Monday Mornings with Madison

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Boosting Creativity in 2016

Many people focus on make resolutions of things we want to do more, do less, do better or stop doing altogether. Obviously, the goal of resolutions is to use the commitment as an impetus to become a better person or live a better life. But, in truth, most people can just recycle resolutions year after year with little or no changes at all. Typically, those resolutions are broken or forgotten within the first hours, days or weeks of inception. Ideas for how to keep those resolutions fail. Perhaps what is actually needed are new ways to tackle old problems? What is really needed is creativity.

Creativity is the ability to make new things or think up new ideas. Creativity is the tool that is able to pierce the prickliest problems, tackle the most daunting challenges and dismantle the most difficult dilemmas. Armed with creativity, certainly every resolution can not only be kept but conquered. But how does one go about tacking old problems in creative ways if we have no new ideas? Is there really a way to boost creativity? Yes, there is. Continue reading

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Retargeting: Digital Ads that Hit the Bulls-Eye

Have you ever done a search for a product or service and then seen ads for companies that deliver that product or service later on websites that have nothing to do with that product or service? For example, you might have done a search for lenders that handle commercial property loans and mezzanine financing. You clicked on the websites of a few of those lenders. Then later — hours, days or even weeks later — you did a totally unrelated search for hotels in Dallas for an upcoming conference and you saw an ad for a lender you perused earlier offering mezzanine financing on the hotel aggregator’s website. At first, you thought “coincidence.” Then you saw a similar ad for another lender when you searched for an upscale restaurant to dine at with your spouse and clicked on the site to make a reservation. You thought, “Strange.” Then you saw yet another ad for a commercial real estate lender when you checked for the weather forecast for your golf outing on Sunday. At that point, you felt like “Big Brother was watching.” How could such diverse and unrelated websites know you were looking for a commercial real estate lender? How could those lenders know to advertise on sites that you frequent? The answer is retargeting.

Behavioral retargeting (also known as behavioral remarketing, or simply, remarketing or retargeting) is a form of online targeted advertising in which online advertising is targeted to consumers based on their previous Internet actions, in situations where these actions did not result in a sale or conversion. This type of online advertising has been around for a few years and is highly effective and yet not widely used. That makes it a great tool for businesses that want to stand out in the crowd. Continue reading

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The Art, Skill and Gift of Speaking

The ability to communicate verbally is an essential skill for most any occupation. And yet there are a lot of idioms and expressions about wasting time talking, saying the wrong things and talking too much. Chewing the fat. Talking up a storm. Talking out of both sides of one’s mouth. Shooting the breeze. Speaking the same language. Running of at the mouth. Spilling the beans. Big talk. Talking a blue streak. Talking one’s ear off. There are even knick names for people who talk too much or speak when they shouldn’t. Chatty Cathy. Chatterbox. Windbag. Blabbermouth. Perhaps it makes sense that society has so many ways to criticize talk because of the increased amount of babbling that bombards us from all directions including radio, cell phones, television, robocalls, YouTube videos, etc.? Perhaps.

Nevertheless, the ability to speak is one of the greatest skills — and one of the most complex — that a human being performs. Although many animals do make sounds that allow them to communicate with one another, only human beings can manage the complex process of complex talk. After all, fluent speech is based on the interaction of various processing components. We must retrieve appropriate words, generate syntactic structure, compute the phonological shape of syllables, words, phrases and whole utterances, and create and execute articulated thoughts. And, as in any complex skill, there is a self-monitoring mechanism that checks the output. For any professional or business person, being able to speak clearly — choosing the right words and articulating thoughts meaningfully – is a key to success. Are you a good talker? Continue reading

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How Business Sense and Scents Add Up to Dollars and Cents

Almost no one would argue that vision and hearing play a big role in one’s career and professional success. Any person without the ability to either see or hear surely has a harder time dealing with phone calls, reading and responding to emails, interacting with clients, driving to meetings, visiting job sites, reviewing product quality, etc. Vision and hearing are fundamental sense for most jobs.

What about the sense of smell? Most people don’t put much importance on their ability to smell or think they use it much at work. While it is vitally important for a chef, fragrance chemist, sommelier, or florist to be able to smell with discernment, the sense of smell is not considered as important to the majority of business people in most industries. Yet, aromas are powerful influencers of human behavior and people can distinguish between smells with greater specificity than they realize. So just how important is the ability to smell to career success and how much does scent impact business?
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Vision in Business

Every business owner, leader and manager wants to have ‘vision’ or be considered a visionary. But what does mean exactly? According to an April 2013 article by Dave Lavinsky in Forbes, “Vision in business requires that you clearly see where you choose to be in the future and formulate the necessary steps to get your organization there. Creating and sustaining a vision for an organization calls for discipline and creativity. A business leader must have the passion, strength of will, and necessary knowledge to achieve long-term goals. A focused individual who can inspire his team to reach organizational goals is a visionary business leader.” Lavinsky cites passion, discipline, creativity, strength of will, knowledge and focus as the skills needed to be a visionary in business. Others believe the qualities of visionary leaders include openness, imagination, persistence, and conviction. Harvard Business Review says a visionary leader is opportunistic, diplomatic, an expert, an achiever, individualistic, strategic, and an alchemist. Arguably, these are all necessary traits. But Lavinsky stated first that a business visionary must clearly see where he/she wants to be in the future. So the starting point of being a visionary is to see with clarity.

In this context, Lavinksy was not referring to physically “seeing” with one’s eyes. Most likely, what he meant was seeing “in one’s mind” the where, what and how of an organization’s future… having a mental picture, so to speak. But, for most people, actual vision – as in the ability to see physically with one’s eyes – probably plays a part of being successful in business and life. Probably even a large part? Sight is a blessing which many scarcely give any thought to at all. But, without it, how many would have the life or business career they are currently living? And what role does actual eyesight play in an individual’s success in business? How many business people can be visionaries without vision? Continue reading

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The Blessing of Hearing and Power of Sound

In listening to the news, one might get the impression that the world is a terrible place. Global warming. Rampant pollution. Persistent wars. Growing income inequality. Epidemic diseases. Gun violence. Discrimination. Religious intolerance. We hear constantly about so many problems in the world. The thought of all these problems might make some wonder – especially at this is the time of year when most people stop to reflect and give thanks – just what is there to be thankful for?
There is always – always — something for which to give thanks. Loving family. Deep faith. A solid job. Liberty and freedom. Good friends. Kind colleagues. Even those who aren’t blessed with a good job, supportive family or friends, still have so much for which they can be genuinely thankful… if they just look beyond the surface. Consider the basic things that are often taken for granted. The gift of hearing. The blessing of sight. The delight of being able to smell. The present of being able to speak. The pleasure of being taking deep breaths of clean air. The ability to walk. The good fortune of health. Each of these gifts makes life richer, fuller and easier. What would life be like without just one of these gifts? What if you could not hear? Continue reading

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When Companies Dare to Radically Change Employee Compensation or Benefits

There has been a lot of discussion lately about employee compensation and benefits in the U.S. Candidates running for President are spending a lot of time (in debates, interviews and during campaign stops) discussing topics such as income inequality, paid family leave and other bread-and-butter issues that are part and parcel of the business world. To a small extent, these issues are regulated by legislation, such as federal and state minimum wage laws which dictate the least an employee can be paid hourly. However, the vast majority of these HR issues are really under the purview of business leaders and owners. For the most part, individual companies the U.S. decide how they want to compensate their employees. Because of that, the usual array of wage and benefit packages – albeit a fairly wide range – has developed for employees at every level, from entry level to C-Suite positions.

However, from time to time, some companies step outside the usual selection of employee pay and perks. Those outlier companies dare to go beyond the typical assortment of compensation items to offer employees something that is unique or bold. For a time, the audacious actions of those companies capture the attention of the media and lawmakers. They garner a lot of attention and usually generate a lot of applause (and scrutiny). But are those actions altruistic? And do such creative perks have any impact on what the majority of companies pay and offer in the way of employee benefits? Do those high-profile HR initiatives move the needle of employee benefits nationwide?
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The Changing Face of Search

Most people use search engines with little or no understanding of how they actually work – such as why one listing ranks higher than another or what cookies do or even how search engines are monetized. This is partly the fault of the search engines, who keep a lot of what they do a secret. But it is also partly because most people don’t really care how it works. As long as it provides a wealth of information easily, accurately and quickly, the functionality hasn’t really mattered much. However, business owners, managers and professionals should care, if they want their products or services to be ‘findable’ on the World Wide Web. Without understanding how search engines work, it is impossible to ensure that a company’s desired messaging will be found by potential clients or customers.

What is interesting is that, while search engines may seem static and unchanging to users, the reality is that search engines and the world of search is constantly changing. Search engines adjust their algorithms (the step-by-step functions to be performed to find and deliver information) regularly to stay a step ahead of those who manipulate online information for their own needs or wants. Updates are rolled out periodically that alter how information is ranked. Moreover, the search engine market is constantly evolving to meet the needs and concerns of those using search engines. And the search engine market is growing exponentially. But how will all this affect business? Continue reading

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Converged Media: A Mix of Owned, Earned and Paid

It used to be so much simpler to market a company 25 years ago. That was before a computer programmer in Switzerland named Tim Berners-Lee introduced the World Wide Web in 1991. In the days before the Internet, search engines and smart phones, marketing consisted primarily of campaigns to targeted audiences using a controlled number of channels and a controlled message. Practically all marketing efforts were paid for and directed by the company. That’s not to say that getting the message across or selling a customer on a product or service was easier. It wasn’t. But for companies trying to communicate a message to a customer, the approach was simpler and more direct. There was less messaging ‘noise’ to distract and confuse audiences.

Today, we are overwhelmed by sales and marketing messages coming at us from every direction. To be heard, companies must use a variety of approaches and a multitude of channels. This includes Paid Media, Owned Media and Earned Media efforts. Today’s marketing efforts must converge these to create a mixed approach. Each is a different way for potential clients or customers to learn about a business’ message. Each functions differently. And each has its pros and cons. In order to reach a target audience, a company has to understand and determine the right mix of its owned, earned and paid media efforts. Let’s look at how they work. Continue reading

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Top Sales and Marketing Terms of 2015 – Part 2

Last week, we explored some of the latest terms trending in sales and marketing in 2015. Some may have felt lost in lingo limbo, but most probably learned a thing or two about the emerging myriad of strategies and products available for businesses today to reach customers. Knowledge is power. But that doesn’t mean that a company should adopt every strategy, product and approach. Quite the contrary. When it comes to sales and marketing, it is different strokes for different folks. What works for one company may not have any value for another business. The goal is to be discerning. While early adopters embrace every trend, haphazardly trying each new thing, and late bloomers wait until a marketing strategy is thoroughly vetted and ubiquitous before even dipping a toe in the water, both extremes can be dangerous. The key is to be knowledgeable of all the approaches exist and determine what might work best for a particular business in a particular industry.

With that in mind, here are a few more 2015 trending terms to add to the sales and marketing vocab. Responsive web design. Adaptive web design. QR Codes. Click fraud. H2H. Nueromorphics. Media agnostic. Advertainment (not related to Advertorial, a much older but still useful marketing term referring to an article (instead of an ad) that is written to inform but with a slant/bias). Twinternship. mCommerce. Here’s what they mean. Continue reading

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