Make Your Meetings Work for You

October 22, 2015
If you have been wondering how to make your meetings more effective and successful, look no further. Lane End Conference Center recently came out with this amazing infographic, which compiles some interesting facts and figures about office meetings along with some great tips on how to make them work for you. For example, did you know that you could encourage attendee participation in your meetings and keep things lively by including activities and vibrant visuals? Or that conferences held in an outside location, built specifically for that purpose, can have a greater impact on the participants?
Check out the infographic below.
Meetings Infographic

Click for larger version

For additional tips and tricks to avoid wasteful meetings and ensure you make the most out of meeting time, check out a book I wrote on “Running Effective Marketing Meetings“.


Proven Tactics to Increase Blog Traffic

January 26, 2012

Thanks to Christopher S. Penn and his newsletter I read this amazing post by SEOmoz on “21 Tactics to Increase Blog Traffic“. It not only validates some of my personal beliefs but also gave me additional tactics to apply to my own blog as well as companies I work with.

The tactics discussed in the article are:

  1. Target Your Content to an Audience Likely to Share
  2. Participate in the Communities Where Your Audience Already Gathers
  3. Make Your Blog’s Content SEO-Friendly
  4. Use Twitter, Facebook and Google+ to Share Your Posts & Find New Connections
  5. Install Analytics and Pay Attention to the Results
  6. Add Graphics, Photos and Illustrations (with link-back licensing)
  7. Conduct Keyword Research While Writing Your Posts
  8. Frequently Reference Your Own Posts and Those of Others
  9. Participate in Social Sharing Communities Like Reddit + StumbleUpon
  10. Guest Blog (and Accept the Guest Posts of Others)
  11. Incorporate Great Design Into Your Site
  12. Interact on Other Blogs’ Comments
  13. Participate in Q+A Sites
  14. Enable Subscriptions via Feed + Email (and track them!)
  15. Attend and Host Events
  16. Use Your Email Connections (and Signature) to Promote Your Blog
  17. Survey Your Readers
  18. Add Value to a Popular Conversation
  19. Aggregate the Best of Your Niche
  20. Connect Your Web Profiles and Content to Your Blog
  21. Uncover the Links of Your Fellow Bloggers (and Nab ’em!)
  22. (Bonus) Be Consistent and Don’t Give Up

While I was indeed doing most of what they suggest, there were a couple of good tactics I had either neglected completely or kept postponing (yeah, I procrastinate sometimes… ask my wife!).

Your Checklist for Increasing Blog Traffic

Take the list above, make it into a checklist format, print it and place it somewhere next to you (like, on the wall right in front of you!). Then, make a point of every week to review it and plan your tactic for the coming week. It’s a lot to do but if you break it down into weekly tactics, dedicating 1 hour or so for a handful of them, you will see great improvement in your blog traffic.

You know what? Let me help you out. Here’s the list in a PDF format ready for you to print and use. It includes a few extra blank lines for you to add your own tactics based on your company’s goals and specific industry opportunities.

Oh, and don’t be like me. Download it now and start doing it today! 🙂


Your Content Marketing Mandate: Just Do It!

January 24, 2012

I’ve heard a few times now from companies that want to get their content marketing engine cranking but haven’t put anything out there yet because of one of the following reasons:

  1. We don’t have a marketing person or department
  2. We don’t have enough time to create content
  3. Our website sucks, we want to fix it first
  4. We are still researching topics for our blog posts
  5. We don’t know where to start

Any other typical reasons I missed? You have probably heard (or thought yourself) a few more, I bet.

A Simple Content Marketing Strategy

Yes, creating content is difficult. Creating blog posts, writing articles, shooting videos take time and effort. BUT (a big but for sure) you’ve gotta start somewhere!

So here’s my suggestion for those still on the fence or trying to climb what seems like a very tall content-marketing-fence: Just Do It! (sorry Nike!, don’t sue me for copyright infringement please)

That’s right, just type something and let it fly. Don’t waste time reviewing 5 times before hitting “publish”. Don’t wait three days for your team to give their feedback. Stop having second thoughts of whether anyone will like it.

You know why? Because if you are not producing any content now, anything (yes, anything!) you produce will be better than what you have today.

Yes, it’s that simple

Sure, you don’t want to publish crappy stuff. But you know what? If you add too much stress, too much “process” and too much thinking behind content creation you will set yourself for failure. Small companies or small marketing departments can’t afford to spend too much time on content marketing, I know that for a fact. There are lead generation programs, the new email marketing system being implemented, and something the sales department asked you to do (don’t they always?) a few times already.

So make your life easy and just start writing (or recording, if you will) and publishing. With time, you will be able to put more processes in place, get a good review and approval workflow, whatever you think is necessary to create quality content at your company. But, start simple. Unless you start creating something NOW you will regret not having done it sooner.


Email Productivity Tips for Marketers

July 26, 2011

A recent article on LifeHacker talks about tips to get faster email responses. They talk about:

  1. Write shorter emails
  2. Write fewer emails
  3. Ask for a response
  4. Start with a deadline
  5. Only email one person at a time

Those are good, but I’d like to expand a bit on them and also put it in the perspective of a marketing manager.

Five Email Productivity Tips for Marketing Managers

Email Subject Line1. Make subject lines work for you: Use subject lines with deadlines and action verb in order to help people spot your email easily in their inbox and to get them to act. Examples of subject lines might be:

“Webinar Email – Review Copy by Wed 10am”

“eBook Copy Approved with Changes – Finalize by Thursday”

“For review and approval – deadline is Wed 9am”

I like using either a campaign name or something that will help immediately identify the task at hand. If you start showing good use of this tactic and encourage your team to do the same, spotting the useful emails from the junk or from the typical corporate communication will be much easier.

Bonus tip: Transform your email into an action item! If using MS Outlook, just click and drag the email to the Tasks panel to create a task. Or you can also flag the email for later follow up. Other email clients have similar options.

2. Write with a purpose: Short, clear, and action oriented (what do you want to happen?) emails will get faster and better responses. So cut to the chase and get down to what you want as a result of your email. Examples are:

“Here’s the revised copy for the email invitation to the July 16 webinar. Please a) edit copy; b) send to Mark for design by Wed, c) email me the final email for approval”

or

“Jen, I have reviewed the presentation for the webinar and here’s what you need to do: a) add the company logo to the master slide (upper left corner); b) replace slides 3 and 5 with the new ones I mention in my notes; c) review once more for grammar and style; d) send to John for formatting by Tues noon.”

Replace paragraphs with bullet points and you’ll get people to actually do what you asked them to do. Keep each email related to a separate subject, this way is easier for the recipient to focus on one thing at a time and for you to follow up later.

Bonus tip: Need to follow up on an email you just sent a few days later? In MS Outlook you can “flag” the message before sending so it reminds you of the message later (you can also flag the message for the recipient, so if they have Outlook as well, they will be reminded of the message until they clear the flag).

Making deadlines clear3.  Make the deadline clear: If you don’t say when you need it by, usually you won’t get it done. Make sure to add a deadline and action required (eg. Make changes and send back to me by EOD friday) in the beginning of the email. This way the first thing the person sees is the deadline and he or she can plan accordingly. For example, you can start the email like this:

“Jen, I need this by EOD Thursday! See below.”

or

“Edited and approved copy for eBook below. Please finalize by 07/15/11 at 12:00pm ET!”

Avoid using “urgent” and “ASAP” type words. They don’t mean anything. Is ASAP something due today or by tomorrow morning? Also avoid saying “send it back to me tomorrow” without giving some kind of time reference. Otherwise it becomes a debate of what “morning” means (8am or 11am?).

Assigning email to multiple people4. Assign an owner: Send the email to only one person, or make sure each person has an action. You may be tempted to email the whole team after a meeting outlining what was decided. Or, there’s a task involving two people (editing the new banner artwork and sending to the printer, for example) and you want them both to see the same message. OK, but make sure each person listed on the “to” or “cc” lines have some kind of action item associated to their names. It could, for example, be like this:

“Team, I need you all to read and add the following to your to-do lists based on our earlier meeting today:

Jen: Review web analytics and report back to me by Friday 11am;

Bob: Edit the latest spec sheet design as discussed, send reviewed design to Mary by Thursday 9am.. ”

Multiple attachments can cause confusion5. If you attach, then make it clear: At my previous company we had a policy of never attaching a file to an email if the email was being sent internally. This was to avoid two problems, the always precious server space being eaten by files attachments in our Exchange server and to keep the latest files always in the network where it would be easier to find. Whether you have a policy like that or not, if you need to add files to your email then list and describe attachments (and name them appropriately). It could be something like this:

“… and I’m attaching the following files:

7-16-Webinar-Preso.PPT: Final version of the webinar presentation

Alpha-Prod-Whitepaper-CopyV2.doc: Whitepaper draft, please review this copy ”

Especially useful if you have many attachments, it helps ensure all attachments are accounted for when you send out the email and helps the receiver sort through all the files coming towards him/her.

Assigning Tasks Marketing Technology for Workflow and Productivity

Unless you have a system like what my company offers [shameless plug!] for Marketing Resource Management or Marketing Project Management, odds are you rely on email to keep your team in check. You use email to exchange files, to communicate, and get things done. That’s ok, and by using some productivity tips I hope you can at least make good use of the tools at your disposal and spend less time chasing down people and deadlines, and more time actually doing marketing.

Additional Outlook Productivity Tips

Additional outlook tipsIf you’re using MS Outlook, then check out additional productivity tips I have for Outlook users in this other blog post.


Getting the most out of conferences and events

April 29, 2011

Photo by BillPellowe at Flickr

If you feel like you keep going to conferences and events but don’t have time to apply what you learned when you get back to the office, you’re not alone. Once you’re back and the emails pile up, the phone rings, and people walk into your office there’s not much you can do. All the good intentions you had of applying what you learned when you were out end up being nothing but notes in a drawer.

Making the Conference Count

If you really want to make the most out of your trade show, conference, or other learning event you attended, you have to be prepared to act when you get back to the office. And the best way is to use a systematic approach to attending conferences. I know, it sounds like work but unless you are prepared to approach it as a project, you won’t be able to really take adavantage of the learning experience after the event is over.

How to Take Notes for Learning

I suggest you take a piece of paper (or use MS Word, Evernote, our iPad, it doesn’t matter) and create a template to use at every single session you plan on attending. It doesn’t need to be a full 8.5 x 11 letter size paper, some small 3×5 index cards can do the trick. The goal is to make sure you take the same style of notes at all sessions. Here’s what your template needs to have:

CONFERENCE NAME: [name of the conference]

Session: [title of the session]

Date: [date of the session]
Presenter(s): [name of the presenter, and contact info]

Key Insights: [bullet points on things you’d like to learn more about, research online, or that were just interesting or insightful]

Action Items: [ what will you or your team do once you get back]

The most important part of note taking is the “action items” block. The easiest is to just put down bullet points of what you or your team will do once you get back. Could be as simple as “Review our home page meta tags to improve SEO” or a bit more complex like “Create a project to select a CMS system for our website”. The objective is to write short, very direct items that you will later translate into more details to your team.

As you take notes of each session, an interesting thing will happen. You will suddenly realize not all sessions are really good. If you walk out of a session with a blank page (i.e. no insights or action items) then you know it was just a waste of time. If most sessions end up with blank pages, then that’s a conference you shouldn’t attend next time around.

Acting On Your Learning

Before you leave to the conference there’s two things you need to do. One, is schedule a 30 minutes meeting with your team for the very first day when you arrive back in the office. The second is schedule a one hour slot for yourself either on the very first day or the very next day when you get back.

When you return, you already have a meeting scheduled with your team. Is 30 minutes long, so all those emails and fires can wait 30 mins for you to brief the team. That’s right, you’ll use that time to talk to them about the conference, the good, the bad, etc. And you will also show them your notes and give them an overview of what you’ve learned and what’s coming (action items) to each of them. This serves two purposes. First, with the conference still fresh in your mind you can accurately tell your staff what happened at the show and prepare them for what’s going to come their way, and second it helps you solidify what you learned during the show.

When you get to the second meeting you scheduled prior to leaving the office for that conference, you will then stop whatever you are doing and get all your notes out. Since all of them have an “action items” section at the bottom you can quickly go through your list and start identifying what needs to get done, prioritizing the tasks, and assigning them to appropriate team members (or to yourself).

I think you should also create one ‘master list’ of action items (add the conference name and date to the top) and save it somewhere you can find. If you need to refer back to the list or after 1 year don’t remember how good the conference was, just look at the list.

Sharing the Knowledge

If this process works for you, it is a good idea to show your team what you’ve done. Next time anyone from your group attends a conference or event that’s worth sharing with the team, it will be easier and more productive. As you go through your notes and action-items you are also deciding if this is an event you should go again next time around.

Summary of Conference Note Taking

1. Schedule a 30 mins meeting w/ your team to share what you learned from the show, and to talk about the action items

2. Schedule a 1 hour slot of ‘quiet time’ for you to go through your notes and assign tasks to your team

3. At the conference, write down at each session action items for you or your team to do based on the info provided

4. Back in the office, hold the meetings you have scheduled and share what you’ve learned, assign action items

5. Save the ‘master list’ for reference


Best Companies Don’t Need Marketing

August 5, 2010

Interesting set of articles on Inc’s Magazine June Edition “Inside America’s Best Run Companies”, showing how the best small business companies run and the perks and benefits they have to attract and retain top talent. Take for example the following stats mentioned in the magazine:

  • 75% of companies offer educational assistance to its employees
  • 83% of companies practice open-book management
  • 28% of companies pay 100% of employees costs for health insurance
  • 95% of companies offer flexible work arrangements

On top of that, they highlight some of the nicest perks some companies offer, like:

  • On-site pickup and return of clothes that need laundering (McGraw Wentworth)
  • Subsidized meals delivered at employee’s desk (Dealer.com)
  • Two weeks of full-paid leave to work for a nonprofit (Patagonia)
  • $5,000 spending money if you travel abroad plus one extra week vacation (LoadSpring)
  • Professional cleaners go to your home every two weeks, at no cost to employee (Akraya)

If you come from the typical 9 to 5 job where being there is what is expected and you look forward to vacations like a prisoner eager for his 1 hour outside in the patio, then the list above is nothing short of a paradise. The reality is, more and more companies are adopting practices like these (especially telecommuting and flex hours) because technology is such that not only allows you to do it, but makes you more productive.

But companies don’t offer these nice perks just because they are run by nice people. They offer them because the market for talent is fierce. Finding and retaining the best people has always been a challenge, no matter your industry. When you have a little bit extra to offer, being that the free lunch or whatever, you are a step above the competition. And the word gets around and your hiring costs are reduced because people are now finding you for a change.

The best marketing ends up being what the employees tell their friends about their companies. How they like (or don’t like) the perks, and when magazines like Inc pick that up and write a story.


The meeting is over. Now what?

December 14, 2009

What do you do when the meeting is over?

Effective Meeting Notes

l have learned the hard way that unless I take good notes during a meeting, I cannot be very effective afterwards and therefore the meeting ends up being a big waste of time. When discussing a new campaign, the direction that the new ad should take, and the pages we need to update on the website I have to be able to identify the following items after the meeting:

  1. What was discussed
  2. What decisions were made
  3. What action items were decided
  4. Who will do what by when

The best way to turn meetings (which are, unfortunately, inevitable) into productive time spent with the team, is to take effective notes. During note taking I try to write only key pieces of information (and not to simply transcribe what was said) and place symbols next to each one that helps me easily and quickly identify what is important.

Here are my identifiers:

  • The letter “i” in a circle: Informational only. Something that was told to give context, specific background information or other piece of data that I don’t have to do anything about.
  • An empty square [  ] (empty checkbox): Action item assigned to me.
  • An exclamation point “!”: Important information or decision made that I have to remember or that affects an action item.
  • Someone’s initials: Action item assigned to someone else.
  • FUP”: something I need to follow up on. Usually a task assigned to someone in my team that I need to check the status.

These are the most commonly used symbols during my note taking, and sometimes I add a couple more (asterisk, pointing arrow, circles, etc.) depending on the note. The key for me is to be able to review my notes and act on what needs to be done.

When I have to create meeting minutes, this system helps me to go through my notes quickly and identify things that should be in the minutes versus superfluous stuff. For the action items assigned to me, the first thing I do when I get back to my desk is open my Outlook and create Tasks for each one. This way I capture all my to-do items quickly and am ready for the next item on my agenda (usually another meeting).

Since I use a tablet PC (currently an HP Pavillion Tx2500), my notes are electronic and I can easily go back to them and search for them. Below is a sample meeting note with my system, I hope it gives you a better idea of how I use it.

What is your system? Please share!

Sample Meeting Notes

Example of how my symbol system for note taking works.


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