Here’s How To Use YouTube

Exactly why do we use computers?  There are a lot of possible answers to that question, but the bottom line, at least for our business, is that we use them to increase our return on investment.  If a program, a web site, a blog, or any other form of social media doesn’t save us time and/or increase sales/profits, it’s a waste.

The social media tools we’ve been discussing recently can be a great way to improve your business or they can be great time-wasters, depending on how you use them.  A good example is YouTube, which we wrote about two weeks ago.  You can spend hours watching silly videos when you could be doing something more productive, or you can embrace the technology and create your own videos, getting your name out there where the customers are.  Here’s a good example.

The following YouTube video was created by Penny Georger of Daytona Beach, FL.  It’s been viewed 327 times in just two weeks.  You may be thinking, "So what?  How many of those 327 people are potential customers?"  That’s a good question.  I would answer that question with another question:  "How many people need to be potential customers?"  Penny’s video is clever, it’s simple, it’s entertaining, and it has a message.  But, it’s not exactly a multi-million dollar production.  Anyone with a camcorder and a computer could do something similar at very little cost. 

Suppose only one of those 327 viewers lives in the Daytona area?  Just one.  People who watch YouTube videos are a sociable group.  They will tell others.  If just one person buys a high-end vacuum cleaner from Penny’s store, the video was a good investment.  If she sells two, it’s an extremely good investment.  Most important, she’s gotten her name in front of a lot of people in a very favorable way. 

Here’s the video:

Let us know what you think.  If you want to bookmark it, here’s the link

“House”

Do you like "House"?  Not the place you go at the end of the day, but the Fox Network TV Show starring Hugh Laurie?  If you’re not a fan, here’s the general idea of the plot.  Dr. House is a brilliant diagnostician.  He handles all of the really difficult cases.  He’s also a royal pain in the neck.  He has (actually had) three young assistants.  To solve the complex medical problems within the allotted 60 minutes (less time for commercials), House brainstorms with the three young physicians.  Eventually they solve the problems, and most of the time they save the patient.

At the end of last season, all three members of House’s team either quit or he fired them, leaving him to fend for himself.  In case you are a fan and TIVO’d last night’s season premier, I won’t tell you what happened.  But it turns out that without his team to bounce things off of, even the brilliant Dr. House struggles.

I thought about House when I read this post from Chris Brogan’s blog, "Make Your Own Advisory Board".  Brogan outlines his procedure for problem-solving, which is basically a twenty-first century version of Napoleon Hill’s "Master Mind Group", which he described in his 1937 classic "Think and Grow Rich".

To quote Brogan, "It helps to have smart friends."  Big companies have boards of directors, made up of people with different areas of expertise to help them brainstorm their business issues.  House has his team.  You can take advantage of the same "master mind" as Hill called it, by surrounding yourself with smart people who are willing to work with you on your problems.  Why would they do that?  Easy.  People like to be helpful.  Plus, you make yourself available to be part of their master mind group.

Of course, when Hill wrote his famous book seventy years ago, forming such a group involved getting people up early for breakfast meetings, or having them leave their business for a lunch meeting.  Surely he had no clue that in 2007 the whole thing could be done without leaving your desk. You can consult with your advisory board from home, even in your pajamas.   Better yet, Hill’s group was limited by geography.  Your "master minds" don’t  to be located nearby to make the concept practical. 

Today, the members of your group can be anywhere, even on the other side of the world.  The only limit is your imagination.  Social networking groups like FaceBook and LinkedIn make it possible to locate these people relatively easily.  (We’ll be looking at these two social networks in a future post.)

The bottom line is that two heads are better than one, and three or four or five heads are better yet.  Whether your trusted advisers are business people located within a five mile radius, or are located halfway around the world, aligning yourself with like-minded people is a great way to build your business and help them build theirs.

IBM Lotus Symphony

On Friday we mentioned that IBM has come out with a new office suite to compete with Microsoft Office.  Since that post, we’ve had a chance to download and test the new product.  To repeat Friday’s disclaimer, We aren’t endorsing Lotus Symphony.  This post is for you information only.  We’re not professional testers.  We downloaded the software and created some samples.

Having said that, here’s what we found.  Symphony lacks some of the features of Microsoft Office.  It also uses an interface that is somewhat different than we’re used to.  The changes aren’t substantial, but they would require a long-time Office user to relearn some things.  Sometimes change is good.  Sometimes changes are made to avoid violating others’ intellectual property rights.

Documents, spreadsheets, and presentations can be saved in Lotus’ format, or in Microsoft format, making them usable in Word, Excel, or PowerPoint.  When you save a file from Symphony to one of the Microsoft formats there is a warning (which you can turn off) that some formatting might be lost.  We did lose some formatting in our spreadsheet test, but the document that we saved retained all the formatting that we had applied.

On the official MYOB PC, Symphony seems sluggish.  So much so, in fact, that we would have a hard time making the switch from MS Office.  Of course, the IBM suite has one big advantage over Microsoft.  It’s free.  Compared to the $200.00 or so street price for Office, that’s a nice savings.  On the other hand, for regular business use, speed and familiarity are probably more important than cost savings.

While we wouldn’t recommend switching to the new software, it would be worth considering for a home machine, especially one that doesn’t get heavy use.  You could create a document or spreadsheet at home and open it on a machine equipped with Office later.

It doesn’t look like Microsoft has a lot to worry about from the new competition, at least not yet.  But for a first effort, Symphony isn’t bad and has the potential to be a big player in future editions.

Happy Monday!

Not sure exactly how to categorize this, but if you’ve ever worked with a computer or a copy machine (or any number of other mechanical devices) you have to feel this guy’s pain.

Enjoy.

By the way, thanks to MyRagan for sharing this.

Odds and Ends

It’s Friday, and sometimes on Friday it’s just good to catch up on a few things that have come up during the week.  Besides, we don’t want to hit you with anything heavy this close to the weekend.

IBM challenges Microsoft in the office productivity market.  Computer giant IBM has announced Lotus Symphony, a challenger to Microsoft Office.  Symphony is an office suite including a word processor, a spreadsheet program and presentation program.  The good news is that IBM is offering Symphony for free.  We’ll be testing it here at MYOB and let you know how it works.  If you’re interested, you can check it out at IBM’s web site.  [Disclaimer:  We aren’t endorsing Lotus Symphony since we haven’t tried it yet.  This post is for you information only.]

There’s an interesting post at Communications Overtones called What I Learned About PR at McDonald’s.  You’d think that it would be a high-level marketing piece from someone who’s worked in the corporate office. No, Kami Huyse is actually talking about her experience working part time at Mickey D’s when she was a teenager.  The piece is fairly short and very interesting.

Congratulations to Sue Pratt and Kendra Wilson of our Baby Lock division.  Ken Tacony forwarded an email today that he received from a customer commending Sue and Kendra for going the extra mile to satisfy a local customer.  In his introduction to the customer’s email, Ken pointed out

"We aren’t the only company to supply many of the same products, so we have to
differentiate ourselves with our service and willingness to go the “extra” step,
every day." 

That’s good advice for anyone in the business of  serving customers.  Ken also mentioned his Dad’s philosophy of everyone pitching in to get things done, especially when it came to satisfying the customer.  I can remember many times, back when we were just barely a $10 million company, when all of us would take off our ties, roll up our sleeves and head out to the warehouse to help fill an order.  When I say "all of us", I mean all of us; from Nick Tacony on down.

Nowadays, insurance regulations and common sense keep me from operating a fork lift, but we still put the customer first and will do whatever it takes to live up to our mission statement.

Have a great weekend!

How NOT to Run a Promotion

Running a promotion calls for more than just throwing an ad together and placing it in the newspaper.  It requires a little more thought than that.  Sometimes it seems that the national chains are the worst offenders.  Here’s a perfect example.

Last week Walgreen’s ran an ad for a free printer cartridge refill.  All you had to do was bring in your empty cartridge and they would refill it for you at no charge.  What the heck?  Free is free and I had an empty cartridge that I was planning to recycle so I took it to be refilled.  We have three printers at home and the cartridges always seem to go dry at the same time, so a freebie couldn’t hurt, right?

The printer in question has been giving me some trouble (ok, a lot of trouble).  If the refilled cartridge didn’t solve the problem, the printer was going to go wherever dead printers go.  So I was anxious to see if I was going to have to pony up for a new one. 

Did I mention that the free cartridge deal was for one day only, last Tuesday?  Apparently no one in Walgreen’s marketing department had any idea how many empty printer cartridges are actually out here in computer land.  The store had them stacked up like cord wood.  The lady behind the counter told me that mine would be ready Saturday evening.  Oh, well.  It was free.

Saturday Walgreen’s left a message on my answering machine that their cartridge-filler machine hadn’t been up to the task and had had some sort of breakdown.  They would call me when my cartridge was ready.  The call finally came Tuesday.  It seems that my cartridge is somehow defective and can’t be refilled.  Sorry.

OK, let’s review.  Obviously the idea behind the promotion was to show us how convenient and economical it is to recycle your old cartridges at Walgreen’s.  That’s a good idea.  I have three printers at home that take a total of ten cartridges.  Giving me one free one in exchange for future business would be a good investment.  Besides, every time I’d refill a cartridge meant two trips to the store.  One to drop it off, one to pick it up.  So far–so good.

So, what went wrong?  First, they obviously underestimated the demand.  "Free" is a powerful word, especially when there are no strings attached.  This wasn’t "buy one–get one free".  This was just "free".  As much as the chain advertises, they should have had some inkling (sorry) that they would be swamped with business.

Second, it’s fairly common knowledge that not all ink cartridges can be refilled.  The manufacturers go out of their way to discourage that kind of thing.  They want you to buy a $40.00 cartridge from them, not a $10.00 refill from someone else.  There should have been a plan B for cases like mine which must have numbered in the thousands. 

Actually, they did have a plan B.  They gave me a coupon for ten free photo prints in exchange for my empty cartridge.  Let’s see.  They promised me a $40.00 cartridge (or at least a $10.00 refill), made me wait a week, failed to deliver on their promise, then offered me $1.20 worth of photo processing for my trouble.  And, I have to go out and spend forty bucks to find out if my printer is worth saving.

Don’t get me wrong.  My family will continue to spend a ton of money at Walgreen’s.  They are literally the only pharmacy in town.  All the others are gone.  The big boxes and the grocery stores have pharmacy departments, but Wag’s the only stand-alone pharmacy in this market.  Besides, the store is a block from my house.  This incident won’t change my shopping habits.  No hard feelings.

But, this whole situation could have been avoided with a little better advanced planning.  Here’s a question:  If you were Mr. Walgreen, how would you have handled this differently?

More on the Unfaithful Customer

In case you missed it, yesterday we posed a hypothetical situation where someone you know comes into your store with something that you sell, only she bought it at a big box store.  We asked you how you would handle the situation.

We’ve gotten a few thoughtful comments.  But, we need more.  Don’t let the conversation die!  Click here to read the post and to add your comments.  Surely some of you might handle the situation differently.  Tell us what you think.