Friday, August 27, 2010

We have an App for that, too.

Armed with immediate, anytime, anywhere connectivity via their smart phones, today’s on-the-go consumers are no longer tied to their land line telephones and desktop computers. Mobile web access will surpass traditional PCs by 2013.

• The average number of Americans who used their mobile phone to browse the web grew by 61% in 2008 vs. 2007.
• Mobile bookings are expected to reach $160 million in 2010; 67% of overall travelers and 77% of frequent business travelers with web-enabled mobile phones have already used their phones to find local services and attractions.
• 71% of U.S. adults polled consider it safe to make a purchase via a mobile phone; 43% of respondents are willing to use their mobile phone to purchase hotel rooms and 40% are willing to use it to purchase tickets for travel.

It’s clear from these statistics that clients are becoming increasingly mobile-ready and as the trend continues to escalate, the need for your marketing efforts to keep pace will be paramount to engaging them — and keeping them engaged. From the delivery of personalized messages and promotions to expediting booking and reservations, mobile marketing unleashes a plethora of effective opportunities for connecting and interacting with your clients that were non-existent a handful of years ago.

Mobile Advertising on the Rise
U.S. mobile advertising spending will surge 85% to $593 million this year from $320 million in 2008, and it’s projected to hit $1.6 billion (yes…. billion) by 2013.

When you think about mobile marketing and advertising, text messaging is often the first activity that comes to mind. Optimizing message distribution via texting enables marketers to connect with consumers in a relevant, timely, and personalized manner. And by ensuring that texting campaigns are “call-to-action” based, marketers are able to efficiently track the effectiveness of the campaign.

Let’s say you were selling Gas & Electric savings to consumers nationwide. You could simply ask your prospect to text the keyword Energy to 70101, and they would get more information. And then, the “drip marketing” for the energy sale begins. Here, text the keyword Tom to 30101 and see what you get back to your cell phone. You too, can have a mobile business card like me!

As smart phones continue to enhance the on-the-go lifestyles of your clients, it is imperative that your marketing efforts become increasingly mobile. U.S. mobile phone subscribers will reach 308.7 million by 2013 — translating to a whopping 96.7% penetration — this is a consumer trend you simply cannot afford to let pass you by.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

“2010: A Earth Odyssey”

2001: A Space Odyssey is a 1968 epic science fiction film directed by Stanley Kubrick and written by Arthur C. Clarke. The film deals with thematic elements of human evolution, technology, artificial intelligence, and extraterrestrial life, and is notable for its scientific realism, pioneering special effects, ambiguous imagery that is open-ended to a point approaching surrealism, sound in place of traditional narrative techniques, and minimal use of dialogue.

Yesterday, we moved my oldest son into his new college dorm room. Had I been better prepared, I could have videotaped the day’s events and released it under the title: “2010: A Earth Odyssey”.

The first noticeable thing was that every single person on the campus was totally connected. And I mean EVERYONE was wireless. I am not just talking about iPhones and iPads. 50% of the people had on Bluetooth headsets, and were talking to “someone” while carrying boxes and bins like ants at a picnic. The college library looked like a cross between Starbucks and a NASA mission control room. The kids are now carrying Kindles and tablet PCs, and hardly any paper books. The average student has a desktop, laptop and a Smartphone, so computers outnumber students almost three to one.

As part of student orientation, it was “mandatory” for students to register their cell phones with the campus security, as text messaging is the primary way that students will be alerted in an emergency. For the less than 1% of students who might not have a cell phone, one will be provided and added to your “Q card” account, which is the new form of electronic currency. No need to carry cash, ever. Paper money is so passé.

When I went to college, an overhead projector and a Texas Instrument calculator was considered to be cutting-edge technology. Today, lectures are sent out via Podcasts, “immersive” high definition videoconferencing with global professors is considered the norm, and the need to take down hand written notes is antiquated at best. No matter what your field of study, technology is everywhere. The genie has been let out of the bottle a long time ago.

The college graduates of today are the leaders of tomorrow. We might not have flying cars, but we certainly have come a long way from slide rules and three ring binders. My most significant epiphany of the day (besides the fact that college is freaking expensive): You better learn how to play nice with technology (and play nice with those who have mastered technology) because it is not going away anytime soon.

Despite initially receiving mixed reviews, 2001: A Space Odyssey is today recognized by many critics and audiences as one of the greatest films ever made. In 1991, it was deemed "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant" by the United States Library of Congress and selected for preservation in the National Film Registry. I highly recommend that you go online with Netflix, and rent a copy. Or go to your local “Red Box” and pick it up on DVD for $1. But wait – can you not just watch it on Hulu these days - for free?

If all else fails, grab your video camera and head to your nearest college campus.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

American Idol

What a beautiful world we would live in if relationships were everything, and money were nothing more than a useful tool.

I believe money has become an idol. The word 'idol' is not used a lot these days, but it was quite common a few thousand years ago. Here is my personal definition: Anything on which we set our affections; that to which we indulge an excessive and sinful attachment is an idol.

If money is an idol and if “having the latest in technology” are the idols that we buy with our money, then are money and technology not one in the same? In today’s world, can we not easily exchange the words “they have lots of money” for “they have the latest in technology”?

Fast forward to today--and consider the technology that we buy. People can have an excessive attachment to technology. They can also see technology as a source to get what they want and as a protector to keep them safe from harm. The reality is that technology derives its power from belief, just as idols did thousands of years ago. The difference today is that technology is universally believed to be powerful. But the purpose of technology is to simply facilitate relationships. We have unfortunately gotten to a place where people want the technology without the relationships.

In 1983, I started selling cellular phones. Car phones were very expensive, and they had to be installed; there was no such thing as a portable phone. In the 80’s people would actually buy cellular phone antennas to put on their cars – no phone – just the antenna - to make it look like they had a car phone installed in the car. Idol worship! Same thing happened with beepers. Having a beeper or radio pager on your belt was a status symbol, telling the world that you must be someone important, and that you must be reachable at all times. Is there not some of that, with today’s iPhone and iPad? Are these business tools, or are they idols?

As a technology adviser and consultant, I had to learn this lesson by experience. My belief was "technology is power" and to sell the latest and the greatest technology to the client was the sole objective. After all, having the latest and greatest technology meant more power, and having more power in the business world is good. Yet I have seen people in business with the latest and greatest technology who were miserable and others who were filled with abundant joy. And, I have seen people with no technology that were miserable and others who were quite happy indeed. Yes, you can still be happy in today’s world without an iPhone, iPad, BlackBerry and without the latest upgrade of Windows.

Today, what America needs are technology professionals dedicated to helping clients focus on relationships. Relationships (both business and personal) are far more fulfilling and beneficial than owning the latest technology.

So, the question to ask yourself is this: is the new iPhone, iPad or other whiz bang gizmo that you recently purchased (or are about to purchase) a tool, or is it an idol? Is the new High Definition videoconferencing system that you are installing going to be a useful tool for your business, or would Skype’s free service have accomplished the task? Do you really need a brand new laptop, or will a simple upgrade in memory do the trick?

Simon Cowell of “American Idol” separates the winners from the losers with brutal honesty. So brutal, in fact, that he is very entertaining to watch. But he knows exactly what he is looking for, and he clearly speaks his mind. After 27+ years in telecom and technology sales, I feel that I have (just a little) Simon Cowell in me, in separating the true valuable and important technology tools from the idols.

And, at least I know that I can’t sing worth a damn.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Offense vs. Defense

I am a Yankee fan. A favorite quote of mine is from the late New York Yankees "Boss" George Steinbrenner: "Look, if you're not on offense, you're on defense." I also remember the famous "The best defense is a good offense" adage that has been applied to many fields of endeavor, including games and military combat. I have been selling telecom and IT services since 1983. Throughout my business career, I basically have two kinds of conversations with clients. One is usually about saving them money, and the other is about making them money. I have observed that it is very hard to have both conversations, with any one client. They either love playing defense, or they love playing offense, but rarely does the client ever aspire to play both sides, at the same time.

People are usually of the “defensive” mindset, determined to reduce expenses, and to cut operational costs. Others love playing “offense” and they want to focus on growth, acquiring new clients and concentrate on business development. But which is the best strategy?

Let’s look at the numbers:
If a client is spending $1,000 per month on their telecommunications expenses (voice, data, wireless and wireline services) and I show them how to reduce their total telecom and IT spend by 25% they will save $250 per month. Not bad, putting $3,000 per year back into the cash flow of a typical small to mid-sized business is usually a welcomed strategy. But, if that same business owner could spend $250 per month - and by implementing proper technology-based sales and marketing strategies - they could GROW their business by 10% or more, they could be making thousands of dollars per month in new revenue, growing each and every month. Which strategy sounds better to you?

To me, eliminating waste is always a good idea, and implementing cost-reduction techniques is rarely a waste of time. If let’s say, a client was paying $0.05 per minute for toll free reservationless audio conferencing service, and they can have the exact same service (with same or better quality) for $0.02 per minute, why pay more for exactly the same thing? We are more than happy to take care of this for a client.

But, to me, the real way to be successful in business is to make “new” money, and that means playing offense. Most sports teams (except maybe for the 85’ Chicago Bears) became champions because of superior offense, not defense. I think the same goes for business. You can only save so much money, but you can never make too much money. There are only so many ways to reduce expenses, but there are an unlimited number of ways to make money.

And so it goes. Sports teams are usually known for their superior “offense” or for their superior “defense” but rarely are they known for both offense and defense at the same time. I never met a client in my business career that I could not help to save money, and that is a fact. And, I never met a client that I could not help to make money (assuming they accepted my advice). Under all circumstances, I always had the best long-term relationships with clients that we helped to dramatically grow their business through technology-based sales, and via implementing innovative marketing techniques. Saving money is always nice. But generating a client a profit where none could be found before, that always seems to be the sweeter victory.

It is always fun to see a great defensive baseball game, dare I say a “no-hitter”. But it is even more exciting to watch your team come from behind, in the bottom of the ninth - and with a flurry of superior offense they come back and win the game. I like watching a superior offense in action. Go Yankees.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Long Pause Clients

I received a phone call today that I always dread receiving. I can usually tell from the tone in a client’s voice; they are sick to their stomach and worried to death. Their laptop was lost or stolen. Or, their server crashed. Or, they had some sort of disaster that has caused them to lose all of their data, via a virus, malware or hardware failure. Regardless of the reason, the first question I ask is always the same: when was the last time you backed up your data? The longer the client takes to answer, the worse it usually is - the length of the pause tells me everything. It is very rare that the client answers “just a few minutes ago”.

In 2006, we formed a company to specifically address the “data” and security issues of computers. was born, the day after my own personal computer crashed. Just thinking back to that fateful day makes me nauseous. The pain of completely losing my own data – and I certainly knew better – lead to the birth of Until someone has a catastrophic loss of data, they will never know what it feels like to lose it all, with no hope of the photos, documents and files ever coming back.

The sad thing is that with today’s technology, there is no (zero) reason for any computer, laptop or server to permanently lose its data. For less than $0.30 per day, a typical computer can be completely backed up, and have full 24 x 7 virus and malware protection. The power of the Internet has made real-time cyber security and data protection possible. And yet, not a week goes by that I don’t receive at least one of those dreaded phone calls. For all those who care to listen: protect your data. Don’t rely on flash drives, or tapes, or external hard drives. Until the data is backed up automatically, frequently, encrypted and stored off-site, you are not fully safe. There is nothing worse than backing up you data every day, to then have the backup files lost or damaged. And, backing up data that is full of malware or infected by a hidden virus can corrupt files, and make your backup file sets worthless. Thinking you are protected and safe when you are not, is even more cruel a fate. For less than the cost of a cup of coffee, you can avoid the nightmare of permanently losing it all.

That is all I have to say. You must protect your data, the right way, every day, automatically, period. It is not a matter of if you will lose your data, but a matter of when you will be making that dreaded phone call. Please don’t be a “long pause” client when you call.

Weather Reports

Weather reports are wrong, consistently. We always laugh at all of the "weatherman jokes" and yet the weather report makes up 10 to 20% of the news. In a typical news show, 1/5th of the time is dedicated to talking about the "five day forecast" which is almost always wrong.  And yet, we watch. And then we complain. And then we watch again.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Long Lines

I have been in sales all of my life, and I find people and human nature fascinating. When gasoline prices were at record highs just a short time ago, there would be long lines of cars waiting to buy gas at the local gas station, because their price was $0.10 less per gallon.  There are two other gas stations within 200 yards, but one had long lines of customers waiting to buy the “cheap gas” with cars wrapped around the block. People are willing to spend time and money, sitting still with their engines running, to save $0.10 per gallon.  And yet, these same people will not invest the same amount of time necessary to reduce their ongoing telecom or IT expenses by 20 to 40%.  They will spend 20 minutes in their car, waiting to buy gas, but they will not invest 20 minutes to reduce an ongoing unavoidable expense, such as their voice, data, wireless or wireline services.  And now, due to deregulation, the same ongoing savings is available for their home or business gas and electric bills.  Ah yes, the life of a salesman. Sounds like this might be a good job for Dr. Phil.