Strategic Communications – Communication Plan Analysis Part 2

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I outlined the Need in the first post; now let’s actually see how these needs point to the best tools to use to accomplish our communication plan goals.

The Communications Action Plan:

  • A major National Sales Meeting to introduce the product to the sales force – a real excitement-building event.  This event needed to send the sales force out on the street HIGHLY motivated and educated, and very ready to share that excitement with the sales staff at retail and motivate them to promote the new product
    • Product Introduction – a highly informative, motivational, and inspirational introduction to the product and the exciting concepts that were now available for this market IN THIS PRODUCT ONLY
    • Product Training – Extensive product training to send a highly educated sales force out fully qualified to hold training events around the country as part of a Road Show
  • An innovative Press conference to gain broad press coverage of new the product – additional image impetus for the company and the product to dealer network
  • Road Show
    • Impressive, big screen live event, toured to central cities in several major U.S. and Canadian markets.  Presentations like this were new to this audience – even in this market
    • Company executives would travel with the show to deliver the message face to face and “press the flesh”
  • Major PR effort not only to publicize the product, but also the unique way in which it was announced

In the next post, we’ll look at the results, and how they measured up to the goals and expectations.

DanSig-02


Strategic Communications – Communication Plan Analysis Part 1

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Over the next few posts, I’ll be running a short Strategic Communications Series on a Communications Plan Analysis that I have used quite successfully.

Many people know they need Strategic Communications to “talk” to their customers, both existing and prospective. But how do you make sure your communications “do the job?” Most likely, it’s going to cost you money to achieve your goals, so the only way to ensure you accomplished your goal is to measure it – this helps you know how effective your communications have been, and it helps you support the value of your work to your boss.  Let’s look at some steps to almost guarantee that your Communication Plans will have measurable success.

I usually break down the Communication Plan Analysis into three main sections:

  • Need – What is the problem, and what is the result we expect from the money we are about to invest? And most important, what is the cost of that problem?
  • Content – How will we move people to the desired result?
  • Measurement – Did you actually meet, or better, exceed, the goals?

Need drives the entire process. We’re not going to spend the money to do something that doesn’t need to be done – it might be fun, but it’s not a good idea. You have a situation or a problem – and it usually has a measurable cost – so you need to solve that problem… to eliminate, or at least significantly reduce that cost. We’ll most likely have to invest time or money to solve the problem, but if the problem is well defined and quantified, not only can we reduce or eliminate the problem with an appropriately targeted communications plan; we can measure how well we did it. The measure may be increased sales, or increased signups for a new program, or broader support within a community for a new service or idea. Whatever measure you use, this is your yardstick for success.

Let’s use an example to illustrate how this process functions and how well it can work.

A while back, a company I worked for was going to introduce a new product into a moderately saturated marketplace. This new product incorporated major new and patented innovations, and would most likely have been quite successful. However, for several reasons that you will see, we needed to ensure that success and overcome some other major issues.

The NEED – Here was where we started from:

  • Moderate market share for existing product, #2 in sales in the industry
  • A general lack of respect for the company caused by having only parity products in the past
  • Very low sales force morale from carrying these “me too” products
  • Dealers throughout the country feeling a definite “lack of personal contact” by company executives
  • But most important, an exciting new product to launch: including many industry firsts, under a new brand umbrella, and based on a new and very unfamiliar technology – actually, others had tried the technology, we were the first to make it work well… hence the patents.

The GOALS – what were the desired – and measureable – results of the communications plan?

  • Earn #1 sales position in the marketplace, as measured by published industry data
  • Firmly establish the new brand with dealers and consumers
  • Build new levels of respect for the company brand and their sales force in the market place
  • Dealer owners pleased with personal contact with company executives
  • Retail clerks educated and excited about the new product, and motivated to sell the product and the company
  • A memorable event to keep the company “top of mind” for the foreseeable future.

The Obstacles:

  • Low respect for company in the market place – would dealers even listen?
  • Large number of outlets and clerks to be informed/trained/motivated across the market, preferably in as short a time as possible
  • The introduction would be in January/February, the worst time to travel a show around the country.

You can see how all of these elements defined the measurement criteria. Sales can be plotted against the product launch. Market share is a standard industry published statistic, and can be plotted against the time of the launch. Respect will be reflected in the attitudes of the retail clerks to the sales representatives calling on the stores and the how the products and the company are received after the launch. This, and how well the event was remembered, would show up in weekly sales call reporting.

Observable, accurate, and actionable. The hallmarks of good metrics.

Next post, I’ll look at our communications plan to achieve these goals

DanSig-02


Napolean Hill

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Guest Post: The Power of Storytelling

By Lorrie Morgan-Ferrero, Expert Copywriting Strategist

Lorrie_Morgan-FerreroI’ll never forget the day I decided to quit my stable $50,000 a year job. Candy, the older assistant who really ran the company, had the radio on in her office. (She actually bossed me around sort of like the Meryl Streep character in “The Devil Wears Prada”. But most of the time she tolerated me.
And today she actually invited me to listen in.) The news was blasting the unfolding details about the Columbine tragedy. It was unthinkable. Horrific. I jumped on the Internet and began following the story of two social outcasts plotting out an evil plan to kill their fellow students and teachers. I was especially upset because I had two young sons in elementary school while I was stuck behind a desk, unable to leave.

See when my boys, Justin and Chase, were first born in 1990 and 1992, I was a stay-at-home mom. We spent every day reading, going to parks, visiting museums – just hanging out together. It was terrific.

But with my divorce in the mid-1990s, I was forced to go to work each day, leaving them in the YMCA after school care program. I realize I’m not alone – a lot of parents have to do work outside the home to make ends meet. But my oldest son had a serious case of ADD and emotional immaturity. I was warned by two of his preschool teachers that he was a child who REALLY needed his mother or he could self-destruct…like those kids at Columbine.

That was the day I realized I couldn’t continue being away from my kids anymore. I had to find an escape. It took some research and a leap of faith before I pulled together enough courage to quit and become a full-time writer. It wasn’t a straight path to success but that is the story of why Red Hot Copy was born.
Stories are wickedly effective in getting attention. They work in conversation. And they work like gangbusters in copy. Why?

  1. Stories boost credibility. In order to tell a good story, you had better know your stuff. When your expertise is illustrated in a story you are more believable.
  2. Stories spark emotional connection. We buy from an emotional state of mind, not a logical one. And dry facts seldom get us worked into an emotional lather the way stories do.
  3. Stories can explore the pain of a problem. If you’re looking to paint the picture of suffering and agony in order to contrast how you or your service can be the solution, nothing does it better than a juicy story.
  4. Stories make the prospect trust you. Whenever we hear a story, by nature we look for connections to our own lives (after all, it truly IS all about “me”). That relating slashes the time frame for bonding. And we all do business with those we know, like and trust.
  5. Stories bust through sales resistance. Nobody likes to be sold to. But we don’t mind kicking back and listening to (or reading) a story. You’re much more likely to keep the prospect’s attention by telling a story than hitting him or her over the head with hype.

So for your own story inspiration, pay attention to little events that happen to you. Get in the habit of writing them down every day in a notebook you dedicate just to stories. (Type them if you like but it’s been proven there is a connection between writing things out by hand and brain stimulation.) Don’t edit at first. Just get it all out there. Over time, you will start getting more concise. The point is to create a habit. It will take a little practice at first, but the payoff is huge.

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ABOUT LORRIE: Award-winning marketer, world-renowned copywriter and creator of “The She Factor,” Lorrie Morgan-Ferrero of Red Hot Copy has a reputation as the top female copywriter in the info-marketing industry. Lorrie is dedicated to teaching the world it is possible to shift from the hype-filled sales to a more modern version… marketing written with authenticity, trust, and rapport. If you’re ready to jump-start your business, make more money, and have more fun in your small business, get your FREE tips now at red hot copy.com/redhot/store

DanSig-02

[NO COST webinar] Swipe Files – Your shortcut to world class copy

In business, we all want to make more profits, right?

After all, that’s why we’re in business, right?

Well if you’re with me here, then you know how much you need to market – market – market … and good marketing absolutely requires strong copy; for any business – photography, trombones, or the business of business!

So how can we get strong copy without shelling out a bundle for a pro copywriter… or spending years learning the trade ourselves (and meanwhile, what happens to our business while we learn)?

Well, experienced marketers have found… the EASY WAY. The copywriter’s time saving secret weapon is… SWIPE FILES!

Really, they’re nothing more than collections of high-converting hunks of copy (emails, or sales letters, or offline print jobs, and more) that productive copywriters quickly rewrite for fast, productive results.

OK… here’s an opportunity to crack the Swipe File Code in a one-of-a-kind, NO COST webinar, called:

EXACTLY How to Use Swipe Files to Massively Rock Your Profits!

Lorrie_Morgan-FerreroMy friend Lorrie Morgan-Ferrero of Red Hot Copy is hosting this training. (More about Lor in a bit…)

==> But Space Is Limited So Reserve Your Seat NOW.

This ground breaking webinar will be on Thursday, January 16th at 2pm Pacific/5pm Eastern. This powerful topic will certainly help you make a real difference in your business, so I’d suggest you register right away and check into the webinar a few minutes early to make sure there’s space for you.

Now about Lorrie Morgan-Ferrero…

I’ve known and followed her for years and I’ve shared several of her newsletters in my blogs as I have tremendous respect for her knowledge and ability. She’s very well known as one of America’s top female copywriters in emotional response copy, particularly when selling to women – but it works for men too. She’s been personally mentored by some of the great names in marketing: Dan Kennedy, Alex Mandossian, Gary Halbert, John Carlton, and many others. But Lorrie has developed a style all her own that really connects… and converts.

And Lorrie will be the first to tell you – one of her top secrets is… SWIPE FILES. So this coming Thursday she wants to make it easy for YOU to begin mastering the art of “borrowing” successful copy to help you create your own success. In this 90-minute complimentary (that means no charge) webinar you’ll discover:

  • Ways to save hours of agony by following a few “must-do” steps BEFORE you start writing
  • Stealthy emotional tactics and copy writing devices you can weave in to make your copy deliver a knock-out punch
  • Where to find proven copy to add to your swipe file collection rather than being duped by copy that tanked
  • Lorrie’s follow-the-leader blueprint to swiping intelligently – step by step
  • And more!

You probably already know this…

Many a good copy writing course may cost you thousands … and that could be one of the ONLY places you might learn about using swipe files to add to your own success.

And you probably know that hiring a professional copywriter for just ONE sales letter could start at $5,000… plus, if they’re good, some writers may charge royalties… and can go up to $25,000 – or even more. Is that in YOUR budget? (It might be tomorrow, but is it today?)

Fortunately for you, learning the ins and outs of swipe files is offered to you at zero cost.

When you move from quaking in your boots when you think of writing copy to having copy practically write itself, you know you spent your time well. So you don’t want to miss this training.

Join me there!

Sincerely,

DanSig-02

 

 

 

P.S. If you continue to struggle through your copy writing …spending hours at your computer getting frustrated … what’s it worth? Professional copywriters use swipe files to save many hours. Think how much you can save just by committing to this complimentary training.

==> Register now for access to copy shortcuts

P.P.S. This webinar will be recorded and available for only 48 hours after the live event. After that, it will be for sale for $97. So register now and be sure to make space in your calendar to take it all in.

==> Reserve your seat now and be sure to call in early…

P.P.P.S. As an aside, I can confidently tell you that other world-class copy writing gurus and savvy business owners (like me) will be quietly registering and absorbing this webinar too. They know the goods when they see them, and they’re prepared to legally “steal” these insider secrets. Your life is about to change!

==> Seating is limited. Reserve your space today

Business Process Automation for Website Creation

Business_Process_RobotBuilding new websites for your business, whether online only or offline/online, can be a time-consuming, and for some, a frightening task. But today, there are quite a few tools to help you automate the process to give you more time for your building your business strategy, building your relationships, building content that your readers – and search engines – are looking for… and being with your family.

Content Management Systems

Content management systems (CMS) allow you to quickly and very easily set up websites without creating them from scratch (or paying quite a bit of money to have it done for you). You don’t need an in depth knowledge of HTML (though I’ve found that understanding the basics is very helpful). When you use a CMS, once the structure is in place from installing the CMS, from that point on, you simply plug in your content that customers and readers are looking for, and, et voilà… you have a growing web site.

WordPress_LogoProbably the most frequently used Content Management System is WordPress (on which this site is built). Most web hosts, like HostGator that I use, have simple one click installs of WordPress on your site, and once you click, Install, in a few seconds, you have a site up and running, “on the web.” From that point on, content is king – it’s what your visitors will be looking for, and will keep them coming back. And if content is king, quality is queen. Your visitors are looking for content that is relevant (a term you should keep top of mind as you create or pay to have content created) to their information needs. And, as search engines twist and turn the algorithms they use to display results to search queries, the one constant that has held true through all their iterations is… quality. Quality always yields the best and most consistent search results.

Most people, rightly, are concerned about the design of their site. One of the many advantages of WordPress is all of the free and very inexpensive “helpers” that make a WordPress site good to look at and easy to find information, for both search engines, and your readers.

There are several parts of a WordPress site that you will quickly become familiar with: themes, posts, pages, categories, tags, plugins, and widgets. Let’s use this site to show you very simply what these terms mean:

  • Themes – are what the site looks like, the header at the top of the page, how many columns (in this case two) that appear, the fonts that are used, how links are displayed and how they act when you roll over them… and all the other little “design things” that will make your site attractive and convenient for your visitor. And themes can be changed as often as you change socks… or can be just left alone for the life of your site. On this site, I use the Socrates Theme as it gives me a lot of places to add valuable links for you and all I do is put the information in there.
  • Posts – are the content that makes up the day to day information that I share with you, my readers. This entry is a post. And every time I add a post, it, “pushes down” the posts before it so the most current information is always at the top of the page. The nature of posts is constantly changing information, that’s why they are always on top.
  • Pages – are “static” information that changes less frequently, but you always want available to your site visitors. Generally, pages are used for: About Us, Resources Pages, Privacy Policies, etc. As I said, information that is more static but that you want easily accessible all the time. You can see the links to the pages right under the header image above.
  • Categories – are how I “organize” the information I am sharing. Each post is in an established category: for instance, this post is categorized in, “automate your business processes.” If you select a category (from the dropdown over on the right hand side), the page will display ALL the posts I have created in that category. The general practice is to only use one category per post – though you can actually select more.
  • Tags – are what I call, “Inside the Post” categories. Additional selectors at a more detailed level to help readers – and search engines – find specific information about which I, and my guest posters, have written. When readers find a post that interests them, using the Tag Selector, also over on the right hand side, they can find all the articles that incorporate that tag to dig deeper into the information. Unlike Categories where you generally use only one per post, each post can, and usually does, have several tags.
  • Plugins – are small programs that automate various website tasks – almost likes the “apps” that you use on your smartphone. These “little helpers” can: remove spam comments, manage blog comments, automatically tag posts, add social media and social bookmarking options, automatically back up your site (for instance I use the plugin, Back Up Buddy from iThemes to automatically back up this site) and so on. For the sites you create, you can have a set of chosen plugins that you automatically add to each. You’ll want to choose the plugins you use carefully. Make sure you get them from a reliable source (like WordPress) so they don’t contain viruses that will harm your web site and your site’s reputation. Also, having too many plugins active on your site will slow down loading time… for which search engines will penalize you (meaning they show your listing lower down in search results).
  • Widgets – are the things over in the right hand column (on this site – different themes, or theme variations, will let you put them in different places) that provide access to additional information and resources. Here on this site, I have: an RSS feed subscription link, a subscribe to our newsletter link, five “ads” for services that I use and recommend, a dropdown selector for access to prior months posts, a dropdown selector for choosing from categories (see above), a Related RSS feed from outside sites, and several more ads. Each of these is a widget placed in the column, and the necessary information added into the widget. They are easy to reposition, add, edit, or delete.

That’s it. Keep those basic concepts in mind, and you can comfortably navigate your way around keeping a WordPress web site informative for your readers and attractive to search engines.

A Business Process You Shouldn’t Automate: Content Creation

There is one business process for your web site that you really don’t want to automate… Content!

Automated content is usually duplicate content (content that has been already published elsewhere, for instance in an article directory), and won’t help your site’s search engine positioning. If it has been published elsewhere, the search engines have most likely already indexed it and won’t index it again for your site – you get no benefit.

One shortcut some site owners use to create content is article spinning. This means taking an already published article and slightly rearranging its wording so that it’s, supposedly, ‘unique.’ There are software programs to do this, but the problem with this method is that it often produces articles that are almost unreadable with awkward wordings that no person interested in quality content would create. Your readers, and usually search engines, will know that the content has been “spun” so you are really better off creating original content based on your knowledge and your experience.

Business Process Automation – Content Curation for Your Site

Another quick method for creating content for your site is called content curation. You pull together content from various sources and present it to your readers, adding your own opinion, ideas or information. Adding your comments to the curated content is important to tailor the content to your audience and add value to it.

Here is an example of content Curation: David Meerman Scott has a good blog post about content Curation here. I recommend you read it as it is relevant to this post, and provides you with additional information. I am not copying David’s post, I am not rewriting it, I am recommending it based on my own research.

There are some software programs that can help you find relevant content for your site based on keywords and other indicators you select. But you really don’t want to run these programs on autopilot. Don’t let some anonymous machine select and post content without your review and opinion. Without that, you might as well just give up your hard earned traffic – and your reputation – to the other guy. Remember, everything that appears on your web site represents YOU. If you recommend someone else’s content, always give your reason for the recommendation and your commentary. This also lets you review, and NOT publish content that doesn’t fit your business. You need to act as editor, and only publish what serves the interest of YOUR readers and YOUR business – not someone else’s. Make sure that your content is relevant to your readers – or don’t publish it!

Learning Building WordPress Web Sites the Easy Way

As I mentioned earlier, when it comes to website creation, automation using WordPress is the easiest and fastest way. And there are two great people I know who run great courses teaching how to quickly get websites up and running… and productive. Angela Wills and Christina Hills (rhyming last names is pure coincidence… Angela is in Canada, and Christina is in Southern California.) But location doesn’t matter because their courses run on the internet, so you can be anywhere to learn, and I recommend both of them.

So business process automation will easily help you get your web site built and keep it productive – while you spend more time with your family.

Great WordPress Themes

DanSig-02

Should You Automate Your Business Processes? Definitely!

Business_Process_AutomationThis is the first in a series of ten posts about the need to Automate Your Business Processes.

One of the nice things about the online portion of any business, whether online only or offline/online, is that you can automate business processes. Think about the many day in/day out tasks you do related to your online presence and business. Many are repetitive and tedious drudgery that none of us enjoy. They waste time and energy, but, of course, they’re critical to our success. Many times, if you automate business processes, those drudge-work tasks will run automatically, and you can focus on more productive uses of your time and your cost to your company.

Business Process Automation is Good!

The main benefit of automating your business processes is that it speeds up and streamlines your work. As you move tasks to automatic, you free yourself to focus on more important things. In addition to ‘thinking’ tasks, there are also routine tasks that need more concentration and critical analysis on your part. But when you automate some of the routine tasks, you can use more of your valuable time to add real value to your business.

And automation can eliminate much error – let’s face it, computers do routine tasks extremely reliably, and their thought processes don’t fatigue. We’ve all been up at the wee hours finishing tasks that must be done, but we’re only half awake doing them. (Side note here: when we produced business meetings and product introductions at Minolta, when we first started out, we occasionally had to stay up all night to complete them by presentation deadline. As far as I was concerned, if we had to stay up all night to complete a show on time, it was a sign of bad management – either mine, or someone else’s. So I “outlawed” all night work sessions, and we learned to complete our programs in more reasonable time frames. Our rested workers made fewer mistakes, both in production and in presentation… AND, we saved money by not using as many production hours.) Now, when many of our tasks are completed by software programs and online services, these mistakes tend to disappear.

One of the biggest benefits of automation is that processes become easily scalable… as your business grows, you can grow your various automated resources, many times without actually adding personnel. For instance, if you have to take product orders manually, a sudden increase in business can quickly overwhelm the business. But an automated sales system will easily scale up to meet the new demand… and easily scale back down during a seasonal slump.

Automate Some Business Process Tasks Easily

For almost every aspect of your online presence, there are automation tools available. Be careful because once you start using them, you’ll be astonished at how much more time you have for important tasks. Then you’ll wonder how in the world you ever got along without them. Here are some everyday tasks that lend themselves to business process automation:

  • Website Creation. There are many tools available to quickly and easily set up content management systems based web sites (like WordPress).
  • Search Engine Optimization (SEO). A lot of the drudge work of SEO many times can be handled by automated systems.
  • Content Creation. Content really shouldn’t be created automatically, but there are tools to help you shave some time off the process.
  • Sales Funnel Management. Want to spend more time analyzing your sales funnel and less time maintaining it? Automate it!
  • Email Marketing. A consistent, honest email presence is really impossible without an automated service like Constant Contact or iContact. They maintain lists, keep our CAN-SPAM compliant, and save you HOURS of work.
  • Social Media. There are many simple tools that help you quickly and easily manage your social media accounts and presence.
  • Testing and Analytics. This basic function of every good marketing program can easily be automated for split testing and analytics, taking less time to set up, and more time available for analysis.
  • Website Maintenance. Many tools can help you make sure your web site is preforming at peak performance, and make sure any applications you use are secure and up to date.
  • Payments. There are many ways to automate accepting payments for your products and services: recording the sales in meaningful ways (to keep your accountant happy), and accurately, automatically, and electronically, moving received funds from the payment system to your bank account.

Business Processes You Should Not Automate

By automating many of your business processes, you now have more free time to deal with the processes that should not be automated. Most important is your marketing and marketing strategy. This is where your hands on guidance is time well spent. Only YOU can determine your short and long term goals and how you measure them (remember, “If You Didn’t Measure it, You Didn’t Do It”) to assure that you meet those goals.

Building and maintaining relationships is another task that can’t be done by machines. Though you may use social media and other online marketing to stay in touch with your customer base, it’s critical to Be Real with them. Automated responses and replies feel, well, automated, and your customers know this… keep it real!

And, when you get right down to it, content creation should not be automated. As part of keeping it real, you content needs to be fresh and original. The same goes for content curation. Though there are software programs that search out and find content for you to re-purpose in your communications, you should always be involved in the content and, “add your two cents” before sharing with your readers. Make sure it’s relevant to them.

Remember, of course, automated systems, that can be so helpful, aren’t necessarily perfect. You’ll need to learn how to use each automation tool to make it sing and dance for you and your business, and this will take a little upfront time. But this time will be well spent and will pay dividends for years to come as you build your business and still have more time to make the business better, plus more time with your family.

DanSig-02

4 Tips for Greener Home Office Supplies

Reduce_Reuse_Recycle-WebIt has never been easier to find Eco-friendly greener home office supplies than it is today.  Office supply stores, both brick and mortar and click and order, offer wide selections made from recycled – and recyclable  materials. Here are some tips that will help you be good and green, and also be good to your budget, both for the home and for the office.

  1. Our commonly used disposable pens and pencils can often be replaced not with more disposable pens and pencils, but with refillable versions. Today’s disposable pens would be difficult to offset with refillable, but when these items are worn out, consider tossing the plastic barrel into your plastic recycle bin rather than the trash – headed for the landfill. But mechanical pencils with replacement leads are quite reasonable, and, in many cases, pretty classy. The nice part is, if you are taking notes in a meeting and the point breaks, just a quick top on top, and you have new tip to write with without the distraction of getting up and sharpening the pencil.
  2. Paper can be a major office expense, even for small offices like mine. Today, getting office paper with a high post-consumer content may save you money, but it is definitely good for the environment. One of the ways I save on paper is to buy by the case rather than one or two reams at a time. Not only is it usually less expensive this way, but it will save you trips to the office supply store to save on gas – a good thing… and it saves your productivity as you can refill your printer more quickly as you don’t need to trash your daily schedule to dash to the office supply store when you are against a deadline, the paper is right there. And if you have the space, when the recycled paper is on sale, stock up (again, if you have the space to store it).
    Also, instead of tossing out printing mistakes (I’ve certainly made my share), save them for printing out draft copies. I’ve always found that reading on the screen is good, but for the final look to see how something really flows, reading a printout is best… but it doesn’t always have to be on fresh paper – using the backside of used paper works fine. If you can, designate one paper tray just for scrap paper and keep it near the printer.  Your tests and mistakes can go directly into this tray, ready for use.  Quickly the “draft tray” into your printer and print away. Then, when it’s time for the final copy, switch to new stock and away you go.

Let’s talk a bit about proofreading. The first choice is always to have someone else proofread your documents – you will not notice mistakes because you put them there in the first place. But when that isn’t possible, here are a couple of helpful tips.

  1. Instead of printing out first drafts for proofreading, you can try reading your document directly from the computer screen… but read it out loud.  Though it’s very easy to miss mistakes when you’re scanning a document on the screen, reading aloud slows you down enough to let you easily see the errors – and since you are reading on the screen, you can fix it right then and there. Also, reading aloud lets you actually hear the rhythm of the copy closer to how your reader is likely to experience it. Again, since you are working on the computer for this proof run, you can fix spelling, punctuation, sentence structure and actual content to, “make it RIGHT!” So for these early proof runs, you save paper and time since you are working on screen where you can make corrections as necessary as you go.
  2. Now here’s a fun and effective trick. Once you’ve read and edited the copy so it flows and reads well on the screen, go ahead and print it out on your supply of “draft” paper. NOW… instead of reading it forwards, read it word for word backwards – that’s right, read it from the end to the beginning. You’ll be amazed how many spelling and punctuation errors you catch this way.

Once you’ve gone through your copy several times, forwards and backwards (maybe this is where the old adage came from!), print it out as close as possible to the final form. At this point, there should be very few, if any, mistakes, and you will have used a lot less paper… good for your bottom line, good for our planet.

When you are looking to buy “green” products to use in your office, look not only to items made from recycled materials, but also items made to be recycled… and items that are locally made. Here in the U.S., Guided Products have always prided themselves on doing exactly that, creating their products mostly from 85% post-consumer, 15% post-industrial materials. This means that not only is it better for the earth when you buy, you can be certain that when it is time to dispose of the products, you can safely put them into your own recycle stream with no worries. By all means, check them out.

Responsible, American Made Products - Guided

DanSig-02

Free Again on Amazon – Business and Baseball

Business_and_Baseball_Web_For Two Days ONLY, starting 22 October, 2013 around midnight California (USA) time, I just reopened my new Kindle book, Business and Baseball, at No Charge on Amazon. Free access to the book will end around midnight California (USA) time on 23 October, 2013.

About the book:

“Play ball!”

Baseball… America’s favorite pastime. Though there is much dispute about who actually “invented” baseball, what is undeniable is that this great game has given us a metaphor both for business, and, in many cases, life.

Many famous baseball quotes are now business and baseball quotes in both our day to day conversation, and our business communication.

We all know people whose business presentation, “Hit it out of the park.”

Of course, “You can’t win ‘em all!”

And all the famous Yogi Berra quotes that regularly add sparkle, wit, and clarity to our personal and business conversations: “It’s déjà vu all over again,” and “We were over-whelming underdogs,” or, “The other teams could make trouble for us if they win,” and, “Slump? I ain’t in no slump — I just ain’t hittin’.”

Then, Saul Steinberg reminds us that:

“Baseball is an allegorical play about America, a poetic, complex, and subtle play of courage, fear, good luck, mistakes, patience about fate, and sober self-esteem.”

Doesn’t this sound a lot like our day in and day out experiences as entrepreneurs and small business owners?

This easy, entertaining, and motivational small business philosophy book takes the small business owner and entrepreneur on a metaphorical ten inning journey (free baseball! [find out about free baseball in the book]) with business and baseball quotes and business lessons, looking at what we can learn from life on the baseball diamond to help us make our businesses work better.

This is an Amazon Kindle book not an actual printed volume, so you need a Kindle to read it… however, if you are not yet a Kindle owner, Amazon also has reader apps for Smart Phones, PCs, and Macs, etc., so you will easily be able to read it.

For all of you who read Business and Baseball, I certainly would appreciate an Amazon review. For all of you who are kind enough to review the book, post a comment here with a link to the review on Amazon, and, of course, a link to your own site… we all win.

Thanks in advance to all who read the book and review it, and… enjoy the game!

DanSig-02

Five Time Management Tips to Make Better Time Estimates

Manage_TimeHave you budgeted for a task to take one hour, and then it takes 2 hours… or 30 minutes?

Estimating and budgeting the time a task will take can be very important for our business. How can we learn to make better estimates of project time and keep our project costs on track?

As always, there are many ways to better manage your time estimates. Here are five good Project Time Management  Tips to put you on the high road to time estimate mastery.

  • Step 1: Personal Productivity Log. Start by not only estimating how long you think a project should you to complete, but also record the actual time taken. If you record these numbers in a spreadsheet, it is really easy to, “do the math” for all your projects to determine a “time factor multiplier”… the difference, between how long you estimate for a project, and how long it actually takes. This can be a plus or minus factor… greater or less than one.
    • For instance, you might estimate that it will take you 45 minutes to change the oil in your car, but, it actually takes you a full hour… 60 minutes. The time factor for this is 1.33 since it took 33%, or one third longer, to compete the oil change. On the other hand, if it actually takes you 30 minutes to complete the oil change, you would be under by one third for a time factor of 67%.
  • Step 2: Average your time factors out for the week. Most people actually see widely varied time factors from project to project. But averaging them out (easy with the numbers you have been recording in your spreadsheet), you’ll most likely come up with a number that is pretty consistent from week to week.
  • Step 3: Apply that time factor to large groups of tasks. As you well may guess, applying the Time Factor to individual tasks most likely won’t work well. But when you apply it to a week’s worth of scheduled tasks, you’ll see if you are over or under budgeting your time – before you start your work week, not half way through.
    • How much detail??? Experience and practice will help you avoid breaking down tasks into too small bites. To broad a break will lead to details being missed in the original estimate. Or, break tasks down too small, and you get lost in the weeds of detail and lose sight of the whole project.
  • Avoid time blocks that are too large. For most people, tasks that take one to two hours each seems to work well – but your experience may warrant larger or smaller blocks for your projects. How that works is that if you’re off by 25% for a one-hour task, you’re only 15 minutes off your schedule. But if you’re off by 25% for an 8-hour task, you’re 2 hours off schedule – so keep it tight.
  • Step 4: Goals, Goals, Goals. Without a set goal, you’ll never be certain when the task is complete, and this will mess up your time estimate.
  • For instance:
  • “Make sales calls.” – Not specific… you never know when you are done.
     “Make five sales calls.” – Perfect clarity on when the task is complete.
  • Here’s a trick to keep yourself on track: make sure you can easily verbalize the first and last actions of a process. If you know exactly how – and when you start and how – and when you finish, you’ll know exactly when to mark the task complete (and mark it in your log).
  • Don’t forget set-up/clean-up time. Maybe it only took you 15 minutes to change the oil in your car… but if you don’t budget getting your tools and then putting everything away, disposing of the oil, and washing up, you won’t have an accurate time: either estimate or actual.
  • Step 5: Keep your budget/actual records. As you repeatedly budget and complete tasks, your records – kept in your spreadsheet – will start giving you a much more accurate picture of how long tasks take… and make it easier to correctly budget your time. This accurate picture of the time it takes to complete various tasks in your business makes it easier to actually schedule – and accomplish more in each week.

Accurate time estimating is a valuable skill. Accurate project estimates help you be more productive and reliable. And your customers and clients will really enjoy getting their projects, “On Time and On Budget!” Good time management practices take practice, but they’re well worth the effort.

DanSig-02


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