March 24, 2008

How Can Your Clients Find You?

I can't find the advisor who got me my last car. I can't find my prior personal fitness coach. They've moved on. But where? Their prior employers won't say and their replacements aren't good enough. How can I find the originals and buy more from them?

Your clients (and prospects) may have difficulty tracking you down too --- especially if you move and are prohibited from contacting your old clients.

Here are three easy ways clients can find you
  1. your personal website
  2. periodic emails
  3. your personal phone number
Your Personal Website
Can a search engine find you? If not, you can easily get your own personal website and put your contact information on it. Search engines will find you soon enough. You can even track the keywords visitors used to reach you using Google Analytics. You'll be easier to track down with an unusual name, tagline or catch phrase. I'm actually easier to find with "marketing actuary" than my own name. My current tagline "the passion for simple" strikes out. A self-created word works (e.g., riscario), if anyone can remember the spelling.

You can easily create a basic website online using templates. All my sites (Spark Insight, Riscario and are hosted for free (and ad-free) on the Wikidot Publishing Network at You can make your site private until you're ready to show the world.

If you want to register a domain name (e.g., your name), see if it's available using a service like You can register there ($14.95/yr) or through another service like ($5.95 US in the first year and then $9.95) and ($6.99 US/yr). You can then redirect your domain name to your website by following instructions.

Periodic Emails
Business cards are easy to misplace and giving fridge magnets may not be your style. If you send periodic emails, your clients may still have them in their emailbox. Noncorporate email accounts (e.g., Google Mail) offer so much storage that messages are easier to keep --- even spam --- than delete. Since familiarity breeds business, you can't lose by staying in contact with your clients.

Personal Phone Number
Some advisors provide clients and prospects with a nonwork phone number. This is perceived as an extra personal touch. It's also a way for people to track you down. You may even want to get a personal portable toll-free number.

My car advisor and fitness coach are losing business because I can't track them down. How much are you losing when people can't find you?


March 17, 2008

Talking > Typing: Dragon NaturallySpeaking 9

Chances are
  • you talk faster than you type
  • you talk better than you spell
So you type too little and make too many mistakes. Unless you're using Dragon NaturallySpeaking 9 from Nuance, which I used to create this post (and mentioned in Gift Ideas For Your Business).

Speech recognition works extremely well for
  • summarizing client meetings and phone calls for Client Relationship Management (CRM)
  • creating drafts
  • transcribing numbers
  • reducing injuries from keyboard and mouse usage
You like the benefits but you're skeptical about accuracy, right? In this paragraph, I am dictating without making any corrections. I am speaking at a normal pace, pausing only to compose my thoughts (which sometimes takes a while ...). Now I can't think of anything to say. You scream ice cream we all scream for ice cream. Not perfect. The sentence is at least plausible.

So if you are expecting 100% accuracy, you will be disappointed. If, however, you are comfortable with proofreading you can dictate at a quick pace and then make corrections. I find it is most effective to dictate a section and then correct it, rather than drafting the entire document first. It's also helpful if you use your keyboard and mouse where appropriate. For example, to go back to the third line of the preceding paragraph. That's just common sense, but in the beginning there is a tendency to try to do everything with your voice. Go ahead but you'll find your productivity drops.

You improve the accuracy by correcting spelling mistakes with Dragon NaturallySpeaking since it learns from your mistakes. If you make corrections with your keyboard, you lose this advantage.

Dictation does not slow your computer down provided you have a reasonably fast computer with lots of memory. I am currently speaking as fast as I can without losing my train of thought. Even so, there been no mistakes created in this paragraph. But I'm out of breath.

Numbers: The "Free Prize"
Do you receive printouts with numbers you want to put into a spreadsheet? You look at the piece of paper, memorize the number, turn to your computer, look down at the keys as you type the number, look up at the screen to see what you typed and then compare it against the original number. How enjoyable ;)

That is much faster and more accurate with Dragon NaturallySpeaking. Here are examples:
  • 87,253,163 (spoken as "87 million two hundred fifty-three thousand one hundred and sixty-three" and commas inserted automatically)
  • 1-877-337-3711 (spoken as "one eight seven seven three three seven thirty-seven eleven" and converted to a phone number)
  • M9A 1Y7 (spoken as "postal code M9A 1Y7")
  • $87.12 ( spoken as "eighty-seven dollars and twelve cents")
This shows that you can speak naturally, and get the results you expect.

Not convinced? Here are other reviews
  • Like Having A Secretary In Your PC (New York Times)
    I opened a random page in a book and read a 1,000-word passage -- without doing any training. The software got 11 words wrong, which means it got 98.9 percent of the passage correct. Some of those errors were forgivable, like when it heard ''typology'' instead of ''topology.'' ... I trained the software by reading its ''Alice in Wonderland'' excerpt. This time, when I read the same 1,000 words from my book, only six errors popped up. That's 99.4 percent correct.

  • Dragon NaturallySpeaking 9 (Globe and Mail)
    In many ways, Dragon is brilliantly constructed. It is intelligent about using context to determine word choice and punctuation. I didn't have to say "voice hyphen activated" for the opening paragraph; it just knew a hyphen was required. Complain that "Two plus two is too much to add," and Dragon nails all three spellings of the "too" sound.

  • Computing By Mouth (ars technica)
    I'm a reasonably decent touch typist, but still managed to generate twice as many errors by keyboard as by dictation. And despite its higher accuracy, the dictated version took only half the time.

  • Dragon NaturallySpeaking Preferred 9 (cnet )
    Dragon types faster than most fingers can, at up to 160 words per minute. During dictation, we were delighted with Dragon's performance with multisyllabic words. In a flash, it even spelled "supercalifragilisticexpialidocious." Dragon would probably perform better than most high schoolers in a spelling bee, except that it can confuse homophones. Dragon's intelligence often helps it to determine the context in which you are speaking, so that it won't type, say, "I like to eat chocolate, and I scream," when you mentioned "ice cream."
What You Need
  • Dragon NaturallySpeaking 9 Preferred ($200) or Professional ($900)
  • A powerful computer (or patience)
  • A high quality headset certified for voice recognition, ideally USB or Bluetooth. The boxed packages come with an entry-level headset. I upgraded to a wireless VXI BlueParrott TalkPro B150 GTX ($175 at
Results will vary. If you have trouble with speech recognition, the problem is likely your equipment, the way you use it (keep the microphone in the same spot every time) or the way you speak (give context with phrases and sentences instead of saying one ... word ... at ... a ... time).

If you want more information, feel free to ask.

March 5, 2008

Three Permanent Fears For Presenters

You're an experienced presenter. You've overcome a dry throat, a quaky voice and can even answer tough questions from the audience without getting flustered. Three fears remain:
  1. Misreading the audience
  2. Equipment failure
  3. Applause without action
Misreading The Audience
Each audience is different. Is your presentation? It's easy to get into the rut of using a presentation in the wrong place. The content can be too detailed or too simple. The big problem is a mixed audience (e.g., clients, investment advisors and accountants) since the focuses are different.

Equipment Failure
Your computer or projector can fail anytime. You never know. You probably won't bring replacements --- even if you have them. You can take basic precautions, though. For instance, a printed copy of the full presentation is cheap insurance.

You can backup your presentation on a memory stick (though there can be problems with corporate computers reading one). You can email the presentation to yourself, which lets you forward a copy (if there's anyone to forward it too). Incompatibility is a problem too. I've upgraded to PowerPoint 2007, but most computers only have Version 2003 or earlier. As an additional precaution, I save a downgraded presentation in an earlier version.

Having handouts of highlights helps, but you risk the audience looking down at them instead of up at you.

You know how familiar music become fresh when reimagined and performed acoustically? A presentation can too. Unplugging the equipment can invigorate you and engage your audience. Since few are good at speeches, I'd want a whiteboard or flipchart to create visuals. You might want to bring your own markers, just in case ...

Applause Without Action
Out of courtesy, audiences generally applaud. So clapping isn't a great benchmark of success. Action is. The departing audience returns to "normal life". We aren't their focus. So we need to followup.

For me, the worst part is waiting for the audience to arrive. What if it's right-time-wrong-place or right-place-wrong-time?