Stop Making It About You

I was at a site and immediately presented with a pop-up advertisement. It felt like it was a slight rite of passage to getting to the good stuff – the content I cared about reading.

Was that banner about me or about that company? Why couldn’t the substance of the content itself start and grow the relationship instead?

I wonder if the marketer that put the ad out there likes such interruptions when they are online trying to learn or grow their understanding.

It’s typical. They aren’t thinking about how it makes themselves feel. They are thinking about what they want and hope will happen. Maybe if they annoy ten thousand people like myself then two will click it. Maybe if they make the gimmick a bit more foolproof, I will accidentally click and they can pat themselves on the back for the metric.

Stop making it about you. We don’t want to be sold. I’ll find a way around the annoyance otherwise to the real stuff.

3 Google Apps Gmail Shortcuts To Master

You can have a zeroinbox! Move fast!

Many of our clients struggle to keep up. We want to share a quick productivity tip to help you move through your inbox quickly using Google Apps. If nothing else, take 5 minutes to improve the rest of your habits going forward for moving quickly through the daily email you experience by using these shortcut keys in your Gmail:

  • # – This is delete emails. As you move through your email, hit this key much. Most of your email is junk.
  • “s” – Star items you need to respond to, act on or review later but that would take too much time now. Then hit the next key:
  • “e” – This archives any of email and removes it from your inbox

Learn these three keys. Every email has to have one of these shortcuts applied. If you don’t it’s because you did not make an executive decision.

Let us know how it works for you.

Using Google+ For Support

Google+ is continually being explored for its many use cases. One of the less commented opportunities is to serve your customers with support. Every new customer or prospect can be added to a new circle called “Clients,” “Customers,” or “Support.”

You now have a specific area to share knowledge, best practices or anything you wish to support your customers with. There are numerous benefits for capturing your support content within the Google+ platform:

  • Social value. Content which points back to articles on your site can continue to drive both social and SEO value. They invite opportunities for +1’s.
  • Knowledge base. Email is a one-to-one, private conversation. You open up the conversation by broadcasting to a larger audience. Furthermore, the history can be searched and explored for past answers.
  • Tribe building. Your customers can be part of a select audience that receives special advice, insights or offers. It revolves around your content that you provide ongoing in a private circle. It is a forum with benefits.
  • Thought Leadership. Posting your content and sharing it with a select group continues to position your leadership. Share insights that help to benefit your customers – increase their health, grow their business or help them grow. It is a platform that allows you to provide value.
  • Interactivity. The dialogue around a problem can be expanded to benefit a group and commenting back and forth creates passion, clarity and resolution to challenges everyone is facing.

There are lots of different systems for building support or help desk systems. However, consider using Google+ and explore the use case. The platform itself has intrinsic leverage comparatively. It makes it easy to stay connected and to deliver ongoing service and loyalty for those that pay you for your products and services while getting real feedback quickly.

What do you think?

How We Integrate Google Apps With Salesforce

Google Apps and are two of the leading cloud computing software vendors in the world. We have partnered with both and customize these systems around the processes of specific businesses based on their requirements. As we advise our clients on technology, process and systems, we always want to keep in mind the questions about cloud computing and what these systems mean to an organization. The following will help you understand our approach and how Google Apps and are strategic for your team.

Cloud Computing

Cloud computing may be a techie term for some, but it has had widespread conversation and adoption. In a nutshell, it is software that runs on the web. You don’t have to install anything. Open your web browser (Google Chrome, Firefox or Internet Explorer) and you just login to your system. For an organization, you are working within an environment with your team, specifically.

The advantages are:

  • You don’t have to maintain an IT person
  • You don’t have to upgrade
  • You don’t have to maintain uptime
  • You can focus on getting things done
  • Someone else manages the functionality and feature enhancements

As an advisor to your organization, we focus on strategies that help you grow your business. Cloud computing is strategic because:

  • It gets you out of the IT business and reduces overhead costs – people, hardware and software.
  • When you hire people, there is no installation. You can turn them on instantly.
  • When you fire people, you own the data. You can turn them off instantly.
  • You can hire people that live and work anywhere around the world.
  • You can collaborate in real-time with people in one secure system.
  • The system is secure. Your team has to have a login
  • You pay a subscription. This helps cash flow. It’s a service like your cell phone bill.

As an overall strategy, you want to control everything, but own nothing. The headaches are outsourced, the expenses are amortized. The old model was that you had to build such heavy duty software yourself. Now you can use it as a service and let someone else spend cycles figuring out how to innovate and improve. The world moves so fast today and software obsolesces quickly. It’s a good strategy to use cloud computing as a service for your business goals.

Google Apps And Collaboration

We have a lot of content about how to use Google Apps specifically in our blog. We partner with Google to implement, consult and support our customers on this remarkable platform. There are millions of businesses using Google Apps from single consultants to Fortune 500 firms. In the old days, getting another person set up on email often meant downloading Outlook, hooking it into an onsite server or using a VPN connection. It all took time and infrastructure.

Google Apps changed this. You can do many things to grow your business now that are easy:

  • Hire a person halfway across the world and have them running in less than five minutes
  • Share out key sales and marketing collateral quickly and easily
  • Collaborate on documents in real-time
  • Use online documents instead of having to buy Microsoft Office for everyone
  • Have a ready knowledge base to share out with new team members
  • Chat in real-time with anyone from any device – computer, tablet or mobile – anywhere

Your team is connected. The software is continually being improved and  you are using it to manage your business from anywhere, anytime. There is a simple annual user license fee of $50 per user per year which you order here. There is a massive amount of storage, so you can save everything.

We train and show you how to use the system strategically to grow your business and drive business processes. Furthermore, there are many other integrations, strategies and uses that can be extended as you continue to use the system to help you serve your customers better, drive speed in your company or make more money. Process Design is a system that can be customized specifically for your business. Though there are millions of users, everyone’s system is different. There are different fields, communication templates and records. The system can be programmed with logic and triggers based on rules that are defined.

Our team at AscendWorks works with clients to define the requirements, bring clarity to business processes and implement them elegantly in is a platform as well. It integrates with thousands of other applications. Thus, you can extend its use over time as you continually refine how you do business.

For your team, you have an effective way to manage what is happening in real-time. Everyone has access to customer, deal or custom records. As information is captured, you can see your sales pipelines, project work or inbound leads. Your team members can also execute from one common framework.

We help you to use to increase productivity, make more money or support new business processes. It becomes a critical asset to your business as your team relies on each other and the information in the database records.

Integrating Google Apps And

Not everyone integrates both Google Apps and We have various ways to bring the two together that help you align your team and grow your business. Your processes will be designed largely in Your knowledge and productivity happen in Google Apps.

Some of the ways the two systems can serve your organization are:

  • Sharing Google Docs within a Opportunity record
  • Having a central FAQ section that is searchable and accessible
  • Logging inbound and outbound emails in customer records
  • Making appointment scheduling easier
  • Supporting customers with ready knowledge

Your team members have a login for their Google Apps and systems. They can be working around the world, at a cafe or in your office. Regardless, your business is running in real-time on the web. Your challenge becomes making it clear and easy for how you want to create the customer experience and get things done efficiently.

We hope the explanation helps to orient you and envision the possibilities for using these two powerful systems. The costs are subscription based – $50/user/year for Google Apps and Salesforce
Pricing is here.

You can also learn more about how I consult with clients on Salesforce.

Feel free to post any questions in the comments below. We want to help educate and enlighten. Thanks.

4 Google Apps System Review Tips

A team working in Google Apps is comprised of a bunch of individuals. The advantage of Google Apps is that everyone is collaborating and executing within one system. However, over time, each user may not be using the system in the most efficient or ideal way for the highest levels of success.

Knowledge work comes at us fast and furious. As business cycles naturally slow, you can take the time to review best practices for your Google Apps system to increase each user’s adoption. Here are a few items which are worthy of review:

  1. Keeping a zero inbox. Help users adopt shortcut keys and develop the habit of a zeroinbox mentality. They can move their email to action quickly and keep their mind free to be ready for whatever is coming at them. Furthermore, this avoids clutter.
  2. Collaborate in Google Docs. If users are keeping documents locally rather than in the cloud, show them the steps and benefits for uploading and creating Google Docs. They can easily share and modify documents in real-time with other team members to ensure there is a relevant and fresh library for ongoing use.
  3. Sharing knowledge in Google Sites. If people are keeping information for themselves, they are depriving the overall team of their value. Knowledge sharing in a Google Site which is searchable and a repository for best practices, FAQ’s and specific problem solving saves cycles for problem solving and serving your customers. Drive the behavior if it has been lost or start it anew if it needs to be started.
  4. Working in real-time. Demonstrate use cases for Google Chat and mobile device usage. Provide guidelines for etiquette and how to work collaboratively wherever and whenever a person is working. This helps for problem-solving issues as they happen and driving team dynamics.

You may have launched your system with the right training and expectations. However, over time, users may fall into their own habits. Reviewing best practices for your organization after users have become familiar can align your team to desired behaviors and increase your productivity. Fill the gaps and use natural business cycles to drive further adoption.

How can these tips help your team?


Google Apps And Business Process

Google Apps is a platform which is able to transform a business locked within a network or outdated business processes into a cloud business. Your organization gets the balance of accessibility and security:

  • Accessibility: Users can work from anywhere and collaborate instantly with the rest of your team. Your documents, schedules, intranet as well as your email live within a corporate cloud environment. Building your team with talent anywhere, anytime access is a strategic business advantage.
  • Security: Your IT is simplified. User access via secure password access limits their permissions to information, documents and calendars. In our free agent economy today, when a user no longer needs access, they can be instantly turned off. Administration of your organization is easy and the level of control allows for building a robust security environment for your mission critical information.

Business Process

The business processes need to be executed by your team in a predictable, easy and organized way. Google Apps can bring together your team to collaborate quickly and fluidly. Knowledge work is fast moving and requires a system that helps everyone get information and provide information to help get things done quickly. In our consulting work, we work with clients to enable their business processes by focusing on:

  • Mapping the business process. Collaborating with the leaders and managers of a business, the specific steps that a team is to execute in selling, marketing and servicing a customer provides a template for how information should flow. Setting up a knowledge base to keep everyone on the same page helps align everyone.
  • Customizing the environment. There may be third-party apps or a customization of the different Google Apps tools that need to happen. The work needs to be done according to the process maps set up.
  • Alignment, training and leadership. Users need training and leadership as they get used to new processes and interfaces. This may be a transition for an existing organization between 2-4 weeks. An internal champion who evangelizes and drives the change management process needs to be identified to help drive adoption.

Working in Google Apps in the cloud helps to scale your business. It has the combination of accessibility and security for the modern business to drive speed and clarity for everyone.

What business processes would be helpful to automate for you?


Google Spreadsheets As A Management Scorecard

Managing the performance of your team or partners can be challenging if the debates are around qualitative information. Yet, we often base our judgments on subjective criteria such as likability or appearance. This leads to ambiguity around success.

It can be difficult to get true metrics from a sophisticated database on sales performance, support responsiveness or customer satisfaction. One of the ways to keep control and transparency in a business relationship is to create a scorecard. This can be done between individuals or organizations as a way to measure success towards a mutual goal.

Google Spreadsheets is a great way to keep a management scorecard to measure and track metrics. We all know about the flexibility and power of creating spreadsheets based on the computations and data relationships custom for a situation. Thus, in Google Spreadsheets, your ability to create rows and columns of data makes for a way to record what counts in your business relationships. Here is what you can do to create better agreements and accountability:

  • Agree on what success means.  Whether it is a revenue number by a certain date, customer conversions or a response time, be sure that there is agreement between you and your customer, employee or partner. If they are not bought in, then there will not be a relationship between the desired actions and what you are tracking.
  • Create the template.  Lay out your Google Spreadsheet with columns and rows for where the data will go. Create areas for equations that summarize the information. Be sure to test the tool to ensure that everything works.
  • Use charts and graphs. Now integrate a chart or graph with the data to show progress and visual indicators of the data. This is powerful for communicating what is happening in a snapshot. Be sure that any goals are also reflected to show the gap between today and the goal.

After your spreadsheet is set up, share it out. It is secure in Google Apps and is now a place for private communications and accountability between you and any others that need to be on the same page.

Have regular meetings around the scorecard and data to review how to get to the goal. You may have multiple spreadsheets to manage your vital business relationships. It removes the ambiguity and focuses everyone on the facts.

What kind of scorecards would be valuable for your work?


Google Sites Blogging With Announcements Page

Within Google Sites, you can create a type of page which is called Announcements.  This is a powerful tool for helping to align your internal team or a select external team.  It is secure, private and integrated into your organization.

While public blogs can be accessible by everyone, a blog within your Google Site can be a way to nurture, inform and inspire a team.  A login is required by your team member for access.  Here is how some of our consulting clients have implemented strategies for business growth:

  • President’s Thoughts.  Leadership is key to business.  Aligning your team around your thoughts helps everyone get on board with vision and strategy from the top. Having your CEO or President share their thoughts on the business with transparency opens the dialogue. Comments can be left by readers for collaboration.
  • Product Blog. As projects around products are ongoing, the context and progress can be documented by a team sharing their wins and struggles.  This helps to keep everyone anticipating and in tune with what is happening for an impending launch. Post-launch content can shift to customer reactions and user requests for improvement.
  • Customer Stories. To help everyone in your organization see the context of a product or service, the various use cases can be documented and published as a separate blog. Various functions within your company can use this as a resource to improve how they serve the customer.
  • Teamwork Highlights. Creating heroes from your team is another way to drive recognition within your organization. Capturing the concrete accomplishments of various team members within a blog dedicated to your teamwork helps to reinforce positive behaviors and results.

Your Google Sites are part of a larger way of coordinating a growing organization. Using internal blogging is a form of leadership via a convenient and accessible communication channel. Consider how your company would benefit from getting on the same page.

What do you think?  Feel free to comment below.


Gmail Search Trumps Labels

In our Google Apps consulting, we often transition organizations from a platform like Microsoft Outlook or client applications like Apple Mail or the numerous other email programs out there.  It is not atypical for users to find the transition to the Gmail interface less appealing.  After all, they were used to a user interface that they likely used for ten years.

The use of folders to drag and drop emails to manage your inbound information can help to create some order in the daily barrage.  However, it is slow.  Think about these things:

  • The steps it takes to move an email
  • How often you look inside those folders
  • The myriad amount of folders you have to scroll down to
  • The steps to create folders and manage them

Is there truly a return on investment?  Do you save every web page you visit in a catalogued approach?  Perhaps some overly maniacal and obsessive types do.  However, when you want something, you know you can find it because of search.  You use search to find what you are focused on.  You depend on strong search capabilities which are a given today.  This allows you to free up the time for organization for more productive pursuits.

In Gmail, you can use Labels, which are tags on emails similar to folders in Outlook.  It is a compromise for those that are used to the idea of folders.  It’s a feel good.

If you are processing hundreds of emails a day and thousands a month, how about abandoning organization and depend on search.  When you want something, simply find it.

It is one of the core powerful assets of Google Apps mail.  You can find what you are looking for.  Your brain relates information and with simple search, you can Google your email.  Save as much as you think you may need and free yourself from having to put email in its place.  Just make it available for search.

In the end, you will move faster with less drag on your productivity.  While others are fiddling with their folders, you can focus on getting things done.

What keeps you from going with this productivity strategy?


Google Sites For Analysis And Reporting

The beauty of Google Sites is that it is secure and collaborative.  That balance allows for opportunities to work and present your services in an experiential fashion with your customers.

One of the areas where Google Sites can work to provide a personal and customized branded experience for your customers is with proposals and reporting.  This format traditionally is sent in an email with a pdf or Microsoft Word format.  However, you can do more with a Google site in the way of presentation and working with your prospective customers.  Here is how you can set this up as a process and system for your team:

  • Customize a site.  Make a specific site for your customer.  Provide their branding, especially their logo, in the header information.  Use domain mapping to provide a unique and memorable subdomain to their site.
  • Record journal entries.  Use the Announcements type page on your site to record reverse chronological documentation of your engagement with a customer.  Insert graphical images and make each post a comment which invites collaboration.  They can leave a comment for each post.
  • Measure visits and responses.  Subscribe to any site changes to be notified of any comments to the content you post.  Also, use Google Analytics to measure your visitors, especially if several people are beneficiaries of the information.
  • Integrate Google Spreadsheets.  Anything which requires calculations and graphs should be done within a Google Spreadsheet.  Insert these as custom pages and allow the data to be navigated in the context of your presentation.
  • Provide checklists.  Checklists can help your customer see what you are going to do with the data.  Maintain a checklist of items of actions you will take to improve on the metrics.

Over time, your Google Site becomes a hub to track and interpret information on projects or systems you may be measuring.  It is valuable because it has your advice and interpretation of the data.  It is more than a sterile report from a system.

What are some ways you can use Google Sites to serve your customers using these strategies?  Feel free to comment.