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February 2010

Please, for once, for a change....

Sunday mornings mean reading the Saturday Times at my leisure. And sometimes what I read turns into a blog post, and for a change it's a political post. 

Blair was the phoney. We will be straight with people | George Osborne - Times Online

"..................
Since the new year, we are the party that has been setting out the new policy ideas that will change Britain. Perhaps that has made it too easy for the Labour Party simply to attack us while escaping scrutiny itself. That will now change. We will continue to set out our own positive ideas, but we will also ask searching questions about Mr Brown’s record and whether he has anything new to offer. That is the spotlight Labour is desperate to avoid. It won’t be able to now.

That brings me to the second decision we have taken. Oppositions have two paths they can follow. They can either promise real change, or they can play it safe with phoney pledges. Tony Blair and new Labour did the latter in 1997. It took him to new highs in the polls, but led to new lows of public cynicism when the promised change never materialised. With the problems that the country now faces, a repeat of that experience would be a disaster for our democracy. The country yearns for change. When asked, more than 80 per cent of people believe Britain is heading in the wrong direction.

They know Mr Brown won’t change anything. What people want to be sure of is that the Conservatives really will offer Britain a new direction. That means more than promising change; it also means being straight with people about the choices needed to deliver it.

So yes, we will turn an economy built on debt into one that saves and invests. We will bring radical reform to our schools system, and do what no government has done before by overhauling a welfare system that has for generations trapped families in poverty. Our plans to take power away from central government and hand it to people mean a transformation in the way we are governed.

That then leads some to ask whether Conservatives can really deliver change. This goes to the heart of the issue that always faces the Conservative Party: do we represent change and reflect the modern world? We made our decision on that almost five years ago when our party members chose Mr Cameron to lead them.

Every time his leadership has been tested — whether in the days before the cancelled 2007 election, or in the heat of the expenses scandal, or when some did not want to increase our number of women and ethnic minority MPs — David has put his foot on the accelerator of change. He made us the party of the environment. We have shown how we will not balance the budget on the backs of the poorest.

So we have made our decisions. This election is a choice. At the end of it, you will either have Gordon Brown for another five years or a new lead from David Cameron. This election is about change. We Conservatives have changed our party and now we are ready to serve, ready to bring the real, lasting change that Britain needs.

George Osborne is the Shadow Chancellor

via www.timesonline.co.uk (Colour highlights added by me)

What are you going the change, Mr Osborne, seeing you feel the need to mention that all-mighty word so often? Your socks? Your diet? Your hair-style? The colour of your front door? What????

Please, for once, for a change, could you and all the others change your tune and state facts instead of election campaign drizzle?

Pledges - where? Serve - whom? Shown - how? Deliver - what and when?

Fortunately also in The Saturday Times - ponderings about ethics and morality:

Why the Ancient Greeks were wrong about morality - Jonathan Sacks

"Consider what moves people today: the environment, hunger and disease in Third World countries, and the growing gap between rich and poor. These are noble causes: nothing should be allowed to detract from that. They speak to our altruism. They move us to make sacrifices for the sake of others. That is one of the distinguishing features of our age. Our moral horizons have widened. Our conscience has gone global. All this is worthy of admiration and respect.

But they have in common the fact that they are political. They are the kind of issues that can only ultimately be solved by governments and international agreements. They have little to do with the kind of behaviour that was once the primary concern of morality: the way we relate to others, how we form bonds of loyalty and love, how we consecrate marriage and the family, and how we fulfil our responsibilities as parents, employees, neighbours and citizens. Morality was about private life. It said that without personal virtue, we cannot create a society of grace."

Which makes - for a change - almost the prefect link to my ponderings of yesterday - what really drives us?

OK, rant and ponderings over (for now).


What really drives us?

In the very very old days it was the next meal, the next shelter what drove us on - just to survive. When human intelligence/innovations evolved, our drives evolved with it.

The certainty of the next meal was planned ahead:

  • sowing seed, harvesting the results, storing the harvest for meagre times;
  • hunting in groups, taming/domestication of animals, animals as "instant" food

The certainty of shelter became obsolete:

  • hides of the hunt were made into mobile tents, fixed huts
  • trees provided both fire and huts/homes

Human drive changed/evolved(?) to gathering the most, the best, the most beautiful; with more time on our hands to become masters of what we could do, arts evolved: from showing how well organised the tribe was (to have time left to create art) to dedicating your whole life to do just that: learning, mastering an art, a "craft". The age of master craftsmen.

So what happened to us modern humans when the world we created ourselves evolved more and more to make our lives easier, more organised and planned? Did we all became master craftsmen?

Somewhere along the line something went horribly wrong: the majority of us has been turned back to the drive for the next meal, the next shelter, the next pay-check - just to "survive".

The majority of us are "managed" from our school days till (and beyond) our pension, motivated with the carrot and stick: do well and you are rewarded, do not well and you are punished. Our "managers" believe the majority of us should be hold in line, otherwise we'll slick and won't do our jobs, won't have the drive to "produce", won't (be able to) save for meagre times, and even wouldn't know what to do with our time.
Are the "lucky" ones the managers, those who decide what should drive us? Carrot and Stick for them too: manage well and be rewarded, manage not well and be punished - just like the rest of us.

Is that what really drives us? Carrot and Stick?

Sobering thoughts, depressing thoughts really. Is that all there is for us modern humans?

Of course not - the above is too black and white (for most, but spare a thought for all those in the treadmills of not knowing where the next slice of bread is coming from). The above are my ponderings, mesmerised by the book I'm reading at the moment:

Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us - by Daniel H. Pink

I'm truly mesmerised by it (only halfway through the book at the moment) and truly grateful for my own position: independent retailer, entrepreneur. And I fully agree with the following quote from Daniel's book:

"We're born to be players, not pawns. We're meant to be autonomous individuals, not individual automatons."

More and more businesses, companies are turning away from the Carrot and Stick (Motivation 2.0) approach it seems, having discovered that this principle no longer has its place in the 21th century. More and more are turning to a different, IMHO more closer to our human instincts, principle of motivation, based on the Self-Determination Theory: supporting our natural or intrinsic tendencies to behave in effective and healthy ways.

"Drive" explains that "the secret to high performance and satisfaction—at work, at school, and at home—is the deeply human need to direct our own lives, to learn and create new things, and to do better by ourselves and our world".

Sounds like we are once again on our way to become master craftsmen after all.

(Looking forward to reading the rest of this book during my early morning treat: still in jimjams, first cup of coffee and a good book.)


Pipeline marketing - going beyond AWeber part 4 - inside insight

Finally part 4 (planned to write 4 articles on our switch and it seems I've made it!) As promised in earlier parts: in this final part of the series - no doubt I'll write more often about Octane HQ features and my experiences with it - I'll show you more of the flexibility and focused segmentation Octane gives you for your pipeline marketing.

Custom fields

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Let's start with the fields you can enter for your contact. Besides default fields, like first name, last name, address and lead/contact source you can add as many custom fields as you like to this page. These fields can be either: text box, drop down menu or calender and can be made required fields or not (careful here: the minute you make a custom field required and you're importing contacts this field has to be matched otherwise it will trigger an upload error and your contact will not be imported!)
You can rearrange all your custom fields in a sequence you prefer, but the "box" of custom fields in your new contact page is in a fixed position - halfway down the page, just above the address details.

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As you can see above, I use a Drop Down List very often. Octane HQ lets you search on any of the fields in the contact details page using the Power Search, where the result of your search can be added to follow-up series or groups. If you use a text box as custom field you have more search options than with a Drop Down List. The latter is limited to: Equals or Is Empty. Not that this matters much is my experience: created a (temporary) group and add your search results per Drop Down option to this group.
Tip: restrict your custom fields to "either/or" details: a contact is either a prospect or a client, a contacts first means of contact was either a phone call or filled in a webform, a prospect is either a domestic client/prospect or an architect.

Groups

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Every contact can be added to one or more groups, the and/and/and options. Above shows only a few of the groups I've created so far, in total there are (at the moment) 28, all with their own purpose. Some are just for statistical reasons, some are for segmented one-off emails ("blasts" or broadcasts).

So far, so very much equal to AWeber. In AWeber you can select more than 1 lists to send your broadcast to and in the webform you use you can create custom fields (text boxes and drop down lists). But there's where it ends though, one custom field for one of your AWeber lists is not transferable to any of your other lists.
(Hope you remember we are a retailer, selling many different ranges and products, so had/have many different lists/follow-up series. Your situation and/or your business might be quite different and not in need of so many lists/different follow-up series/groups.)

Flexibility

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AWeber is purely based on email marketing, Octane HQ goes a step further: instead of solely auto-emails at a set sequence you can create a sequence of auto-emails, Letters and Task per "lists" or using Octane HQ's terminology "follow-up series".

Example

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This fu-series is automagically filled with contacts submitting their email address, name and address to our webform "request our Wood Floor Info pack".
(I'll show you the actions triggered by a webform in more detail lower down, that's also quite flexible too!).
One of the auto steps the webform triggers is sending me an email about the request, so I know I have to go into Octane, click the task on my home page: print letter, load letterheads into my printer and actual print the pre-written letter where the contact and address details are already merged onto. The prospect immediately receives an email informing him/her the requested pack will be in the post asap.
It then follows the steps I've set for this fu-series in sequence. But it does not - does not have to - end with step 6.

Keeping prospects "warm" for a long time on auto-pilot.

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Every fu-series gives you the option to set End-Actions after the last step is completed, see the above example. The new fu-series where this contact will be added to has its own End-Action, a new fu-series that sends out a maintenance reminder every 6 months, nothing more. The reason this contact is also added to the group maintenance reminder emails is so we can send a broadcast/"email campaign", to everyone in there when we have specific news on maintenance products or services.
All in one go, triggered by one single webform. Pipe-line marketing on auto-pilot.

Flexibility to serve a prospect/clients best

In AWeber we had a top performing list: Ask Personal Advice on Wood Floors, where web visitors could submit their wooden floor related question to us and receive a personal answer. In AWeber they would all land in the same fu-series, sending them a sequence of auto-emails promoting the benefits of wooden flooring in general, no matter what their original question was.
Someone asking about maintenance (and therefore in most cases already in the possession of a wood floor) would receive the same auto information as someone asking for advice on which wooden floor would suit his/her circumstances best. which meant: not always sending out relevant info (except our personal email answering their question).
Now in Octane that problem is solved:

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If for instance the question was about maintaining a wooden floor in the best possible way we now can add the contact to a maintenance tips fu-series, after emailing the new prospect our personal answer and informing him/her about what we are about to do also (emailing the maintenance tips).
Fine tuning the available info most suited for their circumstances.
4 days later the task overview on my Octane HQ home page prompts me to send a custom email to the contact again, where I normally ask if the information had been useful, if the problem has been solved or if we can be of further assistance. Sometimes it doesn't even comes that far, when our first answer starts a whole email conversation to and fro (like our prospect who emailed me the picture of his little cute dog - part 1).

This webform continues to be a successful lead source and since using Octane instead of AWeber has converted more prospects into clients than before. (10 so far in 2010, only 6 weeks young).

Flexibility through webforms

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Octane HQ is "action based", you've seen this in the follow-up series including the End-Actions and you can see this above in the list of actions triggered when a prospect submits details through a webform.
Above example "request our Wood Floor Info Pack" removes someone - if applicable - from one fu-series, adds them to the WFIP fu-series (which triggers me to print the letter, remember), ads the contact to two groups and sends me an email too.
And of course, standard, it creates a new contact - only if the email address used is not yet in our database, otherwise it will skip this action but will trigger all the other actions.

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These are the actions possible: 6 in total (besides the standard "create contact"). AWeber "automation rules" never go this far.

Segmentation in broadcasts/email campaigns

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One segmentation I've started to use from day one on in Octane HQ is the Payment Way (method) last used by a client.
Suppose we launch a new product or have a special offer - for which we would use one-off email campaign (broadcast) to existing clients. In Octane - like in AWeber - you can copy the broadcast already written. Therefore I could write one email campaign about the special offer and focus on ordering online (PW: Online) while listing other ordering options too. I could then simply copy the email and edit the paragraph to focus more on ordering over the phone, while listing the other options too.
The contacts I select for the specific emails would only contain those contacts I know used the specific ordering method I focus on in that specific email, contacts who used another method would get that specific email. You get the picture.

This is just one example you can use the segmentation per group for of course, I'm sure you can think of examples you can use for your own specific segmentation and your own specific group names.

Conclusion

Expect more posts about our experiences and success switching from AWeber to Octane for our pipe-line marketing, but for the moment I want to leave it at this.

One last thing then: since this week Octane has now also become the "delivery vehicle" for our digital products, linking the PayPal buy-now button with the database in a much simpler way than AWeber did.

Oh and did I already mention the "opportunities" feature, which translates in won/lost sales and fills your sales statistics in various ways (from sales per sales-person, sales per product range, sales per lead source etc) and that more reports are being build as we speak?

Or that when any link you insert in your emails (in a fu-series or "campaign") is clicked you can add those contacts who clicked that specific link to a new group or fu-series? Or export and send a letter using mail-merge?

And that the customer service of Octane HQ is to rave about? Always on the ball and very quick to help out.

I leave it for now (I promise).
Hope you have enjoyed these series. and if you feel like it, request a demonstration of what Octane can/could do for your business, you'll get their personal attention.


Pipeline marketing - going beyond AWeber part 3 - data

Starting to use a new contact management program, be it an email marketing system or CRM program, it always entails exporting existing data out of the old and importing in the new software.

I won't bother you with all the details, this short post will just highlight some of the "problems" and some of the simplicity I encountered.

Simplicity: custom fields

I regard myself as a person with a positive attitude, so let's start with the good bits.

Octane HQ makes it rather simple to import existing data, as long as it is a CSV file (comma separated values). CSV files are easily generated, most software systems give you the option to either export data in such a format or save the document (an Excel spreadsheet for instance) as a CSV file. Tip: if the exported data does not contain column headers, create your own.

Per file you want to upload you can select a "contact source" which will be added to every contact about to be imported into your new system. So if you have more than one source of existing data you can start the segmentation here.
(In part 4 of this series I'll dive deeper into all the default and custom fields Octane HQ offers and the flexibility of it.)

Linking fields

Octan HQ multiple import options

Link all headers - hence the tip above - with default (1) or custom fields (2) in Octane HQ. And the number of custom fields can be plenty, no limits here. If one of the fields in Octane doesn't have a counterpart on the csv file you select [no match]
Then click "import" at the bottom of the page and done.
Simple and so far so good.

Getting the data ready

In our case we had to import data from two existing different programs: AWeber and Mamut (CRM, accounting and secure webshop desktop software).
For AWeber the default field "Background" in Octane comes in very handy, more about this in part 4. I used it to indicate which specific list a subscriber had been on. Lists from AWeber can be downloaded as an excel file (go to Subscribers, select the search preferences you need, click search and then click the Excel icon that shows above the results.

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Mamut however turned out not to be so simple.

Oh, all data can be exported in an almost unlimited ways but preferably you want to do this export/import exercise only once, not 25 times!

I thought I'd found the perfect export option containing all the fields in Mamut that I needed, from ID/Status, lead source, type of client etc etc and export it straight away as csv file

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When data no longer has any meaning

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This is what was exported: data1, data2, data3 etc etc etc and the data itself where numbers. Since I don't speak or read this particular "data-language" it is just field after field of gibberish.

I did manage to export readable date from Mamut after al, taking the long way round. 25 times the long way round! Exporting data was now restricted per status (prospect, client, returning clients); per source (ads, website, webforms, wom etc) and per client type (DIY floor, DIY small materials, Supply & Install etc) into separate excel files which I then had to save as csv files.

I did of course submit a support ticket to Mamut and after 7 days I received this answer:

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A: too late and B: not very helpful.

Anyway, with the simplicity of Octane Import function it took only 30 minutes to import all the needed data (after spending 4 hours "cleaning-up" the data exported from Mamut).

And then the real fun started - which I will dive into in part 4 of this series, so stay tuned.