January 29, 2013


TrelloWe have many different ways to organize our lives. The challenge is finding apps we like enough to re-use.

I’ve been looking for a tool that’s
  1. appealing to use
  2. powerful and flexible
  3. cloud-based: nothing to install, sync or backup
  4. accessible anywhere: desktop/Android/iPhone, offline
  5. free for reasonable features
Trello is an ideal solution, except you can only use it when you have an Internet connection.


Paying for Trello? (click to enlarge)I got Trello (trello.com) months ago but couldn’t figure out how to use it. Rather, I didn’t bother learning how. Maybe it didn’t suit what I wanted to do at the time.

Now I see how simple and intuitive Trello is. You’re productive within minutes if you start with your desktop browser. There are many powerful features but they’re not intrusive. You see them when you look for them. That’s ideal.

Trello is currently free and I was wary about the future pricing even though the website says:
Yup, Trello is free, now and forever. That means we’ll never take away everything you love and put it behind a pay wall. So feel free to fall in love—it’s here to stay. If only more of life were like that!
How can a company stay in business? There aren’t even any annoying ads anywhere. I was convinced that free means free after reading let me pay you for Trello. They answered questions I didn’t realize I had.

The Magic

The magic of Trello is the structure. Deceptively simple. Extremely powerful.

You put information on cards in column lists. You move a card from list to list as you progress. For instance from To Do to Doing to Done. I like this approach much better than a conventional single column To Do list with the completed items crossed out. You keep seeing what you haven’t done instead of what you’ve accomplished.

Actual Uses

planning a workshop (click to enlarge)For an upcoming workshop, I’ve got lists with advance questions from registrants and examples I want to show. I might even use Trello live.
In the past, I brainstormed in mindmaps using iThoughtsHD but I don’t always have my iPad with me. What’s worse, I can’t see or make changes on my desktop or Android phone. Now I’m using Trello because I always have it at hand via my smartphone.
Sometimes I read articles on a mobile device and decide to share or save them. I’d email a link to myself which adds clutter to my inbox. Now I use a board called To Tweet with four lists: @mActuary, @riscario, @trustandyou and sent. I’ll finally be able to find my updates because Trello has a search feature.
For this blog, I created a board with these lists: Ideas, Drafting, Editing, Posted.

I’ve started drafting blog posts by voice on my Galaxy Note. Previously, I would jot by hand (which requires retyping) or create a text file with iA Writer on my iPad (which syncs to my desktop via DropBox).

Since this blog post was getting long, I moved a 122 word tangent to Trello for later use. In the past, I would have deleted them because there was no convenient place to put them.


mascot TacoWhat’s possible with Trello depends on your imagination. If a feature doesn’t exist, ask. The team at Fog Creek Software are friendly and open. They are also transparent. They must have had requests for a downloadable version (not sure why). Here’s the honest response that prevents false expectations:
“We will not be offering Trello as an installable product. It will only be offered as a cloud-based service. Sorry if this means you can't use Trello for your organization.”
You can collaborate with others. The capabilities look promising but I haven’t tried. The features would even work for family projects and ad hoc virtual teams.

You can do the usual things like assign due dates to tasks and add notes (including links, images and files). What about the ever-important subtasks — cards within cards? There is a reasonable substitute: add a checklist to a card.


I normally wouldn’t write about a tool until l became more proficient. Trello is too good to wait. Do give it a try and share your thoughts.


PS For a simple personal To Do list, I’ve been trying the free version of Astrid.

January 22, 2013


remote audienceIf you only make presentations in person, you face limitations
  • time: travel, parking, setup (shorter online)
  • geography: you can’t be in two places at once (you can online)
  • audience: members from different firms may avoid going to the same event (how would they know online?)
  • facilities: sometimes squishy, with obstructed views, poor acoustics (you control the environment online)
  • health: do you want to catch or give the flu? (online attendees can watch without worries)
  • weather: adds uncertainty (online you can continue with those available and have a “rain date” for the ones who can’t attend)
  • cost: no room rentals, screen rentals or refreshments
Webinars look like an ideal addition to your in-person events. I haven't been a fan because too many are boring or salesy. That's not a criticism of webinars but how they’re used. Webinars are a quick, low cost way to extend your reach. Here's what you need:
  • a compelling presentation
  • an engaging voice
  • basic technology

The Presentation

When you're speaking live, you have the advantage of your physical presence. When you're remote, your slides become more important. Are they simple and engaging? Do they build by element or do you show everything at once? If you use a video clip, will your audience be able to see and hear it properly? Are you telling stories?

Tip: Practice, ideally with someone watching remotely.

The Voice

When you're not on camera, your audience only sees your slides and hears your voice. Think radio. You need more energy than usual. Try speaking a little faster (or a little slower if you normally talk fast). Enunciate clearly. Sit straight in your chair. Breathe deeply and regularly.

You need to adjust for time lags in transmission and reception. Some animations may be too fast for your audience to see. Some words may cut out as happens with mobile phone calls.

Tip: Record yourself and watch the playback. Repeat until you're comfortable with the results. Now get others to watch. What do they think?

The Technology

You'll want a fast, reliable Internet connection and a high quality microphone. If your mobile phone can create an Internet hotspot, you have a Plan B.

You'll find many services which let you host webinars from your web browser. Here's what's ideal.
  • a well-featured always-free version: lets you experiment (likely ad-supported)
  • recording capability: lets you practice, allows replays
  • webcam option: lets you appear on the screen at least part of the time (much more engaging)
  • fixed web address: looks more professional than having “no fixed address”
  • registration which captures contact details: lets you stay in touch with your audience, including those who were unable to attend
  • monthly plans: saves money since you may not have events every month
  • option to charge: you may want to sell tickets
For some reason, most paid plans only allow 25 attendees. That may be realistic but doesn't seem like much.

I was considering join.me ($20/mo for 25 attendees) but it lacks basics like recording and webcam support. I'm currently investigating AnyMeeting ($18/mo for 25 attendees, $70/mo for 200 attendees). The free ad-supported version allows 200 attendees. I'm impressed so far.

When's your next webinar?


PS If you think you have to be physically present to achieve your call to action, maybe you can strengthen your content and delivery.

January 15, 2013


woman selling cameraI confess. I didn't know much about selling until 2005. That’s when I switched from working in a life insurance head office to helping insurance salespeople (“advisors”) in the field.

I started listening to audiobooks, attending seminars and observing. As an outsider, I found the recommended sales techniques stale and manipulative. Here's how to prospect. Here's how to handle objections. Here's how to close.

There had to be better ways. Something was missing since advisors were always looking for more clients.


I made three observations
  1. The teachers were often salespeople who failed
  2. The approaches predated the Internet
  3. The techniques were losing potency
During my research, I found these main guides
Ideas followed.


In the life insurance world, the insurers knew more than the sellers who knew more than the buyers. Even now, information doesn't travel freely.  In particular, the buyers might not understand the downsides before signing.

This didn’t make sense. The Internet was bringing transparency to other sectors. Anyone with a web browser had instant access to previously-unavailable information from insiders.

Since the inner workings of the insurance world would eventually be known, why not help? In Feb 2007, I started the Riscario Insider blog to blast the walls away

I figured that advisors would stand out if they started sharing the best of what they knew for free via blogging. I thought this ongoing generosity would invoke reciprocity,create a lasting competitive edge and build trust.

I didn't have research to back up my hypothesis until Dan Pink wrote To Sell Is Human: The Surprising Truth About Moving Others.

Think Pink

Dan makes the point that we're all in selling. Don’t cringe since selling has changed.

Dan observes that the information asymmetry — buyers knowing more than sellers — has generally disappeared. I've said we're moving from buyer beware to seller inform. Since he’s a lawyer, he used Latin to say we’re moving from caveat emptor (buyer beware) to caveat venditor (seller beware).

Dan says the ABCs of selling have changed from Always Be Closing to
  • Attunement: build rapport
  • Buoyancy: be resilient to deal with rejection
  • Clarity: help buyers discover issues they may not have detected
Dan doesn’t merely express his opinions (as I'm doing here). Instead, he's looks at the research, identifies the sources and interprets the findings. The results are compelling. You also get solid, practical tips on how to sell today.

To Sell Is Human is a must read, a must re-read and a must act-upon. Imagine selling becoming noble. Even for insurance.


PS I recently read Sales Dogs (more bark than bite), Close The Deal (feels dated) and Selling The Wheel (less boring than expected). The links are to my Amazon reviews.

January 8, 2013


the 2012 reviewLet’s start 2013 by looking back at what got read on this Marketing Actuary blog last year. If you’re a new reader, this post gives you a quick sample of the content before you subscribe.
  1. The best buying experience: Audi vs. BMW vs. Mercedes-Benz (unchanged)
  2. The folly of Bell/Rogers attack ads
  3. Event planning showdown: Meetup, Eventbrite or proprietary?
  4. Apple’s risky marketing strategy
  5. Let's Get Real: Mahan Khalsa brings ORDER to sales chaos (down from #3)
  6.  The six elements of credibility
  7. The six most influential word groups (down from #2)
  8. The marketing lesson from Easton’s Steve Gupta
  9. Improving Google’s Get Your Business Online (GYBO) initiative (down from #7)
  10. Arranging the perfect social media workshop
Some of these posts are from years ago but still get read. That's an advantage of creating a digital tapestry: what you've done remains available.

Worth Noting

The year ended with 51 new posts for a total of 283 since 2007. Most readers are from the United States, Canada and Great Britain. Visits are up 53%, though the average length has dropped by 12 seconds. Mobile devices account for 11% of the visits. The number of page views is up 44%. Visits via social networks are up 182% (mainly LinkedIn and Twitter).

If you like statistics, you’ll find lots on the yearly highlights on Riscario Insider.

Worth a Peek

Here are the 2012 posts by category.
cancelling the wrong appointmentsTrust
  1. Cancelling the wrong appointments
  2. Three proactive ways to boost your credibility
  3. What is your Trust Score?
  4. Monitoring what’s said about you
  5. Show the prices for your services
  6. Building trust with LinkedIn: your 30-day action plan
  7. Building trust in a transparent world
Get the wind in your sailsPerformance
  1. Three ways to start the year with wind in your sails
  2. What happens when your computer breaks down?
  3. Blogging milestone: 5 years | 500 posts | 250,000 words
  4. Lessons from three different masterminds
  5. Three time tracking tools that work
  6. Three ways for laggards to beat the market leader
  7. Do you show passion in your work?
  8. Why be a nominee Business Excellence Award?
  9. Where to put your To Do list
  10. Team up with competitors to grow your market
  11. Why a private mentor matters (and how to get one for free)
  12. Choosing a CRM solution
lights action cameraEvents
  1. Get ready for your video debut
  2. Make your presentation better than a TED Talk
  3. Dealing with dropping attendance
  4. How to get your audience’s contact details
  5. Would you pay to see this speaker?
  6. Fixing what’s wrong with conferences and networking
  7. Reviewing the SMB Exchange
  8. Are your events free or pay-at-the-door?
do you offend enough people?Positioning
  1. Show your rough edges to unleash your revenue
  2. Reasons to get interviewed on Internet TV
  3. The why and how of writing a book
  4. Are you a visionary?
  5. How the Twitter/LinkedIn split helps you
  6. The essential way to show your skills and expertise
  7. How to refresh your positioning
  8. Why enter competitions of skill
nail in tireFocus
  1. Greater harm than Superstorm Sandy
  2. Do you delegate or outsource the wrong things?
  3. How to prune your network
  4. Bad business lessons from the Olympics
  5. How to respond to bad news
  6. What will you stop doing?
MDown the drainarketing
  1. Marketing ideas from wasting water
  2. Apple’s risky marketing strategy
  3. Marketing to the lazy or overwhelmed
  4. Tips to modernize your website
  5. The three biggest mistakes your clients make
  6. Design-Sell-Make: test if your market exists like Seth Godin did on Kickstarter
  7. Competing with a commodity: fudge on Mackinaw Island
  8. Five steps to freshen your group’s online appeal
  9. Get Back To School with your marketing
How’s that for last year? Let’s make this one even better.
PS Maybe it’s time for you to start your own blog?