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From Soap to Hobbits: Content Marketing Lessons from Major Brands

(Web, Usability, CMS) Permanent link

This was sure an interesting title for a session – one that I attended at the ASAE Great Ideas Conference last month. The speakers – Jay Daughtry, Frank Fortin, Kim Howard, and Ray van Hilst – shared content marketing examples from the corporate environment.

Bottom line? Associations need to take risks and try new ways to deliver diverse and interesting content to their members or customer – or corporate will!

Why is this your problem? Everyone in your organization is a content editor. Everyone has the opportunity and responsibility to contribute content.

It’s okay to get creative

Have you noticed that several airlines have updated their safety messages to include well-known characters? Air New Zealand featured a safety video with Hobbit characters; Delta has ALF join the crew to demonstrate safety procedures. It’s familiar content – repackaged to reengage passengers. It works – people pay attention!

Many companies send customer newsletters to provide product-related information. These are not direct sales messages; they contain additional information or tips. GrillMaster sends newsletters including recipes, cleaning tips, and other useful grilling information. It’s content customers want – not content the company is simply pushing.

Motorola has a Pinterest page to show the features of their HC1 headset to promote the product, but also to help customers get more use out of it. 

It’s not all about the money

Big budgets are not the key to developing good content. Creativity is free and there are many low-cost ways to deliver fresh content to association customers. Here are a few ideas:

  • Use a simple video tool like Blippar to create quick video
  • Transform written testimonials from customers to a video version
  • Use email to communicate and provide information – not as a sales tool
  • Add your content to the locations where your customers live and work – most people research what they plan to buy before they go to the direct site to make the purchase
  • Create a budget to try new content options without strings attached 

Whatever your approach, perform a regularly scheduled content audit to clean up old information and identify areas that need new information. A content audit is just one step toward creating a digital content strategy.

Create a content marketer manifesto and if all else fails, bribe staff who contribute!

John Spence: talent is a strategic objective

(Everything Else) Permanent link


 Book - Awesomely Simple by John Spence

 

When John Spence, author of Awesomely Simple, opened ASAE’s Great Ideas Conference, I grabbed my pen and paper and held on tight for this fast talker. He shared lots of simple strategies to get things done. And when he was done, I ordered the book – because it was already sold out! Here’s one of my takeaways: talent is a strategic objective.

According to John, culture has 2 points of view:

  1. Employees like culture that is fun and fair, filled with praise, freedom, meaning, and accomplishment.
  2. Executives like culture that has ownership mentality, competence, creativity, and execution.

Staff members need to feel appreciated and respected. They will work for less money if they enjoy the culture of their organization. They won’t work for pennies, but within 10% of the average salary for their position.

How often should executives praise staff? Every 5-7 days! Consciously catch people doing good work. Even after you’ve already got good talent on board, you have to continually recognize and feed it with challenging work and meaningful praise.

There are many dependencies that lead to successful employment relationships. Notice that recognition is at the center, but it is bracketed by accountability and trust, and fed by clear goals and communication. Simple but very true. Adults are not all that different from children – adults need positive reinforcement and clear direction, too.

recognition diagram

A culture of accountability is necessary to create a successful and innovative organization – and that accountability must be cultivated (just like talent and praise). A few factors that John outlined were:

  1. 100% clarity and authority
  2. 100% agreement
  3. Track and post information
  4. Coach and train staff
  5. Reward or punish

The entire organization should be customer focused and execute effectively, as depicted in John’s formula for success:

(T + C + ECF) x DE = Success

This type of focus helps organization provide great results – and customers will respond in kind. For example, most purchasing decisions are made by word of mouth. Does your organization have a word of mouth process?

There are many, many more strategies to make your organization successful. What’s your favorite – either from John’s presentation or your own experience?

Additional reading on this topic:

 

Password management dos and don’ts

(Cloud Computing, Infrastructure, Security) Permanent link

heartbleed bug

The Heartbleed bug probably has you shaking your head and wondering when, why, and how to change your password – just when you’d actually memorized it! There are resources to tell you when and why; here’s how – or some basics of maintaining secure passwords beyond this particular incident, because the aftermath of Heartbleed shouldn’t be the last time you change your password!

Some of the most common calls we get from users to our Network Operations Center are password related. Someone forgot their password. Another entered the wrong one too many times and got locked out. Yet another might need to change someone else’s password. You get the picture – this seemingly simple stuff quickly feels complicated.

Passwords are a very frustrating part of information technology because, by nature, it is a hurdle that the user must overcome to access data. Even more vexing, your passwords may have to be changed on a regular basis. Why do we need to keep changing our passwords?  What should I do, and what should I avoid, when choosing passwords? How am I supposed to remember them all?

Before you throw up your hands in despair or, worse, start creating weak passwords, here’s some advice.

Why are password policies so complicated?

Two aspects of password-based authentication are frustrating to users: password complexity and password aging (having to change it every so often). However, both of these characteristics are necessary in order for passwords to be effective.

Information systems require passwords in order to prevent unauthorized parties from accessing sensitive data. One type of unauthorized party would be a hacker repeatedly attempting to guess your password. For this reason, systems require a complex password (upper and lowercase, special characters, and so forth).

Another type would be someone who already knows your password: maybe an assistant, a former employee, or someone who gained access to another account of yours that has the same password (how many of us use the same password for our Windows logon and our Amazon logon?). For this reason, systems may require you change your password on a regular basis.

How should I pick a password?

DO: make it something hard to guess. That doesn’t necessarily mean hard to remember, but make it something that would be difficult for a hacker or even someone who knows you to deduce. You could make your password a sentence, for example “I have 8 amazing cats!” (complete with spaces, exclamation point, and number). 

DO: use different passwords for each and every service. Don’t make your work password the same as your personal email password. Don’t make your personal email password the same as your cable company password. Why? Because you don’t know who on the other end can see your password, or what they might do with that information. Some companies (unfortunately) store your password in plain text, meaning someone working for the company can see your password. Maybe that’s fine for a particular case – I would expect my cable rep to have full access to my account –but what’s to stop them from trying to use that password on another one of my accounts, like my personal email? Another reason is if you give a coworker your work password (“I’m out sick, can you send an email from my computer?”) they might deduce that the same password would work for another account of yours. 

DO: use two-factor authentication where available. This increasingly popular method sends a text message to your phone for additional verification. It combines the security of something you know (your password) with something you have (your phone), making it much harder for someone to trick or guess their way into your account.

DON’T: share passwords. Even if two people require access to the same data (for example, a shared mailbox), you should create two separate accounts and two separate passwords. As my colleague Tobin would say, “Passwords are like toothbrushes.” Sharing is icky. 

How do I keep track of my passwords?

Everyone has their own system. The bottom line is to use one that works for you, and keeps your information secure. Here are two recommendations:

DO: use an encrypted file to track your passwords. This file should be saved offline and backed up regularly. There are several password management tools out there, such as KeePass and 1Password.

DON’T: save all your files in an Excel or Word document. Such files are easy to open and compromise, even if you have a password on the document itself.

The dark side of big data: collect and share data intentionally

(AMS, Association Management) Permanent link

Almost everyone reading this post has at one time or another received an electronic or hard copy missive with the field names “Dear <FirstName> <LastName>” or some other such error contained within the text. These mistakes can and will happen, but with the advent of “big data” and the ability for organizations to collect, share, and use formerly disparate data points in a more coordinated fashion, the stakes – both to win and to lose –have been raised.

Consider the case of Mike Seay, an Illinois small business owner who received a shocking message in a piece of junk mail from a vendor. As reported in the Wall Street Journal and elsewhere, Mr. Seay received a letter from Office Max with the line reading “Daughter Killed in Car Crash” under his name in the address line. While there has yet to be a full explanation of exactly where the data came (or why it was collected in the first place), the incident calls into serious question the increasingly widespread practice of collecting, sharing, and aggregating personal data points for the use of individualized marketing and promotion.

In the context of associations, it serves as a reminder to be more fully conscious of the data you choose to collect about your members and other constituents, and how you plan to use it. While most associations do not presently engage data brokers to obtain additional information on those in their databases, it may be something that becomes more common in the near future. In fact, it might be a worthwhile aim for your organization to work towards identifying – and better applying – the data already in hand. I would wager that many associations collect and store more data than even they themselves know!

Does your association have a data plan in terms of cataloging and using the demographic and other fields in your key databases? If not, the time is nigh to undertake an effort to get to know your data elements, before they possibly work against you.

Do you rely on sneaker net?

(AMS, Association Management) Permanent link

collection of sneakers

On your mark, get set, go! 

Do you find yourself having to run from department to department just to pull together information about your constituents? Many refer to this action as “sneaker net.” To find out if your organization is on the sneaker net, ask your staff to provide you with a report reflecting the organization-wide participation (i.e., registrations, volunteering, purchases, and social media interaction) of a constituent. Watch to see if they throw on their proverbial sneakers and run through the organization. If the answer is yes, you have some work to do.

Here are the top 3 things you can do to help eliminate your sneaker net syndrome:

  1. Demand the AMS be the record of choice and the single location for all information about your constituents.
  2. Dig out those external lists people keep at their desks and get that good information into the AMS. 
  3. Require all third-party vendors gathering information (e.g., registrations, purchases, social media activity) on your constituents to provide a data file for importing into the AMS. 

Data is everything to an organization.

Implementing these basic recommendations will bring the organization closer to being able to report the total value of membership for its constituents, provide insights into new strategic directions, make day-to-day decisions, and personalize an organization’s interaction with its constituents.

Flickr photo by Magnus D

Blogger’s Digest: March 2014

(Everything Else) Permanent link

April 2014 blog header image promoting annual food drive

Annual food drive begins in one month!

We currently have 14 organizations signed up to participate in our 12th Annual .org Community Food Drive for the Capital Area Food Bank, a respected local organization that helps more than ½ million of our neighbors keep food on the table. But we’re aiming for 30 organizations to help us raise $20,000 (the equivalent of 60,000 meals). Will you pitch in? Join us to help put an end to hunger in our community. For additional details, visit www.delcor.com/fooddrive

Blogger’s Digest: March 2014

Check out the latest from our blog, The DelCor Connection:

And the latest in our 30th anniversary celebrations, 30 Acts of Appreciation:

  • For our staff: Relax… We’ve Got Your Back
  • For our community: We sponsored Shepherd’s Table’s annual fundraiser at The Fillmore this past weekend, “Always Room for One More”

 

Dear Del: How often should I empty my computer trash?

(Tech Tips, Innovative Ideas, Dear Del) Permanent link

Dear Del:

How often should I empty my Recycle Bin and Deleted Items folders?

_Dear Del_ college school girl daydreaming while writingYou empty your trash and recyclables at home, probably on a weekly basis, right? You must remember to do the same on your computer to keep unused files from piling up and hogging your memory.

The Recycle Bin is not a storage location for your files. Treat it like a recycle bin in your home; you wouldn’t put at item in your home recycle bin that you plan on using later – it’s best practice not to do that on your computer, either. Only put items in the Recycle Bin that you no longer need. If you think you will need the file in the future, create a folder on your computer or on the network (according to your organization’s document management policies) and store the file there instead. If your organization doesn’t already have one, consider implementing a network policy that automatically empties the Recycle Bin without requiring user confirmation – and be aware that such a policy can be established at any time.

In Outlook, your Deleted Items folder is the same as your trash bin at home; when you put items in the trash (or your Deleted Items folder), you don’t plan on using them in the future, do you? Too many people use this folder as a storage location – and that is clearly not its purpose. Within your Outlook Options, under Advanced, Outlook start and exit, check the box “Empty Deleted Items folders when exiting Outlook” to automatically take out your trash on a regular basis.

– Joe Frey, Consultant, Network Systems & Support

#deardel

The greatest show online & the value of a web mission statement

(Web, Usability, CMS) Permanent link

The circus recently came to town and that got me thinking about how some organizations handle their online presence. Cue the ringmaster!

circus elephants

For some associations, it’s all about the flash and splash – or providing a fancy-looking site that packs a visual punch. However, while many such sites succeed on the basis of inspiring a wow factor, they often do so at the cost of usability – frequently to the site’s detriment.

Of course, for some entities (such as advertising agencies or media companies), it’s an integral part of the site’s mission to look spectacular. But for most associations, it’s more about what you can do for your members – and what they can do online – that counts.

Despite this central tenet of providing online service, many associations have never really taken the time to examine and define the central purpose of their website by creating a web mission statement. Many association websites try to be all things to all people, and much like the crowded clown car their sites can become stuffed to the point of appearing ludicrous.

Moreover, some sites appear almost ashamed that commercial activity might take place, or so it would seem by the torturous route it takes to complete an online transaction, such as buying a publication or registering for an event. Yet other sites have several items actively competing for the user’s attention simultaneously, creating the equivalent of a virtual three-ring display.

All of these approaches tend to lessen the user experience online and are symptoms of poor site planning and execution.

Has your organization taken the opportunity to bring internal stakeholders to the table to articulate a statement of purpose for your site? If not, it’s time to bring the elephant into the room and think about what your users really want.

By creating a website mission statement, you will be able to determine what fits and what doesn’t, and also more readily be able to judge the extent to which your site is a success and take corrective action as necessary. You just might increase the amount of non-dues revenue generated online as well. That way you can really sit back and enjoy the show!

photo provided by the author, who despite folklore has never appeared in the circus

What I learned at Great Ideas: K.I.S.S.

(Web, Usability, CMS) Permanent link

Here's one of the greatest ideas I learned at my first ASAE Great Ideas Conference last week: K.I.S.S. You creative types out there probably already know this acronym, and I hope you'll add your tips in the comments. This post is dedicated to everyone else out there who didn't go to design school!

In Tracy King's presentation "Next Generation Learning: Keep the Design in Mind," I gained insight about designing forms and pages for online courses. Tracy displayed actual e-learning pages and we discussed elements that were helpful – or distracting. One of the most common problems with the examples we reviewed were very busy pages where the reader cannot find the call to action (what they are supposed to do)!

Here are a few good tidbits I jotted down that I will keep in mind the next time I am designing online learning web pages – or working with a client on such a system. You can find more in her SlideShare presenation.

  • Pages do not have to be fancy. Keep them simple and relevant.
  • Make sure you have enough white space on the page.
  • Use different type and color (but not so much that they're distracting) to help the learner move through the page.
  • To develop a calm look on the page, select colors that are near each other on the color palette.
  • To develop contrast, select colors on the opposite side of the color palette.
  • Limit pop ups. They are very distracting (and might be blocked by the reader's browser, anyway).
  • Make sure navigation and directions are clear. Have a clear call to action – what you want the reader to do next.
  • Use graphics and video to provide visual opportunities.
  • When using graphics, make sure they are clear and relevant. Don't add a graphic just because it seems like a good idea.

When you are developing content pages, include review information from a previous course, if applicable. This helps the online learner build on existing knowledge and resources, creating a continuum of learning. 

Present feedback after a student answers a question. If the question is correct, display supporting information related to the answer. If the answer is incorrect, provide additional information that will help the online learner understand why they missed the question.

When you are developing content pages and you think they are getting a little busy, they are! Stop and simplify!

DelCor named to CRN’s Managed Service Provider 500 List

(Our Company) Permanent link

Brian Sheehan, Vice President of DelCor Technology Solutions, Inc., announced that the company has been named to CRN’s Managed Service Provider (MSP) 500 list as one of the MSP Pioneer 250. The annual list recognizes the top technology providers and consultants in North America whose cutting-edge approach to managed services puts end-user customers in the best position to improve efficiencies, cut costs, and speed time to market for their own products and services.

In today’s world of computing power, end users are barraged by options. CRN, the leading media outlet for vendors and solution providers attempting to understand sales and service channels, selected the top MSPs in order to bring clarity to the decision-making process.

This year, CRN’s MSP500 is broken down into three groups; the MSP Pioneer 250, to which DelCor was named, includes top organizations with a business model heavily weighted toward managed services and focused on the small- and midsize-business market, such as DelCor’s association and nonprofit clients.

“We’re honored to be named to CRN’s MSP Pioneer 250 for our dedication to helping associations and nonprofits achieve progress, while empowering them to focus on business objectives and goals rather than the underlying technology that supports operations and growth,” Sheehan said.

Founded in 1984, DelCor has been providing managed IT services since 1990, dedicated Partner support since 2000, and private cloud hosting since 2008. Underscoring all of DelCor’s consulting and network services is its IT Maturity Model, which helps organizations align technology infrastructure and implementation with business goals, so technology complements and support strategy – helping to advance each organization’s mission.

“Technology has always been a tool; however, as with any tool, mileage can vary. As an experienced cloud and managed services provider, we help organizations uncover and unlock the potential within each technology tool,” remarked Sheehan. “With more effective use of technology comes a distinct move toward IT maturity, and therein lies the power of technology to help an organization accomplish its mission and vision.”

“The managed services landscape continues to evolve rapidly as organizations are discovering they can impact both bottom-line and top-line growth,” said Robert Faletra, CEO, The Channel Company. “When it comes to strong managed services and off-premise solutions, these companies are the industry’s proven leaders, showing just how they can change the game for their customers and we congratulate them on their success.” 

For more information about the MSP500, visit www.CRN.com.

About DelCor

DelCor Technology Solutions, Inc., is an independent technology consulting firm headquartered in Silver Spring, Maryland, with seven areas of service designed especially for the needs of associations and nonprofits. Since its founding in 1984, DelCor has helped hundreds of organizations nationwide achieve progress through technology. For more information, visit www.delcor.com.

About The Channel Company 

The Channel Company is the sales channel community's trusted authority for growth and innovation, with established brands including CRN, XChange Events, IPED and SharedVue. For more than three decades, we have leveraged our proven and leading-edge platforms to deliver prescriptive sales and marketing solutions for the technology sales channel. The Channel Company provides Communication, Recruitment, Engagement, Enablement, Demand Generation and Intelligence services to drive technology partnerships. Learn more at www.thechannelcompany.com.

Contact

Bill Walker, Marketing Manager
DelCor Technology Solutions
301.585.4222 ext 144

Betzi Hanc
The Channel Company
508.416.1182