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

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 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.