December 21, 2010


3 networking tips
What do you say at networking events when you have mere seconds to speak. You might be addressing one person, a table or the entire room.

This year, I went to many networking events and found these three tips work.
  1. content: say something worthwhile
  2. sizzle: make it memorable
  3. contact: stay in touch
The core of successful networking is helping others without expecting a reward. Let's proceed with that mindset.

Content: Say Something Worthwhile

We all have competitors, including the client's inertia. You probably look, sound and dress like your competitors. You may even sell identical products or have similar services.

There's an easy way to get the clay for your message.

Ask your colleagues, clients, friends and family how they would describe you to others. You may find they don't understand what you do well enough to refer you. Help them. You may find insights too.

Don't expect consensus because people see the way they are. You want a message that's tailored to your clients.

Sizzle: Make It Memorable

Now you're ready to mold your clay.

If your message gets forgotten, it won't get passed on. Practice and ask for suggestions from the people above. A clever phrase may help unless your competitors can also use it. Avoid clichés about "taking business to the next level" or your "personal touch". Also ditch words like "honesty", "integrity" and "trust".

You aren't a parrot. Allow your words to evolve and change to suit the situation.

Stumped? You'll find examples of memorable messages in Made To Stick by Chip Heath and Dan Heath (Amazon unaffiliated link).

Contact: Stay In Touch

Now it's time to put your clay creation into a kiln to see if it's built to last.

Maintaining connections is easier than ever, thanks to LinkedIn. If you made a reasonable impression and have a good profile, the people you met will probably agree to connect to you.

After an event. I take the business cards I received
  • write the date, name of the event and any personal notes on the back
  • scan the cards with my still-amazing scanner
  • shred them
  • reach out on LinkedIn
Those who accept your invitation are now part of your network. You maintain contact through a combination of status updates, phone calls, emails and personal meetings. Congratulations, networking master!

This is the final post of 2010.

The best to you and yours during the holidays.
May your 2011 be as nice as heaven!


PS Be sure to bring plenty of business cards when you network.

December 14, 2010

HOW WOULD YOU SELL SOAP (2010 edition)?

gavel 528x362
Would you like to spend the evening discussing flaws in the Wills of a couple killed in an accident with a tractor trailer?

I did at the Estate Planning Council of Mississauga yesterday, along with advisors in accounting, donating, insuring, investing and law.

For this case study, estate lawyers were the primary participants. As an experiment, I wondered if I could pick one to add to the Taxevity referral network.


There were four main unknowns
  1. Skill: Since I didn't know their backgrounds, I couldn't pick the equivalent of the skilled "top-of-the-class Harvard grad"
  2. Safety: Since I didn't know much about law firms, I couldn't pick the equivalent of the safe "no one gets fired for buying IBM".
  3. Expertise: Since I don't know how difficult the work was, I couldn't tell how much skill was needed. Maybe the case study was the equivalent of The Cat In The Hat --- entertaining but elementary.
  4. Value: Since I didn't know how much they charge, I couldn't gauge the relative value for the money.
The participants made reasonable points. What if the better lawyers were silent, absent, or in another group?

The Deciding Factor

There was no clear winner. Maybe you're great at picking lawyers. What about investment advisors? I spoke to three. Again, the same problem of picking one arose.

Do you see the difficulty your potential clients face in choosing you and referring you?


Your clients usually have reasonable substitutes for your product or services. How do you set yourself apart in a way that matters to them? This question keeps arising.

In 2007, we asked how would you sell soap? What are you doing differently for today's soap buyers?

If your potential clients can't tell what's different about your offering, they see a commodity and buy based on factors like convenience and price. Can you blame them?


PS Maybe we'll have a 2013 edition if people still buy soap then.

December 7, 2010


crystal ball
If you've used apps on your smartphone, you probably love them.

An app lets you do something simple fast and very well. For example, access your calendar, read email, view contacts, take notes, get LinkedIn, check the weather, calculate, store passwords and read ebooks.

An app is an extreme form of specialization and a path to success. Not everyone agrees. RIM co-CEO Jim Balsillie expects the era of smartphone apps to "pass real quick".


Outlandish statements wipe away credibility and reek of desperation. Would RIM bash apps if they had 300,000 apps downloaded 6.5 billion times like Apple does? An app is a vote of approval by the developers who built them and the clients who downloaded them. Today RIM started accepting apps for the forthcoming PlayBook tablet.

The Challenges At RIM

The Blackberry Torch hasn't set sales records and is already heavily discounted. The PlayBook tablet is the next big hope for RIM but it's hardly a breakthrough in the world of the iPad and now Android devices.
To date, RIM has been less than forthcoming about the PlayBook. That's a bad sign. Here are 10 random observations.
  1. no pricing at the time of the announcement in September 2010 (now estimated to be under $500)
  2. no mention of battery life, an iPad strength (here's the press release)
  3. unable to launch before Christmas 2010
  4. unproven 7" screen when the iPad has proven there's demand for a 10" display (Android devices also chose 7")
  5. supports Flash which is good … but crashes my Chrome and FireFox browsers despite continual updates
  6. not clear whether the Playbook can be used without a Blackberry
  7. new operating system may have growing pains (QNX Neutrino)
  8. lack of apps (the Blackberry is built for business but the LinkedIn app was built for iOS first and Android second)
  9. Android competitors are already on the market
  10. iPad 2 will soon follow the PlayBook launch and set new standards

The Winner

How are you competing? If your value proposition is innovation, you face hurdles when competitors take the lead and gather momentum.

In app popularity, Neilsen shows that RIM is the laggard. That's a bad sign. For years, the Blackberry was the highend smartphone. Now the iPhone and Android are strong while RIM is falling. I wish RIM success with the PlayBook.


December 1, 2010


I (heart) myself 500x460
This year, I've focused on helping the philanthropic world by applying the first half of the fifth habit of highly effective people: seek first to understand and then to be understood.

The Nonprofit Management Association at the Schulich School of Business hosted the Philanthropic Leadership Workshop on Black Friday. The speakers were
  • Marcel Lauzierre, President, Imagine Canada
  • Jon Duschinsky, author of “Philanthropy in a Flat World”
  • Susan Storey, Vice President, KCI (Ketchum Canada Inc.)
  • Kevin Donavan, investigative journalist, Toronto Star
Each had a different perspective and made thought-provoking points.

Loving yourself and what you do is fine unless stakeholders feel cheated. You'll see that charities face major marketing challenges. You may notice parallels with your own industry too.

Marcel Lauzierre, President, Imagine Canada

Marcel identified three major concerns for the charitable sector.
  1. There's public demand for an easy way to rank charities. The MoneySense Charity 100 is considered simplistic, but a start.
  2. The CBC reported that $762 million of donations went to private fundraisers from 2004-2008 and 869 readers left comments. In a poll, 96% said it's very important to know where donations go.
  3. There's a proposal to cap compensation for fundraisers (Bill C-470) — unique in the world.
We're not talking about tobacco here. We're talking about an industry committed to doing good. Yet the demands for transparency and accountability haven't been addressed. That's an invitation for scrutiny and intervention by politicians.

Is your industry proactive in satisfying the demands of stakeholders?

Susan Storey, Vice President, KCI (Ketchum Canada Inc)

Here are the four minimum requirements for fundraising today:
  1. Be compelling: have a sharp, relevant case for giving
  2. Be respectful: the donors are individuals
  3. Be flexible: allow different ways of giving (could be time or referrals)
  4. Be patient: cultivating relationships and getting decisions takes time (also true if you're using the ORDER sales model)
Does your business have the same issues?

Jon Duschinsky, author of Philanthropy in a Flat World

There's so much choice. France has 1.2 million charities. You probably have many competitors too (including client indifference).

Can you organize your business so that the more good you do, the more money you make? If so, you've got a strong incentive to do good. Here's a great example.

How can you argue with a business model like Tom's Shoes One for One? There's appeal even if the shoes aren't comfortable.

Jon, the "Dr. Who of Fundraising", is a powerful, engaging presenter. He'd be a great speaker for TEDx — maybe even TED.

Kevin Donovan, Investigative Journalist, Toronto Star

Kevin has investigated over 100 charities. Thirty lost their licenses.

He identified four problems with charities
  • too many (over 80,000)
  • too easy to start
  • too little accountability
  • too expensive to run (high costs)
There's no umbrella group that publicly addresses misconduct. There's no organization to which charities must belong (the closest is Imagine Canada). Is Kevin a hero or villain? After he spoke, I'd say hero.

Are you part of an organization that supports your industry? Perhaps a board of trade or industry organization?


PS Paul Nazareth is organizing a Meetup for Philanthropic Linchpins on December 7, 2010 in Toronto. Last time we were featured in Linchpin Magazine.

November 23, 2010


yell crop 750x822When you put content online, you leverage your time and help clients find you. What's wrong with that?

The best medium for you is the medium you like best.

If you like talking then podcast. Instead of speaking into a telephone, you use a microphone. You'll get better results with a better quality equipment.

If you like showing then use video. If you like drawing on paper or whiteboards, record that. Ditto if you like using PowerPoint or giving speeches. For better results, consider using a video camera and a better quality microphone.

If you like writing then blog. This is my preferred format. You don't need special equipment or a pristine environment. Pen and paper are enough for a draft. Iterations boost quality and are easy to make. Also, search engines are best at indexing text.

Comfort with your medium helps you come across as natural. Exuding your personality is a great way to show your uniqueness.

What About Your Clients?

The best medium for your clients is the medium they like best. That may not be your preferred choice. Despair not. Clients consume different media and will probably "tolerate" your choice.

The media are interrelated. Transcribe your podcast with a tool like Dragon NaturallySpeaking and you'll have text for a blog post. Dictate your blog post and you have a podcast or video.  Extract the audio from a video and you have a podcast.

When I write a blog post for Riscario Insider, I read it aloud to ensure the style is conversational. With minimal work, that becomes the Riscario Radio podcast — 93 episodes already. Video is next … once I figure out how to use a teleprompter and do the editing. The soundtrack could then become the podcast, saving a step.

The key is getting started and mastering a medium.

Add Polish

You needn't be perfect when you start. There's lots of time to improve later.

To expand reach, Coke comes in cans and bottles of different sizes. As you gain experience, your best strategy is to use different media.

For instance, I released Does billionaire Seymour Schulich help you "Get Smarter" in two formats:
Using only one medium would have slashed the audience.


Making yourself visible is quick, simple and often free. The key is starting and sustaining momentum. 


PS If you're not happy with your initial results, you needn't publish them. You're in control.

November 16, 2010


TEDxToronto and TEDxIBYork
Making comparisons may not be fair but we routinely do. Previous experiences raise expectations but future events have the advantage of learning from the past. Which is better?

In this case, we're looking at two volunteer-run, non-profit TEDx events. If you're new to TED and TEDx, here's a primer and a summary of TEDxToronto, my first TEDx event.

Both events could have been very similar but weren't. By extension, you can give your events their own niche or personality too. Here are examples.


The two events had different focuses (foci?). TEDxToronto had a corporate feel and was much like a professionally run conference.

TEDxIBYork had an educational orientation. Many attendees were students in an International Baccalaureate (IB) program. Try spelling that five times fast without a spelling checker!
IB provides a higher level of high school education and has standardized exams in grade 12. The US Advanced Placement (AP) program also provides enriched education. The York School has a private IB program and hosted the TEDx event.


TEDxToronto was free (including lunch) and took place in downtown Toronto in the Glen Gould Studio. Thanks sponsors!

TEDxIBYork also had sponsors but charged for tickets to cover costs($75 for students and $100 for adults). The talks took place in the auditorium of the spacious Ontario Science Centre. Admission included breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Anyone could go to TEDxIBYork but TEDxToronto required an application. Maybe that's why everyone at TEDxToronto knew what TED was. At TEDxIBYork, the adults I spoke to rarely knew!?! They attended because of their children.

Each system has merits. I'd prefer to pay money and be assured of admission.


TEDxToronto encouraged attendees to give live updates via Twitter. That's the norm at many events, including Third Tuesday (see Dell's flubbed opportunity from last week). TEDxIBYork banned electronics. Maybe that's because students were attending? 


At TEDxToronto, you could keep the same seat for the whole day, and most did. At TEDxIBYork, you were forced to find a new spot after each break. Since both venues were fairly intimate, both approaches work. I prefer a fixed seat near the front.

The Big Difference

TEDxToronto had two celebrity hosts but they didn't have much to do since speaker introductions were pre-recorded. In the afternoon, one left but this didn't matter.

TEDxIBYork had one host, David Newland. I've seen too many MCs over the years and he's the best. He truly was part of the event, rather than an interjection like a commercial break. He worked from a thick stack of index cards. There may have been major mishaps behind the scenes but we never knew since the day flowed so smoothly for us. David was low-key but witty. He spoke like a late night radio announcer, but kept us captivated and alert (reminiscent of Augusta LaPaix on Brave New Waves).

I thought David had practiced for ages. Not true. He volunteered mere days earlier when the original host quit. I didn't appreciate the value of exceptional hosting before.

Which Is Better?

Do you see how there are enough differences between TEDxIBYork and TEDxToronto? Attending both is ideal and that's my plan for next time.


PS Visit on your next coffee or lunch break for ideas worth spreading.

November 9, 2010


Dell's "iTunes killer" shows a contest that ended 6+ months ago
"We always start by going where the customer is."
--- Richard Binhammer
We have three business-grade Dell notebooks and my primary monitor is the Dell FP2001.

Yet Dell feels like yesterday's company. They've flopped with numerous initiatives:
  • no iPad killer: the Latitude XT tablet launched in July 2008 but Apple has 95.5% market share now
  • no iPhone killer: their design was rejected by carriers as too dull
  • no iTunes killer: their site currently shows a contest which ended on April 30, 2010 (enlarge the screenshot)
  • no iPod killer: Dell makes music players?
Even in their core computer business, Dell dropped below HP in 2006 and Acer in 2009. Dell shuttered their last large US plant in January 2010.

Wait, There's More

Dell has other problems too
Isn't there any good news?

Dell's Secret Weapon

Maybe social media is Dell's secret weapon.

With anticipation, I went to see RichardAtDell at Third Tuesday Toronto. This was the first time I've seen anyone from Dell (since they shut down their mall kiosks in 2008).

Richard didn't seem prepared. His talk consisted of points jotted on a piece of paper. Dell missed an ideal opportunity to showcase their technology. I didn't expect Richard to use an iPad but why not a Streak tablet or some other gizmo?

You wouldn't expect a presenter from Nike to walk in with bare feet. By his actions, Richard implied there wasn't a single Dell product worth using to enhance his presentation.


Dell claims to listen to customers and Richard said he'd leave lots of time for questions. He didn't and he refused to take any about Dell Hell. Why restrict or direct conversations? Maybe product quality is still a concern.

On @RichardatDELL, the bio warns "DO NOT AUTO DM" him. Is this necessary? No one wants to receive automated direct messages. Does warning the culprits really stop them?

I got the overall feeling that open dialog is not truly encouraged.

What Was Discussed

Richard gave examples of how Dell is using social media. There are 170,000 consumer reviews on their sites and engineers have read every single one. Dell has held unconferences for employees (these are attendee-run events like BookCamp, FreelanceCamp or PodCamp). They invited 15 fans and 15 unfans to spend a day at Dell asking questions (outcome not explained).

Richard explained that social media is not a channel. It's a tool that leads to better business. Social media doesn't scale unless it's used as a business tool.

Dell does sophisticated data analysis. They've found that the social web can also be used for B2B. Other discoveries are currently secret. For instance, Dell claims they can track social media to revenue.

The Main Point

Without knowing what competitors do, it's difficult to tell if Dell is a social media master and has a competitive advantage. There were no jaw-dropping insights in the presentation. Dell had the opportunity to show they're the company to watch, but didn't.

Maybe this was the main point: Dell uses social media so extensively that it's become boring. After all, we now take electricity, air conditioning, power windows, and the Internet for granted.

If social media is still new to you, you may feel excited or anxious. With experience, you may get bored too. Maybe that's when the financial benefits flow in.


PS The Samsung hard drive in my Dell Mini 10 netbook is reporting problems even though I have a pricey SSD (no moving parts). The one year warranty expired last month. This netbook cost more than my new iPad but is hardly comparable in performance or joy of use.

November 2, 2010


A Monegask Guard stops a young girl
We want what we can't have. That's the lure of scarcity.

We hate gatekeepers when they block our access. Without them, we could get our message to people who want and need our help. We have noble intentions. We have skills. We can deliver results … if we can squeeze through (or sneak by).

The gatekeeper could be
  • an organization: you have a message for their members
  • a prospect: your calls, email and mail get screened
  • your current clients: you don't get referrals
In the photo, a Monegask Guard is stopping a harmless-looking young girl.


Gatekeepers are acting as stewards and protecting their group from outsiders. This power can corrupt but folks are basically decent. Let's assume we're dealing with someone like that.

Since the gatekeeper isn't your ideal client, they may have difficulty assessing the merits of what you offer and how you differ from the herd. When in doubt, keep 'em out.

Can you communicate in a unique, simple, clear and compelling way?

The Other Way Around

Others also want what they can't have. You're a gatekeeper too.
An accountant’s greatest asset might be his or her network. Large firms have an advantage in this respect, but smaller firms can compete by partnering with other firms to create high-value informal networks.
10 ways to add value (CA Magazine, Aug 2009)
Your network also benefits from products and services from outsiders. As a steward, who do you let through?

Even within the same firm, there's often a reluctance to provide referrals to colleagues. What if something goes wrong? Here's the paradox. If you want others to take a chance and trust you, don't you need to take a chance and trust them too? If you agree, why not take the first step?

As Paul McCartney said
Someone's knockin' at the door.
Somebody's ringin' the bell.
Do me a favour, open the door and let 'em in.
Then they're likely to open doors for you, thanks to reciprocity. Isn't that better than these sentiments from Pink Floyd in The Final Cut?
If you negotiate the minefield in the drive
And beat the dogs and cheat the cold electronic eyes
And if you make it past the shotgun in the hall
Dial the combination open the priesthole
And if I'm in I'll tell you
Your choice.


PS: Depending on your arrangements, you may get paid for opening doors.

October 26, 2010


incase Convertible Book Jacket for iPad
I visited an Apple store for the first time and wrote about the experience. I returned a week later to buy an iPad for business.

The second visit was not as good. The store was even more crowded and noisy. Products aren't on the shelves. This creates more retail space, reduces theft but slows down purchasing. The checkout line wasn't clearly marked. All this caused delays.

I eventually bought the base iPad (16 GB storage and Wi-Fi). Why not a fancier one with 3G and more storage? Three friends with the same model are satisfied. I have MiFi (the topic for another post) for anywhere Internet access to files stored in the cloud.

Why Now?

I'm not a gadget freak, though I upgrade my equipment regularly. I never bought an Apple product before. So this purchase took special consideration since this could be the first step into the sphere of Steve Jobs.

I got the iPad for business. My goal is to quickly show relevant nonlinear content. This could take the form of webpages, snippets from PowerPoints, tables showing tax rates, photos and video.

A notebook computer is too obtrusive and slow to get ready. Carrying paper isn't practical since I don't know what I'll need.The iPad has a WOW factor which helps with marketing.


There's much to like about the iPad
  • instant on: like a smartphone
  • vibrant screen
  • very fast: seems faster than my netbook and notebook
  • intuitive navigation with your fingers
  • long life battery: easily lasts all day
  • reasonable volume and sound quality
  • apps are very easy to install
  • reasonable pricing for the hardware, accessories and apps
  • much better for email than a smartphone


The iPad isn't perfect
  • installation requires a computer and an iTunes account (the process also installed QuickTime and the Safari web browser)
  • much heavier than it looks (but much lighter than a notebook)
  • no ideal solution for playing PowerPoint presentations (see below)
  • designed for the out-dated 4:3 aspect ratio (1024x768) but my content is designed for 16:10 widescreen (1280x800)
  • lack of Adobe Flash limits (see below)
  • No try-before-you buy option for apps
  • no multitasking (coming soon)

No Adobe Flash Support

On my notebook computer, Flash crashes often or slows down web browsing. Maybe Apple is wise to dispense with Flash but you'll find online content you can't play. You see empty gaps on the web pages, which is annoying. At least there's a player for YouTube.

No PowerPoint Support

Most of my content requires PowerPoint 2010 and there's no iPad player. I can manage without editing, though some basic abilities are nice to have. However, I do need a player. Apple sells Keynote ($10 US) but reviews are negative even from Mac users. I've heard that Docs To Go Premium ($17) is a great choice with support for Word and Excel too. There's the innovative Nonlinear ($10), which is part of the TalkingPad project started by Seth Godin. Unfortunately, you must buy before you can try and there are no refunds.

For now, I've converted slides into pictures using the Save As option in PowerPoint. Each slide is numbered and the collection is stored as an album. This removes animation but that's okay for my purposes.

I have no intention of presenting the content using a projector or external screen. I'd used my usual ThinkPad X200 tablet with a remote control instead.

Why Not Wait?

Buying version 1 technology has drawbacks. This time I'm not concerned because Apple is building on past experience. The iPad is like a big iPod. Millions of iPads have been sold, which makes this tablet the clear market leader. The current model does what I want and can be used for years. New apps are being released daily. There are no imminent competitors — certainly none with an app store.

While there's still plenty for an Apple newbie like me to learn, I'm extremely satisfied with the iPad and the new capabilities it provides for business (and fun).


PS Since the iPad is slippery, be sure to get a nice case. I chose the incase Convertible Book Jacket (see review). It grips surfaces well, protects the iPad, gives three viewing angles and has a tilted position for typing.

October 19, 2010


Chris O'Neill (~1979) at his family's Canadian Tire in Acton, Ontario Chris O'Neill, in his second month as the head of Google Canada, headlined the 10th annual Small Business Forum. Enterprise Toronto created an excellent day.

Last month, Chris helped make the CIRA AGM interesting  with a different topic. He has small business roots. Chris worked at his family's Canadian Tire store in Acton, Ontario. Yes, that's him in the photo.

Here are some miscellaneous eye-popping statistics. For maximum impact, pause to absorb the magnitude.
  • there are 4 billion photos on Flickr
  • 5 billion apps have been downloaded from the Apple App Store and 10 billion songs from iTunes
  • Google's index contains 1 trillion URLs
  • 25 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube every minute
  • 1 of each 6 minutes online in Canada is spent using social media
  • half of all new Internet connections are mobile
  • there are more mobile phones around the globe than clean toilets
  • 81% of shoppers do research online before buying
The sources were not shown. Maybe that's to get us to run our own Google searches?

The End Of Digital Marketing

Chris talked about the end of digital marketing. Just as "colour TV" is now "TV" and "cell phone" is now "phone" for many, these days "digital marketing" is "marketing". The novelty's gone. It's time for business.

The Five Marketing Keys

Since your clients have a set of options (including doing nothing), you want to become their preferred choice. How you present yourself matters and requires digital tools.
Here are Chris's five marketing keys for small business
  1. establish your online presence
  2. use free marketing to reach customers
  3. know your customers
  4. advertise online
  5. embrace the cloud

Establish Your Online Presence

This is a basic requirement. Any arguments? Now 20% of web searches have a local element. You can put yourself on the map with Google Places (previously called the Local Business Center). It's free.

Use Free Marketing To Reach Customers

When search engines — Chris showed Bing and Yahoo too — find you, they direct traffic to you. That's free but you need online content first. Posting to places like Facebook, Twitter or YouTube helps.

Know Your Customers

Where are your customers from? What are they looking for? Why guess when you can get answers with Google Analytics (which is free).

For instance, today's visitors to this blog read Conan the Teacharian from 2007 and Brad Pitt, Bluetooth headsets and you from 2009.

Advertise Online

You can reach customers who've raised their hands to ask for what you sell. You only pay for visitors who meet the requirements you've defined. You can start a campaign with Google Adwords instantly.

I haven't tried paid advertising but many others have.

Embrace The Cloud

Putting content online allows collaboration and the use of modern applications like the free Google Apps Standard Edition. You get to say farewell to expensive legacy systems and get updates without upgrading any software. You also avoid the hassles of making offsite backups.

What do you think about Chris' ideas?


PS Why not rank this post by clicking on the stars?

October 12, 2010


iPad 450x599
On Sunday, I went out of my way to visit an Apple store for the first time. The place was buzzing with activity and energy. I've never bought an Apple product but wanted to see an iPad for myself. That's the power of marketing — attracting a disinterested client.

The iPad teaches three valuable marketing lessons
  1. Show, don't tell
  2. Lock the price
  3. Sell the old model

Show, Don't Tell

People can't easily tell what they want before they see it. Can you? That's why focus groups and market research have limited value for new inventions like overnight delivery, bank machines and smartphones. Watching is a much better measure of intent than listening.

The Original Tablet

Tablet computers have been around since 1992 when IBM launched the ThinkPad 700T. There have been many models from various companies ever since. Microsoft Windows has supported tablet PCs since 2002. Yet sales were limited.

Enter Apple

Within 80 days, Apple sold three million tablets — more than all models from all other companies combined. There was a market after all.

What happened? Apple showed people what the iPad can do. Through their stores, their own experts answer questions and let visitors try for themselves.

Within a few minutes, an Apple rep showed me the capabilities and had me sold. The only question was which model. And you thought actuaries couldn't be impulsive. My family was with me and discouraged the purchase. So I walked out empty-handed.

What do you show and let potential clients touch? This is tougher if you sell a service, which means that what clients touch has even greater impact.

Lock The Price

Prior to launch, there were questions whether Apple would manage to get the price of the iPad below $1,000 US. They managed to charge $499 for the base model with prices ranging to $829.

16 GB
32 GB
64 GB
WiFi + 3G

With that much choice, price isn't much of an issue. Also, prices seem to be the same at the few places like Best Buy that are authorized to sell the iPad.

To some buyers, price is probably incidental. They have to have it. There's similar fervour when a new Blackberry or iPhone gets launched.

Are you selling on price or do you offer a range? The range may consist of offerings from different companies (e.g., at Best Buy) or a range with offerings from one company (e.g., at Apple stores).

Sell The Old Model

You don't need to sell the best … if you're perceived as first to market and have a reasonable price. Perfection can come later.

These deficiencies haven't deterred early adopters
  • no multitasking (coming with iOS 4.2 in November)
  • no USB connection
  • no HDMI output (but a VGA connector is available)
  • no 4G option
  • no widescreen (4:3 ratio 1024x768 resolution)
  • no camera
Despite the shortcomings and ridiculed name, Apple sold three million iPads in 80 days. At the $499 entry price, that's $1.5 billion in revenue. First year sales are higher than for the original iPhone or DVD players.

If you won't buy until minimum standards have been met, Apple has given you reasons to wait for the iPad 2 (and perhaps to keep you away from competitors). For current buyers, Apple is creating anticipation to encourage upgrades to the iPad 2 and additional purchases for other family members.

Are you creating anticipation for future sales? Are you selling what you have now or pausing until the new models come out?

What's Next?

Competitors are on the way. Apple can probably maintain momentum and market share by reducing prices prior to introducing the iPad 2.


PS I may be back in an Apple store before long … without my family

PPS You can now rate posts. Please do.

October 5, 2010


Even if you're not using social media like Twitter, LinkedIn, blogs and Facebook you're still affected. That's because your current and potential clients are engaging in public conversations.

Too small to read? Click to enlarge.Are you listening? Are you participating? If not, you're putting yourself at a competitive disadvantage because social media helps with all six elements of credibility.

Business people who resisted computers fell behind. Those who resisted the Internet fell behind. Those who resisted smartphones fell behind. Those who are still resisting social media are falling behind today. It's not going away. As the graphic at the top shows, there are numerous forms already.

When you fall behind, the barriers to entry rise and catching up becomes very difficult. It's much easier to change lanes than to join traffic from a standstill.

Web In Decline

Sources: Cisco estimates based on CAIDA publications, Andrew Odlyzko (read the full fascinating article in Wired 18.09. There's a link at the bottom of this post.)Websites are so 1990s in terms of Internet traffic. Their importance has been dropping steadily since about 2000. If you don't have a website, don't rejoice. You still need one but that's not enough anymore.

These days, much activity occurs in the members-only enclaves of social media. Anyone can join but newcomers must prove themselves to get treated like an insider.

Like Losing Weight

If you agree that social media is now essential for building your business, how do you catch up? You'll find many basics online and in seminars. If you're a self-starter and like tinkering, you can experiment. That's what I did. However, this takes longer. You're bound to make mistakes that could stay online forever. That's risky.

Have you ever wanted to become healthier through exercise and diet? How do you get started? What's a realistic goal? How do you stick to your plan?

With a personal social media coach.
Disclaimer: I don't sell any marketing services or take referral fees from anyone who does. My tips are 100% free. Fair?
Yes a coach costs money but so does inertia. The right coach tailors a strategy and guides you along the path, month after month. Which media are best for you and your clients? What's the right content? What's the right frequency? How do you develop the content? Are you on schedule? How do you make time?

No one else can lose weight for you. No one else can do social media for you either. You must be involved. Yes, you can get help and there are ways to delegate to outsiders. You can't quit enroute or even after you reach your goal.

The Right Coach

Average people are in the majority but they're not in demand.
— Seth Godin
You'll find many "experts" in social media. How do you tell who can help you? Look for
  • chemistry: you like them (easy to find)
  • credentials: they have proven experience and satisfied clients (fairly easy to find)
  • generosity: they follow their own advice (rare)
Generosity is the biggest challenge. You'll find many inconsistencies. Here are simple warning signs.


Is their LinkedIn profile complete, including meaningful testimonials and a photo? Are they sloppy? Do they participate in groups? Do they post ongoing status updates which help their network? Do they send you self-promotional emails? When did they become social media gurus? What were they doing before?


Do their tweets help followers or are they self promotional? Are they reasonably consistent in tweeting? Did they join Twitter only recently? Do they have more followers than people they follow (look for the ratio)?


Do they have one? Are they articulate? Are they consistent in posting? Is the content truly helpful or constructed to sell you something?

Web Search

What happens when you type their name into your preferred search engine? Do they show up on page one and create a positive impression? Does their website look modern or dated?


Using social media is much like networking in person. You can't easily quantify the benefits. So if you want solid proof of success, you'll be disappointed. How do you quantify the ROI on your mobile phone?


PS What you start doing raises client expectations, which puts pressure on competitors to catch up.

September 28, 2010

Measurement Matters: Free Tools

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What are you doing that you can monitor?

You probably track big items like a sale but what about smaller activities on the path to that outcome?

There's less need to guess or assume these days. You can substitute facts for impressions.

Third Tuesday Measurement Matters (#TTMM) focused on social media. My mind's still numb from the day's content. There are sophisticated tools beyond the budgets and needs of small business.

Here we'll look beyond that realm to you and free measurement tools you can use.

For Presenters

If you're a presenter, why not use a low tech feedback sheet to see how your audiences really feel? This is different from a form to entice attendees to sign up for newsletters or something you're selling.

A feedback sheet belongs on a separate page designed for anonymity. It's also a form of marketing. You're showing you care and are open to input. If that's true, what do you do with the responses?

You show transparency by putting feedback online where attendees can see it. Yes, this includes the negative opinions too. For example, here's written feedback for Do You Market Like It's 1999? You can easily do the same.

Silence Isn't Golden

The design of your feedback sheet influences whether your audience takes the time to complete it. If you aren't getting enough responses, try changing the design. You'll save time by starting with a template someone else already uses.

If you're not engaging your audiences you may get little back. Giving feedback takes effort. Would you bother for someone you didn't like or bolt out ASAP?


Much happens online, which means you can track it. You can
  • set up a Google Alert with keywords for you, your company and your niche
  • use Twitter searches for keywords or hash tags like #ttmm
You can also join relevant groups on LinkedIn and get a digest daily or weekly. What you find won't be specifically about you but people like you and clients like yours — an opportunity to learn vicariously. 

After Service

When you get your car serviced, do you get a call or email asking you what you think about the service? You can too. Simply asking shows an element of care even if there aren't many responses.

I called Netflix just after subscribing last week. A short satisfaction survey arrived minutes later. They weren't able to help, but I still felt good.


Finding out out what others think about you, where you work and what you do is scary. You might uncover negative responses but you then have an opportunity to improve. Isn't that better than ignorance?

What matters gets measured. What's measured gets better. That's why measurement matters. Just ask and observe.


PS Do you give feedback when you're asked?

September 21, 2010

How The CIRA AGM Became Interesting

CIRA AGM 2010 700x670 An Annual General Meeting (AGM) can be very dull. Organizers who know this and care, take steps to add interest.

That's what CIRA did today. Their techniques can help you improve your events.


The nonprofit Canadian Internet Registration Authority (CIRA) manages .CA domains. You wouldn't normally think about them unless a problem arose.

Your clients also have more on their minds than your product, service or event.


Like CIRA, here's what you can do.
  • pick a good name
  • feature keynote speakers
  • compress the dull stuff
  • give extras

What's In a Name?

Would you rather go to
  1. the CIRA Annual General Meeting?
  2. Canadians Connected?
A name makes a difference but it's hardly enough of a draw.

Keynote Speakers

The speakers were the big lure. The afternoon started with Terry O'Reilly (The Age of Persuasion). He's in the advertising business and was excellent at answering questions. He pointed out that Canadian ads aren't well understood in other countries. Here's a classic example.

Depending on your niche, you may not require international appeal. A country-specific domain may extend your mystique in your country. Strict rules govern who can get a .CA but anyone can get a .COM.

Chris O'Neill (new head of Google Canada) was on a panel. He just moved back after 12 years in the US and is in listening mode. He said the future's already here but not evenly distributed yet. Many searches have local connotations — about 20% from the desktop and 33% for mobile.

Mitch Joel (Six Pixels of Separation) ended the day with his usual perceptive thoughts. He said he's more likely to trust me over a stranger because we're already connected. That's proof of intelligence! Unfortunately, there was no time for audience questions.

The Dull Stuff

What's an AGM without a treasure's report, a couple of nitpicky questions from members, and a vote? This mid-part of the agenda took less than an hour and was engaging.

I didn't have an appreciation of what CIRA wants to achieve and why. One goal is to position .CA as the preferred domain name over the pervasive .COM. If you're travelling abroad, which flag would you rather have on your backpack: American or Canadian? The maple leaf engenders more trust. Perhaps a .CA is the same.

Maybe that's "obvious" but it wasn't for me. Terry said there's a risk in assuming your story has been told ... and remembered. The solution is to keep telling your story.

I thought of a .COM as essential for credibility and a .CA as a necessary extra expense. Depending on your business and target market, the .CA may be more effective. Maybe it's time to redirect the .COM to the .CA?

Because Microsoft Windows and .COMs have so much market share, they're the primary targets for security threats. That makes the underdogs Mac OS/Linux and .CA safer.

I was worried there'd be geeky technical details about CIRA and the Internet. We were spared that too.


Part of exceeding expectations, the food was excellent. There were even Häagen-Dazs ice cream bars and an after-event reception. A webcast allowed remote participation (including voting). There were prizes like iPads and a $1,000 gift certificate to Future Shop.

A high quality folder with rounded edges held full colour handouts printed on nice paper. No keynote speaker had an insert (apart from a bio). They missed an opportunity to give us a valuable takeaway such as a summary, visual or related article.

Other Opinions

Consensus is the 5th universal principle of influence. Here's what others said via Twitter.

Improving Results

There are currently 1,468,337 .CA domains registered by about 800,000 registrants. Despite all that CIRA is doing, only about 15,000 are currently CIRA members. That's when registration is free. Maybe next year's AGM will attract more.

There's certainly room to grow. Here, .COMs have 62% market share with .CAs at 25%.


PS If you can get to Montreal, why not see Mitch, Seth Godin, Jeffrey Gitomer and others at The Art of Marketing on September 30th? Some tickets remain. I'm tempted but will be at TEDxToronto.

September 14, 2010


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We're told to think "out of the box". That's great for brainstorming but we live in a world of constraints.

Necessity spurs our latent creativity. We may not realize the benefits of limitations until later.


If transportation costs don't matter, we could ship cheap commodities like steel from distant parts of the world. That's what's happened. So much is Made In China or other faraway countries. It's sad when your placemats travel farther than you do.

As transportation costs rise, the effect at the high end is marginal but the price sensitive low end gets devastated.

Economist and author Jeff Rubin spoke at the inaugural Business Without Borders event this morning. Membership is free, if you'd like to join.

Jeff feels the price of oil will go up and devastate economies around the world. You've heard dire predictions like that before. Some say that water shortages pose a bigger threat since we can't drink or bathe in oil. Optimists say abundant renewable energy will power desalination plants, our buildings and our vehicles at prices too cheap to meter.

Jeff predicts we'll never run out of oil. Lest you rejoice, that's because the prices will get beyond our reach. Let's assume that oil prices shoot up drastically and permanently. Expect pain as the economy adjusts.
As prices rise, distance adds cost. Economies might respond by returning to their local and regional roots.

What's the effect on you and your clients (and their clients)?

Inside The Box

Productivity becomes more important.

Maybe you do more online (e.g., build better websites, finally harness social media, conduct webinars). Risks arise if your organization or suppliers empower your clients to buy direct, bypassing you.

Clients may move closer to work or find work closer to home. Would this increase population density and mean the return of the door-to-door salesman. Maybe we'd even get milk delivery. A geographical focus works better if your competitors have one too.

If more clients work from home, you could go to them and meet at lower traffic times of the day. They're probably longing for contact from the "outside world", which could make them more attentive. They don't have to worry about phone calls from home.

Maybe there'll be more concern about quality of life, balance and relationships. We might sleep earlier to cut back on electricity consumption — a bigger sacrifice for the nocturnal.

Maybe you'll switch your focus to bigger clients. That could create new clients for competitors who are adept at dealing with volume and can attract clients to facilities in high traffic areas.

Just as you want your clients to deal locally, why not you?

Who Knows?

Like any constraint, borders create opportunities for creativity. Who thought we'd communicate in 140 characters with Twitter or do meaningful work on a tiny smartphone?

Even if fuel were free, wasting time in transit takes away from our lives. Why not be proactive? Make your box smaller to spark better use of your resources, renewable or not.


PS If you're still worried about the future of energy, visit Ellen's Energy Adventure with Bill Nye the Science Guy at Epcot for another perspective.

September 7, 2010

Like Apple, Smash '1984' Conformity With Your Free Hammer

In George Orwell's 1984, conformity was prized and enforced. Blending into your environment is a great survival skill for animals. Organizations encourage us to camouflage ourselves too.

Now conformity limits our success. Do you recall this classic 1984-themed commercial from Apple in 1984?

Your Hammer

You've got a powerful antidote to conformity: your personality. It's free.

Your personality sets you apart, which makes you memorable and repels some. You want to polarize your market. It took me a while to realize this after I started helping advisors in the field. I thought I had to be liked by all. That's why I tried playing golf and keeping current with news, sports and entertainment. This was a chore because I wasn't me. I gave up golf and switched to a low noise life. That allowed focus, a key to success.

Seek popular appeal and you're a slave to a fickle master. You soon realize you can't be everything to everyone. You can't force interpersonal chemistry. Even if you sell salt, buyers range from the price-conscious "salt is salt" group to the gourmets who seek exotic, flavoured salt in pricey small bottles. How can you satisfy them all? Why even try?


A "Normal" person is the sort of person that might be designed by a committee. You know, "Each person puts in a pretty color and it comes out gray."  — Alan Sherman
Blandness is horrible outcome these days. You make yourself homogeneous and interchangeable if you move away from the sharp edges of a continuum. That's dangerous, not safe. Potential clients have more trouble telling you apart from your competitors and referring you to others. Who seeks out a commodity or pays a premium for one?


You exude your personality in all you are and all you do. Does what you convey maximize your revenue?

You'll probably get some business irrespective of what you do. For instance, if you're the only ice cream concession at the beach on a scorching day. What if your clients could buy direct or from your competitors? Would you still be sought out? That's a better measure of your appeal.


As in 1984, organizations prefer employees who are easily replaceable, faceless cogs like the IBM workers in Apple's commercial. Organizations have rules and electronic tools to monitor compliance.

You make yourself faceless when you downplay your personality. Here are some simple ways to stand out
  • your tagline: allowed anywhere verbally but perhaps discouraged in writing (e.g., I was sometimes introduced as "an actuary with a personality" or "an advisor's advisor")
  • your photo: need not look generic (a professional photographer helps)
  • your commercial or "elevator speech": if containing memorable, nongeneric elements
  • your voicemail greeting: especially if changed regularly
  • your signoff in presentations and phone calls
  • your email signature: perhaps a changing PS or quote or link
  • the way you talk, sound and what you say
  • how you write, especially when sending short informal messages from your smartphone
Like a muscle, the positive power of your personality decays from neglect. Rebuilding takes more work than maintaining.


Apple has a strong personality which some like and others dislike. Either way, you're polarized. If you're a fan, are you as price sensitive? Are you more likely to buy more products and services from Apple? Are you more likely to recommend Apple?

In 1984, the Apple commercial targeted IBM. Which company had more personality? IBM faded and announced their exit from the PC landscape in 2004. In the 20th anniversary version shown above (did you spot the addition of the iPod?), Apple targeted Microsoft. Which company has more personality? Today the target might be Google.

Personality prevailed in 1984, 2004 and now. Why not use yours more?


August 31, 2010

What If Your Clients Could Buy Direct?

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We've been looking for solid wood beds made in Canada. No veneer. Only solid oak or maple. Made with care by artists.

We found a retailer and placed an order. The process was like visiting a car dealer (see recovering from bad service). There were several mark-ups at the last minute. Delivery takes 4-6 weeks and only takes place on Thursdays.

We would have preferred to deal direct with the manufacturer because the advisor added more to the price than the experience.

What about your customers?

If you're the exclusive source for a hot gadget like the iPhone4 or iPad, customers will seek you out. If you only face limited competition, you can force your clients to accept the world's longest mobile phone contracts even if they feel cheated.

Most of us face real competition and reasonable substitutes. So client-friendly actions become good business.
Maybe your clients can't buy directly. If they could, can you show why dealing through you is a better choice?

Twelve Books

Seth Godin has written 12 books but now he's going to bypass the traditional publishing world. That process creates delay and adds expense. Seth already reaches readers directly through his excellent blog. He realizes that most of them never bought any of his books at a bookstore. So why stick to old ways that give so little to the readers and the authors?

How does blogging create a viable business model? Well giving away value attracts people to you. Some become clients. Blogging may not be ideal for you.

What if you're in the role of the publisher or if you run a physical book store? Consider getting nicer bed for more comfort during your sleepless nights.

The Middleman Matters

Sometimes the middleman plays a valuable role. For example: the Ferrari Market Letter targets a small niche. Yet roughly 5,000 subscribers pay $130 a year. That's $650,000 of revenue from a select group of buyers, sellers and aficionados.

How can you create value from the viewpoint of the clients who buy your offerings? Here client means the final purchaser, not another intermediary. You may think you're adding value but you're hardly objective.

Why They Buy From You Now

Clients buy for a range of reasons.

Bad Reasons

If your clients deal with you because of
  • ignorance (e.g., comparing mobile phone rate plans)
  • regulation (e.g., limited mobile phone carriers)
  • exclusivity (e.g., AT&T and the iPhone)
how secure is your future in a world of information, deregulation and choice?

Good Reasons

Maybe your clients choose you for your
  1. service (you cure and prevent the headaches)
  2. speed (you eliminate the learning curve a DIYer faces)
  3. quality (your craftsmanship vs their handyman skills)
  4. warranty (your E&O insurance vs their buyer beware)
  5. convenience (who has time to grate cheese anymore?)

Best Reasons

With the right offer, your clients value you and welcome your involvement. Even if they can buy direct.


August 24, 2010

The Return Of The Door-To-Door Salesman?

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Knock knock? Who's there?

When the doorbell rings unexpectedly, the cause is usually a handyman giving free quotes, a fundraiser, a politician at election time, a location scout or a Jehovah's Witness. Annoying pests.

Occasionally there's a pleasant surprise like family, friends or a courier delivery. Welcome guests. Usually we're notified in advance and anticipate these visits.

This time, I was greeted by an investment advisor who just joined a big bank. Unusual but still an intrusion. Normally advisors send letter or fliers.

We chatted briefly about marketing — the kind of things you'll find on this blog. We exchanged business cards at my suggestion. He's having some success going door-to-door.

Second Impressions

Afterwards, I looked for him online. A web search yielded no useful results. He's not listed on his firm's website but will be soon. The process is surprisingly slow.

He said he has a proper LinkedIn profile. I checked. His common name produced 511 results and he wasn't on page one. Drilling down, I think I found him. I'm not sure because there's
  • no photo
  • no mention of his new employer
  • no relevant experience
  • no relevant recommendations (and only one in total)
Would you invest with a person like that? For the same price, you could get an advisor with experience and the three marketing essentials for today.

Create Intrigue

If you're going to annoy people by knocking on their doors, why not compensate them with novelty. What's possible depends on how much you're willing to invest to acquire a new client.

The ideal gift is significant, personalized and unexpected. That doesn't mean expensive. You've probably received fridge magnets, calendars and pens. Big deal. How about a historical photo of the neighbourhood or an old-time newspaper clipping? You'd put your contact information on the gift, saving you the price of a business card. Maybe you offer a monthly eNewsletter with more of the same. Maybe you give a framed photo/article for those who get a free portfolio review.

You could hire others to deliver your initial gifts. That lets you focus on those who raise their hands for your services.


People see us at our best when we're helping others. That's one of the lessons from networking with millionaires. How about increasing public awareness for a little-known charity you're passionate about? Maybe you're conducting a quick survey on their behalf. You probably don't want to collect donations.
"I'm from [firm] asking if you know about [cause]. My name is [name] and I'm an [job]"
Would that be more intriguing than saying "I'm an investment advisor"? The handouts would focus on the cause but also mention you.

Whatever you do, be sure to leave something behind. That way people who aren't at home know you were there.

'A' for Effort

Going door-to-door gets an 'A' for effort but is still an annoying interruption. At least with phone calls you can screen out the intruders.


PS A "No Solicitations" sign makes a great gift