Monday, December 2, 2013

Gadgets For Good Geeks

It's that time of year again, you've got to buy a gadget for your favorite geek or risk not getting support for another year.  This year, we've got lots of great gifts for geeks to consider.  There are far more than I could cover so I'm only sharing what I'm either using or wishing I was using and why.  Please help everyone by carrying on the conversation in the comments and adding the gadget you crave or favor the most.

This is the most versatile gift you can give anyone right now as they can be used for play or for work.  The iPad dominates this category and is my recommendation if price is not an object.  It has the most application support and is the easiest to use.  The iPad air is an excellent product and while "expensive" holds its value well.

The runner up is the Google Nexus.  It's Google's answer to the iPad and the latest version is very good.  Going with the Nexus ensures you get the latest update to the Android Operating System when Google upgrades.  It is a beautiful device.

Mini (7") or Full Size?
This is a matter of preference and many people swear by their iPad Mini or 7" Nexus.  I like the 10" devices personally.

The iPhone 5s is the winner for much the same reasons the iPad wins for tablets.

But a true geek will want an android, so if the recipient is a true geek, the close runner up in this category is the Samsung S4 phone.  Bigger screen and more features than an Apple device.  This is my phone and I love it.

Bluetooth speakers
This is a GREAT gift for a geek. Practical, useful, and reliable.
My current favorite is the $99 Exogear because it is waterproof, has great battery life, portable, nearly indestructible, and a great price.

For inside the house where looks matter more than portability, I like the $99 SoundFreaq because it can also charge your devices.

If you don't like either of these, find one you do like such as Jawbone.  Bluetooth speakers make a great gift!

Not a great gift but still some people need a new laptop.  Don't go for chromebooks yet and while Macs are great, they are very expensive for what you get.  The best value today is the Lenovo Yoga with SSD for about $1100.

A very personal choice for so many people but I'm glad to see people recognize bluetooth headsets are out of style.  My favorite headphones are from ZAGG.  Lots to chose from, I use the smartbuds (currently on sale for $25).  The best thing about Zagg is they don't ever tangle and the 2nd best thing is they are durable, I've washed a pair and they still work (yes it was an accident!).

Too many things to say and list here but let's cover it quickly.  First, the hype is all around PS4 and Xbox One.  Either one is great but I think the Xbox is a slightly better value.  Since no previous games work with the new consoles, you really have to look at what games they have that appeal to you. Mashable provides a nice comparison.

Most people, however, will benefit from a new device for their TV.  If you are a fully apple family, the $99 Apple TV is a no brainer.  I love my Apple TV.  It's simple, powerful, and inexpensive.  Using airplay you can project anything from your iPad to your TV.  It also comes preloaded with great apps like HULU Plus, Netflix, and more which work on your home network (you need subscriptions to use HULU, etc but the apps are there).  Easy to setup and can extend your itunes library to your TV set.

Since I have a Samsung S4, I like Chromecast.  Currently compatible with some iPad/iPhone applications, Chromecast works with androids and your laptop (Chrome browser mostly).  It lets anything that plays on your device play to the screen.  Works great and is a great deal at $35.

Wearable computing
I'm not a fan yet.  The Galaxy watch is horrible and most of the rest are not any better even if they are a better value.  And there are many devices like Fuelband, Fitbit, and others that track your activity.  If the geek in your life is a fitness geek, these might be good gifts but are very personal as they style is an issue.  I also expect these devices to improve dramatically in 2014 so any purchase you make will have a short useful life.

Portable Power
Everyone needs portable power now, batteries everywhere.  Get one that doubles as a wall charger and lets you charge multiple devices. Also be sure it supports the new iPad.  Once again, I like Zagg ZaggSparq on sale for $50.

Rounding out my top choices for the geek in your life:

  1. EcoGear bluetooth speaker -- For $100, a product everyone can use.
  2. ChromeCast - It's only $35 and has great features.
  3. iPad Air - At $500 most expensive but the most appreciated.

What did I miss?  What is your favorite gadget and which ones did I recommend where I got it wrong?

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Benefits of Being Loyal

Unexpectedly, I received an email from Delta "Re: Recognition of your recent travel on Delta".

The letter said: "On behalf of Delta Air Lines, I would like to offer my sincere apology for the multiple flight disruptions you experienced".  The entire letter was incredibly well done.  I was happy just to get the letter, but the letter ended with "In recognition of your value as a Platinum Medallion member and as a gesture of goodwill, I have sent you a gift containing perishables, which will be mailed to the address in your SkyMiles account."

Yes, I had a bad experience (some of my face book friends might remember my 10 hour stint in MSP ending with a bird hitting the plane).  Yes, I did share that with Delta and I thought they had handled it fine. After all, I have been on different planes over 100 times this year so I expect a few bad experiences.  So when I received the letter, I was pleasantly surprised rather than feeling "it's about time".

When I received the package, I was even more surprised and my loyalty to Delta increased because they made me feel special.

The contents are easily worth over $150 and consisted mostly of food gifts including some very fine cheeses, crackers, nuts, and some really amazing Creme Brulee Almonds.  It also included imprinted promotional items including:

Despite still being an avid myfitnesspal user, I ate the Creme Brulee Almonds in about 1 day (my wife helped and no, I didn't log them...)  

I have told the story about a dozen times since receiving the original letter and now I'm blogging about it.  But I don't think Delta did this because they wanted me to blog about it.  I can't say for sure I know why they took the time to do this, but here is my best guess:
  1. At Platinum, I am the "2nd most valuable tier" of customer to them.  They understand their customers and segment them as well as anyone.
  2. I have the Delta reserve credit card which carries a high annual fee but provides me the benefits that outweigh it.  
  3. I am reasonable when things don't go as planned.
Perhaps there is more to it than the above and maybe the fact that I fill out my surveys (honestly) almost every time they send them to me gives me a few extra points in their customer grading system.  

But for me, this is not a story about how to treat your customers better (although hopefully you'll get some ideas from the story), this is a story about being loyal.  I will talk about how to reward loyalty in a future post.

If you want your vendors (of any type) to treat you well, you must first begin by treating them well.  Give them all of your business, or nearly all of your business as long as they are reasonable compared to the competition.  Centralize your buying with them whenever possible.  And when things go wrong, don't be a jerk.  Explain what went wrong and see how they handle it.  If they don't handle it well, it's time to consider a new vendor.

Me taking a nap at work in my Delta Snuggie
Not included in the gift basket, I bought on my own
I don't expect to wear this on a flight...
I want to conclude by stating how much I love Delta.  When I lived in Philadelphia, I flew USAIR mostly and while I didn't hate it, I never enjoyed the experience.  Even before I achieved status with Delta, I found the Delta employees to be happier and committed to customer satisfaction.  Once I achieved silver, things were even better and Gold began a really great experience since Gold members get the opportunity to sit in "Economy Comfort" which gives me more leg room.  The upgrades to first class are limited because even as Platinum, I'm on very popular routes with many Diamond flyers getting the upgrades.  When I get the upgrades, I love them.  But I'm very happy in my economy comfort seats and dealing with the nicest flight attendants and gate agents in the business.

What can you do to get your customers to love you so much, they write an entire blog about you and take a picture wearing a Snuggie with your logo on it?

Monday, November 4, 2013

5 Lessons From A Social Media #fail

Recently I started investing video conferencing systems for meetings with more than 10 video participants and the ability to call into a number from a phone line if you aren't near a computer.  I was pointed in the direction of Fuze Video Conferencing by PPAI board member Rod Brown.  I also found Blue Jeans video conferencing in my own searching.

I visited and got the information I needed and made a phone call and had a great meeting.  #success.

I visited and couldn't find out whether or not it met my criteria so I clicked the CHAT option (which was not too annoyingly in my face).   When I asked my question, it was greeted with "They aren't in the office right now so I'll have them call you back."

The first problem was that they offered chat but didn't staff it.  This is a company that just received $50,000,000 in funding.  They can afford to staff their chat at 8am EST even if they are on the West coast. Otherwise, they should not offer chat at this time.  (Another pet peeve was that they required me to give them my email and phone before I could chat. I was interested enough that I was willing to do that but I find it tacky.)

The second problem is that I asked to chat and they offered a call back.  I had reluctantly given the chat person my email and phone #

To make matters worse, they did call back.  In fact, THREE different people called back within 6 hours. Not a single one knew the other had called.  That was the 3rd and 4th problem (not knowing what each other are doing and calling rather than emailing).

The 5th problem is that I tweeted and specifically mentioned them and they never responded.
don't offer chat if you don't have the people to answer questions.

The 6th problem is that I tweeted them again after the calls and they still did not respond.
I've had 3 Different sales people call me today.First I sent a chat, not a call, 2nd, coordinate your effort. .

The 7th problem is that when googling them, I found some pretty horrible reviews on from employees for both Fuzebox and BlueJeans.  Both gave me pause even though I know disgruntled employees are still more likely to post than happy ones, some of the comments are relevant to my search.

So here I am an active interested customer who is so turned off by my experience with this company that I am hoping they don't have what I want. If a company can't get the pre-sales experience right, what can I expect from them long term?

Here are the primary lessons from this interaction
  1. If you offer chat, staff it properly to answer questions.
  2. If people send you an electronic message, that's usually a good indication they want to communicate that way. Try to work with people the way they want to be worked with.
  3. Have a single channel managing leads or use a CRM that ensures people don't step on each other.
  4. Watch your social media feed carefully and if someone tags you, respond appropriately.
  5. Google your company and see what comes up.  More and more, is coming up in searches and needs to be a part of managing your online presence.  It is important to both customers and potential employees.   Of course, it's impossible to get all good reviews but pay attention to what people are saying and make appropriate changes. Respond to comments by making appropriate changes and over time, the comments will improve.
For now, I'm planning on working with despite a few minor issues I have with the product.  The price is great and the service is even better.

Geiger CIO Dale Denham, MAS+ provides practical insights on how you can benefit from technology in no nonsense terms. Follow him on Twitter:@GeigerCIO.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

The 12 Months of Christmas

Merry Christmas.

It's that time of year again. My neighborhood is covered in cobwebs, spiders, and one quite disturbing house with psycho clowns.

It can only mean one thing: it's Christmas time!

Yes, for the next few weeks our social media feeds will be full of people complaining about how Christmas decorations are up too soon and ruining the real reason for Christmas. And when Thanksgiving rolls around, we will see our Facebook feeds quickly switch to people complaining about how they don't have enough time to get everything done especially since there is one less week between Thanksgiving and Christmas this year.

Yet, for those marketing online, seasonal selling is year round. Yes, year round. This post can be viewed at any time and Google can serve it up in the result set whenever Google determines this is the most relevant post. Will that be if people search for Halloween and promotional products? Or perhaps when they search for psycho clowns and technology?

Or perhaps it will be when someone Google's "Dale Denham." Hmmm. Here is an odd thought. What if someone Google's psycho clowns and Dale Denham? No doubt, this post would be number one in the results. But since I bought the domain name and posted this article on that page, it will surely become the number one result if you were to Google “Dale Denham Psycho Clown.”

But I digress, the point is, Search Engine Marketing (SEM) is an ongoing activity and the blog you post today will be available for years to come. But you can't rest on your past activity too much; Google recognizes the value of relevancy and timing of your post is a big factor in determining relevancy. So in fact, my Merry Christmas post might do quite well for the next several weeks. And on the odd chance someone searches for psycho clowns and Christmas, I might do well there too.

Some of you have noticed a few "hyperlinks" in my post.  These too are very important to your SEM.  If I want a specific result to appear when you type in "Geiger won't quit working for you" I hyperlink the copy to the site I want it to go to (in this case I could have titled it "Watch Dale Denham fall while dancing.")

There is much to learn about search engine marketing that I can't teach you, but many resources can.  In the meantime, just remember that every time you blog or post on your social networks, you are posting something that might bring business for years to come.

P.S. A big Hanukkah shout out to all my Jewish friends, especially you Jason Lerner, I'm not ignoring Hanukkah, but I can only cover so much in 1 post.  And besides, this is evidently the one and only time Hanukkah will ever coincide with Thanksgiving and is so early, it wouldn't have worked well for this post!

Geiger CIO Dale Denham, MAS+ provides practical insights on how you can benefit from technology in no nonsense terms. Follow him on Twitter:@GeigerCIO.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Dale Denham is not really a psycho clown

I, Dale Denham, hereby certify that I am in fact not a psycho clown.  But I will go to great lengths to demonstrate the value of search engine marketing to those who might not completely understand it.

If you want to go to the post that started this, search for "Dale Denham is a psycho clown" and hopefully my post will come up.  If not, you shouldn't be reading this because I didn't do a very good job...

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Tinkering with Toilet Seats

Continuous improvement has been a part of my thinking since I was a kid.  My wife has a love hate relationship with the tinkering I am constantly engaging in around the house (she hates it until I get it right or put things back the way they were before I started...). Continuous improvement can make a huge difference to your ability to be successful as well as just making your day more enjoyable.  Here are some of my more recent continuous improvement projects and some insights on how to make the best of your improvements.

1 - Motion detecting lights in the bathroom.
I have 4 kids and I was (am) that grumpy old man who yells "Who left the light on?".  So I installed a motion detector light switch. Problem solved! Nope.  It was more effective for short visits and occasionally left someone in the dark resulting in the need to flap arms while seated...  So I improved it until I adjusted it to stay on 5 minutes without movement.  Sure, it wastes some electricity, but 5 minutes is not so bad.  The first implementation of an idea often has unintended consequences, keeping improving until you get the benefit you intended.

2 - Slow close toilet seats
Since 2 of my children are boys, teaching them to lift the lid was tough and teaching them to put it down equally as tough.  And since sometimes this happens late at night SLAM.  So a slow close toilet seat did the trick.  But I haven't replaced all the toilet seats yet. I'm letting each old one wear out first and then "upgrading".  Sometimes it's best to leave technology alone until it has reached the end of its useful life.

3 - Programmable thermostats
Originally I bought the $40 programmable units and they are great.  They follow the programming you enter perfectly. If someone adjusts the temperature, it reverts to the original program when the next time block kicks in.  Count a win for the grumpy old man!?  Nope.  As with all technology, people who are annoyed by a technology find a way to work around the technology. Kim (my wife) "beats" the programming by hitting the HOLD button which keeps the temperature set where she needs it.  The problem is, this HOLD can last for days until someone releases the hold!

4 - The NEST Thermostat
To solve the "HOLD" problem, I bought a NEST which costs 5 times more than any other thermostat I have ever bought, but it is worth it.  It learns from user adjustments. I program it to do what I think is right (which being a male is never right...) and it adapts to what my wife thinks is right (which is of course always right...) so that the initial programming is not set in stone, but reflects her reality (did I really need to say "her", I mean, "her reality" is reality, right?).   Even on the rare occasion my wife isn't 100% correct, NEST lets us adjust the temperature on our phones, tablets, and PC.  (I swear I've never raised the temperature on her without her consent when I'm traveling... ) The best ideas are simple for users and doesn't require users to change or learn much.  

I'm always looking for more things to improve around the house.  My wife, is hoping I find none...

Around the office, we have a minimum acceptable goal of 6 implemented continuous improvement ideas per person, per year. It is impressive to me how many great ideas have been implemented over the last 24 months.  AppleTV's in all our conference rooms, simplified reporting tools for sales partners, and hundreds of other changes have been implemented.

With over 300 people at our office,  we have 1,800+ improvements every year.  Some very small, some large. It doesn't matter.  1,800+ improvements every years adds up to significant improvement.

What improvements can you make to your home or office?   Are you making continuous improvement part of your culture?

Now back to replacing all my light bulbs with CFL...

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Another survey? Really? Imagine My Surprise...

I, like you, am tired of getting surveyed after every purchase, trip, and transaction that I make.  So when Geiger decided to add a survey to our customer experience, I was cautious about the overall value especially given how much work it would take to implement the survey in a meaningful way.   The value has been much greater than I anticipated.

I do like surveys and I respond to quite a few of them.  I fly Delta all the time and they send me a survey more frequent than I like, but I respond to most of them because of my loyalty to Delta.  I probably respond to less than 5% of the other surveys I get and it's either because I've had a great experience or a bad experience.

And of course, that is what everyone says when you start to survey clients: "You'll only hear the bad news".  Fortunately, we have heard mostly good news (and this is usually the case), but there have been a few instances of bad experiences.  Without the survey, we might not have heard about the bad experience until it was too late.

One client received the email survey and said he had not received the shipment of items yet.  We were able to quickly respond with the delivery information (which was also sent previously as an automated notification but he missed it).   The package had actually been delivered the week before but no one in his office delivered it to him!

Another client received the survey and it triggered a reminder that the client wasn't all that happy with the product they received.  They took the time to let us know and we were able to almost immediately make the client happy.

There are several other minor examples of small issues that we've been able to address immediately. Overall, however, the positive responses are outnumbering negative feedback by an extremely large margin.  It's harder to make changes based on the positive feedback, but the comments help us see the areas people really value and how we can continue to make a difference for clients by continuing to invest in what matters to our happiest customers.

If you have the chance, survey your customers.  Whether it is a simple survey that you send out manually or something more sophisticated like the system we developed, do it.  You'll be glad you did when you see the positive feedback, but also as you have a chance to make improvements.  

I do, however, suggest that you limit the number of surveys you send to any client each month.  

Geiger CIO Dale Denham, MAS+ provides practical insights on how you can benefit from technology in no nonsense terms. Follow him on Twitter:@GeigerCIO.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Still product pushers after all these years

Here I go again.  After all, I could have titled this "Are you really a Promotional Consultant?" but where is the fun in that.

Frankly, I have nothing against product pushers.  Many buyers of promotional products have a product need rather than a need for a consultant.  And there are many promotional consultants too, but you would not know it by reading the social media posts from most suppliers & distributors.

So this post is not meant to offend, rather, it is intended to get you to think about how you position yourself offline and online.  Even a good "product pusher" is probably a promotional consultant.

con·sult·ant  Noun
A person who provides expert advice professionally

Consultants tend to be experts in 1 focused area.  Check.  You are focused on Promotional Products and know the space well.

Consultants love to talk about their work (often in hopes of acquiring a new client).  Check. You talk.  A Lot... 

Consultants have deep domain expertise.  Check.  You know the vendors, products, and latest decoration techniques.

Consultants listen to their client needs and provide solutions to fit their needs. Check.  Sometimes, even taking an order is the job of a consultant. Not every buyer inquiry needs to have 30 questions.

So perhaps you are a consultant after all?  In fact, even a traditional "product pusher" probably is a consultant as long as they are steering clients to the right vendors for the right reasons.

Yet there is little great content on social media about promotional products.  Most of the social media content is pushing products.  Perhaps it is because the type of consulting you do requires knowing the specific client needs before you can consult?  Perhaps.  I think, however, we can do better.   

We need to start sharing knowledge of successful campaigns rather than pushing products on social media.  Because whether you are a consultant or not, people don't like products pushed at them via social media. Providing educational content and advice establishes you as a consultant in the mind of your clients.

PS I have said something similar before about suppliers when I said "Promotional Products Suppliers Stink at Twitter".  

Geiger CIO Dale Denham, MAS+ provides practical insights on how you can benefit from technology in no nonsense terms. Follow him on Twitter:@GeigerCIO.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Clean up your Facebook newsfeed

Facebook is enjoyable until it isn't...  That usually begins when your friends are either posting too much or playing too much.   Take a few minutes and clean up the junk.  It's easy and it will make Facebook enjoyable again.

First, hide the games. Forever.
1.  Click App Center on the left side of your screen.

2.  Click the X next to Play Now on any game.

3.  Click Block [game name?]

This will hide all requests from this game no matter who the sender is.

Now, we can hide people who post too much but still remain their friends.  There are several options but I am going to focus on the 2 simplest options.

Hide the person completely but remain their friend.
A.  Hover (don't click) your mouse over the persons name in your news feed.  You should see the screen below.

B.  Hover (don't click) over the word Friends and you should see the screen below.

C.  Click "Show in News Feed" and the check box will go away.  This person will no longer show in your news feed.

Alternatively, you may want to see some of their updates but not completely hide their updates.  If you want to do that, click "Settings" just below the Show in News Feed.  You will see the screen below.

You can choose to see Only important updates which will limit the posts significantly (unfortuantely, no one really knows who or how "what is important" is determined).  You could also leave Most Updates selected and uncheck specific updates such as games,  or music. If you hide their posts, you can still visit their timeline to see what they are up to.

These 2 tips should make your Facebook experience more enjoyable.  If you have a favorite tip or a question, leave it in the comments below.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

8 things you need to know about how to use #Hashtags

For the longest time, # meant number.  Now, # means hashtag but most people don't really understand how to use hashtags.  That was fine when # was just a Twitter feature, but LinkedIn, Google+, Instagram, and now Facebook support the use of hashtags making # universal for even the most casual social media participants.

1.  The # defined.

Hashtags turn words and phrases into searchable and clickable links. This helps you discover topics. 

2.  How do you create a #?
Type # and your topic or phrase (with no spaces) and add it to your post. For example:

My favorite video is still  #GeigerGetsIt

If I post that to any social network it becomes a clickable link. If you click that, it searches for all the posts on that social network that have that tag.

You will only see posts that are shared publicly or to people you are connected with.  For Twitter, everything is public. Facebook is the most "protected" since most people are posting only to their friends.  But it is still interesting to use the # on Facebook and it will become more important.

3.  Can anyone create a #Topic?
Yes, and that is a drawback in some cases.  For instance, if I wanted to use #Geiger on my posts, anyone clicking the #Geiger would see lots of things about radiation. So it is important to create a relatively unique # if you are creating a #.  

4.  Can anyone reuse a #topic?
Yes. And there in lies the real power of the #.  Looking for people talking about #marketing, #tradeshows, #retail, #etc?  Just go to your favorite site and search for the #propertag.  You will get a lot of junk but you will find some very interesting people and prospects as well.

5.  What does it mean when someone says something like #Justsayin #dontblameme
It means that they are just adding some phrases to their post and saving spaces.  Sure you could click and search, but the results would be meaningless.   

6.  What are some practical uses for the #?
  • Trade Shows -- At #PPAIExpo, I met new friends by following conversations where #PPAIExpo was in any tweet.
  • Articles -- I often search for topics like #CIO or #softwaredevelopment to see any interesting articles that are being pushed.
  • Discovering new places -- If you are going to Tampa for business or pleasure, you could search #Tampa and discover the places using #tampa.
  • Prospecting -- #marketing #tradeshows are great keywords to search on your social networks and get involved in the conversations.
7.  Where is the best place to search #?
Twitter is the most public and has the most content you will discover searching with the #. Linkedin is very useful too as it tends to be more business focused.  Google+ has a lot of great content but less active users.  Facebook will have the least results but they might be the most meaningful right now since it will predominantly return the results of people in your network.  But more often than not, you want to get outside your network so LinkedIn is the place to be.

8.  Where should I post using #?
On any site you use.  But you'll need to use well known hashtags like #marketing to have people find your content or expect a narrow audience of existing customers/friends to be able to learn your #.  For example, I use #Geigergetsit which means only people who see me and others post that will likely ever discover related content.  It takes time and lots of repetition for a created hashtag to become useful.


Geiger CIO Dale Denham, MAS+ provides practical insights on how you can benefit from technology in no nonsense terms. Follow him on Twitter:@GeigerCIO or @daledenham.

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Monday, July 1, 2013

Nope, I'm not looking for a job.

Last year I made some changes to my LinkedIn Profile and a colleague asked me if I was looking for a job.  My answer was then, and remains now, nope.

I'm updating my LinkedIn profile as part of my research for an upcoming presentation to Geiger sales partners at our annual conference.  I've been doing my social media presentation so long that it is time to give it an update.  While I've refreshed it over the years, it's ready for an overhaul.

July 23rd, I'll be presenting Social Media 101 and 201.  The 101 will be a refreshed version of the basics of social media including the top networks to use, why to use them, how to use them, and how to make sure they pay off for you.

The 2nd session will be a bit more of a deep dive.  In 1 hour, it is tough to go too deep and leave people with practical advice but I'm doing my best.  And my best involves encouraging sales partners to focus on LinkedIn to maximize their "social media ROI".  And while it is geared towards Geiger sales partners, it will benefit our Geiger production partners as well.  And for those not a part of Geiger, I'm happy to have you join our organization... :)  All kidding aside, I'm sure I will post it eventually and perhaps if the PPAI education mavens decide I am worth having back in 2013, I suspect you can hear a version of it at PPAI Expo in Las Vegas.

So, if you see my profile getting updated on LinkedIn, don't assume I'm looking for a job.  But do think about how you should be updating your profile to improve your chances of landing a new client.

More to come as the presentation comes together.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

7 reasons you should switch to Google Chrome today

When I was a child, I spoke as a child, when I became a man, I put away childish browsers. 1 Browserinthians 13:11

The more you use Chrome, the more you will like it.  It's like getting a new application that improves your PC but doesn't require you to change the way you work.

Here are 7 reasons you should drop your current browser and switch to Chrome

  1. It's faster than any other browser.  Don't take my word for it, read these charts from lifehacker that show exactly how much faster it is. 
  2. Your bookmarks and settings are available to you on ALL your devices.  Whenever you login to your chrome account from any device your bookmarks and settings are there.  
  3. Different user settings in the same browser -- If you occasionally need to have your significant other quickly log in to their account without switching Windows logins, you can click the switch user and all the settings for the other user (including cookies and logins) will be active.  This is also helpful if you have multiple logins to the same email accounts.
  4. It makes it much easier for the NSA to get your data rather than having to acquire it from multiple sources...
  5. Browser based apps -- Applications you can run inside your browser with a dedicated user interface. Examples include Google Drive, Pandora, and many others.   
  6. Stability -- Boring but important.  Chrome is extremely stable and now has the largest market share of any browser.  When companies are developing web pages, they target the top browsers which Chrome is solidly on top and continues to gain market share.  Similarly, Chrome makes it easier to disable adware (like unwelcome toolbars).
  7. Extensions, Extensions, Extensions.  There are SO many cool extensions that you can use and more being developed every day.   A few of my favorites include:
    • Clearly -- For reading articles and saving to evernote in a clean fashion
    • HoverZoom -- Lets you see the larger image on a website without having to click on it.
    • Ad block Plus -- block ads from all sorts of websites automatically.  Including Facebook. 

So uninstall Firefox and stop using IE but keep it for the occasional site that needs IE.  When you first launch Chrome accept the option to let it be your default browser.  And be sure to install Chrome on your phone and tablet so your settings and bookmarks are available to you.  And, if like me, you are using the iPad 2 (or iPhone 4), Chrome adds voice recognition so you can speak your searches.

Geiger CIO Dale Denham, MAS+ provides practical insights on how you can benefit from technology in no nonsense terms. Follow him on Twitter: @GeigerCIO.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Use your password to focus and motivate you

Clearly it doesn't matter what your password is. The NSA is going to read our email and I'm not too worried about it, but I'm not a paranoid privacy person (see my blog paranoid privacy parts).

But that isn't the point of this blog. The point of this blog is to use your password to focus and motivate you every day.

The point of this blog is NOT to:
  1. Convince you to use different passwords for sensitive sites.  But you might want to read this great blog post on lifehacker
  2. Convince you to use software like or 1password to secure your passwords and make your life so much simpler.  (but you really should)
  3. Point out the hypocrisy of those of you whine about the government checking your email & phone but you leave your passwords open for easy hacking. (Sorry, I couldn't resist)
The point of this blog is to get you to use your primary password to motivate you to take action.  Several people liked the concept I used to help me focus on losing weight (see the blog here how technology helped me lose 20 pounds) where I changed my password to my goal weight (190pounds which I'm glad to say I have now achieved and am still losing, thank you very much).

I've used this technique several times and not just for exercise goals.  Here are a few ideas for you to use your password to help keep you focused and motivated.
  1. 730000inSales! A great way to keep focused on your annual sales goal.
  2. 40GPmargin$ -- A great way to focus on your margin.
  3. Make5ColdCallsADay$ -- Remind yourself to make those calls
  4. PrayOrMeditate10MinutesToday -- Helps you take time for yourself
  5. July72000# -- A great way to remember an important date like a birthday or anniversary but be careful, this is one of the easiest to hack if people get some personal information.
  6. QuitSmokingByDecember&SaveMyLife -- You can do it!
  7. DrinkLessWine+Beer -- Help remind yourself to cut back a little.
  8. Run@8MinuteMiles -- Motivate yourself to hit a new training goal
  9. SendDaleAGift! -- Remind yourself to send me a gift. :)
  10. LeaveACommentOnThisBlogSoIDontFeelLonely! -- (It's nice to get comments via private messages but there is something very nice about getting a thumbs up or comment on the blog).  
You can use your most frequently used password to help you focus on whatever goal you want to set for yourself.  But be sure to use a few special characters to keep it from being too easy to get hacked.  Especially if your account has credit card or sensitive personal information.

And for those of you with kids like me, here is a bonus tip.  I change my kids passwords too.  Several times it has been spelling words that are tough for them.  Type a word as a password for a week, and they won't forget how to spell it.  But I also use it to reinforce messages like "cleanmyroom", "iwillnottalkback", "dontleaveclothesonthefloor".  Have fun with it. It drives them nuts and they learn something! 

Geiger CIO Dale Denham, MAS+ provides practical insights on how you can benefit from technology in no nonsense terms. Follow him on Twitter: @GeigerCIO

Thursday, May 30, 2013

How Technology Helped me Lose 20 Pounds

I've lost 20 pounds since December (thanks for noticing) and technology played a major part in my weight loss along with good old fashion self-motivation/discipline. Most of my life I've been in pretty good shape but always slightly above the weight I'd like to be. I always said I wouldn't let myself pass 200 pounds. Then my twins were born...

About 180 pounds May 1991
Being a father of 4 doesn't give you a lot of time to work out.  And then there is all the beer consumed as any good parent of young children does...

Being a bit heavy is in my "Denham" genes. I weighed about 185 pounds in 9th grade and was about 5' 8" at the time.  Not horrible, but my future wife still wouldn't talk to me (perhaps it was the braces I had for 6 years or the high water pants, who knows).  Once I dropped 15 pounds and grew a semi-mullet (and had a car and she didn't), she started talking to me. I put on a few pounds after marriage and stayed 185-190 pounds most of my life until the kids were born.

November 2012
Just ran 13.1 miles
Weighed about 212 pounds
In November, I bought my fat pants and shorts with a 38 inch waist so that I didn't feel as guilty about the weight.  In December of 2012, I weighed in at 215 pounds when I went to the doctor.  215!  15 pounds over the weight I promised I would stay under.   That was it for me.

Today I weigh 192 pounds and am still losing about 1/2 pound a week.  How did I do it and how does technology play into it?

First, I made up my mind to lose weight and switched to lite beer (yes, I still drink beer, I did mention I have 4 kids, right?) and began to cut back.  But most importantly, I set a goal of 190 pounds. And this is the first of the 2 technology secrets.

I changed my windows login password to 190Pounds.  (Don't worry, I've changed it).  Every day, I was reminded of my goal.  Multiple times.  This made me think about what was important to me.

Second, I got on MyFitnessPal.  Using MyFitnessPal as a tool, some people on my team have lost as much as 70 pounds while many have lost between 10 and 40.  I got on in the middle of last year at 207 before I jumped to 215 but I did not stick with it.  This time, I have stuck with it.

MyFitnessPal - Free Calorie Counter
MyFitnessPal is a website and an app (android and IOS) that makes it very simple to track what you eat.  When I started putting in everything I was eating, I realized how much some of the foods I was eating were causing me to gain weight and stopped eating some things that were very high in calories and started exercising more to earn more calories on the days I knew I would eat more.  

The really great thing about MyFitnessPal  is that your friends (if you allow them) can encourage you when you are doing well or when you are slipping.  I have about 7 friends on MyFitnessPal and at least one of them tends to comment on my activity every other day or two. This keeps me motivated to exercise because I know they are watching.  And, because I choose to share my food publicly with my friends (you don't have to), I am careful what I eat.  Basically, I have several people watching my every food move!

April 2013 Tampa airport 5k run time 24:54
(I weigh about 195 here)
My exercise of choice is also a reason I'm dropping the weight quickly. I run.  I love to run and often run 3-5 miles pushing forty pound twins.  Three miles burns about 500 calories for me and that is usually about 27 minutes of running.  That gives me a lot of room to meet my daily calorie goals.  As they say, you have to limit your calorie intake and exercise to see the best results.  and it is working for me and MyFitnessPal helps me focus on both but allows me to eat junk if I want and see the trade off. 

As usual, technology is an enabler, not the goal. The goal is to lose weight and my original goal was 190 pounds. Now I am shooting for 180 pounds by the end of the year now.  I use technology to help me reach my goal but it is my personal motivation and dedication that are the key to success.   

And as I have covered in many blogs before, technology is making life better and changing things so you should embrace what technology can do for you along with interacting with your friends both in person and via technology. 

Thanks to my friends on MyFitnessPal  for encouraging me: David K, Mike SG, Jen S, Syndee D, Mike D, Shawn W, and new guy Alex who lost over 10 pounds already!

Want to lose weight, here is the summary of what I did to drop 20 pounds in just a few months.
  1. Decide your weight goal (something reasonable, you can always beat it and adjust lower like I am doing)
  2. Change your password to that goal
  3. Get on MyFitnessPal
  4. Get friends to join and encourage you.
  5. Exercise and eat less
Good luck!

PS If you need some size 38 pants and shorts, I have a few, barely worn!

Geiger CIO Dale Denham, MAS+ provides practical insights on how you can benefit from technology in no nonsense terms. Follow him on Twitter: @GeigerCIO

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

The high cost of a low training budget

If you train your staff, there’s a risk they’ll leave; 

if you don’t, there’s a risk they’ll stay.

Whether you are in sales, service, technology, or some other field, learning is valuable to your ability to earn income as well as to enjoy life.  So if you are managing people, how are you helping them deliver more value and enrich their lives?

I've managed hundreds of people and without fail, the top employees are always wanting to learn.  This is true for all types of  people I've managed from sales to technologists and everything in between.  As a general rule, the technologists have the biggest passion for learning because the field changes so much.

I believe in training so my training budget is always an important line item.  I strongly agree with the quote that started this blog: "If you train your staff, there's a risk they'll leave; if you don't, there's a risk they'll stay."  I have found that when employees see they have an annual opportunity to truly learn something valuable, they almost never leave (assuming you are paying and treating them fairly).  And the company gets the added benefit of having more productive employees.

You need to ensure you are providing your team a sizable training budget.   Don't simply dictate the training, look at your upcoming 3 year plan and decide what areas are of mutual interest to the employee and the company.  On occasion, let them select a topic that is not a clear fit for their current role but might benefit them or the company in some fashion.

In any case, don't limit sales people to only sales training or finance people to financial training.  Allow them to explore other areas that might help them better understand peers in other areas if they have an interest.  I strongly encourage transferring people between departments to create empathy to others issues.

And of course, everyone needs some technology training.  The best bang for the average consumer technology training buck is  $25 a month for unlimited training per person on all sorts of technology topics in a fantastic format allowing you to skip directly to the part of the training you want/need.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

One of my team members just put me in my place

We've all done it.  We've asked for support or reported a bug to development without enough details to help them and expect them to fix it. In some cases, we even get mad if they ask us clarifying questions.

I sent one such request to the programmer working on a project and he sent me the following picture with the caption "It's kind of like giving me this picture of your car and asking me to fix it."

What a great analogy and I quickly realized my mistake!

Diagnosing problems is a huge part the time spent by IT people.  The more information you provide them, the more likely they can fix the right problem and in less time.  This is true whether you are calling a help desk or reporting a programming bug.

The same is true in sales.  I'm sure you love when your client calls up and says "I need some promotional items for an upcoming trade show."  They might as well have sent you the picture of the parking lot.  You need to know their budget, the audience, time frame, etc.  Imagine all the time you could waste getting ideas together only to learn they had a very specific item in mind that they could have told you about.

So next time do yourself and a geek a favor, do not send them a picture of a parking lot with cars and tell them to fix yours.  Send them a picture of your car and exactly what you were doing, the results you expected, and the results you got.  Screen shots are a great way to do that (and snagit from Techsmith is the best screen shot tool around) along with online support systems like (Geiger helpdesk uses LogMeIn to support our remote users).

So kudos to Mike McFadden for setting me straight and not letting me get away with a picture of the parking lot.  He is a great and valued member of the Geiger IT team who wants to solve problems, not waste time and he has no problem pointing out my faults.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Online Meeting & Video Conferencing Software

Online meetings are great.  I love being able to see someone's face and the demonstration or presentation.  I love video conferencing too.  I now DREAD conference calls even more because I can't see the body language or hear as well as I can on a video conference.

Online Meetings 
Online Meetings are best for screen sharing or larger meetings.  All below work on PC and MAC although some require additional fees to run on iPad.

The best free and impromptu meeting software is  Open and it is quick, easy and free to have someone join your meeting.  A great way to browse your website together to build ideas.  Even though I pay for GoToMeeting, I use this for impromptu meetings often.

My favorite and what we use at Geiger.  GoToMeeting includes the video feed for up to 4 participants and up to 25 participants can call in.  The screen share capability is great.  Pricing is reasonable, especially if you are a PPAI Member with the PPAI 15% discount.  For larger meetings they offer gotowebinar.

Webex is the original but no longer the best. I don't like their pricing (per attendee pricing) and I find their software has a lot of features most of us don't use and makes it less intuitive.

Video Conferencing
I work remotely about 50% of the time so I've become quite comfortable with video conferencing.  For me, there are 2 options.  Google Hangouts and Skype. I use Skype 99% of the time.

Video conferencing makes a huge difference in the value of distance meetings.  I'm a huge believer that video conferencing is nearly as good as being there and 10 times more valuable than a conference call.  I like Skype because it works on all platforms, Windows, Mac, IOS, Android, you name it.  It's very reliable and includes great instant messaging features.  It also has a large install base so existing customers are probably already on it.

I pay $50 a year for Skype premium for the ability to have more than 2 people on a video conference.  It also lets me make phone calls to any US number which I occasionally use.

Google hangouts is the coolest of the tools.   It's got amazing features and the price is FREE.  But I use it rarely.  The main reason is that so few people are comfortable with it. Thus, getting people setup to attend the hangout requires training.  But if I know people are comfortable with it, I would be happy to use it more.  Some neat plug-ins make it really powerful.  It allows up to 10 people to chat with video for free.  I suspect I'll be using it more as awareness grows.

No matter which software you decide to use, you need to make video conferencing and online meeting a part of your process.  Yes, Skype & Google+ both can share screens but they are designed for video conferencing so when you need to present, the online meeting tools are better.

For conference rooms at Geiger, we installed the Logitech BCC950 ($186 on Amazon) and it is amazing how easy it is to observe, hear, and communicate with everyone in the room.

If you want to get started with the simplest and most value, go with for meetings and get the free version of Skype for video calls.  These tools can help you as the trend of less face to face meetings continues as I wrote about in Face To Face Selling is Dying.

Geiger CIO Dale Denham, MAS+ provides practical insights on how you can benefit from technology in no nonsense terms. Follow him on Twitter: @GeigerCIO