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Marketing and Sales – Best Skills

A collection of informative articles and other resources for marketing and advertising a home business, including how to improve sales and suggestions for Internet marketing for home business promotion.

Business Strategies – Best Skills

Whether you’re a business owner or an employee looking to advance your career, these advertising strategies, books, and ideas will prepare you for success.

Other Animal Careers – Best Skills

If you like working with animals, there are many job opportunities in related industries. Use these career tips to find work in writing, art, television and advertising.

Small Business Marketing and Sales – Best Skills

Whether you’re selling baked goods or consulting services, you need to learn to sell. Get sales and marketing tips for small businesses, including tutorials on advertising, competitive intelligence, best practices, public relations, pricing, and market research.

Business Tax Deductions: A to Z – Best Skills

Here is a list of all available deductible business expenses, from advertising to wages. Use this list to check your understanding of deductible expenses to maximize your tax deductions and avoid problems.

Brand Marketing – Best Skills

We’ll teach you how to build a “value-added” brand in today’s competitive global marketplace by creating an effective, integrated strategy involving advertising, marketing, publicity, and research.

Law Firm Marketing – Best Skills

Law firm marketing involves getting potential clients to hire your law firm to perform legal services. Learn about the various ways to market a law practice, including professional networking, internet marketing, attorney advertising, lawyer referral services, and more.

On Their Worst Behavior

More than 750 advertising and marketing executives recently shared the wackiest office party behavior they have witnessed.

Innovation Generator

Throughout the last 35 years, I’ve worked with hundreds of entrepreneurs. Some of them struggle all their lives against larger, often more savvy competitors, pulling out all the stops to convince banks to offer them credit to pay for advertising, marketing, and sales to convince customers that their products are worth…

What is the Definition of Sales 2.0

Have you heard of Web 2.0? What about “Sales 2.0”? There is new sales 2.0 conference that is owned by Selling Power Magazine — it remains to be seen what specific direction they will take it. Is Web 2.0 the same thing as sales 2.0? What is the current buzz surrounding sales 2.0.? There are two camps currently: Camp 1: Sales 2.0 is the use of web 2.0 technologies (and technology only) for sales or sales-related purposes. Camp 2: Sales 2.0 is the “Next Evolution” of Selling — where Selling is taken to the next level What do you think? Add Your comments? Recently, I asked the question to my LinkedIn Network… here is what some people said: View these answers on LinkedIn too ———— Aaron of Office Tools, LLC Says: Sounds to me like you have answered your own question, but it’s more than just using technology and resources like web portals and Blackberries. It’s also combining these technologies into your relationship with the prospect in a manner that is attuned to their comfort level as well, i.e. don’t make your customer a technology guinea pig every time a new tool is introduced. ——————— Martin B Success Coach, speaker, trainer and author. Known for his focused, rapid-results coaching. Says: Again to me it is about integrity, ethics and how they work with the customer for all the technology in the world can not replace that. I think sales 2.0 will include the sales person building an on-line quality reputation that will go with them over time. Of course I think being a CRSP ( Certified and Registered Sales Professional ) is very important as well. Quality relationships take time and SHOULD take time, technology can help but it still demands the basics. http://inquireonline.info/sales/sales-as-a-profession ———————– Nathan, a Director of Client Services Says: Interesting question and I hope this helps. I had been meeting with clients about a potential proposal for two months and doing a lot of work with them in between. They put on events as a part of their business model so I showed up to a happy hour one night to network and build rapport. They called the next day and wanted a proposal immediately. It was for a pretty big project so I got to work immediately. I sent the proposal to the principal and his VP of Advertising (two person show). I got the email from her (VP) Monday morning saying they were going with a different company. I did the customary follow up with an email asking why and didn’t hear back for several days. The VP of Ads is pretty into her myspace account and added me as a friend four days later (we got along well socially). I ended up following up with her on myspace, found out that it was a price point and we are currently renegotiating the terms of the proposal. ————- Brian a Life Sciences Training, Marketing and Branding specialist Says: Great question and one in which I view there being multiple answers to. These answers could be based on existing sales methodologies along with the technology stack, both current and planned, that will used within the sales organization. Sales 2.0 for us is evolving. Sure, we use standard SD processes and have a great CRM in place. Beyond this, what is sales 2.0? – Web advertising – Web networking – Blogs – White papers – SME webinars – Referral marketing – Tying it all together – Any so many others If I were to define sales 2.0 for the industry, I would state the following today. — Sales 2.0 is the sales approach where proven development methodologies are combined and blended with new communication & collection mediums where the client is empowered through the use of information to make well informed decisions — Yes, I said empowering the customer. As the web is now a central point in all communications, providing the information that your client’s seek is paramount to being viewed as a strong player in the service or product field that you serve while this also will help them in making better decisions. When structured property, Sales 2.0 approaches should increase contact to conversion ratios without all the (hub-bub) normally associated with sales development. I view a perfect sales world to be the day that a blinking super ball with your logo on it IS NOT required to impress a potential client, but a well formed and intuitive intake process does so without all the old school glitz. —————— Flyn P, The Inside Sales Guru Says: Sales 2.0 is the integration of all sales best practices as Web2.0 tools are now integrated for websites. I find many people stuck on one sales method over another when all of the methodologies have best practices that are probably applicable to most selling environments. The other half of this solution is that sellers have to learn to embed and incorporate best practices into their sales processes instead of placing the sales process on top of what they are doing. It is my belief that the most effective way to teach a sales best practice is from within the sales process for which you intend to use it. This means you must find the appropriate places and applications for the best practice and then customize it to fit your specific selling process. It is one thing to lean about “impact” questions it is another thing to apply them to your selling. Thus, you take the impact question and put it in the sales process for ABC Co. and make the question ABC’s. Impact Question: “What is the impact of the bottleneck in manufacturing on revenues?” ABC may not have such an issue in their selling — the key problem may be productivity of a widget in an adverse environment. The impact question that directly addresses that issue must be developed and made part of the selling process. The result is salespeople don’t need to figure out how or when to ask the question. That combined with the use of all sales methods and best practices would be Sales2.0. I hope that helps. Clarification added 5 days ago: I have noted that other addressed marketing issues and I would agree with these ideas — I kept my answer strictly to “Selling.” ———- Christian, an International CRM & e-Marketing Expert – Techno-Marketing Specialist Says: Dear Brian, More than a collection of technologies that help sales professionals personalize information for customers and interact with them rapidly, Sales 2.0 should be considered as the synthesis of new technologies, models, processes and mindsets. It is about leveraging people, process, technology, and knowledge to make significant gains. It means integrating the power of Web 2.0 and on-demand technologies with proven sales techniques to increase sales velocity and volume. It also relates to increased communication and collaboration between sellers and buyers and within the selling team, together with a proactive and visible integration of knowledge and measurement of the buying cycle into the sales cycle. It seems that Sales 2.0 truly merges sales and marketing into a seamless effort to target buyers more effectively using innovative and integrated tactics with an objective to bring in a lot more business at a lower cost. It is also about making anything and everything in the sales and marketing lifecycle measurable, so that you can take that information and resulting analysis to further optimise your sales process. More streamlined processes, together with the technologies to carry out smarter approaches, can immediately help organisations that are committed to moving their sales and marketing efforts to the next level of performance and dramatically accelerate their sales cycle. For further insight on this and related topics, please see http://www.saastream.com/my_weblog/2007/11/sales-20-taking.html#more —————– Joe G, a VP and Research Director, Sirius Decisions Says: Sales 2.0 is being trumpeted in the market place as the next wave of sales automation technology that will improve sales productivity, reduce cost of sales, increase customer loyalty and drive sales performance through the roof. Sound familiar?… think of SFA 1.0 promises. Sales 2.0 is – or should be – a focus on adapting customer engagement strategies to the rapidly changing environment that is dominated by the unrelenting evolution of the Internet. While leveraging technology should be a part of any approach, it is just an enabler to a broader sales readiness strategy. Obviously there are a variety of perspectives on what Sales 2.0 is, should or could be. I would suggest a visit to the blog at The Sales 2.0 Network website: http://sales20network.com/blog/ Duncan, A Business Development and Salesperson Says: To me Sales 2.0 is more about leading your customer to the best conclusion rather than ‘closing’ them through manipulation and hard sales tactics. i.e. you should strive to make sure that the product is a good fit for your customers and that your customers are a good fit for your company. The better the fit, the more repeat sales and referrals you will get. posted 5 days ago Nigel: CEO, Sales 2.0. Next Generation Sales Information, Telesales & Consulting Says: Hi Brian, Thanks for asking the question. I think it’s pretty clear from the answers that there is not yet one clear definition of sales 2.0 The way I came up with “sales 2.0” two years ago was through my personal frustration with a lot of the ways we have been selling. Added to that my realization that a lot of these techniques date back over 100 years to John Patterson at NCR. So I saw “sales 2.0” as a statement that we can “take sales to the NEXT level”. What happened after that is that some smart folks in Silicon Valley noted that the Internet is already creating change that we sales people can harness NOW to move our selling to the “next level”. Hence the emphasis on technology solutions in many current definitions of “sales 2.0” So for now we don’t have ONE solidified definition but the most popular one short-term is using Internet tools to boost sales performance. Long-term I hope the buzzword can stick around to really mean “taking the whole sales profession to the next level”. That’s my dream.

The New Ways of Describing the Life of Content

I have been thinking a lot about life of content. A few different dichotimies seem to frame conversations. Staged vs. Organic: Staged events are one-shot. They need significant pre-establisehd processes and project management. They use up a lot of advertising and communication. Organic approaches are more incremental. They use small layers to build up over time. Television shows are staged, but they can also evolve over many episodes, as writers seize onto relationships, or the right directors are found. Organic content lifecycles stress less perfection up front, and often more feedback. Transient vs. Peristent : This refers to the size of the window of availability, and/or the timeliness of the material. Even these can be fuzzy. DVDs should be totally persistant, for example, but advertising and shelf-issues make them somewhat more transient. Also, as with movies, there is a perceived success (being number one on the charts) that drives more success, and more of a staged content approach. DVDs can also make movies a bit more incremental, with multiple versions available. Computer games can also have various versions, and can also be patched on the fly. Controlled vs. Community: Is their one-voice shapping this or multiple? Mods for computer games can subvert a very controlled piece of content. From a formal learning perspective, I always ask, how can I get the training group out of the way? How can the community generate the content, and how can the training group help that? Is there a “so what” for these lenses? I think so. One is to recognize our own biases, and accept that these biases might be interfering with coversations with sponsors. The other is to recognize the current trends that are pushing towards incremental, persistant, and community, and selectively embrace some of this approach, and challenge others.

SimWord of the Day: Pedagogy: Coaches, Virtual

A virtual coach gives customized help to the player. Unlike a Dictionary, Glossary, Wiki, or Instruction Booklet, coaches tend to have personality. They pop up at the right time, either proactively or in response to a question, and give some help. Like all pedagogical elements, the virtual coach has to balance giving neither too little help nor too much. A good coaching system can dramatically reduce the amount of real coaching necessary to support a simulation deployment. Some simulation Genres are easier to coach than others. Branching Stories use discreet nodes, each of which can be tagged with a very specific coach entries (i.e. for node 127b, the coach might say, “you have so far in this situation been very lenient, and now the group is trying to take advantage of you. It may be time to be a little tougher”). You can even have two or three levels of coaching for each node, aligned with the end-learner’s chosen difficulty level or past success. The more open-ended a simulation is, the harder it is to employ such highly targeted virtual coaches. Some coaches in an Interactive Spreadsheet can be trigger based around milestones (i.e. if at [third quarter, second year], customer satisfaction is below 30%, play coach clip showing advice on how to improve customer sat). Some coaches in interactive spreadsheets can also be table based (if market share drops for more than three consecutive terms, play video highlighting problem and suggesting solutions). Coaches also don’t have to be perfect, a nice crutch in more open-ended sims. Like life, one can have a virtual board of directors (and using a board of directors well is a critical Big Skill). Each can offer one, “pure” view, such as one advocate for advertising, another for consistency.

SimWord of the Day: Delay

The time it takes for a change of input to result in a change of output. In a system with significant delay, users might not understand the correlation between input and output. Often times if there is a delay, users overcompensate. For example, if it takes 30 minutes between putting food in one’s mouth and a feeling of satiation, one could easily overeat. If it takes three minutes between adjusting the temperature of the water and the shower to reflect the new temperature, bathers might go through cycles of getting the shower too hot, and then too cold. Other times, especially if the input is expensive, users might give up. If spending money on advertising doesn’t result in immediate increased traffic, a business might give up, despite the eventual gain realized.

Sales Moves by Jeffrey Gitomer: When does Christmas start? When does Christmas end?

Twas the night before Christmas and all the stores were closed. Why? They needed a few hours to get ready for the AFTER Christmas sale. All of the retail elves were home with the rest of us, anticipating the festival of unwrapping and judging the value and likeability (return-ability) of presents received. The holiday season is a make-it-or-break-it time for most retailers and many businesses. Is it my imagination, or is the Christmas season expanding? Remember when there was the excitement that the shopping season officially began the day after Thanksgiving unofficially known as Back Friday. The day AFTER Thanksgiving, stores opening at 8am then 7am then 6am then 5am then midnight. Trying to lure customers with the size, discount, and sale of their pre-Christmas then, based on social pressures, changed it to a pre holiday extravaganza. EARLY WARNING SIGNAL: Im sure youve noticed, as I have, that there are now Christmas items among the Halloween candies. In the drug stores, the card shops, the grocery stores, even the department stores, merchants are trying to remind you, and to sell you, whatever they can before the competition does. Even online, companies like amazon.com had their seasonal art on landing pages by Halloween. Boo. (That wasnt to scare you! That was the Philadelphia boo: the voice of disapproval. The What were you thinking? boo. The angry boo. The greedy boo. The boo-hiss.) I dont know about you, but I believe business greed is stepping over the line introducing the spirit of the holiday season before candy is handed to little ghosts and goblins, or before families gather to give thanks for our freedom, and for each other. Seems as though businesses are willing to risk ridicule and reputation for a chance to ring their cash register. Now while none of this is really a big deal, be aware that when some retailer, wanting to jump the gun, tries to pull off Christmas in October or earlier it generates thoughts in the mind of the consumer none of them positive. And those thoughts lead to perceptions and buying decisions. If Im put off or angry at your early entry into the Christmas season, I may not return to buy when the actual season starts. And then there are those who try to down the competition in a subtle way. I saw a sign in the window of a major department store that startled me. It said that they like to celebrate one holiday at a time, and that they would not be putting up any Christmas decorations until after Thanksgiving. GREAT! But, eh, why are they telling me that? Why dont they just DO IT? My concept of what will win is go back a decade, look at what won then, add the internet and email messaging, create a stock of inventory of WHAT PEOPLE WANT not just what you buy cheap, and are looking to sell at a great margin and let one customer tell another customer how great your merchandise is. One more thing HIRE GREAT PEOPLE people who smile, love to serve, can multitask, can go the extra mile, and who have a base intelligence that is smarter than the merchandise. This will require that you pay them more train them more and provide a work atmosphere that both employees AND customers love. This also means managers must be happy, not condescending. The sign in the department store window was right: ONE HOLIDAY AT A TIME. Hey, Mr. Retailer youre the one who created the purchasing part of these holidays in the first place. My vote is give thanks for what you have at Thanksgiving, celebrate your blessings with your family, and THEN sell like hell the day after until 5pm on Christmas Eve. That strategy would please your customers, create word-of-mouth advertising to compliment your traditional marketing outreach, and even please the panicked shareholders once the numbers begin to emerge. I saw a t-shirt the other day that said: Lets keep the X in X-MAS. Its a sign of the times, and a resign of the consumer at the same time. If you want the holiday recipe for success, take the formula above and add spirit. If you do, the jingle bells youll hear will be the cha-ching! of your cash register. Jeffrey Gitomer is the author of The Sales Bible, Customer Satisfaction is Worthless Customer Loyalty is Priceless, The Little Red Book of Selling, The Little Red Book of Sales Answers, The Little Black Book of Connections, The Little Gold Book of YES! Attitude, The Little Green Book of Getting Your Way, The Little Platinum Book of Cha-Ching, The Little Teal Book of Trust, The Little Book of Leadership, and Social BOOM! His website, www.gitomer.com, will lead you to more information about training and seminars, or email him personally at salesman@gitomer.com. 2011 All Rights Reserved. Dont even think about reproducing this document without written permission from Jeffrey H. Gitomer and Buy Gitomer. 704/333-1112

Sales Moves by Jeffrey Gitomer: Salespeople have questions, Jeffrey has answers.

#1024 I get a ton of emails from people seeking insight or asking me to solve sales dilemmas. Here are a few that may relate to your job, your life and, most important, your sales thought process right now: Jeffrey, Your seminars and books have been highly therapeutic to me in my budding sales career, but I have a question Im having a hard time answering on my own. My wife is building a Mary Kay business, loves what you do, and is dying to put your methods to use. Her business is 80% selling product and 20% recruiting. A lot of the recruits typically come from the product buyers group. How does one combine those two activities without turning off the “makeup buying” customers who are not interested in a sales career? Does someone like her put up a “beauty tips” social media presence to promote to her “makeup buying customers” and then a separate one for recruiting people to a team? Or do you pepper one in with the other? My concern is turning off the “product buying public” that IS interested in beauty tips but NOT interested in being recruited. I appreciate your guidance, Matt Matt, Heres the wisdom I would share with your wife Luckily, the product youre selling has been around for years and enjoys a great reputation. I recommend you interview some of recruits who have embraced the opportunity to sell and let some of your more successful people post on the website about how they started out loving the product and ended up reselling the product. If the message does not come from you, it will not be a turn off. The key is balance and your job is to balance beauty tips with beauty money making opportunities of at least 5:1 in favor of beauty tips. Best regards, Jeffrey Jeffrey, How do buyers decide, and what are buyers looking for? Alana Buyers are looking for 4.5 things: 1. A perceived difference of your product and service and that of your competitors. 2. A better perceived value in buying what you have versus buying from a competitor. (Notice I did not say lower price, I said better value.) 3. Little or no risk in purchasing from you. The buyer must perceive that the gain of ownership is greater than the risk of purchasing the wrong thing. 4. The buyer must like you, believe you, have confidence in you, and trust you. But it begins with liking you. 4.5 Lowest price. Many people (maybe even you) will think I have done them a disservice by not focusing on price concessions or winning a bid. But, if you present the first four elements outlined above, price will go away as an issue in 60-70% of the sales you make. The key is this: Buyers and decision makers are looking for comfort, not just a deal. The decision maker has to feel that its a good fit for their company, or they will pass no matter what the price. The decision maker is also going to take into account past dealings and word-of-mouth advertising. All buyers and decision makers in any given industry know one another. Your job, besides having a great product, is to have a great reputation. Having a great reputation reduces the perceived risk and oftentimes is the very key to getting the order. Best regards, Jeffrey Jeffrey, In these hard times, what can salespeople do to protect their jobs? Tom Tom, The antidote is to be the best sales man or sales woman. No one’s going to get rid of you then. There is a challenge among salespeople right now. They’re not really willing to do the hard work that it takes to make selling easy. You need to tweet, have a business Facebook page, have a LinkedIn account, have a YouTube channel, have a blog, and have a website where you have registered yourname.com. Its about building a personal brand. You have to have 500 people following you on Twitter, you have to have 500 LinkedIn connections, you have to have about a thousand people on your Facebook fan page, and you have to have a least a dozen YouTube videos up where people give testimonies for you, or where you are giving valuable information to the marketplace. That requires work and time, and you can’t do it during your workday. Youve also gotta network and do prospecting, but it’s a lot easier to prospect on LinkedIn then it is to prospect on the phone with people you don’t know. But instead of performing those strategies, a lot of people are going home at night to watch stupid television shows. Think about this: Will what you’re watching on television help you double your sales? No! Great salespeople are willing to dig in and do the hard work because they understand there’s no 9 to 5 job in selling unless you’re at McDonald’s and you can ask the closing question, “Do you want fries with that?” Best regards, Jeffrey Jeffrey Gitomer is the author of The Sales Bible, Customer Satisfaction is Worthless Customer Loyalty is Priceless, The Little Red Book of Selling, The Little Red Book of Sales Answers, The Little Black Book of Connections, The Little Gold Book of YES! Attitude, The Little Green Book of Getting Your Way, The Little Platinum Book of Cha-Ching, The Little Teal Book of Trust, The Little Book of Leadership, and Social BOOM! His website, www.gitomer.com, will lead you to more information about training and seminars, or email him personally at salesman@gitomer.com. 2011 All Rights Reserved. Dont even think about reproducing this document without written permission from Jeffrey H. Gitomer and Buy Gitomer. 704/333-1112

Pop Ups and Spam

Just a quick operational note to everyone. Apologies to anyone who was subjected to a barrage of pop up advertisements. I have shut down the “Invite or Seduce?” flash poll (the trend was pretty obvious anyway!) because it was this Bravenet tool that was the culprit. Because LCB is entirely volunteer and operates with no financial support we seek out free resources. Unfortunately, most of these come at a price of advertising being pushed through your website. I will continue to work to keep this to as unobstrusive a presense as possible. If you are aware of any free web-based tools which are also advertising free, please let me know. In addition, if you run across any spam comments, please drop me a quick note by hitting the “email the Blogmeister” link in the sidebar. I found 14 spam comments this morning throughout LCB. Fortunately they were fairly benign in content, but I may have missed 1 or 2. Scouring through the comments in Blogger is not easy. Thanks everyone! Now I can get back to reading all the great discussions you all have been posting in the last few days! WOW! Keep it up! Dave Your humble blogmeister.

Perception is reality?

In a recent poll by Gallup (run every year), congressmen, stockbrokers, advertising practitioners, business executives, lawyers, and labor union leaders skew negative by more than a 2-to-1 ratio — all are in the bottom 10 of “least ethical and honest profession.” For the seventh straight year, nurses enjoy top public accolades in Gallup’s annual Honesty and Ethics of professions survey. Eighty-four percent of Americans call their honesty and ethical standards either “high” or “very high.” Unfortunately, in the same poll the 14% (high or very high), is a record low for the business executive profession. It had registered as high as 25% in 1990 and 2001. Read about the poll here What are your thoughts? Comments?

If it ain’t fixed, should we break it?

I hope I didn’t sound too much like a Luddite when I wrote ” Let’s stop building, advertising and selling systems and technologies that will provide the solution. ” My intention isn’t to impede progress and continued experimentation. I do believe that the various technologies many of us have been developing for years render vital services and that their impact will grow. I also believe that growth will only become significant when a few cultural changes take place within the world of learning. On the other hand, I don’t believe current conditions are yet favorable for that moment of quantum leap. My major beef is with the hyper-commercialisation, the “advertising and selling” part rather than the “building” part. Elliot asked some years ago “if we build it, will they come?”. Given the number of items that have been built and delivered, it’s probably safe today to say that the answer is “no” (thanks, Anonymous, for summary of the HCE study). Before we build, however, we need to design. And before we design we need to have an idea of why we are designing (other than the hope of eventually selling it to the select few because the design looks good and exploits this year’s augmented processing power). I believe – as many do — that more will come out of the Open Source movement than from vendors of systems (who are becoming fewer and fewer, as Ben Watson reminds us). My healthy doubts about what Open Source will ultimately deliver hover around how non-commercial creativity can fare in a vehemently and violently commercial world. But that’s a philosophical and sociological problem, not an educational problem. Flipcharts actually have evolved in various ways, but the ways of using them by creative trainers have evolved much more than the technology itself. With electronic gadgets, it’s the opposite. The people responsible for making learning happen are deprived of the means of doing anything about it. Moore’s law has taught us that every 18 months someone’s going to deliver to our doorstep (COD, of course) everything we need to solve the problems we are too backward, poor, unorganized or handicapped (in terms of technological savvy) to solve ourselves. If we don’t pay, we’re excluded from the community of “best practice”, which might more accurately be called “best purchase”. The laws of the production/consumer society trump all others. The race for innovation, which should be about creativity and solving real learning problems, is dominated by the rich and lazy, those with the biggest marketing budgets. It’s no wonder then that trainers and learners – as the CHE study reveals – feel not so much alienated as simply excluded. Still the technology is there to be used and in fact is being used, but with little sense of purpose and, I would submit, a great deal of waste. I guess that’s the price of hype.

How will Twitter change the way people do business?

So, Twitter. Twitter, Twitter, Twitter. Tweet. Tweet. Tweet. What do you do with it? I am still trying to figure it out. I sort of get it, but then I don’t. As a member and employee of an organization that aims to lead the profession, it’s part of my job to try to figure it out. Thing is, it’s pretty new, so its potential is not fully explored yet. What does that mean? It means that any smart, creative, innovative (and potentially unscrupulous) person can come up with a new way to use it. That’s always exciting. And it’s overwhelming. An article at Time.com lists 10 ways that businesses can use Twitter, including marketing and advertising, getting (and affecting) stock prices, providing news, getting consumer data, disseminating content, and more. Jeanne Meister has talked about several ways that companies can use Twitter on her blog, including as a recruiting tool. One of the most enjoyable applications of Twitter that I have come across is the line-by-line retelling of the Indian epic the Mahabharata (@epicretold), which is great for geeky ancient literature lovers like myself, but also suggests other applications such as providing training tips and tools, introducing the contents of a new book, and so on.

How to be a Cutting Edge Education Theory Expert using Computer Games

Do you want to be a cutting edge educational expert on computer games? Here are the two, key principles. Point #1: There is Value in “Doing Something With Feedback” Argue that computer games are fabulous because players do things, and learn from their mistakes. “But what if someone argues back,” you are thinking, “that people also learn from gardening, changing a light bulb, running a lemonade stand, driving from one place to another, making dinner for friends, and doing just about any hobby, or really, anything.” That’s easy. Just bring up scalability, in terms of big numbers ( computer games now make more money than box office receipts -or- the average person plays 24.3 hours of computer games a day) or zoom into concepts, taking advantage of big words (they are utilizing advanced task analysis or cognitive anything). These will help. Point #2: There is Value in “Getting People Together.” Argue that multiplayer environments are incredible because the get people together. And once people get together, they share ideas, they network, they pass concepts to and from each other, they are involved in unstructured learning. Information is fresh, current, real. Again, I know what you are worried about. People already get together all of the time. They get together in car pools, subways, cafeterias, and water coolers. When people get together, they tend to talk about their families and television shows. So again, use big numbers ( YouTube sold for 1.6 billion dollars -or- one quarter of all Internet users use facebook and myspace) or big words ( social networking and points economy). Paydirt! “Getting People Together” in order to “Do Something with Feedback” The first two arguments work well by themselves. You can become a well respected thinker just on those two alone. But if you want to be a real-thought leader, an intellectual giant among ants, put the two together. Now you are in World of Warcraft territory. The only limitation to your success is how big and academic you can make the adjectives. Now you can use phrases like “social cues” or “orchestrating strategy.” You are now ready to usher in a new paradigm of education. You are cutting edge. This will change everything. (And, best of all, if you are too lazy to actually come up with new ideas, just look up “group challenges” or “ropes course” or “little league” or “chess club” or “corporate outing” and cut and paste from there.) P.S. If you want some proof, use the “volume” logic. It goes something like: One: generically, games and web sites involve some form of learning and/or at least information. Two: some games/sites generate a lot of traffic. Let’s call one “site x.” Three: Most likely, there are big name corporations that spend advertising dollars to expose themselves to this “site x” traffic and eyeballs. Let’s call one “corporation y.” Four: educational theorists just connect the statements and say: “corporate y” gets this new model of learning and education. See, they have a big presence in “site x”. QED

Confessions of an e-learning dropout

Six months or so of focusing on a real (rather than a virtual) theme — in this case, intercultural communication — led me far away from the specific “culture of e-learning” shared by the participants of this blog, although my intercultural work inevitably involves online deployment. Coming back into the fold by posting a message on this blog is in itself an interesting cultural experience, a kind of re-entry shock. Having spent so much time with a broadly international crowd of people who spend very little, if any, of theirs speculating about the future of technology for training has allowed me to take some distance and possibly see a few things with more focus. One of the things that strikes me is how linked e-learning culture is to certain trends in the U.S. economy, even though the implications are necessarily global. And if I mention “e-learning culture” it means that I can identify a group of people who share that culture (namely, us) in contrast to all the other groups of people that don’t share it. Which introduces the somewhat embarrassing question of whether e-learning culture is really compatible with other cultures. Listening to Eliot Masie correctly telling me (through an audio feed) that memory sticks will allow all sorts of things that no one could have imagined made me realize why I seriously doubt that any of what he describes will ever make an impact on learning. I feel exactly the same way about games, simulations and all kinds of “ideal” and idealized content (and I’ve spent twenty years of my life designing, producing and publishing the stuff). It all makes sense but, when all is said and done, it just doesn’t seem to take off, even though we can usually get it to work (and even prove that it can produce results). One of the major reasons for failure is culture specific: Eliot’s idea – and many others born out of technological innovation — supposes learners are social monads, the thought of which is relatively easy to entertain in an individualist culture such as that of the U.S. but unimaginable elsewhere. And even in the U.S. it’s easier to imagine than achieve, because even though our culture teaches us to think of ourselves as monads and our pragmatic sense tells us to try out any promising solution, we actually aren’t monads: we are heavily linked to others through visible and invisible social networks (that, by the way, only vaguely parallel our technical networks). And those networks provide most of our models of behavior, whether we’re aware of it or not. Looking back at fifty years of technological innovation, what do I see? The only true revolutionary breakthrough in training technology is the flipchart! It changed things much more than we think (PowerPoint did as well, but in a totally different – and I would say regressive – direction). CBT/multimedia/eLearning has produced a niche market for products and services but bears less resemblance to a revolutionary development in training than it does to the hula-hoop (a great concept, a new and intriguing object, fun to have a go at, a winning topic of conversation, mildly frustrating to start using, possibly addictive in the short term but destined to have a short lifetime). What’s great about the flipchart is that nobody noticed it or talked about it. It arrived stealthily and did its job, allowing us to create, store, distribute and display flexible information in original ways. It also provided a fascinating link to group dynamics, giving trainers a tool to change learners’ perception of the learning environment and the goals associated with it (e.g. by having groups work in parallel and post their results on the wall). It was (and is) absolutely wonderful technology. And using it requires only minimal writing and drawing talents plus a bit of imagination on what to do with the pages. And best of all, no rival vendors telling you that their flipchart has more features than the one you just bought (and should feel guilty about). And no yearly upgrades! So my suggestion is to do something similar with all our electronic technologies. Adopt and use them because we need them for storage and communication (independently of training) and then just have them around to help those who have something to teach others (formally or informally) get their messages across. Let’s stop building, advertising and selling systems and technologies that will provide the solution. Where Plato banned poets from the Republic, I would ban the vendors. People will end up providing the solution if you let them just use the technology they spontaneously accept for other purposes. Down with the constraints of training-specific technology. And down with instructional design (yeah, Jay, I’m with you as usual).

Big Skill: Communications

At its core, the moving of information. More broadly, the ability to both express oneself effectively through various and appropriate media (writing, speaking, graphics), including understanding audience requirements, needs/pain points, and knowledge, and also effectively listening to others express themselves. Part of communication is knowing what is “in it” for the audience. All communication has a credibility component. Communication strategies often need to be created. Having a weekly open house to combat a rampant rumor mill might be critical. As organizations and teams become more distributed, ad hoc (so called “water-cooler”) communication becomes less reliable, and so formal communication technique need to be established. Picking the right genre is important. Letters have different requirements than email. In fact, the best way to trash someone’s career is to circulate a colleague’s instant-messaging comments reformatted as a letter. Videoconferencing is more formal; web-cams are more casual. Dynamically customizing the content increases effectiveness. This could be based on audience questions, or for self-paced content, providing alternative paths through the content, such as using hyper-linking. An effective communication strategy might involve having the audience do some exercises to internalize the information. This could be everything from taking notes at a lecture to playing a marketing mini-game around the release of a new soft drink or movie. Emotional associations can also be critical. Politicians use the icon of the United States flag. Computer games might tie into famous athletes or movies. Advertisements shamelessly use idealized models, professions, or roles (showing a mother buckling up her children in a minivan while talking about some new fast food product). Create a verbal label for a complicated idea, and you shape the perception of the idea. There are legal requirements for communications, especially around product recalls and shareholder information. Organizations often have different uses of Public Relations and advertising. Some communication is passive. What we wear to work or how we style our hair broadcasts our affiliations and even aspirations. Corporations choose colors and fonts carefully. Some communication strategies are malicious. Spread a lie through so many channels that it becomes thought of as a truth. An ethically-challenged leader leaks a lie to a newspaper anonymously, and then publicly refers to the article as a source of credibility. In the computer world, there are “denial of service” attacks, where many computers try to communicate with a single site in order to overwhelm and shut down the site. And again, I ask the question that no one will answer. Do you have any formal learning programs around communication? If so, to whom and how? If not, why not: a) it is not important, or b) it is really important, but we don’t do it because _____.

Alliance of Fortune 500 Companies Offers Free Job Recruitment Service

As U.S. unemployment rates near an all-time high, unemployed workers need quick and efficient ways to match their skills with open job opportunities. To facilitate the connection between job seekers and employers, AllianceQ today announced the launch of UnitedWeWork.org, a free recruitment service available to employers of all sizes and workers of all levels and skills. Major companies including, 7-Eleven, ADP, Allstate, AT&T, Hewitt Associates, Hyatt Hotels & Resorts, Office Depot, Sears Holdings, and Starbucks have partnered with AllianceQ to kick off the massive recruitment effort. The average American has more than 30,000 places to search for work, and American employers spend around $60 billion a year trying to find and hire new employees. According to a survey by the Employment Management Association, the average cost to post an open position, identify the appropriate candidate and fill the position is about $10,000. UnitedWeWork.org will connect employers with job seekers with no recruiting, job posting or advertising fees. Read the full release.

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