December 21, 2009

Three Lessons from 2009

As a year winds down, we have time to reflect on what happened. Here are three lessons
  1. the simpler the more universal
  2. out of sight, out of business
  3. the visible touch
The Simpler the More Universal
in 2009, I created two new simpler presentations
  1. How to Succeed with Entrepreneurs (which became a three-part series)
  2. Do You Market like It's 1999?
These presentations suit a much wider range of audiences. Simpler content is more memorable. Since the content is more universal, audiences pay more attentive. You stand out from other presenters. You are easier to remember and easier to recommend. You are more likely to get invited back. That leads to business.

Out Of Sight, Out Of Business
Retailers stay in regular contact with customers and prospects. You don't have their budgets for advertising but you can certainly stay in touch via a monthly eNewsletter. You can track what your readers click on and add more of they like next time. Conventional e-mail does not let you see what works.

The Visible Touch
LinkedIn can be the core of your marketing. And it's free. Would you do business with someone who won't use a phone or e-mail? Why would you do business with someone who won't link to you online? LinkedIn is now a sign that you're open for business and serious about your business. if you're not on LinkedIn, you've got an unlisted number. Hiding from prospects and clients costs you money.

Class dimissed!

The best to you and yours during the holidays.
May 2010 give you what you yen!


December 14, 2009

Multiple Email Accounts Make Life Easier

We can't stop email from filling our inboxes but we can save time organizing it --- especially on smart phones.

Simply use multiple email accounts. As a minimum separate your personal and business email even if you're self-employed. You can go further. Most of your email is probably noncritical. Just stuff to read. Why not use a third email account for these items? Gmail works well.

On a Blackberry Bold 9700 (and probably other models) you can have up to 10 email accounts. This seems excessive but shows a good design. Here's a way to setup your accounts:
  1. strictly business
  2. personal
  3. for reading (work and personal)
A different structure might suit you but you get the point. You can also setup multiple email accounts on your computer with Microsoft Outlook.

You no longer lose time in organizing your email into folders or categories. You no longer clutter your business email account with unnecessary messages. This makes life (a bit) easier.

To save even more time, unsubscribe from what you don't often read --- even if you feel you should be reading those emails. Because you aren't. You can also setup rules to redirect or categorize emails for the messages that remain.

The tiny screen and keyboard of a smart phone still annoy me. Whenever possible, I read and reply to email from my netbook. The larger keyboard and screen make a big difference.

Blackberry Bold 9700
Until last month, I had an ancient corporate locked-down Blackberry 8703e (photo) with a thumb-straining scroll wheel that kept breaking. I had three refurbished models in three months, each with other problems like burned out pixels or sticky keys. Many features were disabled, including Gmail, web access and the weather icon.

What a difference with the Blackberry Bold 9700. Everything runs. everything works. The screen is amazing. The keyboard takes some getting used to because the keys feel smaller and tilt towards the hand you are most likely to use. You may already know about these things but I'm coming from the dark ages. There are no moving parts. The click wheel is now a trackpad similar to what you'd find on a notebook computer. The trackpad is much faster and easier to use. Even intuitive.

Personal activities don't belong on your corporate calendar but you want all your events in one place. The Blackberry merges multiple calendars from different Gmail and Google Apps accounts. You can add an entry on your Blackberry and select the Google account of your choosing. The same goes for contacts.

You now have the advantage of a seamless backup of your e-mails, calendars and contacts. All you need is a computer with a web browser.


December 7, 2009

The Magic of Dropbox for Sync and Sharing

Stop sending attachments by email. Stop worrying about losing files from theft of your computer or a hard disk crash. Stop fretting about backups.

With Dropbox you can. (In case you're wondering, there are no affiliate links in this post.)

I found this elegant productivity booster just weeks ago. If you're in a corporate environment you may find access blocked but you may find uses at home, with friends or for hobbies.

I was looking for a way to access the latest version of key files on different computers. Normally, this would require emailing the files or moving them between machines with a USB memory stick. That's inconvenient.

Collaborate Online
You can share files with Google Docs or online Web storage but this can be a hassle. Suppose it's an Excel spreadsheet. You may need to download the file, edit and then re-upload. Not fun.

Use Dropbox instead. The concept is remarkably simple and seamless. You put files in a special folder on your computer called My Dropbox. By default, this is a subfolder of My Documents. Instructions probably differ slightly for Mac and Linux users.

A copy of anything you put in your Dropbox goes online. Now you have a backup and anywhere-access to the files.

Work Locally
You may never need to access the files online because of an amazing feature. Copies go onto the hard drives of the computers to which you gave access.

Suppose you have a work computer and a home computer. You can now edit the files you put in your Dropbox on either machine. Changes show up on the other machine within moments. Bye-bye e-mail. You won't even notice Dropbox working quietly in the background.

With Dropbox, you get effortless archives and anywhere access. You work on files right on your computer, which is convenient and does not require an ongoing Internet connection.

Where do you store your passwords? I use KeePass Password Safe which is free and open source. I always want access to the latest passwords everywhere. Dropbox makes this automatic. I can now add, change and view passwords on any of my computers.

Dropbox gives you 2 GB of free storage which is great for a trial. That's what I'm using right now. As your storage needs increase, you can upgrade to 50 GB for $10 US a month.

Dropbox is remarkably easy to use. You don't need to think about it at all. You just work the way you normally would. The synchronization takes place in the background.

If you want to share files with others. Say you're working on a project for a client. You can set up a folder in your Dropbox and give them access. You both have access to the latest files without the bother of e-mailing.

The files in your Dropbox are not encrypted which may be a concern. However you can use normal tools like TrueCrypt (free, open source) for that purpose.

Since Dropbox puts the same files on different computers, disk space can be a challenge. I want access to the same files on my main notebook computer and netbook. That's impossible because the netbook has a much smaller hard drive. The workaround is to only put selected files into the Dropbox, which means that many files aren't shared. Maybe this shortcoming will get fixed in the future.

I didn't realize that a badly-needed tool like Dropbox existed. I'm still amazed at how well and simply it works. See for yourself and share your thoughts.


December 1, 2009

Brad Pitt, Bluetooth Headsets and You

DITCH THE HEADSET. He can barely pull it off and you are not him.
--- Wired, Issue 17.08

Are you one of the few who still wears a Bluetooth headset in public? I never have. US usage plummeted from 43% daily in 2008 to 26% in 2009.


Brad Pitt strains to overcome the geekiness but the worry lines and sweat show the struggle. What if you ditch the phone altogether?

I spent a week without a mobile phone ... and survived. I felt lost the whole time because I couldn't connect with others. The day I got my Blackberry Bold 9700, I spent hours using it --- mainly email and the calendar. The next day, I left home without it ...

Over the years, I'd forget my Blackberry 1-3 times a week. I'd remember when I got to my car and then go back inside to get it.

What was going on? I didn't forget my wallet, briefcase or keys.

My subconscious was saying disconnect. Focus.

My car has great Bluetooth integration but I avoid the phone while driving because I can't take notes. Much better to use voicemail. I don't answer calls during meetings or during short breaks either. Why? To be present in the present. We're lousy at multitasking and digital overload fries our brains (Wired, Feb 2009).

Phoning from a quiet environment when you can concentrate makes your communication more intense. Less frequent contact creates scarcity, which increases your value (the second universal principle of influence). As a bonus, you (can) manage your time better and get more done.

Others stay connected during the day, at night and on holidays. You've seen people wandering around with Bluetooth headsets or phones at their ears. Continuous availability reduces value. Are their connections deep? Are they visible on Facebook or LinkedIn?

Showing your connections influences others in good or bad ways. Some socializers build mediocre, shallow networks. Some introverts create meaningful connections.

LinkedIn also makes the recommendations you receive visible. There's no better place for testimonials because only your connections can endorse you. This make the value of the recommendations easy to gauge.

What if Bluetooth headset usage drops more next year? Stash yours beside your CB radio and cassette Walkman. No worries. No sweat.