PepperMill July 2014

You Tubin’: Not for Tacophobics*

As a recreational cyclist who dabbles in racing once in a while, this month's YouTube selection puts me on edge. Point-of-View (POV) video recording has now evolved to include professional cycling and it's mind-boggling to see how these athletes can be charging towards the finish line at 40mph and still have the agility to take a hand off the bars to push an encroaching competitor away.

This glimpse into sprinting craziness was recorded a few weeks ago at the finish of the fifth stage of the Tour de Suisse. Not for the squeamish!

I just returned from riding RAGBRAI, a seven-day, 460-mile trip across the state of Iowa with 20,000 friendly strangers on bikes. The vast majority of those miles were on peaceful, spacious country highways, but there were certainly times on hills where riders bunched into similarly sized groups as the one in the video. The difference between this video and what we experienced was about 20mph slower and several more pink tutus.

Got some YouTube videos of your own you’d like to share? Just send them my way!

Todd Underwood

*Tacophobia: Fear of speed (not tacos)

Tim Likes Jeff

It’s July already? Was there a spring? Sorry, I just had to get it out.

Jeff Blackman’s newsletter, The Results Report, is probably my favorite newsletter and one of the few that I read end-to-end. He nails it nearly every time—Jeff is a speaker, author, business-growth specialist, success coach, broadcaster and lawyer—we can’t expect him to be perfect too!

In his newsletter he usually answers questions from readers. I really liked one from June:

"Jeff, thanks for the powerful program for our sales and service teams. Left with strategies I literally used the next day. Yet it got me thinking, how much easier life would be if we could also "train" our customers. If you designed our "customer training" course, what would it look like?"

It’s interesting when you contemplate just how much training going on for salespeople and managers, and virtually no training for customers (B2B or B2C). We’re not talking about how to be a purchasing agent, but a cooperative and engaged customer who is excited about results.

Wouldn’t that make our lives easier? It’s probably not going to happen overnight, but sometimes you can be a positive influence in some “on the job training” by being a great supplier.

So, if a customer went to a workshop to become a better customer, what would they learn? Now, if you’re a salesperson (me), marketer (me) or purchasing agent (not so much), you’re also often on the customer side, too, certainly in your personal life.

And, being the organized, yet highly creative Jeff, he went on to answer in a list. 

Great Customers and Clients:

  1. Honor their commitments
  2. Clearly define goals and expectations
  3. Quickly identify the real decision-maker 
  4. Pay their bills on time
  5. Don't allow you to fall prey to their internal politics
  6. Focus on value and outcomes, not price and discounts
  7. Seek long-term relationships
  8. Desire advisors not vendors
  9. Enthusiastically provide referrals
  10. Consider you a contribution, not an intrusion to their success
  11. Tell you the truth and never attempt to deceive you
  12. Provide honest feedback
  13. Respect your time
  14. Don't make you jump through hoops, unless it serves a purpose
  15. Respect candor
  16. Return phone calls and reply to e-mails
  17. Value your expertise and opinion
  18. Don't string you along with false promises or expectations

Well done, Jeff! I submit that we can all become better customers.

Tim Padgett

A man is getting along on the road to wisdom when he begins to realize that his opinion is just an opinion.” 
—Author Unknown
Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves.”
—Carl Jung

20th Anniversary Update

This month, we celebrated our long history of volunteering and our 2nd year as a Chicago Best and Brightest.

Client Spotlight: Creative Dining Services Website

Dining hall and cafeteria food has come a long way in recent years. In a place where you once might have found unidentifiable meat served by stern-looking ladies in hairnets, you’re now likely to find choices like quinoa and organic beef, served by smiling faces (still wearing hairnets, of course). Creative Dining Services is pioneering this improved hospitality experience at colleges and universities, businesses, conference centers, senior living communities, schools and camps.

Always striving to provide clients and customers with solutions beyond food on a table, Creative Dining was aware that its web presence could serve them better. It was hard to find specific information between the company’s three very different, somewhat dated sites—a corporate site, a nutrition site and a site on sustainability initiatives—all of which could have benefitted from a closer connection to the Creative Dining brand.

After thorough discovery, Pepper Group presented a plan to bring all three sites together to create one, cohesive user experience. We delivered design, copy, imagery, SEO and development to make it happen. The new site includes streamlined sections where visitors can get instant access to nutrition data for over 1,000 Creative Dining menu items and learn about nutrition, sourcing and sustainability via engaging, interactive photo elements and embedded videos. PG created the site in Drupal using responsive design, meaning that Creative Dining can easily make updates themselves using the CMS, and customers can get information wherever they are; the responsive format serves the site up seamlessly on cell phones and tablets.

The new site accurately reflects Creative Dining’s personal, flexible, gourmet, creative approach to hospitality management and offers the functionality that its customers craved. Now, there’s only one problem: will make you hungry. Take a look, but not just before lunch!

“It’s been great working with you guys! You listen well, and come up with the right solutions for what is needed.” 
–Amy Lunn, Director of Marketing
“The website looks great! Thank you SO much for all your effort and guidance with the project.”
– Jen Hinkle, Director of Wellness & Sustainability
A Big Change in Email Rules

If you have any Canadian email recipients on your list, you need to be aware of Canada’s new Anti-Spam Law (CASL), which went into effect as of July 1, 2014.

In a nutshell, CASL is much stricter than the U.S. law, CAN-SPAM. It applies to any form of “commercial electronic messaging” (email, social media, text messages) that is sent from or accessed by a computer system in Canada. Here are three big things you need to know now:

  1. Under the new law, you must obtain complete, express consent from recipients in Canada prior to sending any commercial electronic message (CEM). For any address you add to your marketing email list from this day forward, if the recipient could be accessing your message in Canada, you must be able to prove that consent.
  2. If you have Canadian contacts on your list already, you have three years (until July 1, 2017) to make sure you’ve obtained express consent to send them CEMs—but don’t wait. You should contact those people now to be sure they’ve officially opted-in to receive communications from you.
  3. You must continue to have a valid unsubscribe option on all of your CEMs, but you know those popular pre-checked opt-in boxes? They’re illegal in Canada now. To be compliant, your recipients have to click that box themselves.

Most major email service providers are on top of CASL and have good resources on their sites. Here’s a good basic overview of the new regulations from our partners at Act-On, and here is a handy checklist from Constant Contact to help you make sure you’ve covered the basics. If you’re really in the mood for some detailed reading, here is where you can access the full text of the law.

Do you need help preparing for CASL? If so, let’s talk.

Jessie Atchison

Double Take: Is the Handwriting on the Wall for Handwriting?

Handwriting is dying. As technology plays a larger part in our lives, schools are emphasizing “keyboarding,” and many have stopped teaching legible writing beyond first grade, since that’s all Common Core standards require. After that, kids morph into typists.

Since we often communicate digitally, there’s little need to reach for a pen or pencil any more. If you want to make a note to yourself, mark your calendar or make a payment, you can do all that and more on a touchscreen or keyboard.

But should we sacrifice a basic, prehistoric skill for speed and convenience? Is chicken scratch better than no handwriting at all? Will pens and pencils go the way of fountain pens and ink?

Read what Joe and Sharla think about the value of handwriting … in a typed blog post, of course …