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Archive for February, 2011

Toeing the Race Line

Photo credit: USATF.org

“When you put yourself on the line in a race and expose yourself to the unknown, you learn things about yourself that are very exciting.”  Doris Brown Heritage, five-time World Cross-Country Champion


If you want to be good at something, you gotta have passion and a willingness to get out there and challenge yourself. In Doris’ case, she broke new ground for women in the sport of distance running.

Yes, talent plays an important part but then why can gifted athletes lose a race, game or competition to someone else? In many cases, it just came down how the athlete’s passion and determination pulled a bit more effort from someplace deep inside.

Photo credit: Image from TravelAffialiates.com

Every time you show up to your office, store or simply for work, know that you’ve just put yourself into a race. Let your passion loose and see what you’re made of.

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When you hear the term “entitlements”, what do you feel? Something to dislike? Desire? Privileged? Frustration? Anger? Resentment?

When you hear the term “benefits,” what do you feel? Something that is attractive? Something good? Something you wouldn’t want to lose?

Let’s take a look at the definitions of the words from Merriam-Webster.com:

Entitlement: 1) a : the state or condition of being entitled : right b : a right to benefits specified especially by law or contract; 2) a government program providing benefits to members of a specified group; also : funds supporting or distributed by such a program; 3) belief that one is deserving of or entitled to certain privileges

Benefits: …2) something that promotes well-being : advantage b : useful aid : help; 3) a : financial help in time of sickness, old age, or unemployment b : a payment or service provided for under an annuity, pension plan, or insurance policy c : a service (as health insurance) or right (as to take vacation time) provided by an employer in addition to wages or salary

While these definitions describe similar purposes, the words also have emotional definitions based cultural associations. “Entitle” may be equated with privilege whereas “benefit” means something good or a reward. But aren’t we “entitled” to earn money for our labor? Or do we consider our pay a “benefit”?

The words we choose to use to argue, persuade, debate and communicate overall can either work for us or against us depending upon the emotional connection other people have to those words. For business purposes, it’s important to remember that emotion drives purchase decisions. How often do we use something called “rational thinking” to justify a decision? Like 99.8% of the time – if we’re honest with ourselves.

So what can we business communicators and business owners learn from how these two words are being used in the current American political discourse about ways to reduce federal, state and local budget deficits?

Choose our words carefully…understand their definitions as well as their cultural meaning…so that we can better connect with our audiences or customers.

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Think of a tweet as a 15-second commercial. At its core, a good tweet is concise, expressive and re-tweetable.

If linking to a story, write something catchy that introduces the article and gives a sense of context. For instance, here’s a recent tweet of mine: “Can Robocop return to save Detroit by luring in #tourism dollars? http://bit.ly/f9Zp6E” The news story was about efforts to raise money to have a Robocop statue built, something that other cities have done for other movie characters.

Write with 120 characters in mind (spaces included!) so that someone can retweet it and leave your Twitter handle and message intact.

Stay tuned for more Sweet Tweet Tips…

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Many thanks to my colleague and friend Mike Klassen, The Magalog Guy, for having me on his  Magalog Guy podcast show. I thoroughly enjoyed our chat about five key aspects of social networking that will help business owners increase customer loyalty, brand awareness and sales.

Here’s a short synopsis of our conversation:

Key #1 – Understand that social networking is about getting to know people, having conversations, and sharing information. It’s not about incessant sales pitching, “me, me, me” or “we, we, we.”

Key #2 – Choose the right social networking tool based upon your business goals and the tools your customers are using. Schedule time each business day to plan and review your efforts; write the blog posts, Facebook updates and tweets; and reply to posted questions and comments.

Key #3 – Set up your accounts. If your company name is already taken, then consider adding a geographical reference to it like “Las Vegas” or “LV”. UPDATED TIP: It’s important to be consistent – for search engines as well as brand recognition – so use that name for all your online efforts.

Key #4 – Learn how to effectively use your chosen social networking tools through online resources like blogs, videos and podcasts like those of The Magalog Guy, your industry or trade organization’s articles and webinars, and business publications. Always be civil and respectful when handling negative comments and differing points of view.

Key #5 – Be a helpful resource: post good information on your Web site, blog or social networking platform; answer questions; and refer people to other resources that may be of help or interest to them.

Bottom line: Savvy business owners use social networking to connect with their customers, watch for new trends, and quickly change course when new  opportunities arise.

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Find out how to make your Web site, blog and other online efforts successful through effective search engine optimization and online marketing. I’ll cover topics like marketing and establishing goals, effective keyword research, avoiding SEO mistakes and tactics that may cast you as a spammer, an overview of pay-per-click advertising, incorporating social networking and social media as link building tools, and more. Each class is chock full of practical information, real-world application, and tips for today’s business owners.

The six-week, 18-hour class starts on Wednesday, April 6, 2011. Register now at UNLV Continuing Education as seating is limited!

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Providing customer service that brings people back to your store or Web site isn’t rocket science or doesn’t have to cost you anything – only motivation and desire.

I recently stopped at the Bentley’s Coffee on the corner of Charleston & I-15 for a small jolt of caffeine after a pretty intense morning. Imagine my surprise when one of the baristas bounded out of the coffee drive-thru to get my order…instead of waiting for me to reach the window or me waiting for the two cars ahead to pull away. With a “Hi there, what can I getcha?” and a quick clarification that their $1.50 coffee is a 16-ounce Americano (not drip), he made me feel as if he was happy to see me…and to serve me.

Not only did they get a 50-cent tip for a buck-fifty drink (more than double the standard 15% tipping rate), they’ve got a new customer.

So how much did it cost Bentley’s Coffee to acquire a first-drive, drive-by customer? Because of the priceless positive attitude of their employee who took joy in helping a customer, not a monetary cent.

How can you apply this to your business? Start thinking about it now so you can get new customers tomorrow.

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