Somehow I Don’t Think “Bossy” Is a Truly Effective Communication Style

Hey everyone, it’s Amy here. First, I have to say thanks to Paul for his awesome introduction. Yes, I’m blonde, and yes, I’m bossy. Those things may be part of my brand, but honestly, it’s not a contrived act. That’s why I really appreciate Paul and his willingness to work with someone like me, who’s a little bit unconventional and a little bit opinionated but who is a whole lot passionate about what she does.
 
Yep, just like the team at CustomXM, I’m passionate about communications. Whether it’s been writing, speaking, teaching or consulting, I’ve been involved in some form of communications throughout my career. But you know what? We all are. It’s the rare person who doesn’t use communication skills on a daily basis.

Businesses also need to be great communicators. They communicate by spreading strategic, planned messages in direct mail pieces, by having spontaneous interactions with customers, by publishing static information on a web page — it never ends. And what’s great is that these days, businesses have so many incredible new ways to communicate with existing customers, potential customers, vendors and more. And I’m excited to have the opportunity to, through this blog, share information about this field with you.

What I’ve come to learn about the CustomXM folks, both through my friendship with Paul and my experiences with them as their customer, is that they’re not just interested in encouraging businesses to spend money on print jobs. Instead, they’re interested in helping people find new, creative ways to communicate. And I’m excited to be a part of that. 

Want to explore the art of communication a bit further? CustomXM has two cool projects in the works. If you’re really interested in taking your business’ communication efforts to a new level, come learn about QR codes at the next Integrating Media luncheon on November 4. Or spend a little time thinking about what the word “communication” means to you, and capture that thought on film for our 2011 calendar photography contest

Amy Bradley-Hole

The Brand, The Blog, & The Blonde

Having recently returned from a national trade conference, I’m determined to put into action some of the “take-aways” from that event. But I often find myself time-challenged in doing this. So that’s when I consider delegating certain tasks.
 
The term “delegation” sometimes gets a bad rap.  The book ReWork warns that “with a small team, you need people who are going to do work, not delegate work. Everyone’s got to be producing. No one can be above the work.”  Even Webster’s says that delegation involves the assignment of a task “to one who is less senior than oneself.”  In a small business, I would agree with these terms to a certain extent. After all, as a business owner, I am entitled to delegate some less desirable tasks, like payroll, to someone else, right?  (Sorry, Mom, but you really do process payroll better than I could ever imagine.)
 
But instead of these definitions, I prefer to use the term entrust.  Certainly, as a small team, we do need everyone to work. But because of our size, there are often tasks, projects, even ideas that cannot move forward until I entrust them to someone else.
 
And that’s where I turned to my favorite blonde.  But since my lovely wife really had no strong desire to assist me in our ongoing marketing and branding efforts, I’ve had to look elsewhere. Marketing projects are some of my favorite undertakings.  They allow me to be creative, and let’s face it, they’re fun.  But, since I wear many hats (except that of payroll clerk) I cannot effectively accomplish all that I want, or need to do in these areas.
 
I have often entrusted many of these duties to some talented friends.  Greg Henderson, (@jgreghenderson) helped greatly in establishing the online, social media presence of  CustomXM.  Additonally, he has shared his marketing insight in this blog, and will continue to help me with special projects.
 
But I came to the realization that if I wanted a consistent, dedicated marketing plan for my company, I couldn’t do it alone.  I needed to delga…uh, entrust this to someone else. And that’s where another of my favorite blondes, Amy Bradley-Hole (@amybhole) came into play. Like so many of the talented communications professionals in Little Rock, I met Amy via Twitter. In this forum, Amy initially struck me as a mildly irreverent, overtly outrageous individual, with uncanny marketing skills.  I mean, if anyone can parlay stolen hotel pens into a successful marketing ploy, she must certainly have some talent.
 
Amy has a strong marketing background in the Hospitality industry. Given her Southern roots, her successes in that industry come as no surprise. More recently, she has become quite a social media maven, receiving rave reviews from her presentations on blogging and personal branding. And fortunately for me, Amy decided  a few weeks ago to take a chance by going out on her own as a branding/marketing coach.  And I decided I wanted to play on her team!
 
 
In short order, Amy has has outlined my “to do” lists, projects, and other tasks and will stay behind me until they are complete. (Hey, did I mention I already had a wife?) In a nutshell,  she will be my extended communications coach.  She will help us continue to develop our brand across all communications channels. Because you see, that’s what we do, we help folks communicate. And we’ve committed to doing a better job of it – both internally and externally.
 
So thanks for joining us here.  Stick around and you and I know you’ll have some fun, and possibly learn a thing or two.  I know I will, because I have a good coach.

 

  Paul Strack, President, CustomXM

 

 

 

 

The Brand, The Blog, & The Blonde

Having recently returned from a national trade conference, I’m determined to put into action some of the “take-aways” from that event. But I often find myself time-challenged in doing this. So that’s when I consider delegating certain tasks.
 
The term “delegation” sometimes gets a bad rap.  The book ReWork warns that “with a small team, you need people who are going to do work, not delegate work. Everyone’s got to be producing. No one can be above the work.”  Even Webster’s says that delegation involves the assignment of a task “to one who is less senior than oneself.”  In a small business, I would agree with these terms to a certain extent. After all, as a business owner, I am entitled to delegate some less desirable tasks, like payroll, to someone else, right?  (Sorry, Mom, but you really do process payroll better than I could ever imagine.)
 
But instead of these definitions, I prefer to use the term entrust.  Certainly, as a small team, we do need everyone to work. But because of our size, there are often tasks, projects, even ideas that cannot move forward until I entrust them to someone else.
 
And that’s where I turned to my favorite blonde.  But since my lovely wife really had no strong desire to assist me in our ongoing marketing and branding efforts, I’ve had to look elsewhere. Marketing projects are some of my favorite undertakings.  They allow me to be creative, and let’s face it, they’re fun.  But, since I wear many hats (except that of payroll clerk) I cannot effectively accomplish all that I want, or need to do in these areas.
 
I have often entrusted many of these duties to some talented friends.  Greg Henderson, (@jgreghenderson) helped greatly in establishing the online, social media presence of  CustomXM.  Additonally, he has shared his marketing insight in this blog, and will continue to help me with special projects.
 
But I came to the realization that if I wanted a consistent, dedicated marketing plan for my company, I couldn’t do it alone.  I needed to delga…uh, entrust this to someone else. And that’s where another of my favorite blondes, Amy Bradley-Hole (@amybhole) came into play. Like so many of the talented communications professionals in Little Rock, I met Amy via Twitter. In this forum, Amy initially struck me as a mildly irreverent, overtly outrageous individual, with uncanny marketing skills.  I mean, if anyone can parlay stolen hotel pens into a successful marketing ploy, she must certainly have some talent.
 
Amy has a strong marketing background in the Hospitality industry. Given her Southern roots, her successes in that industry come as no surprise. More recently, she has become quite a social media maven, receiving rave reviews from her presentations on blogging and personal branding. And fortunately for me, Amy decided  a few weeks ago to take a chance by going out on her own as a branding/marketing coach.  And I decided I wanted to play on her team!
 
 
In short order, Amy has has outlined my “to do” lists, projects, and other tasks and will stay behind me until they are complete. (Hey, did I mention I already had a wife?) In a nutshell,  she will be my extended communications coach.  She will help us continue to develop our brand across all communications channels. Because you see, that’s what we do, we help folks communicate. And we’ve committed to doing a better job of it – both internally and externally.
 
So thanks for joining us here.  Stick around and you and I know you’ll have some fun, and possibly learn a thing or two.  I know I will, because I have a good coach.

 

  Paul Strack, President, CustomXM

 

 

 

 

Save the Date!

Last year, thanks to social media in general, and Twitter specifically, we were able to produce a very attractive wall calendar that featured photographs provided by many of our Twitter friends.  Beautiful shots from around Little Rock and Central Arkansas were featured each month, as were those funny little things called QR codes.  (Have we really been talking about QR codes for over a year now?) And evidently, you guys set the bar pretty high, as I am pleased to report that last year’s calendar won theBest of Category Award in the annual PIAS print awards competition.

Well, it’s that time to begin preparing for the 2011 calendar, and we need your help again. Since we are all so focused on being connected, and since we use this connectivity to improve the way we communicate, the 2011 calendar will have Communication as the theme.  Think about photos you have taken, or will take, that remind you of how you communicate.  Is it that old telephone booth on the corner? (Do those still exist?) Is it a favorite text message, or even tweet, that you have saved?  Maybe its children playing with two tin cans tied together with a string.  Be literal, or be conceptual, but be creative.

As we did last year, all who submit photos will receive a free calendar.  But because we have set a precedent with an “award winning” calendar, we are really getting serious.  Okay, maybe not that serious. But since we do anticipate a larger response, we will actually have some professional photographers assisting us in determining which photos will be included.

To submit your photos, simply email them to me at [email protected].  Please be sure to include your name and phone number.  There is no rush, but please hurry. Deadline for photo submission is Sunday, November 14th.

The First Cut is the Deepest (Work with me, will ya?)

No, this is not a tribute to Rod Stewart. Nor is this a solution to a recurring nuisance (i.e. the dreaded paper cut) that continues to plague our industry.

Instead, it’s a mild celebration of making the first cut in a national TV contest.  ABC’s Good Morning, America recently launched a contest inviting viewers to tell them about their jobs. They asked their audience to explain, in 250 words or less, why a Good Morning America anchor should come join them for a day and work with them side-by-side.

I figured that our story was as interesting as the next person’s, so this is what I submitted:

Newspapers are folding! Print advertising is in sharp decline! Pundits are announcing the Death of Print.  And yet, as the owner of a small, second-generation family owned printing company, I still love my job.  And I challenge YOU to Work with Me, GMA! 

 Many may say I dont fit the mold for this type contest. Im a business owner making an above-average living. Is it a uniquely tough, get-your-hands-dirty type job? No.  Do I use earth-shattering never before seen technology? Nope.  

 But I am responsible for the livelihood of our twelve employees AND their families.  My business provides the continuing retirement income for my parents.  Our oldest of four children will be entering college next fall.  And I own a business whose industry is in a downward spiral, with little hope of recovery.  So while it may not be an ideal situation for a contest, it could certainly qualify for a late-night horror show!

 And yet, I love it.

Advances in technology enabled our company to transform into something completely new. Weve embraced change to become an entity that helps our clients not only use print, but to help clients us it to improve and grow their businesses.

Until recently, I had no clue what PURLs, VDP, QR, SMS or W2P meant.  Today, these exciting tools are making us uniquely successful.

Dont you want to learn more?  Sure you do, thats why I challenge you to Work with Me, GMA!

Needless to say, I was pleasantly surprised yesterday when I received a phone call from ABC News, informing me that I had made the first cut of applicants.  Out of thousands of entries, thats not too bad. What followed was a 10 minute interview, upon which they will make their final determination of the contest winners.  Who knows, maybe George Stephanopoulos will want to make a return visit to Little Rock.

So tell me, why would someone want to work with you?

Paul Strack, CustomXM

Custom Lightbox!

Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipisicing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua.

Read more

Moving Forward with QR Codes

In case you have not noticed, we at CustomXM have been pushing QR codes for about a year now. We really like them, more than cupcakes even. Mostly we think they have the potential to change the face of marketing and advertising. We have been very impressed with how far QR codes have come in the last year, this time in 09 it was a novelty, now it is beginning to get serious attention.

As a marketer and advertiser I feel like there are few directions that QR codes need to go from here to be successful.

Mobile Websites – The largest problem I have seen so far with the use of QR codes in marketing and advertising is that more times than not the code takes you to a non-mobile optimized website. For example NYC released an awesome QR code campaign a couple of weeks ago. The problem with this however is that when you scanned the code it took you to the NYC website which is designed for computer viewing.

QR codes are scanned using smart phones, they are going to be viewed on these smart phones, why then would you take someone to a website that is not optimized for mobile viewing? Give people larger text, bigger links, and html 5 interactive elements.

Creative Placement – More often than not a QR code is just shoved in as an afterthought. Designers need to make the code part of the creative rather than a separate item. By making the QR code more appealing it begins to bring the focal point of the ad to the QR code, increasing the possibility for action.

Higher Usage – As is always the case with emerging technology, the question of adoption comes up. Do you go ahead and start including it and hope the users pick it up, or do you wait for adoption rates to increase before you begin using it? I say go ahead and be in front of adoption rates in an attempt to drive adoption in your industry.

  Greg Henderson is a marketing and social media professional with 8 years marketing and online experience. Greg has worked with several companies focusing on integrating online and offline marketing.

Our Kodak Video Challenge Winner is…

Jessica Yu from Calgary (print lives internationally too). Here is the winning idea:

– Two people are in a car/limo.

Envelopes, business cards are everywhere and they’re both sketching furiously on envelopes – they’re trying to meet a deadline.

The driver, Paul Strack in a tuxedo, glares at them from the rear-view mirror. He tells the two people about how CustomXM can do that for them: full color envelopes, letterheads, business cards, etc.

One of them gasps and whispers, “CustomXM must get a lot of trophies and prizes!” Paul Strack drums his fingers on the steering wheel and sings, “but it’s not about the awards.”

The two people pull out their phones and do a bit of clicking around and BAM – they’re done! They’ve sent their stuff off to CustomXM. One of them proudly states, “You go, CustomXM!” and high fives the person sitting beside him/her.

Both of their phones vibrate..they’ve both got a text message!

The two people hold their phones side by side – the camera goes for an overhead shot of both their phones and on the phone that’s on the left, it says, in a bright, bold font: “Print.” On the phone that’s on the right hand side: “Lives.”

Marketing to Millennials

*Note: After much input from the community I want to clarify something. The point of this post is not to knock down GenX. There are plenty of great success cases of GenXers succeeding. However as a generation they are following a generation that has (due to numbers and late retirements) held them back considerably. The notable difference with GenY is that we have developed an overall mistrust of employers. This has led to an entrepreneurial spirit that has helped us rise more quickly than the previous generation. Simply put we don’t wait for a job, we either find the job or create it. The point to this post is to encourage consideration of GenY when marketing and highlight the fact that there is a growing need to market specifically to GenY.

I’ll admit, I really enjoy the whole Millennial vs Baby Boomer debate that is growing now that more and more millennials are entering the work place. The most fascinating thing about the debate is that it seems to be all written by boomers, to boomers, in hopes to understand millennials. Very rarely do you see something actually written by a millennial.

The reality is that boomers are retiring, and fast. In 5-10 years there will be more individuals in decision making roles that are millennials than boomers. Generation X has largely failed to succeed in the corporate world; millennials are showing signs of leaping over Generation X in the workplace at an astonishing pace. In order for marketing to continue to be effective millennials must be accounted for in marketing strategies.

The problem with this is that boomers often struggle to understand us millennials, and have a very hard time marketing to us. The generations are so vastly different that boomers struggle to understand why their traditional marketing fails at a high rate. This has led many marketers to take drastic measures such as abandoning print that still does not produce results.  So speaking as a millennial here are 5 tips in marketing to millennials:

1 – Get your idea out quick: I often get hit with marketing pieces developed by boomers that open with a paragraph of information. Mellennials are constantly connected, which means we have a steady stream of information coming in at all times. We quickly decide what to pick up and what to toss and we move on to the next item. Your message has to show immediate value.

2 – Engage us: We like challenges and involvement. Find ways to pull us into the marketing material and make us a part of it rather than simply pushing information.

3 – Wow us: We are so bombarded with information and marketing that we feel like we have seen it all. We are the ADD generation; show us the cool shiny toy that takes our attention away from everything else.

4 – Make information available: We are informationaholics (yes I just made up a word). Once you get our attention we crave and need more information. I’ve wasted days digging for information on a company that got my interest. Heck @AlextCone is still digging up info on @charitywater a year later. Make sure a wealth of information is available to us on the back end to complete the marketing pitch

5 – Don’t forget the print. Yes we live digitally, but because of that a well crafted print piece can quickly accomplish 1-3. Make your print piece relevant, engaging, and most of all creative. Work in things like dimensional printing, die cuts or shiny foil press, to make it stand out and grab our attention. Follow it up with a web link that is specific to that piece that gives us more information.

  Greg Henderson is marketing and social media professional with 8 years marketing and online experience. Greg has worked with several companies focusing on integrating online and offline marketing.

The sources for this have been pulled from a number of presentations, articles, and books on the topic of generations that I have attended or read over the past year or two. I will update the below source list as I am able to recover these:

http://nextgenerationconsulting.com/library/blog-post/stuck-stalled-or-stifled-how-baby-boomer-retirements-impact-up-and-comers/

http://www.vault.com/wps/portal/usa/articles/details?WCM_GLOBAL_CONTEXT=/wps/wcm/connect/vault_content_library/articles_site/articles/career+advice/cen+gen+x+career+discontent+work+for+you+as+a+job+seeker

http://www.worcester.edu/Currents/Archives/Volume_1_Number_1/CurrentsV1N1WilsonP29.pdf

http://www.fdu.edu/newspubs/magazine/05ws/generations.htm

http://blogs.bnet.com/mba/?p=989

http://www.employeeevolution.com/archives/2008/05/23/10-ways-generation-y-will-change-the-workplace/

http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSTRE55O3AQ20090625

http://www.businessweek.com/bwdaily/dnflash/may2005/nf2005054_4640_db_083.htm

http://www.govloop.com/profiles/blog/show?id=1154385%3ABlogPost%3A795412&commentId=1154385%3AComment%3A855071&xg_source=activity

http://www.tolerosolutions.com/pdf/1254979910-Generational_Engagement.pdf

http://trainingpd.suite101.com/article.cfm/managing_young_talent_in_21st_century_workplace

Real Time Reactions…What is Fast Enough?

Marketing Question: what is considered a quick turnaround in the super-connected world we all live in? Life with smartphones, email, texting and Twitter means that we are available to be touched 24 hours a day. This hyper-access has accelerated people’s expectations of what is a reasonable amount of time they should wait for a response to a query.  How many times have you received a phone call from someone wanting to know if you got their email because you had not responded yet? How fast is fast enough. It appears that the gap is closing.


How much does the rate of response affect ROI?  A comprehensive lead response management survey from MIT and InsideSales.com found that the odds are 21 times greater of qualifying a Web-based lead if it is responded to in five minutes versus 30 minutes.  How do you do that? What tools are available to make that happen?

One answer is cross-media based marketing strategies that include direct mail, email and interactive Internet tools. Utilizing PURLs (personalized URLs) and database digital printing technologies to produce unique printed pieces in one print run, you can drive potential customers to a micro-site that will generate an email notice to your Sales Team in seconds. This allows your team to respond in the critical time period when the prospect is prime for purchasing your goods or services. This all sounds very complex and expensive but the reality is that this technology is very affordable and very simple to incorporate into your current marketing strategy.

What sort of techniques are you using to respond quickly to your prospects? Is it working? Have any of your clients communicated to you that they appreciated your quick response?  Let us know. We are always looking for ideas that work. A marketing plan utilizing cross-media tools to drive prospects to your site and to give you the ability to respond immediately will help generate the immediate responses and ROI you are looking for to succeed.

Steve Davison is a marketing consultant providing marketing and sales support to CustomXM. When he is not doing that Steve is a professional touring guitarist.