A lot of talk lately about the new Palm Pre PDA/Handheld. Stuff Magazine claims it might be THE phone to kill the iPhone. Not that one cares or should care about such things… except that Apple dominates right now in so many areas and still manages to suck ass in a lot of the areas they dominate in. Case in point: our dead iPods that DO NOT come with replaceable batteries. (I have a 60 gig iPod that will not even turn on anymore that is only 2 years old…. sad little thing.) Once an ipod hits the 2 or 3 year mark they just stop working and won’t recharge. Buy a new battery you say? Yeah, great idea. Except that Apple doesn’t offer that. So you either throw it away or call Apple to see what you CAN do. They tell you that for $168 they will “fix it” or send you a “refurbished and reformatted” ipod. They DO NOT guarantee that they will send you YOUR ipod back. So that’s that. Your ipod is history.
ipod pricing has come down so much that you can now buy the same ipod that you paid $500 for two or three years ago for $200. That’s not a bad thing. But it does make their $168 fee to fix your dead battery or give you a refurbished replacement a negligible solution. Now you might as well buy a new one. And get used to it. Because you’ll be doing that every 2 or 3 years. Great idea guys. Now that’s innovation.
A buddy says to me the other day, “dude can I use your charger for my ipod again?” I’m like “what? you just used it last night…” He’s like “yeah I know but it only holds a charge for an hour or less now… do they have a new battery I can get for this?” “Nah man. You send it in for $168 for them to send you some used one…” “But I only paid $150 for this new,” he says. “yeah, welcome to the world of the ipod.”
And that’s just the grand finale rape scene that leaves you weeping when you exit the theatre. Forget about all the kicking biting scratching punching and beating you take before that trying to use the damn thing.
A friend says to me a few weeks ago while looking for a song, “God I hate scrolling like this! It drives me crazy. Isn’t there any other way to find a song or an artist?” “Nope. Nice huh?” Looks cool, but they cost three times as much as they should and will drive you absolutely crazy if you try to use it. Hey wait a minute! That sounds like something else… what is it??? oh that’s it. Apple computers themselves. But let’s not even go there yet.
So I call Apple one day. “Hey there. I probably loaded about ten new albums into iTunes this weekend and I want to be able to see those new albums on my ipod after I synch. How do I do that? “I’m sorry sir. You can’t.” “What?!!! You’re telling me that there is no way to sort according to most recently added so I can see the newest music that I have on my ipod???!” “No sir. Good idea though. We haven’t come up with it yet.” “O.k. well then take it. It’s yours. Consider it a freebie.” Crazy fucks. Have they never used an ipod themselves? Do they keep a list of the newest music they loaded in on their iPhone or something? Or perhaps scrawled on a piece of paper in their pocket?
[truth be told we did create a solution, a lame one, but this will do till they let you sort your music on the ipod in a variety of ways AND even let you create customized sorting configs as they SHOULD. Here’s the fix: You will have to create ENDLESS playlists in iTunes on your computer called “New Music 1, 2, 3,” etc and then drag your newest music over there. That's the best they got. But even that sucks because the ipod DOESN’T LET YOU SEE WHAT THE NAME OF THE FREAKING ALBUMS OR ARTISTS ARE IN PLAYLISTS!!! All you see is the name of a song!!! So you just have to scroll and scroll and scroll through these freaking playlists clicking on each song every few seconds to see who it’s by or what album its from... it is truly an abomination in functional engineering, despite its technological advances. [Read more →]
January 29, 2009 No Comments
Staying in touch with your customer base is one of the most important things you can do to grow your business and increase sales revenue. At Optum Consulting we receive a lot of emails asking us â€œwhat is the best service we can use to maintain our customersâ€™ email addresses?â€ That’s a great question. Currently we have been using the same service for about seven years. We receive no money from them for telling our clients about their services â€“ this is not an advertisement. And in fact, I bet half the time they might never even know that we recommended them. The simple fact of the matter is that they are one of the best email database services out there for the price. Their system works and they are affordable.
Weâ€™ve done the research and we still think this particular company is the most affordable and best â€˜bang for the buckâ€™ when your company wants to stay in regular contact with your customers every month â€“ which you need to be doing no matter what you are selling, whether it is goods or services. It is one of those â€œessentialsâ€ of good business. If you want to know the name of the company we use, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org, and we will be happy to tell you. I will post future entries regarding just how important building, sorting, cleaning, maintaining, and growing your email database is to any business.
In the meantime, let us focus on another issue regarding business which is just as important â€“ responding to customer emails â€“ or potential customer emails. When you’re in business, if you’re lucky, you are going to receive a lot of emails everyday. Some will be orders. Some will be questions. Some will be complaints. The most important thing you can do to grow your business and keep it growing is to reply promptly to emails from customers or potential customers. We have all heard the common phrase â€œIf one of your customers is happy with your business, they will tell one or two of their friends. If they are UNhappy with your business they will tell FIVE of their friends.â€ Unfortunate but true. This is how you separate the men from the boys so to speak — to use an outdated and slightly sexist phrase.
So let us use a real world example and I will show you exactly what we are talking about here. We just received an email today from a new company in the â€œmusic businessâ€ that calls itself â€œFanbridge.â€ Now new companies in the music business are not a new thing. Especially not NOW. In the new â€œrenegade internet age,â€ a new â€œmusic business-relatedâ€ company crops up every few hours claiming that they are THE THING that will help artists â€œskyrocket your career to the next level.â€ Why? Because letâ€™s face it, it isn’t that difficult to start what â€œlooks likeâ€ a new company in the internet age. You simply create a website and hope that people come along and lay down some money. Whether or not you deliver on the promises you make to your potential customers is an entirely different matter.
[Read more →]
June 17, 2008 No Comments
Today’s post was inspired by a newsletter I received via email from a company which I am not only a client of, but a big fan of. Because I truly care about their product and believe it to hold great value to many people all over the world, I shot them off a quick email to alert them to this so they could do even better. And at Optum Consulting, that just might be what we do best - take companies and products that are already great and make them that much better.
In the bigger picture what we are talking about in today’s post is something we call AVOIDING LEAKAGE. Look for past and future posts regarding this concept specifically. But in short, for the purposes of this post, â€œLeakageâ€ is a term we coined at Optum Consulting that refers to that moment when your customers or potential customers â€œsee throughâ€ one of your sales techniques or methods and it gives them a negative feeling instead of a positive one.
Oftentimes the consumer is not even aware of it. It is something that takes place subconsciously in the consumerâ€™s mind and they aren’t even sure what it was exactly but something just turned them off. So instead of a sale, you get a â€œno saleâ€ or a “walk away” or a “hang up” or a â€œdeleteâ€ or even worse an â€œunsubscribe.â€ Now sometimes the customer IS aware of it. They know exactly what it was that turned them off. They notice something that just seems a bit â€œoffâ€ and it turned them off â€“ such as when a company makes the mistake of advertising â€œthe lowest price everâ€ for a product in one piece of sales literature but that customer also happened to notice that they offered an even lower price a few months back, or in another piece of literature that was sent to a different database and they just happen to be signed up to both databases. That’s leakage in a nutshell and you want to avoid it at all costs.
There are hundreds of mistakes a company can make in their sales literature and sales methods that can cause â€œLeakage.â€ Again, look for a more detailed examination of it in past and future posts. But you get the idea.
Today we will be discussing just one of those. And it can easily be summed up by the following words: STOP SELLING if you really want to SELL MORE of your product. Selling has always been a turn off to consumers. It is one of the enigmas of being in business. How to sell your product without actually SELLING. Or at least without letting your customer feel as though they are being SOLD TO.
One of the ways companies used to â€œsellâ€ was to â€œthreatenâ€ their customers with â€œSupplies limited!â€ or â€œAct Now! Product Going Fast!â€ We call this technique â€œstressing urgency.â€ It used to work. And in some cases it can still work. But not very often anymore. Only in the lowest-value-product markets. Late night TV infomercials are good examples of products that still use this method. But even they are smartening up to the ever-smarter consumer and the new methods that are necessary to sell to them.
June 12, 2008 1 Comment
One of the things that we do a lot of here at Optum is help individuals and companies with their web presence and email marketing systems. The advent of Web2.0 technologies has changed everything very quickly. And things continue to change at a rapid pace. Luckily we have a solid team of five who specialize in just that and are absolutely obsessed with technology. Not with keeping up - but staying ahead. 2008 is a special year for a few of us because it is the tenth anniversary for three of us. I hired two of these guys way back in 1998 and they are still working for me today ten years later. That says a lot about each of us.
Right now the Internet is changing at a faster pace than it ever has before and it is for a variety of reasons. One of them is because more and more people from all over the world have access to it. And number two, technology is becoming easier and easier to use and manipulate - therefore more and more people than ever before are creating software, platforms, applications, widgets, and operating systems than in the recent past when “software developing” or “computer programming” was a trade that was in the hands of the very few.
Now we’ve got “third-party apps” becoming the hottest property on the net in weeks being developed by teenagers at home after school “just for fun.” And the truth is, it is fun to see what everyone will come up with next each day. At some point we will cover widgets and third-party apps and all that other fun stuff i a future post. But in the meantime, if it all “sounds Greek” to you, shoot us an email. We will help. Whether it is building your website from start to finish, helping upgrade your already existing website to a more modern dynamic Web 2.0 platform, helping you promote it and gain more exposure and visibility, helping you start or maintain a customer email address database and start doing regular email blasts to your customer base, or simply helping you understand what all this stuff means, it is one of the many things we do here at Optum Consulting. We aren’t good at it. We are great at it. And we are great at it not because it is our job - but because we absolutely love it and therefore choose to make it our job. And in fact, as many are now discovering in generation x and y, the key is not to have ONE job, but to have many hobbies - things that you LOVE doing and being a part of that just also happen to make you money. Speaking personally, this is what Optum Consulting is for me. It was a passion that I turned into a business because the business was already there. It was already coming to me. So I simply opened the doors and accepted it.
It is the same for the other members of our graphics, internet, and technology team here. These are guys who eat, sleep, breathe, and live technology and design. These are guys who send you IMs at 4:30AM about a new blog plug-in that they just discovered - and disturbingly YOU also happen to still be awake and sitting behind your computer. That is passion. Which is what we bring to every client we work with.
Let’s cut to the meat of this particular piece because this is important stuff. I’m going to give you a quick overview of the paradigm, a few dos and don’ts and if you want more information just shoot us an email.
Number one and most importantly, if you own any kind of a business, and that means even if YOU yourself are the product - such is the case with web designers, models, actors, etc - then you need to be doing two things: staying in regular contact with your customer base, and constantly searching out ways to find new customers. Print ad campaigns and direct mail are the old fashioned traditional way of doing this. And yes we still recommend this method to some of our clients depending on their business model and customer demographics. But these methods have slowly been on a downward spiral because they are expensive compared to email campaigns and newsletters. Call them eZines, email blasts, webzines. It’s all the same. But it is certainly a less expensive alternative than snail-mailing a printed newsletter to thousands or millions of customers. As I said, it all depends on who you are and what you are selling.
If you are not sending out regular emails to your existing customer base, call us now. We will help you set it up. It is not expensive nor difficult to do and it is easy to teach you or we can do it for you. So do not be afraid of it. (i cannot tell you how many people I speak to on a daily basis who don’t do this simply because they are intimidated by “starting it.” Once i explain how easy it is, they feel much better and they off on their own in no time. It is an imperative aspect of your overall business plan.
If you are already doing this, here are some tips. There is a tendency today for individuals and companies to make one or more of several mistakes when sending out emails to their customers. One of them is to not send them out regularly enough. Bad move. Choose a date, perhaps once a month, bi-weekly, or every two months and implement a regular schedule. Do not waver from it. Your email can be something as simple as offering a few simple tips, offer a sale, or update your customers on your latest news. But you have to keep your name or your product’s name in the eyes of your customers or your potential customer’s eyes on a regular basis.
May 11, 2008 1 Comment
I received an email this Mother’s Day from a company whose products I admire and enjoy. But it was so downright blasphemously “selly” and “me me me,” that it immediately caused their reputation to drop a few notches in my eyes, and caused me to lose “just that much more” respect for them. (I have copied and pasted their ad at the bottom of this post to hammer the message home so that you dear reader can truly benefit from the lesson learned by their unfortunate mistake.) In this day and age when anyone and everyone can do, make, and sell exactly what you or your company does, your reputation and the respect and admiration you have from your select customer base is by far your most valuable asset. That is why it is imperative that when considering how or when you might take advantage of a holiday as a potential advertising opportunity, you put good thought into it.
Obviously the first consideration is going to be “Can this holiday afford our company any additional sales compared to any other normal day.” Many companies choose to take advantage of holidays by holding one-day “holiday sales.” Often times it works. Consumers like holiday sales. But it depends on what sort of business you are in and what kind of holiday it is. Remember that “holidays” in and of themselves are an odd paradigm. Some are related to specific religions. Some are related to country and patriotism. Some started out as just covert advertisements themselves and took on a life of their own — Mothers Day is an example of one of those. But who isn’t going to support a special day to celebrate their mother? Originally created as a way to sell more greeting cards as the story goes, it turned out to be not such a bad idea afterall. But a company needs to be very careful in how they use Mother’s Day, or any holiday for that matter, as an advertisement opportunity.
A florist could have a field day with Mother’s Day. And they should. A simple “Show your mom how much you care this year by sending her a lovely bouquet from some of the most beautiful new bouquets in our collection, and save 20% if you order before Wednesday” is guaranteed to boost sales and not offend anyone. One can safely assume that a real estate company or a hardware store wouldn’t necessarily benefit from such an ad campaign. And they’d be smart to realize that and not do anything at all.
Sending out an email to advertise your company or your products on a holiday, any holiday, is tricky business. Many companies choose to take the conservative approach and not do anything. This is a safe approach. Not always the best, because you may be missing out on a big opportunity. But at least you aren’t risking offending anyone nor risking your most valuable commodity — your reputation.
What kind of business you are and what sort of product you sell is what determines how you take advantage of potential profit opportunities in holidays. A law firm is not going to offer its clientÃ¨le a holiday sale. Neither would your local doctor. But they can still profit from holidays by simply sending a greeting card to wish you and yours a happy holiday. This is good business. If you are in business, almost any business, no matter the size, it would be a good idea to initiate and set up a holiday greeting strategy starting right now and put it into action from this point forward. It is an easy way to do two very important things: Number one, it shows your customer that you care and that you appreciate their business. Number two, it is an easy way to put your brand in their attention field if even for a few brief seconds. They are reminded that you do indeed exist. And when needed, you are there for them.
Choose the holidays that your company feels aligned with and more importantly the ones that you believe your customer base feels aligned with. Then decide on how you are going to communicate with them. Could be a card. Could be an email. Might even be a sale, depending on your product and business. But make it short and simple, knowing that your customers, for we are ALL customers, are receiving a lot of these.
May 11, 2008 No Comments
As the founder and CEO of many compaines - a rather unconventional one I will concede - over the last fifteen years I found it necessary as our companies grew to constantly be looking for ways to not just improve our products and businesses, but also to work on what Tony Robbins calls CANI — Constant and Never Ending Improvement of myself as well. Whether you are the CEO or another type of executive at a major corporation of your own or someone else’s, the owner of a small company just starting out, or a one-man or one-woman operation, you will gain much from Etiquette and Protocol courses and training. The larger you or your company grows, the more important Etiquette and Protocol training becomes.
I will write another post exclusively dedicated to the benefits and details of such training. I spent many years seeking out and being trained and mentored by the absolute best on the planet because I was committed to not only being the best business owner and executive that I could be, but also to becoming the absolute best person I could be. From Avatar training to walking on hot burning coals with Tony Robbins, from years of twice weekly personal and professional coaching from some of the world’s best organizations in the Coaching business to every seminar and conference one can name - I put one-hundred-and-ten percent of my efforts into mastering everything that was out there to learn, grow, excel and become the best at everything I attempted. (This also included hundreds of hours in schools around the world learning to speak five languages as well. But that too we will save for another post.)
One of the areas that I enjoyed being trained in the most was something known as Etiquette or Protocol. This type of training includes mastering the skills of how to eat in polite society, how to dress, how to speak to foriegn dignitaries, telephone etiquette, business etiquette, and sometimes things as simple as how to shake hands like an executive. One of the companies that I received training from was The Protocol School of Palm Beach. Just to set the record straight and to show just how much I appreciated all the training I received from this organization, I will tell you that I have not had much communication with them for some time, because I moved to Manhattan five years ago. I am not being paid to endorse the company and in fact they have no idea that I am even recommending them to my clients. But do a google search in the town that you live in and see if you can find a good ettiquette or protocol school. It is worth every penny and hour that you will invest and then some.
In the meantime, I have reprinted below an excellent piece from Jacqueline Whitmore, the owner of the above mentioned school. I believe you will find the advice valuable.
Ed Hale :: Optum Consulting
You only have one chance to make a first impression, so make it a good one. Research shows that you only have seven seconds before people form an opinion about you. Often, that’s before you’ve had a chance to say, “hello.” Here are some tips to help you create a great first impression.
- Don’t just arrive on time for a meeting; arrive ten minutes early. This extra time will give you an opportunity to gain your composure, go to the restroom and check your appearance one final time.
- Be on your best behavior as soon as you get out of your car. You never know who you will run into in the parking lot, hallway, elevator or restroom.
- Turn your cell phone on “silent” mode. Nothing is more embarrassing than hearing your cell phone ring while you’re in an important meeting. While waiting in the reception area, refrain from talking on your cell phone. Be mindful that others, i.e., the receptionist or administrative assistant, may be listening to your conversation and forming opinions about you.
- Stand tall. Pull your shoulders back and hold your head high. This posture makes you appear poised and self-assured (even if you feel anxious and tense).
- Smile. Whenever you smile, it makes you look more confident and approachable.
- Make eye contact and offer a firm handshake. A Yale University study found that people believe you possess the qualities associated with your grip. For example, a limp, clammy handshake can make you appear nervous and shy.
- Focus on the other person and less on yourself. The keys to being likeable are to be empathic and interested. Empathy means that you care about what the other person is saying. Interest means that you want to get to know the person better.
- Listen with the intent to understand. Begin the conversation by putting the spotlight on the other person. Say something like, “Tell me, what did you have in mind to make this program more successful?” If you want to increase your chances of getting what you want, allow the decision maker to do most of the talking.
- Let the decision maker have the last word. When the decision maker ends the conversation with an opinion or suggestion, show him some respect and don’t make the conversation linger. Instead, thank the person for his time, shake hands and don’t forget to follow-up with a handwritten thank-you note.
May 1, 2008 No Comments