When was the last time you Googled yourself?

I was looking for a potential customer phone number. Someone I haven’t done a lot of work with (I think I talked to him a year ago). Let’s call him Fred Fredson, and let’s pretend he lives in Nashville. I couldn’t remember his business name, so I did a quick Google search on his personal name: “fred fredson nashville” (it’s Google — no caps needed). I was shocked. People had been reviewing his business using his personal name and saying some not very nice things. I then Googled him by business name, and it was a different story. All I got was his nice business listing.

It made me realize that people are saying things about businesses in ways that had not occurred to me…and that while some of them are neutral or even flattering…some of them aren’t. So I encourage you to Google yourself by name with your location and see if there are any surprises out there waiting for you!

Earning from her mistakes

As an entrepreneur and small businessperson, I enjoy stories of other entrepreneurs who overcame obstacles to realize their dreams. One such story involves Bette Nesmith Graham, a secretary in the early 1950s, struggling to support herself and a son. Frustrated with having to retype entire documents because of simple typing errors, Graham invented a white liquid paint that would cover those mistakes, dry quickly, and allow her to type over the affected area once it had dried.

According to the website Famous Women Inventors (http://women-inventors.com), Graham was inspired in her work by painters who were decorating the windows at the bank where she worked. As the painters worked, they would cover over any mistakes they made with another layer of paint — saving time without compromising the quality of the work they did. Graham wondered if the same idea could be applied to her secretarial work.

As Graham perfected her concoction and started using it at her job, the other secretaries in her building took notice and began asking her to share her liquid, which she dubbed “Mistake Out,” with them. By 1956, demand had grown so much that Graham started a company (the Mistake Out Company) out of her Dallas home. Within the next dozen years, her renamed company, Liquid Paper, was a thriving business, requiring its own manufacturing plant and selling more than a million units per year.

In 1980, Graham sold Liquid Paper to the Gillette Corporation for $47.5 million. That’s a far cry from the income she earned as a struggling secretary in 1951… and further evidence that a good idea and an entrepreneurial spirit can accomplish just about anything.

Do you believe in your product?

Are you wearing clothes? Do you own clothes? If you do then you are like 100% of the people that you know! And every single item of clothing that you are wearing was bought somewhere, by someone. It was sold.

Ever get talked into going to a birthday party you weren’t 100% thrilled about? You got sold. Ever feed a kid an ice cream cone before dinner because of a look on a face? You. Got. Sold.

Selling makes the world go ’round. It happens in just about every single transaction between people that you can think of. From your teenager talking you into staying out late to the car dealer convincing you that you need the expensive oil change.

What made that ice cream cone sale work? Well, a lot of things actually, but one part of it was the deep sincerity on the part of the seller. Same for the person trying to get you to go to the birthday party. Those people believed in the product they were selling.

So…can you bring the same sincerity? Take a moment to see where your passion is. If you find yourself bogged down in the details and feel like you’ve lost the feeling of the sale, then take a step back and look at a kid who wants an ice cream cone. Then make the sale!

Appearances are everything when it comes to your online brand

Appearances are critical in business… especially online. Your potential customers want to know if your website looks trustworthy. We’ve all heard the phrase “the appearance of impropriety.” The last thing any of us wants is to have that phrase linked to our companies and their websites.

I saw a quote in Website Magazine that sums that feeling up pretty well. The author wrote, “People make snap decisions when they browse the Web. They look for the familiar and the trusted and are equally concerned about fraudulent websites and viruses. To maximize traffic to your website, you need to quickly establish credibility and trust for your company and stand out from your competitors.”

I know a perfectly good company — a carpet cleaner — with a completely sketchy website. I KNOW these guys. They are upstanding, honest people who do a fair job. But their website plays strange music, things are disorganized, and you just get the feeling that they aren’t 100% on the up and up. My best guess is that they lose business because of it.

Take a critical look at your website and some of the things you do. Do you use trust seals in search results? Do you provide customer testimonials, complete contact information, and a detailed “About Us” page? Is your information well-organized? Does your site look friendly, warm, and inviting? How do YOU show your potential customer that you are trustworthy on the web?

In defense of the handwritten note

Over the past few years, email has become the delivery method of choice for many business correspondence. As smartphones and social media continue to rise, text messages and tweets are also gaining popularity. Yet, with all that technology, there are still times when a handwritten note makes sense. Here are a few examples to keep in mind:

Sales call follow-ups. Send your prospect a three to four-sentence note, thanking them for their time and reinforcing what you discussed in your meeting. People appreciate the personal touch a handwritten note provides.

Client thank yous. Mark each client’s anniversary with you — or any particularly large or meaningful orders they place — with a quick, handwritten thank you card. For even more goodwill, include a handwritten thank you with each completed order or invoice.

Employee thank yous. When someone goes above and beyond the call of duty, recognize them with a handwritten thank you card. Your employee will appreciate the gesture just as much as your clients do when you send them a handwritten note.

Special recognition. If you see a customer or prospect featured in the newspaper, send them a quick congratulatory note, along with a copy of the clip. Send birthday and holiday greetings, and look for ways to let your customers know you’re thinking of them on their special days.

Secret formulas, baited hooks… and the importance of compelling headlines

I saw this headline a few days ago: “Coke recipe still safely under lock and key in Atlanta.” I clicked on it at once. When I went to read the article, I realized I’d been subject to link bait.

Link baiting is (in part) when you create a headline that is SO AMAZING your potential fish get caught on your hook. They just can’t help reading your article. In this case, it was the implication that Coke’s 125-year-old, top-secret recipe had been revealed.

People forget just how important headlines are. I’m not just talking about social media either. If your monthly newsletter has boring headlines, then how do you expect to hook YOUR fish? Writing counts. It counts on Facebook, in your blog, on Twitter, and most certainly on your printing. Boring newsletters are, well, boring.

Let me make you this offer: I will rescue you from boring headlines. When you call me, we can write some amazing headlines together. I have the experience. You have the newletter. Let’s get writing!

By the way, in case you’re interested in reading more about the story that inspired this post (the security of Coke’s secret recipe), here’s a link to a Reuters’ article detailing it all:


Personalizing your Facebook news feed settings

Do you feel like you’re missing out on Facebook updates from friends, family, and organizations you “like” on the social networking giant? You’re not alone. Recently, Facebook updated its news feed options to allow users to choose between viewing updates from “Friends and pages you interact with most” or “All of your friends and pages.” Unfortunately, it didn’t bother telling people about the change. What’s worse, rather than default to showing everything, the site chose to make the default “Friends and pages you interact with most” for many of its “500 million friends.”

Luckily, changing the setting to view content from all friends and pages is fairly simple. To get started, scroll all the way to the bottom of your news feed, and click the Edit Options link. This will bring up a box titled “Edit Your News Feed Settings.” In it, you’ll find a dropdown list to change your settings. The box also lists any applications, users, or pages that you’ve manually hidden from view. Click the “x” next to any of these to resume getting updates from those sources.

Once you’ve tweaked your overall settings, hiding updates from specific sources is fairly easy, too. Just hover your mouse over one of the updates you’ve received from the user/application/company page you no longer want in your news feed, and click the floating “x” that appears on the right-hand side of the screen. A popup will appear, allowing you to hide just that specific post or all posts by that source. If you decide later that you want to resume receiving updates from that user/application/company page, follow the instructions detailed in the previous paragraph.

For more great Facebook tips, visit http://www.insidefacebook.com.

Avoiding letdowns in your life

Completing a challenging assignment. Closing a tough sale. Making a big presentation. All of these can leave a person feeling on top of the world. But when that elation subsides, many people are left wondering, “What now?” The anticipation that drove them to push harder and find success is now replaced by an emptiness and longing for something more.

After investing so much time and energy into achieving a goal, it’s only natural to feel some sense of letdown once that objective is achieved. Sports teams, for example, have to struggle sometimes to maintain focus after beating a big rival, so they don’t let the next game slip by.

Commentators refer to these as “trap games” because it’s so easy (and natural) for teams to let down their guard and not try as hard in the game immediately following a big, emotional win. The result, of course, can be a disappointing loss against a seemingly easier foe.

To lessen any feelings of letdown after big wins in your own business and personal life, experts suggest jumping into the next project right away. Give yourself a little time to recoup, of course, and to celebrate a well-earned win, but then start pushing yourself forward again. As tennis great Arthur Ashe once said: “Success is a journey, not a destination.” Enjoy the ride.

Focus on adding value if you want to stay ahead

I ran across an interesting quote recently that I thought I’d share. “Times are tough. In times like these, clients tend to focus on the value proposition. ‘Throw it at the wall and see if it sticks’ is not a phrase you hear a lot in recessions. Instead, your customers will tend to have their eyes transfixed on your value proposition. ‘How does this spend make me better off?'”

I saw that on a site about something entirely un-print related, but it is so true for so many industries that it cried out to be quoted. Printing hasn’t been about “seeing what sticks” for years. I bet your industry hasn’t either. I know that we have been focusing on making you better off for an awfully long time. But even so, it bears repeating.

You need marketing. Why? Because you want customers. But you don’t want to waste your marketing dollars. As printers, we recognize that and have continued to adapt our product and service line to remain in line with our customers’ needs as they evolve.

Of course, the same is true of your customers and the products and services you provide to them. Your customers don’t want to spend money just for the sake of the next new thing. Make sure your value proposition makes sense to your customers, too.

The benefits of buying locally

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about online internet printing…something that, in a sense, we offer, too, with our website and our online ordering and our online estimating. But I was thinking about why anyone would pick an online printer when they could pick us instead.

Is www.mybigfatonlineprinter.com going to pick up the phone at 7 p.m. when you are having a crisis? Are they going to work on Super Bowl Sunday because you have a big presentation on Monday? No. But here is the other thing. They don’t buy stuff from you. They don’t send kids to your schools. They don’t talk to you at the grocery store.

So what’s a local printer to do? For that matter, what’s the owner of any small, local company supposed to do when faced with larger or out-of-market competitors online?

For me, I decided to fight back… and I came up with a BRILLIANT plan. Ready? I’m going to offer you incredible service, incredible quality, and be incredibly responsive to you. Best of all, I’m going to do ALL of that at a fair price! I know — IT’S UNBELIEVABLE!

Okay, I’m at the office, and I’m waiting for your call!