A fellow Bulwark employee and I recently attended AZIMA‘s August dinner event: How To Build Social Communities For Your Brand. The night’s speakers was Kevin Spidel, a self described “recovering political hack” who has extensive experience building and growing online communities in the political realm before doing so for more mainstream clientele.

Though the entire presentation was excellent and worth reviewing if you can find a copy, here were the few takeaways that really stood out to me. (Not all the ensuing content was covered or discussed during the presentation, but has simply served as a foundation for the following thoughts.)

Online communities are not audiences. Like the minions, they need direction and support.

“Communities are not audiences”. This is an important starting point to remember. Communities simply don’t happen. They don’t just appear all of a sudden and coincidentally happen to be comprised of people with strikingly similar preferences, passions or habits. Communities form for a reason. If you’re wondering where a given community is in the consumer funnel, forget it! You’re thinking of a different funnel. So don’t think like that. For that reason, communities do not need to be spoken to. They do not need marketing in the raw sense. They are beyond that point. What it needs is direction and purpose.

“Once you have a brand ambassador, forget a digital strategy. You need a volunteer strategy.” As vendors, or as markers, we easily get wrapped up in numbers. “What’s the ROI from last month?” “How was last month compared to like-month from last year?” “This customer just bought our product. How can up-sale him on additional products or services?” These are all statements that stem from the line of thinking that dwells on numbers and upper-right trending charts. It’s too easy to only view a consumer as a potential repeat consumer. Measureable performance is one thing, but when it comes to an organic community in an online setting, that is simply not the case.

Singer Michael Buble let a fan accompany him on stage for an unstaged duet.

Once you have a self-appointed brand ambassador on your hands, the possibilities are limitless. So, stop figuring out a way to keep selling stuff to that individual and come up with with a plan to empower them as vocalists. Provide a way for them to vocalize and share their experience or opinion. Build them a soapbox that they can stand on and say it in their own words. Better yet, let them borrow your soapbox.

If you think about it, brand ambassadors will continuously and willingly purchase your brand, so don’t worry about that. Your strategy for those consumers should be to help them educate and proselytize within their circles – circles that you most likely don’t even know exist and to which you will certainly not have access.

And, the gem of the night: “Loyalty is lack of a better option”. HALLELUJAH!!!

We as marketers have a propensity to pat ourselves on the back at the thought of how loyal our customers have become. We often credit our elaborate campaigns and strategies as the reason our consumers like our product and service so much that they are unwilling to defect to a competitor, even at the temptation of a lower price or additional perks.

WRONG!

Maybe, just maybe, it’s because they don’t have a better option. Or, said different, consumer’s don’t know they have other options. Every company thinks they provide the best products within their industry. Every pizza parlor thinks and advertises theirs is the best in town. Every bike manufacturer sells the “best bikes in the world”. On top of that, each one of those companies’ marketing campaigns suggest they have successfully conveyed that idea and that is the reason they have as many customers as they do.

Now, let me tell you a different story. A friend of mine has been with his insurance agent for close to 15 years. All his insurance is through the same agent. Minus any catastrophic claims, they’ve been through thick and thin with each other. Their business relationship has even survived the possibility of changing to a competitor based on price….until recently. My friend was recently solicited regarding his policy and this unnamed competitor offered the same coverage, plus additional products at a noticeably lower price. Not just a few dollars, but a considerable sum. My friend even consulted with his long-time agent first, to see if he was able to compete with the new competitor. His agent still could not get within the same ballpark. Given that my friend was actively looking for ways to cut living costs, he has now agreed to terms with a brand new face and a brand new provider. Just like that!

An Ohio native, Lebron James was destined to play for Cleveland his entire career. Until Miami came along with a better offer. Even loyalty has as price.

At the end of the day, doing business with consumers or other businesses comes down to three things: price, results and tolerance. Are consumers comfortable paying the determined price to receive the expected return? Are the results in line with the consumer’s expectation, and within reason relative to the vendor’s price? Does the consumer harbor enough tolerance, mentally and financially, to accept the results (or lack thereof) relative to the price and expectation. When it’s said and done the consumer will ask themselves one thing: “Am I getting what I pay for?” Consumers will be loyal to those that get the job done. End. Of. Story.

Building and nurturing communities within your brand has an intrinsic way of bypassing all of that. Healthy communities are comprised of believers, and even their faith in the brand will be tested. That’s normal. As you continue to educate and monitor your fold, the likelihood grows that their trust and belief in your brand will stand the test of time.

Peek at Returning Review Stars to Google

Posted: July 18, 2013 by Thos003 in Uncategorized

Google announced earlier this year that the GOLD STARS for Local Search would be returning, now powered by Google Plus. Well here is a sneak peek:

GooglePlusReviewStars

(Thank you Mike of Carpet Cleaning Chico for sharing this image.)

This is in Beta right now and few users can see these. Further, the final roll out may look a little different. But overall, the Gold Stars are there in living color. And I like the added score in front of the stars to clarify the actual average. It’s a nice touch. But still, more importantly, the stars. The stars are coming back!

Gold Star History

It was one year ago that Google removed the review stars from the local search pack. They instead went with a Zagat rating. A red box number from 1 to 30. This number was virtually worthless to users. Most didn’t understand it. 5 simple gold stars was easy to see, to read, to understand. And the disappearance of those stars made a difference. A HUGE difference. Taking away those stars cost Bulwark Exterminating big money. July of 2012 was my first down month in 6 years. Oddly, all other vital signs to my website look the same. Same traffic, same time on site, same bounce rate. But sales were down. After fixing this problem with a little schema markup, and then becoming the only organic with stars we had record breaking months. In fact, September of 2012 was our best pest control month ever, which is notable considering September is the tail end of our busy season.

Are Gold Stars REALLY that Impactful?

Further evidence of the importance of the 5 gold stars is found in Adwords Express (formerly Google Boost) and PPC Seller Ratings. Both of these add stars to google’s paid ads. Neither of these were removed over the past year. Since the Adwords team is in the game to make money, I doubt that leaving those gold stars in PPC ads was an accident. In fact, I know several local companies that opted to use Adwords Express for the sole purpose of restoring the “Gold Review Stars”. The results of for those that went that route varied. The lack of control in Adwords express deterred me from going that route.  I’m not a fan of paying $10 a click for keywords I don’t get a say in. (You can find my full Pros and Pests to Adwords Express on Avalaunch’s blog) And Google doesn’t offer the review star ad extension for local businesses outside of adwords express. But others have reported that they like adwords express. So with all marketing, test it.

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Wow, Independace Day!

Posted: July 4, 2013 by Thos003 in Uncategorized

Happy Independence Day!! God bless America!

So it’s been awhile since I’ve written here. It’s the darn FREEDOM that has kept me from writing.

“FREEDOM you say?? Freedom keeps you from writing?”

I know it sounds a bit bizarre, rationally, if I were free then I’d have the time to write. I do like to write, but there are things that I value more than writing, and those things have consumed my time and so I am not FREE to write. Let me explain further, FREEDOM allows me to opportunity to write, but opportunity cost has taken that freedom to write by spending the precious commodity of time else where.

I heard a great musician once speak and say, “How many of you want to be master pianists?”

I raised my hand.

“You LIE.” he replied. “Wanting is doing. If you really wanted it then you would put in the time and energy to do it.”

He was right. I didn’t really want to be a master pianist.

Freedom makes great good and great evil possible.

I am grateful for the great nation we live in. I am so very happy with the freedoms I enjoy. But I must recognize that these freedoms also afford the opportunity for abuse of time. It allows great evils. Our Nation stands divided now often between those that defend good and those that promote evil. Our nation allows men with evil designs the freedom to choose evil. This balance is itself an opportunity cost. It must be that those who will use freedom to build great things, to advance humanity, to revolutionize the world, are permitted to do so unrestrained. And in loosening those reins, beings that will corrupt, tear down, and oppose the progress of mankind, are equally free to actuate their desires. Freedom is simply a conduit for men and women to reach their potentials for better or worse. A hammer is a tool. The use of the hammer to build or tear down is no fault of the hammer.

Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

We are free to choose this day whom we will serve. Laws aside, the good or evil we do is a right given to each of us. Freedom has made America thrive. Perhaps freedom isn’t always efficient. But freedom is effective. American freedom has advanced the world. Railroads, gas, telephone, electricity, and TV, all American. Even to this wondrous internet that allows me to work for Bulwark and blog to you right now, is American. Freedom rings the American advancement bell. It despite the corruption that follows some of these advances, and despite any individual’s view of the damages that America has done to world, America has and will always better the world as a whole.

Pursue your life and liberty as you will. Ultimately despite the possible decay and corruption found in America today, good may still prevail. It is our unalienable right to help ourselves, our homes, our families, and our communities in that pursuit of Happiness. But when our help is not welcomed by others, leave it be. For each of us may only ultimately determine the happiness of one person. The pursuit of happiness is yours and yours alone. While you may not be the author of happiness, you can find it. Happiness is there. It does exist. The Truth is that your Freedom is your own, to spend as you will.

YOU ARE FREE TO CHOOSE HAPPINESS.

This is the pest control guy, wishing you a happy Fourth of July.

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Income Tax 100th Anniversary, Did you miss it?

Posted: April 23, 2013 by Thos003 in Uncategorized

Someone turned 100 a week ago, and somehow I don’t think you celebrated it.

“People who complain about taxes can be divided into two classes: men and women.” 

Vintage Pin, Repeal Income Tax

According to last year’s presidential election exit polls, most voters want lower taxes. For a government run by the voters, this does not seem to be going with the popular vote. Even Senator John Kerry runs from taxes by docking his 7 million dollar yacht outside of the state’s reach, saving himself near half a million.

How did this pass if so many people hate taxes?

Well when the income tax was introduced it would only tax 1% of the population. So the majority got together and said, “Let’s take money from that 1%”.

How has the income tax aged?

For starters, the original tax code was 400 pages long. At 100 years old, it has 73,954 pages. ….Who has read all of that?

Highest Income Tax rate in 1913, 7 percent. The 2013 tax rate high, 39.6 percent. But it has seen much worse.

Did you know that the Original income tax was repealed?

During war times, Lincoln instituted revenue taxes to help fund the war. 10 years later, in 1872, the tax was repealed based on the violation to the constitution. The 16th Amendment was added in 1913, the year our current income tax was born.

“Income taxes punish the very things we want more of: productive work, risk-taking and success. We can’t say this enough: A tax on income is the price you pay for working; a tax on profits, the price you pay for success; and a tax on capital gains, the price you pay for taking risks that work out.” – Steve Forbes

Denmark holds the highest income tax rate at 60%.

Perhaps that it make you feel a little better about your current tax rate to know that 18 other nations have a higher income tax than the US.

The average American contributes $5 for ever Billion that the Government spends. This, of course, varies by your income as the bulk of the money come from our graduated income tax. And yet we still are not paying enough to cover the Governments spending habits. Perhaps we are not too far off from meeting that Denmark high tax.

Over 90% will e-file taxes in 2013

Happy Birthday

Happy Birthday (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


Perhaps one of the most innovative moves in recent years with regards to the income tax is e-filing. But don’t be too impressed with the government, as “The IRS has partnered with various private industry companies” to make e-filing a reality.

So are you wishing the income-tax a Happy 100th Birthday?

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Simple metrics can put you and your company on the road to continuous improvement. Bulwark Exterminating’s Adam Seever shares how.

Business Sign X

Business Sign X (Photo credits: http://www.roadtrafficsigns.com)

Big firms save millions by reducing errors and waste through Six Sigma, Kaizen and Lean Management. But for small and mid-size companies, these principles can be hard to apply. It’s easy to get lost in the jargon, said Adam Seever, CEO of Bulwark Exterminating in Mesa, Ariz.
His suggestion? Keep it simple: Focus on measurement.

Commit to the power of metrics.

First, your organization must embrace three key values:

Hamilton path in graph. Arrow: edge of graph, ...

Hamilton path in graph. Arrow: edge of graph, Blue dot: vertex of graph, red arrows show Hamilton Path. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

  1. Measurement is good.
  2. If it is measured, it will improve.
  3. If it is not measured, quality will not exist.

“You have to accept that measurement is necessary for improvement,” said Seever. “You may have great employees, but if the systems they work in aren’t measured, they can’t see how they’re doing compared with each other and you can’t see how the systems relate to the overall money-making capacity of the business.”

Take a reality check.

Get managers together and discuss what employees should be doing but aren’t. Write these “shoulds” down. “That’s a success in and of itself,” said Seever.

This process is all about discovering reality, which is “whatever your average employee is doing when no one is looking,” he said.

Here’s an example: You want your technicians to start the day’s first service in the first 20 minutes of the 8 to11 a.m. time block. Your average technician, however, isn’t showing up until after 10 a.m. Technically he’s not late, but delaying this first service can throw his entire day behind schedule.

Should you fire this employee? Give him more training? Neither, said Seever. “You just can’t throw the axe every time the average person isn’t doing what you want them to do,” he said. And lecturing is useless, especially when the employee is protected by the work habits of the majority. “They will not change. You will not find increased productivity,” he said.

According to Seever, “They’re not the inadequate one. You are.” When you have the mean of individuals in your system acting contrary to what the management team thinks should happen, that’s the fault of management not employees. The goals you’ve developed and the systems you built are insufficient.

Prioritize and measure.

rel-author-tagIdentify one or two of the “shoulds” and brainstorm how to measure them. Start with something you easily
can get your arms around.

“It’s a learning process for everyone in the company.” If you’ve collected people who like to ride the gravy train, there’s going to be friction. Bulwark Exterminating put GPS devices in service trucks to monitor when technicians arrived at their first call. A simple spreadsheet — check yes or no — recorded whether employees showed up in the first 20 minutes of the time block.

Do the math.

Calculate the economic impact if the majority of employees changed their behavior. This can be a little involved, but it doesn’t have to be overly complicated, said Seever.
What would happen if the average technician showed up 95 percent of the time in the first 20 minutes to his first appointment? How much more money per day would he generate if he could service more accounts by 5 p.m.? Would you have new capacity to handle emergency calls? Would customers be more satisfied?

Pay for it.

Develop a bonus system to reward employees who change behavior. Bulwark Exterminating found it could save $200 per month per technician if employees showed up to the first service call within the first 20 minutes. Technicians who do this 95 percent of the time get a $100 monthly bonus. The bonus helped employees accept the GPS monitoring.
Some business owners have a problem with splitting the difference with employees, said Seever. They figure, why should I pay them more to do something they’re already supposed to be doing?
“You are paying exactly for what your average employee is doing right now,” he explained. Say you have 100 employees and 70 are not doing something to your expectation. You can’t expect one of those 70 people to change when 69 of them are protected by the norm.The employees who do meet your expectation are getting robbed. “It’s all about putting your money where your mouth is,” he said.

This approach can make annual pay reviews obsolete, as salary and hourly wage increases are based on increased productivity. Without real measurement, annual reviews are subjective and vague, and metrics almost always prove managers play favorites, said Seever. The human element is important — Do customers compliment him, is he personable, does he smile? — but without real
measurements, how do you really know?

Watch culture change.

English: Bulwark Exterminating

English: Bulwark Exterminating (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Eventually, employees will embrace the expected behavior. Almost all of Bulwark Exterminating’s technicians now show up to their first call as expected and receive the $100 bonus each month.
If you get the average to comply, it’s easy to isolate a minority 20 percent not meeting expectations and train or terminate them, Seever said.
This approach cannot be accomplished by one person, he cautioned. At Bulwark Exterminating, a team of believers makes metric-based management happen.

And don’t expect results if you merely have the “warm and fuzzy” need to make your financial statements look better. “That type of engagement in any program, especially in regards to metrics, won’t work,” he said.

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Someone asked me for advice on “HOW TO CLOSE”

Plain simple and sweet, here is my response.

English: Picture of an example of a cardboard ...

English: Picture of an example of a cardboard sign used to advertise tag sales. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Sales Tip on How to Close

Ask for the close. Ask again. Ask again. So many people are ready to buy, but never get asked to close the deal. Be direct and ask. They may say “No”. Then you ask “why”. Solve their problem and ask again.

Asking for a close doesn’t end the conversation… unless they say “Yes”.

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I updated my Google+ App on my iPhone and found this..

Google Plus Checkin for iPhones

Google Plus Check-Ins

I have never know google to not use information they collect to better their search results. I foresee Google+ checkins becoming a major part of Google’s Local Search algorithm. The Google+ Check In will add the user data that google is craving to make search results relevant to users. Google places has come a long way. At one time Google scrapped the internet trying to create it’s local directory. They abused Yelp trying to add in reviews. They indexed foursquare to make sure the results were relevant. Now they have their own system to do all this themselves. From reviews to location data, Google+ answers the local directory call.

Can Google+ capture the foodies?  As for the foodies, I am not sure, but I do believe Google has the means and drive to eventually beat down Yelp and Foursquare. While Yelp will have a long life and will still hold on to much of it’s elite foodie following, the annoyance and frustration from both businesses and the non-elite users will erode Yelp’s base. But what do I know.. I am just a pest control guy.

Facebook-Birthday-Sponsor-spot

I am not going to lie, it’s pretty freaking ingenious. Especially if Starbucks is paying on a per click base. I’m guessing that this little ad is worth it’s weight for both facebook and Starbucks. If only pest control were as cool as coffee. Unless… maybe… do you think customers would buy pest control for their friends??? Uh… Nevermind. Snap out of it. Wake up and smell the coffee!

Facebook Birthday Targeting

Apparently at one point they had birthday targeting. Then it seems they relinquished it. Perhaps now it has a 2nd life in this new ad layout.  Facebook birthday ads are back. Perhaps this time to stay since they may actually be targeting the birthday present buyers rather than the birthday present receivers??

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As the New Year begins many will spend time reflecting upon the year prior and setting New Year’s Resolutions for the year to come. Why?

“If its measured it will improve.” – Adam Seever

Sun Dial

Sun Dial (Photo credit: Khirol Amir)

The New Year is a measurement of Time. As such, the act of measuring the passing of time causes us to reflect on how our time is spent. We evaluate what we did or did not do in the year past. We then look to the new year ahead of us and vow to do better. We set goals based on our reflection of where we are and where we want to be. In science, the Observer Effect states that the act of observing something changes it. While this is debated within certain sciences by the likes of Heisenberg and Einstein, the business world and human nature make the Observer Effect very real. Making employees aware of business measurement will cause the employees to act differently. Emphasizing the importance of those measurements by tying it to pay multiplies the effect. When it comes to human nature and observing consistent measurements, with few exceptions, “if it is measured it will improve.”

Life Improves

Measuring a year means consistently measuring time. Time is Life. Therefore, the New Year brings with it the measurement of Life, of our life. We then make adjustments to improve that life. Measuring each New Year leads us to improving life.

Improvement is relative to each observer. Some may look back and determine the goal they achieved was not worth the work and that they would be happier not trying so hard. Or they may opt to simply not set goals, because a goal is another form of measurement and they fear failure. Others look at themselves in the mirror and decided that their life would be better if they were healthier. Hence, the first 2 weeks of each New Year are the busiest weeks any given gym will see. Improvement is aligned to each individual’s ideals.

In the end, each goal we set requires time. If we choose to set no goals the time will pass and we will once again be reminded of our time spent a year from now. Each New Year measures our time. Time is limited by life. I implore you to consider this as you set your New Year’s resolutions. Each moment is life and death. We gain another moment of life as we approach an ever pending death. Choose what is worth living for. Know what is worth dying for. Invest time in both, for you are doing so each moment. A year from now you will once again observe your standing in life. Choose to make each year as a whole better than the last.

Happy New Year to all.

The new year is almost here. Now about setting my Broken Alarm clock.

800am

Modified image of http://www.flickr.com/photos/30271205@N02/2862719142