Great Ideas Come From Great Brainstorming

By Julie Ray, Account Executive

When it comes to problem solving, planning and coming up with the next big idea or invention, most companies utilize brainstorming sessions with key employees. Each week, meetings are held to solve problems and plan for accounts at Gragg Advertising. I am sure most companies operate in a similar fashion. This structure has existed for many years and has great validity in the fact that teams (historically) have come up with the best ideas. Existing within these meetings are the following personality types.

  1. The Meek – quiet, timid, distracted, computer user
  2. The Controller – controls the conversation, we all have one of these
  3. The Idea Crusher – could be the boss, IT providing a reality check, or someone unwilling to put in the effort
  4. The Facilitator – the person who probably called the meeting, keeps things moving when they get bogged down

Due to these polarizing personality types, meetings tend to be dominated by a select few while others just vanish. This leads to meetings loosing focus and a failure of bringing any new ideas to the table. About six months ago, I came across an article that focused on the ways to become a better brainstorming company. This style, known as “brainsteering,” fosters individual participation from each attendee. From that technique I chose five steps that I thought would be the most helpful and productive.

  1. Shoot for Quantity
    • Try to gain as many ideas as possible. Think “no idea is a bad idea”.
  2. Choose GREAT People
    • Bring people into the conversation that are experts in the areas you need help in. Don’t select people based solely on their rank or position.
  3. Divide and Conquer
    • Instead of having one fluid conversion that could potentially last for hours and end up nowhere, divide into groups of three or five. There is a science behind selecting an odd number of people.
  4. Focus the Conversation
    • Provide one question to each group and have the group come up with as many solutions as possible within a time frame. The most important take-away from the article was to not allow other ideas to come up during these highly focused sub-group conversations. At the end of the time, give each sub-group a few more minutes to narrow down their list to include the TOP ideas that came out of their “power session”.
  5. Develop a Plan
    • No idea that comes up in your brainstorming session can immediately be put into place; however, the plan to implement can and should be done promptly. From this activity, many ideas will be generated. The best way to narrow down the list is to look at the practicality and execution time of each idea/solution.

By utilizing this exercise, people will feel involved in the success of solving a problem or helping the company. Whether or not their idea was chosen, they contributed to the conversation.

In conclusion, don’t be a brainstorming dummy. Don’t think that anything should ever continue being done the way it was before. This will only result in generating the same solutions and practices. In the end, this will only help in overall company growth and involvement, which is a win-win!

Making Travel Plans: Gragg Advertising looks ahead to busy schedule

In the coming months there will be many opportunities to connect in person with Gragg Advertising representatives. As we look ahead through the month of June you will not only see our booths at a number of trade shows and conferences but you will have several opportunities to hear our experts speak on some of the most pressing topics facing  the direct response industry. Check out the schedule below and be sure to connect with us at one of these events.

Missouri Association of Private Career Colleges and Schools (MAPCCS)
April 20
St. Louis, Missouri

  • Lisa Olmedo and Jennifer Flood will be speaking on a panel related to compliance and admissions.

California Association of Private Postsecondary Schools (CAPPS)
Policy Conference

April 24 – 25
Sacramento, California

Louisiana Association of Private Colleges and Schools (LAPCS) Conference 
May 4
Baton Rouge, Louisiana

  • Lisa Olmedo will be presenting on Retention Strategies for Students and Employees.
  • Lisa Olmedo  and Jennifer Flood will be presenting on Admissions Training and Best Practices.

Life Insurance Marketing Research Association (LIMRA)
Winning Connections Conference

May 30 – June 1
Las Vegas, Nevada

Northwest Career College Federation (NWCCF) 
June 6 – 8
Couer d’Alene, Idaho

  • Gragg Advertising will be exhibiting at the conference and sponsoring the Welcome Reception.
  • Greg Gragg will be presenting on Retention Best Practices.

Association of Private Sector Colleges and Universities (APSCU)
Annual Convention

June 20 – 22
Las Vegas, Nevada

  • Greg Gragg will be giving a presentation titled Kill Television and Watch Inquiries Die with It!

 

Treading Trade Shows: Plan Your Plan

Congratulations!  You have arrived at the industry trade show.  There are lots of people in suits sporting lanyards, clacking on Blackberries and forming small circles of conversation.  There’s energy in the air that is propelling you forward to a full day of prospecting.

But, wait.  You’re starting to notice something.  Something is a little “off”.  Those small circles of people are starting to walk away together.  Off the show floor and straight out the entrance to the show itself!  Where are your shiny, new prospects going?

They’re going with people who prepared for the trade show.

When you see promotional photos on a trade show website, you will typically see a packed floor full of impressive booths, people engaged in conversation, and a general feeling that simply being at the show will net the reward of new business.  However, as wisely put by Thomas Edison, “Good fortune is what happens when opportunity meets with planning.”  So, before you end up watching your investment in a trade show booth (or even simply attending a show) walk out the door with your competition, there are some simple strategies you can employ to focus your plan of action.

  1. Establish contact with trade show organizers. As soon as information is posted about the trade show you are interested in is posted to the organization’s website, make contact with the person in charge.  Ask about speaking opportunities.  Ask about electrical hookups.  Ask for a map of the show floor and strategize your booth space – being close to the entrance is great, having a corner booth that allows upwards of three lines of sight from your booth AND being close to the entrance is ideal.  Many people will tell you that placement by the water cooler is great.  These people attended trade shows in 1965 and are still employing the same strategy.  If prime space is already taken, ask about the best available options and, when possible, leverage your company’s historical support of the trade show organization for the best spot.  Remember that the more this person connects with you, the better shot you have at getting a call when a great opportunity opens up.
  2. Identify your target prospects and find out if they are attending. Ask the show organizer for a list of attendees every week leading up to the show.  Narrowing your focus helps you better organize a game plan for meeting up with them at the show.  Call your prospects and set up meetings somewhere off the trade show floor .  Lunch, dinner, even just having coffee, as long as you’re away from the noise and distractions (i.e., your competition vying for attention) of the show floor.  This is how the lion’s share of actual business deals get done at trade shows so make this one of your top priorities.
  3. Don’t take an ugly date. If you have a booth, especially one you’ve trotted out at several shows prior, always remember that it is the first impression many of your prospects will have of your company, regardless of how mundane it may seem to you.  Before shipping it to the show location, take it out of the container, assemble it at your office, break it back down and pack it again.  This way, you can identify any potential issues you may encounter while assembling it on the show floor.  There is literally nothing worse than having a vital piece either missing or broken when you arrive.  Think in terms of a potential client.  Would they want to do business with a company that can’t even plan ahead for it’s own booth?
  4. Target your message. You should always pack plenty more marketing materials than you plan on handing out.  But, more importantly, make sure the ones you bring are targeted to the audience at the show.  For instance, your company might offer industry-leading services in financial planning and IT solutions for healthcare groups.  But, if the trade show theme is “HealthNet: Integration Technologies for Growth in Private Healthcare”, the delegates sent from your prospects’ companies will likely be IT directors and are probably not too interested in your financial planning abilities.  Many of your materials will be food for landfills and, more importantly, be wasting the money you spent printing them.  If you have special novelty items with your logo, make sure the messaging is appropriate.  Actually, having bags with your logo is a great idea.  People get tired of carrying around pamphlets and trinkets.  You’ll have a roving billboard throughout the show.
  5. Pack your survival kit. You wouldn’t plan a journey into the woods without first packing some essentials appropriate to the situation.  A trade show is no different.  Before you ship your booth the show, plan and pack a survival kit to help you navigate all things foreseen and unforeseen.  There can be several versions of this list but here are some essentials everyone should bring:
    1. BUSINESS CARDS – whatever you think you need, pack 25 more
    2. Pens and notepads – the basic theory that fueled the entire US economy for the past 25 years was scribbled on a napkin.  Take notes.
    3. Tape – have you literally ever been in a situation where it hurt to have extra tape?
    4. Scissors – See “Tape”
    5. Extension cords – just because your booth has “electrical access” does not guarantee it is reachable with a standard. 6 ft. cord.
    6. Velcro – many booths are held up and together with Velcro and, as anyone who’s ever put it through the washing machine will attest, it’s just impossible to untangle anything that gets caught in it.  Having extra on hand helps make sure the booth stays looking neat and sharp.
    7. Nuts, bolts, screws and tools – the frame of your booth is likely held together with these fasteners.  If the shipping company jostles the booth too much in transit, these can come loose.  Failure to pack extra may result in a mangled heap of metal.
    8. Extra light bulbs – to better illuminate a booth’s messaging, many companies use spotlights at the top.  Pack replacement bulbs.  There really is a difference when your booth is not lit.
    9. Aspirin, Pepto and bandages – loud show floors, bright lights, late nights, cafeteria food and assembling/disassembling your booth all contribute to this necessity.
    10. Chocolate – who doesn’t want to stop at the booth with chocolate?
    11. Build excitement. Send out email blasts to your target audience each week for 3-4 weeks prior to the show, inviting them to stop by your booth to find out how you can solve their problems in a revolutionary new way.  Make them simple but informative and tease them with thought-provoking questions like “Can you honestly say you’re 100% satisfied with your telecom services?”
    12. Pre-show meeting. Years ago, a young man playing for the University of Michigan ended what could’ve been the one of the most fabled runs in college basketball history by calling a time out in the waning seconds of a game wherein his team was down by 2 points. The problem?  Michigan was out of time outs.  The resulting technical foul ultimately lead to a victory for the opposing North Carolina Tarheels.  Michigan’s coach had been over what to do in a pressure situation several times prior and the player was simply doing as he had been taught.  My point?  Planning is wonderful.  Making sure everyone is on the same page is golden.  Have a strategy drawn up and on paper to go over.  Have your time mapped out to the letter.  Booth schedules for each person attending, appointments with prospects, down time (you do actually need some time allotted to digest not only the cafeteria food but also the communications you’ve had), time for checking in to the office and checking emails, etc.  Make sure you identify any potential snags or obstacles that could keep you from your goal.  Which brings me to the final and most important point…
    13. Set goals. What do you want to accomplish at this trade show?  What are some benchmarks by which you can gauge your success?  The simple act of identifying and prioritizing the results you hope to achieve by attending a trade show can help you put everything into perspective and help you feel more relaxed once you are there.  Something will go wrong.  A scheduled dinner will be canceled because the prospect is stranded in the Atlanta airport.  But you know your goals.  You have a vision and a plan for what you want to accomplish and, hopefully, it isn’t completely contingent upon one appointment.

So, now, shift your scenario.  You’re part of the small circle.  You’re walking out the door, ready to make the deal that takes your company to the next level.  Congratulations.

Gainful Employment and Title IV Compliance

November 15, 2011 is the deadline for Gainful Employment disclosure statistics to be reported to the Department of Education for the 2010-2011 award year. To the extent that information is available for programs that prepare students for gainful employment in a particular area of practice, information about those programs must be submitted to the Department of Education to be considered for Title IV funding.  http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2011-08-02/pdf/2011-19534.pdf

Lawsuits

A large number of schools are being investigated for dishonest recruiting practices, inflated job placement rates and rate of tuition compared to available salary upon completion.   One school recently settled with 8,500 former students for $40 million.  Career Education Corp, which owns the schools, faces another class action lawsuit under similar facts.

 

Responsibility Lies on the Schools

Schools must comply with federal regulations regarding recruiting, advertising, enrollment practices,  and the manner in which they obtain and enroll students. Disregarding these rules can be financially  devastating, as many schools have recently discovered. A lawsuit was just filed in August of 2011 against Education Management Corp. alleging widespread fraud. The government is allowed triple damages in these types of cases, putting many schools at risk to lose their federal funding from 2003 to present X 3.   http://www.nytimes.com/2011/08/09/education/09forprofit.html

 

Gragg Compliance

We make sure your school is compliant with all federal regulations and with the directives from the Department of Education. We track and monitor all online advertisements to uncover cases of enticement, inflated salary, misrepresentation, as well as many other factors. Gragg manages your disclosures that are required for the receipt of Title IV funds which is the financial life blood of your organization.

This post is guest written by our Compliance Manager, Jennifer Flood.

Gragg Travels

April has been a busy month as Gragg employees has traveled to three conferences from Louisiana to Virginia and right here in our backyard of Missouri.

 

Employees traveled to historic Williamsburg, Virginia April 3-5 to attend the Distance Education and Training Council’s 85th annual conference. While there, they were able to learn more about the council and reach out to show how Gragg can help.

 

Later this month, we will take our act on the road again when we attend the Missouri Association of Private Career Colleges and Schools and Louisiana Association of Private Colleges and Schools conferences. We look forward to seeing what else we can learn about these great organizations.

 

As we expand our knowledge, we have one goal in mind—to better serve our clients. These conferences help us to reach out and be better prepared to answer any marketing questions current and future clients may have.

Gragg Advertising Takes Support To The Hill

The leaders of Gragg Advertising, Greg Gragg, CEO/Chairman and Darryl Mattox, President, will band together with the Association of Private Sector Colleges and Universities (APSCU) at the organization’s Hill Day and Policy Forum Event. The event will allow Gragg Adverting the chance to stand with APSCU and fight against the gainful employment changes on Capitol Hill.

The previous blog posting, “A Fair Trade?: Students may lose educational opportunities in return for gainful employment ruling.” explains the current political climate in regards to gainful employment and private colleges.  A gainful employment ruling would have negative effects on these organizations, but more importantly on students with the desire to go to these schools with some sort of aid.

Gragg and Mattox will be standing with APSCU to lobby against these types of rulings that hinder the ability for these schools and students to succeed.  Now more than ever, with the looming threat of gainful employment rulings, it is important for Gragg Advertising to show our support for these organizations.

Gragg Advertising will be on The Hill March 7-9. Join together with us in support of APSCU.

Greg Gragg Scheduled to Speak at February Conference

President/CEO Greg Gragg will be speaking with Lisa Olmedo, Director of Business at the upcoming Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools conference in New Orleans.

The conference will be held Feb. 9 -11, 2011 and will be attended by executives in the business industry across the nation. The theme of the conference is Promoting Educational Excellence-Best Practices, Best Results and Greg will be speaking on ‘Recruiting the Best Students and Keeping Them’. Our seminar will spotlight how everyone in an organization, from top to bottom, plays a role in obtaining and retaining students. From ideas on creating a positive work environment to why continual training of school’s staff is important, this presentation provides a team approach to retention and how a staff can make a difference in a school’s retention numbers.

We’d love to see you at the presentation, or at our booth – number 48. Several wonderful staff members will be available to speak with you.

Shake, Shift and Stir Your Way from Good to Great

Our very own Greg Gragg recently spoke at the Maryland Association of Private Colleges and Career Schools in Baltimore, Md. about how colleges can help improve their brand, from training their admissions representatives to utilizing online marketing. Gragg covered all of the ingredients for what it takes to make a great salesperson, the psychology of selling and even conversations do’s and don’ts for staff.

So what kind of message is your school relaying?

You can start by listening to your target audience, aka current and potential students. Are you utilizing good listening skills?

15 Ways to Become a Better Listener

1. Be prepared
2. Limit your distractions
3. Pay attention – concentrate on the conversation
4. Empathize with the prospect’s situation
5. Limit your own talking
6. Listen to their feelings
7. Don’t interrupt; allow him/her to finish his/her thoughts
8. Don’t be dismissive of his/her ideas
9. Take complete notes on every conversation
10. Always ask leading questions
11. Listen reflectively
12. Be cognizant of body language
13. Repeat and verify important points
14. Practice listening

For more of Gragg’s presentation and to learn how to cook up new ways improve conversions, spice up different ways to overcome objections and discover the flavors on language use, check out the entire PowerPoint presentation.

About Maryland Association of Private Colleges and Career Schools (MAPCCS)

MAPCCS strives to be the driving force for the advocacy and development of private college and career schools in the state of Maryland. MAPCCS fosters quality education for each student served by promoting accessibility, affordability and diversity for our member schools; encouraging compliance and accountability; participating in legislative activities and providing professional development and networking.

ACCET Annual Conference Recap

Last week, Gragg Advertising was in Savannah, GA, for the 2010 ACCET annual conference. We met some amazing people and had a great time discussing this year’s hot topic: Mapping Institutional Effectiveness.

If you weren’t able to make it, here’s a quick recap of the conference.

VIP reception – Oct 31st

The entire event kicked off at the party hosted by ACCET on Halloween. The VIP party was, of course, Halloween themed meaning lots of costumes and spooky decorations. Attendees dressed up in all sorts of costumes in the fog and strobe-light filled reception room. Everyone had a fantastic time.

Happy Hour and Ghost Walk- Nov 1

Day 1 was also host to an incredible ghost walk through certain old parts of Savannah. We had a great time on the walk with all sorts of wonderful people from Central Coast College, Milan, Summit College, ACCET President, Vector Careers, Knutte and Associates, First Institute, Phoenix East, American Career Institute and more.

Our first step on the tour was a trolley ride to a deserted old café and a walk through the historic streets of Savannah. We went to the famed house from the book/movie “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil” and then visited a hospital that had an underground tunnel used to transport the dead during a yellow fever epidemic. We visited a cemetery for slaves where there are bones buried one on top of the other and the ones nearest the surface are only buried about two feet deep. The last stop was the creepiest – a million dollar mansion supposedly haunted by a little girl’s ghost. No one has lived in the home in 50 plus years.

The entire experience was equally creepy and educational.

ACCET conference Nov 1st through 3rd

The conference, as always, was very well put on. The exhibit hall was well spaced and every booth location was ideal. They had giveaways and prizes for attendees throughout the conference. We met all sorts of wonderful people from the career school sector.

School “Ad”vice Panel

Gragg Advertising founder and CEO Greg Gragg had the pleasure of speaking on a panel of experts on “Ad”vice – The Latest Trends in Education Marketing.

Greg joined three other education marketing experts highlighting trends in traditional and interactive media channels. Areas covered included: improving lead quality; PPL strategies; managing lead compliance; setting up your website to get the most out of Google, Yahoo and Bing; current trending in television and print as well as the newest trends in mobile media and texting strategies.

Panel experts included:

Greg Gragg (Gragg Advertising):  SEO/Social Media

Roger Becker (Becker Media): Print/TV

Mike McHugh (Plattform Advertising):  PPL/Banner

Eric Schanz (Contact Direct Marketing): Mobile/Texting

The panel was a great success with ACCET attendees interested in the latest offline and online marketing trends.

Next year’s ACCET annual conference is slated to be in Tucson, AZ.

Thank you to everyone who stopped by booth #22 to see all the great things Gragg has to offer in 2011. For more information about how Gragg can help your business, contact Lisa Olmedo at 816/-931-0050 ext. 325 or at lolmedo@graggadv.com.

Gragg Makes the Conference Rounds

The team at Gragg Advertising has been on the road quite a bit these last few weeks. We made the rounds to three important for-profit school conferences.

CCST

October 6th through the 8th, Gragg made an appearance in Galveston, Texas for the CCST conference where we exhibited our know-how with our partners from Vector Careers. More than 350 professionals from across the country turned out for networking, exhibiting and a rousing game of bingo!

Be sure to mark your calendars for next year’s annual conference scheduled for October 5-7 in Horseshoe Bay, TX at the Horseshoe Bay Resort.

CAPPS

Last week we headed West to appear at CAPPS in Indian Wells, California. Gragg clients, including Bryan College and Central Coast College were in attendance for the exciting and creative conference. With a costume contest and raffle in place, Gragg participated with our pirate-inspired booth and was a big player in the fun-filled event. YAAR!

William A Cohen from Peter F. Drucker Academies of China and Hong Kong won a brand new 8G Apple iPod filled with the 3 most recent Gragg webinars! Way to go!

Not sure when next year conference will be held.

MAPPSC

To round out all our conference travel, Darryl Mattox, David Toledo, Lisa Olmedo and Amanda Baechle were in attendance at MAPPSC in Kansas City, Mo (we got to hang out a little closer to home this time).

Gragg President Darryl Mattox presented “Creating an Optimal Marketing Mix” and “Successfully Converting Internet Leads” to an impressive and attentive crowd. Each presentation included online marketing and conversion strategies and sparked conversations about pay-per-lead/vendor relations and compliance.

It’s great to be a part of our state organization and participate in this conference.

Thank you to all the great people we met and we hope to see many of you again soon!