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The Social Media Scoreboard

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You’ve probably seen people on Twitter or Facebook yammering about “Wow, I only need 17 more followers or fans to hit 2000” (or  10000 or whatever).

If you’ve used Twitter, you know that there’s a curve there and when you round it, it’s like drinking from a firehose.

Stowe Boyd talks a little about the social media scoreboard in today’s guest post, stating that quality rather than quantity is the important factor.

Remember that each of those fans or followers are people. They have needs, wants and presumably they followed/fan’d you because they thought you had something to say. “I’m having a waffle” just isn’t it.

@BillGates doesn’t have 400-500k people following him on Twitter after just a few weeks because they want to hear him talk about Windows or MS Office. Bill is engaging to follow nowadays because he talks about poverty, disease and education – and then puts his money where his mouth is. Lots of it. Almost $300 million for polio, for example.

Engage. Have a *meaningful* conversation.

Think about the folks on Twitter or Facebook whose posts you look forward to. How are they different from yours?

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Retailers: Are you making your own recession?

Ever hear the term BSOD?

It’s an acronym for “Blue Screen of Death”, which is what you get when Windows barfs all over itself.

In my experience, you get that rare (for me) “I’m a PC” explosion when hardware is failing (and sometimes when you seriously, royally messed up).

Last week after a litany of BSODs on a 30 month old laptop (6 months longer than the typical lifespan in my use – thanks HP), I decided I needed to deal with this issue sooner rather than later.

Because I like The 3/50 Project, I called a local authorized retailer of the brand of laptop I had my eye on. I asked if they had any one of the standard models (a very common one) in stock.

“No, but we can order it for you.”

I replied “Sorry, I was looking to buy from a local company.”

Remembering why you have a storefront

You have a retail storefront. You’ve paid the manufacturer to become an authorized retailer (and continue to pay for co-op advertising, ongoing training, and so on). Yet…you don’t stock the product and you suggest that the service you can provide after all that investment in time and money will be to order one for me?

I can find (or whatever) on my own, thanks.

Retailers have complained incessantly about unfair competition from e-commerce stores, but not enough have done something about it. Many retail store failures have been blamed on online buying, while few get blamed on the owner / management / employees.

E-commerce succeeds because goods and services can be shopped for 24 hours a day, from any location,  in “any” store from anywhere.

Why do some retailers still try to make shopping right here in town *harder* than shopping online? I just don’t get it.

Instant gratification goes both ways

People say e-commerce is all about instant gratification. That people can buy online and immediately feel the rush of a successful purchase.

Horse hockey. Instant gratification (or close enough) happens when I can drive 18 minutes, walk into the store, plop down my Bert and Ernie-branded Mastercard and walk out with a product under my arm after being helped by a salesperson or clerk who acts like it matters that I walked into their store.

Ecommerce makes me wait at least until tomorrow. Where’s the instant gratification in that?

Retail stores often fail because they don’t exist to serve the customer, or they don’t recognize that the reason for getting a sale is to get a new customer.

This local store lost a $2000 sale in a two minute phone call – and may also have lost a long-term customer, which is even worse from my perspective.

I called a Montana-based chain store who deals in the same product and they had them in stock. But they’re “just” a retailer. They don’t do consulting or offer anything of that nature like the other business does – so it doesn’t matter all that much to them whether I’m a long-time customer or not, at least from the perspective of that purchase.

What should have happened?

What should the first guy should have done when I told him I wanted to make a local purchase? He should referred me to the other local dealer and offered to help if I needed it (since it’s obvious to *anyone* that the other store doesn’t do that sort of thing).

You want more customers. Do what’s in *their* best interest and it’ll come back to you. Remember, I came to you to ask for help. Instead of solving my problem, you offered to do what I can do from my La-Z-Boy.

Call it karma if you wish. Call it good business. Regardless, think of what the customer is trying to accomplish and help them do so. Next time, they might think of you again – and you might actually have the item they need in stock.

Tomorrow, we’ll address that stock issue.

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Test your ability to influence others for the right reasons

need for touch: haptic information processing
Creative Commons License photo credit: myuibe

Here’s a little quiz about influencing decision makers:

Tell me how you did – and what you think about your answers (a key/explanation is provided after the quiz).

I got a 90%. The one I “missed” I disagree with because I think the right answer requires a mix of two possible answers ( the only two that make sense on the Microsoft question).

One important thing to take from this: Your ability or desire to influence stems from knowing that your solution will truly HELP someone and/or their business. The way I look at it, if you have THE solution for a particular problem/situation, you have an *obligation* to become an expert at showing why people need it.

This isn’t about some infomercial that sells someone crap they don’t need. It’s not about how many “closes” you have memorized (what a pile of crap).

It’s about your ability to understand your customer, analyze their wants and needs and then – if your solution fits – explain the solution in a way that makes it drop-dead-simple to make a purchasing decision.

More reading on this topic: Cialdini’s book “Influence”.

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Taken a pulse lately?

Ten months of 2009 are gone. Take the pulse of your business and ask yourself: “Is the business where I wanted to be by now?

Before you think this is all about the finances, it isn’t. It’s all about where you wanted to be. Maybe it’s about finances, but there might be more important indicators. It’s easy to be profitable and still heading in the wrong direction, for example.

If you’re behind, what can do add, change, delete, correct or adjust to get your progress back on track to meet/exceed your business’ goals? Have you actually done what you said you would do? If not, why not?

Not just about Retail

Big retail (and far too much of small retail) looks at these next two months as what gets them into the black. They’ve even named the day after Thanksgiving “Black Friday” because that’s the shopping day that traditionally moves their business into the black.

While many outside of retail often look at these next two months as throwaways due to the number of holidays, vacations, parties, travel, hunting season and so on – that’d be a mistake.

Likewise, lots of companies put off hiring during these two months (hmm, so NOW till January is the time to pick off the best talent?).

As for the delay, I can find a holiday and related excuses to do that in any month. Why would you do that?

Thank them

In a few weeks, Thanksgiving is coming up in the U.S.

What a great time to take a little time to thank your clientele for their business – just don’t be boring about it and don’t make it a sales call. Whatever you do, do it as a sincere thanks rather than making it ordinary and using it as just another opportunity to pitch everyone.

For Canadian readers who are thinking “Darn, our Thanksgiving was last month”, it’s not too late. Simply acknowledge that you’re a bit tardy so you thought you’d thank them in time for the Americans’ Thanksgiving.


One last thing on this topic – now’s the time to get moving on an assessment of 2009’s successes and failures, and start laying out your 2010 plans and goals. Have your plans and strategies ready for Jan 1 (and start them earlier if it makes sense). Don’t wait until Jan 1 to start this process.

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Seth, Harvard and understanding social network users

Today’s guest post comes from Professor Mikolaj Jan Piskorski from the Harvard Business School.

HBS’s Sean Silverthorne summarizes of the article:

Many business leaders are mystified about how to reach potential customers on social networks such as Facebook. “Understanding users of social networks” provides a fresh look into the interpersonal dynamics of these sites and offers guidance for approaching these tantalizing markets.

Key concepts include:

  • Online social networks are most useful when they address failures in the real world (Mark: Note the city pairs mentioned in the article).
  • Pictures are the killer app of social networks.
  • Women and men use these sites differently.
  • Businesses shouldn’t consider social networks as just another channel.

The biggest discovery: pictures. 70% of all actions are related to viewing pictures or viewing other people’s profiles.

Knowing that (you really should have known that already, think about it), how does this alter how you present yourself online?

That it isn’t just another channel is something that even some legendary marketing experts still don’t seem to get.

What do I mean? You’ve probably noticed it before but you (like me) maybe didn’t think to say anything about it. 

As you might expect, Hildy said something.

Earlier this week, she commented that even Seth Godin, the Seth that we’ve all learned so much from, doesn’t allow comments on his blog. How is that serving his Tribe?

Even Seth should know (and I’m sure he does) that it’s a conversation, not just a broadcast channel.

Which makes the situation even more curious. Do what Seth says, not what Seth does – at least in this instance.

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Atomic batteries to power, turbines to speed

Batmobile car at Hot Wheels booth, ComicCon 2007, San Diego, CA.jpg
Creative Commons License photo credit: gruntzooki

Would airlines be (more?) profitable if they didn’t have to pay for the fuel to get their planes from the runway to 35,000 feet?

I’m guessing they would. Think about all the fuel it takes to lift half a million pounds (or so) of aluminum, fuel, people, iPods and 3 ounce shampoo bottles all the way to 35,000 feet.

A lot. From the research I’ve done, it takes about twice as much fuel to climb as it does to cruise. There are variables, but that’s the basics.

Whether you run an airline or a flower shop, how you get started is important.

What it costs in time and money to get a new customer rocking and rolling with your product and service is more than important.

Set the tone

How you get started usually sets the tone for everything that comes after that point.

As I may have told you that back in the prehistoric days (ie: the photo software), we were always looking for a way to shorten the sales cycle. To find a way to make people think “yep, gotta have that now” vs. “gotta have that, but maybe next quarter”.

We talked about this a little not long ago when pet peeves was the topic of the day.

One of the pet peeves of any custom software product is the setup process. In the case of a detailed, vertical market package like ours (and perhaps like yours), “teaching” the software how you run your business isn’t easy.

We had one couple tell us that they put it off for 6 months and ended up renting a hotel room for the weekend just to get the setup task behind them. Well meaning, always intending to do it, but never could get enough quiet time to educate our software – until they got a room.

Hello? McFly? Am I paying attention to that?


Yes, of course we started doing the setup for them. I may have told that story here before. Doesn’t matter – it’s that important.

It transformed our sales process and started our customers off so fast that they were productive in short order.

It was a killer start to our relationship because it allowed our experts to set the software up right (kinda important) and the information they sent us (price lists, policies, documents and such) helped us understand our new customer’s business.

Oh, and they loved it because we did it for them and their investment started getting used right away.

But that isn’t why I brought it up (though it’s a pretty good reason.


And that’s what I’m getting at today. That setup thing got them started with a bang. In no time, they were productive and at cruising altitude at almost no cost to them in time or hard dollars.

No excuses. 7 days from purchase to startup. Everyone’s head turns at that “no time or hard dollar cost” thing – especially in 7 days.

What can you do to make the climb to cruising altitude easier for your clientele?

Whether you sell software, coffee beans, tax services or lawn tractors, I’ll bet there’s something (else) you could be doing to make the climb a little bit (or a lot) easier.

Now…imagine what a competitive edge it will be when you can say something like this: “If you buy our planes and use our maintenance services, we’ll pay for the fuel required to get our planes from takeoff to cruising altitude and we’ll do it for as long as your service contract is in force.”

Obviously you’ll be saying it in the context of what you do – but I think you get the idea, mostly because my example is so far fetched.

Perhaps best of all, I’ll bet you can find something awesome without giving away 6500 lbs of jet fuel every day (per plane).

Imagine how profitable airlines would be if they didn’t have to pay for the fuel to get their planes from the runway to 35,000 feet.

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Amanda Palmer 1, Naysayers 0

Concierto Amanda Palmer and The Danger Ensemble, Sala [2]
Creative Commons License photo credit: alterna2

An ideal guest post for America’s Independence Day, Tech Dirt’s coverage of Amanda Palmer’s use of Twitter for grassroots marketing of her music (and other stuff). I hadn’t heard of her until reading the article.

Note: This is not a G-rated article, but it is instructive all the same.

The point of this is to think, much less think unconventionally, consider the resources you have available and most importantly, to communicate with your fans (even plumbers have fans, so don’t think that your business doesn’t).

Regarding naysayers: There will *always* be people who tell you you can’t do it, you can’t sell for that price, you’ll never make it, etc.

They might be partly right: perhaps they couldn’t.

The question isn’t what they can or can’t do, it is…  Can you?


Wonder: The Value of Twitter

Wonder Bread
Creative Commons License photo credit: brew127

You may look at social media as a toy, a giant time sink, or something marginally valuable.

Or something else entirely.

Me? I find it an amazing tool, particularly Twitter.

As @GaryVee noted yesterday in the video conversation between he and Robert Scoble, Twitter lets you do something essential for free that businesses would have paid MILLIONS for a decade ago.

The ability to listen to what people are saying, in *real conversations*, about their products and services.

The ability to engage their customers.

My new “friend” Al

As I noted a few weeks ago, I’m making some business changes in order to position myself to be more flexible as my role as an Alzheimer’s patient caregiver becomes more demanding somewhere down the road.

Fast forward to earlier this week. I’m glancing over at Tweetdeck (a program that “watches” Twitter for you) and I see Guy Kawasaki talking about, one of his startup companies.

Alltop gathers the best of the best on a particular topic and shows you a pile of RSS feeds in a really efficient format on one page (for example, Business is Personal‘s RSS feed is available on

For some odd reason, it made me wonder if Guy has an Alzheimer’s section on Alltop.

I mosey over to and find out that there isn’t an Alzheimer’s section. I’m a little surprised, so I tap Guy on the shoulder via Twitter.

He replies back a few minutes later, says he thinks its a good idea and asks for some RSS feeds that I like regarding Alzheimer’s. It happens that I only have a few because I’m kinda of new in AlzheimersTown, but I send them anyway and tell him I’ll send more as I find feeds that I like.

An hour or so later, he tweets back at me and says is up and ready to use. In the course of the conversation, he tells me his mom had it as well.

Guy didn’t have to share that with me, but he did. It’s what Twitter does. It creates a personal connection between people with like interests. Now, besides being geeks, we have something else in common. A family experience with Alzheimer’s.


Tell me…  Before Twitter (B.T.), how would I manage to not only get Guy’s attention long enough to ask him to add a new feature to his product, much less to make a personal connection via something we share regarding a family member?

Remember, Guy’s a celebrity. A former Apple exec. A venture capitalist. A bunch of other stuff.

The walls that fame, fortune and celebrity put up between people (much less the mileage between Montana and Palo Alto) would make normally him completely inaccessible to me.

Twitter breaks down the wall, just like it did when I “caught” him reading my blog last year.

It lets people be people again – even over the net. It lets you get involved in the conversations about issues, products, services and “stuff”.

Stop wondering

Ever wonder who might be talking about your product or service?

On Twitter, you don’t have to wonder.

Instead, you can actually join that conversation, just like Gary said yesterday and like Robert Collier said decades ago. When you do that, you can learn more about what really drives your customers to do what they do.

Have a conversation.

What do you think that is worth to you? I wonder.

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@GaryVee: Don’t be average, Average Joe

Normally, I hold guest posts till the weekend, but folks, that wouldn’t be fair to you. This video is a gift that keeps on giving and you need to see it now. Enjoy.

Whether you run a specialty retailer in Billings, a publishing company in Winnipeg, an e-commerce store in Colorado Springs, a niche business services operation in San Francisco, or something else entirely, you simply have to absorb this.

(video has been removed from the net – sorry. If I find it, I will repost the link here)

There are numerous instructive moments there for everyone and they should be drop dead obvious. It might take more than one listen, but do it.

Average Joe

If you read the comments, you’ll see someone ask “What’s in this for the average Joe?”

Beyond @gapingvoid’s “Don’t be average” comment, if you can’t easily take away a dozen lessons from this video, you really need to decompress and watch it again and again until they sink in.

Gary’s one suggestion to anyone who would challenge him in the wine market: “Be better”, suggesting that if he saw Gary Vaynerchuk in his market, he’d go after him big time.

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The wisdom of setting expectations from a 17 year old bacon lover

Best sign ever
Creative Commons License photo credit: miss_rogue

Last week I was at summer camp with the Scout troop so things were a bit quiet here.

Normally I would have posted a series of posts written in advance, but I thought both of us needed a break. Break time is over, so let’s get back at it.

As always, there are lessons in business to bring home from camp, often from unexpected places.

Like a 17 year old in the dining hall.

Before I get to that, the story requires a few facts to get you into the proper context:

  • Boy Scouts would eat bacon at every meal for a week if you’d let them. No, I am not kidding.
  • Bacon is a sneaky way of getting the boys to learn that cooking sometimes requires patience and that a camp stove’s burners have settings other than “Off” and “Blast furnace”. When a boy sees a perfectly cooked strip of bacon, they can respect the care that was taken to prepare it (right before they inhale it, that is).
  • At Scout camp, two things are essential: Good food and a great staff. If either one is bad, that camp will not be fondly remembered.

Now that you are properly educated, here’s the story.

Real Bacon? Are you nuts???

One morning at breakfast, the camp offered bacon to the 200+ campers and staff in attendance.

If you’ve been to Scout summer camp before, you know this is rare because of the expense and because it is difficult to cook bacon for 200+ people while having it anywhere close to hot when served and most importantly – in that situation, it is rarely cooked right.

Typically you find summer camp bacon limp and undercooked or charred and/or some combination of both – sometimes with all those conditions occurring on the same piece (again, not kidding – would I kid about bacon?).

Add to that, summer camp bacon is not normally what Mom and Dad would serve, instead it’s often some tiny strip of paper-thin re-cooked bacon. Pfft.

As folks head through the line on this fine morning, people are seen coming back to their seats with 3 strips of bacon – a rather unheard of serving size at summer camp.

Not only are they giving out 3 strips, but these strips are monstrous (OK, maybe they’re normal – but that’s shocking enough) *and* they are perfectly cooked.

Then the worst happens: They run out of bacon.

Folks, this is like running out of beer and pork products at an LSU home football game. Riots are possible.

The Great Bacon Fiasco

At our table, the event already has a name: “The Great Bacon Fiasco”. And you thought I wasn’t kidding about Scouts taking bacon seriously…

People are coming back to their seats with zero bacon and they are watching someone at the next table munch gleefully on 3 strips of porcine heaven.

Apparently some miscommunication occurred with the servers, who gave out 3 strips vs 2, thereby blowing the bacon budget.

The only thing stopping the second coming of the South Central Riots is that the head chef can be seen (through the service window) at the back of the kitchen where she has the entire griddle covered with cooking bacon.

Calmer heads prevail and eventually, 2 strip servings begin to go out to those who were previously left out.

Naturally, those in the Two Strip Club are grumbling – mostly because they know those other lucky dudes got 3 pieces.


Not long after everyone is served, the crazy dude announcing the meal (trust me, gotta be there) announces that seconds will be served and he goes around table by table releasing folks to the seconds line so they can “get their pork on”.

Upon returning from the seconds line, my senior patrol leader (ie: the youth in charge of the troop) sits down with 1 strip of bacon. Perfectly cooked, but terribly lonesome. Everyone who went up for seconds got 1 more slice – which makes perfect sense so that the maximum number of people get seconds.

Problem is, a kid who would normally be happy to have received a 3rd, perfectly-cooked strip of bacon is instead mildly annoyed, or disappointed, or something along those lines.

His bacon-inspired wisdom: He remarks that everyone who only got 2 strips would be far less grumpy if they had given everyone 2 strips from the outset and then given out that same 1 strip second serving to anyone who wanted seconds.

Wiser than his years might reveal, the young man understands how setting expectations works – whether it’s with bacon, product delivery, service, follow up or what not.

What kind of expectations does your business set? Do they meet or exceed what is delivered?  Would altering one impact the reception of the other?

Pass the bacon.

PS: If the bacon thing doesn’t resonate with you, substitute latkes. Same fervor, different food.