Japan Disaster Relief – Help a little, make a big difference

Following the earthquake and tsunami that hit Japan on the 11th of March 2011, the survivors and the rest of the nation are still struggling to deal with the aftermath. It will most likely take a long time and a lot of hard work for them to get back on their feet again. 

Thousands of people are dead or missing, many people have lost their homes, their belonging and loved ones and, to make things worse, the country is facing a nuclear problem. The fuel and supply shortage is taking its toll and many survivors are ill or seriously injured.

 Hopefully, with a little bit of help from the rest of the world, Japan will be able to overcome this disaster. If you are willing to help out, I have provided some direct links to the Red Cross donation pages.

Make a difference by clicking on one of the following links:

• British Red Cross
• American Red Cross
• Cruz Roja Española
• Cruz Roja Americana

    Also, please see the following Mashable article for other ways to help:

    Japan Earthquake & Tsunami: 7 Simple Ways to Help

    4 Tips on How to Manage a CRM Team

    A CRM Manager, or any other department manager, will have several employees helping to deliver results and reach the department’s goals. Whether the department meets or misses its targets depends greatly on the effectiveness, or lack, of the manager’s supervisory skills.

    A manager must not only serve as a best practice role model by helping their employees to see a project through to the end and meet deadlines but they must also work hard to maintain a positive, productive work environment.

    Anyone who thinks that managing a team is just bossing people around then sitting back and letting them do all the work for you should probably reconsider this position.

    The following approaches should help any CRM Manager keep their team on track.

    1. Communicate clearly and effectively

    Communication is by far the most important skill required in team leading. As a Manager, you will be expected to instruct and give information in a clear and effective way. Your team will most likely consist of members with educational or cultural differences so you need to be able to get your message across using simple and universal words. Avoid creating confusion and wasting time rephrasing by delivering the message effectively the first time round.

    It is a fundamental skill to make sure the person you are communicating with fully understands what you are saying so avoid using industry jargon or abbreviations that some may not know the meaning of, especially new-comers to the industry. For example, the term “RFM” may be a completely normal customer behaviour analysis method to CRM veterans but to a newbie it’s just three letters. Go into a certain level of detail and use examples when giving instructions to make your message clear or, if you really do insist on using jargon and have no tight deadlines to meet, make the effort of explaining the meaning of the term.

    You can also avoid miscommunications by finding out in advance how each employee responds best to instructions or advice. Some are more receptive when you send them straight to the point instructions by email whilst others may take in more when you explain the details to them in person.

    Before speaking, you should consider how what you are going to say will impact your listeners and aim to adopt a neutral, if not positive, tone and attitude especially when discussing an employee’s flaws. Instead of just putting the worker down you should be able to help them improve by offering constructive feedback.

    It is also very important to keep your team updated on everything involving your department, even if it isn’t tremendous news. Sometimes it is easy to underestimate the importance of keeping others informed on little details and assume that this information isn’t relevant to anyone else yet when it usually is.

    2. Be consistent, knowledgeable and well-timed

    To gain the respect of your team members, you will need to be able to show that you know all about what the job entails and that you have the required knowledge by being technically proficient. Remember, you must constantly serve as advisor and person of reference to your employees for whatever they need to know, not the other way round.

    You will also be required to make decisions for them (some very hard ones), keep everything and everyone organised, plan smooth time management, be capable of delegating tasks correctly and be able to influence your employees’ actions, initiative and attitude.

    Your statements and decisions need to be consistent at all times. Above all, you must never contradict yourself and should avoid coming across as unsure or indecisive when making a request or deadline. Make your mind up and keep your ideas clear before sharing with others and if a change of plans is inevitable then make sure you inform your team as a whole, rather than selectively choosing who to tell. It’s not one team member’s job to inform the others, it’s yours.

    It is crucial that your team has a clear picture of your role and objectives as well as those that are expected of them. This can be achieved by putting performance guidelines and benchmarks in place. You should also have a fair and well-balanced approach towards delegating tasks.

    Most Managers will be expected to present reports on their team’s performance so they should be able to write clearly with good grammar as well as master reporting tools such as spreadsheets or available project management tools in order to get the stats and message across correctly. The same principles apply for writing staff notices, memos and sending emails to the whole team.

    A good tip for earning respect is to remember to give credit to your team or individual team members for their accomplishments. Taking all the credit for everything all the time will most likely reduce your team’s drive and performance whereas acknowledging their efforts will encourage them to keep up the good work.

    3. Be a good listener and teacher

    Keep in mind that Managers usually don’t do the same tasks as their team members so they don’t tend to come face to face with the same problems. Being a good listener is therefore a very important skill as listening to the problems your employees are faced with will allow you to work with them to solve the issue rather than not doing anything about it. 

    A Manager should also be capable of taking their employees’ suggestions and concerns into consideration as well as being willing to answer questions that team members may have regarding the tasks at hand. You may be required to correct an employee’s mistakes and this should always be done by encouraging the individual rather than putting them down.

    You should always take the time out to identify each team member’s strengths and weaknesses, what motivates them, ambitions and skill sets as well as lacking skills that a bit of training could fix. These bits of info are necessary in order to mould your team and improve their overall performance.

    You will often need to provide training and teach your employees how to perform specific tasks or new responsibilities effectively. A good Manager will possess the necessary patience and capacity to take the employee through the learning process and pass on the required knowledge correctly.

    The team leader must always set a good example by meeting tight deadlines in the same way that is expected of them and providing them with assignments, material and tools necessary to do the job. You must have a firm grasp of everything your team could possibly need to perform their jobs properly and make sure they have these things available to them at all times.

    A good Manager will sit down privately with an individual employee to address matters involving them rather than saying it in front of others of talking about them behind their back to others. 

    4. Be assertive but not overbearing

    A Manager should come across as a leader and good example to others. You will therefore need to put these principles into practice every day in order to be an effective manager.

    It is essential to be assertive but at the same time avoid becoming overbearing. Assertiveness is necessary to make sure your employees know they are not to overstep you and know where they stand whereas becoming overbearing may turn you into the enemy. It is advisable not to become a bully as the effects this will have on productivity and employee performance can be devastating and can lead to a slowly losing the respect and control of your team. A Manager should be fair at all times, will have self-control and know when to stand off.

    During your time as Manager, you can expect to deal with some very difficult situations and conversations. You certainly should not let a team member get away with unacceptable performance or behavior out of fear of being hated or because they once worked alongside you in your previous role. These types of issues should be addressed and concluded straight away to avoid allowing others to follow in these footsteps and affirm your authority.

    You must also be prepared to stand up for your team if appropriate when being questioned by your Director. Bad-mouthing your team members or putting them down is completely unacceptable, if they aren’t performing well then it’s most likely your problem not theirs. A good Manager will remain loyal and dedicated to their team no matter what and will be willing to find a way to improve the team’s performance at all costs.

    How to improve CRM using Social Networks

    Everyone is using Social Networks these days, including your customers. Connecting with them is a good way of finding out more about what makes them tick, what they like and what competing sites or products they use.

    Traditional contact methods are no longer enough. Interacting with customers and allowing them to interact back on networks such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, has become more important than ever when it comes to Customer Relationship Management.

    Here are some Social Networking tips that should help you improve customer relationships:

    Save time by using Social Dashboards
    A Social Dashboard is an application that allows you to manage various Social Networks at once from a single account. You can house Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and other Social Network accounts all under one hood saving.

    Not only do they allow you to view what your connections and customers are talking about throughout networks but you can also get a more organised overview of messages, posts, etc. and respond to them swiftly. 

    Add as many customers as you can find on as many different Social Networks as possible. You begin to find out amounts of new information about them such as what social and personality groups they fit into, what websites, products and companies they follow, and what tends to grab their attention.

    That’s some awesome content for you to use the next time you contact them or when planning retention strategies. However you decide to use this info, you will likely see results and get customers’ trust going as well as improving brand awareness.

    If you are looking for a good Social Dashboard, I recommend using TweetDeck or HootSuite – both excellent choices and, best of all, FREE.

    Also, keep social profile and blog URLs in your CRM system. Storing interesting Tweets, posts and comments made by your customers will also be good for future reference.

    Use LinkedIn as a new business prospect finder
    If your product or service is aimed at a more professional audience, then LinkedIn is a great Social Network for you. 

    Many B2B sales professionals as well as recruiters and head-hunters exploit this Social Network to scope out and find their next successful deal. It’s as easy as using the search option to look up a specific company you may be interested in, a particular job title or industry. Choose your keywords and click search.

    The search results will bring up people in the interested areas. At a quick glance you will be able to see what level connection you have with them, a first-level connection being someone you already know. A second-level connection is generally “a friend of a friend”, meaning that you and the person of interest have a contact in common. 

    Keeping that in mind, a good sales strategy is to check out who the common contact is (this person or various will be shown as a “shared connection” on the sidebar of the prospect’s profile) and then namedrop them when contacting your prospect. 

    Give your Social Network contacts special benefits
    You can improve customer relationships and sales by posting special offers on your Social Networks. Announce new promotions, one-time-only deals exclusive to Facebook or Twitter users, or a code to use for an attractive sign-up bonus / discount. 

    People enjoy feeling exclusive and receiving special treats so this tends to work equally well for both existing and potential customers. You can retain existing customers and get new ones through the door. It will probably also create a Viral Marketing effect as people will always spread the word about an unbelievable offer. 

    Posting up-coming company events and inviting your customers to them is a chance to socialise with them and get them on a more personal level. If you communicate with your customers mainly over the internet or phone then this CRM method will be especially effective, as organising events will give them a chance to meet you in person and put a face to the name, making the bond with your customers even stronger. 

    Engage them with well-planned comments
    Posting witty or thought-provoking comments on Facebook or Twitter are a sure way to get customers’ attention, especially if your comment is a question they can’t help but answer.

    Questions trigger more feedback than a normal comment would and tend to reach further too. You should assess your audience first and adjust your tone accordingly in order to make it appealing to them and non-offensive. 

    The answers given by your contacts will in turn appear on their friends’ feeds, possibly getting their attention too. Some of their friends who are not yet a contact may also want to join in the fun and may probably end up adding you to their contacts. 

    In short, customers and their friends will be able to view you as a person, not just a company, someone they can relate to. This will help to develop trust and good feeling.

    Respond to your customers and contacts quickly
    A timely response to a comment, message or question made by a customer or contact relating to the product or service you offer will earn you CRM points and will increase your chances of getting more business.

    Whether their comment is directly about your company or they were simply asking if anyone knew of a good version of what you have to offer, it’s your opportunity to show them that you are there, you exist and that you are a quick helper.

    Their inquiries may sound like a job for Customer Service – that doesn’t matter. Just answer them as quickly and correctly as possible and you will earn their respect.  If you act like a friend and advisor rather than a cold hard sales person, you will be able to develop a more personal relationship with your customer and gain some loyalty.

    When in Rome, do as the Romans do
    A method I find works especially well on Social Networks is to do what your customers do. Mimicking their behaviour is a sure-fire way to get them to warm up to you. 

    If your customers tend to be the chatty type, then be available to them on Facebook chat. If they love commenting on posts, photos and other comments, then comment on their profiles too and don’t forget to give them something to comment on. 

    Perhaps they enjoy tagging and being tagged in photos, then you should tag them in yours (given you have photos of yourself with the customer, for example: at an event).  

    If they enjoy playing Facebook games, you will probably receive an invite to join them – it may sound unprofessional but you should accept and play along with them from time to time. Players tend to love receiving gifts and points from their friends that they can use in their favourite game, so play with them and get sending gifts! 

    Do whatever it takes to get them thinking of you as a friend and not just some annoying marketer.

    Don’t know what Viral Marketing is? Find out here.

    Viral marketing is a marketing method which takes advantage of existing social networks and media in order to increase brand awareness. Its objective is achieved by encouraging people to spread the word (your marketing message to be precise) in a way that resembles a fast spread virus population or computer virus. 

    The internet is a powerful tool which allows more people to be in touch faster, cheaper and all at once. One simple message can be communicated in an instance and portrayed to millions of people all over the world in less than a minute. To top it all off, news and gossip has never travelled faster since social networks came into existence.
    This random video which had its own site (www.megawoosh.com) appeared on the internet one day and spread like wild fire, reaching over 4 million views in a short time.  Microsoft Deutschland later revealed that it was their creation in a “making of” video – the Megawoosh site now forwards to the project’s German Microsoft site.

    Viral marketing takes complete advantage of a specific side of human nature: the need to gossip and find out about exciting information. It can be carried out on the internet or by word-of-mouth, and is especially effective when it appeals to the receiving party’s personality and interests – luckily, there tends to be a whole audience of people fitting a specific profile.

    Viral campaigns can come in different shapes and sizes, such as video clips, brand specific applications and software, images, advergames (video games which advertise a product, service or opinion), Flash games, external webpages and so on.

    Many viral campaigns, especially videos, are launched anonymously. Viral videos are often made to look like they were ordinarily user-filmed and give no indications that there is a brand behind the whole thing. The responsible party then usually reveals their brand and the association to the video after reaching the desired attention level.

    The road to creating a successful viral marketing campaign is identifying people with high Social Networking Potential (SNP), especially those who are at risk of being snatched up by competitors, and produce messages that appeal to this segment.

    This great example of successful video viral marketing shows a group of guys performing stunts to get into a pair of jeans. The video was sponsored by Levi’s Jeans.

    Basic Tips to Earn Customer Loyalty and Satisfaction

    These days, most businesses have turned to e-commerce. As a consequence, consumers constantly have more options to choose from and have also grown higher standards. It is growing progressively more challenging for online businesses to hold their customers down, especially due to the increase in competition.

    In order to survive it is essential to keep customers satisfied, particularly because these customers’ referrals and repeat business are the best source of income. The more satisfied the customers are, the more loyal they may become.

    The following tips should help to gain customer satisfaction and loyalty:

    Create a great user experience on your website.
    Internet users (especially more experienced ones) have developed the ability to make a snap judgement upon arriving at a site for the first time. The visitor may take just seconds to make their mind up and decide whether to give you an opportunity so you really must make sure your site grasps their attention at first glance.

    A good start would be to have an attractive layout, your brand name or logo visible, images and copies that are relevant to your product and values, smooth and non-confusing site usability as well as making your contact details clear and noticeable on the home page.

    Additional information such as customer testimonials, FAQs, photos and descriptions of some of the company’s employees (customer’s like to see that there is a human behind the screen tending to their every need), will amplify your site’s value.

    A blog is another easy and effective way of communicating with customers (and prospects). You can post all sorts of updates and information as well as get some extremely valuable feedback from your readers that may help you to keep improving your site and services.

    If you give people a reason to come back, they probably will and may even spread the good word.

    Respond and resolve as quickly as possible.
    Whether inquiring by phone, email or other contact methods, customers always expect to receive a quick answer or solution to their problem. If the answer cannot be given straight away then it needs to be done within a reasonable time frame.

    Working with an effective communication system and taking the time out of your schedule to get back to the customer will earn your company massive points. It is also important to be available to your customer on their preferred time schedule and not yours.

    If you took too long to get back to your customer, remember to begin by apologising for the delay when you do get round to answering them.

    Always make sure to find out what your customers’ preferred method of contact is and stick to communicating with them this way. For some, there is nothing worse than an unexpected and invasive phone call – and the fact that you called will probably put them off.

    Remember, these days the customer’s telephone number is almost always a required field on a many registration pages and the customer probably had no choice but to provide a number. This doesn’t necessarily mean they want to be called, so it is always best just to ask them first.

    If you are going to contact the customer by phone, you can maximise your time and communicate effectively by preparing a quick “script” or list of points to go over with the customer beforehand.

    Make it personal.
    Buying or purchasing a service online is usually an important personal decision for most people. Keep in mind that people tend to choose a company they consider will best cover their needs and meet their expectations.

    It always helps to portray a personal side to your company, allowing your customers to view you as a friend rather than a robot. Considering their preferences and needs in everything you do will develop their trust further. Try to put yourself in their shoes and think from their point of view all the time.

    Customers expect high quality service and will always be impressed if you show them that you have noticed their personal preferences. You can customise their experience using a few very simple methods such as including relevant content in emails to your customers reflecting products or services they have used previously or that are related, refer to them by their real name rather than their username, use intelligent site content and show them things that may interest them based on their previous actions, remember to congratulate them on their birthday, and so on.

    Track their behaviour and conduct surveys. 
    If you keep an eye on what your customers do on your site, where they click, what they read, what they purchase, how much they spend, how often they repeat an action, etc. you will most certainly find a pattern for each individual which will point you towards their tendencies.

    Also, surveys are an excellent tool for digging deeper and finding out more information about your customer that can’t be found by tracking them. Different surveys can be conducted various times during the customer’s lifetime on your site to extract relevant information. This is a good way to get valuable feedback such as the customer’s opinion of you and your products/services, what they think is missing on your site as well as problems you may not have been aware of.

    Their answers will help you improve your site and approach. It is also good to keep these answers at hand for future reference so you can see how your company has evolved further down the line and you will also be able to base your plans of action on facts rather than just guessing. All the statistics and data you can get hold of will allow you to make more sensible business decisions.

    Groupon Superbowl Ad: Controversial or clever?

    Yesterday’s Superbowl viewers went to bed with a bitter taste in their mouths. Groupon launched a $2 million advertisement that caused worldwide political uproar.

    The ad, starring Timothy Hutton, which was part of a charity campaign for different causes, was meant to help raise funds to aid Tibet’s struggling community. However, their take on humour was perceived by many as a mockery towards the country and the reaction received was that of an angry public, activists and furious internet users all over the world – unintended bad publicity…

    But was it really unintentional?

    The internet is being flooded at the moment with comments such as this being a poor sales pitch that “fell flat on its face”, “a huge mistake” on their behalf, or that Groupon is “doomed to failure”. Please note that I just said flooded – this is not an overstatement.

    Just take a look at the amount of Tweeters, bloggers and all sorts of internet users spreading their harsh criticisms all over the web. Call it a failure or whatever you want but one thing’s certain: not that many people had ever heard about Groupon or what they offer before the Superbowl, had they? Although the words being said about them may be those of utter disgust, you can be sure that Groupon is now a household name in most parts of the world; they’ve got everyone and their grandma talking about them now.

    Considering the amount of free media hype they’re achieving from these posts, comments, tweets, press, etc. and the amount of time the social repercussion will take to die down, should this really be considered a controversy, the worst attempt at marketing or a complete waste of millions of dollars? Or is this simply just one big clever publicity stunt?

    As the famous quote goes, "any publicity is good publicity".