September 25, 2012


bucket brigadeAre you tired of meeting competitors wherever you go?

That happened this weekend at the sold-out Canadian Personal Finance Conference (CPFC12) hosted by Preet Banerjee (LinkedIn) and Krystal Yee (LinkedIn). The main attendees were experienced bloggers and journalists. They all compete for a scarce, irreplaceable resource: your attention. Yet no fights took place.

You have many distractions and can scat at any instant. Writers compete by improving. They don’t prepare comparisons: more semi-colons than any other blog. They don’t have specials: 25% more words while quantities last. They don’t push fluff: new formatting; same great content.

But Wait

When we care about the subject, we go to more than one source. We want different perspectives from experts we trust. For instance, you won’t get all your marketing advice from one place.

Bloggers help themselves by helping each other succeed. They link to one another’s posts and leave comments on their blogs. By cooperating, they make their niche richer and deeper. That helps attract and retain readers.
Sometimes real competition prevents cooperation. If you’re looking for the lowest loan rate or the highest saving rate, you might only visit the site that Google ranks highest.

In business, rivalry interferes. Will the Apple store ever say your needs would be better served by Windows or Android? At least you know the biases before you go in.


Vendors cluster. You’ll find burger, pizza and sub places near each other. You get used to going to that area even if you don’t always buy the same thing.

In downtown Toronto, the BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Porsche dealerships are nearby. You probably won’t buy all three (if any) but proximity helps you compare and contrast. You might try and buy a brand you weren’t considering before.

But First

If you are selling tomorrow, be very careful not to pitch people who are only interested in buying things that are about today. Before a marketer or organization can sell something that works in the future, she must sell the market on the very notion that the future matters.
— Seth Godin,
truth and consequences
Personal finances are about the future. People who need help may be too busy with the latest iFrenzy to pay attention. What about your clients?

Maybe your real opportunity comes from boosting awareness of the category of service you sell. You can’t do this alone. You need help from vendors in the same niche and credible advocates. Amplify each other (unless prohibited by corporate policy).

When your real competitors are ignorance and indifference, team up the way bloggers do. A bucket brigade gets better results faster. All win. As awareness builds, buyers become more plentiful and discerning. You now have an opportunity to earn your share (or more).


PS This post was trimmed by 187 words. Get less words … for a limited time only!

September 18, 2012


Pen or electronic?Maintaining a To Do list is challenging. An entry could go in different categories (e.g., business, family, personal). What you need to do a task varies (e.g., phone, car, office, computer, quiet). The priorities differ and change. The due dates do too. Any system you use will have ways to deal with issues like these.

I use a combination of Getting Things Done by David Allen and The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey.

The Tools

The challenge is finding the right tools and using them consistently.

Ease of use varies.
  • pen/paper is fastest but the least organized, easiest to lose, least likely to be with you when you’re on the move and toughest to reorganize
  • with electronic tools like your smartphone, tablet or computer, input takes longer but the lists are well-organized, easier to share and tough to lose (with sync and online backup)
With any system, there will be tasks that don't get done. As the list of incomplete items builds, it's easy to get overwhelmed and stop using the list. It's like missing gym visits and finding it easier to stay away than return.


Being able to add, edit and remove tasks anywhere is handy. I want to see the list on my smartphone, which I'm most likely to have with me. For inputting items, I prefer my tablet or computer. When working with a team, support for different devices helps. I have collaborators who use iOS and Android. Web-based tools are a compromise but less inviting to use than an app.


You may want to share some tasks with your team and keep others private. Sharing might not be free. An environment like GlassCubes may help if you have a budget and other needs (free for two workspaces with unlimited users).

Messed Up

Recently, I've been using
  • assorted paper (whatever is at hand) without organizing the pages
  • Toodledo: web-based, integrates with my Pocket Informant calendar (which syncs with my Google Calendar) on both my Android phone and iPad
  • CRM: for some work-related tasks that I want to associate with specific clients
The result is a bit messy and inconsistent. Maybe a hybrid is the best solution for now. Your thoughts?


PS You might want to try the Twitter-like Fetchnotes, which is free. As a bonus, you get a generous 25 GB of Box storage for free if you’re not a current Box user (see MakeUseOf for the steps).

September 11, 2012


TrustCloud logoHow much do your clients and prospects trust you? How much should your clients and prospects trust you?

Testimonials are necessary but not very convincing. Have you ever seen a bad one?

Trust can't be measured empirically but there are attempts to do just this. Enter TrustCloud. You get a score between 1 and 1000, where higher means better.

No scoring system will be perfect even if one puts you at the top. There is still merit in the quest. It’s interesting to see what gets rewarded.

You're A Believer

You may skeptical about algorithms but they already make predictions for you. Google predicts your search query as you type and gives results tailored for you. Amazon predicts what you may also want to buy. Netflix predicts what you want to watch (your personalized Top 10) and how much you'll like a movie (actual rating vs your projected rating).

The results keep improving.


TrustCardTrustCloud looks at your activity on networks like Facebook, Google+, Klout, LinkedIn and Twitter. If you’re not active online, your score will suffer. That’s reasonable since it’s difficult to trust people who aren’t visible. What are they hiding? Why are they hiding?

TrustCloud gives you credit for participating in social media for years (Longtimer), networking (Connector) and having many people read your posts (Influencer). Your network can recognize you for virtues like accountability, compassion, generosity, punctuality and reliability.

Marketing Tips

TrustCloud is fairly new. You might as well sign up and see your grade. You'll also see ways to improve your score. You may have competitors who work in megacorps that restrict use of social media. That will hurt their scores and give you an edge.

Once you're comfortable with your score, start showing it. This achieves two goals
  • transparency
  • raises expectations (clients expect from others)
imageI'm currently 745/1000, which is considered Good but feels a tad embarrassing. I'd like at least 800 (Very Good). However, I wanted to make you aware of TrustCloud now.

Changing Behavior

Knowing you're being measured may spur you to improve your score. Even if you don't care how you compare, your clients and prospects might. Even if they’re indifferent today, tomorrow they may want to know.

There's nothing stopping you from engaging in virtuous behavior online. Now you get rewarded too.

Other Measures

You may already be familiar with measures of influence like Klout or PeerIndex. They are worth using too.


PS For all trust all the time, follow @trustandyou on Twitter

September 4, 2012


Back to School/MarketingSchools re-open today. Do you remember your lessons from years past? Not what you learned but how you learned. Those old lessons can help with your marketing now.

The Process

To succeed in school, you need to plan ahead. That means knowing basics such as  exam dates and when projects are due. To remember, you also need to make a schedule. A combination of a Google calendar and a To Do list works well for me. You also need to stay on schedule. It's very easy to fall behind or (re-)establish bad habits.

Having a support group like a mastermind works well (here are lessons from three).


We're not done yet. You need to learn. That means to
  • be open to learning
  • study (sorry!)
  • share what you learn
Green Eggs and HamIf you're not motivated to learn, you won't. At least not very well.

You're not learning unless you're stretching yourself either. You may have loved Green Eggs and Ham. Maybe Dr. Seuss did too. He didn't stop there. His final book, Oh, the Places You'll Go! shows a definite evolution and also reaches a different audience than One Fish, Two Fish.

You don't really learn until you share what you’re learning. Blogging is one way, even if your readership starts small.

No Excuses

We were forced to attend school. If you aren't interested, too bad. If you don't have time for an assignment, too bad. If you're confused and falling behind, too bad. You may have more leeway today but that’s hardly permission to make excuses or procrastinate.


In school, our grades show our progress. In business, the marketplace grades us. We may think we're doing well because we don't get a regular report card. Are we fooling ourselves?

To get feedback earlier, show your progress. Seth Godin is doing this on Kickstarter for The Icarus Deception, his new book. He’s already posted 14 updates. Your market may find your process more fascinating than the results (though make them great too). It’s easy to communicate via Twitter and blog posts.


In school, we're told how many subjects to take. In business, we're already busy. We need projects or sub-projects we can complete in a reasonable timeframe. You might find that three months is just right — not too long, not too short. Maybe you plan by calendar quarter or season.

What's the right subject to tackle?

You might want to work on your strengths for mastery or on a weakness for outsized results. For example, I learned the basics of video editing this year (see YouTube). The results aren't amazing but they are a huge step for me. I'd like to get better but progress will be slower and take more effort. For hands-on experience, I volunteered to work on community television.


How do you learn? Where do you go for help? You may like having a teacher or tutor. You may prefer learning on your own since there's so much available online and in books. If you're stumped, you can think, procrastinate or get help. Just like in school.


PS Your first assignment is to figure out what you want to do. Class dismissed!