Forget skeletons in the closet. If you’ve ever fancied yourself a ‘computer enthusiast,’ you’re dealing with far greater beasts. They lurk behind closet doors, in basements and attics. They may even be right beneath your feet. As the years go by and you accumulate more, you just can’t escape them. Or can you?
Computer equipment is the equivalent of old love letters in terms of sentimentality and monetary value but tend to take up a lot more space. It’s a common trap for technophiles to fall in—as newer technology is released, you buy it to replace outdated models and hang on to the old machines with fair justification. Who knows when you’ll need spare parts, right? But as the older models collect more dust and new machines are released at a faster rate, we’re quickly running out of room. What’s a geek to do?
These days it’s impossible to think of just tossing out old computers with yesterday’s soda cans and pork rind wrappers and it's almost illegal to do so. There is growing concern that the disposal of “end of life” electronics poses risks to the environment because of the presence of lead, mercury, and other volatile substances. The primary concern is that the growth of this electronic waste stream and the potential for the hazardous materials to cause disposal problems in the future. Many state legislatures are focusing on the issue and writing bills to handle the e-waste better, to ban landfill disposal of electronics, and to further encourage manufacturers to do more to make the “end of life” easier for consumers and the environment.
•More than 20 million PCs become obsolete each year in the United States.
•Computers, TVs, and other electronics account for 220 million tons of waste each year in the U.S.; more than 10% of that goes into landfills.
•As much as 80% of PCs and other e-waste collected for recycling in the U.S. ends up in Asia—where it is unsafely disposed.
•40% of the lead found in landfills, as well as other toxic materials such as cadmium, barium, and mercury, are all found in PC components.
Can’t live with ’em, can’t toss ’em out. Looks like recycling is the best option. But within that option lays several sub-options. We’ll discuss a few of them in the hopes that you’ll be inspired to pursue one or devise new ways of disposing of the useless equipment.
First, let’s take a look at what you can do with those fully functioning machines that you’ve simply outgrown.
There’s no need to haul your current machine out to the dumpster merely because you upgraded. Just because your needs have surpassed the old computer, doesn’t mean everyone has, so if you’ve got relatives who are sans-computer, simply pass it along to them. Sure, it means you’ll be their personal help desk, but as a computer-owner you’ve probably already earned the reputation of being the family geek.
Already hooked up the fam with choice equipment? Schools are always in need of better computers and it’s possible that they could use your cast-offs. However, some school districts can be discriminating in selecting old computers as they may want the whole package (keyboard, mouse, software, etc.) instead of just a tower or a monitor. If you’re interested in donating to an educational facility, call up your local school district for their computer donation guidelines. Failing that, you could check into donating your goods to an individual teacher for professional or personal use.
Charities and churches are also good homes for old computers. These groups can either put your machine to use in office or find a new home for it through their connections. Check local bulletin boards and weekly papers for notices of local groups in need of computer equipment. Some charity groups may be able to provide a receipt for your donation, an added incentive for taxpayers clinging to ancient computers.
If you do manage to find someone to take your old unit, don’t forget to use disk-cleaning software to remove all residues of you and your files from the hard drive. Include any software required for the OS and write the license number on the back of the computer. Some groups will use the original software with your letter of permission.
Most technophiles don’t have just one complete unit to hand off to some unsuspecting schlub and we keep them with the intention of putting them to use in the future. But still they pile up in the middle of the floor, menacing any non-computer user and their feet. It’s time to sort through the pile to determine what’s still useful and what has become obsolete.
Anything past its usefulness should be set aside for shipping off to a computer salvage company. They can pull out any materials that can be reused and destroy the rest of the materials in an environmentally safe manner. This is also where dead peripherals and monitors should be sent. Empty out that dead mice drawer and send them off to a proper burial.
Parts less than five years old can probably be sold off for a minimal profit, depending on the size and quality. Try listing spare parts on eBay. Or, if you have an exorbitant amount of spare parts, take them down to your local flea market.
With the lower costs of technology, you could easily build a new, low-end PC using your own spare parts. In a matter of hours, you’d have an extra computer for folding, testing out fishy software, or learning a new operating system. It would also be a great learning tool for novice geeks who have never tinkered with computer innards.
Whatever you decide to do, there are dozens of computer recycling programs to give you ideas or assist you in the ultimate removal of your equipment. For example, Share the Technology gives donors and potential recipients a way to connect regardless of their metaspace location. The non-profit corporation’s mission is to help salvage retired computers before “end of life” and place them in schools or with other non-profit organizations. To do this, Share the Technology provides a searchable national computer donation database.
In February 2004, it was reported on GreenBiz.com that U.S. electronics industry representatives “endorsed a resolution with state governments and environmental groups to develop flexible and fair recycling efforts.” The report also states that the electronics industry will create a proposal for legislation to finance nationwide recycling programs through a fee at point of sale or allow companies to create alternative plans to manage costs without a fee on their products.
Some manufacturers already have recycling programs in place. Gateway, HP, and Dell each claim to offer programs and incentives for recycling through them, but you’ll have to put in some dedicated search time to find out whether the programs still exist.
Even if you can’t find a way to recycle through the manufacturers, you may be encouraged to see that some of them are taking the initiative to aid in future recycling efforts. While a few companies are implementing end-of-life programs, others are trying to cut back on the amount of toxic materials used in new devices.
It is far too easy to get wrapped up in the new toys that allow us to forget not only about the old electronics but also about the environment and the world around us. Put your devices to work for the global good by encouraging fellow technophiles to reuse and recycle spare computer parts. Encourage your local legislation to support e-waste bills and to open more computer recycling and salvaging centers in more areas.
originally published in the May-June 2004 issue of Orlando Life magazine.
Look here kittens and cats; unhook your ears while I lay it down for you. The last resurgence in the swing craze has temporarily lost its intoxicating hold on the American public, but there’s one hepcat who continues to add his own twist to the nostalgia martini.
Michael Andrew embraced the big band sound at an early age. While his peers tripped out to The Doors and Pink Floyd, Andrew soaked in the stylings of The Four Freshmen and crooners like Mel Torme. The desire to perform consumed him around the same time. Young Michael combined his newfound passions into lip-synched productions for his parents’ friends.
As time went on, Andrew expanded beyond lip-synching and developed his own voice. He spent quality time learning about music- composing, arranging, band leading and modern recording techniques from an important mentors, Milwaukee band leader, Dave Kennedy. It was Kennedy who taught Michael not only how to play to the audience, regardless of whether they were dancing- a key element to Andrew's career success. While he enjoyed performing and entertaining, he decided to pursue a more practical line of work in college. Before he could get too far as a business major, an outing altered his path. “In my sophomore year of college, I attended a theatre picnic and met all these people who were like me and wanted to do the same things I wanted to do... eventually I became a theatre major,” recalls Andrew.
Andrew’s graduation from University of Wisconsin Eau Claire coincided with the early 1990s entertainment boom in Orlando. The Orlando hype lured Andrew out of his home state and down to the Sunshine State, where he would eventually set up his base of operations. Once in the City Beautiful, he explored all the opportunities available to him and successfully landed several small television gigs and a full-time job at Universal Studios. Shortly after he logged in time as Stan Laurel in the streets of Universal, Carnival Cruise Lines offered Andrew a chance to take his talent to the open seas as more than an actor or singer. Carnival Cruise allowed him to hone his skills as a bandleader and a character actor. By day he was an unwitting nerd running about the ship, but by nightfall he’s transformed into a suave bandleader- rolling the essences of bandleader/clarinetist Benny Goodman and Frank Sinatra into a handsome modern-day package.
When developing his dashing stage persona, Andrew drew inspiration from unlikely hipster Jerry Lewis and his Nutty Professor character Buddy Love. With his theatre training, he managed to interlace the debonair womanizer with bits of his own personality and wound up with the Michael Andrew we see on stage today. “It’s easy for me to think of myself as an actor playing the part of a singer.”
Just as Andrew was growing restless of ship life, he got his big break- a six-month stint as bandleader at the world famous Rainbow Room in New York. Through contract extensions, the gig went from six months to a 25-month job. Andrew reminisces, “The Rainbow Room gave me credibility as a singer and bandleader... It was a real romantic experience.” His experience afforded him many opportunities in later years to perform before live audiences with Merv Griffin and his celebrity friends who could fondly recall the golden days of big band music.
After his time in the Rainbow Room in 1996, Andrew took a short break from performing to concentrate on creating music. He penned and mounted his sci-fi musical comedy Mickey Swingerhead and the Earthgirls, finally meshed his passion for acting, singing, and retro-exotica music from the 1950's. The show, which ran with rave reviews, is parallel to Andrew's personal mission to keep swing music alive. At the same time, he also released his first solo album, I Guess I'm a Little Out of Date, a collection of classic swing standards and his own original songs.
Over the years, Michael Andrew attached his name to several bands including the Michael Andrew Orchestra and The Michael Andrew Retro-Swing Band, but his biggest band success Swingerhead. The band was formed by Andrew in 1998, when a certain Gap ad encouraged young hipsters to embrace swing music and the cocktail culture. Since the formation, Swingerhead has enjoyed modest success. As of 2002, they have received seven nominations and five wins from the Orlando Music Awards, released several albums—including the recent Destination Moon, and appeared briefly in the Sigourney Weaver/Jennifer Love Hewitt flick Heartbreakers. The band, comprised of talented musicians from around the country, continues to tour and record despite the current slump in swing popularity.
Michael Andrew continues to be involved in a variety of projects outside of performing with Swingerhead. In the past five years, he’s performed with the Orlando Philharmonic Orchestra and Los Angeles based The Coconut Club Orchestra, composed incidental music for The Paper Route, a short film by Orlando production company Stars North, and returned to his acting roots in Mad Cow Theatre’s 2002 production of As Thousands Cheer.
Because his music career took off so quickly, Andrew hasn't had the chance to beef up his acting resume, but he chalks it up to sacrifice. "There is no nine-to-five when you're running your own career, there is no cutoff point, so sacrifices are a given. I've been very fortunate and don't have any regrets about my choices."
When it’s time to take a break from the spotlight, Andrew is content to return to his Orlando home. The coiffed pompadour and zoot suits are traded for jeans and t-shirts as he concentrates on remodeling the house he’s owned since his Carnival Cruise days or recording in his new home studio. During a much-needed break from touring, he is deciding which projects he’ll pursue next. One pursuit is the remount of his stage musical Mickey Swingerhead and the Earthgirls, which would reunite Andrew with local director Alan Bruun of Mad Cow during the Orlando Fringe Festival.
Through it all, Michael Andrew hasn’t lost sight of his intentions. “My ultimate goal is to entertain people, to make the audience happy.” After all these years, he remains dedicated to the swing scene and his style is as fresh as ever. For the trend-followers who want to get a running start on the next big band wagon, Michael Andrew and Swingerhead will steer you into instant fandom for one of America‘s first original music styles.
originally published in the show program for Michael Andrew Pays Tribute to Frank Sinatra, November 2003.
In 1999, ABC brought Regis and game shows back to prime time. Who Wants to Be a Millionaire became a cash cow complete with catch phrase, suspense, and interactivity. We watched until the hot seat cooled and endured the knock-offs and standouts that followed. By 2001, this century’s prime time game show gamut was run so deep into the ground, it should take the Game Show Network 20 years to dig them out. But it showed network executives what Fox and MTV have known for years, viewers like watching real people in extenuating circumstances. And thus reality programming was borne.
Or was it? Reality programs have been around since the early 1950s. Candid Camera originated in 1948 as Candid Microphone, a radio show taped by Allen Funt to broadcast complaints of servicemen in the Armed Forces. From there, the reality genre has gone through several incarnations, time slots, and formats. In the 1980s, networks tested the reality genre in prime time with America’s Most Wanted, Unsolved Mysteries, America’s Funniest Home Videos, and COPS. But for years reality was primarily a daytime mainstay with talk shows, courtroom dramas, and tabloid magazine shows. These days, the reality genre basically breaks down into six categories; strategy/game show, how-to, tabloid, documentary, dramatization, and hidden camera/prank. Depending on how you’ve programmed your DVR, you can find any type of reality show on at any time of day. Reality shows now dominate the airwaves and there is increasing worry that new fiction programs will be voted off.
Why is reality so appealing? Reality as we know it consists of daily minutiae and occasional life-rumbling events. It’s bill paying and traffic jams, picking an impossible piece of lint from your sweater, and dodging phone calls from nosy relatives. Televised reality eliminates the minutiae thanks to an expert team of editors, leaving plenty of non-commercial time for the big stuff.
By now, it’s no surprise that situations and scenes in most prime time reality shows are exaggerated for entertainment purposes. The first season of MTV’s The Real World threw seven strangers into a New York loft for three months. It was a sleepy little experiment with funny looking dogs, political graffiti, and toilet paper humor until they stumbled upon racial tension and a little bit of romance. It feels orchestrated and awkward, but the romance + tension formula works and MTV still holds a slot for the show twelve years later.
We tune in because we’re natural voyeurs. And it’s common knowledge that reality is more interesting when it isn’t your own; even if it is contrived and edited to fit your television screen. Reality television presents the camera-friendly everyman and everywoman to the general public, which was a refreshing change from the impossibly attractive actors living out impossibly perfect lives. In most series, there is an underdog, a villain, and the hero. I haven’t seen a reality game show yet that didn’t end with a winner. There’s always a happy ending for someone, at least for the final five minutes of the season finale.
The competition, the romance, and the drama are interesting for the duration of the series. Unfortunately, our media saturated culture kills the buzz on our fairytale endings with immediate follow-ups with former players. Shows like The Bachelor and American Idol are modern day fairy tales—someone’s dream comes true; the happy couple rides off into the sunset. They can leave you with a positive feeling about humanity and show that good things can happen—if you’re willing to turn it off at the end credits.
As some sitcoms wrap up their runs, we’re likely to see some awkward replacements and a dozen and a half more reality shows before the next big television trend rolls its opening credits. Perhaps Regis will play hero once again with his very own Irish cop drama, “Reege and the Hot Seat.”
originally published in the January-February 2004 issue of Orlando Life magazine.
An Artful Dedication
Mary Ann Dean, Executive Director OSF
Mary Ann Dean has been providing a strong business approach to Orlando’s theatre community for 30 years. After 12 years as Executive Director of Orlando Shakespeare Festival, Dean will be entering into a well-deserved retirement in June.
In 1973, Dean joined the Civic Theatre Guild as an effort to get involved in the community. By 1980 she was elected General Manager of the Civic Theatre. “I had no theatre background, except as an audience member and found my niche in concentrating on the business side,” says Dean.
Under Dean’s direction, from 1980 to 1994, the Civic grew into one of the largest community theatres in the country with a 3-theatre space (now home to Orlando Repertory), an active children’s series, and a larger staff. “I’m a prime example of on-the-job training!” Dean says.
Due to her tremendous success, Dean was brought in as Executive Director to the Shakespeare Festival in 1994. She, along with Artistic Director Jim Helsinger, pulled the company out of debt in 1996 and brought theatre back to Loch Haven Park in 2001 in a 50,000 sq. ft. indoor complex with three theatres and a nine-show season. “That’s phenomenal growth. It’s a sign of Mary Ann’s integrity and the belief in that integrity from the board, our patrons, and our donors,” boasts Helsinger. “She always brings a cheerful attitude and level head to everything she does.”
Thanks to Dean’s efforts, many Orlando theatre groups are thriving. “There’s not a theatre group in town that hasn’t been affected by Mary Ann’s positive, either by providing performance space or giving advice on how to grow their business,” says Helsinger.
“Mary Ann is well-known and respected throughout Orlando and the state of Florida. She is dedicated, loyal, and endlessly hardworking,” says Rita Lowndes, long-time friend. “While losing her presents a challenge, the new director will have the benefit of working from the solid foundation built by Mary Ann.”
“It has been gratifying to watch how the arts community matured over 30 years,” says Dean. Despite her retirement, Dean plans to remain involved in Orlando theatre as a consultant and patron.
originally published in the May-June 2006 issue of Orlando Arts magazine.
Anne McLean, PhD
Pianist, Music Advisory Committee Co-Chair for Festival of Orchestra
Dr. Anne McLean shows great dedication to her work. Even as she heads to her native Canada for a six-week vacation, she has scheduled performance dates. Amazingly, she finds some time to discuss music, her career, and her work with the Festival of Orchestras. “It’s not difficult to talk about a subject you love,” says McLean.
Since her arrival to Orlando in 1995, Dr. McLean felt drawn to the Festival of Orchestras. “I think we took out subscriptions for the Festival, the Opera, and the Orlando Philharmonic all at once.” In August 2001, Whit Cotten, the Festival’s vice president invited her to join Dave Glerum on WMFE-FM. Shortly after, Festival CEO Joe Rizzo asked McLean to serve on the music advisory committee as co-chair.
Mr. Rizzo seems pleased with his decision. “Anne has been extremely helpful in [the] hour-long programs previewing each of our concerts... Her music expertise is outstanding.”
This is no surprise considering McLean’s background. Born to two pianists, McLean began her training on the piano with her mother. She moved on to study in Edmonton, and later in Austria and Switzerland. She completed her formal training with a Doctorate of Musical Arts from the University of British Columbia School of Music.
Dr. McLean maintains a dual career as a pianist, performing to critical acclaim around the world, and as a professor of piano at Stetson University‘s School of Music. She recorded “Contemporary Connections,” a CD compilation of 20th century piano music, a project she says is her greatest musical accomplishment.
McLean sums up her duty as Co-chair of the Festival of Orchestras, “Essentially, I advise the committee on musical matters such as helping with choices of programming and orchestras.” She goes on to say, “I am delighted to volunteer for the Festival of Orchestras because I have an opportunity to use my skills for a worthy cause.”
The Festival staff is buzzing with excitement over the first-ever performance in Central Florida by the New York Philharmonic in February 2003. McLean has also volunteered to organize Orlando’s first International Rachmaninoff Society conference on Rollins College campus October 25-27.
originally published in the September-October 2002 issue of Orlando Arts magazine.
Looking to fill a hole in your social calendar? Think about hosting a food swap. Food swapping parties offer opportunities to share favorite recipes, socialize, and sample new dishes. A baked goods swap is a great low-key party idea and a fun excuse to gather your girlfriends and dabble with domesticity. Baked goods can range from biscuits to quick breads and cheesecakes to cupcakes.
If you've never hosted a food swap, these tips will help you plan a stress-free (and mess-free) event.
Keep the guest list small. For a more manageable food swap, limit your guest list. Six-to-eight people will provide plenty of options for swapping while reducing the amount of pre-party prep.
With an event like this, food allergies are always a concern. Ask invitees to reveal any allergies with their RSVP and alert the other participants so recipes can be altered to accomodate.
Establish some rules. Choose a theme for your baked goods swap (sweet 'n' savory, secret family recipes, breakfast treats, etc.). Encourage your guests to tell you what they plan to bring to ensure you don't wind up with multiples of the same dish. The goal of a food swap is for each guest to leave with new treats to enjoy later, but you'll want to have something to try during the party. Ask guests to prepare enough for all the attendees to take away plus a mini batch for sampling.
Be prepared. In addition to standard party needs (drinks, napkins, seating, music, etc.), have cutting and serving tools available for use. Also have some pens and stickers or place setting cards so people can label their goodies. If you're feeling ambitious, provide a packaging station with food grade boxes and decorations where guests can wrap up their treats for taking home. Blank index cards come in handy for those want your great-grandmother's awesome zucchini bread recipe.
A food swap doesn't necessarily mean everyone will fill up on samples, so set out a few trays and bowls of munchies and appetizers. Offer some healthy options to balance out sweets-based contributions
Don't forget to make your own dish to swap! If you are sidetracked by planning details, try to incorporate your dish preparation into the party. Get your guests talking about their own cooking methods.
The best part of a food swap—beside eating, of course—is the socializing. Every recipe has a story. Whether it's a sentimental memory or an embarrassing anecdote, sharing these stories over homemade goodies makes for a lovely bonding experience. What started out as a way to use up leftover chocolate chips may actually strengthen friendships.
You've got the man. You've got the ring. You've set the date. Now it's on to tackle the biggest challenge of planning a wedding—picking the right venue. To help narrow your options for a wedding venue you'll want to consider your guest list, your needs and, most importantly, your budget.
Choose a type of venue. If you've got a large guest list, you'll need space to accomodate them. An outdoor venue sounds romantic but is susceptible to weather changes (with nonrefundable deposits). Are you anticipating a lot of out-of-town guests? Maybe a hotel wedding suits your needs. Are you an avid arts lover? Rent out your favorite art gallery or museum.
Get recommendations. Ask around for opinions on venues in your chosen location. Contact former brides about their experience with the venues you're considering. They'll have the best insight for pre-wedding venue hunting and how the staff handles last-minute crises.
Visit venues in person. Once you've made a list of your venue preferences, tour the facilities with your partner to get a full assessment. Consider the following factors:
Work within your budget. Factor in costs of the facility itself along with catering, equipment rentals, and staff services. What's included in space rental and which services are considered add-ons? Before booking a venue, get details of the rental agreement regarding cancellation policies, change of date, and terms for deposit and final payment.
Be flexible. If you find your dream venue, make sure you're prepared to compromise on your wedding date to meet venue availability. Get married in the off-season, when rental costs will be lower—and you won't be competing with all the other summer brides.
It takes more than a good idea to fuel a successful business endeavour. You need time, money, energy, manpower—but most of all, you need a plan that harnesses all of these components and ensures optimum use and distribution. Without a plan, you could easily max out time and money before you get proper manpower in place. Whether you're launching a brand new start up or expanding an existing enterprise, having a five-year goal in place will help keep your growth on track.
Follow these 10 tips to realize your business vision.
1. Identify your vision. Before formulating a plan, take a moment to envision the shape of your business in five years. How do you quantify its success? Consider not just financial wealth but also the size and structure of your company and recognition within the industry. Do you have the resources necessary to fulfill your ambition within a short timespan? Focus on the details of your vision to form realistic objectives and short-term goals.
2. Define your company's objectives. With a goal set, think in specifics about what your company will achieve and how those achievements will be measured. Objectives will reveal whether your company is on track to the ultimate goal and fulfill shareholder expectations. From the successes (and failures) of your objectives, you can gauge where to make adjustments and how to proceed forward. Objectives should be short-term with a set criteria that is attainable and relevant to your business.
3. Think big, work small. Once you've identified the long-term goals and short-term objectives, it's time to focus on the immediate. Put plans into action by breaking your objectives down further into smaller tasks with quicker turnaround. Here is where you tackle the meetings and phone calls that build client lists and networks.
4. Be (more than) your own boss. Building a business from scratch demands a great deal of time and sacrifice. Even the most successful CEOs have to make compromises in both their professional and personal lives. Consider your own personal risks and compromises. How much of your own time and money are you investing? Do you have full support of your family? Could your business venture potentially jeopardize your home life? Can the company survive without you should a personal emergency arise?
5. Manage expectations. Some objectives may not be met. Deadlines will be missed. A dramatic shift in market demand could set your business back several months (or years). Brace yourself for early disappointments, especially if this is your first entrepreneurial endeavour. Scale back or extend timetables of objectives if performance seems lacking.
6. Understand the costs of doing business. If one of your objectives is to pursue higher profit margins, keep your fiscal performance in check with regular assessments of your business expenditures. Know what it realistically costs to run your company while keeping your employees and shareholders happy. It may be necessary to sacrifice one objective in order to meet your fiscal target. Keep in mind that sacrifices may inconvenience or adversely impact employees even if it buoys your bottom line.
7. Be flexible. As your business grows, you may notice an increase in demands of your time and resources. New opportunities or market fluctuations may dictate an adjustment in short-term objectives. Keep your company's goals fluid enough to accommodate new ideas or improvements on existing objectives.
8. Compete, don't compare. When entering any marketplace it's crucial to know your competition, to be familiar with their strengths and weaknesses in order to seize opportunities within the industry. But when it comes to the internal operations, every company is different. Each firm has its own objectives and works at its own pace. Do not compare your company's objectives to those of your rivals.
9. Forget the middle. Focus on the short-term goals. Concentrate on the acheivements you can make six months from now, not the goals you want to accomplish two years from now. New ideas are often the most exciting ideas, but if they aren't part of the current plan, they can prove to be unnecessary distraction from more time-sensitive tasks. If you have an idea for a mid-term objective, make note of it for future pursuits.
10. Make a commitment. If your business is your passion, commit to the journey and prepare to weather the highs and lows of running a successful business. Surround yourself with a dedicated and determined team to help realize the full potential of your enterprise. Be prepared to stick with your business for the long haul—your commitment may prove inspirational to staff and clients alike. When you reach your initial goals, you may find yourself planning for the next five years.
If your go-to-market strategy relies on indirect sales channels, it's imperative to keep your channel partners engaged in driving sales and increasing revenue. Maximize your GTM strategy's effectiveness by understanding external markets and prospects. Channel partners often have direct experience and can provide valuable buyer insight that can enhance your GTM strategy. When partners are invested in a product and its brand, the motivation to implement strategies is stronger, providing greater accuracy for monitoring success.
Partner engagement can be divided into three categories:
Information—Provide your partners with the knowledge of your product and equip them with the tools necessary to generate sales.
Incentives—Offer benefits to stimulate sales growth.
Involvement—Embrace channel partners as an extended branch of your sales team and encourage participation in corporate events.
Are your channel partners actively engaged in implementing your current go-to-market strategy? How much input do your channel partners have in your GTM strategy?
Here are 10 techniques designed to boost sales partner engagement.
1. Sales tools. How are your partners promoting your product to buyers? Do your channel partners have a compatible sales strategy in place? Vendors often possess the resources and expertise that new channel partners needs to drive buyer engagement. If you want your partners to move your products, furnish them with the same sales enablement tools you provide for in-house sales reps.
Sales materials may include:
•Free trials of product
•Dynamic report generators
2. Ongoing training. It's important to illustrate how implementing existing go-to-market strategies can result in success, so take the time to train your partners not only about what they're selling but also how to sell it. Present recent successful campaigns and the trajectory of your current sales strategy.
3. Joint marketing campaigns. The best way to ensure quality and consistency in brand messaging is to collaborate with partners. Partners' independent marketing materials may reveal opportunities to adopt their tactics. If your partners have multiple vendor agreements, be aware of how they promote your products alongside your competitors.
Allow partners to customize marketing programs to fill the needs of their niche or territory. Find messaging that reflects the individual partner's brand and highlights their unique value without diluting your own brand. Co-branded marketing can reduce those costs and boost profits for both businesses.
Your endorsement matters—to your partners and buyers. Co-branding provides legitimacy to your partner, builds trust, and demonstrates to your buyers that your partners are reputable sources. Ensure call-to-action in co-branded communications are directing leads to your partners.
4. Exclusivity agreements. Push your product to the forefront by offering exclusivity agreements. Give your partners exclusive rights to sell your product in their geographic location or give them limited time exclusivity on offering a new product or service.
5. Pre-sales incentives. Partners need motivation to sell your product. Beyond the promises of sales margins and commissions, consider brand-centric incentives like product discounts and rebates. Boost sales potential by setting up a brand-wide promotional program designed to drive buyers to partner sites. You will be able to track buyer interest in target markets, but it's up to the partner to turn those leads into sales. Consider bonus revenue sharing if partners exceed their sales quota.
6. Post-sales rewards. Financial motivation gets the sales but emotional motivation is proven to be as effective in boosting overall results. Non-cash rewards are a more personalized way of demonstrating the value of individual partners—and an easy way to ramp up competition amongst sales partners. These kinds of rewards can include gift cards for merchandise, health and wellness packages, and travel vouchers.
7. Recognition. High-performing partners deserve public acknowledgement for achievements. Publish a success story spotlight in your monthly newsletter as a way to praise power sellers. This feature will make a memorable impression on recipients and their influencers (family, friends, etc.) and motivate other partners to increase their sales efforts.
8. Share analytics. Giving sales partners access to your website analytics supplies them with data about their prospects. Some shared analytics programs deliver information in real time, allowing partners to see when prospective buyers in their market visit the vendor website so they can act on buyer interest while your product is still top-of-mind.
9. Partner surveys. Invite participation from active partners to provide feedback on product performance, buyer insight, and opportunities for improvement. Surveys may reveal shifts in the market or buyer behaviour that will need to be addressed in future go-to-market strategies.
10. Private events for Partners. Host quarterly or annual conferences for channel partners to foster engagement in your company's culture. In-person events encourage partners to network and give them a chance to interact with your company in a less formal atmosphere. Conferences and galas can be used to present non-cash rewards and awards of recognition, further promoting vendor investment in partners. Include top performing partners in sales forecasting calls, quarterly meetings, and go-to-market planning sessions.
How many of these techniques have you adopted in your efforts to engage channel partners? Which techniques will you try?
Now that we can distribute our eBooks instantly, it would be great if we could also track eBook sales instantly, right? Good news—we can!
The latest—and most valuable—innovation in eBook publishing is the instant availability of sales data online. Publishers no longer need to wait for quarterly reports and impenetrable spreadsheets to gauge performance in the marketplace. With real-time analytics, it's now possible to access and interpret sales data quickly and easily—and to take action in response to the results.
Analytics let publishers evaluate a title's trajectory through time, in various regions and on different platforms. When comparing weekly or daily sales data, publishers can detect patterns in sales while measuring the effectiveness of marketing initiatives. The best way to identify trends is to regularly monitor movement in three areas—sales channels performance, regional sales, and pricing.
Many sales channels offer the option to distribute eBooks across multiple territories, meaning you can simultaneously release a title in the U.S., Brazil and Germany and immediately track sales in those regions. You may find that a title performs exceedingly well in a unexpected foreign market or that what's considered a popular genre in one country may be almost non-existent in another. These trends could help determine opportunities for expansion into other markets.
Sales Channel Performance
The surge in the popularity of tablets and eReaders has resulted in an influx of eBook retailers. These sales channels offer the potential for wider distribution across multiple platforms. Through our global distribution service, publishers can easily access the analytics and compare a title's performance from all available sales channels. The accumulated sales data will reveal whether a title is under-performing on one channel, allowing for swifter response to remedy the issue.
The price of an eBook is in constant fluctuation, often reliant on the perceived value of the book's content at any given time. Publishers can adjust prices seasonally or for a title-specific promotion and use analytics to measure the effectiveness of a particular promotion or sales action. Allow ample time for sales channels to update their databases to reflect new pricing, as some retailers take several business days to apply changes.
Trend tracking in sales data offers insight into consumer behavior and reveals opportunities for future promotional or marketing plans. Using these insights, you can improve on existing marketing tactics, revise pricing structures and identify new markets. Monitor daily trends to gauge the effectiveness of a price adjustment or sales action. Review monthly reports to compare performance across multiple territories and sales channels. With short-term data, you can make changes in distribution—either by country/region or sales channel—or in the content's metadata to help boost visibility and sales. Long-term data results can inform decisions on future content production and distribution.
Whether you're publishing one title or 20, sales analytics may prove invaluable to your marketing and distribution strategies. The digital shelf life of an eBook had yet to be determined, but the trends revealed in sales data will enable you to keep your title relevant in the marketplace and out of the virtual remainders bin.
Content on this site was originally written by Katharine Miller between 2000-2015. Many feature articles and interviews were published in print and on websites that no longer exist. Katharine is reproducing her written material here for portfolio and archival purposes only. Links and credits to clients and original publication will be included where possible.