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Did The Internet Change Your World While You Were Looking The Other Way?

 9th June 2011 by gihan

I’ve just published my book Fast, Flat and Free. The title is based on the three ways the Internet has changed the face of business:

  • The world is faster: Customers, clients and audiences are more demanding. They expect a faster turnaround, faster responses to their requests, and faster resolution to problems.
  • At the same time, we’re flattening hierarchies, barriers and structures: Your products can be built by a competitor in China; your services duplicated by a competitor using people from India; your customers are smarter, savvier and more sophisticated than ever before.
  • Finally, what used to cost a lot is now free – or almost free: Google takes away your expertise; low-cost competitors drive down your prices; and passionate amateurs trump paid professionals every time.

The good news is that these changes are perfect for us as business owners – as long as we do something about it.

Unfortunately, most businesses don’t know the rules have changed. They think Internet marketing is about branding, hype, advertising, mass markets, needs, traffic, transactions, copywriting and better products and services.

It’s not. It’s about personality, value, reputation, niches, wants, communities, connections, buying frames and better experiences.

This book shows you what has changed, and helps you create a practical strategy to take advantage of the opportunities.

Find out more and buy the book here.

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>Go, Gerry Harvey, Go!

 24th May 2011 by gihan

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A few months ago, I was very critical of Gerry Harvey, the owner of the Harvey Norman franchise, who was trying to persuade the Australian government to change its tax laws to protect his retail stores from on-line shopping. But he’s done a complete U-turn, and recently announced he’s taking the plunge into on-line shopping in a big way.

It’s been a remarkable turnaround.

In 2008, he famously said, in an interview in Smart Company magazine:

“I’ve got an online part of my business, but I definitely would not put more into it. That’d be a recipe for disaster. Online people do not make any money. It’s a con, a complete con.”

Then, as I mentioned, just a few months ago, he led a group of traditional retailers in an advertising campaign complaining on-line sales were harming his business. Their main complaint was that consumers could order from overseas and avoid the 10% GST, so they wanted the government to start charging the GST on those orders as well.

The campaign sparked a huge consumer backlash, and within two weeks Gerry Harvey withdrew from it – shocked by the extent of the backlash. This was always going to be an unpopular campaign – after all, it’s hard to convince consumers that their government should impose an extra tax to force them to shop at Harvey Norman! – but the truth is that Gerry Harvey and his colleagues missed the point. The real difference from on-line shopping doesn’t come from a 10% price surcharge – which is often eaten up in postage and shipping costs anyway. Consumers were shopping on-line for convenience, price, variety and many other reasons.

A few weeks later after his public withdrawal from the campaign, Gerry Harvey made a timid foray into on-line retail, not with an on-line Harvey Norman store, but with yet another “deal of the day” Web site.

But the big news came a few weeks after that, when he announced big plans to take Harvey Norman on-line, aiming for $100 million turnover within a few years and $1 billion within the next decade.

Here’s the most impressive part …

One of the big problems for a franchise operation going on-line is that they risk a backlash from their franchisees, who see the on-line store as competition. So it either has to involve franchisees in the deal or risk alienating them. Harvey Norman is doing both. Gerry Harvey has put franchisees on notice that he’ll look after them for a few years, but isn’t guaranteeing to protect them in the long term. I won’t go into the details here (you’re welcome to read about it here), but it’s a gutsy move.

As much as I was critical of Gerry Harvey earlier, I’m equally full of admiration for him now. It’s a big decision, and there’s a long way to go for it to succeed; but I think he’s heading in the right direction.

Are YOU willing to do the same?

Most of us aren’t as prominent as Gerry Harvey, so we don’t have to eat as big a slice of humble pie when we are wrong. And yet, I see so many people still stuck in their old ways of doing business, and stubbornly refusing to change, even though the writing is on the Facebook wall.

Some examples:

  • Keynote speakers who can’t adapt their message for delivering by webinar
  • Trainers who don’t offer e-learning follow-up material
  • Authors who slave over a book for six months (who eventually publish an out-of-date book with content that’s already been published by bloggers, podcasters and e-book authors)
  • Retailers holding on to their old supply chains, and ignoring outsourcing, offshoring and crowdsourcing
  • All sorts of business owners relying on loyalty from past clients and customers

What are you doing to change your business to adjust to the Internet’s impact on your world?

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Can You Really Make a Difference in a Webinar?

 21st April 2011 by gihan

When you’re planning your webinar, let’s assume you have done the right thing and surveyed your audience beforehand to understand their needs. You might have asked an open-ended question along these lines: “What is the biggest question / problem / concern you have about [this topic]?” How do you now use the survey results in your planning?

Before you start addressing each of the survey questions in turn, consider whether they fall into broad categories, because that will help determine the type of presentation you deliver.

In particular, think about the type of problem the respondents are expressing in their questions. Broadly, the questions can fall into one of five categories. Let’s look at each of them, using an example from a survey about time management problems:

Identity

The person believes these problems are just part of their nature. For example, in our time management survey, they might say: “It’s just not in my nature to be on time for appointments. How can I fix something that’s just the way that I am?”

Beliefs

The person has a belief (which might not be useful to them) about their current approach, which is holding them back from changing. In fact, they don’t want to change, because they believe it will have some negative consequences.

For example, with time management, they might say: “I have to look busy all the time; otherwise it will look like I’m not working hard enough.”

Skills

The person wants to change, but doesn’t know how to do so.

In our example, they might say: “What is the best way to prioritise my daily tasks?”

Behaviour

Now they not only want to change, they’ve tried to make the change. But for some reason, their behaviour doesn’t match their desire.

In our example, they might say: “I’ve read all the books and gone to all the courses. But I just can’t seem to put it into practice.”

Environment

Finally, they might be in a situation where they think everything would be fine except for their current situation.

In our example, they might say: “I do everything right and seem to have my time management sorted out, but invariably my boss drops off a new job on my desk right before I leave – and that throws me off completely.”

What can you change?

The benefit of classifying your survey responses this way is that you now know what sort of problems the audience is facing, and whether you can solve them.

For example, if you’re a motivational or inspirational speaker, you will often be working at the belief level, persuading their audience to change their way of thinking. However, be aware that this can be difficult – although not impossible – on a webinar.

On the other hand, if you find that your audience already has the right beliefs and is just lacking the skills, your presentation might not be appropriate for them. In that case, it might be better to offer a training course to teach new skills and to reinforce them with interactive exercises (behaviours).

The same applies the other way around. If your webinar is about time management techniques, you’re teaching skills and behaviours. But your material will fall on deaf ears if your audience has limiting beliefs about time management, or – even worse – if poor time management is part of their identity.

As a third example, if you’re a manager of a team, and they have all the right beliefs, skills and behaviours, it might turn out that you need to change their environment rather than sending them on a time management course or webinar!

Finally, you might find that your audience’s problems are at a level you simply can’t match. In that case, it might mean you can’t deliver a useful presentation at all! But isn’t it better to know that now, rather than fumbling through a boring presentation that doesn’t engage them at all?

Want to know more about webinars?

Webinars can be one of your most powerful marketing and educational tools – if you know how to run them properly.

My book "Webinar Smarts" covers nearly everything you need to know about planning, preparing, promoting and presenting powerful and profitable webinars.

If you’re interested in tapping into the power of webinars in your business, this book is for you.

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Internet Marketing Is About Showing Your Face

 18th March 2011 by gihan

Internet users connect with people, not brands. They want to know about you, not just your brand, your business, your products or your services.

Be the face of your brand. Your customers do want to learn about you as a person, so they make a real connection. Sure, you want them to like your brand, but you want them to fall in love with you.

Richard Branson does this best. He’s intimately connected with the Virgin brand, and his personality drives the brand. If Branson wrote a blog, you could believe he was writing it himself, couldn’t you? Can you think of any CEO of a large organisation who has that sort of personal credibility? Heck, can you even think of any other CEO of a large organisation at all who does anything for their brand apart from the occasional media statement?

All the new Internet tools are personal tools: Facebook, Twitter, blogs, podcasts, YouTube, MySpace. They’re designed to show a personality – your personality. They’re powerful marketing tools, but they shouldn’t be used only for marketing your business. They’re just as important for marketing you.

Amazon.com, Apple and Facebook are brands in their own right, so they don’t need Jeff Bezos, Steve Jobs or Mark Zuckerberg to show up on their Web sites.
But your Web site is different. Your face is your brand, so show it! For example:

  • Write in a friendly, informal manner.
  • Show your photo on your home page.
  • Publish your e-mail address.
  • Tell people how to follow you (you, not your business) on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.
  • Publish a blog to share your thoughts.

This is one area where we in small business have a huge advantage over large organisations. Most large organisations don’t have a personality, they have a brand. Even people with personality aren’t allowed to show it, in case it harms the brand image. So you end up with bland, not brand.

That’s why it’s rare to see a large organisation using these new Internet marketing tools well. Imagine a big bank asking its customers to follow them on Twitter. Even if they convinced us it’s not a cynical marketing exercise that’s just paying lip service to the new technology, how would it work?

  • Would it be the bank’s CEO sending the Twitter messages?
  • Would they respond to customer complaints?
  • Would they take up an issue on your behalf and get it resolved?
  • Would they be allowed to criticise the bank?
  • Would they engage in real conversations (as opposed to corporate speak)?
  • Would they truly engage with individuals (as opposed to just sending marketing messages)?

As small business owners, we have – or should have – a relationship with our customers. They know us, they trust us, they know what football team we support and they know where our kids go to school.

This is not about you knowing what football team they support or where their kids go to school. You might know that, and some salespeople are taught to connect with their customers at that level. But this is the other way around: You’re giving them an insight into you, which is a completely different thing altogether.

If you’re uncomfortable with that, get over it! You shouldn’t share every aspect of your personal life with your customers. And you should definitely think about your privacy and security when you choose to share with people outside your family and close friends. But be willing to show a bit of personality, so they can connect with you as a person.

>Borders Goes Broke: Are YOU Next?

 2nd March 2011 by gihan

>Just a couple of weeks ago, I wrote about the resurgence in reading due to the explosive growth of e-readers like the Kindle, iPad and Android tablets – and the new, easy ways for consumers to get their hands on e-books. And just last week, the large book store chain consisting of Borders, Angus & Robertson and Whitcoulls (in New Zealand) went broke! Coincidence? I think not.

Err, well, OK, it was a coincidence!

And, to be fair, although it’s easy to pin the demise of these book shops on the trend towards on-line shopping, e-book downloads and the strong Aussie dollar, the research I’ve done suggests it was more due to bad financial management (and probably not due to protectionist policies that disadvantaged local booksellers – as Bob Carr, who sits on the Dymocks board, claims).

Despite that, there’s no doubt these other factors – directly or indirectly due to the Internet – contributed, and clearly this sort of event was inevitable, even if we couldn’t have predicted the timing. As much as I hate to see businesses going broke and people losing jobs, I can’t help but think the writing has been on the wall for a long time.

For some time now, I’ve been talking about how the world has become “Fast, Flat and Free”, and how that’s affecting all businesses. This is a perfect example:

  • Fast: We can download e-books instantly, rather than waiting for delivery or driving to a shopping centre to visit a book store.
  • Flat: We can order books from anywhere in the world, and often at much lower prices than we’d get them here (Amazon.com is one example, of course, but have you ever checked out the amazing prices available at The Book Depository?)
  • Free: Most books still aren’t free, but there are strong downward pressures on prices. For example, a typical Kindle e-book is $9.99, and it might be $25-30 in a book shop!

This should send shock waves through the speaking industry as well!

If you deliver your message primarily in one way, you’re vulnerable as well – for example:

  • If you’re a conference speaker, what happens when people switch to virtual meetings (happening all over the world right now) or holographic projections of the keynote speakers (not too far away)?
  • If you’re a trainer, what happens when your competitors start offering the same stuff by webinar and video conference?
  • If you’re a coach, what happens when international coaches come into your market (After all, a lot of coaching is already done by the plain old telephone system!)?

What are you doing to prepare yourself? Are you going to stick with what’s worked in the past – and hope for the best? Or will you become a thought leader, so you can adapt and shift as required in the future?

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>The Paradox of Choice, by Barry Schwartz

 1st March 2011 by gihan

>This is an engaging, in-depth book about how we make decisions when faced with many choices. Schwartz’s main point is the counter-intuitive idea that offering more choices doesn’t always produce better outcomes. It’s counter-intuitive because logic says additional choices can’t make things any worse because we still have all the original options to choose from. However, the book goes on with example after example that shows logic to be wrong – for example, because we agonise over the right decision, look for even more choices, aren’t as happy with our eventual choice, experience more regret and remorse after choosing, and sometimes don’t even make a choice at all because it’s all too hard!

The book is aimed at individuals and consumers, but it’s equally applicable to business owners and entrepreneurs. For instance, in my area of expertise – helping business professionals succeed on-line – some of the ideas in the book are highly relevant. It affects the way we offer products for sale, the accessories available with products, the number of shipping options available, and even whether offering a money-back guarantee is a good idea (Short answer: It might not be!).

As with any credible work, Schwartz draws on sound research, rather than just making unproven claims (The book has 20 pages of endnotes alone). So we’re left in no doubt that his conclusions are the results of science, not just opinion. However, he also writes in an engaging way. So if you enjoy reading this level of detail (as I do), you don’t have to be a social scientist to understand his argument. Equally, if you’d just like some practical help, jump to the concluding chapter for his 11 guidelines on how to make better choices.

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The Best Clients in the World Want What You’ve Got

 24th February 2011 by gihan

Here’s a deceptively simple but extremely effective marketing idea: Work with the people who want what you’ve got. Sounds obvious, right? But notice I didn’t say the people who need what you’ve got. There are plenty of them around; but if they don’t already want it, you have to spend valuable time and energy convincing them of the need.

Doctors don’t go out on the street pointing to people and saying, “You look sick. Let’s book an appointment”. No, when you go to the doctor it’s because you are sick, and you want her help. It’s an easy “sell” for the doctor because you’re already a highly motivated buyer.

Sure, there are plenty of sales programs that teach you how to uncover a prospect’s true needs and help them understand the consequences of their problems (problems they never even knew they had until they started talking to you!).

There are organisations who fill needs rather than wants – for example, a government health department who sets standards for nutritious food because it’s good for citizens (even if they don’t explicitly say they want it). And there are organisations who create wants – like Sony with the Walkman and Apple with the iPad.

But why do all this hard work creating or serving needs? There are plenty of fish in the sea; you might as well start with those who are swimming towards you.

How do you know who wants what you’ve got?

Listen to what your customers, clients and prospective customers say. What do they complain about (not just about your business, but in general)? What do they struggle with? What problems do they have? What do they aspire to?

If you can solve their problems with your products and services, you’re almost set for life! You have a ready-made market of customers who already know, like and trust you. It might just be that they didn’t realise you could solve their other problems as well.

But what if you find they want something else?

This is still valuable information.

First, if you can tailor your products and services to match what they want, it’s a golden opportunity to tap into that trusted market.

Second, if you can’t solve their problem yourself, you might be able to refer them to somebody who can. If this happens a lot, you can create profitable joint venture agreements with these suppliers, and everybody wins.

Third, if you can’t even refer them to somebody else, that might tell you it’s time to stop working so hard to win these customers, and look elsewhere. At the very least, this lets you focus your marketing efforts where they are most useful and effective.

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>What Do You Really, Really, Really Want in 2011?

 17th January 2011 by gihan

>It was easy for me to choose Christmas gifts for my seven-year-old nephew Riley and his five-year-old sister Abbey, because they had the foresight (or rather, my sister did!) to go through a department store catalogue and circle the gifts they wanted. In fact, they did more than just circle them – they marked their favourites as “really, really, really want”:

That made it easy for everybody who was giving them Christmas gifts! And lo and behold, Riley got his “Zac Power Pack” 10-book set from me, and Abbey got her Aqua Sand kit – exactly what they wanted!

Have YOU done the same for your goals?

Make a list of the things you want – and I mean really, really, really want – to achieve this year. Even if you don’t have generous family and friends to shower you with everything you want this year, I reckon this is still a good idea. You don’t even have to share it with anybody else, but at least you’re setting a direction for yourself.

You can do this for all areas of your life, of course. But I want to focus on your Internet strategy in particular.

Here’s a simple model you can use to help this process:

Let’s look at each of these four quadrants …

  • Start with Have and Want (gratitude) at the top left: What do you like about your current on-line presence (your Web site, lots of newsletter subscribers, a shopping cart that works, strong leads through the Web site, whatever)?
  • Then jump down to the bottom right – Don’t Have and Don’t Want (avoidance): What are you pleased you don’t have (a slow Web server, fraudulent credit card transactions, etc.)? These are also things to be grateful for, but also things to keep avoiding.
  • Now look at Have and Don’t Want (eliminate) at the bottom left: What would you like to eliminate (manual processing of orders, unnecessary queries from members, tyre-kickers, etc.)?
  • Finally, look at Don’t Have and Want (aspire) at the top right: What do you want to achieve or add ($X in on-line sales each month, Y% conversion rate from first-time visitors, Z new members in your membership site, etc.)?

As you can see, the first two are about what you like and the other two are about what you don’t like. Use the first two to be grateful for what you’ve got, and the other two to set your goals for the coming year.

It’s a simple, but very powerful, process.

Good luck, and I wish you all the best for making 2011 the best year of your life.

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