May 29, 2013


100% extra freeFree is the magical price but there's a feeling that paid is better. That's not always true.

How would Gmail or Trello (my review) be better if you paid? Companies have different business models. Google seems to give things away to keep us online longer, which increases the chances we’ll see ads.

We'll look at two examples.

Blogs: Blogger vs WordPress

Google's Blogger ( is simple and free. Your tweaking is limited, which gives you more time for writing — the heart of blogging. gives much more flexibility but that costs you money and attention. You can tweak and optimize but maybe you’re procrastinating? If blogging is your business, your investment in may be worthwhile. Otherwise, Blogger gives you more than you really need. There is a free version of WordPress but is too limited to consider.

Newsletters: MailChimp vs Constant Contact

MailChimp has a Free Forever account which offers more than most of us need (free messages to 2,000 subscribers). You can upgrade to paid accounts with a monthly subscription or pay-per-use with stamps.

Constant Contact does more live marketing and their content is very good. For instance, they are sponsoring the free Social Marketing Summit from Enterprise Toronto on June 11th. Constant Contact seems to have good support but there is no free plan (just a 60 day trial with only 100 contacts).

Web services are most likely to connect with MailChimp. For example, I'm currently testing Contactually and Nimble after abandoning other CRM solutions. Neither works with Constant Contact (at least not now).

Why Free?

Free doesn't have to mean less. There are other ways to make money. Gmail has advertising.

Free brings more buzz. That's free advertising. Free attracts people who might never have tried the service. Would you have joined LinkedIn if you had to pay? Free can start the path to paid (the freemium model).

Free brings more users, which means more information about their usage. That can help in setting priorities and selling ads. There's more user testing too.

The Real Cost

Whether or not you pay money, your real cost is your time. Paying often gives you more options ... which devour more of your precious time to evaluate, select and master. If you believe in the 80/20 rule, do you really want more choice?

Apps on tablets and smartphones help you focus by removing distractions. All you can do is what you’re doing. That’s appealing.


I'm reluctant to recommend a paid solution when there are free options. Getting started is the toughest part and price is a hurdle.

For my new private Sanctum social network, I was planning to charge a monthly subscription. That has hurt the community size. I switched to free to remove the obstacle. There may be a charge for additional features someday but not soon. Lesson learned.

What can you offer for free?


PS Maybe some of the best things in life are free after all.

May 21, 2013


Niagara FallsDo you remember your first visit to Niagara Falls? (If you haven't been, substitute another dream-for-you location like the Grand Canyon or Taj Mahal that you’ve visited.)

Do you remember the anticipation, the wow? Perhaps followed by the "then what"?

Your experience of Niagara Falls depends on factors such as the
  • the time of day
  • the season
  • the weather
  • how much time you have
  • your stress level
  • whether you're there voluntarily
  • who you're with
  • how long you're there
  • how often you visit
  • why you're there
  • where you view (Canada, US, the air, the water, a hotel or restaurant)
  • your condition (tired, stressed, rushed)
  • how much you care about nature
  • the crowds
Some factors you control, others you influence and others you might as well accept.

The Same Isn't Enough

Niagara Falls State Park (click to visit site)We quickly get bored.

The first rainbow is impressive and maybe the second but the third? The postcards don't lie (though they may be embellished).

Niagara Falls keeps changing. There are renovations and new features. For instance,  the Canadian side has a casino and a bird place which seem relatively new. On the US side, the Niagara Falls State Park is undergoing renovations for the 2013 peak season. Hotels get renovated, though they may look the same from the outside. Once our sofa got replaced during our stay. It's much nicer to be the first to use the new than the last to use the old.

Your Clients

Your clients and prospects will have different perceptions of you too. That’s not (entirely) your fault but you do have influence.

Expectations are different to predict and they change.

You can stay the same (let's say you're great). That's not enough to be a repeat attraction. Can you keep changing? What's your equivalent of a light show or renovations?

Since expectations keep changing, keep changing too. You probably are --- you can't help it --- but does anyone know? Unless you help people notice, they won't get the benefits. Neither will you. Seller inform.


PS If you haven't visited Niagara Falls, do. If the falls aren't enough, you'll find lots of tourist-trap type things too.

May 14, 2013


the goal?It doesn't matter who wins or loses ... unless you lose when winning matters.

Tip: avoid having a three goal lead in Game 7 of a Stanley Cup playoff and losing in overtime like the Maple Leafs did (CBC Sports, May 13, 2013).

At the highest levels of competition, the differences between winner and loser are often miniscule. Look at the Olympics.
Sometimes the pros cheat to get ahead since incentives affect behavior. The honest competitors get tainted too (though maybe they are complicit by not reporting how abuses could take place). Honesty isn't often black and white but a gradient: minor decisions like “borrowing” a paper clip from work can lead to falsified expense reports.

The Emotions

Watching competitions is emotional. The thrill of victory and the despair of defeat. It’s easy to get engrossed. Do you realize how much time you’re spending watching, discussing and thinking about a game?

Fans get caught up in the competition but do the players wear gear with the names of fans written on the back? Unlikely. The attention doesn’t flow both ways.

Another Way

Jeffrey Gitomer asks how much money you make watching TV. He could also ask how much you earn watching sports (let's ignore gambling).

We have limited time and attention. Both are irreplaceable. Invest some in yourself. You then become the winner and have your own fans who give you referrals. Aren't you worth the bet?

You get results when you focus on what Stephen Covey calls your Circle Of Influence --- stuff you can do stuff about. Sports and other competitions may be in your Circle Of Concern but do you affect the outcome?

Stand Apart

We're defined by what we refuse to do ---- especially when others can’t resist the temptation. Spending less time as a passive observer (a couch potato) will not hurt you.

When you focus on what makes a difference, you learn. You get closer to results and further ahead of your competitors. You get ahead fairly. You become the winner while others remain watchers.


PS There is a place for entertainment but there is also a place for getting results for yourself.

May 7, 2013


YOUR EVENT TEXT HEREHow do you make your networking event worth attending? We’ll look at three formats:
  • speaker-based
  • facilitated networking
  • infomercials from the podium


Networking may not be enough of an attraction. A speaker or topic may be the draw with networking as the bonus.

These events are easy to mess up.

Who made the selection? If sponsors have any input, the event suffers. It's best to pick speakers on their own merits. The sponsors get recognition in the invitations, on signs, on the screen and from the host. Isn’t that enough?

You're more likely to get sponsors on the platform when tickets are free. That's why I prefer paid events.
FP Reach 2013Examples
At FP Reach 2013 from the Financial Post, some sponsors were speakers. They took up spots that others could have been used better. There was some self-promotion. No thanks. I'm not planning to return.

imageIn contrast, the Small Business Summit from The Globe and Mail does not give sponsors a microphone or waste much time thanking them. Yeah, we know sponsors help make the event possible. Attendees do too.

Facilitated Networking

Random networking --- walk into a room and talk to whoever you bump into --- has limited value. It’s easy to get struck talking to people you wish weren’t there.

Former Toronto Board Of TradeEnter facilitated networking. The former Toronto Board of Trade did this best. You were pre-assigned to two or three tables, each with a facilitator and 6-8 networkers. The facilitator made sure that everyone got 120 seconds to talk. That's much more civilized than 30 to 45 seconds. You have time to say something with substance rather than a hook. You also get to hear from 5-7 other people. You quickly know who you would like to talk to further. One round takes about 15-20 minutes to finish. You then repeat the process at a different table.

Sometimes you get stuck listening to sponsors. Once, I heard infomercials from four bankers. They were of no interest since they would never give me a referral. Sometimes you have organizers at your table. This is reasonably good: as they get to know you, they can introduce others to you.

Infomercials From The Podium

I've been to several events where everyone gets 30-45 seconds at the microphone. I like the practice by not the events. Your brain gets numb when you hear commercial after commercial.
Star Business Club
The Star Business Club had an interesting variation. They “only” allowed 30 infomercials (pre-selected in advance). The messages were delivered 10 at a time with networking in between. This was a nice improvement on an unsatisfying concept.

Tip: try an infomercial if you get a chance. However, pay attention to each second. Edit to fit the timeframe the way TV commercials do.

Mississauga Board of TradeThe Mississauga Board of Trade had an interesting approach for Good Morning Mississauga. Five pre-selected members each gave two minute infomercials. You'd apply in advance, pay extra and wait months (three in my case). Unfortunately, the rest of the event had random networking. Ugh!


An ideal event has more than one purpose --- something for everyone. I like
  • a speaker or two: education
  • facilitated networking
  • food (sit down): more relaxing
  • getting a scan of business cards afterwards: can't meet everyone you want (cards included by permission)


Western AlumniThese days, my favourite networking series in Toronto are from the Star Business Club and Western Alumni. The latest Western event (where I volunteered) took place at The Bata Shoe Museum. We got a guided tour, a professor as a speaker, snacks and networking. That's excellent value for $15. .


PS Since creating events is complicated, you might start by attending events that others have organized.