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Monday, November 26, 2012

No doubt you're familiar with Black Friday. And most of us have now heard of Cyber Monday and now Black Thursday, Small Business Saturday, and this year Giving Tuesday. It seems everyone wants to get in on the act.

Not one to disappoint, I am getting in on the act this year too and I need your help.

Our mission: Decipher December.

Here's the back story:
Today I went into a Super-Walmart to purchase some cleaning supplies, paint, motor oil and some food. I waited in line for what seemed like forever and finally it was my turn. I watched as the cashier mindlessly scanned in all my items; robotically listening beep-beep-beep. He turned to me and said, "Fifty six dollars and sixty five cents.”  I opened up my wallet and pulled out three twenties.  He looked at me and asked, "Out of sixty?” 
I politely replied, “We’ll see.  Just wait.”  And proceeded to look / dig into my pocket.  I produced three quarters and while doing so could see out of the corner of my eye a look of fear descend upon his brow. 
Then I produced a one dollar bill.   He looked at me in complete confusion.
"Not out of sixty?” he asked.   
“No," I replied.  And before he could figure out the amount that I had handed him and type it into the register, I interjected, “Can you tell my how much you are going to give me back before you type it in?!”
He looked at me startled for a second, then looked at the other people in line, then paused and meekly asked, “Ten dollars and ten cents?” 
“No,” I said.  “Five dollars and ten cents.”  He gave me an evil eye and with a hope for vindication on his face he typed 61.75 into the cash register. "Huhm,” he said as he gave me my change. 
Some man in the back of line yelled, “It ‘aint like the old days!”   
“No it’s not,” I shouted back.
“What is going on in our country?” I pondered as I walked to my car.  “How can we ever hope to get our country on solid financial footing if people can’t even make change without a machine?”

Then I thought of it.

And this is where you come in.

Decipher December.

All YOU have to do is do one thing:
Whenever you buy anything during the month of December – as you hand the person at the cash register your money, simply say, “Tell me the change before you enter it in and let’s see if we’re right.”  Of course that means you need to figure out the change too so you can confirm or deny their answer before they type the numbers in.
Now I am sure you are thinking, “OK, will do, but only if there’s not a line.”

Nope.  Do it even if there is a long line.  It’s good practice (and entertainment) for everybody to dust off that part of their brain and do some thinking while they are waiting.

Do this diligently and report in throughout the coming month.  Return here to share your comments and stories.   I want to hear them!  Maybe this is only a New Hampshire thing.  Maybe it is only rural areas.  Maybe it's only Walmart.

Make some real change this holiday season!
Monday, November 12, 2012

(If you haven’t already noticed, this is not your typical “How to Use Google Voice” blog series.  There are many, many great “How to” pages out there.  I am hitting on those aspects of Google Voice that took me poking and prodding about the Internet to find or accidentally tripping over to discover).

I have to have MY number!

I waited many, many months to be able to port my cell phone number two Google Voice. I'm not sure if it was worth the wait.

I mean, who out there has memorized my business phone number? Sure, not keeping it means people need to update their contact managers with my new information. And that means that there is a possibility that somebody could attempt to call me in the future using my old number and not get through to me. Most likely if this happens they would e-mail me or go to my website to contact me. It also means I updating my various websites, brochures, postcards, and flyers. That certainly would've been an expense.

But if I didn't have loads of marketing material with my number all over it, what difference would it make to get a new number?

If you don't have marketing material with your phone number plastered all over it, the only reason I can think of for you not to get a new Google Voice phone number is your own attachment to your phone number.

Is that worth the wait and the cost?

Phone Porting

For those of you who don't know what "phone porting" is with Google Voice, here is a brief overview:

First you sign up for Google Voice and choose a phone number. (Most people whose goal is to port their first cell phone number two Google Voice think of this phone number as temporary). After you have confirmed your Google Voice account, you are free to port your cell phone number to Google Voice. Currently you can only port a cell phone number and cannot port a landline phone number including VoIP phone numbers (for example Vonage).
Porting is straightforward and simple. It is done directly from the Google Voice website settings. It will cost you $20. It will take about a day. And then you will have a cell phone with no phone number and probably no service. If you have a contract with a cell phone provider, they will hit you with an early termination fee, even if you call them the next day to get another number. That is why I waited until my cell phone contract expired to port my phone number to Google Voice.
If you're not under a contract, your cell phone provider may charge you a new service fee to give you a new phone number on your old cell phone. Verizon, the provider I use, charges $35. But because I have had a long-standing Verizon account, the salesperson issued a $35 credit when I placed the order.
A few days later once the porting is complete, you will get a message from Google Voice informing you that your old Google Voice number will remain active for 90 days (allowing ample time to transition those individuals who are using this number to your new number). This message will also give you the option to keep your old Google Voice phone number permanently for $20.

The Secret

This option (to keep your original assigned phone number) is a little-known secret of Google Voice, particularly important to the business with the goal of establishing an identity in two different geographic markets. To illustrate this will consider Bob the business consultant:
Bob lives in New Jersey but wants to do target businesses in New York City not just those in his home town in New Jersey.  Bob currently has a cell phone that he uses for business with a New Jersey phone number.  Bob is not under contract for his cell service and can cancel at any time without any termination fees. 
He signs up for Google Voice and requests a New York City phone number.  After he has completed the verification process he ports his cell phone number to Google Voice.  He pays Google $20.  The next day he gets an email that his old (New York City) phone number will expire in 90 days but he can make it permanent for $20, which he pays.
Now, Bob has two numbers, in two different geographic markets, that he can forward to anywhere.  He can be in Brazil with Internet access and answer his phone via Google Chat or any phone – as long as it is direct dial (so he can verify it with Google Voice).
Total initial investment:  $40.
Ongoing investment:  $0.
Coming in part 3 of this series:  Clamr!  A powerful add-on for Outlook 2010. 

Monday, November 5, 2012

If you're a solo entrepreneur and you're not using Google voice you are doing something wrong.

Yes, I know that's a powerful statement.  But I want to shake you, get your attention and excite you to action.

In this series of blog posts I will talk about why a solo entrepreneur needs Google voice as well as how to use Google voice and exploit little-known features while saving you and your business lots of money.
Before continuing, I want to define who I refer to when I say "solo entrepreneur”.  Simply stated a solo entrepreneur is a business person who is in business by themselves. Other terms used to describe a solo entrepreneur include freelancer self-employed sole proprietor and home-based business owner. Consultants, business coaches, career coaches and life coaches are typically solo entrepreneurs. So if this describes you and you're not using Google voice read on. (If you are already using Google voice and eager for tips and tricks, you'll have to wait for the second blog post in this series).

So why do I think Google Voice is so critical for the solo entrepreneur?  Because Google voice allows you to convey a professional image to current and prospective clients, gives you an arsenal for managing your voicemail communications, allows you flexibility to do what you want to do when you want to do it and does it all for free.

Let’s examine each of these variables using a fictitious character, Hank Smith, a life coach.

Your Professional Image

Nothing says UNPROFESSIONAL more than calling up Hank, being forwarded to his answering machine and hearing “Hi, Hank, Francis, Tommy and Gonzo the dog are out right now, leave a message and what you want and we’ll call you back.”  Google Voice gives you the ability to have your own phone number and own voicemail.  Imagine if you gave out your Google Voice number to clients and they called and heard a professional message from their prospective life coach.  What would they think of you?

The Google Voice Arsenal

We will be delving into the Google voice arsenal of tools in subsequent blog posts.  But I would like to give you this preview:
Imagine you are trying to reach a new prospective client, John, and you are playing phone tag.  John doesn't have email; just a mobile phone.  John calls and gets your voicemail because you are out hiking and hears, “Hi John.  I set up free consults for people interested in getting more balance in their life while making their dreams come to life. Please leave me three times on Wednesday where we can talk on the phone for a ½ hour.”
You check your email messages on a peak and read John’s voicemail because has been converted to text and sent to your email automatically.  You send John an email to his mobile phone confirming his choice of time and it looks like a text message that came from your phone.
On Wednesday, 10 minutes before the call, you accidentally drop your phone and it breaks.  You log onto Google Voice and when John calls your business number, your friend’s cell phone rings. You answer and John knows nothing about the obstacles you just navigated through.


I have already illustrated this concept with the example above.  Here’s the specifics:
Because Google Voice is web-based, your incoming calls can be forwarded ANYWHERE.  You can answer “your phone” on your mobile, home or office lines.  You can answer “your phone” on the line coming into your hotel room.  You can answer “your phone” on any computer.  And, with a handy-dandy gizmo I will tell you about in part 4 of this series, you can even answer “your phone” on your home or office telephone handset when you don’t even have any phone service.
Coming in part 2 of this series:  how to set up Google Voice, migrate your existing phone number to Google Voice and (a SECRET TIP) how to get a second Google Voice number in another target market for a couple of sawbucks.