Shifting Your Perception of The Hustle Mentality

This article originally published for Front Office Sports

We live in a world that increasingly glorifies the #hustle culture. You know the one I’m talking about, always on the #grind, setting meetings, working out, traveling, all work, no sleep. Just follow my guy Gary Vaynerchuk on any of his platforms and you’ll see the epitome of this glorified mentality. It has its merits but, trust me, it’s not for everyone.

That said, I’m not here to tell you not to work hard. But I am here to provide suggestions to help you become your most productive self. I know everyone is wired differently so I’m speaking here from past experiences. The #hustle and #riseandgrind mentality can be draining on you not only mentally, but physically and emotionally.

I’ve already written in this space about work/life balance. I wanted to continue along those lines and discuss a few more habits I have adapted in recent years that have helped me be more productive. You’ll notice that these habits don’t involve using the latest app, or another way to keep me plugged in. These are some “old school” methods that, to me at least, are still ways to #hustle and keep you on the way to being the best version of yourself.

1) Hand Written “To Do” Lists — I’ve long felt the most comfortable when my “to do” list is written out and I can physically cross items off or re-order them as priorities shift. It’s been proven that the best way to remember things is to write them down by hand. That was all I needed to hear a while back to make the change to a more traditional method. I still use apps like Calendar, Notes, Reminders and Evernote for certain things (the pinging on my phone is still needed), but I rely on them much less that I used to. I also like to hang on to my lists and planners. With an app, things eventually get deleted. To me, that just seemed like a tidy way of organizing. But with a paper trail, it’s a great way to look back at your past week, month or year. There is something refreshing about reflecting on how much you’ve accomplished. I also have heard many stories about families discovering old journals and notes from family members. What a cool way to remember and reminisce about a loved one when you can read their accounts in their own words and handwriting!

2) Face-to-Face Connections — I’ve been reading recently about how email controls our day. This in turn means we are letting other people’s agendas dictate our productivity. How many times do you just about get in your “zone” or say to yourself that you’re going to focus on a certain task for the next hour and then PING, you get distracted by that “urgent” red flag email? I’m guessing more often than you want to admit. We have to change the way we respond to emails and other distractions. I’ve learned that I need to set aside certain times of my day to check them and from there prioritize my responses. Not everything needs a response! Now to get to the title of this point, face to face connections. What I try to do for pressing matters is make time to set face-to-face meetings. Not long, boring meetings. But, short and productive personal sessions. It’s amazing how much you can accomplish meeting face to face! This is even a tactic I like to use when networking and connecting. Don’t just rely and emails and texts. Work as hard as you can to meet someone for coffee, a quick lunch or a happy hour drink. You’ll be amazed at how productive they can be.

3) Reflection and Wellness — I must give credit to me better half for this section. My wife Megan has totally transformed the way I reflect, stay mindful and make sure I’m taking care of myself physically. These are also ways to help keep you grounded if you feel that the #hustle is getting the best of you. A few things that I have adopted are journaling, getting enough sleep and understanding the concept of peaks and valleys. Journaling has helped me chronicle the best parts of my day and reflect on the things that matter to me the most. This can be anything from time with my family, getting that interview I wanted, or even the Cardinals sweeping the Marlins. You will also be astonished at how much reflecting on the good will keep you focused on your goals. Getting enough sleep is usually not a problem for me, but when life and work get stressful or complicated, it can really affect your sleep patterns. You must remain cognizant of your sleep patterns. It’s OK to shut off the #hustle at 10pm or earlier each night and go to sleep. It’s also OK to sleep past dawn. Figure out when you can get the 7–8 recommended hours for most adults to help balance your hormones and help your body recover.

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I mostly kid when I say that these are “old school” ways of staying productive. I’m not that old, and these methods can work for nearly anyone. What I am saying is that as much as I strive to work hard, reach for my goals and build relationships, I can’t get caught up in the #hustle culture. That just doesn’t work for me. It’s not how I am wired.

If you find yourself scared of the real world or scared of the grind of working for an athletic department, a corporation or an agency…don’t. Be yourself. Stay true to the principles and methods that keep you focused and grounded.

If you’re someone who has been working for a while and you’re not Generation X and also not a Millennial, I will tell you same thing. Be yourself. Don’t compromise your values, don’t lose your mindfulness and don’t let the #hustle culture get to you.

 

4 Ways to Stay Relevant In Today’s Marketing World

This article originally published for Front Office Sports

As we approach graduation season, a popular topic that’s appearing on my social feeds is advice for those about to graduate. While this post is being published around the same time, I try not to wait until just this time of year to help those who may need it. I strive to set meetings, write blogs and join discussions all year long, focusing on self improvement and career development.

As many of you know, today’s marketing and communications landscape is changing rapidly. So rapidly in fact, that seasoned professionals sometimes find it hard to stay sharp and keep their skills up-to-date with the latest trends.

As a way to help both young professionals and those with a little more “fungus on their shower shoes,” I would like to offer some tips on how to stay relevant in today’s ever changing marketing landscape.

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1. Get Certified — There are many FREE certifications available to marketers today designed to help keep your skills sharp. The one that I recommend to most is the Inbound Certification from HubSpot. HubSpot is the world’s largest and best Inbound Marketing software platform and the authority on educational inbound marketing resources. Many of these resources include training videos which are categorized into a series of Marketing Certification courses. Of the five total courses offered, the Inbound certification is far and away the most completed course and the most comprehensive. The Google AdWords Certification is another increasingly popular online certification. This particular certification allows individuals to demonstrate that Google will recognize them as an expert in online advertising. Additionally, Hootsuite offers a series of social media marketing courses that are also defined to drive real business results. I can’t stress this enough, retaining certifications by any of these outlets will ensure you’re keeping up with the latest marketing trends.

2. Learn To Code — There was a time when knowing how to code or program was only for IT professionals or those that “are good with computers.” As you well know, if you’re going to hold nearly any professional job these days, you better know more than just the basics of using a computer, tablet or smart phone. I may be dating myself, but I definitely remember the times when this wasn’t the case. Any entrepreneur, marketer or freelancer will tell you today that coding can help you succeed and separate you from your competitors. As with the certification tips above, there are many FREE resources available online that can teach you the basics of coding and programming. If you’d like a handy list of places that offer coding for free, I’ve got you covered.

3. Learn Video Basics — I should probably take my own advice here. I mean I just wrote a post about how video marketing is the hottest trend right now, yet I’m not much help with a camera or editing. If you want to add value and separate yourself from the employee in the next cubicle, learn to shoot and edit video. It’s that simple. I reached out to my good friend Chris Yandle to discuss this tip, as he is a recently self-taught videographer and photographer. His new role allows for great flexibility for career development and Chris immediately began to improve his value by learning these two skills. He says he watched a lot of YouTube tutorials and edited video while he watched them. To quote him “We live in an amazing time when information is everywhere and YouTube is a prime example. It is free and offers may hours of online learning.” Some employers and universities may also pay for certain photography and video courses, but start with YouTube videos and you can construct a realistic timeline to learn more about video production.

4. Never Stop Learning — This is a mantra that I try to live by. Don’t ever get set in your ways or think you have all the answers. Learning can apply to many things too, not just your professional career. Start a reading list and try to read as much as your free time allows. Make the list diverse and don’t just read about work or careers. I try to mix in books about marketing, sports, religion, fitness and mindfulness. But that is just me. Come up with the five or six things you like and pick out a book in each topic. Also, read blogs on these topics, follow folks on twitter discussing them or look at local seminars focusing on them. Also make sure to consistently network and connect with friends and colleagues. Come up with a list of your top 10–15 “core” connections and make sure to touch base with them regularly. Always look to nurture those relationships. Finally, join professional networks associated with your profession and attend meet-ups, mixers, etc. These are excellent ways to nurture and expand your network. Making these new connections allows you to learn new ideas and new ways of thinking. You’re never to old to stop learning new things and meeting new people.

It sometimes can feel daunting when a new app, new feature or new platform is seemingly announced weekly. It doesn’t mean that you have to learn a new skill or change your whole marketing campaign. But, it does remind us that innovation never stops and therefore we must keep learning and trying new things.

Following the tips above can help you remain agile and relevant. They will help you expand your skill set and learn new things to help you advance your career. But, this is just a simple list to get your mind going. I’m sure some of you could add to this list and think of even more ways to add value to your employer. We’d love to hear your comments and suggestions below. Drop us a line or tweet at us with your ideas.

Did Higher Education Embrace Inbound Marketing in 2016?

Higher education institutions continue to lead many industries in the size of their social media audiences. This potential reach makes social media an easy and natural way to spread various messages to prospective students, current students, parents, and alumni.

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Social media is also a key component to a solid Inbound Marketing strategy. So, you may think that higher education institutions are a leading the way when it comes to Inbound Marketing. But did higher education embrace inbound marketing in 2016? You may be surprised to learn they still have some work to do.

According to a recent Inbound Marketing study of 11 top industries, higher education institutions ranked 7th when it comes to using Inbound Marketing as their primary approach to marketing. It barely out-paces industries such as financial services, healthcare, and manufacturing.

Need more proof they could improve? In terms of marketing priorities for the next 12 months, below are where higher education ranks among the same 11 induries in various strategic categories:

10thGrowing website traffic
10th – Providing Return On Investment (ROI)
10th – Increased revenue from existing customers (alumni)
9th  – Reducing costs of contacts (in-person visits, etc.)

So What Does This Mean?
It means that even though higher education institutions are beginning to see the value in Inbound Marketing by even participating in a survey such as this, they still have work to do. Their top priority was converting leads into customers. In fact, they ranked that priority higher than any other industry surveyed.

But, these days it’s increasingly more difficult to convert leads into customers without growing website traffic and adopting simple Inbound principles. You really can’t afford to go part of the way when it comes to Inbound. You must take a hard look at what adopting Inbound will mean and craft a strategy to do so.

How To Make The Switch?
If higher education institutions think making the switch will be too hard, they can always look to seek help from an Inbound Agency. Or, they can follow these simple tips below to get started.

  • Start with Personas – Craft buyer personas that fit your ideal conversions/customers. Those “c words” usually scare higher education professionals, but they shouldn’t. For higher education, it could be prospective students you are recruiting or key industry leaders you want to speak at graduation. Regardless, figure out who you’re trying to reach and then construct your content around what they would want to read and on the proper platforms.
  • Align Platforms with Goals – Select the social media platforms that offer the most potential to meet your goals. They all don’t play the same role. Twitter is for conversation. Maybe start a regularly scheduled Twitter chat so prospects have a chance to talk with a live person from your school. LinkedIn is alumni-focused. Post relevant information about school rankings and the importance of a degree from your school.
  • Track Metrics That Matter – Not all metrics matter, so track the ones that help you define your ROI. If you’re looking to increase traffic, tracking URLs can tell you what piece of content brought a visitor to your site and the social media site where they found your link. In general, the most actionable social media metrics will be those that indicate engagement such as click throughs, shares, comments, and the percentage of community engaging with your content.

It’s apparent that higher education institutions are still hesitant to embrace Inbound Marketing. It is hard for us to figure out why when it’s been shown that following Inbound Marketing principles leads to 54% more leads and a huge savings over traditional marketing.

Inbound marketers can only continue to have conversations with the key stakeholders at schools and help dispel any myths that still exist about Inbound Marketing.

For more information about inbound marketing, subscribe to my blog here.

This blog was originally published for Verge Pipe Media.

 

Top 3 Ways an Inbound Agency Adds Value

Inbound Marketing and its core tenants are starting to become a mainstream way of thinking as more business decision makers realize its ROI power. We’ve said it before, but outbound marketing features company focused collateral that is un-trackable. Inbound marketing is completely customer focused and based around metrics that are easily trackable.

Therefore, Inbound Marketing agencies can help business generate more qualified leads by producing content that helps lead prospects to make informed decisions. Sounds awesome right? But, how do they do this and what exactly makes partnering with an Inbound agency valuable?

Keep reading below or watch my video HERE!

Turning Projects into Programs

Inbound agencies aren’t bogged down in the internal business struggles that may get in the way of you ultimately helping your company meet its growth goals. An Inbound agency can help you think about not just the list of projects that need completed, but how those ultimately can become long-term programs and campaigns. Inbound marketing at its core creates assets. CEO’s and decision makers love assets. They especially love the when those assets increase in value. Every blog post, ebook, infographic, video, slide share, landing page, CTA, email, lead nurturing series, workflow, process you document and system you help put in place is an asset. The best news is that these assets grow in value without needing to make any additional investments and can all be integral parts of ongoing and successful marketing programs.

Creativity and Expertise

Not every business is ahead of the game when it comes to social media marketing. They may excel on one platform, but struggle on others. Or they may try to be on all social platforms out there and therefore can’t produce compelling content on each one. An Inbound agency can provide the strategy and expertise needed to succeed with social content, while bringing a creative flair which will help your campaigns reach their goals. Agencies typically showcase creativity and a willingness to push the envelope that internal team members may not feel comfortable offering on their own. Trusting an Inbound agency to bring fresh, relevant ideas and knowing they can track and measure how the success was achieved will make you look good to your CEO.   

Goal Setting and Measurement 

As we mentioned above, being able to track and measure success is at the heart of Inbound Marketing. All the assets created above will be loaded with keywords and other elements to help your company’s content be indexed an easily searchable on Google. As your indexed content grows, you will no longer have to chase customers. Inbound marketing is founded on the idea that being an educational resource adds value and nurtures leads into customers, so you’ll stop wasting money on chasing people that don’t matter to your bottom line. Inbound agencies are so wrapped up in your bottom line that they’ll constantly measure what is working and what isn’t and adjust accordingly to keep you on track to meet your goals. It’s this data-driven, ROI first mentality that ultimately makes partnering with an Inbound agency valuable.

These are just a few of the reasons that working with an Inbound agency can help you look good to your bosses. 

If you’d like more tips on how Inbound Marketing can help you, subscribe to my blog here

A Giving Tuesday Success Story

Entering its fifth year, #GivingTuesday is a global day of giving fueled by the power of social media and collaboration. Celebrated on the Tuesday following Thanksgiving (in the U.S.), #GivingTuesday kicks off the charitable season, when many focus on their holiday and end-of-year giving.

Since its inaugural year in 2012, #GivingTuesday has become a movement that celebrates and supports giving and philanthropy with events throughout the year and a growing catalog of resources.

As #GivingTuesday approaches for 2016, I wanted to highlight a shining example of a well-executed giving day. My alma mater, Illinois State University, has broken annual fundraising records for two consecutive years thanks to its efforts on #GivingTuesday.

Recently I spoke with Lora Wey, Executive Director of Annual Giving at ISU, to pick her brain about what tactics ISU has used to break these records. Click below to read the full  transcript of our question and answer session.

Tod: How did you and your team decide to capitalize on #GivingTuesday?

LW: On Giving Tuesday, annual giving drives the bus for this project. We had to get other units on campus like marketing and communications, web services, donor information services, etc. to buy in to the day. Those units are needed to create your core committee. Next were meetings with the President and Provost, the Deans at each college, and the various department chairs. Gaining buy in top-down is simply a function of how Illinois State is set up. In addition, each college and department manage their own social media so having them on board enhanced a coordinated effort.

Tod: How far in advance did you begin these talks? 

LW: In our first year, we began planning in August (for an event in December). Even at a large institution, we were able to get everyone on the same page and pull off a successful event with only three months planning.

Tod: How did you decide what areas to fund?

LW: At Illinois State, there are over 1,000 funds! Listing that many choices on a dropdown menu loses your audience. We decided to start with the largest priority fund per college and department. After the first year, we increased the number of funds to just over 50. People really enjoyed having more options because that is our culture at Illinois State. We’ve found that sticking to around 50 choices is the sweet spot.

Tod: How do you keep momentum going?

LW: We started with the major gift officers. Donors making gifts or pledges payable within the current fiscal were asked if we could use their gift as a challenge on Giving Tuesday. On Giving Tuesday, we opted to use six to eight challenges; these drive the momentum. Throughout the course of the day, larger gifts and challenges will happen organically as donors see the momentum and the excitement of the day. But, having those challenges ready and adding new ones excites and motivates the external audience.

Tod: How many triggers do you suggest throughout the day?

LW: We have always had between five and seven trigger events throughout the day. However, they aren’t always about dollars or specific donor connections. A big part of the efforts is social media participation, so we incorporated re-tweet challenges. That engaged a segment by spreading the word and helping raise awareness.

Tod: Which trigger event was the most successful?

LW: The re-tweet challenge was our most successful and we reached our target very quickly. I would suggest incorporating an engagement challenge in any crowdfunding plan. Re-tweet challenges really engage an observer to get involved in the day.

Tod: What advice do you have as far as timing for content?

LW: Consider memes, short impact videos etc., after lunch and in the afternoon lull. We did the re-tweet challenge at 12:30 p.m. and had other things cued up until 2 p.m. to help fight that afternoon lull. We also sent an email during that period to help counter the quiet period.

Tod: Is it counterintuitive to start with a low giving threshold?

LW: A lot of people in fundraising may think so, but Illinois State is growing a culture of philanthropy, so we had to illustrate that every gift matters. There was concern that the average gift would be $10. We actually found after removing the really large gifts, that the actual average gift for us was $49. So our donors were rising to the challenge and not backing down, even though our first ask was $10.

Tod: What are your goals for year three? 

LW: We’ve had success each year, but it hasn’t been around total dollar amounts or average gift. We still want to emphasize donor participation in order to grow the pipeline. This year we may increase our first donor goal challenge to 600 or 650.

Tod: What would you say are key components to a successful day?

LW: Recruit your social media ambassadors! Our social media ambassadors consisted of on-campus ambassadors such as faculty and staff that took an interest, and then alumni “social media ambassadors” that follow us on Facebook and Twitter and engage regularly. We had alumni that are regularly follow our flagship accounts and we reached out to them with information on what we were doing and asked them to share information. We probably had 15-200 social media ambassadors sharing the information via their social media throughout the day. It takes little time and doesn’t cost anything.

Tod: Did you leverage any LIVE components?

LW: LIVE video on social media has really come about in the last year, so we haven’t done anything like that yet. We had all the content and memes prepared beforehand though and rolled those out during the day. This year we plan to have more video components and feature the football and basketball coaches, because we know we should leverage more video content.

Tod: Did you utilize traditional media? 

LW: We utilized local and regional media outlets, both print and television. We weren’t the only local not for profits participating in Giving Tuesday but we were the most visible. I would suggest utilizing all forms of media to get your messaging out.

Tod: How was your “War Room” set up?

LW: The room consisted of our core committee. The IT person who designed our giving site, marketing who designed memes and posted on the university Facebook page, and gift processing. There were also other members helping to “like” and “share” as specific units and we also had a dedicated person for questions and support. In total, 8-10 of us coordinating messaging and answering questions. The School of Communications’ SMACC Lab which tracks trends, social sentiment, etc. gave us access into who and what was trending, what ambassadors had the most influence, etc. This also helped us to diffuse anything that was said negatively.

Tod: What are your major “Dos and Don’ts” for hosting a successful Giving Day?

LW: 1) Get the buy-in early with your core team of people. 

2) You need someone who understands the web. We “home built” our platform, for lack of a better term, instead of contracting with an outside vendor, so you need someone from IT on board. Even if you use an outside vendor, the IT person needs to be familiar with the platform and how to troubleshoot and prepare for any problems.

3) You need the appropriate marketing and communications people on board to help you promote the messaging and to generate the right chatter on the day of the event. The hope is that the online giving site blows up with activity, so it’s key to make sure your online site can accommodate the rush of visitors. 

4) Make sure your email provider/server can accommodate sending mass email sends. Email is a big component, not just social media. You have to make sure your system can send 20,000-50,000 emails in one drop. We asked after year one “how did you hear about this” and the answer was emails.

5) Six emails were lined up to go during the day. The content was written ahead of time and included broad messaging so that we could add additional text right before we sent it. We sent an email once we hit the initial goal and encouraged people to learn more and to keep giving. A lull between 12:30-3:30 was sent to keep momentum going. 

6) Involve campus “faces” like the President, coach, or the mascot creatively.  

7) Plan to steward Giving Tuesday donors throughout the year to keep them engaged with your university.

With the right buy-in, a well thought out strategic plan and clever content, Illinois State University has been able to crush their annual giving goals. What’s in store for them in 2016? Well, you should keep on the lookout for announcements from them.

In the meantime, I can tell you that you can’t just “wing it” on #GivingTuesday or whatever time of the year you decide to execute your Giving Day. You must have proper planning to ensure solid execution. 

For more tips and tricks on how to use Inbound Marketing for fundraising, click here

How Marketing Automation Helps Improve Your Alumni Relations

Football season is back! That means tailgates and re-connecting with alumni when they return to campus. Most alumni associations spend considerable amounts of time during the offseason planning tailgate events.

Marketing automation is a great way to nurture these relationships with highly personalized, useful content that helps convert prospects to strong leads and turn those leads into delighted customers. This type of marketing automation normally generates new revenue for your alumni accociation and provides an excellent ROI.

I know that higher education professionals cringe at the words prospects, leads, and sell. But, bear with us here. Though we’re using some marketing lingo, the techniques we discuss are the same whether we’re talking about customers buying a product, or alumni donating to your campaign.

Let me tell you how marketing automation helps improve your alumni relations.

Improved Insights into Donor Behavior

Marketing automation software works to gather information from prospects on a consistent basis. Many have the ability to track actions such as page visits, email opens, downloads, form signups, donations, and much more. All of this data is stored into a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system and helps build customer profiles. These profiles help you:

  • Deeply understand your donor profiles by knowing their interests and actions
  • Measure engagement from most-engaged to least-engaged
  • Analyze effectiveness of campaigns and outreach efforts  

Improved Fundraising, Member Retention and Nurturing

Marketing automation also allows for better communication with your entire prospect base. This communication can be personalized to each individual in various ways such as.

  • Campaigns targeted to current members that automatically send 30-60 days before renewal dates and/or important giving initiatives. These messages can be tailored to each member based on activity level, or donation level.
  • Messages triggered to individual donors based on webpage visits, page clicks or form signups to help solicit additional gifts.
  • Newsletter delivery, instant communications based on certain web actions, other membership offers and survey data capturing for potential members or very new leads to help gauge interest in certain initiatives and allow for up-to-date and immediate contacting.

Marketing automation allows for messages to be sent at the right time, in the right way, to the right person without delay. When you automate parts of your higher education marketing strategy, you gain great insight into how your alumni and possible donors think and act.

This competitive advantage allows you to predict behavior and respond to their inquiries more effectively. This technology isn’t just for increasing giving potential. You can also use it to maintain long-term relationships with alumni and donors.

For more information on marketing automation and inbound marketing, subscribe to my blog

This post was originally published by Verge Pipe Media

Five Easy Ways To Maintain Accountability With Your Client

Leading clients is a contact sport. It’s one of the phrases that stuck with me after I first heard it while at Account Executive College. You must be in the trenches every day with your clients in order to properly lead them. Being in the trenches, for me at least, means being in front of clients consistently, while proactively offering them strategic counsel.
Doing these simple things will help maintain accountability in your agency/client relationships. What is accountability you ask? Let me get technical with you for a minute.

In leadership roles, accountability is defined as the acknowledgment and assumption of responsibility for actions, products, decisions, and policies including the administration, governance, and implementation within the scope of the role or employment position.

Whew, that’s a mouthful.

I’m going to try and simplify that for you. Below are my five easy ways to maintain accountability with your client:

Make sure you can deliver: Quick wins are a good way to prove your value early on in the client relationship. But, as you are banging out quick wins, you have to be working on the long-term strategy and goals that ultimately won you the account. You have to properly strategize to ensure that you can deliver upon your promises. Then once you have delivered, further prove your worth by providing the client data and analytics.

Never wait: Clients look to you for guidance, for support and to be the idea person. So, don’t ever wait for the client to propose ideas, or say “I hope you can help us with this.” You must consistently push and motivate your clients. Sometimes motivation can come in the form of simply keeping them on task and holding them to deadlines. Hitting goals and deadlines together only increases your worth in their eyes.  

Take responsibility: A true leader of clients will always take responsibility during both good times and bad. You should always take responsibility for the final product and give credit to all involved who made it happen on your team. Accountability runs both ways and therefore if you make mistakes along the way, or a campaign fails to hit its goals, you must take responsibility in those cases as well. This openness will go a long way in solidifying your role as a trusted partner.

Refuse to do mediocre work: Don’t ever accept a client’s proposal or idea just because it “came from the client.” Never agree to do any project or campaign at the client’s whim if the concept or idea is mediocre. The quickest way to compromise your agency’s integrity is to do mediocre work, just because it is work you can bill to the client. The client will respect your honesty and integrity if you discuss with them why you only will do quality work and settle for nothing less.

Be transparent: Transparency is key in every aspect of the agency/client relationship. In fact, it is a major part in making the four previous elements of accountability listed happen successfully. Transparency leads to trust and trust leads to lasting partnerships that will lead to major wins for both the client and the agency.

If you’ve enjoyed this latest series of blogs, subscribe to my blog to get all my updates. 

This blog was originally posted for Verge Pipe Media

 

Be A Partner NOT A Vendor

Leading clients is a contact sport. It’s one of the most important things I learned while at Account Executive College. This means that if I’m going to lead our clients successfully, I must be in front of them consistently and speak with them frequently.
This constant contact requires the utilization of certain tools and principles by which to abide. In this blog I want to discuss how it is important to be a partner NOT a vendor for your clients. Clients will often try to do more on their own, so you have to be there to lead and advise them during your relationship so they realize the impact you can make in their marketing efforts. The deeper the relationship you can build and the better leader you can be for them, the less they will want to explore other options when the new “in” thing comes along.

Having said that, here are three ways to help you be a leader for your clients to help guide them through the changing media and marketing landscape.

Look for inconsistencies to fix 

An easy way to get quick wins early in a client relationship and a tactic that will help gain their trust for the duration of the partnership is to look for brand inconsistencies. Once you’ve identified the areas you can help correct for them, immediately tell them, “we can fix this!” This can be as easy as suggesting better content to post, better times to post it or making sure all social profiles have consistent bio information. Prioritize the importance on these projects and knock them out quickly and effectively. Your client will be impressed that you solved, what seemed to them, complex problems more quickly than they could. This will help you earn immediate trust.

Take work off their plate

One of the first questions we ask when we start working with new clients is, “what keeps you up at night?” Actually, we begin to ask that question well before we’ve signed on as the agency of record, and then we reiterate it again during our first meetings. We want to take work off our cleint’s plate very quickly and be known for the problems we solve for them. If you are consistently making their workload lighter, you’ll start to become a trusted advisor for them. They will come to you when they’re considering making a decision or will ask that you be in meetings that impact their daily workload. This action goes a long way in building up lasting trust.  

Always show value

The final step in becoming a trusted partner and earning long lasting confidence from your client is for you to always show value. The first two points listed above will help you establish quick value and value during the early stages of the new relationship. But, being able to consistently show value will make a partnership last a long time. Value can mean many things to many people. In the case of a client partnership it can be in the form of offering ideas, solving problems, being available when called upon, sticking up for your client when they face internal strife, meeting and exceeding deadlines, and generally just making their lives easier.

I mentioned zero-cost client service initiatives in the first blog of this series and being a trusted partner is also a way to bring your agency tremendous returns at zero cost. Following these above steps will also help you gain various levels of trust with your client that can lead to a lasting and productive relationship.

For more client service tips and tricks, subscribe to my blog

This post was originally published for Verge Pipe Media

Listening With Mirrors

Leading clients is a contact sport. As the former Executive Director of Client Leadership (fancy title I know!) at Verge Pipe Media, I learned to roll up my sleeves and get dirty to lead our clients successfully. pexels-photo-85040

Being able to do this requires certain tools in your client services toolbox. Therefore, in my upcoming series of blogs I pull back the curtain and reveal some tools that I’ve used to be successful.

The first tip I’d like to discuss is “listening with mirrors.” “Listening with mirrors?” you say. “What does that even mean?” I’m glad you asked.

Reflective Listening

The way I like to define listening with mirrors is as follows: Listen to your clients intently and then reflect back to them what they just communicated. This is sometimes called “reflective listening,” I’ve come to learn. But I like the sound of listening with mirrors. It presents a great visual reminder for me.

Seriously it does. If I think in my head “mirrors” as I start a discussion with a client, it reminds me to focus on what a client is telling me and then probe deeper into what they just said. This doesn’t mean just repeating what they said, it means responding with reflection (mirrors, get it). Responding with reflection allows the client to “re-see” or rethink about what they just told you.

Reflective sentences may begin like this:

“It sounds like…”

“What I’m hearing is…”

“You feel…”

Beginning your phrasing like this allows you to reflect back, in your own words, what you understood them say. This is often different than what they actually said or what they mean to say. Listening with mirrors usually prompts the client to fill in gaps or add further explanation as to what they wanted to convey. Thus, you are both ultimately speaking the same language when it comes to the problem or situation the client is laying out before you.

Don’t Judge

Another key piece of listening with mirrors is to not judge what the person said when you reflect back. This gives your client a chance to see how they’re coming across, which may or may not be how they meant to come across with the message. Not judging will prevent you from coming across as rude or argumentative, which could lead the client to get defensive.

Overstate

Reflecting back with clients can give you the chance to overstate or slightly embellish their comment or issue in order to see if they really meant what they said. This method may surprise your client, but will usually cause them to pause and consider if they really meant what they said, or if the problem is a big as it seems. Again, it’s all about making the client think about their needs in a different light and possibly re-evaluate or re-prioritize what really matters.

Trust me, it works

I have found in most cases that listening with mirrors is validating to our clients. Think about who you communicate with on a regular basis. How do you feel when that someone takes the time to really listen to what you say and take the time to understand your problems? Feels pretty good right?!

Listening with mirrors is a zero-cost client service and the return can be tremendous! Reflecting back to clients consistently will help you better retain your current clients and make it easier for prospects and new clients to see that you are genuinely interested in helping them solve problems. Doesn’t get much better than that, does it? 

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This blog was originally posted by Verge Pipe Media. 

 

10 Apps Millennials Actually Use

There are countless mobile apps on the market today. Just visit the App Store or Google Play and you could spend countless hours scrolling through apps of many kinds. When it comes to apps for higher education, people tend to think of just ways apps can be used in the classroom or for curriculum, but that’s not all there is to it.

I know there are many other helpful apps out there that today’s college students can’t live without. How do I know this? Well, I polled a current crop of interns and part-time workers, most of whom are recent graduates or current students.

The apps listed below were unanimously used by our group of millennials. We will call it our list of the 10 apps college students actually use. I guess you could say they couldn’t survive college in today’s atmosphere without them.

University App – It doesn’t matter what college or university you attend; it will have an official app you can download to your phone. In our case, our group unanimously used the Auburn University app to stay up to date with what was happening in and around campus. Most apps also allow you to view your schedule and grades, keep up with news and events, and look up contact information for students and faculty.

Transit App – Likewise with University App, our entire group used the app that helped them track the campus transit system. Auburn’s app provides real-time location and next stop information as well as a small map for all active vehicles and routes. You can even access announcements that might impact your ride.

Moodle/Blackboard/Canvas – These learning management apps are all similar and serve virtually the same purpose, a way for you to track and stay current with your curriculum, courses and grades anywhere you go. Particularly, Auburn uses Canvas which includes course materials, including syllabi, lecture notes or slides, assignment submissions, files and links to external sources, and audio-video content.

Amazon Prime Student – Our millennial workers all took advantage of the discounts available on Amazon Prime. With the “Student” program you receive a 6-month Free trial that includes Free Two-Day Shipping on eligible purchases. You’ll also receive access to unlimited photo storage through Prime Photos, as well as Student-exclusive deals and discounts. After your 6-month free trial ends, your Prime Student membership makes you eligible to receive 50% off Amazon Prime, including all Prime benefits, for up to four years or until you are no longer a student. Sounds like a pretty good deal for the ever-frugal college student.

Venmo – Venmo is a free application that links your device with your bank account to make it easier for you to pay back money without having to deal with cash. With its help, you can share your payments with friends, collect money from people who owe it to you, pay your bills, and much more.

GroupMe – GroupMe is the free group messaging app that acts as a private chat room for your small group. Our millennials proclaimed this app essential for coordinating group projects in order to schedule meetings and update responsibilities, etc. when collaborating on a project. The app allows for sharing videos, photos, emojis, your location and even direct messages. Another plus, the app is available on both iOS and Android, eliminating the possibility for Android group members to be left out of an iMessage group text.

Google Docs – Google Docs is also the most commonly used file sharing app among our young workers. Google Docs allows users to create and edit group documents whenever and wherever, in real time. Editing permissions allow those with access to edit and style documents and all changes are instantly viewable to everyone with access to the document. We were told that students today aren’t sure how they’d get group projects done without the real-time collaboration of Google Docs.

Quizlet – This online learning tool is essentially a memorization aid. It lets users create “sets” of terms customized for their own needs. These sets of terms can then be studied under several study modes. The most popular study mode for our team was “flash cards.” In it, users are shown a “card” for each term. Users can click to flip over the card, or use their arrow keys, and see the definition for that term.

Chegg – Chegg is a multi-faceted app that featured textbook rentals, homework help, and online tutoring. While not a free app, Chegg was made to seem invaluable by the majority of our team members. It allows you to connect with tutors instantly, as well as get instant answers to a variety of educational questions. Step-by-step textbook solutions for your hardest classes are also easily available.

TinyScan/Scannable – These apps, essentially the same but one’s for Android and one’s for iOS, turn your smart phone into a mini scanner for documents, photos, receipts and other texts. With TinyScan, you can scan your documents, like your classmate’s notes on a lecture you missed, at anywhere and store or email them as PDF files. Sending and exchanging PDF files can sometimes be cumbersome, or not achievable at all, on many smart phones. These apps simplify document delivery and were used by more than half of our current staff.

It’s funny, when researching other articles for this piece, we asked our team members if they thought the apps listed in those pieces were accurate or even representative of today’s student. The majority of them said no. In fact, most apps listed drew blank stares or looks of bewilderment.

My goal with this list was to paint a more accurate representation of the 10 apps college students actually use to navigate today’s collegiate landscape. In most cases, the millennial workers said these were the apps a college student can’t live without.

So, let’s consider this the definitive article on the subject shall we? 

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This blog was originally posted by Verge Pipe Media.