Business Development

The year of the mobile was probably somewhere around 2007 or 2008. If you’re still waiting for it, you’ve actually missed it.

That’s the year Ludwick Marishane, from rural LimpopoSouth Africa, developed DryBath — a clear gel solution you apply to your skin that works like soap and water.  He’s currently 22 and the idea came to him when one of his friends — too lazy to bathe — wondered why no one invented a solution that could replace bathing. You see, when you come from a place where getting clean drinking water is an ordeal, the last thing you want to do is use that water to bathe. That, of course leads to disease and death. On a massive scale.

It took Ludwick Marishane 6 month to conduct his research. The thing is, when you’re from rural Limpopo, there are no laptops or Internet cafes so he did all his preliminary research on Google and Wikipedia, via his Nokia 6234.

Take a minute for that last statement to sink in…A solution vital to the millions that have no access to water and sanitation and little boys all over the world who hate taking baths was the result of a comment from a friend, a simple mobile phone, two websites and a lot of determination.

If Ludwick Marishane can change the world with his Nokia 6234, is it that difficult to realize the power your customers hold in their hands with their iPhones, Androids, BlackBerries or Windows Phones?

I encourage you to watch his short video about how he’s changed the face of the world:

If you can’t see the video, click here.

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Slow growth

As a company you wish for fast growth. Lots of members, money, traffic, conversions, press coverage and all of it quickly. The problem is that this fast growth might not be sustainable. Worse: that might not be noticeable, so you act in consequence. Increased staff, office size, salaries, purchases and other expenses until you realize that growth wasn’t sustainable.

It’s not a rule, but it happens enough it’s worth mentioning.

The other side of the coin is slow growth. That growth requires long hours of tweaking, adjusting, fixing, repairing, etc. it allows you to grow with your following — the fans that love the concept and are there from the start. It gives you more time to determine how sustainable the project really is.

It’s not a rule, but it’s often overlooked so it’s worth mentioning.

Although slow growth can be unsustainable in and of itself, it usually allows for a stronger base. It gives you time to work on your product, promote it, find customers and eventually increase sales and then profits. For the consumer there’s the thrill of finding new features and discover a growing product. Fast growth doesn’t allow for that.

It’s worth remembering. When things don’t seem to be heading in the right direction, it could be you’re focusing on finding a quick and easy solution; “I just need… and I’ll be OK.” What you want to do, is set your direction (“Our company is…”) and plan the steps to get there (We’ll work on the product, the promotion, finding customers, then make sales and finally focus on profit).

This is not to be confused with adaptation and general ability to change. The path to growth can be slow, but it’s made of fast and rapid adjustments.

(Photo credit: epSos.de)

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What is marketing?

Marketing is the process of communicating the value of your product to customers. Simple, but customers, brands, managers, corporations often get it wrong so let’s dive a little deeper.

Marketing is a process

It’s more than a TV ad or a landing page. It’s about all the places your brand and your customers meet — the touch points. As a marketer, you need to worry about your ads and you site because your customers will see them and interact with them. You also need to get involved with your customer service, all your website’s pages, the conversations happening online and your product because that’s how your customer experiences your brand. It might not be your department, but you need to pay close attention to it.

How’s your Twitter, your TV, your click-through rates, your Facebook, your site, their conversations, their experiences, their product-use all tying in together?

Marketing is communication

Communicating has just gotten more complicated. Not too long ago telling it how you wanted it to be told through a TV or radio was all you could do. Now, of course dialogue is not only possible, it’s to some extent, expected. It’s less about telling and more about speaking. And that’s precisely where brands go wrong. They aren’t wired to speak or be “friends.” Brands don’t exist so all of a sudden the challenge of marketing is to bridge that gap.

How do you become more communicable? You have the tools and they are powerful. You can enter my streams and my inboxes. Use that power wisely.

Marketing is about value

Then there’s the value — the centrepiece. Are you cheaper than everyone? Do you last longer? Are you newer? Do you have more bells and whistles? Of course some value propositions are more sustainable than others. Once convinced, your customers will look to you for that value. Don’t break that trust. As a marketer you need to understand exactly what the value of your product, service or company is.

So next time your customer asks you, “What’s in it for me?” not only do you need to know the answer, you need to deliver, relentlessly.

Marketing is about customers

Then there’s the customer. Seems obvious. After you’ve spent all day working on your process, your communications and your value, it only makes sense you speak with your customer not someone else’s.

So if your job as a marketer is to communicate the value of your product to your customers wherever they are, the only question you have to ask yourself is: “What’s in it for my customer?” Is this the best answer you could give?

(Photo credit: Sudhamshu Hebbar)

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Preaching to the choir

When you preach to the choir, you’re presenting your ideas to those who already believe you. Politicians speak to rooms full of supporters all the time. Of course, we all do it. It’s a safe environment where we can just speak and not sell ourselves. The audience is sold before we got there. Your business does it too. You often treat your return or existing customers as the choir. We’ve bought your product or signed the contract; thank you, you move on to the next. You assume we’re “sold on you.”

Unfortunately (or fortunately) for you, the selling never stops.

Maybe now more than ever. We, as customers, were always suspicious. But today, as Gary Vaynerchuk points out, customers’ bullshit radar has never been better. Like it or not, we’re more educated than ever. We know how to negotiate better, we know the ins and outs more, we know when you’re wrong and when we can’t find out, we can just as easily ask millions of people. Our choices are increasingly infinite.

So the choir is getting smaller and smaller.

A car story

A week ago my girlfriend’s car dealership called her 6 months before her lease was up to invite her to trade up to a newer model. The deals were good now and she could get a new car sooner than expected. She likes her current car, so we walked in expecting to trade up.

Same car, new model.

Except we were underwhelmed by the dealer. Not only did he have no real will to sell his cars, he was giving her a worse price than she has now. He was preaching to who he assumed was his choir and in many ways he was. Unfortunately for him, he thought that meant “easy sell.” So he didn’t put in the effort.

A higher price for the same car? No thank you.

We marched right out; right out to the other dealer next door and got what is arguably a better car for a lower price (after all costs are counted).

A few hours later we get a call from the original dealer offering to keep her current pricing. Too late. She went from being part of the choir: wanting the same car from the same dealer, to dropping it all for someone else in less than 30 minutes.

What’s your job?

That means your job as a marketer, a sales rep, a blogger, a song writer or a consultant is to never stop selling. Treat your return customer as though it was the first time they walked through your doors or the first time they read your post. It isn’t complicated really, no top 10 tips required here. Roll out the red carpet for your current clients. Care more, fight more. The easy sell is gone. Our bullshit radars are stronger than ever.

And we’re ready to leave the choir at any time.

(Photo credit: Carnie Lewis)

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A tale of two employees

There are two employees — Michael Me and Thomas Them. Me is all about himself. He spends his time jumping from one employer to the next, looking for the next best opportunity. He spends very little time worrying about his legacy. What will people say when he leaves? How will he be remembered? On the other hand Them works for the company. He hasn’t changed jobs very often. He lies awake at night, worrying about the company’s issues and what he can do to fix them. He lives and breaths the company — it can do no wrong.

The benefits for Me is that he has a wide range of experience — he’s seen and done a lot of things. He’s seen what works and what doesn’t. The drawback is he hasn’t seen many projects to the end. He came in when the project was underway and he’s left before it was done. He’s like the world traveler. Seeing a little bit of every country, but not knowing much of any of them. Then there’s Them. He benefit from being an expert in his company’s field and at his company. He knows the ins and outs. He knows what has worked there in the past and what hasn’t. On the other hand, he’s seen and experienced very little outside of his world. The best practices are those of his company. Is there a better way of doing things? Who knows? He can only imagine. The danger of saying something like “it’s done that way because that’s how it’s always been done” is very real for Them. He’s like the homebody. He knows his home town inside and out, he knows his neighbours, he keeps a watchful eye. But he doesn’t know much of anything else.

Every organization favours one over the other. The high turnover company looks for Michael Mes and the stable organization looks for Thems. But their success is really founded in their opposite. The high turnover company is alive because Thomas Them is still there plugging away, keeping some continuity. And the stable organization manages to grow because once in a while Michael Me comes in and changes everything.

Maybe the secret to a great, timeless organization is to recognize when you need Me and when you need Them.

(Photo credit: Mike Baird)

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Overcommunication

In their epic marketing book, Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind (Affiliate link), Al Ries and Jack Trout argue that the 80’s is really when the United States started living in an overcommunicated state. The US had 6% of the world’s population, but consumed 57% of the world’s advertising. But more than that:

  • There were 30,000 books published a year
  • There were 10 million tons of newsprint produced a year
  • TV hadn’t replaced radio or newspapers, it was added on as another media
  • In TV’s 35 year existence 96% of households had one
  • Of those 96%, 98% would receive 4 or more channels
  • The average family would watch 7 hours a day of TV
  • Xerox machines would print out 1.4 trillion pieces of paper each year
  • GM spent more than $178 million to promote Chevrolet (that’s roughly $20,000 an hour).

Now, contrast that with today:

  • In 2011, there were 328,259 books published in the US largely due to self-published ebooks and digital books (worldwide there were roughly 2,200,000)
  • The Internet and mobile haven’t replaced TV, the radio or newsprint, they’ve also been added on
  • 99% of US households have a TV
  • Of those 99%, there’s an average of 118.6 TV channels per home
  • Americans now watch 4:34 hours of TV a day, but they spend 2:47 on the Internet, 1:34 listening to the radio, 1:05 on mobile, 0:26 on newsprint, and 0:18 on magazines
  • GM spent roughly $1 billion in the US to promote Chevrolet (that’s roughly $114,000 an hour)

So the question you should now ask yourself is if, we lived in a over communicated world in the 1980’s and we’ve added two new mediums since, how will you ever hope to stand out from the crowd? Spend $115,000 an hour? Tweet a little more? An extra Facebook status?

I think the plan needs a little more.

(Photo credit: Toni)

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When sharing really is caring

I had a client that used to say “sharing is caring.” I don’t quite remember the context, but she told me that when she’d tell her younger brother, he would consistently answer “I don’t care to share.” I found it amusing, but now, over the next few weeks I’ll be able to test if sharing really is caring.

You see, I’ve signed you up for a study and you are being tested — right now, as we speak. I didn’t ask your permission. I’m sorry, I hope you bear with me.

Over the past little while I’ve been working with a few McGill University student to test out their project. If you’ve noticed slight changes to the sharing icons on [fabricecalando.com] then that’s all part of it (if you get these texts by email or RSS reader, click through here to see what I’m talking about). Actually, unless you’re a frequent visitor to the site you probably won’t notice much difference.

So what is this project about really?

They’ve put together a new type of web sharing system. They would like to figure out whether you are more motivated to share content (in this case, mine) if every time someone visits a page on this website thanks to your share, they give a small donation to a charitable cause. In other words:

I write > You read > You share on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, etc. > One of your Friends, Followers, Connections, Circles clicks back to my content >They give a small donation to a charitable organization.

Makes sense?

This current week is a test week to see how much sharing goes on regularly and over the next couple of weeks they’ll give 5 cents to the World Wildlife Fund Canada for every person who will visit [fabricecalando.com] thanks to your sharing. You can share through Facebook, Twitter, or any other social network available on the share buttons on the left and below each post and you’ll be helping the WWF simply by getting your Friends and Followers to discover new content. I picked the WWF because as Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi once said:

The measure of a society can be how well its people treat its animals

And I think you and I are part of a great society regardless of if you’re in the US, Canada, India or the UK.

It really is about caring

Before I leave, I’d like to say, this test is not a shameless way for me to get more traffic. If you don’t like a text, don’t share it. As well, it’s not a fund-raising campaign for the WWF. Again, you’re only sharing if you like what I write. It’s a way of sharing (hopefully) great content and helping a great cause. There’s more than one, but it’s a way for me to show you what cause I care about.

If this model works, they’ll be looking to implement it n several different ways on the web, and they believe its potential for social good would be tremendous.

Thanks for participating with me. Let’s see if sharing really is caring…

(Photo credit: Linda Yvonne)

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free

If you want anything to be free for any sustainable amount of time, the production cost has to be close to zero. Otherwise it’s simply a promotion. Take books for example, they used to be expensive to manufacture. You had to produce them, distribute them and market them. Now, all you have to do is write — distribution is $0.00 and so is marketing.

The great thing about free is that it allows ideas to be shared. It reduces the barrier of cost. If it’s free, I might as well read it, listen to it, watch it and then share it and tweet it.

The value question

One of the questions free raises is about value or perceived value. Is something free as valuable as something you have to pay for? It’s a tough question. Free means more waste. Because there are no barriers there is no reason not to get it (whatever it is). If Ferrari were to make a free car, it’s perceived value would surely go down. Everyone would have one — even if you don’t drive.

I think it all goes back to production costs. If you spend energy, effort and resources on building a great product or service (like Ferrari or Starbucks), the higher the price, the higher the perceived value. The digital age has brought some production costs close to zero. Then, the perceived value shifts to the content or the built-in quality. In other words if free is a price you can easily sustain, the value gets shifted to the quality of the product or service, not the price.

This means that thing like education, cars and lattes will can never be free because delivering quality costs more than nothing. Reducing the price to nothing means waste and making production cheaper. The perceived value lowers. Ideas, art and customer service can be free because delivering them is.

Then again, maybe free is simply the new cost of acquiring customers. What’s your take?

(Photo credit: D. Sharon Pruitt)

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You, Inc.

If you work full time for an employer there’s good chance that most if not all of your income comes from one source — your employer. Compare that to a company for a second. Would you invest or work for a company that had only one client, one source of income? If it’s financially unsound to rely on one source of income for a company, why would it be for you?

It might be time to start thinking of yourself as a company

Granted, work is not only about the salary. Ultimately you want to be challenged, you want to learn and you want the experience. Let’s face it though, money is what pays the bills, keeps a roof over your head and food in your mouth. So maybe it’s time to start looking for ways to diversify your sources of income. Maybe you feel your salary is good enough, but that’s the perfect time to explore new sources of income. I know it’s something I’ve been thinking about.

It’s nothing new

If you think about it, the idea of various source of income is nothing new. People invest in real estate or the stock market. The great thing is the internet offers great new opportunities… The goal is not to replace the job, it’s to supplement it

Have you started thinking about yourself as a company? Any advice to share?

(Photo credit: Paul Bica)

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Future of online
The great thing about client work is that you get to work with a variety of  companies. Some still question the value of the internet whereas others ask what the next big thing is online. I’m not one to really play the prediction game. No one can say for sure where things will be going next.

Where are we today?

The reality is that many of us still struggle with were the web is at today. A good place to start working towards the future is knowing and understanding what your business goals and objectives are. From there take a thorough look at where you are at today and how your web presences are contributing to those goals. Then work backwards and see how you can take where you are today and move it along.

Some of the basics that will help you today and prepare you for tomorrow

SEO

Is your site attracting the right people? Is it even findable? Either get a full time SEO person on board or ask your agency to work and rework your site’s SEO. It’s not something that’s done once, it’s something that’s constantly evolving so give it some attention year-round.

Conversions

Once you get people to your site are they doing what you would like them to do? Are they reading your content? Are they buying your products? Are they signing up for your newsletter? Are they applying for the job? Much like SEO, constant testing and tweaking of your site is necessary to help you improve your conversion rate.

Outposts

Chris Brogan calls your Twitter account, Facebook page and all your other online presences outposts. Social networks allow you to connect with and help out your customers on their own terms. Make sure you have the time and resources to interact using each platform’s strengths.

Mobile

I’m not sure where to place mobile. It doesn’t need its own strategy; it needs to answer your customers’ needs. For example, if your site is unreadable on a phone, you’ve got a problem. But above that, people use the web differently on a computer than on a mobile device. Make sure they’re able to do what they need to do quickly and easily.

In the end

It’s not really about the tools; it’s about putting a constant effort in your digital presences. The online world is constantly evolving so the “next big thing” will probably be more of a series of small evolutions. So the best thing to do to prepare for tomorrow is focus on your digital presence today so that you can grow them and evolve them…

What’s your take?

(Photo credit: Nattu)

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