Wednesday, November 30, 2005

New Books on the Shelves

Federal yellow book:
Fall 2005

New York State government directory 2005-2006

New York State Farm fresh guide 2002-2003
Central Region
Western Region
Metro Region
Eastern Region

Clinkinbeard, Curtis J.
Hypergrow your business -- double, triple or quadruple
any business by harnessing the natural laws of growth.

Aiken, Richard
The Relationship between wildlife watchers, hunters, and anglers
Report 2001

Private and public land use by hunters
Report 2001

We also get a number of special issues and supplements from journals in our collection that we don't always get to share. A few on my desk are:

Advertising Age's

Hispanic Fact Pack: An Annual Guide to Hispanic Advertising and Marketing, 2004 and 2005
Fact Pack: An Annual Guide to Advertising & Marketing, 2004 and 2005
Agency Preview Guide 2004
Point: Marketing at C-Level, March 2005

American Demographics

Marketing Tools Sourcebook 2003
Diversity in America

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Good business

Purloined verbatem from an e-mail. For all except the first article, tou will have to register with BNET, but it's free.

  • BusinessWeek has a great interview/book review on the importance of details to customer service.

    Author Michael Levine says that operational details, such as limited hours and dirty bathrooms send a message to customers about the general quality of a business.
    These details have a more significant effect on customers than you might think:

    "The consumer mind has a logical and emotional part, and if you don't speak to both, you will lose them, especially when they're hungry, tired, angry, or lonely.
    "We're living in an age of anxiety. When people are not hungry, tired, angry, or lonely, the emotional side will win the debate with the logical part of the brain 80% of the time. When they're hungry, tired, angry, or lonely, emotion wins 100% of time. We are often hungry, tired, angry, or lonely, so it's exceedingly dangerous if you're a business to ignore the emotional part of the brain."
    What do the details of your operation look like? If they could use a tune-up, these BNET resources will help you get started.

  • Best Practices in New-Customer Service
    New customers are a delicate client sector virtually for any organization. Because they do not have a history with the company, they have no reason to be loyal-until, through excellent service, the company gives them one. Article discusses a study commissioned by Entergy, to learn how leading organizations define excellent customer service and achieve the high levels of service to new customers that lead to their retention. The scope of the study included discovering how "best-practice" organizations: optimize new customers' experiences, elevate first impressions, improve customer interface, provide beneficial new customer services, emphasize a focus on the customer, and follow up with new customers within six months to one year.

  • Perfect Customer Service: Bigger is NOT Better
    The bigger the customer service department is the less efficient it is at serving customers. If management developed alternative solutions to customers' needs, some or all parts of the customer service department could be eliminated. Customer service departments would look very different than they do today if products showed up on time, employees did what was expected, orders were completed with precision and products rarely, if ever, failed.

  • Organizing for Customer-Centric Marketing
    Marketing communications is shifting away from mass media toward an approach informed by deep audience knowledge. This places database marketing groups -- and the customer insight they have amassed -- into the organizational spotlight. But many of these groups play a service-focused role that hampers customer -centric communication. To help firms map out a vision, road map, and skills portfolio for customer-centric direct-to-consumer marketing, Forrester has developed a four -stage maturity model.

  • Differentiate Your Business Based On Outstanding Customer Service
    Outstanding customer service requires several things: 1) a sincere and powerful commitment to serving customers and prospective customers at the highest possible level each and every time, 2) excellent people, 3) stringent expectations and policies regarding how customers are served along with a high level of accountability for enforcing those expectations and policies and 4) a discipline about serving customers consistently in manner that not only meets customer expectations, but often exceeds them. Achieving outstanding customer service means hard work and attention to detail as well.
  • Monday, November 28, 2005

    Grocery Items - Private Label Database

    The Web site for Private Label Buyer magazine has a searchable database of their 2005 Supplier Source Book:
    http://www.privatelabelbuyer.com/guide/

    This magazine describes itself as being geared towards supermarkets and other retail chains selling store-brand products. This section of their Web site is aimed at buyers for supermarket or grocery stores.

    Every supermarket has a line of products that they sell as their own, but, in actuality, are obtained from one of these manufacturers.

    Clients who've manufactured a product typically sold in such a place have this site, then, as a possible marketing tool. The site allows for three ways to search - by a specific company name, by a location, or by a product category.

    If you have a client who's interested in getting placed on this database, contact information for the staff at Private Label Buyer can be found here:
    http://www.privatelabelbuyer.com/contact.php

    Tuesday, November 22, 2005

    Tourism Research Sources in New York State

    I was very excited to go to a session at the State Data Center affiliates meeting in late October. It was designated with the title listed above. We often get requests for regional tourism data. I was less excited at the end of the session.

    I assumed that the folks who bring us I Love NY would have great statistics that would show the success for ther campaign. Unfortunately, most of these statistics are for sale, if they are available at all. The state Department of Economic Development receives merely a summary of the data compiled by D.K. Shiffet & Associates. For your clients to buy them would be extremely expensive (five figures).

    As for the hotel occupancy numbers, they are tallied by Smith Travel Research, which will cost at least a few hundred dollars. Fortunately, many newspapers subscribe, so we CAN often provide data based on articles.

    Other sources cited but not discussed:

    Travel Industry Association of America Decent state level data.

    U.S. Department of Commerce. Good for international traveler data to a state.

    NYC & Company. Very light on data, though I did find this.

    Northern NY Tourism Research Center. GOOD DATA! Unfortunately only for the counties of
    Clinton, Essex, Franklin, Hamilton, Herkimer, Jefferson, Lewis, Oswego, St. Lawrence, and Warren.

    Occasionally, I have also gotten decent information from the local Chamber of Commerce.

    Monday, November 21, 2005

    WebMQS - Contact/Prep/Clerical time issues

    This post covers two distinct situations:

    1) There've been questions asked recently at certain Regional Centers regarding what constitutes clerical time in the Counselor Hours section for WebMQS case records. Some advisors feel that they're doing clerical work (such as doing data entry on WebMQS), while others feel that clerical work is exclusive only to office managers or other support staff.

    To clarify, time spent by the advisor to prepare for a client meeting, to review documents, to follow-up after a meeting, and in completing other tasks relating to the case (including data entry for WebMQS) should be counted as Prep Time.

    Conversely, time spent by the office manager or other support staff to prepare for a client meeting - such as making copies, assembling information packets, and so on - should be counted as Clerical Time.

    2) To reiterate from my 6/20 blog posting, some advisors are in the habit of adding the time spent in communicating a request to the Research Network to the case record. If you are doing this, then that time should be considered Prep. Since there is no option on the drop-down menu called "Research Network," it is not possible to assign this time to us. Instead, logically, it should be assigned to the advisor working the case.

    Thursday, November 17, 2005

    Small Town Shops and the Web

    An article in yesterday's New York Times discusses how "the Internet is allowing small stores...to develop the niche products that shield them against big-box retailers." Small-Town Shops Bulk Up on the Web gives several examples of small-town shops meeting success through a combination of Internet sales and Main Street store fronts.

    In upstate New York, downtown Ithaca is a hub of new retail activity and tourist trade generated by Internet marketing and sales. "There's an upside and a downside of marketing on the Internet," said Gary Ferguson, the executive director of the Ithaca Downtown Partnership, a business development group. "The floral business has been changed dramatically by the Internet. More and more people are buying flowers online. We had a business called Plantations that had been here for 30 years and had a hard time with the transition and didn't make it. "On the other hand, we have three used-book stores, and they do half their business on the Internet," Mr. Ferguson said.

    Of course balancing Internet sales with the day-to-day management of a retail store is not for everyone. Small businesses need to understand the ins and outs of e-commerce before jumping in with both feet. To learn more, click on the title of this blog to read the article.

    Wednesday, November 16, 2005

    Customer Relationship Management

    Wikipedia has a pretty tidy definition of Customer Relationship Management (CRM) exists “to enable organizations to better manage their customers through the introduction of reliable processes and procedures for interacting with those customers.” This is a bit more than a mere definition; it covers some tips on improving customer relationships. Worth a visit. Obviously written by someone who cares, albeit with some differences of opinion on whether CRM is a “real” area of expertise. These pages can be quite lively with discussions about issues relating to the main topic.
    I would argue that these “specialties” pop up because so many businesses fall down in these areas. There is often money to be made on someone else’s failures. So, it seems that there is the idea behind CRM and then the technology.

    IT Toolbox: CRM Knowledge Base
    A community of IT professionals sharing best practices, discussion groups, and newsletters as well as white papers and links. One of many key topics, CRM or Customer Relationship Management is an area they focus on, primarily from the technology point of view.

    There is also the Customer Relationship Management Association that has a good list of CRM resources, publishes a newsletter and offers access to industry research from IT research companies, among them: Forrester, Gartner, and Frost & Sullivan.

    Tuesday, November 15, 2005

    Monday, November 14, 2005

    Languages - Who Speaks What, and Where?

    The Web site for the Modern Language Association has a feature that "displays the locations and numbers of speakers of the thirty languages most commonly spoken in the United States."

    If you have a client who seeks to know where a certain language/ethnic background is located, this site is a decent starting point: http://www.mla.org/census_main

    The site combines mapping & data tables that are simple to use & understand. Like many sites have done, MLA has taken a lot of information that you can find yourself on the Census Bureau Web site, but re-packaged it in such a way as to make it a snap to find language-related data.

    Thursday, November 10, 2005

    Identity Theft Prevention

    Roger has touched on the issue of identity theft in a previous post or two. Today, I came across an excellent article on preventing identity theft written by a woman whose identity has been stolen three times. It contains steps to identity theft prevention including "Ten Things to Do Today" and "Seven Things to Do By Next Week" as well as what to do if your identity is stolen and lists of contacts to help. Where should you start? Read the article from Information Today at http://www.infotoday.com/searcher/nov05/ebbinghouse.shtml. Take action on the author's suggestions: request a credit report, consider getting a P.O. box, and perhaps add a photo ID to your credit card and/or debit card. These are just a few of the tasks that can limit the odds of identity theft.

    Wednesday, November 09, 2005

    Latest Volume of Business Plans Handbook

    Here's the list of sample business plans from volume 11 of the Business Plans Handbook:

    Adventure Travel Lodging Company: Cobra Travel Adventure Group
    Brewpub: Hopstreet Brewery
    Cigar Company: Smokescreen Cigars
    Construction Development & Real Estate Firm: Black Pearl Development & Real Estate LLC
    Construction and Home Rehabilitation Company: Pedro’s Construction
    Daycare Facility: Rachel’s Clubhouse
    Giftware Company: Jenni Frey Gifts
    Handmade Greeting Card Company: Heartsongs
    Handyman Service: “I’m the Man!” Handyman Services
    Homeless Shelter: Sister Joan of Arc Center
    Interior Design Company: Make It Your Own Space Inc.
    Interior Painting Service: Eyecatching Interiors LLC
    Internet Loyalty Program: Tunes4You
    Internet Services Portal Site: Net Solutions
    Massage Therapists: MASSAGEWORKS
    Mentally Disabled Care Facility: Welcome Home Organization
    Motorcycle Dealership and Racetrack: Zoom Motors
    Online Mortgage Company: Valuable Mortgage
    Pizzeria: Coastal Pizza
    Private Investigator: FBEyes

    Also, Fictional Plan Templates :
    Food Distributor
    Hardware Store

    Tuesday, November 08, 2005

    Proprietary Schools

    The Bureau of Proprietary School Supervision (BPSS) oversees and monitors non-degree granting proprietary schools in New York State. The Bureau is responsible for ensuring that the overall educational quality of the programs offered will provide students with the necessary skills to secure meaningful employment and for protecting students' financial interests while attending proprietary schools. BPSS licenses/registers proprietary schools and credentials proprietary school teachers to ensure that appropriate standards are met. The Bureau investigates student complaints and conducts comprehensive investigations of schools to assure compliance with Education Law and Commissioner's Regulations. Proprietary schools under BPSS jurisdiction include trade and business schools, computer training facilities, and for-profit English as a Second Language (ESL) schools.

    So, if you have clients who want to start a school to teach bartending, pet grooming, cosmetology or barbering, modeling, business skills and technology, any of the businesses listed in the previous sentence, or just about any non-degree school you or your client can imagine, click on the title of the article. This is the place to go, complete with forms.

    Monday, November 07, 2005

    Business Lists - How Old is the Information?

    Creating lists of businesses is a daily occurrence at the Research Network. The (vast) majority of time, we use the American Business Disc to create them. Clients use these lists for mailings. Often we hear of how the list is out-of-date.

    ABD is one of several products published by infoUSA. Since so many of you ask for lists, I called infoUSA to learn just how the data in ABD can be.

    Subscribers to the ABD (such as ourselves) get two editions every year. Both editions represent a snapshot of a database that is constantly changing. These snapshots are taken roughly at the end of a calendar year (that's the first edition), and at the end of June (the second edition). (They don't take the snapshot at the same time every year, which is why I say "roughly".)

    The CDs are then distributed to infoUSA customers on a staggered basis. The first edition is ready to be mailed starting in March or April, while the second is sent out starting in October or November. We typically receive our editions in May and November.

    The CD we’re currently using, then, is the first edition for 2005. It represents data that infoUSA had in their database in late December 2004.

    However, infoUSA doesn't update the entirety of their database in one huge individual session. Instead, it's done throughout the year. They're reliant on the receipt of phone directories (including the Yellow Pages) from around the country. These are published, obviously, all throughout a year. For instance, the Yellow Pages for Albany & the surrounding Capital District is published in December of each year. InfoUSA would get a copy of those Yellow Pages, and upload the information into their own database. The company employs hundreds of people who do nothing but contact the businesses in that current directory. These employees then verify the address & fax numbers provided in the Yellow Pages, along with other information not found in a phone directory (like the name of the current manager or executive).

    If a company that was in the infoUSA database cannot be found in the most current Yellow Pages, then it is dropped from the database, and won't appear in the next edition of the ABD. If that company has moved, then ABD will reflect a change of address.

    The age of the data you receive, then, depends on when infoUSA received the Yellow Pages for the area in your search. For the sake of discussion, let's say your search focused on an area of the state whose Yellow Pages comes out every August. Data from that issue is mailed to infoUSA (they subscribe to every Yellow Pages in the country). It's uploaded into their database. Verification ensues, which may or may not be included by that time in December when they take a snapshot of the existing database for the next edition of the ABD. The snapshot database is then processed elsewhere by the company, and eventually becomes the first edition ABD for that calendar year. Distribution to ABD subscribers then begins in March. Because of the staggered schedule, organizations like ours don't receive the first edition until late April/early May.

    We at the Research Network then install ABD onto our computer network, and begin using the product to answer queries from advisors around the state. That first edition stays on our network until (roughly) November. The second edition arrives, we install it, and it overwrites the contents of the first edition.

    In other words, a Yellow Pages distributed in August 2004 will exist on our version of ABD until November 2005. That's over a year. In addition, the company publishing the Yellow Pages might have a cut-off date of their own (say, businesses that were verifiably in place in late June 2004). That would make the information on ABD that much older.

    Several advisors have wondered why mailings generated from lists we've provided their clients result in a fair number of "return to senders". This explanation is the reason why.

    Lists bought directly from infoUSA's Web site (or through their Web-based Reference USA product) are a bit more up-to-date. The CD-ROM version, however, is much more cost-effective, and also provides us greater flexibility in designing searches, downloading, and printing.

    It's a trade-off we're willing to make.

    Thursday, November 03, 2005

    Hurricane Vehicle Fraud Database

    If you or your clients purchase used vehicles, this free resource, Hurricane Vehicle Fraud Database, may be of interest. The National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) has compiled a database of vehicles and watercraft affected by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. The information in the database was gathered from a number of sources, including insurance companies, salvage yards and state and local authorities. As a result, the NICB has not independently verified most of the information in this database and cannot, therefore, vouch for the accuracy of this information. In addition, there may be many additional vehicles and watercraft affected by the hurricanes not included in this database.

    Wednesday, November 02, 2005

    Inventors New Show

    ABC has another reality-TV program idea from the producers of American Inventor. Now inventors will have an opportunity to show their stuff on American Inventor, the new prime-time program set to premiere in early 2006. Contestants can show off their product and have it voted on by the American public, with hopes to win the million dollar prize for best concept. Auditions are being held through November and December for those of our clients who are less tight-lipped about their inventions. Host City is New York for December 7th. Time and place have yet to be set.

    “An embodiment of the ultimate American dream, the show will uncover the hottest new product and make some struggling inventor's dream come true. The show will celebrate the best in homespun American ingenuity and will turn one person's idea into the next big thing.”

    There are some products that are ineligible:

    Drugs
    Medical devices
    Plants
    Adult entertainment products
    Firearms and explosive devices
    Hazardous chemicals or materials
    Computer programming software
    Any product or service that might impact national security

    The FAQ page offers quite a bit of advice on patent protection and the risks involved in this kind of promotional activity.

    Tuesday, November 01, 2005

    SBIR

    In anticipation of the SBIR conference taking place in Albany in a couple weeks, I urge you to familiarize yourself with the Small Business Innovation Research program by going here. You'll find an overview of the program. Click on the Announcements and Solicitations button on the left, and you'll be directed to the SBIR websites for the 10 participating agencies, which are:

    Department of Agriculture
    Department of Commerce
    Department of Defense
    Department of Education
    Department of Energy
    Department of Health and Human Services
    Department of Transportation
    Environmental Protection Agency
    National Aeronautics and Space Administration
    National Science Foundation

    There are three phases of the grant process:

    Phase I is the startup phase. Awards of up to $100,000 for approximately 6 months support exploration of the technical merit or feasibility of an idea or technology.

    Phase II awards of up to $750,000, for as many as 2 years, expand Phase I results. During this time, the R&D work is performed and the developer evaluates commercialization potential. Only Phase I award winners are considered for Phase II.

    Phase III is the period during which Phase II innovation moves from the laboratory into the marketplace. No SBIR funds support this phase. The small business must find funding in the private sector or other non-SBIR federal agency funding.