Tag Archives: alltop

Businesses that look small are huge, as long as they stick to the knitting

 

They say this feeds fourteen people. We ate it using three.

They say this feeds fourteen people. We ate it using three.

Television adds ten pounds. It also add a few hundred square feet to a restaurant if featured on the Food Network or the Travel Channel. Case in point.

 

Last weekend, we were in St. Louis for the NSCAA. Our one goal was to seek out and eat a Pointersaurus pizza at Pointer’s Pizza. For those of you who have not seen the Food Network and Travel Channel segments, it is a 28″ pizza and is as large as a table top.

First, we had to find the place. It was across town, with no parking except for an Office Depot across the street. We stopped in and bought some blank CDs to ease our guilty consciences about parking in their space. The store front looked no larger than a Dominos carry out. Did we have the right place? It looked bigger on TV.

Yes, we did have the right place. We went in and there were two tables. Two. And a waiting couch the size of a dime. The rest of the store was devoted to a counter to take orders and answer phones and two rows of pizza ovens.

That’s it. Answering phones, making pizzas.

Businesses that look small are huge in this economy, as long as they stick to the knitting. Pointer’s Pizza does one thing and does it very well; makes pizza. That’s it, nothing fancy.

I can imagine how the phone call went with The Food Network:

PP: “Pointer’s Pizza. What would you like.”
FN: “We want to come in and film your big pizza you make and put you on TV.”
PP: “Ok, come in, stay clear of the ovens and the phones. You are going to pay for the pizza, aren’t you?”
Long pause…
FN: “But we’re putting your store on television….”
Longer pause…
FN: “Of course we are going to pay for the pizza.”
PP: “See you next Thursday.”
*ring*
PP: “Pointer’s Pizza. What would you like.”

Stay small, stay focused, stick to the knitting.

Originally published at: DogWalkBlog.com

Government should be counter-cyclic to the Main Street marketplace

Originally published at: DogWalkBlog.com

 

Ohio Statehouse

Ohio Statehouse

I was listening to NPR on WMUB this morning about the freshman Ohio senators starting their terms and how hard their jobs will be dealing with the State having a $1.9 billion budget deficit, GM, Delphi, DHL and other large companies pulling out of Ohio and various other things.

 

Many of the in-coming senators went on and on about how they need to cut government waste and hunker down and spend smarter, blah, blah, blah.

And then it occurs to me: Shouldn’t government be counter-cyclic to the marketplace? When things are going well, the free market tends to create goods and services it needs without help from the government. When the economy is doing well, shouldn’t government be pulling back on services, conserving revenues for a down economy?

When the economy is not doing well, that is when we need government help. That is when the government should ramp up the spending, not pull back. Government waste during fat years is a lifeline to average folks and small business during famine years.

As an owner of a small business, I only heard that the various Ohio Revenue departments are going to start going after every single penny it feels it is entitled to. It will asses property values higher, it will send out random letters declaring I owe this penalty or that missed tax payment, whether real or not. It will extract and extort money from the down and hurting at a greater rate than normal. All in pursuit of “responsible budget balancing.”

And they will further spiral the economic crisis downward and wonder why the budget will never balance. When the Ohio Statehouse policies put people out of business, tax revenues dry up and no matter how threatening the letters are, you can’t get money from people you put out of business and kick out of their homes.

I know it is really hard for elected officials to act responsibly during the fat, happy party years but when we out here on Main Street are doing well, Columbus and DC should be saving for a rainy day, not joining in the party and buying the booze for the drunken puppies.

Am I wrong?

Another way to think about social media ROI

 

Alexander Graham Bell probably got impatient with business owners asking for an ROI on his telephone invention

Alexander Graham Bell probably got impatient with business owners asking for an ROI on his telephone invention

When was the last time you asked the phone company to justify the cost of installing a telephone in your place of business? They would probably just laugh at you. It has probably been over 50 years since that question was last asked of a telephone sales rep by a shop owner.

 

On April 3, 1973 Motorola manager Martin Cooper placed a cellular phone call to Joel Engel, head of research at AT&T’s Bell Labs, signaling the demise of the land-line telephone. It will probably be several decades from now before the last wired telephone is deactivated, but chances are, it will happen. And sales reps for wireless phones are not probably not being asked for an ROI study prior to a company signing a cell phone contract.

So, why do companies ask for an ROI for the next wave of communication and conversation with their customers? Why do social media experts do it? When will a blog, Twitter account and a Facebook page turn the corner from an “investment” into an expense line item?

Probably at half the speed it took telephones. But, it will happen.

The next time someone asks you for an ROI study on social media, pick up the phone off their desk and ask them to give you the ROI the phone company gave them.

The cost of the “inner circle of experts”

Originally published at: TourneyCentral.com

The lifeblood of a successful soccer tournament is the army of volunteers who run the concession stand, sell the sponsorship ads, stand duty as field marshals, sell t-shirts, direct the parking and generally make sure your guest teams feel welcome and cared-for. But, how many of these volunteers are the same people, doing the same jobs year after year?

If your soccer tournament is like most, the same folks are doing the same jobs every year. On one hand, that is good because you have consistency. On the other, it is bad because there is no new talent to take over these critical jobs if the veterans were to leave.

I read Chris Brogan’s blog regularly about social media. For the most part, he is considered an expert in social media technologies such as Twitter, blogging, Facebook and the like. But I don’t think he is an expert on human behavior. Yesterday, he posted a rant about people using robots to reply to a new Twitter follow. There was (and still is) some discussion going on about his opinion on using robots, but I think Jeff Crites’ comment (#182) sums up the issue most closely aligned with soccer tournament would-be volunteers.

Most volunteers just want to help out and have some fun. Having been involved in soccer clubs for a number of year, both in the inner circles and on the outside, there are mainly two reasons people do not volunteer, regardless of the excuse they may use.

1. They are afraid that if they open their time to one or two things, the tournament will take advantage of their time and inundate them with responsibilities. So, it is easier to say no and keep the door shut.

2. They do not feel accepted by the “inner circle” of folks who already run the show. This is perhaps the most common reason.

A soccer tournament, like Twitter, is a scary place. There is a lot going on and a lot of folks who are experts at making it happen. They know all the rules — written and unwritten — and they make it all look easy. They are intimidating to new folks. And — like the Twitter community — the veterans have little patience with anyone who is new coming in and shaking things up. (If this does not describe your soccer tournament, consider yourself very, very lucky. Be honest with yourself; this is all part of that human condition we’re cursed with.)

New volunteers do threaten the status quo. They threaten the existing “power circles” the veterans have built. And that is a good thing because they also bring in new blood, new energy, and a different perspective. If there is no change, there is no growth.

Sure, the veterans will rant about these “new guys coming in and wanting to change everything,” but experienced, seasoned leaders will do it in private and as a release of their own fears of becoming irrelevant and obsolete, not as a rant against new blood who may not quite understand the rules but have good intentions. There may be a few new folks who step up to volunteer for the wrong reasons, but for the most part, they will be found out quickly and either corrected or asked to leave.

Our advice: Running a soccer tournament is more about leading people than it is about finding teams and scheduling games. Stop and think about how you felt the very first day you volunteered. Think about how scary it was being among all those people who were so sure of how to do things. Did you feel comfortable? How long did it take you to become the expert you are now? Did anyone take you aside and show you the ropes?

As a tournament director, identify those areas in your organization that have built walls to new volunteers. Actively seek to tear them down. And, if you have built a wall around yourself, start tearing that down. Pair new volunteers with those expert veterans who are open to change. Establish a new volunteer system that encourages change.

And try the new ideas suggested by new volunteers, but make them responsible for executing their own ideas. If they work, you’re ahead of a lot of soccer tournaments who are doing the same-ol’, same-ol’ every year. And, if they don’t, then they don’t. Don’t make a big fuss, don’t point fingers, but do encourage change, personal responsibility and innovation. If other volunteers see that you rant on unsuccessful ideas, they will be less apt to propose them and your tournament will not grow.

And never, ever use the phrase “We tried that once and it didn’t work.” If a new volunteer is willing to put in time and effort on an idea you tried a few years ago, perhaps times have changed and it will work this time.

Whatever you do, never publicly rant against new people who are enthusiastic and bright-eyed, even if they get stuff wrong and tick you off with their energy and excitement. It will make your soccer tournament look stodgy and you will scare off entire generations of potential volunteers. And your tournament will stagnate as your current experts get older and more resistant to change.

Make this year the year you resolve to try new things and break the status quo. In a down economy, the worst product to be selling is a commodity that anyone can get anywhere. Resolve to be different, to be special. Resolve that new people with new ideas will help you get there.

Meet us in St. Louis for the NSCAA. Jan 14-17, 2009
We’re in booth 1735 and we won’t even try to sell you anything, so you can stay and chat as long as you want. Really. And, if you want to make a podcast promoting your soccer tournament, Back of the Net will help you with that. You don’t even need to be a TourneyCentral tournament.

The ROI of “social networking”

Soccer photo from the Mead Cup Soccer Tournament in Dayton, Ohio

Soccer photo from the Mead Cup Soccer Tournament in Dayton, Ohio

I received a panic email from a graphic designer at a local city magazine yesterday who desperately needed some photos of a soccer tournament. “Anything you have showing local kids playing soccer!” she said. Since she was referred by someone who had faith that I would come through for her, it was hard to say no, even though I really didn’t have the extra time.

Fortunately, we had commissioned a photo shoot for TourneyCentral a few months back and the photos were still on my MacBook Pro. So, I opened the folder, pulled out a few dozen photos, threw them in a gallery using Photoshop, put them up on some Web space and sent her the link.

“Email me the file names of the ones you want, give the photographer credit,” I wrote back.

Within an hour, she had her local photos, I made another contact in the local publishing community who sent me back a huge “sigh of relief and gratitude” email (on a holiday week), reaffirmed my value with the local chamber contact who referred me, gave some more exposure to a local photographer, subtly plugged the Mead CUSA Cup Soccer Tournament and maybe created some business opportunity for myself later on down the line.

What I did not do was calculate an ROI for this act of networking.

Why didn’t I? I’m in business and the responsible thing to do — I’ve been told — is to have an ROI for everything I do. What was the return on my spending an hour of time and effort I did not really have to spare? How did your actions affect the bottom line of your business? You paid to have those photos taken; why did you just give them away to a publication? What is the ROI on spending another hour writing the blog post you are reading now? All of these things I heard in the back of my head as I was doing this act of kindness for this very desperate graphic designer who probably was behind schedule through no fault of her own.

Again, knowing all this, I did not calculate an ROI.

Is what I did considered social networking? Yeah, I think it is. It is no different than sending folks tweets on Twitter and helping out with requests for code or software recommendations or sharing a MacBook Pro power adapter when someone sends out a “help me” tweet. Nor is it any different than spending time commenting on a blog post that may not have examined all the facts entirely.

I propose a new standard for ROI on social networking: If you ask what the ROI is for social networking, you are already convinced emotionally that you need to do it. Go with that, jump in and tweet, blog and link in and the “financial ROI” will fall into place.

Originally published at: DogWalkBlog

Three things to help your Web site update process flow

Your Web site manager is a busy person and doesn’t have the time or patience to have a long back and forth with your Web site changes. Here are THREE things you can do to help the Web site update process flow smoothly.

THREE: Organize your request around the Web site you have, not the one you dream up
Quite often, we get a Word document with a note attached saying “post this to our Web site.” Aftering opening the document, we find ourselves saying things like, “where?” , “in what context does this belong?” and “has client even looked at their Web site?” We generally add a few colorful expletives as well.

Give us some indication as to where you want the content and how it flows with the rest of your site. We can’t read your mind and really do want to live up to your expectations. A URL and screenshots are always appreciated.

TWO: Involve the Web site team in the planning process early
Too often, we get a “fully formed” program, complete with sign up forms in Word, beginning with the following, “We had a meeting with the staff and have created this program…” or some like language. And, they want it up and running tomorrow as they are already selling the program.

Check with the mechanic before speeding down the track; the lugs nuts may not be tightened down! In short, your Web team is there to save you money, time and stress. A well-designed program that includes tools such as forms integrated to your back end database, cron jobs, automated emails, etc. are some of the features that a good Web team can bring to the table. If the Web team is the last one in the chain, most likely the program will have a feel of being attached to your Web site (and your organization) with duct tape and baling wire.

ONE: Write news releases that are Digg-able, Google-able and in general, shareable
Too often, we get news releases that are not written for the on-line world. Even if they are destined for a print publication, assume they will end up on line.

When writing a news release, use a title that grabs in no longer than 60 characters and then write a summary in 250 character or fewer, including the following: Who? What? Where? When? Why? How? Sound familiar? Those are the 5Ws that you learned in essay-writing in grade school. And they still apply. Even though the world went and got itself into a big ol’ hurry and digitized, news is still for people to read. And people want to know the 5Ws very quickly.

Why the character limits? Twitter is only 140 characters so you need a title that will fit along with a link and #hash reference. Most reposting services like Digg, Delicious, Linked In, etc have limits of 200-350 characters. And, when your news is picked up by sites like Alltop.com, you want the first paragraph to contain enough information to get the reader to read the whole release. In addition, most of adult America has some form of shortened attention span and will only spend time skimming. All the important stuff needs to be in the top paragraph.

And while you are writing, make sure to include a list of tags you want to include with your press release.

Your Web site is your front door
Your organization’s Web site is no longer something “over there.” It is the front door, the face of your organization. When prospective (or current) clients and members go looking for your services, you can bet they have already been to your Web site. If it is sloppy, unorganized, outdated, hosting too much information or has a feel that it has been “glued together,” they will notice and assume your organization is the same way. But, if it is tightened up and has a sense of purpose, direction and vision, they will turn the knob and come in.

Think local. Think sidewalk local.

iPhone App JobCompass

iPhone App JobCompass

Imagine for a moment I am standing outside of a Target store in Trotwood, Ohio on a Wednesday morning and I have all these merchandising skills, an iPhone, a NARMS Recruiter Profile and the new app called JobCompass.

Now, imagine on the other end of this project is a stress-out recruiter trying to find someone to complete a product change-out for a manufacturer in all the Targets, Kmarts and Walmarts in the Midwest by an ad break on Sunday. The recruiter’s company is a NARMS member and has placed the ad in the Recruiter and the JobBank that get aggregated out on Indeed.com, SimplyHired.com, Alltop.com and blasted out using Twitter and has gotten responses. But, as with any project, there are pockets that just are not filling.

“I wonder if there is work to pick up in this Target,” I think to myself. I fire up JobCompass, look for jobs in my area and a job for the Target Store I am standing in front of pops up. I zap the recruiter a text message in real-time to see if it has been done. She sends me back a reply in seconds with a link to all the job information.

“Can I get this hour job done today?” she asks? “Yes,” I reply. “I am here now.”

I complete the job, send in the completion report using iPhone on the Synergy web site and I am good. I may even send the recruiter a text message asking if the Kmart across the street needs to be done as well. And the Walmart by the freeway interchange.

Is this all possible today? Yes, it is, with a little foresight and planning and just good old common sense when listing your job online.

Think local. Sidewalk local
People don’t live in “states” or “regions.” They live on city blocks and in neighborhoods. Think about how to get the closest people possible to the job site. The easiest way to do that is to list the city and the ZIP Code on your job listing. As you can see from our example above, I was not looking for jobs in Ohio. I was looking for jobs in the 45426 Zip Code. Even more specifically, I was looking at GPS 39.818648,-84.288084. (Most job listing services, including the JobBank and Recruiter at NARMS.com will translate that for you as long as you provide the ZIP Code.)

Give Details
If you want to pique interest about your job, give details. Let prospective applicants know when it starts, stops, how much they get paid and other expectations. Include the specific local information (like the city and Zip Code.)

Be ready for a “Yes, I can do that job now.”
The easiest way to make sure you are ready to get the job done by someone qualified is to have the materials ready and available on line by pointing to a simple link. With my iPhone (or Blackberry if you must) I can download and read web sites, PDF files, MS Office documents, etc.

Applicants care about the job first, then you.
Don’t spend the first paragraph telling a potential applicant about your company. They don’t care unless the job is attractive. Plug the job, link to your company web site.

The job market is changing quickly and the ones who will be successful will focus on narrowing that time between listing a job and filling the job with a qualified candidate. The losers will almost always worry just about how many resumes they collected.

A funeral dirge for trade shows?

maclogoApple announced today that will no longer participate in Macworld Expo, the largest annual show for Mac enthusiasts. In a press release, Apple says:

Apple is reaching more people in more ways than ever before, so like many companies, trade shows have become a very minor part of how Apple reaches its customers. The increasing popularity of Apple’s Retail Stores, which more than 3.5 million people visit every week, and the Apple.com website enable Apple to directly reach more than a hundred million customers around the world in innovative new ways.

Are trade shows becoming obsolete? Apple seems to think so.

At TourneyCentral, we’ve scaled back from a couple dozen local shows and two national shows (NSCAA and US Youth Soccer) to just one per year, the NSCAA. In short, much of the material was a repeat of the shows, the exhibitors — with the exception of the NSCAA — were treated like second-class citizens that were allowed to pay, but not participate.

Perhaps this was Apple’s experience, but most likely not because of their size and heft. But, for smaller companies who have other choices to reach their audiences, this sounds like “permission” to break away from the “must show” trade shows.

Yet there still exists that fundamental human need for touch. As trade shows become less and less attended, what will replace that? Tweetups? Webinars? Live TV shows? More likely, the answer will be some combination of all of these, initiated or complemented with Twitter, blog comments and posts.

With any luck, we’ll start meeting people again in laundromats, grocery stores, bars and dog parks. And, maybe we’ll even unplug the cell phone from our ears and turn to them and have a real conversation.

What do you think is the future of trade shows?

Originally posted at: DogWalkBlog.com

How the US Postal Service blows its brand every December

USPS Santa Letter Box at Englewood OH 45322

USPS Santa Letter Box at Englewood OH 45322

Every December, Santa hands the US Postal Service a shiny new opportunity to rebrand itself as a lovable, caring organization that is an integral part of all 43,000+ Zip Codes it services. Every year, the USPS blows it terribly.

I found myself in the Englewood OH 45322 Post Office last Friday about 4:00pm. Ironically enough, I had forgotten it was Christmas and there might be a line. There was. But that was a good thing because it gave me an opportunity to look around, read all the signs on the walls, thumb through the FBI wanted sheets, straighten the certified mail postcards and Priority Mail envelopes and stickers. And then, I noticed a wrapped box on top of the glass case.

It was a box so kids can drop in their letters to Santa Claus. In truth, it was a spare box somebody found in the back. Perhaps another employee went to Big Lots and bought the cheapest wrapping paper they could find with Santa faces all over it, wrapped it hastily, punched a hole in the top and wrote “Santa Letters” on a card and glued it to the top.

What it should be is an opportunity that comes once a year that every postal employee is excited to be a part of.

What it should be is a old-tyme mail box, encrusted with candy canes and icicles, covered in snow with reindeer prints leading up to it.

What it should be is a production for every kid in the Zip Code area to go to their local Post Office to drop their one and only Santa letter into the magical mail box that only comes out the Friday after Thanksgiving and goes away when the post office closes the day before Christmas Eve.

What it should be is a tradition that kids mark on their calendar like an Easter egg hunt, their birthday and Santa coming down the chimney on Christmas Eve.

The US Post Office — in Englewood, Oh anyway — has taken an opportunity to market itself for free and turned the Santa drop into an obligatory wrapped box, stuck on a glass counter, too high for most kids to reach and too nondescript for them to care about.

Don’t worry, Postmaster General John E. Potter, this little pesky holiday will be over in eleven days and all your postal workers can get back to work and quit worrying about kids coming in wanting to mail their letters to Santa Claus.

What are the little brats doing running around a post office anyways. Don’t they know there are lines to stand in, postal standards to adhere to and stupid questions about perishable or hazardous materials to answer?

Bonus Material:
This is some bonus material that was knocking around my brain, was kinda related, too much for a tweet and not enough for another blog post, so here goes.

Other unfriendly stuff I saw while waiting in line: FBI wanted sheets, sign that said: passports by appointment only! Hours: 10am-2pm, no Fridays, sign that said in all caps NO DOGS! (presumably cats are ok), a long list of crap we can’t mail, the rules of standing in line, including no cell phones… and the ever ubiquitous, but entirely unnecessary barking when it is your turn… “NEXT!!!!!!!!!!!!” *sigh*

Originally posted at DogWalkBlog.com

The recession will affect soccer tournaments

Make no mistake about it; the current recession will hurt some soccer tournaments. Attendance will be down as teams will travel to fewer and fewer tournaments. And some tournaments, especially the ones that attract teams from more affluent areas where wealth is based on stocks and high home value may feel especially high pressure to limit soccer tournament travel.

The only bright light in this whole financial mess is the low cost of gasoline. Or, is it?

While teams may be cutting the number of tournaments in their schedule, it really only matters if they cut yours. If you have worked to create a must-attend tournament event, most likely you will survive the cut.

Here are some must-attend qualities:

1. You have consistently worked to make the teams feel at home while they are guests at your event.
Have you worked to make sure their questions were answered quickly via email? If they have had hotel problems, did you help to resolve them? When there were disputes about scoring, rules, etc, did you work with each party to resolve for a win-win-win? Are your volunteers cheerful and helpful? At the end of the tournament, did the most loosingest team remark in some fashion, “We lost every game, but had a blast! We’ll be back next year!”

2. Your organization is solid.
You have control of your data and everyone knows what is going on, from the host coach at a league game to the advertising coordinator to the person in charge of registering the teams. Your web site is up-to-date at all times, even to the minute during the tournament weekend. Your front page has news, maybe even hourly during the competition.

3. You have solid sponsors
This may seem like a little thing, but adidas doesn’t just sponsor anyone. And, once you get their sponsorship, you don’t get to keep it forever without working hard at it, especially in this economy. Parents and coaches are fairly savvy about what it takes to convince a corporation to spend sponsorship dollars at a youth soccer event that only takes place for 2-3 days in a limited geographic area. A display of some well-heeled sponsors get you respect.

4. Games are played on time and are well-controlled
Don’t underestimate the power of keeping a tight control of the games on the field. Many teams have been to a lot of tournaments where nobody seems to be in charge, games are played when referees stroll onto the field and all sorts of loosey-goosey standards. Don’t be one of those events! Expect everyone to show up on time, schedule enough referees to over-cover the games and make sure the volunteer field marshals know the times, locations and duties. And, if you can’t find volunteers, pay your field marshals. They are that important, for safe play and for your brand protection.

5. Advertise and market, market, market
A lot of soccer tournaments are going to be scared of this economy and pull back their advertising. DON’T LET YOUR TOURNAMENT BE ONE OF THEM! NOW is the time to go out and become visible. Now is the time to grab market share. Now is the time to be bold. Make sure your TICO Score is up-to-date, your tournament is listed correctly at your state association and your other media like podcasts and bulletin board advertising is intact. And, get some postcards/business cards for all your coaches to hand out (ask for Don Denny.)

6. Web site
I saved this for last, but it really is the most important of all. Make sure your web site is up-to-date, and uses the latest technology to bring your guest teams real-time information including scores and standings. We recommend any and all tournaments on this list. Your web site is your front door so it should be easy to find out information. (Who, What, Where, When, How Much does this cost) The application form should be readily accessible and work without any fancy log-ins, pre registration, etc. All TourneyCentral soccer tournaments have these capabilities built in from the ground up.

Our advice: Firstly, if you don’t already have a TourneyCentral web site, get one. Secondly, if you do, make sure it is turned on and ready for 2009. Thirdly, be visible everywhere. If you can, go to the NSCAA in St. Louis. Make sure your TICO Score is current. Advertise and get cards to hand out. But mostly, believe in your event and make sure your club/host coaches, teams, parents and players are your greatest champions and they know and love your tournament as much as you do.

2009 could be make or break for a lot of events. Make sure yours is on the “make” list.

Meet us in St. Louis for the NSCAA.
We’re in booth 1735 and we won’t even try to sell you anything, so you can stay and chat as long as you want. Really. And, if you want to make a podcast promoting your soccer tournament, Back of the Net will help you with that. You don’t even need to be a TourneyCentral tournament.

Originally published at: TourneyCentral.com