Friday, June 8, 2012

If You Build It, Will They Come?

I recently launched a website for my sporting goods business. Do I need to do anything special to attract customers to my website? I know nothing about search engines and marketing as such. Please tell me where to begin. -- Sean M.

Sean, that is a question that has been asked by every business person who has ever launched a website. If I build it, will they come? Of course they will -- if you’ve built a website that appeals to dead baseball players.

For those of you who didn’t get the “Field of Dreams” reference, let me put it this way: No, Sean, if you build it they will not come, at least not without some effort on your part.

Assuming that a website will automatically attract customers is the single biggest mistake that many business owners make. It is this mistake that eventually leads them to dismiss their website as a failure and abandon their online sales efforts.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard a client say, “Well, I threw up a website, but nobody ever came to it and I didn’t sell a single thing from it! Dang thing was a waste of time, if you ask me …”

Forgive me, but “threw up” is the operative term there. These short-sighted entrepreneurs (God love them) mistakenly think that all they have to do is throw up a website and that their business will automatically double overnight. And when nothing happens they blame it on the infallibility of the Internet, on El Nino, on the Bosa Nova, on their customers… everything but their own lack of marketing efforts.

If you build it, will they come? That, Sean, depends totally on you.

When it comes to attracting customers, opening an online business (or an online branch of an existing business) is no different from opening a traditional brick and mortar shop. Without a little fanfare and a well-devised marketing plan, chances are your website will become just another spot of roadkill on the Information Superhighway.

The first step in devising your marketing plan is to ask yourself this question: Who is my customer? Who is it that I want to attract to my website? Believe it or not, this is a question many entrepreneurs fail to ask. The identity of your customer is incredibly important because if you don’t know who your customer is, how can you expect to market to them?

The next question concerns the locality of your customer. Do you want to attract a local or global clientele to your website? If the answer is local, then you will gear your marketing efforts toward customers in your own backyard, which means incorporating your website launch with your offline marketing efforts.

If the website is the online branch of a brick and mortar business, include the website URL in all your print materials and advertising campaigns. Consider running ads in the local paper, on radio or TV announcing the launch of your site. Use direct mail or in-store posters to announce the site launch to your existing customer base. In short, keep doing what you’re doing to attract customers to your physical store, just add your website address to the mix.

Just remember, it’s important to consider your website a branch of your brick and mortar business because that’s exactly what it is. A good business website will help you sell more products, widen your range of clientele, and increase your revenue without adding overhead. Don’t sell your website short. Make it work for you.

If you are seeking a global audience, your marketing efforts will be quite different. Attracting customers from around the world is a more difficult task than attracting customers from around the block. Fortunately, the task is not impossible. The Internet has leveled the playing field in many ways. Now every business, no matter how large or small, has the ability to do business internationally.

In the most basic sense, an online marketing campaign to attract global customers should include the following efforts.

Register With Search Engines

There’s not enough room in this newspaper for a thorough discussion of search engines and their effectiveness (or lack thereof) in driving traffic to a website. Suffice it to say that 95% of search engine traffic comes from Google and Yahoo, so start there. It’s also important to realize that just registering with search engines does not guarantee you traffic, but it certainly can’t hurt.

Unfortunately, the free search engine lunch ran out a couple of years ago when search engines figured out that people would actually pay for listings and higher placement. Since that time the only way to guarantee a high (or at least higher than others) ranking is to pay for it. The two most popular pay-for-placement programs are Yahoo’s “Yahoo Express” and Google’s “Adwords.” Visit their respective websites for details on these programs. Be prepared to spend several hundred dollars at a minimum to get your site listed.

Exchange Links With Similar Sites

One free – and potentially effective - way to drive customers to your website is through link exchanges with sites of similar interest. Locate sites that make a good match to your own and contact the owner to ask if they will link to your site in exchange for you linking to theirs. If you sell golf balls on your website, set up a link exchange with another website that sells golf clubs. You post a link to them and they post a link to you. It’s called digital back scratching, and if done properly, can work well to drive traffic your way.

Go To Where The Customers Are

If the mountain won’t come to Mohammed, then Mohammed must go to the mountain. One little known way to attract customers to your website is to market your products on a mega-site like eBay. There are thousands and thousands of people on eBay at any given time and each one is potentially your customer, so it's a great place to drum up business. Your goal is not to make a living selling on eBay, but to use eBay as a marketing tool to drive traffic back to your website. Go to where the customers are, then bring them back home with you.

Let’s use our golf ball example. Post a few auctions on eBay selling your golf balls at a ridiculously low price so your auction attracts plenty of attention. When customers make a purchase, add them to your client list and send them an email inviting them to visit your website for more great products. eBay also lets you create your own “About Me” page that you can use to advertise your business.

We have just scratched the surface, but hopefully this is enough to get you started. I wish I could tell you that attracting customers to your website is easy, but the truth is, it's anything but. It takes hard work, creativity and above all, perseverance.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

How To Be A Business Success

Through observing business people who have been successful, and how they achieved their success, I have concluded that there are a number of factors that must be present for business success to occur. As I like to keep things simple, these success factors can be condensed into a formula. It is:

Success = Startup Business Person + Product/Service + Market

Let us look at this formula in a little more detail. Firstly, what is success? The definition of success depends on what you want to get out of the venture, that is, what your goals are. Business success usually means creating a viable entity (business) that returns its investment and earns a profit.

Appropriate and realistic goals include to be challenged, to achieve, and to build something good. For example, your definition of success could be to earn $100,000 a year from your home business so that you can replace your full time job income.

The most crucial element of the above formula is the "Startup Business Person". This element decides all the others.

Ultimately, a successful startup business person is someone who opens, manages and runs a successful startup business and can repeat the process. This is someone who has accepted the responsibility and learned how the job is done.

Successful startup business people usually always start small and grow the business. They do not have too many irons in the fire at once so that their efforts are not diffused. They give it everything they have and believe that hard work counts. They try repeatedly until they achieve the success they are looking for. Moreover, most of all, they possess a positive mental attitude.

They have learned to emulate success. Do you know what emulate means? To emulate means to attempt to equal or surpass. In other words, if you were to attempt to emulate someone else's success, you would imitate them and as you gained further knowledge and skill, you would attempt to do better than them. Remember that emulation takes things one step further than imitate.

The next part of the formula is "Product/Service". Without something to sell, there can be no business. Generally, the product or service needs to be of a high quality. It also needs to be something that people are prepared to pay for.

The last component of the formula is "Market". A successful business person knows who their market is and how to reach it in the most cost effective manner. The market is defined as the people who want and are prepared to pay for the product or service.

I would now like to run through with you what I consider are the basic principles of home, small or online business success.

Believe in Your Product or Service

First, you need to believe in your product or service. If you do not believe in it, you will have a great deal of difficulty selling your product or service to other people. You also need to have confidence in your ability to provide and promote your product or service. An old saying sums this up best: "All things are possible to he who believes".

Aptitude for the Business

Secondly, you need to have an aptitude for the business. You will also need the motivation to acquire at the very least basic skills and experience before you start your business. If you were to set yourself up as a home electrician but did not have any skills or training in this area, then you will almost certainly fail. However, if you are employed as a bookkeeper and you enjoy the job, then setting up your own bookkeeping service would be a sensible choice with a greater chance of success.

Be Responsible

Thirdly, you need to be responsible to your customers. This is achieved by only making commitments you can keep and by not engaging in misleading or dishonest advertising. If you want to build long term success in your home business, then you need to develop long term satisfied customers. When their needs are being satisfied, customers are at their happiest.

Aim for High Quality

The next principle is that you need to have a high quality product or service. This will be your best advertisement. Inferior quality products usually generate poor customer satisfaction. A dissatisfied customer can be very dangerous for your business. Usually they tell on average about fourteen other people who will then be disinclined to buy your product or service based on the experience of that one dissatisfied person. Therefore, always aim for a top quality product or service.

Make a Profit

However, it is not enough to have a top quality product or service. You also need to have a product or service that will generate enough income to cover all your business expenses and give you a satisfactory wage. A friend of mine once said that business is only about two things: satisfying customers and making a profit. A simple statement but very true.

Sufficient Startup Capital

You also need to have access to enough cash to set up and run your business, and enough income to meet your private expenses during the startup phase. A major problem with many home and small businesses is that they fail to have enough money available to ensure their success. There is nothing more discouraging than having a great idea, getting it started on a shoestring, not being able to expand due to cash shortages and seeing a competitor come along and steal your market.

Start Small

Another fundamental principle of home business success is that you start small. This will enable you to minimize your overheads until you are confident of your success in the marketplace. For many of you, this would mean starting part-time while retaining your full-time income source. When you can, expand your business into a full-time venture. This is a great way of minimizing the risk of failure.

Be Well Organized

Successful home businesses are well organized. They have a system for keeping track of expenditure and earnings. This level of organization in your business will help to ensure that you are providing your customers or clients with a top quality product or service. It will also ensure that you have enough information available to maximize your profitability and to satisfy your legal requirements for record keeping.

Be Prepared

Preparation is another important ingredient in your business success. This preparation will include being aware of the regulations and laws affecting small, home or online business in your area or country. Armed with this knowledge, you should not have any nasty surprises from unintentional violations of the law.

Have a Business Plan

Finally, successful home businesses have developed a comprehensive business plan. This is their road map to success. It tells them where they are going and how they are going to get there. It is very useful for comparing actual performance against what you planned and enabling you to make adjustments to lead to greater success. There are many useful software packages available to assist you with your business plan preparation.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Popcorn and Other Marketing Mistakes In a Changing Economy

Copyright 2006 Dave Kahle

Ten years of competitive hell!

That was the title on the seminar brochure I received recently. As I survey some of the forces flowing through our economy, and witness the way in which they effect my clients, I have to agree. The Information Age is certainly one of the most turbulent times business people have ever seen.

And the force causing the greatest turbulence is rapid, unrelenting change. Consider this. In 1900, the total amount of knowledge that mankind had was doubling about every 500 years. Today, it doubles about every two years. And the pace continues to increase. One futurist predicts that today's high school seniors will have to absorb more information in their final year alone than their grandparents did in their entire life.

At the same time that things are changing rapidly, competition is increasing in almost every industry. Foreign competitors have entered our markets, the wave of corporate downsizing has transformed thousands of displaced executives into reluctant entrepreneurs, and the knowledge explosion continues to evidence itself in new technologies that often provide radically different ways of accomplishing some task.

The result?

Burgeoning competition in almost every industry. I have yet to meet an executive who has said, "I have fewer competitors today than I did three years ago." Continually growing numbers of competitors seems to be a characteristic of our economy that we are going to have to live with for the foreseeable future.

Unfortunately, these forces of rapid change and growing competition have brought a cloud of confusion to CEOs and sales executives trying to grow their businesses.

One common response to this cloud of confusion is what I call "Popcorn." Imagine kernels of popcorn simmering in hot oil in the bottom of a popcorn popper. As the heat grows, one of the kernels explodes and rockets off against the side of the popper. A few moments later, another kernel explodes and shoots off in another direction. Before long, the canister is full of careening kernels bouncing in every direction.

That's my analogy to the way in which many businesses attempt to increase their sales when the temperature created by growing competition gets hot. As the heat of the situation grows, they know they have to do something. Then along comes a good idea and, pop, like a kernel of exploding popcorn, they lunge at the good idea.

The good idea can be anything. Maybe it's a media representative who suggests a new advertisement. That sounds like a good idea. So, "pop" off they go after that. Or it could be a salesperson suggesting that a computer program will solve their problems. That sounds like a good idea, so "pop," off they go after that good idea. Next is an advertising agency suggesting a new brochure. That also sounds good, and "pop," like kernels of corn exploding in every direction, they expend money and energy in short term "good ideas."

Like kernels of popcorn, they frantically chase lots of good ideas hoping that one will be the answer to the marketing problems. The problem is that these good ideas rarely have any relationship to one another. And, they generally present superficial solutions to problems which are often deeper. The company's time and energy is diverted toward these superficial "good ideas," and away from the deeper solutions.

For example, an advertisement in a trade journal may be a superficial solution for a company that does not have a system for identifying qualified prospects. And a new brochure may be a superficial response for an organization that doesn't have feedback mechanism in place to adequately understand its customers.

The unfortunate consequences are often more pressure, more confusion, and more energy expended in the wrong places.

Is there a better way? Sure. A far more effective response is to create a powerful sales and marketing system. A sales and marketing system provides an interconnected, measurable set of processes and tools that ultimately result in increased sales. Where would McDonald's be today without a system to consistently produce hot hamburgers? Where would Ford be if they had no system to design and build new automobiles? The keys to success for these businesses has been their ability to create and manage effective systems to accomplish their goals.

Sales and marketing can be treated in exactly the same way. The process of acquiring customers and then expanding the business with them can be systematized. If you're successful in creating a working system, you'll be investing your resources in the most effective way, and producing predictable, regular sales results.

Your sales and marketing system should start with a thorough understanding of the needs and interests of the prospects. Fold into that an honest awareness of the unique value your company brings to the market, and you have the beginning framework for your system. Your system should focus on the highest potential market segments, and develop segment-specific processes and tools to help you reach your market in the most cost-effective way.

When your system is designed, you'll also have a set of criteria in place to help you adequately assess the potential in such things as advertisements, brochures, computer programs, etc.

A well-designed system allows you to move out of the desperate reactive mode characterized by "Popcorn" and into a confident pro-active mode.

Here are seven questions to determine whether you're operating from the "Systems" perspective or the "Popcorn" mind set.

1.  Do you have specific, realistic objectives for your sales and marketing efforts?

2. Have you precisely identified your highest potential markets segments?

3. Have you identified the sequence of decisions that a typical prospect goes through to come to a decision to buy your product or service?

4. Have you identified the key activities and processes that must take place on a monthly basis in order for you to reach your sales objectives?

5. Do you have a monthly measurement of the quantity and quality of your key marketing activities?

6. Are you able to track exactly how much it costs to create a customer?

7. Do all of your marketing collateral (brochures, ads, etc.) directly support the purposes and processes of your system?

Obviously, a positive answer to those questions indicates that you have a well defined sales and marketing system in place. That means that you have gone from reactive to pro-active marketing, and that you're well on your way to regular, predictable sales. Negative answers mean that you have some work to do to bring your sales and marketing efforts into a proactive mode to allow you to successfully compete in the turbulent 21st Century.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Having Fun With Thought Crimes

Becomeing a thought criminal means thinking your own thoughts and going after what you and deciding to get it no

matter what.

Patience for the operator comes from having a clear outcomes. “Outcomes” are defined as goals that are under the

control of the operator. Anything that is not under the control of the operator falls into the category of wishes and

hopes and the operator is advised to ignore them.

With an understanding of outcomes, the rest is a matter of time hence the need for patience. The operator has an

understanding that while the end outcome has  value the next most recent outcome is the most important outcome.

This mindset prevents the hurried rush of urgency that is often accompanies unrestrained youth.

The Mystery of Silence
Silence, as you'll learn, creates a unique sense of mystery. The operator does well to apply the following rules when

considering his outcomes:

Conceal your intentions.
Being open with your intentions invites people who will obstruct, steal and hijack what you've intended.

    Demonstrate through actions never through argument.
Telling people what you do will invite the thought that you are a braggart and  you risk boring others with stories of

your accomplishments. If these stories are remembered they are likely to be retold with scepticizm.  People remember

what is done and build stories and mythologies around your actions by combining their story with their own emotions.

Use this to your advantage and let other people speak of your actions.

Always say less than necessary.
There is a mystery that comes from the “strong silent” type. Saying something outright can be forgotten but if you

allude to something, even something you know will happen, when it occurs the mystery will be confirmed.
This does not mean that you are unemotional or cold. Instead you behave as if you know something that most people

don't know or something that they shouldn't know.

Make what is difficult seem easy.
This again adds to the mystery of the operator. There are several ways that this can be done, one such way is guile

like slight of hand or prestidigitation. One method using guile is to allude to an unforeseen incidence as if you did

knew about it before hand but this should be done sparingly. Another such way to make the difficult seem easy is skill

and experience and has the strongest impact.

With this strong emphasis on mystery it does not mean that you act completely unaccessible. Instead, what you teach

should be treated as a mystery. What you know is for few to discover and only those rare individuals who are ready can

learn it. This will allow you to mix in any social circle, tease, laugh, flirt and cajole while the mystery of your

knowledge and understanding follows you like compelling lover.

Conviction is a fairly simple concept. It means that you are certain of what you are doing and why you are doing it.

Conviction means that you are so convinced that what you are doing it right, justified and good that it compels you

act. Strong conviction will compel you so powerfully to face any opposition without fear or hesitation. Conviction

will also cause you to ignore any personal fears or anxieties.

With that as a definition of conviction ask yourself if there is anything you feel that strongly about? If there is

the dive into it and use it as a resource.

If you don't yet have something that motivates you to that level of conviction it's not too late. Think about the

things that you love to do and be active in. remember times when committed yourself to do something simply because you

knew it was right and felt good.

If you ever want to watch two people empowered by their conviction speaking to the public just watch any old videos of

Rev. Billy Graham or Adolf Hilter. Ignore the message  and  turn off the sound. Just watch them. Both are compelling

speakers that are hard to ignore.  That is the level of conviction you might want to aspire.


If you have a strong conviction that what you are doing is right. You won't need too much help to build your focus.

But let's assume you have no idea what focus really is.

First, your sense of focus is to be used and demonstrated whenever you are with someone who could be a prospect,

recruit or initiate. When you are in their presence there should be nothing more than them on your mind.

Your goal it create an experience for them (you're a guru remember?) that they are the most important person in the

world to them at that moment in time.

In order to do this let's take a look at how most of our lives are like.

First, there is no secret to the fact that no matter who you are shit is going to happen. You are going to have to pay

bill, feed your belly and think about where the next dollar is coming from... this is just a part of life.

Your ability to focus and get what you want with a prospect, recruit or initiate can be directly effected by all of

these things if you let them. Even if they never come up in conversation. If those distracting details are on your

mind during a conversation you will not impact anyone to the degree that you could. 

What you have to do at those moment is intentionally put aside everything that could distract you from paying

attention to that person. When you do that nothing else is important and it will affect them in a very powerful way.

Winning no matter the outcome; The God Complex

The God Complex is my favorite subject and so I hope I do it justice.

The God Complex has absolutely nothing to do with a growing sense of infallibility and megalomanical behaviors.

What makes up the God Complex is really a perspective that is far more distant than your next outcome. 

Let's face it. With every goal you have a possibility of failure. That's just life. It does happen and it will happen.

But if you incorporate any possible failure into your “big picture” and find a way so that you can benefit from it

there will never be a disappointment or surprise.

Most people “fail” only because they invest too much of themselves in their success so that when it falls short they

are devastated. Some never recover. However if they realize failure is possible and incorporate it... should it happen

all they do is continue on with their business.

They have a bigger picture of themselves, Life, and their goals.

The result is they are more flexible to respond to what life throws them. Nothing surprises them except 1) when

someone truly “gets it” or 2) when someone who should get doesn't.  They are kinder to themselves and to the people

around them because they feel in control no matter what the situation.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Identity Document Scams

International Drivers Licenses - These are sold on the Internet. Legitimate ones are issued by the recognized auto club in your country and are ONLY valid with the normal government issued drivers license. The legitimate International Drivers License is little more than a translation document in numerous languages enabling authorities to see that you do hold a valid drivers license from your country. It is never a permission to drive by itself. It is never an identity document by itself since it was not issued by any government agency and if it is a real international drivers license you would have had to show a real drivers license to get one, so where is your real drivers license. Occasionally someone asks us if we would accept this as a form of identification and the answer is of course not.

Drivers Licenses - There are replica or false drivers licenses sold on the Internet. The banks are quite capable of knowing what is real and what is not real. People that buy these licenses are fooling themselves more than anyone else.

Passports - A few times a year our law firm gets presented with a hand written passport. Most large countries have not used hand written passports for over 35 years. Some of the less developed countries used them until the post 9/11 era, say around 2002. While it is possible to have a valid handwritten passport that is still current, the offshore banks will never accept one as an ID document. It must be a machine-readable passport. I would also say that traveling on a handwritten passport into the modern world would be difficult if not impossible. Most countries have machine readable passports with digitized photos, some even have RFID chip passports now and along you come with a handwritten passport and a picture glued into the passport with a stamp and signature across the bottom of the picture. I would think big problems. Get your country to issue you a new machine-readable passport with a digitized photo.

Camouflage Passports - A camouflage passport is a non-official document printed in a passport type booklet. Such passport booklets could be ordered from printers in Asia, not sure if this is still allowed to go on, doubt it. The camouflage passport was issued from a recently defunct country like Rhodesia. So the name of the issuer sounded quite real because at one time it was. When these first came out some offshore banks opened accounts based on them. After they were on the market for a while that soon stopped and the people who used them to open the accounts had their funds locked down. Perhaps they were allowed to show new identity documents; perhaps they were treated as criminals defrauding the bank and lost their money. Not sure since these countries at the time had bank secrecy. We are going back a number of years here. We are sure that numerous memos have been sent to offshore banks warning them of this and it was also a topic at numerous due diligence seminars. Again the person fooled the most by one of these camouflage passports is the buyer. Using one of these in the event of a terrorist detention in an airplane, hotel or elsewhere is unwise. You would be treated as a person of interest and probably questioned vigorously. If they simply decided you were nothing more than a person who likes to play games they would possibly lose interest in you but then again you came to their attention and became singled out and that is never a good thing is such a scenario. Contrary to what you see on TV and in the movies serious terrorists would be likely to do what any self respecting Mexican Road Bandito does and that is strip 100% naked the victims. This does not play out well on family oriented TV shows. This enables the bad guys to find things like identity documents, official credentials, keys, discrete weapons, money, contraband, and anything else that might have been concealed. So they will now find your other real passport and again you are a person of interest to the bad guys.

Traveling with a camouflage passport is of course idiotic. If the authorities of some country find one on you it would be likely that you get detained and experience a long interrogation or worse especially if the name was different. This is a novelty item, not a second passport. These camouflage passports can only come back and hurt you. If you really fear traveling on your own passport go through the trouble of processing through immigration in another country and get a real second passport. Then you should have a government issued residency card, a driver?s license from the country and a visa card from a bank in that country, as we suggest and help our clients obtain. This is a full set of real legitimate ID that will pass scrutiny in any country.

Fantasia Passports - These are passports issued from non-real countries. A famous one is Hutt River. There is a fellow who has a very modest parcel of land in Australia. He read some law and as a result declared war on Australia. They apparently did not mobilize the army and just ignored him, which left him able to declare his independence, or so he thinks, claims, or whatever. He calls himself a country and issues passports. He bought the passport books most likely in Asia. I believe his are printed but not machine readable so he probably is not able to get newer ones or he just wants to use up the ones he has. I even saw a diplomatic version of one of these once.

These passports are not good for much. Maybe if you were in a real depraved third world country and tried a land crossing through an obscure border crossing going from one depraved third world country to another depraved third world country and there was an illiterate guard there it might work. People often take these fantasy passports and submit them for entry visas to third world countries in Africa who are happy to sell anyone a visa stamp. They collect a few entry visas and then try using it since it looks more real in that other countries have accepted it. Of course all the countries they have allegedly visited have only entry visas without an exit visa, which will raise many red flags in a civilized country.

Another instance of these involved an old WWII oil platform a few miles off the cost of the UK called Sea Land. This was an oil platform that declared itself sovereign and issued passports. For a funny touch of humor. Over the years counterfeiters have printed their own versions of the fictitious countries selling passports and sold them thus cheating the original promoter out of sales knowing a prosecution would be almost impossible since the country in question is not real. The Florida Keys tried issuing their own passports some years back issuing Conch Republic passports. Conch is a fish used in seafood in the Florida Keys. These are very real looking fantasy passports. I imagine by now they have been pressured into stopping this practice. In a nutshell you are far safe and better off without one of these fictitious country passports than with one.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

How to Apply for a Job Online

In an increasingly online marketplace, applying for jobs often means sending your resume and cover letter electronically. Some companies have online application forms right on their Websites. Here, you can choose the job you wish to apply for, plug your work experience, skills, and education into online fields, then submit this information with a single click of a button.

Online application forms differ from another and will require different information. For example, some companies ask that you "copy-and-paste" your resume and cover letter into two fields. Others ask that applicants fill in multiple fields such as "work experience," "education," etc. Still others ask that you do both-submit your resume and cover letter, and fill in fields that require the same employment-related information.

Whatever type of online application form a company might have, be sure that all your information is posted in one field or another. Don't be afraid to repeat information, especially if the form requests a resume and a separate breakdown of your work history. Your information will be automatically uploaded into an online database, where hiring managers will likely scout for keywords. The more times your keywords come up, the better.

While some companies-especially large ones have online application forms, many others simply ask candidates to e-mail their application materials to the appropriate person or to a general employment address like "" Here, caution is warranted. Be sure to send your resume and cover letter exactly as the hiring manager requests. Some employers prefer that the resume and cover letter be attached as separate documents (usually in a Text Only format or as Microsoft Word documents). Other employers want the cover letter to be in the body of an e-mail, but the resume to be attached separately. Still others prefer that both the resume and the cover letter be pasted into the body of an e-mail. For the latter, be sure that your documents are easy to read. Resumes, which have a rather complicated format, often look messy when they are transplanted into the body of an e-mail. Says recruiter Beth Camp: "If you e-mail a resume, it has to look as good as a written resume. I would advise sending a resume both as an attachment and in the body of your e-mail." This is a good way to sidestep a possible formatting fiasco. Another way is to send your resume and cover letter electronically, then to send hard copies as well.

Some jobseekers opt to purchase domain names and to create their own Websites for the purpose of putting their resumes (and other application materials) online. The advantage of formatting your resume using HTML and making it a static Web page is that anyone can see your resume in its proper format simply by visiting your Website. Thus, instead of mailing or e-mailing your resume every time you want someone to see it, you can simply give the interested parties the right web address and they can find it for themselves. An added bonus of having your resume on a Web page is that you may attract the interest of recruiters and employers whom you hadn't even considered. To make downloading your resume easier, you may want to include on your Website copies of your resume in PDF (portable document format) and Microsoft Word files.

Unfortunately, there are downsides to putting your resume on a Website. One downside is that your information becomes accessible to everyone, even unwanted visitors. For this reason, you should never disclose your home address, social security number, or any other personal information. Another downside is that not all hiring managers will go out of their way to visit your Website. Even if your resume is only a click away, many hiring managers would nevertheless prefer that you mail or e-mail it.

In terms of how you send your application materials, it would be unwise to go against the explicit wishes of an employer. For example, don't send an attachment when copy-and-pasting is requested. Some companies shun attachments because they fear getting a virus, or because they don't have compatible software, or because they simply don't want to be bothered with the extra step of opening a document.

When assembling your application materials and putting them into an e-mail, don't fill in the "to" field until you are finished. It's all too easy to accidentally send a half-finished e-mail to a company, thus eliminating your chances of making a decent first impression, and most likely, of getting an interview. If you were asked to copy-and-paste your resume and cover letter, be sure to scan the final outcome at least once for formatting problems, then to use a spell checker a final time.

If you are attaching your documents, be absolutely sure you are attaching the right versions (i.e., the company-tailored and updated versions) to the employer. Also, be sure that they are labeled in a professional way. One jobseeker laments his decision to save different versions of his resume under headings like "Resume for Strategic Sourcing Jobs." Says the jobseeker: "I was applying for three different types of positions. But I didn't want every prospective employer to know that. By labeling my outgoing resumes the way I did, I pretty much broadcasted the fact that I didn't have a clear career direction." Probably the best strategy for saving your resume is to do so under your name only (example: Simone Piette  resume) or under your name and the name of the company (example: Greenfield resume from Simone Piette). Be sure to say in your e-mail what you have attached, and also, what software you've used. For example, you might say in the body of your e-mail: "Please see my attached resume in Microsoft Word version 2002."

Before a hiring manager even opens your e-mail, she should know exactly who you are and which job you are applying for. In the "Subject" line, write your name, the position name (and job number, if listed), and the contents of your application (example, "Simone Piette resume and cover letter for Executive Assistant Position").

If you've been referred to a position by another person, be sure to "cc" (carbon copy) or "bcc" (blind carbon copy) your reference when you apply. That is, add that person's e-mail to the "cc" or "bcc" field, which will enable that person to receive an exact copy of the e-mail you're sending to the hiring manager. The reason you want to "cc" or "bcc" your referrer is because you want to keep him in the loop. After all, if someone has offered to help you, he should know what stage you're at in the application process. (Note: Some e-mail programs don't offer "cc" or "bcc" fields, in which case you'll want to e-mail your reference separately.)

Finally, be sure to save a copy of your outgoing e-mail in your "Sent Mail" folder, just in case the e-mail doesn't go through and you need to send it again.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Is PR Really A “Soft” Discipline?

If so, what is a “hard” discipline? One that involves HUGEmoney or personal pain? One that absorbs all the general counsel’s time? Or, is it the blinding success of a brand new business or, maybe, something that affects individual careers? Or must it simply employ clubs and brass knuckles?

I believe public relations is as “hard” as ANY discipline can get when it puts together for a business, non-profit,   government agency or association, the resources and action planning needed to alter individual perception leading to changed behaviors among their most important outside audiences. When it goes on to help managers persuade those key folks to his or her way of thinking, then move them to take actions that allow their department, group, division or subsidiary to succeed, that’s hard, real hard.

Since, plain and simple, that can mean success or failure for the organization, yes, I’d call it a very “hard” discipline indeed!

And that notion isn’t just sitting out there all by itself. Its foundation is the underlying premise of public relationsitself: People act on their own perception of the facts before them, which leads to predictable behaviors about which something can be done. When we create, change or reinforce that opinion by reaching, persuading and moving-to-desired-action the very people whose behaviors affect the organization the most, the public relations mission is usually accomplished.

That’s why many managers are comforted by the thoughtthat the right public relations planning really CAN alter individual perception and lead to changed behaviors among key outside audiences!

Should you be that manager, try to remember that your PR effort must demand more than special events, press releases and brochures if you are to receive the quality public relations results you want.

It will all seem worthwhile when capital givers or specifying sources beginning to look your way; customers begin to make repeat purchases; membership applications start to rise; new proposals for strategic alliances and joint ventures start showing up; politicians and legislators begin looking at you as a key member of the business, non-profit, government or association communities; welcome bounces in show room visits occur; community leaders begin to seek you out, and prospects actually start to do business with you.

Close by are your public relations professionals who can be of real use for your new opinion monitoring project because they are already in the perception and behavior business. But be certain that the PR staff really accepts why it’s SO important to know how your most important outside audiences perceive your operations, products or services. Above all, be sure they believe that perceptions almost always result in behaviors that can help or hurt your operation.

Before you monitor and gather perceptions by questioning members of your most important outside audiences, go over your plans with your PR staff. Rehearse asking questions like these:  how much do you know about our organization? Have you had prior contact with us and were you pleased with the interchange? Are you familiar with our services or products and employees? Have you experienced problems with our people or procedures?

Be ready for an epiphany when you discover that usingprofessional survey firms to do the opinion gathering work will cost considerably more than using those PR folks of yours, who already happen to be in the perception monitoring business. However, whether it’s your people or a survey firm asking the questions, the objective remains the same: identify untruths, false assumptions, unfounded rumors, inaccuracies, misconceptions and any other negative perception that might translate into hurtful behaviors.

Goal-setting time has arrived, a goal that calls for action on the most serious problem areas you uncovered during your key audience perception monitoring. Will it be to straighten out that dangerous misconception? Correct that gross inaccuracy? Or, stop that potentially painful rumor cold?

The facts of life say that setting your PR goal requires an equally specific strategy that tells you how to get there. Only three strategic options are available to you when it comes to doing something about perception and opinion. Change existing perception, create perception where there may be none, or reinforce it. The wrong strategy pick will taste like Hollandaise Sauce on your waffles, so be sure your new strategy fits well with your new public relations goal. You certainly don’t want to select “change” when the facts dictate a strategy of reinforcement.

Good writing is always important in public relations, but never more so than now.  Here, you’ve got to put together a persuasive message that will help move your key audience to your way of thinking. It must be a carefully-written message targeted directly at your key external audience. Select your very best writer because s/he must come up with corrective language that is not just compelling, persuasive and believable, but clear and factual if it is to shift perception/opinion towards your point of view and wind up with the behaviors you have in mind.

Selecting the communications tactics most likely to carry your message to the attention of your target audience can be a fun chore. There are many available to you. From speeches, facility tours, emails and brochures to consumer briefings, media interviews, newsletters, personal meetings and many others. Take time to assure yourself that the tactics you pick are known to reach folks just like your audience members.

Another reality we labor under in PR is that the credibility of any message is fragile and always suspect to some folks. So the method you use to communicate it is a very valid concern. Which is why you may wish to unveil such a corrective message through smaller presentations and meetings rather than using higher-profile news releases.

Many eventualities can lead you to begin a second perception monitoring session with members of your external audience. But nothing like talk of progress reports. You’ll want to use many of the same questions used in the benchmark session. But now, you will be on strict alert for signs that the bad news perception is being altered in your direction.

Not all programming runs apace, so should momentum flag, you can always move things along by adding more communications tactics as well as increasing their frequencies.

Calling tactical devices tactical devices (like the communications tactics discussed above), avoids confusing them with the broader, more comprehensive mission known as public relations. A mission that we now seeallows managers of all stripes to alter individual perception in a way that leads to changed behaviors among key outside audiences.

A discipline you certainly could call one of the “harder” disciplines insuring the success of any manager’s operation.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Firing Someone – Does it have to be painful, for them and you?

Copyright 2006 The National Learning Institute

The need to write this article came about through the recent experience of two of my friends.  Both had been fired.  One for supposed poor performance (although she had never been counselled and at the time was in fact on sick leave) and one because the start up facility she was employed by, suddenly closed down.  Both were senior managers.  Both were loyal, hardworking employees but are now very angry and taking legal action against their former employers.  Why are they so angry?  One could say it’s because they have lost their jobs and this would be quite understandable.  However, the main action that has triggered their anger and catapulted them down the legal pathway (in both cases), was that they were informed of their dismissals by emails.  Yes, that’s right by email!  They were never given the courtesy of a face to face discussion.

Many managers, when faced with the challenge of firing someone, forget, or are unaware of the emotions that are experienced by the person being fired.  Nor are they aware of the behaviour that most often results from these emotions.  It has been well documented that the death of a loved one, a marriage or long term relationship breakup and the loss of one’s job, have an equal and similar impact on one’s emotions.  Think for a moment about the loss of one of your dear relatives or friends through death – how did you feel?  That’s exactly the same feeling that people have when they suddenly and unexpectedly lose their jobs.

The psychologists tell us that there are 5 stages that people go through in this “grief cycle” – Shock, Resistance (often manifested as anger), Acceptance (of the current situation), Exploration (of new opportunities), Commitment (to a new future).  Can any of these emotions be managed via email?

I can well recall the first time as a manager I had to fire someone.  It was for poor performance and I was scared.  I did not sleep the night before wondering what I would say and what would be her reaction.  I carried out the interview in the morning with great fear and trepidation.  I was not sure how the interview went, but was relieved when it was over and then took a break for lunch, but was unable to eat.  I did not know about the “5 stages” at the time, I only knew that I had to do the right thing by the organisation and by the employee.  I arrived back from my break to find a box of chocolates on my desk with a very nice note from the employee saying how much she appreciated my courtesy and kindness.  I guess, intuitively I must have got something right.

Now, from years of experience, I know two things about firing someone:

1. Firstly, the person at all times must maintain his or her self esteem.  This is one of the most basic and important needs that all people have (emailing someone, or even worse as I heard since starting this article, texting, sends a clear message that they are not worthy of a face to face discussion)

2. Secondly, it is vitally important to realise that all people will go through the five stages of the grief cycle (quite often at different paces) and as a manager, it is our role and responsibility to help them progress through these stages, particularly the first two that are likely to occur when they are still with us.

How do you do this?  Well, in my usual style when writing an article such as this, I did my web research.  Sad to say there was not much there.  Under “firing someone” there seemed to be a plethora of articles about the legal requirements and many about the steps to take.  For example, one article suggested the following steps:  Give warning, Document, Document, Document! Time it right, Prepare the paperwork, Don't go it alone (ensure you have someone from HR there), Ensure privacy, Be brief, Watch your tone, Seek feedback, Give a good send-off.  Few of these steps would address the 5 stages of grief.  Many could probably be done by email with the same impact and result!  If these steps were followed, I wonder what “feedback” the manager would receive – would there in fact be a “Good send-off”?

I’m not suggesting that we don’t have to address some of these.  For example, you must cover all of the documentary and legal responsibilities pertinent to your country and organisation’s requirements.  But keep in mind that the fired employee is first and foremost a person just like you with feelings and emotions that must be managed.

Here are some suggestions (assuming of course that you have fulfilled all the other requirements) for the next time that you have to fire someone:

• Before taking any action, ask yourself: “How would I feel if my boss came to me today and said – you’re fired!”  Write down a list of words that describe your feelings.

• If you were in the situation of being fired, how would you like your boss to handle it?  What would you like him/her to do and to say?  Jot down some of your thoughts.

• Now write down a list of the words that best describe your feelings about having to fire someone.  Review all the words you have scribbled down so far and pick out the two or three strongest.  Also keep in mind how you would like to be handled in similar circumstances.

• Script the start of the conversation using the two or three words you have discovered.  e.g. “This is really difficult for me.  I feel apprehensive and worried that I won’t get it right.”

• The next part of your opening script will depend on the circumstances.  For example in a “lay off” situation, it might go something like; “I have been advised that I have to terminate the employment of a number of people.  I am really sad to say that your name is on that list”.  Or, for a non performance issue, it could be something like;  “We have discussed my expectations about your performance and unfortunately they are still not being met.  It now really saddens me (or whatever your feelings are) that I will have to terminate your employment”.

• Be careful.  You can only script the opening few lines, but they are important because they set the scene for the entire interview.

• It is most likely that during the remainder of the interview, the employee will travel backward and forwards between “shock” and “resistance”.  Give your reasons for the termination clearly and succinctly, but do not get into a discussion about justifying yours (or your employer’s) reasons.  Doing so will keep the employee fixed in either of the first two stages and will not help them to progress.  Only sincere listening and clear questioning (not reasoning) will help the employee progress to the acceptance stage.

One factor that is often overlooked when firing someone, is that the way it is done can have as much impact (positive or negative) on the people who remain.  They will be watching (and will invariably get a first hand report from their colleague) about how well or otherwise the process was managed.  The people who remain in the organisation, and whom I assume you want to keep, get a good look at both the manager’s and the organisation’s real people management skills when under the stress of firing someone.  They’ll most certainly ask “Could this happen to me?”