>Affluenza, by Clive Hamilton and Richard Denniss

 25th September 2008 by gihan

>Hamilton and Denniss present an interesting argument about Australian society: We’re addicted to consumption. They claim we’re more affluent than ever, and the “Aussie battler” image is a myth.

They don’t say there aren’t poor people in Australia; it’s just that we’ve raised the bar considerably on what we consider “necessities” for life. In other words, it’s not only the rich who are getting richer, it’s also the poor and middle class getting richer but still claiming to be poor. The problem, they say, is not being consumers; it’s being addicted to being consumers.

They organise their argument well into three sections: Describing the problem,
outlining some of its (ill) effects; and then proposing solutions. In the first two sections, they present a wealth of statistics and data to support their position. However, the third section – where they propose solutions – is curiously weak, and they offer very little facts or research to support their recommendations.

In fact, they often betray a clear left-wing bias in their proposed solutions, rather than basing them on solid research. This even spills over into mind reading, with ridiculous statements like, “Although not willing to say so, neoliberals believe …”.

In other areas, they are just plain wrong. For instance, in the area of Internet censorship, where I do have some technical knowledge and experience, they say:

“When presented with polling showing that 93 per cent of parents of teenagers want governments to take responsibility for the problem and require Internet service providers to filter content, both the Liberal Party and the Labor Party respond that parents should take responsibility for their children’s conduct. The financial interest of the Internet industry is put before the emotional health of Australia’s young people.”

This conclusion is shamelessly stated without any supporting evidence whatsoever, and without even a basic knowledge of the facts. Australia is one of the few countries in the world that does censor the Internet, and has been doing so since legislation to that effect was passed in 1999. However, technical experts know it’s impossible for this to be an effective solution, and parental control is required. The fact that polling shows “93 per cent of parents of teenagers want governments to take responsibility” is neither here nor there – it simply indicates they don’t understand what that entails.

You could argue that this is nit-picking, but for authors who present in-depth arguments for the first two-thirds of their book, their proposed solutions lack that same depth, and come across as weak and shallow.

Does that taint the book as a whole? Not necessarily, but I’d suggest you read it with a skeptical mind.

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>One Great Idea or One Trick Pony?

 24th September 2008 by gihan


The theme of this year’s National Speakers Association of Australia conference was “One Great Idea”.

I remember one presentation in particular where the speaker did deliver one great idea. It was an idea about financial management and cash flow that most speakers could implement immediately in their business – and would lead to increased profit almost instantly.

Unfortunately, most people missed the idea!

Although this speaker did have a great idea, his delivery wasn’t great. In fact, a number of people in the audience left early, and I’m sure some who stayed left mentally.

And that was a real pity.

Because it was a great idea. And it could improve their business instantly.

Sure, he could have delivered it in a more engaging way.

But that’s not the point.

Quick question: If you had to choose between a great idea delivered poorly or a showy delivery with no take-away value, what would you choose?

I’m not sure what you’d say. Me? I’d rather get the idea. After all, as one of my colleagues said afterwards, “Wouldn’t you still take a 24-carat diamond, even if it’s in a paper bag?”

Have YOU got one great idea or are you just a one trick pony?

I know other speakers who prance around the stage, delivering a showy, entertaining presentation, but without any interesting, unique and valuable content. That might work as long as they can keep finding audiences for that presentation.

But that’s getting harder to do. Especially now, when clients are looking for other ways to get the same message.

Here’s the point: If you’ve got an idea, you can LEVERAGE that idea.

If you’re booked primarily because of your delivery style and entertainment value, you’re a one-trick pony. And I believe your days are numbered.

On the other hand, the speaker I heard with the great idea could turn it into a book.
Or write a training program and licence it to others.
Or create a 12-month coaching program for business owners.
Or write an on-line course to sell over the Internet.
Or … any number of other things.

I’m sure he’s doing some of these things already.

What about you?

So what about it? Do you have a great idea or are you a one-trick pony? Get clear about your ideas, and you’ll always have ways to make money from them.

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>Cool It, by Bjorn Lomborg

 19th September 2008 by gihan

>Bjorn Lomborg’s second mainstream book (The Skeptical Environmentalist, which I haven’t read, was the first) is stunningly good.

I first came across Lomborg in his presentation at a TED conference, where he makes a compelling argument for not making global warming one of our highest global priorities.

More recently, I watched him interviewed by Tony Jones on ABC’s Lateline, and that prompted me to buy his book.

Lomborg has a simple point: Yes, global warming is a problem, but it’s not a catastrophe; and we can help far more people (the same people who’ll be most affected by global warming) far more effectively for far less money by doing other things.

Naturally, this approach makes him a target from policy makers, greenies, politicians and others who’ve jumped on the global warming band-wagon – especially those who see a carbon tax as the only option. But he seems unfazed, and sticks to his simple – and compelling – message.

For example …

Yes, global warming will mean more people will die from malaria in the next 100 years. But for a fraction of the cost of taxing carbon, we can prevent a lot more people dying from malaria in the next 10 years.

Yes, global warming will cause more floods. But for a fraction of the cost of taxing carbon, we can do more to prevent flood damage.

Yes, global warming will affect poorer nations more than wealthy nations. But for a fraction of the cost of taxing carbon, we can make those nations wealthy enough to manage those problems.

He’s most compelling because he doesn’t try to make other people wrong (except blatant scaremongers, like Al Gore). Yes, he says, the climate scientists are right in warning us of the dangers of global warming. And yes, they will say it’s an urgent problem to fix. And yes, in an ideal world with unlimited resources, we’d address all the problems. But in a world with scarce resources, we prioritise. And he’s saying we’re prioritising wrongly.

He’s not a “global warming denier” (although some critics wrongly say he is), so don’t read this book if you want to read that global warming isn’t real, or isn’t human-made. Do read this book if you want a better perspective on the whole global warming issue, especially if you currently think it’s the most important issue facing the planet today. According to Lomborg, it’s not – by a long way.

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>Create High-Value Low-Cost Products

 15th September 2008 by gihan


I first started using the Web in its early days (which was only as far back as 1994). There was no, people were just starting to put Web addresses in e-mail, and Yahoo was just a small Web site being operated by two university students from their spare room.

In those days, there were very few commercial Web sites. When commercial Web sites did come along, almost all of them were for promoting businesses. In other words, they were like an electronic brochure. And let’s face it – most commercial Web sites today are still just electronic brochures.

There’s nothing wrong with that, of course. After all, it’s perfectly OK to have a Web site that promotes what you’ve got to offer.

My point, though, is that there is so much more you can do when you’ve got a Web site. In particular, your Web site gives you the chance to build new low-cost, high-margin products – all based on your existing expertise.

Look at that last sentence again: You can create products that have a low cost (to you), but you can sell at a high margin. Some of them can sell for two, three, ten or even hundreds times their cost, which means greater profit for you.

I’ll give you an example …

Suppose you operate a life coaching business, and most of your clients see you for a two-hour personal coaching session once a week. That can be a profitable business, because it mostly involves your time rather than cash out of your pocket. But it’s also a time-consuming business, for the very same reason.

What if you could deliver your coaching without the time investment of spending time with each client? In fact, what if your coaching business was making money even while you were asleep?

Yes, it’s possible – using your Web site.

Over time, you’ve probably discovered a few common principles that apply to a large number of clients. Of course, each client has different requirements, but I’m sure there are some principles that apply to them all – for example: setting clear outcomes, breaking down tasks into small steps, taking action every day, measuring progress regularly, creating rewards for achievement, and so on..

You could use this expertise to build an on-line course, which is based on these common principles that you use. The course is delivered by e-mail, and delivered automatically at weekly intervals.

Of course, this isn’t a substitute for your one-on-one personal coaching. But some people would actually prefer the on-line version – perhaps because it’s less personal, can be done on their own time, is cheaper, or suits their learning style better.

People who visit your Web site could buy the on-line course directly. Your Web site would enrol them in the course, which means that you send the course information in weekly e-mail messages. Of course, this would all happen automatically, so that you’re not spending your day keeping track of what e-mail goes to which person!

Many of our clients are professional speakers, who present at conferences and training sessions to live audiences. Many of them are now using on-line courses to deliver their material in another way.

Does this work for other businesses?

The idea of providing on-line courses isn’t limited to people who sell “information”. Whatever business you’re in, you have the potential to leverage your expertise.

Here’s the key question to ask:

What do you know that you can teach your customers?

When you know the answer to this question, you know your unique expertise. And because it’s something that your customers would like to know, there’s a good chance that they are willing to pay for it.

For example, suppose you operate a pet shop. What do you know that customers would like to know? One example that springs to mind is dog training courses. Some people will take their dog to classes, but others might be quite happy to buy this information on the Internet.

What if you don’t know how to train a dog? That’s OK – get somebody else to write the course for you, and split the profits! Don’t be limited only by what you know – you can also gain leverage by considering what else your customers are interested in, even if you don’t have this expertise yourself.

I’ve talked a lot about on-line courses, and that’s just one example of the type of product you could create and sell on your Web site. Here are just a few other examples:

  • Ask somebody to interview you on various areas of your business, and make these audio interviews available on your Web site. For example, in the pet shop business, you might conduct interviews about health of your dog in winter, how to teach your cat not to scratch the furniture, how to teach your parrot to talk, or what to do with pets when you go on vacation.
  • If you consult to clients over the telephone (coaches do this, as do consultants, professional speakers and other advisers), record the phone calls (with the other person’s permission, of course), and make these available on your Web site for a fee.
  • In some cases, you will require a more visual component, so you can produce short video clips or use photographs to demonstrate certain things. For example, if you sell gourmet foods, you can offer a “recipe of the month”, with step-by-step instructions either as a video demonstration or a series of still photographs.

There’s really no limit to the possibilities when you start exploring them for your own business.

The beauty of creating on-line courses – and indeed, many of the other products you can create on your Web site – is that you do all the work once, and then everything happens automatically. You write all the course material once, schedule it to be sent out at weekly intervals (or monthly, or whatever schedule you choose), and then everything else takes care of itself. It’s the ultimate form of passive income, because it really can make money for no on-going effort.

More examples

I’ll share a few real examples of work we’ve done with clients to help them leverage their expertise. This will help you to get your creative juices flowing for your own business.

The first is Allan Bolton, who runs Quality Health Australia. Allan speaks at conferences and sells on-line courses to corporate clients. When he speaks at conferences, he gives out a password for audiences to get access to on-going health material and on-line courses. You can visit Allan’s site, but you won’t be able to sign up for his courses because they are only available to clients.

Kerrie Mullins-Gunst, at KMG Consulting, offers a free mentoring course on her Web site. By offering a free course, Kerrie achieves a number of things:

  • When people subscribe to the course, she gets to keep in touch with them regularly. This is just like a free e-mail newsletter, but a “course” has more perceived value than a “newsletter”.
  • Potential consulting clients see the quality of the material that she can provide.
  • People who sign up for the free course might be interested in buying other courses later.

David Penglase, who runs David Penglase Seminars, says that his on-line courses have made him “a truckload of money”. David saw the potential for on-line courses right away, and they paid for his entire Web site within three months. He offers courses for sale on the Web site itself, but in fact most of the course income comes from selling them as part of his training packages. He not only makes more money, it increases his credibility because clients see that he can offer on-going value, not just a one-off training course.

The last example I’m going to give you is professional speaker Keith Abraham, who has really put a lot of thought into making this make money for him. Keith recently estimated that his on-line courses have been responsible for bringing him at least $350,000 of business.

Wow! Imagine what you could do with an extra $350,000.

Like some of the other examples you’ve seen, Keith uses on-line courses in a number of different ways:

  • Visit his Web site and you can sign up for free courses (a great way for Keith to keep his name in front of people).
  • Conference and workshop audiences get access to “members only” courses.
  • Keith includes courses as part of his corporate packages, to add value and increase credibility.

Keith gave us one of our best client testimonials, which I’m happy to include here:

“You would be crazy if you didn’t use Gihan’s CourseBot software. We have over 6,000 people log on receiving emails of information from us every week. For the small investment, I can remember winning one project worth $120,000 that was because we had this software.”

This could create huge profits for you!

Don’t underestimate the value of creating on-line courses and other Internet-based products that are based on your expertise.

Sure, you can build a successful Web site without them, but you’re leaving lots of money on the table.

You already know how much time, effort and money it takes to get people to visit your Web site. Then you have to convince them to buy from you. Then you have to persuade them to complete the order. Then you’ll work hard to establish a long-term relationship with them.

Are you going to waste all that effort by just selling them your standard suite of products and services? Even if these are high-margin products, why not invest a bit more time up-front to create even more products for them?

Find more about our on-line course software.

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>Substance beats style every time!

 12th September 2008 by gihan


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Sell Umbrellas When It’s Raining

 11th September 2008 by gihan

During my recent trip to Europe, I spent four days in Rome. Unfortunately it rained pretty much all four days I was there.

I noticed an interesting thing about the street vendors.

The centre of Rome is full of street vendors and hawkers. When the sun is shining, they sell handbags, jewellery, and religious artefacts. But as soon as it starts raining, out come the umbrellas.

Here’s the guy who sold me an umbrella (on the right). He was a bit surprised I asked him for a photo, but hey – there’s no accounting for some tourists!

Anyway, my point – and I do have one – is that I was impressed by the way they switched products so quickly, depending on the weather.

Hmmm … Selling umbrellas when it’s raining, and not selling them when it stops raining. Not exactly a marketing breakthrough, right? In fact, it might seem obvious to you.

But wait – not so fast!

I wonder whether you are as smart as these hawkers? Nothing personal, but I see a lot of people who don’t follow this simple marketing principle.

Let me point out five mistakes that many businesses make …

  1. Selling umbrellas when it’s not raining: Are you sure there’s a real demand for your product/service? Or are you so in love with it that you haven’t checked whether your clients need it?
  2. Selling handbags when it IS raining: Are you really solving their most important problems? Or are there more important things on your client’s mind than you, your products and services (If so, they just don’t have time to think about you).
  3. Selling umbrellas to people who already have them: Are you reaching the specific niche market who most needs your services? Or are you just taking a scatter-gun approach, marketing to everybody and hoping the right people just happen to notice you?
  4. Hoping wet and bedraggled customers will find you: Are you actively involved in marketing? Or are you just expecting customers to stumble across you?
  5. Thinking you’re the only umbrella salesperson in town: Those street vendors in Rome are assertive! And they have to be, of course, because they’re competing with five others on the same street corner. Are you watching your competition and continually staying ahead of them? Or are you hoping customers will pick you anyway?

Are you making any of these mistakes? If so, you’re probably losing business – fast. Follow the example from a street vendor in Rome, and learn to sell umbrellas when it’s raining!

>A Lesson from the Golden Age of Cinema

 9th September 2008 by gihan

>When I was travelling back from Auckland to Perth recently, I was watching the greatest movie of all time on my iPod. The movie, of course, is Casablanca:

It struck me that the last time I was watching this movie, it was at an outdoor cinema, under the stars on the big screen. And the previous time, it was at home, watching a DVD on TV.

So here is a movie made 65 years ago, created for the big screen only, and within the last 12 months, I had watched it three times in three completely different places: DVD, big screen and iPod.

Of course, nobody thought about this in 1942 when it was first shown in cinemas. But the beauty of digital information is that it’s so portable.

Are you doing the same with your content?

What material do you have that is currently published for only one medium? Your clients or customers now have new tools to consume material in different ways, at different times, and on their own terms. Are you making it easy to them, or are you getting in the way?

For example, if you publish a podcast regularly, are you also publishing that as an audio clip on your Web site? And are you adding the same audio clip to your blog? Different people will see it in those three different places.

Or, when you write an article in your newsletter, do you also publish it on your Web site? And add it to your blog?

You don’t have to change the content.

I’ve talked in the past about how to change the content of an article or a blog post to create new content. But here, you don’t even have to change the content. It’s just a matter of using the same content and publishing it in a different place. That makes it easier for people to find in the place that is most convenient to them.

Don’t worry about them complaining that you just duplicate all your material and you’ve got nothing new. On the contrary, they will probably only see it in the one place they like to read it, listen to it or watch it. They’ll thank you for making the effort to make it easy for them.

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>The Keynote: A Humorous Interlude

 4th September 2008 by gihan

>Let me tell you a true story …

I was walking along the beach one day, feeling lucky. My life was good. I had all my ducks lined up in a row. Whatever I had believed, I had conceived and achieved. And when the going had been tough, I’d got going.

As I walked, I saw a starfish lying in the sand. I picked it up and asked him, “What are you doing?” He replied, “I’m building a cathedral.” But he clearly wasn’t. So I threw him into the ocean.

Suddenly I felt a force in my back, and I was thrown face first into the sand. I turned to see a group of monkeys aiming a large hose of jet-cold water at me.

“What did you do that for?” I yelled. They stopped, and looked at each other, puzzled. “Err, there’s no ‘I’ in team,” one said haltingly, and then added, “Although, now that I think of it, there are two in ‘schizophrenia’.”

“Ummm … We were just shifting your paradigm”, said another.

“No, no”, said a third. “We moved your cheese.”

I just stared at them, until eventually one of them muttered, “Nobody ever asked us that before”, and they skulked away.

I turned away in disgust and looked out to the ocean. Suddenly, to my horror, I saw a battleship heading towards the beach, and – what’s more – right into the path of my starfish.

I cupped my hands to my mouth and yelled across the water, “Turn 10 degrees to port – now!” In reply, their loudhailer boomed back at me, “No, YOU turn 10 degrees to starboard – now!”

They were in trouble – BIG trouble. But I had a positive attitude, which was contagious – and I hoped it was worth catching by the men on that ship. I called back again, “I’m warning you – turn 10 degrees to port – NOW!” But the reply came back, even louder, “And I’m warning YOU – turn 10 degrees to starboard!”

What could I do? They were heading straight for shore. “Stop! Danger!” I yelled. But the reply came back, “I stop for nobody. I’m a battleship.”

Quickly, I thought outside the nine dots and yelled back, “I’m a lighthouse”. Unfortunately, it was daytime, and they could see I obviously wasn’t. So they ignored my warnings and headed straight for the shore.

I knew I had to lead, follow or get out of the way. I got out of the way. Unfortunately, the starfish wasn’t so lucky.

I tell you this story not to sadden you – because the sun is always shining even when you can’t see it – but to inspire you.

Nor to apologise – because love means never having to say you’re sorry – but to theorise.

And not to point a finger at the commander of that battleship – because whenever I do, there are two fingers pointing back at me (there used to be three, but I lost one in a freak accident when I lost concentration while sharpening an axe for six hours) – but to point YOU in a new direction.

You see, that was in the past, and the past is just a memory. All we have is the gift of now – that’s why we call it the “present” (Ummm … and the gift of tomorrow, I suppose – that’s why we call it, err, the future. But that’s another story).

I felt bad at the time, but it WAS in my past. Looking back now, I realise it didn’t make a difference to me. But it did to that starfish.