Friday, August 31, 2012
Madura McCormack | Aug. 30, 2012
It looks like more Singaporeans are trading in physical baskets for the online shopping cart.
In a report released by survey company Nielsen on 28 August, three out of five Singaporeans have gone online looking for grocery deals.
With a sample size of 500 online consumers in Singapore, the survey [titled the Nielsen Global Survey of Digital Influence on Grocery Shopping] confirms that Singapore surpasses Asia Pacific when it comes to looking for deals online at 58 percent.
The report notes that looking up product information, coupons and price comparison are popular online grocery shopping activities.
Managing director for Nielsen Singapore stated that although not as prevalent as other [online shopping] categories, there are many opportunities for marketers to identify and engage consumers. This is further supported by the statistics, with 41 percent of respondents claiming they have purchased at least one grocery product in the last month.
With the apparent surge in Web grocery shopping, it's time for physical supermarkets to start stocking their cyber shelves.
Thursday, August 30, 2012
STATE OF THE ART
Potluck for the Eyeballs: Amazon's Streaming Service
By DAVID POGUE
Published: August 30, 2012
In the olden days, bargains added spice to life. You'd get a free toaster with a new bank account, or a collectible drinking glass with a gas fill-up. Old-timers even claim that at one time, you got free meals on airplanes.
Today, most of that is gone - but streaming movie plans are still around.
Netflix, for example, offers a huge catalog of on-demand movies and TV shows. You can watch as many of them as you want for a fixed $8 a month. For less than the price of a single movie ticket, you can watch movies until your eyeballs fall out.
Of course, you need a fast Internet connection. You don't get any DVD extras, like featurettes or director commentaries. The picture quality generally isn't even as good as a DVD, let alone a Blu-ray disc.
Still, this service has become hugely popular; Netflix's army of 27 million streaming-video subscribers dwarfs its 9 million DVD-by-mail members. Incredibly, Netflix video streams make up one-quarter of all Internet data transmitted in North America.
The service has had a huge cultural impact. It's led many people to cancel their cable TV service. (Netflix has "30 Rock," "Lost," "The Office," "Mythbusters," "Monk," "Glee," "South Park," "Downton Abbey" and dozens of other complete series.)
And it's popularized "binge viewing." That's when people watch multiple seasons of a TV show, nonstop, commercial-free, back to back, as their mail piles up and lawns get reclaimed by nature.
So it didn't take long for rivals to start sniffing out the same territory. Big ones, like Amazon.
Instead of paying Netflix $8 a month, you get Amazon's streaming-movie service free with the purchase of an Amazon Prime membership - $79 a year. (That comes out to $6.58 a month, although you can't actually pay monthly.)
Prime membership started out as an attractive option for people who shop a lot on Amazon: for $79 a year, you get free two-day shipping on almost any purchase (or $4 overnight). Then Amazon added those streaming movies to the Prime perks, and then added one free Kindle e-book rental a month.
Random, right? It's like a Fruit of the Month Club membership that comes with free oil changes, ski socks and tax advice.
Still, Prime is a great deal. Even if you don't care about free shipping or e-book downloads, you're getting unlimited movies for less than Netflix's $8 a month.
So is that it, then? Has Amazon turned Netflix's streaming-movie plan into an overpriced relic of 2010?
Not unless you're getting the same thing for the money. To determine that, you have to ask three questions: What is there to watch? Where can you watch it? And what's the experience of watching like?
WHAT TO WATCH First of all, let's get some expectation-setting out of the way. Streaming-movie services have hundreds of good movies - but the catalogs lack far more than they stock. In other words, you'll always be able to find something good to watch, but don't expect to find a particular movie.
Most of the movies are old. On Netflix, for example, there's lots of great stuff: "Chinatown," "The Big Lebowski," "Office Space," "The Graduate," "Breakfast at Tiffany's," "Sling Blade," "Being John Malkovich," "Memento," and on and on.
But recent stuff is sparser. There are a few brand-name, late-model movies - "Thor," "Captain America," "Super 8," "Limitless," "The Rum Diary," "The Lincoln Lawyer" - but not much else you've heard of from 2011 or 2012. There are no "Harry Potter," "Pirates of the Caribbean," "Mission: Impossible" or "Twilight" movies. Nothing from Pixar, either, although Netflix gets DreamWorks Animation movies next year.
Netflix used to have many more recent movies, thanks to now-expired deals with companies like Starz. Lately, its emphasis has moved to TV shows; in four years, its TV-to-movies ratio has shifted from 20/80 to 60/40. It has exclusive deals with AMC (so you get "Mad Men" and "Breaking Bad") and the CW network ("90210" and "The Vampire Diaries").
Netflix is even producing its own TV shows now - for example, a 13-part political thriller, "House of Cards," directed by David Fincher, and a reboot of "Arrested Development" (genius!). You'll have to be a Netflix subscriber to see those.
Amazon's collection is similar: you can always find good movies there, but nothing recent, and they are surrounded by mountains of no-name chaff. The recognizable names include the "Matrix" movies, two of the "Mission: Impossible" movies, and the greatest hits of decades past ("Kramer Vs. Kramer," "A Passage to India," "L.A. Confidential," "Last of the Mohicans" and so on).
Amazon says that it has 5,189 movies available for free Prime streaming, and about 20,000 TV episodes. The TV catalog includes "The West Wing" (an exclusive), lots of PBS shows and, coming soon, NBC series that Netflix already has, like "Parks & Recreation," "Parenthood," "Friday Night Lights," "Heroes" and "Battlestar Galactica." There are 48,000 or so other movies on the service, but they cost a few dollars to watch.
WHERE TO WATCH Both services let you watch on your Mac or PC, Roku box, Xbox, PlayStation 3, Nintendo 3DS or tablet (iPad or Kindle Fire). (You generally have to install the proper player software first.)
You can watch on your actual TV, too, if you have the right set-top box, Blu-ray player or TV set from Samsung, Sony, or LG. Still, Netflix wins here; it's also available on TiVo, Apple TV, iPhone, Nintendo Wii, Android phones and tablets, Nook color e-book readers, the Boxee box, Windows Phones and more Blu-ray players and TV sets - 900 models in all, says the company. Yes, that's right: you live in an age where you can watch real movies on your cellphone. Watch for low-flying hovercraft.
WHAT WATCHING IS LIKE Even with your face mashed against two screens playing side-by-side, it's hard to declare one of these services a picture-quality winner. Both remember your place in a movie if you resume watching it on another gadget.
More than 80 percent of Netflix movies now offer subtitles; none of Amazon's do. Those subtitles are a godsend if you're having trouble hearing, you want to mute the TV, or you can't understand Sylvester Stallone. And when you scroll a Netflix movie, scene thumbnails appear above your cursor so you know how far you've scanned; on Amazon, you have to guess.
Netflix's Web site and recommendation technologies are far more evolved than Amazon's, too. For example, the Amazon videos that cost extra often clutter your search results and get you all excited for nothing.
Netflix's site bursts with suggestions for additional movies you might like, courtesy of its famous taste algorithms. Since it doesn't have pay-to-view titles, it's a lot easier to keep your bearings.
The bottom line: Netflix beats Prime on movie selection, site clarity and playback features. It has much more to watch, too; Netflix won't say how many movies it has, but informed estimates put its catalog as twice the size of Amazon's.
Both companies are spending hundreds of millions of dollars to snap up rights to more videos. (An imminent Amazon deal will bring thousands more movies to its catalog, I hear.)
That's terrific. Still, for both services, for years to come, it will be safer to say "I'm sure I can find something I like" than "I'm sure I can find that one movie."
Amazon Prime costs less than Netflix; if you find value in the free shipping and Kindle downloads, it costs a lot less. And if you've come to accept that both of these services are more a potluck dinner than a complete menu, maybe the smaller catalog doesn't matter.
Fortunately, there's an easy way to find out how much the price/catalog size drawbacks bother you: sign up for a free month of each service. After all, there's only one deal better than $7 or $8 a month for unlimited movie watching: unlimited movie watching for $0.
Correction: August 29, 2012, Wednesday
This article has been revised to reflect the following correction: An earlier version of this review incorrectly included the iPhone and the Wii among devices that work with both the Amazon and Netflix streaming services. Those two devices work only with Netflix's service.
But now that a year has gone by, how have businesses used these Hangouts? How can we all use them to increase engagement with our customers and to build our brands?
Below are a few suggestions.
1. Office Meetings
Meetings are the bane of many people's existence. They're often mindless, unproductive, and, if you're not careful, can eat up an entire afternoon's productivity. And that's why at least one company has decided to use Google+ to change that.
In an article for Entrepreneur.com, Lisa Girard tells how InQuicker, a health-care IT company, began using Google Hangouts to revamp their in-office meetings. By allowing their 10-person team to use Google+ to share the screen, InQuicker found that the less formal meeting were both more productive and happier. It helped them to stop looking at meetings as a "speed bump" and let everyone stay focused on the task at hand – doing the actual work.
2. Brainstorming Sessions
We all have those moments when two (or three or four) heads would be better than one. In your company's lifecycle this may include when it's time to think up your next product, to decide what conferences you want to attend, to create your content marketing calendar for the month, or to dream up local events for your community.
By holding virtual brainstorming sessions it allows everyone to get together and pitch ideas in a rich, collaborative environment. You can invite staff members to participate, other business owners, customers, or prominent people in your neighborhood. By giving everyone the floor directly from where they're sitting, you bring in more opinions than you could if had to squeeze everyone into your meeting room.
3. Record Webinars/Tutorials
Webinars are hot right now. They're hot because they allow business owners to share expert-level information with their audience from wherever they are. No longer do we need to travel to meet with our audience; now we can do it from the comfort of our home office.
If you've ever thought about starting your own webinar series or providing video tutorials to go along with services/products on your Web site, Google+ Hangouts allow you to do this for free. There's no software to master and nothing to download. You simply start a Hangout+, name it, and you're on your way.
And because Google will record and upload your Hangout+ to YouTube for you, you don't even have to worry about recording software. Pretty awesome.
4. Subject-based Question & Answer
Webinars are great, but sometimes all customers really want to do is ask you a question. Why not hold a monthly Question & Answer Hangout where you invite your customers to sign on, chat, and bring their questions?
If you're a financial planner maybe you want to hold themed Hangouts to invite people to bring their questions on certain topics. One week your Hangout could be about the different kinds of IRAs available and the pros/cons of each. Next week you can answer questions about the best stocks to invest in based on age/risk tolerance.
Having themed Question & Answer Hangouts can also help you to segment and bucket your customers for targeting later.
5. Offer Consulting Hours
Remember when you were in college and your professor held Office Hours so students could get individual help? Why not offer the same feature as a consultant? Maybe that means customized coaching services or it replaces daily emails and calls with a weekly 20 minutes video chat between your team and your client's?
Set yourself apart from other vendors by offering virtual coaching through the help of Google+.
6. Behind the Scenes Interviews
As a consumer I love learning more about the people or businesses I'm already interacting with. And Google+ Hangouts gives us another way to invite people backstage into our business.
For example, maybe you're a neighborhood café that prides itself on supporting the local community. You sell artwork from local artists and you host an open mic night for neighborhood bands to come in and show off their talent. As a way of promoting those events and getting more people into your café, why not host a Hangout where you interview the artists or musician? Or maybe interview your employees or your customers to introduce them to your audience? Or have a weekly chat where you preview what's coming down the line for your business?
We like getting a more intimate look at that people we should to allow in our circles. Use Hangouts to do that.
7. Host a Class
Hangouts give you the ability to hold a live broadcast and invite as many people as you want to attend. You can hold your own online class without having to worry about fitting everyone into a single room or providing food for 50 people when only 10 people show up. Now that Google has removed the overhead involved with creating a class or workshop, why not start one?
Maybe it's a writing class where everyone shows up with a short piece to read and others critique it. Or it's a cooking class where you show off how to make your famous firehouse chili. Or it's a Web design workshop where people come and you do live site audits for them. The possibilities for ways to engage and provide value to your customers are endless.
8. Make Announcements
Taylor Swift recently hosted a Google+ Hangout to announce her new album. During the live chat, Taylor answered fan questions from around the world, let them know what they could expect from her album, and debuted its first single. When her single was released on iTunes later that night it went straight to number one, faster than any other song in history.
Have a big announcement – whether it's a new hire, a new product, an upcoming launch – now Google has given you the chance to host your own Town Hall event, free of charge.
There are tons of ways for small business owners to use Google+ Hangouts to connect with their audience and build excitement. If you haven't already, you may want to check out the Google Live Events calendar to help spur some of your own ideas. You can also add your own events to the calendar to increase your reach.
Have you considered using Google+ Hangouts in your marketing strategy?
Image credit: ivicans / 123RF Stock Photo
Posted by Lisa Barone on August 28, 2012.
When entrepreneurs come up with a new product idea, they sometimes become like parents: their baby is the most beautiful and talented baby in the world, no matter what that child looks like or what he/she can actually do. That new product idea is absolutely golden, and no one can say otherwise.
But before you start negotiating payment terms with manufacturers or purchasing long-term ad spots nationwide, get a second opinion. Get a third, get a thousand. In fact, ask those who have validated your successful business plans already once before — your existing clients.
We asked members of the Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC), an invitation only nonprofit organization comprised of the country's most promising young entrepreneurs, the following question to find out their advice for collecting feedback on offline business ideas:
"What's one strategy to test a new (non-technical) idea for a product on your existing clients?"
Here's what YEC community members had to say:
1. Be Open About It
"We treat our clients as partners throughout the process — whenever we try new strategies to help our internal operations or try to build something for them that we haven't done before, we are always upfront. It seemed like we always defaulted to good, old-fashioned whiteboard sessions. However, when we tried a new program, we would tell our clients that it was new and needed feedback on it." ~ Abby Ross, Blueye Creative
2. Throw a Shopping Party
"We're always considering new releases, including both expansions of our current line and possibly introducing new product categories. The beauty of "existing clients" is that if you have done well, they are your advocates. We have tried surveys, phone calls and Facebook voting contests, but without fail, the best and most immediate feedback we get is from a real-life shopping party." ~ Aaron Schwartz, Modify Watches
3. Find and Mobilize Superfans
"We've found that simply asking our audience/subscribers if they're interested in trying out something new can yield a killer group of passionate brand ambassadors. They'll understand if things are broken, unfinished, and imperfect — and care even more, because they've had a deeper opportunity to make a difference." ~ Derek Flanzraich, Greatist
4. Slap It on Craigslist
"If you have a product that can be enjoyed by many — as opposed to a targeted audience — try putting it on Craigslist. It's free, and if your immediate community shows an interest in it, then that gives you a great gauge of how the rest of the world may like it." ~ Angela Pan, Angela B. Pan Photography
5. Use the Crowdfunding Test
"We meet entrepreneurs looking to test out their product every day at Fundable. Crowdfunding gives them a fantastic gauge for interest in their product by allowing them to pre-sell a product and get to know their audience. It's the perfect first ecosystem for a startup, helping them decide to change their strategies or move full-speed ahead into production." ~ Eric Corl, Fundable LLC
6. Test Ideas on Google AdWords
"Google AdWords can get product and service ideas in front of your target demographic quickly and inexpensively. You can test one idea or set up different pages to measure the performance of various concepts or marketing schemes. Once up and running, Google Analytics provides accurate data for you to observe and share with potential investors, if you need to make a very convincing pitch." ~ Christopher Kelly, NYC Conference Centers
7. Pool Feedback via Social Media
"One way we solicit ideas is to simply ask our readers what they would like to see on our website. We're active on social media, and we often ask for suggestions during our weekly TweetChats." ~ Andrew Schrage, Money Crashers Personal Finance
8. Camp Out in the Coffee Shop
"When I've got a new product idea, I'll build a minimal demo (think wireframes for a website) and then head to the coffee shop. I'll offer to buy a cup for a few people who don't seem to be in a hurry, provided they spend a few mintes looking at my demo. It's a fast way to get some external perspectives from people with no obligation to be nice to me." ~ Thursday Bram, Hyper Modern Consulting
9. Put On Proactive Sales
"Advertise your potential product in advance to your current customer base and ask for presales. If the customers don't bite, then it may not be a fit. Remember, even if they say they like the product, ask them to buy it. If they have their credit card in hand and are ready to buy, then you may have a winner on your hands. " ~ Nick Reese, Elite Health Blends
10. Create a Partial Product
"If I have a new product or idea, I only create the first five percent of it. If it's a course on leveraging YouTube in your business, I create two chapters, and include some of the most useful tips for getting set up. Give that away to a current customer base, along with an outline for the full product. Follow up a week later and ask if they'd be interested in seeing the full version." ~ Sean Ogle, Location 180, LLC
11. Mock Up a Customized Demo
"We love to mock up a prototype-like demo to create a realistic and custom experience. Keynote can be a great tool for creating an interactive-like product demo, and you can easily change out the template design to customize for multiple clients with the same functionality." ~ Lauren Perkins, Perks Consulting
12. Just Ask Mom
"Ask your mother, or someone else's mother. If it is simple enough for your mother to understand and enjoy, chances are that is is simple enough for most people to understand. Or try asking a child. Can this child understand it? Can they explain it to someone? If your idea is simple enough that a child can explain it, chances are that your clients will understand it also." ~ Louis Lautman, Supreme Outsourcing
Feedback Photo via Shutterstock
Posted by The Young Entrepreneur Council on August 28, 2012.
August 28, 2012 by Rich Whittle | 1 Comment
For some months my daughter has been wanting to sell lemonade from a lemonade stand. Maybe it's a "rite of passage" for kids. Maybe she wants to earn money. Maybe she likes business. Maybe it's a bit of everything.
We were in the hot sun for 3 hours and made about $20. Not bad. Actually quite good.
What did I learn about business?
Have a variety products to serve a variety of customer types. An older lady came by our stand and said she would buy from us, but she can't drink the acid. So she didn't buy. In business, you need to know when (and when not) to expand your product line to meet a variety of customer segments.
Who is the best person to sell?
I wondered who would be the best person to sell our lemonade. A cute, little girl with braids holding up a sign or a 30+ guy with a sign. I think the little girl won out. Of course my daughter couldn't hold a sign up all day. So I held the sign up for much of the time, but made sure she was quite visible at the lemonade stand.
In your own business, this is also so important. Do you send 27 year old Jenny? Or 46 year old Marry? Or 45 year old Bob. All three have their skills and talents to make the best sales for a particular customer. There is not ONE sales person that is necessarily the best for all times.
I decided to put the lemonade stand a few feet from my home, so that we could be in a place where cars could easily drive up, drivers could get out and make their purchase with ease.
In business location is so important. McDonald's and other retailers spend lots of money picking out the optimal location for their establishments.
Online, location is important as well – in the form of search engine placement. If you are on page 5 of a search query, you're not going to be found. You want to ensure that when the keywords that are important to you that are searched, you appear on the FIRST page of results. Preferably towards the top.
Continue Reading: "What I Learned About Biz Selling Lemonade With My Daughter"
How To Mentally Recover From Professional Disasters
Have you ever made plans, just to have the weather, or some other situation, turn your best ideas inside out? While spending the day with my aunt, we had plans — including the farmers market and a nice long walk in the park, after all the sun had been shining for hours. But things change.
The sunshine gave way to a heavy rain and we chose to spend those 60 minutes sitting outside the farmer's market under their cover — people watching and snacking on our groceries. The interesting thing is almost 50 shoppers had the same idea. It's funny how rain slows things down, changes things up.
In business, rainy days can come in the form of loosing long term clients or contracts, loosing key team members, facing drastic industry shifts or seriously altered spending of your core client base. It doesn't feel good. But the rainy days — the challenges — are a part of the small business package.
How do you handle the problems?
I read years ago, I can't quite remember where I heard it, that you should never call a problem a problem. You should call it a challenge instead. The point was to quit looking at the situation as something that was unwelcomed and to begin to see it as something that you could solve, that you and your team could find your way around, to see it as something to make you better.
So for the next year and a half I wouldn't allow my team to use the word problem. Until one of them said:
"But if this really is a problem and I intend to solve it, then why do I have to call it another name."
And I said:
"If you solve the issue, then you can call it whatever you want."
Whether you call it a problem, puzzle, challenge, issue, concern or crack in your department, it's solvable. The goal is to create a solution based mindset inside each team member. You want them looking for answers — and not just you. Since your team will have a tendency to reflect your behavior and your leadership style, then make sure that you are solution oriented too.
There Are At Least 3 Kinds Of Leaders
1.) The ones who wait for the issue to pass. They don't think it will be a real problem for too long and will right itself soon enough.
2.) The ones who dive in head first. They are not afraid of much and tend to grab the bull by the horn.
3.) The ones who see the bull coming months and years in advance and choose to make the change ahead of time. They still have to deal with the rain, but they're prepared.
You may have been all three at different points in your career. There are some situations that do "fix themselves," but not many. There are some situations that "show up so fast" you don't have time to react ahead of time, but not all. And there are some situations, more than you want to admit, that you can prepare for.
But before you start barking out orders to your team, let's look at one core area of concern and two personal steps to take first.
What's your mindset?
Your thoughts determine your experience regardless of the situation. Mental disaster recovery has a lot to do with the mindset you have before you face the problem. So here are two steps to make right now.
1.) Expect the Best, Plan for the Worst
When things are going good, you're not trying to be neurotic, constantly panicking about what can go wrong tomorrow. You're enjoying the season, but also looking for the holes in your business. It's easier to plug them on dry land than in the middle of the lake.
Make disaster planning an ongoing part of your business. Store up resources for rainy days, that includes supplies and service contractors. Remember, you want options because it gives you sure legs on shaky ground.
2.) Study the Mistakes of Others
Find the people in and out of your industry that you respect and admire. Study how they recovered from failures.
When success comes to others we tend to act like it was an easy, overnight process, but very few worthwhile things are overnight successes. Consistent and focused effort always comes before a lasting breakthrough.
Train your mind to notice the process. When you realize that you are not the only one who has to go through some valleys to get to the top of something, you'll begin to use the momentum of your life as well as other people's stories to keep yourself going.
Rain always comes, and we often act surprised, depressed or irritated. But if you train for this (get mentally and physically prepared ahead of time), then you can pull out your weather shoes, raincoat, umbrella and walk through it.
Not easy, but necessary.
Navigating Disaster Photo via Shutterstock
Posted by Jamillah Warner on August 28, 2012.
If you're like most SMBs, you look to spruce up your content first. And with good reason! Improving the content assets on your Web site can lead directly to higher sales, customer loyalty, and increased brand awareness. It's often also the "cheapest" site change to make when you're on a tight budget. But where should you start?
Below are a few content areas to improve upon to increase ROI and site conversions:
Information-Rich Product Pages
This is big, especially for a small business Web site where trust and point of difference are so vital.
It's safe to assume that a consumer who lands on a product/service page is in the process of making a decision. They're asking themselves:
Will this product help me and serve my need?
How is this product different from others on this site and on competitor sites?
Should I buy this, right now?
Can I trust this company? Do they seem knowledgeable?
When you have a consumer reading over your product pages, this is a sensitive time in the conversion funnel. To get them to click that "buy" button or fill out your contact form, those pages need to be as informative and standout as possible. They need to convince a potential buyer that purchasing this product is the right decision. To do that, write your product pages to be as detailed and user-focused as possible. They should also be written to sound like your customer.
If you're Woot your product pages will be written to inspire a giggle and in the voice of Web geeks. If you're Apple, you'll focus on the shininess of new features. Know your customer and then write your product pages to be as informative and wooing as possible.
Last year we told you that more businesses were blogging than not blogging. And according to new data from Blogging.org, this still holds true. Adding a blog to your business remains one of the most effective (and cost-effective) marketing strategies available to you, especially as a small business owner or consultant.
Your blog gives you a forum that you own and which you can use to create linkable assets (naturally increasing your SEO), establish your brand and authority, and makes you a friend of the search engines. Duct Tape Marketing's John Jantsch believes blogging is even more critical in the age of social media, and I agree.
If you're not blogging and you want a way to increase site ROI, this is it. Start a blog.
Another ROI-filled content asset to add to your Web site is email newsletters. Email newsletters give you a chance to maintain a relationship with your customer long after their purchase. It takes you from vendor to friend and strengthens the connection that a consumer has with your brand. They may have visited your Web site to fill a specific need, but now you can build upon on that.
You can keep customers informed about what your company is up to, you can tell stories, you can let them know what's fresh on your Web site, you can be an information source for what's happening in your industry, etc. You go from the person who sold them that lamp to the friend they have over every Wednesday for coffee. You become someone they recognize.
If you're intimidated by email newsletters because you're not sure what you'd include, don't be. Shape your newsletter as an informal "letter to your customers", to republish articles you've written elsewhere, or simply to highlight what's new on your site.
Higher-Quality Photography & Video
Just because they don't use words doesn't mean the photography and video aren't important site content elements to consider. When it comes to photography, get away from using stock photos. Instead, use high-quality photos to represent your products, your staff, your office building, and anything else you choose to visualize on your Web site.
Not only will this set you apart from other sites on the Web, but it will help customers to get to know you. We want to see what your real staff looks like, not the same stock female face we recognize from every other site on the Web.
When it comes to video – use it. Neil Patel recently shared some explainer video best practices to help everyone get the most from their video content. This is advice Neil has used to drive an extra $21,000 month in new income. I'd take it.
Product Guides & Comparisons
As consumers we can be a pretty insecure bunch. We want to make sure that we're buying the right product and the best one for our needs. We want to know why Product A is different from Product B, and if Product C can do that thing Product D also does. Consider offering product comparisons to help your customers answer these natural questions and make them more confident in their buying decisions. Maybe it means creating comparison charts or maybe it's a downloadable fact sheet. The more content you can create and the more you can use it to tell a story, the more customers will appreciate it.
If you're like most businesses, you receive questions from your customers every day, most of which you've answered before. Instead of emailing customers individually about the same thing each day, start saving those questions and answering them in a site Q&A section. Create a resource that you can build links to and that customers, new and old, can take advantage of. Anything you can put on your site that is intended to ease customer fears is going to be good for your business and work toward increasing ROI.
Above are just a few content-based site improvements you can make to increase the value of your Web site to your customers. What others have you added along the way?
Image credit: fotografiedk / 123RF Stock Photo
Posted by Lisa Barone on August 29, 2012.
Wednesday, August 29, 2012
Optimize your market reach with a surprising and amusing Augmented Reality experience by catching the consumer's interest right from the street into your outlet.
It is a magical display in your High Street
You are walking in the street, glancing at window displays. In front of a fashion store, you are given a printed card by a shop assistant... You pick up the card and place it in front of a screen in the window display and this is when your interactive experience begins. The screen starts revealing a story in which you can interact by simply moving your card, messages appear, your personal fashion show revealed, and that very same card can then be used for you to discover more attractive promotional experience inside the shop.
This is how shopping in the high street becomes techno and a lot more interesting. With scenarios aimed at adults and teenagers, the surprise interactive effect brought by Augmented Reality leads to a whole new meaning to window shopping. This forward concept is an instant win to convert passers-by into potential in-store customers.
Capture consumer street traffic into your Outlet
This is a proven innovative way to attract consumers inside your shop using Augmented Reality. This concept magnetizes passers-by using a simple printed card and a pre-defined scenario. The person is amazed, amused by the sudden experience and prompted to enter your premises, therefore increasing the number of walking-in potential customers.
Augmented Reality has helped retailers extend their market reach by increasing customer visits to numbers as high as 100 extra people per outlet, per day throughout the duration of the operation.
Writing the minutes
By ALISTAIR KING
Who will take the minutes?" asks the chairman.
If you happen to be the youngest or most junior member of the meeting, and especially if you happen to be female, you will be the one! That's the way things seem to work. This is a scenario that many people dread. It needn't be so terrible.
The person who takes the minutes is often called the "recording secretary". This, however, is not an accurate term. So, what does the secretary do at the meeting?
I was once at a meeting where the sales manager did not like a proposal that was put forward.
As his face turned from light magenta to deep crimson, he said, rather loudly, "I think this suggestion is a pile of rubbish, absolute rubbish!"
This utterance was accompanied by two thumps on the table. If the gentleman who was taking the minutes that day was recording, he would have written: "The sales manager said: 'I think this suggestion is a pile of rubbish, absolute rubbish!'"
It would have been easier, as is the case in some meetings, to set up a video camera in the corner of the room and record the meeting!
So how should the meeting be reported?
Using reported speech, it goes like this: "The sales manager said that he thought that the suggestion was a pile of rubbish."
Notice the backshifting of the verbs to bring them in line with the introductory verb said. The reported version, though true to what took place in the meeting, would be a shock to the reader.
So, if the secretary does not record and does not report, what does the secretary do? What the secretary does, I suggest, is interpret.
The secretary has to evaluate the utterances during the meeting and interpret them in a manner which brings the right focus and priorities to the points presented.
In the above case, the secretary asked me after the meeting, "How am I going to minute what he said?"
Incidentally, the sales manager didn't say "rubbish"; he said a shorter word which I would never write and which The Star would never publish!
The advice that I gave the secretary, who was a young chap just out of university, was not to write what he said, but to write what he did.
The secretary replied, "He banged the table; that's what he did. I can't write that!"
I explained that, whenever we speak there is something we do. I asked him what the sales manager did: criticise, oppose or disagree. Being diplomatic, he chose "disagree".
"But," I asked, "How would you interpret two bangs on the table?"
He thought for a moment and proudly said, "The sales manager strongly disagreed with the proposal."
The two bangs were interpreted as "strongly". He was so happy with this that I didn't feel I should tell him to use the Passive Voice!
Incidentally, someone must have liked the sales manager's direct approach; he is now CEO of a multinational, based in Hong Kong!
On Aug 21, in this Right For Business column regarding Active Voice vs Passive Voice, we considered the difference between: The assistant manager opposed the proposal and The proposal was opposed by the assistant manager.
What do we want to place into focus, the speaker or what he/she contributes? The agenda item indicates issues to be considered rather than the people who attend the meeting.
Thus, please use the second, Passive Voice, version of each of the following pairs:
1) The senior accounts executive provided a summary of the previous month's expenditure. (x)
A summary of the previous month's expenditure was provided by the senior accounts executive. (Correct)
2) The production manager stressed the need for revised maintenance procedures. (x)
The need for revised maintenance procedures was stressed by the production manager. (Correct)
Finally, if you really need to write about the table-banging, please do use the Passive version: "The table was banged twice." and, in this case, DON'T say by whom!
■ Dr Alistair King is an applied linguist and corporate training consultant with clients throughout the region, the Middle East and Southern Africa. He would value feedback to: firstname.lastname@example.org or aksb.com.my
Tuesday, August 28, 2012
After five decades, the "We Try Harder" tagline that's been synonymous with the Avis car-rental brand is being shed in favor of a new one.
This week, the company rolls out a new ad campaign and a new tagline: "It's Your Space," targeted at busy business travelers. Created by Leo Burnett, the focus of the ads will be to lightheartedly communicate that the space inside rental vehicles is where business travelers can recharge or be most productive while they're traveling.
The ushering in of a new positioning puts to end a tagline that was introduced by DDB years ago. "We Try Harder" was the result of Avis in 1962 looking for a refreshed brand image under then-CEO Robert Townsend. It had a difficult streak during which it failed to make a profit, and it turned to DDB for help.
The tagline was penned by DDB copywriter Paula Green and was actually rooted in the response that Bill Bernbach, the co-founder of DDB, helped elicit from company management when asking why anyone ever rents a car from them. "We Try Harder" then became a promise that Avis was making to consumers about the quality of its service, as well as a way to elevate the brand's status despite being the second-largest car rental company behind Hertz.
It was a huge success for Avis. In a matter of a single year, that campaign reversed the company's fortunes, helping it to go from losing $3.2 million to turning a profit of $1.2 million for the first time in 13 years.
In a period when taglines and brand positioning typically come and go every few years, the endurance of the "We Try Harder" motto was unique. Its disappearance is a sign of Avis' CMO, Jeannine Haas, putting her stamp on the company. She's been there just over a year, after spending several years at American Express and before that, Ford Motor Co.
Asked why Avis is moving away from its longtime positioning, Ms. Haas told Ad Age: "Consumer-centric brands must always evolve in order to keep pace with ever-changing customer needs and preferences." She added that "Avis is evolving as a premium brand to better meet those needs." The new tagline, she said, is "reflective of [Avis'] ongoing mission to be a customer-led, service-driven company, and presents the brand in terms of the customer experience and the advantages inherent in renting from Avis."
She added that the previous longstanding motto isn't quite extinct. "We firmly believe that after nearly five decades, 'We Try Harder' is fully embedded in the Avis DNA, and defines the spirit our employees embody to deliver superior customer service."
Under Ms. Haas, Publicis Groupe-owned Leo Burnett won the North American creative account in February of this year, while its sibling, Spark -- a spinoff of Starcom Mediavest Group -- was awarded the media account. The move was a blow to Avis' previous U.S. creative shop McCann, which still does work for the brand abroad. Avis has about 5,200 locations in more than 165 countries.
The new campaign clearly positions the brand as the choice for corporate, rather than leisure travel.
The campaign launches with three national TV commercials. One spot, called "Rock Out," shows a businessman rehearsing an uncoming presentation by belting out the words in his car while he's driving to the meeting. In another, called "Deal Closer," a group of coworkers use their rental car to prepare for a meeting and then head out to the golf course together to celebrate their good day.
The spots are airing through November, and will be supported by a print push -- with buys including space in The Economist, Sports Illustrated and The Wall Street Journal -- as well as online and at airport terminals. The brand's website has also been tweaked so that it now declares on the homepage, "With Avis it's more than a rental. It's your space." And in a new twist, the brand says an iPad campaign is also forthcoming.
The campaign's launch coincides with a big consolidation in the rental car space, with Avis' rival Hertz agreeing to a more than $2 billion bid to purchase Dollar Thrifty. The acquisition has been long-rumored and Avis at one point also had been weighing buying Dollar Thrifty but dropped its bid.
So is Avis still No. 2? According to Auto Rental News, in 2011 it was No. 3 behind Enterprise Holdings (Alamo, Enterprise, National) with 920,861 cars in service and Hertz with 320,000. Avis, the publication said, had 285,000 cars in service last year.
By: Mon, 27 Aug 2012 22:27 EDT
Really? "It's Your Space," targeted at busy business travelers. Created by Leo Burnett, the focus of the ads will be to lightheartedly communicate (as opposed to clearly communicate the previous promise) that the space inside rental vehicles is where business travelers can recharge or be most productive while they're traveling. (so are they suggesting that business travelers text, phone, type, use their computers... in other words, be a danger on the road) Plus... it won't deliver. Rent a car, go through traffic in an unfamiliar city to et to a destination... All in all, I would guess that the client got tired of the tagline; that the agency wanted to try something new... but it sounds generic, bland and could apply to anything. Including Hertz, National, Budget and other car rental companies. If National, Budget, Enterprise or other companies were smart, they would swoop on the phrase and make it "now that Avis stopped trying harder, we are the ones who are really trying harder"
Five words.....the quality of your relationships.
So here's the question:
If your relationships are the most important part of your life, what are you doing to make them all they can be?
The 100/0 Principle may be the most important book you'll ever read. The message is truly life-changing. You've probably heard the saying, it's not what you say, but how you say it, that turns the switch from "off" to "on."
The examples, the stories, the quotes provoke many "a-ha" moments. Simply put, this is a book that can make your marriage better and greatly improve your relationships with family members, friends, co-workers and...even your boss.
Here's a brief excerpt from The 100/0 Principle.
An excerpt from The 100/0 Principle
by Al Ritter
What is the most effective way to create and sustain great relationships with others? It's The 100/0 Principle: You take full responsibility (the 100) for the relationship, expecting nothing (the 0) in return.
Implementing The 100/0 Principle is not natural for most of us. It takes real commitment to the relationship and a good dose of self-discipline to think, act and give 100 percent.
The 100/0 Principle applies to those people in your life where the relationships are too important to react automatically or judgementally. Each of us must determine the relationships to which this principle should apply. For most of us, it applies to work associates, customers, suppliers, family and friends.
STEP 1 - Determine what you can do to make the relationship work...then do it. Demonstrate respect and kindness to the other person, whether he/she deserves it or not.
STEP 2 - Do not expect anything in return. Zero, zip, nada.
STEP 3 - Do not allow anything the other person says or does (no matter how annoying!) to affect you. In other words, don't take the bait.
STEP 4 - Be persistent with your graciousness and kindness. Often we give up too soon, especially when others don't respond in kind. Remember to expect nothing in return.
At times (usually few), the relationship can remain challenging, even toxic, despite your 100 percent commitment and self-discipline. When this occurs, you need to avoid being the "Knower" and shift to being the "Learner." Avoid Knower statements/thoughts like "that won't work," "I'm right, you are wrong," "I know it and you don't," "I'll teach you," "that's just the way it is," "I need to tell you what I know," etc.
Instead use Learner statements/thoughts like "Let me find out what is going on and try to understand the situation," "I could be wrong," "I wonder if there is anything of value here," "I wonder if..." etc. In other words, as a Learner, be curious!
This may strike you as strange, but here's the paradox: When you take authentic responsibility for a relationship, more often than not the other person quickly chooses to take responsibility as well. Consequently, the 100/0 relationship quickly transforms into something approaching 100/100. When that occurs, true breakthroughs happen for the individuals involved, their teams, their organizations and their families.
By Oliver St. John, USA TODAY
Published: 8/27/2012 5:38:09 PM
Who will clean up after your children, do their laundry or bring them snacks when they go off to college this fall?
Relax. Students can now outsource everything, from grocery shopping to laundry to businesses often run by, you guessed it, more enterprising students.
Laura Vanderkam, author of time-management book 168 Hours, says student entrepreneurship is part of a trend aided by social media savvy, and also a good way for kids on student loans to make ends meet.
But it's not going to save other students time, because they probably wouldn't have bothered with cleaning and cooking anyway. "I'd say it's more about Mom being assured that you're not living in total squalor," she says. Preventing just that:
•Laundry-free linens. No matter how gross sheets get, some students never wash them. College moms since 2009, Beantown Bedding founders Joan Ripple and Kirsten Lambert released a solution July 30: Bedsox, biodegradable sheets that go into the compost instead of the wash, available online at $25 a set.
"Basically, what it boils down to is, college students are lazy. They'd like to have clean sheets, but their moms aren't there to wash them," says Lambert.
•Clean room. Nate Andorsky's own messy room at George Washington University in Washington, D.C., inspired the student cleaning service he founded with Mike Waterman, in April 2011. He says DC3 can do 60-70 cleanings a month because one crew can clean many dorm rooms in a single trip. Cleanings start at $39.
•Snack delivery. For a $1.99 delivery fee, students at University of Texas in Austin can order snacks from MunchyMart.com. And just about anything else, from Doritos to frozen burritos, but also beer pong tables, kegs and condoms, says Arshad Rehman, 24. He founded the business in January as a senior. His student employees deliver until 3-4 a.m., but they won't bring booze to dorms.
•Clean laundry.Jeremy Young helped found HillFresh Laundry in 2011 as a Hamilton College sophomore in Clinton, N.Y. He says students are too busy to do laundry. However, Wendy Leone pays $349 a semester for HillFresh to wash and fold her 19-year-old son's weekly laundry, because he doesn't know how to do it himself, she says.
•Pack and move. Students at Cornell University pay $38 an hour if they miss the dorm move-out deadline. Can't meet the deadline? Students can pay $67 an hour for student-run Big Red Shipping and Storage to box up all the items in their rooms and load them in the car. Bubble wrap is extra.
By Samantha Felix | Business Insider – Mon, Aug 20, 2012 10:20 AM EDT
Check out how these famous brands have altered their logos — for better or for worse — since they originally opened their doors. The history of the logos was collected from Logopedia.
1. AT&T: first and last
Bell Telephone Company designed the original logo in 1900. In 1964 the "AT&T" of Bell Telephone Company became the dominate element of the corporate identity. Eventually dropping the Bell all together in 1970, the latest AT&T logo was released in 2005.
2. British Airways: first and last
The British Airways logo was designed by Negus & Negus in 1973, when British European Airways merged with BOAC. (Note the missing dot above the i.) BA unveiled the current logo in 1997 to promote a new image that is worldwide and less stuffy.
3. Canon: first and last
The canon logo was originally designed in 1933. The simpler version of the company's identity was introduced in 1956.
4. Discovery Channel: first and last
The first logo was designed in 1985, with multiple and various updates, leading to the latest version which was released in 2009.
5. Eskimo: first and last
The original logo was released in the early 1960's with only four updates since. The most recent version was designed in 2003.
6. Mozilla Firefox: first and last
The original, phoenix logo was designed in 2002. It was later changed to the firefox around 2004. Retaining the "fire" elements, the current logo was designed in 2009.
7. General Electric: first and last
The simple script logo was first designed in 1892, with the circle around the initials added in 1900. Very few changes were made along the way. The blue tint was added in 2004.
8. IBM: first and last
Since inception, IBM has gone through significant identity shifts. Not only updating the logo but also changing the name multiple times. This original logo was designed in 1889 and represents International Time Recording Company (ITRC). International Business Machines as we know it today was introduced in 1924, leading to the current logo — designed in 1972.
9. Kodak: first and last
In the beginning, Kodak was a single print advertisement with "The Kodak Company" strung across the top in a simple serif font. The company created this first logo in 1907. Kodak adopted its most recent logo in 2006.
10. Lay's: first and last
Lay's first logo was designed in 1965. The brand then went three-dimensional with its current logo in 2007.
11. Lego's: first and last
The first LEGO logo was designed in 1935 and, 26 iterations later, the brand seems to have settled on the simple block style logo that has been used since 1998.
12. Mazda: first and last
Mazda's simple logo first debuted in 1934. The company then played with using a more abstract design of the "M" from 1936 - 1975, and again in 1991. Today's version was first released in 1997.
13. McDonald's: first and last
McDonald's used to be a barbecue? Well, only from 1940 - 1948. It quickly discovered its true passion was for hamburgers. From 1948 forward the company tried various versions of the iconic arches, coming up with today's "I'm lovin' it" in 2003.
14. Microsoft: first and last
Microsoft's first (incredibly ugly) logo was introduced in 1975. This latest version has been in place since 2011.
15. Nintendo: first and last
Back in 1889, the Japanese playing card company used this original logo which is three separate words: nin, ten, do. In 1967, the company began developing small electronic toys and took on the identity of Nintendo. The most recent logo was introduced in 2006.
16. Nissan: first and last
Nissan's first logo was created in 1983 when Datsun adopted a new name. There have been few changes leading up to this most recent version, designed in 2002.
17. RCA Records: first and last
The original logo — featuring Nipper the dog — was first introduced in the early 1900's, and later redesigned in 1919 to the simple three letter stamp. Though there have not been many changes since, the current logo was introduced in 1988. Nipper, by the way, is now owned by GE.
18. Shell: first and last
The first shell was drawn in 1900. The company later fashioned the colorful, upright shell to create a more recognizable brand. The revision stuck, and with few alterations, the logo as it is today was released in 1999.
19. Xerox: first and last
The first Xerox logo was designed in 1948. Later, the company dropped the Haloid Company label during a redesign by corporate identity experts Lippincott, which resulted in the 2008 version still used today.
20. Apple: first and last
The logo was first designed in 1976 by Ronald Wayne. The border around the image reads: "Newton … A Mind Forever Voyaging Through Strange Seas of Thought … Alone." The sleek logo everyone recognizes today was introduced in 2003.
Monday, August 27, 2012
My lawyer friend tells me that if you read it off the Internet, it is not an offence but it is if you download, print and read. And if you tell us that this book is good here, it would be an offence to the other side so you may be hauled up as a publisher who has committed an offence under the Evidences Act. 8-)
This one is interesting to read re censorship:
Friday, August 24, 2012
b>Real estate brokerage owner: /b> Krisstina Wise likes the app DocuSign, which enables digital signatures: "It's rare that we need an ink signature anymore."
Apps now key to small-business savings
By Edward C. Baig, USA TODAY
Published: 8/17/2012 5:08:32 PM
Small businesses are using technology to help them operate more efficiently and cost-effectively in an increasingly competitive environment. Each Monday, USA TODAY looks at new ways companies are gaining an innovative edge in a tough economy.
NEW YORK — Theater design consultant Joshua Allen doesn't routinely travel the country with a laptop for work anymore. The Apple iPad has become Allen's go-to traveling companion. "At first I was hesitant," he says. But then, "My bag got so much lighter … and my chiropractor bill went down."
What made lightening the load possible for Allen and his colleagues at Raleigh, N.C.-based Theatre Consultants Collaborative are the numerous apps designed for the iPad to help folks operating smaller enterprises conduct business. Allen relies on at least a half-dozen apps that help him take notes, consult architectural drawings and even see behind walls.
Indeed, for all the attention that the iPad gets as a play device that lets you browse the Web, read books, watch movies and knock down a few pigs with Angry Birds, more and more people at the wheel of small companies are turning to Apple's popular tablet for productive purposes, while potentially saving the business time and money. Yankee Group analyst Carl Howe says 72% of businesses that have tablets are using the iPad. And the iPad boasts by far the largest number of productivity apps for tablets, leaving Android, Microsoft and Research In Motion's BlackBerry to play catch-up.
Apple has been pushing the iPad's business virtues and along the way trying to woo the small-business crowd with some of its own apps. Most notably, there's the optional iWork suite consisting of iPad versions of the Numbers spreadsheet, Pages word processor and Keynote presentation program, each $9.99.
But small businesses are increasingly summoning apps from outside developers that turn the iPad into an all-purpose hub for telephony, communications and e-commerce, and a gateway to the PC at the office — or to all the files stored in the cloud, through such services as Box, Dropbox and SugarSync.
The scope of business apps for the iPad is as broad as the companies and entrepreneurs that take advantage of them. A company might bill a customer through the iPad using an app such as Invoice2go ($14.99), scan business cards and receipts through Pixoft's TurboScan ($1.99) and keep tabs on customers through FileMaker's recently redesigned Bento 4 database ($9.99).
Most people don't think of the iPad as a phone. But several apps can let it function as one. Donnie Clapp, communications manager at MercuryCSC, an outdoors-oriented communications and public relations firm in Bozeman, Mont., says the company got rid of its traditional — and pricey — land-line PBX phone system and is now using the Line2 app from Toktumi on iPads, the iPhone and on desktop PCs. It lets iPad owners place calls over Wi-Fi or cellular networks. There are free and pay-as-you-go plans, and businesses can hold conference calls for up to 20 people. "A lot of us carry iPads around to meetings, and it's nice to have our phones with us," Clapp says.
Some apps are meant to appeal to both businesses and consumers. As it is on other devices, the Skype app for the iPad is as much an inexpensive way for folks to keep in touch with relatives and friends who may be living or traveling overseas, as it is for businesses who want to stay in touch with commercial contacts in foreign countries, all in full-screen video.
Jennifer Plotnek, a lead behavior coach at Retrofit Weight Loss in Chicago, says, "I use my iPad all the time to Skype, as do my clients. I have had clients use their iPad to meet with me in airports, cabs, cars and offices."
But some apps spell business all the way. The free Roambi Analytics Visualizer from MeLLmo, for example, lets companies produce trend and sales performance charts in a handsome visual dashboard.
Companies such as Square, Intuit and PayPal produce apps and mobile credit card readers that plug into the audio jack on the iPad and let merchants swipe customer credit cards. Square charges 2.75% per swipe for American Express, Discover, MasterCard and Visa cards, or $275 a month under a new flat pricing plan that eliminates per-swipe fees for small businesses that process up to $250,000 a year.
No keyboard a drawback
Of course, it's still pretty rare for businesses to ditch the longstanding tools of the trade altogether in favor of a slate, even one as versatile as the iPad. So the iPad more often than not complements desktop PCs, laptops and smartphones rather than totally replacing those devices. Indeed, while most of the business people USA TODAY talked to showered high praise on the iPad, the lack of a physical keyboard is still an impediment in some instances.
"The biggest change is the app stores on post-PC devices," says Sarah Rotman Epps, an analyst at Forrester. "Small-business workers can buy apps directly from the developers through the app stores, so they have access to a wider variety of tools (at lower prices) than they had in the PC era, all optimized for mobile devices."
A slew of rival tablet makers are hoping to loosen Apple's dominant grip on the market. The Windows 8-based RT Surface tablet that Microsoft unveiled in June, and is expected to start selling in the fall, is targeted at the mobile professional. Samsung's new Galaxy Note 10.1 tablet comes with a so-called S Pen that business people can use to draw or take notes. And Lenovo sells the business-oriented ThinkPad Tablet, an Android device with a digitizer pen.
A Forrester survey of 10,000 information workers in 17 countries, conducted at the end of 2011, found that 24% of workers at small businesses, defined as 20 to 99 employees, use a touch-screen tablet for work.
And Forrester found that numerous productivity apps are equally as popular if not more so on tablets as on PCs, including note-taking apps, social networks (Facebook, LinkedIn), team document-sharing sites (SharePoint, eRoom, Lotus Quickr) and Web meeting or Web conferencing (Cisco WebEx Meetings, GoToMeeting).
According to a recent Yankee Group survey, e-mail, database, corporate instant messaging and Web conferencing are the most common types of apps used on tablets by businesses of 50 people or fewer, though the overall percentage use of any given app category is modest. For example, just 14% of the businesses use tablet apps for e-mail and 8% use them for databases.
But Howe sees those percentages growing quickly. "Tablets are fundamentally reinventing business software and, in that process, business itself. We sometimes forget we're only two years into the tablet revolution — the equivalent of 1980 in the PC era — and yet the tablet is already the center of new software development."
Other ways that apps are helping businesses to operate more efficiently.
•Task management. Baltimore wedding photographer Cayne Zimmerman and his wife, Christine, employ Bento 4 for the iPad to help manage his client database and stay on top of contracts, invoices and notes. Zimmerman says he investigated Web-based alternatives but found they weren't as conducive. Zimmerman is also high on OmniFocus for iPad, which he describes as "bread-and-butter task-manager software that's intertwined into my daily activities." Among other features, the $19.99 app from The Omni Group lets him organize tasks into projects and folders and conduct location-aware task lists that can remind him of something he needs to do when he's at a specific location.
•Time savings. In Austin, real estate brokerage owner Krisstina Wise is partial to DocuSign, a popular app that lets customers sign contracts digitally. It has become a common practice in her field. Wise still encounters situations — certain short-sale transactions or foreclosures come to mind — where banks want people to sign on actual paper with an actual pen.
But "it's rare that we need an ink signature anymore," she says. "DocuSign has become a verb in our (15-person sales) office. 'OK, we're DocuSigning it.' We pretty much run our business on the iPad." Given the nature of her business, Wise also uses such real estate search apps as the Realtor.com app from Move Inc. and Zillow Real Estate, both free.
Allen's firm is hired by architects seeking help designing performing arts facilities. Among his favorite apps is Noteshelf, a $5.99 handwriting note-taker from Ramki, that he says is terrific for "sketching things up. I set up a notebook for each project."
Allen also doesn't think he could live without GoodReader and Evernote. The former lets Allen read and mark up the many PDF documents that he comes across on the job — the app costs $4.99 and is from Good.iWare. Allen relies on the free Evernote app in part to capture voice notes at meetings that he can then sync back to his computer. "We use Evernote religiously," he says.
AutoCAD WS is also in Allen's rotation, as a free app to share AutoCAD computer-aided design drawings.
Still another app he puts to work from time-to-time is Duplicam for iPad from DanCreek Design. Used in conjunction with the iPhone, Duplicam lets Allen wirelessly view and control the camera on the iPhone from the tablet. That way if he's involved in a construction project and sees a hole in a wall, he can stick his hand inside the cavity with the phone and turn on a flashlight. He can then see on the iPad what the iPhone is seeing inside, capturing video or photos along the way. It's helpful to check out wiring behind walls, he says, that would not otherwise be easily visible.
It's feats like those that make it evident to Allen — and numerous other people working at small and modest-size companies — that tablets mean business.
I've heard it said that the most brilliant business ideas are often the simplest. From my experience, it's true. In fact, when I am fortunate enough to receive sage advice from a famously gifted person, I'll often ask myself, "Why didn't I think of that?" So here I humbly share with you a winning formula that I see leaders use again and again and again…to change the world.
Use this formula the next time you feel stuck—whether you are trying to change your industry, your company or your personal life—and I promise you it will work.
Question Number 1: What's the outcome I want?
Most people seem to get stuck in the moment, caught up in the drama of a situation they don't like. They unwittingly wind up playing the helpless victim, and as I've written in the past, victims can't innovate because they are focused on the problem—not solutions. You will hear them talk about how things aren't fair, who has wronged them, and they look for encouragement or excuses to feel better about the status quo. While this may make them feel good, being energized by problems is a recipe for inaction.
Asking the question "what is the outcome I want?" forces the mind to focus on the final destination, not the current bumps in the road. The brilliance of this question is that it immediately puts you in the "creator" mindset. And once successful people envision the destination, they move quickly to the second, world-changing question.
Question Number 2: What stands in my way?
(Hey, I told you these were simple questions.)
The best leaders are masters at identifying and prioritizing obstacles that are between them and the outcome they want. Then they brainstorm ways to eliminate, avoid or neutralize the obstacles.
Last year I saw George Clooney on a late night talk show. He had recently lost 20-plus pounds that he'd put on for a movie role. The host was amazed at how good Clooney looked and asked him how he had managed to lose the weight so quickly. Clooney's response sounded something like, "I ate less and exercised more."
Too often in business, we talk about how hard it is to "lose weight" while reaching for a potato chip. But leaders using this formula move quickly from the outcome, to the plan, to the execution.
"I want to be 20 pounds lighter," says the enlightened leader. "So what stands in my way?" Let's see…
I don't seem to make time for exercise.
So I will start the day with exercise or I will block time on my calendar.
So each weekend, I'll pack my gym bag for the entire week and put it in my car.
I need to eat better because a bad diet will make this impossible.
So I will do my homework, buy healthy snacks and eat small portions throughout the day.
So I will pack my lunch and stop eating fast food.
Without a bunch of accountability, this will never happen.
So I'll tell my friends, family and coworkers about my goal and when it will be achieved.
So I will buy a digital scale and weigh myself every day.
Question Number 3: Who has figured it out already?
So now our creators have identified the outcome they want. They have created a list of obstacles, prioritize the list and identified ways to overcome each obstacle. This is where some leaders spring into action while others pause to steal ideas. Yes, I wrote steal ideas. But since stealing is a politically incorrect term, we'll call their strategy parallel engineering.
In the mid '90s, our company had grown to about 25 people. We had dozens of projects happening at once and needed a more efficient way to manage the growing complexity of our business. So being the brilliant, naïve entrepreneurs that we were, we naturally decided to build a software system to help us track, manage and optimize each project.
After spending roughly $185,000 and hundreds of hours in time, we scrapped the project. Three phone calls later we bought an off-the-shelf system that did 90 percent of the things we were trying to build into our own custom solution.
Gosh, I wish we had paused to parallel engineer ideas.
Intelligence is learning from your own mistakes; wisdom is learning from the mistakes of others. It's less painful to be wise than smart. It's also a lot cheaper. That's why this third question is so important.
BY KEVIN PURDY | AUGUST 22, 2012
How much does the first hour of every day matter? As it turns out, a lot. It can be the hour you see everything clearly, get one real thing done, and focus on the human side of work rather than your task list.
Remember when you used to have a period at the beginning of every day to think about your schedule, catch up with friends, maybe knock out a few tasks? It was called home room, and it went away after high school. But many successful people schedule themselves a kind of grown-up home room every day. You should too.
The first hour of the workday goes a bit differently for Craig Newmark of Craigslist, David Karp of Tumblr, motivational speaker Tony Robbins, career writer (and Fast Company blogger) Brian Tracy, and others, and they'll tell you it makes a big difference. Here are the first items on their daily to-do list.
Don't Check Your Email for the First Hour. Seriously. Stop That.
Tumblr founder David Karp will "try hard" not to check his email until 9:30 or 10 a.m., according to an Inc. profile of him. "Reading e-mails at home never feels good or productive," Karp said. "If something urgently needs my attention, someone will call or text me."
Not all of us can roll into the office whenever our Vespa happens to get us there, but most of us with jobs that don't require constant on-call awareness can trade e-mail for organization and single-focus work. It's an idea that serves as the title of Julie Morgenstern's work management book Never Check Email In The Morning, and it's a fine strategy for leaving the office with the feeling that, even on the most over-booked days, you got at least one real thing done.
If you need to make sure the most important messages from select people come through instantly, AwayFind can monitor your inbox and get your attention when something notable arrives. Otherwise, it's a gradual but rewarding process of training interruptors and coworkers not to expect instantaneous morning response to anything they send in your off-hours.
Gain Awareness, Be Grateful
One smart, simple question on curated Q & A site Quora asked "How do the most successful people start their day?". The most popular response came from a devotee of Tony Robbins, the self-help guru who pitched the power of mindful first-hour rituals long before we all had little computers next to our beds.
Robbins suggests setting up an "Hour of Power," "30 Minutes to Thrive," or at least "Fifteen Minutes to Fulfillment." Part of it involves light exercise, part of it involves motivational incantations, but the most accessible piece involves 10 minutes of thinking of everything you're grateful for: in yourself, among your family and friends, in your career, and the like. After that, visualize "everything you want in your life as if you had it today."
Robbins offers the "Hour of Power" segment of his Ultimate Edge series as a free audio stream (here's the direct MP3 download). Blogger Mike McGrath also wrote a concise summary of the Hour of Power). You can be sure that at least some of the more driven people you've met in your career are working on Robbins' plan.
Do the Big, Shoulder-Sagging Stuff First
Brian Tracy's classic time-management book Eat That Frog gets its title from a Mark Twain saying that, if you eat a live frog first thing in the morning, you've got it behind you for the rest of the day, and nothing else looks so bad. Gina Trapani explained it well in a video for her Work Smart series). Combine that with the concept of getting one thing done before you wade into email, and you've got a day-to-day system in place. Here's how to force yourself to stick to it:
Choose Your Frog
"Choose your frog, and write it down on a piece of paper that you'll see when you arrive back at your desk in the morning, Tripani advises."If you can, gather together the material you'll need to get it done and have that out, too."
One benefit to tackling that terrible, weighty thing you don't want to do first thing in the morning is that you get some space from the other people involved in that thing--the people who often make the thing more complicated and frustrating. Without their literal or figurative eyes over your shoulder, the terrible thing often feels less complex, and you can get more done.
Ask Yourself If You're Doing What You Want to Do
Feeling unfulfilled at work shouldn't be something you realize months too late, or even years. Consider making an earnest attempt every morning at what the late Apple CEO Steve Jobs told a graduating class at Stanford to do:
When I was 17, I read a quote that went something like: "If you live each day as if it was your last, someday you'll most certainly be right." It made an impression on me, and since then, for the past 33 years, I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: "If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?" And whenever the answer has been "No" for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.
"Customer Service" (or Your Own Equivalent)
Craigslist founder Craig Newmark answered the first hour question succinctly: "Customer service." He went on to explain (or expand) that he also worked on current projects, services for military families and veterans, and protecting voting rights. But customer service is what Newmark does every single day at Craigslist, responding to user complaints and smiting scammers and spammers. He almost certainly has bigger fish he could pitch in on every day, but Newmark says customers service "anchors me to reality."
Your own version of customer service might be keeping in touch with contacts from year-ago projects, checking in with coworkers you don't regularly interact with, asking questions of mentors, and just generally handling the human side of work that quickly gets lost between task list items. But do your customer service on the regular, and you'll have a more reliable roster of helpers when the time comes.