Saturday, February 28, 2009

Six Trends

Ilieva Ageenko at Dots2Connect has more interesting thinking going on. This time 6 trends she thinks every business should pay attention to.

Here is the list...

  1. Community Advice and Growing importance of Peer Review
  2. Increasingly opportunistic purchasing
  3. Experiential marketing and new realms of Customization
  4. Retail giants becoming more "mobile friendly"
  5. Proliferation of video advertising
  6. Adoption of Web TV
You should read her post, but the things I think are most important on this list are peer review, opportunistic purchasing and mobile friendly.

Starting with the last - mobile friendly - this has been on every trend list for the last decade and never arrived. I think it is arriving now because a full web browser is becoming standard on cell phones. This is the key. It is really understanding your web presence now has more channels it will be distributed through.

Opportunistic purchasing is going to become a default with the marriage of GPS in your cell phone, Google Earth and location based pricing. You will start to see opt in specials text messaged to you from nearby stores and restaurants. Show them the message on your phone and get the special price. It will be like coupons on steroids.

Finally, peer review is becoming expected. I always use to find places to eat when I travel. How will you be peer reviewed? You need to know and be pro-active.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Really Bad Customer Support -

I use a hosting service called SiteSell. I really love the things they do well. They help you learn how to do business online, provide great tutorials, very good analyst tools, etc.

But when it comes to customer service they are as bad as I have ever experienced.

This morning I had the following problem. I logged in to make a small change to my home page. Changing my running count of sign ups from 1 number to the current number. The "Build It" page froze up and would not process the change. Unfortunately it did enough to delete my existing home page. So at the moment - and for the past 4 hours - folks that use our service and go to the home page to log in to their account get an error message saying the page can not be displayed.

This is bad. We make millions of dollars from this page.

Now everybody will have a problem from time to time. There is nothing that can be done about that. My thinking is I never expect anything to be problem free, I just want to work with folks who can address problems quickly and efficiently as they occur.

SiteSell does not give you a phone number you can call. They do point you to a third party service. I called them for $20 and they offered to give me advice about relationships, sex, drugs, general internet or Microsoft problems. Those are not really my problems. Not really a good experience.

Next I emailed sitesell support. They promise to get back to me within 4 to 6 hours or over night within 12 hours. Of course this is a Friday.

I will loose an amount of money that to me is significant, but worst, my customers see our service as being poor.

We have over 100,000 users from four continents. We are fielding a constant stream of support calls on our very public 800 support number. We actually believe our users - who pay us less a year than SiteSell's and Ken Evoy's users pay him - should be able to call us, email us, fax us, Twitter us, etc. We are real people thankful to have a good relationship with real people.

Ken Evoy is the founder of SiteSell and I doubt he would be happy receiving the service I am receiving from his company.

When you are thinking about your customer service, please think about this.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Two Good Laughs

Today I present two good laughs for your entertainment and edification.

First, from the Twitterings of smalljones, what our Fathers saw when the future was revealed to them by a time traveler...

Next, possibility the funniest customer complaint letter of all time.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Generation M

Are you ready for Generation M? At last we have a new generation ID and you - at any age can be part of it.

JP Rangaswami has a great post - titled "when virtual worlds and physical worlds meet" that defines Generation M. Maybe this is old to many of you, but it's new to me and I like it.

Here is the quote from his post...

"Generation M, the mobile multitasking multimedia millenials, spend time online, they’re not sacrificing face time with their friends and family.

They’re sacrificing TV time. And advertisement time. And everything else that goes with it. Particularly when you compare them to earlier post-TV generations.

So they’re going to do what we never managed to do enough of. They’re going to choose what they do in their leisure time. Choose whose recommendations they trust. Choose whom they spend time with. Choose who they share their intentions with. Choose."

Check out his full post.

Monday, February 23, 2009

The Next Revolution

Most folks I read or talk with say we are in an Internet or information revolution. If asked about the most important invention in recent years they will answer the Internet or maybe the mirco processor.

Please allow me to be contrary for a moment. Such a surprise.

I think there have been two revolutionary technologies in the history of mankind. I believe the first was the discovery of fire and learning how to use it to replace and supplement physical actions and knowledge.

Following this line of thought, the industrial revolution is the current apex of our ability to use the energy created by fire. The knowledge passed on by the use of the energy of fire is the design and functionality of the machines and processes.

The revolution brought on by fire has taken tens of thousands of years to reach our point today.

The second great revolution was created by the discovery of electricity. I notice that this is also an energy source. Like fire's energy, this energy is also used to replace and supplement physical actions and knowledge.

The energy from electricity is able to be more controlled and contained. The result seems to be that it is able to be much more useful for supplementing knowledge in the form of information. Electricity benefits from an ability to work at a tremendously smaller scale.

For a variety of reasons the advances in technology and society are being made at a much faster pace with electricity. It has been around for a little over 100 years.

Can you think through the reasons behind the sequence of developments resulting from the discovery of fire and relate them to the sequence of developments we have seen so far from electricity? If so, what do you think is next?

If you accept the premises that these are the two - and only two - core revolutions in human history then you will think that the next revolution will have to be the discovery of a new source of energy which can be used by us.

Just like fire and electricity it must already exist.

Electricity could not have been developed as an energy source without fire having been sufficiently developed to provide the infrastructure base to be built upon.

Will the next source have been able to be built without the infrastructure base of electricity or is there something else which can be built on the infrastructure of fire? Or will the next revolution be a way to harness electricity without being dependent on the infrastructure of fire.

Of course there is a great deal left to be created from the two energy sources we have developed so if this is not a line of thought that interests you, there is no shortage of things to be doing.

This ramble just goes to show what happens when I take two days off and my mind wanders.

Thursday, February 19, 2009


I am traveling and have very limited access to the net for the next day or two.

Back soon.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

How Small Insurance Business is Currently Automated

Mike Wise covers the property and casualty insurance agency world as it relates to online business on his InsuraTech blog. I find the numbers he quotes in his Feb 14th posting about the penetration of automation period, and online business particularly, very interesting.

Here is what his post says...
  • Only 56% of agents have Web sites
  • Only 50% have agency management systems
  • Only 29% of agents use the Web for marketing and attracting business
I have no reason to question these numbers but I do wonder what the 27% difference between agents who have web sites and agents who use the web for marketing and attracting business means. How could you have a web site that was not meant to attract business? What would that website be for?

I can accept that they might be pretty poor websites that are not effective. They might even seem to be abandoned. Still, they have to be doing something.

Mike also asks "but do they have the technical expertise to do these things?"

This question goes way beyond insurance agents. Do many small business people have this expertise? I would say no. But I would also say it just doesn't matter.

I think the issue is not technical expertise, but interest in marketing and selling. I believe the tools exist to make this not a technical issue. When small business people focus on all the things they can't do they are missing all the things they can do.

Some of us love technology. But if your business is selling and servicing a non technology product or service you need to avoid becoming trapped in the technology detail.

Start by browsing to see how others - and not just those in your industry - are doing things. Look, listen and learn. Then try a few things, see how they work, make adjustments, and add a few more.

Focus on little victories on a regular basis and the accumulation of wins will put you way ahead of your competition.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Is Your Small Business a Media Business?

I have read several articles in the past year arguing that all businesses - including yours - are now media businesses. Well - at least they could benefit from thinking more like a media business.

Mashable has a good post on this thought from Rick Burnes - Why Every Company is a Media Company.

I believe it is important for you to realize that you should write not about your product or services, but about things the folks you may wish to work with someday have an interest in. I fast forward through almost all commercials on my DVR. On blogs I just stop reading and click away.

Mr. Burnes says this "Media production is simply becoming a skill that separates mediocre businesses from great ones. Companies that have the creative skills to attract an audience with quality, independent content are excelling."

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Social Media Tactics

SocialmediaBiz has an interesting graphic and article on the most effective social media tactics and how to measure their results.

Are you using any of these?

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Twitter User Demographics

I was speaking with Pat Alexander - @patalexander on Twitter - this week about how my impression of the average age of Twitter users was between 30 and 50.

Here is a study I saw yesterday giving me more facts than my gut reaction.

Study of Twitter Users

Pat asked me what I thought it meant that the age of users was getting older. What would the young folks do?

I think this is the indication that social media in general is now a permanent communications platform. When my kid's grandparents got cell phones, my kids certainly did not quit using cell phones. Cell phones had become a permanent platform.

This doesn't mean Twitter or Facebook will be to final form of these solutions. Heck, it may be that neither are around in 10 years. Who were the early cell phones carriers and manufacturers?

So don't be the last business to "get" social media.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Free Advertising

"If someone offered you the ability to promote your business for free on a local billboard, would you turn them down? Of course not. Which is why I’ve always recommended that eCommerce store owners create profiles for their businesses on various social networks."

That is the lead in the post Promote Your Business with Facebook post on YoungTechStars.

It applies to us all - young or not, tech star or not.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Kevin Kelly - the Web is One

I don't know how I missed this until now...

This is so important to understand and build your plans and thinking accordingly.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Using Twitter for Your Insurance Agency

Social Media seems to be the hot, new catch phrase for 2009. But what does it mean to you?

Can your insurance agency use Social Media to provide better service, get new customers, make more money?

I believe strongly the answer is yes and here are some very specific suggestions on how you can do this – starting with Twitter.

Twitter is a new way to communicate with your customers and anyone else who may decide to “follow” you. Twitter uses text messaging technology to interact with folks either online or on their cell phones. Don’t worry about the cost of receiving text – each user controls how they receive messages so they control any cost they might have. It does not have to cost anything.

After almost two years on Twitter I have decided the best use for a business is to distribute useful information to customers. I think this information falls into two categories…

1 – Answers to customer questions or problems.

2 – General information related to your business knowledge or your community.

To get some idea of how other insurance people are currently using Twitter you can sign up for Twitter and then go to my account and start following me.

Look through the list of people I am following. I have tried to find as many folks in the insurance industry as I can to follow. Start following some of them yourself by clicking on the “Follow” button next to their name. As you watch their posts over a few weeks you will get a good idea of how they are using Twitter. Some effectively, some not.

Customer Service

The first use I suggest is posting answers to customer questions or problems. My thinking is this gives you a pro-active way to answer questions other customers may have but they just have not called you about yet.

Remember, each post you make on Twitter is seen by all the people following you. Never name the customer with the problem.

Because Twitter posts are short – 140 characters – you will often find you need more room for your information. I suggest you set up a blog – I use Blogger - it is free. Then when you need more space, describe the problem in your Twitter post and include a link to a blog posting which goes into more detail.

Links in Twitter fall within the 140 character limit so there are several URL shorteners available – again for free. I use . I like their tracking features. I can see how many times the link was clicked on and how many times someone else re-posted the link.

General Relationship Building

My second recommended use of Twitter is to provide general information of interest to your customers. You are an insurance expert so naturally this is an area you can talk about. However, don’t limit yourself to insurance topics. For instance, if most of your customers are from the same area, passing on information about local events, or even recommendations about where you had a great lunch is very useful.

A word of caution - once you begin using Twitter, blogs and other social media you need to make it someone’s job to monitor it regularly throughout the day, everyday.

I personally suggest this person be you until you are familiar enough with the ways you want the system used. Then you can turn it over to others in your business. In fact, then I suggest you have each of them get their own Twitter account just like they each have their own telephone extension and email account. After all – it is really just another way to talk to and communicate with your customers.

Proper Etiquette

Never name the customer with the problem.

Don’t carpet bomb. This is what I call it when a Twitter user posts more than 2 posts at the same time. Each time you post it pushes other posts off the screen. Carpet bombing is seen as you screaming so the other voices can not be heard. Very rude. People will stop following in a hurry if you do this.

Retweet post from others that are interesting. Remember, everyone follows a unique group of people so they do not see all the same posts you see. By retweeting you are passing on good information and the folks you retweet really like the attention. (To retweet you just copy and paste the tweet from a post and lead it with RT @)

Being Social

People have always been social. Your lunch clubs, church groups, school parent associations, kids sports teams are all ways we make and keep social contacts. Twitter and other social media are simply new and very useful tools which allow us to do more of what we as human beings do naturally anyway.

You can also follow me personally at .

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Resistance to Change

Two interesting things in the recent P.W. Singer book Wired for War that apply equally to business.

"Those vested in the current system, or whose talents and training might become outdated by new technologies, will fight any change that threatens to make them obsolete or out of work, or in anyway harms their prestige." p 252

""If you dislike change, you're going to dislike irrelevance even more." General Eric Shinseki, former U.S.Army chief of staff. p 254

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Tracking Your Web Presence

One of the great things about the Internet is the ability to measure all sorts of things. ReadWriteWeb has a wonderful post on tools for tracking your web presence.

Please read their post, but here is the short form teaser of tools...

  1. BlogPulse: Trends in the Blogosphere
  2. Pipl: Searching the Invisible Web
  3. Spy: Watching what Happens on the Web
  4. Serph: The Social Web Right Now
  5. Social Mention: Mentions of your Name on the Social Web
  6. Monitter: Tracking Twitter
  7. BoardTracker 2.0: The Ultimate Search Tool for Forums
  8. Google Alerts: The big G
While you are looking for your name, don't forget to track your competitors. You can find no end of good, worthwhile information with a minimum of effort. It gives you a great advantage.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Happy 5th Birthday Facebook

I learned that today is Facebook's 5th birthday. Gracious sakes how things grow up so fast on this Internet thing.

It is seriously hard to get your head around something going from nothing to 120 million users in five years.

With changes at this pace what do you do to keep up.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Your Extended Mind

I have been finding when I leave Twitter open in Tweetdeck on one of the screens on my desk it seems to become a mind extender. Folks tweet about things I am interested in and provide a link to more on the subject. I end up following links and threads I would have never otherwise have been aware of.

My connection with tweets brings me new information and knowledge I would not have had. It has extended my mind.

I have read much recently about robots and war, and Ray Kurzweil's thoughts on exponential change.

Here are a few thoughts from P.W. Singer's new book Wired for War that illustrate the exponential change that has occurred in combat. Note, Singer's point is that we ain't seen nothing yet.

  • In Greek and Roman times it took 500 soldiers to cover the area of 1 football field.
  • By the American Civil War it took 20 soldiers.
  • By WWI it took 2 soldiers.
  • By WWII it was 1 soldier to 5 football fields.
  • In Iraq it is roughly 1 soldier to 780 football fields.

That is an example of the acceleration in change created by exponential change.

Services such as Twitter mean information and change are now circling the globe in basically real time.

I learned about the US Air crash in the Hudson within 5 minutes of it happening. It took so long because I was not directly following the Twitters at the scene. I never watched a single TV news coverage of the event because I already had all the information.

Your business, my business, our world is changing at this pace. I need mind extending tools just to hope to keep up. Of course, you don't have to keep up, and if you are a competitor of mine I sincerely hope you will not.

What mind extending tools do you use? Do you use them just to learn or to share your learning and information with others?

Monday, February 2, 2009

Fastest Growing Users of Facebook

The fastest growing demographic on Facebook acording to Inside Facebook is women over 55 years old.

Acording to the report "45% of Facebook’s 45.3 million active users in the US is now 26 years old or older. Nearly a quarter of all Facebook users are over 35 today - quite a change from Facebook’s roots as a social networking tool for college students just a few years ago."