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Rigerous Robust Communication – part 2 July 26, 2013

Filed under: Ideas,Resources,Strategy — Carla Bobka @ 8:38 am
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The last post was an intro to the communication plan we have with my client. In addition to the weekly update I send out (see Rigorous Robust Communication – Part 1), each of my team send a weekly summary for the programs they own.

 

The client program owners aren’t on the Weekly Update distribution I send out. So the Weekly Program Summary is their consistent communication tool. These summaries drill down in more detail so program owners have a snapshot of the week for their business all in one spot.  Similar to the Weekly Update, it’s written so the client can distribute it upward in their organization. And we’ve found many of them use it to launch their week and prioritize open topics they want moved forward.

 

Weekly Program Summary Format

Currently we manage 7 programs. Each is assigned an owner within our client services team. All of client services work on each throughout the week. The owner is responsible for getting the summary out every Friday.

Distribution list: program owner, contract manager, ops team, me, my boss, the rest of the client services team, call center team.

Topics:

  • major events of the week for that program
  • key weekly volumes – orders and revenue
  • items we are waiting on from the customer, and what is held up until that thing arrives
  • items we owe the customer, with target delivery date
  • open quality issues that need attention from the client’s QA rep
  • project updates, and % complete

 

Initially my team balked at the extra work. They insisted the client already knew everything that would go into the summary. And they are right, the client knows about all of it, there are no surprises. However, what they know is scattered across 200 or so emails throughout the week. The weekly summary puts it all at their finger tips. It’s like we are doing the organizing for them.

 

My team is on board now, they send them out on Friday like clockwork. The positive feedback from the client helped with buy-in. Now they get it. And the clients rely on it. One program manager was leaving on vacation. On our weekly call she told us, “Don’t copy me on any emails while I’m gone. Just send me the Friday summary, that will get me up to speed.” That’s high praise for a simple tool.

 

Robust Rigourous Communication July 15, 2013

Filed under: Ideas,Resources,Strategy — Carla Bobka @ 7:36 am
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You’ve heard the phrase, “over communicate,” right? Time and time again, I’ve found it true. Mostly because you can never be sure someone is listening, just because you said something.

As a result, I’ve developed a pattern of communication with my clients. It’s beyond the day-to-day stuff. These messages happen at the end of each week and travel in/out/up and out, and is internal as well as external.  The broad and deep approach helps keep clients and internal team members feeling certain that things are on track and helps them feel they are on top of things.

The first layer of communication is a weekly update I send out. Two versions go out. Both are similar, yet each sends it’s own message.  There are rarely surprises in the weekly summary. If there are, its good news. Bad news always gets delivered early and on it’s own, usually via phone. Bad news gets summarized in the weekly update, with progress to resolution.

Both internal and external versions use the same layout, and the layout is consistent each week. That way people recognize it when the see it, know where to find particular details if they are looking for something. And it’s simpler for me get it done. The date is included in the subject line so it’s simple to find one months from now.  The approach is designed so it can be shared upwardly internally or by the client.

The following 4 elements are included every time.

  • Logo
  • Opening message
  • Program Summaries
  • Housekeeping items – vacations, visitors, travel dates

Here’s what each version looks like. I write both of them.

Business Summary – Internal

Purpose: Summarize key developments from a strategic perspective.  It’s high level of what I’ve been working on all week. If there’s an issue that needs to have a light shine on it internally, it goes in here in a respectful way. Its branded with the client’s logo so there’s visual recognition of which revenue stream it is.

Distribution list: ops leadership, my boss, client services team, call center team, project mgr, IT leads

Topics covered:

  • Opening paragraph – reference to activity that the week focused on. It could be invoicing or budgeting or a quarterly business review or a visitor we hosted.
  • Kudos for teams that have really delivered this week
  • Unexpected revenues or costs
  • New opportunities
  • Internal challenges that are stuck – similar to bad news, stuck issues are first escalated via separate messaging. They are reiterated in the weekly update.
  • High level summary by program – it includes a couple sentences per program so readers get a sense of opportunities and threats. Sometimes it’s simply “the program is running smoothly.”
  • Project updates and deadlines
  • Housekeeping for next week – vacations or key meetings to put on the radar.

Business Summary – External

Purpose: Summarize key developments from a strategic view and how they impact from the client’s perspective. Written in a way the client’s contract managers can distribute upward in their organization. This is branded with the Archway logo so they instantly recognize which part of their business it relates to. The internal version is the basis, then I edit from the client’s point of view. Some items get deleted, if it’s internal baggage.

Distribution list: client contract managers, their bosses, my boss

Topics covered are essentially the same as the internal summary, but reworded from the client’s perspective.

Example – unexpected revenues are reworded as unexpected costs with specifics about why the costs are valid and how to avoid them in the future.

Feedback

Results from the effort have been great. The client knows I’m aware of topics they may have heard about but not had time to talk to me about. Originally this version was only sent to my direct client contacts. They asked me to include their boss’ so they wouldn’t have to do it. That indicates expanding trust, and gives me more visibility higher in the organization.

Operations likes seeing a summary, so they know if they’ve missed something.

Yes, this is a lot of work every Friday, especially when all you want to do is shut down and start weekending.  Is it worth it? Yes, absolutely.

I’d love to know what you do. How do you keep communication flowing with your client?

 

Long Time No See November 6, 2011

Filed under: Life in General,Strategy — Carla Bobka @ 9:22 pm

Hi,
It’s been a long time. A really long time. My last post was Sept 21, yikes.

 

I’m not going to make excuses. I could and you’d see right through them. Fact is, I’ve been taking the evenings off. The new job has me screaming busy all day, and when I get home all I want to do is talk to the kids and chill. And, dog gone it, it feels really good.

 

And I miss it. I miss the brain dump of thoughts. There’s a whole notebook on Evernote of blog post ideas. I just haven’t turned them into anything coherent yet.

 

So, I’m back. And the best way to ensure I stay back is to make a commitment. So here it is – I’ll blog 1-2 times a week. I’ll keep you updated on what’s happening in my world and in the parts of the marketing world that touch me.

 

Updates – remember the Groupon Goods adventure we talked about in Sept? It’s still pending. The deal hasn’t been signed yet. I’ve got product on both coasts. I’ve got shipping cartons standing ready and return policies to insert. IT has worked their magic so the nightly sales file records the sale properly. But there’s no deal signed between Groupon and the brand. Hurry up and wait has pretty much been the mantra.

 

Ditto on the other two new programs scheduled for Nov. launch. The complexities are fascinating. The myriad of partners still dizzying: front end developers, membership management vendor, fulfillment vendor, banking partner, payment gateway vendor, brand team, call center leadership x 2. And those are just the pieces I have interaction with. I don’t have visibility to the media partners, creative teams, manufacturing or finance.

 

What I’ve learned is nothing is simple. An IT now runs the world. Or at least it seems that way. Each of the partners mentioned above has an IT component. All those systems have to talk to each other. When they don’t, stuff doesn’t show up. The shipment doesn’t land on the front porch. The revenue doesn’t get to the bank. The product doesn’t appear on the website. It’s no wonder there are 9 conference call days every week.

 

AND I love it. I’m pretty sure I’m an adrenaline junkie. I like running at 160 mph. And I’ve got a killer team. They are so smart and capable and take so much initiative. They astound me. I don’t have to micro manage,they self organize.

 

Pretty much, I’ve landed in a great place. Great clients, great team. Fantastic products.

And I’m blogging again. That feels good. I will see you later this week. Promise

 

Four Ways Oprah Uses Email September 21, 2011

Oprah uses email marketing to engage with her fans even now that she’s not on TV.

 

What other media mogul do you know that gave out their personal email address on national TV? She gave it out during the very last show. The one where it was just her on stage for an hour saying goodbye after 25 years. Go ask your girlfriends, I bet they heard it, to.  I emailed her, that put me on her email list. Since then I’ve gotten a few emails from her. They read like Oprah talking, not like Oprah advertising.

 

O uses my email address judiciously. I have the sense she feels privileged to have it. She’s careful not to abuse the relationship.

There are 4 things Oprah does with email.

  1. Takes interest in my world – she asks how things are going.
  2. Updates on her – She tells me what she’s been up to
  3. Asks about 1 thing – She’ll ask my opinion on 1 topic
  4. No sell – She’s never asked me for money.

 

And BTW – she never uses a belittling Subject Line. There’s no “10 things you don’t know about X.” Her typical Subject line is “Happy 4th of July,” or “The next right decision.”  It’s respectful.

 

The opposite is true of another self-made millionaire who has an entrepreneur’s conference coming up in Dallas. I’m registered to go, but honestly I tuned out her emails 6 months ago. So much so, I can’t even tell you who the keynote speaker. Every email she sends is her trying to reach into my pocketbook to pad her own.  “Upgrade your registration for exclusive access” or “advertise my stuff to your friends.” It got old after email #2. She’s clearly only interested in how much money she can get out of me and my network.

 

Oprah has a lot to sell. Can you imagine trying to start a network? That’s a B-I-G job. In her email in August she said flat out it’s 10x harder than she thought it would be. And yet she’s never begged me to watch or asked me to buy an ad. She’s asked me what I think of a show. I mean, I know she’d like me to watch, sure. But she’s using my email the same way a girlfriend would – by asking my opinion and telling me a bit about her life.

 

I don’t have any friends who ask for money every time we talk.

 

Who else do you know who uses email really well?

 

 

Did AmEx Big Break Drive Revenue July 20, 2011

 

 

Well, the voting (for 2011 AmeEx OPEN’s Facebook Big Break for Small Biz) is over. What a ride for all the finalists. Winners are announced on July 25, so we have to wait to see who won. Bummer. BUT…impact long term to the businesses that made the Top 10 is happening anyway. All that effort and all the website hits video view should help the businesses, even if they don’t win the contest.

 

What will the exposure created by the Facebook Big Break do for Distinctive Gardens business? Even if they don’t win, the publicity and exposure from being a finalist is nothing to sneeze at. Lisa and I tried to figure out how to measure the impact.

 

Overall we decided that beyond than winning the contest ($20k is a BIG deal) the goal is to drive brand awareness of Distinctive Gardens which could be leveraged to drive revenue growth long term.

 

The real challenge was deciding what we could track that would measure that.

 

We decided to on revenue, and a group of stats that indicate an increase in interest in the garden center that could be precursors to revenue.

Here’s what we decided to track:
  • Foot traffic
  • Retail Sales * – excluding landscaping and maintenance revenues.
  • Facebook Fan count
  • Website traffic
  • Design Inquiry count
  • Newsletter email count
To get a baseline, Lisa measured the indicators for 2 weeks before the release of the Top 10 Finalist videos. Finalists had all agreed to keep their selection secret until the moment the videos were made public on YouTube, midnight July 5. So she used the 2 weeks before that as the “before” baseline.
*Retail sales numbers – Garden center sales revenues is heavily cyclical. July is typically the 2nd slowest month of the year, planting is done, people are vacationing and it’s blisteringly hot in Illinois. So Lisa is measuring total sales from a 4 week period mid-June through mid-July last year vs. this year. That will measure any short term spike in sales. She’ll take another measurement Mid-June through end Sept to track longer term increases during traditionally busier time periods.

 

“How do we isolate and attribute shifts in foot traffic, sales, design inquiries etc.to the BB (Big Break) exposure?”

This is tough. And it’s tough for any form of advertising or promotion. Does Coors Light really know how many more cases of beer they sell specifically because someone saw a Superbowl commercial? No. The ad team takes credit for any increase in sales, sure. But it could be because they also started distributing in a bunch of new stores, or in a county that had been dry.  Or because it was unusually warm in January so people were in  “warm weather, let’s have a beer” mood. Or maybe they got their tax return arrived and they celebrated. There are always plenty of uncontrollable and uncorroborate-able factors.

 

Can you think of any other factors she could measure? Leave us a note in comments.

 

Distinctive Gardens’ Facebook Big Break from American Express OPEN July 5, 2011

The big city camera crew is freaked out by the grain bin behind them.

 

If you follow SocialPie at all, by now you probably know an my buddy Lisa and her hubby, Bud, are finalists in AmExOpen’s Big Break for Small Business contest. Big Break’s  final winners (there will be 5 of them) are determined by online voting.  (You can watch their video here and vote for them to win!)

 

The garden center is owned by Lisa’s husband Bud and Jim Brown, in tiny Dixon, IL. Lisa and I have been friends forever. We met in 4th grade at John Glenn Elementary School in Donahue, Iowa.  Donahue is super-tiny town of 298.

 

Lisa now lives about 90 minutes from Donahue in Dixon, IL; and I’m outside of Philadelphia.  We reconnected at our class reunion and keep in touch through Facebook.  Mostly through posts on SocialPie’s page, and Facebook Messages.

 

The adventure that Big Break has brought to Distinctive Gardens has been great. It’s been fun to watch from behind the scene’s with her going through the process, watching them stretch their business in the process. And not surprisingly, Dixon, Il is the tiniest of all the finalists hometowns.

 

Today’s post captures the timeline of how Distinctive Gardens came to be finalists for AmEx Open’s Big Break.

 

April 21 ~ “SocialPie” facebook page posts a link to the Big Break competition. Lisa saw the post.

 

It all started with a SocialPie Facebook post.

April 23 ~ Distinctive Gardens enters the first phase of competition with a written submission answering three questions:

1.Tell us about your business. What makes you excited to come to work every day?

2. How do you envision Facebook impacting your business?

3. How could a Big Break help your business and your customers?

May 25 ~ A call comes informing Distinctive Gardens is a top 40 semi-finalist from over 11,000 entries across the country. Later that night a phone interview is conducted. Both the written and oral submissions then go to a panel of three judges who decide the top 10.

Lisa found out she was a finalist!

June 2 ~ A call comes from Digitas in NYC, informing Distinctive Gardens they are one of the top 10 finalists.

June 10 ~ The Big Break camera crew of  from Boston, NYC, LA, and Chicago converge on Distinctive Gardens and spend an entire day shooting and interviewing to make a 90 second video for the competition. (Vote HERE 🙂  The crew:  Jon,Jerry, Kristyna, Casey and Leif parachute (not really)  into on Dixon IL and eat mounds of homemade cookies.

July 5 ~ Facebook and American Express OPEN launch public voting on the top 10 videos to determine the top 5 winners.

 

The Prize:  American Express Open has teamed up with Facebook to give 5 small businesses a Facebook business makeover and $25,000 to grow their business. Wish Lisa luck, and go vote (and tell your friends, too) for Distinctive Gardens!

 

 

Google’s Sucker Punch May 20, 2011

Filed under: Ideas,Life in General,Strategy — Carla Bobka @ 6:52 pm
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Google is doing a global release of social search. Sixteen languages at once. Sounds like lots of sleepless nights and RedBull in Silicon Valley.  Social search will put links from your friends at the top of your search results. It will be more friendly or like friends have recommended certain things.  (Mashable article and Google’s How it Works video.)

Facebook is mad

Facebook is really worried about (or scared or mad about) Google’s social search tool. So much so that they hired a PR firm to bad mouth it. Most people I know consider what they did playing ugly. They got caught. But, I don’t expect that bothers them.

I don’t spend much time thinking about the soap opera unfolding between the Silicon Valley neighbors. I’m more interested in how social search effects me. This whole thing got me thinking about how I use search in different contexts. Google vs. Facebook.

  1. Google is a search Master. It searches everything. I expect them to include social.
  2. Facebook search is 2 things – it searches page/profile names within Facebook and it uses Bing to bring up a handful of web-wide results, way down at the bottom of the page.

Here is how I use each one.

My browser’s default search engine is set to Google. If someone else sneaks me over to Ask.com or Yahoo.com I go back and re-search on Google. A recent update to my Weather.com desktop app snuck in a change to Ask.com as my default search engine. (Despite UNchecking the box during installation.) I change it back to Google. And BTW – I think less of Weather.com because they tried to pull a fast one.

When I’m on Facebook I search for pages and profiles and apps within Facebook. I’m not looking for web-wide results. Bing puts a few options at the bottom, but I hardly ever click on them. Why? Because I’m looking for a Facebook Page. The only time I ever click through to the Bing result is if I’m frustrated at not finding the particular page on Facebook, so I go to the company’s website in hopes there’s a link back to Facebook there.  It is hard to find the right page within Facebook. Yesterday I searched for a local boutique called Polka Dots. There are dozens of Facebook Pages called Polka Dots. They were all dead ends. I searched over and over. I never did find it. So when stats say Facebook search is  the #2 search tool, I question why. My experience is that it’s because it’s so hard to find the right thing. (Of course that’s because so many businesses set up their page based on local thinking, and Facebook is a global platform.)

How do you use the search functionality within Facebook?