We spend countless hours lamenting over the stock we print our business cards one, what printer to buy for our office or which brand of water to stock our fridges with. And yet, many of us jump for joy the minute someone calls our office with a job. Why is it that we don’t place the same amount of scrutiny on the engine that keeps our businesses running? Our clients.
Just this week, during one of my Event Solutions Idea Factory sessions, I referred to this as being your company’s Red Velvet Rope Policy, a term first used by Michael Port in Book Yourself Solid. Today, any one of your customers can tweet, facebook status update, blog, create a video or rate and review your company. In fact, just today I came across a blog post about how the New York Times allowed a disgruntled business owner to rant on their blog about some PR agents he recently hired for a restaurant launch. And in one vinegary post, he may have destroyed the reputation of a firm and an entire profession for some who read it.
More and more of us are turning to online reviews and recommendations to help form their decisions about who to work with and who to stay away from. Recommendations from people we know is the #1 most trusted form of advertising. Recommendations from people we’ve never met before is the #2 most trusted form of advertising. We trust what strangers say about a business far more than we trust what a business has to say about themselves.
Work with enough people who don’t get you, don’t understand what you do or don’t care and you’re creating your own detraction engine.
This megalist of Event Planning online tools appeared in my Feb/Mar Connections column in Event Solutions Magazine.
Planners are being challenged to work faster, harder and more efficiently. The past few years have seen a cumulative number of tools created to help us accomplish more. I take great delight when I find a tool that helps me and my clients. So as 2011 hearkens a new year with new goals, I thought I’d share some of my favorite tools to make your life and job easier this year.
Quora – Ask and answer questions about an event. Listen to what people are asking about you. A tool that’s getting a lot of buzz right now…good and bad. But definitely worth checking out.
Survey Monkey – Create surveys for free and share & embed them easily.
Storify – Turn what people post on social media into compelling stories. You collect the best photos, video, tweets and more to publish them as simple, beautiful stories that can be embedded anywhere.
BuddyPress – Create your own social network for your event.
Eventbrite – Create events online, share via social networking sites, sell tickets and manage affiliate partners.
Plancast – A way for people to share what they’re doing (think events) with their friends.
MailChimp – An email marketing tool that is 100% free.
Facebook Events – An incredibly powerful tool to share events. When someone indicates they’re attending, all of their connections will be notified.
Lanyrd – A site that allows you to promote your conference, incorporate social conversations about the event and include links to speaker bios, presentations, videos and podcasts.
Snappages – Let’s you create a great looking website, for free, with no HTML/CSS knowledge. Simply use their templates as a base and drag and drop to create your own custom site.
Unbounce – Create landing pages simply, then split test to determine the most effective design.
Stipple – Label your website photos with descriptions and weblinks (and even shopping information).
Skitch – Lets you capture images, share them across multiple web platforms and create discussions.
Teux Deux – The most visually and functionally simple To Do tool I’ve seen.
SelfControl – Email, social media and web surfing can be procrastinations best friend. This application lets you block access to specific sites for a predetermined amount of time.
MinutesPlease – Unlike SelfControl, this tool lets you time exactly how long you want to spend on a site so you can control your time on the web.
Batchbook – Great for small businesses. Manage all of your contacts, pending deals, confirmed revenue, customer social media accounts, calendar and to do items at a very low monthly fee. Batchbook also integrates well with MailChimp, EventBrite, FreshBooks and many other small business management tools.
Ted – Video inspiration from some of the biggest thought leaders around the world.
Notcot – A collection of some of the most beautiful and inspiring design content on the web.
Stumbleupon – This tool helps you discover the best on the web. Click on Stumble and discover a new website based on the recommendations of others.
Kik – For those who travel…a lot, Kik lets you send FREE, real-time text messages between iPhones, Androids and BlackBerries.
TripIt – Keep track of your travel details and share your schedule with friends.
Yapta – Track flight prices and save money before and after you buy.
What tools would you add?
We put the concept of leadership on a pedestal. There are leaders and then there are followers. We write long diatribes on how to become a leader. We make it feel unattainable. We make it feel bigger than it is. If you ask someone if they think they’re a leader, you’ll likely be met with a bashful response or an outright denial. Admitting leadership feels boastful.
And yet if you really think about people who have led you to change the way you think about or do things, you’ll probably find that a good number of those prolific moments were actually quite simple. A few words that made you think, a way someone handled a situation that made you take notice, something they did that made you ponder, “That’s so simple – why can’t I do that?”.
Not long ago I wrote a little story of inspiration about a conversation I had with my Opa that sparked me to rethink my life & business priorities. That post then inspired two people who read it to make a change in their lives. One emailed me to say that he was motivated to follow his dream, leave his job and start his own business (and he did). The other told me that she realized she wanted to go back to school to become a vet – a career she’s been passionate about since she was a little girl.
Not every moment of leadership has to feel earth shattering. Dante once said: “A mighty flame followeth a tiny spark”. It’s a mantra we all need to start believing.
I don’t remember the exact day when my school stopped serving complimentary lunches and we, the students, had to pack our own…but it was some time around Grade 1. Although I’m fuzzy about some details, I remember the the lunchbox and the anticipation of learning what lay inside like it was yesterday. My box was decorated with my favorite superheroes: Wonder Woman and Superman. I proudly toted it all the way to school, holding it up every so often to stare at my heroes – my mother’s warning, “Don’t open it up until lunchtime” flashing through my mind. I remember arriving at school and having to part with my box, resting it carefully on a shelf in the cloakroom, turning around every so often during class to catch a glimpse. When the lunch bell rang, I raced to grab my lunchbox and ran to the lunch table. Hands shaking, I open the clasp and began pulling out the contents. My heart sank. What lay inside wasn’t the Twinkies and pizza I had imagined all day, but an apple and a baloney sandwich. Lunchbox letdown.
Throughout my life I’ve experienced these moments. Moments when I had high expectations, only to be disappointed by reality. We’ve often been told never to over-promise and under-deliver – D’uh. And some brilliant business person out there told us the solution is to under-promise and over-deliver – a statement I vehemently disagree with. I love Seth Godin’s response: Make big promises and deliver. Simple.
I’m a big fan of Seth’s. I read his blog every day. I’ve bought all of his books and audio books. So, when he released SHIP IT, I raced to amazon to purchase a copy. I waited eagerly for the package to arrive at my door. When it finally did, I ripped open the outer envelope and experienced that familiar feeling again. My heart sank when I pulled out the tiny little pamphlets. But wait, I told myself, the magic will surely be inside. So I spent time reading through the sparse pages, consuming the content of the 30 questions. These pamphlets and the content inside came nowhere to meeting my expectations. All I can say is Lunchbox letdown.
What types of experiences have you had that haven’t met your expectations? How did you handle them?
Have you used SHIP IT? What did you think?
The past few years have been, quite frankly, devastating to many businesses. Budgets have shrunk or disappeared altogether. Many companies are scrambling to fight over a shrinking piece of pie. And, worse, many others are fighting over the crumbs left over by their competitors.
I was recently speaking to an event company about this very issue the other day. They have seen their revenues shrink dramatically over the last couple of years. As a result, they have been tempted to take on significantly smaller projects to get their feet in the door of large corporations, in hopes of being able to work on their large projects.
Here’s the problem with this model:
If you were pitching Apple’s annual 5,000 person gala event, would you show them a $1,000 event you’ve done? Of course not. It sells your business short. It puts you in a box and tells your potential client that you’re a $1,000 event company. Working on a client’s small events in hopes of scoring their large events can have a similar outcome.
Reputation is one of the biggest assets a company can have. You can’t buy a good reputation, you earn it. And, you earn it with every single transaction your business has when engaging your customers or your employees. If your business isn’t set up to do small events, you’ve opened yourself up to 2 problems:
Just imagine what you could accomplish if you refocused your resources to attracting the types customers you do great business with or growing your existing customers. I will guarantee that this time will be worth significantly more short and long term than taking small projects to cover your overhead.
Before you think about taking on that small job, ask yourself what the cost to your business will be. If there’s a risk of devaluing your business, under-servicing a client, de-motivating your employees or affecting your reputation, don’t take the project. And remember that turning down business can be one of the best ways to build confidence and reinforce your expertise.
A wonderful fable from childhood goes a little something like this:
“Goldilocks climbed upstairs to the bedroom. There she saw three beds all in a row. “Oh,” she said, yawning, “I am feeling sleepy.”
So she pulled down the covers and climbed into Papa Bear’s Great Big Bed. But she quickly jumped down. “That bed is MUCH too hard!” she said.
Then she tried Mamma Bear’s Medium size bed. But it was too soft.
So she climbed into Baby Bear’s Tiny Little Bed. It was JUST right. Soon Goldilocks was fast asleep!”
Imagine if Baby Bear’s bed didn’t exist. Goldilocks tried the two extremes, but they were, well…extreme. It wasn’t until she found Baby Bear’s bed – a solution in-between the two extremes – that she found a place that was just right for her.
But we’re not always given a hybrid choice. In his TED talk, Graham Hill, the founder of Treehugger, discussed his conundrum. On the one hand he loves meat. But on the other, he recognizes the heath, environmental and ethical issues with consuming it. But unfortunately he was provided with a binary solution: become a vegetarian or be a meat eater. Instead of choosing from these two extremes, he carved out his own Baby Bear solution and became a weekday vegetarian. This ensured he didn’t have to give up the occasionally hamburger indulgence and he could also feel as if he was making a moral impact.
We’ve seen success with this concept in events. Not everyone can make it out to an event in person. And, for a while, the topic of virtual events was on everyone’s lips. Fear spread throughout the community: “Will virtual events replace face to face”? Then along came hybrid events. A wonderful mashup of face to face and virtual attendance.
In-between ideas can often give us the best of both worlds. They’re not scary because they don’t require you to choose between two extremes. They allow us a taste of both.
Think about how your business can create an in-between experience. Is there a trend, affecting your business, that people are talking about? Can you create a taste of that trend without requiring people to leave their comfort zone?
Recently, MyEmma, an email marketing service that I blogged about in the past, had a security breach…a deliberate attack on MyEmma’s account holders (and their contacts) in a specific geographic area. This type of issue could be disastrous for many companies.
I have a great deal of respect for how MyEmma dealt with this problem. I wanted to share this with you because I believe they’re essential issue resolution tools for any business.
1. They were proactive. The first I heard about the problem was from MyEmma. This is such an important point. Too often, companies deal with issue resolution when they have to – and that’s usually when their customers or the general public are demanding answers. MyEmma notified each of their customers about the security breach by email, even those who weren’t affected. Hearing about it from the service provider builds trust. It tells customers that ‘we want you to hear about this from us because we care about you’.
Dealing with an issue quickly does not happen by luck. It requires a great deal of forethought. It’s important for any business to discuss potential business risks and develop processes for how those risks should be mitigated.
Does your business have a risk mitigation process?
2. They made it easy for customers to get more information. They used their blog to provide customers with updated information about the situation. This was a great tool for a few reasons: 1) It’s easy to update with the latest developments, 2) Customers can choose to subscribe to the blog so they are updated by RSS or email and 3) They have a running archive of developments so customers can see how the issue has progressed over time.
3. They took responsibility. There was no pointing of fingers, there was no diminishing their part of the crisis. They took responsibility for the issue.
4. They provided solution proof. Not only did they outline how the issue was resolved, but they hired external experts to validate the solution.
5. They were clear. Ambiguity when trying to resolve an issue only creates tension, anxiety and mistrust. I love the way that MyEmma organized their blog post about the issue. They segmented the post into two categories: 1) What Happened? and 2) Was it fixed? These are the same two questions that most people will ask in a crisis. They were clear and succinct with their answers.
6. They made it easy for customers to get more information. Yup, I’ve repeated this point. In addition to the blog, MyEmma also extended their help desk hours to accommodate customer questions.
7. They listened to the community. They invited comments on their blog, made comments transparent and used comments as an additional tool to provide their customers with additional answers.
What tactics has your company used, that worked, to resolved an issue?