A customer's tip for minimizing spam

Spam. That evil word that sucks the life out of our day, clogs our bandwidth, shocks our sensibilities and yet it still keeps on coming.

Frank Urro, CEO of Vanquish Labs, has a blog all about stopping spam and protecting yourself against viruses and worms. He offers a package of strategies,  in a recent post titled The Suite to Control Spam, for just that purpose: controlling spam.

Here are his 5 strategies:

1) Filters. The egregious spam, and/or visibly apparent, will be dealt with at this stage. Your filter should be personal, self-learning, and require no updates from a central source.

2) White Lists. Everyone on this list will be allowed access...

3) Subject Match. This enhancement will allow someone, completely unknown to you, to reply to an email subject you initiated.

4) Surf Match. This enhancement will allow you to surf to a site, submit your email address and feel confident the site can deliver the information you requested.

5) Sender Confirmation. If your filter makes an error and the sender is not White Listed, a Confirmation Request will instantly alert the sender with instructions of how to release their email for delivery to you. This process stop spammers, because spammers don't use real email addresses and so, non-spammers never see the Confirmation Request.

I've seen and used each of these as a sender and recipient. Together they make a powerful strategy for minimizing the impact of spam on your life.

The strategies in his list do not comprise a complete list. It clearly avoids offering any strategies, tactics or resources that may result in black listing entire communities because as tempting as that may sound...spammers have learned how to play these systems with their goal being to create a false- positive nitemare for the users [that means us] resulting in loss of mail from desirable contacts.

Vanquish Labs offers simple, affordable, award-winning anti-spam products with anti-virus protection built right in!

Frank and his company, Vanquish Labs, have been a customer of ours since 2001. We're happy to share news of their service solutions for that vexing problem of spam.

Let us know your solutions for spam.

And if, as a customer of Conference Calls Unlimited,  you have stories of your company and its products you'd like us to share with our customers...let us know. Just leave a comment here and we'll contact.

May 8, 2007 in Customer Profiles | Permalink | Comments (0)

Conference Calling Tip: Invite an Expert Speaker

Is your group's enthusiasm lagging?

Is your enthusiasm lagging?

Do you want to broaden your group's knowledge, understanding or skills?

Do you want to inspire them A. to attend and B. to invite others?

Don't strain to fake enthusiasm; Everyone will see through that.

Don't treat your audience like children with taking attendance. That's a last resort.

Instead invite a guest speaker who brings enthusiasm, passion, shares a new expertise, broadens their perspective or just entertains them. Your audience will absolutely appreciate your efforts here to bring value to their time on the conference call. They'll reward you with prompt attendance, their full attention and positive Word-of-Mouth for you and your efforts at engaging them in the discussion.

Here's a short profile of one customer who invited a guest speaker.

December 15, 2006 in Conference Calling Tips, Customer Profiles | Permalink | Comments (0)

FreshBooks Uses Teleseminar Series to Expand Their Marketing

FreshBooks offers an online invoicing and time tracking service that as their website says saves you time and makes you look professional - Fortune 500 professional.

They've been able to attract over 90,000 new users since May, 2004 with innovative marketing ideas like blogs and now teleseminars.  We think their use of teleseminar deserves to be singled out for praise for these reasons:

1) Content.  They focused on business experts who offer solutions targeted to the users' needs. Web analytics, building traffic to your site, managing projects, generating referrals for your business are all challenges faced by small businesses. FreshBooks teleseminar series provides experts with proven solutions.

The key here is how they used the teleseminar series to add value to their current customers. "Ok. So, we have a solution for your invoicing needs. Now we'll offer you access to experts and their solutions  for your other needs as a small business person, as well."  Smart.

2) Schedule. It's a weekly schedule now through Dec. 7, 2006. It's easy on your schedule. AND...it brings the audience back each week. That serves to build a  strong relationship with their listeners, customers or not. "Strong relationship" in marketing-speak is also known as loyalty.

3) Convenient. They've made it convenient for listeners by offering the content in the formats of teleconference, MP3 downloads or podcasts. Other than hand delivering the expert to your house, there's nothing more they could do to make it convenient.

4) Blog. They promote their teleseminar series on their blog. (An excellent blog, I might add). That opens the door for the entire world wide web.  Blogs offer an easy means to add text-rich content to site. That makes it easy, easier, for search engines to display your site high in their rankings for search results. Smart.

5) Using it All. they use all the latest social networking technologies from pre-web in the form of a teleconference call, to web 1.0 with MP3 files and moving into podcasts and blogs and resources like digg and de.licio.us. ( Ask them about those last 2 resources. )

But it all comes back to recognizing their customers' needs together with a heaping desire to help. Then you use the existing and easy-to-use resources like podcasts and blogs...to make your solutions available to your customers in the manner most convenient for their schedules and computer-comfort.

Smart.

October 18, 2006 in Customer Profiles | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Saying "thank-you" by helping others

You are our strength. You, means you, our customers.

One of the many ways we've tried to show our appreciation is through flowers and gifts. Flowers and/or gift cards from merchants such as Starbucks are sent to customers as a thank-you note for their referrals. We were as surprised by the reactions of those of you who received these thank-you's as you  were to receive them. Needless to say, we both were surprised and delighted.

We changed this slightly in the recent months. Instead of flowers and more coffee we donated in the customers name the same amounts to help purchase chairs and teaching supplies for the Pointes-aux-Chenes Elementary School in Pointe-aux-Chenes, Louisiana.

Again, we were as surprised and delighted by the responses from customers to this way of saying thanks as we believe the customers were to discover it.

Now we're in a quandary. Everyone  loves the surprise of receiving flowers at work; everyone loves knowing in their name we're helping others. What to do. Which one to choose moving forward.

We're choosing both. We'll alternate each month. On alternating months we'll either send flowers/gift cards or donate to a specific project in the name of you, the customer, who generously helped us  grow our business with a referral to our company.

The school in Louisiana is up and running. And if that changes we'll resume helping them.

But other projects, projects of our customers, deserve our attention. We've chosen three for the remainder of 2006. ( And we want your suggestions for similar projects starting in 2007.) The three projects we've chosen to support with donations in the name of customers who send us referrals, in lieu of flowers, are:

* Opportunity, Inc. (August, 2006)

Opportunity, Inc. was chartered in 1976 as an Illinois not-for-profit corporation to help people with disabilities develop to their fullest potential by working in a viable business enterprise that provides its customers with the best possible quality, price, and service.

* The Hunger Project (October, 2006)

THP offers successful, low-cost, people-centered strategies for the sustainable end of hunger — the silent killer that takes the lives of 20,000 of our fellow human beings each day.

* Free The Slaves (December, 2006)

There are 27 million human slaves in the world today...more than at any time in history.

Every referral sent to us during their respective months will generate a donation of $50.00 to that organization. Each referral sent to us during the month of August, 2006, will generate a donation of $50.00 to Opportunity, Inc.; and to The Hunger Project for referrals sent us during the month of October, 2006; and to the Free The Slaves organization in December 2006.

And we'll continue this in 2007. We want your ideas for deserving organizations. Send us your suggestions, even your own organization, for participation in this project.  Leave your ideas in the comments field.

We can't change the world single-handedly. But we can help. We can start walking in that direction and hope others come along or offer a ride or start their own walk towards a better world. It's a thousand miles; Here's the first steps.

July 17, 2006 in Customer Profiles, Philanthropy | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Customer Profile: Opportunity, Inc.

One of the great pleasures of my day is sharing the stories of our customers. It allows me the chance to hear the passions and goals, strategies and tactics, of an array of non-profit and for-profit companies. And an extra delight is sharing them with you, our customers.

This month  we're sharing the story of Opportunity, Inc. As their website describes:

Opportunity, Inc. was chartered in 1976 as an Illinois not-for-profit corporation to help people with disabilities develop to their  fullest potential by working in a viable business enterprise that provides its customers with the best possible  quality, price, and service.

But an organization is more than a website. And Opportunity, Inc. is so much more as I found out.

I had the pleasure recently to talk with their CFO, Barry Shapiro, and their Sales Director and President of The Foundation for Opportunity, Elizabeth Golden.   Our call started my morning a few weeks ago. And they made my morning the most pleasant I've had in a long time as well as left me inspired and smiling for the rest of the day.

Barry and Elizabeth and the others there have created an inspiring place to spend the day. It's inspiring and motivating for those that work there. It's inspiring for their customers. For those that work there, it's more than a job. And for their customers, Opportunity, Inc. brings the highest level of industry-certification to the services they deliver

How much better does it get? You create a place where all the employees are excited about working AND a service whose quality is ranked highest among independent, industry, standards' boards.  ( Honestly, I think the two go together. But that's content for another post. )

After speaking with Barry and Elizabeth for over an hour, I asked them to answer in their own words a few questions to help share their story. And they gladly agreed. Here's their thoughts:

How long have you been with Opportunity, Inc?

Elizabeth: Almost 1 year - I started in late August, 2005.

Barry: 10 years.

What drew you to the company?

Elizabeth: I'm a breast cancer survivor.  After I completed all of the procedures at the end of 2003, I started considering alternatives to the corporate sales positions that I had held for 20 years.  When Opportunity approached me, it seemed to me to be the perfect fit!

Barry: I have always been an individual that wanted to not only support my family, but also do my share to improve the world.  This gave me the chance to do both.  The organization has a wonderful mission, it is not "eye-catching," but you see it in the eyes and spirit of the people who work here how much it means to have a meaningful job and to be productive in our society.  Also, being a small organization, it has given me the chance to wear a variety of hats, which has made the job more interesting.  Finally, as an added bonus, it is only 5 minutes from my home.

What's your greatest challenge?

Elizabeth: Finding the time to get everything done!  The wonderful thing about working for a small company is that you get to do things that you've always wanted to do, but are restricted in a large company.  For example, I've always wanted to work with marketing, but in previous employment, we had a marketing department.  IT and marketing controlled the web site.  At Opportunity, I am many departments - the sales department, the marketing department, web site design and I work with the Foundation.  All of us have multiple job responsibilities and the struggle is to try to give each attention so that none of them suffer.

Barry:  I agree with Elizabeth that the lack of time to do everything I want to do has been a challenge.  The other huge challenge is keeping the organization running without any endowment fund to fall back on in times of needs, which seem to come often.

What's been your greatest successes?

Elizabeth: Launching the Secure Document Destruction business.  When I came, Opportunity had two government contracts and just a few commercial accounts.  We are currently servicing 104 locations throughout the Greater Chicago Area.

Barry:  Putting the finance department on a more professional level.  Just being able to meet the payroll every two weeks has been a success.  Despite all of our struggles financially, Opportunity Inc is still here after 30 years.

What's been your greatest disappointment?

Elizabeth: The struggle in dealing with the lack of funds for growing the business.  For example, a retired advertisement executive gave us copy for 2 ads that we would like to run in Crain's Chicago Business magazine.  We have the ads, but can't afford to run them.  We would like to advertise on the radio, but are trying to locate a donor to make this possible.  Obviously our mission is to provide as many jobs as possible for adults with disabilities.  We need to grow to make this happen - advertising would help us quickly let people know about our mission and the excellent service that we provide in secure document shredding, medical device manufacturing and hand assembly projects.

Barry: The outsourcing of jobs to Mexico and China has hurt Opportunity, Inc. tremendously.  It has been difficult to just keep the jobs we have rather than being able to expand our workforce.

How did you build a Board of Directors with such impressive backgrounds? What drew them to you?

Elizabeth: (best answered by Barry!)

Barry:  Our President and CEO, Larry Rosser, inherited a board that was mainly made up of family members when he came in 1994.  He decided then that he wanted to bring on people from business that could add value to our board.  I believe that our directors as a whole have been successful in their professions, but also want to give back to society and they see their service to Opportunity as a means of accomplishing that goal.

Where do you see yourself and Opportunity, Inc. in 5 years?

Elizabeth:  I see myself managing sales and marketing as I'm doing now, but with a sales force!  There are companies like ours all across the country who sometimes don't have a seasoned sales professional on their staff.  I'd like to have the time to be more of a resource for them so that they can grow their businesses and provide many jobs for people with disabilities in their areas.  Hopefully we'll be able to eventually hire a Foundation Director so that I can concentrate on sales and marketing!

I see Opportunity, Inc. as one of the leading shredding vendors in the Greater Chicago Area.  It's my hope and dream that we will be able to build small shredding centers in various areas of the Chicago area.  It's extremely difficult for many people with disabilities to commute to work.    If we could be located in closer proximity to where they are living, we could reach more people and provide them with employment careers!

Barry: I still see myself at Opportunity in 5 years, but with a much bigger work force.  Our mission is to create careers for people with disabilities.  The unemployment rate among the disabled is tremendously high.  I would like to see Opportunity create a new 150 positions over the next 5 years. If we can create more jobs, we nor only improve their lives, they end up paying taxes to the government rather than be a drain on government resources.

How can people help?

Elizabeth:  More than anything, if people would spread the word about Opportunity - our mission and the services that we offer - that would be great!  We haven't focused on marketing our name and mission in the past to the general public, so very few people are aware that we exist.  People can see pictures and view videos that highlight our workplace and our employees on our web site  www.opportunityinc.org.  We welcome tours - if anyone is interested in a tour, please contact me at 847.831.9400 x 23. 

We are looking for leads for secure document destruction.  We offer both mobile and facility based shredding at very competitive pricing.

Of course, donations to the Foundation for Opportunity are always appreciated!  We are a 501(c)3 charity organization which receives no state fee for service subsidies like most Community Rehabilitation Programs.  We rely on donations and grants to supplement our growth and the well being of our extremely dedicated work force.

So those three things would be very helpful....spread the word, leads for shredding customers and donations!

Barry: Elizabeth's answer was pretty much on target.  Spread the word about Opportunity, leads not only for our document destruction division, but for other long running repetitive work for our employees and, of course, donations.

I still get a smile reading their words. And as Cindy Knowlton here in the company says, there you have it. Opportunity, Inc. shows you can run a successful organization, provide a great service to customers, achieve high professional rankings and certifications among your industry peers, create a workplace where people want to be there...and all the time while helping others.

Thanks, Barry and Elizabeth. I hope this begins to convey even a small sense of the inspiration I felt after meeting with you.

July 6, 2006 in Customer Profiles | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Customer Profile: Cargo Holdings

It’s not always apparent from their name what a company actually sells or how their service is presented. I’m often surprised when I “Google” one of our customers to see what their company does.

Each month we have a drawing for an iPOD or a gift certificate from Amazon.com. My favorite job is to notify the winners!  You can see some of our winners by clicking here.   

Quite the gamut, I’d say!

With their permission we link their company website to ours, so I get to see what people are doing.   There is such creativity... people finding a niche in the marketplace where they can create a business.  We've found that the business of bringing our customers closer with theirs covers a gamut of businesses, organizations, markets, countries, services and products, even animals as you'll see below.

It fosters a personal relationship when I tell a customer “I happened to visit your web site the other day.” People love it and they always remember my interest in their business and goals.

What better way to build a loyal customer relationship than taking the time to understand their business, their passions, how they spend their entire day. It's a bond that stands the test of time and recessions and downturns and changes. Even stretching over companies, it seems.

You get the idea. 

Often heard in our Customer Service Department is:  “We have the best customers in the world.”  And, yes, we do. And some of the most interesting as well.

Now here is a customer we got to know not by looking at their website, but by calling them on the phone and hearing some talking and singing in the background. I said "what’s that"? Our customer, Trish says well that’s Cappy…..an African Gray parrot.  (African Grey parrots are reported to have the intellectual capacity of a 5-year old and emtional development of 2-year old...human. Think 'kinder, gentler version of a terrible-two-year old".)

We were so charmed by her, especially when she started laughing when I laughed, and imitating my voice. 

Trish gladly complied by sending photos and sharing the the story of Cappy's life at Cargo Holdings International

Cappy just turned three years old, and has lived at Capital Cargo International Airlines since she was old enough to leave the incubator and venture out.  She stays at the office during the week, going home on weekends for more fun and adventures. 

Her name is Cappy because that’s what the Air Traffic Controllers call the Capital Cargo aircraft.

She can mimic the speakers on the phone or in the office so well, people can’t tell if it’s her or not.  She can talk exactly like some of the people at work, can sound like a printer or fax, and sing along with music.  Basically she can drive people nuts without trying too hard.

Her funniest (?) habit(?) is to say “Cappy, NO BITING’ just before she bites someone. Not hard. But, just a little too playful and just a little too shocking for first-time visitors if we're not watchful.

If you are in Orlando and want to visit, let them know.

Here's Cappy:

Img_0402_2cappy

And one more:

Dsc_0007

June 27, 2006 in Customer Profiles | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Celebrating Their 6th Anniversary: DonorWare LLC

We celebrate the 6th year of service to DonorWare LLC this month. They started with us in the earliest years of our company. They've remained loyal customers to us ever since.  And we look forward to at least another 6 years of service.

Another reason we want to celebrate DonorWare is their organization's mission. They provide tools for those who want to help others. We'll let their own words describe it:

DonorWare offers a comprehensive set of tools to help ministries and non-profits solve their data needs...

I confess, the term data needs sounds a bit clinical, really. What they do is they help those generous of heart and time and passion and commitment who possess a caring desire to help others...achieve those goals.

When I spoke with them about my desire to celebrate their 6th anniversary and share their purpose with our customers they created a unique page just for that purpose. Here, again, are their own words...

Our passion is the work of our clients. Here are just a few of the ways our clients are making a difference in the world. If you see one that intrigues, inspires or motivates you, please take a moment to click on the link, learn more, and give generously. You can make a difference.

I agree! You CAN make a difference. We ALL can make a difference.

We all should celebrate organizations like DonorWare LLC who strive to help others, to make a difference in the world, to inspire others to do the same. Thank you. We're honored to have you as a customer.

May 27, 2006 in Customer Profiles | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Customer Profile: SubscriberMail

Jordan Ayan, CEO of SubscriberMail, describes how they use our services in their business.

As we’ve grown, we’ve come to realize that the conference call services go beyond just the basic phone call with a group of people on the line. 

Because we sell an online product, the ability to present our product visually to our client is critical, but having face-to-face meetings is often cost prohibitive.  With Conference Calls Unlimited’s web conferencing service, we are able to create virtual online face-to-face meetings with our clients and prospects.  We can show a PowerPoint presentation and also demonstrate our web-based application in real-time.

Their web conferencing service is extremely powerful, and its many benefits were illustrated recently. I was scheduled to give a speech in Vermont . At the last minute I was  unable to travel to due to a family emergency.   I was unable to find a replacement speaker to fill my slot on such short notice.  The morning of the presentation, I called the organizer and arranged for a data projector and Internet connection in the meeting room.  From the comfort of my office, using Conference Calls Unlimited’s web conferencing service, I was able to present my entire speech to the assembled audience as if I was there.  The result, rave reviews from the audience, an organizer that I did not disappoint, and a new way to conduct business.

We have also started using the service as part of our on-going customer support and training plan.  This insures that customers can connect with us, and we can show them how to make better use of our product.  What business owner or manager doesn't want that?

Again, conference call services go beyond just the basic phone call with a group of people on the line.  If you get creative in how you use them, the various conference calling services can provide a world of solutions that drive dollars to the bottom line and after all, that’s what business is all about.

May 15, 2006 in Customer Profiles | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Customer Profile: Harper Brush Company - Fairfield, IA

I had the pleasure this morning to sit in attendance with a conference call hosted by Shawn Frey, Industrial Recruiter/Industrial Sales Trainer at Harper Brush Company located here in Fairfield, Iowa. Harper Brush is a leading company here in Fairfield. They’ve continued to grow both in their products, the quality of the service, # of employees and as a community partner.

Shawn hosts a bi-monthly conference call (at 6 AM Central…!) with his distributors from around the country.

I’m always on the lookout for stories about our customers and their use of our services. It’s fascinating to me to see the many ways our services are used. And, I always find tips I can share with our customers that might help them make better use of their conference calls.

Shawn’s conference call this morning was a pleasure to attend. Here’s why: It was organized, coherent, clear, and all that combined to make it very productive.  Here’s the simple, but very effective, techniques Shawn uses to get the most out of this conference call.

SHAWN’S TECHNIQUES FOR MAXIMUM PRODUCTION

* Start on time, every time.

I could tell from everyone’s prompt and prepared arrival that Shawn had instilled in them the idea, from repetitive practice, that the call would start on time and they would be asked to participate. Every caller arrived on time (ok a couple arrived a minute or two late) and ready to participate.

* Welcome them by name.

Shawn greeted every caller by name. Now, that’s easy as there were only 6-7 of us. But greeting them by name and with a personal anecdote helps reinforce the warm and open setting for the call.

* Start with a Brief Review

After a quick, brief, round of chit-chat Shawn began the meeting with a call to review the notes from the previous call.  Again, it's an effective and easy way to set the tone and bring everyone’s focus to the call. Kinda like a warm-up before an athletic event.  Just get the brain warmed up and moving towards the topic.

* Actively Seek Everyone’s Input.

Again, Shawn’s group is small. But it’s a great technique to make sure your conference calls stay interactive, engaging, interesting, expansive and moving forward when you ask each person their opinion and then ask them follow-up questions.

(Go back to the first point: Everyone’s prepared. But then allow, seek, prod, query the guests for more input. For 2 reasons: 1) it adds depth and focus to their content; 2) most people don’t know they know as much as they do. So, help bring it out of them. Makes them feel good also by sharing all they know with their peers.)

* Finish on time.

Whew, how many times have I quietly dropped off a call when the host lets it ramble on? Be like Shawn, finish on time. Respect your callers’ time and when it’s time to stop, stop.

* Take Notes and Share.

Shawn takes notes from every call and then distributes them by email to his group. WOW! That’s a powerful step to make the most out of your conference call. It so clearly shows the callers that the call is important and the host is willing to go the extra step to insure you get the most from your attendance.

Shawn asked me to share some thoughts or tips of my own at the end of his call. Some are ones we discussed together.

TIPS

1) Add Name-Announcement – On-Entry. That feature asks/insists each caller say their name before they’re allowed on the call. The announcement can be either private, to Shawn as the host, or public for everyone to hear. And you’ll hear the same announcement as people leave.

2) Record the Call. You can record your conference call with all of our services. Our latest bridge allows you to record the call in a .wav format and download it at your convenience.  One caller asked if it would allow you to fast-forward through the slow parts. Yes. It will. And we can convert that .wav file to a mp3 format with a link for you to post on a website….or…we can create a podcast for your listening audience.

3) Blog.  Shawn can post his call notes and call recordings  at a blog. Then his callers can post their comments and follow-up for everyone to share in the benefit. It would be a one-stop shop for their tips and advice and questions. They could access it anytime, from any computer with an online connection.

Shawn, thanks very much for inviting me.

And if you’d like me to profile your company and its use of our services just contact me: 877-227-0611, ext. 12 or zane@conferencecallsunlimited.com 

March 14, 2006 in Conference Calling Tips, Customer Profiles | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack