Technology Is Not The Answer

At least it not the first question you should ask when faced with a business challenge. In a recent interview with Forbes.com, contributor Henry Devries, l share why “Which technology should I use?” is a great second question.

Forbes.com

What is the Best Database for a Small Business?

I’m encouraged by the opportunity to share this important concept with the Forbes audience. Big technology is big business, but investing your hard-earned small business budget in technology just because someone says it’s cool or everybody is using it is not sound business advice. By asking the four questions I mention in the interview first, you get to the right answer quickly.

Hope you enjoy the interview. If you do, please share it with your business associates that need to eliminate that feeling of tech overload.

Beware the Facebook Police

15 Minutes of Infamy

Roosevelt and Warhol had it right. The day after the attack on Pearl Harbor the President stood before the Congress and told the American people, “This is a day that will live in infamy.” The artist Andy Warhol said, “In the future, everyone will be world-famous for 15 minutes”

This may seem like an odd pairing of quotes until you reach the logical confluence…

Facebook

Yes, that fun way to see what all your casual acquaintances had for dinner. It seems to be filled with people either using their outdoor voice to tell everyone what they’re angry about or angry people telling everyone that they should stop talking about what they are angry about. Is it just me or does this line of thought also make you dizzy?

It has its good features. Like the message I received from my son Andrew after the Boston Marathon bombing, or the message I received yesterday about the tornado. Knowing John and Andy are alright is priceless. Other than that, I’m finding less value in my time spent on Facebook, I think I’ll focus on social listening. If you find value in your Facebook investment, let me offer some tips.

Personal Brand Reputation

Everything you say, every personal opinion you share, can be seen and read by everybody. You knew that right? Maybe you just forgot. Emotion over events tends to produce temporary amnesia. You can use that defense in a court of law but it won’t fly in the court of public opinion.

Be advised, we may seem to be ignoring you, but we can still hear you. All of it becomes part of your permanent record.

People experiencing grief need to talk about it. If an organization makes a decision that is perceived by a group of loyal members as a death in the family, they are going to talk about it. You may think it’s gone on for too long, but it’s not your call. Let them talk, when they are done and ready to move on, we will all move on together.

Personal attacks, including calling people names, become part of your personal record. It’s more than 15 minutes of fame, it’s a character flaw that will live in infamy. Maybe the Facebook police will expunge your post, but it still happened.

Social is not a weapon, it’s a tool. It’s a way to capture the hearts and minds of those with which you want to connect. Keep your tools sharp, don’t abuse them and they will serve you well.

Thanks for reading. You may now return to your inspirational quotes.

Business Card Gift

The Art of the Social Ask

Should I put a QR code on my business card?

Jenny Olding posed this question not on Google but on Facebook. She got a better answer, and much more.

SEO will always be important, but there’s a significant shift in how people find information on the Internet. It comes from the combination of social and mobile. When business professionals need immediate answers to tough questions, their first move is to reach out to their social networks from a mobile device. As a marketer or business owner, you need to be there waiting to respond to their very special invitation.

Savvy business professionals are discovering that social shouting is not only ineffective, it drives prospects away. Social listening on the other hand, engages new contacts and builds relationships.

The Art of the Social Ask

J. Summer Rogers, CEO of nPruv, Inc. finished her presentation yesterday with, “Here’s my ask.” For me it was the best idea to come out of the, IoT (Internet of Things) Start-Up Table Breakfast.The technology start-up community here in San Diego gets it. Asking questions engages prospects, investors and prospective team members.

Would you like to increase your social engagement? All you have to do is ask.

5 Tips to Improving Your Social Engagement

Pose a genuine, thought-provoking question -  If your question is self-serving or self-promotional, don’t bother. Most folks on social have their BS filter on max.

Answer a thought provoking question, thoughtfully -  Have an opinion? State it, but respectfully. I think QR Codes, like all technology that include the word “Cool” in their definition, are stupid. I simply shared why I thought they were less than effective. What I liked best about Jenny’s thread was the real world examples and multiple points of view.

Honor the Conversation and Contributors - I added an update to Jenny’s thread stating clearly what I liked best.

Engage Contributors – I use social engagement to build relationships with those I serve best. As suggested by Jon Ferrara, CRM Pioneer and Founder of Nimble.com, “Walk in your prospects digital footprints.”

Close the Loop – If you start a social ask, finish it. Thank everyone, share what you decided and most importantly, your results. Handle  this right and you will earn the right to ask a second question.

My Social Ask

I’m considering closing comments on my blog. I’m finding that ideas spread faster via social. If you find value here, please consider sharing it socially.

 

 

Pacific Surfliner

Take a Ride on the Peace Train

Took my first train ride Friday. At least the first where I was actually on the way to a real destination.I rode the Pacific Surfliner from the Santa Fe Station in San Diego to Irvine Center. I love the fact that trains have names and not just numbers. As with all public transport, there is the ever present, “Will I make it on time?” Not just me, but the train. In this case, I had nothing to worry about. It was a great first experience.

I left my apartment in Golden Hill, walked a block to the bus, switched to the Trolley in East Village, and arrived at the Santa Fe Depot in just a few minutes. We left the station on the dot and headed up the coast. That’s when the magic began.

I was simply not prepared for the change in perspective from the panoramic windows of the train. Up high, out of commuter traffic, gazing upon early morning surfers, joggers, and all the other early birds. I found myself relaxing, being present, focusing on the meeting in Irvine.

Peter boarded at one of the beach communities along the coast. He was headed north on this sunny Friday morning. With the Pacific ocean as a backdrop, Peter shared that this was his regular Friday commute. He loves to drive, but during the summer, I-5 is more parking lot than freeway. He switched to the train when his Friday night extended into Saturday morning. Not on the road, but in his head. He figured fighting traffic should not be part of his job description.

 How Do You Define Convenience?

People tell me the ability to jump in a car and just go is convenient. After flying by all those car dwellers on I-5, I’m not sure I agree.

Technology has changed the definition of the word convenience. Mobile devices turn wait-time into work-time. For business owners and the marketers who support them, it’s a new world. I’m often asked, “How long should by blog posts be?” The new answer is, “As long as your prospects can read while waiting in a line.”

Mobile-centric is more than resizing images or text. It’s a mindset that extends to where, when and for how long prospects can pay attention to your message.

Three tips to calculate the perfect blog post length

  • Go stand in a line – Sorry, but it’s the most accurate. Make sure it’s a line your prospect would stand in. See if you can read your last blog post before you reach the front of the line. Works the same for video or podcast.
  • Perform the CTA (Call to Action) – Did it make sense in the current context? Can your prospect fill out the form? Download and print a pdf? If the answer is no, you just blew your marketing campaign.
  • Start all design reviews from a mobile device – Mobile-first is a design protocol that places a priority on mobile usability.

 Insight

Your prospects have left the building. To successfully engage them online you need to go stand in the same line.

 

 

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Relying on the Wisdom of Technicians

We trust our most critical decisions to a dedicated core of individuals with poor vision. It’s not their fault. We’ve asked them to work on the smallest, most challenging parts of our world. To dig in, find that infinitesimal problem in the code or circuit and eliminate the problem.

Myopic Minutia

A disturbing trend in digital design and development is the decision to outsource a founders vision to those who can lack the strategic eyesight to take the company where it needs to go. There is no justification for the excuse, “They told me it had to be like that.”

We have plenty of silly examples like QR codes, re-marketing and dizzying image sliders to remind us that just because we can, doesn’t mean we should.

It’s time for a new job description. Not just for your techs, but for yourself as the CVO, (Chief Visionary Officer). Reach out to, retain and reward your team, you need them.

They also need you. Make the really hard decisions each day that affect real people, your customers, your team, your community. The software doesn’t care, you must.

 

 

influx cafe - Golden Hill

Bikes, Babies, Messenger Bags, The Influx Has Begun

Each morning begins with a steady stream of bikes, babies and messenger bags. Bike commuters race down the hill, their average commute time killed by the uphill return home. Gaggles of millennials sporting messenger bags lope down the hill, on their way to building the next killer app.

Big backpacks, big rings of keys, big dreams. It’s not easy living in the city. The name is a perfect fit. The Golden Hills location of Influx Cafe is my new community center/outside office/conference room.

Open daily 6 am to 9 pm, My seat near the sunlit front window inside this old urban store front is the perfect vantage point to watch my sleepy-headed neighbors drudge in, spend time in line reviewing their social accounts then leave briskly clutching their one essential food group, coffee.

The young professional/mother rocks back and forth glancing repeatedly out the window hoping she and her baby don’t miss the uphill bus. The blanket covered with tiny red hearts cradles her young one. At first it seems an odd contrast to her suit, but hey, that’s what eclectic urban is all about.

It’s an enclave of everyone, an un-gated community where dogs wag their tails, children smile with their eyes and neighbors I haven’t yet met invite me to , “enjoy your weekend!” It took a few visits before I realized, it’s not the coffee, it’s the community that perks me up in the morning.

Back in the late ’70s I worked to rebuild Baltimore one building at a time. I hate to throw anything away, especially solid old structures, but there is more to this work than rebuilding buildings. It’s about building communities and eventually, members of that community. Influx is performing important work in the communities where they live.

In the industrial age industry located factories near rivers for a supply of cheap energy. Now it’s the flow of electricity that powers San Diego’s boom town. That, and of course, coffee.

Hope you’ll stop by my “office” and say hello.

Influx – 1948 Broadway – San Diego

 

Choosing the Perfect Domain Name

Arrogance and Ignorance do not a Re-branding Make

The association formerly known as the National Speakers Association recently announced a re-branding effort. The ranks of members and stakeholders contain both advocates and opponents I’m on the side of the community, so what follows is neither praise nor rant. It’s not that I don’t care. I just know that although I’m a member, I have no control over the outcome.

The announcement generated an immediate firestorm of criticism. It didn’t have to happen. If you are considering a re-branding effort within your organization, even if it’s nothing more than adding or retiring a product line, consider this a cautionary tale.

 Arrogance and Ignorance

Whether you are piloting a supertanker or a 41-year-old non-profit, changing direction requires planning and an equal measure of both time and space. The former association finds itself embroiled in a controversy because the campaign was poorly executed If you’re planning either a personal or business wide re-branding, make sure you avoid committing the twin sins of arrogance and ignorance.

 Arrogance

Organizations will always own their brands, but in the age of the Internet and social networking, control of a brand has shifted.  Your brand is in the hands of your fans.

Proceeding with a  position that ”management knows best” is a fool’s game. It didn’t work for the British during the American Revolution, for Coca-Cola at the introduction New Coke and it didn’t work for the Artist Formerly Known as Prince. It’s uncertain whether the association’s new look will prevail. What is certain is that it will take longer to accomplish and at a great cost, to the stakeholders, litigants and ultimately to the brand itself.

Ignorance

Association management responded both slowly and ineffectively to the surge of protest. An email address was created in an effort to give members a channel to voice their concerns. This only after the 48 hours of social networking commentary. The image that comes to mind is of an open-bottomed suggestion box, mounted directly above a trashcan.

There was a time when organizations could control the conversation, but no longer. Your community now controls where, when and how the debate will play out. Organizations who fail to understand this invitation will never make it to the really cool parties.

In an age of instant communication, total transparency and a pre-requisite of trust, every action taken during a re-branding is important. There’s more to a successful re-branding than developing a new logo, but it is the first visual clue to defining your new direction. A key component to the current debate is the eerie similarity to a member’s existing brand. I’m not saying it was copy/paste. It’s more like photoshopped from my observation.

Before You Re-brand

Engage Your Community in Advance – You’ll receive valuable information from those who know your brand the best. At worst, you’ll be able to share the blame if it goes horribly wrong. You’re going to have a conversation anyway. Better it happen as a supportive dialog than in front of an angry mob carrying pitchforks.

Unique is Tough – It takes very little creativity, money or effort to copy. Stealing is a sin and besides, it’s downright lazy.

Meet Them Where They Are – For years the members tell me that the best knowledge transfer happens not in the meeting rooms, but in the halls between sessions. Attempting to force your community into meeting room box then demanding they fill the empty seats near the front leaves you with a room full of empty chairs.

Measured Pace – If change were easy, there wouldn’t so many books written on the subject. If you’re considering a change in direction, start the turn early and make it as gradual as possible.

 Wisdom From Our Founder

While researching NSA founder Cavett Robert’s famous “Bigger Pie” quotation last week for a separate publication, I learned that Cavett’s vision for a National Speakers Association failed the first time out. At the time he optimistically said, “It’s going to take a little more salesmanship”.

Those words are still true four decades after first spoken. As you embark on your own re-branding effort remember who your customer is and who is responsible for making the perfect pitch.

 

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The Artists Formerly Known as Members of NSA

Thank you for visiting my hometown of San Diego! I hope your visit was everything you hoped for. As you pack up and head out this morning, I have a gift for you. Here’s what I learned during your stay.

During breakfast Mark Hunter shared with me that writing and publishing is more about when your audience is available to read, not when you’re ready to publish. A simple focus on industry, day of the week and even the hour will increase your email marketing impact.

Consider following up with all of the vendors and sponsors. Yes they want to sell you something, it’s probably something you need. At least you’ll have a better idea of what’s happening. I learned that a Genuine scooter is way better than a Vespa. I also learned that online learning is huge and should shoot right to the top of your project list.

I learned that my colleagues are indeed genuine. They care, were happy to be here, ready to share. To the members of Platform, thanks for all the NSA memories!

Bright Shiny Objects

Why Blog?

While attending the National Speakers Association Blogging PEG yesterday I heard folks ask, what should I blog about? How long should it be? How often should I post?

What I didn’t hear was why. As with most technology topics, the focus was on the details, not the big picture. Understanding why you’re pouring so much time and effort into blogging is the best first step you will ever take as a blogger.

Blogging lives as the connector between customers discovering your organization through social networking and purchased your goods or services.

You might not remember the bellman who effortlessly whisked your luggage from the car to your room, but their effort got you where you wanted to go. Your blog performs a similar, essential function. The blog posts you share from your social platforms link your prospects to your website and on to your sales copy and call to action.

Without a blog, you would have to carry your own bags. Would your prospects do that for you? Carry your own bags. Write posts that target your prospects. Give them just enough to satisfy their need for relevant information. Guide them your valuable sales copy.

Many of the attendees to last nights event had the courage to admit they were new to the world of blogging. Below is a link to a resource to help you get started. My gift to you. I can’t wait to read your new blog!

Insight

Blogging is the glue between online discover via social and sales.

Resources

Making Sense of Blogging

Is your social engagement nothing but noise?

Which Technology Should You Buy? Is a Great Second Question

Roving Mastermind celebrated its 15th anniversary yesterday. The brainchild of Tim Richardson CSP, it’s been the most effective strategy yet to increase the value of your conference investment. I was fortunate to receive an invitation. Each of the 15 attendees shared great ideas, insight and set the tone for a convention worthy of the record books.

It was almost perfect. Then someone mentioned a favorite online tool, “Blah, blah, blah.com”. Everyone stopped, grabbed a pen and dutifully jotted down the site, as if acquiring one more $20 a month cloud application was the answer.

It’s not

We’ve all been brainwashed to believe that if we spend more money on software our business will thrive, our bank account will grow, life will be perfect. If you’re attending NSA’s big gig here in San Diego, let me offer a different mindset on technology.

Which Technology Should You Buy?

It’s a great second question. Instead of focusing on the tools, consider developing answers to these questions:

  • What are you trying to accomplish?
  • Who is it for?
  • What do they need?
  • What do you need them to do?

Armed with the answers to these questions, you are well on your way to creating an Internet Game Plan. So for all of you are looking for the virtual holy grail in technology, chill.

Insight

This year, it’s time to stop collecting the dots and start connecting your digital dots.