ImageI’m proud of what I’ve accomplished over the last 27 years.  I have recommendations, achievements and experience to back me up.  So why is it that employers seemingly overlook the facts when the word relocation is mentioned?  Is “Relocation” a word that makes or breaks your application for employment or is it the implications that ultimately cause employers to tread with caution and seek out more local candidates?  Are these implications contributing (at least in part) the difficulty that nearly 50% of US firms are experiencing when sourcing for talent?  Here are three myths to calm the fear of employers faced with a candidate seeking relocation.

Knowledge Of Locality (They don’t know the area): How is this any different than a new employee needing to be trained on company specific or industry specific policies?  If you are willing to train for that, train for locality.  Look at the track record of the candidate.  Do their skills and experience scream “quick to adapt”?  Create a list of questions about the area and test their ability to quickly and accurately identify locality specific information.

Relocation Assistance (If I offer to move them, they’ll bail in a month): Perhaps the most terrifying implication for employers, relocation assistance is often not a deal breaker for serious job seekers.  Most are looking for a bottom line, but it’s also important to note that they are not looking for a lateral move.  I’ve actually made a point to say “I’m NOT looking for relocation assistance” on most initial correspondence, but I am still seemingly ignored.  So what if they do ask for assistance?  It never hurts to ask, so why is this such a deal breaker for companies today?  You market a product or service already so you understand the importance of creating value for customers (or at least you should).  Don’t discount excellent candidates simply because the word relocation is in their application.  Ask for salary requirements.  Discover what’s important.  Create value for the total compensation package.  Discuss benefits, training, positive work environment, milestone rewards and promotion opportunities.

Seriousness of Inquiry (They aren’t serious, we can’t waste our time): If they’ve reached out to you, they are serious.  Don’t believe me?  Test them.  Ask them what they know about the company.  Find out why they applied.  If they engage with you, there’s your answer.

Should you be grappling with the possibility of interviewing or hiring a candidate looking to relocate, I hope this was helpful to you.  Relocation should NOT make or break an application for employment.  Before passing judgement, look at the candidate, their skills, accomplishments and recommendations.  Worry about the locality later.

We keep moving forward, opening new doors, and doing new things, because we’re curious and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths. ~ Walt Disney

A.

10 phone calls, 12 representatives and 6 hours later…I’m done.  A simple request today has turned into a total nightmare.  If I’ve learned anything from the multifamily industry, it’s the importance and value of great customer service.  When you tell someone you’ll call them back, call them back.  When you offer someone something, honor it.  If it’s time sensitive, treat it that way.

Let’s back up a week shall we.

My family and I enjoy going to Round-Up Lake, formerly Jellystone, a local campground during the summer.  They offer a family atmosphere and we’ve always had a good experience.  Last weekend, we took the first trip of the year.  Upon arrival, I was shuffled down the counter to get a parking pass  (Red flag #1).

The man behind the counter asked some basic questions and inquired whether I’d been there before.  After going into how much we love the property, he advised that they were undergoing some exciting changes and there would be a meeting the next day to go over the future of Round-Up Lake.  Just for going, we received a voucher for $100 to use toward future stays at the property.  (Red flag #2).

The next day, I went to the front desk to inquire about the location of the meeting discussed at check-in.  All of the representatives looked bewildered and couldn’t tell me exactly where it would be, but I was able to get ‘the building that looks like it’s under construction’ out of one of them (Red flag #3).

My fiance took the kids over to the lake to play so I told him I would just go check it out.  Upon arrival to the ‘building that looked like it was under construction’, I was greeted with what looked like an empty car dealership filled with tables (Red flag #4).  The man who spoke with me was sitting with two other women and gestured for me to come in.  I was greeted with ‘will your husband be joining us?’.  To which I replied no, he’s at the lake with the kids.  Surprised, he said, “to receive the credit, we require husband and wife be here together” (Red flag #5).  I called my fiance and had him drag the kids away from the lake to meet me.

Shortly after I placed the call, the man we were supposed to meet with apologized that he had overbooked and he was going to have me meet with another member of the staff.  At this point, I really didn’t care, I wanted to get it over with so the kids could go back and play.

Enter, (we’ll call him), Ted.  He tried to strike up local conversation to earn our trust, a failing attempt due to his recent relocation he mentioned later on.  He acted interested in us, but after we politely declined, the tone turned several degrees colder.  I asked him if he had a business card to which he replied “We’re not even supposed to be open until next weekend, I don’t even have my cards yet” followed by a chuckle.  So, I did what any interested prospect would do, handed him my card and asked him to follow up with me.

The meeting ended promptly after that, he added his name to the invitation we had received and said we would just need to present it for credit.

During the entire meeting, there was a maintenance man walking around hanging pictures of campgrounds all around the US (Red flag #292).

Today, I called to book a reservation for Memorial Day Weekend.  The booking agent asked me to fax the form we received from Ted, but when she received it, it was the wrong form.  Surprised?  Well that wasn’t even the half of it.  I was placed on hold for 20 minutes at a time, told by several I would receive a call back in just a few minutes which turned into spans of 2 hours or more.  Each time I would call back, I would have to explain the situation from beginning to end.

Finally, 3 hours in, I asked to be transferred directly to the property.  The representative was apologetic and quick to give me Ted’s cell phone number.  I called and, low and behold, voicemail.  I asked him to please call the home office to verify our meeting from this past Saturday and left my number.

Another hour passed and no one followed up so I called again.  This time, the person who was originally handling my calls had left for the day.  I would thank her for calling me to let me know someone else would be handling the request, but she didn’t do that.  They again transferred me to the property and the man who had originally given me Ted’s phone number was extremely apologetic.  He expressed that Ted had just sent a text message to him several minutes ago so I should try again.

I tried again, voicemail again.  I then did the only logical thing, called back the main line only to again placed on hold for 20 minutes followed by a rushed “I’m sorry there is nothing we can do until we hear back from the person you met with” and the sound of the line disconnecting.

I called back again, now 5 hours in, requested to speak to the on-site staff yet again and was greeted by a new apologetic staff member.  This time, she offered to walk the 50 feet to ‘the building that looks like it’s under construction’ and speak with Ted herself.  Not hopeful, I again agreed to a call back.

About 20 minutes later, she did call me back, but it was bad news yet again.  Ted was in a meeting, but he was in shortly before I called the first time and let her know he would be back later.

Why Ted, do you have time to text the staff, stop in the office, but not take 2 seconds out of your day to verify our meeting one week ago?  I expressed my dissatisfaction to the only staff member that made the effort to go to him for verification and ended the nightmare with two words “I’m done”.

I sat in the meeting, asked for a follow up because we were sincerely interested in what they had to offer and received nothing but a headache in return.  This lackluster customer service and member only mentality is going to ruin what used to be a fun family vacation close to home.

If you see the Ideal Private Resorts logo on any campground staff member, I highly suggest you walk away.  It’s just not worth it.

~Your Dissatisfied Customer in Ohio

UPDATE:  6/4/12

After speaking with *****, I was not convinced that everything would run smoothly from then on.  During our conversation, *****said he would have the credit applied to our account and asked me to call him when we decided to book so he could take care of everything.  Ah, the wonder of words.  So many forget that it’s the follow through that matters.  Also, I don’t wish to hear excuses or “I’m not trying to make excuses, but (insert string of excuses…”I don’t think ***even had his computer up and running” “The cell service isn’t great in that area” “We’re on a shoe string budget”)

Here’s how I see it, never allow your employees to conduct business without the proper tools to do the job.  I should have never even been approached for that presentation before its scheduled start date.  Take the initiative if you’re able to follow through.  Nothing less.
Thursday, I received a call from a family member because they wanted to book the weekend.  I expressed my concern for both the blatant lack of customer service we experienced the week before and the disastrous weather that was predicted for the weekend, but was ultimately overruled and forced to call to attempt to book Friday and Saturday night.  Although ***** advised me to call his cell phone, it was already going on 7pm so I wanted to extend some courtesy and simply call the customer service line.  After all, he did advise me that the credit would be applied.  To my dismay, the credit had not yet been applied to our account and *****had already left for the day.  Again, agitated by the lack of follow through, I agreed to call back on Friday.
Friday, I called to speak with *****who was unavailable so I left a message.  I knew better than to expect a timely response however so I called back just to be sure he was in.  The representative was quick to locate him.  Now you’d think after the lengthy discussion we had the week before, he would have recalled at least the major details of my situation.  Well, not really.  At one point, he actually said “let me look into this for you, we’re just looking to get the cancellation credit back on your account correct?”  To which, after recovering from my jaw dropping shock, I replied “no, don’t you remember the conversation we had about the complete disregard for customer service and the 6 brutal hours I spent trying to book a weekend with a credit I was supposed to receive for sitting through the IPR presentation with ***?”.  At that point he placed me on hold, came back with a tone of confusion in his voice and advised me that he would need to have the manager call me back to straighten everything out within the hour.  I reluctantly agreed as long as it was within the hour.  The lack of accountability and competency your staff displays is astounding.
Two minutes before the hour was up, I received a call from Cheryl.  Cheryl is perhaps your most valuable employee.  She is quick to respond, goes the extra mile and reads the situation well.  After going over everything with her again, she offered to have reservations call me back to book, because (surprise surprise) she was unable to complete the reservation from her computer system because it’s not set up properly.  I expressed my discontent and she quickly said, “I can do it for you now as long as you don’t mind holding for a few minutes”.  I agreed. After several minutes of hold time, Cheryl checked on me numerous times, they gave me a total of $91 for two nights on a primitive site.  I mentioned the JUNE special (BOGO half off) and was told that I was incorrect, it was buy 2 get 1 half off.  Cue Patrick.  Not sure who he is, but he was also quick to respond offering Fire and Ice for the inconveniences I had experienced to this point and agreed that I was incorrect about the June special.
I’m not incorrect about the JUNE special in case you were wondering.  I called back and the representative quickly honored my request so at least she was aware of the promotion.
The weekend went on without a hitch (probably because we avoided the office at all costs).  The rotting wood and shower heads caked with lime scale so thick it impedes their ability to work properly are a nice touch, but hey, at least the bathrooms by the lake were open this time.  Curious as to why the lake hasn’t been dredged yet though.  Wasn’t the season opening Memorial Day weekend?  I’m sure by this time last year, the lake was definitely cleared of the vegetative growth and the kids were playing on the inflatable climbing accessories.
A few gems in a sea of coal…
In addition to Cheryl & Patrick – Kyle, the attendant by the gate, is an excellent team member.  He is friendly, helpful and knowledgeable.  Butch, a maintenance technician, was also friendly, helpful and knowledgeable as was the lifeguard at the pool on Saturday 6/2 (didn’t catch her name).
The rest, well…yikes.  This is the place we love to hate.  Round Up Lake has potential and we love it, but the staff we’ve encountered over the past month has been little more than horrific.
The other salesman from Round Up even had the audacity to follow up with me on Friday with “Did I meet with you at your campsite last weekend?”.  Why are you following up with a question about where we met?  Shouldn’t you remember that you didn’t even meet with me, ***did?!?  To which I replied, “no and after the ordeal we went through, I can’t believe you are even calling me”.  Surprising, he had NO idea what I was talking about so I asked him to have my initial e-mail forwarded to him.
On a somewhat related note, maybe your sales staff could benefit from some fresh training on user experience because they all sound like washed up car salesmen.  So much so, I couldn’t help but analyze.  http://multifamilymayhem.wordpress.com/2012/05/27/timeshare-industry-professionals-i-am-not-a-number/

As you’ve all heard by now, Facebook is rolling out timelines for pages.  This will go into effect on March 30, 2012 for ALL pages.  There are quite a few changes, some additional features and some features that will no longer work once timeline is published.  The good news is, they are giving all page owners 30 days to make the appropriate adjustments.  Please see below:

1.  Cover Image – This is an image that is 851 pixels wide and 315 pixels tall.  The profile image is placed overlapping this image near the lower left corner.
2.  Facebook will no longer allow users to land on a custom default tab.
3.  The cover image cannot include contact information or any call to action.
4.  Tabs are now limited to 12 and only 4 are visible – images and likes are mandatory facebook applications so
      pages may now have a maximum of 10 custom tabs.
5.  Users can now send messages directly to the page.
6.  Page owners can now make user posts private until approved.
7.  Custom tabs now have a default width of 810 pixels as opposed to the 520 pixel limit seen before.
8.   Apps can now have custom icons 111×74 pixels.

These are just the changes we have noticed thus far.  As with any new updates, user testing will be key in locating new features, specifications and challenges.

For your pages to remain up to date, some of the above changes will need to be addressed NOW!

If you need assistance, feel free to contact us at gcubedmedia@gmail.com or join our conversation on Twitter @gcubedmedia.

Our initial goal for this blog post was to outline the need to hire a social media specialist as soon as possible due to a thinning qualified applicant pool.  After reading a recent article on socialmediatoday, we decided to change focus.  We have utmost respect for Mack Collier, but the following statement struck a nerve:

Steve: Do you think every business should have a social media presence?

Mack: No, some businesses simply don’t have the bandwidth and human resources to maintain active social media presences. But at the least, every business whose customers are using the Internet should be monitoring their brand mentions, as well as industry mentions and competitor mentions. All it takes are a few Google Alerts set up and emailed to you once a day.

Would Mack’s answer have been the same if Steve had asked “Do you think every business should have a web presence?”  

We agree that some businesses do not have abundant resources at their disposal, but it really doesn’t take long to set up the main social media platforms and with mobile apps, dashboard widgets and/or scheduling tools, posting can be done in a heartbeat.  In our opinion, there is no reason that a business should not have an active social media presence.

Here are some of the tools we recommend for building and maintaining  an active social media presence at a low-cost:

  • FanPage Engine:  An excellent and user-friendly tool to create custom Facebook fan page tabs.  They include an option for fan only content, unlimited pages and tabs, as well as a small one time fee as opposed to monthly.
  • HootSuite or SproutSocial:
    • We’ve used several social media post scheduling platforms in the past and found that SproutSocial has the most comprehensive dashboard.  The RSS feed option pulls your Google RSS list which we love.  The design is easy to navigate, they offer grouping for those users managing multiple organizations, and there is even a Facebook page design app built into the deluxe package ($59.99 monthly).
    • Hootsuite ($5.99 monthly) would be our second choice.  They have an easy to use publishing design and we love the calendar they use to show past posts, but their insights are not as user-friendly or in-depth as Sprout.  The RSS option forces you to add each feed separately which is time-consuming if you’ve already put together a lengthy list in Google reader.  Both offer a browser button for ease of posting as you search the web and team collaboration.  Cost wise, Hootsuite is the way to go, but if you’re looking for features and your budget allows, we would recommend Sprout.
  • ODesk:  A large network of freelance professionals ready and willing to assist your company in not only social media needs, but also sales, customer service, and much more.  When choosing a candidate, be sure to check past feedback, test scores, and portfolios.  Cost is not necessarily indicative of quality as contractors set their own rate.

Just to put some perspective on your bottom line, we have set up Facebook, Twitter and YouTube pages in as little as 5-10 hours.  This includes a custom background and several custom Facebook tabs (consistent with your main website design if available).  The total package winds up to be $250.00 max.  While we also create and schedule content (one post per day six days per week on four SM profiles {i.e. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+} at about $100 per week), this is easily done in-house for little to no cost.

If you would like more information on how we can set you up for social media success, please e-mail gcubedmedia@gmail.com.

We’ve seen it time and time again.  The US Government, despite it’s pledge to protect freedoms set forth in the Bill of Rights, The Constitution, and The National Anthem, asserts it’s dominance in ways that make even the most stodgy Republican cringe.  Take for example – Prohibition, Bail Outs, and countless other cases of, in our opinion, gross abuse of Executive power.  SOPA and PIPA follow the same precedent and stand to create modern day prohibition.

“Censorship reflects a society’s lack of confidence in itself. It is a hallmark of an authoritarian regime . . . .” — Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart, dissenting Ginzberg v. United States, 383 U.S. 463 (1966) ~ Read More at American Library Association

While we see the need to protect artists from copyright infringements, SOPA and PIPA overstep those boundaries and incorporate vague wording that could, at any time without due process, infringe on our right to freedom of speech and freedom of expression.  These may be the two most abused rights, but as we’ve seen, exceptions can and are being made when it counts.  Take cyber-bullying for example.  The bullies may have a right to free speech, but that right is overruled by an obvious violation of the victim’s civil rights.

“First Amendment freedoms are most in danger when the government seeks to control thought or to justify its laws for that impermissible end. The right to think is the beginning of freedom, and speech must be protected from the government because speech is the beginning of thought.”—Supreme Court Justice Anthony M. Kennedy,  Ashcroft V. Free Speech Coalition ~ Read More at American Library Association

Stop the madness.  End SOPA.  End PIPA.  Focus on higher priority issues such as The Health Care crisis, impending Student Loan crisis, and the soaring deficit.  We the people will not stand down.

Join the fight at

“Freedom of expression is the matrix, the indispensable condition, of nearly every other form of freedom.” ~ Benjamin Cardozo

One of the largest and most important budgets for any organization is marketing.  With the growth of mobile, social search and a generation of increasingly younger – instant gratification searching – tech savvy purchasers, keeping marketing current is the best way to see a substantial ROI (Return on Investment).  QR codes have been around for some time, but recently went mainstream.  Out of the box ideas for QR usage are flowing freely, but we have yet to see a practical approach for SMB’s (Small Business’) without fancy marketing budgets.  Here are 4 ways small business owners can integrate QR codes into traditional marketing at little to no cost.

1:  Business Cards

Adding a QR code to your business card can not only increase website traffic, but can also enhance social media engagement and ultimately increase sales.  The beauty of QR codes are their flexibility.  Landing pages can be anything from your website, to your Facebook page, to a simple PDF or Word doc showcasing product information or some other noteworthy & sharable content.

2: E-mail

You’re probably wondering how adding digital marketing such as QR codes to other digital marketing such as e-mail would work?  That crazy little design is intriguing.  Customizing your QR will make scanning it even more irresistible to prospective customers no matter where it’s located.

3: Correspondence

Think of QR codes as an extension of your logo.  Be a trendsetter!  Add one to the outside of every envelope (add a modern twist to seal it with a kiss and seal it with a QR) and in the header of every letter.  Remember, people tend to follow a specific pattern when reading so adding it to the upper left corner of your document will allow for maximized exposure according to the Gutenburg Diagram.

4: Traditional Print Media (Newsletters – Flyers – Print Ads)

Anything you print should incorporate a QR somewhere.  Add a call to action such as ‘scan me’ to encourage reader interaction.  Interactive marketing is engaging!  When your message doesn’t jump off the page, your competitor’s will.

Wondering where to start?  QRStuff offers FREE QR codes customized to land wherever you choose – from plain text to VCalendar events to YouTube videos and even PayPal buy it now links.  Should the budget allow and you’d like to customize the look of your QR, check out CustomQRCodes.com.  Practical QR Code applications are everywhere and they can be incorporated into your small business marketing plan with little to no cost.

Please share any more practical application ideas you have in the comment section below.  We’d love to hear from you!

Web 2.0 has altered customer service as we know it. Your customers can now instantly share their experience (positive or negative) with the click of a button from anywhere, anytime to everyone in the world. While this isn’t a new trend so to speak, mobile web use is increasing exponentially each day making this trend and monitoring it, ever more important. When a customer leaves a negative review, it’s only human nature to react. Before you make that reaction public, consider the trickle-down effect and pledge to respond, not react. Here’s how to learn, live and plan your way to reputation management success.

LEARN FROM THE PAST

Start by educating yourself on past social media faux pas and don’t let history repeat itself. ChapStick had a classic case of reacting rather than responding last year. Thanks to them, it’s now more apparent than ever how deleting a negative comment affects your online reputation. Ashton Kutcher taught the world that if you don’t think before you tweet, you’ll end up falling prey to a pack of angry wolves. Repeat these offenses and you might as well just kiss your reputation goodbye. For more examples of online reputation killers, check out AdvertisingAge’s article Marketing’s Biggest Social-Media Blunders of 2011.

LIVE IN THE PRESENT

Today’s customers are all about social, relevant brands who aren’t shoving sales pitches down their throat every few hours. Generations are evolving. They have learned to ignore the irrelevant. Engaging with your fans and followers in real time encourages word of mouth marketing (the most effective type!). This is not to say that social media marketing will overthrow traditional marketing techniques, but it is contributing to the evolution of them.

PLAN FOR THE FUTURE

Start with a plan. A social media marketing plan will allow you to effectively leverage the unlimited number of potential customers lurking around every corner of the internet. Include measurable and attainable benchmarks with a review schedule to alter the plan as needed. Plan to cross promote your social media profiles on all traditional marketing and when available, utilize public customer comments. Plan to include a call to action inviting future customers to join the conversation on everything! Last but not least, plan to add a social media marketing specialist to your team.

Before you dismiss the last one, remember the growth of mobile, the always changing social media matrix and the reputation killers even fortune 500 brands fall prey to. Start 2012 by learning, living and planning your way to a positive and prosperous brand reputation. Proper strategy and execution will allow your business to secure and maintain the top position in your market. A top position, your competitors will only dream of.