Tuesday, December 11, 2012

The Accidentally Green Event

On Saturday night I attended the Small Business Christmas Party at a local Event Centre. It was a fun event: great food, great venue, great music and great company. The Small Business Christmas party was designed and planned so that a multiple of small businesses could enjoy a holiday staff party, do it as a group, and thereby create so many more advantages. A wonderful idea! It was also, in many ways, a sustainable event. I think that the organizers might be surprised to learn that by consolidating a number of small business parties into one larger event, they became “green(er) by accident”.

Green meeting and event planners are always looking for ways to tie events together, or combine events to minimize the environmental footprint. The Small Business Christmas Party was a perfect example of this sustainability strategy: a group of individuals choosing to have one larger gathering instead of many, smaller holiday parties. Why is that a better alternative? At a singular event, less fossil fuels are used, less energy is consumed and less waste is generated and placed in the landfills. Here are some examples:

·      Delivery companies make a single trip to one venue which cuts down on the use of fossil fuels
·      Only one venue is used on one night decreasing the amount of energy consumed (light and heat)
·      Food waste is minimized - every event can generate substantial food waste (folks who RSVP positively but then do not attend, incorrectly confirming plate numbers, food scrapings)
·      Paper waste is minimized – one party equals one invitation.
·      Less signage required
·      Floral centerpieces are generated only once, which minimizes waste and the use of fossil fuels to transport to different venues.

Congratulations! Good Job!

It doesn’t make it any less impactful if the sustainability strategies were unintentional. In fact…….many, many folks are sustainability specialists without even knowing it. Labeled as “frugal”, they are conscientious about their use of power and water. They creatively upcycled items before upcycling became trendy. They garden so that they have homegrown food throughout the year.

During the holiday season it can be difficult to be mindful of sustainability. Here are a few tips for a greener Christmas:

Minimize Food Waste: Be mindful when creating meat and cheese or veggie platters for guests because we tend to make them too large and the result is disposing of a lot of it at the end of the evening. Store your prepared meat, cheese and vegetables in zip lock bags in the refrigerator and replenish your “smaller” platters more often.

Locally Made Gifts: Craft sales have a bevy of locally created items to choose from to give as a gift at Christmas.

Support Local Business: By shopping locally we sustain our local businesses.

Recycle your old Christmas Cards: There are many uses for old Christmas cards: cut them down and use them for gift tags, slip them underneath a clear liner to create a pretty tabletop or….the list is endless.

Make a donation: There are many local organizations who rely on donations to operate. Do a little research, find out if they need money or if they have a wish list you can contribute towards.

Wishing you all a very merry, “greener” holiday season!

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Clap Your Hands!

My nephew Ben, a wee bit over two years old, toddles along playing with his toys. His days and nights are full of “firsts”. The first time he walked, the first time he talked, the first time he slept through the night. 

These “firsts” become a blur of daily occurrences, and at times, we forget how absolutely remarkable this little human being can be. Never fear! Ben reminds us.  On one particular occasion Little Ben manipulates a transformer toy, and then places it on the table with a flourish, looking at each one of us expectantly……then, bursting into a big smile, he claps and then we clap and pretty soon he is giggling and we are all clapping in unison.

Children are pretty smart. When they do something remarkable, they ask and oftentimes demand acknowledgement.

Why can’t adults do that?

Wouldn’t it be cool to give/get some applause and affirmation from time to time?

Instead…… we hold back our praise because, in our opinion, it wasn’t amazing enough or perhaps we are jealous.

What constitutes “Amazing Enough”? When did we become so under-whelmed with life?

I think that apathy is a habit that we can break. Wouldn’t you rather live in a world filled with positive reinforcement and praise? Wouldn’t it be nicer to live in a world where we look at each day as a “first” and celebrate it and everything that comes with it?

Here is the world that I would love to live in:
·      We say please and thank you ALL THE TIME
·      We recognize small accomplishments with praise (and yes….maybe sometimes applause)
·      We make an effort to attend and support all milestones: birthdays, anniversaries, graduation’s, new jobs, etc.
·      We regularly congratulate our co-workers on a job well done.
·      We aren’t embarrassed when we are happy and excited about something – when we are happy and we know it we wear that happiness with pride
·      We celebrate life’s baby steps
·      We appreciatively and without reservation, sit in silence for a few short moments on November 11th.

Why the “Deep thoughts by Judy” today? I am not so sure….. It could have come from thinking about Remembrance Day this past Sunday and how important it is to acknowledge folks and what they have accomplished.

I am saddened when I think about the day that Ben turns to someone looking for a pat on the back and none is forthcoming. When he looks around expecting applause and there is silence. Is that something that happens when you grow up?

Wouldn’t it be nice if that didn’t have to happen?


Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Facebook Folly

Folly: Lack of good sense or normal prudence and foresight; a foolish act or idea.

I often post articles or blogs about using social media. I advise against posting inappropriate content, using foul language, linking to information or sites which are not a good fit with your brand…..all of the above. I know that social media can be a good thing and a terrible thing and that the user must take responsibility for what he or she posts.

Because…..there are consequences.

One such consequence occurs when a potential employer takes into account what they read and see on facebook. I recently spoke to a gentleman who said that he actually asks his employees for facebook username and information. Now……a little part of me was suspicious when he said that. It was said with an undertone of bravado and I wonder if he was simply telling me this because he knew that it would sound controversial and keep the conversation moving. Regardless of whether his statement was fact or fiction, it raises an interesting point.

I asked why…..”why does he ask for that information and what type of content would he be looking for?” The answer was simple: He wanted to know what type of character his employee demonstrated. A facebook page filled with endless party photos and foul language speaks volumes to their character, and raises a potential red flag. This wasn’t the type of individual he wanted working for him.

This particular person with whom I was speaking was very “anti-facebook” and social media in general. I asked him, “why not simply have a social media policy and have new hires sign off on the policy?”. For someone who felt that strongly, he should have a policy in place so that he had recourse in the event that an employee coloured outside the lines of decorum.

After having the conversation with this Negative Nelly, I realized that he was a bit of a blowhard and not tech savvy enough to seek out the damning information even with the user identification. He didn’t want to entertain the notion that a social media policy would be helpful and frankly, I don’t think he even knew what I was talking about. He shouldn’t be playing in the Social Media Sandbox.

But apparently he was………and his assumption that facebook was the 5th Horseman of the Apocalypse had made him determined to be the judge and jury of content.

So who is right? Should the employer have the right to check out employees? I don’t know the answer to that and probably the legal system will be tested many, many times in the future as it tries to answer that very question.

I do know that you must be careful and aware of what you post on a social networking site, that it may come back to haunt you. If you are in doubt about whether or not something is appropriate, then do the “would my Grandma like it if she saw this?” test. It works every time!


Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Pricing Disappointment

Bigstock Image

Sorry for the “glass half empty” headline…..but it is something that I have been thinking about a lot lately. What prompted it? I guess it began last Sunday as I was starting out on my journey to Las Vegas. I made my way to Grande Prairie to catch my flight to Edmonton so that I could attend IMEX12 in Las Vegas that began the next morning. I checked in early, made my way through security without a hitch and then sat comfortably waiting for my flight to depart. Boarding began promptly on time and the pre-board passengers formed a line out the long glass enclosed walk way, ready to make their way on board the aircraft.

At this point I noticed that no one was moving. Everyone was just standing in the walk way waiting. After a few moments, one of the airline staff ushered everyone back inside with the news that there was a mechanical issue that was going to necessitate a mechanic taking a look, and that he would be there in about 20 minutes. Knowing that I only had 1 hour and 30 minutes between connections, I grew concerned that my time had now been reduced. Of course, I completely understood that safety is paramount and that it was necessary to make certain that the aircraft was repaired, but deep down I felt a little bit of anxiety. Not long after, another announcement was made that it was going to take a wee bit longer. Sadly, at this point I knew that I probably would not make my connection to Las Vegas that night.

I had no control over the situation and I was disappointed.

Thankfully, the aircraft did get repaired and we did depart for Edmonton, however it wasn’t in time to make my Las Vegas connection. Upon arrival in Edmonton, staff provided vouchers for a hotel, taxi shuttles and meal vouchers and we (there were about 7 of us that were en route to Vegas) were booked on the next flight to Las Vegas that was departing the following morning.

I was completely looked after but….I still couldn’t shake my disappointment. I was disappointed that I wasn’t going to be able to meet my friends for dinner that evening; I was disappointed that I was going to lose one entire evening in Vegas; I was disappointed that I was going to miss a whole morning of sessions that I had counted on attending.

It made me realize something: You cannot put a price-tag on disappointment especially if it is a disappointing experience. When emotions and expectations are involved, it can become a customer service nightmare to try to make someone happy.

This revelation is important for those of us in the event or customer service industry. Having empathy for your attendee or customer is paramount in understanding what they are feeling when their expectations are not met. Realizing that even when you have provided everything you can during a negative situation, disappointment is a powerful emotion that will remain.

Some helpful tips for dealing with a customer service crisis:

Have Empathy: Defined as - Understanding and acknowledging feelings and needs.

Engage Empathetic Listening: Listening with your ears and eyes (expressions, body language)

Sincerely respond with empathetic statements: “I would be unhappy too if I missed my connection. I can understand your frustration”.

Giving front line staff the power to be creative with problem solving: When you can enable front line staff with the ability to create unique customer service crisis management strategies, it illustrates that the customer is unique, is special.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

What happens in Vegas.....

Next week I am off to Las Vegas for IMEX America! Not only will I get to visit one of my favourite places (yes.....I love to play the penny slots), but I get to see many #eventprof friends that so far, I have only connected with on twitter.

If you are going to IMEX next week, I would love to meet you :)

You can tweet me @judylaine or come look for me at the GMIC Sustainability Hub where I will be spending some time hanging out with Amanda.

See you there!

The entrance to IMEX Frankfurt

IMEX Frankfurt Tweet-up with many #eventprof friends

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Under the R......

Have you ever heard of the phrase, “What is my ROI?”. Event planners most often use it during conversations with sponsors who want to know, if they spend X amount of dollars, what will be their ROI or “Return on Investment”? They want to know what they will get in return for their sponsorship. Everyone has a different expectation of the potential ROI. For some sponsors it is exposure, having their name linked to a great cause/event, and for others it is the opportunity to grow their market: attract more customers, reach further into the marketplace, launch a new product/division. Sponsors are an integral part of any event and it is really important that planners extensively research what they can provide for their sponsors in return for financial or in kind support.

But what about the attendees? Is the same amount of research being done to determine what the attendees want in return for their registration dollars? If it isn’t…..then it should be.

Attendees not only pay a registration fee, they invest in travel costs, hotel accommodations and most importantly, the time commitment. Company management needs to know that money is being spent wisely. Registration is often delayed until organizations can see a complete agenda, which will give them a good idea of the content. A weak agenda normally equals slow registration.

How many of you have gone to an event as an attendee and been disappointed? I have been to events where the registration fee is small and the event was fabulous….exceeding my expectation. I have also been to events where my registration was insanely expensive and I have been sorely disappointed. Where is the balance? What are attendees expecting?

Events have different components that contribute to perceived value. Even weddings and large family parties have a perceived value. How many times have you heard someone say something to the affect of, “We traveled all the way to Saskatoon for that wedding, bought an expensive present and we didn’t even get a decent meal”. Obviously, they did not get the value that they felt was owed them in exchange for the long distance drive and the expensive gift.

More and more organizations are asking the question, “Why should I register for Conference A instead of Conference B? Which conference will provide me the most value for my dollar?”. Attendees are very savvy and will not return to an event where they were disappointed. You only get one chance to make an impact, an impression on them before they decide to forgo your event for another.

How can you ensure that your attendees are receiving value for their financial, emotional and time investment?

Survey your audience. Surveys and polls are a valuable tool in determining what your attendees are looking for. A survey sent out to previous conference attendees can help identify needs and pinpoint gaps in content.

Your survey should be no longer than 10 questions and thoughtfully constructed so that essay type responses are not necessary. Surveys sent via email or posted on your website work the best in this instance. Survey Monkey remains the most popular survey site and the basic (free) plan allows you to collect up to 100 responses per survey.

Use the survey results to help guide you in the planning process. By engaging the potential attendee in advance, you are demonstrating that they are important and that you value their opinion, setting the tone for a great relationship.


Monday, September 10, 2012

Yoga mats, beeswax candles and patchouli oil.....

 This is the tweet that got me thinking......

Paul Salinger was addressing the delegates of the European Sustainable Events Conference held this past week in Copenhagen.

Paul Salinger is a Vice President of Marketing for Oracle and is a member of the Board of Directors and President-Elect for the global Green Meetings Industry Council. Paul continuously pushes the boundaries of our thought process and I rarely walk away from one of his presentations without thinking a bit differently. 

I did not attend the European Sustainable Events Conference, instead I watched the twitter feed from the comfort of my Northern British Columbia office and I have to say....the above tweet and photo courtesy of Michael Luehrs got me thinking.

I do not know what slide preceded or followed this particular slide and I don't presume to know what Paul spoke about specifically. What I do know, is that the wheels began turning for me and a range of emotions rose to the surface.

When I first began my foray into the world of sustainable events and the challenge of trying to convince stakeholders to make the switch to green events, I tried everything to convince them of its merit. I felt like I needed to dance twice as fast to keep up with my competition.

Going into a pitch meeting situation, I would go in armed with data that I was certain would dazzle them and convince them that my way was a better way. 

"Your attendees will love it"
"The Community will appreciate it"
"Local suppliers will benefit from it"

Let's face it: For some, the idea of "going green" was uncomfortable and foreign. I am certain that some felt that converting to a sustainable model meant:

"We would shiver on yoga mats, in the darkness of a conference room, dimly lit by beeswax candles. Our attendees would be provided half used (but freshly sharpened with the pencil shavings composted) pencils and paper (salvaged from the office recycling bin - one side already had been used). Conference organizers would shuttle attendee's back and forth from their hotels using a Smart Car and during coffee breaks, everyone would go out and plant a tree. Oh.....and the whole venue would smell like pachouli oil".

Never, ever, ever would we dare say that it might cost more. Goodness gracious! That was #7 in the Program! They weren't ready for that yet, we needed to be, "vewy, vewy careful" (insert Elmer Fudd voice here)

Flash forward to today, 2012 and the tweet from Michael Leuhrs that caught my green eye.

"Sustainability creates wealth. Why do green or sustainable meetings have to cost less".

They don't.

And perhaps we need to rethink the premise that "cost" is the most powerful motivator for change because quite simply, it isn't any longer. 

Thank you for reminding us of that.


Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Gone Glamping!

"Gone Glamping"
I need to begin this with a nod to the friend who first mentioned the word “Glamping” to me a couple of months ago. Rick H was following a thread of conversation I was having on facebook, and identified (rightly so) that I didn’t simply enjoy camping, I actually enjoyed something called “glamping”.

Glamping is the combination of the words glamorous and camping = glamping. It is for folks who love to sleep in the great outdoors, but prefer to do so on sheets and inside an RV. It is for folks who embrace the fact that there are plug-ins mounted on said RV, and do not scoff at the option to use a wee bit of power if it is available/necessary.

I know everyone is thinking, “But isn’t she a sustainability freak? Shouldn’t she prefer resting her dreadlocked hair on a bed of branches, and foraging for roots whilst wearing her hand sewn hemp skirt?”

Ummmmm…..no. You don’t have to suffer to be sustainable. You don’t have to sacrifice comfort for sustainability either. But…I digress. Let’s get back to why I prefer to “Glamp”.

Let’s go back in time shall we. I am going to begin by blaming my parents…because….well…because I can. When they get a column in the newspaper or a blog, they can blame me for something. Deal?

When I was young, we never went tenting…..ever. We had a very nice camper and after a few years, and as more little girls were added to the family, we upgraded to a beautiful fifth wheel trailer. The only reference to “camping” was the fact that some of us slept in sleeping bags….other than that, it was like home.

Flash forward a few years and I meet my husband. I tried so very hard to be ‘that girl”….the one who slept in a tent and “went” in the bushes, but alas…it was not to be. I simply did not enjoy roughing it, perhaps because I knew that it didn’t really have to be that way.

This gal agrees with me......
So combine my dislike for tenting with being a young family on a strict budget, which didn’t allow for fancy, schmancy things like campers/trailers and the result was a family that rarely went camping.

Which brings me to 2012….the year I discovered glamping. I have discovered a world that I didn’t know existed. A world where you need not suffer with bed head and dirty feet: where a shower is simply a laminated particle-board door away. A world where there are power outlets and pull thru’s and dumping stations.

Yes....we bought a trailer.

This world is magical. It is like a marriage between Martha Stewart and Professor Albus Dumbledore: A world where you can create a culinary delight in a device not much larger than an easy bake oven.

I am in heaven. I am hooked on “glamping” and like I said before, you don’t have to suffer to be sustainable. You can still:

·   Recycle – many campsites have recycling bins, if they do not, bring items to be recycled home with you
·   Conserve water
·   Conserve Power – only use it when necessary or better yet, install a solar panel kit on your RV
·   Waste removal – dispose of waste in marked containers or bring it with you to dispose of properly.
·   Do not pollute – Do not burn plastics or garbage in your fire-pit

My first year glamping has now come to an end and with that, the excuse to drink my morning coffee with Bailey’s Irish Cream. I pledge to spend the next 6 months scouring Pinterest for many, many cool glamping ideas and I can’t wait to try them out!

Happy Fall!


Monday, September 3, 2012

Mirror, mirror......

Do any of you post inspirational quotes or thoughtful text passages around your home?

If you know me….even a little, you would you know that I am not a lover of random inspirational quote postings. When I see them on my twitter feed or my facebook timeline, I normally roll my eyes (yes, I do – I am just being honest) and grimace. If I see an inspirational quote combined with a yellow rose of friendship AND a request to pass it along to all of my friends (known as the trifecta of facebook irritation), know this…..I will delete you.

Having said that, I did attend one of those stencil parties a few years ago…the kind where you purchase graphics or pithy sayings that you can then place on your wall or mirrors. I bought three. One said, “Welcome” and I stuck it over my front door, one said “simplify your life” which I placed in my office (you can’t see it right now because my office is so disorganized) and the third said, “Begin each day with a smile”. This I adhered to the top of my mirror in the master bathroom (I say that like I have many, many bathrooms, but I only have two). I am pretty sure that this third one was free – perhaps a gift with purchase because, looking back I cannot see myself buying it. It isn’t me…at all. I remember the first time my husband noticed it on the mirror, he said something to the effect of, “Did you hit your head today?”

That was about four years ago. Four years of constant, daily reminders to “Begin each day with a smile”. Has it made a difference? Has it worked in “harmony with the laws of attraction to balance my chi”? I am certain it has not. You see, at some point during the past four years; at some point between the “did you hit your head today” comment and this very moment, the “s” fell off and that quote has actually read, “Begin each day with a mile”. I never even noticed.

So…..should I read something into this? Considering that I never, ever realized it before this very day and that it might have been like that for years, and years….I am thinking that there is no greater power at work in this situation (Other than, perhaps the power of adhesives). But maybe, just maybe it was the universe playing a silly trick. I did buy a treadmill recently…..

Just to be on the safe side....I am gonna leave it up.


Saturday, August 25, 2012

Glass Half Full?

"What are the ethical implications of hosting a large event in a city struggling with a diminishing water supply?"

This is the question I have been asking myself lately.

I had a similar discussion with a friend who had just hosted visiting family members in her home for 10 days. She said to me, "I went through sooooo much toilet paper!" and I said, "Can you imagine how much water you used?".

I know, I know....that is a very simplistic comparison, but a valid one nonetheless. She only had an extra family in her home, what if my community (my home) hosted an event for 500, 1000 or 5000 people for three days. That equals many, many, many litres of water being consumed/wasted/flushed.  That is a lot of toilet flushing AND many, many showers. I won't even begin to discuss food waste and garbage.

Oh Judy.....why do you bother yourself with such thoughts.....


What if the community/town/municipality/city was struggling with a diminishing water supply. Would that make it worthwhile considering?

Fresh, potable water in not an endless resource.......

At what point do we have to say "No...I am sorry, we can't host your event because frankly...it would be irresponsible" or because "we have a responsibility to the folks that live here and who will still be here after the large event is over ".

People, planet, profits......we try to balance the three legged stool...our benchmark for determining "am I doing the right thing?"

As Sustainable Meeting Planners have we ever said 'STOP!', I can't do this? Because even after implementing sustainability strategies, I still can't make this particular event socially responsible?" Have we ever had to walk away?

I am not normally this morose.

I do not usually focus on such negative thinking and try to remind myself of what Dr. Karl-Henrik Robert said in Portland at the 2011 GMIC Sustainable Meetings Conference, "I am an realist with an optimistic heart". 

And I am realist and the fact of the matter is, reality sometimes is harsh. 

Protect that 'glass half full'......think about it each and every time you plan an event because frankly....it is getting more and more difficult, more and more expensive and becoming more and more of an ethical consideration when you need to fill it.


Saturday, July 28, 2012

When Social Media becomes a Social Menace

From 1987 to 1996, if you tuned into our local small town radio station in the morning weekdays, you might catch the call in talk show called “Contact” hosted by a fellow named Grant Mitton. The premise of the program was fairly simple – Grant would generally speak for a few moments at the beginning of the show (maybe discussing something that was in the news or introducing a special guest) and then folks would call in and share their opinion.

Grant was a great host and seemed to effortlessly take on various roles: mediator, counselor, referee and sometimes even religious advisor. It could be very entertaining to listen to and more often than not, the same folks would call in day after day to claim their minutes of fame.

Talk radio WAS social media, albeit a much more controlled form.

·  The message was controlled
·  The time was controlled
·  The medium was controlled

This highly controlled environment was limited to an hour each day wherein the host could pull the plug at any time if things got out of hand. It rarely happened though….Grant was like an old friend, his voice was soothing….comforting and supportive. Rarely did he have to raise his voice, rarely did he need to pull the plug. It was a different time back then….people seemed less….angry? Frustrated?

Local folks loved that program. It gave them a voice in situations where they felt they did not have one, and for others (those regular callers), it seemed to give them a purpose. Mitton always opened with “I invite your calls….any subject under the sun”. The program debated the oil and gas industry, government, environmental issues......you name it! It even engaged the services of a psychic to come on the air to connect with callers. Highly entertaining! Nothing seemed off limits.

Fast forward 16 years….where the heck are we now?

We have Facebook.

We have Twitter.

Facebook and twitter have taken the place of call in radio programs and talk shows. Do you notice the decline in Phil Donahue/Oprah type talk shows? In a world of immediate connectivity, there is no need to tune in for an hour to listen to a radio/television program. We are treated badly by a retailer? We tweet about it. We have a concern about our local government? We start a conversation on facebook. We want to connect with a celebrity? We connect with them on Twitter….and they respond.

Unfortunately……these forums are rarely controlled – no one ever says enough is enough. There is seldom a moderator….no one to pull the plug......no one to protect folks from themselves.

Scott Stratten, best selling author of Unmarketing and someone with his thumb firmly on all things social media says, “Social Media is an amplifier”. It is true. As soon as you press send on that Facebook post or tweet…..it is gone and you can’t get it back. Oh sure….you can delete it, but rarely can you delete it before it has been copied, retweeted or shared.

Basically…you just shouted from the rooftops….spelling mistakes and all. Did you speak truth? Did you overshare? Did you get caught up in the Herd Mentality and comment or pass along something that you shouldn’t? Did you damage someone’s reputation? Did you damage YOUR reputation?

I am an advocate for social media…..I use it in many of its forms, but it has a very dark side: One that we are seeing rear its ugly head more and more often. It is almost like (for some) there is a pop up when they log onto Facebook that says, "Do you solemnly swear to irritate, antagonize, bitch, whine and complain, bully, and comment without any thought to how it will effect the universe?" Press YES to continue. 

Think about it....that last comment you made.....you pressed send…..but should you have pressed delete instead?

Here are some tips about using social media:

·  Never, ever tweet or use facebook while intoxicated (even if it is funny, the spelling mistakes are enough to make you look bad)
·  Avoid commenting on sites that may hurt your brand (you are what/where you post)
·  Don’t over-share! Divorce, break-ups, birthing photos……nope!
·  Do not engage with negative behaviour on facebook.
·  Don’t be a Troll 
·  Don’t be passive aggressive…if you have a problem with a business…start by telling them directly so that they can correct the problem.

The title of this article was “When Social Media becomes a Social Menace”.  It is up to you….you control your message; you control the response to the messages you receive.

It is your choice.


Monday, July 16, 2012

A Whale of a Tale

“No woman should work this hard on her birthday!”

That was just one of the many comments that I heard while talking with customers in line at the Olde Creek Store in Dawson Creek last week. The mood was positively festive! Customers were smiling, and not one bit concerned about having to wait a wee bit during the busier moments throughout the day.

What began in 2004 as a unique way for store owner, Tanya Machula, to celebrate her 40th birthday (a birthday that many of us wish to forget), has become a highly anticipated annual event. You see…..that first year Tanya didn’t just give 20% off, or even 30% off…..instead she offered her customers a whopping 40% off! For the past 8 years that percentage has grown in direct relation to Tanya’s age and last week the sale was 48% off storewide.

Tanya’s Birthday Sale is a perfect example of something called “Lagniappe” (pronounced Lan Yap)

What the heck is lagniappe? Let me explain…two years ago I stumbled across a very cool website by Stan Phelps. His blog was all about this strange thing called “Lagniappe” and something that he called his “Purple Goldfish Project”. I was intrigued.

Phelps defined Marketing Lagniappe or Purple Goldfish as any time a business goes above and beyond to provide a little something extra for the customer. He also described it as Marketing G.L.U.E. (Giving Little Unexpected Extras). The blog was filled with great examples of Marketing Lagniappe and his book, “What’s Your Purple Goldfish? How to Win Customers and Influence Word of Mouth” will definitely make you think.

The concept resonated with me so deeply that I have never forgotten about it. In fact, I watch for examples of Purple Goldfish wherever I go and if I see a cool one…I either blog about it or tweet about it.

Tanya’s sale is wonderful example! In fact, it is the WHALE of a Purple Goldfish!

And the best part? Tanya’s unique marketing approach isn’t another fish story….it is authentic, it is sincere…..it is real.

Even more unusual is her marketing approach for the annual sale. There is no designated twitter hashtag, no radio ad campaigns….she shares the information via facebook, an email newsletter and signage at the store.

I particularly loved the sign at the store entrance titled, “Tanya’s Birthday Sale Rules”. The last rule was: “Have fun and be gentle with other customers”.

“Gratitude is an attitude” and when business owners live that statement each and every day, Marketing Lagniappe can come easily.

Other great examples of lagniappe:

·   Being served a free beverage or appetizer while waiting in line at your favourite restaurant;

·   A note or a treat waiting in your room at a hotel where you have previously stayed;

·   Dealerships who clean your car (inside & out) when you bring it in for servicing;

·   A hotel which offers a safety check-in for those guests who like to go for a solitary jog in the a.m. or p.m.;

·   A dental office which allows you to “plug in” your ipod or iphone and listen to your own playlist during your appointment (music can assist with anxiety)

Have I got you hooked on looking for Purple Goldfish? If you see one, you can always go to www.marketinglagniappe.com and share it on the Purple Goldfish Project page. While you are there, take a minute and read through all of the others that have been submitted. They are pretty amazing!

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Beets & Pieces

I had an interesting conversation with a young grocery store Check Out Clerk the other day. It went something like this:

Clerk picks up bag with produce item, puts on scale and gets puzzled look on her face: “Do you know how much these turnips are?”

Me (with a teeny, weeny smile tugging at the corners of my mouth): “Um…..no, I don’t and ummm….they are beets”.

I was a little surprised. As a former farm girl, I found it hard to believe that someone could mistake a beet for a turnip.

After returning home I posted the exchange on my facebook page and received mixed feedback. I thought the comment would elicit waves of giggles out of everyone. That wasn’t the case. Not everyone agreed with my assumption that the Clerk would/should know the difference between a turnip and a beet. One friend did take the opportunity to share a similar story though. She posted, “Once I went through the till with balls of suet for the birds. The poor thing (clerk) wondered how to cook it and was it good??? I told her the birds seemed to like it and I served it raw....”

But I digress (I love, love to digress….have you noticed?)

As I was saying, not everyone agreed with my assumption that the Clerk would/should know the difference. So I decided to write about it…..this thing called “assumptions”.

How many of us make judgment calls based on the notion that if something is common knowledge to us, then it must be common knowledge to EVERYONE?

Tasks and terminology that are of second nature to us, must be second nature to those around us, especially if they are in the same industry? Right?

How many of us have been in a conversation with colleagues and not had a clue what the flurry of acronyms meant…only to Google search it later. Think of how much more we could have contributed to the conversation had we known what they heck they were talking about.

Is there a lesson in this? Yes, I think so:

  • ·   Don’t judge those who don’t understand what you are saying…it could be a generational gap causing the confusion.
  •    Don’t use an acronym in a document or a conversation without using its entirety at least once, i.e. Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR)
  • ·   Do ask questions and don’t feel silly asking them. It is up to you to speak up – no one knows that you don’t understand and if you don't understand, you cannot be an active participant.


Tuesday, July 3, 2012

It's Been Fun

"It's been fun"

The sound you are hearing is millions of Twitter fans and Social Media experts sucking in air.


With those final three little words "It's been fun", @alecbaldwin has (once again) left the building known as Twitter and (once again) we seem to care.


Is it because his tweets were smart and funny and we couldn’t wait to check out his stream every day?

No….I don’t think so

Is it because he shared timely and relevant information?

No, not in my opinion

It must be because his political commentary was riveting….right?

No…not really

Well….why then? Why do we care?

Oh! Oh! Pick me! I have the answer! (my hand is extended over my head and I am jumping up and down)

We care because…

If @alecbaldwin can quit twitter than that means (gasp) others might follow suit and QUIT! OMG! OMG!

The fans panic because if an uber tweeter like @alecbaldwin can call quitsy then perhaps @KimKardashian or @JessicaSimpson or…holy shit….@justinbieber might.quit.tweeting

Is it a sign of the Apocalypse? Is it an indication the End of Days are near? Will @aplusk (Ashton Kutcher) with over 11 million followers be next?

Nah…..of course not, but it does unravel some fans a bit because for them, Twitter is about entertainment, not necessarily information.

But what about the Social Media folks….you know who I mean…the ones who live to talk about hashtags, trends and twitter streams. Folks like us who make our living by making sure that our attendees and clients are fully engaged using social media. Why do we care? 

  • We care because we have invested an awful lot of energy into Twitter
  • We care because we feel like we have helped nurture, guide and shape Twitter into the social media star that it has become
Has Twitter reached a tipping point?

Has it “jumped the shark?”

I think not.

Twitter has become a powerful social media tool and one highly publicized defection by a well known celebrity will not create a mass exodus. Frankly, I would be more concerned if someone like @jenisefryatt suddenly announced she were abandoning Twitter because Jenise uses Twitter to inform and engage. She shares information. She is a Social Media star and much more of a celebrity in my circle than @alecbaldwin.

So until that happens....I am not gonna worry about it.

Perhaps @alecbaldwin just wanted to spend time with his lovely new bride. No other reason.

You can let that breath out….it’s gonna be okay.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

One hand tied behind my back.....

Some of you may be wondering, "Is Judy ever going to post anything ever again on her blog?"

I thought I should explain.....

Note condition of left hand:

My left hand and wrist with cast

As you can see, the cast extends to the tips of my fingers, only leaving my thumb free to mock me. At this point, the hand is only good for hitchhiking....

Typing is a laborious exercise that I have to carefully consider before beginning to write something as I type with only one hand and it is so very frustrating.

I know that I should be thankful that it isn't worse and I respect those individuals who are dealing with so much more. I am thankful.

I know many are wondering, "where did she hurt herself?"  (Roller Derby practice), "how did she hurt herself?" (I fell down).

My new Roller Derby skates

 I fractured two fingers (at the joint where the finger meets the hand). One apparently "shattered" (gotta love the Doctors who "paint" with words).

So now you are thinking...."wow! Judy is pretty cool! She does Roller Derby!"

and you would be right....I AM cool


I should clarify about the falling down part.

I didn"t have skates on at the time (insert sad face emoticon here).

Go ahead.....I know you want to laugh.