April 29, 2014


Attention is very difficult to get these days. Digital piracy helps spread the word and offers free access. Studies show that piracy is not harming the entertainment business. In fact, Netflix uses piracy sites to gauge what’s popular and worth adding to their service.

The record-breaking piracy of Game Of Thrones doesn’t concern HBO (see Forbes and The Motley Fool). Time Warner CEO Jeff Bewkes said this about piracy:
Our experience is, it all leads to more penetration, more paying subs [subscribers], more health for HBO, less reliance on having to do paid advertising… If you go around the world, I think you’re right, Game of Thrones is the most pirated show in the world. Well, you know, that’s better than an Emmy.

HBO’s Advantage

HBO gets credit for each pirated copy. Downloaders want the original. A variation — say  Games of Thrones — might fool people temporarily.

If what you do gets pirated, the recipients may not know they getting the original. They may not even care unless they believe you’re better (and know you exist).

What you create can be copied whether text, audio, video or photo. With 3D printers, physical objects are getting easier to duplicate too. If you can’t stop piracy, how can you benefit? Let’s look at three steps.

1. Make Something Worth Stealing

What are you creating that’s worth stealing in the first place?

What you do is likely similar to what your competitors do. You may follow standard procedures and have learned from the same teachers (for example, to sell investments, life insurance or real estate). Do your terminology and processes differ enough for a buyer to notice and care?

What makes you truly different? Maybe you have expertise in a niche. Maybe your background gives you an edge.

2. Demonstrate Your Ownership

Getting attention is a big challenge even if you’ve got the best solution. Invisibility hurts you. People with lesser ideas but more visibility have an edge.  You need to take steps so that you don’t disappear.

When you put content online, you establish a timeline. You show you were first. A web searcher can see you were the originator. For this to work, you’ll need to publish on sites where users can’t change timestamps (e.g., on Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+). A blog or website may allow manipulation.

3. Keep Creating

If you’re a thought leader, you won’t run out of ideas. You’ll likely have too many. As you share your current thinking, you’re getting further ahead. The pirates can copy faster than you create but they can’t copy what’s going on in your head — your creation process. They can’t have the same understanding. How can they get ahead?

Our Fears

We don’t want our ideas stolen. Fear of our competitors may hold us back from sharing content that would attract buyers. Is that prudent?

I’ve had ideas stolen. Once, a vice president at a bank branch in another city sent out one of my blog posts under his name. How did that get through the Compliance department? I found out because a connection asked for my opinion on the ideas. I responded saying I agreed 100% and linked to my original post. I didn’t contact the plagiarist who ended up losing a client.

You don’t have to give everything away. Be selective. You wouldn’t publish your “secret recipe” or post your source code. What can you lose by showing your processes at a high level, publishing case studies or sharing your ideas?

Related Links

PS Even if you don’t get pirated, you’ll be easier to find online.

April 23, 2014


The Global Change Initiative
Words like “global change” sound good but what lasting results are possible? We’ll find out at The Global Change Initiative, which takes place at Toronto City Hall May 30 – Jun 1, 2014.

The Curator

Dev RamsumairDev Ramsumair is leading the initiative. He has an impressive background and vast connections. For instance, here’s what Paul McCartney told him:
“I’m going to give you one piece of advice for the rest of your life: You need to go somewhere where there’s just wheat and trees and you’re going to be forced to create something that no one’s ever seen.” — Entrenomics interview
The Global Change Initiative looks like a result. I’m glad we won’t be meeting in wheat fields! Dev’s enthusiasm and energy are contagious.  He’s doing much of the work himself. Normally an event of this scale would require longer preparation and a larger team. 

We’ve yet to meet but have chatted on the phone. I got introduced by peer mentor Carol Roberts of Stellar By Choice Consulting. She’s a speaker. I got selected too. I’m talking about a win/win: how social justice (doing what’s ‘right’) boosts profits.

The Global Change Initiative supportersThe Supporters

The supporters already announced are quite diverse.
Besides the City of Toronto, MaRS and the Centre for Social Innovation, there are surprises like UNESCO and Reddit. And the Avenue Q puppets. How is that range even possible?

The Format

As with many other events, you’ll find multiple speakers for variety. The difference is that they aren’t crunched into an exhausting single day. The Global Change Initiative takes place over three evenings and two days. That allows more time for mingling and thinking — and a greater commitment on the part of the delegates.

The SpeakersThe Reach

How do you reach the people around the world who aren’t attending?

Many events have live tweeting. The Global Change Initiative has support from news sharing site reddit (“the front page of the Internet”). You may be familiar with the reddit AMA (Ask Me Anything) where guests have included Peter Dinklage, Barack Obama and Harrison Ford.

I knew reddit was big but didn’t know the scale. According to Alexa, it’s the 60th most popular website in the world. In the last month, reddit had 114.9 million unique visitors  from 190 countries who viewed 5.4 billion pages (see current stats). I’ve opened an account.

The Vision

The goal of The Global Change Initiative isn’t just to create a stimulating event where life returns to normal by the time you get home. The goal is to create global change. When communities, businesses, institutions and governments collaborate, imagine the possibilities.


PS There’s nothing wrong with local change either.

April 15, 2014


For the sweetest deal in real estate, call me!
Part way through a coffee meeting, a real estate agent gave me a tiny box the size of a business card and the thickness of a deck of cards.

The page on top was more like photocopier stock than card stock.
It had two messages:
  • “For the sweetest deal in real estate, call me!” and
  • “Oh, by the way … I’m never too busy for any of your referrals!”
One business card was taped underneath. Below that was a small box that held three small football-shaped Lindt chocolates that looked nothing like the photo.

What Effect?

The agent’s intentions were good but was this approach effective?

Virtually anyone can use the same message: “For the sweetest deal in (fill in the blank), call me!” and who would refuse referrals?

If you get the sweetest deal, doesn’t the other side gets the bitterest deal? Maybe a sweet deal is better and leads to less cavities.

The Perfect Gift

The perfect gift is significant, personalized and unexpected, according to Robert Cialdini. Does chocolate qualify?
  • significant? No since we have lots of chocolate at home. Besides, I got a normal box of Lindt truffles at another event.
  • personalized? Partially since my name was added to a pre-printed sheet. I would have preferred a fully handwritten card.
  • unexpected? No since I saw the box the whole time and knew the purpose (best to hide it)
The chocolate was probably on sale at the nearby Lindt Factory Outlet. I paid for our coffees, which probably cost more. Also, I was spending something much more valuable, my irreplaceable time. I felt let down at what looked more like unsubtle manipulation than generosity.

The Ask

A tiny box of chocolates from an outlet is cheap. Real estate is expensive. How does one small gift lead to a big commission? Repetition helps but are we likely going to get chocolate on a regular basis. Do we even want more?

Besides, there are lots of real estate agents that look interchangeable. How do you pick one? Chocolate gives no indication of skill (e.g., in negotiating).

A Better Approach

Timely ongoing information makes a much more useful gift. The content could be about the area of specialty, real estate. Not the generic articles that come with the junk mail every month. But something original that shows a genuine desire and ability to help prospects. The value and name recognition builds with consistency.

Emailing information via a newsletter allows tracking and cost-effective scaling. Buying and delivering chocolate does not.

Standing Out

We've dealt with real estate agents for ages. Not a single gave such a small gift. Not a single one gave useful ongoing information either. There's an opportunity to stand out.

Asking for a referral when giving the chocolate is bold — too bold for a first meeting. Would small bait land a big referral?

How was the chocolate? I don't know. I gave it to a child who might appreciate something that small.


PS Another gift, is paying attention to what your clients are doing and helping them succeed.

April 9, 2014


baseball - cancel a pitch?You’re ready for your important meeting. You arrived early. You dressed well. You printed the slides in case their projector doesn’t work. You have your presentation on a memory stick and your computer. You’ve got nice packages to leave behind. You practiced and practiced. They expressed interest in what you offer.
Then things start going wrong.

The meeting starts late. Some of the planned group don’t attend even though they are in the department. The ones who do show up seem distracted. What do you do?

Keep Calm and Carry On?

It's tempting to push ahead. After all, you’re ready. They need your help. Your presentation is powerful. They’re bound to be swayed and able to convince the decision makers who aren’t there. Maybe … but you're taking a big risk. You can't tell how receptive they are because you don't know what else is going on in their heads.

If you're giving a pitch and they're not listening, stop.

You gain little by continuing. Maybe they never really wanted to see you. If they agreed to meet, that seems unlikely because their time is valuable. It’s more likely that something unexpected happened.
We can't tell what's going on in someone's life. There could be a personal emergency or a work crisis. You don't know. Maybe they decided to buy from someone else.

Another Time

They may tell you to proceed anyway and ask for handouts for the ones who aren’t there. Is complying in your best interest? You risk diluting your impact.

Consider rescheduling. This is difficult if you flew in from another city but easy if you're local. Yes, you wasted your travel time but you’re giving them a valuable gift: unexpected free time. You invoke reciprocity, the #1 universal principle of influence. They’ll likely agree to meet again. They may even reveal why they’re unprepared at the moment.

By rescheduling, you show that you’re observant, generous and considerate. Isn't that the sort of person they want to do business with?

Next Time

What will you do differently next time? If potential clients tend get distracted by the bustle in their office, pick a different location. If they get answer each phone call, pick a quieter time. When they're out of their environment and deviating from their normal routine, you have a better chance at their attention.

When do you get the best results in business meetings? Maybe mornings early in the week beat afternoons late in the week. If you're not able to schedule a meeting at an optimal time, maybe you're better off waiting until you can. If they're busy in the morning, how about meeting for breakfast before their normal day starts?


PS By rescheduling, you gain free time too. Maybe you beat the traffic back. And get an idea for a blog post.

April 1, 2014


If you want people to trust you, be wary of using humor. That's because a joke is a trick — things aren't what they seem. There's a twist in meaning. If they’ve heard the joke before, you risk looking like a copycat — or a plagiarist if you create the impression that you’re the author.

Do you want to be associated with trickery? Do you want to leave a slight doubt about your truthfulness. Maybe you’re a master and people have trouble instantly telling whether you’re serious or funny.  Congratulations, but what have you really accomplished?


Your humor might not be understood or appreciated. We meet people of different ages, cultures and experiences. We don't know what's going on in their heads. What if they’re dealing with personal pain. Maybe they need to laugh but you add to their anguish by being insensitive by mistake. How does that lead to business?
Example: Toyota
At a Toyota dealership, we asked to test drive a Highlander. The sales rep said "No" and then after seeing our surprised expressions added "just kidding".

The harm was already done. We weren't there for a laugh (or to be laughed at).

We might have been receptive if we were in a different mood. We were visiting our third vendor that evening. The first place didn't have a Highlander available (even though I drove one that afternoon and made an appointment). The second place didn't have a Highlander in the showroom and no one was available to talk to us. We were at the third place and already tired.

We eventually got our test drive but were discouraged to save time by not going on the highway. The rep joked again: we should go to another dealership for a proper city/highway test drive and then return to buy from him. Really?

Related: The best buying experience revisited


You needn't be 100% serious either. Please don't! You can’t bore people into buying. I’ve tried!

You don't need to tell jokes to show you see the lighter side of life. You exude your personality by what you say and especially by what you do over time. A good sense of humor is one of the seven components of dynamic personal influence.

April Fools Day Classics

When I was in university, the London Free Press ran a BMW ad showing their latest innovation: an engine which ran on fuel extracted from raw potatoes. As a non-chemist, the details looked semi-plausible. The conclusion? In the future, we’d fill up at the grocery store rather than the gas station.

I'll (now) admit that I was fooled, but no one knew.


PS Save the chuckles for your buddies at the bar, especially if you use banker jokes — the ones where only the tellers laugh.