Social Media and Twitter

Everywhere I go lately, someone is giving a presentation on social media, touting the benefits of it and the long-range promise. Few businesses I know report tremendous results from their social media. There are vignettes of businesses that have tremendous success, but there are also vignettes of people who won the lottery or gave $1,000 to a TV evangelist and became millionaires. I suspect in all of these cases that there may be some benefit, but that the probability of success is a little lower than the vignette implies.
Having said that, I ran a bit of analysis on our website. A year ago, we were doing almost nothing with Twitter and social media. Today we’ve revised the site and are moving quickly toward a social media presence in several venues. So here are some hard data items (I excluded visits identified as search engines):

Item 2/14/2010 to 2/20/2010 2/14/2011 to 2/20/2011
Number of visits 1247 2730
Unique Visitors 348 1267
Visited More than Once 251 391
Average visits per visitor 3.14 2.08

SEO – Tooting Our Own Horn

There are a lot of SEO (Search Engine Optimization) firms out there in the market. I just finished moving a client’s web site to a new content management system, and thought I’d check to see how the SEO listings we’d done about a year ago were going. I haven’t checked them since they landed on the front page of Google about 2 months after we did the work.
We did three pages and three key words. Here are the rankings:
Keyword #1 – Page 1 Number 4
Keyword #2 – Page 1, Number 4 (#1 listing is Paid)
Keyword #3 – Page 1, Number 3 (#1 and #2 listings are Paid)
I was pretty happy with that result.
But SEO isn’t the end of the game. The question is, “What are we doing with the traffic?” Think about your web site for a moment. What are you doing with the traffic?

Rule # 7: Review Your Progress After a Year

When businesses implement new ERP software to replace old products, they may (if they’re wise) spend a long time studying software to select the right product. Needs Analysis, Demos, Vendor Interviews, etc., all form a part of the process of selecting and implementing software. Everything in a good software selection project proceeds right on time in a very organized way. Training is done. Employees practice with the system. Errors in setup are corrected. Everything looks peachy.
Then comes go-live. All of a sudden, employees who had become efficient doing their jobs the OLD way have to do their jobs a NEW way. IT employees that have been supporting one system, and had learned the tricks and tips to put things back in order have to begin again. In short, everyone is back at square one. For the first 6 to 12 months, most companies are trying to do with the new system what they did with the old system. By the time they get back to the place they were with the old system, many of the reasons they replaced it have been forgotten.
This is the time to review the system and the way employees have been using it again. This is the time you can get great increases in productivity and return on the investment. Once employees understand the basic operation of the system, refinements that were planned in the initial stages can actually be implemented.
Don’t miss the opportunity to add return on investment by reviewing your initial goals against your current progress.

Technology for Building Customer Relationships

Almost every businessperson I know agrees that talking to every customer every day would be ideal customer service. Some remember when they could actually do this. Customer relationships are good when we communicate.
Most businesses have too many customers to communicate personally with each one on a daily basis. That’s where technology can help. Over the years, our clients have used three different kinds of technology to get close to their customers:

  • e-commerce and web technology
  • Customer Relationship Management (CRM)
  • email

In this age of social media, we should probably add:

  • facebook
  • Twitter
  • LinkedIn
  • YouTube
  • …and more

I’m specifically leaving out the lower tech ways like mail, telephone, and personal visit.
The point of this post is the following question: Are you strategic in deciding which customers and prospects to contact? Do you have planned contacts with them? Can you use technology to do this better and more frequently?

1099 Expanded Reporting Repeal Passes Senate

After a couple of months holding our breath, we are happy to report that the expanded 1099 reporting requirements repeal has passed the US Senate. Most political commentators expect the bill to pass the Republican-controlled House of Representatives as well. For now, whatever modifications you had planned to deal with this new legislation can be put on hold.

Keeping Your Cash – Preventing Skimming

In a recent article, I discussed two broad types of cash fraud: skimming (taking cash before it is recorded on the books), and larceny (taking cash after it is recorded on the books).
The question this post asks is, “How do you prevent skimming?”
To answer this question, we first need to answer the question, “How does skimming occur?” There are some common ways:

  • Giving customers product for cash and not recording the sale. The easiest example of this is the fast-food employee that gives friends free food. In a skimming case, the food isn’t free, but the employee pockets the money. This also includes sales off the back dock.
  • Pulling money out of the cash box (and perhaps tearing up cash receipts or tickets). If the company does significant cash business, it is vulnerable to the theft of that cash. According to my audit professor, the easiest organization to steal from is the church! Cash put in the offering plate is not ‘expected’ by the organization (since an invoice–in most cases–was not issued for it). Note that some cash register systems also permit employees to void transactions–this has been used to skim funds in some organizations.
  • Kickbacks may also be considered skimming (although some classify them as larceny). In the classic kickback, a vendor overcharges a purchasing agent for a product, then pays the purchasing agent some of the extra profit in exchange for the business. The purchasing agent is the employee guilty of skimming; the vendor may be breaking the law as well, but since the vendor is generally aware of the scheme, it isn’t skimming.
  • Any scheme that takes cash before it is recorded on the books. The waitress that gives a customer free drinks in exchange for a larger tip is skimming. The golf instructor that gives extra lessons (at a reduced rate) is skimming. The consultant that moonlights is skimming.

Knowing how it happens helps with the list of countermeasures:

  • Video surveilance can prevent skimming.
  • Manager presence at the area where cash transactions are occuring.
  • Employee rotation so that different employees are paired together in cash transaction areas.
  • Rewarding customers who report suspicious activities like not receiving a receipt for a cash purchase can force employees to record cash transactions.
  • Good inventory control prevents cash sales off the books or off the dock
  • Forced vacations which place new employees in key positions can locate skimming when customers ask for the ‘special deal’ they have normally gotten.

Other items can be appropriate in specific situations. The key to preventing skimming, though, is to force employees that handle cash to make an accounting record of some type that is difficult to destroy (for example, a numbered receipt).