Friday, June 1, 2007

technological supremecy

In today's business culture, much emphasis is place on being technologically advanced. Unfortunately, if appears that most of the effort going into this task is solely for the ego boost that comes with being "with it."

Examples include the widespread use of Myspace profiles for Political Campaigns, blogs by business leaders, and inter-company Wiki's. This month's issue of Fast Company showcases a number of web-oriented political hacks, and the articles are available for free on their website under the Fast Talk heading.

While it may seem like a way to get some extra street cred, one of the worst things you can do as a business is invest time and money in technology with the intent to only make you look better. This will hamper your own productivity, and make you look even less relevant to the younger generation of consumers.

If you want to make a splash with technology, INC magazine has some options for Voicemail innovation. If you do decide to get on-board with this technology, a word of warning:
-Beta generation technology has been proven to work in the beginning stages, and is in the process of having the bugs ironed out. This means that while you can and should use Beta-generation technology, you should never put all your business critical needs into it until it has passed your expectations over a period of time.

If you can make this happen, the advantages can be great. Getting on-board during a Beta-generation of a product/service for your business allows you to understand and make use of technology that your competitors may just be considering the use of.

And even better, your Web 2.0 vendors/developers may be willing to work with you as a partner to iron out bugs specific to your business, in exchange for using the Beta version of the product. This will put you in the place of an expert and innovator should the product pan out. It will also leave you high and dry if it doesn't.

If all this talk makes you rethink the value of new technology, here's an easy out. Hop on board with the latest web trend, and subscribe to the Feed for Lolcats!

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Cola Wars no more.

In a move that was both ethically sound and a PR coup, PepsiCo not only reported an act of industrial espionage, but actually helped the FBI catch the criminals. According to this BBC article, PepsiCo notified their arch-rival CocaCola to the fact that someone had been filching their fizzy-recipes. They then worked together with the FBI to catch the criminals in the act.

It might seem counter-intuitive that a company that would have so much to gain from a little underhandedness, but in this case Pepsi not only gained the moral high ground, but also a nice positive mention in every news story that covers this case.

It wouldn't be surprising if the initial Press Releases regarding this case were issued by PepsiCo or their PR firm. This is exactly the type of Guerrilla Marketing that small businesses can emulate. Have you contributed to a charity event, hired a new executive level manager, or done anything that could be notable if it were taking place at a company like Pepsi? Throw together a press release, there are many templates available online, and send it to your local paper and any local business magazines. And since a fax is just a button away, why not send a release to the major regional papers. This kind of marketing puts your name out there, and if you end up in the business section at the cost of typing up a press release, it's infinitely cheaper than paying a marketing firm to do the same.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Scotch, Scotch, Scotch.

I consider myself to be somewhat of a connoisseur of whisky and whiskey. So when I read an article on about one of my favorite brands being purchased I perked up. Because unlike a brand name, Scotch whisky is a designation. By law, if the bottle says Scotch, it must have been produced in Scotland. So while Ford can remain an American company, its parts can be made in Canada or Mexico and shipped to the US for production, and the end product will still be considered Made in America.

But for Scotch, the maturation and bottling can take place anywhere, so long as the malting and distilling takes place in Scotland. I've even had a whisky that uses Scottish barley and peat, but distills in Oregon. It was good, but it was not Scotch.

Whyte and MacKay owns several other brands as well as the brand bearing their own name;
Dalmore | Fettercairn| Invergordon | Isle of Jura| Tamnavulin
I'm not that much of a fan of Dalmore, but my old roommate and I were particular to the Isle of Jura brand. I would recommend it to anyone who is familiar with Blended Scotch Whisky, but would like to tread off the beaten path of tastiness.

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

On a lighter note.

In business, one can never escape from two issues: Customer Service problems, and neckties.

Now I've talked about customer service before, so I'll take a crack at ties today.

First off, how to do I tie it? Easy, let this German dude show you all the knots you'll ever need, plus some you'll never figure out.

Now let's talk about style. Everyone knows about the Power Tie, and the impact that had on 80's fashion. Everyone, that is, who cares about ties. If you haven't spent an afternoon reading up on the vaguery's of mens accessory fashions, here's the options for ties:
  • The power tie. This will be striped diagonally, and usually a mix of bold colors. The Brit's refer to this as an Old School Tie, because each of the private(and exclusive) boarding schools in England have their own colors and style tie.
  • Monochrome(the Regis look). Made popular by Regis Philbin on Who Wants to be Millionaire, this pairs a tie of the exact same color as the shirt its worn with. It's getting to be a bit passe, because unless you're extremely careful, your shirt will fade with washing/dry cleaning, while your tie won't. And nothing shouts "I'm lazy about my appearance" as a mismatched monochrome look.
  • Novelty. What could set a better precedent for a business relationship than a tie covered in little tiny guitars? Or maybe it's an interweaving of the Corona logo with little bottles? Or best yet, an LED flashing pair of lips. Do Not Ever Wear These Ties!

  • Plaid, or tartan. My personal favorite necktie patterns is based on the Scottish Clan Tartan. Initially, person would wear a necktie of the same pattern as their kilt(this would be the paleoRegis look), but with time many patterns and color schemes have become available. Especially thanks to Burberry and other high cost clothiers, brand tartans are just as popular and populous as authentic Tartan patterns.
Here are a few examples of classic, and updated tartan patterns.

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

USB Plug and Play

Lately, I have been trying to install on my home computer a USB external hard drive, and an MP3 player. The issue I'm running into is that these are "Plug and Play" devices, and don't actually have a driver. I've checked the company website for the hard drive, and am unable to locate anything except for Firmware Updates. Now these are useful, but only if your PC recognizes the device in the first place.

According to the OS manufacturer:
After identifying each device, Plug and Play determines the system resources that each device requires, stores the configuration in memory, and assigns those resources to the device. After the devices have been configured, Plug and Play identifies and loads the drivers that each device requires.
Now what happens if Plug and Play does not recognize the driver? Can I update the Plug and Play source files? I don't know. And I'm not an IT guy, so I'm helpless.

This illustrates a problem that can come up with any scheme to make a customer life easier. When your solution is the ONLY solution, even if it's intended to streamline the end user experience, inevitably it will fail. If only because it takes all control by the end user out of the equation, you have taken away the possibility of positive end user control.

Similar to this is the Automatic vs. Manual transmission debate. While an automatic transmission allows for the end user to do all sorts of things instead of monitoring and configuring the clutch position(shifting), the automatic transmission does it for you. Which frees you up to put on makeup, drink coffee, play air drums, and send email on your Blackberry*. What it doesn't allow you to do is shift at a lower RPM to maximize fuel output, disengage the clutch on hills or while braking, or in the case of failure of the Starter Motor or battery, allowing you to push-start the car.

So for the sake of illustration, we'll use the car analogy:
My automatic transmission car(hard drive) has a broken starter motor(driver). Because it has an automatic transmission(plug n play), I can't push start it(reinstall the driver) to get it running and get home.

So keep in mind the fact that just because the easiest process is in place currently, it doesn't mean your butt is completely covered. In fact, you might just want to build in a back door of some kind.

This is what I look like

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Walk in vs scheduled

No, not Christopher Walken, Walk In. Like walk in appointments. Many service organizations have a scheduled-appointment-only policy, others have only walk in appointments only, and some mix both. There are certainly benefits to both approaches.

Walk-in benefits:
  • Capture spur-of-the-moment business
  • Allow new prospective customers to partake of your business/organization without forethought
  • The customer comes to you!
  • That Fatboy Slim video!(sorry, still thinking of Christopher Walken)
Walk-in constraints:
  • You must be actively marketing your business so customer have some clue as to who you are
  • You must advertise your business location, so people know where to go
  • You must be able to deal with ebb and flow in your productivity
  • Your location must be convenient to walk in activity
Scheduled Benefits:
  • You can closely schedule your day to maximize productivity and overhead.
  • provide consistency and an even workload for your employees
  • you know your schedule, so you can make sure your providing your customers with all your attention
Scheduled Constraints:
  • Prospects/customers may need you NOW, and you've already committed to being/helping someone else
  • Delivery times, sickness, traffic, vendor shortages and weather can turn a well ordered day into a 3-day backorder
  • You need to have enough product/staff available to handle 1.25 times a fully scheduled day in order to deal with problems that come up in the normal course of business
  • If your customers aren't calling to schedule, your overhead and payroll skyrockets
Which is the right choice for you, is a little bit of both worlds the best approach? In both cases, increased customer workload can be even worse than no customers at all...