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Office Memo… June 30, 2008

Posted by Amanda in New Squeaks.
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I can only attribute this to an unknown author, as it was set to me via email:

 

MEMO

To: All Employees

Dear Staff,

We would like to take a few moments to address some issues that have recently arisen.

Dress Code:
It is advised that you come to work dressed according to your salary. If we see you wearing Prada sneakers and carrying a Gucci bag we assume that you are doing well financially and therefore you do not need a raise. If you dress poorly, you need to learn to manage your money better, so that you may buy nicer clothes. Therefore, you do not need a raise.  If you dress decently, you are right where you need to be and therefore you do not need a raise.

Personal Days:
Each employee will receive 104 personal days a year. They are called Saturday and Sunday.

Lunch Breaks:
Skinny people will now get 30 minutes for lunch as they need to eat more so that they can look healthy. Normal size people will get 15 minutes for lunch so they may have a balanced meal to maintain their average size. Fat people get 5 minutes for lunch, because that’s all the time needed to drink a Slim Fast and take an alli diet pill.

Sick Days:
We will no longer accept a doctor statement as proof of sickness. If you are able to go to the doctor, you are able to come to work.

Restroom Use:
Entirely too much time is being spent in the restroom. There is now a strict 3 minute time limit in the stalls. At the end of 3 minutes, an alarm will sound, the toilet pater roll will retract, the stall door will open and a picture will be taken. After your second offense, your picture will be posted on the company bulletin board under the “Chronic Offender” category.

Surgery:
As long as you are employed here, you need all your organs. You should not consider having any medical procedure to remove anything. We hired you intact. To have something removed will constitute a breach of employment.

Thank you for your loyalty to our company. We are here to provide a positive employment experience. Therefore, all questions, comments, concerns, complaints, frustrations, irritations, aggravations, insinuations, allegations, accusations, contemplation, and input should be directed elsewhere.

Have a nice week.

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What’s in a Name? June 25, 2008

Posted by Amanda in Mouse Clicks.
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A lot goes into deciding on a company name… most of the time.  Toby over at Diva Marketing recently highlighted some interesting trivia about well known company names.

Did you know Google was a misspelling, HP was named by a coin toss  and Yahoo! was from a classic novel? A look at how some of the most successful technology firms – from Apple to Yahoo! – got their groove er .. name!


Here’s a few additions to the list, courtesy of Wikipedia:

Adobe Systems LogoAdobe Systems was named for the Adobe Creek that ran behind the house of co-founder John Warnock.

 


Amazon.com was also named after a river. Founder Jeff Bezos renamed the company Amazon (from the earlier name of Cadabra.com) after the world’s most voluminous river. He saw the potential for a larger volume of sales in an online (as opposed to a bricks and mortar) bookstore.


Coca-Cola was derived from the coca leaves and kola nuts used as flavoring. Coca-Cola creator John S. Pemberton changed the ‘K’ of kola to ‘C’ to make the name look better.


Häagen-Dazs is a name that was invented in 1961 by ice-cream makers Reuben and Rose Mattus of the Bronx “to convey an aura of the old-world traditions and craftsmanship”. The name has no meaning!


Eastman Kodak Company logoBoth the Kodak camera and the name were the invention of founder George Eastman. The letter “K” was a favorite with Eastman; he felt it a strong and incisive letter. He tried out various combinations of words starting and ending with “K”. He saw three advantages in the name. It had the merits of a trademark word, would not be mis-pronounced and the name did not resemble anything in the art. There is a misconception that the name was chosen because of its similarity to the sound produced by the shutter of the camera.


Nestlé is named after its founder, Henri Nestlé, who was born in Germany under the name “Nestle”, which is German (actually, Swabian diminutive) for “bird’s nest”. That is why the company logo is a bird’s nest with a mother bird and two chicks.


See Toby’s article, with more unique company names, here.

Book Review: The World Is Flat June 24, 2008

Posted by Amanda in Business Tails.
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The World Is Flat

The World is Flat

The World is Flat, written by Thomas L. Friedman, is one of the books on my shelf not by choice of my own.  It was assigned reading during one of my undergraduate classes at the University of Missouri – Columbia.  Although I loved the class and enjoyed debating about E-Commerce with my professor, this assigned reading was the least enjoyable part of the class (despite its best-seller status).

In this book, I feel Friedman oversimplifies the changes that have occured in the 21st Century.  By his reckoning the world has become a level playing field for commerce.  While, yes, the advancements in communication and outsourcing have blurred the lines, I would not describe commerce as completely flat.  The likes of Walmart and Amazon see to that.

Overall I found this book extremely boring and would NOT recommend it, unless you need a bit of nighttime reading that will really put you to sleep.

Available at Macmillan for 16.00.

Rating: Pawprint

Cubicle Creations June 20, 2008

Posted by Amanda in Cheesy Whiskers, Mouse Clicks.
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Cubicle Pranks Magazine

Design^3 is THE place to find chic and stylish cubicle designs!  This week we will highlight three wonderful designs by local cyberweb designers.  First up is a wonderful modern design done in the newage material of Aluminum!    My favorite parts of this design are the personally accessories included!  Check it out for yourself:

 

 

Next we look at a more rustic work abode.  Make from recyclable materials, this design is completely biodegradeable. My favorite piece in this design would be the telephone.  It is obviously a custom design made just to fit into this room.  You can’t find something like that in the stores these days.  This room is also very child friendly, perfect for take your kids to work day!

 

 

Our third and final design is all about craftsmanship.  The attention to detail in this design is what really sets it apart.  No expense was spared in this design and it is guaranteed to make even the most disgruntled worker feel right at home.

 

 

Thank you for viewing this week’s issue of Design^3!

What’s the Difference? Pt. 2 June 19, 2008

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BizMouse Sporting GoodsOn Monday I wrote about differentiation strategies to help your small business stand out from the crowd. 

(Read Part 1 Here

The strategies I mentioned focus on the big picture.   But what if there is more than one business in your area.  For example, two sporting goods stores that are both focused on having the best service possible.  How do you make your customer service be a homerun?  Well, you need to look at your business at every step of the customer relationship.

Peter Griffin over at Flyingsolo wrote a great article about how to break down your busines process in what he called the “Seven Step Customer Care System”. His focus is on high service businesses such as Finance and Banking, but we can break it down for our Sporting Goods store.

1. How is the service delivered?

Do your customer service representatives smile when they are talking with the customer?  Is it easy to find a customer rep?  If they have to go into the storeroom to look for a product, do they return quickly?  This is the most visible part of customer service and an absolute must if you want to compete in service.  Your customers should enjoy visiting the store. 

2. Does your service enhance the experience?

Are your employees knowledable about the products?  Can they inform the customer about the products features and usage?  Now, this won’t be needed for every baseball, but if a customer is buying an automatic baseball pitcher, they might have a few questions about it that can’t be answered by the box.  Encourage your employees to use your products at home, or even have field days where you show them how to use more complicated products.

3. How do you communicate throughout the buying process?

Even if you have great floor representatives, make sure your Point of Sale staff is up to speed as well.  They should be knowledgeable about the current promotions and able to answer any questions the customer may have (or know who to ask to quickly get the answer).  They should be able to explain to the customer how discounts are applied and what their final total will be.

4. How do you complete and mark a transaction as completed?

What types of payment does your store accept?  Is it what the customer wants to use to pay for his/her large purchase?  Are they given all warranty information and is it explained?  Does a customer rep help them load the product into their vehicle if it is large (and please, don’t make them stand there for an hour waiting for someone to come help)?

5. How do you thank the customer for their business?

Do you reward customers for shopping with your Sporting Goods store?  Coupons for steady customers?  Or maybe just a thank you  and followup letter if they have made a large purchase.

6. How do you treat the customer after their product or service is delivered?

If a customer has a problem, can they bring the product back with minimal hassle?  If they have a question, can they call and ask?  What are you doing to make sure they are happy with their purchase.

7. How do you stay in touch with the customer?

The whole point of good customer service is to keep the customer returning to shop with you.  How are you encouraging them to come back?  Do you call and follow up to see if their automatic baseball launcher is working great?  Do you ask for feedback from them on their experience?

 

 

The Next-Generation Robust Buzz Words June 18, 2008

Posted by Amanda in Business Tails, Mouse Clicks.
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In the next generation of marketing you can be sure there will be plenty of robust yet flexible buzz words.  This world class vocabulary will be easy to use and scalable to every industry standard.  Guaranteed to be userfriendly and cutting edge.  They are mission critical if you wish to be well positioned for your next breakthrough.

In other words, David Merman Scott, author of The New Rules of Marketing & PR, has released his latest list of popular gobbledygook marketing phrases.  Check out the list and see how many you are guilty of!

Shame on you Mickey!If you are guilty of some of the phrases, don’t be too upset.  Even Disney is a victim of the buzzword bingo.  Just take a look at the Disney corporate overview.  Mickey should be ashamed of himself!

 

Some of you may have seen this IBM commercial on the same topic.  Enjoy!

 

Book Review: The Non-Designer’s Design Book June 17, 2008

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The Non-Designers Design BookThe Non-Designer’s Design Book

This book, by Robin Williams, is lots of fun to read and can help even the most design-challenged to take a new look at their work.  It provides the four basic principles of design and steps you through each one.  As any good design book should, it provides plenty of visual examples.  I love how it shows the before and after for each design piece.  A variety of design applications are shown, from business cards to newsletters to advertisements. 

In this book, Robin encourages people to break free of the 12pt font. “Let go of Times New Roman and Arial/Helvetica,” she also urges, “Just eliminate them from your font choices. Trust me. (Please let go of Sand as well.)”

I highly recommend this book for anyone who uses design in their job, either for the bi-monthly newsletter or national advertisements.  

Available at Barnes and Noble for $23.99. Also available as a part of a larger collection (I have not seen the entire collection, just this portion of it)

Rating: PawprintPawprintPawprintPawprintPawprint

What’s the Difference? June 16, 2008

Posted by Amanda in A Better Mouse Trap, Business Tails.
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What makes a small business grow into a big business?  Is it how much money you spend on advertising?  Or maybe it’s how hard you work at growing it…  What really makes a small business take off and become “big business” is simple.  Differentiation.  Your business has to be unique (and that means unique in a good way).  You have to be doing something that others aren’t, filling a need that others do not.

Jack Trout wrote about this recently at Forbes.com (read the article here).  He talked about why so many CMO’s “move on” after only a short period on the job.  They are not successful because they fail to focus on differentiation  The same can be applied to small business that is trying to grow.  If you do not seperate yourself in the mind of the consumer, you are disposable.

Now, how CAN you differentiate yourself?

You could be the lowest priced.  Price differentiation is a common strategy and it’s how Walmart and Amazon have grown to be so large. BUT: Can you compete with the Walmart of your industry?  Companies like Walmart use Economies of Scale to push prices low; they can get lower prices on what they buy because they are already so large.  That allows them to pass that savings on to the consumer and still make a healthy profit.  Also, it is very easy to duplicate a price differentiation strategy. 

You could have the best service.  Zappos is known for its service.  They have seperated themselves from other online shoe retailers in the mind of their consumers.  If you are unhappy with your Zappos shoes, they don’t fit, just return them!  You can call and chat with their friendly customer service representatives for an hour if you wish.  BUT: Providing great service often means hiring great people.  Maintaining a top workforce is an expensive proposition, but your customers will reward you with loyalty.  Again, this is a strategy that is reproduceable by others.

You could make a product no one else does.  I’d like to call this the ‘Next Big Thing’ strategy.  This is one of the easiest and fastest ways to stand out in the mind of the consumer, but it can also be the most difficult.  This differentiation strategy relies on your product being significantly different from anything else on the market.  Whether that means your product is more durable, easier to use, has better features or serves a need that no one else does yet.  This is a highly sucessful technique BUT: You have to come up with the idea and the customer has to believe that your product is different.

You could serve a need that no one else does.  This is known as Niche marketing, as I mentioned in my previous post about M&D Innovations.  This is also called Focus Differentiation.  It has so many names because it is such a great strategy.  BUT: You have to listen to your customers. 

What’s the best strategy for you?  Well, that depends on your business but it is normally a combination of these four strategies.

 

You Can Take this Job and… June 13, 2008

Posted by Amanda in Business Tails, Mouse Clicks.
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For the past three weeks a video has been going around of an office worker who goes bezerk with seemingly little provocation. I’m not going to comment on whether or not the video is real, because I don’t know. What I will comment on is the reactions I have seen to the video. So many people are empathizing with this cubicle worker.

Some of the comments on YouTube:
“Mankind was not ment to work in a crowded cage (todays Cubicle). I am supprised this does not happen more offten… [sic]”

“This guy obviously loved the Movie Office Space. He definitely had the —– to do what so many people would LOVE to do. ”

“Fact or fiction, with gas prices, taxes, home foreclosures, etc. this guy is justified in letting out whatever frustrations he needs to obviously release. I thought it was wonderful! ”

Here is the video, from two different angles (One is from a cell phone). Please note that the original “security camera” video does not have sound, but I have chosen the one with a music track added.

Granted, there are plenty of comments condemning this man’s actions (fake or not), but this video highlights the fact that so many people are unhappy with their jobs. We all have good and bad days, but so many people spend 40 or more hours a week doing something they do not enjoy. I truly believe that happy employees are the most productive employees. What does this say about our current work culture?

Find Your Niche June 12, 2008

Posted by Amanda in A Better Mouse Trap, Mouse Clicks.
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It’s has been proved time and time again that not every product is for every person.  You have to find the niche that you can fill.  As I mentioned in an earlier post about Gary Halbert, Building the product your customer needs is more efficient than building a product and then convincing your customer that they need it.  One company that I am working with is M&D Innovations.  This is a small startup company that has essentially found a niche that they can fill. 

M&D Innovations

These two brothers, Mike and David (hence the M&D), have developed software that turns any computer into a scoreboard.  These scoreboards are used for churches, and schools as well as small rinks and stadiums that are not able to shell out the huge dollars for the large hardware displays.  As scoreboards can run thousands of dollars and all of the scoreboards designed by M&D are currently under $500, they have essentially found their niche in providing affordable scoreboard technology.

If your company is struggling, talk to your customers.  They can tell you which of their needs you are filling and which you are not.  It may be that you are marketing to the wrong niche, or you may find a niche that you never considered before.