If Godzilla taught user interface lessons…

A few weeks ago, I helped my mom buy an iPad.

You would think that my mom, who is in her 70s, would be the one learning the most from this exercise, but you’d be wrong.

Going through this with her simply reminded me (again) to discard all assumptions when building a user interface, when training and most of all, when designing a process that brings new customers into the fold.

So why Godzilla?

Godzilla has very short arms, much like a T-Rex. Those of you who remember Bill Harley’s dinosaur story about the boy who wanted to be a T-Rex will be familiar with Godzilla’s challenge: Harley’s dinosaur ate the french fries off his plate like a dog because his arms wouldn’t reach the fork.

Godzilla would have an equally rough time using software that assumes the user can touch the iPad’s screen.

What I’m getting at here is that making assumptions about your clientele (or in this story’s case – end users) can threaten your ability to help them if it’s focused in the wrong place because you made too many assumptions.

My Assumptions

Before you think I’m accusing you of making assumptions about your clientele, keep in mind that I had done the same thing prior to going through this iPad install: I assumed that there was some familiarity with iPads/iPhones and touch devices in general – even though I knew better.

While mom has been a desktop computer user for quite a long time – she doesn’t have a smartphone or another touch device, so we were going into uncharted territory. This also meant that there was a pretty good chance that she’d have no familiarity with iOS basics, the iOS app store, iTunes, or anything else in that sphere of knowledge.

The adventure

Let’s go over what we did, what I learned and what you can take away from this little adventure.

The steps we performed: Initial power on, get wireless working so everything else would work, connect to iTunes store, create an iTunes account, timeout while fiddling with passwords and addresses, start over on the iTunes store setup and thus, account setup, then setup iTunes and download the Kindle reader app.

For someone in the geek business, this is a fairly simple exercise. Here’s the trick – if you’re an iPad owner for over a year – do you remember the steps and details of the signup and setup process? Do you think it has changed in the last year, much less two or three years? Of course.

So again, assumptions creep into the discussion. My probably-faulty memory was helping mom through this process without seeing her screen, so another layer of frivolity crept in.

After the create-an-account timeout, things went pretty smooth but the assumption monster was always peeking around from behind the iPad.

Your turn

Given my story about the iPad, think about the process you go through with a new client. Sometimes they seem so lost, so uninformed, so out of touch.

And here we are, looking at them like fools. They are the fools, so to speak, who just paid us to help them deal with the fact that they don’t know the things they paid us to help them with.

Perhaps a definition is in order.

Client (n) – “a person or organization in the case of a professional person or company.”

If your newest client told your best prospect that they are “In the care of…” your business, what would they say?

Is that different you would want them to say? You know the truth, be it good or not so good.

You may call them clients because you want to believe you treat them differently than ‘just a customer’, but if you don’t, they aren’t.

Back to those assumptions

Think about the last time you visited a doctor’s office. You come in, someone shoves a clipboard into your hands and you write the same information three times on different pieces of paper. Occasionally, someone asks a question about one of your answers.

Is this process guided? Non-repetitive? What about your questions? Do all the surprises and customer / client / patient assumptions go away?

On their next visit to your office, shop, warehouse or store… do they know exactly what to expect before they arrive? Do they leave without having experienced unexpected, unpleasant surprises? Do they know what they should expect the *next* time?

Assumptions work that way too.

Showrooming and the sales prevention department

Last time, we discussed the often forgotten reason for showrooming that happens after price shopping: convenience and time/fuel savings.

Remember Kübler-Ross’ five stages of grief? If you’ve forgotten, they are denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance.

When applied to showrooming, it isn’t much different. Acceptance and the clarity that accompanies it are where the sales live. Even big retail is figuring it out.

Big retail embraces showrooming

Big retailers are starting to embrace showrooming because they’ve realized that reacting to and/or punishing it has proven ineffective. Learn from their mistakes, research and investments. Customers who showroom are likely to be better informed shoppers that you don’t want to lose. Their phone might help them decide that your store is the right place to buy.

Retailers that welcome the smartphone shopper in their stores with mobile applications and wi-fi access — rather than fearing showrooming — can be better positioned to accelerate their in-store sales – particularly with the holiday shopping season approaching.

Shoppers armed with smartphones are 14 percent more likely to make a purchase in the store than those who do not use a smartphone as part of their in-store journey. – Deloitte study for Saks Fifth Avenue

Most small businesses don’t have the resources to embrace showrooming with a smartphone app, or don’t think they do. If that’s the case, what do you do?

The simplest answer is to side with the customer. Do this by making the in-store experience so much better than anything anyone can provide online. That’s where it pays to visit an Apple store – where nothing is like retail as you typically see it.

The last Apple store I visited was in Portland. In an average-sized mall store, there were 28 employees on the sales floor – and all of them were with customers. I thought this was odd, so I tried another Apple store.

Same thing.  There were over 100 shoppers in the store. Almost all of them were in groups engaged in a conversation while they used an Apple device. Many of those conversations included an Apple staffer.

The sales prevention department

Compare that to the shopping experience in a typical consumer electronics store.

Try to test drive a Kindle. It’s locked in demo mode. You can’t pick it up and hold it because of the security device and short “don’t steal me” cable attached to it.

The display of the device is focused on theft prevention. Why is this a bad thing? Because theft prevention becomes sales prevention.

In an Apple store, nothing’s locked down. Sure, there are lots of people around to make sure you don’t walk out the door with that fancy MacBook – but the products are presented in a way that is clearly designed to encourage you to pick them up and try them out.

Unlike most stores that sell laptops and tablets, the devices aren’t cabled down, nor is there a password protected screensaver that prevents you from doing any real examination of the machine.

They make this happen because no matter what you do to the device, at the end of the day, they have systems in place to “wipe” them and reset them to out-of-the-box new condition, software-wise. This assures that the next day’s sales aren’t impacted by what someone might have done to a device. They can also reset them during the day if someone went really crazy.

It’s almost unfair to sell against a setup like that. Perhaps that’s why Apple’s retail sales per square foot are higher than anyone else’s – over $6000 per foot.

What’s different?

If you’ve ever visited an Apple store, you’ve never seen a dead machine, much less one with a message that tells you it needs attention from a technical person. You won’t see a locked screensaver.

Now think about other electronics retailers. Their sales floor machines are locked down that you can’t do anything and there’s almost always one that’s off in never-never land, waiting for some tech help.

Step back a few paces. This isn’t just about Apple, laptops or tablets. It’s about encouraging someone to engage with your product, thus *enabling* a purchase.

No matter what you sell, ask yourself these two questions:

  • Are your displays focused making it easy to fall in love with a product and buy it?
    OR
  • Are your displays focused on controlling the sales process and preventing theft?

Making it easier to buy is something every one of us can do. It’s price-based showrooming’s Kryptonite.

Is your work important? Meaningful?

Like a lot of people, I was drawn to this TED talk by the death of Roger Ebert.

As you watch it, imagine how it must’ve felt to see that as a member of the speech synthesis team at Apple. Hearing Roger appreciate what they have done and describe how meaningful their work is to him, his life and his work must have been incredibly rewarding.

What a gift such validation must be for that team, in return for the gift that their work clearly gave Roger. Not just because validation was delivered at TED, but because it came from someone whose life was so intertwined in the ability to communicate.

Find meaning

Depending on what we do and perhaps because of where we do it, our work may never get validated in that way. It’s even less likely to be validated on the TED stage. I think that’s OK. After all, if your work is all about waiting for validation, maybe it’s the wrong work for you.

What isn’t OK is to spend a substantial portion of your life doing work that has little meaning to you. Is that what you want to tell stories to your grandkids about 30 years from now? I suspect not.

That doesn’t mean your work is meaningless unless you cure that terrible disease or rescue people in burning buildings. While there’s little doubt that kind of work is meaningful, but it may not be what gives *your* life meaning. That’s the difference.

Why spend your life doing work that doesn’t interest or motivate you? Why work at a place that doesn’t value what you do?

Yeah, but…

Almost everyone has had the opportunity to do what they might consider “less than meaningful” work because they have obligations to fulfill. Things like mouths to feed and bills to pay tend to trump finding meaning in people’s work, at least in the short term.

Even if you’re in that mode – and particularly if you expect to be there a while – find a way to make that work meaningful to you until another opportunity presents itself.

The speech synthesis team at Apple didn’t likely start their programming careers on that work, but something from their past that they found meaning in probably led them to it. Some of them likely had rather winding journeys to that team, so don’t feel like you have to be doing the work of the next Jonas Salk on day one. If you are, that’s great – but it might not work out that way when you start.

What are you working on? Where is it leading you?

For those about to sell, we salute you!

You may not like to sell, particularly if you are a technical person.

It’s even more likely if you’re a technical person who has built a job rather than a business – meaning you might be chief cook and bottle washer as well.

It may be an overused stereotype that technical people don’t like sales and marketing people, but there’s plenty of evidence to back it up.

While there are a number of reasons for these feelings, I find most of them irrational and costly. Yes, costly. I’m sorry to tell you that this irrational phobia is costing you customers and revenue.

Get one, maybe more than one

The obvious solution: Get a salesperson. A good one. You need to find someone to handle that work – particularly if you refuse to do it.

Spend some time teaching them the most important things about the business of your clients/prospects. Show them how your product/service provides value to your clients. Discuss with them what keeps your clients up at night and why – and how your product/service alleviates those concerns.

Use your marketing to identify who has shown interest in what you have to offer. Help them with a win-win setup so you get more new customers and they get paid for bringing your worlds together.

But I shouldn’t have to sell!

You may feel that your product/service is so awesome that people should line up to buy it.

In some way, you might be right. It might be the best product in its market. It might be the best product ever for what it does. But if no one buys it, you won’t be making it for long.

You and Kevin Costner can go build a baseball diamond in an Iowa cornfield if you like, but Hollywood movies notwithstanding, a throng of people aren’t likely going to show up simply because you built it.

You may not be any good at sales. In general, I guess that’s OK. It might turn out that you bring a lot of value to the business in other ways – meaning that selling may not be the best use of your time.

That doesn’t mean your business shouldn’t take sales seriously.

Owners sell

In recent times, the best known CEO-who-could-sell was Steve Jobs. If nothing else, the contrast between Jobs and his replacement illustrates the serious value that a selling business owner (or CEO) brings to the market.

I don’t mean that you must be as great as Jobs was on stage in front of 5000 people – though that might prove useful.

What I’m saying is that when you run into a prospect somewhere, you’d better be highly capable of telling the story that makes it obvious why someone would want what you sell. If the CEO/owner can’t communicate that to a prospect, a salesperson or the media, something is wrong.

The best CEOs/owners sell. So can you.

It’s a skill, just like welding or programming

Just because you can’t sell today, doesn’t mean you’re stuck. Selling is not a natural born skill. No newborn ever closed a deal, whether breast fed or bottle fed. No one wakes up and decides “Today is the day I become a great salesperson.”

However, sales can be learned, even by technical people who hate doing it. Tip: You usually hate it because you’re doing it wrong.

No matter what, if you have something to sell, a well-prepared sales team (even a team of one) will usually do a better job of selling it to the right people than you and your pile of hastily-made tri-fold brochures could ever do – at least until you put in the effort to learn the craft.

Lifelong

Don’t stop blogging and the other marketing-related things I’ve suggested in the past. While these things produce leads and nurture relationships….they aren’t sales.

Sales produce customers. I’ll bet you’d like to have more lifelong customers.

A sales team can help with that. Understand that I’m not talking about the kind of folks who make the cold read-a-script calls that you still get or the kind of salesperson most people think of when they hear the word “salesperson”.

Those are the salespeople nobody wants to talk to, because they can’t (or don’t) really sell.

Be (or hire) the kind who can and does.

Meeker 2012 – What should small software businesses do?

KPCB operating system trends
Credit: KPCB

Mary Meeker’s annual Internet Trends presentation is always an attention getter.

For some, a wake-up-call, for others… a reminder.

No matter what it is for you, there’s some valuable trend info there worth looking at in the context of your software business.

“Rapid mobile adoption still in early stages.”

Think about that for a moment. Apple has more than 100 million mobile devices sold (65 million iPads in 8 quarters) and dominates US smartphone sales. Android does the same for the rest of the world…and we’re still in the “early stages”.

This isn’t a surprise, but it’s a common mistake for entrepreneurs to feel like if they aren’t first, they’re worst – and for some, that they shouldn’t even try. Someone has to be first – and sometimes their most important achievement is to show everyone else that the market is viable.

It’s still very early for mobile, despite what you might gather from industry doomers, but there’s plenty of time to be the second mouse who gets the cheese.

Look around your clients’ offices. Are their salespeople 100% mobile? If they have any kind of fleet, are their drivers/pilots? What about their warehouse / lot / logistics people? Are their in-house pickers on mobile devices yet? What about their salespeople? Can they enter a lead, produce and email a quote and close a sale – including accepting a check, depositing a check, getting a contract signature, emailing the signed contract and/or taking a credit card – from their mobile phone?

All of those things can be done today with a phone. You can even deposit a check with your stodgy old bank’s mobile phone app.

What about your product line?

Can they use their mobile phone to perform core functionality like this in your software? My guess is… Probably not.

Some of your software might never be on a mobile device in its current form. Yet parts of it might make sense, particularly for outside sales and other mobile workers. One thing is almost certain: This kind of mobile flexibility will be difficult to avoid in the future because customers will demand it or move to someone else who delivers it.

One of the more challenging aspects of the move to mobile is the cross-architecture requirements. A few years back, you could dictate mobile hardware because phones couldn’t do the work. You’d have customers buy expensive ruggedized Symbol devices and that allowed you to control the scope of development.

Not anymore. Today, you need to be ready to consider adding iOS, Android, WinRT, Java, HTML5 and who knows what else to your development efforts. Now maybe you don’t start development on all of those at once but you’d better be considering how each of them apply in your market.

If you aren’t, are you ready to give up the testimonial-writing, market-leading customers in your client base? They’ll often be the ones who move first to new solutions that leverage advanced technology – even if it’s just to do a pilot and set their next long-term strategy.

Globally, only 18% of people have mobile access, but the growth rate was 37% over the last year. In the U.S., 29% have a tablet compared to 2% three years ago.

Rethink your apps.

“8% growth in internet users, driven by emerging markets”

79% of the U.S. population has internet access today, while only 10% of the population of India has it.

Of that 10%, 44 million use a smartphone. The rest use a mix of desktop/laptop and cell phone. For those who get to the net via mobile device, it doesn’t always happen on a smartphone. Meeker noted that 200 million farmers in India receive ag subsidies via their cell phone.

Intuit recognized this situation early on by having business development people in place in India. One of their success stories there is a service that delivers daily pricing information to farmers via text message. They’re adding 20,000 users a week to this text message based service, which helps farmers get more for their produce at market.

“Suddenly” the translation to Farsi and adaptation to “non-smart” cell phones seems more interesting…

For U.S. software companies, these are areas of concern. At 79%, our climb only has so much headroom left. International is a natural next step given the growth numbers.The U.S. is number eight in growth rate of new internet users, behind China, India, Indonesia, Philippines, Nigeria, Mexico and Russia.

Why worry? Because small U.S. software companies tend to avoid internationalization. Grab 10 small software company product downloads off the net. How many of them support other languages? Other currencies? Other taxation systems?

If internationalization is a problem, how functional is business development outside the U.S. for American companies? How else will you get accurate business development knowledge in those countries? Add to that, many countries have barriers to outside companies building a presence inside their borders – just like the U.S. does.

This is an area of great potential, but it doesn’t come without serious work. It isn’t as simple as running your product’s text strings through Google Translate.

Don’t forget Android. In 13 quarters, Android has lined up 250MM mobile phone users, with the majority outside the U.S.  Combine that with a different platform with many different screen formats and this is where you mull over your answer to “How bad do you want it?” when looking at the potential return.

Smartphone upside

As the smartphone enters the developing world en mass, there’s still a big upside. In the U.S., we think we’ve seen it all. Globally, there are 953 million smartphone subscribers. Seems like a lot, after all that’s about 3 times the size of the U.S. population.

Yet for all mobile phones, the smartphone subscribers number jumps to 6.1 billion (see image below). Compare those two numbers carefully when considering your near term app strategy.

Many would suggest you build a smartphone app for these developing markets ASAP. I suggest you consider where you are now before taking that step. In particular, think about “the reason to get a sale“.

Show me

Many will read these numbers and think “Yeah, but…”  The “but” is about where the buyers are and where the traffic is.

Currently 10% of global internet traffic is mobile. It was 4% two years ago.

What about buyers? Meeker said 8% of e-commerce is mobile-based and that the click through rate on mobile is still 1/5th of what desktop click through is.

8% globally is a big number and has little choice but to go up. Can your site handle it? Can your clients’ sites?

In India, there is now more mobile-based internet traffic than there is traffic from desktops/laptops. Breathe that in before your next long-term product strategy meeting.

Reimagination

These three graphics tell a lot of stories. There is one thing they don’t say.

One thing these graphics don’t say is “Who’s next?”

Spring Training

That’s how early things are. Meeker called it “Spring Training” because there are so many opportunities related to the net and mobile that the season really hasn’t started. Maybe in the U.S., we’re jaded to the opportunity that remains because we have this habit of assuming that everyone is like we are. 15 minutes on your tech support line will clear that up.

For those willing to think and work differently…different results are possible. Look back over these slides and my comments. How will they, how could they impact your business?

Thanks to KPCB, I’ve included the slide deck here…

The other shoe

Meeker’s talk wasn’t all good news. She referred to KPCB’s now-famous (and sobering) USA Inc. video/report that looks at the financial performance of the U.S. as if it was a business. Regardless of your politics, it’s worth a look. An October 2012 USA Inc slide deck is here and the 2011 video is here.

Who will put you out of business? It should be you.

One of the questions I’ve learned to ask clients is “What’s next?”

As in, what are you thinking about for next year? (Much less the year after that)

It isn’t that what you’re doing today or what you’re launching next month is irrelevant, but it is important that you are already thinking about what you’ll deliver next year because you usually can’t create that / learn it / build it overnight.

You need to start soon, if not today.

But how do you know what to build / where to go?

Study

One way is to study what people smarter than you are doing / investing in. No matter who you are or how smart you are, there’s always someone smarter out there, so you may as well learn from their knowledge, vision and experience.

Another tactic is to study where groups are going that tend to lead your market.

For example, the “adult content” industry has been a technology bellwether for media-related innovation for years. Their direction in media use is uncannily accurate when it comes to predicting future trends in mass-market/consumer media consumption. Their corporate media / technology usage direction is what bears study, rather than their end-user product.

Another way to get an early view is to watch what startups are doing. Not all of them are technology-related, but it’s unusual to find one that doesn’t leverage technology in some way.

When it comes to technology startups and trends, a great source is Mary Meeker‘s annual Internet Trends presentation.

Mary is an experienced venture investor (and partner) at Kleiner Perkins Caufield and Byers. You may not have heard of them, but you’ve probably used something they invested in during its journey from idea to product/service. Twitter, Amazon, Intuit, Groupon, Google, Zynga are just a few examples of businesses they’ve funded.

So what does that have to do with you? You aren’t competing with Amazon (yet?) and maybe you aren’t in the software business.

Startups are everywhere

Startups are everywhere, not just in the software business.

I recently attended the Missoula live-streaming (a conference-related trend) of the Lean Startup Conference organized by well-known venture investor Steve Blank, startup CEO Eric Ries and investor Sarah Milstein.

If you look at the conference page, you’ll see some familiar (and not so familiar) names. The startups they represent range from web services to car rental (sharing, actually) to charter schools. Startups are not just about tech geekery and they aren’t limited to Silicon Valley.

The specific startups they’re working on aren’t as important as the trends they are seeing/starting and the markets they are changing/influencing.

Your own industry association is a good source of trend info, but don’t focus so closely on your own market’s leadership that you don’t learn from other industries.

Change is ever present

Change isn’t a constant, but it sure is persistent. Embrace it, leverage it or expect to be run over by it.

Two years ago, General Motors looked dead. GM’s November sales were its best in five years, likely a result of bailout-era changes gaining traction and hitting the market. GM’s China sales are up 14%.

Ten years ago, Microsoft looked unbeatable. Today, it looks a bit bleak per this trend graphic from Meeker’s slide deck. Time will tell if the Surface product line changes things.

Fifteen years ago, WalMart seemed invincible. Today, Amazon and Apple iTunes sell more music and online shopping is a billion dollar business.

Fifty years ago, AT&T was the only phone company in the U.S. and many people shopped at Woolworth.

The point?

Assume nothing. Asking yourself “What’s next?” shouldn’t be a reaction to losing market share/customers. Do it to avoid being made irrelevant.

Speaking of..Apple has had some less than ideal efforts recently. Before Jobs’ passing, they seemed untouchable and recently became the most valuable U.S. company in market cap – bigger than Exxon/Mobil. Despite all that success and momentum, they still have weak spots in their armor.

What are they doing about it? Reports surfaced this week that Apple is working on a order-of-magnitude phone product that’ll make their current iPhone product line irrelevant. They’re asking “What’s next?” before what’s next happens to them.

You should be too, no matter what business you’re in.

Do better sameness?

“Do better sameness.”

That’s a comment from Guy Kawasaki, made starting a discussion about what he learned from Steve Jobs. It refers to what some advisors will tell you to do – ie: improve incrementally.

Improving incrementally is a fine thing to strive for on a daily/weekly basis, but not so much on an annual basis. Incremental improvement really can’t be the only thing you do if you are attempting to revolutionize a market, “change the world” (or some aspect of it) and the like.

This talk was given the day after Steve’s death.

Guy’s list 

  • Don’t listen to “experts/gurus”, particularly if that’s how they describe themselves. Experts who *are doing* or have done what you want to do – that’s another story entirely.
  • Customers cannot tell you what they need. You can ask customers how to improve something, but you cannot ask them how to revolutionize something. It’s not their focus. There are exceptions, of course. If you meet a customer who has this sort of vision, listen, discuss, brainstorm with them.
  • The biggest challenges beget the best work. Guy indicated this is the reason why Apple employees love working there. They get to do their life’s work.
  • Design counts, especially in a world defined by price. He includes quality as a component of design, just so you aren’t focused solely on elegance and the like.
  • Use big graphics and a big font.
  • Jump curves. Be 10 times better, not 10% better. Ice factory to refrigerator. Telegraph to telephone. Daisy wheel printers to laser printers. Dan Kennedy talks about the best businesses skipping rungs in the ladder while competitors improve rung by rung – same thing.
  • All that really matters is that something “works” or “doesn’t work”.
  • Value is different from price.
  • “A” players hire “A” or “A+” players. “B” players hire “C” players. “C” players hire “D” players. Guy calls this the “bozo explosion.”  Hire people that are better than you at whatever position. People who can be micro-managed are not A/A+ players.
  • Real CEOs can demo – which means they can not only speak well with a crowd but understand the user experience their products provide.
  • Real entrepreneurs ship, not slip.
  • Some things need to be believed to be seen.

Definitely worth a listen. Watching it isn’t really necessary as there are no slides in Guy’s talk, but you might miss some important little nuggets if you don’t focus on Guy’s comments.

Sometimes, normal is the last thing you need

Parthenon
Creative Commons License photo credit: K_Dafalias

When things are going really well, we think we’re really something.

We describe it as being in a groove, smooth and steady, in a rhythm or “working like a well-oiled machine”.

In electrical engineering, steady state describes the “normalcy” of a current or signal after it settles down shortly after being powered up.

Sometimes, normal is the last thing you need and a groove is really a rut.

A Normal Example

An easy to understand example is how NBC’s coverage of the London Olympics and Paralympics is made available to the public. It’s been such a mess that a Google search of NBCFail brings up more than you want to know.

They’ve got covering the Olympics down to an art. Unfortunately, they’re wasting a huge opportunity because they’re mired in trying to protect what was rather than take advantage of what is.

With millions of iOS and Android mobile devices sold and in action around the U.S. (and many more outside the U.S.), you’d think that high quality coverage would be more accessible than ever and available for purchase on your mobile device and/or computer.

Unfortunately, that’s not the case. Fact is, U.S. viewers can see events live via NBCOlympics.com only if you have a cable or dish subscription. The Apple iPad app also has this limitation and has no purchase options.

The thought process seems to be “How can we limit access to coverage and protect our business so it never has to change?” when it should be “How can we get coverage to as many people as possible and grow our business like crazy by reaching more eyeballs for our advertisers?

Abnormal isn’t the opposite of normal

Requiring a wannabe viewer to have cable or dish coverage ignores the economics, scale and current markets/platforms for content delivery. It reminds me of the state of the music industry, which ignored the modern world until the modern world ignored them back because there were better solutions for music lovers.

It ‘s why Def Leppard recently re-recorded all their classics. Their record label is too mired the now-dead vinyl era to work with Def Leppard to get their music on iTunes and sell a few million copies of Pour Some Sugar On Me or Rock of Ages.

Why iTunes, you ask? Because they’ve been the number one retailer of music since 2008. Yes, that’s PAID not pirated. And yes, bigger than Walmart, Best Buy, Amazon or Target. Paid music is today’s normal for the post-Napster world because it’s easy to buy and use on your various music devices.

Just like the Olympics should be.

WWAD?

That’s “What would Apple do?” if they had the rights to sell access to Olympic coverage. This isn’t just about Apple. Someone with an Android-targeted distribution system could also play the game, but let’s stick with Apple for now because it’s familiar.

My guess is that Apple would sell Olympic coverage via app or the iTunes store’s Newsstand, but they’d be wise to offer browser-based support as well.

We might have access to the following:

  • A raw feed with no commentary, just one big stream of coverage in chronological order from start to finish.
  • A raw feed with commentary from a selected country
  • A raw feed with commentary from the host country’s announcers.
  • All the above in whatever the top three or five languages are in iTunes land.
  • An option that features nothing but Bob Costas all the time.
  • Dual-labeled NBC/Apple coverage just like you’d see it on U.S. cable TV.
  • Dual-labeled NBC/Apple U.S. cable TV events-only coverage, without profiles and Bob Costas color pieces.

In addition, maybe you could purchase/subscribe to:

  • Coverage of a particular sport (ie, selections that included swimming, gymnastics, sh0oting sports, track and field, team sports, individual sports, etc)
  • Coverage of a particular athlete
  • Coverage of a particular country’s athletes
  • Coverage of a particular state’s/province’s athletes
  • Premium-priced commercial-free coverage

And of course, live alerts based on your chosen criteria – like the ESPN app has had for years.

Forget the Olympics, how about my small business?

For you, the point is to brainstorm what your customers could buy based not just on “what was”, but to consider “what is”. What’s possible when you aren’t trying to preserve what market forces are going to dismantle anyway? It’s always better to reinvent your business on your terms and timeframe rather than have someone else do it to you.

Update: Proof that the old school media still doesn’t get the real meaning of #NBCFail. Money is being left on the table and customers are going to go elsewhere. “Where else can you get the Olympics?” you might ask – Nowhere. Yes, that is an option that people will exercise as cable subscribers drop and alternative platforms continue to grow. Again, the issue is the same with your business.

Meanwhile, a writer at Target Marketing mag sees the opportunity as well and notes a fine example that’s here *today*: the methods CBS/NCAA used for their highly-regarded Final 4 coverage.

How to make it easy for customers to fall in love


Creative Commons License photo credit: MahPadilha

Back in March, I wrote about a lamp shopping experience I had in a local store.

Today, this story in VentureBeat (reminds me of TigerBeat…) and Forbes caught my eye.

It’s about the preferred angle of the MacBook screen on store displays in the Apple Store.

The lamp and the MacBook stories… are about the same topic. Love.

I’ll ask again… Are you paying attention to the things that make it easy for people to fall in love with what you sell?

Choosing a logo is like choosing a spouse

If I had a dime for every time someone got on my case because my blog (much less my business) has no logo, I’d have a lot of dimes.

It isn’t because I don’t want one. It’s that logo selection is TOUGH.

Selecting a logo isn’t like deciding on a salad dressing for your lunch. It’s more like choosing a spouse or a business partner. It’s a decision that you have to like now, 10 years from now and under a ton of different conditions.

I can throw a salad away if I don’t like the dressing. It’s difficult and expensive to throw out a spouse or business partner…and likewise, a logo.

Putting it in context

Things to think about while falling in love with that incredibly cool, glossy metal-look electric blue logo that looks great as it fills the screen of a retina display iPad.

If only that was the only place they’d ever see it. But…it isn’t

A few questions to ask yourself (and perhaps, your designer):

  • How will the logo look in a large format? Consider a trade show booth, billboard, the side of a building, signage, private jet or blimp.
  • How will the logo look in a small format? A good example is a favicon (the icon you see on the address line on your browser) or avatar.
  • How will it look in a browser? Consider what it looks like at 72 DPI, properly sized with other content on a webpage.
  • How will it look in print? Think newspaper ad, magazine article, business card and  letterhead
  • How will it look on a button, such as an election campaign button?
  • How will it look on a mobile device or as an icon? Consider different sizes from retina iPad to Blackberry to Mac to Windows.
  • How will it look on a colorless device, like a regular Kindle?
  • How will it look on your products?
  • Is the style timeless or trendy? Does that matter to you? Will you be tempted to change it in 2-3-5 years if the logo’s style dates your business?
  • Is the logo complex? Does it have fine lines or high gloss? These things don’t always translate well when resized, printed, etc.

If these questions produce territorial, defensive, offended or angry responses from you, your staff or the designer, you have the wrong logo and/or the wrong designer.

Some bigger picture questions that might help you decide on a direction or between finalists on a list of logo concepts presented to you:

  • What does the logo say about you and your business?
  • What message does it send?
  • Does it need to send a message?
  • Is it consistent with your other materials?

That last one is really important. When you see something from Apple, you usually know it’s from them before you see the logo or company name. You’ve also seen inconsistent materials. Inconsistency is jarring. Uncomfortable. Is that what you want to do to people when they switch from a website to a brochure to a trade show booth? I don’t think so.

If the new logo is inconsistent with your current materials, that’s OK…if you are OK with changing your current materials. You’ll be tempted to use the existing supply until it’s gone. I understand that. I’ve done that. All I’ll suggest is that you consider where to use the existing materials and what impact that inconsistency may have.

Example: 10 boxes of letterhead with your old logo can be cut into notepad sizes piles in almost no time by a professional print shop. They can be bound on one edge like real bought-at-the-store note pads. Use them internally. Give them to a school, art project or senior home. Use one to level that annoying off-balance table at the local coffee shop. There’s a productive use for them.

Deadline decisions

These “bigger picture” questions are important to ask yourself because logos become unworkable at the worst possible time – right before a deadline. Examples include the run up to a trade show, product launch, strategic mailing or website design.

Deadlines often force last minute decisions that you later regret. They also have a price once you figure out what you really want.

Some of those things are why I don’t have one, but mostly because it hasn’t been important to my branding. For you, it might be huge.

A graphics person will ask you for colors, message, theme, whether or not you want words in the logo (go back to those first two questions on format). The more info you can give them about what you want, the better the outcome. If ” I don’t know” or “I don’t care” is your answer to the color/message/theme questions, it’s not a good start.

If you give your designer a blank sheet and just send them off to create something, I think you’ll be disappointed in the logo you get – no matter how good they are.