How To: Prepare For A Pitch Over The Phone

dsc_0124I advise companies about how to optimize social media for brand exposure, adoption and support.  Because of this I am constantly talking to potential clients on the phone, discussing their goals and desires for an effective online campaign.  If you are in the business of consulting or are thinking about moving in that direction I’ve put together a short list of tips and tricks for preparing for that phone call, because as I’ve learned the hard way, if you aren’t prepared you’re not going to get the job. With the economy in the condition it is, every call is critical.

  1. Know the client.  There is nothing worse than being asked a question about the company that you are pitching and not knowing what they are talking about.  I’m not talking about obscure facts, this is about their core competencies.  Make sure you have done your research, have at least a general familiarity with the key leaders, products, services and areas of operation.

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Backup Your Data Free With Mozy

Note: I originally published this in November 2008 but have had several people ask me about backup plans since then, so it’s worth a reprint.

Have you ever had a computer crash? Hard drive failure, BSOD, an unfortunate meeting of Diet Coke and your hardware? I have. It’s painful. Trying to restore data feels like something that the U.N. should condemn as universally cruel and unusual. System failure and data recovery is such a horrible thing to go through, it used to be a nice source of revenue for my former tech company…people would hire us and pay a lot of money to see if we could recover their financials, their emails, their files and their pictures. If you have ever gone though this, you know what I’m talking about.

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Keep Your Data Safe With Mozy

Have you ever had a computer crash?  Hard drive failure, BSOD, an unfortunate meeting of Diet Coke and your hardware?  I have.  It’s painful.  Trying to restore data feels like something that the U.N. should condemn as universally cruel and unusual.  System failure and data recovery is such a horrible thing to go through, it used to be a nice source of revenue for my former tech company…people would hire us and pay a lot of money to see if we could recover their financials, their emails, their files and their pictures.  If you have ever gone though this, you know what I’m talking about.

I recently started using a company that I wish existed back when I was spending entirely too much time with data recovery.  Mozy is an online service that allows users to backup data from their computer to an online storage container.  Best of all? Its basic service is FREE.  The setup is amazingly simple; just sign up with your email address (no credit card required…nice!), download the app for your PC or Mac, and start your backup.  It’s secure as heck (128-bit encryption for transfer, 448-bit Blowfish key for encryption on their server) and very easy to use.  Some of the features of Moxy Home that are so appealing:

  • Backs up Outlook automatically.  I love this, I cannot lose my email or contacts. This is a non-negotiable and is critical to me.
  • 2GB of space!  If you take all of your downloaded music out of the picture, 2GB is enough for most users to back up most of their critical files. Of course if you want to back up music as well, you can purchase an account with more space than you’ll ever use for just $4.95/month. That’s not bad.
  • Click and go.  The interface is so easy, the first time you run it Mozy will suggest folders that it thinks you should back up.  I was thinking that I would need to go through all of my folders and choose, but it took a potential hour long process and turned it into a 30 second decision.  I appreciate that!
  • Automatic backups.  Although I won’t use this too much on my laptop because it’s off and on constantly, I will for my home computer.  
  • Incremental backups.  This means that after the initial full backup it will only backup files that have been changed since you last ran it.  This makes backup time almost not even noticeable.  This is very important to me.
  • Options. A lot of options.  If you want to just let Mozy set everything up for you, it’s not a problem.  It’s ready to go out of the box, and everything works well.  If you are like me, you want to pop the hood and tinker a little bit.  The options control panel let’s me satisfy my inner geek by giving me enough choices to make me smile.
  • If you are on Twitter like I am, you can follow the official company account here. I love it when companies are on Twitter.
I think the Mozy Home service will work for most people, but if you are a power user or company, they offer two other tiers of service with things like SQL and Exchange backup, unlimited storage space and sub-administration/department controls.  
I’m a believer.  I’ve lost data too many times (usually at the absolute worst time possible like the morning of a presentation) to not do regular backups.  I admit that I’ve been lazy recently, and I have a 1TB backup in my office that I haven’t even automated, so it’s essentially doing nothing for me.  With Mozy I can rest a little easier knowing that my data is safe.  If you don’t already have a backup plan in place, do yourself a favor…go sign up for an account (the basic service is free, remember) and run a backup right away.  You’ll thank me later.

Boost Email Productivity with Xobni

I was turned on to Xobni at the Blogworld Expo in Vegas a few weeks back.  I’ve been using it on my laptop and primary desktop computers, and I think that I really am a little more productive with it. That, and I am a freakshow when it comes to data and graphs and Xobni has plenty of both!

This Windows-only Outlook plugin is a free download and installs quickly and easily, no headaches when I went through it. Sorry Entourage users and others, I see that other platforms are in dev right now so hang tight. So what does it do? Read on.

As a window that sits to the right of my Outlook inbox it is…if nothing else…a nice visual break from the business look of Outlook.  It is more than just another pretty face though, it adds quite a bit of useful utility to my work day.  The first thing I noticed was its incredible tie in to LinkedIn.  When I get an email from somebody that used LinkedIn it previews the email with their public profile picture and allows me to link over to their information easily.  I’ve added a few people to my LinkedIn network this way.

It actually summarizes quite a bit of information about a particular person.  When I click on an email in my inbox it shows me that person’s “network” and allows me to click through to each person.  This has been useful a few times as I’ve needed to dig a bit deeper with somebody and was able to look at their associations.

Another beautiful feature, the one I use the most, is a preview of my conversations with a person (recent emails) and my ability to click thru to them and have a preview show up in the Xobni box.  Very handy.  Although it’s easy enough to search through my inbox and folders, this is even easier.  I love this part of it.  But wait…I’m a data geek right?  Where is the firehose of data?  Xobni installs its own submenu in the main menu, a quick click and selection of “Xobni Analytics” brings me to a place of statistics nirvana.

There are a raft of useful headings here, including “Time To Respond”, “Unique Contacts” and “Follow Up Delay”.  A click on “Mail Traffic” shows me a chart of sent and received emails and time of day.  A historical chart of this is quite helpful to me in terms of how I spend my time.  Also, it helps me to get into a new habit I’m trying to develop: not always having my Outlook opened.  I’m trying to check in every hour or so, but not be a slave to the constant preview pane of new messages.  So far this has been working well for me.

I’ve only scatched the surface of uses for Xobni, you ought to download it and try it yourself.  Of course you would be interested to know that the Xobni crew is on Twitter, they just don’t update too much. Drop me a note if you find Xobni to be useful, I would like to hear about other experiences.  I think a lot of people will like this.  Heck, the Wall Street Journal even does!

Animoto: The End of Boring Slideshows

A couple of weeks ago I was hanging out with my friend in his studio and we were talking about his upcoming album release. As the conversation turned naturally to social media (naturally), he showed me a site I hadn’t seen before but have seen several times since…Animoto.

Animoto looks to be a way to end the drab slide shows that people put together to share with family, friends, fans. In a handful of minutes he dragged a folder of pictures to the creation page, added his music and Animoto did the rest. It picked fades and transitions based upon the music, and I have to say it did a great job. Do you make slide shows? Stop it now. Just stop, please. Go to Animoto, sign up for an account and start creating.

Once you have created your file (and seriously, how much easier can they make it for you?) there are a number of ways to share it. Click on the push pin icon at the bottom of the screen and you will be able to automatically post it to any number of services.  You also have the option to grab the embed code, like I did here.

The Animoto crew is rocking, they recently did a bunch of videos for TechCrunch 50.  You shold spend some time considering how using this service can help you promote your own product or service…get creative!

Before you sign up, listen to Theft’s song clip below.  It’s going to be huge, and you can say that you heard it first.

Spinvox and Ping.FM…Now We’re Talking!

Sorry, I couldn’t help the “talking” pun in the title.  Forgive me.  But it is quite appropriate for this announcement.

I’ve been a fan of Spinvox since I signed up in January 2007.  Since that point I have consistently said, blogged or texted that it is *the best* business tool that I have in my cache.  I still stand by that, having my voicemails turned into text and then emailed and SMSd to me is hands down the most productive thing I have. Don’t take my word for it, Chris Brogan and Guy Kawasaki are both fans as well!

Now Spinvox and the one-stop-status-update service have announced a partnership that rocks.  You can sign up for an account here, and then get to updating.  Here is how it work: you call the phone number assigned to you after your initial sign up, speak your update then hang up.  Through the magic of the internets, all of the social networks that you have assigned to will be updated (Twitter, Facebook, WordPress, LiveJournal, Jaiku, etc).  That’s it.  One phone call, everything is up to speed.

I’ve done this a few times, and it works great.  I would like to get the link to the original voice message off of my status updates though, it would save some space.  We’ll see.

Did I mention that you don’t even need a SpinVox account to do this?  It’s true.  Just sign up for the service via and you are set.  Of course, being the thinking person I know you are,you should also sign up for SpinVox because it truly will make your life a lot easier.

Go give this a try, I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.