Access for Dummies

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Over the years I’ve had a lot of interaction with Microsoft Access. I’ve certainly entered a ton of data when I first started out and generated pre-made reports. However, it wasn’t until now that I really dove into the program to the point where I could create my own database from scratch and query my own information. To learn more about Access, I signed up for a series of free courses offered by my employer. If your employer offers these kind of services, I highly recommend you take advantage of them! If they don’t offer it, there are a lot of online options and Access For Dummies is a big help too.

For those of you who don’t think you need to know how to use Access, ask yourself the following…

Do you have large amounts of data?
Do you have no data?
Do you need to know specific things about the data you collect?
Do you need to save time and money?
Do you have multiple people who need access to the information you collect?
Do you create monthly reports using Excel?
Do you want a good resume builder?

Clearly I’m a right-brained, visual type of person. I like analyzing data and I consider myself a strategic thinker, but I like to look at it in a shiny graphical format, not globs of numbers in spreadsheets that blur together over time. I’ve wasted a lot of time in past positions entering data in Excel and then using that as a reference for some horrible Word Smart Art. Eventually I graduated to Pivot Tables and Pivot Charts (still very helpful) but nothing compares to Access in the Office family when it comes to collecting data and pulling information. I shied away from Access for a few years, simply because I assumed it was for more advanced data people…and because someone else was already taking care of that piece for me.

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I’m still somewhat of a beginner when it comes to Access, but I’m proud to say I learned (a big) something knew already in 2014. It’s so easy to fall behind with technology and even though I don’t work in data analytics or IT, I feel as a marketer that I need to know this stuff and keep up. I’ve been lucky to have IT and data people around me to assist throughout my career, but I know I can make all of our lives easier with this knowledge. It’s never too late to learn and I can’t see how it wouldn’t be useful to anyone!

Plus it’s free, so I mean, come on.

Cheers!

Thought Leaders Shmought Leaders

Admittedly, as a marketer, I often advise people to position themselves as a thought leader in their field.  What better way to attract new vacuum customers than giving off the appearance that you know EVERYTHING about cyclone technology and suction thingamajigs.  Obviously I’m going to buy my vacuum from the guy who knows the most about the biz, right?  He seems smart and trustworthy.james-dyson-with-vacuum

But what happens when all of a sudden everyone in the vacuum industry starts leading thoughts? Who’s the leader now? Who do I trust?

I recently read an article in Forbes, “6 Ways Thought Leadership Will Take Your Marketing to New Levels,” by John Hall.  Hall explains how PR and consistent content marketing will help put your offering in a more positive light and keep your company top of mind.  While reading the article, I totally agreed with Hall’s points.  What concerned me was when Hall said:

“As a Forbes contributor, I look for sources who are leading their industries. I don’t want to do a ton of homework to determine if you’re the real deal. If you release content consistently and it’s quality work, you will be rewarded by attracting your own PR relationships.”

Nobody wants to do homework and everyone defines “quality” differently. So who is really the expert? The company that has the most active Facebook page? The most white-papers? Hosts the most webinars?  How many garbage webinars are out there and yet we still see these contributors as thought leaders? How many useless white-papers have you read?

We are being conditioned to think more content = expert.

There is now an entire industry that churns out content that talks about creating content and gives you a bunch more content to educate you and prove to you that content marketing works (yeesh)!  The scariest part about content marketing?  It really works.

Marketers have already infiltrated traditional channels like newspapers, tv and radio. Now they are saturating digital channels like mobile ads and social media. Are our thoughts next?  Ahhhhh!!!

At some point, I fear that thought leadership will be less about trust and quality and more about quantity and speed.  For now, content marketing and the idea of thought leadership is still new and effective.  I guess we’ll see what comes next!

In the meantime, don’t be dull and stay human.

What You Don’t Know About Gamers

So here’s something I find interesting: gamers.  Why do I find them so interesting?  Well, as a marketer, the gamer demographic is just fascinating to me.  Of the top 1000 YouTube channels, 20% are gaming channels.  Gaming channels are the most popular category on YouTube, second only to music.  What is interesting to me about gamers is their power, the way they communicate and disseminate information, and how they coordinate things.gamerEvolution

The gamers I know are always the first to know about everything and they are super quick to spread information.  Gamers are so powerful that they often start major trends and influence pop culture.  Where do you think “rofl, “ftw” and “noob” came from? Let it be said that I am not much of a gamer.  As much as I love to play games, I can never play the same one for long and often find myself slightly outside this social circle.  However, over the last year or so, I worked on a marketing plan for a local gaming store and was quite surprised by what I discovered in my research.

Cartman from Family Guy playing WOW Many people, when thinking of gamers, envision a lazy overweight slobbish kid, vedging out in his parent’s basement, playing Call of Duty into the wee hours of the night.  I’m not saying those people aren’t out there (they are), but this perception is not representative of the typical gamer.  Here’s a few things you may not know about gamers:

  • They are very social.  Whenever major tragedies happen, I swear there’s always someone who says, “he always kept to himself, didn’t have many friends…just played video games all day.  I never thought he’d murder 12,000 people…”  I know this is a hot button issue with many, but if violent video gaming always led to violence, then we’d all be dead.  Gamers can be extremely social!  Have you ever watched people play WOW?  MMO players will coordinate raids (and whatever else those nerds do) with dozens of people from all over the world at the same time.  It’s just insane.  There are tons of other genres of gaming that also involve heavy socialization. Take role-playing gamers.  RPG events happen weekly here in Rochester where hundreds of people meet up (in person) to play Magic: The Gathering or Yu-Gi-OH!  All of a sudden those basement gamers aren’t looking so lonely and anti-social right?social-gamers
  • Their skills are valuable.  Oh, you didn’t think all those hours of hard “work” would pay off?  Gamers have a very unique set of skills (que Liam Neeson voice).  They get things done efficiently.  They work great as part of a team and independently.  They are often leaders and they are always strategists.  Gamification plays a huge part in marketing plan strategies.  With the influx of mobile technology, gamification is becoming a more popular way to attract and retain customers.  It’s usually based around rewards programs or promotions (I can’t tell you how hard I’ve worked to achieve gold status on my Starbucks app).  Wouldn’t it be great to have people who know how to achieve your company’s business objectives using a game that’s actually fun to play?  Click here for some excellent examples of how valuable gamification can be.

So…the next time you start to stereotype gamers, I hope you’ll keep these tidbits in mind.

May the 4th be with you.

4 Ways to Boost Your Confidence and Cool

We’ve all had days when we feel on top of the world.  Days when you feel super smart or super funny.  The last time I really felt this way was in January, when I had to give my final presentation to my client, marking the completion of my master’s program.

The presentation was only 30 minutes.  I have presented many times before and for longer periods of time, so I didn’t expect to be nervous this time.  But this time I was presenting my marketing plan to someone who might actually use it!  A complete 50-page strategic plan for a small business, which I had worked on for over a year to construct.  A plan I worked my ass off to create…something I really believed in.  I was shaking like a leaf!  I was so nervous and scared.   I was afraid I’d forget everything I had practiced and worked so hard for…or worse, I’d get through it only to find out it was a terrible marketing plan!  Naturally, I was doubting myself and feeling dull, but I presented the plan and it all paid off!

I owned that presentation!  I kicked some serious ass…and the second I finished speaking, before anyone even responded, I knew I had it in the bag.  I was already smiling and on top of the world!  When the Q&A portion of my presentation began, I rocked every answer.  I had research to support my statements and confidence to stand behind my work and my ideas.  I felt AMAZING and my audience knew it.  I walked out of that conference room and literally did a Mary Tyler Moore jump into the air, followed by several fist pumps…followed by celebratory beers and “woohoos” with my classmates!

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Then there’s those days when you realize you’ve been spelling one word wrong all your life.  Or the day you find out you’ve completely misunderstood something everyone else understands.  How can I be a kick-ass marketing professional/rock star presenter one day, and not know that the phrase “for all intents and purposes” is not said, “for all intensive purposes” the next!??  Intensive purposes? Really Holly?  It doesn’t even make sense, how could I not know this?!  Ugh.

It’s dull days like these that really kill my confidence, but I always manage to pick myself up.  Here are few things that help me forget how completely stupid and boring I can be:

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My Pinterest Homepage

1. Join Pinterest.  If you aren’t on Pinterest, I highly recommend it.  Pinterest is a virtual pin-board where you pin up pictures and ideas you love and share them with friends.  You can pin things you’ve tried, things you’d like to do, places you want to go, how you wish you looked, funny jokes, cute shoes to buy and what your dream home will look like.  It’s just a fantastic house of thoughts and ideas.  At first, it takes a while to fill up your pin-boards, but over time it becomes a collage of dreams!  It may be depressing for some to look at a bunch of stuff they may never have or see places they may never go, but personally, I think it’s inspiring.  It makes me want to make my dreams a reality and reminds me how cool I can be.   Plus, it’s super easy, fun to use and totally free!

2. Update your resume.  I know, I know…it feels like work.  It is.  I usually dread it…but I also dreaded that presentation and look how that ended up!  How often do you really take a look at your skills and education and brag about your accomplishments?  When you complete a resume, it feels good.  I may not have found out about “all intents and purposes” until a few years ago, but I look pretty darn good on paper!  If you focus on all your best qualities and think about all the things you can do, you’ll probably surprise yourself.

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The nerdy stuff I do and fun places I’ve been 🙂

3. Create a memory box.  Now don’t go all hoarder on me or anything, but take all the weird stuff you save (ticket stubs, wristbands, menus, event passes, etc.) and put them all in one decorative place.  About a year ago I was cleaning my room and found a nice picture frame I had never used.  While cleaning up, I started to compile all of these mementos and put them in the frame (I really just wanted to use the frame for something and couldn’t bring myself to just throw all those tickets away).  My memory box grew and grew.  Now it’s my favorite piece of art and whenever I’m feeling dull or stupid, I can look at it and think of all the cool and smart things I’ve done.  Sounds a little hokey, but it really does help!  How many people can say they’ve been to a Star Wars convention, honestly?

4. Give yourself some credit!  Give yourself a silent pat on the back.  Think of all those times you showed someone else how to do something or made your friends laugh.  You can’t be a complete moron when your seasoned coworker still can’t even figure out the copy machine.  You’ve been working here 30 years and you still haven’t gotten it down!?  Yikes.

What do you do to boost your confidence?