12.30.13

Asking For IRS Tax Help From A Professional

afithIRS tax help is always there to assist individuals who are faced with tax issues. Basically, it is a responsibility for everyone to file a federal tax return. Failure to do so can be costly because the government may impose criminal or civil sanctions. People who have this case often seek the assistance of IRS agents to clearly identify their lapses. However, to make the consultation easier, IRS tax help is now available offline or online. There are a number of great services that have tax assistance agents who offer help. The government website of IRS is also a good medium to seek for assistance so there is no reason why an individual cannot defend himself/herself in the court.

Taxes are our duties as citizens but if you cannot file a tax return, you will be faced with different consequences. For this reason, you can ask help from an attorney or you can directly make an appointment to an IRS agent. Just ensure to gather all the necessary documents that can provide sufficient information about your tax payments in case the government failed to record it. IRS tax help is available 24/7 through their website or during business hours at their local offices.

Warning About IRS Tax Help Scams

Even though IRS tax help is beneficial to taxpayers, there are some opportunistic individuals who are fooling around by offering help on tax issues, similar to what is offered by the IRS. They use the same IRS name and logo and gain access to the financial information of the consumer in order to get their assets and identity. It is sad to know how some people are fooled by these fraudulent activities. A lot of their information is stolen and they took advantage on the money spent while availing the services. IRS tax help is free of charge and it can only be availed on their official website and government office. You can make an appointment, call their telephone hotline or access the internet to avail the tax help services.

The public should now that IRS does not create communication to the taxpayer via email. The government agency does not also provide links or unsolicited emails. Everyone should be careful in clicking any email attachments because it might be a malicious computer virus that can obtain your personal information. Hence, anything that is doubtful or malicious should be reported right away to the IRS office or website. IRS tax help are provided by reliable sources.

11.14.13

Overseas Marketing: Finding The Right Talent Is Tough

While business is robust globally, in some countries, such as Russia, Mexico and Singapore, finding people to successfully lead the marketing mission is mired in cultural difficulties.

“If we place an American in an international environment, what they find is that they’ve been relying on their own intuitions in the markets. [U.S.] intuition is not going to serve me in China,” says Chris van Someren, managing director at New York-based Korn/Ferry International, the world’s largest search consultancy.

Cultural intricacies

ciIn marketing, intuition and a deep understanding of cultural intricacies play important roles in how products will go over in business-to-business and consumer markets.

For instance, a cosmetics marketer uses her cultural intuition by knowing what colors are popular and what national stars are wearing these days. “Most clients think that we can train [marketing executives] over time, but it’s impossible to train the intuitive sense part of the culture,” Mr. van Someren says.

While business-to-business is growing abroad, currently the biggest areas for growth in executive searches are in the consumer package goods sector, says Joie Gregor, managing partner of search consultancy Heidrich & Struggles, New York.

Some key industries include soda makers, hoteliers and airplane makers. “Just think about lifestyle changes in Third World countries and the things they want [now that economic structure has changed],” Ms. Gregor says.

The two choices for employers is to either hire local talent – often without sought-after U.S. marketing educations – or find marketing expatriates with credentials but without a solid grip on the culture in which they’ll be working.

Years ago, recruiters would be glad to find a well-educated marketer who spoke the language of the country they were placed in. Now they look to recruit natives who will develop marketing expertise over time, Mr. van Someren says.

“The problem is that marketing has become so defined, [and some countries] are behind the curve in the level of sophistication,” Mr. van Someren says.

“That makes it difficult for recruiters,” he adds. “They have to weigh local strength tools to classical marketing intuition about those markets. Clients view this as a tradeoff.”

One of the hottest markets of late is Russia. Since the rise of capitalism there, U.S. search companies have aggressively been positioning themselves for the opportunity on this new frontier.

While the opportunity to break into a new market had great potential, search firms found a treacherous landscape at first, littered with cultural and business land mines.

The first search consultancy to set up shop in Russia was New York-based Ward Howell International. The company set up shop there in 1993, and now has offices in Moscow and St. Petersburg.

One example of doing business in Russia comes from PepsiCo, which hired Ward Howell to find a marketer for its business there.

“At PepsiCo, they were looking for a Russian with traditional marketing skills and background. We went back and said there were very few people who would meet these specs,” says Michael Tappan, chairman of Ward Howell.

Locating the right people

Ward Howell finally located a Russian entrepreneur who wanted to build his own consumer goods company.

“While he did not have the Western exposure, he knew about the distribution problems, the marketing issues and how to build a sales force,” Mr. Tappan says.

“We had to go to the client [executives] and tell them we had to take a creative approach to [locating an executive]. [The Russian executive] worked out very well,” he says.

“Russian and Western companies alike will face a critical shortage of qualified executives for at least the next five years,” Mr. Tappan said in a recent paper on the foray into Russia.

“Money will not be a problem, but management talent will,” he added. “Demand for this talent will skyrocket.”

10.21.13

No Wonder There Was A Bubble: Looking Back At Insane Web Prices

(Ok, folks, this is a real article. From 1998. Which is pretty hilarious. Wow were we ever flush back around the tech bubble!)

mowThe median price for building a marketing-oriented Web site has increased by as much as 78% since October 1997, with costs for putting a small company on the Web jumping the most, according to Business Marketing’s latest national survey of Web developers.

Rates for midsize and large marketers have posted more modest median hikes of 20% and 10%, respectively.

The median price nationally for a simple Web site has jumped from $25,000 eight months ago to $44,500 today. (For details on survey methodology, see Page 28.)

Sophistication grows

More functional, medium-level sites rose in price from $83,000 to $99,750, while the largest sites, which had been dropping in price, reversed that trend and saw prices increase for the first time since the survey began in September 1996.

These price increases might indicate that Web shops are getting a better grasp on the bidding process and giving marketers a better idea of real costs up front.

“Firms are getting smarter about what it really costs to build sites,” says Kimberly Andrews, manager of solutions services for Seattle-based FreeRange Media. “They’ve done enough work that they are taking less of a bath on projects. I think what’s hurt so many agencies initially is that they’ve underbid projects and not been able to renegotiate later.”

Web Price Index

BUILDING A WEB SITE

A look at the median prices.

           National          High             Low

Small       $44,500         $653,000         $5,645
Medium      $99,750       $1,486,000        $18,200
Large      $302,975       $2,641,000        $80,400

Small-site costs sheet higher

Marketers and developers alike say that in order to get the best return on an investment of this size, careful planning must be done before the first page gets built. The strategic stages of development cost money and aren’t necessarily as scalable as other segments of Web development.

Strategy “has the hardest effect on the prices for smaller projects,” Ms. Andrews says. “We wind up doing just as much work for smaller sites as medium-size sites.”

This could account for the dramatic, 78% increase in prices for smaller sites while the larger sites rose at a lesser rate.

No more small clients

The larger Web companies, including many of the developers in NetMarketing’s Web Price Index, are less likely to even take on small clients nowadays.

“Many more established firms are reluctant to do work for under $50,000,” Ms. Andrews said.

Of course, plenty of smaller Web shops have sprung up in every major city to pick up projects from small-business owners and retailers. Additionally, programs such as Microsoft’s FrontPage and NetObject’s Fusion continue to make it easier for small companies to develop their own sites.

The Association of National Advertisers recently released preliminary results from a survey of its membership regarding online spending. The study found a small decrease in what marketers actually have spent on their own Web sites, falling to an average of $228,000. However, it noted a 30% drop in the cost of maintaining a site once it’s up and running.

ANA senior VP Robin Webster attributes this to a maturing industry.

“It comes down to the learning curve,” she says. “Been there. Done that. We can do it faster now.”

Geographic pricing

She also notes marketers “aren’t redesigning their sites as much as a year ago, but refreshing the content more.”

The ANA study does not distinguish between costs for marketers who create their sites in-house and costs for those who shop their sites out to Web developers.

Geography continues to be a factor in pricing. Marketers still can expect to pay more for Web sites in cities with well-established interactive communities. Predictably, New York and San Francisco posted significantly higher median prices than the other cities in the survey.

Atlanta and Dallas came in below the median for all three site groups. Dallas once again posted the lowest prices for small sites out of the six cities surveyed.

10.6.13

Tips For Offering A Valuable Internship Experience

An internship can either be the best experience for marketing students – or a summer in hell.

Take, for example, the intern who spent his time couriering photos from office to office by bicycle and fetching lunch for co-workers. Or the student who was ignored and unassigned during a six-week internship at a busy corporate marketing department.

As former interns and professionals who run internship programs will tell you, the key to a successful internship program for all involved is an organized experience with planned, hands-on marketing tasks in addition to the ubiquitous grunt work.

uc“The program should be something structured, with projects that are thought about ahead of time,” says Susan Tull, assistant director of the Haas School of Business at the University of California of Berkeley.

Ms. Tull spent several years running internship programs at Clorox, Oakland, Calif., before taking the UC-Berkeley position, in which she counsels MBA students on internships.

Managing the intern

“There should be a manager in charge of the intern who can provide mentoring. They should have an open door and make sure the intern’s needs are met, that resources are there and that they can connect with the right people,” Ms. Tull says. “And make sure they have a telephone and computer.”

Some larger companies have set up internships that culminate in the interns presenting project results and recommendations to executives, she says.

“What’s really good is if they can get in front of management, so they can get a sense of closure,” Ms. Tull says.

Before choosing an internship, students should have a clear idea of their career goals, since jobs may be available to them at the companies that host their internships.

For instance, students interested in brand management may want to work for marketing departments that handle consumer products, while those interested in strategic marketing may be interested in high-tech business-to-business product marketers, such as computer and peripheral manufacturers.

“The benefit should be if an intern gets a real smattering of general knowledge, what a business-to-business product is all about,” says Rick Kean, executive director of the Business Marketing Association. “The internship is a good idea because that’s the one place students can get real-world experience, or at least a broader understanding of how the real world works.”

Fewer internships available

But Mr. Kean says fewer marketing internships are available to students today than five years ago, possibly due to corporate downsizing and cutbacks.

“Maybe it’s considered a luxury nobody has any money for anymore,” Mr. Kean says.

Still, marketing students are finding internship opportunities. Quintina Sahagun, who recently completed the graduate program for integrated marketing communications at Chicago’s Roosevelt University, interned last summer at CCL Label, a Canadian company with a branch in Itasca, Ill. She said the experience helped her land a job at Quill Corp., Lincolnshire.

“You can see how the principles and textbooks apply with an internship,” Ms. Sahagun said. “I would suggest anyone doing an internship, even if it’s unpaid.”

Ms. Sahagun did support work, wrote articles for trade journals and prepared giveaways for trade-show customers for CCL, which makes packaging and labels for Xerox Corp., Procter & Gamble Co.’s Nyquil and other products.

Rewards

She says her most interesting and rewarding assignment, however, was investigating a packaging dilemma for Xerox, which led to a major change in the company’s packaging strategy. Consumers were ripping open reams of Xerox paper to see the color, and retailers and distributors were losing money because the paper, once opened, could not be sold.

Ms. Sahagun identified the problems, which Xerox further investigated and then remedied with new packaging that showed paper color on the outside of the package.

Even though Ms. Sahagun enjoyed her experience, she says she still hungered for more information on budgeting, communicating with advertising agencies and working on trade-show strategy beyond “grunt work.”

Brenda Hill, public relations manager for Gibbs & Snell, a business-to-business and industrial PR agency, ran an internship program at a previous job, in which she focused on giving interns valuable, real-world experience as well as clips for their portfolios.

Two of the five interns she mentored received job offers after the internships were over.

“I didn’t believe in making them glorified slaves,” Ms. Hill says. “I used them as workers – they did interviews, took pictures, just as if they were full-time. The big difference was the level of responsibility. The interns have to be supervised a little more closely than a full-time employee.

“Don’t use interns as gophers,” she adds. “They have something to contribute. They can bring some value to the company.”

Setting up an internship program

Are you looking for ways to create a successful internship program? Here are a few ideas:

* Provide each intern with a desk, computer and phone.

* Plan a structured experience, including specific tasks and objectives.

* Assign a mentor/manager to provide assistance. The mentor should have an open-door policy.

* At the end of the internship, have interns present recommendations and findings to management to bring closure to their experience.

* Encourage talented and enthusiastic interns with more challenging work, and possibly a job opportunity at the end of the internship.

09.24.13

Print Vehicles Didn’t Get The Web, No Matter What They Said

The get-it-now promise of the Internet is pushing publishers to re-engineer their circulation fulfillment processes as more subscription orders pour in from the Web.

“Web consumers are developing certain expectations of the fulfillment relationship,” says Steve Sutton, who is group circulation director for Ziff-Davis’ Yahoo! Internet Life, PC Computing and Internet Computing and is in charge of online subscription marketing for all of Ziff-Davis’ paid circulation titles.

“These expectations revolve around speed of transaction,” Mr. Sutton says.

They want confirmation fast

vdgtwIn other words, new customers who subscribe to print magazines online want to know their order has been received and is rolling forward right away.

Web fulfillment is a hot issue these days. The American Business Press, New York, is surveying its members about their on-line fulfillment experiences and strategies.

It’s clear everyone is struggling to change their models to fit the speed of the Internet.

“In working with publishers, we try to help them to understand the whole idea of Internet time,” says. Pat McNamara, manager of Internet Services for Neodata Services, a Louisville, Colo.-based fulfillment house that estimates it will handle 3.3 million online subscription requests for 129 magazines and 29 publishers in 1997.

“In going from a static magazine subscription order model to an interactive environment, the immediacy of the Web prompts customers’ expectations for that immediacy. To foster that notion of immediacy, certain response strategies have to be put into place,” Ms. McNamara says.

Specifically, Neodata recommends that publishers work with fulfillment houses to install auto-responder software that confirms via e-mail an online order within just a few minutes.

Speed avoids problems

Bothersome things can happen if that confirmation isn’t sent quickly, says Richard McCarthy, promotions manager for International Data Group’s PC World.

“Sometimes you get multiple orders from the same source,” Mr. McCarthy says. “If you don’t get an immediate confirmation bounced back to them via e-mail, they are likely to think that the order was not received and resubmit it again and again.”

Speed remains critical once the order is placed.

“The successes we’ve seen revolve around those publishers who indicate what the cycle time will be up front” in the e-mail order confirmation, says Sue Corser-Jensen, a Neodata customer service general manager.

“Then, our goal for customer service is to process your order within a three-day interval.”

The customer generally doesn’t receive the first issue much faster by ordering online. The time saved in the ordering process amounts to the difference between the few minutes it takes to fill in an online order form and the few days it takes for a mail-in card to reach the fulfillment house via snail mail. Once the order is received, the rest of the fulfillment process is the same.

But online subscriptions can promote a better customer relationship, if done right.

Mr. Sutton says customers feel more in control if they are able to complete the entire transaction online, to view and alter their account information and check on the status of their order, all in a secure environment.

Fixing typos

Another problem with Web orders is that people don’t always type their data correctly.

“Address quality has been a big issue,” Mr. Sutton says. “People don’t always type in their own addresses the way the Postal Service would like. Also, we get a lot of foreign orders, which are tough for fulfillment systems based on U.S. addressing to handle.”

Neodata handles this problem by using CGI (common gateway interface) scripts tied into a database that knows the algorithms credit card companies use to create account numbers, and can correctly match up a town, or even a specific street address, with the right ZIP Code. ZIP Codes can usually be corrected without contacting the customer, but credit card number typos require that the customer receive an error message on his or her PC within two or three seconds.

09.5.13

Customer Experience Beats Advertising Every Time

Dad and his two sons couldn’t stand it anymore. Out of the house and into the car they went, off to one of the world’s most famous hamburger happy places. Once up to the menu speaker, the boys blared out their requests. The world seemed like a better place as Dad drove up to the drive-through window.

What happened next, though, was unexpected. A huge rat darted onto the driveway, its steely eyes glaring into the headlights. Still, even one of America’s most beloved brands deserves a break, the startled father thought. He told the assistant night manager what had happened. “Yeah, I know,” came his reply. “Customers tell me all the time. But by the time I come out, it’s gone.”

Company should know better

ceba

Meanwhile, the family, their appetites pretty much gone, sat squirming in the car waiting for their order. Dad, knowing a little about marketing, spent his time thinking how ironic it was that this fast-food giant had recently held an agency review for its huge advertising account. How “creative” could any advertising agency be to change the impression made that night? More importantly, he reasoned, was one of the foremost marketers in the world even focusing on the right thing?

This baby-boomer family, and millions like it, had not grown up going to fast food restaurants like this one, with its unkempt grounds and roaming rodents. This company, above all, should know better, since it is sandwiched among a hungry assortment of head-on competitors that are taking more than bite-size morsels out of its super-sized market share.

Can you grow a company when you don’t put your customers first? The company has also saturated the marketplace with new store locations, squeezing profits from individual units and franchisees’ pocketbooks. This is no way to please b-to-b customers – the real customers – who annually give the company a big bite of their revenue.

Advertising alone is not nearly enough

The company’s founder, now deceased, once said, “We are not in the restaurant business, we’re in show business!” There has never been a more brilliant strategy, nor one better executed. Now, however, it seems to have been tossed aside like a bag of day-old french fries. What is this company’s purpose now? Does everybody inside know it and work to make it true?

Companies across the U.S. spent nearly $200 billion last year advertising products and services, yet so many complain that they never get their money’s worth. They must accept the fact, along with advertising agencies, that advertising, in and of itself, cannot increase revenue until the company focuses on giving consumers what they want and need to buy and buy again.

The notion that advertising alone “sells” in a marketing vacuum remains an expensive fallacy for U.S. business. Advertisers, paradoxically, waste billions of dollars in advertising every year, even though the problem is not necessarily with the advertising. Often it is with poor product quality, inflated pricing, poor customer service or too few salespeople – or not understanding that sometimes the real customer is not the end user, but the retailer, franchisee, distributor or agent.

This is crucial for companies to recognize. Otherwise, an occasional dark and stormy night can quickly turn into El Nino.