In July's Newsletter

Mark Your CalendarsIf you're new to our newsletter and you'd like to subscribe, contact us right now! July Events 2014Upcoming for July:
  • Tuesday, July 29th from 1:30 p.m. to opening pitch at 7:05 p.m. Join us at The Rangers Ballpark in Arlington at B2BCFO's "Exit Strategy" Event.  This event discusses Exit Strategies for business owners. It would be good for an IT shop, small business owner and even as a roadmap for a business looking to grow - the same things that add value for an exit also help firms position themselves for growth financing. Presentations and Networking begin at 3 p.m., then a buffet dinner and the game afterward!  More details and link to register on our Events page.  We hope to see you!

Spice Up Your Small Business Marketing This Summersmall business marketing tips  With ever-increasing access to technology, an evolution of the marketplace is taking place.  People are more in control of the how’s, why’s, what’s and when’s of a potential purchase than ever before.  This means smart marketing of the products and services your small business offers also needs to evolve, to keep up with consumer behavior. Marketing strategies of a decade ago (or more) don’t quite appease today’s consumer appetites.  Traditional marketing strategies such as print/media advertising, billboard/banner ads, paid or rented lists, tradeshow booths, seminars and direct mailings have always been a punch to the pocketbook for small businesses, and may not be as effective as today’s alternatives.  Consumers who are eager and quick to educate themselves about their buying options also tend to find these traditional types of marketing increasingly intrusive. Inbound Marketing And Outbound Marketing Recent trends in marketing known as Inbound Marketing, aim to earn (rather than buy) peoples’ interest by adding some sort of value (such as usable, educational information) to draw people to your message.  This type of relationship aspires to two-way, interactive communication between your company and your contacts, and here’s some great news – in many cases, Inbound Marketing methods are significantly less expensive than traditional means! Examples of current Inbound Marketing trends include:
  • creation of books, e-books or other print media
  • article contribution and blogging
  • podcasts and videos
  • public relations and public speaking opportunities
  • community building and thought leadership
  • word of mouth and viral online content
  • website content creation and marketing
  • optimization of a your company’s website to obtain best search engine results
This kind of sharing helps create a positive connection with potential customers.  Nurturing a positive culture within one’s own company can help drive solid connections among employees – and that will extend to others, too. Outbound Marketing consists of seeking out potential customers and “pushing” your message through.  Also known as “interruptive marketing”, these traditional strategies interrupt consumers’  flow of activity with the company’s message (such as spam or unsolicited emails, Internet pop-up ads, mailings to paid/rented email lists, video ads, print, tv, radio, banner, billboard ads, tradeshow booths, direct mail flyers, etc). Here’s a good infographic, illustrating Inbound vs. Outbound Marketing models and some documented results of each. A significant differentiating factor in marketing models boils down to ROI.  Inbound Marketing tends to be less costly to implement and maintain, real-revenue generating (as opposed to collecting gobs of questionably-qualified leads), and real loyalty-producing (because you are regularly sharing with customers and potential customers solid, valuable info they can count on). Inbound Marketing does require varying degrees of time investment for creation of quality, shareable information, by either yourself or support staff.  Training on the various marketing tools that are readily available for content and communication management and analysis/reporting may also be necessary – much of it easily and inexpensively available online. Information request from The Fulcrum Group, Dallas Fort Worth Managed Services We hope you’ll be on the lookout next week for our July White Paper, which explores this topic a little more in-depth and provides some helpful references and links to some of our favorite Inbound Marketing tools and websites!      
5 Important Lessons I've Learned Along The Way - by Fulcrum Group President, Steve Meek business-man-mistake-whoops  Maybe the stereotype is true to some degree, but I have found that many people think of IT people as either having no personality, or else that we are driven by the motor of perfectionism.  OK, in some cases, we bring that reputation upon ourselves…but overall, I have found most technical folks also genuinely enjoy solving problems and have a great desire to help others.  We are all painfully aware that technology sometimes doesn’t perform as it should, or unpredicted results occur, despite our best planning and knowledge.  Having been in the tech industry my entire adult life with skills well-shaped over time by successes and risks, screw ups and shortfalls – I’d like to share with you a few valuable lessons I’ve learned since my early days in technology.
  1. Communication – As a young man in the silicon era of America, the memory of my first PC ranks up there, alongside my first car. On a cool, college morning in West Texas, I asked a buddy of mine who built computers what it would cost to purchase an XT system. He rattled off a litany of computer terms and I, as a lowly business major, could only focus on timing my nods after pauses that sounded like the sentence was done. Absolutely nothing he said made sense but the number at the end sounded agreeable.  So, we shook hands and soon the glorious day of my new personal computer arrived.  I accepted the challenge of assembling it myself (no instructions on the Internet back then) and when I powered up my new beast nothing really happened like I expected.  When I work on cars, there are always parts leftover but alas here, I used them all! In the end, I finally broke down and called my friend and admitted I screwed something up and needed his help. I explained what I did and he finally asked “what operating system did you install?” I replied, “Well, what did you sell me?” He didn’t include an operating system and I didn’t know to ask.
Lesson Learned - Ask good questions up front (including what’s included). From my friend and his profuse techspeak, I also learned how important it is to break things down into language everybody understands. I enjoy tremendously when non-IT people ask me technical questions because it feels great to help them understand what I love - technology.  
  1. Not Knowing It All Is Ok – After college, I still didn’t know what I wanted to do with a business degree and a love of computers. I found a fun opportunity in the early days of the PC, working with a young computer retail store that had recently changed its name to CompUSA. While working the retail floor one day, a customer approached me for help with an Uninterruptible Power Supply (UPS). At the time, the only UPS I knew delivered packages but I hoped “helping him” might mean carrying the big box to the car. He stumped me when he asked, “how do I know what size UPS to get?”  Hesitating, I responded, “I really don’t know but could try to help…”  He smiled at me kindly and asked if I’d like to know – then proceeded with a 15-minute discourse on volt amp ratings and run times that made my head hurt.  Painful then; helpful now.
Lesson learned - It’s OK to say you don’t know something. I have become empowered by the fact that no one can know everything about everything. To me, great technologists aren’t just folks who have a lot of knowledge – or all the answers.  To me, great IT people know what they know – and what they don’t know.  One reason they are great is because how they deal with situations that challenge others. Think of technologists you admire. I’d be willing to bet they have a very structured, disciplined approach to solving problems.  And that goes a long way toward making it seem like they know a lot.  
  1. Surround Yourself With Good People – By the mid-1990s, I was selling IT solutions to businesses.  One of my clients asked me to come by and discuss some software they wanted to purchase. Software is a pretty straightforward discussion, but that day, I just happened to grab an engineer to go on the call with me.  We met at their site, they quickly explained the software they needed and then asked if we could help with another need.  We were escorted to the doorway of a 10x20 room lit up by a ton of blinky lights. They said their Kalpana switches were getting old and were thinking of replacing them, then waved my engineer and me into the space. I looked for a minute and realized I had no idea which blinky lights were switches so all I could do was turn to my engineer and ask him “what do you think”.
Lesson Learned- If you are not the expert, find the expert to help out. Adam Smith’s macro-economic theory from business school comes to mind, which explains that with job specialization, both parties can benefit more. Having an engineer with me definitely helped me in the blinky switches scenario and functioned as a prototype of sorts for our current outsourcing services.  Now, not only have we refined our IT outsourcing services, but have tended to outsource some of our internal needs as a business as well, to stay focused on our core skills.  
  1. Preparation is Key - Still in the 90s, I was working with a Municipality that wanted to consolidate their Netware 2.x, 3.x and 4.x servers into a single environment based on the newest version. During a meeting with the admin-oriented CIO, he started asking me questions about design.  So, as a salesperson, I suggested we provide some light training. Our best engineers loved Novell but weren’t presenters, so I read the Design and Implementation Guide over a couple of days and put together a presentation that the CIO really responded to, feeling it would improve our project success.
Lesson Learned- Preparation always increases success and quality. The prep work behind that presentation content really boosted our project management success. I’ve come across many IT people who claim to be self-made and hands-on, no certifications needed.  While certification doesn’t always equal “expert”, I have learned, likewise, that no certification doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll do a great job. We push our guys for hands-on skills and also encourage certification as part of preparation.  
  1. Pay attention to the details - My consulting path has taken me from operations management, to technical sales, to technical project management.  Earlier on, I remember working on a client’s server doing maintenance and had to reboot one of the servers in their server room. I switched the monitor to the server I needed to reboot and exited the room. Ten steps away to the front desk, I asked the contact if I could reboot a specific server. She responded to only reboot that server, as they were in the middle of transferring some data on another server. Unbeknownst to me, the person doing the transfer walked into the server room and switched the monitor and keyboard over to his server. So, when I walked back and kicked off the reboot…well, you know what happened.
Lesson Learned - Verify details along the way. Projects change, needs evolve.  The more parties involved, the more “unknowns.”  It is our normal procedure to document and create snapshots in time of client sites.  We have monitoring that grabs details.  But a great engineer still verifies the details along the way.  Automation can really help with repetitive tasks but great IT still needs a person driving the activity, with quality in mind. In the end, whether you’re in IT or depending on your IT, mistakes are going to get made, and they might hurt. IT people, end users, vendors, manufacturers, CIOs - no one’s perfect. But when mistakes are made, we have to be able to count on the people we depend on to be open to learning lessons.
Spotlight On...Laura James  Marketing Coordinator, Laura James, has been contributing creative flair – writing, editing, graphics - event coordination and various other marketing services on a part time basis for the Fulcrum Group for over a year now. With a history of working with both Fulcrum President, Steve Meek, and VP, David Johnson (back in the ‘nineties, when a little less grey peppered the hair of our fine founders), Laura brings a longtime familiarity with some of the “voices” behind The Fulcrum Group, helping to ensure the Fulcrum message is consistent and genuine. Wife of husband Ronnie since 1996, mom to two boys (7 and 15) and two big dogs adopted over the past two years from local animal shelters, the other ‘part’ of ‘part time’ seems to burn through pretty quickly; in what’s leftover, Laura enjoys running, cooking, reading up on health and nutrition; and for the past 6 years and still going strong, strength training a few times a week with the same group of great girlfriends.
Did You Know...? SPOT Managed Web SiteInformation request from The Fulcrum Group, Dallas Fort Worth Managed Services  Did you know The Fulcrum Group provides a total website development and maintenance package? Contact your Fulcrum Group Account Manager to find out more about our SPOT Managed Website services, which includes web site development, Search Engine Optimization (SEO), content and writing, graphics & web design, social media marketing, email newsletter, local listings, and analytics & reporting. Visit the SPOT Managed Website page on our website for more details or contact us directly by clicking on the red More Info button.