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4 Reasons to Customize your LinkedIn URL

  1. Reinforces a consistent personal brand
  2. Provides an easy to remember and share URL
  3. Increases overall visibility
  4. Improves tech savvy image

Building a durable brand online requires both frequency and consistency and a customized LinkedIn URL is one of the building blocks.

When anyone creates a LinkedIn profile they are assigned default URL. The default URL contains random impersonal letters and numbers. Securing a customized URL is a free feature provided by LinkedIn and the upgrade only takes a few moments to accomplish.

Here are the steps to customize your LinkedIn URL:

1) Log in your LinkedIn profile.
2) Edit your Public Profile (follow this link to the correct page)
3) Edit your Public Profile URL (it’s located in the top right corner of the page)

For the most professional URL, try: If that isn’t available, add your middle initial or industry.

Here’s a more detailed instructional link:


Untangle The Data Hairball of Data-Driven Marketing

What is the data hairball?

I use “hairball” as a metaphor to describe the complicated jumble of interactions, applications, data and processes that accumulate haphazardly when companies are unprepared to handle information from a wide range of sources. It’s different than the “data deluge” or the “sea of data” we’ve all read about; sticking with that kind of imagery, the data hairball would be the shoreline after a tsunami, but prior to reconstruction.

What Is Big Data?
The data hairball embodies both the promise and the threat behind big data and digital channels. “Promise” because there is infinite value locked-up in all that data and all those channels. “Threat” because I see a snarled data hairball as the biggest obstacle to improving customer engagement.

So, how can you unravel all the complications and start harnessing the power of new data-driven marketing strategies? Once again, it’s critical to take it step-by-step. Lisa Arthur wrote a book on Big Data which explains the process in much more detail, but here are the basic eight points I suggest you follow:

1. Define the vision. What customer experience do you want to deliver? Research the customer journey as it is now. Then, paint a picture of the future. You goal is to make that vision a reality.

2. Outline the questions you need to answer. Which business questions do you want the data (and the team) to answer? Too many projects end in disappointment because they fail to keep the outcome in mind. If you aren’t sure what questions to ask, conducting a discovery session with all the key stakeholders can help them bubble up organically.

3. Assign the right team with the right sponsorship. Make sure you bring together people who “get it.” You’ll need senior-executive alignment and support, and you’ll need the team to reach deep into the organization, across multiple departments and geographies. Plus, everyone involved needs to be willing to challenge the status quo as needed.

4. Identify the data requirements. Be certain you understand what types of data you’ll need to drive the desired customer experience. Look at the data you can currently access, and then map your future needs as they relate to your present abilities. You’re bound to find gaps, and that’s okay, because next you’ll need to . . .

5. Find the source of the data you need. As you take inventory of what data exists and where, make sure you look across the entire enterprise. Who knows? Other departments, such as R&D, customer support, inventory management and business operations, may actually be collecting and storing the data you need. Add this information to the map you established in step four, then examine the remaining gaps and determine what additional data you need to collect.

6. Identify and ready the single source of truth. Most organizations typically use a combination of technologies to achieve a single source of verified data—what I like to call the “truth.” These enabling systems usually include a data model or organizational structure, an enterprise data warehouse to provide a single repository for organizational data, a big data analytics discovery platform that collects structured and unstructured data for analysis and insights, and a master data-management solution to build a single source of customer information to be used as the so-called golden record.

7. Consolidate, integrate and iterate your data. Once you have a single source of the truth, you need to populate it by bringing all the data together. Begin by consolidating and integrating the data to inform the strategy, campaigns and initiatives that will elevate the customer experience. Complete the process of unraveling this part of the data hairball by devising new collection processes to use going forward, and add governance policies based on what you learn.

8. Test, expand and evolve. Remember to measure and assess your progress. Start by answering the business questions developed in step two, and verify they are indeed the right questions. Look to deliver a few quick wins and identify landmines that need to be addressed before going any further. Chart out crucial points on your journey where more data will be available to improve a customer interaction or campaign, and then test those, as well. This iterative approach will improve results and build confidence in the data.

And remember: Start small.

Small-scale, pilot projects are valuable because they let you test your data strategy’s feasibility with fewer resources and less risk than larger projects. They’ll also keep you from feeling overwhelmed by the sheer size of your data hairball. As you focus on one strand, you may realize that your pilot project gives you the experience and knowledge to unravel the next strand. Experiment, test and learn. Keep untangling the knots, project by project. It won’t be long before you realize that your data hairball is actually becoming more manageable!


Using existing data to understand your customers

While your database or customer relationship management system (CRM) may hold valuable information about your customers that will help you to understand their needs, you can gather more information to improve your service further.

Some fundamental questions to ask about customer records might be:

  • Who is a customer?
  • Who was a customer?
  • Who might be a customer
  • What else might a customer need?

It is worth recognising when trying to understand customers, that there is a process involved when customers BUY what it is your organisation provides. At the beginning, potential customers may not know anything about your organisation but in the end they take the action to buy your products are services. Understanding this process can help make sure that you succeed in ‘selling’ to a customer. The basic buying process is as follows:

  • Unaware – I do not know what you do...
  • Aware – I know what you do but so what?
  • Interest – Yes, that is OK but I am not sure you’re the one...
  • Conviction – You sound plausible but do I really need it?
  • Desire – YES! I want it but how do I get it?
  • Action – I know how to get it easily, thanks!

Good CRM systems can track all interactions between potential customers and those actually buying. By so doing, it is possible to use particular marketing communications to understand where particular potential customers are in the process and take them from one stage to the next until they are actually buying from you.

Do remember that in many situations, it is not just one person that makes the decision to buy your products or services. In many markets, more than one person is involved in the buying decision. Children influence their parents, for example, and in business-to-business markets, the bigger the value of the purchase, the more people are involved in the decision. We call this the decision-making unit or DMU.

There are six possible roles in a DMU and are listed below in no particular order. It is worth noting that some individuals in a DMU may have more than one functional role in the buying decision.

DMUs may be individuals or groups of individuals and have the following roles in the buying process – and let us use an example of your organisation considering the purchase of a new telephone system:

  • Users of the product or service – as the name suggests, these people may use the product or service and may be closely involved in after-sales service yet not necessarily close to the process of deciding which supplier to use or placing the order. For example, your office staff may be using any new telephone system but not involved in early discussions with system suppliers; they would be involved when being trained in how to use the new handsets.
  • Influencers – these people have an effect on the decision-making process yet my never actually use the product or service; they may even be outside your organisation when placing the order. They may be technical advisors, journalists, or perhaps budget holders who influence how much is spent on the new system.
  • Deciders – these people take all the opinions and ideas from the rest of the DMU to reach the final decision. In larger organisations the decision may fall to IT departments, for example, who make recommendations to others in the DMU. It may be a single individual or a team.
  • Approvers – often the budget holders or management team, these are ‘signing-off’ the decision to buy the new system.
  • Buyers – are involved in placing the order and dealing with the suppliers to ensure that the new system meets specification, is delivered on time, and installed to schedule.
  • Gatekeepers – control access to the rest of the DMU and may be such as secretaries who control whether suppliers can get to speak or meet any of the individuals above.

Before the new telephone system is purchased, everyone in the DMU must be through the buying process to ‘decision’ and ‘action’ at the same time otherwise the purchase cannot be agreed. Good CRM systems include information on the DMU and where each individual or group is in the buying process.

Remember, CRM systems are more sophisticated than simple mailing lists. Because they hold information about customer behaviour and preferences they can improve customer satisfaction and retention. They can help you to identify customer needs more effectively, allowing you to up-sell and cross-sell, increasing profitability.


Cutting the Cord: Dove Channel streams family-friendly happy thoughts

Those in search of wholesome family videos to stream have a new destination: Dove Channel.

The subscription service, which launches Tuesday on is curated by The Dove Foundation, a non-profit that for nearly 25 years has produced its own movie reviews based on Judeo-Christian values.

“Dove Channel takes The Dove Foundation’s mission to the next level by transitioning from providing consumers information about values-based content to providing them direct access,” said Dick Rolfe, who is CEO and co-founder of the Wyoming, Mich.-based group, in an email exchange. “We believe Dove Channel will demonstrate a greater demand for Dove-approved entertainment, which will in turn, increase the production of family-friendly content.”

Newcomers will get a free one-week trial of the service. After that, a $4.99 monthly subscription gets you ad-free streaming, early access to new releases and use of the service’s customizable content-filtering feature. Non-subscribers can watch about 60% of Dove Channel content for free with ads.

Among the 600 to 700 titles available at launch: VeggieTales, The Velveteen Rabbit, Highway To Heaven, Swiss Family Robinson, The Adventures of Black Beauty and Where The Red Fern Grows. In addition to watching on computers, you can use Android and iOS devices and Roku video devices.

Faith-based content makes about 40% of what you find on Dove Channel, while the majority will be other family-friendly and children’s releases that have been rated on six different criteria (sexuality, language, violence, drug and alcohol use, nudity and other).

Dove Channel provides some valuable tools for families within its interface, which lets viewers customize the content recommended. You can choose to see only those shows that have gotten specific Dove ratings — such as “Faith Friendly — Ages 12+” or Family Approved — All Ages” and you can use a sliding bar that lets you adjust how much bad language, violence and other factors you want to allow.

A parent could, for instance, select the “Faith-Based Caution” seal and set violence settings to zero so that children wouldn’t see any films earning that seal that might have violence. Parents set a password, so they can control the settings and go back and change them at any time.

If you decide to peruse the library, you can call up a movie or episode to get a synopsis and a Dove review. “Dove reviews all of the content that goes on the channel, so everything that is on the network is Dove-approved. Families can go through that and decide if there’s content that is questionable for their kids,” said Eric Davies, digital networks coordinator at Cinedigm, who walked me through an online demo of the service.

Cinedigm served as tech partner with Dove Foundation on the channel, after previously helping launch the online channel Docurama last year and the Comic Con-branded CONtv, in conjunction with Wizard World in March.

With streaming video becoming more and more a part of entertainment in homes, Dove Channel provides families “with direct access to hundreds of Dove-approved titles in one safe place,” Rolfe said. “And, with the one-of-a-kind customization feature, they have total control over the content they watch.”

“Cutting the Cord” is a regular column covering Net TV and ways to get it. If you have suggestions or questions, contact Mike Snider via e-mail And follow him on Twitter: @MikeSnider.


The difference between a Twitter: Reply, Retweet, and Direct Message

Twitter is like a river of confetti.  Tweets are the confetti which are individual messages floating down the river.  If your audience is standing on the bank of the river and paying attention then they will see your message or Tweet.  But Twitter has created some tools to allow users to communicate with each other in a more direct manner; Replies, Retweets and Direct Messages. This post is designed to help take the mystery out of these three communication tools.  Your Twitter marketing success depends on your ability to use each of these as effectively as possible to create ongoing conversation with your followers.

Direct Message (DM) is a private conversation you have with only individuals who are following you.  To send a DM all you need to do start your Tweet with the letter “@” followed by the users twitter name and then type your message. If you attempt to send a DM to a person who is not following you Twitter will let you know there is a problem with an error message.  This is a wonderful limitation because you will only receive a DM from someone who you are following.

Replies. If you want to direct your comments to one specific person but would like everyone else to see it then use the “Reply” function. You address the person by using their Twitter user name preceded by the “@” symbol. For example:

@johndoe I like to eat at Joe’s Diner in Pueblo.

Everyone who is following John and me will see the message, but I am specifically directing it to John. (Those who are not following either of us will not see the message.)

You can also use the Reply function to refer to someone by name. For example:

I’m headed to dinner at Joe’s Diner with @janedoe and @jimdoe. I am looking forward to trying the new menu.

Another advantage to using Twitter names in messages is that it creates clickable links.  The link will take a user to the Twitter page of that person.  They will then have the opportunity to follow that person if they wish.

Retweets are a way of re-broadcasting one of your followers messages to everyone that follows you. This is a simple way to share content that you find valuable or interesting with your followers.

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8 Things You Should Not Do Every Day

If you get decent value from making to-do lists, you’ll get huge returns–in productivity, in improved relationships, and in your personal well-being–from adding these items to your not to-do list:

Every day, make the commitment not to:

1. Check my phone while I’m talking to someone.

You’ve done it. You’ve played the, “Is that your phone? Oh, it must be mine,” game. You’ve tried the you-think-sly-but-actually-really-obvious downwards glance. You’ve done the, “Wait, let me answer this text…” thing.

Maybe you didn’t even say, “Wait.” You just stopped talking, stopped paying attention, and did it.

Want to stand out? Want to be that person everyone loves because they make you feel, when they’re talking to you, like you’re the most important person in the world?

Stop checking your phone. It doesn’t notice when you aren’t paying attention.

Other people? They notice.

And they care.

2. Multitask during a meeting.

The easiest way to be the smartest person in the room is to be the person who pays the most attention to the room.

You’ll be amazed by what you can learn, both about the topic of the meeting and about the people in the meeting if you stop multitasking and start paying close attention. You’ll flush out and understand hidden agendas, you’ll spot opportunities to build bridges, and you’ll find ways to make yourself indispensable to the people who matter.

It’s easy, because you’ll be the only one trying.

And you’ll be the only one succeeding on multiple levels.

3. Think about people who don’t make any difference in my life.

Trust me: The inhabitants of planet Kardashian are okay without you.

But your family, your friends, your employees–all the people that really matter to you–are not. Give them your time and attention.

They’re the ones who deserve it.

4. Use multiple notifications.

You don’t need to know the instant you get an email. Or a text. Or a tweet. Or anything else that pops up on your phone or computer.

If something is important enough for you to do, it’s important enough for you to do without interruptions. Focus totally on what you’re doing. Then, on a schedule you set–instead of a schedule you let everyone else set–play prairie dog anpop your head up to see what’s happening.

And then get right back to work. Focusing on what you are doing is a lot more important than focusing on other people might be doing.

They can wait. You, and what is truly important to you, cannot.

5. Let the past dictate the future.

Mistakes are valuable. Learn from them.

Then let them go.

Easier said than done? It all depends on your perspective. When something goes wrong, turn it into an opportunity to learn something you didn’t know–especially about yourself.

When something goes wrong for someone else, turn it into an opportunity to be gracious, forgiving, and understanding.

The past is just training. The past should definitely inform but in no way define you–unless you let it.

6. Wait until I’m sure I will succeed.

You can never feel sure you will succeed at something new, but you can always feel sure you are committed to giving something your best.

And you can always feel sure you will try again if you fail.

Stop waiting. You have a lot less to lose than you think, and everything to gain.

7. Talk behind someone’s back.

If only because being the focus of gossip sucks. (And so do the people who gossip.)

If you’ve talked to more than one person about something Joe is doing, wouldn’t everyone be better off if you stepped up and actually talked to Joe about it? And if it’s “not your place” to talk to Joe, it’s probably not your place to talk about Joe.

Spend your time on productive conversations. You’ll get a lot more done–and you’ll gain a lot more respect.

8. Say “yes” when I really mean “no.”

Refusing a request from colleagues, customers, or even friends is really hard. But rarely does saying no go as badly as you expect. Most people will understand, and if they don’t, should you care too much about what they think?

When you say no, at least you’ll only feel bad for a few moments. When you say yes to something you really don’t want to do you might feel bad for a long time–or at least as long as it takes you to do what you didn’t want to do in the first place.