November 27, 2013


Microsoft and honesty?Honestly, Microsoft and Dell misled me.

I keep getting reminders to upgrade from Windows 8 to Windows 8.1. What's more, the upgrade is free and designed to fix annoyances with Windows 8 (e.g., the lack of a Start button).

I've learned over the years that Microsoft loves hype (Apple does too, but they often delivered in the Steve Jobs era). I've suffered by paying for lousy updates like Windows ME.

Defer Upgrades

My new practice is to only upgrade when buying a new computer. When I got my new Dell mere months ago, I wanted Windows 7. That operating system works extremely well and much of what I do is browser-based. Windows 8 didn’t offer anything worthwhile since my computer doesn’t have a touch screen. Dell didn’t allow a “downgrade” to Windows 7. That meant I got stuck with Windows 8. It's not horrible but its not unnoticeable improvement either.

Anyway, I kept getting these reminders to upgrade to Windows 8.1. I didn't earlier because nothing was broken  and I was wary of new problems arising. By now, the bugs had to be fixed, right?

The instructions say the installation only starts when you accept the new license. I figured I could at least download the new version. I decided to proceed yesterday. The process is very slow but I was able to use my computer during the download.


After hours passed. When I returned from a meeting, a message said my computer would reboot in seven minutes and to save my work. With normal updates you can delay the reboot until you're ready. I thought that was the case here. I expected another reminder, which I could also delay. No No No.

My computer rebooted automatically.

I didn’t have a chance to finish saving my work. This was very annoying because I was nearly done. After the reboot, I accepted the lengthy new license and answered several questions. After waiting and waiting, all I got was a black screen. The hard disk light keeps flashing, which suggests that something is installing. When I move the mouse, I see the pointer and the circle which indicates something is in process. That's been going on for hours.

Get Back

Apparently you can revert to Windows 8 if the installation fails. That option did not appear. An online search says that going back requires a reinstallation of the operating system. That means having to reinstall all the applications too. The data might be preserved.

In my case, I have backups made in real time via CrashPlan and Dropbox. I doubt I'll lose anything except time but time is precious. I'll call Dell because I have their highest level of support. From what I can tell from my online search, the difficulties may have arisen from the drivers for the video card. Either Dell didn’t update them or Microsoft didn’t install the the right ones.

The moral: beware of what companies tell you. Technology, updates can be much more of a hassle then warranted. That's a price early adopters seem willing to pay. I wasn’t. No gain. More pain.


PS Your clients may be wary when you offer them something new …

November 19, 2013


Taking notesThe palest ink is better than the best memory — Chinese proverb

“Let me write that down.”

Have you ever been in a meeting where the other person pulls out pen/paper or smartphone/tablet to write down something you just said? Even though the conversation has been going on for a while.

How do you feel?

Um ... didn't I say anything worthwhile before? That's the implication. We take notes when we want to remember something important to us. That's universal. Even if you think you have a perfect memory, who's going to believe you? When you don't take notes, you're implying that what's being said isn't very important. You may claim to have an amazing memory. Maybe you do. Will others believe you?

Taking notes improves your listening skills. You're now engaging another sense. You're less likely to daydream. You're more likely to focus.

Even if much of the conversation is banal, you still benefit by taking notes. As a minimum, you're improving your note-taking skills. Wait a second you say. When I'm writing notes, I'm not looking at the other person and reading their body language. True but you are paying more attention to what they're saying and how they are saying it. That has value too.


One of the best ways to pay someone today is with attention. That's exactly what note-taking does. You can take notes on your smartphone but this is slow unless you have a stylus as with the Samsung Galaxy Note series. When you use electronics, there's a temptation to get distracted. What does that unread email say? Even if you don't wander, the others may think you're not paying attention because they'd get distracted in that situation.

Using paper alleviates those concerns. At worst, you could be making a grocery list or jotting down words for a blog post. At least you're being more discreet then you could be with an electronic device.


Taking notes is very respectful. Even if you throw those notes away later, the optics look terrific and more will stay in your head. In my case, I scan the notes and give them a file name that helps with future searches. I put action items into a To Do list.

You don't need a large notepad. You can have a second smaller one that easily fits into a pocket or purse as a backup. For maximum benefit, start using it from the start of the conversation.


PS Taking notes is also worthwhile during presentations.

November 12, 2013


quarterlyWhat marketing are you doing quarterly? Consider switching to monthly for better results and possibly less work.

Glossy magazines from BMW and Mercedes don't follow a pattern I can spot. They seem random. I don't anticipate them. I don't know if I've missed an issue. Compare that with Wired, which arrives monthly. I don't know the target date but I know the frequency.

If you're sending an electronic publication like a newsletter, a quarterly publication is very easy for subscribers to overlook. We get so much email. If you published monthly instead, you've tripled your chances of getting seen and read. Besides, you get readership results sooner.

Staples flyer "sneak peek"Retailers

Staples has started sending an email on Monday to alert me of their sale starting on Wednesday. How annoying. I can peek at the flyer but don't bother since I can't buy. What they sell isn’t exciting enough to be worth the wait.

In contrast, Best Buy sends an email on Fridays and sometimes on other days of the week for special events. These are predictable and random. That works. You can usually buy right way, unless they’re having an “after hours” sale.

A quarterly publication likely takes more work but may not create the same impact since your readers may receive it at the wrong time for them. What if they wanted to buy last month?


What’s done quarterly feels like a project while monthly feels like routine work. More important, you build anticipation in your audience with a higher frequency.

We aren't constrained by page size or number of pages any more. We've eliminated the time and money that goes into printing. We can use a fraction of those resources to commit to a more frequent schedule.


You may feel you don’t have enough time to publish monthly. That's good because you’re then motivated to find ways to get faster. Maybe you compromise slightly on the quality (more like a blog post than a magazine article). Does that really matter? Remember the 80/20 rule.

It's easy to procrastinate if you publish quarterly. There seems to be so much time. Besides, if you're late by a day or two, who will know? With a mailed publication, they won't. With email they will. Worse, they can quickly refer back to past issues to see if you were consistent.


I published a monthly newsletter on the second Thursday of the month at 10 AM for 42 consecutive months. I posted the schedule for the year online to make the commitment public (and as a reminder to me). After a while, you don't want to miss a date.

Blogging is similar. There's a fresh post here each Tuesday. Activities which are daily, weekly or monthly become routine and scheduled. Quarterly and annual are tougher.

Why not the first day or last day of the month? The pattern would be easier to engrain but the day of the week keeps changing. Some issues would go out on weekends or holidays. That might matter. Who's going to read on December 31st or January 1st? Also, scheduling your work gets more complicated since you're doing things on different days of the week each month. That may be suboptimal for your workflow.

If You Must Be Quarterly

If you must do some marketing quarterly, can you pick a memorable day? For example,
  • the start of a new season (Mar, Jun, Sep, Dec)
  • the second of Jan, Apr, Jul, Sep (the start of a new calendar quarter)
  • the first of Nov, Feb, May, Aug (perhaps less competition)
Boosting your frequency helps make a more lasting impression on your target market. Getting readership data sooner helps you make changes more quickly. Don’t you want both?


PS Maybe what you’re doing monthly would be more effective weekly?

November 5, 2013


pulling an airplaneIf you’re selling the best product, at the lowest price, with the best support and at the highest compensation, congratulations! If not, read on.

No company excels at everything. Compromises get made. For example, life insurers that sell through independent advisors aim to be reasonably competitive. They often think they are. Showing otherwise takes some skill.

Let's say you find one company's commissions are relatively low. What can you do? Here’s a three step process which also works for other changes you may want.

1. Prove It

Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy.
--- Benjamin Franklin
Talk is quick. Proof takes work. An apples-to-apples comparison goes far in getting change. For proof to be effective, you must compare fairly, unlike Hyundai claiming their Sonata is better than a BMW 525 (watch the commercial).

  Summarize your proof in a pleasant email and attach the evidence for review. Why not phone? You can but email makes your message easy to forward and leaves records that show you’re serious.

2. Tell The Right Person

Once you've got proof, tell the right person. If you don’t have rapport with the decision maker, start with someone who’s likely on your side. Who directly benefits from your sales? Your distributor or wholesaler probably does.

Do you carbon copy everyone you know on your email? No! If you started with the right person, they’ll likely investigate or forward your email to someone who will. When you involve too many people, you might slow down the process and alienate people who might have helped you.

3. Pause Before Following Up

People are busy. Marking your request "ASAP" may actually hurt. You're better off allowing a day or two for a reply. In the ideal world, you'll receive quick acknowledgment of your query and an estimate of when to expect an answer.

You might not get an immediate change but you will make an impression. Companies want to be reasonably competitive. Sometimes they aren't but didn't know. If others make similar requests, changes are more likely.


PS Refrain from going public via social media before, during or afterwards. You don’t want to damage relationships.