September 28, 2011
Their challenge is likely similar to yours: What do you do with all the data you are capturing, storing and analyzing? If you don't do something with data, it's just an expense line item, after all. In his book, Information Masters, John McKean talks about the importance of people skills and human technology in making the leap from Data Rich to Customer Smarts.
It starts with sharing the data, especially with your value chain and in many cases, your competitors (think of them as Competimates in this regard). Why? Because the data isn't by itself really useful, but in the hands of the distribution channel, it may bounce back as knowledge. Becoming a smarter company via data isn't just listening and learning, because you are still in a bubble when you do this - there's no perspective!
The first step, then, is to boldly share the data outside your enterprise. By letting go of the data, you are making the first step in letting go of the Scarcity Mindset and the SQ. Don't sweat this, because you data in many cases is worthless UNTIL it makes the leap to knowledge (what Eric Ries in Lean Startup calls 'verified learning').
While knowledge is better than raw data, it's the insight you glean from it that connects with your Customer-Value model that truly moves the needle on your business. That's the stuff to hold on to, not your crummy data.
Whether you are looking at web/blog/social analytics or supply/customer data, you need to make the move today - and test my theory out. To borrow a phrase from the Quality Movement, 'waste is any commitment of resources that fails to create Customer value.' So what's your data? A storage plan or your barter for biz wizdom?
November 17, 2010
Yesterday, standing in a gate area at an airport, I noticed something - When business folk are idle these days, much like teens, they just stare into their phones. Checking Twitter or Facebook or email or their multiple text threads. Anything but connecting with other people.
In fact, I'm seeing this "lost in his gadget" squinty personality everywhere: Walking down the street (aimlessly), in meetings, driving (really irresponsible), shopping and according to reliable sources -- in church. We are more interested in pithy updates from semi-strangers than the humans sitting next to us or depending on us/helping us. This is wrong.
I started out in the mobile phone business back in the 80's. Mostly, it was for on-the-go pro's, so they could return phone calls while they were out. Some bought them for security (pre OnStar) or because they could afford to. Most of the sales were installed car phones (remember them?). When those users went to meetings, they actually paid attention and were engaged. When they were out socially or for business, they conversed with others and "took in the sights."
Then came digital pagers, black berries, smart phone and now the ubiquitous iPhone. What's next, brain implants? Today, we have a disengaged always-on culture, where attention is the scarce world resource. This will randomize everything in life, including your relationships and circumstances. Data is everywhere, ready to divert-distract you out of any type of strategy.
So here's the takeaway: Leave your gadget in your pocket or better yet, back in your car or hotel room. That way, you will HAVE to actually engage with people. This is something I've been practicing for the last few years. I only carry my gadget when I travel or run around town. When I do, if at all possible, I leave it behind when going somewhere (reception, meeting, dinner, etc.) If my wife has a phone in her purse, I'm covered for an emergency. I'm not a surgeon on call, so I'm not shirking my duties by doing this. The other night, due to a logistical issue, I had to take my phone with me to a dinner event. I turned off the ringer and turned it upside down on the table so it wouldn't distract me from have a conversation and getting to know some people.
Here's what I also get out of the equation: I'm resetting expectations with all my business partners that I am not available 24/7. I haven't carried a phone with me on the weekend for about seven years now and it's abundantly clear to everyone I do biz with that I'm a Monday-Friday guy. For other people I know, they've signed up for an on-call lifestyle.
I believe that phones are the new watches: We wear them for show. But unlike watches, they are seductive in their attention sucking features and, with constant use, change us for the worse.
January 15, 2010
I take special assignments from companies that want to leverage my expertise to address business challenges. Recently, I've been preparing for an engagement with a leading technology company. I'll talk to account executives about how to talk/sell/connect with business decision makers.
For years, most technology sales executives dealt with technologists such as Director of IT, the CTO or the CIO (for customer relationship management). The conversation centered about pre-existing budgets, requirements, reliability, price and total cost of ownership. Features led the conversation and geek speak was a plenty.
At the end of the day, however, the business decision makers either funded or rejected any tech investment. As the economy got worse, this became even more pronounced as incremental spending was scrutinized for short term business results. Some companies sell directly to the business lines (VP Sales, VP Marketing, VP Operations) and when they do, they dramatically speed up the pitch-to-deal cycle. Most companies wait for an internal "tech sponsor" to introduce them to business decision makers. When the tech sales person talks to the business person, the conversation changes from features to benefits and from tech capabilities to financial realities.
In a few weeks, I'll post some video clips or real world business decision makers talking about how they like to be sold technology -- and what turns them on/off. If you sell any type of technology from software to hardware to services, stay tuned to this (RSS). In the meantime, let me give you a few suggestions:
1. Research how the company makes money before the first presentation. The more you understand about the business model, the quicker you'll dial in to the save money/make money opportunities that drive business decisions and budgeting.
2. Don't start out by presenting your product's capabilities. Start out by asking questions about current task challenges, business process inefficiencies and corporate initiatives. Later, when you present your slide show, you'll be able to "translate" on the fly - connecting dollars to features.
3. Talk their talk. If a VP of Sales at an apparel company is in your audience, talk about how many "doors" they have to manage (retail stores that carry the product) and how your product can help. If they are a manufacturing executive, talk about the supply chain and use correct speak (Costo doesn't say vendors, they say partners, for example). Every time you meet with them, let them know you are listening by adopting their jargon.
4. Leave your jargon at the door. When talking to a business decision maker, unless they are a known geek, don't use any terminology and your lawyer or accountant wouldn't understand.
At Yahoo, this was my specialty. I spent years working on this system, and even produced a funny parody video of 50 Cent's hit "Wanksta" for the 2003 Yahoo sales conference to illustrate the importance of learning the prospect's space and talking their language. It made the difference between presentations and closed deals.
January 08, 2010
For the last five or six years, the burning question I get is "how did Google pass Yahoo?"
It's not my favorite discussion, but in the spirit of abundance, I've pontificated. Initially, I thought it was the result of a breakthrough search algorithm (Page Rank). But that wouldn't have sustained them up until today. Next, I concluded that it was leadership and management style (read Peanut Butter Manifesto).
However, after watching a recent CNBC Special (Inside Google), I finally realized how they rose to the top -- and will likely stay there for a long time. They are focused on the cloud based services: stocking it, mining it, providing access to it, generating value from it. Their main competitors like Yahoo have been focused on content (Bill Gates wrote an article in 1996, Content Is King, that dominated the leadership vision of Web 1.0 and permeated Yahoo speak for years.)
The "Content Is King" mantra may have been right for the mid-90's, but today with over fifty percent of online advertising (against content) still unsold, it makes you wonder. Yahoo's main acquisitions, with the exception of Overture, were content related: Broadcast.com (audio/video), Geocities (user), Launch (music) and so on. Meanwhile, Google worked on making the cloud's database more useful to users who needed to buy things or hire companies (search). They scanned hundreds of thousands of books, not just for content, but to improve the cloud's research capabilities. They invested in satellite based maps to dramatically improve the cloud's ability to compete with Mapsco's and the like (remember how bad Mapquest was?).
As Yahoo experimented with a CNBC type show (Finance Vision) and a variety of others (Entertainment, Business, etc.), Google worked on getting our favorites apps out of the software realm and into the cloud. Services like Google docs are "software as services" and only require bandwidth to access and use.
Finally, consider the issue of wireless phones. Yahoo's approach was to aggregate content for the phone and provide a thin layer of services. Google went all in and developed Android, an operating system for the phone that elevated the competition beyond dotcoms -- to Motorola and Apple!
I can't say for sure, but I'm willing to bet that certain Google executives have read and digested the book Customer Capitalism (a classic from the early 2000's). This book suggested that to win tough business battles, you need to surround the customer with services that solve all of their problems and leave no value gaps. While Yahoo, AOL and MSN thought wide, Google went deep. Combined with management and the reality that paid search is the biggest win/win in online advertising, the whole picture makes more sense to me now.
Recent articles seem to support my view that content is no longer king, it's likely queen or maybe a duke (Content As Pauper). For entrepreneurs watching from the sideline, make sure your strategy keys in on the issue of web based services and not just content to watch/read or listen to.
June 22, 2009
Last night I went offline.
February 16, 2009
Until a few years ago, working out a technical issue for your computer, program or gadget was a real hassle.
You needed to find the support page on the manufacturer's website and then pour through an extensive knowledge base to find answers. If you got desperate enough, you lobbed a call into the support center -- only to spend large blocks of time trying to resolve the situation.
Thanks to the largest searchable database in the world, the Internet, those days are over. If your printer, iPhone or new fangled application doesn't work as advertised, just ask the Internet and the answer will likely show up on the first page. It's a matter of asking the right question.
For example, I recently bought a new MacBook Pro laptop. My wireless AT&T broadband card is the Sierra Watcher. When I transferred my data from my old Mac to my new one, the Sierra Watcher stopped working. Every time I tried to launch it, it had a fatal error. So, I asked the Internet. I went to Yahoo's search engine and typed in "Sierra Watcher" and "new MacBook Pro" and "fatal error". In the first ten results, the answer appeared (uninstall the old software, download the newest update, reinstall). It worked!
This has worked for me dozens of times in the last six months. A few quick tips: 1. Use exact queries, with phrases in " " marks. This eliminates useless results. 2. Describe the issue simple terms, as you'd say it to a support person. 3. Be patient. In many cases, the best answer did not come from a manufacturer's website. In the case of Sierra Watcher, it was actually a Mac user website for new owners.
In the future, I believe that search skills will be the new mad skills required to bring out the best in our gear and software.