Should You Promote a Legacy Brand Name, or Move on with the New One?

branding iron representing a marketing brand or brand name
How to promote a legacy brand name
Consolidation, acquisition, and merger activity among corporations can create a challenge for local marketers, such as a distributor or representative. The dilemma concerns the value in continued promotion of the legacy brand name.

Here is the scenario. You represent the small, specialized, successful manufacturer of a product. A large company with an international brand acquires the small company you represent. Once you clear the hurdle of whether the new owner will maintain the current sales channels, there is then the question of how to present and promote the new brand to your customer base. It is likely that the legacy brand name is well known in the market, but conglomerates will have interest in the promotion of their own brand which may encompass the products of numerous other companies they have acquired. Here are some things to consider.

  • If the principal abandons the legacy brand name, you can still maintain a legacy brand name presence on your website and social media channels. This can help customers unaware of the brand change make a connection with your company. A legacy brand name page on your website, a blog about the brand name change, other social media posts will all help customers link the legacy brand to your company and the new brand name. Effectiveness will be attained through repeated posts about the brand name for however long it takes to establish the new brand in place of the old.
  • If the principal adds their name to the legacy brand name, similar to a hyphenated surname for a spouse, your interests may be best served by promoting both names separately, as well as combined. The newly created combo name will, by itself, have little recognition in the initial stages, and brand development efforts by the acquiring company may not produce the results needed to foster your local sales and promotion efforts. Solid branding does not develop overnight. It takes time, sometimes lots of time. Figuratively hanging some legacy brand name signs on your website and social media channels will enhance search engine performance and bring visitors to your sites where a transitional move toward the new brand name can be implemented.
  • If the principal maintains the legacy brand name, an example of which would be "Legacy Brand Name, a division of Big Company" or something similar, you can mostly maintain your marketing status quo. In this case, the acquiring company is placing significant value on the brand name that they purchased (smart), and you should maintain promotion of the legacy brand.
There are an unlimited number of variants to the three simple scenarios shown here. Your relationships with your principals are the lifeblood of your business. If they provide direction or guidance on how to promote a new branding, it is probably best to conform. 

Brand names that enjoy widespread recognition, good reputation, and identify with a narrow range of products or applications can have immense value. Unless there is a specific prohibition to continuing to provide a connection between your customers and principals through your company by using that legacy brand name, I generally recommend you maintain its useful presence throughout your digital marketing. Though, with a view to the future, keep in mind that younger and new entries into your potential customer pool are unlikely to share the connection strength of industry veterans to the legacy brand name. Over time, which could be years, you should transition your sales promotion to synchronize with whatever path the acquiring company uses. 

Follow, comment, contact me with your questions directly at CMS4i by putting @TomO in the message section. At CMS4i, we help small companies build their brand and web presence, so contact us anytime.

Should You Blog About Products You Don't Sell?

think differently about social media marketing
Sometimes, going against your long held beliefs can be helpful.
The relationships between you, my technical sales representative and industrial distributor friends, and your principals can be convoluted. Manufacturers prefer that you not handle products considered competitive with theirs, but it is inevitable that some overlap will come into play. As a work-around solution, it is common for a rep to handle only a portion of a manufacturer's product line. There are a number of other possible scenarios that may leave you authorized to sell less than the entire product mix. This creates something of a challenge when designing your website, but even more so when selecting topics for frequent blog articles.

Some blog posts come pretty close to being product advertisements, and close is generally acceptable. I keep these points in mind when I write about a product.

  • Keep promotional speech minimized (preferably missing entirely)
  • Tie the product to an industry practice
  • Focus on technical aspects of a product or process
  • Relay how it may be different
  • Show how it can deliver benefits or improvements to the reader's work or process

Working toward these goals helps maintain your post as a useful and interesting piece. The goal is to provide value for the reader, netting benefit to the writer as a result of the reader's fulfillment.

You want your company to be noticed, discovered, found by individuals with common interests, since these are the people you will do business with in one form or another. If getting noticed or discovered is your goal...
Does it make sense to blog about things you do not sell, but are related to your business?
Of course it does! Remember, your goal with your social media portals is not to sell products, it is to "sell" your organization, by increasing subscribers and reinforcing their positive impressions. The more subjects you cover, with keywords for search engines to find, the better. It is useful to keep in mind that your potential customers have professional interests beyond your company's product offering. This takes a conscious effort. It is easy to myopically blog away about the products shown on the company website, and that's not entirely without merit. But there is more to write about. Being the source of interesting and useful information, being the "go-to place" for news or updates on a subject, adds tremendous social media value to your company. Here are some guidelines and ideas to consider.

  • Avoid blogging about competitors directly, but be mindful of their concepts and approaches to solving customer challenges. You may be able to write about the generic concept without mentioning the competitor by name. Compare and contrast your company's approach to a similar issue.
  • It can be productive to blog about facets or products of a brand that are unavailable for you to sell. For example, blog about a company's flow meters, even though you only handle their level controls. As long as you do not handle a competitive flow meter, getting the brand name out there can still be positive for you through links back to your site.
  • Write about legislative and regulatory current events. There is a continuing flood of this information being released by federal, state, and local jurisdictions. Keeping up with it is difficult for your customers. Your position as an information source can yield positive benefits through followers and subscribers.
  • For industrial settings, cyber security and safety are looming issues with universal impact. Find good sources of information and share them through your social media.
  • Share an original viewpoint from someone in your company. It does not have to be the CEO. People that work in cubicles, people that turn wrenches, may have some very interesting and valuable things to say. I recommend you work an article such as this as an interview. Getting people to talk to you is generally much easier than getting them to write for you.
  • Go completely off topic once in a while. If you have something to share that would be of interest to your industry or audience, but may not be directly related to your company's business line, publish it. This should be an infrequent event, to avoid having your blog appear unfocused.
  • Write about things you do not sell, but are used by your potential customers. Your article can be non-partisan and provide insight not usually delivered by those that sell the particular product.
I think you see it now. The purpose of your writing is to serve the reader. If you serve the reader well, the reader will read another article or click on one of your links, increasing their recognition of your organization. That is your goal.

Follow, comment, reach out to me with your questions. I can be contacted directly at CMS4i by putting @TomO in the message section. At CMS4i, we help small companies build their brand and web presence, so contact us anytime.

Should You Keep Your Employees Off LinkedIn?

LinkedIn logo and LinkedIn logo with red line through it
Encourage your employees to use LinkedIn, or not?
I have been a proponent of having employees on LinkedIn. From my viewpoint, there is value associated with a network of industry invested individuals providing social network connections between their employing company and other industry related individuals. Creating and nourishing pathways for your company to be discovered is a very positive thing, right?
Surprise, Marketer, not every business owner thinks so.
CMS4i does not have a brick and mortar presence. Everybody works remotely, so we arrange to meet periodically to accomplish things better done face to face. Recently, we invited a customer to meet with us, provide some feedback on our social marketing services, and allow us to generally interrogate him (not  really) in an effort to learn something valuable. One of the striking points made by our esteemed customer concerned his desire to avoid having employees active on LinkedIn. Of course, this is near heresy to a social media marketer and, after regaining my composure, I queried as to his reasoning.
Workforce protection.
My customer viewed LinkedIn as a human resource market, where his competitors or other industry related companies could find his trained and experienced employees, then target them for recruitment. True, LinkedIn certainly is a go-to venue for both hiring managers and job seekers. The business owner seemed to have a valid point.

Surely, there was some analysis that could be done, some balance to be struck? Not in this case. The business owner valued the human assets represented by his well trained technicians far in excess of any marketing sizzle that could be delivered by extending his LinkedIn reach. As a marketer, I needed to recognize that there may have been other strategic or tactical goals than mine. There was more to a business than just getting business.

The takeaway here is to remember that, as a marketer, we view and participate in only a small slice of the businesses we serve. We need to be flexible and accommodative with other facets of the business in our pursuit of growth.

Follow, comment, contact me with your questions. I can be contacted directly at CMS4i by putting @TomO in the message section. At CMS4i, we help small companies build their brand and web presence, so contact us anytime.

Do It Today! - Review Those Inbound Links!

Lightning representing inbound links to website
Let me quickly establish, once again, the target audience for my articles. I write for technical sales professionals and marketers, modest in size, that operate in the commercial and industrial arenas. A more focused description can be found in my previous article Signs You Might Be On The Wrong Social Media Marketing Track.

Two primary functions of your social media efforts are:

  • Discovery, by providing multiple paths through which your organization can be found on the internet.
  • Presence, which can be thought of as your public facing digital business front.
An important part of both is the inbound links that bring visitors to your web pages from web pages that are not yours. If your company represents or distributes for ZZZ Manufacturing (a fictitious company), ZZZ might have a link on their site that leads to your site. This makes sense because your company is a vendor source from which ZZZ products can be purchased. The link to your site on ZZZ's site is an inbound link to your site. These can have substantial value because potential customers may be directed to your website, even though they were not specifically searching for your company.

You should review known inbound links on a regular basis. How often you do it should be a function of what you find. If there are numerous errors or omissions, frequency should be higher until everything appears in order. There are some basic things you should do.

  • If possible, have an inbound link from every company for which you sell products or services.
  • Where inbound links exist, make sure they go to the correct landing page on your site.
  • Take steps to try and get incorrect or missing inbound links remedied. This can be challenging in some cases, but the effort is worth the investment of your time.
  • Inbound links should generally land on your website pages that will not be deleted or have their URL (the page address) or subject changed when your website is periodically updated. It is possible to map old web page URLs to a new site, but if the operation is omitted the links could be lost forever.
  • Reciprocate to those providing inbound links to your site with a link from your site to theirs. Many of you already have examples of these on your sites (a link to the website of a company your sell for).
While your are checking for inbound links from your represented companies, review how they might portray your company on their site. If there is a listing for your distributor firm, click on every link shown and review what your potential customers will see. One of our customers was listed on their principal's site along with a click that would ostensibly show the distributor's place of business. The site did not contain actual photos of the distributor's place of business, but used a sort of Google Earth setup to show what was located at the address provided for the business. In this particular case, the map service returned and displayed a picture of a vintage looking donut shop, clearly not our customer's place of business. This is an example of the potential inaccuracies you need to discover and take steps to have corrected.

Do it today. Have someone else at your company do it today. If you put it off, it's too easy to forget. Inbound links and listing information about your company will be the first impression some have of your business. You need that impression to be as positive as you can make it.

Follow, comment, contact me with your questions. I can be contacted directly at CMS4i by putting @TomO in the message section. At CMS4i, we help small companies build their brand and web presence, so contact us anytime.

Signs You Might Be On The Wrong Social Media Marketing Track

A small departure before I get to my subject for today...

Marketing is not as glamorous as many believe it to be. Many of my business schoolmates leaned into marketing because they thought it would not involve much of the math that tortured them all through school. Surprise! Marketing, at least beyond the smallest scale operations, involves lots of math. How else are you going to determine if what you are doing is working. You gather data, crunch it like a mouthful of peanuts. It tells you something. Then you need to crunch some more to try and determine if the answers you just got are actually usable. Do they apply universally to your target market, or are they somehow related to something else, some other smaller set. We like to think that mathematics delivers certainty, oh yes, that one plus one equals two feeling. Too often, there is a nagging element of uncertainty and doubt in the numbers. But, even on its worst day, stark quantitative presentation and analysis grounds our decision making on something other than pure intuition.
Marketing is tough and demanding because it is intangible, and requires dedication and discipline to make it work.
computer keyboard with special Learn button for social media marketing

Now, to what I really intended to write about today. 

If you have read other articles in this series, you probably have come across a description of my target audience. In case you missed it, I have poached it from a previous article and deliver it here.
Technical sales firms and professionals conduct their business with a high level of personal contact. The products sold by these professionals generally require consultation between buyer and seller to establish the suitability of the product for its intended purpose. Technical sales is strictly a B2B endeavor, with customers relying on recommendations and expertise that the sales rep brings to the relationship. I write for them, to build their comprehension of modern social media marketing activities and how their business can benefit from thoughtful application of these techniques.
I write for small to modest sized distributors, tech sales rep firms, and manufacturers, mostly in the industrial process measurement and control space. Many have owners that work at the business everyday and perform many functions throughout the operation, including marketing. For them, and possibly you, being aware of unproductive behaviors and activity on the marketing front can be helpful. Here are five items that keep coming to my mind.

  • Commenting on other blogs or social media, especially those of your competitors, with a reference or link to your website.

    Face it. You are trying to climb on somebody else's marketing train. Do not do this. Patiently and diligently build your own following through your own social media channels. Making productive or informative contributions is acceptable, but leave any references to your website or company out.
  • Not generating original content on your social media channels.

    Believe it or not, your customer base and anyone interested in doing business with you wants to know what you think is important enough to write about and share. This is an important component of your brand, your company image. It is good to share relevant useful content that you find, but be sure to mix in your own presentations of thought, opinion, even entertainment.
  • You are not at least considering producing some video content for your social media channels.

    Let me summarize. Video is the king of content.

    Though many do not realize this, everyday something happens at your place of business that is content-worthy. Remember, what may seem commonplace to you might actually be a valuable revelation to someone outside your place of business. Businesses are specialized. They do unique things. Learn to recognize the unique tasks performed at your business. Learn to make short and simple informative videos showing what you do. There is likely more interest out there than you imagine. I also wrote an article about DIY video that may be helpful in getting started.
  • Not connecting the dots between social media, inside sales, and field sales.

    One function of social media is to serve as a vehicle for establishing and maintaining connections between your customer facing people and your customers. There are many paths to follow in this realm, but the important element is creating some synergy among the sales staff and the social media marketing. The sales staff boosts the social media exposure and the social media exposure attracts more prospective customers. If you are not doing this, there is opportunity awaiting.
  • Not actively soliciting useful ideas from employees at every level of your company.

    Figuring out the next move to make. Building more efficient ways to accomplish necessary tasks. These are the things that build the value of your business and assure its longevity. Accept that you do not know everything and that the viewpoints, ideas, and opinions of the other people immersed in your business along with you have value. Getting your employees to take an active contributory role can be a challenge, but the results could be staggering.
If you get the feeling that I am writing about you, instead of to you, this may be your call to action to make some changes.

Follow, comment, contact me with your questions. I can be contacted directly at CMS4i by putting @TomO in the message section. At CMS4i, we help small companies build their brand and web presence, so contact us anytime.

Are You A Marketer?

welding sparks
The spark of a new idea
I write for a somewhat limited, or should I say targeted, segment of the business world. Technical sales firms and professionals conduct their business with a high level of personal contact. The products sold by these professionals generally require consultation between buyer and seller to establish the suitability of the product for its intended purpose. Technical sales is strictly a B2B endeavor, with customers relying on recommendations and expertise that the sales rep brings to the relationship. I write for them, to build their comprehension of modern social media marketing activities and how their business can benefit from thoughtful application of these techniques.
Are you a salesperson, or are you a marketer?
How would you answer this question? Your job title probably implies that you are a salesperson. When hired, the job description likely focused on bringing in business, getting purchase orders. Your performance is quantified in terms directly related to revenue generation. You may feel that marketing is an admin or office function, while you are the one in the field making the personal contact necessary to secure an order. So, are you a salesperson, or are you a marketer?
The answer to the question is .... Yes.
You, as a technical sales rep, are responsible for securing business for your company. You are also an integral part of two brands; one of the firm that employs you and the other of the company represented by your firm. Everything you do creates an impression on someone that relates back to those two brands. That is what makes you a marketer, too.

Keeping your marketing function in mind, capitalizing on it, will help you boost your personal and company presence in the minds of your customers. The goal of your marketing efforts is to have your customer base associate and think of you whenever they think of the types of products you sell. To the extent that you build and nurture that association throughout your customer base, you will succeed. Ever hear the adage "It's not what you know, it's who you know"? Remember this....
It's not what you know or who you know, it's who knows you.
Certainly, if your products are poor quality or do not meet customer needs, you are not going to do well. The reality, though, is that most products are of adequate quality and do fulfill the needs of their targeted customer. As a product specialist, you should be adept at matching your product offering to your customer's application, also at differentiating your products and their attributes from those of your competitors. That is tech sales 101, and there is one significant limitation to that activity. It relies upon the timely connection of the sales rep and the customer, and it is difficult to impossible for the sales rep to know when the time is right and to get an opportunity to make the connection with the customer.
What makes the difference between getting the order and not getting the order?
 And the answer is....being known, at least being discoverable. This is where your marketing efforts, especially those on social media, serve to directly boost your revenue generation. Conduct social media activities that make you visible and showcase your professional skill, knowledge, and interest in your industry. Serious customers want to deal with serious sales reps. Be persistent in your promotional activities because the impact of a single activity can fade quickly. Make social media marketing a part of your personal business plan, or your firm's plan, to increase sales performance. Here are some points to start you thinking about your own plan.
  • If you do not have a social media presence, make one. Start with Twitter (What You Should Be Doing With Your Twitter Account EverydayMaking Twitter Part of Your Success - You Gotta Do It ), then expand to LinkedIn (LinkedIn - The Value You May Not Realize), Facebook, and others you select on your own.
  • Produce or find content (articles, books, pictures, videos, and more) that are interesting and useful to your customer base. Whether your customers may have already seen the article is not important.  That they associate your name with interesting and useful content is.
  • Be consistent in your posting. You want your customers to see what you are doing, so you need to post well and post often.
  • Follow other social media sites and personalities that are relevant to your industry. It is a good way to see examples of valuable content, but be sure to seek out some unique sources of your own.
  • Find and follow customers with whom you have a justifiable business relationship. Be aware that on some sites, like Twitter, it's generally acceptable to follow anyone and you do not need their permission to do so. Other sites may require the permission of the other party to create a connection and you may be looked upon unfavorably for your exuberant efforts to connect with people who do not recognize you.
  • Mention some aspect of your social media presence to your customers when you speak with them. If you want to send them a useful article that was mentioned in a conversation, send a link to your Twitter or other post that contains the article. Your goal is to build connections with potential customers that will expose them to your posts, building your stature as an industry professional.
We are always in search of ways to turn the slope of our sales revenue line upward. Being the tech rep that is contacted to help solve a problem or participate in planning an upcoming expansion is what we all crave. Incorporating an effective social media strategy into your personal business plan has a high probability of getting you known and keeping you top of mind, producing increasing returns for you over an extended time. You are a salesperson. You are a marketer.

Follow, comment, contact me with your questions. I can be contacted directly at CMS4i by putting @TomO in the message section. At CMS4i, we help small companies build their brand and web presence, so contact us anytime.

Work Your Company's Social Media To Make It Work For You

clock with logo time for social media on the face
Let me set the stage for this article. This post, while generally applicable for all interested in social media marketing, is mostly for smaller firms engaging in technical sales. My definition of technical sales...
Technical sales is the art and practice of promoting products requiring consultation between buyer and seller to assure that the delivered product or service will meet the requirements and expectations of the buyer.
If you are a technical sales practitioner, you speak with your customers directly about their challenges and work toward a solution that matches specific products to each application challenge. Your challenge, as a sales professional, is to be known, be the person that gets called to help develop a solution.

Social media can repeatedly reach out and touch your potential customers with a level of efficiency you, as a breathing entity, cannot even hope to achieve. It will put your company's name and brand in front of your customer base, reinforcing your presence and keeping you top of mind when the time comes for your customer to reach out for assistance. Sounds good, right? There is a catch though.
You, technical sales rep, must promote your company's social media presence in order to get the most personal benefit from it.
If you are a tech sales rep for a company, you are a stakeholder in that company's social media marketing program. Increases in recognition of the company brand, products, and capabilities will translate into more opportunities for you to ply your craft directly with potential customers. A successful social media effort requires nurturing on a continuous basis to keep it visible, relevant, and useful. Here are some activities that you can (and should) do:

  • Be a registered follower of every company media site. Your marketing coordinator will gladly provide you with a list of links to every one.
  • Once a follower, start liking and/or commenting on company posts. Your comments should add something interesting or useful to the post.
  • Follow all of the manufacturers and suppliers your company represents.
  • Follow trade groups and other accounts that post content that is relevant to your industry.
  • Find and share good content on your company's social media accounts. You will likely need to coordinate with marketing folks to do this, but the recognition you will receive will be worth it.
  • Mention the company's social media presence to your contacts and encourage them to follow one or more accounts. There is an art to doing this without being boorish. Start small and develop a useful delivery. Keep in mind that your contacts are more likely to follow your recommendation if it provides something of value. The value will likely reside in the content you recommend, so make it useful or interesting.
  • Mention the company's social media presence....I said that already. Do it twice as often as you think you should. It is the most important part of expanding the reach of your company's social media presence.
None of this is difficult, but it takes discipline to incorporate these tasks into your baseline activities every day. If done well, your efforts will win recognition from your employer, as well as your contacts. You can become a go-to source for industry and product news, with your contacts recommending you to others. 
Don't overthink this, just do it. It will work.

Follow, comment, contact me with your questions. I can be contacted directly at CMS4i by putting @TomO in the message section. At CMS4i, we help small companies build their brand and web presence, so contact us anytime.

Social Media Marketing: You're Not There Yet?

elements of a social media marketing program
Social media marketing has many moving parts
Social media marketing can be an amorphous and vexing subject for many small business operators. After all, it's probably not your trade, along with tuba playing. You have specific skills which, combined with an avid pursuit of success and your own secret business sauce, move your business forward, day after day. Staying current within the business environment is important, as you do not want to be branded as a paleolithic company, flogging away with methods and means long abandoned by other market or industry participants.

For perspective, some clarification about my target audience. This article, while useful in a general sense to all interested in social media marketing, is directed at smaller firms that engage in technical sales. Technical sales is not merely the sale of technical products, though that may be part of it. It is the art and practice of selling products requiring consultation between buyer and seller to assure that the delivered product or service will meet the requirements and expectations of the buyer.
How does this impact the applicability or focus of the article?
My viewpoint reflects that of a typical technical sales professional or firm. Many firms and individuals engaged in technical sales are small and localized, often acting as representatives or distributors for larger national or global brands. The goal for the technical seller's social media activities is to create lasting business connections on a one-to-one basis. This differs from what many larger or non-technical selling companies desire. Their objective is to create a one-to-many connection that is generally of an anonymous nature and without much desire to forge a lasting beneficial business relationship. In a non-technical sales instance, customers can obtain all information necessary to make a purchase without any personal contact with the seller. Technical sales pros, because of their size, localized focus, and method for delivering value, benefit from social media activities in a manner that can differ from the more conventionally accepted thought. As the reader, keep this viewpoint in mind.

Technical sales pros should recognize two overarching things about social media marketing.

Social media presence will be an increasingly important element of business success.

Resources that may not currently exist in your organization will be required to implement an effective social media strategy.

For a business owner or operator, the first statement raises the question of whether theirs will be a business of the future, or one of the past. No longer are social media and internet based marketing cutting edge. They are now the plain vanilla mainstream standard. Your aging customer base is already being replaced by individuals with little to no experience dealing with printed promotional materials, supplier directories, and other bygone methods for gaining brand recognition, including static billboard-like websites. If your company is not actively pursuing the creation and maintenance of an effective web presence, let this be your final warning.
Get with the program or face brand oblivion.

"Resources that may not currently exist in your organization will be required to implement an effective social media strategy." Let's break that down some, as there are still many of you technical sales pros out there who have yet to fully digest the social media marketing concept.

To be effective, a social media marketing endeavor requires continuous nurturing. New and interesting content must be located or created. Analytics should be gathered and assessed for their applicability and usefulness. There are innumerable small tasks and considerations that combine to make a successful program.

Two basic resources are needed to launch and maintain a useful social media presence. One is time, the other is money. It is possible to execute a useful strategy with any mix of these two resources. A candid and careful evaluation of the skills available within your organization, as well as the available budget for marketing, will move you toward the best resource allocation. 

clock showing various activities in a social media marketing program
Marketing activities are time sensitive
An obvious solution for the social media marketing challenge is to outsource the whole program and let someone else handle it. Your function would be to select an appropriate vendor and evaluate the general results, assuring your company's brand is being promoted well and that a solid social media presence is maintained. A distinct advantage of outsourcing is that it will detract little from the revenue generating activities of those currently on staff. Outsourcing is less disruptive and allows you to move forward quickly.

For most small organizations, the decision to save on direct expenditure and run the social media operations using existing staff is a perilous one. 
Effective social media plans are developed and executed by marketers. 
It is essential that social media be done well and done continuously. Otherwise, results are likely to be minimal to negative. Yes, it is conceivable to get negative promotional results from poorly conceived or executed social media activities. Turning over the day to day social media marketing activities to the only person at the firm with a Twitter account does not qualify as good decision making. Rigorous scheduling discipline is needed to maintain the quality and currency of the content, and to complete tasks at times that will produce good promotional results. Creativity, along with a marketing skill set, are also traits of a successful candidate for this position. Selecting a staff member to accomplish all that is necessary, without assuring they have the proper skill set and available time, sets the probability for failure higher than that for success.
get started crossword
Get your social media marketing going in the right direction

If you have not yet started a serious social media promotional effort, or feel your program is lacking in impact, it may be time to create a new effort. Learn from what you have already done and make your next social media marketing campaign more successful. If you are starting from ground zero, proceed slowly and gain knowledge as you progress. Avoid making big moves until you gain some experience.

Follow, comment, contact me with your questions. I can be contacted directly at CMS4i by putting @TomO in the message section. At CMS4i, we help small operators build their brand and web presence, so contact us anytime.

Social Media Marketing DIY Tip - Do You Ever Look at Yourself?

symbol of social network for social media marketing
Social media allows you to "touch" your network
I had cause to conduct some business with a real estate agent recently and stumbled upon some social media phenomena that gave rise to this article. My experience with Molly (not her real name, of course) was entirely positive. I would recommend her highly to anyone and hold her in high professional esteem. You need to keep this in mind as I break down a few elements of social media presence for your benefit and self-improvement, using Molly's presence as illustration.

I came to know Molly in a decidedly old school fashion, by coincidence. I did not "discover" her through social media, Google, or an advertisement. It was only after I had committed to doing business with her that I decided to take a tour of her social media presence as an academic exercise related to my marketing work. One point stood out in my mind as I threaded my way through Molly's social media pages.
Your social media presence leaves a more lasting impression than a face to face meeting.
Think about this a minute, as it struck me initially as counterintuitive. However, while face to face interaction remains a most powerful means of communication and impact, it is a non-repetitive occurrence. Even if you meet with someone multiple times, they appear and act originally each time. On the other hand, every time someone views your profile picture you look the same (at least until you change it). Those repetitive identical impressions can have the effect of etching that image into memory.

In addition to the profile picture's visual aspect, consider the profile summary or bio. It sinks deeper into a reader's mind than many may suspect. The presentation of the summary, its writing style, subject matter, grammar, and spelling, all have impact on the reader. Note also that spelling mistakes, improper grammar, and awkward style may leave a stronger impression than the positive attributes of the summary. The reader expects a positive commentary and views negative attributes as extraordinary, possibly creating an indelible impression.
Once you make an impression on someone, it is difficult to "unimpress" that remembrance. It follows that keeping your social media presence brightly polished is an important component of your professional success, the success of your business. Here are some points to stimulate your own consideration of how well you are maintaining your social media presence.

Any image of you should be perfect in every possible way.

The importance of your visual presentation cannot be overstated. When a prospective customer, employer, friend, date, or whatever finds you on social media, they cannot hear you, smell you, touch you, or be impacted by your body language. All they have, initially, is your picture. Make it count.

If you are not sufficiently skilled at producing high quality images to use on your pages, pay someone to do it for you (outsource). Image attributes that you should pay attention to include...

  • Dimensions - Edit images to match the size requirements of each site with which you are working. Spend enough time on this to get it perfect, not just good.
  • Definition - Avoid all but the sharpest, most in focus, images. 
  • Color - Distinct and vibrant color rendition will make a photo stand out. I suggest avoiding black and white unless there is a compelling reason to use it. 
  • Facial Expression - Present a facial expression that is appropriate for the target audience and will be perceived as neutral or positive by the greatest number of viewers.
  • Clothing and Appearance - Dress and adorn yourself appropriately for the type of work at which you are representing yourself as a competent professional. Keep the target audience in mind. If you catch yourself trying to standout from the crowd by appearing "individual", you may want to reassess. 

Know what you look like.

After you post any image of yourself, review it using more than one device. Make sure it appears the way in which you intended and delivers a positive impact. It is not a bad idea to get a few confidants, those who tell you the truth even when it hurts, to provide a critique of your image.

Check your social media pages periodically, making sure your image appears as you intended. The providers of our social media environment, Google, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and others are continuously tinkering with the applications and may make changes that impact your online image.

Below is a screenshot of one of Molly's two Google+ landing pages. Do you think she intended to use her torso as the background photo for her landing page? If so, what was the plan, the intent, the rationale behind its deployment. I cannot get this out of my mind and will likely forever remember Molly as the perpetrator of this faux pas. I did some research and discovered that it was not Molly's intent. Google released a new version of Google+ that sort of "re-cropped" Molly's original image. The screenshot below shows what the image looks like with the new Google+ app. If you view the same page with the old version of Google+, which is still in use, Molly looks just fine with a head and shoulders shot. The lesson is to check all the different ways in which your target audience might view your image, making sure that all are presentable and deliver the impact you desire.

social media profile picture improperly cropped
Was this intentional?

Edit for success

Most are familiar with the expression "dress for success". Your social media images are important because they are your appearance and that online image of you will likely be what is remembered. Potential customers or employers will make decisions based upon your images, making them worthy of your valuable time spent producing perfect pictures. 

Your social media presence is not a "set it and forget it" proposition.

I have heard social media sites compared to billboards along the highway. In some cases this may be true, but it should not be that way for you. Remember the purpose of  your social media endeavor. You can watch a short video about it in a previous article. Here are some valuable goals for your personal or small business social media activities.

  • Get discovered by individuals and organizations important to your business
  • Develop a presence in your field
  • Demonstrate your involvement in relevant activities
  • Show you are knowledgeable and current
  • Present yourself as someone that can provide value in a business encounter
You will not achieve these goals with a static social media presence. Look at your social media pages. If your last post or share was a year ago, a month ago, you are not following a social media plan that will lead to success. Learn about how to use Twitter, LinkedIn, and other sites that appeal to you. Develop a plan that has you devoting the necessary time to find or produce relevant and useful content and share it on your sites. If you cannot execute a useful plan on your own, outsource it, or reduce the number of sites to a level you can manage. My friend Molly had more than eight profiles on various sites, in some instances more than one on the same service. A look at the posts reveals that she only maintains two of them regularly. Some of the sites had not been updated in more than two years. These stagnant sites can provide negative impressions. They are not harmless.

Your social media sites that do not appear current and active are more likely to make a negative impression than one that is positive or even neutral.

Social media marketing, done right, is no trivial undertaking. It takes time and effort to develop proficiency at producing and locating useful content, then sharing it in a manner that will get the exposure and results you deserve.

Follow, comment, contact me with your questions. I can be contacted directly at CMS4i by putting @TomO in the message section. At CMS4i, we are here to help you make things work, so contact us anytime.

Social Media Marketing for the Small Business - The Data Dilemma

winged dragon beast representing social media marketing
Social media marketing is a continually evolving beast. New avenues of contact and exposure for your brand keep emerging, with promise of being the next big thing that will bring your company legions of followers and a wave of incremental business. Mark me down as a skeptic. It can happen, but the probability is not likely to be in your favor. Innovation, which is what adopting a novel social media platform amounts to, is risky...very risky. There is no history of failure and success through the experience of others to serve as a basis for developing best practices in your own operation. Investment level in time and cash can be on a scale that seems inordinate for your business. Need I go on?
Let the big players, at least the other players, be the innovators. 
Being a lab rat is dangerous. Be the observer. Keep tabs on new avenues to deliver your message, get discovered, and build your online presence. These are necessary business activities, the essential part of growth. Adopt social media platforms and other promotional practices that fit your business. If a promising marketing activity would be overly burdensome or awkward for your staff, outsource it or abandon it. Your business probably works pretty well in its current form, so be cautious when considering business process changes that require a disturbance to your present level of success. Marketing activities will not likely be a direct revenue center in your smaller scale business. Pouring substantial company resources into an unproven high risk endeavor may not be a sound move.

Let's move on to the subject of this article, which is the use of data. Everybody wants to know what works in marketing, a field that relies far more on art than science. One line of thought, of which we are probably all afflicted at one time or another, is the "if it worked for them it will work for me" approach to decision making. How true is this, and is it a sound business decision technique?

There are many citations and displays of survey results and web analytics in free articles to be found all over the web. The results of some are quite stark, indicating great success with some particular activity, platform, or other element of a social media marketing program. But will your business experience the same euphoria if you follow in their footsteps? The answer is unknown, but let's take a look at some concepts that may help in evaluating what you read. provides this summation of "analytics" and I thank them for it.
Analytics is the discovery and communication of meaningful patterns in data. Especially valuable in areas rich with recorded information, analytics relies on the simultaneous application of statistics, computer programming and operations research to quantify performance. Analytics often favors data visualization to communicate insight.
As it applies to social media marketing, analytics consist of data regarding visitors to a webpage and their relevant activities that can be measured as they browse. Surveys are aggregations of participant responses to questions regarding some marketing related subject.

For perspective

The targeted readership for this blog is small businesses engaging in technical selling activities in the industrial arena. The products they manufacture or distribute require special knowledge not generally held by the public. In the majority of the cases, there is consultation at some level between the buyer and seller to make sure the product delivered will meet the special needs of the customer. Few of these businesses have an online store.

Some suggestions for evaluating results of marketing activities you read about:

  • Where does the article appear?
    There are marketing journals, just like there are scientific journals, that deliver well derived statistical results from large scale studies conducted by real statisticians and researchers. The articles are academic and very technical, not much fun to read. They do, however, often provide deep analysis of the data to determine how applicable it may be to the marketing efforts of others.

    Many of the articles found through a web based search for marketing savvy are authored by people (like me) working for marketing service companies. The articles are informative, often useful, but their ultimate purpose is to build business for the marketing services company. Data in these articles is not as rigorously gathered and analyzed, tending to be more anecdotal than statistical. How applicable the results may be to your operation is not readily available and can be difficult to determine.
  • Is the subject matter of the research applicable to your business?
    Some research or survey information and conclusions may apply universally, others may not. Make a careful assessment of how the study and results may apply to your business practices and operation. Be cautious with your decision making when you cannot establish a convincing connection.
  • Is the research based upon a subject group similar to your customers?
    Try to discern the demographics and other identifying characteristics of the participants or sample. If it does not closely match your customer base, or one that you anticipate pursuing, the research conclusions may not be useful and may even be counterproductive if incorporated into your efforts. 
  • Is the behavior being tested one that is relevant to your target market?
    You know your customer base, your market. If the survey or research relates strongly to behavior or activity that is not characteristic of your market, the value of the conclusions is diminished for purposes of your decision making.
Avoid being whipsawed by every new piece of information or well written article. Collect it, digest it, discuss it, but be cautious when applying newly discovered insight (data) to your own marketing efforts.
In business, avoiding a move in the wrong direction can be equally advantageous to making the right move.
Marketing is a continuous process with many opportunities to make changes and try new methods. Keep in mind, though, that the goal is to build your brand and revenue stream. Operating on the cutting edge carries greater risk to your marketing expenditure. Also consider the time component, as any new marketing strategy requires time to develop effectiveness.

How to proceed?

  • Be patient, collect all the information you can and build your knowledge of social media marketing. 
  • Avoid blind experimentation with methods and tools you do not understand. 
  • Be skeptical until whatever reasonable analysis you choose to apply indicates an acceptably high probability of positive returns for a course of action.
  • Outsource activities that will require too much time from your current staff to effectively execute. Taking time away from current revenue generating tasks can increase the costs of new marketing activity.
  • If you outsource, search for a vendor that will provide what you want, not what they want. You and the vendor should reach a common understanding on what the delivery expectations are to be. Avoid purchasing service levels that you have not yet evaluated for usefulness to your business model.
The bottom line.....Be calm, be patient. Make a thoughtful decision and evaluate it's impact. 

As always, follow, comment, contact me with your questions. I can be contacted directly at CMS4i by putting @TomO in the message section. At CMS4i, we are here to help you make things work, so contact us anytime.

Let Go of Your Business and Let It Grow

representative of business success
Business success requires a willingness to change
I deeply respect and admire small business owner/operators. It takes more than an average amount of grit, determination, and smarts to get a business going and keep it alive and growing. One could also probably make a reasonable case for those same entrepreneurs being some small degree of nuts, too. The risks are high. The time commitment never really ends. And then there is the grueling burden of administration, an aspect of your operation grossly underestimated at the start, grinding away at your attempts to actually do something that might make the company some money.

You, or you and a very small number of partners, are your business. You provided the knowledge, skills, and drive to get the enterprise off the ground. After years of hard work, the business has grown into a fine operation, but still needs your input and effort on almost a daily basis. Your finger is on every button and dial throughout the operation, keeping everything finely tuned and delivering your product or service.

Business operations, as they grow, generally do not follow a smooth progression. The revenue picture may graph smoothly, but the underlying business processes and infrastructure tend to reach certain growth milestones where a substantial step change is needed to overcome the next hurdle. Revenue growth is unlikely to parallel the change in cost over the short term. Step changes can be a little scary, as sometimes changes cannot be undone once put in place. Every business owner can surely identify examples of step changes in their own business history. Revenue growth can be fairly smooth, but business infrastructure and resource growth tends to be quite bumpy and erratic.

Revenue growth, the reason you are in business, comes through two paths, opportunity and effort. Opportunistic growth is that call from a company you never heard off that wants to buy a truckload of your widgets. Essentially, opportunistic growth comes to you. On the other hand, effort based growth consists of business acquired, nurtured, and built through an investment of time and money. My sense is that the majority of revenue growth comes through effort, in many cases the effort of the business owners. That brings us to what can be one of the bigger barriers to business growth…the boss.

How to keep revenue growth a part of your business.

Successful business man in labyrinth of decisions and challenges
The path to success is not always clear

Let's look at two areas where an owner or manager may be hindering expansion or performance, with some possible corrective measures.

Doing too much on your own.  Even though you may be the most competent person at your company in performing some task, it may not be productive in the larger scheme of things for you to be doing it. As an owner or executive of the company, be sure to devote time to the macro level issues that affect the company. Identify tasks on your daily to-do list that can be shunted to someone else. If you are drowning in routine day to day activity, it leaves little time for doing research and formulating useful strategy for the organization’s growth and improvement. The demands on executive level time and talent can shift as an organization grows and changes. A smart executive will relinquish control over tasks that can be done competently by others, enabling a devotion of time to issues with the largest impact on the company's future.

Failing to apply human resources to their best use.  A bedrock element of business success is applying resources where they will generate the greatest return. Keeping too many business functions in-house, in an effort to save money or maintain control, can be counterproductive for the bottom line. Applying personnel to their best or highest value use can be difficult in smaller operations with limited staff. Structuring the workforce in a way that has everyone performing varied tasks to keep the operation going can sometimes be the result of failed thinking. There is an opportunity cost associated with having someone work on a task that does not exploit their highest contribution to revenue. For example, having a top producing sales rep spend time boxing up orders for shipping may not be the best use of the sales rep's time. How much new revenue might be produced by having the sales rep selling, instead of taping boxes? The lost revenue that could have been generated by the sales rep selling, instead of boxing, must be considered as additive to the cost of packing and shipping for purposes of decision making.

Some tasks which may eventually be handled in-house may not currently be at a scale that justifies commitment (hiring) of a matching qualified individual. Not having the right people do the work can result in diminished quality or productivity. Mismatching people with tasks for which they are not well suited is bad…bad for them, bad for the business.

How can I get the most return from my human resources?

  • Identify the highest and best use of each person at the company. 
  • Adjust each individual's work description to keep primary focus on performing highest value tasks.

So, after getting every member of the company workforce focused in on the best use of their time, how do you get all the work accomplished that is unassigned? One avenue that can provide substantial leverage to your operation is outsourcing. Outsourcing is not only for manufacturing, and does not necessarily involve having work performed overseas. There are contracting operations everywhere and some may be located closer than you imagined. Outsourcing is available for a staggering array of business functions, ranging from unskilled tasks to very specialized procedures. Administrative work can be outsourced, freeing human resources to focus on revenue generating activities. 
Outsourcing is part of business success and growth

Why aren’t you outsourcing already?

You probably are currently outsourcing several functions of your company, but do not consider it outsourcing. Do you use a payroll, office cleaning, or mass mailing service? You are outsourcing. Operations of almost any size can wall off certain tasks and have them performed by an external provider. 

What can get in the way of implementing  an outsource?

Current employees may be concerned about their job security and resist attempts to outsource. The successful navigation of personnel and labor relations issues can be challenging. Keep in mind that this article is directed at small, very small, businesses. The intent at this scale is not to reduce the number of employees. The goal is to deliver the maximum benefit from the current staff by having workers do what they do best and having some portion of the remaining work performed by outside contractors.

Throughout many discussions with small business veterans, a common theme emerges when they recount their business history and what they might have done differently. A large majority indicate that their growth (success) was hindered by their insistence on keeping as much work in-house as possible. There may be some instances where this is necessary, but those are a minority. A small business operator's desire to keep all business functions in-house may reflect a personal desire to maintain control that is not in line with good organizational policy or decision making. Letting go of personal desires that get in the way of sound decision making can be difficult, but must be done. Learn to recognize the influence of your personality on your rational decision making and adjust as needed to achieve the success you deserve.

What are the primary benefits of outsourcing?

  • Reduced management burden:  Managing an outsource procurement is less demanding than managing all the people, tasks, and materials that constitute the delivered product or service. Freeing up management time to focus on strategies and activities that generate revenue will move the business forward.
  • Predictable cost for a delivered unit of work: Contractors deliver a product or service meeting your minimum stated requirements at a cost that is predetermined. Any risk associated with operation of the outsourced process or task falls on the contractor, not the procuring company.
  • Application of company personnel to their highest valued use: Contracting out a properly planned schedule of activities allows your valued employees to do what they do best and generate the maximum amount of return for each human resource dollar.


  • Identify potential outsource work: After you match and assign the highest value tasks to each member of your workforce, review the work activities that remain unassigned. These have a high value when outsourced because they are essentially the tasks creating barriers to your workforce producing at its highest potential value.

    Another area that can benefit from outsourcing is technical work. It can be burdensome to train and maintain skilled labor, equipment, and facilities for certain types of work. If you build something in-house, it may be advantageous to contract it out. Every situation is different, but keep in mind that sending work to an outside producer will free up your valuable internal resources to do other things.
  • Properly specify deliverables: Outsourced work needs to be specified in a way that gives the provider a clear standard against which delivered work will be evaluated. The same specification also serves as the internal quality assurance standard used to accept or reject delivered products and services.
  • Avoid evaluation strictly on a cash cost basis: The overall goal is to enable your operation to produce a higher output without a corresponding increase in staff or physical assets. The real cost of work conducted in-house can be difficult to discern, but it is generally much greater than the direct cost associated with the labor and materials involved.
  • Value your outsource contractors: Strive to develop long term relationships with contractors that satisfy you. Their value will grow along with your company.
Letting go of maximum control can be difficult for some small business owners. Their current level of success may have been built upon a foundation of self-executed tasks. If that is the case, past experience may now be a barrier to future growth. Proceeding thoughtfully and with careful consideration with an outsourcing plan may be just what a small company needs to make that step change to the next level.

Follow, comment, contact me with your questions. I can be contacted directly at CMS4i by putting @TomO in the message section. At CMS4i, we are here to help you make things work, so contact us anytime.

Workplace Reality Check - "It's not about being right. It's about being successful."

cooperative professional work group
Nobody gets things done alone. Make allies, not adversaries.
I originally wrote this article for one of CMS4i's customers and posted on their blog. It was written for a target audience of engineers, but it occurred to me that we can all benefit from a review of how we fit into the larger picture, and how our behavior might make things better for ourselves and everyone around us in our work environment. I share it here, with hope that it will give you a degree of perspective.

As engineers involved in process measurement and control, we are accustomed to everybody else looking to us for answers and solutions. We are the people that make things work. Occasionally the pressure and stress can get a little intense and strip away some of our civility in our dealings with those around us. You may have bitter experience with this as either victim or perpetrator. It never ends well. With a private and candid self-assessment about how we view and interact with other stakeholders in our projects, we may be able to scale down some of our stress and better focus on the reality of the task at hand. Consider the points below. Comment and add a few points of your own.
You are an expert, but so are they.
Accept that, just as you have specialized knowledge that others do not, they have specialized knowledge or insight you may lack. Encourage the sharing of knowledge with those you interface with on a project. Try to be proactive and ask gently probing questions to ascertain the comprehension level of others involved in the project in various roles. Their increased understanding of key project technical concepts will promote more effective communication throughout the duration of the project. It can also help to avoid missteps in your own progress. Good people appreciate the time you take to provide basic explanation of concepts they may not fully understand, but need to know. Make valuable allies of the other project stakeholders by freely contributing your expertise. It is an investment that costs you little, but may pay immense dividends at some future time.
Everybody else's job usually looks easier than it really is.
All jobs have their own special challenges and responsibilities that generate stress. Accept the notion that you probably do not fully comprehend the burdens on those around you. Your portion of the project is certainly critical, but no more so than that of anybody else. Everybody needs to perform or nobody succeeds. Try not to view your project tasks as compartmentalized, but rather as part of the combined joint effort of all stakeholders. Help out others whenever you can. Again, make allies.
Everybody is somebody's customer.
Whomever you deliver your work product to is your customer. The people delivering their work to you should view you as their customer. Make your customers happy by adjusting aspects of your procedures to better satisfy their needs. In a more technical sense, your modified process output becomes an improved input to their process. Small changes in your delivery may produce comparatively large returns in customer satisfaction. Allies.
Do not embarrass or demean others...especially in public settings.
Embarrassment breeds anger, a desire for revenge, and other bad and unproductive things. Avoid words and deeds that will make a coworker or stakeholder look bad in front of others. If there is a problem, if there is a mistake, try to deal with it discreetly whenever possible. Giving a someone a chance to repair a mistake before it becomes public builds value in your relationship. Certainly, there can be instances where more is at stake than someone's pride. Use good judgement to recognize when you can privately give someone an opportunity to amend a situation without causing harm.
Reach a common understanding of project scope and technical details.
Your organization's management or your company's client, whatever the case may be, will likely have project expectations which will be clearly understood in their mind, but perhaps not fully described to all those tasked with specific performance. It is also possible, even probable, these same stakeholders will have misconceptions or a lack of technical knowledge about certain facets of the project. Omissions from the project specs and gaps in the common understanding of technical aspects related to the work requirements can easily turn a fairly straight forward task into a wildfire of organizational mayhem. The way in which these situations are handled must be diplomatic. Injured egos can do more damage to project harmony and progress than the facts ever will. The delivery method for the facts will likely be more crucial than the facts themselves.
It's not about being right. It's about being successful.
At our company we recognize customers are more than merely people that buy things from us. They are people to whom we contribute our time and talent to help achieve their success,... which inevitably will lead to ours. Never hesitate to let us know how we are doing, or how we can help.

Follow, comment, contact me with your questions. I can be contacted directly at CMS4i by putting @TomO in the message section. At CMS4i, we are here to help you make things work, so contact us anytime.

Meetings - Some Tips on How to Make Them Worthwhile

Woman giving presentation at a meeting
Coworkers gathering to discuss
project progress or business strategy
Even in the sometimes diffuse work spaces of modern organizations, where much of our contact with coworkers might be via email, chats, messages, or specialized apps, there are still significant times when collaborators must congregate as a unit. There are some things that cannot be effectively accomplished without simultaneous attendance of the involved parties. The rate of information exchange that can be accomplished verbally far outpaces anybody's keyboard speed. We are need meetings, so let's step up and make them work.
Meetings, whether in person or virtual, can be highly efficient catalysts of productivity and creativity. If managed poorly, there are numerous very descriptive terms employed by attendees to describe the experience.

Compiled here is an admittedly long list of items that might help meeting attendees and mangers to sharpen their performance and contribute to a productive session that breeds enthusiasm and results. Some will appear obvious, but it never hurts to run yourself through a refresher and bring the important points back into focus.
  1. Publish and follow a meeting agenda. This is the easiest way to a productive start.
  2. Start on time. Can be tough at first – but if you stick to the start time, people will be more likely to show up on time.
  3. Give periodic summaries. Ask group members to summarize. This ensures everyone understands the discussion points.
  4. Assign tasks to participants. Good managers do this. This builds consensus too.
  5. Insist that vague statements be clarified. Dissidents and attention grabbers do this. Don't let them.
  6. Test all generalizations. “Everyone knows...” is not a valid approach. Watch for this in emotionally charged meetings. 
  7. Ask probing questions. Use open-ended questions, not ones that can be answered “yes” or “no”.
  8. Protect and defend minority opinions. Many good ideas come from individuals or small subgroups. Encourage them. 
  9. Keep outside issues outside. Schedule another meeting to handle those issues; don't stray from agenda.
  10. Know when to fold 'em. Once an issue is resolved, don't revisit it. Keep a list of issues that just hang on. Will they ever be resolved?
  11. Always debrief. Acknowledge what went right. This is important for morale.
  12. Combat negative behaviors. Don't let any group member derail the meeting.
  13. Curtail dominance. Learn to identify the individual that over-participates, effectively shutting others out. Have a private chat with that person. Perhaps a code or signal between the manager and dominator so the latter knows when to put on the brakes.
  14. Avoid tunnel vision. Emphasize alternatives if polarization is happening. Ask the group for new ideas.
  15. Minimize silence. Strong contributors who suddenly become silent can be a warning sign. Ask the group for input, observations and thoughts.
  16. Watch for subgroups or cliques. Try to bring those who are unaligned or undecided into the group rather than having an instigator recruit them to their position.
  17. Seek out hidden agendas of individuals whose goal may be to increase personal power or decrease the authority of the meeting leader. Have this handy: “Is this what we are meeting about today?”
  18. Monitor agreement. It could be the “yes men and women” agreeing too quickly, which isn't helpful.
  19. Find the right style. Facilitator rather than controller? Need to learn the “dance” that works with the group.
    Corporate style board room
    The same rules apply to meetings held in board rooms, cubicles, or parking lots
  20. Encourage participation by everyone. All contributions have value and may lead to a preferable solution.
  21. Clarify points. Helping someone to clarify their points improves everyone's understanding of the issue.
  22. Restate the issue. Particularly useful when meeting is not going well. Helps to refocus and defuse an emotional moment.
  23. Act as mediator. When the group is stuck, introduce a new idea, revisit an old one, or put off to the next meeting.
  24. Facilitate the meeting. The best facilitator has a general interest in other people, the group, and the goals of the organization.
  25. Express support. Even when you disagree, still support the person's right to an opinion.
  26. Invite participation. A withholding of  a "no" is not a “yes.” Non-participation is a very manipulative technique. Don't let this happen.
  27. Check for consensus. Confirm where everyone stands on an issue to determine when the group is approaching a resolution, or if more discussion of information is needed.
  28. Appeal to higher goals. Don't let the minor power plays, hidden agendas, personality issues get in the way. A wise and powerful group leader does this well.
By using this checklist for running an effective meeting, organizations and groups can make meeting times more useful and efficient. Effective meeting management is skill acquired through consideration, practice, and candid reflection on past performance.

Follow, comment, contact me with your questions. I can be contacted directly at CMS4i by putting @TomO in the message section. At CMS4i, we are here to help you make things work, so contact us anytime.