HBR: Does Your Company Need an Instagram Storefront?

Are you using Instragram as a marketing tool? You can share with Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr. Here are some ideas on how to use Instragram as Building Supplier Dealer. Post photos of your overstock items, promote your customer’s deck design, or post photos of new products at your store. Below is a blog post from the Harvard Business Review by Mitch Joel .

Does Your Company Need an Instagram Storefront?storefront_deals

As the internet continues to make it easier to connect with potential customers, some entrepreneurs have decided that Instagram isn’t just for “selfies,” but for marketing. Blogger Jason Kottke reported last month on Kuwait’s “booming Instagram economy,” where anyone with an Instagram account is simply putting a price tag on an item, taking a photograph, and selling it via the photo sharing online social network.

Everything from Manga to make-up , and more is being sold in this very simple and direct platform, leveraging additional free technology like WhatsApp (customer service), PayPal, and Square(transactions) to make the business infrastructure as simple as possible.

Not unlike eBay and the power-sellers it spawned, Instagram has the scale, stability, and user trust to create a viable marketplace. Once upon a time, if you wanted to sell online you needed a sturdy e-commerce site with analytics, a robust hosting facility, and a web team to create, design, merchandise, market, and more. Today, you need a couple of free accounts on some of the major online channels along with the persistence to keep at it. Is this the digital equivalent of a garage sale, or the next generation of business?

The answer is likely somewhere in between. It’s doubtful that those in the upper echelons of the massive consumer packaged goods companies are going to care about this, or that Sephora and Walmart see this as a competitive threat, but the barriers to entry for someone to start and market a new business continue to be lowered.

These Instagram businesses may not be the next big thing, but they could well be the nascent stages of what is the next big, small thing in business today. On April 23rd and 24th of this year, the American University of Kuwait hosted a two day conference, featuring case studies, how-to’s and networking for those wondering what it takes to build a business on Instagram. The Insta Business Expo , featured a slew of new entrepreneurs who built and grew their respective businesses through Instagram.

While this may seem inconsequential in the grander scheme of global economics and business, consider the global reach of Instagram, the burgeoning ability to use 3-D printing to create or augment existing products, and the desire from consumers for more unique products and services . There is also potential here for more traditional brands to try moments of commerce; an Instagram storefront could help validate a new product line or market ancillary products.

Instagram should not be underrated as an engine of marketing, considering the engagement beautiful images can generate. Today’s Instagram entrepreneurs have uncovered an easy way for brands to quickly share new inventory, and a very simple way to conduct business from a smartphone. If your brand has the goods, you might want try out an Instagram store of your own.

The Truth About 50+ Year Old Salespeople

Here is a great article from Steve Martin who writes the Heavy Hitter Sales Blog. Who do you prefer when you hire salespeople, someone young or more senior?

The Truth About 50+ Year Old SalespeopleUncle Sam

Over the last couple of months I’ve spoken to a number of experienced sales leaders and senior sales reps who were contemplating their next career move.  Many feared their age might become an obstacle so I thought I would post this article.

It’s still hard times for salespeople and sales managers over 50 today. As companies have downsized, they find themselves five times more likely to be let go when compared to their younger counterparts. They also have a more difficult time finding new jobs because younger sales managers have five basic fears about hiring someone older than themselves:
They are Un-coachable. Younger sales managers fear older salespeople are set in their ways and won’t take their directions.

They aren’t Technically Savvy. Younger sales managers fear they haven’t ingrained technology (smartphones, tablets, e-mail, and web-based sales force automation) into their daily working routine (nor are they up-to-date on the internet, blogs, texting, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc).

They are “Washed Up.” Younger sales managers fear older reps are burned out from too many years “carrying the bag.”

They Have a Poor Work Ethic.  For a variety of family, personal, or health reasons, younger sales managers question how hard they will work.

They Really Want My Job! Perhaps the biggest fear of a younger manager is that he is hiring someone who may upstage him in the eyes of senior management in order to fulfill an ulterior motive of taking over his job.

Given these fears, I would like offer five factors sales managers should consider when choosing between younger and more senior salespeople.

1. Do you have to Sell to the C-Level? The C-level Executive sell is based upon establishing credibility and trust. Who do think has an easier time establishing rapport with senior executives; a 26 or 56 year old salesperson? 

2. It’s about relationships, not Rolodexes. Never hire any salesperson solely based on the Rolodex (if you’re under 30 you might have to look this word up) of customer contacts they claim to possess. Hire the salesperson who has a successful track record at penetrating new accounts and proven their ability of turning aloof prospects into close friends.

3. Wit. Most companies make previous experience in the same industry their main criterion for hiring. Since these salespeople command the industry nomenclature, they are assumed to be qualified candidates. A more important hiring criterion is how candidates respond to pressure. In other words, how quick-witted or fast on their feet are they, what is their ability to learn quickly, and are they able to solve complex problems in real time? In this regard, don’t judge a book by its cover and assume a little gray hair means a lot less grey matter.

4. Sales is a Mentor-based Profession. Sales organizations are mentor-based environments. Inexperienced salespeople don’t know what they haven’t seen for themselves. Usually, it’s through the “school of hard knocks” that they gain their experience. Unfortunately, this takes time. The entire team can benefit from emulating salespeople who have accumulated a reservoir of experience working with customers.

5. Who Do You Trust? Peek into the cockpit as you board your next commercial flight. Chances are you are putting your life in the hands of one of the 70,000 airline pilots that are over 50 years old.

Automate Task/Web Using IFTTT

Imagine using the internet to provide a course of action based on a qualified event occurring. I’ve been using an Evernote e-mail address to mail information directly into Evernote. However, it’s time consuming adding tags and moving notes into other notebooks. Recently, I came across a service called ifttt (if this, then that), which allows you to automate flows or “recipes” that are based on a “qualified” (one that you set) event occurring.

Create Tasks and Recipes with IFTTT

IFTTT connects two services of your choice to create an automated flow called a recipe. Recipes consist of Triggers and resulting Actions. You can create your own recipe or use those created by other ifttt users. There’s a near-infinite number of ways to use ifttt.

IFTTT is a sophisticated tool in any modern knowledge worker’s arsenal. With the additional channels (additional to Evernote and GMail) it offers an abundance of ways to automate getting information into Evernote or the other 48 channels.

I love this web service. It saves me a lot of time.

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Deepen a Relationship With the Stroke of a Pen

Modern envelope with a single window for the r...
Image via Wikipedia

Below is a post from Personal Branding. Do you send thank you notes?

Deepen a Relationship With the Stroke of a Pen

By Erik Deckers

The last hand-written note I ever received made such a deep impression on me that I kept it. It made such a deep impression because it was 2008, and I was caught up in the heady days of email, Twitter, and texting.

The power of the “handwritten”

So imagine my surprise and thrill when I got a hand-written envelope addressed directly to me that didn’t have the smell of an advertising or direct mail piece. Paper was passé in 2008; three years later, and it hasn’t gotten much better.

It was heavy card stock, cut to a third of a sheet of paper. The person who sent it had pre-printed her photo and contact information on it, making it her personal stationery, and written a note thanking me for our meeting.

Exuding your brand

As we immerse ourselves into the digital realm even further, the one-third sheet could make a huge difference in our networking and personal branding. While I haven’t used this myself, I’m still intrigued by the idea, and even have a template on my computer that I could print out right now. Here’s what I (and you) need to do to start using our own personalized stationery.

  1. Lay out an 8.5 x 11 page — landscape, not portrait — on your favorite page layout program. Set 3 equal columns so that when you cut it, the sheets are perfectly even — quarter-inch margins with half-inch gutters (space between the columns).
  2. At the top of each column, place your photo, phone number, email address, blog/website address, Twitter handle, LinkedIn address, plus any other important contact info. Don’t take up any more than two inches of that top space, including the margins.
  3. Send a PDF of the document to Fedex Office or other small job print house. You only need 100 sheets (300 cards) of 80 pound cardstock. Make sure they do the cutting too. Tell them you want equal thirds, but if they don’t quite line up, that’s okay, since you’re sending these one at a time. No one will know if one is slightly off from the others.
  4. Keep a small supply of #10 envelopes and some Forever stamps on hand (Forever stamps don’t have a specific price, so you can use them even after postage prices increase).
  5. Whenever you finish a meeting with someone, as soon as they (or you) leave, write them a quick thank you note, address the envelope, stick on the stamp, and drop it in the nearest mailbox right away. This works whether you’re meeting in a coffee shop, their office, your office, or at a conference.

The envelope will arrive within a day or two, and it will be a pleasant surprise for the person you met with. It will remind them of why they met with you, and will make a long lasting impression.

While you don’t necessarily have to do this for everyone you meet with, you should do it whenever you find someone you want to have a deeper, more significant relationship with. Just a quick 30 second note on a real piece of paper, in a real envelope, will carry so much more weight with the people you’re networking with than any email or tweet ever will.

Five Ways To Survive Your Inbox

Email email email

Below is a great blog post. What are your best strategies for overcoming your inbox?

5 Ways To Survive Your Inbox

Six Pixels of Separation – Marketing and Communications Insights – By Mitch Joel at Twist Image byMitchJoel on6/7/11

I love email. I hate email.

Most people probably have a similar love/hate relationship with email as they grapple daily with their inbox. In fact, I hate email… I just hate not getting email more. And, that’s the dilemma that most professionals face when it comes to their inbox. It’s gotten worse over time. Now, it’s not just emails. We get messages from FacebookLinkedInTwitter and beyond. Most of us are managing multiple inboxes across multiple platforms and it doesn’t seem to be getting any better or easier to manage. My inbox has become a never-ending game of Tetris, where emails continue to flow in and stack up to the breaking point. Many professionals have declared email bankruptcy (where they simply delete every single email from their inbox with the hopes that if the contents were truly critical, the sender will reach out them or call as a follow-up).

Most of us rely on email for critical business communications and email bankruptcy is not a legitimate option, so let’s look at five ways to master the inbox.

  1. Create folders. Some of the newer Web-based email clients do not have folders (like Gmail), but they do have “tags” (words you can use to associate multiple messages to), either way creating tags or folders are critical to getting organized. My general strategy is to create a folder for every client or project. On top of that, I create folders for each member of our team at Twist Image (in case it’s a conversation related to an individual instead of a specific project). I also have folders for HR, business development, interesting news items that may wind up becoming content fodder for my newspaper columns, Blog post, or an idea for a book. I also track trends using my inbox. If something interesting happens with Facebook, I email the link to myself and file it under Facebook in my trends folder. Using sub-folders is another way to keep your emails organized.
  2. Create rules. I set-up a lot of email alerts from places like Google Alerts or when somebody new is following me on Twitter or requesting to connect on Facebook or LinkedIn. With a couple of simple clicks on the “rules” button, you can have emails sent from a specific email address or emails that have a similar piece of content in the body of the message to redirect automatically to a pre-defined folder. This avoids inbox clutter and clog-ups. This tactic works great if you subscribe to a lot of e-newsletters as well.
  3. Get it done. In 2001, David Allen wrote the groundbreaking business book, Getting Things Done – The Art of Stress-Free Productivity. While I’m not a sworn devotee ofAllen and his techniques (I’ve managed to develop my own coping mechanisms over time), one gem of productivity insight is culled from this masterful tome: if you can get it done in 60 seconds or less, do it right away. Emails that don’t require more than a few sentences to respond to get done as soon as possible and then get filed in their specific folders (or deleted). The longer emails are attended to in-between meetings, but I will set aside one hour – every day – to deal with the emails that require more writing/thinking. Lastly, I don’t beat myself up if every email doesn’t get responded to on the same day that it was received. The non-critical messages get dealt with in due process, but I do respond to every email that requires a response.
  4. Create a hierarchy of response. During the day, clients or potential new business get responded to first, then staff, then requests for media or writing, and then family and friends (unless it’s an obvious emergency). It doesn’t matter if that rule gets broken from time to time, but it’s the spirit of: clients first, team second and everything else after that, which allows me to look at my inbox with a different perspective. Create a hierarchy of who gets responded to and in what order.
  5. Tell people – in your emails – how to work better with you. Most people have no idea how to use email. They respond to everyone on an email with a bunch of people who were only cc’d and they’ll do things like send back an email that says, “ok,” as if that adds any value to the chain of communication. You can set the ground rules by putting some insights into your signature file. I’ve seen people with signature files that not only have their contact information, but say things like, “please only respond back to me, the other people who are listed on this email are just there to be kept in the loop,” or, “there’s no need to respond to back me, I just wanted you to see this so that you are kept in the loop.” A little clarity on how you like to interact via email will help keep your inbox clutter down to a dull roar and it will also teach other people new ways that they can use their email with more efficacy.

Most people are in email hell.

It’s on their smartphones and it’s on their screens for most of their waking moments. Many people look at their email before going to the bathroom as their first act of the day and many people look at their email right before they close their eyes for the night. Some may see this as an indictment on our society’s inability to find a peaceful balance in our work-centric lives. Ultimately, the only way to really survive your inbox is to make a personal promise that you are going to better manage your technology, instead of letting your technology manage you.

What are your best strategies for overcoming your inbox?

Win Customer Loyalty By Supporting Your Community

Infographic on how Social Media are being used...
Image via Wikipedia

Below is an article from Open Forum. Are you using social media to support your community?

Win Customer Loyalty By Supporting Your Community

via OPEN Forum Articles by ShelIsrael on5/3/11

From ShelIsrael:

A few weeks ago I wrote about United Linen, a professional laundry service. Looking back, I think there are some valuable lessons small businesses should learn from they way United embraces and supports their community.

United shows a commitment to its physical community in various ways. For example, they began posting hometown team sports scores through their social media channels, and more recently, they started promoting the local symphony orchestra. During winter, United gets road conditions from their truck drivers and reports back to residents.

In short, United uses social media to report on and champion their local community. They’ve chosen a wise and valuable strategy—one that you might consider taking with your business.

Small business has clearly embraced social media. We see all sorts of cases of how little guys in corner stores or home offices have defied geographic boundaries by going global. But most small business is not going to go global. They depend upon people who live within a few miles of their store or office.

The question becomes: what should you talk about? Because let’s face it, there’s only so much you can say about your dry cleaning service or your homemade pie.

However, your customers and you probably share many topics of interest. Every town, city or neighborhood has all sorts of local events, issues, problems or reasons to celebrate. Your neighbors and customers talk about them over the counter in your shop, in coffee shops, dog parks or over backyard fences.

These issues are what make your community special—they are the community passion points. A century ago, most communities created town commons, where people gathered to discuss, debate and occasionally brawl over local issues.

People like to do business with people who share their interests. They would rather have an easy conversation then get bombarded with marketing offers and a few very large companies have figured this all out.

Dell Computer, for example, has 8000 employees who use social media as part of their jobs. They are discouraged from using the conversational tools to be overly promotional, and instead are encouraged to mix in mentions of their hobbies and personal interests.

“We discourage shilling,” Richard Binhammer, a senior member to the Dell social media team, told me.

Binhammer’s approach make sense. A smart sales person almost never starts a customer conversation with, “Hey, are you going to buy something? They are more likely to discuss weather and ease in to any possible transactions.”

In social media, you will almost always do better by conversing than by aggressive selling, and you will probably sell more goods and services if your team talks with people about what interests them rather than what you want to sell.

There are local passion spots wherever you do business. And the ability of your hometown to have a public, accessible venue for discussion has been in atrophy in recent years.

Local newspapers and broadcast stations have been on the wane. Those that have survived have very often cut staff and local coverage. The result has been that many communities suffer a local information void waiting to be filled.

Thanks to social media, local merchant or professional can fill this void in local community information and promotion at low cost and with a little investment of time. The result may have more lasting value to your business position than any e-coupon. The result may also increase the number of people who use e-coupons when you post them as well.

You have the opportunity to provide your community with an online commons—a venue where local news is shared and issues can be discussed or debated.

Here are four ways to do it:

1. Be the local media company

Online journalist Tom Foremski has been talking a lot about every company becoming a media company. But his examples are usually about huge enterprises such as Dell Computer, Cisco, Ford Motors, etc.

Why can’t a small business do this for its hometown? Your customers are already telling you what they care about—why not report on what their local passion points are? Your loyalty to your community will spawn their loyalty to you.

2. Use video and pictures

Your community is filled with wonderful and provocative visuals and sounds. Take pictures at local events. Post them (note: if kids are involved get permission).

3.  Listen and report

Use basic tools such as Google Blog Alerts to monitor topics that interest your community. Use Twitter and Facebook to be the first to report on them. If it is a complex subject, blog on it—or ask someone in your community to do a guest blog on your site.

4.  Be a polster

When issues arise in your community, poll your audience. Ask for a yes or no response, but also host a venue for people who want to leave longer comments. I constantly ask questions on Twitter and Facebook, but I also set up a space for blog comments, where people can post long comments and perhaps debate each other’s ideas.

By becoming a community booster, you build loyalty and establish thought leadership. This can be devastating to a competitor.

I call the strategy ‘Lethal Generosity.’ Here’s how it works:

Start a campaign for safe streets, sending the local team to a post-season tournament or whatever is a passion point you share with your neighbors.

Next, invite your competitors to join the campaign to match—or exceed—any financial contributions you make. Do it online or in public.

What can your competitor do? There’s only two options:

Ignore you. But then it appears they don’t care about safe streets or the local team.

Match or exceed your donation. In either case, they are following your lead. You will get some of the credit for your competitor’s generosity.

And, in either case, you win.

Try it. I bet it will increase customer loyalty, bring in new business, devastate your competition and make you feel better about yourself.

Using Evernote as a Customer Relationship Management(CRM) Tool

Using Evernote as a Customer Relationship Management (CRM)  Tool                  

Evernote is an excellent example of cloud computing where files are stored online. Evernote users can create and save notes and notebooks online, where they can be later accessed through the internet from any computer or smartphone. To access Evernote click on the word: Evernote

New Construction

Evernote’s organizing structure is very simple:

Notes are Evernote’s primary building blocks. Think of notes as individual ideas, resources, or topics. For example, quotes, estimates, pictures, emails, and websites. Notes can contain text, graphics, and/or pictures w/ GPS coordinates. Notes can also contain keyword identifiers—tags. Tags are words that allow your notes to be found again by browsing or searching.

Notebooks are collections of notes that are related to each other in some way. For example, I’ve created separate notebooks for prospecting customer, building permits, current customers, competition, and follow-up.

When I want to capture an idea, I can send an email to Evernote. I can take a picture or voicemail with my smartphone. And lastly, I can clip–or take a screen shot of–a web page by using the Add–to–Evernote feature that may be added to your browser toolbar.

Sharing Notebooks is a great way to communicate with your customers. You can share checklists, post problems, brainstorming, voice memos, maps, and  pictures.

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