Tara the Hero Cat Has Got Nothing on OrangeBoy

By: Sandy Swanson

You have probably seen, or at least heard about Tara the Hero Cat, the family cat that saved young Jeremy from getting mauled by a dog while out playing in his driveway http://taratheherocat.com.

Impressive as this feat was, those of us at OrangeBoy know how special our feline friends are.  After all, we named the company after ours.  Many of you know the origins of the OrangeBoy name, but for those who don’t, please allow me to recap.  Yes, weopie2 named the company after Opie, our first OrangeBoy.  Opie was no ordinary cat. His personality and strong work ethic matched our values and embodied what we wanted to accomplish as a company. He was a real working cat. His primary job was to protect his territory. Every night, whether it was raining, snowing or below zero, Opie went out on night patrol to defend what was his. He was not afraid to go up against the neighborhood terror, “Buddy the Biter,” even though Buddy was twice his size. Opie came home a little bloodied sometimes, but yet he’d head back out the next night. Like Opie, we know the territory and we are not afraid to go up against firms bigger than ours because we are confident in our abilities, and we know the territory.

We enjoyed watching him take on new challenges, like mastering the tightrope walk on the banister in our loft, which was about 14 feet from the ground. Opie tumbled off that banister once or twice, but he shook it off and tried again until he got it right. These traits personify the qualities we have for OrangeBoy. We too take risks to seek out new opportunities and new clients. If we fall, we get up and try again until we get it right.

We can take a lesson from Opie as our business continues to transform. The one thing we know for sure is that change is inevitable. As OrangeBoy grows, we too must adapt to new surroundings and take on new projects without fear, just like we encourage our clients to do.  He is a constant reminder for us each day when we walk into the office and see his image memorialized in the office artwork–reflect on our accomplishments but anticipate the future with excitement.

We deeply miss our friend, confidante and muse, but we honor his memory by living his motto – Keep the fur flying!  Plus, we have a new OrangeBoy – George.  He most certainly lives up to his namesake “Curious George.”  His superhero power is his cuteness, but he is developing a new talent—Bird Catcher.  Even though we are city dwellers, George has successfully caught two birds, though he has let both of them go unscathed.  We’re convinced he paid the birds to stage his hunting prowess!

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Creating and Measuring Communication, Effectively

By: Nickie Harber-Frankart

We’re constantly looking for innovative ways translate data and information into interesting visualizations for our clients. There are many ways to accomplish this by using bar charts, gauges and graphs, but but I’ve recently found word clouds to be incredibly useful for analyzing text.

Wordle.net provides text-based visualizations, using content pasted from articles, blogs, questions from surveys and more, making the top, most prominently used words in the text the largest in the cloud.

For fun, I entered the URL of our blog into Wordle.

Wordle Word Cloud

The prominent words were: interesting, experience, customer, approach, OrangeBoy, work, time, meetings, process, and so on—all of which explain our mission to help our clients become customer-centric organizations.

This exercise was a reminder about branding and creating effective messaging. It was also a lesson in content analytics.

  • Messaging should align with your target audience, as well as your organization’s mission, brand and personality. I was relieved to know that this was the case with our blog. However, it’s not uncommon to see misalignment. Often I hear clients say, I want our customers to know about XYZ, but it doesn’t align with customers’ needs or their behavior. Communication should relate to the core of what you do as an organization while meeting the needs of your customers. A good example is a library sending targeted email messages about early literacy programs to parents with small children who use the library.
  • Use multiple visualizations to tell the whole story. The blog publisher WordPress has a dashboard tool that displays visitation statistics, views, clicks, and popular pages and topics. Amidst all of this “raw” usage data, there are no metrics to describe the blog’s personality or common message themes. The word cloud helped uncover that. By using Wordle, I was able to visualize the messages we send to our readers and understand commonly used words that describe our blog’s personality as it relates to our brand. In other words, multiple data visualizations resulted in a well-rounded story about messaging and its impact on behavior.

I encourage you to think about your messages and use analytics in a similar way. The next time you craft a message to your customers think about how it aligns with their needs and your organization’s brand and mission. Then, consider the best way to measure the impact of that message, effectively.

OrangeBoy works with organizations to uncover valuable insights about customers and the markets they serve. Insights lead to innovative solutions. OrangeBoy helps clients create personalized customer experiences and communications to achieve measurable results. 

Just the Facts…

By: Andy Minister

As we were driving from LAX into the city last week for the Library Journal Director’s Summit, my colleague Clark quoted the opening line from a famous TV show – Dragnet. After the Summit concluded, I imagined how the opening voiceover would sound at the conference…

“This is the city. Los Angeles, California. I work here. I carry a badge. My name’s Friday – I’m a cop. My partner is Frank Smith. It was November 29th. It was raining in Los Angeles. We were working the day watch out of the Library Security Division. A steady stream of disruptions had been finding its way into the city’s library system. We’d gotten a lead on some of the sources of those disruptions – We had to check it out.”

Joe Friday was no-nonsense, straightforward, diligent and paid attention to detail. Those characteristics led to solving crimes. But Friday was also a man set in his ways about how police work was done.

The Director’s Summit’s theme was Disruptions and Opportunities: Libraries Welcome Change. Many libraries find change difficult. The summit showed that libraries are getting out of their comfort zone and realizing a new way of thinking is necessary.

The positive energy from all the directors at the summit was truly exciting to see, and change is certainly coming. Like Friday, today’s libraries are diligent and pay attention to detail. Many have already begun to find opportunities in the pile of disruptions they face in order to make their library more effective and efficient.

“Just the facts, ma’am.” This is thought to be the most recognizable catchphrase from the show. But I learned while writing this, the actual phrase is “all we know are the facts, ma’am.” Think about the difference of these two phrases. In the former, Friday is asking for the facts, in the latter, he is telling her the facts are all that matter.

In our work at OrangeBoy, we have been evangelizing this approach for years, touting the benefits of customer segmentation and data-driven approaches to allocate resources, retain customers and build library support. We believe the facts are what matter, and we truly enjoy working with libraries to uncover those facts. When the facts are all that matter, libraries are able to make decisions that are not only easy to defend, but bring opportunities that result in outcomes that benefit the community.

It was refreshing listening to the thought leaders that participated in the Summit. All of the presentations were excellent and educational, but a few in particular stood out.

“Ladies and gentlemen, the story you are about to hear is true. The names have (not) been changed to protect the innocent.”

Corrine Hill and Nate Hill (no relation) put on a show outlining a whole new way of thinking about how a library operates and serves its community. When Corrine’s vision becomes reality, the future Chattanooga Public Library will look more like an Apple Store than a Barnes and Noble. Nate has literally turned the library into a virtual playground. He has taken the fourth floor and turned it into a laboratory of library experiments. When those experiments are successful and validated, they find a way to implement them throughout the library…when they aren’t successful, they throw them out and move onto the next. I for one cannot wait to pay a visit to Chattanooga, a.k.a., Gig City because of the city’s commitment to high-speed Internet for all residents.

Admittedly, I may have some bias since he is from my fair city and a client, but Patrick Losinski, CEO of the Columbus Metropolitan Library, shared how he views his effectiveness having served for 11 years in that role. He discussed ways for long-tenured directors to stay focused, keep enthusiasm high, and determine when it is time to make changes. One of his success stories in Columbus is inviting local CEO’s to his office for lunch. He claims that he has eaten more turkey sandwiches than anyone in the city, but the relationships he has made, and the advice he has received in those lunches, has enhanced Patrick’s skills as a leader, and in turn made the library more successful.

It was a pleasure meeting so many directors and hearing about their challenges, but more so hearing their ideas and opportunities to meet those challenges.

As I left That City. Los Angeles, California. All we knew were the facts. Not all the facts are positive. But they do provide opportunities to grow. Growth is positive. And that’s a fact, Jack (uh-oh, I think that’s a line from one of my other favorite movies – Stripes.)

Leave us your comments or questions below.

©OrangeBoy, Inc. 2012

Tips from the Obama Campaign to Make Data Work for You

By: Nickie Harber-Frankart

Since the presidential election, discussions have been popping up on the Internet and in the media about how each candidate used data-driven campaigns to target voters. Many agree that Obama’s analytics were far more sophisticated than Romney’s.

I believe the success of the Obama campaign attributed to three simple rules. Apply these to make data work for you.

  1. Merge multiple sources of data. A single dataset consisting of all of your constituents (customers, donors, volunteers, etc.) linked to transactional data is a valuable asset. Data merged across departments and an entire organization can provide powerful insights about constituent relationships, needs, consumption behavior and other knowledge. Data crunchers for the Obama campaign amassed data (voter files, field data, consumer databases, and more) to form one “megafile.”
  2. Behavioral modeling. Using the variables from the “megafile,” the Obama campaign built complex behavioral models. The advantage: predictability and measurability. As Time Magazine reported, statistical models allowed the campaign to target voters efficiently and effectively, using data to determine how and where to reach voters–either by phone, knocking on doors, sending direct mail or social media. The campaign then processed polling and voter-contact data “66,000 times every night,” providing the campaign with instant results about Obama’s odds of winning swing states to help allocate campaign resources (also reported by Time).
  3. Retain data. Some organizations purge data on a regular basis, the Obama campaign did not. The campaign team quickly learned this was a benefit. Analysts discovered that people who had unsubscribed from the campaign’s 2008 e-mail lists were among the easiest to re-engage for support. It’s much easier to retain or re-engage past constituents than win new ones. (Sound familiar?) At some point, you’ll want feedback from customers who don’t (currently) use your products or services. Keep your data. You will want it someday.

We know that careful statistical analysis can provide remarkable precision and results. Follow the rules outlined above to get you started, and next time you have a data question just ask us. OrangeBoy has been helping clients gain customer insights from data for the past 16 years. We’re happy to help.

Leave us your comments or questions below.

©OrangeBoy, Inc. 2012

Clear as Mud – Tips to Develop Presentations that Work

By: Sandy Swanson

I just got a new laptop. My Dell was four years old, but the gray hairs were starting to show. I now have a new laptop that weighs 2 pounds and I love it. As part of this process, I transferred and archived old documents and files stored on my laptop, and came across a cartoon I clipped out of The New Yorker a few years ago (see photo below). It made me chuckle again as it did when I first saw it—a man presenting an elaborate chart asking the audience to let the information sink in.

I think consultants do this to clients all the time—show charts and graphs depicting gobs of data, expecting clients to understand and the results to be crystal clear. Sometimes it is clear alright—clear as mud.

My world as a consultant is all about interpreting data: Market trends, customer data, survey results, and demographics, among others. But what does it all mean and how do we help our clients interpret results into something meaningful?

At OrangeBoy, we are constantly trying to find new and better ways to interpret data so it is easily understood by our clients. Some days we’re more successful than others are, but over the years, I have learned a few tactics that have been helpful. Here are a few tips I try to employ:

  • Pick one thing.  Instead of showing multiple data points on a chart, pick the one thing that is most compelling and focus on that. Your presentation should tell a story. Choose the data points for each chart that help you tell that story.
  • Edit.  More is not better in all cases.  Sure, we have all been guilty of building 100-slide decks, but I’m not proud of that.  Get the scissors out and cut, cut, cut!
  • Take time to digest the information.  Sometimes a situation is complex and it takes some time to really think about what the data is telling you.
  • Use images and words.  Words are good, words with images are better.  What’s the old saying?  A picture is worth a 1,000 words.
  • Narrate. Presentations are best delivered in person. Give your data added shelf life by providing speaker notes to your client to share with others. Better yet, provide an audio recording to accompany slides so others who were not in the presentation can have a similar experience. We have found the slideshare.net product to be a helpful tool.
  • Explain it to your mother. I once saw a cancer researcher present his work.  He said he always tried to explain his research as if he were talking to his mother.  In other words, lose the jargon and simplify the message.

I taped this cartoon to my desk.  It’s a good reminder to remember my own advice.  Good luck with your own data interpretation, and be sure to share your own tips with others below.

©OrangeBoy, Inc. 2012

Do You Have a Backbend in Your Yoga Practice?

Lessons Learned from a Recent Yoga Experience

By: Sandy Swanson

I have been “gym-less” for about six months, thinking I could devise a workout schedule on my own combing the fitness center in my condo with the high school track next door, and the great outdoors.

Well, it didn’t work. So, I decided to investigate local health clubs, selecting one that offers a variety of strength and cardio classes. I found one a few minutes from my house that seemed to meet my criteria, so I signed up for a seven-day pass.

Knowing I had a limited time to try a variety of classes, I intended to make full use of the trial to make my membership decision. On Saturday I went to a spinning class, and that was awesome. On Sunday, my only two class options were spinning class or yoga. I have never been much of a yoga fan, but I didn’t want to do spinning again, so I gave yoga a try.

I can count on both hands how many times I have been to a yoga class, and the last time was three years ago. I don’t know why I thought attending a 90-minute class with limited experience was a good idea, but it seemed so at the time. That’s where my grand plan went awry.

Ten minutes into the class, the error of my ways started to show full force. We kept doing the same movement over, and over, and over… (I think the technical term is called a vinyasa). I wanted to leave, but my pride would not allow it. To add insult to injury, the instructor kept coming over to re-adjust my body to get the correct form. Oh, and did I mention there were only four other people in the class? I couldn’t blend in. So, I stuck with it.

My favorite part was 45 minutes into the class, when the instructor announced that we were going to do backbends. He turned to me in all seriousness and asked, “Do you have a backbend in your yoga practice?” I wanted to be a wise gal and ask him, “What do you think?” Instead, I just said, “No.” Then he suggested an alternate pose.

Afterwards, the instructor came over to me. I thought he was going to gently tell me not to come back. But instead he was very nice and welcomed me back if I wanted to stick with it. I kindly told him thanks, but I don’t think yoga is really my thing.

I’m happy to report that a turbo kickboxing class on Tuesday evening and another successful spinning class on Wednesday restored my resolve, and I joined the gym as a permanent member today.

I don’t regret my yoga experience. It taught me a few important reminders about myself that also apply to business.

  1. Don’t be afraid to experiment. In other words, take risks. OK, so yoga didn’t work out, but now I know for sure so I can try other things. As it happens, I found a really fun aerobic class that I enjoyed and am anxious to add it to my workout schedule on a regular basis.
  2. Don’t be afraid to seek outside help. I realized that I was not able to reach my fitness goals on my own, so I sought outside expertise to help me.
  3. Find the humor or good in difficult situations. I still get a smile on my face when I think about his question about the backbend.

In summary, don’t be afraid to enlist outside resources for your personal or professional life or organization. Sometimes we can’t do it alone, but there are specialists out there to help. Also, try new things—it may not turn out be your cup of tea, but you might also just luck out. Finally, try to find the good with the bad. A difficult situation might just be your next favorite story to tell.

©OrangeBoy, Inc. 2012

The Ultimate Mash-up

By: Sandy Swanson

On the flight home this morning, I found something interesting in Spirit magazine that combines two interests of mine—racing and color. In Dallas, Texas there is a 5K race called the Color Run (see photo), where runners and walkers begin the race wearing white, and at each mile marker receive a dusting of color bursts.

I have heard about races involving mud (Warrior Dash, Tough Mudder, etc.), and frankly, sloshing through the mud and wading through murky creeks does not appeal to me. I have had my share of mud with a couple of triathlons a few years ago. The swim part of the race resulted in an eerie resemblance of The Swamp Thing, crawling out of Buckeye Lake on a hot summer day.

Now, being dusted with color is another thing altogether. I love color. (It is no mistake that we named the company OrangeBoy.) As a child, I could sit down with a coloring book and box of Crayola Crayons for hours. (An opportunity to color with my six-year-old niece recently reminded me just how much I still love it.)

As an adult, paint replaced the crayons of my youth. Not a single wall in my home has been left untouched. Every home I have lived in has seen a kaleidoscope of colors based on my whims and tastes at the time. Come to think of it, there were also few floors and furniture that escaped my paintbrush.

The colors bled from my personal life to my professional life when we had the opportunity to design and decorate our Columbus office four years ago. Let’s just say it’s a happy place to work, and we live our motto “Think in Color” every day.

The Color Run is someone’s vision to add new flavor to the myriad of racing events, giving it its distinctive flair. Isn’t that what we all seek to do with our organizations? That is, find a way to make it stand out and set them apart from others. I think it’s brilliant and demonstrates that innovation is everywhere—you just have to view things differently from time to time.

Next time you are faced with a problem that seems insurmountable, try a few mash-ups of your own. You might be surprised and find yourself awash with a colorful solution.

©OrangeBoy, Inc. 2012