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How the Little Guys Can Win In Today’s David-and-Goliath Business World

23a1ca5Before the internet, small companies didn’t stand a chance against the Goliaths, says Corrine Sandler, a globally recognized leader in business intelligence and market research.

That’s because no war can be won without intelligence and, before the digital era, collecting actionable data and information about one’s competitors, market and customers cost a lot more than most small businesses – the Davids – could afford.

“But today, the Davids are taking down the Goliaths,” says Sandler, founder and CEO of Fresh Intelligence Research Corp., a global business intelligence company, and author of the new book, “Wake Up or Die” (www.wakeupordie.us), a comprehensive guide to the use of intelligence in the contemporary business environment.

“Thanks to the internet, the boutiques and startups have access to all kinds of free tools for gathering intelligence. They’re also much more agile than the big corporations; they can make a decision and act immediately. That’s essential in a marketplace where conditions change quickly.”

In “Wake Up or Die,” Sandler applies lessons from Sun Tzu’s “The Art of War” – the 2,000-year-old military treatise penned by one of the greatest commanders in history – to the modern business economy. Sun Tzu held that the goal in any war is to win without ever entering into physical battle.

“By gathering actionable data and acting on it immediately, by using it to predict next moves and spot opportunities, small businesses can and are taking down the big ones without a drop of blood being shed,” Sandler says.

She offers smaller business owners these tips for acquiring and using intelligence:

• If you lack resources, make use of free or inexpensive intelligence-gathering tools. Visit competitors’ websites and collect data about them. Many businesses put a great deal of revealing information on their sites, which can benefit you. Also, make note of any changes on their sites. Google Alerts can tell you when they’re releasing new products or expanding. Use Google analytics tools such as Google Hot Trends to tell you what’s in the collective consciousness – potential consumer demand – at any given time. Google’s key word tool will give you ideas for powerful key words in search terms, and use the traffic tool to measure global volume on those key words.

• Make intelligence-gathering part of your company’s culture. From the manager who overhears a conversation in the grocery checkout line to the clerk obsessed with Twitter, every employee in your business is a potential intelligence resource. Encourage employees to pay attention as they interact with others outside the company. They may discover a nagging issue that no other company is addressing, allowing you to create uncontested market space. Or, you may learn critical information about a competitor that allows you to seize an advantage. Make intelligence gathering a company lifestyle.

• Appoint a Chief Intelligence Officer (CIO) to coordinate and analyze information from a variety of sources. In smaller companies, leaders tend to rely on pipelines of internal information provided by employees who don’t understand how to use intelligence to make empowering decisions. That can render important data inactionable (unusable or simply not used). A CIO can oversee and coordinate the collection and analysis of intelligence, and brief you – the business leader – daily so that all data is actionable.

“What enables you to make smart, timely decisions is access to precise intelligence,” Sandler says. “Your advantage, as a smaller business, is that you don’t have the corporate processes and protocols that inhibit fast action.

“As Sun Tzu wrote, ‘It is said that if you know your enemies and know yourself, you can win 100 battles without a single loss.’ ”

About Corrine Sandler

Corrine Sandler is the founder and CEO of Fresh Intelligence Research Corp, a global market research agency; international professional speaker and author of  “Wake Up or Die,” (www.wakeupordie.us) a new book that applies lessons from Sun Tzu’s ancient classic, “The Art of War,” to contemporary businesses. Corrine’s company was ranked No. 2 on Profit Magazine’s list of top 50 fastest-growing companies, and Corrine has been on Profit’s top 100 Female Entrepreneurs list two years in a row. With more than 20 years’ experience, she has established a reputation for unparalleled consumer understanding and insight development working with Fortune 500 companies.

 

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Workers Comp Insurance: Important Factors For Small Business

Workers_CompThe United States government requires all states to provide a workers compensation insurance market for registered businesses to maintain workers comp insurance on their employees, with many states including individual contractors. Other states make this an option, but it is still a sound business practice for the freelance worker.

The insurance protection provides income when they have been injured on the job, and can be especially important when a contract cannot be completed by the injured independent worker. All new small businesses should research implementing workers compensation in the initial feasibility study before officially opening. This is a necessary business expense, and can be a considerable amount of the operational budget.

Employer Protections

The purpose of workers compensation insurance is generally two-fold. It provides an income for the injured employee who has a valid claim. Injuries must be reported promptly and the employer must file the necessary paperwork. If an injury lasts more than seven continuous days, the injured employee will be paid retroactively to the day of the injury.

As noted by one workers compensation lawyer Columbia SC residents rely on, “According to the South Carolina Workers’ Compensation Commission, Workers’ Compensation Laws are designed to provide prompt and reasonable income and medical benefits to work-related accident victims or income benefits to their dependents.”

They are paid a percentage of their current salary, which is actually paid as an insurance claim from the workers comp insurance company. This keeps the business from paying for time not worked. This also allows the company to place the employee on the injured roster while recovering. In addition, the employer is protected against a standard personal injury suit which could bankrupt a company.

Employee Protections

The obvious primary protection is providing employee income during rehabilitation, along with paying all medical bills associated with the injury. Although punitive damage claims will require extenuating circumstances, such as company violation of safety codes, this protection does not include the employee injury being repaired to perfect health, or “made whole” as it is called in the legal industry. What it does provide is regular income without having to deal with a long-term lawsuit running concurrently while the employee is re-cooperating. Maintaining some form of income in short order is a much more desirable protection for the average working person, along with medical bill payment.

The Insurance Company

Depending on the state in which the business is located, there may not be many options for choosing workers compensation insurance carriers. Some states only have one, which can be highly problematic. Insurance premiums can be expensive when there is no competition in the market and the insurance is a requirement. In addition, a compliant employer who is attempting to file the claim on the employee’s behalf may find themselves in an adversarial situation with the company.

For instance, in South Carolina, there are expanded benefits that cover:

1. Medical Benefits & Choice of Physician

2. Temporary Total Disability (TTD) & Permanent Total Disability (PTD)

3. Permanent Partial Disability (PPD)

4. Death Benefits

They are a potential litigant also, and many companies routinely deny the injury claims after an investigation. The purpose of any investigation is finding a legal reason to deny a claim, and many workers compensation insurance companies operate in “bad faith” as a matter of claim policy. And, in states with workers compensation insurance monopolies, this can be a real problem for an honest business management team.

Regardless of the case particulars of a bad faith suit stemming from a workers compensation denial, honest and responsible business operators also have a reputation to protect and can be impacted by association with an aggressive and contrary insurance company. There is always a possibility that both the injured employee and the employer will need legal counsel from a workers comp attorney in stalled claims. When options are available, do the extra research.

Nadine Swayne presents this article to expand the understanding of the legalities of injured employees for small business. Try searching terms online, such as workers compensation lawyer Columbia, to gather more legal material regarding workers’ compensations laws.

Photo credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/76029035@N02/6829409437/

 

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Holding On To Traditional Marketing Pays Off

shutterstock_91818635_17462Despite the notion that it is so easily available to advertise through the internet, there are still traditional methods of advertising that are seeing an increased capacity in the ability to reach potential customers and spread the word of businesses. Along with running radio and billboard advertisements, businesses are seeing an increase in consumer buzz by distributing fliers.

Why a Leaflet?

The beauty behind a leaflet as a means of advertisement resides in a few basic elements that the leaflet excels in. Unlike digital advertising or even the radio, a leaflet gives the consumer something that has material substance. Being able to physically hold the leaflet can add a certain amount of credibility to the legitimacy and authenticity of the information it contains. Albeit mostly a subconscious reaction of the consumer, the simple notion that someone has taken the effort to employ the means of actually getting something printed on paper registers in a way separate from the constant influx of digital media.

Unlike digital media which can simply flash before the viewer for anywhere between a few seconds to a few minutes, a printed leaflet sticks around. By staying clear of the esoteric ether in which most advertisements disperse, the staying power of the printed word will continually renew its message.

Empower Your Audience

By giving your potential audience the option of choosing when and where they want to take the time to read your message the likelihood that your message will be received is increased. Whether the person deciding to read the leaflet is having breakfast or on the transit to work through London, leaflet and printed media holds its staying power.

There is a certain luxury that comes with taking control of how media is consumed. Within that conscious decision to read the brain becomes active and areas of memory are aroused. All too often the constant humming of commercials through digital media becomes nothing more than background noise to everyday life. In order to reach consumers on multiple levels, implementing traditional media resources proves to showcase why they have been around for so long.

Come Back Again and Again

Another crucial aspect of printed media is the simple notion that a person can return to it again and again provided that they haven’t misplaced or damaged the document. One could easily make the stance that digital media is very similar. However, when you take into consideration that in order to consume the information contained within a leaflet or magazine, all one essentially needs is a little bit of light, it is easy to see how the expense put into printing provides is more than a one-trick pony.

As with other forms of media the proper channel of delivery is at the top of important considerations. When it comes to printed media one of the easiest and most efficient means of delivery is to simply invest in distributor that will do the work for you. Distributors do all the legwork to make sure that a business’s leaflets get into the right place on schedule. If you happen to be in a larger city where you are distributing your leaflet, London for example, the aid of professional distribution is paramount.

Embrace Change While Maintaining Tradition

As any successful business owner can attest there is never simply one method that works. It is combinations of different elements that will help spread the word of a business and get more consumers flooding through the doors.

The combination of a variety of digital and printed media allows for the most optimum range of viewership. To keep things fresh and new it is always ideal to change with the times but there is definitely something to be said about honouring tradition as well.

Paula Whately has run radio and television ads for her business and found that a large portion of new customers can be sourced from distributing leaflets. In London, leaflet and other printed media has brought her business lots of new buzz.

 

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Thank You LinkedIn – NOT Part 2

PUBLISHERS NOTE:  I was able to find this, that explains how to simply post videos and images.  It seems to work pretty well and is self-prompting. It still does’t have the flexibility, of the old SlideShare application, like autostart.  I can’t figure out why they are taking this approach after spending $116M on SlideShare, but it’s not my dime….

PUBLISHERS UPDATE – 5.31.13 – Ive just been informed, and sadly confirmed, that the features below are indeed NOT available to all accounts.  Although it seemed to be no problem to drop the applications across the whole platform, for some reason LinkedIn is only allowing some accounts to upload files.  It has nothing to do with premium status, but I can upload and some of my clients cannot – yet?

 Olympus
BY EMILY PRICE
LinkedIn added the ability to showcase users’ talents in a whole new way Wednesday: pictures and video. Now LinkedIn users can add visual content to their profile pages, giving more depth to the written content already displayed on the site.For instance, a photographer might choose to include several of her best photos, or a copywriter might upload a video of that ad he wrote for last year’s Super Bowl. Architects can upload the blueprints for a building they designed, and musicians can upload videos of past performances.

Visual content can be added to your summary, work experience and education sections on the site, and can come from your computer’s hard drive or from the web.

On the flip side of the equation, people who are browsing profiles on the site can now like or comment on media uploaded to others’ profiles. A sharing option — for sharing content you find interesting with others — is also in the works.

New media-rich profiles are available now for LinkedIn members in English-speaking countries.

To add media to your own profile on LinkedIn click the “Edit” button on your profile page and follow the prompts in the summary, education and experience sections.

What sorts of content will you be adding to your LinkedIn Profile?

Images courtesy of Flickr, Alex Murphy

 

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Thank You LinkedIn –NOT!

LinkedOut

Well they have finally outdone themselves.

I thought all the crashes and “try later” warnings were bad.   Just like the “your contact list is currently not available.”

Then we had to deal with the totally random attacks on keyword stuffing by the LinkedIn Trust & Safety team.  If you look up any keyword on LinkedIn, I guarantee you that the first 4 or 5 pages of results will be keyword stuffed in the projects section. So you do the same thing, or you can’t compete.  I explained this and the fact that they could write a pretty simple algorithm to detect this, not anything like Google, but they never made an effort.

Now, just as I am getting used to my profile supposedly among the top 1% viewed in 2012, we get a total new look:  They have changed all the tabs, removed all the applications, stopped supporting blogs altogether, and cannot tell anyone when they will have the “new application” that will allow you to put up your experiences now supposedly in your summary section -all without any kind of announcement or warning.

WTF?   I make my living (in part) as a LinkedIn coach.  I have spent the better part of a complete day scrambling to read what little documentation they have, and emailing back and forth to other supposed LinkedIn Guru’s (like anyone can figure out what they are likely to do next) to figure out how to work around this latest “improvement.”

Could this have anything to do with their attempts to monetize LinkedIn?  To this point it hasn’t really made any sense to upgrade.  Keep your eyes and ears open for some sort of suggestion that there are plug-ins and gizmos available to Premium users, like video upload etc.

I’ll keep you posted as I sort this out (another day or two I didn’t have to re-invent the wheel) as it is excruciatingly apparent that they won’t.

 

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The New Rules Of Customer Complaints Management

complaints managementCompanies in the business of dealing with people know how important customer complaints management is – after all, there are very few companies that do not interact with customers on some level; even if there is no direct interaction.

The rules have changed a lot over the past few years, and they are changing even more just about each and every month. What worked in the early part of the 2000s will not work in 2013 – consumers have a far greater soapbox now for one thing, and the way that we communicate in general has also changed greatly.

Customer Complaints in the Era of Technology

What exactly are the ‘new rules’ that need to be considered for our current era, and what should companies be doing to adhere to best practices on complaints management? Here are some important things to keep in mind…

  • Customers are no longer limited to posted letters, limited email and telephone calls. Now, they have all of those channels, as well as personal blogs, Twitter, Facebook, Youtube, consumer feedback websites, forums AND word of mouth. Worse still, feedback posted online that mentions your company will show up in internet search results when people are searching for your business online.
  • Customers are more likely to report on a bad experience than a good one. What this means is that even though the past 150 customers who have purchased your wildly popular gizmo via your snazzy online store are thrilled, not all of them will be shouting your praise to the world. The one or two customers who were not too happy about that gizmo (or your store, or even your delivery process) are another story. Those are the ones who will tell everyone they can just how terrible your company, products and store are – often, on multiple channels for good measure.
  • Customers can not only become happy again, they can even become your number one fans. This is however, provided that you deal with their complaints properly. Complaints should not be seen as a bad thing for starters – this is a chance to improve your services and goods for the better. For another thing, the way that problems are addressed makes a lot more difference than the actual issue in many cases. In order to effectively address the complaint, you first need to catch it early, escalate it properly and route it to the right person though.

As you can see, the rules continue to change pretty much all the time. What doesn’t change however is the fact that response time and reaction are both vital when it comes to making a bad situation into a good one.

Automating the complaints process with a good software tool is one way to improve your overall systems. You may also want to think about other tools such as competency testing for employees who deal directly with customers. Product reviews and preventative measures such as customer surveys, and also making sure that customers can easily air their views should be top of mind too.

At the end of the day you see, it is far easier to handle a small upset soon after it happens, than risk dealing with the public relations disasters that can (and do) happen overnight when customer complaints are left unchecked. Quite an easy choice really when you think about it that way.

Featured images:

Christopher Stainow is actively involved in the streamlining of business quality processes and procedures through the use of quality management tools & document control software. Learn more at lennoxhill.co.uk.

 

 

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4 Things Parents Should Know Before Paying for College

college_campus

Financial Specialist Shares Ways to Help Your Child
 While Protecting Your Retirement

From $20,000 to $65,000 a year – that’s the tuition cost for one year of college, says John McDonough, a money expert who helps retirees and parents plan for their families’ futures.

“For the 2012–2013 academic year, the average cost for an in-state public college is $22,261. A moderate budget for a private college averaged $43,289,” says McDonough, CEO of Studemont Group College Funding Solutions, www.studemontgroup.com. “But for elite schools, we’re talking about three times the cost of your local state school. Either way, your kid’s higher education can easily shoot into six figures after four years.”

Along with worrying about rising tuition prices, parents also fear for their own futures if their retirement savings are drained by children’s college costs, McDonough says. Only 14 percent, for example, are very confident they’ll have the money to live comfortably in retirement, he says, citing a 2012 survey by the Employee Benefit Research Institute.

“Families feel they’re faced with conflicting goals, but there are numerous ways to pay for college while investing in your future retirement,” says McDonough, who offers insights for parents to keep in mind while planning for their child’s education:

• The ROI of a college education: At a time when so many American families are financially strapped, college is an especially stressful topic because parents know higher learning will help their kids succeed. College graduates earn 84 percent than those with only a high school diploma, according to Georgetown’s Center on Education and the Workforce. Here is how earning breaks down over one’s life time, based on education: a doctoral degree-holder will earn $3.3 million over a lifetime; $2.3 million is estimated for a college graduate; those with only a high school diploma can expect $1.3 million.

• Move retirement assets to qualify for grants: Most parents know about the 529 savings account, but that’s not necessarily the best or only option. Reallocating your retirement assets, such as 401(k)s, can better position a child to qualify for grants and scholarships. This legal and ethical maneuvering may be the single most important factor when considering how to pay for college.

• Know your student’s strengths and weaknesses: Consider independent and objective analysis of your future college student. Assessment might include a personality profile and a detailed search for a future career. Also think about a more nuts-and-bolts approach, including scholarship eligibility, SAT and ACT prep courses, review of admissions essays and an in-depth analysis of chances for enrollment in a student’s top four choices of colleges.

• Make a checklist of financial aid forms: In order to maximize a fair price of higher education, remember there is plenty of data to review. McDonough recommends a checklist with a timeline and notable deadlines. Be ready to troubleshoot the “alphabet soup” of data forms: FAFSA – Free Application For Federal Student Aid; CSS profileCollege Scholarship Service; SAR – Student Aid Report; and more. Think about this process as a second job, or find professional help you can trust.

About John McDonough

John McDonough is the managing member at Studemont Group, which is primarily focused on helping retirees gain peace of mind with unique market rescue and recovery programs. He is also founder, president and CEO of Studemont Group College Funding Solutions. His experience in the financial services industry includes managing partner at Granite Harbor Advisors in Houston and divisional vice president of AXA Equitable/AXA Advisors, the third largest insurance company in the world. McDonough is a member of the prestigious Forum 400, a qualifier at the Court of the Table qualifier for Million Dollar Round Table, an active member in National Association of Insurance and Financial Advisors and Society of Financial Service Professionals, as well as American Association of Life Underwriters. He has completed the course work to sit for the Certified Financial Planner® professional designation exam from Rice University.

 

 

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