January 29, 2012


repair crew
My Lenovo ThinkPad W520 workstation will be out of service for at least four days.

Granted, that includes Saturday, Sunday (today) but I had things to do. My warranty provides onsite, next business day service. That would mean Monday but ... the technicians are booked. I get to wait until sometime on Tuesday.

What Happened?

When I startup my computer, an error message says
Detection error on HDD1 (Ultrabay HDD)
I have two fast internal 500 GB hard drives configured to act like one huge hard drive (RAID0 striping). This high performance option writes portions of a file to each drive at the same time. This helps when editing video and doing other disk intensive tasks. (Another option is RAID1 mirroring which puts the same files on two drives. This is safer because if one disk stops working, you have a backup.)

There is likely a problem (in decreasing order) with
  1. the connector between the hard drive, Ultrabay and motherboard
  2. the motherboard
  3. the hard drive

Why So Slow?

If next day repairs aren’t available, that means
  • too many defective machines and/or
  • too few technicians
Both problems are resolvable and each is a concern. In today’s world, any day can be a work day. Restricting service calls to Monday-Friday feels arcane. After all, Lenovo sells 24/7.

Don't Panic

I can't afford to be out of service for days. Thanks to pre-planned redundancy, I'm not. The cloud is the main reason. That's where I have key files (Dropbox), email, contacts, tasks, etc. I can access them with my iPad, netbook and smartphone. Multiple Internet connected devices provide cheap insurance and more productivity.

I can keep working with my netbook for simple tasks requiring Windows. For instance, I composed/posted a blog post and podcast 153.

I'm definitely less productive but reasonably functional. I can catch up in other areas, such as thinking and creating more content. Phone calls and meetings aren’t affected.

Can't Do

I can't work on two PowerPoint presentations. One is for a live session in three months but the organizers want a draft to start the slow process of applying for  Continuing Education credits for attendees. The second is for a live presentation this Thursday.

I can't work on video. I wanted to practice editing and publish at least one. That's one of my Pick Four goals (see Reach your goals with Pick Four from Zig Ziglar and Seth Godin).

Don't Know

If a hard drive is defective, I will lose some files. Mainly raw video. The core files are well-protected by Dropbox, SugarSync, JungleDisk and an external hard drive.

Why aren't the video files backed up? Uploading to online storage is slow and bandwidth caps get in the way. I could have local backups but was compiling all video in one place first. Also, my backup drive is nearly full.

Next Time

I don't want a next time. Here's what I could do
  • have another computer, rather than a netbook
  • have real-time syncing to an external hard drive (in addition to overnight incremental backups)
  • read the warranty fine print
I can't do anything about the fine print but can become better aware of the limitations.
In the unlikely case that I lose anything, the damage will be limited. If you are not using Dropbox or SugarSync, do consider them.


PS Losing Internet access would be worse. I'm thankful that the horror of Rogers Ultimate have been fixed.

January 24, 2012


lights action cameraVideo is a very powerful marketing tool. I've been deferring procrastinating because video is such a demanding medium.


You can create video by hiring an expert. You'll get fast results, but they may look generic. Skeptical? Consider TV newscasters. How different is one station from another? Professional doesn’t mean distinct. Stock photos have a similar staged look. They look a little too good.

Video bios look generic too. These days, many feature different camera angles and many cuts. The subjects look like they are
  • being interviewed with the interviewer edited out
  • reading from a teleprompter without enough practice
Expedient doesn’t mean desirable. You're not a Hollywood actor in an action movie needing microsecond cuts. You're a real person. If you know your subject, can't you talk articulately for a few minutes? You probably do all day long.

The professional/generic approach isn’t authentic enough for me. As with blogging and podcasting, I wanted to master the basics myself but …

The Fear

I haven't liked the way I look on camera. I'd feel stiff, sound unnatural and forget what I wanted to say. The solution is practice. I don't notice the camera any more. I realize that mistakes can be edited out, reduced with more takes, or just left in.

That leaves the fear of forgetting.

As a writer, I want to say exactly what I've drafted but I'm not good at memorization. I've tried using a teleprompter (Teleprompt+ on my iPad). This works well when giving a live speech but when I talk directly to the camera, you can see that I'm reading. 

I now sound reasonably natural when reading a script. Even so, speaking impromptu is 100% natural. Thanks to Toastmasters, I finally can. I'm glad I finally joined. Live but unscripted may be the ideal solution. If one take isn't quite right, you can do more. When you the recording and production yourself, there’s no cost and you improve your skills.

You'll have your own concerns. Practice is your best tool. You no longer need fancy equipment. You can start by using the video camera in your smartphone or your web cam. A separate video camera is probably best but you don't need an expensive model.

Broadcast Yourself

YouTube now allows you to publish HD videos of unlimited length. The maximum used to be 15 minutes, which is a problem for live presentations (though perhaps a relief for viewers). Here’s an example of a recent recording. There’s room for improvement but the results are good enough to ship.

You don’t have to appear on camera. You can narrate a PowerPoint presentation instead. With sharp images, the results look great when projected or viewed on a smartphone. Here’s the latest example.

If you're recording your screen, please don't use the ancient 4:3 aspect ratio (1024x768). Switch to widescreen 16:9 (though the 16:10 above is workable).


I'm hardly a video expert yet. I'm comfortable adding narration to PowerPoint. I'm comfortable speaking live and presenting live. I can now do basic editing using Adobe Premiere Elements. The next --- and most important --- step is live talking-to-the camera video.

You may want to hire a videographer but there's no harm in getting comfortable appearing on camera. Your TV debut may be next.


PS What are your video plans?

January 17, 2012


Down the drainYou’ll find marketing ideas where none are intended.

This morning, I went to the Ivey Idea Forum for the first time. The topic was Water and Agri-Food Innovation: Does our future profitability depend on it? That means fresh water usage by food companies. That’s a rather narrow focus but I was curious about the issues.

We’ll skip the scary statistics and predictions. Instead, we’ll look at the marketing hurdles in the path to change.

Four Marketing Hurdles

Why aren’t food companies doing more? Kevin Jones (LinkedIn) gave four reasons. He’s the President and CEO of The Bloom Centre for Sustainability (website).
  1. The risk isn’t visible
  2. The financial benefits aren’t visible
  3. Ignorance abounds
  4. Current proven solutions aren’t known
You probably have similar issues with your own clients. Let’s explore what you can do.

Make The Risk Visible

Water: the risk isn't visible. If food companies see water as cheap and abundant, why would they bother with conservation?

If your clients don't see the real problem you solve, you've got a huge hurdle since they have many squeakier wheels to oil. You won't get far as a prophet of disaster if you get the rewards from being right. You can still educate, ideally using independent reports. Maybe they’ll then hire you to slay the now seen monster.

Show The Financial Benefits

Water: The financial benefits of conservation aren't seen. If there isn't a connection with profits, how do you motivate companies to spend?

Do your clients see you as an investment or an expense? Can you develop simple metrics? For instance, the equivalent of a hurdle rate or payback period. You probably have something already. How can you you make the benefits more compelling?

Do your clients trust what you're showing them? Too-good-to-be-true benefits or shaky assumptions are impair your credibility. Wait, there’s more!

Overcome Ignorance

Water: Ignorance. If companies don't know how or where they are using water, is change likely?

Even if your clients use the type of product or service you provide, do they know how or where? For instance, we take electricity for granted. Would automatic water faucets, soap dispensers and towel dispensers work during a power outage? Depending on the business, that might be important.

Show Proven Solutions

Water: Food companies are unaware of current, proven solutions. If they don't know what's available, they may not know they can do something today.

Few businesses want to bear the risks and costs of innovating in a noncore area. Do you show clients what's already adopted elsewhere? Relevant case studies help you use a powerful principle of influence: consensus.

Your Clients

How do you fault clients for inertia?

These four marketing hurdles are inter-related. Education is one solution. You can share content that's already available (like a parrot) or create your own (like a pundit). Since awareness takes time, staying in contact with valuable, timely information helps.


PS Please turn off the lights as you leave. Let’s conserve electricity too.

January 10, 2012


Get the wind in your sailsIf you want your year to go well, start strong. Here are three ways to kick the year into gear:
  1. Celebrate last year
  2. Be your own guide
  3. Show courage in public
Let’s explore each.

Celebrate Last Year

Make a list of what you shipped last year. Are you surprised at how much you got done?

Since we’re busy, we may not notice or celebrate our accomplishments. Don’t expect anyone else to notice or remember either. Gently remind them by putting your highlights someplace they can see and send to others.

If you’re gutsy, you can include selected failures and personal elements too. Just remember you're in marketing not therapy.
This is part of my email signature:
SHIPPED IN 2011: Interviewed in The Globe and Mail and Toronto Star. Spoke about building trust at CALU and Word11. Elected President of Goodyear Toastmasters. Celebrated Dad's 75th birthday and my 50th. Published 103 blog posts about risk and marketing. Nominated for a Business Excellence Award from the Toronto Board of Trade (lost, but the sole candidate from financial services out of 49 nominees in 8 categories). How was your year?
The same details are on my personal website in bullet format.

Be Your Own Guide

Resolutions sound so serious — easier to break than keep. There’s a simpler way to achieve your goals:
  1. choose three words with meaning to you (mine are health, harvest, advocate)
  2. think of them daily
  3. act accordingly
This approach works better than you might expect. It’s based on ideas from Chris Brogan.

Show Courage In Public

Write one honest testimonial on LinkedIn each week for (at least) three weeks. Here “honest” means there’s no perceived self-interest or hidden business dealings with the people you praise.

Giving recognition is free but priceless. Spotlighting linchpins rewards them. They may not realize the impact they’ve had on you. They may be questioning whether they are making a difference. Your words could be the boost they need.

Praise in private has very little marketing value for the recipient. Besides, you show courage when you take a stand in public. When you see that nothing bad happens, you can be even more courageous going forward.
Giving testimonials has an important “free prize”. Seeking the treasure in others helps you unearth the diamonds hidden within you. You become what Zig Zigar calls a “good finder”. The world needs more positive people.

Momentum gives a great start to the year. Get set, go!


PS What will you ship this year?

January 3, 2012


2011Why break tradition? Let's start 2012 by looking back to what you read here on the Marketing Actuary blog in 2011.

If you're a new reader, this post gives you a quick sample the content before you decide to subscribe.

The Top 10

  1. The best buying experience: Audi vs BMW vs Mercedes-Benz
  2. The six most influential word groups (from 2008) [was #1 in 2009 and 2010]
  3. Let's Get Real: Mahan Khalsa brings ORDER to sales chaos (from 2010)
  4. Five marketing keys from Google’s Chris O’Neill (from 2010)
  5. Rediscover Selling The Invisible by Harry Beckwith (from 2009) [was #5]
  6. Why join the Toronto Board of Trade?
  7. Improving Google’s Get Your Business Online (GYBO) initiative
  8. Nicolas Boothman on creating your 10 second commercial (from 2009) [was #8]
  9. Reciprocity: The first universal principle of influence (from 2007) [was #4]
  10. LinkedIn’s Jonathan Lister discusses social media
Once again, six of these posts are from previous years. Four made the top 10 for 2010. Old content keeps getting read. That's an excellent reason to publish online where search engines look.

More Statistics

There are 232 previous posts all accessible and improving my digital tapestry. They are the key reason traffic grew by 93%. There are now more visits in a month than there used to be in a year. How can that be bad?

Marketing goes beyond borders. The top five countries are the United States, Canada, India, the United Kingdom and Australia. There was one visit from Uzbekistan.

Mobile devices account for 3.9% of the traffic. Of these visitors, 62% used iPads, which the design accommodates.

Other Posts Of Note

Here are selected posts you may have missed or wish to revisit.
  1. Make your views public to stand out
  2. Be like Tim Burton
  3. Marketing your services without paper
  4. The most basic marketing skill
  5. Building trust with social media
  6. Three overlooked paths to a competitive edge
  7. Be inauthentic to succeed
  8. The detour to proving your expertise
  9. Does your “pizza” taste like cardboard?
  10. Are you a parrot or a pundit?
  11. Is your name memorable?
  12. Are you scrimping or splurging in the wrong places?
  13. The step before your marketing
  14. The myth of Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
  15. Are you sick of social media too?
Welcome to 2012. Let the writing, reading and marketing begin again.


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