently been observing people who attend conferences, webinars, training and presentations and thought perhaps sharing a few of my basic rules of thumb for making the most of an educational opportunity. 

  • Before the event (conference, keynote address, webinar) identify three things you’d like to take away from the experience. Whether you have a particular question about the event’s focus or simply want to expand your horizons putting some forethought into the topics at hand will prime your brain for learning. You don’t need to be too specific; unless you have so many goals you want to make sure you hit them all, in which plan away! Some examples of pre-event goals I’ve had recently:
    • Listen for/ask about social media case studies
    • Try to meet session leader, at the very least introduce myself
    • Gather trend information
    • Find this new product and get the “pitch” (trade show goal)
  • Take notes. You don’t need to go the color coded route but you should jot down a few observances or ideas that are inspired by the content being presented. Being an active note taker will make you a much more engaged listener and therefore more likely to acquire new knowledge. If a handout is provided then highlight facts/ideas that resonated with you in the moment but, it’s a good idea to always bring a pen and paper just in case.
  • During the event ask questions and provide input, if it is solicited. Speakers put a lot of time and thought into the content and structure of their presentations. When they ask for questions or input it is because they sincerely want to integrate your thoughts into their message. Plus, it is a chance to make sure the goals you set going into the event are satisfied.
  • While the issues, ideas and news is still fresh in your head try to find at least two ways it relates to your current work. Sometimes these opportunities are informational oasis in an otherwise static routine. If you’re able to tie the information acquired during these events to your everyday work you’ll be more likely to retain the new perspective. 
  • Once the event is over follow up; either by filling out a comment card or sending a note to the organizer/presenter. Be sure to identify what you took away from the event and, if necessary what additional information would have been useful. This gives you the opportunity to summarize the event succinctly and help the organizer/speaker continue to improve their content.

A lot of money and planning go into creating events and learning opportunities; using these tips will make sure you make the most of that investment. 

Be Here Now: A Practical Approach To Starting A Social Media Strategy

Everyday a new report on social media is published; many seeking to provide the definitive, albeit elusive, answer in the search for best practices in social media. Using survey responses, case studies and analytics to support their claims they attempt to shine light on the strategies and tactics that lead to greater brand recognition, more web traffic or more business opportunities. What few reports or observers fail to emphasize is the fact that there is no one way to successfully navigate the social media waters. The technology and user familiarity are moving too fast; methods and tactics used today may be entirely obsolete in two weeks. Additionally, depending on company size and vertical focus the strategy is – and should be- very different. While patterns may be deciphered from this early research the best way for you to start building your social media is to be here now. 

While it is wise to do a little research into how companies have previously used social media streams the best investment of time and brainpower is in staying in tune with your daily social media activity and returns. At the very outset of your quest for social media relevance identify three or four attainable goals; for example, increase web traffic 10% or acquire two new actionable sales leads per week. Then use these goals to dictate your daily use of Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn or whatever your preferred service may be. Each day be mindful of how your social media actions may influence your goals. Note any response or feedback you get in a spreadsheet. You will find yourself adopting a social media rhythm based on the behaviors with the best results and over time you’re notes and hyper awareness will build an organic sense of your company’s social media niche and potential.

Obtaining a sense of purpose and direction within your social media activities provides a solid foundation on which you can build a more complex strategy. Being present in the ebb and flow of your brand’s social media relevance may reveal opportunities unique to your company and audience. It is that dynamic conversation that makes social media such an exciting new territory for business development. Immediately investing a great deal of time and money into a more advanced social media campaign may overlook the more nuanced relationship your company has – or could have- with a wider audience.

Keep in mind, this is just a starting point. Eventually, if your social media efforts prove successful, you will want to expand your strategy; incorporating the basic information you have gathered with higher-level tactics. But, when you’re just starting to explore the social media waters keep it simple and stay tuned in to where you started and how you’re progressing. It will make it easier for you to determine the directions you want to pursue. There aren’t any secrets to social media that you can’t figure out if you dedicate yourself to a mindful daily practice. 

Lessons From The Kitchen

Prior to joining the more traditional 9-5 workforce I spent two years as a pastry chef. After college I had no idea what I wanted to “be” so I went to culinary school to pursue a passion. It was there that I was taught the importance of efficiency. You see, in a professional kitchen you need to be able to turn around an order quickly and accurately. The faster you’re able to get a plate out to the table, the sooner the table will have eaten and departed and the next party seated. The more tables you can turn over in a night the more you can profit.

My culinary curriculum was structured largely around efficiency. We were taught cooking methods and communication skills to ensure greater consistency of efficient performance. This type of specialized training – found in culinary programs worldwide- makes working in a variety of kitchens easier because there is a base hierarchy of priorities – efficiency, flavor, presentation, etc- and methods to achieving them. In the years since I have left the world of baking I find myself using a lot of the principles I learned in culinary school to navigate my professional activities. In the spirit of spreading some of those lessons in hopes it helps you become more consistent and efficient I have put together this list of lessons from the kitchen:

Be Prepared: Line & pastry chefs alike spend a good portion their day preparing their stations; chopping, mixed, sorting, storing everything they’re going to need to complete their orders. They need to look ahead and see what is on the menu then plan and prep accordingly.

What if you were to look ahead at your day every morning –or at the close of the day look towards tomorrow- and prepare mentally and physically for your day’s menu? I try to do this every day and I spend a good deal of time gathering the research, prepping the files, reading the emails that will contribute to the larger tasks of my day. It has helped me maintain a fresh perspective of my priorities and eases the anxiety of last minute stress and unexpected hiccups.

The Economy Of Steps: In school we were taught about The Economy Of Steps. Basically, the fewer physical steps you needed to take to prepare a dish the more you were able to contribute to a profitable restaurant workflow. If you were going to the freezer for eggs why not get all the refrigerated items were going to need for the next two hours? Continually walking back and forth across a kitchen eats up time and energy. Keeping your mind in the game and an eye on the larger list of things needing to be done made a chef much more effective in a kitchen.

The basic premise behind this principle, that the more aware you are about every step in your day the more efficient your personal workflow will be, is one many professionals could invest in. Instead of repeatedly checking in on your email, go every two hours. Focus on what needs to be done there then move on to the next task. If you’re going to be making an office supply order, check with everyone before closing out your order. You will be saving someone else in your company some time and therefore contributing to the larger, hopefully profitable, workflow. Take a few days to challenge yourself to be more in tune with your economy of steps, it may reveal a few time saving patterns you may have been overlooking.

Establish A Leader: In every kitchen there is a head Chef. They’re the boss. If they tell you to do something, you don’t argue, you do it. If there is something you disagree with you address it with them after service so as not to disrupt the larger workflow. The head Chef is responsible for establishing the flow of the kitchen, they work with the expediter to get plates out on time, they make the big on-the-spot decisions. If something goes wrong it is his credit that is tarnished. On the other hand, if something goes right he receives the praise and, if they’re a good Chef they’ll openly share accolades with their entire kitchen. The rest of the stations in the kitchen are part of a well established chain of command headed by the chef. Acknowledging this and abiding by it, even when you may not agree with the decisions, is what keeps a kitchen’s service moving. Smart head Chefs will also encourage an open dialogue with their line outside of service to make sure everyone is happy with their role. 

While the strict chain of command doesn’t transpose to a number of industries the recognition of a leader is certainly an asset for an efficient worker. I notice this most in meetings. If, at the beginning of every meeting, a leader were identified to keep the group on task and moving through the items at hand most meetings would be far shorter and more effective than if they are left to an open ended chat. Even if an agenda has been established you need someone who will be responsible for making sure people are heard and topical focus is maintained. This is a particularly useful approach to virtual conferences where there is a tendency for people to talk over each other.

Eat Your Own Product: A good chef tastes his or her goods. It is the only way to make sure their customer is getting what they ordered.

How often do you put yourself in your customer’s shoes? Try it. Place an anonymous order, call customer service with a fake complaint, or simply imagine what it would be like to be on the receiving end of your work. Being aware of your output will reinvigorate your approach to how you get there. No matter how many clients you have, or how great your profits, if you wouldn’t want to be your own customer you are doing something wrong.

These four lessons are just a few of the ways my kitchen experience has influenced my 9-5 career; while I still do a good deal of baking they are the only skills I learned in culinary school I currently use professionally. Although I never expected to walk away with much more than a killer croissant technique I’m happy I’m am now able to share some of the business acumen I got from my culinary education.

A Day Well Spent

I am a systems person. I take great solace in tucking into a routine every morning and using a generally ritualized structure to guide me through my day. Doing so greatly improves my chances of being productive as well as providing my “to do” list with a little natural rhythm. When you work independently in a wildly divergent field, like business development consulting, your days can quickly become busy without any really clear direction except “get it done now.” I see a lot of entrepreneurs and self-employed folks fall apart in the face of the assorted demands of their day. Distractions, stress and exhaustion are also adversaries of productivity. However, if you have a routine in place you’re more likely to keep your head, and focus, in the game. 

My typical routine looks something like this:

7 am:               Gym                                        

• Going first thing in the morning wakes me up, gives me time to think about my day and takes one thing off of my “to do” list immediately.

9 am:               Email check                            

• To tackle a hefty AM open I filter out newsletters, group updates and other regular emails into specific folders leaving only the emails that might demand immediate attention.

9:30                 Update “to do” list

• I use google’s Task function to keep my lists handy and easy to reference. There are many list manager services and aps out there to suit your needs.

10 am:             News & Blog reading             

• This is a big part of my job. Following trends, engaging with social networks and continually researching topics that are of interest to my clients are the fuel that feed my professional fires. I use Google Reader to organize the many RSS feeds I follow.

11 am:             Open project files and dig in

• I make sure to give myself enough time to work, research and write.

1:30/2 pm:      Lunch Break

3 pm:               Email check & reply time

• One of my resolutions for this year is to limit the number of times I hit the email feeder bar. By assigning myself regular times to check in I find I’m less distracted by the prospect of an email.

4 pm:               Open time

• Depending on what is most pressing for that day this time can be used in a variety of ways; writing, working on invoicing, touching base with colleagues, etc.


A Good Routine Is Not Set In Stone

You will notice the auto pilot items are condensed in the morning. My mind needs a little time to wake up some mornings and reading news, blogs, emails often lays the seeds of inspiration for where I want to direct my day. However these items are also not the most pressing; if they aren’t done the world will still rotate on it’s axis so they can be set aside and that time can be used for more immediate needs. Whatever your established agenda for the day is it is important to be able to be flexible and move forward if things do get a little out of control.

A Good Routine Comes In Many Shapes & Sizes

I have a few variations of my routine depending on the greater demands of the day. For example, on accounting days I jump right into the open accounts before heading to my google reader. I find it is useful to break an accounting day up by stopping for 30-45 min breaks to read other material every 2 hours or so. When a day requires travel I will often use commuting time to listen to podcasts or the news to make my time efficient. Once you’ve established your basic schedule you will notice the more commonly occurring themes of your days and can create your own variations.

In the time I have been actively building and refining my daily routine I have noticed a definite improvement in my efficiency and productivity. As customers, projects, environments and needs change it is nice to have something to lean on to give shape to some of the chaos.

If you’ve already got your own routine or productivity boosting tips please do leave them in the comments. I am always interested in hearing how others use their time wisely.

A Backwards Walk Through Your Workflow

We sometimes get a little too comfortable in our routine. We forget the motive for our actions or how the pieces we produce fit in to the larger whole. Without taking the time every once in a while to refresh your perspective the efficiency of your workflow may suffer, as well as, the quality of your end product. One exercise I find particularly useful is that of walking backwards through your workflow. Reconsidering how projects are developed or products created from another angle often reveals weaknesses as well as opportunities for new approaches.

First, it is best to define a workflow. For our purposes here workflow should be interpreted to mean:

The people, process and strategy involved in getting work done.

Now, choose one project and start at the "end" with the customer. Consider their experience with your work - what motivated them to seek you out, what were their needs and requests, what kind of feedback (if any) did they give you? Keeping those customer centric factors in mind begin to retrace the steps back to the original communication. At each phase/step/exchange consider these three questions:

1. Were the required elements effectively/correctly received from the preceding step?

2. Were the customer's needs & overall goal reaffirmed or conveyed in the exchange?

3. Was the person(s) responsible for that phase able to explain the purpose/function of the step/phase directly before and after theirs? 

The answers to these questions can reveal where there may be a break down in communication, which can lead to errors or slow downs. It can also teach you a lot about your own position within the mix. Use what you learn to refresh your routine and think of ways to improve how you do what you do. Walking backwards through your workflow may take some time but the results can truly reinvigorate your workflow strategy and lead to improvements you otherwise may not have known were necessary.

Suvivors Guide To Social Media

Before a recent social media workshop for owners and executives in the printing industry I sent out three pre-workshop questions each participant had to ponder and try to answer before the session started:

  1. How does social media fit into your current marketing plan (if there is one)? If there isn’t a plan, what would you like to get out of social media?
  2. What is going to be said, by whom, using which channels and why?
  3. Could social media management be a service you could use to help your customers? If not, why not? If so, how?

The answers I got back were expected and it helped me develop the content for the workshop. Here is an example of one of the responses:

“I don’t know that I am able to answer these questions. I want to know:

  1. What social networking is
  2. How a business [printer] can use it to his benefit
  3. The step by step process to establish our social network.

At that juncture I expect I would be more prepared to answer the questions. I can tell you that we have a marketing plan; however, social media marketing is not part of it. What I want from social media marketing, like my overall marketing effort, is to develop more business.”

What follows is an abbreviated Social Media Survivors Guide you can use to help begin your journey in navigating the challenges and opportunities around social media.

What Is It? Social networking addresses the human need to interact. Social media are methods and channels to interact with other humans as part of a person’s network. Social networking isn’t new. The ways in which it can get done: blogging, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and many more are very new to most. According to Wikipedia, social networking transforms broadcast media monologues into social media dialogues.

Why Should We Do Anything? There is a video on the web worth watching as part of your survival training. The Did You Know? video is currently in its fourth version and describes global changes in the world, new technologies, convergence and the way people behave. The video asks us if we’re ready for the changes and I believe that sets up one of the most important success behaviors in social networking and business—having a plan. Developing a strategic approach to the opportunity is better than haphazard tactical attempts. An even more relevant reason to work on your strategy about how to deal with the changes is because most of your customers are trying to figure this out too, why not work on it together?

Where Does Social Media Fit In?
I’m not trying to overwhelm you with videos, but they are an effective medium along with print and there’s one you don’t want to miss. Eric Qualman wrote Socialnomics, a brand new book on social media. Eric developed a video that takes many of the social media statistics and puts them in an engaging presentation on how we are totally changing the way we communicate. The beginning of the video asks “Is Social Media a Fad?” By the end you will see that some form of social networking with new media tools will continue to grow in use and application.

What Can a Business (Printer) Do About This? No one likes the first part but it’s a good first step. Think strategically about what you could do. Where are you, where do you want to be? Where is your current customer and where are they going? And what about the customers you don’t have…where are they going and can you meet them ahead of time or help them get where they are going? It’s how you can win new business from existing customers and new customers by identifying what they want and having a process in place to deliver on it. That’s marketing.

The second part to the question is a tactical one. It’s got a 4 part answer according to Qualman and it works because I do something similar and help others do the same: 

  1. Listening: Choose a social media channel and set up an account. Find out who is saying what to whom and perhaps why. Following your customers, customer’s customers, vendors, partners and competition can increase your knowledge—and suck up a lot of time if you don’t watch it.
  2. Interacting: Participating in conversations, sharing ideas, asking questions, answering questions, exploring what can be done and said are all part of this step. 
  3. Reacting: Make changes to your social media approach, your business, your services, your customer service…your whole mission can happen here. FedEx listens actively on Twitter and follows up in minutes if someone Tweets about a bad FedEx experience.
  4. Selling: The first three steps will help you identify what a business wants. Keiger Printing in Winston-Salem, NC uses Facebook, LinkedIn, RSS, Delicious, Digg and more to show their customers they are listening and creating dialogs about how they’ve helped their customers beyond cost savings alone. They use case study content on their social media channels to show what can be done. They can even ask for business from some of those who follow them. 

When you leverage social media so people find you, listen to you, and ask you if you can do business with them—that’s a great indirect sales approach. There’s less selling and more helping. You have the opportunity to get paid for that help.

Four popular social media technologies for you to investigate should include a blog (for writing complete thoughts about trends, happenings, thoughts, challenges and more), LinkedIn (for posting information about yourself and your business and network with others who may be looking to find people like you or about topics you may know about), Facebook (to interact with people personally and/or professionally and create communities that are interested in common goals or ideas) and Twitter (to share a quick thought or idea about who you are, what you think, what you want others to know, what you can do to help and follow how others are doing the same in their own way). How you use these tools can help you find out things, get found and identify new opportunities to grow your business in a new way. Once you’ve started the journey you have experiences you can share. You could even set up services to help others do the same in their business.

Share what you learn along the way in some new media…that’s what being social is all about.

Keep the learning going, pass it on. ~Peter


My Thrivers Guide To Trade Shows

It’s Monday evening and I’m thinking about what I’ve learned so far at Graph Expo, the largest US graphic communication trade show held each year in Chicago, Illinois. Let me share a few not-so-common thoughts on how I planned to thrive at this year’s show.

In case you don’t know me, I’m not your usual show goer…

I will admit some of the tips in my Thrivers Guide may be too late for you to consider but not to worry, next year is a “Print” year. Held every 4 years, it will be the largest graphic commutation trade show held in the world in 2009. You can use these tips for next year—or any year for that matter.

Muir’s Thrivers Guide to Trade Shows

  1. Get a hotel close to the show. I’ve done my years up in town and I enjoy heading up town to see a show or have dinner, even stroll the park, but when it comes to travel to and from the Chicago Convention center…nothing beats the Hyatt. Three words: No Cab Necessary.
  2. Bring a pair of comfortable shoes. I’ve done some years with a few trade show vendors “working a booth.” Whether you’re standing there or you’re cruising the floor you gotta have comfy shoes. I’m a Clark’s man. How about you?
  3. Schedule appointments in 30-45 minute blocks. No one hour meetings. Let them know what you want to get out of the meeting, have them do the same and get it done. You need time to decompress from what you saw, heard or shared as well as time to get to your next appointment. You’ll be thankful you have that 15 minute window. Some people go to Graph Expo to see technology while others go to see people. Some do both. I go for the people, the technology…and the city!
  4. A tip taken from Frank Romano, master trade show thriver, has served me well over the years. Take the first day to walk the entire floor. While on your walk about keep a show guide or notebook handy to jot down what or who you want to see in more detail. I’ve taken to using my little digital camera to snap photos of what I want to see later, study your notes and pictures that night and make a detailed game plan for the subsequent days.
  5. The following day hit your targeted stops. For me I usually have three groupings: people I want to see, technology I want to see and seminars I want to attend. Take a few notes about each interaction. What did I want to learn? Did I learn it? Why or why not? Was there anything new I learned? How will I apply it? What do I do next to capitalize on what I learned?
  6. Each night send a follow up note for each business card you collected (or gave out) that day saying thanks restating what you talked about or what you saw and what actionable items are you looking for from them and what actionable items will you do as a result of your meeting. Doing it each night helps you remember what you learned sooner and keeps the amount of work to a minimum. You won’t do it if the pile is an inch thick or more.
  7. I gather what I learn into three categories, yours could be different, but having some way to aggregate the information can help you take it in and apply it. I group things into how will it help me strategize for my future? How will it help me develop existing/new products or services? How will it help me sell? How will it help me produce what I do? How much can I save? How much will I make? How much will I lose if I don’t do anything about it? The last question acts as a motivator too. These are my questions I ask myself to organize what I’m learning, what are yours?
  8. Get out and unplug. You’re in Chicago. Walk in Grant Park. Have a great dinner. Take in a show. Take at least one night and do something totally “non-industry” related. You need that as part of a reward for coming and doing the work to make your work beneficial. Do this more than once if possible. Do it once each day. But don’t do it so much you forget why you took the time to come and learn and share.
  9. Share what you learned. When you get back have a meeting with your team. Have a meeting with your customers. Do it immediately. Share with them the top 10 things you heard, you saw, you did while at the show to help facilitate sharing and learning in your organization and with customers. It’s even better when two or more people go to the show and talk about what they saw. Two people see the same thing differently. Appreciate the diversity and open your mind to learning from others. If you think your way is the only way, you’re lost already.
  10. Plan for next year. Grab your notebook and jot down what you want to do more of or less of next year. How will you do it differently? How will you enjoy it more? How will you make more from your time and effort? You get the idea.

Do these and you’ll thrive at any trade show. Even better, why not share a list like this with your customers and let them take it to their customers and help everyone get more from their trade shows? Hmmm.

Tune in tomorrow I’ll share specifics on what I saw and heard. But for today, plan to thrive all you can…it beats surviving any day.

Keep the learning going...pass it on!



Reach Out And Touch Someone

I just can’t seem to get this stack of business cards off my mind.

When I teach seminars or meet people along the way that classic marketing method is always in play--the exchanging of business cards. I contact some of the key people who hand me cards based on a timely need or project idea that aligns with our current efforts. But we can't always get to all those people.

I actually sat at my desk and brainstormed about how I could possibly make an impact on each individual who took the liberty to hand me their contact information, and not to mention those of whom I actually requested that they hand over their contact information so that I could, you guessed it - contact them.

What should I do?

Do I handcraft a response about what I can do for them? Nah, that’s bound to get too big before it even gets going. I’m thinking I should create an engine that’s threefold:  generates ideas, serves as a resource and keeps the dialog going between me and the the potentially Bizucated masses. In that order, I could make a huge difference. As a coach, I teach customers how to grow their customers’ businesses. Technically, it’s my duty to pass on what I know and I like to think that by passing on what I’ve learned, I’m creating the possibility of my customers being the best at what they do. Which takes me to my next point, my knowledge is only as good as the action that follows.

Over the years, I’ve learned that everyone, no matter what business they’re in, struggles with time management, keeping up the pace and just plain old getting things done. What if there was a reliable source that kept us on the up and up about how to overcome these challenges. A resource that my contacts could count on. A resource that would help me, help my contacts, help themselves.

I find that the clients who prevail are the ones who apply what they’ve learned and actually do the work. I’m doing the work by getting the business and writing and delivering the presentations and completing the consulting projects. Now, I’m ready to take it a step further. It’s time to create a system that’s going to serve as a resource for everyone that I come in contact with. How much greater would our community be if all of us were committed to making an impact on everyone who trusted us enough to hand over their business cards?

Maybe this would be a good spot in this posting to reveal the new service I have in mind, maybe revealing it here would be premature…I guess the major question/revelation for me would be ‘why am I doing this?’

As I take the next step in Bizucating my contacts, I‘d like to thank you for giving me the time and the space that I needed to realize the vision of the next dimension at Bizucate. If you've got some ideas you'd like to share, let me know. Stay tuned.

Keep the learning going, pass it on.