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Shannon Stockton
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Education doesn’t come cheap. Business owners have limited budgets. Employees may balk at the cost of continuing education. And yet, having knowledgeable employees who keep up with the latest industry trends benefits everyone’s bottom line. . Small businesses can’t afford to have their employees fall behind the cutting-edge curve. Look beyond traditional classrooms, and you can help your employees – and your business. Here are five free (well, four free, and one very low cost) ways to keep educating employees without breaking anyone’s budget: Find grants. Local community colleges sometimes offer deals to small businesses and their employees. Google can... Continue reading
Posted Aug 27, 2013 at Stats & Strats
Cheerios, a family-friendly brand usually more wholesome than controversial, sparked a national debate over family, race, and advertising this spring. An advertisement featuring an earnest mom, a concerned kid, and a confused dad might seem pretty inoffensive. But the dad was black, the mom was white, and the kid was biracial -- and that made all the difference. The company posted the ad on YouTube, where racists disparaged the clip so badly that cereal executives made the rare move of asking the video site to turn off the comments section. Haters lambasted the clip for showing a mixed marriage, in... Continue reading
Posted Jun 11, 2013 at Stats & Strats
Older workers might be viewed as having one foot in retirement, but in today’s economy senior citizens are working longer – and can provide business-enhancing skills that younger, less experienced employees cannot. In our series examining non-traditional work arrangements, we looked at telecommuting and job-sharing options. But it’s not just what your employees do, but who they are, that can break the boundaries of what is typically viewed as “traditional” work arrangements – and help your company break into a higher level of service. Studies show that older workers tend to take twice as long to find new employment as... Continue reading
Posted May 6, 2013 at Stats & Strats
Sharing jobs by splitting one post between two people originated some fifty years ago when nurses and teachers – overwhelmingly women’s professions – shared jobs to better balance work and family life. Flexible work arrangements are trickier today. Splitting a teacher’s class load or a nurse’s shift hours is simpler than sharing creative processes, client files, or meeting details. But studies show that an overwhelming majority of professionals support job sharing. Splitting a job can take more work. If done right, however, the benefits can pay off for both employers and employees. “After compensation, the most important contributors to work... Continue reading
Posted Mar 18, 2013 at Stats & Strats
We are a non-traditional telecommuting and flextime nation. Today more than 40 percent of the nation’s workforce takes advantage of some kind of work-from-home option, from full-time off-site employment to taking a few calls at home after dinner instead of staying late at the office. Meanwhile, as the workday stretches longer, the demand for flexibility about when those hours occur has risen. A recent study noted by found that more than 80 percent of all employees in today’s workforce place flextime and telecommuting on par with salary and vacation as a job’s most important benefits. But while demand has... Continue reading
Posted Feb 22, 2013 at Stats & Strats
Don't lecture; just hang out. Consumers have become more sensitive to direct advertising that blasts them with what they should do or buy. Savvy consumers have come to view certain advertising as an immediate turn-off, no matter the message. A relaxed approach that greets consumers as a friendly equal, especially via social media, goes far. The key is social media, as it was in 2012, but continuing to grow exponentially. A consistent voice on social media requires a solid brand. A consistent message from experts for 2013 is that honing your brand's voice will become increasingly important. "In 2012, we... Continue reading
Posted Jan 2, 2013 at Stats & Strats
As the 2012 election post-mortem begins, one major theme has emerged – market research won the day. Team Barack Obama invested heavily in data gathering and analysis, driven by technology but harnessed by top-notch staff, to focus laser-like campaign efforts on key areas and demographics. The Obama win basked in an even more impressive light when compared to national polls, which fell below the in-house data the Democratic campaign was able to generate. Numbers used by bloggers and the press leading up to Election Day gave the President a slim lead, but one well within margins of error, especially in... Continue reading
Posted Dec 10, 2012 at Stats & Strats
Across the country, government agencies have embraced computer-based voting systems touted as more reliable and accurate than old-fashioned levers. But those assumptions may be wrong. At my local polling place in Brooklyn, I take a paper form to a table with walls, so no one can see my choices, and mark it with a pen. I bring the paper, in a folder, to a volunteer, who removes the ballot to scan. She could read it if she wanted (so much for privacy). She inserts the paper into a scanner, and then tells me the machine tallied my vote and I... Continue reading
Posted Nov 5, 2012 at Stats & Strats
Google recently created a survey system that strives, in part, to replace the research conducted by marketing firms. The surveys act as quasi-paywalls. Instead of paying to access a Web site, uses must take a survey in order to access content. Rates are 10 cents a response for general surveys or 50 cents a response for custom audiences. The system has proved less than perfect, however. Many problems have arisen because the human touch has been removed from the automated system. The issues demonstrate just how vital marketing researchers remain, even in our digital age. The Google system has drawn... Continue reading
Posted Oct 2, 2012 at Stats & Strats
Boycotts don't always work. Need proof? Just ask Chick-fil-A. In early July, company CEO Dan Cathy gave a lengthy interview to the Baptist Press. He describes how his faith drove his business ideals, from closing all restaurants on Sundays to using Biblical philosophy in approaching customer service. Toward the end of the story Cathy says, "We are very much supportive of the family, the biblical definition of the family unit," he says. "We are a family-owned business, a family-led business, and we are married to our first wives. We give God thanks for that." That "biblical definition" excludes gay marriage,... Continue reading
Posted Aug 29, 2012 at Stats & Strats
People are fed up with negative campaigning, so much so that states have attempted to protect constituents with various state laws that pertain to negative campaign tactics. However, in several states, laws against the practice known as “push polls” have led to some serious difficulties for legitimate market research companies and political consultants to conduct their research. Push Polling, as stated in the Marketing ResearchAssociation (MRA) and American Association of Political Consultants’(AAPC) joint letter to Attorney General Michael Delaney of New Hampshire, “is not polling at all – it is a form of negative phone banking disguised as polling…It is... Continue reading
Posted Mar 14, 2012 at Stats & Strats
Fresh Direct, a New York-based grocery delivery service, often includes free samples in customers’ boxes. Orders for a case of generic seltzer prompts a sample of the company’s own Pellegrino-style sparkling water. The link between a similar order and two small bottles of high-end Italian soda (one lemon, one tangerine) is less clear. Was it the gingerale? The citrus? The artsy neighborhood? The seltzer (again)? The customer actually likes those sodas very much, but doesn’t buy them for reasons of health (cutting back on sugar) and budget. But it is unsettling that a company can so accurately predict, through non-obvious... Continue reading
Posted Feb 29, 2012 at Stats & Strats
When I was surly teenager, my mother used to admonish me: “I’m not a mind reader. You have to tell me what you want.” The same philosophy extends to business communication. Your ideas may be industry-changers, but if your employees don't understand what's going on, your inspiration may never fly. People can’t read minds, and what seems obvious to you might seem muddled to someone else. A few tips for better communication: Over-communicate - It can be hard to tell how much is too little. If employees only know half the story, they may not know enough to ask the... Continue reading
Posted Feb 3, 2012 at Stats & Strats
Political polling is so 90s. As the first primaries and caucuses of the 2012 presidential race kick off, the media constantly focus on polls. But campaigns have moved beyond simple voter questionnaires to revolutionize online data mining in order to better reach constituents -- practices with the potential to move into the business world as well. President Barack Obama's campaign four years ago was the first devoted to such practices on a large scale. The campaign didn't just compile emails and addresses. Staffers used social media, geographic databases and chat room posts to create an integrated research tool that allowed... Continue reading
Posted Jan 25, 2012 at Stats & Strats
Mobile. The cloud. Social engagement, for research and for reaching customers. Before the clocks turned to 2012, business experts were already gazing into the next 12 months. Much of what hovers on the horizon is an extension of trends already begun this year, but amplified through increasing popularity, user-friendliness, and creative uses of new technology, tempered by the tried-and-true. Mobile: Cell phones and tablets came into their own in 2011. The key to 2012 marketing is the growing understanding that these gadgets represent a unique audience, and one large enough that it cannot be ignored or dismissed. Mobile presents it’s... Continue reading
Posted Jan 11, 2012 at Stats & Strats
The end of the year marks a perfect time to take stock of your business. Herewith, some ideas for measuring where you are, where you’ve come from, and where your business is going in 2012. Updates: When was the last time you updated your business plan? Your Web site? Your business cards and stationary? Every business card, Web page or email communicates something about a business. Hopefully part of that message is a positive one. But as one small business expert notes, "Nothing says amateur like “© 2008” at the bottom of your website." Letterhead that includes out-of-date phone numbers... Continue reading
Posted Jan 5, 2012 at Stats & Strats
Want to sell almost anything? Hire Betty White as your spokeswoman. Hollywood and the entertainment press might skew young, but it turns out that the celebs who garner the most favorable opinions tend to be older and scandal-free – more Tom Hanks and Clint Eastwood, less Kim Kardashian and Donald Trump – according to a poll published in the November issue of Change|Agent magazine. Why does Betty White work where the Kardashians fall flat? Many respondents said they found White trustworthy. It's not hard to extrapolate that humor sells, and she's a funny lady, or that with age comes knowledge,... Continue reading
Posted Dec 7, 2011 at Stats & Strats
Is luck really more important than talent when it comes to business success? Best-selling authors Jim Collins and Morten T. Hansen flip the old cliché in their new book, Great by Choice, which examines the roll luck played in the rise of more than 200 top business leaders. Instead of worrying about ROI, their research suggests focusing on ROL – Return on Luck. “The crucial question,” they wrote recently in the New York Times, is not, “ ‘Are you lucky?’ but “Do you get a high return on luck?’” In other words, opportunity needs only knock once if your business... Continue reading
Posted Nov 23, 2011 at Stats & Strats
Passion and inspiration set your big ideas alight. Emotions can wane, though, as new business stagnates, the recession lingers, and frustrations arise. How do you keep the spark alive? Remember that rejection isn’t personal. We all have growing pains, in life as in business. A potential client has a hundred reasons to reject your proposal: budget changes, internal politics, indecisive leadership, etc. None of those reasons are a reflection on your business. All you need is one client to say yes. And then another one. Take one small step every day. Schedule 10 minutes to brainstorm new leads. Write a... Continue reading
Posted Nov 15, 2011 at Stats & Strats
Steve Jobs, the brilliant mind behind Apple and so many of the consumer tech advances of our time, wasn’t just a computer genius. He was also, by all accounts, a brilliant marketing strategist whose business acumen helped catapult his creations into the profit-making stratosphere. The majority of us may not be century-defining visionaries. But there are still plenty of marketing lessons to be learned from Jobs, who died on Oct. 5. Jobs famously eschewed traditional marketing research. As noted in the Los Angeles Times recently, When he was once asked about how much market research went into the iPad,... Continue reading
Posted Nov 9, 2011 at Stats & Strats
Middle-class parents can’t guarantee their children will reside north of the poverty line, according to a study on downward mobility released last month by The Pew Charitable Trusts. In fact, up to a third of adults today who grew up in the middle class fell out of it, the study found. That number doesn’t include children who grew up in the higher echelons of the middle class but fell toward the bottom of the bracket during their own adulthood. The study questions if the American dream – every generation doing better economically than the one before – remains viable. But... Continue reading
Posted Oct 14, 2011 at Stats & Strats
Last week, Facebook users woke to new features. The change jarred many, who quickly unleashed their wrath across the Internet, some threatening to abscond to rival social media sites. Facebook executives said little about why they instituted the changes, nor did they respond to the fallout, but in their silence lies lessons for businesses of all sizes. Among the fears inspired by radical changes to heavily trafficked Web sites is the concern that the company is placing commerce above customer. Most people would rather think of Facebook -- and many Web sites -- as a free service where advertising is... Continue reading
Posted Sep 24, 2011 at Stats & Strats
Business exposure can be daunting and cost a lot of money, but there are simple ways that small business owners can up their visibility while keeping their bottom-line intact. Many of those ways involve the Internet. A few minutes using freely available social networks can grow your business outreach immeasurably, without negatively impacting your bottom line. 1) Optimize your SEO Google’s search engine is based on highly propriety algorithms that constantly crunch data in an attempt to ensure that when someone types a phrase into, the most relevant Web sites appear first on the list. Those first few spots... Continue reading
Posted Sep 12, 2011 at Stats & Strats
Surveys can help us understand what people think about a product or service and one key to obtaining good data is by using a survey design that has been well structured. Whether conducting surveys by interview, online or mailing, the key to success is in the design. It may seem like a fairly simple task to compose questions to collect information, but there are pitfalls that should be avoided when developing survey questions. The old adage "garbage in, garbage out" applies to surveys as well – if you do not design an effective survey, the results will leave much to... Continue reading
Posted Aug 24, 2011 at Stats & Strats
When designing a survey, it is important to omit as much bias as possible. A biased sample will produce biased results. Attempting to exclude all bias is almost impossible; however, if you understand that it may exist, you can instinctively discount some of the answers. When designing a survey questionnaire, it is important to include elements that make the survey pertinent and relevant to the target audience. The survey questionnaire should be designed to maximize the response rate and minimize errors or bias. The term bias is used for any trend in the collection, analysis publication, interpretation or review of... Continue reading
Posted Aug 23, 2011 at Stats & Strats