April 24, 2012


what do I do?This week, I got three requests that suggest the asker is lazy ... or overwhelmed.
  1. How do I start using Twitter?
  2. How do I find a Toastmasters group?
  3. How do I find a Pick Four goals group?
The requesters could get the answers themselves. Why did they ask?

Each request points deeper. Since other people will share the same needs and wants, you've found a market. You can provide solutions or be the conduit to answers.

You might see a marketing opportunity in one or more of the requests. Let’s explore ways to proceed.

Getting Started With Twitter

The easy way to start using Twitter is by going to twitter.com and setting up an account. All you need is Twitter handle (e.g., @mActuary), email address and password. You can add a photo and 140 character description later. Done.

Issue: The mechanics are not likely the problem. There's plenty of help within easy reach of a web search. Perhaps the requesters feel overwhelmed or confused. Perhaps they're afraid of making a mistake or like personalized attention. Even if they did setup a Twitter account, would they feel comfortable tweeting?

Opportunity: You could compile a list of online getting-started resources or create your own. You could provide live in-person training. You might become a coach to develop and guide clients through their whole social media strategy. Or you could provide help as a “free prize” for being a client for your main offering.
Perhaps you simply direct the request to someone who can help them.

Finding A Toastmasters Group

The easy way is by visiting Meetup (toastmasters.meetup.com) or doing a web search. You can also go to the Toastmasters website to conduct a search. Aren’t search engines wonderful?

Issue: The requester may want a recommendation or help in selecting the right club.

Opportunity: You might prepare a guide on how to find a suitable club (not just Toastmasters). You might suggest finding potential clubs online, visiting several, joining the one that feels right and participating. Maybe you prepare other guides (e.g., how to find a restaurant). These can go on your website or blog, or get posted on an established How To site with links back to you.

Finding A Pick Four Goals Group

This is tougher. A web search may not be enough. Since Pick Four is a goals program, here’s an idea: start your own groups. If you don't know how, set yourself the goal of figuring this out. You could have your own solo two-week Pick 1 program to find the like minded. In the meantime, order the Pick Four workbooks (which come in a 4-pack). You'll then be ready to go.

Issue: The challenge here may be fear of talking to strangers, reluctance to be proactive or laziness.

Opportunity: You could make suggestions on how to proceed. Maybe you establish a group of your own or co-organize (as I have). If you help others meet goals, you’re establishing strong relationships.


There’s no harm in taking a few minutes to help the requester and think about their reasons for asking. There's no telling where your generosity may lead.


PS What makes you feel lazy or overwhelmed?

April 17, 2012


horse raceToyota owned the hybrid market with the Prius, which launched in 1997 in Japan and worldwide in 2001. So what? There are other choices now, possibly better. Some companies are launching their first hybrids. Does that mean they only need to be as good as the original Prius? No. Laggards must be as good as the third-generation Prius.

Laggards face higher hurdles. They may have avoided pitfalls but they lack the experience the pioneers earned by doing. This doesn't ensure the pioneers of ongoing market domination.
Let's look at three to beat the market leader.
  1. complacency
  2. incrementally
  3. leapfrogging


A complacent market leader is blind to competitors. Consider RIM. When Apple introduced the iPhone in 2007, RIM didn't see a threat to the Blackberry in the corporate market they dominated. Businesses wouldn’t want phones with less security and no keyboard. They were right ... in the beginning.

The market changed. As Apple dominated the consumer market, workers started bringing their own devices to work and demanded to use them. Apps made the arguments more compelling. Recently, the iPhone accounted for 53% of corporate smartphone activations among 2,000 companies (see study).

The iPhone is now the market leader, even in Canada, RIM’s home and native land.


The iPhone faces challenges from another upstart, Android. In the beginning, Android wasn't very good but the devices and operating system keep improving. Unlike RIM, Apple hasn't ignored the threat. The iPhone is now available from more carriers and improvements continue being made.

Over time, Android may win. When we upgraded our phones recently, we got one iPhone and two Androids. Since I must have a keyboard, the iPhone isn't a serious option.


There's another way to win: leapfrog. A lead in fluorescent lighting may not matter as LED lighting becomes preferred. A lead in alkaline batteries may not matter when lithium cells are available. A lead in hybrid vehicles may not matter if there are new developments.

The new entrant might leapfrog overall all other companies. Isn't that what Apple did with the iPad? Since 1992 when IBM introduced the ThinkPad 700T, tablets have used Windows. Apple used their phone operating system (iOS) instead. In the beginning, that seemed silly. The iPad couldn't multitask and seemed like an oversized iPod. It was. The 10" screen was small by computer standards. It was. Buyers didn’t care. Since launch, the iPad has dominated and expanded the tablet market. We have two.

What the iPad offered was enough for the public. And still is, even though Android tablets with similar performance are now available and keep improving incrementally.

Your Choice

Being a laggard may not be the best strategy, but you can take steps to beat the leader in your market segment --- especially if you’re an early follower.


PS Is a hybrid or electric car in your future?

April 10, 2012


it's that timeAs time passes, your network grows and needs trimming. Cutting some branches gives you time and energy to devote to the rest.

For simplicity, consider your LinkedIn network where the pruned aren't notified of their fate.

Establish Criteria

You might want to limit your network based on criteria like geography, industry or interests. I'm more concerned about quality. For years, I’ve tended to connect to "good" people. Now I’ve become more selective and strategic.

I'm pruning three groups in particular
  1. insurance advisors: used to be my clients (and the original reason for this blog) and then collaborators (see can an advocate serve two masters?); some have been annoying my connections with inappropriate behaviour
  2. coaches: was looking for coaches to help my network; generally unimpressed; their techniques seem outdated
  3. social media "experts": was looking for experts to recommend but found too many fakers
  4. recruiters: hide their own connections; rarely show visible signs of sharing

Look For Clues

When I see misbehaviour, I make a note in a spreadsheet called LinkedOut. This is where I list contenders for pruning.

The inappropriate actions might be too much self-promotion, irrelevant information, too frequent updates or getting put on a mailing list without permission. Or worse.

I'm especially looking for connections who show generosity. I don't mean the buy-now-and-get-a-discount crowd. I'm seeking those who share valuable nothing-to-buy information on a regular basis without quitting. That's rare and valuable.


Occasionally, I'll check my LinkedOut spreadsheet and do the actual cutting. I'll make note of the date and reason for future reference. I have several other fields such as how many connections they have and how many we share.

This year, I've trimmed 3.06% of my network for various infractions. I found two big surprises.
1. Poaching
A connection with 112 connections shared 36 with me. It's very unlikely she'd know all 36 because I’m in diverse circles. I'm guessing she was burrowing into my network and adding connections by implying that I endorsed her. That wasn't true. How sneaky.
2. Camouflage
Some connections with over 500+ connections were sneaky too. They hid their own connections. Where's the reciprocity? They're guarding their own connections while wearing camouflage to add their connections’ connections. How can you trust someone like that?


Unless you prune regularly, your garden becomes unkempt. We're judged by the company we keep. Are you creating the right impressions?


PS Repeat regularly

April 3, 2012


modern feather pen"I'm not a writer. I'm an author."
--- Charlize Theron's character in Young Adult

Why do authors garner such respect? It's not that all books are amazing or successful. By definition, most authors are close to average. Few books sell well. Few books get read. Still, more get written. Why add to the clutter?

For credibility.

Since writing a book is considered difficult, there’s an element of awe. Why not getting that working for you?

Why Not?

I've been advised to write a book for years. I certainly could based on my blog posts alone. With over 250,000 words, I’ve got lots of content. Some would be relevant and the writing skills are portable.

What about you? You probably have lots of content inside your head or as part of your visible digital tapestry.

You'll have portions of the year that are slower. Perhaps the summer. August in particular. If you're prepared, that's when you can do the bulk of your writing.

What's A “Book”?

There's such a range in what qualifies as a “book” these days. A speaker handed out an 8 pager. That's a lie, not a book. I’ve seen other self-printed titles that look puny compared with what you’d buy from a major publisher.

There’s no point padding a book with filler, large fonts or thicker pages. You need something worth writing about. And a potential audience.

How long should a book be? Answers will vary. I want a minimum of 50,000 words. Why? That's roughly what I write in a year of blogging (100 posts of 500 words each). I'll get a better estimate as I proceed. If I can't write at least 30,000 words, I doubt that I'd bother proceeding.

The Writing Process

I haven't written a book or read much about writing. As with blogging, there doesn't seem to be a "right" way. You can think of a book as a project.

I started with a mindmap to define the chapters. I then added brief summaries and did some re-arranging. A solid outline simplifies the writing. That’s based on my experience blogging and speaking.

I showed the outline to a several friends with connections to the world of books. They feel I can write a book. They see merit in my proposed topic (insider insights into insurance) but they don’t see a market. They’re probably right.  However, there was one chapter they couldn’t stop talking about. That might be worth a book but will take much more work. I’m preparing a new outline.

The Tools

Writing the content can get complicated. Do you have one huge document or do you have a separate file per chapter? I'd prefer to work with multiple files but have an overall structure that includes all the components into a master file. Microsoft Word can do this but there are apps just for writers.
I stumbled upon Scrivener and have installed the trial version. Scrivener is an all-in-one solution that lets you keep your draft and research in the same work environment. You can have many subfiles and work on your iPad via Dropbox. I like using iA Writer. An iPad version is coming soon. You can create ebooks in both major formats (ePub and Kindle). There are nice video tutorials. I don't see anything major missing.

Using Scrivener already makes me feel like an author. The pricing is very reasonable ($40 for Windows, $45 for Mac). 

How About …

If writing a book is too much to tackle, you could start blogging. While “blogger” won’t bring you the same accolades as an “author” or “writer”, you will be developing your skills, and showing your expertise. Maybe Charlize would play you on the big screen.


PS How many books do you read in a year?