LinkedIn is not Facebook. Or am I confused?

LinkedIn is a valuable tool for me to stay on top of job changes colleagues are making, learning what media and business and industry leaders are focused on, staying in touch with people I meet at events, researching client backgrounds, and sharing my expertise and opinions.

Lately, however, LinkedIn seems to be morphing from a business-related social media site to more of a social social media site. And it’s weird. I do not like all the changes LinkedIn has made in the past couple month. Heck, it even looks more like Facebook, with the new lay out.

When I visit LinkedIn to learn about your job changes, it seems odd to notify me on a business site that it is someone’s birthday. If you are really my friend, you already know it is my birthday! I wonder how many people wished a happy birthday to a former colleague when that alert came up recently, and she died last year.

The articles that people posted used to be useful, creative, sometimes thought-provoking. Now there are many more articles—and even comments– that are blatant advertisements. Looking at the group feeds of those I belong to, it seems like many of the posts there are not invitations to connect/learn/ask. They are self-congratulatory promotions for their companies and advertisements.

I have written before about remembering that your photo should not necessarily be one you would freely share on a personal profile. People are now sharing random comments and personal posts. With many ##### references.

On the home page, the connection comments/changes seem to be repetitive, with the same ones appearing at the top for a week or more (even when the view is recency). Finally, more people are reaching out to “connect” that I have never met, or had any interaction with who clearly sales people with a canned message, if any.

For me, the recent evolution of both the physical site and the member usage has diluted LinkedIn’s value. My usage of the site has declined, though there are still benefits for adding connections, regular visits and posts to my profile.

Yes, share when you get a promotion, a job change, win an award, have a speaking engagement, update your website, have a new offering, have insights to share with your connections, or questions to pose to your connections. LinkedIn is a useful platform to share about your work highlights, but maybe not your new puppy.   Think about who your connections are.

Am I alone with this viewpoint? What are your thoughts on the recent LinkedIn changes and posts in your feed lately?

The journey continues.

Cindy

10 Simple Ways to be More Successful in Marketing Technology

woman-in-tech-pp-coverI recently had the privilege of moderating a webinar on How to be Successful in Tech/ Marketing Tech. Geared to women, the event was hosted by BrightTALK. The 3 panelists were Liz Bullock Director Digital & Paid Media at Rackspace, Isabelle Dumont Head of Marketing at BlueTalon, and Aya Fawzy, now Director of Marketing at Skedulo.

The creation of the presentation still fascinates me–that 4 women who never met could collaborate from across the country to create the flow of the presentation, slide decks, and drive the conversation with insightful questions asked by the attendees.

The speakers think it’s an opportunistic time to work in tech. 1.1 million NEW tech jobs are expected by 2024, according to the National Center for Women and Information Technology. However, women comprise only 27% of the Tech workforce.

I hope that some of our experiences and ideas can help increase your influence in this lucrative field, or as you pivot to a tech career:

  1. The digital arena is the great equalizer in the tech arena, since women are almost as fluent on digital platforms as men, according to an Accenture 2016 study.   Be active on the digital platforms that are used in your industry, from Snapchat to Pinterest to Twitter.
  2. Increase your social outreach by keeping your own profiles active on LinkedIn, Twitter if you use it. We all found that most of our opportunities come from others in our digital work circles, so this electronic networking can be invaluable.
  3. Be active in associations and online groups. Continue to gain knowledge from attending webinars, local events, taking extra classes and/or getting certifications from reputable organizations.
  4. Having both formal and informal mentors can help broaden your knowledge. Don’t be afraid to approach someone you admire to ask them to work with you in various work areas. Change out your mentors on a regular basis, to learn from a variety of people.
  5. When work is very busy, make sure to focus on the projects that bring the most return.
  6. Stretch yourself when new job opportunities appear. Lean In says that women often don’t apply for a job unless they have 100% of the skills asked for. Men will apply when they only have 60% of suggested experience.
  7. If you work for yourself–or are negotiating for a new job– pricing yourself can be difficult. Value your time and knowledge fairly. Remember that companies will never tell you that you are pricing too low!
  8. Know your non-negotiables during the interview process.
  9. When in meetings, women are often the minority. You should be engaged in meetings; this includes offering valuable insights, not offering to get coffee or take notes.
  10. Block time on your calendar to read, learn, or grow in technology and your field.

You can listen to the presentation in its entirety here.

We all think that the attitude to jump in and try, to push ourselves, to change courses if needed is the way to be successful in the Tech world now and in the future.

So, reach for that new job, and learn along the way.

The journey continues. C

Why I got a HubSpot Certification-and Why Many of my Colleagues are Back-To-School

I recently got my HubSpot Inbound Certification! To earn it, I took 12.5 hours of online classes, took quizzes, and then passed a test of 60 questions in 70 minutes.

cc-hs-cert

Some of the lessons were very basic for an experienced marketer. Others gave me a different perspective at the buying process.

Some people asked why I was getting this certification.  The most important reason is that all of my clients—and my company—have websites and are attracting and engaging with their customers online.  I hope that the lessons I learned from other experts will give me a new perspective when creating  marketing plans, online content, and setting and measuring response rates.

I know several professionals in other industries who are also back at school, some getting on-line certificates, others working towards really time-consuming certificates, one an MBA.   Here are some reasons why they said they were getting extra education:

  • Update needed credentials
  • New technologies allow them to learn a new skill to help clients
  • To learn new skill sets
  • Tie together different parts of their education and experience
  • Build credibility & respect
  • Differentiate their knowledge level

Varied but valid reasons, I think. Stepping away from our daily routines helps us to look at our world from a different lens. It gives us new ways to challenge ourselves. And may introduce us to new people and opportunities.

Plan for it next year—take a class, earn a new certification or degree, attend an event, join an industry association. Maybe it will lead somewhere unexpected.

The journey continues.

C

5 Ways for Women to Increase Value in the Technology Industry. Now.

In the fast-moving and lucrative technology sector, women only make up 21.7% of the workforce, according to a recent study by the Anita Borg Institute. Technology touches a wide swath of our daily lives.  It is critical to increase women’s presence and voice in this visible industry, to influence the creation, execution, and direction of technology-related products and services.

I recently attended an inspiring webinar “Women in Tech Marketers: How to Advance Your Career in Today’s Digital World” put on by BrightTALK. All 3 speakers had excellent advice: Niki Hall from Polycom, Kate Athmer from Integrate and Natascha Thomson from MarketingXLerator.

First, try to work for an organization that enables you to succeed. Once you find that job, find a formal or informal mentor who will be your champion and help you grow.

On today’s data-is-boss workplace, it is imperative that you take data-driven information to accelerate your path forward.

In technical or development meetings, oftentimes women are in the minority. Think about yourself today–how do you handle yourself in group settings, to increase your value and visibility within your organization?

Here are 5 simple ways the speakers discussed to increase visibility in your next meeting:

  1. If you are invited to the meeting, it’s because you have something to offer. Be there as a participant, not just a witness.
  2. Be prepared.
  3. Take authority when given a task or project. Be factual; don’t ask a stream of questions, looking for approval.
  4. Make sure what you are doing adds value to the group. For example, don’t offer to re-fill coffee for others, take notes for the group if you are the only female attending.
  5. Sit by the smartest or most powerful person in the room. Studies have shown that this helps to increase perceived value within an organization.

I think that these 5 tips can help women in many areas of business. But in work sectors like technology that are more driven by men, it is even more critical that we get our seat at the table. And use it as best we can to increase our presence and value in our workplace.

Remember: Be firm. Understand what you are supposed to do. Then do it.

Technically, What is a Consultant?

I recently bought a new (used) car.   After 3 long days of testing vehicles—and many hours doing online research– success! But, the buying process is horrid. It should be joyful to buy something expensive that you want and need, but it can be dreadful. And most people I have talked to echoed these sentiments.

At the dealer where we finally bought from my Jeep, the sales associate we were assigned to gave us his business card, which listed his title as “Sales Consultant.”

Dictionary.com lists the definition of consultant as:

1.a person who gives professional or expert advice:

a consultant on business methods.

2.a person who consults someone or something.

I don’t use the title Consultant lightly. It’s what I do every single day at work, and I am proud of the knowledge I have to do my job. My role is to help organizations solve a problem.

All consultants have an area of expertise. If someone comes to me with a project that veers far outside my knowledge base, I will try to refer her to another firm or person who can help them.

The dealer’s “consultant” Vern (not his real name) was unable to help us fix ANYTHING. He couldn’t tell us anything about the Jeep that was not written down, help us negotiate price, give us the interest loan %, or even clean up the car.

Every question had to be referred to someone else, who was of course not standing in his glass-enclosed cubicle. I didn’t want or need to hear his unrelated stories—I just wanted to buy the car and get back to my life. Thankfully, we don’t have to deal with Vern again.

His use of the title “Consultant” was insulting to me and perpetuates the assumption that all consultants don’t offer value. Not true.

If you are looking for a consultant to work with to help you with your database and/or audience development needs , be sure that she can communicate well, stay relevant, and most importantly—collaborate and offer solutions. Hopefully the process will be smoother than what I recently experienced buying a car.

If you are looking to hire a consultant, here is a post I wrote who-what-how to start your process.

The journey continues.  C

Technology Changes: A Group Effort

Firm A: Technology specialist got a new email provider. Prior to this, there were no discussions with database management team of how to integrate this new service with their data platform. How would new or updated records be transferred, opt outs be managed, demographic changes be reflected?

Firm B: In an information services company, the marketing dept. signed a contact with a large marketing automation software company. They then turned it over to IT with the directive to implement this with their current database software. Since IT was unaware of this purchase until after the fact, no consideration had been given to if or how complicated this integration would be, whether this was a good fit, or the costs for building the data communications.

As our technology platforms multiply and get more complicated to integrate, it is imperative that teams work together to find the most appropriate, flexible, cost-effective, and user-friendly option BEFORE a contract is signed.

Multiple user groups should be involved in the final testing testing of a new system—users from events, e-media, subscriptions, membership, research. Listening to the pros and cons of this system from a variety of intelligent voices can help give a new perspective. Also, when others are consulted, I have found the buy-in to change improves. Why invest in a system that no one ends up using?

There should also be an objective project manager who keeps the process moving forward and looks out for the organization’s best interests. Often the different user groups will look at these explorations from how it impacts just their department. They are not aware how this change will impact the entire organization’s processes to hopefully streamline workloads, learn more about customers, and improve the bottom line.

The project manager can be an internal or external person. I have done this from a consultative role for several firms.  If you do hire an outside consultant, find out their relationship with the companies under consideration. While we are all familiar with different firms, I do not think that as consultants we should be financially or otherwise tied to firms we recommend, unless full disclosures are made.

And if you have yet to lay out your STRATEGY for a new database or technology platform, be sure to read my recent post on this topic.

The journey continues.   C

The Importance of Attending Events

Working for myself, by myself most days, it is often a welcome change to visit clients, meet with colleagues, and attend industry events.

Whether I am attending an event as a speaker or an attendee, I appreciate the change in venue and routine. Events can be a great way to broaden my knowledge of some aspect of the direct marketing/database management industry, expose me to a new subject or technology, introduce me to vendors and industry leaders, and keep in touch with contacts.

I consider a meeting worthwhile if I end up with 3 takeaways. These can be innovative ideas, learning something new, or starting a business relationship with one new person.

Networking is a needed but sometimes dreaded part of these meetings. It is not easy for me to introduce myself to others, but I think other people have similar feelings.  However, events are an excellent time to meet potential clients or have open dialogue with colleagues.  I have made some lasting acquaintances over a glass of wine, who I can now bounce ideas off of.

So step out from behind your desk, swallow those nerves, and go learn and interact a little. It can truly help your career.  And hopefully you might have a bit of fun.

The journey continues.

C

Going Old-School

On our recent flight to FL, I watched the film All the President’s Men. Released in 1976, it’s a fascinating look at Washington Post reporters Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward’s investigative research while uncovering the Watergate break-ins.

ATPM

Their work included no Google, no cell phones, no Internet.  Their tools were personal connections, rotary phones, typewriters, phone booths, hard-copy library check out cards, stacks of paper in offices, suits and ties for 2 am meetings, lunchtime Thermos drinks, Rolodex, smoking in offices-elevators-apartments- everywhere, searching through phone books of many cities to find a single phone number.

I thought of the contrast of the long-winded, connect-the-dots research and subterfuge with today’s always online, tuned-in access that we have available.  I truly believe that while all my screen time helps me in so many ways from research to work to finding a recipe, I think it also results in a loss of collaboration and personal connections.

While on our spring break cruise with five high school girl and moms, the cell phones and iPads were locked in the safe.IMGP0014 After our initial electronic withdrawal phase, the girls said they didn’t miss them. Going “old school”, they were able to spend time turning other teens into friends, make advance plans where to meet them after meals, have focused time with each other and us without scrolling through social site pictures of their classmates’ scattered vacations.

The majority of our group consciously stayed off-the-grid while on our trip. The time was spent connecting those around us, not watching on social media what others were doing, comparing experiences, or working.

That focused offline time is something I shall try to incorporate into my life going forward. I will try to turn off the online access for periods of the workday to remove distractions. Go old-school to forge ahead.

The journey continues.

C

P.S. Photo credits.  From movie, my.xfinifty.com.  Safe, from my photo archives, 2012.

Yes, I am a Consultant. And a Business Owner.

I have been a consultant for 18 years. Long enough to know some people roll their eyes, think I only work 2 hours a day, or can make my own schedule around my favorite TV shows. Wrong!

I am a business owner whose clients depend on me to achieve our set-upon goals.   If I didn’t work diligently, honestly, and flexibly, I would not have some clients for 10+ years. Yes, still take the time to search out new and exciting projects.

As an audience development/marketing/database management consultant (the role changes with the project) on a daily basis I have to:

  1. Get work done on schedule.
  2. Listen to my clients’ needs, sometimes helping them to articulate their goals.
  3. Regularly communicate project status and ideas to current clients. Also attend in-person and phone meetings.
  4. Be vigilant to make sure that my customers respond to emails and phone calls, so projects don’t stall.
  5. Know a variety of vendors my clients can work with—email providers, telemarketing, database management, email, auditing firms, copy writers, others I can partner with on certain projects.
  6. Stay involved in the marketing industry by reading, attending events, and doing.
  7. Have experience working with different social media platforms.
  8. Keep abreast of changing rules impacting outbound and inbound marketing emails ie. CAN-SPAM laws , telemarketing, BPA, USPS with regards to mailing periodicals.

Plus, there is ongoing work to do to keep my business running:

  1. Have trusted professionals who help me with design work, accounting, legal, and financial issues.
  2. Seek out new prospects, put together proposals as requested. Revise pricing for current clients as projects change.
  3. Keep my blog updated, to communicate my business knowledge and perspective to clients and prospects.
  4. Keep up with billing, processing payments.
  5. Handle marketing, create a new logo and website.

Every year I think I learn to run my business more effectively. This year, for the first time, I have followed the lead of successful business owners and set aside weekly time on my calendar to focus on growing and honing my business. It’s too easy to spend all day on project work, not focusing on the business. This set-aside time has made me more efficient, given me some new ideas to try this year.

The balance of client-related work vs. running the business is delicate, yet important to manage. So yes, I am a consultant. And a successful business owner.  And proud of both.

The journey continues.

C

My 2016 Personal Exploration Goals

Can you accomplish a personal goal if you commit to working towards it for 10 minutes a day, every day in 2016?

A seemingly simple yet compelling challenge that Eric Zorn wrote about in a recent Chicago Tribune column. (you might have to be a subscriber to access it). He was successful in his goal of playing the fiddle for a minimum 10 minutes every day, and he gave a synopsis of other people who accepted the 10MaD 2015 pledge.

I have thought about this column for the past couple days.  Eric Zorn, I accept 10MaD as my 2016 challenge and resolution. But what goal to reach?? So many options!

Since writing and photography are two hobbies/passions I wish I had more time to spend time with, I decided that 2016 will be a year for “My Personal Exploration of Fine Arts.”   At this point, my “major” will be writing and “minor” will be photography, but that could swap during the year. Who knows?

Since I work as an audience development consultant where I spend hours writing proposals/project updates/marketing efforts, I want to clarify what I consider part of this 10MaD pledge:

  1. Writing for my blog on my business website.
  2. Writing for my personal blog, which has been inactive for a couple years.
  3. Starting work on a novel that has been floating just beyond my consciousness.
  4. Writing short stories or poetry.
  5. Writing freelance articles for magazines or other websites.
  6. Taking photos for a freelance projects.
  7. Editing or printing photos for above projects.
  8. When I go out specifically to shoot pictures.
  9. Maybe finally creating a website to sell some of my photos.

I will have to manage my time, since I know that any of these can entail a creative block or the opposite–that vortex, when time disappears while working on a project. I will occasionally post here about the status of my 10MaD challenge.

I am excited and a little intimidated to accept the 2016 10MaD pledge. One day done with this writing, 365 left since it is a Leap Year.

The journey continues. Happy New Years to all!

C

1/2/16 update–Readers, an fyi that I will post more personal posts and poetry on my other blog, which has been unused in over 3 years. That blog is Have an Opinion’s Opinion.   Feel free to follow either or both sites.