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Your Guide to Selecting a Hotel Property Management System

When I was young, my grandmother and grandfather owned and ran a small resort in Northern Wisconsin. I remember her notifying the nearby Visitor’s Information Center on Friday evenings when they had open, unsold cottages. It was a friendly conversation that was often repeated just before the cottages ‘turned-over’ for the next weekly rentals. These phone calls often resulted in new guests and increased occupancy for the resort. Wisconsin Resort

The days of putting up a sign and then advising the local Visitor’s Center of your hotel’s availability just isn’t enough anymore. To survive you’ll need to realize that hotel marketing has changed. Influences such as social media networks and the global marketplace can make your new sales world seem like you are the smallest of fish in a very large ocean. Sometimes it can even seem like there is a minefield in that ocean, just waiting for you. BUT, it doesn’t have to be THE END. Independent hotels and resorts, yes, even the small- and medium-sized ones, that invest in technology to streamline operations, sell globally, and enhance the guest experience can navigate through successfully.

Today, selecting an outstanding hotel property management system (PMS) is the essential element to maximizing occupancy rates and increasing profitability. As online systems’ integration and the influence of a global marketplace become more and more important to hotel sales, selection of the right property management system, your hotel’s core business tool, is the most critical component to success. Choosing one that easily and efficiently manages and organizes hotel inventory and tasks, while seamlessly coordinating marketing channels to maximize occupancy is the key to a successful implementation.

How do you find a PMS that can do all this? Here are a few steps to get you on your way:

Form a Plan

Form a Team

Unless you’re a small ‘mom & pop’  hotel, where the owners are the team, the first step in selecting a property management system is to form an integration team that includes managers and staff. It’s important to do this to make sure the property management system addresses most of the needs throughout the hotel and is evaluated through various viewpoints. It also helps to get the ‘buy-in’ of the eventual users. For small lodging professionals, the ‘moms & pops’, sit down and discuss this throughly. Treat it as the important decision it is. Don’t let the day to day operations push this decision aside. It WILL make your life easier -and allow your property to make you more money.

Conduct a Needs AssessmentPMS features

  1. It’s important to clarify all the property’s business processes, beginning with guest inquiries, moving to reservations and then ending with check-out and ‘thank you’ letters.
  2. Also gather a list of the numerous functions that, depending on the size of your property and the amenities it offers, can include anything from room service to bicycle rentals.
  3. Consider how and who you want to partner with. Integrating with the many online sales channels today will provide the highest occupancy levels, but not without significant cost. Choosing the ones that best match your guest demographics is the key.
  4. What type of support will be important to you and your team? Typically, most hoteliers’ first choice is 24/7 support with a support team based in the same country.

Prioritize the list of features

Create a list of basic requirements that must be included to create a platform suitable to your hotels’ operational and marketing needs. Then evaluate the ‘nice to have’ items and determine implications like ROI and guest happiness and add those top features to the list as well.

Determine your budget

Typically today, a cloud-based system will end up costing you less, provide unlimited software updates, and relieve you of the problem of having the system go down without the right personnel to fix it. In-place systems are usually a better fit for the large hotel chains that have enterprise-level demands and deeper pockets.

Evaluate the Options

Find the most cutting-edge, hospitality approved PMS systems. Ask for recommendations from colleagues at similar-sized properties, your local hotel and lodging association and staff. They have likely used a variety of systems over the years and can offer suggestions and warnings about the available PMS systems on the market. Create a comparison chart to capture the myriad pieces of information.

Common considerations for choosing a property management system are:

1. Functional design. The level of design may be a clue to finding the technology right for your hotel. A clunky, out-of-date interface should give cause for concern; the technology underlying it is probably no better. Look for a system that has a intuitive interface, is easy to navigate and organized logically. Tip- Count how many mouse ‘clicks’ it takes to complete routine functions.

2. Robust Property Management Functions. Fully-integrated front- and back-office operations, detailed guest profiles, management of guest folios and charge routing, housekeeping, special request management and task lists are all required of your multi-functional team and should be part of a basic PMS. Automation of routine communications should be embedded as part of the reservation process allowing your staff to interact with guests, while tracking the information.

3. Sell via new marketing channels. Today, hotels need to be able to directly access the global marketplace. This means systematic support for selling via your website, global distribution systems and social networks. The importance of social media in hospitality sales is now proven. Watch for trendsetting PMS vendors to capture and add guest social profiles to their CRM (customer relationship management) systems and add features for interacting in these new ways.

4. Integration with other systems. Your PMS should interface with your online services and marketing channels. Complex components like the online booking engine of your website, merchant accounts for credit processing, and linking of global distribution systems that will enable you to sell on Expedia, Booking.com, etc. should all be integrated into one easy-to-use interface. Your property management system will be the common control system and should be therefore be the easiest and most robust of all. Automatic synchronization is the key to successfully implementing these various functions.

5. Flexible reporting. Your system should be able to generate custom reports and queries. This will enable you to track your marketing efforts, predict opportunities and determine the partners that provide the best ROI. Do not overlook the importance of your accounting backend. Can you easily track all transactions as they process into your bank? Your PMS should either exist as a full accounting package, export in ready-to-use formats like Excel or .cvs OR both.

6. Positioned for growth. Select a property management system that accommodates future trends and growth. Look for a system with a structure that enables you to add services and functions as your needs evolve.

Narrow the list, based on the data in the chart, to 3-5 property management systems. Then arrange testing and more research for each of the systems. Arrange for system demonstrations with the vendors. Provide each vendor a detailed list of needs. This will ensure that your concerns are addressed and allow you control over the sales conversation.

It’s most likely that vendors will demo their property management system through an online demonstration where you will be able to see the software in action and ask questions about the system. Sometimes, vendors will give you a temporary account, where you can actually add info and test the system with little guidance.

This is also the time to firm up your budget. Request quotes as you evaluate the systems. Obtain references.

Before You Sign

1. Dig into the Real Costs. What is included in the final costs? Does this integration include all the items on your ‘must have’ list? Is the design and implementation of your online booking engine included fee-free? How is the global distribution (gds) set up? Are there additional costs? Are there 3rd party set-up charges that need to be paid? What commissions and transaction fees will you pay and to whom? I.e. Expedia and Booking.com have pass-through commission fees and some PMS vendors add on their own additional transaction fees, as well. Pay attention to vendors that are forthright and transparent in the costs you pay. Watch for warning signs from vendors that are not forthcoming with the costs you will pay (gds integration, etc.) and who will perform the integrations. As a rule, the more people involved in the middle, the more control is lost and the more time is involved for the integration.

2. Agree Upon A Timeline. After you’ve agreed on your ‘must have’ list with the chosen vendor, set up a delivery timeline. Determine key milestone’s and related delivery dates. Sometimes there are actions that are out of control of a vendor and depend on 3rd party implementation; these should be clearly defined and best case/worse case scenarios should be given.

3. Technology Partner. As you make your final selection, keep in mind that this choice will become a vital component in your technology requirements. Be sure that the services offered are encompassing enough to support your needs and skill-level. If not, then consider a 3rd party project manager, that can help with implementation, can fill in the technology gaps and will advocate for you to the many vendors that are in your global circle.

4. Additional Things to Ask.

• How is training implemented? One-on-one? Group? In-person?

• Is there an appointed account manager/trainer?

• System documentation, how to videos and updates should be up-to-date as the software changes.

• Support times (i.e 24/7)

• Guaranteed turnaround times for phone calls and emails.

• Country of Origin of the support team. Will language issues be a barrier? Can you wait several days for a resolution to a problem?

• How does the support team track and manage your requests? Do they have a robust support system for supporting their clients?

• How does your info export? Can you perform the export? Does it come out in usable MSExcel-ready files?

The hospitality environment is ever more competitive and challenging everyday. Selecting the right advisors and vendors to fully-integrate software systems to maximize occupancy, serve your guests well, and ease staff workload is the key to your hotel’s future success.

As an e-business advisor to the hospitality and leisure industry, Social Energizer helps with the selection, integration and implementation of property management systems, online sales channels and social media networks with a special focus on independent hotels, inns, resorts, and campgrounds.

Social Energizer integrates inbound marketing techniques into each marketing plan, creates dynamic and affordable websites fully optimized for Search Engines, then utilizes digital channels and strategies like Blogs, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and web-integrated Email Campaigns.

Tips for Planning a Vacation via Trip Advisor

Travel sites like Trip Advisor, have become one of the most essential social networking and travel planning sites for travelers and for businesses in travel, leisure, and restaurant industries. Monitoring and participating to keep Trip Advisor reputations as favorable as possible may be the most vital online function any travel and leisure-based business can practice. Smart businesses tap into what their customers are telling them to improve their product and neutralize negative experiences. Stay Tuned! In a future blog, I’ll review how businesses can use Trip Advisor to make their business soar, but let’s start today with simply planning a trip.

For me, even the trip planning is one of the most fun parts of a vacation. Researching and learning of places you will visit builds anticipation and can stretch that vacation from a one-week stint to a months long, live-your-dreams extravaganza! Or for many, it can just be a pain–in-the-ass task that you want to finish as quickly as possible. Either way, sites like Trip Advisor can help. Their social networking aspect and traveler reviews are well known and have quickly become the ‘go to’ sites for direction on deciding among travel choices.

Started in 2000, TripAdvisor.com is now the most popular travel advisory website and is used by millions of travelers around the world. It has given consumers a voice, and potential guests an educated choice when making decisions on where to go, stay, eat and what to do once they arrive.  This method of travel planning is so much better than methods used in the past of choosing based only on online face value and promotional pushes from the destinations and properties. This new transparency has simply changed the way the travel and leisure industry works.

Looking closely at Trip Advisor, the potential vacationer can scan countless areas of the world or zoom in to very specific and often, virtually unknown spots. It has become a vital resource for those wanting to ‘travel off of the beaten path’.

The real power of TripAdvisor.com comes with the great tools available upon joining the site. Joining is free, although you’ll need to part with your personal info.

Don’t even know a destination that you want to visit? Start out with ‘Travel Inspiration’. Find it under the ‘More’ section of the main page menu, then the drop-down selection of ‘Trip Ideas’. Here you’ll find a smart search engine that allows you to narrow your search to what you like. Well, theoretically anyway. First, select the type of vacation that suits you and your traveling companions. Then pick a general destination you’d like to visit. I tested this to see if it would find a destination that I know very well, Tulum, Mexico. I entered ‘Beaches & Sun’, then ‘Mexico, Central & South America’. Guess what? It didn’t even bring Tulum up as a top five choice, which it should have. I found that very disappointing, as Tulum beaches were just rated by Trip Advisor last spring as one of The Top 5 Beaches of the World! That aside, most people will find this a valuable travel planning tool.

Getting Started

Still don’t know where you want to go? Check out the other headings under the ‘More’ section, particularly the forum and the guides. You can get broad information from the guides and then go to the forum for first hand knowledge and answers to specific questions.Playa Del Carmen, Riviera Maya, Mexico

After you’ve picked out a city or area to visit, you will see a new menu drop-down, second from the left, specifically about your destinatin choice. It is also located in the left-hand column in a slightly different format.

Hotels, Flights and Restaurants -Time to explore, shop and plan.

Hotels

With Trip Advisor’s search tools you will be able to locate hotels by time, date, amenities and other criteria based on traveler experience.

Read the guest reviews. This is the real ‘meat and potatoes’ of Trip Advisor. Select any hotel and read randomly through the reviews. My favorite method is to pick some top-rated and some of the lower-rated reviews. The key with reading the lower-rated reviews is to see if the factors that created poor reviews resonate with you and your travel needs. Is it someone that is complaining needlessly? Is it out of line with common expectiations? Is it someone exercising a grudge? As you read through lower-rated reviews, it usually becomes apparent if they are legitimate or not. The same can be said of the ‘glowing’ reviews. Do they really appear to be written by a guest? Or maybe the owner is behind the overly generous review? Things like that do happen, even though Trip Advisor tries to vet each review.

Flights

Search tools for flights can help you compare prices on different travel booking sites like Expedia, Orbitz and Priceline. You don’t book on Trip Advisor you will link to these other sites for the actual booking. My favorite feature in Trip Advisor for flights is the Trip Alert feature that you can set up that sends you an email when fares dip between airports you specify.

Restaurants

The reviews for restaurants are a foodie’s dream. Watch what local establishment is trending in an area. Choose among the countless ethnic choices, by location or by rating. If that’s not enough you can also pick by price, options and based on their strength of obscure things like ‘good place to do business’ or ‘outdoor seating’. The google map let’s you see exactly where the restaurant is and pops up details as you hover over the map icon.

Trip Advisor badges

Earn a Badge

Similar to becoming a ‘mayor’ on Foursquare, Trip Advisor contributors earn badges for their reviews. Your badge level is determined based on the number of reviews you have, plus the rating your review receives by readers. Looking for badges is also a way of determinng the amateur travel advisors’ experience.

As you can see, Trip Advisor is a must have for travelers. Check out their mobile apps and ‘save a trip’ so that you can access this information, as you need it, while traveling. After all, finding your way around smoothly helps you live that dream well.

Social Energizer’s purpose is to help companies develop lasting relationships with their customers and increase their visibility online.

In addition to building dynamic and affordable websites, we integrate inbound marketing techniques into each business’ current marketing plan and utilize digital channels and strategies like Blogs, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Search Engine Optimization, and Web-integrated Email Campaigns.

Give us a call today!

StringHub –Where Educators, Students and Startups Meet

Article first published as StringHub –Where Educators, Students and Startups Meet on Technorati.

As a guest writer, Technorati published my first article last week, which is shown below. I found it a great compliment to be asked to write for Tehnorati. After all, Technorati, the very first search engine for blogs, is considered the gold standard, with an index of more than one million blogs. Let me know what you think…

I always get excited about finding cool new ways to help small and medium-sized businesses solve one of their greatest challenges – lack of resources. Introducing… StringHub.StringHub graphic

StringHub is attempting to tackle this resource challenge by linking instructors and professors with businesses via student projects. In fact, this equation promises to help everyone including our sagging economy. Businesses will receive valuable help they need from inspiring artists and professionals and students will receive the opportunity to take part in ‘real-life’ business situations.

I recently met Adam Hoeksema, co-founder of StringHub, online and found his passion and insights to be inspiring. Adam’s innovative thinking promises to drive educational institutions everywhere to adapting Internet technologies to create a more meaningful, far-reaching impact, while introducing their students to the art of entrepreneurship. The concept was Adam’s brainchild, but taking it online required a team effort. Adam is the business, marketing and finance guy in this partnership. The Internet technology, namely their website StringHub.com, was created by his brother and co-founder, Brandon, who is actually still in high school. A self-taught programmer, Brandon has done a remarkable job with the website. It’s a simple, clean interface that allows educators to submit class projects to be matched with businesses in need.

I asked Adam about the background and details surrounding StringHub.com and here’s what he had to say:

Adam, how and why did the idea of StringHub.com occur to you?
“I graduated from Taylor University in May of 2010 with a degree in accounting. In June, I started as Client Services Manager at the Flagship Enterprise Center, a business incubator in Anderson, Indiana. As I worked with our clients at the Flagship Enterprise Center, I realized that startup companies need a lot of help. They need help with graphic and web design, social media, video production, public relations, web application development, and the list could go on. There are college students working on class projects in all of these areas, but typically the projects have no real world application. The projects simply go to waste; they are just for practice. We thought if we could unlock the real world value of student class projects we could create a win-win situation for both businesses and students.”

What is StringHub’s mission?
“I want StringHub to fundamentally change the way that college and university class projects work. I believe that the best way for students to learn something is to try and fail in the real world. You can’t do that through case studies, or projects for imaginary businesses. So first and foremost we want to help improve the educational experience for students. At the same time, we want to help small businesses flourish, add jobs, and create wealth. Those are lofty goals, but we believe it is possible.”

What type of projects would StringHub.com participate in?
“Currently there are millions of student class projects in areas like:
▪ Marketing
▪ Public Relations
▪ Business Management
▪ Graphic Design
▪ Web Development
▪ Social Media
▪ Finance
And many more subjects

Typically these projects just go to waste. They are ‘practice.’ http://stringhub.com is attempting to create a platform that unlocks the real world value of these student class projects in order to help support entrepreneurs.

Many of these class projects could be free to the entrepreneur. We believe that a focused approach can really accelerate a startup. Imagine an army of students all supporting an innovative, world changing startup company.”

What do students gain from this?
By connecting student projects with real world applications students are gaining:
▪ Real world experience
▪ A professional portfolio of completed work
▪ Relationships with a network of potential employers

For example, Adam refers to an integrated marketing plan created for HeatMax, Inc. at the University of Arizona. Four University of Arizona students helped to create a new product line called Toastie Toes that helps women keep their feet warm in cold weather. Their professor, Hope Jensen Schau matches student teams with companies to work on projects like packaging, distribution, advertising and public relations. The four students in question have earned local fame and have also been contracted to continue their work with HeatMax, Inc.

Overall, the University of Arizona example is the same model that StringHub.com will employ. It is a web-based platform that allows tech schools, colleges and universities to unlock the real world value of student class projects, by connecting student projects with opportunities, and managing the entire project through an online workroom.

Social Energizer’s purpose is to help companies develop lasting relationships with their customers and increase their visibility online.

In addition to building dynamic and affordable websites, we integrate inbound marketing techniques into each business’ current marketing plan and utilize digital channels and strategies like Blogs, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Search Engine Optimization, and Web-integrated Email Campaigns.

Give us a call today!

Do Accountants Really Save You Time and Money?

Can you really save your company money with an accountant? Quite simply the answer is yes, if you take the time to find the accountant that best suits your company’s needs. When you find the best accountant for your business you will be saving your company not only money but also time.

Finances

photo credit: alancleaver_2000

The ideal accountant for your firm should be familiar with all of the in and outs of the financial side of your business. It is an accountant’s job to be an expert on tax legislation and to be able to successfully pinpoint areas of potential revenue and loss for your company.

A successful accountant will take the time to evaluate both the financial weaknesses and strengths of your company. This individual will highlight any potential areas for tax savings and help you navigate through the mountain of invoices. The best accountants will let you know what invoices to keep, what to discard and what to question.

Customer satisfaction should be the main objective for a successful accountant. These individuals will strive to save your company both time and money. This is why it is critical to find an accountant that is familiar with the unique attributes of your business. The best accountant for your business should be comfortable with discussing tax savings and reviewing your company’s overall financial plan. A good accountant should encourage you to reflect on how your company is both spending and investing their money. This individual will highlight areas where they believe your company can increase its overall revenue and help forecast and ideally prevent areas of potential losses.

When you find that perfect accountant, you will want to work with them not only during tax season but year round. These individuals will strive to build a relationship with your company by maintaining consistent communication and providing financial recommendations. The best accountant for your company will save you time and money. These individuals will take the time to learn the unique qualities of your business, strive to build a positive relationship, and encourage you to reflect on the company’s short and long term financial goals.

Good Accountants offers accounting services for small or large businesses. For more information about how to find a good accountant, visit http://www.goodaccountants.com.

This article is a guest blog from ArticleSqueeze -Author: Dominic Lin | Posted in Auditing

Social Energizer’s purpose is to help companies develop lasting relationships with their customers and increase their visibility online.

In addition to building dynamic and affordable websites, we integrate inbound marketing techniques into each business’ current marketing plan and utilize digital channels and strategies like Blogs, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Search Engine Optimization, and Web-integrated Email Campaigns.

Give us a call today!

Cuckoo for Cacoo, Free Flow Charting for Entrepreneurs

It is always tricky envisioning how the various pieces of a startup business will fit together and interact. Cacoo (https://cacoo.com/) is a cool cloud-based application that can be used for project envisioning, flow charts and mockups. Cacoo offers free and reasonably priced product tiers that will fit into those very tight budgets. For entrepreneurs that think ‘visually’ this may be the right tool to add to your small business toolbox. Another great feature is Cacoo’s online collaboration tool for projects ‘on-the-fly’ and for times when the team just can’t meet.Cacoo image

Here’s what they say:

“Cacoo is a user friendly online drawing tool that allows you to create a variety of diagrams such as site maps, wire frames, UML and network charts. Cacoo can be used free of charge.

Draw a variety of diagrams

Creating attractive diagrams, such as wire frames, mind maps, network charts, and site maps, are very easy for anyone as you can simply pick and “drag and drop” elements from a large library of stencils.

Quick and Easy

Cacoo covers all the basic drawing functionalities. A huge number of stencils, aligning functionality, background sheet, freehand options, and many more assist you to draw nice diagrams efficiently.

On Web Browser

All you need for Cacoo is a Web browser. No troublesome installation is required. With a computer and access to the internet, anyone can sign in Cacoo and edit diagrams. Start drawing diagrams at home, at work or at hotels while you travel.

Real-Time Collaboration

Multiple users can share and edit one diagram simultaneously. Changes are shown on the sharers screen in real time. Collaboration will be more creative and productive as team members can plan and review cooperatively.”

Cacoo Store

Shop the Cacoo Store for stencils (icons) and templates to speed up your project. You’ll need to purchase Cacoo points, before you’ll be able to buy or earn them by submitting stencils or templates of your own.

Check Cacoo out and let me know if you find this helpful.

Social Energizer’s purpose is to help companies develop lasting relationships with their customers and increase their visibility online.

In addition to building dynamic and affordable websites, we integrate inbound marketing techniques into each business’ current marketing plan and utilize digital channels and strategies like Blogs, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Search Engine Optimization, and Web-integrated Email Campaigns.

Give us a call today!

Howard Schultz’ Conversation With America -An Update

Social Energizer’s blogging goal is to bring attention to trends and issues that matter to small and medium-sized business owners. Although our intent is to be non-political, matters of national interest affect small and medium-sized businesses far more often than we’d like. That is why last month, in The Coffee Party Anyone? Howard Schultz of Starbucks”, we covered the story of CEO Howard Schultz of Starbucks asking fellow business owners not to contribute to national political campaigns “until a ‘fair bi-partisan long-term fiscal plan’ is created and in place.”Congressional Funding Fall 2011

Guess what? Today, I’m happy to report, it seems to be working! Last night, CBS Anchor, Scott Pelley reported, “In the third quarter of 2007, congressional reelection campaigns took in $201 million in contributions. Our Washington bureau crunched the numbers for the third quarter of this year and it`s just $69 million.”

Their report did not link the possibility that perhaps, Mr. Schultz’ combined efforts with No Labels, a non-political reform-oriented organization, is indeed having an affect on national politics. To be fair, there is a lot of similar sentiment in America today, but I think these numbers clearly show that the efforts of Mr. Schultz and his movement have had a measureable impact.

As I write this article today though, I am concerned. There does not appear to be significant recent online postings or much news coverage since the ‘town hall’ meeting in mid-September that started a conversation on partisanship, the national debt and the economy. Please, as so often happens in America, we cannot stop our efforts until we have accomplished what we have set out to do. Undoubtedly, there are more businesses to align with, more events that can bring impactful awareness.

Yes, Mr. Schultz, I believe it is working! You have created a powerful movement and started to move the needle. But, the movement has not yet accomplished its goal. We almost have it, let’s keep it going. Now is the time to get out and beat the drum even more loudly.

Social Energizer’s purpose is to help companies develop lasting relationships with their customers and increase their visibility online.

In addition to building dynamic and affordable websites, we integrate inbound marketing techniques into each business’ current marketing plan and utilize digital channels and strategies like Blogs, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Search Engine Optimization, and Web-integrated Email Campaigns.

Give us a call today!

20 Entrepreneurial Insights for Success

Running a small business can be a lonely thing and getting good advice is key. Sometimes just knowing what’s worth pursuing or not is all you need. Sometimes it’s just getting started.

Here’s a list of short and simple advice for entrepreneurs given by entrepreneurs.

  1. Establish a strong network –whether it’s friends or people you pay –or beter yet, a mix of the both. It’s impossible to be ‘all things’ to your business. Have great ‘go to’ people for information, advice and feedback.
  2. Execute your ideas
  3. Finding funding and becoming popular do not make a business. Profit makes a business. Make money.

    Eat your young

    Glen Lipka, http://commadot.com

  4. Learn to eat your young. If your plan isn’t working, get a new one. It doesn’t matter if it’s your baby. If something better comes along, eat the old and embrace the new.
  5. If you launch without feeling slightly embarrassed, you’re probably too late.
  6. Equity is like manure, if you pile it up it just smells bad. But if you spread it around, lots of wonderful things grow.
  7. Only consider advice and guidance from people who have started businesses – either successful or failed, doesn’t matter.
  8. You are not a business until the customer pays you. Until then it’s a hobby.
  9. It is easier to sell medicine than it is to sell vitamins.
  10. Learn public speaking.
  11. Hire people who are smarter than you are.
  12. Never be afraid to ask for help or advice, and heed it.
  13. A goose that lays golden eggs is worthless if you have to feed it diamonds.Goose laying golden egg
  14. Stop romanticizing the idea of a startup. Put a game plan together and just do it.
  15. Just because you trust someone, doesn’t mean you can depend on them as well. Trust and delivery can be two different things.
  16. What’s your unfair advantage?
  17. When the road ahead seems too long, look back to see how far you’ve come.
  18. Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did.
  19. You can’t make money and excuses at the same time!
  20. Just because something doesn’t do what you planned it to do doesn’t mean it’s useless. -Thomas A. Edison
  21. Entrepreneurship is living a few years of your life like most people won’t, so that you can spend the rest of your life like most people can’t. -Anonymous

Source: Quora

Social Energizer’s purpose is to help companies develop lasting relationships with their customers and increase their visibility online.

In addition to building dynamic and affordable websites, we integrate inbound marketing techniques into each business’ current marketing plan and utilize digital channels and strategies like Blogs, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Search Engine Optimization, and Web-integrated Email Campaigns.

Give us a call today!

Word-Of-Mouth Marketing Online –Equals Healthy Sales

Small and medium-sized business owners, you know how vital it is to the health of your business that you make a great impression with all of your customers, who then, of course, tell their friends. Plain and simple that’s word-of-mouth advertising. Undeniably, it’s the best way of introducing your business to potential new customers and bringing in new sales. Customers as advocates, what could be better than that? Maybe multiplying that advantage? Take your word-of-mouth techniques online and you can do just that. Quite simply, you will then have created the essence of inbound marketing and social media dynamics. Big words, simple idea –word-of-mouth –brought online. Online, we call it building a community.

Taking aspects of your word-of-mouth marketing online can be relatively easy and can be gained steadily over time, just like your brick and mortar-earned client base.

'Word of Mouth' photo (c) 2007, Paull Young - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/The same rules prevail.

  1. Pay attention to what your customer is telling you,
  2. Know what they will tell others, and
  3. Always- appreciate their comments and their business.

Keep these guidelines in mind when putting your business… out there. Need some help sorting this all out?

Here are 5 easy tips to help you get started online.

Do your online networks work together and support each other?

You’ve chosen the online networks you want your business to network with: Facebook, Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn and others. You’ve created a website –set it up to become your basecamp. Now, are they integrated? Is the “Like” button on your web page? Is your web address on your Facebook page? There is usually simple code to insert, or a plug-in to be added.

Can people find you? Remember- Location, location, location!

Where does your page rank? If you have a physical location, when people search for you, do Google maps appear? At the top of the page? And is the location correct? These are all things you can adjust yourself by going into Google maps, Yahoo maps, etc.

Time-management

Don’t let this defeat you! There is a lot of information to track.  BUT, there are some great little ‘helpers’ for social media management, tools like Tweetdeck, Hootsuite, and Ping.fm. These are free services that pride themselves on ease of use and allow you to track and update all your networks at once. Looking for something more robust? Depending on what you need, I have some ideas on that. Drop me an email.

Inbound marketing does not work best in a vacuum

Macy's QR Code imageAdd a little Outbound Marketing to your online mix. Integrating your brick and mortar word-of-mouth techniques with your online presence can be as easy as holding a drawing with business cards for a free meal or service. If you are sending postcards, have an offer on the card that pulls clients into your website for something like a contest, free reward or valuable info. Add these to your database for opt-in email marketing, find them on Facebook, or run a text campaign to their cell phones. Cutting edge promotions, most recently, have integrated QR codes into promotions, effectively making use of smartphone technology.

SEO, keywords and Links = Results

Keywords and link building are essential to building an online presence. One of the first things to do is to be sure you have the relevant keywords listed in your SEO (Search Engine Optimization). Do you have a business that you partner with? Ask them to link to your site and in return you should link to theirs. It’s powerful stuff for getting better search results and getting the Big Boys to notice (Google, Yahoo, Bing, etc.) your site.

There is a much more to bringing your successful word-of-mouth strategies online, but give me a call and we’ll chat about things you can do right away to advance your word-of-mouth presence and ensure healthy sales.

Social Energizer’s purpose is to help companies develop lasting relationships with their customers and increase their visibility online.

In addition to building dynamic and affordable websites, we integrate inbound marketing techniques into each business’ current marketing plan and utilize digital channels and strategies like Blogs, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Search Engine Optimization, and Web-integrated Email Campaigns.

Social Networks in Turmoil Check Out Your Options!

Did Facebook make you angry this week? Are you afraid of Google becoming the Walmart of the Internet?

How dare they change things on what seems like a whim, right? Like Netflix, I think they forgot about the Number One Rule in Social Media. What is that rule, Mr. Zuckerberg? It’s about them, not you! I think you will soon be learning this lesson well… and very soon at that.

Facebook users were outraged this week when Facebook arbitrarily and seemingly without notice changed the Newsfeed, Privacy settings and Apps area. Get ready because there are more changes on the horizon. One is Facebook’s replacement for profiles called Timeline. Here you can share the entire story of your life. Really, do I want to do that? Did I ask for that?

After listening to this video, I’d just like to say one more time. Mr. Zuckerberg, It’s about us, not you!

I played around with some of the new features this week, like the lists for “Close Friends“. All I can say is it is clunky. After Facebook makes a few suggestions on “who” your close friends are you need to scroll through your friend lists, select a person, and then rescroll through the freind list again -each time. The competition has drag and drop. And for Timeline this is what the people at Mashable are saying about that.

Facebook Timeline Issues

Right after Timeline will come new features. Adding a music and media platform with Spotify, MOG & Rdio

Looks like Facebook wants to be your one-stop shop.

How do you feel?

1- Don’t like it, but you’ll get over it?

Here’s a post on how to adjust your “new” News Feed & Ticker

And here’s a post on adjusting your Apps and permissions

2- Don’t like it and you want to leave?

Here’s an article on exporting your stuff out of Facebook to a third party and then to Google+. (Read further options below before going to Google+).

Where can you go?

Up until now, the top choices have been MySpace, Zing, Friendsters.

Recently, Google has been working on Google+. Google+ has been plagued with criticism for it’s agonizingly, slow rollout. Why wait, everyone asked? Cunningly, I believe Google+ gauged its Grand-Launch-to-the Public for this long-planned “upgrade” by Facebook. Everyone knows that, historically, Facebook hasn’t managed its upgrades well. Industry insiders knew about the upgrades, but Facebook users were not really aware of it. Someone paying attention at Google+ probably read the writing on the wall and strategized on this opportunity. This timing just couldn’t be coincidence, could it?

That said, if you need some tips on trying Google+ out, here they are:

Google+ needed some momentum to experience a successful launch. Facebook’s changes presented Google+ the opportunity. This week many Facebook users are leaving to checkout Google+. It is a mass exodus to Google+.

BUT did you know Google is being looked at by Congress for Antitrust issues?

Here is a post about the antitrust issues featuring Wisconsin’s Herb Kohl.

Will you move just to get shut down and driven back to Facebook?

Did you know that very soon you will have a Third Choice?

Unthink

Yes, that’s right Unthink.com has what they claim are all the answers to Facebook’s and Google’s lack of respect for their users. In fact, Unthink won’t call you a user. They’ll call you an owner and here’s what they say about being an owner.

Unthink their idea of ownership - users

And here is a video that says it all on how Unthink plans to treat their new owners with a little parody on how Facebook users may have felt this week.

My question? When will Unthink be released and ready? I hope their rollout is not as slow as Google+’ was. These folks stand a chance and their marketing is in place. Watch for more on Unthink. Coming soon (I hope).

This has been Social Energizer’s Saturday Morning Post, a less business oriented, more personally related edition than our blog that is offered during the week. Social Energizer’s purpose is to help companies develop lasting relationships with their customers and increase their visibility online.

In addition to building dynamic and affordable websites, we integrate inbound marketing techniques into each business’ current marketing plan and utilize digital channels and strategies like Blogs, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Search Engine Optimization, and Web-integrated Email Campaigns.

We invite you to comment and rate each blog, so we can ever improve our offerings to you. Are you venturing into online marketing? Give us a call!

Wisconsin’s Herb Kohl on Monopoly-Busting Google

This just in…
Herb Kohl’s office released this press release yesterday. Below are excerpts from his Opening Statement Of U.S. Senator Herb Kohl For The Of Hearing, “The Power Of Google: Serving Consumers Or Threatening Competition?”

Herb Kohls Senate Webpage image

“The basic premise of Google at its founding was that it would build an unbiased search engine — that consumers would see the most relevant search result first, and that the search results would not be influenced by the web page’s commercial relationship with Google. Its goal was to get the user off Google’s home page and on to the websites it lists as soon as possible. As Google’s co-founder and current CEO Larry Page said in 2004, “We want you to come to Google and quickly find what you want. Then we’re happy to send you to the other sites. In fact, that’s the point.”

However, as Internet search has become a major channel of e-commerce, Google has grown ever more dominant and powerful, and it appears its mission may have changed. For the last five years or so, Google has been on an acquisition binge, acquiring dozens of Internet-related businesses, culminating most recently with its proposed acquisitions of Motorola Mobility and Zagats. It now owns numerous Internet businesses, including in health, finance, travel, and product comparison. This has transformed Google from a mere search engine into a major Internet conglomerate. And these acquisitions raise a very fundamental question — is it possible for Google to be both an unbiased search engine and at the same time own a vast portfolio of web-based products and services? Does Google’s transformation create an inherent conflict of interest which threatens to stifle competition?

In the last few years, Internet businesses that compete with Google’s new products and services have complained that Google is now behaving in a way contrary to free and fair competition. They allege that Google is trying to leverage its dominance in Internet search into key areas of Internet commerce where it stands to capture from its competitors billions of dollars in advertising revenue. Rather than fairly presenting search results, these critics claim that Google has begun to subtlety bias its search results in favor of its own services. This conduct has the potential to substantially harm competition for commerce on the Internet, and retard innovation by companies that fear the market power of Google.

Antitrust scrutiny is not about picking winners and losers, but is about fostering a fully competitive environment so that consumers can fairly pick winners and losers. As more and more of our commerce moves to the Internet, it should be the highest priority of antitrust policymakers that the Internet remains a bastion of open and free competition as it has been since its founding. We need to protect the ability of the next Google to emerge, the next great website or application being developed in a garage in Silicon Valley or Madison, Wisconsin.”

I’m glad our legislators are looking into this subject. I’ve long thought that Google is the ‘new Walmart’, but I’ve been hesistant to say anything. (Google controls my SEO). As you know, I’m always on the side of small and medium-sized businesses. I think Mr. Kohl, once again, has taken the lead on a difficult, but timely subject. What do you think?