Amazing Internet innovations are transforming the way just about everyone in the walls and ceilings industry does business, from email communications to sophisticated real-time international video conferencing. It’s not surprising that many are overwhelmed by the range and seeming complexity of the options available. Unless you are a “geek” yourself, odds are that you need help. As a customer-focused media company, we at BNP Media (the parent company of W&C) are committed to delivering information in ways that will make your job easier and more efficient. You can thrive by strategically managing how and when you receive information. Here’s a breakdown of how new technology can help you:
Go Online for Training and Certification
Online training has come of age and keeps getting better. Early attempts at Webcasts and Webinars were clunky, strained affairs. Fuzzy images and lost connections were the norm. Today, high-speed connections, in-house projection, enhanced software, improved two-way communication, and experienced providers make Web-based training an engaging experience.
Got a question? Most Webinars allow you to submit questions and answer them during a Q&A period.
Want a video clip or additional information on the Webinar? Providers often include video links, which can be entertaining, and related Web sites so you can dig deeper.
Need proof of participation to qualify for CEUs? You might need to take a short quiz, but many Webinars provide a link allowing you to print a course completion certificate.
Takeaway: Challenge your staff to use Webcasts instead of costly travel and you’ll improve training.
Use Online Community to Obtain Real-Time, Real-Life Answers
Perhaps you’ve avoided places like You Tube, bulletin boards, and blogs. Aren’t those for newbies, techies or people without lives? In some cases, that’s true. But for a growing number, online community is now an essential source of their business success.
A huge benefit of online community is free access to people just like you who have already tackled your challenges. Whether you are fixing a broken part, launching an initiative, or revolutionizing your company, someone is waiting to tell you how they succeeded at that task, or, equally valuable, which pitfalls to avoid. Many sites also offer video that shows you how to do it.
Another aspect of community is the ability to build your reputation. Community participants don’t want a sales pitch (spammer!), but they respect you for providing useful information and solving problems. Respect translates into trust, and trust translates into opportunities for your company.
Takeaway: Find trustworthy bulletin boards (like W&C’s), blogs and communal spaces that focus on your industry. You’ll benefit by engaging with sharp-minded, impassioned participants.
Find Information With Lightning Speed
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is a geeky way of saying “fast answers.” If you are even a bit Web savvy, you’ve Googled something. But Google can be overwhelming when you pull up 101,234 results.
A better option is vertical search–using the search functions of industry-specific Websites. Niched sites are more targeted and eliminate fluff. Some, like BNP Media’s sites, including W&C’s www.wconline.com, license Google technology for speed but limit the search to a highly defined universe of data, making your search vastly more efficient.
Takeaway: Visit the top Websites in your field and bookmark those providing the best search results. You’ll save a ton of time.
Locate Products Quickly With Online Directories
Finding products poses a problem when you need specific items to complete a project. Online directories are a great solution. Most allow you to enter a company name, product category, or a brand and then provide a defined list.
OK, you love your print directories. Why use an online directory?
Print directories remain excellent resources, but they are updated annually, whereas online directories can be updated daily. Online directories also include links to supplier Websites, spec sheets, and even product videos.
Takeaway: Keep your print directories handy, but visit their online versions for even more updated and comprehensive information.
Read Breaking News
Whether you’re a leader in your company or headed up the ladder, staying informed has never been easier.
• Websites: Some sites are updated daily, while others languish for weeks. Limit your visits to sites that are updated frequently and offer professional coverage. W&C’s www.wconline.com not only has the current news, but also has an online archive going back to September 2000 that is an excellent source of information.
• E-newsletters: Electronic newsletters offer a big advantage because they come to you. E-newsletters have proliferated so focus on those that provide truly useful industry information.
• RSS feeds: Real Simple Syndication (RSS) is a way to assure you are alerted whenever certain news breaks on the Web. RSS requires you to sign up as a reader and select the topics you want. Those articles collect until you access them.
If you do not already receive W&C’s e-newsletter and RSS feed, why not go online today and subscribe?
Takeaway: Avoid news overload. Focus on Websites, e-news and RSS feeds that best meet your needs and unsubscribe to the rest.
Study In-depth Content For Personal Development and Strategic Planning
While the Web is fantastic for immediacy, it is equally strong in providing content that will help you obtain comprehensive knowledge, perspective, and leadership skills.
Archived articles stored on industry Websites allow concentrated study of a topic or in-depth analysis of an expert’s opinions.
White papers allow you to read thoughtful analysis on new products and procedures, often complete with statistics and projections.
Syndicated research can help you maintain a high level of expertise on a topic or industry, and provides insight for strategic planning.
Takeaway: Search Websites for meaty data and expertise. If required, register to gain access to highly valuable information that others may miss.
Conduct Business Online
E-commerce is more than a buzzword. Many companies now require online purchase orders, applications, designs, specifications, bids, change-orders, credit checks, and payments. A recent survey conducted among subscribers to BNP Media publications showed that while most all had company websites, only 30 percent allowed customers to place orders online.
Takeaway: Embrace this trend by becoming e-commerce savvy. Promote your company as Web-friendly, making sure your Website is customer-driven, and you will be rewarded.
Buy the Right Technology
Your staff may be clamoring for I-Phones, Blackberries, Windows Vista, or other technology. While these products can enhance your company’s ability to receive and relay information, new technology produces a strain on resources. Your IT staff may require significant ramp-up time and your users will need training.
Takeaway: A good solution is to skip one or two generations of tech products, but commit fully when you do jump in. Having everyone using the same version of the same product enhances company-wide efficiency.