Just change? Or change for the better?

“Work for Change” by Alexander Stein (Fortune Small Business, November 2009). It’s always interesting how the title of  an article sometimes changes from the print version to the web version. In this case, the web version is actually, “Break bad habits, make more money.” Look out Spiderman, here comes SEOman. I digress.

Change and innovation continue to be the buzz words of the moment. Add in the fact that the New Year’s resolution ritual is just around the corner and this article becomes a great way to kickoff your post-Thanksgiving week.

As we so often like to do, let’s bait you with a pull quote teaser:

There’s no simple prescription for change. But here are the first crucial steps:

Recognize that your personal history plays a central role in shaping your behavior.

Revise any prejudice against emotional inquiry. Accept the fact that fear, rigidity and avoidance are corrosive — and that reaching an understanding about yourself can reap rewards.

Admire psychological complexity; don’t let it intimidate you. Decode your mind to harness its natural ingenuity.

Respect the gargantuan force of your emotional life. Emotions can propel you to success. They can also impede and even straitjacket you. No matter what, you can’t ignore your emotions and still hope to prosper in business or in life.

Keep in mind, we’re about to enter the second decade of the 21st century. What 20th century habits and approaches do you hope to leave behind already? What do think it’s going to take to make those changes happen? Who or what — aside from yourself — is stopping you? Where else do find sources of inspiration that work for you?

The Art of The Twitter

“How Twitter Is Revolutionizing Business (140 Characters at a Time)” by Jason Ankeny (Entrepreneur magazine, December 2009). Jason rounds up both a history lesson as well as bits on the current state of The Art of  The Twitter. Unfortunately, the Entrepreneur web site is not as current as the print version. Not to worry, just whip up a Google/Yahoo! alert so you know when they finally get around to sharing this article digitally.

In the meantime, here is the run down on the sites/services mentioned:

oneforty.com — “A Better Way to Discover Twitter Apps. oneforty is your Twitter outfitter, with tons of resources for all things Twitter. Currently tracking 2031 apps that make Twitter even better.”

ChirpCity.com — “Local Twitter search, latest tweets from and about your city… and a top user list for the cities (listed) above.”

NearbyTweets.com — “Instantly find Twitterers nearby.”

Tweepz.com — “Search, find and discover interesting people on Twitter.”

SocialOomph.com — “Tools to Boost Your Social Media Productivity.” For example, schedule your tweets.

CalTweet.com — “Social Events Sharing Tool via Twitter & Facebook.”

Seesmic.com — “Stay connected and share information with your friends.”

Twitalyzer.com — “For Tracking Influence and Measuring Success in Twitter.”

ExecTweets.com — “Find and follow top business execs on Twitter.”

Tweetdeck.com — “TweetDeck is your personal browser for staying in touch with what’s happening now, connecting you with your contacts across Twitter, Facebook and more.”

BingTweets — “BingTweets enables you to see deeper, real-time information about the hottest topics on Twitter by fusing Bing search results with the latest tweets.”

Twidroid — “The Twitter & Identi.ca client application for android mobile phones.”

And while you’re waiting for Entrepreneur to update their site, be sure to check out Mashable.com’s Twitter Guide Book — How To, Tips and Instructions.

Good stuff, eh? Looks like Black Friday will have to wait. How about you? Please leave a comment to share any sites you feel should have been on this list.

Great relationships require trust

“The Cure for the Common Virus” by Jessica Tsai (DestinationCRM.com, October 2009). Wow! Yet another I-wish-I said-that article from Ms. Tsai — especially for those seeking to break their 20th century marketing habits.

It’s a holiday week so you’re either quite busy or slowed down to enjoy the moment. Either way let’s skip the usual intro and jump to some highlights.

Measuring the totality of viral’s impact is extremely difficult, if not impossible. After all, how do you measure emails forwarded from personal accounts? Or URLs copied-and-pasted into instant message windows? Or a remark passed over a fence? And yet, no one would argue that messages spread virally are extremely powerful. After all, consumers are far more likely to trust one another than any marketing pitch out there. (See “Who Do You Trust About Trust?,” and our interview with “Trust Agents” co-author—and 2009 CRM Influential Leader — Chris Brogan, in Required Reading.)

According to customer experience company Satmetrix, and codeveloper of the Net Promoter score (NPS), word-of-mouth recommendations by promoters are increasing year over year in all industries. The uphill trend is not due to an increase in viral marketing–specific campaigns, says Deborah Eastman, chief marketing officer; rather, the Internet and social media have ignited a sharing frenzy.

Customers don’t care if you want them to pass something along. Abandon the PR lingo and the corporate speak. No one wants to listen to it, let alone pass it on to their friends. “Share honest information,” says Tom Anderson, managing partner of Anderson Analytics. “What are you worried about—your competitors seeing it? Big deal. Everything’s instantaneous now.”

The bottom line is this… If you want to tap into the natural conversational energy of the crowd, then you have to give them something worthy of discussion.  But you also have to take that a step further and realize that worthy is defined by them, not by you. Traditional marketing’s one-way, dictate it and they will listen approach no longer applies. In fact, spin might only get you backlash.

We are by nature social beasts and that can certainly work to your advantage. Nothing beats word of mouth! But in order to win you must be honest and you must be authentic. Most of all, you must give them something truly worthy of their time. Because don’t you expect the same?

Today’s word: relationships

“Developing Strong Work Relationships” by Kerry Patterson (BaselineMag.com, 13 November 2009).This one is as much about the who as it is about the what. “Kerry Patterson is the co-author of three best-sellers: Crucial Conversations, Crucial Confrontations and Influencer. He is also a speaker and consultant, and co-founder of VitalSmarts, which focuses on corporate training and organizational performance.” Influencer has been mentioned here before, and is recommended reading. The other two are on the hopefully sooner of later list. In the meantime these short article will have to fill the gap.

As is often the case, Kerry’s expertise doesn’t reinvent the wheel as much as it serves as another friendly reminder on how not to be that guy/gal. The bonus here is that once you invest the time to consume these tips/article at work, you’ll be able to take them home as well.

— If you want better relationships, never air your dirty laundry in public.

— If you want better relationships, seek face time with your colleagues.

— If you want better relationships, learn to listen and then speak respectfully when conversations become crucial.

Certainly not rocket science, eh? And while we’re on the subject of relationships, “Create Your Own Upturn (A shift from managing volume to managing relationships)” by David Rich (DestinationCRM.com, October 2009).

Relentless attention to getting the customer experience right will yield increased customer equity. When customers are satisfied, companies may reap opportunities to cross-sell products and services, adding to their bottom lines. If approached correctly, the customer experience can also aid the acquisition of new customers, as they determine where they’d like to purchase products and services.

Maybe not as easy to bring home to the wife and the kids but the idea of The Experience having to stick does seem to be universal. What do you think?

The truth about Apple

“Apple The Outlier” by Rich Karlgaard (Forbes.com, 21 October 2009). In response to Mr. Kalgaard’s blog post the following comment (below) was submitted. Maybe you’ll find it entertaining, so it’s also being shared here.

While I didn’t read every comment in detail, with all due respect, I think the essential point has been missed… When it has been more successful, Apple has been the tortoise. There are plenty of cases of Apple and/or Jobs falling on their face. How many of you are using a Next computer :)

On the other hand, where Apple has done really well, is when it slows down while others rush in. The ipod and the iphone both being great examples. Neither were new ideas. What they were were still developing ideas done a bit better and more importantly, rolled out *after* “the tipping point”. Apple doesn’t feel the need to be first to market, they’d rather get it more right their first time. They’ve come to realize the value in learning from others’ mistakes.  If there is an irony, it’s that Apple really isn’t a technolgy company (i.e., technology for technology’s sake). They understand that they are a solutions and services company, and that’s what they focus on providing.

When they get it right, Apple doesn’t waste resources trying to get to the tipping point, they let others do their bidding. In the meantime they’re using their resources (time and people) to build a better mouse trap as well as come up with the marketing spin to make it look new and exciting. I am not trying to belittle the iphone, I am only suggesting it is not the cure for cancer.

There is no doubt, Apple is a great outfit. But the reasons for that success are too often wrong and/or overstated. They have a great formula – look how their growth and market share has nudged up year by year (i.e., like a tortoise) – and at the moment it’s working quite well for them. But a smart competitor could duplicate their formula quite easily. Provided that competitor isn’t blinded by the hype, or fearful of a beast that isn’t even there.

The difference between winner and losers

“Strategy Is Not Enough” by By Richard Brennan (BaselineMag.com, 11 November 2009). Please put aside the IT slant of the article for a moment and lend Mr. Brennan your eye. Also, for those who are not sports fanatics, please pardon his football analogy.

While the best football organizations have a clear strategy, they also have the capabilities to execute on that strategy. You can’t be a passing team without the ability to throw, catch and block. Even if you have the best quarterback in the league, without the other skills to complement him, you are not going to win many games. It is the identification of a clear strategy (we are going to be a passing team); the identification of key capabilities required to execute that strategy (block, catch, throw); and the tactics or plays with which to develop those capabilities that lead to success.

The key idea here is right. The right strategy; for the right team; using the right tools; at the right time; being managed in the right way. Contrary to popular belief, none of these operate in a vacuum. There is more to success than a brilliant strategy and/or raw talent.

On the other hand, those who understand the holistic nature of these challenges, as well as the need for ongoing and relentless motivation, are the ones who hold the trophy and drink the champagne. To stick with the sports analogy — the journey to success is an iron man marathon, not a 50 yard dash. Yes, there are times when a sprint is necessary. We have all been there. Just don’t be fooled into thinking that such an approach is the rule. It is the exception.

A “hail Mary pass” may create a lot of excitement for a few minutes, but a single play rarely wins the Super Bowl. Neither will a single (IT) project that’s not backed by capabilities drive business success. Having the right capabilities in place is what wins in both football (and IT).

Stop selling (and find out what they’re buying)

“Rouse Your Silent Prospects” by Steve Bookbinder (New York Enterprise Report magazine, November 2009). Pardon the rush job but given this morning’s time constraints the focus will be to stick to the highlights. First, the sub-headline of this one is: How to craft emails and voice mails that will get a response.

Pull quotes:

There is a golden rule for getting a response from a silent prospect: If you want a response, ask a question the prospect can answer.

Avoid using emails as an opportunity to type your entire sales pitch or provide your manifesto to strangers… Just get to the point. Your Blackberry-reading receiver of this message will appreciate this more while they walk and read.

If nothing else, on page 3, be sure to consume, “7 Tips for Getting a Response from a Silent Prospect”.

Also worth checking is, “Putting An End to Cold Leads” by Jeremy Nedelka (www.1to1media.com). Note: Unfortunately, the 1 to 1 site requires registering. None the less, here’s a pull quote to wet your whistle:

Jill Konrath, author of Selling to Big Companies, says that a little research like that to get in the door is all salespeople need to stand out in the ever-growing crowd. “Today corporations get pitched by so many people that the price of admission requires additional research and a deep understanding of what that company and its employees are going through…[like] looking at triggered events that happen within or external to a company that cause it to shift priorities.”

NYC >> Web 2.0 >> 2009

For obvious reasons, this year’s Web 2.0 Expo, presented by O’Reilly, didn’t have the same buzz as last year’s. None the less, there were some pearls. Aside from a stack of brochures to consume, here’s a raw list (in no particular order) of domain names dropped during a few of the seminars/presentations:

https://www.SuperFluid.biz/

www.GoogleWave.com

www.CompleteWaveGuide.com

www.BetaWorks.com

www.Tumblr.com

www.Neighborhoodr.com

www.SetJam.com

www.apstrata.com

www.EarthAid.net

www.FoodSpotting

www.AnyClip.com

As this list as well as the brochures are consumed in detail, there promises to be follow up posts. Grab the AU RSS feed and stay tuned.

Multitasking is overrated

“Staying Productive in the Information Age” by Sharon Lowenheim (New York Enterprise Report magazine, November 2009). We are all trying to do more with less. More and more work with less time and less budget to do it. Quality, value and efficiency continue to be the mantras of the moment. Doing it all might not be possible, so doing the right things becomes the next best choice.

Truth be told, there’s not much new in Ms. Lowenheim’s suggestions but a friendly reminder on the topic of productivity isn’t going to hurt either. The best bit might actually come in the last paragraph:

Don’t multitask. Every time you switch tasks, your brain has to close out one task and boot up the other, resulting in lost time. Trying to do two things at once ultimately takes you longer and will produce substandard results. Instead, use your prioritized task list to guide your activities, and work on one thing at a time.

There is a reason why a production line is a production line. The human mind does better when it’s focused on less, not more. That is, quality and completion, not quantity and loose ends. Unfortunately, multitasking is probably one of the most overrated must-haves in business.

Finally, there are two other suggestions we like to add. One, be sure to take breaks. Aside from needing focus, the brain also needs to catch its breath from time to time. Less can in fact be more. Two, find work that you enjoy. Some say you don’t have to love your job. That’s bull! In terms of waking hours a person probably spends more time at work than he/she does with their kids. Is it alright not to love them too? Probably not.

Yes, work hard — and smart. But don’t sell yourself short. Love what you do and who you do it with.

Yes! Yes!! ConsciousWellness.net!!!

ConsciousWellness — ConsciousWellness.netYes! Yes!! The new & improved Conscious Wellness web site has launched (www.ConsciousWellness.net.).

Highlights

— Friendly but thorough and easy to use site is a perfect match for the CW brand.

— Blog enables Beth to easily share with and engage the CW audience.

— Simple email sign-up form is featured on every page.

— Staying connected with CW via all the usual social networks is also given priority.

— All content is maintain by the client (with minimal expertise necessary).

AU’s Contribution

— Worked closely with the client to define her short term and long term business needs and personal aspirations. Much of the emphasis was on marketing and CW’s participation in the conversation of  a “Web 2.0″ world.

— Advised the client on “The Art of Blogging” including the use and impact of categories, tags, post titles and site content and how those relate to being “guest-centric” as well as  SEO friendly.

— Solution uses the highly respected open source blogging platform WordPress (www.WordPress.org). Theme is a heavily customized version of Atahualpa by BytesForAll (http://wordpress.bytesforall.com).

— Base WP functionality is supplemented with a number of plugins including (but not limited to): Goggle XML Sitemaps (by Arne Brachhold), MM Forms (by Tom Belmans and Takayuki Miyoshi), SexyBookmarks (by Josh Jones and Norman Yung) and WP-DBManager (by Lester ‘GaMerZ’ Chan).

— Creation and usage of icons gives the site a friendly contemporary look & feel.  (Full disclosure: The CW logo was created by another design outfit.)

— Recommendations on UX / UI, as well as how that might relate to the information provided by Google Analytics.

— HTML, CSS and PHP  enhancement and tweaks.

— Supplied client with numerous links to articles on copy writing.

— Shared various tutorials on WordPress and WordPress plugins.

— AU is currently in the process of customizing and enhancing Kieran O’Shea’s calendar plugin. The new and much improved version of this plugin should be available in the next four to six weeks.

Beth decided to have soft launch (approximately four weeks ago) and thus far the feedback has been positive. In that short time, she has recognized that having a web site she is confident in and that accurately reflects the attributes of her brand is giving birth to previously unrealizable opportunities. Beth is convinced that her RIO from this new site will be significant. Discussion of Phase 2 enhancements will begin in January 2010.

Dude, where are my files?

“Digital Tools: Forget Disruption. Dive Deep Instead” by Lee Gomes (Forbes Magazine, 2 November 02, 2009). True, there are a number of solutions similar for DropBox (www.DropBox.com). On the other hand, there’s something to be said for being vetted by Forbes and Mr. Gomes. As Lee mentioned, simplicity can be a beautiful thing. A free account of 2 GB is available so it’s certainly worth a look.

While the means is different, there can be times when Adobe’s online suite of Acrobat (Acrobat.com), BuzzWord (BuzzWord.com) and/or Photoshop (Photoshop.com) comes in handy. One of the nice things about BuzzWord is that it uses a secure https connection. Whether the others do or not, I’m not sure. I’ll have to check on that. That being said, what’s more likely to happen, someone breaching your internet connection, or you losing or  temporarily misplacing a USB drive?

There is such a thing as too clean

“Retail Democracy (Even bad reviews boost sales)” by Jennifer Alsever (Fortune Small Business Magazine, 28 September 2009). First, please pardon the delay in sharing this with you but FSB is one of those publications that does not post their articles on their web site when they street their print version. Yes, print still has its low tech place (i.e., convenience, no need for a wifi, etc.)

In short, great article! First, it reiterates one of the common AU themes — it’s not about you, it’s about your guests and their expectations. The focus should be on what they are looking for (e.g., authenticity, honesty, information, etc.), not on what you want to supply. They are not going to care if you’re meeting your needs. They will however care very deeply about if you are meeting their needs.

Think about it. When you visit a web site and see only glowing reviews, what does that do for the credibility of what you read? Do you not expect something more realistic? The irony is many people have the same expectation of other sites but when it comes to their own they want to scrub them so clean that they might as well be a faux Hollywood movie set. In short, context matters — there is such a thing as too clean.

Second, for a bit of positive spin, there is also the SEO (search engine optimization) aspect. In this case it basically comes down to the old PR adage, “bad press is good press.” In other words, comments become content; content gets indexed by search engines; the more content you have indexed the more likely a search engine is to connect you with someone doing a search. Granted, not every visit is a good visit. But as long as the click in is not costing you, via a pay per click (PPC) campaign, then it might not be so bad either.

Remember… Context matters — there is such a thing as too clean.

Jam on it

Start here: “Building a collaboration strategy” by Rob Koplowitz (KMWorld.com, 28 October 2009).

And you’ll be glad you ended up here: “Wiki tools are not all the same” by Tony Byrne (KMWorld.com, 28 October 2009).

The power to simplicity ratio of wikis is amazing. When it comes to true collaboration on a project a wiki beats email just about every time. By their very nature wikis  keep eveyone on the same page, literally.

To Mr Byrne’s list (at the end of his article) we’d like to add the offerings from PB Works (www.PBWorks.com) and Zoho (www.Zoho.com). These might not be the perfect fit for all projects but in terms of quickness in getting up and running, as well as simple ease of use, they’re both quite efficient.