Get over being nice

Danny Beyer is a sales executive at Kabel Business Services. He is a serial networker and often speaks about networking tips to groups in the community.

A little over two years ago, Scott Siepker made a splash when his YouTube video, Iowa Nice, went viral. It was a scathing rant to all of those people who assumed Iowa was simply a flyover state good for nothing more than producing pork and corn. I remembered laughing so hard I cried, feeling a deep sense of pride in my home state, and quickly forwarding it on to about a dozen people. The video showed a new side of Iowa while hitting home the message that yes, we are nice.

While I will never knock someone for being nice, there is a time when one can be “too nice.” Over and over I hear people tell me that they don’t want to ask favors of their connections or seek help because they don’t want others to feel they’re using them. We don’t want to come off salesy, or conceited, or self-serving. In short, we want to be nice.

My best piece of advice – get over it. People genuinely want to help and the only way they can do that is if we let them know what we want. We have to share our goals, our dreams, and let others know how they can help make those dreams a reality. If you suffer from being too nice think of it like this: Imagine if a friend came to you and asked for the same favor you’re too nervous to talk to them about. Would you assist in any way you could? If the answer is yes than you should feel comfortable asking your friend to help. It really is that simple.

A network, both professionally and personally, really can help all of us achieve our dreams and desires, no matter how large or small. In the end it all comes down to sharing those desires with anyone who will listen. The more people who know what you want the better your chances are for success. Start sharing those dreams and get over being too nice. After all, we’re Iowans, according to YouTube we’re already nice enough.  

Leaders and delegation

Rowena (Ro) Crosbie is the president of Tero International Inc.

Clean your room. Please, clean your room. I’ll pay you to clean your room. You can’t go out until you clean your room…

Rewards, punishments, begging, nagging... Why is it so challenging to get people to do things?

Leadership_blog

Delegation, whether at work or at home, is an area where many leaders struggle. Many times it seems simpler and more expedient to do the work ourselves. 

When done well, delegation benefits everyone. Leaders free up time for other activities. Followers grow and contribute.  Organizations achieve more. Sadly, many of us have never learned how to delegate well and we stress over whether the delegated task will get done right, or at all. Here are some fast tips.

Leaders must correctly diagnose two areas: skills and interest. If someone knows how to do the task and likes it, delegation is appropriate.  If one of those two variables is lacking, a different leadership action is needed.

1.     Skills and Knowledge

As leaders, we often make too many assumptions about what people can do and what they know (or should know). It is further complicated by employees who underestimate the task or overestimate their own skills and abilities. When someone lacks skills or knowledge in any measure, delegation is risky.

Let’s return to the “clean your room” example. It is common for parents to believe that their young person already possesses the necessary skills for this job. Do they? Really?

Why would a young person know how to clean a room well? Why would they share the same definition of “clean” that a parent does? If you have ever been met with the response “I did clean it” and the result doesn’t meet your standards, chances are there is a skill or knowledge gap. Delegation wasn’t appropriate.

Leader Action: Training and coaching.

2.     Interest and Motivation

If they have the skills and knowledge, can the leader delegate? It depends. Do they also possess sufficient interest and motivation?

All of us have things to do that we are skilled in but lack interest. We procrastinate. We make excuses. Does the individual find the task itself motivating? If yes, delegation is appropriate. If not, delegation may fail. You may find this is true of the exercise program you keep delegating yourself to do. You know what to do – you just don’t want to do it.

Leader Action:  Support and encouragement.

The who, what, when, where, and why of fiduciary duties in small businesses

Matt McKinney is an attorney at BrownWinick Attorneys at LawMatt McKinney

What is a fiduciary duty?

A fiduciary duty is often regarded as the highest duty recognized by the law. In simplistic terms, a person charged with exercising fiduciary duties (commonly referred to as a fiduciary) must discharge their duties with the utmost good faith, care, and the finest loyalty.

More specifically, the term “fiduciary duty” is often used as an umbrella term describing a number of duties that are collectively referred to as fiduciary duties.  For example, “fiduciary duties” frequently encompass duties such as (1) the duty of care - generally to act with diligence and with the care an ordinarily prudent person in a like position would exercise; (2) the duty of informed judgment - the process of gaining sufficient familiarity with the background facts and circumstances to make an informed judgment before acting; (3) the duty of disclosure - commonly interpreted as a duty to disclose certain information to shareholders or members; including, conflicts of interest; (4) the duty of confidentiality - to protect confidential and non-public information; and (5) the duty of loyalty - customarily meaning to act in the best interests of the corporation, company, partnership, etc...

Who is charged with exercising fiduciary duties?

Generally speaking, persons who exercise control over a corporation, company, partnership or similar entity are held to this higher, fiduciary duty standard. Therefore, and not surprisingly, directors and officers of corporations, who by their very nature exercise control over a corporation, are held to this higher, fiduciary duty standard. Importantly, however, directors and officers are not the only persons held to this higher standard.  In fact, in addition to directors and officers, majority shareholders are also often held to this higher, fiduciary duty standard.  Consequently, even if you do not serve as a director or officer of a corporation, be alert, because if you hold an interest in the business, you may nonetheless be held to this higher, fiduciary duty standard.

Business owners in different business entities are also held to this higher, fiduciary duty standard. For example, partners in both general and limited partnerships are ordinarily required to discharge their duties in a fiduciary manner. And, depending upon applicable laws in different states, members and managers in limited liability companies (LLCs) may also be required to discharge their duties in a fiduciary manner.

When do fiduciary duties apply?

Principally, fiduciary duties apply when a fiduciary takes action or declines to take action that relates to or that could otherwise effect the business entity; including, potential business opportunities not yet realized.

Fiduciary duties are generally not extinguished until the fiduciary is relieved or removed from the position that created the fiduciary duties to begin with. It is important to note, however, that in many jurisdictions fiduciary duties can extend beyond the point in time in which a person is relieved from their position within the business entity.

Where do fiduciary duties come from?

Fiduciary duties were developed through the common law - a body of law originally developed in England and later shaped by our courts. Today, fiduciary duties arise from both the common law and state statutes. For example, the Code of Iowa imposes statutory standards of conduct upon officers and directors in Iowa corporations. As explained above and setforth within Iowa Code Section 490.830, the Iowa Code generally requires directors to act in good faith and in the best interest of the corporation. These statutes often form the basis of a claim or defense for breach of fiduciary duty.

Why do you need to be aware of these fiduciary duties?

Whether you know it or not, if you are a part of a business entity (as a director, officer, member, manager, partner, or majority shareholder) you will likely be held to this higher standard when taking action with or relating to the business entity. Failure to comply with fiduciary duties can result in liability to both the business entity and you.  In fact, failing to fulfill fiduciary duties can be considered oppressive conduct, which can result in the dissolution (termination) of the business entity.

It is important to note that this article serves as an introduction to a legal concept and that fiduciary duties can and do differ from state to state and entity to entity. If you have questions or concerns regarding fiduciary duties, you should consider contacting a licensed attorney.  

For additional reading on the topic of fiduciary duties, visit the following links:

Care, or Beware! Iowa’s Fiduciary Duty of Care

A Deeper Dive into a Director’s Duty to Become Informed

A Director’s Duty to Remain Silent

Oppression, Breach of Fiduciary Duties, Freeze Out, and Judicial Dissolution – An Iowa Court of Appeals 2011 Analysis

Referral marketing versus marketing automation

Carl Maerz is a co-founder of Rocket Referrals, a startup company focused on helping businesses gain referrals from customers.

While exiting the Des Moines downtown YMCA last week, I caught glimpse of a lady searching through a phone book. I was flooded with nostalgia and left thinking of my childhood - the last time I remember using one of those (to look up a number anyway). It also left me considering the ways businesses are discovered by new customers. There are those that are searching for you, and those that are referred to you by others. In both cases businesses should consider ways in which they can improve their ability to be found (marketing automation) - and ways of encouraging referrals (referral marketing).

Marketing automation

Marketing automation platforms seek to streamline sales by replacing high-touch, repetitive manual processes with automated solutions. They accomplish this by taking advantage of the internet to reach new customers - or more specifically allow them to be discovered by qualified leads. In terms of the phone book, think of it as finding ways to be first in line for those people thumbing through the pages - only doing so on the internet.

 

But again, the days of Yellow Pages are limited so marketing automation uses search engine optimization (SEO), inbound marketing, drip marketing, and tracking/analytics to drive customers to your website and improve conversion rates. Google has some complicated algorithms which decide which website to be listed when someone searches for “car insurance” for example. Companies such as HubSpot, Marketo, Eloqua, and others specialize in ways of driving those prospects to your door and using email marketing to convert them into sales.

Referral marketing

Marketing automation is important to capture those prospects that are searching for you online. But what about those prospects that rely on recommendation from friends for services or are not yet searching for you? That is where referral marketing fits in.

PhonebookA referral is the bridge that connects a company to a new client by means of an existing customer. Because of this direct link between the company, customer, and prospect, trust transfers. Therefore the barriers that exist with a typical prospect and the company are broken down by way of the active promoter. As the trust transfers, the resistance is diminished, and sales are much easier to obtain.

Science in the field of social network theory describes the pre-existing connection between current customers (A), companies (B), and prospects (C) as triadic closure. According to sociologist Georg Simmel “if a strong tie exists between A-B and A-C, there is a weak or strong tie between B-C”. In other words, a link between a company and prospects already exists via current customers. Referral marketing aims at exploiting the relationship between your customers and prospects - as it yields a much higher conversion rate and research shows it brings better fitting and higher profitable customers.

Referral marketing is rapidly evolving online with some companies offering incentive based programs. I recommend choosing a referral strategy that is not based on monetary incentives (as I outline here). After all, people refer friends and family for many reasons (reciprocity, social status, obligation, homophily, exclusivity, etc.) but generally not for personal gain.

Again, both marketing automation and referral marketing are important strategies for businesses to effectively compete in today’s market. Optimizing your ability to be found and leveraging your current customer base are separate, but important components to any marketing plan.

 

There's a bargain and then there's...

Bigstock-Stretched-Money-12016097_opt...ridiculous.  

As you might imagine -- good marketing is all about walking that fine line.

If your customer base is cost conscious, one of the ways you can make them feel like they're not only getting a good deal but that they're also in control of their buying decision is to give them choices.

The key is knowing when you've stomped all over the fine line.

I thought Allegiant went too far when they announced they were going to start charging for sodas. But Frontier Airline makes that foolishness look like reasoned thinking with their announcement today that they're going to start charging for the overhead bin space.

Depending on when you book your overhead bin space -- it could cost you anywhere from $25-$50 per bag.  Add to that -- if you want to actually select your seat (meaning anything but the middle seat) you'll have to pay for that too.  $3 for reserving a seat in advance if you do it while booking online and $8 if you choose it at the airport.

Most people already feel like they're part of a cattle herd when they fly. These additional fees and changes continue to de-value the experience and make the customers feel less valued and less important.  That's not exactly marketing 101.

In fact, there's a few marketing caveats that seem in danger here.

Don't give someone too many choices:  It's been proven that too many choices can actually paralyze a buyer -- leaving their wallet frozen in place.  While consumer do like to feel in control, they don't like to feel overwhelmed.

Economical is one thing, cheap is another: Most people enjoy saving money but they also want to believe they are spending their money on something of value.  You don't want your customers to feel nickeled and dimed on their way to saving a couple pennies.

Understand your reputation: If you're in an industry that consumers are already pretty disgusted with -- you might want to keep your eye on the customer service aspect of your choices. In fact, out of 43 industries, airlines rank 40th in terms of satisfaction (the only industries consumers hate more are Internet service providers, Internet social media companies, and subscription TV services), according to data released Tuesday by the American Customer Satisfaction Index.

Serve your best customers best:  I think these airlines are aiming for the occasional budget conscious flier, not a frequent traveler. I'm not so sure it makes a lot of sense to build your product to capture your least frequent customers.

Only time will tell if airlines like Frontier and Allegiant are making a smart play or if it's going to cost them marketshare. But they are certainly playing with fire.  

Would these new changes and charges influence your buying decision one way or the other?

~ Drew McLellan, Top Dog at McLellan Marketing Group

 

 

Planting the seeds for others' success

Kelly Sharp is the owner of Heart of Iowa Market Place

I recently spoke to the Young Professionals Connection about the value of building relationships to grow business and was reminded it's that time of the year when college students are looking for internships. I was also reminded that any time of the year is a good time to mentor young professionals.

While students gravitate to a variety of companies, it seems like retailers --particularly specialty retailers -- are left out of that mix. Young people tend to look to us strictly for summer jobs, but students and retailers miss a golden opportunity when they do. Honestly, it surprises me, too, that more marketing students don't look to the niche retailers to learn more about their chosen profession.

It's only logical that we retailers focus the bulk of our time and energy on peer-to-peer relationships and marketing. After all, businesses run on profits -- and profits only come through sales.

But, just like in other areas of business, tunnel vision is a dangerous thing. A laser focus on sales, sales and more sales makes it very easy to overlook chances to be a mentor to up-and-coming retail talent. That oversight not only does a disservice to young people, but it can be a real missed opportunity for us, too.

Mentoring interns or young professional can re-energize us as we pick up on the excitement of young people who are learning. It helps us to look at our own profession and business in new ways as we answer questions we might not have even thought of asking ourselves. It can give us new ideas and the latest thinking coming out of our universities.

Mentoring can create a talent pool and even broaden our own marketing base by introducing our business to a new and younger audience.

Whether you decide to work with a college intern or a young professional with an entrepreneurial spirit, mentoring is a tremendously rewarding opportunity that shouldn't be overlooked.

You'll grow. They'll grow. And, for years to come, they'll remember how important you were to starting them on a path to success.

Email marketing – leave it to the experts

Katie Stocking is the owner of Happy Medium LLC.

I got an astounding email this week that stopped me dead in my tracks. How could a company send out an email to a list of customers that was this bad?


First of all, it was clear the company was using a regular email client and blind carbon-copying all the recipients. This meant they weren’t getting any analytics or tracking, and their email servers were limited to sending to a certain number of people.

Content-wise, it was supposed to be giving the “Top 5” of something and only listed three things. So then the company sent out a second email with the rest of the list. Not the most professional or effective, right?

This may be a seriously horrendous example of email marketing gone wrong, but I see mistakes and missed opportunities in e-newsletters by brands and companies every single day. And my response is: just let someone help you!

There are a number of important things that should be given attention when creating an email marketing campaign. Subject line, timing, design, layout, contact information and list management are all crucial to the success of an e-newsletter.

All of those things plus the message you’re trying to get across plus dealing with all of this while running your business is a lot to deal with. It can take a lot of your very limited time and end up costing you in the long run. Your time can be better spent elsewhere and that’s why you should let a professional manage your email marketing for you.

Letting an expert help with your email marketing will not only provide cohesive branding (so your emails recognizable by customers), organized content (so your message is easy to understand), perfectly executed send (so no information is left out), and reporting on how many people opened your email and who they were (so you know that it’s working). The return on your minimal investment will be exponential.

Email marketing isn’t going away anytime soon so now more than ever is the time to get it right!

Tweet me your thoughts @klstocking!

--Katie

What Will They Think of Nest?

An amazing 90% of programmable thermostats are not programmed!!!  Can you believe it?  When I got a new furnace I immediately programmed my thermostats.  There were oddities even with a programmable thermostat.  Like what, you ask?

I set the thermostat to vacation mode, but when I return from the Mexican beach it is like an IGLOO in my house for hours.  Or I work out early in the morning except Wednesday but cannot program day by day.

NEST 1Then voila.  The inventor of the iPod comes up with the NEST thermostat which can save up to 20% on your energy bill.  It learns your habits and sets a schedule over time to meet your lifestyle.  For the first week you adjust the temperature manually and the NEST learns what time you get up each day and when you go to bed.  It sees the routine in your life and sets a schedule.

It’s even got an ‘auto away’ feature that goes into energy saving mode if it senses no activity for 90 minutes.  Better yet, if it sees a regular pattern it goes into energy saving mode in 30 minutes.

NEST 2Away on vacation?  No problem.  Just use your tablet or phone to connect with your nest.  When you return to the Iowa tundra wearing flip flops your house will be warm and toasty.

Best part?  It sends you an email once a month to review your energy usage and makes suggestions on how to save energy.  Like having a building engineer in your closet!  What will they think of nest?

Want more info?   Who could explain it simpler than Ellen DeGeneres.

Send your thoughts to rsmith@smithmetzger.com

M&A Trends for 2014

Steve Sink is the founder and managing partner of Phoenix Affiliates Ltd.

Picture of Steve
The opportunity for strong M&A activity is set for 2014 and the coming years. The key drivers are:

1.  Many M&A funds (Private Equity Groups) are scheduled to exit from previous acquisitions, freeing up funds for new acquisitions. 
2.  In anticipation of higher interest rates, forward-looking M&A funds will be forced to focus on increasing the long-term value of their current holdings, if they are to achieve their sales goal.
3.  Low interest rates (cheap capital) currently support the ability to do deals now and the urgency to do deals before the increase in interest rates.
4.  Banking regulations have had a negative impact on M&A and thereby created a lending opportunity in the private sector for capital.
5. There is a growing confidence in forward earnings. This confidence is somewhat motivated by the anticipated change in the administration.
6.  Companies can recapitalize at very favorable terms and rates -- at much lower costs than an IPO.
7.  Higher confidence levels will lead to sale higher multiples.
8.  Government regulations are the main reason for creating uncertainty and the ability to make capital investments with confidence.

Steve Sink
Certified Business Intermediary
Merger and Acquisition Master Intermediary
ss@phxaffiliates.com


Leadership – An introduction

Rowena (Ro) Crosbie is the president of Tero International Inc. This is her first IowaBiz blog post.

Leadership is all around us. In our businesses, governments, sports teams, homes, schools andRowena Crosbie
communities. Many of us are called to lead formally. All of us are called to lead informally. 

What is leadership? Who is qualified to lead? What are the qualities of leaders? How do leaders bring out the best in others? What role does hard work play? What about ethics and values? Where does motivation and emotional intelligence fit in?

The definitions of leadership are numerous and the theories about what makes an effective leader are mixed. We do know that leadership is learned and that most leadership happens on a small-scale in everyday situations.   

This blog is dedicated to the subject of leadership and will be published twice a month. Stories, research studies and theories will be presented here. 

Why a leadership blog?

In 1993, I started Tero International with an idea and $200 that the bank required to open a business account. The first Tero office was a spare bedroom in our home. I named two house cats vice presidents of the company. They were my constant companions (at least as constant as you can be when you sleep 16 hours a day). Leadership was simple.

The idea: To provide presentation skills training to professionals who believed that competitive advantage was due, at least in part, to the ability to communicate persuasively and confidently.  It was a good idea in 1993 and corporate education is even more critical two decades later. 

Today the cats are retired, the business has grown and my role has changed. I am privileged to lead a team of professionals committed to helping clients build leadership and interpersonal skills. Like most of us, I have been a work-in-progress in developing my own leadership capacity. Unlike most of us, my job allows me to immerse myself in leadership research, a time-consuming luxury few leaders enjoy. This blog will share insights from both vantage points.

We hope that in this blog you will find ideas, inspiration and a community to help you develop your leadership capacity and improve things in whatever context you lead. For Tero graduates, we hope this blog is a valuable resource to further your professional development.

Learning leadership is a journey that happens over the course of a lifetime and in partnership with others. I look forward to our travels together and welcome your comments, suggestions and questions.

Asking for referrals doesn't work

Carl Maerz is a co-founder of Rocket Referrals, a startup company focused on helping businesses gain referrals from customers.

Needless to say I discuss the topic of referrals on a daily basis. I meet with individuals working in service industries mainly- those where close relationships with clients is common and referrals are important to growing their business. And just as I sink into the adjacent chair and initiate conversation I am met with this: “You’re right, I need to be better about asking for them.” At first I wanted to stop the agents, lawyers, advisors, realtors, doctors, (you name it) in their tracks and shout “you don’t need to ask!” But anymore I don’t even wince at this widely held misconception. I simply lean back in my chair and explain that, not only is there no need to ask for referrals - but doing so is remarkably ineffective, and there is research to back it up.

Screen Shot 2014-04-11 at 3.25.06 PMWithout doubt this will turn the notion of referrals upside down for many people. But, the most effective referral strategies are proven to include tactics that do not include asking for referrals. A study by Advisor Impact, which focused on customer loyalty and referrals, surveyed over 1,000 clients and asked the reasons why they referred a service to others. An overwhelming 98% cited reasons that included helping their friends and family. Only 2% of the cases did clients say they referred because the business asked them for a name of a friend. This research proved that by not first identifying customers likely to refer, businesses were asking the wrong people to give a referral. Also, by asking for names, they were not effectively leveraging the reasons why people refer, and thus yielding scanty results.

Avoiding asking for referrals doesn’t mean you should let your referral strategy take care of itself. Doing nothing at all just as ineffective. Unfortunately, customer satisfaction alone doesn’t translate into referrals - it is merely a prerequisite. So, asking for referrals is a no-no, and sitting back relying on happy customers to speak up also doesn’t work. Here’s what you can do to increase referrals, and it doesn’t involve uncomfortably asking your clients for names.

Identify your most loyal & disgruntled clients

By finding your most loyal and engaged customers you are able to refine your communication - making your content more effective, personalized, and cost efficient. Also, by identifying your disgruntled clients will also not only increase customer retention, but converting frowns into smiles is a prime opportunity to capture referrals. For more info on how to gauge customer loyalty see the Net Promoter Score system.

Convey the importance of referrals

Let your clients know that you value referrals. Tell them that you would love to help their friends and family. This is accomplished by developing the referral mindset which I discuss in an earlier post. By doing so you will teach your clients that referring you is not only welcomed, but appreciated.

Coach your referral sources

Provide your most loyal customers with content that will encourage more referrals. In other words, enable your referral sources so that when they are motivated to refer you they know what to say, and to whom. Educate them on who your most ideal customers are. Inform them on the wide breadth of services you offer. Describe the triggers (life events) to look for that indicate a good person to refer. Make it easy to pass on your contact information. Tell stories that so that you are more easily introduced into conversation.

Touch your customers

I’m not asking that you invade their personal space here, just to make use of important touchpoints. Send loyalty cards, birthday cards, anniversary cards, National Pigs-In-A-Blanket Day cards (yes it’s real, and this month!). The goal is to keep you top-of-mind. The more personalized and special the better. I recommend sending handwritten cards. It is also a good idea to have an informative newsletter. Let your customers know that you are here for them and appreciate their loyalty! They will think more of you, and of you more often.

Now, I am glad we cleared up the subject of asking for referrals. Makes me feel warm and fuzzy knowing that perhaps less people will ask for names and start obtaining the referrals they deserve!

It's Tax Day and a New Iowa Law Will Govern Shareholder Access to Corporate Financial Records

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Matt McKinney is an attorney at BrownWinick Attorneys at Law.

Given that this post is being published on tax day, I thought it would be fitting to dicsuss new legislation signed into law just days ago that changes how shareholders in Iowa corporations receive and access corporate financial recrods. On March 26, Iowa Governor, Terry Branstad, signed a new bill (Senate File 2200) into law that modifies the manner in which Iowa corporations are required to provide financial information to their shareholders.

Previous Iowa law required most Iowa corporations to deliver certain financial information to their shareholders within 120 days of the corporation's fiscal year end.

Such information inlcluded providing shareholders with a balance sheet, an income statement, and a statement of changes in shareholders’ equity. The new Iowa law provides that many Iowa corporations, including those with less than 100 shareholders, are no longer required to deliver financial statements to shareholders if they meet certain minimum standards. Additionally and in an apparent effort to further modernize Iowa's corporate laws and save a few trees, Iowa's new law permits certain Iowa corporations to comply with the new financial notice requirements by making financial statements accessable to shareholders via the internet.  

To read the full text of Iowa's new law, including a redlined verion of Iowa's prior law on the topic click here. Further, if you are curious and interested in learning about all new legislation signed into law thus far during the 2014 legislative session, click here.

The April 15 day-trader deadline

20130409-1Joe Kristan is a CPA at Roth & Company P.C.

We usually think of April 15 as the deadline for settling up with the IRS for last year.  But for the nation’s doughty day traders — especially the unlucky ones — it’s an important deadline for this year. 

The tax law normally limits capital losses to capital gains, plus $3,000. That means many busy traders will have to hope for great advances in life extension technology to ever fully deduct their capital loss carryforwards.

There is an escape from the $3,000 treadmill for taxpayers who qualify as “traders.” The IRS explains what it means to be a “trader”:

 To be engaged in business as a trader in securities, you must meet all of the following conditions:

  • You must seek to profit from daily market movements in the prices of securities and not from dividends, interest, or capital appreciation.    
  • Your activity must be substantial, and    
  • You must carry on the activity with continuity and regularity.

The following facts and circumstances should be considered in determining if your activity is a securities trading business:

  • Typical holding periods for securities bought and sold.    
  • The frequency and dollar amount of your trades during the year.    
  • The extent to which you pursue the activity to produce income for a livelihood, and
  • The amount of time you devote to the activity.

If the nature of your trading activities does not qualify as a business, you are considered an investor, and not a trader.

These are pretty steep tests. You pretty much need to be trying to do it for a living; another day job is a bad fact, as in this case.  But if you pass these tests, you can make a “mark-to-market election” under Section 475(f) of the Internal Revenue Code to deduct trading losses as ordinary. If you make this election on time, it applies to 2014 taxes. It’s too late to make the election for 2013.

The Section 475(f) election comes at a price. If you make this election, gains are ordinary, too, and you have to mark your gains and losses on open positions to market at year-end — paying tax as if you had sold the positions on December 31. Yet if you are exclusively trading short-term, where you pay taxes on gains at ordinary rates anyway and have few open positions at any time, this may not be a great sacrifice.

This election cannot be extended, so traders need to make the election by next Monday.  You make the election for 2014 by attaching a statement to your 1040 or extension for 2013 with the following information:

1. That you are making an election under section 475(f) of the Internal Revenue Code;

2. The first tax year for which the election is effective; and

3. The trade or business for which you are making the election.

Happy trading!

Winning the networking race

Danny Beyer is a sales executive at Kabel Business Services. He is a serial networker and often speaks about networking tips to groups in the community.

In 2012, I ran and completed the Des Moines Marathon (don’t look up my time it’s kind of embarrassing.) My goal for that race wasn’t to come in first for my age division or even finish in the top 50; it was simply to finish. The race itself was brutal and exhausting, but I never would have been able to finish without the training. Those 12 weeks of running helped condition and tone my muscles and cardiovascular system to enable me to complete that run. I had to be willing to put in the time in order to achieve the end result.

There are a lot of similarities between completing a marathon and building a solid network. For starters, both take time. People continually share stories about how networking just doesn’t work for them. When I ask how long they’ve been networking I generally hear anything from a few weeks to a couple months. Most people want instant gratification and when they don’t see a return immediately they give up. The fact is a good network takes time to build. New connections need time and positive experiences to develop trust and refer business, just like human legs need time to adjust to long distance running.

Along with time, both activities require effort and follow through. Around the sixth week of marathon training I was ready to throw in the towel. The miles were piling up and my body was breaking down. At one point I simply wanted to give up. The same can be said for building a network. There are numerous times when I don’t feel like attending an event or meeting new people. It’s okay to take a day off now and again, as long as it stays at just a day or two. Relationships need to be fostered in order to grow and that can only be accomplished through effort and follow through by both parties.

Finally, both marathons and good networks start with that first step. No one ever completed a race from their couch just like no one built a great network sitting in their car or office. That first step doesn’t have to be a 10k or an event with 300+ people. It’s OK to start off small and go a lap around the block as long as you’re trying something new and giving yourself the opportunity to meet new people. I believe the following quote holds true whether you’re in to running or not –

“No matter how slow you go, you’re still lapping everyone on the couch.” – unknown

So, who are you going to lap today?

They have to know how much you care…

Kelly Sharp is the owner of Heart of Iowa Market Place

I'm sure you've heard the John  C. Maxwell quote, "People don't care how much you know until they know how much you care."

Of course, for specialty retailers, the first way to show how much you care about your customers -- and appreciate them -- is to offer a unique experience they can't get anywhere else, and to deliver exceptional service each and every time they do business with you.

One of the areas that has really helped my business, the Heart of Iowa Market Place, grow, is the customization we do in our business-to-business program. Creating gifts just for our customers or branding it with their logos, colors and specific products.

We also do things that are outside the box or the typical scope of our business. For instance, we had a client that was already purchasing gifts from us for a party and they asked us if we could help them with centerpieces for the event. They wanted centerpieces for a party - they were already purchasing gifts from us and asked if we could help them. We did and had a lot of fun doing something that was different. By delivering that extra service, our customer didn't have to spend time finding another source -- and we were able to show how much we value that customer.

There are other ways, however, that you can and should show your appreciation to customers throughout the year. It can even be as simple as sending a quick but heartfelt thank you note or making a call to express your gratitude.

Frankly, it doesn't hurt to make a note in your planner every few months to remind yourself to show at least a few of your customers how much you care.

Consistently showing your customers that you appreciate them is a key to building solid, lasting relationships and solid relationships are a key to building a solid, lasting business.

To save Younkers or not? That is the question!

Younkers burned

Rob Smith is a principal at Architects Smith Metzger

Many people have asked me since the Younkers fire if the building can be saved.  I have answered “Why sure. If 100 story buildings can be built, then Younkers can certainly be rebuilt.” I have no doubt technically it can be done even though looking down from the Hub Tower one can see steel beams twisted from the extreme temperatures. 

It would not be the first major change to the building. The east half started as a five story building and was renovated into a seven story building.


Younkers1 Younkers2 Younkers3

The elaborate cornice was removed when the shorter six story addition occurred and the building took on a more stream lined look. The flat arch windows were a poor gesture to the grand arched windows of the original building. The construction of the west half was obviously steel and concrete since it remains standing.

The sustainable thing to do is to rebuild the exterior and construct the inside with a steel and concrete structure with new exit stairs and mechanical shafts. The east exterior could even be a “reinterpretation” of the original building. That way Des Moines retains part of its history which seems the important thing to many.

The other viewpoint is to remove the building and start anew. Some have suggested green space. Other ideas are an iconic crystal court with grand stairs to the skywalk. Only time will tell which way the economic and political winds will blow.

Ah yes, it’s that sustainable dilemma knocking at the door again!

Send your thoughts to rsmith@smithmetzger.com

Is your website built to be a marketing tool?

Bigstock-Technology-Internet-Websites-R-7414239Drew McLellan is the Top Dog at McLellan Marketing Group

Back when websites first came into being, they were little more than a digital brochure with some photos and text that validated your business' existance.

Today -- if your website isn't one of your most useful marketing/sales workhorses -- you're missing the boat. Want to know if you're maximizing the potential of your website?  

I can't do justice to that question here, but I can give you some food for thought. Answer these five questions to get an idea if your site is really serving you well.

Do you have a call to action "above the fold" on your website? In other words, without any scrolling? The Google algorithym gives priority to content above the fold. Don’t waste this valuable space on just a large header or image on pages within your site or blog articles. 

Do you talk about yourself all over your site or use the space to make your visitor smarter? Today's buyers do 60-70% of their shopping online, before they ever shoot you an email, pick up the phone or visit your store. They're coming to your site to learn and see if you're a good fit. Make them smarter by teaching them something useful to show them what it would be like to work with you.

Your goal is to get permission to stay in touch. How are you doing that? Most web visitors are potential customers. But they may not be ready to buy today. So you need to stay in touch until they are. How are you capturing their email address and what value are you offering for it?

What do your analytics tell you? Pay attention to the pages your visitors are spending time on. That should help you decide what to highlight on your home page and core navigation. It's clearly what they want to know more about.

Who are your voices of reason? People are skeptical and hate being sold to so why not use some testimonials from happy clients to reassure them that you're the real deal. Ideally those testimonials would be specific and give details about the value you brought.

So how'd you do?  Is your website doing all it should for you and your business?

~ Drew McLellan, Top Dog of McLellan Marketing Group

 

Storytelling 101: The role of the sidekick

Claire Celsi is a public relations practitioner in West Des Moines, Iowa.

We've known it for centuries: Storytelling is an effective way to communicate information. A narrative with relatable characters engrosses us and makes us stick around to learn the ending. We become invested in the outcome of the story - and in the process - we're more likely to remember the moral of the story. Donkey-in-shrek-the-third_wallpaper

The sidekick - who typically has a lower station in life and has less power than the protagonist - often provides much needed logistical support, advice and even comedic relief. But don't let the sidekick's lowly status fool you. The storyteller can use the sidekick in meaningful ways to improve the storyline and highlight the main character (protagonist). Here are some ways the sidekick can help the story move along:

  1. Highlight the attributes of the main character: The main character in a story can have a cathartic change during the course of the story. Sometimes, using the sidekick as the "explainer" works as a way to highlight the internal struggles that the main character is facing. A perfect example of this is how Donkey humorously interpreted Shrek's ongoing struggle to regain control of his swamp.
  2. Provide the back story (history) of the main character: There are ways to show past events in visual stories and books - like the flashback - that can inform the reader or viewer of a past event that has shaped the main character. The sidekick can provide a convenient shortcut for the storyteller. Rafiki, the wise monkey in Lion King was often the one who reminded Simba the Lion of his lineage and responsibilities, influencing him to make the right decisons.
  3. Contribute complementary skill sets to those the main character lacks: In Sherlock Holmes, the brilliant intuition of Sherlock Holmes was complemented by Dr. Watson, who brought his brilliant analytical mind to the duo. Watson also becomes the person who makes sure Holmes' skills are recognized in the London press when a case is solved.

There is one very important thing to keep in mind when creating a sidekick character in a story. It may sound harsh, but the sidekick shouldn't have much of a life story of their own. The sidekick's role is to support the main character - not distract from the main storyline. If you develop the sidekick's life story too much, they lose that special "sidekick quality" and just become a co-equal actor in the story.

Sidekicks are readily seen in advertising, but also appear in PR and branding. (remember the lonely Maytag repairman and his apprentice?). Using a story with a sidekick in a PR pitch is smart, especially if trying to quickly build empathy for a cause. A good example is featuring the friend of a cancer survivor shaving their head to show support, while raising money for a good cause. Everyone can relate to the heartache that comes with being the friend of someone who is suffering.

Including a sidekick is a smart way to add dimension to a story and provide opportunities for extra insight into the main character. Elementary, my dear Watson.

Networking tips and tricks - Tip 4: Save business for the end

Danny Beyer is a sales executive at Kabel Business Services. He is a serial networker and often speaks about networking tips to groups in the community.

When I first started building my professional network I had one goal in mind – sell something.  Every interaction I had was dictated by the desire to sell payroll services to the person I was talking to directly or to someone they knew. The process was always the same: Tell them how great Kabel is, share all of the wonderful payroll knowledge I had obtained through training sessions and experience, then try and close a deal or get to a decision maker. The ABCs of selling – Always Be Closing, right? Wrong.

I quickly realized that people were not listening to me. They didn’t care about my great payroll service or the fact that we could save them money. Most of the time the person I was talking with wasn’t even the main decision maker anyway. Their eyes glossed over, they nodded their heads, and their mind wandered to their next meeting or what was for supper that evening. I was getting nowhere, fast. That’s when I changed my entire strategy and the sales door swung open.

The big change? I stopped talking about business. I started getting to know the person I was actually talking to. What they did for fun, where their kids went to school, how they spent their weekends, where they liked to eat, how many brothers or sisters they had – the stuff that truly matters to people. As soon as I put business at the end of the conversation, and made the meeting about the person I was actually talking to, business started to come my way.

So stop talking so much about business. Instead, get to know the person in front of you. The business will come. 

Spring cleaning for small retailers

Kelly Sharp is the owner of Heart of Iowa Market Place

When I thought about the topic of spring cleaning for small retailers, I had no idea that a marketing expert named Margaret Shrum had already tackled the topic. Nor did I know that Shrum goes by the moniker "The Lingerie Goddess."

But, it turns out that she and I share some of the same ideas on the topic and it's only right to give credit where credit is due.

For instance, we agree spring cleaning for retailers means moving out merchandise that's been sitting around awhile to make way for new product lines. Shrum notes that spring cleaning can "drive sales by creating a buzz about the surplus products that may have been hidden in back stock." That dovetails nicely with my preference for sampling products that haven't been moving. Sampling works.

I'm very big on knowing what inventory I have, what's selling and what's not. My business, the Heart of Iowa Market Place, is very a focused specialty retailer -- we sell distinctly Iowa gift items and products -- but we've also had a few products that, for whatever reason, just didn't move.

It's hard for some small retailers to admit it, but if a product you thought was going to be a big seller isn't moving, get rid of it. Sell it as fast as you can to make room for products that will sell faster and at better margins. We all make mistakes. Admit it wasn't the right product for your store and move on.

Shrum recommends making sure your employees are well-versed in your spring-cleaning products and "have their own dialogue" to connect with clients. She suggests generating more sales by having store staff "mention the weekly promotion to their clients via email and phone and as they greet all walk in traffic."

Here's how I'd phrase it: "If you want to move a product, you've got to tell customers about it."

We're in agreement, too, on the value of social media to spread the word about featured sale items.

"Finally, spring cleaning is something that can go on throughout the year and help to decrease the end of season markdowns. Keep track of how well each campaign does and rotate the successful ones in between the seasons," Shrum says.

Amen to that!

I've never met Margaret Shrum but I already like her.

Leadership lessons learned from the Cyclone basketball team

Kyle Oppenhuizen is a Business Record reporter and the 2014 president-elect of the Young Professionals Connection (YPC). 

First of all, let me go on the record in saying this:

I love this year’s Iowa State Cyclones basketball team. Win or lose in tonight’s Sweet 16 game against the University of Connecticut, this team holds a special place in my heart for so many reasons.

Hilton vs. OSU

Now you know my (strong) bias.

One of the special things about these Cyclones is the leadership that its coaches and players have shown. As a young professional, I try to soak in leadership lessons however I can, and there have been plenty of opportunities while watching this team.

Here’s are a few strong leadership moments from this season:

Keep your cool: In the last few minutes of Sunday’s NCAA Tournament game against North Carolina, Iowa State found itself trailing by five points during the last media timeout. The season was on the line, and the team had its back against the wall. What did coach Fred Hoiberg tell his team? Smile. It worked. The team went on a run and eventually won the game. Lesson learned: In trying circumstances, keep your cool and your team will follow suit.

Keep a good attitude: Of course, in that game against North Carolina, the Cyclones were playing without one of their best players, Georges Niang. Niang broke a bone in his foot during Iowa State’s first round game. It was a devastating turn of events for the Cyclones, but not only did Hoiberg find a way to adjust his game plan in less than two days, Niang actually called a team meeting on Saturday night before the game just to get everyone in the same room to talk as a team. The Cyclones could have easily folded, but instead they went out and earned one of the biggest wins in school history. Lesson learned: Adversity will hit, but with the right attitude you can overcome it.

Have confidence: In Iowa State’s final regular season game against Oklahoma State, Naz Long missed a three-pointer late in the game that would have given the Cyclones the lead. During a stoppage of play, Long told an Oklahoma State player “I’ll put any dollar that if I get this ball again, it’s going in.” He got it again, and put in a long three-pointer at the buzzer to tie the game, sending Hilton Coliseum into the kind of frenzy I’ve rarely witnessed. Lesson learned: A little confidence goes a long way.

Be a team player: Melvin Ejim just does things the right way. A true student-athlete, Ejim is smart, well-spoken, and full of class. And the Big 12’s Player of the Year. He’s not flashy, and he’s not always the most talented player on the court. But he makes plays within the flow of the offense and often acts as the glue that pulls the Cyclones together. Lesson learned: It’s not always the most charismatic, or the most God-gifted, or the most outspoken person who is the best leader. Hard work and the desire to most-effectively help your team will pay off in the long run.

Learn from hardship: This team is full of guys that have gotten a second chance in some way and made the most of it. Lesson learned: People make mistakes, and sometimes just run into tough circumstances. What counts is how you learn, grow and respond.

Take advantage of the moment: Maybe my favorite story so far: There’s been some speculation that playing at Madison Square Garden in New York City will be a bit intimidating to the Cyclones, especially since their opponent has already played there twice this season. But according to a photo on the Iowa State Athletics Facebook page, Hoiberg gathered his players at midcourt during Thursday’s practice and said “See those bright lights up there? This is what we played for all year.” Lesson learned: Enjoy the moment. Don’t fear it.

Have some fun: Oh, I almost forgot. After Iowa State’s win Sunday, Hoiberg broke out his dance moves in the postgame locker room celebration. Let’s put it this way: The Mayor dances about like me, which is not a ringing endorsement. But he owned it, and his players loved it. Lesson learned: It’s OK to cut loose every once in awhile.

I could go on and on, but I think you get the point. Hopefully I can learn a few more lessons, but whatever happens from here on out, I’ve enjoyed the ride.

Go Cyclones!

Improve content for better touch points

Carl Maerz is a co-founder of Rocket Referrals, a startup company focused on helping businesses gain referrals from customers.

People develop their perceptions of businesses based on the overall quality of touchpoints they encounter. As impressions can be both positive and negative - it is the responsibility of a business to consider how their intended message is perceived. After all, not all contact with prospects and clients is constructive. Continually finding ways to put yourself in front of your customers so that you are fresh in their mind is a good thing. But keep in mind this will only strengthen your relationship (and lead to referrals) if the message is well thought out and its delivery fitting.

Some businesses spend more energy on finding ways to reach their audience than the message they are conveying. The result is often communication that is ill-received and does more harm than good. To better illustrate this I have attached a letter a friend of mine received after purchasing a new vehicle. It is clear with the example what the salesman was trying to achieve and where he fell (considerably) short.

In an attempt to reach out to the new customer and potentially reel in some referral business the salesman chose to send a generic thank you message. The first mistake is that it does not reference anything personal but the name of the buyer pulled from a list. The actual content of the letter is confusing and is an obvious attempt at gaining more referrals.

The problem? This is obviously an email template printout sent to a list of people. Keep in mind this letter was received in the mail - not electronically. I don’t believe you can click on links printed on an 8.5 x 11 sheet of paper.

The salesman was thinking touchpoint and follow up. But the recipient was thinking mailmerge and cheap. You see this type of thing often. Newsletters with plastered with advertisements and flimsy content. Noisy pop ups on popular websites. The list goes on.

The alternative is to pay more attention to the content you are sending to your prospects and clients. At Rocket Referrals we believe in sending straightforward handwritten notes for example. People appreciate simplicity with communication. Keep it personal and classy, they will notice. Over time the positive touchpoints will serve as the foundation for your brand and sales will follow.

Dollars bills down the drain

Water drippingRob Smith is a principal at Architects Smith Metzger

February 10 was a historic day for me. My office got new toilets! I took the plunge after years of replacing flappers and other fixes to old toilets.

What got me to pay $1,700 for FOUR TOILETS? My soaring water bill, that’s what! Staff would show up Monday morning and find a toilet running. I got to the point where I would do a toilet check before leaving for the weekend.  

You would not think a running toilet would amount to much, but it sure did.

The water bill was usually around $100 for 3,000 gallons of water. Then last summer things started to change. It went to 6,000 gallons, then 16,000, then in January it hit 55,000 gallons. I was embarrassed and decided it was time to do something. 

Drake IIBut what toilet to buy? Went with a Toto Drake II. Not only does it use 1.28 gallons per flush which is less than the high efficient models at 1.6 gpf, but it really flushes. My biggest worry was spending the savings on plungers.

About time someone figured out a better mousetrap. The hole from the tank is bigger so lots of water dumps into the toilet. Two jets create the “double cyclone” and flush with power I have never seen before.

My water bill for the first month with new toilets is the lowest it has been in three years. I figure the savings will easily pay for the toilets in one year.

The guy who knows more about these toilets is David Lekowsky at American Plumbing Supply Co., but beware: He gets really excited talking about these great toilets!

Send your thoughts to rsmith@smithmetzger.com

How to manage nonprofit social media

Katie Stocking is the owner of Happy Medium LLC.

Managing social media for our clients is sometimes tough work, mostly a lot of fun, but everything has its challenges right? Managing social media for a nonprofit can be even tougher! I serve as a Bravo Greater Des Moines board member and was recently asked to discuss all things social media with some of the organizations we help fund. (On a side note, there are some really amazing and very cool cultural organizations around Des Moines – so get out and experience it, find them on Facebook!) Here are some tips we discussed which you could hopefully use to help out your favorite non-profit (if you don’t already work for one!)

Sometimes people just want to be in the loop: Maybe you don’t think the things you do everyday are very fancy, but really they kind of are! If you’re a food bank and you’re getting a load of food (hopefully something you do every day) take a picture, put it on your Facebook and give a shout out to whoever donated it (if they are ok with that). People will literally “like” it – I swear!

Commit: I totally get it, resources are especially limited in a non-profit environment. However, keeping in touch with the community of people who support your organization really should be made a top priority. Social media is a fantastic way to stay in touch for very low to no cost. Dedicate someone to your social media accounts to make sure there is accountability. Otherwise, you might look at your Facebook page and realize your last post was in July of 2013….oops!

Don’t beg: You need a lot of money to do all of the amazing things you’re doing to change the world. Everyone thinks that is awesome. However, the quickest way to lose engaged followers is to constantly be begging them for donations. If you’re doing a capital campaign, you should definitely announce it on your social media platforms (along with anywhere else you are announcing), but it would not be a good plan to discuss the capital campaign every single day from the announcement until the completion. Bring up when you hit big goals or had a large contribution you want to share. Other than that, find a place on your website people can contribute and it can live there every day!

Don’t try to be everywhere: If you’re already low on resources, don’t feel like you have to sign your organization up for every platform social media has to offer. Find one or two that make the most sense for you and work to make those the best they can be. You’ll have a much better chance of success and fresh content if you are running two platforms rather than fifteen.

There are a ton of other resources online for this, but a great start is getting a specific point person to manage this for you. Either someone internally or a volunteer would be perfect. The community deserves to know about all of the wonderful things you’re doing, and hopefully growing awareness will help grow your donations!

Tweet me your questions @klstocking.

--Katie

Networking tips and tricks - Tip 3: Leaving a conversation

Danny Beyer is a sales executive at Kabel Business Services. He is a serial networker and often speaks about networking tips to groups in the community.

I had the opportunity to lead a Networking 101 seminar for YPC a couple of weeks ago. During that event we covered a lot of topics. The most popular seemed to be the tips on how to exit a conversation. There was great feedback immediately following the event and I even received a couple emails mentioning how people have used these tips in the past week. Here’s a brief synopsis of what was covered. 

  • Use drinks to your advantage - it’s pretty simple. Drinks need refilled when they’re empty. When I find myself in the middle of a conversation that is either unproductive or needs to end, I simply excuse myself to refill my drink. The other party is free to join you in your refill or can continue networking.  
  • Introduce a useful connection – as the conversation progresses and reaches a natural ending, an easy transition is to introduce a useful connection or friend. I’m not recommending putting a friend in a situation you’re not enjoying, I’m recommending only introducing someone if it makes sense both parties meet. For example:  I would introduce a mortgage banker to a real estate agent I was talking to if the conversation was at a close but we couldn’t figure out how to end it. 
  • Do them the favor of ending the conversation – this is my personal favorite.  When a conversation is coming to a close I will use the following dialogue: “It was so nice to meet you this evening. I don’t want to monopolize all of your time tonight and I know you want to make other conversations. Let’s connect later. Thank you so much for your time and happy connecting!” This allows the other person to feel good about the meeting while ending the conversation on a high note.

The purpose of these tips is to make the end of the conversation as positive as possible. This way the relationship can continue and the opportunity for future conversations remains strong. Leave the other party feeling good and make sure to follow up when the conversation can truly be used to build a long term relationship.

What happens when a brand gets perspective

I love it when a brand develops enough confidence to stand for something bigger and more important than whatever it is they sell.

That sort of self-understanding and clear vision on who their audience is and how they can truly help them is rare. And it is branding at it's finest.

Check out this TV spot from Dove.  They've figured out that their brand is all about women and celebrating a woman's beauty -- true beauty.

 

Notice that you did not see or hear one Dove product's name or even its product category.  

When you can do this for your audience -- your brand has grown up and is really ready to own the marketplace.  

When you don't think your audience won't get it unless you club them over the head.  When you stop worrying about how many times you mention your product or show it within 30 seconds.  When you finally understand what it is you sell -- bravo, your brand is ready and so are you.

 

~ Drew McLellan, MMG's Top Dog

 

The future face of litigation in Iowa

Matt McKinney is an attorney at BrownWinick Attorneys at Law.

Consistent with the “Rule of Threes,” litigation, including business litigation, may soon undergo further changes in Iowa. The first change, which is largely rolled out across the state, enables litigants to access important case documents and submit legal filings with the court online, twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. Second, litigants in Iowa’s most populous county, Polk, will soon “enjoy” litigating their cases in a new courthouse. And third, if the Iowa Supreme Court’s recently proposed rules are adopted, civil litigants (citizens and businesses alike) could soon find themselves sailing through the litigation process more quickly and at a lower cost.

More than 3,000,000 Iowans, but only 204 Civil Jury Trials in 2012

Statistics clearly show that Iowan’s are utilizing Iowa’s court system less and less. In fact, in just 10 years, civil cases tried to an Iowa jury dropped a staggering 63%. Indeed, in 2012, only 204 civil cases were tried to a jury. Many attorneys and legal commentators attribute the dramatic decline to the rising costs - both time and money - in litigating a case to trial. A 10-year snapshot of Iowa jury trials plainly depicts the drastic downward trend.  

Screen Shot 2014-03-13 at 11.32.39 AM

To address this significant slide, the Iowa Supreme Court established a Civil Justice Reform Task Force. The Task Force was charged with diagnosing weaknesses and prescribing improvements to Iowa’s civil justice system. More than four years and hours of work later, the Iowa Supreme Court incorporated the Task Force’s findings into two (2) proposed rules. As summarized briefly below, both rules aim to reduce costs and delays while simultaneously providing Iowan’s greater access to courts. Our Supreme Court promulgated the draft rules in late 2013 and is currently seeking comments from the public (the comment period closes March 17, 2014).

 First Rule - Expedited Civil Actions

The first proposed rule, titled “Expedited Civil Actions,” contains provisions that allows litigants seeking limited damages (generally $75,000 or less) to try their case in an expedited fashion. Specifically, the rule states cases must be tried within one year or less. Comparatively, today’s litigants often wait two or more years to try their case. To meet this accelerated timeframe, the rule contemplates several changes. For instance, the rule requires parties to voluntarily and timely disclose information to opponents. Currently, parties are not required to voluntarily disclose most information to their opponents. Further, the rule places significant constraints on the discovery a party may conduct by limiting the number of depositions, requests for production, and interrogatories a party may use. Lastly, the rule incorporates a six-hour trial limit and requires cases be submitted to a judge or jury in two business days or less (a far cry from the weeks of trial time that currently drag on in many civil cases).

To read the full text of this First Rule, including additional requirements, click here: http://www.iowacourts.gov/wfdata/frame3495-1263/File3.pdf

Second Rule - Discovery Amendments

The second rule, titled “Proposed Discovery Amendments,” contains broader reforms that would apply to most lawsuits filed in Iowa, including the expedited actions referenced above. Similar to the first rule, the second focuses on streamlining litigation by providing litigants and the court with a new “toolkit.” One of the new tools requires parties to promptly participate in mandatory conferences within two (2) weeks of first responding to a lawsuit. The mandatory meeting will facilitate early discussions between parties, including perhaps settlement discussions, and spur the parties to drive the litigation forward.  Additionally, the rule requires parties to voluntarily and in a timely manner turn over key information to opponents - yet another acceleration tool that is not available today. Finally, the rule imposes heightened obligations upon parties to fairly respond to discovery and timely resolve discovery disputes without involving the court. This latter tool addresses what many attorneys believe is the greatest cause of delay and cost in litigation.

To read the full text of this Second Rule, including additional requirements, click here: http://www.iowacourts.gov/wfdata/frame3495-1263/File2.pdf

As referenced above, the Iowa Supreme Court is seeking public comment on these proposed rules. Comments must be submitted prior to March 17, 2014 at 4:30 p.m.  According to this Supreme Court Order (link), comments may be submitted by emailing them to rules.comments@iowacourts.gov. The email must state “Discovery Rules” or “Expedited Civil Action” in the subject line of the email and the comments must be sent as an attachment to the email in Microsoft Word format. Comments may also be delivered in person or mailed to the Clerk of the Supreme Court, Judicial Branch Building, 1111 East Court Avenue, Des Moines, Iowa, 50319.

For more information on these or other rules, please consider contacting a licensed attorney.

Inspire referrals with the rule of the few

Carl Maerz is a co-founder of Rocket Referrals, a startup company focused on helping businesses gain referrals from customers.

Extensive investigation into human psychology continues to shape the marketing strategies that we are faced with daily. Sure, technology and changing trends in social relationships change the ways in which the messages are spread - yet the same underlying elements in psychology have been used for decades. First published in 1984, Robert Cialdini outlined in his book Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion six principles of influence that are just as effective today. They have, however, been primarily used in traditional marketing tactics that have gradually lost their potency over time. Therefore, I continually think of ways Dr. Cialdini’s principles of influence could be incorporated into referral marketing - in attempt to spice things up a little bit. After all, recent studies show that today people trust recommendations from friends and family seven times more than traditional advertising.

GoldenticketScarcity

Today I am going to expand on Dr. Cialdini’s sixth principle of influence: scarcity. The idea behind this is that something is deemed more attractive when its availability is limited or when we stand to lose the opportunity to acquire it on favorable terms. In traditional marketing we see it daily with items offered in limited quantities or special offers that soon expire. Let’s not kid ourselves, it works. Not all the time, but the thought of losing an exclusive offer leads us to pull the emotional trigger more than you may realize.

As a business you can incorporate “the rule of the few” into your referral strategy with the help of your best clients. It starts by providing a unique offer that your current clients can give away to their friends and family. But here is the trick: it has to have exclusive value, and it must be for a limited time.

Exclusive value and limited time

For the offer to have value for your client to give away it must be exclusive to only one of their friends or family members. You want your client to feel like they are giving something special away - offering it out to all their buddies will belittle their social contribution. The offer must also have some actual value - such as a discount or extended service that they will not find elsewhere. If they can find the same coupon on your website it is not exclusive. Also, an offer for a free quote for a friend or family member is NOT a special offer. If you’re too frugal with the offer it will not be given away, let alone be redeemed by the referred individual. Finally, in honor of the principle of scarcity, the offer should have an expiration date. This will encourage the referred individual to take action.

 

Look back to look forward

Kelly Sharp is the owner of Heart of Iowa Market Place

Whether it's business or my favorite sport of running, we always hear about the benefits of consistency.

Quotes about consistency are everywhere. "Slow and steady wins the race," according to Aesop. Joe Paterno said, "You have to perform at a consistently higher level than others. That's the mark of a true professional." Jim Rohn says, "Success is neither magical nor mysterious. Success is the natural consequence of consistently applying the basic fundamentals." And there's even Doug Cooper's, “Variety may be the spice of life, but consistency pays the bills.”

Sometimes, though, consistency isn't such a virtue. Especially for specialty retailers.

Far too often, small business owners keep doing the same things over and over, never really stopping to see if there's a better way to do things.

After the busy holiday season I started to review which areas of operation at my business, the Heart of Iowa Market Place, took a great deal of my time and the staff's time. We asked: Is there a way to make things more efficient?

One area that was very labor intensive was our shipping operation. There's nothing better for a small retailer than to have a client with a large number of orders. Our challenge, of course, was that those large orders took a lot of time and could be susceptible to errors.

By talking to our shipping vendor, we were able to streamline the process and directly upload addresses. We saved time and money and increased accuracy in the process. We were also able to add value for clients by providing tracking numbers and shipping timelines. Without breaking away of our consistent routine and stopping to review our day-to-day operations, we never would've been able to implement these valuable strategies.

I've said it before and I'll say it again: Invite people you trust to come in and look at your operations. Encourage input from your employees, customers, vendors and other business owners you know. And, take time to think about doing things in different and better ways.

Doing that can save you a lot of time and money.

Which brings me to a final quote: "If you do what you've always done, you'll get what you've always gotten."

Stop doing what you've always done, and you may be pleasantly surprised at what you get.

 

Does anyone know my hosting information?

Katie Stocking is the owner of Happy Medium LLC.

Sometimes clients can be pretty predictable – most of them, actually. At Happy Medium, when we begin a website project for a client, one of the first pieces of information we ask for is their current hosting information (site, logins etc…) Pretty much every time, the answer from the client is “can I get back to you?” Aka… I have no idea and I don’t honestly even know where to begin to find out. It’s really simple to not know actually. To be honest, I couldn’t tell you much about the itsahappymedium.com site hosting information either. What I can tell you, though, is where our password sheet is, and I know the information is on there.

It is really important to keep your website login and your hosting information in a place where it is easily accessible for a lot of reasons. Hopefully you’re using that website login (or someone is) to log into your site often and keep it up to date. (yes, checking your site weekly is important!)

If you own a company, or are in any way responsible for your company's website, I would suggest filling out this form today and posting it somewhere visible to anyone who might need it. Otherwise, it will be the year 2017, you’ll be ready for a new website and you’ll be wondering where the heck that email from 2014 from Hostgator is with your hosting login information. When you realize you don’t have it, you’ll get to spend quite a bit of time on the phone with someone you don’t know trying to get to the bottom of this mess. Or, you could just print and fill this out, post it and get to go to a happy hour instead when the time comes.

Good luck! 

-- @interactivekate

Is it a square peg in a square hole?

Rob Smith is a principal at Architects Smith Metzger

“The old Plex did not know it was really a YMCA in disguise” is what my partner, Daryl Metzger, said about the downtown YMCA moving into the abandoned Polk County Convention Center. Name one building in the downtown core you could put tape on the floor and play a game of basketball! Repurposing the Plex as a YMCA is a great fit and very sustainable.

It got me thinking about other buildings in downtown and what would be a great fit. Sometimes in building renovation I have tried to put a square peg in a round hole which makes the effort less sustainable.

YounkersMany premiere buildings like the Equitable, Des Moines, and Younkers are being transformed into housing. Is that the best fit? While the first two have smaller windows and seemingly more adaptable to housing, it will be interesting to see how the Younkers building deals with those monumental windows.


Parking garageCould the City garage on 5th between Court and Walnut be transformed into the year round farmers market you hear about? You could just walk past vendors as you go up the ramp. Enclosed and partially heated it could be an easy change. Or maybe the Brown Garage on Grand with its big south facing windows?

Insurance exchange buildingThe Insurance Exchange Building (the one with the Travelers umbrella) has always been one of those class B buildings in the downtown core. How about a fitness center piggy backing on the YMCA across the street? Full of trainers, nutritionists, physical therapists, chiropractors, and natural food restaurants. 

Let me know what you think would be a great fit for buildings waiting to be born again.

   

Send your thoughts to rsmith@smithmetzer.com

In PR — make it personal

RosenDrew McLellan is the Top Dog at McLellan Marketing Group

I receive a lot of email pitches from people who want me to write about some product, service, app, or book on my blog.

I can’t even imagine what journalists and popular blogs like the Huffington Post must get.

Most of them get a form “thank you but no” email from me. They haven’t done their research, don’t know what I write about and many times — it’s a form letter that I know I received along with about 200 other marketing bloggers. Many times, they don’t even address me by name.

But every once in awhile, someone does it well. Emanuel Rosen, who I’ve never met in person but we’ve interacted for a few years in social media circles, has written a new book called Absolute Value. He sent me a message on Facebook about his book, asking if he could send me a copy.

When I received the book, I saw that Emanuel took the time to jot me a note on the inside, even referencing that he knew I lived in Iowa. Now I am not suggesting that I was the only person he sent a book to or even the only one to receive a personalized copy. I know better. But he did invest some time and effort — which makes me much more likely to notice or want to be helpful.

Usually when I get a book in the mail, I had no idea it was coming and there’s nothing but a promotional flier inside. So I don’t even know if the publisher or author sent it. I’m a fast reader but there’s no way I could read them all. So I have to choose.

Emanuel’s book went to the top of my pile because he bothered to make a personal connection and demonstrate that I wasn’t just the 150th person on some list. In fairness, it also went to the top of my pile because his earlier book, The Anatomy of Buzz, was a great read so I was confident that his new book would be as well.

Turns out, I was right. It was very thought-provoking and raised some serious questions about how the power of branding may be shifting, which is a topic that’s near and dear to my heart. I wrote a review (read it here) and encouraged my blog readers to check it out.

So let’s look at the recipe card for how Emanuel got the results he wanted, because they’re the same steps you should take if you’re trying to get the media’s attention.

  • He established the connection between us before he needed to ask for the review
  • He stayed in touch periodically to keep the connection open (we’d occasionally comment on each other’s FB posts etc)
  • When he wanted me to help him promote his book, he made a personal ask
  • He made it easy for me — he sent me a copy of his book
  • He let me know I wasn’t just a cog in the wheel by personalizing the signature in the book
  • When I sent him an email saying that I liked the book and was going to write about it, he was genuinely appreciative
  • No doubt eventually he will comment on the blog post or shoot me a thank you on FB (I just posted the review tonight, so I am guessing on this one, but I think it’s a pretty safe bet)
  • He will promote the blog post — giving me some exposure to his list of contacts


That, my friends, is how it should be done. It’s not complicated, but it is human to human, not PR machine to the masses. And being the guy on the receiving end — I can tell you, that’s a difference you can feel.

 

~ Drew McLellan, MMG's Top Dog

In PR, timing is everything

Claire Celsi is a public relations practitioner in West Des Moines, Iowa.

The news cycle is a tireless beast. There are countless media outlets looking for stories and content - 24 hours a day. I always recommend that clients tell their own stories by starting a blog and using their website as a self-publishing tool. But, there are times when it's Images-1appropriate and even necessary to reach out to the media and entice them to help out by telling a compelling story on your behalf.

Interaction with the media is like a graceful dance routine. Timing is everything! Getting pushy and over-eager is like stepping on your partner's toes. Sitting around the edge of the dance floor doesn't work either. No one will notice you unless you take a chance and get our there and dance.

When sharing news with the media, it's important to remember that the timing of your outreach is crucial to success. Be sure to follow these recommendations to have a better chance of getting noticed:

  1. Give enough advance notice: When publicizing an event or something that has a shelf life - like an application deadline - don't send it to the media one day ahead of time. Unless it's breaking news, editors need a little time to fit it in the right spot in their newspaper or newscast.
  2. Seasonality: If launching a new product tied to the weather or time of year, make sure your pitch is delivered to the media when it makes sense to talk about it. For example, if you have a new line of kids backpacks, start talking about it in July when parents are shopping for back-to-school purchases.
  3. Pay attention to the reporter's schedule. Sending a news release on Sunday or the day before a holiday almost gurantees that no one will be there to read it. Even the time of day can make a big difference.
  4. Be cognizant of breaking news or other big stories. Trying to pitch a reporter during the Iowa State Fair is an uphill climb. The reporters are either at the fair or on vacation, so don't expect to get a response.
  5. Stories are cyclical, but if that reporter just wrote a piece about the same subject two weeks ago, don't expect them to write about your news. Wait a few months or come back with a fresh angle.

Having a great story to tell is very important. But it won't matter if you botch the timing.

Networking tips and tricks - Tip 2: Find people’s stories

Danny Beyer is a sales executive at Kabel Business Services. He is a serial networker and often speaks about networking tips to groups in the community.

I had the opportunity to go through Dale Carnegie when I was working at Hy-Vee. Up until that class I had always found it difficult to engage with strangers and make small talk. In fact, I hated it. Discussing the weather or the latest news headline always seemed so shallow. The best lesson I received from that entire course was the fact that everyone has a story to tell. The easiest to way to connect with people – find that story.

This goes hand in hand with my last blog about asking others what they’re passionate about. The next step is to listen and actively engage in whatever turn the conversation takes. Once someone starts telling their story, they must become the most important person in the room, no matter who walks in the door. It is only by making them the center point that you will truly engage in the current conversation and ask the questions that will continue the story.

The thing that I’ve realized over the years is that everyone, yes everyone, has an interesting story to tell. It’s finding that story that makes someone a great conversationalist. We all have our favorite vacation memory, best meal, favorite drink, or intriguing hobby. We’re also really good at telling that story to whoever is willing to listen. By sharing this passion, we develop a deeper connection and better relationship that ultimately builds trust. 

The next time you’re at a networking event and really not in the mood to be there, try finding a person’s story. We all have a great story to tell, if only someone would listen.

-Danny Beyer

The importance of public input in public projects

Court AvenueClaire Celsi is a public relations professional and social media strategist in West Des Moines, Iowa.

According to all the business rankings guides, Des Moines is where it's at. We have the best incomes, we're the best place to raise a family, best place to be a young professional, and one of the best places to get more value for your real estate dollar.

Still, the city of Des Moines has a lot to learn about public input on public initiatives. The most recent example is the Court Ave. project proposed by Knapp Properties and HyVee. Let me state loud and clear: I have no idea which project is best for the space proposed. But that is the point! Input from downtown residents is what counts - and what is missing from the debate.

Here is a quick checklist for organizations needing to gather public input for a project in which public funds will be spent. The main keys to success are TIME and TRANSPARENCY.

  1. Clearly communicate the timeline and the process for public input. The Court Ave. project does not meet this simple test, because the public comment period was not announced far enough ahead of time and the project is on a "fast track" to completion.
  2. Set public meetings in locations where downtown residents are likely to attend. Vary the times and days of the week the meetings are held to allow more residents to attend.
  3. Publicize the meetings ahead of time in the newspaper, websites, and using social media.
  4. Educate community leaders and use them to get the word out about public input opportunities. For example, member of the Downtown Chamber should be briefed by city leaders and prepared to answer questions from their associates.
  5. Gather input and comments into an easy-to-read document and disperse this information widely.

After public input is gathered and published, take the recommendations seriously. If downtown residents are the key to the success of the grocery store, then they are the people we should listen to. Public officials sometimes rush through this process - with disasterous results. Let's slow down this train and listen to public input.

-Claire Celsi

Make it easy for your clients to refer you

MakeiteasyCarl Maerz is a co-founder of Rocket Referrals, a startup company focused on helping businesses gain referrals from customers.

The best type of referral is that which finds its way to your doorstep after being screened and prepped by an existing customer. Isn’t it every businesses’ dream to have their phones constantly ringing with prospects verbally nodding yes? If the phone isn’t ringing off the hook the problem may not be that you’re not getting referred - but that the referrals have become lost in transmission. Therefore, as a business, the responsibility ultimately rests on you to make it as easy as possible for your referred customers to contact you.

Referrals emerge from conversation between friends and family. They happen at birthday parties, in parks, coffee shops, ... well, anywhere people talk (perhaps not so much in libraries). After a recommendation for a product or service is made there is a period of time before the prospect will contact the business. After all, people decide to perform business on their own time. This is where many referrals die. There are a couple easy things that you can do to prevent missed opportunities.

Collect email addresses

Regardless of what you sell, you should treat your customers as if they are yours for the long haul. Like any continued service, communication is paramount. But for some reason even today most businesses are not proactive in collecting email addresses. It is the best way to reach your customers for ongoing communication, conduct brief surveys, collect testimonials, and so on. It will give you a direct link to your customers and allow you to perform this next step that simplifies the referral process.

Send an informative introductory email

Immediately after you make a sale or acquire a new customer, send them an introductory email. The content should have the following elements:

  • Briefly thank them for their business and let them know you appreciate them

  • List some of the main services and products you offer

  • Provide a link to your website with additional information regarding your business

  • Include a phone number and email address and encourage them to call

  • Encourage them to forward the email to others that are interested in learning more

  • Recommend that they don’t delete the email so they can reference it later

  • Make sure that the email is from you - so that if replied to you will be able to respond

Having this content residing in customer’s inbox will make it easy for your customers to pick up their smartphone and forward to those they refer to you. It provides all the basics on your products and services, links for those that like to dig deeper, and contact information to find you. What’s more, after it is forwarded it will be conveniently sitting in the prospect’s inbox as a reminder the next day when they are in purchasing mode. So, quit playing broken telephone with your prospects and start capturing some more referral business!

The best employee review is a two-way street

Kelly Sharp is the owner of Heart of Iowa Market Place

When it comes to reviewing employees, specialty retailers should start the process with more than an evaluation form specific to their business. Their employee should bring the same evaluation form, which they've already filled out, to the meeting.

Following that approach, gives you a better understanding of how the employees feels they are doing and allows for more interaction during the review. It creates a great opportunity not only to talk about areas of improvement and whether they understand and support the company's vision, but where they'd like to grow in their own position.

The way I see it, little if anything in a review should come as a surprise to employees. If you're communicating effectively with your team throughout the year, your reviews should match up pretty closely.

At the Heart of Iowa Market Place, my employees' performance is appraised on eight categories:

  • Productivity/Independence/Reliability -- The extent to which the employee produces a significant volume of work efficiently in a specific period of time, the ability to work independent with little or no direction, follow up to complete tasks and job assignments.
  • Job Knowledge -- The extent to which the employee possesses and demonstrates an understanding of work instructions, processes, equipment and materials required to perform the job and possesses the practical and technical knowledge required of the job.
  • Interpersonal Relationships/Cooperation/Commitment -- The extent to which the employee is willing and demonstrates the ability to cooperate, work and communicate with co-workers, supervisors, subordinates and outside contacts; accepts and responds to change in a positive manner; accepts job assignments and additional duties willingly; and takes responsibility for their own performance and job assignments.
  • Attendance -- The extent to which the employee is punctual, observes prescribed work break/meal periods and has an acceptable overall attendance record.
  • Initiative/Creativity -- The extent to which an employee seeks out new assignments; proposes improved work methods; suggest ideas to eliminate waste; and finds new and better ways of doing things.
  • Adherence to Policy -- The extent to which the employee follows company policies, procedures and work conduct rules; complies with and follows all safety rules and regulations; and wears required safety equipment.
  • Leadership -- The extent to which the employee demonstrates proper judgment and decision-making skills when directing others and directs work flow in assigned areas effectively to meet production and/or area goals.
  • Overall Performance

Each category is graded either "outstanding," "exceeds expectations," "meets expectations" or "improvement needed," and includes specific examples and comments.

Whether you're thinking of revising your employee review process or just getting around to creating one, I'd encourage you to try this approach.

NeighborGoods

Rob Smith is a principal at Architects Smith Metzger

Now you can share or borrow stuff with NeighborGoods to get it done. So I had to try it.

I signed in with a user name and set up a password. At first I saw what I could borrow in Brooklyn (could have been operator error). I immediately edited my account and pinpointed where I live so I could be routed to people near me looking for something to borrow or that had something to share.

Neighborgoods log in screenThe site has you set up an inventory list of the stuff you would share. The great thing is you can establish the group you want to share with. I could set up a group of just close friends, actual neighbors, or all my Facebook friends. It was very easy to do.

I listed a hand truck and 8 foot ladder in my inventory. Now people can ask to borrow my ladder on-line.  Many categories allow easy searches to find what you need. I put the ladder in the tool category.

The video on the website made me smile. Neighbors are shown walking down the sidewalk with a blender and passing it on to someone at a coffee shop; or better yet, getting a cooler from someone at a park bench.

What will people think of next to use technology and make the planet more sustainable?

Send your thoughts to rsmith@smithmetzer.com

Keep Des Moines cool

Kyle Oppenhuizen is a Business Record reporter and the 2014 president-elect of the Young Professionals Connection (YPC). 

I am somewhat ashamed to say that I’ve never been to Austin, Texas but I’ve always heard good things.

Austin seems to be one of those small cities that everybody knows about for all the right reasons. In my reporting at the Business Record, I have heard people compare Des Moines to Austin and Madison, Wis. - as in, “we can be as cool as those cities.” Those are cities I have started to refer to often when I gush about how great Des Moines is becoming. We’re not a big city. We don’t have oceans or mountains. But we’ve got a lot going for us.

So when the Greater Des Moines Partnership’s Mary Bontrager told the story of an Austin-native calling Des Moines “Austin-cool” at a recent Business Record Power Breakfast, I nearly did a fist-pump.

You see, even though I’ve never been to Austin, or Madison, I have a very positive connotation in my head for what those two cities represent. Those cities are cool, and everyone knows it. Why else would there be any reason that I know Austin’s slogan, “Keep Austin Weird?”

Well, in my opinion, Des Moines is cool. Everyone who lives here knows it. And those who don’t are starting to take notice. Did anyone see the “Today” show feature?

As Iowans, we’re a pretty humble group. We know we’ve got a good thing going here, but we haven’t always been the best at touting ourselves.

It’s time to change that.

We’ll have our opportunities. Bontrager made multiple mentions of the Partnership’s CarpeDM site, a forum for people to share what they love about Des Moines. That’s a pretty simple way to highlight our successes.

For perhaps a more complex way, think about this: The Iowa Caucuses will make a visit in early 2016, which means candidates and the national media will soon be making visits to our state. From what I’ve noticed, Iowa doesn’t always get the most, well, flattering national press (insert generic ‘B’-roll of cornfield). But guess what: Here in Iowa, we feed the world, and that’s really cool. Not only that, we have a world class city that has almost all of the amenities a person could want, with a fraction of the traffic, and maybe the nicest people you’ll find anywhere.

I’m not saying to bang our chests or let our heads get too inflated. What I’m saying is this: We’ve earned the right to brag. We don’t need to be “weird” like Austin, but Des Moines is cool. Tell your friends.

--

I welcome feedback and ideas. Email me, follow me on Twitter, or comment on this blog post.

Email: kyleoppenhuizen@bpcdm.com
Twitter: @KyleOppenhuizen

Content marketing at a glance

Drew McLellan is the Top Dog at McLellan Marketing Group

You can't read a marketing article or book without bumping into the phrase "content marketing." The truth is -- content marketing isn't new.  See if any of these marketing tactics look familiar:

  • Open a community forum
  • Generate a cause marketing effort
  • Encourage customer reviews
  • Give a keynote speech
  • Write a blog
  • Write an ebook
  • Publish some articles
  • Create an infographic
  • Generate media releases
  • Create guides or how to documents
  • Produce trend reports
  • Record a podcast
  • Send out an enewsletter
  • Host an event
  • Create some interactive demos
  • Put on a webinar
  • Create useful calculators or checklists
  • Share some case studies

See -- you've already been creating content, you just called it something different. But have you been doing it well?

Check out this infographic that the CMO Council created to make sure your efforts are well received.  (click on it to see a larger size.)

Content-impacts-b2b-graphic

 

The truth is -- the biggest mistake you can make when it comes to content marketing is not do it at all. With the tips on this infographic -- you can dodge the big mistakes and deliver content that delivers new customers!

~ Drew McLellan, MMG's Top Dog

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