Baby Buggy, NFL Rule Changes and the Cutest Coach in Basketball

March can be pretty maddening, so it makes sense there’s been a lot of sports talk around the office.

Here’s what we’ve been talking about this past week.

The Cutest Coach in Basketball.

Nope, no Tim Miles here. This (assistant) coach happens to be four years old, and is the grandson of St. Joe’s coach Phil Martelli. Here he is in action:

Dunks in the NFL are Denied.

Looks like you’ll have to find other ways to show off your ‘mad ups’ in the NFL. I’ll have to save my NBA Jam references for strictly basketball, because the NFL has banned dunking over the goalposts.

Problems Every Golfer Faces.

Spring weather may not be completely here yet, but it’s still time to dust off your clubs. And your swing. Here are 23 problems every golfer can relate to.

The New Baby Buggy Fortune.

Finally, something not related to sports. This guy definitely had babies on his mind, because he had one of the craziest (and correct) guesses on Wheel of Fortune.

What had you talking this past week?

Pi Day, MH370 and the Rise of Nebrasketball

What’s the fun in keeping things static—especially in regards to blogging?

We’re taking a new spin on how we attack the Firespring blog. While we still want to provide you with educational content, you’ll just start to see everything else in between as well.

Every week we want to share what Firespring is talking about. This could be a great TED Talk, interesting news story or anything that has us talking around the office.

Consider this Firespring Chatter. Here’s what we’ve been talking about this past week.

Celebrating Pi Day.

We may have been watching basketball… but here’s How America Celebrates Pi Day.

Nebrasketball Getting the Last Laugh.

It’s no secret that basketball is becoming the new football in Nebraska—similar to how orange is the new black. Even USA Today is talking about Nebraska getting the last laugh.

Be sure to check out how Nebraska celebrated on Selection Sunday. I mean, this is only their first March Madness appearance since 1998. No big deal.

MH370 Still Missing

It’s pretty crazy how an aircraft full of 227 passengers can disappear, but on March 8th that was just the case. We came across this comprehensive timeline of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 on Reddit. The events are mind-boggling, but this timeline helps you follow along in detail.

Is it Just Me?

Few things are more frustrating for a tech company than the internet or a particular site being down. And a lot of times it has you asking yourself the question, “Is it just me?” Check out this helpful site to see if a website is down for everyone—or if it’s just you.

National Quilting Day

You better believe we have quilters on board. How do you think we stay warm during the harsh Nebraska winters? There was more than just simple pattern work happening last week—March 15th was National Quilting Day.

This is what had us talking this past week. What’s grabbed your attention recently?

Lessons on Salesmanship from the World’s Best Beet Farmer

Lessons on Salesmanship from the World’s Best Beet Farmer

Dwight Schrute lived and breathed Dunder Mifflin—and beets. He loved paper and was great at selling it, which was made known from numerous (and hilarious) quotes and his over-the-top salesmanship on The Office.

The only thing he might have loved more than selling paper was his beet farm (everyone needs a hobby, right?).

While the illustration is silly, there is a valuable lesson we can all learn from Dwight K. Schrute:

Love what you sell.

If you love what you sell, you’ll know everything there is to know about it. Your clients will be (theoretically) incapable of asking you a question you don’t know the answer to. And, when posed with an unanswered question, you’ll do whatever it takes to figure it out (partly because you’re client will demand it, but mostly because you just want to know).

Next?

Passion will earn you sales.

(And this makes your superiors very, very happy.) When you have genuine appreciation for your products and services you’ll be invested in showing your clients how they can improve their current situation.

And always remember this: technology won’t make the sale. As much as Facebook, Twitter and other online marketing mediums will drive curiosity and initial investigation, it’s authentic human contact that will make or break your sale.

In other words, don’t worry—you’re never going to be replaced by a computer—a human voice will always be better than an automated one.

How do you improve your salesmanship?

Two Quick Lessons to Save Face in Customer Satisfaction

Two Quick Lessons to Save Face in Customer Satisfaction

Our evolving client base is what makes our world turn and keeps the doors open. So it’s important to better understand our customers so we can better serve them in return. When customers are satisfied with our products or services, the more business we get, right?

That only seems logical. Check out these two quick lessons in customer satisfaction so your organization can save face and offer the best service possible to your customers.

1. It takes a lot to satisfy an unhappy customer.

Unhappy customers don’t want a discount off their next purchase or a pre-written letter of apology signed by your team. What they really want? A connection. Meaning, they’d like genuine sympathy. We’ve all been disappointed with a purchase, so your team should be equipped with some genuine understanding and a heartfelt apology. And give them a chance to tell you exactly what went wrong with their purchase and how you can correct it.

If you’re successful you’ll not only retain the customer, but  you’ll turn them into brand lovers, touting how well you handled the situation.

2. Remember the two kinds of loyalty.

Type one isn’t earned. It’s the loyalty of convenience.

If your business is geographically more convenient, your website is better structured, or your phones are more likely to be answered, you’ve won those customers. But it’s a very superficial type of loyalty. It could be gone with a move across town or an arrival of a newer, closer business.

Type two—you guessed it—is earned. It’s the loyalty of satisfaction.

And this ties back to lesson one. Customers with this kind of loyalty are committed to your business because of positive past experiences. And that’s hard to tarnish—as long as you keep handling your customers with care and complaints with compassion.

What does your organization do to offer the best service possible?

Three Social Media Trends for Your Organization to Consider

Three Social Media Trends for Your Organization to Consider

If you haven’t finished your marketing plan for 2014 yet, or still have room to add, there are a few trends in the social media world to consider. So as the days are starting to grow longer, so can your marketing plan.

The social media landscape is ever-changing, so we did some homework to help you navigate it. Here are three social media trends to pay attention to.

Come on, you have to do it.

If you’ve been shirking the social media trend, it’s probably time to do something. We’re prognosticating that it’s not going away anytime soon. This doesn’t mean you have to do it all (Facebook, Twitter, Path, MySpace (making a comeback in 2014), Pinterest, etc.) that trend is over. Amplify your other marketing efforts by incorporating a social media aspect. Stop treating it like a separate beast. Social media is part of the greater whole of your marketing plan. Side note: Social media plays an active role in helping to boost your organization’s SEO.

Kodachrome, you give us those nice bright colors.

This should be no surprise, but images get noticed. This has always been the case for any marketing medium, but new social media tools introduced in the past few years have changed the landscape of how images are consumed. Pinterest is working on shedding its females-only network as retailers continue to jump on board to add this—and other image based social media tools like Vine, Path and Instagram—to their marketing strategy.

Consumers actually click.

Us consumers are a smart bunch so online advertising is working to outsmart us. And it’s beginning to work. Be on the lookout for ad retargeting, where ads can be placed on social sites based on your visits to other sites. And if you’ve been on Facebook recently you see a great example of native advertising, where promoted content is placed among your friends’ food photos. While this type of advertising may seem creepy, it’s an efficient way to spend your advertising dollars and consumers actually get content they’re interested in—a win-win.

Always remember, all of these social media tools are rented space. They’ll happily change on you at any time, and often do without notice. Keep your website the center of your online marketing strategy.

How to Be Productive—Four Apps to Stay on the Ball

How to Be Productive—Four Apps to Stay on the Ball

You’re busy, we’re busy—the whole world’s busy. And with email, Facebook and everything in between, it’s hard to get stuff done. Sometimes it’s even tough to find the right tools to stay productive.

That’s where we come in. We did some searching and found a few of the top ranked productivity apps to help you keep checking things off your list. Keep reading so, “how to be productive” can be the next item crossed off.

Mailbox.

Got an overflowing inbox? Then Mailbox is your new best friend. If a clear inbox is what you seek, look no further. Mailbox fixes the consistent problem many busy bees face: getting rid of the junk and sorting out what you want to read later.

With options of reading “Later Today,” “This Evening,” “Tomorrow,” “This Weekend,” “Next Week,” “In a Month,” “Someday,” you can classify your messages to your heart’s content. And bonus, it’s free. (Currently it’s only compatible with Gmail addresses—other email platforms will be available soon.)

CloudOn.

If you’re constantly on the go and find yourself needing to use Microsoft Word, Excel or Powerpoint, then CloudOn is the productivity booster for you.

This free app allows users to create any of the aforementioned documents on your iPhone, iPad or Droid and users can then sync them with Box, Dropbox, Google Drive and SkyDrive to share these files (or simply email files directly from mobile devices).

Clear.

For those obsessed with aesthetics as well as productivity, check out what The Verge calls “The iPhone’s most beautiful to-do list app,” Clear. For just $1.99 you can simply swipe items to check them off and shake your phone to bring up the options menu. Create separate lists for work, shopping, personal, etc.

Perfect for people with a million things on their plate and a cell phone attached to their hip, Clear is a beautifully simple yet effective app worth checking out.

Dashlane.

Have a million different passwords that you constantly struggle to remember? Contemplate changing them all to “abc123” to make your life a little easier? Don’t do it. Resist the temptation and check out Dashlane first. This password management system stores all of your logins in alphabetic order. All you have to do is remember the one master password to access them! And it’s free, our favorite price.

What apps do you use to stay productive?

Facebook Turned Ten! Here’s How It’s Changed Our Lives

Facebook Turned Ten! Here’s How It’s Changed Our Lives

On the afternoon of February 4, 2004, Harvard sophomore Mark Zuckerberg launched a website called The Facebook—a site designed to help people share deets about themselves with other students at Harvard. The idea caught on (obviously) and the rest, as they say, is history.

Last week, Facebook turned ten and celebrated with an eruption of Look Back videos highlighting key moments in users’ lives. These videos elicited a number of sentimental posts and created warm fuzzies all over the network, which was in sharp contrast to recent reports about Facebook’s “declining user base” and some analysts’ prediction that the social media giant will eventually fall.

My guess is, Zuckerberg and his cohorts are smart—they’ll likely reinvent Facebook as needed to keep up with trends and changes in technology, and the social network will sail into the future with flying colors. But whatever fate awaits Facebook, one thing is clear: Life is different today because it was created. Here’s how.

The meaning of the word “friend” has changed.

Unless you’re one of the more discriminating users who only allow their Facebook friends list to include (gasp) real friends, your definition of a “friend” may include everyone from your grade school BFF, a fellow tourist you met in Cancun and the taxi driver who drove you across town last week. I exaggerate—but not really. I think I’ve been friend requested by someone who looked at me twice at Safeway. And I’m sure I accepted.

We’ve all become marketers.

Shameless self-promotion is now entirely acceptable, and we all have a platform from which to create and build our own personal brand. We know that other people’s lives—including their vacations, relationships, children and dinners out—are not nearly as perfect as they appear to be online. But still, are you going to be the first to post a pic of your just average looking burrito?

Facebook is not the place for mediocrity. It’s where you put your best face forward—literally. Be honest: Have you ever untagged yourself in an unflattering photo that a friend posted of you? I thought so. It’s because you’ve become a brand manager of your own personal self. And nobody wants to manage a sucky brand.

We’ve become accustomed (dare I say addicted) to praise.

Who knew that a thumbs-up icon could evolve to the place where it significantly impacts self-esteem? It has, and it does. But why? Why does getting a bunch of likes, comments and shares on one of our posts make a difference? Chemistry. Various scientific studies have shown that our brains release a burst of dopamine when we discover new, interesting or challenging information, which is why we get that mini-high when someone gives us a virtual thumbs-up.

And a recent Harvard study revealed that talking about ourselves online triggers the same sensation of pleasure and satisfaction we get from food, money or sex. When we get positive feedback for our posts, it adds to the pleasure sense and makes sharing even more addictive and appealing. It kind of becomes a vicious cycle.

A few other ways Facebook has changed us: Family and class reunions are less awkward because you’re more likely to recognize people as they age. In fact, studies are showing that class reunion attendances are down. Why show up in person when you can stalk—er, follow—people you only have about five minutes’ worth of conversation for anyway?

And one of the biggies—consumers have more power. All those big brands that seemed so untouchable are now more vulnerable. And they know it. If I think the latest flavor of Doritos is stupid, I don’t have to write a letter to my congressman. I can just go to Doritos’ Facebook page and tell them and the rest of their 4.2 million followers. Scary stuff for big brands, but awesome playing power for those of us with an opinion. Facebook gave us a mouthpiece, and what we say makes a difference.

What would you add to the list—any other ways Facebook has changed us?

Five Bad Habits That Could Put the Kibosh on Your Business Deals

Five Bad Habits That Could Put the Kibosh on Your Business Deals

We all have little habits we’re unaware of. Some of us tap our legs uncontrollably, others bite their nails or frequently flip their hair. Though habitual to us, they’re noticeable to other people—so much so that it could cost you a business deal. Yes, tapping your leg is a big no-no.

Here’s a list of common habits we have while engaging in formal business (and why you should stop them):

1. Talking like you just drank ALL the coffee.

Slow it down, people. By talking slowly and clearly, it shows that you have confidence in what you’re saying.

2. Standing with a leg crossed over or under.

Watch your stance. Any crossing or casual bending into your hips gives off the impression of shyness and insignificance—and you are neither.

3. Standing with your hands over your lap.

Commonly referred to as the “fig leaf pose,” this position gives the impression that you are unimportant and intimidated. Instead, let your arms hang naturally by their side

4. Holding a cell phone in your hand.

Now, this is getting nit-picky. But it’s a very common habit (considering our phones generally follow us wherever we go). Holding a phone while in a meeting suggests you don’t have time for it. (And you certainly don’t want your business deal going south because it feels rushed.)

5. Fidgeting.

Oh, fidgeters. You’re not alone. Many business people face this challenge. Pens, paper, erasers, innocent paperclips—are all so tempting to reach for and grab out of comfort. But resist! Concentrate on your breathing—train yourself to breath slowly and it will make your nervous movements disappear.

Other than these top five, we’d encourage you to avoid these as well: weight shifting, foot or finger tapping, sitting on the edge of your chair or propping your head up with your hands. All of these subtle habits could be construed negatively in a business deal.

However, once the deal is done and you’ve nailed it (snaps and a pat on the back for you), go home and do all of these things to your heart’s content.

How Acting Like a Kid Can Lead to Marketing Success

How Acting Like a Kid Can Lead to Marketing Success

Usually we’re just cleaning up after them or sending them off to their rooms. But helping with your organization’s marketing?

Yep, look to the kids. They have all the answers. When it comes to thinking differently about your marketing, consider these lessons we’ve learned from how children act.

They aren’t afraid to be wrong.

“The moon is just a giant egg in the sky.” “Brown cows make chocolate milk.” “I’m going to be Beyonce when I grow up.” “Spiderman should be president.”

Your greatest ideas will sound foolish, at first. Until they sound brilliant. You are going to fail a few times before you succeed. Accept this reality and move on. Your fearlessness will take your marketing and business to the next level.

Your best coworkers are the ones who aren’t afraid to stumble as they learn.

They ask A LOT of questions.

“Where do dreams come from?” “How come Grandma’s face is so wrinkly?” “Why do flies think gross stuff smells good?” “Why can’t we breathe underwater like fish?” “Why am I left-handed?”

Some of their questions catch us off guard because they are strikingly profound and others make us smile. Either way, fear of asking foolish questions doesn’t exist in young children. They are driven by curiosity.

Be driven by your spirit of inquiry—how can your marketing plans improve? What if we [insert outlandish marketing idea here]? It’s rumored that Disney World wanted to host a competition where the winner got sent to the moon. While this obviously never transpired, they weren’t afraid to think of big and ask crazy “what ifs.” Ask questions, continuously, that will push your marketing efforts to the next level—even if at first they seem far-reaching.

They put people at ease.

Kids have a knack for breaking the ice. If ever in an uncomfortable business situation, channel your inner child. (No, we don’t mean give away free hugs or awkwardly tackle them.) Be engaging and personable like a child. Remember back to the days when you naturally captivated people just by existing—we know, kids have it so easy.

Deepening business relationships gets easier when you can put any type of person at ease. Don’t be afraid to be outgoing. Sometimes it takes a gregarious business person to get a marketing relationship going. A four-year-old makes a distinct, warm impression. Strive to do the same.

How Marketing Your Business is Like a Single Woman Traveling Through Italy (There’s a connection. I swear.)

Tips on Marketing Your Business from a Trip to Italy

Even when I’m strolling through a beautiful city like Rome or Florence, I still wear the hat of a marketer. It’s invisible, thankfully, but it’s there and just as real as my pickpocket-proof travel bag that TripAdvisor warned me I’d need (and that marks me squarely as a tourist on every cobblestone street I peruse).

I recently spent a week traveling alone through beautiful Italia, and found myself in several situations where basic marketing principles came in handy. Thankfully I have sensible shoes to match that marketing hat, and my marketing prowess served me well.

Here’s what you and your small business have in common with my Italian adventure. I know—but sometimes connections happen where you least expect them.

You need a solid message—and sometimes you have to repeat it ad nauseum before your audience gets it.

That’s Marketing 101, but it’s a principle that’s easy to forget, especially when you get tired of saying the same thing. The thing is, when you get sick of delivering your message one more time, that’s when your audience is just beginning to get it. Persistence is key. As a single woman traveler, I stood out in a country full of honeymooning couples and touristy families. That made me an easy target for friendly Italian men. I created a message early on and stuck with it: “I’m here for a much-needed vacation—thanks, but I’m happy dining solo.” Or having this cup of coffee solo. Or eating my gelato solo. You get it. A consistent message is the most effective.

When in Rome . . .

Come on, you knew that was coming, right? I went out to dinner a few nights around 7:00 p.m.—typical for American standards, but practically mid-afternoon for Europeans. These restaurants were off the beaten tourist path, frequented by locals, and at 7:00, they were practically empty. My bad. One of my favorite things about traveling is meeting the people who actually live in that city. That’s tough to do when you plan according to your own agenda, not theirs. Key marketing principle: Know your audience—where they are, what they like and how to connect with them. If you want to speak to your target audience on Facebook, do your research first. Are they even there? There’s nothing lonelier than showing up, but just hearing crickets.

Sometimes a risk is so worth it.

I traveled mostly through Tuscany and Rome, but I wanted to see the Amalfi coast, namely Positano. Pictures I’d seen were magical. But Positano is a three-hour trip from Rome, so I would need to spend at least six hours in a van or car. Plus, the roads along the coast are winding and stomach-churning—not the best option for a carsick-prone traveler. The only day trip I could find to Positano was pricey. And to top it all off, the night before the tour, I got sick and lost my voice. I went anyway. And that day turned out to be the most perfect day of my trip. The car ride was smooth, the views were stunning, the locals were charming, and the limoncello was to die for.

Why did I go in spite of the negatives? My gut told me to. And in the end, every negative paled in comparison to the rewards. Sometimes we weigh marketing decisions with our heads, and we certainly need to pay attention to data, analytics and important facts. But once in a while, our gut tells us to try something new, in spite of the numbers—and sometimes, the risks we take offer the biggest paybacks.

Now that you have a few weeks of 2014 under your belt, here’s a question: What’s going to be your biggest marketing adventure this year? Any risks you’re willing to take in order to reach your audience?