Friday, December 04, 2009

Making Web Site that Fit Your Phone

Companies are increasingly turning to Web communities to build their brand, provide customer service, and unveil new products. Online forums, which often allow costumers to address a problem before they have to call a service line, have saved millions of dollars in deflected calls. A unique challenge is arising for these companies, however, as more and more people choose to access the Web on their mobile phones. Web sites created for computers usually don't load as well onto phones, so many companies, including Hewlett-Packard, are discussing ways to build new Web sites specifically for wireless users. "We definitely have work to do to get our Web site mobile friendly, [and] we know our customers want it," says Lois Townsend, H-P's directory of community.

There's an upside to creating content for cellphones, however: it provides a greater opportunity to be interactive with customers. Lithium Technologies Inc., plans to create a platform this year through which companies can draw feeds from services like Facebook and Twitter onto their own sites. It will work on any phone. Phillip Soffer, Lithium's vice president of product marketing, says that "because the community is active and based on addictive behavior, it's the kind of thing that works well on mobile phones." Other companies are also seeking to bring large corporate sites to the mobile Web. Jive Software Inc., which currently powers communities for companies like Nike, is working with a program designed specifically for the iPhone. In focusing on smart-phone users, Jive is hoping to tap customers with a desire for deeper functionality.

Build a stronger business by building and cultivating an online community that's as convenient as a cell phone.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Welcome Your New Hires

Although simply finding someone great to fill an open position in your company can seem like the most critical part of hiring, it's equally important to smooth the transition and make sure new hires are able to hit the ground running. Karen Lawson, author of "New Employee Orientation Training" and president of Lawson Consulting Group Inc. in Landsdale, PA, offers these tips for managers:

  • Inform your staff of the new hire, even with a simple email. Informal meetings or memos can help ease tension and let everyone know how the new employee's responsibilities will dovetail with their own.
  • Make sure the new hire has a space to call their own from day one, so they feel welcome and settled. Don't leave the arrangements until the last minute, since they can take longer than you anticipate.
  • Take the time to greet new employees in person and show them the ropes. The first impression is critical. "This is not something that can be delegated," says Ms. Lawson. "It really sets the tone." It's also a good idea to keep the office's social network in mind. Assigning a "buddy" on the hire's level and pointing out who runs the office sports team can make the new hire feel more connected right away.
  • Help the new hire feel familiar with your office culture by taking the time to mention the unwritten rules, like the need to clean out the coffee pot or where bosses tend to congregate.
  • Sit down with your new employee to set clear short- and long-term plans. Management's expectations should be clear from the beginning, as should review processes. Ms. Lawson recommends weekly meetings for the first month or so: "Bringing an employee on board is a process that needs to take place over weeks and months. It's not just a one-time event."

Build a better business by preparing for new hires so they can get oriented quickly.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Investing in Your People

As reported by Barry Meier in The New York Times, a set of internal marketing documents disclosed in the Fall of 2009 shows that the company Medtronic, a producer of medical devices, definitely had its own best interests in mind. The document showed revenue projections calculating how much the company could get back by paying for training fellowships for doctors. The answer? Up to 200%.

Although the direct-fund training program has since come under ethical scrutiny, it shows that, in terms of your bottom line, you can build a stronger business by investing in your people.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Our Environment's Unacknowledged Influence

We all let social cues from the people we eat with inform our own portion size. A recent study at the University of British Columbia, however, shows that even the body type of the other person eating has an effect on our choices. Study participants were asked to serve themselves some M&Ms before settling down to watch a video. A researcher posing as another participant took M&Ms first; though the amount taken by this confederate was always the same, the confederate was sometimes a size zero and sometimes a size sixteen. The results:

  • 2.05 ounces of candy were taken by subjects when the nearby eater was obese.
  • 2.62 ounces of candy were taken by subjects when the nearby eater was thin.

Build a stronger business by being aware of your environment.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Everybody's a Movie Critic

Here are some great movie review websites that allow user input:

Friday, April 17, 2009

The New Style of Business Training

Before the recession, companies often sent their star managers to executive training programs held at business schools around the country. With budgets in the hundreds of millions, top professors, and a generous schedule, these programs usually focused on general leadership development, rather than company-specific problems.

Now, however, companies are searching for cheaper alternatives with a more immediate impact. "Companies are asking for external experts to come in and do something very specific," says Josh Brand, a former senior director of executive education at Babson College and co-founder of Freemont Learning, Inc., an executive development firm. In a time of economic uncertainty, the focus has shifted to moving the company - not just the individual - forward.

As a result, executive-education consultancies are scrambling to create customized programs that provide managers with the skills to weather the downturn and come out on top. "When you have trained leaders in bad economic times, it makes a world of difference," says Tim Bray, vice president and chief learning officer for Quintiles Transnational Corporation. And it's the consulting firms, rather than business schools, that are able to offer the flexibility and support companies are looking for. In addition, web-based courses, traditionally offered to middle management, are now being used for top-level executives as well. The Center for Creative Leadership in Greensboro, NC, has even started offering ready-to-use courses that, while less specific than an on-site visit, cost a fraction of the price.

This trend is a good one; you can build a better business by offering your management team focused training and education to achieve specific outcomes.