Archive for the ‘ Human Resources ’ Category

Ante up! – Keeping Track of Account Receivables

“Money can’t buy you happiness, but the lack of it can surely make you unhappy.” – our CEO’s favorite money line.

Everybody wants it, and those who have it want more of it! Nobody wants to give it away, and if you’re the Operations Manager of a creative ad agency – this can be a problem.

The more figures you can move from your AR statement to your bank statement, the happier the CEO. If we follow this logic, both the bank statements and the happiness of the head-honcho, is your hands. If he is happy – so is everyone else.

So how do you keep account receivables running smoothly? Stay consistent. Know your clients’ payment habits and keep up with them. If you know your client tends to pay within an acceptable amount of time, give them the buffer, but check-in weekly and call immediately if their check has not arrived.

I find that when you are not consistent with the calls and the e-mail reminders, payments start to come in slower. A quick weekly check-in and a few e-mails is all it takes to make your accounts receivables less of a nightmare.

Having a great rapport with your client is also very helpful.  Once I started e-mailing those who handled the clients’ accounts payable on a more consistent basis and getting to know them, I started getting e-mails from them in return indicating that a check was on its way – fabulous!!!

It is hard to get into a routine. No one really wants to “ask” for payment and no one really should have to “beg” for it.  Sending an e-mail reminder is a gentler, less intrusive way to ask for payment. I would start there. If a check has still not shown up by the date you were given, make the dreaded phone call. Procrastination will not fund payroll!

If push comes to shove, you’re not getting anywhere and the account is well past 60 days overdue, it’s time to start making calls and writing e-mails two or three times a week. Role-play the ultimate nag.

When constant nagging does not work, you may need to call someone higher-up at the company. I would put the onus on you first.  Ask if there is a problem with the invoice, do they want to discuss it with their account manager? This is also the time to discuss a payment option. Once an invoice hits 90 days overdue, it will be harder to collect.  So now is the time to involve a collection lawyer or agency.

One final thought, humor can make requesting payment a little less painful. As I also cover our accounts payable department, I once received a late payment notice with a bit of humor I though I’d share. Instead of the typical “PAST DUE” stamped on the statement this company had a sticker that said “money talks but yours hasn’t spoken to us in a while”….  I laughed and paid the account.

“The safe way to double your money is to fold it over once and put it in your pocket.” ~ Frank Hubbard
“We can tell our values by looking at our checkbook stubs.” ~ Gloria Steinem
“There is a very easy way to return from a casino with a small fortune:  go there with a large one.” ~ Jack Yelton
“I am opposed to millionaires, but it would be dangerous to offer me the position.  ~ Mark Twain
“They who are of the opinion that Money will do everything, may very well be suspected to do everything for Money.” ~ George Savile, Complete Works, 1912
“I cannot afford to waste my time making money.” ~ Louis Agassiz
“There’s no money in poetry, but then there’s no poetry in money, either.” ~ Robert Graves
“When I have money, I get rid of it quickly, lest it find a way into my heart.” ~ John Wesley

“It is an unfortunate human failing that a full pocketbook often groans more loudly than an empty stomach.” ~ Franklin Delano Roosevelt
“After a visit to the beach, it’s hard to believe that we live in a material world.” ~ Pam Shaw
“The real measure of your wealth is how much you’d be worth if you lost all your money.” ~ Author Unknown
“Only when the last tree has died and the last river been poisoned and the last fish been caught will we realize we cannot eat money.” ~ Cree Indian Proverb
“The only reason a great many American families don’t own an elephant is that they have never been offered an elephant for a dollar down and easy weekly payments.” ~ Mad Magazine
“I’d like to live as a poor man with lots of money.” ~ Pablo Picasso

Thank you Quote Garden – http://www.quotegarden.com/money.html

Keeping Up with the Gatekeeper Game

Can you believe in today’s “instant access to the consumer” world we still
have to perform a dog and pony show to get past the gatekeeper in the hopes
of finding the decision maker? Well, be warned that often in a downsizing
economy, the gatekeeper and the decision maker could be the same person. And
guess what else? Their time is very, very limited.

As an advertising agency, invaluable gatekeeper included, we deal with
similar issues as our clients.  Every day our gatekeeper is faced with a
litany of decisions to make and tasks to accomplish, complete with an even
longer list of potential service providers to help assist in culling down
the “To Do” list.

So, in 20 succinct bullets from our gatekeeper, this is how EVOK recommends
you go about opening that preverbal gate:

·  Don’t make promises you can’t keep
·  Be honest
·  Know your customer (who is and who isn’t)
·  Provide a loyalty program
·  Reward referrals
·  Spell out an actual point of difference
·  Announce your intention prior to soliciting
·  Get to the point quickly
·  Provide an incentive
·  Be different (if you’re not, come back when you are)
·  Know your competition
·  Remember your manners (please and thank you go along way)
·  Keep it simple and short, stupid
·  Leave them wanting more (and a way to get more if desired)
·  Timing is everything (don’t offer me tax advice on April 16!)
·  No high pressure
·  Don’t wear out your welcome
·  Make your product or service offer time sensitive
·  Don’t be sketchy
·  Dress the part (do the “once over” twice if needed)

True, many of the above bullets apply to a company representative happening
upon the actual gatekeeper via the phone or in person, but each can apply to
all advertising and marketing initiatives. Whether it’s a print ad, direct
marketing piece, end-of-aisle display with free samples or door-to-door
salesman performing a cold call, every impression is an opportunity for
customer conversion. Though you have multiple options to get your best foot
in the door, all it takes is one fatal faux pas and you will never make it
past the gatekeeper.

***Bonus Material***

Our Gatekeepers Blog:

Getting Colder
Today, I was “cold called” by my current office supply company. I’d like to
say that I was surprised by this oversight, but it was in fact the second
offense. After giving them the benefit of the doubt the first time, I
quickly changed suppliers after I informed them “I already am your
customer—obviously an unimportant—thanks for nothing.”

Another Day, Another Sales Call:
Today I received TMI about the office bottled water. A water-purifying
company saleswoman gave me more than I bargained for when I accepted the
offer of a tall glass of water. She added some chemicals to a glass of water
that was poured from the bottle that sits upon the water cooler. Well, I
don’t know if it was the bad fluorescent lighting or some sales pitch
hocus-pocus, but the outcome left me with a dirty glass and a bad taste in
my mouth.

When I Move, I’m Thirsty for Water
Timing is everything. Shortly before we moved our offices another water
vendor came in to speak with me.  Knowing space in the new office would be
limited, I was looking for something to take a way the storage issue. A
gentleman came in, albeit unannounced, but was quick and to the point. He
explained how his filtration process works (using a simple, color diagram)
and left me with the information. A few months later, after a few follow-up
calls, we were ready to move. I called him directly and he took care of
everything.

We’ve Both Heard It All Before
Finally my most favorite story, I call “’m not a stupid as you might think I
am” and “Common misconception co-workers do work closely together.”  Several
times we’ve had ink cartridge vendors call and play one employee off of the
other. They call indicating that someone else in the office placed an ink
order and did not receive it.  Could they please verify the copy machine
make and model so they can re-ship them? This catches the person off guard
and the question is answered.  The next day the company’s “shipping”
department calls and asks to speak to that person to confirm the order.
Confusion sets in and in most cases they expect the person to simply tell
them to ship the order.  At EVOK we all work together and we are smarter
than one might think.  The caller was placed on hold and the order was
verified with me (the office manager).  We explain to the caller that we
order our supplies directly from our leasing company.  A quick “apology” is
made and the vendor hangs up!

It’s essential to recognize and respect the gatekeeper, or else, it could hit you…you know where.

Be Mindful Readers, Part I

Since we can’t be mind readers and inexplicably know what our potential customers are thinking and thereby doing; we can at least be mindful readers and study from afar to get farther – or closer to our end goal.

As the New Year is in full swing and we’re all waiting for the pendulum to swing some other way, which per the usual, we feel compelled to bestow a few words of our collective wisdom upon you. What’s more, we are accompanying our free advice with a recommended reading list. In an effort to keep it short and sweet, if not bittersweet, the requisite list of ten is being culled down to nine in honor of ringing in 2009. Well, maybe there will be a wildcard number ten at the end of the list.

Our list of recommended mindsets, along with the mindful readers list isn’t given in vein, yet in the same vein as fake it ‘til you make it and dress for the job you want, not the job you have. Some may say that this is what got us in this mess to begin with, but in advertising and marketing, it holds valuable truths that are timeless lessons, both personally and professionally.

As we hunker down and maximize our time by minimizing the excessive, why don’t we do it with a book in hand. Even if it’s read on an iPhone or listened to on an iPod, it’s a good old fashioned way to make things closer to “right” by reading.

1. Mind: Emulate the greats and learn from the masters. – Read: Advertising Best Practices 2008-2009: Industry Leaders on Creating Attention-Getting Platforms, Generating Profitable Campaigns, and Preparing for New Media Trends by Aspatore Books Staff.

Advertising Best Practices 2008-2009 is an authoritative, insider’s perspective on the newest trends and best campaign strategies of the past year, as well as the next big thing to prepare for in the year to come. Featuring Presidents and CEOs representing some of the nation s leading advertising agencies, this book provides a broad yet comprehensive overview of how leaders in the industry approach the challenge of developing creative and attention-grabbing campaigns that stand out in today’s barrage of media.

2. Mind: Focus and narrow your message and products and services offered. Determine what your main thing is and pinpoint what really matters. Once you know, others, like your potential customers, will know better what to do. – Read: The Pardox of Choice, why less is more by Barry Schwartz.

As Americans, we assume that more choice means better options and greater satisfaction. But beware of excessive choice: choice overload can make you question the decisions you make before you even make them, it can set you up for unrealistically high expectations, and it can make you blame yourself for any and all failures. In the long run, this can lead to decision-making paralysis. And in a culture that tells us that there is no excuse for falling short of perfection when your options are limitless, too much choice can lead to clinical depression.

3.  Mind: Leverage Partnerships to maximize ad spend as budgets decrease. – Read: Guerrilla Marketing: Breakthrough Strategies: Triple Your Sales and Quadruple Your Business In 90 Days With Joint Venture Partnerships by Jay Conrad Levinson and Terry Telford.

How are you going to double, triple, or quadruple your sales in the next 90 days and expand your business exponentially? The secret is with joint venture partnerships. Whether it sounds daunting or oversimplified, the plain truth is, it works. You can take your business to the next level with the power of joint ventures.

4. Mind: Practice fiscal and social accountability and responsibility for a better global marketplace in which you can sustain. – Read: Strategies for the Green Economy: Opportunities and Challenges in the New World of Business by Joel Makower.

Business leaders searching for a green strategy encounter few roadmaps and established rules and plenty of hidden twists and turns. Strategies for the New Green Economy describes how companies can succeed in the green marketplace, keeping pace with customer and societal demands to reduce their environmental impact.

5. Mind: Be contagious and go viral. Decrease wasted impressions by increasing the use of technology via social networking and actual networking. Type, text, twit and talk your way into the minds and manners of your target. – Read: Secrets of Social Media Marketing: How to Use Online Conversations and Customer Communities to Turbo-Charge Your Business! by Paul Gillin.

Secrets of Social Media Marketing is a handbook for marketers and business owners to use in deciding how to employ the new social media for online marketing. Social media has quickly moved from the periphery of marketing into the forefront, but this is a new and quickly-evolving field and there are few established formulas for success.

6. Mind: Experiment with experiential marketing and wash your hands of the type soap box people stand upon and box they claim to be thinking outside of. – Read: Experiential Marketing: A Practical Guide to Interactive Brand Experiences by Shaz Smilansky.

Experiential Marketing looks at the experiential marketing era, which focuses on giving target audiences a brand-relevant customer experience that adds value to their lives. Experiential marketing is made up of live brand experiences – two way communications between consumers and brands, communications which are designed to bring brand personalities to life.

This book demonstrates how experiential marketing fits in with the current marketing climate and how to go about planning, activating and evaluating it for best results. This is essential reading for both advertising and marketing practitioners and marketing students.

7. Mind: Know when to hold ‘em back and know when to fold ‘em in half. It’s imperative to discern the difference between cutting, or folding, budgets and cutting your losses because you’re just not making the cut. – Read: Guerrilla Publicity: Hundreds of Sure-Fire Tactics to Get Maximum Sales for Minimum Dollar: Includes Podcasts, Blogs and Media Training for the Digital Age by Jay Conrad Levinson, Rick Frishman and Jill Lublin.

The Internet has not only changed the sheer vastness of services and products available to consumers, but it’s significantly changed the way businesses communicate with their buyers. The good news is that new technology makes it easier for businesses to get the right product to the right customer at the right time–and at a fraction of the cost. Completely updated and revised, this book uses the expertise of today’s top media gurus to show you how to get the word out about your product or business and reach even more buyers–without the cost of a traditional big budget campaign!

8. Mind: Know how to sell. Not just on paper, but to the people who will grant you access to their public. There are certain gatekeepers that must believe you have the right combination to get out there and stay out there. – Read: Perfect Pitch: The Art of Selling Ideas and Winning New Business by Jon Steel.

A professional “pitching coach” for one of the world’s largest marketing conglomerates, Jon Steel shares his secrets and explains how you can create presentations and pitches that win hearts, minds, and new business. He identifies the dos and don’ts and uses real-world examples to prove his points. If you make pitches for new business, this is the perfect book for you.

9. Mind: Swim with agility like a little fish in a big pond that is yours to explore and expand, effectively and efficiently. And deliberately. – Read: Eating the Big Fish: How Challenger Brands Can Compete Against Brand Leaders by Adam Morgan.

A revised and updated version of the classic book on what it takes for small brands to eat the big tuna. Since Wiley first published Eating the Big Fish in 1999, the concept of the challenger brand has become a mainstream idea among marketers and advertisers. But Adam Morgan’s classic is still the best and most definitive study of the way challenger brands take on and defeat bigger competitors, and this 50,000-copy bestseller has been tremendously influential in the marketing and advertising arenas. For this new edition the author has interviewed 30 fresh challengers, and explores today’s radically different marketing environment.

10. Mind: Get back to the basics with some tried and true triumphs by one of advertising’s greats. Climb your career ladder by leaning on a tree with some of the best advertising roots to ever grow an industry by sharing advice. – Read: Ogilvy on Advertising by David Ogilvy.

A candid and indispensable primer on all aspects of advertising from the man Time has called “the most sought after wizard in the business”.

There are so many more thoughts and things to thumb through we’re like to dispense, but that’s what Mindful Readers Part II is for Readers.

Hang Smaller Stockings This Year

As the calendar is down to one page, your book’s ink must be displayed in black, but if not….seeing red can be avoided.

Each year, we try to beat last year’s numbers. And every year, the bar rises, as do the costs of conducting business. So, if you’re short on ribbon, tinsel and garland—what do you do when it comes time to give that quintessential holiday card, keepsake or party that wraps up your company in a neat bow for all your clients, vendors and associates? The answer is, “Get out the construction paper, the paints and give from the heart.” Remind your clients and vendors why they selected to do business with you in the first place. So what if your stockings are a bit shorter or your hand deliveries can be carried in just one hand. The important part is to do something, ignoring the holiday season all together isn’t festive. But more so, it makes you and your business forgetful, forgotten, last year’s news. Now more than ever, you must get in front, even if only virtually, of those you do business.

If the holiday party is really off the list this year, put a little more thought into the other elements of your holiday wrapping. Here are some ideas as what to do for all those business associates on your gift list who in previous years received diamonds, and now might have to wait it out while a lump of coal undergoes it metamorphosis.

Go Virtual

In lieu of labeling and paying postage on hundreds of physical holiday cards, utilize one of the great e-greeting websites and take the time to personalize a message. It will go farther, and so will the planet.

Stop By
For the big clients that need to be remembered during this time of year, prepare a nice, albeit smaller, gift basket with the essential holiday pick-me-ups, complete with a chocolate bar spelling your name. Hand deliver the goodies and tell them how much you appreciate their business. The heartfelt words will go far, even if the gift basket can’t feed the entire office.

Give Back, Together
Take any money you would have or could have thrown a holiday soiree with and donate it to the cause of your choice (obviously, you will advertise this fact in your basic, but requisite holiday greeting card). Or, if there’s a client who adopts a cause each year, jump on the coattails of that. It will show your community outreach effort, without trying to show up last year’s party.

Open Up
Be a drop off location for Toys for Tots, a coat or blanket collection or food bank.

Have a Contest
Offer a holiday special that is A-typical in your industry. If you own a chain of car washes, when not host a giveaway for a satellite radio or car stereo system.

Trade Secrets

Trade out services with a complementary vendor. Or start up a Referral Program with complementary businesses. Both of these “new” service offerings can be advertised in a joint holiday greeting.

Go to Work Somewhere Else

Close the office for an afternoon to volunteer at a local charity. Many offices give a “shopping” day to employees. If employees are tightening the purse strings, why not cut the day all together and roll up the shirt sleeves. Not only will associates save themselves from buying things they shouldn’t, they’ll save humanity.

Spread the Joy
Never forget the Power of the Press Release. If done properly, any or all of the above Holiday Season marketing endeavors can be fodder for press coverage.

It’s never a bad time of year to show appreciation for your clients, vendors and associates. Nor is it ever a bad time to remind them of what products and services you offer. It might serve as a great time to branch out and string the garland over new banisters. Though the ice can seem thin, any marketing effort, if done well, can thicken the bottom line.

Why Letting Your Employees Act Like Children is Good for Business

Let’s start with allowing, and/or strongly suggesting, your employees dress up for Halloween. There are several ways to skin this witch’s cat, for example: let employees decide on their own and hope for the best; give each department a theme (dress up like a work flow process; pair people up who don’t usually work together and tell them they must come as an infamous couple from another time; imitate our best client; embody the client and/or business type you’d like to have; or emulate the member of the Peanuts/Scooby Doo/Simpsons gang you most represent). As you can see, the list goes on and on—as should the false teeth, clown shoes and princess tiara.

Team Building
Like most extra-curricular office activities, allowing employees to dress up for Halloween, is reminiscent of childhood creative play, problem solving and team building exercises. Be it leading a blind-folded fellow associate across a room ridden with obstacles, playing charades, Mad Libs or Jenga, any activity that tears down that first layer of inapproachability and fear of speaking one’s mind, is helpful in drawing associates closer for the greater good—the success of the company. Remember, communication is still key to open dialog, which leads to new ideas, solutions and eventually progress, increased market share and productivity. So, if it turns out that you happen to be deemed a dead ringer for Linus, abscond with your child’s, put that thumb in your mouth and suck it up for a day.

Competition Instilling
While you’re in there tearing down walls of silence and smoking people out of their cubicle silos, why not bust open that piggy bank and invest in a few simple prizes for costume contest winners. When Andy in the art department dresses up head to toe and looks exactly like the Jolly Green Giant because he not-so-secretly wants to work on Green Giant Food Company accounts—throw him a few green backs (after all, he’ll need to buy some pants, ASAP). Or when the accounting department actually pulls off an old-school abacus that would make face-and-belly-painting sports fans proud, the least you could do is give them mini golf or bowling vouchers, free movie passes or a gift card to a local coffee shop. Do you smell that? Oh, no that’s not caramel apples burning—that’s the sweet smell of healthy competition. And you know what? Competition, both internal and external, keeps the lights on a little bit longer, if you catch my drift.

Good Feeling
Speaking of drift, have you ever sauntered into a run-of-the-mill establishment or office setting during a themed holiday and been a bit envious to see it decked out floor to ceiling? Who doesn’t like getting that pink-frosting-covered, heart-shaped cookie from the red-sweater-donning, ensconced in red, white and pink balloons teller at the bank on Valentine’s Day? And you’d be lying if you said that Freddie Krueger look alike who took your dry cleaning didn’t scare you; or the elf receptionist who lead you to your examination room didn’t make you smile. Not only did you like how you felt, but you liked how you felt about the company. On a conscious or subconscious level, your impression of a company who cares enough about its employees, and customers for that matter, to let them have a little fun and spread the holiday cheer is a place either you’d like to work, or an establishment you’d be more likely to do business. I’m not kidding, it’s true.

Cause Supporting
All dressed up and no place to go? That’s okay, they can come to you. Local day care centers, children’s non-profits or other civic organizations are always looking to foster new relationships for out reach programs or field trips. Once you start spreading the specific holiday’s joy around, you might just find you want to open up your heart a bit more. All it takes is a few trips to the dollar store for your requisite decorations, lights and candy to set the mood and take center stage in someone else’s eyes for a moment. Encourage all associates to don their best child-appropriate costume, fill a bowl or Jack-O-Lantern with individually wrapped candies and get ready to dole it out to some darling children who may actually need the sustenance—but hey, you need to feed your soul too! As a final plunge in the bobbing-for-apples bucket, you could also hold a costume contest for the little ones who parade around your shop. Just be sure to buy enough prizes for everyone—and come up with equal amounts of winners as there are children in attendance. After all, you know what it’s like to be surrounded by people who act like or need to be rewarded like children—we all do occasionally.

Do all, or any, of the above and your apple will always give you a penny. And if you happen to get a worm too, go fish.