Happy New Year! Here's to 2012!

I'll wish you all a Happy New Year with one of my favorite Irish blessings:

"May the road rise up to meet you, may the wind be ever at your back. May the sun shine warm upon your face and the rain fall softly on your fields. And until we meet again, May God hold you in the hollow of his hand.”

Happy New Year to all! Let's hope for a peaceful and fruitful 2012.


Resume Website: Sections

We explained the importance of a resume website in previous articles. We gave guidelines for creating one too. Now, have a look at the different sections that should be included in the website. The purpose of having a personalized website is to provide your professional information to general public and the potential recruiters as part of brand development. Hence, make sure the information presented in the resume website is relevant to your career and future prospects.    
Sections of a Resume Website

Home: Write a brief introduction of the resume website. Present an overview of the details the visitors will get to see on the site. Make sure you greet and welcome your visitors at first.

About: Introduce yourself to the visitors. You can mention your key qualifications, qualities and skills as an introduction. Also, mention your hobbies and ambitions.    
Resume: Present your resume here. Concentrate mainly on your experiences and key skills as that is the main objective of launching your personal website.  

Portfolio: You can present samples of your work in this section. Portfolio can include designs, write-ups, websites, etc as relevant to your work. It gives the recruiter a general idea about you work.    

Achievements: Mention your awards and achievements here. Emphasize on the work performed and how it was better than the competitors. This is sure to catch the recruiter's attention.

Personal Details: You can put details of your personal life. Mention you family background, hobbies, extracurricular activities. Refrain from including too many personal details. 

Contact Us: Make columns to write contact details of people who wish to get in contact with you. You can ask them to leave their name, contact number and email id so that you can get in touch with them.   

There are no stringent rules about designing your site. You can add many sections to the website as per your choice. But make sure the extravagant appeal of the website does not defeat its purpose. Maintain a crisp and professional appeal to the resume website to ensure a wider audience.   

My 10 Rules on Christmas

I grew up in a large Irish Catholic family where Christian holy days were a big deal both for their religious significance as well as the secular celebrations associated with some of them. 

Let me be very clear on one point.  My parents always, always, always instilled in us the religious importance of each and every holy day.  However, they wanted us to celebrate the fun associated with some holidays such as the legend of Santa Claus during the Christmas season and the legend of the Easter Bunny during the Easter season.  It was enjoyable for us as kids and never overwhelmed the religious signficance of the holy days.

Personally, Christmas has always been a special time of year to me.  I still feel like a kid at Christmas and I hope I always do.  I'm sad and disappointed that political correctness has turned the Christmas season into the "holiday" season and a Christmas tree into a "holiday" tree.  I hope that people who disdain Christmas due to its Christian roots will one day realize that Christmas isn't intended as an afront to anyone, but rather a global celebration of peace, love and goodwill.  Perhaps I'm naive, but I don't understand why anyone would find a kind gesture offensive, regardless of its religious roots.

I have a few fundamental rules about Christmas that I'd like to share with you.  I hope no one takes offense to them, though that's certainly your prerogative.

1.  Christmas is a celebration of the birth of Christ.  I'm not ashamed of it, nor should any Christian be.

2.  I am not offended by the secular celebration of Christmas.  It is still all about the spirit of giving.  I don't think Christ would object to giving someone else a gift regardless of whether one's motivation is religious or secular.

3.  I don't care if someone else is offended that I celebrate Christmas.  And I'm surprised and disappointed if someone is offended that I wish them a "Merry Christmas".  Christmas is about peace, love and goodwill towards men.  Anyone who is offended by the celebration of these virtues, regardless of their association to a particular faith, really needs to reexamine their true motives. 

4.  I don't care if someone else is offended that I call my tree a Christmas Tree.  If you want to call it a "holiday tree", that's fine.  But don't tell me or anyone else what we should call our trees.

5.  I am not the least bit offended if someone wishes me "Happy Hanukkuh", "Happy Kwanzaa" or "Blessed Ramadan".  I wouldn't be offended if a Pagan were to wish me "Happy Winter Solstice".   If their intentions are good, regardless of whether or not I personally celebrate those holidays, why should I be offended?

6.  Christmas is about giving.  The size or expense of the gift is irrelevant.  I'm human of course and I like nice gifts, but honestly, I get more joy from seeing the faces of people to whom I'm giving a really great gift; something I know they will enjoy.  Why is there a need to set a minimum or maximum cost on giving someone something?  If a gift recipient is judging the value of the gift based on its cost, then shame on them.  That completely defeats the spirit of the season.  I know several people who approach Christmas gifts this way and I just don't get it.

7.  Those who demand respect for their non-belief in the spirit of Christmas, should at the same time respect the beliefs of others.  I was always taught that respect is earned, not granted upon demand.  I don't care if someone doesn't want to celebrate Christmas, but I do care when someone else says that my choice to celebrate it is somehow infringing upon their rights not to.  Don't celebrate.  It's that simple.

8.  Christmas lights are not optional.  They are mandatory during the Christmas season and the more lights you display, the better!  And none of those little tiny white lights.  I'm talking the big multi-colored outdoor lights that can be seen from the moon.  Garish is good.  Yup, that's an unbreakable rule.

9.  Give.  Others are not as fortunate as many of us.  If you can't give during other times of year, give at Christmas.  There are few things more heartbreaking than the face of a small child who thinks s/he's a bad kid because Santa didn't give him/her a Christmas present.

10.  Celebrate loudly and celebrate often.  Don't hide your appreciation for the good in mankind.  Shout it from the rooftops.  It brings joy to so many people.  Why should it be contained?

Merry Christmas everyone!  I hope that 2012 is a happy and peaceful year for you and for the world.

How to make a Personalized Resume Website?

Making a personalized resume website sounds like a big deal at first. However, once you take up the task and understand the nuances of it, you will begin to enjoy your work and take pride in what you have made. To help you in this task of building a website, dedicated towards your professional life, we have provided here a few guidelines.

Get a domain name – Choose a domain that represents you to the world. Preferably, it should include your name. You can add hyphens, dots or initials to your name. It is advisable to opt for a ' .com' domain.

Design the template – Design an attractive yet professional template for your website. Refrain from using harsh colors and decorations. Keep the format simple to allow users to navigate through the website and gather relevant information.

Make sections – Divide the website content into sections. Avoid making the website cluttered. Introduce different segments in the website.  Dedicate different segments for personal and professional information.       

Maintain sufficient content – Ensure each page in every section has sufficient information. It may disappoint the reader to find sparse information. Club two sections together in case you feel you do not have much to write about.    

Ensure Security - Make certain you do not reveal any private information that can put you in trouble. Do not give passwords, information about the security questions or any information that will invite hacking. 

Track Visitors – Design the settings to track the visitors who searched for information about you and went through your website. This will help you get a strong idea about your audiences.

Updating the website – Your work does not get over by hosting the site and uploading the content. It is important to update information on the site with time. It assures the reader about the authenticity of the information provided on the site.

These tips will work as a quick start while launching your personalized resume website. There are various things one can do to improve the appearance and reach of the website, after the website is launched. We will keep posting about the same in the future.  Till then, use these tips and launch your very own resume website.    

Marketing Trends for 2012

I love the team at eConsultancy who were once again kind enough to share their five key marketing trends for 2012.  I always enjoy reading them, and have added a few of my own at the bottom of their predictions. 

Let me know what you think will be the key marketing trends in the New Year and whether you agree with those listed.

1. Advertising-as-a-service
Traditional advertising must evolve. Recent research from Havas Media revealed that consumers are no longer enamored with the advertising they see, and feel that “just one in five brands has a notable positive impact on their quality of life.” The truth is, consumers are no longer interested in traditional advertising being‘pushed’ at them and are increasingly switching-on to communication channels that provide a service.

2. Connected devices
One of the most significant developments for 2012 is without a doubt the emergence of connected TVs and even more significantly, how consumers will interact via second screens. According to Nielsen's 2011 mobile connected devices report, 70% of tablet users and 68% of smartphone users use their device while watching TV, usually in a social sense and more often than not this social activity isn’t tied to the programme they’re watching. This is the untapped marketplace that savvy advertisers and brands in 2012 should create compelling content for.

3. Mobile
Over the past year, mobile devices have led both technological and marketing innovation. Google states that 79% of smartphone owners use their mobiles to aid in shopping and 74% make a purchase as a result. Smartphones have revolutionised how we interact with content on-the-go and in 2012 the mobile device will continue to play a significant role.

4. Multichannel Engagement
We’re now entering an era where almost any device or surface can have an internet connection, and as such, video can be displayed almost anywhere. So prevalent has video become as the preeminent communication tool of our age that Cisco's Visual Networking Index shows that by 2015, 1m minutes of video will cross the internet every second. Already brands are moving toward this kind of engagement, this is only just the beginning for multichannel marketing in 2012.

5. The Amazon Effect
While it’s not a trend per se, I wanted to highlight the growth of the dominant media force that is Amazon. Its platform is now utilised by many brands to boost their own e-commerce and the upcoming Kindle Fire is being heralded as the first serious threat to Apple’s all-conquering iPad. Effectively communicating with ‘switched-on’ consumers isn’t a stretch for Amazon and it’s already proven its agile organisational structure works. Amazon constantly evolves its business model to adapt to the marketplace and brands that look beyond their original heritage will offer customers unique and bespoke services.

I believe all five of the trends above are on the mark.  However, I'd like to add three more 2012 marketing trends of my own:

1QR Code-mania
As if we didn't seen this coming!  For the past several years, the primary question for marketers has been, "How to harness the power of social media".  In 2012, that will change to, "How to harness the power of QR codes"; and it's already begun.  A QR code is a low cost, low resource marketing channel that can effectively utilize existing content.  The biggest challenge for marketers will be identifying content that will entice smart phone users enough to scan the retailer's QR codes while keeping the consumer engaged.  Manufacturers are already developing and producing smartphones with default QR code scanners which will make the codes a much hotter information gathering tool in 2012.

2.  The return of cash driven CSR
This is great news for charitable agencies.  As the first 2012 marketing trend identified above by eConsultancy indicates, consumers are increasingly looking for some community benefit from their purchasing options.  However, this will extend beyond the direct to consumer purchase.  It will have a much greater impact on CSR initiatives.  For the past several years, businesses have been adopting a "spend less, volunteer more" CSR philosophy.  Unfortunately, those efforts haven't really produced the type of community goodwill that most businesses had anticipated internally or externally.  Why?  Because volunteer days don't generate sustainable results, everyone is doing it, and far too few charities can manage a deluge of 100 volunteers one day only to see them disappear the next.  A "day of service" sounds good, but simply isn't practical anymore.  What tends to have a greater and more sustainable impact on social causes is the infusion of cash, as a growing number of charitable agencies are forced to shut their doors resulting from the global economic crisis.  Financial contributions can produce good PR and measurable results.  Therefore, while investments may not be as strong as they were around the turn of the century, you'll begin to see an increasing number of businesses going back to a more cash focused CSR strategy.  However, their spending will likely target programs and services that can generate long term, self sustaining and measurable impact.

3. Greater government involvement in advertising and media
Sorry folks, this is the inevitable result of bigger government.  Over the past decade we've seen stronger regulations on advertising in schools, stadiums, digital; and on ads for tobacco and those targeting children, among others.  Now there are calls for government arbitration in private, marketplace negotiations between cable service providers and local TV broadcasters on retransmission consent.  Whether you agree with these regulations or not, they aren't going away and in all likelihood will only increase in 2012 and beyond.

Let me know what you think of the trends identified above and if you have any to add to the list.

Here's to a terrific 2012!!

*The opinions shared on this blog are solely those of its author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions or policies of Goodwill of Greater Washington, its affiliates or supporters.

Depression: The holidays and beyond...

Image:  seattlest.com
If the Hallmark holiday specials and "A Charlie Brown Christmas" are to be believed, the holiday season makes us feel connected, appreciated, loved, cherished, grateful, hopeful and happy, and reminds us of what's really important.  Getting together with family, donating one's time and money to those less fortunate, and exchanging gifts are ways to express this mindset. 

Want a competitive advantage on your next job interview? Just wear a suit!

A few months ago I interviewed a dozen young professionals for a mid level management position I was trying to fill.  Out of the 12 candidates I met, none wore a business suit and tie.  Zip, zero, zilch, nada!  Let me repeat myself - I interviewed 12 people looking for a corporate job and not a single one of them wore a suit and tie (or a suit, if a woman).  I was shocked!

Then just a couple of weeks ago, a professional colleague of mine who is an adjunct professor at a major university asked if I would help her out by conducting mock interviews with students in her 300 level marketing class.  Mind you, these are students getting ready to graduate from college who have been given the unique opportunity to meet with several business executives (there were three of us conducting the interviews) to hone their interviewing skills.  And out of 30 or more students in the class, only three of them wore business suits.  THREE!!

Needless to say, I pointed out this personal brand failure to every student I interviewed who was not in a suit. 

While I understand that the purpose of mock interviews is to try and help the students improve their interviewing skills, I was amazed at how many of them actually believed that their business casual, or in several cases, overly casual attire, was appropriate for an interview, even if only a mock interview.  Based on the interviews I had conducted several months earlier, this was not an isolated incident and appeared to be a trend. 

According to JobMagician.com, one of the top three ways to turn off an executive recruiter is to dress unprofessionally.

I was taught at a very young age that you dress for the part.  If you want a job as a manager, you need to dress as a manager.  If you want to be viewed as a professional, you need to dress like a professional.  I remember wearing a suit to my first interview at a fast food chain when I was 15 years old.

If the corporate policy at the company where an applicant wishes to work is casual attire, then the applicant can change his or her clothing once s/he gets the job.  But to assume that this type of presentation is acceptable during the interviewing process, when first impressions are critical, is simply ignorant.  The candidates and students I interviewed were not poor 15 year old kids or uneducated adults. 

Were they taught this by their parents, by the schools?  Did they make this flawed decision on their own?

Many of the students and job candidates I met had excellent credentials.  However, those who took the time to dress appropriately for their interviews were given stronger consideration.  Wearing a suit displays professionalism, respect and proper etiquette.

All things being equal, the candidate who dresses professionally for an interview will always win the job over the candidate who doesn't.

* The opinions shared on this blog are solely those of its author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions or policies of Goodwill of Greater Washington or its affiliates.

Need for a Personalized Resume Website

Paper resumes!! Online resume posts!! And now Personalized Resume Websites!!

The world is changing fast and you have to change with it. The means and manners of job search have gone through tremendous changes over the years. The need to stay ahead of competition and to earn opportunities has made it vital for the job seekers to reach out to the recruiters promptly and effectively. As discussed earlier, resume website plays a key role in helping you draft an impressive resume. But how about having a website or a blog of you own? How about a platform that reflects your personality and puts forth your opinions?

Brand development is the new mantra for job search. Brand development is not only about products, services and organizations anymore. It is about individuals too. Connecting with the general audiences by way of websites, blogs and social networking is important. It helps to make a nobody into somebody. Every individual starts his blog/website and expresses his views about a topic. It could be your opinion about every day affairs, about your personal life, something philosophical or some research analysis related to your area of expertise. One can even express details about their new hobby and how they are faring in it. Writing blogs as way of expressing your thoughts, talent, ideas and knowledge is referred to as brand development.
Whenever any recruiter scans your resume, he is interested in finding more information about you. He searches for information regarding your work experience, personality, interests, etc to judge the personality of the candidate and his suitability towards the organization. As is the norm, the recruiter researches on the search engines and finds out more about the social and corporate life of the candidate. Instead of giving others a chance for speaking about you and forming an opinion, why not do it yourself? This is where the websites and blogs come in to the picture.  

A personalized resume website gives a sneak peek into the thoughts of the candidate and acts as a medium of expression. Website is a good opportunity to present your knowledge, skills and research abilities to larger audiences. Recruiters get an idea about the candidate's abilities and the potential to bring laurels for the organization. It is obvious that such a candidate will get a preference over other applicants on the way to achieve the job.
So, gear up for the task and plan the strategies to develop your personalized resume website.  

Assertive or Aggressive...which type are you?

Many people confuse being assertive with being aggressive.  For the record, these are two completely different behaviors--one promotes positive, healthy self-esteem and mutually satisfying relationships, while the other promotes conflict and difficult relationships and destroys one's sense of well-being.  Being assertive demonstrates confidence and maturity; aggressiveness indicates insecurity

Beyond Textbooks and Exams: Learning Soft Skills on Campus

"Emotional competence is the single most important personal quality that each of us must develop and access to experience a breakthrough.  Only through managing our emotions can we access our intellect and our technical competence. An emotionally competent person performs better under pressure."  --Dave Lennick, Executive VP, American Express Financial Advisers

At the risk of stating the

Introduction to Resume Website


Most of us belong to the Google and Wikipedia generation. We approach the internet for any reason or purpose. In this scenario, can we leave the internet behind while taking the most prominent step of our careers? I am referring to the primary step of job search – resume writing.
While searching for tips and formats for drafting a resume, we come across several resume websites. These resume websites are launched with the aim of assisting the job seekers draft an impressive resume. Following this endeavor, websites offer assistance on all aspects of resume writing. They help you craft a remarkable template for the resume, present information in concise language and maintain a professional approach towards the job search.  Additionally, websites acquaint job seekers on the several resume writing formats that one can adopt, suitable to their career profile.
I believe referring to a resume website proves beneficial for all job seekers. Let’s face the real situation!! There is a good possibility that your resume and cover letter gets ignored by the recruiter owing to its monotonous presentation or irrelevant contents. It is important that your resume stands out from the hundreds of resume that the recruiter scans every day. Give a unique identity to the resume, adopt an impressive format, personalize it and add buzzwords within the resume to ensure it reaches to the top of the stack of resumes.
To avail the benefits of a resume website, it is important to choose the website and the resume that suits your requirements the best. And how do you do that? It is simple. Research for different resume websites and study its contents. Select a website that provides assistance on resumes as well as cover letters. This is vital as your application would be incomplete with both the documents. Search for websites that offer resume building services where a resume template is customized as per your career profile. Most important factor to check is the presence of information relating to your domain and profile. Otherwise in spite of finding a good website it will not be of any use for you.
We plan to provide further details to job seekers on writing a resume, choosing the right websites and planning their job search. So keep checking for our next post ! 

Top Ten Tips for Developing Soft Skills

No doubt your goal is to complete your college degree and get a job that you will enjoy.  As mentioned in my last blog entry, these days you need to be more than technically skilled to make it in the workforce.  Here are some practical tips for building and strengthening soft skills while working on your degree; doing so will better position yourself for career success.

1.  Strong work ethic

Should Nonprofits Operate Like Businesses?

I recently read an article in the Wall Street Journal debating whether charitable organizations should operate more like businesses. 

Charles R. Bronfman and Jeffrey R. Solomon, chairman and president, respectively, of the Andrea and Charles Bronfman Philanthropies, presented the "yay" argument, while Michael Edwards, a senior fellow at Demos offered the "nay" argument. 

In a nutshell, Bronfman and Solomon argue that running philanthropies more like businesses will improve efficiencies, accountability and mission delivery.  Edwards counters that running a nonprofit like a business will have a negative impact on the poorest populations, eliminate the creativity that is necessary to make a nonprofit effective, and result in more accountability to corporate donors than to service constituents.

Personally, I think Edwards misses the mark by a long shot.

His position that an open ended and creative approach to nonprofit management is more appropriate than a more business like approach is, in my opinion, an invitation for fraud, embezzlement, lack of accountability and poor governance.  Efficiency and “creativity” are not mutually exclusive.

Additionally, NGOs that don't show a “return on investment” in the form of service delivery are organizations that have a very limited future.  Every donor, whether it be a large corporate funder or an individual dropping five dollars into a kettle, expects that his donation will be used efficiently and effectively.  To imply that charities that don't operate with a traditional business model are somehow less beholden to their donors than they are to their consituents, is quite simply false...thank God!  I don’t think there is a charity on earth that would agree with Edward's suggestion that a nonprofit's only obligation is to the population it serves.  Doing so would basically be an admission that the organization isn't attending to its mission, because the donor and the recipient of services both have the same expectation:  fulfillment!  If a charitable agency can't prove it is working towards that end, it shouldn't exist.

Edwards offers Occupy Wall Street as a successful example of the "creative" model.  To me, this is just absurd. One of the primary reasons the movement is starting to fall apart is because its message is so unclear (in addition to charges of financial mismanagement, drug use and crime amongst its ranks).  There is little, if any, actual infrastructure and even fewer common goals behind the movement.  Any business or nonprofit that replicates this model wouldn’t last a year in today’s competitive environment.  Occupy Wall Street is proving to be a perfect case study against Edward's suggested approach.  Getting attention doesn't always equate to success.

Edwards also goes on to paint the civil rights movement as a shining example of how the grass roots, creative approach is best suited for change.  In my opinion, one of the biggest reasons the civil rights movement was so dramatically effective was because it evolved into a well organized and well planned effort.  It had a visible and strong leadership structure, an unambiguous cause, and very clear, consistent and measurable objectives.

I don’t think that anyone would disagree that most social causes start at the grass roots level. Someone, somewhere feels passionate enough about an issue to begin playing an active role in facilitating change. Thus, a grass roots movement is born.  But that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t take a strategic and planned approach to the matter.

I once had a professor in graduate school who was very fond of the phrase, “It’s not the plan that counts; it’s planning that counts”, meaning a good plan isn’t etched in stone. A good plan is one that allows for flexibility in order to adapt to a changing environment.  To be a smart business or nonprofit, one needs to be flexible.  So for Edwards to claim that a business-like approach to running a nonprofit agency eliminates that flexibility, is both myopic and naïve…in my opinion.

**The opinions shared on this blog are solely those of its author and do not necessarily represent the opinions of Goodwill of Greater Washington, its supporters or affiliates.

The Customer Experience Often Begins & Ends Online

Your prices are well researched and fair.  Your product presentation, functionality and distribution strategies are flawless.  You have very talented managers and associates who have been well trained in customer service, and your marketing team believes in the "customer is always right" philosophy.  So now you feel you've addressed all of your customer experience issues and will surely impress, convert and retain customers, right?

Hmmm...not so fast.  In today's digital world far more consumers have their first interaction with a product, service or business online.  They're visiting your website, Facebook page, mobile app, email newsletter or other digital platform before they ever step foot in your store or pick up the phone to call you.  And if they have a bad experience online, it's probably the last interaction they ever have with you. 

According to Neilson, 70% of online social network users shop online.  Digby.com says, "67% of consumers will use their smartphones to find store locations, 59% to compare prices, 51% to obtain product information, 46% to check product availability, 45% to shop online, 41% to find and use coupons, and 40% to scan bar codes".  And the figures are only growing.

Do you make it easy for customers to reach someone who can help them?  Remember, online shoppers aren't confined by brick and mortar hours of operation.  While this might seem elementary to most B2C retailers these days, many are still focused primarily on their websites, but haven't spent much time managing their social media and/or digital channels.  Additionally, more B2B consumers are using social media to research products and services as well. 

According to a recent study by Accenture, "only 8% of B2B companies would describe their social media usage as extensive. This is in contrast to the 65% of respondents who indicated that social media is extremely or very important."

Far too often, businesses still judge social media success purely by the direct and immediate impact it has on the bottom line, rather than looking at it as a customer service tool that helps ensure brand loyalty.  It is a point of direct engagement with a consumer or customer and provides a powerful and unique opportunity to show them that you appreciate and value their input and feedback.  Those who aren't viewing social media as a large part of the customer experience are still missing the boat.  But they won't be for long, because if present trends continue, they'll either be forced to adopt or forced to close shop.

So, how is your online customer experience?

Living Social Looking to Change its Business Model

In a recent interview with the Washington Business Journal, LivingSocial CEO  Tim O’Shaughnessy said, “We don’t view ourselves as a daily deals business, we view ourselves as a local commerce business”.  According to the author, O'Shaughnessy's comment hints at a possible shift in the LivingSocial business model.

O'Shaughnessy envisions a future where LivingSocial becomes an online seller of goods and services beyond just its daily deals.

The story points out that Amazon (a LivingSocial investor) is seeing tremendous growth outside of its books, movie and music sales.  Could Living Social soon become a competitor in this space...or a partner?

With free and geo-targeted "special offer" sites like Foursquare starting to gain some momentum as a self managed retail resource, and QR codes providing greater reach for retailers hoping to promote discounts at little to no cost, perhaps O'Shaughnessy is weighing a shift in LivingSocial's business model more as a mitigation strategy than a growth opportunity. 

There are a growing number of LivingSocial competitors popping up every day with new and unique competitive advantages that chip away at the huge market share that LivingSocial and Groupon now control.  Take recently launched Recoup for example.  Recoup has a daily deal model similar to LivingSocial's but with a more philanthropic mission.  Every purchase made on Recoup benefits a charitable agency of the consumer's choice.  The businesses that are selling on Recoup can also contribute a portion of each sale to a charitable cause.  Additionally, Recoup doesn't charge businesses up front unlike LivingSocial and Groupon.  In today's very socially conscious consumer culture and skeptical business culture, Recoup may be well positioned to take a measurable bite out of its high priced competitors.

O'Shaughnessy's comments are interesting.  What will be even more interesting is what is to follow.

Interpersonal Abuse: You Don't Have to Be Hit to Be Hurt

Image:  layoutsparks.com
Relationships.  A popular subject of discussion with afternoon television-pseudo-psychologists, talk shows, movies and countless self-help books.  Relationships can be all-at-once exhilarating, frustrating, comforting and painful...reason being that we make these ties with others who are, like us, always in a process of changing and growing.  What is of particular

"Those who CAN...do. Those who CAN'T...teach." Not so fast!

"Those who can, do.  Those who can't, teach."  

I'm sure you've all heard that famous adage.  I used to use it myself!  Not anymore.

A few months ago I was following a discussion on LinkedIn about why many universities don't yet offer marketing classes in social media.  The majority of comments in the discussion seemed to be in agreement:  That many tenured marketing professors don't know much about social or digital media because neither existed when the educators were learning about marketing, and very few of them use digital platforms themselves. 

However, social and digital media can't continue to be ignored as new marketing channels.  So where do universities go to find teachers who can educate students on their use in the business world?  And if universities continue to disregard social media, where do students go to learn about it as a marketing tool?  The second of these two questions is easy, since students are doing it already.  They attend professional workshops through organizations like the American Marketing Association that offer programs on social media almost monthly!  With the cost of student memberships in professional associations being very reasonable, more and more scholars are turning to professional practitioners to educate them on new strategies and innovative models that they can't learn in the classroom.

But what about the answer to the first question:  Where do universities get teachers to educate their students on the use of digital and social media?  The answer is... the same:  Adjunct faculty - professional practitioners who are successfully using new channels to enhance marketing strategies, improve the customer experience and generate new revenue streams every day.

Real world experience is the best teacher.  Case studies can provide excellent examples of both expected and unexpected scenarios.  Marketing professionals can read through suggested text books to identify whether the content is accurate or a bunch of philosophical garbage, and thus focus on those pieces that will provide the greatest value to the students.

I'm not dismissing the importance of a knowledgeable professor.  Clearly business professionals are not trained educators and can't always provide the nurturing, context and perspective that a skilled teacher can offer.  But with technology literally moving at the speed of light, sometimes an experienced grunt is more valuable than a highly educated officer.

Are QR Codes ready for primetime?

According to a recent article in Biz Report, "a survey conducted by research firm Russell Herder found that over half of repeat QR Code scanners only 'sometimes' feel they have received something of value for their efforts."

The article adds that when asked if they felt scanning a QR code was worthwhile, consumers responded:

• Always 3%
• Usually 28%
• Sometimes 52%
• Rarely 15%
• Never 2%

These findings don't necessarily indicate that QR codes don't work.  They only highlight that some businesses are using them effectively while others are not.  Even though QR codes are being used successfully in Europe, the technology is still new to retailers in the U.S.  So, much like other forms of digital marketing, there is going to be a learning curve.  Retailers just need to learn where the benefit threshold is for scanners, while showing patience as adoption of the technology attempts to takes root. 

We have experimented with QR codes at Goodwill of Greater Washington (GGW).  We post flyers in our stores with QR codes linking back to GGW's Foursquare site where users receive an exclusive discount.  It's a faster way of accessing the Foursquare offer without having to log onto the site through traditional channels.  While the scans have been limited so far, it doesn't cost us anything and provides an additional opportunity for customers to benefit from shopping at Goodwill.

We also recently added a QR code to a targeted direct mail piece that was delivered to several thousand college students living on the campus of a university near one of our new stores.  The DM piece offered a substantial discount, and if the student scanned the QR code, the discount increased by 10%.  The campaign dropped the first day of the fall semester to a technologically savvy crowd.  We expected a high redemption rate.  Instead it was negligable. 

We have some theories as to why the effort wasn't effective, and we'll adapt the next time we use QR codes in a similar campaign.

We've not given up on QR codes yet since there is no cost as we experiment and learn, but we understand that initial results are not going to be as strong as we had originally hoped, even with a tech savvy audience looking for bargains.

I think the key words when experimenting with QR codes are, "patience", "understanding" and "value".  Be patient with the ROI, and be sure to understand your audience while maximizing the expected value.

*The opinions shared on this blog are solely those of its author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Goodwill of Greater Washington or its affiliates.

Taking Personal Responsibility: The Power of You

Did you ever stop to think that everything you are or ever will be is completely up to you? That you are where you are because of who you are?  Truth is, everything that exists in your adult life exists because of you, your behavior, words, decisions and actions.  For example, you are a college student because you made the decision to pursue a degree, filled out the application, ordered your

Parallel thinking: Efficient or a waste of time?

Are you a parallel thinker?  Do you practice parallel thinking in your office?  Have you ever heard of parallel thinking?

I hadn't, until someone shared a book with me and suggested I read it.  The book is titled Six Thinking Hats by Edward de Bono

The basic concept behind the Six Thinking Hats is to separate and define certain types of thinking, so that everyone in the brainstorming group is thinking the same way at the same time, or thinking "in parallel".  For example, everyone thinks logically together, and then they think creatively together.  Theoretically, you eliminate the challenges that can result from one person thinking logically, while at the same time another person is thinking emotionally and still another is thinking creatively.

Each colored hat represents a style of thinking:

White hat = neutral and objective, only concerned with facts and figures.  Details needed to answer questions or identify questions that need to be answered

Red hat = Emotional response.  When an idea is presented, each individual is expected to share his or her immediate emotional reaction without explanation, good, bad or indifferent.  This sets the stage for the rest of the Thinking Hat process.

Black hat = Careful and cautious.  This is the opportunity for everyone in the group to play devil's advocate.  In other words, what problems will or may arise from the idea being considered?

Yellow hat = Positive and optimistic.  What are the potential benefits that may result from the idea being presented?  Identify all the good!

Green hat = Growth, creativity and new ideas.  Now that you understand the good, the bad and have all the data and facts available, how can you adjust, improve or implement the idea to maximize effectiveness and generate desired results.  (NOTE: you may realize that an idea isn't worth implementing because it has too little upside or poses barriers too large to overcome)

Blue hat = The organizing hat.  This ensures that everyone understands the objectives, the process and the action steps.

I recently spent two days at a conference where we practiced the Six Thinking Hats process.  In my opinion, it has great potential for creating clarity and unity of thought.  However, it isn't as easy as it may appear.  Participants will try to shift back and forth between "hats" and that has to be constantly managed or the process breaks down.  Also, ideas have to be very clear (i.e. "A four day work week" versus "a shorter work week").  The more vague or philosophical the idea, the more questions it creates and the less it answers.

It is a natural extension of the traditional detour creating, brainstorming process, but gets everyone thinking in unison instead of arguing in support of their preexisting opinions.

If you have a chance, read the book. I think you'll find it interesting, and it will take no more than a couple of hours.  Once you do, I'd love to hear your opinions.

Have you seen a presentation in Prezi yet? You should!

Are you tired of the same old, boring Power Point presentations that hurt your eyes and would serve more effectively as a sleeping aid? 

Then you need Prezi!

A colleague of mine turned me onto it.  She saw a presentation created in Prezi and recommended I check it out.  And am I glad I did.  I just created my first presentation in Prezi and have spent the morning showing it off to my colleagues (yeah, I know, it takes very little to get me excited...).

According to its own website, Prezi is "a cloud-based presentation software that opens up a new world between whiteboards and slides. The zoomable canvas makes it fun to explore ideas and the connections between them. The result: visually captivating presentations that lead your audience down a path of discovery."  And in my opinion, that doesn't do it justice.

Prezi allows the user to post an entire presentation (including images and videos) on one canvas, while offering the unique ability to change perspective.  You can add text that is so small it isn't visible to the naked eye, until it comes time to zoom in on it during your presentation, which it does flawlessly.  It offers a navigation system that allows you to place content anywhere on the canvas and move back and forth at will.  It even recognizes when you've posted content sideways or upside down for design purposes, and will compensate during the presentation by rotating the canvas.   It adds life, color and motion to your presentations unlike anything you can do in Power Point.   Check out a few examples!

Like many online services, the basic version is free, and the more upgrades you want, the more you pay.  However, even the basic version is pretty cool, and the cost to upgrade is very reasonable, ranging from $59 a year to $159 a year.

Call me odd, but I can't wait to give my first presentation in Prezi.  I think the audience will find it more interesting than the content! 

Try it out.  Let me know what you think...

Angry Birds: Mindless entertainment for Type A personalities

OK, admit it...if you own an iPhone, an iPad or an Android device, you have purchased Angry Birds, or one of its sister games, Angry Birds - Seasons or Angry Birds, Rio.  I admit, I have all of them, and I can't wait for the next iteration to be released.

Developed by Rovio Mobile, it has become a global sensation, now entering the Chinese market, with expected downloads of 100 million in China by the end of 2011 according to Brandchannel.com.

Angry Birds is one of the most mindless games I've ever come across, yet I find myself completely addicted to it.  Good thing I don't bring my iPad to the office!

For the few of you who aren't familiar with Angry Birds, the game basically pits a team of birds, each with a special feature or skill (some drop bombs, some go really fast, some split into multiple birds, etc), against a strange legion of bodyless pigs, who apparently have taken over the bird santuaries.  The player and his team of birds participate in a series of missions to oust the pigs from each of these sanctuaries by destroying the structures and killing all the pigs.  The more destruction you cause and the less birds you use in the completion of each mission, the more points you score.

Sound stupid?  That's because it is!  Yet it is undeniably fun to play and I'm convinced it's designed for Type A personalities like mine who simply can't put it down until they've completed all of the missions. 

Even worse, once I've completed all of the missions, I need to go back and complete each the missions again collecting three stars on all of them (the highest score possible).  Then I have to go back and find all the hidden golden trophies (which give you a few more "special missions")!  Ahhhhh!!!  Help me!

Now I know what you're saying:  The mission of this blog is to discuss marketing news and trends.  So what does my experience with Angry Birds have to do with marketing, you ask?  Nothing I guess, other than highlighting the success Angry Birds developers have had in creating successful brand loyalty, brand extension and brand alignment...through brand addiction.  A simple, mindless game for Type A personalities has become one of the most successful mobile products ever developed.  I'd say that's a pretty good marketing story.

And it also gives me a forum to share my Angry Birds frustration.  Hey, it's my blog.

Extreme Customer Service under Extreme Duress!

I recently returned from a family trip to the Outer Banks of North Carolina.  For those of you unfamiliar with the area, it is a beautiful stretch of beach along an outer band of barrier islands just off the coast of North Carolina.  It is also the area where Hurricane Irene came ashore one week before our vacation.

As a result, I was anticipating that the home we were renting would be severely damaged or uninhabitable, and was already making plans to take my family elsewhere.  However, I was pleasantly surprised when I contacted our realtor only to receive good news about the condition of the home, and impeccable customer service during what must have been very difficult days for the realtors both personally and professionally.

We booked our rental property through a company called Village Realty in Nags Head, NC.  When I called them a few days after the hurricane, I would have completely understood if they were neglectful in answering the phone, short in their responses, or generally didn't provide much in the way of basic customer service.  Instead, what I received was a warm greeting, gracious assistance, and quick and helpful answers to my questions. 

These people were probably inundated with phone calls all week from renters and home owners, while at the same time working hard to resolve dozens of issues with the properties they manage.  I'm sure they were also handling all of these challenges while dealing with potential damage to their own homes and property, wrestling with poor communications infrastructure, and navigating some very dangerous or impassable roads.  Every day leading up to our arrival, Village Realty was updating its website and Facebook page with valuable information for owners and visitors. I checked them both daily.   Simply put, I was amazed at how helpful they were under such stressful circumstances.

When we arrived in Nags Head, our house was not only ready and waiting for us in excellent condition, it was available hours before we were due to check-in.  Village Realty even called me on my cell phone while I was in the supermarket with my family to notify us that the house was ready for occupancy.  When we drove up to the front door, someone was already there cleaning out the hot tub so we could use it that afternoon. 

It wouldn't have surprised me if the realtor made us wait several hours or a day to check-in. But they didn't.  Village Realty went out of its way to ensure that our vacation was as pleasant as possible, even though it was probably one of the most difficult weeks of they've ever experienced.    Now THAT dear readers...is customer service!

I hope that I can emulate Village Realty and provide the quality of customer care they provided me and my family.  Therefore, I want to give them a plug.  They've earned it.  If you're ever renting a home on the Outer Banks of North Carolina, call Village Realty at 800-548-9688.  They are good, good people, and have converted me into a loyal customer. 

While Digital Media is the Future, Traditional Media is Still the King

I am inundated daily with information on how to use digital media as a marketing tool.  And for the record, I'm one of the biggest digital and social media advocates you'll ever find.  While the channels and platforms will likely continue to change over time, digital media usage isn't going away.  Therefore, it should continue to be a part of any integrated marketing campaign.  However, with a few exceptions, it should still only play a supporting role...for now.

To reach the largest number of consumers in your targeted population, traditional media, like TV and radio, is still King.  I wouldn't even rule out "print" if we can still call it that.  While print in its traditional form (paper) is on its last legs, traditional print content is still available online, where its usage is quickly growing.

According to findings from a recent study conducted by Barkley, in partnership with Service Management Group and The Boston Consulting Group, to no one's surprise, Millenials are substituting the use of traditional TV and print with more online media consumption.  However, one must note that Millenials are STILL watching TV and reading articles; they're just doing it more on their laptops.

Additionally, while only 26% of Millenials indicate that they watch more than 20 hours of traditional live TV each week, 49% of Non-Millenials do.

And while the face of traditional radio is also changing with the advent of iTunes and Pandora, traditional radio is still the preferred medium of choice in the car with Gen Xers and Gen Yers. Additionally, the use of online radio has almost doubled since 2006 going from 1.3% to 3.7% of all radio usage, according to SNL Kagan.  And in many cases, online radio is nothing more than an audio stream of terrestrial radio content.

So while the face of traditional media may look a little different, its viability as an advertising channel is still very strong!  Continue to study and integrate social and digital media as a marketing tool, but don't throw all of your eggs in that basket just yet.

You too can make a profit off a natural disaster!

Who would have ever guessed that Washington, DC and the majority of the American northeast would experience an earthquake and a hurricane in the same week?!

Are the planets aligning?  Is the Mayan calendar coming to an end?  Are cats and dogs sleeping together?

Whatever the case may be, from a marketing standpoint, it is creating an opportunity like no other, IF you are smart enough and fast enough to capitalize on it.

Grocery stores, hardware stores and gas stations are making a killing this week.  Anyone on the east coast who isn't advertising on the local news/talk radio station or the weather channel is missing the boat!

Are you offering earthquake, hurricane or "earthicane" specials?

Goodwill of Greater Washington will soon be selling "I survived the DC earthquake of 2011" tee shirts on its Facebook page.  Who doesn't want a keepsake commemorating one of the rarest occurences in a lifetime?

So whether you're reviewing your crisis management plans or celebrating during your hurricane parties, spend a few minutes thinking about how your company can benefit from the aftermath.  There is always money to be made if you're quick enough to react or proactive enough to anticipate.

Disclaimer:  While my comments are intended to be humorous, my objective is not to make light of a very dangerous situation.  However, sometimes a little levity can help make difficult circumstances more manageable. I thank God that the damage from the recent earthquake was extremely minimal.  And I pray that damage and loss of life from Hurricane Irene are just as minimal.

Why you should spend more time at the bar when attending your next conference...

The best learning at a professional development conference is often not done in the classroom; it's done on the bus and at the bar.  And I say that with all sincerity!

I recently returned from a national marketing conference where I was asked to sit on a mobile marketing panel.  It was an excellent three days.  I learned as much from the people in my session as I hope they learned from me.

There were several very good workshops where I gleaned some useful information that will help me as I continue to try to improve my organization's marketing strategies and enhance my personal knowledge.

However, as I was reflecting on the event during the plane ride home, and was looking at the action steps I considered the highest priorities, I discovered that all of them except one came from a conversation I had with someone...outside the classroom.  One came during a conversation at the bar, one came from a conversation on a bus ride to a site visit, one came over a cup of coffee in between sessions, and one came from someone who was sitting in my session trying to learn from ME!

I'm not dismissing the value of the information I gathered at the workshops and panel discussions.  There was some great idea sharing and thought provoking content.  However, the broader professional development sessions generally tend to center more on philosophical or conceptual ideas.  Often times programs consist of case studies with presenters explaining "what and why", but not "how".  And sometimes sessions will focus on data sharing, that while interesting, isn't adequately translated into an action plan.

But the casual conversations with peers, outside a formal setting, often tend to generate organic, actionable ideas that result from shared challenges.  Sometimes the person I spoke with already had a solution that I thought would work for us.  Other times, our impromptu brainstorming resulted in a strategy that we both thought might work well for us independently or by leveraging our combined assets.

Why?  Because typically these conversations are just that...conversations!  Both parties are listening, speaking and debating.  In a professional workshop, everyone in the room but the presenter/s is listening, while only one person is speaking.  It's not a two way dialogue. Yes, there is often time for Q & A at the end of a session, but sharing that opportunity with 20 or 30 other people doesn't really allow for a meaningful discourse. 

Here is an idea that conference planners may wish to adopt in the future:  Allow for one on one time with every presenter.  Schedule it almost like a speed networking session but for longer periods of time (perhaps 15 minutes).  Attendees can register for individual consultations during the conference.  While it may seem unreasonable to expect a speaker to spend an entire day in one on one sessions with guests, some may actually appreciate it, as they are often business executives using these speaking opportunities for prospecting anyway.  For those that don't wish to participate, make it optional.  Having spoken at many conferences, my guess is that most presenters will be willing to give up a couple of hours.  The majority of attendees may not take advantage of the opportunity, but for those who do, it will be a tremendous benefit.

Next time you attend a conference, don't judge the overall value based solely on what you learn sitting in meeting rooms.  Judge it based on what you learn both inside AND outside the meeting rooms.  I think you'll find the conference to be more beneficial than expected.