The Face of Single Moms

When I read a recent article citing single mothers for the recent decline in newspaper sales I was appalled. I couldn’t believe Chris Powell, the Managing Editor of the Journal Inquirer, actually blamed single moms for his not being able to sell more newspapers. What shocked me even more than his blame is his description of single moms… “who have several children by different fathers, survive on welfare stipends, can hardly speak or read English, move every few months to cheat their landlords, barely know what town they’re living in, and couldn’t afford a newspaper subscription even if they could read.”

Initially I was mad. I was angry. How dare he think this of single mothers. How dare he think this of me! Then I was talking to a friend, and I said, “The thing is… he isn’t the only one who thinks this. There are other people out there thinking the exact same thing.” Right then and there, instead of being mad or angry, I decided to do something about it.

Does that type of single mothers exist? Of course, somewhere this extreme stereotype exists. But she is an outlier, so far from the norm. As a journalist, Mr. Powell (and everyone else) should know that. So for him and anyone else who doesn’t know… It’s 2014. Most single mothers: are because of divorce, hold a full-time job, have only one child, and don’t receive public assistance (according to the US Census 2011).

The face of single moms is me. It’s your sister, daughter, mom, or best friend. It’s the person you least expected it to be, the funny girl, or the Master’s graduate. It’s everyone and anyone, because single motherhood doesn’t discriminate. It can happen when you least expect it, as a result of a “perfect” marriage, or because you knew you deserved better.

Single mothers are capable of owning their own businesses, working 40 hours plus a week, running a household, getting their kids to activities, doing homework, among 50 other million things all while maintaining their humor. And if we really, really wanted a newspaper, we’d find a way to do that too. So, maybe it’s not us, but you, your newspaper, or your false opinion.

But one thing is for sure, single moms are everywhere. Would we choose it that way? No, but when you know you are worth more and you deserve better, you will struggle, stand up, fight, struggle some more just to get back up for your kids and yourself. And no matter what Mr. Powell or anyone else says, that outdated description is inaccurate. I am the face of single moms. I will stand up for them, give them a voice, and make sure they are truly represented. Welcome to the new empowered single mom… welcome to The Single Mom Movement!

6 Online Marketing Predictions for 2014

The New Year always brings a sense of motivation to businesses. After all, it’s around this time that many are re-shaping their marketing plans and budgets for the year to come. With an opportunity to try new things and make this year better than the last, it’s time to take a look at the changing trends in online marketing and where your opportunities lie in 2014.

SEO is Changing… to Something Else

Everyone’s throwing around terms for the “new SEO” in hopes that they’ll be credited with the next big thing in online marketing. The fact is that SEO is changing. Whether you want to call it social media optimization, audience optimization, content marketing optimization, or something else, the focus is shifting from keywords and rankings to resonating with and engaging your audience.

With every Google algorithm update, it becomes more difficult to apply a standard equation across the board. It’s every marketer for himself as he must research his audience, test different tactics and figure out what works.

Social Media is Critical

Social media isn’t just for kids, and it’s not just for businesses who run contests. Social media platforms are playing an increasingly important role in the success of businesses online, from organic search visibility to providing another platform for driving leads and conversions. If you haven’t spent much time getting into social media marketing and growing your audience, 2014 is the year to do so.

There are many more social networks now than there were just a few years ago, however. That means having a plan is absolutely essential for maintaining your sanity. Your audience probably isn’t using every social network out there, but you should investigate where they’re spending the most time and honing in your efforts on a few key platforms.

Mobile Apps Continue to Explode

We haven’t yet reached the plateau where it’s unheard of for any company not to have a mobile application, but we’re getting there. If you’ve considered the value of a mobile app, now’s the time to start digging further into the idea and investigating your options. The cost of developing a mobile app isn’t as prohibitive as it once was, and there are some emerging tools and resources to make the process even simpler.

You should already have a mobile-friendly website, since mobile usage is growing at an astonishing rate. Nearly half (45 percent) of users between the ages of 18 and 29 use mobile search daily, and mobile traffic as a whole is growing by 3.5 percent every month. If your site isn’t yet mobile-friendly, get on the ball – and put a mobile app next on your to-do list.

More Opportunities to Diversify Your Marketing Efforts

With an ever-increasing number of technological tools and the ability to segment your audience into tightly defined groups, businesses now have more opportunities to create highly-targeted marketing messages that are more in tune with consumers’ needs and interests. That means you can run completely different advertising campaigns on different platforms based on the portion of your audience that uses that platform. Even on a single platform, like Google AdWords or Facebook, you can run simultaneous and drastically different ad campaigns to target specific users.

The benefit to this is that you can touch on the key selling points most relevant to different age groups, interests and other demographic data to craft compelling marketing messages that drive more leads and conversions. It doesn’t just apply to ad campaigns, but to email marketing and most other digital marketing strategies as well. With the many tools available to marketers for both research and segmentation, there’s no excuse for misaligned marketing messages.

Content Marketing Continues to Rule

Despite the many changes taking place in online marketing, content marketing will continue to be the ruler of the roost in 2014. That’s because most other digital marketing tactics rely on content as the foundation – whether you’re talking about social media marketing, email marketing, paid advertising, or something else, you still need carefully-crafted content to drive all those efforts.

So make refining your content a priority for 2014. Take a content writing course, hire an expert content writer, or inquire about a marketing agency’s internal content capabilities before you make a hiring decision. You don’t have to write your content yourself, but you do need access to a skilled content writer on a consistent basis to make it all work.

The Lines Defining Marketing Tactics Blur

One of the most important trends that will continue and strengthen in 2014 is that the lines dividing and defining marketing tactics will continue to blur. As noted in the point above, content marketing drives your other marketing efforts – just one example of how online marketing strategies don’t really function as a stand-alone tactic, but work cohesively and are co-dependent on one another to generate leads and work prospects through your sales funnel.

Heading into 2014, an editorial calendar is an excellent idea to keep track of the new multi-channel marketing approach. This lets you plan your content efforts and define how each content asset will be promoted and distributed across your social networks, distribution channels, reformatted and repurposed, what ad campaigns are tied into specific events and channels… you get the idea. An editorial calendar, for many businesses, functions as an overall online marketing plan.

Beyond these six predictions, one other thing is certain: The landscape of digital marketing will continue to evolve and become increasingly complex as the year goes on. Whatever plans you put in place to kick off 2014 as your best year yet, make sure they’re flexible. And above all, focus on what works for your business – not what’s trending at the moment.

The Challenge of SAM Software Asset Management

‘SAM’ happens to be the name of my lovely old Alsatian cross and just thinking about him gives me a ‘warm fuzzy feeling’… SAM also refers to Software Asset Management and in no way does this leave me with the same feeling, in fact quite the opposite. If you’re involved in SAM you will likely have felt the pain of getting your ‘house in order’…

What is SAM?

Managing your licenses can be a tricky business. Licenses come in all shapes and sizes and are not just specific to software, hardware can also come with a host of ‘license-able’ functions. Getting your head around licensing is in itself a challenge, and for anyone involved in SAM the challenge is never underestimated.

SAM is a way of bringing order to chaos by centralising all your license assets in one place. SAM is not simply about acknowledging the 25 copies of Microsoft Project you have purchased. The key part of SAM is ‘Management’. This entails a much broader set of activities for example:

  • Linking and evidencing purchase orders
  • Linking and evidencing delivery notes
  • Linking and evidencing invoices
  • Adding, removing and updating license agreements
  • Managing expiry and renewal dates
  • Identifying where licenses are being used or are dormant
  • Identifying where you have a license shortfall
  • Identifying where you can save money by re-provisioning licenses

Getting to grips with SAM.

If you have a small estate then SAM will be fairly straight forward, if however, you have a complex estate involving thousands of users and hundreds of servers then the problem becomes exponentially harder. This is particularly a challenge if you manage licensing for different legal entities within the same Enterprise. Some vendors offer assistance in addressing this challenge, for example Microsoft offer the Key Management Services to assist those with ‘volume licenses’.

You can of course purchase SAM software to help you organise your licenses such as Phoenix Dashboard. Also many IT Service Management suites have SAM built in. SAM software will carry out the usual network scan to ascertain the software licenses currently in use. However, a simple scan can divulge a huge range of ‘detected’ software that may fall under a number of different license agreements. Often it will take significant human intervention to validate what has been discovered and associate it with the correct license agreement.

Many SAM products include Software Metering which is a way of monitoring actual software usage, this allows you to make an informed choice about removing it from one person’s equipment and installing it on another users equipment who actually needs it, thereby avoiding unnecessary purchases.

Another approach is to get support from FAST (Federation Against Software Theft). One half of the organisation will work with and defend your interests, assisting you with training, awareness, legal support and even provide you with a SAM tool. They will also provide you with an accreditation process from Bronze through Gold depending on how embedded FAST is and how mature your SAM approach is within your organisation.

The less fluffy other half of FAST are best described as the chaps with blacked out vehicles who will come knocking and have powers from UKIPO law enforcement to access your property. Now you may be feeling a little skeptical at this point… isn’t this a major conflict of interest? Well rest assured! there is apparently a locked door separating these two divisions at their head office in Maidenhead, Berkshire…

How hard can SAM be?

If you’re fortunate, licensing may be a simple affair, for example you might have a server license for an accounting package such as Sage or SUN with with 100 CAL’s (Client Access Licenses), your license agreement allows for copies of the software to be used for testing and recovery purposes. Your organisation only has 80 users so you know you’re within the limits of your license. You only run the software on a single server so no problem there.

Now let’s take Oracle as an example of how complicated things can get. Oracle licensing is notoriously difficult to get right, even Oracle staff struggle to interpret their own licensing models. Oracle license many of their server products by processor or processor core. Add Virtual Machines into the mix and Oracle will expect you to license every virtual core that their software may interact with within the Virtual Server Cluster, even if it doesn’t actually use it. This often prompts a re-design of the server infrastructure to avoid unnecessary and costly licensing especially where HA (High Availability) and DR (Disaster Recovery) services are employed.

Why SAM is important.

SAM should be considered part of ‘business as usual’ and as important as embedding Information Governance into your organisation. Professionally your ‘house should be in order’ and it is an illegal activity to use unlicensed software or hardware. Without time and investment in a robust SAM approach you may end up like Perth and Kinross Council who paid £67,675 to FAST in April 2013 after it was found, following a whistle blower report, to have fallen short of licensing requirements. Of course, the consequences should not be the only reason to implement SAM, it is simply the ‘right and proper’ thing to do to remain within the law and prevent negative reputational risk to your organisation.

What happens if i’m audited?

It’s a question of ‘when’ rather than ‘if’, vendors have a legal right to protect their IP (Intellectual Property) and to recover costs for unlicensed use. You may receive a letter requesting an audit due to a variety of triggers. Most large vendors such as Oracle, Adobe and Microsoft have dedicated teams whose job it is to audit customers. They may choose a particular vertical to focus on, such as retail, and then a particular geographic area. You may find that a request for a quote of a significant size triggers a ‘house keeping’ process to ensure you are on the correct license agreement, or as the example of Perth and Kinross Council shows, you may be audited due to a whistle blowing trigger.

In most cases, the vendor will appoint a third party ‘partner’ who speacialises in your particular business activity or license agreement. You typically have eight weeks from receipt of the letter to respond and carry out the audit which often involves an onsite presence using software tools to ascertain your license usage.

At this point, it should be said, that the activity of auditing also comes with positive recommendations and approaches to help you best fill the gap, it is not a method to ‘hold you over a barrel’, but it should be acknowledged that legal process will be used if you do not comply with the recommendations. It’s also entirely possible that you might find that the vendor has a better licensing model that may actually save you money in the longer term.

Proactive SAM Management.

You may wish to engage directly with a license auditor, under an NDA (Non-Disclosure Agreement) to carry out the same activity that would be done under an official audit. By so doing, you can tidy up your licenses and have an official statement to share in the event that you receive a letter requesting an audit. In the case of SAM, prevention is usually better than cure.

SAM will be a challenge, and you will have moments of frustration as you embed it into your organisation, but you might be surprised to find that the end result is that SAM, like my dog, may just give you an unexpected ‘warm fuzzy feeling’ after all… Copyright © 2014 Gareth Baxendale

How To Grow Your Business Faster In 2014: What Do Your Employees Need To Know?

Step One: Prevent hiring mistakes: figure out the knowledge you need to grow

Knowledge in business is like footwork in basketball: if you get it right, everything else is way easier. Think about it – good footwork means players can:

  • Establish good post stance
  • Get space for the shot
  • Beat others to the basket
  • Set good screens
  • Crash the boards aggressively

Excellent footwork leads to excellent scoring performance. In business, to score an unbeatable competitive advantage, evaluate the business version of footwork: knowledge. Figure out what knowledge you need and adjust your talent strategy to get it, because getting it wrong is costly.

Business leaders report they spend as much as $25,000 to fix a bad hire – sometimes more. The Recruiting Roundtable’s Senior Director Donna Weiss explains, “Given the high cost of early career turnover, organizations cannot afford to make the wrong hiring decisions.” Don’t believe it? Just ask boss who has ever said, “Now remind me again, why did we hire that guy?” So what drives the knowledge and talent mistakes?

When asked, 81% of managers reported that it was what they did (or did not) do that resulted in hiring the “wrong” employee; only 19% said the error could be blamed on the applicant.

The Recruiting Roundtable and other research identifies three important reasons behind the hiring mistakes caused by managers: (1) managers over-rely on candidates describing themselves rather than demonstrating what they can do, (2) managers don’t follow a consistent, evidence-based selection decision process, and (3) they fail to provide the candidate with enough information about what the job is really like.

The most common reason given by the 19% who said they could blame applicants their hiring errors? The applicant misrepresented himself or herself on the resume or during the interview… which is more or less an indictment of a hiring process that cannot detect exaggerations or lies.

Take just 30 minutes to figure out what knowledge you need to grow and it will off all year! Hiring managers can easily overlook the best candidates just because they are vague about the knowledge they need. Use this simple, four-step technique to clarify your unique, job-specific knowledge needs.

1. Be sure the job title makes sense and conveys good information to candidates. The best candidates want to know what they are applying for!

Don’t use titles like Support Ninja, Director of Customer WOW, Social Media DJ, or anything with “guru” in it. Instead use informative titles like Customer Support Rep, Manager of Customer Service, Social Media Analyst, Sales Representative, or IT Security Specialist.

2. Next, make a short list of the knowledge that leads to success in the job. This list gets you focused on what matters most; go for three or four. Here are a few examples:

Sales Representative

  • Good communication skills
  • Ability to persuade others
  • Adjusting action based on the other’s actions
  • Analyze problems and develop multiple solutions

Business Analyst

  • Conduct research using databases and repositories
  • Produce financial and market intelligence
  • Generate reports that help execs make decisions

IT Security Specialist

  • Protect computer networks and information from intrusion
  • Safeguard digital files and vital electronic infrastructure
  • Respond to computer security breaches and viruses

3. Now, build on the short list by listing specific tasks performed in the job – most jobs will have nine or ten tasks. Here is an example for the IT Security Specialist position.

  • Encrypt data transmissions and erect firewalls to conceal confidential information as it is being transmitted and to keep out tainted digital transfers.
  • Develop plans to safeguard computer files against accidental or unauthorized modification, destruction, or disclosure and to meet emergency data processing needs.
  • Review violations of computer security procedures and discuss procedures with violators to ensure violations are not repeated.
  • Monitor use of data files and regulate access to safeguard information in computer files.
  • Monitor current reports of computer viruses to determine when to update virus protection systems.
  • Modify computer security files to incorporate new software, correct errors, or change individual access status.
  • Perform risk assessments and execute tests of data processing system to ensure functioning of data processing activities and security measures.
  • Confer with users to discuss issues such as computer data access needs, security violations, and programming changes.
  • Train users and promote security awareness to ensure system security and to improve server and network efficiency.
  • Coordinate implementation of computer system plan with outside vendors.

4. Finally, look at the key knowledge factors from step two and the task list from step three. What are the most important responsibilities for this job? There are usually three or four. These help you more accurately screen applicants. For the IT Security Specialist position these are the most important responsibilities:

  • Plan, implement, upgrade, and monitor security measures for the protection of computer networks and information.
  • Ensure appropriate security controls are in place to safeguard digital files and vital electronic infrastructure.
  • Respond to computer security breaches and viruses.

Too many managers rely on a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants approach to talent management. They believe that somehow their gut will tell them what to do. The results speak for themselves: recent research finds that 50% of managers and 50% of new hires are both unhappy with their job decisions! FYI – it costs more to run your business when people are not a strong match for the job and are not engaged or satisfied.

So this year, get clear on the knowledge you need – with that talent “footwork” in place managers can:

  • Identify the best job candidates (Establish good post stance)
  • Create effective on-boarding and training (Get space for the shot)
  • Help new hires reach peak productivity faster (Beat others to the basket)
  • Outperform competitors (Set good screens)
  • Collaborate and rebound faster after setbacks (Crash the boards aggressively).

Calendar Printing – Planning It Out

In planning any calendar printing project, the most obvious fact to pay attention to is that every calendar is a time-sensitive product with a built-in distribution deadline. For a standard 2014 calendar, if your calendar is not in the end user’s hands before January 1, 2014, they may already have found an alternative. For a non-standard calendar that deadline may be sooner (eg., a school-year calendar needs to be in the user’s hands close to the start of school if it is going to be useful to them). Working backwards from this absolute deadline can give you a good timeline for the entire project.

Calendar printing can be broken down into four activities: planning, production, marketing, and distribution. Since we are working backwards, we’ll start with distribution.

Distributing your Printed Calendars

How are you getting your calendars into the end user’s hands? Are you giving them away? If so, then it should be relatively straight-forward to figure out the distribution logistics and determine by what date you will need to have calendars in hand. Or maybe you are mailing them out to your customers or members; in that case you just need to make sure you allow enough time for inserting into envelopes, adding a cover letter, addressing and mailing. Or consider having the printer or a local mailhouse handle mailing the calendars – it will probably be cheaper and easier for you. Just make sure you find out from the printer or mailhouse how much extra time they will need and factor it in.

If, on the other hand, you plan to print a calendar and sell it, either as a nonprofit fundraiser or as a profit-making venture, then distribution is a little more complicated. How much time you need for sales depends on your sales strategy. Are you selling at a local festival or other event? If so, then that gives you a deadline, but keep in mind that you’ll be better off if you can sell at multiple events, in case attendance or sales at one event are not what you expect. Or maybe you are having volunteers sell calendars to friends and family or door-to-door. If so, you should allow at least two weeks, and preferably up to four weeks, since volunteers all have their own different schedules, and some will need reminders and encouragement.

Calendars make great Christmas gifts. If that is part of your sales plan, then remember that if you make your calendar available the week before Christmas, many people will already have finished much of their Christmas shopping. If you can start selling right after Thanksgiving, however, then you can catch the early shoppers as well as the last-minute gift-buyers. Of course giving yourself even more sales time is always a good idea. Many of our most successful fundraisers begin selling the calendars as early as September.

Are you selling calendars online? (We can help with that!) If so, then you will need to allow for shipping time. That means that for Christmas gifts, you will want to have most of your calendars sold by about December 15th, otherwise your buyers will have to pay for expedited shipping. You need to allow enough time for people to find your calendar online, so you would probably want to have your calendar available for sale online by about mid-November.

Or maybe your are selling calendars in retail locations. If so, talk to your retailers early. You will probably find out that they prefer to have their Christmas merchandise in hand by the 1st of September or even sooner. That way they can keep shelves full as they remove Summer items. Chain retailers such as the major booksellers may want calendars in hand as soon as July, so that they can warehouse them and distribute them to their own locations. Also, check with retailers about packaging and labeling requirements – they may need your calendars to be shrink-wrapped and to include ISBN barcodes.

Marketing Your Calendar

If you print a calendar that you plan to sell, you should be sure to develop and implement a solid marketing plan. Marketing does not have to add to the overall duration of the calendar project – you can and should begin marketing during the planning and production stages of the project. However, if you wait to start marketing until you have the calendars in hand, then you will need to allow at least a few extra weeks, maybe more, for your marketing message to reach the intended audience and motivate them to buy.

Calendar Print Production

The production phase of a calendar printing project starts when you hand off all of the images, text, logos, advertising, etc. to the printer, and the printer turns it into calendar artwork for you to approve and then puts it on the press and delivers to you the finished product. Make sure you talk to your printer early on to fins out how long this takes. In our case at Yearbox, it is usually about three weeks (sometimes sooner if you have a particular deadline). If you anticipate last-minute changes or additions, or if you will be proofing by committee, then you should probably allow a little extra time – maybe a month in total – for production.

The Calendar Planning Stage

The calendar printing planning stage includes everything that comes before the handoff to the printer. Some planning items will take time. First and foremost, assemble a team. The more people who invest their time in your calendar the more successful it will be. You will need to gather artwork. If you have photos already and you just need to sort through them, that’s great. If you need to solicit photos or hold a photo or art contest (we can help with that!), then you will need to allow extra time for that. A contest may need time to run as well as time to market so that you have adequate participation. You also need to gather everything else that goes in the calendar, possibly including date information, captions, logos, mission statement, letter from the director/president/minister, etc.

Will your calendar include advertising? If so, then you will need to make sure that someone (or better yet a team) contacts businesses to sell them advertising space and collects advertising artwork from them. Sometimes advertising artwork is as simple as a business card, but other times it can take longer than expected to collect all the advertising artwork. Make sure you allow plenty of time for this.

So, how soon should you start working on it if you need to print a calendar that is customized to your specifications? That all depends. If you have everything ready for your printer and distribution will be a simple hand-out, then three to four weeks lead time may be sufficient. If, however, you have to assemble a team, collect photos and text, sell advertising, plan a marketing campaign, organize sales teams, and/or place calendars in retail stores, then you’ll need to work backwards and figure out how much time you really need. It may turn out that May or June is the right time to start planning your calendar project.