History of Remote Work

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Technology Transformed Remote Work & Now a Pandemic!

An interesting timeline of how technology opened the doors for remote work and helped shape the virtual workplace we have today:

1975: The first “personal” computer is introduced. Employees are finally able to work remotely outside of the office and eventually get to take their work on-the-go with a laptop or tablet.

1990: The internet is born and the World Wide Web helps connect remote workers with email and virtual office tools.

1990: The Federal government conducts a telecommuting study on 2,000 federal workers. People proved to be more productive, had a better quality of life and work life balance, and cut both expenses and commuting time when telecommuting. Remote workers see these same benefits today.

1994-1995: Companies like American Express, IBM, and AT&T start allowing their employees to telecommute. With continued success, the idea quickly catches on and spreads.

1997: Google launches the powerful search engine we know today. Google Search breaks down barriers and creates a place where employers and employees can find each other no matter where they live. You can still locate remote work or workers anytime today, all from performing a simple Google search.

1999: Centralized project management tools like Basecamp (originally named 37signals) give both management and employees one centralized place to manage workflows remotely. This keeps everyone on the same page, despite living in different zip codes, so everyone’s on the same page when it comes to deadlines and open-ended projects. Over 100,000 companies still use this project management software[*].

2000s: Wireless internet and broadband open the floodgates. Remote employees can finally work without being tied to a physical location for their ethernet internet connection. This also makes slow speeds from dial-up internet a bad memory of the past.

2002: LinkedIn launches and connects millions of professionals across the globe. You can still network with old friends or coworkers, reach out to potential employers, and follow your favorite companies to see what’s new on this professional platform boasting 562 million users across 200 countries and territories[*].

2003: A surge of remote workers inspires Skype, a better communication tool for virtual employees. This video conference software helps organizations maintain genuine face-to-face connections with employees even if everyone’s working remotely. It’s also used heavily in remote interviews to put a face and personality to each candidate behind the screen.

2004: Virtual meeting software GoToMeeting (GTM) helps employees “meet” in a virtual conference room to share presentations, files, and brainstorm together. GTM currently has 2 million active daily users[*].

2006: Time tracking software Toggl makes it easy for employees to submit timesheets without much effort. This helps remote workers track their work hours and get paid accordingly.

2009: Slack, which is also the fastest-growing business application in history, creates a way for teammates and managers to communicate from anywhere[*]. Slack continues to be the glue holding entire remote teams together. It supports 8 million active daily users and has over 70,000 paying customers[*].

2012: Google introduces its suite of office tools and digital file storage, known as Google Drive. This becomes the modern-day workspace where employees, both in-house and remote, access important documents and files while also collaborating and giving feedback in real time.

2016: Dell reports an annual savings of \$12 million since expanding its telecommuting and remote work programs[*]. Reports like these prove remote work is beneficial to employers just as much as remote employees.

2017: Major tech-heavy cities like Austin and San Francisco report 60% and 30% of their job offers went to remote workers, respectively[*]. Now many employers would rather have access to top talent, even if it means going outside of their corporate zip code to do so.

2018 and Beyond: “4.3 million people currently work from home in the United States at least half of the time,” and this figure has grown 150% in the last 13 years[*]. The future of remote work continues to explode, and the technology to support these needs only gets better.


Are You Ready for the Future?

For those of us living in 2017, the biggest factor is change.  Things are changing rapidly; it seems, with predictions for hard-to-imagine change coming within just ten to fifteen years.  Life expectancy is longer, so you have to consider that it’s likely you will be involved.

My personal take on all this change is that words will still matter, and we will all still need to use them correctly if we are to understand and thrive in our brave new world.

Here are more than half a dozen changes (described in words) that I’m prepared to see the future bring, and this just scratches the surface:

  • Miami, for example, will be under water.
  • People will have the option to live in homes that are round, specially-designed to be hurricane-proof.
  • Artificial intelligence* (a game changer), smart homes, the ‘Internet of Things’** and augmented reality*** will all click together seamlessly.
  • Cars and public vehicles will not require drivers, operating themselves for the most part.
  • We will have no choice but to manage our daily lives (banking, shopping) entirely from cell phones via the Internet as brick and mortar institutions fade, malls die and Wi-Fi ****dominates connectivity.

(However, N.B:  A prevailing theory in the tech industry is that smartphones will one day be replaced by normal-looking glasses that display virtual information onto the real world.)*****

  • Robots will replace people in many jobs.
  • Drones will be involved heavily in hundreds of new ways from shipping and delivery (I’m betting against delivery via Amazon Key) to healthcare, security, police work, farming, et al.
  • Higher education will evolve in ways that reduce its cost, with virtual reality****** replacing textbooks.  Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) will prevail.
  • In coming years much of our food may be genetically modified, such as “mock meat.”

*Artificial Intelligence can be defined as the capacity of a computer to perform operations that are analogous to learning and decision- making in humans by a program or by an expert system, for the recognition and perception of shapes in computer vision systems. An example here would be a digital personal assistant on some e-commerce website that works with a customer, also learns from that customer and makes recommendations for that customer.

**The Internet of Things is the network of physical devices, vehicles, home appliances, and other items embedded with electronics, software, sensors, actuators, and network connectivity which enable these objects to connect and exchange data.

***Augmented Reality can be defined as a technology that layers computer-generated enhancements on an existing reality and makes it more meaningful through the ability to interact. A good example would be from InContext Solutions.  The company provides cloud-based virtual store simulations and shopper insights so that users may, for example, actually try out furniture in different styles or colors to see how those items would fit into their living rooms.

****WiFi is defined as an abbreviation for wireless fidelity, meaning you can access or connect to a network using radio waves, without needing to use wires.

*****The smartphone will become obsolete by 2025, replaced by nascent (developing) technology.

******Virtual Reality can be defined as a computer-generated simulation of a real-life environment. Example: a 3D store shelf that can adapt to offer more appropriate items to the individual customer.




Fact checking is important in freelance writing and public speaking and to credibility in general. “Just the Facts, Ma’am” was the plea made by fictional L.A. police detective Joe Friday of the popular1950’s tv series Dragnet.

Fact check: Ironically, according to Wikipedia and Snopes, that catchphrase was misattributed to Sergeant Friday and was actually featured in comedian Stan Freberg’s parody of Dragnet.

The phrase calls into question the credibility of certain “facts” stated by six of the fifteen candidates in the September 16, 2015 Republican presidential debate. Here, for your reading pleasure, is a synopsis by factcheck.org of the misstatements or partial truths presented as facts in the recent debate:

Donald Trump:
1) “Illegal immigration” costs us “more than $200 billion a year . . . we are spending $200 billion a year on maintaining what we have.” Actually, it could cost taxpayers $137 billion or more to deport the 11 million immigrants in the country illegally, as Trump proposes.

2) Mexico doesn’t have a birthright citizenship policy like the United States. It does.

Trump argued that the 14th Amendment — which holds that “all persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the state wherein they reside” — does not guarantee birthright citizenship to immigrants in the country illegally. “And by the way Mexico and almost every other country anywhere in the world doesn’t have that,” Trump said, referring to birthright citizenship. “We’re the only ones dumb enough, stupid enough to have it.”

The U.S. and Mexico use different terminologies, but the two countries’ policies are actually very similar. According to Article 30 of the Mexican Constitution, “The Mexican nationality” is acquired by birth if someone is born within Mexican territory, “whatever their parents’ nationality might be.” Technically, according to the Mexican Constitution, people don’t become “citizens” of Mexico until they turn 18, at which point they can vote, be elected to public office and join the military. That’s true even of babies born in Mexico to Mexican parents.

3) Trump told a story from personal experience linking vaccination to autism, but no link between childhood vaccinations and autism has a scientific basis.

4) Trump said that Wisconsin, under Gov. Scott Walker, has “a huge budget deficit.”

That is not a fact. Wisconsin had a projected $2.2 billion shortfall based on budget requests submitted by state agencies. But those budget requests were pared back, and Walker signed a two-year balanced budget into law on July 12. Wisconsin, like most states, requires that the governor submit and the Legislature pass a balanced budget.

5)  Jeb Bush said that Trump donated to his gubernatorial campaign to get him to change his mind on casino gambling in Florida. Trump’s denial that he was ever interested in bringing casino gambling to Florida is contradicted in a legal affidavit by a former Senate president who says he was hired by Trump to do just that.

Carly Fiorina:
1) Planned Parenthood videos released by an anti-abortion group showed “a fully formed fetus on the table, its heart beating, its legs kicking while someone says we have to keep it alive to harvest its brain.” But that scene isn’t in any of the videos.

Fiorina’s description matches up with one of the videos in a series the Center for Medical Progress has called “Human Capital” — but only with regard to how an interviewee describes her experience. The scene Fiorina “dares” others to watch is not present in any of the Planned Parenthood videos.

2) She claims that the size of Hewlett-Packard “doubled” during her tenure but leaves out that it was due to a merger with Compaq.

Marco Rubio: U.S. policies to combat climate change would “do absolutely nothing,” asserting that the U.S. acting alone would have a small effect on rising temperatures and sea levels. Experts say U.S. leadership on the issue would prompt other nations to act.

Mike Huckabee: Hillary Clinton was “under investigation by the FBI” because she “destroyed government records.”

Not true. The Justice Department said in a court filing that she had the authority to delete personal emails. The New York Times quoted from the court filing: “There is no question that former Secretary Clinton had authority to delete personal emails without agency supervision — she appropriately could have done so even if she were working on a government server,” the filing said.

Lindsey Graham: Ronald Reagan and then-House Speaker Tip O’Neill “found a way to save Social Security from bankruptcy by adjusting the age of retirement from 65 to 67.” This ignores the accompanying tax increases.

Rick Santorum said legislation he sponsored that would have codified sanctions against Iran failed by four votes: Joe Biden, John Kerry, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama.

That’s true, but the Bush administration lobbied against Santorum’s bill, and 14 Republican senators also voted against it. The bill passed three months later after a compromise was worked out with the Bush administration, which opposed the bill because it was negotiating with Iran at the time.


Although forensic science has been shown to be effective in winning court cases, and it may help you to grow your business by scientifically gathering and examining information about potential clients, what’s likely to work just fine is good old-fashioned networking. In-person business networking, when done in a professional manner, is a tried and true method for finding new clients through referrals.

The reason is simple: people naturally want to work with people they trust. Once they know you, they begin to trust you. Start by putting yourself in a room with a diverse group of local businessmen and women who are potential sources for referral or may become clients. You can find professional networking groups on LinkedIn that are in your area. Then, all you have to do is “get up, dress up and show up” with a smile and your skillfully-honed elevator speech. Some professional networking groups don’t even charge dues. The opportunity is yours for the taking and perhaps the cost of breakfast.

About that all-important sixty-second elevator speech: Speak clearly and with a friendly tone. Be sure to answer the three big questions:
1. who are you
2. what do you do, and
3. what or who are you looking for
Be straight and to the point. Don’t use big words, industry jargon, or hard sell; and do remember to say how to contact you. If possible, develop and close with a succinct and memorable tag line that sums up how you provide a needed product or service and implies you’re good at what you do or that your product is valuable.

Of course, if your primary goal is rapid or phenomenal growth, you’ll probably want to try newer ways to connect with prospects and convert them to clients or customers. The argument for in-person networking does not exclude other efforts. However, the point is that you may be wasting time and money trying to capitalize on social media, digital marketing or even forensic science just because you think you should.

You need a strategy that is effective. The trick is to integrate what makes sense in your case and not just to jump in because it’s new. Understand the value of transparency and content. Why are they important to your brand? Is yours a B2C or a B2B company? Evaluate social media choices based on the answer. Should prospects be posting selfies on your Facebook page or learning about your company from a corporate video you posted?

Word-of-mouth advertising still works. It’s free and now goes by the name “engagement.” Publicity is still an effective tool when media exposure is sought professionally as appropriate. Direct mail, which can be highly targeted and combined with e-mail marketing, can be cost-effective in many cases. Social responsibility and charitable giving never go out of style.

Whatever your business, find the right consultants to help you navigate the maze. You don’t have to do everything, just the right things.

Which Presidential Candidate Favors Small Business?

Food for Thought

The problem at election time used to be voter apathy.  People didn’t vote because they believed it didn’t matter much who won.  Nothing would really change.  Today voters on both sides appear engaged and fearful that things will get much worse if the “other” candidate wins.  Undecided voters can sway the 2012 election.

Along with the undecided Ohioan voters, who seem to matter most, very soon small business owners will decide whether to choose a new leader or keep the one we’ve got.  Should the choice be based more or less on how the policies outlined in the campaigns would impact such things as hiring and marketing budgets? What about these larger issues: the ability of the man to lead and his view of the world?

Do You Have a Small Business?

According to the U.S. Small Business Administration, which uses the 500-worker maximum in its definition, small businesses employ half of all private-sector workers. In 2009, of the 27.5 million businesses in the U.S., 99.7% were defined as small firms. More than 70% of U.S. small businesses are one-person operations.

A lot of numbers are being tossed around in this campaign.  It’s important to remember that statistics are always subject to interpretation and will be cited by each candidate in whatever way helps to make his case. Finding the whole truth will take some digging.

Contrasting the Policies that Relate Directly to Small Businesses

President Obama:

  • When Bush-era tax cuts expire in 2013, eliminate them for anyone who makes a profit of more than $250,000 to stop taxes from going up on 97 percent of all small business owners. The president would allow the top two tax rates of 33 percent and 35 percent to revert to Clinton-era levels of 36 percent and 39.6 percent, respectively.
  • Expand the Health Care Tax Credit created in the Affordable Care Act to businesses with up to 50 workers (up from 25). This credit seeks to help small businesses afford the cost of health insurance.  In 2014 if you employ less than 25 or are self-employed, you may find that the health care reforms bring you tax relief.
  • Use bank-bailout funds to recapitalize community banks that lend to small businesses and expand lending by the Small Business Administration in order to open up more credit.

Mitt Romney:

  • When the Bush-era tax cuts expire in January 2013, permanently extend them for all income levels. Since the top 3% of small businesses are in businesses that are taxed not at the corporate tax rate but at the individual tax rate, by lowering that rate for these 750,000 taxpayers in that 3%, they will be able to hire more people.
  • Reduce income tax rates by 20 percent and permanently repeal the estate tax and the alternative minimum tax.  Pay for these tax cuts by reducing or eliminating as yet unidentified tax credits, deductions and exemptions. If the cuts are distributed equally across the board, the Romney-Ryan budget could cut Small Business Administration funding by 19% ($170 million).
  • Repeal the Affordable Care Act to create jobs.  Romney has cited a National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) survey that found three-quarters of small businesses said they would be less likely to hire due to ObamaCare. (The NFIB, whose funders are undisclosed, recently has come under fire for allegedly representing the interests of big business and for primarily backing Republican candidates.)

What Are the Signs of a Good Leader?

The Harvard Business Review says that the two most important qualities in a good leader are trust and empathy.  I would add that trust comes largely from a perceived integrity and shared values.  Real empathy involves actually walking the walk, not just talking the talk.

According to renowned motivational speaker Tony Robbins, a good leader has:  “the ability to influence the thoughts, emotions, and actions of other human beings.”  Robbins cites as important “energy and passion,” pointing out that, “There’s a level of connectedness that leaders have with others. It’s their ability to get things done and make progress that sets them apart.”  Let’s not forget perseverance and, wouldn’t you agree, those same qualities are key to success for small businesses owners. 

How Important is Each Candidates’ World View to Leadership?

A candidate’s world view is derived in large measure from his/her personal past, which in part foreshadows the future.  World view is likely to shape domestic as well as foreign policy positions. The results, in turn, can have an effect on U.S. small businesses.

How would these factors influence Candidate Romney’s leadership

choices as President:

·         successful business record as a venture capitalist with Bain Capital
·         initial failed bid for governor of Massachusetts and the Olympics turnaround that to some degree resulted in his subsequent successful bid in 2002
·         failed presidential bid in 2008
·         “out of the mainstream” religious views and work as a missionary
·         his early life as the son of Michigan Governor George Romney

  How would these factors influence President Obama’s leadership

choices in a 2nd term:

·         success in becoming the nation’s first African-American president
·         success and pride in passing the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act in 2009
·         success in overseeing the mission of eliminating Bin Laden as the head of al-Qaeda
·         lack of success in achieving bipartisan support in Congress on several issues
·         earlier role in the Illinois and U.S. Senate
·         the multi-cultural influences in his early life

Consider the Role of Campaign Spending

Broward Bulldog, an independent non-profit online newspaper, reports that “Since Labor Day 70 % of outside spending on the presidential race made possible by the Citizens United  Supreme Court decision has benefited Mitt Romney, according to a Center for Public Integrity analysis. More than $106 million of the $117 million spent on the Obama-Romney matchup since Sept. 3 has been on negative ads, with President Barack Obama absorbing more than $80 million in attacks, according to the analysis of Federal Election Commission data.”

Is Running the Government Just Like Running A Business?

Because in a democracy the process of running a government really is different from that of running a business, neither candidate will be able to have everything completely his way as President.  Although the buck stops with the Chief in both cases, a Commander-in-Chief does not have the same kind of power as a Chief Executive Officer. That’s where leadership qualities and the world view come into play. While a CEO has every right to change direction whenever it helps profits and benefits his company, a Commander in Chief must demonstrate clear and consistent, not contradictory, positions in order to persuade colleagues and earn support worldwide.

Summing Up

In essence the choice should be a visionary who shares your values, a truth-teller whom you would trust to make a tough critical decision, but who also has empathy for the less fortunate and who seeks to represent all the people.  You want someone whom you can count on to grasp the big picture, search for the middle ground and not shoot from the hip.  You want passion but not a zealot.

You want someone who has the same leadership qualities that you have as a successful business person, but someone who also possesses the perspective and ability to inspire the cooperation that it takes to function really well within a democratic system as the leader of the free world.  Tall order?  Ultimately the decision may rest with the undecided swing state voters.



Word of mouth can be your best spokesperson. This post is a four-step outline for building your small business without an advertising budget.


• Know who your clients or customers are and what they want; create a profile of the ideal client/customer.  This definition becomes your target audience.

• Perfect your professional profile and photo. It all starts with YOU!

• Figure out what makes you different and how to say it in a “sound bite” or “tag line.” These words become your key message. Create your “elevator speech,” a 60-second summary of whom you help and how.

• Get your house in order so that you won’t fail to deliver on your promises.

• Sketch out a plan with a tentative timeline and budget, including:

1)  Website – This is your online brochure and list builder. It must have educational value and continually fresh content as well as good design.
2)  Blog – Regularly demonstrate your knowledge and industry expertise; posts can later become an ebook.
3)  Brochure–Goes beyond the business card for trade shows, luncheons, etc.
4)  Create desirable incentives, freebies, special discounts and rewards for your target audience, and offer finder’s fees for referrals.
5)  Newsletter marketing can reach current and prospective clients/customers via your website or directly through email.


The best way to get new clients or customers, far and away, is by being recommended.

Networking is not selling. It’s making business connections, seeking and giving referrals.

• Become a connector who facilitates business introductions.

• Join your local chapter of Business Networking International and other groups.

• Take on pro bono activity and make known your involvement.

• Choose and engage in appropriate social media.


Small firm visibility can be increased through publicity, which is more credible than advertising. Understand what the media considers news and what editors want.

• Event marketing can be used to obtain publicity.

• Surveys and case studies can also generate publicity.

• Trend articles can demonstrate your expertise and be recycled.

• Speaking platforms let you reach beyond the captive audience.


Marketing is not something you do with your left hand. Don’t think you can go it alone or expect your existing staff somehow to do double duty.

• Look for experienced marketing counsel with some knowledge of your industry.

• Use your network to find professional marketing help at a price you can afford.




For the moment the debt ceiling crisis has been averted, but it’s no secret there will be challenges in coming months for the small business ROI. 

Let’s start with the good news:  sales of luxury goods are up, corporations are sitting on a good deal of cash, the Federal Reserve has vowed to keep interests rates near zero, and a lot of people are pushing for quick remedial action. 

What’s the situation right now?  Fueled by the unprecedented Standard and Poor’s rating downgrade and abetted by economic distress impacting Europe, fiscal uncertainty will color business decision making at least for the rest of 2011. 

Until Thanksgiving business will hold its breath, watching and wondering whether the 12-member Super Committee will make the deficit reduction recommendations needed to avoid triggering automatic spending cuts in 2013.  The nail biting will continue until the Congressional vote in late December.

Given that situation and all that goes with it, today’s small business CEO survival kit should contain a leap of faith coupled with a good sense of humor just to stay the course. 

Don’t Toss Out the Baby with the Bathwater

Long-term marketing efforts should not be the first to go just because they may be hard to measure. In theory your initial business plan was based on a sound strategy and you have made prudent adjustments over time.  A review may suggest more revisions, but hoarding gold is not the answer.  Why uproot a solid foundation simply because it turns out it will take longer to build the house?  Trust the decisions you’ve already made, and just reduce the pace as needed. 

Better ways to save:

  • Shop carefully for office equipment and supplies
  • Risk the mayhem and reduce insurance coverage
  • Cut shipping costs
  • Eliminate interest charges by paying on time or in cash
  • Cancel all but essential memberships, frills and perks 
  • Postpone the new hire; instead use contract services or freelance services and/or offer incentives to the existing staff 
  • Barter for goods and services
  • Do some of it yourself, but only if it doesn’t detract from your core business.
  • If all else fails, employ robots!

Laughter Really is the Best Medicine

See how comic Stephen Colbert Explains the Debt Ceiling Deal & the Coming Super Congress.

Learn from the poem Solitude by Ella Wheeler Wilcox.   Look for the humor.  Find something to laugh at or at least smile about.   Your smile will be infectious. “Rejoice, and men will seek you.”  Network.  Be charismatic.  Let business find you.


Laugh, and the world laughs with you;

Weep, and you weep alone.

For the sad old earth must borrow its mirth,

But has trouble enough of its own.

Sing, and the hills will answer;

Sigh, it is lost on the air.

The echoes bound to a joyful sound,

But shrink from voicing care.

Rejoice, and men will seek you;

Grieve, and they turn and go.

They want full measure of all your pleasure,

But they do not need your woe.

Be glad, and your friends are many;

Be sad, and you lose them all.

There are none to decline your nectared wine,

But alone you must drink life’s gall.

Feast, and your halls are crowded;

Fast, and the world goes by.

Succeed and give, and it helps you live,

But no man can help you die.

There is room in the halls of pleasure

For a long and lordly train,

But one by one we must all file on

Through the narrow aisles of pain.

Nine Well Tips for Business Righting

(MUCH BETTER: Nine Good Tips for Business Writing)

Why nine?  Ten is overdone.

You are a businessman or businesswoman, probably an expert in your field.  It’s likely you would not have gotten where you are without first knowing the basic rules of grammar and how to put words on paper.  You know what makes writing good or bad, right?

Why then might you hire a freelance business writer?  Ask yourself whether you just want to blow bubbles or you want to blow bubbles with kittens inside them.

Tip #1:  Your press releases should follow an accepted journalistic style; and it also helps to learn what reporters and editors consider newsworthy so you don’t waste your time and theirs.

Writing is an essential part of all business communication.  It’s how you get your message across.  For example, if you’re starting a business in the Fort Lauderdale area, you may rely on publicity in local newspapers to help get the word out.  Do you know how to get someone to write about your business?  Do you need to hire a local free lance publicist?

Tip #2:  Strive for web content that does three things:  keeps visitors coming back, converts them into customers or clients and attracts search engines. 

If you have a website, or need a website, you need to know that content is king. Business writers and web content writers always write for the reader. But what is it about writing that persuades or engages visitors?  What does it mean to write in pictures?  Your web content should be educational and informative and at the same time colorful and interesting.

Tip #3For your blog, or for the one you don’t yet have, you’ll need copy that’s crafted for blogging and includes keywords that search engines more likely will find.

Do you know what gives words power and which words create more compelling copy?  Does your blog copy hold your reader’s attention? How personal should it be?  When should you add a “call to action?”  Time is money. Do you have time to keep your blog fresh?  Most writers will admit they find writing hard work but thoroughly enjoy having written! Ah, there’s the rub!

Tip #4:  Business writing, unlike creative writing, is best kept short

Since busy people more and more access Facebook, Twitter and e-mail from their small-screen cell phones, it’s important for your message to grab the reader and be concise so there’s less scrolling involved.  Put the key message upfront.  Don’t lead into it.

Do you know which words can safely be left out without risk of distorting your meaning? Example:  It isn’t necessary to use the word “that” after “say” or “think.” What’s the best way to present complex information?  When there’s a lot to say, condense it to three bullet points.  Paraphrase.  Summarize.  Use examples.  Pick one important statistic.  Don’t be boring.

Tip #5:   When creating copy for your e-marketing campaign, use words to motivate, but be credible; and avoid headlines that are spam triggers.

Don’t turn away your prospects with copy that isn’t believable.   I cut my teeth in the advertising industry where a word can make or break a product.  Words like “new” and “improved” were powerful in product advertising because research tipped off advertisers that consumers wanted better and better products.  Those two words could motivate a consumer to buy.  In today’s world, certain words can dump your message right into the spam can.

Tip #6: It’s always safer to choose the word you know.  Don’t take a chance on one that may not mean what you think it does.  When in doubt, rewrite the sentence.  And choose the one-syllable word.  

Much like football, communication requires a sender, a receiver and a message.  It also requires listening or reading.  Communication is not complete until the intended receiver is holding the ball. Fumbles with words – choosing the wrong one and using it incorrectly — can be costly and embarrassing to say the least.

Here’s a bit of advice.  I would advise you to be sure you know the meaning and proper use of common words like these:

  • Podium.  It’s the platform, not the lectern.
  • Disinterested.  It means neutral, unbiased.  Not interested?  No!
  • Peruse is a careful review, not a casual review.
  • Hone means to sharpen; home refers to pinpointing a target.
  • Nonplussed  means bewildered, not unimpressed
  • Discrete means separate unless you spell it “discreet,” in which case it means allowing for privacy.
  •  If it is complementary, it completes, unlike a compliment, which flatters.
  • To each “their” own is just wrong!  It’s to each his own.
  • That or which? – If the clause cannot be omitted without changing the meaning of the sentence, use “that.”  If the clause is parenthetical, use “which.”

Tip #7:  Ask someone to read what you’ve written to look for red flags before you hit “send.

My long-time favorite saying on communications is this:  “I know you believe you understand what you think I said, but I’m not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant.”

Perspective, tone and style contribute to your message. Do you bring the right perspective to the subject?  (Are you talkin’ ta me?)  Is the tone friendly, or not so much?   Writing style can be verbose, descriptive, detailed, terse, bold or flippant.  A word can be redundant, politically incorrect or convey bias.  Varying the pace or rhythm of the piece can help to hold readers.

Tip #8Try to stay on top of things.  (I know, right?) 

For example, Oxford Dictionaries Online has added a ton of new abbreviations related to the Web.  Did you get that memo?  Twittersphere and unfollow are words now.  Of course, a sheeple would never unfollow anyone.

Tip #9:  Allow me to hammer in the importance of proofreading – again and again — with fresh eyes and on a different day if possible.  Fact check! 

Whatever else it may be, business writing should always strive to be accurate and clear.  I’ve heard it said that writing is re-writing, which makes proofreading and editing vital to the process.  A writer’s first draft is rarely the best.  Don’t rely on spell check totally.  Spell check helps, but it won’t alert you if you’ve used “there” when you should have used “their” or “they’re.”

When it comes to shoes, although we may not know our Manolo Blahniks from our Christian Louboutins, we ought to do our best to spell the words right.

As Congressman Weiner recently learned, it’s not what you say, it’s how you type it.  A typo in a tweet address apparently turned a private photo message into a public one.

Words matter.  Make them work for you!

Marketing Margaritas

Cinco de Mayo 2011 is upon us, so look for parties and special promotions with Margaritas a plenty.  Why not make the most of your Margarita experience (and impress everyone) with a little knowledge about tequila?  My knowledge comes from working  in the  wine and spirits importing industry and from free lance writing about wine and spirits.

The Margarita remains the best-selling cocktail year ‘round in bars and restaurants throughout the country.  With help from marketers, the wine and spirits trade easily keeps the Cinco de Mayo spirit alive every month of the year by promoting unique experiences with Mexico’s most popular drink and by teaching patrons how to tell their Margaritaville from their mescal.  It’s not clear exactly which year or by whom, but in the mid- to late 2000’s, National Margarita Day was declared on February 22nd.

According to the Distilled Spirits Council, the introduction of upscale tequilas back in the 90’s helped make tequila the fastest-growing distilled spirits category.  Sales jumped 75% while spirits overall declined. Nearly two dozen new tequilas came onto the scene in 1999 alone.  Jose Cuervo and Sauza became the world’s best-selling tequila brands.

Most American drinkers first tasted tequila mixed in a Margarita or tossed down as a shot.  Many Mexicans (and savvy connoisseurs) sip tequila followed by Sangrita, a non-alcoholic chaser of citrus juices and grenadine.

Bartenders and restaurateurs are on the front lines when it comes to teaching interested patrons the options for tequila drinkers. Traditionally, a Marguerita is made with tequila, Triple Sec and lime juice. Some consumers opt for margaritas made with aged super premium tequilas mixed with upscale liqueurs such as Grand Marnier instead of Triple Sec.”

High-end tequilas (premium or super premium) can cost upwards of $25 a bottle.  Anejo, Reposado and Silver Espolon, for example, are produced from estate-grown 100% agave, crafted without any chemicals, flavorings, colorings or alterations of any sort and aged in specially built barrels.

There were six Tequila categories in the 2011 Ultimate Spirits Challenge, held March 1-4 at New York City’s Astor Center.   Expect to pay $100 for Grand Mayan Extra Añejo, top winner in the Extra Añejo 100% Agave Tequila category.

Tequila Tutorial

Understanding tequila, which is roughly an 80 proof spirit, is a little like understanding wine.  Origin, production, age and labeling are important.  Over one hundred varieties of agave plants grow in Mexico and the southwestern U.S., but tequila is made only from blue agave plants (in the lily/amaryllis family), not from cactus plants; and (unlike mescal) no worms are found in tequila bottles.

  • Production is controlled by the CRT (Tequila Regulatory Council)
  • Norms (NOM), established in the 70’s, call for each authorized distillery to have a designated NOM number, and approved tequila brands display it on their labels
  • Authentic tequila can only be made with at least 51% of the blue agave extract
  • Blue Agave can only be harvested, and tequila can only be produced within five Mexican states:  Jalisco, Guanajuato, Michoacan, Nayarit and Tamaulipas.
  • Tequila must be distilled twice and aged (14 days to 7 years) only in oak barrels (which impart color).*
  • Labels must include the words “hecho en Mexico,” (made in Mexico), the producer’s registration and ID number, plus the tequila’s age.
  • Anejo means “aged” (barrel-aged at least one year)
  • Reposado means “rested” (aged two months to one year)
  • Oro means “gold” (aged up to two months)
  • Blanco “white or silver” (aged up to two weeks, or essentially not aged)

*  There are no regulations about what may have been in the barrel before, such as a lesser quality tequila or another spirit altogether.

Is Traditional Networking Dead?

This post advocates the preservation, versus total abandonment, of old-style business networking at least until Xtreme Networking becomes truly widespread and each new person one meets is screened for value in four minutes. (Interestingly, in recent years a Chicago company has been offering such speed dating style networking events for business.)

Lately I’ve attended a lot of local workshops, breakfast, lunch and after-hours meetings in Fort Lauderdale and Boca Raton.  I’ve watched a lot of webinars.  My goal is to help clients achieve their best marketing return on investment (ROI).  To do that I need to keep up with the latest trends and to continually educate myself about changes in the way goods and services are marketed in 2011.  It’s also part of my own networking plan.

All the meetings I’ve attended so far were ostensibly designed to educate the under-informed; but, of course, the underlying intent was to sell services.  Similarly, social networking seeks to engage potential customers through a mutually-beneficial dialogue, but the underlying intent is still ultimately to sell something.

Not what you’d call a “newbie,” I’ve been immersed for decades in advertising and professional public relations; yet I’m learning a little something new with each session.  Essentially a freelance business writer, I take copious notes.  As I review them, one thought keeps haunting me:  “The more things change, the more they seem to stay the same.”  Let me attempt to draw a few parallels.

Martha and Maxine Talk About Networking with Social Media, Etc.

Martha’s Way

Maxine’s Way

Build your reputation through personal branding I don’t own any cows
Synchronize LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter pages with your website and Blog Try dialing the phone
Write an insightful Blog every week Take more naps
Recommend and Friend people Friend is not a verb
Start a dialogue and engage people Oh, shut the duck up
Develop friendships, not leads Don’t call me, I’ll call you
Use links for better SEO results SEO? New sausage recipe?
Set up RSS feeds Is that like the KISS principle?
Keep an eye on your ROI as you go viral Only under doctor’s supervision
Use Google Analytics to gauge results Analyze THIS!

Seriously, the point is that face-to-face networking is still alive and well, and e-mail is not quite dead yet.  We shouldn’t be too quick to declare things “dead.”  As always, marketing efforts work best when integrated or synchronized. In-person networking can flow in tandem with social media networking. Just as a book can still become a movie, a blog post might become a video.  Someone you meet at a business function can be someone you connect with on LinkedIn or Friend on Facebook.

Not a sausage recipe, search engine optimization (SEO) is, of course, vital when it comes to being found by Google’s “spiders” and by other search engines.  If you are paying to help ensure that your business can be found when someone searches for it on the Internet, SEO that works will surely enhance your ROI. But don’t forget to put a sign out front that can clearly be read by approaching cars.

For my money Really Simple Syndication (RSS) doesn’t quite qualify under the “Keep It Simple, Stupid” (KISS) principle of old.  RSS feeds aren’t that simple to explain, yet the benefit is not complex:  easily being able to subscribe to and read timely updates from favored websites. RSS feeds are a great time-saver, yet you may still want to track down a hard copy of that newspaper article with your quote and photo in it so you can frame it.

Both word-of-mouth and viral marketing rely on trust.  Most people still will not spread the word about a product or service, either in person or through social media, unless it comes from a trusted source, such as possibly a medical professional.  We still need our soft skills, reputation rules and words still matter.

Various methods of measuring advertising’s effectiveness have existed as long as advertising has existed.  Google Analytics is simply a modern version of tracking your advertising ROI and more.

Even as I write, technologies are being developed that will present new and faster ways to do things. But it can’t hurt to review your options when you choose how and when to embrace those new ways.  It’s important to note that audiences are not migrating from one medium to another. They are spreading their attention across all platforms. For example, people are watching more online videos than ever, yet tv viewing is actually on the rise as well.

Until everyone owns and can operate a smartphone that scans an encoded business card which instantly takes them to a website, or until the facial recognition app is perfected, we will still exchange uncoded business cards and later visit each other’s websites.  In the extreme, we might even want to get out of our comfort zones, attend a “meet and greet,” shake hands and send someone a hand-written follow-up note!