Year in Review: Top 3 Posts - 1st Place

Monday, December 31, 2012


Happy New Year! We've been looking at our top three most popular posts from 2012, and we're at number 1! And the winner is...Measurement Mondays and measuring online marketing. Previously we reshared our third place winner, 10 in 10: Google Chrome, and our second place post, 10 in 10: Google Calendar. Enjoy the end of 2012!

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A few weeks ago, I shared some basic tips on how to measure your online marketing efforts. Today we’re taking a deeper look at how to measure the effectiveness of your website. Think of your website as your “Open For Business” sign on the web - but unlike your business, your website is open 24/7. So it’s important for you to measure how well your site is achieving your business goals. By using free tools like Google Analytics, you can see how visitors are finding and interacting with your site, which can help you improve your customer experience and potentially drive more sales.


Here are five things that every business should consider:
  • Identify your goals and track them correctly: Think about the ultimate business objectives of your website and identify specific visitor actions that indicate success, like finishing a sale, signing up for a newsletter, or viewing an important page. Then set up goal tracking to see how visitors are reaching those goals. You can also assign a dollar value to each goal to see how it’s impacting your bottom line, or set up ecommerce tracking to integrate online sales data.
  • Become a conversion detective: Businesses spend a lot of effort getting people to visit their site, so if your visitors aren’t converting or achieving your goals, it’s important to figure out why. There could be a variety of factors, like too many required steps to request a quote, call-to-action icons that are too small, or poor placement of your email list sign-up button. See what conversion metrics need a boost, and experiment with your site’s content and layout to see what works best.
  • Get to the bottom of your bounce rates: Bounce rates represent the people who are visiting one page on your website and then leaving immediately afterwards. This could signal that they’re not finding what they need right away. Think about what information your customers might be seeking, like contact information or links to promotions, and make sure it’s front and center on your site. Bounce rates can also show you how effective your marketing campaigns are. For instance, if you’re running an email marketing campaign but find that they’re resulting in visits with high bounce rates, you could be wasting time and money.
  • Discover important audience locations: The Internet can introduce even a small town business to potential customers around the world, so you might be surprised at what audiences are most interested in your products or services. Take a look at the countries, regions and provinces where your website visitors are coming from - it just might inspire you to run an ad campaign targeted to reach shoppers in France, or start a special promotion for your fans in Canada.
  • Make the most of mobile traffic: More and more consumers are browsing the web on the go with their smartphones, so spend some time discovering how many of your site’s visitors are coming from a mobile phone. Are they viewing multiple pages, staying for a long time, or bouncing away quickly? A local restaurant might want to know whether mobile visitors are quickly finding information like hours of operation, menus and address - because if they’re not, they could be going elsewhere. If you need help making your website mobile, you can find a ton of resources at www.howtogomo.com to help you get started.
There are a lot of things that you can learn when diving into your website analytics, and I know that sometimes it can feel like an overwhelming amount of data. The important thing about measurement is to just get started and keep experimenting. You’ll begin to see what works for your unique site and business, and may even find unexpected areas for growth. Happy measuring!

13 business tips to countdown to 2013, Part II

Friday, December 28, 2012


With 2013 around the corner, we’ve collected the top 13 tips for you to get your business ready for the new year. We've been posting one tip each day on the Google+ Your Business page, and previously we shared our first five tips here. Check out our next five tips, and keep an eye out for our last three as we countdown to 2013!

Tip 6: Use Google Sheets
Use Google Sheets for all your business’s spreadsheet needs, such as keeping lists, tracking projects, and analyzing data and results. Collaborate with co-workers by sharing editing rights, commenting on files, and chatting with other viewers in real-time. Learn more

Tip 7: Create duplicate Google+ Events
Does your business Google+ Events to host regular events? Now you can easily turn your last sale, customer meet-up, or Hangout on Air into a monthly or quarterly affair by duplicating the event. Open up your last event and select Actions > Duplicate event. Google+ will pull in all the important details, so you don’t have to start from scratch.

Tip 8: Try a Hangout on Air
Is your business looking to reach more customers with engaging video content? With Hangouts on Air, you can record your live hangout, so the video is available to share with everyone. Does your business have a new product to unveil? Invite your circles or a few select customers to join you in your Hangout on Air, and then broadcast it! A live player of your hangout will be posted on your Google+ page and on your YouTube channel. Once the hangout is over, your video is available publicly on your +page, and you can make edits to it if you like. Learn more

Tip 9: Add fun fonts to docs
Use Google Docs to create rich documents in your business’s style. Customize your files by changing and adding fonts. The default font is Arial when you create a Google Doc. To change the font, click on the drop-down menu. You can even add fonts to your font list. At the bottom of the font list, click “Add fonts” to search for web fonts for use in your business’s documents. Learn more

Tip 10: Start a Google+ Community 
With Communities, the newest feature in Google+, you and your business can connect with customers and followers in new ways. Search for communities that represent your interests, and see what’s trending in that space. Have a cupcake shop? Join a foodie community and see what’s popular among dessert lovers on Google+. Have a particular interest that you’d like to share? Start your own community!

Here are some of the features of Google+ Communities:
  • Public or private membership to support all kinds of groups—from topics and interests to local neighborhoods to regular poker nights
  • Discussion categories to find the conversations you care about most
  • The option to start hangouts and plan events with community members
  • The ability to share with your community from any +1 button across the web

13 business tips to countdown to 2013, Part I

Wednesday, December 26, 2012


With 2013 around the corner, we’ve collected the top 13 tips for you to get your business ready for the new year. We've been posting one tip each day on the Google+ Your Business page, and we've collected the first five tips here. Start getting your business ready for 2013 now, and stay tuned for the next set of tips!

Tip 1: Create new holiday promotion ads in AdWords
It's the busy holiday season and we want your customers to find you online! Often, businesses that advertise with Google make edits to their ad text to promote a holiday sale or deal to bring customers to their website. While we recommend advertising these promotions, here's a little tip we want to highlight:

Don't jump straight into your ad that you have running and click to edit that ad. Saving changes to an existing ad causes the ad to go under review which, depending on the number of ads that you have in your account, can cause an interruption in your ad delivery. Instead, we recommend creating a new ad with the holiday promotion in addition to the generic ad that you already have. Once the new ad gets reviewed, you can pause your generic ad and let the holiday one run -- delay avoided!

Tip 2: Use referrals data in Analytics
If your business has a website, do you know how your customers are finding it? You can use referrals information in Google Analytics to see how people got to your website.

Analytics shows traffic coming from around the web, so not just other websites but from social media as well. Is a lot of your traffic coming from one social media channel? Maybe you want to spend more time posting there. You can also see how many new visits came from a certain source, if you want to target customers by using different content depending on the channel.

To find data on referrals, just sign in to Google Analytics then click Traffic Sources > Sources > Referrals. Don’t have Google Analytics set up yet? Learn how to get started at http://www.google.com/analytics/

Tip 3: Track packages in Google Search

Does your business receive lots of packages? Don’t worry about wasting time going to multiple websites to track them. You can find out where FedEx, UPS and USPS packages that you've ordered are by typing the tracking number into Google. Simply enter the tracking number into the Google Search box and when you click enter, you'll see updated shipping information for your packages.

Tip 4: Get you daily agenda in your email
You may not have a personal assistant, but you can still have your agenda delivered straight to your email with Google Calendar. To receive the daily notification, go to Calendar and select “My calendars.” Click on the dropdown button next to the calendar you want to receive an agenda for, and then select “Reminders and notifications. Check the email box next to “Daily agenda” then “Save” and you’ll start to receive a overview of your day to your Gmail address every morning! Learn more

Tip 5: Import slides into Google Presentations
Just because your business has old Power Point slides that you need doesn’t mean that you can’t use Google Presentations. All you have to do is import the file and you can transfer whichever slides you want into the presentation. When you have a Google Presentation open, go to Insert > Import slides... > Upload to add files from your computer. Or, instead of Upload select Presentations to copy slides from an existing Google Presentation. Learn more

Year in Review: Top 3 Posts - 2nd Place

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Our year in review continues, where we're looking at our top three most popular posts from 2012. Last week we reshared our third place winner, 10 in 10: Google Chrome. Coming in second is another piece from our 10 in 10 series, this time our tips for using Google Calendar.

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The daylight hours are getting shorter, but the work day is as busy as ever. If you use Google Calendar to schedule your business’s days, weeks, and months, check out our tips for organizing and using your calendar more efficiently.
  1. The Google Calendar Android app lets you manage all your calendars in one place--including those from your Google accounts and other synced calendars--right from your mobile device.
  2. Use keyboard shortcuts to make and manage your events quickly. For example, when you’re on your calendar, try typing c to create a new event, d to display your calendar in day view, or n to see the next date range.
  3. Collaborating on events with co-workers using Google Calendar? Pass on the torch and transfer ownership of the event to the new coordinator. When you're editing event details, visit the "More Actions" dropdown then click “Change owner.” You'll have the option to send them a note letting them know this change is effective now.
  4. Unclutter your calendar by auto-hiding events once you've declined them, letting you to focus on the more important parts of your day/week/month. Just click the gear icon at the top of any Google Calendar page, go to Calendar settings, and then the General tab. Select "No" in the “Show events you have declined” section and then save.
  5. Tired of the white grid look on your calendar? Add a photo to personalize your background.
  6. Planning on meeting with people in another time zone? Enable the world clock in Calendar Labs to find a convenient time. Out of town and not by your computer? You can automatically decline events during times when you’re busy. Check out other Labs features you can try.
  7. Create a to-do list that will appear right next to your calendar. You can even assign calendar dates to tasks, and then sort by the due date.
  8. Want to share special events happening at your business with your customers? Create a separate calendar and then embed it on your website.
  9. Customize your notification settings for events. You can choose to get reminders between 5 minutes and 4 weeks before your event, and pick whether you want the reminder delivered as a pop-up notification, email, or text message. You can also add multiple reminders for an event.
  10. Organize your calendar by color-coding different events or calendars and make it easier to get an overview of your schedule with a quick glance.
Find even more tips on ways to use Google Calendar by checking out the help center!

The Perfect Gift for that Business Owner on Your List

Wednesday, December 19, 2012
Here in the US, 58% of small businesses do not have a website. These business owners could be your uncle, your cousin or your best friend. This holiday season, a website may just be the perfect gift for that small business owner on your list.



As part of our Get Your Business Online program, small businesses in the US can get an easy-to-build Intuit website, a custom domain name and web hosting. All free for a year. Why not invite that business you know to get online? To get started and send the gift of a free website, go to www.gybo.com/gift where you can find that business and send them a personalized invitation. It’s fast, easy and free.

With 97% of internet users looking online for local products and services, it is not a surprise that businesses with an online presence are expected to grow 40% faster. (BCG Report, “The Connected World: The $4.2 Trillion Opportunity,” March 2012) We all want to see our favorite small businesses succeed and getting them online may just be one of the easiest ways to help them grow.

Happy Holidays!

The Business December 19th 2012, The "Life Is Excellent" Edition

Tuesday, December 18, 2012
 

We will, we will rock you. Rock you.

Well, more specifically, we are more than happy to welcome Bobby Joe Ebola and the Children MacNuggets to rock you!!

Bobby Joe Ebola and The Children MacNuggits began in 1995, in a trash-strewn fast-food parking lot in Pinole, CA. Guitarist Dan Abbott and singer Corbett Redford rose from humble circumstances as a satiric folk rock band that played for friends to their current majestic heights with hilarious and sometimes frightening acoustic performances. The MacNuggits have gathered loyal legions of fans with their infamous combination of searing social satire, soaring harmonies, outlandish and shocking truths, and poop jokes. The songs draw upon a variety of pop culture, of global crises, of interpersonal labyrinths, of nightmares and daydreams, skewering them on a rusty spit for the world to see. With a nod to social satirists like Lenny Bruce and George Carlin, and musical influences ranging from Slick Rick to They Might Be Giants, Bobby Joe Ebola is the vaudeville routine for your personal apocalypse.

Bobby Joe Ebola will be CELEBRATING the release of their brand new new CD/LP, TRAINWRECK TO NARNIA on Rooftop Comedy Productions & Dirt Cult Records! Come pick up a copy!
 
We are also pleased to have Kevin Hawkins joining us. The internet says: “Kevin Hawkins has worked as a teacher, principal, school head, and social worker in the UK, Africa, and Europe. He brings to education a holistic understanding of children and young people from his lifelong work with adolescents, and he strives to support the development of young minds through enhancing students’ self-awareness and emotional intelligence. “ but I’m pretty sure that’s a different Kevin Hawkins, and our guest this week is just a cool funny dude up from LA.

Your regulars will be there “Alex Reflux” Koll, Bucky “SARSnister”, Caitlin “Rhinovirus” Gill, Sean “Croup” Keane, and Mike “Diphtheria” Drucker.

The show is just $5! If you want to bring a friend, bring em for free!!  Print out you your 2-for-1 coupon from above!!!

BYOBurritonuggets.

Leekes attracts new customers into its home department store with Google Business Photos

Leekes is an independent, family-owned business that has been around for 115 years. They operate 5 home department stores throughout the UK, offering quality home furnishings. They recently expanded into Coventry, UK, and wanted to build brand and location awareness. Leekes decided to use Google Business Photos to attract new customers by allowing them to virtually tour their new location.



Google Business Photos stitches together HDR panoramic images into a Google Maps Street View-style virtual tour. The 360°-degree panoramic tour offered by Google Business Photos has allowed customers to visit Leekes from the comfort of their own home, tablet or smartphone.

A high-quality, smooth interactive tour of Leekes’ interior can easily be found on Google Search, Google Maps and Leekes’ Google+ Local page. Once inside the virtual tour, users can “walk around” and explore the store and its many departments.

Geraint Martin, head of e-commerce at Leekes states, “We need to quickly give people an understanding of what the Leekes brand is about...and there is no better way to do that than through imagery.”



You can read the Leekes Google Business Photos case study in its entirety here.

If you are a business owner and would like to create and publish a virtual tour of your business, learn more at http://maps.google.com/help/maps/businessphotos

AdWords Express holiday offer extended for a limited time

Monday, December 17, 2012
(Cross posted from the Inside AdWords blog)

Still scrambling to stay ahead of the holidays? We want to help you make the most of the last 2 weeks of the year, so we’re extending our offer to double your AdWords Express investment. Just start using AdWords Express to attract new customers to your U.S. business, and you'll get a free advertising credit in January worth what you spend on AdWords Express ads between now and December 31, 2012.*


Reaching potential customers online is a snap with AdWords Express. Just select your business category, write an ad, and set your budget. Where and when your ad appears is managed automatically, and you only pay when potential customers click on your ad for more information. And in mid-January, you’ll receive a free advertising credit for that amount you spent on AdWords Express ads in December.*

Get started today at http://www.google.com/adwords/express/.


*Terms and conditions

HOAliday Series: How to Create Stand-Out Ads During the Competitive Holiday Season

Friday, December 14, 2012


AdWords Specialists Divya Vishwanath, Alec Fox, and Lauren Maten hosted a Hangout on Air yesterday as the second installment of the three-part HOAliday series.

To help you in this busy and crucial time of year, we shared tips on...
  • Ad copy optimization (don’t forget to share your holiday promotion!)
  • Various ad extensions to make your ads stand out
  • How to set up an experiment to see exactly what changes are making the account successful
You can watch the full 25-minute Hangout on Air below, or the Google Business YouTube channel.


To learn more about how to get started with AdWords, visit our Help Center, check out the AdWords Community forum, or call us at 866-2-GOOGLE if you already have an AdWords account.

And remember to tune in to the live stream of our next Hangout on Air at 11 a.m. PDT, December 20th, when we discuss how to keep the holiday momentum going in the new year.

HOA HOA HOA and to all a good day/night!

12 Google+ Events Tips for 12/12/12

Wednesday, December 12, 2012
Today, on 12/12/12--the last time this century that the day, month, and year are all the same--we’re bringing you and your business 12 tips on using Google+ Events. From the employee holiday party to your business’s New Year’s sale, check out ways that you can use Events not just to be a party pro, but also to engage your guests before, during, and after your event!
  1. Use Google+ to create an event that takes place either offline (such as an event in your store) or online (like a virtual meet and greet with your ownership team).
  2. Invite anyone you like. Guests who don’t use Google+ will be able to view and respond to the invitation. Guests who do use Google+ will be able to comment, invite others, and add photos, unless you disable these features.
  3. Choose a theme to add flare to your event and represent your business’s personality. Hosting your yearly company party? Having a holiday sale? Choose the theme that best fits your event.
  4. Manage your guest list by adding or removing invitees at any time. You can change guests’ rights, such as whether they can comment, add photos, or invite more people to your event by using the Actions menu.
  5. Add photos and videos to your event to share a collection of media with your guests before and after an event. By default, all guests can contribute to an event’s photo collection. For public events, anyone can contribute photos.
  6. Enable Party Mode so that Android mobile users can automatically upload their photos to the event page while the event is in progress.
  7. Add a hangout to your event so you can video chat with customers or co-workers before or during the event.
  8. Use Events on mobile for your Android phone to create and moderate your events, share photos and comments, and get directions to events, all while you’re on the go.
  9. Make your event public to increase visibility and allow more potential customers to find it and interact with the event’s page. For public events, anyone can say they’re going, add comments and photos, and invite others, unless these settings are disabled.
  10. Host an Event on air so that anyone can find and view your event, but the event page itself is more . Events on air have a limited guest list, and only invited guests can add photos and comments (unless this setting is disabled).
  11. From the Events homepage, click Find more events to browse public events and get ideas for yours. If you make your event public, others will be able to find your event this way as well.
  12. You can add additional information fields to your event, like a link to buy tickets, your business’s website, or a YouTube channel. When you’re creating your event, just click Event Options > Advanced > Show additional fields.
To learn more about Google+ events, visit the Help Center!

Highlight Your Events on Google

(summarized from the Webmaster Central blog)

At Google we’re making more and more use of structured data to provide enhanced search results, such as rich snippets and event calendars, that help users find your content. Until now, marking up your site’s HTML code has been the only way to indicate structured data to Google. However, we recognize that markup may be hard for some websites to deploy.

Today, we’re offering webmasters a simpler alternative: Data Highlighter. At initial launch, it’s available in English only and for structured data about events, such as concerts, sporting events, exhibitions, shows, and festivals. We’ll make Data Highlighter available for more languages and data types in the months ahead.

Data Highlighter is a point-and-click tool that can be used by anyone authorized for your site in Google Webmaster Tools. No changes to HTML code are required. Instead, you just use your mouse to highlight and “tag” each key piece of data on a few typical event pages on your site. Data Highlighter learns to recognize the formatting pattern of your site’s data, so when Google crawls your site, all your latest event listings become eligible for enhanced search results. This short video explains how the process works:


To get started with Data Highlighter, visit Webmaster Tools, select your site, click the “Optimization” link in the left sidebar, and click “Data Highlighter.”

If you have any questions, please read our Help Center article or ask us in the Webmaster Help Forum. Happy Highlighting!

Steel + silicon = business success in Detroit

Tuesday, December 11, 2012
Cross-posted from the Official Google Blog.

From time to time we invite guests to post about items of interest and are pleased to have Linzie Venegas join us today. Linzie is head of sales and marketing for Ideal Shield, a manufacturing company in Detroit, Mich. that specializes in bumper post sleeves. Based in a city forged in tradition and steel, Ideal Shield has seen great success on the web—a story Linzie tells us in this post. -Ed.

When my great-grandparents moved from Mexico to Detroit in 1917, they were looking for a better life. They had no idea that one day their grandson, my father Frank Venegas, would invent a product and start a business that would help transform their adopted hometown. Thanks to my dad’s hard work and a little help from the web, that’s exactly what Ideal Shield has done.

Ideal Shield specializes in manufacturing bumper post sleeves. You may have seen these around—they’re colorful covers that slide over the steel pipes that keep cars from running into buildings. As a young child, my first job at Ideal was to assemble mailers for potential customers. Our mailers were unique—I would place a pack of jelly beans into each envelope. Talk about a great way to get a high “clickthrough rate!” Today, I head sales and marketing for the company, and we’ve taken our family business online with phenomenal results.


Ideal Shield’s father-daughter team Frank and Linzie Venegas in the factory surrounded by bumper post sleeves and guard rails.
We began using Google AdWords in 2004 to help potential customers find our product because many people didn’t know what it was. We were drawn to AdWords because everyone could see our ads—but we only had to pay for the customers who clicked through to our website. We also found that the leads were very qualified and had a higher close rate than leads from other sources. So far this year, for every $1 we've spent on AdWords we’ve gotten back $22. We’ve been able to have great success—without jelly beans!—using Google AdWords.

The energy we’ve put into our online presence has produced tremendous growth for our business; we’ve been able to grow our workforce by 20 percent. We’ve also focused on building our local community of Southwest Detroit. Each year we hire many interns from the local high school, Detroit Cristo Rey, and teach them skills that will last a lifetime. We’ve outfitted the junior and senior classes at Detroit Cristo Rey with Chromebooks so that they’ll have access to the power of the web anywhere, and many teachers there use the free Google Apps for Education suite with their students. This year, we were proud to hear that Detroit Cristo Rey achieved a 100% graduation rate and a 100% college acceptance rate. We also work with the Michigan Minority Business Development Council to teach other small businesses in the community the importance of an online strategy and how the web can help small businesses thrive.

My dad started Ideal with himself, my mother and a couple of laborers; today this family business has more than 35 employees and annual sales of $14 million. With help from the web, his hard work, determination and “out of the box” thinking have made Ideal a symbol of strength and renewal in Southwest Detroit. My father has always told me that if you take care of the community, the community will take care of you. Detroit is our community—it’s our heart, it’s our home. We’ve been surprised and delighted at how much the web has contributed to Ideal Shield, and we’re happy to share that success with Detroit. We can’t wait to do more!



The Business December 12th 2012, The "The Cartoonist and the Cartoon" Edition

Monday, December 10, 2012
This Wednesday night is gonna feel like a Saturday morning. The Business is bringing you a talented cartoonist, as well as a human who may very well be a cartoon.

Michael Capozzola has contributed to Mad Magazine, The New York Times and National Lampoon. Each year, Michael produces and hosts the Cartoon Art Museum’s annual “Comics for Comix” comedy fundraiser which he conceived as well. He has been in a bunch of commercials, you can see his broadcast/ TV reel at http://vimeo.com/21673752. Born and rais
ed in New Rochelle, NY Michael subsisted on comic books and chocolate until he took up comedy and caffeine. He created his own comedy studies major while at Ithaca College. (NERD.)

Dr. Foxmeat is half warewolf, half cotton candy. He is part liger, part tigon. He is carbon based and also plays bass for The Carbons. He is always a true pleasure to have as a guest. Come experience him.

Your regulars will be there as well: Mike Daffy Drucker, Bugs Sinister, Yosemite Sean Keane, Alex Foghorn Leg-Kol” and Wile. E Caitlin Gill.

This whole show is just $5! You can even bring a friend for free! Just grab a 2 for 1 coupon here!
WE SELL OUT. Get there early so you can get a seat.

BYOBurrito. I still get carnitas, even though it means “That’s all folks” for a Porky.

Year in Review: Top 3 Posts - 3rd Place



It's well into December, New Year's Eve is just a few weeks away, and like many others, we're thinking about the year in review. Through the end of the month, we'll re-share your top 3 favorite posts from the Google and Your Business blog in 2012. Coming in at number 3 is a piece from our 10 in 10 series--our top 10 tips for using Google Chrome.

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Want to get even faster at work? Use Google Chrome shortcuts to start working as fast as you browse the web:

  1. While reading online, have you ever seen a word or phrase that you wanted to learn more about? Next time, just highlight the term(s) and then drag it to your tabstrip to the right or left of your current tab--a new tab will open with search results for the highlighted text. You can also try the Dictionary extension so when you highlight a word the definition will hover over it. 
  2. Have a site (or a few) you always keep open, like Gmail or Rdio? You can pin those tabs so that they open the next time you launch Chrome. To pin a tab, right-click on it then select “Pin Tab”.  
  3. Sign in to Chrome to access your bookmarks and quickly sync your tabs on any of your other gadgets where you’re signed into Chrome. Just go to the “Other devices” menu when you open a new tab to find them. The back and forward buttons will even work, so you can pick up browsing right where you left off. 
  4. Try using incognito windows to browse in stealth mode. With Incognito Mode, pages you view won't appear in your browser history or search history, and they won't leave other traces, like cookies, on your computer after you close the incognito window 
  5. Want to hide your bookmarks bar? You can also use the keyboard shortcuts Ctrl+Shift+B (Windows and Chrome OS) and ⌘-Shift-B (Mac) to toggle the bar on and off. 
  6. To save a webpage as a PDF, press Ctrl + p (Mac: Cmd + p) to bring up the print dialogue, then Destination > Change. 
  7. Need even more space to browse? You can toggle full-screen mode with these handy keyboard shortcuts: Fullscreen Key on a Chromebook, F11 on Windows & Linux, and Cmd+Shift+F on a Mac. 
  8. Accidentally close a window? Just use the keyboard shortcut Ctrl+Shift+t to open the last tab you closed. Keep using this shortcut to open your previous tabs. 
  9. Bookmarks are just a click away. Like a page? Click on the Star next to the omnibox, and the page is automatically bookmarked. 
  10. Use apps from the Chrome Web Store to do things like get notifications, take notes, edit screenshots, and more. 
You can learn even more tips for using Google Chrome by checking out the help center or Chrome’s Google+ page.

Jacky Hayward, Google Chrome Team 

HOAliday Series: Keeping Ads from Going Dark over the Holidays

Friday, December 7, 2012
AdWords Specialists Courtney Pannell, Ben Oberg,  and Brette Henderson hosted a Hangout on Air last week as the first installment of the HOAliday three-part series.

During the Hangout, we talked about some tips to keep your ads running during this crucial time for your business. We first explained how to avoid in ad delivery when you’d like to change your ad text to show a holiday promotion or deal. We then shared a few of our best tips with automated rules and billing best practices to make advertising for your business easy during a season that you should get to enjoy, too!

To watch the full 20-minute Hangout on Air, visit the Google Business YouTube channel.



To learn more about how to get started with AdWords, visit our Help Center, check out the AdWords Community forum, or call us at 866-2-GOOGLE if you already have an AdWords account.

And remember to tune in to the live stream of our next Hangout on Air at 11 a.m. PDT, December 13th, when we discuss how to create standout ads during the busy holiday season.

Stay tuned! HOA HOA HOA and to all a good day/night!

Ten Major Fears That Scare Small Businesses Away From Strategic Planning

Wednesday, December 5, 2012
An often offered comment to me when I speak about strategic planning to small business owners and managers is that their company or organization is too small for strategic planning. Or they will offer any number of other excuses why they do not use strategic planning for their business. In my opinion, this is a sad commentary on the thinking of these small business people. They do not realize or comprehend that their business or organization is on their way to the business graveyard without a strategic plan. Well, I really believe if the truth were told, the real reason they do not do strategic planning is related more to fear than anything else. And so I ask this question: "why are so many of these businesses strategically challenged, strategically averse and/or just plain scared or fearful of strategic planning?" Your Strategic Thinking Business Coach reviewed and reflected upon experiences with this type of small business thinking and offers the following list of ten major fears that drive small businesses away from strategic planning. Fear #1: Fear of being intimidated and overwhelmed by the strategic planning process. Many small business owners and leaders have pre-conceived an idea of what strategic planning is and fear that the process of strategic planning will be too overwhelming for them. Therefore, they feel intimidated by the process and do not want to even start the process. Fear #2: Fear of repeated past bad experiences with strategic planning. Small business leaders may have had some extremely negative and possibly harmful experiences with strategic planning in the past. They may have had a very poor consultant that was brought in and nearly ruined the business. Maybe they spent weeks in meetings without accomplishing one thing because they did not use a professional facilitator. Or maybe they launched a plan without any means of accountability. Fear #3: Fear of the amount of anticipated time and commitment to develop a strategic plan. Small businesses do not have a large corporate staff and are so busy putting out fires and managing day-to-day activities that they believe they will not have time to focus on long-term and strategic thinking. They want to keep working "in the business" but avoid working "on he business." And this translates to a basic fear that if they divert time to strategic planning, the business will fall apart in the meantime. Fear #4: Fear of academic or the ivory tower thinking. Many small business owners are distrustful of theories, systems, generalizations and formulas. There is the fear of "this is fine in theory but I does not work in the real world." Fear #5: Fear of the facilitation process. The most effective strategic planning meetings use the skills of a professional facilitator. Small business owners and mangers may fear that the meetings, no matter how well intended, will end up as gripe sessions or hours of aimless wandering without a clear agenda or purpose. Fear #6: Fear of commitment. A benefit of strategic planning is that it leads to decisive action. So, in companies where the owner and management likes to "hold back" or "hedge bets," work on many things at the same time and "keep all options open," this can be a real problem. This stems from a fear of making a decision and following through with commitment to carry out that decision. Fear #7: Fear of accountability. Most small business owners are only accountable to themselves and many times that really means they are "not accountable to anyone" and are not really held accountable. With strategic planning, there is a system of accountability built into the plan and this causes some real fear and distress to some small business people. Fear #8: Fear of failure. In small businesses the cost of failure is high and the personal risks are great. In large companies, the management is really dealing with someone else's money. In small business and especially with entrepreneurs, one's livelihood is at stake. A winning strategic plan could help the entrepreneur realize his dream, but a losing plan could result in a nightmare. Fear #9: Fear of the cost of strategic planning. This fear arises when there is no strategic thinking used to look at the value of strategic planning to the business compared to the cost. Fear also arises when strategic planning is viewed as an expense rather than as an investment. Fear #10: Fear of discomfort and confrontation during the strategic planning process. Many small business owners and managers are very fearful and uncomfortable with "confrontations" and they go to great lengths to avoid them. They are very uncomfortable in any confrontation and are fearful that they will be confronted with some issue or problem during the strategic planning process that they would rather avoid. Therefore, they decide to not engage in the strategic planning process. Your strategic thinking business coach strongly encourages you to fully realize the benefits of strategically thinking and planning to manage and grow your business. If you would like to learn more about how a strategic thinking business coach can facilitate and guide you in that endeavor, please contact Glenn Ebersole today through his website at http://www.businesscoach4u.com or by email at jgecoach@aol.com Glenn Ebersole, Jr. is a multi-faceted professional, who is recognized as a visionary, guide and facilitator in the fields of business coaching, marketing, public relations, management, strategic planning and engineering. Glenn is the Founder and Chief Executive of two Lancaster, PA based consulting practices: The Renaissance Group, a creative marketing, public relations, strategic planning and business development consulting firm and J. G. Ebersole Associates, an independent professional engineering, marketing, and management consulting firm. He is a Certified Facilitator and serves as a business coach and a strategic planning facilitator and consultant to a diverse list of clients. Glenn is also the author of a monthly newsletter, “Glenn’s Guiding Lines – Thoughts From Your Strategic Thinking Business Coach” and has published more than 240 articles on business.

Announcing a new Google Ads Hangout on Air series - “Happy HOAlidays”

(This post has been cross-published from the AdWords blog)



The holidays are crunch time for many advertisers out there, so we’re introducing a new holly, jolly Hangout on Air series on the Google Ads +Page. In this three-part series, AdWords specialists from the 866-2-GOOGLE support team will cover three important topics surrounding your AdWords performance during the holiday season.

December 6 at 11 AM PDT: How to keep your ads from going dark during the holidays
We’ll discuss tips and tricks for how to manage your account effectively when you might be out of the office on holiday break.

December 13 at 11 AM PDT: How to create stand-out ads during the competitive holiday season
We’ll share the best strategies for setting yourself apart from your competition.

December 20 at 11 AM PDT: How to maintain the holiday momentum
We’ll tell you how to assess your holiday performance and engage your new customer base into the new year.

To join the Hangouts, just sign into Google+ and add the Google Ads +Page to your circles. Each week we’ll put up a post soliciting your questions. Then, on Thursday, navigate to your Stream where you’ll be able to view our Hangout live with just one click. See you there!

The Business December 5th 2012, The "D&D" Edition


Gather your dice with many sides and prepare yourselves for a magical adventure of the imagination! Let The Business be your Dungeon Master for this tournament of champions featuring our own D&D, Derek Sheen and Dave Thomason.

A cuddly mess of insecurities; Derek Sheen enjoys over-sharing about his personal failures and the most intimate details of his secret thoughts. He likes turning over rocks and talking about the squishy things that live underneath and loves making audiences laugh, even when they
feel like they shouldn't. He has been killed in several movies and cartoons! Most recently in the Funny or Die series “Adventure Buddies”; the voice of E.T. in the gay porn/animated favorite “E.T. 2:Dark Territory". His album "Holy Drivel" is available from Rooftopcomedy.com. Lindy West of Jezebel.com has called him "A Human Hug".

Dave Thomason is a stand-up comedian who was born in San Francisco and now tells jokes there. He recently won Rooftop Comedy’s Silver Nail Award recognizing the best up-and-coming comedians in the nation. Dave has performed at a bunch of neat-o festivals across the country, including the SF Sketchfest, Bridgetown Comedy Festival, and the Aspen Rooftop Comedy Festival. His stand-up has been featured on NPR’s “Snap Judgment”. You can catch him regularly at the Punch Line in San Francisco.

Plus a visit from one of our favorite guests, Nato Green, writer for Totally Biased with W. Kamau Bell on FX.

All your regulars will be assembled, Bucky "Strength" Sinister, Caitlin "Constitution" Gill, Alex "Wisdom" Koll, Mike "Dexterity" Drucker and Sean "Charisma" Keane.

Tickets are just $5! We sell out! Get there early for a seat.

BYOBurrito or you will lose hit points.

Build Your Digital Brand with Google+ Webinar

Tuesday, December 4, 2012


The Google+ platform provides a fresh canvas for building and strengthening your digital brand, tying into all the marketing you already do with Google. From launching a new product using Google+ pages to engaging with your community of enthusiasts over Hangouts, join our Learn with Google webinar this Thursday for a look at ways your company can build its brand using social. Sign up on our webinar page to attend: Building a Digital Brand with Google+ (Thurs, Dec 6, 10am PT / 1pm ET)

After the Hangout, we’ll host a live Q&A with members of the Google+ team to answer questions about building a brand with Google+. RSVP on the Google+ Event page and add your questions as comments on that page.

With more than 100 monthly million active Google+ users, the time is right to focus on building your digital brand presence via the platform. Google+ has seen a wealth of brands engaging with users in creative, interactive ways. In fact, brands created more than 1 million Google+ pages in just a few months. For instance:
  • H&M -- The retail clothing company, with more than 2 million Google+ followers, uses tailored content, images and video to bring its fashions and lifestyle to life on the platform. They’ve also utilized Ripples to identify their trendsetters and saw a 22% clickthrough rate boost after implementing social extensions in AdWords.
  • Cadbury -- The chocolate maker has reached a following of nearly 3 million users with a combination of creative posts, Hangouts on Air and even the launch of their Dairy Milk Bubbly bar. They’ve also installed the Google+ badge on the company’s web homepage, making it easy as chocolate to follow the brand.
Like the ideas here? Log on Thursday to learn more about how to create, capture and sustain demand for your brand using Google+. And if you’re going to miss this while you’re at SMX Social in Las Vegas next week, check back at the webinars page later for a recording of the webinar.

A free month of advertising from AdWords Express

Wednesday, November 28, 2012
(Cross-posted from the Inside AdWords blog)

The holidays are a busy time for everyone, and small businesses are certainly no exception. To help businesses reach new customers this season and keep the holiday spirit rolling into 2013, we have a special offer for new AdWords Express users in the U.S. If you sign up for AdWords Express before December 16, 2012, you’ll receive a free advertising credit in January worth what you spend between now and the end of this year.*

Since AdWords Express launched in July 2011 in the United States, we’ve seen businesses from toy stores to tree farms use AdWords Express to get their businesses discovered online. After 16 busy months, AdWords Express has expanded its borders to 12 additional countries and 9 languages, so that gift shops in Germany, heating contractors in the U.K., and surf shops in Australia can get on the map in front of potential customers in time for the holiday season.

Watch these businesses talk about how they use AdWords Express to maximize sales in the busy season:


Remember, the sooner you start advertising online, the more holiday customers you can reach and the more free advertising credit you can earn, so visit google.com/adwords/express today.

Happy holidays from the AdWords Express team!


*Terms and Conditions

Gmail and Drive - a new way to send files

Tuesday, November 27, 2012
(Cross-posted from the Gmail blog)

Since Google Drive launched in April, millions of people have started using Drive to keep, create and share files. Starting today, it’s even easier to share with others: you can insert files from Drive directly into an email without leaving your Gmail.
Have you ever tried to attach a file to an email only to find out it's too large to send? Now with Drive, you can insert files up to 10GB -- 400 times larger than what you can send as a traditional attachment. Also, because you’re sending a file stored in the cloud, all your recipients will have access to the same, most-up-to-date version. Like a smart assistant, Gmail will also double-check that your recipients all have access to any files you’re sending. This works like Gmail’s forgotten attachment detector: whenever you send a file from Drive that isn’t shared with everyone, you’ll be prompted with the option to change the file’s sharing settings without leaving your email. It’ll even work with Drive links pasted directly into emails.
So whether it’s photos from your recent camping trip, video footage from your brother’s wedding, or a presentation to your boss, all your stuff is easy to find and easy to share with Drive and Gmail. To get started, just click on the Drive icon while you're composing a message. Note that this feature is rolling out over the next few days and is only available with Gmail's new compose experience, so you'll need to opt-in if you haven't already.

The Business November 28th 2012, The "Black Cyber Wednesday Door-buster!" Edition

Monday, November 26, 2012
 Did you shop til you dropped all pretense of human decency and clawed at the eyes or your fellow man to get the last off-brand, 47 million inch TV? Did you laugh all the way to the bank? Did you also cry when you got there and realized you had spent all your money in a tryptophan induced frenzy? If you didn’t shop, did you maintain a vigilant presence on social media so the world knew you were saving it by not shopping?

Either way, The Business wants your business!

We have a super spectacular list of g
uests that are available for lease or purchase.

Drennon Davis is back for a limited time only, get him while he’s hot and fresh!

From his elaborate characters and sketches, to his provocative songs and animation, Drennon has made a name for himself as one of the most innovative minds in today’s comedy scene. His live performances of the Imaginary Radio Program combine live music and beat-boxing with one-man sketches into a show that the Los Angeles Comedy Bureau writes "not only lives up to its name, but exceeds expectation in what you could possibly think it is." Drennon was featured on NBC's Last Call and was a semi finalist on Last Comic Standing. His new animated show The Long Legs can be seen on MTV's rebirth of Liquid Television in 2012.

Drennon comes 2 for 1 with DJ Real!

Nick Stargu is DJ REAL, a San Francisco-based alternative musical comedy act. Performing all original songs, complete with costume changes, bad dance moves, and interactive multimedia, DJ REAL’s live act has been likened to the Talking Heads, The Residents, and Steve Martin. With a wide range of influences, DJ REAL’s songs vary from hip-hop, to folk, to the bizarre.

PLUS we will be joined by Portland darling and beautiful animal Ian Karmel.

Ian Karmel is a Portland comedian whose style zig-zags between the eclectic and the universal, appealing both to crowds who own homes in the suburbs, and crowds just staying with their parents in the suburbs until they figure some things out. Coming from an improv background, including time with The Groundlings and the Upright Citizens Brigade, Ian entered the world of stand-up with a unique perspective that helped him win the 2011 Funniest Person in Portland, 2010 Portland Amateur Comedy Competition and has given him the opportunity to perform at the Bridgetown Comedy Festival, Bumbershoot, Austin’s Moontower Comedy and Oddity Fest, Portland’s Helium Comedy Club, Philadelphia’s Helium Comedy Club, Austin’s Cap City Comedy Club, Seattle’s Comedy Underground and Los Angeles’ Comedy Store. In addition to stand-up, Karmel has appeared on television, playing a character in IFC’s sketch show Portlandia and as a post-game analyst and commentator for the Portland Trailblazers.

 
We are also happy to have Matt Lieb and William Lushbough. Your regulars will be there as well. Mr. Sinister and Mr. Drucker will be back next week, but Mr. Keane, Mr. Koll, and Lady Gill will be holding down the fort.

THIS WHOLE SHOW COSTS JUST $5.
$5!

AND you can bring a friend for free. http://thebusinesscomedy.blogspot.com/

We sell out! Get there early for a seat.

BYOBargain Burrito.

Five for Drive: Tips for Sharing and Collaborating with Google Drive

Wednesday, November 21, 2012
Editor’s note: In November, we’re sharing tips on how your business can get the most out of Google Drive. Our final post features 5 ways you can share your files. Previously we’ve featured Google Drive basics and tips for creating and editing the documents your business needs.

Is your business looking to increase internal collaboration and share files on the web? Below, you’ll find 5 tips on how you can use Google Drive to collaborate on your documents and share them with the right audience.
  1. Click on the Share button in the upper right corner of any document to make sure the right people have the right access. By setting the visibility options, you can share your documents with a specific group, anyone with the link, or anyone on the web. To give access to a specific group of people, you can add collaborators and decide if each person should be able to edit, comment on, or just view your files.
  2. Transfer ownership of a file or folder to let someone else manage it for you. The new owner can then add or remove collaborators, share the file with others, and change visibility options and access privileges.
  3. Download the Google Docs App in Hangouts to open, discuss, and add comments to a document, all while you’re in a Hangout. This way, you can review a file face-to-face in video chat with a co-worker, even if you’re away from the office.
  4. Publish your documents and get a URL that you can share with the whole world. Use the publish feature to email your customer base a link to your most recent newsletter or to send a presentation of your business’s most popular products to a potential client.
  5. Share files to your Google+ stream publicly or with a specific circle of clients, and let your followers flip through one of your business’s presentations or fill out a feedback form all without ever leaving the stream. For each document you share on Google+, you can set access rights so your audience can edit or simply view it.
Looking for even more tips about Google Drive? Check out the Help Center, the Google Apps Learning Center, or Drive’s Google+ page.

The Business November 21st 2012, The "Emily Squared" Edition

Monday, November 19, 2012
This Holiday season, we are thankful for our Emilys. Two Emilys in particular, and they will both be here on Wednesday so we can give them thanks.

Emily Heller is a comedian and writer who likes you very much. You may have seen her on the third season of John Oliver’s New York Stand Up Show on Comedy Central, or as one of the New Faces at the 2012 Montreal Just For Laughs Festival. In 2011, She was included in Comedy Central’s Comics to Watch, won Rooftop Comedy’s Silver Nail Award, and was named one of
the “Funniest People in Town” by 7x7 Magazine. Praised in San Francisco for what her friends call her “self-deprecating feminist slob poetry,” Emily now lives in New York City and performs stand-up all over the country.


Emily Maya Mills is an actor, writer and stand-up comic based in Los Angeles. She's been seen on Parks and Recreation, Ellen, Conan, Childrens’ Hospital, Key and Peele, Downers Grove, Harry's Law and many of television’s weirder commercials. Emily is a graduate of Emerson College is a regular performer at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre. Her three-woman sketch group, Birds of Prey, won Best Sketch Group in a Punchline Magazine survey and continues to produce exclusive videos for FunnyorDie.com and Cracked.com.

These fly birds aren’t Turkeys! They’ll cran your berry! You’ll want to do the Mashed Potato with them! You’ll want to fill your body cavity with their delicious stuffing!


Your regulars will be there as well, Sean “Sweet Potatoes” Keane, Bucky “Gravy” Sinister, Mike “Terducken” Drucker and Caitlin “Green Bean Casserole” Gill.


We sell out! Get there early to score a seat.


BYOBurrito de Pavo.

Feast your way through Google business tips

Want a feast this Thanksgiving without crashing into a tryptophan-induced slumber? Work your way through three courses of business tips that we’ve rounded up from our 10 in 10 series.

If you want more detail or links to learn even more, check out our full posts on ways your business can use Chrome, Gmail, Google+, and Google Calendar.


Posted by Jacinth Sohi, Google and Your Business Blog Team

Get Your Business Black Friday Ready with Google Offers

Friday, November 16, 2012
Is your business Black Friday ready? After a hearty helping of turkey and lots of sides, folks often have a hankering for some serious shopping. It’s a great time to showcase value and offer some irresistible deals. This year, Google Offers is here to help small businesses run deals and get discovered. Best of all, it’s a deal for you, too. Getting started is free.



Get Started 
It’s easy to make a Google Offer right from the Google Places for Business dashboard. Verified business owners already using Google Places for Business, skip on ahead to Create an Offer. Get started on Google Places for Business by entering your business’ phone number here.

Create an Offer 
Ready to create your offer? You can customize whether you want to offer customers a percentage off their sale, a flat amount of money off, or a free item. You’ll also need to know how many offers you want to make available, for how long they’ll run, and a few other details. We’ve got a gallery of photographs, too, to make sure your offer looks great.

Meet New Customers
Your new customers will be able to discover nearby offers on Google Maps for Android. We’ve got some offer management tools, too, so you can see and control the duration of your offer. Offer going well? You can extend the offer, or, limit its availability if needed. You’ll also be able to see how many people have redeemed or are planning on redeeming the offer. Happy savings!

Five for Drive: Tips for Creating and Editing in Google Drive

Thursday, November 15, 2012
Editor’s note: In November, we’re sharing tips on how your business can get the most out of Google Drive. Our second post features 5 ways you can create, edit, and enhance your files. Previously we’ve featured Google Drive basics. Check back next week for tips on the many ways you can share and collaborate on the documents in your Drive.

Businesses looking for pointers on documents, spreadsheets, presentations, and more, keep reading! This week, we’re sharing 5 tips on how you can use Google Drive to create and edit the documents you need to keep your business running smoothly.
  1. To create a new document in Google Drive, simply hit the ‘Create’ button to choose which type of file you’d like. To collaborate on your business’s existing documents like Word, Excel, and PowerPoint files, you can upload them to Google Drive for easy editing and sharing.
  2. Use a template to create the specific types of documents your business may need, such as letterheads, sales presentations, inventory trackers, or customer feedback forms. Browse the template gallery to find examples best suited for your business.
  3. Make your presentations more compelling by embedding YouTube videos into your slides. You can play the video from directly within the file as long as you have an internet connection.
  4. View the revision history of your document, spreadsheet, or presentation to see the changes made by you and any other collaborators. You can also revert to earlier versions of a file and see edits made to any of these versions.
  5. Use other apps in Drive, such as Forms, Drawings, and Fusion Tables. You can also download third-party apps from the Chrome Web Store that allow you edit images and videos, fax and sign documents, manage products, create flow charts, and more.
Looking for even more tips about Google Drive? Check out the Help Center, the Google Apps Learning Center, or Drive’s Google+ page.

Luxury Car Hire

Wednesday, November 14, 2012
Why rent a standard car, when there is luxury car hire available? Luxury car hire allows you to suddenly realize your dreams, and the good news is that you don’t have to take out a mortgage to make your dreams reality! Join me as we get into the hot seat of a fast car! The doors open and you enter the car. You are in the driving seat, and you put the keys in, and the luxury vehicle sparks into life. You hear the engine roar, and you know the whole day is going to be amazing! You are in the front seat of your favorite luxury car, and though many people who see you that day, and turn there heads like an uncontrollable itch, they will not know what we know right now. The luxury vehicle is not yours. You didn’t buy it, you found it through luxury car hire. It is a dream come true, and you didn’t have to invest a lot of money, and you don’t have to worry about maintenance, you don’t have to worry about filling it with expensive fuel every day. For many people this is a dream that is in the reality for them. Luxury car hire makes dreams reality, and it doesn’t cost a lot of money. Whatever you do, you always have the option of experiencing this amazing experience. For many people the luxury vehicle that is strolling down the road, has come through luxury car hire. But no one knows! You could think they are multimillionaires, but often they are people like you and me who got tired of just looking at posters, looking at the scale model car, and got tired of the irritating twitch of snapping a neck while turning to see a Ferrari go past! Many people do it several times each year, and once you start, you can’t stop! It is truly a thrilling experience, and once you must try at least once in your lifetime!

DIY-Strategic Planning

Let's start by talking about strategic focus. Leadership models and new business models are key ingredients to success in the 21st century. The successful 21st century business model is built around servant style leadership with a focus on strategic thinking by harnessing the creativity and innovation of the employees. The vehicle to accomplish this is the strategic planning process Strategy serves as the organization compass and roadmap to future success. Strategic thinking must be clear and communicated effectively throughout the organization. It is not something you can leverage with technology. It isn't something you will find in the latest business manual. It is embedded in the minds of your management team and most of your employees. It is your employees who are on the front line and know what is really going on with your customers and your markets. It requires effective leadership to release the power of the employees in building a strategic roadmap to the future. Defining objectives and developing initiatives and action plans to meet those objectives is the basis of strategic planning. However, it all starts with an end game, a "Vision for the Future." Strategic planning is a management tool. It is used to help an organization clarify its future direction - to focus its energy, and to help members of the organization work toward the same goals. The planning process adjusts the organization's direction in response to a changing environment. Strategic planning is a disciplined effort to support fundamental decisions and actions that shape and guide what an organization is, what it does and why it does it, with a focus on where it wants to go and how it is going to get there. Fundamental decisions, actions and choices must be made in order to develop a plan that provides a Roadmap on "How to get there from Here."." The plan is ultimately no more, and no less, than a set of decisions about what to do, why to do it, and when and how to do it. The scope of the strategy development process for any company is dependent upon individual business needs. The strategic planning process is a time and resource-consuming endeavor that involves many people in the organization. This process includes both tactical and strategic application. The DIY process assumes that you have a good handle on both your internal and external environment. If you don't you may want to consider hiring a consultant to do an internal assessment and survey your customers and vendors to analyze your external environment. Hiring a consulting firm can cost as little as $10,000 for a simple two day facilitation to upwards of $100,000 for comprehensive involvement by the consulting firm during the entire process. So, if you are not inclined to hire an outside consultant, you may want to follow this ten step process for DIY (Do It Yourself) Strategic Planning. Although it isn't possible to describe in great detail the entire process in an article (it would require 50 pages) the following is an overview of the process. The Ten Step Process Let's identify the steps first and then we'll discuss each one in a little more detail . I cannot emphasize enough that the true value of a strategic plan is not in the document itself. It is in the process of creating it, involving many of your employees from the bottom up. This empowers them to be more effective and better-informed leaders, managers and decision makers. 1. Select the strategy team and send a company wide communication 2. Create a Vision for the Future (End Game) 3. Preparation -----Secure an off site location for the kick off meeting which includes training the team on the strategic planning process. Purchase a strategic planning template, download one from the web or e-mail rick@ceostrategist.com for a generic sample. 4. Complete a SWOT analysis. (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities & Threats) 5. Identify the critical core initiatives that are necessary to support the vision for the future and to achieve its objectives 6. Develop strategic implementation plans (SIPs) that support the identified critical core initiatives 7. Prioritize the CCI's and SIP's based on the biggest impact on the bottom line in the shortest period of time. Modify and complete the document template to fit your company strategy 8. Develop an accountability process based on a structured monthly strategic review 9. Develop a presentation of the strategy for approval by the CEO, owners or Board of Directors. 10. Develop a Roll Out Strategy to explain the strategic plan to the entire company Step One --------- Selection and Communication It all starts with communication. The very first piece of information should be the announcement to all employees that the company is embarking on a planning process for the future. This memo should be sent from the President asking for everyone's support. (A sample memo is available from rick@ceostrategist.com) The memo will likely announce who the strategy team members are and ask for everyone to congratulate them and provide input at every opportunity. CAUTION: Make sure that you have talked to any employee in advance that was not picked for the strategy team that may feel that they should have been. Once the team is announced and the process starts make sure you continue to keep employees aware of the progress and solicit their input. A minimum of a monthly memo should be issued. The strategic planning process can take from 6 weeks to 12 weeks so it is important to keep everyone informed without releasing too much detail. The strategy team should include a senior accountant, and should consist of between seven and ten members. Team selection should be based on competence, integrity, work ethic, leadership skills, and future growth potential within the Company. The team will formulate and present the strategic document to the President/CEO and the Board of Directors. It is critical that all employees are empowered and encouraged to communicate their ideas and issues with any member of the strategy team. This process ensures accountability and ownership of the strategy at every level in the organization. Step Two --- A Vision for the Future (The End Game) The Vision for the Future (End Game) in business is simply defining what winning the game in your business is really about. What does winning mean. Just exactly what do you want your company to be when it grows up? Ask yourself the following questions from the perspective of looking five to seven years into the future. 1. What markets should your company be serving five years from now? 2. What products should you be distributing? 3. Who are your primary competitors? 4. What are your strengths? 5. What are your competitors' strengths? 6. How has your marketing strategy changed? 7. What are your core competencies? 8. What is the size of your revenue stream? 9. How is your revenue stream segmented? 10. Do you have a Human Resource Development plan? The CEO/Owners should create the "Vision for the Future" (End Game) for presentation to the strategy team. Step Three --- Preparation Running a strategic planning process is not just designing a template and having the team members fill in the gaps. On the contrary, it means carefully coaching the management team through a thinking process. Often, the actual strategic plan is even less important than the development and growth of the team members participating in the process. The strategy team should be trained on the process you intend to follow in developing the strategic plan. Once that is competed the CEO/President should present the vision of the future with copies for everyone and then excuse himself from the meeting to allow the strategy team to tear the end game apart and put it back together. The President will have explained that they have the right and the obligation to challenge the end game if they do not agree with any part of it. However, any challenge to any portion must be accompanied by alternative recommendations. The concept is to finalize a "Vision for the Future" that everyone owns. Step Four---- The SWOT analysis The team will conduct a SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) analysis to identify critical constraints and potential opportunities for growth. Step Five --- Developing the Critical Core Initiatives from the Vision for the Future Critical core initiatives are over arching initiatives that are found within the Vision for the Future. An example may be defined as a human resource initiative for becoming employer of choice. There are many independent action steps (Strategic Implementation Plans - SIPs) that will be required to accomplish the Critical Core Initiative (CCI). They may include training, education, leadership development, compensation and benefits etc. Identifying the CCI's first is necessary to move on to the next step which is creating SIPs for each CCI. Step Six--- Prioritize the CCI's and identify individual SIPs for each CCI A Strategic Implementation Plan (SIP) is a set of tasks that supports a Critical Core Initiative and therefore creates fundamental change in the way you do things. SIP work deals with long-term improvement and change, balancing concern for today with concern for the future and is a fundamental task of managerial decision-making. Work against SIPs deals with improving things for tomorrow. Each Critical Core Initiative is supported by a set of SIPs that contain a sequenced set of tasks, schedules, and named responsible individuals. The creation of SIPs indicates that the chosen area is one that provides a high payoff in terms of innovation and managed change. Step Seven --- Assign sections of the strategy template to be completed by different team members Developing the strategy document from team homework assignments completed over the previous weeks is a matter of following the template that has been modified to meet your specific company needs. Step Eight --- The accountability process The key managerial tool to ensure steady, consistent progress on SIP tasks is the formal Operational Review Meeting (ORM). This is the foundation to insure that the strategic plan is successful. The ORM is held monthly. The purpose of the ORM is to: o Clearly understand the status of your key initiatives. o Keep executive focus on strategic, rather than just urgent, issues. o Facilitate communication and support throughout the executive team and the company. o Formulate emergency responses to company-wide threats or opportunities. o Leverage all appropriate company resources while maintaining proper accountability for performance. The ORM should be attended by members of the Strategy Team, executive management and other senior managers. It will follow a formal agenda and discussions will be driven by two objective measurements: performance of Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) and progress of SIP task completion. SIP and action item owners will be held accountable for achieving the desired results by the due date indicated on the plan. The entire team will be held accountable for meeting SIP goals. Step Nine --- Developing the presentation for approval The strategy team will provide the strategy document to ownership at least one week in advance of the formal presentation. Representatives of the strategy team will present the plan and defend it from a considered corporate challenge. The purpose of the challenge is to ensure that the plan is well thought out and based on a realistic assessment of the company's risks and constraints. The presentation will also demonstrate the degree of commitment and ownership by the team. The objective of the meeting is to formally endorse the strategy for the company. If necessary, the team will revise and re-present the plan to obtain ownership approval. Step Ten ---- The Roll Out Process After formal acceptance, the President and two to three strategy team members should schedule meetings to introduce the strategy to the entire management team and all other employees, thus formally launching the strategy. This should be a big deal and should be completed as quickly as possible. In person presentations by executive management and strategy team members is highly recommended. Strategy Development Overview Strategic planning is a management tool. It is used to help an organization clarify its future direction - to focus its energy, and to help members of the organization work toward the same goals. The planning process adjusts the organization's direction in response to a changing environment. Strategic planning is a disciplined effort to support fundamental decisions and actions that shape and guide what an organization is, what it does and why it does it, with a focus on where it wants to go and how it is going to get there. Discipline is a prerequisite to this process because it requires laser like persistence to result in a productive strategic planning initiative. The process raises a sequence of questions that helps planners examine current reality, test assumptions, gather and incorporate information about the present and perform trend analysis on the future industry environment. The prioritization of initiatives and SIPs is an essential step. Although your strategic plan will cover a five to seven year period prioritized SIPs are worked on during the first twelve to eighteen month period based on bandwidth and resources while other CCIs and SIPs are deferred. It is much more effective to completely finish three or four SIPs pertaining to one or two CCI's than to work on ten or twelve SIPs and accomplish nothing.