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?